28 July 2008 - Obama's Earmark Odyssey
Guide to the Perplexed
Reflections on human rights and peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and politics beyond
28 July 2008
28 July 2008 - The brave blockade runners
"Now, therefore, I...have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports.... For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize, as may be deemed advisable."
No, the above is not the military order from the Israel Defence Force authorizing a blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
It is the order given by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to blockade the Confederate states after the slave states seceded and began the Civil War.
The European trading partners of the slave states then set about building ships that could run the blockade in order to keep the Confederacy alive.
Today, a handful of Europeans are determined to run through Israeli defenses around Gaza to "break the siege."
Of course, the cordon around Gaza could be shattered by Hamas itself, if it simply accepted Israel's right to exist, stopped terror attacks against Israeli citizens and so on.
But our activists are having none of that--nor, apparently, do they care about the whereabouts or well-being of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whose capture and captivity are both in violation of international law.
Just like the European blockade runners of yesteryear, who were willing to overlook the moral sin of slavery in order to aid America's enemies, these solidarity pirates are willing to damage the cause of peace in an attempt to embarrass Israel.
Israel is reportedly mulling its options. Attacking the vessel would not look good. On the other hand, allowing it to reach Gaza--while denying the pirates their PR victory--would encourage similar efforts and eventually force a confrontation anyway.
The best option may be to follow old Abe's advice--warn, then capture. Don't arrest the activists, unless they use violence - but let them find their own way home, sans boat.
24 July 2008
25 July 2008 - European Obamamania explained?
Arriving in Europe ahead of Obama World Tour 2008, I expected a wave of foreign Obamamania. At the Amsterdam airport shops, however, the most prominent biography was that of Boris Johnson, the mop-headed, American-born Tory who recently ousted “Red Ken” Livingstone as mayor of London. Dreams Of My Father and The Audacity of Hope, ubiquitous in U.S. bookstores, were nowhere to be seen.
In the streets of Prague on Saturday afternoon, a sudden roar echoed through the cobblestone canyons--a rally of hundreds of Corvettes, driven by hobbyists from all across Europe, who gunned the engines and waved to the delighted crowd. The onlookers took a sort of guilty pleasure in the parade: the Corvettes look slower and heavier than European roadsters, but they're louder and a heck of a lot more fun.
Later, at a café, we overheard a conversation among three young Austrians. They were debating German Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to discourage Obama from speaking at the Brandenburg Gate. Was it racist? one asked. Well, what if Bush had campaigned there? Can you imagine the protests? another answered. At the next table, American tourists, oblivious, complained about the weak dollar.
We Americans are so consumed by self-doubt that we're in danger of forgetting our greatest strengths. Opinion polls tell us the world prefers Obama, but we have failed to understand why Europeans in particular seem to like him. We're told that Europe is so fed up with Bush that it wants a more pliant U.S. leader, the kind of man who is ashamed of his country's ignorance of foreign languages (if not his own).
But the real reason Europeans like Obama may be the opposite. He is bold, brash, and arrogant--just the way Europeans like us, though they may not always admit it. Only in America could someone with so little experience aspire to the highest office, and come this close to winning. Europeans don't like Obama’s policies on trade and Iran, and they've let us know it. But they do like Obama's all-American swagger.
It's too bad Obama doesn't seem to understand this. He's convinced himself--to borrow from Bush père--that the world wants a "kinder, gentler" America. But power and pride--and the freedom that makes them possible--are what the world celebrates about America. The world likes us best when we dream big and win big. We need a president who knows how to win--without feeling guilty about it.
24 July 2008 - Obama staying in Presidential Suite
I'm traveling in Europe at the moment, and this morning German television took viewers on a tour of Obama's hotel suite. Obama has chosen Berlin's luxurious Hotel Adlon, and will be staying in the Presidential suite. The cost, according to the hotel's website, is roughly $20,000 per night (I'm sure Obama's donors will be glad to hear that). The TV reporter made sure to point out that George W. Bush stays in the same suite when he is in Berlin - another example of Obama acting the part before being cast in the role by voters.
It's amazing that Obama has kept his distance from reporters on this trip, and yet will emerge later today to address thousands of cheering Germans in Berlin. He is unavailable, except to the adoring masses. Does this not strike anyone else as a strange thing to do, especially given some rather unfortunate episodes in German history? Will Americans be impressed by Obama's overseas popularity, or will the scenes from Berlin evoke memories of an earlier cult of personality?