Iraqi No Fly Zone

Jim of Objectionable Content writes well-argued and thought-provoking posts. Yesterday, he took on the no fly zones in Iraq:

As policy, the no-fly zones appear both poorly conceived and executed… The no-fly zones have been a mixed bag at best when it comes to their stated purpose of protecting dissidents… The no-fly zones make normalization of relations with Iraq nearly impossible. Enforcement of the no-fly zones constitutes an undeclared air war against Iraq, and it has since the policy began in 1991… Though they serve almost no justifiable military purpose and are untried as a negotiating lever, the no-fly zones make it practically certain that no rapproachement with Iraq will occur. Enforcing the no-fly zones is effectively a commitment not to make peace with the current Iraqi regime. How can we, when we are bombing them?

Go read the whole post.


Unqualified Offerings is surprised to hear about Syrian Kurds. In fact, Kurds are mainly divided in four countries: 13 million in Turkey, 4.6 million in Iran, 4.2 million in Iraq, and up to 1.6 million in Syria. In addition, there are around 65,000 Kurds in Armenia. There might even be a small number in Azerbaijan. Who drew those boundaries? Were they crazy?

Free Trade But Only If It Helps Us

According to AP,

The Bush administration, trying to energize flagging global trade talks, announced Tuesday that it will seek the total elimination of all tariffs on manufactured goods [emphasis mine] over the next 13 years.

When I read this news, the words “manufactured goods” jumped out at me. I would guess that this proposal will basically help the industrialized countries. How about reducing the tariffs on agricultural products to help the developing world?

UPDATE: CalPundit has also blogged on this story, linking it to terrorism.

UPDATE II: To be fair, according to the NY Times:

The White House came up with a similar plan last summer to reduce agricultural tariffs and subsidies. That plan called for reducing tariffs from an average of 62 percent to 15 percent over five years. But the plan calls for the deepest tariff cuts by countries with the highest duties, and it has been greeted coldly by the European Union.

Frontline “In Search of Al Qaeda”

I just watched the PBS show online. It’s interesting. The complete show in available online in Media Player and Real media formats. There is also some material on the website that wasn’t on the show itself. The Al Qaeda supporting woman, from Yemen I believe, near the end of the program spooked me:

“I love him too much, and also my son loves him, 7 years old. He wants to become like Osama Bin Laden. He wants to kill the Israelis and kill any Americans who support Israel. We hate war. If there are American people who want to live in peace, may be also I want to live in peace. [If they don’t,] I must [take] revenge.”

More comments later.

Double Standards

Yes I believe in them! Not exactly, though I do hold democracies to a higher standard. So you might find me writing a few paragraphs criticizing some small aspect of policy of the US, EU or Israel while sort of glossing over big problems in Iraq or North Korea and you might yell “prejudice” or “moral equivalency”. You couldn’t be more wrong. Here’s the thing: Saddam, Kim Jong Il, and other dictators and absolute monarchs are a menace to their people. Usually I would make a general criticism of these guys in a sentence and that would be it. Don’t despair, I don’t think the US and Iraq are morally equivalent. In fact, I think I can’t even compare. Do you really think we want to be compared to these tinpot dictatorships like Iraq, Egypt, North Korea or China? Are we really that bad? One could be the scum of the earth and still be better than Stalin or Brezhnev. Is that something to be proud of?

So I’ll concentrate on those topics and countries that interest me more and I’ll criticize democracies more since they could easily do better. And I don’t consider countries like Egypt to be democratic in any sense even those they hold elections (with foregone results). You might find that I focussed more on Israel in the pieces below. I feel Israel usually does better than its rivals and it can do much better.

NOTE: I use “we”, “us”, etc for both the United States (where I have lived for the past 5 years) and Pakistan (where I grew up). It will usually be clear from the context who I am referring to.

Past or the Future

One final comment about the Arab-Israeli conflict before I get back to work:

There is definitely a need to understand the conflict and its history. However, the Israelis and Palestinians need to understand not just the history from their side’s point of view but the opposing side’s as well. Although history is important, the solution will not come from understanding history or looking back at what was. It will come from overcoming the past and looking towards the future; having a vision and imagining what can be. This is what Sadaat had in the 1970s and Barak had in the 1990s.

UPDATE: While Muslims and Arabs might have had misgivings about the creation of the state of Israel, Israel is here to stay and we must recognize that fact. I think there has been real progress in accepting the existence of Israel in the last decade, but there is still some ground to be covered.

Jewish Settlers and Israeli Arabs as obstacle to Peace

One reason for my pessimism for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the feckless Palestinian leadership. The other is the issue of Jewish settlers in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and ironically the Israeli Arabs. It is basically a demographic issue. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are about 365,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (about 6% of the population) and about 19.9% of the population is not Jewish most of which is Arab.

Now, any settlement with the Palestinians will involve withdrawing from most of West Bank and Gaza and some of Jerusalem as well (in my opinion, a solution without some part of Jerusalem being part of the Palestinian state will be unaceptable to the Palestinians.) That means withdrawal of the Jewish settlements from the Palestinian state as most of the settlers won’t want to live in an Arab state. The percentage of settlers in the voting population has increased quite a lot in recent years and would increase in the future as well. Even if there is a stop to further settlement, the settlers’ share of the vote would probably increase as they are in general more religious than the general population and hence would have a higher birth rate. Self-interest being one of the more important of motivations for people everywhere, why should they vote themselves out of their homes? This will be especially true for the generation born in those settlements. This would mean that for an Israeli government to win elections based on their committment to peace requires them to win really big within the Green Line. And that’s where the Israeli Arabs create a further complication. Since these Arabs are close relatives of the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza, no Israeli government can rely on them as the deciding factor for a peace settlement. The decision to give up territory for peace has to be made by the Jewish population. Demographics again make the situation rather bleak as the Israeli Arabs have a higher birth rate than the Israeli Jews, making the election of an Israeli government agreeing to a Palestinian state more difficult with time.

OK, I am feeling very pessimistic now.