Category Archives: Democracy Promotion

Website Recommendation: Anti-Democracy Agenda

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From the website:

The Anti-Democracy Agenda is run by the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS) in order to serve as a focal point and the premier resource on the net for the study of anti-democratic thought and practice as well as old and new alternatives to democracy. It wishes to facilitate the exchange on anti-democratic thought and practice across boundaries, be they disciplinary, ideological, national, cultural, generational, philosophical, religious (or non-religious), etc. By disseminating information on research, publications, and events, it hopes to increase awareness of the various traditions and current trends, and raise the academic and public profile of anti-democratic thought and practice worldwide.

Grading Obama’s Afghanistan Speech: Surge or Exit Strategy?

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[Backup is on the way...]

I listened to President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan at West Point and it was not entirely encouraging. His reluctant admission that more troops are needed was welcome but I am concerned he is not supportive of an effective counterinsurgency program as was approved by President George W. Bush during the “surge” in Iraq.

Perhaps a better way of putting it is I am puzzled whether his speech argued in favor of letting facts on the ground determine the length of American involvement or whether he is committed to removing American troops in eighteen months. I was left thinking he was trying to say too many different things to too many different audiences at the same time.

As I tell my students before they give their oral presentations, “always be aware of your audience.” In their case determining the audience is easy. They are doing the presentation for me, in order to receive a grade, as well as their colleagues, in order to edify–but not confuse–them.

President Obama finds himself in a far more difficult situation. He has multiple audiences he needs to appeal to. Making matters worse, what one group wants to hear is often in opposition to another group.

The most obvious audience is that of the West Point cadets and experienced officer corps. If I were grading Obama regarding his appeal to this audience it would be a D. The primary reason is he never once mentioned victory as an outcome of his strategy. Why does this matter? Put yourself in the mindset of an officer who has (or will soon have) enlisted soldiers under his command. One question that would likely spring to mind is, “if my commander in chief is not convinced victory is possible, what do I tell my troops?” That is not a situation an officer wants to find himself in, to say the least.

Another audience are the legislators, activists and partisans of the president’s political party. As the health care debate has shown, Democrats are not united on much of anything. Regarding military action, one the one hand, most Blue Dog Democrats support a strong military and the use of force. But the wing of the Democratic Party that was largely responsible for the president’s victory are the progressives. Most of them want the troops home yesterday. The president’s speech contained some tough talk regarding Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the Blue Dogs and a clear timetable for the progressives. Or, was that a clear timetable? What was that mention of “facts on the ground” all about? Isn’t that what President Bush said time and time again when asked when we would withdrawal from Iraq? Obama did better with Democrats but not great, C-range territory.

The final audience to consider are Republicans, the political opposition. They do not seem very pleased with the president’s speech either. Some dismissed his strategy out of hand before he even gave his speech while others have been railing against him for taking so long to get his act together. Many wanted–but did not expect–Obama to commit to the 60,000 troops that General McChrystal asked for. They were also perturbed by his references to torture and shutting down Gitmo. So he gets another D.

Final Grade: D+

Setting aside how he did with these audiences, just a few words about my own perspective. First, I am not as critical as some that Obama took a while to put his Afghanistan plan together. Yet I agree that it is was too long, especially for someone who made a more effective Afghanistan strategy a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Progressives seem to have forgotten about that. Second, I concur it is important to let President Karzai know we are not going to be there forever. But did President Obama have to announce the timetable to the entire world? Couldn’t he have done this more diplomatically? Third, the political cheap shots were a disappointment. So how did he do for this audience of one? I give him a C-.

Read More:

Full transcript of the president’s speech here.

Clive Crook at the Atlantic found the speech contradictory:

Obama tried to have it both ways: he gave the generals another 30,000 soldiers, almost as many as they had asked for, but told the country (and anybody else who might have been listening) that disengagement would begin in just 18 months.

At its center, in other words, the speech contradicted itself. You cannot argue, as he tried to, that (a) this is a war America must win to safeguard its own security, and (b) whether the US is winning or not, the troops will start to come home in 2011. If they can start to come home in 18 months regardless, why not start to bring them home now?

That was not the only contradiction. We are against “nation building” (again). But as well as creating the country’s own security forces out of next to nothing, we want a civilian surge to build capacity and foster development. Run that by me once more.

Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard found it disapopinting:

I had hoped Obama would declare that nothing will deter him, as commander-in-chief, from prevailing in Afghanistan. But it turns out a lot of things might deter him. He listed a few of them: the cost of the war, its length (if more than 18 months from January 2010), the failure of Afghans to step up to the task sufficiently. He hedged.

Americans and our allies were looking for more, I believe. To have rallied the country and the world, Obama needed to indicate he would lead a fight to win in Afghanistan, with the help of allies if possible, but with the armed forces of the U.S. alone if necessary. He didn’t say anything like that. He didn’t come close.

While Joan Walsh over at Slate has this to say:

At the moment he needed all of his persuasive powers, Obama gave the worst major speech of his presidency. I admit: I expected to be, even wanted to be, carried away a bit by Obama’s trademark rhetorical magic. But I wasn’t, not even a little. I found the speech rushed, sing-songy and perfunctory, delivered by rote. I despise the right-wing Obama-Teleprompter taunts, but even I wanted to say, Look at your audience, not the damn Teleprompter, Mr. President. Obama looked haggard, his eyes deeper set, and I believe this decision pained him. But I’m not sure even he believes it’s the right decision.

Irving Kristol, R.I.P.

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[Image by Keith Myers/NYT]

The “Godfather of the Neoconservative Movement” has passed on.

Here is a bit from John Podhoretz’s post at Contentions:

The intellectual and political life of the United States over the past 60 years was affected in so many important and enduring ways by Irving Kristol that it is difficult to capture in words the extent of his powerful and positive influence. Irving, who died today at the age of 89, was the rarest of creatures—a thoroughgoing intellectual who was also a man of action. He was a maker of things, a builder of institutions, a harvester and disseminator and progenitor of ideas and the means whereby those ideas were made flesh…

The number of institutions with which he was affiliated, or started, or helped grow into major centers of learning and thinking is hard to count. There is this institution, COMMENTARY, where he began working after his release from the Army following the conclusion of the Second World War. There were two other magazines in the 1950s, the Reporter and Encounter, which he helped found and whose influence on civil discourse was profound and enduring, even legendary. There was the Public Interest, the quarterly he co-founded in 1965 with Daniel Bell and then ran with Nathan Glazer for more than 30 years, which was the wellspring of neoconservative thinking on domestic-policy issues. He helped bring a sleepy Washington think tank called the American Enterprise Institute into the forefront. And he made Basic Books into a publishing powerhouse that was, for more than 20 years, at the red-hot center of every major debate in American life.

It was through his encouragement and lobbying efforts that several foundations began providing the kind of support to thinkers and academics on the Right that other foundations and most universities afforded thinkers and academics on the Left. Through his columns in the Wall Street Journal, he instructed American businessmen on the relation between what they did and the foundational ideas of capitalism as explicated by Adam Smith, and changed many of them from sideline players in the battle over the direction of the American economy into front-line advocates.

Just an example of Irving’s approach: In 1979, as a first-year student at the University of Chicago, I started a magazine called Midway (later Counterpoint) with my friend Tod Lindberg, now the editor of Policy Review. I sent the first issue to Irving, a family friend. He called me a few days later. “Do you need money?” he said in his fascinating accent, which bore both traces of the Brooklyn of his youth and the London where he spent crucial years in his 30s. “Money?” I said. “No, we made enough from advertising to pay for it.”

“If you ever do, let me know,” he said. And a few issues later, we did. I called him, and he instructed me on the fine art of writing a grant proposal to a new foundation he had begun called the Institute for Educational Affairs. A few weeks later, he called me to report that a grant of $2,000 had been approved and, moreover, that he had used our little magazine as an example of what might be done on college campuses to encourage non-Leftist thinking among students. The board of the foundation found his pitch compelling, and it was decided that efforts should be made to encourage the creation of other publications like Counterpoint. From this seedling came a project that would, by the mid-1980s, lead to the creation of more than 50 college newspapers and magazines across the country engaged in a vital intellectual project to bring ideological diversity to campus life.

Now, if one were to measure by the nature of colleges today as opposed to 30 years ago, one would have to say this venture did not effect much change. But what came out of it were dozens of young writers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs (like Peter Thiel, the co-creator of PayPal and one of the founding editors of the Stanford Review) who have enriched American life.

So it was with Irving the mentor. There are people throughout the United States, writers and editors and academics and thinkers and speechwriters and policymakers, who owe their careers and the shape of their lives to Irving and his direct efforts on their behalf—giving them counsel, writing them letters, finding them employment. He was a human job bank.

The Heritage Foundation:

With the death of editor and scholar Irving Kristol, the conservative movement has lost another of its intellectual champions. In recent years, Irving was a Senior Fellow Emeritus with our friends over at the American Enterprise Institute. That post, though, was merely the capstone to a long career in media, publishing and academia.

Famously, of course, Irving Kristol wasn’t always a conservative, much less a “neoconservative.” He began his career as a Marxist, but from the position of a leftist was able to recognize the weaknesses of Marxism. That realization led to his gradual move to the political right.

Here’s how he once put it: “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a neo-something: a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-liberal, a neo-conservative; in religion a neo-orthodox even while I was a neo-Trotskyist and a neo-Marxist. I’m going to end up a neo-; that’s all, neo dash nothing.”

Instead, Irving ended up an influential conservative icon.

Among other jobs, he was managing editor of Commentary magazine from 1947 to 1952, executive vice president of Basic Books for eight years and professor of social thought at New York University Graduate School of Business.

Irving Kristol was an inspiration to all of us. During the early days of the conservative movement, liberals controlled academia even more completely than they do today.

Yet Kristol reminded us that ideas were more important than ideology. He gave birth to an intellectual movement that proved conservative ideas work, and he helped make conservatives into what the late  Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York called “the party of ideas.”

“A conservative,” Irving liked to say, “is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality.”

Robert Kagan at WaPo:

He was a truly great man, a great intellectual, and a great, patriotic servant to his country. He was also a unique inspiration, to me personally, and to untold thousands of other young people for whom he provided a model of the intellectual life well-lived. He was a deep and fierce thinker, who nevertheless delivered his thoughts in the most amiable fashion, without animus or bile. He was curious and invited others to be curious, to engage in serious dialogue on the important issues of the day. He was also a creator of communities and institutions. He occupied a unique space between the world of the mind and the world of action. Networks of thinkers, policy-makers, and politicians revolved around him — and not because he thrust himself into their midst but because his mind and character attracted them to him. To go to work for him, as I did fresh out of college almost 30 years ago, was to enter a rich and exciting intellectual universe, filled with learning and integrity and a commitment to the well-being of society. I fear such a universe may no longer exist. But the memory of what Irving Kristol created is enough to warm the soul for a lifetime.

Myron Magnet in the City Journal:

Irving Kristol, who died today at 89, was famously the godfather of neoconservatism, and he was the godfather of City Journal, too, having urged the Manhattan Institute’s then-president Bill Hammett 20 years ago to start a magazine. Ever practical and realistic, Irving knew that it wasn’t enough for conservatives to have good ideas; they also needed vehicles to communicate them. If the mainstream media—which in that pre-Internet era really had a monopoly on news and opinion—didn’t want to give conservatives a platform, there was no use complaining: we’d just have to start our own publications. Irving understood the power of ideas as well as anyone, but he also understood the power of institutions.

His own world-historically influential magazine, The Public Interest, bore Irving’s stamp of practicality and realism, indeed of realpolitik. It aimed, through its hard-headed emphasis on social-scientific data, to rise above mere theorizing and opinion into the realm of fact and proof. Ever the anti-utopian, in politics and in temperament, Irving was interested in the world as it is, not as some system wanted it to be. He’d had his youthful flirtation with left-utopianism and, disillusioned by experience, became a neoconservative—a liberal, as he defined it, who’s been mugged by reality. What he really meant, of course, was simply a liberal who’d been mugged—who’d seen that all the liberal, welfare-state ideals for the uplift of the poor, and especially the minority poor, had in the end produced a criminal underclass, exactly the opposite of the intended uplift. The good intentions counted for nothing with him and even sparked a certain dry contempt; it was the result that mattered.

For all The Public Interest’s hard-headedness, however, Irving—a New York Intellectual, after all—saw clearly the power of that very intangible reality, culture. He knew how perversely wrong Marx had been to think that economic relations mold the world, giving form even to our ideas. On the contrary, Irving understood, the ideas, beliefs, customs, virtues, even the prejudices that make up the tissue of our culture are the true shapers of reality. As he explained in his greatest essay, “When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness,” which closes Two Cheers for Capitalism, Adam Smith, for all his greatness as an economist and philosopher, did not see how crucial to the functioning of markets as he described them was the Presbyterian culture of the Scotland that bred him, with its emphasis on probity, thrift, enterprise, and truthfulness. Even in the economic world, material reality is only part of the story.

The NYT:

The Public Interest writers did not take issue with the ends of the Great Society so much as with the means, the “unintended consequences” of the Democrats’ good intentions. Welfare programs, they argued, were breeding a culture of dependency; affirmative action created social divisions and did damage to its supposed beneficiaries. They placed practicality ahead of ideals. “The legitimate question to ask about any program,” Mr. Kristol said, “is, ‘Will it work?’,” and the reforms of the 1960s and ’70s, he believed, were not working.

For more than six decades, beginning in 1942, when he and other recent graduates of City College founded Enquiry: A Journal of Independent Radical Thought, his life revolved around magazines. Besides The Public Interest, Mr. Kristol published, edited and wrote for journals of opinion like Commentary, Encounter, The New Leader, The Reporter and The National Interest.

All were “little magazines,” with limited circulations, but Mr. Kristol valued the quality of his readership more than the quantity. “With a circulation of a few hundred,” he once said, “you could change the world.”

Small circles and behind-the-scenes maneuverings suited him. He never sought celebrity; in fact, he was puzzled by writers who craved it. Described by the economics writer Jude Wanniski as the “hidden hand” of the conservative movement, he avoided television and other media spotlights; he was happier consulting with a congressman like Jack Kemp about the new notion of supply-side economics and then watching with satisfaction as Mr. Kemp converted President Ronald Reagan to the theory. Mr. Kristol was a man of ideas who believed in the power of ideas, an intellectual whose fiercest battles were waged against other intellectuals.

A major theme of The Public Interest under Mr. Kristol’s leadership was the limits of social policy; he and his colleagues were skeptical about the extent to which government programs could actually produce positive change.

Neoconservatism may have begun as a dispute among liberals about the nature of the welfare state, but under Mr. Kristol it became a more encompassing perspective, what he variously called a “persuasion,” an “impulse,” a “new synthesis.” Against what he saw as the “nihilistic” onslaught of the ’60s counterculture, Mr. Kristol, in the name of neoconservatism, mounted an ever more muscular defense of capitalism, bourgeois values and the aspirations of the common man that took him increasingly to the right.

For him, neoconservatism, with its emphasis on values and ideas, had become no longer a corrective to liberal overreaching but an “integral part” of conservatism and the Republican Party, a challenge to liberalism itself, which, in his revised view, was a destructive philosophy that had lost touch with ordinary people.

But, I am a Liberal has links to a variety of obits here.

So does Poumista.

Social Research Journal: Letter in Support of Iranian Dissident Akbar Ganji

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[If you want to add your name to this letter, please send an email to Social Research at socres@newschool.edu. Social Research website here.]
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Dear friends of Social Research,

Because you have joined us in protesting abuses of human rights in the past, we hope you will be willing to add your signature to the letter below. This is a letter from Akbar Ganji, an Iranian dissident who spent five years in jail in Iran, to the United Nations in response to the brutal assault on the Iranian citizens protesting the illegality of Ahmadinejad’s election. If you sign this letter, your signature will be included on the document presented to the United Nations. Time is of the essence here, so we hope you will get back to us right away. If you would like to join in signing Ganji’s letter, please reply to this e-mail with your name and affiliation, and we will pass your signature along.

Thank you,

Arien Mack
Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology
Editor, Social Research
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To: Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki Moon
From: Akbar Ganji, journalist and political dissident
June 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Ban Ki Moon,

Evidence shows that in the Islamic Republic of Iran elections are not free, competitive or fair, and they never lead to a real transformation in the country’s political structure. Several reasons exist for this:

Article 110 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html) places most of the power in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and institutions that are directly under his control. Article 57 of the Constitution places all three branches of the government – namely the executive, legislative and the judicial branches – “under the purview of the absolute [divine] rule and [divine] leadership” of the Supreme Leader. The people of Iran only have a say in voting for the presidency, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles), and local councils. Even if the people’s representatives were to be elected on fair and competitive grounds, they would be unable to bring about any real reforms in the affairs of the state. Non-elective institutions, such as the Guardian Council, the Exigency Assembly, and the High Council of Cultural Revolution, often thwart and nullify the action of elected institutions.

In practice, the real power in Iran lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader (rahbar) and it goes beyond the letter of the law as written in the Constitution. According to Article 98 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and members of this Council are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader (rahbar). The Guardian Council holds that the power of the Supreme Leader is not limited by the letter of Constitution, rendering the powers of the rahbar of the Islamic Republic virtually limitless.

The recent Iranian elections were carried out under these same limiting circumstances. Moreover, political dissidents are excluded from the pool of candidates, and a pre-condition for being considered as a candidate is to express their belief in and adherence to Islam, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and the absolute authority of the Supreme Leader. In the latest parliamentary elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified some two thousand potential candidates and excluded them from the candidates’ pool. Again, in the most recent presidential elections, the Council of Guardians disqualified four-hundred-seventy-one applicants for candidacy and only allowed four candidates into the competition, all of whom had previously been top official positions in the Islamic Republic over the past three decades. During the Friday Prayer congregation on June 19th, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic publically divulged that the one candidate who came closest to his own personal views was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the election held on June 12th 2009 more than eighty percent of eligible voters participated under these very restrictive and pre-screened conditions. Sadly, their free choice was rejected even in this latest election, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced as the winner.

Most Iranians concur that their vote has not been truthfully accounted for. All across the country, the people have come out and held peaceful rallies to protest electoral violations that amount to a drastic violation of their right to shape their future. Sadly, the government of the Islamic Republic has faced off these peaceful and civil protests harshly, and several innocent people, including students in the nation’s universities have been barbarically assaulted by the state police. Numerous political and civil activists have been imprisoned without due process and, and at the same time, communication networks have been widely disrupted and severe restrictions have been placed on the activities of reporters and international observers.

We, intellectuals, political activists, and defenders of democratic rights and liberties beseech you to heed the widespread protests of the Iranian people and to take immediate and urgent action by:

1)    Forming an international truth-finding commission to examine the electoral process, vote counting and the fraudulent manipulation of the people’s vote in Iran

2)    Pressuring the government in Iran to annul fraudulent election results and hold democratic, competitive and fair elections under the auspices of the UN

3)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to release all those detained in the course of recent protests

4)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to free the media that have been banned in recent days and to recognize and respect the right of the people to free expression of ideas and the nonviolent protesting the results of the recent elections

5)    Pressuring the government of the Islamic Republic to stop its harsh and barbaric treatment of the people of Iran

6)    Refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate government that has staged an electoral coup, and curtailing any and all forms of cooperation with it from all nations and international organizations

Sincerely,

Democracy Promotion and the Obama Doctrine

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[The radical left view of democracy promotion]

I am writing in response to and in effort to engage in dialogue with some of my favorite blogs and bloggers who I think are too supportive of president Obama. I am particularly concerned about Obama’s dismissal of democracy promotion as a goal of U.S. foreign policy. I will provide three examples.

Obama has abandoned democracy promotion. The ostensible reason is the previous president, George W. Bush, is so closely associated with this concept and has irretrievably damaged it. As Joshua Muravchik points out in the recent Commentary (“The Abandonment of Democracy” July/August 2009), this perspective, while certainly common on the liberal (and radical) left, is historically inaccurate.

It was actually Jimmy Carter who placed democracy promotion at, if not the center, at least the periphery, of his foreign policy under the rubric of human rights. When Regan came to power in 1980, he was reluctant to continue Carter’s efforts. As Muravchik writes:

At first, Reagan was inclined to eschew human rights as just another part of Jimmy Carter’s wooly-minded liberalism. In an early interview, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that the Reagan administration would promote human rights mostly by combating terrorism. But soon Reagan had second thoughts: instead of jettisoning the issue, he put his own distinctive spin on it by shifting the rhetoric and the program to focus more on fostering democracy.

George H.W. Bush followed in the footsteps of Reagan. President Clinton also made democracy promotion a centerpiece of his foreign policy. Liberal pundits often conveniently forget that Clinton was a steadfast advocate of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, a U.S. law that called for regime change in that county.

Obama has made it clear that he values diplomacy and discussion over the promotion of, well, just about anything. On the topic of democracy promotion he is noticeably silent if not opposed to the concept. Example One, witness his vacillation regarding the recent events in Iran.

As Martin Peretz (TNR) notes:

[T]he American people must learn this lesson from the winning “yes, we can” candidate. And this lesson is that we won’t even try when the stakes are as obvious as other people’s decent freedoms. We won’t even cut off trade with Tehran. The smug and cool Brent Scowcroft is now enthroned as the foreign affairs sage of Washington, D.C. Here is what he had to say late last week: U.S. government support for those Iranians who are protesting against electoral results would provoke a more intense crackdown by the government in Tehran. I think he gave the good news to the mullahs over Al Jazeera.

Anne Bayefsky (Forbes) concurs:

This is a man who embodies the opposite of the courage to act. His appalling ignorance of history prompted him to claim at his press conference that “the Iranian people … aren’t paying a lot of attention to what’s being said … here.” On the contrary, from their jail cells in the Gulag, Soviet dissidents took heart from what was being said here–as all dissidents dream that the leader of the free world will be prepared to speak and act in their defense.

The president’s storyline that we don’t know what has transpired in Iran is an insult to the intelligence of both Americans and Iranians. Our absence from the polling booths doesn’t mean the results are a mystery. The rules of the election were quite clear. Candidates for president must be approved by the 12-member Council of Guardians. As reported by the BBC, more than 450 Iranians registered as prospective candidates while four contenders were accepted. All 42 women who attempted to run were rejected. So exactly what part of rigged does President Obama not understand?

Instead of denouncing the fake election, President Obama now tells Iranians who are dying for the real thing “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Whose sovereignty is that? The Hobbesian sovereign thugs running the place? Sovereignty to do what? To deny rights and freedoms to their own people? In a state so bereft of minimal protections for human dignity, why should the sovereignty of such a government be paramount?

Example Two, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) recently gave its annual Democracy Award to a group of Cuban activists, primarily Afro-Cuban dissidents. Obama refused to meet with their representatives in the U.S., instead preferring to profess his desire to transcend the barriers of ideology between the two countries.

From the NED website:

For fifty years the people of Cuba have been denied basic political, social, and economic freedoms. Today we recognize the courage and sacrifice of five activists who are determined to reclaim those freedoms for their country. Our honorees represent the broad and vibrant spectrum of opinion and activism in Cuba today. All five are relatively young, in their 30s and 40s; three are Afro-Cuban; one is a Christian Democrat and another is a Social Democrat; one is a trade unionist and another is a women’s leader. They are united in their commitment to democratic values, a philosophy of non-violence, and the goal of a free Cuba.

Their personal sacrifices are humbling: Ferrer, Linares, and Carrillo are in prison, arrested in the 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown on democratic activists. Their combined sentences total 70 years. Antúnez himself was imprisoned for 17 years until his release in 2007.

Perez has lived under constant harassment and now, with her husband Antúnez, is under house arrest, separated from her 14 year-old son. Despite solitary confinement, beatings, the denial of medical care, and separation from family, all five have persisted in their cause, countering their oppressors with hunger strikes and organizing for the support of other political prisoners.

Antúnez has written, “Peaceful action disarms oppressors in a moral sense. They may impede some action, but never the spirit or the goal that propels these activities.” Today we proudly stand in solidarity with these five in their struggle, confident that their dream of Cuba Libre will be realized.

Another telling glimpse of the Obama doctrine concerns the so-called “coup” in Honduras, my third example. In that country, President Manuel Zelaya was attempting to push a presidential referendum that would have allowed him to run for another term. Honduran specialists note that Zelaya was attempting to move the country down the path that was blazed by Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez i.e. weaken and subvert the constitution and rule of law so that he could attempt to become president for life.

When Zelaya tried to unilaterally call for a referendum, he was informed by the legislative branch that they would have to approve such a referendum before the public was able to vote one way or another. This is part of the country’s constitution. Zelaya attempted to circumvent the congress and take it straight to the voters but the Supreme Court informed him this was illegal under Honduran law.

Zelaya flaunted the legislative and judicial branch and had ballots, printed in Venezuela, flown into Honduras. At that point, the Supreme Court said “enough is enough” and requested the military take action. So this was not a coup d’état, at least not in the sense that I know the term. In a typical coup d’état, especially the Latin American variety, the military seizes the institutions of government (legislative, executive, judicial) or abolishes one or more. In this case, the president was calling for a subversion of the institutions of democratic government while the military defended those institutions.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady (WSJ) writes:

That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

Rather than side with democratic institutions and the rule of law in Honduras, our president declared the state’s actions “illegal” and had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claim, “We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue”.

These statements were made less than a day after the so-called coup. Compare that to the long week of violence it took for Obama’s administration to condemn what was happening in Iran.

What these three examples show, a mere six months into Obama’s first term, is a severe break with the continuity in foreign policy of the past two decades,  a break with democracy promotion as a foreign policy goal of the United States. This is the change many Americans voted for. But is it the sort of change you really believe in?

MORE:

Roland (But, I am a Liberal!) Dodds: Miller and Kagan on the Obama Doctrine

Excellent roundup of the events in Honduras at Fausta’s blog.

Rick Richman:  Zelaya, Honduras and Obama

Sultan Knish: Obama, a Profile in Cowardice

Ken Timmerman: Obama Erases Pro-Democracy Money for Iran

Paul Wolfowitz: Obama and the Freedom Agenda (h/t to Roland)

More Iran Links

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Swiped from Bob and Mod:

Contentious Centrist: Friends of the Ayatollahs

Dissent: From Ramin Jahanbegloo, Michael Walzer and others

Roland Dodds (But, I am a Liberal!): Neda Agha Soltan – Voice of Iran

The Field:

Flesh is Grass:

Ganselmi: “Friends” of the Iranian People

LabourStart: Iran updates

Martin in the Margins:

The Spirit of Man: Loads of stuff to read

Michael Totten: Ahmadinejad and the rural poor

Iran Election Demonstrations Roundup

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iran demo

Too busy with the newborn to write about events in Iran right now but here are some posts and links from around the Web:

Ben Cohen at Z-Word

But, I am a Liberal!

Flesh is Grass

Ganselmi (h/t to Mod and Z-Word)

Kellie (Airforce Amazons)

Loads of posts at Martin in the Margins

Michael Totten’s website and more articles at Contentions.

Modernity Blog