Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An Arab Perspective on Political Islam

The Ongoing Conflict Between Political Islam and the West
By Magdi Khalil

While there is no issue with Islam as a religious belief, political Islam – as much as any political body – was bound to make mistakes. The Muslim Caliphate was the manifestation of that concept in past ages; and it can be identified nowadays in the upsurge of “Global Islamism”.

The offensive cartoon that triggered a violent outburst in the Muslim World, and particularly in the Arab part of that world, raises the question about the true nature of the current happenings: are we dealing with a contrived cultural confrontation or with a dispute that is gradually shaping into another round of the ongoing conflict between the West and Islam?

I personally lean towards the second option, and there are precedents in history to support that opinion. Political Islam and the West are at extreme odds, waves of mutual hostility and animosity can be tracked throughout history, and, we may indeed be witnessing the fifth round in that long, historical conflict.

The First Round: initiated by political Islam via the first Islamic invasions, or what is known in Islam as the “Islamic conquests”. The early Islamic conquests reached the West, threatened Europe and left an obvious mark on Al-Andalus.

The Second Round: Europe set off this round with the crusades; those were launched under religious banners in the same fashion as the first Islamic round, and left the Muslims of the East with extremely bitter memories.

The Third Round: initiated by political Islam through the Ottoman Caliphate that was accompanied by a huge, widespread violent wave, posing a menace to the survival of Europe, and leaving a clear impact spanning from Asia Minor to the Balkans.

The Fourth Round: Europe initiated this one with the European colonization of most of the Muslim World – some countries remained under occupation until the sixties of last century.

Clearly, the two parties have exchanged “blows” throughout history, each side initiating an equal number of rounds, but with different outcomes. Political Islam left behind Muslim entities in the former USSR and in some European states, by forcing the indigenous populations to convert to Islam. The West was – and still is – engaged in helping the Jews realize their historical dream to resurrect their ancient kingdom in the land of Palestine.

It is worth mentioning that there is a difference between Islam as a religious practice, i.e. spiritual rituals, worship, and faith in God and the five pillars – and political Islam, where Islam serves as an ideology with a vision to create a viable political Muslim entity. The Muslim Caliphate was the manifestation of that concept in past ages, and it can be identified nowadays in the upsurge of the concept of “Global Islamism”. The Islamization of all aspects of life is at the heart of this comprehensive concept, and terrorism – the military side of this concept - serves as a reinforcing brutal arm. In other words, in reference to the common argument that Islam is both din wa dawla (religion and state), we need to differentiate between the two aspects; the issue has nothing to do with Islam as a religious belief, and the right of belief is a granted personal right. However the notion of Islam as “a state” addresses the political aspect, and, political Islam – as much as any political body – is bound to make mistakes.

The exclusive religious nature of Islam only lasted for a few years after its emergence; before long, Islam had fused religion and politics, giving birth to what is known as political Islam—a concept that is still in effect in our times. Political Islam, by definition (whether scientific or functional) is an old phenomenon, as ancient as Islam itself, only the labelsl have changed throughout history.

It is also worth noting that from a western perspective, the conflict with political Islam is basically of a political nature, even though it has taken on a religious angle in one particular round. On the other hand, from an Islamic perspective, it is a political / religious conflict, given that Islam has fused both aspects since its early beginnings, as mentioned earlier. This theory is supported by the fact that Eastern Christianity has suffered as a result of foreign attacks in the course of the long historical conflict with political Islam. The crusaders have played a role in weakening Eastern Christianity, and what the crusades did in Constantinople is proof enough. Furthermore, the Eastern Christians have paid – and are still paying – a heavy price, given the intense religious tone of the conflict. As perceived by political Islam, there was no way for Eastern Christians to escape unscathed, and they have become convenient targets of the hostility and rage permeating their world.

The Fifth Round: Political Islam took a turn in initiating another round, and the events of 9/11 marked the beginning of a deliberately planned round of assaults. The only difference this time around is that rather than a “Muslim Caliphate” state to carry out the assault, “Global Islamism” took that job. As mentioned earlier, “Global Islamism” is a comprehensive concept, and terrorism – planned or unplanned – represents the aggressive wing of this wide-ranging scheme. In the days of the Muslim Caliphate, there was a central state in charge of the military aspects of political Islam, and nowadays, in the absence of that state, terrorism has taken on the military role (of course, the concept of Global Islamism extends far beyond mere terrorism).

There are no designated leadership quarters for Global Islamism, but there are several quarters for the purposes of recruitment and spreading the word, and Saudi Arabia comes on top of those, followed by Egypt and Pakistan. Around the globe, millions of Muslims are sitting on the sidelines, watching the unfolding events from a distance, as this round of assaults was initiated by extremists only and not by all Muslims. Some in the West have estimated those extremists to represent around 10-15% of the total population of the Muslim world, which roughly equals 130-200 million fanatics. Islamic extremism is unfortunately gaining more ground as days go by, a fact that does not bode well for the future, hinting at the possibility of an extensive confrontation and of a shift from a cold war status to a an all-out battle.

Conspicuously, the cycles of violence instigated by political Islam – whether through the Muslim Caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate or international terrorism – are of a global nature, hitting East and West, sparing no one, while the western attacks mostly tend to target the East and the countries of the Third World.

So, which of the Muslim states can stake a claim for the leadership of the Muslim world?

There are three types of leadership:
First, political and military leadership: it is obvious that none of the Muslim states qualify for this type of leadership, for many reasons. It is also a given that the West would not allow such a state to emerge and bring back the Muslim Caliphate; the West has no wish to revisit that period, or to be haunted once more by the phantoms of the Islamic invasions that have threatened Europe more than once.

Second: an intellectual leadership capable of offering a compelling extremist ideology that would draw and mobilize fanatics. Several states are walking that path, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan are at the top of that list.

Third: The model of Islamic reform: simply put, this implies following the example of Judaism and Christianity in making a complete separation between religion and state. So far, not a single state has dared to put this model forth, as the great majority firmly believes in an Islam that fuses “religion and state”. The Turkish model is an exceptional case, that can neither be generalized nor copied, not to mention that it has been gradually losing ground, and showing clear signs of instability and turmoil.

Possible Future Scenarios

The First Scenario: suggested by Bernard Lewis – a historian and prominent expert on the Ottoman Caliphate– in a book that was written prior to the events of 9/11, and published afterwards. In the book entitled What Went Wrong? he mentioned that the Muslim civilization has declined, and the Muslim world was crumbling under the weight of ignorance, poverty and regression. “Islam cannot (“cannot” is one word) flourish without conquests”, he clearly stated, which means that a substantial Muslim political structure cannot exist in the absence of Muslim Caliphate.

The Second Scenario: A resurgence of a Muslim Caliphate, in a different form, the dream that Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri have long harbored, and thought to accomplish through terrorism, and by taking control over a state that will serve as a launching point for the new Muslim Caliphate. They were hoping to start with Afghanistan, then move on to Saudi Arabia, overthrow the regime, and establish a base for the Caliphate, but their dream faded after Afghanistan was hit. Prior to that, Hassan Al-Turabi, who was based in Sudan, tried and failed to revive the Islamic Nationalism “al-Umamiah al-Islamiya”. Others took a step-by-step approach to revive the Muslim Caliphate, resorting first to political means, and planning to shift into a military mode once they are in power. The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt stands out as passionate advocates of that approach, as confirmed by a statement of the late supreme guide of the movement – Mr. Mustafa Mashour “we will not give up (the goal) of restoring the Muslim Caliphate”. (Asharq Al-Awsat, 9 Aug. 2002). I personally think that these attempts are destined to fail.

The Third Scenario: suggested by Samuel Huntington in “The Clash of Civilizations”, where he wrote “in the end, Mohammed will triumph” – meaning that the Prophet of Islam will have his victory owing to the Muslim world’s rapid population growth, and the way Islam is spreading and the Muslim cells are multiplying, threatening to enfold the world within their clasp.

The Fourth Scenario: it was suggested in the aftermath of the events of 9/11 that this is the final round of the battle between political Islam and the West, which will result in “the collapse of the Muslim World.” This scenario suggests that political Islam will be entirely defeated in a matter of a few decades, because terrorism will have taken the lead in this round, at a time when the Muslim world was at its weakest. That might explain why some people have commented that the Muslim world is actually facing the most dangerous crisis in its long history.

Magdi Khalil is a political analyst, researcher, author and executive editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International. He is also a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, London, a free-lance writer for several Arabic language newspapers, and a frequent contributor to Middle East broadcast news TV. Mr. Khalil has also published three books and written numerous research papers on citizenship rights, civil society, and the situation of minorities in the Middle East. E-mail:

Sold! Voltaire's Letters to Catherine the Great

At auction, for $750,000, at Sotheby's Russian Sale in London. Report from the BBC:
The figure is a world record for handwritten correspondence from this period, said Sotheby's auction house. The 26 letters date from 1768-1777, when Catherine was ruler of Russia and Voltaire lived in Switzerland.

Some of the letters are signed "the old hermit" while in others the philosopher simply refers to himself as "V". Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great, was a German-born Empress who ruled Russia from 1762-96.

She described herself as a "philosopher on the throne" and corresponded with several prominent European thinkers throughout her reign. The letters from Voltaire discuss her foreign policy, including the partition of Poland and her first war with the Ottoman Empire in 1768-74.

The Ottoman ruler, Mustafa III, comes in for ridicule throughout the correspondence, with Voltaire referring to him as "fat and ignorant".

The Haditha Massacre

Congressman Murtha was right to make an issue of this. The problem is not the crime--massacres happen in every war--but the coverup. The more quickly this is handled by a court-martial and the guilty punished, the better--because it would demonstrate that massacre is not US policy. US Marines are not professional baby killers, nor should they be, IMHO.

BTW, this might be a serious enough issue to force Rumsfeld's long-overdo resignation, if anyone has the nerve to take him on. How much worse can the image of America get? And it's been on his watch...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

East Timor Crisis News Roundup

From the BBC. Interesting angle from the Sydney Telegraph:
The kumbaya crowd which pressed for East Timor's independence must shoulder much of the blame for the failure of its dysfunctional government. The fact Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri... is deeply unpopular with much of East Timor's population is largely overlooked by his left-wing sympathisers. Nor is it apparent that any of those who clamoured for East Timor's independence lodged objections to the appointment of Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, with responsibility for the novice nation's police, though he was trained by Cambodia's notorious Khmer Rouge regime.

Pssst! The Taliban Are Back...

I don't know if I said anything about it here at the time, but the American decision to bring the Taliban and Islamist extremists into the Afghan government seems to have been a mistake. I remember thinking early on they'd play an inside/outside game to recapture as much power as possible, if given a chance(wouldn't you?). Completely crushing them, driving all of them into exile if necessary, seemed a better option than co-optation. And unfortunately it looks like the Taliban are doing just what was expected of them, taking advantage of American weakness and the proffered hand of friendship to stick it to the Yankees and call for "Death to America!" (Hint to President Bush: people who say things like that cannot be our friends, and those who fight them ought not to be our enemies). From The Guardian:
While Iraq continues to dominate the headlines, an upsurge of fighting in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban drew its traditional support, is worrying western politicians.

Today saw riots break out in Kabul after a fatal accident involving a US convoy. Protesters shouted slogans against Harmid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the US, and the unrest left at least seven people dead and 40 injured.

Meanwhile in the south, around 50 people, reported to be Taliban fighters and leaders were killed in a US air raid - some reports say on a mosque - after they attacked a convoy.

The latest casualties bring the number of deaths in Afghanistan to over 370 in recent in the last two weeks - comparable to the number of deaths in Iraq over the same period - in some of the heaviest fighting since the fall of the Taliban after the September 11 2001 attacks on the US.

Reports in the Pakistani press say several southern provinces including Uruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand - where 3,300 British troops are being deployed - are slipping out of control as the Taliban have taken the fight to western forces.

US and Nato forces have responded in kind, resulting in the rising level of casualties.

The Taliban's goal is that of any guerrilla force - to convey the impression that the central government and its backers cannot protect the local populace, so chipping away at its authority and credibility.

Now the warm weather has arrived in Afghanistan, western forces will have to endure more attacks from a reinvigorated and emboldened Taliban.

Who Lost Turkey?

Philip H. Gordon and Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution believe Turkey is the brink of becoming anti-American, because of Iraq:
The United States and Europe should be paying close attention to what is going on in Turkey today. Turkey's relationship with the United States is under great strain. Turks deeply resent the effect that the war in Iraq has had on their own Kurdish separatism problem. Turkey's long-standing fear that independence-minded Kurdish nationalists would dominate northern Iraq, thereby setting a dangerous precedent for Kurds in Turkey, has since become reality. The Kurdish population of Turkey is about 15 million, 3 to 4 times more than Iraq's Kurdish minority. Despite U.S. government protestations to the contrary, most Turks believe that a civil war in Iraq will be followed by the creation of a de facto if not de jure independent Kurdistan. In that sense, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ensuing disorder in the country threaten 50 years of U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Apple Loses to 13-year-old Blogger

What was Apple thinking?

A Russian-Turkish-Israeli Alliance?

Axis Globe says high-level discussions are underway right now. Personally, I think it might be possible --since the US seems to be losing control of Iraq and Afghanistan, and all three have reason to fight Islamist extremists:
Meanwhile, Washington is watching with alarm the formation of the new Moscow-Ankara-Tel-Aviv energy triangle. Here one may realize more clearly that the the Baku-Ceyhan project undertaken by the American initiative is becoming the lever of influence of Moscow in the region.

Active contacts of the Israeli side with the Russian gas company "Gazprom” do not add optimism to the Americans. It is supposed that the Russian gas would flow to Israel by the underwater "Blue Stream" pipeline that will be prolonged from the Turkish Black Sea port Samsun up to the Mediterranean terminal Ceyhan and therefrom – to Lebanon and to Israel – by the Turkish state gas company Botas and "Gazprom". According to the American source in Bruxelles, the US Department of State has already informed the Israeli diplomats of their concern regarding the development of a situation, undesirable from its point of view.
I would hope that the US, rather than oppose this alliance, bless it and work with the three powers as a full partner to end this Global War on Terrorism quickly and decisively, dropping American unilateralism and instead demanding a WWII-style "unconditional surrender" from the Islamists and their supporters. Instead of a token "coaltion of the willing," we might actually be able to have some real allies.

Wanderlustress Reports On Sudan


The History of Memorial Day

From The History Channel:
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Andrew Bostom on Islamic Jihad

The author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims will be on C-Span's Book TV this Sunday at 4:30 AM, according to The American Thinker blurb--Insomniacs of the world, unite...

Madeleine Bunting: Let Turkey Join EU

She writes in The Guardian:
The application to the EU is characterised by two ironies, neither of which is lost on Turks. Firstly, although Turkey pioneered secularism in the Muslim world, discussion in the EU of Turkey's application to join has focused on its 97% Muslim population. Secondly, although Turkey has finally resolved its decades-old identity crisis as to whether it is European or Asian - the majorities in favour of EU accession are substantial - Europe has now plunged into an identity crisis.

Much of the opposition to Turkish EU membership pivots on these ironies and the questions they prompt: is Europe a geographical or a cultural entity, and how do you define the boundaries of either? Nilufer Gole, a Turkish academic working in France, warns of the grave dangers of a narcissistic European Union obsessed by these questions of identity rather than motivated by the sense of project (initially, Franco-German peace) that gave birth to the EU and has sustained it. It's the project - of peace, of economic growth, of democracy and human rights - that appeals to Turkey, not indeterminate questions of identity.

An EU project that carved out a distinctive European engagement with Islam in which Turkey was a key partner would trounce Samuel Huntingdon's specious and self-fulfilling theory of a "clash of civilisations". Naked self-interest - those pipelines and pensions - will help drive this project forward. But I'm aware that many would attribute my enthusiasm to that intoxicating Istanbul effect of a city prickling with minarets above a sparkling blue sea.

Indonesian Earthquake Kills Thousands

Here's the seismic record from the US Geological Survey:

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tony Blair Comes to Washington

He's trying to help Bush, I think. But it may be too late. He's certainly not trying to help himself politically, given the low esteem Britons hold for Bush. Oh, I guess they may also be talking about bombing Iran, withdrawing from Iraq, and preparing for the G8 summit in Russia, a few little international items like that...

Alistair Cooke's New Book

Published posthumously after a 60-plus year delay, edited by Sir Harold Evans (Mr. Tina Brown), reviewed Wednesday by William Grimes in the New York Times, former Omnibus and Masterpiece Theatre host Alistair Cooke's The American Home Front: America 1941-1942 sounds like a jolly good summer read:
Mr. Cooke sees the things only a foreigner would. He grasps the unique qualities of the drug store, which he calls "the image of a complete American community — a shining fountain, the taste of lush syrups, an orgy of casual friendships and smart advertising, a halfway house between brisk comings and goings, the wayside first-aid station of American cleanliness and quick health." He has a sensitive ear for the casual cruelties of racism, and in California makes a detour to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, which he reports on, sorrowfully and humanely, at time when most Americans could not have cared less.

Much of the reporting is upbeat. Factories are going full blast, everyone has a job, and airplanes, tanks and Jeeps are rolling off the assembly lines. Even amber waves of grain, "the American factory of winter wheat," seem to be part of the vast American war machine. The mood, in many ways, is bright.

Direct questions about the war elicit somber responses. "But walk right into his cornfield," Mr. Cooke writes of the average Kansas farmer, "exchange the time of day, admire a stallion, and ask him how's business and he will grin, wipe his forehead, and say that the last two years have been fine, and if the war keeps on, the next two years will be better."

Whether he was at a film studio in Los Angeles or a cattle ranch in Wyoming, Mr. Cooke always managed to ask that second question. While the rest of the journalistic pack nibbled at news releases back in Washington, he followed his instincts and took a good look around the rest of the country. He filed late, but boy, did he get it right.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Enron Verdict: Guilty

The Bradley Prize Winners Are...

I saw a small ad in the Washington Post today, but it didn't say how much. At $250,000 each, it seems worth mentioning. I read Hernando deSoto's books on the mystery of capital, and they were very interesting. And I also took a class from Fouad Ajami, and he certainly deserves every penny...But for some strange reason the Bradley foundation seems more excited about singer Della Reese (in the headline and the lede) than their own winners (merely mentioned in the second graf). Anyway, here's the press release for what seems to be the conservative foundation world's answer to the McArthur "genius" awards.:
Milwaukee, WI—The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation today announced world renowned singer and actress Della Reese will perform at the third annual Bradley Prizes ceremony being held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 25, 2006.

The 2006 Bradley Prizes honor Dr. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies; Clint Bolick of the Alliance for School Choice; Hernando de Soto of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy and Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution. Each recipient will receive a stipend of $250,000.

“We are pleased and proud that Della Reese will perform at the 2006 Bradley Prizes ceremony,” said Michael W. Grebe, President and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. “Della Reese will add her voice and remarkable presence to what will be an exciting event.”

Bush Names New Domestic Policy Chief

Karl Zinsmeister, editor of The American Enterprise magazine, published by AEI. An excerpt from the NY Sun report:
Mr. Zinsmeister, who declined to be interviewed yesterday, is an unusual choice for a top White House job. While he has ties through the magazine to many leading intellectuals, his only government employment was a stint more than two decades ago as a legislative assistant to Senator Moynihan.

Mr. Zinsmeister edited the American Enterprise Institute's magazine from upstate Cazenovia [in NY state] and was rarely seen at the conservative think tank's offices in Washington.

In an e-mail to friends and colleagues yesterday, Mr. Zinsmeister signaled he will try to maintain an outsider's perspective on Washington, even as he takes up his West Wing post. He said he and his family plan to live in Baltimore, some 40 miles away.

Mr. Zinsmeister said he and Mr. Bush formed a quick bond, leading to the job offer. "After hitting it off with him and his new staff, I have accepted," the editor wrote...

...Some of the recent staffing changes have been seen as aimed at assuaging complaints about the White House from lawmakers, journalists, and other Washington insiders. However, if Mr. Bush was seeking to smooth ruffled feathers in the capital, Mr. Zinsmeister would not appear to be the right choice.

In a 2004 interview with the Syracuse New Times, the future White House aide declared, "People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings. The mom who charters a bus for her kids to go to a rave is as bad as the lady with the crackpipe. We have sickness at the top and bottom of our society and we have a big middle, sensible with common sense and decency and morality."

Just as with Mr. Snow, some of Mr. Zinsmeister's writings could cause embarrassment to the White House. He has engaged in some mild criticism of Mr. Bush's budget policies. In a recent issue of the American Enterprise, Mr. Zinsmeister wrote, "Though he talks a good line about battling government bloat, our current president has shown an eerie lackawanna when it comes to actually keeping a lid on the federal Pandora's box."

Mr. Zinsmeister has also written candidly on race, arguing that black communities have developed crippling problems that overlap in a way unseen in other parts of America. "The point of the conservative concern over black underclass life is that the pathologies run so much deeper there," he wrote in 1996, citing his mentor Moynihan. "We desperately need to find out what it is in contemporary black culture that makes for these exceptional breakdowns."

Stamp Honors Hiram Bingham, WWII Rescuer

A story in today's Washington Post about this new stamp caught our eye. Hiram Bingham IV worked with Varian Fry's Emergency Rescue Committee to save prominent intellectuals from Hitler. I interviewed Albert O. Hirschmann, who worked on the effort (in part sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt), for my film "Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?" and I met some of Bingham's descendants at a "Visas for Life" reception at the State Department in 2003.

Bingham resigned from the State Department in protest in 1946. He was awarded a "constructive dissent" award by Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002. For more information, here's a link to Kim Bingham's tribute website. Here's a quote from the website:
HARRY'S OWN WORDS in taped interview by his 13 year old grandaughter Tiffany Bingham (circa 1980): "We were transferred in 1937 to Marseille in France where there were a great many refugees from Nazi Germany trying to get visas to get to the United States and part of my work was giving visas to these refugees....They (the Germans – ed) had a lot of what was called the Fifth Column, which were sort of spies and people living in southern France. And we got rumors that the Germans were going to come down to southern France and would be there any time... Although we were not in the war, most of our government was on the side of the allies, the British and the French. But my boss who was the Consul General at that time, said, “The Germans are going to win the war. Why should we do anything to offend them?” And he didn't want to give any visas to these Jewish people. So...I had to do as much as I could.... The Germans had signed an agreement with the French that they could stay in that zone, but they must surrender any Germans that were there -- any refugees -- on demand, and they would then be sent back to concentration camps in Germany. TIFFANY: What was the most important thing that you did for the Jews? HIRAM: Well, in a way, it was getting as many visas as I could to as many people….And we did help them." Grandaughter Tiffany taped interview with Harry for Salem School class project, circa 1980.
And here's a photo from the website of the line in front of the US Consulate in Marseilles in 1940.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Richard Pipes Criticizes Bush Administration's Russia Policy

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interviews America's leading expert on Russia, who criticizes Bush administration handling of the upcoming G8 summit (ht Johnson's Russia List):
RFE/RL: And what about American-Russian relations? Are you satisfied with the present position of the U.S. administration?

Pipes: I am somewhat critical of the way the administration handles Russia now. I think it's not up to the American government -- I mean, particularly somebody as influential as Vice President [Richard Cheney] -- to criticize the restrictions on democracy in Russia. I think that is kind of meddling in the internal affairs of another country. But I think it would be appropriate for someone lower down and perhaps for institutions such as the Council on Foreign Relations and so on to do it -- and they are doing it, criticizing it. But the president and the vice president and the secretary of state and so on, I think, should conduct a more even-handed policy and not criticize the political developments in Russia. It bothers me when that's done. Russians are extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism, and that doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize them, but one should be very careful about what one says about what's going on in Russia.

The Russian people, I think, would want Putin to continue, which gives him a strong stimulus to run again.... The Duma, I think, is prepared to vote him powers, or to make an amendment to the constitution to enable him to rule again -- but we will just have to wait and see.

RFE/RL: What about the upcoming G-8 conference in Russia? Don't you think that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remarks were somehow connected with the preparation of this event?

Pipes: Well, they may have been. I don't know what was on their minds. I mean, the attitude in America now is very critical. We have, the Council on Foreign Relations, just published a report on Russia which is very, very negative. But it seems to me, you know, once you have accepted Russia into the G-8, once you go there, then good manners require that you tone down, mute your criticism. It's just a question of manners more than anything else. And Russians, I'd say, are very sensitive -- often unjustly so -- to criticism. They think it's a sign of hostility. Very often, it's a sign of friendship when you tell people, "You know, you are doing this wrong. It's not that I'm your enemy, I'm your friend, I would like you to do the right thing." But they find this very difficult to conceive. So, I would say, I hope that when the meeting takes place, that the criticism will be muted.

Roger L. Simon on Madonna's Confessions Tour

Mega-snooze, "Kabbalist" Madonna is evidently doing the Bush-Blair-Hitler routine in her new review. This is obviously "good for business" for the Material Girl, as is, I guess, her mock crucifixion (yawn). But how can you push the envelope when the paper's already sopping wet? How could anyone be interested in her trivial, clichéd nonsense when we've already seen the "Piss Christ" (That was banal enough), not to mention a half-dozen fifty year old Bunuel movies? Now if she had any real guts, Madonna would dance around on stage as Mohammed in drag. Don't hold your breath, however. Was this supposed freethinker around for the Danish Cartoons protest? Of course not. Why should she clutter her head with things that have nothing to do with money?

UPDATE: The Material Girl has gotten what she wanted - the Church of England has branded her Cross "offensive." Ka-ching! Ka-ching! C'mon, Madonna. How about little Mohammed action? Prove us wrong. We don't think you have the cojones.

Congressional Immunity

Congressmen are angry that the FBI descended on Capitol Hill to search the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), a suspect in an ongoing bribery investigation. The principle in question is Congressional Immunity, contained in the Constitution, based on the separation of powers to protect speech and debate from Executive branch interference. More on this legal angle from
Privilege From Arrest

This clause is practically obsolete. It applies only to arrests in civil suits, which were still common in this country at the time the Constitution was adopted. 376 It does not apply to service of process in either civil 377 or criminal cases. 378 Nor does it apply to arrest in any criminal case. The phrase ''treason, felony or breach of the peace'' is interpreted to withdraw all criminal offenses from the operation of the privilege. 379

Privilege of Speech or Debate

Members .--This clause represents ''the culmination of a long struggle for parliamentary supremacy. Behind these simple phrases lies a history of conflict between the Commons and the Tudor and Stuart monarchs during which successive monarchs utilized the criminal and civil law to suppress and intimidate critical legislators. Since the Glorious Revolution in Britain, and throughout United States history, the privilege has been recognized as an important protection of the independence and integrity of the legislature.'' 380 So Justice Harlan explained the significance of the speech-and-debate clause, the ancestry of which traces back to a clause in the English Bill of Rights of 1689 381 and the history of which traces back almost to the beginning of the development of Parliament as an independent force. 382 ''In the American governmental structure the clause serves the additional function of reinforcing the separation of powers so deliberately established by the Founders.'' 383 ''The immunities of the Speech or Debate Clause were not written into the Constitution simply for the personal or private benefit of Members of Congress, but to protect the integrity of the legislative process by insuring the independence of individual legislators.'' 384

The protection of this clause is not limited to words spoken in debate. ''Committee reports, resolutions, and the act of voting are equally covered, as are 'things generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it.''' 385 Thus, so long as legislators are ''acting in the sphere of legitimate legislative activity,'' they are ''protected not only from the consequence of litigation's results but also from the burden of defending themselves.'' 386 But the scope of the meaning of ''legislative activity'' has its limits. ''The heart of the clause is speech or debate in either House, and insofar as the clause is construed to reach other matters, they must be an integral part of the deliberative and communicative processes by which Members participate in committee and House proceedings with respect to the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation or with respect to other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House.'' 387 Immunity from civil suit, both in law and equity, and from criminal action based on the performance of legislative duties flows from a determination that a challenged act is within the definition of legislative activity, but the Court in the more recent cases appears to have narrowed the concept somewhat...

Haaretz: Elie Wiesel Helped Israeli PM

From Haaretz:
Author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel helped write the speech that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will give to a joint session of Congress Wednesday (complete text here).

Wiesel received a draft of the speech last week in order to add to it and make comments.

Wiesel joined former prime minister Ariel Sharon on the March of the Living at Auschwitz last year, and the two held a long conversation during the trip.

Olmert's speech will include events from his own life as they were intertwined with the history of the State of Israel. He will also speak about the relationship between Israel and the United States. Olmert will not speak from a prepared text. His speech also will refer to the Iranian threat against Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relations, as well as the West Bank convergence plan.

Olmert spent hours working on his speech, poring over drafts written by two Foreign Ministry officials, including attorney Daniel Taub of the Law Division. Olmert's chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, and his foreign policy adviser, Shalom Turjeman, were in charge of the final version.
I believe the report. Elie Wiesel once helped me, too, when I made my film "Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?". I had read his essay, "The Jews of Silence." So I invited him to take a look at a rough cut of my film. He came to my editing room, sat through the picture in silence. I was more than a little bit worried. Had I made some major error that would require a lot of work? At the end, however, Wiesel just said: "Every word is true." And then he left. It gave me confidence to finish the picture and stand behind it when I was attacked by Commentary magazine and some other people. Much later, I learned Wiesel had worked with Samuel Merlin--an Irgun leader who was one of the stars of the film--on a newspaper in Paris after the war. Small world....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Belinda Stronach on Bill Clinton

The Canadian MP talked to the CBC about news reports of her relationship with the former US President:
CAROLE MACNEIL: Did you see the Globe? Not the Globe and Mail but the Globe Magazine in the grocery stores this week? It has a picture of you and Bill Clinton.

BELINDA STRONACH: I think that was last week

CAROLE MACNEIL: Or last week, yeah. What's your reaction?

BELINDA STRONACH: Look there's, there's media out there, it's ... it's a tabloid. So Canadians can judge if it's entertainment, or if it's newsworthy or if it's factual and then, I'm saying it's a tabloid.

CAROLE MACNEIL: You're saying it's not factual? I ... the only reason I say that, and I know it sounds weird that I say that, but, because somebody said "is she having a relationship with Bill Clinton?" I mean, it's a question that's out there and everybody knows it's out there. What is your relationship with Bill Clinton?

BELINDA STRONACH: Bill Clinton is somebody I know, is someone I've had the opportunity to meet through a number of circumstances, is someone that I would welcome the advice on if I had the opportunity to take it, but that's it. That's it.

CAROLE MACNEIL: Does he give you any advice, or has he given you any advice?

BELINDA STRONACH: That's it. Like, given the opportunity to, I've met many world leaders, Bill Clinton, and many others, and uh, I consider it a great honour to be able to meet people that have achieved great things, and given the opportunity to discuss complex issues, I would take that opportunity. But no, we don't consult each other on a regular basis. (smiles)
Wikipedia entry here

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks to Channel Four (UK)

(ht LGF).

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...

Today's Google icon reminded us of Sherlock Holmes's author's birthday. Here's his official website.

Goodnight and Good Luck, Mike Wallace

Really enjoyed the 60 Minutes piece on Mike Wallace. He had a personality, and that 1950s Leonard Bernstein-Edward R. Murrow-style cigarette-smoking tough-guy sophistication that made the Tiffany Network the jewel in the crown of American television. Where did it all go? I can't say that I disagree with Andy Rooney. 60 Minutes won't be the same without Mike Wallace. Indeed, I tremble at the thought of Katie Couric on Sunday nights.

Interestingly, Mike Wallace made possible Ben Hecht's short-lived 1950s television show.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Good Week

I Liked It . . .

Saw it yesterday at our local movie house. Yes, it's got a really ludicrous plot (I laughed out loud, just like the Cannes audience). Yes, it is anti-Catholic (they could have changed the name of Opus Dei to something fictional, like "Carpe Diem"). But it is a roller-coaster of a movie, lots of entertainment--car chases, castles, airplanes, priests, tombs, museums, professors, French, English, Italians...I liked The Da Vinci Code.

It has nostalgia value, too, like those 60s thrillers with Cary Grant and Audsrey Hepburn running around Europe accused of a crime he didn't commit, running from people without knowing why. American innocence confronting European horror.

BTW Ron Howard did a good directing job. And Tom Hanks is just fine, as is Mlle. Tatou and the supporting cast. Ian McKellen steals the show with his good-guy/bad-guy/who knows what? English lord star turn.

Favorite line: "I've got to get to a library!"

Not to be taken seriously. But a lot of fun. Plus, I love the cinematic references to "A Beautiful Mind" in the puzzle-solving scenes when Tom Hanks sees glowing letters and swirling orbs. The protagonist of that earlier Ron Howard/Akiva Goldsman film--as all you Harvard symbology professors reading this surely know--was a paranoid schizophrenic.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Visit to the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home

Yesterday, at the invitation of a friend, we spent the afternoon at the annual garden party for The Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home. It was the most pleasant afternoon we have passed in a long time. There were several bands, and the residents of this venerable (the Louise home for women was founded in 1869) institution had more energy than we did. They were still dancing when we left. It has to be the nicest and best-maintained home for the aged I'd ever seen. People seemed happy to be there. There are only 100 places, we were told, and a long waiting list. And the food, catered by the kitchen, was delicious.

The Desperate Hours

Took another look at William Wyler's production of The Desperate Hours, starring Humphrey Bogart and Frederic March, based on the Joseph Hayes Broadway play with Paul Newman and Karl Malden. (Interesting IMDB trivia: Spencer Tracy had been slated for March's role, but pulled out in a billing dispute.) In the Encylopedia of Film Noir, Alain Silver bashed the picture as pro-famiy and so omitted it from his list of noir. IMDB corrects this omission, lists the genre as noir. It is indeed noir. The film takes place mostly at night, has a nightmarish quality, stars Humphrey Bogart as a criminal. It's noir.

It really holds up well. What may have been intended as a Cold War parable--peaceful suburbanites=USA/ruthless gangsters=USSR--can be read in the context of the Global War on Terror just as readily. Bogart could be a Bin Laden-type. The complacent surburbanites are just as apt today. Message: you can't rely on the authorities alone to defeat terror, suburbanites must think for themselves. Frederic March actually stands up not only to Bogart, but also to the police, in order to defeat the desperatdoes.

In the 50s it meant standing up to Joe McCarthy and Stalin both. Today, it means standing up to George W. Bush as well as Osama Bin Laden.

It's not called "Hollywood's Golden Age" for nothing...

Friday, May 19, 2006

More on Turkey's Anti-Islamist Revolt

From Yahoo! News (ht LGF):
Turkey's Islamist-rooted government faced a wave of anger and calls for resignation after a deadly fundamentalist attack on the country's highest administrative court stunned a nation fiercely proud of its secular system.

The anti-government backlash Friday coincided with ceremonies marking the 87th anniversary of the start of the War of Independence, which ushered in a secular republic on the ruins of the theocratic Ottoman Empire.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of Ankara residents took to the streets in protest against the attack on the Council of State by an Islamist lawyer whose shooting spree killed one judge and wounded four others.

Alparslan Arslan, 29, shouting "I am a soldier of Allah", sprayed the judges' meeting with handgun fire, saying later that he wanted to "punish" the court for upholding a ban on the Islamic headscarf.

Contemporary Conflicts

I came across this website containing essays from the Social Science Research Council while doing some online research today. It has background on places like Darfur that I found interesting and thought-provoking. Your tax dollars at work, if you happen to be a US Citizen. Here's their blurb:
Not long after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the Council launched a website of commissioned essays dealing with the causes, consequences and interpretations of the tragic events (archive for "After September 11"). Response to the site was favorable, reminding us that there is strong demand, even in these information-rich days, for careful, reliable and scholarly analysis of contemporary issues. With the launching of the SSRC website Contemporary Conflicts, we have extended coverage to other conflicts in the world besides those directly related to the events of September 11—reaffirming that these, too, merit serious scholarly attention. But coverage has continued on events related—or putatively related—to September 11, as many conflicts in the world have become enmeshed in what until recently was called "the war against terror."

Bush's Falling Stock

How low can public approval for President George W. Bush go? It's pretty low now, that's for sure. For example, last night I went to the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center with someone I know. It was a crummy production of Rossini's "Italian Girl in Algiers." Everything was vulgar, crude, in poor taste, and not working. We had seen a lovely and charming production a few years ago in Charlottesville, so this was a disappointment. In any case, during a break my companion turned to me and said, out of the blue:

"I really hate George W. Bush."

What makes you say that? I asked.

"I blame him for this production."

Note to non-Washington readers: The Kennedy Center budget is subsidized by US government appropriations.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Turks Demonstrate for Secularism

The London Times reports:
Some 40,000 protesters took to the streets of Turkey today to noisily support their country's secular traditions, a day after a suspected Islamist militant shot dead a judge.

Members of Turkey's pro-Islamist government were booed as they attended memorial services, and the Turkish President issued a warning that "no one will be able to overthrow the (secular) regime".

The entire leadership of the Turkish military, which has led three coups in the past and regards itself as the guardians of secularism, lined up beside the flag-draped coffin of Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, at his funeral today.
If it comes down to a conflict between Islamic fundamentalist democracy and military secularism in Turkey, I'd side with the latter--and I would hope (and pray) that the Bush administration will finally drop its "faith-based" "democracy-building" foreign policy--aka spreading worldwide Islamic revolution.

Agustin Blazquez to Star at Palm Beach Film Festival

Our favorite Cuban-American film director is having a really big show in Palm Beach next week (you can view his trailers via Google, here):
In person the filmmaker Agustin Blazquez at the Palm Beach International Film Festival by María Argelia Vizcaíno

The awaited first Palm Beach International Latin Film Festival, to be held from May 25 to 28, 2006, will rely on the participation in person of the recognized filmmaker, Agustin Blazquez.

The festival will last four days and will have several of the most important films of South America and Spain, and Blazquez’s films, made in the United States.

Blazquez was born in Cardenas, in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, grew up in the towns of Coliseo and Limonar. He left Cuba for Spain in 1965, and as many Cuban exiles, followed his destiny to the United States.

Agustin Blazquez is not only a daring, dynamic and truthful filmmaker, but an actor, a screenplay writer, a historian, and a writer who knows how to inform and educate the Anglo community that doesn’t have other ways to learn the real story denied by the massive communication media and their interests favoring the left.

Articles like “Collaborating With The Enemy,” “Children Kidnapped By Castro” and about a women’s prison in Cuba, “A Women’s Prison Known As Black Mantle,” etc. are some of his articles he has written in English especially for Americans.

With the same goal, he makes his documentaries that shows with facts the reality that is denied to the American people. That’s why in 1995 “COVERING CUBA 1" was born, and ”COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation” (2000), “COVERING CUBA 3: Elian” (2002), “CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles” (1999) and “COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below” (2005) in English with Spanish subtitles.

In this last one he confirms what many Cubans already knew, how the power of money and greed of the American politicians brought a tragedy to little Elian. In this film reveals how the domination of an unscrupulous corporation influenced the government of President Bill Clinton to kidnap an innocent boy - violating his human rights – voiding the possibility of solving his status peacefully under the laws established by the Constitution of the United States.

That’s why “The Rats Below” is the continuation of “COVERING CUBA 3: Elian” and both will be exhibited in this Palm Beach County International Latin Film Festival during the last week of May.

The first film opening the festival will be “COVERING CUBA 3: Elian” on Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 5 p.m. For his second film there will be a Cocktail Reception with the talented filmmaker Agustin Blazquez on Saturday, May 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the theater sponsored by Semanario Accion. In it, the director Blazquez, can exchange impressions with the audience. The screening of his film “The Rats Below” is programmed for 6 p.m.

The tickets for each film are $10.00 per person and include the access to all parties and celebrations. The screenings will be at the Cuillo Center For The Arts at 201 Clematis St. in the center of West Palm Beach. There are three options for parking: Valet Parking, street parking meter and city garage parking.

For the complete schedule of the other films, visit:

Agustin Blazquez’s documentaries will be available for sale at the lobby or visit:

Joe Galloway on Rumsfeld's Iran War Game

The same friend who told me about Office Space told me the story of Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper's experience with Pentagon War Games, described in this column by Joe Galloway of Knight Ridder:
One event that shocked Van Riper occurred in 2002 when he was asked, as he had been before, to play the commander of an enemy Red Force in a huge $250 million three-week war game titled Millennium Challenge 2002. It was widely advertised as the best kind of such exercises -- a free-play unscripted test of some of the Pentagon's and Rumsfeld's fondest ideas and theories.

Though fictional names were applied, it involved a crisis moving toward war in the Persian Gulf and in actuality was a barely veiled test of an invasion of Iran.

In the computer-controlled game, a flotilla of Navy warships and Marine amphibious warfare ships steamed into the Persian Gulf for what Van Riper assumed would be a pre-emptive strike against the country he was defending.

Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast patrol boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship missiles as well as first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. He packed small boats and small propeller aircraft with explosives for one mass wave of suicide attacks against the Blue fleet. Last, the general shut down all radio traffic and sent commands by motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the code-breakers.

At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into the fleet, and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the Navy ships in a simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy's much-vaunted defenses based on its Aegis cruisers and their radar controlled Gatling guns.

When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces had sunk 16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of Marines and sailors were dead.

The referees stopped the game, which is normal when a victory is won so early. Van Riper assumed that the Blue Force would draw new, better plans and the free play war games would resume.

Instead he learned that the war game was now following a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory: He was ordered to turn on all his anti-aircraft radar so it could be destroyed and he was told his forces would not be allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore.

The Pentagon has never explained. It classified Van Riper's 21-page report criticizing the results and conduct of the rest of the exercise, along with the report of another DOD observer. Pentagon officials have not released Joint Forces Command's own report on the exercise.

Van Riper walked out and didn't come back. He was furious that the war game had turned from an honest, open free play test of America's war-fighting capabilities into a rigidly controlled and scripted exercise meant to end in an overwhelming American victory.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Daniel Cohen: Bush's Embrace of Kadafi Dishonors America

From Daniel Cohen's oped in today's LA Times (ht LGF):
HOW WOULD YOU feel if the man who murdered your child was forgiven — and embraced — by your government?

That's what happened to me Monday when the State Department announced that Moammar Kadafi's Libya was being taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism and that the United States would establish full and friendly relations with the regime.

Libya, you may recall, was the country that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. The blast killed 270 people, 189 of them Americans. It was the worst terrorist attack on American civilians before 9/11. My daughter, Theodora — everyone called her Theo — was a Syracuse University drama student returning home from a semester in Britain on the flight. She was our only child, and her killing shattered our lives.

I know national policy cannot be influenced by the personal grief and rage of a single family. But the Bush administration has dishonored our country. The excuse the administration gives for its actions is that Libya has changed: It has given up its weapons of mass destruction. But Libya never really had weapons of mass destruction. Yes, it had materials bought from Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear supermarket, and maybe Kadafi was nuts enough to believe that he could build nuclear weapons someday. But he didn't actually have any, and his program had been completely compromised long before he magnanimously agreed to give it up.

Libya had no biological weapons either, apart from some World War I-era mustard gas. The truth is, Kadafi gave up nothing of value. It's hard to see how his example will inspire North Korea or Iran, countries that really do have nuclear weapons or the means to make them. The message they will take away is that the United States can be rolled.

Has Libya embraced democracy? Not according to human rights groups, which say that Kadafi remains a brutal and unstable dictator. So much for President Bush's doctrine of spreading democracy. The message here is that the U.S. doesn't really mind doing business with tyrants.

America by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury's ode to immigration on today's Opinion Journal channels poets Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman...

His final stanza:
Run warm those souls: America is bad?
Sit down, stare in their faces, see!
You be the hoped-for thing a hopeless world would be.
In tides of immigrants that this year flow
You still remain the beckoning hearth they'd know.
In midnight beds with blueprint, plan and scheme
You are the dream that other people dream.

Michelle Malkin Connects Illegal Immigration to 9/11

In her latest Hot Air video Vent.

Office Space

A friend of mine who works at a Washington think-tank told me to see Office Space to understand what goes on at the US State Department. Note the "TPS reports," he said.

I quickly ordered the DVD from Netflix and watched it the other night.

He was right. Mike Judge's film is terrific. Funny but not nasty, charming really. I'm sorry I missed it in 1999. It's like Dilbert with live action figures. Plus, Jennifer Anniston is great as the girl next door working at "Chochkes" wearing 15 pieces of "flair."

Add it to your Netflix queue. Five stars.

Bill Cosby Speaks!

The comedian was in town at the University of the District of Columbia's "Call Out!" event. He created a stir with his criticism of drug dealers, crime, and hypocritical church-goers (Cosby lost a son tragically under mysterious circumstances, possibly shot in a drug deal gone wrong). Here's one account from the Washington Post:
Entertainer Bill Cosby yesterday chastised churchgoers who preach religion but fail to confront problems that plague their communities.
And another from Casey Lartigue in, contrasting Cosby to Eric Dyson:
Over his 4 decade career, Cosby has made it clear that he believes that there are barriers (Dyson literally swoons when discussing Cosby’s 1976 dissertation bashing institutional racism). But Cosby has also made it clear that we can’t just “stay where we are.” After those four decades of giving his own money and time to the effort, Cosby may be telling people to stand up because he is tired of stepping over them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Vartan Gregorian on Russia in Eurasia

The president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York presents a thoughtful analysis of the impact of separatist movements in the post-Soviet space in the current Carnegie Reporter (ht Johnson's Russia List):
While the Soviet Union may have stifled open internal debate about these divisive issues, it could not prevent the West, during more than forty years of the Cold War, from appealing to nationalism and making religious and ethnic freedoms, along with the defense of national cultures, into effective anti-Soviet propaganda tools. Thus positioned as defender of the rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims and other groups, the United States and its allies stoked the fires of national identity and ethnic and religious rights that burned in the memory of those who mourned a lost nation or dreamed that a motherland, gone for decades or even centuries, could rise again.

In the 1970s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its aftermath rekindled the late 19th century Great Game that pitted the Russian Empire against Great Britain, though now the protaganists were the Soviet Union and its successor, Russia, vying with the United States for the future of the region. Afghanistan was the tipping point: throughout the war, which was fought, on the Afghan side, largely with Western arms and financing, the thousands of guerilla fighters who poured in from other Muslim nations and their political backers used Islam as a motivating factor and argued that the presence of “atheistic” Soviet troops in Afghanistan was an offense to Muslims all over the world. In an ironic twist, for the West—particularly the United States—Islam was, for a time, a useful buffer against “the red menace” of Communism, a weapon to be wielded as necessary, and sheathed when it was no longer needed. But that decision turned out not to be one that could be made without long-term consequences: once the Soviet Union collapsed, other nations such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan saw that money and influence could be used to promote the rebirth of Islam as a potent political weapon to be used in the name of Muslim solidarity in the region but also to support their own national and regional ambitions.

Now, as competing international interests—the United States, China, and any number of Muslim states—continue jockeying for power, the newly minted Russian Federation is forced to face its own future. It may chose to be autochthonous, echoing with the Slavophile aspirations of those 19th century advocates of the supremacy of Slavic culture and historical institutions as a better model of development for Russia than the Western European one. Or it can continue the process of Westernizing begun under Peter the Great, and carried on by both the Czarist and Soviet governments, and thus continue bridging the divide between Europe and Asia. Which path Russia will follow is critical for the future of democracy in the region. Perhaps, defying hegemonies of all sorts, the new Eurasia will seek to find a way to embark upon new forms of regional cooperation suited to its common economic needs, including outreach to global markets, while at the same time leaving breathing room for discordant national, ethnic and religious interests to coexist. But even if this type of collaborative effort is a possibility, one thing is clear: throughout the region, Russian culture, language and Soviet models of governance and development still remain influential. (Let us remember, for example, that many of the newly independent states were or are still run by former KGB leaders or other strongmen.) For all these non-Russian republics—some of them multi-ethnic, including a major Russian population—the challenge is to transition from authoritarian rule to a rule of law and begin to build a future based on democratic principles that include not only free elections, free speech and freedom of assembly, but the creation of the institutions that make democracy possible. In capitals around the world, the impact of the choices made in post-Soviet Eurasia are waiting to be measured.

Apple Sued Over iPod

Creative Technology is suing Apple alleging patent infringement in the iPod and iPod Nano.

Henry Kissinger: Work with Russia & China to Contain Iran

In today's Washington Post, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger advises President Bush to quit trying to bully Iran, forget "regime change," and instead work with Russia and China as well as the EU to find a diplomatic solution to the current nuclear standoff:
A more coherent forum for negotiation would combine the three European nations with the United States, China and Russia as the countries most directly affected and in the best position to act jointly in the Security Council. This could be set up after the passage of the Security Council resolution now under discussion. It would permit elaboration of the one hopeful scheme that has emerged in Iranian diplomacy. Put forward by Russia, it is to move certain enrichment operations out of Iran into Russia, thereby preventing clandestine weaponization. The new, broader forum could be used to establish an international enrichment program applicable to future nuclear technologies to curb the looming specter of unchecked proliferation.

Obviously, nuclear proliferation cannot be prevented simply by multiplying negotiating forums. The experience with existing conferences demonstrates the capacity for procrastination and obfuscation. To be effective, diplomacy must involve a willingness to provide clear penalties for obstruction.

Only after we have created the requisite negotiating framework and explored all aspects of diplomacy should the issue of military measures be addressed. But neither should force be rejected in principle and for all time before we know the circumstances in which this last resort should be considered.

The issue before the nations involved is similar to what the world faced in 1938 and at the beginning of the Cold War: whether to overcome fears and hesitancy about undertaking the difficult path demanded by necessity. The failure of that test in 1938 produced a catastrophic war; the ability to master it in the immediate aftermath of World War II led to victory without war.

The debates surrounding these issues will be conducted in the waning years of an American adm1inistration. On the surface, this may seem to guarantee partisanship. But thoughtful observers in both parties will know that the consequences of the decisions before us will have to be managed in a new administration. The nuclear issue, capable of destroying mankind, may thus, one hopes, bring us together in the end.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878

We are sure to hear more about this after President Bush speaks tonight, so here's a link to the Wikipedia site for The Posse Comitatus Act:
Sec. 1385. - Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Christopher Hitchens on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

How does he write so fast?
She has had to live under police protection ever since, and when I saw her again last week in Washington, I had to notice that there were several lofty and burly Dutchmen acting in an unaffected but determined way somewhere off to the side. I would urge you all to go out and buy her new book, The Caged Virgin, which is subtitled An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. The three themes of the story are: first, her own gradual emancipation from tribalism and superstition; second, her work as a parliamentarian to call attention to the crimes being committed every day by Islamist thugs in mainland Europe; and third, the dismal silence, or worse, from many feminists and multiculturalists about this state of affairs.

Before being elected to parliament, she worked as a translator and social worker among immigrant women who are treated as sexual chattel—or as the object of "honor killings"—by their menfolk, and she has case histories that will freeze your blood. These, however, are in some ways less depressing than the excuses made by qualified liberals for their continuation. At all costs, it seems, others must be allowed "their culture" and—what is more—must be allowed the freedom not to be offended by the smallest criticism of it. If they do feel offended, their very first resort is to violence and intimidation, sometimes with the support of the embassies of foreign states. (How interesting it is that the two European states most recently attacked in this way—Holland and Denmark—should be the ones that have made the greatest effort to be welcoming to immigrants.) Considering that this book is written by a woman who was circumcised against her will at a young age and then very nearly handed over as a bargain with a stranger, it is written with quite astonishing humor and restraint.

But here is the grave and sad news. After being forced into hiding by fascist killers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali found that the Dutch government and people were slightly embarrassed to have such a prominent "Third World" spokeswoman in their midst. She was first kept as a virtual prisoner, which made it almost impossible for her to do her job as an elected representative. When she complained in the press, she was eventually found an apartment in a protected building. Then the other residents of the block filed suit and complained that her presence exposed them to risk. In spite of testimony from the Dutch police, who assured the court that the building was now one of the safest in all Holland, a court has upheld the demand from her neighbors and fellow citizens that she be evicted from her home. In these circumstances, she is considering resigning from parliament and perhaps leaving her adopted country altogether. This is not the only example that I know of a supposedly liberal society collaborating in its own destruction, but I hope at least that it will shame us all into making The Caged Virgin a best seller.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Join American Enterprise Institute

Welcome to Washington!

According to the New York Times' Marlise Simons, writing in the International Herald Tribune, the controversial Dutch MP is on her way to the USA:
PARIS Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali- born Dutch politician known for her criticism of Islam, said Monday that her life in the Netherlands had become untenable because of security issues and a controversy over reports that she had lied on her application for asylum in 1992.

Hirsi Ali, 36, said she would resign her seat in Parliament on Tuesday and speed up her intended departure for the United States, where she plans to take a job at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

A Muslim who has received frequent death threats from Islamic militants, Hirsi Ali is a gifted speaker and is easily one of the country's most famous politicians. But she has faced rising political pressure over charges that she lied to the immigration authorities when she fled from an arranged marriage in Somalia to hide in the Netherlands in 1992. Her critics accuse her of further polarizing the already difficult immigration debate and of alienating rather than defending Muslim women.

In a telephone interview from The Hague on Monday, she said she had learned that as a result of the asylum application controversy she might be stripped of her Dutch citizenship. She said that was the last straw in a series of setbacks that made her decide to leave for the United States a year earlier than planned.

This 'n That on Immigration

This 'n That's chance enounter in a Starbucks led to reflection on the immigration crisis:
As the young cashier took my order, she thanked me for not making a big deal out of the situation. I said: "I don't think they understood me." She replied: "I don't think they did either. It's why I just shrugged my shoulders." And that is exactly the problem. We have "shrugged" our collective shoulders far too long in response to the problem of illegal immigration. It is one thing to enter the United States illegally and not pay taxes or medical bills and lean on hard working American citizens for support. It is another to actively refuse to learn our language - english, customs, and code of public behavior. It is tantamount to a blatant slap in the face.

Why is Bush Sending the National Guard?

Bull Moose suggests that President Bush's actions reflect cynical electoral gestures, rather than a realistic immigration plan:
The Moose observes that the President may be dispatching the Guard not so much to defend the borders but rather to protect the Republican majority.

Desperate times demand desperate action. No, the Moose is not referring to the illegal immigration problem at our nation's borders. The Moose is talking about resolving the civil war within the Republican Party.

The Political Office in the White House is receiving reports that potentially millions of conservative refugees are streaming across the border from the President's popularity. They are fleeing a party that has betrayed them with high taxes and gross incompetence. These immigrants who are threatening to stay home in November and Mr. Rove must call on all of the nation's resources to send them home.

And thus, the President may call out the National Guard. Guard members have already made extraordinary sacrifices for our country and the Guard is overstretched. At least one Republican Governor has reservations about the President's plan. The New York Times,

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California said in Sacramento that using Guard troops was "not the right way to go," in part because many were just returning from Iraq."

However, Republicans on Capitol Hill foresee a disaster of biblical proportions. To further mix metaphors, the Republican infighting on immigration has come to resemble the conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis. Peacekeepers may be called to restore order. The business Republicans and right wingers are clashing in the Halls of Congress. The President must demonstrate to the right that he is still one of them.

Therefore, he is addressing the nation to declare a national emergency- GOP control over Congress must be maintained by any means necessary.

More on Islamism

From the Hudson Institute's "Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World"...

US Economy Growing

So says economist Irwin Stelzer, whom I met at Jim Bowman's AEI talk on "Honor". After he advised me not to sell my home, I looked up his writings on the web. He has a cautiously optimistic perspective:
The economy avoided two looming problems last week. First, the Federal Reserve Board’s monetary policy committee decided not to bow to pressure from the housing industry and some investors. Ben Bernanke and colleagues refused to announce a halt in its series of interest rate increases. Instead, they took short-term rates to 5%, its 16th consecutive ¼-point increase. More important, the Fed pointed out that “some policy firming may yet be needed to address inflation risks”, and then added the unexceptionable statement that it would study incoming data before deciding what to do at its next meeting. I would hope so, the alternative being to ignore the deluge of new data that will become available when the monetary policy committee again reviews its interest rate policy next month.

So, rather than give in to the increasing crowd of nervous economy watchers who see a slowing housing market as a forerunner to a major general economic softening, and announce that it would hold the line on rates, the Fed chose not to unleash inflationary expectations. With good reason. Most indicators suggest that when the Fed’s monetary policy committee next meets, inflation will be above Chairman Bernanke’s comfort zone of 1%-2%. Consider these offsets to a softening housing market:

*commodity prices are soaring;
*high gasoline prices are starting to ripple through to air fares, freight rates and other prices;
*retail sales are slowing a bit, but remain buoyant;
*wage rates are starting to rise;
*the economy is continuing to grow at something like an annual rate of 3½.

So this is not the time for the Fed to decide that its work is done, and announce that it is packing up its rate-rising tools. Better to let markets know that it is keeping its options open.

Protocol of the Elders of Islam?

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, it appears. An LGF link called attention to this article by Patrick Poole in about a 1982 Muslim Brotherhood document entitled "The Project," reportedly discovered in Switzerland. If it is not a forgery--and Poole claims it is authentic--then it is certainly worth some attention in relation to the Global War on Terror:
What Western intelligence authorities know about The Project begins with the raid of a luxurious villa in Campione, Switzerland on November 7, 2001. The target of the raid was Youssef Nada, director of the Al-Taqwa Bank of Lugano, who has had active association with the Muslim Brotherhood for more than 50 years and who admitted to being one of the organization’s international leaders. The Muslim Brotherhood, regarded as the oldest and one of the most important Islamist movements in the world, was founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928 and dedicated to the credo, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

The raid was conducted by Swiss law enforcement at the request of the White House in the initial crackdown on terrorist finances in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. US and Swiss investigators had been looking at Al-Taqwa’s involvement in money laundering and funding a wide range of Islamic terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, HAMAS (the Palestinian affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood), the Algerian GIA, and the Tunisian Ennahdah.

Included in the documents seized during the raid of Nada’s Swiss villa was a 14-page plan written in Arabic and dated December 1, 1982, which outlines a 12-point strategy to “establish an Islamic government on earth” – identified as The Project. According to testimony given to Swiss authorities by Nada, the unsigned document was prepared by “Islamic researchers” associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

What makes The Project so different from the standard “Death of America! Death to Israel!” and “Establish the global caliphate!” Islamist rhetoric is that it represents a flexible, multi-phased, long-term approach to the “cultural invasion” of the West. Calling for the utilization of various tactics, ranging from immigration, infiltration, surveillance, propaganda, protest, deception, political legitimacy and terrorism, The Project has served for more than two decades as the Muslim Brotherhood “master plan”. As can be seen in a number of examples throughout Europe – including the political recognition of parallel Islamist government organizations in Sweden, the recent “cartoon” jihad in Denmark, the Parisian car-burning intifada last November, and the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London – the plan outlined in The Project has been overwhelmingly successful.

Rather than focusing on terrorism as the sole method of group action, as is the case with Al-Qaeda, in perfect postmodern fashion the use of terror falls into a multiplicity of options available to progressively infiltrate, confront, and eventually establish Islamic domination over the West. The following tactics and techniques are among the many recommendations made in The Project:

*Networking and coordinating actions between likeminded Islamist organizations;
*Avoiding open alliances with known terrorist organizations and individuals to maintain the appearance of “moderation”;
*Infiltrating and taking over existing Muslim organizations to realign them towards the Muslim Brotherhood’s collective goals;
*Using deception to mask the intended goals of Islamist actions, as long as it doesn’t conflict with shari’a law;
*Avoiding social conflicts with Westerners locally, nationally or globally, that might damage the long-term ability to expand the Islamist powerbase in the West or provoke a lash back against Muslims;
*Establishing financial networks to fund the work of conversion of the West, including the support of full-time administrators and workers;
*Conducting surveillance, obtaining data, and establishing collection and data storage capabilities;
*Putting into place a watchdog system for monitoring Western media to warn Muslims of “international plots fomented against them”;
*Cultivating an Islamist intellectual community, including the establishment of think-tanks and advocacy groups, and publishing “academic” studies, to legitimize Islamist positions and to chronicle the history of Islamist movements;
*Developing a comprehensive 100-year plan to advance Islamist ideology throughout the world;
*Balancing international objectives with local flexibility;
*Building extensive social networks of schools, hospitals and charitable organizations dedicated to Islamist ideals so that contact with the movement for Muslims in the West is constant;
*Involving ideologically committed Muslims in democratically-elected institutions on all levels in the West, including government, NGOs, private organizations and labor unions;
*Instrumentally using existing Western institutions until they can be converted and put into service of Islam;
*Drafting Islamic constitutions, laws and policies for eventual implementation;
*Avoiding conflict within the Islamist movements on all levels, including the development of processes for conflict resolution;
*Instituting alliances with Western “progressive” organizations that share similar goals;
*Creating autonomous “security forces” to protect Muslims in the West;
*Inflaming violence and keeping Muslims living in the West “in a jihad frame of mind”;
*Supporting jihad movements across the Muslim world through preaching, propaganda, personnel, funding, and technical and operational support;
*Making the Palestinian cause a global wedge issue for Muslims;
*Adopting the total liberation of Palestine from Israel and the creation of an Islamic state as a keystone in the plan for global Islamic domination;
*Instigating a constant campaign to incite hatred by Muslims against Jews and rejecting any discussions of conciliation or coexistence with them;
*Actively creating jihad terror cells within Palestine;
*Linking the terrorist activities in Palestine with the global terror movement;
*Collecting sufficient funds to indefinitely perpetuate and support jihad around the world.

In reading The Project, it should be kept in mind that it was drafted in 1982 when current tensions and terrorist activities in the Middle East were still very nascent. In many respects, The Project is extremely prescient for outlining the bulk of Islamist action, whether by “moderate” Islamist organizations or outright terror groups, over the past two decades.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Putin's "New Deal"

According to commentators on Johnson's Russia List, Putin sees himself as Russia's FDR. They point to this section of his recent speech:
The changes of the early 1990s were a time of great hopes for millions of people, but neither the authorities nor business fulfilled these hopes. Moreover, some members of these groups pursued their own personal enrichment in a way such as had never been seen before in our country’s history, at the expense of the majority of our citizens and in disregard for the norms of law and morality.

“In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on. But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is harmful to the greater good.”

These are fine words and it is a pity that it was not I who thought them up. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, in 1934.

These words were spoken as the country was emerging from the great depression. Many countries have faced similar problems, just as we are today, and many have found worthy ways to overcome them.
No wonder Cheney is angry, after all he's trying to undo FDR's New Deal here at home . . .

Happy Mothers Day! from Mark Steyn

From SteynOnline's Song of the Week:
But this is the mother of all mother songs – the one that’s lasted longer than almost all the others, if only because its lyric is reprinted every May on a gazillion greetings cards, some of which even play the music, too. It was written in 1915 by two second-rank Alleymen, composer Theodore Morse and lyricist Howard Johnson. Morse had quite a few hits in his day, though “I’d Rather Be A Lobster Than A Wise Guy” seems to have dropped out of the repertoire, and “We’ll Knock The Heligo Into Heligo Out Of Heligoland” didn’t outlast the First World War. But “Hurray For Baffin’s Bay” was one of the big songs in the original Broadway production of The Wizard Of Oz (1904) and “Two Little Boys” was revived with great success by Australia’s didgeridoo maestro Rolf Harris and has the distinction of being one of Mrs Thatcher’s favorite songs. Howard Johnson, though no relation to the household name, did share an interest in one of the items on the menu: “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream”. He also wrote war songs – “I’d Like To See The Kaiser With A Lily In His Hand” – and novelty songs that were a bit too novel – “I Don’t Want To Get Well (I’m In Love With A Beautiful Nurse)”.

But these words are Johnson’s claim to posterity. Eva Tanguay, Broadway’s “I Don’t Care” girl, introduced it in on stage, and Henry Burr, the soft-voiced son of New Brunswick, had a huge selling 78 with it in 1916, and thereafter it became a mainstay for every sentimental Irish tenor. Happy Mother’s Day to Irish mothers, dear old mammies, red hot mamas, and all the rest. And, as it’s a spelling song, see if you can fill in the missing words:

M is for the m ------- things she gave me
O means only that she’s growing o--
T is for the t---- she shed to save me
H is for her h---- of purest gold
E is for her e--- with lovelight shining
R means r----- and r---- she’ll always be
Put them all together, they spell MOTHER
A word that means the world to me.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Putin and the Wolf

Don't forget Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev. You can read the Wikipedia entry here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Who is Comrade Wolf?

From Konstantin's Russian blog, this explanation of Putin's citation of "Comrade Wolf."
Some information for those who are mystified by Putin’s “Comrade Wolf” metaphor. Comrade Wolf comes from an old Soviet joke.

Rabinovich and his pet sheep are walking in the woods. Suddenly they fall into a deep pit. A minute later a wolf also falls into the same pit. The scared sheep starts bleating. “What do you mean – baa, baa, baa?” – says Rabinovich, “Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat”.
Apparently, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack doesn't read Konstantin's Russian Blog:
QUESTION: What about the speech today from President Putin, his state-of-the-nation speech, where he compared the United States to a voracious wolf and said, "We are aware of what is going on in the world. Comrade Wolf knows whom to eat, it eats without listening and it's clearly not going to listen to anyone." What does that say about the state of Russia-U.S. relations and the prospects for bringing them along on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice has talked about this. We have, in many areas, a strong partnership with Russia. As for differences, you've heard about them in public over the past several months, Secretary Rice has talked about them, President Bush has talked about them, Vice President Cheney has talked about them. But we do have the kind of relationship where, if we do have differences, we'll speak about them frankly. And there are a lot of different issues on the table between the United States and Russia and we're going to try to push forward on those areas where we can. And where we have differences, we're going to try to work through them.

QUESTION: But can you specific for me on this "comrade wolf," the "voracious wolf" comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen it, Jonathan, honestly. I haven't seen it before you just mentioned it.

QUESTION: You didn't see the wolf or the comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: I had not heard the comment before Jonathan brought it up. So in fairness, I'd like to take a look at it before I offer a specific response. I'm not commenting that you are not giving me the entire quote, but I'd like to take a look at the whole thing.
Here's the conclusion of another version of a Russian wolf story from Sister Alyonuskha's Russian Folk Tales website, about a wolf and some baby goats he plans to eat:
The Wolf did as the Fox told him and made straight for the smithy. He came up to the Blacksmith and said:

"Please, Blacksmith, forge me a new throat, for I want to bleat like a goat."

"What will I get in return?"

"I don't know what you want. We animals have no money, but I can make you a gift of some kind."

"Well, then, Wolf, bring me a pair of geese, live ones, mind, and then I'll forge you a new throat."

The Wolf went to the river bank and began crawling through the rushes there, and he was soon muddy and wet up to his ears. But he finally

managed to catch two geese, and, holding them by their wings, carriec them to the Blacksmith. He felt very cross, for he would have liked to eat the geese himself, but this he could not do as he had to keep his promise. He brought the geese to the Blacksmith and said:

"I have brought you what you asked for, Blacksmith, so now be quick and forge me a new throat."

"Very well, Wolf, it's time to get to work," the Blacksmith replied "Move up closer to the anvil, stick out your tongue as far as it will go and close your eyes, and I will be quick and do the rest."

The Wolf moved up close to the anvil, he stuck out his tongue and closed his eyes, and he stood there as if frozen to the spot. And the Blacksmith at once seized his biggest hammer and he struck the Wolf with it over the head! The Wolf dropped dead on the spot, and the Blacksmith skinned him and sold the skiji at the market for ten silver pieces. And he kept the geese for himself to be eaten when he had a mind to.

And as for the Kids, they remained alive and well.

Putin's Speech

It took a while for the English translation of Putin's speech, but the full text is finally up on the Kremlin's website. A few things I didn't see discussed in media accounts, which focused on demographic issues and his response to Cheney.

1. A coded message that the US is sponsoring Islamist extremist terrorism in Chechnya and other republics in order to weaken Russia, and that Russia will respond forcefully:
The terrorist threat remains very real. Local conflicts remain a fertile breeding ground for terrorists, a source of their arms and a field upon which they can test their strength in practice. These conflicts often arise on ethnic grounds, often with inter-religious conflict thrown in, which is artificially fomented and manipulated by extremists of all shades.

I know that there are those out there who would like to see Russia become so mired in these problems that it will not be able to resolve its own problems and achieve full development.

2. Russia will stick to its policy of involvement in the "near abroad" and considers the European Union--not the US or China--to be its primary partner:
I repeat that our relations with our closest neighbours were and remain a most important part of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy.

I would like to say a few words briefly about our cooperation with our other partners.

Our biggest partner is the European Union. Our ongoing dialogue with the EU creates favourable conditions for mutually beneficial economic ties and for developing scientific, cultural, educational and other exchanges. Our joint work on implementing the concept of the common spaces is an important part of the development of Europe as a whole.

3.Russia ranks relations with the US on a level with China and India, and prefers to work to strengthen rather than weaken the UN framework, in opposition to the Bush administration policy of unilateralism:
Of great importance for us and for the entire international system are our relations with the United States of America, with the People’s Republic of China, with India, and also with the fast-growing countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, Latin America and Africa. We are willing to take new steps to expand the areas and framework of our cooperation with these countries, increase cooperation in ensuring global and regional security, develop mutual trade and investment and expand cultural and educational ties.

I wish to stress that at this time of globalisation when a new international architecture is in the process of formation, the role of the United Nations Organisation has taken on new importance. This is the most representative and universal international forum and it remains the backbone of the modern world order. It is clear that the foundations of this global organisation were laid during an entirely different era and that reform is indisputably necessary.

Russia, which is taking an active part in this work, sees two points of being of principle importance.

First, reform should make the UN’s work more effective. Second, reform should have the broad support of a maximum number of the UN’s member states. Without consensus in the UN it will be very difficult to ensure harmony in the world. The UN system should be the regulator that enables us to work together to draw up a new code of behaviour in the international arena, a code of behaviour that meets the challenges of our times and that we are so in need of today in this globalising world.
Putin is attempting to put Russia back to work with the mission of "balancing" the USA, without directly opposing America or restarting the Cold War. Sort of a "loyal opposition" vision for international relations, not a threat, rather a dissenting and independent power.