George Handlery about the week that was. The North Korea, Somalia and USA League: The problems of Americans abroad. Confronting bullies: the right way and the wrong way. Military modernization in Russia. Venezuela: the rule, the law and Chavez. Break the law and become successful.
1. File this under “How to React to Hostiles”. (Apply the insights to North Korea’s coming missile test and Iran’s Nuclear project.) This is a contribution of a reader who must remain anonymous. (This, in itself, tells much about a lot.) The following conversation on a frequency reserved for (commercial aircraft?) emergencies was overheard on a Europe-Dubai flight.
Iranian Air Defense: Unknown Aircraft, you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.
Aircraft: This is a Unites States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.
Air Defense: You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft.
Aircraft: This is a US Marine Corps FA-18 fighter. Send ’em up. I’ll wait.
Air Defense: … (Total silence follows.)
The writer hopes that, to stay, the patient pilot flew a circle before continuing his mission.
2. This is an unpleasant and therefore a hard-to-learn lesson regarding the approach to “hostiles”. Palliative softness extended to international bullies fails to bring the desired result. In the case of Iran, the US – ignoring its grievance – has extended a hand. The hope had been that, the initiative, with its one-sidedness and emphasized “unusual respect” will be well received by the Mullahs. It presented the Mullahs with a give-away victory, an so it could be expected to convince God’s warriors of America’s good intentions. Here an assumption came into play. It was that, evaluating the gesture, a rational Iran, would take the opportunity to overcome some of its problems. What Obama’s well publicized offer of a peace pipe did was to suggest to Tehran that the President acts out of weakness. In this case, by refusing to go along, greater concessions were to be expected. Furthermore, to the extent that not contemptible weakness made Washington to walk the extra mile, its offer had to harbor sinister objectives. Viewed by the prejudice of Mullah-Weltanschauung, this made sense. The Islamist view of the world, like that of other totalitarians, assumes that any advantage to others implies a loss to the defenders of the faith. Within this frame of reference, all negotiations are about surrender. Our ignored experience from the past century confirms this. The unsurprising conclusion: arguments, facts, symbolic gestures, even threats and everything that is covered by “diplomacy”, will not dissuade those who rule Iran. The convictions that God is on their side will stiffen their resolve.
For Washington, there is a potential benefit wrapped in the slap received for its exhibition of good will. The rejection creates additional proof that diplomacy has failed. It crashed into a barrier erected by bigoted intransigence that blocked the road.
3. Russia is enlarging and modernizing her military. In itself, there would be no compelling reason to object. However, the context provided to justify the measure, while creating domestic support, should create concern abroad. The fact is hardly hidden that, without cause, the Kremlin still sees the West as its enemy (and by extension in the modern world). This is only justified if the disobedient “ingratitude” of once occupied areas is regarded as an expression of “hostility” by proxies. Oddly, the West sees in Russia a coveted ally. While the West prefers not to take notice of hostile actions directed at it, as far as advanced countries care to be aware of a danger, the foe is radical Islam. Ultimately, Islamism threatens Russia at least as much as it endangers anyone else. Moscow prefers to ignore this threat as it concentrates on the “West” because it blocks the restoration of her lost empire.
4. Theory and practice: the modus operandi of dictatorship. Federal Venezuela’s constitution gives State governors rights and competences. Chavez’ basic law allocates full power to the President. These include the authority to ignore the constitutionally protected rights of recalcitrant governors. (Chavez recently advised them to seek the protection of the US Navy.) Not much has changed since Soviet times. The Empire’s constitutions gave more extensive rights than those on the books in the West. Except for one minor thing. Legally the Party could not be challenged and those making use of their rights were “sent away”. For the benefit of the easily confused: Those sent away were not freighted out into exile in the capitalist poor house. This brings a recall. A famous Nazi marching song -a very good one at that- praised German Freedom. True, it called it “German freedom” and obviously, whoever had the power to determine what “German” was, could also set the limits of liberty.
5. For years, the ether resonated with complaints about the mistreatment of the innocents in Gitmo. Now we have an American President who hopes to solve his PR problem – but not his security problem – by letting most detainees go. The result is not devoid of irony. Understandably, the Americans do not want to accept the released, as their innocence is questionable from their point of view. Innocence consists of not having enough evidence that, while not compromising national security will hold up in an American court. Keep in mind that, “not convicted” does not mean “innocent”. Globally, the proof of innocence was based on the conviction that the Americans are guilty of “everything”. Therefore, their captives had to their jailer’s opposite. Now we learn that, (surprise!) the countries of origin do not want their brethren back unless locally customary action can be taken against them. This still leaves morally engaged Europe as a place of refuge. Here practical doubts regarding earlier theoretical assertions begin to emerge. Compared to the original insistence to “liberate” them, the willingness to receive now the victims of American bestiality is niggardly. Serious security concerns, some openly admitted, most of them secretly harbored, have arisen. Seldom have so many “innocents” been feared to such an extent by so many moralists.
6. Terror’s rule is firm when the violated fear to admit that they are the victims of oppression. The oppressors are fully in the saddle when their victims can be made to demonstrate their cheerful support for their tyrants.
7. Another telltale sign of a society being mired in trouble. Where people are convinced that, one can only succeed by violating the laws and by breaking unwritten rules, there the ladder that leads out of the pit of misery has been removed.
8. Nicaragua’s radical ex-Churchman, Miguel d’Escoto, has become the President of the UN’s General Assembly. He has new truths to teach. Ahmadinedjad has been “demonized”. He “loves Israel”. The ICC is racist: the third African has been indicted by it. (If terror in Africa would be ignored, the charge would be that African suffering counts for less than White pain..) Regarding Iran, we are told, “Words, as such, do not kill”. (Well, being only programmatic expressions of intent, words do not kill immediately.) Let us wait for the final evidence of actions.
9. Most readers are probably not aware of this. American citizens that are permanent residents abroad, even if their income is from non-US entities, have an IRS-made problem. The policy provokes negative adjectives. Along with Somalia, North Korea and the Philippines, America is the only country that taxes such citizens’ (and double citizens plus “US Persons’”) global income. Regardless of double taxation agreements between the country of residence and the US, such persons can wind up paying twice. They also have to pay for the expensive and complicated tax filing that must be handled by local specialists. As someone in the know has told the writer, some years ago there were hardly any cases of people renouncing their US citizenship. Today there is a waiting list to see the Consuls handling renunciations. Those doing what their financial needs demand of them – or the ones outraged by the unfairness of their treatment – must not reveal that they act to reduce their tax-outlays. Those who return their passports may not admit their real motive. If they do, they are liable to pay for another ten years. (In case payment is refused, they are, for ever, barred from entering the US.) The burden created by taxing those living and earning abroad is especially heavy in the case of high earners and therefore, the qualified. An ignored reverse brain drain is caused by what is essentially a tax on the privilege of citizenship. The consequence is against the US’ national interest.