Showing posts from 2007

Ron Paul transforms foreign policy debate

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ron Paul when I visited his office and briefed him and his colleagues on Middle Eastern issues last year (and I know that he had read my two books on the Middle East and liked them). He is clearly a man of integrity and an American patriot who is committed to classical liberal principles and is opposed to the current interventionist U.S. foreign policy. I hope that he win the Republican party's presidential nomination (and this is my personal view which doesn't necessarily reflect the outlets I'm associated with). But even if he doesn't, it seems to me that he has helped transform the debate on foreign policy, and especially the war in Iraq by drawing the attention of the general public and the media (including MSM) to the idea that America needs to start reducing its military commitments abroad, and especially in the Middle East, and embrace a policy that reflects U.S. interests and principles. We clearly need that!

More on Pakistan

My radio interview with Federal News Service on Bhutto's death, etc. is here. Also see comments by Jim Henley and Henri. And I also liked the op-ed by David Ignatius, , who is one of the smartest guys in town, and especially the following words of wisdom: Bhutto's death is a brutal demonstration of the difficulty for outsiders in understanding -- let alone tinkering with -- a country such as Pakistan. The Bush administration attempted a bit of political engineering when it tried to broker an alliance between Musharraf and Bhutto and sought to position her as the country's next prime minister. Yesterday's events were a reminder that global politics is not Prospero's island, where we can conjure up the outcomes we want. In places such as Pakistan, where we can't be sure where events are heading, the wisest course for the United States is the cautious one of trying to identify and protect American interests. Pakistanis will decide how and when their country ma

Balance of power is continuing to shift from the US

(Lithograph by Honoré Daumier(1808-1879) Business Times - 28 Dec 2007 Events in 2007 and in 2008 accentuating the trend By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT THERE was a time - many years ago - when Time magazine was considered to be an American and international 'institution'. That explained why the world's movers and shakers paid a lot of attention to the individual that the founder Henry Luce and his successors picked as the magazine's Man of the Year. That choice - basically announcing who was the persona that had the power to change the world - reflected the wisdom prevailing then among the political and corporate elites, located mostly in New York and Washington. But gradually, Time magazine was transformed from that institution into the older and serious brother of People magazine, and now it has become, for all practical purposes, the Lenin Mausoleum of American journalism, an institutional corpse that is being preserved for some reason (prestige?) while People

Pakistan: Another diplomatic "triumph" for Condi

My piece from the January 2008 issue of Chronicles magazine: (and sorry about speaking ill of the dead...) PAKISTAN: HERE WE GO AGAIN Condi Rice had a vision: It was springtime in Pakistan, and love was in the air—which was an ideal time for a chick flick. From the lady who brought us the Shiite-Sunni Love Fest in Iraq, Fatah-Hamas: Isn’t It Romantic? in Palestine, The Amorous Cedars in Lebanon, not to mention the first season of Democratic Idol in Ukraine (Viktor Yushchenko) and Georgia (Mikheil Saakashvili) would come a new production, A Match Made in Heaven, starring small-time military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the slick and crooked ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. At the Happy End of this new romantic drama would come the ultimate Celebration of Sisterhood: Two hip babes are brought together—Rice, the symbol of the powerful awakening of African-American feminism, commanding the world’s attention with her pair of black knee-high boots, hugs Bhutto, whose trademark white s

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I initially had some hesitations about going to see a film that takes place in a hospital. I’m glad that I did see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is a cinematic masterpiece that invites you to enter into the mind of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old Elle editor, who is played by Mathieu Almaric, (who btw is the son of famous French journalist, Jacques Amalric). Bauby suffered a massive stroke that left him completely paralyzed, unable to speak and with the use of his one good eye he communicated through blinking—once for yes, twice for no, and once when he heard a letter he wanted to use in a word and dictated the novel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Visiting Bauby’s mind consists of a collage of memories and fantasies. You experience the recreation of brain activity that keeps him alive. The visual effects are sensational and you are forced to consider central religious and philosophical dilemmas such as the meaning of consciousness. It’s a movie about de

Time's "Thing" of the Year: Like who cares?

There was a time – many years ago – when Time magazine was an “institution” (Henry Luce, etc.) and I used to read it from cover to cover. I even received an award from ex-editor Henry Grunwald when I graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism and was offered a job in their “Discover” magazine (didn’t take it). In any case, since those days Time was gradually transformed into the older and serious brother of People magazine, and now it has basically become the Lenin Mausoleum of American journalism. Which begs the question: who really cares which person or thing (remember “You” ?) Time chooses at the end of the year? Time has decided to put Vladimir Putin on the cover this year. Wow! I don’t plan on reading the reasons for their choice. I guess that it’s something along the lines of Russia turning into a renewed “threat” to the West? Putin=Peter the Great=Stalin? Cold War II? My “thing” of 2007 is the move by Government of Singapore Investment Corp. and an “identified Midd

Charlie Wilson's Wonderful War

A few years ago I had assigned the late 60 Minutes producer George Crile’s Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times for one of my political science classes. It’s a great read. But I was also hoping that the book about the alcoholic, (druggie?), womanizing and corrupt Democrat who represented Texas’s Second Congressional District, a Bill Clinton-type minus Yale/Oxford, and the “adventures” he and a loud-mouth and fat CIA operator and a Born-Again Reaganite and over-sexed socialite from Texas had shared during the twilight years of the Cold War supporting Osama bin Ladin and his gang would help demonstrate to my students one of the arguments that classical liberals/libertarians make that “war is the health of the state,” and in the case of Charlie and his pals, that wars help you raise election campaign money, get re-elected, get laid and party until it’s the end of the Soviet Union. Ind

Bye, Bye Tora Bora; Hello Subprime Mortgages

The conventional wisdom de jour in Washington, DC, can be summed up in a catchphrase popularized by Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid!" The former Arkansas governor was challenging then-President George H.W. Bush, who had led the United States into a military victory against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, criticizing Bush Senior for focusing too much attention on foreign policy as opposed to dealing with the economic recession of the early 1990s. Clinton and his aides were suggesting that American voters were sick and tired of Iraq, the Middle East, and other global policy issues and wanted the election campaign to concentrate on the economy. According to pollsters and pundits, it's déjà vu all over again at the end of George W. Bush's presidency, with the aftermath of another Gulf War, the U.S. economy entering a recession, and Democrats seeming to have a chance of regaining the White House. The promoters of this

Atonement: book vs movie

I loved the book by the British Ian Mcewan who is one of the contemporary fiction writers that I enjoy reading. The movie is quite remarkable (some of the war scenes in the film are unbelievable!). But here is my problem: What Mcewan is trying to do in the book is to demonstrate how we as individuals or communities (in the case of the book, a family) create our separate narratives that in many cases do not correspond to reality, and that we end up embracing them to a point where the narrative becomes our reality. But sooner or later the truth comes out in all its ugliness. Now..this transition from narrative to reality works in the book, but not in the movie (which explains why so many viewers say they were "confused" by the ending of the movie). I think that the main reason is that to use the cliche, seeing is believing. And when you watch something happening on the screen, it's difficult to consider the possibility that all of that didn't happen (which explains w


During my weekly visits to Borders and B&N I came across Moncole magazine, a monthly published in Europe which is a very weird creature, imagine a cross between GQ and Foreign Affairs. I assume that the target readership consists of young CEO's with Ph.Ds. Actually, it's more interesting than some of the American political-cultural magazines and it is certainly less U.S.-centric. BTW, annual subscription comes to about US$150.

NIE: Never Mind....

Neocons Won't Let Facts Stand in the Way of Iran 'Threat' by Leon Hadar Longtime viewers of the popular NBC television show Saturday Night Live probably recall "Emily Litella" – an elderly woman with hearing problems commenting on the news on the "Weekend Update" segment, played by the late comedian Gilda Radner. Litella would read an editorial addressing a public issue, only to be interrupted in the middle of her report by the anchorman, who would point to her error. "Oh, that's very different," she would humbly respond, adding, "Never mind" and then turn to another topic. But while Litella was humble enough to admit her mistake and smart enough to change the subject, the proponents of a U.S. military confrontation with Iran will not allow the release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program to interrupt their march to World War III.( read the rest )

more economic stuff

Business Times - 15 Dec 2007 RELIEF PLANS US sub-prime bailout creates a moral hazard Proposed rate freeze may drag out recession, responsible mortgagees will have to compete for benefits and tax breaks By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT 'HELP is on the way!' is the kind of slogan that should probably be embraced by every US politician ranging from the Republican White House to the Democratic-controlled Congress - all of whom seem to agree that the federal government needs to come with a 'relief plan' to help consumers and businesses devastated by the ups and downs of the economy. Indeed, notwithstanding the ideological differences between the free marketers who supposedly dominate the Republican party and the more social-democratic-oriented Democrats, the fact is that both parties share the view that the government needs to 'do something' to deal with the current sub-prime crisis. While Democratic lawmakers, presidential candidates and liberal pundits have

Economic stuff

Business Times - 06 Dec 2007 Does the 'Bernanke put' matter any more? Critics argue that financial bailout policies encourage risky lending in the future By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IS IT fair to suggest that the US central bank is predisposed to 'bail out' the financial markets? That is what critics of the Fed have charged, pointing out to predictable expansionary policy adjustments in response to pressures from investors worried about the diminishing value of their assets. And these measures have been named after the chairmen of the US Federal Reserve - thus the 'Greenspan put' or the 'Bernanke put'. The critics have argued that such policies have amounted to a 'moral hazard'; the argument being that financial bailouts encourage risky lending in the future, if those that take the risks come to believe that they will not have to carry the full burden of losses. William Poole, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, in an ad


Washington pundits have an odd way of ridiculing the Bush administration's grandiose plans for remaking Iraq, while at the same time embracing ambitious designs for bringing peace to the Holy Land. Hence many Middle East hands urge the United States to take a cautiously realistic approach to achieving ethnic and religious reconciliation in Mesopotamia. But these same Realpoliticos become born-again idealists in insisting that American leaders could and should help resolve the conflict between Arabs and Jews. As in Iraq, these peoples have been fighting since the British invaded in World War I. But, hey, Americans needs to show some faith to get the peace process moving ahead, right? So on to Annapolis. The faith in America's ability to lead the Arabs and Israelis into the promised land of peace is grounded in one very unique historic event: The 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel, achieved at Camp David through crucial mediation efforts by President Jimmy Carter. Since t

Look who is "anti-Israel"?

Who said the following: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and [Israel] face[s] a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished. The Jewish organizations, which were [Israel's] power base in America, will be the first to come out against [Israel], because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents." Jimmy Carter? John Mearsheimer? Tony Judt? Some "left-wing" Israeli? Check-out who told Israel's Haaretz that Two states or Israel is done. And apropo checkout my “Two Peoples, Two States": The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has only one solution. Unfortunately, it's getting close to midnight and I don't see that happening any time soon. More about the Annapolis meeting in my next post. Bottom Line: Photo-op. Instead take the road to Dama

economic stuff

Business Times - 27 Nov 2007 Why read the Fed when it can't read the economy? By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IN a recent speech in Washington in which he stressed the efforts by the US central bank to become more open and transparent about monetary policy, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledged how difficult it would remain for him and his colleagues to make economic predictions. 'The only economic forecast in which I have complete confidence is that the economy will not evolve along the precise path implied by our projections,' he said. That may sound like an exercise in self-deprecating humour. But it is clear that notwithstanding the commitment by Mr Bernanke to provide more information about the Fed's economic forecasts and deliberations about interest rate policy, deconstructing the Fed's thinking about the economy and predicting its interest-rate decisions would remain a Mission Impossible. One major reason why 'reading' the Fed wou

VOA interview on pakistan

Pakistan: Old Guy;New Girl

Please read my U.S. Cannot Force Regime Change in Pakistan . Also for those who are so, so surprised at what's happening there, check-out my policy paper Pakistan in America's War against Terrorism: Strategic Ally or Unreliable Client? (from 2002)and the two commentaries The Real War on Terrorism Is in Pakistan, Not Iraq (2003) and If Iraq, Iran, and North Korea Are the "Axis of Evil," Why Is Pakistan an Ally? (from before the Iraq War), as well as my op-ed in the Los Angeles Times Outsourcing the Hunt for Bin Laden.
Business Times - 09 Nov 2007 When fake news and comedy trump reality By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT DISCUSS political events with a 20-something American these days and you would probably be surprised to learn that he or she gets much of his or her news on politics, including the presidential race, from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, the two popular shows on Comedy Central cable television network. This is where comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, using formats typical of mainstream journalism ('And now we turn to our senior child molestation correspondent . . .') play talk show hosts who anchor mock newscasts and report fake news. 'A lot of television viewers - more, quite frankly, than I'm comfortable with - get their news from the Comedy Channel on a programme called The Daily Show,' prominent - and real - news reporter and anchor Ted Koppel told The Washington Post two years ago. Indeed, some observers have even compared t

more on the economy

Business Times - 13 Nov 2007 US economy: entering the fear zone The credit crunch and the weak dollar could force Americans to finally start to pay back the money they borrowed By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AS the US dollar reached an all-time low against the euro and oil prices rose close to US$100 a barrel and the housing market experienced one of the steepest downturns in two decades, the last thing that Congress and Wall Street needed was to have US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke tell them that they should expect a 'sluggish' US economic growth in the near future. At the same time, he hinted that the US central bank had no concrete plans to cut interest rates anytime soon. Yes, the economy was slowing down and that there wasn't much he could do about it. You'll just have to get used to it. But that was exactly what Mr Bernanke did last Thursday during his much anticipated testimony before a joint economic committee on Capitol Hill. It is quite possib

Golden Oldie and new stuff

Bye, bye and check-out my Innocent Abroad: Karen Hughes’s mission impossible. And... the new issue of the American Conservative carries my Osama's Man in America -- His job: keep the Viagra and the gossip flowing while praying for a Giuliani victory. It's not online yet, but if you click on the pics below you could (I hope) read it:

Interest rates, the Middle East and the movies

Business Times - 02 Nov 2007 Bernanke playing into the hands of Bush & Co By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT INVESTORS on Wall Street were expecting that when the policymaking committee of the US Federal Reserve met on Wednesday, its members would agree to cut the federal funds rate by a quarter percentage point to 4.5 per cent. And surprise, surprise! That's exactly what happened, which is the good news, at least as far as short-term effects are concerned - and perhaps also the bad news, if one considers the long-term repercussions of the latest move by the US central bank. The Fed had cut the federal funds rate (the rate at which banks lend to each other) by half a percentage point at its previous meeting of the Open Market Committee on Sept 18, responding then - as it did this week - to the pressures coming from the financial markets. September's decision had clearly helped to calm the then anxious credit markets. But then, the credit markets, facing more bad financ

No Committee to Save the World now

There is a certain nostalgia in Washington these days for a creative US economic leadership, like back in the 1990s By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT MANY American magazines tend to feature on their covers pictures of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and other notorious public figures, so that it may be difficult to recall that there was a time when the US media treated economists like John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman like celebrities, if not as national superstars. On Feb 15, 1999, following the 1997 East Asian Financial Crisis and the 1998 Long Term Capital Management collapse/Russia/Brazil financial crisis, Time magazine's cover carried a group photo of then US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy, Lawrence Summers, and proclaimed the three to be the chairman and two co-chairmen of the 'Committee to Save the World'. 'Economists as heroes?' asked the magazine. 'It sounds sill

Sleeping with the enemy

Ang Lee's award-winning, very expensive and very-long Lust, Caution (158 minutes) reminded me very much of Paul Verhoeven's award-winning, very expensive and very-long Black Book (145 minutes). Both films are historical dramas that take place against the backdrop of war, involving political intrigue, espionage, deception and a lot of violence, torture and sex. Lee's film is set in World War II Shanghai during Japanese occupation while Verhoeven's is set in World War II Holland during the German occupation. "Lust, Caution" is about a young Chinese woman, played by the beautiful and very talented Tang Wei who is a member of an anti-Japanese underground and whose task is to seduce a member of the Japanese collaborationist government, played by the great actor, Tony Leung as part of a scheme to assassinate him while "The Black Book" is about a Dutch-Jewish woman played by Carice van Houten who is a member of an anti-German underground and whose task