Saturday, October 18, 2008

The U.S. should pull out of Chicago immediately

The U.S. should immediately pull out of Chicago!

Body count. In the last six months 292 killed (murdered) in Chicago, 221 killed in Iraq.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Post: Poverty - Why Does Poverty Matter?

Long time no see. I'm back (semi-permanently) to write about poverty for Blog Action Day 2008. The problem is: what to write about?

I'm sure there's thousands of other political blogs out there profiling Obama and McCain's respective positions on poverty. That would be boring.

I could write about the millions of things you could do to help fight poverty. Once again, I'm sure hundreds of other blogs are doing the same thing.

How about this: why does poverty matter? From a humanitarian position, of course it's terrible. But what about from a realist political position? Who gives a sh!t about the poor, homeless, and starving of the Earth?

There are plenty of reasons.

  • Poverty spreads disease, greatly undermining the effectiveness of local governments.
  • Poverty causes violence, also undermining the effectiveness of local governments.
  • People living in poverty are more vulnerable to extremist political persuasion, and feel less loyalty to a state unable to deliver basic services.
  • States with high rates of poverty are more likely to have malevolent dictatorships, threatening regional stability.

For these reasons conditions of poverty increase the risk of political violence, terrorism, war and genocide, and make those living in poverty vulnerable to human trafficking, internal displacement and exile as refugees. Countries suffering widespread poverty may experience loss of population, particularly in high-skilled professions, which may further undermine their ability to improve their situation.

Poverty is not just worry for "lefty commies"; it's a geopolitical concern for governments everywhere.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On Force and Diplomacy

You make one fatal assumption, however. You believe that the North Koreans would believe that we would actually attack them. There's no way we would, right now. Maybe 10 years ago they would have believed us capable, when we weren't involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's no way now.

I am not against diplomacy backed up by force (you do need carrots to go along with those sticks, though). The worry by you conservatives would be, of course, you have to be willing to actually use that force when push comes to shove. I might have said some contradictory things before, but I do believe that force is sometimes necessary. You just have to know when to limit it. I believe that the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Panama, the first Gulf War, and Clinton's Operation Desert Fox were all necessary and carried out well. We did not occupy for five years and we only took down the government when we knew what we were getting into - we knew our limits.

I hate to sound like that liberal that always goes back to blaming Bush, but: Bush did not know his limits. He unnecessarily invaded Iraq, which took away press, money, supplies, troops, and most importantly public attention away from Afghanistan. Maybe we could have launched airstrikes in Iraq. Maybe that would have been acceptable; however, overthrowing the Hussein regime took it to far. And Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co. didn't even do it well! The occupation of Iraq was a failure.

Anyway, I'm getting a little side tracked. My point is this: negotiations carried out with the threat of force are always great, as long as you know your limits.

So: how about in 10 years, when we're out of Iraq and Afghanistan (I can't wait), we settle down and talk to those Russians. Tell them, hey, you invade Germany from your newly established bases in conquered Poland - we'll kick your ass.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rationality Wins in Israel

BBC: Livni claims victory in Israeli vote

This is great. Livni, by far, seems like the smartest, most rational of the candidates presented to Kadima voters. However, the fight is not yet over: early parliamentary elections could mean far right leader Benjamin Netanyahu could take power. This would be disastrous. Netanyahu has a record of being a hardliner not willing to make compromises.

I'll try to elaborate more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

North Korean Policy After Kim Jong Il

AP: Officials: N Korea's Kim Possibly Ill
LA Times: North Korea's Kim Jong Il may have had a stroke: U.S. intelligence officials

Kim Jong-Il, the eccentric dictator of North Korea, has suffered a stroke, according to information leaked to the AP from American intelligence officials. Now, let’s keep in mind some context: negotiations on the North’s nuclear weapon program were beginning to get rocky: North Korea had begun to stall on its end of the deal. Could this be a political move? And if not, how will this affect the denuclearization process?

Watching the military
North Korea does not have a succession mechanism in place. Kim was the obvious pick after his father died, but there is no obvious heir for succeeding Kim. His death could lead to the collapse of his regime.

It is more likely, however, that with the death of Kim, the military will take power. That’s bad new for the West: the North Korean military is strongly against giving up its nuclear program.

What can the U.S. do
It is always possible (and maybe likely) Kim is still alive. Our current policy run by Christopher Hill should continue until death is confirmed or denied. With any new leaders, a wait-and-see approach should be adopted: will they be reformers?

All we can do is wait.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: A Smart Move… Or Not?

In case you haven’t heard by now, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been chosen as John McCain’s running mate for the presidency. Palin has had more than one success during her short term (so far) as governor:

• Exposing ethical violations among Alaskan Republican leaders
• Canceling pork projects, including the ‘bridge to no where’
• Maintaining a 60% approval rating – she’s a “true conservative”
• Coining the term ‘VPILF

A good choice then?
Maybe. As one anonymous Digg commentator put it:
"[T]his is a brilliant move by McCain:

1. She would be the only candidate with executive experience (McCain, Biden, Obama only have legislative experience)
2. Appeals to conservatives
3. Will channel the women vote, and Hillary supporters' in particular
4. Charismatic, smart, principled, dedicated, American all the way
5. Younger than Obama
6. Wow factor: will definitely embellish the ticket ;)"

Or maybe not?
However, Palin carries some serious baggage. As one anonymous Redditor put it:
"In one move McCain took experience off the table, fired a shoot at his racist/misogynist supporters, doubled down on Big Oil, and made corruption an even bigger issue. It may well be game over."

To explain: Palin has very little experience – a criticism McCain has applied to Obama. Palin is close to Big Oil just by being governor of Alaska, and as well by trying to block polar bears from receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act. And as to the comment that she makes ‘corruption an even bigger issue’ – Palin has painted herself as huge on hunting down corruption, while at the same time she herself is under investigation.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What to do about North Korea: A Conundrum

Reuters: North Korea to suspend nuclear disarmament

After months of progress in North Korea, the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang has decided to take a step backwards and is suspending the disablement of its nuclear program. North Korea wants the United States to take it off of the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror, and the U.S. has said it will – once it verifies NK is disarming.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Washington is in contact with North Korea trying to resolve this issue.

What North Korea is doing
Kim Jong-Il is trying to delay as much as possible. Pyongyang’s nuclear program is its most powerful negotiating card. He is reluctant to give it up. As well, his government is trying to get more out of the disarmament deal – namely, getting off the terror blacklist before full verifications are made.

Walking a fine line
Dealing with North Korea is a balancing act between being assertive enough without provoking a negotiations-ruining response and being acquiescent enough to get a deal done.

This conundrum makes it hard to tell what to do next.

A mechanism for verifying Pyongyang’s disarmament still needs to be set up: this should be the primary goal. During this crucial time, we must be careful not to needlessly provoke North Korea. However, that does not mean we should be weak.