Chinese cultural authorities may have thought they pulled off a coup by getting Christian Bale, the Dark Knight himself, to star in Zhang Yimou's epic retelling of the rape of Nanking, the Flowers of War, China's Oscar entry for best foreign-language film. But they got more then they bargained for when the notoriously short-tempered British actor,* in the country for the film premiere, attempted to pay a visit -- along with a CNN crew -- to human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been under house at his home in Shandong province. In case you missed the story, here's what happened:
A foreign ministry spokesman fired back at Bale today:
"If anyone should be embarrassed it's the relevant actor, not the Chinese side," Liu told a daily news briefing, in the country's first reaction to Bale's actions.
"What I understand is that the actor was invited by the director Zhang Yimou to attend the movie premiere. He was not invited to any village in Shandong to create news or make a film," he added.
"If he wants to create news, I don't think that would be welcomed by China."
Chen, a blind self-taught lawyer, has been under house arrest since his release from prison last year, having accused authorities of carrying out forced abortions on villagers in rural China.
It's all well and good for Bale -- who got his first big break playing an orphan in wartime China in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun -- to bring publicity to this issue. If nothing else, it will make China's international promotion of the new film, in which Bale plays a priest who protects a group of Chinese women from the invading Japanese, a little more awkward. (U.S. critics are mostly panning the film as a "gauzy tearjerker.") Though, given his political beliefs, one wonders why be got involved in this project in the first place.
The person I'm actually interested in hearing from is Zhang Yimou, China's most famous film director. Zhang is known globally for martial arts epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, the arthouse hit Raise the Red Lantern, and for directing the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies. (Unfortunately, he doesn't address the controversy in an interview posted today with the New York Times' Larry Rohter.
Though he attended film school with Ai Weiwei, Zhang has never been a political artist, which is perfectly legitimate. But given his affiliation with state-sponsored prestige projects like the Olympics and Flowers of War, on which he acknowledges he received substantial official support, he's running the risk of being dismissed internationally as a propagandist. Here's a description from the L.A. Times of the film's Beijing premier:
Director Zhang Yimou’s epic new film "The Flowers of War" doesn't open in the United States until Dec. 23, but the movie, starring Christian Bale and set amid the 1930s Japanese occupation of the Chinese city of Nanjing, premiered Sunday in the People’s Political Consultative Conference, an imposing government building in central Beijing.
After the screening came an hourlong event in which the film’s cast appeared onstage in costume and made short speeches celebrating the film’s achievements. The band of actors that played the Chinese soldiers held their prop rifles high in the air and shouted “Chinese soldiers!” eliciting a smattering of applause from the mostly native crowd.
In the Times interview Zhang says he'd like to make a film about the Cultural Revolution, during which he was sent to the countryside to work on a collective farm as a child. " Of course this is a very sensitive topic, but I am hoping that before I pass on I can actually make these movies," he says. This seems to be an acknowledgement that there are some subjects he'd like to tackle, but can't in today's political climate. That's unfortunate for a director of Zhang's talent, but as long as he continues to prosper by making state-sponsored kitsch, it's a little hard to take him seriously.
*Correction: This post originally stated that Christian Bale is Australian. He is British.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Ali Tarhouni, Libya's former minister of finance and acting prime minister, has had a busy year. He began 2011 as a professor of economics at the University of Washington, only to rush back to his home country, from which he had been exiled for decades, as the revolution gained steam. He was charged with establishing some semblance of order over the Benghazi-based government's finances during the war, and then took the first steps to incorporate the rebel militias into a national army in the capital of Tripoli.
Now out of government, he was in Washington last week to deliver a personal letter of thanks from Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), to top U.S. policymakers for standing with Libya's rebels in their war to oust Muammar al-Qaddafi.
"That stand -- that moral courageous stand -- changed dramatically the kind of relationship that the United States can have with this part of the world, with Libya," he told Foreign Policy. "The door is wide open ... to build a more strategic relationship between the two countries."
One aspect of that relationship will certainly be cooperation on developing Libya's extensive energy reserves. Tarhouni noted that Libya's oil production had recently reached 1 million barrels a day - a figure that had even shocked both Libyan officials, he said, who initially hadn't expected to reach 500,000 barrels a day by the end of the year.
"There are no foreign companies there, no kind of consulting ... all this is done by Libyan hands and minds and brains and bravery," he said. "The difference is that now people feel that they own these institutions, and that feeling of ownership is what made this revolution successful."
None of this is to say that it's all smooth sailing for Libya from here. As the country witnessed so painfully under Qaddafi, the massive influx of oil revenue can be used to concentrate power in the hands of a few just as easily as rebuild the country. Tarhouni, however, said that the NTC had learned its lesson from the Qaddafi era -- he pointed to the website for Libya's National Oil Company, which lists all the oil contracts signed and shipments sold, as a step forward for transparency.
"Will it be a perfect story? No," he said. "[But] it will not be the same sad story as before."
The interim government's struggle to establish control over the many militias operating in the country has also caused it to clash with its erstwhile ally, Qatar. Abdel Jalil slammed the oil-rich emirate last month for undertaking actions in Libya "that we as the NTC don't know about" -- a criticism that Tarhouni expanded on.
"I think what they have done is basically support the Muslim Brotherhood, and I think that's an infringement on the sovereignty of the country," he said. "They have brought armaments, and they have given them to people that we don't know -- I think paid money to just about everybody. They intervened in committees that have control over security issues."
So, what's next for Tarhouni? He said he will found a new political party, which he describes as a movement that can bring ordinary Libyans into the political process. Without such an option, he fears, the political space could be seized by Islamist movements.
"There's a political vacuum in the country," he said. "The only organized group is the Muslim Brotherhood. They're small, but they're well-organized and financed."
Sounds like it's going to be another busy year.
MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images
It may be hard to imagine a silver lining in S&P's decision to downgrade Belgium's credit rating from AA+ to AA, but the move may have had the unintended consequence of pressuring Belgian leaders to finally get around to forming a government. The country hasn't had a permanent government since April 2010 -- and hasn't really had a stable one in more than four years -- but an agreement on a budget deal this week may have paved the way for a more permanent arangement, with the king calling on chief negotiator Elio di Rupo to form a coalition. It seems like the downgrade may have finally lit a fire under the country's divided linquistic factions:
Elections were won by Flemish nationalists who demanded wide-ranging reform of the federal government, including more autonomy for its regions. Wallonia, whose economy has lagged behind that of Flanders, has resisted devolution amid fears that will result in lower redistributive payments.
Failure to resolve the conflict has thus far prevented the emergence of a new government, leaving Mr Leterme and his team as a limited-powers “caretaker” administration.
The 580-day political squabble was one of the reasons given by Standard & Poor’s on Friday when it downgraded Belgium’s long-term debt outlook, from double A plus to double A.
The downgrade, after several weeks of Belgium bond yields rising steadily as investors fretted about its creditworthiness, revived stalled negotiations between leaders of the main political parties looking to form the next coalition.
It would certainly be good for Belgium to have a government at a time like this. But like the removal from power of Silvio Berlusconi and George Papandreou, this could also be seen as an example of an international financial entity -- in this case S&P rather than the European Central Bank -- forcing the hand of a sovereign government when the democratic process failed to do so. We'll see how long this newest arrangement can last.
You know that classic trick of telling your only daughter that she's your favorite daughter? The U.S. appears to be employing similar linguistic cunning with its allies. America, you see, is rather promiscuous when it comes to professing best friendship.
On Wednesday, for example, as President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (pictured above) finalized a deal to deploy American Marines to Australia's north coast, Obama declared that "the United States has no stronger ally" than Australia. Obama expressed similar sentiments in March after tossing an Australian football around with Gillard in the Oval Office, and prior to that in November 2010 after sitting down with Gillard for the first time (the Australian prime minister, for her part, said the two countries were "great mates").
But, alas, Gillard isn't America's only BFF. During a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the White House in January, President Obama enraged some Britons by proclaiming, "We don't have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people." The statement "is by far the strongest indication yet that the current White House has little regard for the Special Relationship" with Britain," fumed Nile Gardiner, whose U.S.-based Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom seeks to advance that very relationship. "Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. president is difficult to fathom." The Daily Mail‘s Tim Shipman warned that Obama "risked offending British troops in Afghanistan" and even speculated that Obama's attitude toward the British may "stem from his Kenyan family's history during colonial rule."
Yet Gardiner and Shipman would have found solace had they only cast their gaze back to the spring of 2010, when Obama declared on two separate occasions that the United States had "no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom" and "no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain." Or they could have traveled back to 2009, when Obama informed India that it had "no better friend and partner than the people of the United States" and told Canada that "we could not have a better friend and ally."
These diplomatic turns of phrase, of course, didn't start with Obama. President George W. Bush used similar language to describe countries such as Japan, Canada, Great Britain, and, yes, France. In 2006, the New York Times noted that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had used the ''no better friend'' refrain with no less than Australia, Britain (and the United Kingdom as a whole), Greece, Italy, Japan, Jordan, and Singapore.
While the "no stronger/closer/greater/better ally/friend" formulation has bred cynicism ("our strongest ally is the world leader visiting that day," National Review's Jim Geraghty scoffed in March), it's also a stroke of semantic genius. By avoiding superlatives like "strongest" or "greatest," U.S. leaders appear to shower their most-valued allies with favoritism without actually picking favorites. Or, as the Independent put it in the wake of the Sarkozy/Special Relationship flap, "President Obama merely put France into the Premier League -- or rather the National Basketball Association -- of America's friends. You the French, he said, are part of an ‘A-list' of America's pals, alongside -- but not necessarily ahead of -- Canada, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Britain." In other words, it's a seven-way tie for first place.
If "no stronger" denotes the top echelon of American friends, one wonders whether the "one of" designation (as in "one of our best friends") is interchangeable or a kind of subtle diplomatic downgrade. Obama has bestowed the "one of our strongest allies" on a number of countries including Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, and South Korea, but other government officials have used the "no stronger" language to describe some of these countries. When President Obama visited Germany in June, he praised Germany as "one of our strongest allies" and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as "one of my closest global partners." But Merkel went the more effusive route:
Mr. President, dear Barack, in Berlin in 2008, you spoke to more than 200,000 people. And in your address, you said America has no better partner than Europe. And now it's my turn to say Europe and Germany have no better partner than America.
Will America return the favor? If Germany saves Europe from its debt crisis, the U.S. very well might.
Rick Rycroft/Getty Images
The Confucius Prize -- the award established last year by a Chinese Think Tank to compete with the Nobel Prize -- has been awarded to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this year:
It praised his decision to go to war in Chechnya in 1999.
“His iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot, and he was regarded to be capable of bringing safety and stability to Russia,” read an English version of the committee’s statement. “He became the anti-terrorist No. 1 and the national hero.”So went the announcement by a group of 16 patriotic scholars awarding what they call their second annual “grass-roots” peace prize.
The sponsors also cited Putin's opposition to the NATO intervention in Libya and "for being selected to join the K.G.B. while in college, “which made true his teenage dream of joining the K.G.B.,” and for “acting as the propagandist of current political events” while in high school.""
The first awarding of the prize was a bit of a catastrophe last year, when the winner, former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan, was never informed that he had won, and the statue and prize money were instead handed to a little girl with no relation to him. No word yet on whether Putin will be on hand to pick up his award.
Putin was also due to receive a prize for democracy promotion from a German foundation this year, but it was eventually canceled after a media uproar. He beat out Bill Gates, Angela Merkel, Jacob Zuma, Kofi Annan, and the (Beijing-approved) Panchen Lama for the Confucius Award.
LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images
As Europe continues to be roiled by the ongoing effects of the debt crisis, another situation is quietly gripping Greece. Reuters reports that the number of new cases of the virus detected in the first five months of this year was 50 percent higher than the same period last year. These include the country's first-ever cases of mother-child transmissions:
In 2009, the year the baby was born, Greece had detected not a single case of a mother transmitting the AIDS virus to her child, according to the Hellenic Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, a public health agency funded by the Health Ministry. The mother's infection was apparently missed by a nationwide screening program for pregnant women.
"How was it possible for an HIV-positive child to be born in Greece? That is my question," asked the woman's social worker, Anna Kavouri, head of social services at The Center for Life, which helps people living with HIV/AIDS. Kavouri is working with the woman to try to find out what happened and what options she may have for legal redress.
With tough austerity already taking a toll on the Greek economy, the social safety nets that many had become used to, including testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are gradually eroding away. Rising poverty has been linked to increases in prostitution and drug use amongst the population. As Reuters noted, the Greek healthcare system is due for a 36 percent budget cut next year, which will undoubtedly reduce the scale and quality of services.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
Sometimes it takes a phenomenally dumb statement to bring much-needed attention to an important issue. When talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves last week to describe the mass-murdering Lord's Resistance Army as "Christians...fighting the Muslims in Sudan" that the Obama administration was intent of wiping out, it brought widespread condemnation, including from Limbaugh's political allies, and created an opportunity to discuss the crimes of the LRA.
In particular, a video appeal to Limbaugh made by 22-year-old Evelyn Apoko, who was abducted by the LRA when she was 12 and escaped after years in captivity, was widely circulated online. You can read more about her frankly incredible story here. Apoko now lives in the United States, where she has had several rounds of reconstructive surgery to repair the damage done to her face by shrapnel and is a fellow at the Strongheart Group, an international rehabilitation and education program for young people affected by war.
Yesterday she testified before Congress at a hearing on the Obama administration's decision to send 100 troops to assist local efforts to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony. After her testimony, she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Foreign Policy: The video you made recently got a lot of attention. Can you tell me why you thought it was so important to respond to what Rush Limbaugh said?
Evelyn Apoko: When I read about what he said -- I don't know where he got the information, I don't know where he got it from -- and it really hit me hard. How can you say the LRA are Christians? I'm not trying to judge, but it's which I experienced and I witnessed it and it's totally different.
I heard that a lot of people here like to listen to him, you know, and I said well I am going to do something about it. I cannot keep quiet about it because I know that, there's many children still in Congo, still being abducting right now by Joseph Kony. A Christian would no want to do such things to people: try to kill people try, to take children away from their families to become something horrible, you know, brainwash those kids. So that's why I made that video to let you know that the LRA was not Christians and aren't what he thinks they are.
FP: So now the United States is becoming at least somewhat more committed to this fight against the LRA. Do you think that if Joseph Kony is either killed or captured, that's the end of the LRA or are there people who will continue fighting even if he's taken out?
EA: I think it will make a huge difference if they take Joseph Kony away from the field because all the foundation is built on him. He is like the root of it, and all the other commanders, they follow whatever he says, whatever he offer to the commander they have to do it.
FP: What do you think is the most important first thing that a former child soldier needs in those early days and weeks after they're taken out of the battlefield?
EA: You know, those kids are, they are real, they are all like us, you know? I never knew that I was the person that I always wanted to be, you know? It wasn't until I escaped and came back home, I found people who were willing to be my mentor to show me what the right thing to do.
Those kids will need a lot of therapy and a mentor guiding them. I think, in few months they completely can change. Most of them say, "I never knew I was going to turn into this person. I never knew I was going to be the wonderful person who I always want to be. Because all that I've been doing in the bush they forced me to do. I didn't mean to do it." So I think in most cases, they are very young, they can still change.
The Daily Beast runs a very odd excerpt from Condoleezza Rice's new autobiography, describing her meeting with Qaddafi in Libya in 2003. Here's the best bit:
It was Ramadan at the time of my visit, and after sundown the “Brother Leader” insisted that I join him for dinner in his private kitchen. Colby Cooper, who had overseen the arrangements for the trip, protested that this hadn’t been the plan. My security detail did as well, especially when they were told to stay outside. I thought I could take care of myself and went in. At the end of dinner, Qaddafi told me that he’d made a videotape for me. Uh oh, I thought, what is this going to be? It was a quite innocent collection of photos of me with world leaders—President Bush, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, and so on—set to the music of a song called “Black Flower in the White House,” written for me by a Libyan composer. It was weird, but at least it wasn’t raunchy.
There was a lot more bickering at last night's debate than in previous rounds, and the short section on foreign policy was no exception. To the highlights!
MICHELE BACHMANN decscribed 100 non-combat U.S. miltiary advisors in Uganda as a historic "fourth conflict in a foriegn land." She might want to have a look at this list. We're at war with Diego Garcia!:
And don’t forget, this was a historic week when it came to American foreign policy. We saw potentially an international assassination attempt from Iran on American soil. That says something about Iran, that they disrespect the United States so much that they would attempt some sort of a heinous act like that.
Then we saw the president of the United States engage American troops in a fourth conflict in a foreign land. This is historic.
Then on Sunday we heard the reports that now that in Iraq that the 5,000 troops that were going to be left there won’t even be granted immunity by Iraq. This is how disrespected the United States is in the world today, and it’s because of President Obama’s failed policies. He’s taken his eyes off the number-one issue in the world. That’s an Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. That makes all of us much danger — (applause) — and the president of Iran is a genocidal maniac. We need to stand up against Iran.
NEWT GINGRICH made some sense on defense cuts and had a good line:
Now the idea that you'll - the idea that you'll have a bunch historically illiterate politicians who have no sophistication about national security trying to make a numerical decision about the size of the defense budget tells you everything you need to know about the bankruptcy of the current elite in this country - in both parties.
The fact is, we ought to first figure out what threatens us. We ought to figure out what strategies will respond to that. We should figure out what structures we need for those strategies. We should then cost them.
I found - helped found the Military Reform Caucus. I'm a hawk, but I'm a cheap hawk. But the fact is - (laughter) - the fact is, to say I'm going to put the security of the United States up against some arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.
RON PAUL did his Ron Paul thing. The crowd liked it:
There’s a lot of money spent in the military budget that doesn’t do any good for our defense. What — how does — how does it help us to keep troops in Korea all these years? We’re broke. We have to borrow this money. Why are we in Japan? Why do we subsidize Germany, and they subsidize their socialized system over there because we pay for it. We’re broke.
And this whole thing that this can’t be on the table, I’ll tell you what. This debt bubble is the thing you’d better really worry about, because it’s imploding on us right now; it’s worldwide. We are no more removed from this than the man in the moon. It’s going to get much worse.
And to cut military spending is a wise thing to do. We would be safer if we weren’t in so many places. We have an empire; we can’t afford it. The empires always bring great nations down. We’ve spread ourselves too thinly around the world. This is what’s happened throughout history.
And we’re doing it to ourselves. The most recent empire to fail was a(n) empire that went into, of all places, Afghanistan.
HERMAN CAIN: Yes, I stand by what I said and what I believe is the opposite of that thing I said (By the way, good question from the Twitter guy):
ANDERSON COOPER: We do have a Twitter question. Given that Israel has just negotiated with Palestine for a soldier, would any of you negotiate for a hostage? Herman Cain, let me ask this to you. A few hours ago you were asked by Wolf Blitzer, if al-Qaida had an American soldier in captivity and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would you release them? And you said, quote, "I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer." Can you explain?
MR. CAIN: The rest of the statement was quite simply you would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first: I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first. (Applause.)
Now, then you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I'm sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that. So on the surface, I don't think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything.
MR. COOPER: But you're saying you could - I mean, in your words, you said that, "I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer." Isn't that negotiating with, in this case, al-Qaida?
MR. CAIN: I don't recall him ever saying that it was al-Qaida- related.
MR. COOPER: Yeah, he did. He said -
MR. CAIN: Well, I don't - I - my policy would be we cannot negotiate with terrorists. That's where we have to start as a fundamental principle.
I'd seriously like to hear RICK SANTORUM provide an example of a war that didn't have political objectives:
It is the first duty of the president of the United States, is to protect us. (Applause.) And we should - we should have the resources and we should have all the resources in place to make sure that we can defend our borders, that we can make sure that we - we - when we engage in foreign countries, we do so to succeed. That's been the problem in this administration. We've had political objectives instead of objectives for success, and that's why we haven't succeeded.
And as Michele said and correctly said, the central threat right now is Iran - the disrespect, yes, but it's more than that. They sent a message. The two countries that they went after was the leader of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the, quote, "secular world," the United States. This was a call by Iran to say: We are the ones who are going to be the supreme leader of the Islamic world.
We are going to be the supreme leader of the secular world. And that's why they attacked here. And by the way, they did it in coordination with Central and South Americans, which I had been talking about and writing about for 10 years.
RICK PERRY: We should de-fund the United Nations because of the Palestinian membership bid. (Despite the fact that U.S. membership is what's preventing Palestine from being recognized.):
I think it's time for this country to have a very real debate about foreign aid. Clearly, there are places - as a matter of fact, I think it's time for us to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations. When you think about - when you think about the Palestinian Authority circumventing those Oslo accords and going to New York to try to create the conflict and to have themselves approved as a state without going through the proper channels, it is a travesty. And I think it's time not only to have that entire debate about all of our foreign aid, but in particular, the U.N. Why are we funding that organization?
MITT ROMNEY: Get the Chinese to pay for foreign aid:
Foreign aid has several elements. One of those elements is defense, is to make sure that we are able to have the defense resources we want in certain places of the world. That probably ought to fall under the Department of Defense budget rather than a foreign aid budget.
Part of it is humanitarian aid around the world. I happen to think it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give it to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are - that are - and think of that borrowed money (today ?).
And finally, there's a portion of our foreign aid that allows us to carry out our - our activities in the world, such as what's happening in Pakistan, where we're taking - we're supplying our troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan.
But let me tell you, we're spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending.
BACHMANN: Make the Iraqis pay us back:
No, we should not be cutting foreign aid to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally. The biggest problem is the fact that the president - (applause) - the biggest problem with this administration and foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty put daylight between the United States and Israel. That's heavily contributed to the current hostilities that we see in the Middle East region.
Cutting back on foreign aid is one thing. Being reimbursed by nations that we have liberated is another. We should look to Iraq and Libya to reimburse us for part of what we have done to liberate these nations.
PAUL, SANTORUM, and GINGRICH get into a snappy argument about Ronald Reagan that the candidates who have a shot at the nomination wisely stay away from:
REP. PAUL: As a matter of fact, I don't want to make a statement, I want to ask a question. Are you all willing to condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We all know that was done.
MR. SANTORUM: Well, that's not - Iran was a sovereign country, it was not a terrorist organization, number one. That's -
REP. PAUL (?): Well, they were our good friends -
MR. : They're a sovereign country - just like the Palestinian Authority is not good friends of Israel.
REP. PAUL: He negotiated for hostages.
MR. SANTORUM: There's a role - we negotiated with hostages - (inaudible) - the Soviet Union. We've negotiated with hostages, depending on the scale. But there's a difference between releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in response to terrorist demands than -
REP. PAUL: But they're all suspects, they're not terrorists. You haven't convicted them of anything.
MR. SANTORUM: - than negotiating with other countries where we may have an interest.
And that is certainly a proper role for the United States - (inaudible).
MR. COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. I do want to give Speaker Gingrich thirty seconds and then -
MR. GINGRICH: Just very straightforward. (Inaudible) - did a film on Ronald Reagan, there's a very painful moment in the film when he looks in the camera and says: I didn't think we did this; I'm against doing it. I went back and looked. The truth is, we did. It was an enormous mistake. And he thought the Iranian deal was a terrible mistake.
The first foreign-policy-centered debate will be held on Nov. 15. The other Josh has some great suggestions for questions over at The Cable.
Update: Almost forgot this low blow from BACHMANN:
Well, I think the person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama. It's his uncle and his aunt who are illegal aliens who've been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact that they're illegal.
When an unknown entity, most likely some combination of Western and Israeli intelligence agencies, created Stuxnet, the mysterious computer worm widely thought to be targeted at Iran's nuclear program, cybersecurity experts warned that a new digital threat had been unleashed, with potentially dangerous and wideranging consequences.
David Hoffman wrote about Stuxnet for FP back in March:
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which has closely monitored the Iranian nuclear effort, reported that in late 2009 or early 2010, Iran decommissioned and replaced about 1,000 centrifuges in its uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz. If the goal of Stuxnet was to "set back Iran's progress" while making detection of the malware difficult, an ISIS report stated, "it may have succeeded, at least for a while."
But there are risks of blowback. Langner warns that such malware can proliferate in unexpected ways: "Stuxnet's attack code, available on the Internet, provides an excellent blueprint and jump-start for developing a new generation of cyber warfare weapons." He added, "Unlike bombs, missiles, and guns, cyber weapons can be copied. The proliferation of cyber weapons cannot be controlled. Stuxnet-inspired weapons and weapon technology will soon be in the hands of rogue nation states, terrorists, organized crime, and legions of leisure hackers."
Industrial control systems that were the target of Stuxnet are spread throughout the world and vulnerable to such attacks. In one 11-year-old Australian case, a disenchanted employee of the company that set up the control system at a sewage plant later decided to sabotage it. From his laptop, the worker ordered it to spill 211,337 gallons of raw sewage, and the control system obeyed -- polluting parks, rivers, and the grounds of a hotel, killing marine life and turning a creek's water black.
According to Symantec, "Duqu's purpose is to gather intelligence data and assets from entities, such as industrial control system manufacturers, in order to more easily conduct a future attack against another third party. The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control facility."
Nobody knows who created Duqu, or why. (Says F-Secure: "Was Duqu written by US Government? Or by Israel? We don't know. Was the target Iran? We don't know.")
But Symantec reports that "the threat was highly targeted toward a limited number of organizations for their specific assets. ... The creators of Duqu had access to the source code of Stuxnet, not just the Stuxnet binaries. The attackers intend to use this capability to gather intelligence from a private entity to aid future attacks on a third party."
So are we seeing another attempt by the same crowd that brought us Stuxnet in the first place? Or disturbing evidence that the predictions of Langner and others are coming true -- that a tool intended to cripple Iran's nuclear enrichment efforts has now been repurposed, possibly by another foreign government or a criminal syndicate?
We may find out in short order. F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen, who has adopted the hashtag #Stuxnet2, warns on his Twitter feed: "If Duqu was indeed an information gathering operation, we should expect the real attack soon."
A.G. Sulzberger reports from Topeka:
Three arms of government, all ostensibly representing the same people, have been at an impasse over who should be responsible for — and pay for — prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.
City leaders had blamed the Shawnee County district attorney for handing off such cases to the city without warning. The district attorney, in turn, said he was forced to not prosecute any misdemeanors and to focus on felonies because the County Commission cut his budget. And county leaders accused the district attorney of using abused women as pawns to negotiate more money for his office.
After both sides dug in, the dispute came to a head Tuesday night.
By a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.
Decline-o-meter: Thankfully, this doesn't actually mean domestic violence has been decriminalized in Topeka. The move was a ploy to force the District Attorney to prosecute the offenses, which remain illegal under Kansas State law. But it's a scary sign of the times and highlights the fact that the prosecutor's office has recently been cut by 10 percent at a time that the city has seen a “recent uptick in violent crime.”
Also worth a read is Michael Lewis' new Vanity Fair dispatch from California, which makes the case that state and municipal governments are the real ticking time bomb of the crisis:
The market for municipal bonds, unlike the market for U.S. government bonds, spooked easily. American cities and states were susceptible to the same cycle of doom that had forced Greece to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.
Lewis' piece sketches out what this will mean for public-safety services like police and firefighting in debt-wracked cities like Vallejo.
There are few signs of the Amerislump in Stockholm. U.S. economists Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims were awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Economics. This is the 11th straight year that at least one of the recipients of the economics prize has been American. All three of the physics winners this year and one of the medicine winners were also American.
In terms of total, all-time Nobel wins, the United States has more than twice as many as any other country and as this chart from Flowing Data shows, that dominance has only increased in recent years. The glaring exception is the literature category, which no American has won since Toni Morrison in 1993.
China is something of a Nobel underperformer. While there have been dozens of Nobel winners of Chinese descent, and Chinese birth, the only one who actually made his career in China was last year's Peace Prize winnder Liu Xiaobo, one that Beijing is not exactly proud of.
Decline-o-meter: The U.S. has a formidable lead on this one. But keep in mind that this is something of a lagging indicator since, in the science categories, as opposed to the Peace Prize, awards are typically given for work done several years in the past rather than in the previous year.
Also, the large number of immigrants and dual citizens who have won awards in the sciences suggests that the U.S. edge may be its ability to attract talent as much as its ability to produce it. The U.S. will need to continue to be a desirable destination for the best and the brightest if the streak is to continue.
Correction: The website mentioned in the below post is owned by James L'Angelle, a supporter of the Syrian National Council but not an official spokesman for the organization. As such, the images posted on the site -- which L'Angelle said that he took from another blog -- cannot provide insights into the workings of the SNC. The official website of the SNC is www.syriannc.org. We regret the error.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was formed on Sunday as an umbrella coalition of groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, hinted strongly that it was in favor of a no-fly zone over the country by publishing maps of Syrian air defenses on its website.
The SNC's web page on the implementation of a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians, similar to the one that exists over Libya, does not explicitly endorse such an option. It argues that while "the situation itself might warrant an air defense blanket," practical considerations make the creation of a no-fly zone more difficult.
But the pictures on the website tell a different story. Four detailed maps (1,2,3,4) show the placement of Syrian air defenses -- specifically the Soviet-designed S-25, S-75, S-125, and S-200 surface-to-air missiles, and the 2K12 "Kub" air defense system -- that an international force would presumably need to destroy to implement a no-fly zone. Another chart compares Syria's total number of anti-aircraft weapons, which it lists at 3,310, those of other nations.
SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalioun affirmed yesterday that the council "rejects any outside interference that undermines the sovereignty of the Syrian people." SNC members, however, have interpreted that statement to rule out the presence of foreign boots on the ground in Syria -- but not necessarily a no-fly zone.
Syrian National Council
Saudi King Abdullah has had a busy week. First was his slow-motion legalization of women's suffrage this past Sunday. Today, there's news that the sentence of 10 lashes for a woman convicted of the crime of driving while female has been revoked by the king.
The AFP reports:
Saudi King Abdullah has revoked a sentence of 10 lashes imposed on a woman for breaking the ban on women driving in the conservative kingdom, a Saudi princess said Wednesday on her Twitter account.
"Thank God, the lashing of Sheima is cancelled. Thanks to our beloved King. I'm sure all Saudi women will be so happy, I know I am," said Princess Amira al-Taweel, wife of billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
"In tough times we stand together; in good times we celebrate together," the princess said. "I'm proud to be Saudi. To all Active Saudi women thank u for ur efforts."
Several months ago, a video surfaced on the Internet of a woman protesting the ban by driving and posting her commentary as she did it. While that did not cascade into the wider changes that have been associated with the Arab Spring, the subsequent protests were a cultural earthquake that had many within the kingdom questioning the meaning of this movement. As FP's Simon Henderson reported on Monday, Saudi Arabia is facing multiple challenges in the coming future, one of which is the cultural direction of the country.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
The Iranian president just wrapped up his speech. In contrast to other years, he kept the esoteric Twelver theology to a minimum, but it was still a classic Ahmadinejad speech -- sweeping and conspiracy minded, with few references to current events. He made one interesting reference to the increase in illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan under NATO's watch. There was a long section on the responsibility of Western nations for the global financial crisis, including a somewhat unexpected endorsement of the gold standard.
Interestingly, despite some perfunctory shots at the "Zionists" and their western supporters, he didn't have much to say on the topic dominated discussion this week -- Palestinian statehood.
This passage is likely to get the most headlines:
By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military action.
Last year, when the need to form a fact-finding team to undertake a thorough investigation concerning the hidden elements involved in September 11 incident was brought up; an idea also endorsed by all independent governments and nations as well as by the majority in the United States, my country and myself came under pressure and threat by the government of the United States.
Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea.
Would it not have been reasonable to bring to justice and openly bring to trial the main perpetrator of the incident in order to identify the elements behind the safe space provided for the invading aircraft to attack the twin world trade
Why should it not have been allowed to bring him to trial to help recognize
those who launched terrorist groups and brought wars and other miseries into the region?
Is there any classified information that must be kept secret?
Ahmadinejad didn't mention to the recent upheavals in the Middle East by name, but there were a few subtle references. Likely referring to Libya, Ahmadinejad asked, "Can the flower of democracy blossom from NATO’s missiles, rockets or guns?"
Here's how he closed:
Today nations have been awakened. With the increase in public awareness they no longer succumb to oppressions and discriminations.
The world is now witnessing more than ever, the widespread awakening in Islamic lands, in Asia, Europe, and America. These movements are ever expanding their spirit everyday and influence the pursuit of the realization of justice, freedom and the creation of a better tomorrow.
Our great nation stands ready to join hands with other nations to march on this beautiful path in harmony and in line with the shared aspirations of mankind.
The latest tempest in a teapot in this season of austerity? Congressional outrage over the Justice Department's spending on food and beverages at one of its conferences in 2009. An inspector general's audit report found that the department paid $4,200 for 250 muffins and $2,880 for 300 cookies and brownies.
"By itemizing these costs, with service and gratuity, muffins cost over $16 each and cookies and brownies cost almost $10 each," the report reads.
Never mind that this analysis is not necessarily accurate. Chuck Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement decrying the muffin-spending: "The Justice Department appears to be blind to the economic realities our country is facing."
Frank Wolf, whose committee oversees the Justice Department in the House, chimed in with his own letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:
"It is clear that while American taxpayers were tightening their belts and making difficult financial decisions, the department was splurging on wasteful snacks and drinks as well as unnecessary event planning 'consultants.'"
OK, let's stipulate that spending $16, or even $10, for a muffin is excessive, and a waste of taxpayer money. But give me a break -- this kind of spending is hardly the problem.
Not only are spiraling health-care costs the real cause of America's long-term budget woes -- something Congress has done hardly anything to address -- but defense spending is by far the biggest chunk of annual discretionary spending. The Pentagon can't even pass an audit, and won't be able to do so until 2017, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's Senate testimony today. With the enthusiastic patronage of Congress, the U.S. military spends tens of billions of dollars on weapons systems that either don't work as adverstised (Future Combat Systems, anyone?), cost far more than budgeted (all of them), or are wholly unnecessary (remember the Kafkaesque fight over the Joint Strike Fighter's "alternate engine"?).
The Justice Department's entire budget request for 2012 is $28 billion -- less than what the U.S. spends in Iraq and Afghanistan in three months. Before it was cut to only $200 million in July, the Pentagon's budget for military bands was $325 million. Military bands!
But by all means, rant about the muffins...
It turns out Mexican President Felipe Calderon's statements on U.S. television hinting at drug legalization this week were a preview of his UNGA speech, in which he suggested "market alternatives" to drug interdiction and singled out the United States specifically. A full text isn't posted yet so these quotes are all from my rushed transcription.
After discussing the Arab Spring, Calderon pivoted, saying, "We have to be aware that organized crime today is killing more people and more young people than all the dictatorial regimes in the world."
"More than ever, consumer countries, where drugs are consumed, must take effective action to radically cut demand. I will be told that this is not possible. That the demand for drugs continues to rise, as indeed is the case here in the United States, where nearly 30 percent of young people consume drugs. What is the solution?[...]
Consumer countries are morally obliged to reduce the vast economic demand. If you can’t cut it, cut the economic profist. You have to find how to staunch this this demand. Seek out all possible options, including market alternatives, so that drugs trafficking ceases to be a source of violence in Latin America and the Carribean and several African countries.
As if noted before, Latin American heads of state including Calderon's predecessor Vicente Fox tend to become born-again legalizers after they leave office, perhaps since they're no longer feeling the pressure from up north.
A sitting, center-right Mexican president making a speech in New York calling for "market alternatives" to combating drug trafficking would seem to be a pretty major development.
Not a particularly eventful speech, and one that seemed tailored toward avoiding controversy during an election season. Obama called for Security Council sanctions on Syria, which are unlikely to happen. He called for a "peaceful transition of power from President Saleh" in Yemen. He described America as a "close friend of Bahrain," but called for further reform.
Here's the section on Israel/Palestine that everyone was waiting for:
Now I know that for many in this hall, one issue stands as a test for these principles – and for American foreign policy: the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May. That basis is clear, and well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.
I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.
Peace depends upon compromise among peoples who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted. That is the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That is the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is the path to a Palestinian state.
We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can achieve one.
America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes. That’s what we should be encouraging. This body – founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide; dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every person – must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace and security, with dignity and opportunity. We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears. That is the project to which America is committed. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.
Not much news there.
As for the wars America doesn't talk about, the military effort in Iraq and the "transition" in Afghanistan got only glancing mention. China and India were never mentioned. The president reaffirmed U.S. commitment to tackling HIV/AIDs, climate change, the global financial crisis, and famine in the Horn of Africa, but no new initiatives were announced.
It's hardly a new point to make, but this speech combined with Amb. Susan Rice half-jokingly saying she's spent "a hundred percent" of her time on Israel-Palestine issues this week, underscores the degree to which this conflict continues to suck attention away from nearly every other pressing global issue.
Given his normal man-of-the-people schtick and weekly telethons, Hugo Chavez's international appearances are notable for his habit of recommending books. He sent sales of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival skyrocketing with his 2006 UNGA speech and did the same for author Eduardo Galeano when he gave a copy of Open Veins of Latin America to Barack Obama. This year, with Palestinian issues on the agenda, Chavez is plugging the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and Spanish poet Juan Goytisolo in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
In his memorable essay The Grandeur of Arafat, the great French philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote with the full weight of the truth: The Palestinian cause is first and foremost the set of injustices that these people have suffered and continue to suffer. And I dare add that the Palestinian cause also represents a constant and unwavering will to resist, already written in the historic memory of the human condition. A will to resist that is born of the most profound love for the earth. Mahmoud Darwish, the infinite voice of the longed-for Palestine, with heartfelt conscience speaks about this love: We don’t need memories/ because we carry within us Mount Carmelo/ and in our eyelids is the herb of Galilee./ Don’t say: If only we could flow to my country like a river!/ Don’t say that!/ Because we are in the flesh of our country/ and our country is in our flesh.
Against those who falsely assert that what has happened to the Palestinian people is not genocide, Deleuze himself states with unfaltering lucidity: From beginning to end, it involved acting as if the Palestinian people not only must not exist, but had never existed. It represents the very essence of genocide: to decree that a people do not exist; to deny them the right to existence.In this regard, the great Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo is quite right when he forcefully states: The biblical promise of the land of Judea and Samaria to the tribes of Israel is not a notarized property contract that authorizes the eviction of those who were born and live on that land. This is precisely why conflict resolution in the Middle East must, necessarily, bring justice to the Palestinian people; this is the only path to peace.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Over the past six months, Syria has erupted into chaos. As protesters took to the streets to demand the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian army and police responded with deadly force: The United Nations now estimates 2,600 people have perished in the violence.
But what the protest movement has lacked so far is a unified front that could express the Syrian opposition's vision for the country's future, and press for international action against the Assad regime. While Syria's historically fractious opposition groups have been unsuccessful in overcoming their differences, a new coalition has an opportunity to establish a united front. On Thursday, a group of 140 dissidents announced the establishment of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the first organized effort to challenge the ferocity of Assad's "killing machine."
Foreign Policy exclusively obtained a document that lays out the SNC's structure, membership, and goals. It also received the SNC's "National Consensus Charter," which describes the principles that will guide the council's actions.
The first document says that the council is currently made up of 140 members. It provides the name of 71 members, but states that the rest have been kept secret "for security reasons." 60 percent of the SNC's membership resides inside Syria, while 40 percent lives abroad. A slim majority -- 52 percent -- of the council's membership is made up of representatives of the grassroots movements that have driven the recent protests, while the rest includes members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the Kurdish National Bloc, the Damascus Declaration group, and other prominent opposition figures. The SNC will be divided into eight main offices, including bureaus to undertake tasks such as media relations, policy planning, and legal affairs and human rights.
SNC's charter describes the formation of an anti-Assad umbrella coalition as "a pressing necessity and its absence is an offense against the revolution." It details three main principles: a unified effort to overthrow Assad's regime, the desire to maintain the peaceful nature of the revolution, and a national initiative to create a democratic state that respects the equality of Syria's diverse ethnic and religious groups. The council also asserted its aim to develop a roadmap for democratic change within Syria.
Ausama Monajed, a member of the newly created council and the executive director of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre, detailed what the council hopes to accomplish in a conversation with FP.
Foreign Policy: What message do you want to send the Syrian people, and the rest of the international community?
Ausama Monajed: The Syrian National Council aims to present the reality of Syria to international media outlets and policy makers, to be able to have an impact on global policies by providing governments with the right information and analysis; to draft roadmaps for a just Syria; and to boost the morale of Syrian demonstrators by presenting them with a unified body that will support their activities.
FP: Why does the council oppose military and foreign intervention in Syria?
AM: Syrians oppose military intervention because of the negative experience countries in the region have had. The council only reflects the demands of the Syrian street.
Assad's regime is built on self-interest, not on a minority, as perceived. Alawites [Assad's religious sect] are starting to peel away from the regime and many are starting to oppose it, realizing that Assad will flee, leaving them to deal with the aftermath of his sectarian actions. A coup is a possible scenario, a sudden collapse is also a possibility.
FP: What groups are represented in the council? How will the council, made up of so many voices, effectively form a united oppositional front to Assad?
AM: All Syrian groups. The differences in views of the council members are insignificant at this time, as all parties involved - or actually all Syrians -- agree on certain principles, such as that the Syrian revolution should remain peaceful, national unity is to be stressed and all sectarian or exceptionalist tendencies are to be extricated, while foreign military intervention will be rejected.
The charter added that all minorities and parties in Syria will have their rights guaranteed without any discrimination -- and that includes recognition of the Kurdish identity, and reaching a fair solution to Kurdish issues within the scope of national unity.
FP: Who will lead the council? Will the names of the council members still within Syria be released? Is there a formal list of the dissident members residing outside of Syria? Will more members be chosen in the near future?
AM: Leadership elections will take place in a few days. While the names of some of the members have been revealed, we did not reveal the rest of the names for security reasons.
FP: Ahmed Ramadan, a council member, has spoken of the possibility of a TV channel being launched to address the demands of the Syrian people. Is this true?
AM: Everything is possible.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
According to a number of blogs, for a brief period today there was an app/game available in Apple's iTunes store illustrating some of the more controversial aspects of the iPhone's supply chain. Here a description from the website of producer MolleIndustria:
Phone Story is a game for smartphone devices that attempts to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform. Under the shiny surface of our electronic gadgets, behind its polished interface, hides the product of a troubling supply chain that stretches across the globe. Phone Story represents this process with four educational games that make the player symbolically complicit in coltan extraction in Congo, outsourced labor in China, e-waste in Pakistan and gadget consumerism in the West.
Keep Phone Story on your device as a reminder of your impact. All of the revenues raised go directly to workers' organizations and other non-profits that are working to stop the horrors represented in the game.
Remarkably, the game made it past Apple's initial review, but was removed today. Kyle Orland at Gamasutra writes:
But shortly after the game was announced and made available for purchase on the App Store earlier this morning, MolleIndustria tweeted that it had been removed for violating four separate app store review guidelines (as noticed by sister site IndieGames.com).
The cited guidelines prohibit apps that "depict violence or child abuse," "present objectionable or crude content," "contain false, fraudulent of misleading representations" or fail to "comply with all legal requirements."
Maybe they could produce a spin-off for Android market, where the requirements are less stringent? It's not like Apple's the only company using African coltan and FoxConn labor to make its phones.
Hat Tip: Several folks via Twitter
Last night's CNN-Tea Party Republican debate did little to disabuse anyone of the notion that the Tea Party movement is not overly concerned with anything happening outside U.S. borders -- other than building a great big fence on those borders.
While there was an inordinate amount of time spent discussing a Texas HPV vaccination program that has little relevance to federal-level policy, there was no discussion of trade and the word "Libya" was never mentioned. There was no discussion of Europe's debt crisis or any reference to the developing world. Climate change, which many of the candidates don't believe in, in any case, was completely ignored. China, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iraq were mentioned only in passing.
Frustratingly, most of the discussion of Afghanistan and terrorism was dominated by Santorum, Paul, Gingrich, and Hunstman -- though, given that this was the Tea Party debate, we also heard surprisingly little from Bachmann or Cain on these issues last night. The views of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry -- the two candidates on stage with a realistic chance of becoming president next year --are still frustratingly opaque on several key issues, although as Dan Drezner notes, foreign-policy campaign promises tend to be particularly meaningless.
In any case, let's go to the highlights!
RON PAUL on America's Vatican-sized Iraq embassy:
So we have to cut the spending, and a good way to start, there's a little embassy we built over in Baghdad that cost us a billion dollars. It's bigger than the Vatican. That's what's bankrupting this country, and that's the easy place to cut. That's where we should be cutting.
NEWT GINGRICH forgets about the Canadian menace:
We have a simple choice. We can depend on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or we can encourage development in the United States of manufacturing, as Rick said. We can encourage development of oil and gas. We can do it by saying we're going to let you keep more of your money if you create more of what we want. I'm for an energy- independent America, and that means I favor people who create energy.
RICK SANTORUM is against storm troopers:
I've said this from the very beginning. What -- I'm the son of an Italian immigrant. I believe in immigration. I believe that immigration is an important part of the lifeblood of this country. But what we have is a problem of an unsecure border. Unlike Governor Perry, I believe we need to build more fence. I need -- I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that border, we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty. What we should do is enforce the laws in this country with respect to employers, and we should secure the border. And then after the border is secured, then we can deal with the problems that are in this country. But I -- I think it's very important that we understand and we explain to folks that immigration is an important lifeblood of this country, something that I strongly support and something that we have to do legally if we're going to have -- have respect for the law.
RICK PERRY: Um … have you guys seen the border? It's really long.
Yes, sir. There's not anybody on this stage that's had to deal with the issue of border security more than I have, with 1,200 miles of -- of Texas and Mexico. And our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border.
We've had to spend some $400 million of Texas taxpayer dollars to send Texas Ranger recon teams down there. Strategic fencing in the metropolitan areas absolutely has a role to play. But the idea that you're going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and go left for another 800 miles to Tijuana is just not reality. What you have to have is boots on the ground. You've got to have 450 Border Patrol agents trained up, 1,500 National Guard troops. You've got to have the aviation assets in the air putting real-time information down to the law enforcement. We understand and know how to secure that border, but we can't do it alone. And the federal government has to step up and do what their constitutional duty is, and that is to secure the border with Mexico.
SANTORUM includes the night's most cringe-inducing Freudian slip and weirdest metaphor in one answer:
SANTORUM: Well, I mean, what Governor Perry's done is he provided in-state tuition for -- for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote -- I mean, the Latino voters. But you track Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration in this country. You talk about the importance of -- as -- as Newt has talked about for many years, having English as the -- as the official language of this country.
I say that as, again, my -- my father and grandfather came to this country not speaking a word of English, but it was the greatest gift to my father to have to learn English so he could assimilate into this society.
We're a melting pot, not a salad bowl. And we need to continue that tradition.
PERRY gets booed for wanting immigrants to be educated, productive members of society:
In the state of Texas, if you've been in the state of Texas for three years, if you're working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there.
And the bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.
JON HUNTSMAN's treason joke falls flat:
Well, first of all, let me say for Rick to say that you can't secure the border I think is pretty much a treasonous comment. Rick, we can secure the border. We can secure the border through means of fences, through technology, through the deployment of our National Guard troops, we can get it done. In fact, when the elected president of the United States, I would work with you and the other three border governors to ensure that through your law enforcement officials you can verify that that border is secure.
MITT ROMNEY: In their hearts, Latinos know we're right:
The question began by saying how do we attract Latino voters. And the answer is by telling them what they know in their heart, which is they or their ancestors did not come here for a handout. If they came here for a handout, they'd be voting for Democrats. They came here for opportunity and freedom. And that's what we represent. And that's why we'll win collecting support from Latinos across the country.
With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America's great beneficence. And with regards to giving driver's licenses to people that are here illegally, that creates a patina of legal status. There are sanctuary cities in some parts of the country.
GINGRICH will meet the threats of tomorrow with … congressional hearings:
I think we are at the edge of an enormous crisis in national security. I think that we are greatly underestimating the threat to this country. And I think that the day after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we should be reminded exactly what is at stake if a foreign terrorist gets a nuclear weapon into this country.
We have failed for a decade to deal with North Korea. We have failed for a decade to deal with Iran. The developments in Egypt and Turkey are much more dangerous than anybody is looking at in this country. And I think we need, frankly, to ask for a very serious national dialogue.
I'd like to see both the House and Senate right now holding hearings on three levels of security. What do you do in Mexico where there's a civil war underway next door to us? What do you do in the Middle East where we have totally underestimated the scale of the threat? And what do you do about our national domestic industrial base which is crucial if we're going to be competitive with China?
RON PAUL does his Ron Paul thing:
First thing I would like to do is make sure that you understand there's a difference between military spending and defense spending. I'm tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we're wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy.
So I would say there's a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending. We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II -- we're always fighting the last war.But we're under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke. The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we're there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we're kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?
So I would say a policy -- a foreign policy that takes care of our national defense, that we're willing to get along with people and trade with people, as the founders advised, there's no authority in the Constitution to be the policeman of the world, and no nation-building. Just remember, George Bush won the presidency on that platform in the year 2000. And I still think it's a good platform.
SANTORUM, again, uses up way too much ammunition fighting with Ron Paul:
SANTORUM: On your Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11. Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible. The president of the United States -- someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11. We should have -- we are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that. BLITZER: Thirty second, Mr. Paul. PAUL: As long as this country follows that idea, we're going to be under a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they're attacking us because we're free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit -- they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing -- (BOOING)
PAUL: I didn't say that. I'm trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you're not annoyed, then there's some problem.
HUNTSMAN: Things will work out for the women of Afghanistan once America gets its shine back:
SAHAR HEKMATI, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Hi. My name is Sahar Hekmati. I was brought here from Ronald Reagan. I am from Afghanistan. And my question to you is, as the next president of the United States, what will you do to secure safety and protection for the women and the children of Afghanistan from the radicals?
HUNTSMAN: We are 10 years into this war, Sahar. America has given its all in Afghanistan. We have families who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And it's to them that we offer our heartfelt salute and a deep sense of gratitude. But the time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation- building at a time when this nation needs to be built. We are of no value to the rest of the world if our core is crumbling, which it is in this country. I like those days when Ronald Reagan -- you talked about -- when Ronald Reagan would ensure that the light of this country would shine brightly for liberty, democracy, human rights, and free markets. We're not shining like we used to shine. We need to shine again. And I'm here to tell you, Sahar, when we start shining again, it's going to help the women of Afghanistan, along with any other NGO work that can be done there and the collaborative efforts of great volunteer efforts here in the United States. We can get it done, but we have to make sure that the Afghan people increasingly take responsibility for their security going forward.
PERRY kinda, sorta, maybe supports troop withdrawal:
Well, I agree with Governor Huntsman when we talk about it's time to bring our young men and women home and as soon and obviously as safely as we can. But it's also really important for us to continue to have a presence there. And I think the entire conversation about, how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan, I don't think so at this particular point in time. I think the best way for us to be able to impact that country is to make a transition to where that country's military is going to be taking care of their people, bring our young men and women home, and continue to help them build the infrastructure that we need, whether it's schools for young women like yourself or otherwise.
ROMNEY shills for the Anglophile vote (background on Churchill-gate here):
You know, one of -- one of my heroes was a man who had an extraordinary turn of phrase. He once said about us, he said, you know, you can count on the Americans to get things right after they've exhausted all the alternatives. And now and then we've made a couple of mistakes. We're quite a nation. And this man, Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office. And if I'm president of the United States, it'll be there again.
In case you missed 'em, here were the highlights of last week's debate.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead
Aside from being about the most effective advertisement for Purell ever devised, Steven Soderbergh's very good new film Contagion can also be read as an argument for the necessity of strong states and government intervention in an era of global threats.
The film begins with an American businesswoman played by Gwyneth Paltrow returning home from a business trip to China, bringing along a deadly new strain of bat-pig flu that quickly becomes an out-of-control epidemic, killing millions around the globe. It's subtly suggested later in the film that Paltrow's company may have inadvertantly played a role in the virus' creation. ( Robin Cook's November 2009 FP cover story sketches out a similar scenario.)
Soderbergh shifts genres in his career almost as quickly as the virus in the film mutates into ever-more-deadly forms, but Contagion could function as a companion piece to his drug war epic Traffic as entries in a form that could be called the globalization thriller -- sprawling multi-character, multi-country examinations of a topical theme.
But the two movies, while structually similar, have a very different sensibility. Whereas the 2000 film took a skeptical view of the ability of the U.S. government to combata problem driven by economic necessity and human weakness -- a failure personified by the hypocritical right-wing judge played by Michael Douglas -- Contagion continually drills home the message that trained government officials are the only thing standing between us and the very scary things in the world.
In her review of the film for the New York Times, Manhola Dargis compares Contagion with paranoid 70s thrillers like All the President's Men and the Parallax View, noting that "in the 1970s it was the government that played the villain while this time it’s on the side of right."
Indeed the depiction of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization in the film is strikingly positive. When the strong arm of the state is represented by the photogenic trio of Marillon Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, and Kate Winslet selflessly putting their lives on the line to save others, who could say no? To the extent that these characters have any flaws, it's that they're too compassionate -- Lawrence Fishburnce's CDC director violates an information embargo to warn a loved one.
When the officials in the film confine citizens or restrict their movements, it's for their own good. When they conceal information, it's completely understandable. (Though a good portion of the film takes place in China, there's no discussion of the role that Beijing's authoritarian secrecy played in worsening the 2003 SARS outbreak.)
In films like Traffic and Erin Brockovich, Soderbergh celebrated characters who stood up to state and corporate power. In the world of Contagion, the dangers posed by a world of unrestricted trade, travel, and environmental devastation, make state power a necessity.
The only character in the film who questions whether the government really has people's best interests at heart is the blogger portrayed by Jude Law. But rather than a Brockovichian hero, Law is a paranoid creep, raising nagging questions about the selfless officials who know best and putting people at risk. (Fishburne, at one point, suggests he may be a bigger threat than the virus itself.)
Stretch out Law's English vowels into Australian ones and it's not hard to picture Law's character as a medical Julian Assange, disrupting the legitimate functioning of government by indiscriminately disseminating classified information. Indeed, the film suggests, the unfiltered nature of the Internet itself may make it unacceptably dangerous during a time of crisis. ("On the Internet? And you believe it?" Cotillard scoffs in one scene.)
As Dargis suggests, it's hard not to see the film as a liberal Hollywood response to the anti-government rhetoric of the Tea Party and this election cycle's iteration of the Republican Party. It also may be pertinant that the word "contagion," in recent political rhetoric, has referred less often to medical disease than to the spread of financial chaos from the U.S. housing market to the global economy. At a time when the role of government in regulating the economy is a major topic of debate, the film packs a metaphorical punch.
Coming out of the weekend of 9/11, it's also probably safe to say that this is a film that would not have been made under the Bush administration. Contagion may be very much the vision of a left-wing Hollywood director, but as a film that makes the case for granting the state extraordinary powers to in order to combat an unseen, little understood, and highly-dangerous threat from abroad, it's also a film Dick Cheney could love.
The Egyptian government is planning to stop issuing visas for tourists on arrival:
Tourists "will have to apply at embassies and consulates for visas," he said.
Tourists from many states, especially Western countries whose nationals contribute the bulk of Egypt's vital tourism revenues, are still allowed to obtain visas on arrival until the new regulations are in place.
"We want to regulate entry," said Higazi, adding that he could not say when the new instructions will be passed on to airport officials.
"We are asked for visas everywhere and it is our right to ask for visas. No airport in the world would give me a visa on arrival," he said.
Tourism accounts for about 7 percent of Egypt's GDP, but the sector has been hit hard since this year's revolution. Even with a planned exception for group tours, this doesn't really seem like the best way to convince jittery travelers to return.
Obtaining visas in advance is enough of a hassle for countries that aren't major tourist destinations. When you're talking about a country that, in a good year, can draw up to 9.7 million visitors, I'd imagine we're going to see some pretty overwhelmed consulates.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
As expected, last night's GOP debate focused mostly on domestic policy and the big headline was the argument over Rick Perry's description of the Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme." But there were some notable exchanges on the subjects of foreign policy and national security (as usual, Ron Paul had all the best lines.) Here were a few highlights:
JON HUNTSMAN: Did you know I speak Chinese?
[Romney] doesn't get the part that what will fix the U.S- China relationship, realistically, is fixing our core right here at home, because our core is weak, and it is broken, and we have no leverage at the negotiating table.
And I'd have to say, Mitt, now is not the time in a recession to enter a trade war. Ronald Reagan flew this plane. I was in China during the trip in 1984. He went on TV, he spoke to the Chinese people -- I'd love to do that too, in Chinese itself -- and he talked in optimistic, glowing terms.
[...]We've got to remember, that to beat President Obama, we have to have somebody who's been in the private sector, understands the fragility of the free market system, has been a successful governor as it relates to job creation, and knows something about this world.
I've lived overseas four times, I've been an ambassador to my country three times, I think I understand that.
RON PAUL: Sex, lies, and 9/11
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Congressman Paul, this same line. You want to demolish the TSA. What would exist in its place?
PAUL: With the airlines that are responsible for carrying their cargo and their passengers. I mean, why -- why should we assume that a bureaucracy can do better? And look at the monstrosity we have at the airports. These TSA agents are abusive. Sometimes they're accused of all kinds of sexual activities on the way they maul people at the airport. So the airlines could do that. [...]
Just remember, 9/11 came about because there was too much government. Government was more or less in charge. They told the pilots they couldn't have guns, and they were told never to resist. They set up the stage for all this. So, no, private -- private markets do a good job in protecting -- much better than this bureaucracy called the TSA, let me tell you.
PAUL: Turn down the AC, turn off the war
But I'll tell you how we should do it. We're spending -- believe it or not, this blew my mind when I read this -- $20 billion a year for air conditioning in Afghanistan and Iraq in the tents over there and all the air conditioning. Cut that $20 billion out, bring in -- take $10 off the debt, and put $10 into FEMA or whoever else needs it, child health care or whatever. But I'll tell you what, if we did that and took the air conditioning out of the Green Zone, our troops would come home, and that would make me happy.
RICK PERRY: Drone war in El Paso
Well, the first thing you need to do is have boots on the ground. We've had a request in to this administration since June -- or January of 2009 for 1,000 border patrol agents or National Guard troops, and working towards 3,000 border patrol. That's just on the Texas border.
There's another 50 percent more for the entire Mexican border. So you can secure the border, but it requires a commitment of the federal government of putting those boots on the ground, the aviation assets in the air.
We think predator drones could be flown, that real-time information coming down to the local and the state and the federal law enforcement. And you can secure the border. And at that particular point in time, then you can have an intellectually appropriate discussion about immigration reform.
For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas, and say that the border is safer than it's ever been, either he has some of the poorest intel of a president in the history of this country, or he was an abject liar to the American people. It is not safe on that border.
MITT ROMNEY: Turn off the magnet
ROMNEY: Well, first, we ought to have a fence. Secondly...
DIAZ-BALART: The whole fence, 2,600 miles?
ROMNEY: Yes. We got to -- we got to have a fence, or the technologically approved system to make sure that we know who's coming into the country, number one. Number two, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people are coming over are caught.
But the third thing, and I learned this when I was with border patrol agents in San Diego, and they said, look, they can always get a ladder to go over the fence. And people will always run to the country. The reason they come in such great numbers is because we've left the magnet on.
And I said, what do you mean, the magnet? And they said, when employers are willing to hire people who are here illegally, that's a magnet, and it draws them in. And we went in and talked about sanctuary cities, giving tuition breaks to the kids of illegal aliens, employers that, employers that knowingly hire people who are here illegally. Those things also have to be stopped.
NEWT GINGRICH: Outsource immigration to the credit card companies:
I think we have to find a way to get to a country in which everybody who's here is here legally. But you started by referencing President Reagan.
In 1986, I voted for the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which in fact did grant some amnesty in return for promises. President Reagan wrote in his diary that year that he signed the act because we were going to control the border and we were going to have an employer program where it was a legal guest worker program. That's in his diary.
I'm with President Reagan. We ought to control the border, we ought to have a legal guest worker program. We ought to outsource it, frankly, to American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, so there's no counterfeiting, which there will be with the federal government. We should be very tough on employers once you have that legal program.
We should make English the official language of government. We should insist -- (APPLAUSE) --We should insist that first-generation immigrants who come here learn American history in order to become citizens. We should also insist that American children learn American history.
And then find a way to deal with folks who are already here, some of whom, frankly, have been here 25 years, are married with kids, live in our local neighborhood, go to our church. It's got to be done in a much more humane way than thinking that to automatically deport millions of people.
RICK SANTORUM: Immigration ain't what it used to be
Look, I'm the son of an Italian immigrant. I think immigration is one of the great things that has made this country the dynamic country that it continues to be, people who are drawn because of the ideals of this country. And so we should not have a debate talking about how we don't want people to come to this country, but we want them to come here like my grandfather and my father came here. They made sacrifices. They came in the 1920s. There were no promises. There were no government benefits.
They came because they wanted to be free and they wanted to be good law-abiding citizens. So we have to have a program in place that sets that parameter that says, you're going to come to this country, come here according to the rules. It's a very good first step that the first thing you do here is a legal act, not an illegal act.
MICHELE BACHMANN: The real problem with childern of immigrants is narcoterrorists. (Also, old Cuban Bay of Pigs vets in Miami speak for all Hispanic Americans.)
HARRIS: Congresswoman, you said the fence -- that you believe the fence is fundamental as an integral part of controlling the border. Let's say that in 2012 or 2013, there's a fence, the border is secure, gasoline is $2 a gallon. What do you do then with 11 million people, as the Speaker says, many of whom have U.S.-born children here? What do you do?
BACHMANN: Well, again, understand the context and the problem that we're dealing with.
In Mexico right now, we're dealing with narco terrorists. This is a very serious problem. To not build a border or a fence on every part of that border would be, in effect, to yield United States sovereignty not only to our nation anymore, but to yield it to another nation. That we cannot do.
One thing that the American people have said to me over and over again -- and I was just last week down in Miami. I was visiting the Bay of Pigs Museum with Cuban-Americans. I was down at the Versailles Cafe. I met with a number of people, and it's very interesting. The Hispanic-American community wants us to stop giving taxpayer- subsidized benefits to illegal aliens and benefits, and they want us to stop giving taxpayer-subsidized benefits to their children as well.
HERMAN CAIN: I am also in this debate
Let's make sure -- let's solve all of the problems. It's not one problem.
I do believe we can secure the border with a combination of boots on the ground, technology, and a fence, but we've got three other problems. And to get to it, we've got to secure the border.
Secondly, let's promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We don't need a new one, we just need to clean up the bureaucracy that's slowing the process down and discouraging people.
The third thing we need to do, enforce the laws that are there, and the way we do it, empower the states. I believe that the people closest to the problem are the best ones to be able to solve that problem. Empower the states to do what the federal government hasn't done, can't do, and won't do. This is how we solve the entire problem.
HUNTSMAN: Watch what you say about immigrants
I would just have to say that I disagree with so much of what has been said here today. President Reagan, when he made his decision back in 1987, he saw this as a human issue. And I hope that all of us, as we deal with this immigration issue, will always see it as an issue that resolves around real human beings.
Yes, they came here in an illegal fashion. And yes, they should be punished in some form or fashion. I have two daughters that came to this country, one from China, one from India, legally. I see this issue through their eyes.
We can find a solution. If President Reagan were here, he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms how we can get there, remembering full well that we're dealing with human beings here. We have to agree.
But let me just say one thing about legal immigration. Let's not lose sight of the fact that our legal immigration system is broken. And if we want to do something about attracting brain power to this country, if we want to lift real estate values.
For example, why is it that Vancouver is the fastest-growing real estate market in the world today? They allow immigrants in legally, and it lifts all votes (ph). And we need to focus as much on legal immigration.
PAUL: Dude...what if WE'RE the ones behind the fence?
But there is a mess down there, and it's a big mess. And it's the drug war that's going on there. And our drug laws are driving this. So now we're killing thousands and thousands of people. That makes it much more complicated. But the people who want big fences and guns, sure, we can secure the borders -- a barbed-wire fence with machine guns, that would do the trick.
I don't believe that's what America is all about. I just really don't.
We can enforce our law. If we had a healthy economy, this wouldn't be such a bad deal. People are worrying about jobs. But every time you think about this toughness on the border and I.D. cards and real IDs, think that it's a penalty against the American people, too.
I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to lead (ph) with their capital. And there's capital controls and there's people control. So, every time you think of fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.
HUNTSMAN channels John Kerry
I think we've lost our confidence as a country. I think we have had our innocence shattered. I think, 10 years later, we look at the situation and we say, we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is not about nation-building in Afghanistan. This is about nation-building at home.
Our core is broken. We are weak. We have got to strengthen ourselves. I say we've got to bring those troops home. (APPLAUSE) In Afghanistan -- in Afghanistan, the reality is it is an asymmetrical counterterror effort. We need intelligence. We need special forces. And we need some training on the ground. But I think one way to commemorate our 10-year anniversary of 9/11, remembering the 3,000-plus people who died in New York and in Pennsylvania and in Washington, is to say it's time for this country to set a goal for ourselves: We're going to get our core fixed. We're going to do some nation-building right here at home.
PERRY gets philosophical, gives props
HARRIS: Governor Perry, as we approach the 9/11 anniversary, I'd like to stick with national security for a moment. You recently said, quote, "I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism." Looking back, do you think President George W. Bush was too quick to launch military intervention without thinking through the risks?
PERRY: I was making a comment about a philosophy; I don't think America needs to be in the business of adventurism.
But let me just say something about the president of the United States. And I know he's -- he's taken lots of slings and arrows here today. But one thing that I want to say that he did do that I agree with is that he maintained the -- the chase and -- and we took out a very bad man in the form of bin Laden, and I -- and I tip my hat to him.
I give more props to those Navy SEALs that did the job, but -- and the other thing this president's done, he has proven for once and for all that government spending will not create one job. Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done. We'll never have to have that experiment on America again.
And I might add that he kept Gitmo open against the will of his base, and I'm glad he did that. America's safer for it.
HARRIS: Sir, just if I could quickly follow on that, you said you were making a philosophical comment, but it's hard to understand philosophy without understanding specifics. Where are some of the places where you think we've seen military adventurism?
PERRY: As I said, that is -- that was a philosophical statement that Americans don't want to see their young men and women going into foreign countries without a clear reason that American interests are at stake. And they want to see not only a clear entrance; they want to see a clear exit strategy, as well.
We should never put our young men and women's lives at risk when American interests are not clearly defined by the president of the United States, and that's one of the problems this president is doing today.
BACHMANN is on the Select Committee on Intelligence. No, really, she is.
Well, I want to say, as devastating as our economy is with the policies of Barack Obama, I think that he has actually weakened us militarily and with the United States presence globally. We have, for many years, maintained global order in the world with our United States military. We have the finest military. But in this last debt ceiling debate, one of the alternatives that came forward that we're going to be looking at with this new super committee of 12 different members of Congress is to see that our military could be hit with a huge reduction in resources.
The president has not done what he needs to do to keep the United States safe. If you look at the biggest issue in the Middle East, it's a nuclear Iran, and the president has taken his eyes off that prize.
As a matter of fact, what he's done is he's said, in fact, to Israel that, they need to shrink back to their indefensible 1967 borders. I sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. We deal with the nation's classified secrets. And I firmly believe that the president of the United States has weakened us militarily and put us more at risk than at any time.
BACHMANN: A matter of caliphate
Well, I believe that it was wrong for the president to go into Libya. Number one, his own secretary of defense, Gates, said that there was no American vital interest in Libya. If there is no vital interest, that doesn't even meet the threshold of the first test for military involvement. The other thing is, we didn't know who the rebel forces were in Libya. Take a look at where we're at in Libya today.
Take a look at the oil revenues. We don't know if they will get in the hands of people who will have designs on radical Islam and the implication of a global caliphate. These are very serious issues, and I think it was wrong for the president of the United States to go into Libya.
SANTORUM makes us picture Ronald Reagan as a witch
Well, we're in the Reagan Library, and I'm hearing from at least a couple of people on this panel a very isolationist view of where the Republican Party should be headed about pulling troops out with Governor Huntsman and with Ron Paul.
The bottom line is, Ronald Reagan was committed to America being a force for good around the world. We were a society that believed in ourselves and believed that we can spread our vision to the rest of the world and make this country a safer country as a result of it.
We didn't have missions where we put exit strategies saying this date is when we're going to leave. We didn't say that we are the problem and the cause of the problems that confront us around the world.
We were -- we are a source for good. We could have been a source for good from the very get-go in Libya, but this president was indecisive and confused from the very beginning. He only went along with the Libyan mission because the United Nations told him to, which is something that Ronald Reagan would have melted like the old Wicked Witch of the West before he would have allowed that to happen.
It might be the end of American hegemony in the global political and economic order, but unemployed and underpaid Americans can at least take heart at today's news.
Social networking site Badoo.com conducted a poll of 30,000 people in 15 countries to name the coolest nationality. Surprise! - despite a sinking economy, pathetic politics, and increasingly suspect pop culture exports -- Americans are still number 1.
According to Reuters, the top ten coolest nationalities are:
The five least cool?
According to Reuters:
"We hear a lot in the media about anti-Americanism," says Lloyd Price, Badoo's Director of Marketing. "But we sometimes forget how many people across the world consider Americans seriously cool."
"America," says Price, "boasts the world's coolest leader, Obama; the coolest rappers, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg; and the coolest man in technology, Steve Jobs of Apple, the man who even made geeks cool."
It's unknown how Obama's coolness factors into his job approval ratings by Americans - the most recent polls say that more than half of the country disapproves of him as leader of the pack.
The Moscow Times reports on a diplomatic cable obtained by the Russian newspaper Kommersant featuring a bit of amateur psychology on why the prime minister seems so ill-disposed toward Estonia:
A cable dating back to December 2009 cites the Estonian Foreign Ministry's undersecretary and ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Harri Tiido, as saying that "Estonia seeks pragmatic relations with Russia and has managed a number of productive working level meetings over 2008."
But relations remained "difficult at the political level" because of Putin, who alone decides the policy toward Estonia even after trading the presidency for the prime minister's post in 2008, Tiido said.
"Putin has a personal gripe with Estonia," Tiido is quoted as saying.
Putin's father, also Vladimir, fought in the Red Army during the war and parachuted into Estonia for an unspecified operation. But locals, still disgruntled with the country's occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940 — a year before the Germans invaded Estonia — handed him over to the Nazi forces, Tiido said. Putin's father later managed to flee but was injured as he left, he said.
Eh...maybe. Putin has never seemed particularly fond of any former Soviet republic that actively seeks to escape Russian influence. Does he have particular emnity toward Estonia? At least he's never threatened to hang any of the country's leaders by the balls.
Russian-Estonian relations hit a low point in 2007 following the removal of a controversial Soviet war memorial in Tallinn. The move prompted an official rebuke from Moscow and was followed shortly after by a massive cyberattack, allegedly orchestrated by Russian nationalists.
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, August saw two significant milestones in the wars launched by the United States since that day. In Iraq, August was the first month that no U.S. troops were killed since the initial invasion in 2003. CNN reports:
A total of 4,464 American troops have died in Iraq since the invasion, including 56 since the United States declared an end of combat operations exactly a year ago, according to a CNN analysis of Pentagon statistics.
But none died in August, either due to hostile action or from accidents.
In Afghanistan, on the other hand, August was sadly the deadliest month yet. From the L.A. Times:
Sixty-seven U.S. troops died last month in the Afghanistan war, nearly half of them killed when the Taliban shot down a Chinook helicopter, making August the deadliest month for Americans in the nearly decadelong conflict.
The attack on the helicopter, which took place Aug. 6 in Wardak province, west of the capital, was also the deadliest single event of the war for U.S. forces. The 30 service members who lost their lives in the attack — the majority of them Navy SEALs, including some from the unit responsible for killing Osama bin Laden — were flying in to help Army Rangers under fire.
Previously the most deadly month for American forces in Afghanistan was July 2010, when 65 troops died, according to the independent website icasualties.org, which tracks casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In total, 6,219 U.S. troops have been killed in both wars.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
There are other challenges that require a unified approach, especially in the area of health care. A lack of preventative medicine means conditions that could have been eliminated through childhood immunizations show up in disturbing numbers later in life. Limited availability of medical specialists means conditions like heart disease and diabetes go untreated at alarming rates. In Texas, we recently placed a strong emphasis on preventative care when we expanded access to Medicaid for more low-income children by making the Medicaid enrollment process simpler. We allocated an additional $4 billion to the Medicaid program, and more than $900 million to the Children's Health Insurance Program. I urged legislators to pass a telemedicine pilot program that will enable, through technology, a sick border resident of limited financial means to receive care from a specialist hundreds of miles away. But the effort to combat disease and illness requires greater cooperative efforts between our two nations. It is a simple truth that disease knows no boundaries. An outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis, for example, endangers citizens of both our nations. We have much to gain if we work together to expand preventative care, and treat maladies unique to this region.
Legislation authored by border legislators Pat Haggerty and Eddie Lucio establishes an important study that will look at the feasibility of bi-national health insurance. This study recognizes that the Mexican and U.S. sides of the border compose one region, and we must address health care problems throughout that region. That's why I am also excited that Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is working on an initiative that could extend the benefits of telemedicine to individuals living on the Mexican side of the border.
Perry also touted a DREAM Act-like initiative:
We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, “we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.” And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate. Those young minds are a part of a new generation of leaders, the doors of higher education must be open to them. The message is simple: educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.
As far as the cross-border healthcare initiative goes, Perry's spokespeople can brush it off, pointing out that the idea never went past the study phase. But this isn't certainly a long way from the Rick Perry of today, who's better known for his proposal to send U.S. troops into Mexico.
Will this hurt Perry's conservative credentials? One Tea Party activist tells the Dallas Morning News that "More checking under the hood needed before we buy the car." Then again, this is a race where a former Utah governor whose signature achievements in office were the state's largest ever tax cut, a ban on second trimester abortions, and expanding gun rights is considered a moderate than a former Massachusetts governor whose signature achievement was the precursor to Obamacare. Once a candidate's ideological identity gets established, it's pretty hard to shake.
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The ongoing trial over the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze -- one of the key events in the lead-up to the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution -- took another twist with suspect Olexiy Pukach fingering former president Leonid Kuchma as the mastermind of the murder. RIA-Novosti reports:
Olexiy Pukach, who has confessed to carrying out the killing, testified in court on Tuesday that he was acting on Kuchma's orders, according to a witness in the trial that is closed to the public.
Pukach, a former general at the Ministry of the Interior, was arrested in 2009 after six years on the run and was said by Ukrainian prosecutors to have confessed to personally strangling and beheading Gongadze.
"He clearly said: it was Kuchma," the witness, Olexiy Podolskyi, told RIA Novosti.
Kuchma has been charged with abuse of power -- but not murder -- in connection with Gongadze's killing. Audio recording made public in 2000 feature a voice resembling Kuchma's suggesting that Gongadze be "kidnapped by Chechens".
As Nadia Diuk discussed back in April, the prosecution of the former president doesn't seem to fit the pattern of Ukraine's current government, led by onetime Kuchma-ally Viktor Yanukovych, which has been accused of abuse of power and the selective prosecution of enemies like former Prime Minister and Orange icon Yulia Tymoshenko.
Putting Kuchma behind bars might allow the Yanukovych government to deflet some of the criticism it's received over the jailing of Tymoshenko. In any case, with these two on trials, it seems like Ukraine is set to continue refighting the battles of 2004.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
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