Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sucks to be al-Maliki. And, why Iraq is completely unlike Vietnam.

I suppose simply being an Iraqi politician sucks, since no matter which side you're on there are at least a few million people that want you dead. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has it bad even among this unfortunate bunch, because arguably his two most powerful supporters are demanding opposite things from him.

President Bush is planning on meeting with Maliki in four days. However, Muqtada al Sadr has just demanded that Maliki refuse to see Bush. Al Sadr commands one of the most powerful militias in Iraq, and his faction controls a huge number of Maliki's parliament seats. So if al-Maliki meets with Bush, al Sadr quits the government and the whole thing collapses. Alternatively, if al-Maliki refuses to meet with Bush, then US support will rightfully be removed and the government will collapse that way.

It seems to me that al Sadr is doing this intentionally. These actions will have no other effect than to bring down the current government. And ultimately that may not be a bad thing, as it clearly isn't working or even improving. We must not be quick to condemn al Sadr, though. His goals are a strong independent Iraq, free from Iranian domination, and he has in the past been willing to ally with Sunnis. He will be a natural ally in the future. Allow me to explain.

There are more battles going on in Iraq than just Sunnis vs Shiites. Within the Sunni community, the secular faction (former Baathists) are fighting the fundamentalists (Al Qaeda). In the Shiite community, al Sadr's group is fighting the Iranian backed Badr militia. These intra-sectarian battles aren't the major source of fighting at this time, but they would be as soon as US forces left the main part of the country.

With these differences in mind, the US should withdraw to Kurdistan and from there seek to accomplish four goals:

1. Negotiate a peace between the Kurds and Turkey, which would include getting the Kurds to reign in the PKK terrorist group that is acting in Turkey.

2. Supporting secular Sunnis against their fundamentalist enemies (Al Qaeda). This will be easy, since the secular Sunnis are already winning hands down from what I've been reading.

3. Be prepared to support al Sadr's nationalist Shiite movement against the Iranian-backed SCIRI and their Badr military wing. The Badr might accurately be thought of as an Iraqi version of Hezbollah.

4. Negotiate an alliance between these three national Iraqi groups (the Kurds, secular Sunnis, and nationalist Shiites). This would involve resolving points of dispute, such as the current Sunni-Kurd battle over Kirkuk. With some real diplomacy, I think these differences could be hashed out. And with American military power preventing a complete takeover by one side, I think it might even be possible to entice these sides to come to agree on a democratic government.

Regardless of what people are saying, Iraq is not Vietnam. In Vietnam, we were fighting a single powerful, well organized, and well funded adversary - the communists. When we withdrew from Vietnam, the communists immediately took over. But in Iraq, we aren't fighting one faction. We're fighting many factions that are roughly equally matched. We won the conventional battle of Iraq, but now we see that doesn't mean we won the war. Now some people are saying just because we're losing the battle to stabilize Iraq and establish an independent democratic government, we've lost that war.

They're wrong. America hasn't won, but neither has anyone else. This thing is far from over.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Putin murders former spy?

Here is the end of a letter written by the spy after he was poisoned:

"But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like. I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

"You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

"You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

"You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

"You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people."

I really thought Russia had moved on from this kind of thing. Clearly, not. The Economist had an article on Russia about a month ago; here are the last two paragraphs:

Russia's huge size and troubled history make any comparisons risky. Yet some see historical parallels in present trends. Yegor Gaidar, a former prime minister, draws an analogy with inter-war Germany, which like post-Soviet Russia experienced economic chaos, then a period of stabilisation in which post-imperial nostalgia took hold. Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the few remaining independent parliamentarians, worries that Mr Putin seems to be switching from an imperial idea of Russia towards one more resembling a “Reich”.

History also offers a term to describe the direction in which Russia sometimes seems to be heading: a word that captures the paranoia and self-confidence, lawlessness and authoritarianism, populism and intolerance, and economic and political nationalism that now characterise Mr Putin's administration. It is an over-used word, and a controversial one, especially in Russia. It is not there yet, but Russia sometimes seems to be heading towards fascism.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hey, assholes:

Your leaders tried to exterminate several racial groups, and started the most destructive war in human history. Our leaders were in charge of a handful of soldiers who made jailed insurgents form naked human pyramids, not unlike pledges in a particularly nasty fraternity.

That means just because we got to try and convict your leaders, you dont necessarily get to do the same to ours.

I don't like Rumsfeld. In fact, there isn't another politician that I dislike more. We should investigate his staggering level of incompetence, and he should be held accountable for his authorizations of torture or any other wrongdoings.

However, I'd prefer it if interpreting American laws was left to American judges, thank you very much. Here in the USA, we are perfectly capable of monitoring and punishing leaders who overstep their bounds. And unlike the Germans, we always have been.


Darfur is getting worse. It would be nice if Germans spent their time going after real war criminals (hint: they are hiding in Khartoum) instead of making political points. It isn't America's job to police the entire world, and we're busy right now. It makes me angry to see the Europeans doing absolutely nothing to solve the problems that they created.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dey tuke ur johb!

While there is some debate, the evidence strongly suggests that economic liberalization and the removal of barriers to free trade is beneficial in the long term. However, the adjustment process and short-term damage of free trade is far more visible. Seeing jobs sent overseas is painful to watch, but ultimately it is for the better.

The debate typically stops there, however. The rallying cry is to always protect American workers. I think we might do well to remember two other benefits in particular:

1. Sending jobs overseas provides a source of income for the world's poorest people. Is their life less important because they are not American?

2. Fewer barriers to trade means more trade. And nothing stops conflict and war like economic ties. The more we trade with Africa and the Middle East, the more our interests become their interests.

A final quote from Winston Churchill:

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."

Friday, November 10, 2006

I always get my way.

In the last few weeks, the world has been very kind to me. Almost every single important issue up for decision has gone my way. I'm getting spoiled!

-The efforts of Hugo Chavez to secure a UN Security Council seat for Venezuela have failed miserably. We haven't heard from him since.

-Kim Jong Il has agreed to restart negotiations on its nuclear program. I'm optimistic about the final result.

-The Democrats took both the House and Senate. Not that I'm thrilled about Democratic leadership; its just that I'm resigned into accepting that all of our leaders are worthless at this point. The best we can hope for is a divided government.

-Joe Lieberman won back his seat from Ned Lamont. Screw you, left wing activists. With the balance of power in the Senate so close, Lieberman is stronger than ever. That is a good thing, because he is a moderate with a proven record of bipartisanship.

-Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging. Putting someone to death in Iraq doesn't take as long as it does in the USA. Saddam will be dead in a matter of months.

-A right wing evangelical nutjob (Haggard) was humiliated and exposed for being the hypocritical and deceitful fraud that he is. What a scumbag.

-Don Rumsfeld lost his job. FINALLY.

-And, the most recent news, John Bolton is going to lose is job as Ambassador to the UN! That couldn't have happened soon enough...

I should go play the lottery.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What we missed during the election.

I had written a post a while back about nuclear proliferation. It can be found here (it is the second half of that post). In that post, I go into great detail as to why we should be particularly concerned with the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, and why that reality would greatly increase the risk of nuclear war.

Here are some particularly relevant excerpts from that post:

"When one nation acquires nuclear weapons, then its major rival(s) feel extreme amounts of pressure to do so as well. Otherwise the balance of power is extremely upset in the favor of the nuclear armed nation. The result is a nuclear arms race; such a race greatly increase the probability of nuclear war. So when the US got nuclear weapons, you can bet that Stalin had his scientists working overtime to catch up. And they did, quickly."

This same phenomenon explains why Pakistan rushed to develop nukes, once the Indians had acquired theirs. How does this apply to Iran? Another excerpt:

"So why is Iran such a problem? Iran is a problem because Iran has a LOT of rivals. For starters, every Arabic country in the Middle East, save Syria (which has a temporary alliance of convenience with Iran). Keep in mind that Arabic countries are Arab Sunni Muslim dominated, while the Iranians are Shias and Persian. They dont get along. Heck, even Sunni Arabs and Shia Arabs dont get along; look at Iraq."

And now the news. According to the UK Times, six Arab states have declared that they intend to pursue nuclear technology. These nations include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Let me repeat that. Six Arab Muslim states are going to pursue nuclear technology.

Of course, these six nations officially say they just want nuclear technology to generate electricity. Thats a laugh. Saudi Arabia has a population of 25 million people, and is sitting on enough oil to power the world for about 80 years. They must be dying for more energy. I'm sure some people still believe Iran doesn't want nukes, either.

I hope our new Democrat-led Congress has noticed this. This is what our government needs to address, right now. Nevermind global warming. Nevermind AIDs, birdflu, or terrorism. This is, hands down, the most serious challenge to world prosperity, possibly ever. We must stop Iran from developing their nuclear program; only then could the other nations be convinced to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

There could be, in a matter of decades, 8 countries in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. Six Arab nations, Iran, and Israel. That wouldn't make nuclear war likely. It would make it a virtual certainty.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making excuses.

We are not losing Iraq because "Arabs are incapable of democracy". That is a racist and empirically untrue excuse. Besides, there is nothing that Arabs have done that Europeans haven't done worse. Ethnic violence? Civil war? Religious extremism? Genocide? Please. Iraqis are amateurs compared to the Europeans. Now the Europeans have taken a break for what, one generation in two millenia? And suddenly they are the pinnacle of human existence?

Moderating and democratizing the Middle East is going to take less time than the Cold War. That is my prediction; one that I unfortunately dont have time to explain right now. Just figured I'd say something optimistic for once.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Human shields.

This is the chosen tactic of Hezbollah and Hamas. It is disgusting, pathetic, and cowardly. Those things aside, the use of this tactic confirms a suspicion that I've had for some time now. These militants clearly hate Israel more than they love their own people. Perhaps this is something that we should always keep in the back of our mind when the complexities of the Middle East puzzle us in the future.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Its time.

The United States isn't going to stop the violence in Iraq, but that was never really a debate. The hope was that eventually the Iraqi government would be strong enough to take control of the country. It is clear now that the Iraqi government isn't going to be able to control Iraq in the far distant future, if ever. It is more fractured by the day, and its constituents are at each other's throats. There is even Shia-Shia infighting, with Al Sadr's militia fighting the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade (who have infested the police force).

What now? A complete withdrawal is a bad idea, because it is almost sure to drag Iraq's neighbors into a regional conflict (ie, quite literally WW3). Partition is a bad idea, because huge areas of the country are mixed in population; ethnic cleansing would certainly follow. The best idea is to withdraw to friendly Kurdistan, and let the Sunni and Shia Arabs fight it out. It would be important for us to negotiate a peace between the Kurds and the Turks. Further, our presence in the north would prevent Iraq's neighbors from getting involved. Finally, even though we won't physically be occupying Baghdad and other places, we'll still have an enormous amount of diplomatic leverage. We can use that power to try to negotiate a peace between the warring Arab factions.

It is mind boggling, the sheer stupidity of this entire adventure. Why the Bush administration found that a secular Arab dictator who was at odds with both Al Qaeda and Iran was an enemy worth removing is beyond me. In four years, Rumsfeld has failed to make any progress in Iraq, yet Bush still thinks he is doing a good job. We should drop them both in the middle of Baghdad, and be on our way.

But I might settle for impeachment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Venezuela will not give up!

I dont consider myself to be a spiteful person. But I wanted sooo badly to see two people in particular fail at their endeavors. One of my wishes has been granted. When voting at the UN was in deadlock only a short while ago, Hugo Chavez had this to say:

"Venezuela doesn't give up. I say it here to the whole world, Venezuela will continue waging this battle."

And as of today, here is a BBC headline:

"Venezuela and Guatemala have withdrawn their rival bids for a UN Security Council seat from Latin America, diplomats have said."

Eat it, Chavez.