Health care is still a disaster. But with Jon away, how about a little foreign policy to start the morning? This morning's topic is Pakistan's reliability as an ally against al Qaeda and the Taliban--a critical question when gauging our chances of success in Afghanistan. Yesterday Defense Scretary Robert Gates visited Pakistan, where he became the latest in a parade of U.S. officials to urge that country's army to step up its offensive against Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements now enjoying safe haven in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas.
Haiti is among the most debilitated societies. Dubai is among the most debauched. They're both in the news. Haiti has nothing. Dubai used to have enormous wealth, which flooded into it from its oil-soaked cousins. You know the outlines of the story. Hugh Fitzgerald knows the details. Here they are. They make for an inevitably lurid tale.
Everybody is aware of the drama now being played out in Dubai. And, frankly, the relief given by Abu Dhabi, its abutting oil-rich emirate in the confederation of self-indulgent and non-productive Arabs, will only buy time for Dubai, which will have to turn over to its cousins whatever assets remain under its robes. The New York Times published a Sunday editorial which seems to counsel aid to Dubai, as if any structural disaster would follow if there weren’t any.
I’ve already written of the new liberal complacency about terrorism: “Clutching at Straws: The So-Called ‘Weakness’ of Al Qeada.” The old liberal complacency--which was really anti-Cheney, anti-Bush dogma--pretended that there was no real terror about which to be perturbed in the first place. The word “terror” itself was purged from the vernacular, not least by candidate Obama in his race for the presidency. If you have “terror” in your vocabulary, you have to know how to deal with it, how to defeat it.
“Chemical Ali” was arrested nearly seven years ago, near the beginning of the (second) Iraq war. He is a cousin of Sadsam Hussein who carried out (and maybe even initiated) the tyrant’s most serious crimes. His real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid, by which tag he has already been charged with and judged guilty of three other horrific assaults against the various peoples of Iraq. This fourth death penalty establishes his centrality in the poison nerve and mustard gas attacks against Kurdish villagers in Halabja. The 1988 massacre took the lives of at least 5,600.
Today, it was Hillary Clinton who paid the sympathy call to Haiti, or actually to Haiti's president, René Préval. The secretary of state said she would stay at the airport only for a few hours in order not to be a burden in the city, where she uttered the usual platitudes. But the arrival of her airplane was clearly just another intrusion on the desperate work going on, since the Federal Aviation Authority, which is administering the field, had already been closed to inbound flights. This was the worst earthquake in Haiti in fully two centuries.
Otherwise-obscure central bankers spent an unprecedented amount of time in the global limelight last year. As the crisis brought down not only banking behemoths, but also macroeconomic axioms, the expansionary measures enacted by the Fed’s Ben Bernanke, the European Central Bank’s Jean-Claude Trichet, and the Bank of England’s Mervyn King have been credited, at least for now, with preventing a second coming of the Great Depression.
The tragic earthquake in Haiti is not the first misfortune to befall our Caribbean neighbor. From slave revolts to military coups to armed U.S. intervention, the country has suffered countless natural and man-made misfortunes since it gained independence.
The Green Movement is a revolt against theocracy. Most of its adherents are young Iranians with little or no religious motivation. Yet, an iconic figure of the revolt was the nation’s highest-ranking cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri; and, last month, Ashura, a holy day celebrating martyrdom, occasioned some of the movement’s most massive protests. Perhaps the fact that the movement has acquired a Shia veneer shouldn’t be terribly surprising.
And they are Abbas Milani, Nader Mousavizadeh, a few others, amongst whom there is the controversial but very insightful Michael Ledeen. The conventional wisdom, frankly, is almost never a conclusion drawn from facts, but a conclusion drawn from temperament. I suppose this was the case with Barack Obama, who was sure that the ayatollahs and their president would negotiate on the basis of his sweet reason. Here’s a piece posted by Michael Ledeen on the Web at 8:25 p.m.