Showing posts from September, 2006

Borat in Washington

The president of Kazakhstan came to town yesterday, and a massive press scrum fought for toeholds outside the country's embassy, where a grand new statue symbolizing Kazakh independence -- a warrior holding a falcon standing on the back of a fierce winged cat -- had just been unveiled.

But, no, of course that's not why we were there. That's not why any of the 50 or so journalists were there. We were there for Borat .

Or rather, Sacha Baron Cohen , the British comic who performs in the gonzo, deadpan, taking-the-joke-almost-too-far tradition of Andy Kaufman and Peter Sellers . He plays many made-up characters on his HBO series "Da Ali G Show," but few that have struck a nerve like that of Borat Sagdiyev -- an anti-Semitic, oversexed Kazakh journalist who spins tales about the national sport of killing dogs and the practice of keeping women in cages -- much to the continuing dismay of the Kazakh government. In a brilliant stunt to promote his movie "Borat" …

Post-Bush foreign policy

Sorry. That's probably not going to happen even if the Democrats control Capitol Hill after November. So we'll have to wait two more years for the nightmare to end (and things COULD get worse). But it's not too early to start thinking about the Post-Bush Era and especially as it will affect foreign policy. My favorite foreign policy magazineThe National Interest held an interesting debate on the subject today between anti-neocon Republican Stefan Halper and pro-neocon Democrat Will Marshall. It's quite depressing if you consider that Halper is not going to have any influence on Republican President John McCain's foreign policy while Will Marshall and his Democratic Leadership Council and cadre of "liberal hawks" are going to play a major role in the administration of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Apropos National Interest magazine. At a time when the foreign policy "consensus" (from neoconism to neocon-lite)dominates the media, think tanks, etc, edit…

The "National" "Intelligence" "Estimate"

Well, I've read the earlier press leaks and the declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate. Here is some of the points I've made in a recent column:
IN recent speeches, including several addresses marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, US President George W Bush has argued that Iraq has become the central front in the war on terrorism.

'The security of the civilised world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq,' Mr Bush said in one speech on Aug 31. Indeed, with opinion polls showing Mr Bush's Republican Party possibly losing control of both houses of Congress in the coming mid-term elections, in large part due to public unhappiness over the war in Iraq, the president and his political allies have argued that demands for a US troop withdrawal from the country by the Democrats underscored why the centre-left party should not be trusted with the nation's secur…

Countdown to a "One State Solution?"

In my Two Peoples, Two States: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has only one solution which was published a while ago I challenged the idea of establishing a bi-national state aka "one state solution" in the geographical area that includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. I haven't changed my mind about the issue and I find it weird that in the aftermath of the violent disintgeration of Yugoslavia and the peaceful divorce of Czechoslovakia as well as continuing talk about ethnic/linguistic divisions in Canada, Belgium and even Great Britain that any serious thinker assumes that Israeli-Jews and Palestinian-Arabs are going to live together happily ever after in a unitary state in the Middle East where similar arrangements (Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Algeria)ended in civil wars. But according to reports from Israel there is now less public support for continuing withdrawal from the West Bank and renewed buildup of Jewish settlements there. This suggests that taking into consider…

On Iran and Pakistan

In case you've missed on recent column on Iran, US-Iran Shootout is Inevitable:
Would US President George W Bush and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad run into each other by chance during their opening session of the United Nations General Assembly this week? That seemed to be the major concern occupying US officials. It seems White House aides were doing their best to avoid a run-in between Mr. Bush and Mr. Ahmadinejad in the hallways of the UN building in Manhattan; for example, the Iranian leader "ambushing" Mr. Bush as he tries to enter the lavatory, igniting a Clash of Civilizations in front of the Men's Room.(read the rest)

And with all the recent buzz about the Paks, please check-out some of my the stuff I've written on the topic which seems to be relevant now more than ever:
Pakistan in America’s War against Terrorism: Strategic Ally or Unreliable Client,Outsourcing the Hunt for Bin Laden,The Real War on Terrorism Is in Pakistan, Not Iraq,and If Iraq…

Will the U.S. attack Iran?

Well... Thisis kind of reassuring:Make no mistake: boring as it was, the president's speech to the UN today was one of the most important of his presidency. It marks the final fizzling out of his Iran policy of the past three years.

Since 2003, the Bush administration has pursued a diplomatic track against the emerging Iranian nuclear program. The tough talk of the "axis of evil" speech of 2002 faded into the background. Instead, the US would await the investigations of the International Atomic Energy Authority. While waiting, it deputed its allies Britain, France, and Germany to negotiate directly with Iran to discover whether any package of incentives might persuade the mullahs to reconsider their determination to acquire nuclear weapons.

Both those policies have reached their dead end. Iran has repeatedly deceived and rebuffed the IAEA. The direct negotiations have likewise failed, victims of Iranian intransigence and duplicity. Now the whole matter has been referred to…

"Watching Woody Allen in Tehran"

The following are the comments that I made during a debate on Responding to Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: Has the United States Been Effective Since 9/11?, sponsored by The Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation, which took place in New York City on September 12, 2006. Thanks to for the great (!) above title above.
I remember landing in New York City for the first time about thirty years ago, and then driving into Manhattan and gazing at the majestic beauty of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers. For me they were symbols of New York and what it represented: The energy and excitement of its people, commerce and culture.

In 1977, when I got to New York, there was a lot of excitement in the city. On Broadway, the hit, A Chorus Line was playing. There was Studio 54 and the launching of a new television show, Saturday Night Live. John Travolta was doing the disco on Saturday Night Fever and everyone was wearing polyester suits. And there w…

More on the debate in NYC

I've received a few emails from friends who wanted to get more info on and impressions from my debate in NYC (mentioned in earlier posts) with David Frum and Craig Charney (seen above). Well, I'm told that the Donald and Paula Smith Family Family Foundation will soon have a video and audio versions of the debate on their website here. It's difficult to figure out who had "won" the debate since most of the people who attended probably arrived with preconceived notions about the Mideast, U.S. policy, etc. Overall it seems to me that Frum and the neocons are now on the defensive and as I noted, I was surprised that he refrained from advancing the Wilsonian/democracy project in the Mideast during his comments. In any case, I was delighted that my views reflecting a libertarian and Realist perspective were aired in such a prestigious forum.

On a related issue checkout the new website of National Interest magazine, The National Interest Online which has posted an piece …

Debate in NYC

Last night (Tuesday, September 12)I took part in a debate sponsored by The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation on the following issue: Responding to Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: Have We Been Effective Since 9/11? The debate took place in Manhattan, at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York on Fifth Avenue. I was suppposed to represent the libertarian/non-interventionist position. David Frum, from the American Enterprise Institute was invited to present the neoconservative view, while Craig Charney, President of Charney Research which studies Arab attitudes towards the United States provided a more centrist perspective. We had a good audience of about 200 people and there were some provocative question. The debate was heated but civilized and extended into a dinner. Here are some of my opening remarks which give you an idea about my line:
I remember landing in New York City for the first time about thirty years ago, and then driving into Manhattan and gazin…

The path to Tora Bora: All you need are Balls

I've been watching the "docudrama" The Path to 9/11 on ABC which is about how the Clintonites missed so many chances to get Osama before 9/11. some of these instances were documented in Steve Coll's excellent Ghost Wars and other books although this silly docu-drama gets some of these events mixed up. I counted (in the first part) six times in which actors refer to "balls" like "it took some balls" or "balls of steel" which supposedly the Clintonites didn't have (although we do see Clinton insisting he that he didn't have sex with "that woman" and then we get a glimpse of the Washington Memorial -- Get it? Ha, ha, ha -- and then Monica)but that John O'neill played by Harvey Keitel (above) and his very manly and so, so virile pals (including the women) in the FBI and CIA (minus the lawyers) had. Well, I hope we'll get soo a sequel, The Path to Tora Bora, How bin Laden got away after the Bushies deployed the force…

Israel in the EU?

Wikipedia has an interesting summary of the debate on whether Israel should join the European Union (EU) and the implications of such a move. I've been promoting this idea for a long time (as the item points out) and expect it to gain even more momentum in the coming years as the EU adopts a mroe activist role in the Middle East. One interesting point that the piece raised: Today, six per cent of more than six million Israelis already hold a passport from an EU country. Another 14 per cent, or 700,000 people, are entitled to apply for one because they or their parents come from an EU Member State.

Info/invitation to event in NYC

For those of you residing in the New York area, you're invited to attend the following conference on in which I'll be one of the three speakers:

The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation
Presents a debate:

Responding to Anti-Americanism in the Arab World:
Have We Been Effective Since 9/11?

David Frum
American Enterprise Institute
Author: An End to Evil
The Right Man

Craig Charney
President, Charney Research
Award winning Pollster of Arab Attitudes

Leon T. Hadar
Cato Institute
Author: Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East

Over the five years since 9/11, American foreign policy, security policy, and psychology have been reshaped to address Arab anger and the terrorism that can result from it. On 9/11 what most of the world saw as a horrific act of brutality, many in the Arab streets saw as a success. While currently the Iraq war overshadows all, the Administration has also aggressively sought to engage the Arab world and convince it that America is not the …