Friday, January 14, 2011

Hillary Versus The World

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
Henry Kissenger
"The truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let’s listen to each other more carefully; but what we’ll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. " - Paul Krugman

Every once in awhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will get tired or frustrated during a tour of foreign countries, and give a speech, not of what people want to hear, but what they need to hear. Such was the case with Hillary giving a speech in Qatar yesterday to the heads of many Middle Eastern countries: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a scalding critique of Arab leaders here on Thursday, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” of unrest and extremism unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies.

Speaking at a conference in this gleaming Persian Gulf emirate, Mrs. Clinton recited a familiar litany of ills: corruption, repression and a lack of rights for women and religious minorities. But her remarks were striking for their vehemence, and they suggested a frustration that the Obama administration’s message to the Arab world had not gotten through.

“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” she said to a stone-faced audience of foreign ministers, businesspeople and rights groups. “The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.” Of course, just about every country could use a good liberalizing of their political systems and cleaning up their economies, including Russia, China, and the US...

The North African state of Tunisia responded with local uprisings and protests against its government, with the result that its leader, another one who has ruled as a dictator for over twenty years, left the country for the South of France, and the current prime minister declaring that he was in charge: "The apparent fall of Mr. Ben Ali, whose authoritarian government ruled for more than two decades, would mark the first time that widespread demonstrations had overthrown an Arab leader...Tunisia is far different from most of its neighboring Arab countries. There is little Islamist fervor in the country. It has a large middle class, and under Mr. Ben Ali, it has invested heavily in education. Not only are women not required to cover their heads, they enjoy a spectrum of civil rights, including free contraception, that is well beyond that in most countries in the region.

The educational investment has been a mixed blessing for the government, however, producing a generation of college educated young people who face bleak job prospects in Tunisia’s corruption-clogged economy.

The anti-government protests began a month ago when a college-educated street vendor burned himself to death in protest of his dismal prospects.

But the mounting protests quickly evolved from demands for more jobs to demands for political reforms, focusing mainly on the perceived corruption of the government and the self-enrichment of the ruling family."

Back in Qatar at the conference: "Mrs. Clinton saved her most scathing remarks for corruption, which she said was corroding Arab economies and making life impossible for foreigners who ran businesses in Arab countries.

“Trying to get a permit,” she said, “you have to pass money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you have to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you have to pay people off. Trying to export your goods, you have to pay people off. So by the time you pay everybody off, it’s not a very profitable venture.”

Even when Mrs. Clinton was pressed on why the Obama administration tolerated Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank — an issue that rankles throughout the Arab world and has contributed to a breakdown of the Middle East peace process — she pushed back.

The United States, she said, gazing pointedly around the room, fails to get a lot of countries to do what it wants. And she said that Americans bore a disproportionate burden of settling the world’s conflicts.

Mrs. Clinton also noted that the United States was the top financial donor to the Palestinian Authority — an implicit rebuke of Arab states, which champion the Palestinian cause but, in the view of critics, do too little to support its efforts to build institutions on the West Bank."

Whew. Watch out Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, Hillary is on a roll. It reminded me of when Barack Obama took on the entire Republican House members in debate an cleaned the floor with them. Unfortunately, they resented losing and became more stubborn and intractable, which is what will happen with the Middle Eastern leaders, minus one... What seems to be reaching critical mass, is citizen's resentment of so-called royal families taking all of the money that's being made, while everyone else lives in poverty and no way out. Couple with the fact that more of the population is becoming college educated and there aren't any jobs for them, and the rising use of the Internet, which shows the relative wealth of the rest of the world with a double-click... If these governments cannot provide a place for their young, upcoming, educated class, it also leaves the uneducated feeling even more left out and alienated. Groups like al Qaeda offer that sense of belonging to one class, while trying to manipulate the poor to become suicide bombers...

Some good news is that Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri thinks he can form another government after Hezbollah pulled out of its agreement. Hezbollah is trying to protect its reputation and doesn't want anyone to know that they were involved in assassinating Rafik's father a few years ago. To them, having the government fall apart and civil war break out is much better than turning over the few that were involved in the assassination to the UN... This is what happens when thugs and pussies try to go legit, they are so used to bullying to get their way, telling Saad to discredit the UN's investigation into his own father's death. If he can pull off creating a government without Hezbollah, it's like they have shot themselves in the foot trying to prove a point. I don't think anyone other than a fervent supporter is going to believe them... Next stop, Cairo...

In the light that our own would-be assassin Jared Loughner was finally stopped by a person hitting him with a folding chair; maybe we should issue everyone in the US a folding chair instead of a gun.

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