In the flurry of lame-duck victories for President Obama and
the Democrats, the ratification of the START Treaty probably tells the most important
story about the coming two years. The GOP opponents of approving START insisted
there wasn't enough time, though the first START in 1992 and its successor in 2003
both passed in a week or less on the Senate floor. There was ample time. And with
13 Republican senators joining the Democrats to ratify the arms-control agreement — four more than the necessary nine to reach a required 67 votes — there was ample
support as well.
Standing ovation for Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of
the Foreign Relations Committee, for outstanding leadership on and stewardship of
the START Treaty. Standing ovation for Sen. Dick Lugar, Republican of Indiana and
ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, and for the 13 Republican
senators who voted to ratify START.
I have seen many senators come and go, and John Kerry is one of the finest I have
ever known. His prodigious work on the START Treaty was a textbook case of what
a senator and committee chairman can do, in the best tradition of the Senate.
When President Reagan was pursuing his historic arms-control agreements with
the Soviets, some of the most right-wing elements in the Republican Party
were comparing Reagan to Neville Chamberlain appeasing Adolf Hitler.
Now their ideological heirs on the right-wing fringe are opposing the START
Treaty with a similar vengeance. When I wrote a column in this paper titled
"Reagan yes, START yes" it sufficiently worried the Heritage Foundation that
they wrote a reply, which I rebutted on this site.
The fact is, Reagan really did have to combat the most right-wing fringe in
his day. The START Treaty really is supported by a long and comprehensive
list of military commanders from the U.S. and throughout the democratic alliance.
Christmas is coming. But apparently the Senate Republicans didn’t get the memo.
Despite getting everything they wanted by securing $800 billion in tax cuts for
the richest 1.5 percent of Americans when they should have received a sock full
o’coal for holding hostage tax cuts for every American to secure their deal,
the Republicans are still in a very grumpy and non-Christmassy mood.
Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D-N.M.) latest mission to North Korea says something about the strategic direction of President Obama’s foreign policy regarding his two most biggest challenges: North Korea and Iran. Multilateralism, yes, but the big problems of the day can only be resolved by a hard-headed direct conversation. Not war and not appeasement.
How does Pyongyang claim to deserve respect when it won’t even begin to respect
parties in the talks? If it wants to be taken seriously, then that means North Korea
should begin taking seriously its own role and responsibility in these negotiations,
not its shoot-ready-aim policies of the past.
Think of the precedent such behavior potentially establishes. If we succumb to the
North’s demands, then what do we do with the Taliban? Iran? Let them attack anything
and everyone because we don’t “respect” their right to negotiate better deals for
their people, then we sheepishly come to the bargaining table? Such logic is rooted
in naïve foreign relations.
Was it only two months ago that President Obama launched Middle East peace
talks to create a Palestinian state, at a White House ceremony in the presence
of the president of Egypt and the king of Jordan?
I was prepared to give the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president
the benefit of the doubt, given the official fanfare around the resumption of
direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in nearly
two years. The fact that the wily Sen. George Mitchell, with his previous
experience in the Middle East as well as leading the Northern Ireland talks,
was shepherding the process gave more grounds for comfort.
The WSJ’s James Taranto and blogger Robert Stacy McCain today published remarks in context from the legendary White House journalist Helen Thomas, who said Thursday: “Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is.”
Thomas was accused of anti-Semetism in June when a rabbi asked her if she had any comments on Isreal. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she said. The Israelis should go home, said Thomas. When asked where home is, she replied, “Germany, Poland and America, and everywhere else.”
WikiLeaks turned into whacky leaks as more diplomatic cables were disclosed containing unflattering portrayals of foreign officials. One leader is “feckless,” another “thin-skinned.” What has the attorney general so upset that he is conducting an investigation into possible law violations? Which laws? And why is much of the media—usually pushing for openness—so abashed?
The disclosures to date seem to portray the past and present administrations as genuinely at the work of foreign affairs — dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat and the closing of Guantánamo, along with wheeling and dealing with parochial matters. Shouldn’t the public know that Korea is selling missiles to Iran? And that, in Afghanistan, “bribery, extortion, and embezzlement are the norm”?
Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, is riding high
on the success of his country’s bid for the 2018 soccer World Cup.
He has been scornful, however of the description by the U.S.
cables of his country as a “virtual mafia state” — something that every Russian
knows from personal experience. His response? To shoot the messenger. Putin, on
CNN’s "Larry King Live," and his spokesman,
Dmitri Peskov, on the BBC, both cast doubt over the authenticity of the cables.