The Middle East: Lots of Violence, Not Much Economic Reform

Fifty years ago, the world was plunged into crisis when Egypt’s President Gemal Abd al-Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in an act of defiance against France and England and an assertion of Egyptian independence in the face of the economic and military strength of the West. The resulting Suez crisis saw the humbling of England and France, the isolation of Israel, and the firm determination of U.S President Dwight Eisenhower not to allow the old powers of Europe to retain their hold over their former colonies in the Middle East.

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And on the Other Side of the World....

Dominating the headlines in Asia, this just in from Xinhua on-line, the Reuters of China : “Over 570,000 Evacuated as Saomai Approaches!” Huh? Didn’t they get the memo about Lebanon, Iraq, and the terror plot to destroy airplanes using liquid explosives? Apparently, an approaching hurricane-force storm and its devastating potential is more important than the wars of the western world and the intractable struggle between some Muslims, some Christians and some Jews.

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Alive and Well Under a Mountain of Debt

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Remember the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where two men push a wheelbarrow through a plague-afflicted village shouting: “Bring out your dead”? A family heaves a body on to the pile, whereupon it lifts his head and says: “But I’m not dead yet!” One man whacks him with a cudgel and says: “Now you are.” That is the perfect metaphor for the American consumer on the one hand and strategists, commentators and economists on the other.

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Ports Post-Mortem

The Dubai deal is dead, and few are sorry to see it end this way. In fact, there hasn’t been this much bipartisanship since the Era of Good Feelings nearly two hundred years ago. The Republicans in the Senate and the House, led by the likes of Rep. Peter King (R- New York), have asserted their independence from an increasingly unpopular president, and the Democrats have managed simultaneously to reconnect with their populist base and seem more stringent on national security. Polls show that upwards of 70% of the American public either strongly opposed or somewhat opposed the takeover, and with the capitulation of the company, there has been no dearth of back-patting, from Capitol Hill to the blogsphere.

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Beyond the Riots

As hard as it is to divert attention from the Cheney train-wreck this week, compared to his misuse of buckshot, the worldwide riots over the now-infmamous Danish cartoons is surely the more important story. Forget for a moment that much like the uproar over “The Satanic Verses” more than fifteen years ago, many of those protesting did not actually see the cartoons. Their publication was astutely used by extremists and by the governments of Syria and Iran to fan anti-Western flames and distract attention from their own manifold failings.

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Did Anyone Notice Martin Luther King Day?

Martin Luther King Day seems to have passed with even less than a whisper, which given today’s political culture is unsurprising. It’s difficult to envision a wider gulf between the principles that animated King and the civil rights movement, and the Beltway bandits of 2006. And not just King. Who today speaks, as John F. Kennedy did in June of 1963, of the pressing need for reform? Kennedy described civil rights as “a moral issue...as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution,” he declared. What good is freedom, that president wondered, if an American citizen, whatever the color of his skin, “cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public; if he cannot send his children to the best public schools available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him?”

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