“I Support Democratization, But…”
January 28, 2011, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Middle East, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg – one of the key proponents of the disastrous invasion of Iraq – has some serious misgivings about the fledgling pro-democracy movement that’s taken over the streets of Egypt. “I support democratization, but,” he cautions, “the democratization we saw in Gaza (courtesy of, among others, Condi Rice) doesn’t seem particularly worth it.” Why was it not worth it? Well, because it didn’t result in conditions favorable to Jeffrey Goldberg. Democracy is preferable to all others forms of government if, and only if, the party that comes out on top shares the same views as Jeffrey Goldberg. What a champion of liberty.


Mauricio Funes & FMLN Win Elections
March 16, 2009, 8:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

The picture, taken from The Times article on Funes' victory is titled 'Marxist Muricio Funes is new President of El Salvador'. Funes, of course, is not a Marxist but his FMLN party has a Marxist background and a Marxist wing.

With 90% of the vote in, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidate Mauricio Funes has declared victory in El Salvador’s presidential election.  Funes, the former television personality led ruling ARENA party candidate Rodrigo Ávila 51.2% to 48.7.  Though a mantle of the countries political system, Ávila, in his concession speech. promised that ARENA would be “a constructive opposition.” 

More from the Washington Post.

At home in D.C.
July 26, 2008, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

After an almost two month blogging hiatus, I return and hope to offer something worth reading.  I just made my big move to the nation’s capital and I am slowly trying pull myself up by the bootstraps.  To be sure, it has been a difficult transition thus far.  Purposefully putting yourself into absolute poverty is not simple, but as my friend reminds me, Rome was not built in one day.  It will take some time to get acclimated to D.C. and all of its contingencies, but hopefully, things will work out.

The city itself is a beautiful place.  Like any big city, it has its share of problems, but for the most part, the people are affable, the culture vibrant and the general ambiance, one of excitement and opportunity.  Leaving the nest was a tough but necessary step in my intellectual, professional and spiritual development.  I hope that the blog will grow and the general topics I write about expand in scope.  This is where all the decisions are made, so I am sure their will be no shortage of things to write about.  I hope time and a good internet connection will allow me to share my experience with you.

*No move to D.C. is complete without the proverbial picture of the White House, taken on a hellishly humid day.

Some Perspective on the Carter-Hamas Meeting
April 17, 2008, 1:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hasan Abu Nimah, the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations (1995-2000) discusses President Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas in this Jordan Times editorial posted on Electronic Intifada.

“Carter seems more comfortable with terrorists than with friends like Israel.” So said a newsflash on the Israeli daily Haaretz’s website last Sunday.

The statement was attributed to the American pro-Israel group, the Anti-Defamation League, and was obviously a reaction to news that former US president Jimmy Carter was planning to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal during an upcoming visit to Damascus.

If Carter does meet with Meshal, and that has not been confirmed, I do not think many sensible people would imagine that Carter’s intent is to seek the comfortable company of a terrorist as a better alternative to meeting peace-loving Israelis.

Carter may not be counted amongst Israel’s most stalwart supporters, at least compared to other US presidents or the current candidates for office. But in reality, he has done more for Israel than any other US president, and perhaps even any other world leader.

Without the determined effort and the intense personal diplomacy of president Carter, Israel would not have achieved the one landmark breakthrough in its troubled history: the peace treaty with Egypt.

By opening this first gate for Israel, under almost impossible circumstances, Carter helped open others later, granting Israel more legitimacy even while it remained an occupier, aggressor and a flagrant and chronic violator of international law.

The peace treaty with Egypt was not Carter’s ultimate goal; he sought a resolution for the Arab-Israeli conflict in its entirety. But faced with tenacious obstructionism and intransigence on the Israeli side, and hesitation and uncertainty on the Arab side, Carter settled for what he thought was possible: peace with Egypt and promises of autonomy for the Palestinians.

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Is Iran Friend or Foe in Iraq?
April 16, 2008, 3:21 am
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Ray Takeyh from the Council on Foreign Relations writes in an International Herald Tribune editorial that contrary to the prevailing dialogue here in the United States, Iran is in fact playing a constructive role in Iraq. Takeyh is an expert on Iran and has been one of the more vocal opponents of the regime change approach that is popular among the American right. Moreover, Takeyh is not from the left but rather a conservative who is a contributing editor of The National Interest. This, one would think, should give his opinion some legitimacy within the right.

Professor Juan Cole from the University of Michigan has been making the same argument for a while now. In fact, the recent ceasefire between the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi government was brokered by Iranian diplomats. The geopolitical goals of both the United States and Iran are the same: the consolidation of democracy in Iraq. Of course here in the United States, for politicians to admit this fact or praise Iran for its positive role in Iraq is unpalatable, especially since it is virtually impossible to find a story about Iran’s political system which does not also talk about Iran’s hostility towards Israel. Perhaps the ubiquitous mentioning of Israel is an attempt to disassociate Iran with progress in Iraq and keep the discussion polarized.

In the past week, a parade of Bush administration officials have offered a new threat and new justification for prolonging America’s errant war in Iraq: containing Iran.

The ironic aspect of this is that Iran not only enjoys intimate relations with the Shiite government in Baghdad, but that its objectives in Iraq largely coincide with those of the United States.

President George W. Bush took the lead in the week’s hyperbolic assertions by claiming, “Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this century: Al Qaeda and Iran.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against Iran’s “malign influence,” while General David Petraeus stressed that “Iran has fueled violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support for special groups.”

So let’s take a look at Iran’s interests in Iraq, and how Tehran has gone about realizing those aims.

Contrary to Washington’s presumptions, Iran’s achievement of its objectives is not predicated on violence or the insurgency, but on the unfolding democratic process. The overarching Iranian aim is to prevent Iraq from once more emerging as a military or ideological threat.

Over the past two decades, an uneasy consensus has evolved within Iran that the cause of Iraq’s aggressions was the Sunni domination of its politics. The minority Sunni sect sought to justify its political hegemony by embarking on pan-Arabist crusades, including the invasion of Iran and a determination to dominate the Gulf. Thus the empowerment of a friendlier Shiite regime is an essential objective for Iran.

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Will Bolivia get it’s coast back?
April 15, 2008, 1:40 am
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Bolivia lost its coast to Chile during the War of the Pacific (1879-83) and every Bolivian leader since than has come to power with the hope of taking back the coast. Without a coast, Bolivia is wholly dependent on Chile and Peru for its trade and relations between the two countries has always been tense.

In 2003, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada’s plan to export Bolivian gas through Chile and than to the United States infuriated many Bolivians. First off, the oil company was getting preferential treatment from the government and second, many Bolivians saw the pipeline to Chile as an affront to their national honor. The protests and the brutal response from the government forced Sánchez de Lozada to resign.

One can only hope that Bolivia regains its coast.

Number of Poor in China May Double
April 14, 2008, 7:36 pm
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China’s economic success has rightly been credited by academics and pundits alike for pulling tens of millions out of poverty. What is more impressive is that China has succeeded without following the dictates of the Washington Consensus. The introduction of capitalist reform under Deng Xiaoping and its proliferation under Jiang Zemin and now Hu Jintao has brought prosperity to the nation. But perhaps more importantly, economic growth has led to the degradation of China’s environment. While it has developed at an unprecedented rate, its cities are some of the most polluted in the world.

Look at this. Just look at how much pollution is in the air. In fact, Beijing is the air pollution capital of world.

The economic development has increased income inequality and many who have connections to the Communist Party have benefited from China’s introduction to the global economy. One of the lone bright sides of China’s economic success (meaning, a change that does not also have a negative consequence) has been the reduction in poverty.

The high growth of per capita expenditures of the poorer segments of the population in China suggests that the incidence of poverty in terms of international benchmarks has declined. In fact, a careful look at household survey data from the early 1990s onwards indicates that the country has achieved remarkable declines in poverty.

Unfortunately, the official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier this week that the Chinese government’s plan to change its poverty threshold to the international standard means that as many as 40 million more Chinese will be considered impoverished. Bloomberg notes:

The State Council, or cabinet, is considering using per- capita annual income of 1,300 yuan ($185) as a level to measure poverty, an increase from the current 1,067 yuan, Xinhua reported, citing a notice from the council’s Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

The 22 percent increase would provide real purchasing power of $1 a day, bringing the poverty line in the world’s most populous nation to international standards for the first time, Xinhua said.

Once the new figure is adopted, the number of people officially classified as impoverished would double to 80 million, the agency said, citing unidentified experts.