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Total number of comments: 1481 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:38)


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  • Does the Road to Mideast Peace Run through Tehran?
    • One slight correction, Mark. I was just reviewing the World Bank's latest, refined data for the Chinese economy. The WB now pegs China's 2012 GNP at $8.3 trillion (vice the older figure of $7 trillion I mentioned). Still, one-half that of the United States.

    • America's GNP was $16 trillion, while China's was $7 trillion in 2012, less than half that of the US, Mark. China has a way to go before it overtakes the US and becomes the largest in the world.

    • "Why would the warming of relations with a nation that gives the US an alternative to the Gulf monarchies make cause Obama to move closer to them?"

      It is simply tunnel vision to think that a thaw in our relationship with Iran give us an "alternative to" the Gulf monarchies. To speak of the "alternatives" of either Iran or the Gulf monarchies makes no geopolitcal sense. It is in the US interest to have close relations with all (non-hostile) states in the region, to include the Gulf monarchies and Iran. That is how nations maintain flexibility.

  • US-Iran War Averted by Agreement to Negotiate on Nuclear Enrichment
    • "...awarding the prize to Obama while his efforts were yet incomplete was the point."

      While his efforts were yet incomplete?! That is a howler! He had accomplished nothing at the point in October 2009 when he was awarded the Prize. Incomplete? He had been in office nine months and made a few speeches, but he had not accomplished anything of substance that could vaguely be interpreted as leading to peace.

    • You are wrong, Joe. I did read the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's statement awarding Obama the prize. If you read it carefully, every word of it is a slap at former President Bush. Moreover, it is stretched to the point of lauding Obama not for anything he accomplished, but for his rhetoric alone regarding "dialogue," "negotiations," "the United Nations," etc.

      I am certainly not defending Bush, but it is pretty clear that the Prize was awarded to Obama to make a point regarding the Committee's opinion of Bush. It's not the first time the Peace Prize has been awarded for political reasons.

    • "Bill, if the U.S. and Iran forge a partnership, Iran’s regional interest (being the greatest regional power) ceases to be contrary to American interests, and becomes a means of promoting them."

      You have unwarranted faith that the US and Iran will forge an alliance (or as you call now call it, a "partnership"), Joe. First of all, you are leaving Iran's decision-makers out of your equation. You seem to think that because you think it would be a good thing, it will just happen, regardless of whether or not Iran shares your enthusiasm for an alliance.

      Secondly, you mistakenly define a US "partnership" with Iran as meaning that all of Iran's interests in the Near East will cease to be contrary to US interests. Really? For starters, just look at our close relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have had a 70-year relationship with Saudi Arabia in which we have had strong, shared interests in the Near East, particularly with regard to oil and in maintaining stability. But at the same time we have very divergent interests when it comes to Syria, Egypt, the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, and other issues.

      On what basis do you conclude that Iran's interests will "cease to be contrary to US interests"? Even more to the point, on what basis do you conclude that Iran will see US interests as aligned with its own interests in the region? You have indicated in previous posts that you foresee a US-Iranian "alliance" as important as the US-led NATO alliance of the Cold War. The two situations are completely different.

      I can see an eventual normalization of relations with Iran. But an alliance "as important as NATO" is not in the cards. Why would we do it? To align ourselves with the Shiites against Sunnis? If you follow the subtleties of actors in the region, you will note that there is a proxy war being waged between Shiites and Sunnis. Do you really want the US to get involved in that? Far better that the US have normal relations and pursue our interests with all states in the region, but that we not favor one or the other in sectarian or other conflicts.

    • There are many reasons why a US-Iranian alliance would be problematic. You bring up one concerning Turkey. Another is Iran might have something to say about it. And it is a real stretch to think that the US and Iran have the same interests and goals in the Near East.

    • "Will Kerry and Rouhani be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?"

      Way too early for that, Mark. Let's wait and see how things shape up a year from now before going down that road. Just because Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for having accomplished absolutely nothing to deserve it (the Nobel Committee obviously wanted to demonstrate displeasure with former President Bush), doesn't mean they should make an equally hasty and misguided decision now. Let's see if a final agreement is reached that warrants the prize.

    • Today, on ABC's "This Week," John Kerry was asked about Israel's objection to the preliminary agreement with Iran. Kerry fell back on that nauseating refrain he uses every time Israel is brought up in the conversation by once again (for the third? fourth? time) parroting the phrase that there is "no daylight" between the US and Israel. The precise quote is below.

      "Israel and the United States absolutely share the same goal here. There is no daylight between us with respect to what we want to achieve, at this point."

      Would that were only the case!

    • It is certainly a good first step as a confidence-building measure. The test will come in a year's time when the final agreement is to be in place. We will then know if Iran is serious about reining in its nuclear program to meet Western concerns.

      Nevertheless, even if the final agreement satisfies our goals regarding Iran's nuclear program, it will not lead to anything resembling an American-Iranian alliance. We are not natural allies, as Iran and the United States will always have different priorities in the region. That does not mean we can't have normal relations, but normal relations don't necessarily lead to alliances. And we will not want to jeopardize relations with key Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

      Frankly, I will be very pleased if we can reach an agreement with Iran that eventually leads to normal relations. We don't necessarily need to be allies.

  • Tim Berners-Lee Warns "Tide of Surveillance and Censorship" threatens Democracy
  • Does Syria Stalemate Benefit Baath Regime?
    • There is an old counter-insurgency maxim that states: "The guerrilla wins if he does not lose, while The conventional force loses if it does not win."

      I think that is true over the long-term. Nevertheless, in the case of Syria, the stalemate definitely benefits Assad in the short-term, as it enables him to hang onto power longer than would otherwise be the case.

  • CIA drone strikes Militant Seminary in Pakistan Proper, Killing 6 (Ross)
    • John Kerry does have a long history of gaffes, and Pakistani officials are always making some noise about "ending drone strikes." I don't place much credibility in either of them, Kerry or Pakistani officials.

      When the targets' significance reaches a point where they are not important enough to offset any bilateral damage that might ensue, the drone strikes will cease. That is a given. but I would not bet that point has been been reached yet.

      Your comment suggesting that I "have a great deal of ginned-up hostility left over from the 2004 campaign" does not deserve a response, as you have no idea what my position was in 2004. I view Kerry as one of our dimmer diplomatic bulbs based on his record. It has nothing to do with 2004. You, however, seem to be borrowing a page from Mr. McPhee's playbook in your attempt to ascribe to me thoughts and actions that lie only in your imagination.

    • "Good news."

      Very good news indeed, that as many as six Haqqani commanders appear to have been killed in the strike. I would not place much credibility in any "cryptic comment" made by John Kerry, however, or that drone strikes might be coming to an end in Pakistan. I think the strikes will continue as long as anti-US militants in the region continue to justify them.

  • Tony Blair let the American NSA Spy on Millions of Britons and Store their Private Data
    • "Tony Blair let NSA spy on British citizens. It is a sure sign of a dying empire."

      I hate to break this news to you, Mr. Shahid, but the British Empire has effectively been dead for 60 years.

  • US seeks Broad Powers, Immunity for post-2014 Troops in Afghanistan (Lazare)
    • Foreign governments have the option of accepting or rejecting SOFAs, Mr. McPhee. No one is compelled to accept a SOFA.

    • "There are no loyal, patriotic Aghans invited to the conference, who might throw a wrench in the machinery."

      Please describe a "loyal, patriotic Afghan," Brian, as opposed to ethnic Pashtuns, Hazaras, Tadjiks, Turkmen, etc. who owe primary allegiance to their ethnic and tribal leaders, as opposed to a central Afghan government in Kabul. And what makes you think the members of the Loya Jirga will approve this particular measure because it has been "choreographed and rehearsed"? Did you attend the rehearsal dinner?

      Don't you think that even this group, owing allegiance to their ethnic and tribal sub-groups, might see some value in the security the US troops provide? Or do you think Afghans lack any agency to make decisions on their own behalf. Do you consider them children, incapable of determining what they might perceive to be in their own best interest? Talk about a Western, condescending attitude toward what you seem to consider "lesser breeds," as Kipling might have put it!

    • SOFAs, as well as other and bilateral agreements, SOFAs, and international agreements, are concluded between governments of the concerned countries. That has always been, and continues to be, the case. (International Relations 101.)

    • "In order to divide and conquer the region, the Brits split Afghan country into two parts, taking one for the colony India. That part torn from A’stan (in the minds of the colonial masters) we now call what ? Khyber Paktunkhwa?"

      The British had nothing to do with splitting what they termed the Northwest Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) from Afghanistan. From the 18th century until the early 19th, the region was part of the Afghan Durrani kingdom. In the 1820s, the Sikh Ruler Ranjit Singh, taking advantage of internal Afghan chaos, took the province and annexed it to his own empire based in the Punjab.

      Khyber Paktunkhwa only came under British rule after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1848-49. The British prevailed in that war, and the Punjab, along with its incorporated territory (now Khyber Paktunkhwa), became a part of British India. But it was Ranjit Singh who split it from Afghanistan and made it a part of his empire, not the British.

    • "Bill says immunity of US [US!] troops from local law is “nothing special.” Ask a lot of residents of Guam and Japan and Korea and the Philippines and various central and South American and African places whether they agree."

      There obviously is agreement with the Status-of-Forces Agreements between the United States and the countries where we operate, Mr. McPhee. If these countries had not agreed to the SOFAs, we would not be operating on their territory.

    • "It seems to me that the “…or else…” clause here is “…or we won’t keep troops in the country past 2014,” which throws a bit of a wrench into “imperialist occupation” narrative."

      You responded to my comment with the above-cited quote, Joe, and I think we are in agreement. You challenge the notion that the United States is presenting Karzai and the Afghans with the "fait accompli" of "occupation," and so do I in my comment suggesting it is the Afghan's choice to make. Just to clarify, I hope you are directing your comment at others' posts and not to mine.



    • President Hamid Karzai and the scheduled Loya Jirga are in the driver's seat here. If they are convinced that the security situation in Afghanistan requires the continued presence of troops, they can approve the agreement. If they think the stipulation that US troops be allowed to enter Afghan homes and the clause granting US troops immunity from Afghan law is too onerous, they can reject it. No one is forcing them to agree. It is their decision to make.

      The clause granting US troops immunity from Afghan law is nothing special. Status-of-Forces agreements have been in effect in most places where US troops have been stationed: Germany, France, Japan, Korea, and any number of other places. These Status-of-Forces agreements always include a section granting US troops immunity from local laws, unless the US Government waives it. Instead, the US treats any violations of local law under US law and the Uniform Code of military Justice (UCMJ).

  • Syrian Civil War Spreads to Lebanon: Beirut Shaken by Iran Embassy Blast, kills 23, wounds 150
    • The topic of this post is Iran's false allegation that Israel was responsible for the blast. Your attempt to run interference for Iran by bringing up Israeli misdeeds does nothing to increase Iranian credibility (or your own). One does not clean one's own laundry by pointing out the dirt in others'

    • For the Iranians to blame Israel for the attack, rather than the Sunni Al-Qaeda affiliate that they know launched it, is absurd and simply demonstrates that Iran will go to any lengths to blame Israel for anything that happens. It also demonstrates a complete lack of moral courage that they cannot bring themselves to blame the true culprits because they are afraid it may upset the Sunnis. This response on the part of Iran shows a lack of moral and intellectual courage, and it further undermines Iranian credibility.

  • Egypt: Youth Remember Martyrs, Reject both Army and Muslim Brotherhood
    • "And those “United States interests” would be just what, again? Not much to do with “stability”"

      Actually, US interests have a lot to do with stability in the Near East. You really need to get off your hobby horse and get out more.

    • "So what should happen to the Muslim Brotherhood? Like it or not, they represent a substantial portion of the population. If there’s going to be anything resembling a democratic process, they will have to be included in it."

      They already were included in the "democratic process" after the fall of Mubarak. They won the election and then proceeded to undermine the very process that brought them to power. To answer your above-cited question, they should be included in any future political process when they learn to act like a democratic party, and not like the "Eastern European stealth Stalinists of the 1940s," as so aptly described by Professor Cole.

    • "It isn’t your, or my, choice. It’s the Egyptians’."

      And the majority of Egyptians made their choice: to support the ouster of Morsi. Their choice, by the way, also happens to be in alignment with United States interests, a happy coincidence.

    • "The proper alternative to military rule is the return of the elected government."

      You are referring, of course, to Morsi, who after being elected President and taking office, immediately began to take measures to undermine the very democratic system that brought him to power. It would have been folly for the Egyptians to stand by while Morsi attempted to dismantle democratic institutions that would have rendered the possibility of removing him in a future election moot. Given the choice, it is better that Egypt have a secular authoritarian government than an Islamic one.

  • The Coming Drone Wars: Iran Unveils its own Drone, with a 1200-mile Range
    • "me, I’m wondering more what Americans will think if Iran deploys these drones to Cuba."

      Not a chance of that happening, Brian. Cuba would not allow it to happen, as Cuba does not want to upset the developing, delicate, unofficial relationship that has been brewing between Cuba and the United States the past few years. That is why Snowden could not reach Venezuela or Ecuador from Moscow. He would have had to transit Havana, and the Cubans refused to grant him a transit visa in order not to worsen relations with the US.

  • State of Emergency in Libyan Capital as More Militia Clashes Break Out
    • "By that definition, many might question how the US is characterized. Surely not as a “democracy?”"

      There is no "perfect" democracy, and the United States certainly is not perfect by any means. Nevertheless, those who question the United States' democratic credentials demonstrate their willingness (almost glee!) to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

      On a comparative basis, they also, for the most part, demonstrate that they have not gotten out much and lived in places that really are authoritarian. I doubt that anyone posting on this blog who lives in the US has heard the "Midnight Knock on the Door." Nor do I imagine anyone launching tirades against the US has been denied the right to vote in elections. If I am wrong, I would be interested in hearing the aggrieved party's story.

    • George C. Marshall would have been smart enough to avoid involvement in Libya.

    • "The Libyan government isn’t an electoral democracy? You sure about that? You seem to have confused the strength of a government with its ideological and organizational basis. If a government is weak it can’t be a democracy?"

      The confusion exists among those who simplistically think that one or two elections define a democracy. A democracy consists of much more than a couple of elections. It is defined by a whole set of institutions such as rule of law, a functioning judicial system, a transparent political process, a reasonable ability to extend the government's writ to outlying areas of the country, and a whole host of measures that are commonly agreed upon and accepted by both the government and the governed.

      The measure of a democracy has nothing to do with whether a government is, relatively speaking, weak or strong. But a government that cannot even provide security in its capital city and is subject to opponents controlling key cities (or denying government control) is certainly not a "democracy" except in the imagination of those who would avert their eyes from reality. A quick review of Poly Sci 101 might be in order here, not to mention a review of the development of democracies throughout history.

    • Thanks for the correction, Tinwoman. I obviously was too tired to "marshal" the English language and take it into battle, as was once said of Churchill's speeches during World War II.

    • Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan's imposition of a "State of Emergency" is risible on the face of it. States of Emergency and Marshall Law are usually declared by leaders who have the means to enforce them, something the Libyan government has demonstrated time and again it lacks. The Prime Minister sitting in his office in Tripoli with little means to enforce laws and ensure security in much of Tripoli, much less the rest of Libya, appears to be no more in control of Libya than Hamid Karzai appears to be in control of Afghanistan outside of Kabul.

      If things continue along this line, Libya may descend to the level of a failed state like Somalia. The difference would be Somalia, for much of its recent history, lacked much of anything resembling a government in place, while Libya could crash and burn masquerading as a "democracy," even if that means an impotent regime unable to govern.

  • 43 Dead, 500 Wounded in Tripoli attack by militia on peaceful Protesters
    • This is one more example (among many) of the Libyan government's inability to impose control over its own territory. The much-vaunted "Arab Spring" has been shown to have been a triumph of wishful thinking over reality. Post-Mubarak Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have seen to that. There are those who (laughably) still insist on calling Libya a democracy. Libya possesses none of the institutional attributes of a democracy and, frankly, probably would be better off under an authoritarian government that possessed the means to bring a measure of security and well-being to the Libyan people.

  • Our Gasoline thirst fuels Mideast Fundamentalism, Violence - EVs are the Answer
    • I take your point, Professor Cole, but that would be the case even if the United States drastically reduced Persian Gulf imports, as China, India, and others would simply take up the slack. The "Curse of Oil" in the region, as you correctly identify it, would still exist just as it does now. The worldwide market would see to that.

    • I seriously doubt that United States imports of Persian Gulf oil is a primary cause of Islamic fundamentalism, authoritarianism, and violence. I would make two points.

      First, the primary cause of Islamic fundamentalism and violence is a basic inability of adherents to come to terms with modernity. The oil business represents a part of that modernity, but only a part. Islamic fundamentalist simply cannot come to terms with the overarching modern world.

      Second, the United States imports more oil from both Canada and Latin America (primarily Mexico and Venezuela) than it does from the Persian Gulf. And if the US were to cease importing Persian Gulf oil, the slack would be taken up by the rising economic powers of China and India. Moreover, the Oil market is an intertwined world market. One cannot just consider output and pricing in, say, Saudi Arabia. The worldwide oil market does not work that way.

  • Is the White House Right that More Iran Sanctions put US on "Path to War?"
    • "I really see no reason for Iran to make major compromise to their nuclear program."

      They, of course, do not have to compromise. And if they choose not to compromise, they can live with the consequences of that choice, i.e., the application of even greater sanctions. It is Iran's choice.

    • The United States definitely should give these negotiations with Iran, under the Rouhani presidency, an honest chance to succeed. Nevertheless, we should be prepared to recognize that, as it has done in the past, particularly with the earlier EU negotiations,Iran may use the negotiations as a stalling tactic with no intention of making major compromises on its nuclear program. This could happen under Rouhani, as he is not the ultimate authority. We need to engage Iran with eyes wide open.

      Regarding sanctions, any attempt to clap additional sanctions on Iran while we are engaged in negotiations should be vigorously opposed by the Obama Administration. But we should not lift sanctions, even partially, as a compromise to assuage Iran. Once lifted, it would be very difficult to get the UNSC and the EU to reinstate sanctions, should Iran not follow through with meaningful steps regarding its nuclear program.

      Instead, we should suspend the sanctions that are in place. By suspending sanctions, rather than lifting them, we could reimpose them easily without UNSC or other approval, as a suspension means they remain in place but in a state of suspense for a period of time, as opposed to lifting or doing away with them. Thus, if Iran balks at any real progress, the sanctions could be easily reimposed. That would have the benefit of giving Iran an incentive to negotiate responsibly, while giving the P5 plus 1 the ability to reimpose sanctions if they don't.

  • How America's Global Surveillance Empire made it a Helpless Giant (Engelhardt)
    • "The oversimplification and obfuscation almost takes one’s breath away…"

      I could not have picked a better description of your comment. If you cannot distinguish between direct, colonial rule while establishing an influx of settlers from bilateral relations with sovereign governments, I am afraid there is little more to be said. The first rule of a decent debate is to agree on basic definitions. Direct colonial rule vs. relations with sovereign governments? That's an easy one.

    • "I have done a bunch of that reading you suggest, and while those who still believe in “Ameircan exceptionalism” can make plausible-sounding arguments along the lines you lay out so very proficiently."

      You obviously have either misread or do not understand my point. I am not making a case for American exceptionalism. I am drawing a distinction between British and French colonialism in Kenya and Algeria respectively, and American foreign policy that enters into relationships with other governments.

      What is "laughably naive propaganda," to use your phrase, is your belief that there is little difference between ruling colonies and establishing settlers in places like Kenya and Algeria, and looking out after the national interest in relations with Near Eastern countries that have their own sovereign governments. If you have done a "bunch" of reading, as you say, perhaps you should widen your sources.

    • "Maybe we need to spend less energy overseas fighting wars and more energy here at home fixing our real problems."

      I am talking about one aspect of counter-terrorism policy, targeting terrorists who plan and, if not pursued and neutralized, could execute attacks against the US and its interests. I'm not talking about "fighting wars," such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

      I agree that there are problems here at home that need fixing. But fixing problems at home and engaging in counter-terrorism efforts are not mutually exclusive. We can do both.

    • To suggest that the British in Kenya and the French in Algeria parallel United States involvement in the Near East is to reveal an ahistorical mind. You are comparing imperial powers that governed those colonies with the US and Near Eastern countries cooperating out of mutual interest. The US did not, and does not, control Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, or any of a dozen others.

      I would be glad to suggest some good reading on British and French imperial history, as well as on United States foreign relations in the Near East. I think you would then be able to draw a clear distinction between British and French colonial policy on the one hand, and American foreign policy on the other.

    • "Why then are we like a paranoid gun nut holed up in his bunker engaged in “targeted killings” of those our fevered mind has inflated to the status of world menace?"

      Speaking of a "fevered mind," the above-cited quote is a good example of one at work. The United States engages in targeted killings, not because the targets have been "inflated to the status of world menace," but because the targets have demonstrated time and again their intention and capacity to plan and execute attacks against the United States and its interests. Calmer minds call that self defense.

  • Top 10 Ways to Really Honor our Veterans
    • Not one square inch of Germany experienced fighting in World War I. Germany surrendered unconditionally in World War II. The first had the effect of the German public, political and military classes believing they had been "stabbed in the back," and led to rearmament and World War II. The second had the effect of completely remaking Germany into a peaceful, productive player in Europe and the world.

      The lesson here is that it may well have been better for Germany to have been totally defeated in World War I, and that the Americans, British, and French may have been correct in wanting to continue into Germany.

    • Your constant drumbeat that "White Americans" are responsible for all of the ills of the world and the United States got stale long ago. It reveals far more about your pathologies than it does about white Americans, or any other Americans for that matter.

  • Commemoration of Kristallnacht in Berlin
    • The attempt to draw a parallel between Kristallnacht and the 1982 attack on Sabra and Shatila is so overstretched as to be ludicrous on the face of it.

  • France Crashes the Geneva Party, Scuttles Iran Deal
    • For someone who is always quick to criticize the United States, you appear to be equally quick to be the apologist for France, e.g., Hollande is "NOT representative of the majority." The French voted Hollande into office just as surely as the Americans voted George W. Bush and Barack Obama into office. Perhaps you should look in the mirror before applying a double standard when judging the United States as opposed to France.

  • US loses UNESCO Voting Rights: How Kow-Towing to Israeli Policy Weakens America
    • "The promised withdrawal was only one of several reasons Obama was re-elected. Another was that he was seen as the lesser evil."

      Far from it, Mr. Bodden. Obama was re-elected because his supporters almost unanimously approved of him in a positive sense, not because they saw him as the "lesser evil." Don't project your own Narrative onto others.

    • "I think that you are giving G. C. Marshall too much credit. Yes he did have some foresight, in that he was only concerned with upsetting the oil-rich monarchs."

      Secretary of State George C. Marshall deserves full credit for having the foresight to see where United States interests actually lay. Every country in the world looks after its own national interests, and that's where Marshall and the State Department had it right with regard to U.S. national interests.

      "Along with Turkey and Iran, Israel was policing the Middle East and controlling the region on behalf of the US and England."

      Turkey has been a strong NATO ally of the U.S. in many areas of the world. Iran, under the "Nixon Doctrine," was to become a force for U.S. interests in the Near East.

      You have it wrong, however, that Israel advanced U.S. interests by "policing" the Near East on behalf of the U.S. There is no way that Israel has advanced U.S. interests in the Near East that would not have been much more advanced were the U.S. dealing with the Arab World without the burden placed upon it by having to consider Israel. Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been a burden, not a boon, to the U.S. in the region.

    • I have stated it many times, but it bears repeating. Israel is no "cat's paw" for US interests in the Near East. That everyone from Bush to Obama, and every President before them (not to mention Congress), ritually repeats the mantra that Israel is the only democracy in the region and that Israel's interests are our interests are simply blowing hot air. United States interests in the Near East do not lie with Israel. Israel is a burden, not a boon, to the US pursuit of its interests in the region.

      Secretary of State George C. Marshall and the State Department recognized that Israel would be a thorn in both the region and in the side of the US when President Truman was advised to withhold diplomatic recognition of the new state of Israel in 1948. It has proven to be a thorn in the US side every since. Our interests in the Near East have not been well-served by running interference for Israel in the United Nations and elsewhere.

  • Top Reasons Israel's Likud Really Opposes an Iran Nuclear Deal
    • "Realignment away from the Sunni states is happening anyway, Bill. Look at the divisions over Syria. Look at the mess in Egypt."

      The divisions over Syria represent a temporary split in the perceived interests of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the one hand, and the United States on the other. Syria has not been, and will not be, the catalyst for a long-term realignment. As for Egypt, it has been the chaos and turmoil of Morsi's short reign and the military government that succeeded it that has disrupted US-Egyptian relations. But, again, it does not represent a long-term realignment. Our strategic interests in the Near East will certainly include Egypt in the future, as they do now. Egypt is the most important Arab government in the region. A rapprochement with Iran is no substitute for strategic interests in and relations with both.

      I don't understand what you mean by stating, "And finally, look at that massive terrorist attack we endured on 9/11 from opponents of those Sunni Arab states (all 19 of the hijackers came from KSA, Egypt, and the UAE.) That they all came from Sunni Arab states has nothing to do with US relations and interests with those states. Nor should the terrorists' provenance have any influence on our relations with and interests in those states. United States foreign policy and relations with particular states are not driven by terrorists (unless they are state-sponsored, of course, which they were not in this case).

      Regarding making "allies" of the states you mentioned: Turkey already is a NATO ally with several US bases in the country; even if a rapprochement with Iran were to take place, it will be a long process, and it would be a much longer time before Iran comes close to anything like the alliance we had prior to 1979. Regarding the new "democratic" states of Libya and Tunisia, they are far from democratic, and their current instability would not make them suitable as allies. Libya is hardly in control of its own territory and cannot function as a truly viable state, and Tunisia is hardly better. They both have a long way to go. Democracy is much more than an election or two; it involves a whole set of institutions--judicial, legal, political, and economic--that take time to develop. Neither Libya nor Tunisia are close yet.

      In short, the United States will eventually get over this rough patch with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the rest, while possibly developing a rapprochement with Iran (if Iran wants it, by the way) at the same time. The Sunni Arab states are still important to US interests, and they will continue to be, regardless how Iran plays out.

    • I agree, Joe, that the Obama Administration wants to work out a deal with Iran that includes both non-proliferation and a rapprochement. Nevertheless, I do not think this policy envisions a realignment away from the Sunni Arab states. Nor do I think it should.

      There is no reason why we should distance ourselves from the Sunni Arab states while pursuing a rapprochement with Iran. It is in the United States' political and economic interests to have good relations with all states in the region, Sunni and Shia Arab, as well as Shia Iran. This would allow a much greater flexibility on the part of the US than just aligning ourselves with one or the other.

  • It wasn't Arafat who was Assassinated but the Palestinian People
    • The article was in the "World News" section, Mr. McPhee, and it detailed the findings of the Swiss Experts. The point is Mr. MacIntyre's comment above that, "It is only Americans who are being kept in the dark." is simply not the case. I imagine that many other newspapers ran the story as well. Americans were not "kept in the dark," by the media. Surely even you can see that, having apparently read the online edition. What more is there to report, other than the Swiss findings? It is not the job of news media to speculate.

    • "Why would that be in Russia’s interest?"

      I did not state that it would be in Russia's interest. I referred to post-Soviet oligarchs and thugs, not the Russian government. One must distinguish between the two.

    • "This is an unusually speculative comment by someone who is fact-based in most of his comments. Elaborate?"

      If you are referring to my comment above, RBTL, I am simply basing it on the Swiss expert's report that the investigation "moderately supported" their conclusion. "Moderate support" is far from a categorical conclusion.

    • The Polonium poisoning story was covered in detail in today's (November 7) edition of the Washington Post. The American media (at least elements of it) are not ignoring the story.

    • Your attempt to put words in my mouth by suggesting I said "there's no proof" that Arafat was poisoned fails on the face of it, Mr. McPhee. I simply stated that the Swiss investigators performing the investigation did not categorically conclude death by poison. Their report states that tests on Arafat’s exhumed remains and effects "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with Polonium-210."

      If you think a report that "moderately supports" any conclusion amounts to iron-clad evidence and a categorical conclusion, you have no concept of the rules of logic or evidence. Moreover, you apparently have no problem in going beyond the findings of the Swiss team itself in your attempt to turn their tentative conclusion into a categorical fact (in your own mind) in order to fit your preconceived Narrative.

    • "But who among Arafat’s non-Israeli enemies would have been capable of getting access to polonium?"

      I don't know, but it seems to me the post-Soviet oligarchs and thugs might have had access to polonium and would have had no scruples about selling some to a Palestinian rival of Arafat. I'm not saying it happened; just offering a possible alternative to an Israeli operation.

    • Yasser Arafat may well have been poisoned with Polonium-210, and I certainly would not be surprised if Israeli Intelligence did it. Nevertheless, neither proposition is an open-and-shut case. The Swiss experts performing the investigation did not categorically conclude death by poison. Their report states that tests on Arafat's exhumed remains and effects "moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with Polonium-210."

      Moreover, the Swiss investigators noted that Polonium-210 decays rapidly; that Arafat's remains were collected eight years after his death; that no autopsy was performed at the time of his death; and that polonium poisoning usually is accompanied by hair loss and immune suppression, which apparently was not the case with Arafat.

      We probably will never know with categorical certainty whether or not Arafat was poisoned. But if he were poisoned, the Israelis would be the most likely suspects. They would not be the only ones, however. Arafat had many enemies within the Palestinian movement itself, and it is not beyond the pale to suggest that a rival, or rivals, poisoned him, if indeed he was poisoned.

  • Israelis plan new Colonies, Oil Drilling, on Palestinian Land during "Peace Talks"
    • I am well aware of the history of the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian history of armistices and cease-fires, and the United States' role in each. That's not the issue under discussion. Those Armistice and cease-fire agreements do not come close to the effort required to gain mutual agreement on the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. That is something neither the US, nor the EU, nor Russia, nor anyone else can accomplish for the two parties. It will only happen if both Israel and the Palestinians genuinely will it to happen.

      The US and the EU will have a role, but the major role will be played by Israel and the Palestinians, if it is to result in a successful conclusion. If they are not genuinely engaged, it will not happen, regardless of US and EU efforts.

    • I agree that the US is a factor, but it is only one factor, and not even the most important one. What I object to is the idea that the US is the one indispensable element required to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine. I object on two grounds.

      A. Such thinking way overestimates the ability of the US to force others to comply when they do not share the US vision and have their own agendas.

      B. Even more important, such thinking denies the parties--the Israelis and Palestinians--any agency to act on their own behalf. It lets each party off the hook when things don't turn out to either party's satisfaction, and they (both of them) respond by blaming the US for their own failure. This has happened time and again.

      Thus, I am convinced that peace will not be achieved until and unless both parties really want negotiations to succeed. The US cannot do it for them.

    • "The key to lasting peace in Israel/Palestine lies, of course, in the US,..."

      The key to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace does not lie in the US. Too much is made of the US's influence, in the Near East and elsewhere. Egypt, Libya, and Syria should provide sufficient enough examples to dispel the fanciful notion that the United States can bend forces to its will and "make things happen." There will be no lasting peace until both of the parties themselves decide they want peace.

      As long as one or both of the parties persists in imposing a hardline on the other, peace will not be achieved. Peace, like development and democracy, is only achieved when the parties themselves want it. Neither the United States, nor the European Union, nor Russia, nor anyone else can do it for them.

    • Israel has been violating the laws governing military occupation for 46 years. Israeli governments have been committed to building housing settlements on the West Bank from the beginning, with the goal of creating irreversible "facts on the ground" that they have no intention of removing.

      The official United States position has always been to oppose the settlements, but each administration, Republican and Democratic, has done nothing that would actually put a bite on Israel. Instead, our leaders talk about there being "no daylight" between the US and Israel.

      This is a case of the US working against its own best interests. The much-maligned US State Department recognized this in 1948 when, under Secretary of State George C. Marshall, it recommended to President Truman to withhold official recognition of the new Israeli state. Marshall and the State Department understood that Israel represented a foreign object in the fabric of the Arab Near East. Unfortunately, Truman succombed to the forces pushing for recognition. Israel has had its way with the US ever since, save for the cojones displayed by President Eisenhower when he forcefully denounced the joint British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 and made them pull back.

      In terms of US interests alone, our unequivocal support of Israel has been disastrous. Our interests lie as much or more with the Arab World as they do with Israel. And that means we should maintain decent relations with Egypt under the current military run government, as well as Saudi Arabia and other states that may not have pristine examples of democratic governments. There are those who think the US uses Israel as its "cat's paw" in the Arab World. We do not. Israel is a foreign policy burden, not a boon, for the US in the region.

  • CIA Drone Kills Pakistan Taliban Leader on Eve of Peace talks with Islamabad
    • "do you maybe want to go back and edit that? “We are not bombing Pakistan.”

      Absolutely not, Brian. It may be difficult for you to distinguish between "bombing Pakistan," i.e., targeting a country; and targeting specific terrorist operatives within Pakistan, i.e., targeting individuals, but rest assured, there is a difference. I understand that is difficult for some to comprehend.

    • Interestingly, Mr. McPhee, nothing in your comment attempting to challenge me personally ("stands among Sneaky Pete's," etc.) has the slightest application to my actual comment regarding attempts to compare Hakimullah Mehsud with a "moderate Hamas diplomat." Does it ever occur to you to stay on point?

    • Brian,

      I will respond to your lengthy, multi-chaptered comments with what I hope will be more pithy bullets below.

      A. There are terrorists and there are terrorists. Menachim Begin was certainly one who later became Israeli Prime Minister and signed the Camp David Accords. Yassir Arafat was a terrorist who could not rise to the level of statesman. Hakimullah Mehsud lacked even the stature of a Yassir Arafat.

      B. The term "terrorist" does not mean simply an "adversary of the US." That is a definition you apparently would like to charge as being held by those with whom you disagree. It doesn't work, Brian. Moreover, suggesting that the Taliban attacking civilians in Las Vegas is even remotely symmetrical to the US drone program is just one more false equivalency. The US drone program does not target civilians.

      C. We have no "beef with the Pashtun people," nor are we "forcing them into subjugation." That kind of analysis is the product of a fevered imagination. Our "beef," as you put it, is with terrorists who happen to operate in the FATA. And they use the Pashtuns as cover. It is an unfortunate reality that both we and the Pakistani Government must recognize as the operating environment.

    • "And it’s all perfectly legal, right?"

      Yes, under international law, the United Nations Charter, and the Law of War, it is all perfectly legal. I need not go over the specifics, which I have covered in numerous previous posts.

    • Hakimullah Mehsud was one of the US's most wanted terrorists since he was implicated in 2009 in the suicide bombing of the US outpost in Khost, Eastern Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of the seven Americans. The US had a $5 million bounty on him, and, ironically, the Pakistani Government had a Rs50 million ($600,000) bounty on him. He was a very high profile terrorist, and his death need not be mourned. It is doubtful that he would have negotiated anything in good faith that would have led to a genuine peace between the Pakistani Government and the Taliban.

  • "Disposition Matrix": America's Drone Wars and Civilian Casualties (Moyers)
    • Robert Greenwald worked with Congressman Alan Grayson to bring the Pakistani family to the US for Congressional testimony. Greenwald (and others) continue to shamelessly use the inadvertent killing of the grandmother, Mamana Bibi, to advance their own agenda, and in the specific case of Greenwald, to promote his film.

  • Pakistani family testifies to empty room on Hill about US Drone that killed Granny
    • "Truman’s justification for the second nuke strike, the one on Nagasaki, was that it would terrorize the Japanese civilian population into withdrawing support for defending their own homeland against ground invasion by untermenschen."

      Brian, Truman ordered the second bomb on Nagasaki to convince the Emperor and the Japanese War Cabinet that continuation of the war was futile, in the hopes that they would capitulate, making an invasion of the home islands unnecessary. Although the War Cabinet wanted to continue, the Emperor decided to surrender. The bomb had nothing to do with the civilian population withdrawing support for defending the home islands. The civilian population's support, or lack thereof, did not enter into the thinking of the Emperor, the War Cabinet, or the High Command.

    • Just to clarify, Brian and Mr. McPhee, the "Bill" who posted the link to the "Economist" article is someone else calling himself "Bill." I am the Bill who has been posting here for a lengthy period of time and with whom you both generally disagree. By the way, I posted the comment below concerning the Washington Post article on the Pakistani Defense Ministry's much lower estimates of civilian drone casualties.

      I have no idea who the "Bill" is who posted the "Economist" article, but he has nothing to do with me.



    • It hardly matters. The Pakistanis have tacitly agreed to the drone strikes, so whether Pakistani jets or US drones did it, it is unfortunate either way.

      What is unstated here is that it was not only Congressman Alan Grayson who brought the Pakistani family before the hearing, but also Robert Greenwald, the documentary filmmaker who has a soon to be released documentary on drones. Is it coincidental that Greenwald is involved? Or might he be drumming up advanced support for his documentary?

      A few days ago, there was a post in this blog that detailed the Amnesty International report on the death of the grandmother, Mamana Bibi. A quote from that post is cited below.

      "Amnesty researchers spoke to Pakistani intelligence sources who said that a local Taliban fighter had used a satellite phone on a road close to where Mamana Bibi was killed about 10 minutes before the strike. The sources said they were not aware of the reason for the old woman’s killing but assumed it was related to the Taliban fighter’s proximity to her."

      The death of Mamana Bibi demonstrates what we all know: that there are unfortunate civilian casualties as a result of the drone program. To suggest, however, that Mamana Bibi was deliberately targeted is a baseless fabrication.

  • Elites Stick together against Us: Feinstein Slams NSA Merkel Tap
    • "Imperialism IS racism. Racial supremacy is the justification for empires past and present."

      I assume that you would apply your above-cited statement to the Muslim empire created by the Arab-Muslim conquest of the Near East, North Africa, Sicily, and Spain during the seventh and eighth centuries as well?

    • "The Great White North."

      Does "The Great White North" include those racists living in the Northern Hemisphere such as the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Mongolians? Are you sure you know what contstitutes "The North," much less what constitutes "racism"? Racism? Have you ever looked into the immigration policies of the above-cited nations? Do you think Japan and China encourage immigration from countries that would dilute their homogeneity?

  • No Woman, No Drive (Saudi Satire Video)
    • Perhaps Saudi women should take a page from Aristphanes' fifth century BC Greek play "Lysistrata," in which Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers until they negotiate an end to the Peloponnesian War. Saudi Women could withhold sexual privileges from their husbands until they agree to allow them to have driving privileges.

  • America's Secret 4th Branch of Government: The NSA kept even Obama in the Dark
    • To suggest that Spitzer was not responsible for his own downfall because he was "caught," via monitoring his bank account, violating the very laws against "Johns" and prostitution that he himself championed in New York is tantamount to absolving an armed robber of responsibility for knocking off a Seven-Eleven because he was "caught" in the act by a surveillance camera. Spitzer has no one to blame but himself.

    • "Eliot Spitzer was only one lawyer who fought government misconduct and became a target."

      Targeted by whom? Spitzer was not brought down by the Feds. Spitzer was out to make a name for himself with his indictments, many of which were, in whole or in part, later overturned, by the way. Not only that, he was personally a hypocrite. You will recall that Spitzer pushed for a tougher law in New York against "Johns" frequenting prostitutes, the very act in which Spitzer was caught and which led to his downfall. Spitzer's wounds were all self-inflicted.

    • The United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs has nothing to do with intelligence matters in general or the NSA in particular. That would be the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

    • Even though you left the United States, unless you renounced your US citizenship, it is still your country of citizenship as well, Mr. Arn Varnold. If that is the case, does your self-righteous call of "Shame on you all," apply to you as well? Does the question, "Just what the hell do you all think is going on in your country," apply to you as well? Or, like members of Congress who exempt themselves from many of the laws they pass, have you exempted yourself from the "shame" you so flagrantly hurl at others?

  • The American Quagmire in Afghanistan by the Numbers (21,565 US Troops Dead or Wounded)
    • Your US Army "policy colonel" may define "nation building" as he sees it, although it appears to me to be a pretty stilted, one-dimensional definition. Nevertheless, I stand by my position that "nation building" by outside forces, whether US or others, whether one-dimensional or multi-dimensional, inevitably fails. And the reason it fails is because the critical mass within the country's own society is insufficient to provide the necessary catalyst for development.

    • But the Taleban did know they were hosting Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps.

    • "You forget conveniently of course that it was Saudi Arabians who flew planes into the World Trade towers and not Afghanis. I haven’t seen any talk of bombing Saudi Arabia in the past 10 years."

      The provenance of the terrorists who attacked the United States has nothing to do with Afghanistan and the ruling Taleban offering safe-haven and training facilities for Al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia was not offering safe-haven to Al-Qaeda and encouraging their terrorist attacks. Afghanistan was, and that makes all the difference.

    • You clearly fail to understand the difference between "counter-insurgency" and "counter-terrorism," Brian. General McChrystal and the US Army were engaged in counter-insurgency, which is one facet of nation-building. He was not running a counter-terrorism campaign. The whole counter-insurgency effort was designed to extend the Afghan central government's reach and authority into the provinces. That is called nation-building.

      That it has failed to produce results is my whole point. Nation-building does not succeed until the critical mass I mentioned above is reached. Afghanistan has a long way to go, and we are not going to make it happen for the Afghans. Nevertheless, we need not continue nation-building in order to take whatever counter-terrorist measures are deemed appropriate to protect the United States and its interests.

    • Professor Cole's post drives home the futility of "nation building." Underdeveloped countries that lack mature political, economic, and legal institutions are "built" into viable, mature nations only when a certain critical mass within the country is reached that spurs such development. That critical mass includes, but is not necessarily limited to, a standard of living that creates a reasonably-sized middle class; a respect for and trust in the rule of law; and the prospect that individuals can engage in economic pursuits of their choice. All of these act as a catalyst for a country's population to demand greater political participation and leadership accountability.

      In spite of all the effort put into "nation building" in Afghanistan by the United States, we will leave the country in 2014 without having created a "nation." The reason is the Afghans lack all of the elements essential to reaching that critical mass that becomes the catalyst for becoming a modern nation with a mature political, economic, and legal system on its own. No amount of money thrown at it; no amount of hectoring on human rights; no amount of building a number of girls' schools; no amount of police trainers; and no amount of "advisors" in various Afghan Ministries are sufficient if the Afghans themselves are not fully engaged and up to snuff, as clearly they are not.

      At the risk of repeating my previous comments on the subject, I fully supported the counter-terrorism measures we employed in Afghanistan and in the FATA of Pakistan. But we could have executed those measures without the full-blown counter-insurgency and "nation building" exercise that has been so costly in lives, money, and materiel, and that predictably will no doubt go down in history (as "nation building" by outsiders always does) as a fool's errand.

  • Is the Arab World turning back to Russia? Egyptian Delegation heads for Moscow
    • "In the 1960s Vietnam’s GNP was just a fraction the United States’ GNP, but nobody with any sense would say the US won that war."

      My comment was in response to Mr. Koroi's unequivocal statement that "In recent years the Chinese GNP has surpassed that of America." In actuality, the American GNP is more than twice that of China. While I agree with your above-cited quote regarding Vietnam, it is a non-sequitur that has nothing to do with the relative GNP of both America and China, which was the original question under consideration.

    • "Because of this suspicion of mine, I think it may be about time for America to shift towards Iran, and let the Russians–naturally a people more comfortable with authoritarianism–take over the American interests in the Arab world."

      America's interests encompass both the Arab World and Iran. There is no reason for America to cede its interests in the Arab World to Russia. That is a blinkered, binary view of international relations and national interest that has no compelling historical precedent. Just as America has relations and interests with both India and Pakistan; and just as America has relations and interests with both Israel and the Arab World; there are equally valid reasons for maintaining and strengthening our ties with the Arab World and Iran.

      Will that mean we occasionally deal with authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, Iran are today? Of course. But we needn't undercut our national interest by ceding authoritarian Arab countries to the Russians in a fit of "moral superiority."

    • It is astonishing how rational thinking goes out the window among some who are enamored of China's rise these days. China is important, and it will become more important. But China is hardly a rival to the US in world power.

      Chinese GNP most definitely has not surpassed that of the Unites States. The figures for 2012 show the US GNP at $15 trillion, while China's GNP was $6 trillion, less than half that of the US.

      As for the contention that recent events in the Middle East demonstrate the emergence of China as a rival to the US as the preeminent world power, China is hardly involved in the Middle East. To what do you attribute your observation? China is nowhere near rivaling the US as a world power, either in soft or hard power.

  • Rights Groups: Some US Drone Strikes are War Crimes (Oldroyd)
    • That terms such as "Unlawful Enemy Combatant," "Security," "Appropriate Measures," and "Proportionate to Military Objective Achieved," appear vague to you, Grumpy Without Coffee, demonstrates a lack of precision in your cognitive understanding, not vagueness in the terms themselves. These terms have been used in defining "Just War" doctrine, as well as in International Law and the Law of War.

      Moreover, your questions regarding International Law and the Law of War: "Whose legal protocols? Who wrote them, and why? What were there motives, and who were the signatories?," demonstrate a misunderstanding of how International Law and the Law of War developed. Neither consists of a set of laws, such as the US Criminal Code, combined in one volume and signed by adherents. They developed through centuries of precedent, much like English Common Law. They are contained in a wide variety of documents, from the various Geneva Conventions to the UN Charter. Together, they comprise the protocols of what we refer to as International Law and the Law of War.

    • You are confusing murder with an unfortunate civilian casualty resulting from a military action. The US is at war with Al-Qaeda and affiliated militant organizations, and international law and the Laws of War apply, not the US Criminal Code.

    • "Only an ignorant idiot doesn’t know the drone strikes are a war crime."

      Those familiar with international law and the Law of War would respectfully disagree with the above-cited statement. Under both legal protocols, drone strikes targeting an Unlawful Enemy Combatant are entirely legal. In such a drone strike, the inadvertent killing of civilians is not considered illegal and a "war crime" as long as appropriate measures were taken to minimize civilian casualties, and as long as such casualties are proportionate to the military objective achieved.

  • America may Shutter the Gov't, but not the Gov't's Wars (Astore)
    • My comment was in response to the original poster's declaration that the organizing principle of the US Government was for war and the its authority over the citizenry is its constitutional Executive power to initiate and continue armed conflict.

      Neither you nor the original poster have offered any evidence at all that the "organizing principle of the US Government is for war." Yes, the US Government has engaged in wars at various times in our history. We have just as often engaged in any number of activities that have nothing to do with war. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, for example, President Roosevelt marshalled the force of the US Government, through various agencies formed for the task, in an attempt to get people back to work and the economy moving again.

      The claim that the US Government's authority over the citizenry lies in its Constitutiional Executive authority to initiate and continue armed conflict is naive in the extreme. There is absolutely nothing to substantiate such a claim. The US Government's authority over the citizenry lies in any number of Constitutional and Legislative acts, from taxation to enforcement of contracts. The US Government's authority has a much broader provenance than just the authority to "initiate and continue armed conflict."

    • "The organizing principle of the United States government has historically been for war. The authority of the federal government over its citizenry resides in its constitutional executive power to initiate and continue armed conflict."

      The organizing principle of the United States government has historically been intitutionalized in the checks and balances among the three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. At times it has been directed toward war. At times it has been directed toward economic recovery after a depression or a recession. At times it has been directed toward advancing civil rights.

      To say that the organizing principle of the US government has been for war, and to say that the authority of the government resides in its constitutional executive power to initiate and continue armed conflict represent either a misunderstanding or a deliberate distortion of what the principles and authority of the US Government are.

    • "Congress may not be able to pass a budget, but the U.S. military can still launch commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the Afghan War can still be prosecuted, Italy can be garrisoned by American troops (putting the “empire” back in Rome), Africa can be used as an imperial playground (as in the late nineteenth century 'scramble for Africa'”

      The author undermines any positive things he may have to say with his breathless hyperbolic statement cited above. The commando raids in Libya and Somalia were specific actions to capture dangerous terrorists, not an exercise in imperial overreach. To suggest that US NATO troops garrisoned in Italy put the "empire" back in rome is a risible comparison to the Roman Empire. And if he thinks AFRICOM and US activity in Africa bears the slightest resemblance to the nineteenth century "scramble for Africa," I suggest he read the history of that era, particularly Leopold's personal fiefdom of the Congo.

  • Saudi Arabia in Unprecedented Withdrawal from UN Security Council over Syria, Palestine
    • The question posed was: Why do we have diplomatic relations with them (Saudi Arabia) at all. Alliances and close military relationships were not inherent in the question, and thus did not need to be addressed in my response. I don't use the opportunity to respond to a question by using it as a means to flog my pet positions on issues irrelevant to the question.

    • "The cessation of the Saudi royal family as dictatorial rulers of that nation could lead to instability of these economic and financial relationships that the U.S. does neither want or need."

      Nor does the wider international community. It is not in anyone's interest for the Saudi royal family to be sidetracked.

    • We have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia for the same reason we have diplomatic relations with many countries whose governments may not meet your standard of legitimacy, Brian, if what you mean by "legitimacy" is a government freely chosen by the people. During the Cold War we maintained diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, all of which were Communist governments imposed upon their people.

      Today, we maintain relations with all of the Gulf Cooperation Countries, Vietnam, Laos, The People's Republic of China, Burma (Myanmar) Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and a dozen African countries, none of which have representative governments chosen by their people. We maintain diplomatic relations with these countries because they are part of the international system, as are we.

      Although they may not have governments that meet ideal standards of legitimacy, they are the governments in place with which we must deal, if we are to deal with them at all. To isolate ourselves by refusing to recognize them diplomatically would be to cut off our nose to spite our face out of a sense of moral superiority, and we would not accomplish a thing.

    • "It could be that the kingdom is throwing its weight around more now, and this resignation is meant to draw attention to the Syria gridlock."

      It is a very strange way for Saudi Arabia to "throw its weight around." By lobbying hard for the UNSC seat and then abandoning it, the Saudis have irritated the countries who supported and went to bat for them. They have also demonstrated a certain fecklessness that may come back to haunt them when they want support for other issues.

      Finally, regarding Syria, it is not "gridlock" that the Saudis object to. They object to the fact that the US and the EU are not supporting their Islamist proxies among the anti-Assad rebels. There is a theory floating around that the real reason the Saudis pulled the rug on their UNSC seat is to demonstrate pique at the US, both for its Syria policy and its movement to talk to Iran. It seems to me that this action can only hurt Saudi Arabia's reputation. Who knows what faction within the ruling clique pushed it. King Abdullah would have had to approve it.

  • As Pakistan says US Drones killed 400 Civilians, UN Report Demands US Data (Ross)
    • "'The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data’
      - Ben Emmerson"

      Ben Emmerson's pronouncements regarding the US drone program have provided comic relief since his first trip to Pakistan, which resulted in his gullible (not to say naïve) acceptance of the Foreign Minister's statement that Pakistan objected to the drones. (Emmerson remains in denial that strategic elements of the Pakistani government were complicit with the US in the drone program.)

      Now Emmerson continues his role as a stand-up comedian by suggesting that he, not the US intelligence community, knows what is and is not important in terms of US national security. Emmerson "does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data." Perhaps Emmerson should be appointed Director of National Intelligence (DNI), since he is so astute regarding national security issues. (Could we waive the US citizenship requirement?)

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