Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Blair for president

During the runup to the Iraq War, I was unsure if I supported it or not. Two things clinched it for me, one was Colin Powell's speech to the UN on WMD and the other was listening to Tony Blair's speeches. The man is simply eloquent. His speech yesterday at the Labour Party convention lays out what is truly at stake in Iraq and shows why we should continue our efforts there. Here's a key point he makes:

"It's simply that I believe democracy there means security here; and that if I don't care and act on this terrorist threat, then the day will come when all our good work on the issues that decide people's lives will be undone because the stability on which our economy, in an era of globalisation, depends, will vanish."

In the age of globalization, we can be hit by threats that we can't see long before we have time to detect them. We have more open societies in the West now due to more open transportation, communication, and business links. Because of this increased connectivity, there really is no "there" versus "here." Everywhere is "here" now and Blair knows that. The terrorists must be defeated in Iraq and around the world if we are to be safe at home.

Reading this speech, I was also struck by his effectiveness in defending the Iraq War and I wondered why President Bush can not make a similar defense to the American people. Blair is a great speaker in a way that Bush may never be (I'll grant that), but the president should at least be learning something from Blair's speeches. Maybe Blair's speaking style is inappropriate for Middle America, I'm not sure, but adopting that kind of style when speaking at the UN could do a lot to further the administration's argument that fighting the war was a good idea.

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GWOT: Advantage US

Continuing the theme of good news in the GWOT we now have this book written up here in the Washington Post. A French Arabist named Gilles Kepel says that car bombings and terror attacks in Turkey, Morocco, and Iraq are turning Muslims away from al Qaeda's call for jihad. Here are two key graphs:

"The principal goal of terrorism -- to seize power in Muslim countries through mobilization of populations galvanized by jihad's sheer audacity -- has not been realized," Kepel writes. In fact, bin Laden's followers are losing ground: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been toppled; the fence-sitting semi-Islamist regime in Saudi Arabia has taken sides more strongly with the West; Islamists in Sudan and Libya are in retreat; and the plight of the Palestinians has never been more dire. And Baghdad, the traditional seat of the Muslim caliphs, is under foreign occupation. Not what you would call a successful jihad.

Kepel argues that the insurgents' brutal tactics in Iraq -- the kidnappings and beheadings, and the car-bombing massacres of young Iraqi police recruits -- are increasingly alienating the Muslim masses. No sensible Muslim would want to live in Fallujah, which is now controlled by Taliban-style fanatics. Similarly, the Muslim masses can see that most of the dead from post-Sept. 11 al Qaeda bombings in Turkey and Morocco were fellow Muslims."

Kepel goes on to say that the kidnapping of the two French journalists (fates still unknown) in an attempt to get France to reverse the headscarf ban has completely backfired thanks to the refusal of French Muslims to go along with the terrorist gameplan. Their support of the French government in that issue greatly undermined the terrorists' attempt to get concessions out of France.

If I had to guess, I would say that the journalists are likely dead but the terrorists are hiding that fact, along with the bodies, in an attempt to prevent the jihad from being furthered undermined by their actions. Imagine the potential French Muslim if those journalists wind up dead.

Spengler on Tariq Ramadan

If you're not reading Spengler in the Asia Times every week then you don't know what you're missing! This week he talks about the recent refusal to allow Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan to visit the US.
Some news sources have decried the Bush administration's refusal to allow the visit saying the US may be stifling a voice of Islamic moderation. Spengler shows that Tariq is clearly calling for jihad by saying that Islam will eventually replace Christianity and Judaism. Tariq sees jihad as a solution to the ills of classical liberalism in the West. In this paradigm, Islam will take over rather than peacefully coexist with other religions. Sound familiar?
Was Samuel Huntington, then, correct when he said that we are headed for a clash of civilizations? Huntington has taken a beating lately because his thesis doesn't seem to hold in certain areas and his lines of cultural demarcation are drawn a little too finely. And yet, here we have an Islamic scholar (a moderate?) embracing Huntington's clash theory and seeing Islam as winning. Whether or not the academy agrees with Huntington, I say his work remains relevant because it describes how our enemies view their war with the West.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Israeli Way to Win in Iraq

This story shows that the Israelis truly know what they are doing regarding anti-insurgencies. The Intifada is rapidly loosing steam due to the effectiveness of Israeli tactics. The use of teenage sucide bombers is now properly seen as an act of desperation. But the cost of sending teenagers to die has proven too high. The article says that two-thirds of respondents in a recent Palestinian poll want to negotiate a cease-fire. There's also talk of rebuilding the society, just what the Palestinians need to do if they are to free themselves from the chaos of the past years.

Let's hope tactics similar to those used by the Israelis will be soon used in Iraq.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Nuclear test in N. Korea?

A S. Korean government official is now saying here that the blast didn't occur at all. This smells more and more like a coverup. This is the statement from the vice minister of reunification, Rhee Bong-jo, about the blast:

"There is no information to support an explosion in the area where there were indications of an explosion," Rhee said.

What the....?

Reuters further says, "Rhee Bong-jo told reporters seismic signals and strange cloud formations picked up last week were not from an explosion."

So what were the seismic signals and cloud formations from? No one says.

Adding fuel to the fire, Reuters reports, "South Korea said earlier diplomats in Pyongyang had been taken to a different site, away from the suspected location in remote Kimhyungjik county on the Chinese border. "

So why would the diplomats be taken to a different area? Something's rotten in Korea and it ain't the kimchee.

Would anyone like to bet that we just saw a N. Korean nuclear test?

The implications would, of course, be enormous. A test now would come at a time when the US military, especially the army, is stretched to the breaking point. The Koreans may have been emboldened by recent developments in Iraq that lead them to believe that US military might has been weakened. With a weakened US military, the N. Koreans may have felt the time was right to reassert themeslves.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Taiwan spying on US?

Judging from this story, Israel may not be the only "ally" spying on the US. Donald W. Keyser, a senior aide to Secretary of State Powell, apparently covered up a trip he made to Taipei last year. The nature of his activities there are still unclear, but while under surveillance by the FBI Keyser passed restricted material to a Taiwanese intelligence agent in Washington, D.C.

What might Taiwan's motive be in spying on the US? Several things come to mind. First, the State department historically has been somewhat antagonistc towards Taiwan. Developing a source in State would give Taiwan advance knowledge of State initiatives that may hurt Taiwan lobbying. Second, the implications of President Bush's recent call to reduce troops in S. Korea must have finally dawned on the Chen administration. With fewer troops in Asia, the US would be ill-prepared for a potential China attack on the island. In light of the troop reduction, Taiwan's political position in quickly eroding.

First Post Test

This blog will explore recent developments in international relations from a realist pespective. (You guessed that, right?) As a grad student in international relations (IR), I'm learning and thinking about these developments all day, every day. This blog will capture my thoughts as I learn more and hopefully allow those reading the blog to explore recent events from an IR pespective. Here we go.