Friday, August 03, 2007

Headline of the day:
Rice Backs Appointed Palestinian Premier and Mideast Democracy

See a contradiction there? She doesn't:

Standing next to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, during a news conference here, Ms. Rice said, “We believe strongly in the right of people to express themselves and their desires, in elections.” But, she added, once elected, “you have the obligation to govern responsibly.”
She goes on to explain that she would be happy for the Palestinians to hold another vote --- so long as they keep on voting until they elect a government that the United States is willing to endorse.

The objection to the elected government was that it was headed by Hamas, who are really bad dudes with a nasty history of violence. True. But Abbas's Fatah isn't a band of angels either; Abbas himself is more willing than anyone in Hamas to tell Rice and the Israeli government what they want to hear, but talk is cheap; his local candidates were spewing out anti-Israel rhetoric (in a campaign dominated by talk of Fatah's corruption, which is probably why they lost) and his thugs were still involved in armed clashes with the Israelis as late as last month.

And the Rice theory of democracy has been applied in the past, in the Middle East, to governments whose offenses were not violent at all, like the elected Iranian government of Mossadegh, who thought the Iranians were getting a bad deal for their oil from foreign companies, and "irresponsibly" wanted a better one. Instead, we installed the Shah, a brutal dictator whose policies were to our liking. The Iranians themselves didn't like them quite so much. How's that working out for us?

None of this is to say that democracy is a cure-all. But we shouldn't be calling a vote unless we're prepared to deal with the winners --- that just makes us look foolish and dishonest, because it is.

More on this view of democracy here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The point of Dubya's surge, as readers will recall, was to stabilize the security situation on the streets, and to give time for a unified, effective Iraqi government to emerge, and for the economy to get back in gear, to eliminate the hopeless idleness that is fueling much of the trouble. Attacks on civilians continue apace, but security was only a means to these larger ends. So, how are things going?

We have a success! The main Sunni coalition is quitting the governing coalition, leaving it entirely in the hands of Shiite parties, and therefore more unified! And the Saudis, who see the Shiites as catspaws of Iran, promise to keep aiding Sunni insurgents, which will provide native Iraqi Sunnis with, if not jobs, then at least something to do, keeping them from idleness.

Now, these may both be seen as bad developments if you adopt a narrow focus on the security situation. But with all this good news, why fuss about security?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Official Washington is much concerned Iran is funding foreign fighters in Iraq, and generally doing what it can to destablize the situation --- and not just the White House; the Senate recently passed a resolution declaring that Iran was committing acts of war, 98-0.

Since Dubya's current strategery with regard to Iran doesn't seem to be moving to a near-term resolution of that problem, let me modestly suggest an alternative: we should offer to sell the Iranians $20 billion in weapons, with no strings attached. After all, that's how we're dealing with the Saudis, even though it says here that

... American officials in Iraq ... say that the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 40 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi. Officials said that while most of the foreign fighters came to Iraq to become suicide bombers, others arrived as bomb makers, snipers, logisticians and financiers.