Views from a changing city and farther afield
See my comments on the US election campaign so far, at Irish Left Review.
Apparently the turnout of early voters is staggering - up 400% on the last election in some places. This is getting VERY exciting!
Yes, it's beginning to look like he might actually do it.
The unfortunate thing about the election is the polarity of American opinion on foreign policy in particular. There the only candidate who has actually accurately defined the threat posed to the US and other western nations is McCain. Obama may seem an advocate of 'soft power' but he also lacks substance and is naive. Besides 'soft power' will mean nothing to a thug like Ahmadinejhad who made his entry onto the political scene by storming a US embassy. Oh go on people will think lets vote for a charismatic young guy who smiles a lot. He will deliver little in real terms and only appeasement to those opposed to western democracy. History shows only hawks deliver peace, as Niall Ferguson mentions here:http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=4mli7OjrB3M
I would think the opposite is the danger, Paul - that Obama might feel the need to show he's tough really, and does something he doesn't need to do. I think it's admirable that he's putting diplomacy first.
Paul, when I look at the results of "appeasement" - presumably meaning diplomacy and negotiation - and then I look at the results of "hawkishness" - bombing, mass murder, torture and ethnic cleansing - I think I'd prefer to try appeasement first and use hawkishness as a last resort.
Well put, Nick.
'Paul, when I look at the results of "appeasement" - presumably meaning diplomacy and negotiation - and then I look at the results of "hawkishness" - bombing, mass murder, torture and ethnic cleansing'I'll respond to this later when I've finished my work. For now it is worth pointing out that this comment unreferenced and crude as it is, is worthy of derision. Presumably when Obama is elected we can all join hands and sing 'come by ya' with Hezbollah and a nuclear armed Iran I'll get back to you.
Steady on, Paul, play the ball not the man, as Mick Fealty says. I look forward to your considered response - presumably after Obama has won?
I have a lot of sympathy for the view being articulated here by Paul. All of us should have reservations about Obama’s plan to open up diplomacy with Tehran. The United States has held worthless diplomatic negotiations with North Korea since the era of the Clinton Administration and the only real result of that has been that the DPRK has developed nuclear weaponry. However, I am willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on this one. Give Iran a chance at the negotiating table by all means, but put a time limit on it. Let’s not give them the decade long chance that has been provided to Pyongyang. If you want an example of what appeasement looks like in the present day look no further than the west’s relations with North Korea. We have knowingly permitted a genocidal regime to consolidate its rule, starve its citizens and acquire a nuclear arsenal all while we have been having cosy chats with its representatives at conference tables. Tragically, neither Presidential candidate has suggested a radically different alternative approach to dealing with this vile regime.If I were an American I would vote Obama on Tuesday. He is not a dove and he is certainly not an appeaser. His Afghanistan policy is sound. With regard to dealing with al-Qaeda elements in Pakistan he’s probably more of a hawk than McCain. Republicans have criticised Obama for wanting US troops out of Iraq by 2010, but according to the current agreement with the government in Baghdad they will be out by 2011 anyhow. Finally, Obama has Joe Biden, a liberal hawk and chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, as his Vice Presidential candidate. John McCain has Sarah Palin. For me at least, it was the respective choice of potential VPs that knocked me off the fence.
JG - yes, this is helpful for those of us who know less about foreign policy; it's generally known, I think, that Obama will be tough on Pakistan but perhaps not so much of the rest. Sad to hear this morning that his grandmother has just died, a day before the election.
Jenny et al, thanks for your comments and I will try and be brief. I'm assuming you might not have looked at the you tube link I posted, it's an extract from a speech given by Niall Ferguson the historian.I simply can't be bothered to respond to Nick. I mean does anyone actually here believe that Obama is the peace candidate and McCain is in favour of war and torture?The point is that the Middle East is facing a crisis that in no small part is caused by a belligerent, terror sponsoring and aggressive Iran. What has Iran done? Well since the 1979 revolution (that the US initially welcomed), the mullahs have taken hold and the place has been following a Jihad against the west. The main forms this has taken have been the arming and sponsoring of Hezbollah, the arming and organising of Shia terror groupings in Iraq and repeated threats against the UK, US and in particular Israel.It is not true that Ahmadinejhad once said he wanted to 'wipe Israel off the map'. He has repeatedly threatened Israel with destruction. In addition to which hundreds of US/UK and Iraqi troops have been killed by EFP munitions in Iraq. Oh and the US embassy (the man has a historical penchant for attacking these) has been bombarded with rockets in Baghdad supplied by Iran. The same rockets launched into Israel from south Lebanon. Now this fruitcake is at risk of developing nuclear weapons. Well should we talk to him and nothing else? Is it not time to draw a line in the sand? Whilst maintaining dialogue with Iranian democrats and sideline the theocratic nut jobs. We should at some point say 'if you persist you will suffer the consequences'. This is not to say I favour starting a war, rather I feel a robust approach will deescalate an already existing conflict and prevent a nuclear one.I liked JG's comments and share some reservations about Palin. She is not dumb though and has more legislative experience than Obama. Back on topic though, hawks have been shown to deliver peace throughout history. Look at the cold war, ended by Reagan and Thatcher, the Falklands 1982 (all the doves would have seen the Argentinean aggression rewarded with passivity), even Churchill in 1940. The results have been favourable compared to the alternative. The doves however read like a litany of disasters, appeasement of Nazism, cozying up to the USSS, Jimmy Carter losing a US embassy and doing nothing, Bill Clinton running away from Somalia in 1993 and passing up at least two attempts to kill Bin Laden. I could go on but those are some of the reasons I favour McCain. One thing I agree with Jenny however is he probably won't win. The free world needs to consider carefully the consequences.
Actually knowing some Iranians (who would be strongly critical of the regime) I would strongly doubt that a *more* robust approach to Tehran is going to drive a wedge into the regime. Bottom line is that Iranian nationalism encompasses both opponents and allies of the regime and external pressure merely accentuates that. To be honest I think all this talk about robustness merely serves to obscure some fairly obvious realities about the limitations of international pressure and the impotence of an international community in a world of sovereign nations, as well as the dangers of interventions in certain areas for a variety of reasons. I also think that overstating the risk say from an Iran or North Korea is pointless. They simply don't present existential threats even on a regional level. Containment is a better strategy, with options towards rewarding positive behaviour. It's not headline grabbing but it's probably the only way forward.As regards the election. I'm nervous but hopeful.
Paul - I would assume McCain IS in favour of war and torture, given there's been plenty of both under the current Republican presidency and I see no reason why McCain would have been any different. But what do I know, I'm just a poorly-educated smartarse.
'But what do I know; I'm just a poorly-educated smartarse.' Well look at what the man actually has said on torture for instance. Extraordinary rendition was started under Clinton and used against Islamic terror suspects in Bosnia. 'I also think that overstating the risk say from an Iran or North Korea is pointless. They simply don't present existential threats even on a regional level.'Right so Iran does not arm Hezbollah, has not killed hundreds of US/UK troops with EFPs. Has not attacked Embassies both in it's own country and Iraq; and does not have a holocaust denying nut job in charge who has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Let's just let them have some nukes shall we I mean there's nothing to worry about! Dialogue yes, if conditions are not met then the consequences need to be clear. This is a government which hangs homosexuals publicly from cranes.
Dialogue remains the starting poitn whatever another goernment is doing, IMO, and that is what everyone is saying. Part of the problem about what comes next is the questio of locus - what right does a country have to interfere in the affairs of another? Of course there are times when it has to be done for humanitarian reasons, and there are shameful historical examples of the world turning a blind eye. But at the other end of the scale is imperialism. For me, the dilemma is where any intervention lies along that scale.
Jenny, I respect your opinion and myself I called for a dialogue with conditions set. My point is we already are in a conflict with an expansionist terror sponsoring Iran. But can you clarify do you want this regime to acquire nuclear weapons? What in your opinion if anything should be done to prevent that as containment does not appear to work.
Paul - I don't know what the answer is in Iran, all I can suggest is a set of principles that should be followed. Of course, I don't think any state should have nuclear weapons, but that's not the situation we're dealing with here. Some states do have them and the question is whether they should be used - you seem to be saying, against Iran. And of course I would say no.
Jenny, with respect where have I said that nuclear weapons should be used against Iran?
You haven't, Paul, but I thought your argument contained an acknowledgement that nuclear proliferation was likely and hence the chance of them being used increases. All I can say is that international diplomacy must be tried for as long as possible, and after that each case must be treated on its merits. Sounds feeble, I know, but you will know better than I that the consequences of military action should be avoided at all costs.
Jenny, you have misunderstood me. I feel that nuclear proliferation is to be avoided not that it is likely to happen anyway. Plus it is important that in the case of a regime like Iran's that it not be allowed to happen. When a country repeatedly uses proxies for example Hezbollah and Shia militants in Iraq to attack the west. Also when said country's leader repeatedly calls for destruction of a neighbouring country it is hardly sensible to allow access to nuclear weapons in such a case. Furthermore the idea that military action should be 'avoided at all costs' merely gives succour to a thug like Ahmadinejhad. I mean on a similar principle would you sleep safely if the police said they would never in any circumstances use or deploy firearms against violent criminals?'Avoid at all costs' is an easy and perhaps understandable argument. However it is not practical. Unless you actually do not mind the thought of being invaded or consumed by the local thug on the bloc. My point is deterrence and not appeasement actually works and guarantees peace. We won the cold war and never fired a shot at the USSR. Our deterrence then worked. If the Iranian government (some members of whom will be pragmatists rather than theocrats) are actually able to realise that there are serious consequences to pursuing reckless and violent campaigns then they just might stop. They might stop arming and sponsoring Hezbollah. They might stop a nuclear programme they do not need. They might stop sponsoring genocide against Sunni Arabs in Iraq. They might stop direct attacks upon Iraqi and US/UK forces in Iraq. Deterrence works, as the saying goes 'talk softly but carry a big stick'. The Iranian government are probably on balance far more likely to desist form their earlier mentioned activities when they realise they actually WILL face consequences if they do not stop. Empty gestures and bribes from the EU will and have not achieved anything in this regard. The latter is known as appeasement.
Paul, I don't think we'll agree on this, and both of us could drag up examples to support our cases. So let's call a truce. But one good thing that's come out of this debate for me has been that I now read the newspaper articles on Iran rather than skim over them as I used to, so thanks for that.
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