Friday, March 14, 2003
Here at the Node I pause every once in a while to indulge in a little political theorizing. Right now, the Republican party is in control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. This triumverate of political power is demonstrating how one-sided its political agenda really is. Now, imagine with me for a moment a scenario whereby the Republicans lose control of the Presidency, along with one or both of the houses of Congress. Add to this the current slate of legislative agenda items -- drilling in ANWR, for instance (which is about to slip through on the back of a budget bill. Please encourage your senators, especially those of you down in Arkansas, to prevent this from happening). Let's assume that the current budget bill passes with ANWR provision intact, and thus becomes law. Now, when power changes hands in January of 2005, what happens with ANWR? Since this is a proposal that's hotly contested, it's not too far fetched to consider that an incoming Democratic president would push for a bill declaring ANWR off-limits again (as it is now). Now, extrapolate this out over the entire current legislative agenda, including all the bills that have passed in the last two years, and we have a problem. The problem isn't that these proposals are good or bad policy (I believe that the ANWR proposal is bad policy, but you probably guessed that). The problem is we're on a pendulum that threatens to swing back and forth every four years for the next few elections. The lack of compromise in the Senate and the House is producing legislation that won't withstand the test of time, and _that_ will contribute to "gridlock" in Washington.
Political compromise is unfairly cast in a bad light in the U.S. It is much better to show "leadership" and to stand your ground than to consider another side's proposal. The current administration is taking advantage of this mispreception by taking strong positions and then being inflexible, such as on the issue of Iraq. Only very recently has there been any progress in coming to a solution that a majority of nations in the Security Council can support, and this after much damage has been done by grandstanding on both sides of the debate. For no good reason at all, the French, the Germans, and to a lesser extent the Russians are being tagged as sissy fence-sitters who have nothing but ill-will for American and are only concerned about their economic concerns in Iraq. Similarly, for no good reason any mention of possible military action in Iraq results in a chorus of "No War!", without giving alternative scenarios or ways for all sides to save face politically and still not go to war against Iraq. The fine art of mediation and negotiation seems to be lost in this sort of world, and I hope for something of a revival of the sensible notion of compromise.
I would like to see a mediator intervene in the current dispute between Iraq and the U.S. It would be hard to find someone who is trusted by both sides and who doesn't yet have an opinion one way or the other, but such an individual or institution could perform a valuable service to all by stepping in and mediating a solution to the current crisis. A mediator could accomplish several goals. First, provide a way for all sides to save face politically and withdraw from their current adversarial positions. Second, work out a plan for Hussein to disarm and then prove that this has acceptably been accomplished. Third, determine a timetable for lifiting of sanctions against Iraq. If both sides were forced to sit down at a table and discuss the issue, we believe that an acceptable compromise could be reached. It may be that an acceptable compromise includes the transfer of political power from Hussein to someone else. It may include promises from the U.S. or other countires for economic aid to Iraq.
Within the U.S. government, I'd like to see someone step forward who's got clout with both sides and start working for compromise. An example of this kind of person would be the Colin Powell everyone knew and loved several months ago. He seemed to be in the middle between a war-bent Bush administration and the millions of people who oppose war with Iraq. Does such a person exist in the Senate or the House? None spring immediately to mind, but I suspect someone out there has the credentials and the respect to pull it off.
This probably sounds pie-in-the-skyish to a lot of people, but if we don't do something to counter the strident tones in Washington and the U.N., we're going to be facing a long struggle as idealogues from all sides gain control of the debate and force us to deal directly with their extreme points of view.
Note: This article reflects the opinion of part of the Node. Perhaps Bran would like to chime in and point out what he may or may not agree with.
Andrew 1:44 PM : |
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Continuing with the intelligence theme we have this article in the New Yorker which details a trip by a Clinton administration official to Southeast Asia shortly before India conducted its nuclear tests. The "Facts" column in the New Yorker is quite good, I highly recommend it as regular reading since it features such luminaries as Seymour Hersh, who did an interesting piece on Adnan Khashoggi (there's a name we haven't heard in a long time... Remember the Contras!) and his connections with Richard Perle (here. The New York Sun reports that Perle is suing Hersh in Britian for libel over the article).
Andrew 11:25 AM : |
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Too true about international trends, how long before mainstream America realizes that despite all his "we don't need the U.N." bluster, President Bush hasn't done a thing so far without the U.N.? It's curious how his popularity holds up -even the Washington Times recognizes that we're in a heap of trouble at home with unemployment (though they suggest doing even more of what hasn't worked, i.e. tax cuts, to solve it) and economic stagnation. The problems with diplomacy are so apparent meanwhile, that as the first link shows, the administration struggles to hold on to its biggest ally -let alone win support from middling countries.
Thus far, President Bush has enjoyed an unprecedented run due to the shock and terror induced by the attacks on September 11, a fundamentalist kinship to a majority of America's religious (particualrly in the South) and a congenial personality and charisma that has been lacking in Democrats for the last three years. Oh, and lest I forget, Karl Rove.
Good luck trying to convince libertarians, Andrew. Arguing on the one hand for diplolmatic isolationism while expecting corporations to go unhindered in global free trade seems to be a having their cake and eating it too scenario. However, I may be overly simplistic in assuming that American corporations need the State Department to open foreign markets such as, well let's say China. They also seem incapable of grasping that there could be any sort of long term ramifications to diplomatic affrontery. Certainly while the U.S. holds such unparallelled economic and military footing, we have little to worry about other than random, rogue attacks from anti-American zealots. However, once the United States loses that economic edge, and the prospect of losing it to Rumsfeld's "Old Europe" isn't unlikely, then the picture changes. Regardless of our president's party or politicsat that time, treaties that we abandoned we will put back in force, only as a submissive partner rather than a leader. Plants will be shut down, the military will be weakened voluntarily, all of Bush's corporate friendly policies will be up in eco-friendly smoke. We might even adopt a national health plan to be more like our European comrades. So why exactly am I fighting this future? Because I'd rather see America get there sooner on its own terms keeping its glory, rather than later as the Uriah Heep of countries.
P.S. Andrew, it might not be wise to lead them to look for something like this, a study by the State Department -which I assume cost taxpayers something- about work efficiency that came up with such brilliant ideas, to paraphrase, as "New people can use the help of people with more experience" or "Realistic goals are better than impossible goals".
Bran 5:27 PM : |
The Node has been out amongst the blogs posting as "Andrew". You can see the discussion thread here. The basic gist of it is that the Perle/Wolfowitz plan to spread peace and understanding suffers from a basic flaw -- it ignores the historical trend of more international cooperation among states by trying to do this unilaterally. The international system is set up to prevent the unilateral exercise of power by any one state in the system, and it's worked so far in the case of Iraq.
Andrew 10:37 AM : |
Monday, March 10, 2003
From the Korean Central News Agency:
Anecdote about Kim Jong Il
Pyongyang, March 10 (KCNA) -- Kim Jong Il summoned a commanding officer of an army unit in a summer day in Juche 65 (1976) to learn about how a rest center of servicemen was being operated. The officer told him that all the holidaymakers were sent back to their units because a touch-and-go situation was created in the country due to the Panmunjom incident caused by the U.S. imperialists.
Kim Jong Il said that even though a war broke out, merry sounds of singing should come out from the rest center.
How nice of Kim Jong Il. Anyway, there have been few updates from the node, so I thought I would take this moment to once again remind the world that multilateral negotiations clearly worked in disarming the Iraqi regime and that they will work again in disarming North Korea before we have to go marching into that quagmire. Oh wait, multilateral negotioations are different from U.N. resolutions in that they carry more weight and uhm... are... sorry, I forgot. Anyway, carry on as you were, I have to listen to my Flock of Seagulls' greatest hits album.
Bran 11:17 PM : |
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