August 30, 2008

McCains veep


Some have reported the choice of Sarah Palin as a risk, I think nots, on the contrary a clever choice and one that just might even snare some votes from disgruntled supporters of failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It's change of a type that Conservatives can believe in!

Sarah Palin, a former runner-up in the Miss Alaska beauty contest, burst on to the political scene in 2006 by becoming both the first female and youngest governor in Alaskan history at the age of 42. She had previously gained statewide attention as a gutsy maverick unafraid to speak truth after whistleblowing on ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders during her time on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. A "soccer-mom" type with telegenic appeal, Mrs Palin is a real life Miss Congeniality — she won the title in the Wasilla beauty pageant back in 1984.

[...]

An Alaskan through and through, Mrs Palin grew up with a love of traditional outdoor pursuits. As a child she regularly got up before dawn to go moose-hunting with her father and is still a strong believer in gun ownership. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. >> more
The announcement was perfectly timed, thus minimizing any post convention bounce for the Obama camp ...

What do you think?

Said one Australian commenter, OK I admit, my very first thoughts, "what” then post her speech I think, "stirring ", moreover, after some research, “home run.” For those wanting to learn more about Palin, Donald Douglas at American Power provides an informative summary with some great links. Visit: Beehive Bombshell is McCains Secret Weapon!

Incidentally, I knew I'd seen an image of Sarah Palin before and then I recalled where, it was here ... Who would have thought.

Update:
Rasmussen poll finds that 53% have a favorable opinion of Palin, compared to 43% for Delaware Senator Joseph Biden on the day he was chosen.

August 27, 2008

Mid-week message board and ...

That time of the week again ... It's your turn to make comments on whatever topic aspect of American Interests you choose and/or takes your fancy ...

You can provide a name or remain anonymous it does not matter, the only rules are:

(i) No course language and, (ii) Keep the discussion civil

This Anti-Obama ad may just hurt



Perhaps there is more to that silver tongue than meets the eye.

The American Issues Project was founded to champion the conservative values that have made the United States of America a blessed nation: smaller government, a strong and ready national defense, lower taxes, and a government that encourages entrepreneurship and new job creation in America. We also know how critical it is for America to win the war against the radical Islamic extremists abroad so we do not have to fight them here on American soil. more >>
Click here to visit the American Issues Project homepage.

August 25, 2008

Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2004

Here is an interesting site brought to us by the American Museum of Moving Image - The Living Room Candidate featuring an online exposition of over 250 television ads beginning in 1952.

The site includes commentary, election results, and historical backgrounds. Well worth a look, visit it here

I liked the Reagan Leadership that's Working commercial from the '84 campaign.

Image source: The Living Room Candidate

August 23, 2008

Making sense of Russia

Russia is both a rising power and a weak state with corrupt and inefficient institutions - not a good mix. Is it not time we stop referring to Russia as the unpredictable regime, ever since Vladimir Putin and more recently, after installing his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, the manner is which Moscow interacts with Europe, its western friendly neighbors and the U.S. is unmistakably predictable; anti-western, confrontational, and nearly always noisy. It decided not to cooperate with the west in relation to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or with Kosovo’s final status negotiations. In 2007, Moscow acted alone in suspending the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, its air force is now patrolling the Atlantic, its intelligence network is as busy as ever, and its military budget is increasing dramatically.

Russia’s confrontational stance is not just centered on its strong and yet fragile, newfound economic power (the Russian economy expanded by 69% during Putin’s period in office) but on the mindset of its ruling elite. The collapse of the Soviet Union has left an indelible psychological imprint on its rulers who remain haunted by the experience. How else can we explain its embrace of 20th century confrontational style international order? Just this week Moscow reacted angrily to the newly signed U.S.-Poland missile deal and in a statement released later, the language was clear, “…Russia will be compelled to react - and not only by diplomatic protests".

Medvedev’s and Putin’s Foreign Policy is either destined to fail or otherwise lead to further diplomatic altercation for it is amongst other things, based on a faulty premise – that the U.S. is in decline and facing an inevitable collapse that will see its international influence diminish. They will confidently point to Iraq and Afghanistan (perhaps citing their own failures there) its EU disputes and slowing economy as evidence. However, U.S. declinism theories are nothing new, both within and beyond of Russia. Since the attack on 9/11 in particular, we have witnessed and heard of a virtual plethora of books and online social commentary assertively predicting the decline of America. Too numerous to mention here they include Johnson’s Blowback, Ferguson’s Colossus: The price of America’s empire, the writings of Chomsky and Fisk in addition to a near army of lefties opposed to U.S. foreign policy and what they refer to “cultural imperialism”. The anti-americanist overtures dwell on familiar, now worn-out themes that, according to the writers, have stretched America’s “imperial capabilities so much that America will go down the same path as Persia, Rome, and the Soviet Union. One of the newer refutations of this comes to us from Robert Lieber at World Affairs.

Is America finished? Respected public intellectuals, think tank theorists, and members of the media elite seem to think so. The scare headline in a recent New York Times Magazine cover story by Parag Khanna titled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony” asks, “Who Shrunk the Superpower?” Almost daily, learned authors proclaim The End of the American Era, as the title of a 2002 book by Charles Kupchan put it, and instruct us that the rise of China and India, the reawakening of Putin’s Russia, and the expansion of the European Union signal a profound shift in geopolitical power that will retire once and for all the burden of American Exceptionalism. America has become an “enfeebled” superpower, according to Fareed Zakaria in his book, The Post-American World, which concedes that, while the U.S. will not recede from the world stage anytime soon, “Just as the rest of the world is opening up, America is closing down.” With barely contained satisfaction, a French foreign minister says of America’s standing, “The magic is over . . . It will never be as it was before.”

The author concludes: "Over the years, America’s staying power has been regularly and chronically underestimated—by condescending French and British statesmen in the nineteenth century, by German, Japanese, and Soviet militarists in the twentieth, and by homegrown prophets of doom today. The critiques come and go. The object of their contempt never does."

Indeed, it does, in 1970, Andrew Hacker a political scientist published a book titled, “The end of the American Era” where he confidently predicted American decline citing poor fiscal policies, excessive individualism, and imperial overstretch; sound familiar?

Sadly for Russia, America will remain the pre-eminent political, economic, and military power, but this will do little to curtail Moscow's spoiler antics on the world stage. We must bear in mind that, behind the facade of strength lays an immature democracy, a regime that denies its citizens political freedom and individual autonomy and a tenuous economy. Putin has failed dismally by not taking advantage of record high-energy prices to diversify the economy, develop infrastructure, and address the many health and demographic issues Russia faces. Instead, the petro dollars have been used to secure a fragile power, weaken institutions, and point his country in an increasingly confrontational path. Herein lies the danger, Russia is both a rising power and a weak state with corrupt and inefficient institutions - not a good mix.

Georgia may have only been the beginning, who will be next?

See also: How to contain Russia - Russia is actually weaker than ever, it's "economy would fall off a cliff if energy prices slumped and its population, racked by ill-health and inequality, is shrinking by up to 800,000 a year. Russia can make mischief, but it cannot project military and ideological power all around the world, as the Soviet Union did during the cold war."

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August 20, 2008

Mid- week message board

Welcome to the mid-week message board!

A new initiative where YOU the reader can make comments on whatever topic aspect of American Interests you choose and/or takes your fancy, politics inclusive.

You can provide a name or remain anonymous it does not matter, the only rules are:

(i) No course language

(ii) Keep the discussion civil

August 18, 2008

Georgia and NATO Membership: It is worth it

"Russia has shown us once again how much scorn it has for western style democracy, let us therefore ..."

The Economist takes an in-depth look at the origins and long-terms effects of the war, saying the conflict is more than simply punishing Georgia for its aspirations to join NATO, or even trying to displace Mikheil Saakashvili but “it is about Russia, resurgent and nationalistic, pushing its way back into the Caucasus.”

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel is the latest of the European leaders to stress formally her desire for Georgia, to gain eventual NATO membership. Like Bush, she places democracy and its proliferation first and appears willing to defend the nation because of its adherence to democratic principles and its alliance with the West.

I am firmly of the belief that Georgia should become a part of NATO and have supported its past participation within the complex process that candidacy for membership entails. It is a long arduous route and one that looks at political structures, economic and resource matters and legal characteristics of the state. In becoming a NATO ally, the organization has to ensure firstly that the aspirant nation meets the many criteria specified for membership. Only when it has deemed that the nation has all the qualities of what is expected of a good ally will membership be granted.

To be sure, Georgia is doing an estimable job at developing its democracy in addition to building the necessary institutions and international relationships necessary for successful candidacy and integration with the better part of Europe. This, against a backdrop of trying and well-publicized circumstances. Problem is, Georgia still has many challenges, more reason why NATO membership will bring with it, many tangible benefits. The goals required to realize membership extend well beyond military and defense measures. Georgia will have to achieve and comply with predetermined political and economic outcomes in addition to a demonstrated capacity and yearning to attain specific objectives in the political and economic sphere. This includes the reconciliation of any international, ethnic, or external territorial wrangles hopefully by peaceful means, a commitment to the rule of international law and human rights issues, the ability to bring about democratic control of their armed forces, promote stability and security through economic liberty along with socially just initiatives. All the necessary attributes of a stable, successful and thriving state.

Ultimately, and aside from her own efforts, Georgia’s admission to NATO must be handled with utmost diplomatic sensitivities to avoid triggering another cold war between Russia and the alliance. Perhaps the best way to achieve this long term is to have both NATO and the United States work with, not against the Russians in an attempt to export and sell the wider values of NATO membership and its institutions to Russia and its people in particular. In the interim however, The United States must ensure that Russia’s present objectives do not extend beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia and weakening the Georgian army. Furthermore, it must see to it that Russian intervention fails to undermine and eventually force the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili only to be replaced by a Soviet style Putin lackey.

In fact, and as Charles Krauthammer argues, the West can “alter Putin's cost/benefit calculations” through a range of non-military measures:

“Suspend the Nato-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the Nato table. Message: Invading neighbouring democracies forfeits the seat … Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organisation … Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorial presence long made it a farce but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7 … (and) announce a US-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi.”

Adds Krauthammer; “All of these steps (except dissolution of the G-8, which should be irreversible) would be subject to reconsideration depending upon Russian action - most importantly and minimally, its withdrawal of troops from Georgia proper to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: reaffirming support for the Saakashvili government and declaring its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.”

Russia has shown us once again how much scorn it has for western style democracy, let us therefore reply such that we the West display how much disdain we have for Moscow’s methods and its disrespect for the ultimate guarantor of freedom, the last form of Government – Democracy.

August 14, 2008

Freedom is not free, and a word about Bush

Freedom is not free - A stirring documentary about our warriors

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight; nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill


They are revolutionaries proudly wearing the true colors that carry the weight of the world in their immigrant red, white, and blue hands … They understand that war is not easy, and they are aware that within its frenzy of gloom it reanimates the speechless … Can we ignore misery and deepen the darkness by laying back like reclining nudes with faraway eyes? No grace, no grit, no honor.

The makers of this documentary sort to Honor Our Warriors, to raise funding and to aid wounded service members, their families, and the families of the fatally wounded. A project designed to show us all what intelligent, honorable, and brave people we have standing in the way of the free world’s demise.


I urge my readers to view the trailer here

Related: Australian Long Tan heroes finally honored

Postscript:

A Word about Bush

When Harry S Truman left office at the end of this second term he had a dismal approval rating of just 23 per cent. Many including his own staff judged him a failure and disliked him. He was considered the worst President since Harding of the Great Depression days.

Today on the other hand he is judged as one of the greats, and the man who set the wheels in motion for the United States to eventually defeat Communism. Do we have a modern equivalent? If so, it is perhaps George W Bush, whose unwavering commitment to the war on terror has led to a very high disapproval rating. Bush will be remembered for his responses to 9/11 in Afghanistan and Iraq, but since neither of those conflicts has yet ended in victory or defeat, it is too early to assume - as left-wingers, anti-war campaigners and many media commentators have - that his historical reputation will be forever low, as is Harding’s.

Historians may one day view Bush's decision to insist upon a "surge" of reinforcements for Iraq in conjunction with a comprehensive transformation of anti-insurgency tactics as masterminded by General Petraeus, as a pivotal point in the history of the war on terror. Just perhaps, in a mere decade or two the President’s judgment and decisiveness may be compared with some of the great decisions of 1945–52, as taken by Truman.

Once again, I urge my readers to view the trailer ...

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August 11, 2008

Georgian Crises reveals key difference between McCain and Obama

We may have just been been provided with a sample of how the next President of the United States would react in a crisis involving a major regional power - in this case Russia.

John McCain says, “Tensions and hostilities between Georgians and Ossetians are in no way justification for Russian troops crossing an internationally recognized border.” He also called on, “Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from the territory of Georgia.” ...

Barack Obama called for, “talks among all sides and said the United States, the U.N. Security Council and other parties should try to help bring about a peaceful resolution.” Obama looked forward to “an international peacekeeping force” under “an appropriate UN mandate.” ...

Summing up, John McCain bluntly denounces Russia’s behavior demanding that they immediately and unconditionally withdraw. Conversely, Obama wants to shift the responsibility to the masters of ineffectiveness, the U.N.

Further reading: The crisis in Georgia, 9/11, and the lessons of gratitude

Then this happens: Georgia claims Russia in Gori attack - "The Georgian city of Gori is under "massive" attack from Russian artillery and planes and ground forces are preparing for an assault, according to the Georgian interior ministry. "There was massive bombing of Gori all evening and now we are getting reports of an imminent attack by Russian tanks,” interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. “Gori is being bombed massively from the air and from artillery as well.” Subsequently Obama abruptly changes his tune sounding more like McCain

Obama may yet make a half-decent President, however this latest crises and especially the, “It’s both sides’ fault — both have been somewhat provocative with each other,” reveals he is more of a follower than leader – not encouraging! While we are on the subject, can we now expect the very same media that takes pride in criticizing U.S. foreign policy over Iraq and the Middle East to call for intervention if matters escalate…?

Beijing’s Olympics and Human Rights

There are a couple of reasons as to why I shall not be watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Human Rights

Since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the human rights and China issue has divided many. While some have leapt to China’s defense citing exaggerated claims by an “unfair media” fact is, the sources documenting abuse are many, including the U.S. State Department's annual People's Republic of China human rights report and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, which consistently document the PRC's abuses in violation of internationally recognized norms.

Only last week we read about Annie Yang’s plight. Her story is one of many describing disturbing details suffered in labour camps that incidentally are located only miles from many Olympic venues. Annie was forced to sit straight for weeks on an uneven surface in a torture method referred to as “sitting on a high chair’.

“Every day, one was forced to sit for over 18 hours a day with a strict posture – both knees touching each other tightly, both legs touching each other tightly, both hands resting over the knees, the back must be kept straight, eyes must be open and no movement is allowed”. She said adding, “After a week or two, many peoples bottoms start to rot.”

This form of torture is used on many strong willed Falun Gong practitioners at the Beijing Municipal Woman’s Re-Education through Labour Training Camp.

The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), an international advocacy group, has compiled a report, which lists labour camps kilometres from seven major Olympic sites in China – Beijing, Beijing Tuanhe, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin and many more cities. The report titled “Torture Outside the Olympic Village: A Guide to China’s Labour Camps,” has phone numbers for the camps, and local “surveillance offices” and provides personal experiences from former captives. The report is essential reading for anyone concerned about human rights in China and especially journalists covering the Olympics.

A full report on Labour Camp locations can be found at: http://www.humanrightstorch.org/

Only last week and on the eve of the opening ceremony, President Bush chided the Chinese, and called for a more open society urging its leaders to grant greater freedom to the people just as sources from within informed Human Rights groups that the authorities continue to detain, harass, coerce, and monitor rights defenders and dissidents in different parts of the county. The Presidents sharp critique of the state of human rights in China most likely angered the country's communist leadership.





The White House has published a full transcript of his August 7th speech and that of the former President George H. W. Bush, dedicating the new embassy compound in Beijing. Overall, it was as expected - a carefully nuanced speech as the President steered between informed criticism and respect.

In its response, China stated that it is a government for the people, a government that puts its people first, and protects their basic rights and freedom. A worthy ideal, but one that needs to be put into practice before we can have any confidence in the Chinese authorities. To date at least, China has missed an opportunity to improve its world image. According to a US State Department report on China’s human rights situation:

“Citizens did not have the right to change their government, and many who openly expressed dissenting political views were harassed, detained, or imprisoned…Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings; torture and mistreatment of prisoners, leading to numerous deaths in custody; coerced confessions; arbitrary arrest and detention; and incommunicado detention.”
The Australian noted last week:

“The Communist Party bosses see the games as a milestone marking China's emergence as a world power. It is perfectly natural for China to want to showcase its economic might as well as its sporting prowess, but the world should not pass up this opportunity to look realistically at where its most populous country is progressing. China is clearly uncomfortable about being subjected to such scrutiny. Its leadership is used to hiding behind an ideological facade. This cannot last forever. If the Olympics mark the start of China's sprint for global credibility, it has got off to a mixed start. China is not the Maoist dictatorship of the Cultural Revolution. Bureaucratic and economic interests jostle for influence. There has been a limited opening up of debate in academic circles and a strengthening of civil society. But by brutally suppressing dissent, clamping down on restive minorities in Tibet and elsewhere and restricting freedom of information, the regime has shown it has a long way to go. There is little doubt that an open challenge to the Communist Party's rule would lead to an immediate and brutal Tiananmen-style crackdown.” Read the rest here

Edward McMillan-Scott, a British Member of the European Parliament and one who describes China as a terror state draws an interesting parallel:

“If we had known what was already taking place in Germany's camps in 1936,” he says, "the Olympics would not have taken place in Berlin.”

Moreover, the other reason for not watching is rooted in ideological reflections; they are a Communist State, need I add more.

My reflections aside, I wish both the Australian and American contingents well in Beijing.

See also, Human Rights, China, the IOC and the 2008 Olympics

August 3, 2008

Kissinger and McCain on Iraq and the wider War on Terror

"... he (Kissinger) correctly sees America as the “the indispensable component of any attempt to build a new world order."

"... he (McCain) referred to Islamic extremism as “the central threat of our time, and we must understand the implications our decisions on all manner of regional and global challenges could have for our success in defeating it.”...

According to Henry Kissinger, an advisor to McCain, the situation in Iraq has changed that much, the political debate (John McCain vs. Barack Obama) about this topic is practically, superfluous.

“Almost all objective observers agree that major progress has been made on all three fronts of the Iraq war: Al-Qaeda, the Sunni jihadist force recruited largely from outside the country, seems on the run in Iraq; the indigenous Sunni insurrection attempting to restore Sunni predominance has largely died down; and the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad has, at least temporarily, mastered the Shiite militias that were challenging its authority. After years of disappointment, we face the need to shift gears mentally to consider emerging prospects of success.”

Obama in particular, is using ‘premises that have been overtaken by events,’ and, in light of the Afghan troop increase question, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says that a withdrawal from Iraq is not necessary to free forces for the Afghanistan battlefield.

“The inherent contradictions of the proposed withdrawal schedule compound the difficulties. Under the fixed withdrawal scheme, combat troops are to be withdrawn, but sufficient forces would remain to protect the U.S. Embassy, fight a resumption of al-Qaeda, and contribute to defense against outside intervention. But such tasks require combat, not support, forces, and the foreseeable controversy about the elusive distinction will distract from the overall diplomatic goal. Nor is withdrawal from Iraq necessary to free forces for operations in Afghanistan. There is no need to risk the effort in Iraq to send two or three additional brigades to Afghanistan; those troops will become available even in the absence of a deadline.”

Indeed the iconic conservative, Kissinger is one who cannot but help solicit the attention of the White House and this need not be viewed as bad. Last year, against a substantial backdrop of opposition opinion, he staunchly defended the Iraqi troop surge where he wrote of Bush’s judgment, a “bold decision to order a 'surge' of some 20,000 American troops for Iraq has brought the debate over the war to a defining stage. There will not be opportunity for another reassessment." He was right!

Critics of the Iraq war fail to realize the conflicts place within the larger struggle, what Kissinger refers to as, “the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects," of which America and its way of life is at the heart. Accordingly, he correctly sees America as the “the indispensable component of any attempt to build a new world order."

Read Kissinger’s whole piece at either, The Washington Post or Real Clear Politics site.

John McCain’s other foreign policy advisers include Richard Armitage, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, whom, at least last time I checked, was listed as one the leading advisers. The latter are also firmly grounded within the neoconservative clique however, and before anybody winces, (not that I expect the likes of Salon’s Greenwald nosing around American Interests) I remain convinced that McCain’s take on neo-conservatism is a morally just result of his personal experiences; experiences that have framed a worldly conception of what is good, and led to an unwavering understanding of what is worth defending even with force of arms, if necessary.

Earlier in the year, he referred to Islamic extremism as “the central threat of our time, and we must understand the implications our decisions on all manner of regional and global challenges could have for our success in defeating it.” In the context of this challenge and the wider war on terror, it is not hard to see the likely direction foreign policy will take in a McCain administration.

Back to the featured article, the elder Kissinger sees no rush to finalize, restrict or confine the U.S. to a set course of action that in fact, would bring about more harm, than good.

“The next president has a great opportunity to stabilize Iraq and lay the basis for a decisive turn in the war against jihadist radicalism and for a more peaceful Middle East. Surely, he will want to assess the situation on the ground before setting a strategy for his term. He should not be limited by rigid prescriptions to vindicate maxims of the past, no matter how plausible they once seemed. Withdrawal is a means; the end is a more peaceful and hopeful world.” I believe he is right here too!