Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

The Political Marble: BlaiseP reads the Ukraine entrails

HankP says US foreign policy and security policy is still engaged in self-defeating Cold War tactics. As a veteran of an intricate proxy war waged under the larger rubric of the Cold War, I don't share his opinion. But there's lots to agree with in his diary: there are no Good Guys in this squabble, as there were none in mine.

What's Really Happening in the Ukraine

HankP's picture

Hint: it's nothing like the metric tons of ordure being dumped on this blog on a daily basis.

 

Ukraine-Venezuela round-up (Updated)

Bird Dog's picture

The only reason I linked the two countries is because the unpleasantness is happening at the same time.

 

UKRAINE

The B52's Open Thread (Updated)

So Obama presumably approved flying two B52's right through China's newly minted Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) established over the islands it disputes with Japan. Meanwhile, the Japanese government instructed JAL and ANA to fly through the zone without notifying Chinese civil aviation authorities of their flight plans, as they had both started to do.

 

Elsewhere

Bird Dog's picture

China. The government is cracking down on Uighers, although there is little sign of an organized, kinetic resistance movement. The government is also cracking down on Bloomberg News.

Pakistan's leaders

Bird Dog's picture

Perhaps one problem with Pakistan is that, when it comes to recruiting the country's best and brightest, it competes with terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (based on a 56-page study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point). And no wonder LeT is doing well.

Islamist Spring: Egypt-Syria edition

Bird Dog's picture

Instead of the hope of democratic governance and expanding freedoms, Islamists in Egypt and Syria are attempting to trade one form of oppression for another.

In Egypt...

 

Hugo Chavez's Economic Legacy

There will be plenty of negative commentary on Chavez in the US press (and after reflecting on the recent Malaysia scandal, I wonder how much of that will be directly financed by Venezuela's Chamber of Commerce, Fedecameras, which headed the conservative opposition to CHavez).

 

So this is just a brief diary seeking to counterbalance likely negative news and support the proposition that Chavez was in fact a highly successful leader if we judge success in terms of leaving the people of Venezuela much better off than when he took power.

 

A House is a Grave: Sahel situation analysis.

A man lives in his wife's tent: a house is a grave. -Tuareg proverb

 

Précis: as the first phase of the Mali conflict winds down, we see a partial recapitulation of other guerrilla wars in the Sahel. Expelled from Algeria, Ansar Dine has emerged as the major player, the hub around which MUJAO, AQIM and other Islamic groups have coalesced and merged into the local populations. As France withdraws troops, Algeria returns to geopolitical prominence in the region, a brute force (and largely counterproductive) bulwark against Islamism. America returns to its bad habits, having seemingly learned nothing from Afghanistan.

 

Does the USA have strategic interests in the Sahel? If so, how might we best serve those interests? Let Mali's fall from grace show what happens when the veneer of democracy is pasted onto rotten boards. The nations of the Sahel are going from bad to worse: their wretched poverty and malgovernance are of a piece, a vacuum into which jihaad has moved with a vengeance as it has moved into many other such vacuums.

 

Africa must save itself. Does America have a role to play in that salvation? I cannot say. This much I do know: the USA appears to be repeating previous mistakes. Therefore, I predict, with considerable anger and sadness, the tragedy of Afghanistan will be writ large in the Sahel, across many nations in an area larger than the United States.

 

Thoughts on Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum

This post is in large measure a summary of yesterday's discussion hosted by Tamara Cofman Wittes, Director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, with Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Saban Center, and Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at Brookings Doha. I am indebted to the Brookings Institution for much of what follows but my own opinions are injected along the way.

 

What sort of government is created with this constitution? The House of Representatives and a Senate called the Shura Council constitute a bicameral parliament to act as a check on the powers of the president. The president appoints the prime minister as a proxy. Therefore the president has overweening power, as it was in the evil days of Mubarak.

 

There is a judiciary but it has little power to challenge the president and is deeply conservative. With the advent of shari'a law as the basis for the constitution, Al Azhar University becomes the ulama, with the unprecedented and vaguely defined power to review legislation, as described in Article 4 of the new constitution.

 

This constitution is stillborn. For all its windy trash about political and partisan plurality, the rule of law, respect to human rights, guarantee of rights and freedoms, peaceful rotation of power, etc. --the Egyptian constitution hasn't even defined the electoral process. It exempts the military from any oversight. It has created a religious state for all intents and purposes.

 

This constitution won't last more than a few years. The current referendum isn't about constitution: it is a plebiscite on Mohamed Mursi.  America might not have a large role to play in all this but mostly we ought to hold true to democratic ideals and not doing our usual Deals with Devils We Know.

 

On The Two State Fiction

So Abbas, as moderate a Palestinian as one could hope for, achieved at the UN global recognition that there is such a thing as a Palestinian people and Palestinian state. The victory was overwhelming; 138 to 9 and not even a reliable US ally like the UK, one of the 40 abstentions, was willing to vote against it.

 

New Diary - NOW! With more Benghazi-bashing!!

Jay C's picture

President Obama held his first post-election news conference today (actually, the first in months) - note: linked NYT transcript is 11 pages, as referenced below.

"Everything you always wanted to know about Benghazi* (*but were afraid Republicans are hacks)"

Because he's awesome like that, Kevin Drum clears up everything currently known about the Benghazi consulate attack, explaining in detail how the Romney campaign has been facepalmingly wrong at every turn.

Why was President Obama initially unwilling to call it an act of terror?

 

*Were* there protests before the Benghazi attack? [UPDATED]

As Mitt Romney recently learned in a fairly painful lesson, you don't assign blame before you have the facts. Nobody currently has all of the facts about what happened in Benghazi, but what is interesting is how many conclusions are being based on a single unsourced conference call about the events of 9/11/12.

 

Obama's Middle East foreign policy

Bird Dog's picture

This may surprise some liberals, but I just re-read Obama's Cairo speech and I find little disagreement.

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