Monthly Archives: February 2008

US Moves From Personality To Nation In Pakistan

The United States government apparently is considering the importance of what Senator Joseph Biden has termed, moving away from “a policy focused on personality” to one focused on what is best for the people of Pakistan. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte made clear the Bush administration decision to cooperate with whoever has been elected by the people of Pakistan to lead their nation. Ironically, a major Bush argument in 2000 against the Clinton admnistration was its focus on nation building. Bush apparently is now convinced trying to impose US will on other nations invariably results in disaster.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, President Musharraf is also moving in the direction of cooperating with Pakistan’s political leaders. He is willing to compromise on the key issue of his sacking of judges who opposed him. Musharraf has offered to retore the judges provided none of them is allowed to sit on cases involving the president.

An important issue still to be resolved is what would happen if Pakistan’s new parliament instituted impeachment against President Musharraf. Which judges would then sit in judgement on the president?

John McCain– Wrong Voice At Wrong Time

Senator John McCain apparently intends to make Iraq a key point in the coming presidential election. He believes the success in Iraq is persuading Americans the invasion was the right policy and his most probable opponent, Senator Barack Obama, lacks experience in dealing with foreign policy issues. There are several flaws in McCain’s argument concerning his knowledge of foreign policy, particularly regarding the Iraq war. A basic McCain assumption is Iraq is moving toward stability and maintaining US forces for an indefinite period is the right course of action.

Mike McConnell, America’s top intelligence leader, told Congress yesterday the Karzai government of Afghanistan only controls about 30% of the nation with the remainder under the sway of tribal chieftains or the Taliban. Six years– two longer than our involvement in World War II–of relying on military strategies has resulted in what former NATO commander, General James Jones, terms a “failed state.” The United States needs a president who will explore non-military strategies instead of continuing the present flawed military approach. John McCain would perpetuate the current approach and add four more years to the six already expended.

John McCain is a patriotic American who spent years in the military and it is not surprising he views the military as key to victory in Iraq. McCain was furious at the Obama suggestion of meeting, without preconditions, with Iran’s leaders. Senator Obama’s approach makes more sense than that of McCain who is embued with Bush feelings of hate towards Iran. Iran must be involved in any process that will restore stability to Iraq. The Iranian government already has excellent relations with Iraqi leaders. A John McCain in the presidency would hamper efforts to engage a broad spectrum of Muslim nations in an effort to attain conditions for peaceful development of Iraq.

No one doubts the patriotism or bravery of Senator John McCain. He is simply the wrong man at this time in history to assume leadership of America if we are to move toward creating a stable Middle East. We have to turn away from use of large scale American forces and allow Muslim nations to provide any soldiers necessary in establishing stability. We have to engage all factions, without preconditions, in dialogue leading to peace.

A McCain presidency would simply perpetuate American military involvement all over the world. The 21st century must move away from unilaterial use of force and create multi-national military forces whose goal is peace, not war. Barack Obama has greater experience than John McCain in peacemaking. He grasps the importance of engaging angry violent forces in dialogues of conflict resolution. That is a concept which is foreign to the military minded John McCain.

Afghanistan A Failing Nation Says Mike McConnell

Mike McConnell, America’s top intelligence leader, claims after six years of a US led military support of the Afghanistan government, it only control about 30% of the nation while the Taliban has 10% and the remainder is under the jurisdiction of tribal chieftains. The Afghan government denied his statement to Congress was accurate and insisted it was in effective control of “over 360″ of the country’s 365 districts. However, a recent report by a think tank headed by former NATO commander, General James Jones, concluded that “urgent changes” were required now to “prevent Afhganistan becoming a failed state.”

The United States blames European Union nations for failure to supply troops to Afghanistan, but President Bush has never acknowledged it was his mistake in abandoning the fight in Afghanistan to pursue the Iraq venture which is the major casuse for the growth of the Talibn. Senator John McCain insists America has to pursue the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq even if it takes a hundred years. These wars will not end until there are significant changes in strategy and goals.

Israel Close To Gaza Operation As Kassams Hit Targets

There, undoubtedly, are happy people in Gaza or elsewhere in the Arab world who are proud rockets are being fired into Israel. Kasam rockets land on targets or blow up in empty fields while occasionally a few hit people in Gaza, but, that is of no importance to those committed to the proposition only violence will resolve Palestine’s conflict with Israel. The latest round of attacks on Israel has resulted in the almost growing certainty Israel’s Defense Force will launch an invasion of Gaza to wipe out rocket sites. According to some sources, the IDF attack may even go beyond that goal and result in elemination of the Hamas government. Defense Minister Barack said his nation no longer would tolerate rocket fire on their cities.

There is scant doubt missiles are coming into Gaza from Iran and that Syria is playing a role in encouraging Hamas to use this approach to dealing with current issues with Israel. The Hama government sometimes approachs problem solving with an “Appointment in Samarra” attitude that accepts an appointment with death as the only way in which peace efforts can be furthered. Yes, to the gleeful who shout approval at a rocket hitting an Israel home, violence resulted in hurting an Israeli citizen. But, what about the hundreds or thousands who might die if Israel forces invade Gaza? Hamas leadership is more interested in scoring points than in scoring peace.

Turkish View–A Day Or A Year In Iraq?

American and Turkish officials failed to reach an agreement as to when Turkey’s armed forces will be departing from Iraq. Yesterday, President Bush told a press conference, “Turkish troops sh ould withdraw from northern Iraq as soon as possible” while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Turkish officials in Anakara, “the U.S. believes the current offensive should be as short and precisely targeted as possible.” Turkish Chief of Staff Generl Yasar Buyukanit told Gates, “short term is a relative notion. Sometimes it is a day, sometimes a year.” He pointed out Turkey has been struggling with terrorism for 24 years and noted America has been in Afghanistan for six years.

Prime Minister Erdfogan insists “Turkish soldiers will be returning after achieving their goals” but will not pinpoint the exact time when that task will have been accomplished. On one hand, Gates accepts the complexity of the situation, on the other hand, the United States is protecting the integrity of the Iraqi government. Unfortunately, the two might not coincide in terms of a timetable for withdrawal.

Once again, the Bush administration is living with unintended and unexpected consequences of the ill fated invasion of Iraq. Most experts knew from day one of Bush’s actions to get rid of Saddam Hussein that an important result would be creation of a confusing situation in Kurdistan. Neither Bush, Cheney, nor Rumsfeld had any grasp as to what they were doing in terms of Turkey’s concern over creation of an independent Kurdistan state. Of course, neither did right wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh and the others who still insist the Iraq operation was the right move.

Do Round Numbers Reflect Vote Fraud In Russia?

During a recent press conference a French reporter asked President Putin how it was possible for his United Russia party to capture nearly 100% of the vote in December’s election in Chechnya, a Russian reporter jumped in to exclaim 10 of his family members had voted for United Russia. Two bloggers who examined December’s election results found a disproportionate number of polling stations reporting round numbers– that is numbers ending in zero and five–both for voter turnout and the final United Russia figures. The analysis by chemist Maxim Pshenchnikov and LiveJournal blogeer nicknamed Podmoskovnik offer mathematicval proof of either election fraud or extemely anomalous voter behavior. According to Konstantin Sonin, an economist, “it is a study that explicitly demonstrates that the results were manipulated.”

The blogger analysis says disributioin of numbers appears normal until it hits the figure of 51% which at time it begins reporting round numbers. United Russia received 89% of the vote at 633 polling stations but 927 stations reported 90% figures. They found spikes that concide in several round number including 75%, 80% and 90%. Their conclusion is the United Party should have received 63% of the vote and obtained 277 sets instead of the 300 needed for a constitutional majority.

Far be it for this blog to interpret this report as constituting any form of voter fraud on the part of the Putin government. We failed math in college and must abide by the mathematical conclusions of United Russia that all good things end in round numbers.

Political Interference Damages Education In England

The most extensive study of primary education in Great Britain in forty years slammed efforts by the Labor Government for its blatant interference in the education processes of the nation. The Cambridge University-based Primary Review, blamed centralised control of England’s primary schools which has led to a devastating impact on children’s eduction. Micromanagement, meddling and a succession of government edicts have killed spontaneity in the nation’s classrooms. Teachers have been stripped of their powrs of discretion. And the net result of a decade of new Labor government education “reforms” has almost certainly been a decline in the quality of education. The report concludes it would have been better if the government had done nothing at all!

The reports blasted government actions which have resulted in the imposition of a “state theory of learning” in which teachers are not only told what to teach but how to teach it. This has resulted in a sharp decline in the quality of learning because of the “narrowing of the curriculum and the intensity of test preparation.” The result is teachers have become expert in coaching children how to take tests.

The report traces problems to the introduction by the Conservative govenment of a national curriculum in 1988 wich was strongly extended by the arrival of Labor governments in the 1990s. Altough test scores have risen, it has been achieved at the expense of children’s entitlement to a “broad and balanced curriculum and by the diversion of considerable teaching time to test preparation.”

The reports from Great Britain should be carefully studied by Clinton and Obama staffs. The Democratic party in 2002 jumped on the Bush bandwagon of No Child Left Behind which exemplifies everything being discussed in the new reports from England. So-called “liberal” Democrats like Ted Kennedy accepted the NCLB program without any thought to its impact on teaching and learning. It is time for the Democratic Party to turn away from state-mandated standards and return control of education, not to teacher organizatins, but to teachers.

The most important goal of education “reform” should be on decentralization of teaching and learning by empowering schools to venture on the adventurous task of inventing a new education that will meet the needs of the 21st century. Frankly, Senators Clinton and Obama, that goal will not be achieved by education bureaucrats working in teacher organizations.

Care Of Wounded Improves-But More Needed

The General Accountability Office(GAO) praised efforts by the United States Army over the past year to assist soldiers going through the disability retirement process. However, it noted some treatment facilities lack as much as 40 percent of the staff required to maintain a ratio of one legal counselor per 30 soldiers. According to John Pendleton of the GAO, “The Army has made progress in the five months since our September hearing,” he said, referring to a previous GAO report which showed the Army’s Transition Units were only half-staffed. But one-third of the units still have staffing shortages. At some bases, 40 percent of wounded or sick soldiers have not been assigned to a Transition Unit.

Daniel Bertoni, GAO’s director of education, workforce and income security, said the GAO’s new report found that one military evaluation board physician per 200 soldiers is not enoough and the ratio must come down to one per hundred.

The real issue arising from the GAO report is why did the Bush administration enter a war without giving sufficient thought and consideration to the needs of wounded soldiers? Why has it taken six years for changes to be made in regard to treatment of wounded soldiers who are being discharged into civilian life? The story of the Iraq war is the continual neglect on the part of the Bush administration of the costs of war. That is the national scandal which the American people should never forget.

China Upset At Congressional Resolution

The Chinese government expressed its concern over a resolution passed by the Foreign Affairs committee in the US House of Representatives that expressed “support on Taiwan’s democratic election.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry interpreted the move as an attempt to interfere with the concept of a “One-China” policy which is at the heart of China’s relations with the United States. The Chinese expressed their view there was a lack of understanding among members of Congress regarding the issues involved in this issue.

The current members of the House of Representatives are unfamiliar with the historic development of American policy toward China over the past fifty years. They apparently do not understand how successive American presidents were greatly influenced by the “China Lobby” that opposed recognition of Communist China and wanted America to be prepared to take military action against the Chinese communists. The continual interference in the internal affairs of China during this time period is hopefully at an end. Taiwan is not threatened by Chinese military action and over time the Taiwanese and Chinese will resolve this issue. There is no need for America to issue resolutions which only inflame the situation.

China should also be sensitive to the workings of the House of Representatives whose members are greatly influenced by local pressures.

Kenya Escapes Blood Bath By Shaking Hands

The clock of war was slowly ticking as opposing forces in Kenya fnally agreed on a power sharing process which will ensure both President Kibaki and his opponent, Raila Odinga, are prepared to share leadership of the government. Kofi Annan and his UN-backed Panel of African Eminent Persons and the African Union hammered out the deal which was finalized by handshakes on the part of Odinga and Kibaki. The agreement provides for restoring the position of Prime Minister and dividing members of the Cabinet based on their voting status in Parliament. Britin’s Gordon Brown hailed the accord as did the United States.

In a speech shortly after signing the agreement, President Kibaki pledged to work to see to it the deal was honored by all parties in Kenya. The prime minister will be elected by Parliament ensuring whichever party has a majority would now have a say in governing the country. But, despite this agreement, much work must be done. The past few months have witnessed unleashng of tribal anger and this requires ending prejudice and ensuring that all Kenyans enjoy equal economic, social and political equality. A great deal of multicultural education must be done in schools.