The Daily Demarche
I hope the left sleeps well tonight.
I was going to write about the President's recent swing through Europe tonight, but was pre-emtped by the resignation of the Syrian backed Lebanese government
. This is a great development, and this story of hope and the apparrent triumph of the the desire for freedom over oppression is welcome.
Unfortunately it is overshadowed for me by the mass murder
that occured today in Iraq. This time the forces of all that is un-holy in the region managed to kill some police recruits, and a crowd of people in a local market. So far at least 125 are dead and more than that number wounded. Many of them women and children shopping for groceries.
This homicide bombing in Iraq has really gotten to me. None of the people killed today was a Theo van Gogh, Europe will not mourn their passing. None of them will buy a Bushitler t-shit, moveon.org could not care less for them. It is too dangerous to molest children there, the U.N. will stay away. ANSWER, which has none to offer, will ignore this tragedy or better yet blame it on the President. And 20 year old American boys and girls will continue to fight the battle the rest of the cowardly world continues to pretend does not need to be fought.
I can't write about this anymore tonight.
If you want something good to read about the President's trip I highly reccomend this:
U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode (here are a few excerpts)
Even more remarkably, aside from sticking to his guns in the wider world, the president also found time to cast his eye upon Europe's internal affairs. As he told his audience in Brussels, in the first speech of his tour, ''We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands.''
The Euro-bigwigs shuffled their feet and stared coldly into their mistresses' decolletage. They knew Bush wasn't talking about anti-Semitism in Nebraska, but about France, where for three years there's been a sustained campaign of synagogue burning and cemetery desecration, and Germany, where the Berlin police advise Jewish residents not to go out in public wearing any identifying marks of their faith
The new EU ''constitution,'' for example, would be unrecognizable as such to any American. I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself ''Europe's Jefferson,'' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.
Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.
To the people of Lebanon, I salute you. To the Iraqi and international dregs of humanity killing innocents in Iraq- may you all burn for eternity. To the apologists around the world who would deny the people of Iraq liberty, freedom and peace- may you never need to call on the U.S. to save you from tyranny . To the good people of Iraq, may God bless you and keep you safe until such time as you no longer need fear the murderous scum who the rest of the world prefers to ignore.
Putting the "D" in "ODA"
Regular readers will already know that foreign aid is a favorite topic here at The Demarche- we have addressed the issue a number of times, here
. Well my friends, it’s time for another go at it.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee released a memo titled “The Truth About U.S. Foreign Assistance
” to very little fanfare earlier this week. Coming as it does so late in the game after a UN official made remarks about “stingy” aid it is little wonder that the report did not generate much buzz. A Google News search today returned only two hits: The Washington Times in Embassy Row
and the online magazine The Hill
. As far as I can tell only one group has come out in clear opposition to the report: Citizens for Global Democracy
. Their major bone of contention is that the report includes military assistance as aid under developmental aid; they brand the report “not so much a complete falsehood as a scheming misrepresentation of the truth”. At the risk of this turning into a new-sisyphan length post here is the executive summary (although I recommend reading the whole piece):Executive Summary
• The United States is the world’s largest donor of official development assistance (ODA).
• U.S. ODA disbursements increased from $10 billion in 2000 to $16 billion in 2003, and are estimated to have increased to $19 billion in 2004. This number does not include the $18 billion in supplemental funding already provided for reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Since 1998, the pattern for the United States has been one of steadily higher annual real increases in ODA disbursements, while most non-U.S. donors trend downward during this same period.
• The United States is the single largest contributor to all of the major international development organizations, including the United Nations itself.
• In order to appreciate the enormity of American charity, one needs to look at the totality of public-, private-, and corporate-sector aid, including nongovernmental organizations and other forms of charity, which contribute nearly $34 billion per year in international assistance annually.
• In 2004, personal remittances, net private investment, and NGO grants, all of which are considered non-trade financial flows, totaled $48 billion, nearly three times the size of U.S. ODA.
• Other crucial components of U.S. non-ODA foreign aid include the hundreds of millions spent annually on providing U.S. military support and assistance during disaster recovery and humanitarian relief missions and the billions of dollars earned by developing nations that have preferential trade access to U.S. markets.
• Arguably, without the U.S. military serving as the world’s “UPS” to deliver humanitarian supplies and soldiers to assist in overseas disaster zones, the international community would be hard pressed to be able to respond as quickly as it has in the past.
• Private American citizens, through a variety of different venues, have donated nearly $700 million to the tsunami relief effort.
This report, for the first time that I have ever seen, clearly and cogently defines exactly what the United States gives to the world in foreign aid, and breaks it down into what is included and excluded when we talk about “official developmental assistance” (ODA). An excellent example of what is not usually included is military assistance, i.e. “the U.S. military serving as the world’s “UPS” to deliver humanitarian supplies and soldiers to assist in overseas disaster zones.” Such use of the military in the recent tsunami relief efforts alone totaled over a quarter of a billion dollars. Remittances, preferential access to U.S. markets and military support (different than military assistance) are other items traditionally excluded from ODA figures. This serves to drastically lower the "official" amount of aid we deliver, making the U.S. look relatively "stingy."
Of all the facts and figures in the report, though, this one is my favorite:
United Nations: In 2004, the U.S. contributed 22 percent of the U.N. budget or $362 million…Germany, France, and the United Kingdom combined spent $343 million or 21 percent.
You just have to love it.
So what are we to do with this report? While critics of U.S. foreign aid correctly point out that we are not meeting the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) standards that stipulate members should devote 0.7 of their gross domestic product (GDP) to development assistance (we currently spend about 0.24 percent of GDP on foreign aid), we are far in front of the world when it comes to real aid dollars. I have no problem increasing the amount of money we contribute to the world, for instance I can think of $362 million that can be rerouted immediately to ODA. Before we expand our aid programs, however, we must work to ensure that this aid is properly utilized. To date it seems that when it comes to ODA we have managed two of the three- official and assistance. It is time to focus on development.
The days of simply sending money out into the world must come to an end. The American people and the recipients of aid must see a quantifiable result. U.S. foreign aid can and should be used as both a carrot and a stick. We should be willing to assist our friends and those nations sincere in establishing and maintaining free and democratic societies, and withhold aid from those who are not. We should be prepared to measure the effects our dollars are having, and do so regularly. We need to face the fact that we will not always succeed, and will perhaps from time to time have to end aid projects that do not bear fruit. Careful attention will have to be paid to ensure that we are not creating dependency in the countries who receive our aid, but rather that we are helping them to help themselves by creating new markets and suppliers for the world economy.
I don’t have the answers as to how exactly we can do all of this- but I know those answers are out there. I also know that the current aid programs in place are largely ineffective- their continued existence and the growth in aid that we are so proud of is the clearest indicator that we are failing miserably. The goal of any aid program should not be to increase current aid spending from $1 billion to $5 billion, but the exact opposite. An effective aid program should put itself out of business, quickly and efficiently every time, leaving behind an organic form of self help.
The President’s Millennium Challenge Account is one good example of the type of reform that foreign aid needs. In the words of the President:
“We must tie greater aid to political and legal and economic reforms. And by insisting on reform, we do the work of compassion. The United States will lead by example. I have proposed a 50-percent increase in our core development assistance over the next three budget years. Eventually, this will mean a $5 billion annual increase over current levels.
These new funds will go into a new Millennium Challenge Account, devoted to projects in nations that govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.”
I salute the President for his efforts to help the people of the world, and to focus on assisting those who share our dream of a more just world. But I would like to remind the President, the Congress and the directors of the Millenium Challenge Account that each and every one of those billions of dollars was generated by an American worker, and to date many of us are less than pleased with the results we have seen from the spending of our hard earned money. Let's redefine our foreign aid goals and pursue them with all the might and focus we can generate.
Don't be the Ugly American.
Here is something a little lighter for the weekend. We occasionally get e-mail from readers along the lines of “I am planning a weeklong trip to Western Ickystan. Can you tell me if there is anything I should know?” Most of the time I refer these questions to the Department of State Travel Advisory Page
, where one can find tidbits such as:This Travel Warning is being issued to inform American citizens that the Department of State has lifted the authorized departure status of non-emergency American employees and adult family members of all employees at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. However, the Department continues to prohibit minor dependents from accompanying U.S. government employees there. The Department alerts U.S. citizens to ongoing safety and security concerns in Cote d'Ivoire and urges them to defer non-essential travel to that country. This supersedes the Travel Warning of December 3, 2004.
Now, this is good information. But what if I have no choice, I have to go to Abidjan soon and I want something a little more concrete? Like, how can I order a beer there for the gentleman at the bar who might otherwise be inclined to do me bodily harm? I mean, really, who wants
to be the ugly American?
No problem, help is here, courtesy of All About Beer
magazine and a reader who took note of my mention that unlike Smiley with his appletinis, I am a beer drinker. This excellent reader sent me a list of the phrase “one beer, please” in 28 different tongues- good luck pronouncing some of these:
Chinese: (Cantonese) Ng goi bei bear jou.
Chinese: (Mandarin) Ching gai wor e ping pea jou.
Czech/Slovak: Jedno pivo prosim.
Danish: En øl tak
Dutch: Een bier alstublieft.
Flemish: Een pintje alstublief.
Afrikaans: Een pintje asseblief.
Finnish: Yksi olut, kiitos.
French: Une bière. S’il vous plait.
Gaelic: Pionta beoir abhain led do thuil.
German: Ein bier bitte.
Greek: Mia beera parakolo.
Hindi: Ek beer deejiya.
Hungarian: Egy sört kérek.
Icelandic: Einn bjor takk.
Italian: Una birra, per favore.
Japanese: Birru o ippon kudasai.
Korean: Magjoo hanna Juse-yo.
Latin: Unam cerevisiam si placet.
Norwegian: En øl takk.
Polish: Jedno pivo prosze.
Portugese: Uma cerveja por favor.
Russian: Odno pivo pozhaluista.
Spanish: Una cerveza por favor.
Swahili: Pombi moja tafadhali.
Swedish: En öl tak.
Tagaolog: Isang beer nga.
Thai: Khor beer neung khoud, krup (change krup to ka if you are a female).
Remember folks, everytime you leave the country you are the face of America. So drink responsibly, tip the bartender and try to order at least one beer in the local language!
If you are not part of the solution...
The anti-war left of the 1960s produced the ubiquitous phrase from which today's title is drawn, and made very effective use of it. It seems, however, that many of the current liberal elite have no desire to look in the mirror and ask what, exactly, they are doing to make the world a better, safer, place. The constant anti-Bush rhetoric and America blaming by the likes of Noam Chomsky produces great sound-bites and catch phrases, but as far as I can tell offers little in the way of useful problem solving. They want America out of Iraq, NOW! OK. Then what? I keep expecting someone, anyone, on the left to make a well reasoned, thoughtful suggestion. I am repeatedly disappointed.
To this end I try to keep up with the writings of the faithful opposition, which lead me to Common Dreams
today, a site which bills itself as "Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community." I found a piece there by Juan Cole (professor of modern Middle Eastern and North African studies at the University of Michigan) that was originally published in the L.A. Times, titled "The Downside of Democracy
: What if the U.S. doesn't like what the voters like in the Mideast and beyond?" An excellent question, one with which I have struggled myself. The Iraqis could very well elect a mullahcrocy, if not now then in the near future. As Mr. Cole asks:...What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?
As I read the beginning of this article I thought that today was the day, at last, where I would find what I have long yearned for- a legitimate contribution from the left, no whining, no brow-beating, but a useful piece of thinking that might help America, Iraq and our allies move forward. Of course, I was let down once again. Mr. Cole abandoned his opportunity to be part of the solution with the rest of the article between that beginning and the conclusion:Are such outcomes acceptable to the Bush administration? If not, how will it respond? Given the war on terror, it is unlikely to simply take these electoral setbacks lying down.
But if Washington falls back on its traditional responses -- covert operations, attempts to interfere in parliamentary votes with threats or bribes, or dependence on strong men like Musharraf -- the people of the Middle East might well explode, because the only thing worse than living under a dictatorship is being promised a democracy and then not really getting it.
He is completely correct it would indeed be disastrous should democracy fail in the ME and his scenario come to pass. But why is that the only scenario he can imagine? Where is the learned recommendation on how to avoid that very situation? Why does such an excellent, thought provoking question peter out into the assumption that our only possible response is violence and coercion? While very disappointed, I nevertheless decided to check out Professor Cole's blog Informed Comment, where I found If America were Iraq, What would it be Like?. This is another excellent question, but once again there are no answers. Perhaps the professor simply prefers the Socratic Method. Regardless, I was drawn back to the question that started this piece. What will we do if democratically elected Islamic republics arise in the Middle East?
As I see it we have two options:
1. Accept them and establish diplomatic relations.
2. Oppose them and marginalize them.
If we are sincere about democracy in the Middle East we must pursue option number one. But we must also recall that democracy is only part of the equation. Freedom is the second state of being we are hoping to establish in the region. This is precisely the concept that many of our colleagues on the left have the hardest time dealing with. We want to see democratically elected governments that guarantee freedom for the people of their nation- not some of the people, not just one gender or religion, but all of the people of the nation. Freedom to form opposition parties and to voice opinions, to run for office and if elected to serve, the very freedoms that those on the left like to loudly proclaim are being lost in America while the blinding irony of the fact that they disprove this idea every time they loudly kvetch about the party in power goes right over their heads.
Bearing this theme in mind, then, I once again have a challenge for our readers; something to do over the weekend. I invite and encourage all of you to answer the good professor's questions posed above (repeated here):
What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?
Look forward twenty years or so, imagine a ME where Iraq has elected a Shia government along the lines of Iran. Let your imaginations run wild. In other words, be part of the solution, not the problem. I have my own ideas, which I'll share soon, but I am interested in seeing what you all think.
I look forward to reading your responses. Feel free to email them to me (see right hand frame for address), or to post them at My Blog is Your Blog if they are too long for the comment section, and leave a commen linking to your post, or just break them into chunks for commenting. If you do e-mail a response please let me know if I can post your name, e-mail and homepage when I run the updates. If you post a response on your own blog please link back to this piece and leave a comment here letting us all know. Hopefully we'll get some interaction form the other side of the aisle. Maybe even Professor Cole will chime in. But I doubt it.
On Bush's Excellent European Adventure
I’m pretty tired, so I’m just going to round up some commentary and jot down a few of my thoughts on the President’s Europe trip. Perhaps I’ll flesh them out later. I'm too tired to edit this much, so please forgive the occasional typo or error. Readers are, of course, invited to discuss and embellish in the comments.
Marc Shulman over at the indispensable American Future
has a fantastic roundup of coverage from all angles of the European scene. There's lots to think about there and, as usual, reading Marc's posts makes me wonder why I even bother blogging, since he's usually covered everything in such detail.
Fellow pinstriper New Sisyphus
has a long, detailed post
about the trip which, while marred by the lack of D&D references is nonetheless a worthwhile read (for those of you with a few hours to kill).
The saintly Mrs. Smiley is happy. This is because I actually stopped yelling at BBC world for a while, so nearly non-biased and almost factual was their coverage of the Bush visit. I didn't think that was possible. Even the beeb couldn't help but notice that anti-Bush protesters came out in relatively small numbers.
My impression from all of this is that for all their bluster, all the mass protests, all the wayward opinion polls, Europeans really do worry about what America thinks of them. They want to be liked just as much as we do. They might look down their noses at Americans, and Europe's welfare-intellectual caste may not cease in deploying its tired, faux-ironic Sorbonne narrative that still attempts to find clever ways of relating, in terms both as trite as they are ignorant, that America is the source of much of the world's suffering. But the average European, and therefore the average European politician, nonetheless wants, to some extent, the approval of America, or at least to be valued by her.
I get the sense that while many on the American side of the pond would prefer to have good relations with Europe, and that the apparent easing of tensions brings about some relief, the average European at this time is letting out an audible sigh of relief, as if to paraphrase Sally Field: "you like me, you really do. "
The US without Europe would not be better off, in my opinion, but would survive and adapt -- that is the great strength of American society. On the other hand, Europe without the US, despite the indignance of the aforementioned black-turtleneck intellectuals, would be much worse off. Imagine a Europe that must suddenly pay for both its defense and its lavish welfare system while it nears retirement without enough young laborers to subsidize the welfare system. It is therefore comforting for the average European to know that, the bluster of Messrs Chirac and Schroeder notwithstanding, Uncle Sam will still pick up the tab for Europe's defense. Because of this, despite the insistence of both men that Europe is "an equal" to the US (look it up at American Future), Europe is still a junior partner in the Alliance.
Most Europeans seemed almost eager (although being careful not to show it too much) to be courted by Bush. Which is why, as New Sisyphus pointed out, Bush could get away with saying pretty much the same things he's been saying all along.
There are some in the pundit class, however, who seem to think they are being clever by pointing out that many issues remain, and that there are still cracks in the relationship, etc. This is true, but implicit in this logic is the assumption that things were rosy before the Iraq war, which is anything but the case. There were differences then, as well: US opposition to the International Criminal Court, American ambivalence about Kyoto, a bevy of trade disputes about things as mundane as bananas.
Had the US not invaded Iraq, these differences could well have simmered for a long time, ignored by all but the policy wonks and the occasional savvy pundit (and trust me, savvy pundits occur at most occasionally). It is entirely possible that eventually, the Atlantic Alliance would have atrophied, the passion gone, the two parties behaving just like that old couple at the restaurant who eat an entire meal without speaking or making eye contact.
I believe that the shake up caused by the war in Iraq can ultimately be a good thing, as it clears the dead wood in the Atlantic relationship. The cold war is over, and the US and Europe need to find out if there is any more to the relationship than opposition to the Soviet Union. Just like Dr. Who regenerating, it is time for the Atlantic relationship to develop a new incarnation. Only without the long scarf. I don't think Manolo would approve of that.
You say you want a revolution?
Hello all! I've been tied up for the last few days and had to ask Smiley to shoulder the load, so thanks Smiley and of course to all of you for reading and commenting and especially for linking to us. This was a big week here at the Demarche, we hit 100,000 on the site meter
and "evolved" again in the TTLB Ecosystem
. We hope you are all enjoying this as much as we are! And now on with the show...You say you want a revolutionWell you knowWe all want to change the world ~ The Beatles
The events in Lebanon over the last few weeks have been astounding to witness. The assassination of former PM Hariri has unified the anti-Syrian populace, and brought together disparate portions of the Arab population in the region like nothing before. As one protestor phrased it
:"It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."
I have no doubt that the murder of Hariri provided an excellent focal point for the long-suffering people of Lebanon. But it takes more than focus to convince people to unite and face a very real threat. It takes hope. And where, pray tell, did hope come from for the Lebanese? Read on:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
As the President visits Europe this week, this is the message that he and his team should be spreading. Things are changing. The static malaise that has shrouded the Middle East for so long is being shaken off. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya (sort of) and now Lebanon, which can only have a trickle down effect on Syria and then Iran. As the president has said so often, freedom is on the march.
Of course there are those in the ME who oppose this idea, and in fact go so far as to equate the new liberals in the Arab world with the terrorists who have held the region down for decades:
"… The Arab arena has recently experienced a new group of extremists [who are] more dangerous to the Arabs than the fanatic fundamentalists. [There are] few differences between the old and new kinds [of extremists]: the new [extremists] do anything they want throughout the world, and gain respect and esteem, while the other kind hide in caves in Afghanistan and languish in the darkness of the jails; the first [kind] wear new suits and Western clothes, [while] the old [kind] are clad in Arab robes, Afghan clothes, and hats. In addition, [the second kind grow] long beards, while the new extremists are clean-shaven."
As the peoples of the world struggle to move forward those who would oppress them for their own gain, or out of race hatred, remain stuck in the past. From a recent Hizbollah rally:
Hassan Nasrallah: "We consider it [America] to be an enemy because it wants to humiliate our governments, our regimes, and our peoples. Because it is the greatest plunderer our treasures, our oil, and our resources, while millions in our nation suffer unemployment, poverty, hunger, unmarriagability, ignorance, darkness, and so on. America… This American administration is an enemy. Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: 'Death to America.'"
Crowd: "Death to America"
"Death to America"
"Death to America"
"Death to America"
"Death to America"
"Death to America"
The last time there was this much flux in the ME and we heard chants like that we lost an Embassy in Iran. Today we read about blogs in Iran, and the growing support for freedom of expression. With a median age of 23.5 years and a majority of the population under 30, today’s youth in Iran are a far cry from the generation that stormed the gates in 1979. According to Der Spiegel:
They watch TV from all over the world, even though satellite connections are illegal, download pop music from the internet, and order banned American movies from overseas relatives. They drink alcohol. And their drug parties are no less wild than those in Berlin or New York.Tehran lives with every extreme. Drugs, AIDS and prostitution have become a mass phenomenon in a country that likes to see itself as a model for the Islamic world.
In short, they are fed up with the mullahcrocy. They are ready for a revolution, but for one ingredient. Hope. We know they are watching TV, and listening to the radio, and surfing the net. If the MSM truly wants the Bush administration to avoid bloodshed in Iran (or at least American lead bloodshed) they can help by getting out the message: your wall has fallen. Arabs are ready for democracy, and the world will support you.
The conditions for revolution in Iran are ripe. If the rest of the world, and particularly the moderate Arab world, can supply hope, we might yet see a democratic miracle in Iran. This is the challenge for diplomats around the world, and the clock is ticking.
Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke, The Daily Demarche Review
This book had a reputation long before I read it. Clarke’s claims that Iraq dominated the immediate post 9/11 agenda within the Bush administration, to the detriment of the greater war on terror, made front page news last year. The timing of the book, and the release of its contents, could not have been more fortuitous for Clarke, coming as it did during the 9/11 commission hearings and in the run up to the presidential election.
When Against All Enemies
arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I didn’t know if I wanted to read it. I had already heard and read about the portions of the book that the media had sprayed around, and I figured the book to be a one-trick pony, the type of hackneyed polemic that seem to have spawned like gremlins
when doused with water.
However, having read the book, I must say that the media hype was, unsurprisingly, quite wide of the mark. The impression that I have from the book is that the author intended it to read as a narrative of the war on terror from an insider’s perspective and wrote most of it as such: the majority of the book is a candid account, filled with information only an insider could deliver. Occasionally one finds sprinkled throughout the text snide references to various elements within the Bush administration known to favor going to war with Iraq again, i.e. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and of course the president. The last chapter or so is also devoted to the author’s description of the “follies” of going into Iraq. The way Clarke has done this leaves me with the impression that he added his Iraq-related commentary after he had written most of the book, adding a chapter to the end and inserting occasional invective in strategic places throughout the book. Readers are invited to speculate on why he may have done this.
According to the book’s dust cover, Richard Clarke is a career civil servant who left government after a long career that terminated as a member of the Senior Executive Service (the Civil Service’s equivalent to the military’s flag officers). Clarke started out as a civilian analyst in the Pentagon, and served stints at State (as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Intelligence and Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs), and the National Security Council, as “Terrorism Czar” to Presidents Clinton and Bush. All told, Clarke worked for three presidents: Bush the Elder, Bush the Younger, and Clinton.
From this resume, and from the way the book is written, I gather that Clarke is a bare-knuckles type of bureaucrat, who has come as close as anyone can at mastering the peculiar art of bureaucratic infighting. Readers may be surprised to hear that such a creature as a hard-nosed bureaucrat exists, but I assure you that they do. Clearly he was quite capable, and quite successful by any measure. Nonetheless, I believe after reading this book that his unerring focus on a few of the trees, so to speak, led him to become an excellent servant of the American people, but ultimately obscured his ability to see the forest. I shall explain what I mean by that in the course of this review.
As I began reading Against All Enemies, I was struck with how much Richard Clarke agreed with Norman Podhoretz, of all people, regarding the history of how America got involved with and, inadvertently encouraged, terrorism. Podhoretz is, of course, an arch neo-conservative, and Clarke is now a poster child for those who disagree with much of the neocon project. Yet on history they both agree.
Podhoretz argues in his seminal essay World War IV: How it Started, What it Means, and Why We Have to Win that beginning in 1970, when PLO-affiliated terrorists began killing and kidnapping American diplomats in Sudan and Lebanon, the United States acted tamely in dealing with the terrorists, sending a message that little, if any, harm would come to those who employed terrorism against America. Podhoretz traces this pattern of inaction from its origins in the seventies, through, among others, Iranian-backed kidnappings and bombings of Americans in the 80s, Libyan terrorism in the same decade, al Qaeda’s actions against Americans in the 90s, and finishes with the terrible attacks of September 11. In virtually every case, save American bombing of Libya following the bombing of a West German discotheque by Libyan intelligence agents, Podhoretz argues that, rather than send a strong message, via retaliation, that might have deterred future terrorism. Clarke’s narrative, while not as exhaustive as that of Podhoretz, generally takes the same tack, albeit from an insider’s perspective.
My opinion of Clarke and his book notwithstanding, I truly enjoyed reading, from an insider’s perspective, the goings-on of the US government – it is the kind of thing I like reading (call me a boring bureaucrat, I know). Naturally, when reading such accounts, particularly when they involve emotional subject matter, one must remember that the narrator is a fallible human being, and his account, while privileged to benefit from his perspective, is also biased by it. So it is with Clarke.
One of the many things in the book with which I take issue is that of Clarke’s portrayal of Madeleine Albright and her cronies. It is practically universal consensus among FSOs that I know who have been around long enough that Albright and Warren Christopher, her predecessor, were the two worst things ever to happen to the Foreign Service, pushing James Baker into third place. This consensus comes from people such as a former boss of mine, an avowed liberal, who loathed Albright with a most intense and amazing passion. The reason for this had little to do with politics or policies, but the general contempt Albright had for the Department’s Civil and Foreign Service personnel (i.e. anyone not within her small coterie of sycophants), and in the case of Christopher, the general perception that he lacked the most basic things necessary to do the job, i.e. a pulse.
Both Albright and Christopher, and from what I understand James Baker should also be included in this august group, allowed the Department to fall into a perilous state of neglect, through both lack of management/oversight and a lack of ability to secure funding from congress for even the most basic needs of the Department, such as embassy security and information systems. Having joined the Foreign Service during the Albright years, I can attest to her incompetence.
But I digress.
Sorry about that slight diversion. Sure was cathartic, though.
Having established my contention that Albright was a terrible steward of the State Department who surrounded herself with egocentric cronies, you, gentle reader, could probably hazard a guess at my reaction when it became evident that Clarke was chummy with Albright. Suffice to say, his credibility took a hit in my eyes. Clarke, who throughout his book claims to have been responsible for every good idea ever to have come out of the government, states that he and Albright agreed on a plan to fortify or relocate all US Embassies worldwide that were deemed not secure against terrorist attack. Months later, however, Clarke tells us that when the State Department’s budget request is sent to congress, there is no request for money for embassy security improvements. Clarke seems to imply that the bureaucratic culture of the Department resisted all attempts to improve the security situation and that this was the reason for the omission; I would have thought that, since Clarke and Albright were so chummy, he would have realized that she wasn’t competent enough to pull it off. Guess not.
This leads me to one of the greatest problems I have with Richard Clarke: he comes off as a Cassandra. Against All Enemies makes it sound as if everything would have been better, if only everyone had listened to Clarke. He and his inner circle come across as a lone band of wolves, howling in the wilderness about terrorism, with no one there to hear him. After a while, it gets old, and it makes me wonder if some of the narcissism that infested Clinton and his political appointees did not rub off on him as well.
In the end, however, Clarke admits that even had everyone done everything they could (meaning had they only listened to him), the attacks of 9/11, or something like them, would nonetheless have occurred. Clarke believes that there was simply no way of knowing that such attacks were going to happen at that specific time, in that specific way. Glad to see he can at least admit that much.
Ultimately, the greatest failing of Against All Enemies is, as I alluded to above, a failure of vision. For someone so involved with some of the epochal moments of our time, with such an insider’s view, Clarke’s prescription to solve the problem is painfully myopic. Clarke’s recommendation for dealing with al Qaeda and the greater issue of Islamic fascism is threefold: to fix America’s homeland security problems, to create a “counterweight ideology” to Islamic fascism, and to work with “key countries... to strengthen open governments and make it possible politically, economically, and socially for them to go after the roots of al Qaeda-style terrorism.” Clarke’s key countries are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
That all sound great. But how do you do that? Clarke’s contention is that going into Iraq served none of these purposes. That’s where he is wrong. True, it is debatable whether or not invading Iraq improved the security of the American homeland in the short-term, but I believe that it did when looked at from a medium or long term perspective. Click here for some of my thoughts on why this might be the case.
As far as Clarke’s second point, on the need to create a counterweight ideology to Islamic fascism: now that both Iraq and Afghanistan are on the bumpy road to fully-fledged democracy, now that there is hope for the first time in years for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now that there is the smallest glimmer of hope for democracy to sprout in Saudi Arabia, and now that the illiberal regimes in Syria and Iran are clinging together for dear life, I think we can say that we have found a counterweight ideology to Islamic fascism: it is called freedom. A truly free, democratic country in the middle east may not like the US and may not like Americans. Neither does France, but there is not much to worry about from France engaging in terrorism against the US.
Focusing on the “four key countries” in which to propagate social, economic, and political change sounds to me like allowing the illiberal leadership of those countries to continue the status quo. Clarke does a good job in outlining why Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are important in the region and to the war on terror (and in detailing what he perceives to be our policy failures in those countries), but he fails to put forth and realistic options on how to do this. He suggests that the US give more aid to Pakistan’s General Musharraf in order to “turn the tide... and return it to stability”, but that is hardly a comprehensive recipe for creating the kind of political change that Clarke envisions.
Rather than list four key countries, Clarke should have looked at the entire region en toto. When the entire region of the Middle East is able to shed the shackles of illiberalism, then the four key countries that Clarke lists will join in. And that is when we will see the death of al Qaeda-style terrorism. It may take a while, and there will be times when we will take two steps forward, only to take one step back. Such is the nature of foreign policy. But the seeds, planted in Afghanistan and Iraq, seem to be taking root. To continue to nurture them will require the attention of democracies everywhere, for years to come. The only way out is through, and the only guaranteed way to fail is to stop trying. I think that Clarke, from his perch high atop the Washington bureaucracy, failed to see that. But then again, so did many people.
I don’t doubt for one moment that Richard Clarke spent his career acting in the best interests of the American people. While I have tried, in the course of this review, to show what I perceive as Clarke’s failures of vision, or perhaps perception, I don’t doubt his patriotism. Up to the end, he continued to fight for his vision of America’s role in the world, and he did, over the course of his career, a fine job of representing America. That he didn’t share the president’s vision is not a crime. There is no dishonor in disagreeing with the president, and ultimately, he felt that he could no longer work with the current administration. So he has now retired to private life and given us this book. It makes for an interesting read, in pointing out the many bright spots of both the American government and Richard Clarke as well as their many flaws.
And Now For Something Completely Different... Skiing
As a lark, I thought I would veer slightly from the everyday business of pretending to be sage and wise.
It's winter (in the northern hemisphere), and I love skiing -- the steeper, the gnarlier, the better. I've skiied in approximately a dozen or so different places in the US, on both coasts and in the Rockies. Therefore, I give you: my three favorite American ski spots. In the interest of maintaining my anonymity, I'm not listing my favorite overseas skiing spots.
Herewith, however, is my list of the best in US skiing.1. Crested Butte, Colorado:
one of the steepest lift-served ski areas in the US (right up there with Jackson Hole and Taos), CB has some awesome off-piste skiing, particularly Phoenix/Spellbound and Third Bowl: steeps, cliffs, bumps... awesome. The imposing Paradise headwall has some awesome steep, ski-width chutes to get your heart and lungs going. Also has great intermediate terrain (although a blue in the Butte might get a black rating elsewhere). Also has good backcountry skiing, if you want to earn your turns. Forget the lodge for lunch, there's a couple of guys who sell tacos out of a trolley right at the base. Apres ski: go to town for Teocalli Tamale, washed off with a Fat Tire beer. 2. Snowbird, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah:
Steep, deep, lots of vertical, bluebird sky, friendly locals, and, best of all, cheap: $49 for an all day lift ticket ($59 if you want the tram). If you had a mind to, you could ride the entire vertical distance of the mountain (3200 feet), do it again and again, and would need to buy new pants to hold your massive thighs. You gotta love a mountain where your legs are still burning after you get off the lift! The Wasatch mountains also contain some awesome backcountry skiing, accessible by helicopter for those not on government salaries. Apres ski: despite Utah's, err, prudish reputation, one can buy good beer. You just have to go to one of the "clubs" and pay the five dollar cover charge, er, "membership fee", and one can sample all of Utah's fine microbrews.3. Santa Fe Ski Area, New Mexico:
A small, hugely underrated area in New Mexico. If you ski with a local, you can find everything you want: bumps, powder, tight chutes, cliffs, and the best tree skiing in the West. Fresh white powder under a turqouise blue sky. Backcountry skiing can be done at places like the Nambe chutes, and other nooks and crannies. Apres-ski: drive back to Santa Fe for any one of dozens of great Mexican restaurants, washed down with margaritas or Corona.
Readers are invited to chime in with their own favorite ski areas, US or other, in the comments thread. If your recommendation is good, I might just stop by if I'm ever in the neighborhood (well, it is nice to dream, eh?).
End of post. Ignore the link below.
So happy together...?
I have resisted commenting on the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM Rafik Hariri up to this point. Nearly every political blogger on the net has something to say about the attack and the resulting alliance proposal between Iran and Syria. There is a wealth of good writing on the subject out there, and I couldn’t come up with anything original to add. Until I saw this headline:Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences
In this piece from the Miami Herald the author puts forth the idea that the murder of Hariri may be the catalyst that will bring France and the United States together again with a common cause:The law of Unintended Consequences warns us to expect the unexpected. Prepare, then, for the unexpected to take shape as the shockwaves pushing out from the smoldering crater in Beirut recast crucial relationships around the world. Whoever orchestrated Hariri's assassination imagined the explosive event would produce results in accordance with a master plan. It is unlikely, however, that the master plan included strengthening the bonds between the United States and France. But closer ties between Paris and Washington will undoubtedly result from the Hariri murder.
The killing of Chirac's good friend comes at a key moment in relations between Washington and Paris. With both countries looking for ways to heal the wounds from the disagreement over the Iraq war, working together to push Syria out and bring stability to Lebanon provide the perfect setting to build a new, respectful relationship. This time, both players have lead roles. France, Lebanon's and Syria's former colonial ruler, has a key cultural and political relationship with the region, making it the ideal partner to work with the United States.
I have to admit that this never even crossed my mind. Could it possibly be true? Well, there is no doubt that Chirac felt the loss of his friend deeply and personally, he is in Beirut today to offer his condolences to Hariri’s family in person.
"This abominable crime, which belonged to another era and of which Rafik al-Hariri was the victim, has evoked the horror and consternation of the whole international community," Mr Chirac told reporters.
The Lebanese have seized on the killing and funeral as the focal point for a renewed push against Syria. According to press accounts, the people of Lebanon were moved by Chirac’s appearance and very vocal. I found this on the appearance of Chirac at the funeral:
The dignitaries were surrounded by heavily armed police holding back hundreds of chanting Hariri supporters, who shouted, "Syria out, Syria out" before singing Lebanon's national anthem. Chirac got a rousing round of applause from the crowd, who yelled "Vive Chirac, Vive France."
If the assassination of Hariri is what Tom Friedamn interprets it to be, a declaration from Syria that they are ready to play by “Hama Rules” over the occupation of Lebanon, then a cohesive front between the U.S. and France will be vital :
Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition: "You want to play here, you'd better be ready to play by Hama Rules - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you'd better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You'd better be ready to go all the way - because we will. But you Americans are exhausted by Iraq, and you Lebanese don't have the guts to stand up to us, and you French make a mean croissant but you've got no Hama Rules in your arsenal. So remember, we blow up prime ministers here. We shoot journalists. We fire on the Red Cross. We leveled one of our own cities. You want to play by Hama Rules, let's see what you've got. Otherwise, hasta la vista, baby."
The UN, at the urging of the US and France and with Hariri’s support recently passed Resolution 1559 calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. The core of the resolution follows:
“1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;
“2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;
“3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;
“4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;
“5. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;
“6. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;
“7. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”
Could this, then, be the event that allows both the U.S. and France to finally shake off the disagreement over Iraq? The United States has demonstrated that we are sincere in our desire to bring democracy to the Middle East, and the brave voters of Iraq demonstrated that they are ready to participate. France stood up for what it believes in when it opposed the invasion of Iraq, but seems to have shown a willingness to move forward, especially in light of the elections. SecState Rice was received warmly in France and in general it appears that the Europeans are at least resigned to the current administration. Coupled with the Euro lead in dealing diplomatically with Iran, the murder of Hariri could indeed prove to be the straw that bridged the rift between the US and France, and with that the rest of the EU.
If this crime does become a catalyst to bring the US and France, and ultimately the EU, together in the ongoing struggle against terrorists and the regimes that support them, and as a result spread democracy and liberty, than Hariri and the others who died in the blast will not have died in vain. It is a shame that it may have taken the death of a friend of Chirac’s to bring the French around, that the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam was not enough to produce more than countless resolutions, but it took the death of one man in the Netherlands to shake the Dutch from their complacency.
We should welcome the French and the rest of the EU if they decide that Syria is the place where they decide to take a stand, but we must also continue to remind them that even in the countries where they do not have personal friends, people deserve freedom and liberty as well.
Enough, Joel. Can you help, or not?
Joel Mowbray has a bone to pick with the State Department. From his columns with National Review On Line
to his book “Dangerous Diplomacy
” and now with TownHall.com
and other electronic forums it is clear that there is something about State that just rubs him the wrong way. I have often read his columns and agreed with his central theme
, but wondered at the bitter tone.
On Valentines Day he posted a column at Town Hall entitled “Condi’s tough road ahead
.” In this piece he made much of two issues: a 2003 report on democracy and dominoes in the Middle East and his all time favorite theme, visa issuance, in support of his theme that State is filled with people who are willing to sell out America in order to prove the Bush doctrine wrong.
Regarding the report (which I have not seen) Mowbray says the following:Sometimes, though, State battles Bush more directly. On February 26, 2003, the State Department released a report—which was leaked to the LA Times—called “Democracy Domino Theory: Not Credible.” On the same day, Bush laid out his vision for, well, a democracy domino theory in the Arab world.
A simple Google search for the article from the LA Times revealed that the title of the report in question is actually "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes
", while “Democracy Domino Theory: Not Credible” is the title of the L.A. Times article. Mowbray made the same mistake last June
when he referred to the report by the title of the L.A. Times article, in not one article, but two
. One has to wonder, did he even read the L.A. Times article?
Based only on my own reading of the Mowbray piece and the L.A. Times article I have defend the writers of the report. If the research and analysis that they completed led to the conclusions that "Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve," and "Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements" than it is their duty to report that. Policy makers than must take the report into account when considering their options. Such reports are meant to provide background and analysis, not to rubber-stamp anyone’s plan or central idea.
Who in their right mind thought liberal democracy would be easy to achieve, anyway? I never heard the President or any other elected official state that. As for exploitation by anti-American elements, that is always the risk with electoral democracies. We are looking to establish democracies, not puppets. Once democracy is established it is up to us to work to overcome anti-American sentiments.
When it comes to Consular Affairs Mowbray has long had it in for the Bureau of Consular Affairs and Assistant Secretary Maura Harty. From the Town Hall piece referenced at the top:
But on her most important task—preventing terrorists from again exploiting ridiculously lax visa polcies—Harty has failed. Consular training has not been beefed up, and her subordinates at Consular Affairs still believe the customer they serve is foreign visa applicants. Worst of all, the country that sent us 15 of 19 terrorists still receives the red carpet treatment. Nearly 90% of all Saudi nationals applying for visas receive them—a far higher figure than almost anywhere else in the Arab world.
I have no idea what the issuance rate is in Saudi Arabia, he may be correct on that point. The rest of that paragraph, however, is hogwash. No one, not a single Consular officer, believes that serving visa applicants is more important than weeding out the bad guys. Consular staff numbers have increased and training has been greatly expanded. I urge you to read the “Statement of Maura Harty to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States” for a glimpse at how A/S Harty and Consular Affairs view the role of consular work in the war on terror.
I would also remind Mr. Mowbray and the rest of the world that Consular Affairs (CA) and Consular officers, especially in the non-immigrant visa (NIV) sections around the world, work within a framework of laws established by the Congress and validated by the President. These very same members of Congress put unbelievable pressure on Consular officer around the world to issue visas important to their constituents- to the point that you can find form letters to get help with visa problems on some Congressional web sites (of course some are better than others). It is drilled into each and every FSO that relations with Congress (the keepers of the purse) are vital, as a result many officers are loath to deny a visa case that a Congressman has asked for assistance in. This is one of the dirty little secrets of the NIV world, and should be the real target of “investigative journalists” like Mowbray. If the immigration system is broken (and I think it largely is) it is the lawmakers that are to blame.
I challenge Mr. Mowbray to offer some constructive criticism, an idea or two, that CA could pursue to tighten visa security if he wants to continue to push for reform at State. He is certainly free to express his opinions; he is after all an opinion columnist. I for one, however, would like to see some evidence that he is researching his pieces and perhaps a little less vitriol. Smiley and I refer to ourselves as part of the Republican Underground, but when we do so we are not implying that there is an element in the Department of State which is actively countering the President. Are there those who did not vote for the President? Sure there are. Is there opposition to some policies? Without a doubt, even I don’t blindly follow the lead of the President. Is that healthy? How could it not be?
We are not supposed to be an echo chamber for the administration. Occasionally we are going to offer opinions that differ from what the White House expects. That is what they pay us to do. I have yet to meet anyone in this job, from a blue state or a red state, who does not care deeply for the United States of America. You couldn’t do this job if that were the case. Mr. Mowbray has made his name and reputation as an outspoken, even shrill, detractor of the State Department. UNfortunatelt he has been beating the same drum for so long he now sounds like any other extremist. The time for sloganeering and pandering to the "blame it on State" crowd is past. What we need now are fresh ideas and legitimate, constructive criticism. Mr. Mowbray, can you deliver?
Wondering what the world thinks of us this week? Here are a few clues, I've provided some excerpts from each article (sorry, I am too tired to blog original thoughts today, so here is some traditional blogging). Believe it or not, it's not all bad! Remember you can use Bug Me Not
if a login is needed and you don't want to subscribe to any of these sites:Anti-Americanism: A Sample
(not really a news site, but interesting)Supposedly, even sane people carry in small doses the symptoms of various mental disorders. The hidden masochist in me made me collect anti-Americanisms for quite some time. In doing so I concentrated on the printed specimens that reflect popular sentiment in Europe. What ultimately matters in democracies is what the "people" believe. In the case of dictatorships the sentiments of the masses do not matter: one has to inquire about what the elites think. In both cases, the image projected by the printed media, whether controlled or not, also requires attention.Tabloid Is Anti-Americanism for DummiesWhat exactly is an anti-American "primaire"? Well, one way to translate it is "anti-Americanism for dummies." The question is, who are the dummies? Not the 10 freelance journalists who write the articles that live in the house that Mr. Royer built! They are clever anti-American Frenchmen making fun of ordinary French people who make fun of Americans in that simple ordinary way that's so funny if you just get the joke. By the way, is Mr. Royer pro-Chirac? No. And if President Bush had won with an 80% margin like Mr. Chirac, would the remaining 20% of redeemable Americans voters be worth saving? He didn't see what I meant by that. But he has nothing against the French people - 80% - who voted for Mr. Chirac.
Australian PM's accusation of EU anti-Americanism draws French ire (I love the Aussies!)
PARIS : An accusation by Australian Prime Minister John Howard that France was guilty of lingering "anti-Americanism" drew sharp words from Paris during a visit by the Australian foreign minister.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, standing next to his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer, told journalists he was "very, very surprised" to hear Howard's remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on the weekend.
Ritual condemnation of the USA has been la tendance du jour since the Mayflower hauled anchor at Plymouth in 1620. But mankind has advanced some over the past four centuries: nowadays, taking pot-shots at the United States is a booming multi-billion dollar industry, and one my bank manager is keen I invest in.
Regrettably, however, I can't indulge in the unceasing chorus of Yank-bashing. My financial balance suffers for it, but I'm what's known in intellectual circles as an "Americaphile". I told this to an American pal who'd taken shore leave on a recent trip past Europe. "Oh, so you're the one," he grinned.
Sure it's fiction. But many Turks see fact in anti-US novel.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY The year is 2007. After a clash with Turkish forces in northern Iraq, US troops stage a surprise attack. Reeling, Turkey turns to Russia and the European Union, who turn back the American onslaught.
This is the plot of "Metal Storm," one of the fastest- selling books in Turkish history. The book is clearly sold as fiction, but its premise has entered Turkey's public discourse in a way that sometimes seems to blur the line between fantasy and reality
U.S. Companies Rethinking Their Marketing in Europe
American multinationals are less than enthusiastic about discussing how they have subtly changed their images in response to current political realities. Mr. Courtois and his deputy, Wilfried Grommen, the European general manager for business strategy, were unavailable for interviews.
"No U.S. company wants to admit that they are downplaying their heritage. That could be suicidal at home in the current political climate," said Nick Wreden, an American brand consultant based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who wrote a book called "FusionBranding."
OK, I am going to comment on the last one. This frankly annoys me in a very serious manner. These companies could just as easily promote America as try to pretend they are not American. In the article there is reference to Starbucks in Germany using German landmarks on their mugs. That is fine, but why not use something that demonstrates the ties between Germany and America? How about the Brandenburg Gate over the phrase "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (An aside: I visited Berlin not too long ago and there is a Starbucks maybe 100 yards into what was the east side of the Brandenburg Gate. Anyone standing where that shop is now when Reagan gave that speech would have been able to hear him. I think that is really cool.) Uggh. Just my two cents for today.
Reader participation time!
Thanks for all the comments and e-mail. Earlier this week I got a great e-mail from "Rurik- the Poet Lariat" entitled "The international situation gets verse". He sent me a spoof on the UN set to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - it's posted below. This inspired me to see how creative our readership is. Here is the challenge: post a poem, song spoof, limerick, haiku whatever about the UN or any international affair or topic you like and we'll pick a winner. I can't really send out a prize, this being an anonymous site and all, but we'll figure out some way to reward the winner. The rules are as follows: it has to fit in a single comments space (i.e. 1000 characters or less) and has to be more or less profanity free, just use your own judgment. Contest ends on 28 February. Oh, and pUN
s are acceptable too (sorry, couldn't resist).The Twelve Days of Annanzaa
On the first day of Annanzaa the UN gave to me
A sniper in a palm tree.
On the second day of Annanzaa the UN gave to me
And a sniper in a palm tree.
Twelve Countries bumming
Eleven gripers griping
Ten spies a-peeping
Nine peace-keepers sleeping
Eight agencies milking
Seven inspectors skimming
Six commissioners preying
Five bribery rings
Four brawling Kurds
Three false friends
And a sniper in a palm tree.
- The Poet Lariat
If you think this is a lynching, it only gets verse.
End of post.
How Now Brown Cow?
I was poking around in the nooks and crannies of the Internet today and found an article titled "21st Century Diplomacy
" (the paper is 18 pages long, but worth reading). Since we are in the 21st century, and I earn my daily bread in the salt mines of diplomacy I figured this was a good place to stop and read. For your reading pleasure, here is the opening paragraph:To Abba Eban, the late great Israeli statesman and diplomat, we owe the rediscovery of the following statement which he attributes to President Jefferson: "For two years we have not heard from our ambassador in Spain; if we again do not hear from him this year, we should write him a letter". Many things have changed in diplomacy since then. And yet, the diplomat's craft has an astounding potential for survival. Its more or less imminent death has been predicted many times, mostly in the context of revolutions in communications technology. Today, of course, we think of the World Wide Web and its consequences for a profession, which relies so much on words and knowledge management. But in all likelihood the advent of the telegraph was even more decisive. When the first dispatch sent by cable reached his desk in Whitehall, Lord Palmerston is reported to have exclaimed: "This is the end of diplomacy". Similarly, Queen Victoria, when consulted whether the British Legation in Rome should be elevated to the status of full Embassy, is said to have immediately rejected this proposal because, in her assessment, given the new telecommunication techniques, the time for ambassadors, their pretensions and privileges were definitely over.  Here, of course, Her Majesty was wrong.
Communications around the globe have of course improved dramatically since President Jefferson and Lord Palmerston's day (although we still speak of "cables" and send "telegrams"). But what can we expect from diplomacy in the information age? The author does a fairly good job of describing how diplomats can use technology to stay plugged in to the world around them, and to instantly reach out to colleagues and contacts around the clock and around the world. There are a few topics in the paper, though, relating to Information Technology (IT) that I take serious issue with. Consider the following:Internet as information tool for the diplomat
(emphasis added):Today it has become quite standard for the modern diplomat to have a tailor made mosaic consisting of the web sites of different national and international news agencies on his or her computer desktop or laptop and to consult them first thing in the morning. Secondly, every diplomat needs to have the homepages of all organisations and institutions, relevant for his work, ready on her or his list of "favourites". Diplomats today will be electronically connected with colleagues all over the world and thus can quickly and informally gather important information. A tremendous shift in the main focus of diplomatic work occurs: no more factual reporting, no tele-copying of documents that in former times would have been obtained only after using a lot of diplomatic charm on some insider. Internet access increases the amount of information readily available. However, this information needs to be sorted and also be put in context. Factual reporting is best left to the public media. Diplomacy, even more than it has done hitherto, must concentrate on in depth analysis and drafting recommendations for action and reaction.
This paper is, of course, written by a European. No American diplomat (I hope) would ever seriously imply that we abandon factual reporting in favor of the media. Which media source are we to rely on? I suppose we could trust the New York Times as the "Paper of Record", no, wait, I forgot about this and this. Ok, maybe the Washington Post? Oh no, there was this. Maybe the Boston Globe. Whoops, this cancels that idea. Surely we can trust CNN, or maybe CBS? Well, maybe not. I would argue that in the information age diplomats must focus on factual reporting more than ever. What we really need, however, is to ween ourselves from the 24 hour news feed and acting on the speculation of some hackneyed "journalist" looking for a scoop.
The author next examines the manner in which various IT innovations should ease the internal processes of diplomacy. Many of the areas he addresses are indeed in place and very effective:
- direct contacts between all officers,
development of an informal reporting style;
teamwork: officers can, independently from their geographic location, work together on a report to the minister, a draft statement, a position paper.
I am not certain that these innovations have been instrumental in "speeding up the decision making process", however, but that might just be growing pains as officers less inclined to use new technology retire and are replaced with officers for whom e-mail is the staff of life. The author also discusses the benefits of hyperlinks and web-sites, and I find him to be spot on in his anticipation of the best possible use of these resources, especially when he says:
Web-sites assume an important function in the "representation" of a country, one of the traditional functions of diplomacy. Web-sites need to be professionally developed and maintained. There has to be close co-ordination of the ministry's central web-site and those of missions abroad to prevent contradictions and in order to demonstrate corporate identity
I think the author may have seriously misjudged the current potential for IT, however, in the area of "Negotiating per Internet." He lists advantages ( and I agree with all of them: concentration on content, clarity, lucidity of formulation, less misunderstandings, transparency, easy to maintain record of proposals , etc) and preconditions, but does not really examine the likelihood of these conditions being met. His first two pre-conditions alone are the death knell of this idea:
"partners must share a common view on the purpose of the negotiations and the time frame; [and] ground-rules need to be established (who are the active negotiating partners? with whom can you share the text? who establishes the final text?)"Diplomats have a hard time deciding how many people should attend a meeting and what shape the table should be, and the author expects the global community to agree to a set of on line protocols? This may be the future of diplomacy, but if it is I would call it a long way off.
So where am I going with this? Back to my current favorite topic: Public Diplomacy. The referenced paper is much more wide ranging than I have alluded to. But it all comes down to this for me (emphasis added):
Many of the above mentioned developments (the nexus between diplomacy and internal politics, the broadening of issues to be dealt with by diplomats, the communication revolution and others) have helped to give prominence to a rather new concept in foreign relations: public diplomacy. The diplomat today is above all a communicator and mediator of positions of his/her own country vis-à-vis all sections of the politically informed public in the host country. The main business is no longer discreet and confidential dealings with the foreign ministry of the host country but public diplomacy aimed at explaining and canvassing support for positions among government circles, parliament, the political parties, the business community, the social partners, the media and representatives of academic and cultural life. For this the diplomat must build up and cultivate a dense and stable network of contacts in all areas of society with a view to becoming actively involved in shaping public opinion in the host country.
I know that some of our readers have their doubts about the efficacy of Public Diplomacy. I see it as the best and brightest hope for American diplomacy. While I am not convinced that PD in it's current form works as well as it could, I do know that there are officers out there in some of the smaller consulates, who are doing amazing things. They are addressing small groups, exposing the host country population to living, breathing representatives of the United States. These officers are what the military calls "force multipliers." They require little in the way of resources and achieve tremendous "bang for the buck." As I have said in previous posts, I think we should all have an aspect of PD in our jobs.
The question is how do we get there? I was somewhat surprised when I reached the end of the report to find that I could not agree more with the author when he asked "What qualifications does the 21st century diplomat need?" and answered himself as follows:
· a pluridisciplinary education;
· linguistic skills;
· patience to listen and observe;
· proficiency in intercultural communication;
· sensitivity to socio-cultural differences;
· feeling comfortable with the latest communications technologies;
· ability to perform at ease in public;
· free of elitism;
· service orientation;
· a high level of tolerance;
· neither a "softie" nor the "elbow type";
· readiness for life-long learning, mid career training;
· stress resistance, coolness in crises;
· management skills;
· ability to work in teams; collaborator instead of competitor;
· a keen interest in global issues.
The future is now, and as the dinosaurs of American diplomacy retire the younger generations of officers and staff are going to have to make their voices heard. We need to take a good hard look at the tools we have at our disposal, and out failure to get our message heard. If Euorozone diplomatic recruiting and training is moving in this direction this might be one area where we can learn from our European colleagues.
Pictures of the Middle East from the Goddess of Wisdom
A few days ago, Athena, who, in addition to being the goddess of wisdom, runs the very nice Terrorism Unveiled
blog, posted some pictures
of her travels around the Middle East. The Middle East is a region that has long fascinated me, and it is definitely a place where I would like to spend more time. I certainly enjoyed her photos.
Readers who have been engaged in the very interesting discussion on public diplomacy
should definitely take a look at the photos from the Syrian museum
, which gives a pretty good idea of some of the obstacles that need to be overcome in order for a settlement to be successful.
Also, her blog is definitely worth a read for the rest of its content.
That's the end of this post. Don't click the link below. I mean it.
The final straw for the UN.
Diplomad, if you are reading this, we need you. I am not sure I can do this topic justice. If anyone had told me that I would be leading a piece on this site with an article from a web site called the Feminist Daily News I might have choked to death on one of Smiley's apple martinis. Luckily I am a beer guy, cause here it comes
:United Nations peace keepers stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been banned from having sex with local residents as a result of allegations of widespread sexual abuse of women and girls by peace keepers. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the Security Council requesting a curfew and 100 more military police to monitor the abuse.
I can't even make fun of this. I am too sickened. Mr. Annan is, of course, "deeply shocked and outraged
:"At least seven cases of sexual exploitation and abuse have been substantiated against peace keepers serving in Bunia, in north-eastern Congo, where the UN is helping the country to recover from years of conflict. Children as young as 12 have been bribed with eggs, milk or a few dollars in exchange for sex, according to UN reports.
Deeply shocked and outraged? Are you kidding me? We are talking about 12 year olds who are starving to death and are being used for sex in exchange for a glass of milk. 20/20 is reporting that a UN official is running an internet pedophilia ring from the Congo. Luckily for the children of the Congo, Annan has announced a "zero tolerance policy
." Zero tolerance of what? Pedophilia? Trading humanitarian food stuffs for sex? Or embarrassing the embattled Koffi Annan? A question Mr. Annan- do you really think a man who trades food for sex with starving children gives a rat's ass about your policy? Nobody
in the UN cares about these kids- they want to protect their gravy train, period."Annan is having a tough time, especially in Washington, where his grip and management is being questioned," said a Western diplomat. "It is important that Annan shows that he is on top of things."
Mothers in Iraq should know how lucky they are that the UN pulled out of their country.
This has to be it got Annan and the UN. They are abusing children, who knows how many, that are counting on the UN for food and water, for the very basics of life.
I can't even write about this anymore tonight. I seriously think I might be sick. Search it on Google if you want to read more.
End of post. Hopefully the end of the UN.
The future leaders of America fight in Iraq today.
I caught a teaser for a news story today on AFN (the American Forces Network
) showing a clip of an interview with an army three star. In the brief moment that I saw, this general mentioned that in addition to freeing the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban and the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and his murderous band of thugs, the events of the war on terror were forming the next generation of American leaders. These men and women have “seen the elephant
” (just so you know: this link is to a graphic recounting of one combat vet’s experience). So what does the future hold for them?
Is there another Eisenhower in this generation, or another McCain? I am not talking about the general officers and colonels of today, but about the lieutenants and captains, the privates, corporals and sergeants. Will we see these men and women again in twenty or thirty years (or sooner), as they climb onto the stage of national power? I certainly hope so, and I am confident we will. Many of the veterans of these conflicts have already emerged in the blogosphere, such as the amazing Armor Geddon
. They are already making their voices heard.
I have never served in the military. I tried two years of Army ROTC in college and that was enough to convince me to seek other ways to serve. Everyday when I walk into the Embassy and see the Marine Security Guards, or the Defense Attaché’s Office staff I wonder if I made the right choice. There is something innately comforting about seeing that Marine first thing in the morning, and knowing that the Ambassador has a professional military staff to advise and guide his decisions.
We will need the veterans of the war on terror in place ready to serve again in the future. It may be unfair to ask of them, but America has always had warriors transition into politics. To quote General George Washington:
“When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.”
We need reminders that war really is hell, that our freedom truly is not free, and that even though it may be necessary going to war must be weighed carefully- we need men like Senator John McCain who survived and persevered and emerged to lead and can be counted on to provide a voice of reason.
To our veterans returning: thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish you and your families well, and hope that you are successful in whatever endeavors you pursue. I only ask that you not recede entirely in to the lives you may once have had, but keep an eye on America. She will need you once again, at some point. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat or Independent, you are a large part of the future of American leadership, and I look forward to meeting you again someday, as you amswer the call again.
Bush of Arabia?
I was pouring a sip of my apple martini on the concrete in memory of The Diplomad
the other day when it occurred to me how profound an impact the new Secretary of State is having so far, despite having been in office for only a few weeks.
It reminded me of the very first post I ever wrote for the Daily Demarche
, when we were young, foolish, and had not a pot to pee in, so to speak.
In that post I wrote:
I take Rice's appointment to mean that the President is serious about effective multilateralism (I'm prepared to argue that Bush's reputation for"unilateralism" is much more the product of an abrasive style than any of his actions, but not in this post). Putting a firm ally of the President in the hot seat at Foggy Bottom sets up the President for a series of "Nixon-to-China" moments, particularly vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the remaking of the Middle East in general. As any Arab leader will tell you, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to addressing all the other issues in the Middle East (not that I believe that, mind you- but solving it would remove the most obvious figleaf covering the true problems of the Middle East, and take one major excuse for failing to reform out of play).
If Bush, with Condi pulling strings for him, can bring about a solution (and that is a big "if") he will have gone a long way towards his accomplishing his objectives in the Arab world, particularly if he is able to stabilize Iraq and pull off relatively fair elections in the process. Given that all these items (and much more) appear be on the agenda for Bush in his second term, the appointment of his most trusted advisor as our nation's chief diplomat would indicate that he intends to use the State Department to further this mission- and that he trusts Condi enough that he will listen if she should, in the course of heading the Department, develop some points of view that differ from his own.
So far, this seems to be the way things are unfolding. In addition to the elections in Iraq, which all but the most ardent Bush-o-phobe must concede (if only grudgingly) were far more successful than imagined (I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised at how well they went), Palestinian elections have created the first real window of opportunity for some kind of settlement in that conflict. Elections in Saudi Arabia, however tentative a first step, would never have occurred without American adventurism in the Middle East.
Among the many things Bush's detractors are now saying is that they will "wait and see" if he is sincere about wanting to promote democracy abroad and do the necessary arm-twisting to bring about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I find this kind of questioning betrays a total lack of comprehension of George Bush, or perhaps a cynicism that refuses to acknowledge that he may be capable of anything positive.
If there is one thing that even Bush's most ardent detractors should note about the man, it is that he has a tendency, refreshing among politicians, to actually follow through on what he says he will do. Whether or not one likes him, one must at least acknowledge this. I'm not saying that he always follows through, this is impossible in any human being, much less a politician, but Bush has a track record of saying what he means and meaning what he says. So if Bush says he wants to spread democracy and freedom to parts of the world, then by golly, his detractors would do well to believe him. Some of them, if they are honest with themselves, might even admit (if only privately) that it is a pretty good idea.
Naturally, he will open himself up to charges of hypocrisy, and in some cases, the American foreign policy apparatus will take actions seen as hypocritical -- not that this is anything new. To synchronize America's foreign policy simply on the basis of not appearing hypocritical is not only dangerously simplistic, it is also impossible, and the fear of such an appearance should not stop the US from doing something when it is plainly the right thing to do.
Currently, the situation which obtains in the Middle East is unlike any in its history, and the opportunities there are real, if fleeting. And that is an idea to which I can toast my apple martini.
If the shoe fits...
I was all set to continue the piece on Public Diplomacy when I found this article from the L.A. Times in my daily sweep of the news: Mubarak, $2 Billion and Change
. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Strong words alone will not dislodge an entrenched dictator like Hosni Mubarak. Obviously we're not going to send the 3rd Infantry Division to achieve regime change in Cairo. How, then, is Bush going to back up his demand for democracy? Here's a modest proposal: Reduce or eliminate altogether the $2-billion annual U.S. subsidy to Egypt unless there's real economic and political progress.
Since 1975, Washington has provided Cairo more than $50 billion in military and economic aid. Initially this largesse had two justifications: first, to keep Egypt out of Soviet clutches; second, to reward it for concluding a peace treaty with Israel. The first rationale no longer applies. And the second? Egypt has lived in peace with Israel, but so for the most part has Syria — and it hasn't gotten a cent from U.S. taxpayers. Arab states coexist with Israel because they have failed to destroy it, not because they've been bribed.
Now we have blogged repeatedly about foreign aid here at the Daily Demarche (here, here, here, and most recently here) about what we give, who we give it to and what we get out of it. This is the first piece I have seen in a major MSM source in some time calling for a reasoned re-examination of our foreign aid policy. I sincerely hope this is the start of a new trend in examining how we make use of our aid dollars and hold recipients responsible for their behavior. I do not oppose aid as a tool of diplomacy, but I do think we can reasonably expect some return on our dollars other than state sponsored anti-Americanism. Of course the venerable Cato Institute recently pointed out that empirical evidence indicates such an expectation may be unfounded:
Nor is aid generally effective at promoting reforms in recipient nations. Post-soviet Russia and dozens of countries around the world -- including heavily indebted ones -- are evidence that countries promise necessary reforms but ignore aid conditions once the money is received. By the end of the 1990s, the World Bank acknowledged what has also become a consensus among development experts: there "is no systematic effect of aid on policy."
One of the reasons for aid's disappointing performance is that "rich countries don't hold the managers of aid institutions accountable for their long record of failure," according William Easterly, a leading development economist formerly at the World Bank. Indeed, aid agencies rarely cut off recipients who misuse those funds, something of which all recipients are well aware. Largely because the lack of accountability hasn't changed, Easterly opposes increases in foreign aid.
I know that a segment of the international community and anti-American left will accuse the U.S. of "buying" friendly governments if we hold recipients to some standard in order to receive aid. That is a sophomoric argument. Any government anywhere in the world is free to reject aid from us if they do not like the strings that are attached. What other country lends or gives money to another that is openly hostile to it? From the L.A. Times again:
The Egyptian media also love more-modern conspiracy theories. They accuse the U.S. of dropping poisoned food packets in Afghanistan and spreading AIDS in Africa. Almost every terrorist outrage, including 9/11, is blamed on Americans or Israelis. Ibrahim Nafi, editor of the government newspaper Al-Ahram, wrote last year: "The West, and specifically those that are at the helm of their empire of evil, are the real terrorists…. The West is currently engaged in a war of annihilation against Muslims…."
As far as I can tell the Egyptian government is doing nothing to refute claims such as these- and neither are we. This ties in nicely with our failure to succeed in public diplomacy. As one reader pointed out, we should be on site for every dedication of every project funded by U.S. tax dollars, showing the flag and getting the word to the man on the street that Uncle Sam picked up the tab for the newest waste-water treatment facility.
The President's budget proposal calls for increases in foreign aid- and the world is watching- and eagerly scouring the budget to see how much they get. Now is the time for the President to redefine what it means to receive aid from America. This is the opportunity to tie aid to the growth of democracy and the long term development of recipient nations. For far too long we have been simply giving money away without demanding something to show for it. The days of counter balancing the Soviet Union are over- our aid must continue, but it must be used as a tool for diplomacy to promote the vision of the world the President offered in his inaugural address. Egypt is not the only country that needs to answer for it's aid, but it may be the most egregious offender.
Former Secretary of State Powell had this to say about foreign aid in January of this year:
...If a country needs aid year after year, decade after decade, it will develop a dependency on outside assistance.
Indeed, foreign aid to undemocratic regimes can be counterproductive in that it increases the longevity of the ruling autocracy by making it easier for despots to keep their small clique of supporters happy. Foreign aid will not make a real difference if markets are manipulated by autocrats who control access to credit, licenses, and jobs. Foreign aid will not generate growth if sound banking institutions cannot arise, because transparency exposes nepotism and other forms of corruption. Foreign aid does not work if the heavy hand of authoritarianism crushes individual initiative.
I repeat: Egypt has received over $50 billion in foreign aid in from America since 1975. I don't know if Powell had Egypt in mind, but if the shoe fits...