Sunday, March 20, 2011

For the Sake of the Libyan People

The events today in Libya are long overdue considering Muammar Qaddafi's actions towards his people in the wake of the troubles in the Middle East in the past couple months, but, as the saying goes, late is better than never.

The rebels who had had the momentum and captured many important cities in the country had lost it and were the victims of their own leader, a malicious tryrant who has no problems victimizing his own people just as he has victimized the world over the years with his support for international terrorism. Even though the no fly zone should have been insituted weeks ago when the rebels had the initiative and even though it would've been preferred if the US had taken the lead and not waited on international organizations such as the UN, we can only hope that the actions taken by this coalition which includes French, British, and US naval and air assets, will suffice to take out enough of his military assets so that it is demoralized enough to not only result in defections, but also allow for a boost in the rebels morale.

Much debate has gone on in the wake of the revolts in the Middle East as to what the US role should be, especially with President Obama in the Oval Office, but it should be remembered that just because the occupant of the White House changes, it does not alter the fact that the US should remain the leader of the world and keep its moral imperative to aid people when in need regardless of whether it is popular or not. If we do not act, and wait for other countries to and depend on the UN in the future, it will only result in more suffering. Hopefully President Obama will learn from this and realize that as president of the United States, you must lead. It does not mean you act alone, but you must be the one who leads the world and comes to the aid of rebels when they call for you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

President Obama and the Ground Zero Mosque

The controversy that the Ground Zero Mosque has created has brought to light many things that should receive attention, namely Imam Rauf's past statements and President Obama's fumbling maneuvers to try to position himself on every side of the issue.

Some Muslims it seems believe the opposition is based solely on Islamophobia when this is far from the truth. The opposition is around two factors mostly. The first is the mere placement of the mosque, two blocks from Ground Zero, the second is the character of Imam Rauf. In the preceding weeks it has been discussed that Rauf has a record that is far from moderate, saying two weeks after 9/11 that the US was complicit in the attacks and that Osama bin Laden was made in America. He also has refused to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization. It is these revelations along with the sheer insensitivity of the placement that have created such opposition. As Americans we are always asked to be tolerant and show sensitivity to others, a trait we boldly embrace, but why cannot the Muslims who seek to build this show the same sensitivity? They do not need to build it there. This is an action intended to be provocative, not build bridges. The building of this establishment will not in fact build bridges, but rather create divisions and create a backlash against Muslims.

The White House initially chose not to get involved in this controversy, but the President last Friday chose to finally wade into the fray at a Ramadan dinner. Whereas he did say he supported it legally, he did not comment on the wisdom of the project. Rather he chose to back pedal on his comments the next morning though. The problem and real irony here though is that for being supposedly so eloquent President Obama spends a lot of time clarifying his statements and secondly, it would have been braver of him if he had spoken on the wisdom of it at the dinner instead of the next day in Florida. This would have been an opportune moment  to make the feelings of the American people known and explain to the audience that building it elsewhere would prove better for all. The President failed at this though, due to the fact that that might offend the audience at the dinner and perhaps cause them to not adulate over him.    

It can be said though that Americans, even after 9/11, showed no ill will towards Muslims overall. President Bush made it clear that we were not at war with Islam as a religion, but extremists. The fact remains though that it is hallowed ground and should be respected as such. If they built it six blocks away there would be no issue, but the proximity is what is causing the controversy. This is not a freedom issue when it comes down to it, but one of sensitivity.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The UAE and the Iranian Threat

In a recent speech on Aspen Colorado, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said he would fully support a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. He said:

I think it's a cost-benefit analysis. I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.

If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the UAE.

Supposedly this shocked some, but quite to the contrary it shouldn't. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, an Iranian nuke would have dire effects in the region. Not only does Israel have serious concerns about such a development, but the Gulf states have also to worry that a nuclear Iran would be a nation able to impose its will on the smaller countries in the region and in so doing be able to control what those nations did in terms of economic and foreign policy. It is no wonder that the UAE ambassador voiced such an opinion. He, though, is most likely not alone. More likely than not officials from Oman and Bahrain feel the same way that a nuclear Iran will act as a regional bully and that they are willing to put up with any protests that may result if their security is threatened. Why the Obama Administration does not understand this concern is beyond belief. If Iran was to go nuclear the US would have to also be prepared to intervene for those nations should Iran threaten them. It seems President Obama just doesn't understand all the consequences.

Not surprisingly this story was under-reported in the media this week and I only heard about it from Charles Krauthammer on Friday's edition of Special Report with Brett Baeir.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Neconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (Book Review)

Justin Vaisse's book, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement, proved to be a fair-minded and educational read on the movement that has garnered much attention in the last decade.

Vaisse explains the history in a very linear, chronological fashion so as to explain exactly how it developed and who helped it get there. Other authors, when discussing the topic, don't do this, but he explains this method is the best in his introduction. What he does in the book though is explains that neoconservatism can be divided into three distinct ages. The first age which took place in the 1960s and was compromised of Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Norman Podhoretz, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In this phase it primarily addressed domestic issues in the pages of The Public Interest and was a reaction against the New Left and the protests it inspired on campuses some of these men taught at. It must also be noted that a good portion of these men such as Kristol were former Trotskyists at City College of New York.

It was in the second age when foreign policy started to become its primary concern. In fact many second age and third age neoconservatives overlap. This group of people, including luminaries such as Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, and Paul Wolfowitz were greatly inspired by Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-WA) and the nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter. Their primary concern was opposition to Henry Kissinger's detente and a desire to maintain military dominance over the Soviet Union. The strong support for Israel, which is characteristic of neoconservatives also began here.

In the third age, which is said to have started in 1995, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan are to said to have made their names known. Although many second age neocons are active in this phase, it was here that such institutions as the Project for the New American Century and The Weekly Standard began under the direction of Bill Kristol and where they came to occupy places of influence in the Bush Administration. Vaisse makes sure to be fair to the neocons when discussing this phase and not lay all the blame for the Iraq War at their feet as some do. Even though he is fair, he does take them to task for having a narrow view of what it would take to make their vision succeed. He does not go overboard in doing so, but rather gives the movement constructive criticism.

Overall I can say the book is well-written and fair on top of being very informative. He lays out precisely what compromises the current neoconservative vision of foreign policy and through his narrative gives the reader a well-informed idea of how they developed it and who contributed to it. He dispels some alleged "myths" about neoconservatism as well. He says that despite what some authors say, philosopher Leo Strauss did not have an that much of an influence on future neocons. This of course can be disputed depending on who you are discussing. For the neoconservatives though, he ends the book on a high note. He says that despite the road bumps that the movement has encountered of late that it in fact is not dead, far from it in fact. It has ingratiated itself into influential think tanks such as American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute as well as being the chosen foreign policy of the Republican party and conservative movement in general and as a result will return to influence world affairs in the future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel and the Flotilla Incident

Yesterday in a raid by Israeli commandos a flotilla transporting 10,000 tons of "relief" materials to Gaza was interdicted and resulted in 9 being killed.

The larger problem in the operation is the fact that this operation has caused an international incident that has resulted once again in the international community's condemnation of Israel. In addition to the larger international problems, the fact of the matter is that if Israel suspects weapons are being smuggled into Gaza they have the responsibility to act
in their nation's interest and prevent them from entering. Turkey, an ally since 1996, should realize this.

What will come of this latest incident is unknown, but it will most likely contribute to frustrating the Obama Administration's Middle East peace process, which at this point is going nowhere due to an amalgam of failed policies. One thing the administration must remember though in this process is to not join the international community's condemnation, but rather come to Israel's defense in their time of need.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Implications of an Iranian Nuke

It does not appear to be clear that President Obama and his administration understand all the implications that allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon would entail. For there are many that could essentially transform the Middle East.

One of the unintended consequences of allowing this to occur would be the growth of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. The first nation that can be expected to pursue nuclear weapons is Saudi Arabia. Considering its proximity to Iran and that it is made primarily of Sunni Muslims, they would most likely want to offset the "Shia bomb" of Iran. This could happen also due to the fact that of Iran acquired a bomb it will feel emboldened and could try to pressure the surrounding Gulf states into following its will possibly vis-a-vis oil. This would only make sense to protect their interests.

From there it could be a domino effect. Considering Iran had one and Saudi Arabia was working on acquiring one the bigger nations in the region could also see it as only being their prerogative that they have one as well. These nations could include Egypt, Turkey, and possibly Syria. If all these nations were to acquire nuclear weapons you would see a dramatically different Middle East, one where an arms race has transformed it into a nuclear hotbed.

In addition to the threat of nuclear proliferation, Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon poses an existential threat to Israel. There is no question in the mind of the Israeli leadership that they can risk that Ahmedinejad is posturing for his domestic base. They cannot risk a nation such as Iran acquiring such a capability and either directly threatening it or passing it off to a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah or Hamas. President Obama does not seem to understand this position of Israel, which in and of itself is disconcerting. If Israel feels Iran is close to acquiring the bomb it, without a doubt, will take action. This should be allowed.

These are only two of the most obvious consequences that the administration is not willing to face for one reason or another. They cannot simply submit to the inevitability of it and give up and in the process abandon allies such as Israel most importantly, and others in the region such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Not to Treat an Ally

This past week has proven to be another week in which the Obama Administration has chosen to alienate our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.

The way in which President Obama treated Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House was deplorable. He treated him as if he was the Prime Minister of a pariah state (such as North Korea or Iran) in his not meeting with him in public and snubbing him afterwards. Add to this the fact that the Administration has been scolding Israel for building settlements in Jerusalem in the preceding weeks and you have a situation where this president is showing outright hostility to Israel. Considering he is not showing the same hostility to Iran through sanctions, but instead lessening the severity of them and you are left with a very strange foreign policy, one that can be said to be inconsistent with previous policy of both Democrat and Republican presidents and dangerous in the message it sends to our historical allies as well as our current enemies. President Obama should back off the bullying of Israel and instead turn his enmity to nations that pose a real threat to not only us and our allies but the world at large. Nations such as Iran.