Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"If the insurrection continues, a fast hard shove might well push it over. If the regime survives, it may well feel invincible."

Michael Totten, on the manifest corruption of the Iranian regime, the people in the street protesting the regime, and what our response ought to be in the West. I just thought I'd add this to this discussion.

The regime’s only allies in the world are terrorist armies and Bashar Assad’s Baath Party state in Syria. Assad himself, like Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, is a pariah among the Arabs, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Azeris, and Israelis who make up the region.

Iranian civilians risk violent beatings and worse by the thousands for standing up to the regime in the streets and treating it as the enemy it clearly is. There is no better time for the rest of us to do so, as well, especially since such gestures carry far less risk for us. The Pasdaran have no divisions in Washington, Paris, or London.

Obama Administration officials still hope they can talk Khamenei out of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. This is delusion on stilts. Khamenei can’t even compromise with his own regime or his hand-picked presidential candidates. He placed them under house arrest, along with a Grand Ayatollah, and deployed thousands of violent enforcers into the streets. Not only does he confront the world, he is at war with his very own country.

Understand the mind of a totalitarian. “Probe with a bayonet,” Vladimir Lenin famously said. “If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”

Read the whole thing. This situation does appear to make the chances of diplomacy monumentally less likely to be effective. I'm cautiously optimistic that the internal revolt may yet bring real change, or that some form of hard diplomacy may still work. Obama promises hard diplomacy with the regime. Assuming diplomacy has any real chance of working, it's going to have to be really hard--as hard as steel.

Also posted on Stubborn Facts.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"Myers apparently sympathized with the Cuban ideology and revolution that put Castro into power."

Walter Kendall Myers, and his wife have been arrested on suspicion of spying for Cuba for nearly three decades:

An indictment unsealed Friday said Walter Kendall Myers worked his way into higher and higher U.S. security clearances while secretly partnering with his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, as clandestine agents so valued by the Cuban government that they once had a private four-hour meeting with President Fidel Castro.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that the arrest culminated a three-year investigation of Myers and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered a "comprehensive damage assessment" to determine what he may have passed to the Cubans.

Good heavens. The story continues:

Court documents indicate the couple received little money for their efforts, but instead professed a deep love for Cuba, Castro and the country's system of government.
The documents describe the couple's spying methods changing with the times, beginning with old-fashioned tools of Cold War spying: Morse code messages over a short-wave radio and notes taken on water-soluble paper. By the time they retired from the work in 2007, they were reportedly sending encrypted e-mails from Internet cafes.
The criminal complaint says changing technology also persuaded Gwendolyn Myers to abandon what she considered an easy way of passing information, by changing shopping carts in a grocery store. The document quoted her as saying she would no longer use that tactic. "Now they have cameras, but they didn't then."

And this:

Court documents say Castro came to visit the couple in a small house in Cuba where they were staying in 1995, after traveling through Mexico under false names. Kendall Myers reportedly boasted to the undercover FBI agent that they had received "lots of medals" from the Cuban government.

They made other trips to Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina to meet with Cuban agents, the indictment says.

Myers apparently sympathized with the Cuban ideology and revolution that put Castro into power. Court documents say he wrote in a personal journal in 1978: "I can see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution. ... The revolution has released enormous potential and liberated the Cuban spirit."

He praised Castro as a "brilliant and charismatic leader" who is "one of the great political leaders of our time." And he called the United States "exploiters" who regularly murdered Cuban revolutionary leaders.


UPDATE: Pat over at SF called Myers out over two years ago, over wholly irresponsible statements he made in 2006. How about that.

"if she would rule on the right side on the life issue, I might look past this racism.."

That's Rush Limbaugh, talking to Sean Hannity, about his possible newfound support for Sonia Sotomayor. Now it seems that Rush is still convinced that she's a racist. Of course, that is completely ludicrous, as I don't believe at all that Sotomayor is a racist (or a reverse racist). That being said, I'm not sure what's worse--that Rush thinks Sotomayor's a racist, or that he's apparently willing to overlook her supposed racism in the service of another potential pro-life vote on the Supreme Court.

Glad to see your principles are in check. Sigh.

HT: Althouse

Thursday, June 04, 2009

David Carradine, Dead at 72.

Wow. Story here (HT: Althouse):

David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” and the title villain of the “Kill Bill” movies, has died in Thailand, The Associated Press reported. The United States Embassy in Bangkok told The A.P. that Mr. Carradine had been found dead in his hotel suite in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie. He was 72.

Tragic. It's the end of an era, RIP.

UPDATE: Apparently, he was found hanged in his hotel room closet. Suicide? More forthcoming.

UPDATE#2: It most likely wasn't suicide, and it may have been accidental.

Obama's Cairo Speech: Initial Thoughts

I've read the text of the speech, and I think it's really good- concise, and far-reaching, and shows a real good-faith attempt to step up to the plate on the key issues:

One of Obama's chief themes here is building (rebuilding?) bridges between Islam and the West:

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Good balance here, although Obama's critics may choose to interpret the line about sweeping change causing certain Muslims to view the West with hostility as showing weakness--but Obama makes sure to point out that such a view is invalid.

Many will no doubt take issue with Obama calling the Koran the Holy Koran (of course many of those same people will take issue with the idea of engaging the Muslim world in the first place), but if you read the whole text, you'll see that he is trying to show reverence to all faiths. He explains his unique background:

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

Obama goes out his way to quote the Koran to make his case. He then proceeds to expound on the contributions of mainstream Islam, and gives a sound defense of American values, and how Muslims ought to appreciate those values and contributions.

I thought his words on tolerance and religious liberty were good, although I found this interesting, and kind of strange:

We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Pretense of liberalism? That just sounds so strange the way he says that. Later, he begins to delve into specific policy points, particularly on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq:

Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

As one who supported the war in Iraq, I'm glad that he acknowledges that Iraq is better off without Saddam, and while one needn't at all be a supporter of the war to agree with that sentiment, I find it interesting that if he had made this speech a year ago, many war critics would be vexed. I'm also glad that he has stuck to his responsible withdrawal plan (as I predicted he would), although Stephen Hayes does kind of have a point on this:

In a speech about freedom and democracy, America and Islam, Obama glides right past the most remarkable development in the region in decades: "Iraq's democratically-elected government." He mentions it only in passing, to note that he's keeping his campaign promised to remove troops...the fact that he can even use that phrase -- Iraq's democratically-elected government -- might have caused him to acknowledge that America's intervention there, despite the tremendous difficulties, has made Iraq a country that practices many of those things that he seeks for the rest of the region.

Now, I don't think it's fair to suggest that Obama didn't really acknowledge Iraq, but it's probably true that he could have been more specific with regards to the success of the surge, and exactly true that the situation in Iraq now would be near impossible without it.

On Israel, things get a bit more dicey. I've no doubt about Obama's pro-Israel bona fides. I think he is really trying to strike the right balance here, so while I think he loses me a bit when he talks about "the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation," I think he's trying to do the right thing. My issue with lines like that is that it can leave the impression that Israel is somehow to blame for the Palestinians present condition. I get what he's saying for the most part, and I think the right-wing criticism is just out of line. Maybe he could've mentioned Hamas and Hezbollah a few more times, but some of the criticisms (more here, here, and here) laid at his feet are really over the top. As Zalman Shoval said, there is no reason for panic.

At the end of the day, it was a good speech, and had Obama's classic rhetorical skill. That being said, speeches are just that--speeches, and he himself pointed out, they must be backed up by sound action.

More thoughts forthcoming.

Kudos to Sully for the speech reaction h/t's, and to Althouse for the speech link.