Category Archives: Around The World

On Honduras, or, Swine Flew

Well, it’s happened.  I’m in complete agreement with the WSJ’s take on events in Honduras:

This is a moment when the U.S. ought to be on the side of the rule of law, which the Honduran court and Congress upheld. If Washington does not reverse course, it will be one more act of appeasement toward an ambitious and increasingly dangerous dictator.

While I definitely seem to be losing this argument, there are an increasing number of folks from both liberal and Republican sides of the aisle (note: leftists not included in the blanket grouping “liberal”) who are making the same arguement: the Honduran military acted on the authority of the democratically elected Honduran congress to uphold the Honduran constitution and rule of law.  As Slate puts it:

In virtually every other country in the world, Zelaya would have been removed from office. But, peculiarly, the Honduran Constitution does not include an impeachment procedure — Congress is entitled to name a new president only in the absence of the current one. So, rather than bringing Zelaya before a judge to be tried for his criminal misbehavior, the army rousted him out of bed and flew him off to Costa Rica in his pajamas. The legislature then voted to replace him with Roberto Micheletti, the head of Congress, who was next in the line of succession.

There is no doubt that this last move should not be allowed to stand. But the international community’s single-minded insistence that Zelaya be reinstated as soon as possible — ignoring his own campaign to undermine constitutional order — is likely to backfire. Zelaya’s behavior has left him every bit as isolated within his country as Micheletti is outside of it. The entire Honduran political establishment, including virtually every member of Congress, the courts, the military, and the business community, is dead-set against his return. And while the opinion of the population as a whole is tougher to measure — no one has taken a poll in the last week — the deck seems stacked against him. His approval rating was a mere 30 percent even before this episode began, and the demonstrations against him have been larger and more numerous than those in favor (although a strong military presence has surely caused many Zelaya supporters to stay home).

The region’s leaders, who seem blind to these realities, have not budged from their campaign to shove Zelaya back down Honduras’ throat. In fact, José Miguel Insulza, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, along with the left-leaning presidents of Ecuador and Argentina, has volunteered to personally accompany Zelaya on his return to Honduras, as a “diplomatic shield” against his (entirely legitimate) arrest.

The President’s got the wrong idea on this one.  He needs to find a way to backtrack on his condemnation of the coup – and fast.

Ramp-up in Afghanistan

Just as he promised in the campaign, President Obama is ratcheting up the American commitment in Afghanistan, doubling the number of troops there. The Prof and I talk a lot about Afghanistan on the show, because it’s such a fascinating country and crossroads and potential quagmire for foreign occupiers going back 1,000 years.

Kevin Drum, seeing this whole thing as the potential to Be Obama’s Vietnam, writes, “at a gut level something about this whole plan makes my blood run cold. It’s so McNamara-ish I can practically see him making the announcement in my mind’s eye.”

When pressed about the comparisons to the USSR’s decade-long effort to control Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesperson said (via The Plank):

And I would just further add that there’s absolutely no valid comparison between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which was an occupation to control a country, repress a population, install their own sort of puppet leadership. We are there to, first and foremost, combat terrorism and protect our own interests and our own people from attack. But we’re also there to help the Afghan people and enable them to reclaim their country. There is absolutely no comparison that’s valid between the two.

That’s all well and true, but the real reason that the U.S. has a shot at pacifying Afghanistan is that there’s no global superpower arming the resistance, as we did with the mujahedeen in the 1980s (or as the Russians and Chinese did in Vietnam).

Unless, of course, that’s not true, and there is a country providing Taliban insurgents with funding and arms and making the war unwinnable. A nuclear-armed state, say, that shares a large, porous border with Afganistan.

Which brings us to the real rub: what to do about Pakistan. Joe Klein rounds up the “Af-Pak” strategy and finds the President’s approach acceptable on that score.

Wait and see, I guess.

Hey Governor, I Know Someone You Can Call About That…

Back in Alaska, Sarah Palin’s discovering that keeping those sky-high approval ratings is much easier when oil’s trading at $150 per barrel:

Oil prices, which provide the bulk of state revenue, were well over $100 a barrel in late August when Ms. Palin left to campaign with Senator John McCain. Now they are slumming south of $60 a barrel, below the level required to balance the state budget….

“Now we kick in that fiscal conservativeness that needs to be engaged, and we progress this state with $57-a-barrel oil,” Ms. Palin said. She said the state would have to “be prudent with public dollars and provide services more efficiently than have ever been provided in the state of Alaska before.”

Well, she’s not the only one who’s suffering. Other religious extremists who lead oil-producing states are having similar issues:

As oil prices plummet, Iranian pessimism grows. In 2006, Tehran planned its budget assuming an oil price of $60/barrel. High oil prices masked Ahmadinejad’s incompetence. While Iran’s budgetary process has grown more opaque, it appears that Ahmadinejad constructed his budget with the assumption of oil price stability. Now that oil has plummeted, the Islamic Republic is in trouble.

Of course, environmentalists like myself aren’t so thrilled with $60/barrel oil either, since it makes alternatives less attractive. Still, watching these two whackjobs suffer politically makes it mildly more palatable.

Forget Bush, Anyone Remember the Monroe Doctrine?

Bush’s failure is complete:

Russia flexed its muscles in America’s backyard yesterday as it sent one of its largest warships to join military exercises in the Caribbean. The nuclear-powered flagship Peter the Great set off for Venezuela with the submarine destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two support vessels in the first Russian naval mission in Latin America since the end of the Cold War.

With his consistent disregard for America’s true interests, Bush has failed America completely.

This is a sad era in our history.


Most administrations have the good grace to go gently into their dottage.  Not so Commander Cody and his Merry Band.

* Cheney affirms US desire to bring Georgia into NATO

* US Special Ops attack militants inside Pakistan

Thanks, George and Dick!  What, you think Putin’s going to be making googly-eyes at VP Lite and that the Pakistani electorate are too worried about the start of the NFL season to notice?

Talk about a swift kick in the dupa

As we predicted on our show this week, Russia’s escalation of “peacekeeping” operations in the Caucasus into a full-blown invasion of Georgia caused the Polish government to rethink its resistance to putting US missile bases on its territory.

Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland, the prime minister said, announcing a plan that has infuriated Russia and raised the specter of an escalation of tension with the region’s communist-era master.

Okay, maybe this was an obvious outcome, but … “you heard it here first”, as they say.


Speaking of international stories we’ve been following, there’s a power-sharing agreement in the works in Zimbabwe. Mugabe and his thugs get amnesty plus a ceremonial new role of “President,” in exchange his goon squad is disbanded and Tsvangirai gets to be prime minister.

It’s a pretty controversial step, giving a criminal like Mugabe protection from the law. But how many more people would have to die so that we can prosecute him for the past? Tricky…

Myanmar Follow-up

We talked about the cyclone in Myanmar a few months back, so I thought it would be useful to our listeners/readers to check out this op-ed in the WaPo, written by a humanitarian aid official. There was a lot of talk at the time about whether or not Myanmar justified military intervention in the face of the government’s intransigence. John Holmes says no:

From the first, the aid operation in Myanmar — as is true everywhere we work — had to be about helping vulnerable people in need, not about politics. In this post-Iraq age, I am concerned that humanitarians are often pressured to choose between the hammer of forced intervention and the anvil of perceived inaction. Was there a realistic alternative to the approach of persistent negotiation and dialogue that we pursued? I do not believe so. Nor have I met anyone engaged in the operations who believes that a different approach would have brought more aid to more people more quickly.

Too Muslim? Or not Muslim enough?

Obama detractors on Left and Right have both taken pains to paint him as a closet Muslim. The willing mix up of “Obama” with “Osama” is just the most egregious example of a pattern that’s emerged over and over in this campaign – point out Obama’s differences in an effort to marginalize him and divide the electorate.

An essay in the NYT today shows the opposite side of the argument – turns out Obama isn’t nearly Muslim enough to keep many [most?] of the Islamic faithful happy.

One danger of [Obama’s] charisma, however, is that it can evoke unrealistic hopes of what a candidate could actually accomplish in office regardless of his own personal abilities. Case in point is the oft-made claim that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world.

This idea often goes hand in hand with the altogether more plausible argument that Mr. Obama’s election would raise America’s esteem in Africa — indeed, he already arouses much enthusiasm in his father’s native Kenya and to a degree elsewhere on the continent.

But it is a mistake to conflate his African identity with his Muslim heritage. Senator Obama is half African by birth and Africans can understandably identify with him. In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith …

At the very least, [the fact of Obama’s conversion] would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards. More broadly, most citizens of the Islamic world would be horrified by the fact of Senator Obama’s conversion to Christianity once it became widely known — as it would, no doubt, should he win the White House. This would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.

That an Obama presidency would cause such complications in our dealings with the Islamic world is not likely to be a major factor with American voters, and the implication is not that it should be. But of all the well-meaning desires projected on Senator Obama, the hope that he would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims is the least realistic.

So there you have it folks.  The Muslim world would clearly prefer a Christian-by-birth old white guy with a “guns a’blazin'” foreign policy to an African-descended man born into a Muslim family because, well, you know, those Muslims are weird like that.

Let the smear campaign against Obama continue!