“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Condi and Iran, An Amazon Demures to Dove

Condoleezza Rice was George Bush's handmaiden for the war in Iraq but she is now emerging as the best hope for avoiding a military conflict between the United States and Iran. John Bolton is not happy.

Condi's coup: how the neo-cons lost the argument over Iran
Secretary of State's influence pivotal to Bush's change of policy
By Leonard Doyle, Independente in Washington
Friday, 18 July 2008

Condoleezza Rice was George Bush's handmaiden for the war in Iraq but she is now emerging as the best hope for avoiding a military conflict between the United States and Iran.

The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.

Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.

"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."

In public, Ms Rice has been as bellicose as any neo-con when it comes to Iran, calling dialogue with its leaders "pointless" and declaring: "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons."

She had been the prime mover behind Mr Bush's disastrous policy of "preventive wars" and cheerleader of his expansive plans to reorganise the entire Middle East and to "export democracy". But with the rumblings of war with Iran growing steadily louder, Ms Rice worked feverishly behind the scenes to stop sparks from flying in the drive by the US and Israel to shut down Iran's nuclear programme.

The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.

The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.

When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.

His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.

Hearing of Mr Mottaki's reaction and then receiving a formal response persuaded Ms Rice that Iran was finally willing to have meaningful talks with the US that could avoid a war.

Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal". Iran welcomed the American change of attitude yesterday, but with governments from France to China also welcoming the shift, Tehran also signalled that there was a long way to go before the diplomats break out the champagne. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that there are still "clearly defined red lines", meaning that Iran is insisting that it has the right to peaceful nuclear energy. This is a position that Israel and the American conservatives still find unacceptable.

Thirty years on from the humiliation of the US embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, the country's boycott of all high-level direct contact with Iran has achieved little beyond making it impossible for the two sides to learn to trust one another and employ diplomatic skills to avoid conflict.

But there are also doubts about the effectiveness of using sophisticated weaponry against a nuclear programme that is secreted deep underground and in multiple sitesacross Iran. The US administration was recently advised that it would be folly to expect the regime to fall in Iran if it was attacked. If anything, a US and Israeli attack would strengthen the rule of the mullahs while causing further tension on the oil market.

From hawk to dove

Condoleezza Rice may have a bright political future ahead, despite the many roles she has played in the discredited Bush White House. Her soundbites have often come back to haunt her. She wilfully distorted the truth while pressing the case for the invasion of Iraq: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." No one, she declared, "could have predicted" that al-Qai'da would try to fly planes into buildings before 11 September 2001; "I'm proud of the decision of this administration to overthrow Saddam Hussein," she said. And when George Bush asked her about the looming war saying: "Should we do this?", Ms Rice replied in a heartbeat "Yes." The book Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, describes Ms Rice as a major player in the Iraq war, detailing how she served as the White House co-ordinator and as the President's closest adviser, throughout the entire operation. Despite this, the future looks bright for the 52-year-old. Stopping a war with Iran could even catapult her into the vice-presidency under a John McCain presidency.


  1. Good.

    3.5 weeks and counting..

  2. Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers

    Well, the writer certainly take a neutral point of view.
    Among Classical Greeks, amazon was given a naive etymology as from a- (privative) + mazos, "without breast", connected with an etiological tradition that Amazons had their right breast cut off or burnt out, so they would be able to use a bow more freely and throw spears without the physical limitation and obstruction; there is no indication of such a practice in works of art, in which the Amazons are always represented with both breasts, although the right is frequently covered.


  3. So today I feel the world has said:

    "Let us allow the Jews to die, they have no worth"

    How should I proceed?

    I find myself thinking that a trip to Dick's is in order

    I think that I must start thinking about a carry permit.

  4. WiO,

    Get a grip. See how they treat their own populations. Why would they give a rat's ass for your Joos?

  5. Ash should be happy, he's been saying we haven't talked to the Iranians. But, we don't know what's going on. George looking for a legacy maybe. Or, we're being played for suckers. At any rate, my money is on the idea the Iranians are not giving up their program.

  6. Kumari Mayawati, a daughter of so-called untouchables and India's most maverick politician, stunned the nation last year when she won majority control of India's largest state with an inventive political coalition that fused votes from up and down the ancient Hindu caste pyramid.

    Now, with national elections only months away, Mayawati has emerged as the most important low-caste politician in India's history, and she is asserting herself as a rainbow coalition leader, a woman whom all Indians can trust to be their prime minister one day. How far she will rise remains to be seen.

    But there is no disputing her importance.

    Across Caste Lines

  7. George and Condi are war weary.

    Dick, he's ready to roll.

  8. That caste system, which has been around for thousands of years, is hard to get rid of.

    Her main rallying cries are for an eight-lane highway, better policing and private investment as a means to ease poverty.

    But an eight land highway is one way to cut across caste lines.

    Even today, every once in a while some Hindu woman will commit suttee, as good Hindu women were taught to do, long ago. That way one has really become something; a Wife. Part of the job description.

  9. Dick's got the shotgun oiled up, and a new pair of glasses.

  10. Has W overdosed on Kumbya Koolaid served up by Condi?

    Or, is Karl lurking in the background? Writing campaign scenarios while kicking the legs out from under Dick's chair, mooning Bolton.

    It's just politics. To hell with reality. Here we go again. Condi is sounding like one of those dolls that you pull the string, and a canned little ditty comes out the pie hole.

  11. How Obama wiggles out of the hard truth that Iraq is inproving is something to behold.
    By the end of George's term, it's looking ok, by the end of Obama's term, it might well be a mess again.

  12. Obama Has 300 Avid Advisors and a daily 'question and answer' crib sheet, so he has a clue as what to say, if asked a question by the press.

  13. ...A tearful Ms. Hasselbeck then said something fairly profound, though questionable from the perspective of many blacks: "We don't live in different worlds."

    Folks who understand my politics know that I have no sympathy for right-wing politics, but I find myself more in agreement with Ms. Hasselbeck than Ms. Goldberg on this point.

    There's an odd sort of self-victimization in the popular embrace of this word. What next -- minstrel chic?

    Race Abused

  14. However, the authors of the Constitution did not define what they meant by “natural born,” so it is anyone’s guess. In my mind it is more likely to outlaw presidents born by Caesarian delivery than ones born outside the country’s borders to legitimate citizens by natural childbirth. But, of course, no one asked my opinion.

    from The Daily Interlake

    How hard is it for a leading Presidential contender to provide a birth certificate, the opinion writer asks.

  15. For Doug:

    Fresno Bee says west side is "Worse than Appalachia."

    Locals disagree. We know Doug was borned there. Twelve years of west side water diverted to the delta doesn't help. Didn't help the smelt, either. Of course, partially treated sewage from Stockton and Sacto isn't mentioned, nor even is the water diversion.

    Oh, and Bob, if you say "Who gives a shit?", this is for you too.

    It's politics, and it's gonna to get worse.

  16. Have oil prices seen their upper limit? That's the question traders and analysts are debating following a steep drop this week for crude oil.


    Analysts say that while oil traders have been betting on surging demand from developing countries such as India and China, reduced demand in the U.S. is now sending bearish signals the markets can't ignore. Moreover, Energy Dept. data released July 16 showed a 3 million barrel jump in U.S. crude inventories, to 296.9 million barrels; analysts had expected a decline.


    Other analysts say that while oil investors have been benefiting from high prices, consumers will eventually see relief. "The function of the price mechanism is not to enrich speculators or make Goldman Sachs (GS) rich beyond imagination," Cameron Hanover's Beutel says. "The high price is supposed to hurt demand and encourage new supply.

    End of Oil's Boom?

  17. I heard something about the delta smelt, but can't recall what it was. Put on the endangered species list, and screwed everything up, maybe?

  18. Delta Smelt Mom used to cook up smelt once in a while. Oily, as I recall. Cooked hard, gets crispy.

  19. Last week, the governor announced a new $9.3 billion water bond proposal. California has spent close to $5 billion since 2000 on similar efforts without appreciably resolving its water supply and salmon conflicts.

    These efforts appear to have failed at least in part because politically difficult issues, such as providing reliable water for fish, were sidestepped in favor of less controversial projects. We welcome the opportunity to work with the governor and the Legislature in crafting a new approach that breaks through the decades-old logjam, and focuses on not only reliable water supplies, but also on reliable salmon supplies.

    The choices that we make over the next year may well determine whether California will have a viable salmon fishery, and fishing industry, in the future. We believe that our children and grandchildren can enjoy a San Francisco estuary teeming with nutritious salmon and other fish, while farms are able to provide food and jobs because they have a reliable water supply.

    Divisions and Diversions

  20. Voinovich Finds Gore's Energy Speech 'Ridiculous'

    by Walter Alarkon

    You can consider Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) as definitely not enthused by former Vice President Al Gore's speech Thursday on U.S. energy policy.

    Voinovich had an initial one-word response — "ridiculous" — to Gore's speech at Washington's Constitution Hall, in which the Democrat called for the United States to end its dependence on carbon-based fuels and begin using renewable energy to produce electricity within the next 10 years.

    Voinovich elaborated that ruling out carbon-based fuels such as coal would be unreasonable because of the country's vast energy and economic needs. Instead, he said the country should take a multi-pronged approach that includes but doesn't rely solely on nuclear, wind and solar power.

    "We could put windmills from the Atlantic to the Pacific and, yes, it will increase the amount of carbon-free energy production, but the fact of the matter is, it's not going to get the job done," Voinovich said. "What we need to do is to look at all of the various sources of energy… We'd be much more realistic to realize that it's going to take all of these things in order for us to meet our energy demands."

  21. "I have never seen an opportunity for the country like the one that's emerging now"


  22. "90% of American Jews believe the country is on the wrong track."

  23. France’s Jean Meslier:

    «Je voudrais, et ce sera le dernier et le plus ardent de mes souhaits, je voudrais que le dernier des rois fût étranglé avec les boyaux du dernier prêtre.»

    I would like, and this would be the last and most ardent of my wishes, I would like the last of the kings to be strangled by the guts of the last priest.

  24. This is important.

    The American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming.

    American Physical Society Changes Tune

  25. Mat's going to attack the Bastille.

    Set the clock back to Day One.

    I would like the last of the kings to be strangled by the guts of the last priest.

    But surely the guillotine is much less messy. Heads in a basket, right to the casket.


  26. You sayin' physicists are smarter than Gore?

  27. :)

    Anyone for a game of tennis?

  28. A third new way to battle cancer is superheating the cancer tissue. This therapy is called "hyperthermia."

    Scientists use electromagnetic waves with a wavelength of about 10 cm (similar to microwaves and the waves that cellular phones use) to heat up the cancer cells and boil it to death without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue too much.

    University hospital Großhadern near Munich/Germany is doing this kind of experiments conducted by physicists and medical doctors. The results are promising.

    Treating Cancer

  29. porque te vas:

  30. WiO: ...I find myself thinking that a trip to Dick's is in order

    Overheard at Dick's a few minutes ago:

    Barmaid...bring a pitcher...another round of brew...
    Honey, why don't we get drunk and screw?

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. One things for sure, we can't go to war with Iran right now. So, if talking buys time then we'll have to talk. There are plenty of modern, moderate people in Iran. Given enough time, perhaps the situation can be turned around.

    Ahmadinejad has certainly played his "crazy as hell" and bring on the Mahdi role but are the Iranians really ready for nuclear suicide? The world will not let the Bush Administration make that determination. It must be left to a succeeding President.

  33. "90% of American Jews believe the country is on the wrong track."

    Can't be right. Never get that many to agree on anything. Just ask them.

    Begs a question. What track are we on?

  34. What track are we on?

    Go down to the platform and look for the sign that says "Coo-Coo Choo-Choo."

    When you find it, you'll know what track we're on.