March 31, 2005

Back Shortly

Sorry for the limited blogging. I’m preparing for a big project and will have an announcement shortly. Feel free to guess what it is in the comments!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:12 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 29, 2005

Contagious Democracy – The Second Breakup of the Soviet Union

The liberal revolutions that swept through Eastern Europe toppled communist dictatorships like dominoes in a chain. But most of the Central Asian republics remain authoritarian - and in some cases, totalitarian. Some, like Chechnya, weren't able to throw off the yoke of the Soviet Empire at all, and are still officially parts of Russia.

But it looks like that process might not have stopped. It was just put on hold. Parts of the old Russian empire are convulsing again. And revolution may be just as contagious this time as it was last time. The Christian Science Monitor explains.

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN – The shock waves from Kyrgyzstan's lightning revolution are spreading around the former Soviet Union - and into the heart of Russia - leading analysts to wonder which regimes might be next to face the peoples' wrath.

Recent days have seen a spate of copycat protests launched by opposition groups that were perhaps hoping their own local authorities might fold and flee under pressure, as did Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev when demonstrators stormed his Bishkek complex last week.

About 1,000 people rallied last Friday in the capital of Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko runs the last Soviet-style dictatorship in Europe, to demand his resignation. Police quickly dispersed the crowd and dispatched the ringleaders to prison.

Two Russian ethnic republics, Ingushetia and Bashkortostan, have seen mass street demonstrations this week directed against Kremlin-installed leaders. Even in remote Mongolia, the former USSR's Asian satellite, hundreds of protesters gathered last week to "congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers" and demand a rerun of last June's disputed parliamentary polls.

Some experts see a common thread among these upheavals that began 17 months ago when Georgians overthrew Eduard Shevardnadze in a peaceful revolt and continued with Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" late last year.

"Every situation is different, but a single process is unfolding," says Valentin Bogatyrov, a former Akayev adviser and director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Bishkek. "Kyrgyzstan is a kind of trigger that will spread this unrest to our neighbors, and beyond. We are witnessing the second breakup of the Soviet Union."

Bashkortostan is an absurdly complicated ethnic hodgepodge that makes Lebanon look like Japan by comparison. If it breaks away from Russia it, too, could fracture.

Ingushetia, like Chechnya, is mostly Muslim. The Islamic tradition there is, again as in Chechnya, a liberal/moderate one. If the people want out of the Russian Federation we had better loudly support them. Because if we don't, the Islamist jihadis certainly will. Nothing good can possibly come of that, not for Ingushetia, not for Russia, and not for us. Look no further than - yes, once again - Chechnya for that object lesson.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:38 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Hitler in His Bunker

I need to see this movie, Downfall, on the day it's released. Check out that trailer!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:31 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 28, 2005

Baathism, Racism, and Terror

There’s a new article by Kurdish writer Shirko Mula Qadir up on the Friends of Democracy site about the Baath Party’s connections to terrorism in the Middle East and fascism in Europe. He also has some hard-to-argue-with suggestions about what we (meaning the rest of the world) ought to do about that.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:26 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 27, 2005

How About Howard Dean?

Glenn Reynolds nominates Vaclav Havel to replace Kofi Annan. I second that nomination. I can’t think of a single person in the world I’d rather see take Kofi's post.

Austin Bay wants more nominations. Okay, how about Howard Dean? I kid, but only by half. He might be more likely than Havel to take the job if he could get it. And he’d be a lot more likely to get the job in the first place if he were nominated (by somebody other than me.)

Standing up to the Bush Administration earned him plenty of street cred all over the world. UN fetishists and apparatchiks go for that sort of thing. He’s also earning some street cred with me because he at least partly understands what’s wrong with the so-called “international community.”

Dean may have opposed the Iraq war, but he’s not a foreign policy limp noodle like Kerry. He just thought that one war in particular was dumb. Say what you will about him, but he doesn’t shrink from a fight. He’s the kind of man who likes to roll up his sleeves and get scrappy.

I already published this quote from an article he wrote last summer, and I’ll happily run it again.

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.
Kofi Annan would never, ever, think or say anything like that. And I seriously doubt his replacement will ever think or say anything like that. Howard Dean might not be ideal, as Vaclav Havel would be. But he’d be such an improvement over Kofi Annan I’d pop a champagne cork if somehow, miraculously, he got the job.

He'd be at least slightly more likely to get Europeans to listen and work with us. He’d also be willing to kick some ass when it needs some kicking. As far as domestic politics go, he might help bridge one gap between American liberals and conservatives. He could make conservatives happy because he’d do a much better job than Kofi Annan. And because he’s such a hero to activist liberals, he could help them see that the UN really is broken. They won’t listen to Bush, but they will listen to him.

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

March 26, 2005

Booked

Tim Blair is "it" in the book game, thanks to me, and he posted his answers to the questions just as Guido was rummaging around in the closet for his baseball bat. Because it's Tim Blair we're talking about here, there are plenty of laughs to go around.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 24, 2005

The Conservative Crack-Up

The “conservative majority” sure didn’t last very long.

Eric Deamer volunteered for a get-out-the-vote campaign to re-elect President Bush in New Hampshire. He even had a gun pointed at his head for his efforts. But now he regrets that decision and pens his own essay in the emerging “buyer’s remorse” genre among intellectuals of the center and center-right.

Read it. Then read his follow-up. Then come on back.

Now, personally, I’m not experiencing buyer’s remorse – at least not yet. I voted for Democrats in Congress precisely so someone will be there in Washington to fend off whatever the right-wing of the GOP decides to throw at us. I have less to regret than Eric and other remorseful souls (like Michelle Catalano) have.

I expected a bunch of crap from the Bush Administration that I wouldn’t agree with or like. What else is new? I was never happy about voting for Bush in the first place, and I’m not happy about it now either. But I’m not wistfully longing for a coulda-been Kerry Administration. The very idea makes me shudder, especially while we’re in the midst of a showdown in the Middle East with the Syrian Baath regime.

Unlike Eric and Michelle, I never joined the Republican Party. I factored in the wholly predictable Republican arrogance and obnoxiousness into my decision well in advance. So I’m not at all shocked that the party is behaving badly and that moderates are taking a walk. I know how they feel because I went through the same thing with the Democrats. If you’re on the center-left or the center-right both of our two parties will eventually steamroll right over the top of you.

If the Republicans want my vote again they are going to have to earn it. They only got part of my vote last time because I needed a port during the storm that blew the old left coalition to pieces. The Democrats could easily play the same role next time if they get their act together while the Republicans lose it. Absolutely nothing is permanent in politics - including the current shake-up. All the talk I hear (even often in my own comments section) about how the Democratic Party is supposedly dead is a laugh riot. The party that wins elections is whichever party is in less ridiculous shape than the other.

Free advice for Republicans! Purge Tom DeLay. You pitched Newt Gingrich over the side, and he was far less worth the bother than the former vermin exterminator from Texas. (Good God, is it really that hard to find respectable normal people for the top roles in Congress?) Give James Dobson the Sister Souljah treatment. Give him the Energizer Bunny of Sister Souljah treatments until he bitterly hates your guts. (I know, I know, that’s about as likely as Nancy Pelosi kicking Michael Moore in the balls on national TV while wearing her heels.) If you think Dobson and his ilk can keep you in power while you’re pissing off the left, the center, and the center-right moderates you’re proving Jane’s Law all over again.

Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
But hey, don’t listen to me. What the hell do I know? I don’t even know who I'm going to vote for in ’08. (Hint!)

Elections are won in the center. If you can’t remember that most obvious of political factoids and the Democratic Party nominates someone – anyone – who isn’t a foreign policy limp noodle, the only place you’re going in 2008 is the political boondocks.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:54 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 23, 2005

Because I’m “It”

Nancy Rommelmann tagged me and said I’m “it.” So now I have to answer a bunch of questions or a goon named Guido will show up on my porch with a baseball bat. So here goes.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Fahrenheit 451, of course. That way I might stand a chance.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yeah, Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings.

The last book you bought is:

Stainless by Todd Grimson. I bought it in part because according to James Ellroy (author of LA Confidential) Grimson is the hippest writer in America. But the real reasons are because he’s a fellow Portlander, he’s been a regular in my comments section for two years, and I just now found out (after all this time) that he’s this famous writer type person.

The last book you read:

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland is the last book I finished. I read it a few weeks ago in one sitting. I haven't done that since I graduated from college 13 years ago. (It helps that the book is a short one.)

What's the book about? Tough question to answer. Let's just say that it opens with a Columbine-style shooting at a high school and follows four characters through ten years of the aftermath. It would be unfair to Coupland’s surprising story if I said anything more. I put the book down weeks ago and I still can't get it out of my mind.

What are you currently reading?

One for the Road by Tony Horwitz. It’s a travel book about his hitchhiking adventures Back O’ Bourke (the Australian Outback). I picked it up because his Baghdad Without a Map is the best travel book I’ve read yet about the Middle East. He makes trips to Libya and Yemen into laugh riots. On the one hand, Libya is about as funny as Romania under Ceausescu. But it’s also a wickedly surreal place, and Horwitz captures it all perfectly.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.

* The Collected Works of William Shakespeare – for reasons that ought to be obvious, and I don’t care if that’s cheating.

* Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – because what the hell else am I supposed to relate to?

* Lord of the Flies by William Golding – to remind myself that things could always be worse.

* Stock Investing for Dummies - because you just never know.

* My own Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece. (The one I haven’t written yet.)

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

* Sheila O’Malley – because she’s always book-blogging anyway, so I doubt she’ll get mad.

* Tim Blair – because I just know whatever he reads is funny and smart.

* Dr. Frank – because I’ll bet what he reads is cool. And I want to know what it is.

Sheila. Tim. Dr Frank. You’re it. Answer the questions, or answer to Guido.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:41 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

March 22, 2005

Links

I don’t have time to write anything exciting tonight, but I don’t want to leave you with nothing. So here’s some linkage.

Ace of Spades says his intitial reaction to September 11 was wrong. So was mine for the first week or so, until I found my way out of the freaky Chomskyite hole I briefly crawled into. Ace and I erred in exactly opposite ways. It’s a good thing he and I didn’t battle anything out in person at the time. We both would have been wrong, and we both would have been jerks about it.

Nelson Ascher wonders why Erwin Rommell, a Nazi, is frequently praised as a brilliant general while Ariel Sharon is not.

Dean Esmay starts a worthwhile argument with his libertarian and conservative friends.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:19 PM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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

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