Posts filed under ‘international politics’

Georgia on my mind

…and South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, and Russia, too.

Russian Prime Minister Putin has sent his military to attack Georgia, whose president angered “Pootie-Poot” through his pro-American policies. The US response has been limited to protests from President Bush.

Isn’t this what the US always does? Encourage democracy abroad, only to refrain from actually offering help to the budding Sons of Liberty when armed conflict arises? We backed out on supporting anti-Castro rebels at the Bay of Pigs. We wouldn’t step in when the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. And when Shiites rebelled against Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War of 1991, we watched the dictator we had just defeated wipe out the uprising.

And how apt that this occurs during an Olympics in China, when the US chose to support the Communist government instead of a pro-democracy uprising in Tienanmen Square, and Americans watched the tanks liquidate the demonstrators.

I read the coverage — beleaguered Georgians seeking a savior asked, “Where is the US?” The paradox of our power is that we feel compelled to praise democracy everywhere, yet support it stingily when it actually arises. “Speak loudly and carry a small stick” might be our motto.

It is prudent to limit our military intervention to wars in which we have a legitimate interest. But it shows our leaders to be such damned cowardly hypocrites. A little less Woodrow Wilson and a little more Niccolo Machiavelli, Mr. Bush.

August 13, 2008 at 5:44 am Leave a comment

Susannah shaves her head for Tibet

In the latest installment of my political cartoon “Running Gags,” Susannah gets her head shaved as a sign of solidarity with the Tibetan protestors of the China Summer Olympics. Others who did this in real life include over 40 people in Harvard Square on Wednesday.

April 10, 2008 at 7:41 pm 4 comments

Farewell, Fidel

Fidel Castro, Maximum Leader of Cuba since 1959, is stepping down after outlasting nine American presidents. Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker looked at this lion in winter in July 2006, while the next year, an unhappy Bella Thomas of Prospect magazine assessed Fidel’s reign and what might follow it.

February 19, 2008 at 9:10 pm Leave a comment

Cause and conflict in Gaza

Interrelated events have occurred in Israel and the Gaza Strip that make me wonder … if Palestinian militants turn off the missile attacks on Sderot, will the Israeli Defense Forces turn the power back on in Gaza City?

The situation in the Gaza Strip is grimmer than usual. Israel has closed off its borders. The sole power plant in the area has closed due to lack of fuel. The United Nations predicted a humanitarian crisis. An exodus to Egypt resulted when masked men created openings in a border fence.

And yet: Would this not stop if the militants of Hamas would discontinue their policy of launching Qassam missiles into Sderot?

“There are endless stories of kassam rockets exploding,” reporter Noam Bedein writes on Aish.com. “Every single family in Sderot has experienced the explosion of a rocket nearby.”

I wonder if the images of Palestinians fleeing their new state in Gaza might prove more helpful in convincing the leaders of Hamas to stop the rocket attacks. It seems that some Palestinians would prefer the government of another state — Egypt, which ruled the Gaza Strip until Israel captured the territory in the Six-Day War of 1967 — to that which the Palestinian people elected.

“(Although) many later returned, thousands are likely to have vanished from the besieged coastal strip permanently,” Newsweek reported

Perhaps what some Palestinians want in Gaza right now is not a Right of Return to their ancestral homes in Israel, but a right to live in peace and prosperity. Because of Israel’s collective punishment for the sins committed against Sderot, the government of Hamas is denying this right to the people who elected it. When will that stance change?

January 24, 2008 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

What’s next after Annapolis?

Like his predecessor, Bill Clinton, President George Bush has miraculously discovered that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis needs a resolution. As Clinton tried to cram a compromise between Israel and the Palestinian Authority within a year, so is Dubya seeking closure with one year to go before the end of his second and final term in office.

Regardless of such simplistic thinking, there is a new impetus toward peace of some sort in the Middle East. What should the terms be?

The best resolution would create two states that respect each other’s existence. No settlements in the West Bank, no deletions of Israel from Palestinian textbooks. This pragmatism could bring peace, but hawks on both sides would not approve. After all, Hebron, in the West Bank, contains the Cave of Machpelah, where the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried. Meanwhile, the Palestinians whose ancestors fled the British Mandate in the 1948 War of Independence — or whose ancestors fell under Israeli occupation after the 1967 Six-Day War — would have to relinquish their long-sought Right of Return.

What right does an outsider like me have to suggest to Israelis and Palestinians what to do? It all sounds so easy here in Malden, Massachusetts. Still, at what cost do both sides wish to continue their mutually-destructive goals? More military and civilian deaths, and an unending sense of tension? That seems good enough for some. “Israel’s use of land for settlements conforms to all rules and norms of international law,” blathers a release from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. This, after an unending rain of Katyusha rockets causes panic in the border city of Sderot.

I’m not calling for Eretz Yisrael to go on a “land-for-peace” surrendering spree. But as the more militarily and politically powerful of the two sides in this conflict, Israel could do much for peace by halting the construction of settlements and strengthening its borders (the security wall, when legally constructed, has been a good idea in this case). If Israel stays strong, and Palestine responds in good faith as the Egyptians did under Anwar el-Sadat after Menachem Begin gave back the Sinai Peninsula, perhaps this last dream of Dubya’s will result in success.

January 15, 2008 at 5:46 pm Leave a comment

Teddy-bear crisis in Sudan

The Sudanese government seems to have averted a human-rights outrage that would have been prompted by a schoolteacher’s religious offense.

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir pardoned Gillian Gibbons, a British schoolteacher jailed for naming a teddy bear “Mohammed” after she received input from her class of 7-year-olds.

“Although there is no ban in the Quran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s founder, some Muslims consider likenesses highly offensive,” CNN reported.

Gibbons faced two charges in a Sudanese court: “inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs,” CNN reported. “Gibbons had initially faced the possibility of 40 lashes and a six-month jail term for insulting Islam.”

President al-Bashir made a compassionate decision in pardoning Gibbons. But a little more compassion is needed for others involved in this crisis. Gibbons gets to go home, but what about the education of the students of her school, which has since been shut down? What of its faculty and employees, now presumably jobless? And how will all this affect children who saw their teacher imprisoned over a teddy bear?

December 3, 2007 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

Peace problems in Middle East

How can Israel and the Palestinian Authority settle their differences and live in a peaceful partnership?

If President Bush wants to assist in this endeavor, Tuesday’s meeting in Annapolis between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was an encouraging start; the sides agreed to continue talks on Dec. 12.

Abbas has lasted in power for over two years, but it is unclear how much authority will stand behind anything he agrees to. The influence of Hamas cannot be ignored in these deliberations, and its absence at the talks suggests that Abbas’ ability to speak for the people he represents is limited at best. Hamas leaders, the AP reported, “labeled Abbas a traitor for coming to the meeting, and vowed to reject any decisions to come out of the conference.”

It is also unclear what — if anything — he will agree to. “In his talk,” the AP reported, “Abbas gave no indication that the Palestinians were willing to concede on any of the flashpoint issues that have derailed previous peace efforts: the status of disputed Jerusalem, refugees, the borders of an independent Palestine and Israeli settlements. ”

 We’ll see if President Bush can succeed in resolving these thus-far intractable issues.

November 27, 2007 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

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