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17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Sarah Palin’s Excellent Adventure

In case you missed it yesterday, the Sarahnator and her tannin’ bed are heading to New York City to visit Dr. Joel Fleischman to meet with strange people who talk funny (no, not other Alaskans):

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will meet with foreign leaders next week at the United Nations, a move to boost her foreign-policy credentials, a Republican strategist said.  Republican candidate John McCain plans to introduce the Alaska governor to heads of state at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, although specific names weren’t yet firmed up. “The meetings will give her some exposure and experience with foreign leaders,” the strategist said. “It’s a great idea.”

Oh yeah, a great idea.  Just stu-freaking-pendous.  Maybe McCain advisor John Bolton can take her up in a helicopter and they can try to shoot the top ten stories off the UN building.

Nothing like using foreign governments to score a few political points.  And hey, if Obama can go to Berlin, why can’t Palin go to Turtle Bay?

Uh, because she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about?

I can see it now.

Hi Vladimir and Dmitri, my name is  Sarah.  Vlad, you gotta come to Alaska where we can go huntin’ together.  Shootin’ moose is a lot more fun than that little kitty you killed a few weeks ago.  And have I mentioned that I can see you guys from my house?

Oh, and if you ever mess with Georgia again, this lipstick-wearin’ pitbull is gonna bomb the living crap out of ya.  If you thought messin’ with Texas was a pain, just wait ’til you have a snowshoe shoved where the sun don’t shine.

I’m sure that will go over like a ton of nukes.

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11 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:55 pm

“Putting Government Back on the Side of the People”

An excerpt from Charlie Gibson’s interview with Sarah Palin tonight:

GIBSON: But this is not just reforming a government. This is also running a government on the huge international stage in a very dangerous world. When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

PALIN: But it is about reform of government and it’s about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues.

She then changed the subject to energy.

But hold on a second, Governor.  You said that “putting government back on the side of the people. . .has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues.”  I’m willing to take you on your word on that — at least for the moment.  But I have a few questions for you.

  1. Given that a majority of the American people believe that we should not have gone to war in Iraq, does that mean that you favor us getting out?
  2. Given that a majority of the American people want the United States to be an international leader on climate change, are you willing to support much more aggressive measures to combat global warming, even if it means cutting back on the use of internal combustion engines, thus hurting your state’s economy?
  3. Given that a majority of the American people support the end of torture, the closing of Guantanamo, and as you so quaintly put it in your acceptance speech, “reading their rights” to terrorist suspects, are you and Senator McCain in favor of ending the Bush Administration’s assault on civil liberties and the rule of law?  Would you prosecute those in the Bush Administration suspected of committing war crimes?
  4. Given that a majority of the American people want the United States to work within the United Nations system and with our allies, would you and Senator McCain support reengaging with the United Nations in a meaningful way, including an end to the rhetoric we saw at the Convention attacking the UN?  And if so, can you explain the presence of John Bolton as an informal foreign policy advisor to the McCain-Palin campaign?

Because, Governor, that’s putting foreign poicy back on the side of the people.  Because that’s what a majority of the American people want.

I didn’t think so.

By the way, on Pakistan, she agreed with Obama and contradicted McCain.

And she thinks we should go to war with Russia if it invades Georgia again (or Ukraine).

Last but not least, Governor Palin might want to check out this page before her next interview.

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5 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:34 pm

Everything You Need to Know about the World Food Crisis

And it’s only a minute long.  

Hat tip:  UN Dispatch

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5 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:04 pm

While You Were Away: Russia-Georgia

Map of South Ossetia

The last two weeks have been nuts, what with the Clinton and Obama speeches, Hurricane Sarah, and all other things political.  And things are unlikely to slow down anytime soon, given the fact that the election is only sixty days away.

While Americans focused on the conventions (and Hurricane Gustav), world events didn’t just grind to a halt.  Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of important developments that are not only important in their own right but also may have a significant impact on the next President’s ability to govern.

Over the next few days, I’m going to try to highlight someJ of them.  Let’s start with Russia-Georgia.

In the past two weeks, the Russia-Georgia conflict has increasingly turned into a proxy (cold) war between the United States and the Russian Federation.  Russian President Medvedev has demonstrated a particular affection for Bushian bluster, making grandiose nationalistic statements about reestablishing a Russian sphere of influence that were meant as much for internal consumption as for global politics.  Meanwhile, the Bush Administration has taken several steps to bind the United States even more closely to the fate of Georgia — including a pledge of more than $1 billion in new (non-military) foreign assistance and a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

John McCain’s protestations notwithstanding, most Americans still do not understand what is going on or why the conflict is relevant to their lives.

For all the jokes about Cheney being sent out of the country during the Convention, the reality is that his trip was deadly serious, designed to show the Russians that the United States would not be cowed in the face of its aggression.  But it also showed Cheney’s unbelievably blinkered view of the world:  in the end, the reason the U.S. is backing Georgia is because of the latter’s decision to send troops to Iraq.

The Administration’s actions are going to make it much harder for the next President to pursue a more rational, interests-based policy while at the same time defending Georgian sovereignty.  Of course, if McCain is President, that will not be a problem.

The bottom line:  this has become a game of low-intensity chicken, with both sides acting like 12-year-old boys.  And neither side really cares to behave like adults.  Georgia, which is largely (though not entirely) the victim here, is stuck in the middle, with little hope of serious support from the West or complete withdrawal of Russian forces.  The real fear is that some further incident will cause one side or the other to ratchet up the rhetoric in a way that we’re suddenly looking at Bosnia 1914 all over again — except this time, it will be with thousands upon thousands of nukes on both sides.

For those interested in the specifics, you can find a straightforward report on the events of the past two weeks after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 1 Comment

24 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

Hagel for U.N. Ambassador?

Yglesias suggests that Obama reward a smart Republican like Hagel not with Defense, but with the U.N. Ambassadorship:

It would be much more productive, I think, to take someone with a solidly conservative domestic record but internationalist views on foreign policy and make him (or her) UN Ambassador or something. That sends the message that the liberal approach to world affairs has appeal that transcends party lines or debates over tax policy or whatever else. . . .Those are ways of co-opting conservative politicians in order to broaden the appeal of progressive solutions, rather than a way that draws attention to alleged weaknesses in the progressive approach.

I understand the argument, but I can’t say that I agree with it.  Given our track record with the U.N., and given the fact that our credibility with the U.N. is at an all-time low, and especially given the fact that we need someone who can help fix the UN, I don’t think that Hagel is the right choice.  Maybe Jim Leach or Lincoln Chafee, but I don’t know if they’re the right choice either.

So who would I pick?  An old friend of mine.  I think he’d be absolutely brilliant.

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21 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:00 pm

Beyond November: Christopher Paine

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Today, we’ll hear from Christopher Paine.  Posts in the series will appears every Thursday from now to the election.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

If we are actually to overcome the security challenges facing the U.S. and the world in the coming decades – rather than merely tinkering with them – the next President will need to constitute a dramatically new paradigm for U.S. foreign policy. This new paradigm rests on four pillars:

(1) Restoration of the UN Charter and increasing adherence of the force of law – not the law of force – as the ultimate arbiter of behavior between and within nation states. This means an end to the era of badmouthing and underfunding the UN system, and the beginning of serious efforts to reform and strengthen it capabilities for preventing and terminating international and civil conflicts, especially those that jeopardize the lives of large numbers of civilians.

(2) Sustainable human development, not “global economic growth,” must become the fundamental objective that the United States shares, and promotes in its relations with other nations and international institutions. That means that the actual conditions of life on the ground for human beings, and for the natural ecosystems they inhabit and will pass on to their children, must become the essential benchmarks of “progress” in our foreign policy.

(3) Renewable energy development and energy efficiency at home and abroad should be made the foremost priority of any new sustainable human development strategy. In fact, the multiple beneficial roles that renewable energy and efficiency technologies can play—in averting climate change, fostering sustainable economic development overseas, minimizing future proliferation risks, and creating good domestic jobs—illustrate the way that the traditionally sharp but often artificial distinctions between “domestic” and “foreign” policy are eroding, and none too soon.

(4) At a minimum, the next President will have to dismantle the Bush legacy in National Security Policy, but real progress against 21st century threats will require him to go further, and dismantle the longstanding political-industrial-bureaucratic nexus that observers of our politics have long dubbed the “U.S. National Security State.” For decades the United States has been locked into a pattern of dysfunctional defense spending that has impoverished virtually every public space, park, transit system, library, school, and health clinic in America. Successive administrations have pursued such costly technological idiocies as missile defenses, airborne lasers, and killer satellites, while maintaining huge nuclear forces to no discernible purpose, and developing a vast and unaffordable array of new conventional weapons to defeat the massed formations of an enemy that has faded into history.  A major rethinking of U.S. military defense requirements is urgently needed that would free resources for achieving the indispensable sustainable development objectives outlined above.

Christopher E. Paine directs the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC, which he joined in June 1991 after five years with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he assisted successful efforts to end US production of plutonium for weapons and underground nuclear test explosions. From 1985-1987, Paine was a consultant to Princeton University’s Project on Nuclear Policy Alternatives, a Research Fellow-in-residence at the Federation of American Scientists, Washington, D.C.  and a staff consultant for nuclear nonproliferation policy with the Subcommittee on Energy, Conservation & Power, U.S. House of Representatives.  He is the author or co-author of numerous NRDC reports, as well as some 70 articles on proliferation, energy, and national security policy in such publications as Scientific American, Nature, Arms Control Today, Science, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  He is a 1974 graduate of Harvard University.

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19 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:30 am

Green as in Not Even Remotely Envious

Good to see that Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has not jumped off the crazy train.  In fact, she’s now the conductor.

Here are excerpts of an interview McKinney did with The Final Call. As in Louis Farrakhan’s newspaper.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  I’m such a kidder.

Actually, I’m not:

Now unfortunately we are in the midst of a presidential campaign and Pakistan is being bombed literally as we speak. Somalia is occupied, the once proud leadership of Ethiopia has now become the back pocket handmaiden of the George Bush administration for rendition and torture. . . .

We decry the United Nations occupation of Haiti. The people of Haiti had the self confidence and the perseverance after their president was stolen with U.S. weapons to vote and insure the election integrity of that vote for Renè Prèval. Renè Prèval needs to be free to lead the Haitian people. . . .

[In Zimbabwe,] people who don’t have title to the land should not be allowed to occupy the land. The title of land can’t be granted to those who have stolen the land. Land reform is the issue all over Africa. The issue is land and the land must be free to be settled by the original inhabitants who were removed from that land illegally as a result of colonialism.

I learned so much from this interview.  We’re at war with Pakistan.  We’re occupying Somalia.  The UN is occupying Haiti at our beck and call.  Oh, and McKinney hearts Mugabe.

So McKinney’s strategy is to seek both the black helicopter and the black nationalist vote.

And the Greens wonder why they aren’t taken seriously?

Actually, maybe Barack should worry.  After all, the Greens are putting together a ground game that just might rival Obama’s.  Check this out:


Hat tip:  Reason Hit & Run

Photo:  Ed Yourdon via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.

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17 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

Diplospeak Translator: The Condi in Crawford

I think The Condi has been spending too much time down on the ranch with Dubya.  Yes, I know she just got back from a whirlwind trip and everything, but sheesh, it’s like she caught a case of the Cold Warrior pneumonia and the malapropism flu.

Yesterday, she spoke to the press after briefing her husband the commander-in-chief.  Time to break out the Diplospeak Translator.  Once again, we bring you only the choicest cuts.

THE CONDI: I think everybody understands that Russia had a choice to make over the last several years, and it was a choice that should have been opened to Russia, which was a choice to act in a 21st-century way, fully integrate into the international institutions. I think it’s very much worthwhile to have given Russia that chance.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: It really stinks that they followed our lead in ignoring international institutions like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.  Didn’t they hear the part where we said, “do as we say, not as we do”?

THE CONDI: Now, I think the behavior recently suggests that perhaps Russia has not taken that route, and either that they have not taken that route or that they would like to have it both ways — that is, that you behave in a 1968 way toward your small neighbors by invading them and, at the same time, you continue to integrate into the political and diplomatic and economic and security structures of the international community. And I think the fact is, you can’t have it both ways.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: As opposed to behaving in a 2003 way, where you invade small countries on the other side of the world while continuing to dismantle the political and diplomatic and economic and security structures of the international community.  There’s a big difference — as soon as I can figure out what it is, I’ll let you know.

THE CONDI: Now, we’ll take our time; we’ll evaluate. But already, the consequences for Russia of its behavior is that it has rallied people to — against them, and many of the small states, which were once captive nations, have rallied to the side of Georgia. That in and of itself is a very different circumstance than we might have faced several decades ago.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Is the Cold War on again?  Pretty please?  Because I spent half my freaking life studying the Russkies and haven’t been able to contribute anything useful for about twenty years.

THE CONDI: I have to assume for now that the word of the President of Russia to the presidency of the EU is going to be respected.


THE CONDI: The Georgians have very often offered substantial autonomy to these two regions. We have pressed very hard for there to be recognition of minority rights in these regions. So there’s a lot of groundwork that has been laid here, but what has to happen now, when these international discussions intensify over the next period of time after this — after the cease-fire is in place, is that it all has to proceed from where it proceeded from before, which is the territorial integrity of Georgia be respected; that these regions, as the President just said, are within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia; and that the Security Council resolutions, which have been passed numerous times, will be respected. And there will have to be a negotiated solution on that basis.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Please, please, please please don’t mention Kosovo.

REPORTER:  But Russia has said explicitly that they are not prepared to return to the status quo. I mean, how do you get around that?

THE CONDI: Well, then, Russia would be in violation of extant Security Council resolutions.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: You know, just like they said we were doing back in 2003.

REPORTER:  I mean, is there really serious discussion about kicking them out of the G8, or is there really serious discussion about the WTO?

THE CONDI: We’ll take our time and look at further consequences for what Russia has done. But I would just note that there are already consequences. There has been universal concern within the European Union, the United States, et cetera, about the way Russia has done this. I think that you will start to see reports come out about what Russian forces engaged in.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: Look!  Over there!  Human rights violations!  Whew!  I wasn’t sure that old trick still worked given everything we’ve done in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

THE CONDI: The — already you have the states that are — were former captive nations, like Poland, the Baltic states, even states like Ukraine speaking out against this kind of behavior.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: I knew if we kept banging that old captive nations drum, it would become useful again.  And what a perfect regurgitation of Cold War rhetoric!  Ah, I feel complete again.

THE CONDI: [I]t’s not just talk, it is about Russia’s standing in the international community. I want to go back to the point. In 1968, when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, it occupied the capital, overthrew the government, and paid no consequence. And one reason it paid no consequence is that the Soviet Union actually didn’t care about its status in the international system. It didn’t want to be member of the WTO; it didn’t want to be in the OECD; it didn’t want to be seen as a responsible player in international politics.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR: In 2003, when we invaded Iraq, occupied the capital, and overthrew the government, we had no idea we would still paying for it more than five years later.  And nothing annoys us more than seeing someone else get away with something we tried to do ourselves.

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12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:55 pm

Wonk’d: Why the UN Human Rights Council Blows

As I’ve noted in my two previous posts, I’m both a fan and a critic of the United Nations.  But if there’s one thing the United Nations does really really really badly, it’s human rights.

It wasn’t always this way.  Thanks in part to the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the early years of the United Nations adopted both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.  Over the next several decades, a number of other important treaties followed, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among others.

Lately, however, not so much.  The UN Commission on Human Rights became so disreputable — by doing things like electing Libya as chair and failing to take action on Rwanda — that the UN decided to abolish it and replace it with a new body that would address many of its shortcomings.

During the 2005 UN Millennium Summit, the General Assembly agreed to the creation of a new Human Rights Council, supposedly putting into place safeguards that would prevent similar problems in the future.  Sadly, the United States chose not to play a central role in the negotiations over how the Council would be constituted or how it organizes itself.  Thank you, John Bolton, you self-righteous paleocon jerk.

(Full disclosure:  Steve Clemons, Scott Paul (both of the Washington Note), Don Kraus (my successor as CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions) and I organized the successful opposition to the Bolton nomination.)

(And for the UN wonks out there, yes I know I’m oversimplifying this timeline.  But please keep in mind that I’m not writing for you.)

So there we were, a new start, a new opportunity to do serious human rights work.



Today we have a body that in many ways is worse than its predecessor.  There are a lot of issues that the Council should be looking at these days — Darfur, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma, Pakistan, and Iraq, to name just a few.  Instead, the it has spent almost all of its time on one issue:  Israel.

The reasons for this have to do not with human rights in that country –- which, to be clear, should be looked at, as should human rights issues in every country.  Rather it’s the product of those who currently sit on the Council.  Dictatorships make up over half the Council’s membership. They have spotlighted Israel to deflect attention from the human rights abusers within their own ranks, as well as to stick it to the West (and, to be clear, Israel).

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration continues to refuse to engage the Council, deciding not to stand for election and even failing to send an Ambassador to Council meetings.  Of course that’s assuming it could even get elected to the Council, given its own human rights record.  Either way, its actions have only encouraged the misbehavior and discouraged those who would stand up to such nonsense.

And then, late last week, we have the latest outrage:

A former spokesman for Cuba’s foreign ministry was appointed this week to head the United Nations Human Rights Council’s advisory committee.  Radio Rebelde says Miguel Alfonso Martinez, is president of the Cuban Society of International Law, was appointed this Monday to head the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council.

Oy vey.  Oh wait — saying that might get me investigated by the Council.

This isn’t the first bad appointment either.  Richard Falk, a Princeton professor who has compared Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip to Nazi Germany, is the Council’s Special Rapporteur on. . . wait for it. . .Israel.  And Jean Ziegler, who once helped Muammar Qaddafi establish a peace prize named after the dictator and who has praised, among others, Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro, was elected to the Council’s Advisory Committee.

The Council has more than a bad joke.  It’s a black eye for the UN and and embarrassment to the entire world.  Furthermore, it has become a convenient whipping boy for the paleocons here in the United States.

It’s time to start over. . .again.

Maybe the third time will be the charm.

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12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:55 am

Wonk’d: What’s Wrong with the United Nations

This is part two of my series on the UN.  In part one, I talked about what’s right with the UN.  Now let me address some of the serious problems facing the UN.

The first problem is that much of the great work the UN does happens in ways we don’t notice – or in places that we never see.  When the UN shows up, the cameras usually aren’t there.

What Americans do see – particularly at UN headquarters in New York – are images of bureaucrats in the General Assembly and Security Council debating endlessly, failing to take any action on some of the world’s most pressing problems.  And for the most part, these images are accurate.  The story of the UN over the past fifteen years is a story of how governments have refused to let the UN do its job.

Read the rest of this entry »

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12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Wonk’d: What’s Right with the United Nations

I haven’t talked much about the UN since starting this blog.  I want to write a bit about how disastrous the current UN Human Rights Council is, but it needs some context.  So I’ve decided to do a series of posts on the UN.  Let’s start with what’s right with the United Nations.

Read the rest of this entry »

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7 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:50 am

Beyond November: J. Brian Atwood

The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

Yesterday we heard from Connect U.S. Fund executive director Eric Schwartz.  Today, it’s Brian Atwood’s turn.

Transitions are a time of great expectations in Washington. I had the great honor of leading the State Department transition team prior to the Clinton-Gore administration. I worked with an excellent team that included Connect U.S. Fund executive director Eric Schwartz.

The ‘92 transition was a move from a reasonably pragmatic administration of the center-right to a pragmatic administration of the center-left. This year’s transition will see the country moving away from an administration that broke a mold that had roughly accommodated the previous foreign policy spectrum, the “realists” and the “progressive internationalists.”  While there has been some effort in the second Bush term to move away from radical, neo-conservative policies, the residuum continues to influence the attitudes and behavior of much of the world towards the United States.

The first test of a new administration must be to demonstrate by action that our nation can listen and cooperate. Rhetoric to this effect will be well received, but active diplomacy on several fronts will be essential. These include: the Israeli-Palestinian issue; climate change; nuclear proliferation with an emphasis on Iran and North Korea, ratifying the NPT and negotiating with Russia to reduce and eliminate stockpiles; completing the DOHA round; engaging NATO and neighboring countries on our withdrawal from Iraq and our efforts to bolster the Afghan government; working with Pakistan on our common effort to contain Al Qaeda.; creating mature political and economic relations with India and China; and reestablishing American leadership in the effort to mitigate the poverty challenge in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These objectives are on the top of most people’s list. I would add two more general goals that are often difficult for administrations pre-occupied with crises: (1) we need to spend some political capital on reforming the United Nations; and (2) we need to create a “culture of prevention” within the U.S. government.

The United Nations has been a whipping boy of the right because of its institutional weakness and because, periodically, the Security Council doesn’t support the U.S. position. Often even pro-UN Democratic administrations prefer to avoid the need to reform while regretting the lack of capacity to intervene for peace. The UN can be a useful tool as we pursue a new climate change treaty, the control of nuclear weapons, international cooperation against the terrorist threat and peaceful post-conflict transitions. It is past time that we invest the resources and influence in helping the Secretary General create a stronger organization.

I served on the Brahimi UN Peace Operations Panel. I was impressed by the potential of the UN and quite depressed that our own country, in lieu of supporting the needed reforms, expended its political capital by seeking to reduce our UN contributions. We helped pass many Security Council Resolutions that could not be implemented fully because of a lack of resources. U.S. leadership is capable of changing this vital organization for the better. Now is the time to exercise it.

Creating a culture of prevention within the U.S. government means an intelligence community that can anticipate future crises by better understanding the fault lines of impending disaster. It means having a diplomatic presence in more places. It means creating a new Department for International Development Cooperation capable of coordinating development assistance within the USG and possessing a strong voice on trade and finance decisions that effect development. It means working with the U.N. voluntary agencies, the international financial institutions and regional banks, and the bilateral donor community to help nations develop and avoid crises. It means using our understanding of development conditions, inter-ethnic or religious tensions, international criminal activity and the impact of all of the above on weak governance systems. If we mobilize U.S. government and international partners, we can prevent many of the crises that cause such pain and exhaust our resources today.

The next administration has much to overcome if it is to recover the reputation of a nation that once stood on a “shining hill.” Our foreign policy in the past seven years has been influenced more by fear than by the grandest aspirations of our past. We need to restore our image by stopping torture, closing Guantanamo and standing tall for the principles of human rights and democracy. Those who argue that we cannot be both tough in the battle with terrorists and be true to our most important principles have been proven wrong. It may not have been their intention, but they strengthened our avowed enemies and turned allies into skeptics and opponents. It is time to get back on the right track.

J. Brian Atwood is the dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Atwood served for six years as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Administration of President William Clinton. Atwood also led the 1992 transition team at the State Department and was Under Secretary of State for Management prior to his appointment as head of USAID. In 2001, Atwood served on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Panel on Peace Operations. He joined the Foreign Service in 1966 and served in the American Embassies in Cote d’Ivoire and Spain. He served as legislative advisor for foreign and defense policy to Senator Thomas F. Eagleton (D-MO) from 1972 to 1977. During the Carter Administration, Atwood served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations. He was Dean of Professional Studies and Academic Affairs at the Foreign Service Institute in 1981-82. Atwood was the first President of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) from 1986 to 1993. Atwood received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

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30 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:56 pm

Thabo Mbeki Is So Bad….

…that he’s starting to make George W. Bush look good in comparison.  At least on Sudan.  From Reuters:

South Africa and Libya, backed by Russia and China, want to include a paragraph halting any ICC moves in a resolution to extend the mandate of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which expires on Thursday.

But the United States, France and other Western countries made it clear that they wanted to keep two issues separate. As a result, The council failed to reach any agreement.

“We have a division in the council at this point,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters. He said there was no point in linking the UNAMID mandate to any possible future indictments by the ICC.

First the ChiComs, now the Americans.  If The Mbekster were a college student, he’d be hired by dorks to hang out with them so that they could look cool in comparison.

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29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:15 am

Citizen of the World? No, Debtor of the Chinese

Okay, I know that it’s been like a month since Obama was in Berlin and all, and blah blah blah enough already.  But given that everyone else — particularly John McCain — continues to yammer about it incessantly, I thought I’d pay at least one more visit.

On the day of the speech, the nutroots went absolutely bananas over the fact that Barack Obama said he was a “citizen of the world,” like he was a World Federalist or something, plotting to have the UN send in the black helicopters and steal our sovereignty.

As if mortgaging our economy to the Chinese, recklessly spending our blood and treasure in Iraq, letting Albania into NATO, and jettisoning our nation’s core values so as to torture people wasn’t sovereignty-sucking enough.

So I was thinking of creating a new bumper sticker over at Café Press:

Because you know, I loves the black helicopters.

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26 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:56 am

The Arrest Everybody Missed

It’s been a good week for international justice, with the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb President indicted for genocide as a result of his actions during the seige of Sarajevo and the massacre in Srebrenica; the ICC’s indictment of Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir for his role in Darfur; and the the UN Security Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda through 2009.

Amidst these good tidings, another story got lost:  the arrest of Sylvere Ahorugeze, who is wanted in Rwanda for genocide.  From the AFP:

A Swedish court has ordered a Rwandan man suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide remanded in custody pending a possible extradition request from Kigali, the judge said Friday. The man [was identified] as Sylvere Ahorugeze, aged 52.  According to public broadcaster Swedish Radio, Ahorugeze is suspected of murdering 25 Tutsis in a suburb of Kigali in April 1994.

Like Karadzic, he was hiding in plain sight.  He was arrested after going to the Rwandan embassy in Stockholm, where employees recognized him.

The number of people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda boggles the mind.  It runs to the tens of thousands, if not more.  How do you heal a society when so many are responsible for so much suffering?

I cannot help but think of Eleanor Roosevelt, who once said that human rights begin “in small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”

Sometimes, the same is also true of genocide.

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19 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:32 pm

McCain Doesn’t ♥ Maliki (Or Our Troops)

As I noted earlier today, Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al Maliki has endorsed Barack Obama expressed support for Barack Obama’s sixteen-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

Marc Ambinder over at The Atlantic now has a response from the McCain Campaign:

“[Maliki's] domestic politics require him to be for us getting out,” said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The military says ‘conditions based’ and Maliki said ‘conditions based’ yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.” [Emphasis added.]

So let me get this straight.

We invaded Iraq to stop them from producing WMDs.  When that didn’t work out, we retroactively invaded Iraq to stop Saddam from helping Al Qaeda.  And when that didn’t work out, we retro-retroactively invaded Iraq to give it a democratically elected government capable of making its own decisions.  And now that that isn’t working out, we have retro-retro-retroactively invaded Iraq to protect our troops in Iraq.

The McCain campaign’s new line of reasoning reminded me of something I read in a 2001 report by the UN on Responsibility to Protect.  R2P, as its supporters like to call it, came out of the immediate aftermath of Kosovo, when then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was concerned that that conflict had created a precedent for military intervention without UN sanction.  He thought that a set of guidelines might define clearly when military intervention is necessary and how it should take place.

The final report of Annan’s “International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty” (which had the misfortune of being released on the morning of September 11, 2001) is still worth reading.  I suggest the McCain campaign might want to pay particular attention to the following passage:

The [military] operation must be based on a precisely defined political objective expressed in a clear and unambiguous [mission], with matching resources and rules of engagement…. Force protection for the intervening force must never have priority over the resolve to accomplish the mission. [Emphasis added.]

If you follow the McCain campaign’s logic, that is exactly where we are in Iraq, as of today:  we’re fighting a war to protect our forces fighting the war.

I have a slightly better idea.

Why don’t we protect our forces by bringing them home?  To paraphrase the McCain campaign, I think that that is what the voters “care about.”

Of course, not everyone in the McCain campaign is completely delusonal.  Ambinder also got an email from a “prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign.”  His response to Maliki’s statement was a bit more succinct (and colorful):  “We’re fucked.”

And that friends, is change we can believe in.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

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