Top of the Morning: Arab League Means Business. GOP Candidates Take on Foreign Policy; An impending health crisis in Thailand

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Arab League Means Business

On Saturday, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria — by far the sharpest international rebuke of Bashar al Assad’s violent crackdowns to date. The move by the Arab League was a direct response to Assad’s flagrant violation of an Arab League brokered accord signed nearly 10 days ago.  Regime supporters reacted violently to this news, but the message from the Arab League’s dramatic move does seem to have been received. “Tens of thousands of Syrian government supporters poured into the streets Sunday to protest an Arab League vote to suspend the country’s membership, as Turkey sent planes to evacuate diplomatic staff and their families after a night of attacks on embassies. Facing growing isolation, the Syrian government called for an urgent Arab summit to discuss the country’s spiraling political unrest and invited Arab League officials to visit before its membership suspension was to take effect on Wednesday. In a significant concession, the government said the Arab officials could bring any civilian or military observers they deem appropriate to oversee implementation of an Arab League plan for ending the bloodshed.” (USA Today

Republican Presidential Candidates’ Pearls of Foreign Policy Wisdom

The crowded and kind-of-crazy field of Republican presidential hopefuls held their first foreign policy focused debate on Saturday night. It was about what you would expect. (CBS

– “Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich said at the Republican presidential debate here Saturday night that they would be willing to go to war to keep Iran from attaining nuclear weapons if all other strategies failed.”

-Rick Perry: “The foreign aid budget in my administration, for every country, is going to start at zero dollars.” (

– “[Herman] Cain, along with Michele Bachmann, said he supports the use of waterboarding, which Cain said isn’t torture but an “enhanced interrogation technique.” [Ron] Paul disagreed, saying ‘waterboarding is torture’ and ‘torture is illegal’ under both U.S. and international law as well as “immoral.” Jon Huntsman sided with Paul, saying waterboarding is torture and the U.S. abdicates its values by engaging in it. Perry also seemed to back waterboarding.

– Perry, along with Romney, said military commanders should dictate when troops leave Afghanistan, and he criticized Mr. Obama for setting a date for withdrawal. Romney supports a near-full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Gazing into the Crystal Ball

Woefully under-reported, the flooding in Bangkok continues to get worse.  Estimates say that it will take up to a month for the waters to recede and more neighborhoods are being evacuated.  Meanwhile, other parts of Thailand and neighbors like Cambodia are also underwater.  Thus far there have been few reports about health problems, but the lack of access to sanitation and more people being displaced makes for a public health perfect storm.