What the Russian Spy Scandal Really Tells Us

Much has been made of the recent Russian spy swap, in which ten Russian infiltrators were exchanged for four American infiltrators. The overall reaction has been one of amusement. Russian spies combined with Desperate Housewives? Straight out of a Cold War movie thriller!

In fact, the reaction to the spy scandal reveals far more about American attitudes towards Russia than most classified information would. Simply put, the United States no longer regards Russia as its number-one nemesis and rival. In the days of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union had ten thousand nuclear missiles pointed at America, the reaction would have been far different – far more hostile, and far less amused.

In the United States today, the role of number-one rival has shifted from the USSR to mainland China. Think about what would have happened if the story had been about ten Chinese spies, not ten Russian spies. The media would have had a heart attack warning about the Chinese threat. The New York Times and the Economist – America’s newspapers for the elite – would be filled with dire articles analyzing so-called American decline and Chinese military strength. Fox News would probably warn earnestly about more Chinese spies in the midst of America. (Though those looking for Chinese spies would do well to consider the substantial community of Americans hailing from Taiwan instead of the mainland; telling the difference between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese is about as easy as was telling East Germans apart from West Germans during the Cold War.)

The Russian spy scandal also reveals much about the way American media operates. For the past few months, very little of note has occurred in either the domestic or international front. Perhaps the most notable events have been financial reform’s passage, the Gulf of Mexico spill, and – most importantly – the World Cup. None of these stories is enough to sustain a month’s news coverage (although the World Cup certainly comes close). This is why papers like the Times turn to things like Russian spies.

The spy affair, then doesn’t actually reveal much about Russia that isn’t already known – that it is spying on the United States. What it really does is tell a story about America itself – about Russia’s threat level in American eyes, and about what the media latches onto when there is nothing else to report.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

What the Russian Spy Scandal Really Tells Us

Much has been made of the recent Russian spy swap, in which ten Russian infiltrators were exchanged for four American infiltrators. The overall reaction has been one of amusement. Russian spies combined with Desperate Housewives? Straight out of a Cold War movie thriller!

In fact, the reaction to the spy scandal reveals far more about American attitudes towards Russia than most classified information would. Simply put, the United States no longer regards Russia as its number-one nemesis and rival. In the days of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union had ten thousand nuclear missiles pointed at America, the reaction would have been far different – far more hostile, and far less amused.

In the United States today, the role of number-one rival has shifted from the USSR to mainland China. Think about what would have happened if the story had been about ten Chinese spies, not ten Russian spies. The media would have had a heart attack warning about the Chinese threat. The New York Times and the Economist – America’s newspapers for the elite – would be filled with dire articles analyzing so-called American decline and Chinese military strength. Fox News would probably warn earnestly about more Chinese spies in the midst of America. (Though those looking for Chinese spies would do well to consider the substantial community of Americans hailing from Taiwan instead of the mainland; telling the difference between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese is about as easy as was telling East Germans apart from West Germans during the Cold War.)

The Russian spy scandal also reveals much about the way American media operates. For the past few months, very little of note has occurred in either the domestic or international front. Perhaps the most notable events have been financial reform’s passage, the Gulf of Mexico spill, and – most importantly – the World Cup. None of these stories is enough to sustain a month’s news coverage (although the World Cup certainly comes close). This is why papers like the Times turn to things like Russian spies.

The spy affair, then doesn’t actually reveal much about Russia that isn’t already known – that it is spying on the United States. What it really does is tell a story about America itself – about Russia’s threat level in American eyes, and about what the media latches onto when there is nothing else to report.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

How Do China and Russia Think of Iran?

The United States media often - and for good reason - portrays China and Russia as reluctant to implement sanctions on Iran. Rarely (too rarely), however, does it attempt to view the issue through a Chinese or Russian lens. Americans nearly never try to understand the complex motivations behind Chinese and Russian lukewarmness.

I will attempt to do that now. How do China and Russia think of Iran?

Probably in the same way we think of Honduras. The lukewarm American opposition to the coup strikingly parallels China and Russia's stances on Iran.

If forced to state a position, most American officials probably would consider Micheletti in the wrong. By ousting Zelaya in his pajamas, Honduras revived a terrible tradition. Central America has a long history of destabilizing coups; they do terrible damage to a nation's future prospects. While Zelaya's actions may have been wrong, the army's action was unquestionably unconstitutional.

But that's exactly it. Zelaya wasn't exactly an innocent victim in all this. As conservatives have pointed out again and again, the situation isn't so clear-cut. The president, a widely unpopular figure, was pushing a poll of uncertain constitutionality. He attempted to align Honduras with Hugo Chavez's anti-American alliance and was entertaining a (constitutionally forbidden) term extension.

Thus, the United States has been decidedly lukewarm in its criticism of the coup - analogous to Chinese and Russian moderation regarding Iran. Honduras has mounted a lobbying campaign in Congress; it appears to be yielding fruit. Several Republican congressmen visited Honduras; the administration"is not talking about imposing new sanctions for now."

The truth is, if the United States fully committed itself against the government - if it suddenly suspended all foreign aid and threatened military action - it would fall in a matter of days. It doesn't however, because it's rightly sympathetic to Micheletti, just as China and Russia are sympathetic to Iran.

So the next time you bemoan Chinese or Russian foot-dragging on Iran, consider American foot-dragging in Honduras. The United States has legitimate arguments against taking too militant a stance in Honduras. China and Russia may have reasonable concerns, too.

After all, they were right regarding Iraq.

-- Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

There's more...

Media Coverage of Israel

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

In the past few months and years, media coverage of Israel has had subtle but distinct change in tone. The mainstream media is taking a harder look at Israel's policies, and has found not everything is to its liking.

There are several reasons why coverage of Israel has previously been so positive, and why recently a slight change has occurred. In the first place, Israel is a country culturally very attuned to us. Israel is part of the West; it shares Western norms and values. Many Jews would be comfortable living in the West and do so to this very day. Some of them work in the media and are sympathetic to the struggles their peers face.

Moreover, many in the media (and the vast majority of our country) believed that Israel had been in the right before 2006. Israel had - has - a democracy and a free press and all the things we like a country to have; the Palestine cause and their Arab supporters by and large do not. Israelis such as Yitzhak Rabin were calling for peace; meanwhile, Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas were sending suicide bombers to kill Israelis civilians day after day.

Then came the 9-11 attacks by Muslim terrorists. In its aftermath media coverage of Israel was probably the most positive it had ever been.

There were three events, however, which changed things. At the very least, they have damaged Israeli prestige.

Continued below the flip.

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Iraq: It's Not Getting Better

By Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

Since the end of July, there have been two massive bombings in Iraq. On July 31st, 29 were killed when a several bombs exploded outside Shiite mosques. On Friday, a truck bomb in another Shiite mosque detonated, killing another 37.

Regular days are also violent affairs. Take August 3rd. In the restive city of Mosul, five Iraqis were killed by separate attacks. Two bombs in Baghdad exploded, killing up to six Iraqis and wounding 26. Near Falluja, another bomb killed two and wounded seven.

In fact, according to the Associated Press, there have been 27 major bombings this year alone, the worst of which led to 82 deaths. The two months with the least number of major bombings were January and February. Since then there have been an average of four to five major bombings per month.

Politically, things look even worse. On important political issues ranging from the fate of Kurdistan to a new oil law, Iraqi politicians have failed to make progress. Worryingly, the current Shia-dominated government seems increasingly hostile to the Sunni-led Awakening movement that was a major factor in reducing insurgent violence.

Here's the point. Undoubtedly, violence is down from the days of 2006. Undoubtedly, progress has been made. But Iraq is still a very violent place; there is considerable instability in the country. Americans - and the current administration in particular - should not take Iraq for granted. That was the mistake George Bush made with Afghanistan. We are paying the price for that today.

Progress from the surge and the Awakening movement has plateaued. Maybe violence will continue to decline and the insurgency continue to weaken. That is the hope. Or maybe the opposite will happen, as violence rebounds and the insurgency recovers.

Right now nobody in America is paying attention to Iraq; everybody thinks the problem is solved when in fact it is not quite so. If things start going wrong, the media will be slow to pick up on it; it certainly took them a while with Afghanistan. So the administration has time on its side. But it should be very very careful that Iraq maintains a modicum of stability. It wouldn't to do repeat George Bush's mistake in an exciting new way.

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