30 August 2008

Things campaign advisors shouldn't say

It's been a big week in politics, what with the Obama soiree and all (btw, I think he said everything he needed to say, and that the Biden addition makes for a really strong ticket). Then, yesterday, as expected, John McCain announced his running mate, who was not as expected.

This prompted the following quote from a McCain aide, which made it into the NYT article above:
“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long.”
If that kind of idiocy doesn't get you fired these days, I don't know what will.

26 August 2008

Peaceniks Forum: How will an Obama/Biden Administration Promote Peace in the World?

Note: This is the first of a two-part series centered around the major political party conventions taking place in the United States. This week the Democrats are up. Next week we'll pose the same question for the McCain ticket. We also are aware that we generally lean to the left here, but hope to give fair treatment to both campaigns.

With the Democratic Convention well underway, and Saturday's selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate, we here at Practical Peaceniks thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how an Obama/Biden administration will promote peace in the world. However, rather that just give you our opinion, we thought we would open the floor to our (growing number of) readers. Please feel free to have your say in the comments, and a few of our contributors might pitch in with more in-depth thoughts as the week progresses.

A few general comments to start us off:

Obama's foreign policy could probably best be summed up as pragmatic global engagement. As others have noted, the selection of Joe Biden for vice president reinforces that theme. This is a foreign policy that doesn't seem to fit neatly within traditional international relations constructs. Rather, the presidential responsibility to keep America safe is seen as one and the same with actively partnering with the rest of the world politically, economically, and socially. Ideological maxims are largely cast off in favor of doing what works, and Obama's foreign policy team reflects those aims. Also of note is that Obama doesn't buy into the old mantra that in order for Democrats to convince people they aren't weak in national security, they have to espouse an especially tough foreign policy. This is a refreshing turn of events worth noting.

Now, what are your thoughts?

25 August 2008

Peaceniks in Print

In today's Christian Science Monitor you'll find a letter to the editor from our very own Diana about the Russo-Georgia War.

Check it out!

21 August 2008

Remind me why Somaliland doesn't get formal recognition

I continue to be entirely baffled by the whole planet's complete refusal to recognize Somaliland as an independent state. As I recall, there were some rumblings that the Pentagon would like to go that way sometime last year, but nothing seems to have come of it. Anyway, today we have two news stories that nicely contrast Somaliland and the officially recognized Somalia.

Exhibit A: There is currently a food and monetary crisis in Somaliland, as in much of the world. The national government has convened a high-level task force to produce an action plan, and has conducted a study of the depth of the problem with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. What we have here is a functioning government, seeking to take care of its responsibilities while having virtually no resources.

Exhibit B: The fractious Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (in its latest iteration) has once again signed a peace agreement with a rebel faction (notice the word faction), which has led to the extension of the UN backed AMISOM peacekeeping force (one in a succession). By my count, this is peace agreement #1,907,685.3, or some such since my pre-pubescent years.

All I'm saying is that maybe, maybe, it might make sense to officially help out the folks who seem to have their shit together, instead of being hampered by some antiquated notion of a sovereign state that ceased to effectively function nearly two decades ago.

19 August 2008

Sarko goes to Moscow

Did anyone else find this morning's op-ed by Nicolas Sarkozy to be just a wee bit laughable? I mean, of course it was self-serving and self-congratulatory -- it was a statement by a politician -- but still, M. le President's grasp on reality seems a touch questionable.

The way Sarkozy sees it, he stood up and led Europe into action (albeit about 3 days late, according to his timeline) to stand up to the big, bad, overly exuberant Russians and the strategically inept Georgians and tell them who was boss. He even foolishly suggests that now that the hard work of signing cease-fire has been taken care of, the UN Security Council can step in and make things better, as though that has any chance of happening given the Council's membership. To his credit, Sarkozy suggests that not everything in his six-point plan is going along on schedule, but no matter, Europe proved its muster and is now ready for an even bigger Brussels-based bureacracy that can be even faster than Sarkozy and Kouchner (yes, I too thought that leap was a bit much).

What really seems to have happened is that the young Napoleon didn't talk to big, bad Russia; he talked to little, bad Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian army seems to have confused the words"retreat" and "advance." So you enjoy patting yourself on the back, Sarko (you too, Condi). I think the rest of us non-politician types will stick with paying attention to actual events.

16 August 2008

Guess who said this

Time for a fun new game! Guess who uttered the following words:
“Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.”
As well as this gem:
“Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations,” he said, “or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation.”
If you guessed George W. Bush, you win! How he said this stuff with no sense of irony whatsoever is beyond me. Then again, I'm just a guy with a blog, not the leader of the "free" world.

13 August 2008

Speaking of the Olympics and Human Rights

Andrea made the point earlier this week that perhaps by allowing the Olympics to take place in a less than "free and democratic" country, we may well help promote the respect for human rights and the rule of law by casting such a massive spotlight on the host country. In light of recent events, it's worth pointing out that Sochi, Russia has been selected as the host of the winter Olympics in 2014.

If you click the city's name above, you'll note that Sochi is quite close to the (never on Google, contrary to speculation) Georgian region of Abkhazia, one of two main battle zones in the past week's war. Also worth mentioning is the tradition of declaring an "Olympic truce" every two years during the summer and winter games.

Take a wild guess as to two of the most egregious violators of the Olympic truce during the 2008 games. That's right, Georgia and Russia. And yet, Russia is slated to host the games in 2014, within spitting distance from Georgia.

It's one thing to use the Olympics as a way to nudge less progressive regimes into the fold of international legal norms, but it's quite another to allow the games to go forward in a country that has flagrantly violated the very basic tenets of Olympism. (Granted, one could argue that Salt Lake City shouldn't have hosted the 2002 games and that London shouldn't host the 2012 games because of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, during those events or when those countries were selected as hosts.)

So does this mean that Sochi is scrapped and we go back to the drawing board for 2014? It probably should, especially if the IOC wants to polish up the tarnish laid upon its image as a result of the Beijing games and all the mess that has come with them. Chances are though, convenience will trump ethics, and everything will go right along as planned.

10 August 2008

Start a war and watch the rest of the world disappear

I realize I've probably lodged this before, but have you ever noticed how one little war starts off somewhere, and the rest of the planet basically falls off the international news radar screen. This is especially true if the war in question involves white people.

Now I certainly don't mean to downplay the events unfolding in Georgia right now. They're tragic, and after spending the afternoon reading about all I can get my hands on about the subject (it's not my area, thus I have a steep learning curve), it seems to me that the whole thing is pretty damn senseless. My general impression is that the Georgians tried something they thought they could get away with, in the interest of pleasing the West, and now it's bitten them in the ass royally. Prospects for any sort of decent peace seem a little slim.

But back to the rest of the planet, as that's my beef, right? Let's see, some iffy stuff in Kashmir, a coup in Mauritania, alleged progress in Zimbabwe negotiations, and a seemingly destabilizing Bolivia.

07 August 2008

Thinking about the Hamdan verdict

I was going to do a little write-up on yesterday's Hamdan decision, but the NYT editorial page expressed my various thoughts (including outrage) so well, that I'm just going to link to them.

For a more detailed account of why the verdict is bunk, check out Opinio Juris.