December 28, 2003

Friedman Discovers Poland

Andrew Apostolou makes fun of Thomas Friedman for being six months behind the news. Poland is pro-American. Who knew?

Friedman is sometimes silly, but I confess to being a fan. His book From Beirut to Jerusalem is sadly out of date (he's a little too optimistic about the Oslo peace process), but it's nevertheless a fantastic piece of Middle East reporting that reads like a suspenseful historical novel.

And maybe Friedman is a bit slow on Poland, but I enjoyed the piece anyway.

After two years of traveling almost exclusively to Western Europe and the Middle East, Poland feels like a geopolitical spa. I visited here for just three days and got two years of anti-American bruises massaged out of me. Get this: people here actually tell you they like America — without whispering. What has gotten into these people? Have all their subscriptions to Le Monde Diplomatique expired? Haven't they gotten the word from Berlin and Paris? No, they haven't. In fact, Poland is the antidote to European anti-Americanism. Poland is to France what Advil is to a pain in the neck. Or as Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign affairs specialist, remarked after visiting Poland: "Poland is the most pro-American country in the world — including the United States."
I detected no anti-Americanism when I visited France. But I can't read French newspapers, and I hung around waiters and cab drivers, not Chirac and de Villepin. I'd still like to visit Poland, though. It's a beautiful country, and it's always nice to be welcomed.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

December 27, 2003

A Drive Through Western Oregon

Some days I just have to get out of the city.

My Italian friend Giorgio inspired me. He visited us for Christmas (in Boise) and desperately wanted to drive in the countryside. “I need to see the American West,” he said. “This is all so exotic to me.”

Venice, Rome, and little Italian hill towns are old hat to him. 300-foot tall Evergreen spires are like trees on another world.

So we drove through the high desert and up into the mountains. “It looks like Lord of the Rings here” he said. I could see what he meant. The region around Boise looks a lot like Rohan.

Today I took a drive from my own city of Portland to the Pacific. I left the lush Willamette Valley behind, climbed into snow in the Coast Range mountains, and hit the beach as the sun came out. I tried to see my countryside through the eyes of a foreigner. I’ve lived in Western Oregon for almost 30 years, so it’s hard. But the beauty of this place still astonishes all the same.

Willamette_Valley_From_Air_2.jpg

Tressle.jpg

Hwy_26_Snow.jpg

Coast_Range_Snow.jpg

Path_to_Beach.jpg

Haystack Rock.jpg

All photos copyright Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:47 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Tragedy in Iran

The AP says the death toll in the Iran earthquake could be as high as 40,000. That's two thirds the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War.

The Bam fortress, the world's largest mud-brick structure, is gone.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:58 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

December 25, 2003

Back from the Big B

Just got back from a festive get-together of far-flung friends in Boise, Idaho (the Big B! as our friend Ezra from Manhatten calls it.) Our pal Giorgio flew in from Milan, Italy and wanted to drive to the mountains to see cowboys and Indians. The Indians pulled a no-show, but he did get to see some big hats.

We did the Christmas thing early with the parents this year, so Shelly and I have all day at home to ourselves in peace and quiet. So it’s time for me to get off the blog. (And what are you doing surfing the blogosphere today?)

Here’s hoping your Christmas is a Merry one. Cheers.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:06 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

December 23, 2003

Talk is Cheap

The editors at the Guardian think Libya’s decision to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction is a victory of talk over force.

Patient diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation, clearly enunciated principles and red lines, respect, mutual trust, and attractive incentives - these are the civil tools that helped bring, at the weekend, perhaps the most significant, tangible breakthrough in arms control since the strategic weapons pacts of the later cold war era. Libya has gone from 1986 target of Ronald Reagan's bombs, from "rogue" sponsor of non-state, anti-western terrorism and, as it now admits, from active pursuer of nuclear and chemical arms to, if all sides honour the bargain, a prospectively valuable friend and partner.
I wouldn’t say Libya will be a valuable friend and partner any time soon. Not with Gaddafi in charge. The Guardian once again is too quick to make friends with dictators.

Even more dubious is the assertion that patient diplomacy explains Libya’s capitulation. Because capitulation is exactly what it was.

Andrew Apostolou says the French and Germans, if they happened to be involved, would only have mucked it all up.

The fact that France, Germany, and Russia were not directly involved in the contacts with Libya was also a key element in their success. We can only imagine the diplomatic fiasco that would have resulted from the French, German, or Russian foreign ministers landing in Tripoli to invite themselves into the negotiations as intermediaries. These supposed friends of the U.S. would have sent muddled signals to Khaddafi. Instead of facing a firm, but fair, Anglo-American position, the Libyan dictator would have ended up deluding himself — something that he does not find difficult — into believing that was an alternative to full compliance with his international obligations. Perhaps now is the time for that other victim of an overly active imagination, Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, to confine himself to literature.
If anyone doubts this is a victory for the hawks, they need only listen to Gaddafi himself:
I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.
And that, I think, settles that.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:59 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

December 21, 2003

Carrying Water for Saddam

According to the Telegraph, the BBC has banned the use of the word “dictator” to describe Saddam Hussein. He was “endorsed” in a “referendum” where he received 100 percent of the “vote.” Therefore, the BBC says Saddam Hussein was “elected” and was not a dictator.

A BCC spokesman explains:

We wanted to remind journalists whose work is seen and heard internationally of the need to use neutral language.

Saying Saddam was elected is not neutral. It is naked Baath Party propaganda.

No one receives 100 percent of the vote in a democratic election. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was modelled after Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The people at the BBC know this and don’t care. They are liars. They lie when they say Saddam was elected, and they lie when they say they are neutral.

All media institutions are biased. Fox News is conservative and everyone knows it, despite Fox’s denial. NPR is liberal and everyone knows it, despite NPR’s denial. The BBC is staunchly anti-British, staunchly anti-American, moderately pro-terrorist, and moderately pro-Baathist. Neutral? Please. Only Indymedia is less neutral in the West.

There is nothing wrong with liberal or conservative bias. It’s to be expected in a free country with a free press. There is no excuse for pro-Baathist bias outside a one-party police state.

If editors and journalists admitted their biases and filters, their credibility would be bolstered not undermined. You can compensate for conscious bias. Bias denied only festers and drifts into extremes.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:22 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Evil

In a few short paragraphs, Patrick Lasswell writes a creepy and highly original defense of the use of the word evil.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:21 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

December 18, 2003

The Decline of France

I enjoy taking a poke at France as much as the next person, but I should say that Shelly and I went to Paris and Cassis on our honeymoon two years ago and we had a wonderful time. I liked France a great deal, and I do feel some affection for it. The French people were much nicer to us than I expected, given their reputation, and I haven't seen a city anywhere that can rival Paris in either beauty or culture.

Roger L. Simon just got back from a trip to France where he did some research for a novel. He filed this report, and I'm sorry to say that it isn't looking good for them.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:51 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Do Intentions Matter?

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that no one in the Bush Administration cares a fig about the Iraqi people or the democratization of Iraq, and that the war was conducted for nefarious reasons. Yet good has come from the war nevertheless.

Does it matter? It's a tough question if it's taken seriously, and Norman Geras has a pretty good answer.

UPDATE: Tom Perry (aka Dipnut at Isntapundit) has a thoughtful answer, too. Go read.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:43 PM | Permalink | Comments Off
« Older Entries | Newer Entries »

Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle









Sponsored Links

Buy a used boat

Shanghai Hotels

Yachts for sale


Recommended Reading