Thursday, June 30

"Chirac Damns Blair"

"Pundita, Your readers might be interested in the piece I've titled, Chirac Damns Blair.
Marc Schulman
American Future"

Dear Marc:
So. You were holding out on Pundita. You send Pundita reports on German elections but save juicy news on EU doings for your readers."

"Pundita, You asked me to only send you pieces on the German election! I'll be glad to send you notice of reports on EU. Remember? You made me the Go-to Guy on Germany?"

"We did?"

"Yes, Pundita, look on your sidebar blogroll."

"Yes yes we're not senile, you know. But tell Pundita how can the readers understand the full import of the German elections without the reports on the EU? Never mind. All right, you are now the Official European Union Desk Reporter and Analyst if you don't mind. What is going on over there, anyhow? Pundita has been focused on China these past two weeks. Thank you."

"Pundita -- If you want everything EU-related I'll have to double my rate. [He is making a little joke].

Gleaneagles has a very nice golf course. Perhaps Tony could hit a wicked hook or two that would relieve Jacques and Gerhard of their miseries. Can you imagine a threesome composed of these guys! The Golf Channel would have to cover it. The ratings would be fabulous.

In case you can't tell, I think the EU is kaput. The bigger issue is whether the euro is kaput. That would have major worldwide economic repercussions."

All right, that is enough Silly Time. Pundita is late returning and here it is 3:40, so I will rush this post into publication without doing the HTML thing to the links. I cannot suggest strongly enough to my readers that you check Marc's blogspot every day for the next few weeks because according to some of the reports he forwarded, things are moving very fast in Europe, and this will have an impact on many US related issues. Also, barring a near miracle, it seems that Schroeder is done for.

All the reports Marc sent in the past 24 hours are worth a careful read....fiddlesticks. Where is the link to Chirac Damns Blair? Never mind; kindly visit American Future and read through everything Marc has posted in the last 48 hours. He is finding the European/US reports that give a clear window on what's happening in Europe right now.

Thank you, Marc, for the time you've taken to send along the reports.

Play it again, Sam

I have declared this official Silly Day here in Pundita-land. This was after receiving an email yesterday from someone making the unlikely claim to be Tariq Ramadan. Much of the letter was taken up with saying unkind things about Collounsbury, a Western expat stationed in Casablanca.

For readers who are still trying to find their first cup of caffeine for the day, Collounsbury's ringing defense of the Muslim Brotherhood set in motion events that led to the antipundita blog, which exploded into Antipunditagate when a blogger discovered malicious software on his computer after visiting the antipundita blog.

To pick up the thread, the writer complained, in part, that "we don't need drunken American donkeys who don't even know what day it is coming to the defense of Muslims."

I interject that Pundita is not sure Collounsbury is American. In any case I was mystified by the wording of the writer's insult until an alert reader sent a passage from a recent entry on Collounsbury's blog, which Pundita passes along without editorial comment:
Last night, working late on this bloody data issue, I suddenly recall I am invited to something at the Briths Consul's club. Since there are people there I want to schmooze with, I close the laptop and make off in haste to the Consul's club down near the Corniche, irritatingly located among a maze of old 1940s era villas (the development being then outside of the city retreat). Arriving late, I am puzzled that there are no fancy cars and the like. Indeed it is all quite dark.

No matter, I dash into the club and find... nobody, well hardly anyone. Just two women dining in the garden. Walking over to ask about the event I suddenly realise, bloody hell, today is Tuesday, not Wednesday. I actually slapped my forehead I confess, in a quasi theatrical fit of stupidity.
The writer also noted that he enjoyed reading Pundita's Barney and the Theoretical Bubble Machine.

Then there was the letter this morning from someone identifying himself (or herself, for all Pundita knows) as "No nails Arbitrage." He asked Pundita to reveal the name of the financial institution in New York mentioned in my warning post about the antipundita blog. He continued to pester Pundita, even after I explained that there was no possible way it could have been his company computer. This decided me to publish the following public service announcement:

Dear Nail Biter:
It would not be right for Pundita to give out the name of the financial firm in New York City. But realize the number of situations that would have to be in effect, before you should worry:

> You would need to have been logged onto your company computer this past weekend.

> You would have needed to be a first-time visitor to Pundita's blog because no one logged on from that firm had ever visited before the weekend.

> You would have needed to be a member of Live Journal blogspot on the weekend.

> You would have needed to visit the antipundita blogspot.

> Then your company's firewall would have needed to be insufficient to block the spyware that ZenPundit blogger reported finding on his computer.

> You would not have seen the warning Pundita posted about the financial institution because the person who logged on from the firm did not return to visit Pundita after the weekend -- or if the person did visit again, it was not from the company computer in question.

Of course it's not been definitely established that the spyware was installed by a program connected with the antipundita blogspot. But looking at the worst-case scenario, only if all five criteria fit should you wonder whether it was your computer.

> In short, it is impossible within the Newtonian universe for the computer in question to be yours, unless perhaps you are one of those people who sign their anonymous emails with the same words they use for a passcode.

> However, if you are still biting your nails after reading this, ask your company's computer security people to check out your computer, as Pundita advised before.

Google Responds
Google's eBlogger help desk also has some advice. They responded to my email and are continuing to investigate the situation. They wrote in part:
Blogger gives people a lot of room for creativity on their blogs, but unfortunately, some people take advantage of that. We are working on ways to protect our users from this kind of thing and to prevent this abuse of our system, without restricting legitimate uses. [...]

We also suggest that you try the Mozilla Firefox browser, since it can help protect you from many malicious sites which tend to target Internet Explorer. More information can be found here:
It is possible that ZenPundit's computer did not have Firefox, which might have explained how the spyware, which was attached to some particularly "nasty code," infected his computer.

Then there was the very odd letter from someone claiming to be both a Nazi war criminal and a CIA section chief. He accused "Dubai Person" (the anonymous creator of antipundita blog) of being "a RAW defector who the CIA was too stupid to check for ties to Russian mobs."

Why is Pundita getting the impression that we've been dragged into an intelligence community food fight?

More Silly Day festivities are planned, so you might want to check back after 3:00 PM. By that time Pundita should be recovered from Batchelor Double Whammy Night.

Wednesday, June 29


Pundita's only comment: The US should put all we've learned during the past half century into making this strenghtened relationship with India one that doesn't sour.

"A 10-year military agreement just signed by the defense secretaries of the United States and India is intended to provide for numerous advances in the relationship, including joint weapons production, greater sharing of technology and intelligence as well as an increased trade in arms.

"A statement signed by India's defense minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and the U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in Washington on Tuesday night said that the United States and India had "entered a new era" and declared that the two countries' defense relationship had advanced to "unprecedented levels of cooperation." [...]

"Mukherjee made a point of stressing in a separate speech to the Carnegie Institute on Tuesday that India would retain its independent foreign policy, rejecting any notions of a "unipolar" world.

"Uday Bhaskar, director of Delhi's Institute for Defense Studies, said this was a crucial element of Indian policy and said that the framework agreement should not be seen as a move by India toward dependence on Washington.

"I don't think that India has the DNA to allow it to become a Japan or a Britain in terms of adopting a subordinate status to the U.S. and allowing them to guarantee the nation's security. India's strategic culture would not allow it," he said.

"Other analysts in Delhi highlighted the ongoing conflict between the U.S. policy of friendship toward Delhi and its continued military support for India's nuclear rival, Pakistan.

"While the U.S. is trying to build this long-term relationship with India, it is also selling weapons systems to Pakistan," said Brahma Chellaney, a defense analyst with the Center for Policy Research. "It is a contradiction which won't be easily resolved." [...]

For the full report:
International Herald Tribune

What China can learn from India

"Pundita, I've written a piece titled Post Communist China, which asks what is the plan if and when the Communist Party falls? What is the best way to ensure a liberal democracy takes root and what are the potential alternatives?

I would appreciate your comments and thoughts. It is a debate that needs to happen before, not after, the fall.
Simon in Hong Kong"

Dear Simon:
Pundita is recovering from Double Whammy Night on Batchelor's show (see today's first post) so we are not in an analytical frame of mind. But your questions remind me of the time when Indira Gandhi threw her opposition in jail. An American reporter told her, "Mrs. Gandhi, this is not democracy."

She retorted, "Yes it is. It's Indian democracy."

I am also reminded of a conversation I had with a Mainland Chinese when the Shanghai economic zone was started. I burbled, "I'm so glad China is trying capitalism."

He snapped, "It is not capitalism. It is Chinese improvement to communism."

I have a problem with your mention of the words "fall" and "liberal." We're not looking for perfection here. The CCP doesn't need to fall; they can just change the name. And let's not push luck; if they make it anywhere near the Singapore model in the coming five years, this would be cause for dancing in the streets. Rome wasn't built in a day, and all that.

However, the Chinese could surprise us. Off the top of my head, I'd say that Howard French's report on experiments at the local level, Test of Democracy and Dissent points the way for China. They actually have the apparatus for making democracy work in place at the village level, it's just that they never used it.

That's why I think some variation of democracy could come with stunning speed if the CCP cries, "Uncle!" They have to confront that they need more decision making responsibility carried out at the local level.
By one estimate, there will be 300,000 village committee elections in China’s 18 provinces this year alone. In many areas, officials are making efforts to involve ordinary citizens in local decision making.

“The experiments taking place here and there are very meaningful, because China’s economic reforms began the same way,” said Li Fan, director of the World and China Institute, a nongovernmental institute in Beijing that studies electoral reform. “The central government didn't know how to carry them out, so it relied on local governments.”

Mr. Li said, however, that the most important breakthrough would come when the already existing assemblies -- local, provincial and national groups known as people’s congresses - were given a real say, instead of meeting one day a year, as is typical, to endorse the government’s decisions. “The Communist Party doesn't want this, because they are afraid the congresses will criticize the government,” Mr. Li said. “They prefer a rubber stamp.”
By the way I found the link to the article on your site. The entire report makes riveting reading -- particularly in light of Beijing banishing the D word from the Internet. French's report makes it clear that talk about democracy is alive and well in China.

It's just that they want to make it a Chinese invention. I don't know if you saw the earlier Chinese pairs competitors in Olympics figure skating. Twenty years ago they were a joke. The last Olympics, their lead skaters were a micron off perfection. And this was not a fluke; the entire team reflected a high level of mastery of the sport.

All they need now is to put the same attention to modernizing their government that they put to figure skating and business. The West's job is to keep after them.

"Hi, good morning, lovely weather isn't it? How are you doing with transferring more responsibility to the people this morning?"

Notice how Pundita got through the sentence without mentioning the D word.

In fact, this is why we need to clean up the UN and keep pushing the democracy doctrine. Once democracy becomes a competition between countries, watch what happens. All it ever needed was for the world's superpower to make a strong stand for genuine democracy. That day has finally come. So this era does not belong to cynics; it belongs to the young at heart.

Yet here I would have a caution. Decades ago, and after an absence of many years, John Kenneth Galbraith returned to visit India. When asked to remark on the changes, he replied, "I see that India is still lurching along."

Many Chinese have a horror of things falling apart. You never have that worry if you're an Indian because they're always lurching along, for the past 15,000 years or so. That's the same way a sailboat stays on course. Not by keeping to a straight line but by making countless adjustments.

The fear of things falling apart comes from a tendency to think in terms of an ideal. The Chinese need to think back on their Olympics figure skating history. They just kept at it and when one type of system of coaching didn't work, they lurched to another. They need to apply that lesson to the task of modernizing their government via the D word.

Interesting events in Germany

Last night Marc Schulman at American Future forwarded me his latest posts relating to the election campaign in Germany. The posts deal with important issues that go beyond events under discussion.

First, the German press reaction to Tony Blair's address to the European Parliament, which is a window on a widening breach between France and Britain and the uneasy alliance between Berlin and Paris.*

The German reaction to Blair's speech is also a clue about the temperature readings we can expect behind closed doors at the G8 meeting. Bring your parka and snowshoes if you're planning on visiting Gleneagles.

Second, Marc's post on the formation of a leftist party that will drain some votes away from Schroeder's party. Will that be enough to give Merkel the win? The situation might be reminiscent of Ralph Nader's 2000 US presidential campaign.

American (and Canadian) readers will also hear an echo in points the new left party is making about foreign competition.

German media response to Blair speech.

To the Left of Schroeder.

* See Pundita June 22 post for the link to an analysis of the alliance and also if you need your memory refreshed about the importance of the upcoming election in Germany.

Bush speech and update on Borg kill count

I usually don't like to inflict my personal life on the reader but for those who are new to Pundita-land, Bush Major Speech Night is right up there in my pain index with a root canal. This is because BMSN always means that John Batchelor will solicit opinion from both Katrina vanden Heuvel and Michael Vlahos.

Pundita adores her husband* but Katrina drives me up a wall because she's always waiting for the return of 1968. And Vlahos is Pundita's arch nemesis.

The worst part is that after years of suffering through his lectures on Islam and how poorly the Bush administration grasps the Islam Renavatio, I actually understand what Vlahos is saying. However, my position is very simple:

Do not say, "Please understand me" while holding me at gunpoint. Above all do not say, "Please understand me" while expecting me to foot the bill.

People have written to ask Pundita what really transpired at Crawford between President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah. It boiled down to Bush asking how it's possible to blow a zillion dollars and be unable to account for it, and Abdullah saying in parting, "Oh did I mention the Middle East is running out of water?"

One way or another, kicking and screaming, every Muslim on this planet is going to leave the 14th Century and confront what is here now. No more excuses and especially not the excuse that you're working through your stuff about religion. That's the oldest excuse in the 900 Lazy Bastards Book of Excuses. "Sorry I can't plow the field I have to go start a new sect."

Where was I? Vlahos. My biggest problem with him is really my fault. At least Batchelor manages to rein in Vlahos but one night while Batchelor was on vacation, Monica Crowley and Eric Shawn ran the show while Vlahos held forth. Vlahos hypnotized them with his erudition. When they were sufficiently dazed he intoned, "We must come to understand the Arabs because if we don't they're coming after us."

Pundita was sitting on the patio at that moment. I burst out, "Vlahos is on the moon!"

The next thing I heard came from a corner of the back yard. It was the youngest raccoon asking, "Why is Vlahos on the moon?"

One problem with moderns is that we tend to indulge too much the questions of children because there is no end to it once they start down a road. This is how it came to pass that Vlahos The Mighty Borg Killer is this very night pinned down at the moon's Montes Carpathus Ridge and awaiting reinforcements.

The strange thing is that they rarely miss a Vlahos Night on Batchelor. Even if I'm inside the house in the dead of winter, I hear scratching at the garage door and the plea to listen to their hero. Or maybe it's Bush Major Speech Night they sense coming.

All this is by way of saying it's going to take me at least two days to recover before I can plumb the Bush speech. This said, Pundita will probably produce the same analysis she has for every other Bush speech relating to the war:

Whatever makes CENTCOM happy; if they are happy with the speech then whatever Bush said, it's fine. Just keep on killing the enemy.

But for the benefit of readers who would like a more nuanced analysis, Marc Schulman of American Future has pulled my irons out of the fire by sending me his take on the speech. Pundita herself will read Marc's analysis after we've recovered from a Batchelor double whammy night and spinning a yarn.

* Russia scholar Stephen Cohen

9:45 AM Bruce weighs in with an analysis of the speech:

"Pundita, the problem, as I see it, is that bottom-line Bush:

1. Is being dragged into the sort of series of defensive speeches like Johnson was;

2. Should put the ball squarely back in the court of the critics by saying explicitly:

'After much sacrifice we won the war within SVN, only to see it tossed away by those who cut off aid and broke promises. And they want to do it again.'

Then we'll have a real debate, and win, over which side the critics are really on. They'll howl and rationalize, but lose to the common sense of the American people.

Bruce Kesler ChFC REBC RHU CLU

Tuesday, June 28

Naked face of Islamofascism finally shows itself in Iran

In one of his rare outings during the Iranian presidential election campaign last week, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the man then designated as the likely winner by almost everyone, ran into a spot of bother. An old woman broke through his security ring, shouting, "May I have a word with you?" Once allowed to approach Mr. Rafsanjani, the woman removed his turban with a blow and shouted, "No more mullahs!" *
Another People's Revolution in Iran. How quaint.

Thanks "Liz" for sending me the WSJ piece. The complete article seems to be the best analysis so far about the Iranian military's consolidation of power. That's going to go over in Israel like bacon at a bar mitzvah.

But we should look on the bright side. The new regime will at least be speaking straight. No more pretense to save face for the EU Three. They have no more face to keep up, anyhow.
Political mullahs like Messrs. Khatami and Rafsanjani tried to deceive Europeans, and often succeeded, by pretending to be Davos-style liberals abroad while telling women at home to cover their hair because it emanates a dangerous ray that makes men wild.

With Mr. Ahamadinejad, however, you'll get what you see. Unlike Mr. Khatami, who claimed that Islam was the same thing as democracy, Mr. Ahamadinejad has no qualms about saying that the two are incompatible.

He is also open about his belief that women are not the equal of men and that non-Muslims cannot have equal rights with Muslims.

Messrs. Khatami and Rafsanjani tried to present to the Western world an "other" that was really the same bar the beard and the turban. Mr. Ahamadinejad, however, is proud of acting as the "other" that can never abandon its otherness.*
* Wall Street Journal
Anaysis by Amir Taheri
June 28, 2005

What 92 year old Nazi war criminals do in their spare time

I've been informed that someone in Dubai set up a "mirror" Pundita blog on Google's eBlogger. The site is called "antipundita."

Mark Safranski at ZenPundit has posted a strong warning to his readers to avoid the site.

He found that destructive surveillance software was inserted on his computer during his visit even though he had a firewall. He wrote me that it took some time to clean up the resulting mess on his computer.

I've been advised to warn my readers as well. Oddly the mirror blog's target does not seem to be Pundita. The target seems to be a circle of bloggers who have taken up dispute with two Pundita essays, which concern in part the Muslim Brotherhood, the CIA and MI6.

From what we've been able to piece together, the Dubai person, shall we call him (I'll assume it's a male) became a member of the blog circle at some point, then anonymously set up the mirror site in Dubai. Then he invited the blog circle to visit and vent their anger at Pundita on his site.

Initially I dismissed the situation as a joke involving just the blogger circle and even made my own joke. I published a Tabloid-style post in big block letters promising to "Tell all" about the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nazi connection, and why it wasn't a good idea to attempt a U-Turn while eating a Taco Bell burrito and talking on a cell phone. (I've since deleted the post.) But as reports about the blogspot came in, I decided it was best to take the matter seriously.

If you can't stand not knowing what's on the site -- well, as ZenPundit describes it, it is pretty much rum-induced cursing at Pundita by Collounsbury, a Western expat in Morocco. Perhaps he was exercised about Pundita's post on the perils of Going Native.

The only other thing I can tell you is that the Dubai person claims to be British. Here Pundita feels a joke coming on but in deference to the seriousness of the occasion I will quash it.

A word to the person at a large financial institution in New York: if you have visited the antipundita site, you might want to warn the computer security desk and perform a very thorough check of the computer you used.

Here is the Dubai person's computer ID, for those security-minded people at the NYC firm:

Host Name
IP Address
Country United Arab Emirates
Region Dubai
City Dubai
ISP Multimedia Services Over Adsl Network

Here is the Dubai person's ID at Collounsbury's blog circle: (Multimedia Services Over Adsl Network)
Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

(And yes, I have notified Google's bloghost company.)

Well. We're certainly having a hard time moving away from the topic of the Muslim Brotherhood, aren't we? As long as Collounsbury's circle is already hopping mad, we might as make their day with this post by Marc Schulman at American Future titled Tariq Ramadan: A threat to the West. This for readers who have Ramadan confused with a Muslim religious observance.

While we're on the subject of phonies, this would be a good place to detail the bang-up job the Muslim Brotherhood, French and British did in helping the Palestinians during Arafat's era then blamed on Israel:
> Chronic malnutrition was not a problem during the 25 years of Israeli control. From 1967-1993 the economy of the West Bank thrived, tourism skyrocketed, universities increased in number from one to seven, infant mortality plummeted, life expectancy increased, and the lives of the Palestinian Arabs improved by objective World Bank measures. At one point almost 300,000 Palestinians were working in the Israeli economy, with earnings well ahead of their counterparts in neighboring states.

> Only after Arafat took over in 1993, with his Palestinian Authority gaining autonomous control of 96% of the Palestinians living in Israel, did the Palestinian people suffer the collapse of their economy and the spread of poverty and malnutrition.

> After Oslo, billions of dollars in international aid flowed into the PA, from the EU, the US, and a number of Arab countries. Yet the Palestinian people have nothing to show for this largesse. It is now obvious that rather than using that aid to build his state, with schools, hospitals, roads, and social services, Arafat created a massive kleptocracy that siphoned off vast fortunes to personal accounts, and squandering the rest on the terror war against Israel. Suha Arafat lives in luxury in Paris, on a stipend of $100,000 per month, while the average Palestinian earns $2.00 per day.

> Hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies enter the West Bank and Gaza regularly, but never reach the starving Palestinians. As we know now from Jordanian and Palestinian sources, Arafat and the PA have created a monopoly on the transfer of food to Arab cities in the West Bank. Food entering the West Bank goes only to designated PA officials who then sell it to selected merchants. Thus Arafat and the PA reap financial reward by intensifying the food shortage at the expense of the starving Palestinians.

-- From David Meir-Levi's September 2004 report, The Islamikazi War and Palestinian Poverty
And for those who can't get enough of learning about the Nazi-Muslim Brotherhood connection, here's a brief history from Northeast Intelligence Network with color pictures. Kindly take special note of the last few sentences.

With all that behind us, tomorrow we will return to China I hope.

Monday, June 27

Pundita replies to questions about Muslim Brotherhood essay

This post is to reply to readers' questions and criticism regarding my June 24 essay, Muslim Brotherhood: A skeleton in America's closet, and the decay of British culture.

1) At last count there are about 177,000 Google references to the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi party. To find the majority of those references you'd need to type in "banna nazi" instead of a keyword string such as "muslim brotherhood nazi, which only produces about 7,000 links. Incidentally some sites have it wrong when they list "vanna" nazi. It's "banna."

Please don't anybody write Pundita again to ask why the name of John Loftus is connected with so much data about Muslim Brotherhood-Nazi connection. Write Loftus -- or to save yourself the time, click on the link I provided in the essay and read the deliberately scanty biography he provides.

Note the security clearances he lists. There is a reason why John Loftus and no one else was given clearance to talk about some data pertaining to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi Party.

Regarding a related question about the source: the website I linked to -- Warriors for Truth -- was almost a random pick out of tens of thousands of references; they were near the top of Google's list and did a reasonably good job of summarizing some items Loftus has revealed about the Muslim Brotherhood-Nazi connection, at least for the purposes of my essay.

The site itself has no relevance to the points I made. I have linked to al Jazeera and a Trotskyite site. I'll link to just about any site if it contains useful data for my readers and/or does a good job of summarizing the data. Regular Pundita readers know this. We're an empirical blog not a political one.

I interject that I could have put up a link with even more incendiary information about the Muslim Brotherhood-Nazi connection and the MI6-CIA connection. For example, the British Secret Service lied to the CIA -- they didn't tell them that the 'agents' they foisted on the CIA were Nazi war criminals.

The CIA later lied to cover up the mess. This was after they learned the hard way that they'd been lied to by people who were supposed to be US allies. However, the full story--as much as has been declassified at this point--is outside the scope of the essay I wrote. However, the "Blame it on the British" excuse would be pretty weak.

In any case, the site I linked to does a decent job of summarizing the basics. Interested readers could have pursued more about the story on their own.

2) Tariq Ramadan is forging alliances with the Communists and other non-Islamic groups and softening the old Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric. The US military will believe a leopard has changed his spots when they see it. They have intelligence indicating that the miracle has not yet occurred. If you dig on the Internet, you can learn that Pundita is not revealing state secrets. The Muslim Brotherhood has active terrorist connections.

3) All the above explains why Condoleezza Rice refused to accord the Muslim Brotherhood the same privilege she accorded outlawed political parties in two other countries.

Could she have put better words to it? A more diplomatic or at least more explanatory sentence? Yes and no. The Muslim Brotherhood's leaders got her message loud and clear. She was saying in effect that the leaders need to clean up their act because the stage show is not fooling anyone but poorly informed people.

I swear to you, Loftus is not making up any of the stuff about the Muslim Brotherhood-Nazi connection. But given all the screw-ups of the CIA, Pundita is not interested in raking up the history of the MI6 in Arab lands. I was intent on conveying that no matter how nice and intellectual Tariq Ramadan sounds to European ears, he's bad news.

And no matter how unfair and stubborn Condoleezza Rice might have sounded, she had her reasons for sending an uncompromising message to the Muslim Brotherhood.

This does not mean the US won't deal with them down the line if they get rid of the people they know they need to ditch. But the leaders tried to set a trap for Secretary Rice at that press conference in Cairo, and she refused to take the bait. Good for her.

4) The argument that the US should deal with the Muslim Brotherhood because the movement is widely popular in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East is not defensible.

It's falling into the same trap that the British did in relation to the Nazi Party. Yes, the Nazis were wildly popular in Germany in the runup to the invasion of Poland but popularity should not be the guide for rational defense policy.

5) In reply to the female reader who brought up the question -- it's more descriptive in most cases to term "female circumcision" as "female genital mutilation." This is not being sensational, only descriptive. I came as close to detailing the mutilation as I wanted by use of the word "sawing."

I interject that making this distinction would help more people understand why Muslim governments in Africa countries have moved heaven and earth to fudge data relating to AIDS transmission.

I will not describe how the mutilation is done outside a clinical setting and how the wound is sewn up but the point is that it does not heal, not in the way a surgical circumcision does. It remains a small oozing wound. This means virtually every Muslim female who had her clitoris mutilated, and who has intercourse with an HIV-infected partner, gets the disease -- unless he wears a condom and many African and Arab males refuse to wear them.

If you're slapping your forehead -- how did you think AIDS spread so fast on a continent where anal sex from the homosexual act is taboo in every nation, in every African and Arab culture?

What the Muslims have said is that AIDS incidence is actually lower in Muslim women because Muslim women are not promiscuous because of genital mutilation. Muslim governments have brought out data to support these claims.

Of course the Muslims are trying to blame it on the non-Muslim Africans. This argument has backed them into a corner. This is because it brings them to discussion of whether AIDS was almost automatically transferred to females who suffered genital mutilation during the years when no government or Islamic authority was facing the widening epidemic.

The Muslim leaders in Africa are trying to cover up the truth for the same reason Beijing's government made a suicidal attempt to cover up outbreaks of H5N1. They are rightly frightened that their 'race' will go down in infamy.

It's because they are frightened that Muslim leaders are quietly cooperating to encourage that the practice of genital mutilation be abandoned. I assure the confused questioner that the practice is widespread throughout the Muslim world.

Therein lies the problem for Western countries because genital mutilation is also practiced in the Muslim communities in those countries. And because hard-line Muslim clerics have set up shop in those countries, they do more than continue to encourage the practice of mutilating Muslim female children. They also issue threats against mothers who do not agree to mutilate their female children.

So, the grotesque conundrum that the authorities in Europe have set for themselves is whether to encourage that the female Muslim children be taken to an accredited doctor to have a 'clean' circumcision with proper healing.

When you realize the rationale for depriving a female of her clitoris, the conundrum is a sign that Europe is descending into barbarism.

The debate has worked its way to America, I might add. It needs to be shoved away from our shores and dumped back in the laps of the British, whose society is a train wreck. And for the same reason they waited too long to deal with Hitler. Why are they so afraid this time around? Perhaps because of the large number of British expats working in Muslim countries. They saw what happened at Luxor.

Same speculation would apply to the French -- who also have a very large expat community in Arab lands. Realize that many of these expats have been living in great fear because of the strong retort that the US government made to terrorism. Because they can't direct outrage at the Arab Muslims in the host governments, they've turned their anger on the American government.

6) It is so well established that Britain became the "terror capital of the world" by the 1990s that it's not necessary to provide data to support the statement. It is widely known that they had an open-door policy for every terrorist organization on the planet.

And they were very open -- proudly open -- about the policy. What they didn't figure out until after 9/11 is that just because you bend over backward to accommodate a terrorist, that doesn't mean he won't try to blow you to kingdom come.

Thus, the 2000 memorandum by Lyndon La Rouche is not a "source" for the above statements. It is the "story" -- the centerpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood essay.

I repeat: there is a difference between a source for a story and the story. Now what was the story? What was Pundita's reason for bringing up La Rouche and the letter?

As I politely put it in the essay, Mr La Rouche is controversial. Okay, we won't beat around bush: he is widely known and believed by many to be a raving lunatic.

The point of the essay is that when things arrive at the juncture where a perceived lunatic is the only person calling for sensible action, this is a sign your civilization is headed for collapse.

Now kindly return to the La Rouche letter, and tell Pundita what you see. You're looking at a cut-and-paste job from headlines and a portion of transcript of a session at British Parliament.

La Rouche didn't use special sources. He quoted the day's news, to support his argument that it was past time for the US to put Britain on the list of states sponsoring terrorism. The headlines and transcript amply shore his argument.

My point was how did it happen that it was left to at best a 'quixotic' person to play the child in the Emperor's New Clothes?

As I labored to convey in the essay, I think it happened because the American government could not confront what America's closest ally had become. I think it happened because the majority of British people could not confront what their society had become. They had come to openly tolerate barbarism.

Thus, I brought forward Mr La Rouche and his memorandum as a kind of morality tale and warning.

To repeat: I was not using La Rouche or his letter as a source to back up statements I made. Pundita's blog is not a newspaper or scholarly journal. When I provide links, it is not to support statements I make. It is to ask my readers to make themselves aware of a particular situation.

If I wanted to source my statements, I would make this a subscription blog. But very little of what I've published on this blog can't be verified via Internet research.

7) Now for the reader who asked whether I was quoting from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion when I mentioned public stoning practiced by Muslims.

Public stoning -- including stoning of children -- is practiced in Iran by the method I described in the essay. The stonings are attended by large crowds -- sometimes in the hundreds of thousands -- which are rounded by the military and ordered to attend.

Understandably the regime in Tehran has tried to suppress news about the atrocities, perhaps more to help the EU Three negotiators save Face than anything. If the extent of the barbarity of the Iranian regime were generally known by the public in Europe, the governments concerned would have a hard time rationalizing how they treat Tehran.

That is why I brought up the specific example when citing instances of barbarism. But then I overlooked that not all readers are informed about instances of stoning.

I interject that I do not think Iran is the only region where public stoning according to Muslim law take place; I might stand corrected but I seem to recall it is also used as a method of execution in rural areas of Pakistan and the tribal territories. However at least in Pakistan, if public stoning takes place, I doubt the government officially sanctions it, as is the case with Tehran. I don't know whether stoning is the law in other countries with Muslim governments, such as Sudan.

8) For the male reader who expressed confusion about my application of the word "terrorism" to acts of public stoning and genital mutilation of female children -- again, I am not going to describe how these mutilations are carried out when not done in a clinical setting. My intention is to inform, not make the reader's blood boil. But the reader may trust that if someone did that to his penis when he was a boy, he would be properly terrorized for life.

Instilling terror is the intent of all cruel and unusual punishment -- in prisons, POW camps, misogynist societies and tyrannies, and families headed by an abusive parent or spouse. Acts of terrorism are also the standard practice for gangs that prey on immigrant communities.

The objective of cruel and unusual punishment is to terrorize a segment of the society, or the entire society, or an individual, into submission.

The objective is evident in Muslim dictatorships. The view of the Muslim hard-liners is that if Islam -- the Will of God -- is not properly respected, it is their duty to help God do his work by terrorizing people back into a properly submissive relationship with their God. This view ran riot in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. I seem to recall that was also the same view of the Inquisition so I am not singling out Islam.

The critic interprets the meaning of terrorism in the modern political aspect, which is too narrow. Terrorism is as old as the evil of one human seeking complete control of another. It's not how it's carried out that is the defining characteristic. The means and motives for terrorizing are many but the objective is always the same: to instill the emotion of terror in a person.

Sunday, June 26

China Rising: the Whole Enchilada

I hate to steal thunder from my earlier post today (Bringing real democracy to world's rural peoples) but Pundita's favorite WOM has done it again. Eric Miller gave a speech on China at his 55th college reunion.

No the 55 is not a typo; when I put Eric Miller in the category of Wise Old Men of Wall Street, I am being precise. And realize that before he hooked up with Tom Brown's outfit, Mr Miller was the Chief Investment Strategist of Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette.

When Mr Miller decides to summarize matters, he doesn't clown around. His speech is a summary of other summaries he's done recently on China. So this is the distillation of analyses done by a cautious, seasoned investor. It's also got additional facts you might want to keep in mind; e.g. China has 100 cities with a population of over a million, whereas the US has nine.

So if you've been looking for one reliable jargon-free, chart-free economic report on China that's purged of political bias, this is the one to print out and keep in your country binder for the next three months:

The Looming New Superpower.

I hope this additional reading chore for today doesn't bump Pundita's essay; please find time to read it. How to make democracy work for the vast majority of the world's poorest is a very important issue -- one that directly connects with China's rise not to mention the Bush Democracy Doctrine and GWOT.

Bringing real democracy to world's rural peoples: "There is no box"

"Another topic that fascinates me is the factor of technology in the spreading of "freedom" in places like North Korea and China. Have you written on that?"

We assured Beth we'd have this ready on the weekend so this essay is Pundita's reply to the last question, above, in Beth's letter. Yes I have mentioned the connection between technology and the difficulty of bringing genuine democratic elections to rural regions in developing countries. See the essays under the Pundita sidebar category Phony Democracy. However, I am not well informed on developments in this area and what knowledge I have is behind the curve of fast-moving events across the world.

Yet Beth has put her finger on a very important issue -- critically important, as it relates to the Bush Democracy Doctrine and the ongoing attempts by democratic governments in developing countries to genuinely 'democratize' their elections.

I stress that several of these attempts predate Bush's doctrine. Many governments have long recognized that the best way to defuse protest movements that explode into rage against the central government is by bringing the vast majority -- in developing countries, the poorest -- into the democratic decision making process. Yet the logistics of accomplishing this are mind-boggling.

To give my readers in developed countries a small idea of the obstacles -- read this, but make you're sitting down first:
The Internet in its current state is not suitable for “direct consumption” by the average rural consumer. A physical book provides information as long as there is enough light to read. [In many rural villages electricity is only available for a few hours a day.] An Internet source of information requires the user to be aware of several technological notions that they don’t particularly care for.

One such example that I have witnessed is the difficulty in explaining to a new user the need to connect to the Internet before you can access information on the Internet.

Many users (both urban and rural) expect that, just like a TV or radio, a computer that is powered on must by definition be able to access the information they need. They have to be constantly reminded of the need to “connect” to the Internet even after powering on, and that the connection to the Internet could be lost at any point in time, in which case, they must reconnect.

-- from Sumedh Mungee's Rural Development II essay
So. For those Developeds who ask, "Well why can't we just get computerized voting into those rural areas?" -- the staggering cost aside, it ain't that simple, even for governments that are pushing for rural participation in the voting process. Yet the World Bank, in typical Bank fashion, has decided to throw the kitchen sink at the problem:
An international consortium, including Indian and American companies as well as the World Bank, is planning to establish thousands of rural Internet centers in India to bring government, banking and education services to isolated villages. [...]

The goal is to serve rural villages with populations of more than 5,000. Ultimately the plan calls for centers or kiosks in 5,000 villages in the state of Karnataka.*
On paper, the project sounds like a great idea. Here's the reality, as summed by Mungee in his first Rural Development essay:
What we need is not for a whole bunch of “digital divide experts” to drive into villages, set up kiosks and line up villagers and teach them. The moment the “experts” leave the village, the initiative starts to collapse under its own weight.

Instead what we need is to enable a do-it-yourself ecosystem that empowers tech-minded individuals in every village (they are there -- we have to learn to recognize them!) to start small shops, earn revenue, and educate their customers incrementally. ...
Mungee expands on this theme in Rural Development II:
How did rural India “learn” to make long distance telephone calls? Understanding the cost structure, long-distance phone codes and even just dialing long strings of numbers was once way beyond the reach of the average rural phone customer. Today the same villager is happily (and confidently) tapping out numbers on his cell phone.

This change was brought about by the youth who manned the earliest “STD booths” and patiently explained the costs and even helped village customers dial the numbers they wished to call.
If you read the Comment thread appended to the Rural Development essay, you will see that Pundita visits and makes a plea for more data. This was charitably answered by Radha:
Grassroots entrepreneurs or social business is what this is being called now and people have been thinking like this for some time now…look up

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. For the average Sushma on the dusty [village] streets of Panna, much of what is available on the Net does not apply to her context. There is still not enough local context, forget local language context.

If I sound pessimistic, believe me I’m not…just stating the reality. You see I can’t afford to be as this is my line of work…ICT and social development! An interesting programme that has just started [in India] is
Just so the term "local language context" doesn't fly past your long-term memory, I request my readers to visit the Tarahaat site. You will immediately run into a message requesting to insert some code on your computer. Ignore the message and wait. After a minute or so the site will appear -- in English. The request is directed at Indian readers -- India being a place where umpteen languages are spoken.

While you're at Tarahaat, move your mouse over the details in the painting of a typical Indian village, then keep reading. The painting itself is an education for readers who are not familiar with rural villages in undeveloped countries. The train in the background was of course a gift of the British empire, but the general layout of the village stretches back to the most ancient times -- including the village built around a large tree.

That painting is the world for many people around the globe. To bring them into the democratic process is the work of our era. Americans who chant "freedom and democracy" must become knowledgeable about the changes they're asking for in the world.

If we want real democracy, not a stage show or Potemkin Village form, we must understand in more detail what we're actually asking for. Else we're working blind. The idea of democracy has been accepted by many peoples. It's just how to get from here to there is the puzzling part. We need to put all the intelligence we can muster into solving the enormous logistical problems. Mungee's ideas are a step in the right direction, and deserve consideration from the international development community, including the World Bank.

Speaking of Potemkin Village Democracy, I have some weird good news. You have to know how Beijing thinks to see cause for rejoicing but without further introduction....whoops...Pundita is so piled up with reports we would lose her head if it wasn't screwed to our shoulders....well, we've misplaced the URL, which means we need to return to Simon World and track back from there. All right; not to build up suspense, but we did say we'd have this post up before noon. Tomorrow, then, or the day after for the good news, of sorts, from Mainland China.

The subtitle of this essay, "There is no box" is taken from Sumedh Mungee's elegant website. Although his theme is technology development, you might want to return for regular visits to read his thoughts on the intersection between cutting edge technology and rural development.

* The quote, from a New York Times report, is cited in Mungee's Rural Development essay. Click on the link I provided to bring up more quotes and a link to the entire Times report.

Saturday, June 25

Nigeria's anti-corruption commission delivers bad news for Commission for Africa

Here is a UK Telegraph news report £220bn stolen by Nigeria's corrupt rulers , filed today by reporter David Blair. I hope you find time to read the entire report but here are select passages:
The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria's past rulers stole or misused £220 billion.

That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa's most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent.

The figures, compiled by Nigeria's anti-corruption commission, provide dramatic evidence of the problems facing next month's summit in Gleneagles of the G8 group of wealthy countries which are under pressure to approve a programme of debt relief for Africa.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has spoken of a new Marshall Plan for Africa. But Nigeria's rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country's 130 million people -- one in seven of the total African population -- live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply.

With more people and more natural resources than any other African country, Nigeria is the key to the continent's success. [...]
ZenPundit alerted me to the news item last night with the droll comment, "Journalism gods smile on Pundita." It was his way of saying that my cautions about the Commission for Africa and views on widescale corruption in many governments had just received ample support.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish that I wasn't so right on such issues. Yet the news article is all the more reason for Americans to learn about and support The International Integrity Standard.

Many readers might be stunned to learn that one of the greatest obstacles to fighting corruption is the simple reason that there exist no objective criteria for measuring it! The IIS seeks to remedy that situation. But the people who are battling hardest against anti-corruption drives are not the corrupt rulers; they are the 'legitimate' business concerns that profit from contracts made with the rulers.

Many people believe that any attempt to fight such corruption is doomed to fail. The task can seem impossible but realize it's never been tackled with any real energy. That's because there have only been half-hearted measures to fight it, and an unwillingness on the part of governments worldwide to squarely face the issue. All that is changing rapidly.

Paul Wolfowitz, in his capacity as World Bank President, has named corruption as a threat equal to Communism. That's a signal the American government has faced reality. From the publication of Nigeria's report on corruption in their government, clearly Nigeria's government has also finally faced reality. The rest of the world must do the same, if the organizers of Live8 and planned marches on the Gleneagles summit are serious about "saving Africa."

Friday, June 24

Going Native and how to insult a killer bee (Don't try this in your back yard)

Pundita received letters in response to yesterday's post from some readers whose questions boiled down to asking how to thread the proverbial camel: How to teach people who are in denial about the downsides of their culture without causing them loss of dignity? How far should modern Western peoples go to imposing their values on those who don't share the same values?

These are thoughtful questions, particularly in light of Operation Muslim World Outreach, which marks the US decision to make it policy to help Muslim moderates reform and modernize their religion. And also in light of the Bush Democracy Doctrine, which many see as an attempt to impose Western and in particular American values on other peoples.

However, and with recognition of the readers' sincerity, the questions reveal the downside of the Age of Specialization, which now afflicts even kindergarten schooling in the modern Western culture. Frankly, the anthropological approach to analyzing human behavior has ultimate validity only if some of us weren't from this planet and arose from entirely different types of protoplasm. In that event, one would need disciplines such as anthropology and sociology to help bridge the psycho-epistemological gap.

This is not to dismiss the usefulness of such disciplines, which help us build a historical record of our race. But the disciplines have been over-applied; one downside is that Diversity sensitivity has run amok in policy decisions. Too much attention to diversity sets up a very powerful psychological screen, which makes it hard for us to perceive similarities between ourselves and peoples of vastly different cultures.

Diversity awareness has also been over-applied to diplomatic relations and development and aid policy. Time and again I have seen this phenomenon in action. Time and again, it prevents people who need to communicate about problems from finding the obvious and simple solution.

I first addressed this situation directly in The Enclave Mentality and the Oriental Stranger Syndrome, although it's a leitmotif in my writings. The essay outlines the complex prejudices and byways of human nature that arise when peoples from a powerful culture interact with those in a dependent culture, and how the resulting behaviors greatly impact foreign relations, including development policy.

In this essay I'll discuss what might seem to be the obverse of the Enclave Mentality, which is Going Native -- the latter being the scourge of the Western colonizers. If the Enclave Mentality prevents a resident foreign class from identifying with local peoples, Going Native represents a resident foreigner's over-identification with the locals.

I add that this can extend to peoples in a dominant culture over-identifying with an immigrant population or any distinct minority. However, that behavior should have a different label because Going Native specifically relates to conduct by people in a more powerful foreign resident class interacting with a weaker local population.

This said, the seemingly opposite Enclave Mentality and Going Native syndromes produce the same results, which often amount to ineffective and frequently bizarre approaches to problem solving. So while it's necessary to be aware of both syndromes and how they play out in foreign relations policy, formalized attempts to avoid the extremes tend to create their own bizarre situations.

The way out of the maze was alluded to in a reply that the Armenian-Russian mystic George Gurdjieff made to a disciple, who asked how she could learn to be more loving and compassionate toward all people.

Gurdjieff replied that it was a very big thing to learn to be more loving to all people so she should start small -- by practicing to be more compassionate with animals. He advised her to get a dog; if she could manage to treat a dog kindly even when she was in a bad mood, she could learn to transfer that to her relations with humans.

That advice is the key to understanding many things. The more you learn about animal behavior -- and even the behavior of lower life forms -- the easier it is to see the many fine and subtle similarities between humans of vastly different cultures.

For example, if you take it down to the level of say, a cockroach, you'd be amazed to learn that they share psychological traits with humans. For example, it's well established that 'bad boy' males are very attractive to female humans. For some unknown reason, the bad boys bring out the mothering instinct in many women.

It's the same in the world of cockroaches. Scientists have learned from observation that there are 'bad boy' cockroaches -- they run around and bully other male cockroaches, display fickle behavior towards the females, but these are the males who are the most popular with female cockroaches. Go figure.

Pundita has a story to top that one, but I want the reader to promise not to attempt to replicate the results. On second thought, I want to consider before telling the story because as soon as you warn certain types not to do something, they go right out and do it.

Of course you don't want to get carried away with identifying with lower life forms, but a lot of the wisdom we have collected over the millennia about how to deal with each other is based on observing wildlife. Consider the warnings we give about 'human snakes,' human vultures, and so on. Now that there isn't much wildlife to observe in our daily lives, we're tending to lose that wisdom, or at least not pay much attention to it.

Yet the wisdom speaks to atavistic traits that are shared by all humans. All humans know how to use guile, all humans experience envy and pride, resent a know-it-all, display impatience, and so on. Humans share a vast array of subtle traits. The gestalt we call human nature.

The double-edged sword of modern Western culture is its great reliance on idealism, which is based on systems of morality and gives precedence to conscience. This idealism has a great civilizing effect but because it deals greatly with abstractions, here is where you run into the 'babble of tongues' and the confusion it engenders. This is where the need for painstaking study of other cultures comes in, and the need for great precision at translating concepts.

Whereas systems of conduct that give precedence to the foibles of human nature create less confusion. This is because they deal with more concrete concepts that are universally understood. Idealism and its high abstractions tend to ignore or run roughshod over the universally understood foibles when it comes to building bridges of communication.

I interject there have been attempts to meld both systems; George Gurdjieff's teachings being perhaps the most well known of these. But his teachings were designed to be a mystical path -- a means to expanding consciousness and strengthening the impulse of faith. He wasn't interested in applying his system to foreign relations.

To put all this into an example, an American Christian got into an altercation with a Palestinian Muslim guard at the site of a Christian landmark in Jerusalem. This was post 9/11, during a time of great tenseness in the city due to fighting and terror attacks. There were very few tourists and foreign pilgrims at that time.

In typical American 'buddy' fashion the American put his arm around an American female companion for a photograph in front of the landmark. The guard told him it was forbidden for males to touch females. The American got outraged. By the time they got finished going at each other they were reliving the Crusades. It ended with the American not getting his photograph.

When I heard the story I asked the guy, "Did it ever occur to you that the guard had his hand out?"

No. It had never entered his mind. He looked at the guard's remark from a purely idealistic viewpoint -- human rights, gender equality, etc.

But if you put that American guy in front of an American national monument with an American guard saying you can't take a photo, what's the first thought that comes to mind? The guard is invoking a technical rule because he wants a tip.

Now put yourself in the Muslim guard's place. Business had been really bad in Jerusalem for many months for guards, tour guides and trinket sellers. Here comes an American = $$ on the hoof. You see a chance for a little profit when you can use your authority to invoke a technical rule.

I don't have a crystal ball so I can't say what the guard's real intention was; however, my view of that situation is an example of thinking according to a system of conduct that is grounded in human nature. The American's approach is an example of an idealist-based system.

In truth it takes both, if you want to help people evolve their primitive practices and if you want to teach the highly abstract concept of democratic government. And if you want to project a foreign policy that is actually 'heard' in many parts of the world.

Stopping to look at things from both angles takes practice. But as with anything else, with practice a way of thinking becomes second nature. That's what you want to head for, if you want to thread the camel. And if you want to steer clear of the poles of behavior represented by the Enclave Mentality and Going Native.

Going Native is no joke because it has elements of the Stockholm Syndrome -- I repeat, elements. They probably have different psychological roots, but the end result is pretty much the same. You develop an identification with another that goes beyond normal sympathy and empathy. Then you start imitating the behavior of the other and/or find tolerance for behaviors that you'd otherwise reject. That's how it can end up that highly civilized moral people tolerate barbaric practices.

I don't know how the French and Spanish imperialists warded off the syndrome, beyond removing the worst offenders from their posts and sending them home to get their head straight again. But the British stationed in foreign lands developed very elaborate social rituals for warding off Going Native, including ostracizing British who didn't want to join in the ritual belittling of the Native population.

Of course much of the belittling was genuine but it was also a literal ritual -- a kind of test to make sure you still remembered who you were, your own culture, and that you continued to see its value.

Readers who never ran up against this syndrome can find roughly parallel situations in their daily lives. We've all met an athletic coach or boss, etc., who identifies too much with the group he or she is supposed to be helping or administering to.

That's how a lot of Western businesspeople, including journalists, come to be functionally blind to the extent to which they tolerate behaviors in foreign government officials, etc. -- behaviors they wouldn't tolerate in their own country.

That's also how they end up unable to muster a vigorous defense for their own culture, including democracy, respect for minority rights, gender equality, and so on. They begin to compartmentalize their beliefs. That is a slippery slope, which leads to the phenomenon the British dubbed Going Native.

Someone once observed, "The less conscience, the more laws required." In the same manner, the less attention we pay to human nature, the more we need to rely on highly specialized knowledge in our dealings with people from other lands. There is a time and place for such knowledge, but if it's used as a substitute for dealing with human nature, it is a roadblock to better foreign relations.

After mulling it over, Pundita thinks she will save the telling of the killer bee story for another time.

Thursday, June 23

Muslim Brotherhood: a skeleton in America's closet, and the decay of British culture

(6/27: See Pundita replies to questions... for my response to questions and critical comments about this essay.)

Because Pundita does not have a Comment section I try to avoid inserting comments on other blogs; however, on occasion I break my self-imposed rule. This is by way of explaining how I landed in a debate about Condoleezza Rice's statement in Cairo on Monday that she would not meet with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood -- the largest (outlawed) opposition party in Egypt. Her statement set off a firestorm of criticism.(1)

For the complete account of Pundita's adventure, visit ZenPundit (Mark Safranski) to read the Comment Section and the very short essay that prompted Pundita to add her two cents' worth.

My original comments (including the remark that the Muslim Brotherhood "developed a 'rap' that is meant to appeal to Euros still clinging to the idea that Tehran is not a terror sponsor") greatly incensed another ZenPundit reader, who identifies himself as Collunsbury, and who is a businessman based in Morocco:
[Quoting Pundita] I understand the part about contradiction but to talk w/ Muslim Brotherhood is akin to formally recognizing the Nazi Party

This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen written.

The Muslim Brotherhood is by no means comparable to the Nazi Party, and whatever simple minded analysis that has "bad guys" being untouchable simply doesn't have the first bloody clue about the region. Then I have read "Pundita" rather bizarre posturing on MENA [Middle East-North Africa] before so I can't say this is suprising. Not even the idiotic "Euro" slur.
After making my original comment and adding a reply to Mark's response, I promptly forgot about the comment thread. I didn't check back until yesterday afternoon, when I found Collunsbury's comments. So this is how we learn that if one starts something on the blogosphere one should keep tending to it. Pundita then leaped to amend her oversight:

"Clearly, Collunsbury is under the wrong impression that I was making a 'comparison' between the Nazi Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. I did not go into detail because I assumed that ZenPundit's readers are well-informed enough to know that the Muslim Brotherhood is the remnant of the Nazi Party in Egypt. Declassified US intelligence documents (declassified years before 9/11) and much other evidence makes this statement inarguable.(2)

"However, the Muslim Brotherhood is but one in a long list of examples that showed the downside of CIA reliance on guidance from MI6, which convinced the US that it would be a splendid idea to support the Muslim Brotherhood. This is for reasons clearly understood only by avid students of the Cold War and the barking mad.

"As with so many other movements the CIA supported during the Cold War, the MB is another of America's Frankensteins -- or chickens come to roost, if one prefers."

Pundita does not belong to the Scorched Earth school of rebuttal. And because I'm aware of the consistently lousy reporting of the European and American press available to people in Morocco about the war on terror, I did not address Collunsbury's remark that my "Euro" comment was a slur.

However, my charitable attitude was before I exchanged emails with Steve at The Word Unheard. I thanked him for keeping tabs on a situation that received virtually no attention in the mainstream media, which is the phony polling places for the Iran election set up in the USA by the mullathugs. For his part Steve informed me that Media Slander is charging once more into the breach.

At the mention of Linda Foley's name Pundita plunged into a dark mood. It's not so much that Foley accused the US military of deliberately targeting and killing journalists; such accusations are to be expected these days from the head of an American newspaper guild. It's her habit of labeling those who disagree with her as being part of a vast right wing conspiracy that sets me off.

Pundita is not a perfect person. When we get into these moods, generally we only snap out of it after we say something mean, such as accuse the raccoon of being a Trotskyite. But having been deserted again by my team, I had to cast around for another victim. Condoleezza Rice conducted herself so well this week that this temporarily left the State Department off my usual hook, which left the British.

I recalled Lyndon La Roche's memorandum, which I'd been saving for years for just such an occasion. If Collunsbury thinks Pundita slurred the Europeans by noting some cling to the idea that Tehran is not a sponsor of terrorism, he should try this slur on for size:

In January 2000 Lyndon H. LaRouche wrote a letter for presentation to then-US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. The letter is a request "to launch an investigation, pursuant to placing Great Britain on the list of states sponsoring terrorism."

With some understatement, Mr La Rouche and his organization are controversial. And, seen from the vantage point of the year 2000, his request is laughable -- until one reads through the list of reasons he provides for making the request. Seen from the vantage point of today, the only thing laughable is that the incidents he cites just skim the surface of the cesspool that Britain -- and the rest of West Europe -- had become.

Seen from the vantage point of today, it is a tragedy for the civilized world that Secretary Albright did not act on La Roche's memorandum. By 2000, Great Britain -- not Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Libya, Yemen or Syria -- had become the biggest exporter of state-supported terrorism.

Yet the memorandum does not explain how a once-great civilization descended to such depths. The only clue, perhaps, is found in the lack of vigorous response to George Galloway's ringing defense of terrorism. (Yes, this is the same George Galloway who recently appeared before a US congressional panel investigating the UN Oil for Food Program, and who lambasted the US for the invasion of Iraq):
On Jan. 25, 1997, Tory Member of Parliament Nigel Waterson introduced legislation to ban foreign terrorists from operating on British soil. His "Conspiracy and Incitement Bill," according to his press release, would have for the first time banned British residents from plotting and conducting terrorist operations overseas.

Waterson proposed the bill in the aftermath of a scandal over Britain providing safe haven for Saudi terrorist Mohammed al-Massari, who claimed credit for the bombing of U.S. military sites in Saudi Arabia in June 1996.

On Feb. 14, 1997, Labour MP George Galloway succeeded in blocking Waterson's bill from getting out of committee.

Galloway, in a speech before the committee that was printed in the House of Commons official proceedings, stated, "The Bill will change political asylum in this country in a profound and dangerous way. It will change a state of affairs that has existed since Napoleon's time. . . . We are all in favor of controlling terrorism in Britain. Surely not a single honorable Member has any truck with terrorism here, but we are talking about terrorism in other countries. . . .

"The legislation is rushed in response to a specific, and, for the government, highly embarrassing refugee case--that of Professor al-Massari, who was a thorn in the side of the government of Saudi Arabia. . . .

"By definition, a tyranny can be removed only by extraordinary measures. Inevitably, in conditions of extreme repression, the leadership of such movements will gravitate to countries such as ours where freedom and liberty prevail.

"The bill will criminalize such people, even though they have not broken any law in Britain or caused any harm to the Queen's peace in her realm. They will fall open to prosecution in this country under the Bill because they are inciting, supporting, or organizing events in distant tyrannies, which are clearly offenses under the laws of such tyrants."
I'm trying to understand how the British came to despise their own culture to such extent that they refused to Anglicize those who came there as immigrants.

Or perhaps they despised the Arab and African tribal peoples who came as immigrants. Perhaps the British considered the peoples so beneath the radar of civilization that to attempt to integrate them into the culture would be an affront to British history.

Yet what is beyond my ability to conjure is how the British came to accept the ideas that terrorism is the only means by which tyranny can be undone, and that their country should practice a grotesque double standard: provided the terrorists were not attacking the British, it was okay if they attacked even Britain's closest ally.

Mr. La Rouche's memorandum provides no answer. So I return to Collunsbury's third argument for the US recognizing the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Ikhouane have in the past dabbled in terror and/or armed opposition. Who can bloody well blame them, given the bankruptcy of the regimes in question? The world is a rough place, and realists should not be afraid of a stupid word, "terrorism."
Collunsbury is uninformed about the present activities and intent of the brotherhood's leaders. But this aside, clearly he does not perceive as terrorism the practice of sawing off a female child's clitoris for the express purpose of robbing her of sexual pleasure in adulthood. Or the act of burying a child in the ground up to the neck, then picking up stones and hurling them at the child's head until it is pulp; this done for offenses so minor among civilized peoples they don't even amount to a prank.

Barbaric tribal practices one can understand -- they are ghastly but at least comprehensible acts rooted in humankind's primitive past. But that this primitivism should be tolerated, accorded the rank of civilized behavior in the modern era by the British culture, speaks of an evil nearly beyond comprehension. It is an evil that threatens the survival of the human race. So if you find yourself wondering how someone such as Collunsbury can shrug off terrorism as "realism," go ask the British for the answer.(3)

After writing the above words and putting a link to Media Slander on the Pundita sidebar, I feel much better.

(1) For background and an analysis of the controversy, read yesterday's Washington Post article, Rice's Unwillingness to Cross Lines May Have Limited Mideast Trip.

(2) A few minutes later I added a postscript:

"Whoops - correction: the documents might not have been declassified until after 9/11. To the best of my knowledge (admittedly, not expert in this area) all the US intel relating to the situation under discussion was supposed to remain classified until 2015 and surely several documents relating to MI6-CIA and Muslim Brotherhood remain classified."

I picked up on the 2015 date after reading a posting at the Warriors for Truth website, which cites John Loftus as a source for comments about the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood, Nazi Party, CIA and MI6.

I add that the WFT posting only skims the surface about the connection between the CIA's post-WW2 involvement with remnants of the Nazi party and their decision that the MB could be useful to American interests in the region at that time.

I cannot fathom the use the CIA and MI6 found for Nazis; however, as with the US decision to arm and train mujaheeden fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, there might have been a perceivable logic during the Cold War to the CIA's nurturing of Nazi Party members hanging out in the Middle East. Yet once loosing the hounds of hell, one does have an obligation to keep minding them. Yet as with the mujahadeen, CIA minding of the brotherhood drifted then ended, leaving the hounds to work out their karma, so to speak. This has caused no end of trouble for the USA, not to mention the Muslim Middle East, Israel, and the European and African continents.

(3) For tips on how to reassert the views of Western civilization without touching off another Crusade, see 6/25 Pundita essay, Going Native and how to insult a killer bee....


Wednesday, June 22

China's anti-democracy foreign policy: The fight of our lives

"Dear Pundita:
I just want to say thank you so much for the thinking and writing you do on your blog. I'm thoroughly enjoying your discussion with Simon. My 'circle' and I are thrilled to read sites like yours, Simon's, Rebecca MacKinnon's and others who are putting serious, nonpolitical thought into these issues.

Regarding your comments about natural disasters, I am thinking about China and North Korea and the African continent; I tend to forget just how influential natural disasters can be when it comes to policy.

I pretty much agree with the Bush idea of the domino theory of democracy. After reading your ["Yes and Back Again"] post, where you talk about the more countries that make a try at democracy reforms the easier it is for even more to try it -- what do you see as the tipping point?

I'm also curious if you've thought or written much about the effects of 9/11 and the resulting Bush doctrine in say, a quarter century. What are the chances we'll be looking back at this time as one of the biggest revolutions in terms of real changes for the better for the greatest number of people?

Another topic that fascinates me is the factor of technology in the spreading of "freedom" in places like North Korea and China. Have you written on that?

I guess I'm an optimist in that I see capitalism as inevitably leading to more democracy. Your writing helps me understand more of the issues better.
Beth in the Midwest"

Dear Beth:
I'm not going to sugarcoat this. We're in for the fight of our lives. This is because in many cases we're trying not so much to institute democracy as undo conditions we set in motion during the Cold War. But first some review. And to clarify for overseas readers, by 'we' I mean the American people because in a democracy the government is the will of the people. So we don't have the luxury of calling our government 'them' when we have to confront past mistakes.

In one sentence, the US position during the struggle against the Soviet Union pitted the US against genuine democracy. The reasoning was that a genuine democracy in many parts of the world would vote in pro-Communist governments; ergo, such governments would ally themselves with the Soviets. Ergo, genuine democracy had to be suppressed at every turn in key regions.

I interject for young readers that the above should not be interpreted as recrimination. It was the way things were. The US was engaged in a cold war; not to have engaged with the Soviets would have created conditions far worse than we find today.

However, we can't work out effective pro-democracy strategies unless we confront the fact that it's much harder to tear down and rebuild than to start from scratch.

So Condoleezza Rice's Cairo Speech was very important, very necessary; it was a landmark speech because it squarely acknowledged the past. One can't move forward without noting how one got to the present.

However, the task before us is daunting. This is because we're having to undo the conditions during a very difficult time. Not only are we engaged in a hot war and facing the Arab Problem, but we're also up against America's Frankenstein, which is China. China is actively working against the Bush Democracy Doctrine at every turn -- in Asia, in Africa, in 'Latin' America, in the Middle East.

Beijing has a formal anti-democracy foreign policy, which meshes perfectly with the anti-democracy arguments posed by Islamic fundamentalists and their militant wings. They actively support any government that is trying to suppress democracy movements and organized opposition to a tyranny.

The policy is engineered and overseen by China's military and fully backed by China's business community. So this policy is not the brainchild and sole property of the CCP clique in Beijing. The anti-democracy policy has four aspects, one of which arose in the post-9/11 era.

1) Geostrategic -- a means to challenge America's hegemony.

2) Survival pragmatism. China's bottom line is that they must go outside their land to purchase huge quantities of critical natural resources and they must compete with other countries for those purchases. This often calls for negotiations with dictatorships and supporting the tyrants' line at the UN.

China's permanent seat on the UN Security Council gives them tremendous power to block censure measures directed at tyrannies. Indeed, without much in the way of natural resources to trade, China's UNSC seat is a big playing card.

3) Divestment. Just as long-established crime families in the US began to divest criminal enterprises during the 1980s and settle for a cut of profits, China's government has been divesting ever since they joined the WTO -- WTO membership meaning closer international scrutiny.

China became International Crime, Inc. during the Cold War. Their crime syndicates had the advantage over the Yakuza because the Chinese versions had the full support of the Chinese military and CCP government. Many of the world's narco states and narco-terrorist movements were set up by the Chinese and run by them. And much of the early Shanghai Miracle was factories that processed dope and made counterfeit products -- often with startup funds from siphoning money from development loans.

They're trying to divest the dope factories and at least some of the counterfeit manufacturing. This means any government in the world looking for large infusions of hard currency is a target for China's offshoring enterprises, shall we call them. These enterprises include manufacturing material for nuclear weapons/dual-use for export to any regime with the money to buy.

4) China's leaders view the Bush Democracy Doctrine as a signal that the US government is taking a harder attitude against China's regime and that the hard line will only increase.

If you put the four factors together, it's easy to understand why some observers are seeing a new cold war developing, along the lines of the struggle against the Soviets. However, the situation is completely different; e.g., the Soviets did not hold US debt. And American businesses didn't depend on cheap Soviet labor to help US companies stay competitive in global markets. The Cold War was a pre-globalization struggle.

One might take a philosophical view about China's anti-democracy policy, given the interconnectedness of today's trade. After all, China remains heavily dependent on American help and trade. So in theory (so the argument goes), the Chinese are limited in how much they can work against the US.

And many in the West strive to put China's tyranny in a historical perspective. China's growing middle class is interpreted as a sign of progress (so the argument goes), which will eventually lead to liberalization of government policies.

Both arguments view China in a vacuum -- disconnected from their foreign policy and geostrategic aims. And they overlook the single most important factor in China's success story. To the extent that China a success, it has been carried there on the back of Western democracies. How much they've been carried is not understood by people who don't know of the huge role that the World Bank played in helping China -- a role that was pushed hard by the US government.

To their credit, the Chinese made much better use of the help than Russia and other FSU countries. But China's claims that their dictatorship is compatible with democratic capitalism, and that autocratic government is a key to success in many developing countries, are lies.

Yet it's just those lies that China has developed into an argument against democracy. It's an argument they are pushing everywhere in the world that they can.

So that is why I think of China as our Frankenstein. America did not make the Soviet enemy. To the extent that China is an enemy, that's our creation in large measure. As to how we're going to reprogram our creation -- got any suggestions?

If America's European allies showed a united front in criticizing China's support of dictatorships, that would cause China's leaders to review because they are very concerned about maintaining Face on the international stage. However, our allies can't even show a united front about Tehran's regime, which poses clear and present danger to Europe as well as America.

All the above is by way of saying that it's too early to ponder a tipping point for democracy in any region. Everywhere a situation might appear near to tipping, the Islamic radicals (backed by big money from oil despots) and China's government will race in and attempt to push back the tip.

Any pressure the US puts on the oil despots can be offset by China rushing in to make up the shortfall. For example, if the US put sanctions against Saudi Arabia or even cuts out all oil purchases, China will rush in and make the buys and support the Saudi regime. That's the way things are.

With regard to your question about the use of technology in the spreading of "freedom" in places like North Korea and China, I touched on the issue in Democracy Stage Show Kit and a rebuttal to criticism of the essay. (See the links under the Pundita sidebar category "Phony Democracy"). And I mentioned the issue in the Riots in China... essay, which was written after I received your letter.

When one thinks about it, there is no way to have anything but a 'stage show' national democratic government in many regions of the world. This is because rural peoples (often the vast majority of the population) don't have access to the means that allow democratic peoples in developed nations to participate in the voting/campaign process.

The World Bank has recognized the problem but in typical fashion the Bank has turned to the Juggernaut approach to problem-solving. So while the operation might be successful, it's open to question whether the patient will survive! I'll discuss that situation in tomorrow's post.

I was delighted to discover Rebecca MacKinnon's blog, RConversations. I note that I found her blog via a link in one of the essays you wrote for your web log. From what I've read, she is doing good work at reporting on the connection between democracy movements and media freedom. (* 1:20 PM - see the caveat, below)

A note about your kind comments: The blogosphere gods tend to inflict brain furballs -- or worse, Rugby -- on Pundita when she displays a puffy head, so generally I delete praise from letters I publish. However, I'm sure Simon will appreciate your thoughtful praise; I know I do. Cross-blogging is time consuming -- time being the most precious thing for serious bloggers (for those readers who don't blog). So the project, which spanned days, was -- well, a project, in addition to our routine blogging chores.

Until tomorrow, then.

I will let the note about Rebecca MacKinnon stand, as a grim reminder to myself to carefully read a blog, at least for a several days, before providing an unqualified recommendation to Pundita readers. MacKinnon's latest post (June 22) reveals that she has gotten herself embroiled in the kind of argument that in an earlier century caused droves of Catholics to flee to the Protestant faith:

"I agree, China is better off -- and the future of democracy in China is better off -- thanks to the existence of Cisco routers in China. But to me, there is an important difference between selling routers to China and providing software services to China in general -- with the understanding that one can't control how the technology ultimately gets used -- and the sale of technology directly to Chinese government entities whose intentions are rather obvious."

This would be the same important difference as making a sharp distinction between the number of seraphim and cherubim that can be stuffed on the head of a pin. By what leap of blind faith does MacKinnon assume the future of democracy in China is better off, after her nine years of living in China and observing how " created by foreign trade and investment have vastly improved the lives of urban Chinese, helped create a nascent middle class, and helped millions of Chinese gain much greater control over their lives because they're no longer economically dependent on the government?"

Rebecca MacKinnon's muddled view, which sees a cause-and-effect relationship between growing affluence and embrace of democracy, only underscores my observation that China is America's Frankenstein.

This said, MacKinnon is indeed doing good work at reporting on the issue of media freedom in China and thus, with warnings and imprecations, I recommend her site as a source for raw data on the widening debate about China's suppression of many blogs.

Tuesday, June 21

Franco-German Axis and Washington's emerging US-centric policy

(This essay should be subtitled Pretentious Report Titles are Catching. Don't be afraid.)

Note to reader: Featuring PINR on this blog should not be taken as agreement with all PINR reports or their POV.

The Power and Interest News Report (PINR)* or "Poor Person's Stratfor," as Pundita thinks of them (their reports are free!), has published a report titled, The Coming World Realignment.

I think it's closer to the truth that the report outlines the early steps to create a US foreign policy that while not ignoring NATO puts America first in US foreign policy. This means that US foreign relations policy has finally emerged from the Cold War period and its postoperative stage, which was still hyperfocused on Eastern Europe and in particular Russia.

In short, for American students of foreign policy, this report is the best news you've had so far this century. The report gathers mention of many trends that have been emerging in the post 9/11 era; it gives serious grounds for hope that the US administration and State are now striving to avoid the trap of the Cold War, which hyperfocused attention on the Soviet regions and looked at the rest of the world almost purely in terms of the Cold War.

The 9/11 attack threatened to hyperfocus attention on the Middle East. It is clear from the PINR report that we're seeing hope for a balanced view of the modern world emerging in the White House and the US Department of State.

It's all connected, these days. One can't hyperfocus on any region; one must focus on how all the regions interact in relation to the United States -- and how these interactions affect American defense and trade interests and standing in the world community.

And certainly, one can't hope to hang US strategic interests on global trade or an urge to merge with European Union interests -- or the interests of any regional trading bloc. We've lived and we've learned this lesson the hard way. Now the page is turned; a new chapter is being written in US history.

For their part, the Europeans have also lived and learned. A new chapter is being written in their history also. Pundita does not see the quarrels that have broken out in the wake of the "No!" votes as a crisis for Europe. I see the situation as a sign of emerging recognition in Europe that they tried to tried to base integration around the limitations in NATO.

Yet the concepts for EU integration, as codified in the EU Constitution, were based on a model that has been undergoing rapid revision in America's post-9/11 era. NATO itself is changing rapidly, reflecting the recalibrated, globalized view of American foreign policy.

Pundita readers can gain a clear picture of this aspect of Europe's situation by reading another somewhat pretentiously (and ominously) titled PINR report, 'An Assessment of the Franco-German Axis and the United States.

I should add that you shouldn't let the titles put you off; both reports are short and written in clear, unfusty language (reflecting perhaps, the demands of military and business readers who have no patience with ritual academic Policy Org writing).

The heart of the problem is alluded to in this passage, which will come as news to many American readers:
" the winter of 1995-96, Chirac failed to upgrade the Franco-American relationship because even if France accepted her reintegration into N.A.T.O.'s commandment, Washington didn't allow a European to become head of Allied Forces Southern Europe.

N.A.T.O., and not the Western European Union (as Paris hoped in the early '90s), is nowadays at the heart of the European security architecture, as can be read in the E.U. Constitutional Treaty, whereas a common European defense, although existing, only has limited, regional, projection power."
The limitations on Europe in the NATO chain of command point to the problem for Europe:

Without effective firepower behind it, foreign policy is not worth squat. The EU leaders were trying to build up the concept of a continental nation and continent-wide foreign policy around somebody else's military -- while at the same time circumventing the NATO elephant in their living room.

To boil it down, the EU leaders tried to leapfrog too many steps. So now they have to retrace and rethink -- based on the present, not on the world as it existed when the concepts underlying the EU Constitution were hammered out.

Now what, if anything, does all this have to do with the upcoming elections in Germany? Pundita suspects it has a lot to do with luck.

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has taken a seeming gamble by calling for early elections, which pit him against Angela Merkel. Merkel is the new darling of the American Right because her views on government hearken to those expressed by Margaret Thatcher.

And Merkel is surely seen by the Bush administration as the best hope for restoring good diplomatic relations between the US and Germany. However, we shouldn't get our hopes up because Schröder is one of those enormously lucky politicians. He is also a very smart tactician who knows how to squeeze every iota of advantage from luck that comes his way.

He's got a lame duck government so it seems he was thinking that by calling early elections, he might maneuver Merkel into the role of Simon Legree; that would make his administration look good by comparison. Admittedly, a big gamble. Then a piece of luck came his way: the storm that's arisen over the "No!" votes!

Do you realize this will be the second time a storm has arisen on the European continent -- at just the moment when Schröder's fortunes are looking bleakest?
He pulled a rabbit out of the hat the last time because of his great handling of the crises that arose from horrifically bad weather in Germany. That allowed him to squeak through.

If he pulls it off again Pundita will nickname him Chancellor Houdini.

Pulling it off might translate to steering EU discussion about the Constitution into productive channels. So the runup to the German elections bears watching from this side of the Pond. For those new to the situation, or just wanting to brush up, start with the pithy Euractiv report, German elections in autumn: good for Lisbon agenda, bad for budget and Turkey?.

Next, I am putting you in the able hands of an American blogger, Marc Schulman at American Future :

"Dear Marc:
After reading your pieces on Merkel -- may I ask whether you will 'specialize' in following that election? If so, I'd like to note it to my readers. I know there are European blogs that talk about the upcoming election but I'd rather have an American perspective for my readers.

"Good Morning, Pundita.
Yes, I do plan on majoring in the German election, as it represents a potential turning point in Transatlantic relations and Franco-German relations (and, therefore, in the EU).

Here are the urls (chronologically) of three recent posts:

The Wall Street Journal notes how much Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy have in common [Pundita has omitted this post because WSJ is subscription only]:
What To Expect from Merkel (by guest blogger Karen White).
Merkel = Thatcher, by the editor of Germany's Handelsblatt."

Thank you, Marc.

Well, that is quite enough reading material for one day from Pundita!

* From their website: "The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader."