Sunday, November 28

Not Clockwork Orange century

"Dear Pundita, I read in the UK Guardian that the Republican Party, the Democrat Party, the state department and George Soros have been meddling in the Ukraine election. Why are Americans meddling in Ukraine?"

I had no choice to put this question to the Peregrine falcon, whose occasional appearances at my foreign policy meetings galvanize the other members of the team to hastily decamp.

The falcon explained that State is not meddling, in their view; they are trying yet another means to prod the Soviet Union and its satellites to sign the terms of surrender. That the Soviet Union no longer exists is considered by State to be a crafty ploy to avoid signing the parchment. To put the falcon's observation another way, the state department has yet to recognize that the Cold War is over.

As for Soros, there's not enough daylight between State and Mr. Soros to see them as separate players; the Clinton-era faction at State that gave Mr. Soros his meddler without portfolio status is still dug in at Foggy Bottom.

With regard to America's version of the Capulet and Montague clans there may be some naive ones among them but the question is what the Democratic and Republican factions meddling in Ukraine really want. Getting answers to that question is not easy.

A more fruitful line of inquiry is whether the Americans are justified in meddling in Ukraine's politics under any circumstance. The U.S. military is today engaged in an internal debate about whether to continue adhering to the rules of engagement while fighting an enemy who breaks all the rules -- and uses the rules against those who adhere to them. The debate could also be applied to U.S. foreign policy.

The exigencies of the Cold War put ethics far down on the diplomat's list. If you're too young to remember those days, read John Le Carre's novels to get a feel for the era. The NATO allies were fighting a very powerful, very ruthless enemy. To the extent there were rules for the Cold War they were designed to be broken. Foreign policy on both sides of the war was the blackest of black arts.

However, that era did not have 24 hour instant global communication in the hands of the public; the era did not have gossip rags run like invading armies and with funds to match. And the Soviet enemy did not make a fetish of morality. The enemy we're today uses the issue of morality as his chief propaganda weapon.

Those who argue that the enemy is a thug behind his mask of morality miss the point. In this war, adhering to ethical conduct is not just the moral thing to do, it is also a big factor for the U.S. in waging a winning war. This is because it's hard to make even an honest mistake without getting caught, and without the mistake being blown up to the proportions of a capital offense. As for unethical or criminal behavior, the fallout from Abu Ghraib and the UN Oil for Food program indicates how hard it is to keep a lid on.

With every month that passes it gets harder in this war, to be a phony under the relentless glare of the media. Right now, the glare works more against al Qaeda and their state sponsors than it does against the USA. If we want to keep it that way we need to take special pains to keep our hem clean.

From that viewpoint it's moot to ask which Ukrainian candidate the US should support because all meddling in Ukraine is Clockwork Orange without the brainwashing techniques. The meddlers' machinations belong to the Cold War era; indeed, Mr. Soros is a textbook illustration of the thinking that dominated the era. In that era people who ran government and formed society's elite believed that the masses weren't sufficiently endowed to arrive on their own at a civilized judgment, let alone manage on their own with running a democracy.

Another question: Does hot war ever give a nation the right to meddle in the effort to stave off the fall of a government that is a war ally? I put this question to the falcon. I interject that it came as a surprise to me that Peregrine falcons are not particularly hawkish in their outlook. I guess if you can cause 90 percent of the wildlife in the Western Hemisphere to dive for cover simply by flying overhead, warfare wouldn't be a big issue for you.

The falcon's fix is that the direct approach is always preferable. I agree. Threats and shameless inducements made out of strategic considerations during hot war are ethically defensible. However, for a government to apply such means to influence an election outcome would be indefensible. Thus, the US should wait on the outcome of another government's election before exerting pressure and trying to strike deals.

And the state department should withdraw their support for the tactic of buying "democracy demonstrations," in the effort to unseat a government or influence another country's election. This is supposed to be Liberty's century, not Clockwork Orange century.

Two Very Different Views of the World

China's leaders have a horror of being backward -- witness the new standard for intelligence in China : you must have a college education or be stupid (read, "backward"). So as long as America takes a two-faced approach to dealing with dictators -- well, that must be "modern." Then we wonder why Beijing sees nothing wrong with being two-faced on the subject of democracy.

But now we have a president who is reading Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy .... Of course since 9/11 Bush has intuitively moved toward Sharansky's direction under Paul Wolfowitz's tutelage. But -- Sharansky! I've read that Bush's father dismissed Sharansky's ideas as naive and impractical as did earlier US presidents and a host of other national leaders; Ariel Sharon dismissed his ideas for the same reason!

I think Bush grasps what more ornate minds have not about Sharansky's message, which is that democracy is the only practical system of government. Indeed, 9/11 is a textbook illustration of the point. Every other door leads to tyranny, even if the tyrant wears a friendly face. That leads to oppression, which drains worker creativity and tax dollars. That in turn calls for more tyranny, which calls for more protest against tyranny, and it all finally ends in oceans of blood.

Yet the vision Sharanksy (and Bush) follow stands in opposition to the vision of Jacques Chirac and the school of geopolitics he represents. I am grateful to the
Belmont Club writer's Pro and Contra essay for clearly defining the two views:
History may remember Jacques Chirac as one of the most prolific institution builders of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The European Union and the United Nations are but some of the multilateral projects he sought to strengthen in the belief they would serve as a prototype for the future ordering of the world.

Wolfowitz's vision seems altogether more complex. He seems unwilling to speak of institutions outside the context of empowerment, as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms was tantamount to prescribing tyranny. Their difference of opinion may be rooted, not so much in an argument over bureaucratic arrangements, but in their view of the nature of man himself.
". . .as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms is tantamount to prescribing tyranny."

With those words, the Belmont Club writer nails the essence of the argument. If modern civilization is built on the concept of an alliance of cooperative nations, then tyranny can easily present itself as on equal footing with democracy, merely by making an appearance of cooperation.

The writer quotes Chirac as arguing for a new world order based on multi-polarity:
That of an order based on respect for international law and the empowerment of the world's new poles by fully and wholly involving them in the decision-making mechanisms.

"Only this path," [Chirac] added, "is likely to establish a stable, legitimate and accepted order in the long run."

The new "poles" [Chirac] spoke of are the emerging regional powers of the new century, including Europe, China, India and Brazil. . .

"It is by recognising the new reality of a multi-polar and interdependent world that we will succeed in building a sounder and fairer international order. This is why we must work together to revive multilaterialism, a multilaterialism based on a reformed and strengthened United Nations."
Now one may snort that Chirac's argument is self-serving but he has neatly articulated the ideas that give legitimacy to tyrannies in the modern era. The multi-polar order Chirac envisions is built on regional trading powers, not on the concept of an advanced civilization; i.e., one that does not govern by oppression.

Chirac's view is considered realistic; he accepts the world as he finds it. Sharansky shreds the belief that this view is realistic. Yet the facts Sharansky marshals are ignored in favor of branding his view "moralism" and thus, idealistic. And from there, backward-looking.

Wolfowitz and Bush (and Sharansky) are dismissed by their critics as impractical dreamers, as ideologues -- while Chirac's ideas are seen as practical, modern.

Through this inversion democratic governments must allow for the legitimacy of despotic governments. And further: democracy must stand on the side of an equitable sharing of the world's pie, not on the side of an advanced notion of civilization.

That's the argument to be tackled if this century is to be "liberty's century," as Bush envisions. It must be tackled outside the wonkish language and circles that the American public left in charge of the debate.

Americans inside and outside the Beltway must recognize that despite the criticism lobbed at America this nation is the standard of modernity for the world. How we treat tyrants, and the extent to which we're willing to look the other way in our diplomatic, foreign aid and business dealings, are emulated the world over. So Chirac's world view is our chickens come home to roost.

Americans who are cowed by the criticism that America is trying to impose democracy on other countries should take heart from an observation Wolfowitz made:
"The contradiction is to say that allowing people to choose their government freely is to impose our ideas on them. There was a wonderful moment at a conference here in Washington where someone said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values."
It's not a matter of imposing our ideas; it's a matter of using common sense, if we say we believe that democracy is the best defense against tyranny. How many decades and US presidents did this world have to go through, before a US administration told Europe, the Palestinians and Israel that there would be no more US participation in discussion of a peace process, until the Palestinians held a free election?

That's only common sense. Yet to hear the critics, you'd think Bush proposed that the Palestinians fly to the moon. The argument is that it won't be a free election; it'll be a sham. But what did the Palestinians do, as soon as they heard Bush take a stand? They asked America to help with overseeing the election process.

Another case is Egypt. Despite the mind-boggling amounts of aid money the US poured into that country for decades no US administration ever thought to strongly suggest to Cairo that Egyptians form a pro-democracy party. That struck Bush as ridiculous, so he "suggested" that the Egyptians form such a party, which they're in the process of doing, if it's not already done. Of course the first pro-democracy party is going to be mostly a sham, but the idea is to try.

For heaven's sake, America is still trying to get democracy right -- not to mention the election process! The journey of a thousand miles starts with trying and not giving up on the try. Americans know that. Now it's a matter of getting behind the practical aspects of what we know.

The Cold War and the past decade of global business competition made many Americans cynical in outlook. It is time to put cynicism behind us. If you don't think that Bush was sincere when he said, "I believe in the transformational power of liberty," he's just one American. The question is whether his fellow Americans believe in the transformational power of liberty. If we believe, we will make this Liberty's Century.

British pundits get the jump on Americans and why we should care

I'm often asked about the political leaning of my foreign policy team. Here one must be reasonable. If you were a raccoon or squirrel, where would you stand in the political spectrum? On the other hand, one assumes that most in the Green Party can't afford to spend the big bucks on bird seed and peanuts. And because Greens favor a vegetarian diet, you'd be wasting valuable energy breaking into a Green dumpster unless you had a yen for moldy steamed rice.

Putting it all together, I'd characterize the team as pragmatic in their political outlook. However, for a time I did have cause to wonder about the raccoon, who began showing for meetings with a snack wrapped in a piece of a Rupert Murdoch publication.

That is how I came to learn that British pundits who hold forth in the American news media are not entirely frank with their American audience about British opinion. To hear the British pundits tell Americans, all of the United Kingdom stands united with France in finding Bush and his supporters to be babbling idiots marching to fascist doctrine.

But if one reads The Sun newspaper ("Largest circulation in the UK"), it's obvious that a fairly large number of Britons not only admire Bush and his American supporters but also stand solidly behind the US-led war on terror, to include the campaign in Iraq.

Now some might try to argue that UK denizens don't so much read The Sun as look at its pictures, which feature young women in various stages of undress and British male sports stars whose facial expression helps explain why Neanderthal Man became extinct.

Nevertheless, the newspaper-buying public is traditionally an avid reader of editorials and letters to the editor. From that perspective, The Sun's editorial page leaves no doubt that Bush, and the way he wages war on terror, have many supporters in the United Kingdom.

I interject that Americans shouldn't conclude from the above that The Sun's editorial slant is pro-Republican Conservative. It might come as a surprise to Americans to learn that Mr. Murdoch supports Britain's Labor party, although his support for Labor seems "pragmatic." This according to John Batchelor's wasp-tongued, Bush-bashing Leftist Scottish correspondent, John Nicolson. Nicholson sniffs that Murdoch favors Labor simply because the party has done well for the British economy and because Murdoch like all business moguls doesn't favor rocking the boat.

The point, for Americans, is that The Sun's support for Dubya's defense doctrine and foreign policy shouldn't be interpreted as indication that substantial numbers of UK citizens are fans of the Republican Party or the American Conservative agenda. Yet there you have it: no matter what they think of our domestic politics, a large number of Britons support War Dog Bush.

So here we have a mystery, which can't be solved by hurling the label of "Democrat bias" at the American media outlets that give British pundits a platform. No matter what the political bias of the various American news outlets, Americans in general don't know that a significant body of opinion in the United Kingdom supports Bush and his defense policy.

I venture that the solution to the mystery is that the majority of American news producers, editors, and journalists are not very knowledgeable about European politics. That situation has tempted British counterparts with an agenda to peddle on this side of the Pond. To what end?

The American reader should remember (or learn) that while America was plunged into a war on terror, another war was going on. Britons were locked in a bitter debate about adoption of the euro and further integration with the European Union.

The debate continues to rage and if anything has heated up as Britain faces ratification of the EU Constitution. To get an idea of the impact of the debate on British politics, consider this tidbit from the 11/27/04 issue of The Sun:

"Tony Blair threatened to sack Gordon Brown unless he backed the euro, The Sun learned last night. The "Iron" Chancellor refused, wrecking Mr Blair's place in history as the PM who took Britain into the single currency. The Prime Minister backed down -- for the time being. T he latest revelation sheds new light on Mr Blair's plan, revealed in Tuesday's Sun, to sack Mr Brown AFTER the election."

(The plan to sack Brown may or may not be crafty gossip, but Brown indeed helped lead the charge to block adoption of the euro.)

To complicate understanding, the debate doesn't fall neatly along political party lines. Murdoch, who allegedly favors Labor, is also "Euro-cautious," as Nicolson puts it. Some idea of The Sun's Euro-caution can be gleaned from a recent epithet for Jacques Chirac: Le Worm.

With many Britons the defense of the pound, and distaste for more integration with the EU, is surely rooted in national pride rather than economics. T he issue is the extent to which national identity and historical tradition would be sacrificed to a European union.

If the light bulb has suddenly switched on -- yes, the eagerness of the Kerry camp (and Democrats in general) to be seen as cooperative with West Europe's Bush bashers would make them a gullible audience for British pundits who support adoption of the euro and greater EU integration.

A Democrat White House, which surely would have continued the status quo at the US State Department, would likely have encouraged Blair to push hard for adoption the EU Constitution and the euro. Bush, on the other hand, could be assumed to take a studiously neutral approach to the controversy across the Pond.

Of course, one can't leap from these observations to the conclusion that all British Bush-bashers who play to an American audience have an ulterior motive. The camp represented by John Nicholson doesn't need the excuse of British-EU politics to demonize all things Bush. And of course all thoughtful Britons are concerned about the impact of Bush's preemption doctrine and his foreign-policy stance, which is a break from decades of US policy.

It doesn't follow that such concern includes giving Americans a very distorted picture of British opinion about Bush and his handling of the war on terror. Yet this is just what has been done by a parade of British pundits, and particularly during the runup to the US presidential election.

There is another angle that Americans should keep in mind while drinking in British opinion about the US campaign in Iraq and the war in general. The British foreign and secret services were as much blindsided as the American counterparts by the scope of the al Qaeda threat. So, just as in America, civil war is raging in British defense and diplomatic agencies, with the Old Guard fighting to defend their positions and save their careers. As in America, leaks and counter-leaks have accompanied the battles, particularly over intelligence involving WMD in Iraq.

The Old Guard's position is often found in the pages of the Left-leaning Guardian Unlimited newspaper -- a conduit, according to the gossip in American Intel circles, for MI6 leaks. Yes, this is the same Guardian that featured a column calling for the assassination of George W. Bush, and which made a shameless attempt to influence Ohio residents to vote for Kerry.

But again, Americans shouldn't assume that the Guardian's support for Kerry was chiefly motivated by support for the American Democrat agenda. With Kerry in the White House, the assumption would be that the CIA could escape the house cleaning that would accompany a second Bush term. That would help take the heat off MI6 and other branches of Britain's security network. A through shakeup at the CIA under the second Bush term would be presumed to have the opposite effect. The same reasoning would apply to the foreign service.

The lesson for Americans is "Don't assume on the face value." Just as the currents and eddies of American domestic politics influence our view of events outside our shores, so the reverse is true. And if British pundits are tempted to play on American ignorance of doings across the Pond -- not without reason do they look at us as ignorant.

If you groan that you're having a hard enough time keeping up with domestic news and the campaign in Iraq -- I don't think one has to become an expert on British-EU politics to become more cautious about accepting at face value the opinions of British pundits about the US.

Certainly, if you take in large quantities of hard news, it's wise to familiarize yourself with the editorial stance of all Europe's most influential newspapers. For the rest of Americans, a grain of salt should accompany hearing criticism directed at us from across the Atlantic.

Americans should be equally cautious about overlaying American political thinking on the motives of foreign critics. They're not necessarily all Leftists; to summarily dismiss them as such is to risk gaining a very misleading picture of overseas events as they apply to the USA.

I should add that The Sun is not the only major British newspaper to support Bush and his administration's position on dealing with terrorism. But whenever you find yourself asking whether everyone in Great Britain has gone bonkers, you might wish to recall the following letters to The Sun's editor:

"Since Aznar’s defeat, further bombings in Spain have shown that terrorism will be a threat whether you stand and fight or turn and run with the Wobbling Weasels."

" . . .Mr Blair has to choose if he goes with his EU chums and sticks two fingers up to America, or stays with America, as Britain has done for the last 60 years."

"WHATEVER the Spanish PM says, America is the main reason we are not all Soviet citizens. The US has pumped billions into liberating and defending Europe."

Alert readers may ask whether I figured out the locale of the raccoon's foraging during The Sun wrappings era. I'd say it's premature to envision Foggy Bottom employees who prefer The Sun to the Guardian. However, I recently noted that the raccoon produced a cocktail napkin holding a trove of hors d'oeuvres, of the kind routinely served at Washington embassy receptions. Could it be that a member of my foreign policy team found a soft touch, and a closet reader of The Sun, among the British contingent of Washington's diplomatic corps?

You stupid. No, you stupid. You stupider. No, you stupider. No. . .

The very powerful Jiang Zemin was "asked" to resign from chairmanship of the Chinese Military Command by defense minister General Cao Gangchuan. Jiang might been spared the request and thus, the loss of Face, if he'd not instructed that an officer with a phony college degree be listed in the CMC roster above Cao, who has at least one college degree.

That's the Chinese Communist Party in a nutshell, these days. Class warfare has broken out between the under-educated and the highly educated. So now we have three awfully serious questions before us:

(1) Was there anything in addition to class warfare behind Zemin's fall from favor with the Shanghai Gang?

(2) Does Cao's consolidation of his power, which happened mid-September, signal a sea change in Beijing's support of Tehran's war on Israel and/or US forces in Iraq?

(3) Is there a direct connection between Jiang's exit and Kim Jong-il's recent family troubles and extreme reclusiveness?