Tarheeltalker

Are you rejoicing yet?

A couple of days ago ,a headline  in our local paper read thusly: Bin  Laden killed, America rejoices! I  suppose that  I failed to get the memo, since I  have not felt the urge to jump for joy. I have given a bit of thought to this event since its occurrence and perhaps even more thought to its aftermath. Of course I  am not alone in writing about these thoughts. Time magazine already has an issue devoted to all aspects of the event. Hooray for instant journalism. My son has written a  thoughtful post about  reactions to the killing/assassination that explore among other things the part that revenge plays.

For now I have thoughts that are more political in nature. There has been a significant internal debate in the  Obama administration about releasing a photo confirming  Bin Laden’s death. Personally it would be quite unseemly to do and many who are calling it a necessity( Sarah Palin for one) remind me of people who cannot avert their eyes from auto accidents  or any number of other disasters.

I actually applaud the President’s decision not to release a photo. But what intrigued me was his choice of words in describing the decision. We don’t “want to spike the football.”  Now as a football fan I know to what he refers,as does almost any sports fan. Laying aside the thought that this was an overly casual choice of phrases I infer that he sees no need to gloat and/or overly politicize the event.

Not to worry though. There are other available to carry the water for him in that regard. For example, Barbara Walters says that she would hate to be  a Republican running against Obama in 2012. Her sidekick, Joy Behar, said that maybe we should just skip the 2012 election completely, just not even bother. Others such as E J Dionne and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin have voiced or inferred similar sentiments.

After pondering this for a bit it finally hit me. Think back to 1991 just after the end of the Gulf War.George H W Bush is basking the glow of  an approval rate of over  90%  .The election is just  over 18 months away. Game over? Nope. In that instance the state of the economy was arguably the deciding factor. I think that will again be the case. For example gasoline prices are almost 3x higher than they were just over 2 years ago.If  there  is no discernible change in that number as well as others  in the economic realm, anything can happen in 2012 and probably will.

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May 6, 2011 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jefferson’s Great Gamble”

The title is that of a book by the same name by Charles Cerami about the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. It was a fascinating read on a number of levels. Once again, I was able to revel in and learn about a major event of American history. Just the cast of characters is amazing. Jefferson was the major player of course. But, on the American side alone there were  James Madison and James Monroe, the next 2 presidents, Robert Livingston, John Quincy Adams, and after the fact a little Andrew Jackson. On the French side, one sees Napoleon and the wily Talleyrand as well as the lesser known but important Louis Pichon.

One quote from the book really hit home for me. Its source was our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. He called the purchase”next in historical importance to the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. It was unparalleled in diplomacy because it cost almost nothing.” In raw dollars the price was $15 million. When interest is factored in up till the final payment in 1823( money borrowed from the Dutch) the total expended was around $ 27 million. That equates to less than ten              cents per acre for  an acquisition that doubled the size of the United States.So, in our infancy as a nation, we at one fell swoop surpassed the whole of Europe and “sea to shining sea” became just  a matter of time.

Among the many things on which to reflect are the quality of our nation’s leaders at that time. It just amazes me to realize how incredibly capable  our nation’s leadership was at what was our infancy as  a country. Less than 30 years prior, there was  a group of colonies with a rag tag army arrayed against the pre-eminent  military power in the world. Now, Jefferson,et. al are jousting diplomatically with France and to a degree England, whose spectre hovered in the background throughout the negotiations. Virtually all the decisions made by France and the United States had an English influence. France needed money to wage war against England. The United States feared English control of New Orleans and thus the Mississippi River, and so on.

So, in looking back, the purchase now  seems like  a no-brainer. An offer that you can’t refuse, in a very good sense. That is what I always thought, along with astonishment at the price per acre. But the beauty of studying history tells us much more.

First, France had bullied Spain into “giving” them the land by treaty with the provision that it could not be sold but would revert to Spain. Obviously that did not happen. And what actually was being purchased? What was the western boundary and was Florida included? Napoleon’s response, it’s what you want it to be.

  Did  Jefferson actually have the authority to make the purchase? He wrestled mightily with the idea, leaning as he did, towards the states rights side. Did James M0nroe, our point man in Paris, have the right to agree to  a price of $15 million when Congress had “approved” about 2 million. Would he be disgraced for the agreement? Might Jefferson even be impeached?

There was so much intrigue over the many months of negotiation that one must conclude it was near miraculous that the purchase  happened at all. To me, calling the deal for Louisiana in the health care legislation the  Louisiana Purchase did nothing but provide  a coarse  comparison to this monumental event that took place 207 years ago on May 2, 1803.

For certain, it was a gamble that not only brought the fledgling nation 875,000 square miles and all or part of 13 new states but in Madison’s words “one great, respectable, and flourishing empire.”

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Muslim Envoy

Hurrah, hurrah. The President today named Rashad Hussain as his envoy to  the Organization of the Islāmic Conference. The appointment is part of the president’s continuing  effort to improve strained U S Islāmic relations. Hussain will continue to develop the types pf partnerships that Obama talked about  in his famous Cairo speech last year.

Obama also pointed out that his new envoy is  a hafiz of the Quran, which means he has memorized the text of the Muslim holy book. ( Hope he can find out about the justifications for jihad in there. ) Obama also announced his upcoming trip to Indonesia in  March where he  hopes to continue the U S – Muslim dialogue. While he is there perhaps he can visit some  of the places where he hung out as  a child.

I guess only one thing about this appointment has me puzzled and that is this. Why did the president feel the need to appoint such a person at all? With all his qualifications, I  thought Obama was his own very special envoy to the  Islamic world. And, who could be  better, right?

He even made the announcement during his video address to the   7th  US Islāmic Forum meeting in Doha, Qatar. But he is allowing Madame Secretary Clinton to address the meeting tomorrow.

February 13, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Biden on Iraq

Some quite interesting comments today from vice-president Joe Biden. First, a bit of history using Biden’s own words. This from September 9, 2007 in response to  a positive assessment of the Iraq situation by Gen David Petraeous. Any security or tactical gains that have been made have no bearing  on a stable  government existing in Iraq. Prior to that date, Biden had even opposed the troop surge that Bush announced. Biden said that the surge would actually make things worse and not better. Besides, he said, no one thought the surge would work except Petraeus. In fact, Biden went on to say  that even 100,00 more troops would not help. This mirrors what his fellow senator Barack Obama said.

We cannot impose a military solution in Iraq and no military expert that I have spoken to thinks it is possible. That was in January, 2007. By February, 2009 Obama had changed his tune and was applauding the military gains and the reduction in violence.

Ok, now to Biden on Larry King. Last night he strongly suggested that some 90,000 troops would be coming home by the end of the summer and that Iraq would be one of the greatest achievements of the Obama administration. .

Today, an intrepid reporter questioned Press Secretary Gibbs about that statement. What made the question even cooler is that he  included the qualifiers that Obama opposed the surge and that Biden wanted to divide the country into 3 sectarian units. Unbelievable response from Gibbs. I don’t know how  he said this with a straight face. Gibbs first said that the achievement would  be  getting the troops home. The reporter countered with the comment that said agreement to carry out this was  signed before Obama took  office. Gibbs responds with this quote that is freaking unbelievable. ” The vice-president been deeply involved  in fixing the political process there so that elections can be held and our troops can, uhhh, come home as scheduled, uh, this  summer.” So, now we learn that Biden fixed Iraq. What an amazing guy. That is what has been doing when he travels to Iraq.

What may be the scariest thing  of all is if Obama and Biden,et al actually believe this stuff. And maybe Iraq will be” their” greatest achievement, except it won’t even be their achievement. Truly amazing. As a fellow blogger likes to say, ” good freakin grief!”

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

About that Iranian Thing…

…..wasn’t it supposed to be over and done by now? Something about December and deadlines and agreements  and how Russia has smoothed it all over  and wasn’t all the Arab world going to fall in love  with us? You remember the speech in Egypt that  was so great, do you not?

And just the other day, Defense Secretary Gates held out hope for the sanctions to work. And now Hilary has given an interview that kinda says Iran is not the real problem since they don’t have a bomb,yet.

Don’t I remember somebody using the phrase “axis of evil” and being roundly  condemned for it. Why that cowboy diplomacy that makes the world hate us,how dare he!

And yet, today I read that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has told his atomic agency to significantly enrich the country’s  stockpile of uranium. And German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg  referred to the farce being played out  just like in the past. “The outstretched hand of the international community has not only been taken but pushed back.”

What did Herr Guttenberg mean do you think? We will agree with the UN plan maybe says Iran. If more sanctions were imposed it would a  4th round, if you’re counting, and neither Russia nor China seems  all that excited about it.

I just feel that I have written all of this before and yet here we are again. Wonder what Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel think about it all? Are they watching closely?” Bet your sweet bippy” they are. In fact he is in Russia as  we write on a “long-planned trip.” Wonder what they will discuss?

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrity Peace Maker

The November 16th issue of  Time magazine has Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton on its cover. The blurbs advertising the article inside speak of the Secretary as a  “global celebrity”  with a teaser link to Joe  Klein’s article asking if she can make peace. Wow, now she is a global celebrity. When did that happen and won’t  Bill be jealous? Besides, I thought  that John Kerry was the new grand poo-bah of Obama’s foreign policy.

I guess that makes her the first celebrity Secretary of State since Henry Kissinger. No one saw fit to use  that  title with Condolezza Rice, although they could have . Surely, not Madeline Albright, ok maybe Colin Powell, not positive. But as I scrolled backwards through the recent occupants of the office, courtesy of my handy World Almanac and  Book  of  Facts , I really did not see  anyone else I might consider  a  global celebrity. Not Lawrence Eagleburger or  Warren Christopher or Edmund Muskie. You get the idea.

Now, perusing the names above and excluding them from celeb status  doesn’t necessarily mean they were not good or very good secretaries. Perhaps some of them just chose not to go the celeb route. So, back to that peace maker thing. Wasn’t Ms Clinton just in Israel recently where she spoke very highly of their progress on the West Bank settlements and  then had to back track later at a gathering of Arab leaders? Yep, that was it.

I am not so sure that Obama is more the architect of his foreign policy in this peace making arena. Nobel Prize, anyone? Madame Secretary went to the Berlin Wall anniversary soiree instead of the President. Not  agood move , him not going and her pinch-hitting. Seems that the heavy lifting on making peace is a  White House prerogative, anyway. And, chew on this. Just this week, a couple of Obama’s old pals, Bill Ayers and  his wife, Bernardine Dohrn roundly trashed Hilary’s 2008 campaign as having racist overtones. Remember these  folks are big time Obama  pals and  it doesn’t look so good for them to trash his Secretary of State. Stay tuned, there will doubtless be more. But, I would not be surprised if she were not the first high profile member of the Cabinet to depart.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Goldstone Report and Israel

Today, the United Nations approved, by a narrow vote of  114-18, with 44 nations abstaining, an Arab supported resolution that endorses the Goldstone Report. This paves the way for the UN Security Council to consider the matter. What did we do, voted no, along with Canada and obviously  only a handful of other countries.

The aforementioned report calls on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate the allegations of war crimes during last winter’s Gaza  incursion.( The report is named for South African jurist and UN investigator Richard Goldstone.) Deputy US ambassador to the UN, Alexander Wolff, called  the report”deeply flawed”. His main concerns were  the lack of attention or  mention of Hamas and the unbalanced focus on Israel.

Doubtless, the US would veto any Security council action. So, why is Israel concerned enough to say, via its UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalav, that granting any legitimate status to the report would essentially deny Israel “the right to defend ourselves.”  That is quite important to them, existing as they do in the world’s toughest neighborhood, as its most isolated member.

Perhaps they watch events and listen to statements with increasing nervousness, some of these from their heretofore staunchest ally.

What do Israelis think about us and them? Prior to January, 2009, some 88% of  them  believe Bush wa s pro-Israel. In May, a Jerusalem Post poll discovered that 31% of  them believed that about  Obama. A similar poll  just 3 months later showed  a figure of  4%. Quite  a precipitous drop. Joel Rosenberg referred to US Israel relations  as a coming “train wreck”, just 7 months ago. Now, he thinks the situation has only worsened. Even if one is not very pro Israel, the above numbers represent a significant concern. Are we tending to tilt more Arab, seems to be so. Is  that a good thing? I wonder.

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has the Cold War Returned ?

Lots of activity , both overt and otherwise involving Russia headed by one Vladimir Putin ( former KGB – Ha ) There is a lot going on here, some of which is visible and some of which is implied . One of many questions is , do we do anything other than talk tough and send humanitarian aid to those in need ? Since I started this post things have gone from bad to worse in the country of Georgia . I saw a Wall Street Journal article today that described Georgia as battered which is not good by any definition . United States officials, including Secretary of State Rice and President Bush continue to use strong language in urging Russia to withdraw its forces and respect Georgia’s territorial integrity . Meanwhile French officials who helped broker the ceasefire say that that they see signs a pullback of Russian forces is beginning . Unfortunately , no one else seems to see those signs as Russian military activity continues . One additional comment , was it not a brilliant tactical move move by the Russians to launch their offensive or whatever you call it , during the Olympics ? I have another perspective on these events which I hope to elaborate on tomorrow . Meanwhile , if you are so inclined pray for the Georgian people .

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Foreign Policy, International politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment