Topic: General News.
Dick Polman, the Philadelphia Inquirer's political analyst, has a new blog.
In a recent entry he interviewed Gary Hart who wonders "Are we or are we not building permanent military bases [In Iraq]? I keep trying to get anybody [in the press] to ask about this....I'll tell you what I mean by permanent: pouring concrete and wielding steel. Yes or no?" Polman writes that this is an issue that has "gotten little public attention so far." Well, if either of them had come to this blog they wouldn't have to ask. Yes, we are building permanent bases; you can go to any number of press outlets to find this out, like I did. (Or just go to globalsecurity.org, which has a map of all the bases.) Our plans for the post draw down period seems to be based on the British occupation model. Pull back into bases with a limited number of troops, keep the Iraqis under-armed, but trained just well enough to aim their weapons and not shoot each other and we'll provide air cover in case they get into real trouble. [See this blog]
We've got no intentions whatsoever of leaving those oil wells in the hands of the Iranians. Hell, we'll put the Sunnis back in power if that's what it takes. Why does there always seem to be this major disconnect in the mainstream media about what is actually going on over there? I saw a promo for an ABC nightly news "Exclusive" last night (I never waste my time with the network's nightly news) and Elizabeth Vargos was warning darkly that Iran might be supplying new, more sophisticated and deadly IEDs to the insurgents. That story is about six months old at this point. (I remember writing about this story like, back in August or something.)
Maybe if they spent less time at ABC on hairdos and puppy rescue stories and more time on reading the news wires, they would have picked up on this before. It’s amazing that as little information the average American gets from the media about anything, but they still know that things are not going well in Iraq. If they really knew what was going on over there, though, W. & Co. would be spending less time on helping their foreign friends buy up the country and more time working on their legal defense.
The baby is going out with the bath water in Russia:
C.J. Chivers in the NYT reports that Vlad "the Impaler" Putin has signed a law "allowing security forces to shoot down hijacked aircraft or destroy hijacked ships if they risk endangering important facilities or populated areas." (The German high court just struck down a similar law in Germany.) Why is this story even news? Based on the "rescue" of theater goers in Moscow in 2001 and the Beslan siege in 2004, I don't see why they even bothered to codify what is already SOP for these bubblers. It's pretty clear that the Russians either don't care about saving the lives of hostages, or are just too congenitally incompetent to ever mount a successful rescue operation.
If you're a terrorist in Russia and you want to inflict mass casualties, all you have to do is send a dozen or so people into a building full of civilians with some explosives and the Russian security forces will do the rest. And most likely, you're people will wind up escaping! Win, win.
Speaking of Russia: The WaPo reports that the Council on Foreign Relations says Russian democracy is in retreat. A bi-partisan task force concludes, according to the Post article, that "the Bush administration should stop pretending that Russia is a genuine strategic partner and adopt a policy of ‘selective cooperation' and 'selective opposition' to the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin." John Edwards, who was on the panel, says of W. and Co., "What they've done is focused on the positive things Russia is doing and been soft on the problems. We need the world to see what's happening inside, and at a minimum Putin needs to feel pressure from that."
But W. saw into Putins's soul, what happened? Well, Condi is the big Russia specialist, right? I'm sure she's got a much better idea of how to handle Russian than those panty-waisted, egg heads at some talking academy. And besides, democracy is on the march in other places. You know, you win some and you lose some.
Russia and the Iranians:
Of course, right now, we're selectively cooperating with Russia, because that's basically our only option. Putin could start sending political dissidents to Siberia and starving Ukrainians to death and we wouldn't care, because we need them to help us out with our little problem with Iran and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. (Except when it comes to Israel, they're different.) In particular we need the Russians because they've got a lot of money in Iran and they could be a useful wedge between the pragmatists and the religious nuts in the Iranian government, the latter appearing to want a confrontation.
Cheney our Ahmadinejad?
Pretty the much the mirror image of what's going on in our foreign policy circles within the government. On the one hand, you've got Condi meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, trying to talk things out over dinner; and on the other, you've got Dick Cheney shooting the whole diplomacy thing to pieces. Yesterday at the Aipac meeting in Washington he pulled out his big gauge shot gun and let loose with the war talk: "The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences," Cheney said to the delight of the Israeli activists in attendance. What might that mean, they wondered...could they dare to hope...yes!... The U.S., he said, was "keeping all options on the table..." and before he could even get the words out, they were drowned out by thunderous applause. This is just what they wanted to hear. All week long there's been a steady stream of spokesmen for the Cheney/Rummy cabal paying homage to Aipac and Israel and, more importantly, saying the right things about Iran.
Fareed Zakaria on Cheney's speech:
Fareed Zakaria was interviewed on The World yesterday and was very adamant that Cheney's belligerent speech was very "unhelpful." He made a lot of good points that hopefully someone in the administration is conveying to W. on this issue. In the first place, Zarkaria pointed out that Cheney's upping the ante on the threat meter could backfire badly if the Iranians called his bluff.
What are we going to do if the Iranians ultimately ignore everyone and go ahead with their bomb making plans? Attack them? Not likely, based on our very tenuous hold on Iraq right now. And if we did actually make good on Cheney's threat and, for instance, attack their nuclear infrastructure, Zarkaria points out that Iran has a $30 billion budget surplus. How long would it take them to rebuild it and get back to doing what they're doing now? Two years maybe? And the worst part about Cheney's speech is that it will reverberate around the capitals of the world as yet another example of U.S. unilateralism. The talk this week won't be about Iran's intransigence, but about our threat to attack them.
Condi might be on to something (gag!)
It's better to do what Condi is doing and work on building international pressure with Russia and China applying financial distress. This appears to be the only way to get Iran to come around, but, alas, the Secretary of State isn't in control, our very own homegrown version of Ahmadinjad is: Dick Cheney. Or so it would appear. I can't help but see the whole 'who's going to deal with the shooting thing' happening all over again. Cheney has got his own thing going on and the rest of the administration has theirs. No one seems to be courageous enough to rein in the wild man in the executive office building. The Cheney/Rummy cabal has the pentagon with their $450 billion budget versus Condi's State Department with its $40 billion budget, who would you expect to come out on top?
And when you consider W. has a propensity to go for harebrained schemes that offer simplistic solutions, I don't see this turning out well. Common sense doesn't have a role in this equation, on either side.
Just a little note on W.s big adventure in South Asia.
Besides making a deal with the Indians to forgive their lying to us in the past and violating their agreements not to take plutonium from a civilian reactor and make bombs with it, what did he accomplish?
He did a heck of a job making Pervez Musharraf look even more like an American puppet in the eyes of his own people than he did before (And delivered a stern lecture to boot), that was something I guess. He left four people dead in demonstrations throughout India that drew hundreds of thousands out into the streets. (The media, naturally, pulled out the standard "10,000" number and stuck with it the whole time he was over there.)[real numbers]
In the wake of this major foreign policy success story, Musharraf and Karzai are at each others throats, hurling accusations about who is really harboring OBL and Mullah Omar, and Musharraf's fake attempt to show W. he was serious about routing out terrorists on his own territory has turned into a major battle in Miran Shah a town in North Wazirstan. Pakistani forces just can't seem to extract themselves from these "mopping up operations."
The AP reports Pakistani authorities say "at least 100 al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters may have been killed." Or maybe they just killed a bunch of villagers with their helicopter gun ships and artillery barrages. This is reminiscent of the Pakistani crack down on opium growers in the BBC mini-series Traffik that come to an end as soon as the foreigners leave, but in this case it seems things haven't gone according to plan.