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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, June 21, 2003 ::

More dumb diplomacy
There's an interesting article by Janine Zacharia in The New Republic this week. I think you have to be a subscriber even to read the printable version I'm linking to, so I'm lamely pasting about half the article below. The basic thrust of it is that the administration could end up cutting some military aid to countries that have joined the International Criminal Court, but haven't signed a bi-lateral agreement granting blanket immunity from the ICC to all American personnel, and that could have some negative effects in fighting terrorism:
For months now, senior Bush officials have been fanning out across the globe to secure signatures on what are known as Article 98 agreements, named for a clause in the Rome Statute that established the ICC. The Bush administration claims that Article 98 allows for bilateral immunity agreements--derided by critics as "impunity" agreements--while the European Union, led by Germany and France, say the deals undermine the court and are contrary to the article's intent. But the White House insists that, with troops deployed around the world, the United States needs the protection. Efforts to indict Tommy Franks and Colin Powell in Belgium for theirinvolvement in the Gulf wars have only heightened the sense that, as one official negotiating the agreements said, "our people are vulnerable to frivolous and unjust prosecutions." So the United States is pushing ahead in an effort to sign up 179 countries worldwide.

Failure to gain those signatures, however, could have consequences well beyond making sure Americans get fairtrials. Thanks to the American Service-Members' Protection Act (ASPA), which Congress passed last August, a select group of countries that do not sign Article 98 agreements by July 1 could have new U.S. military aid eliminated. A State Department memo is circulating throughout the administration reminding officials of the deadline...

Bulgaria, one of seven nations soon to join NATO, now risks seeing its military aid cut because it won't sign an Article 98 agreement--a striking prospect for a country whose king-turned-prime-minister was just welcomed at the White House and lauded for his support of the Iraq war. Bulgaria is up for membership in the European Union, and the EU secretariat is warning aspiring members that their admission to the body could be in doubt if they bow to U.S. pressure. The country, according to Ambassador Elena Poptodorova, feels stuck. It's an ironic dilemma given what President Bush told a Polish audience on May 31: "You also struggled to become a full member of the Atlantic alliance, yet you have not come all this way--through occupations and tyranny and brave uprisings--only to be told that you must now choose between Europe and America." But that is exactly the choice Bush is presenting to Bulgaria.

Colombia, the third-largest recipient of U.S. military assistance after Israel and Egypt--it receives roughly $500 million annually--is perhaps the most prominent country that has pledged not to sign with the United States. Although much of that funding is exempt from the threatened cuts because of budgeting techniques, Colombia still stands to lose a lot of U.S. aid if it doesn't sign an Article 98 agreement--aid intended to help Colombia fight terrorism... Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, says cutting military aid to Colombia would undermine "the whole overall strategy of helping a country at a critical moment" in its war on drugs and terrorism...

When I asked about Colombia, the administration official involved in the negotiations told me, "No state can assume they are going to get a waiver. There's going to be a lot of states who think they're getting one and will not get one." ...

The Bush team says an Article 98 agreement with the United States is little to demand of nations that receive U.S. assistance. But others see one small issue potentially wreaking havoc on U.S. foreign policy. Heather Hamilton, coordinator of the Washington Working Group on the ICC, says, "The bottom line here is threatening our military assistance to deal with one very small part of our foreign policy--which in the larger scheme of things is not a very big threat. It's just stupid. ... It's holding small countries hostage to this issue when we have a great number of other things at stake." Bush administration officials acknowledge the point, but Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, explained to me, "What we do in national security policymaking is typically deal with problems of trade-offs." There "have to be consequences" if countries are going to be persuaded to sign, Feith says. But, with ASPA threatening to cut off military aid to key U.S. allies, it is the United States that may feel the consequences most of all.
My point here is not that the administration is wrong not to want to join the ICC. The point is that this whole "with us or against us" approach is just dumb and counterproductive on most issues, including this one. These bilateral ICC immunity agreements are absolutely not worth a conflict over military aid with countries whose cooperation we need in fighting terror. If Colombia and Bulgaria don't want to sign such an agreement with us, we should just express our displeasure and move on. You have to pick your battles, and this disagreement is not worth a battle. But when you approach things from the standpoint of ideology and resentment of your opponents, instead of with a willingness to admit that some differences can be acceptable in the grand scheme of maintaining productive relationships on the most important issues, this sort of arrogance just goes with the territory.
12:42 PM
:: Thursday, June 19, 2003 ::
The left is always to blame--even when they aren't being blamed
This recent Andrew Sullivan entry is very strange:
THE LEFT AND IRAN: Pejman takes on the moral abdication of the Western left.
The article in question says that Western media coverage of recent unrest in Iran has been lacking:
But while there has certainly been coverage of events in Iran, it has not reached the levels of attention paid to the course of the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s. Perhaps that attention will come in time, but it should be paid now. More media outlets should devote resources to cover the student protests in Iran. They should not be read about merely in Internet stories and newspapers, but should receive coverage on television in order to allow as many people as possible to learn about the potentially momentous events that are taking place there.
And who's to blame for this? Surely the morally abdicating Western left. Continuing:
And a surefire way to get the press to pay more attention to the protests in Iran is for the Bush administration to talk more about Iran, and to make clear its support for the reformists who aim to change the policies of their country - as well as the regime that propagates those policies.

It is puzzling why the administration has not lent more public support to the Iranian reform movement, especially considering just how much regime and policy changes in Iran could benefit the United States, and the international community at large.
The entire article says nothing about the Western left. So unless the Bush administration has suddenly become a part of it, how on Earth did Sullivan read this and come up with that description? Being of a similar political stripe as Sullivan, Pejman certainly does spend lots of time blaming the Western left for morally abdicating on lots of issues, but not in this article. How tendentious do you have to be to read an article that explicitly criticizes the Bush administration and slightly criticizes the media, but doesn't single anyone else out, and yet you decide to describe it as a criticism of the Western left?
5:40 PM
:: Wednesday, June 18, 2003 ::
Old Europe and New Europe, agreeing again...
The US and 10 other major countries are apparently agreeing, at least in principle, on some measures for dealing with potential N. Korean nuclear proliferation:
Australia said on Monday that 11 countries have joined forces to find a way to block North Korean ships suspected of carrying drugs, counterfeit money or materials for weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said officials met in Madrid last week to discuss an initiative promoted by the United States to halt the proliferation of illegal weapons and would continue talks next month at a location yet to be determined.

''That meeting strongly endorsed the need for new practical and imaginative measures to constrain trade in weapons of mass destruction materials,'' Downer told parliament.

He said the measures could include examinations of transport aircraft and vessels, and tightening relevant domestic and international laws, but he ruled out any kind of blockade of the reclusive, communist state...

The meeting involved high-ranking officials from Australia, the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Apparently the British are in favor of some sort of blockade, so I'm sure there are still some details that haven't been agreed on among the 11 countries listed above. But look at the Europeans who are involved--not just the "new Europe" that apparently means Britain, Poland, Spain, and whoever else supported the Iraq war, but also the invidious "Old Europe" of France and Germany.

As I've said before, it's just dumb to think that the Iraq war clash in Europe was symptomatic of a grandiose new paradigm separating the clear-minded "new" countries, who will always support US heroism in the face of tyranny, from the perfidious "old" countries, who spend all their time appeasing dictators and undermining American values. There are no major international issues on the horizon where this comfortable storyline will apply in any meaningful way. Europe seems to be united with America on the issue of diplomatically squeezing N. Korea, and united against America in terms of pressuring Arafat and Iran. But the idea that some sort of old/new split within Europe is going to explain anything is basically worthless.
2:23 PM
:: Sunday, June 15, 2003 ::
Congratulations Spurs
Another championship in San Antonio, as the Spurs win 88-77 over New Jersey to clinch the title. What an amazing run in the fourth quarter for the Spurs, 19-0 as the Nets unfortunately collapsed after having lead the entire game. Not a bad way for David Robinson to end his career, 13 points and 17 boards. And three big 3-pointers during the big run for Stephen Jackson, but what else is there to say about Tim Duncan? 21 points, 20 boards, 10 assists, 8 blocks--two shy of a QUADRUPLE double. One of the most complete big men in basketball history, and (not that this means anything) one of the five best players I've ever seen, along with Jordan, Magic, Olajuwon, and Shaq. And he's only a few months older than me, just barely 27--he could be one of the 5 or 6 best players of all time by the time his career ends. He wouldn't be too far away from that even if he retired tomorrow.
11:59 PM

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