Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for the ‘international relations’ Category

A Master of Understatement

Posted by Gerald on August 2, 2007

Robert Gates is “optimistic” about the security situation in Iraq.  This leads me to wonder what reality-altering agents are being administered to the Cabinet on a regular basis and whether they might be used for good rather than evil.

The FUNNY part, though, is that he described the lack of political progress there as “discouraging.”  This is sort of like describing the Second World War as “violent.” 


Posted in international relations, Iraq War, news, opinion, politics | 1 Comment »

What We Can Learn from History

Posted by Gerald on August 2, 2007

I was reading an article earlier today that I’m considering having my students read this fall when I came across this quote that seems very relevant for today:

“We must bear in mind that in ancient Greece, as in the world of today, democracy cannot be “installed” like air-conditioning or central heating.  It calls for the unlearning of old ways, for the gradual response to new conditions, and for a radical change in the relations between man and man, and between individual and community.  There are no short cuts.”
– from How Democratic was Ancient Athens? by Robert Browning

We cannot bring democracy to Iraq.  We cannot bring democracy to the Middle East.  We can’t bring democracy to the world.  All we can do is stay out of the way.

Posted in Diplomacy, History, international relations, Iraq War, Middle East, opinion | 2 Comments »

An Open Letter to Unca’ Vlad

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

Vladimir Putin – a man whose view of the world is so refreshingly different from anyone else’s that he ought to consider psychiatric help – has characterized Britain’s attitude toward Russia in the recent row over the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi (for murder) as a remnant of a colonial mindset.

First, Vlad, you don’t get to slam someone for having a colonial mindset unless you used to be colonized yourself – it is just bad form.*  Nigeria can say that to Britain during a Commonwealth meeting, but you don’t get to.  Lets remember that Russia was an empire while Britain took colonies everywhere and that the Soviet Union was a superpower while it lost them.  You are also constantly talking about the great power of Russia today.  You do not get to use the rhetoric of a third world state – you haven’t earned it.

Second, the British might have had an empire fifty years ago but you are acting like you’ve got one now.  Cyber attacks on Estonia, blatant interference in the elections of former Soviet Republics, Chechnya, all of this is called… what is the word?  Oh, yeah – imperialism!  While playing dick-swinging imperialist games to such an extent that you are scaring the Poles and Czechs into allowing Dubya to build his missile boondoggle on their soil you do not get to chide Britain for putting some pressure on you to cough up a murder suspect.  After all in Britain – unlike in your country or mine – Lugovoi isn’t in danger of being disappeared or executed by the state. 

 This is just a case of the imperialist calling the kettle colonial.

Where the hell is Edward Said when I need him?

*By the way, we here in the US don’t get to do that either.  Our episode of being a colonized people is a) way too caught up in our being colonial oppressors at the same time, b) beyond the statute of limitations for such complaints, and c) rendered ridiculous by our actions towards, oh the list is too long, since then.  It would be like when white people complain about being victims of racism and when men complain about being victims of gender oppression.  It is kind of whiny and pathetic given the historical context.

Posted in Britain, international relations, news, rant, Russia | 3 Comments »

A Chill in the Air

Posted by Gerald on July 15, 2007

So in the most recent move by Putin to remind everyone that Russia has a really big … missile stockpile, the Russian government has announced the suspension of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that limited and allowed for the monitoring and regulation of conventional weapons between the Urals and the Atlantic. 

This is another victim of the administration’s plan for a missile “shield.”  Blind obstinacy and paranoia continues to swell on both sides of the Atlantic.

Posted in international relations, missile shield, Russia | Leave a Comment »

Found It!!! (Meaning My Sense of Moral Outrage)

Posted by Gerald on July 12, 2007

I was saying earlier that I wasn’t able to find my sense of moral outrage.

Then I read this in the Washington Post.

This is one interesting story that simply highlights all of the problems with the administration and its Iraq “policy.”  Last November we have Bush giving a “Churchillian” vision of victory in Iraq to the Iraq Study Group.  “‘A constitutional order is emerging,’ he (Bush) said.”  (“T’ings is looking pretty bad dere right now, but dere seems to be hope for a constitutional settlement.”)  Bush’s own CIA director was telling him it ain’t happening.  All of this before the “surge.”  Here is the quotes that really struck me:

“Our leaving Iraq would make the situation worse,” (CIA Director) Hayden said. “Our staying in Iraq may not make it better. Our current approach without modification will not make it better.”

“The levers of power are not connected to anything,” he (Hayden) said, adding: “We have placed all of our energies in creating the center, and the center cannot accomplish anything.”

“It’s a legitimate question whether strengthening the Iraqi security forces helps or hurts when they are viewed as a predatory element,” he said. “Strengthening Iraqi security forces is not unalloyed good. Without qualification, this judgment applies to the police.”

To me, though, the most important quote from CIA Director Hayden was:

“The Iraqi identity is muted. The Sunni or Shia identity is foremost.”

I think this is the most important realization we need to have about the situation in Iraq – identity.  There is not going to be any sort of national reconciliation or unity unless more Iraqis see themselves as Iraqi first and Shia or Sunni second.  I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t see themselves that way, I’m just saying that an Iraqi nation can only be built if its people want it.  Unless the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds WANT to be in the same country with one another, there is no way that political stability is going to emerge.

I’ve said this before in this blog.  WE (America) cannot make this happen.  It isn’t a matter of our will or of our ideals or of anything else about us – this is something that only the people in Iraq can decide.  What is important to them?  Where do their primary loyalties lie?  Who do they believe they are?  Who do they want to be?  We cannot force an answer on them – and I do not think we can even help them find an answer.  I do believe that our presence there – even with the best of intentions (which may or may not be the case) – is making the internal struggle over national identity more difficult by involving a foreign occupation and strengthening the hand of the militant Islamists.  No matter how good their intentions, if you are watching soldiers from another country and another culture walking armed down your streets and kicking in the doors of your neighbors (even the ones you do not like), you cannot help but feel belittled, provoked, and irritated.  Add in the inevitable mistakes and misconduct that will happen when you have armed human beings, with all of our flaws and vices, trying to police someone else’s home and you have a recipe for a spiral of hatred and violence.

Will there be violence if we leave?  Absolutely.  There is violence right now.  Things are gone too far for that not to happen.  But it is ultimately going to be up to the people in Iraq to decide when they no longer want to fight each other.  All we can do is decide whether we are going to continue to provoke the violence we are involved in by our very presence there.

Will Al-Qaeda be able to recruit in Iraq and operate there?  Yes.  We’ve already guaranteed it, and every time some Iraqi kid watches our soldiers leading his Dad off in handcuffs, we are helping swell the ranks.  Our only real hope at this point is to stop doing anymore damage ourselves and then to be ready to provide non-military help on an almost unconditional basis to those who ask.  Maybe, just maybe, that will eventually lead to whatever government or governments emerge from the aftermath being willing to forgive us one day and to not actively support our enemies.

Is all of this a thin strand of hope?  You betcha, but all of the really good options disappeared during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Now we are just left with the possible – with bad and worse.  We need to choose while we still have even this little amount of choice left.

Posted in al-Qaeda, America, Bush administration, Diplomacy, international relations, Iraq War, Middle East, news, opinion, politics, thoughts, United States | Leave a Comment »

This Should Help…

Posted by Gerald on July 9, 2007

If the whole situation in Iraq isn’t complicated enough, the BBC is reporting that the Iraqi government says Turkey has massed 140,000 troops along its border, possibly as a first step toward strikes against Kurish separatists.  Read it here.

Posted in international relations, Iraq, Turkey | Leave a Comment »

Benchmarks and Memories

Posted by Gerald on July 8, 2007

In another Washington Post report, much of the administration has come to realize that the benchmarks set by Congress before the “surge” are not going to be reached by September, if at all.  There is a lot of discussion of the complicated situation, the intertwined problems of political progress and security problems, etc…

Two things jumped out at me in the story.

First is this quote:

“The heart of darkness is the president,” the person said. “Nobody knows what he thinks, even the people who work for him.” 

Hell, I’m not too sure HE knows what he thinks – beyond being absolutely certain he is always right. 

Second is this tidbit:

 “Late last year, amid strong doubts about Maliki’s leadership capabilities, senior White House officials considered trying to engineer the Iraqi president’s replacement. But most have now concluded that there are no viable alternatives and that any attempt to force a change would only worsen matters.”

Doesn’t this sound a bit familiar?  Try replacing “Maliki” with “Diem” and “Iraqi” with “South Vietnamese” and read it again.

What is really terrifying here is that the Diem government was basically brought down when the Johnson administration started sending mixed messages about their support due to the internal debate about whether to get rid of Diem.  Presto Chango!  A group of military officers pull a coup, Diem gets shot in the back of an APC, and the US begins escalating troop commitments.

Now I realize this ISN’T Vietnam and we don’t have anymore troops to send (yet).  Still, given how that whole thing worked out in 1963, you would almost think we might have learned our lesson about trying to stage-manage events in other countries.  We don’t do that well with our own.

I’ve said this before in this blog, but I’ll say it again:


We cannot bring stability to Iraq when our very presence there is polarizing.  We cannot determine for other people where their loyalties will lie or what their political beliefs will be.  We cannot unite Iraq or divide Iraq.  We cannot save Iraq.  We should leave Iraq.

Posted in America, Bush administration, George W. Bush, History, international relations, Iraq War, news, opinion, politics, thoughts, United States | 1 Comment »

Will the Senate Shield Us from the Shield?

Posted by Gerald on July 5, 2007

Looks like Congress might cut the funds for the missile “shield.”  Read about it here.

You’ve got to love this.  This thing is supposed to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Neither country has actually agreed yet.  It is supposed to protect Europe.  Neither the EU or NATO have endorsed the plan.  It is meant to protect us all from Iran.  Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons yet and doesn’t have any ICBMs.  The administration wants funding to start putting the system in place in the two countries that haven’t agreed to let us put it there.  This whole thing has the Russians threatening to move missiles and troops up toward Eastern Europe.

Here is the really funny part: the system hasn’t been successfully tested yet (it has been UNSUCCESSFULLY tested several times.)

So Dubya wants money to deploy a system that doesn’t work, in countries that haven’t agreed to host it, to protect countries that don’t want it, against an enemy that hasn’t threatened them, in spite of threats from a possible enemy who has.

“Well, there he goes again.”

Posted in America, Bush administration, Congress, Diplomacy, European Union, international relations, Iran, missile shield, news, opinion, politics, Russia, Senate | 1 Comment »

The Tinkling of Rattled Sabres

Posted by Gerald on July 4, 2007

The Russians are threatening to move missiles closer to the EU as part of the re-targeting Putin had threatened earlier in retaliation for the U.S. missile “shield” (laugh, choke, snort).

Guess he didn’t like the lobster…

Posted in Bush administration, European Union, international relations, missile shield, news, opinion, Russia, United States | Leave a Comment »

The Coalition of the Remaining

Posted by Gerald on July 1, 2007

Looks like Australia is getting out too.

Pretty soon the U.S. will be the only one left at the party.  You know, when the hosts start giving you those significant glances and say “Well, sure is getting late!” and “We really do have to get up early tomorrow.”

Do you suppose anyone in the administration might catch the hint?

Posted in America, Australia, Bush administration, international relations, Iraq War, news, opinion, politics, United States | 1 Comment »