on: November 25, 2014, 09:53:46 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG
I wonder what law enforcement people here think of the actions of the officer, as we know them, in this strange incident.
It is some kind of an ego or I dare you thing for pedestrians to intentionally compete with cars for space in a street, with sidewalks available on both sides and no doubt a law or two against blocking traffic. For Brown, the obvious thing to do would have been to move over, at least when confronted by the police. That isn't what happened here. In this case, the officer spoke to them, perhaps with sarcasm. Brown swore at him and walked on, according to this story. Wilson called for back up and pulled out to block and confront them.
At the point where they walked on, we might all say in hindsight, the rest wasn't worth it. But isn't that when an area becomes, what they call in other countries, a Police no-go zone? http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=977.msg84433#msg84433
It started with a simple request — "will you just walk on the sidewalk?" Forty-five seconds later, Michael Brown lay sprawled on the street, shot dead by a police officer who had never before fired his gun in the line of duty.
And as he drove away from the 18-year-old's body, heading to the Ferguson police station to wash Brown's blood from his hands and surrender his gun, all Officer Darren Wilson could think was, "I'm just kind of in shock of what just happened. I really didn't believe it."
Those were the words he shared with a grand jury. And late Monday, Wilson's explanation of that deadly day in early August became public for the first time, in a small part of an enormous trove of documents released by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch.
Thousands of pages of police interviews, autopsy reports and secret testimony — including Wilson's — were made public after McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson in Brown's death.
Until late Monday, Wilson's voice had remained silent, and the general story line went largely unchallenged: White police officer shoots unarmed young black man trying to surrender on a summer day in a St. Louis suburb.
But on Monday, Wilson's terror and panic were plain to see in 90 pages of his testimony before the grand jury on Sept. 16 and an 18-page interview with detectives that was recorded Aug. 10, the day after Brown's death.
Wilson was leaving an earlier call, having assisted the mother of a sick infant, when he saw Brown and another young man walking down the middle of the street, forcing traffic to slow and swerve around them. The police officer told the grand jury that he drove up, stopped his car and asked Wilson, "What's wrong with the sidewalk?"
In Wilson's account, it was all downhill from there. Brown swore at the officer, and the two men walked away. So Wilson called for backup, threw his police-issued Chevy Tahoe into reverse and cut the young men off.
As he opened the door, he testified, Brown slammed it shut on Wilson's leg. The officer told Brown to get back and opened the door again.
"He then grabs my door again and shuts my door," Wilson told the grand jury. "At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle.... I was hit right here in the side of the face with a fist."
The two men scuffled, Wilson said, and when he struggled to gain some control over the situation "and not be trapped in my car anymore," he grabbed Brown's arm. "The only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan."
Brown, he said, looked like a "demon."
I've never used my weapon before
- Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on shooting of Michael Brown
When Wilson drew his gun from inside his car and told Brown to get back or he would shoot, the officer said, "he immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a [coward] to shoot me.'"
Wilson said he pulled his gun because "I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse." Brown was bigger than the 6-foot-4 officer, and stronger, too. "I'd already taken two to the face, and I didn't think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right."
Wilson ultimately got out of the car, and Brown began to run away. Then he stopped. And turned. And began to run back toward the officer. He made a fist with his left hand and reached under his shirt with his right. Wilson testified that he kept telling him to get on the ground. Brown didn't.
"I shoot a series of shots," Wilson said. "I don't know how many I shot, I just know I shot it."
Later, in front of the grand jury, Wilson was asked whether he had ever had to use excessive force in the line of duty before Aug. 9.
"I've never used my weapon before," he replied.
on: November 25, 2014, 09:06:14 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by ccp
Agree completely with above post. Most of us agree with Mark Levin's comments from last night's radio broadcast. What he takes away from this is youth should not be robbing stores, strong arming store owners, punching police officers and reaching for their guns.
Yet we have the left desperately turning this around to suit their agenda.
Time for center and right of center political leaders to start calling out this charade. We know the left won't do it.
on: November 25, 2014, 08:02:25 AM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by objectivist1
Ferguson in Flames
Posted By Matthew Vadum On November 25, 2014
Grand jurors in Ferguson, Mo., refused to indict local police officer Darren Wilson yesterday, heroically resisting pressure from President Obama on down to lynch an innocent police officer who fought off a violent attacker.
The decision is infuriating left-wingers across America because it rebuts the underlying assumption they embrace which is that white police racism caused the death of Michael Brown, a young black thug who tried to seize Wilson’s gun in an attempt to do the officer harm.
As fresh rioting was already underway in the St. Louis area, the decision also angered President Obama who could barely contain his hostility in a disgraceful, unprecedented television appearance following the release of the announcement about the non-indictments. Obama urged activists to refrain from using violence. The president himself bears direct responsibility for fomenting the combustible situation, however.
The county’s elected prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, calmly explained the process in detail last night that the grand jury employed in choosing not to return indictments in five potential charges from first-degree murder to lesser offenses.
McCulloch is a white Democrat who has come under heavy fire from race-baiting members of his own political party. His partisans hate him because he does not share their antipathy for police officers, and presumably, because he is the wrong color. McCulloch easily secured the Democratic nomination for his office in a primary election four days before Brown was killed. In that contest, he handily beat former state public defender Leslie T. Broadnax, a black woman, by a margin of 71.4 percent to 28.6 percent.
McCulloch said many witnesses gave testimony that was not believable. Witnesses fabricated events, admitted they were in error, clung to discredited factual accounts, or gave evidence inconsistent with the physical evidence.
McCulloch said grand jurors were “the only people who heard every witness … and every piece of evidence.”
“These grand jurors poured their hearts and soul into this process,” he said. The grand jury consisted of nine whites and three blacks and was meeting every week since Aug. 20 to hear evidence in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. The panel convened for 70 hours and heard from 60 witnesses.
Perhaps in a conciliatory gesture to those who wanted Wilson strung up, McCulloch referred to the death of Brown and the events surrounding it as tragic. Obama too used the word tragic.
But that is the wrong word.
Recall that Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was killed in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9 by white police officer Darren Wilson after he attacked Wilson and tried to grab his handgun. Brown’s defenders characterize him as a gentle giant even though a few minutes earlier he was captured on video committing a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, roughing up a much smaller clerk in the process. At autopsy Brown’s height was 6′ 5″ and his weight was 289 lbs. As previously reported, autopsy results were consistent with witness accounts that Brown reached for Wilson’s gun during their fateful altercation.
Brown’s death was not tragic. He was a villain. The evidence shows that he initiated potentially deadly force against an officer of the law and suffered the consequences of his actions. Grand jurors only needed a little bit of evidence to indict Officer Wilson. The evidence needed only to establish that probable cause existed to charge Wilson with a crime. The prosecution couldn’t even satisfy that low legal bar. The Wilson case may never have made it to a grand jury at all were it not for the antics of left-wing racial grievance groups working with and taking directions from the Obama administration.
The decision not to indict Wilson is not a tragedy. Far from it. The decision is just, proof that the grand jury system that was created to prevent governments from railroading unpopular defendants still works.
The tragedy is that Wilson had to be subjected to a three-month-long circus in which he was wrongfully accused of being a racist, murdering cop. He was demonized in the media day in and day out, a process that continues in the nation’s newsrooms even after last night’s announcement.
Petulant, as America’s childish Commander-in-Chief is wont to be when he fails to get his way, Obama sounded angry that grand jurors failed to indict Officer Wilson. The plot by Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Obama operative Al Sharpton to lynch Wilson in the courts failed.
Coming across like a Latin American caudillo, Obama sounded disgusted with Ferguson police and police forces across the nation in a press briefing last night.
Instead of accepting the grand jury’s wise decision, Obama set about stoking the flames. After spending months stirring up racial antagonism, Obama pontificated as if an innocent bystander of the events.
The decision “was going to be subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America, so I want to just say a few words suggesting how we might move forward,” he said, without noting that Wilson’s use of justifiable force against Brown became a national issue at his instigation.
Ignoring the fact that the death of Michael Brown had everything to do with his threatening, abusive behavior and absolutely nothing to do with his race, Obama implied cops hate minorities.
“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” Obama said, even though no broader challenges that we face as a nation played a role in Brown’s death.
“The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color,” he said, without noting that he and his comrades-in-arms in the world of community organizing have created distrust and disharmony where none previously existed.
Obama then blamed white people for Michael Brown attacking Darren Wilson.
“Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country,” Obama said even though there is no evidence that the residue of racial discrimination played any role in Brown’s death.
“And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates,” Obama said. “The good news is we know there are things we can do to help, and I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.” Obama said this even though the case at hand provided no evidence that there is a problem between communities and law enforcement.
The president then pivoted to make a pitch for affirmative action in police departments:
That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve. We know that makes a difference. It means working to train officials so that law enforcement conducts itself in a way that is fair to everybody. It means enlisting the community actively on what should be everybody’s goal, and that is to prevent crime.
These are mere policing platitudes Obama is lip-syncing as he advances the notion that only black police officers are suited to work in black communities. We do not know that it makes a difference. In fact, enforced diversity can be deadly.
We know that in the rush to furnish communities with cops of the correct skin color corners are likely to get cut and people will die as a result. Economist John Lott found in a 2000 study that the apartheid approach to police staffing led to increases in violent crime, especially in black neighborhoods. This is because the forced lowering of standards put less-qualified officers of all skin colors on the streets.
Even though the justice system ultimately worked in Ferguson, Obama pretends there is still a problem because there aren’t enough blacks in the local constabulary, in his view. He urged communities “interested in working with this administration and local and state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform,” even though the Brown-Wilson saga does not prove any reform of the criminal justice system is needed.
Obama continued ignoring the facts, insisting there is a problem.
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades … but what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up,” Obama said, again ignoring that there is no evidence of a problem.
“Those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over,” he said without proving there is any work to be done. “Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn’t everything that it could be.”
It is as if the psychosis our troubled president suffers from regarding Ebola, the virus Obama is lovingly importing from West Africa, has spread to other issues as well. Only Obama and his fellow travelers say there is a problem in Ferguson.
The mass hysteria over Michael Brown’s death that Obama and his allies generated continues.
It is yet another success for America’s first Alinskyite president.
on: November 24, 2014, 05:07:00 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
"[T]o preserve the republican form and principles of our Constitution and cleave to the salutary distribution of powers which that [the Constitution] has established ... are the two sheet anchors of our Union. If driven from either, we shall be in danger of foundering." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge William Johnson, 1823
on: November 24, 2014, 05:00:19 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
November 24, 2014 | 1114 Print Text Size
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
Editor's Note: With negotiators reportedly extending the Iranian nuclear talks by seven months — with a basic agreement anticipated by March 1, 2015, and a final, comprehensive pact by July — the talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany will remain a geopolitical focal point in 2015. Stratfor founder and Chairman George Friedman predicted this outcome in Chapter 7 of his 2011 book, The Next Decade. To give our subscribers a more comprehensive look at the geopolitical realities that produced the current state of affairs and that will continue to steer the detente process, Stratfor republishes this chapter in its entirety.
Beyond the special case of Israel, the area between the eastern Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush remains the current focus of U.S. policy. As we've noted, the United States has three principal interests there: to maintain a regional balance of power; to make certain that the flow of oil is not interrupted; and to defeat the Islamist groups centered there that threaten the United States. Any step the United States takes to address any one of these objectives must take into account the other two, which significantly increases the degree of difficulty for achieving even one.
Adding to this challenge is that of maintaining the balance of power in three regions of the area: the Arabs and the Israelis, the Indians and the Pakistanis, and the Iraqis and the Iranians. Each of these balances is in disarray, but the most crucial one, that between the Iranians and the Iraqis, collapsed completely with the disintegration of the Iraqi state and military after the U.S. invasion of 2003. The distortion of the India-Pakistan balance is not far behind, as the war in Afghanistan continues to destabilize Pakistan.
As we saw in the last chapter, the weakness of the Arab side has created a situation in which the Israelis no longer have to concern themselves with their opponents' reactions. In the decades ahead, the Israelis will try to take advantage of this to create new realities on the ground, while the United States, in keeping with its search for strategic balance, will try to limit Israeli moves.
The Indo-Pakistani balance is being destabilized in Afghanistan, a complex war zone where American troops are pursuing two competing goals, at least as stated officially. The first is to prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations; the second is to create a stable democratic government. But denying terrorists a haven in Afghanistan achieves little, because groups following al Qaeda's principles (al Qaeda prime, the group built around Osama bin Laden, is no longer fully functioning) can grow anywhere, from Yemen to Cleveland. This is an especially significant factor when the attempt to disrupt al Qaeda requires destabilizing the country, training the incipient Afghanistan army, managing the police force of Afghan recruits, and intruding into Afghan politics. There is no way to effectively stabilize a country in which you have to play such an intrusive role.
Unscrambling this complexity begins with recognizing that the United States has no vital interest in the kind of government Afghanistan develops, and that once again the president cannot allow counter-terrorism to be a primary force in shaping national strategy.
But the more fundamental recognition necessary for ensuring balance over the next ten years is that Afghanistan and Pakistan are in fact one entity, both sharing various ethnic groups and tribes, with the political border between them meaning very little. The combined population of these two countries is over 200 million people, and the United States, with only about 100,000 troops in the region, is never going to be able to impose its will directly and establish order to its liking.
Moreover, the primary strategic issue is not actually Afghanistan but Pakistan, and the truly significant balance of power in the region is actually that between Pakistan and India. Ever since independence, these two countries partitioned from the same portion of the British Empire have maintained uneasy and sometimes violent relations. Both are nuclear powers, and they are obsessed with each other. While India is the stronger, Pakistan has the more defensible terrain, although its heartland is more exposed to India. Still, the two have been kept in static opposition — which is just where the United States wants them.
Obviously, the challenges inherent in maintaining this complex balance over the next ten years are enormous. To the extent that Pakistan disintegrates under U.S. pressure to help fight al Qaeda and to cooperate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the standoff with India will fail, leaving India the preeminent power in the region. The war in Afghanistan must inevitably spread to Pakistan, triggering internal struggles that can potentially weaken the Pakistani state. This is not certain, but it is too possible to dismiss. With no significant enemies other than the Chinese, who are sequestered on the other side of the Himalayas, India would be free to use its resources to try to dominate the Indian Ocean basin, and it would very likely increase its navy to do so. A triumphant India would obliterate the balance the United States so greatly desires, and thus the issue of India is actually far more salient than the issues of terrorism or nation-building in Afghanistan.
That is why over the next ten years the primary American strategy in this region must be to help create a strong and viable Pakistan. The most significant step in that direction would be to relieve pressure on Pakistan by ending the war in Afghanistan. The specific ideology of the Pakistani government doesn't really matter, and the United States can't impose its views on Pakistan anyway.
Strengthening Pakistan will not only help restore the balance with India, it will restore Pakistan as a foil for Afghanistan as well. In both these Muslim countries there are many diverging groups and interests, and the United States cannot manage their internal arrangements. It can, however, follow the same strategy that was selected after the fall of the Soviet Union: it can allow the natural balance that existed prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to return, to the extent possible. The United States can then spend its resources helping to build a strong Pakistani army to hold the situation together.
Jihadist forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan will probably reemerge, but they are just as likely to do so with the United States bogged down in Afghanistan as with the U.S. gone. The war simply has no impact on this dynamic. There is a slight chance that a Pakistani military, with the incentive of U.S. support, might be somewhat more successful in suppressing the terrorists, but this is uncertain and ultimately unimportant. Once again, the key objective going forward is maintaining the Indo-Pakistani balance of power.
As in the case of stepping back from Israel, the president will not be able to express his strategy for dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India openly. Certainly there will be no way for the United States to appear triumphant, and the Afghan war will be resolved much as Vietnam was, through a negotiated peace agreement that allows the insurgent forces — in this case the Taliban — to take control. A stronger Pakistani army will have no interest in crushing the Taliban but will settle for controlling it. The Pakistani state will survive, which will balance India, thus allowing the United States to focus on other balance points within the region.
The Region's Heartland: Iran and Iraq
The balance of power between Iran and Iraq remained intact until 2003, when the United States invasion destroyed both Iraq's government and army. Since then the primary force that has kept the Iranians in check has been the United States. But the United States has announced that it intends to withdraw its forces from Iraq, which, given the state of the Iraqi government and military, will leave Iran the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This poses a fundamental challenge both for American strategy and the extremely complex region. Consider the alliances that might occur absent the United States.
Iraq's population is about 30 million. Saudi Arabia's population is about 27 million. The entire Arabian Peninsula's population is about 70 million, but that is divided among multiple nations, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The latter has about one third of this population, and is far away from the vulnerable Saudi Arabian oil fields. In contrast, Iran alone has a population of 70 million. Turkey has a population of about 70 million. In the broadest sense, these figures and how these populations combine into potential alliances will define the geopolitical reality of the Persian Gulf region going forward. Saudi Arabia's population — and wealth — combined with Iraq's population can counterbalance either Iran or Turkey, but not both. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, it was Saudi Arabia's support for Iraq that led to whatever success that country enjoyed.
While Turkey is a rising power with a large population, it is still a limited power, unable to project its influence as far as the Persian Gulf. It can press Iraq and Iran in the north, diverting their attention from the gulf, but it can't directly intervene to protect the Arabian oil fields. Moreover, the stability of Iraq, such as it is, is very much in Iran's hands. Iran might not be able to impose a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad, but it has the power to destabilize Baghdad at will.
With Iraq essentially neutralized, its 30 million people fighting each other rather than counterbalancing anyone, Iran is for the first time in centuries free from significant external threat from its neighbors. The Iranian-Turkish border is extremely mountainous, making offensive military operations there difficult. To the north, Iran is buffered from Russian power by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and in the northeast by Turkmenistan. To the east lie Afghanistan and Pakistan, both in chaos. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iran will be free from an immediate threat from that enormous power as well. Thus Iran is, at least for the time being, in an extraordinary position, secure from overland incursions and free to explore to the southwest.
With Iraq in shambles, the nations of the Arabian Peninsula could not resist Iran even if they acted in concert. Bear in mind that nuclear weapons are not relevant to this reality. Iran would still be the dominant Persian Gulf power even if its nuclear weapons were destroyed. Indeed, a strike solely on Iran's nuclear facilities could prove highly counterproductive, causing Iran to respond in unpleasant ways. While Iran cannot impose its own government on Iraq, it could, if provoked, block any other government from emerging by creating chaos there, even while U.S. forces are still on the ground, trapped in a new round of internal warfare but with a smaller number of troops available.
Iran's ultimate response to a strike on its nuclear facilities would be to try to block the Strait of Hormuz, where about 45 percent of the world's exported seaborne oil flows through a narrow channel. Iran has anti-ship missiles and, more important, mines. If Iran mined the strait and the United States could not clear that waterway to a reasonable degree of confidence, the supply line could be closed. This would cause oil prices to spike dramatically and would certainly abort the global economic recovery.
Any isolated attack on Iran's nuclear facilities — the kind of attack that Israel might undertake by itself — would be self-defeating, making Iran more dangerous than ever. The only way to neutralize those facilities without incurring collateral damage is to attack Iran's naval capability as well, and to use air power to diminish Iran's conventional capability. Such an attack would take months (if it were to target Iran's army), and its effectiveness, like that of all air warfare, is uncertain.
For the United States to achieve its strategic goals in the region, it must find a way to counterbalance Iran without maintaining its current deployment (already reduced to 50,000 troops) in Iraq and without actually increasing the military power devoted to the region. A major air campaign against Iran is not a desirable prospect; nor can the United States count on the reemergence of Iraqi power as a counterweight, because Iran would never allow it. The United States has to withdraw from Iraq in order to manage its other strategic interests. But coupled with this withdrawal, it must think radical thoughts.
In the next decade, the most desirable option with Iran is going to be delivered through a move that now seems inconceivable. It is the option chosen by Roosevelt and Nixon when they faced seemingly impossible strategic situations: the creation of alliances with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats. Roosevelt allied the United States with Stalinist Russia, and Nixon aligned with Maoist China, each to block a third power that was seen as more dangerous. In both cases, there was intense ideological rivalry between the new ally and the United States, one that many regarded as extreme and utterly inflexible. Nevertheless, when the United States faced unacceptable alternatives, strategic interest overcame moral revulsion on both sides. The alternative for Roosevelt was a German victory in World War II. For Nixon, it was the Soviets using American weakness caused by the Vietnam War to change the global balance of power.
Conditions on the ground put the United States in a similar position today vis-a-vis Iran. These countries despise each other. Neither can easily destroy the other, and, truth be told, they have some interests in common. In simple terms, the American president, in order to achieve his strategic goals, must seek accommodation with Iran.
The seemingly impossible strategic situation driving the United States to this gesture is, as we've discussed, the need to maintain the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, and to achieve this at a time when the country must reduce the forces devoted to this part of the world.
The principal reason that Iran might accede to a deal is that it sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. Indeed, in less than ten years, Iran has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders. Iran's primary strategic interest is regime survival. It must avoid a crushing U.S. intervention while guaranteeing that Iraq never again becomes a threat. Meanwhile, Iran must increase its authority within the Muslim world against the Sunni Muslims who rival and sometimes threaten it.
In trying to imagine a U.S.-Iranian detente, consider the overlaps in these countries' goals. The United States is in a war against some — but not all — Sunnis, and these Sunnis are also the enemies of Shiite Iran. Iran does not want U.S. troops along its eastern and western borders. (In point of fact, the United States does not want to be there either.) Just as the United States wants to see oil continue to flow freely through Hormuz, Iran wants to profit from that flow, not interrupt it. Finally, the Iranians understand that the United States alone poses the greatest threat to their security: solve the American problem and regime survival is assured. The United States understands, or should, that resurrecting the Iraqi counterweight to Iran is simply not an option in the short term. Unless the United States wants to make a huge, long-term commitment of ground forces in Iraq, which it clearly does not, the obvious solution to its problem in the region is to make an accommodation with Iran.
The major threat that might arise from this strategy of accommodation would be that Iran oversteps its bounds and attempts to occupy the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf directly. Given the logistical limitations of the Iranian army, this would be difficult. Also given that it would bring a rapid American intervention, such aggressive action on the part of the Iranians would be pointless and self-defeating. Iran is already the dominant power in the region, and the United States has no need to block indirect Iranian influence over its neighbors. Aspects of Iran's influence would range from financial participation in regional projects to significant influence over OPEC quotas to a degree of influence in the internal policies of the Arabian countries. Merely by showing a modicum of restraint, Iranians could gain unquestioned preeminence, and economic advantage, while seeing their oil find its way to the market. They could also see substantial investment begin to flow into their economy once more.
Even with an understanding with the United States, Iranian domination of the region would have limits. Iran would enjoy a sphere of influence dependent on its alignment with the United States on other issues, which means not crossing any line that would trigger direct U.S. intervention. Over time, the growth of Iranian power within the limits of such clear understandings would benefit both the United States and Iran. Like the arrangements with Stalin and Mao, this U.S.-Iranian alliance would be distasteful yet necessary, but also temporary.
The great losers in this alliance, of course, would be the Sunnis in the Arabian Peninsula, including the House of Saud. Without Iraq, they are incapable of defending themselves, and as long as the oil flows and no single power directly controls the entire region, the United States has no long-term interest in their economic and political well-being. Thus a U.S.-Iranian entente would also redefine the historic relationship of the United States with the Saudis. The Saudis will have to look at the United States as a guarantor of its interests while trying to reach some political accommodation with Iran. The geopolitical dynamic of the Persian Gulf would be transformed for everyone.
The Israelis too would be threatened, although not as much as the Saudis and other principalities on the Persian Gulf. Over the years, Iran's anti-Israeli rhetoric has been extreme, but its actions have been cautious. Iran has played a waiting game, using rhetoric to cover inaction. In the end, the Israelis would be trapped by the American decision. Israel lacks the conventional capability for the kind of extensive air campaign needed to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. Certainly it lacks the military might to shape the geopolitical alignments of the Persian Gulf region. Moreover, an Iran presented with its dream of a secure western border and domination of the Persian Gulf could become quite conciliatory. Compared to such opportunities, Israel for them is a minor, distant, and symbolic issue.
Until now, the Israelis still had the potential option of striking Iran unilaterally, in hopes of generating an Iranian response in the Strait of Hormuz, thereby drawing the United States into the conflict. Should the Americans and Iranians move toward an understanding, Israel would no longer have such sway over U.S. policy. An Israeli strike might trigger an entirely unwelcome American response rather than the chain reaction that Israel once could have hoped for.
The greatest shock of a U.S.-Iranian entente would be political, on both sides. During World War II, the U.S.-Soviet agreement shocked Americans deeply (Soviets less so, because they had already absorbed Stalin's prewar nonaggression pact with Hitler). The Nixon-Mao entente, seen as utterly unthinkable at the time, shocked all sides. Once it happened, however, it turned out to be utterly thinkable, even manageable.
When Roosevelt made his arrangement with Stalin, he was politically vulnerable to his right wing, the more extreme elements of which already regarded him as a socialist favorably inclined to the Soviets. Nixon, as a right-wing opponent of communism, had an easier time. Obama will be in Roosevelt's position, without the overwhelming threat of a comparatively much greater evil — that is, Nazi Germany.
Obama's political standing would be enhanced by an air strike more than by a cynical deal. An accommodation with Iran will be particularly difficult for him because it will be seen as an example of weakness rather than of ruthlessness and cunning. Iranian president Ahmadinejad will have a much easier time selling such an arrangement to his people. But set against the options — a nuclear Iran, extended air strikes with all attendant consequences, the long-term, multidivisional, highly undesirable presence of American forces in Iraq — this alliance seems perfectly reasonable.
Nixon and China showed that major diplomatic shifts can take place quite suddenly. There is often a long period of back-channel negotiations, followed by a breakthrough driven either by changing circumstances or by skillful negotiations.
The current president will need considerable political craft to position the alliance as an aid to the war on al Qaeda, making it clear that Shiite-dominated Iran is as hostile to the Sunnis as it is to Americans. He will be opposed by two powerful lobbies in this, the Saudis and the Israelis. Israel will be outraged by the maneuver, but the Saudis will be terrified, which is one of the maneuver's great advantages, increasing American traction over its policies. The Israelis can in many ways be handled more easily, simply because the Israeli military and intelligence services have long seen the Iranians as occasional allies against Arab threats, even as the Iranians were supporting Hezbollah against Israel. They have had a complex relationship over the last thirty years. The Saudis will condemn this move, but the pressure it places on the Arab world would be attractive to Israel. Even so, the American Jewish community is not as sophisticated or cynical as Israel in these matters, and its members will be vocal. Even more difficult to manage will be the Saudi lobby, backed as it is by American companies that do business in the kingdom.
There will be several advantages to the United States. First, without fundamentally threatening Israeli interests, the move will demonstrate that the United States is not controlled by Israel. Second, it will put a generally unpopular country, Saudi Arabia — a state that has been accustomed to having its way in Washington — on notice that the United States has other options. For their part, the Saudis have nowhere to go, and they will cling to whatever guarantees the United States provides them in the face of an American-Iranian entente.
Recalling thirty years of hostilities with Iran, the American public will be outraged. The president will have to frame his maneuver by offering rhetoric about protecting the homeland against the greater threat. He will of course use China as an example of successful reconciliation with the irreconcilable.
The president will have to deal with the swirling public battles of foreign lobbies and make the case for the entente. But he will ultimately have to maintain his moral bearings, remembering that in the end, Iran is not America's friend any more than Stalin and Mao were.
If ever there was a need for secret understandings secretly arrived at, this is it, and much of this arrangement will remain unspoken. Neither country will want to incur the internal political damage from excessive public meetings and handshakes. But in the end, the United States needs to exit from the trap it is in, and Iran has to avoid a real confrontation with the United States.
Iran is an inherently defensive country. It is not strong enough to be either the foundation of American policy in the region or the real long-term issue. Its population is concentrated in the mountains that ring its borders, while much of the center of the country is minimally or completely uninhabitable. Iran can project power under certain special conditions, such as those that obtain at the moment, but in the long run it is either a victim of outside powers or isolated.
An alliance with the United States will temporarily give Iran the upper hand in relations with the Arabs, but within a matter of years the United States will have to reassert a balance of power. Pakistan is unable to extend its influence westward. Israel is much too small and distant to counterbalance Iran. The Arabian Peninsula is too fragmented, and the duplicity of the United States in encouraging it to increase its arms is too obvious to be an alternative counterweight. A more realistic alternative is to encourage Russia to extend its influence to the Iranian border. This might happen anyway, but as we will see, that would produce major problems elsewhere.
The only country capable of being a counterbalance to Iran and a potential long-term power in the region is Turkey, and it will achieve that status within the next ten years regardless of what the United States does. Turkey has the seventeenth largest economy in the world and the largest in the Middle East. It has the strongest army in the region and, aside from the Russians and possibly the British, probably the strongest army in Europe. Like most countries in the Muslim world, it is currently divided between secularists and Islamists within its own borders. But their struggle is far more restrained than what is going on in other parts of the Muslim world.
Iranian domination of the Arabian Peninsula is not in Turkey's interest because Turkey has its own appetite for the region's oil, reducing its dependency on Russian oil. Also, Turkey does not want Iran to become more powerful than itself. And while Iran has a small Kurdish population, southeastern Turkey is home to an extremely large number of Kurds, a fact that Iran can exploit. Regional and global powers have been using support for the Kurds to put pressure on or destabilize Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. It is an old game and a constant vulnerability.
In the course of the next decade the Iranians will have to divert major resources in order to deal with Turkey. Meanwhile, the Arab world will be looking for a champion against Shiite Iran, and despite the bitter history of Turkish power in the Arab world during the Ottoman Empire, Sunni Turkey is the best bet.
In the next ten years, the United States must make certain that Turkey does not become hostile to American interests and that Iran and Turkey do not form an alliance for the domination and division of the Arab world. The more Turkey and Iran fear the United States, the greater the likelihood that this will happen. The Iranians will be assuaged in the short run by their entente with the Americans, but they will be fully aware that this is an alliance of convenience, not a long-term friendship. It is the Turks who are open to a longer-term alignment with the United States, and Turkey can be valuable to the United States in other places, particularly in the Balkans and the Caucasus, where it serves as a block to Russian aspirations.
As long as the United States maintains the basic terms of its agreement with Iran, Iran will represent a threat to Turkey. Whatever the inclinations of the Turks, they will have to protect themselves, and to do that, they must work to undermine Iranian power in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arab countries to the north of the peninsula — Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. They will engage in this not only to limit Iran but also to improve their access to the oil to their south, both because they will need that oil and because they will want to profit from it.
As Turkey and Iran compete in the next decade, Israel and Pakistan will be concerned with local balances of power. In the long run, Turkey cannot be contained by Iran. Turkey is by far the more dynamic country economically, and therefore it can support a more sophisticated military. More important, whereas Iran has geographically limited regional options, Turkey reaches into the Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, and ultimately the Mediterranean and North Africa, which provides opportunities and allies denied the Iranians. Iran has never been a significant naval power since antiquity, and because of the location of its ports, it can never really be one in the future. Turkey, in contrast, has frequently been the dominant power in the Mediterranean and will be so again. Over the next decade we will see the beginning of Turkey's rise to dominance in the region. It is interesting to note that while we can't think of the century without Turkey playing an extremely important role, this decade will be one of preparation. Turkey will have to come to terms with its domestic conflicts and grow its economy. The cautious foreign policy Turkey has followed recently will continue. It is not going to plunge into conflicts and therefore will influence but not define the region. The United States must take a long-term view of Turkey and avoid pressure that could undermine its development.
As a solution to the complex problems of the Middle East, the American president must choose a temporary understanding with Iran that gives Iran what it wants, that gives the United States room to withdraw, and that is also a foundation for the relationship of mutual hostility to the Sunni fundamentalists. In other words, the president must put the Arabian Peninsula inside the Iranians' sphere of influence while limiting their direct controls, and while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage.
This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it. Whether it is shaped or not, the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey. A powerful Turkey would counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilizing the Arabian Peninsula. In due course the Turks will begin to react by challenging the Iranians, and thus the central balance of power will be resurrected, stabilizing the region. This will create a new regional balance of power. But that is not for this decade.
I am arguing that this is a preferred policy option given the circumstances. But I am also arguing that this is the most logical outcome. The alternatives are unacceptable to both sides; there is too much risk. And when the alternatives are undesirable, what remains — however preposterous it appears — is the most likely outcome.
To see how that would affect wider circles of power and their balance, we turn to the next concern, the balance between Europe and Russia.
Excerpt from the book, The Next Decade, by George Friedman, published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Read more: Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East | Stratfor
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on: November 24, 2014, 04:43:35 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Violent protests calling for the return of 43 students missing from Iguala, in Guerrero state, and criticizing the government's perceived insensitivity and mismanagement of the case will continue in Guerrero and in other parts of Mexico. Though the demonstrations do not pose an immediate threat to the central government, they could undermine local governments and the federal government's authority at the local level.
The federal government's reach is particularly weak in Mexico's southwest. There are large geographic areas in several states in the region where communities enjoy partial autonomy, making it easier for citizens to challenge federal authority altogether. The unrest in Guerrero is fostered by feeble state and municipal institutions, which, in a cyclical process, become impaired even further with each additional bout of disorder. Mexico City fears it could lose all authority in the region except for military and federal police operations. While this fear is valid, it is unlikely that such a high degree of unrest would spread to the capital unless organizers achieve a massive increase in coordination and in civil participation.
On Nov. 10, demonstrators in Acapulco overpowered federal riot police and overran the airport, blocking all of its entrances. On Nov. 12, students from Mexico's traditionally left-wing rural teaching colleges — known as normalistas — blocked the entrance to the international airport in Morelia, forcing those already inside to use the building's back door. Soon after, students in Mexico City announced that they would hold even more protests Nov. 20 to support the missing normalistas.
Large demonstrations linked to the missing normalistas have taken place all over the country, but the most violent protests have been focused in the southwestern states, including Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Unrest in the southwestern region has shown little sign of abating, posing a considerable threat to state and municipal governments in the area. Protesters have repeatedly torched government buildings throughout the southwest region to demonstrate against what they see as an ineffective and corrupt government. They say Mexico's judicial system and its security forces, especially at the local level, have struggled to implement democratic reforms after being shaped by 70 years of semi-authoritarian rule.
Protests Could Spread
For now, coordination between organizers in southwestern states and those in Mexico City and in other parts of the country has been limited, but that could change. Demonstrators from the southwest — affiliated with the normalistas and teachers' unions — have organized three groups of protesters to tour the country and converge on Mexico City for Nov. 20 protests. If the normalista and teachers' groups are able to cooperate with the Mexico City organizers and significantly escalate the demonstrations, the Mexican government will find it difficult to manage prolonged unrest in multiple areas using non-violent means. However, the different tactics and approaches employed by the organizers may make such cooperation difficult.
Mexico's Normalista Protest Threaten to Spread
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Protests in Mexico City have differed in character and intensity from those in the southwest. The demonstrations in Mexico City have been organized and carried out primarily by student groups from various universities in the city. Though these protests have attracted by far the most participants of any normalista-linked demonstrations outside of Guerrero, they have mostly been peaceful, with the exception of a few incidents. In contrast to the demonstrations in the southwest, it is clear that most of the protesters in Mexico City do not condone violence or vandalism and that a radical minority is responsible for the violence that has occurred in the city. In fact, on Nov. 8, demonstrators stopped masked individuals attempting to vandalize the exterior of the attorney general's headquarters in Mexico City.
The Mexican government is intentionally being light-handed in its dealings with protesters, and authorities released all but one of the activists arrested for vandalizing the attorney general's offices. With the arrival of protesters from the southwest in Mexico City, however, officials will be on high alert for violent tactics mirroring those used in the southwest.
Mexico City is well equipped to deal with large demonstrations, which are a regular occurrence in the city, and the government is well aware that violently repressing them will only exacerbate tensions and add impetus to the protests. Thus, Mexico City is working to avoid confrontation at all costs. The violent repression of the infamous Tlatelolco protests in 1968 is still fresh in the minds of Mexicans, especially those in the capital city, and the irony that the missing normalistas were raising funds to attend a demonstration commemorating the anniversary of the massacre is not lost on the public.
Is Guerrero the Next Michoacan?
Despite President Enrique Pena Nieto's efforts to surmount the country's security problems through economic reforms and increased coordination of security forces, the federal government is struggling to maintain its authority. Mexico is seeing rising unrest among an increasingly disillusioned population, especially in southwestern states. The emergence of autodefensas, or civilian militias, in Michoacan is the most extreme recent example of such a challenge to the federal government. Although the Mexican government has contained that movement — partly by incorporating the groups into the state apparatus — the resulting tenuous security environment requires continued intervention by the federal government and adds to the general unrest in the region.
The primary participants in the Guerrero demonstrations have been Guerrero state normalistas and members of a local teachers' union. The two groups likely have organizational ties and have been aligned in their protests against a 2013 federal education reform, making them natural partners in the current round of protests. The groups have proven themselves capable of coordinating large demonstrations and clearly intend to draw further attention to their cause by creating as much disruption to state governance and daily life as possible. So far, their only demands are the return of the missing normalistas and justice for the students and their families. However, the organizers could angle for negotiations with state and federal leaders in the future to increase their influence in regional politics.
Mexico's Geographic Challenge
Overt challenges to government authority in the southwestern states will give rise to a number of economic and security issues, and Mexico City will attempt to defuse the situation by arresting cartel leaders and local politicians in Iguala. The mayor and his wife are charged with masterminding the disappearances. Both are currently in federal custody, but the city's police chief, also allegedly involved, is still on the run. The federal government has been unusually open about the existence of collusion between local officials and criminal elements in this case, and it must make a convincing effort to rid the state of corrupt politicians and establish alternative rule to prevent the rise of armed civilian groups. To this end, the government will expand military and federal police operations in the southwest, but this expansion of security operations can only be maintained for a limited time before Mexico City must resort to alternative tactics.
Although protests are likely to continue in the coming weeks, the demonstrations are unlikely to pose an existential threat to Mexico City's government. However, the pressure on the central government could mount significantly if protesters in Mexico City and the southwest are able to coordinate their organizing efforts and garner increased public participation.
Throughout the country, the federal government must balance its security measures to create the impression that it is in control, but without cracking down on citizens in a way that would invite accusations of authoritarianism. If the security response in Guerrero is too weak, armed citizen groups could emerge to fill the void. However, if the response is too strong, it will add to discontent and encourage additional protests. There will be more high-profile arrests in connection to the students' disappearances, and reforms to local governments and security forces will also be made. The key factor to watch will be any coordination between organizing groups during the Nov. 20 protests. Such cooperation could signal a significant shift in tactics and incite a different response from the government.
Read more: Mexico's Normalista Protests Threaten to Spread | Stratfor
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on: November 24, 2014, 04:40:30 PM
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
On Obama and the Nature of Failed Presidencies
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 03:01 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
We do not normally comment on domestic political affairs unless they affect international affairs. However, it is necessary to consider American political affairs because they are likely to have a particular effect on international relations. We have now entered the final phase of Barack Obama's presidency, and like those of several other presidents since World War II, it is ending in what we call a state of failure. This is not a judgment on his presidency so much as on the political configuration within it and surrounding it.
The midterm elections are over, and Congress and the president are in gridlock. This in itself is not significant; presidents as popular as Dwight Eisenhower found themselves in this condition. The problem occurs when there is not only an institutional split but also a shift in underlying public opinion against the president. There are many more sophisticated analyses of public opinion on politics, but I have found it useful to use this predictive model.
Analyzing a President's Strength
I assume that underneath all of the churning, about 40 percent of the electorate is committed to each party. Twenty percent is uncommitted, with half of those being indifferent to the outcome of politics and the other half being genuinely interested and undecided. In most normal conditions, the real battle between the parties — and by presidents — is to hold their own bases and take as much of the center as possible.
So long as a president is fighting for the center, his ability to govern remains intact. Thus, it is normal for a president to have a popularity rating that is less than 60 percent but more than 40 percent. When a president's popularity rating falls substantially below 40 percent and remains there for an extended period of time, the dynamics of politics shift. The president is no longer battling for the center but is fighting to hold on to his own supporters — and he is failing to do so.
When the president's support has fragmented to the point that he is fighting to recover his base, I considered that a failed presidency — particularly when Congress is in the hands of the opposition. His energy cannot be directed toward new initiatives. It is directed toward recovering his base. And presidents who have fallen into this condition near the end of their presidencies have not been likely to recover and regain the center.
Historically, when the president's popularity rating has dipped to about 37 percent, his position has been unrecoverable. This is what happened to George W. Bush in 2006. It happened to Richard Nixon in 1974 when the Watergate crisis resulted in his resignation, and to Lyndon Johnson in 1967 during the Vietnam War. It also happened to Harry Truman in 1951, primarily because of the Korean War, and to Herbert Hoover before World War II because of the Great Depression.
However, this is not the final historical note on a presidency. Truman, enormously unpopular and unable to run for another term, is now widely regarded as one of the finest presidents the United States has had. Nixon, on the other hand, has never recovered. This is not therefore a judgment on Obama's place in history, but simply on his current political condition. Nor does it take failure to lose the presidency; Jimmy Carter was defeated even though his popularity remained well in the 40s.
Of the five failed presidencies I've cited, one failed over scandal, one over the economy and three over wars — Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Obama's case is less clear than any. The 40 percent who gravitated to the opposition opposed him for a host of reasons. He lost the center for complex reasons as well. However, looking at the timing of his decline, the only intruding event that might have had that impact was the rise of the Islamic State and a sense, even in his own party, that he did not have an effective response to it. Historically, extended wars that the president did not appear to have a strategy for fighting have been devastating to the presidency. Woodrow Wilson's war (World War I) was short and successful. Franklin Roosevelt's war (World War II) was longer, and although it began in failure it became clear that a successful end was conceivable. The Korean, Vietnam and two Iraq wars suffered not from the length, but from the sense that the presidency did not have a war-ending strategy. Obama appears to me to have fallen into the political abyss because after six years he owned the war and appeared to have no grip on it.
Failure extends to domestic policy as well. The Republican-controlled legislature can pass whatever legislation it likes, but the president retains veto power, and two-thirds of both houses must vote to override. The problem is that given the president's lack of popularity — and the fact that the presidency, all of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate will be up for re-election in two years — the president's allies in Congress are not as willing to be held responsible for upholding his vetoes. Just as few Democrats wanted Obama campaigning for them, so too do few want to join the president in vetoing majority legislation. What broke Truman, Johnson and Nixon was the moment it became clear that their party's leaders in Congress wanted them gone.
Acting Within Constraints
This does not mean that the president can't act. It simply means that it is enormously more difficult to act than before. Gerald Ford, replacing Nixon but weakened by the pardoning of his predecessor, could not stop Congress from cutting off aid to South Vietnam during the final Communist assault. George W. Bush was able to launch the surge, but the surge was limited in size, not only because of strategic conditions but also because he had lost the ability to force Congress to fund alternative expansions of the war. In each of the failed presidencies, the president retained the ability to act but was constrained by the twin threats of an opposition-controlled Congress and his own party's unwillingness to align with him.
At the same time, certain foreign diplomatic initiatives can continue. Nixon initiated negotiations between Egypt and Israel that culminated, under Carter's administration, in the Camp David Accords. Truman tried to open negotiations with China, and the initiative's failure had little to do with opposition to a negotiated settlement in Korea.
The president has few domestic options. Whatever Obama does with his power domestically, Congress can vote to cut funding, and if the act is vetoed, the president puts Congressional Democrats in mortal danger. The place where he can act — and this is likely the place Obama is least comfortable acting — is in foreign policy. There, the limited deployment of troops and diplomatic initiatives are possible.
Obama's general strategy is to withdraw from existing conflicts in the Middle East and contain and limit Russian actions in Ukraine. The president has the ability to bring military and other pressure to bear. But the United States' opponent is aware that the sitting president is no longer in control of Washington, that he has a specific date of termination and that the more unpopular things he does, the more likely his successor is to repudiate them. Therefore, in the China-North Korea model, the assumption is that that continuing the conflict and negotiating with the successor president is rational. In the same sense, Iran chose to wait for the election of Ronald Reagan rather than deal with Jimmy Carter (who was not a failed president).
This model depends on the opponent's having the resources and the political will to continue the conflict in order to bargain with the president's successor, and assumes that the successor will be more malleable. This is frequently the result, since the successor can make concessions more readily than his predecessor. In fact, he can make those concessions and gain points by blaming the need to concede on his predecessor. Ironically, Obama used this strategy after replacing George W. Bush. The failed president frequently tries to entice negotiation by increasing the military pressure on the enemy. Truman, Johnson and George W. Bush all took this path while seeking to end their wars. In no case did it work, but they had little to lose politically by trying.
Therefore, if we follow historical patterns, Obama will now proceed slowly and ineffectively to increase military operations in Syria and Iraq, while raising non-military pressure on Russia, or potentially initiating some low-level military activities in Ukraine. The actions will be designed to achieve a rapid negotiating process that will not happen. The presidency will shift to the other party, as it did with Truman, Johnson and George W. Bush. Thus, if patterns hold true, the Republicans will retake the presidency. This is not a pattern unknown to Congress, which means that the Democrats in the legislature will focus on running their own campaigns as far away from Obama and the next Democratic presidential candidate as possible.
The period of a failed presidency is therefore not a quiet time. The president is actively trying to save his legacy in the face of enormous domestic weakness. Other countries, particularly adversaries, see little reason to make concessions to failed presidents, preferring to deal with the next president instead. These adversaries then use military and political oppositions abroad to help shape the next U.S. presidential campaign in directions that are in their interests.
It is against this backdrop that all domestic activities take place. The president retains the veto, and if the president is careful he will be able to sustain it. Obama will engage in limited domestic politics, under heavy pressure from Congressional Democrats, confining himself to one or two things. His major activity will be coping with Syria, Iraq and Russia, both because of crises and the desire for a legacy. The last two years of a failed presidency are mostly about foreign policy and are not very pleasant to watch.
Read more: On Obama and the Nature of Failed Presidencies | Stratfor
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on: November 24, 2014, 04:23:01 PM
Started by ccp - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Obama Is Damaging Hillary’s Chances
Mrs. Clinton’s popularity has plunged, and she is increasingly trapped by her former boss’s record.
By Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell
Nov. 23, 2014 5:00 p.m. ET
President Obama ’s high-risk immigration gamble may have severe consequences for Washington, the country and the Democratic Party, most of all Hillary Clinton .
Mrs. Clinton’s putative bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is already running into trouble. The national exit poll from the recently completed midterm elections showed her with less than a majority of voters (43%) saying she would make a good president. When pitted against an unnamed Republican candidate, Mrs. Clinton lost 40% to 34%.
Those grim numbers followed on a September WSJ/NBC poll showing a plunge in Mrs. Clinton’s favorability rating, to 43%, from 59% in 2009.
And that was before President Obama launched a defiant post-midterm campaign discarding political compromise and unilaterally doubling down on his unpopular policies. As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton would likely inherit a damaged party—and as a former member of his administration, she would struggle with the consequences of Mr. Obama’s go-it-alone governance.
The latest indication of the president’s politically damaging approach was his move on Thursday to unilaterally grant amnesty to an estimated five million illegal immigrants. A Rasmussen poll released Nov. 18 found that 53% of likely voters opposed the amnesty without congressional approval, while 34% approved. Moreover, 62% of those polled said that the president lacks the legal authority to take the action without congressional approval, and 55% said Congress should challenge the executive order in court.
That’s a problem for Democrats, who will be asked to defend the president, as they have had to do with other Obama policies, like the Affordable Care Act, that lack the support of most Americans.
Another source of trouble for Democrats: The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is enormously popular—59% of Americans are in favor, 31% against, according to a Pew poll this month. With the project so heavily favored, the president could score an easy win by backing the pipeline, but instead he has aligned himself with the elitist, environmentalist left led by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.
Mr. Obama’s willingness to disregard the public’s wishes will hurt Mrs. Clinton in particular. The president’s former secretary of state is already struggling to forge an independent identity without disowning the president. It will be almost impossible for Mrs. Clinton to directly oppose him over the next two years, though she will certainly continue to try to distance herself from Mr. Obama, as she did during her summer book tour. But if the president continues to lose the support of Democrats and moderates—as Mrs. Clinton has—she might have no alternative but to shelve her presidential ambitions.
If she does run, Mrs. Clinton could face a challenge from liberal populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Mrs. Clinton has struggled to adopt a populist mantle. The challenge was nowhere more in evidence than when she appeared in Massachusetts with Ms. Warren in October, awkwardly urging the crowd: “Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.” She later explained that the line hadn’t come out right.
Mrs. Clinton will have to work harder than that to dispel the impression among liberal Democrats that she is, as the line goes, the “candidate from Goldman Sachs , ” having numerous ties to the institution. The threat to a Clinton campaign from a Democratic rival running to her left, as Mr. Obama did in 2008, increased last week when populist former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced he is setting up an exploratory committee for a 2016 presidential bid.
Mrs. Clinton will also have to contend with her role as the architect of “HillaryCare” in the 1990s, a clear forerunner to the Affordable Care Act, which was not popular with Americans when it was passed and now has the approval of only 37%, according to a recent Gallup poll.
It appears that Mrs. Clinton is trying to have it both ways on immigration by supporting President Obama but saying that the only lasting solution is congressional action. And on Keystone, she has been missing in action.
And if that weren’t enough, foreign policy—which should be a selling point for the former secretary of state—will be a minefield. The president seemingly has no coherent strategy to deal with Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, no coherent strategy for dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin ’s bellicosity in Eastern Europe, and no coherent strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. Regardless of whatever news emerges from the Nov. 24 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, this story will drag on for ages, as the mullahs would prefer.
All of these foreign-policy dead zones have roots in Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, when she logged hundreds of thousands of miles without alighting on any significant successes. The Republican takeover of the Senate may bring fresh attention to her role in the deadly debacle in Benghazi, Libya, with victims that included U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
With President Obama now courting a constitutional crisis over his unilateral action on immigration reform, the Democratic Party is losing popularity by the day. The pressure is on Mrs. Clinton to separate herself from the partisan polarization and dysfunction in Washington while not alienating the liberal Democrats who dominate turnout in presidential primaries. She needs to distance herself from Mr. Obama without alienating his strongest supporters, but she also needs to develop a clear reason and logic for why she should be elected president—a logic that six years after she first declared her candidacy remains more elusive than ever.
Barack Obama could end up beating Hillary Clinton yet again.
Mr. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is the author, with Melik Kaylan, of “The Russia-China Axis: The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership” (Encounter Books, 2014). Mr. Caddell served as a pollster for President Jimmy Carter .