July 31, 2007

Anti-americanism and ignorance

In our present era, a large number of public writers and commentators are making anti-Americanism a fashionable concept, as if it were something new, which evidently it is not. What strikes me, is the self-styled veracity with which critics of America champion the view. I am not just referring to, for example, the European intellectual club as lead by the French who have, in the past, made it akin to a religion of sorts, or, as University of Michigan philosopher A. Markovits argues, “something that binds together European intellectuals like a lingua franca".

Everything bad in the world is American or so they say. This resentment of U.S. Hegemon contains hostility toward its culture and a yearning to see it (America) fail. Perceived American vices include vulgarity, materialism, excessive confidence, aggression, gun happy, too religious and chauvinistic and big headed.

Critics shout their message from both the left and the right with the former often declaring the U.S. as vulgar, imperialist, war mongering and a capitalist marauder. American power is feared and distrusted and it is noteworthy that participants on both ends of the ideological pendulum are opposed to the spread of its culture – that is language, film, fast food, management theories and styles and industrial relations techniques. The antagonism emanates from many quarters includes Muslims, Orthodox Jews, cultural critics and anti modernizers. Indeed, are Americans currently the least loved people in the world?

Perplexing too how so many people of the street are swift to hate the American way, but run to embrace just about every modern offering that, in the first instance was invented and exported by Americans; a list of modern amenities too numerous too mention here.

Recently, whilst having lunch with a group of work mates in a new shopping mall food court, I suggested how I would not mind spending a few years living in the States. Some of the replies truly confounded, “why would you want to go there, look at what’s here”, said one animatedly, whilst pointing at the massive glass atrium that encased us. Added another and in the same context, "check out the conveniences” referring to the new wide supermarket check outs with there brightly lit LCD screens above the registers. The conviction with which these comments (and more) were made suggested that they believed such services and public amenities were not widely available to Americans.

I felt like shouting something like, “Hello, has it occurred to anyone that supermarkets and modern self serve shopping isles and the whole retail concept that we enjoy the world over was first enjoyed by Americans early last century and that shopping malls were a post World War II innovation again in the States”? Of course, I didn’t say any of this but did mention that "Safeway was in fact an American chain" and that brand names we know so well such as Dove, OMO, Colgate, Lux, Ponds, Rexona and Sunsilk (I actually ran through many more) were also American. I found it amazing that some were not were not sure whether to believe me. Perhaps America’s soft power exports such as film, language, music, computers and home office technology, advertising and all the elements of modern American culture should come with a removable tag reading “made in America” as a way of selling itself and perhaps more importantly, to educate.

As I assumed the role of observer, I noted as one tried to show off his new communication toy, whilst the others were busy discussing there favorite TV programs, shows like Ugly Betty, Boston Legal, Brothers and Sisters and CSI ... surprise surprise!

And my friends new toy? A Blackberry, of course…

Link: Brands in an age of Anti-Americanism

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July 27, 2007

From radical to liberal Islam – Is intrinsic change possible?

Several years ago, I wrote a short piece whilst at University whose topic was ‘change’. Upon reading it once again recently, I got to thinking about how it might apply to personal change in relation to religious doctrine and beliefs, not just adaptation but rather, deep seated and cultural transformation among Muslims living for example, in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

I refer to the tens of thousands of Muslims that form part of our communities and in particular, what proportion of them may harbour radical elements of their faith. Studies reveal that a small but significant segment not only sympathise with their radical colleagues but have a propensity to consider and carry out violent acts against westerners in spite of an entire lifetime living amongst and appearing to outwardly enjoy the benefits of the societies in which they reside. How could this be? I should add that the percentage of Islamists who pose a danger to their communities within for example, the United States would be very, very small, perhaps minuscule, but as we noted with the London bombings and the 9/11 attacks it does not take many to inflict harm on a massive scale.

I am specifically interested in those who have this radical susceptibility to which I refer and whether, through years of immersion within western culture, they can change in a fundamental sense, moving away from considerations of the extreme or moderately fanatical elements of Islamic thought - moving therefore, from radical to liberal Islam.

It poses a question, does ones external environment and the behavioural modifications and modes of personal conduct associated with such, lead to permanent change. I guess we need to consider the question of change as it relates to the common oxford definition, one that refers to a person 'making or becoming different', because of environmental factors. This obliges me to consider that age-old concept of modernism, in particular, the modernist concept of a 'true (constant) self'.

I am of the opinion that participation within our way of life does indeed involve being changed and changing oneself however, the change is not intrinsic, and accordingly, the modernism concept of a 'true self' is compelling.

I do not wish to delve into comprehensive considerations about “concepts of self”, as one could write a thesis in this area alone; it is easier then, to restrict the discussion to the more discernible elements of Muslims within our social order.

All societies have unique characteristics that provoke different thoughts and subsequent actions amongst it participants. They also all have there own grand and historical elements that present a multifaceted culture both as a whole and within its parts. Even as there are various consistencies and diffusion amongst different groups, disciplines, and sub-cultures, a person (in this case Muslim) may at least, be influenced by a society’s ‘different norms and values’ … ‘patterns of power and authority’ … ‘different standards’ … [and] ‘modes of expression’ (Kolb, David, 1981 p.233). The influence of a society is exacted circuitously upon individuals through the processes and norms of its institutions and this represents but one way that a culture, exacts change (the accepted social order) upon partakers. Whether this influence inhibits or promotes real change toward westernisation, depends on the person’s disposition and worldview (the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world), and we know how much this can vary between different cultures and religions. At another level, the extent of change, obligatory or otherwise, will contrast amongst individuals again depending on their worldview, (which also includes their deep seated beliefs), but also made subjective by their education, specifically the disciplines one may study. Incidentally, education of even the highest standards does not; in itself guarantee to purge ones deep-seated and fundamental beliefs.

Of course one can also mount a plausible contrasting argument on the belief that any modifications of behaviour as a result of environmental factors are in fact indicative of real and lasting change, arguing that humans are ‘fragmented’, ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’; that ones experiences lend to the construction of self – classic post modernism, (this is in contrast to modernism views expressed and defined with terms such as, 'fixed' and having a 'true', 'unified', and essential self). Uncertainties in relation to which concept of self applies arise when one acknowledges the difference in human modes of conduct, in differing life roles. We may be one self as a mother, sister, or brother, a different self as an employee and different again depending on our roles. The different contexts create a problem, thus we mistakenly confuse behavioural changes and environmentally induced responses with concepts of self, believing that they are more representative of Post Modernism thinking. Here I cannot agree, imagine if you will moving to a strictly Muslim nation, behaviorally you may present differently but can you really expect to discard all that you have been, all that has been indoctrinated into your being through socialisation and guardians over time within your home culture? Will your fundamental worldview shift at all, let alone profoundly?

Like all humans, Muslims aspire to certain universal attributes of character and whilst these may differ amongst them, the majority (like all of us) seek to be content, happy, and good as based around an established worldview (and self) that minimally takes into account race, gender, class, geography and present and past cultures that they, may have experienced. There is a lot to take into account hence, this needs to be considered as part of our attempt to understand the inner beliefs and ruminations of the radical Islamist and the depth of hatred toward anyone whose beliefs run contrary.

The process of being changed and changing as a person lends to the exploration of feelings of, and about life goals and purpose. Thus membership and participation in our, or indeed any society/culture facilitates and contributes to a process whereby, 'the meaning of … personal directions' is explored thus guiding the person toward that which is the essential, already constructed self, so as to move toward, ' … that self which one already is' (Rogers, Carl R. 1967). Therefore, it goes that in spite of all life experiences and the resulting outward change exhibited by Islamists, age-old questions linger. It is as if there is inherent within, a quest to move toward the 'true self'; that self which has always been. As Carl Roger's states, an ‘individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is … listening to the deepest recesses of his … being'. As an example, I vividly recall a conversation with a group of young (twenty something) Bosnian Serbs as we discussed news reports about Bosnian Serb soldiers systematically executing as many as 2,000 Muslim prisoners after taking the UN ''safe area'' of Srebrenica. To my disbelief, the young Australian born Serbs completely condoned the actions of their compatriots overseas. Probing for explanations one of them simply said, “I don’t know, I just feel it here,” pointing to the centre of his chest, added another, “It’s in the blood”.
Accordingly, it is my belief that we can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from aboard but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the home grown variety.
We humans have a central 'true self' that remains intact throughout our lives in spite of society’s dominant contemporary and historical permanence, its institutional processes, values, ideology, culture and sub-cultures.
If I am right, even partially so, what is the most constructive way to deal with our local Muslim populations? Wouldn't any attempt to indoctrinate them in terms of western values be an exercise in futility? Is acceptance and tolerance the answer? Perhaps as a way of teaching them the values of mutual respect for all cultures and race.
What do you think?
Rogers, Carl R. 1967, 'To be that self which one truly is': A therapist's view of personal goals', On Becoming a Person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy, Constable, London, pp. 163-182.

Kolb, David A. 1981, 'Learning styles and disciplinary differences' in Chickerine, Arthur W. & Associates, The Modern American College, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, pp. 232 - 235 and 251 - 252.

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Useful resource: Contemporary Philosophy – Postmodernism and Critical Theory

July 26, 2007

Russia wants North Pole

As a prime example of the kind of conduct I referred to in an earlier post, Russia has provoked an international outcry after announcing it will claim much of the Arctic Circle.

Moscow has just launched a sub on an unprecedented expedition as part of Russia's efforts to assert territorial claims well north of its Arctic coast in territory thought to contain significant oil, gas and other reserves.

To think, they plan to plant a titanium flag on the seabed!

"The Arctic is ours and we should demonstrate our presence," the expedition's 67-year-old leader, the explorer and member of parliament Artur Chilingarov, said on television. Chilingarov, fellow parliamentarian Vladimir Gruzdev and scientist Anatoly Sagalevich aim to descend in the Mir submersible vehicle 4,200 metres (14,000 feet) to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean beneath the pole.

Organisers even have a tentative plan for a telephone link-up with the International Space Station from the seabed.

On Thursday the nuclear-powered ice-breaker Rossiya, designed to cut through heavy ice at speed, set off for the pole from the Barents Sea port of Murmansk.

Once on the seabed the three men on board the Mir will carry out scientific experiments and probes and will leave behind a Russian flag and a capsule containing a message for future generations, Sagalevich said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper.

Chilingarov said the expedition would help advance Russia's Arctic claims, which are disputed by other countries, including the United States.

We know understand what Putin meant when back in May, he called for greater efforts to secure Russia's "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.

See also: Russia stirring

Links: Russia claims much of arctic

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July 24, 2007

U.S. says Bin Laden in Pakistan

AL-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden is alive and sheltering in lawless parts of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan, US intelligence Chief Mike McConnell said yesterday. Asked about bin Laden, the US director of national intelligence told NBC television: "My personal view is that he's alive. I believe he is in the tribal region of Pakistan.''

A new report by the US intelligence community last week said al-Qaeda had regrouped in its Pakistani "safe haven'' and was determined to inflict mass casualties through new attacks on the United States.

President Bush said yesterday that he was troubled by a US intelligence report that Al Qaeda has become entrenched in a safe haven in Pakistan's tribal region near Afghanistan but offered support for Pakistan's embattled president, saying he believes Pervez Musharraf is committed to fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Meanwhile Pakistan hit back U.S. critics of its fight against terrorism, insisting its army was best suited to hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda militants Washington believes enjoy safe haven in Pakistani tribal areas near Afghanistan.

Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," an angry Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri criticized talk of U.S. forces attacking al Qaeda on Pakistani territory, warning that any incursion would alienate opinion in the predominantly Muslim U.S. ally against terrorism.

"We are committed to controlling terrorism, and people in Pakistan get very upset when despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has been making you get all these criticisms" in the press, he said in an interview from Lahore, Pakistan.

"What I don't like is the tone that I am now hearing and that I am now reading in the American media," said Kasuri.

Earlier Washington sparked a sharp exchange with Pakistani leaders by asserting that it would consider using force on Pakistani soil. US intelligence Chief Mike McConnell said on Sunday his country would "use all instruments at disposal" to act against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, say US intelligence , Pakistan rejects Bin Laden raid

July 23, 2007

Russia stirring

One week ago, RAF jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu95 “Bear” strategic bombers heading awfully close to Scottish airspace.

Around two weeks ago, Putin tested a deadly missile, which was launched from a sub in the White Sea. It entered the stratosphere before hitting its target precisely nearly 3,800 miles away in the Russian Far East. This missile is so fast that that no current defense system could detect, (let alone intercept) it in time.

In 2001, Russia had a defense budget of fewer than 150 billion roubles, now it has increased six fold to over 850 billion.

Russia is once again engaging in some good old-fashioned saber rattling. A cold war mindset is returning as are elements of autocratic rule. Fraser Nelson argues that whilst the current military build-up is case for concern, like North Korea the real danger emanates from the nations inherent weaknesses including very high rates of HIV infection, drug abuse, and a falling population.

Now that Russia is enjoying a steady stream of petro-gas dollars, the confidence to confront is returning. Like a bear returning from a long sleep after nearly two long decades, no doubt we can expect more stiff rhetoric after the long hibernation.

We can speculate endlessly, but with Putin outwardly pointing Russia on an increasingly nationalist course coupled with significant military spending we can only be suspicious especially since Sergei Ivanov, the architect of the new Russian military being set to replace Putin early next year.

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July 21, 2007

Radical Islam (ii)

Western Liberal societies face several challenges in order to deal with menacing elements of Islam. Consider the following using Australia as an example.

... Recently an influential leader of Shia Islam in Australia told the media that his community overwhelmingly supported Hezbollah, though he was opposed to violence in Australia.

... Another important Sunni Muslim figure, Mustapha Kara-Ali, a former member of our Governments “Islamic advisory board” (who incidentally received $200,000 from the Immigration Department to research the subject) believes 2000 to 3000 young Muslims in Sydney and Melbourne (our biggest cities with a combined population of 8.1 million) stand on the brink of radicalisation.

... In 2005-06 Australia absorbed some 6500 immigrants from the Middle East, 5000 from North Africa, 2000 from Pakistan and Bangladesh, 2700 from Central Asia and 10,000 from sub-Saharan Africa, that is roughly half from Muslim nations which can equate to nearly 20,000 Muslims. Now what if one tenth of them have an attraction to Wahhabi-style Islam (Wahhabism is the literalist, fundamentalist style of Sunni Islam) or some other version of extremism (Iranian clericalism)?

What we have is a significantly large group which, under the right conditions may have a propensity to embrace and support, radical elements of the faith.

Such challenges are not just confined to Australia but wholly relevant to Britain and the U.S. and raise pertinent questions about how liberal societies should best merge contradictions between its liberalism and national security.

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July 20, 2007

Radical Islam

"The Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, states: 'Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.' (Qur'an, 5:32)" So why do some turn to the most extremes of evil against westerners?

The U.S. and the U.K. could be facing a real threat and dilemma. Mosques are sprouting up with every passing day and the Pew Research Institute reports that there is a substantial and growing number of young American and British Muslims who could cause chaos because of their religious beliefs. Also notable is that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world; people are born into the faith in countries where there are no other choices allowed.

Regrettably, there will always be radicals who harbour the notion that Islamism despises democracy because freedom is the single greatest threat to their extreme view of the tenets of their religion, and political system.

Radical Islamists are always going to be difficult to control. Establishing and promoting freedom and democracy in the Middle East and, at a local level to westernise followers through the promotion of a liberal discourse amongst its followers (of a kind that empties Islam of its fundamentals in order to conform to western values and concepts, "liberal Islam" or "civil Islam"), is a good start.

Islam is historically overdue for a reformation from medievalism to modernism. Radical Islamists have taken it in the opposite direction, one that endangers Western democracies.

Opportunely, there are many quarters of Islam that go to some length to say that extremism and militancy is against the spirit of Islam as “our faith propagates peace, harmony and tolerance”.

The debates within the religion of Islam are about to start in earnest, and with any luck will generate some constructive and unified dialogue or, more to the point, with words not suicide vests.

Our Governments, through our constitutions support freedoms of religion but a degree of prudency and perhaps intervention may be called for.

My hope is that Governments in the west will nurture all Islamist followers within their borders according to modern tenets of the faith.

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Picture power

Don't let this happen !

See also:

Iraq image source: Time Magazine

July 18, 2007

Will Korea back off nukes?

Does North Korea really intend to relinquish it's nuclear weapons producing capability, and abide by the February 13th agreement?

As some critics of the diplomatic efforts contend, North Korea could well be hoodwinking the international community with clever diversions while they pursue a goal of developing nuclear weapons? Not everyone thinks that the nonproliferation developments signal progress. Some caution that what looks like promising compliance by North Korea could simply be a facade behind which the nation slowly advances toward entry into the club of nuclear countries.

I point you to some poignant and insightful remarks about what may be the real story behind Pyongyang's intentions .
..."all the international community has seen from Pyongyang has been the relatively easy task of flipping the switch on a decaying reactor (that it has already used to produce then extract weapons-grade plutonium from, and possibly assembly a small but significant arsenal of nuclear explosive devices from as well) and signaling that it might not care to see the rest of the deal through". READ MORE

See also: Pyonyang shuts down reactor

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Historical notes (ii)

In what Harry S Truman called …”America’s greatest contribution to the peace of the world”, Secretary of State George C Marshall a former Army Chief of Staff, put forward a plan whereby European nations devastated by the Second World War would devise a united scheme for economic reconstruction largely funded by the United States. The then Soviet Union was invited to join however, as the early chills of the cold war were setting in, they declined.

The ingenious idea was proposed on June 5, 1947 in an address to Harvard and even as the Soviets were assured that it was not directed “against and country or doctrine” it was, in fact a politically masterful act against Communism achieved through the restoration of European economies.

Washington was astute to recognize the value of economic well being, in terms of advancing democracy in the region with the U.S. contributing some $13 billion into Europe and absorbing over 250, 000 homeless Europeans by allowing them to immigrate and become citizens.

The strategy was soon to be known as, the Marshall plan.

See also: Historical notes (i)

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July 16, 2007

Blog to America

Here is an interesting site, Blog to America. A blog where, as the site says, “individuals from around the world post their opinions on the United States in the form of letters and comments addressed to America. This is achieved by clicking on the “Submit a Letter” tab and filling out the form, sending them an email, or even by sending a hand-written letter in the mail. The letter will be posted in the form of a blog entry. Users can then post comments on the blog, and engage in a discussion.

The site is not merely for us foreignors, Americans can also comment on their nation by visiting the American Perspectives page.

Blog to America’s Mission reads:

Four Americans created Blog to America in order to provide a place where foreign perspectives on the United States could be voiced and heard by normal, everyday people across the globe. As the U.S. is such a large and geographically isolated country, it can be easy for us Americans to overlook global issues and occupy ourselves with matters pertaining entirely within our borders. Thus, Blog to America was created to serve two roles. First, to provide an opportunity for Americans to increase their global awareness by reading views and perspectives from the international community. Second, to allow individuals from around the world to voice their opinions on American policies, culture, current events, or anything else that pertains to America. Readers can also respond to these views and engage in an international dialogue. In this increasingly smaller and connected world, the Blog to America team hopes that this site will bring people and ideas together for a positive change in attitudes and minds of people across the globe.

Click here to visit and share your thoughts and opinions about America.

Pyongyang shuts down reactor

UN inspectors arrived in North Korea on Saturday to monitor the communist country's promise to scale back its nuclear weapons program, while the top US nuclear envoy Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said he expected Pyongyang's reactor to be shut down in a matter of days and that he believes the disabling of the North's nuclear plants could be completed by the end of the year. An initial shipment of oil aid arrived hours earlier on Saturday, in return for Pyongyang's pledge to close down its main nuclear reactor.

The move would be the North's first step in nearly five years toward the de-nuclearization of the peninsula. The oil the North received by way of a South Korean ship was an initial 6200 tonnes of 50,000 tonnes as a reward for the reactor shutdown.

Under an agreement reached earlier this year with the US and other regional powers, Pyongyang will receive a total equivalent of a million tonnes of oil for dismantling its nuclear program.

July 15, 2007

U.S. is Britain's number one ally

New British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, seeking to quash speculation that London may distance itself from Washington over Iraq, insisted on Sunday the United States was still Britain's number one ally.

"It is the single most important bilateral relationship," he told BBC Television in his first broadcast interview since taking office.

Source: Reuters

Of strategies means and devices

It is often touted that the Bush Administration did not have a strategy for victory in place following the end of military hostilities in Iraq. In reality, this was not the case. According to a document released by President Bush in November 2005 entitled “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”, “victory” has short term, medium term, and long-term definitions.

In fact, as one can see from the longer-term goal, the bar was raised so high that the administration almost set itself up for failure.

What has been missing all along is the micro details, the "how to' if you will. Understandably, any strategic and tactical plans as required to achieve such a plan would be nigh impossible to formulate with any accuracy in advance. Given the complexity of the Iraqi political and cultural landscape it would seem plausible to expect a continuously evolving plan which was always going to test the patience of an electorate, its leaders and particularly opponents of the war.

For all the talk about how hopelessly entrenched the U.S. is becoming in Iraq its no Vietnam, not in a numbers sense. The recent surge has lifted the number of U.S. personal to some 160,000. By 1966 there were 375,000 Americans in Vietnam and by 1968 there were half a million!



Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State


As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemy's surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event -- there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages, and we expect:

In the short term
An Iraq that is making steady progress in fighting terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency, meeting political milestones; building democratic institutions; standing up robust security forces to gather intelligence, destroy terrorist networks, and maintain security; and tackling key economic reforms to lay the foundation for a sound economy.

In the medium term
An Iraq that is in the lead defeating terrorists and insurgents and providing its own security, with a constitutional, elected government in place, providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region, and well on its way to achieving its economic potential.

In the longer term
An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency. An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country. An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.


The entire document can be viewed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/iraq_strategy_nov2005.html

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Obsequious democracy runs contrary to national interests

DEMOCRACY, Winston Churchill famously observed, is the worst form of government ever devised - except for all the others. Well, he was right about the first part.

In the US these days, democracy is living down to its reputation, producing sticking-plaster solutions to epochal challenges, indulging the worst populist instincts of its voters, throwing up demagogic leaders unworthy of the job and rejecting those of true courage.

The most depressing spectacle is unfolding over Iraq. Washington has reached the stage where vital national interests -- and the security of much of the world -- are being decided almost entirely by immediate, panicky political considerations.

Americans want their troops home. It's a wholly understandable sentiment. But it is one that needs to be resisted, not massaged and nurtured, as members of Congress from both parties have been doing.


Source: The Australian

Winston Churchill also said, “I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents” — this being true then George W. Bush may one day be the best President the U.S. ever had...

Everyone is anti-war or should be. Certainly I am against War, it would be great if humans did not have to die but that is war and many do die and suffer something that cannot be avoided. I guess that's why emotions seem to dictate important policy directions and influences of those opposed to the Bush strategy.

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July 12, 2007

Australia seeks to calm Chinese

Seeking to assure his Chinese hosts that Australia's increasing military cooperation with the United States and Japan was not aimed at containing China, Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson stated that "Australia stands ready to work more closely with China" (China Daily, July 10). In a speech at China's National Defense University, Nelson reiterated that Australia's support for U.S. and Japanese development of a ballistic missile defense system was motivated only by concerns regarding North Korea, which "remains a key threat to regional and international stability" (AFP, July 9). Following talks with his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan, Nelson proposed the increase of bilateral military exchanges and announced that Australia, China and New Zealand would hold their first-ever joint maritime exercise in September.

Source: Jamestown Foundation

July 11, 2007

Let the surge run its course

If we withdrew from Iraq this week...

  • What would happen to the U.S. image abroad? Better or worse?
  • What would happen to the people of Iraq, their Government, and their new democracy?
  • What impact would such a move have on the security of the region? Who would benefit? Who would feel the pain?
  • What impact would it have on terrorist movements across the World? Would the US, Europe and Australia be safer?
  • What would Iran and Syria do? Would Iran attempt to install an Islamic government?
  • Would Iraq fall into full civil war?
  • What would happen to the growing economies in the Northern (Kurdish) and Southern parts of Iraq?
  • What would happen to the oil? Would the Iraqi people benefit from it?
  • What do China and Russia do? Would they seek to exert strong regional influence? How would these two powerful nations act globally as a result?
  • What economic impact would it have on the U.S.?

Frontpagemag.com writes:

What unites the anti-war critics on both sides of the political isle is their refusal to confront two stubborn facts. The first and most obvious is that, notwithstanding the countless obituaries that have been written in its name, the surge has not yet been given a chance to work. The last of the troops involved in the plan have arrived only in recent weeks and military commanders have been adamant that it needs to be continued until next spring for the results to become clear. At the very least, it would seem reasonable for legislators to wait until September, when General David Petraeus is scheduled to deliver his assessment of the strategy, before rushing to politically calculated conclusions. Moving up the deadline for the review may please anti-war dogmatists, but there is no reason to think that it qualifies as a credible evaluation of the military’s efforts -- particularly since the first detailed overview of the situation on the ground by the U.S. military shows some notable, if admittedly modest, improvements in security.

The second and similarly unacknowledged point is that a premature withdrawal would almost certainly produce a national-security disaster. As Iraq's foreign minister warned this week, an early exit would likely lead to a failed state. Whether Western-style democratic government was ever feasible in Iraq’s tribal and aggressively sectarian culture is a subject worthy of debate, but it should not be difficult to see that abandoning the country to al-Qaeda and its allies ill-serves American interests.


There is nothing positive to be gained from an immediate or even phased departure from Iraq unless the job is finished. I do not care how loud the anti-Iraq war movement is and will become - from both the Left and the Right – we must stay the course at least until a solution is designed even if it eventually involves the U.N., Iran and Syria.

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July 6, 2007

Economic might

Here is a notion; greater reliance on U.S. economic power can re-direct foreign policy without abandoning the historical U.S. ambition of encouraging freedom and political reform around the world.

The United States possesses the largest market in the global economy but has failed to integrate this exclusive political asset in the larger global struggle against terrorism.

Should the United States return to the principles of liberal internationalism that marked the golden era of U.S. diplomacy in the years immediately following the end of World War II?

In a manner of speaking, it is about deploying U.S. consumers in the larger campaign to promote freedom in the struggle against enemies of state to endorse, promote and uphold freedom thereby allowing market forces to advance economic development, democracy, and peace.

Expanded access to the U.S. consumer market cultivates a foundation for common global political interests with the United States through the creation of jobs and economic opportunities in potential havens for terrorist activity.

What do you think?

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USS Kitty Hawk visits Sydney

Sydney's association with the U.S. Navy continued yesterday with a visit by the US navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk together with the the amphibious assault ships Tortuga and Juneau and the guided missile destroyers Cowpens and Stethem. The American ships have been taking part in the the joint Australian-US Operation Talisman Saber off the northern Australian coast.

Said Prime Minster John Howard, "Australians and Americans have fought together in defence of freedom and against threats to our way of life on many occasions".

Commissioned in 1961, the Kitty Hawk played a key role in the early part of the Vietnam conflict, and was among two carriers in the Persian Gulf that sent planes to launch the Iraq war in 2003. The diesel-powered ship was deployed to Yokosuka in 1998, and will be replaced with the nuclear-powered George Washington as part of the U.S. military's effort to modernize its forces in East Asia - an area of potential flash points with North Korea or China.

July 1, 2007

Australia and American Interests

Australian troops in Iraq conduct live firing range practice

I was once asked, Why as an Australian is your blog about American interests? This can constitute a lengthy response ...

My "about this blog" heading mostly provides the answer.

In any event, at present there is a great deal of America bashing going on around the globe, and not just within online circles. This, in some way, was the catalyst underscoring my decision to create the blog.

My loyalty to the United States also stems from my own nationalism in relation to Australia. Our nations have much in common, both were born out of British invasions and recently there has been are strong convergence with Australia increasingly not just supporting, but acting as an adjunct to U.S foreign policy.

Apart from strong similarities in economic and political culture we also share a common duty to save the globe from chaos and foreign elements that hinder prosperty, peace and democracy.

Vice President, Cheney summed it well during a visit to our shores in February 2007:

"Your country and mine are filled with people who speak plainly and honestly. And surely that's one of the reasons we're natural friends. When Americans think of Australia, we think of a place with a pioneering spirit much like our own. We think of a country that shares our founding commitments to liberty and to equality, and to our traditions of justice and tolerance. We think, above all, of the character of the Australian people -- self-reliant, practical, and good-hearted. President Ronald Reagan stated the case very well. He said, Australia and America "see the world from similar perspectives, though no two countries could be more opposite on the ends of the globe... we were born in the same era, sprang from the same stock, and live for the same ideals. Australia and America share an affinity that reaches to our souls ... over time, that deep affinity has grown into a great alliance. Together we've confronted common dangers. We've given generously to the relief of suffering from famine, disease, and natural disaster. We've defended democratic ideals; worked for regional stability and security; and added to the prosperity for both our countries."

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If America were a stock..."buy"

One hell of a buy!

Wounded, tetchy and less effective than it should be, America is still the power that counts…says “The Economist” in a recent piece entitled, “Still No. 1”.

Increasingly of late, I am observing change a positive change in commentary about the United States within both the print and electronic media. Over the past few years, we have constantly been reading and hearing about the impending demise of the United States; even I have been a part of this. In reality though, the nation is not veritably in decline, it is purely having a challenging moment in its long and celebrated history, one that, with balanced, thoughtful, and courageous scrutiny can, and will be solved. See also “Respect where it’s due

Here a snippet from the Economist article:

"If America were a stock, it would be a “buy”: an undervalued market leader, in need of new management. But that points to its last great strength. More than any rival, America corrects itself. Under pressure from voters, Mr Bush has already rediscovered some of the charms of multilateralism; he is talking about climate change; a Middle East peace initiative is possible. Next year's presidential election offers a chance for renewal. Such corrections are not automatic: something (a misadventure in Iran?) may yet compound the misery of Iraq in the same way Watergate followed Vietnam. But America recovered from the 1970s. It will bounce back stronger again".

Original Source: "Still No 1"

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