Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wise Words

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."

-- Paulo Freire

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


On this date in 1919, following six months of negotiation, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The agreement formally ended World War I, forced Germany to accept responsibility for the war and to atone by paying heavy reparations, and established the League of Nations.

The United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles. Consequently, the U.S. was forced to make a separate peace with Germany in 1921. Furthermore, even though President Woodrow Wilson was its principal architect, the U.S. never joined the League.

Marshal Foch of France said at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not peace; this is an armistice for 20 years." On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Health Care's Brain Drain

Dr. James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, said today that the practice of hiring doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals from the developing world in order to fill vacancies in Britain and the United States amounts to "the rape of the poorest countries" and constitutes "obscene exploitation" of the developing world. "It is completely pointless for the UK to give $300m in aid to Africa if we then systematically rob them of their most precious resource: the skilled people who have the practical ability to prevent and treat disease," Johnson said.

Many doctors educated in India, the Middle East, and East Asia are practicing in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. (The surgeon who expertly repaired my detached retina two years ago was educated in India.) They are welcomed--and often even recruited--because they help to fill critical shortages in the health care systems of the developed world. However, their departure from their countries of origin is a form of "brain drain" that deprives those countries of the benefit of their investment in the medical education of some of their best and brightest nationals.

Frankly, it is not clear to me what the solution to this problem is beyond asking the developed world to invest more in health care both for itself (so that more doctors and nurses can be trained here) and for those living in the developing world.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Rumsfeld on Iraq

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed the situation in Iraq on several of the Sunday morning talk shows today. Rumsfeld warned that the insurgency in Iraq may last a long time.

"I would anticipate you're going to see an escalation of violence between now and the December elections," the Pentagon chief told NBC's "Meet the Press." And after then, it will take a long time to drive out insurgents.

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years," Rumsfeld said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency," he said.

Before the war, Vice President Dick Cheney predicted that Iraqis freed from Saddam Hussein's rule would greet American troops as liberators. Rumsfeld said Sunday he gave President Bush a list of about 15 things "that could go terribly, terribly wrong before the war started."

He said they included Iraq's oil wells being set on fire; mass refugees and relocations; blown-up bridges; and a moat of oil around Baghdad, the capital.

"So a great many of the bad things that could have happened did not happen," Rumsfeld said.

Asked if his list included the possibility of such a strong insurgency, Rumsfeld said: "I don't remember whether that was on there, but certainly it was discussed."

This is effectively an admission by Rumsfeld that the insurgency we've seen in Iraq wasn't even on a very lengthy list of potential postwar problems. Of course, General Eric Shinseki, at that time the Army Chief of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to secure Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein's government. General Shinseki's prediction prompted two very public rebukes--one from Rumsfeld and one from his chief deputy, Paul Wolfowitz--and ultimately his ouster from the Army.

For more on Rumsfeld's comments today, see this Washington Post story.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Supporting Victims of Torture

Tomorrow--June 26--is the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In Los Angeles, the Program for Torture Victims, together with Amnesty International USA, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the Democracy Council, the International Criminal Court Alliance, the International Rescue Committee, and Stop Prisoner Rape, is sponsoring a program entitled "Truth and Truth Telling about Torture." Darius Rejali of Reed College, author of the forthcoming Torture and Democracy, will be the keynote speaker.

The event will be held in Cantwell Hall at Marymount High School (10643 Sunset Blvd.) from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. (A flyer with details is available here.) It is free and open to the public.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A New High

Oil topped $60 per barrel for the first time today. The age of cheap oil is rapidly coming to an end--without a reasonable energy policy in place for the world's biggest oil consumer, the United States.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush's Energy Policy

With the Senate currently debating the Bush Administration's energy policy, it's worth noting the obvious: The policy consists of little more than generating windfall profits for oil producers. Consider Tom Friedman's comment today in the New York Times:

With gasoline prices soaring, and the biggest beneficiaries being the very Arab dictatorships who are tacitly sponsoring the terrorists killing Americans in Iraq, it is blindingly obvious that our country needs a comprehensive strategy for reducing our energy consumption and developing alternative fuel systems. The president has utterly failed in this regard.

Oil is not the only resource that is becoming scarce in the United States. Rationality is in short supply.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bolton Blocked

For the second time yesterday, Senate Republicans failed in an effort to end debate on the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at one point said there would be no more votes scheduled on the nomination, President Bush continues to push for a vote. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) has suggested that Bush withdraw the nomination. Other Republicans, however, are suggesting that Bush bypass the Senate by making a recess appointment.

Sending an ambassador to the United Nations without Senate confirmation, which is what would happen with a recess appointment, is certainly within the realm of possibility for the Bush Administration. It would not, however, be a wise policy.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Suu Kyi Turns 60

Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and a long-time proponent of democracy and human rights in Myanmar (formerly Burma), turns 60 tomorrow. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for the past two years. It is her third time to be placed under house arrest since her pro-democracy activities began in 1988.

Tomorrow (or any time next week) would be a good time to send birthday greetings to Suu Kyi via the Embassy of Myanmar in Washington, D.C. You can fax messages to (202) 332-4351 or e-mail Letters can be sent to:

Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S Street, NW
Washington, DC 2008

Be sure to ask when Suu Kyi will be released.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Nagasaki, 1945

Sixty years ago, an American reporter named George Weller visited Nagasaki less than a month after the atomic bombing on August 9, 1945. Weller's stories were impounded by U.S. military censors and never published, at least not until now. Recently, Weller's son found the stories, along with some photographs, in a box. You can read the four-part series here in the Mainichi Daily News.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Frederick L. Holborn (1928-2005)

I have just learned that Fred Holborn, who taught for over thirty years at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, died on June 3 at the age of 76. The loss is personal because, more than anyone else at SAIS, Fred Holborn guided me through my first graduate school experience when I went to SAIS as a naive 21-year-old.

Professor Holborn taught courses on U.S. foreign policy. In the spring of 1981, my second semester at SAIS, I took his course entitled, simply, "The Conduct of Foreign Policy." The following semester, I went back for "Congress and the Making of National Policy." Looking back through my notes for these courses, I am reminded that Professor Holborn had an extraordinarily broad knowledge of the American constitutional system, of American history, and of foreign policy. The notes I took in his classes, in fact, kept me well supplied with interesting facts to inject into my own lectures in American government courses when I began teaching. (I am also reminded that he was very open and approachable. On the first page of my notes from both semesters, I have his home phone number written down.)

Professor Holborn also supervised my thesis and, in so doing, introduced me to the normative issues in foreign policy that have been among my primary interests ever since. I recall numerous occasions sitting in his office--Room 318 in the Nitze Building at 1740 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.--talking about Reinhold Niebuhr and Hans Morgenthau and the contrasts in foreign policy between the recently ended Carter Administration and the newly inaugurated Reagan Administration. To have a conversation with Professor Holborn in his office required that he bring his chair around to the front of the desk because the desk invariably had so many papers piled on it that it was impossible for two people sitting down on opposite sides of the desk to see each other over or through the clutter. (Yes, even now I can only aspire to have an office as messy as his was.)

For more on Fred Holborn's remarkable life, see this obituary published in yesterday's Washington Post.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

World Military Expenditures

According to the recently released SIPRI Yearbook 2005, the current edition of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's annual survey of trends in military spending and disarmament, world military expenditures topped $1 trillion in 2004 with the United States accounting for 47 percent of the total. In fact, the $238 billion in supplementary appropriations for the Department of Defense from 2003 to 2005 to pay for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq--money not included in the Pentagon's annual budgets--exceeded the 2004 military expenditures of the entire developing world.

If $1 trillion is too big a number to get your head around, think of it this way: in 2004, global defense spending amounted to $162 for every man, woman, and child on the planet.

Good News on Darfur

For months--years, even--the indifference of the United States and Europe to the genocide in Darfur has been disheartening, to put it mildly. At last there is a bit of good news to report.

At a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels earlier today, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced that NATO would assist the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur by airlifting additional troops and assisting in their training. The African Union, which hopes to increase the size of its peacekeeping force in the region to 7,500, made the request for logistical assistance back on April 26.

According to the Guardian, the United States will airlift troops from Rwanda to Darfur while France will airlift troops from Senegal.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blocking Berlin

The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is blocking Germany's efforts to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. One unnamed European diplomat said, "The German efforts have not met with great enthusiasm in Washington." He added (in one of the more interesting qualifiers ever employed by a diplomat), "I am using diplomatic understatement."

Germany, Japan, Brazil, and India put forward a plan for reform of the Security Council last September. While the U.S. has expressed support for a permanent seat for Japan, Condoleezza Rice has recently told German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that other U.N. reforms take precedence over Security Council reform as far as the United States is concerned.

The AI Report

Few of the reports issued by Amnesty International have generated as much media attention or controversy as the 2005 report on the state of the world's human rights. Why? Because the United States comes under harsh criticism for its treatment of suspects in the "war on terror" and for its failure to hold responsible those who have authorized torture in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The defensiveness displayed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld suggests that the AI report has struck a nerve. AI lays out the facts very briefly and shows some of the Bush Administration's attacks in this web presentation.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Rape in Darfur

Nicholas Kristof writes in today's New York Times about the systematic rapes that are occurring in Darfur. While you're there, be sure to click on the special multimedia report.


Those who have seen Invisible Children will want to see the story and photographs from northern Uganda in today's Los Angeles Times. Francine Orr's photographs are heart-wrenching. A slide show with narration is available on the Times' web site here. The segment of the slide show regarding Uganda's "night commuters" is especially reminiscent of Invisible Children.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Conservative Dissents

Read this, but first consider the source. The author, Paul Craig Roberts, is a conservative columnist who served as an assistant secretary in the Department of the Treasury under President Reagan.

From a more progressive perspective, the only problem with Roberts' argument is that Dick Cheney waits in the wings.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

McNamara on the Nuclear Threat

Robert McNamara, who served as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, continues to weigh in on matters of national security. In an interview published in today's Guardian (London), McNamara points to two serious dangers related to nuclear weapons. First, there is continued danger of an accidental launch of one or more of the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia maintain on alert. Second, there are growing dangers that a non-state actor will be able to manufacture a nuclear weapon for use outside the constraints imposed by political leaders.

McNamara's warnings are particularly timely given the recent failure of the NPT review conference. You can read the Guardian story here.

(While on the subject of Robert McNamara, those who haven't seen the 2004 Oscar-winning documentary Fog of War should do so.)