Notebook, 11 May 2011: Diplomatic Dingleberries . . .

Pardon my alliterative mood. It may be an off day for me, but the world still continues to spin, burn, fold, spindle and mutilate itself, and yours truly is here to report.

Over at Foreign Policy, Colum Lynch reports the Syria has withdrawn its bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council:

In January, the U.N.’s Asian bloc, which includes Arab governments, selected a slate of four candidates, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Syria for four vacancies in the region. And last month, the U.N.’s Arab bloc publicly backed Syria’s bid. The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to vote to select the council’s 15 new members on May 20.

What the fear of a little bad press can accomplish.

Kuwait intends to compete for the seat, which could be worse. This is a vast improvement over Syria, which is a total disaster right now, but this is hardly helpful. It seems the Arab Spring movement has a franchise in Kuwait, and the government is fine with their own crackdown as Kuwait: Dozens Injured, Arrested in Bidun Crackdown: State Security Disperses Hundreds of Stateless Residents:

According to interviews with Bidun and Kuwaiti human rights activists, authorities arrested at least 120 individuals during Friday’s demonstrations, and approximately 30 people sought treatment for injuries incurred during the demonstrations at a nearby hospital and a clinic.

There are reasons why the world thinks the UN is a sick joke, and this just illustrates why. Nobody has as yet attempted to draw the line where diplomatic fiction should give way to real world reality, but this question should be raised and discussed. I’m in favor of diplomatic engagement. Very much more so than the alternatives. However, one doesn’t hand the keys to the car over to someone who likes to run it into brick walls.


If the UN thinks its place in world affairs is secure, it should guess again. The keystone cop antics there which would willingly install Idi Amin’s ambassador on the human rights council (I don’t know, but would it really surprise anyone if they had?) have really worn thin, even for me, and there is already another multilateral body waiting quietly to replace it: the G-20 (pdf). Which stands a far better chance of getting its act together than the UN. Is the world ready for either global unregulated free-trade and/or command capitalist entrenchment?

I realize that it’s not like we’re already there and all I can say is, “God help us.”


Again at Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin reports that Pakistan military aid safer than the economic aid:

As Congress contemplates cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, the funds most at risk from disgruntled lawmakers are those currently allocated to the civilian government that is more sympathetic to Washington, rather than the money going to the Pakistani military, which is more wary of ties to the United States.

This might have been better titled: “Congress Inserts Head Into Posterior Once Again.”

Of course, the my-way-or-the-highway gang over at Foreign Affairs (where, without warning, common sense breaks out from time to time) manage to get in a few licks of their own on this, in one sensible article titled: Time To Get Serious With Pakistan:

If the military knew his [bin Laden] whereabouts, it most likely kept the civilian government in the dark. If it had no clue, it was because finding the al Qaeda chief was not a top priority.

Either way, the episode has put into stark relief the urgent need to address the gross power imbalance between Pakistan’s generals and politicians, whose views of the scourge of terrorism diverge. As I wrote in “Getting the Military Out of Pakistani Politics” (May/June 2011), whereas the government, led by the Pakistan People’s Party, unequivocally opposes violent extremists, the military continues to view some groups (such as the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba) as strategic foreign policy tools.

Of course, any article which makes sense in FA is not written by an American (the author is Aqil Shah). Had it been, it’d focus on the US in conflict with demon enemies, as gleefully reported on by Deborah Jerome. The Pakistani military is just about the only real institution in Pakistan, corrupt and deeply woven into its economy. We all saw how long Musharraf lasted once he, at Washington’s insistence, went civilian. Everytime I think about dealing with Pakistan, I don’t think of it as a country, but as a large, ramshackle army post built around civilians, and I remind myself that any aid we send will eventually wind up in military, or ex-military, hands. In spite of this, I support putting the aid into civilian, rather than the Pakistani military hands, even though this would inevitably lead to a wider rift between Washington and Islamabad. The civilian side there is no match for the military, and of the two, the military side is much more antagonistic to the US.

So I say again, “Congress Inserts Head Into Posterior.” I mean really. How do people like this get elected?


Speaking of the uproar in and over Pakistan, Damien Spleeters writing in Le Soir goes over some of the recent history of the mishandling of intelligence on bin Laden, including the famous “Warning-That-Was-Ignored:”

Jan. 25, 2001, less than nine months before the Sept. 11 attacks, the chair of the United States National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Security Group, Richard Clarke, sent a memo to Condoleezza Rice, asking to immediately revisit the manner in which the United States considers and responds to the al-Qaida network. In August of 2001, a memo intended exclusively for the American president was titled “Bin Ladin [sic] Determined to Strike in U.S.” The memo stated that, according to FBI information, attacks were being planned, including plans to hijack airplanes. Later, after the Sept. 11 attacks, Condoleezza Rice would say that the memo had only been a warning. “PDB said nothing about an attack on America,” she said. “It talked about intentions, about somebody who hated America — well, we knew that. …”

Condi? That was just plain incompetent, pure and simple. You already changed the world, and frankly, we’re less than thrilled (I’m being kind here, mind you), so we don’t really need to hear any more of your Solutions for Change.

Please.


I don’t know what they’re smoking in China, but it has got to be some good sh*t.


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