A great codicil to the Yeltsin death and remembrance by Krauthammer...T
Credit for the fall of communism usually is given to two sets of actors. On the one side, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II, whose relentless pressure caused a hollowed-out system to collapse. On the other side, conventional mythology credits Mikhail Gorbachev.
This is quite wrong. True, Gorbachev inadvertently caused the collapse of communism. But his intention was always to save it. To the very end, Gorbachev believed in it. His mission was to reform communism in order to make it work. To do that, the Soviet system had to become more human -- i.e., more in tune with real human nature -- and thus more humane. Gorbachev's problem was that humane communism is an oxymoron.
The man who brought down the Soviet Union from the inside was Boris Yeltsin. In the mid-1980s, he turned decisively against communism and, fully intending its destruction, performed one of history's great acts of liberation.
Yeltsin, who died this week, did this without turning to the guillotine. ``For the first time in Russian history,'' notes Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, ``the new ruler did not eliminate the losers to consolidate control.'' What distinguished Yeltsin ``was something that he did not do when he took power'' -- ``wipe out the other side.''...(continued)
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Friday, April 27, 2007
A great codicil to the Yeltsin death and remembrance by Krauthammer...T
"They worship at the alter of Vietnam, the source of their greatest success, and America's greatest humiliation." (sadly, this is not our enemies, it is the democrats!)...T
Sometimes no comment is needed. So it was of Vietnam when victorious Gen. Giap later remarked that that the American Left was “essential to our strategy.” He elaborated to the Wall Street Journal: “Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9AM to follow the growth of the antiwar movement.”
And Giap added that anti-war activists, “Gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war.”
So now read the official al Qaida response to Sen. Harry Reid’s declaration that the war is lost:
“This comes on the heels of an important statement by House Majority Leader Harry Reid who previously said, “The Iraqi war is hopeless and the situation in Iraq is same as it was in Vietnam.
Then came Bush’s stupid statement where he emphasized that his strategic goal in Iraq is more than a military victory but also to prevent the Mujahideen from benefiting from the fruits of the Jihad to ultimately achieve victory.
This is how the cross worshipping occupiers and their henchmen live. Their morale continues to collapse as the result of the increasing strikes of the Mujahideen, carried out by the grace of Allah. From downing their aircraft to penetrating their fortified Green Zone and targeting the heads of apostasy and agents, all this has pushed the American army to repeat what it did in Vietnam.”
How odd that the ongoing evocation of Vietnam by the Left in connection with Iraq has proven silly in every aspect—we’ve lost 5% of the fatalities of the Vietnam War, have been in Iraq as third as long, have witnessed a popularly-elected government in place, are fighting primordial reactionary religious fundamentalists—except one: the reoccurring liberal effort to cut-off funds and end American support for a consensual government. If this succeeds, so will follow the Vietnam-era sequelae: mass exodus, mass killing, American humiliation, and regional realignment with the winners. Who would want that—and why?
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A great article today by Hugh Hewitt. Who knows if Lieberman will switch - Hewitt can be politically naive at times - but the stakes he spells out here are dead on accurate. We win or millions die, it's that simple. The chilling fact is that this will all be decided, in the narrow minded prism that is US politics, by the looming battle between Bush and the democrat Congress, which has just voted to cut off funds for our troops this October. In this battle, the most important since the election of 1980, President Bush begins down in the polls and trailing badly in public support. He has the truth, and the facts, as his ally. Let's see what he does with them...T
The escalating defeatist rhetoric flowing out from Congressional Democrats illuminates a crucial fact: The momentum has shifted in Iraq, and the Petraeus offensive is increasingly recognized as at least potentially successful in producing an Iraq that is stable politically and competent to suppress both al Qaeda and sectarian ethnic cleansing. The change in the wind petrifies Democrats who bet their political futures on the inevitability of defeat of our mission and violent chaos in the wake of our departure. To have played this contemptible game would be risky enough even if defeat followed, but to have done so when the tide had turned could and should expose the party as the collection of feckless and partisan hacks it has become.
Harry Reid knows this, and has thus abandoned any pretense of caring about victory or of providing General Petraeus with the support he and his troops so abundantly deserve. Others have catalogued just how complete the Majority Leader’s evolution into defeatist cheerleader has become, and there is no reason to expect he will do anything except continue the war against the war throughout the summer and fall, and perhaps even risk the cut-off of all funds to our forces.
There are four fine pieces of analysis available to anyone seriously interested in understanding what is happening in Iraq, three reported on by contributors to the Weekly Standard who traveled to Iraq in the recent past and spent considerable time with General Petraeus and in the field with American forces. The three pieces of reporting are by Max Boot, Reuel Marc Gerecht, and Fred Kagan. The fourth is a summary of the three pieces with additional analysis by blogger Wretchard of The Belmont Club.
Taken together, the reports of progress and the obvious attempt by the Reid-Pelosi-Murtha Democrats to undermine the American mission before it can succeed put a heavy burden on one man –Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman. It is increasingly obvious that if the political war in Washington is to be stopped from hurting and possibly fatally crippling the war against the Islamists, Senator Lieberman is going to have to change parties, pulling a reverse Jim Jeffords. (Whether any other Senate Democrat is a potential switcher is impossible to say, but Senator Lieberman certainly understands the stakes and has fought the good fight for years now.)
I don’t think any amount of political payoff could tempt Lieberman as it did Jeffords. The switch would not be because of a desire for more special ed funding or some set of perks he just cannot get from the Dems. Of course he’d want seniority and leadership, but the motivation would have to be the obvious: He can stop the war from being lost and he understands the consequences of such a defeat. Indeed, every single Democratic senator has to realize that their ongoing support for their caucus is encouraging the enemy, undermining the mission and demoralizing the troops.
But more than any other Democrat, Lieberman knows what will follow in the wake of an American defeat. He knows what either an Iraq governed by radical Shias and death squads or a fractured Iraq that hosts in its Sunni regions a flourishing al Qaeda would spell for the neighboring states and ultimately for Israel, Europe and eventually the United States. He knows as well that a nuclear Iran has to be confronted and its ambitions denied or the world will lurch towards unimaginable horrors.
On Tuesday I interviewed journalist and author Lawrence Wright, long a contributor to The New Yorker. Wright’s The Looming Tower won the Pulitzer for general non-fiction last week, and its chilling account of the rise of al Qaeda awakens any objective reader to the facts that this worldwide Islamist threat is not the creation of the Bush presidency, and more than retreat from Iraq would stall its growth or limit its appeal. There is no alternative to fighting it wherever it appears, just as there is no alternative to cabining Iran’s ambitions. (The transcript of Tuesday’s interview with Wright is here, and the audio here. A two-hour interview with him from last September is here, and the audio of that program is here and here.) Wright’s September 2006 New Yorker article, “The Master Plan,” on the grand strategy of the new generation of al Qaeda is more evidence that we have no alternative to victory in Iraq, and that the Democrats’ proposed course of action is simply suicidal.
Joe Lieberman knows this. Indeed, anyone who reads seriously about the enemy and the various fronts in the war knows this and many other hard truths as well.
If Lieberman led a small band of serious Democrats who were effectively restraining the party’s defeatist extremists, his continued stay among his life long friends and colleagues could be understood as far more comfortable for him and far more useful in the long run as the Democratic Party struggles to keep the hope alive of a Scoop Jackson/JFK/Truman wing of the party returning to some influence.
But that isn’t in the cards. General Petraeus needs the balance of ’07 and ’08 to give our forces a fighting chance to win a fighting victory. If Senator Lieberman crossed the aisle and caucused with the Republicans, the Reid-Pelosi charade would instantly halt and with it the daily undermining of the war. The House Democrats elected on a platform of national security seriousness would also be empowered by the return to their joint conferences of senators committed to victory not defeat on a date certain.
Joe Lieberman knows the score and he knows his own ability to preserve the progress already being made in Iraq and the possibility of victory. He would endure incredible hatred if he was to switch and it would take enormous courage to walk that road.
But if he really does understand the stakes and really does believe the statements he has made over the years –and I think he does—he has run out of time and the choice is stark and immediate.
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 5:23 PM
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I'm not going to post the entire article here, from the "American Thinker" today, but I urge you to follow the link and take in the whole thing. It summarizes nicely the nexus of defeat between the democrats in congress and our enemies in the Islamist world, and how they are synchronizing their efforts to achieve the goal they both seek: the defeat and humiliation of the United States of America. There used to be a term for this, which was used frequently in past wars: Treason - a word that needs to make a comeback, I think...T
If I were George Bush right about now, I'd wrap my arms around Harry Reid and give him a great big kiss on the cheek. And I might even consider sending Speaker Pelosi a dozen roses, thanking her for playing her part to perfection in this Democratic Party defeatist extravaganza...
C'est la vie! C'est la guerre!
There's little doubt that Bush was on the defensive when it came to the Iraq supplemental. While his veto would have been upheld anyway, Harry Reid and his assessment that the war is already lost as well as Nancy Pelosi's refusal to meet with the Commanding General in Iraq for a briefing has changed the dynamic of the debate over the war, giving the Administration a juicy opening with which to skewer the opposition.
Pelosi's gaffe is mind boggling. Being able to find time to meet and drink tea with the Syrian thug President Assad but brushing off a briefing with America's own Iraq Commander General Petraeus is a juxtaposition of priorities that is too delicious not to use. The defeatists risk being seen as a variation of the Three Wise Monkeys with "see no progress, hear no progress, and speak no progress" when it comes to Iraq. Perhaps there is a little nervousness about some of the news that is breaking through all the stories about car bombings and suicide attacks, which are down in number but not much in casualties. In fact some of the indicators regarding the violence are improving less than 3 months into the surge...
Meanwhile, opponents of the Iraqi operations back in the United States are getting nervous about the success of the security operations in Baghdad and its suburbs. The fact that nearly all the Sunni Arab tribes have joined the government is seen as a political disaster by many U.S. politicians who have declared Iraq a failed venture for the United States. It's a bizarre situation, and long has been. You only have to visit web sites frequented by Iraqis or American troops, to see that what is reported in most of the media about Iraq is invented, or distorted beyond all reason into an alternate reality.
For now, Harry Reid has a problem. His defeatist words are still ricocheting around the internet and cable news, refusing to disappear down the usual rabbit hole where Democratic gaffes are quietly sent by the media. Instead, those words have energized the pro-war crowd and angered many of the troops. Is it any wonder? When the news organ of the enemy - al-Jazeera - makes your defeatist words headline material, one wonders what else might define the crime of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy?"
But Reid and the Democrats don't seem to care at this point. Since they have never seen the Iraq War as anything except a political weapon to be used against the President and the Republicans, their cold calculations with regard to handing President Bush (and by extension the United States) a defeat don't need to be buttressed by any kind of nonsense about "supporting the troops." Their platitudes about caring about our men and women under arms rings rather hollow when the second most powerful Democrat in Washington tells them they're a bunch of losers - that all their efforts, the blood they've spilled, the sacrifices they've made, have been in vain.
This won't be a turning point in the war. But like Admiral Farragut capturing Mobile Bay when the Civil War was at its absolute nadir in August of 1864, Reid's words have actually heartened the President's remaining supporters, in that they have given them a political opening to portray the Democrats as exactly what they pretend not to be; a party that would rather lose a war than acknowledge any progress toward success in Iraq.
Thanks for the leg up, Harry. We sure needed it.
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 2:47 PM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Posted by Ted Pethick at 8:35 PM
Bravo Mr. McCain - bravo. Where was such plain spoken truth before the elections, and where has it been since? except from the mouths of Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain and Mr. Cheney? The Democrats DID unanimously approve Gen. Petraeus - they HAVE then voted to eliminate his funding...such hypocritical self serving worms they are...T
"We, who are willing to support this new strategy, and give General Petraeus the time and support he needs, have chosen a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just. Democrats, who deny our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat, have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election. This is an historic choice, with ramifications for Americans not even born yet. Let's put aside for a moment the small politics of the day. The judgment of history should be the approval we seek, not the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll."
Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, April 11, 2007
"We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), speaking to reporters, April 12, 2007
"This war is lost."
Reid, April 19, 2007
Usually, politics is a murky business--gray upon gray, one set of mixed motives jostling with another. But sometimes there is a time for choosing--between courage and cynicism, between honor
John McCain's speech to the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute is the best single analysis by any political figure of where we stand in the war in Iraq. It is a serious and sober attempt to persuade the American people that the war is winnable, that we should give Gen. Petraeus a chance to win it, and that accepting defeat would be both ignoble and disastrous to American interests. With this morally and intellectually impressive speech, John McCain took leadership of the fight for victory in Iraq.
McCain was hard on the opponents of the war here at home. He didn't just describe troop withdrawal proposals as unwise. He derided "the fanciful and self-interested debates about Iraq that substitute for statesmanship in Washington." And he suggested that the Democrats had decided "to take advantage of the public's frustration, accept defeat," and hope that "the politics of defeat" would benefit them.
McCain continued: "In Washington, where political calculation seems to trump all other considerations, Democrats in Congress and their leading candidates for President, heedless of the terrible consequences of our failure, unanimously confirmed our new commander, and then insisted he be prevented from taking the action he believes necessary to safeguard our country's interests....I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering."
Tough words--especially because, here in America, much of the mainstream media was also cheering. McCain, a onetime media favorite when he last ran for president, was effectively forswearing the possibility of regaining their favor.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media paid little attention to Harry Reid's comments quoted above. Republican criticisms of them were treated as the normal tit-for-tat of partisan politics. Reid's cynicism wasn't thought noteworthy, and his defeatism wasn't thought extraordinary. Apparently, cynicism in the service of the defeat of Republicans is no vice. Undercutting the efforts of American troops you have voted to send to fight in a war is a virtue.
Earlier this month, the "surge" was beginning visibly to work. Al Qaeda fought back, with massive slaughter of civilians, whose purpose was in part to undercut support for the war against al Qaeda on the home front. Harry Reid followed script.
Now we are at a moment of truth. There is McCain's way, a way of difficulty and honor. There is Reid's way, a way of political expediency and dishonor. McCain may lose the political battle at home, and the
U.S. may ultimately lose in Iraq. But some of us will always be proud, at this moment of choice, to have stood with McCain, and our soldiers, and our country.
Click here for full article
Posted by Ted Pethick at 8:31 PM
Oh yeah! Huzzah! This is why I support Rudy - why he alone has the chance to transform the US body politic as Reagan did, and why no other does. He can make it happen, and he can communicate it...T
MANCHESTER, N.H. —- Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.
But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.
“If any Republican is elected president —- and I think obviously I would be the best at this —- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what [the terrorists] will do and try to stop them before they do it,” Giuliani said.
The former New York City mayor, currently leading in all national polls for the Republican nomination for president, said Tuesday night that America would ultimately defeat terrorism no matter which party gains the White House.
“But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have?” Giuliani said. “If we are on defense [with a Democratic president], we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”
“I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense,” Giuliani continued. “We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.”
He added: “The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.”
Politico.com is co-host of the Republican presidential debate on May 3rd, and candidates will be answering our readers’ favorite questions. Click here to submit yours.
After his speech to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner, I asked him about his statements and Giuliani said flatly: “America will safer with a Republican president.”
Giuliani, whose past positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights have made him anathema to some in his party, believes his tough stance on national defense and his post-Sept. 11 reputation as a fighter of terrorism will be his trump card with doubting Republicans.
“This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!” Giuliani said in his speech. “Never, ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for [terrorists] to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!”
Giuliani said terrorists “hate us and not because of anything bad we have done; it has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. They hate us for the freedoms we have and the freedoms we want to share with the world.”
Giuliani continued: “The freedoms we have are in conflict with the perverted, maniacal interpretation of their religion.” He said Americans would fight for “freedom for women, the freedom of elections, freedom of religion and the freedom of our economy.”
Addressing the terrorists directly, Giuliani said: “We are not giving that up, and you are not going to take it from us!”
The crowd thundered its approval.
Giuliani also said that America had been naive about terrorism in the past and had missed obvious signals.
“They were at war with us before we realized it, going back to ’90s with all the Americans killed by the PLO and Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said. “They came here and killed us in 1993 [with the first attack on New York’s World Trade Center, in which six people died], and we didn’t get it. We didn’t get it that this was a war. Then Sept. 11, 2001, happened, and we got it.”
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 4:18 AM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Since literally NO ONE in the MSM has noticed (with their childish 13 year old mindset), a great man passed yesterday. Boris Yeltsin was indispensable in the transition from USSR to modern Russia (his successor is a brutish thug). That his death drew almost no notice tells us all we need to know about the nature of the American main stream press...T
I WILL NEVER FORGET the first time I saw Boris Yeltsin in person. It was in Dallas in September 1989--slightly less than two years after he was fired from his job as Moscow's chief Communist Party boss and lost his seat on the old Soviet-era Politburo. His political revival had begun earlier that year with his election to the Congress of People's Deputies, and he was touring the United States as the "comeback kid" of Soviet politics.
His one-time patron-turned political adversary, Mikhail Gorbachev, had called the Congress as an attempt to create a popularly elected semi-legislative body that could push through the reforms he had been unsuccessful in forcing through the notoriously regressive Communist Party apparatus. It was supposed to be Gorbachev's pedestal that he would use to vault over his political opponents. Instead it made--or rather, relaunched--Yeltsin's career. Gorbachev's humiliation and political demise would come two years later in August 1991 when a hapless crew of Communist functionaries attempted to remove him and reinstate a hard-line, Stalinist-style regime. As the coup collapsed, Yeltsin became the hero of the day as he climbed atop a tank near the Russian Republic parliament building (called the "Beliy Dom" or "White House" at the time) and it was clear that the old Soviet empire was dead.
On that September day in Dallas Yeltsin was very much the man the world would see on top of that tank two years later. He was the larger-than-life politician we would come to know later as the first
democratically elected president of the Russian Federation during the final days of the Soviet period, and then later as the leader of the new, independent Russian state that was formed after the liquidation of the USSR. He was bombastic, uncompromising, and full of hyperbolic criticisms against and solutions for the removal of the Communist Party regime. At one point he told the crowd assembled by the Dallas Council on World Affairs that "some of the party functionaries need to be punched out of their positions of power and luxurious privileges like a pilot being ejected from a jet fighter aircraft. Just give me the button to press."
Most of his political life Yeltsin was--as one of his biographies described him--a man going against the grain of the ruling order. His tenure as Russia's president was tempestuous. His regime saw the collapse of the old USSR's command economy, several rounds of hyperinflation that wiped out the savings of many Russians, suppression of a would-be rebellion in 1993 by military force, and numerous other political and economic upheavals.
Looking back, it is hard to believe that Russia made it through the 1990s without collapsing in some cataclysm. The people of Russia (as well as the rest of the world) were exceedingly fortunate that Yeltsin never let the many forces whirling about him reach the point where Russia itself would spin out of control. I lived in Moscow for most of the 1990s and witnessed a lot of this first-hand. Being in Russia in those days was almost like living through another revolutionary period. One never knew what the world would look like each morning, a surprise middle-of-the-night dismissal of the entire government happened more than once, and at times you held your breath waiting for what might be coming next.
Despite his flaws, Yeltsin was a man who defied all of his opponents and critics. His political death certificate was written several times--only to see him rise against the odds and stay in the game. Physically, few expected him to survive to reach a second term. A friend of mine working for one of the major U.S. news bureaus in Moscow told me one day in 1996 that their assignment for the weekend was to write Yeltsin's obituary. Everyone was sure he would succumb to his heart illness at any moment; the bureau chief wanted to have the file footage and script in the can ready for broadcast when the time came. As usual, he fooled them all and stayed alive for another 11 years until his heart finally gave out this week.
None of Yeltsin's historic achievements made the Russian population regard his tenure with any sense or respect or fondness. He is reviled by many as having presided over Russia's precipitous decline in international prestige. He is resented for having let much of Russia's state-owned wealth (i.e. oil companies, aluminum plants, etc.) fall into private hands for a fraction of its true value. His most powerful supporters, such as Boris Berezovskiy, were not only distrusted by the regime of Vladimir Putin who succeeded Yeltsin, but were either thrown into prison (like Yukos president Mikhail Khordokovskiy) or forced into exile.
All of which demonstrates that Russians have both short memories and an odd sense of what makes a "great leader." As a Communist Party official Yeltsin was the quintessential populist. He rode the public transport in Moscow to work to see how well it did (or did not) work. He stood in line with ordinary citizens in the shops and berated the staff when he saw signs of shoddy service. He turned down the luxurious country house, or dacha as they are called, that was one of the perks of his position as Moscow city party boss.
None of this principled leadership is likely ever to be seen with the current government in Moscow. Putin and his senior aides travel in a phalanx of security guards and armored Mercedes limousines fitted with electronic jammers designed to defeat roadside bombs and blank out mobile phone signals. Every step possible is taken to insulate them from the general public. A Moscow colleague said recently "one has to go all the way back to the Stalin years to find anything resembling the level of power and paranoia that now characterizes their public appearances."
Under Yeltsin there was an open, if sometimes chaotic political dialogue. Newspapers, television networks, radio stations and other outlets were more or less free to say what they wanted. In Putin's Russia the state's control and/or intimidation of most of the media has almost completely eliminated anything resembling public debate. Programs like Viktor Shenderovich's Kukly ("Puppets"), which ran from 1994 to 2003, were merciless in satirizing the ups and downs of the Yeltsin years, but the marionette comedy was abruptly taken off the air when Putin took offense at the manner in which he was portrayed in one week's segment.
During the Yeltsin period, as is the common complaint, Russia was the "wild east." Corruption was rampant and the people needed a strong hand to restore order. But order cannot be restored when there is no accountability in government and the press is muzzled.
According to last autumn's Transparency International survey, Russia's Corruptions Perception index is a lowly 2.4 on a scale of 0 to 10--the same score that the country earned in the last year of Yeltsin's rule. The Russia ruled by Putin's "dictatorship of the law" is now in the same corruption bracket as Albania. The neighboring nations of Belarus and Ukraine--not famous for their incorruptibility--have better scores than the regime in Moscow.
Yeltsin's government saw a number of high-profile murders, but almost all were the result of business disputes or of one organized crime syndicate attempting to move in on another's operations. The murders have continued under Putin, but the victims are no longer oil barons or casino managers. They are the ex-secret policeman's political critics like journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Ivan Safranov, or Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, who barely survived a pre-election poisoning attempt by forces allied with his then-campaign opponent, Viktor Yanukovich, who was actively supported by Putin.
Most notably, under Yeltsin no one ever pilfered millions of dollars worth of exotic nuclear materials and carried them onto a British Airways aircraft (leaving a trail of radioactivity in their wake) so that they could provide one of the Russian government's critics in exile with a particularly gruesome death. Again, one has to return to the Stalin years to find the full assets of the state being used to terrorize anyone and everyone living in any country that has a bad word to say about the regime.
The main difference in the two leaders is that Yeltsin was possessed of a visceral desire to eradicate the undemocratic nature of the old regime. Stanislav Shushkevich, the man who steered Belarus into independence in 1991, told the press this week that the breakup of the USSR "would not have been bloodless if Russia had been led by someone else." Given today's interference by Moscow in the internal affairs of Ukraine as the fledging democracy tries to break away from Russia and form ties with NATO and the E.U. one wonders if this conflict will end without bloodshed.
This week Renaissance Capital, the Moscow-based investment bank that is one of Putin's biggest cheerleaders, released a survey of 1,600 Russian citizens across 46 regions in which 80 percent of the respondents favored Putin staying in office for a third term. Private banks are usually not in the polling business, but in this case another four years of Putin means the money keeps coming in. That's how the money men in Russia like things--neat, tidy and predictable, not messy.
And that in the end is the biggest difference between Yeltsin and his successor. Earlier in the year Igor Malashenko, one of the founders of the once-independent NTV, was quoted as saying that Yeltsin "loved the mess" of democracy. Democracy is, by its very nature, unruly. Yeltsin understood and gloried in this fact. It is a pity--if not a tragedy--that Russia's government now seems to have sold its population on idolizing a regime that represents everything Boris Yeltsin tried to eradicate from Russia's political system.
Click here for full article
Monday, April 23, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
- "I believe . . . that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week."--Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, April 19, 2007
"Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States."--1864 Democratic platform
Posted by Ted Pethick at 4:20 PM
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Amen, and all I can add, is when is someone, anyone outside of Rush and a few on talk radio, going to fight back? The whole Rosie -O'Donnelization of America reminds me of 1992...let us sincerely hope not...T
The resigned Scooter Libby did not leak Valerie Plame’s name, a fact known to a special prosecutor charged with finding out who did and if were a crime. After hours of testimony, he was found self-contradictory under oath (though self-contradictory hardly to the extent of a Joe Wilson who said and wrote things about his yellow-cake inquiries that could not be conceivably true), and now faces a possible prison sentence.
Ditto the exemption given to the Duke accuser who repeatedly lied in her sworn testimonials, but will apparently not be charged with perjury because her stories are so implausible that officials think she must be unhinged — a new rationale that the perjurer is apparently free from indictment when the concoctions exceed possible belief.
Alberto Gonzalez perhaps (emphasize “perhaps,” as yet we don’t know all the facts) showed a lapse in judgment or at least of political savvy by firing politically appointed federal attorneys, something that was not unusual in past Democratic administrations.
Paul Wolfowitz, who sought to curb corruption that undermines support for World Bank aid to Africa, likewise is facing a lynch mob over perhaps a similar one-time lapse of judgment in regard to compensation of a companion — nothing, however, ranking with the various scandals surrounding Kofi Annan, whose son profited by United Nations exemptions given through his family ties. In today’s moral calculus, presiding over a $50-billion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal that led to frequent death in Iraq and profit among global elites is a misdemeanor, recommending a pay package for an employee one dates is an unforgivable felony.
One could go on with the furor over the misdirected pellets from Dick Cheney’s shotgun, or the clamor for the Rumsfeld resignation. Yet contrast all this hysteria with the slight whimpers surrounding recent controversies over conflicts of interest or lapses in judgment surrounding Richard Armitage, Harry Reid, or Dianne Feinstein. The destruction of federal documents that might well alter history’s consensus by former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was a snore for most journalists.
What, then, is the one common tie that explains all these furious efforts of the media and partisans to go after these present and former Bush-administration officials?
Payback for Iraq.
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 10:44 PM
Friday, April 13, 2007
Posted by Ted Pethick at 10:58 PM
Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson writes as contrarian here - ok, if we are NOT to be policeman of the world, then..what? Finally delineating between idealism and realism in foreign policy thought (read - Neocon vs. Realpolitik's Kissengerism), the author clearly lays out what the world would be like without US Military and Political hegemony - and why we have no choice but to lead in this world, or descend into Hobbsian chaos...T (Thanks to CornetJim, again, for this one!)
America is the reluctant sheriff of a wild world that sometimes seems mired in wrongdoing. The UN has nothing to offer in the way of enforcing laws and dispensing justice, other than spouting pious oratory and initiating feeble missions that usually do more harm than good. NATO plays a limited role, as in Afghanistan, but tends to reflect the timidity (and cowardice) of Continental Europe. Britain and a few other nations such as Australia are willing to follow America's lead but are too weak to act on their own.
That leaves the U.S. to shoulder the responsibility. Otherwise — what? Is brute force to replace the rule of law in the world because there's no one to enforce it? I wish some of those who constantly criticize America's efforts and the judgment of President Bush would ask themselves this simple question: Would you really like to live in a world where the U.S. sits idly by and lets things happen?
Life in such a world would be like the bestial existence described in Thomas Hobbes' great work, Leviathan. If people "live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man." In that lawless state there will be "continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
In the 350 years since Hobbes wrote his book nothing essential has changed. For proof, look at the poor people of Sudan, in whose struggle the U.S. has not been willing to intervene and whose lives are exactly as Hobbes described. The same is true in Somalia, where the U.S. has been indecisive and vacillating. And this was the case in the former Yugoslavia until the U.S., with great misgiving, finally responded to pressure and sent in its forces.
It's fortunate for the world that in areas in which international law doesn't operate and rogue states do as they please, America will sometimes agree to play Leviathan in order to establish law, at the risk of huge financial expense and its soldiers' lives. It does so because it is a country founded on idealism. A majority of Americans have always believed that a society, under G-d, must come to the rescue of the poor, weak and oppressed if it has the means to do so. The U.S. has applied this idealism systematically to the world as a whole and in many different ways, from the Marshall Plan, which helped raise Europe from ruin in 1948, to declaring war on international terrorism five years ago.
ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA
America is fundamentally and instinctively idealistic. But following these ideals and acting as the world's policeman raises moral issues. We all agree that the sheriff must be righteous, brave and resolute. But should he also, if the situation demands, be cunning, devious and Machiavellian? In short, should America, along with its idealism, also practice realpolitik? And won't these two forces be in constant practical and moral conflict?
It's difficult to exercise authority in large parts of the world and, to use Hobbes' phrase, "keep them all in awe," without a touch of realpolitik. Britain discovered this in the 19th century, just as the Romans had two millennia before. Moreover, as British statesmen such as Benjamin Disraeli and Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, found, imperial realpolitik expressed itself principally in two cynical maxims: "Divide and rule" and "My enemy's enemy is my friend." These two maxims are rearing their heads again in the Middle East, and almost unwittingly — and certainly not from any set purpose — the U.S. finds itself following them.
U.S. intervention in Iraq has had the inevitable consequence of fueling the Sunni-Shia feud, which has raged in Islam for 1,000 years at varying degrees of intensity. It's now running hotter than ever, and likely to get worse, as more and more of the Middle East is drawn into it. Of course, with the Sunnis fighting the Shia, they have less time and energy to fight the West, and America finds it easier to rule. But this raises moral dilemmas that the U.S. has so far failed to resolve or publicly recognize.
Another situation where realpolitik could come into play is Iran's nuclear power quest. The moment Iran possesses and can deliver nuclear bombs it will use them against Israel, destroying the entire country and its inhabitants. If this danger becomes imminent, Israel has the means — if suitably assisted — to launch a preemptive strike. Should the U.S. provide such assistance and moral encouragement?
China's progress in advanced military technology, especially Star Wars-like rocket defenses, is also giving American strategists problems: How should the U.S. react? The realpolitik answer would be to assist India, China's natural rival and potential antagonist in east and central Asia, to achieve technological parity. But would it be right to do so?
These kinds of questions can arise almost anywhere but do so especially around ruthless totalitarian regimes that are attempting to acquire more military power than is safe to allow them. North Korea is a case in point. It's one thing for the U.S. to make clear that it will defend its allies, such as South Korea and Japan, from nuclear threats. That is straightforward and honorable. But the realpolitik solution would be to assist and encourage China to deal with the problem of a nuclear-armed and aggressive North Korea, the strategy being based on another old maxim: "Set a thief to catch a thief."
I don't envy those in Washington whose duty it is to resolve the dilemma between idealism and realpolitik. But they will not go far wrong if they respect the great tripod on which all geopolitical wisdom rests: the rule of law, the consultation of the people and the certitude that, however strong we may be, we are answerable to a higher power.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007
This today from Fouad Ajami (via Barone) - no Neocon he! Remember, this situation is vastly better than Vietnam 1973 - and we had effectively won the war on the ground there at that point, only to withdraw under political pressure from the "objective, unbiased" press rooms of "America's anchorman", the communist sympathiser Walter Chronkite. We are on the verge of winning this thing ladies and gentlemen!
The Situation in Iraq
Fouad Ajami has a long piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Iraq in the Balance." Here are some excerpts, which I hope will entice you into reading the whole thing:
"A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad. Baghdad has not been prettified; its streets remain a sore to the eye, its government still hunkered down in the Green Zone, and violence is never far. But the sense of deliverance, and the hopes invested in this new security plan, are palpable. I crisscrossed the city–always with armed protection–making my way to Sunni and Shia politicians and clerics alike. The Sunni and Shia versions of political things–of reality itself–remain at odds. But there can be discerned, through the acrimony, the emergence of a fragile consensus."
"For our part, we can't give full credence to the Sunni representations of things. We can cushion the Sunni defeat but can't reverse it. Our soldiers have not waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq against Sunni extremists to fall for the fear of some imagined "Shia crescent" peddled by Sunni rulers and preachers. To that atavistic fight between Sunni and Shia, we ought to remain decent and discerning arbiters. To be sure, in Iraq itself we can't give a blank check to Shia maximalism. On its own, mainstream Shi'ism is eager to rein in its own die-hards and self-anointed avengers."
"One can never reconcile the beneficiaries of illegitimate, abnormal power to the end of their dominion. But this current realignment in Iraq carries with it a gift for the possible redemption of modern Islam among the Arabs. Hitherto Sunni Islam had taken its hegemony for granted and extremist strands within it have shown a refusal to accept "the other." Conversely, Shia history has been distorted by weakness and exclusion and by a concomitant abdication of responsibility.
A Shia-led state in Baghdad–with a strong Kurdish presence in it and a big niche for the Sunnis–can go a long way toward changing the region's terrible habits and expectations of authority and command. The Sunnis would still be hegemonic in the Arab councils of power beyond Iraq, but their monopoly would yield to the pluralism and complexity of that region."
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 3:56 PM
Monday, April 09, 2007
Almost time to go home, so why not have a good laugh? Musungu means "White Traveler" and we were very well treated by all.
Posted by Ted Pethick at 4:36 PM
Posted by Ted Pethick at 4:32 PM
At almost 80,000 refugees, Pabbo is the largest IDP camp in Uganda. The kids were happy to see us!...T
This is the abandoned Uganda Telecom TV tower, which, after much bribery, we were able to lease - to use as an relay station for the Radio devices - up to 100km in broadcast distance. You can see 3 such devices mounted 40 meters up the tower on custom designed carriages...T
As T.R. would have said..."Bully!"...T
"They don't hate us just because the Republican Congress didn't raise the minimum wage or because George W. Bush has a stubborn streak and speaks with a West Texas accent. They hate us because of our freedoms and because we have worked to export those freedoms around the world.
Friendship, hope and a determination to be on the road to peace are not enough to protect us in this world. A speedy exit from Iraq might make many Americans less unsettled while watching cable news -- for a while. But it wouldn't make us safer. It will just leave us more likely to face the kind of surprise we had on Sept. 11, 2001. "
"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared after her visit to Syria and her meeting with its hereditary dictator Bashir Assad last week. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria."
The woman second in line for the presidency (after Vice President Dick Cheney) seemed to believe she was on a Henry Kissinger-like shuttle diplomacy mission from Jerusalem to Damascus. But Henry Kissinger she ain't. Pelosi said she was delivering a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. A seeming breakthrough. Not so, said a statement speedily issued by Olmert's office. It said that Olmert had not made "any change in the policies of Israel."
Pelosi said Assad indicated he was ready to "resume the peace process." That wasn't the impression other members of Congress took away from their meeting with him a few days earlier. Syria under Assad pere et fils has steadfastly refused to make peace with Israel, despite diplomatic efforts considerably more assiduous than Pelosi is in a position to undertake. Bill Clinton's first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, traveled the road to Damascus to meet with the elder Assad 22 times. End product: nada.
The Washington Post, not a backer of all Bush policies, called Pelosi's road-to-Damascus statement "ludicrous." "As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri." The Post concluded, "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish."
House International Affairs Committee Tom Lantos, who accompanied Pelosi, has defended her, without addressing the Post's conclusion that her claims to have set Israel and Syria on "a road to peace." In USA Today, he noted that she "publicly declared that she supports the administration's goals regarding Syria." He said he and she are "convinced that direct communication with Syria's leader cannot worsen Syrian behavior. Rather, over time, it may just lead to improvement."
That's dubious. Coming in "friendship" to Damascus may make Assad more confident he has a free hand in Lebanon, and "may just" doesn't sound very promising. But the bigger issue here is the thinking that gave Pelosi confidence she could produce progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
At the heart of that thinking is this proposition: We're the problem. America, or rather George W. Bush, is the problem. We're not doing enough to get the Israelis and Syrians together; we're not doing enough to address the grievances of the Palestinian people (than whom "nobody is suffering more," according to Barack Obama); we're not doing enough to mollify the dictators who are working against us.
Akin to this is the feeling shared by most Democrats and, it seems, by most American voters, that if we can just get our troops out of Iraq all will be well in the world.
I recall reading a few weeks ago an article on Democratic fund raising that quoted a woman as saying that "we were very safe under the Clinton administration." No, we weren't "very safe" -- we just thought we were. Bill Clinton knew we weren't "very safe," and he took some steps -- unfortunately, not enough -- to make us safer.
You can say the same of George W. Bush during first eight months in office. There are evil leaders out there -- the mullahs of Iran, Assad and his thugs, Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and his pal Fidel Castro -- who hate the United States and want to do us as much damage as they can.
They don't hate us just because the Republican Congress didn't raise the minimum wage or because George W. Bush has a stubborn streak and speaks with a West Texas accent. They hate us because of our freedoms and because we have worked to export those freedoms around the world.
Friendship, hope and a determination to be on the road to peace are not enough to protect us in this world. A speedy exit from Iraq might make many Americans less unsettled while watching cable news -- for a while. But it wouldn't make us safer. It will just leave us more likely to face the kind of surprise we had on Sept. 11, 2001.
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Posted by Ted Pethick at 2:21 PM
Thursday, April 05, 2007
ahh the Brits...shame on them...Thatcher, let alone Churchill, would be appalled...Good to be home, after such a journey, but the squabbling has not since ceased in my absence, so it seems! VDH is simply the best writer/philosopher out these days, and he is in top form here - witty, and with moral parables discerning our fate, should we not awake in time. this article links to his blog - "Works and Days", which you should consider daily reading...T
Why It Bothers So…
One can make all sorts of clever arguments—indeed the Brits have, from blaming us to blaming their own—about why this crisis was someone else’s fault, due to a misunderstanding, due to media exaggeration, due to an accident. But what is missing is the simple fact that THIS IS THE BRITISH NAVY. Who would care if the Iranians had embarrassed the Italian Navy, the Russian Navy, or the Chinese Navy? But the Brits? We forget that the entire history of Western navies is predicated on the British experience at sea. The Brits had the greatest admirals, the Brits invented the Man-of-War, dreadnought, battleship, heavy cruiser, and aircraft carrier. The Brits created the very notion of modern seamanship and discipline, and its pantheon of naval heroes like Drake, Cook, Anson, Vernon, Nelson, and Fisher still resonates.
So like the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center this was an iconic act that sent a message that the descendents of Xerxes finally upped Lord Nelson.
Pictures Worth a Thousand Words
Nancy Pelosi in a Scarf at the nexus of terrorism in Damascus
British sailors in cuffs being escorted by proud Iranian seamen
One could make the argument that by early 1974 it was finally known that the prior Tet Offensive really had been a terrible defeat for the North Vietnamese, that the efforts to rid the South of the Viet Cong were mostly successful, that radically different bombing strategies and ordinance had redirected the damage from rice paddies to communist hierarchies in Hanoi—and that the public absolutely did not care, and could not be convinced that there was a chance to save South Vietnam, and so backed serial Congressional cut-offs of aid.
We may be nearing that same crisis point; that is, at last we have made necessary adjustments in Iraq, are defeating the enemy—and no one cares any more for any news other than that of our departure.
It’s almost like a Sophoclean tragedy, since we know the script from 1974-2007 and can’t seem to stop it: we give up, the government collapses, hundreds of thousands are killed and exiled, our military and diplomatic reputation is shredded, and so we squabble for the next 30 years over the defeat and how we had almost won when we threw in the towel.
The British Vocabulary of the Iranian crisis
Rules of engagement: a diplomatic embarrassment waiting to happen
GPS coordinates: an outdated and inexact pseudo-science, of no value in adjudicating territorial or geographical disputes
Admiral Nelson: dead, irrelevant white male imperialist colonialist—fill in the blanks …
First Lord of the Admiralty: nothing first, lordish, or admirable about it
Naval vessel: a floating liability
Royal Marines: diplomatic personnel
Hostages: can instruct the enemy on power-point
The United States: your only ally, but you’d prefer it a neutral
Europe: neutral, but you’d prefer it an ally.European Union: unified by profit, divided by principle
NATO: The Neutral anti-American Truce Organization
Captives of the Past
The success of a country is almost inextricably connected to the degree of its strangulation by the past: confident societies like Japan, Germany, Italy, Israel, China, etc. don’t dwell on the past in the context of victimhood.
But a stereotypical rule of thumb: when I talk to a Mexican national, he whines about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; when speaking to a Greek, the 1967 coup or the 1973 invasion of Cyprus starts the discussion, for an Iranian of any persuasion, it is always 1953 and Mosaddeq. A Palestinian talks only about 1947, and shows some strange rusted key to a house in Jerusalem.
The point is not that there are not legitimate grievances that have had repercussions, but that they are in the past and one must get on with one’s life. Americans don’t talk about the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, and are not obsessed with hating the Vietnamese for that lost war.
The only exception might be Southerners’ obsession with Longstreet at Gettysburg or Albert Sidney Johnston dying at the high water mark at Shiloh. But rarely now are any in the South captives to the Lost Cause, which is always a symptom of an insecure and angry mind, that faults others for the past rather than looks confidently toward the future. And nowhere is this more common than the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
Outtake # 10—No Man A Slave
The great march to free the helots starts out in the last month of the year from Thebes. As Melon and Pelopidas trudge together up the pass at Kithairon, they discuss why they are attacking Sparta. Pelopidas tricks Melon into giving him a lesson about why wars break out.
The two talked and were interrupted often by the Sacred Band, especially the younger of the 300, who themselves cared little about the debate, only when they would arrive into Lakonia. Surely Agesilaos must be over the next mountain as they looked down at the great plain of Megara before them.
Melon ignored them all. Instead he laid out what he thought was the thinking of Epaminondas. “Sparta after the fall of the Athenians had to remain preeminent. We disagreed. So we fought battles for 20 seasons. And they ravaged our land each spring. War had no end. Hardly can we remember its beginning. So now the men of our age seek to end it for good. If we cannot make Sparta into a democracy, then we can ring it with democracies I suppose, thought the idea of those crazy hill folk Arkadians voting as if they were civilized is scarier than anything Sparta has done.”
Pelopidas laughed at that, but let Melon finish. “So I think that is why Proxenos and Ainias are already down south as we speak. And if we cannot kill all their hoplites, then we can starve them and make them work for their keep once we free their helots. And I am sure there are thousands already down there as well, to shake up the unfree to meet us at Sparta. So when we go over their pass, the Spartans will understand it is not wise to rile Epaminondas and that their war will always be down there, never again up here.
“If, “Pelopidas shrugged, “if, if we can do all that and more. If, if, if…Yet I fear even with war in Lakonia, and even with Messenia free, and even with the great cities you talk about on her flank, we will leave this war to our children unless we level Sparta and kill her kings. Yes, our Epaminondas must make war so terrible that she can never fight us again.”
Melon laughed “So this was a game all along, Pelopidas! You are no honest philosopher. Much less my pupil! No, you simply wished me to give back your own answers. Dumb farmer me. I say that you are more the fire breather than old iron-gut himself. I saw that the other day in the assembly.”
“I suppose,” Pelopidas offered, but then he took stuck his head closer to Melon’s and in a softer voice went on.
“But sometimes when we have private thoughts, we wish others to say them for us so we can hear how they sound. So others can give voice to the dark truth we prefer ourselves not to utter or even hear, but wish to be aired among all. And because you know war better even than I and you had no belly in the beginning for this great march, Melon, you have taken a great worry off my heart. I know now there is no other way to end this but the way we are marching.”
“No. No, there is no other way,” Melon answered.
Melissos mumbled after them, smiling, “No other way. No other way—no other way than to head south and cut them all down.”
Epaminondas now fell back with them, and taunted them, “Are you now Athenians of this age, who talk and sing while better men of action give them fodder for thought? Leave the world of the clouds of this pass. Come down to the earth beneath our feet. Just remember one thing: either we succeed and prove that Hellas in its old age, is still neither too wealthy nor too clever to play its all. Or we stew. We bicker. We harp finding fancy words about the “good” and what is “wise,” to cover the fear and weaknesses in our hearts. How I hate the cynic.”
With that, the talkers heard the trumpeters’ order to halt and pitch camp and to wait for the 20,000 men at their backs. Melon could already see well the Megarid below, and figured that they had gone some 120 stades while they had talked the first day’s march away.
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