Good News For A Change

The front page story of the Chicago Tribune (and, surprisingly, only the Chicago Tribune) contains some mixed news from Iraq. Moqtada Sadr, the spirtual leader of one of Iraq's most troublesome private militias, has pledged not to attack US troops patrolling his strongholds.

The upside: Sadr's promise amounts to an ad hoc ceasefire that will provide the opportunity for American and Iraqi forces to develop the security apparatus necessary to end the violence in Baghdad. The ultimate solution to violence in Iraq is the final disarmamenet of all private militias, and a temporary ceasefire provides the "space" for the political compromise necessary to ensure that such an agreement can occur. The militias will only disarm when they trust that their religious enemies will not take up arms, and this development is a positive step in that direction.

On the other hand, Sadr's move is strategic. Regardless of whatever impression the New York times gives you, Sadr loses badly when he fights American forces. If his forces lay low long enough, the violence will abate. The American forces will have reason to pull out, and after we're gone, Sadr can resume his bloody rise to power.

Even still, a break in the violence in Baghdad is good news to the ears of bloggers here at the Hawkeye Republican. Had the President followed the wise men of Washington and begun plans for a drawn-down/redeployment/retreat from Baghdad in 4-6 months, it is likely that Sadr's militia would be arming itself instead at this point.



A Good First Step, But...

Historic news from the Middle East that you probably won't read in the paper: Israel appoints a Muslim Arab to its cabinet. The article doesn't specify what Galeb Magadla will actually do in government, but it certainly represents a positive development in regional relations. He would serve as a useful envoy to the broken Palestinian and Lebanese governments and a capable representative to more established, Israel-friendly Arab states like Egypt and Jordan.

One particularly promising scenario involves using him to broker peace between Israel and Syria (article available on The Economist, subscription required). Apparently Syria has made quiet diplomatic overtures to Israel, only to be rebuffed by Israel's prime minister Ehud Ohlmert for fear of upsetting the Americans. Syria has done terrible things in Iraq, but even the faint hope of peace between Syria and Israel is a great development for the war-torn region. President Bush should not waste this opportunity to help a dependable ally and create a new proxy alliance with a strategic Muslim Arab state.

Unfortunately, this action does not address the root problem of violence in the Middle East. Contrary to Jimmy Carter's fuzzy thinking, Israel is not the impediment to peace and freedom in the Middle East. The problems are poor governance and extremism. The government in Palestine cannot function, and therefore cannot be trusted to deliver on any promises made with the Israelis. It isn't Lebanon's fault their country does not function; blame Hezbollah and their cheerleaders in Iran for last summer's catastrophe. Iraq will someday function, provided America does not lose its courage in the coming storm of casaulties (which will increase substantially thanks to this change in strategy). Where countries do not work properly, terrorists reign. Where terrorists reign, entire groups of people can suffer greatly.

Isreael is far from perfect, but it is not to blame for the suffering in the Middle East.



Honor To Whom Honor Is Owed

In 26 words, the new Secretary General of the UN has restored my faith in humanity (or, at least, in its international organizations):

"The Secretary-General will call for an urgent, system wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the U.N. funds and programs."

Henceforth, friends and fellows internationalists, January 22nd shall forever be known as the day that I, your humble blogger, first felt a warm feeling in my core when the acronym "UN" and the word "reform" were used in the same sentence.

While we're in the spirit of Romans 13 (see the title), I'd also like to congratulate...myself for the role I played in bringing this scandal to light. Had it not been for the courageous stance I took in my last blogger post, would the world have known the truth about the alleged misdeeds of the UN Development Program in North Korea?

Had it not been for the hard-nosed, tireless reporting done by the Hawkeye Republican, would the world have any reason to suspect the UN of providing material and moral support to the worst dictators and most repressive regimes?

Had it not been for the decisive action taken by your humble (keep the laughter to a minimum) blogger, would the great halls of power at Turtle Bay ever be held to account?

Oh, and maybe the Wall Street Journal helped too.



An Optional Alliance

The United Nations is at it again. After losing $100 billion (give or take) to Saddam Hussein, the UN's Development Program is currently facing tough questions from the United States about its dealings in North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story in a Friday editorial, and you can read the official inquiry that prompted the editorial here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

As the editorial makes clear, there is no evidence that any UNDP officials were bribed. But these new allegations provide weight to the thesis that the United Nations is unreliable because it lacks accountability and institutional oversight. The newly-installed Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, should order the UNDP to cooperate fully with American investigators and, if necessary, end UNDP activities in North Korea.

There are bigger issues at stake than the competency of the UN's humanitarian arm. What if the cash that the UN handed the North Korean government (yes, you read that right) was used in his pursuit of nuclear weapons?

Ultimately, if the UN continues funding the terrifying ambitions of American's greatest enemies, American policy elites should understand that they have other diplomatic options.



What A Moron

It's good to see that some newly elected Democrats are quickly adjusting to the culture of Washington DC. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern (whereabouts of B'gosh unknown), Wisconsin Rep.-elect Steve Kagen stuck it the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and the President's political advisor at a White House reception in November.

Kagen reportedly told Karl Rove he kicked his *** (three guesses), thanked Cheney and Bush for campaigning against him, and then, to top off the night, called Laura Bush "Barbara" because he "learned on the campaign that the meanest thing you can say to another gentlemen is, ‘he’s a fine fellow,’ and you then refer to his spouse by a different name.”

Oh boy. This could take awhile.

1. Maybe it's just me, but insulting the President's wife does not seem like the most appropriate way to introduce yourself to the sitting President of the United States. Way to go, Michael Moore.

2. Why stop with Laura Bush? Surely the President's secretary, dog, and paperboy also deserved a good licking or two for their role in shaping the President's policies.

3. Rove does a great job keeping his dignity with his response ("Congratulations") to Kagen's jack*** remark (“You’re in the White House and you think your safe, huh? You recognize me? My name’s Dr. Multimillionaire and I kicked your ***.").

4. A quote from President Kennedy's famous 1961 Inaugural Address supplies the answer to the question Kagen asked of Cheney and the high cost of the war in Iraq, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Bush and Cheney, unlike most Democrats, are the true heirs of the foreign policy legacy left by Democratics like Kennedy.

5. When pressed, Kagen retreats from most of his story and refuses to discuss it further. Now there's a real Washington insider, insult Laura Bush, brag about it to your friends, and then forget the whole episode took place.

In the end, Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rove come out looking statesmen, and Kagen comes out looking like the kind of sleaze we tried to clean out of Washington this past election. It's a shame.

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