We’re Sorry…Now Here Are A Lot of Feelings All At Once

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Trivia, World Events

We know, all four of our readers have been very upset about our absence. So, in order to make amends here’s a quick summary of our feelings on a bunch of world events.

We promise to be more diligent…seriously.

Response to Obama’s Middle East Speech


Obama’s reference to the 1967 lines was overblown. See here.

Protesters in Bahrain do not need encouragement from the Islamic Republic to demonstrate against  a brutal dictatorship. That said, they may have it.

“Bahrain’s Shia have long been discriminated against in the country and they say their protests have nothing to do with Iran and everything with wanting to be accepted as full Bahraini citizens.”

Kudos to Obama for, ever so delicately, reminding us that democracy in the Middle East may not be conducive to our strategic goals in the region.

“Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region.”

CFR’s Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow Charles Kupchan has a great article about this topic. See here.


I agree with Maddie that the reaction to Obama’s speech was overblown, and, it still boggles the mind as to why the 1967 borders were even mentioned. With the dire state of negotiations and the U.S. preoccupied by everything else that is going on in the Middle East, it was clear that there was nothing Obama could do to move the ball forward. So why give so much time to this issue and set yet another condition on Israel from which he will certainly backtrack (and already did)?

International Monetary Fund


I’m not going to address the psychology behind DSK’s sexual assault on a hotel maid.

However, it is clear that the European monopoly on the IMF, not to mention the U.S. hold on the World Bank, needs to end. Unfortunately for the BRICS, it is unlikely that the developing world will be able to get behind a single candidate. While I’m not categorically opposed to a European holding the position, I do find the argument that Christine Lagarde is the perfect candidate dubious. Yes, she has been intimately involved in the EU bailouts which are taking up 2/3 of the IMF’s capital. And this is exactly why she should not take charge of the organization. And we wouldn’t want the managing director of the IMF using their position as a launching point for further political ambitions in the EU (cough, cough).

President Obama needs to see the writing on the wall and throw his weight behind a more open process. Really, what do Europe or the U.S. have to lose by not holding on to top positions at the Bretton Woods institutions? This is a good chance to score some easy points with the BRICS and demonstrate that we understand the changing world order (even if Europe doesn’t).

Osama bin Laden’s Death


I am with Gates on this one. I cannot fathom that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad without the knowledge of Pakistani officials, but until we know who knew and to what extent he had support, it is in not in our best interest to take action.


Probably the best consequence from the killing of Osama bin Laden (other than his actual death) is the possibility that it will allow the White House to seriously reconsider our (misaligned) objectives and investment in Afghanistan.

The second best (and funniest) consequence was the schadenfreude of Pakistan’s archrival. “We told you so” never felt so good.

All laughs aside, I disagree with Maddie on the U.S. approach to Pakistan. This episode is yet another example of the need for the U.S. to fundamentally change the way it does business in Pakistan. The military leaders need to more clearly understand that we won’t deal with them without the politicians in the room (as inept and corrupt as they may be). Our policy of engaging with the military as a separate entity (which, in reality, they are) has only reinforced their autonomy from the government and increased the sense that they are indispensible to the U.S. and that no action, no matter how heinous, will be seriously sanctioned.



More basic than the constitutionality of  the intervention or the efficacy of NATO’s air campaign, the United States has no strategic interests in Libya. Obama’s defense that the United States is acting to carry out Security Council Resolution 173 does not muster any more enthusiasm for the operation. The only explanation that has been offered for France’s recent metamorphoses into a hawk, is Sarkozy’s upcoming reelection campaign. Likely Sarkozy and Cameron’s goading were the primary force driving Obama’s decision to throw his weight behind intervention. Multilateralism should not mean championing our allies’ misadventures.


And we thought U.S. misadventures in Arab autocracies were a thing of the past. How Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bob Gates were talked into this latest war of choice by the Brits and French (of all people!) is beyond me. Now that we’re in this mess, we’ve gone way passed what the UN authorized and are actively seeking regime change. Of course we have no understanding of the dynamics on the ground and no real preparation for the eventuality that Gaddafi will fall. Sound familiar? I cannot discern any vital U.S. interests in Libya’s civil war (neither can Secretaries Gates or Clinton) and this is likely going to be another pointless and costly Middle Eastern disaster with an American fingerprint.

And don’t give me the line about humanitarianism. If we really cared we’d be bombing dictators from Bahrain to Sudan.

P.S. The Center for Combating Terrorism found in 2007 that the second most important source of foreign fighters in Iraq (after our buddy Saudi Arabia) was Libya. I wonder where those rebels we’re now supporting learned all those useful skills in fighting larger, better equipped militaries…

China Wins the French Open


For those of you who aren’t interested in tennis (that’s Maddie included), the gentleman’s sport has recently taken on a more geopolitical color. On June 4, Li Na became the first Asian-born (man or woman) to win a Grand Slam singles title at the French Open. Li’s success is not only a huge personal victory for a 30 year old player but also a sign of Asia’s ascendance in what was once a Western only affair.  What’s even more interesting is that her victory was the product of a loosening of restrictions on athletes. While generals worry about Chinese military competition and economists whine about the trade deficit, Venus and Serena need to watch their back.


I’m more of a gymnastics kind of girl. Tennis is for the bourgeoisie.

  1. Mark Frey says:

    The rest of the terrorists may be in nearby Costellobad.

    (snicker… Maddie called Dan bourgeoisie…)

  2. The Student says:

    Re: IMFG

    Obama throwing his weight behind an open process would be good policy, but bad politics. When ridiculous, symbolic things can be used to define your worldview (“Look! He’s ceding America to the BRICs!”) even a politician like Obama (or, perhaps, especially like Obama?) has to act accordingly. Understanding the changing world order is tantamount to treason for those who will complain loudest about it.

    Re: Osama bin Laden

    In response to Maddie, it appears at least one Pakistani Army major knew about bin Laden (I’m speaking of the one allegedly arrested with other CIA informants). Of course, Pakistan is now saying no army personnel were arrested. I wonder how many intelligence and military officers will be “retired” in the coming months?

    Also, Dan, I don’t think the problem is our approach to business with Pakistani. The problem is with our fundamental incompatibility as partners. Every successful strategic partnership the US has now is based on common heritage (many English-speaking nations) or shared experience/sacrifice (victors & losers of WWII). Our partnership with Pakistan is based SOLELY on geography, both then (1980s) and now. Engaging with the military over the civilian government is the least bad choice for the US. The civilian government doesn’t even have the power to direct the ISI to do something, and intelligence cooperation is the single most important aspect of our partnership.

    I have a hard time believing that US military officers, intelligence professionals, and diplomats are so blind and tone-deaf that they don’t recognize Pakistan is the worst kind of friend a nation in our position can have. It’s a relationship based on necessity, for now. Their underdeveloped civilian institutions would be a concern of ours if we needed a long-term relationship with them, but you can bet your daily cup of coffee that the moment we’re out of Afghanistan, we’re done dealing with Pakistan at this level. It will be very similar to the post-Soviet Afghan war, when the CIA and ISI stopped pretending to be friends and went back to being open adversaries. We can only hope that we don’t abandon Afghanistan without leaving behind a government that can actually hold itself up, though.

    Re: Libya

    It’s shocking how fast people can go from “we’re murdering Iraqi children!!!” to “BOMB THE F*** OUT OF LIBYA!” Our participation in the campaign in Libya should either have been non-existent or full-forced. This tepid, dip-your-toe-in kind of campaign is so utterly useless and misguided. Legal issues aside (Obama may not think the War Powers Resolution applies, but we do have 2 other branches for a reason), the Libya bombing campaign has been a waste of money and effort.

    I’m as much for democracy as the next guy (or gal), but that doesn’t mean we have to get actively involved in combating every dictator facing protests. And like Dan said, the humanitarian angle is not only a red herring, it’s a white elephant. Interventions, especially in the Middle East, have been costly both in terms of blood and money. I know we’re playing the role of world cop, but even cops know when to write a ticket and when to say, “eh, too much paperwork, just be quieter next time.”

  3. The Student says:

    Well damn it, obviously I meant Re: IMF. Not IMFG.

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