Category Archives: Democracy Promotion

More on Georgia and Russia (and a bit re: Poland)

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Since I last posted about Russia’s invasion of Georgia the conflict escalated from South Ossetia to Abkhazia and into central Georgia. Russia has agreed to a cease-fire but the specifics are sketchy at this time. Here are some selections from the web:

Max Boot (Contentions)

I am relieved to hear the Russia has called off its invasion of Georgia, although whether actions on the ground will match the words emanating from Moscow remains to be seen. But I am very, very depressed at the pusillanimous reaction to Russian aggression in what used to be called the Free World. Far too many are rushing to blame the victims. A perfect example of this mindset is this column by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch. He begins, “There is no excusing Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Georgia,” but then he proceeds to offer one excuse after another. “Since the cold war ended,” he writes, “the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.”

and more here.

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): What are friends for?:

Georgia has our attention (or is sharing it with John Edwards). John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have issued assorted statements on the matter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has dashed through the motions of European diplomacy, and President Bush has sent Condoleezza Rice dashing after him. Additionally, American Navy vessels are heading toward the Black Sea–to deliver aid. But a week after Russian tanks and jets set Georgia ablaze–and three days since the announcement of a ceasefire–Russian troops patrol Georgian cities with virtual impunity. No nation has defended Georgia and no Georgian ally has even given her the means to defend herself. Moreover, no agreements have been drafted explicitly securing Georgia’s territorial integrity. In this way, Saakashvili got the West dead wrong.

Victim status doesn’t get you what it used to. There was a time when an American friend or a strategically critical state under attack got more than color commentary from the White House and a boat full of Ace bandages. When Russia rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 we didn’t give Afghans our sympathy; we gave them guns–big ones. When Saddam tried to annex Kuwait, we went in and sent him back home. Today a real invasion will get a symbolic vote, a high profile condemnation, and a Facebook group.

Bob from Brockley has a nice set of links here. Bob takes a critical approach to reports in the Western media here:

Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

I agree with Bob but isn’t this the case in every conflict where reporters on the ground are scare? Western newspapers rely on government reports, interviews with officials, interviews with the opposition, etc. Look at Darfur. There are not many western reporters there. Newspapers report what the government in Khartum claims and what those resisting the government claim and what human rights organizations/NGOs claim. Same with Zimbabwe. We know what we know about these conflicts largely based on propaganda. Even in wars we today consider rather clear-cut, like World War II, most of the information produced by Western media was propaganda.

I also think it is important to make a distinction between “accepting lies” and reporting the position of an official of a government or political movement. If a media outlet notes, “according to Georgian officials 2,000 Georgian civilians were killed” and “according to Russian officials, 2,000 Russian civilians were killed” that is different than claiming “2,000 Georgian civilians and 2,000 Russian civilians were killed.” All of the MSM reports I have read are careful to point out which side is making a particular claim so I do not agree that reporters are accepting the lies of either side.

Pundits (and most bloggers) are a different case. Unless they are reporting facts on the ground (for example, the number and type of military units involved in a particular skirmish) I expect them to have an ideological interpretation of the conflict and communicate that in their opinions.

Kellie Strom (Air Force Amazons): They’re all the bloody same over there:

I’m a lousy chess player, but from what I read it looks to me as though Russia has been advancing its pawns in the hope that one of them would be taken, allowing its main force to attack. Georgia was facing losses either way, whether at the hands of the advancing pawns, or in risking confrontation with the main Russian forces. I’m not yet convinced that Georgian actions were wholly unreasonable. If they hadn’t responded, the Russian reaction to weakness would have undoubtedly have been an even greater buildup of their forces within the contested areas, and a continuation, if not escalation, of actions by its proxy separatist forces.

Sultan Knish: Pat Buchanan, the Kremlin’s New Whore

Lastly, within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland agreed to serve as a base for a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Do you blame them?

Good News from Basra

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[This is from the Times Online (UK)]

Barney White-Spunner writes:

There is an interesting piece of graffiti on a bridge near Basra. A fleeing militiaman has scrawled “We’ll be back”; underneath an Iraqi soldier has scribbled in reply “And we’ll be waiting for you”.

The Shia militias, the Jaish al- Mahdi, who controlled large parts of Basra until March this year, has now gone and instead the city is firmly under the grip of Iraq’s new security forces, in whom the coalition has invested so much training. They re-established control in April, in an operation romantically named “The Charge of the Knights”, systematically clearing the city with British and American support, confiscating illegal weapons and arresting the violent gangs whose combination of criminality and vicious extremism was making life a misery for so many of Basra’s people.

Around the city the posters of religious leaders are being replaced with billboards advertising cars and mobile phones and photographs of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is rightly credited with being the driving force behind the army’s crackdown. You see the symbol of The Charge of the Knights everywhere, a black horse carrying the flag of Iraq trampling the gangsters underfoot.

This improvement in security has made Basrawis more confident of their future than at any time since 2003. A recent poll showed that only 8 per cent now regard security as their main concern; 80 per cent have confidence in the Iraqi security forces to protect them. Women are free to walk the streets uncovered and to wear Western dress should they so choose.

Yet what also makes people here so confident is that they know that they live in what is potentially one of the richest cities in the Middle East…

[read it all]

James K. Glassman: Winning the War of Ideas

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[H/t NY Sun]

My subscription to the NY Sun lapsed some weeks ago. I intend to resub but have not managed to send in my check yet. I used to look forward to reading the paper on the subway during my commute. I’m really starting to miss it. My wife subscribes to the NYT weekend addition and her good friend has been dumping her old copies of the Nation and New Yorker on the weekends (per my wife’s request). Needless to say the household is in need of some balance. Commentary once a month is not enough.

So I went to the Sun’s website to see what I’ve been missing. This op-ed penned by under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs James K. Glassman was encouraging.

Winning the War of Ideas

During my confirmation hearings, Senator Lieberman called me “the supreme allied commander in the war of ideas.” I like the ring of that — even though I haven’t asked our allies if they agree. While the under secretary of state for public diplomacy has a big portfolio, the war of ideas will be my focus.

Unless we get the war of ideas right, we will never succeed in meeting the most significant threat of our time. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates put it well in a speech on July 16: “Over the long term, we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Non-military efforts — these tools of persuasion and inspiration — were indispensable to the outcome of the defining ideological struggle of the 20th century. They are just as indispensable in the 21st century — and perhaps even more so.”

During the Cold War, after a slow start, we became good at public diplomacy, with such institutions as the Congress of Cultural Freedom and Radio Free Europe. But starting in the early 1990s, America, in bipartisan fashion, began to dismantle this arsenal of influence. In its 2003 report, the Djerejian Group, a commission of which I was a member, would call, in desperation, for “a new strategic direction — informed by a seriousness and commitment that matches the gravity of our approach to national defense and traditional state-to-state diplomacy.”

Today, the environment has changed. Budgets have risen. Backing is bipartisan. There’s a lot of talk — as usual in Washington — about restructuring public diplomacy. Structure is important, but two things are far more important: will and strategy.

[read it all]

Under secretary Glassman’s perspective is definitely a step in the right direction. The U.S. needs to do much more in this arena. However, when the author writes:

Our priority is not to promote our brand but to help destroy theirs. We do that by showing foreign populations that the ideology and actions of the violent extremists are not in the best interests of those populations.

I wonder if this is possible for outsiders to accomplish. I suspect it is not. The people living in these places are going to have to do that vital political work. Unfortunately, in many places, the majority does support violence against the “infidel.” Even in the United Kingdom, close to 25% of the Muslim population felt the terrorist attacks of June 7, 2005 were justified.

Political Alignment and Identity: Pro-Western Versus Anti-Western Now More Important than Left Versus Right?

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[Political Diagram by Marko Attila Hoare. Click for larger, legible, viewing.]

Thanks to Contentious Centrist and Bob for pointing me to this Ignoblus post which is commenting on a post by Marko Attila Hoare. To summarize, Hoare provided a diagram of contemporary political alignments (above). These alignments have less to do with left versus right (a dated but not entirely irrelevant paradigm) then pro-Western versus anti-Western.

Hoare writes:

The triumph of the centrist political model has led to one section of the Left and one section of the Right breaking away from their respective comrades and joining up in opposition to this model: this ultimately takes the form of a Red-Brown coalition. Conversely, a second section of the Left and a second section of the Right have likewise broken away from the first sections and come together in support of extending this model globally. This, then, is the principal ideological division in global politics today: pro-Western vs anti-Western; globalist vs anti-globalist; the democratic centre vs the Red-Brown coalition.

The essence of the division is that the pro-Westerners support the extension of the liberal-democratic order across the globe, through the politics of human rights, promotion of democracy, universal values and interventionism (not necessarily always military). The anti-Westerners oppose the liberal-democratic model, at least as a universal model; they admire or support movements or regimes that stand in opposition to the Western alliance or to Western values – all of which uphold religious fundamentalism or nativist nationalism, sometimes combined with a ’socialist’ veneer, as an alternative to liberal democracy.

Ignoblus’ post focuses on cultural codes and anti-Zionism. is on to something in connecting anti-Western sentiment and anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is a huge part of the contemporary radical left’s political identity, But this anti-Zionism should be examined within the context of a broader “anti-imperialism.” Hoare advocated a similar perspective in his review of Buruma and Margalit’s Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies for Democratiya. Here is an excerpt:

In simplest terms, ‘imperialism’ can be defined as a state’s pursuit of empire or the expansion of its power, through acquiring territory from, or power over, other states or peoples. No reasonable person would not oppose this, but ‘anti-imperialism’ today means something other than opposition to imperialism. ‘Imperialism’, in the eyes of the average ‘anti-imperialist’, is coterminous with ‘the West’, i.e. with the US and its West European and Israeli allies. As such, it is used to refer to the bloc of states that dominates the world today, and there is undoubtedly something emotionally appealing to the individual ‘radical’ in apparently fighting that which is all-powerful. As an eighteen-year old Trotskyist and ‘anti-imperialist’ at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, I can testify to the empowering sense of self-righteousness I felt as I demonstrated against the US and its allies, in the course of which my views became increasingly extreme: I fervently believed that the US-led intervention was by far a greater evil than Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait; that it would be a blessing for humanity if the US and its allies were defeated; that such a defeat would trigger revolutionary outbreaks across the Middle East and even in the West.

[read it all here]

I agree that it useful to analyze contemporary conlficts as between the forces supporting economic and political liberalization and those opposed to this opening. However, like Ignoblus, I am rather uncomfortable being lumped in with president George W. Bush. My political opponents on the radical left have often reduced my nuanced centrist position to that of neo-conservatism but there is no need for Hoare to fall into the same trap. After all, part of the appeal of the Euston Manifesto among self-described leftists was it provided an opportunity to be robustly anti-totalitarian (i.e. “decent”) without being right-wing or conservative. Hoare also ignores the existence of ultra-leftists, anarchists, and other self-styled revolutionaries who advocate a third perspective that is classically “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” while also critical of Jihadist terrorism. I’m refering here to Three Way Fight, World War 4 Report, etc.

All in all, I find much affinity with what Hoare is writing on these issues and this diagram is a good first attempt at describing political alignments in the post September 11, 2001 era. I’m very interested in seeing Hoare and others develop these ideas further. For example, if muscular liberals are lumped in with neo-conservatives into some sort of political coalition, where does Hoare see the potential for political cleavages developing between these two groups?

New Upgrades to U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship

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ac130-gunship2.jpg

[H/t Zerohostel]

The US Military has conducted ongoing efforts that improve the performance and increase the lethality of the AC-130 gunships operated by US Air Force Special Operations Command. The work could also provide these and other C-130 Hercules models with greatly expanded capabilities generally referred to as ‘Killer Herc’. Late in the 1980’s, the Air Force decided that it needed to upgrade the capacities of the AC-130, and the AC-130U project was begun. The weapons were changed somewhat, with the twin 20mm vulcan cannons being dropped in favor of a GAU-12 25mm rotating cannon.

However, the biggest change to the AC-130 airframe was in it’s electronics and avionics. AN AN/APG-180 radar (derived from the same ground and air radar that the Air Forces F-15E uses) was added to allow tracking of targets and rounds for adjustment as was an ALLTV (All Light Level TV) for operations at night or daytime, when the crew wants to keep their radars off to avoid alerting enemy forces or giving anti-radar missiles a target to home in on.

With these systems, the AC-130U can operate at night and in bad weather, engaging multiple targets simultaneously. The AN/APG radar allows the targeting crew in the control booth to follow rounds all the way to the ground and make live corrections without having to wait for ground troops to spot and report back. The larger 25mm gun has a longer range and more power, allowing the AC-130U to stay higher and farther away from ground threats, and its 1,800 rounds per minute firing rate can decimate anything from enemy formations to light armored vehicles. All of the weapons are now fixed on hydraulically actuated, computer trainable mounts, so that the new AC-130U can attack two targets over half a mile apart at the same time.

[read it all here]

[This video shows an A-130 on the job in Afghanistan. Notice how the gunner consciously avoids hitting the mosque.]

Iraq War: Five Years Later

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I was going to write a post with the title “Iraq War: Five Years On” but the always astute Norm Geras beat me to it. Mr. Geras writes:

I do not understand how anyone who supported the war can look at that death toll (whatever its exact size), and at the injuries, and the numbers of refugees, and the extreme social dislocation, and the civil and ethnic conflict, that have followed upon the war, and say sincerely that they weren’t wrong in any way, that the hopes and/or expectations they had in supporting the war have not been dashed or had to be radically adjusted.

Jules Crittenden, in an identically titled article at The Weekly Standard concurs,

The errors committed in this war have contributed greatly to American frustrations. There was a failure to recognize the extent of the challenge ahead, even as ambitious plans were being laid starting in late 2001. The Bush administration could have had a blank check and recruits lined up around the block, but instead insisted on taking us into war with a post-Cold War military that is only belatedly being built up. The administration failed to seize control of Iraq with sufficient urgency and, when a complex insurgency was well underway, failed to move with sufficient skill to quell it until late in the day. The greater failure was to not adequately communicate the mission to Americans and to the world.

All wars go through evolutions, and it is unrealistic to expect no missteps. In this case, however, they are cited most frequently not as arguments to improve the war effort, but as excuses for abandonment. The Bush administration has made good at last with a counterinsurgency strategy that has hobbled Al Qaeda in Iraq and has the Shiite militias in a box. Iraqi military capabilities are improving, and the next president appears likely to inherit a somewhat pacified, reconciled Iraq; an enhanced American position of influence in the Middle East; opposing terrorist organizations that are sharply compromised; and a string of nascent democracies. At considerable cost of American blood and treasure, the United States is now in a position of marked if precarious influence in the most dangerous part of the world. The new president will have to consider how much of that he or she wants to throw away or build upon.

Unlike Mr. Geras, my position shifted from opposition to the war to support rather than from support to opposition. I agree that my hopes and expectations have been radically adjusted. However, I still think there were three options available at the time (regardless of arguments about WMD, etc.).

Option one was continuing the sanctions regime and no-fly zones. If we trust the figures coming from the lefties, the sanctions were killing 10,000 Iraqis a month. If we trust conservatives, the sanctions regime was not effective. We know Saddam was enriching himself through the Oil-for-Food program and all the rest.

Option two was dismantling the sanctions regime and no-fly zones. This was the policy preference of the radical left but was not supported by most centrists or conservatives.

Option three was war. War should never be the first option, but given the other two I think it was the only choice we had.

But Mr. Geras is absolutely correct about the need to question assumptions. American Enterprise Institute Vice President Danielle Pletka put it this way:

[W]hat about the mistaken assumptions that remain unexamined? Looking back, I felt secure in the knowledge that all who yearn for freedom, once free, would use it well. I was wrong. There is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties. And it turns out that living under Saddam Hussein’s tyranny for decades conditioned Iraqis to accept unearned leadership, to embrace sect and tribe over ideas, and to tolerate unbridled corruption.

I thought similarly about Iraq. I know elections are no guarantee of freedom and liberty, that the institutions of civil society are the building blocks of any successful democracy, but I had hope that these organizations would develop over time. The emergence of a free labor movement was an especially encouraging development. But the insurgency made it extremely difficult for these fledgling movements. Nevertheless, it was an improvement over totalitarianism as evidenced by the testimonies of survivors of Saddam’s death camps.

President Bush recognized this in his recent speech:

What our troops found in Iraq following Saddam’s removal was horrifying. They uncovered children’s prisons, and torture chambers, and rape rooms where Iraqi women were violated in front of their families. They found videos showing regime thugs mutilating Iraqis deemed disloyal to Saddam. And across the Iraqi countryside they uncovered mass graves of thousands executed by the regime.

Because we acted, Saddam Hussein no longer fills fields with the remains of innocent men, women and children. Because we acted, Saddam’s torture chambers and rape rooms and children’s prisons have been closed for good. Because we acted, Saddam’s regime is no longer invading its neighbors or attacking them with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Because we acted, Saddam’s regime is no longer paying the families of suicide bombers in the Holy Land. Because we acted, Saddam’s regime is no longer shooting at American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones and defying the will of the United Nations. Because we acted, the world is better and United States of America is safer.

When the Iraqi regime was removed, it did not lay down its arms and surrender. Instead, former regime elements took off their uniforms and faded into the countryside to fight the emergence of a free Iraq. And then they were joined by foreign terrorists who were seeking to stop the advance of liberty in the Middle East and seeking to establish safe havens from which to plot new attacks across the world.

The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated — but it is a fight we must win. So our troops have engaged these enemies with courage and determination. And as they’ve battled the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they have helped the Iraqi people reclaim their nation, and helped a young democracy rise from the rubble of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.

The U.S. Defense Department recently released a study of 600,000 documents from Saddam Hussein’s archives concluding that he supported many terrorist groups, secular and religious. However, the report did find a “smoking gun” or direct connection with al Qaeda. The (redacted) report, Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents, is available here.

While many left critics of the war have correctly pointed out that Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime was secular, this did not preclude the regime from finding common cause against the United States with a variety of radical Islamist movements after the 1991 Gulf War. Anthony Lake writing in The New York Sun notes:

• The Iraqi Intelligence Service in a 1993 memo to Saddam agreed on a plan to train commandos from Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Anwar Sadat and was founded by Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

• In the same year, Saddam ordered his intelligence service to “form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia.” At the time, Al Qaeda was working with warlords against American forces there.

• Saddam’s intelligence services maintained extensive support networks for a wide range of Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations, including but not limited to Hamas. Among the other Palestinian groups Saddam supported at the time was Force 17, the private army loyal to Yasser Arafat.

• Beginning in 1999, Iraq’s intelligence service began providing “financial and moral support” for a small radical Islamist Kurdish sect the report does not name. A Kurdish Islamist group called Ansar al Islam in 2002 would try to assassinate the regional prime minister in the eastern Kurdish region, Barham Salih.

• In 2001, Saddam’s intelligence service drafted a manual titled “Lessons in Secret Organization and Jihad Work—How to Organize and Overthrow the Saudi Royal Family.” In the same year, his intelligence service submitted names of 10 volunteer “martyrs” for operations inside the Kingdom.

• In 2000, Iraq sent a suicide bomber through Northern Iraq who intended to travel to London to assassinate Ahmad Chalabi, at the time an Iraqi opposition leader who would later go on to be an Iraqi deputy prime minister. The mission was aborted after the bomber could not obtain a visa to enter the United Kingdom.

A long time skeptic of the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq and a former CIA senior Iraq analyst, Judith Yaphe yesterday said, “I think the report indicates that Saddam was willing to work with almost any group be it nationalist or Islamic, that was willing to work for his objectives. But in the long term he did not trust many of the Islamist groups, especially those linked to Saudi Arabia or Iran.” She added, “He really did want to get anti-American operations going. The fact that they had little success shows in part their incompetence and unwilling surrogates.”

A former Bush administration official who was a member of the counter-terrorism evaluation group that analyzed terror networks and links between terrorists and states, David Wurmser, said he felt the report began to vindicate his point of view.

“This is the beginning of the process of exposing Saddam’s involvement in Islamic terror. But it is only the beginning. Time and declassification I’m sure will reveal yet more,” he said. “Even so, this report is damning to those who doubted Saddam Hussein’s involvement with Jihadist terrorist groups. It devastates one of the central myths plaguing our government prior to 9-11, that a Jihadist group would not cooperate with a secular regime and vice versa.”

I recently heard Peter Feaver discuss five elements of the U.S. policy in Iraq:

1) Security
2) Reconstruction
3) Strengthening local government
4) Transparency in tax collection and resource allocation
5) Political Reconciliation

The surge has done a remarkable job in the first category. Progress has been made in categories two and three as well. But by the time you get to categories four and five, progress is minimal.

More:

American Enterprise Institute: Iraq Five Years Later, What’s Next?

Brookings: Iraq Reports

Peter Feaver (former National Security Advisor, 2005-2007) on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal (March 20, 2008).

Victor Davis Hanson: Mirror, Mirror. On Iraq.

Christopher Hitchens: How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I didn’t.

Oliver Kamm provides a nice roundup of Iraq commentaries here.

Reuters: Bearing Witness, Five Years of the Iraq War

Michael Weiss on Iraq (Pajamas Media).

Freedom for Kosova

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For heartfelt and astute observations I direct you to Marko Attila Hoare’s blog, Greater Surbiton. Hoare, the author of Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943 is also a contributor to the Bosnian Report of the Bosnian Institute and Democratiya. Here is an excerpt from his blogpost, “Kosova is free!“:

Kosova was crushed and oppressed by the Ottoman Empire; murderously invaded by the Serbian Army; repressed and colonised under the Yugoslav kingdom; dismembered by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy; and terrorised by the Communist police-state after World War II. It was partially emancipated in the late 1960s and 70s, only to see its autonomy brutally abrogated by Slobodan Milosevic, in an assault that culminated in the attempted genocide of the late 1990s. Who would have thought before 1999 that the story would have a happy ending ? Who would have thought that when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, East Timor would one day be free ?

This is a lesson, that no matter how bleak things may seem, justice and liberty may triumph in the long run. I have said before that the idea that Kosova’s independence will cause innumerable other ’separatist’ territories around the world to try to follow suit is a scaremongering myth. Still, I hope that the happy outcome will indeed inspire other enslaved nations not to give up hope: liberation may be just around the corner; you can’t keep a good nation down. Long live the freedom of the Chechens, Kurds, Taiwanese, Kashmiris, Darfurians ! Long live a free Palestine alongside a free Israel !

GWOT: al-Quds Brigades Commander Killed

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Here are various media reports regarding the successful targeting of Walid Obeidi, a high-level commander of the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad who was “martyred” by the IDF today.

Jerusalem Post

He enlisted in the Islamic Jihad in the 1980s and was held personally responsible by Israel for a suicide attack in a southern Tel Aviv falafel stand in 2006 in which 11 people were killed. Obeidi was also an expert bombmaker and was involved in financing the terror group’s activities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the army, he was also involved in planning a suicide attack in March 2006 that was thwarted when police caught the bomber as he was driving on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway.

Obeidi was killed in clashes with soldiers from the elite undercover Duvdevan Unit, who raided a home where he was hiding in the village of Kabatiya, near Jenin. IDF sources said that heavy exchanges of fire erupted between the soldiers and Islamic Jihad gunmen. Obeidi was killed and two of his bodyguards were wounded and arrested.

YNet News

Obeidi, 45, the father of three from the village of Birkin near Jenin, was appointed commander of the Jihad’s military wing following the killing of the organization’s leaders Louay Saadi of Tulkarem Hussein Jaradat of Jenin.

Reuters

More on the elite IDF Duvdevan Unit here.

Shlomo Avineri: Democracy and the Pursuit of Peace in the Middle East

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[Another old item (2004) I found on the Internet. One of my excuses is I only started blogging in June of last year. My other excuse is I am constantly finding interesting material in places I have little idea how I end up at. For example, this is a presentation Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri gave at the University of California at Los Angeles’ International Institute.]

My title is “The Situation” because what I would like to do is to share with you on one hand some of our problems in Israel but also view it in a wider context, and this is the official title of the lecture, which has to do with peace and democracy in the Middle East. One of the aspects when you deal with the Middle East is that people often overlook the fact that when one tries to find a way in which Israel and its surrounding neighbors can find a modus vivendi or compromise or coexistence you are not only dealing on one hand with a very small country and on the other hand with a very large so-called Arab world, but you are also talking about a country on one hand and a number of countries on the other hand that have some very different political cultures and political institutions.

I am certainly not a Kantian in this respect or Wilsonian who believes that if you have democracy all over the world there will not be wars or that democracy is the best and only guarantee for not having wars. But certainly it does create a problem when you want to solve problems of legitimacy, problems of contending narratives, as we have between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arabs, when one country is a democracy, a very flawed democracy—flawed is usually the normal adjective for democracy, I mean precisely because it is such a complex system; I don’t have to tell you about another flawed democracy because you know about it much better—but it is a democracy, and on the other hand a number of countries with very different sorts of governments, but none of them is a democracy.

And here this brings me to the Arab world. In contradistinction to this very complex and in some cases encouraging picture — not very encouraging but somehow encouraging picture in the non-Arab Muslim world, and I could mention also some other countries — twenty-two members of the Arab League are very different. Those of us who know history know that when one speaks about German history and its complex role one uses the term the Sonderweg, the special route of German politics compared to France and England. I’m not sure one should speak of an Arab Sonderweg, that there is something unusual or something wrong about the Arab politics. But the fact of the matter is that of the twenty-two members of the Arab League, twenty-two Arab countries, none has an elected government. None. No head of government in any one of those Arab countries has been elected. You don’t have it in any other region.

Furthermore, there hasn’t been in any Arab country a serious attempt at democratization. There may be window dressing. You know, the Saudis, who are now under enormous pressure, both internally and externally, have announced a year ago they are going to have municipal elections. Okay. Since this was first announced, first of all, it became clear, they did announce later, that half of the members of the municipal councils will be elected and the other half will be appointed by the government. So that is one thing. Yesterday I understand it was announced that women are not going to participate in the election. Not only that they cannot be elected, they cannot participate in the voting. So big deal. This is not a democratic reform. This is window dressing.

No Arab country has seen, in the last fifteen years about which we have been talking, either a grassroots movement towards democracy or a reformist leader who is trying to reform the country in a democratic direction. To put it in other ways, there has not been an Arab Lech Walesa or an Arab Solidarity movement a la Poland, or an Arab Vaclav Havel, nor has there been an Arab Gorbachev, or an Arab Attaturk.

Now this is first of all a fact, which for reasons of political expediency and political correctness has not been always publicly acknowledged. Politically, at least until 9/11, the United States political establishment, be it Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter, which has been very keen and with some success in promoting democracy by peaceful means all over the world, they did not push the point about the autocratic regime in Egypt or about what Saudi Arabia is.

[continue reading]

American Thinker: Only Change Can Save Cuba

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[Hat tip to American Thinker]

Only Change Can Save Cuba

By John Mendez

If one believes he is still alive, January 1st marked the 49th anniversary of the uninterrupted, uncontested, tyrannical rule of Fidel Castro. Five decades in power might just be enough for the perpetual revolutionary. Granma, the state-run and not coincidently, only newspaper on the island, quotes the dictator as saying he will not cling to power. The monumental sarcasm of his statement is, unsurprisingly, lost on the “Commandante.” He will now impart grandfatherly advice to the young leaders of the revolution. Exactly why anyone would care to listen to the architect of one of histories great failures isn’t terribly clear. But such delusions are common in advanced stages of “megalomania.”

As Tenzin Gyatso (aka The Dali Llama) says, “”We each create our own reality and for that we are solely responsible.” And no one has created a more demented sense of reality than the bearded one, who along with his many apologists, has a sense of reality that departs radically from…well, reality.

[continue reading]