[star]The American Mind[star]

October 13, 2006

Doubts Raised about North Korean Nuke Test

Something doesn't pan out about North Korea's supposed nuclear test. We have seismic readings but still no indication of any radiation.

Results from an initial air sampling after North Korea's announced nuclear test showed no evidence of radioactive particles that would be expected from a successful nuclear detonation, a U.S. government intelligence official said Friday.

The test results do not necessarily mean the North Korean blast was not a nuclear explosion, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the sampling results.

Nonetheless, the readings reinforce uncertainty about the size and success of Monday's underground explosion, which North Korea has trumpeted as a nuclear test. It also keeps alive lingering questions about whether it was in fact a nuclear blast. Data from seismic sensors has already indicated the explosion was smaller than expected, but that is not a conclusive finding on the question of whether the explosion was nuclear.

There are three possibilities:

  1. It was a very small explosion used only as a "proof of concept."

  2. The North Koreans failed.

  3. The North Koreans faked the test.

I'm leaning towards #2. Their missile tests this summer were also duds. However, it is possible Kim Jong Il was tired of Iran getting so much attention for their nuclear program. He might have wanted the United States' attention focused squarely on him to advance his interests. So he could have ordered a few tons of conventional explosives blown up to fake a nuke test.

The lack of evidence emboldens China and Russia from voting for a tough resolution on the U.N. Security Council. Their thinking has to be if there's not that much of a threat no need for such drastic measures.

"N. Korea Air Sample has No Radioactivity"

"Did North Korea Fake It?"

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October 08, 2006

North Korea Goes Nuclear


North Korea says they tested a nuke. The USGS is calling it a 4.2 earthquake. "Light" by earthquake standards. Right now, we have to figure out if they're telling the truth. There was some event noticed by seismographs [also here, here, here, here, and here]around North Korea. Whether it was a nuclear test or not we'll have to wait and see. Geologists will have to study the p-waves and the s-waves to confirm the test.

Let's assume the North Koreans did it. They said they would, and why should we think they wouldn't? They weren't getting enough attention from only threatening to perform a test. Now it's kind of hard to ignore a fruitcake with a real, live nuke. I'd like to know how many North Koreans had to starve so Kim Jong Il could have his new, super-powered weapon? The starving masses will be pleased that "It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability." Excuse me while I boil some tree bark soup to sympathize with their oppression.

The ball's in China's court. If they don't mind Kim Jong Il having nukes then they'll do nothing. And if that happens Japan will certainly have to build a defensive nuclear arsenal of their own which won't make Bejing happy.

"North Korea Says Nuclear Test Successful"

"Report: North Korea Tests Nuke; Update: Confirmed?"

"Norks Already Tested a Nuke? (Update: One Administration Official Confirms)"

UPDATE: Stop the ACLU went link-crazy so check him out for lots of reaction.

I'm uncomfortable with North Korea having a real, live nuke, but only difference is we now know it works. When India and Pakistan developed nukes I know many thought South Asia would be the next place for a nuclear war. It hasn't happened yet. Maybe there's something about possessing a weapon so destructive a leader becomes extremely wary of using it. One can argue that the U.S and U.S.S.R. didn't go to war because both sides knew it could quickly come to a nuclear holocaust.

There are two big problems with North Korea having nukes. The first is we don't know how rational Kim Jong Il is. If all he wants to do is live and stay in control of his communist state then he can be deterred. If he's a paranoid nutball then I'd start making plans for building fallout shelters. Second, he could pass on a nuke or its technology to terrorists. But even if terrorists succeeded in a nuclear attack on the U.S. the trail would eventually come back to Pyongyang.

If anything this will push Japan futher to build its military especially missile defense and could push them to build a nuclear arsenal of its own. That won't please Bejing.

UPDATE II: Cambodia doesn't approve of North Korea's test but doesn't want to do anything about it.

On the financial front Asian stock markets are down and oil prices are going up.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:54 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 03, 2006

North Korea to Conduct Nuclear Test

North Korea doesn't think it's getting enough world attention so it's announced it will conduct a nuclear test:

Using the acronym for the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's Foreign Ministry said in the official English translation of its statement that: "The DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed."

The statement gave no precise date of when a test might occur.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso called the purported nuclear test plan a threat to peace, and said a nuclear test would have graver implications than North Korean missile tests in July. Aso called the North's self-described plan "totally unforgivable," and said Japan would react "sternly" if the North conducted a nuclear test, according to Kyodo News agency.

China, North Korea's neighbor, ally and chief benefactor, had no immediate comment. The North Korean announcement appeared to have caught Chinese officialdom off-guard, coming in the midst of a weeklong National Day holiday.

"N. Korea Says It Will Conduct Nuke Test"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 24, 2006

Washington Post on Chavez's Hot Air

Many, including me, paid more attention to what Hugo Chavez said last week (and what book he hawked) at the U.N. than how he's leading Venezuela especially its oil industry. Thankfully the Washington Post editorial board points out Chavez's ineptitude:

Since Mr. Chávez took power seven years ago, Venezuela has mismanaged its oil so disastrously that production may have fallen by almost half, according to the estimates of outsiders, reducing global oil supply by a bit more than 1 percent. Along with natural disasters and Nigerian rebels, Mr. Chávez's ineptitude has contributed to high energy prices.

It takes sustained determination to reduce output by that much, and Mr. Chávez has provided it. He inherited a competent national oil company that produced three times more per worker than its Mexican counterpart. He immediately starved it of investment capital and dispatched ignorant political cronies to oversee it. When this abuse provoked a strike, Mr. Chávez fired the staff en masse, getting rid of two-thirds of the skilled employees and managers.

"Hurricane Chávez" [via Betsy's Page]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:25 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

September 21, 2006

Sen. Harkin Doesn't Bash Chavez

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) can "understand" Hugo Chavez's "frustration" with the U.S. That's far from Reps. Rangel's and Pelosi's denunciations of the Venezuelan autocrat. He then turned a question about Chavez into your standard criticism of President Bush's foreign policy.

"Harkin Defends Venezuelan President's U.N. Speech against Bush"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democrats Bash Chavez

I know they're doing it because elections are about six weeks away still I'm please Reps. Charles Rangel and Nancy Pelosi ripped Hugo Chavez:

"I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president - don't come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State," Rangel said.

"Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed by Republicans and Democrats, and all Americans, as an attack on all of us," Rangel said.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who spent most of the day criticizing the Bush administration's economic and environmental policies, told reporters that Chavez's performance at the U.N. "demeaned" himself and the his nation.

"He fancies himself as a modern day Simon Bolivar, but all he is an everyday thug," Pelosi said.

It's good to know political expediency still trumps Bush Derangement Syndrome in Democratic leaders.

Too bad the same can't be said for the wackos at Democratic Underground. Here are some good comments on Rangel's remarks:

  • OneBlueSky: "when that president represents an immediate threat to world peace . . .
    and, indeed, to the survival of humanity and of the planet itself, I'd say that criticism is quite appropriate -- anytime, any place, and by anyone . . . "
  • Rex: " Well then he can go and goosestep with his new best friend
    George Bush. I hear Lieberman was a great progressive at one time and pissed his whole career away due to a kiss by the Devil."
  • El Zopilote: "What is U.S. Congressman Charles Rangél doing? Is he betraying the Democratic Party? He's bashing Hugo Chavez and defending Bush. It is very disturbing and alarming to see a Democrat, especially a monority, to critize an international Hispanic leader and ally by expressing sympathy for Bush and his racist Republicans. Has Mr. Rangél gone loco? Has he turned into a rogue Democrat? Is he a traitor? Hopefully Mr. Rangél has an ulterior motive. But as Democrats we must be careful not to create the slightest impression that our strong united coalition has a crack in it. I consider all minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics of course, Muslims, American Indians and all to be my brothers in the cause of solidarity). We must remain united. Solidarity is the key to victory. We do not need dissent.

"Chavez Catches Hell For 'Devil' Slam"

"Rangel and Pelosi Denounce Chavez "Devil" Comments"

"Rangel to Chavez: Shut Up"

"Video: Rangel Warns Chavez Not to Attack “My President”; Update: Gratuitous DU Thread Added"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 20, 2006

The Meat of Chavez's U.N. Speech

AcademicElephant at Redstate read past Hugo Chavez's "el diablo" remarks and found something quite disturbing:

Mr. Chavez deliberately used the same term as the President, and he deliberately used the first person plural. "We are extremists," he said in what was the true meat of the speech. Do not be blinded by the theatrics: Mr. Chavez today used the bully pulpit of the United Nations General Assembly to publicly embrace the terrorist forces of the Middle East, to claim common cause with them, and to suggest that they have a legitimate grievance against an intolerable aggressor. In this context, Mr. Chavez' apparently nutty remarks about the 9/11 attacks make perfect sense. He is rallying the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, and offering them justification, protection and support in the western hemisphere. More overtly and blatantly than any other world leader, he is hanging out his shingle as a state sponsor of terrorism. There have been rumors swirling recently of Islamic extremists finding haven in Venezuela. Mr. Chavez confirmed them today. Come to Venezuela, he might have well said. We can help you out. And look how much closer you'll be to Miami. Or to Washington and New York, for that matter.

It's time to find a few more large oil deposits to drive the price of crude down and (hopefully) take Chavez's regime down with it.

"About that Stench from Turtle Bay..."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Raging Muslims' Selective Historic Memory

Gail Hapke looked into the context of the quote Pope Benedict used to suposedly insult Muslims. Her finding is facinating:

How interesting indeed, that in the old days of Muslim ascendency, no one offered to cut off the head of the questioning infidel, although they could easily have done so. Instead, his gracious hosts encouraged him to speak his mind and amused themselves by answering his objections and correcting his misconceptions, as they understood them.

The behavior of the Qadi and his Sultan, in my opinion, should be celebrated as one of the high points of Muslim civilization. Has that civilization declined so much in the intervening centuries, that the way debates are settled is now by vitriol and violence instead of by reasoned and dignified discourse?

As usual in the blogosphere, read the whole thing. Don't be like some violent, rampaging Muslims. What I've learned is although Islam is deeply in touch with its history it's selective. I'm guessing fundamentalist Muslims see the tolerance Muslim leaders practiced in Manuel II Palaiologos' day to skew from the "true Islam." But realize that tolerance was practiced during Islam's heyday when it was a world power and Europe feared its encroachment.

"Who Was the 'Educated Persian?'"

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Chavez Calls Bush "The Devil" at U.N.

Venezualan president Hugo Chavez is just so darn entertaining. Today at the U.N., he held up a copy of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony and Survival and called President Bush "the devil."

Something was lost in translation for Deutsche Presse-Agenteur because they lead with "Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez compared US President George W Bush to 'the devil.'" There was no comparison. Chavez called Bush "the devil." Chavez went on to say, "The devil came here and this place still smells today." Imagine the stench after Chavez left.

In his rant Chavez appealed to the "people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head." He's hoping the Democrats take the House so Rep. John Conyers can start impeachment hearings. Remember, a vote for the Democrats is a vote for a Hugo Chavez-backed overthrow of the Bush Presidency.

I expect sales of Chomsky's book to jump while Bush bashers go out of their way to praise Chavez for "speaking truth to power."

" Calls Bush 'Devil' in Insult-Riddled Speech to U.N."

UPDATE: Greg Tinti has video from Chavez's speech. Chavez said the U.S. was "the greatest threat looming over our planet" and American actions are "placing at risk the very survivial of the human species."

Not only did his speech reek of anti-Americanism but the audience's reaction did too. They laughed at his "jokes" and give him warm applause when Chavez was finished. There's one thing I agree with the oil-powered maniac: move the U.N. to Venezuela. The U.S. doesn't deserve such petulant haters here.

[via Wizbang]

UPDATE II: Rob at Say Anything sighs then adds:

You know what the biggest problem with the UN is? It has become forum where the rantings of truly evil dictators like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (and yes, my liberal friends, those men are dictators as there wasn't much democracy in the "elections" that put them into power) get equal footing along side statements from the American president and other leaders of western democracies. By elevating these tyrants to equal status with the leaders of the free world we, in effect, grant legitimacy to their causes and their evil regimes.

As an American, I'm tired of seeing my country be used as a whipping boy at the United Nations. From the bogus accusations of people like Chavez to the condescending prattle from representatives of European powers the United States cannot win at the world body. We are criticized no matter what we do.

What I think the UN needs is a wake call, and the best way to do that is for the United States to begin to seriously consider the amount of money it sends to the organization each year. Because right now it seems like all we're doing is funding a forum for the most insensible of our critics, not to mention an organization that has become so replete with corruption and bureaucracy that it has become a mockery of its original intents.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 18, 2006

Response to Pope's Words Shows Little Progress in Muslim World

Responding to Pope Benedict's erudite speech on faith and reason with murder and firebombing doesn't produce sympathy. Yet that's what too many Muslims have done the past few days.

Daniel Johnson sees Pope Benedict's role as similar to Pope John Paul II's fight against athiest Communism. Dad29 wonders if bad MSM reporting blew up Benedict's brief mention of Islam into something more deadly.

I'm at a similar place at Australian Cardinal George Pell:

But Cardinal Pell today backed Pope Benedict, saying the violent reaction to his comments on Islam and violence illustrated his fears.

"The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears," Cardinal Pell said in a statement.

"They showed the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence.

"Our major priority must be to maintain peace and harmony within the Australian community, but no lasting achievements can be grounded in fantasies and evasions."

It's been five years since the Sep. 11 attacks and I'm still waiting for moderate Muslims to begin fighting for their faith. If you want to talk about a battle that has made zero progress it's the one between moderate and extremist Muslims.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2006

Fidel Castro Getting Better

Bad news for freedom lovers. Fidel Castro is feeling better and has lost some weight.

"Slimmer Castro Says 'The Worst is Over' Since His Op"

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August 28, 2006

At Least Al Gore Accepted Defeat

South of the border the Leftist Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has organized protests that disrupt Mexico City. All because he didn't get the most votes in July's election. He thinks he was robbed and everyone's in on the conspiracy, even the electoral tribunal that today rejects most of his charges of voter fraud. Obrador has called for another massive rally where he could be named the leader of a civil resistence movement that would "continue to block streets and cripple traffic in Mexico City for years."

Thankfully, AlGore was more serious in 2000. He may have gone completely nutty since then, but he cared enough about the country not to set up a permanent protest camp on the Washington Mall.

"Leftist Destabilization Of Mexico"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

August 22 Came and Only the Romanians Noticed

Earlier this month Islam scholar Bernard Lewis wondered if Iran would do something earth-shaking on 08.22:

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time--Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the U.S. about nuclear development by Aug. 22. This was at first reported as "by the end of August," but Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement was more precise.

What is the significance of Aug. 22? This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (cf Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.

Being a historian means you're a better examiner of the past than predictor of the future. The big news is Iranian troops captured a Romanian oil rig in the Persian Gulf:
Romania's Foreign Ministry called on Iranian authorities to immediately free Romanian crew members being held by the troops who took over the rig. The rig operator said seven Indian crew members had been released but 20 Romanians were still detained.

"We are dealing with a commercial dispute that is being treated in an extreme way by the Iranian authorities," Medar told Realitatea TV. He added that Iranian authorities had not confirmed the incident. Iranian officials and state media offered no immediate statements.

Bloomberg has details on what happened:
An Iranian naval vessel fired on the rig owned by Romania's Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP) in the Salman field and took control of its radio room at about 7:00 a.m. local time, Lulu Tabanesku, Grup's representative in the United Arab Emirates said in a phone interview from Dubai today.

"The Iranians fired at the rig's crane with machine guns,'' Tabanesku said. "They are in control now and we can't contact the rig.'' The Romanian company has 26 workers on the platform, he said.

Who knew the Iranians had it in for the Romanians? They do want to be a part of the prosporous West therefore they're the infidel. To the Iranian mullahs nothing good will happen to the infidel.

Dan Riehl sees this as Iran flexing its muscle in the Strait of Hormuz.

Since Romania is a member of NATO this could be construed as an act of war against the whole alliance. But any alliance that includes France is worth as much as Jacques Chirac's word when it comes to Lebanon. It's time to think about turning some of Ford's excess production capacity into war-time use just in case Iran doesn't want to be contained. The Marines could use some new equipment.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

Castro Makes TV Appearance

Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and Hugo Chavez were shown on Cuban television hanging out in Fidel's hospital room:

Cuban state television on Monday aired the first video of Fidel Castro since he stepped down as president to recover from surgery, showing the bedridden Cuban leader joking with his brother and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Castro appeared tired and pale, yet alert in the videotaped encounter, speaking quietly but clearly enjoying himself as he chatted with Chavez, his close friend and political ally. Acting president Raul Castro was also present for the encounter on his brother's 80th birthday.

As the men bantered back and forth, Castro's voice was inaudible. He was later shown in animated conversation with Chavez, but music played over his words.

Chavez told Castro he sat down to pray when he learned of the Cuban leader's illness and operation, and said "that was a horrible day." But the Venezuelan leader also was optimistic, saying, "Your capacity to recover is impressive."

The videotape showed the friends sharing a snack and looking at an album of photographs showing them together — including one from a trip Castro took to Venezuela during an earlier birthday. Sentimental music accompanied the footage, which lasted about 10 minutes.

CNN has some footage. [via Babalu Blog]

"Cuban TV Airs Video of Ailing Castro"

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Fidel's Photos Faked?

There's been some talk about the authenticity of this photo of Fidel Castro released Sunday.


The photo looks real to me except for the missing age spots Sticky Notes noticed.

While Sunday's photo is good evidence that Fidel is still alive these photos of the Cuban dictator with Hugo Chavez posted by Sean Gleeson may indicate his health isn't so great. Gleeson writes,

The photos seem to show Fidel and Hugo writing notes to each other on a little tablet. I thought, perhaps Fidel was writing because he has lost his voice. But then, why is Hugo writing back? Has Fidel gone deaf too? Or perhaps they had secret matters to discuss, and couldn’t mention them aloud with Raul in the room.

"Conflicting Images????" [via Micro Persuasion]

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August 13, 2006

Castro Releases Letter on 80th Birthday


Fidel Castro appears to be looking good after surgery. I'll let the blogosphere's photoexperts go over it, but the picture looks legit to me. Too bad.

" "Better" on 80th Birthday"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 09, 2006

Cuba Fears the U.S.

Cuba says it's the United States' fault for the news blackout on Fidel Castro's condition. Even with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and no sign from President Bush that American troops would take part in any operation in Lebanon National assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon still fears the "Yanqui" crossing south from Florida and taking things over.

It's the typical Communist Cuban way: where there are problems blame the Americans. It's kept Castro's prison island safely in his hands for over 40 years. Why mess with a good thing?

You want to see a real threat from the U.S.? Let see an Indian casino open up in Havana along with a Dodge dealership. No, scratch that, a Kia dealership. One of those Korean buckets of bolts would seem like a luxury to those who've been jury-rigging their cars for decades.

"Cuba 'Faces Threat from US'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2006

Pumping Up Raul Castro

Cuba's government newspaper Granma published a history lesson on the bravery of Raúl Castro Ruz, Fidel Castro's brother and temporary leader of the communist Island prison. During his trial in 1953 by Batista regime prosecutors Raúl defiantly said,

When they took a statement from me in the Bivouac, I assumed responsibility for the Movement because I supposed that they had killed Fidel, I knew that Abel had been assassinated and somebody had to assume responsibility for that action which was frustrated in the first attempt. But, with Fidel being alive, fortunately, things have fallen back into place. I am a simple soldier who was assigned a post and a mission.

In bold letters the Granma story reads, "This is a story that should not be ignored in the context of today’s events."

Fidel's recovery must not be that assured that the state press needs to pump up Raul as a hero of the Revolution who is willing to take command when needed but also cede power. It's an interesting bit of cult of personality in the making.

"When Raúl Castro Assumed Responsibility for the Assault on the Moncada Garrison"

"Cuba Launches Campaign Touting Fidel's Designated Successor"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Berlin's Spirit Questions Bush Doctrine

James Pinkerton gets a little too cute with his "talk" with Isaiah Berlin's ghost in an attempt to paint President Bush as a French-style revolutionary (don't tell the French) with little understanding of current world realities. To sum it up Pinkerton/Berlin criticize the President for promoting human freedom as the cure to Man's political problems. For Pinkerton/Berlin that's too single-minded.

However, the idea of liberty is a large, wide-ranging concept. It covers the ability to trade freely with one's fellow man, to speak and protest one's government, to create art free of government sanction, the ability to worship as one pleases, and so on and so on. Freedom is an all-encompassing concept. It's an abstraction of a host of related ideas. With Berlin's words Pinkerton reduces human liberty into "one totalistic thing" something Berlin warns against.

Maybe Pinkerton/Berlin would approve of Thomas Barnett's idea of the pursuit of connectedness, economically, culturally, and politically. Then, that might be playing word games like Pinkerton/Berlin did with freedom.

When President Bush talks about spreading freedom across the globe he doesn't mean there's the one American form or that nations with little history of freedom to instantly become as free as the U.S. No proponents of freedom's expansion believe Iraq, Lebanon, or the rest of the Middle East will become Switzerland anytime soon. Pinkerton/Berlin doesn't offer any words from President Bush to suggest otherwise.

"Grave Wisdom from a Grave Oxford Don"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:43 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Israel Blockading Lebanon

Israel has now implemented an air and sea blockade on Lebanon:

Israel is imposing an air and sea blockade on Lebanon as part of a major offensive over two soldiers captured by the militant group Hezbollah.
Israeli ships have entered Lebanese water to block ports, and the country's only international airport is closed after Israeli air strikes on Thursday.

The military operation in Lebanon could be long:
A high-ranking IDF source said that the current operation, dubbed Operation Just Reward, would be "long" and could last up to several months, or "as long as it takes to destroy the Hizbullah's ability to launch attacks against Israel."

"Israel Imposes Lebanon Blockade"

"Israeli Warplanes Attack Beirut Airport"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

Flag Waving is "Epidemic"

If this story from AFP, France's wire service, is any indication we know just doesn't "get" the United States. Chantal Valery declares our flag-flying "a true epidemic." Patriotism and love of country is something some people don't understand. It's usually those, like NY Times editors who see themselves as post-nationalist and above red state things like that.

"US 'Flag Epidemic' Reaches Peak on Fourth of July" [via OTB]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

Missile Defense Activated on North Korea Fears

The intelligence coming out of North Korea must be sketchy. There have been reports since Sunday that a Taepodong-2 was fueled and ready for launch. Yet there's been no launch. What we do know is the U.S. missile defense is on alert, and a lot of people are freaking out.

"Report: U.S. Activates Missile Defense System" [via digg]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2006

Possible Media Ban on Canadian Terrorist Suspects

There's one guy hoping there's a media ban on Canada's terrorism case: Ed Morrissey. He had a pretty good run going around the Adscam trial. If his back stops bothering him he'll probably be fed plenty of good stuff from the hearings and trials.

"Lawyers Blast in Canada Terrorism Case"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2006

Poland Denies Another Report of CIA Secret Prisions

A Council of Europe report again claims there are/were secret CIA prisons across Europe where terrorist suspsects are/were hidden. Poland was named specifically.

Switzerland's Dick Marty, lead investigator behind the report has friends in the U.S. intelligence community:

Marty, who didn't have the power to compel the release of documents, used ``evidence from national and international air- traffic control authorities, as well as sources inside intelligence services, including in the United States'' to compile the report, the council said.

So leakers are talking to Europeans with an anti-American axe to grind along with reporters.

Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Poland's deputy head of the European Parliament responds:

I think it's a great exaggeration. Obviously, the CIA cooperates with secret services of al countries, Poland included. After all, the United States is our very close ally, so there is no wonder we have close links. But reading this paper, I see that all the allegations are very poorly substantiated, there is only hearsay. There is only one case of one flight to an airfield in Poland, which allegedly brought in some people to be detained, but there was no other flight which took them away! So, everything is very circumstantial and poorly documented.


The author of this report, senator Marty, quotes some undisclosed informers from CIA and also people from Human Rights Watch, but there's nothing concrete, really. It's just an allegation. I doubt whether it would be possible to have such a detention center in Poland. Especially, because the place indicated as a potential place where people are being kept is really an ammunition bunker next to the airfield.

Reporter Pawel Wronski supports Onyszkiewicz's claim about the airfield:
I was at Szymany airport, but there is no possibility to build a prison there where the CIA can keep people, because there are no fences around this airport. No one has given me any information where these prisons are in Poland.

Both Onyszkiewicz and Wronski think the report is just another instance of America-bashing.

"Warsaw Rejects Accusations of Harbouring Prisons"

"U.K., Other European States Aided , Report Says"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2006

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

The biggest problem with Iran is all the options available aren't great. To steal from Jon Henke, "it's important to note that we don't have a lot of good options." Launching an invasion would require moving large amounts of troops from Asia and Europe. Along with that is the potential for Iranian-sympathizing Shities in Iraq to create a second front. Then there are the fears from other Persian Gulf states as noted by Barry McCaffery:

U.S. public diplomacy and rhetoric about confronting Iranian nuclear weapons is scaring neighbors in the Gulf. They will not support another war. They have no integrated missile and interceptor air defense. They have no credible maritime coastal defense system to protect their ports and oil production facilities. Our Mid-East allies believe correctly that they are ill-equipped to deal with Iranian strikes to close the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. They do not think they can handle politically or militarily a terrorist threat nested in their domestic Shia populations.

India and China are growing economies that need cheap energy to lift their people out of poverty. Economic sanctions won't hold very long if at all.

But the idea of that lunatic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the mullahs having the bomb is frightening. Too bad it's probably inevitable they will develop a nuclear weapon. The technology to do it is over 60 years old. The basic concept is found in any college-level (and probably high school-level) physics textbook. The barriers to entry entail enriched uranium. Iranians are a very proud people. While not being fans of their regime they don't appreciate the outside world ordering them around. That makes Iranians very similar to Americans.

The best approach to Iran is to accept the fact they will have some kind of nuclear industry. Jon Henke goes into details of an agreement that would monitor Iran to keep it peaceful, but it should be assumed that someday they will have a nuclear weapon. The West needs to work to destable the unpopular theocracy. The problem with Iran having a nuke is that it's an authoritarian nation that supports anti-West terrorism. An nuclear Iran with a regime of liberty in place of the mullahs would be much less of a threat to Israel, the United States, and the West. Look at India. She is a nuclear, democratic power moving down the path to further liberty and economic prosperity. A nuclear India isn't a threat to the U.S. or the West.

Before the announcement of U.S. consession Tom Barrnett wrote,

The "grand bargain" with Iran gives us something the region has long desperately needed: a regional security regime (starts as a CSCE-like affair and slowly migrates into something more tangible) that puts Iran in a comfortable-enough place that external security "threats" are no longer enough to hold off popular domestic impulses for reform. CSCE got you Walesa and the rest in East Europe (again, thank Nixon and Henry and just pat Ronnie and Maggie and JP II on the backs), because it created a regional forum to push individual economic/human rights and that got you the asssertive, impatient public that ultimately took Reagan's rhetoric and made it real.

It's not the U.S. boldly liberating Iran through war, diplomacy, or economic sanctions. This approach will take time and be organic. But given the constraints at hand it's the best we've got.

I'm sure many like James Joyner and Alan Warms are screaming, "WTF?" But options are limited unless the U.S. and the West wants to go to war with Iran and accept all the retaliation and high energy costs that will come with it.

"Report: Incentive Package Includes U.S. Giving Nuke Technology"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 04, 2006

It Pays to Be a Dictator

Become a communist dictator, hold on to power with an iron fist, and you too can be worth $900 million like Fidel Castro. All of that is blood money.

" Worth $900 Million: Forbes"

UPDATE: Babalu Blog: "Some embargo, eh?"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2006

Will They Kill Kenny?

Air Arabia, a low-cost Middle East airline, uses some cartoon characters that bare a striking resemblence to the South Park kids.

"Arab Airline Hijacks Kids of South Park" [via Best of the Web]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2006

One Can't Deter the Undeterrable

I don't buy that Iran has thousands of centrifuges ready to pump out enriched uranium. The chance of them having those is as good as the effectiveness of their "super weapons" like the stealth flying boat and underwater missile.

Still, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an apocalyptic nutcase who said Israel is "headed toward annihilation." "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

I'd have no problem with Iran having nukes if I thought she was deterrable. India and Pakistan both possess nuclear weapons, but their leaders realize Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) wouldn't be in the best interests of their nations. With Ahmadinejad he might think he is the person to bring about the end times with the return of the Twelfth Imam. Nuking Israel may be Ahmadinejad's manner of doing it. One can't deter someone from not using a nuclear weapon if he believes he will be better of by using it. A Cold War-style MAD strategy won't work.

Practically speaking a full-scale invasion of Iran is out of the question. There isn't enough manpower with operations going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, there isn't the political will anywhere, not in pacifist Europe nor in the U.S. (It will take Iran using a nuclear weapon on Israel or someone else before Europeans or U.S. anti-warriors take the threat seriously.) Economic sanctions will be Iran's punishment along with the specter of U.S. airstrikes that could include the haunting possiblity of the third-ever use of nuclear weapons in conflict.

"Iran President Again Lashes Out at Israel"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:10 PM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2006

"We Have the Youth We Deserve"

A new law in France would *gasp* let employers fire new hires under 26 for any reason during their first two years of employment. The fact French companies can't do that already explains France's lousy employment situation. For centuries it's been in the French cultural DNA to protest so for weeks that's what students have done. They've gone so far as to cause $1.2 million in damage to the Sorbonne University and have kept it closed for weeks. That school's president Jean-Robert Pitte is fed up with the protesters and their "illusions." His remarks offer the most impressive bit of sanity I've heard from any French man in some time:

"I'm very angry about the demagogy, the ignorance and the stupidity of the young and of the French," said Dr Pitte, 56, a geography professor who has taught at Oxford and Cambridge and holds the Légion d'honneur.

"Today's youth don't have dreams, they have illusions. To dream is to want to accomplish something difficult that is a challenge. Instead youngsters believe they have a right to everything and if things don't go the way they want it's someone else's fault."


Dr Pitte, whose comments were published in the respected weekly news magazine Le Point, blamed "irresponsible" public debate for stoking the violence.

"They say: Oh, these poor students! Of course they have a right to an open-ended work contract! It's absurd," he told Le Point. "Who is going to tell these youngsters the truth? Get real." He added that tens of thousands of students were taking degrees in subjects with no relevance to the employment market but were then demanding jobs linked to their studies.

"It's true that someone in England who leaves Oxford with a degree in Chinese can work in marketing, but they learn their job as they go along and must prove themselves.

"I know people will say I'm a horrible reactionary but I'm very angry about the ignorance and the stupidity not just of youngsters but of the French because we have the youth we deserve."

"Head of Sorbonne Attacks 'Ignorant' Student Protesters"

UPDATE: McQ at QandO comments:

While Pitte's words are true and a welcome bit of fresh air, my guess is the result will be Pitte doing the equivalent of the "Larry Summers Shuffle" as he's asked to find another position in the near future. I don't think France is quite yet in the postition to want to deal with the truth.

"France: Speaking Truth to Ignorance"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:54 AM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2006

Christians Besides Rahman Arrested

A news outfit called Compass Direct, a "US-based Christian news source" reports two more Afghan Christians have been arrested. I've never heard of Compass Direct, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is legit. It's something to keep an eye on.

"More Arrested in Afghanistan"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

Rahman Flees to Italy

Abdul Rahman was granted asylum in Italy and arrived there. Many Afghan Muslim are miffed he was allowed to leave the country instead of converting back to Islam or be killed for apostasy. Clerics called it a "betrayal to Islam" and the Afghan parliment wanted the Karzai government to stop Rahman from leaving.

With this courageous action Italy should prepare for the backlash. I won't be surprised if fatwahs are issued for Rahman's death. Also expect violent protests outside Italian consulates similar to the ones in response to the Muhammad cartoons.

"Italy Welcomes Man Who Fled Afghanistan"

"Afghan Convert 'Arrives in Italy'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:43 PM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2006

Rahman Safe for Now

Abdul Rahman will not face charges for converting to Christianity, but he is still not safe. He could be charged later when prosecutors get more evidence, or more likely, someone angry at Rahman's apostasy will kill him.

I am disappointed with the Bush administration's tepid reactions to Rahman's plight. Condi Rice saying we need "to be respectful of Afghan sovereignty" continued that tip-toeing.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai found a way not to alienate the West. This is better than the Taliban who would have killed Rahman days ago. The problem we have is there isn't a model of an Islamic state that practices religious freedom. Turkey is the closest, but they do that by trying hard to keep religion out of state affairs. Even today, the strong military watches the civilian government to make sure they don't go astray from Ataturk's idea of a land of the Turks rather than an Islamic state. (Note that Turkey doesn't call itself the Islamic Republic of Turkey.)

Changing culture and religious attitudes is a slow and painful process. What can't be done is for allied forces to threaten to leave Afghanistan if it doesn't respect religious freedom. Most Afghans would sooner see foreign troops leave and deal with warlords and Islamist terrorists than have the West dictate to them how they should practice Islam. Also, we don't want Afghanistan to again become a homebase for Islamist terrorist. A possibility for more tolerance is for moderate Muslim Afghans who currently live in the West to return to their homeland. These moderates know from experience that Muslims can live side-by-side with Christians, Jews, atheists, etc.

Another possibility is for Muslims to stop looking on the dynastic pride they have in Muslim history and deeply examining the eras when Christians, Jews, and Muslims all lived peacefully together under Muslim rule. Instead of moaning the demise of dar al-Islam to dar al-Harb historic lessons can be found to adjust Islam to the modern world.

Afghanistan will have to change because there are more there than just Abdul Rahman:

The middle-aged man, who cannot be named for fear of reprisals, embraced Christianity 20 years ago. Unlike Rahman, who converted while working for a charity in Pakistan, where there is a Christian minority numbering several million, he has never left Afghanistan.

"We have churches here in Kabul and all the cities of the country, and links to Christians abroad," he said. "There have always been Christians in this country. Some families have been Christian for generations, but most have been converted in recent years."

The Christian interviewed said Afghan Christians "don't get trouble from ordinary people, but being afraid of being identified shows the pull of "extremist religious groups" who "will try to kill or kidnap us, to mount grenade attacks."

"Afghan Court Drops Case Against "

"Abdul Rahman to Be Released"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

Iraqi Civil War

What are the costs or benefits, if there are any, of an Iraqi civil war?

Aaron poses the question.

I answer it.

Your thoughts?

Posted by Jenna Pryor in Foreign Affairs at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2006

Robertson Calls Islamists "Satanic"

In anyone thinks I'll bash Pat Robertson for calling radical Islamists "Satanic" will be disappointed. There will be no anti-Coulter bashing tonight. I have no problem calling those that killed thousands by slamming airplanes into buildings or bomb innocents in public places or demand the death of America "evil." As a Christian I believe one source of evil is a supernatural being named Satan. Thus, it's not a stretch to call such evil "Satanic."

I'm in good company. Ace is an agnostic and has no problem with Robertson this time.

"Robertson Finds Radical Muslims 'Satanic'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:41 PM | Comments (21)

March 12, 2006

Gotta Love Those Muslims

Islam's history, like any other culture's, is filled with both good and bad. While Islam today is dealing with the stain of suicide terrorism Catholicism has the Inquisition as a historic scar.

Since I'm on vacation I'm really, really happy Jabir ibn Hayyan invented distillation. I wouldn't be enjoying my margaritas without that piece of technology.

"How Islamic Inventors Changed the World"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

Reap What You Sow

When the ports deal dead we shouldn't be surprised the UAE wants to slow progress on free-trade talks.

"US-UAE Trade Talks on Hold"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2006

No Surprise

There was a protest and Glenn Reynolds finds a picture of a lovely woman. Par for the course.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:41 PM | Comments (2)

March 09, 2006

No Control?

This could have serious ramifications. (H/T Drudge)

The decision by the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to order state-controlled Dubai Ports World to end its control over US port facilities marks the lowest point yet in the relationship between President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Mr Bush had warned repeatedly that blocking the deal would send a dangerously discriminatory message to the world. He threatened repeatedly to veto any congressional legislation.

But with his public approval ratings at record lows and his Republican party abandoning him, one of the US’s closest allies in the Arab world concluded that he was no longer in control in Washington.

The decision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, is likely to avert the political backlash that hit Washington last month and may prevent any further damage to diplomatic and security relations between the countries. But it underscored that Mr Bush, who still has nearly three years to go in his second term, has become perilously weak.

I'm not saying that this deal shouldn't have been questioned, because it should have been, but with news like this out every day, and Iran becoming more extreme in its refusal to comply and demands, the President must have strong control, or at least the appearance of control.

Posted by Jenna Pryor in Foreign Affairs at 07:29 PM | Comments (1)

The DPW Deal

DPW now says it will transfer port operations to a U.S. Company. Curiouser and curiouser.

Posted by Attila Girl in Foreign Affairs at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2006

Pick Your Poison

I'll take -20 weather over massive mudslides anytime. My prayers are with the Philippino victims.

"Philippine Rescue Crews Hope for Miracle"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2006

Imagine Chavez with the Bomb

Iran and Venezuela signed a document that read in part:

We condemn the making, development and accumulation of nuclear arms, (and) we ratify the right of all countries to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Of course we should believe them because they have such stable leaders running their free nations.

The only thing worse than Iranian president Ahmadinejad having a nuke is Hugo Chavez with one.

"Iran Open to Helping Nuclear Program"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2006

Islam's PR Problem

Jim Geraghty has a downer post on Muslims opposing the cartoon violence. He worries they're not being heard over the shouting in the street and the sound of embassies being torched. The insight Jim offers is global Islam has had a bad image for some time:

It seems likely that the first time the American public really paid close attention to the Muslim world was the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis. Since then we’ve seen the hostage-taking in Lebanon, the bombing of the Marine barracks, the death threats against Salman Rushdie, the embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole... and then the day the world changed, 9/11. Since then, we’ve seen those who celebrated the attacks, Saudi Princes who offer checks to terrorism victims but demand changes to our Middle East policy, the murder of Daniel Pearl, the attacks in Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid, Beslan, Jeddah, London, Sharm al-Sheikh, Amman… suicide bombers in Israel, the Moscow theater hostage-taking, and a seeming thousand “yes, but” comments on terrorism, ultimately blaming Western “provocations.”

What positive interactions have these folks had with Muslims? Has there been anything like iconic moment of the Queen playing the Star-Spangled Banner at Buckingham Palace?

The U.S. is spending millions to improve the nation's image overseas. Maybe the Saudis should use their petrodollars to pump up Islam's image instead of spreading virulent Wahhabism.

A man I work with of moderate temperment (libertarian politically) sensing that we are now seeing a clash of civilizations. I hope he's wrong and this is just another outburst of Islamic insecurity.

"Who Speaks for Islam?"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:48 AM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2006

Torch the Met

Shh! Don't tell anybody, but there's images of Muhammad in museums across the globe. Expect the Metropolitan Museum of Art to be set ablaze in a few days.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:24 AM | Comments (4)

February 06, 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Vision of War

Iran's location along with its vast energy supply make it an ever-growing power in its region. With India's and China's economies showing no end to their growth they will look more and more to Iran's oil and natural gas supplies. Simply because of that it will remain an important world player. Part of the reason Iran wants the nuclear bomb is to counter Israel's known but not admitted arsenal. That would seem reasonable except that Iran has a history of supporting terrorism to advance its national interests. Even worse they have a man in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who thinks he has the power to bring about the Shia version of the Apocolypse. Arnaud de Borchgrave writes,

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Shi'ite creed has convinced him lesser mortals can not only influence but hasten the awaited return of the 12th Imam, known as the Mahdi. Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect holds this will be Muhammad ibn Hasan, the righteous descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the 9th century, at age 5. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war, bloodshed and pestilence. After this cataclysmic confrontation between the forces of good and evil, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.
"The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one." He reckons the return of the Imam, AWOL for 11 centuries, is only two years away.
Mr. Ahmadinejad is close to the messianic Hojjatieh Society, which is governed by the conviction the 12th Imam's return will be hastened by "the creation of chaos on Earth." He has fired Iran's most experienced diplomats and scores of other officials, presumably those who don't share his belief in apocalyptic conflagration.
The Iranian leader's finger on a nuclear trigger would be disquieting under any circumstances. Positively alarming would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of a man who badgers Israel, the U.S. and the European Union in belief a pre-emptive aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will hasten the return of the missing Mahdi. Such an attack presumably would trigger anti-Western mayhem throughout the Middle East.

The question is how to address this problem. Sanctions are the path being taken, but on the energy front they will be ignored by hungary Indians and Chinese. Militarily I don't see how the U.S. could mount an invasion. They could do it by moving all the troops currently in Iraq (which would perversly go along with the anti-war, "get our troops out of Iraq" crowd. Also, Iranians are a very, very proud people. They've set themselves off from the rest of Islam with their language and their past of being a former empire. They would take even less kindly to an American invasion/liberation. Airstrikes could slow their bomb-making a little, but they've learned from the Iraqis that nuclear testing should be hidden in fortified shelters. The best chance is to hope there's an internal revolution. Unfortunately that involves time, a luxury we don't have.

"Later than We Think"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:21 PM | Comments (3)

February 05, 2006

Violence Spreads to Lebanon

Islamic anger over the Muhammad cartoons isn't easing up; it's spreading:

Thousands of angry Muslim protesters torched the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday and damaged property in a Christian area in riots over cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

The violence fueled sectarian tensions in Lebanon and forced the resignation of Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa.

The protesters, waving green Islamic flags and chanting "God is greatest," stoned a church in the eastern part of the capital, provoking an angry Christian outcry in a country that has not fully recovered from its 1975-1990 civil war.

About 20,000 protesters marched on the consulate, some carrying banners that read "Whoever insults Prophet Mohammad is to be killed" and throwing stones at security forces, who fired teargas and used water cannon to disperse the crowd.

It has the potential to make the Lebanese government fall...which may be the ulterior motive for instigators.

A bit of Darwin Award flavor was noticed:

One demonstrator, among those who set the consulate building on fire, was encircled by flames and died after jumping from the third floor, a senior security official told Reuters.

In past history wars have started with attacking a country's embassies. Lucky for the protesters they're challenging militarily-limited Denmark.

At least there are some Muslims who know these violent reactions do no good:

Several Sunni Muslim clerics were on the streets urging restraint and asking protesters, who came from across the country, to leave the scene, a Reuters witness said.

Some protesters stoned a Christian Maronite church nearby and a group of Muslim clerics went to the church to apologize, witnesses said.

The protesters also damaged 50 cars and 40 shops and set fire to a bank, the police official said.

President Emile Lahoud joined scores of Christian officials in deploring the attack on the church. Scores of Christians also burned tyres and briefly blocked the highway linking Beirut to the Muslim-dominated Bekaa Valley.

The police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 21 policemen and 12 protesters were injured. Many suffered from teargas inhalation.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told private Future television: "This has nothing to do with Islam at all."

"Destabilising security and vandalism gives a wrong image of Islam. The Prophet Mohammad cannot be defended this way."

The Arab European League reacted to the Muhammad cartoons by displaying some bigotry of their own in the form of an anti-semitic cartoon. Notice the AEL didn't publish a cartoon insulting the Pope or Jesus (also an Islamic holy figure). They leaped into Jew-bashing.

Stephen Bainbridge found a Christian comparison to Muslim outrage. It doesn't involve burning down a television network's headquarters. Muslims know their history contains stories of empire and dominance. Today, they're just trying to integrate into the global economy. The rage we are witnessing is one of insecurity. Muslims know they can't successfully build an army to crush the infidel. So they resort to riots. In a way this is progress. The cartoons can never be hidden. They'll float through cyberspace until the end of the internet. At some point protesters will realize their violence won't change a thing, just like Iran's death threat never stopped Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses from being published. This is a messy, ugly process.

"Lebanese Torch Danish Consulate over "

UPDATE: Turkey is a Muslim nation farthest down the globalization path. Their reaction has been much different than that in Syria and Lebanon.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2006

Burning Embassies Over Insulting Cartoons

The Danish and Norweigan embassies in Syria were set on fire by angry Muslims reacting to the publication of Muhammad cartoons. The cartoons were an insult to Islam. Depictions of the prophet are forbidden. Those cartoons are as insulting to Muslims as Piss Christ is to Christians. I don't deny the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten the right to publish them. A free press means insulting, hurtful things can be allowed to be published. The reaction from many Muslims has been over the top. It's one thing to be angry, it's another to burn flags, call out death sentences, and to torch buildings. When Piss Christ was publicized you didn't see Christians burning art and museums. They engaged in political speech by writing letters to the editor and contacting their representatives. This violent Muslim reaction is an example of the faith's insecurity. They fear their faith is endangerd merely from cartoons. Their focus on the infidel distracts them from examining the failings of their own civilization that has put them in the historic position they are in.

Erick Erickson writes, "Had it been Christ or the Virgin Mary instead of Muhammad, I guess we would also be supporting the Danish media against the protests of Christians." Dean Esmay is more pronounced: "Oh yeah, and I can utterly condemn this without losing my bearings about who our allies are. You can too."

"Syrians Torch Embassies Over Caricatures"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2006

Hamas Becomes Player in Palestinian Government

A positive to the Palestinian elections was the lack of violence. People spoke with their ballots instead of bombs. It's hard to take that taste of freedom away. But as Glenn Reynolds says, "Democracy is a process." I want to be more hopeful about peace between Israel and Palestine, but Hamas won a considerable amount of seats in the parliment. They might have enough to force Fatah to let them into the cabinet.

Hamas is a terrorist organization that has violently struck Israel many times. They would like nothing more than to push the Jews into the sea. I hope being part of a representative government will soothe their savagery. But it's just that, hope. They campaigned like any other political party. More important, Hamas has to prove to the world they can live in civilized society. We need to see actions, not words.

The Christian Science Monitor has a telling instance of the divided proto-nation:

Hadija Jadour and Samah Jarah passed out campaign cards to voters who made their way up the dirt road into a girls' school in Obediyeh, a West Bank municipality east of Bethlehem.

The women describe themselves as friends, but the black-and-white keffiyeh-style sash that Ms. Jadour wears stands in contrast to the green one around Ms. Jarah's veil. That seems to say it all: Palestinians are deeply divided over who should lead and how.

The keffiyah marks Jadour's support for Fatah, while Jarah's green ribbon shows the world, as she puts it, "I love Hamas."

Explains Jarah: "Hamas has always been the center of the resistance, and they are working on giving assistance to people and developing our society."

"It's not true," argues Jadour, smiling wryly at her friend's comment. "Fatah is the one who established the Palestinian Authority in the first place. Fatah wants to solve things in a diplomatic way, not by violence."

Asked if they discuss these issues often, the women grin and look in different directions. "We don't go into politics," says Jarah, "or it might ruin the good relationship we have."

OxBlog's Patrick Belton has some reports from Palestine (also here and here).

" Cast Historic Vote"

" Vote Today, Jimmy Carter Observes"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

The Carnage at Hemel

Firefighters are down to battling three blazing fuel tanks at Buncefield. They hope to have fires out by mid-day today. The BBC not only covers the fire but let's us know how it's being fought.

Now, the main concern is what will happen to all the junk in the smoke cloud that has reached France.

[via Sky News]

The oil depot near Hemel Hempstead looks like an Iraqi military installation after an Operation: Iraqi Freedom airstrike. But you can't blame President Bush or evil neocons. We still don't know who or what to blame. The fire is still raging and no terrorists have claimed the explosion as their work.

"Fire Crews Hoping to Douse Blaze"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:02 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

Hemel Hempstead Fire Update

Schools and some roads remain closed today because of the fire still burning Buncefield fuel depot north of London. The smoke cloud is moving to the southeast and southwest due to light winds. As of yesterday morning the cloud covered most of London. The BBC reports "large parts of southern England" will have the cloud overhead by Monday morning.

Firefighters are now attacking the blaze with foam gathered from around the UK this past day. The local fire chief doesn't even know if it will work. "We are not even sure how the thermal currents will affect the foam; it may just vaporise it."

Thankfully, no one died. One man who survived the blast from a building next to the depot called it a "."

"Massive Blaze Rages at "

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:03 AM | Comments (0)

Beirut Bombing

This bombing is sure to incite anti-Syrian feelings even more:

A car bomb explosion killed Gebran Tueni, a staunchly anti-Syrian member of parliament and Lebanese newspaper magnate, in Beirut on Monday, police said.


Tueni, 48, a fierce critic of Syria's policies in Lebanon who was elected to parliament this year, said in August he believed he was on a hit-list for assassination.

If the Syrian government was behind this their timing is awful:
The U.N. Security Council was due to receive a report later on Monday by chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis on who was behind Hariri's assassination.

"Car Bomb Kills Anti-Syrian MP in Beirut"

"Beirut Bomb Kills Anti-Syria MP"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Sydney Race Riots

Rioters don't come from one race, religion, or ethnicity. Australian white mobs running around Sydney seeking revenge for an alleged attack on life guards by Lebanese youth. Arab Australians countered by smashing car windows. France and now Sydney prove the veneer of civilization is very thin.

"Beach Trash Duke it Out"

"Racial Violence Shocks Australian City"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Tyrant

Good news! Fidel Castro has Parkinson's Disease:

The CIA has concluded that Cuban President Fidel Castro suffers from Parkinson's disease and could have difficulty coping with the duties of office as his condition worsens, an official said on Wednesday.

The assessment, completed in recent months, suggests the nonfatal but debilitating disease has progressed far enough to warrant questions among U.S. policymakers about the communist country's future in the next several years.


The CIA based its assessment on a variety of evidence, including observations of Castro's public appearances and the opinions of doctors employed by the espionage agency.

I hope he shake, shake, shakes his way to the grave soon.

"CIA says Castro has Parkinson's Disease"

"Evil Regimes Set to Topple?"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:09 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 09, 2005

Sharon Now a Centrist

Israeli politics confuses me. It would help if I paid attention to it more. But this paragraph from a story on Shimon Peres losing the leadership of the Labour Party to a socialist confuses me:

[Ariel] Sharon, 77, is even considering breaking away to form a centrist party to capitalize on his high approval ratings and broad public support for the Gaza pullout, Israeli media said.

Sharon is now a "centrist" compared to Likud firebrand Benjamin Netanyahu who has been beating him up in the Israeli parliment. It used to be Sharon was supposedly the stalwart man standing in the way of peace.

"Peres Loses Bid to Remain Labour Party Chief"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2005

Somali Pirates Attack Cruise Ship

It's time to get the British Navy back up to speed. There be pirates to fight:

A luxury cruise ship with 22 British tourists aboard survived an attack by Somali pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades yesterday as it rounded the Horn of Africa.

The 10,000-ton Seabourn Spirit came under fire at about 5.30am. The pirates approached in 25ft speedboats and shot at the ship with the grenade launcher and machineguns. Terrified passengers watched as the pirates tried to get aboard — only to be repelled by crew members who set off what one described as a “loud bang”.

The Bahamas-registered ship was carrying 302 passengers and crew, but there was only one casualty: a crew member suffered minor injuries from flying debris.

One passenger demonstrated his British subtlety:
They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice. One of the rockets certainly hit the ship — it went through the side of the liner into a passenger’s suite. The couple were in there at the time so it was a bit of an unpleasant experience.

The Seabourn Spirit fended off the pirates with a "sonic blaster," a "non-lethal weapon [that] sends out high-powered air vibrations that blow assailants off their feet." It might be something like the Long Range Acoustic Device which is used by the U.S. military.

Finally, consider this another failure of the French military:

The waters off the Somali coast are among the most dangerous in the world. They are occasionally patrolled by a combined taskforce, known as CTF150, currently under the command of the French navy.

"Cruise Ship Britons Attacked by Pirates"

UPDATE: William Langewiesche reported on the Wild Wild West of the oceans a few years ago in his book The Outlaw Sea.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:49 AM | Comments (2)

October 08, 2005

Earthquake Death Toll Skyrockets

A Pakistani military official told local TV that 18,000 died in today's earthquake. This has risen from depressing to truly horrific. This makes it the worst earthquake since at 15,000 died in the Bam, Iran quake in 2003.

"Quake Kills More Than 18,000 in South Asia"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

Pakistan Earthquake

A 7.6 quake struck Pakistan in Kashmir. (The Amateur Seismic Centre reports 7.3. Still a strong quake.) Thousands are feared dead. When will President Bush be blamed and when will Halliburton be accused of reaping profits from the dead?

Enough of the black humor. My prayers are with the victims and their families.

"Pakistani Quake Toll May be in Thousands: Spokesman"

"Hundreds Dead in Powerful Asian Earthquake"

UPDATE: The death toll has reached either 2,000 or 3,000 depending on your news source.

Adding to the global misery, 1,400 people died in landslides in Guatemala.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:18 AM | Comments (3)

September 30, 2005

Five Years Later, Elian Speaks

Elian Gonzalez speaks five years after Janet Reno and Bill Clinton sent him back to Cuba:

THU Sep 29 2005 12:31:11 ET

Elian Gonzalez, now a seventh grader in Cuba who calls President Fidel Castro a friend and "father," would see his Miami relatives again, despite saying their treatment of him five years ago was wrong. Gonzalez is interviewed by Bob Simon for a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 2 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Gonzalez, 11, is a hero in Cuba after what happened to him when he was just 6 years old: His mother died at sea and he was rescued two miles off Florida, after which he was repatriated following a months-long tug of war between Gonzalez' Miami relatives and his father and the Cuban government. In what Miami Cuban exiles would say is propaganda, Castro attended the boy's elementary school graduation and declared he was proud to have Gonzalez as his friend. The feeling is mutual. "It's also very moving to me and I also believe I am his friend," Gonzalez tells Simon. "Not only [do I think of Castro] as a friend, but also as a father," says Gonzalez. The boy believes that he could call the Cuban president on the phone if he wanted to.

Gonzalez gave a patriotic speech in front of Castro and cameras on the fifth anniversary of the day U.S. law enforcement officers raided his Miami relatives' house and removed him at gunpoint to be repatriated. It's all part of Castro's propagandist plans, says Ramon Sanchez, a Cuban-American who led demonstrations in Miami in support of keeping the boy in America five years ago. "[Gonzalez] is being brainwashed by the Cuban regime. When you see a child talking in the same exact way that the dictator has talked for 46 years, you know he has been indoctrinated," says Sanchez.

The boy says his Miami relatives, with whom he spent five months, tried to persuade him to stay in America. "They were telling me bad things about [my father]... They were also telling me to tell [my father] that I did not want to go back to Cuba and I always told them that I wanted to," he tells Simon. Gonzalez says he missed his father, school and his friends back in Cuba.

The worst parts of his Miami experience were the nights he found difficult to sleep through. "I would have nightmares and my uncles would talk to me about my mother... it was better not to remind me of that because that tormented me... I was very little," he recalls.

One of those great uncles who cared for him during that time, Delfin Gonzalez, denies that Elian was unhappy and says he doesn't believe anything he says in Cuba because the boy is a prisoner there.

Does Elian ever want to see those relatives again? "Yes," he tells Simon. "Despite everything they did, the way they did it, it was wrong, they are [still] my family... my uncles."

60 MINUTES is close-captioned in Spanish; the signal is on the "CC3" menu item.


To say I have strong feelings is an understatement. I devoted months covering the story and advocating that Elian be allowed to live free. It was my first obsession with a news story. A special weblog was created just to comment on the latest news. [Yes, it looks awful. No templates and any sense of design. Even though Blogger was just starting to be used I hand coded and FTP'd text files daily.] ElianWatch was my first brush with internet fame. It was linked by Salon back when Salon was cool. I also was interviewed on CNBC, but it aired on a Friday when no one was watching.

Eerily some of the last posts on ElianWatch have a kernel of accuracy. In 2000, I wrote:

Since Elian is Castro's prized possession--his trophy signifying his victory over the U.S. government and the Cuban exile community in the U.S.--Elian will likely be under constant surveilance through electronic means as well as informants and local block committees. If Elian has any inkling of rebelling against the "workers' paradise" he could endure political reeducation.

also I wrote:
Elian's the second-most famous Cuban alive (behind Fidel). Should Elian have the desire and the ability, I can see a popular movement develop around him. He was declared a sacred child by Cuban Santeria religion--a reason Castro fought so hard for his return--so I see the religion declaring Elian the future leader of Cuba. Because of this, Castro will do everything in his power to mold and shape Elian to continue the "Revolution."

Sadly, considering the brutal totalitarian thug Fidel Castro a "friend" and delivering patriotic speeches means Castro was successful in molding the child.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:02 PM | Comments (22)

September 08, 2005

Revolution is a Process

The Ukrainian government was booted by President Viktor Yushchenko. Some may think the Orange Revolution is over. Not so. Democracy is a process, not an end state. The end state is liberty. Tremendous change convulses societies, institutions, and whole nations. That's what happened in the U.S. after she threw off her British changes. It's also what Iraq and Afghanistan are going through.


"Didn't See this Coming"

"Ukraine's Yushchenko Fires Government"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2005

Canucks Unleash Ships

Fear the Canadian navy.

"Canada Flexes Military Muscle"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

"Right" To Nukes

A South Korean official has said it's ok for kooky North Korea to have some nuclear plants. "Building the light-water reactor is North Korea's due right," said Chung Dong-Young. How representative this is of South Korea's position I don't know. Having the north aim an enormous amount of ordinance on your capital does make you view things in a particular way. Why Chung is more trusting of a rogue state that has lied and cheated about its nuclear weapons program for years I don't know.

"South Korea Now Says North Has Right to Civilian Nuke Program"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:39 PM | Comments (3)

August 09, 2005


A Russian ex-U.N. employee was arrested and quickly pleaded guilty in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal:

A former United Nations procurement officer pleaded guilty Monday to soliciting a bribe under the oil-for-food program, making him the first U.N. official to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal-tainted operation.

Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian, also pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of wire fraud and money laundering for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from U.N. contractors in his work outside oil-for-food. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the three counts.

Yakovlev surrendered to FBI agents in Manhattan earlier Monday, as U.N.-backed investigators released a report accusing him and Benon Sevan, the former chief of the $64 billion program, of corruption. Sevan was accused of taking some $147,000 in kickbacks.

The probe, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, had recommended that both men's diplomatic immunity be lifted if asked. Later Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived Yakovlev's immunity when he got just such a request from David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

Kelley must have a ton on Yakovlev for him to turn in a guilty plea faster than Bill Clinton could down a dozen Krispy Kremes. Rarely does just work so fast.

Captain Ed has more. Owen is "SHOCKED."

"Ex-U.N. Officer Pleads Guilty to Bribes"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:22 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

Islamism's Favorite White Man

On Syrian TV British MP George Galloway said,

Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters.

We knew Galloway hates America, but tossing in Jerusalem takes him down the path of anti-semitism*. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Galloway claims the "Arab daughter" is being raped. Thus he must think Jews are doing the raping. This is the same hateful Jew-bashing uttered by Islamists.

"British MP George Galloway in Syria: Foreigners Are Raping Two Beautiful Arab Daughters - Jerusalem and Baghdad" [via In the Bullpen]

*I don't conclude that being opposed to any policy of the State of Israel makes one an anti-semite. Jerusalem (at least part of it) has been part of Israel since its creating in 1948. Driving the Jews out is only the desire of Muslim radicals like Hamas, and now, creeps like George Galloway.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:21 PM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2005

King Fahd Dies

The Saudi leader hasn't really led his country in years. But we'll see if fed-up Saudi citizens will take this as a chance to demand political and religious reforms.

Here's some of the hypocrisy of the Saudi ruling family:

Tuesday's ceremony was not a state funeral — a tradition they say is not part of the kingdom's strict version of Islam known as Wahhabism.

According to Islamic rituals, the deceased should be buried quickly to honor it, and coffins are not used. Instead, the body is interred in a white shroud.

Yet leaders from around the world are coming to Saudi Arabia to pay their respects. That looks like a state funeral to me. Wahhabis like Osama bin Laden won't be fooled.

"World Leaders Fly in for Fahd Funeral"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Wacked-Out Accusations

If a wild-eyed Palestianian leader can claim Israel poisoned Arafat then Laurence Simon can claim Arafat blew up the space shuttle Columbia. Fair is fair.

"Palestinians Blew up the

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

Don't Shoot! I'm Canadian!

Charmaine Yoest is in Scotland covering the G8 meetings and protests. When she arrived there a cabbie gave her some advice:

Oooh. And one moor thing. Doan tell them you're American.

Instead, "we should say we are Canadian."

"Advice from the Cab Driver . . ."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2005

Freedom vs. Democracy

Dean's heart is in the right place, but he's a little off about the importance of democracy to fighting African poverty. He writes,

After decade upon decade, and hundreds of billions in aide money, you'd think someone would have noticed by now that throwing more money at unelected tyrants in Africa is not very helpful. Unless the governments there are accountable--not just to us, but to their own people--giving those governments money isn't just a waste, it's downright criminal.

Take me as a literalist, but I don't care so much about democracy as I do about limited government. Ancient Athens had a democracy, but it didn't survive. The greatest democracy of our age, the United States, has a track record of not being the most democratic, yet it is an economic powerhouse. Hong Kong wasn't a democracy under British rule, yet she still was considered one of the most free economies on earth. If I had a choice between democracy and freedom I'd choose the latter. I see the former only as a means (one of many) of achieving freedom. A democracy doesn't assure freedom. Such a form of government must be restricted or it will turn into populist authoritarianism.

So if Zimbabwe replaced the authoritarian Mugabe with a benevolent dictatorship that protected property and economic rights and would be transparent enough to see that aid was effective I would send them aid. As Milton Friedman put it so well in Capitalism and Freedom you can't have political freedom without economic freedom.

"No Democracy? No Money."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:26 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2005

Stamping Down Terrorism...When He Wants To

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has tried to pass on the idea he is powerless in stopping Islamist groups like Hamas from attacking Israelis. To use the AP's words:

Abbas fears a broad crackdown on militants would lead to internal unrest and possibly civil war.

But when terrorists attack a Palestinian police station the long arm of the law springs into action:
In Jenin, however, Palestinian security forces tried to hunt down and arrest Said Amin, the militant accused of leading the group that carried out Thursday's attack on the police station. After firing on the police station and killing the officer, the group headed to the house of Jamal Shati, a Palestinian lawmaker, and burned his car.

During one raid, one militant holed up in a building fired on the dozens of officers who came to arrest him. After a 10-minute gunbattle, police stormed the militant's hiding place and arrested him. No one was injured.

Throughout the day another seven militants were arrested without incident, Palestinian security services said. But Amin — a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group linked to Abbas' ruling Fatah movement — remained at large.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades isn't Hamas, but they aren't small potatoes either. Abbas has to explain why action is taken only when Palestinians are the victims.

"Palestinian Forces Hunt Cop's Killers" [via Mediacrity]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

Two Communist Countries

With Vietnam the President Bush wants them to enter the WTO. With Cuba food sales restrictions might be lifted over Bush's objections. I hate the Communist prison island as much as much as anyone in Little Havana, but 40+ years of a isolationist policy hasn't removed Castro. The approach has to change even if it means upsetting Cuban-Americans (and politically hurting Jeb Bush). If the U.S. can move beyond its past with Vietnam it certainly can with Cuba.

"Bush Supports Vietnam in WTO, Urges Reforms"

"House Panel Votes to Ease Cuba Trade Rule" [via PoliBlog]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:32 AM | Comments (3)

June 21, 2005

What a Name

The Philippines Cardinal Sin is dead.

"Philippines' Iconic Cardinal Sin Dead"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:04 AM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2005

Seeing Double

Poland might have twins running the government.

"Double Trouble" [via Dean's World]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

EU Talks to Terrorists

It's bad enough the EU sends millions of euros to prop up the broken-down Palestinian Authority. Now we have this:

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that the EU had given low-level diplomats permission for contacts with representatives of Hamas's political wing.

The 25-nation EU, along with the United States, classifies Hamas as a terrorist group.

An EU official in Washington said EU contacts with members of Hamas were "limited to the extent to which it's necessary for carrying out work on the ground" on projects in Palestinian areas. "This is not to be confused with entering into contact with the political organization," the EU official said.

Rumor has it the EU will soon be engaging in "low-level" peace talks with al-Qaeda.

Let me be a little serious. Maybe this is all low-level stuff. Or maybe it's Hamas' way of getting its foot in the door. The IRA had to get started with their Shin Fein political wing. Hamas appears to be moderating if we assume the Palestinians who recently elected member are themselves moderate. But Hamas has yet to renounce violence and still calls Israel a "Zionist enemy." Peace won't take hold until that happens.

"Hamas Discloses EU Contacts; Israel Reacts Sharply"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2005

Foreign Debt Cancellation

The G8 agreed to write off billions of dollars of highly impoverished third-world countries. Finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations agreed Saturday to a historic deal canceling at least $40 billion worth of debt owed by the world's poorest nations.

Britain Treasury chief Gordon Brown said 18 countries, many in sub-Saharan Africa, will benefit immediately from the deal to scrap 100 percent of the debt they owe to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.

As many as 20 other countries could be eligible if they meet strict targets for good governance and tackling corruption, leading to a total debt relief package of more than $55 billion.
This isn't a big deal since I never expected nations like Bolivia or Ethiopia to ever pay off their debts.

Now, Britain wants to increase aid from rich countries. Will this be in the form of more debt? Will we have to have another conference in 10-20 years to cancel the new debt? Or if the new aid will simply be grants what kind of controls will be in place to make sure the aid is used effectively and that meaninful, political economic change is enacted to life people out of poverty?

"G8 Agrees to Debt Relief for Poor Nations"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:57 PM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2005

Intervening in Darfur

Owen has some questions about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board considering American military action in Sudan:

If the act of genocide justifies the use of force, then why wasn’t Saddam’s slaughter of the Kurds and his political opponents enough justification to go to war in Iraq?

Would the editors support the US acting unilaterally to stop the genocide in Darfur?

The editors have complained in the past about the American armed forces being stretched too thin. Why then, are they advocating another deployment?

What is the editors’ exit strategy for Sudan?

Personally, I support a limited military intervention in Sudan for a number of reasons. But liberals like the editors of the Milwaukee paper seem to have a shifting standard for using force.

It's not a "shifting standard" as much as the belief that military action that benefits the U.S. is considered selfish and wrong while military action somewhere not in America's interest is a demonstration of goodwill. This is how the Clinton administration ran its foreign policy for eight years. Saddam and Osama bin Laden only had a few smart bombs and cruise missles tossed at them while so much effort and resources were put into the Balkans. This ill thinking is caused by a belief in the infallible virtue of selflessness.

For the record, I'd support some logistical, intelligence, and communication support for a multi-national force in Darfur. But so far I see no real U.S. interest there even with all the suffering taking place. Calls by Glenn Reynolds that "we need to be doing more. A lot more," show his political views are even outside the libertarian box many try to put him in.

"Use of Force in Sudan"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2005

EU Secession

With Roberto Maroni's talk about bringing back the lira Jonathan Last asks, "What is the E.U.'s stance on secession by a member nation? Would they go to war to keep a member state?"

Only if France wanted to leave and Germany said no. It wouldn't be much of war since the French would just surrender.


Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

A Trifecta

All right! Rummy is ticking off the Chinese, Al Jazeera, and Amnesty International. I missed the gravitas from the Rumsfeld of old.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

Dump the Euro?

We should have figured that the rejection of the EU constitution by both France and the Netherlands would inspire some re-thinking of the whole united Europe enterprise.

Italy should consider leaving the single currency and reintroducing the lira, Welfare Minister Roberto Maroni said in a newspaper interview on Friday.

Maroni, a member of the euro-skeptical Northern League party, told the Repubblica daily Italy should hold a referendum to decide whether to return to the lira, at least temporarily.

Now, Maroni may be a "crank" so take his comments with a grain of salt. Now, if someone like Berlusconi starts saying stuff like this watch out.

"Italy Minister Says Should Study Leaving Euro-Paper" [via Scared Monkeys]

UPDATE: Kevin at Lakeshore Laments thinks duming the Euro "would be disastrous for European economic recovery." He also thinks "Multiple currencies create more headaches and more hassle when shipping between nations - especially when doing it over a continent like Europe." But in today's highly digitized age aren't exchange rates easily figured with just a few clicks of the keyboard?

UPDATE II: James Joyner doesn't think it wise for Italy to dump the euro.

While I've long been a Euroskeptic, the idea of a European free trade zone has always made sense and a common currency is just a logical extension of that.

Unless the value of the currency is pegged wrong as happened in Germany's case.

"Italian Minister Calls for Lira’s Return"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:05 AM | Comments (1)

June 01, 2005

Pile On

Dutch voters have rejected the EU constitution by a larger percentage than the French. According to the AP voters feared the loss of sovereignty while some worried about Turkey one day becoming a member. We'll see more stories about the European "crack up" but remember the two votes in the past few days doesn't dismantle anything. The EU continues to be a common market. The euro continues to be the continental currency. Further integration is what's been defeated by French and Dutch voters.

"Dutch Voters Reject EU Constitution"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2005

Chavez and Vague War Rhetoric

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was missing for day or so prompting rumors that he was either dead or on the wrong end of a coup. He did appear on television, but Mora at Babalu Blog thinks "this dictator's tottering."

In other Chavez news he ridiculed President Bush by calling him "Mr. Danger" for not arresting and extraditing Luis Posada Carriles. Chavez accused President Bush of "sheltering a terrorist." As I've written before such vague talk about the "global war on terror" lets anti-war opponents and left-wing dictators score political points. Bush continued his rhetorical ambiguity today when he told an audience at Arlington National Cemetery:

As we look across these acres, we begin to tally the cost of our freedom, and we count it a privilege to be citizens of the country served by so many brave men and women. And we must honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, by defeating the terrorists, advancing the cause of liberty, and building a safer world.

"Is Hugo Chavez Dead?" [via Instapundit]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:45 PM | Comments (3)

France's "Non" Vote

If you've been really living it up this Memorial Day weekend you may not know France rejected the EU constitution (448 articles!). Further European integration grinds to a halt, and who knows how long the political economics behind the euro can last. Those who fear the rise of a global superstate shouldn't worry. With examples like the splintering of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia this historic trend is not to unify in a formally politically way. The glaring counter-example is the U.S. It's amazing how 13 different former colonies with different cultures, economies, and interests could end up agreeing to unite. The U.S. is the exception to the rule.

"French Voters Soundly Reject European Union Constitution"

"Viva la France!!!"

"Will 'Non' Mean 'Oui'?"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

Why Words Matter

Who is Luis Posada? If his Wikipedia entry is any indication he's a terrorist who has launched attacked on Communist Cuba. His most well-known attack was on "a Cuban airliner over Barbados in 1976, in which all seventy-three people onboard were killed." The plane started out in Caracus, which means Hugo Chavez' country is involved. Both the CIA and FBI suspected Posada days after the attack. Posada is now in U.S. custody for illegally entering the U.S. The question becomes "What to do with him?" The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board understands that both Venezuala and Cuba have corrupt legal systems and suggests Pasada stand trial in Italy. The newspaper wants Pasada "before a court of law, where the facts can be brought forth and punishment, if necessary, meted out."

Now, a reader should ask himself, "Why is the Journal Sentinel editoral board so concerned about a little-known Latin American terrorist?" Because with Pasada's case they can try to punch some holes in the Bush administration's "War on Terror."

Here's where they begin:

If Posada had been trying to bring down the government of, say, Brazil, he would have been promptly and accurately accused of terrorism. But because Posada has been trying to overthrow Cuba's Fidel Castro for much of his life, he is supported by some members of the politically powerful Cuban expatriate community in Miami.

The JS imply democratic Brazil is the moral equivalent of communist Cuba. In their eyes toppling Cuba would be just as bad as toppling Brazil. While Brazil is considered "Mostly Unfree" by the Heritage Foundation-Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom it is better than Cuba's listing as "Unfree" (along with Venezula). Freedom House considers Brazil "Free"with free elections and a privately owned media. "Not Free" Cuba possesses neither of these. Brazil has plenty of room from improvement, but it certainly doesn't need to be liberated like Castro's prison island.

The editorial board then gets to the crux of their Bush attack:

Granting political asylum to Posada would make this country look - or reveal it to be - two-faced and duplicitous in its war on terrorism. Intentionally killing or injuring non-combatants for political reasons is a defining feature of terrorism, and it doesn't matter whether the civilians are working at the World Trade Center in New York or riding a Cuban airliner.

Part of this stems from the JS' moral relativism. But a good portion of the fault lays at the Bush administration for calling our present war the "War on Global Terrorism." "Global Terrorism" isn't what attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. on Sep. 11, 2001. Terrorism can't attack. It only describes an action. On that fateful fall day in 2001, a group of radical Islamic terrorists--Islamists--shed innocent blood on the U.S. Ever since the attacks this administration has bent over backwards not to call this conflict a war on Islam. Their intentions may be good--creating anti-Islam fear in the U.S. would only hurt too many innocents.

Move beyond the Bush administration's descriptions to what they've done. For being a "War on Global Terrorism" the U.S. has done little to eliminate the IRA or Basque separatists in Spain. What has been done are invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. There has also been military assistance in the Philipines and tough talk toward Iran. What all these areas have in common are they are dealing with Islamists, those followers of Islam who want their religion to rise from the blood and ash of the West.

But by being too sensitive and refraining from naming the war correctly as the "Islamist War" this administration has confused many as to what we are fighting against. The JS editorial board is one confused group. This isn't to day those men and women in their downtown Milwaukee offices shouldn't have used their faculties more to figure out some terrorists are more a threat to the U.S. than others.

"Send Posada to Courtroom"

[Added to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:11 PM | Comments (4)

April 28, 2005

ChiComs Have Gone Too Far

It's one thing to take control of Hong Kong, one of the most free places on earth. But messing with the city's most popular cuisine may have pushed residents over the edge:

A report by the Hong Kong government suggesting that eating many kinds of dim sum regularly may be bad for your health is threatening to overshadow whatever else might be worrying the people of this city.

Practically every Chinese-language newspaper here has run a banner headline about it across its front page. Scrolling electronic displays in subway cars have flashed the news, and the report has become a topic of breakfast, lunch and dinner conversations at Chinese restaurants across the city.

Longtime dim sum lovers are indignant.

"The government is putting its thumb on every part of citizens' lives, and it shouldn't be telling anyone how dim sum should be served," said Wong Yuen, a retired mechanic and truck driver who says he has eaten dim sum every morning for the last two decades. "People can make their own decisions. If it's unhealthy, they can eat less. They don't need the government to tell them."

Some things are universal. A hatred for the nanny state is one of them.

Now, where can a guy get steamed dumplings around here at 2 am?

"Dim Sum Under Assault, and Devotees Say 'Hands Off'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:59 AM | Comments (1)

April 27, 2005

Drezner's Tongue in Cheek

Daniel Drezner's reaction to Vladimir Putin's state-of-the-nation speech was a negative as mine.

What the hell is Khakamada talking about?--ed. Well, if you read Jeremy Page's account of the speech in the London Times, "Putin tried to make peace with Russia’s increasingly critical clique of influential businessmen yesterday by ordering his tax police to stop 'terrorising' companies." So Putin wasn't only scaring the bejeesus out of the near abroad, Eastern and Central Europe, and the West. Well, I certainly want to invest all of danieldrezner.com's financial resources into Russia right now!!--ed. And that's about all I'm expecting Putin to reap from this speech.

"I Definitely Feel Better about Investing in the U.S.S.R..... I mean, Russia"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2005

Soviet Collapse: "Catastrophe"

The collapse of Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." That's what Vladimir Putin told Russian officials.

Funny, I see the rise of the Communist Superpower as a much greater "geopolitical catastrophe." Does Putin imply that he longs for the return of the Soviet empire? Does he long for the days where billions of people worried about the thermonuclear destruction of human civilization? Does Putin want the return of the Soviet's grasp on Eastern Europe? I'm sure I could find a few million people who don't want to be trapped behind the totalitarian Iron Curtin.

What many missed when Russia underwent it's political economic convulsions was the importants of national pride. There are many Russians who long for the days of Stalin because back then the world (especially the U.S.) feared the Russian bear. Today, Russia isn't a threat. It isn't even a powerful world player. Putin couldn't stop President Bush from invading Iraq. Putin can't even squelch the 10+ uprising in Chechnya.

The Russian economy is on a growth track, but will that continue with Putin continuing to re-centralize Russian government and media. In the same speech Putin offers an excuse for why he might decide to reconstitute the former Soviet Union:

As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory. The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia itself.

The Russian sphere must be extended to protect Mother Russia. Letting an ex-KGB agent extend his reach doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

"Russia's Putin: Soviet Collapse a Tragedy"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

Ambassador Boschwitz

Steve Silver mentioned to me a "fawning" piece in The Weekly Standard on the "most spaced out pols I've ever met." Rudy must have a knack at picking good staff. Because from my limited experience with Boschwitz he needed them to make sure he walked into the right resturant to meet campaign supporters.

Oh, by the way: Earth Day sucks.

"The Ambassador Nobody Knows"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2005

No Faith in Volker Commission

With the resignations of investigators Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan so goes the Volker Commission's credibility in investigating the Oil-for-Food scandal. Paul Volker has a very good reputation. Thus there was much hope a proper investigation of the U.N. would take place. Is Volker one of those types who feels the U.N. is so important that a proper investigation would turn it into damage goods? That gives me even less faith in that world body--not that I had much to begin with. If the U.N. is such a diseased institution then a tough guy like John Bolton is absolutely necessary.


Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

18 Illegals Found by Minutemen

The citizen border monitors spotted 18 illegals trying to cross the border. Bryan Preston's right, the Arizona Republic buried the lede to make the Minuteman Project look more sinister than it is.

"Minutemen Success: Burying the Lede"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

Vatican Cozying Up to ChiComs

The Vatican is considering severing ties with Taiwan and establishing them with Communist China. There has to be more behind this. Why the Vatican can't have relations with both Chinas is beyond me. Some in the Catholic church must be weighing the number of Catholics in Taiwan who are free versus the larger oppressed number in Communist China. The timing is remarkable. Only a few days after the anti-totalitarian Pope John Paul II dies this news comes out.

"Report: Vatican Ready to Cut Ties with Taiwan"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Minutemen Got One

Three days into the Minuteman Project and the amateur border monitors got their first catch.

A civilian militia in Arizona seeking to stop illegal aliens coming in from Mexico claimed its first immigrant when a hapless Guatemalan wandered into the group's base camp seeking help.
A spokesman for the controversial Minuteman Project, which has rallied hundreds of volunteers to join a month-long vigil on the border, said on Sunday a Guatemalan migrant unwittingly walked into the camp.

The volunteers then handed him to the Border Patrol.

It's been almost three days and the only illegal they've caught is someone who came to them. This seems really effective.

I think it's weird people have volunteered to spend a month along the U.S.-Mexico border looking for illegal immigrants. (This has a bad made-for-tv movie plot written all over it.) But Reuters declares these people a "civilian militia." This is the "news" agency's attempt to smear these people by associating them with the wacko extremists of recent militia movements like Montana's Freemen.

"Migrant Stumbles Into U.S. Militia 'Hornet's Nest'"

"Minuteman Project: So Far, So Good"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:00 PM | Comments (9)

March 29, 2005

Incompetent, Not Corrupt

The Volker Committee investigating the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal issued an interim report (PDF) saying U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan didn't improperly award a contract to a Swiss company that employed his son. But he's not off the hook. Mark Pieth, one of the committee members said, "We said he was not dishonest but at the same time he mismanaged the inquiry." The report also chastises Annan's former chief of staff who destroyed documents beginning the day after the Volker Committee was announced. Can you say, "Enron on the East River?"

So Annan isn't corrupt he's just incompetent. That's a great boost of confidence for the world body. When asked if he'll resign from his position, Annan did his best Stone Cold Steve Austin impersonation and said, "Hell no."

"Annan Refuses to Quit U.N. Over Report"

"Panel Says Annan Didn't Intervene in Iraq Contract"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2005

George Kennan, R.I.P.

Foreign affairs meant little to me until Sep. 11, 2001. Because of this I know little of George Kennan. I know of his "X" memo that spelled out U.S. containment of the U.S.S.R. A collection of his writings sits on my to read pile. When I'll get to it, I don't know. Two things I didn't know: 1.) he was from Milwaukee; 2.) he was still alive until he died yesterday.

Godspeed, George.

Daniel Drezner has thoughts from someone who really knows about foreign affairs.

"Kennan Helped Shape World of Cold War"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:46 AM | Comments (0)

Less Stick, More Carrot

Daniel Drezner sees Wolfowitz going to the World Bank as part of a pattern where the Condi Rice-led State Department is retaking its position as director of U.S. foreign policy. He makes a good case. This leads to a suspicion that military advances into Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea are slim. I would be even more inclined to believe that if Donald Rumsfeld leaves the Defense Department. President Bush may be viewing his push to expand human freedom as a diplomatic and economic endeavor. The U.S. was attacked on Sep. 11, 2001, and she struck back in Afghanistan and Iraq. To Bush those two wars are enough for the near future (i.e. the rest of his term) to scare the hell out of terrorist-supporting states. Now is the time for lots of sticks and the robust public encouragement of freedom movements. Of course, everything changes should the homeland come under another attack.

"State vs. Defense II" [via The Command Post]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

March 07, 2005

Bill's Second-Rate History

Ex-President Bill Clinton's words on the recent history of Iran felt like they'd come out of your typical DailyKos or Democratic Underground reader. The U.S. was the bad guy who push Iran toward the authoritarian mullahs and allowed Saddam to be as brutal as he was in Iraq.

Jim Geraghty writes,

Perhaps some folks on the right have been too quick to make moral compromises in the name of fighting a enemy, be it communism or Islamist terrorism. Some folks on the left are less willing to make those moral compromises... but one can't help but wonder if that stems from an opposition to moral compromises, or an opposition to the fight in the first place.

In the same Charlie Rose interveiw, Clinton made this interesting remark:

You're not fooling with Iraq. You know one of the reasons--they can say whatever they [Bush admin?] want--that we did this is this guy didn't have the capacity to hurt its neighbors and the United States.

Clinton now believes Saddam was a weak player in the deadly Middle East game. My, that's a far cry from what Clinton himself said when he was President. In 02.17.98 he said,

If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.

Two weeks earlier he said,

One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Former Vice President AlGore also publically stated they believed Saddam possessed WMD. No one's ever accused them of being rogue members of the Clinton administration who said things that differed from the party line.

Clinton may be one of the greatest politician of the 20th Century, but he's historically ignorant. Power Line writes he displayed an "invincible ignorance of history." He made no mention of the Soviets or the Cold War. Such context is key to evaluating whether helping the Shah was good or bad. Clinton offered zero context and just spouted knee-jerk America bashing.

Clinton also puts all "progressives" under one roof. In the former Soviet Union conservatives were the ones who wanted Communism to retain its collectivist, Stalinist iron fist while reformers ("progressives" to use Clinton's parlance) wanted a lighter touch but didn't call for free markets. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a "progressive" in Clinton's mind last month sided with Syria in its fight with Israel, or "the Zionist regime" to use Khatami's words. That's no progressive in the American sense of the term unless you mean the Left authoritarian progressivism A.N.S.W.E.R. uses to cover its Stalinism.

[Added to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Ganging Up on Yglesias

Jim Geraghty goes off on the same Matthew Yglesias I did yesterday. He writes:

[A]m I the only one who gets a warm, gleeful feeling at the thought of Bashar Assad having to give up his prized colony? At the thought of a two-bit dictator having to fold in the face of a fed-up, multi-religious, liberty-demanding people? At the thought of the Lebanese getting a chance to rebuild Beirut as the Paris of the Middle East, without some ham-handed, greedy, meddling dictator using their country as economic Viagra?

No, you're not the only one, Jim. Anything that give Assad sleepless nights is a good thing.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:14 PM | Comments (5)

March 01, 2005

Discounting History

We live in startling times. Out of the horror of the Sep. 11 attacks we are seeing profound changes in the Middle East. Elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Lebanese want Syria out of their country, and real Egyptian elections signal something historic. Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt describes this moment:

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. 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. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.

Matthew Yglesias wraps his knee-jerk anti-Bushism in realist, almost conservative paper. On the Lebanese wanting to kick out Syria he writes,

[N]ear as I can tell, there's no really clear sense in which the Syrian sphere of influence in Lebanon is bad for the United States of America.

Syria isn't good for the region, for freedom, or for Israel's safety. Syria leaving Lebanon lessens their influence on the region. There's also evidence, I'm sure Matthew has examined, that democracy reduces war. Syria leaving Lebanon both weakens her and gives Lebanon the ability to strengthen her democracy.

But declaring this good news as good for the U.S. would only bolster the President's vision of freedom advancement in the nation's interest. Saying Bush's vision is correct would be too much to ask.

"Lebanon Second Thoughts"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:52 AM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2005

A Real "Axis of Evil?"

How afraid should we be that Syria and Iran have formed a "united front?" Is this the creation of a true "Axis of Evil?" Sen. Mitch McConnel on Larry Kudlow's show tonight said this wasn't anything new. I wonder how closely Syria and Iran will work together. If in the future the U.S. wants to topple the Syrian Baathists would Iran threaten to strike the U.S. with a nuke it's developing?

"Iran, Syria to Form 'United Front'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:41 PM | Comments (6)

February 03, 2005

Georgian PM Found Dead

Georgia's prime minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in a friend's apartment of an apparent gas leak. Even if this was an accident (Reuters reports "Gas poisoning is common in Georgia, mainly caused by the heaters run off gas canisters that people use in winter, when power supplies are erratic.") many will be suspicious. Relations between Russian and its former socialist "republics" will grow worse with this news.

Rusty Shackleford has more.

"Georgia’s PM Found Dead, Gas Poisoning Suspected"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:23 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2005

Iraq Votes

History is being made as I write these words. Voting has begun in Iraq. That's great news for Iraqis and Americans. For Iraqis it's another step on the road to liberty. For Americans it's one step closer to getting our soldiers home and making the world safer from Islamist terrorism.

I just want to point out the voting procedures for the Iraqi elections. In Iraq the method being used to prevent vote fraud through multiple voting is indelible ink put on a voters hand after they turn in their ballot. For Iraqis voting in the United States there's more levels of security:

The seven showed election officials their passports and registration cards. Each then dipped part of an index finger in purple ink, a practice aimed at preventing a person from casting more than one vote.

Compare that with Wisconsin where you can waltz into a polling place without identification, have someone vouch for you, and get a ballot. At least in Wisconsin you don't risk getting killed by a bomb. Someone tell Gov. Doyle that what's good enough for Iraqi expatriates should be good enough for Wisconsinites.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

Abbas' First Test

The attack on a Israeli checkpoint by Palestinians has cause Israel to cease all meetings with the Palestinian Authority. James Joyner writes,

If Abbas wants to pretend to run a state, then he has to be accountable for military actions originating from his territory. If he can't stop the terrorists, there's no point in negotiating with him, since he hasn't the power to deliver what the Israelis need. If he can stop them but won't, there's also no point in negotiating with him.

"Israel Cuts Ties with Abbas until He 'Makes Effort to Stop Terror'"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

They Mean Well But...

It's great what celebrities are doing to raise money for tsunami relief. However, someone please tell some of them to keep things tasteful. Here's an example of what not to do:

Overseas, the 1985 African famine relief benefit song, "We Are the World," was being revived for relief efforts by celebrities including Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung. The latest rendition, called "Love," has new Chinese lyrics. The performers, and William Hung of "American Idol" fame, raised nearly $6.2 million at a weekend show.

Can Jackie Chan actually sing? And William Hung is a celebrity in name only.

"Celebrities Donate Millions to Relief"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:02 PM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2005

Truly Devastating

While none of the tsunami videos have shown a Hollywood-style 100-foot wall of water crashing down on villages, nature's power cannot be ignored in this BBC story.

[via Dean's World]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:59 PM | Comments (5)

December 31, 2004

World Relief Day

Captain Ed has declared 01.12 to be World Relief Day. He would like his readers to donate their take-home pay on that day to World Vision for tsunami relief. I urge you all to donate early and often.

"CQ's World Relief Day Set For January 12"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

Yeah, Real Stingy

Americans are giving Millions of dollars for tsunami disaster relief. Here's just one example:

John Hewitt is used to opening his checkbook when disaster strikes overseas.

The Virginia Beach entrepreneur, who typically gives a quarter-million dollars to charitable organizations each year, says he expects to provide as much or more to help buy food for victims of the tsunami that has killed nearly 80,000 people and devastated parts of a dozen nations that rim the Indian Ocean.

Hewitt, owner and chief executive of Liberty Tax Service, which prepared nearly 1 million tax returns last year, says he will "donate something for every tax return we do" to Stop Hunger Now, a charity in Raleigh, N.C., that is among dozens of U.S. organizations rushing aid to southern Asia and East Africa. "My feeling is that God wants us to give back," says Hewitt, 55. "I don't think God just says arbitrarily, 'You win, you lose.' "

Some consider it "stingy" when a government isn't the source of cash, but show me a more benevolent private sector than that of the U.S. Take that Jan Egeland.

"Rush of Donations from USA is Immediate and Immense"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:24 AM | Comments (2)

December 29, 2004

Making Sense

Bryan at Arguing with Signposts... and Steven Taylor are both peeved at the tsunami Monday morning quarterbacking. Bryan writes,

The key thing that seems to be escaping peopel about this event is that this is a *once in a century* event. Not a very high priority on a list with a region facing civil war, poverty on massive scales, religious persecution, nuclear brinksmanship, and the other assorted second and third world problems of the region.

Steven comments,

The bottom line is that when something like this happens, we want to blame somebody or something. It is, as I noted earlier, a key part of our modern mindset.

I think the seed of a good article or book is in his remarks.

"Two Hours is Not a Lot of Time"

"More on the Politics of Disasters"

UPDATE: Russell Roberts reminds us that President Bush didn't send his money to Asia; it was the money from every U.S. taxpayer.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

A Tsunami of Bush Bashing

QandO has links to weblogs that scold President Bush for not doing enough for tsunami relief efforts. An easy dead horse to kick is Juan Cole who complained about the "hundreds of billions" spent on the Iraq War while castigating Bush for initially offering $15 million, "a mysteriously chintzy response." These people want to fund humanitaian efforts while neglecting to fund the war effort. In the big scheme of things the latter is what's going to make the world a safer place. This thinking is on par with the notion that somehow it was more morally just to send U.S. troops to the Balkans because there was less for the U.S. to gain.

"The Predictable Criticism of Bush Continues" [via Darn Floor]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

Beach of Death and Bad Coverage

As the body count goes up I become more numb. Now, there's word 3,000 people may have died on one stretch of beach in Thailand.

I've had a problem with some media coverage of the tsunami disaster. On Sunday, CNN had the most coverage. Fox News decided talking about Michael Jackson's upcoming trial was more pressing. Strange, since News Corp. has a presence in Asia with its Sky satellite service. MSNBC was completely worthless. They didn't bother with any news, and broadcasted their travel/adventure shows instead. It's already Wednesday, and Fox News is finally covering the story. This was one story where cable news got trounced by the internet. This was no contest.

"Tsunami Toll Soars at Thailand's Khao Lak Beach"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2004

Insubstantial Warning Unheeded

Even if there was a tsunami warning system in place for the Indian Ocean it may not have helped at all if people didn't act on the limited information available to them at the time.

The Thai government has generally maintained that it has done what it could under intensely difficult circumstances, with little warning and limited resources. But a front-page story published Tuesday in a Bangkok newspaper, the Nation, reported that Thai officials were aware of the possibility of the tsunami early Sunday morning -- more than an hour before it hit -- but rejected suggestions of an evacuation, fearing the consequences for the tourism industry during one of the busiest weeks of the year. The report could not be independently confirmed.

If the report is true I will grant Thai officials didn't have much to offer the effected areas. The best they could have done was inform beachfront resorts that a strong earthquake could produce tsunamis. There's no assumption any warning would have been heeded. Locals could have just brushed it off since tsunamis rarely happen in that area. So, I disagree with Kevin when he writes, "Unbelievable." When a natural disaster happens for the first time in hundreds of years any sort of blame game is pointless.

"'There Were No Ambulances, No Cars . . . Nothing'" [via Wizbang]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:08 PM | Comments (1)

The Numbers Rise

At least 68,000 have died and over $13 billion in damages were caused by Sunday's tsunamis. Indonesia suffered 27,000 deaths while India has endured 12,000. Expect the death toll to rise as rescue workers reach remote areas and disease plagues the living. An Italian offical thinks the toll could rise to 100,000.

To help with the relief efforts, Amazon is collecting donations to the Red Cross. The Command Post also has a list of links on how to help with the relief. I'm sure many of our wallets are thin from Christmas gifts, but please donate as much as you can.

"Tsunami Death Toll over 68,000"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2004

It's Even Worse

Over 20,000 are dead from the tsunami with more being counted. Beaches have become mass graves that would make Saddam proud. Now, the worry is disease from all the dead bodies. It's cliche, but it's going to get worse before it gets better. Thankfully, relief efforts have begun.

"Tidal Waves Kill 22,000 in Nine Countries"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2004

Deadly Wave

Over 10,000 are dead from an earthquake-induced tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Yet Waverly Person of the U.S. Geological Survey said many could have been saved if the countries hit had early warning systems.

Most of those people could have been saved if they had had a tsunami warning system in place or tide gauges. And I think this will be a lesson to them."

Just one problem which Person admits: tsunamis are rare in the Indian Ocean. This is like saying that people in Wisconsin could be better prepared if more earthquake detection devices were in the Badger State. Such Monday morning quarterbacking after a disaster ticks me off. All decisions come with trade offs. If India, Thailand, Indonesia or Sri Lanka chose to have early-warning systems that money would have not gone to some other concern. The countries hit are not the richest nations in the world. They have other pressing needs like dealing with diseases and making sure there's enough clean water. It's pretty arrogant for a man from a rich nation like the U.S. (along with this Slashdot poster) to suggest options poorer nations didn't have the luxury of having.

For a collection of stories about the deadly tsunami visit The Command Post.

"USGS: Warnings Could Have Saved Thousands in Asia"

"Asia Quakes' Tsunamis Kill Nearly 10,000"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:39 PM | Comments (1)

December 22, 2004

Castro's Thin Skin

Fidel Castro has been having a fit with the U.S. interests section in Havana. Here's the BBC's description of the section's Christmas display:

The display at the US interests section includes a huge white Santa Claus, an image of galloping reindeer and a flashing sign wishing Cubans a Happy Christmas.

What's ticked off Castro is this:
A large figure 75 is picked out in neon, inside a large circle, in reference to the number of Cuban dissidents jailed last year.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We think that remembrance of the 75 people in jail is entirely appropriate to the season. And we intend to leave the lights up."

In response, 5000 Cuban students protested outside the section. Along with that big pictures of Abu Ghraib victims, caricatures of an eagle and the head of the U.S. section, and swastikas are all posted outside the section.

All in response to one number in lights.

"Protest Targets US Cuba Mission"

"Cuban Cartoonists Join U.S. Xmas Lights Dispute"

"Spawn of Bush-Hitler"

[Added to OTB's Beltway Traffic Jam.]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2004

Celebrating Anti-Corruption

TAM wasn't the only place savoring the irony. Here is some blogospheric reactions to U.N. Anti-Corruption Day:

  • Don at Danz Family writes, "It's like the KKK instituting Interracial Marriage Day or the ACLU celebrating Christian Government Day or Charles Manson honoring Mental Health Day."

  • Espresso Sarcasm lives up to its billing: "That's like O.J. Simpson speaking out against domestic violence. This calls for a drink. Maybe two."

  • At Clear and Present Mike writes, "The UN is currently the subject of no less than five U.S. congressional investigations and an internal inquiry over the oil-for-food fiasco, so this week's celebration of its anti-corruption initiative (which hasn't been signed yet by Canada or any other major country) invites images not so much of foxes in the hen house as clowns taking over the circus."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:52 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

Let the Snickering Begin

Tomorrow 12.09, is U.N. International Anti-Corruption Day. It would be appropriate for that hallowed body to issue a progress report on Paul Volker's investigation of the Oil-for-Food program. Tomorrow would also be an opportune day to fill us in on the sex abuse scandal involving U.N. workers in the Congo. And while their at it the world body could let us know about any consequences dealt out from last year's "No Pay Zone" frenzy. Heck, maybe diplomats will start paying their parking tickets.

Being the hypocritical, toothless organization that it is, I expect the U.N. to do none of these things.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:37 PM | Comments (4)

November 24, 2004

Getting Carried Away

MEMRI has threatened legal action against history professor and weblogger Juan Cole. I don't read Cole's weblog, but I assume I would disagree with his many of his views. But from MEMRI's letter I see no accuastions that would rise to the level of libel. Either MEMRI can constructively refute Cole's accusations, or he should be ignored. A lawsuit would only waste all parties' time and hurt MEMRI's reputation.

"Intimidation by Israeli-Linked Organization Aimed at US Academic" [via Matthew Yglesias]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

Mind Your Own Business

That's what I'd tell a foreign observer if I spotted them at my polling place. Thankfully for them they're not headed to Wisconsin. These radical internationalists who see the nation-state being consumed by a global bureaucracy need to go help Iraq prepare for January's elections and quit wasting time on a nation that's held elections longer than anyone else in human history.

Two counties in Missouri have gone over the deep end and are letting foreign observers actually recount the ballots. If Missouri were a real toss-up, I'd be worried. Imagine if the local officials declared more votes for Bush only to have the foreign busybodies offer a contrary count.

"Vote Observers: Access to US Polling Places Difficult"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2004

Good News Down Under

This bodes well for President Bush's re-election. Had John Howard lost Kerry Edwards and the MSM would have yapped on and on and on about how voters across the ocean are rethinking the Iraq War. Instead, little mention of the election and the Australian voters' dismissal of anti-war candidates will be made which is a bias in itself.

"Howard Sweeps to Historic Victory in Australian Election"

"Australia's Howard Wins 4th Term as Prime Minister" [via The Command Post]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

Powell, Rice Deny Nuke Test

Today both Collin Powell and Condi Rice said the North Korean explosion wasn't a nuke test. Since it probably wasn't a test, what happened at Ryanggang? The explosion was sighted near a missile base. Was it a missile test gone wrong? Or if it wasn't a nuclear test how about a mishap at a nuclear test facility? While one question has been answered many more have arisen.

"U.S. Says N.Korea Blast Probably Not Nuclear"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

Official Denies Nuke Test

A State Department official said,

We've got no indication that anything of the sort has happened. We believe these reports to be completely unfounded."

People are pretty sure it's not a mushroom cloud and not a test of any kind."

Can someone just come out and say it with out all the anonymous crap?

And with that, I'm calling it a night.

"N. Korea Blast Unlikely to Have Been Nuclear"

UPDATE: Ok, I lied. David Schneider-Joseph links to an earthquake list. On 09.09 there was a series of quakes in the area of the Alaska stations. There was also an earthquake in Japan on 09.09. So that explains these seismographic readings. Based on the lack of evidence I really doubt a nuke test took place.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:44 AM | Comments (0)

N. Korea's Big Bang

The North Korean explosion story has made it to the BBC website.

"Big Blast Reported in North Korea" [via Wizbang]


Below the fold (for dial-up users) are two seismograph recordings from Japan on 09.09 (generated from this Japanese website). Notice that around 7:43 A.M. something happens that's far different from other times. These events might connect with the Alaska recordings. Taking into account time for the aftershocks to travel to Alaska as well as time zone changes, stations this far apart might have recorded the same event.

I'm still skeptical, but damning evidence would be increased radiation at weather stations downwind from the explosion. Is such an odd bit of data even collected and distributed over the internet?

UPDATE: CNN gets word from a U.S. official that it wasn't a nuke. Instead, the cloud could be from a forest fire. If it wasn't for that goofy alternative I'd say for sure it wasn't.



Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:04 AM | Comments (1)

September 11, 2004

Did North Korea Test a Nuke?

I'm skeptical for two reasons:

  1. If this test happened two days ago wouldn't North Korea have bragged about it already?

  2. If a test occured wouldn't someone have noticed? Not all seismograph are owned by the U.S. government or her allies.

If the test occured and the administration knows it happened they have to explain why the news hasn't been made public.

"Atomic Activity in North Korea Raises Concerns"

"Blast, Mushroom Cloud Reported in N. Korea"

UPDATE: I know little about seismographs, but a number of Alaska stations, Sand Point, Unalaska, Nikolski, and False Pass recorded an event at around 8:00 a.m. local time on 09.09. There's no indication in the AP story of what time the North Korean explosion happened.

UPDATE II: A reader pointed out a Reuters article where Chung Dong-young, South Korea's unification minister said his government doesn't think the explosion was nuclear. Someone with the title "unification minister" might have an incentive to spin a possible nuke test, but neither the South Koreans, the Japanese, nor the Chinese have said anything. One would think an event this potentially destablizing would bring leaders out before cameras and reporters.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2004

It's About Time

The U.S. won the Cold War over ten years ago and finally serious military restructuring in Europe and Asia is taking place. Captain Ed writes that part of this is payback to Gerhard Schroeder. All I know is it took a terrorist attack on the U.S. and a new war to get this realignment. Crisis, not reason, can be the biggest catalyst for governmental change. That's why no serious reforms of Social Security or Medicare will happen until they're both completely bankrupt.

"U.S. to Pull 70,000 Troops from Europe, Asia"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:51 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2004

Speak Against Gays; Go to Jail

There a lot of fear among the U.S. Left about the stifling of descent. At least they don't live in Sweden. A minister there went to jail for preaching against homosexuality. Now, will the Left join the U.K.'s Libertarian Alliance in denouncing the land of Volvos, gorgeous blonds, and politically correct speech?

"'No Place for Faschist in European Union: Suspend Sweden Now,' Says Free Market and Civil Liberties Think Tank"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

Palestinian Propaganda

And we wonder why Israel decided to build a wall.

"PA Textbooks: Israel is Palestine" [via Laurence Simon]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2004

Blaming Bush

While no one's blamed Israel for Palestine's chaos, Sen. Joe Biden is blaming President Bush:

The Foreign Relations Committee's ranking Democrat, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, said the Bush administration is responsible for the current stalemate and that there was no indication that a "sustained effort" had been made to implement a U.S.-backed road map for peace this year.

"Where is American diplomacy?" Biden asked. "It is not as if we have the luxury of time."

Yeah, I'm sure sending Colin Powell on fruitless missions to the region would have stopped all the corruption Arafat has allowed to fester there.

"Palestinians Said to be 'Sickened' by Lack of Leadership"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

Pipes on Palestine

Daniel Pipes notes that the "Somali model" of armed gangs and lawlessness is the norm in Palestine. The "good news," if can call it that, is the Palestinians aren't blaming Israel for their predicament.

"Palestinian Descent into Chaos"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Drezner on Palestine

Daniel Drezner has a load of links on the collapse of Arafat's Palestine.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

Bang Bang, You're Dead

I'm not a huge fan of our current drug laws. I'm not an opponent either. Consider me on the fence. One thing I'm sure about is Brazil's new law is major overkill (pun intended).

"Brazil Set to Start Shooting Down Drug Planes" [via Drudge]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2004

Revolt in Palestine

It's getting uglier in Palestine.

Dozens of masked gunmen marched through the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza after sundown Sunday, chanting, "No to Moussa Arafat, yes to reform."

In the Rafah refugee camp, gunmen exchanged fire with guards at preventive security headquarters and attempted to break into the complex with a bulldozer. The guards wounded three attackers, but there were no casualties to the security forces, personnel at the building said.

"Militants Sack, Burn Palestinian Offices"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2004

Civil War

We're seeing the beginnings of a Palestinian Civil War. It won't be pretty. You know for sure when it gets really ugly Palestinian supporters will blame Israel for starting it all by pulling out of Gaza.

"Arafat's Panel Declares State of Emergency"

"Chaos in Gaza as French Hostages Seized, Then Freed"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004

Protest Pontential

In the next month, President Bush will be traveling a lot. Besides all the campaign stops he'll make he'll go to France and Italy to for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, he'll head to Turkey for a NATO meeting, and he'll go to Georgia for the G-8 summit. At the overseas visits there should be plenty of anti-Bush protesters. Steven Kull, director of the program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, thinks this will surprise much of the American public. What protests may do is rally them around the President. Knocking off Saddam in spite of world opinion took courage. Seeing crass and harsh displays of anti-Bushism/anti-Americanism could create a backlash with the American public. Think of it as a form of blowback. Oh, wouldn't that just tick off the anti-Bushies?

"Bush's Bid to Shape the Iraq Story"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

"The Old Ones are Always the Best"

It's good to know that personal and health problems haven't stopped Great Britain's Iron Lady from pushing the conservative cause. Tony Blair is trying to demonize the Tory's by linking the present leadership with Lady Thatcher. One problem: Thatcher is the Conservative Party's Ronald Reagan. They adore her, and she is the Tory's best advocate--which shows what depths the party has sunk to since she's been out of office for years. It would be like John Kerry labeling President Bush a "Reagan Republican." The GOP wouldn't mind, and the public would mostly remember the Gipper's successes (tax cuts and confronting the Soviets) and his optimism.

This in no way is a criticism of Tony Blair being an outstanding ally of the U.S. in the Islamist War. On many occasions, his words have inspired us all on why this war has to be fought.

"Thatcher Launches Attack on Blair" [via Amish Tech Support]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

No, Duh!

What would we expect the Pope, a religous leader, to say? I don't think we'd hear something like, "Forget about Christ. You'll do fine without him." Not only would that be against his beliefs, it would put him out of a job.

By the way, the U.S. could use a little more of it as well.

"Pope Says Enlarged EU Needs Christianity" [via Drudge]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:50 AM | Comments (3)

April 10, 2004

Required Viewing

Matthew Stinson has some good pics from the Great Wall of China.

"According To Legend..."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2004

Making Amends

Last year, loud-mouthed Canadians booed a pee-wee U.S. hockey team. This year, the country apologized in a very "cool" way.

"The Rest of the Story"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:03 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2004

Spanish Election

The loss of the Bush-supporting Popular Party in last Sunday's elections is more complicated than merely capituating to Islamist terrorists. The PP tried to spin the story and lost public confidence. Initial suspicion of ETA was reasonable, but when van with detonators and a Koran tape were found the PP should have backed away. That's not to say that many pro-socialist votes weren't to advance appeasement.

"Spain Campaigned to Pin Blame on ETA" [via PoliBlog]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2004

French "Intellectuals"

For some so-called French intellectuals it will require an awful Islamist terrorist attack on their homeland before they can truly understand the evil that befell the U.S. on Sep. 11, 2001. How sad.

"Culturally Enlightened French Writers Show Simplistic Americans What Justice is All About" [via Armavirumque]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Live from China

Matthew Stinson is in China and is posting. Nice! He has some pictures and a post on three American staples, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and KFC.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

French Bashing

Our Oldest Enemy is sure to be a book that ticks off the French as well as historians of American history. I can't wait to read John Miller's and Mark Molesky's explanation of French assistance in the Revolutionary War, and admiration the American public had to Lafayette. Surprisingly, the book isn't being published by Regnery.

[via Intellectual Conservative]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:55 AM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2004

Castro: "Best and Brightest of 2003"?

Here's something completely obnoxious from Milwaukee's alt-weekly, the Shepherd Express. They have a typical year-end story listing winners and losers from 2003. What is unusual is who they considered one of the "best and brightest of 2003":

Fidel Castro: Elected to a sixth term since 1976 at the age of 76.

There's some love for the most ruthless and bloody murderer in the Western Hemisphere. They make it sound like Castro is just some long-time president. What's ignored is that Fidel's "elections" were democratic in name only. It's kind of hard to lose when you force everyone to vote for you.

But Cuba has free health care so all sins are forgiven.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:19 AM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2003

Hate Stops Help

Help and aid from all over the world is headed to Iran. Unlike the 1990 earthquake that killed 36,000, the Islamic nation isn't shunning the assistance as long as none of it is Jewish.

Officials have said this time help would be welcome from everywhere except Israel.

The mullahs should be toppled now for putting their religious bigotry above the needs of victims. This is a matter of life and death. You'd think driving the Jews into the sea could take a back seat. Heck, the U.S. has put their problems with the Iranian government aside for a little while in order to help.

My prayers are with the survivors, victims' families, and those helping.

"Stench of Death in Iran Quake City, U.S. Sends Aid"

UPDATE: Some Jews are transcending the mullahs' hate by collecting donations for the earthquake victims.

"US Jewish Group Raising Funds for Iran Victims" [via ATS]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2003

Libya Abandons WMD

Libya's abandoning of WMD is one heck of a foreign policy victory for the President Bush. Without firing a shot, Gadhafi gave up. Bush bashers and members of Duck, M.D.'s raft may try to argue that diplomacy can be just as effective as war. And since war has all that destruction, they would argue diplomacy is the more moral option. Let's look at the timeline here. From the AP story:

In London, Blair said Libya had approached Britain and the United States in March, after successful negotiations on Lockerbie, to see if it could "resolve its weapons of mass destruction issues in a similar manner."

Gadhafi started talks at the time of the final military build-up and invasion. Would the dictator have even bothered if he didn't think the U.S. and U.K. were willing to go to war if necessary? I'm sure Gadhafi's reasons for abandoning WMD development are more complex than that. From my very casual following of Libyan news Gadhafi wants to bring Libya out of the international hinterlands. There may be domestic politics involved that would explain a part in his actions, but I'm very sure a possible military confrontation played a role.

Also note that Bush didn't publically threaten Libya. Diplomacy was used. Non-U.N., non-French diplomacy to be exact.

Combine this news with Iran agreeing to international nuclear inspectors, and one can make a pretty credible case that President Bush's muscular policy is having a positive effect.

Surfing the blogosphere, James Joyner asks, "Could it be that the 'you're either with us or you're against us' line is actually having positive results?" It's hard to say it isn't. The outlier is North Korea. Hindrocket at Power Line is happy writing, "if the administration's tough line can yield results like these, its wisdom should be beyond question." HipperCritical has a wide range of links on this story. To give you an idea how knee-jerk Bush bashers are taking this news, here's an Oliver Willis quote:

You mean we can stop WMDs without invading and occupying nations? Unpossible!

"Libya to Give Up Weapons Programs"

UPDATE: Oliver reminds me that he thinks Blair and Bush did a good job. So I'll take back calling him a "knee-jerk Bush basher" in this instance. Oliver caught me. Me bad, me sorry. I'll try not to be so knee-jerk myself.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 11:24 PM | Comments (6)

Clash of Cultures

Will John Rhys-Davies ever get a job in Hollywood again for saying stuff like this:

By 2020, 50% of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent. You look and see what your founding fathers thought of the Dutch. They are constantly looking at the rise of democracy and Dutch values as being the very foundation of American Democracy. If by the mid-century the bulk of Holland is Muslim—and don’t forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers ... Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people. There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss—because, g**dammit, I am for dead white male culture.

He even realizes that "what I’ve been saying [is like] blasphemy."

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2003


Bablu Blog held a BlogCuba day today. Great idea, because just 90 miles off the U.S. coast sits a prison nation just waiting to burst from its shackles and join the league of free nations.

At that weblog I found an awful piece of propaganda from the Granma, Castro's "journalistic" mouthpiece. Over three years ago when I was passionately covering Elian Gonzalez's story I knew Castro would use that little boy as a propaganda tool. I was right, that's exactly what Fidel has done to Elian. To celebrate Elian's 10th birthday, Castro declared that Cuba has "made a utopian dream reality." It's such a utopia that people clammor to escape.

Kevin Aylward is right to call for the end of travel restrictions to Cuba. I'd even go so far as to call for the end of the embargo. Castro's survived all these measures that were designed to remove him from power. After all these years of failure something new must be tried. We shouldn't bother crushing them with our military (It's too busy fighting the Islamist War). Instead, we should crush them with our economy and our ideas of freedom.

"Cuba Has Made a Utopian Dream Reality"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

Only War in Our Interests

I didn't support the Iraq War because Saddam murdered and tortured thousands. I supported it because he was a threat to the well being of the United States. On this, I'm in agreement with James Joyner:

I didn't support our wars in Bosnia and Kosovo because they were wholly unrelated to U.S. national interests. The world is full of crazy dictators victimizing their own people; we can't take them all out. I supported the war to oust Saddam because he was a dangerous man in a vital region; that it also liberated the Iraqi people was a wonderful, happy bonus.

I too opposed the Bosnian and Kosovo operations and felt strange being allies with the anti-war Left.

Duck, M.D.'s foreign policy looks too much like Bill Clinton's. He sent in the troops in too many places that weren't threats to the U.S. (Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti) and failed to do anything with the real threats (Iraq, not going after bin Laden). A Duck, M.D. Presidency would only make the U.S. more vulnerable to attack.

"Dean: Brutal Ruler Doesn't Justify Use of Force"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2003

Traveling to Cuba

The Senate went along with the House and passed a bill allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. Should President Bush veto this? It's been over 40 years of the embargo and travel restrictions and Cuba is no closer to freedom than when Castro first made it a Communist prison island. After 40+ years of an ineffective policy, shouldn't something new be tried? The U.S. has fairly normal relations with China and even Vietnam. What makes Cuba so different? I lean toward ending the embargo and conquor Cuba with American capitalism, but I want to hear some good pro-embargo arguments.

"Senate Votes to End Cuba Travel Ban" [via RWN]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Another Nuclear Power

North Korea admits it's been processing spent nuclear rods to make nukes. While the U.S. has been busy with the Islamist War, NK took advantage of a stretched-thin U.S. military and may win concessions at the bargaining table. I put much (not all) of the blame on President Bill Clinton. He was the one who made the deal that supposedly shut down the NK nuclear program. Clinton is also the one who allowed the military to atrophy enough so the U.S. can't fight two wars simultaneously. Way to go Bill. You left the country you swore to protect vulnerable.

"North Korea Using Plutonium for Bomb Production"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:26 AM | Comments (6)

September 28, 2003

German Firms Under Scrutiny

German companies are under investigation for violating the embargo with Saddam's Iraq.

"German Firms Face Iraq Arms Trade Probe"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2003

French Aren't Our Friends

Thomas Friedman was a little slow this time, but he's finally come around:

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

It's now acceptible in liberal circles to admit that France isn't very helpful. Does that mean they'll lay off President Bush for not working with the Gallic half of the Axis of Weasles? I doubt it.
"Our War With France" [via Blaster's Blog]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2003

Islamic World Has One Arm Tied Behind Its Back

Kate posts on how the lack of women's rights hurts the economies of Islamic countries. Let me add a thought from Islam scholar Bernard Lewis, author of What Went Wrong?:

Another approach has been to view the main culprit as the relegation of women to an inferior position in Muslim society, which deprives the Islamic world of the talents and energies of half its people and entrusts the other half's crucial early years of upbringing to illiterate and downtrodden mothers. The products of such an education, it has been said, are likely to grow up either arrogant or submissive, and unfit for a free, open society. However one evaluates the views of secularists and feminists, their success or failure will be a major factor in shaping the Middle Eastern future.

I also believe in WWW Lewis quotes a Turkish official that not giving women equal rights was like cutting off one's arm. I don't have the book so I'm paraphrasing.

"What Went Wrong?"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:09 AM | Comments (0)

What Money Won't Get You

Jim of Unix, Music, and Politics posts on the fact that foreign aid doesn't buy votes at the U.N. If it did, a lot more countries would be on the U.S.'s side. No campaign finance law needed there.

"Foreign Folly"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2003

The Mercenary Business

Private military companies (PMCs) are a big business and will only grow.

"Security for Sale"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:22 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2003

North Korea Crazy Game

Stephen Green writes on the North's strategy for telling everyone they have nukes and the means to deliver them.


Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2003

Those Smart French

Here's a great way to bring tourists into France:

A French mayor has brought in a new law against smelly tourists.

It allows police to stop people leaving the beach in swimwear for an odour check. Anyone found to be too smelly will be ordered to cover up or get a fine.

"Mayor Passes New Laws Against Smelly Tourists" [via Boycott Hollywood]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:22 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

French Tourism Hurt

I wonder how Chirac, his cronies, and French Bush-bashers feel about their America bashing, now? Tourism is down 20%, much of it due to the lack of American tourists. Even with some good deals I found to Paris, I'm still not tempted to go. I'm going to Boston in October instead.

"French Tourism Under Pressure"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2003

McNamara's Still Alive?

Matthew at A Fearful Symmetry goes after Robert "Strange is my middle name" McNamara and writes about just war theory and the ICC. Mmm. Beefy!

"Robert S. McNamara, Wrong Again"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2003

French Biffed It

A French citizen was being held by Colombian rebels. Here's what the French did:

A Hercules C-130 transporter landed in Manaus, the closest large Brazilian city to the Colombian border, but Brazil ordered it out, saying France had given no warning over the mission's nature.

But here's the kicker:
Ms Betancourt was not freed and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group, which has been holding her for more than a year, denied it was intending to free her.

And now France had to apologize to Brazil. No wonder the French oppose unilateralism, they can't do it right themselves.

"France Apologises Over Rescue Bid" [via InstaPundit]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2003

Canada: Land of Mediocrity

According to Perry Michael Simon, Canada isn't the place where success is nurtured and glorified:

I've known several Canadians who told me the same thing about their country. They all love it, but they all feel that in order to really make it in their work, they have to move south of the border. I asked one guy why he felt that way, and he said "Canada has a weird mindset. They don't want you to succeed too much. You're not supposed to get too big, too successful. And there are plenty of people up there who are content to stay there, be medium sized fish in a medium-sized pond. If you have a creative or enterpreneurial bone in your body, you get out as soon as you can. You don't want to, you have to."

And that's the opposite of the mindset of Americans who want to bolt to another, less "competitive" country. If you truly don't think you can cut it in a competitive situation, what you're saying is that, deep down, you think you're not good enough. It's easy, then, to want to go someplace that cuts all the tall grass down to a more manageable size, rewards success and failure at roughly the same rate, treats everyone as the same (in other words, socialism). In America, you're rewarded by the success you achieve, the ability you demonstrate, the value the market places on what you do. If you're afraid that you're not good enough, if you're afraid of your own individuality, that's when you want the government to take care of you, to subsume you into the whole. You make a run towards a system that celebrates mediocrity.

[via Cam Edwards]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:06 PM | Comments (1)

Clash of Civilizations

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad seems intent on starting an arms race between the Muslim world and the West (i.e. the U.S.). He sees it as a "clash of civilizations."

Echoing the military philosophy of Ronald Reagan (peace through strength), Mahathir told the AFP,

This idea of striking fear into the hearts of enemies is part of the teachings of the Koran.

If they are strong then people will not attack them. But at the moment they are not strong, and because of that, because of their frustration, their anger, they resort to acts of terror.

If the Muslim world wants to play the game of military tit-for-tat let them. Even with a flat economy the West could still out spend and build a mightier military force than the Muslim world. I'm not just talking about the U.S. If Europe, with all its problems, were willing to spend money on the military she could out do the Muslim world. That's because the West has a (relatively) free economy from where technological advances can be developed.

One last item to point out from Mahathir's interview: his inability to grasp the Israel-Palestine situation. He believes Muslims are the ones being targeted. He should tell that to the Israeli families of victims of Palestinian homicide bombers. The situation is pretty clear. On one side there is a free state defending itself from terrorists while on the other side is an entire government led by a terrorist. Mahathir picked the Palestinians. He chose the unfree side. He chose to side with religion over liberty.

"'Clash of Civilizations' Looms Between Islam and West"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003

Humanitarian Invasions

Fredrik Norman on despots and national interest:

Indeed, tyrants and despots have no right to stay in power, Blair is absolutely right on that account. But similarly, the West has no "duty" to depose them and "save" their peoples, despite what I expect Blair would suggest. Such "altruistic" interventions are dangerous and uncalled for.

Interventions should only, in my opinion, be used as a tool when the security of the United Kingdom and its allies is at stake, and the same goes for the US and other countries. Unless terrorists are organizing in Liberia, for instance, I would recommend we stay as far away as possible. But in the case that they are indeed, then -- and only then -- should they be destroyed, and with overwhelming power.

I agree. It starts with the premise that a proper function of government is to protect its citizens from outside invaders. What September 11 showed us too graphically is that terrorists can move easily and silently when they have another country as a staging area. That's why we invaded Afghanistan and knocked off the Taliban. We would no longer allow that country to be a training camp for terrorists. Invading Iraq was based on stopping Saddam from using Iraq's resources to threaten the West directly or indirectly. To drop the firepower of the U.S. military on another country, it's not enough for it to be ruled by a horrible man. If that was enough justification Cuba would have been de-Castro'ed years ago. The targeted nation has to be a threat to the U.S. Iraq met that standard and so does North Korea. Unfortunately for Liberia, it doesn't rise to that level of importance.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2003

Can't Blame French on this One

Earlier this month, the Dissident Frogman posted photos that appeared like the French took down U.S. flags at a Normandy museum. We jumped to conclusions. DF has an update:

Therefore, I'd say my initial trouble at the sight of this empty golden base and this empty space is now dissipated. There was indeed something missing, it was indeed the US flag and it was missing for a good reason.
It's nice to see that, despite the clash between our two countries over the past months, it's still possible that US flags be sold out up to almost one month after the 6 of June, isn't it? That's a good sign.

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2003


Jonah Goldberg on Berlusconi's Nazi comment:

As far as I can tell, what Berlusconi said was stupid. But as several readers have commented, it's pretty hard not to notice the contrast in outrage when you compare this episode to when the German Cabinet minister compared Bush to Hitler. Back then most of "enlightened" Europe thought Americans overreacted when Bush was compared to a genocidal murderer. What was the big deal? they kept asking.

"E.U. Parliament Ponders Demanding Apology from Berlusconi"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2003

Another French Black Mark

The U.S. flag is missing from the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy.

My personal ban of French wine feels sooooo good right now. I think I'll pop open some of Australia's finest.

"Tertian Fever" [via Balloon Juice]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 07:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2003

Hope in France

If people like 21-year old Sabine Herold get into power, then France's economy could actually be reformed and U.S.-France relations could be repaired. She supported the war in Iraq, has been reading classical liberal thinkers like F. A. Hayek, and is appalled by her country's poor work ethic. "There is no value put on work in France. I've just come back from Hong Kong where people love to work. In France they are always looking for a way to get out of it," she said.

"The New Joan of Arc on a Crusade to Stop French Unions Causing Misery to Millions" [via Instapundit]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2003

French W(h)ine

People in the wine business aren't sure if there will be a prolonged boycott of French wine. A wine store owner said the boycott has amounted to a "10 [percent] to 20 percent" decrease in sales. It appears the boycott is mostly in the market of wine selling for less than $20--people like me who can't afford a really nice and expensive Bordeaux.

These people are worried about a long-term boycott. New marketing efforts are being made and some trade groups sent a letter to President Bush asking him to publically oppose consumer boycotts. So, some people are scared. Hopefully, French politicans will remember that.

The boycott may not last long. We Americans have a short memory, and if the French government starts working to stop Islamist terrorism instead of blocking American "hyperpower" then all will be forgiven.

"Boycott of French Wine Losing Fizzle with Public"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2003

WWII and Iraq

There might be some historical basis for France's shunning of the U.S. over Iraq and their intent on creating something to balance U.S. "hyperpower":

Self-flagellation aside, the French after 1940 concluded they'd been fools to rely on alliances with England and America to ensure their security. (Charles de Gaulle never failed to point out that the United States had sat out the conflict for a year-and-a-half after Paris fell.) That's why French leaders set a course of resolute independence, pursuing nuclear weapons, dropping out of the military side of NATO, tilting toward Germany instead of England.

''The whole attitude of Chirac in the lead-up to the Iraqi war definitely had roots in 1940,'' [Julian] Jackson observes. Just not in the way the France-bashers think.

"Why France Fell"

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 06:51 PM | Comments (3)

Baghdad on the East River

The U.N. has been so spoiled living off the graciousness of the U.S. and other donor nations that when they had the chance they turned their building's resturants into little Baghdads. These are the same types who rack up millions in NYC parking tickets and never pay them, yet constantly complain the U.S. hasn't paid their fair share in dues. Does Kofi Annan really believe the Allies will let his group run Iraq after this chaos?

"Food Fight" [via Instapundit]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 03:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 30, 2003

Some are More Equal Than Others

On the announcement that France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg have created a defense union, President Jacques Chirac said,

Quite naturally a multi-polar world is being created, whether one likes it or not. It's inevitable. For balance to exist, there will have to be a strong Europe. Relations between the European Union and the United States will have to be a partnership between equals.

Equality between Europe and the U.S. won't happen until Europe switches its spending from lavish social welfare spending to tanks, planes, and guns. It's hard to be equals when your military is dependent on U.S. airplanes for transport.

"'Old Europe' Presses Ahead with Plans for an EU Army" [via Drudge]

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Foreign Affairs at 01:36 AM | Comments (2)