THE WORST CASE SCENARIO IS AN IMPROVEMENT:

April 30, 2006

UN is like the Twilight Zone, says Bolton: In his first interview with a British newspaper, America’s ambassador to the United Nations tells Alec Russell why it is in dire need of reform ((Filed: 01/05/2006, Daily Telegraph)

America’s bantam cock of an ambassador is something of a cult figure at the UN.

When meetings end he is followed by a crowd of cameramen keen to capture that famous walrus moustache and his colourful asides. Rival ambassadors salute his skill as a communicator and his diligence.

He keeps Washington rather than New York hours, starting work before dawn and often going to bed by nine. While he speaks off the cuff, he assiduously takes notes of others’ speeches, the opposite of the usual UN style.

He is far less haughty than many of his predecessors.

But it is exasperation as much as envy that defines reactions to him in the UN. His undiplomatic ways have infuriated even America’s allies and UN officials pushing for reform.

Eight months after President George W Bush made his highly contentious appointment, no one could suggest he has “gone native”.

A long-term conservative hawk, in 1994 he said the UN could easily do without the top 10 of its 39 floors. He also said there was no such thing as the UN, just an international community that can be led by the US.

His language is a little more circumspect now but only a little. Has his opinion changed? “It’s exactly what I expected … an organisation that needs substantial reform,” he replied

“This atmosphere is like a bubble. It is like a twilight zone. Things that happen here don’t reflect the reality in the rest of the world.

“There are practices, attitudes and approaches here that were abandoned 30 years ago in much of the rest of the world. It’s like a time warp. I think that’s not useful for the organisation.”

UN officials mutter that far from helping to push through much-needed reforms to ensure embarrassments such as the oil-for-food scandal are never repeated, his methods have impeded the chances of agreement.

In December, he forced a six-month limit on the UN budget, infuriating the developing world, by making further funding dependent on the passage of key reforms.

America’s EU allies, especially Britain, had to negotiate a compromise – “they pulled his chest hairs from the fire” said a veteran UN observer.

Mr Bolton rolls his eyes when asked if he is combative because he is not really interested in reform. “That criticism is a complete non sequitur,” he retorts. “My stance is not combative. I would describe it as assertive.

“We feel strongly that we need reform. Condoleezza Rice said last September we want a revolution of reform. It’s not often an American secretary of state calls for revolutions.”

Revolution is only an appropriate course of action when you don’t mind the risk of completely annihilating the institution and starting from scratch. It’s appropriate at the UN.

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SHIFTING SANDS:

April 30, 2006

Saudi Arabia’s unseen reform: Saudi Arabia is mainly viewed by others as a traditionally conservative society, particularly in its attitudes towards women. But, below the surface change is happening, even if reformers are wary of moving too quickly in case they face a traditionalist backlash. (Bridget Kendall, 4/30/06, BBC)

The protest by Saudi women who dared flout the ban on driving during the first Iraq war in 1991 had been disastrous, prompting a wave of conservative anger. That mistake must not be repeated this time.

“We lost 30 years, derailed by those who rejected the Western model and wanted to go back to the 14th century,” said one woman, a senior executive in an oil company.

“We can’t afford to lose more time. We educated Saudi women have been quietly empowering ourselves for decades.” she went on, “Now we hope society is ready. But we mustn’t alarm anybody.”

The key, all agreed, was women’s education.

Saudi universities are segregated, separate campuses for men and women, to the extent that male lecturers as a rule only interact with female students via videophone linkups.

But there are now more female than male students in Saudi Arabia all keen to seize new opportunities and an inevitable threat to young Saudi males, already facing rising unemployment.

From a European point of view, it is reform at snail’s pace. Seen through Saudi eyes, there is a definite shift taking place.

And the key, it seems, is that it has been blessed by the country’s new ruler, King Abdullah.

There is no democracy here.

There are no political parties, or even a proper parliament. And criticism of the ruling Royal Family is out of the question.

Ask someone about Saudi princes and you will find the conversation soon peters into silence.

But a reform-minded King can send a signal no-one will disobey, even if privately they are against it.

Absolute monarchy has its uses.

Of course, one of the key reforms is to retain the monarchy but make it not absolute.


APT SYMBOL:

April 30, 2006

The Towering Dream of Dubai (Anthony Shadid, April 30, 2006, Washington Post)

“The only limitations are your own limitations,” [Ahmad Sharaf] said matter of factly. “No one tells you that it cannot be done, that it should not be done. The only pushback has always been let’s do it bigger, let’s do it better, and let’s do it smarter.”

He reflected on what was being built — the Dubai model, as its advocates call it, the region’s most ambitious experiment in bringing success to an Arab city by shearing away the qualities that have long defined it as Arab.

“You know how the West was won?” Sharaf asked of the American experience. “From the Eastern seaboard to the West, you had to build a railroad — the fastest way to get there and the most efficient way to get there to exploit the resources.”

“Dubai,” he said confidently, “is the railroad for the Middle East.”

Railroad is a metaphor often heard in Dubai, an autocratic city-state ruled by a dynasty that evokes a language uncommon in the Arab world today: an utter confidence, brimming with pride and optimism, that collides with the dejection heard elsewhere in the Middle East. It has emerged as a 21st-century phenomenon, a city of perspectives, whose globalization suggests its inspiration and the discontent of those left behind.

To Sharaf and others, Dubai is the answer to the Arab world’s ills, so diverse that conversations in taxicabs are sometimes a patois of Arabic, English and Hindi. Its architecture suggests Pharaonic ambition; at 3 billion square feet, the amusement park known as Dubailand will be three times the size of Manhattan, complete with a replica of the Eiffel Tower and a 60,000-seat stadium. The city’s growth, vision and dynamism — to advocates, at least — chart a way forward for Arab development independent of the Bush administration’s emphasis on democratic reform. Arab expatriates who have flocked here declare Dubai a success and say that the Arab world needs a success story.

“We’re seeing the beginning of an Arab renaissance, and I find it very hopeful,” said Nasser Saidi, a former Lebanese minister and the chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Center.


SADLY, INTELLECTUALS ARE BRAINERS:

April 30, 2006

Father of the Bush Doctrine: George Shultz on pre-emption and the Revolt of the Generals. (DANIEL HENNINGER, April 29, 2006, Opinion Journal)

[George Shultz] recently sent me a speech on terrorism that he gave last month at the Woodrow Wilson International Center at Princeton. There is a quote in it from a speech he gave back in 1984, which of course is also the title of George Orwell’s predictive novel. What Mr. Shultz had on his mind in 1984 was also eerily predictive. It was dealing with terrorism: “We must reach a consensus in this country,” he said 22 years ago, “that our responses [to terrorism] should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, pre-emption and retaliation.”

Arguably, this makes George Shultz the father of the Bush Doctrine, or at least its most controversial tenet–pre-emption. I asked how he arrived at the idea. “Being a Marine [1942-45, Pacific theater], probably my worst day in office was when the Marine barracks were bombed in Beirut.” On the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-filled truck into the barracks and killed 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service personnel. […]

“I worried a lot about terrorism,” Mr. Shultz told me, “and I didn’t think we had an adequate strategy.” So in that 1984 speech, the next sentence says this: “The question posed by terrorism involves our intelligence capability, the doctrine under which we would employ force, and most important of all our public’s attitude toward this challenge.”

I wonder out loud whether this view made people nervous back then. GS: “President Reagan thought it was OK, but there were a lot of people that didn’t.” DH: “Now it’s part of the Bush doctrine.” GS: “I think the idea that you would do everything you can to prevent what is coming at you by way of something very disruptive–a 9/11–it’s a no-brainer.”

Was a no-brainer. President Bush’s approval rating is in the dumpster, and much of the public is discomfited by the violent reports out of Iraq, which ironically are the product of the same mentality that killed the Marines in 1983. The Iraq war may or may not turn out well, but clearly now it is in a dark moment. When I put this to the former secretary of state, his response, characteristically, is optimism: “I think this is the most promising moment, almost, in the history of the world–a time when the information age has made it clear to people what it takes for them to get ahead in their lives and succeed, to have prosperity, to have growth, and it’s a critical matter not to have that great opportunity aborted by a wave of radically inspired terrorists. So we have to confront this, and we have to do it on a sustainable basis because it’s going to take a long time.”

So what, then, would he say to the people who’ve come to feel that because of the constant bombings and the struggles of the new Iraqi government that we’re not going to make it? “We don’t want to give up. The more you talk about not making it, the more you encourage the people who are trying to be sure the Iraqis don’t make it. You encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing.”

Mr. Shultz associated himself with the Bush presidency early on, introducing the Texas governor to Condoleezza Rice at the Hoover Institution in 1998. In light of that, I asked what Mr. Shultz made of the idea that the Bush foreign policy and Iraq war were sprung from a coven of neoconservatives.

“I don’t know how you define ‘neoconservatism,’ ” he replied, “but I think it’s associated with trying to spread open political systems and democracy. I recall President Reagan’s Westminster speech in 1982–that communism would be consigned to ‘the ash heap of history’ and that freedom was the path ahead. And what happened? Between 1980 and 1990, the number of countries that were classified as ‘free’ or ‘mostly free’ increased by about 50%. Open political and economic systems have been gaining ground and there’s a good reason for it. They work better. I don’t know whether that’s neoconservative or what it is, but I think it’s what has been happening. I’m for it.”

Though the Right viewed Mr. Schultz wth suspicion, as a crypto-dove, and trusted Cap Weinberger, as an uber-hawk, the reality was that the Secretary of Defense served his institution–ladling on more money and opposing deployments–while it was Mr Schultz who was willing to utilize the military in foreign affairs. The current “revolt of the generals” is merely a function of a SecDef who isn’t a captive of his own bureaucracy.


MEANWHILE, ALONG THE AXIS OF GOOD:

April 30, 2006

Turkey, Israel make undersea connections (Jay Bushinsky, April 30, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Leaders in Israel and Turkey envision a network of four underwater pipelines for transporting Russian oil and natural gas, with feeder lines to Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon.

The joint Turkish-Israeli development plan holds the promise of accelerating economic growth in the Middle East. A $50 million feasibility study is financed by the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank, officials from Turkey and Israel say.

India is a main backer of the proposed network of pipelines because of the energy needs of its fast-growing economy.

Jews/Muslims/Hindus working together–the End is here.


WE ALL BUY THE BUSH DOCTRINE NOW:

April 29, 2006

Pressure grows for Darfur peace (BBC, 4/29/06)

The UN’s top human rights official, Louise Arbour, is due in Sudan amid growing pressure on the government to end fighting in the Darfur region.

It comes as campaigners prepare to hold mass rallies across the US calling for an end to killings in Darfur.

On Friday, US President George W Bush endorsed the rallies, saying “genocide” in Sudan was unacceptable.

Let us hear no more about how America oughtn’t intervene unilaterally in sovereign states for the sole purpose of vindicating human rights and liberal democracy.


HEY IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK HOME AGAIN:

April 29, 2006

Tories quietly expand NORAD (BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH, 4/29/06, Toronto Star)

Stephen Harper’s government has quietly committed Canada to “indefinite” participation in NORAD and agreed to give the military alliance new responsibilities to watch for a terror attack by sea.

Fresh off his softwood lumber truce, Harper’s government yesterday gave another boost to Canada-U.S. relations when it signed off on the renewal of the landmark North American Aerospace Defence Command treaty.

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor and David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador in Canada, signed the new pact at a “ceremony in Ottawa,” according to Janelle Hironimus, a spokesperson with the U.S. State Department.

U.S. hails new era after deal (GRAHAM FRASER, 4/29/06, Toronto Star)

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins yesterday called the softwood lumber deal the proof that Canada matters in Washington, and the precursor of a new era of co-operation between the two countries.

“Leadership matters,” he told a Public Policy Forum conference in Ottawa. “Call it a breath of fresh air, a new effort, new energy, a renewed momentum, whatever term you want to describe it — but there is a sense, in my opinion, both in Washington and in Ottawa, that we are entering a positive, productive stage in our relationship.”