Monday, September 13, 2010

Kissinger Backs Multilateral Withdrawal For Afghanistan

Don't let books like Hitchens' Trial of Henry Kissinger or the man's questionable wisdom on the European Union distract you from the fact that Henry Kissinger does know of what he speaks on international affairs. With the American budget, American military capacity strained and public support of war efforts declining, the capacity to remain a dominant military force in the region isn't something the United States can sustain. Given that, it would be a mistake of epic and seismic proportions to leave either Iraq or Afghanistan completely abandoned. This is something I argued at my blog a while back.

Kissinger avoids the more problematic role of Iran as an interested and rising power but does mention India, the world's largest democracy, and a religiously plural and commercial one at that:

"In many respects India will be the most affected country if a jihadist Islamism gains impetus in Afghanistan," the 87-year-old elder statesman warned.

Kissinger said he has supported the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan, but it will have to merge at some point into some kind of political end game.

"A unilateral American role cannot be a long-term solution. A long-term solution must involve a combination, a consortium of countries in defining, protecting and guaranteeing a definition of a statehood for Afghanistan," he said.

The effort must merge at some point with the reality that there are many countries in the world that have a more immediate national security interest in the future of Afghanistan than the United States, not an abstract interest in prevailing against aggression, but a specific national security interest, he said.

Friday, September 10, 2010

So Much Wrong-Headed Simplicity

With the draw drown of troops in Iraq has come a chilling reminder on the part of media outlets that, of course, the United States has not completely vacated Mesopotamia. One article over at the British Guardian says "Dismay at Obama plan to leave 50,000 US troops in Iraq after 2010," while another article at News Blaze says "Despite Political Rhetoric, There Are Still 50,000 Troops in Iraq."

I do feel dismayed by this predictable desire to completely leave the Middle East to its own devices, especially when there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about Iraq. I'm currently reading Hitch 22, which is largely responsible for my flurry of Hitch related articles, and one passage on his very long chapter on Iraq ("Mesopotamia From Both Sides") has a passage about an American soldier who was killed in action while in Iraq. The soldier, Mark Jennings Daily, as Hitchens learned from a Los Angeles Times article by Teresa Watanbe, had reservations about the war going in but "writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him."

Hitchens visited the family of Daily and was pleasantly surprised (my own terminology) that the family did not hate him. The full load of his sacrifice was on display however and Hitchens ends the section with an appropriate "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now..."

If there was ever a contradictory, confusing part of the world, the Middle East and by affect the Muslim world is definitely it. The United States and other foreign powers involved in the region bear responsibility to make sure that the places they have stepped are not left in worse condition, and an "I'm out of here" approach will do no good for anyone. Alas, I'm afraid, given contact and interest in the culture going back years, that I know a whole lot more about the situation than America's reactionary racists and rosy politically correct liberals who bear simplistic notions of Islam that have no counterpart in reality. For a country so largely uninformed to be playing a decisionmaking role in something they collectively know little about seems wrongheaded.

We're at a point in our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq in which a visit to an American soldier's funeral could make one ambivalent at best and ready for total regional withdrawal at worst, whereas a visit with Afghan women's groups could leave you questioning one's anti-war assumptions, as members of Code Pink did.

There isn't a clearly evident way to go in the Middle East. The contradictions and complexities of it keep any rational person from acting like the path is simple and easy to follow. What is clearly evident, however, is that those who come to simplistic, black and white conclusions about the politics of the regional home of the Persian and Babylon empires, Arabs and Jews, Islam and Christianity, know so little about what they are talking about as to not be worthy of listening to.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Video: "Germans in the Woods"

Terry Jones on Russia Today

Russia Today is showing itself to be one of the strongest rising journalism outlets. This piece shows the potential explosion of reaction that could result from the actions of Terry Jones (who has his own history of white nationalism) and his church.

Video: Burn A Quran Day! (Buy Your Tickets Now)

This video is classic. Thanks to Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs.

Castro to Ahmadinejad: Leave the Jews Alone

Sometimes the right people make the wrong points, and sometimes the wrong people make the right points:

Does this release him from the “Axis of Evil”? Cuban Leader Fidel Castro attacks Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his anti-Semitism in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Quotes include, “I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” and "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." More remarkably, Castro expresses regret about his behavior during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he urged the Soviet Union to nuke the United States. “After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all,” Castro says. Castro invited Goldberg to meet with him after reading his Atlantic cover story about Israel and Iran.


Ahmadinejad is the most horrible kind of right-wing nationalist, seeking to restore a percieved lost honor to his country (Sound familiar?) and recreate a lost empire. He should be opposed to the hilt.

Additional - Jeffrey Goldberg really hit the goldmine with his interview. This gem is even more rewarding:

(Reuters) - Fidel Castro said Cuba's economic model no longer works, a U.S.-based journalist reported on Wednesday following interviews with the former president last week.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly magazine, wrote in a blog that he asked Castro, 84, if Cuba's model -- Soviet-style communism -- was still worth exporting to other countries and he replied, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

The comment appeared to reflect Castro's agreement, which he also expressed in a column for Cuban media in April, with his younger brother President Raul Castro, who has initiated modest reforms to stimulate Cuba's troubled economy.

Goldberg said Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in Washington who accompanied him to Havana, believed Castro's words reflected an acknowledgment that "the state has too big a role in the economic life of the country."