Monday, January 31, 2005

Back to the Cold War?

Mark Steyn over at the Chicago Sun-Times writes about the elections in Iraq:
"The 'realpolitik' types spent so long worshipping at the altar of stability they were unable to see it was a cult for psychos. The geopolitical scene is never stable, it's always dynamic. If the Western world decides in 2005 that it can 'contain' President Sy Kottik of Wackistan indefinitely, that doesn't mean the relationship between the two parties is set in aspic. Wackistan has a higher birth rate than the West, so after 40 years of 'stability' there are a lot more Wackistanis and a lot fewer Frenchmen. And Wackistan has immense oil reserves, and President Kottik has used the wealth of those oil reserves to fund radical schools and mosques in hitherto moderate parts of the Muslim world."
He'e got a good point here. The problem is that many of the politicans we have in office today are stuck in the cold war mentality. I believe that Tom Friedman of the NYT discussed this in he book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. While I hardly ever agree with him on policy, he is right that a new system of globalization is now in place. Bill Clinton was a new Democrat who understood that realpolitik wouldn't work anymore, but it seems the democrats have gone back to their 1930's mentality (with 1960's/70's foreign policy of "containment").

Is Dubya TOO Successful?

I couldn’t believe it. George Herbert Bush lost to Bill Clinton, a consummate 68’er (follow this for to Newsisyphus for a post with an explanation of a 68'erl), not because he was a bad President, but because he was a good one. The Russian bear had been skinned and sent to Reagan’s California ranch, where, I assumed, a black lab curled up on it at his master’s feet. The Berlin Wall was not breached, but blasted into paper weights so ubiquitous that thousands of East German entrepreneurs first lesson in capitalism was that sometimes it sucked. So why vote for this Cold Warrior? I told my friend Clinton was a draft dodger, while Bush was a war hero, and her reply summed up the election:

“So what?”

Well, yeah. So what? It was the economy, stupid. You don’t vote for a man to say “Well done.” Well, I did, but most people don’t. Watching Bush Sr. try to defend his record, on the economy, on AIDS, and, well, on the fact that he was old, was painful. What could he say? That he and Reagan won the cold war? Saying that only emphasized that he was obsolete. I would have loved to hear him say “Now that we’ve defeated the evil empire I will turn my attention to the economy,” if only because it would have shown just how absurd the 1992 election was.

Is it too early to declare victory in the War on Terror? Yep. Is it too late to declare that The War on Terror will NOT decide Election, 2008? Nope. And Bush will have his tax cuts. And Bush will, most likely, have reformed Social Security. And Bush will, most likely, have stacked the Supreme Court with judges willing to interpret the Constitution, rather than contend that it is a sort of master rough draft, to be rewritten according to the fashion of the day. And Bush will, most likely, have enacted some Tort Reform.

And Republicans will run on… what?
No, seriously, I’m asking.

Al Jazeera Going Private?

The Al Jazeera website reports,

The Qatari government is considering plans to privatize the Al Jazeera Satellite television network, a spokesman said.

The Al Jazeera spokesman, Jihad Ballout, said that the TV station has been discussing privatization for the past 15 months.

He added that a consultancy company is conducting a feasibility study for privatizing Al Jazeera.

The station, often criticized by the United States for its coverage of the Iraq war, has attracted the attention of the Arab world since it was launched in 1996.

Although U.S. officials frequently appear on the TV station to reach its huge audience, they claim that Al Jazeera’s coverage of Middle East issues is politically inflammatory.

In a report published on Sunday, The New York Times quoted unidentified senior Qatari officials as saying that pressures from U.S. officials forced the Qatari government, which bankrolls Al Jazeera, to speed up the privatization plan.

Ballout said that he heard of such reports but has no further details. He also said that he doesn’t know of any attempts to intervene with the station’s independence, adding that Qatar has always planned to privatize Al Jazeera.

The salient question, of course, is how will this affect the quality of Al Jazeera's reporting. Until now, the media company has not deviated from the anti-Western rhetoric espoused by so many Arab countries; as a mouth-piece of the Qatari government, this is to be expected. Were the company to be privatized - and run by a board of directors - would Al Jazeera adopt a more enlightened, moderate stance, or would it simply go the way of many (privately owned) Arab newspapers, making use of its media position to launch verbal attacks on the West from a (privately owned) soapbox?

Of course, it is too early to see the future of Al Jazeera journalism - the privatization hasn't even happened yet - but talk of such an occurrence does give cause to wonder.