Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.
Rangel the Reaganaut?
Far be it for me to criticize a man who comes to his senses. And far be it for me to criticize a journalist I admire. But when George Will writes that Charlie Rangel is a tax-hating Democrat, either his researchers haven't done their homework or Mr. Will has been duped by Washington's premier mountebank.
According to Congressman Rangel circa 2008:
Ronald Reagan opposed using the tax code as a means of achieving changes in our social structure. I don't think the tax code should be a substitute for the appropriations process in making social change.
Rangel contends that what we do to taxpayers is embarrassing. Sounding a little like Steve Forbes, he is now a proponent of a simplified tax code, one that lowers rates and closes loopholes.
In examining his 19-year history in the Congress one would be hard pressed to find consistency. In fact, his only consistent position is inconsistency.
What is most remarkable was his voluble position against Reagan's tax cuts. He did not rail against them because of a belief they would harm the economy; he criticized them because, as he noted at the time, they are "racist." Yes, this same Charlie Rangel who advocates lower rates and simplicity condemned tax decreases as racist.
Could the representative from Harlem have had an epiphany? It is possible, but doubtful. As chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he may be obliged to be more responsible than he was in the past. It may also be the case -- excuse my cynicism -- that Mr. Rangel is more wealthy than he used to be, putting him in the highest tax-paying bracket.
If one were to parse his former claim of tax decreases as racism, you would find that his presumption is African-Americans need government handouts and any diminution in this government role is unfair. That this stance is pandering at its worst did not faze the shameless Mr. Rangel. He knew where his electoral bread is buttered.
When I challenged him on this point during a television talk show, he accused me of racism for supporting Reagan's tax cuts. How then can anyone take Mr. Rangel's present claims seriously?
That a cut in tax rates might generate additional tax revenue is a concept outside of Mr. Rangel's ken. For him, all issues were to be seen in racial terms. Before his newly discovered respectability, Mr. Rangel was a racial hustler who shot from the hip for the delectation of his constituents.
Mr. Will now claims Rangel is a new man. Well, I don't buy it. First, I would like to know which lobbyists are paying for his trips to the Caribbean? Second, I would like to know if his advisers told him a form of triangulation might be good for a Senate run? And third, if his tax proposals are to be "revenue neutral," what's in and enhanced or out and diminished?
If George Will had answers to these questions, his column might be credible. Without them, I remain a skeptic. Moreover, recognizing Mr. Rangel's chameleonic history, I tend to be skeptical about any of his public utterances.
Perhaps I should give more credit when it's due, but in his case the past is not a distant memory and I still retain a vivid recollection of the fury of his critique. Tax cuts thy name was racism sayeth the Congressman from Harlem.
Britain's Voluntary Apartheid
The Daily Telegraph recently published an article indicating that Islamic extremists have created "no go" areas across Great Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter.
Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church of England's only Asian bishop, said that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
Clearly what is at stake is the very future of Christianity as the nation's public religion. With multiculturalism gaining ground as a philosophical position, Islam is riding on the coattails of this phenomenon.
Since all faiths are to be treated equally according to this multicultural faith, it isn't possible to challenge publicly the call to prayer or the reliance on Sharia to adjudicate legal claims.
Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said England is "sleepwalking into segregation," has been criticized for what some consider incendiary language. However, it is clear that multiculturalism has led to deep and irrepressible social divisions, what one politician called "voluntary apartheid."
It would appear that the divisions can be attributed to the government's failure to integrate immigrants into the larger community. But it is also related to a diminished belief in the Church of England and Christianity in general. Most residents of Britain believe the Church will be disestablished within a generation, severing a bond that has existed between Church and State since the Reformation.
Of course, there are those who contend that the critique of multiculturalism is little more than a manifestation of intolerance. Yet it is the intolerance in the Muslim communities that has resulted in this blow-back.
Reverend Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, maintains that it is increasingly difficult for Christians to observe their faith in communities where they are a minority. He too believes that pressure put on the Government will result in the disestablishment of the Church of England.
There is little doubt that Britain is undergoing dramatic change. In a mere few decades this nation with an acknowledged Christian foundation is now routinely described as a multi-faith society. Clearly the large number of immigrants entering the British Isles accounts in large part for the shift in attitude. Yet that isn't the whole story. The loss of confidence in the Christian vision, which underlies most of the achievements and principles of the culture, may account for a reluctance to defend the nation's heritage.
If minorities are permitted to live in their own insulated communities, communicating in their own languages and having a minimum need to build relationships with the majority, the nation will sink into balkanization. Moreover, this separation feeds and endorses Islamic extremism by alienating youngsters from the nation and creating the impression ideological devotion is a mark of acceptability.
There are, of course, Muslims and Christians who recognize the problem and are eager to do something about it. But can Sharia relate to British civil law? Can Sharia-compliant banking be accommodated in a free market system? Can Christianity be maintained as the nation's public faith? Can universities transmit a sense of Britannia when multiculturalism is in the ascendancy?
These are merely several of the host of questions and issues that must be addressed by government and religious leaders. Unfortunately there are many more questions than answers and much more confusion on the part of the British public than clarity about the road ahead.
Taiwan and the Current International Reality
While the United States and many European nations have recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, China has indicated it will avoid any precedent that could be applied to Taiwan.
In fact, in 2005 China's National People's Congress passed an "antisecession law" which said: "Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China's sovereignty and territorial integrity brook no division." This antisecession law explicitly gives the Chinese government the authority to "employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures" should Taiwan unilaterally declare its independence.
With Kosovo's declaration, Taiwan is once again on the front burner as an international issue. The Taiwanese presidential election in March 2008 and the referendum on United Nations' admission offer stark evidence that Taiwan's ambiguous status will be given careful examination.
Much has changed in the China-Taiwan relationship in the last few decades. For one, China-Taiwan trade was at roughly $120 billion in 2007 up from $2 billion at the end of the 1980s. More than half of Taiwan's outbound investment goes to China, putting Taiwan in the position of either number four or five in direct investor status on the mainland. Moreover, somewhere around 25 million Chinese are employed in Taiwanese businesses on the mainland leading to a level of integration that could not have been imagined a decade ago.
Surely this integration moderates, to some degree, China's military buildup across the straits. But China's adamant position vis-a-vis Taiwan overlooks the current reality.
Taiwan is an advanced economy that recently replaced Australia as the 16th most wealthy nation on the globe. Its population of 23 million people is larger than three-quarters of the nations at the United Nations. Its role in the design and manufacture of the iPhone among other advanced consumer products is the envy of most Asian states. And since 1988, when martial law was suspended, it has had a vibrant democracy and vigorous competition between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The idea that Taiwan is a "renegade province" -- an expression often used by Chinese leaders -- overlooks the evolution of this island nation. At the outset, when Chiang Kai-Shek took six million adherents to Formosa, there was little doubt these people identified themselves as Chinese who at some point had a vision of returning to the mainland. Over time, however, this identification has changed.
Today, when asked the question of identity more than 70 percent said they are Taiwanese. Not only has Taiwanese nationalism effloresced, but the disparity between Taiwan's per capita income of $28,000 and China's at $1800 stands as a vivid reminder to Taiwanese that Communist leadership in China is not what they want to embrace.
While the KMT is somewhat more accommodationist in its stance toward China than the DPP, it is not willing to modify the status-quo. What it does suggest is that tourism and cultural ties should be encouraged in order to promote further understanding with the vague suggestion that in the future (some distant future) the two states may be united.
By contrast, if one may call it a contrast rather than a nuanced position, the DPP embodies the nation's newly discovered nationalist fervor. It argues that Taiwan has more to offer China than the reverse. Former President Chen engaged in rhetorical flourishes about independence that alarmed the White House and infuriated China. But these comments were more a reflection of de facto nationalism rather than de jure separation.
Taiwan's stance is in fact an ambiguous one between independence and reunification. If independence were actually declared, it might serve as a casus belli for China. If reunification were to be a short-term policy, any Taiwanese government advocating it would fall. Hence there is a delicate minuet between the two rival positions with neither in the ascendancy, despite an occasional minor tilt in one direction or the other.
There is a growing international perspective that time is on China's side, but I see it differently. Fissures in the Chinese economy and a totalistic political system indicate that dictatorial party control and the free market are incompatible. Should China go through a form of democratization, the Taiwan question could easily be addressed. A democratic China might hold genuine gravitational pull for Taiwanese, who despite nationalistic sentiment, still retain transcendent ethnic ties to China. Or more likely, a democratic China would simply maintain close relations to Taiwan with the latter serving as a political model to be emulated. Perhaps under these circumstances a confederation could be entertained.
Therefore the key to the resolution of the so-called Taiwan Straits issue is patience on the part of Taiwan and a belief that at some point liberalization in China will open a host of opportunities.
The United States should play a significant role in this political equation. After all, the U.S. is the only nation with the military strength to offset an adventurous gambit by China across the Taiwan Straits. Even if America's military interests in Asia recede, the U.S. must maintain a military umbrella for Taiwan so that the force of liberalization can gain a foothold in China. If I am correct, Taiwan needs time and the U.S. can provide it.
American leaders should continually send a message to Chinese officials that a military solution for what China calls its Taiwan problem is unacceptable, even if China refuses to take the military option off the table. Taiwan deserves our support and China must realize that missiles bristling in Fijian Province and its increasingly menacing blue-water navy will not deter the United States' defensive commitment to Taiwan.
At the moment, Taiwan feels isolated. The penumbra of China is palpable. China's growing influence on the world stage which includes blandishments for those who renounce Taiwan and implicit threats for others is keenly felt by Taiwanese officials. Nonetheless, twenty-four nations presently recognize Taiwan, and this island nation's technical assistance program in Latin America and Africa have the potential to generate new friends.
Taiwan wants UN recognition as a way to break through the isolation. For Taiwan UN membership or some affiliated status is a national security issue. If Avian flu were to cross to the Taiwan Straits without notification from the World Health Organization, for example, thousands of lives could be put in jeopardy. The upcoming Taiwan referendum on this matter is advertised all over Taipei as "Taiwan in the U.N.: Peace Forever." This is, of course, wildly hyperbolic, but it does reflect Taiwan's desire for recognition.
Most Taiwanese officials do not realize that UN participation could limit national sovereignty, even if the UN gives tacit recognition to sovereign states. The example of Israel is illustrative; it is a UN member continually censured by the Human Rights Commission and is isolated in the UN by the bloc voting of the 57 Muslim nations. Whatever the outcome in the Taiwan UN referendum, China's veto in the Security Council is ultimately dispositive. It will not allow formal status for Taiwan and, most likely, will resist informal status as well.
As I see it, Taiwan can secure some measure of international status through bilateral arrangements of a formal and informal nature with neighboring Asian nations, e.g., Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia. Chinese saber rattling has had a chastening effect on regional nations that fear potential Chinese imperial aspirations. As a consequence, Taiwan can play a modest role in an Asian defense condominium through its technical expertise and its own defense capability.
Although China is or will soon be in a position to display overwhelming force directed at Taiwan, the Taiwanese should invest heavily in a robust anti-missile system that will have to be factored into any Chinese offensive threat. Just as Chinese missiles are a symbol of intimidation, Taiwanese defenses are a symbol of resistance and determination.
As I see it, this island nation has performed a miracle in a scant sixty years. From a fledging state comprised of those seeking sanctuary from Communist oppression, it has emerged full-blown as an economic giant and a stable democracy. If any nation deserves our support, it is Taiwan. Kosovo may serve as a precedent, albeit this new state has not proven itself in any way. Taiwan, however, has proven itself in every way. In a world where power often replaces moral standing, it would be refreshing for morality to prevail and for Taiwan to receive its just rewards.
If Taiwan remains patient and democracy in Asia is inexorable, as I believe it to be, that day may not be far off.
South Africa's Embrace of Totalitarians
A federal appellate court recently put the world's largest companies on notice that they could be held liable for having engaged in business with South Africa's apartheid regime. Presumably doing business with regimes that commit human rights violations can be litigated retroactively. Overlooked in this court decision, however, are the human rights violations of the present South African government that emerged from the apartheid era.
While the betrayal of human rights can be found across the globe, it is nonetheless frustrating when a nation liberated from the yoke of oppression is complicit in promoting oppression elsewhere. Nowhere is this more evident than in the relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Since President Robert Mugube introduced a policy of violent confiscation of white-owned farms in 2000, Zimbabwe, once the jewel of Africa, has been reduced to degeneration, starvation and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world.
One might assume that South Africa liberated from apartheid would condemn the lawless behavior of Mugube. Well that might be assumed, but it would be wrong. Because Mugube fought against white colonialism, the ANC has been reluctant to condemn the brutality of his regime.
Moreover, not only does it give Mugube a pass on his brutality, it props him up through a formal military alliance and, through its auspices at the UN, it keeps the evidence of atrocities off the international agenda.
In March 2007 Mugabe's secret police cracked down on his opponents at a public prayer meeting and assaulted the country's opposition leader, Morgan Tsuangirai. Yet the South African ambassador to the UN said Zimbabwe's issues should "remain local," untrammeled by international intervention.
Of course this is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last time, South Africa supports dictatorial regimes. It has consistently voted against censuring the military junta in Burma at the UN and has adopted a defiantly anti-American posture in every international meeting in which it has been present. The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad, claimed the U.S. was responsible for a "volatile, dangerous, and unpredictable environment" in world affairs and has condemned the "unilateral action" against Iraq.
Although South Africa's Muslim community is small, 1.5 percent of the population, it has become increasingly radicalized. Yet ANC leaders have condoned the action of the radicals noting "a clear distinction between terrorism and legitimate struggle for liberation." On the week of June 4 the ANC called for South Africans to turn out "in solidarity with the Palestinian people."
While the reflexive anti-American and anti-Israeli position is not surprising, what is most noteworthy is South Africa's role in supporting Iran's nuclear ambitions. According to South African officials Iran has an "inalienable right" to a "peaceful nuclear energy program," albeit that is precisely what Iran claims as well. Enriched uranium, of course, has other purposes as well, a point South African leaders certainly understand. That South Africa supports Iran is largely related to oil since Iran supplies almost half of the oil South Africa uses.
If one were to drill down far enough, the ANC's cozy embrace of totalitarians is related to an historic distrust of the West, solidified during the apartheid years. Bubbling to the surface is anti-American sentiment based on a belief the U.S. could have done more to end the hateful apartheid system.
Yet it is instructive that the U.S. relies heavily on South Africa to be the continental leader. And in some ways South Africa is fulfilling this role with its peacekeeping force in the Congo, the Ivory Coast and Burundi and its belief in sound economic principles.
Unfortunately the positives that have emerged are more than neutralized by ANC's complicit support of totalitarian practices that are reminiscent of South Africa's discredited past. As one South African spokesman noted, "South Africa is now the only state in the democratic world aside from Venezuela . . . that is standing behind Iran on everything."
I wonder what Nelson Mandela thinks about this stance. *
"We may not imagine how our lives could be more frustrating and complex -- but Congress can." --Cullen Hightower