Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Douglas Macgregor: Fire the Generals!

At the National Press Club today for lunch, I came across this interesting unpublished 2006 article about Iraq, by Col. Douglas Macgregror (Ret.), of the Center for Defense Information: Fire the Generals!:
American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are rightly lauded by the American public for their courage and sacrifice in the fight for Iraq, but the high quality of American soldiers and Marines at battalion level and below cannot compensate for inadequate senior leadership at the highest levels in war. Today, the senior leadership of the U.S. armed forces in general and, the U.S. Army in particular, is overly bureaucratic, risk averse, professionally inadequate and, hence, unsuited to the complex military tasks entrusted to them. The Bush administration has a preference for compliant, sycophantic officers who are fatally dependent on the goodwill of the secretary of defense and the president who promoted and appointed them.

It is bitter to contemplate, but Americans now confront issues of the utmost gravity:

• first, the lack of character and competence apparent in the most senior ranks;
• second, the willingness of the civilians in charge, from the commander in chief to the secretary of defense, to ignore this problem; and,
• third, the probability that future American military operations will fail if generalship of this quality persists.

Steven Malanga on Rudy Giuliani's Electability

From City Journal (ht OpinionJournal):
As "America's mayor," a sobriquet he earned after 9/11, Mr. Giuliani has a unique profile as a presidential candidate. To engineer the city's turnaround, he had to take on a government whose budget and workforce were larger than all but five or six states. (Indeed, his budget his first year as mayor was about 10 times the size of the one that Bill Clinton managed in his last year as governor of Arkansas.) For more than a decade, the city has been among the biggest U.S. tourist destinations, and tens of millions of Americans have seen firsthand the dramatic changes he wrought in Gotham.

Moreover, as an expert on policing and America's key leader on 9/11, Mr. Giuliani is an authority on today's crucial foreign-policy issue, the war on terror. In fact, as a federal prosecutor in New York, he investigated and prosecuted major terrorist cases. As mayor, he took the high moral ground in the terrorism debate in 1995, when he had an uninvited Yasser Arafat expelled from city-sponsored celebrations during the United Nations' 50th anniversary because, in Mr. Giuliani's eyes, Arafat was a terrorist, not a world leader. "When we're having a party and a celebration, I would rather not have someone who has been implicated in the murders of Americans there, if I have the discretion not to have him there," Mr. Giuliani said at the time.

These are impressive conservative credentials. And if social and religious conservatives fret about Mr. Giuliani's more liberal social views, nevertheless, in the general election such views might make this experience-tested conservative even more electable.

My Morning With Yulia Tymoshenko...

I spent this morning with Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko...and a couple of hundred other star-struck Washingtonians who attended her talk in the SRO conference room, entitled "Ukraine: At Political and Economic Crossroads," at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

First impressions: Tymoshenko is quite petite, smaller in person than she appears on television. Her famous braid was solidly in place, giving a "halo effect" to her perfect complexion. She's as good a dresser, at least, as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (though she didn't show as much leg). Her talk was a plea for American support in her battle to maintain the Euro-Atlantic orientation of Ukraine's development in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution. She described her nation as "in crisis"--and took a number of hostile questions about her legal problems from Russian-speakers in the audience. Tymoshenko handled them with grace and aplomb, didn't bristle, smiled even. She's definitely a tough cookie and obviously smart. Not afraid to face tough questions. In her talk and the Q&A, Tymoshenko gave a pessmistic view of Ukraine's current crisis, and fights with Russia over gas pipelines. She said that even if Ukraine is taking backward steps, she was confident that Ukraine would go forward again, presumably under her leadership. She wouldn't criticize President Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, but did criticize Prime Minister Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, whom she described as "not free" (ie, a tool of Russia). She did misunderstand a significant audience question--about "Ukraine fatigue" in Washington. Tymoshenko responded that Ukrainians have been fighting for their freedom for 100 years and will go on fighting forever. She didn't seem to understand that the Washingtonian was asking her response to the apparent fact that Washington is getting tired of perpetual crisis in Ukraine...One of the interesting questions was about Tymoshenko's call for a "Third Way"--her way. She was asked the ideology of her party, and if she were running for President of Ukraine. It was the only answer that seemed a bit vague. From that, it would seem that she is running, and in 2009, may become "Madame President." She told the crowd, that she didn't only make revolutions, that she was also able to be very calm. That will no doubt prove useful as she has to juggle geopolitics, domestic politics, and triangulate between the EU-Russia-USA. From her talk in Washington this morning, I'd say Tymoshenko's off to a good start...

Nuruddin Farah on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer

Here's a link to a podcast of Somali author Nuruddin Farah's interesting interview with Jeffrey Brown on last night's Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He blamed the rise of Islamist extremism in Somalia on the return of guest workers from the Gulf States, who had been exposed to Wahabi teachings. He seemed both perceptive and reasonable--I hope Americans will heed his message...His books include:
A Naked Needle (1976)
From a Crooked Rib (1970)

Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship,
a trilogy consisting of:
Sweet and Sour Milk (1979)
Sardines (1981)
Close Sesame (1983)

Maps (1986)
Gifts (1993)
Secrets (1998)
Links (2005)
Knots (2007).
Here's a link to the Nuruddin Farah Archive on NomadNet. You can buy his latest book, Knots from, here:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How Foreign Aid Ruined Afghanistan

By Joshua Foust, in TCS Daily (ht Registan):
Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Non-Governmental Organizations have filled in the gaps left by an otherwise absent government—schools, health care, employment, and so on. After the American invasion in 2001, billions of dollars have flowed into the country, funding a massive reconstruction effort. The story of aid in Afghanistan is not all unicorns and sunshine, however. Its very abundance—over $8 billion pledged this year alone—is harming the country's ultimate chances of success.

Overabundance is not a problem traditionally associated with humanitarian missions. Indeed, quite often the opposite is true with programs lacking the funds required by their mandates.

The unfortunate reality in Afghanistan is that, no matter the amount donated, it would be too much. This is because Afghanistan's biggest problem is not poverty, but government.

Before the 2001 invasion, there were no institutions to speak of—no government, no services, no formal economy. There was simply no way to provide basic services, like police or fire fighting or medicine.

Yet even after years of what the IMF calls "building capacity," Kabul cannot manage its resources effectively. Trying to unravel the financial mess, the World Bank in late 2005 drafted a report on Afghanistan's public finances. It contains some sobering statistics: domestic revenues are only 5% of GDP, the fiscal deficit is financed entirely by a foreign aid, the entire operating budget is managed by a trust fund. The government cannot directly channel the reconstruction money, so it delegates to NGOs and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As a result, it exercises no control, no accountability, and, most ominously, no legitimacy over the reconstruction process.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Who's Behind the "Appeal for Redress" PR Campaign?

The Mudville Gazette explains the background to last night's 60 Minutes segment breathily narrated by Lara Logan on anti-war protesters in the US military. It appears this protest may not be as spontaneous as it seems (ht The American Thinker):
The missing piece of the puzzle was actually available from the start:

Yesterday, a company that does public relations for the liberal activist political action committee, Fenton Communications, organized a conference call for reporters and three active-duty soldiers to unveil the soldiers' anti-war group Appeal for Redress.
A staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity said his company was approached last week by a longtime peace activist and former director of the anti-nuclear proliferation front known as SANE/Freeze, David Cortright, to publicize Appeal for Redress. Mr. Cortright is now president of an Indiana-based nonprofit group, the Fourth Freedom Forum, and his biography on the organization's Web site says he helped raise "more than $300,000 for the Win Without War coalition to avert a preemptive attack on Iraq in 2002–03."

That's from the October 26 New York Sun - kudos to the only reporters in the crowd who had the guts to tell the truth about this. As of this writing, over 200 newspapers have carried the story; The Boston Globe, al-Jazeera, The Washington Post, ABC News, Reuters, The (UK) Guardian... but none of the stories acknowledge the orchestration of the event by Fenton Communications. Instead, virtually all of them detail the "grass roots" effort of the troops. Even without the Sun story, the mere fact that this appeared simultaneously in multiple "big media" outlets is evidence enough of such a campaign. In the pre-internet days this wouldn't be so obvious, but in these days of instant global communication the life cycle of such a story should hardly exceed 24 hours (and wouldn't have in the past without active media participation). But if you're among the few tech savvy and information hungry people interested in not taking such slickly-packaged information at face value, here are the facts about "Appeal for Redress" in order of discovery here.

The site is registered to J.E. Glick, of 803 North Main Street, Goshen, Indiana. A quick check of online white pages reveals that's the address of The Fourth Freedom Forum. (You can also read about the group here). This would seem to confirm the point in the Sun story quoted above:

A staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity said his company was approached last week by a longtime peace activist and former director of the anti-nuclear proliferation front known as SANE/Freeze, David Cortright, to publicize Appeal for Redress. Mr. Cortright is now president of an Indiana-based nonprofit group, the Fourth Freedom Forum.

And Jennifer Glick (J.E. Glick), actual "owner" of the Appeal for Redress web site, is listed in the Fourth Freedom Forum contact page as Director, Information Services.

The Fourth Freedom Forum's opposition to war pre-dates Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a well funded, very professional organization. But the group is not listed among the sponsoring organizations on the Appeal for Redress web page. (Those groups are Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace.)

It would seem the Fourth Freedom Forum wants to hide it's activities behind some groups and individuals seen as more credible to this particular cause. (I think "front groups" is the usual term.) But it was easy to find the real owners of the "Redress" web page (I originally noted the failure to do so on the part of one of the reporters who carried this propaganda to "the next level" - but have since come to believe that among journalists this was actually common knowledge that they saw fit not to include in their stories), so the "staff member at Fenton Communications who requested anonymity" (ironically, given the breathless press accounts, the only actual whistleblower in this story) may or may not have needed to be so concerned about being revealed.

(Update: registration of the site has been changed. Fourth Freedom is working quickly to camoflage their involvement in this project.)

The Queen to Have "The Queen" to Tea

According to an AP story in The Guardian, Helen Mirren may soon be having tea at Buckingham Palace, after her Oscar win for "The Queen." Wouldn't it be nice to be a fly on the wall for that? In any case, Helen: Jolly Good Show!

Mr. Schwarzenegger Goes to Washington

Just heard Arnold Schwarzenegger's National Press Club speech on C-Span radio, while driving in the car. It's pretty good. You can watch it yourself (scroll down for link), on the C-Span website.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

William Grimes on Alexander Herzen

Today's New York Times Book Review features William Grimes (who holds a doctorate in Russian literature) on the literary legacy of Alexander Herzen, "star" of Tom Stoppard's New York hit, The Coast of Utopia:
“My Past and Thoughts” embraces a wide range of moods and emotional registers, from the poignant lyricism of the chapters on childhood to the anguished, self-lacerating examination of the Herwegh affair (not included in the Macdonald abridgement). Herzen’s version is hot, vindictive and wildly unfair — in other words, the one you want to read first. Herwegh is portrayed as a weak-willed, cowardly narcissist, a third-rate poet who, while protesting undying devotion to Herzen, sets about seducing his wife. Herwegh’s slavishly adoring wife, whom Herzen loathed, gets her share of abuse as well. With cruel precision, Herzen describes her foghorn voice, her simpering Romantic vocabulary, her appetite for self-abasement before the altar of genius. As a character assassin, Herzen knows no peer.

At the time he published the first chapters of “My Past and Thoughts,” Herzen’s best years lay ahead of him. In July 1857 he and his childhood friend, the poet Nikolai Ogarev, began publishing a new periodical, The Bell. A rough equivalent of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, The Bell analyzed political developments in Russia, exposed crimes and abuses and put the fear of God into czarist functionaries high and low. “V. P. Botkin himself,” Herzen wrote, referring to a famous reactionary, “constant as a sunflower in his inclination toward any manifestation of power, looked with tenderness on The Bell as though it had been stuffed with truffles.”

“My Past and Thoughts” winds down inconclusively. Its final chapter contains a brief account of Herzen’s last years in Switzerland, some random observations on Italian architecture and Heinrich Heine, and some fascinating predictions about the United States (“The standard of their civilization is lower than that of Western Europe, but they have one standard and all attain to it: in that is their fearful strength”). Most telling, however, is his attack on the new breed of radical coming to the fore in Russia, and epitomized in the “nihilist” Bazarov, the antihero of Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.”

In Bazarov, Herzen recognized his replacement. The world had turned since he and Ogarev, aflame with the ideas of the French Revolution and German philosophy, had stood on the hills overlooking Moscow and sworn eternal faith to the liberal Decembrist uprising of 1825. By the year of his death, Herzen was yesterday’s man, and his natural heirs would be among the first victims of the revolution to come. His enduring legacy was not a just, democratic Russia. It was “My Past and Thoughts.”

Washington DC's Black Opera Company

In yesterday's Washington Post, Jackie Trescott reports on the African-American opera company that brought high culture to America's capital in the 19th Century:
Where the idea for an opera company came from is not entirely clear, but the group was organized by a barber, William T. Benjamin. The opera company came together in 1873 with John Esputa, a well-known white teacher, as its director.

He had worked with St. Augustine's since 1868, according to a church history written by Morris J. MacGregor in 1999. How the partnership happened is not entirely clear.

"What it looks like is that he lived in the Navy Yard neighborhood, and the parish priest at [the nearby] St. Peter's Catholic Church was the Rev. Felix Barotti. He became the priest at Blessed Martin's, and recruited Esputa as the music director," says Patrick Warfield, visiting assistant professor of music at Georgetown University.

Esputa had been an apprentice of the U.S. Marine Band, where his father played, and then joined the band himself. He and his father ran a music school near the Marine Barracks, and John Philip Sousa was one of their students. About the time Esputa began working with the black church, he became a music teacher for the Washington Colored Schools.

The parish choir, according to the MacGregor history, sang Haydn and Mozart at well-attended performances chronicled by the daily newspapers, as well as the Catholic Mirror. "On Easter Sunday in 1873, for example, the choir performed Haydn's 'Solemn Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin' and Antonio Diabelli's 'Gaudeamus' accompanied by a small orchestra of trumpets, horns and strings," wrote MacGregor.

By 1873, the opera company was a distinct part of the church's music program.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chicago's O'Hare Airport, Valentine's Day, 2007

Posted by Picasa

Melvyn Bragg on William Wilberforce

From Radio Four's In Our Time. Listen here.

Lev Navrozov: China More Dangerous Than Russia

From Newsmax:
It is true that I write about the danger of Putin's Russia mainly because of its "cooperation" with China, which cooperation was established officially in 2001, but few Americans except me publicly noticed the sinister danger of such cooperation in the development of post-nuclear super weapons.

The population of China exceeds four times that of the United States, and eight times that of Russia.

Why is this important?

Those Westerners who write about the "China threat," while knowing nothing about it, speak about how big China's army is. Actually, it is tiny compared with the population of China. The size of its population is important as a source not of soldiers, but of scientists and technologists, such as Tsung-Dao Lee, a genius of high-energy particle physics, who received the Nobel Prize in 1937 and established in Beijing in 1998 the Chun-Tsung (Chun is the name of his wife) Endowment Fund to distribute scholarships among the most gifted students at five universities in China.

Graduated in China as of today are 442,000 engineers a year (with 48,000 graduates having masters' degrees) compared to 60,000 engineers a year in the USA. This is the real army, whom annual growth exceeds the relevant U.S. numbers already more than seven times....

...Recall Stalin: he concluded a treaty with Hitler under which Hitler was receiving raw materials for the production of military equipment. Stalin's goal was to divide the world with Hitler. Is Putin's goal to divide the world with Hu Jintao?

Hitler feared that Stalin would attack him, Hitler, to pre-empt Stalin's preemption.

Before our emigration from Russia, we had been living in our three-storied country house because I was the only native Russian capable of translating classical Russian literature into English. Our friends brought for dinner an important American. I entertained him by my anti-Sovietism, and he was delighted. Then I said: "Well, in China it is even worse."

He became ashen gray. "How can you say this?" He was visibly shaken.

I recall the scene whenever I meet an American unwilling to apply to China what was said during the Cold War about Stalin's Russia.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tony Blair Speaks...

On BBC Radio Four's Today Programme, a fascinating and lengthy discussion with the British Prime Minister about the war in Iraq, and possible attacks on Iran,here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Egyptian Blogger Convicted of Insulting Islam

From AP via JihadWatch (ht Michelle Malkin):
An Egyptian blogger was convicted Thursday and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt's president, sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, was a vocal secularist and sharp critic of conservative Muslims in his blog. He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar -- the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam -- calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of encouraging extremism.

Imagine...A World Without America

I dunno if pr like this might give some people the wrong idea--imagine the world without America!--but in any case this YouTube ad from the group BritainandAmerica is worth watching (ht lgf):

Christopher Hitchens on Sunnis v. Shiites

From Slate:
"See how the Christians love each other!" This used to be the secular response to the fratricide between Catholics and Protestants, let alone the schisms within the Catholic Church and the vicious quarrels between different schools of Calvinism. (When the Baptists of Danbury, Conn., wrote to Thomas Jefferson, asking for his assurance against persecution and generating his famous "wall of separation" response, it was the Congregationalists of Connecticut of whose intolerance they were apprehensive.)

Within Islam, these lines of division are many times more acute. Ahmadi Muslims are considered impossibly heretical by most other followers of the Prophet, and Ismaili Muslims are looked upon askance in many quarters as well, but the rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites (which also conceals numerous poisonous rifts between different interpretations and leaderships in both camps) has become one of the most toxic phenomena in the world today. On Web sites that offer advice to the devout, Sunnis and Shiites ask their imams and ayatollahs whether it is permitted to take the life of a member of the other sect. On American campuses, Muslim student groups now shun one another on a confessional basis. Throughout the Arab and Persian media, moods of excommunication and denunciation are vocally expressed. Almost every day in Iraq, as has been well-reported, a mosque is blown up or a religious procession shredded by other Muslims. As is less well-reported, the same thing happens in Pakistan almost every week. And it is waiting to happen in other countries, too, as the Alawite sect that runs Syria (Alawism being a splinter of Shiism) gets ready for another confrontation with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, and as Sunni minorities in Iran become restive at the increasingly sectarian character of the Shiite dictatorship...

...However, the self-generated Islamic civil war does have significance in the wider cultural struggle. All over the non-Muslim world, we hear incessant demands that those who believe in the literal truth of the Quran be granted "respect." We are supposed to watch what we say about Islam, lest by any chance we be considered "offensive." A fair number of authors and academics in the West now have to live under police protection or endure prosecution in the courts for not observing this taboo with sufficient care. A stupid term—Islamophobia—has been put into circulation to try and suggest that a foul prejudice lurks behind any misgivings about Islam's infallible "message."

Well, this idiotic masochism has to be dropped. There may have been a handful of ugly incidents, provoked by lumpen elements, after certain episodes of Muslim terrorism. But no true secularist or even Christian has been involved in anything like the torching of a mosque. (The last time that such a thing did happen on any scale—in Bosnia—the United States and Britain intervened militarily to put a stop to it. We also overthrew the Taliban, which was slaughtering the Hazara Shiite minority in Afghanistan.) But where are the denunciations from centers of Sunni and Shiite authority of the daily murder and torture of Islamic co-religionists? Of the regular desecration of holy sites and holy books? Of the paranoid insults thrown so carelessly and callously by one Muslim group at another? This mounting ghastliness is a bit more worthy of condemnation, surely, than a few Danish cartoons or a false rumor about a profaned copy of the Quran in Guantanamo. The civilized world—yes I do mean to say that—should find its own voice and state firmly to Muslim leaders and citizens that respect is something to be earned and not demanded with menace. A short way of phrasing this would be to say, "See how the Muslims respect each other!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Remote Control Inventor Dies at 93

From Paul Farhi's obituary in the Washington Post:
Robert Adler, a prolific inventor, received more than 180 U.S. patents during a lifetime of dreaming and tinkering. But only one of his creations revolutionized an industry, changed the face of modern life, and supplied stand-up comedians with a never-ending source of material.

Adler, who died Thursday at the age of 93, was the co-inventor of the remote control, the device that has bedeviled, edified and otherwise sustained a grateful nation of couch potatoes ever since its introduction. Along with inventor and fellow engineer Eugene Polley, Adler helped bring the first commercially successful wireless TV remote -- the Zenith Space Command -- to market in 1956.

Happy Chinese New Year

It's the Year of the Pig.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Michelle Malkin's Presidents' Day Greeting


Francisco Gil-White: No to Kosovo Independence

On his website, Francisco Gil-White argues Kosovo independence would be bad for the Jews:
In addition to directing a campaign of genocide against the Serbian minority in Kosovo, the KLA also attacked the very few Jews and Roma (Gypsies) who still lived there. Kosovo today is judenrein, as the Nazis would say....

Should the Jews endorse Kosovo independence?

If the Jews endorse Kosovo independence, they will be endorsing that terrorist Mulsim forces tracing their roots to the German Nazi Final Solution, and which have been directing terror against the greatest allies of the Jews, and against the Jews themselves, be rewarded for this terror.

What then will be the argument against rewarding the terror of PLO/Hamas, Muslim forces that also trace their roots to the German Nazi Final Solution, and whch further their goal of extermination the Jews by killing as many innocent Jews as they can?

If the Jews endorse Kosovo independence, they will be sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

An Interview with the New York Times' New Dance Critic

FT theatre critic and TLS dance critic Alastair Macaulay spoke to Paul Ben-Itzak of Dance Insider:
PBI: As far as you know, will Jennifer Dunning, as well as current freelancers Gia Kourlas and Roslyn Sulcas, still be reviewing for the Times?

AM: As far as I know, not only will they, but so will Claudia La Rocco. I have been in regular contact with Jennifer Dunning (whom I first met in 1980) since November about the posisbility of working together at the "Times."

The offer only materialized at the end of last week (February 8-9), I only spoke to the FT and considered their counter-offer on Monday (February 12), and only on the afternoon of Tuesday 13 (British time) did I advise both newspapers that I would be accepting the Times offer. My next immediate move was to make e-mail contact with Gia Kourlas (whom I had met in January), Claudia La Rocco (whom I have not yet met), and Roslyn Sulcas (whom I used to know years ago), and they have all made warm and enthusiastic replies. I like what I know of their work and am genuinely look forward to getting to know it and them better.

PBI: How do you see your role as a dance critic, generally and writing for a newspaper?

AM: A critic describes, analyses, contextualises, interprets, evaluates. He/she also entertains: I mean this in the serious sense that Balanchine told Denby that ballet is entertainment. But the word "critic" is, obviously, intimately connected to the word "criteria." In that sense, what makes a critic good is his/her choice of criteria and his/her application of them. A critic is a professional aesthete, a reporter on the ostensible facts and the intimate effects of art, and a communicative writer with passions and values.

PBI: Will you be responsive to the NY dance community -- not, of course, as pertains to your criticism but as far as listening to its feedback on dance coverage?

AM: How can I say at this stage? The senior dance critic and editor Mary Clarke gave me in the 1970s the advice that the senior dance critic Arnold Haskell gave her in the 1940s: "Never predict."

PBI: As a British-based critic, what qualifies you for this position over American candidates?

AM: I've written a great deal for the New Yorker, the Financial Times, and the Times Literary Supplement -- three publications for which the New York Times has great respect. As chief theater critic of the FT for over 13 years, I have very considerable experience of working for daily newspapers. I've written for many years about theater and music, and thus hope to bring some breadth to the area. I've been writing about dance for almost 29 years, and a large part of my dance writing has always been about American dance.

My first visits to the USA were all to see dance. On my first morning in New York, in January 1979, I stood in line for standing room places for New York City Ballet, and I did that for eight performances a week for three weeks. I was 23 years old, and I had withdrawn every bit of money I had to make the trip, all because the dance writing of Edwin Denby and Arlene Croce had inspired me to find out why on earth New York City Ballet prompted them to write such inspiring prose. Once I had bought my standing-room place, I used to spend every day in the New York Dance Collection, where I was a frequent visitor for many years (and will be again).

More recently, my visits to America have often been to see dance by Merce Cunningham and Mark Morris, whose companies I've been to watch in New York, Philadelphia, Berkeley, Orange County, and St. Louis. I've also had the opportunity to follow their work and Christopher Wheeldon's in Europe, where all three choreographers have given major world premieres this millennium. My experience of American ballet companies goes back 30 years this year: I can still tell you who danced what at every single performance by American Ballet Theatre at the London Coliseum in the week of July 18-23, 1977. Thanks to the visits by American ballet companies to the Edinburgh Festival and London in recent years, I have had the chance to see some American ballet productions that have not been shown in New York, not to mention most of Christopher Wheeldon's many ballets for the London Royal Ballet.

As I've mentioned, in 1988 and 1992, I worked as guest dance critic for the New Yorker. I covered choreography by George Balanchine, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Peter Martins, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp and other American-based choreographers -- just as I've often covered them in Britain.

Since 1979, many of my best friends have been American dance critics and members of the American dance community; I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.

Will Bill Clinton Become NY's Next Senator?

Speculation has already started, on Fox News.
WASHINGTON — If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the next senator from New York could be her husband, Bill Clinton.

Supporters are touting that scenario in the event the seat currently held by Mrs. Clinton opens up as she moves to higher office. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, would be tasked with appointing someone to fill the open Senate seat for the remaining two years of Clinton's term.

The Washington Examiner reports that the Clintons' allies think that would be an excellent plan even if unlikely.

"As a senator, he’d be a knockout,” Harold Ickes, an adviser for Sen. Clinton and a White House aide to the former president, told the newspaper. “He knows issues, he loves public policy and he’s a good politician.”

Melanie Phillips on Anti-Israel Jews

From her column in The Jewish Chronicle (London):
Before Israel was restored to the Jews, before the Holocaust, before the Arabs of Palestine allied themselves with the Nazis, it was possible for there to be a legitimate Jewish argument against a Jewish state. But now that Israel exists, such an argument is obscene. It is a voice raised for the destruction of the Jewish nation.

If these signatories are so sure that they represent the authentic voice of Jewish conscience, why then are they so coy about stating their real agenda? Might it be that they don’t have the honesty to admit to the potentially murderous consequences of such attitudes?

As Natan Sharansky wrote this week, Israel is currently trapped in a pincer between the genocidal intentions of Iran and a world which is either silent in response to this threat or is increasingly willing to discuss Israel’s very existence as a mistake, an anachronism, or a provocation.

At a time when the west is being softened up for genocide by the demonisation of Israel, Jews who reinforce the Big Lie about the Jewish state are helping pave the way for a second potential holocaust.

Yet when this is pointed out, they call it an insult. More than that, they take it as proof of the rightness of their position! On the IJV website, Brian Klug gloated that the fierceness of the attacks upon them showed they had struck a nerve.

So the more we try to protect Israel from this lethal onslaught, the more these perpetrators claim that they are martyrs to those who would suppress free speech. The price they would force us to pay for not being thus vilified is to embrace our own people’s destruction.

The deadly enemies of the Jewish people are beside themselves with joy over the IJV. For the terrible thing is that, far from being silenced, Jewish voices like these are in the very forefront of the hate-fest against Israel. Martyrs of dissent? Hardly. They are the British arm of the pincer of Jewish destruction.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks...

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the AEI speech by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tuesday afternoon. There was a big snowstorm in Washington, DC that practically shut down the city--but it appears she Ayaan Hirsi Ali is made of sterner stuff. So here's a link to her book talk about her new book Infidel, posted on the AEI website. You can link directly to her video webcast here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Terror Motive Behind Salt Lake City Shooting Spree?

The Jawa Report worries that Sulejman Talovic, an 18-year-old Bosnian Muslim refugee relocated to the United States, may have been triggered to go on his shooting spree at in a Salt Lake City shopping mall by Al Qaeda propaganda:
...I dunno if the fact that Sulejman Talovic is a Muslim refugee has anything to do with this vile act, but since we are kind of at war with the jihadis, it does seem like a good place to start.

We should also remember that the Islamist message boards have been encouraging potential jihadis to keep it simple. Also, it's important to think about the role of the internet in creating "virtual cells" of mujahideen. That is, jihadis who may never physically meet or formally join an terror organization, but who encourage one another to do acts of violence.

As I've mentioned here many times before, the present structure of the Salafi jihadi movement is such that any one can now claim to be al Qaeda. Although the formal organizations of al Qaeda 1.0 (bin Laden, Zawahiri) and 2.0 (Zarqawi/al Masri in Iraq/ -- GSPC/al Qaeda in Algeria) remain a threat, this "al Qaeda 3.0" is more of a movement than it is of an organization. And thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of young Muslim men in the West sympathize with that movement.
UPDATE: Samantha Hayes' interview with Suleiman Talovic's father, Suljo, posted on, reinforces suspicions that the 18-year-old Trolley Barn gunman may not have been acting alone:
Suljo believes something or someone was controlling his son's mind and he wants police to look into that possibility.

Suljo: "I think this Suljemen did. I think somebody (is) behind him, I think, but I am not sure. What kind of person do you think that may have been? No good. I don't know he's not good. But you think somebody had influence over him? He not tell me nothing. Maybe this guy is in Trolley Square looking at how he died. I think so."

KSL Newsradio learned today that when Suljemen was a student at Horizonte school he was discovered looking at prohibited websites that contained information about AK-47s. That's when his parents pulled him out of school.

Fresh Plaza

Reading a link about increased exports of fruits and vegetables from Uzbekistan to Russia, I discovered Fresh Plaza, a weblog devoted to news of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry worldwide. It's based in The Netherlands, and has all sort of fascinating tidbits about how Winter fruit gets from Sicily or Chile (or Uzbekistan) to your local supermarket. You can also find out prices of those fresh orange juice futures on which you might be speculating: is an independent news source for companies operating in the global fruit and vegetable sector. FreshPlaza intends to provide as much information as possible, which could help businesspeople with management information to deepen their perspectives on markets and developments.

After significant success with this concept in the Dutch market through the website, it was decided to venture into the international market by the creation of FreshPlaza. Ever since the start up in March 2005, the interest in the FreshPlaza website and news mail has steadily grown.

Monday, February 12, 2007

When Mountains Crumble...

Dmitry Babich reviewed legendary Central Asian author Chingiz Aitmatov's new novel for Russia Profile:
In the Soviet period, it was common to divide writers between those who accepted the “new society” and those who didn’t. Aitmatov clearly and unequivocally does not accept the post-Soviet society. Nor does he embrace the global technocratic civilization, of which post-Soviet society has become a part.

Aitmatov’s critique is scathing and it does not leave any of this society’s “pillars” untouched. The cruel and senseless pop culture that steals the sweetheart of the main character, the formerly pro-Gorbachev journalist Arsen Samanchin, is emblematic of the plight of a writer in a society hostile to fiction; the poverty and degradation of the local villagers, all of whom lost their jobs after the collective farms were disbanded, and who try to improve their condition by taking the Arab hunters hostage; and the hypocrisy of the newly resurgent “religious leaders,” who complain to the authorities about Samanchin’s somewhat deistic views because they don’t correspond to the dogmas of Islam and Christianity.

Some critics might find Aitmatov’s style old-fashioned, writing off his views as the useless carping of a disgruntled Soviet idealist. However, it is important to remember that Soviet literary criticism used the same rhetoric against the old writers who did not accept the new society. History proved the Soviet critics wrong.
I hope there will be an English translation available soon...

Talkin' 'Bout My G-g-g-eneration...

Charlie Clark has published a review of Marc Fisher's book on Radio Rock & Roll -- in AARP's magazine...
To grasp the confluence of forces behind this revolution, set the way-back machine for the early 1950s, when the radio industry was on the verge of being destroyed by a fad called television. Radio then was a Squaresville of melodramas, religion for shut-ins, live big bands, and grown-up favorites dictated by Sing Along With Mitch.

The generational tsunami that would graft boomers to their radio dials was propelled by their demographic bulge, a new hybrid of music called rock and roll, some farsighted entrepreneurs, and technologies that haven't stopped evolving.

With conversational simplicity, Fisher describes the impact of breakthroughs, including the long-playing record, the 45, portable transistors, car radios, and the FM broadcasting equipment (and subsequent programming) that permitted longer songs and interior album cuts.

He sketches colorful personalities, both on-air—deejays who made you feel they were speaking directly to you—and the powers-that-be in the executive suite. You'll learn about Todd Storz, the Omaha-based beer-fortune heir who launched the first empire of stations that repeated the hit songs. You'll encounter Jean Shepherd, the eccentric New York-based storyteller who created a multi-state community of culturally disaffected "night people." You'll sample on-air long-hair Bob Fass, the father of free-form '60s community FM radio at New York's WBAI, who boosted the careers of Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie—and still broadcasts. You'll come to know commercial "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, the teen audience's "love courier of the New York night." And you'll meet Bob Siemering, the '60s Wisconsin college radio activist who went on to found All Things Considered for fledgling NPR.

Some of Fisher's fun facts: The term deejay was coined by Variety magazine in 1941; the "top 40" was named for the number of songs a jock could play in an average three-hour shift; many deejays were given on-air names so that they could be replaced without listeners knowing.

Melanie Phillips on British Tory Party Leader's "Pothead" Past

Writing in London's Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips suggests that Tory Party Leader David Cameron may have done hard drugs as well as smoked dope--and she's mad as hell about his insouciance:
This is why the revelations about Mr Cameron should rightly disturb us. It is because they point to a collective denial of the crucial role of leadership, consistency and law in tackling the scourge of illegal drugs.

That’s why it was so dispiriting to hear the supposedly hard-line Home Secretary John Reid sneering ‘So what?’ at Mr Cameron’s history of drug taking. That’s why it was so depressing to hear MPs from even the Right of the Tory Party saying that these revelations made them look more ‘normal’.

Would these people welcome a spot of shoplifting or grievous bodily harm on their front bench, one wonders, on the grounds that this too would make them look more ‘normal’? Is the Tory Party now really so degraded?

By using drug liberalisation to make the Tory Party seem cool, Mr Cameron risks making drug use itself seem cool. By not renouncing his own past in unambiguous terms, he risks turning himself into an accessory to individual misery and social mayhem.

What we need from him now is an honest and open acknowledgement of his past drug use and a declaration that he intends to pursue a zero-tolerance approach to drugs if he comes to power.

If he were to do this, no one would hold school or university misdemeanours against him. If he does not, he may find he becomes not the standard-bearer of the Tory future, but the prisoner of his own history.

Jefferson D. Dunbar Jr. on Sidney Poitier: The Measure of a Man

Jefferson D. Dunbar, Jr. wrote about Sidney Poitier's The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography for The Idler in 2000. He let us know that Oprah Winfrey selected the memoir for her book club--and gave permission to reprint his review:
Sidney Poitier subtitles his newest autobiography, The Measure of A Man, "A Spiritual Autobiography", introducing the reader into his humble beginnings as if through a dream or meditation.

"I'm on the porch of our little house on Cat Island in the Bahamas. It's the end of the day and evening is coming on, turning the sky and the sea to the west of us a bright burnt orange, and the sky to the east of us a cool blue that deepens to purple and then to black. In the gathering darkness, in the coolness of our porch, my mother and father sit and fan the smoke from green palm leaves they're burning to shoo away the mosquitoes and the sand flies." Cat Island was a "tiny spit of land", forty six miles long, three miles wide located in the Bahamas. It is where Mr. Poitier constructed his life's foundation, philosophy, his sense of self. And he credits this idyllic setting for much of the success he has had in his life.

The first chapter of this diligent, brisk autobiography is titled, "The Idyll". Without the influence of radio or television, Mr. Poitier, as a child, was free to explore the island, experience the good and bad of it; take risks, and learn to have no fears. His mother and father were the kind of parents who nurtured their youngest of three with a kind of silent love and kindness. A trait Mr. Poitier would come understand more in adulthood than he did as a child in their midst. It may be difficult for some to comprehend that such an articulate man of film, television, and theater spent the first fifteen years of his life being raised by a mother that he terms "...a creature of silence." The only person Evelyn Poitier was able to express herself to was her husband, Reginald. Yet Sidney Poitier never failed to feel how deeply his mother cared for him. To this day, he senses her presence, her guiding hand. For all the silent love, the continuing guidance, the question that lingers on in Mr. Poitier's mind is, "Who was this person?"

Although Evelyn Poitier was a woman, a mother given to reticence, she was quite active in her son's upbringing. She was "a very special human being..." who possessed an indomitable will and a strong instinctive nature. Mr. Poitier reflects on the time of his birth, and his mother's worry over whether he would survive or not. He was born prematurely in Miami where his parents had traveled to sell a hundred boxes of tomatoes at a produce exchange. At birth, Mr. Poitier had weighed less than three pounds and was not expected to live. His father, Reginald, had gone so far as to acquire a shoebox from an undertaker in the "colored" section of Miami that was to become Sidney's casket.

Undaunted, Evelyn visited a local soothsayer of sorts. She returned home with this from the soothsayer: "Don't worry about your son. He will survive and will not be a sickly child. He will grow up to be...he will travel to most of the corners of the earth. He will walk with kings. He will be rich and famous. Your name will be carried all over the world. You must not worry about that child." This particular soothsayer was not only quite prescient, but dead on the money. Perhaps this incident would be a sufficient example of who Evelyn Poitier was for anyone else. But Sidney Poitier had, and still has, a persistent curiosity about people and places.

And so, when he departed the Bahamas for Miami, Florida at fifteen he may have left his mother behind, but not his desire to know exactly who she was. The more he discovered about her, the more he would comprehend about his own psyche. Beginning anew in Miami, Mr. Poitier resided with an older brother. It was in Miami that he sampled his first taste of racism. Working as a delivery boy, he had refused to walk from the front door of a wealthy white customer to a rear door to deliver a package. Instead, Mr. Poitier left the parcel at the front door and walked away. Upon his return to his brother's home a couple of days later, he found the family in a darkened house, cringing in fear of the Ku Klux Klan. They had been there in search of the young Sidney to retaliate on behalf of the white customer.

While the rest of the family was filled with fear, Mr. Poitier was not. "In Nassau, while learning about myself, I had become conscious of being pigeonholed by others, and I had determined then to always aim myself toward a slot of my own choosing."

The youthful Mr. Poitier was not about to allow anyone to define who he was. Could that have been a part of Evelyn Poitier showing herself in her son? Furthermore, by the time that Mr. Poitier had come to the United States, the "foundation... had had time to set, the Jim Crow way of life had trouble overwhelming me." His "values and my sense of self were already fully constructed."

Soon, Mr. Poitier's distaste for the blatant racism he witnessed in Miami took him to New York, Harlem and The Apollo Theatre, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald. Later there was a brief stint in the Army, as a way to escape the chill of winter in New York.

On a whim, and badly in need of a job, Mr. Poitier auditioned as actor with the American Negro Theatre. He failed miserably. After learning how to read and shaking his Bahamian accent, Mr. Poitier succeeded the second time around, toiling as a janitor at the Theatre to earn his right to study. More of the irrepressible spirit of Evelyn Poitier in her son.

After replacing "a kid named Harry Belafonte" as his understudy, Sidney Poitier was discovered by a casting director who cast him in a version of Lysistrata for Broadway. With the exception of a few short periods of unemployment, it was onward and upward for Mr. Sidney Poitier, the actor. He was about to embark upon the kind a career in Hollywood that no other African American actor had experienced before him---as a leading man. Now Way Out, 1950, with Richard Widmark, was Sidney Poitier's first Hollywood film role; and it was not only the first film that his parents would see their son in, it was the first motion picture they had ever seen in their lives.

Since it was the 1950s and Hollywood was still in the grip of blacklisting, a period when directors, actors, and writers were questioned about their loyalties to the United States and possible associations with suspected communists or communist sympathizers. Mr. Poitier was unlucky enough to be questioned by a studio attorney about his association with the African American actors Paul Robeson and Canada Lee who had come under suspicion.

Asked, rather timidly, to sign a loyalty oath, Mr. Poitier demurred, and instead asked to give it some thought. Throughout the production of Blackboard Jungle, (1955), he was not questioned again, and believed he had been fortunate enough to escape having to name names.

He had already set his mind against doing such a thing, nonetheless, at the risk of sacrificing all that he had worked so hard for. Again during David Susskind's television production of "Edge of the City", Mr. Poitier had believed the issue of his associations would arise. But it did not happen, and his career was never jeopardized in the same way again.

He has no answers as to why his pursuers had given up.

Still, while he managed to avoid blacklisting, the inescapable issue of race would continue to haunt him. During a publicity tour for "Blackboard Jungle" in Atlanta, Mr. Poitier, film star, was told at a "very nice" restaurant -- where all the waiters were black, including the maître d'-- that if he wanted to be seated for a meal, a screen would have to be placed around him to hide him from the other diners.

When Mr. Poitier asked why, he was told: "Well, it's the practice here; it's the law." Mr. Poitier saw how it had hurt the black maître d' to say what he had to say, and Mr. Poitier hurt for him. He walked out of the restaurant outraged and angry, but he never "accommodated" the insult, perhaps, continuing unfettered by the lingering stench of racism, toward the fulfillment of his destiny, his quest for what defined him as a person.

Thus far, in Mr. Poitier's career as an actor, he had lent the characters he portrayed an air of dignity, intelligence, stature, pride, fierce determination combined with just the right amount of resilience in the face of great odds working against him. Traits that were passed on to him by Evelyn Poitier.

And then in 1964, Mr. Poitier won the Oscar for Best Actor, for his performance in Lilies of the Field. He was the first , and remains the only, African American performer to win Best Actor in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

What was it about Sidney Poitier that his peers in the film industry liked and respected so much? It is one of the riddles that Mr. Poitier attempts to solve in his searching autobiography.

Yet, he was not surprised at Hollywood's response to him in 1964, "because I'd never seen myself as less than I am." More than anything else, he realized he had a responsibility, as an actor and not as a black man, to be disciplined in his chosen field.

The films that Mr. Poitier made, the way in which he portrayed his characters, were all deliberate choices made so that the public would know him as the person he wished to be perceived as: A determined, hard working individual of high standards making a living for his family.

These were the same qualities instilled in him by Reginald and Evelyn Poitier on Cat Island and Nassau, Bahamas.

Besides Lilies of the Field, The Defiant Ones, A Patch of Blue, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and To Sir With Love, are among the films that stand out most prominently in Mr. Poitier's mind.

Each of them contain the true essence of Sidney Poitier, qualities that aided him in his personal life; a hard won battle with prostate cancer; the loss of a best friend to the same ailment; the estrangement from his children from his first marriage.

Today, Sidney Poitier survives, against all odds. And though he believes many questions remain as to how and what formed him into the person he has become, in the end life, his life, as with all mortal beings, shall forever be a mystery.
You can buy a copy from Amazon, here:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gen. Odom: How to Fix the Iraq Mess

The Washington Post editors today gave former Reagan National Security Agency head Gen. William Odom's op-ed a rather defeatist headline, but in fact Odom gives practical advice on how to salvage the Iraq situation, making the proverbial lemonade from the lemons America has found in its possession, leading to a "strategic recovery":
The first and most critical step is to recognize that fighting on now simply prolongs our losses and blocks the way to a new strategy. Getting out of Iraq is the pre-condition for creating new strategic options. Withdrawal will take away the conditions that allow our enemies in the region to enjoy our pain. It will awaken those European states reluctant to collaborate with us in Iraq and the region.

Second, we must recognize that the United States alone cannot stabilize the Middle East.

Third, we must acknowledge that most of our policies are actually destabilizing the region. Spreading democracy, using sticks to try to prevent nuclear proliferation, threatening "regime change," using the hysterical rhetoric of the "global war on terrorism" -- all undermine the stability we so desperately need in the Middle East.

Fourth, we must redefine our purpose. It must be a stable region, not primarily a democratic Iraq. We must redirect our military operations so they enhance rather than undermine stability. We can write off the war as a "tactical draw" and make "regional stability" our measure of "victory." That single step would dramatically realign the opposing forces in the region, where most states want stability. Even many in the angry mobs of young Arabs shouting profanities against the United States want predictable order, albeit on better social and economic terms than they now have.

Realigning our diplomacy and military capabilities to achieve order will hugely reduce the numbers of our enemies and gain us new and important allies. This cannot happen, however, until our forces are moving out of Iraq. Why should Iran negotiate to relieve our pain as long as we are increasing its influence in Iraq and beyond? Withdrawal will awaken most leaders in the region to their own need for U.S.-led diplomacy to stabilize their neighborhood.

If Bush truly wanted to rescue something of his historical legacy, he would seize the initiative to implement this kind of strategy. He would eventually be held up as a leader capable of reversing direction by turning an imminent, tragic defeat into strategic recovery.

Putin Warns the West

Here's an excerpt from the text of Vladimir Putin's now-famous speech in Munich, available on
I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.

And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and changes so quickly – changes in light of the dynamic development in a whole number of countries and regions.

Madam Federal Chancellor already mentioned this. The combined GDP measured in purchasing power parity of countries such as India and China is already greater than that of the United States. And a similar calculation with the GDP of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – surpasses the cumulative GDP of the EU. And according to experts this gap will only increase in the future.

There is no reason to doubt that the economic potential of the new centres of global economic growth will inevitably be converted into political influence and will strengthen multipolarity.

In connection with this the role of multilateral diplomacy is significantly increasing. The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a really exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states.

However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other, dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And as a matter of fact, these conflicts are killing people – hundreds and thousands of civilians!

But at the same time the question arises of whether we should be indifferent and aloof to various internal conflicts inside countries, to authoritarian regimes, to tyrants, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? As a matter of fact, this was also at the centre of the question that our dear colleague Mr Lieberman asked the Federal Chancellor. If I correctly understood your question (addressing Mr Lieberman), then of course it is a serious one! Can we be indifferent observers in view of what is happening? I will try to answer your question as well: of course not.

But do we have the means to counter these threats? Certainly we do. It is sufficient to look at recent history. Did not our country have a peaceful transition to democracy? Indeed, we witnessed a peaceful transformation of the Soviet regime – a peaceful transformation! And what a regime! With what a number of weapons, including nuclear weapons! Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity? Is it the case when without the threat of mutual destruction we do not have enough political culture, respect for democratic values and for the law?

I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the Charter of the United Nations. And in connection with this, either I did not understand what our colleague, the Italian Defence Minister, just said or what he said was inexact. In any case, I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. Or I didn’t hear correctly. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN. When the UN will truly unite the forces of the international community and can really react to events in various countries, when we will leave behind this disdain for international law, then the situation will be able to change. Otherwise the situation will simply result in a dead end, and the number of serious mistakes will be multiplied. Along with this, it is necessary to make sure that international law have a universal character both in the conception and application of its norms.

And one must not forget that democratic political actions necessarily go along with discussion and a laborious decision-making process.
BTW this photo shows another side to Russian diplomacy, Putin's charm offensive aimed at Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (Russia already has former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on the Gazprom payroll):

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ian Richardson, 72

I'm saddened to learn that House of Cards star Ian Richardson (Francis Urquhart) has passed away. His BBC death notice (which includes postings from those who knew him) said this:
Famous for his sonorous voice and stern demeanour, he was made a CBE in 1989.

Richardson won a Bafta award for his role as the Machiavellian Urquhart in 1990's House of Cards.

He went on to be nominated for both its sequels, To Play the King and The Final Cut, as well as the 1992 drama An Ungentlemanly Act.

Other TV roles included Sherlock Holmes, Lord Groan in Gormenghast, Sir Godber Evans in Porterhouse Blue and the 'Tailor' in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

His many films included Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Jane Austen biopic Becoming Jane, due for release next month.

But it is for the deliciously devious Urquhart - a character he based on Richard III - that he remains best known.

The Tory politician's famous one-liner - "You may very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" - has since passed into Westminster parlance.

"I'm grateful for the part as it put me on the map," he said in 2005.

"The only trouble is getting rid of it. So many people seem to think that I am like him."
I can vouch for that sentiment. He was a great actor, and even a short acquaintance showed that he was no Francis Urquhart. I met Richardson years ago at a PBS press tour, where he gave me an interview for my doctoral dissertation about Mobil Masterpiece Theatre. He was both kind and generous, shared a lot of time telling stories and answering questions from an unknown graduate student, when I'm sure he could have been doing more important things. I was grateful then, am saddened now--yet consoled that his performances live on...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Peggy Noonan on New York's 2008 Election Victory

No matter which candidate takes the White House, Peggy Noonan points out in the Wall Street Journal that New York has already won the 2008 Presidential election:
Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton seem in a way to represent two different New Yorks, two different templates of what it is to be a New Yorker. Rudy as mayor: An embattled pol bickering with reporters trying to bait him. A Western European ethnic from the outer boroughs with a slight hunch to his shoulders. He does the chin too, or did. His people probably got it from him. He was the government-prosecutor son of a Brooklyn guy, a Republican in a Democratic town, a man who had ideas--convictions!--about how to cut crime and stop the long slide, and who had to move entire establishments (and if there's one thing New York knows how to make, it's establishments) to get his way. And he pretty much did, winning progress and enmity along the way. On 9/10/01 he was a bum, on 9/11 he was a man, and on 9/12 he was a hero. Life can change, shift, upend in an instant.

Mrs. Clinton is not ethnic or outer-borough. She's suburban, middle class; she was raised in a handsome town in Illinois and lived an adulthood in Arkansas and Washington. She founded the original war room, is called "The Warrior" by some of her staff, has been fierce and combative in private, but obscures it all now under clouds of pink scarves. She literally hides the chin.

Both candidates seem now almost...jarringly happy. As if they've arrived and it's good, which they have and it is. But good fortune distances. They are both rich now, and both have spent the past six years being lauded and praised. In both it seems to have softened their edges--the easy, ready smile. We'll see if it's softened their heads.

Copyright, Victor Hugo, & the Berne Convention

From an article by Patrick Ross on the Progress and Freedom Foundation website:
The Berne Convention stemmed from the promotion of a group of European authors led by Victor Hugo in response to international piracy. Representatives of numerous nations met in 1886 to iron out basic agreements on copyright protection. The U.S. did not choose to join Berne at the time, instead waiting more than 100 years; New York U. Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan speculates it was because in the late 19th century the U.S. was still primarily a net copyright importer. The Berne Convention was revised at Paris in 1896 and again at Berlin in 1908. It was completed at Berne, Switzerland in 1914, then revised at Rome in 1928, Brussels in 1948, Stockholm in
1967 and at Paris in 1971. The 1971 Paris version contains some of the key copyright provisions regarding terms and the prohibition on formalities. Berne was further amended in 1979.

The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 cleared Congress and formally wedded US copyright law to the Berne Convention. Berne addresses many issues beyond terms and formalities, such as defining what works are eligible for copyright and what “moral rights” an artist may have.

Berne contains three core principles: (1) Works created in any Berne member state will receive the same protections in any other member state that is given to its own artists; (2) protection won’t be conditional on formalities; and (3) protection is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work. Berne calls for copyright terms of life of the author plus fifty years, with some exceptions for anonymous works, cinematography and photography.

Mark Steyn on Dinesh D'Souza

From SteynOnline (ht JihadWatch):
We scoffers were only half-right. In the Arab world, the “shocking expose of torture” was shocking not because it was torture but because it exposed something worse. “Most Muslims did not view it as a torture story at all,” writes D’Souza. “Abu Ghraib was one of Saddam Hussein’s most notorious prisons. Tens of thousands of people were held there and many were subject to indescribable beatings and abuse. Twice a week, there were hangings outside the prison. This is what Muslims mean by torture, not the lights-on, lights-off version that American liberals are so indignant about… The main focus of Islamic disgust was what Muslims perceived as extreme sexual perversion.” Saddam’s guards pulling out your fingernails is torture. But a nobody like Lynndie England, a female soldier and adulteress, boozed up and knocked up and posing naked for photographs with paralytic casual acquaintances and making men masturbate in front of her and e-mailing the photographs all over the Internet, all that to Muslims that represented something far darker than a psycho dictator: “It was just for fun,” reported Paul Arthur, the military investigator who interviewed Private England. “They didn’t think it was a big deal.” That’s the point: a society whose army recruits drunken pregnant adulterous fornicating exhibitionist women, and it’s no big deal.

When the Ayatollah Khomeini dubbed America “the Great Satan”, he was making a far more perceptive critique than Canadians and Europeans who dismiss the US as the Great Moron. Satan is a seducer, and so is America. And, when Muslims see Lynndie England, they don’t like where that leads.

I agree, up to a point. Remember a year or two back when Janet Jackson’s nipple put in an appearance at the Super Bowl? Everyone was affronted, and the Federal Communications Commission launched an investigation. But it wasn’t the nipple. I like nipples. Bring ‘em on. The more the merrier. What struck me about the Super Bowl “entertainment” was how hollow and joyless and mechanical it was in the 20 minutes leading up to the offending nipple. It was sleazy and trashy when it was still fully clothed. I’m with that Maclean’s cover story on our skanky tweens: the sensibility of much of our pop culture is loathsome and degrading. D’Souza makes a good observation about pornography: Every society has it, but you used to have to pull your hat down and turn your collar up and skulk off to the seedy part of town. Now it’s provided as a service in your hotel room by every major chain. That’s a small sign of a big shift.

Where I part company is in his belief that this will make any difference to the war on terror. In what feels like a slightly dishonest passage, the author devotes considerable space to the writings of Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual progenitor of what passes for modern Islamist “thought”. “Qutb became fiercely anti-American after living in the United States,” writes D’Souza without once mentioning where or when this occurred: New York in the disco era? San Francisco in the summer of love? No. It was 1949 – the year when America’s lascivious debauched popular culture produced Doris Day, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and South Pacific. And the throbbing pulsating nerve center of this sewer of sin was Greeley, Colorado, where Sayyid Qutb went to a dance: “The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips…”

As I wrote in Maclean’s a couple of months back: “In 1949, Greeley, Colorado, was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser’s charm song ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’…” Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban introduced it in the film Neptune’s Daughter.

Look, if it would persuade ‘em to hang up the old suicide-bomber belts, I’d lay off the Tupac CDs and Charlie Sheen sitcoms and Britney Spears navel piercings. But you’ll have to prise “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from my cold dead hands and my dancing naked legs. As I said back then, “A world without ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ will be very cold indeed.”

From a sophisticated writer, the central proposition of this book is absurd - that western conservatives should make common cause with “moderate Muslims”. That would be merely the inversion of the freakshow alliance between the godless left and the jihadists embodied by the participation in one of the big “anti-war” rallies of a group called “Queers For Palestine”. “Moderate” Islam is preferable to jihadism, has many admirable qualities and many less so. But attempting to align our social values with theirs would be the right’s strain of appeasement and just as doomed. The reality is that Islam sees our decadence not as a threat but as an opportunity. For the west to reverse the gains of the cultural left would not endear us to Islam but would make us better suited to resisting its depradations. We should reject Britney because she’s rubbish not as a geopolitical strategy.

Robert Spencer on the DNC's Imam

A touching moment of ecumenical generosity and hope for peace? Not quite. In mentioning “Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed,” Al-Husainy no doubt sounded as if he was expansive, broad-minded, and not narrowly sectarian to the assembled Democrats. But in fact, he was almost certainly invoking them in their capacity as Muslim prophets: it is mainstream Islam that all of these were prophets who taught Islam, and that the followers of Moses and Jesus corrupted their teachings to create Judaism and Christianity. The Qur’an says that Abraham was not a Jew or a Christian, but a Muslim (3:67), and depicts Jesus denying his own divinity (5:116) -- and this, of course, is the Imam’s frame of reference. So what seems to be a gesture of ecumenical generosity actually amounts to a declaration of religious supremacism and the delegitimization of other religions.

What’s more, if a Christian priest or minister had prayed at a DNC meeting that those attending be guided away from the path of those doomed by God, the outcry would have been swift and shrill. Those whom God dooms? Hardly a concept that fits comfortably into today’s culture of non-accountability, but evidently it was acceptable to the Democrats when coming from a Muslim, although many of them would almost certainly been among the first to condemn the same sentiment coming from a Christian.

In this, in any case, the Imam was echoing the Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an and most common prayer of Islam. It asks Allah: “Show us the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” The traditional Islamic understanding of this is that the “straight path” is Islam -- cf. Islamic apologist John Esposito’s book Islam: The Straight Path. The path of those who have earned Allah’s anger are the Jews, and those who have gone astray are the Christians. The classic Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir explains that “the two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.” ...

...Of course, many of these ideas are mainstream among Democrats nowadays, so it is perhaps not surprising that Al-Husainy would have been welcome at the DNC meeting. The peculiar episode of his invocation is emblematic of the larger alliance between the Left and the global jihad – an alliance that may make the DNC’s conversion to Islam unnecessary, as the anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism of the jihadists is already abundantly in evidence among them. Perhaps this is a marriage of convenience for the Left, but, as the jihad continues to advance, it is one they will almost certainly someday come to regret.

Robert Spencer on Dinesh D'Souza

Like Victor Davis Hanson, Robert Spencer doesn't like Dinesh D'Souza's new book:
It is in this connection that he mentions my books Islam Unveiled and The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, along with Serge Trifkovic’s superb Sword of the Prophet. (Trifkovic has ably answered D’Souza here.) D’Souza’s point about such books, however, can again just as easily be used against him by inverting his thesis. While he claims that criticism of Islam breeds jihadists, it is just as easy to say that there is no better way to repel anti-jihad leftists and push them into the arms of the jihadists (with whom so much of the Left is already allied), than to dub them “the enemy at home.”

Even worse, when D’Souza assumes that peaceful Muslims will have a greater sense of solidarity with jihadists than with non-Muslims, he destroys his entire thesis. For if these peaceful Muslims really abhor jihadism, they should have no reason to object to critical presentations of the elements of Islam that foster jihadism. But if a few books will be enough to drive them into the arms of the jihadists, then how committed could they really have been to peace and moderation in the first place? D’Souza is assuming that they regard global jihad terrorism as less damaging to their religion than “Islamophobic tracts,” which in itself completely undermines D’Souza’s assumption that jihad terrorism is a twisting of “traditional” Islam. Shouldn’t violence perpetrated in the name of their cherished religion make them much more indignant than some books that explore the Islamic roots of jihad terrorism – even if those books were offensive (which they aren’t by any rational standard)? Throughout his book D’Souza makes moral equivalence arguments about the Judeo-Christian tradition and Islam. At one point, as we have seen, he even asserts that the Islamic moral code of stonings and beheadings amounts to Old Testament morality (but doesn’t bother to explain why no Jews and Christians practice stoning or beheading). Yet the equivalence breaks down on the level of behavior: Christians have never embraced violence in reaction to innumerable insults to their faith in recent years. Why should we ask or expect less of Muslims?

And by the way, it is odd that D’Souza, for all his disgust for the Left, would pick up on the Leftist coinage “Islamophobia,” a trumped-up, politically manipulative term intended to stifle debate. I would have thought D’Souza would be ashamed of using it until I read his recommendation that “the right” stop producing books like mine. He has denied that this was a call to silence me and others like me, and I’m sure it wasn’t: if Trifkovic and I begin to retail the prevailing PC fictions about Islam as a religion of peace and join mainstream analysts in declining to hold Muslims accountable for their actions (since they’re just reacting to the depredations of bad old America), I am sure D’Souza will be happy if we flourish.

In a sermon broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television in 2000, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s Fatwa Council, anticipated D’Souza’s call to alliance and declared: “Allah the almighty has called upon us not to ally with the Jews or the Christians, not to like them, not to become their partners, not to support them, and not to sign agreements with them. And he who does that is one of them, as Allah said: ‘O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies, for they are allies of one another. Who from among you takes them as allies will indeed be one of them.’ . . . Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”[13]

In this Abu Halabiya was quoting Qur’an 5:51 (“O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them”) and 9:5 (“slay the idolaters wherever ye find them”). His application of these words to the contemporary political situation would thus resonate even with “traditional Muslims,” whose Qur’an is the same as that of the jihadists. And Abu Halabiya intended it to resonate in that way.

If the exportation of American depravity were to end tomorrow, it would not efface these and other words from the Qur’an, or keep preachers from using them to prevent any peaceful accord between Muslims and non-Muslims. That D’Souza suggests that it would manifests an appalling ignorance of Islamic theology, history, and present reality. He writes that “no real understanding of Islamic culture is possible that refuses to take Islam seriously,” yet he ends up doing just that. In the fourteenth century, the Byzantine Emperor John VI Cantacuzenes entered into an alliance with the Ottoman Turks, whom he invited into Europe to help him win a dynastic dispute. In the fifteenth century, the Ottomans seized Constantinople and destroyed the Byzantine Empire, and were greatly aided in doing so by having a base in Europe.

Dinesh D’Souza, no less short-sighted and naïve as John VI Cantacuzenes, is exhorting conservatives today to rush into an alliance that would ultimately bring upon themselves the same disaster.

Victor Davis Hanson on Dinesh D'Souza

It seems that Victor Davis Hanson doesn't like Dinesh D'Souza's new book (ht JihadWatch):
D'Souza's solution is for conservatives here to embrace conservative Muslims, in a shared struggle against both the American left that misrepresented us and the jihadists who now misrepresent them.

But D'Souza's strained effort to fault millions of Americans for 9/11 proves no more convincing than was Susan Sontag's or Jerry Falwell's.

First, he libels a number of "domestic insurgents" who "want bin Laden to win." His list is nonsensical. Whatever one may think of the wisdom of Jimmy Carter or the late Molly Ivins, or of intellectuals like Tony Judt, Martha Nussbaum and Garry Wills, none of them wanted al-Qaida to defeat the United States — a victory that would have ended liberal tolerance here.

The novelist Salman Rushdie is also posted on D'Souza's proscription list. But why would the author of "The Satanic Verses" wish the jihadists to prevail when he himself was nearly killed as the object of an Iranian fatwa?

Second, D'Souza should reread al-Qaida's rambling complaints against the United States. They are just as often incoherent as they are angry at American decadence.

Bin Laden at times whined about the American failure to sign the Kyoto treaty on global climate, white racism, the bombing of Hiroshima, even improper campaign donations. If we took these terrorist rants as seriously as D'Souza does, then al-Qaida might seem to be a radical leftist organization furious at the supposed sins of a conservative United States.

Third, why should we think Islamic objections to our culture could justify the violence of the extremists? Jihadists may not like Western drug use, homosexuality, rap music or abortion any more than we do female circumcision, polygamy, sharia law and gender apartheid, which are as common in the Middle East as our purported offenses are in the West. But would anyone thereby justify Americans suicide-bombing Muslim civilians?

Fourth, in terms of giving possible offense to Muslims, others (such as the Indians, Russians and Chinese) have violently surpassed anything blamed on the United States. But bin Laden rammed planes into our towers, apparently because he bet (wrongly) that America was least likely to strike back. And wounding the United States — the most powerful symbol of a free, prosperous West — would offer the best propaganda coup for galvanizing other Muslims.

Fifth, and most regrettable, is D'Souza's belief that ideology trumps Americans' shared history and values. But despite the differences between red- and blue-state America, we find more in common with each other than with conservative Muslims in a gender-segregated Saudi Arabia or a religiously intolerant Iran.

Inside the Yenching Palace

Last night someone I know and yours truly enjoyed a Beijing Duck dinner at Washington's Yenching Palace restaurant. There had been news stories about Walgreen's buying the building which has been a Chinese restaurant for some half-century. The owners are reportedly closing up shop. I had last been there many years ago with my father, when it was known as Henry Kissinger's favorite Chinese restaurant. Now, having eaten there last night, we know why. Not only because of the diplomatic connection--the Cuban Missile Crisis was apparently resolved there as well as Nixon's opening to China--but also because of the nice old-fashioned decor: booths, jade carvings, Chinese murals; the nostalgic bar serving martinis as well as flaming tropical drinks; and the well-preserved cash-register, coat check room, and telephone booth. White tablecloths, plenty of food, good service. It's not expensive. And, there's a take-out menu. The talk in the restaurant is that they will stay open a few months longer, so if you are in Washington, try and get to the Yenching Palace for dinner--before it's history...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Melanie Phillips on Jewish Accomplices to Genocide

The author of Londonistan takes on the danger posed by "progressive" Jewish support for Islamist extremism, in her latest column:
The phenomenon of this Jewish fifth column for Arab and Muslim terror is now doing serious damage to the struggle for survival not just by Israel but by the west in general. Two writers have recently produced withering critiques of these people and the harm they are doing: Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, and Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, whose article has horrified American liberal Jews who refuse to acknowledge their own faces in Caliban’s mirror.

One of the most painful aspects of all of the Jewish tragedy is that, throughout the unending history of Jewish persecution — from the medieval Christian converts to Marx and beyond —Jews have figured, for a variety of reasons, as prominent accomplices of those who wished to destroy the Jewish people. These signatories are firmly in that lamentable tradition. And since today’s principal battleground is — as the Islamists well understand but we in the west do not — the battleground of ideas, the contribution of these Israel-bashing Jewish intellectuals to the cause of those who hate Jews, the west and human rights is immense.

When Daniel Pipes was recently drowned out by Islamists at the University of California-Irvine, this (via LGF) was what they were saying:

They have no future. And it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth.[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!] Justice will be restored then. Those people who are there legitimately … the people there will, will rule. There will be no injustice any more there. So just keep on doing what we’re doing. Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out, and we deflate their morale, and this is the best we can do right now….[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!]

At a time when Iran is threatening to nuke Israel into kingdom come, the words of the prophet come to mind: your destroyers are among you.

Christopher Hitchens on Robert Conquest

From The Wall Street Journal:
Just as one can never imagine Mr. Conquest raising his voice or losing his temper, so one can never picture him using an obscenity for its own sake. A few years ago he said to me that the old distinctions between left and right had become irrelevant to him, adding very mildly that fools and knaves of all kinds needed to be opposed and that what was really needed was "a United Front against bulls--t."
For all that, his life has been lived among the ideological storms of the 20th century, of which he retains an acute and unique memory. He was himself a communist for a couple of years in the late 1930s, having been radicalized while studying in France and observing events in Spain. "I was even a left deviationist--my best friend was a Trotskyist and when King George V was crowned we decorated the college at Oxford with eight chamberpots painted in red, white and blue." He left the party after asking what the line would be if Chamberlain ever declared war on Hitler, and receiving the reply: "Comrade, it is impossible that the bourgeois Chamberlain would ever declare war on Hitler." This he found "oafish." "I didn't like the word 'impossible.' "

Wartime service in Bulgaria, which made him an eyewitness to Stalin's takeover of the country at the end, was proof positive. From then on, working as a researcher and later as a diplomat for the British Foreign Office, he strove to propose a social-democratic resistance to communism. "I'd always been a Labour man and somewhat on the left until the 1970s, when I met Margaret Thatcher and she asked my advice." That advice--which translated into the now-famous "Iron Lady" speech--was to regard the Soviet system as something condemned by history and doomed to fail. If that sounds easy now, it wasn't then (though Mr. Conquest insists that it was George Orwell who first saw it coming).

Like many people with a natural gift for politics, Mr. Conquest finds that he distrusts those who can talk of nothing else. His affiliations are undogmatic and unfanatical (he preferred Tony Blair over Margaret Thatcher's successor John Major), and he does not bother to turn out at election times. "I'm a dual national who's a citizen of the U.S. and the U.K., so that voting in either place seems rather overdoing it." On the events of today he is always very judicious and reserved. "I have my own opinions about Iraq, but I haven't said a great deal about the subject because I don't know all that much about it."

How often do you hear anyone talking like that? If he had done nothing political, he would still have had a life, and would be remembered as the senior figure of that stellar collection of poets and writers--John Wain, Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis--who became known in the Britain of the 1950s as "the Movement." Liddie Conquest happens to have written rather authoritatively about this group, though that's not how they met. "I was teaching at the University of Texas in El Paso and he came to give a poetry reading. But it wasn't until I met him later in California that something 'clicked,' as people like to say."

Mrs. Conquest might be described as a force of nature, and also as the wielder of a Texan skillet that yields brisket of a rare and strange tenderness; Anthony Powell in his "Journals" was again committed to understatement when he wrote of her engagement to "Bob" that "she is charming, and he a lucky man."

"I know you meet different lefties from the ones I know," he says, referring obliquely to some recent tussles between your humble servant and the Michael Moore faction. "But I've always been friends with what I call 'the good left.' " In the days of the old Soviet Union, he kept up a solid friendship with the radical Russian scholar Steve Cohen, author of a study of Nikolai Bukharin and husband of Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, and admired his objectivity. "I helped out Scoop Jackson against Kissinger on the Soviet Jewish question. Pat Moynihan helped me get a job at the Wilson Center in Washington in the 1970s."

I remind him that I once introduced him to that other great veteran of the Bay Area, Jessica "Decca" Mitford, and that in the course of a tremendous evening she was enchanted to find that this dreaded friend of Mrs. Thatcher was the only other person she'd ever met who knew all the words to the old Red songbooks, including the highly demanding ditty: "The Cloakmaker's Union Is a No-Good Union," anthem of the old communist garment district. At the close of that dinner I challenged him to write her a limerick on the spot, and he gallantly and spontaneously produced the following:

They don't find they're having to check a
Movement of homage to Decca.
It's no longer fair
To say Oakland's "not there" She's made it a regular Mecca.

The old girl was quite blown away by this tribute, and kept the inscribed napkin as a souvenir.

Mark Steyn on Extremist Influences in American Politics

Mark Steyn is in high dudgeon about the Democratic Party hosting an extremist at a recent meeting (ht Little Green Footballs):

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Russia Warns West Over Kosovo

RIA Novosti has published an article by Sergei Markedonov of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis about the showdown between Russia & China versus the US and EU over Kosovo. After reading Markedonov, I'd ask George Bush to think twice before provoking another crisis in the Balkans--because the US is not in the same position it was in the 1990s, and Russia is richer and stronger than ever before, so strong that she might be looking for an excuse to "bloody the nose" of what appears to be an agressive, belligerent, and hypocritical West. If it's "payback time," I don't know that provoking a battle over Kosovo will help very much in the Global War on Terror (Remember Osama Bin Laden? He's for an independent Kosovo, too). Does Bush really want to "bring it on" in Kosovo, with the full plate facing America around the world right now?

There's another factor to consider--the basic threat of spreading separatism even farther around the world. Russia is threatening not only to stir up secessionist sentiment in places like Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also--reading between the lines--rekindling struggles for places like Corsica, Euskadi (Basque country), and who knows, perhaps Northern Ireland. Candad (Quebec Liberation Front) and Latin America (remember Puerto Rican separatism?)...

Markedonov's plea to set up agreed-upon conditions for secession and self-determination among the great powers should not be dismissed, as it provides a welcome "time-out" from a showdown that may end up no better than the results of US-EU policies to date in Afganistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Timor, or the Palestinian Authority:
The first criterion for recognizing self-proclaimed entities could be their validity as a state. Why doesn't the international community rush with Kosovo's recognition? The reason is quite pragmatic. It is not because of Orthodox Serbs, but because state governance there has been replaced with the clan system.

The second criterion could be a mother country's ability to control a breakaway territory by any means other than deportation and ethnic cleansings. What, apart from the "broad autonomy" rhetoric, can Georgia give to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Azerbaijan to Karabakh? After all, if these territories are re-integrated, Azerbaijan will get Armenians as its new citizens, while Georgia will receive Ossetians, Abkhazes, Armenians and Russians. In other words, re-integration should be assumed impossible if it can lead to a military conflict.

The third criterion could be the existence of democratic procedures in self-proclaimed states.

The fourth one - real (not Kosovo-like) guarantees of ethnic minorities' rights, secured by law and in real life.

And, the fifth could be the establishment of bilateral economic, diplomatic and other relations between a mother country and a breakaway territory.

Only by setting clear criteria for recognizing self-proclaimed territories will the international community be able to break the Kosovo deadlock and prevent (or, at least, minimize) the possibility of emerging similar precedents somewhere in Europe or Eurasia.
The unilateral moment is clearly over, and it would be a mistake to assume that the US can bluff its way through, or bully Russia and China. Let's not be afraid to negotiate. As Churchill famously said in another context: "Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War..."