Posted on 27-10-2009
Filed Under (Religion) by Rashtrakut

Kudos to the Obama administration for clarifying that they oppose the ridiculous UN motion regarding defamation of religion.  It is understandable that Muslims are upset about the assaults to their faith by prominent western politicians and the infamous Danish cartoon controversy.  But this resolution undercuts at the very essence of free speech and the exchange of ideas, even obnoxious ones.  What makes this resolution even more offensive is that it is being sponsored by countries like Saudi Arabia which do not permit free exercise of religion, prevent the importation of religious texts of other countries and insult other faiths in their academic curriculum.  Many of these states also have blasphemy laws that are often used to abuse religious minorities.  Even with some of the offensive comments made regarding Islam in the last decade and the documented cases of discrimination against Muslims, the West does not have any reason to feel defensive about their record on respecting religious freedom (particularly given the track record of some of the accusers).  People have noted that while the Saudis have funded the construction of a mosque in Rome, they are unlikely to permit the construction of a church in Saudi Arabia.  Freedom should work both ways.

This brings up a conversation I had with an extremely religious neighbor a few years back that free speech should not allow people to offend.  Actually it should…otherwise the speech is not truly free.  The assault on free speech is not unique to any ideologies, but it should be pointed out that free speech also does not  prevent others from calling out bigoted or hateful comments.  There is some unintended irony in the attempt by Muslim countries to pass such a resolution.  All of the founders of the Abrahamic faiths (including Islam) would have likely violated this resolution by “defaming” the religious practices of their neighbors.  But then this is not really intended to be an ecumenical resolution.

The Canadian representative at the United Nations this March got it right, “Individuals have rights, not religions.”  The OIC would be better off in assisting the victims of discrimination, cooperating with the West in combating incidences of bigotry and cleaning up their own acts at home.

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Posted on 27-10-2009
Filed Under (Environment) by Rashtrakut

Scientific American has an interesting read on a new analysis that seems to confirm the sometimes derided hockey stick graph of global warming.  I don’t share the optimism that it will change the minds of prominent global warming deniers.  As in the debate over evolution, emotion trumps empirical evidence.

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Posted on 27-10-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

See article here.  Its a cautious rating and hard to argue with.  People scoff at the value of talk over action, but Obama’s calm demeanor has considerably cooled down global temperatures.  Time will tell where the Incomplete grade ends up.

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Posted on 27-10-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Matthew Hoh, former Marine corps captain who served in Iraq to join the foreign service resigned last month in protest over the continuation of the Afghan war.  This is not a man who can be dismissed as a week kneed liberal and appears to have been highly regarded.  This blog has been ambiguous on the subject of the Afghan intervention.  It has expressed concerns that the United States appears to be intervening in the next round of the Afghan civil war and that unless the corrupt Afghan government gets its act together the sacrifice of men and material will all ave been for naught.  Mr. Hoh seems to have expressed similar concerns from his vantage point on the ground with concerns that the American military involvement is fueling Pashtun nationalism.  These are valid concerns that must be addressed.  Unfortunately, domestic politics may trump these valid points as the ultimate tipping point on remaining in Afghanistan for the near future.

Having generally ignored Afghanistan for most of the Bush presidency, former Vice President Dick Cheney reemerged last week to accuse President Obama of dithering on Afghanistan and urging him to rush his decisions in a manner that obviously worked so well on Mr. Cheney’s watch in Iraq.  Likely 2012 presidential rivals Mitch Romney and Tim Pawlenty whose foreign policy statements generally contain more platitudes than deep thoughts or practical policy are also tossing some criticism.  See here and here.  A cynical outlook suggests that a fear of looking weak will force the Administration’s hand, though if Mr. Karzai continues his delightful habit of blaming everybody but himself it will increase American eagerness to jettison its Afghan albatross.

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