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Michael Ubaldi, August 1, 2006.

So the immortality of Fidel Castro is refuted: the communist tyrant is reported gravely ill, his brother now in control of Cuba.

In the short term we must put up with intellectuals and the press as they anthropomorphize and even apotheosize a thug who first subjugated and then deadened the Latinate island while forcing the United States, humiliated at the Bay of Pigs, to watch from across an absconder-strewn gulf.

In the long term America's electorate and representatives must again consider, respectively, whether there is a will to confront outright suffering within the nation's compass and, if so, what plans and forces are available to remove those who are culpable. Washington has generally offered two competing policies for Cuba: neglecting the Cuban people by ostracizing the totalitarian regime, the default, or engaging Castro himself — an alternative with about as many dividends as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's 2000 toast in Pyongyang to the ubiquity of Cult Kim. Nearly fifty years on, neither approach to Cuba is reasoned.

How about rhetorical and material encouragement given directly to public airwaves and Cuban liberals? East Europe could not have overturned Soviet dominion as it did had it not been for Reaganite succor. Or intervention? The United States armed forces recently deposed — in record time with little loss — a third-string, narcissistic strongman commanding a dictatorial rattletrap whose name, forever consigned to mug shot farce, was Manuel Noriega.

Michael Ubaldi, July 27, 2006.

Jonah Goldberg is exactly right in warning that "Pursuing elections before you've cultivated liberal values is a recipe for Hitlerism or Hamas-ism" while suggesting "If there's a strong-man who wants to be Ataturk [who modernized, secularized and liberalized post-Ottoman Turkey], we should give him some leeway."

That is why Kuwaitis and Jordanians should be left to continue their measurably steady movement towards electoral democracy, with or without constitutional monarchism, with quiet encouragement from Washington; the regimes in countries like Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar given varying degrees of prods and admonishments to receive liberal parties and advocates; and the virulent governments of Syria and Iran undercut in every way possible. In debate on American foreign policy, too much attention is paid to the means of cultivating freedom — when it is ends that matter.

Michael Ubaldi, July 26, 2006.

With all the material and intellectual challenges facing democratists, choosing one's opponents is still beneficial. From the parochialist backbench can be heard This is What You Get When You Pretend They Can Be Us, but that rebuke was learned by rote in a school of anthropology discredited sixty years ago. Peoples living today under the republican rule of law include those whose countries never flew a British flag, those who are dark-skinned and, indeed, those who are Muslim. There is ever a dislocation between what was — what "ought to be" — and what is, the principal service of Carol O'Connor's dramatized misanthropy to get him laughed at. It's best to leave the parochialists to their dangerous flirtation, then, and answer the conservatives.

Michael Ubaldi, July 24, 2006.

John Derbyshire asks for Hillary Clinton as Vesta Tilley. Very well:

There is something a little vulgar about political defacement, even in good fun — but inspiration is difficult to resist, especially when the request "Depict Mrs. Clinton dressed as a man" instantly and repeatedly brings General Douglas MacArthur to mind. Say what you want about the apparently shared usefulness of pantsuits, the two have more than a little in common. Both general and senator would be rightly considered imperious, resolute, personally unlikable but highly successful in their chosen fields; and perhaps unforgettable to history for having made, with adamantine confidence, a curious attempt at the American presidency.

"I shall return," each said.

Michael Ubaldi, July 24, 2006.

As someone whose career involves debating a number of personalities on the left, Jonah Goldberg has my sympathies as he criticizes a Lebanese journalist's paralogism on the respective alliances of Iran and Syria and Hezbollah, and the United States and Israel. Iran and Syria, two countrywide gangsterdoms of demonstrable brutality, and Hezbollah, a terrorist cadre working towards a philosophically muddled but operationally precise goal of genocide; indistinguishable from two free, generous, prosperous — longanimous — nations?

The place for rational discussions of foreign policy seems to be increasingly confined to the broad right. A conservative may be skeptical or even dismissive of the practice of nation-building but will probably agree with a democratist that when achievable, liberalization and its object, electoral democracy, are incomparably better — for natives and neighbors alike — than autocratic control, oppression and the resulting belligerence. I recently tried to discuss foreign affairs with a number of leftists and found that a rejection of moral values and the empirical evidence behind them (for instance, that a Syrian or Iranian citizen cannot stage a public protest of his government without risking his status or health, whereas an American or Israeli can't do the same without a good chance of his picture in the newspaper) is essential to this perception of the left's. An attempt, I presume, at a simpler equation — but as the equation is stripped of moral judgment it is also one removed from logic.

Michael Ubaldi, July 22, 2006.

Although I have some more work to do in persuading a well-intentioned nitpicker that the word "recrudescence" is an acceptable figuration of my blogging bug, my efforts elsewhere have brought the website's substructure near completion. All that is left are old political categories like "Iraq's Emancipation" and "Domestic" to be reassigned to "Observations" and a few navigation odds and ends — and then I am free to pretty the place up.

Note that "Observations" keeps political entries and two old categories known to be favorites of uBlog readers — "Our Man Ubaldi" and "Only in Japan" — separate from one another. What's a rule without a sentimental exception?

The site is designed for Mozilla Firefox, and I have confirmed that Internet Explorer haphazardly inserts gaps when it renders HTML tables, so let's solve that problem together.

Michael Ubaldi, July 21, 2006.

To you happy few who still give me a reason to spend money on bandwidth: the site is about halfway through a structural format change. Navigability shall return, followed with a recrudescence in content. You remember that word — "content," yes?

Michael Ubaldi, July 20, 2006.

If the blogosphere were a personality in need of a biographer, Simon Owens would be just the man. I recently answered five questions on blogging, media and the national conversation for Owens' continuing series, Blog Interviews.

Michael Ubaldi, July 14, 2006.

John Podhoretz and Cliff May have decided to argue over the merits of democratization as an American policy with Andrew McCarthy who, for all his rhetorical determination to fight Near East fascism, defends the strategic institutions responsible for the spread and resilience of that very enemy.

I suggest a three-step plan.

1. Calmly illustrate the difference between encouraging, in fascist-worshiping Near East dictatorships, civil society that will eventually support free elections of liberals; and simply shipping ballot boxes to jihadist-run slums.

2. Ask Andrew if he would rather have, in headlines, apologies for Damascus from Emile Lahoud; or imputations thereto from Walid Jumblatt.

3. Before he can reply, smile, say, "No, you're right, Andy: let's end terrorism by following Washington's Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia foreign policy models, where several dozen cents out of every aid dollar are slipped to terrorists who know people on the government payroll. That makes so much sense," and just let it go.

Michael Ubaldi, July 10, 2006.

Robert Mayer declares that, in Ukraine, the Orange Revolution "is officially over." On whose authority? Last December, Robert made strident claims — in error — of throughgoing Shiite theft of Iraq's parliamentary elections. Now Moscow-backed reactionaries win a round and the struggle over Kiev is finished?

Setting those evanescent, if resplendent, days in Independence Square against the drudgery of redeeming a post-Soviet bureaucracy is an illustration of the maxim "Democracy is a process, not an event." Ukraine will vacillate, good fortunes and bad fortunes, for years. Democratists — especially bloggers — aren't doing their cause or foreign hopefuls a favor by divesting themselves when an elysian monument is not immediately erected on the site of the victory won by an otherwise granitic popular movement. Constantly publishing photographs of "protest babes" is fun, yes. But there is levity in that, the stuff of fair-weather allies.