Although it's been 10 years since Canadian military forces invaded and occupied Maine, life in the disputed U.S. state has not returned to normal. The Canadian army drove all non-native French speakers across the border into New Hampshire, leaving many houses -and sometimes whole neighborhoods -standing empty.
Diplomatic tensions boiled over at the United Nations building this week, as the U.S. ambassador blasted plans by several European nations to send direct foreign aid to Maine, bypassing Washington, DC and treating the state as a de facto autonomous region.
Sound far-fetched? Well, on one level, given the continued existence of the U.S. Marine Corps, it certainly is. On the other hand, a very similar drama is playing out right now on the other side of the world and you'll never guess which side we're about to be on, if Congress has its way.
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics located between Russian and Iran have been locked in a state of war for more than a decade over the region formerly of Azerbaijan, called Nagorno-Karabakh. Almost 800,000 Azerbaijanis are displaced refugees, due to the conflict.
The official U.S. position on this issue has remained consistent since fighting first broke out. The U.S. remains committed to finding a peaceful settlement of this conflict.
However, a House-Senate conference committee is soon set to consider the Foreign Operations Request (HR, 109-152) for Azerbaijan and Armenia. The request includes $3 million in direct appropriations through Armenia for the Nagorno-Karabakh region which is in conflict with long time U.S policy.
The conference committee should reject the Senate's intrusion on this issue and preserve America's position as an impartial broker in the region. After all, it's not an area where we can afford to lose too many more allies.
Russia and China are working hard to pry the U.S. out of Central Asia. The "K2" airbase in Uzbekistan has been a major center of operations for the U.S. military's efforts in Afghanistan. However, in response to increasing pressure to pay more attention to human rights, Uzbek President Islam Karimov recently gave the U.S. six months to make an emergency trip to neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to endure continued cooperation from those countries.
Azerbaijan, the former Soviet republic located directly between Russia and Iran, has worked for a decade to align itself with the U.S. and Europe through a continuing process of democratization and economic engagement.
Azerbaijan has also been a firm supporter of the U.S.-led war on terror, signing every one of the international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols tracked by the U.S. State Department. It has frozen terrorist assets, sent peacekeepers to Afghanistan and is the only Shia Muslim country to send troops to Iraq. Azerbaijan provides open access to airspace for U.S. military aircraft and continues to serve as a pre-positioning and refueling location.
As oil prices continue to climb, Azerbaijan's importance as a non-OPEC oil producer can not be overstated. Construction has recently finished on the 1,093-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which will transport up to 1.6 million barrels of oil a day from wells off the Azerbaijan coast to tankers in the Mediterranean Sea.
Azerbaijan is even one of the few predominantly Muslim nations that is friendly with the State of Israel, for whom it is a major supplier of oil. The two countries have extensive connections through trade, tourism, and investment.
I'm not suggesting we take sides against Armenia. During the massacre of the early 20th century, up to a million or more ethnic Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. We must be sensitive to the impact of the historical experience. However, the short-sighted proposal before Congress would seriously undermine our ability to mediate between the two sides and would put us at odds with some of our supporters in Central Asia. So it's time for Congress to ask, is this any way to treat a friend?
Gary L. Bauer, a 2000 Republican presidential contender and former Domestic Policy Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, has quickly risen to become one of America's best-known and leading voices for conservatism. Prior to running for president, he was instrumental in the founding and development of two of America's most prominent conservative groups.
Currently, Bauer serves as chairman of one of America's leading political action committees, the Campaign for Working Families, and as President of American Values, a DC-area non-profit organization. Gary previously served as president of the Family Research Council, one of Washington's most respected centers for public policy.
In ten years, Bauer led FRC from a three person, $1 million operation, to a 120 person, $14 million operation, housed in its own headquarters in downtown Washington. Similarly, he founded the political action committee Campaign for Working Families in 1996 and it has become one of the largest political backers of conservative candidates in the country. Through Campaign for Working Families PAC, Bauer raised $7 million in the first two years, with 90,000 individual contributors. A frequent guest on a wide variety of political talk shows and a much-in-demand speaker nationwide, Bauer is widely viewed as one of the most effective spokesmen for an unapologetically pro-life, pro-family, pro-growth message.
Prior to joining FRC, Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan's administration for eight years, during the last two years as President Reagan's Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Previously, Bauer was Under Secretary of Education beginning in July 1985, when he was confirmed by unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate. While serving at the Education Department, Bauer was named Chairman of President Reagan's Special Working Group on the Family. His report, "The Family: Preserving America's Future," was presented to the President in December 1986.
Bauer is the author of Our Journey Home, published in October 1992; co-author of the best-selling book Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Kids written with Focus on the Family Chairman and Founder, Dr. James Dobson; and author of Our Hopes, Our Dreams: A Vision for America, published in 1996.In 1973, Bauer received his law degree from Georgetown Law School in Washington D.C.
He is married to the former Carol Hoke of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They have three children - Elyse, Sarah, and Zachary - and live in Virginia.
About Your Editor
Gary Polland is a long-time conservative and Republican spokesman, fund-raiser, and leader who recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican Chairman. During his three terms, Gary was described as the most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events - The National Conservative Weekly. He is in his ninth year of editing a newsletter dealing with key conservative and Republican issues. The last four years he has edited Texas Conservative Review. Gary is a practicing attorney and strategic consultant and can be reached at (713) 621-6335.
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