Internationally ...

Putin declared Soviet collapse a tragedy. Then he left for a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, where soviet made weapons once roamed the sands (but well away from Israel). Certainly he wishes to develop greater Russian influence in the region as in Soviets time. But the region is no longer the same.
Putin's three-day visit to the Middle East began in Cairo on Tuesday and includes stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is the first visit of a Russian/ Soviet head of state to Egypt since Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev attended the funeral of Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1970. It is also the first ever visit by a Kremlin chief to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"The Soviets were always keen on the Middle East. The region was practically their backyard. Today the Russians, under Putin, are trying to regain their presence, if not influence, in the Middle East," says Reda Shehata, a former Egyptian ambassador to Russia.

"I believe that we have to get in direct contact with Arab countries, starting with Egypt," Putin told Al- Ahram 's Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Nafie in an interview

"We are neighbours with the Arab world. We have to work on strengthening our relations," Putin said during a speech delivered yesterday at the Arab League.

Addressing representatives of the 22 Arab states, Putin joined his host, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, in stressing that it is up to Moscow and Arab capitals to show that their once strong ties are not a thing of the past.

But can Russia build the kind of ties the Soviet Union once had with the Arab world? Unlikely, is the answer offered by many diplomats.

"Russia is an important country," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is a growing player on the international scene and is a nuclear power -- even if not a strong one. But Russia is economically weak and politically ineffective. Only a few days ago [US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice was in Moscow lecturing the Russians on democracy."

Many Arab diplomats agree. So entrenched is US hegemony, they argue, that most Arab capitals, including those close to Moscow, are politically and economically dependent on Washington's goodwill.

Nor do the Arab world's most senior officials have much taste for things Russian. "They prefer the US. Going to Washington is the high point of their diplomatic agendas. They buy houses on the West Coast of the US and they have medical treatment in American hospitals," said the diplomat.

Speaking of Condi, she was recently in Bogota to counter the Chavez blustering.

Elsewhere in the Americas, say Texas.
All that’s fair enough. But Quillnews urges all to take a closer look at the realities that are obscured by the fancy in these snap shots of simple human courtesy. The US, acting virtually on its own initiative with only its closest blood brothers-in-arms as allies, responded to a single attack – Sept 11 – and destroyed the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and changed the on-the-ground behavior of Pakistan, India, Syria, Lebanon, Libya. Bush 43 did this with a working majority of the American electorate, and all the while under relentless attack by his political opponents who, despite all efforts for two years, were unable to shake the American people’s support of the war. Adullah knows his society has spawned a murderous enemy and ideology that has been growing for years and nurtured by his people and their clerics. Imagine what the American people would do to Abdullah's kingdom if the homeland of the US or its allies were hit a second time!!!

While further East, more about China's "spontaneous public" demonstration against Japan.

Global assessment?
US ascendant, ME turning west, Russia struggling, China consolidating, Chavez to be contained. And what of Europe? What of Europe?


Viet Nam

The loss of resolve. Read all of this.
Hanoi, as might be imagined, was jubilant, with crowds thronging the streets. After years of struggle they had won on the battlefield what they had failed to win at the negotiating table.

"You know you never beat us on the battlefield," I said to Colonel Tu, my NVA counterpart.

"That may be so," he said, "but it is also irrelevant."

While on the US home front

What are the lessons learned? None apparently as some on the left, unlike Neo-Neocon, have shifted support of communism to that of islamofascism.

Self loathing and fears.
During the 1980s the cause of Third World totalitarian revolutions was transposed from Vietnam to El Salvador and Nicaragua. The congressional lobbying tactics learned during the Vietnam War were reapplied by the American left, to try to ensure communist victories in Central America. But greater world events conspired to defeat the "Sandalistas." The collapse of the Soviet Union pulled the military and economic rug out from under their friends. Democracy prevailed and the communists lost freely contested elections they wished to avoid.

Yet the bizarre moral universe of the radical left is revealed in the manner in which most of them soon turned against the governments of China, and more recently Vietnam, after the introduction of market mechanisms into their economies and tolerance of greater social freedom. In reforming their societies these ruling Asian communist parties were retreating from totalitarian to authoritarian rule -- relatively speaking, making their nations more civilized. But, in the eyes of the Western left, these ruling parties had "betrayed" the revolution.

In the Middle East the task for the left of finding a political cause to serve has been made more difficult by the weakness of communism and the ostensibly religious nature of so much anti-American politics. Radical leftists prefer their utopian and messianic totalitarian movements to have a secular cast. Prosperous and democratic Israel today is the main enemy, as it was even before the expansionist settlement movement evolved. That is why the cause of some Palestinian factions has been embraced. But the bottom line for the radical left everywhere is the undermining of American global power, and undermining rule by America's friends. If local people have to live under repressive movements or regimes as a consequence, such as the Baathists tyrannies in Iraq or Syria, this can always be rationalized or justified.


A League Apart

Someting worth an effort, needing the will to make a success.
League of Democracies
We scoured the papers and searched the Internet but couldn't find many references yesterday to the fact that Condoleezza Rice was in Chile leading the U.S. delegation to the fledgling Community of Democracies. Perhaps that's because this story doesn't fit with the prevailing diplomatic narrative of a cowboy America that refuses to play nicely with other nations.

We'll even go out on a limb with this prediction: While most of the 120 or so countries represented in Santiago may not envisage it yet, this Community could one day overshadow Kofi Annan's dictator-friendly talk shop on New York's East River.

The United Nations was conceived as a place where tyrannies and democracies could and should sit together on equal terms. That may have made sense in the aftermath of World War II, when free countries were in the clear minority. But nowadays that increasingly outdated premise results in such spectacles as Libya chairing the U.N. Human Rights Commission. It's also a problem that Mr. Annan's proposed reforms -- which feature enlargement of the Security Council -- do little to address.

Enter the Community of Democracies. It actually began with a small group of 10 countries in 1999 on the Clinton Administration's watch. It has since grown through meetings in Warsaw and Seoul, as well as on the fringes of the U.N. Among the agenda items this week in Santiago are the establishment of a formal Democracy Caucus at Turtle Bay. Another is agreement on a formal definition of what it means to hold free and fair elections.

One of the virtues of this assembly is that it's not a bureaucracy. It has no permanent secretariat. It also hasn't claimed, in Mr. Annan's famous words, a "unique legitimacy" to authorize the use of force or anything else. But that's because it doesn't have to claim legitimacy.

A free and fair election is by itself a legitimizing force, and an assembly of such elected leaders can marshal a great deal of moral authority -- enough, perhaps, to gently force change around the world lest countries be stigmatized by being left out of the club. We can all hope it might do to Arab despotism what the 1970s Helsinki human rights process did to undermine the moral foundations of the Soviet empire.

To that end we'd urge the Community to be strict in its definition of democracy. To have moral force it has to be real, and the current invitee list seems a little long. For example, it includes Jordan, which has its appeal as a moderate Arab state but is ruled by a hereditary monarch. Assuming the Community can settle on and stick to principle, there is no reason it shouldn't become a major new force in international relations -- a complement to the U.N., and perhaps even its successor if that body remains corrupt and dysfunctional.

It's notable that the new Secretary of State chose to attend this event amid all of her other obligations. It suggests once again that the cliché about a "unilateral" America is false. The real difference is between a multilateral diplomacy that works to promote freedom, and one that is unwilling to distinguish between the legitimacy of Saddam Hussein and Jalal Talabani.

Resolve and Betrayal

The anniversary of the fall of Saigon approaches.
Lessons learned in the WSJ.
Don't Repeat the Mistakes of Vietnam
April 28, 2005

HO CHI MINH CITY -- Being back in old Saigon 30 years after it fell conjures up an almost otherworldly image. Maybe it's all those bright red flags with the yellow stars that brings memories to one who lived and worked here for nearly a decade in "the old days" -- that is until the "Paris peace" was signed in 1973 and the last of the regular American troops departed a year later. The spectacle of young men and women banging away on huge drums, celebrating this Saturday's anniversary of the downfall of the regime that Washington supported with lives and money, reverberates in the subconscious as a reminder of the blunders of policy-makers and bureaucrats.

Those who think final defeat was inevitable and the United States could or should have done nothing more for their South Vietnamese allies are guilty of severe memory loss. They have forgotten the panic of millions of South Vietnamese who could not have imagined the U.S. would desert them after having made one do-or-die commitment after another. By the most conservative estimate, more than two million South Vietnamese fled the country, many by terrifying boat trips through pirate-infested waters, while another 500,000 were sent to "reeducation" camps where untold thousands died either at the hands of their captors or of starvation and disease.

Our betrayal of South Vietnam may have faded into history, a dark moment that Americans can rationalize as a vast mistake from which the United States recovered through later triumphs, notably the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq two years ago. But that view would be far too optimistic. That's especially important to keep in mind when some elements in American politics and society seriously contemplate another betrayal -- the notion of pulling out of Iraq, leaving the people we pledged to defend to the mercy of some of the world's most ruthless killers.

Although the United States faces an entirely different enemy in Iraq, the wars bear certain resemblances. As in Vietnam, U.S. forces in Iraq are encountering problems that were never anticipated and have proven far more intractable than military and political analysts expected. As in Vietnam, we are counting on a vast civilian aid program to produce miracles, rebuilding the infrastructure, revamping the financial system, supporting an elected democratic regime.

There is no doubt, moreover, that millions of Iraqis expect the United States somehow to bring about order. If their confidence has diminished after the months of car-bombings, roadside explosions and political assassinations, they're hoping for security and stability of the sort that only Washington can begin to create. No one imagines that the zealots responsible for kidnappings and beheadings would stand on the side of justice and mercy in dealing with those who have cast their lot with the civilian government and bureaucracy, much less the nascent military and police forces.

The danger is that U.S. resolve will weaken in Iraq as it did in Vietnam. After several months in Baghdad last summer and fall, I can say with certainty that it's far more dangerous getting around the Iraqi capital than it ever was in Saigon except during offensives that were always of limited duration. And no one considers venturing alone in the Iraqi countryside, as was often possible in Vietnam. The war in Iraq may in a sense be smaller scale than that in Vietnam, to which Washington at one stage committed more than half a million troops, but it is every bit as difficult, and its outcome is likely to affect if anything more lives when one considers the implications for the region in the context of the global war on terrorism.

It is tempting, 30 years after "the end" in Vietnam, to contemplate where and why the United States failed so badly. That war, as everyone agrees, represented vast miscalculations, but historians will argue on exactly where "the" mistake was made. Certain truths, however, are clear.

The United States could not have "won" without invading North Vietnam on the ground and without sending troops into neighboring Cambodia and Laos to stay. The concept of a "limited war" -- limited in every sense, by Richard Nixon's 60-day time frame for the Cambodian campaign of 1970, by bombing below and above this and that parallel, by bomb halts, by pauses for negotiations, by geographical boundaries -- was ridiculous. U.S. forces, if they were to have had a chance of winning, had to be free to operate unfettered by rules made up by policy-makers in Washington who knew nothing of the daily realities confronting troops on the ground.

The most frequent complaint I heard from soldiers at distant firebases, on patrols near borders, was their inability to pursue the enemy into base areas strung along the Ho Chi Minh trail network from North to South Vietnam. Nixon's decision to send troops into Cambodia in May 1970, in search of the headquarters of the enemy's Central Office of South Vietnam, was too little, too late. His ill-fated predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, had already missed his chance when he responded to the Tet 1968 offensive not by retaliating across the borders into North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but by announcing he would not seek the presidency again while going into negotiations.

American military leaders might claim they had "defeated" their foes during the Tet and the spring and September offensives of 1968, clearing them out of all the cities and towns that had come under attack. But such real success could have no lasting impact without the will to win in distant bases, in areas that remained tantalizingly beyond the reach of U.S. forces under Washington's rules of engagement (though certainly not out of reach militarily).

Without the will for complete victory, as opposed to a protracted negotiated solution that the enemy would always exploit, all those civilian aid programs mounted by do-gooders sent out by Washington had no chance of success. In fact, some of them appeared to be the stuff of satire. Remember the Hamlet Evaluation Survey, the brainchild of the American aid chief Robert Komer? He thought it was possible to rate every single hamlet in the country in terms of security, from A to E, as if such ratings had real meaning in the guerrilla war then being waged.

There is a danger the United States will fall into similar rationalizations for pulling out of Iraq. Senior officials in Washington would have us believe the Iraqi armed forces can "replace" American troops in Iraq in a circumscribed period. The point, though, is the United States' commitment, as far as most Iraqis are concerned, is to stay on as long as it takes. It would be a betrayal of trust to attempt to stick to an artificially contrived schedule designed to appease domestic critics and political foes. Similarly, Washington should set no artificial rules of war that hobble U.S. troops in pursuit of the enemy.

If there were any "lessons" to be learned from Vietnam, they were these: We cannot betray our friends or allies who look to us for survival, and we cannot betray our own forces by sending them into war without full commitment to victory. We made those mistakes in Vietnam. We cannot make them again.

Mr. Kirk is an American correspondent who covered the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from the arrival of U.S. troops in 1965 until the departure of the last combat unit in 1974. He covered Iraq last year.

No revelations, simply where there is no will there is no way.


Could Be and Could Have Been

From today's WSJ (subscription required) two articles about US actions in the third world.
First is an article about US aid to Madagscar:
When the Bush administration invited Madagascar a year ago to apply for aid under a new U.S. program, government officials here came up with a wish list of traditional development projects: a new hospital, more school spending, aid to rice farmers. They even put together a PowerPoint presentation they thought would wow the Americans.

U.S. officials weren't impressed. "Can you convince us that this is going to bring economic growth to reduce poverty?" asked Clay Lowery, a top official with the Millennium Challenge Corp., the overseer of the president's program.

Madagascar's leaders couldn't. So they began meeting with groups across the country, asking where the bottlenecks to economic progress lay. Officials kept hearing the same two complaints from farmers and small businesspeople: They couldn't get formal title to land because of a corrupt and decrepit bureaucracy, and they couldn't get loans because banks were growing fat investing in government bonds.

Today, Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana will be in Washington to attend the signing of a $110 million, four-year aid package designed to fix those problems. It's the first grant ever under Mr. Bush's Millennium Challenge Account program -- and a test of whether the U.S. has found a better way of delivering assistance.

Second is about the lack of commitment to South East Asia:
Bandung did not start mass murder. But the conference in the eastern Javanese city did subtly begin introducing the worship of the revolutionary as an ideology for the downtrodden in the Third World. This hero worship, shared by many First World intellectuals, made takeovers by communists, whether Khmer or Vietnamese, easier to achieve.

The conference, which met April 18-24, 1955, was attended by representatives of 29 newly independent Asian and African nations, and its context was anti-colonialism. It led six years later to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement, the vast majority of whose members were actually Soviet client states which suppressed their own people.

Not everyone associated with what came to be known as the "Bandung Spirit" was wild-eyed. Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the stars of the show, and while his state-centered economic policies crippled India's quest for economic advance, he was a democrat who believed in political pluralism.

But even in the case of Nehru -- that is, Bandung at its least bad -- the conference gave acceptability to a mushy neutrality that made fighting communism all the harder for the NATO powers. "We do not agree with the communist teachings, we do not agree with the anti-communist teachings, because they are both based on wrong principles," Nehru told the conference. This moral ambiguity tainted not only the emancipated colonies, but also the West, particularly Europe's elites.

Today Natan Sharansky's constant urgings for "moral clarity" and George W. Bush's freedom ethos have crystallized the danger of moral splendid isolation. But back then, faux sophistication sapped Western elites of the will to see the crusade against Soviet imperialism through. The wavering of America's "best and brightest" was mainly responsible for the U.S. defeat, and communist victory, in Vietnam.

The victims of course were primarily Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese. Hundreds of thousands perished when their countries fell like dominoes to indoctrinated and disciplined communists. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, who captured Phnom Penh 30 years ago yesterday, surpassed the others in bloodlust. At least 1.5 million people were killed in a country of seven million in less than four years, and the country's gentle countryside came to be stamped in the popular mind as the "killing fields."

But the regimes of fellow Indochinese communists Laos and Vietnam were by no means benevolent. Following the fall of Saigon, a few days after Phnom Penh, thousands of Vietnamese chose to brave the oceans in rickety rafts to escape. Many paid with their lives. Thousands of others were put in re-education camps, or liquidated.

What else to say today, three decades after seeing what happened in those wretched lands, than that if our elites had had the necessary fortitude, South Vietnam could today be as free and prosperous as South Korea, and Cambodia and Laos might be versions of Thailand. What the past tells us about the present is that romanticism about Third World revolutionaries -- whether in Southeast Asian jungles or Middle Eastern deserts -- should never again distract us from the cause of freedom.


International Attitude and Anti-Americanism.

Go to Miedenkritik and down load the pdf called Global Opinion, a report from 2004. What is most interesting to me were regarding:
1. the determinant of success: internal vs external forces.
2. whether the government should be a safety net
3. whether there should be a rival to the US.


Honor in Service

An editorial from the LA Times about honoring those who serve.
A few weeks ago, I spoke on the pro-Bush side of an informal debate at Yale, and an imposing middle-aged man with fierce white hair came up afterward to ask me where I got the nerve to support a president who sends young soldiers to their deaths? (Lots of approving nods.) By accusing President Bush of extorting something that soldiers have freely offered, he slandered the president and stole honor from the soldiers.

Some Americans who joined a peacetime military may be surprised to find themselves fighting in blood-drenched Middle Eastern tyrannies. But the American armed services speak loud and clear and constantly to their trainees about combat heroes and traditions — and combat unity, discipline, technique. They have never kept it a secret that they exist to fight wars.

A 17-year-old boy tried to explain to the white-haired man (in his straightforward, soft-spoken way) that those soldiers had chosen to be where they were; had understood and accepted the dangers; loved life just as much as the man did, but had different ideas about how to live it. The 17-year-old mentioned that he and a friend planned to join the Marines when they finished college. But he couldn't change the Bush-hater's mind.

It is worthy to note that soldiers commended for heroism all performed action beyond the call of duty. Beyond what is asked at risk to life and limb. It was that choice that is honored. Would the same action be honored had it been asked or ordered? And since our army is a voluntary one, that they chose to serve should also be honored.


Abortion and Crime

A most interesting read in today's Opinion Journal.
Back in 1999, Mr. Levitt was trying to figure out why crime rates had fallen so dramatically in the previous decade. He was struck by the fact that crime began falling nationwide just 18 years after the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion. He was struck harder by the fact that in five states crime began falling three years earlier than it did everywhere else. These were exactly the five states that had legalized abortion three years before Roe v. Wade.
Did crime fall because hundreds of thousands of prospective criminals had been aborted? Once again, the pattern by itself is not conclusive, but once again Mr. Levitt piles pattern on pattern until the evidence overwhelms you. The bottom line? Legalized abortion was the single biggest factor in bringing the crime wave of the 1980s to a screeching halt.

Since the popular belief is that crime and poverty is link, i wonder what is the demographic of the women having abortions are with respect to their socialeconomic status. Does having an unwanted baby increases socialeconomic pressure leading to crime? It cannot be the unwanted baby commiting crime as the reduction in crime occurred within 3 years.
Or is it a society willing to allow abortion is also one more accessible and successful in channeling the would-be criminals into acceptable socialeconomic paths. But this also seem less likely due to the crime rate dropping after legalization of abortion.
Much more thought is needed to discern whether this phenomena is true-true and causative or true-true and unrelated.


Democratic Eye for the Authoritarian Guy

First, Mubarak opens up the election process, now from Debka comes rumour of Assad reforming the Syrian Baathist.
Syrian president Bashar Assad is trying to turn his back on the fiasco of his exit from Lebanon and shore up his regime by a secret crash reform program – although one that is careful not to put the presidency on the block.

Stage one took place in total hush Saturday, April 9.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive Middle East sources report that Assad wants his epic political and military revolution to be over and done in three months, unlike the Baath revolutions in Iraq and Syria which dragged on through the 1960s and 1970s.

This is a very tall order as well as a dangerous gamble, considering that Assad is proposing to roll back four decades of Syrian history by June and transform his Baath from a Marxist-socialist ideological movement to a rejuvenated, pragmatic ruling party.

Despite the heavy secrecy imposed on this radical program, a storm of opposition will be hard to avoid. It could go as far as a bid for his ouster.

He proposes to sever the reciprocal lifeline between army and party and shut down the movement’s pan-Arab center, so withdrawing the mother party’s support from the many Baath branches around the Arab world, especially in Lebanon and Jordan. He even seeks to rewrite the national constitution and introduce an open market economy.

But since he grasped Lebanon was a write-off, Assad is quoted by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources as dropping to confidants such remarks as: “I don’t want to see foreign troops in Syria forcing us to accept the sort of reforms imposed on Iraq. We can carry out those reforms on our own.” This tone recalls Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi’s vein in 2003 after he was reconciled to meeting the Bush administration’s demands and ceding his nuclear option and weapons of mass destruction programs.

Naturally this is unsubstantiated, and even if true, he may still fail as his opposition will be quite formidable, but either way, a regime change (Baath or Assad) appears on the horizon. Interesting.



A great review of the policy of containment success, or lack thereof, during the cold war by Amir Taheri in Arab News (ht XRoad).
When containment started in the late 1940s the Soviet Empire consisted of seven countries, or nine if we consider the Ukraine and Byelorussia of the time as separate entities, with a total population of 187 million. Two decades later the “Evil Empire” had expanded into 73 countries with a total population of 1.4 billion. Some containment!

Makes me wonder why some think it worked against communism or how it could work against islamofascism. Worth the whole read.
But truth be told, no one is really talking even about containing islamofascism, the debate is whether to face it head on or to ignore it, hoping it will resolve spontaneously (as the soviet fell spontaneously). It puzzles me how so many still believe that history "just happens" instead of made by men, and occasionally a man.

The elder of these daughters was Edith Zierer. In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death. Separated from her family, unaware that her mother had been killed by the Germans, she could scarcely walk.

But walk she did, to a train station, where she climbed onto a coal wagon. The train moved slowly, the wind cut through her. When the cold became too much to bear, she got off the train at a village called Jendzejuw. In a corner of the station, she sat. Nobody looked at her, a girl in the striped and numbered uniform of a prisoner, late in a terrible war. Unable to move, Edith waited.

Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to the girl to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?"

Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.

The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again, the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese.

They talked about the advancing Soviet army. Edith said she believed her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.

"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried - and failed. The man carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak, and set about making a small fire.

His name, he told Edith, was Karol Wojtyla.

Act or be acted upon.