Over the weekend, voters in Honduras elected a conservative to lead the country, months after Manuel Zelaya was deposed for violating the Constitution:
Porfirio Lobo, a longtime conservative politician, appeared to have won on Sunday in the Honduran presidential election, which many hoped could help the country emerge from the crisis caused by last summer’s coup and end its isolation.
The electoral tribunal said Sunday night that Mr. Lobo had 52 percent of the vote, with almost two-thirds of the votes counted. That gave him a margin of more than 16 percentage points over his main opponent, Elvin Santos. Shortly before midnight, Mr. Santos conceded, Reuters reported.
The coup has divided Honduran society between those who support the restoration of the president, Manuel Zelaya, and those who say the coup was the only recourse against a populist president seeking to remain in power beyond his term.
You’ve got to love how the New York Times still refers to Zelaya’s removal as a coup. It wasn’t, as I’ve pointed out before. I’m not defending the tactics used to silence dissent, but the Honduran Constitution was clear that what Zelaya was trying to do is illegal and the courts and military acted within their charge.
Hopefully the Obama Administration will stay out of Honduran affairs and let the sovereign country govern itself.
It’s been a deadly 48 hours for the United States in Afghanistan.
KABUL (AP) — Eight American troops were killed in two separate insurgent attacks Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month of the war for U.S. forces since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.
In one of the insurgent assaults, seven Americans were killed while patrolling in armored vehicles, U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said. He said an Afghan civilian died in the same attack. The eighth American was killed in a separate attack elsewhere in the south, also while patrolling in a military vehicle, he said.
The military issued a statement saying the deaths occurred during ”multiple, complex” bomb strikes. It said several troops were wounded and evacuated to a nearby medical facility, but gave no other details.
Capt. Adam Weece, a spokesman for American forces in the south, said both attacks occurred in Kandahar province. In Washington, a U.S. defense official said at least one was followed by an intense firefight with insurgents who attacked after an initial bomb went off. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
Jason Pye put forth an excellent post on why it’s time to leave Afghanistan. Adding to that, the foreign policy experts at Cato just released a new video on the war effort. Check it out:
Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) called recently for a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan:
GIBSON CITY – U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, told a town hall meeting Monday night that he plans to sponsor legislation calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“I want to protect America, but I don’t want to lose lives senselessly,” Johnson said following a one-hour, open-air session with about 300 people at a park pavilion in Gibson City. “And we cannot police the world.”
Johnson’s unexpected comments were reminiscent of a break he made in early 2007 with former President Bush over the war in Iraq. At that time, he came out against a “troop surge” in Iraq. “People believe and I believe that we are at a point in history where, unless we have dramatic change in direction, we can wind up being mired and continue to lose large numbers of lives – American, Iraqi and others – indefinitely,” he said in January 2007. “And I’m not going to be a part of it.”
Two years later, regarding a different country and with a different president, Johnson said he sees a similarity.
“I’m suggesting to you that there is no end game. I believe that our men and women are there in a mission that is ill-defined,” Johnson said of the war in Afghanistan and the growing pressure to send more American troops there. “I think we’re losing people by the day, here and over there, with no even indirect relationship to our national security.
Today’s Washington Post suggest that Obama is leaning toward rejecting General Stanley McChrystal’s strategy for expanding the war in Afghanistan:
Senior White House officials have begun to make the case for a policy shift in Afghanistan that would send few, if any, new combat troops to the country and instead focus on faster military training of Afghan forces, continued assassinations of al-Qaeda leaders and support for the government of neighboring Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban.
In a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the White House, senior advisers challenged some of the key assumptions in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s blunt assessment of the nearly eight-year-old war, which President Obama has said is being fought to destroy al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and the ungoverned border areas of Pakistan.
McChrystal, commander of the 100,000 NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama to quickly endorse his call for a change in military strategy and approve the additional resources he needs to retake the initiative from the resurgent Taliban.
But White House officials are resisting McChrystal’s call for urgency, which he underscored Thursday during a speech in London, and questioning important elements of his assessment, which calls for a vast expansion of an increasingly unpopular war. One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting, said, “A lot of assumptions — and I don’t want to say myths, but a lot of assumptions — were exposed to the light of day.”
The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette’s Jack Kelly reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was not happy with the way Preisdent Obama handled the Iran issue last week:
Nicolas Sarkozy was furious with Barack Obama for his adolescent warbling about a world without nuclear weapons at a meeting Mr. Obama chaired of the United Nations Security Council last Thursday (9/24).
“We must never stop until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the earth,” President Obama said.
What infuriated President Sarkozy was that at the time Mr. Obama said those words, Mr. Obama knew the mullahs in Iran had a secret nuclear weapons development site, and he didn’t call them on it.
‘President Obama dreams of a world without weapons…but right in front of us two countries are doing the exact opposite,” Mr. Sarkozy said.
“Iran since 2005 has flouted five Security Council resolutions,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “North Korea has been defying Council resolutions since 1993.”
“What good has proposals for dialogue brought the international community?” he asked rhetorically. “More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe out a UN member state off the map.”
If the Security Council had imposed serious sanctions on the regimes which are flouting UN resolutions, the resolution Mr. Obama proposed about working toward nuclear disarmament wouldn’t have been so meaningless, Mr. Sarkozy implied.
A plurality of Americans oppose sending more troops into Afghanistan, fearing it will turn into another Vietnam:
Americans are closely divided over whether the United States should send more troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Thirty-seven percent (37%) say yes to sending more troops, while 40% say no. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.
Two-out-of-three Americans (66%) are now at least somewhat concerned that the war in Afghanistan will become another Vietnam for the United States. Thirty-eight percent (38%) are very concerned.
It’s unclear what the Obama Administration will do at this point.
If, as seems increasingly likely, Iran does not voluntarily agree to end it’s nuclear weapons program, the United States has plans in place for wide-ranging economic sanctions:
The Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran’s economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country’s nuclear ambitions founder, according to officials and outside experts familiar with the plans.
While officials stress that they hope Iran will agree to open its nuclear program to inspection, they are prepared by year’s end to make it increasingly difficult for Iranian companies to ship goods around the world. The administration is targeting, in particular, the insurance and reinsurance companies that underwrite the risk of such transactions.
Officials are also looking at ways to keep goods from reaching Iran by targeting companies that get around trading restrictions by sending shipments there through third parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong; and other trading hubs.
The administration has limited options in unilaterally targeting Iran, largely because it wants to avoid measures so severe that they would undermine consensus among countries pressing the Iranian government. A military strike is also increasingly unpalatable because, officials said, it probably would only briefly delay any attempt by Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.
Whatever steps are taken, officials said, their goal would be to disrupt the Iranian economy across many sectors, particularly businesses that help support Iran’s military and elite.
In today’s Washington Post, Andrew J. Bacevich suggests that we reach back to the early days of the Cold War for ideas on how to deal with the war against Islamic terrorism:
Containment implies turning to the old Cold War playbook. When confronting the Soviet threat, the United States and its allies erected robust defenses, such as NATO, and cooperated in denying the communist bloc anything that could make Soviet computers faster, Soviet submarines quieter or Soviet missiles more accurate.
Containing the threat posed by jihad should follow a similar strategy. Robust defenses are key — not mechanized units patrolling the Iron Curtain, but well-funded government agencies securing borders, controlling access to airports and seaports, and ensuring the integrity of electronic networks that have become essential to our way of life.
As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred. Ideally, this approach should include strenuous efforts to reduce the West’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil, which serves to funnel many billions of dollars into the hands of people who may not wish us well.
During the Cold War, containment did not preclude engagement, and it shouldn’t today. To the extent that the United States can encourage liberalizing tendencies in the Islamic world, it should do so — albeit with modest expectations. Sending jazz musicians deep into the Eastern Bloc in the old days was commendable, but Louis Armstrong’s trumpet didn’t topple the Soviet empire.
President Obama became the first sitting President to chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council today and used the occasion to push through an ambitious anti-nuclear proliferation resolution:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council, with President Obama acting as chairman, unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday morning aimed at increasing deterrents for withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and decreasing the likelihood that a civilian nuclear program can be diverted toward the development of advanced weapons.
The resolution is aimed at ensuring full compliance with international arms agreements from countries like North Korea and Iran, which have either banned inspectors or severely limited their access. Mr. Obama said, though, that the resolution was not about singling out nations, but about ensuring that international agreements have real-world heft. “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced,” Mr. Obama said.
The Obama administration hailed the resolution as a significant step forward. But officials said it was not binding, and would become so only if the Security Council required countries to take other steps, including making their nuclear exports subject to additional restrictions. Many countries have balked at that requirement, an indication of how difficult it may prove to toughen the treaty itself when it is up for review next year.
In their remarks following the resolution’s passage, both Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France expressed concern that the actions being taken against Iran and North Korea were not enough.
The British leader called on the council to consider “far tougher sanctions” against Iran.