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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A List of Former Soviet Breakaway Regions and How We Can Prevent the Next South Ossetia

BBC: Russian recognizes Georgian rebels
Reuters: Russia warns Moldova against Georgian mistake

A list of former Warsaw Pact breakaway regions
It is easy to forget, with the way the mainstream media acts, that Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia are not the only regions trying to gain independence in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and its regional allies – the countries of the Warsaw Pact. Almost all of these regions have received backing from Russia. Without further ado, the list:

Movements supported by Russia
• South Ossetia (Georgia)
• Abkhazia (Georgia)
• Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)
• Nakhchivan (Armenia)
• Crimea (Ukraine)
• Transnistria (Moldova)

Movements not supported by Russia
• Chechnya (Russia)
• Kosovo (formerly in Serbia)

The next war
Where is Russia most likely to provoke war in next? Crimea in the Ukraine has been widely seen as the next target. The Ukraine almost received NATO membership this year, and is becoming a closer ally of the United States. Russia has begun handing out citizenship to those living in Crimea – exactly what it did in Georgia, and Russia’s main excuse for war.

However, Crimea has not been a flashpoint for violence, unlike South Ossetia and Abkhazia. As well, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko is not as nationalistic or as hotheaded as Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili.

Preventive measures
As I’ve argued before, we must include Georgia and the Ukraine in NATO as soon as possible. One, to deter Russian aggression and to ensure any attack by Russia could be properly responded to. Two, to isolate Russia. The policy of containment worked during the Cold War. There’s no reason it shouldn’t work now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Deal Would Have the US Out of Iraq by 2012 - A Good Plan

NYT: Draft Accord With Iraq Sets Goal of 2011 Pullout


I cannot fully write about this yet because of the fact that the agreement has not been released, and I don’t know if the full treaty will every fully be released. However: details will continue to come in, and as they do, I will write new articles.

A good plan
United States and Iraqi negotiators have been haggling over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for several months now. Up until now, the international military presence in Iraq has been legitimized by United Nations Security Council Resolutions. This new agreement will last three years and its main points are this:

1. U.S. troops must move outside of cities by June 30, 2009
2. Withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of December 31, 2011
3. No immunity for private contractors
4. Some immunity for American soldiers (immunity if on base or on duty)
5. A failsafe in case Iraq collapses

This plan is much better than either plan submitted by the two presidential contenders: McCain would stay too long (forever), Obama too short (16 months). This plan does not have the drawbacks of either.

Michael Cohen over at Democracy Arsenal and in the WSJ today argues that no immunity for private contractors will impede on their ability to do their duty properly in Iraq. That is not true for at least two reasons:
1. Any private contractors put on trial that didn’t really do anything wrong will not be convicted; U.S. pressure will assure to that.
2. Because the Iraqi government was so strong about putting this resolution in the agreement, the government gains legitimacy among the Iraqi people. Maliki, in particular, looks extra-nationalist and therefore extra popular.

On Iran

I’ve noticed a lack of discussion about Iran on this. I’m waiting to see Iran’s reaction to this (and consequently the reaction of Muqtada al-Sadr). I'll keep y'all posted.

On the Sunni Awakening
The NYT is also reporting that the Shiite-led Iraqi government is refusing to incorporate the 100,000 strong Sunni Awakening – Sunnis paid by the U.S. to take up arms against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents. It is vital that the al-Maliki government incorporates the Sunnis into the government. It is impossible to state the importance of this enough. If they are not incorporated, I fear a resumption of the civil war and a strengthening of the insurgency.

Today's the Day....

....for Barack Obama's veep pick. I'm waiting for that text message from CNN Breaking News....

In other news, readers might have noticed a lack of posts on the Russo-Georgian crisis, which might seem strange because (in case you haven't noticed) I love Russian issues. I've got an article coming up on that right now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What Musharraf's Resignation Means for India

IHT: Musharraf quits as Pakistan’s president

I wrote last week about what a resignation by Musharraf would mean for the U.S. and our Afghanistan policy. This week, from a different perspective: the perspective of India.

India has recently seen an upturn in the amount of violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The territory is disputed between Pakistan and India – three wars have been fought over it, as well as both sides gaining nuclear weapons in the 60 year conflict. Some in the India-administered Kashmir would like to secede from India and join Pakistan, and vice versa. Recently, Muslims in Indian administrated Kashmir have increased protests. During some of these protests, a handful of protestors have been killed by Indian police. The protests rage on today.

A power vacuum

India worries that with the resignation of Musharraf, there will be a power vacuum in Pakistan. That is very legitimate concern. It is likely the next elected president will be weak, at least temporarily if not permanently, and the Pakistani parliament is likely to break down into its feuding factions: the PPP (the party of Benazir Bhutto), the PML-N (the party of Nawaz Sharif), the Islamists, and everyone else.

None of these parties is particularly competent; most all are corrupt. Corruption, however, is not India’s worry. India’s worry in the executive and legislative branch is Islamic fundamentalists. They could very much endanger stability and the peace process. As well, India has no one to talk to that would be in complete control.

Yet, there is one larger worry: the powerful army and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI. The army helped fund militants in Kashmir that sparked the 1998 almost-all-out war between Pakistan and India. The ISI has always trained militants as well, and is believed to have been involved in the recent bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

The last comment I have is this: the U.S. and India still have ongoing talks about a nuclear power deal for India.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

So Blog Action Day 2008 has officially launched - the theme this year is poverty. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Now a Contributor at...

I've joined the legion of contributors at Check it out.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Musharraf Impeached: A New U.S. Policy for Pakistan

Note: this article was written semi-in a rush, because of the fact that in the middle of writing the article, news of war in South Ossetia broke out

Reuters: Pakistan coalition to move to impeach Musharraf

Pakistan is split between four factions:
1. The ISI (the Pakistani CIA)
2. The army/President Musharraf
3. The PPP (the party of Benazir Bhutto)
4. The PML-N (the party of Nawaz Sharif)

The army, the PPP, and the PML-N have all been in control at one time or another in the past 20 years. All have been relatively ineffective and corrupt. The current alliance is the populist PPP and PML-N in the parliament against the U.S. supported President Musharraf. The parliament made a truce with terrorists who live in the largely unregulated North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The truce was what the majority of Pakistanis wanted, but neither the U.S. nor Musharraf supported it. The truce has since broken down almost completely.

Now, the PPP and the PML-N in parliament is trying to impeach Musharraf.


The first, most obvious consequence of the impeachment will be further destabilization of the region. With the situation in Afghanistan at the point that it is, the impeachment should be of grave concern to the West, and America especially. Furthermore, the destabilization will not be limited to just Pakistan and Afghanistan: it will affect the Middle East as well.

Other than destabilization, the other (more) serious consequence of the impeachment is the affect on the War on Terror. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban already operate out of the NWFP in Afghanistan at will. If Musharraf is taken out of office, it can be assured that the new president will be softer on terror, which is exactly what we DON’T need right now.

Luckily, it is unlikely the impeachment will be successful. However, Musharraf has said before that he would step down if impeached. Hopefully he will not follow through with that statement.

U.S. policy
None of this should have happened. We should never have relied so heavily on an ineffective dictatorship. This is the price we have to pay. Lessoned learned: don’t cozy up with dictatorships.

The good news is that this could be helpful in the long term. It could stop a lot of potential terrorists from becoming terrorists by (a) defusing anti-American sentiment and (b) having the potential terrorists feel like they have a say in their government. Alternatively, it could not. The brief spike in terrorist activity could outlast the long term effects mentioned above.

Non-military aid
So, what should U.S. policy be? No matter who is in power, there is one simple effective step that can be taken: reorganizing aid to Pakistan. Islamabad has squandered billions in military aid. Over $7 billion in aid has been ineffectively used in the fight against terrorists and the rest has been spent on buying next-gen fighter planes for use against India.

A better use for aid would be in infrastructure: building roads, schools, hospitals, electrical lines and water lines. Of course, military aid would still most definitely be necessary. However, American aid to Pakistan needs to be more for the people of Pakistan, rather than the Pakistani military.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My bad...

I'd officially like to withdraw my endorsement of Obama's oil windfall tax. After further consideration (and a look at history), I've decided a windfall tax would not be effective.