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US Foreign Policy
Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 29270 times)
WSJ: The Foreign Policy uses of an energy bounty
Reply #350 on:
January 10, 2013, 10:38:53 AM »
Johnston and Palti-Guzman: The Foreign Policy Uses of an Energy Bounty
The White House will effectively decide whether the U.S. becomes a global gas superpower..
By ROBERT JOHNSTON And LESLIE PALTI-GUZMAN
The United States is poised to become a global gas superpower. Thanks to innovation and investment in shale-gas technology, the production of natural gas in America has surged by 20% since 2006. But this story is about to enter a new phase—one in which success will depend on whether and how well the White House prepares the way for exports of America's energy bounty.
American gas production has grown so much that the global market is now intently focused on the "U.S. LNG export play," or shipments of liquefied natural gas overseas. The export demand is a win for U.S. gas producers, who are struggling with weak prices at home due to a domestic glut. Yet the surge of U.S. natural gas into global gas markets will have major implications for U.S. policy abroad, too. As the Obama administration considers energy-policy priorities for its second term, LNG exports could also be an attractive new tool in the State Department foreign-policy box.
A boom in U.S. gas exports would help rebalance relationships between producers and consumers, largely to the advantage of America's allies. The current market consensus is that the U.S. will export about six billion cubic feet per day of natural gas (also measurable as 45 million tons of LNG) by 2020. That's the equivalent of about 8% of current U.S. gas production or 16% of global LNG production. Globally, that would place America just behind the world's largest current LNG exporters, Australia and Qatar.
Liquefied natural gas (along with the shale-gas revolution) has brought the U.S. to the top of the list of global gas-reserves holders. Some contracts are being made already and as exports begin in 2016 after export facilities are completed, the U.S. will compete with other large gas-reserve holders such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The geopolitical impact of American gas exports will be felt in many ways.
For instance, the rise of a major alternative supplier diminishes the likelihood of cartel behavior by rival suppliers such as Iran and Russia. These countries were among the key founding members of the Gas Exporting Country Forum, often described as a potential "gas OPEC." Although today there is already more gas produced and exported by countries outside the GECF than by its members, this trend will be accentuated by U.S. gas exports.
Furthermore, the rise of American LNG exports makes it easier for Washington to convince allies not to do business with rogue states, particularly Iran. With the prospect of American LNG imports, India, for example, now has more attractive alternatives to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. Pipelines are like a marriage, where the partners may be locked into supply and pricing arrangements that can last decades. A reliable and stable supplier of LNG such as the U.S. eliminates the need for risky long-term infrastructure projects and contracts.
With U.S. gas exports set to add to the global supply, there is also less interest in riskier Iranian and Venezuelan LNG export projects, which may now never materialize, as they would have to compete with more advanced U.S., Canadian, East and West African projects. Russia's Gazprom OGZPY -0.41%is now positioning itself in anticipation of more competition from the U.S. In the past two months, Gazprom announced that it is launching a gas program in eastern Russia with the development of the Chayanda field and new export infrastructures to increase its market share in Asia. Gazprom also is investing in the offshore section of the South Stream pipeline from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, to bypass Ukraine and focus instead on locking in European market share.
Yet in Europe, American LNG exports will be a welcome source of diversification to cut energy dependence on Russia. Gas from the U.S. could be as important for Europeans as the planned Nabucco West pipeline that will bring 10 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas into Europe. U.S. LNG will also play a central role in helping the U.K. reduce its dependence on Qatar—a risk to watch closely, especially in light of the Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is the only sea access to Qatar.
In Asia, Japan and India are enthusiastic about the potential of U.S. LNG. News reports that say diplomats of both countries have urged the Department of Energy and the State Department to authorize enough production and export projects to satisfy their goals of importing cheaper gas from the U.S. In post-Fukushima Japan, American LNG is part of a new acquisition strategy designed to yield a more diversified supply portfolio, both in terms of sources and pricing.
Another appeal of new U.S. LNG supply is that American gas prices are linked to Henry Hub futures, a benchmark system (named after a major distribution hub in Louisiana) where prices reflect supply and demand. In the rest of the world, however, most gas sales until now have been contracted at a price calculated as a certain percentage of the oil price. As a result, buyers are currently paying a premium for oil-market risks that have little to do with global gas supply and demand. Exports of LNG from the U.S. could further encourage the decoupling of international gas prices from oil prices, and push down gas-market prices.
This pressure on traditional LNG pricing mechanisms in Asia—where buyers are especially burdened by the premium for oil-market risks that have little to do with the global LNG market—will take time and will not only be the result of U.S. LNG exports. But the prospect of buying gas from America has already improved the bargaining position of European and Asian importers, largely to the benefit of U.S. allies. Negotiations on sales-purchase agreements for many such projects are under way, ahead of final investment decisions by project developers in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and East Africa.
Unlike in many other major gas-producing nations, the U.S. government does not dictate investment decisions or contractual arrangements by American oil and gas companies. Yet through its power to permit exports of U.S. gas and set the regulatory and environmental framework for domestic production, the White House will effectively say yea or nay to the emergence of the U.S. as a global gas superpower. The world is waiting for its answer.
Mr. Johnston is director of global energy and natural resources at Eurasia Group, where Ms. Palti-Guzman is a global gas analyst.
Ruth Wisse: What the "Lobby" knows about animus for Israel
Reply #351 on:
January 17, 2013, 11:38:45 AM »
What the 'Lobby' Knows About Animus for Israel
The Jewish state, as the 'little Satan,' is a stand-in for the 'big Satan' and Western values. .
By RUTH R. WISSE
The confirmation process for those slated to guide American foreign policy can profitably be used to clear up at least one point of confusion. What's at issue is not the degree of their affection for Jews or for Israel—despite the consternation caused by the nomination for defense secretary of Chuck Hagel, who said in 2006: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, but I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."
The Nebraskan's imputation of excessive Jewish influence in Washington is less worrisome than his failure to recognize why the "lobby" exists. Never mind the Jews: Opposition to Israel camouflages a much more virulent hostility to America. How does an American statesman assess the anti-Jews who attack Israel as a proxy for this country?
Let's start with basics: The cause of the long-running Arab war against the Jewish homeland is not Israel, it is Arab leaders' need for war against a "foreign intruder." Seven Middle East countries rallied their citizens by forming the Arab League in 1945 to prevent the creation of Israel. Failing in that effort, the Arab League eventually expanded to 21 members, which organized their domestic and foreign politics against the Jewish state. When Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt was suspended from the league, expelled from the Islamic Conference and ousted from other regional and financial institutions. Re-admission for Egypt came only after the assassination of Sadat and his successor's abrogation of almost every term of the treaty.
Opposition to Israel is the only glue of pan-Arabism and the strongest common bond of otherwise warring Muslim constituencies. Even those inclined to end the war are afraid of the consequences (including assassination) of giving up hostilities.
Like the anti-Semitism from which it derives, anti-Zionism is less about the Jews than about the larger aims of those aggressing against the Jews. When the League of Anti-Semites formed in Germany in the 1870s, its primary goal was to prevent the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than denounce a freer, more open society, the league called democracy the ruse that allowed Jews to conquer Germany from within.
In the same way, anti-Zionism today unites conservatives and radicals in the Middle East against all that Israel represents—religious pluralism, individual rights and freedoms, liberal democracy, and Western ideas of progress. Jews and Israel are merely a convenient face or emblem for the huger bastions of those same ideals. Israel, "little Satan," is a handier target than the "big Satan."
The Arab war against Israel has cost thousands of Jewish lives, but its damage to Palestinians is arguably greater, destroying the moral fabric of a society that was once relatively prosperous and culturally advanced. Anti-Jewish politics works by misdirection, drawing attention away from real concerns toward the alleged Jewish violator. Thus, Arab leaders who tried to deny Jews their country accused Jews of denying Arabs their country. To make the charge stick, the leaders have kept Palestinian Arabs in perpetual refugee status while millions of other refugees around the world—including 800,000 Jews from Arab lands—were resettled and started their lives anew.
Many societies have identified Jews as the threatening alien, but Palestinian Arabs are the first people ever to shape their national identity exclusively around opposition to the Jews. The special ingredient that sets Palestinian nationalism apart from that of surrounding Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—and reputedly makes it the strongest form of Arab nationalism—is the usurpation of Jewish symbols and history. The most important date in the Palestinian calendar is not any Arab or Muslim holiday or event, but the day of Israel's founding, commemorated as Nakba, the catastrophe that ostensibly spurred the creation of Arab Palestine. Commemorated as "Palestine's endless Holocaust," Nakba simultaneously libels the Jewish homeland and demeans the Shoah by appropriating the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews.
A new logo for the Palestinian political party Fatah claims the entire map of Israel. Fatah's rival, Hamas, is led by Khalid Mashaal, who recently called for the liberation of "Gaza today and tomorrow Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa." Clearly, both factions remain more intent on destroying their neighbor than on bettering Palestinian lives.
A perfumer in Gaza has named his new fragrance "M-75" after the "pleasant and attractive" missiles used by Hamas to attack Israel. A Facebook FB +1.24%page for Fatah shows a mother strapping her child into a suicide belt; when he asks his mother why him and not her, the mother says that she must bear more children to sacrifice for Palestine. Civil war in Syria, turmoil in Egypt, crisis in Iran and an Islamist threat to Jordan—all follow from the same ruinous politics of grievance and blame.
Chuck Hagel does not have to like Jews, but if he expects to defend the United States, he needs to understand the nature and scope of the war against Israel, including its corrupting effect on Arab societies. The alignment between Israel and America is dictated by those who burn the flags of both countries on the same pyre. By contrast, those who lobby for Israel's protection axiomatically have America's back.
Ms. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of "Jews and Power" (Schocken, 2007).
Stratfor's George Friedman: Avoiding Wars that never end
Reply #352 on:
January 18, 2013, 08:27:13 AM »
Though I disagree with some of the comments on Iraq, overall an excellent piece in my opinion; I would add that it addresses questions that I have been asking here for some time and exemplifies exactly why the Reps have lost their dominance with the American electorate when it comes to foreign affairs and why Obama is forgiven so much. -- Marc
Avoiding the Wars That Never End
George Friedman | 16 January 2013
Last week, US President Barack Obama announced that the United States would transfer the primary responsibility for combat operations in Afghanistan to the Afghan military in the coming months, a major step toward the withdrawal of US forces. Also last week, France began an intervention in Mali designed to block jihadists from taking control of the country and creating a base of operations in France's former African colonies.
The two events are linked in a way that transcends the issue of Islamist insurgency and points to a larger geopolitical shift. The United States is not just drawing down its combat commitments; it is moving away from the view that it has the primary responsibility for trying to manage the world on behalf of itself, the Europeans and its other allies. Instead, that burden is shifting to those who have immediate interests involved.
Insecurity in 9/11's Wake
It is interesting to recall how the United States involved itself in Afghanistan. After 9/11, the United States was in shock and lacked clear intelligence on al Qaeda. It did not know what additional capabilities al Qaeda had or what the group's intentions were. Lacking intelligence, a political leader has the obligation to act on worst-case scenarios after the enemy has demonstrated hostile intentions and capabilities. The possible scenarios ranged from additional sleeper cells operating and awaiting orders in the United States to al Qaeda having obtained nuclear weapons to destroy cities. When you don't know, it is both prudent and psychologically inevitable to plan for the worst.
The United States had sufficient information to act in Afghanistan. It knew that al Qaeda was operating in Afghanistan and that disrupting the main cell was a useful step in taking some action against the threat. However, the United States did not immediately invade Afghanistan. It bombed the country extensively and inserted limited forces on the ground, but the primary burden of fighting the Taliban government was in the hands of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan that had been resisting the Taliban and in the hands of other forces that could be induced to act against the Taliban. The Taliban gave up the cities and prepared for a long war. Al Qaeda's command cell left Afghanistan and shifted to Pakistan.
The United States achieved its primary goal early on. That goal was not to deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in Afghanistan, an objective that would achieve nothing. Rather, the goal was to engage al Qaeda and disrupt its command-and-control structure as a way to degrade the group's ability to plan and execute additional attacks. The move to Pakistan at the very least bought time, and given continued pressure on the main cell, allowed the United States to gather more intelligence about al Qaeda assets around the world.
This second mission -- to identify al Qaeda assets around the world -- required a second effort. The primary means of identifying them was through their electronic communications, and the United States proceeded to create a vast technological mechanism designed to detect communications and use that detection to identify and capture or kill al Qaeda operatives. The problem with this technique -- really the only one available -- was that it was impossible to monitor al Qaeda's communications without monitoring everyone's. If there was a needle in the haystack, the entire haystack had to be examined. This was a radical shift in the government's relationship to the private communications of citizens. The justification was that at a time of war, in which the threat to the United States was uncertain and possibly massive, these measures were necessary.
This action was not unique in American history. Abraham Lincoln violated the Constitution in several ways during the Civil War, from suspending the right to habeas corpus to blocking the Maryland Legislature from voting on a secession measure. Franklin Roosevelt allowed the FBI to open citizens' mail and put Japanese-Americans into internment camps. The idea that civil liberties must be protected in time of war is not historically how the United States, or most countries, operate. In that sense there was nothing unique in the decision to monitor communications in order to find al Qaeda and stop attacks. How else could the needle be found in the haystack? Likewise, detention without trial was not unique. Lincoln and Roosevelt both resorted to it.
The Civil War and World War II were different from the current conflict, however, because their conclusions were clear and decisive. The wars would end, one way or another, and so would the suspension of rights. Unlike those wars, the war in Afghanistan was extended indefinitely by the shift in strategy from disrupting al Qaeda's command cell to fighting the Taliban to building a democratic society in Afghanistan. With the second step, the US military mission changed its focus and increased its presence massively, and with the third, the terminal date of the war became very far away.
But there was a broader issue. The war in Afghanistan was not the main war. Afghanistan happened to be the place where al Qaeda was headquartered on September 11, 2001. The country was not essential to al Qaeda, and creating a democratic society there -- if it were even possible -- would not necessarily weaken al Qaeda. Even destroying al Qaeda would not prevent new Islamist organizations or individuals from rising up.
A New Kind of War
The main war was not against one specific terrorist group, but rather against an idea: the radical tendency in Islamism. Most Muslims are not radicals, but any religion with 1 billion adherents will have its share of extremists. The tendency is there, and it is deeply rooted. If the goal of the war were the destruction of this radical tendency, then it was not going to happen. While the risk of attacks could be reduced -- and indeed there were no further 9/11s despite repeated attempts in the United States -- there was no way to eliminate the threat. No matter how many divisions were deployed, no matter how many systems for electronic detection were created, they could only mitigate the threat, not eliminate it. Therefore, what some called the Long War really became permanent war.
The means by which the war was pursued could not result in victory. They could, however, completely unbalance US strategy by committing massive resources to missions not clearly connected with preventing Islamist terrorism. It also created a situation where emergency intrusions on critical portions of the Bill of Rights -- such as the need to obtain a warrant for certain actions -- became a permanent feature. Permanent war makes for permanent temporary measures.
The break point came, in my opinion, in about 2004. Around that time, al Qaeda was unable to mount attacks on the United States despite multiple efforts. The war in Afghanistan had dislodged al Qaeda and created the Karzai government. The invasion of Iraq -- whatever the rationale might have been -- clearly produced a level of resistance that the United States could not contain or could contain only by making agreements with its enemies in Iraq. At that point, a radical rethinking of the war had to take place. It did not.
The radical rethinking had to do not with Iraq or Afghanistan, but rather with what to do about a permanent threat to the United States, and indeed to many other countries, posed by the global networks of radical Islamists prepared to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat would not go away, and it could not be eliminated. At the same time, it did not threaten the existence of the republic. The 9/11 attacks were atrocious, but they did not threaten the survival of the United States in spite of the human cost. Combating the threat required a degree of proportionality so the fight could be maintained on an ongoing basis, without becoming the only goal of US foreign policy or domestic life. Mitigation was the only possibility; the threat would have to be endured.
Washington found a way to achieve this balance in the past, albeit against very different sorts of threats. The United States emerged as a great power in the early 20th century. During that time, it fought three wars: World War I, World War II and the Cold War, which included Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller engagements. In World War I and World War II, the United States waited for events to unfold, and in Europe in particular it waited until the European powers reached a point where they could not deal with the threat of German hegemony without American intervention. In both instances, it intervened heavily only late in the war, at the point where the Germans had been exhausted by other European powers. It should be remembered that the main American push in World War II did not take place until the summer of 1944. The American strategy was to wait and see whether the Europeans could stabilize the situation themselves, using distance to mobilize as late as possible and intervene decisively only at the critical moment.
The critics of this approach, particularly prior to World War II, called it isolationism. But the United States was not isolationist; it was involved in Asia throughout this period. Rather, it saw itself as being the actor of last resort, capable of acting at the decisive moment with overwhelming force because geography had given the United States the option of time and resources.
During the Cold War, the United States modified this strategy. It still depended on allies, but it now saw itself as the first responder. Partly this could be seen in US nuclear strategy. This could also be seen in Korea and Vietnam, where allies played subsidiary roles, but the primary effort was American. The Cold War was fought on a different set of principles than the two world wars.
The Cold War strategy was applied to the war against radical Islamism, in which the United States -- because of 9/11 but also because of a mindset that could be seen in other interventions -- was the first responder. Other allies followed the United States' lead and provided support to the degree to which they felt comfortable. The allies could withdraw without fundamentally undermining the war effort. The United States could not.
The approach in the US-jihadist war was a complete reversal from the approach taken in the two world wars. This was understandable given that it was triggered by an unexpected and catastrophic event, the reponse to which flowed from a lack of intelligence. When Japan struck Pearl Harbor, emotions were at least as intense, but US strategy in the Pacific was measured and cautious. And the enemy's capabilities were much better understood.
Stepping Back as Global Policeman
The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win, and it certainly cannot be the sole actor in a war waged primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere. This is why the French intervention in Mali is particularly interesting. France retains interests in its former colonial empire in Africa, and Mali is at the geographic center of these interests. To the north of Mali is Algeria, where France has significant energy investments; to the east of Mali is Niger, where France has a significant stake in the mining of mineral resources, particularly uranium; and to the south of Mali is Ivory Coast, where France plays a major role in cocoa production. The future of Mali matters to France far more than it matters to the United States.
What is most interesting is the absence of the United States in the fight, even if it is providing intelligence and other support, such as mobilizing ground forces from other African countries. The United States is not acting as if this is its fight; it is acting as if this is the fight of an ally, whom it might help in extremis, but not in a time when US assistance is unnecessary. And if the French can't mount an effective operation in Mali, then little help can be given.
This changing approach is also evident in Syria, where the United States has systematically avoided anything beyond limited and covert assistance, and Libya, where the United States intervened after the French and British launched an attack they could not sustain. That was, I believe, a turning point, given the unsatisfactory outcome there. Rather than accepting a broad commitment against radical Islamism everywhere, the United States is allowing the burden to shift to powers that have direct interests in these areas.
Reversing a strategy is difficult. It is uncomfortable for any power to acknowledge that it has overreached, which the United States did both in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is even more difficult to acknowledge that the goals set by President George W. Bush in Iraq and Obama in Afghanistan lacked coherence. But clearly the war has run its course, and what is difficult is also obvious. We are not going to eliminate the threat of radical Islamism. The commitment of force to an unattainable goal twists national strategy out of shape and changes the fabric of domestic life. Obviously, overwatch must be in place against the emergence of an organization like al Qaeda, with global reach, sophisticated operatives and operational discipline. But this is very different from responding to jihadists in Mali, where the United States has limited interests and fewer resources.
Accepting an ongoing threat is also difficult. Mitigating the threat of an enemy rather than defeating the enemy outright goes against an impulse. But it is not something alien to American strategy. The United States is involved in the world, and it can't follow the founders' dictum of staying out of European struggles. But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not irresponsible.
The greatest danger of war is what it can do to one's own society, changing the obligations of citizens and reshaping their rights. The United States has always done this during wars, but those wars would always end. Fighting a war that cannot end reshapes domestic life permanently. A strategy that compels engagement everywhere will exhaust a country. No empire can survive the imperative of permanent, unwinnable warfare. It is fascinating to watch the French deal with Mali. It is even more fascinating to watch the United States wishing them well and mostly staying out of it. It has taken about 10 years, but here we can see the American system stabilise itself by mitigating the threats that can't be eliminated and refusing to be drawn into fights it can let others handle.
Last Edit: January 18, 2013, 08:35:32 AM by Crafty_Dog
MacShane: What do we mean by Islamism?
Reply #353 on:
January 18, 2013, 08:42:25 AM »
Second post of the morning: I could put this in the Communicating with Islam thread, but I am putting it here so it can be paired with the George Friedman piece immediately preceding this post. I note that there is quite a bit here with which I am not in agreement, but post it nonetheless:
What do we mean by Islamism?
Denis MacShane | 18 January 2013
In 1940, Alec Douglas-Home broke his back in an accident and had to spend months in a complete plaster and immobilised. The future British Prime Minister dedicated the time, so he claimed later, to reading the Works of Marx and it was this lecture that turned him against communism and all its works. In truth, the old Etonian aristocrat didn’t need to dig too deeply into the concept of alienation and surplus value to decide that anything linked to Marxism was a threat to his class, but it is important to read about the theory and experience that gives rise then to political practice that can shape the world. In the middle of the last century therefore a study of Marxism was useful. Today, a study of Islamism is also essential if one is to make sense of so much of the problems and perils of today’s world.
An openDemocracy headline described what was happening in Egypt as 'Islamist Fascism'. Secular Tunisians have described what is happening in their country – as the historic UGTT trade union finds itself being slowly crushed by the Islamist Government (whose leader was recently awarded the Chatham House International Man of the Year prize at Banqueting House) – as a slow-burn Iranian style 'revolution'. Sadly we no longer have Fred Halliday to issue prescient warnings about the fears that the Arab spring revolutions may be devouring their own children and are now entering a period of establishing a new authoritarianism.
What we do have, which may be some small help, are two important books: “Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening” by Maajid Nawaz and “Encounters with Islam” by Malise Ruthven, both important discussions into the phenomenon of contemporary Islamist ideology. Nawaz tells a remarkable story about his indoctrination as a young student from Southend into Islamist politics in the 1990s. This was a lost decade as the British political class simply failed to notice what was happening under its own eyes. An ideology that would justify the most atrocious violence and torture, including the beheading of captured opponents, with a horrific record of oppressing women and homophobia, matched with a contempt and denigration for any of the rights that progressives have fought for through the ages, notably freedom of expression, was allowed to penetrate British universities and many young minds. Our universities, where students were usually alert to any expression of extreme right white politics, appeared not to notice the extreme right politics of Islamist ideology.
Nawaz goes into pitiless detail exposing the activities of Hizb ut Tahrir. Like the English Defence League, this Islamist organisation, he says, preach relentless hate. For Nawaz, the spread of HT was intimately connected to the Conservative Government’s indifference to the genocidal massacre of Muslims in Bosnia. We still have had no apology from William Hague, who was in John Major’s Cabinet and who is now Foreign Secretary, for his involvement in the collective British Tory decision to allow the mobs of Milosevic to carry out their slaughter of European Muslims. Eight thousand imprisoned men were taken out one by one, their hands tied by plastic handcuffs, and Serbs shot them in the head to push them into a carefully excavated mass grave.
I was in the House of Commons when Sir Malcolm Rifkind, our Foreign Secretary, washed his hands at the despatch box, like any Pontius Pilate, to explain why Britain would not lift a finger to intervene to stop the massacre of Muslims. For some young British Muslims at colleges and universities, this was a moment when they crossed the line to become HT activists. Nawaz tells of a conference at the LSE where a student, Omar Sheikh, listened to Islamist preachers. He was so convinced that he went to Pakistan and there took part in the kidnapping of the American Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl. Pearl had his throat cut in order to promote Islamist ideology. Sheikh is still in prison in Pakistan for this crime. Nawaz, himself from a pious, gentle Pakistani origin family in Southend, loved Hip Hop music and girls but turned his back on such pleasures to become an activist and then one of the leaders of HT. He studied Arabic and law and went round Britain, as well as Denmark and then to Pakistan to set up new Islamist cells. The chief goal was the overthrow of the Pakistan Government to replace it by an Islamist Junta in preparation to bring about the return of the caliphate using Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to this end.
Some people did and do write about these problems with the depth they deserve. Those who traced anti-Semitism carefully could not fail to be horrified at the rise of Islamism. But others – Melanie Philips in the Daily Mail for example – broadened a justified concern about Islamist anti-Semitism into an uncontrolled stream of consciousness against Muslims and the religion of Islam itself. We all know the result. Islamism, the ideology and Islamists, the preachers of hate and death, flourished because their early opponents focused on the wrong target, namely the Muslim faith and its followers. Nawaz saw one ‘answer’ to Islamism when he was arrested in Egypt. Although never tortured himself – the soggy old British diplomatic service came to his rescue as a British citizen – he witnessed unbearable and unspeakable acts of cruelty by the Egyptian regime against its Islamist opponents. One evil begets another.
Now, like so many who in their youth were blinded by Stalinism or Trotskyism, Nawaz has left behind the shores of fundamentalist belief and extremist politics to advise and coach and coax fellow British Muslims who might be tempted to take the path he did twenty years ago not to do so. Anybody who cares about the future of Britain should read this book, and they will get even more from Nawaz’s account when read alongside an illuminating, thoughtful and prescient collection of essays on Islam by Malise Ruthven.
Ruthven, pronounced Riven, is like the late and still very much lamented Fred Halliday, a scholar, investigative reporter, and insightful essayist all wrapped in one. As Ruthven points out, when commentators write glibly of Muslim states they usually mean a rather narrow range of Arab authoritarian nations. There is a much wider Islam diffused through many preachers, some strands close to Unitarian or Quaker versions of Christianity. I once heard a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain declare that he could not condemn or call for the outright abolition of lapidation – the stoning to death of women who sleep with a man not their husband – because to do so would be to go against the teaching of the Qur’an. I could hardly believe my ears, hearing this in London from a fluent young man often treated on Newsnight and other BBC outlets as an authority on the Muslim condition in Britain. He seems to me to be as close to this as a fundamentalist Presbyterian is to the condition of Scotland or a member of the Plymouth Brethren is to the condition of Christianity in England.
Ruthven also looks at the efforts by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to rewrite the universal declaration of human rights in order to conform to their idea of their faith and what they see as the different rights of men and women. He helps to give us the tools to expose such assertions for what they are, like Stalin’s 1936 constitution or the arguments by Russian diplomats in the 1950s and 1960s that their version of human rights was every bit of good as that of progressive democrats. Ruthven proposes Jew-hate as one of the organising elements of both contemporary Islamism and much of the organised politics of many majority Muslim states. He condemns George W Bush for his language about crusades and above all, for announcing a “war on terror”. This, he says, immediately raised the status of ideological murdering criminals to that of enemy combatants. In contrast, in Northern Ireland, the murderers linked to the extreme right-wing IRA were continually treated as criminals and put in prison as such, rather than afforded the martyr status that Bush has given Islamists by defining the campaign against them as a war.
Both Nawaz and Ruthven have written significant books, which add greatly to our store of knowledge on the new ideology of Islamism. Twenty-odd years ago I wrote a pamphlet for the NUJ asking why there were no black or Asian or Muslim reporters in our newspapers or working for the BBC. To some extent that problem has been put right. But we are still far from having an adequate journalism or political understanding of the meaning of contemporary Islamism, nor an honest debate over the tragedies that British and Western policy have caused. It should in political terms be possible to hold a reasoned and progressive debate. But then the hate remains.
Recently, I was helping organise and speak at a protest against the English Defence League when they came to Rotherham. One man walked past me with hate on his face snarling the words “Zionist filth.” The EDL is an openly anti-Semitic organisation whose leaders have endorsed the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Was this an EDL man thus condemning me? No. It was a British Asian, not one I recognised from my former constituency of Rotherham, but one whose mind was as equally poisoned by lies as those who believe EDL ideology. I would love to give both him and the EDL members copies of both books, as well as the money men behind the EDL. But even if they were to read them, would the important and essential messages that Narwaz and Ruthven express have any impact at all?
Denis MacShane was a parliamentary private secretary and Minister at the Foreign Office and a Council of Europe delegate 1997-2010 and travels extensively in the Balkans. His book Why Kosovo Still Matters is published by Haus Publishing. This article has been republished from opendemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #354 on:
January 19, 2013, 11:26:31 AM »
I'd love to see some responses to the George Friedman piece , , ,
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #355 on:
January 19, 2013, 11:53:42 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 19, 2013, 11:26:31 AM
I'd love to see some responses to the George Friedman piece , , ,
GF is putting a pretty gloss on Buraq giving a huge win to AQ and the muslim brotherhood.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #356 on:
January 19, 2013, 02:33:51 PM »
"But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities."
This analogy is totally flawed. We defeated Germany and Japan by destroying them. We bombed the hell out of Germany and Japan. How does that compare to fighting a war on a guerilla's terms?
"with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities." and a plan and time frame to end it.
The descending Colon policy
WE had plans in Iraq. Get rid of Saddam and establish a Democracy. We did do that. It is debatable whether it was worth the effort, or whether it will be long term success or not.
In Afghanistan our goal was to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
I must think he is concluding we simply don't have the capability to defeat our enemies today. And if he means by finding arresting gently placing all "enemy combatants" into a comfortable prison while sparing every other person and entity in the same geography with perfect precision he is right. If we fight wars like police actions rather than wars we will be dragged into these things for long periods.
Triumph of democracy update
Reply #357 on:
January 19, 2013, 04:17:07 PM »
Must be one of those "spontaneous protests" we keep hearing about. I wonder how many white house staffers are frantically surfing youtube right now for a video to blame for this.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #358 on:
January 19, 2013, 04:23:23 PM »
Oh thee of thread drift
please post at
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #359 on:
January 19, 2013, 04:28:10 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 19, 2013, 04:23:23 PM
Oh thee of thread drift
please post at
But isn't this the "smart power" we were promised in 2008?
WSJ: BO's You're-on-your-own world
Reply #360 on:
January 22, 2013, 11:55:51 AM »
Continuing the conversation:
Obama's You're-On-Your-Own World George McGovern wanted America to "Come Home." In Obama's second term, he may just get his wish.
By BRET STEPHENS
Isn't it fitting that, as a final order of business in President Obama's first term, the United States would haggle with France over the federal equivalent of a $2.15 check?
Last week, the Journal reported that the administration was asking the French to pay for the limited logistical support—mainly cargo flights and aerial refueling—that the U.S. had agreed to provide the French mission to Mali.
"French officials said they were particularly 'perplexed' last week when the U.S. . . . insisted on getting reimbursed for the costs," the Journal's Adam Entous and David Gauthier-Villars reported Sunday. "Other countries including Canada have offered to transport French military equipment and troops to Mali free of charge, according to French, European and Canadian officials. As a result, France is considering not using the U.S."
By week's end, however, the administration had agreed to cover the costs, estimated at around $600,000 a flight for 30 flights. Considering that the federal government spends just over $10 billion a day, or $115,000 a second, we're talking about less than three minutes' worth of the government's time.
Is the effort worth it? "France expects the U.S. to do more to fight militants who have vowed to hit at Western interests and conducted an attack in Algeria that left at least 23 hostages dead, including at least one American citizen," French officials told the Journal. Considering that, before France's intervention, the local branch of al Qaeda was on the verge of overrunning a country larger than Texas and California combined, one might think the French had a point.
George McGovern, who called in 1972 for America to "Come Home."
In fact, the latest death toll from Algeria is 37 hostages killed, including three Americans. But don't expect the administration to do more than what it did in reaction to the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, which was nothing. The current administration excuse for its nonfeasance is that any assistance might help the government of Mali, which (horrors) seized power in March in a military coup. From scruples such as these did Jimmy Carter allow the shah of Iran to fall.
Then again, at least Mr. Carter's scruples were sincere. Not so for Mr. Obama, for whom "engagement" has become a code word for avoidance. Thus we "engage" Iran diplomatically to avoid harder choices about its nuclear ambitions, just as we engage the U.N. to avoid doing anything about Syria. Meanwhile, the message to U.S. allies that gets louder by the year is that it's a you're-on-your-own world as far as this administration is concerned. Good night, good luck, buena suerte, viel Glück, hazz sa'eed and bonne chance.
That is the meaning behind the administration's refusal to lift a finger against the Assad regime. Or its perfect indifference to Iraq detaching itself from America's orbit and entering Iran's. Or its endless indulgence of Iran's nuclear bids. Or its haste to make a full exit from Afghanistan. Or, now, its reluctance to acknowledge, much less respond to, al Qaeda's new reach in Africa.
It is also the meaning of Chuck Hagel's nomination to be secretary of defense. His veteran's credentials and nominal GOP affiliation provide cover for a president who, as somebody once said, wants America to Come Home "from military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation." That wasn't Dwight Eisenhower speaking, by the way.
Given how often U.S. forces have come to grief in faraway and forlorn countries like Mali, Americans will probably shrug off the thought that we aren't doing enough to help our French friends. Aren't we sick of always jumping to their aid when they don't always exactly jump to ours? And why have they so neglected their defenses that they can't even deploy a few thousand troops to a country that, to them, isn't all that far away? If life were a debate society, the argument would be a good one. As a matter of politics, the administration's resistance to any kind of military action is probably smart, at least for the short term.
But Americans need to think carefully about what the retreat from Pax Americana will mean in the long term.
The last time Americans made that choice, in the 1920s and '30s, U.S. foreign policy consisted of promoting feckless disarmament treaties, slashing defense spending, dishing out high-toned disdain for the wicked ways of the world and trying to fix what ailed us at home. What followed was a long season of global disorder, when bandit states understood that the major democratic powers had neither the will nor the means to check their ambitions, and the smaller states feared that, in the event of crisis, they were on their own. As it turned out, they were.
We're not yet there today. But when an American president thinks he can declare that "a decade of war is now ending," as he said in the inaugural address, and as if the choice were his to make, it means we're getting closer. France has now discovered that the United States doesn't have its back. It is a realization that will dawn soon, if it hasn't already, on other free nations who have relied—perhaps for too long—on their faith that, in the face of terror, they would always have America by their side.
VDH: Fantasies about Radical Islam
Reply #361 on:
January 22, 2013, 01:20:07 PM »
second post of the day
Most things that we read in the popular media about radical Islam are fantasies. They are promulgated in the mistaken belief that such dogmas will appease terrorists, or at least direct their ire elsewhere. But given the recent news — murdering in Algeria, war in Mali, the Syrian mess, and Libyan chaos — let us reexamine some of these more common heresies. Such a review is especially timely, given that Mr. Brennan believed that jihad is largely a personal quest for spiritual perfection; Mr. Kerry believed that Bashar Assad was a potentially moderating reformer; and Mr. Hagel believed that Iran was not worthy of sanctions, Hezbollah was not deserving of ostracism, and Israel is equally culpable for the Middle East mess.
1. Contact with the West Moderates Radical Muslims
In theory, residence in the West could instruct young Muslim immigrants on the advantages of free markets, constitutional government, and legally protected freedoms. But as we saw with many of the 9/11 hijackers, for a large subset of Muslim expatriates, a strange schizophrenia ensues: they enjoy — indeed, seek out — the material bounty of the West. But in the abstract, far too many either despise what wealth and affluence do to the citizenry (e.g., gay marriage, feminism, religious tolerance, secularism, etc.) or try to dream up conspiracy theories to explain why their adopted home is better off than the native one that they abandoned.
Finally, foreign students, journalists, and religious expatriates tend to congregate around American campuses and in liberal big cities. There, they are more often nursed on American race/class/gender critiques of America, and so apparently believe that their own anti-Americanism must naturally be shared by millions of Americans from Bakersfield to Nashville. Take Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new theocratic president. He should appreciate the U.S. It gave him refuge from persecution in Egypt. It allowed unfettered expression of his radical anti-American views. It schooled him in meritocratic fashion and offered him secure employment at the CSU system, despite his foreign national status. It gave citizenship to two of his daughters (apparently retained). But the result is that Mr. Morsi is an abject anti-Semite (“apes and pigs”) and anti-American. He does not believe terrorists caused 9/11. He wants the imprisoned, murderous blind sheik, who was the architect of the first World Trade Center bombing, sent home to Egypt. And he is pushing Egypt into a Sunni version of Iran.
2. The West Must Atone for Its Past Behavior
I have noted elsewhere both the fantasies found in Barack Obama’s Cairo speech and their general irrelevance to the Muslim world. Polls from Pakistan to Palestine — both recipients of massive U.S. aid — show that the U.S. is as unpopular under Obama as it was under Bush. All small nations have writs against large ones, especially the globally ubiquitous U.S. But America must be seen in comparison to … what? Russia’s artillery and missile barrage that leveled Muslim Grozny (which the UN declared the most destroyed city in the world)? China, which outlaws free expression of Islam and persecutes Muslim minorities? Both are largely left alone by al-Qaeda, due to their unapologetic attitudes, possible unpredictable response, and inability to offer attackers a globalized media forum.
In contrast, no single nation lets in more Muslim immigrants than does the U.S. No non-Muslim nation gives more foreign aid than does the U.S. to the Muslim world — Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine. No nation has so sought to save Muslims from dictatorial violence — whether bombing European Christians to save Muslims in the Balkans; jawboning Kuwaitis to spare Palestinian turncoats in 1991; trying to feed starving Somalis; aiding Muslims fighting Russians in Afghanistan; freeing Kuwaitis from Saddam; rebuilding Iraq; rebuilding Afghanistan from Taliban terror; trying to free Libyans from Gadhafi; and on and on.
The sources of radical Islam rage are thus not past U.S. actions. Read The Al Qaeda Reader to chart all the bizarre excuses that bin Laden and Dr. Zawahiri alleged were the roots of their anger at the U.S. So why exactly does radical Islam hate us? Mostly because of the age-old wages of insecurity, envy, and a sense of inferiority — and the hunch that such gripes win apologies, attention, and sometimes money. In a globalized world, Muslims see daily that everyone from South Koreans to North Americans are better off. Why? In their view, not because of market economies, meritocracies, gender equality, religious pluralism, consensual government, and the Western menu of personal freedom. To draw that conclusion would mean to reject tribalism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, statism, authoritarianism, and conspiracy theory — and to admit indigenous rather than foreign causation. Instead, it is far easier to blame “them” for turning the majestic Islamic empire of old into the chaos of modern Islam — as well as to fault Arab secularists whose lack of religious zealotry allowed the West to move ahead. All antidotes to these deductive beliefs — foreign aid, democratization, outreach, better communications — have so far proved ambiguous at best.
US Foreign Policy: The Reagan Doctrine
Reply #362 on:
February 06, 2013, 07:15:17 PM »
Once upon a time we had a President who supported freedom. On this day in 1985 Pres. Reagan made clear that we support freedom across the globe, we believe in peace through strength, that a strong defense save lives, that supporting freedom fighters around the globe is self-defense, and his unflinching belief in the benefits of free trade.
"Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few; it is the universal right of all God's children." America's "mission" was to "nourish and defend freedom and democracy." More specifically, Reagan declared that, "We must stand by our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth." He concluded, "Support for freedom fighters is self-defense."
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #363 on:
February 06, 2013, 09:54:28 PM »
I see today that the budgetary clusterfcuk has led to US to remove one of two aircraft carriers from offshore of Iran.
Not to worry though, SecDef Hagel will put things right.
Stratfor: Bush-1, a world transformed
Reply #364 on:
February 08, 2013, 01:51:31 PM »
This could have gone in the American History thread as well:
A World Transformed
February 6, 2013 | 1000 GMT
By Robert D. Kaplan
Chief Geopolitical Analyst
Former President George H.W. Bush is aged and ailing. So it is precisely now that we need to voice our appreciation for him -- one of America's greatest one-term presidents, along with James K. Polk. Polk practically doubled the size of the continental United States between 1845 and 1849, becoming the individual embodiment of Manifest Destiny. Bush the elder, rather than make great things happen, prevented great tragedy from occurring. It was what did not happen between 1989 and 1993 in Europe, the Middle East and China that makes the elder Bush a far more significant president in geopolitical terms than, for example, Bill Clinton, who occupied the White House for twice as many years.
Bush was the last American aristocrat and veteran of World War II to serve as president. From a wealthy Connecticut family, educated at the finest private schools in New England, he enlisted in the Navy at 18 in 1942, and as a 20-year-old aviator was shot down over the Bonin Islands south of Japan in 1944. His life thereafter was often a register of both understatement and service.
Bush's subdued, steely character is on full display in A World Transformed (1998). Notice several things about this, perhaps the finest presidential memoir since Ulysses S. Grant's own Personal Memoirs published in 1885. Bush, rather than take all the credit for himself like other presidents, shares authorship with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Nor is the book about his presidency per se, but about how he, Scowcroft and Secretary of the State James Baker III negotiated some of history's most momentous crises. There is much else in his presidential term that Bush could have written about in order to get even or tell his side of the story, which he, nevertheless, ignores. He has decided to stay silent about so much in order to sublimate himself to the great historical and geopolitical events overseas with which he was forced to deal, even as he shares full credit with others. That is the measure of the man.
Even within the realm of foreign policy, Bush and Scowcroft in their book purposely neglect the successful 1989 operation in Panama and the revival of the Middle East peace process toward the end of Bush's term: events that, in any case, are of lesser geopolitical significance because Panama was already in the U.S. sphere of influence and the intermittent Arab-Israeli peace process does not affect the balance of power. Moreover, Bush and Scowcroft are not interested in beating their chests over every accomplishment as in other presidential memoirs. Their focus is deliberately narrow, making, counterintuitively, for an epic book.
The lessons of this volume are manifold; let me elucidate the main ones.
Most important: Managing change is more important than provoking it, and one manages change best by concentrating on people rather than on ideas. This is why Bush was so unpopular with the media and the intellectual classes while he was president: They wanted action, ideas, brilliant abstractions; whereas he focused on lots of personal phone calls to world leaders even when there was no crisis, so when a crisis came he had them in his pocket.
To wit, when the Chinese Communists killed large numbers of students at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989, the Bush Administration reprimanded Beijing, which angered the Chinese. But because Bush decided not to break or permanently downgrade relations with Beijing, that angered the intellectuals in New York and Washington. But it was Bush's middle path that safeguarded change in China and helped prevent a more sustained crackdown that might have set China back years. Indeed, by not humiliating Beijing, he encouraged the continuation of economic reforms that would transform the face of China -- and Asia -- for the better. And the Chinese leaders respected his views not only because he was the president but also because of the many years he had already spent in consultation with them while serving in other government positions (as the U.S. chief liaison to China and head of the Central Intelligence Agency).
Because of the way the Communist empire in Europe collapsed -- suddenly, and on the whole peacefully -- it is assumed that this was natural. It wasn't. The Kremlin allowed its empire to collapse because of two overarching reasons: the particular moral character of Mikhail Gorbachev and the calculated restraint of the Bush White House that was careful not to beat its chest over the fall of the Berlin Wall and thus provoke a Soviet military reaction. Bush's greatness was in the dog that didn't bark.
Bush writes: "I understood that the pressure on Gorbachev from hard-liners to intervene would grow, as these once reliable allies [in Eastern Europe] began to pull further away and the Soviet security buffer against the West eroded. The dangers were ahead, and I would have to respond with even greater care as the East Europeans pushed their own way to the future. We could not let the people down -- there could still be more Tiananmens." So rather than conduct a triumphant, Reaganite victory lap around Eastern Europe, Bush was restricted in his travels and in his language. For example, he knew that he could not immediately pledge support for Lithuania the moment it declared independence, because the United States was in a weak position to counter a Soviet military reaction. God bless him! He knew that tragedy is avoided by thinking tragically.
Rather than bridle at the geographic and other constraints imposed on policymakers, Bush was fundamentally aware of them. It was only by respecting geography that he was able to move beyond it.
Not that Bush wasn't bold. He certainly was. People have short memories. I was in Eastern Europe for some of this time and remember vividly. Now it seems altogether natural that West and East Germany be reunited under a NATO umbrella. Then it wasn't. Quite a few argued for the eastern part of Germany to remain neutral. Bush would have none of it. He came to the cause of reunification early, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl always appreciated him for it. Imagine how unstable Europe would have become had Bush listened to other voices and prevented full-scale reunification -- had he not accepted that the German capital would have to move from Bonn to Berlin? Here was another geopolitical dog that didn't bark.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, there were many voices in Washington urging the president not to get involved militarily. But Bush acted boldly. He liberated Kuwait with force in 1991, even as he was careful not to march all the way to Baghdad and become enmeshed with the internal politics of the Iraqi state. And it was Bush's nuanced position that helped reverse the coup attempt in Moscow later that same year. Unlike the Reagan foreign policy team that went through several national security advisers and got involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, the Bush team of Bush-Baker-Scowcroft represented one of the most professional stewardships of American foreign policy ever. And it was professional because it was based more on geopolitics than on ideas, even as all of these men would be careful never to admit this.
Bush wasn't perfect -- the administration could have been more proactive on Bosnia when Yugoslavia came apart. But in Bush's defense, I would say that so early in this, the first European crisis since the end of the Cold War, it was reasonable to test whether a newly united Europe could deal on its own with an internal eruption.
In historic terms, the elder Bush was the last fully nation-state American to lead America in the world. The presidents who have come after did not serve in the nation's wars, and/or came to adulthood during the 1960s or in a post-Sixties era when American values were called into question in a more global and cosmopolitan environment. Bush senior was different. Because he was so deeply anchored in the nation-state, he was respectful of the interests of other states. That made him cautious and humble. And from such caution and restraint great things happened peacefully in the world.
Read more: A World Transformed | Stratfor
Even POTH is asking some questions
Reply #365 on:
February 10, 2013, 09:15:58 AM »
WASHINGTON — If President Obama tuned in to the past week’s bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.
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Critics of the administration’s defense policies disrupted the confirmation hearing for John O. Brennan, right, on Thursday.
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Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country’s core values in the name of security.
The debate is not an exact parallel to those of the Bush era, and Mr. Obama can point to ways he has tried to exorcise what he sees as the excesses of the last administration. But in broad terms, the conversation generated by the confirmation hearing of John O. Brennan, his nominee for C.I.A. director, underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush’s approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces.
At the same time, a separate hearing in Congress revealed how far Mr. Obama has gone to avoid what he sees as Mr. Bush’s central mistake. Testimony indicated that the president had overruled his secretaries of state and defense and his military commanders when they advised arming rebels in Syria.
With troops only recently home from Iraq, Mr. Obama made clear that he was so intent on staying out of another war against a Middle East tyrant that he did not want to be involved even by proxy, especially if the proxies might be questionable.
Critics on the left saw abuse of power, and critics on the right saw passivity.
The confluence of these debates suggests the ways Mr. Obama is willing to emulate Mr. Bush and the ways he is not. In effect, Mr. Obama relies on his predecessor’s aggressive approach in one area to avoid Mr. Bush’s even more aggressive approach in others. By emphasizing drone strikes, Mr. Obama need not bother with the tricky issues of detention and interrogation because terrorists tracked down on his watch are generally incinerated from the sky, not captured and questioned. By dispensing with concerns about due process, he avoids a more traditional war that he fears could lead to American boots on the ground.
“I’d argue the shift to more targeted action against A. Q. has been a hallmark of Obama’s approach against terrorism, whereas Iraq was Bush’s signature decision in his global war on terror,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, using the initials for Al Qaeda.
The Brennan hearing highlighted the convoluted politics of terrorism. Conservatives complained that if Mr. Bush had done what Mr. Obama has done, he would have been eviscerated by liberals and the news media. But perhaps more than ever before in Mr. Obama’s tenure, liberals voiced sustained grievance over the president’s choices.
“That memo coming out, I think, was a wake-up call,” said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. “These last few days, it was like being back in the Bush days.”
“It’s causing a lot of cognitive dissonance for a lot of people,” he added. “It’s not the President Obama they thought they knew.”
The dissonance is due in part to the fact that Mr. Obama ran in 2008 against Mr. Bush’s first-term policies but, after winning, inherited Mr. Bush’s second-term policies.
By the time Mr. Bush left office, he had shaved off some of the more controversial edges of his counterterrorism program, both because of pressure from Congress and the courts and because he wanted to leave behind policies that would endure. He had closed the secret C.I.A. prisons, obtained Congressional approval for warrantless surveillance and military commissions, and worked to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
So while Mr. Obama banned harsh interrogation techniques, he preserved much of what he inherited, with some additional safeguards; expanded Mr. Bush’s drone campaign; and kept on veterans of the antiterrorism wars like Mr. Brennan. Some efforts at change were thwarted, like his vow to close the Guantánamo prison and to try Sept. 11 plotters in civilian court.
“These are the same issues we’ve been grappling with for years that are uncomfortable given our legal structures and the nature of the threat, but the Obama team is addressing these issues the same way we did,” said Juan Carlos Zarate, who was Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.
Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University professor and former Bush national security aide, said Mr. Obama “believed the cartoon version of the Bush critique so that Bush wasn’t just trying to make tough calls how to protect America in conditions of uncertainty, Bush actually was trying to grab power for nefarious purposes.”
“So even though what I, Obama, am doing resembles what Bush did, I’m doing it for other purposes,” Mr. Feaver added.
Others said that oversimplified the situation and ignored modifications that Mr. Obama had enacted. “It is a vast overstatement to suggest that President Obama is channeling President Bush,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who hired a young Mr. Obama to lecture there. “On almost every measure, Obama has been more careful, more restrained and more respectful of individual liberties than President Bush was.”
Page 2 of 2)
“On the other hand,” Mr. Stone added, “at least in his use of drones, President Obama has legitimately opened himself up to criticism for striking the wrong balance” between civil liberties and national security.
A Public Discussion of Secret Strikes
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News Analysis: Debating a Court to Vet Drone Strikes (February 9, 2013)
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Particularly stark has been the secret memo authorizing the targeted killing of American citizens deemed terrorists under certain circumstances without judicial review, a memo that brought back memories of those in which John Yoo, a Justice Department official under Mr. Bush, declared harsh interrogation legal.
That broad assertion of power, even with limits described by administration officials, combined with the initial White House refusal to release even a sanitized summary of the memo touched off protests from left and right. Some called Mr. Obama a hypocrite. But Mr. Yoo himself saw it differently, arguing in The Wall Street Journal that the memo, whatever the surface similarities to his own, betrayed a flawed vision because it presented the issue in law enforcement terms rather than as an exercise of war powers.
Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director under Mr. Bush, said that if Mr. Obama learned one thing from experience it should be that controversial programs require public support to be sustained. “Err on the side of being open, at least with Congress,” he said. “Otherwise you’re going to find yourself in a politically vulnerable position.”
For four years, Mr. Obama has benefited at least in part from the reluctance of Mr. Bush’s most virulent critics to criticize a Democratic president. Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama’s hands, not Mr. Bush’s.
“We trust the president,” former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said on Current TV. “And if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms because we wouldn’t trust that he would strike in a very targeted way and try to minimize damage rather than contain collateral damage.”
But some national security specialists said questions about the limits of executive power to conduct war should not depend on the person in the Oval Office.
“That’s not how we make policy,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former national security aide under Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama and now a fellow at the New America Foundation. “We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish
I thought we were promised "smart power"
Reply #366 on:
February 12, 2013, 11:58:01 AM »
Few Korea hands in Obama administration’s Asia leadership team
Posted By Josh Rogin Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 12:09 PM
As the world wakes up to the reality of a heightened crisis with North Korea following its latest nuclear test, the Obama administration finds itself with remarkably few Korea experts at the top of its Asia policy team.
North Korea confirmed Monday it had detonated a nuclear bomb for the third time, blatantly disregarding United Nations resolutions and the repeated warnings of the international community. The U.N. Security Council scrambled to call a Tuesday meeting on the incident and U.S. President Barack Obama issued a strongly worded statement of condemnation early Tuesday morning.
"This is a highly provocative act that, following its December 12 ballistic missile launch, undermines regional stability, violates North Korea's obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation," Obama's statement said. "North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security."
Obama said North Korea's activities warrant "swift and credible action" by the international community but declined to specify what action he intends to pursue. North Korea is the most heavily sanctioned country in the world, and most experts believe only China has substantial leverage to bring to bear on the Hermit Kingdom run by the young dictator Kim Jong Un.
On the Obama administration's Asia team, almost all the senior officials handling the North Korea crisis have specialties outside of Korean affairs, a stark difference from the last two times Pyongyang exploded nuclear weapons in October 2006 and May 2009.
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, who had extensive experience dealing with the North Korea issue, departed the government last week. His temporary replacement, Principal Deputy Secretary of State Joe Yun, is widely regarded as an excellent official but his background is in Southeast Asia. The State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, Glyn Davies, is a nuclear technology and Europe expert, having most recently served as the U.S. permanent representative to the IAEA in Vienna. State's special envoy to the (defunct) six-party talks, Clifford Hart, is a longtime China hand.
Over at the National Security Staff, Senior Director for Asia Danny Russel (Campbell's potential successor at State) is also a China hand, as is his right hand man Evan Medeiros, an expert on the Chinese military. Syd Seiler, who also works at the NSS, is a Korea specialist and is reported to have traveled to Pyongyang last March. But Seiler is currently on detail from the CIA and is expected to return to his home agency soon.
Over at the Pentagon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Mark Lippert, a close friend of Obama's, has little Northeast Asia experience but served as a Naval reservist in Afghanistan. His principal deputy, Peter Lavoy, focuses on Pakistan. The position of deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia has been vacant for almost a year, ever since Japan hand Michael Schiffer moved over to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"There are no people who work Korea at the top levels of the policy team," a senior Washington Asia hand told The Cable. "They've been in the driver's seat, but they don't know where they are going."
In 2006, the George W. Bush administration had former Ambassador to Korea Chris Hill as assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, current Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim as the special envoy to the six-party talks, and Korea hand Victor Cha at the White House.
"Basically, the team they had then -- everybody except Chris Hill was a Korean speaker so they could understand what the other side was saying without an interpreter," the Washington Asia hand said. "It's not like that this time. I think that makes a difference."
In 2009, the Obama administration had Campbell and Kim and State along with Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as the special representative for North Korea policy. It's true that current Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman served as State's North Korea policy coordinator under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, but these days she is consumed with her role as the lead American official dealing with the upcoming nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Some outside experts link the lack of Korea experts at the highest levels of the policy process to an Obama administration North Korea policy that is widely viewed as standoffish and lethargic. Under the rubric "strategic patience," the administration has largely avoided direct interactions with Pyongyang, absent a Feb. 29, 2012 deal known as the "Leap Day Deal," under which the U.S. was going to give food aid to North Korea and receive assurances on missile and nuclear testing.
That deal, which was never clearly understood by both sides, blew up when Kim Jong Il died the day before it was to be announced. The Obama administration hasn't tried to engage North Korea in any serious way since. Experts say the Obama team, short on Korea expertise, has bungled the whole issue.
"You have a predominantly non-Korea expert group. They've been fundamentally wrong on how they thought this was going to unfold," one former North Korea negotiator told The Cable. "The idea that by standing away from North Korea, putting pressure on them when they did bad things, and thinking that was going to change their behavior was fundamentally mistaken. And now that's becoming painfully obvious. For those of us who have been involved in this for decades, this policy has been wrong headed from day one."
Not everyone agrees. One former administration official told The Cable that even when there were Korea experts in charge of Korea policy, there were no great successes in dealing with North Korea.
"The one interesting question is: When we've had great Korea experts at the top levels of the administration, how successful has that been?" the former official said. "I'm not sure you could draw a straight line between Korea expertise and better policy."
As the Obama administration shapes its national security leadership team for the second term, there is also a notable lack of Asia experts at the top, especially considering that the "pivot" or "rebalancing" of American attention to Asia was one of the hallmarks of Obama's first term foreign policy agenda.
There are few Asia experts among the president's top advisors. Secretary of State John Kerry, prospective Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew, CIA Director nominee John Brennan, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller all have their expertise in other issues or regions.
Cha told The Cable that the senior leadership of the Obama administration needs to move the North Korea issue to the front burner before the crisis gets even worse and he said that leadership has to come from the very top.
"That sense of urgency is important because it pushes the Chinese to do more. The president has to say this is a serious threat to national security and we are going to do something about it," Cha said. "Obama has to set the tone."
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #367 on:
February 12, 2013, 05:56:24 PM »
Thread nazi here-- that would be better in the Korea thread
The Real Obama Doctrine
Reply #368 on:
February 15, 2013, 03:28:43 PM »
The Funeral Pyre of the Three Valkyries; the Real Obama Doctrine
February 14th, 2013 - 6:52 pm
Not so long ago, when President Obama reluctantly permitted American military power to be used in the Libyan insurrection against Muammar Gaddafi, it was said that he did so when three forceful women convinced him it was a moral imperative. The three — Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice — were dubbed “the Valkyries,” and the “doctrine” they were credited with presenting to the president was “responsibility to protect” (RtoP, as it is called in the United Nations) or “humanitarian intervention” on behalf of innocents facing slaughter from their own rulers.
We were told that, henceforth, Obama and his warrior women would not tolerate large-scale bloodbaths directed by tyrants against civilian populations. No more Cambodias. No more Rwandas. No more Bosnias.
Quite aside from whether or not this was good strategic policy, pundits noted the “man bites dog” aspect of the story. Strong women had imposed their will on the president and his male advisers (all of whom were opposed). Thus Maureen Dowd, for example:
We’ve come a long way from feminist international relations theory two decades ago that indulged in stereotypes about aggression being “male” and conciliation being “female.” And from the days of Helen Caldicott, the Australian pediatrician and nuclear-freeze activist who disapprovingly noted the “psychosexual overtones” of military terminology such as “missile erector” and “thrust-to-weight ratio.” Caldicott wrote in her book “Missile Envy:” “I recently watched a filmed launching of an MX missile. It rose slowly out of the ground, surrounded by smoke and flames and elongated into the air — it was indeed a very sexual sight, and when armed with the ten warheads it will explode with the most almighty orgasm.”
To be sure, the Valkyries of Norse myth didn’t save innocents; their main tasks were to decide which fighters survived the battle, and then rescue the spirits of the bravest slain warriors and accompany them to Valhalla, whence they would rise to fight again alongside Odin in the final battle against the forces of evil. But never mind the technicalities; they were armed and armored, and they were battle maidens, just like Obama’s Furies.
Not only had the American Valkyries imposed their will on Gaddafi, they had also squeezed a doctrine out of a president who had previously dithered his way through the earlier Iranian and Arab uprisings. Or so it was said, by admirers and critics alike.
It didn’t last more than a few hours (the White House even told journalists that the women weren’t even in the room when Obama made his decision). It was a one-off move that was likely prompted more by European (especially French) and anti-Gaddafi Arab insistence than by the arguments of the Valkyries. It was certainly not a principled world view that would become the trademark of our Nobel Prize-winning president. You may have noticed the total silence about “RtoP” when it comes to Syria, where the slaughter has been orders of magnitude greater than anything Gaddafi likely contemplated.
The proof that RtoP was just the flavor of the day, rather than a new dispensation from on high, is the destiny of Obama’s Furies. If you scan the policy-making horizon, you’ll only find a single surviving Valkyrie: Ambassador Rice. And she was most recently in the headlines when she served as Obama’s lead propagandist for the fable that the attack on our facility in Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration provoked by an evil video, and then withdrew from consideration as Hillary’s successor at the State Department. Hillary is gone. Samantha Powers is gone. And we’re left with an administration that abandons American diplomats under fire, vetoes proposals to support the Syrian opposition, begs Iran for a nuclear deal, and turns its back on oppressed and murdered people most everywhere.
There is an Obama Doctrine, but hardly anyone wants to acknowledge it. He favors anti-American dictators, and he couldn’t care less what they do to their people. That’s the doctrine that checks out: he favored the Muslim Brotherhood over the pro-American Mubarak; the Libyan insurrectionaries over Gaddafi, who had come to terms with the United States; the Iranian tyrants who crushed a pro-democracy uprising; and Assad (who, whatever Kerry and Hegel have said, is an enemy) against a revolution that at least contained pro-American elements, now suffering from Obama’s betrayal.
Samantha Power wrote a fine book about Bill Clinton’s historic failure to stop the Rwandan genocide. Maybe she’ll enlighten us about Obama’s brief flirtation with humanitarian intervention, and his subsequent abandonment of the very idea, along with the women who were its most forceful advocates.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #369 on:
February 18, 2013, 01:46:26 AM »
Definitely worth bringing this up from the memory hole, but for me the piece closes with some rather hackneyed writing.
I continue to underline the need to think in terms of the implications of the passing of the unilateral moment of American power and what our fundamental strategic principles are to be at this point--
For example, with our private sector created natural gas miracle, apart from nuclear religious fascists, does the middle east even really matter any more. The apparent abdicaton of American leadership in space means that our central nervous system is about to be, if it is not already, vulnerable to a blitzkrieg attack from the Chinese. Our silence here on the Sequester cuts disturbs me. Do we agree to tax increases to avoid them? This is serious stuff! With the massive contraction of the American navy apparently in the pipeline, what substance to our alleged pivot to the South China Sea? Does not the day come when the Chinese blow us off of Taiwain? The US backed up the British, French, and Israelis in the Suez Crisis of 1956 by threatening to sell their bonds. The Chinese already no longer increase their holdings of US treasuries. Will we not be backed down if, given our budgetary lunacies and attendant economic stagnation should the Chinese apply the same pressure to us, especially if we are not confident of our ability to protect our communication network, with depends utterly on dominance in space? We are already the Chinese bitches when it comes to cyber security, they fuck us in the face and we just take it.
As I see it, a fundamental problem here, and it is a point I have alluded to previously but now take a stab at fleshing it out a bit more, is that Bush blundered badly the American unilateral moment. He simply forget to get out of Afpakia after overthrowing the Taliban-- or creating a new political order-- while taking on Iraq with but 150,00 men when General Shinseki advised we needed 400,000 to establish the neocon vision of getting ahead of the curve of change. Instead Bush listened to the glib theories of Rumbo, and let Iraq descend into near total disaster-- In 2004 when opponent Kerry called for increasing army 50,000 to avoid burnout, Bush demurred because he didn't want to admit he underestimated the job-- barely salvaged in a shining moment of a true profile in courage with the Surge-- but by then the nation had lost its confidence and didn't even notice when Obama threw the whole fg thing away by sabotaging the vital mission of establishing a serious long term status of forces agreement. When history is written decades from now, (or much sooner!!!) this I think will be revealed to a profound error of gargantuan consequence. Imagine now dealing with Iran over nukes, dealing with Syria, dealing with North Africa, if we had a proper presence of 30-50000 in Iraq as our generals requested. The move out of Afpakia, now a necessity, would not mean, as it point of fact it does, that the US is being utterly run out of the middle east. The conceptual vapidity of the Valkeries, filling the masculinity vacuum of Obama, completes the picture.
Again, in a multi-polar world where the US has the option of becoming an energy powerhouse of the world economy, does this really matter as we are used to thinking from the OPEC era of the 70s or when Saddam Hussein, with the world's foruth largest army threatened the Arabian peninsula itself? What would be wrong in getting back money from the Chinese by selling them nat gas?!? Not only would the greens be happy at weaning the Chinese off the toxic coal cancer that already reaches the US (look at the skies over the Grand Canyon in this regard, but this then also give us counter pressures in matters pertaining to the China Sea and Taiwan. Just as importantly the relationship takes on the genuinely symbiotic nature of people freely entering into mutally beneficial economic activity. The currency imbalances and the role/stability/value of the dollar in the world, so precarious now, would receive a genuinine improvment of trajectory. This also means that the Chinese depend less on Iran for energy
Stream of consciousness over , , ,
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #370 on:
February 18, 2013, 11:25:47 AM »
"Our silence here on the Sequester cuts disturbs me. Do we agree to tax increases to avoid them? This is serious stuff! With the massive contraction of the American navy apparently in the pipeline, what substance to our alleged pivot to the South China Sea? Does not the day come when the Chinese blow us off of Taiwain?"
Yes, we are screwed and no, signing on with even higher tax rates just makes it worse.
Dick Cheney was on the air last week warning very persuasively of the dire consequences to defense of the sequester. He watched the last two times our military was gutted and the costly and difficult process of rebuilding.
Ralph Peters, an noted hawk, came to the opposite conclusion: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/asking_for_defense_cuts_JMVPBqujQudb1Jc68tKeVP
A number of competing considerations come into play. First is peace through strength (a principle defeated in the last election). Real cuts in capabilities embolden the wrong people and cost us more in the long run. OTOH, defense spending has been extremely wasteful, we are winding down two wars and we are disarming anyway under Obama/Hagel. Perhaps we might use the reality that they will gut readiness anyway to force the domestic cuts now.
"What would be wrong in getting back money from the Chinese by selling them nat gas?!?
Yes, these are the kind of solutions we would pursue if we had our own best interests in mind.
" Not only would the greens be happy at weaning the Chinese off the toxic coal cancer that already reaches the US"
That falsely assumes the main point of environmental extremism is to protect the environment.
"...this then also give us counter pressures in matters pertaining to the China Sea and Taiwan."
I wonder if this excellent idea ever came up in the strategic level meetings that natural gas advocate, Amb. Huntsman, never had with his boss Pres. Obama during the years he was stationed there to dine with the communist politburo.
Your comments on Rumsfeld are a reminder for those who say what difference would Hagel make.
Last Edit: February 18, 2013, 11:44:52 AM by DougMacG
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #371 on:
February 18, 2013, 01:43:19 PM »
Thank you for your comments.
Re "That falsely assumes the main point of environmental extremism is to protect the environment." Not quite my point-- what I intend to communicate here is the political alliance that can be built towards accomplishing this goal with those who normally fight us tooth and nail on everything.
Is GWB America's best humanitarian president?
Reply #372 on:
February 19, 2013, 12:32:49 PM »
from the article:
I think it's a tragedy that the foreign policy shortcomings of the Bush administration have conspired to obscure his most positive legacy -- not least because it saved so many lives, but because there's so much that Americans and the rest of the world can learn from it. Both his detractors and supporters tend to view his time in office through the lens of the "war on terror" and the policies that grew out of it. By contrast, only a few Americans have ever heard of PEPFAR, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush announced in his State of the Union address in 2003.
John Kerry Makes Up Country
Reply #373 on:
February 25, 2013, 11:53:39 AM »
From the article:
"The State Department kindly omitted the error in the official transcript of Wednesday's speech, which Mr Kerry delivered on the eve of his first foreign trip as secretary of state. Mr Kerry's flub was all the more awkward, because Kyrgyzstan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and a major recipient of US aid, which totalled $41 million (£27 million) in 2011."
Time for Pentagon to talk strategy
Reply #374 on:
February 25, 2013, 12:10:12 PM »
I highly recommend this article, authored by a former student!
Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 11:22:51 AM by bigdog
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #375 on:
February 25, 2013, 07:43:27 PM »
Looks like we have some readers of this forum- indeed of this thread- at the Pentagon too
52 American Hostages Are Still Looking for Justice
Reply #376 on:
February 26, 2013, 07:13:18 AM »
This is a powerful work.
From the article:
"Ben Affleck’s celebrated film, Argo, has spotlighted a desperate CIA scheme that enabled six U.S. Embassy employees to escape post-revolutionary Iran disguised as a Canadian film crew. Holland was part of a far less fortunate group, the 52 Americans who didn’t make it out of the embassy when militants stormed it on Nov. 4, 1979, and were held hostage for 444 days."
Obama: The best friend the Muslim Brotherhood ever had
Reply #377 on:
March 16, 2013, 02:26:32 PM »
The Secret Document That Set Obama’s Middle East Policy
March 14th, 2013 - 9:42 am
“… we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms. … America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.” – President Barack Obama, Cairo, June 2009
“The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise. … Resistance is the only solution. [Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles, and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance.” – Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badri, Cairo, September 2010
What did the president know, and when did he know it? That’s a question made classic by the Watergate scandal. Now, it is possible to trace precisely what Obama knew and when he knew it. And it proves that the installment of power of the Muslim Brotherhood was a conscious and deliberate strategy of the Obama administration, developed before the “Arab Spring” began.
In February 2011, the New York Times ran an extremely complimentary article on President Obama by Mark Landler, who some observers say is the biggest apologist for Obama on the newspaper. That’s quite an achievement. Landler praised Obama for having tremendous foresight, in effect predicting the “Arab Spring.” According to Landler:
President Obama ordered his advisers last August  to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.
Which advisors? The then counter-terrorism advisor and now designated CIA chief John Brennan? National Security Council senior staffer Samantha Power? If it was done by Obama’s own staff, rather than State and Defense, it’s likely that these people were the key authors. Or at least one of them was.
So should U.S. policy help allies avoid such sweeping change by standing firm or by helping them make adjustments? No, explained the report, it should get on the side of history and wield a broom to do the sweeping. The article continued:
Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, [emphasis added] these officials said.
The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.
As I noted, the article was quite explicitly complimentary (and that’s an understatement) about how Obama knew what was likely to happen and was well prepared for it.
But that’s precisely the problem. It wasn’t trying to deal with change, but was pushing for it; it wasn’t asserting U.S. interests but balancing them off against other factors. In the process, U.S. interests were forgotten.
If Landler was right, then Obama did have a sense of what was going to happen, and prepared. It cannot be said that he was caught unaware. This view would suggest, then, that he thought American strategic interests could be protected, and broader instability avoided by overthrowing U.S. allies as fast as possible and by showing the oppositions that he was on their side. Presumably the paper pointed out the strength of Islamist forces and the Muslim Brotherhood factor, and then discounted any dangers from this quarter.
One could have imagined how other U.S. governments would have dealt with this situation. Here is my imagined passage from a high-level government document:
In light of the likelihood of sweeping political changes, with countries from Bahrain to Yemen ripe for popular revolt, U.S. policy should either help friendly governments retain control or encourage them to make reforms that would increase the scope of freedom in a way that would satisfy popular desires without endangering U.S. interests and long-term stability. In the event that the fall of any given regime seemed likely, U.S. policy should work both publicly and behind the scenes to try to ensure the triumph of moderate, pro-democratic forces that would be able to prevent the formation of radical Islamist dictatorships inimical to U.S. interests, regional peace, and the well-being of the local population.
(Note: again, that is my reconstruction and not a quote from the document.)
Such an approach would have been easy, and in line with historic U.S. policy. We have every reason to believe that the State Department and the Defense Department favored such an approach.
But let’s look at precisely how the White House described the U.S. policy it wanted:
… how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States.
In other words, a popular revolt was going to happen (I’ve seen the cables from the U.S. embassy in Tunisia that accurately predicted an upheaval), but would it succeed or fail? The Obama administration concluded that the revolt should succeed and set out to help make sure that it did so. As for who won, it favored not just moderate Islamic forces — which hardly existed as such — but moderate Islamist forces.
Which didn’t exist at all.
Anyone who says that the United States did not have a lot of influence in these crises doesn’t know what they are talking about. Of course the U.S. government didn’t control the outcome; its leverage was limited. But there’s a big difference between telling the Egyptian army to stay in control, dump Mubarak, and make a mild transition, and we, the United States, will back you — and telling them that Washington wanted the generals to stand aside, let Mubarak be overthrown, and have a thorough regime change. A fundamental transformation, to coin a phrase.
So the Obama administration did not stand beside friendly regimes or help to manage a limited transition with more democracy and reforms. No, it actively pushed to bring down at least four governments — Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.
It did not push for the overthrow of two anti-American regimes — Iran and Syria — but on the contrary was still striving for good relations with those two dictatorships.
Equally, it did not push for the fall of radical anti-American governments in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
No, it only pushed for the fall of “valuable allies.”
There was no increase in support for dissidents in Iran despite, as we will see in a moment, internal administration predictions of unrest there, too. As for Syria, strong administration support for the dictatorship there continued for months until it was clear that the regime was in serious trouble. It seems reasonable to say that the paper did not predict the Syrian civil war.
Want more evidence about the internal administration document? Here’s another article from the time, which explains:
The White House had been debating the likelihood of a domino effect since youth-driven revolts had toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, even though the American intelligence community and Israel’s intelligence services had estimated that the risk to President Mubarak was low — less than 20 percent, some officials said.
According to senior officials who participated in Mr. Obama’s policy debates, the president took a different view. He made the point early on, a senior official said, that “this was a trend” that could spread to other authoritarian governments in the region, including in Iran. By the end of the 18-day uprising, by a White House count, there were 38 meetings with the president about Egypt. Mr. Obama said that this was a chance to create an alternative to “the al-Qaeda narrative” of Western interference.
Notice that while this suggests the debate began after the unrest started, full credit is given to Obama personally, not to U.S. intelligence agencies, for grasping the truth. This is like the appropriation by the White House of all the credit for getting Osama bin Laden, sort of a cult of personality thing.
We know for a fact that the State Department predicted significant problems arising in Tunisia (from the Wikileaks documents), and perhaps that is true for other countries as well. But if Obama wants to take personal credit for the new U.S. policy that means he also has to take personal blame for the damage it does.
Now I assume what I’m about to say isn’t going to be too popular, but I’ll also bet that history will prove it correct: the revolution in Egypt was not inevitable, and Obama’s position was a self-fulfilling prophecy. And judging from what happened at the time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agrees with me.
The idea of an “alternative to the al-Qaeda narrative” of Western interference is straight John Brennan. What Obama was really saying: So al-Qaeda claims we interfere to put reactionary pro-Western dictators in power just because they’re siding with us? We’ll show them we can put popular Islamist dictators in power, even though they are against us!
If I’m writing this somewhat facetiously, I mean it very seriously.
And here’s more proof from the Washington Post in March 2011, which seems to report on the implementation of the White House paper’s recommendations:
The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.
That says it all, doesn’t it?
The implication is that the U.S. government knew that the Brotherhood would take power — and thought this was a good thing.
“If our policy can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won’t be able to adapt to this change,” the senior administration official said. “We’re also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear.”
Might that be John Brennan? I’d bet on it.
What did Obama and his advisors think would happen? That out of gratitude for America stopping its (alleged) bullying and imperialistic ways and getting on the (alleged) side of history, the new regimes would be friendly. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular would conclude that America was not its enemy.
You know, one Brotherhood leader would supposedly say to another: all of these years we thought the United States was against us, but now we see that they are really our friends. Remember Obama’s Cairo speech? He really gets us!
More likely he’d be saying: we don’t understand precisely what the Americans are up to but they are obviously weak, cowardly, and in decline.
In fact, that’s what they did say. Remember that President Jimmy Carter’s attempts to make friends with the new Islamist regime in Iran in 1979 fed a combination of Iranian suspicion and arrogance which led to the hostage crisis, and Tehran daring to take on the United States single-handed. America, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said at the time, can’t do a damned thing against us.
Incidentally, everyone except the American public — which means people in the Middle East — knows that Obama cut the funding for real democratic groups. His Cairo speech was important not for the points so often discussed (Israel, for example) but because it heralded the age of political Islamism being dominant in the region. Indeed, Obama practically told those people that they should identify not as Arabs, but as Muslims.
In broader terms, what does Obama’s behavior remind me of? President Jimmy Carter pushing Iran’s shah for human rights and other reforms in 1977, and then standing aloof as the revolution unrolled — and went increasingly in the direction of radical Islamists — in 1978.
As noted above, that didn’t work out too well.
Incidentally, the State Department quite visibly did not support Obama’s policy in 2011. It wanted to stand with its traditional clients in the threatened Arab governments, just as presumably there were many in the Defense Department who wanted to help the imperiled militaries with whom they had cooperated for years. And that, by the way, includes the Turkish army, which was being visibly dismantled by the Islamist regime in Ankara.
While the State Department backed down on Egypt, it drew the line on Bahrain. Yes, there is a very unfair system there in which a small Sunni minority dominates a large Shia majority, and yes, too, some of the Shia opposition is moderate, but the assessment was that a revolution would probably bring to power an Iranian satellite government.
But the idea — that they’re going to be overthrown anyway so let’s give them a push — did not apply to Iran or Syria or Hamas-government Gaza or Hizballah-governed Lebanon and not at all to Islamist-governed Turkey.
It makes sense that this basic thinking also applied to Libya, where dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi was hardly a friend of the United States, but had been on better behavior lately. As for Syria, the U.S. government indifference to who actually wins leadership of the new regime seems to carry over from the earlier crises.
Credit should be given to the U.S. government in two specific cases. Once the decision to overthrow Qadhafi was made, the result was a relatively favorable regime in Libya. That was a gain. The problem is that this same philosophy and the fragility of the regime helped produce the Benghazi incident. The other relatively positive situation was Iraq’s post-Saddam government, to which most of the credit goes to Obama’s predecessor but some to his administration. Still, Iraq seems to be sliding — in terms of its regional strategic stance, not domestically — closer toward Iran.
At any rate, the evidence both public and behind the scenes seems to indicate that the Obama administration decided on two principles in early 2011.
– First, let’s help overthrow our friends before someone else does so, and somehow we will benefit from being on the winning side.
– Second, it doesn’t really matter too much who takes power, because somehow they will be better than their predecessors, somehow we will be more popular with them, and somehow U.S. interests will be preserved.
Landler definitely thought he was making Obama look good.
Instead, he was showing us that the bad thinking and disastrous policy was planned and purposeful.
Stratfor George Friedman: US-Israel- new realities
Reply #378 on:
March 21, 2013, 10:53:40 AM »
A New Reality in U.S.-Israeli Relations
March 19, 2013 | 0900 GMT
By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman
U.S. President Barack Obama is making his first visit to Israel as president. The visit comes in the wake of his re-election and inauguration to a second term and the formation of a new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Normally, summits between Israel and the United States are filled with foreign policy issues on both sides, and there will be many discussed at this meeting, including Iran, Syria and Egypt. But this summit takes place in an interesting climate, because both the Americans and Israelis are less interested in foreign and security matters than they are in their respective domestic issues.
In the United States, the political crisis over the federal budget and the struggle to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has dominated the president's and the country's attention. The Israeli elections turned on domestic issues, ranging from whether the ultra-Orthodox would be required to serve in Israel Defense Forces, as other citizens are, to a growing controversy over economic inequality in Israel.
Inwardness is a cyclic norm in most countries. Foreign policy does not always dominate the agenda and periodically it becomes less important. What is interesting is at this point, while Israelis continue to express concern about foreign policy, they are most passionate on divisive internal social issues. Similarly, although there continues to be a war in Afghanistan, the American public is heavily focused on economic issues. Under these circumstances the interesting question is not what Obama and Netanyahu will talk about but whether what they discuss will matter much.
Washington's New Strategy
For the United States, the focus on domestic affairs is compounded by an emerging strategic shift in how the United States deals with the world. After more than a decade of being focused on the Islamic world and moving aggressively to try to control threats in the region militarily, the United States is moving toward a different stance. The bar for military intervention has been raised. Therefore, the United States has, in spite of recent statements, not militarily committed itself to the Syrian crisis, and when the French intervened in Mali the United States played a supporting role. The intervention in Libya, where France and the United Kingdom drew the United States into the action, was the first manifestation of Washington's strategic re-evaluation. The desire to reduce military engagement in the region was not the result of Libya. That desire was there from the U.S. experience in Iraq and was the realization that the disposal of an unsavory regime does not necessarily -- or even very often -- result in a better regime. Even the relative success of the intervention in Libya drove home the point that every intervention has both unintended consequences and unanticipated costs.
The United States' new stance ought to frighten the Israelis. In Israel's grand strategy, the United States is the ultimate guarantor of its national security and underwrites a portion of its national defense. If the United States becomes less inclined to involve itself in regional adventures, the question is whether the guarantees implicit in the relationship still stand. The issue is not whether the United States would intervene to protect Israel's existence; save from a nuclear-armed Iran, there is no existential threat to Israel's national interest. Rather, the question is whether the United States is prepared to continue shaping the dynamics of the region in areas where Israel lacks political influence and is not able to exert military control. Israel wants a division of labor in the region, where it influences its immediate neighbors while the United States manages more distant issues. To put it differently, the Israelis' understanding of the American role is to control events that endanger Israel and American interests under the assumption that Israeli and American interests are identical. The idea that they are always identical has never been as true as politicians on both sides have claimed, but more important, the difficulties of controlling the environment have increased dramatically for both sides.
The problem for Israel at this point is that it is not able to do very much in the area that is its responsibility. For example, after the relationship with the United States, the second-most important strategic foundation for Israel is its relationship -- and peace treaty -- with Egypt. Following the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the fear was that Egypt might abrogate the peace treaty, reopening at some distant point the possibility of conventional war. But the most shocking thing to Israel was how little control it actually had over events in Egypt and the future of its ties to Egypt. With good relations between Israel and the Egyptian military and with the military still powerful, the treaty has thus far survived. But the power of the military will not be the sole factor in the long-term sustainability of the treaty. Whether it survives or not ultimately is not a matter that Israel has much control over.
The Israelis have always assumed that the United States can control areas where they lack control. And some Israelis have condemned the United States for not doing more to manage events in Egypt. But the fact is that the United States also has few tools to control the evolution of Egypt, apart from some aid to Egypt and its own relationship with the Egyptian military. The first Israeli response is that the United States should do something about problems confronting Israel. It may or may not be in the American interest to do something in any particular case, but the problem in this case is that although a hostile Egypt is not in the Americans' interest, there is actually little the United States can do to control events in Egypt.
The Syrian situation is even more complex, with Israel not even certain what outcome is more desirable. Syrian President Bashar al Assad is a known quantity to Israel. He is by no means a friend, but his actions and his father's have always been in the pursuit of their own interest and therefore have been predictable. The opposition is an amorphous entity whose ability to govern is questionable and that is shot through with Islamists who are at least organized and know what they want. It is not clear that Israel wants al Assad to fall or to survive, and in any case Israel is limited in what it could do even if it had a preference. Both outcomes frighten the Israelis. Indeed, the hints of American weapons shipments to the rebels at some point concern Israel as much as no weapons shipments.
The Iranian situation is equally complex. It is clear that the Israelis, despite rhetoric to the contrary, will not act unilaterally against Iran's nuclear weapons. The risks of failure are too high, and the consequences of Iranian retaliation against fundamental American interests, such as the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, are too substantial. The American view is that an Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent and Iran's ultimate ability to build a deliverable weapon is questionable. Therefore, regardless of what Israel wants, and given the American doctrine of military involvement as a last resort when it significantly affects U.S. interests, the Israelis will not be able to move the United States to play its traditional role of assuming military burdens to shape the region.
The Changing Relationship
There has therefore been a very real if somewhat subtle shift in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Israel has lost the ability, if it ever had it, to shape the behavior of countries on its frontier. Egypt and Syria will do what they will do. At the same time, the United States has lost the inclination to intervene militarily in the broader regional conflict and has limited political tools. Countries like Saudi Arabia, which might be inclined to align with U.S. strategy, find themselves in a position of creating their own strategy and assuming the risks.
For the United States, there are now more important issues than the Middle East, such as the domestic economy. The United States is looking inward both because it has to and because it has not done well in trying to shape the Islamic world. From the Israeli point of view, for the moment, its national security is not at risk, and its ability to control its security environment is limited, while its ability to shape American responses in the region has deteriorated due to the shifting American focus. It will continue to get aid that it no longer needs and will continue to have military relations with the United States, particularly in developing military technology. But for reasons having little to do with Israel, Washington's attention is not focused on the region or at least not as obsessively as it had been since 2001.
Therefore Israel has turned inward by default. Frightened by events on its border, it realizes that it has little control there and lacks clarity on what it wants. In the broader region, Israel's ability to rely on American control has declined. Like Israel, the United States has realized the limits and costs of such a strategy, and Israel will not talk the United States out of it, as the case of Iran shows. In addition, there is no immediate threat to Israel that it must respond to. It is, by default, in a position of watching and waiting without being clear as to what it wants to see. Therefore it should be no surprise that Israel, like the United States, is focused on domestic affairs.
It also puts Israel in a reactive position. The question of the Palestinians is always there. Israel's policy, like most of its strategic policy, is to watch and wait. It has no inclination to find a political solution because it cannot predict what the consequences of either a solution or an attempt to find one would be. Its policy is to cede the initiative to the Palestinians. Last month, there was speculation that increased demonstrations in the West Bank could spark a third intifada. There was not one. There might be another surge of rockets from Gaza, or there might not be. That is a decision that Hamas will make.
Israel has turned politically inward because its strategic environment has become not so much threatening as beyond its control. Enemies cannot overwhelm it, nor can it control what its enemies and potential enemies might do. Israel has lost the initiative and, more important, it now knows it has lost the initiative. It has looked to the United States to take the initiative, but on a much broader scale Washington faces the same reality as Israel with less at stake and therefore less urgency. Certainly, the Israelis would like to see the United States take more aggressive stands and more risks, but they fully understand that the price and dangers of aggressive stands in the region have grown out of control.
Therefore it is interesting to wonder what Obama and Netanyahu will discuss. Surely Iran will come up and Obama will say there is no present danger and no need to take risks. Netanyahu will try to find some way to convince him that the United States should undertake the burden at a time suitable to Israel. The United States will decline the invitation.
This is not a strain in the U.S.-Israeli relationship in the sense of anger and resentment, although those exist on both sides. Rather it is like a marriage that continues out of habit but whose foundation has withered. The foundation was the Israeli ability to control events in its region and the guarantee that where the Israelis fail, U.S. interests dictate that Washington will take action. Neither one has the ability, the appetite or the political basis to maintain that relationship on those terms. Obama has economics to worry about. Netanyahu has the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox on his mind. National security remains an issue for both, but their ability to manage it has declined dramatically.
In private I expect a sullen courtesy and in public an enthusiastic friendship, much as an old, bored married couple, not near a divorce, but far from where they were when they were young. Neither party is what it once was; each suspects that it is the other's fault. In the end, each has its own fate, linked by history to each other but no longer united.
Read more: A New Reality in U.S.-Israeli Relations | Stratfor
VDH: Why did we invade Iraq?
Reply #379 on:
March 26, 2013, 08:21:37 AM »
Also posted in the Iraq thread:
On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the “not me” defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions.
1. 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration made the argument that in the post-9/11 climate there should be a belated reckoning with Saddam Hussein. He had continued to sponsor terrorism, had over the years invaded or attacked four of his neighbors, and had killed tens of thousands of his own people. He was surely more a threat to the region and to his own people than either Bashar Assad or Moammar Qaddafi was eight years later.
In this context, the end of the 1991 Gulf War loomed large: Its denouement had led not to the removal of a defeated Saddam, but to mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiites. Twelve years of no-fly zones had seen periods of conflict, and the enforcement of those zones no longer enjoyed much, if any, international support — suggesting that Saddam would soon be able to reclaim his regional stature. Many of the architects or key players in the 1991 war were once again in power in Washington, and many of them had in the ensuing decade become remorseful about the ending of the prior conflict. The sense of the need to correct a mistake became all the more potent after 9/11. Most Americans have now forgotten that by 2003, most of the books published on the 1991 war were critical, faulting the unnecessary overkill deployment; the inclusion of too many allies, which hampered U.S. choices; the shakedown of allies to help defray the cost; the realist and inhumane ending to the conflict; the ongoing persecution of Shiites, Marsh Arabs, and Kurds; and the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power.
Since there was no direct connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam, take away the security apprehensions following 9/11, and George Bush probably would not have taken the risk of invading Iraq. By the same token, had the 1991 Gulf War ended differently, or had the U.N. and the NATO allies continued to participate fully in the no-fly zones and the containment of Iraq, there likewise would not have been a 2003 invasion. The Iraq War was predicated, rightly or wrongly, on the notion that the past war with Saddam had failed and containment would fail, and that after 9/11 it was the proper time to end a sponsor of global terrorism that should have been ended in 1991 — a decision that, incidentally, would save Kurdistan and allow it to turn into one of the most successful and pro-American regions in the Middle East.
2. Afghanistan. A second reason was the rapid victory in the war in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. Scholars and pundits had warned of disaster on the eve of the October 2001 invasion. Even if it was successful in destroying the rule of the Taliban, any chance of postwar stability was declared impossible, given the “graveyard of empires” reputation of that part of the world. But the unforeseen eight-week war that with ease removed the Taliban, and the nonviolent manner in which the pro-Western Hamid Karzai later assumed power, misled the administration and the country into thinking Iraq would be a far less challenging prospect — especially given Iraq’s humiliating defeat in 1991, which had contrasted sharply with the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.
After all, in contrast to Afghanistan, Iraq had accessible ports, good weather, flat terrain, a far more literate populace, and oil — facts that in the ensuing decade, ironically, would help to explain why David Petraeus finally achieved success there in a manner not true of his later efforts in Afghanistan.
Since the U.S. had seemingly succeeded in two months where the Soviets had abjectly failed in a decade, and given that we already had once trounced Saddam, it seemed likely that Iraq would follow the success of Afghanistan. History is replete with examples of such misreadings of the past: The French in 1940 believed that they could hold off the Germans as they had for four years in the First World War; the Germans believed the Russians would be as weak at home in 1941 as they had seemed sluggish abroad in Poland and Finland in 1939–40. Had Afghanistan proved as difficult at the very beginning of the war as it did at the end, the U.S. probably would not have invaded Iraq.
3. Everyone on board. A third reason was the overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, in the media, and among the public — for reasons well beyond WMD. In October 2002, both houses of Congress passed 23 writs justifying the removal of Saddam, an update of Bill Clinton’s 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. Senators Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid were among those who not only enthusiastically called for Saddam’s removal, but also warned of intelligence estimates of Saddam’s WMD arsenals. Pundits on both sides, from Thomas Friedman to George Will, likewise supported the invasion, which on the eve of the war enjoyed over 70 percent approval from the American people. Bush, in that regard, had achieved what Clinton had not on the eve of the Serbian War — he had obtained a joint resolution of support from Congress before attacking, and had taken nearly a year in concerted (though failed) attempts to win U.N. approval for Saddam’s removal. Had Bush not gone to Congress, had he made no attempt to go to the U.N., had he had no public support, or had he been opposed by the liberal press, he probably would not have invaded Iraq.
4. WMD. A fourth reason was the specter of WMD. While the Bush administration might easily have cited the persuasive writs of the bipartisan resolutions — genocide against the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs; bounties for suicide bombers; sanctuary for terrorists; attempts to kill a former U.S. president; violations of U.N. sanctions and resolutions; etc. — it instead fixated on supposedly unimpeachable intelligence about WMD, a “slam dunk,” according to CIA director George Tenet, a judgment with which most Middle Eastern governments and European intelligence agencies agreed. This concentration on WMD would prove a critical political mistake. Note in passing that the eventual public furor over missing WMD stockpiles (although there is solid evidence that Saddam was perilously close to WMD deployment) did not fully develop with the initial knowledge of that intelligence failure, but only with the mounting violence after a seemingly brilliant victory over Saddam.
The missing vast stockpiles of WMD then became the source of the convenient slogan “Bush lied, thousands died.” Yet had the reconstruction gone well, we would surely not have heard something like “Bush lied — and so there was no need, after all, to depose Saddam and foster consensual government in Iraq.”
The Bush administration apparently believed that, without the worry over WMD, the other writs would not generate enough public urgency for preemption, and thus it would not have invaded Iraq. Note that when Barack Obama talks of “red lines” and “game changers” in Syria that might justify U.S. preemptive action, he is not referring to 70,000 dead, the horrific human-rights record of Bashar Assad, Syria’s past effort to become nuclear, or even the plight of millions of Syrian refugees, but the supposition that Syria is planning to use chemical or biological weapons — a crime Saddam had often committed against his own people, and one that inflames public opinion in the West. As a footnote, we will probably not know the full story of WMD in the region until the Assad regime is gone from Syria — although we are starting to hear the same worries about such Syrian weapons from the Obama administration as we did of Iraqi weapons during the Bush presidency.
5. Nation-building. A fifth reason was the notion of reformulating Iraq, so that instead of being the problem in the region it would become a solution. Since the 1991 war had not ended well, because of a failure to finish off the regime and stay on, and since the aid to the insurgents against the Soviets in Afghanistan had been followed by U.S. neglect and in time the rise of the Taliban, so, in reaction, this time the U.S. was determined to stay. We forget now the liberal consensus that the rise of the Taliban and the survival of Saddam were supposed reflections of past U.S. callousness — something not to be repeated in Iraq.
Finally, America would do the right thing and create a consensual government that might ensure not only the end of Saddam’s atrocities, but also, by its very constitutional existence, pressure on the Gulf monarchies to liberalize and cease their support for terrorism of the sort that had killed 3,000 Americans. While there may well have been neo-cons who believed that the Iraqi democracy would be followed by a true Arab Spring of U.S.-fostered democracy sweeping the Middle East — something akin to the original good blowback of Pakistan’s detaining Dr. Khan, Qaddafi’s surrendering his WMD arsenal, and Syria’s leaving Lebanon, before all this dissipated with Fallujah — most of the Bush administration policymakers believed that democracy was not their first choice, but their last choice, for postwar reconstruction, given that everything else had been tried after past conflicts and just as often failed.
Administration officials were not hoping for Carmel, but for something akin to post-Milosevic Serbia or post-Noriega Panama, as opposed to Somalia or post-Soviet Afghanistan. Note well: Had George Bush simply announced in advance that he would be leaving Iraq as soon as he deposed Saddam, or that he planned to install a less violent relative of Saddam’s to keep order as we departed, Congress probably would not have authorized an invasion of Iraq in the first place. The Iraq War was sold partly on the liberal idealism of at last doing the right thing — after not having done so previously against Saddam or following the Soviets in Afghanistan.
6. Oil! Sixth and last was the issue of oil. Had Iraq been Rwanda, the Bush administration would not have invaded. The key here, however, is to remember the war was not a matter of “blood for oil,” given that the Bush administration had no intention of taking Iraqi oil — a fact proven by the transparent and non-U.S. postwar development of the Iraqi oil and gas fields.
Instead, oil was an issue because Iraq’s oil revenues meant that Saddam would always have the resources to foment trouble in the region, would always be difficult to remove through internal opposition, and would always use petrodollar influence to undermine U.N. resolutions, seek to spike world oil prices, or distort Western solidarity, as the French collusion with Saddam attested. Imagine North Korea with Iraq’s gas and oil reserves: The problem it poses for its neighbors would be greatly amplified and far more likely addressed. Had Iraq simply been a resource-poor Yemen or Jordan, or landlocked without key access to the Persian Gulf, the U.S. probably would not have invaded.
TEN YEARS LATER
The invasion of Iraq was a perfect storm predicated on all these suppositions — the absence of any one of which might well have postponed or precluded the invasion.
That we have forgotten or ignored most of these causes stems not just from the subsequent terrible cost of the war. Instead, our amnesia is self-induced, and derives from the fact that 70 percent of the American people and most of the liberal media commentators supported the invasion, came to reverse that support, and remain hurt or furious at someone other than themselves for their own change of heart — one predicated not on the original conditions of going to war, but on the later unexpected costs in blood and treasure that might have been avoided.
Given that less than a third of the American people initially opposed the war, the subsequent acrimony centered on whether it was better for the nation to give up and depart after 2004, or to stay and stabilize the country. Ultimately the president decided that the only thing worse than fighting a bad war was losing one.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in the spring from Bloomsbury Books.
Reply #380 on:
March 30, 2013, 06:47:16 AM »
From the article:
Importantly and often forgotten these days, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution was also carefully drawn to give Congress, not the president, certain powers over the structure and use of the military. True, the president would act as commander in chief, but only in the sense that he would be executing policies shepherded within the boundaries of legislative powers. In some cases his power is narrowed further by the requirement that he obtain the “Advice and Consent” of two-thirds of the Senate. Congress, not the president, would “raise and support Armies,” with the Constitution limiting appropriations for such armies to no more than two years. This was a clear signal that in our new country there would be no standing army to be sent off on foreign adventures at the whim of a pseudomonarch. The United States would not engage in unchecked, perpetual military campaigns.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #381 on:
March 30, 2013, 05:52:26 PM »
Question: This matter of no standing army is also found, in effect, in the language of the second amemdment as well. When was a standing army established? Is a standing army unconstitutional? If not, then what are the constitutional implications of this change of direction?
Question: Examples of a psuedomonarch sending off on perpetual foreign adventures?
George Friedman: Beyond the Post-Cold War World
Reply #382 on:
April 02, 2013, 06:37:14 AM »
Some of GF's work here is with some themes I have been pushing in this thread:
Beyond the Post-Cold War World
April 2, 2013 | 0901 GMT
By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman
An era ended when the Soviet Union collapsed on Dec. 31, 1991. The confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union defined the Cold War period. The collapse of Europe framed that confrontation. After World War II, the Soviet and American armies occupied Europe. Both towered over the remnants of Europe's forces. The collapse of the European imperial system, the emergence of new states and a struggle between the Soviets and Americans for domination and influence also defined the confrontation. There were, of course, many other aspects and phases of the confrontation, but in the end, the Cold War was a struggle built on Europe's decline.
Many shifts in the international system accompanied the end of the Cold War. In fact, 1991 was an extraordinary and defining year. The Japanese economic miracle ended. China after Tiananmen Square inherited Japan's place as a rapidly growing, export-based economy, one defined by the continued pre-eminence of the Chinese Communist Party. The Maastricht Treaty was formulated, creating the structure of the subsequent European Union. A vast coalition dominated by the United States reversed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Three things defined the post-Cold War world. The first was U.S. power. The second was the rise of China as the center of global industrial growth based on low wages. The third was the re-emergence of Europe as a massive, integrated economic power. Meanwhile, Russia, the main remnant of the Soviet Union, reeled while Japan shifted to a dramatically different economic mode.
The post-Cold War world had two phases. The first lasted from Dec. 31, 1991, until Sept. 11, 2001. The second lasted from 9/11 until now.
The initial phase of the post-Cold War world was built on two assumptions. The first assumption was that the United States was the dominant political and military power but that such power was less significant than before, since economics was the new focus. The second phase still revolved around the three Great Powers -- the United States, China and Europe -- but involved a major shift in the worldview of the United States, which then assumed that pre-eminence included the power to reshape the Islamic world through military action while China and Europe single-mindedly focused on economic matters.
The Three Pillars of the International System
In this new era, Europe is reeling economically and is divided politically. The idea of Europe codified in Maastricht no longer defines Europe. Like the Japanese economic miracle before it, the Chinese economic miracle is drawing to a close and Beijing is beginning to examine its military options. The United States is withdrawing from Afghanistan and reconsidering the relationship between global pre-eminence and global omnipotence. Nothing is as it was in 1991.
Europe primarily defined itself as an economic power, with sovereignty largely retained by its members but shaped by the rule of the European Union. Europe tried to have it all: economic integration and individual states. But now this untenable idea has reached its end and Europe is fragmenting. One region, including Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, has low unemployment. The other region on the periphery has high or extraordinarily high unemployment.
Germany wants to retain the European Union to protect German trade interests and because Berlin properly fears the political consequences of a fragmented Europe. But as the creditor of last resort, Germany also wants to control the economic behavior of the EU nation-states. Berlin does not want to let off the European states by simply bailing them out. If it bails them out, it must control their budgets. But the member states do not want to cede sovereignty to a German-dominated EU apparatus in exchange for a bailout.
In the indebted peripheral region, Cyprus has been treated with particular economic savagery as part of the bailout process. Certainly, the Cypriots acted irresponsibly. But that label applies to all of the EU members, including Germany, who created an economic plant so vast that it could not begin to consume what it produces -- making the country utterly dependent on the willingness of others to buy German goods. There are thus many kinds of irresponsibility. How the European Union treats irresponsibility depends upon the power of the nation in question. Cyprus, small and marginal, has been crushed while larger nations receive more favorable treatment despite their own irresponsibility.
It has been said by many Europeans that Cyprus should never have been admitted to the European Union. That might be true, but it was admitted -- during the time of European hubris when it was felt that mere EU membership would redeem any nation. Now, Europe can no longer afford pride, and it is every nation for itself. Cyprus set the precedent that the weak will be crushed. It serves as a lesson to other weakening nations, a lesson that over time will transform the European idea of integration and sovereignty. The price of integration for the weak is high, and all of Europe is weak in some way.
In such an environment, sovereignty becomes sanctuary. It is interesting to watch Hungary ignore the European Union as Budapest reconstructs its political system to be more sovereign -- and more authoritarian -- in the wider storm raging around it. Authoritarian nationalism is an old European cure-all, one that is re-emerging, since no one wants to be the next Cyprus.
I have already said much about China, having argued for several years that China's economy couldn't possibly continue to expand at the same rate. Leaving aside all the specific arguments, extraordinarily rapid growth in an export-oriented economy requires economic health among its customers. It is nice to imagine expanded domestic demand, but in a country as impoverished as China, increasing demand requires revolutionizing life in the interior. China has tried this many times. It has never worked, and in any case China certainly couldn't make it work in the time needed. Instead, Beijing is maintaining growth by slashing profit margins on exports. What growth exists is neither what it used to be nor anywhere near as profitable. That sort of growth in Japan undermined financial viability as money was leant to companies to continue exporting and employing people -- money that would never be repaid.
It is interesting to recall the extravagant claims about the future of Japan in the 1980s. Awestruck by growth rates, Westerners did not see the hollowing out of the financial system as growth rates were sustained by cutting prices and profits. Japan's miracle seemed to be eternal. It wasn't, and neither is China's. And China has a problem that Japan didn't: a billion impoverished people. Japan exists, but behaves differently than it did before; the same is happening to China.
Both Europe and China thought about the world in the post-Cold War period similarly. Each believed that geopolitical questions and even questions of domestic politics could be suppressed and sometimes even ignored. They believed this because they both thought they had entered a period of permanent prosperity. 1991-2008 was in fact a period of extraordinary prosperity, one that both Europe and China simply assumed would never end and one whose prosperity would moot geopolitics and politics.
Periods of prosperity, of course, always alternate with periods of austerity, and now history has caught up with Europe and China. Europe, which had wanted union and sovereignty, is confronting the political realities of EU unwillingness to make the fundamental and difficult decisions on what union really meant. For its part, China wanted to have a free market and a communist regime in a region it would dominate economically. Its economic climax has left it with the question of whether the regime can survive in an uncontrolled economy, and what its regional power would look like if it weren't prosperous.
And the United States has emerged from the post-Cold War period with one towering lesson: However attractive military intervention is, it always looks easier at the beginning than at the end. The greatest military power in the world has the ability to defeat armies. But it is far more difficult to reshape societies in America's image. A Great Power manages the routine matters of the world not through military intervention, but through manipulating the balance of power. The issue is not that America is in decline. Rather, it is that even with the power the United States had in 2001, it could not impose its political will -- even though it had the power to disrupt and destroy regimes -- unless it was prepared to commit all of its power and treasure to transforming a country like Afghanistan. And that is a high price to pay for Afghan democracy.
The United States has emerged into the new period with what is still the largest economy in the world with the fewest economic problems of the three pillars of the post-Cold War world. It has also emerged with the greatest military power. But it has emerged far more mature and cautious than it entered the period. There are new phases in history, but not new world orders. Economies rise and fall, there are limits to the greatest military power and a Great Power needs prudence in both lending and invading.
A New Era Begins
Eras unfold in strange ways until you suddenly realize they are over. For example, the Cold War era meandered for decades, during which U.S.-Soviet detentes or the end of the Vietnam War could have seemed to signal the end of the era itself. Now, we are at a point where the post-Cold War model no longer explains the behavior of the world. We are thus entering a new era. I don't have a good buzzword for the phase we're entering, since most periods are given a label in hindsight. (The interwar period, for example, got a name only after there was another war to bracket it.) But already there are several defining characteristics to this era we can identify.
First, the United States remains the world's dominant power in all dimensions. It will act with caution, however, recognizing the crucial difference between pre-eminence and omnipotence.
Second, Europe is returning to its normal condition of multiple competing nation-states. While Germany will dream of a Europe in which it can write the budgets of lesser states, the EU nation-states will look at Cyprus and choose default before losing sovereignty.
Third, Russia is re-emerging. As the European Peninsula fragments, the Russians will do what they always do: fish in muddy waters. Russia is giving preferential terms for natural gas imports to some countries, buying metallurgical facilities in Hungary and Poland, and buying rail terminals in Slovakia. Russia has always been economically dysfunctional yet wielded outsized influence -- recall the Cold War. The deals they are making, of which this is a small sample, are not in their economic interests, but they increase Moscow's political influence substantially.
Fourth, China is becoming self-absorbed in trying to manage its new economic realities. Aligning the Communist Party with lower growth rates is not easy. The Party's reason for being is prosperity. Without prosperity, it has little to offer beyond a much more authoritarian state.
And fifth, a host of new countries will emerge to supplement China as the world's low-wage, high-growth epicenter. Latin America, Africa and less-developed parts of Southeast Asia are all emerging as contenders.
Relativity in the Balance of Power
There is a paradox in all of this. While the United States has committed many errors, the fragmentation of Europe and the weakening of China mean the United States emerges more powerful, since power is relative. It was said that the post-Cold War world was America's time of dominance. I would argue that it was the preface of U.S. dominance. Its two great counterbalances are losing their ability to counter U.S. power because they mistakenly believed that real power was economic power. The United States had combined power -- economic, political and military -- and that allowed it to maintain its overall power when economic power faltered.
A fragmented Europe has no chance at balancing the United States. And while China is reaching for military power, it will take many years to produce the kind of power that is global, and it can do so only if its economy allows it to. The United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War because of its balanced power. Europe and China defeated themselves because they placed all their chips on economics. And now we enter the new era.
Read more: Beyond the Post-Cold War World | Stratfor
McCarthy: There is no vacuum
Reply #383 on:
April 14, 2013, 11:40:38 AM »
I quite disagree with the notion here that failing to follow through in Iraq left a huge power vacuum, but there is plenty here that makes sense.
Andrew C. McCarthy
Those clamoring for American intervention in Syria — I should say, even more American intervention in Syria — have a lock on two influential drivers of conservative opinion, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages. They are also bedfellows on this issue with our Muslim Brotherhood–enthralled president, even if Mr. Obama’s skittishness about going all in has them a bit testy.
All of this puts the media wind at their backs. Repeated often enough and reported uncritically enough, the interventionists’ shallow story has thus become the narrative. And so we have: The Vacuum.
The Vacuum theme goes like this: The Middle East may be in flux, but our threat environment remains frozen in time — a Nineties warp in which Iran, singularly, is the root of all evil. In Syria now, we have a golden opportunity to hand the mullahs a crushing defeat. All we need to do is commit to toppling their client, Bashar al-Assad. Media spin thus suggests that Assad’s minority Alawite regime is responsible for each of the 70,000 killings and half a million displacements that Syrians have endured since the civil war began — as if the Sunni majority, led by the local Brotherhood affiliate with al-Qaeda as the point of its spear, were not carrying out reciprocal mass murders and an anti-Christian pogrom.
Alas, misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have left the Obama administration gun-shy about leaping with both feet into another Muslim mess. The president thus prefers to “lead from behind” the Sunni supremacist governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. This failure of American will has created The Vacuum: a leadership lacuna in the anti-Assad opposition. Into this purported breach, Islamic supremacists — seemingly out of thin air — have rushed in to hijack the forward march of freedom.
As a result, the narrative continues, untold legions of Muslim moderates, secular democrats, and religious minorities who would otherwise be charting Syria’s democratic destiny are being elbowed aside. Even worse, by failing to intervene forcefully — meaning, to fuel the jihad with high-tech combat weapons and an aerial campaign to soften up Assad’s remaining defenses — the administration is frittering away the opportunity to strike up pragmatic alliances with the Vaccum-filling Islamists. Sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought — eager to help the Brotherhood, but too concerned about arms falling into terrorist hands — Obama is forfeiting our chance to influence the outcome.
Right. I mean, look at how ably our decade of heavy investment has steered Iraq and Afghanistan in a pro-American direction. And behold how they love us in Benghazi!
Syria hawks counter such scoffs by putting on their best Paul Krugman: The “freedom” stimulus was not a harebrained idea, it just wasn’t big enough. Put aside the fortune expended and the thousands of American lives sacrificed. It is not the nature of the Middle East but a void of American leadership that has the region waving al-Qaeda’s black flags. The Vacuum turns out to be the best all-purpose rationalization of failure since Barack Obama discovered George W. Bush.
Baghdad, you are to understand, would look like Bayonne right now if only American troops hadn’t skipped town, creating The Vacuum that ceded the place to, er . . . Iraqis.
The Vacuum explains the Benghazi debacle, too. Some amnesia is required: You are not supposed to remember that Eastern Libya has for decades been a hotbed of rabidly anti-American jihadists. History goes back only as far as 2011, when Obama and the interventionists decided Qaddafi — their erstwhile ally — had to go. Presto, Benghazi’s Islamic-supremacist battalions were suddenly our guys, the heroic, freedom-fighting “rebels” — and let’s not dwell on the droves of them that had raced to Iraq for the terror war against our troops.
So how come we didn’t have all that profound influence over the outcome after helping the rebels kill and mutilate Qaddafi? How come our diplomatic posts were attacked? How come our ambassador and three other Americans were murdered? Why, The Vacuum, of course. It’s not that the clock struck twelve and the rebels turned back into jihadists. It’s that by “leading from behind,” Obama left a leadership void that enabled violent jihadists — apparently beamed down from the Starship Enterprise — to grab control before Libya’s rising tide of democracy devotees had a chance to roll in.
Hate to break this to you, but there is no vacuum. The Vacuum is a spring-fever hallucination, another empty grasp at the illusion of Islamic democracy.
Syria, like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and most of the Middle East, is predominantly Islamist. There need be no leadership vacuums to invite the Islamists in. They are there by the millions. Their supremacist ideology dominates the region.
But that’s not how the interventionists see it. On her way out the door in January, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton clung to the fiction that passes for bipartisan Beltway wisdom. She told a Senate panel that we must distinguish between jihadists and “non-jihadists.” The latter are our hope. Therefore, she maintained, we must be “effective in partnering with the non-jihadists,” even if they fly al-Qaeda’s “black flag.”
Clinton’s words were chosen carefully. The term “non-jihadist” connotes nonviolence. She was trying to distance the administration’s Muslim Brotherhood friends from the terrorists — consistent with the lunatic Beltway consensus that the Brotherhood, whose Palestinian branch is the Hamas terrorist organization, is a nonviolent organization. All right, let’s indulge that whopper — let’s, as Mrs. Clinton likes to say, suspend disbelief. Accepting the Brothers and their followers as “non-jihadists” tells us only what they are not — namely, terrorists. Mrs. Clinton avoided telling us what they are — namely, Islamists.
Islamists are Muslim supremacists who want to impose sharia. The Associated Press has a point in instructing that “Islamist” is not — or, at least, is not necessarily — a synonym for “Islamic fighters” or “militants.” The AP is all wet, though, when it further posits that Islamists are neither “extremists” nor “radicals.” If the vapid term “moderate” means anything, then “extreme” and “radical” precisely describe Islamists. They seek to impose sharia, a totalitarian, liberty-averse social system. They want Israel annihilated (even if they’d have someone else do the honors). They are implacably hostile to the United States — at least while Americans remain champions of freedom and equality. There is nothing moderate about any of this.
Even if you believe these Islamists really are “non-jihadists,” the stubborn fact remains that they wave al-Qaeda’s flag because they want the same thing al-Qaeda wants. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that they prefer to establish a sharia state through political processes rather than violent jihad (in reality, it is political processes leveraged by violent jihad). Islamists still want the opposite of what we want. If we are truly promoting liberty, we can never “partner” with them.
No one is saying there is a total dearth, in Syria and the wider region, of secular democrats, non-Muslims, and Muslim moderates averse to sharia fascism. The point is that these factions are vastly outnumbered. They are, moreover, very far from uniformly pro-American. The radical Left is well represented among them. And even those who long for Western liberty regard us with increasing contempt thanks to the administration’s infatuation with the Brotherhood. So if ousting Assad is your priority, you are stuck with Islamists and jihadists. Unless you’re in favor of a very long-term American occupation of Syria, no one else could get the job done — and, in fact, many secularists and religious minorities prefer Assad, the devil they know, to the prospect of Egypt 2.0.
It is no longer 1996 — the year Iran bombed the Khobar Towers and killed 19 American airmen. The Syria hawks are quite right to argue that Iran remains a major threat to American interests. They are wrong, however, to treat Iran as the only such threat. The Sunni supremacist crescent that the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and their allies would run from Anatolia through the Persian Gulf and across North Africa would be no less hostile to the West than the Shiite competitor Iran is trying to forge. If Assad falls and the Brothers take over, that defeat for Tehran will not be a boon for the United States.
It is not isolationism to insist that American interventions be limited to situations in which a vital American interest must be vindicated. There is no such interest in Syria.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.
WSJ: A third way to deal with Iran
Reply #384 on:
April 17, 2013, 08:40:25 AM »
A Third Way to Address the Iranian Threat
Support the opposition and let Iranians topple a regime they despise..
By MICHAEL LEDEEN
With an Iranian presidential election coming in June, President Obama may be presented with a second chance to get his policy right. In 2009, when massive protests followed Iran's disputed presidential vote, Mr. Obama sat by as the insurrection was brutally put down by the Tehran regime. But the rage against the regime is still intense, and if similar protests explode in June, the White House should be prepared.
The president ought to know from the example of the Arab Spring that seemingly secure despots can be toppled by popular will. The coming elections offer a chance for America to demonstrate its belated support for the Iranian opposition, and Washington would do well to encourage the Iranian people to rise up in the coming months.
Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said that Iran is unlikely to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. That period gives the U.S., Israel and their allies breathing room to pursue an alternative to the two stark choices of accepting a nuclear Iran or launching a military strike to stop it. A third option is encouraging and supporting the opposition in Iran, where millions of people yearn to be freed of the ayatollahs' oppressive rule.
Like the Soviet Union in its latter days, Iran's regime is hollow and detested by most of its people. Few believed that Soviet rule would end without war, yet it imploded with little violence. At the time, intelligence assessments described the Soviet regime as stable and the economy as relatively healthy—even though unrest was actually rampant, the economy moribund.
Thanks to sanctions and government mismanagement, Iran can't even make a pretense of economic health: Official analyses from the Iranian parliament's research center show that, in a survey of 98 companies, production over the past 12 months has declined 40.3%. Employment has dropped 36.5% over that same year. Inflation is roaring: Finished products cost 87.9% more, and raw materials are up 112%. The country is riddled with strikes and protests from workers who haven't been paid for months.
The Iranian government is also widely viewed within the country as corrupt and illegitimate, having stolen the 2009 elections. The Green Movement, which briefly flourished after the vote, has seen its leaders arrested by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has also shut down scores of newspapers, magazines and websites.
Most Iran watchers believe that the opposition has been crushed, but they held the same view before June 2009, when millions of Iranians took to the streets and fought for months. The supreme leader is so concerned that his security forces prevent even small public gatherings, including the funerals of apolitical artists and musicians. He has repeatedly purged top officers of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, fearing betrayal. The arrest and torture of journalists, bloggers, union leaders and other potential sources of unrest has increased in the past year, too.
The clearest indication of the opposition's strength is the regime's treatment of the Green Movement's two main leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Both have been under house arrest for more than two years, yet neither has been put on trial. Ali Saeedi, the supreme leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guards, admitted last year to an interviewer that the men weren't being prosecuted "because they have supporters and followers."
Yet the opposition persists, routinely striking the regime's most valuable assets. Gas pipelines, ports and oil refineries have been sabotaged and Revolutionary Guards attacked. A source within the opposition tells me that seven Revolutionary Guard officers were ambushed and killed last month on a highway north of Tehran. Opposition leaders have told me that antiregime forces—including the Greens, the trade unions and the major tribes, including Kurds, Baluch and Azeris—are coordinating their actions.
Supporting the Iranian opposition and overturning the Islamic regime wouldn't just be a way for the West to avoid a nuclear confrontation. It would also cut off the lifeblood for terrorist groups around the world.
What can the U.S. do to make this happen? Take a page from the playbook used to stir internal challenges to Moscow's rule.
Leaders in both the executive and legislative branches should publicly call for the end of the regime, just as President Reagan decried the "evil empire." And the Iranian people must hear about it: At present, American broadcasting to Iran focuses heavily on American events and policies, often very critically. A more concerted effort should be made to give Iranians real news about their country. And members of the opposition should be furnished with the hardware to better communicate with each other and the outside world.
The U.S. should also mount a relentless campaign for the release of political prisoners in Iran, naming them in every available international forum. As with Soviet workers' organizations, the U.S. should encourage international trade unions to build a strike fund for their Iranian brothers and sisters.
The essential thing is for the West to be in regular contact with the opposition so its needs will be known. Sources in Iran tell me that no Western nation has communicated with leaders of the Green Movement since the days before the 2009 elections. That is shameful. But it is not too late to get started.
Mr. Ledeen, a scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is the author of "Virgil's Golden Egg and Other Neapolitan Miracles" (Transaction, 2011).
Anarchy and Hegemony
Reply #385 on:
April 18, 2013, 08:13:28 AM »
Anarchy and Hegemony
April 17, 2013 | 0901 GMT
By Robert D. Kaplan
Chief Geopolitical Analyst
Everyone loves equality: equality of races, of ethnic groups, of sexual orientations, and so on. The problem is, however, that in geopolitics equality usually does not work very well. For centuries Europe had a rough equality between major states that is often referred to as the balance-of-power system. And that led to frequent wars. East Asia, by contrast, from the 14th to the early 19th centuries, had its relations ordered by a tribute system in which China was roughly dominant. The result, according to political scientist David C. Kang of the University of Southern California, was a generally more peaceful climate in Asia than in Europe.
The fact is that domination of one sort or another, tyrannical or not, has a better chance of preventing the outbreak of war than a system in which no one is really in charge; where no one is the top dog, so to speak. That is why Columbia University's Kenneth Waltz, arguably America's pre-eminent realist, says that the opposite of "anarchy" is not stability, but "hierarchy."
Hierarchy eviscerates equality; hierarchy implies that some are frankly "more equal" than others, and it is this formal inequality -- where someone, or some state or group, has more authority and power than others -- that prevents chaos. For it is inequality itself that often creates the conditions for peace.
Government is the most common form of hierarchy. It is a government that monopolizes the use of violence in a given geographical space, thereby preventing anarchy. To quote Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English philosopher, only where it is possible to punish the wicked can right and wrong have any practical meaning, and that requires "some coercive power."
The best sort of inequality is hegemony. Whereas primacy, as Kang explains, is about preponderance purely through military or economic power, hegemony "involves legitimation and consensus." That is to say, hegemony is some form of agreed-upon inequality, where the dominant power is expected by others to lead. When a hegemon does not lead, it is acting irresponsibly.
Of course, hegemony has a bad reputation in media discourse. But that is only because journalists are confused about the terminology, even as they sanctimoniously judge previous historical eras by the strict standards of their own. In fact, for most of human history, periods of relative peace have been the product of hegemony of one sort or another. And for many periods, the reigning hegemonic or imperial power was the most liberal, according to the standards of the age. Rome, Venice and Britain were usually more liberal than the forces arranged against them. The empire of the Austrian Hapsburgs in Central and Eastern Europe often protected the rights of minorities and prevented ethnic wars to a much greater degree than did the modern states that succeeded it. The Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the Middle East frequently did likewise. There are exceptions, of course, like Hapsburg Spain, with its combination of inquisition and conquest. But the point is that hegemony does not require tyrannical or absolutist rule.
Stability is not the natural order of things. In fact, history shows that stability such as it exists is usually a function of imperial rule, which, in turn, is a common form of hierarchy. To wit, there are few things messier in geopolitics than the demise of an empire. The collapse of the Hapsburgs, of the Ottoman Turks, of the Soviet Empire and the British Empire in Asia and Africa led to chronic wars and upheavals. Some uncomprehending commentators remind us that all empires end badly. Of course they do, but that is only after they have provided decades and centuries of relative peace.
Obviously, not all empires are morally equivalent. For example, the Austrian Hapsburgs were for their time infinitely more tolerant than the Soviet Communists. Indeed, had the Romanov Dynasty in St. Petersburg not been toppled in 1917 by Lenin's Bolsheviks, Russia would likely have evolved far more humanely than it did through the course of the 20th century. Therefore, I am saying only in a general sense is order preferable to disorder. (Though captivating subtleties abound: For example, Napoleon betrayed the ideals of the French Revolution by creating an empire, but he also granted rights to Jews and Protestants and created a system of merit over one of just birth and privilege.)
In any case, such order must come from hierarchal domination.
Indeed, from the end of World War II until very recently, the United States has performed the role of a hegemon in world politics. America may be democratic at home, but abroad it has been hegemonic. That is, by some rough measure of international consent, it is America that has the responsibility to lead. America formed NATO in Europe, even as its Navy and Air Force exercise preponderant power in the Pacific Basin. And whenever there is a humanitarian catastrophe somewhere in the developing world, it is the United States that has been expected to organize the response. Periodically, America has failed. But in general, it would be a different, much more anarchic world without American hegemony.
But that hegemony, in some aspects, seems to be on the wane. That is what makes this juncture in history unique. NATO is simply not what it used to be. U.S. forces in the Pacific are perceived to be less all-powerful than in the past, as China tests U.S. hegemony in the region. But most importantly, U.S. President Barack Obama is evolving a doctrine of surgical strikes against specific individuals combined with non-interference -- or minimal interference -- in cases of regional disorder. Libya and Syria are cases in point. Gone, at least for the moment, are the days when U.S. forces were at the ready to put a situation to rights in this country or that.
When it comes to the Greater Middle East, Americans seem to want protection on the cheap, and Obama is giving them that. We will kill a terrorist with a drone, but outside of limited numbers of special operations forces there will be no boots on the ground for Libya, Syria or any other place. As for Iran, whatever the White House now says, there is a perception that the administration would rather contain a nuclear Iran than launch a military strike to prevent Iran from going nuclear.
That, by itself, is unexceptional. Previous administrations have been quite averse to the use of force. In recent decades, it was only George W. Bush -- and only in the aftermath of 9/11 -- who relished the concept of large-scale boots on the ground in a war of choice. Nevertheless, something has shifted. In a world of strong states -- a world characterized by hierarchy, that is -- the United States often enforced the rules of the road or competed with another hegemon, the Soviet Union, to do so. Such enforcement came in the form of robust diplomacy, often backed by a threat to use military power. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were noted for American leadership and an effective, sometimes ruthless foreign policy. Since the Cold War ended and Bill Clinton became president, American leadership has often seemed to be either unserious, inexpertly and crudely applied or relatively absent. And this has transpired even as states themselves in the Greater Middle East have become feebler.
In other words, both the hegemon and the many states it influences are weaker. Hierarchy is dissolving on all levels. Equality is now on the march in geopolitics: The American hegemon is less hegemonic, and within individual countries -- Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Tunisia and so on -- internal forces are no longer subservient to the regime. (And states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are not in the American camp to the degree that they used to be, further weakening American hegemony.) Moreover, the European Union as a political organizing principle is also weakening, even as the one-party state in China is under increasing duress.
Nevertheless, in the case of the Middle East, do not conflate chaos with democracy. Democracy itself implies an unequal, hierarchal order, albeit one determined by voters. What we have in the Middle East cannot be democracy because almost nowhere is there a new and sufficiently formalized hierarchy. No, what we have in many places in the Middle East is the weakening of central authority with no new hierarchy to adequately replace it.
Unless some force can, against considerable odds, reinstitute hierarchy -- be it an American hegemon acting globally, or an international organization acting regionally or, say, an Egyptian military acting internally -- we will have more fluidity, more equality and therefore more anarchy to look forward to. This is profoundly disturbing, because civilization abjures anarchy. In his novel Billy Budd (1924), Herman Melville deeply laments the fact that even beauty itself must be sacrificed for the maintenance of order. For without order -- without hierarchy -- there is nothing.
Read more: Anarchy and Hegemony | Stratfor
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #386 on:
April 24, 2013, 08:40:41 AM »
A week after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, the world continues to remain on edge as it watches for signs of another possible attack. But as the Spanish and Canadian governments made pre-emptive arrests of suspected al Qaeda militants, terrorist attacks continue to succeed elsewhere in the world in places such as Libya and Nepal. The different sources of this possible threat -- as seen, for example, in the attack against the French Embassy in Tripoli that was likely launched by al Qaeda, versus the Iranian operative that allegedly targeted the Israeli Embassy in Nepal -- reflect the simple reality that the world continues to be a dangerous place facing a wide variety of risks.
On April 23, Spain announced the arrest of two men, one from Morocco and one from Algeria, who are suspected to have links to al Qaeda. In a statement, the Spanish Interior Ministry said the two suspects, who were arrested in an operation carried out in conjunction with French and Moroccan authorities, fit a similar profile to that of the Boston Marathon bombers. However, the two men arrested in Spain share little with the Boston bombers beyond suspected online self-radicalization. Both had been under surveillance by Spanish and French intelligence officials for nearly a year, during which time they had allegedly contacted al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb about attending a training camp in northern Mali.
The same day the arrests in Spain were made public, an explosion outside the French Embassy in Tripoli provided an example of the potential threat al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb poses against European targets. Though no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the French intervention in Mali could be a motive for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or another jihadist group to carry out such an attack.
One of driving factors behind France's decision to intervene in Mali was its desire to prevent northern Mali from becoming a training and staging ground for attacks against Western targets. While France has had relative success in preventing the various armed Islamist groups in the region, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, from being able to take and hold territory, al Qaeda's January attack on a natural gas facility in Ain Amenas, Algeria, and now the attack on the French Embassy in Tripoli are grim reminders of Western states' inability to prevent every attack against Western targets in the growing security vacuum of North and West Africa.
Meanwhile, Israeli security officials arrested a man in Nepal that they described as an Iranian agent surveiling the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu. Across the Atlantic, the Canadian government announced its belief that al Qaeda elements in Iran were behind a plot to attack Canada's Via Rail network. Elements of the al Qaeda core have been suspected of residing in Iran following the United States' invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. However, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson said there is no evidence of Iranian state sponsorship for the al Qaeda plot in Canada, and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi vehemently denied the charges.
Despite the doctrinal differences between al Qaeda and Tehran, both represent a persistent threat to various targets across the globe. As a non-state actor, al Qaeda poses a bigger threat because it is not as vulnerable to retaliation as state actors are. Increased surveillance and security coordination among various governments has helped prevent attacks before they happen, as was the case in Canada. But as the explosion in Libya demonstrates, Western governments cannot prevent every attack.
Read more: The Persistent Jihadist and Iranian Threats | Stratfor
Stratfor: No good options
Reply #387 on:
May 08, 2013, 06:24:45 PM »
This is Stratfor, so of course it is thoughtful. That said, I found it rather unsatisfying and disappointing.
8 May 2013
For American Foreign Policy, No Good Options
Robert D. Kaplan
One feels sympathy for U.S. President Barack Obama. Whatever he does in Syria, he is doomed. Had he intervened a year ago, as many pundits demanded, he might presently be in the midst of a quagmire with even more pundits angry at him, and with his approval ratings far lower than they are. If he intervenes now, the results might be even worse. Journalists often demand action for action's sake, seemingly unaware that many international problems have no solution, given the limits of U.S. power. The United States can topple regimes; it cannot even modestly remake societies unless, perhaps, it commits itself to the level of time and expense it did in post-war Germany and Japan.
Indeed, Obama has onerous calculations: If I intervene, which group do I arm? Am I assured the weapons won't fall into the wrong hands? Am I assured the group or groups I choose to help really are acceptable to the West, and even if they are, will they matter in Damascus in the long run? And, by the way, what if toppling Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad through the establishment of a no-fly zone leads to even more chaos, and therefore results in an even worse human rights situation? Do I really want to own that mess? And even were I to come out of it successfully, do I want to devote my entire second term to Syria? Because that's what getting more deeply involved militarily there might entail.
In the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, intervention did not provoke other powers in the region such as Russia, because Russia in the first decade after the Cold War was a weak and chaotic state unable to project its usual historical influence in the Balkans. But intervention in Syria could get the United States into a proxy war with a strengthened Russia and with Iran.
In a media-driven world, holding power is truly thankless. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will have his term in office defined by three things: a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a serious reduction in the defense budget and responses to any overseas emergencies that crop up. There is no good way to accomplish the first two, and the third usually presents the same sort of awful choices the administration now faces in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry energetically engages in negotiations with Iran and Afghanistan, and with Israel and the Palestinian territories, not because he necessarily wants to, but because he must. Anything less would indicate an abdication of America's responsibility as a great power. And yet the chances of good outcomes in all of those cases are slim.
The overarching theme here is that the media assumes American policymakers have significant control over events overseas, whereas in truth they often have very little. The complex, messy realities of ground-level war and politics in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan – short of aerial and naval bombardments or tens of thousands of boots on the ground – are probably not going to be pivotally shaped by American officials.
During the Cold War, when chaos was relatively limited and much of the globe was divided up into two ideological camps, it was at least possible to formulate creative diplomatic strategies through the mechanical manipulation of this or that country or group of countries against others. But in a world of weak and fragmented democracies, considerable anarchy and anemic alliance systems, it is much harder to manipulate reality. There is no night watchman. No one is in control, even as the media is more relentless than ever. (Indeed, could one imagine in today's media climate a Henry Kissinger or a James Baker constructively and sternly pressuring Israel as they once did?)
A relentless media means policies have little time to mature before they are declared failures. It means there is less secrecy because of so many leaks. And because so much is leaked, government officials themselves have less incentive to be candid, even in private meetings, on account of the assumption that no transcript stays secret forever, whatever the security classification given it. So the quality of discussion inside government deteriorates, even as the public policy climate outside also worsens. In sum, the semi-anarchic, post-Cold War world narrows the space for foreign policy success at the same time that the quality of foreign policy itself wanes.
Adding to the dilemma are the really hard problems – the ones that even the most creative diplomacy cannot solve. Every president of either party going back decades has failed on the issue of North Korea. Meanwhile, each administration gets blamed anew for the failure.
In such a climate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks as the model diplomat. She often practiced activity for activity's sake, circling the globe nonstop before adoring cameramen while having no real diplomatic accomplishment to her credit, despite a refreshing tendency to speak boldly on occasion. The media approved of her because she was, well, a celebrity. She did promote one useful idea, though: the "pivot" away from the Middle East and toward the Asia-Pacific region. For that and maybe for that alone will she be remembered. The pivot was less a brilliant idea than a natural, organic evolution of policy intent, given the winding down of two Middle Eastern wars and the rising strategic and economic importance of the Pacific. But as noncontroversial as it should have been, the pivot was attacked in the media as being both too weak-kneed (How come we don't have more warships dedicated to Asia?) and too belligerent (against China).
So what is an American leader to do in such circumstances? How can one be a statesman in the face of reduced American influence in a semi-anarchic world and in the face of an increasingly demanding media?
The answer may be exactly what Obama is doing now in Syria: modestly assisting some of the rebel groups, but essentially avoiding the level of involvement that would make him henceforth responsible for events on the ground. In other words, let Iran get sucked deeper and deeper into the Syrian maelstrom, not the United States. The maintenance cost for Iran in a crumbling Syria will grow, even as Iran enjoys less influence there than it did during the era of a strong al Assad regime. At the same time, intensify the economic and diplomatic aid to Jordan, which, with its relatively small population and small economy, may well be possible to save. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and so forth are all destined to be weak, quasi-chaotic states that the United States cannot put to rights without the kind of gargantuan effort that would undermine its interests elsewhere in the world and at home.
It may be -- barring some military attack on the United States or on a treaty ally that plainly justifies a commensurate military response -- that successful administrations will go unloved during their tenures, even while they are granted grudging respect in the years and decades that follow. This has often been the case in American history. But owing to the nature of the media and the nature of the world overseas, it might become increasingly the norm. Remember that President George W. Bush enjoyed high public approval ratings from the very beginning of his presidency, through 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But it was the very military actions that he took, popular in the media at the time, that led in his second term to becoming a tragically failed president.
The lesson is this: When it comes to foreign affairs, there is usually no way to get good reviews. But once an American leader internalizes this, he might then begin to craft a strategy that is honorable and will ultimately secure his reputation.
George Friedman: Nostalgia for NATO
Reply #388 on:
May 10, 2013, 06:52:34 AM »
Nostalgia for NATO
George Friedman | 8 May 2013
Several years ago, I wrote a series of articles on a journey in Europe. It was intended both to be personal and to go beyond recent events or the abstract considerations of geopolitics. This week I begin another journey that will take me from Portugal to Singapore, and I thought that I would try my hand again at reflecting on the significance of my travels.
As I prepare for my journey, I am drawn to a central question regarding the U.S.-European relationship, or what remains of it. Having been in Europe at a time when that relationship meant everything to both sides, and to the world, this trip forces me to think about NATO. I have been asked to make several speeches about U.S.-European relations during my upcoming trip. It is hard to know where to start. The past was built around NATO, so thinking about NATO's past might help me put things in perspective.
On a personal level, my relationship with Europe always passes through the prism of NATO. Born in Hungary, I recall my parents sitting in the kitchen in 1956, when the Soviets came in to crush the revolution. On the same night as my sister's wedding in New York, we listened on the radio to a report on Soviet tanks attacking a street just a block from where we lived in Budapest. I was 7 at the time. The talk turned to the Americans and NATO and what they would do. NATO was the redeemer who disappoints not because he cannot act but because he will not. My family's underlying faith in the power of American alliances was forged in World War II and couldn't be shaken. NATO was the sword of Gideon, albeit lacking in focus and clarity at times.
I had a more personal relationship with NATO. In the 1970s, I played an embarrassingly unimportant role in developing early computerized war games. The games were meant to evaluate strategies on NATO's central front: Germany. At that time, the line dividing Germany was the fault line of the planet. If the world were to end in a nuclear holocaust, it would end there. The place that people thought it would all start was called the Fulda Gap, a not-too-hilly area in the south, where a rapid attack could take Frankfurt and also strike at the heart of U.S. forces. The Germans speak of a watch on the Rhine. For my generation, or at least those millions who served in the armies of NATO, it was Fulda.
In the course of designing war games, I spent some time at SHAPE Technical Center in The Hague. SHAPE stands for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. The name itself is a reminder of the origins of NATO, deep in World War II and the alliance that defeated the Germans. It was commanded by SACEUR -- Supreme Allied Commander Europe -- who was always an American. Over time, the name became increasingly anachronistic, as SACEUR stopped resembling U.S. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and started resembling the chair of a fractious church board, where people showed up for the snacks more than to make decisions.
To me, in the 1970s, SHAPE and SACEUR were acronyms that recalled D-Day and were built around the word "supreme." I was young and in awe, with a sense of history and pride in participating in it. Why I should be proud to participate in what might lead to total catastrophe for humanity seems odd in retrospect, but there is little in any of our lives that does not seem odd in retrospect. However, I was proud that I got to go into a building designated as SHAPE's technical center. I felt at the center of history. History, of course, is deceptive.
Games and Reality
It was never clear to me what those above us (whom we called "EBR," echelons beyond reality) did with the games that were built and played, or with the results, but I believe I learned a great deal about the war that was going to be fought. What cut short my career as a war gamer was my growing realization of the triviality of what we were doing and that the intelligence that we were building the games from was inherently deficient. Moreover, the commanders weren't all that interested in what we were doing. And there was the fact that I was genuinely enjoying and actually looking forward to a war that would test our theories. When the pieces on a map represent human beings and their loss means nothing to you, it is time to leave.
The war gaming was not the problem; properly done, as I hope it is by now, it can aid in victory and save lives. But then, knowing the men (women came later) who would stand and fight at Fulda if the time came, I felt I had been given a frivolous job. There was one thing I got from that job, however: I came into contact with troops from all the armies that might be called to fight. I had a profound sense that they were not just my colleagues but also my comrades. Some didn't like Americans, and others didn't like me, but this is no different than any organization. We were peering into the future, with our fates bound together.
The U.S. and Soviet Views of NATO
The United States believed that the Soviet conquest of Western Europe would integrate Soviet resources and European technology. This same fear led the Americans and Europeans to fight Germany in two wars from two very different perspectives. For my European colleagues, it meant the devastation of their countries, even if NATO won the war. The Dutch, for example, had lived under occupation and even preferred devastation over capitulation. For me, it was an abstract exercise, both in the strange mathematics of the war games and in the more distant consequences of defeat for my country. At the same time, there was a shared sense of urgency that formed the foundation of our relationship: War might come at any moment, and we must consider every possible move by the Soviets, and we must propose solutions.
The Americans were always haunted by Pearl Harbor. This is why 9/11 was such a blow. The historical recollection of the attack out of nowhere was always close. Doctrine said that we would have 30 days' warning of a Soviet attack. I had no idea where this doctrine came from, and I suspected that it came from the fact that we needed 30 days' warning to get ready. The Europeans did not fear the unexpected attack; rather, they dreaded the expected attack for which preparations had not been made. World War II haunted them differently. They were riveted on the fact that they knew what was coming and failed to prepare. The Americans and Europeans were united by paranoia, but their paranoia differed. For the Americans, staying out of alliances and not acting soon enough was what caused the war. The United States was committed to never repeating that mistake. NATO was one of many alliances. The Americans love alliances.
It is interesting to recognize now what the Soviets were afraid of. When World War II came to them, they had no allies. Their one ally, Germany, was the one that betrayed them. The Soviets were both taken by surprise and fought alone until the Americans and British chose to help them. The Soviets had played complex diplomacy with traditional alliances, and when it failed the Soviet Union committed itself to never again depending on others. It had the Warsaw Pact because the West had NATO, but it did not depend on its allies. The Americans threw themselves into alliances as if an alliance solved all problems. The Soviets, however, acted as if allies were the most dangerous things of all.
In the end, when we look back on it, war was much less likely than we felt. The West was not going to invade the East. On the defensive, the Soviets would have annihilated our much smaller force. And, truth be told, no one had the slightest interest in conquering Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union.
As for the Soviets, on paper they were an overwhelming force, but paper is a bad place to think about war. The Soviets did not want a nuclear exchange, and in their view the United States was itching to have one. They knew if they moved westward there would be an exchange. Plus, it turned out, the Soviets would have a great deal of trouble keeping their tanks fueled as they moved to the west. They had a plan for laying plastic pipes from their fuel depots and rolling them out as the tanks advanced. The problem was that the pipes never worked very well, and their fuel depots were slated for annihilation by airstrikes, possibly the day before the war began officially.
All of this is past and I recollect it with a combination of pride -- not for what I did, which was little, but for simply being there -- and chagrin about how little we understood the enemy. Both sides were ready for war. Both sides were expecting actions that the other side had no intentions of undertaking. But all of the plans that we created were, in the end, irrelevant. The only way to win the game -- as the movie War Games said -- was not to play it. Not surprisingly, the leaders -- Eisenhower and Khrushchev, Nixon and Brezhnev, Reagan and Gorbachev -- knew it better than the experts. It has always struck me as the world's great fortune that the two great superpowers were the United States and the Soviet Union, who managed the Cold War with meticulous care in retrospect. Imagine the European diplomats of 1914 or 1938 armed with nuclear weapons. It is easy to believe they would not have been as cautious.
NATO's Legacy and Disarray
What NATO provided that was priceless, and the unexpected byproduct of all of this, was a comradeship and unity of purpose on both sides of the North Atlantic. Even the French, who withdrew from NATO's military command under Charles de Gaulle, remained unofficially part of it. There was little question but that if "the balloon went up" -- the enemy took action -- the French would be there, arguing over who would command whom but fighting as hard as the Underground did before D-Day. But through NATO, I got to know Germans at a time when knowing Germans was not easy for me because of what my family went through during the war. I was forced to distinguish Germany from Franz who could play the ukulele.
I had a son in 1976. When I went to Europe, I met an Italian and we became friends. We would talk about what we would tell our families to do if the balloon went up. The conversation -- strange and perhaps pathological as it was -- bound us together. It was not war, it was not peace, but it was a place in the mind where the preparation for war and the anxiety that it generated created strange forms, such as plans for the movement of children in order to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
NATO, far more than a model United Nations or a Fulbright, allowed ordinary Americans and Europeans to know each other and understand that with linked fates, they were comrades in arms. After World War II, that was a profound lesson. Millions of draftees experienced that and took the lesson home.
The end of the Cold War is no great loss, although my youth went with it. Losing the unity of purpose that the Cold War gave Western Europe and the United States is of enormous consequence. For a while, after 1991, the two sides went on as if the alliance could exist even without an enemy. However, NATO started to fragment when it lost its enemy. The passion for a mission gave NATO meaning, and the passion was drained. The alliance continued to fragment when the United States decided to invade Iraq for the second time. The vast majority of countries in NATO supported the invasion -- a forgotten fact -- but France and Germany did not. This damaged the United States' relations with Europe, particularly with the French, who have a way of getting under the skins of Americans while appearing oblivious to it. But the greater damage was within Europe -- the division between those who wanted to maintain close relations with the United States, even if they thought the Iraq War was a bad idea, and those who wanted Europe to have its own voice, distinct from the Americans'.
The 2008 global financial contagion did not divide the Americans and Europeans nearly as much as it divided Europe. The relationship between European countries -- less among leaders than among publics -- has become poisonous. Something terrible has happened to Europe, and each country is holding someone else responsible. As many countries are blaming Germany as Germany is blaming for the crisis.
There can be no trans-Atlantic alliance when one side is in profound disagreement with itself over many things and the other side has no desire to be drawn into the dispute. Nor can there be a military alliance where there is no understanding of the mission, the enemy or obligations. NATO was successful during the Cold War because the enemy was clear, there was consensus over what to do in each particular circumstance and participation was a given. An alliance that does not know its mission, has no meaningful plans for what problems it faces and stages come-as-you-are parties in Libya or Mali, where invitations are sent out and no one RSVPs, cannot be considered an alliance. The committees meet and staffs of defense ministers prepare for conferences -- all of the niceties of an alliance remain. SACEUR is still an American, the Science and Technology Committee produces papers, but in the end, the commonality of purpose is gone.
My European colleagues and I were young, serious and dedicated. These are all dangerous things because we lacked historical perspective (but then, so did many of our elders). What we had together, however, was invaluable: a moment in history, possibly the last, when the West stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of liberal democracy and against tyranny. Still, I look back on the Soviets and then look at al Qaeda and I miss the Soviets. I understood them in a way I can never understand al Qaeda.
So I will be asked to speak about U.S-European relations. I will have to tell the Europeans two things. The first is that there is no American relationship with Europe because Europe is no longer an idea but a continent made up of states with diverse interests. There are U.S.-French relations and U.S.-Russian relations and so on. The second thing I will tell them is that there can be no confederation without a common foreign and defense policy. You can have different tax rates, but if when one goes to war they don't all go to war, they are just nations cooperating as they see fit.
I remember the camaraderie of young enlisted Americans and Europeans, and the solidarity of planning teams. This was the glue that held Europe together. It was not just the commanders and politicians, but the men who would have to cover each other's movement that created the foundations of NATO's solidarity. My recollections are undoubtedly colored with sentimentality, but I do not think I've done the idea an injustice. NATO bound Europe together because it made the nations into comrades. They were able to face Armageddon together. Europe without NATO's solidarity has difficulty figuring out a tax policy. In the end, Europe lost more when NATO fell into disuse than it imagined.
I don't know that NATO can exist without a Cold War. Probably not. What is gone is gone. But I know my nostalgia for Europe is not just for my youth; it is for a time when Western civilization was united. I doubt we will see that again.
George Friedman is the founder and CEO of Stratfor, the global intelligence website. This article has been republished with permission of Stratfor.
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May 14, 2013, 05:48:17 PM »
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The Classical Realist: Robert D. Kaplan Says History Will Validate Henry Kissinger
The Stratfor Blog
April 25, 2013 | 1105 Print - Text Size +
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Switzerland
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
Statesman. Nobel Prize laureate. Alleged War Criminal. Henry Kissinger is a man who arouses fierce condemnation in his critics and fervent defense in his supporters. How he is remembered depends largely on whom you ask. Fortunately, you won't have to ask Stratfor Chief Geopolitical Analyst Robert D. Kaplan -- he recently published an article entitled In Defense of Henry Kissinger in The Atlantic, where he has been a foreign correspondent for almost three decades.
Kaplan's career has brought him face to face with political personages and power brokers the world over. So it comes as little surprise that Kaplan counts Kissinger, who turns 90 this month, as a close friend. But Kaplan's treatise in The Atlantic is informed less by his affection for the former statesman than it is on his accomplishments. Measuredly he writes, "To be uncomfortable with Kissinger is … only natural. But to condemn him outright verges on sanctimony, if not delusion. Kissinger has, in fact, been quite moral -- provided, of course, that you accept the Cold War assumptions of the age in which he operated."
That line goes to the heart of geopolitics. Kissinger's choices, according to Kaplan, were a byproduct of necessity -- namely, the Cold War. Like all decision-makers, Kissinger was constrained by realities beyond his control, particularly in Vietnam, where enviable policy options were hard to come by. Kaplan estimates that Kissinger operated under the auspices of American self-interest, and self-interest, after all, is a fundamental tenet of geopolitics. History thus will probably remember him more kindly later than it does now, for in geopolitics, results often takes years, even decades, to validate the decisions that precede them.
To support his claims, Kaplan compares Kissinger to two former British foreign secretaries whose decisions, while reviled during their respective postings, were later validated by history. In the early 1800s, Viscount Castlereagh helped allow the Bourbon dynasty in France to be restored -- much to the ire of his fellow Britons -- but was also instrumental in defeating Napoleon and in negotiating the treaty that prevented Napoleonic-level violence in Europe for decades. Some years later, Lord Palmerston was harshly criticized at times for a foreign policy agenda that supported foreign rebellions, even though they served British interests. But it was his agenda that guided the United Kingdom as it evolved from a quasi-empire to full-on, global empire. As Kaplan writes, "Decades passed before Palmerston's accomplishments as arguably Britain's greatest diplomat became fully apparent."
Through it all Kaplan is careful to keep Kissinger, and his legacy, in perspective. He doesn't claim his decisions to be morally superior; rather, he praises Kissinger for having the fortitude to make morally compromising decisions that affected millions of lives. For Kissinger is a classical realist, which, according to Kaplan, is "emotionally unsatisfying but analytically timeless."
Read more: The Classical Realist: Robert D. Kaplan Says History Will Validate Henry Kissinger | Stratfor
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