Thursday, March 19, 2009

Foreign Affairs

I have read some very fine articles lately in the absence of any substantial pieces from myself.

Eran Tzidkiyahu on the lack of outrage in the Arab world over Darfur.
The criticism against Israel, by its volume and severity, overshadows the coverage of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, for example, which in the past few years has already claimed a quarter of a million victims and created millions of refugees. The ethnic cleansing taking place in Darfur is far worse than any other regional crisis and cannot be compared to the Israeli-Palestinian political conflict, neither in volume nor in essence.

The silence of the Arab media regarding the humanitarian side of the conflict in Darfur is reinforced by the fact that Sudan is an active member of the Arab League. Moreover, some voices in the local press claim that the Western coverage of the Darfur crisis is part of a Zionist-Western conspiracy to divert attention from Iraq and Palestine and bring foreign involvement to Sudan to take control of its natural resources.

Tucker Carlson explains why John Stewart has turned into an unfunny, nagging shill for the establishment in recent years. He writes:
In August 2004, a week before the Republican convention, Stewart got an interview with then-candidate John Kerry. At the time, reporters covering Kerry couldn’t get closer than the rope line, so the interview qualified as a booking coup.
Stewart squandered it embarrassingly. His first question (after, “How are you holding up?”) was: “Is it a difficult thing not to take it personally” when your opponents are mean?

“You know what it is, Jon?” Kerry replied. “It’s disappointing.”

Four years later, Stewart had become, if anything, even softer. Over the course of a reverential eight-and-a-half minute interview with Barack Obama six days before the election, Stewart failed to ask a single substantive question, much less venture into policy (though, as with Kerry, he did open with, “How are you holding up?”). Instead, like the cable-news morons that he often criticizes, Stewart stuck strictly to the horserace, at one point even resorting to a sports metaphor.

As Stewart becomes more self-righteous, he inevitably becomes less funny. Sanctimony is the death of humor, and also of innovation. Where a show like South Park challenges its audience’s every conceivable assumption, The Daily Show has become safer than Jay Leno, pandering night after night to the converted. Can you remember the last time Stewart said anything his viewers might disagree with?

John Bolton takes on The Brooking Institute’s A Plan of Action:
“As the Obama years begin, we certainly do need a lively debate on the utility of diplomacy, but it would be better if that debate were not conducted on the false premise offered by A Plan for Action. In reality, in the overwhelming majority of cases, foreign-policy thinkers on both sides of the ideological divide believe diplomacy is the solution to the difficulties that arise in the international system. That is how the Bush administration conducted itself as well.

The difference arises in the consideration of a tiny number of cases—cases that prove entirely resistant to diplomatic efforts, in which divergent national interests prove implacably resistant to reconciliation. If diplomacy does not and cannot work, the continued application of it to a problematic situation is akin to subjecting a cancer patient to a regimen of chemotherapy that shows no results whatever. The result may look like treatment, but it is, in fact, only making the patient sicker and offering no possibility of improvement.

Diplomacy is like all other human activity. It has costs and it has benefits. Whether to engage in diplomacy on a given matter requires a judicious assessment of both costs and benefits. This is an exercise about which reasonable people can disagree. If diplomacy is to work, it must be preceded by an effort to determine its parameters—when it might be best to begin, how to achieve one’s aims, and what the purpose of the process might be. At the cold war’s outset, for example, Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, frequently observed that he was prepared to negotiate with the Soviets only when America could do so from a position of strength.”

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