Monday, April 12, 2010

Foreign Notes: Afghan and Iraqi Elections; U.S.-Russian Treaty; Sympathy for Poland

Afghan elections
The Afghan elections a few months ago have generated an ongoing controversy because of the disputed results and because of recent accusations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai of interference by the Obama Administration on behalf of his opponent. Although the liberal media and the Obama Administration and its supporters made much of the accusations of fraud committed by Karzai’s party, the fact is that he easily won a plurality of the vote for reelection, which would be sufficient in many foreign and American states for victory. However, Afghanistan’s Constitution requires a run-off election by the top two candidates. The only issue, then, was whether the incumbent had won a majority over former Foreign Minister Abdullah.

I am confident that Abdullah, the former leader of the Northern Alliance – the U.S. recognized government of Afghanistan that controlled the northeast of the country during the Taliban regime – would make a good Afghan president, but Karzai won far more votes than did Abdullah.

Iraqi elections
I have held off on commenting about the recent parliamentary elections in Iraq first because of the delay in the vote count and second because without any party winning a majority, a coalition must be formed to govern the republic. But I can take this opportunity to analyze what is known about the elections thus far, which appear to be highly successful. Unlike in Afghanistan, there were no serious incidents of fraud.

Millions of Iraqis voted, despite the threat of militant Muslim terrorists. The elections were mostly peaceful. A significantly increased number of votes cast by Sunni Muslim Arabs produced a record turnout. The participation of the Sunni Arabs is recognized as essential for Iraq’s democracy.

A secular Sunni party led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won a plurality of votes, barely edging out the party led by current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite. It is possible that both parties could be part of the governing coalition. The results are thus a clear rejection of militant Islamists, in the form of either pro-Iranian Shi’ites or pro-al Qaeda Sunnis.

U.S.-Russian nuclear treaty
The Obama Administration negotiated nuclear weapons cuts with Russia without giving up missile defense, although the treaty does allow Russia to back out if it objects to NATO’s implementation of missile defense in Eastern Europe. After United States President George W. Bush won unanimous backing from NATO to host the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Obama Administration plans to locate it instead in Southeastern Europe, which Russia regards as less objectionable (See my post Obama Betrays Allies, Appeases Russia).

A treaty must be ratified with the advice and consent of at least two thirds of the U.S. Senate. Many Senators are concerned about the treaty’s linkages to missile defense. Other objections from Republican and other Senators are less about the treaty, but more about the Obama Administration’s overall nuclear policy, which it recently announced. Among other changes, the Obama Administration has ended longstanding U.S. policy of ambiguity by announcing in which situations the U.S. would or would not use nuclear weapons, which has concerned Senators that American enemies might be emboldened to attack without fear of nuclear annihilation.

The Moscow Treaty negotiated by George W. Bush and Russia cut nuclear weapons more than Obama’s treaty. It easily was ratified by the Senate. Bush successfully implemented missile defense on American soil, despite Russian objections.

Sympathy for Poland
The loss of Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash in Russia was tragic, but the loss of so many senior Polish governmental and civic leaders is devastating.

The Conservative president had been a leader of the Solidarity union in 1980, during the Cold War. Kaczynski was pro-American, although the Obama Administration’s decision to relocate missile defense from Poland left him feeling betrayed.

The plane was primarily full of Polish leaders on a delegation to Katyn, Russia to observe the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, during which over 20,000 Polish officers and priests were murdered by the Soviets after the Soviet Union and its Nazi German allies had invaded and divided up Poland. Indeed, much of Poland’s intelligentsia was slaughtered by the Nazis and Soviets during the Second World War, which makes the plane crash especially ironic.

The Catholic Church in Poland was one institution that worked to maintain Polish cultural identity, in addition to faith and morals, an effort for which Karol Wojtyla, the Bishop of Cracow who later became Pope John Paul II, was especially successful. He backed the Solidarity movement that helped bring down Communism in Eastern Europe.

When the Polish Communist government banned Solidarity and imposed martial law in December, 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Poland and worked with the Vatican to support Polish dissidents. I remember that he asked Americans to place a candle in their windows in order to remember the suffering of the Poles. May we keep Poland in our thoughts and prayers once again.

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