Archive for March, 2011

03/31/2011

Syria and Israel: Solve Golan Heights

Internal politics in Syria is now getting a lot of attention. For the past 40 years, the country has been ruled by the Assad family. Al-Assad was chosen president in 1971 and ruled for 29 years. Bashar Assad, his son, started in 2000 and has served for 11 years.

While change may soon come after 40 years of one-family rule, there is an even more important international issue that has been festering for the past 44 years that must be addressed by Syria and Israel. It is an issue that can and should be solved, soon after there is a change in domestic Syrian politics.

Syria shares a border with Israel. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. Thousands of Syrians were driven from their homes and became refugees. The UN condemned the taking of the Golan Heights and called on Israel to return the occupied territories (UN Res. 242).

In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab troops from as far away as Morocco assembled to open a Syrian Front against Israel in an attempt to retake the Golan Heights. Syria demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. A UN Disengagement Observer Force supervised a ceasefire (1974).

Israel announced in 1981 it was annexing the Golan Heights and that it would impose Israeli law upon the people living there. Their action was declared null and void by the UN, under the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of civilians, living under the rule of an occupying power.

To this day, the occupation continues and the settlements remain. After 44 years, the problem has not been resolved and it cannot simply be ignored, or swept under the rug. They only way Israel may enjoy a truly lasting peace is to come to terms with Syria.

A peace treaty with Syria can be made. Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, with the help of Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton Administration in 1994, Israel made peace with Jordan, due to King Hussein’s cooperation. A peace treaty between Syria and Israel was nearly reached in 2000. Soon, the time will come to get it done.

President Obama is the right middle-man to broker the deal. What needs to happen is for Americans, particularly the friends of Israel, to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. They need to be told in no uncertain terms to remove the settlements from the Golan Heights, and to give the land back to Syria, so that a lasting peace may be implemented.

Advertisements
03/30/2011

Iraq War Is Not Same As Libyan Revolt

Some have asked why the left protested against George W. Bush when he invaded and occupied Iraq, but they have not criticized President Obama for using air power, as part of an international coalition, to protect the Libyan people. The answer is the situations are entirely different.

In Iraq, the people were not revolting against Saddam Hussein when President George W. Bush invaded. In Libya, the opposite was true. A popular revolt was in progress, as President Barack Obama joined an international coalition to provide air support.

In Iraq, Bush lied to the American people to get the U.S. involved. Obama, on the other hand, did not make any false or fabricated claims to promote the Libyan mission. Bush used fear tactics in a State of the Union address to scare uninformed Americans into believing Iraq had nuclear weapons and that they were going to be used against the U.S. Bush made his comments while his own CIA was telling him: “Iraq does not have a nuclear weapon or sufficient material to make one.”

While the Iraq War had no approval from the UN, the mission in Libya has received Security Council authorization. Bush tried but could not obtain UN approval for his proposed Iraqi invasion. He sent Sec. of State Colin Powell to convince a skeptical UN that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent threat to the U.S. The Bush people warned of a mushroom cloud, but the UN didn’t buy it. Bush invaded Iraq anyway, and violated the UN Charter, which requires states to refrain from the unilateral use of force. Of course, as it turned out, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

In the Iraq War, Bush sent over 100,000 soldiers and Marines to occupy a foreign country. In Libya, Obama made it clear he will not put any boots on the ground. The military occupation of Iraq triggered a bloody guerilla war against U.S. forces. Although most American troops were finally withdrawn, after years of fighting, the U.S. is still paying the price for Bush’s invasion, as there continue to be 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq.

To sum it up, there was no rebellion in Iraq, but there was one in Libya. Bush lied to get into Iraq, Obama made no false claims. Libya has UN authorization; Bush’s War in Iraq had none. Bush sent ground troops to occupy a foreign country, Obama has not.

03/29/2011

Kenyan Colonial View Deserves Respect

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said President Obama may be harboring a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. I don’t usually pay much attention to right-wingers like Newt, but his comment was so profoundly ignorant that it has stuck with me, and it has bothered me for six months now. I finally decided to write about it.

The first questions I would ask Newt are: Don’t you have a Kenyan anti-colonial view? If not, why not? Shouldn’t all Americans have an anti-colonial view? After all, wasn’t the U.S. the first anti-colonial? Don’t you realize Kenya and the U.S. had a similar experience with colonialism?

Anyone who has ever studied basic history knows England colonized the world and that Britain had an empire that spanned the Americas, Asia and Africa. What they may not know, is that scores of colonies were liberated from their European masters during the third quarter of the 20th Century. The Netherlands, France, Britain and Portugal all faced revolutions against colonial rule between 1945 and 1975.

Gandhi struggled with Britain, as he brought independence to India (1947). Indonesia, (a place where Obama actually did live), had to fight to remove Dutch colonial rule (1949). After bloody wars in Southeast Asia and North Africa, French colonialists were defeated in Vietnam (1954) and Algeria (1962). When Britain refused to leave the Egyptian Suez Canal (1956) and Kenya (1963), guerilla tactics had to be employed. Such measures were also used in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Angola before Portugal finally gave up their colonial ghost (1974).

In Kenya, yes, the Mau Mau was a secret society that used guerilla tactics against British colonial rule (1952-60), but that needed to be done. The Kenyan people had a right to be free from London. They had a right to self-governance. Over 10,000 died in their struggle against English colonialism and they deserve the respect of all who believe in freedom and the principle of self-determination. I hope President Obama, and all Americans, including the clueless Newt Gingrich, would respect the Kenyan anti-colonial viewpoint, because it was inspired by George Washington, and is really no different than our own.

03/28/2011

Yemen: Where Will Change Take You?

As the people of Yemen started protesting this year, their leader, Ali Saleh, said he would not seek re-election, hoping this would satisfy the crowd. When the protests continued, the police used tear gas. Saleh then promised a new constitution, but that was not enough, and the unrest intensified. Saleh’s men then opened fire on the crowds, causing injury and death. Saleh’s response was to discharge his cabinet, but the crowds wanted more; they wanted Saleh gone. Following the mutiny of some high-ranking generals, Saleh finally offered to resign, but not until next year. That offer, of course, was too little and too late.

Yemen is now in a state of emergency, as Saleh suspended basic constitutional rights. It appears that after 31 years, Saleh will be gone soon. Yemen is about to go through change. The question is what will it be? Who will replace the 31-year regime?

The situation in Yemen is not like Tunisia or Egypt. Yemen is at risk of going from bad to worse. It has history of civil war, a poor economy, a large population of 24 million and an almost equal  Sunni-Shiite mix. It is located in a very troubled part of the world. If the crisis is not resolved, Yemen could easily slide into conflict.

Yemen previously had internal strife. North Yemen experienced an 8-year Civil War (1962-70), which pitted royalists against rebels. South Yemen (Aden) battled British colonial rule (1963-67). Following independence, the South (Aden) and the North (Sana) struggled with each other at times, before creating one republic (1990). Four years later, a part of the country tried to secede, leading to another Yemen Civil War (1994).

Yemen is a place where there has been violence against the U.S. The port city of Aden is where the USS Cole was bombed and 17 Americans died in 2000. Sana is where the U.S. Embassy was attacked and another 18 perished in 2008.

The Yemen economy is one of the poorest in the world. It is not like Libya or one of the Persian Gulf states, where protesters can be placated with oil money. Here, poverty exists, which is the fuel that often ignites revolution. Neighboring Saudi Arabia actually built a wall to keep the flow of impoverished Yemenis out.

Yemen’s population is 50% Sunni Muslim and 50% Shiite. Unlike the North African states, where 99% were from the same Islamic school, Yemen is closer to the Iraqi model, where divisions between the two Islamic branches may be exploited.

Yemen is geographically located in a troubled neighborhood. Somalia, the poster child of a failed state, is located just across the Gulf of Aden. In this part of the world, pirates captured 49 ships in 2010 alone, and there is a certain degree of lawlessness here.

While no regime should continue beyond 31 years, particularly if the people are opposed to it, we can only hope, given what Yemen is up against, that what follows will be an improvement.

03/25/2011

Term-Limit Treaty Is A Global Need

Recently, the world witnessed several uprisings in North Africa and the Mideast. The common denominator in many of them was a leader who had been in power for decades. Ben Ali was driven from Tunisia after 24 years. Hosni Mubarak governed Egypt for 30 years. Rebels in Yemen are fighting Ali Saleh, who has served for 32 years, and Col. Qaddafi in Libya, is trying to hold on after 42years.

While long-term service does necessarily make a leader ineffective, history has had its fill of tyrants. For 45 years in North Korea, Kim prohibited dissent. Gen. Suharto of Indonesia brutally suppressed opponents for 31 years. Joseph Stalin killed millions in the USSR, during his 30 years. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who started out on the right track, lost his way after 31 years.

The U.S. should introduce a Term-Limit Treaty in the UN, which could be co-sponsored by Tunisia and Egypt. People should no longer be subjected to the rule of men who refuse to leave office. The treaty should establish a fundamental right to live in a political system that limits a leader to no more than 10 years in office. The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands should make it a crime to remain more than 10 years, or to suspend a constitution that limits terms. Obtaining office through a coup or military junta, and not through normal electoral means, should also become criminal.

Currently a majority of countries have some term-limits. Some limit their leaders to one term of 4, 5, 6 or 7 years. Others allow two 4-year terms, like the U.S. The most common however is a limit of two 5-year terms. Those that currently have no limit would need to adopt one. Those whose limits in excess of 10 years would need to amend their constitutions to conform to the new international standard. While absolute monarchs and some constitutional monarchies like Britain would most likely resist, this is no reason not to get started with the majority of countries who would probably sign on.

03/24/2011

Persian Gulf Monarchs: Not Our Friends

In this North African, Mideast and Persian Gulf time of uprising, what is the foreign policy of the U.S. with respect to the form of government that should be adopted in other countries?

In the American Revolution, we severed our ties to England’s King George and created the first government with no monarch. The overthrow of King Louis in the French Revolution soon followed. The First French Republic had it right when they decreed a “war of all peoples against all kings,” as Napoleon’s army proceeded to topple royalty throughout Europe.

Unfortunately, the European monarchs pushed back against the radical French-American ideals, defeated Napoleon’s army, and restored the rule of kings on the continent. This explains why there are now kings in Belgium, Spain and Sweden; queens in Denmark, Britain and Holland; princes in Monaco, Andorra and Liechtenstein, and a Duke still lingering around in Luxembourg.

Europeans are quick to defend monarchies, saying their royal families have constitutional constraints and are mere figureheads. While this is true, their very existence provides aid and comfort to absolute monarchs in other places, such as the Persian Gulf, where royal families have unlimited powers. If the Sultan of Oman, the Emir of Qatar, or the King of Saudi Arabia, is questioned as to their form of government, they respond saying Britain, Spain and Holland have royalty, so why can’t we? Europe needs to get into the 21st Century and set a proper example by removing their crowns.

Of the 193 independent countries, only 28 have monarchies. The other 165 do not. We need to stand with the correct allies on this issue. We need to be front and center with the French Republic and with not the British monarchy. We need to expand upon the work started by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the other revolutionaries who founded our country.

In the Persian Gulf, we need to do what we can to bring down the kings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the Emirs in Kuwait and Qatar, the Sultan of Oman, and the leader of the United Arab Emirates, who calls himself a president, but is in fact selected by heredity.

Saudi Arabia should have been criticized by the U.S. when they outlawed protesting on March 4th. The U.S. should have opposed the intervention of the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates on the side of the Bahraini King on March 14. Hilary Clinton should not have stood at the side of King Mohamed of Morocco, when he merely promised constitutional reforms on March 9th. She should have been at a distance, calling for an end to their monarchy. When Sultan Said of Oman transferred law-making to persons outside royal family on March 13, we should have pushed for a total abdication. We need to get beyond the truly nice guy image projected by King Abdullah of Jordan. When he talked about reforms on March 14, the U.S. should have suggested real democratic change, like the elimination of hereditary rule.

We need to have a consistent foreign policy opposed to the very existence of monarchy, in any form. This is a perfect time to eliminate six monarchs in the Persian Gulf and two more in Jordan and Morocco.

03/23/2011

Egypt: Libyan Rebels Need Your Tanks

A recent UN Resolution authorized intervention in Libya to protect the civilian population from Qaddafi. Since Qaddafi is an ongoing threat to those in the civilian population who oppose him, the only way to protect the people is to remove Qaddafi.

While the western states appear to willing to use air power to protect Libyan civilians, this alone will not work. The conflict will not end, until Qaddafi is removed, and that will not occur, until a well-equipped land force closes in on Tripoli.

We must start with the reality that Qaddafi will not step down peacefully. He has nowhere to go. He has the ability to remain, because he has oil money. He can purchase military materiel and keep his troops well paid. They will fight the rebels as long and as hard as they can, as their futures are tied to Qaddafi’s.

Force must be used. While targets have already been destroyed from the air, Qaddafi is one step ahead of the attacks. He has been through this before. U.S. planes bombed his residence in 1986 in a failed attempt to assassinate him. For over 25 years, Qaddafi has been looking over his shoulder. He has had time to think about the next bombing campaign. He will not be taken out by air.

The removal of Qaddafi must come on the ground. But who will use troops? The rebels themselves obviously must take the lead, but they are ill-equipped. Who will provide military hardware?

Qatar offered troops to fight Qaddafi, but this was not out of a desire to support democracy. It was instead because they have a monarchy and Qaddafi came to power in 1969 by overthrowing a king. Qatar’s motives are suspect. Their offer should be rejected.

France has a history of fighting Qaddafi. In Libya’s war against the former French colony of Chad (1980s), they sent in troops and planes. Qaddafi would however accuse France of neo-colonialism and the French should not put their boots on the ground.

Italy, Germany and Britain also have military experience in Libya, dating back to World War II. While U.S. troops advanced eastward from Morocco through Algeria into Tunisia, the English 8th Army won the battle at El Alamein in Egypt in 1942 and drove Irwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, and his German and Italian forces, westward through Libya also into Tunisia.

Italy and Germany will not get involved now. Italy has a colonial history in Libya, and if they used troops, Libyans would unite against them. Germany will also stay out. They abstained from the UN Res. and oppose even air strikes, let alone ground forces. With regards to Britain, they have a colonial history in Egypt and would be unable to mount an offensive from Egyptian soil.

This leads us to Egypt. The Egyptian people should identify with the Libyan rebels, as they just got rid of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years. Egypt does not have a monarch. They forced their king to abdicate in 1952. Egypt shares the same Sunni Muslim religion with Libya. They could not be accused of conducting a Crusade. They have 79 million people, as compared to only 6.3 million Libyans, and could assemble a volunteer army large enough to help the rebels.

Egypt has military hardware, including tanks, as they are the largest recipient of U.S. aid (after Israel). The Egyptians should drive their tanks to the Libyan border and allow the Libyan rebels to reflag them, using the traditional Libyan symbol. They should then slowly drive the tanks from east to west, along 1,000 miles of Mediterranean coast, past Benghazi, where they would be greeted with support, and on to the shores of Tripoli, for a showdown with Qaddafi. With the barrel of an Egyptian tank pointed at his front door, my guess is Qaddafi would finally step down.

03/22/2011

Chile: Who Changed to Democracy?

President Obama said yesterday in South America that Chile made great change from dictatorship to democracy. I had to think about that. A more correct statement would be: Chile has always supported democracy; it is the U.S. that has changed, since it is the U.S. that no longer promotes dictatorship in Chile, but instead accepts democracy and the choices made by the Chilean voters.

Chile is a South American state in the Andes Mountains, where copper and iron ore are mined. Many of their mines were owned by U.S. interests. Back in 1965, a democratically-elected Chilean Senate voted to nationalize U.S.-owned copper mines, including Anaconda, Cerro and Kennecott. Their legislation was not carried out at first, until a man named Salvador Allende campaigned in 1970 to implement their laws. He was democratically-elected.

Behind the scenes, President Nixon’s CIA tried but failed to prevent Allende from being elected. The CIA conspired with International Telephone & Telegraph to disrupt Chilean politics. Meanwhile, Allende went ahead and nationalized copper, iron-ore and other concerns. Several UN Resolutions had made it clear that countries had right to control their own natural resources, without outside interference. Nevertheless, strikes, demonstrations and sabotage in 1972 led to a state of emergency. It was the U.S., and not the Chilean people, who engaged in a war against democracy and the freely-elected Chilean government.

Nixon’s CIA sponsored a military coup in 1973, which led to the execution of Allende. It was the U.S. that ushered in Gen. Augusto Pinochet and his brutal dictatorship. We were the ones responsible for his army and the arrests of thousands, the torture of political prisoners, and the death of many. Pinochet remained until 1990, when his collaborators gave him immunity from prosecution, so he could leave office. Pinochet, the dictator the U.S. had installed, finally died in 2006. Ironically, that same year Chile freely elected a Socialist woman as their president.

The point is Chile did not change; their voters have always wanted democracy. What changed is America. It is the U.S. that moved out of the dark days of the Nixon era, when dictatorships were supported, and into the light of the Obama presidency, where we are now promoting democracy.

03/21/2011

Brazil: Time to Trade in South America

President Obama did the right thing by leading a mission to Brazil for the purpose of improving U.S. trade in South America.

Brazil and the U.S. need to become stronger trading partners.  Brazil has much to offer in terms of natural resources. It is physically the largest South American state. Its width can be pictured by considering the fact that the Trans-Amazon Highway runs 3,400 miles from the Atlantic, in the east, to Peru, in the west. Brazil, with 200 million people, also has a large population. Its customer base is second in the Americas, only to the U.S.

Many Americans still harbor images of Brazil as a military dictatorship. Military juntas ruled from 1930 through 1954 and again from 1964 through 1985. They set aside constitutional law and dissolved political parties. They heard civilian cases in military courts. They denied individual rights. Political prisoners were subjected to torture and death squads.

But the days of military rule are gone. During the Jimmy Carter presidency, Human Rights became an issue worldwide. Brazil implemented reforms in 1979, and ended military rule in 1985, as the people voted again for the first time in decades. Brazil recently acknowledged their history of human rights abuse and moved on. Last year, they elected their first female president. Internationally, they have served on the Security Council 10 times since WWII. If the UN Charter were being drafted today, they certainly would be in line for a permanent seat.

Brazil is now a leading global economy. They joined the World Trade Organization 16 years ago. They are an industrial state that produces cement, steel, iron and vehicles. They are no longer limited to just coffee, corn and rice. 89% of their people are now literate. They host 33% of the top 100 Latin American colleges. Their scientists set off a controlled nuclear chain reaction, 54 years ago already. They launched a rocket into space in 2004.

The U.S. will never again have the preferred trading status it enjoyed during the 25 years following WWII, when Europe and East Asia were flat on their backs. It is a competitive world now and the U.S. must improve trade relations with other nations and particularly with developing states like Brazil.

03/18/2011

Afghanistan: Spending For What?

The Republican-controlled House voted 321-93 against a resolution calling for an Afghanistan troop withdrawal and a reduction in our wasteful federal spending. Only 8 Republicans voted to cut the budget by reducing discretionary appropriations for that optional war.

Has the conflict in Afghanistan become a permanent part of our budget? Do we plan to fight there forever? What is our goal in that mountainous landlocked Asian state?

Are we there to find Osama bin Laden and those involved in 911? That would be acceptable, if they were still alive, and we knew where they were. After 10 years of searching, perhaps it is time to give that approach a rest. It hasn’t worked.

I hope our goal is not to change their religion. 99% of Afghans were Muslim when President Bush invaded, and nothing our military has done, or will do, will ever change that. We cannot prohibit the use the Koran. We can’t stop Mullahs from interpreting Islamic law. We cannot change their culture by force.

Russia tried to promote a secular government, but the Muslims revolted. The Soviets invaded, because they feared an Islamic regime, like the one that emerged in neighboring Iran (1979). For 10 years, the Mujahedeen waged a guerilla war against 115,000 Russian troops, until Gorbachev finally gave up (1989). In the civil war that followed, the Mujahedeen, later known as the Taliban, ousted the secular government (1992). After more bloodshed, they imposed a harsh Islamic theology (1996). The Soviet effort made the question of religion worse, not better.

Is our goal is to create permanent bases? That isn’t going to work. Afghanistan has a long history of resisting foreign intervention. British troops tried to occupy Afghanistan in the 19th Century, but they were massacred in Kabul and eventually gave up.

I hope our objective is not to starve out our perceived enemies with sanctions. Following the 1998 bombings against U.S. embassies in Africa, President Clinton launched air strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan in an effort to get them to surrender bin Laden, but that did not work, and when the Taliban was accused of sheltering and training terrorists, sanctions were imposed, but they also yielded no results.

Finally, I hope we do not seriously expect a military victory. There never will be a Victory over Afghanistan Day. Thousands of unshaven men are not suddenly going to emerge from their caves carrying white flags with their hands up.

When Bush invaded Afghanistan, the UN refused to authorize the American war, because there was no evidence anyone there had anything to do with 911 and no proof U.S. forces would be acting in self-defense.

The Taliban has pledged there will be no peace, until the foreigners leave. Ho Chi Minh said something strikingly similar. It’s time to bring our boys home. It’s time to regroup and save our resources for a winnable mission.