Monday, March 31, 2008

People's Republic of Excuses

The furor over the Tibetan riots in the West has a familiar ring: Free Tibet! Boycott the Olympics! And predictably, these Western reactions and coverage in the press has a lot of Chinese people angry at the "biased" and "uninformed" rantings of Westerners who simply don't understand China.

Tom Doctoroff wrote a long article on the Huffington Post, saying it would be counterproductive to boycott the Olympics:
The rise of an Olympics-worthy China validates the Middle Kingdom's entire worldview and confirms, in no particular order, the ebb and flow of history, the cyclical essence of yin and yang, as well as a renewed Mandate of Heaven. Beijing 2008 represents a vindication of Han culture.
In other words, we should try to understand China better (See full article on Huffington Post.)

All this mumbo-jumbo about the Chinese view of life is simply apologia for the indefensible. Let's look at the facts, shall we?

If Western articles on the riots are uninformed, then surely the Chinese government takes most of the blame, since it refuses to allow journalists to visit Tibet, or in fact, any place in China, without minders. And pardon me for dismissing Chinese residents' claims about the riots, since all news is effectively controlled by their government, so they quite literally don't know what they are talking about. The People's Republic of China consistently ranks near the bottom of the press freedom index complied every year by Reporters Without Borders (see 2007 rankings).

No amount of cultural sensitivity can gloss over the fact that the single-party government of the People's Republic of China is an abomination. The government does not release figures, but Amnesty International estimates that China leads the world, by a very long shot, in the number of people executed every year. Latest 2007 estimates will be reported by Amnesty on April 15th, but the previous year, sixty-four percent of executions world-wide were at the hands of this regime (see 2006 report). How can anyone defend these people?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Still waiting for the uprising

The Decider said today:
The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al-Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaeda out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network.
(See full text of the Bush speech on the White House web site).

Obviously, George Bush has left us mortals behind and entered an exalted spiritual plane, where an alternate reality reigns. So it's impossible to explain what he is talking about. Let's see what the Director of National Intelligence says in its last National Intelligence Estimate from December 3rd, 2007, which was released in declassified form:
1. Al Qaeda is and will remain the most serious threat to the Homeland.

2. Al Qaeda has protected or regenerated [...] in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
(See full NIE on the DNI web site.)

This directly contradicts what Dubya is saying. What "large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden" is he talking about?

There is, clearly, no end to Bush's grand delusions; his only saving grace is that he is completely incompetent. But the real depressing thing is this: where is the uprising against George Bush and his apologists like John McCain, who want to continue the Iraq war and promote it as a part of our Global War on Terror?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Throw them in the dungeon

The inventor of the game "Dungeons and Dragons", Gary Gygax, died this week in Wisconsin.

For those who don't know, Dungeons and Dragons was the first popular role-playing tabletop game, sort of an elaborate board game. Originating in the mid-seventies, these games were the ancestors of diverse entertainment. Ethan Gilsdorf writes in the Boston Globe:
But since the 1980s, so-called fantasy escapist pursuits have gone mainstream. Dungeons & Dragons inspired blockbuster fantasy movies and J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, and boosted interest in Renaissance fairs and Tolkien. Adults now play Xbox and PlayStation as much as kids. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPGs, like World of Warcraft and Second Life, have entranced tens of millions worldwide. Even Dungeons & Dragons has become an online game.

Then he goes on:
Yet few have paused to consider the nature of the fascination, or its effects. Exhausted by our troubles, America seems nostalgic for a lost age. Wouldn't the world be better if we were ruled by benevolent kings and had real encounters with magic? If alchemy and mystery, not politics or media, ruled the lands? If a boy wizard or hobbit thief could wield real power?

Gilsdorf need not be worried: we already are ruled by a king (albeit not benevolent) using alchemy and mystery. After vetoing Congress's law that would have restricted the CIA to the tactics in the Army field manual on interrogations, Bush once again claimed that the lack of terrorist attacks in the U.S. was "not a matter of chance." (See Bush's radio address at the White House web site.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama's foreign policy principles

Barack Obama is a great candidate for president, most of all because of his foreign policy principles.

Yeah, there's a lots of analysis by pundits (see Washington Post analysis by Karen DeYoung) which declares that his policies are not much different from the "mainstream". But this is missing the forest for the trees.

Obama has a completely different world view compared to anyone else in the Washington beltway, and refreshingly so. Although he has in his "candidate cabinet" a few old-timers, he listens most of all to Samantha Power.

Samantha Power was until 2005 a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she taught Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (ISP-221). Before that she was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. But after Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, she joined his team and has been stumping for him publicly and advising him privately ever since. The principles that Obama talks about are justice, human rights, and multilateralism, and they are ones that Obama and Power share.

Her interview in Salon from a couple of weeks ago is most instructive.

The line that gets Boston Brahmin most is on what we need to do about foreign policy:
[we] have to figure out a way to inject concern for human beings into our foreign policy.