International Affairs

International Affairs

Battle in Bangkok!

Today the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has taken over the government office at the Don Mueang airport. There they clashed with the pro-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). The PAD also crowded armed forces headquarters on Chaeng Wattana Road in order to block a Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place there tomorrow.

The citywide protest's goal is to overthrow the People’s Power Party government, which won the election in December 2007. The PPP was the Thai Rak Thai party before Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was removed. The TRT party was extremely popular because of its populist initiatives. The elite felt threatened and removed Thaksin in 2006 with a military coup. Thaksin was later charged with corruption and is now avoiding prosecution outside the country.

A Nobel Prize for Kurt Cobain

I was a little disappointed to read the other day that an American would likely not get the Nobel Prize for Literature this year.

"Europe is still the center of the literary world," not the United States, said Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize. He suggested that American writers were "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture."

He added: "The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."

Too bad. I thought Neil Young was sure to get it this time. Dang. Not even on the list.

Binge Viewing Revelation: Democrats Can Be Patriots, Too

Depending on their location, Americans living overseas can miss out on some important things: autumn leaves, snowflakes, robins, NPR, Tupperware.

Oh, wait, that's my wife's list. Here's mine: Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Wal-Mart, Southern pork barbecue, live college football, Girl Scout cookies, Wal-Mart.

Thankfully, one thing we don't have to do without is American TV.

Some folks, usually those with diplomatic or military connections, have piped-in Armed Forces Network television in their homes. This is good, as it lets you (and your many, many friends) watch sporting events as they happen. The downside is that commercials are removed. After viewing a half-dozen Super Bowls this way, I've realized that most NFL championship games are salvaged only by the ads, which is all the more noticeable if you're watching between midnight and 4 a.m.

Tom Friedman: China Olympics Bring a Sea Change

Back during the Nixon presidency, Norman Mailer caricatured the binary nature of American politics by referring to left and right as “Beatniks” and “Protestants.” In his book Of a Fire on the Moon, he wrote that the Beatniks had let their guard down, and while they were out getting stoned, the Protestants had sent a rocket to the moon.

The country was due for a restoration, and within a few years, we would have one.

Today we have come full circle. And once again we have let our guard down. Today we have no big-name novelists like Mailer. But perhaps the most influential public citizen’s voice in our time is Thomas Friedman’s of The New York Times. And yesterday, after returning from the stunning Olympics in China, he called for a sea change.

The Pundits Blog’s Kathy Kemper has been reporting on this all along while most of the other print press was either in denial or hoping to demonize China. Friedman writes: “ ... as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.”

Russia and Georgia: The Real Story

By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Meet Igor Sechin, nominally the deputy prime minister of Russia. In fact, he is the dominant power in the Kremlin. In Russia, the speculation is over whether Putin is his puppet! According to top Kremlinologists, Sechin was calling the shots when Russia invaded Georgia.

Take a minute to look at Sechin’s photo. It explains all you need to know about him!

Bob Amsterdam, an international lawyer who knows all about the inner workings in Moscow, calls the invasion “an effort to sidetrack Dmitry Medvedev,” the newly elected Russian president who has focused on bringing to Russia the rule of law. Determined to show real power and to trivialize the legalisms of Medvedev, Sechin and Putin ignored the Russian president in invading their neighbor.

Beijing, You Are Winning the Gold

Twenty-five-year-old hurdler Liu Xiang is China's star athlete. His name, fittingly, means "to soar." He won the 110-meter hurdles race in Athens, and was fully expected to defend his title in front of 91,000 adoring Chinese fans. What many people don't know is that he knew beforehand that he wouldn't be able to compete in the race because of an injured Achilles tendon. Even so, he stepped out onto the field out of respect for his supporters and his country. Liu's story is one of perseverance and honor — it is a story that transcends cultural lines.

Why don't we hear more about that incredible story in the Western press? Or about the breathtaking grandeur, elegance and coordination of the opening ceremonies? Instead, we see endless stories about the computer-generated fireworks, the little girl who was lip-syncing the Chinese national anthem, the stabbing of the father-in-law of the U.S. men's volleyball coach, Darfur and so on.

Putin’s Invasion Begins to Backfire

Poland, chastened by the vision of Russian tanks invading Georgia, has just decided to sign a deal with the United States to deploy an anti-missile system that Russia strongly opposes on its territory. The ruling party in Poland, the Civic Assembly, won the last election, in part, by castigating the missile deal. But with Russian troops streaming across the Georgian border, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

This is only the beginning of a backlash against Russia that will emerge in the coming months. Putin has gone too far and showed too much of who he really is. The result will be to trigger a level of defiance in the former satellite countries and in NATO that he has not anticipated. Ukraine will be admitted to NATO. American involvement with Georgia will increase. And Putin will soon find out how expensive his miscalculation was.

Hollywood's Love Affair with China

Three decades ago, China was a mystery to Americans. Its society and economy were closed, and we viewed it as an appendage of the biggest and baddest of them all, the Soviet Union.

Today, the situation couldn't be more different. I, for one, find China's cultural history fascinating, and I'm crazy about the Chinese people I know in Washington and China. That's not to say that the United States and China are chummy, but China's on the front pages of our newspapers every single day. In Washington, it's at the heart of just about any debate on outsourcing, competitiveness and power.

Vietnam Is Hot

There's a buzz about Vietnam, and I'm not talking about the 24 million moped engines. Vietnam is hot, and the word is spreading fast. Continuing my tour of Southeast Asia en route to the Olympics, I see a country that's vibrant and pushing itself to become an open-market economy. Ho Chi Minh wouldn't recognize it.

Three decades ago, devastated by war, it was one of the world's poorest countries. Today, it's one of the biggest exporters of farm produce and the site of a flood of foreign investment — Intel will soon be opening a $1 billion microchip factory here.

America Can't Get Complacent in Asia

Thailand and Cambodia are once again disputing 1.8 square miles of land that surround the Preah Vihear temple, a spectacular Hindu shrine that was built in the 11th century. The conflict has been all over the news, and it got so serious at one point that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stepped in to try to cool things down.

It's a good thing that Condoleezza Rice was on hand to inject some sense into the discussions. Cambodia wanted to get the U.N. involved, but she insisted that there was no need to bring in a third party. The leaders at the ASEAN summit listened to her. They respect her and trust her judgment. The U.N. issues a lot of nice rhetoric but rarely gets the job done when it comes to defending peace and security. Cambodia's no longer appealing to the U.N., and it looks like the border dispute may begin to cool down a little bit.