- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Not Republican enough

Reading Bruce Fein’s “Wretched judging” column (Commentary, Tuesday) raised a question that has been gnawing at me since Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, announced his “get even” approach to the judiciary.

Although Mr. Fein doesn’t mention it, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — whose opinions Democrats apparently are celebrating — is, of course, a Reagan appointee. Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Birch, who openly questioned the constitutionality of Congress’ Terri Schiavo legislation, was appointed by the first President Bush.

So, setting aside the question of whether the courts got the merits right in either case (a different debate altogether), what exactly is the source of Mr. Fein’s and Mr. DeLay’s criticisms? Is it that the Democrats’ view of the judiciary is wrong or that Republican appointees aren’t “Republican enough” for their taste?

In any event, I won’t be surprised if, in 20 years, someone bemoans a “preposterous” ruling from a George W. Bush appointee — and blames Democrats for it.


Fishers, Ind.

Emergency drills a good idea

The tests being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security point out that freedom carries with it the liability that others may perceive freedom as weakness (“Anti-terror drill designed to uncover weaknesses” Nation, Tuesday). In these days of uncertainty, we just do not know who our enemies are — other than in broad brush. They fit no pattern, have no record and can be the person next door or the long-time neighbor down the block. Not all wear different clothing; not all speak with accents.

I hope the department will plan more of these exercises throughout the country, and in many different scenarios. This testing is good and long overdue.

We are facing uncertainty every day on how global terrorism will strike next. However, that does not mean we have to hide in our basements or be afraid to go about our normal business.

Rather, we should be prepared for the unusual and the unexpected, and we need to begin the discussion with our families and friends on our reactions, should there be further attacks on the United States.

Above all, we need to understand that the threat is real and there are a lot of people out there trying as well as they can to reduce that risk. I applaud their efforts at all levels.



Armenia, Azerbaijan and democracy

Over the past week or so, The Times published two opinion pieces regarding Azerbaijan and Armenia that demonstrate why their 17-year-plus conflict over national territory is so intractable. As a person who has done two academic research projects in Azerbaijan, I have to say the positions taken by S. Rob Sobhani in his March 28 Op-Ed column, “A ‘warehouse of evil,’ ” and by David B. Boyajian in his letter-to-the-editor response (April 1) exemplify the zero-sum, my-side-will-get-all-or-nothing stubbornness I have encountered on both sides of this issue that explain the reasons why it has yet to be resolved.

Mr. Boyajian’s portrayal of Azerbaijan as a country that helps “al Qaeda or extremist Islamic organizations” is inappropriate considering that its government has turned over a number of Chechen fighters to Russia, provided bases and overflight rights to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan and set up a bureaucracy over the past decade that exerts secular, at times even excessive, control over the country’s Islamic mosques and other religions.

Too, if the territory Armenians took from Azerbaijan with Russian help is as democratic as Mr. Boyajian insists, why do its new Armenian inhabitants cling to their occupied land with such fervor and refuse to allow Azerbaijanis to return to their homes or have any role in that democracy? Isn’t democracy a nonviolent, inclusive political system that allows adversariestoresolve disagreements through debate rather than force?

On the other hand, Mr. Sobhani’s insistence that President Bush and NATO troops can resolve the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict without Russia’s help is naive at best. NATO troops will be able to play a peacekeeping role in that situation only with Russia’s assistance. To suggest otherwise is a gross oversimplification of a very complicated multinational situation.

Further, I do not believe it’s realistic, as Mr. Sobhani suggests, to expect Armenians to hand over control of Nagorno-Karabakh with a smile, even if their ethnic group gets rights guarantees from Azerbaijan. I think Karabakh will require a special status within Azerbaijan, perhaps that of an autonomous self-governing region. I do believe Armenians should return areas of Azerbaijan outside of Nagorno Karabakh that they occupy.

To continue, I’m appalled by Mr. Sobhani’s inference that Armenia is a “warehouse of evil.” Such inflammatory rhetoric may rile people up and even stir them to action, but it lends nothing to rational problem solving. Haven’t we been through enough horrors in the past century that demonstrate the failings of trying to get people to see a whole nation, ethnic group or race through one disparaging, dehumanizing, “prismatic” catchphrase?

Finally, any analysis of Azerbaijan’s political situation that excludes the toxic mix of Western oil lust with the country’s “elected dictatorship,” a topic not covered by Mr. Sobhani, is sure to miss its target.

I hope I’ve demonstrated that the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is not black and white but has many shades of gray; and therein lie its solutions.


Professor of political science

Westminster College

Salt Lake City

In “A ‘warehouse of evil,’” Mr. Sobhani claims that Armenian authorities are unable to manage their armed forces and armaments. The FBI disagrees and just two weeks ago praised “the professionalism and active cooperation of the Armenian authorities” in a sting operation in which would-be smugglers were nabbed before they attempted to move the weapons into the United States. In fact, Washington has praised Armenia’s military cooperation, calling the country a “key partner” in the war on terror.

To claim that Azerbaijan, as compared to Armenia, has been unfairly penalized in foreign aid misrepresents the situation on the ground. Mr. Sobhani could have added that U.S. assistance to Armenia would not be so critical if Turkish and Azeri blockades were not strangling its eastern and western borders.

While Mr. Sobhani correctly notes that Armenia’s president supports a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict, his Azeri counterpart does not. President Ilham Aliyev has declared repeatedly that he is “not in a hurry” to settle the conflict and would start a new war at the time of his choosing.

Karabakh Armenians have long made their choice for freedom and democracy and have defended that choice in a war forced on them more than a decade ago. The international community concurs that Armenian Karabakh can never again be governed by Azerbaijan.


Executive director

Armenian Assembly of America


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