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October 31, 2005


Security Council Unites Against Syria in Hariri Slaying
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

The UN registered another point of proof that the rumors of its demise are exaggerated:  the Security Council coalesced around a tough consensus resolution challenging Syria to cooperate fully with the continuing investigation into the death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, or face consequences.  Algeria, China and Russia all went along along once the US, France and Britain agreed to strike language referencing sanctions if the Syrian obligations are not met, with the proviso that the resolution be adopted under Chapter Seven of the UN's Charter which specifically references enforcement mechanisms including sanctions and military force.

While this was not unexpected, nor should the accomplishment be dismissed.  The world is, at least for now, united in isolating a rogue state.  We have been unable to achieve similar with respect to Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and other outlaw regimes.   The real proof of the UN's mettle, of course, will come only if - -  as seems almost inevitable - - Bashar Assad's compliance with the investigation is incomplete and further measures are warranted.

But in the meantime let's touch briefly on a few reasons why, at least thus far, UN diplomacy is working better than usual in this case.   The cohesion and will to act derive in part from the specifics of the incident itself - a public assassination of a wildly popular former leader by the government of an occupying country.  But certain other aspects of what's unfolding transcend the Hariri case itself and have implications for US diplomacy at the UN:

1.   Generation of Objective Evidence - Innuendo, circumstantial evidence and even US intelligence weren't enough to rally the world against Syria.  But the findings of an independent, UN-appointed expert prosecutor were.   We dismissed the role of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq but had weapons been there, in retrospect it seems incontrovertible that the teams would eventually have found them and that, if they did, the UNSC would have been forced to act.  Rather than expecting the UN members to take our word for things, the extra time and effort to allow them to gather facts objectively will tend to pay off.

2.  Patience - The simple fact that the US is in no hurry for Syrian regime change and has been willing to allow the Mehlis investigation to run its course makes a big difference.  Behind the scenes of today's resolution was undoubtedly an agreement that if the Syrians indeed stonewall, sanctions will come later.  The UN moves painfully slowly, but allowing enough time to quiet all doubts and to "give a chance" to recalcitrant regimes is sometimes what it takes to build consensus.

3.   No (Public) Foregone Political Conclusions - That the US is too mired up in Iraq and other things to be able to handle Syrian disintegration helps a lot here.  If Algeria, China and Russia were convinced we wanted Assad out and quickly, they'd be far less likely to accede to the ratcheting up of  pressure on the regime.  By contrast, because the US made so nakedly clear that it would be satisfied with nothing less than Saddam Hussein's ouster, other countries resisted all forms of cooperation with us on Iraq for fear of abetting a US-led coup.  Even if Bush and Co. believe that nothing less than toppling Assad will do the trick, the decision not to flaunt their long-term designs is making it easier to sustain consensus.

October 30, 2005

Weekly Top Ten Lists

While Washington Slept
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I could not bring myself to weigh in this week either on Plamegate or on the latest "plans" for Iraq.  Yet writing about virtually anything else seems to sidestep what's uppermost on all of our minds.  But as important as the areas in which the Administration has botched US policy, are the ancillary effects of its missteps on neglected and overlooked issues.  We all know that domestic preparedness has been buried under the bureaucratic avalanche of the Department of Homeland Security, and that our military is dangerously overstretched.   But a host of other issues crawl across our minds - flickering in and out as we absorb ourselves in more immediate problems like Plamegate and Iraq.   But if we don't start paying attention soon, they'll catch up with us.  Here are 10 of them.

Middle East Peace Process – The Bush Administration's failure to engage deeply and consistently in the Mideast peace process has left the most contentious conflict in the Middle East in a dangerous limbo.  Ariel Sharon's historic decision to pull out of Gaza left a host of questions unanswered, and the Administration has done little to try to ensure that the Gaza withdrawal be followed by further steps to implement the road map.  Bush's own wise decision to reject Arafat's leadership, followed by Arafat's death, could have allowed this Administration to make history a very different kind of history in the Middle East.

Doha Round- The Doha Round of trade talks, aimed at reducing the agricultural subsidies that result in cows in France enjoying higher per capita income that millions of people in Africa, are in danger of collapse.   The worst culprits are the French, who refuse to support even modest EU proposals to trim welfare for farmers.    But while USTR Rob Portman has made important conditional commitments to reduce US subsidies, the Senate Ag Committee has voted to extend benefits for rice, cotton and other agribusinesses til 2011.  The demise of Doha will perpetuate global poverty, (fairly or not) deepen resentment toward the US, and set back economic growth at home and abroad.  The Administration should redouble its efforts to prevent that from happening.

Galloping Anti-Americanism – Karen Hughes' ear-muffed listening tours of the Middle East and Indonesia make great comic relief, but do nothing to allay the march of anti-Americanism.   While I objected to Hughes' 8-month long voluntary hiatus before taking office, now that she's on the job Hughes' tone-deafness may well be making things worse.  Apart from the serious political consequences of anti-US attitudes, businesses are increasingly worried that the friction may hurt the bottom line.  Despite years of Administration talk on the need to win hearts and minds, we aren't.

China's Growing Political Influence - China's economic and diplomatic influence in Southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere has grown tremendously since Bush took office.  Whether or not we consider China a likely military threat, for a country that shares so few of our political values to enjoy a level of global influence that rivals our own will complicate our foreign policy for decades to come.   We could have a long debate about the best strategy to deal with this, but looking the other way while our own sway wanes is not it.

Russia - As James Goldgeier and Michael McFaul point out in a new piece in Policy Review, Russia has made no meaningful contribution to any of the Bush Administration's three chief policy objectives:  fighting terror, controlling the spread of nukes, and promoting liberty.  In many respects, the US-Russian relationship seems to be slipping backward into Cold War era antagonisms.  Despite Condi Rice's expertise in the region, Russia has not been a focus for this Administration, and it shows.

Shoring Up American Influence in Our Own Backyard - US ties to Mexico are strained, and perceptions of the US in Canada are worse than at any point in the last 25 years, with the latest tension over what the Canadians are dubbing flagrant US violations of NAFTA.   The upcoming Summit of the Americas is expected to be an anti-Bush fest and a planned POTUS visit to Brazil afterward is already attracting protests.  Meanwhile outspoken anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is consolidating his influence.

Global Warming - Remember when the Administration's repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol on emissions and its failure to propose alternatives ranked among Bush's chief foreign policy failings?  Well, that day may come again.  Since then the Administration has continued to deny the link between greenhouse gasses and global warming, impeding efforts to control pollution and prevent climate change.  The result has left countries like India and China free to continue polluting without the pressure of emerging global standards.

The Balkans - The US military intervention in Kosovo in 1999 seems to get mentioned these days only as a reminder that Democrats are unafraid to use force.   There's little talk about the fact that Kosovo's political future remains unresolved (though Charlie Kupchan has a great recent Foreign Affairs article on the subject), and that peace in the territory is contingent on continued international presence.  More than 10 years after the Dayton Accord Bosnia is likewise heavily dependent on an international administration to avoid political disintegration.  Eventually the US will have to reengage to help these territories shift toward permanent status.

Bird Flu - The Administration has finally gotten off the dime in response to the threat of bird flu, now that new cases of the disease seem to be surfacing daily.   Bush will give a major speech on the topic this week at the NIH.  But make no mistake, in terms of real preparations for an outbreak, we are near nowhere.

Pakistani Attitudes Toward the US - I wrote about this last week, but the reports now are that the second wave of post-earthquake deaths from disease and exposure are already beginning.  UN agencies will have to scale back their aid this week unless more donor money flows fast.  If tens of thousands of Pakistanis die this winter because not enough help reached them, Pakistan's number one international "partner" - the US - is the most likely target for blame.  If that happens, the failure to deal more adequately with Pakistan's October 8 earthquake could go down as one of the greatest lapses of Bush's fight against terror.

October 28, 2005

Protecting Sources
Posted by Morton H. Halperin

The indictment of Scooter Libby puts into jeopardy the system by which the public learns most of what it knows about what the government is doing.  Officials say things to reporters "on background" confident that their names will not be released.  Sometimes they release information to support a government position and sometimes to expand the fight against a policy they oppose.  Sometimes the official providing the information thinks or knows that his boss (and even the President) has approved or would approve of his providing the information.  Sometimes he knows for sure they would not.

This was an extraordinary case in which the Justice Department was forced to go forward with an investigation of a leak that the administration clearly desired.  However, in most cases such investigations will occur when there is a leak that the administration of the day does not like.  Any official who believes that the public needs to know the information he is considering making public, but which he knows the President wants secret, will need to think twice.  He will know that once an investigation begins, officials will be asked to sign a waiver so that their sources are able to testify before a grand jury.   

Reporters, now that they know the facts of this case, need to consider whether they should state in advance that a source cannot in retrospect waive the confidentiality of a conversation.

One final comment:  no one who watched the press conference of Patrick Fitzgerald, as I just did, could come away with anything but extraordinary admiration. If only our Attorneys General and other US Attorneys followed his practice of not going beyond the facts of the indictment.  If  only they reminded the press of the presumption of innocence as he continually did.  If only they shared his view of the importance of freedom of the press as well as the protection of national security.  If only they avoided leaks as he did.  No one who watched who has any judgment will think they can get away with suggesting that he is partisan or that he has based the charges on technicalities.   

Once again the cover up
Posted by Morton H. Halperin

As I write, official Washington remains focused on who, if anyone, will be indicted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  The only thing that is clear is that he knows how to keep a secret, although the New York Times is reporting this morning that I. Lewis Libby Jr. will be indicted for misleading the Grand Jury and that Karl Rove will remain under investigation.  I will have more to say this morning once Fitzgerald announces the results of his investigation.

We appear to have escaped the worst outcome of an indictment under the espionage statutes for disclosing classified information to the press.  As I wrote last week, this would have been a serious threat to the public debate about national security, a threat still posed by the ongoing AIPAC case (an issue I will return to later as well).  (You may have heard Steve Aftergood of the Secrecy News and me on this issue on NPR's Morning Edition this morning.)

Libby and Rove have certainly by now learned the lesson of Watergate -- once there is a criminal investigation begins, tell the truth and the full truth.  "Forgetting" what no reasonable person would forget can lead to indictment as easily as deliberately saying something that is not true.  One hopes that at least some Republicans will remember what they said about perjury before a Grand Jury during the Clinton years when they react to this story.

For the rest of us the larger issues relate to how the nation goes to war and how much truth and how much debate we should have before the President can send Americans into harm's way.  Allowing the president to make the decision to go to war without Congress declaring war leads inevitably to deception.    

I believe that the President and most, if not all, of his advisers believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  However, it is equally clear that for most of them this was not the primary reason to go to war. For many in the administration this was a classic case of a group of people with a solution -- topple Sadam -- looking for a problem.  They found it with 9/11 and used the President's feeling that he needed to do more than invade Afghanistan to persuade him to invade Iraq. For others, including the President, it was the need to show resolve in the face of the terrorist attacks.

There were clearly others in the administration who were not sure the time for war had come --including Secretary Powell, who had his usual doubts about ever using force -- and who had concerns about some of the evidence.  While the intelligence community came to the conclusion that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons, many had doubts about some of the sources and few believed that Iraq had an active nuclear program.

The fault was in not laying out all of these uncertainties and differences so that the American people and the Congress could fully debate the issues. 

The most important lesson to learn therefore is that we need to restore the role that the framers intended Congress to have before the nation goes to war.  They understood how momentous a decision this is and therefore required that the Congress "declare" war before the nation goes into battle unless there is an urgent need to respond to an attack.  (For a post-Iraq bi-partisan re-assertion of this "conservative" view, see a report of the task force of the Constitution Project.  Full disclosure -- I was on the task force and serve on the Board of the Project.)

The key is to insist that only the Congress can take us to war.  Once this was accepted by all, the responsibility would clearly be on the Congress and it would insist on full disclosure of information, including disagreements within the Executive branch, and would conduct full hearings that would include outside critics of the proposed war.  At least after the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco it is hard to imagine Congress doing less if its support for the war is understood to be essential and not just a side show.  The administration of the day would have to focus on making its case to the public and the Congress and not on deciding what to keep secret and what to say in public to get the support it thinks it needs.

Taking the nation to war without a full debate not only violates the Constitution, but it also leads to the deception of the public which in the end undercuts support for the war.  This was one key lesson of Vietnam, as it will be of Iraq.  And when the deception somehow becomes the subject of a criminal investigation, it leads inevitably to deception and criminal conduct and the destruction of people who set out to do what they believe is right for the nation.

October 27, 2005

Capitol Hill

A Budget for Halloween
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

With indictments imminent, DC is very jumpy these days--giving everything the John Stewart-esque-Halloween glow of wacky, ironic foolishness.  In this spirit, I will now proceed to link the DDX destroyer and genocide in the Sudan.

But first a little background.   I grew up in the Berkeley Hills--the original nuclear free zone--where we painted peace doves on the walls in elementary school and figured out ways to hide Salvadoran refugees during the pot lucks at church.  When I was 12, my single parented family moved to Northern New Mexico, where big letters on the way into my new hometown read "Roll Your Own Ammo" and little signs linking the United Nations with satan popped up like baby tumbleweeds on the median. Ah, the 1970's. We went from nuclear family to nuclear fallout in 14 months. 

None of this stuff mattered at age 12 because I soon got a pony.  I do however, think it gave me an ability to rationalize contradictions.  But this skill,  for the life of me,  fails to help me understand the priorities of our elected leaders these days.

I've been wandering around town all week thinking about a discussion on the Sudan that I participated in on Monday.  Discussion leaders included both American humanitarians as well as Sudanese citizens.  Mostly, we covered the African Union  mission presently ongoing in the Sudan (called AMIS). It is a ceasefire monitoring mission now 1.5 years old.  Here is a new ICG report on it. The speakers had  just returned from the Sudan and reported that this mission is under serious stress.   The AMIS soldiers are being shot at  and kidnapped and even killed. The government is not providing security.  The government btw, has AK 47s, artillery and  attack helicopters. AMIS has a few RPGs and rifles.  The monitoring soldiers from 5 different African nations patrol in toyota pickup trucks.  Canada has  recently given 105 armored vehicles--which is generous--but split between  64 teams it is spread thin. This mission  is being tested by roaming violent gangs and the Sudanese government, the speakers believed.  They don't have enough wherewithal nor the mandate to enforce stability.   

The AMIS mission is  like a  trip-wire. It is symbolic. The numbers of soldiers is so small that its most important effect is the show of resolve.   It is a vital test-drive of international willingness to stand for something.  We are not only letting them down, we're missing out on an opportunity to blaze the trail on behalf of early warning and response--key policies for combatting terrorism.

I was thinking about this talk today, as I walked through the Capitol South metro station on my way up to the Hill.  Metro stations are full of large advertisements. This fall,  the defense bills have been wending their way through committees.  Hence fighter planes, guns,submarines and lots of gadet laden soldiers float along the walls of most DC metro stations like an X-box dream menu.  Capitol South had a nautical theme. ....

Continue reading "A Budget for Halloween" »

October 26, 2005

Progressive Strategy

Stepping Back to Look at the Big Picture
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

(apologies to our fans -- this is quickly-reconstructed from a post that typepad seems to have eaten last night)

While we wait to see whether Steve Clemons is right in predicting 1-5 Plamegate indictments, and Think Progress has CBS's John Roberts pointing to a "Mr. X," I've been trying to keep my head in somewhat more elevated precincts.

Steve, our own Lorelei Kelly and I represented the bloggers' corner last weekend at the Stanley Foundation's annual Strategy for Peace conference.  I am not an unalloyed fan of such events, as they can all too easily turn into self-congratulatory groupthink exercises.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a more-diverse-than-usual group of realists and idealists; military, academics and activists; CATO and types.

The worst news of the weekend came not from my own "Grand Strategy" working group, but from the Gulf experts group meeting simultaneously.  For months I have assumed, and even posted, that the frantic thrashing around for alternatives in Iraq was based at least in part on a lack of answers to some more-or-less factual questions about what Iraqis would do under various circumstances.  My mistake seems to have been to assume that we had access to those answers; as one academic expert said to me when I asked her about various civil war scenarios:  "Maybe Iranian intelligence could tell you that."

For a while I've wondered why the most prolific writing on options for Iraq comes from people who are not, um, the most expert in the region.  The answer seems to be that those in the know... feel that they don't know.

The discussion of a grand strategy in which I participated brought together a diverse group of people who did agree, at the broadest level, that the strategic underpinnings of US policy need to be more focused on integration -- while managing the pace of integration to protect our interests, and maintaining hedges against failure.

But when it comes to the question integration to what end, we didn't agree -- and that tells a great deal about our uncertain times. 

Continue reading "Stepping Back to Look at the Big Picture" »

October 25, 2005

Progressive Strategy

Bush's Presidency ends...and our challenge begins
Posted by Derek Chollet

With Washington swirling in scandal and a seemingly endless barrage of bad news at home and abroad, it is time to focus on a fundamental fact: the Bush Presidency is over.

Ok, that’s an intentional overstatement, because of course George W. Bush will be President for another three years – and that gives him plenty of time to do a lot of good things, and bad.  According to today’s Washington Post, his team is scrambling to figure out how to move forward after this week’s amazing confluence of crises – there’s a lot of talk about “compartmentalization.”  But events of the past few months – Katrina, the Iraq quagmire, the exploding deficit, the conservative infighting the Miers nomination has exposed, gas prices, concerns about runaway government spending, the criminal indictments of key figures within the Republican establishment (and the possibility of more to come) -- have damaged his leadership in a way that is beyond repair.  When combined with the crucial fact that he has no successor-in-waiting with any interest in defending this embattled legacy, this means that Bush has already run out of the political capital that, only months ago, he believed he had in abundance to spend (remember the social security roll-out?).

Second terms are often seen by the political class as a countdown to the next campaign, and as such, this one is going to be defined by an historical anomaly: because neither Cheney nor anyone from Bush’s Cabinet is running, the next election will be the first truly open campaign in 56 years – since Eisenhower and Stevenson campaigned to replace Truman in 1952.  This fact isn’t just some piece of political trivia; it will completely change the political dynamic of the 2008 nominating process on both sides, as well as the general election.   

The potential Republican nominees can try to choose what part of the Bush legacy they can embrace and what part they can distance themselves from.  If Bush were riding high, we’d see a competition for who could carry the mantle (and a massive effort to court his endorsement).  But the way things are going, it is hard to imagine any Republican trying to stake a claim to be Bush’s “successor” – who would want to carry all his baggage on Iraq, the incompetence of the Katrina response, the massive deficit, the energy crisis, or (for social conservatives) his recent Supreme Court nomination?  This distancing has already begun – and it is not just a McCain thing. 

Many of the Republicans thinking seriously about running in 2008 (including two of the most formidable, George Allen and Sam Brownback) have begun to tack away, and as we get closer to the 2006 midterms, when Republican members of Congress are going to be increasingly worried about reelection and unwilling to defend a lame-duck President, this will only get worse.  Without any Bush heir to defend the legacy – and impose discipline to ensure that the intra-party criticisms don’t ramble out of control -- there is little left to regenerate the President’s political capital.  The only thing that I can think of is the desire not to have him leave office as a universally despised and failed President – but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement or anything a potential Republican candidate would want to run for office on.

For progressives, this means that the next few years present a different kind of challenge.  Rather than simply stand against the incumbent or rail against the status quo – which was the prevailing political dynamic in 2004, and I think still today – progressives must prepare for an opponent that, to a certain degree, will also be running against the old order.  In 1952 both Stevenson and Eisenhower worked to distance themselves from Truman's legacy.  So it won’t be enough to make the next election a referendum on the incumbent – because there won’t be an incumbent or anyone who was part of the prior Administration in the race (no, Condi is not running).  This means, as we’ve often said here at DA, that progressives have to do more than stand against things, and that a political strategy has to be more than just bashing Bush.  We have to have positive ideas about how we are going to move the country forward.

This is especially true when it comes to America’s role in the world and how we are going to meet the global challenges we face.  We not only need to show that we have better ideas – but that we have the creativity, guts, and vision to carry them forward.  And, as Richard Cohen writes today, we can’t allow our anger about the way Bush has governed – and our rush to embrace his critics from within his own party (like Scowcroft) – drive us into positions that move us away from our traditional progressive values (like, for example, standing up for promoting democracy), ceding our idealism to conservatives.

October 24, 2005


Time for the UN to Step Up to the Plate on Syria
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Having praised the UN for its tough-minded report on the Hariri assassination, its now time for the organization's supporters to call on the world body to follow up with action.  Tomorrow the Security Council will meet to consider next steps.  The US and France are reportedly united in pushing for a resolution that would require full Syrian government cooperation with the next phase of the investigation, including access to all witnesses and suspects, and backing those demands with the threat of sanctions.  The US is calling for a meeting of Foreign Ministers of all Security Council members as soon as this Friday.

That France is solidly on board and even fronting the issue bodes well, in that their bona fides in the Arab world are a lot stronger than ours right now.   This is not a case where the US is moving unilaterally or pursuing a self-serving agenda.  Recognizing that, the rest of the Security Council membership should rise to the occasion.   

There's reason for hope because:

1) Syria's actions do not raise the usual Chinese and Russian concerns about infringements on sovereignty - on the contrary, the assassination of Hariri was a grave insult to Lebanese sovereignty;

2) Syria's relatively isolated among the UNSC membership - while China and Syria have strengthened ties it won't get the level of protection that, for example, the Russians afford to Iran;

3) mercifully this issue sidesteps the quicksand of UN debates that pit developed versus developing countries - ordinary, disenfranchised people throughout the Middle East seem to get what happened to Hariri and want to see justice;

4) Syria's only strong ally among the UNSC membership would appear to be Algeria which has just 2 months left in its term;

5) Europeans and others on the Council can make a strong argument that in acting, the UN can prevent the US from taking measures against Syria on its own - after all that's gone down in relation to Iraq, that's got to have powerful appeal;

6) After flirting with the edge of irrelevancy after its failed September Summit on reform, the organization would benefit from proving its worth on an issue that matters to its host country and largest member state, the US.  This imperative won't be lost on the Council membership.

We can expect the usual to-and-fro over whether to include sanctions in an initial resolution, what the sanction triggers should be, and how far the measures should go.  But Russia, China and others ought to realize that for the sake of Lebanon, of the principle of sovereignty, of the stability of the Middle East and of the future of the UN, now is as good a time as any to prove that the world body is something more than a debating shop.

Oh, and a word to the Bush Administration:  there's plenty to blame Syria for right now, but John Bolton and colleagues had best not freight up an initial Hariri resolution with other US-specific hot-button issues that will only complicate the negotations and stand in the way of consensus.  After all, the Administration needs a success on this even more than the UN does.

October 23, 2005


The Pakistan Earthquake and Why We Need (a Competent) FEMA International
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Thanks to Katrina, Rita and even a weakened Wilma, this Fall has brought Americans a new appreciation of disasters and, in particular, of the human element that can turn natural calamities into first order political and social catastrophes.   

In the meantime, there are evidently about 10,000 children in Kashmir in imminent danger of freezing to death this winter as a result of the October 8 earthquake in India and Pakistan.  Large populations of survivors in remote areas have not yet been reached by any aid.  Temperatures are already dropping.  In scenes reminiscent of New Orleans, frightened helicopter drivers have turned around when faced by mobs of desperate survivors left waiting too long for food and water. 

Doctors and aid workers predict that a second massive wave of deaths is likely to occur as a result of untreated wounds and lack of shelter.  According to Kofi Annan, only a massive and to date unforthcoming infusion of international aid can stop this.  If it does happen, it will be inescapable that, alongside the earthquake itself, a second and more proximate cause of the deaths will have been the world's failure to mobilize and provide these trapped Pakistanis with the help they need.

While the news outlets have reported on the earthquake and its aftermath Americans, by and large, are taking a pass on this one.  Exhausted after Katrina and her successors, the US public = understandably yet no less tragically - has little appetite to get deeply engaged in the earthquake relief effort.  With the exception of Turkey, it appears that much of the rest of the world is following our lead and taking a pass on this one.

The needs are staggering.  Pakistan requires a half a million tents and an immediate helicopter mission on the order of the Berlin airlift to evacuate survivors.  NATO has volunteered 1000 troops but has rejected the UN's demand for a huge helicopter mobilization on grounds that it doesn't have enough of the vehicles to spare.   The US is sending just six helicopters, Britain four.   According to this article relief workers have "effectively admitted defeat - and issued a plea to the sick, wounded and dying to make their own hazardous journey across treacherous mountain passes on foot."

For a variety of reasons, the outpouring of concern and generosity that followed last January's tsunami has not been replicated in Kashmir.  The scope of the two disasters are not beyond compared.  The earthquake death toll is now at 79,000, compared to about 123,000 for the tsunami.  The UN has received only $57 million in pledges to meet what it calculates as a $312 million need.  By contrast, after the tsunami 80% of the funds needed were pledged within 10 days.   This article details the difficulties faced by the World Food Programme, one of the UN's best agencies, in meeting the needs without greater donor support.

[An related interesting side note that came up at the Princeton Conference some weeks back.  There's a big difference between the world's attitude toward the prospect large-scale deaths due to injury and exposure post-earthquake versus the risk of comparable loss of life due to a armed conflict. 

If tens of thousands of lives were hanging in the balance due to a murderous dictator, there would be calls for intervention to prevent genocide.  At the very least we'd see widespread hand-wringing.   Yet the lack of response to the earthquake has few Americans tied in knots.  Part of the reason for the distinction lies in the implications of killings (as opposed to deaths) for our social fabric.  Killings cause people to lose faith in one another, they unleash desires for revenge, they call into question the role and value of the state.  Yet, as Katrina illustrated, because of the high degree of human agency involved in responding to so-called "natural" calamities, deaths from these disasters can likewise tear apart a society.]

The glaring holes in the disaster response effort will have political ramifications:  analysts suggest that the army's failure to do more for survivors may weaken Musharraf's already shaky hold on power. 

Given the US's close ties to Musharraf and the demands its made on the Pakistani government as part of the fight against terror, its easy to foresee that already high levels of Pakistani anti-Americanism may only further intensify (the opposite happened in Indonesia after the tsunami, where the US's generosity led to sharply improved public attitudes toward us).  There are also reports that terrorist organizations have stepped into the void, viewing the chaos as a useful opportunity to win popular support and new recruits.

Why an International Version of FEMA is Needed . . .

Continue reading "The Pakistan Earthquake and Why We Need (a Competent) FEMA International" »

October 22, 2005

Middle East

It Took the UN to Get the World to Finger Syria for Hariri's Killing
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

With all the uproar about UN investigator Detlev Mehlis' report implicating the highest levels of the Syrian government in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, we should not lose sight of the UN's accomplishment in carrying out the investigation and issuing the findings it did. 

The UN's legions of detractors include those who want the organization split into parts, dismantled, or kept out of global politics. 

But without a broadly mandated UN, how could the Hariri case have moved beyond finger pointing?  The Lebanese government could never have been trusted to investigate.  There's no way the US itself could have interfered.  The Arab League could not have been objective.  The EU would never have waded in.   The International Criminal Court would not have had jurisdiction.  Without the UN, its hard to envision how the investigation, particularly given its depth and breadth, could have been carried out. 

Despite the fracas over what may have been last-minute redactions of names from the report, Mehlis and Kofi Annan also deserve credit for not holding back on explosive and detailed findings.  Many complain that the UN is fundamentally flawed in that, as a membership organization, it cannot risk the ire of even outlaw Member States, but in this case that wasn't true.

It remains to be seen what the Security Council will do with Mehlis' report, but the people of Lebanon already feel some sense of satisfaction that the facts they all suspected have been brought to light by an objective source.

Here's another example of why - if we are ever shortsighted enough to abandon or significantly scale back the UN - we will find ourselves with the impossible task of having to recreate what we destroyed.

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