From time to time I round up global events in a little ditty I like to call "World Report." I'm going to write it for you now.
• There's little in the way of actual news coming out of Cuba, where the transition from brother Fidel Castro to brother Raul appears to be fairly seamless. There's some great commentary around the Web, however. Steve Clemons calls the situation a "historic opportunity" to change American Cold War-era policies with Cuba, lift the embargo and move toward normalized relations. Tony Karon discussing, in a fascinating way, the allure of Castro to foreign leaders, as someone willing to stick it to the Americans. And both Matt Yglesias and ">Ezra Klein synthesize these two perspectives:
"for good reasons and for bad ones, the romance of thumbing one's nose at the USA has powerful and important resonance for a lot of people around the world. Under the circumstances, it rarely serves our interests to get into dramatic confrontations with leaders who are far too puny to objectively threaten our interests. After all, what significance would Castro have without his superpower adversary? US persecution of the Communist regime in Havana is really the only thing it has going for it."
A corollary to that point is that the more unpopular America is, the more political appeal opposing us will have. So the more we do to stoke anti-American sentiment, the more we strengthen the domestic political hands of the very leaders we oppose. It's a vicious circle, and one the Bush administration has been pursuing with all the zeal of a kid who just discovered ring-around-the-rosie.
• In Pakistan, the two leading opposition parties, Benazir Bhutto's former Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League-Q, will form a coalition government. This puts even more pressure on the Pervez Musharraf, who is trying to cling to power with an assist from the United States. Meanwhile, the opposition parties want to enter into dialogue with the militants who have been stepping up their attacks, in addition to restoring a free press and an independent judiciary.
• Angry crowds in Belgrade, Serbia attacked the US Embassy in protest of American recognition of an independent Kosovo. Riot police eventually secured the embassy. This bears watching.
• Where have I read a story like this before?
An exiled Iranian opposition group has claimed that Tehran was speeding up a program to develop nuclear weapons.
"The Iran regime entered a new phase in its nuclear project," Mohammad Mohaddessin, of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, said Wednesday.
So you have an exile group that wants to overthrow a Middle Eastern government, hyping fears about a nuclear arsenal in their home country.
And it starts with an "I".
• Oh yeah, that's it, Iraq!!! It's unclear whether or not our troops are going to be having to dodge a larger stream of bullets come Saturday, when the deadline for Muqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire is reached. The LA Times says that the truce may not be extended, because US forces haven't been cooperative, particularly by bombing Shiite outposts and arresting Mahdi Army members. But Reuters claims that Sadr will actually extend the truce for another six months. So we'll see.
At any rate, the fact that prospects in Iraq are so definitively tied to whether or not a militant who seeks our destruction keeps his fighters off the battlefield is ominous, to say the least. Russ Feingold says a bit more.
Since the beginning of this disastrous war, people have asked me repeatedly why we are in Iraq, instead of going after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. It's clear to many Americans that this war has warped our national security priorities. And top U.S. military commanders have started to acknowledge the same thing, indirectly, as they identify the serious threat to our security in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the strain that the war in Iraq is putting on our military force.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently warned that an attack on the U.S. will most likely come from al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan. This solemn warning, from the senior ranking member of the Armed Forces, demands that we focus our energy and resources on eliminating this threat to our country. The resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is a grave threat to our national security, yet our military is stretched so thin because of Iraq that we don't have enough resources to address it. As U.S. military General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, said, "The Army today is out of balance," and "We're deploying at unsustainable rates." [...]
The administration can't seem to get its national security priorities straight, even with the increasing threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. But Congress is to blame, too -- we've been sitting by and watching as the administration bungles our national security strategy. The administration has had blinders on for too long, focusing on Iraq at the expense of our overall security. We have to force them to take the blinders off and come up with a new strategy, one that focuses on going after the threats we face, not staying mired in the mistakes they've made.
I know that most Democrats in Congress have given up on changing course in Iraq, but Russ Feingold has a little more integrity than that.