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Friday, April 18, 2003

Bashar Assad Studied Ophthamology...

Tony Adragna
"International law" as an exercise in providing security to the community of nations, as well as requiring normative behaviour of member nations, has long been edentulous. The toothlessness of international law has been the very heart of critics' complaints.

Some people prefer the toothless maw we currently have, where problems go in for perpetual gumming and the result is usually, well, bloody gums. But the U.S. has teeth, and that explains this
Prewar, Syria conducted clandestine trade with Iraq and acted as an outlet for illegal Iraqi oil shipments. During the war, it sent weapons and fighters into Iraq with the hope of bloodying, if not stopping, the Americans. Postwar, it has become the refuge for Hussein's henchmen and a potential source of fighters, weapons and logistics for a guerrilla-terrorist campaign to drive America out of Iraq.

Sound far-fetched? Then you have forgotten your history. Syria did precisely that to the United States 20 years ago in Lebanon. It was Syrian-supported Hezbollah terrorists who blew up the Marine barracks, killing 241 and driving America out of Lebanon.

Syria did the same to Israel, which took Lebanon from Syria and the PLO in a war in 1982. Israel, too, was forced by Syrian-supported terror and a guerrilla war of attrition to choose eventual and humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon.

On March 27, Syrian President Bashar Assad deliberately drew the analogy and issued the challenge, hailing Iraq as "a large Arab country with scientific, material and human resources . . . able to accomplish, at the least, what Lebanon accomplished, and more."

Why is he being so bold? First, because he fears that if the winds of freedom are allowed to blow from Iraq, they will topple him, yet another Baathist dictator who survives on terror and fear. Second, because having American military power next door might give encouragement to democratic opponents at home and constrain his constrain his capacity to support terrorism and suppress Lebanon (which Syria still occupies).
Assad is trying to pull America's teeth, in which case training as an oral surgeon might've been of better use. Instead, Assad trained as an eye specialists — it's all about vision
Nonetheless, it is still a bit crazy to take on the world superpower the morning after a most astonishing demonstration of arms and will. Which brings us to Reason Three: Assad is not very smart. By training, he is neither a military man nor a politician. Relatively new on the throne and with little legitimacy, he may feel this is his opportunity to acquire Arabist credentials among the cutthroat Baathist elite that disdains him -- by making Syria, and thus himself, "the heart of Arabism."
As Chuck correctly points out, though, Assad's sight could use some correction
The effect [of America's response] on Assad would be profound: His policy of provocation, designed to show power and command, would instead show weakness and fragility -- a potentially fatal demonstration in a regime that, like Hussein's, rests on brute force, a small ethnic and religious minority and a bankrupt Baathist ideology.

In Iraq, America demonstrated the capacity, extraordinary and historically unique, to destroy a regime while leaving the country intact. Assad needs to learn the lesson of Iraq: Change regime behavior -- or suffer regime change.
"Course, maybe Assad's eyesight is perfectly fine and he's merely relying on his own diagnosis of others' blindness to what's going on — that truly does make him, in Chris Suellentrop's words, an "evil moron".

Thursday, April 17, 2003

How to Get A Pass From the UN Human Rights Commission...

Tony Adragna
'Tis easy — just be an abuser of human rights
On Russia, the commission rejected a resolution submitted by European countries that urged Moscow to address abuses including forced disappearances, summary executions and torture. The motion also condemned hostage-taking and attacks by Chechen separatists, including last October's seizure of a Moscow theater.

Fifteen commission member countries backed the proposal, including European nations, the United States, Canada and Australia. The 21 opponents included Russia, China, Cuba, Brazil and India. Seventeen nations abstained...

Russia asserts that Chechen separatists are being supported by international terrorists and has sought to justify its crackdown as part of international efforts to fight terrorism. Officials acknowledge that abuses have taken place but say claims by human rights groups are overblown and that the situation in Chechnya has improved...

The commission also regularly criticizes Cuba, but this year's proposal, put forward by Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay, was weaker than previous versions, simply calling on Cuba to accept a visit by a U.N. human rights investigator.

However, Costa Rica proposed an amendment tonight urging Cuba to release a large number of political dissidents who were sentenced in the past week.

In a government statement read on state television Tuesday night, Cuba accused the United States of trying to strong-arm poor nations into censuring the Communist-run island...
And North Korea got a "censure", too.

What's especially ugly is that "[t]he body passed a 'no action' motion proposed by African countries, a procedural move that blocked further debate and a vote on the European Union resolution [that condemned violations in Zimbabwe], which was strongly critical of President Robert Mugabe's government."

Hell, I don't know why I've spent time putting down my thoughts on international law in response to charges of "war crimes" & "illegal war" being lobbed at the US — if the usual suspects thought our actions right in light of their world view, then they'd be supporting us, and I'd hafta rethink my support for the war...

Today's news from Northern Ireland has the IRA delivering its annual Easter message [why Easter? Read the story.] while the Good Friday Accord is being sent to hell in a handbasket by some dude named "P O'Neill" — but the Taoiseach is optimistic for some reason... 'Course, maybe if Republicans see Britain getting serious 'bout Ulster militants...

I don't much like Indian PM Vajpayee, but I may be wrong
"He can be so damn sweet and convincing," Singh said of Vajpayee, an acquaintance of his. But "before a receptive Hindu audience he says something quite different."

On the other hand [...] He is a drinking man," Singh said approvingly. "He's more human than the others."
The "Singh" being quoted is Khushwant Singh — a refugee from the practice of law, former Indian diplomat & member of parliament, prolific writer, unashammed horndog, and lover of good whiskey.

He's good for quoteage, too
"A common prostitute renders more service to society than a lawyer," he wrote in his autobiography, published last year. "If anything the comparison is unfair to the whore."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

There Must Be A Draft Floating Around

Tony Adragna
From Ambassador Negroponte's remarks
Reporter: A White House spokesman - a deputy spokesman said that the US calls on the UN to remove sanctions on Iraq. What kind of progress will that campaign take and what needs to be done for that?

Ambassador Negroponte: Well, the specifics of that are still being discussed on an inter-agency basis in Washington and also with our Allies, but I think we visualize some kind of step-by-step procedure with respect to post-conflict resolutions regarding Iraq and certainly one of the issues we’re going to have to deal with early on is sanctions. If you’re asking me do we have specific language or specific formulations to propose at this specific moment in time, the answer is no.[emphasis added]
OK, so he says that there's nothing "specific [...] to propose at this moment", but I can't imagine having entered discussions without some kind of draft to work with — there's definitely something circulating [wouldn't be surprised if it's been floating around "inter-agency" circles since early March] and Amb. Negroponte's "early on" verbiage says to me that we'll see something soon...

Let's See the Draft Resolution!

Tony Adragna
On April 3rd I suggested that the Administration " Draft a Resolution lifting the [Iraq] Sanctions. Let's see France et al vote against it" Today we get this
WASHINGTON — President Bush called on the United Nations Wednesday to lift economic sanctions against Baghdad now that Saddam Hussein's regime has collapsed.
I suspect we'll see a draft soon, and Amb. Negroponte moving said draft soon thereafter.[Update II: More above]

I hope so, anyway.

Update: Seems others are following our precedent vis a vis not waiting for UN approval before doing the right thing — least, that's what WaPo notes in its reportage of Mr. Bush's anti-sanctions comment
[...] Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said that country had been planning to send a military unit specializing in defense against biological warfare, but has dropped the idea because it is no longer necessary. Instead, the country has been asked by the United States to contribute troops to a conventional peacekeeping force and will probably do so, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said.

Several other European countries, at a meeting in Athens, also discussed sending troops for a peacekeeping force. "There is a desperate need for stabilization forces in Iraq, here and now," Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen told reporters at a European Union summit meeting. "We cannot wait for a U.N. resolution."

He and the leaders of the Netherlands and Spain said Iraq needs to be stabilized quickly, without an extensive period of haggling over who should have overall authority for peacekeeping and reconstruction.[emphasis added]
But... ummm... wouldn't that be "illegal" and "immoral" to act without UN approval?

Looks to me like maybe folks are waking up to the fact that the UN's political "process" isn't about "law" & "principle", but about "politics", and can't be allowed to stand in the way of doing what's actually perfectly legal & moral — I can still be hopeful, right?

Speaking of the French et al, and recalling our own forays into realpolitik, Anne Applebaum explains how our own dog is biting us in the ass
It is not just the politics of the world's dictatorships that distort the U.N. human rights debate, in other words, but the politics of the world's great democracies as well. And does it matter? "No" is the easy, short answer: The U.N. Human Rights Commission long ago equivocated itself into moral obscurity and, as a result, lost whatever credibility Eleanor Roosevelt bestowed on it 50 years ago. But the longer, more complicated answer is, unfortunately, "yes": These sundry resolutions, declarations and rapporteurs matter because they matter to the people involved. It may all be a political game to us -- or to the French -- but to the Russian or Sudanese governments, any U.N. statement that absolves them of blame for civilian casualties in their respective wars will help legitimize those wars in the eyes of their own people as well as foreigners', and allow them to continue. Worse, the constant abuse of human rights rhetoric by Western democracies will render it meaningless over time. Most of the world rolls its eyes when we talk about human rights in Iraq. And no wonder: If we fight bitter diplomatic battles to avoid anything that sounds like a condemnation of Russia in Chechnya, we can't expect to remain credible everywhere else. If France engages in the diplomatic equivalent of guerrilla warfare to avoid sending a human rights investigator to Sudan, no wonder "the West" has gotten such a bad name too.
Yea, and if we keep playing patty fingers with the House of Saud, looking into Putin's soul, sending aid to the Mubarek Dynasty, etc. we seem to confirm the charges of hypocrisy.

Everytime I think of fecklessness in dealing with Rwanda and our "willful blindness in re Chechnya", well, I can't help myself but wonder whether we're now serious about acting on our "values interests", or are we still only gonna go there when we need a crutch to help our "strategic interests" along? At least we ought never pursue our strategic interests in a way that gives a pass to "friendly" thugs — it makes a mockery of our protestations over the human rights abuses of other thugs.

I'm not sure we're there yet, but I can be hopeful...

And since I'm talking 'bout thugs, how 'bout the Infernally Retarded Simps — not talking bad on the folks at 1111 Constitution Avenue NW, but the knuckleheads down The Mall who write the damned Code.

Actually, I don't mind paying taxes. I am getting something back this year, but da man still managed to take a big bite outta my left cheek. Considering that I came in under the poverty level last year I think I shoulda got back more. At least I didn't hafta fill out forms[I hate forms], and I got to do it over the phone [I hate the phone too, but I love button-punching — never got to punch any buttons in the Navy... hmmm..]

The punchline: I filed my Maryland taxes during the same phone session, find out I'm getting $7 back, and they had the nerve to ask if I wanted to donate any to the Chesapeake Bay Fund — I think that money'll do a lot more good in my beer fund...

Monday, April 14, 2003

Be Afeard... Be Very Afeard

Tony Adragna
Folks walking down the "Arab street" seem to have lost their swagger
"These fateful days have revealed the degree of cultural degradation in our region," writes Shafeeq Ghabra, the president of the American University of Kuwait, in the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon, perhaps the most important English-language news site in Arabic world.

Arabs, he says, are in "harmony with chaos," afflicted with the "inability to comprehend the language of interests, calculations and balances of power. With the collapse of Baghdad, Arabs . . . fell from a throne they built in their imagination."

"With the fall of Baghdad, Arab thought as we knew it since the 1967 defeat collapsed. The nationalism that misled Saddam and our peoples has also collapsed, as well as a pattern of Arabism many of us exploited in favor of autocracy, oppression, dictatorship and the confiscation of other people’s rights. With the fall of Baghdad, the whole system prevailing in Arab countries and their culture has collapsed."
'Course, maybe this university president doesn't speak for the "Arab street". But if he, and the newspaper editor who is also quoted, still have their jobs, that says to me that there's reason for optimism.

Really, these folks have nothing to fear from us — it's their leaders what oughta be afraid, and not necessarily of us...