Archive for the ‘International Relations’ Category

What Do We Want in Iran?

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on June 24th, 2009

I have heard complaints about how the Obama Administration is handling the Iranian election and its aftermath.  The problem with this line of complaint is that the complainers are not clear about what they want or what we as a country should want.  The complainers may want one of three things.  They may want Ahmedinejad out as president or they may want a one-person, one-vote type of democracy or they may want to fix a supposedly stolen election.

Those who merely want Ahmedinejad out can hardly expect the Obama Administration to appear push for that result.  Having Ahmedinejad removed is a high-risk strategy and may ultimately be a losing proposition.  If the Obama Adminstration seeks to have Ahmedinejad ousted and he survives, necessary engagement with Iran in the short run is out.  If Ahmedinejad were somehow ousted, we would be stuck with a different president who may not be much better on the key issues on which we differ with Ahmedinejad.  Of course, even if the substitute president were better than Ahmedinejad, it is unclear that he would have sufficient power to make a difference with respect to Iran-United States relations.

Those who would claim that a one-person, one-vote style of democracy in Iran is absolutely necessary would be hard pressed to explain why that style of democracy is so important given that we do not have one here.  Our system does not guarantee that the presidential candidate with the most votes – the candidate with the most votes for his electors – gets elected president.  There may be historical reasons for the Electoral College and there may be reasons to keep it.  However, it is not democracy in the vein of one-person, one-vote.

Those who want the Obama Administration to express outrage at a stolen election must present more evidence that an election was stolen.  In addition, they must explain why we care that an election was stolen in Iran.  Part of the claim that the election was stolen appears to be based on spotty election returns, the vast numbers of people complaining and the significant number of folks who have taken to the streets.  The Iranian Government’s response to the unrest has been problematic to say the least.  However, widespread complaints and extreme government overreaction does not amount to fraud or a stolen election.   Unfortunately, the people in control of the ballots are those who might seem disposed to favor Ahmadinejad.  However, that describes election adminstration in large parts of the world and even parts of the United States.

This is not to argue that the Obama Administration’s response on the Iranian election has been perfect.  However, it is unclear that an American president really wants to get involved in the elections of a foreign, sovereign nation, other than to condemn violent government action that appears to be a crackdown on the exercise of the human right to petition one’s government for a redress of grievances.  At least, it should not appear that an American president wants to get any more involved than that.

What’s the Republicans’ Game Plan?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on June 22nd, 2009

We all have our blindness, but I cannot fathom the criticism that President Obama should be acting aggressively in supporting the Iranian demonstrations beyond calling for the cessation of violence and out solidarity with the Iranian people.  Anything the President does potentially damns the Unittmpphpcisynx1.jpged States and harms the demonstrators. Comparing our action in Eastern Europe or the Philippines with current events in Iran makes no sense. Eastern European countries were fighting the Soviets, nationalism reigned against an evil oppression. We did not have a history in these countries as the great Satan. In the Philippines, we were the good guys and had much more leverage. The situations are simply comparable. Yet, the Republican stridently urge President Obama to side with the reforms thereby unifying the entire nation against us.  One can only suspect the Republicans want failure. How else can their irresponsibility be explained?  What good would it do to interject ourselves into a rebellion that it owned by the Iranian people not by any foreign nations especially ones that have played such a dark role in this history of Iran. Perhaps, the Republicans want the wrath of the Iranian leadership and the reformers unleashed on the United States to justify military action against Iran. Is this was Bush-Cheney would do?  Is this what insanity demands? Keep in mind people are dying in the streets. What should the U.S. due provide the Iranian dictatorship with even greater justification from its perspective to kill its youth? Shame on these arm chair warriors.

What does the Iranian Election Contoversy Mean?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on June 19th, 2009

First, the controversy is not merely about election fraud or irregularity.  Second, the controversy does not devolve around two particular policy political platforms in contemporary around.  More important, the controversy concerns just how power wit be distributed in Iran between the clerical elite, the religious conservatives, the army, the religious revolutionary guard, and most important, the people armed with technology that makes  shutting down the essentials of democratic expression, communication, organization, and accountability virtually impossible. Placing ordinary technological devices in the hands of a galvanized people seeking democracy, liberty, equality, and community could very well be the unexpected elements that will be vital for a new world order. This new world order, with the advent of democratic technology, might be brought about from the bottom up with ordinary folks able to express its commitment to the inherent value of all human beings and to respect their collective identifies dedicated to a panoply of human rights and justice.

Hillary Clinton and Rogue Nations

Written by Henry L. Chambers, Jr. on November 19th, 2008

Much has been made of the possible intrigue surrounding President-elect Barack Obama’s potential offer to Sen. Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary of State.  Some ask whether former President Bill Clinton will be required to reveal the donors to his library.  Others consider whether Sen. Clinton and Obama will get along.  Yet others wonder if Clinton can stand to play backup to Pres. Obama.  The intrigue simply does not matter if Sen. Clinton wants the job.  She is smart, disciplined and patriotic.  She would serve at the President’s pleasure and would serve in the nation’s best interest.  Of course, she likely would also have to meet with her counterparts in rogue nations, without precondition.  That might bother her.

During the campaign, which seems so long ago, Sen. Clinton argued that the president could not meet with the heads of rogue nations without precondition.  That is, quite a bit of behind-the-scenes negotiation would have to be done before a president could meet with such leaders.  Barack Obama largely agreed that much table-setting would have to be done, but appeared willing to meet a bit more readily with such leaders than Clinton or his presidential opponent John McCain.   Indeed, Obama and McCain sparred in one of thier debates about what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested the protocol would be for meeting with rogue nations.   Kissinger appeared to suggest that face-to-face meetings up to the level of Secretary of State without precondition might be appropriate after a round of lower-level contacts and preparation.  Such a course would leave Secretary of State Clinton in precisely the situation she did not want to be in just a few months ago -meeting with representatives of rogue nations without precondition.  That would be a bit awkward, but such is life.

The irony is that Sen. Clinton would gain an enormous amount of foreign policy experience extremely quickly by meeting with such representatives.  Indeed, after a few years of swimming in those waters, she would be extremely well positioned to serve as commander in chief.  She would have to be crazy to challenge Obama in 2012, but a successful run as Secretary of State would make her the prohibitive favorite as the Democratic Party standard bearer in 2016.  her goal may yet be in reach, courtesy of her former rival, Barack Obama.  Politics does make strange bedfellows indeed.

Should Hilary Clinton Be Secretary of State?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 14th, 2008

There’s speculation that President-elect Obama intends to select Senator Clinton for Secretary of State. If so why? One reason might be to repay her for so energetically campaigning for him in the general election. Anofinal.jpgther reason might be because she presumably has a great deal of knowledge how international relations operate. She is, as they say, an internal celebrity in her own right. Of course there might be a multiplicity of reasons. There’s one reason no one has yet identified. President-elect Obama might realize the amount of time and energy he need will need to spend on an economy that seems to continue to spiral downward. Clinton would be a smart pick if he wants someone who can begin immediately to implement his foreign policy decisions.  He might wish to delegate more responsibility than usual to foreign affairs so that he can devote his time to the single most dangerous threat to America: the failing financial and economic systems. Perhaps he believes Clinton is the best person to satisfy a more muscular ministry. One problem, of course, is whether President Obama can keep Secretary of State Clinton in check.  Will she understand clearly that she will be working for the President and not develop a reckless independence on her own?

Clinton, Murdoch, and Osama bin Laden: The New Global Governors?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on April 18th, 2008

What serious threats face American Democracy? George
W. Bush and his ilk? The corporatization of American government? Global warming? Probably all of the above and more. But watch out for the superclass, a group of super-powerful individuals intent on domination, though of course, they deceive themselves into believing their purpose is more benign. Consider the following review of a book alerting us to the insidiousness of this group: “In the first chapter of David Rothkopf’s Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making,
the author quotes Mark Malloch Brown, a British minister of state and
former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, recalling what
it was like to walk with his wife through a reception in New York for
the World Economic Forum. The WEF puts on the famous annual meeting of
business leaders, political figures, NGO heads, scientists and other
movers and shakers, nicknamed after the small Swiss alpine town where
it takes place, Davos. After crossing the room and shaking countless
manicured hands in the process, the couple turned to each other and
marveled that ‘we walk though the Davos party and know more people than
when we’re walking across the village green in the town we live in.’
Brown is far from the only one who could tell such a tale. “Davos man”
is an epithet coined by the conservative scholar Samuel Huntington to
describe the very specific type that attends the conference. These are
people who, as Huntington wrote, ‘have little need for national
loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are
vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose
only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.’”
For more click here.

Is the nation-state soon to become a historical
relic? Will American democracy succumb to the enormous pull of the
globalization of politics? Will the ideal of self-government, arguably, first instantiated in the United States during our constitutional founding, vanish in the tumultuous changes looming in international relations? For self-government to survive, the governing selves–everyday citizens–must make it happen. If we continue to abstain, the remaining skeleton of self-government will consist of the major players–elites–who have no motivation to encourage democracy unless doing so is instrumental to greed, power, and control of people everywhere. This monstrous skeleton of democracy will ruthlessly determine how we live and what we live for. Again, the choice is still ours to make.

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Fixing Pakistan’s Broken Constitutional and Political System

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on December 31st, 2007

In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last week in Rawalpini, one complex solution emerges to the problems endemic to Pakistani political and social organization. Without reform of the military, intelligence, and security forces in Pakistan, the democratization of Pakistani is unlikely to take root. What does this mean? First, these agencies, especially the military, must be brought completely under civilian control. If the military maintains its veto power over Pakistani politicians, its corrupt control of Pakistani politics will persist. Second, a national purge of the terrorist sympathizers within these agencies must begin in earnest. Military and intelligence services remaining independent of civilian control will prevent democratic institutions from playing their appropriate role in a society aspiring to democracy. While there’s still time for change in Pakistan, the doomsday clock is ticking inexorably. International assistance is essential to the transformation of a quiet (and not so quiet) dictatorship into a republican democracy or any kind of democracy at all for that matter. South Asia, the United States, and the rest of the world are depending on the stability of Pakistan. Should these poisonous institutions persist, permitting and even advocating political assassination, Pakistan’s on the road to becoming terror central. True, civil society has taken route in Pakistan. But that is not an antidote for terrorism. A major error in this calamity was invading Iraq diverting troops and money from one required war to a discretionary war. Coming to terms militarily with the virtually independent tribes in Northwest Pakistan that provide safe-haven to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban must be the critical priority for both the Pakistani and American governments. And that means ending any significant presence in Iraq. Perhaps, the next president can remedy a catastrophic mistake that need not have happened.

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Criticism of Bollinger Continues

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on September 30th, 2007

President Bollinger’s insulting remarks when introducing his guest, the Iranian President Mahmoud Amhadinejadin are now generating some heat. Finally, more self-reflective individauls are expressing dismay Here are some critical paragraphs in today’s NY Times: “Bollinger’s remarks assuaged some vehement opponents, including Jacob Kriegel, an activist student leader who called the comments an ‘appropriate’ rebuke. But others likened Bollinger’s comments to offensive and embarrassing schoolyard taunts, and some students are circulating a petition demanding an apology. ‘He went overboard in trying to balance a response to a criticism by being insulting,’ said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who originally opposed Ahmadinejad’s visit. Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, views Ahmadinejad as a publicity hound but said that ‘once you bring someone to the university, unless this is just a cockfighting ring, a certain level of discourse should apply.’” at Criticism of the disgrace at Columbia.

As ECA has stated previously, there are four central elements in the complaint against President Bollinger’s conduct. First, President Ahmadinejad is a danger to peace in the region and a fortiori to world peace. He and Grand Ayatollah Ali Kameni must be carefully watched by the world community. Second, President Bollinger was clearly entitled not to invite him to speak or even to withdraw the invitation once it was proffered. Third, President Bollinger was right to have forcefully refuted some of the more outlandish claims Ahmadinejad is known to have made. But finally, once Bollinger invited Ahmadinejad and Ahmadinejad accepted, Bollinger was bound by elementary decency not to insult his guest. Nothing else is even relevant to the application of elementary decency in this context, let alone can Ahmadinejad’s outrageous conduct justify Bollinger’s reprehensible remarks. One either believes in elementary decency or one does not. If one does, Satan himself warrants courtesy treatment if invited as a guest to speak at Columbia. In not affording elementary decency even to someone who is justifiably viewed as a world pariah, Bollinger disgraced the university he leads.

More on Bollinger’s Shameful Treatment of Ahmadinejad

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on September 28th, 2007

Earlier this week ECA posted a condemnation of Columbia Lee Bollinger’s appalling bushwhacking of Iranian President Amhadinejad. today’s Delawre Online published a letter joining in the condemnation: “Treatment of Iranian president was appalling: I was appalled at the behavior of the Columbia University president and the CNN and MSNBC journalists who reported during the Iranian president’s broadcast. I do not agree with the Iranian President, but who he is and what he says should have no bearing on the civility with which we represent ourselves throughout the world. If we truly believe in free speech and honorable and dignified behavior, we should present ourselves as such. No matter how evil a person is, I want the world to see we don’t lower our own standards to do something as reprehensible. Our manners must be flawless, or we make the target of our disdain a martyr. The Columbia University president attacked the Iranian president in his “welcome” speech. I was embarrassed and angered at such impropriety. The Iranian president did not return the attack. Although I don’t agree with the man, he exhibited dignity and respect for those who extended the invitation, and offered an invitation in return.Nancy Craft, New Castle”. We might benefit from listening to President Bollinger’s remarks once again:

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Ahmadinejad may very well be a diminutive version of Hitler. If so, Bollinger was entitled not to invite him to speak, or even to withdraw the invitation upon re-consideration. What morality and the better angels of our nature preclude, however, is President Bollinger insulting his own guest knowing full well that doing so would score huge applause from the faithful. Ambushing one’s guest is antithetical to the academic and civil values for which Columbia is supposed to stand, even when that guest is Satan himself. President Bollinger’s conduct was nothing less than cowardly and shameful.A more cynical view of Bollinger’s motives insists, “Bollinger, meanwhile, was playing to a different audience. After taking a beating for giving Ahmadinejad a forum, he was eager to show the media, alumni, concerned Jewish organizations and a raft of bellicose neoconservative pundits that he was no terrorist-loving appeaser of Holocaust deniers.” I’m loathe to accept such an interpretation of Bollinger’s conduct. But I’m not in a position to refute it. The bottom line, of course, is that it perfectly clear that Bollinger would never have treated Mr. Bush in that fashion had Mr. Bush accepted an invitation to speak at Columbia. Is Mr. Bush less dangerous to free speech and world peace than Mr. Ahmadinejad?

Global Corporations “Cleaning Up” After Disasters

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on September 14th, 2007

Check out this article in the Toronto Star about global corporations taking advantage of natural disasters and other human tragedies. Here’s the introduction: “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, a painstakingly detailed analysis of how corporations manipulate natural and manmade disasters to line their pockets and further their privatizing agenda, is not a marginal, academic treatise by a lefty think tank targeted at a small, like-minded audience. . . . It is a book by a bestselling writer and activist who also happens to be one of the anti-globalization movement’s most recognizable faces. It’s also a book that comes with its own promotional documentary, a short directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival. . . . In other words, instead of being consigned to pointy-headed discussion in unread academic journals, it is a book that has the potential to become a lightning rod of controversy and debate.” [Added: 9-16-07] In short, as the NYTimes puts this point: “The brief movie encapsulates the thesis . . . that unconstrained free-market policies go hand in hand with undemocratic political policies.” I have not read the book, but this promo is enticing. Corporations naturally confront problems–whether ordinary or catastrophic–and seek to make profits by resolving them. That’s the theoretical foundations of capitalism. Of course, when the market is co-opted by a cabal of government and business capitalist “distorters,” the profit-public-good feature of captialism disappears. American capitalism like other structures in our society needs to democratized to prevent distorters from running the country for profit to the disadvantage of everyone else.