Monday, January 30, 2006

It looks like the Bush administration is going to continue on its path of ineptitude regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Condi Rice is in London today to sign a big check for Hamid Karzai, deal with the Iranian nuclear issue and meet with the "Quartet" to discuss cutting off international aid to the PA. Although, I totally understand the US and EU's reluctance to give money to Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, I also understand that there are about 136,000 employees of the PA expecting a paycheck in the next few days. If chaos in the territories is the outcome the Quartet is looking for here, then this is the policy to follow.

If you really want to compound the major mistakes this administration has made throughout its tenure, including helping Hamas get into power, then defiantly cut off all aid to the PA until Hamas disarms and renounces violence. There are very few good options in this situation, but crippling the PA is probably the worst. At least, by providing a steady source of funding to the new Hamas led government---always with the threat of a cut off for bad behavior---you maintain some leverage, which would go out the window if they started receiving their funding from Iran for instance.

Glenn Kessler in the WaPo pretty neatly lays out the long litany of failures W. & Co. have been responsible for ,which has ultimately led to this political disaster. As usual, the motivation at the beginning was not to do anything that Clinton had done. Kessler writes that administration "officials were disdainful of the Clinton administration's deep involvement in the peace process, which they believed to be micromanaging." Just like in the case of North Korea: do anything but what Clinton did---and we know how well the Korean policy has worked out.

I heard this morning on NPR that Condi is asking her staff to investigate how the State Department got it so wrong on predicting the Hamas win. I find that pretty ironic because, didn't Condi, the big Sovietologist, completely blow it on predicting the fall of the USSR? In fact, I think she was fired by Cheney shortly afterward, wasn't she? She gets a lot of things wrong, but luckily for her she works for a guy who gives medals and promotions out for complete incompetence.

Jonathan Last on Iran:

This past Sunday, I read a very puzzling column by Jonathan Last in the Philly Inquirer. Last wrote that the issues of human rights and WMD are "inseparable" when it comes to rogue regimes. The reason we can't let Iran get the bomb is because "we care whether or not a country has WMD capabilities because of its record on human rights. This is why we did not worry when India tested its first nuclear device in 1998. (We didn't?) It is why we would not be panicked if we learned that Jordan or Oman was on the verge of entering the nuclear club." After coming to this astounding conclusion---i.e. Jordan and Oman are bastions of liberty and freedom---he rolls off a list of horrific human rights abuses perpetrated on Iranian citizens by their own government (basically the entire column).

First of all, I think we would all stipulate to the fact that the Mullahs in Iran are not exactly the most enlightened people in the world, but they're certainly no worse than any number of other countries guilty of equally terrible treatment of their own people why we give a pass to. The Saudis, for instance, are the poster children for going medieval on their own people, yet W. regularly has King Abdullah to the ranch down in Crawford (really Waco) for some barbeque, handholding and kissing and nary a discouraging word is ever heard. Also, since the Saudis provided the bulk of the 9/11 attackers and now supply a steady stream of suicide bombers to Iraq, I'd say they're much more of a threat to the US than the Iranians are---right now, at least.

If nuke getting into the hands of terrorists is the real concern, then I'd be much more worried about Russia's loose nukes and the Bush administration's lack of any plan to deal with them. Iran doesn't even have a bomb nor are they likely to have any time soon, but Pakistan does and they've been passing them out to anyone with a big enough check book for years. Pakistan also continues to support any number of terrorist groups and Pervez Musharraf isn't exactly the model of a Jeffersonian democrat. So, why not the same level of concern for Pakistan, Jonathan?

Something tells me human rights isn't really what's behind Last's column. To me, it reads more like a typical anti-Iranian diatribe supplied by the small group of Iranian ex-pats who want the son of the late Shah back in power, a la Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress before the Iraq invasion. Yes, we all want reform in Iran, the majority of Iran's people want a more democratic, western leaning government, too, but the last thing they want is a return of the Shah! I'm not saying Jonathan Last is on the payroll of the Shah in exile, but he ought to come clean with his readers on where he's getting this stuff.

My final thought on Last's article is: what on earth were the editors of the Inquirer thinking when they decided to publish it?


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