22 May 2010

A debt to democracy, a date with destiny. . .

You have just made the change from peacetime pursuits to wartime tasks - from the individualism of civilian life to the anonymity of mass military life. You have given up comfortably homes, highly paid positions, leisure. You have taken off silk and put on khaki. An all for essentially the same reason - you have a debt and a date. A debt to democracy, a date with destiny. . .
-COL Oveta Culp Hobby

Obama and the curse of moderation
What Obama desperately needed to do was radical, but it was and remains achievable: to build credibility through offering tangible support for the peoples rather than the leaders of the region.

He hinted at significant change in his famous Cairo speech of one year ago with his call for a "new beginning" based on "tolerance and dignity," but his rhetoric has turned out to be just more smoke and mirrors.

Not only does his administration continue to "tolerate" dictators and systematic human rights violations, he has sought to continue and in some cases even extend policies that violate constitutional norms and/or US law.

Obama's moderation has not only failed as a foreign policy making principle. It has not worked domestically either.

The tragicomedy of Iran sanctions
It is this kind of international 'leadership' that grabs defeat from the jaws of victory for the non-proliferation agenda.

It has also reaffirmed the fears of many regarding US intentions: the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, remains every bit as unilateralist as that of George Bush, his predecessor, and it displays equal disdain for multilateral negotiations despite the new rhetoric.

Peace appears to be a non-option for the Nobel Peace Prize winner. And with such 'leadership', the UN security council sinks further towards irrelevance or perhaps even self-destruction.

...[T]he 2007 US sanctions against Iranian banks ironically ensured Iran's immunity from the global financial crisis that was about to explode.

Iran was among the few major economies in the world not to be severely affected by the crisis.

Obama campaigning against Bush--again
President Barack Obama is trying to ride the wave of anti-incumbency by taking on an unpopular politician steeped in the partisan ways of Washington.

It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush left office 16 months ago.

The White House’s mid-term election strategy is becoming clear – pit the Democrats of 2010 against the Republicans circa 2006, 2008 and 2009, including Bush.

It’s a lot to ask an angry, finicky electorate to sort out. And even if Obama can rightfully make the case that the economy took a turn for the worse under Bush's watch, he's already made it - in 2008 and repeatedly in 2009.

It’s not clear that voters still want to hear it.

Guantanamo forever?
Two days after his inauguration in January 2009, Barack Obama, the US president, signed an executive order promising to close the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within one year.

But the deadline was missed, and today some 180 men are still being held at Guantanamo.

Now many worry Guantanamo may not even close in Obama's first term, and might even stay open far into the future.

05 May 2010

We are unhappy if American troops lose their lives...

Every fighter gets knocked down. A bad fighter doesn’t get up. A good fighter jumps right back up and starts swinging. A great fighter gets up on one knee, takes an eight count, clears his head, thinks about what he’s going to do next, then stands up and starts fighting again with a plan to survive.
-Mike Denton, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms

Founding Amateurs?
Actually, our founders were not all that new at it: the men who led the revolution against the British crown and created our political institutions were very used to governing themselves. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and John Adams were all members of their respective Colonial legislatures several years before the Declaration of Independence. In fact, these Revolutionaries drew upon a tradition of self-government that went back a century or more. Virginians ran their county courts and elected representatives to their House of Burgesses. The people of Massachusetts gathered in town meetings and selected members of the General Court, their Colonial legislature.

Somali fighters seize coastal town
Heavily armed fighters from Somalia's Hizbul Islam group have seized a town used by pirates in the country's north, residents said.

"Senior officials of the group told us they will build a local government in the city to stabilise their presence there."

Haradheere is one of the main bases for Somali pirates, who are believed to be holding at least three hijacked vessels in the town's port at the moment, Andrew Mwangura, the co-ordinator of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said.


A conversation with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
"Because of the humanitarian vision we have, we are unhappy if American troops lose their lives there as well."

"How can a government come up with documents that are not credible enough to accuse another country of things that don't happen?"

"Every single body human body fallen in Iraq is as if an Iranian had fallen in Iraq."

"Our proposals were very solid ones. We said that we should establish a trilateral security committee for Iraq's future to fight terrorism. Those were very good proposals but the politicians in the United States lost the moment and their opportunity to engage us on that front."

Iran to stage new Gulf 'war games'
The Iranian navy plans to hold more than a week of war games in the Gulf, just days after the Revolutionary Guards wrapped up another round of military exercises.

Iran routinely conducts war games in the Gulf, but it has stepped up its demonstrations over the last few months in what analysts say is a push to deter US or Israeli strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

I was there:

US suspect 'admits' to NY bomb plot
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US citizen, was charged on Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Saturday's botched attack.

According to the government's legal complaint, Shahzad, 30, confessed to buying a four-wheel-drive vehicle, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it to Times Square, where he tried to detonate it.

"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, said in Washington.

Who Decides if Terrorist Claims of Responsibility Are Real?
The NCTC evaluates claims based on what is known about the groups' competence, track record, and operating methods and assigns their statements one of five levels of credibility: likely, plausible, unknown, unlikely, and inferred. "Inferred" refers to attacks in which there is no claim but a particular group's responsibility can be assumed based on the "attack signature" -- factors such as timing, location, and methods used.

The NCTC generally only releases more credible claims to the public, but keeps all of them in a classified record -- even the most dubious -- in case new information comes to light that prompts a re-evaluation.