Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Various Items

Israel Takes President Bush's Message to Heart:

Israel, clearly inspired by President Bush's speech last week, announced today that it is involved in negotiations with Syria in Turkey. Surely this will bring a strong reproach from our principled leader:

The United States said it did "not object" but repeated its criticism of Syria's "support of terrorism"

Maybe not. Well, maybe there's some sort of technicality on the application of the precise term 'appeasement.'

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert...said the process would be long, complex and could end in "difficult concessions" for Israel -- an apparent reference to his willingness to hand back the Golan Heights.

"It's always better to talk than shoot," Olmert said.

Then again, maybe it fits the definition snugly, though I don't expect Bush to publicly call out Olmert. Not that anyone would listen.

In Other Appeasement News:

Hezbollah secured veto power over Lebanon's Western-backed government on Wednesday, leaving the militant group virtually free to build up its weapons, including rockets aimed at Israel. But as the political winner, Hezbollah also faces pressure to seek compromise rather than confront opponents, as it had done violently in recent weeks.

The deal to end Lebanon's long stalemate allows a triumphant Hezbollah and its allies back into the government after street fighting reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war. Hezbollah patrons Iran and Syria praised the agreement, which seems certain to strengthen Iran's hand as it vies for influence in Iraq and across the Middle East.

It took all of a week for Hezbollah to achieve the strategic aims of its recent street fighting, gaining veto power and the reinstatement of a deposed Hezbollah-allied official. Here, very clearly, the Lebanese government is conceding on significant issues (veto power nullifies any attempt to disarm Hezbollah) and legitimizing a militant Iranian proxy in return for a "period of accommodation and calm and stability in Lebanon." If the talks in Turkey bordered on Bush bane, then this situation fits it verbatim. Again, we should expect some outcry from the United States:

Washington also put on a positive spin, despite the new power gained by a group that fought Israel in 2006 and is labeled as terrorist by the United States.

"It's a necessary and positive step," said David Welch, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East. "It's not for us to decide how Lebanon does this."

Makes you wonder if there's ever an exchange of notes among US officials. The concessions are obviously not a solution, merely a period of relative calm in return for strengthening Hezbollah's--and Iran's--position in the Lebanese government.

Even if Lebanon remains calm for a period, however, the deal only increases the potential for instability in a weak state where religious and clan loyalties often seem to trump national allegiance.

Hezbollah in effect operates a "state within a state" inside key parts of Lebanon - the south, Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa valley near Syria - with its own police, army and social services. That makes Lebanon an ideal incubator for the group's military clout, just as Afghanistan served as a haven and staging ground for al-Qaida.

Another foreign policy loss as far as Bush's stated foreign policy goals go. Republicans are portrayed as strong on national defense, but it's hard to find a single instance where their efforts have kept the Middle East situation from regressing, though I'm open to suggestions.

Terry McAuliffe, Man of Principle:

The Democratic nominating process is over, and has been since Obama's February run. Even so, this excerpt from Terry McAuliffe, who is now carrying Hillary Clinton's water on every talking-head show who'll invite him on, regarding Florida and Michigan. This excerpt is in reference to the 2004 convention:

"I'm going outside the primary window," [Michigan Sen. Carl Levin] told me definitively.

"If I allow you to do that, the whole system collapses," I said. "We will have chaos. I let you make your case to the DNC, and we voted unanimously and you lost."

He kept insisting that they were going to move up Michigan on their own, even though if they did that, they would lose half their delegates. By that point Carl and I were leaning toward each other over a table in the middle of the room, shouting and dropping the occasional expletive.

"You won't deny us seats at the convention," he said.

"Carl, take it to the bank," I said. "They will not get a credential. The closest they'll get to Boston will be watching it on television. I will not let you break this entire nominating process for one state. The rules are the rules. If you want to call my bluff, Carl, you go ahead and do it."

We glared at each other some more, but there was nothing much left to say. I was holding all the cards and Levin knew it.

[Source: McAuliffe, Terry. What A Party!, p. 325.]

Consistency's overrated. Can we stop with the 'principle' argument tour now, Hillary? We know you want the votes to count, but can we stop pretending it's the populist in you.

Move Along, Nothing to See Here:

Hagee: "God sent Hitler to usher the Jews back to Israel." So, in essence, Hitler was doing the work of God. Wow.

No need to look at McCain's associations, journalists. Maybe Obama has another pastor.

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