Honduras: it wasn't enough to denounce the removal of former president Manuel Zelaya from power by the nation's supreme court unconstitutional (it wasn't, as determined here
4OWNkODk= by the Law Library of Congress). It wasn't enough to cut non-humanitarian foreign aid. Now, the State Department has revoked the visas of interim president Roberto Micheletti and the justices of the Honduran Supreme Court. One can see how Micheletti could be an easy target for this action, but the justices? The justices were duly appointed well before this fracas broke out and there is no more question about their legitimacy in ruling on their own constitution than there is about our own justices doing the same here. By revoking their visas, all we are doing is bullying the legally appointed judiciary of another country for issuing a ruling with which we disagree. This is a gross violation of the workings of a sovereign state's judicial system and something unprecedented between democracies. And it still defies credulity how this administration chooses to deal with its friends and enemies. Navigate a true constitutional crisis peacefully and in accordance with your own laws, and you're banned from visiting the world's greatest 'defender of freedom'. On the other hand, deny the Holocaust, rig an election and then murder those citizens who protest your abuses, violate international law and pursue an illegal nuclear program, and sponsor terrorism around the world, and you get to come to the U.N. and spew your poison for all the world to hear (more on that in a second). And tell me again why we're backing a corrupt socialist weasel who's buddy-buddy with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, tried to violate his own nation's constitution and get himself elected dictator-for-life, and thinks "Israeli mercenaries" are trying to assassinate him with a ray gun (http://www.miamiherald.com/1506/story/1248828.html)? This is our man in Honduras? I just threw up a little in my mouth.
Eastern Europe: it's okay though, we're still standing up to thugocracies that threaten our democratic allies in the former Eastern Bloc. Oops, nope, this just in: we sold them down the river too. Poland and the Czech Republic will no longer be hosting components of a missile defense system designed to defend Europe - and our own Eastern seaboard, one might add - from a ballistic missile attack by rogue nations. Russia has railed against the installation of this system for years, claiming that it would undercut its own nuclear deterrent (a laughable claim, since Russia's hundreds of missiles would easily overwhelm a system designed to shoot down only a few). The Kremlin's real beef is that providing such a system to countries like Poland is an intrusion into a region it believes is its to influence as it pleases. And Putin's Russia has shown no compunction about throwing its weight around to exert its influence. Having a trade dispute with Moscow? You'll suddenly find yourself with no natural gas to heat your home in the middle of winter. Have disputed borders and an overly cozy relationship with the United States? You'll wake up one day on the wrong side of a Russian ground assault. Most of Western Europe has caved in the face of Putin's bullying, unwilling to risk their gas supplies for mere principle. Bush's decision to base interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic was an implicit American guarantee that the United States would stick to its principles and stand up to Russia's bullying of nascent democracies. That, and it would protect the eastern States and all of Europe from Iranian missiles. No longer. Poland and the Czech Republic have learned the same hard lesson that Honduras, Columbia, and Iranian dissidents already know: America's under new management, and guess what, her 'friends' are on their own. That we chose to throw Poland under the bus on the sixtieth anniversary of its invasion by the Soviet Union (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland) is particularly disgraceful (though hardly surprising from an administration that misspelled the 'reset' button it gave to Russia, or gave the prime minister of our oldest ally, Britain, a bunch of Wal-mart discount DVDs that can't be played in British DVD players). And what did we gain from our faithlessness? The chance that Russia might actually sanction Iran for its nuclear activities (activities aided and abetted almost exclusively by Russia). I'll believe that when I see it. And the argument behind abandoning our allies and surrendering an effective missile shield was that Iran hadn't developed her nuclear and missile capabilities as much as we thought. That was, until . . .
Iran: . . . It did. The scent of hope had barely faded from the podium in the U.N. General Assembly when the world learned that d'oh, not only is Iran still telling the West to pound sand over its illegal nuclear program, but its program has secretly expanded to include a new facility near the holy city of Qom; and the design of this new facility is evidently not consistent with a 'peaceful program' (Obama probably threw up a little in HIS mouth when he was forced to acknowledge that). Perhaps his speech on nonproliferation hadn't had enough time to sink in; if only he'd delivered it a few hours earlier, Ahmadinejad could have taken a minute for personal reflection and meditation and seen the error of his ways. Instead, he again told the West to pound sand while claiming that the IAEA would have full access to the new facility (and again, I'll believe it when I see it). America's response to this latest challenge was, to put it mildly, muted. On the other hand, the vast right-wing conspiracy took the administration to task for its wishful thinking:
"We are right to talk about the future," [he] said, referring to the U.S. resolution on strengthening arms control treaties. "But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises," i.e., Iran and North Korea. "We live in the real world, not in a virtual one." "We say that we must reduce," he went on.
"President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five
Security Council Resolutions . . .
"I support America's 'extended hand.' But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations. What are we to do? What conclusions are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to make
Hmmm, wait, that wasn't Rush Limbaugh, that was raging neocon Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, who was evidently peeved enough at America's wishy-washy response that he publicly took the president of the United States to the woodshed. France was instructed not to rain on Obama's parade at his U.N. debut by bringing up inconvenient truths about Iran's nukes; this was the best Sarkozy could do, but it was damning nonetheless (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471504574441402775482322.h
tml). And, after all this, Iran decided to test a few missiles just to tell the West how much sand it could pound; models included long-range, two-stage ballistic missiles that can reach parts of Europe and against which, as the Poles and Czechs can tell you, we currently have no defense in that part of the world and are not pursuing one. So where does this leave us? Negotiations with Iran are set for October 1; just going off past negotiations with the likes of Iran and North Korea on things nuclear, I'll hazard a guess and say these won't go anywhere. As Eliot Cohen points out (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471504574441402775482322.html), this leaves us with two options: an American or Israeli pre-emptive strike in the immediate future (probably leading to a wider war, substantial shock to the global oil market, and widespread international terrorism), or a nuclear Iran in the near future (which will probably lead to all of the above anyway, with the added bonus of nuclear weapons in the hands of suicidal religious fanatics). We are rapidly approaching the point where truly hard, dangerous, and unpopular choices will have to be made about Iran. We can't punt this down the road or make it someone else's problem. Richard Cohen has a cutting piece (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/28/AR200909280
2484.html) about the kind of leader we need in a crisis like this, and the kind of leader we have. The disparity is frightening. Afghanistan: this country needs some hard and unpopular decisions too. The combatant commander there, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says we need more troops and need them fast, or we could reach the point where our 'war of necessity' becomes unwinnable. This is the same general who was hand-picked by the administration to revamp our efforts to turn around the conflict there; he's an expert in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, he took over as part of a new strategy to focus on those two pillars (http://www.newsweek.com/id/216237/page/1), and was given an initial ante of 10,000 more troops with which to kick things off. Now, six months later, with the situation deteriorating and the man on the ground asking for the tools he needs, we're waiting on . . . a new strategy? But I thought we had one, which is why we sent McChrystal and 10,000 more Americans overseas last spring in the first place. So for the last six months we didn't know what we were doing? I'm not sure that's it. I think it has more to do with a spike in American casualties, coupled with dropping support for the war, both in the general public and Obama's leftward base. This would be a problem for any wartime president; indeed, Bush the Evil faced it only a few years ago as Iraq went on its downward spiral. Bush made a choice: he believed our success there was vital, and so he presented the arguments as to why this was so to the public, replaced his theater commander, gave his new general the tools he needed, and let him get to work. This was a huge gamble: he was doubling down on an unpopular and seemingly intractable war. It could easily have gone the other way. But he believed the risk of withdrawal and failure was a greater threat to America and put his money where his mouth was to prevent that. The problem now is that Obama is not a gambler. He has never, in his career, made the difficult or unpopular choice. Faced with one now, in a realm with which he has no familiarity, he just can't. At least, that's the best explanation for his sudden waffling on what was, a short time ago, an underresourced war of necessity that has to be won. It would explain why he's only talked to his hand-picked commander once (http://www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs/back-story/2009/sep/28/us-commander-of-afghanistan-only-talked-to-obama-o/). It would explain why we're suddenly reevaluating our strategy there, which was supposed to have been reevaluated six months ago and then given to McChrystal to carry out. It would explain why he's refused to receive McChrystal's troop request and told Defense Secretary Gates to sit on it. This is so far outside his comfort zone, so far above any of his previous pay grades, that he doesn't know what to do. However, he's at the top pay grade right now, and THIS is what he's getting paid to do. He needs to make a decision. We either go all in, or we should go home right now. He had it right when he called this a war of necessity, that it had been underresourced for too long, that we need to deny the Taliban and Al Qaeda a safe haven, that a stable Afghanistan only helps us in Pakistan, that these are the killers who attacked us eight years ago, used planes as weapons of mass destruction and murdered thousands of Americans. They need to be destroyed. The public is waffling now because it sees the White House waffling; if the White House shows resolve, explains that we need to stay in Afghanistan and do it right, listens to his commanders and publicly vows to give them what they need and turn them loose, the public will finds its resolve too. I hope this is the choice the commander-in-chief makes. The way the wind's blowing, however, I fear this won't be the case. I fear the choice to succeed will be punted indefinitely, pending endless reviews and consultations with innumerable advisors, until we're past the point where success is possible. Coupled with the likely emergence of a nuclear Iran (another difficult choice I suspect will be punted), this will be a devastating defeat for American interests and national security.
Iraq: quieter now, but Tom Ricks reports some disturbing news from inside the Green Zone
_embassy_vs_us_military_again). It seems that the administration's pick to replace Ambassador Crocker - civilian half of Petraeus' dream team that pulled the country from the brink of civil war - isn't getting along too well with Petraeus' successor, Gen. Odierno. Ambassador Hill is an old Balkan hand; Odierno has been breathing Iraqi dust for most of this decade. That the former won't listen to the latter is a bad sign. We saw this movie before, in Ballistic: Sanchez v. Bremer. The result was two years of unrestricted terror. We don't need a sequel.
Elsewhere: as if we needed more proof that foreign policy (like democracy in a U.N. speech) is an afterthought, here are some words of wisdom from our current envoy to Sudan, home to yet another genocidal dictator. How should we deal with problems like wholesale slaughter in Darfur? "We've got to think about giving out cookies," . . . Kids, countries -- they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."
2336.html?hpid=topnews) Cookies and gold stars: watch out, evildoers.
And where, in the midst of all this, is our leader? Last I heard, in Copenhagen, where "the gloves are off" when in comes to bringing the Olympics to Chicago (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/29/michelle.obama.olympics/index.html?i
ref=topnews). This is the first time an American president has personally pressed to get the Olympics in his country. But then, it's not like he has anything else to do.