Archive for the ‘ International ’ Category

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

us_rabin_arafat_handshake

Rabin and Arafat famously shake hands after signing the Oslo Agreement, September 13, 2993.

When he faced criticism for signing a peace treaty with the Yassir Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, “You don’t make peace with your friends, only with your enemies.”

Right. But do you make peace with people who call you names? Do you make peace with those who disrespect the people you lead? Do you make peace with those who hate your nation and everything that it stands for? Who boast that they will “bury” you?

Rabin and Arafat had a long history of discord, yet the two worked together on the accord, which for all intents and purposes, seems to have failed. Why? Because while the handshake and treaty were symbolic, they could not change the fact that the ideologies of the two nations/nation states conflict. Can you make peace with someone who does not believe you should exist? Can you befriend someone whose religion is in direct opposition to your own?

Jake Barnes’ last line in The Sun Also Rises comes to mind, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

I recalled this historic meeting of the hands after the one this week between President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.

President Obama and Venezualan President Hugo Chavez

President Obama infamously shakes the hand of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez April 17, 2009

Chavez can be characterized as an enemy of the United States. For evidence, look no further than his prompting of Venezualean crowds to chant “Death to America!” Or how about this rant he gave at the World Forum 2006, where he shouted “socialism or death!” and said of the USA, “It is the most perverse empire in history: It talks about freedom while invading and destroying other nations …This century we will bury the US empire.”

And lastly, just before their chummy meeting, Chavez resorts to name calling when Obama claimed he generates terrorism and holds Latin America back. “He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism,” Chavez said. “The least I can say is that he’s a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality.”

If I go to a party, and someone is there who wants me, my nation, and its economic system dead,and who has called me a name and suggested that I need to be better schooled, a hearty handshake and ear-to-ear grin are the last things I give them. The evil eye, daggers, a scowl or two from across the room would be on my agenda.

All conspiracies and controversies aside, President Obama seems to be playing nice. He’s the bigger guy, able to be cordial, turning the other cheek. Let their be peace on Earth and let it begin with Obama. Why can’t we be friends?

What purpose would a scowl and vitriol serve anyway? However, the enthusiastic handshake and smiles sends a message to the rest of the world, and to US citizens, that our president will stand by and let the bully beat his chest and make a laughing stock of the mother country–this is not unlike letting the boastful guy in the bar get away with slamming you with a litany of “Yo Mamma” jokes…Who let’s someone diss their mother?

Just as the Israelis and Palestinians cannot achieve peace, the USA cannot be “friends” with Venezuala until our ideologies are in line. And that should not mean that we shift our democratic and capitalist ideals to ally with their dictatorial socialist mindset.

The (Blue) Eyes Have It

Is the answer to our economic woes, as The Who famously put it, Behind Blue Eyes?
As we slog through this economy, we search to simplify the causes, to understand why and how we got into this mess. And the answers are not quick in coming, nor easy to articulate.

Along comes Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with the simple truth we have been seeking. In a press conference yesterday, he attributed the global financial crisis to people who are “white” and “blue-eyed.”

This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by the irrational behaviour of people who were white and blue-eyed, who before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, but now have demonstrated they know nothing about economics,” he said. Hmm.

Lula de Silva is crying foul that developing nations suffer alongside the wealthier countries. “…The fact is that once again we find that most of the poor who have not even participated in globalization have been the first victims of the crisis,” he said.

First of all, let’s examine Brazil’s role in the global market. According to the CIA World Factbook, Brazil is the ninth-largest economy in the world, with a 5.2% “real” growth rate in 2008, due mostly to the “record trade surpluses” on exports such as coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus; beef. Though the USA’s GDP is nearly seven times that of Brazil’s, our GDP growth for 2008 was but 1.4% in 2008. Brazil has most certainly participated in and benefited from globalization. If you want to share in the globalization of the profits, el presidente, you have to be ready to share in the globalization of the losses. Don’t come to the party, then leave when it’s time to clean up.

Second, let’s look at Lula de Silva’s word choices. Suppose President Obama were to blame Brazilians for some aspect of this crisis, perhaps owed to the trade imbalance, by describing them according to their skin and eye-color. He, and the nation he represents, would be called Racist. Lula de Silva apparently gets a pass. the story didn’t even make the national news, nor did it appear on CNN’s feature links this weekend.

He could have lay blame on the “wealthy,” on the “powerful,” on the “Consuming Americans,” on the “greedy,” on the “CEOS,” on the “bankers,”…but instead, he ridiculously points his finger at people based on race and eye color.

Hello, China?

Consider this Chinese Proverb attributed to Mencius, a follower of Confucius: Mencius tells a story to King Hui about a band of soldiers who during a fierce battle, threw down their weapons and retreated. Some of the soldiers retreated 50 paces; others ran 100 paces. Those retreating 50 paces laughed at those who retreated twice as far, calling them cowards for running further than they from the battlefield.

Mencius shares his lesson: “Even if one does not retreat 100 paces, it is retreating nevertheless.”
This is the classic “Pot calling the Kettle Black” proverb, famously treated on an episode of Friends with Phoebe pretending to hold a phone to her ear, saying “Hello, Pot? This is the Kettle; You’re black.”

Among today’s Headlines: China says US Ship Violates International Law.
I always look to China as the world’s policeman for international law violations. It takes one to know one?

While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)/and People’s Republic of China (PRC) has ratified the vast majority of international human rights treaties, the country continues to violate the rights of those in Tibet, not to mention its own people.

Ironically, just today the Dalai Lama gives a speech announcing that Tibetans live in “constant fear” of the Chinese regime that has killed thousands and oppressed religious freedoms. In their homeland, the Chinese imprison and silence dissent, and persecute those who practice alternative religions, such as Falun Gong.
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The US sails into Chinese waters and they cry ” International incident.” The United States is arguably Communist China’s closest ally, next to Russia. Our government turns the other cheek and dismisses the fact that the country is very much Communist in ideology, and permits a gaping trade imbalance that
is, in part, to blame for our current ecomonic woes. Without China’s cheap labor and without Clinton’s sign-off on NAFTA, the United States might have remained a manufacturing superpower.

Further, the Chinese are furiously buying up our debt, holding a large chunk of the American Pie. Of course their generosity is self-serving–their cash buys time and hope that the US consumer will start buying their goods again.

Hello, China? Leave the kettle alone.