Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama, Clinton, AIPAC, America, and Strength: Sounds Good

I heard New York Senator Hillary Clinton say something reassuring on television this morning.

For someone with my views, that doesn't happen very often.

She was speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), after Obama had addressed the group.

I haven't been able to find a transcript of Clinton's remarks, so this paraphrase will have to do: 'America will be a strong supporter of Israel, but to do this, America will have to be respected in the world.'

She went on to say how alliances are important.

Sounds a great deal like Clinton's stand, as stated on her campaign's "Issues" page:
  • "Restoring America's Standing in the World
    • "The next president's most urgent task will be to restore America's standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values. America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances. As president, Hillary will lead by the words of the Declaration of Independence, which pledged 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.' "
I had missed Barack Obama's speech to AIPAC, but apparently he pledged support for Israel, and believes that America's security is important. "Obama said Bush's decision to invade Iraq had enabled the hardliners in Iran to tighten their grip on power. 'And the United States and Israel are less secure,' he added."
("Barack Obama picks up fresh support from Democrats" Associated Press (June 4, 2008))

Obama also tried to straighten out some stories that have been doing the rounds. " 'They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for president. And all I want to say is -- let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty scary.'

"Rumors have been circulating at least since last year that Obama is a Muslim and does not support the Jewish state. He is a Christian and said at the conference he is a 'true friend of Israel,' earning applause."
("Obama addresses rumors at pro-Israel conference CNN (June 4, 2008))

Rumors, Words, Campaigns, and America

I've heard the word "alliance" used quite a bit. Generally, "alliances" are what the current American administration isn't making around the world.

It's 'well known' that America was 'going it alone' in a 'unilateral' invasion of Iraq: although "going it alone" and "unilateral" haven't shown up in speeches recently. That may be because someone found out just how many nations were involved in that "unilateral" action (More, at "Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up!" (August 9, 2007).) A sizable fraction of the world's nations (around an eighth, by my count)1 were in the coalition that freed Iraq from Saddam Hussein: from Alabania and Armenia to the Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The way the terms are used in American politics, it sounds like "alliance" and "coalition" are two quite different things.

I looked up "alliance," and "coalition," and found these definitions:
  • Alliance
    • confederation (the state of being allied or confederated)
    • bond (a connection based on kinship or marriage or common interest) "the shifting alliances within a large family"; "their friendship constitutes a powerful bond between them"
    • coalition, alignment, alinement (an organization of people (or countries) involved in a pact or treaty)
    • (a formal agreement establishing an association or alliance between nations or other groups to achieve a particular aim)
    • (the act of forming an alliance or confederation)
  • Coalition
    • alliance, coalition, alignment, alinement (an organization of people (or countries) involved in a pact or treaty)
    • fusion (the state of being combined into one body)
    • coalescence, coalescency, coalition, concretion, conglutination (the union of diverse things into one body or form or group; the growing together of parts)
(Princeton University's WordNet)

So, according to that Princeton database, an alliance is a coalition, and a coalition is an alliance. There are subtle distinctions, of course, but the two terms mean almost exactly the same thing. One of the definitions of coalition is a little scary, at least from one point of view: "fusion (the state of being combined into one body)".

I think, though, that in terms of American politics, "alliance" is an agreement between countries which involves important nations like France, China, or Russia. A "coalition" is an agreement between countries which produces results, and is led by America.

Rumors are a part of the human experience, and the 2008 presidential campaign has seen its share. Recently: It's important to sort out rumors from fact, and use only facts when deciding who to vote for.

Finally, the usual statement: this blog isn't political, but politics decides who the next president of the United States will be, as well as membership in the House of Representatives, and - for thirty five states, who will be in the Senate.

The people elected to these offices will determine America's policy: and that will have a profound effect on the war on terror - and on all of our lives.
I didn't mean to give the impression that Clinton was the only candidate with something to say about American foreign policy. Barack Obama's campaign website has an "Issues" page, too.
  • "Foreign Policy
    • "As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Obama has fought to strengthen America's position in the world. Reaching across the aisle, Obama has tackled problems such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and stopping the genocide in Darfur."
And to round things out, here's what McCain's "Issues" page has to say:
  • "National Security
    • "The most sacred responsibility vested in a president - the commander in chief - is to 'preserve and protect' American citizens. John McCain has the necessary vision and unrivaled experience to command the United States armed forces and adapt our nation's defenses to the demands of a changing and dangerous world.
In each case, there's a link to a longer discussion of the candidate's stand.

1Just how many 'nations' are there? I did a quick count, and found 266 - including places like the Gaza Strip and Antarctica as "nations." If a territory has to be in the United Nations to be counted, that reduces the count to 192.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.