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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 77507 times)
Let's compare Obama's life experience to this...
Reply #600 on:
November 04, 2014, 11:42:54 AM »
Stratfor: Robert Kaplan: The Realist Creed
Reply #601 on:
November 20, 2014, 01:51:46 PM »
The Realist Creed
By Robert Kaplan
All people in foreign policy circles consider themselves realists, since all people consider themselves realistic about every issue they ever talk about. At the same time, very few consider themselves realists, since realism signifies, in too many minds, cynicism and failure to intervene abroad when human rights are being violated on a mass scale. Though everyone and no one is a realist, it is also true that realism never goes away -- at least not since Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian War in the fifth century B.C., in which he defined human nature as driven by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos) and honor (doxa). And realism, as defined by perhaps the pre-eminent thinker in the field in the last century, the late Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, is about working with the basest forces of human nature, not against them.
Why is realism timeless and yet reviled at the same time? Because realism tells the bitterest truths that not everyone wants to hear. For in foreign policy circles, as in other fields of human endeavor, people often prefer to deceive themselves. Let me define what realism means to me.
First of all, realism is a sensibility, a set of values, not a specific guide as to what to do in each and every crisis. Realism is a way of thinking, not a set of instructions as to what to think. It doesn't prevent you from making mistakes. This makes realism more an art than a science. That's why some of the best practitioners of realism in recent memory -- former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III -- never distinguished themselves as writers or philosophers. They were just practical men who had a knack for what made sense in foreign policy and what did not. And even they made mistakes. You can be an intellectual who has read all the books on realism and be an utter disaster in government, just as you could be a lawyer who has never read one book on realism and be a good secretary of state. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unique because he was both: an intellectual realist and a successful statesman. But successful statesmen, intellectual or not, must inculcate a set of beliefs that can be defined by what may be called the Realist Creed:
Order Comes Before Freedom. That's right. Americans may think freedom is the most important political value, but realists know that without order there can be no freedom for anyone. For if anarchy reigns and no one is in charge, freedom is worthless since life is cheap. Americans sometimes forget this basic rule of nature since they have taken order for granted -- because they always had it, a gift of the English political and philosophical tradition. But many places do not have it. That is why when dictators are overthrown, realists get nervous: They know that because stable democracy is not assured as a replacement, they rightly ask, Who will rule? Even tyranny is better than anarchy. To wit, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was more humane than Iraq under no one -- that is, in a state of sectarian war.
Work With the Material at Hand. In other words, you can't just go around the world toppling regimes you don't like because they do not adhere to the same human rights standards as you do, or because their leaders are corrupt or unenlightened, or because they are not democrats. You must work with what there is in every country. Yes, there might be foreign leaders so averse to your country's interests that it will necessitate war or sanctions on your part; but such instances will be relatively rare. When it comes to foreign rulers, realists revel in bad choices; idealists often mistakenly assume that there should be good ones.
Think Tragically in Order to Avoid Tragedy. Pessimism has more value than misplaced optimism. Because so many regimes around the world are difficult or are in difficult straits, realists know that they must always be thinking about what could go wrong. Foreign policy is like life: The things you worry about happening often turn out all right, precisely because you worried about them and took protective measures accordingly; it is the things you don't worry about and that happen unexpectedly that cause disaster. Realists are good worriers.
Every Problem Does Not Have a Solution. It is a particular conceit that every problem is solvable. It isn't. Mayhem and human rights violations abound, even as the United States cannot intervene everywhere or take foreign policy positions that will necessarily help. That's why realists are comfortable doing little or nothing in certain instances, even as they feel just as bad as idealists about heartrending situations.
Interests Come Before Values. A nation such as the United States has interests in secure sea lines of communication, access to energy, a soft dominance in the Western Hemisphere and a favorable balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere. These are amoral concerns that, while not necessarily in conflict with liberal values, operate in a different category from them. If Arab dictatorships will better secure safe sea lanes in and out of energy-producing areas than would chaotic democracies, realists will opt for dictatorship, knowing that it is a tragic yet necessary decision.
American Power Is Limited. The United States cannot intervene everywhere or even in most places. Precisely because America is a global power, it must try to avoid getting bogged down in any one particular place. The United States can defend treaty and de facto allies with its naval, air and cyber power. It can infiltrate communications networks the world over. It can, in short, do a lot of things. But it cannot set to rights complex Islamic societies in deep turmoil. So another thing realists are good at -- and comfortable with -- is disappointing people. In fact, one might say that foreign policy at its best is often about disappointing people, not always creating opportunities so much as keeping even worse things from happening.
Passion and Good Policy Often Don't Go Together. Foreign policy requires practitioners among whom the blood runs cold. While loud voices abound about doing something, the person in charge must quietly ask himself or herself, If I do this, what will happen two steps down the road, three steps down the road, and so forth? For passion can easily flip: Those screaming the loudest for intervention today can be the same ones calling your intervention flawed or insufficient after you have embarked on the fateful enterprise.
Reading this list, you might think that realism is immoral. That would be wrong. Rather, realism is imbued with a hard morality of best possible outcomes under the circumstances rather than a soft morality of good intentions. For there is a big difference between being moral and moralistic: The former celebrates difficult choices and the consequences that follow, while the latter abjures them. Realism is a hard road. The policymaker who lives by its dictums will often be rebuked while in office and fondly recalled as a statesman in the years and decades following. Look at George H.W. Bush. But foreign policy realists who have served in high office, I suspect, are more comfortable with the kind of loneliness that comes with rebuke than some of their idealist counterparts. Loneliness is normal for the best policymakers; it is the craving for the adoring crowd that is dangerous.
Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, and author of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific.
Stratfor: STrategic Reversal: US, Iran, and the Middle East
Reply #602 on:
November 24, 2014, 05:00:19 PM »
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
November 24, 2014 | 1114 Print Text Size
Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East
Editor's Note: With negotiators reportedly extending the Iranian nuclear talks by seven months — with a basic agreement anticipated by March 1, 2015, and a final, comprehensive pact by July — the talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany will remain a geopolitical focal point in 2015. Stratfor founder and Chairman George Friedman predicted this outcome in Chapter 7 of his 2011 book, The Next Decade. To give our subscribers a more comprehensive look at the geopolitical realities that produced the current state of affairs and that will continue to steer the detente process, Stratfor republishes this chapter in its entirety.
Beyond the special case of Israel, the area between the eastern Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush remains the current focus of U.S. policy. As we've noted, the United States has three principal interests there: to maintain a regional balance of power; to make certain that the flow of oil is not interrupted; and to defeat the Islamist groups centered there that threaten the United States. Any step the United States takes to address any one of these objectives must take into account the other two, which significantly increases the degree of difficulty for achieving even one.
Adding to this challenge is that of maintaining the balance of power in three regions of the area: the Arabs and the Israelis, the Indians and the Pakistanis, and the Iraqis and the Iranians. Each of these balances is in disarray, but the most crucial one, that between the Iranians and the Iraqis, collapsed completely with the disintegration of the Iraqi state and military after the U.S. invasion of 2003. The distortion of the India-Pakistan balance is not far behind, as the war in Afghanistan continues to destabilize Pakistan.
As we saw in the last chapter, the weakness of the Arab side has created a situation in which the Israelis no longer have to concern themselves with their opponents' reactions. In the decades ahead, the Israelis will try to take advantage of this to create new realities on the ground, while the United States, in keeping with its search for strategic balance, will try to limit Israeli moves.
The Indo-Pakistani balance is being destabilized in Afghanistan, a complex war zone where American troops are pursuing two competing goals, at least as stated officially. The first is to prevent al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations; the second is to create a stable democratic government. But denying terrorists a haven in Afghanistan achieves little, because groups following al Qaeda's principles (al Qaeda prime, the group built around Osama bin Laden, is no longer fully functioning) can grow anywhere, from Yemen to Cleveland. This is an especially significant factor when the attempt to disrupt al Qaeda requires destabilizing the country, training the incipient Afghanistan army, managing the police force of Afghan recruits, and intruding into Afghan politics. There is no way to effectively stabilize a country in which you have to play such an intrusive role.
Unscrambling this complexity begins with recognizing that the United States has no vital interest in the kind of government Afghanistan develops, and that once again the president cannot allow counter-terrorism to be a primary force in shaping national strategy.
But the more fundamental recognition necessary for ensuring balance over the next ten years is that Afghanistan and Pakistan are in fact one entity, both sharing various ethnic groups and tribes, with the political border between them meaning very little. The combined population of these two countries is over 200 million people, and the United States, with only about 100,000 troops in the region, is never going to be able to impose its will directly and establish order to its liking.
Moreover, the primary strategic issue is not actually Afghanistan but Pakistan, and the truly significant balance of power in the region is actually that between Pakistan and India. Ever since independence, these two countries partitioned from the same portion of the British Empire have maintained uneasy and sometimes violent relations. Both are nuclear powers, and they are obsessed with each other. While India is the stronger, Pakistan has the more defensible terrain, although its heartland is more exposed to India. Still, the two have been kept in static opposition — which is just where the United States wants them.
Obviously, the challenges inherent in maintaining this complex balance over the next ten years are enormous. To the extent that Pakistan disintegrates under U.S. pressure to help fight al Qaeda and to cooperate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the standoff with India will fail, leaving India the preeminent power in the region. The war in Afghanistan must inevitably spread to Pakistan, triggering internal struggles that can potentially weaken the Pakistani state. This is not certain, but it is too possible to dismiss. With no significant enemies other than the Chinese, who are sequestered on the other side of the Himalayas, India would be free to use its resources to try to dominate the Indian Ocean basin, and it would very likely increase its navy to do so. A triumphant India would obliterate the balance the United States so greatly desires, and thus the issue of India is actually far more salient than the issues of terrorism or nation-building in Afghanistan.
That is why over the next ten years the primary American strategy in this region must be to help create a strong and viable Pakistan. The most significant step in that direction would be to relieve pressure on Pakistan by ending the war in Afghanistan. The specific ideology of the Pakistani government doesn't really matter, and the United States can't impose its views on Pakistan anyway.
Strengthening Pakistan will not only help restore the balance with India, it will restore Pakistan as a foil for Afghanistan as well. In both these Muslim countries there are many diverging groups and interests, and the United States cannot manage their internal arrangements. It can, however, follow the same strategy that was selected after the fall of the Soviet Union: it can allow the natural balance that existed prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to return, to the extent possible. The United States can then spend its resources helping to build a strong Pakistani army to hold the situation together.
Jihadist forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan will probably reemerge, but they are just as likely to do so with the United States bogged down in Afghanistan as with the U.S. gone. The war simply has no impact on this dynamic. There is a slight chance that a Pakistani military, with the incentive of U.S. support, might be somewhat more successful in suppressing the terrorists, but this is uncertain and ultimately unimportant. Once again, the key objective going forward is maintaining the Indo-Pakistani balance of power.
As in the case of stepping back from Israel, the president will not be able to express his strategy for dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India openly. Certainly there will be no way for the United States to appear triumphant, and the Afghan war will be resolved much as Vietnam was, through a negotiated peace agreement that allows the insurgent forces — in this case the Taliban — to take control. A stronger Pakistani army will have no interest in crushing the Taliban but will settle for controlling it. The Pakistani state will survive, which will balance India, thus allowing the United States to focus on other balance points within the region.
The Region's Heartland: Iran and Iraq
The balance of power between Iran and Iraq remained intact until 2003, when the United States invasion destroyed both Iraq's government and army. Since then the primary force that has kept the Iranians in check has been the United States. But the United States has announced that it intends to withdraw its forces from Iraq, which, given the state of the Iraqi government and military, will leave Iran the dominant power in the Persian Gulf. This poses a fundamental challenge both for American strategy and the extremely complex region. Consider the alliances that might occur absent the United States.
Iraq's population is about 30 million. Saudi Arabia's population is about 27 million. The entire Arabian Peninsula's population is about 70 million, but that is divided among multiple nations, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The latter has about one third of this population, and is far away from the vulnerable Saudi Arabian oil fields. In contrast, Iran alone has a population of 70 million. Turkey has a population of about 70 million. In the broadest sense, these figures and how these populations combine into potential alliances will define the geopolitical reality of the Persian Gulf region going forward. Saudi Arabia's population — and wealth — combined with Iraq's population can counterbalance either Iran or Turkey, but not both. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, it was Saudi Arabia's support for Iraq that led to whatever success that country enjoyed.
While Turkey is a rising power with a large population, it is still a limited power, unable to project its influence as far as the Persian Gulf. It can press Iraq and Iran in the north, diverting their attention from the gulf, but it can't directly intervene to protect the Arabian oil fields. Moreover, the stability of Iraq, such as it is, is very much in Iran's hands. Iran might not be able to impose a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad, but it has the power to destabilize Baghdad at will.
With Iraq essentially neutralized, its 30 million people fighting each other rather than counterbalancing anyone, Iran is for the first time in centuries free from significant external threat from its neighbors. The Iranian-Turkish border is extremely mountainous, making offensive military operations there difficult. To the north, Iran is buffered from Russian power by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and in the northeast by Turkmenistan. To the east lie Afghanistan and Pakistan, both in chaos. If the United States withdraws from Iraq, Iran will be free from an immediate threat from that enormous power as well. Thus Iran is, at least for the time being, in an extraordinary position, secure from overland incursions and free to explore to the southwest.
With Iraq in shambles, the nations of the Arabian Peninsula could not resist Iran even if they acted in concert. Bear in mind that nuclear weapons are not relevant to this reality. Iran would still be the dominant Persian Gulf power even if its nuclear weapons were destroyed. Indeed, a strike solely on Iran's nuclear facilities could prove highly counterproductive, causing Iran to respond in unpleasant ways. While Iran cannot impose its own government on Iraq, it could, if provoked, block any other government from emerging by creating chaos there, even while U.S. forces are still on the ground, trapped in a new round of internal warfare but with a smaller number of troops available.
Iran's ultimate response to a strike on its nuclear facilities would be to try to block the Strait of Hormuz, where about 45 percent of the world's exported seaborne oil flows through a narrow channel. Iran has anti-ship missiles and, more important, mines. If Iran mined the strait and the United States could not clear that waterway to a reasonable degree of confidence, the supply line could be closed. This would cause oil prices to spike dramatically and would certainly abort the global economic recovery.
Any isolated attack on Iran's nuclear facilities — the kind of attack that Israel might undertake by itself — would be self-defeating, making Iran more dangerous than ever. The only way to neutralize those facilities without incurring collateral damage is to attack Iran's naval capability as well, and to use air power to diminish Iran's conventional capability. Such an attack would take months (if it were to target Iran's army), and its effectiveness, like that of all air warfare, is uncertain.
For the United States to achieve its strategic goals in the region, it must find a way to counterbalance Iran without maintaining its current deployment (already reduced to 50,000 troops) in Iraq and without actually increasing the military power devoted to the region. A major air campaign against Iran is not a desirable prospect; nor can the United States count on the reemergence of Iraqi power as a counterweight, because Iran would never allow it. The United States has to withdraw from Iraq in order to manage its other strategic interests. But coupled with this withdrawal, it must think radical thoughts.
In the next decade, the most desirable option with Iran is going to be delivered through a move that now seems inconceivable. It is the option chosen by Roosevelt and Nixon when they faced seemingly impossible strategic situations: the creation of alliances with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats. Roosevelt allied the United States with Stalinist Russia, and Nixon aligned with Maoist China, each to block a third power that was seen as more dangerous. In both cases, there was intense ideological rivalry between the new ally and the United States, one that many regarded as extreme and utterly inflexible. Nevertheless, when the United States faced unacceptable alternatives, strategic interest overcame moral revulsion on both sides. The alternative for Roosevelt was a German victory in World War II. For Nixon, it was the Soviets using American weakness caused by the Vietnam War to change the global balance of power.
Conditions on the ground put the United States in a similar position today vis-a-vis Iran. These countries despise each other. Neither can easily destroy the other, and, truth be told, they have some interests in common. In simple terms, the American president, in order to achieve his strategic goals, must seek accommodation with Iran.
The seemingly impossible strategic situation driving the United States to this gesture is, as we've discussed, the need to maintain the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, and to achieve this at a time when the country must reduce the forces devoted to this part of the world.
The principal reason that Iran might accede to a deal is that it sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. Indeed, in less than ten years, Iran has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders. Iran's primary strategic interest is regime survival. It must avoid a crushing U.S. intervention while guaranteeing that Iraq never again becomes a threat. Meanwhile, Iran must increase its authority within the Muslim world against the Sunni Muslims who rival and sometimes threaten it.
In trying to imagine a U.S.-Iranian detente, consider the overlaps in these countries' goals. The United States is in a war against some — but not all — Sunnis, and these Sunnis are also the enemies of Shiite Iran. Iran does not want U.S. troops along its eastern and western borders. (In point of fact, the United States does not want to be there either.) Just as the United States wants to see oil continue to flow freely through Hormuz, Iran wants to profit from that flow, not interrupt it. Finally, the Iranians understand that the United States alone poses the greatest threat to their security: solve the American problem and regime survival is assured. The United States understands, or should, that resurrecting the Iraqi counterweight to Iran is simply not an option in the short term. Unless the United States wants to make a huge, long-term commitment of ground forces in Iraq, which it clearly does not, the obvious solution to its problem in the region is to make an accommodation with Iran.
The major threat that might arise from this strategy of accommodation would be that Iran oversteps its bounds and attempts to occupy the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf directly. Given the logistical limitations of the Iranian army, this would be difficult. Also given that it would bring a rapid American intervention, such aggressive action on the part of the Iranians would be pointless and self-defeating. Iran is already the dominant power in the region, and the United States has no need to block indirect Iranian influence over its neighbors. Aspects of Iran's influence would range from financial participation in regional projects to significant influence over OPEC quotas to a degree of influence in the internal policies of the Arabian countries. Merely by showing a modicum of restraint, Iranians could gain unquestioned preeminence, and economic advantage, while seeing their oil find its way to the market. They could also see substantial investment begin to flow into their economy once more.
Even with an understanding with the United States, Iranian domination of the region would have limits. Iran would enjoy a sphere of influence dependent on its alignment with the United States on other issues, which means not crossing any line that would trigger direct U.S. intervention. Over time, the growth of Iranian power within the limits of such clear understandings would benefit both the United States and Iran. Like the arrangements with Stalin and Mao, this U.S.-Iranian alliance would be distasteful yet necessary, but also temporary.
The great losers in this alliance, of course, would be the Sunnis in the Arabian Peninsula, including the House of Saud. Without Iraq, they are incapable of defending themselves, and as long as the oil flows and no single power directly controls the entire region, the United States has no long-term interest in their economic and political well-being. Thus a U.S.-Iranian entente would also redefine the historic relationship of the United States with the Saudis. The Saudis will have to look at the United States as a guarantor of its interests while trying to reach some political accommodation with Iran. The geopolitical dynamic of the Persian Gulf would be transformed for everyone.
The Israelis too would be threatened, although not as much as the Saudis and other principalities on the Persian Gulf. Over the years, Iran's anti-Israeli rhetoric has been extreme, but its actions have been cautious. Iran has played a waiting game, using rhetoric to cover inaction. In the end, the Israelis would be trapped by the American decision. Israel lacks the conventional capability for the kind of extensive air campaign needed to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. Certainly it lacks the military might to shape the geopolitical alignments of the Persian Gulf region. Moreover, an Iran presented with its dream of a secure western border and domination of the Persian Gulf could become quite conciliatory. Compared to such opportunities, Israel for them is a minor, distant, and symbolic issue.
Until now, the Israelis still had the potential option of striking Iran unilaterally, in hopes of generating an Iranian response in the Strait of Hormuz, thereby drawing the United States into the conflict. Should the Americans and Iranians move toward an understanding, Israel would no longer have such sway over U.S. policy. An Israeli strike might trigger an entirely unwelcome American response rather than the chain reaction that Israel once could have hoped for.
The greatest shock of a U.S.-Iranian entente would be political, on both sides. During World War II, the U.S.-Soviet agreement shocked Americans deeply (Soviets less so, because they had already absorbed Stalin's prewar nonaggression pact with Hitler). The Nixon-Mao entente, seen as utterly unthinkable at the time, shocked all sides. Once it happened, however, it turned out to be utterly thinkable, even manageable.
When Roosevelt made his arrangement with Stalin, he was politically vulnerable to his right wing, the more extreme elements of which already regarded him as a socialist favorably inclined to the Soviets. Nixon, as a right-wing opponent of communism, had an easier time. Obama will be in Roosevelt's position, without the overwhelming threat of a comparatively much greater evil — that is, Nazi Germany.
Obama's political standing would be enhanced by an air strike more than by a cynical deal. An accommodation with Iran will be particularly difficult for him because it will be seen as an example of weakness rather than of ruthlessness and cunning. Iranian president Ahmadinejad will have a much easier time selling such an arrangement to his people. But set against the options — a nuclear Iran, extended air strikes with all attendant consequences, the long-term, multidivisional, highly undesirable presence of American forces in Iraq — this alliance seems perfectly reasonable.
Nixon and China showed that major diplomatic shifts can take place quite suddenly. There is often a long period of back-channel negotiations, followed by a breakthrough driven either by changing circumstances or by skillful negotiations.
The current president will need considerable political craft to position the alliance as an aid to the war on al Qaeda, making it clear that Shiite-dominated Iran is as hostile to the Sunnis as it is to Americans. He will be opposed by two powerful lobbies in this, the Saudis and the Israelis. Israel will be outraged by the maneuver, but the Saudis will be terrified, which is one of the maneuver's great advantages, increasing American traction over its policies. The Israelis can in many ways be handled more easily, simply because the Israeli military and intelligence services have long seen the Iranians as occasional allies against Arab threats, even as the Iranians were supporting Hezbollah against Israel. They have had a complex relationship over the last thirty years. The Saudis will condemn this move, but the pressure it places on the Arab world would be attractive to Israel. Even so, the American Jewish community is not as sophisticated or cynical as Israel in these matters, and its members will be vocal. Even more difficult to manage will be the Saudi lobby, backed as it is by American companies that do business in the kingdom.
There will be several advantages to the United States. First, without fundamentally threatening Israeli interests, the move will demonstrate that the United States is not controlled by Israel. Second, it will put a generally unpopular country, Saudi Arabia — a state that has been accustomed to having its way in Washington — on notice that the United States has other options. For their part, the Saudis have nowhere to go, and they will cling to whatever guarantees the United States provides them in the face of an American-Iranian entente.
Recalling thirty years of hostilities with Iran, the American public will be outraged. The president will have to frame his maneuver by offering rhetoric about protecting the homeland against the greater threat. He will of course use China as an example of successful reconciliation with the irreconcilable.
The president will have to deal with the swirling public battles of foreign lobbies and make the case for the entente. But he will ultimately have to maintain his moral bearings, remembering that in the end, Iran is not America's friend any more than Stalin and Mao were.
If ever there was a need for secret understandings secretly arrived at, this is it, and much of this arrangement will remain unspoken. Neither country will want to incur the internal political damage from excessive public meetings and handshakes. But in the end, the United States needs to exit from the trap it is in, and Iran has to avoid a real confrontation with the United States.
Iran is an inherently defensive country. It is not strong enough to be either the foundation of American policy in the region or the real long-term issue. Its population is concentrated in the mountains that ring its borders, while much of the center of the country is minimally or completely uninhabitable. Iran can project power under certain special conditions, such as those that obtain at the moment, but in the long run it is either a victim of outside powers or isolated.
An alliance with the United States will temporarily give Iran the upper hand in relations with the Arabs, but within a matter of years the United States will have to reassert a balance of power. Pakistan is unable to extend its influence westward. Israel is much too small and distant to counterbalance Iran. The Arabian Peninsula is too fragmented, and the duplicity of the United States in encouraging it to increase its arms is too obvious to be an alternative counterweight. A more realistic alternative is to encourage Russia to extend its influence to the Iranian border. This might happen anyway, but as we will see, that would produce major problems elsewhere.
The only country capable of being a counterbalance to Iran and a potential long-term power in the region is Turkey, and it will achieve that status within the next ten years regardless of what the United States does. Turkey has the seventeenth largest economy in the world and the largest in the Middle East. It has the strongest army in the region and, aside from the Russians and possibly the British, probably the strongest army in Europe. Like most countries in the Muslim world, it is currently divided between secularists and Islamists within its own borders. But their struggle is far more restrained than what is going on in other parts of the Muslim world.
Iranian domination of the Arabian Peninsula is not in Turkey's interest because Turkey has its own appetite for the region's oil, reducing its dependency on Russian oil. Also, Turkey does not want Iran to become more powerful than itself. And while Iran has a small Kurdish population, southeastern Turkey is home to an extremely large number of Kurds, a fact that Iran can exploit. Regional and global powers have been using support for the Kurds to put pressure on or destabilize Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. It is an old game and a constant vulnerability.
In the course of the next decade the Iranians will have to divert major resources in order to deal with Turkey. Meanwhile, the Arab world will be looking for a champion against Shiite Iran, and despite the bitter history of Turkish power in the Arab world during the Ottoman Empire, Sunni Turkey is the best bet.
In the next ten years, the United States must make certain that Turkey does not become hostile to American interests and that Iran and Turkey do not form an alliance for the domination and division of the Arab world. The more Turkey and Iran fear the United States, the greater the likelihood that this will happen. The Iranians will be assuaged in the short run by their entente with the Americans, but they will be fully aware that this is an alliance of convenience, not a long-term friendship. It is the Turks who are open to a longer-term alignment with the United States, and Turkey can be valuable to the United States in other places, particularly in the Balkans and the Caucasus, where it serves as a block to Russian aspirations.
As long as the United States maintains the basic terms of its agreement with Iran, Iran will represent a threat to Turkey. Whatever the inclinations of the Turks, they will have to protect themselves, and to do that, they must work to undermine Iranian power in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arab countries to the north of the peninsula — Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. They will engage in this not only to limit Iran but also to improve their access to the oil to their south, both because they will need that oil and because they will want to profit from it.
As Turkey and Iran compete in the next decade, Israel and Pakistan will be concerned with local balances of power. In the long run, Turkey cannot be contained by Iran. Turkey is by far the more dynamic country economically, and therefore it can support a more sophisticated military. More important, whereas Iran has geographically limited regional options, Turkey reaches into the Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, and ultimately the Mediterranean and North Africa, which provides opportunities and allies denied the Iranians. Iran has never been a significant naval power since antiquity, and because of the location of its ports, it can never really be one in the future. Turkey, in contrast, has frequently been the dominant power in the Mediterranean and will be so again. Over the next decade we will see the beginning of Turkey's rise to dominance in the region. It is interesting to note that while we can't think of the century without Turkey playing an extremely important role, this decade will be one of preparation. Turkey will have to come to terms with its domestic conflicts and grow its economy. The cautious foreign policy Turkey has followed recently will continue. It is not going to plunge into conflicts and therefore will influence but not define the region. The United States must take a long-term view of Turkey and avoid pressure that could undermine its development.
As a solution to the complex problems of the Middle East, the American president must choose a temporary understanding with Iran that gives Iran what it wants, that gives the United States room to withdraw, and that is also a foundation for the relationship of mutual hostility to the Sunni fundamentalists. In other words, the president must put the Arabian Peninsula inside the Iranians' sphere of influence while limiting their direct controls, and while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage.
This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it. Whether it is shaped or not, the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey. A powerful Turkey would counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilizing the Arabian Peninsula. In due course the Turks will begin to react by challenging the Iranians, and thus the central balance of power will be resurrected, stabilizing the region. This will create a new regional balance of power. But that is not for this decade.
I am arguing that this is a preferred policy option given the circumstances. But I am also arguing that this is the most logical outcome. The alternatives are unacceptable to both sides; there is too much risk. And when the alternatives are undesirable, what remains — however preposterous it appears — is the most likely outcome.
To see how that would affect wider circles of power and their balance, we turn to the next concern, the balance between Europe and Russia.
Excerpt from the book, The Next Decade, by George Friedman, published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Read more: Strategic Reversal: The United States, Iran, and the Middle East | Stratfor
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WSJ: The lessons of Nazi romance with Islam for US
Reply #603 on:
November 28, 2014, 04:38:57 PM »
The Nazi Romance With Islam Has Some Lessons for the United States
Two new important histories look at Hitler’s fascination with Islam and Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey
By David Mikics|November 24, 2014 12:00 AM|Comments: 46
Both Hitler and Himmler had a soft spot for Islam. Hitler several times fantasized that, if the Saracens had not been stopped at the Battle of Tours, Islam would have spread through the European continent—and that would have been a good thing, since “Jewish Christianity” wouldn’t have gone on to poison Europe. Christianity doted on weakness and suffering, while Islam extolled strength, Hitler believed. Himmler in a January 1944 speech called Islam “a practical and attractive religion for soldiers,” with its promise of paradise and beautiful women for brave martyrs after their death. “This is the kind of language a soldier understands,” Himmler gushed.
Surely, the Nazi leaders thought, Muslims would see that the Germans were their blood brothers: loyal, iron-willed, and most important, convinced that Jews were the evil that most plagued the world. “Do you recognize him, the fat, curly-haired Jew who deceives and rules the whole world and who steals the land of the Arabs?” demanded one of the Nazi pamphlets dropped over North Africa (a million copies of it were printed). “The Jew,” the pamphlet explained, was the evil King Dajjal from Islamic tradition, who in the world’s final days was supposed to lead 70,000 Jews from Isfahan in apocalyptic battle against Isa—often identified with Jesus, but according to the Reich Propaganda Ministry none other than Hitler himself. Germany produced reams of leaflets like this one, often quoting the Quran on the subject of Jewish treachery.
It is not surprising, then, that there are those today who draw a direct line between modern Jew-hatred in the Islamic world and the Nazis. A poster currently at Columbus Circle’s subway entrance proclaims loudly that “Jew-hatred is in the Quran.” The poster features a photograph of Hitler with the notoriously anti-Jewish Mufti al-Husaini of Palestine, who is erroneously labeled “the leader of the Muslim world.” The truth is considerably more complex. The mufti made himself useful to the Nazis as a propagandist, but he had little influence in most Muslim regions. Few Muslims believed Nazi claims that Hitler was the protector of Islam, much less the Twelfth Imam, as one Reich pamphlet suggested.
The Nazis’ anti-Jewish propaganda no doubt attracted many Muslims, as historian Jeffrey Herf has documented, but they balked at believing that Hitler would be their savior or liberator. Instead, they sensed correctly that the Nazis wanted Muslims to fight and die for Germany. As Rommel approached Cairo, Egyptians started to get nervous. They knew that the Germans were not coming to liberate them, but instead wanted to make the Muslim world part of their own burgeoning empire. In the end, more Muslims wound up fighting for the Allies than for the Axis.
Hitler’s failed effort to put Muslim boots on the ground still stands as the most far-reaching Western attempt to use Islam to win a war. Such is the judgment of David Motadel, the author of a new, authoritative book, Islam and Nazi Germany’s War. Motadel’s detailed and fascinating explanation of how and why the Nazis failed to get Muslims on their side is a must-read for serious students of World War II, and it has an important message as well for our own policy in the Middle East.
To grasp why the Nazis had such high hopes for Muslim collaboration—and why their hopes failed—we need to go back to the great war that made Hitler the fanatical monster he was. One hundred years ago, a few months into World War I, Germany looked like it might be in trouble. The German offensive had failed to break through at Ypres after a month of bloody fighting. The waves of German soldiers stumbling through no-man’s land slowed to a stop. The kaiser’s army was exhausted, and its commanders suddenly realized that the quick Western Front victory they had dreamed of was impossible. Meanwhile, Russia was massing troops around Warsaw, and the tsar had just declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
There was one bright spot, though. On Nov. 11, 1914, the highest religious authority of the Ottoman caliphate, Sheikh al-Islam Ürgüplü Hayri, issued a call for worldwide jihad against Russia, Britain, and France. Suddenly, the Great War was a holy war. Surely, the Germans dreamed, Muslims would join their side en masse and turn the tide of battle.
In the early years of World War I the German Reich caught Islam fever: Muslims became the great Eastern hope against the Entente. Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the German general staff, planned to “awaken the fanaticism of Islam” in the French and British colonies, making the Muslim masses rise up against their European masters. Max von Oppenheim, the German diplomat and orientalist, described Islam as “one of our most important weapons” in his famous position paper of October 1914. Oppenheim wanted to spark a Muslim revolt stretching from India to Morocco that Germany could use for its own purposes. Germany just needed to get the message across, Oppenheim insisted: Russia, Britain, and France were the oppressors of Muslims, whereas the Germans would liberate them.
The German strategy didn’t work. Instead, Britain and France won the game when they capitalized on the Arab uprising against a crumbling Ottoman Empire. T.E. Lawrence, rather than the kaiser, inspired the Arabs. After the war, Britain and France sliced up the Middle East pie between them in the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.
Germany tried once again to mobilize Islam in WWII. Astonishingly, in 1940 Oppenheim, at that point 80 years old, championed the same plan that had failed so badly in the previous war. Even more surprising, Hitler and Himmler warmly embraced the part-Jewish Oppenheim’s idea: They too thought that Islam would help bring about a Nazi triumph.
“German officials would always refer to global Islam, to pan Islam,” Motadel told me over the phone from his home in Cambridge, England, where he is Research Fellow in History at the University of Cambridge’s Gonville and Caius College. The Nazis spoke of the Muslims as a “bloc” that could be “activated” against the British, the French, and the Soviets. Their belief that Islam was monolithic led them to ignore differences of region, sect, and nationality, which helped to ensure the failure of their efforts.
As Motadel documents, those efforts were indeed considerable. Germans sought out imams who would issue fatwas for their side, and they told their soldiers to be especially careful of religious sensibilities when traveling through Muslim territory. They gave special privileges to Muslims who joined the Wehrmacht: The Nazi leadership even allowed them to follow Muslim dietary laws. Astonishingly, German forces in the East permitted Muslims to practice both circumcision and ritual slaughter, proving more liberal on these two issues than many Europeans are today. At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans murdered many Muslims because they were mistaken for Jews: They didn’t realize that Muslims were also circumcised. But Berlin soon corrected the error and cautioned troops in the East to make sure to treat Muslims with respect, since they were Germany’s potential allies. In December 1942 Hitler decided he wanted to recruit all-Muslim units in the Caucasus. He distrusted Georgians and Armenians, but the Muslims, he said, were true soldiers.
The Germans assumed that the Muslim world would naturally flock to the Nazi banner, since Muslims like Germans knew that Jews were the enemy, and since Germany was offering them freedom from France, Britain, and Russia. But for the most part, they were wrong. Muslims only embraced the Nazi cause in places where they were desperate to arm themselves against local persecutors, the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. In most of the Muslim world, Hitler failed to attract a large following.
North Africa was a miserable failure for German recruitment. “230,000 Muslims fought for the Free French against the Axis from North Africa,” Motadel pointed out to me in our interview, far more than those who enlisted with Germany. The Germans had their millions of leaflets, but they were not the only propagandists in the field. “The Free French mobilized them with anti-colonial rhetoric. The British and French were the ruling powers; they had much more control over propaganda.”
The East was much more favorable than North Africa to the German recruitment drive. The Muslims of the Caucasus and the Crimea had many reasons to choose Germany over Stalin’s Soviet Union. “In the East the Muslim population had really suffered under Stalin, economically and religiously,” Motadel remarked to me. They had nothing to lose, they thought, by siding with “Adolf Effendi.” The Crimean Tatars took a notorious place among Germany’s most loyal and ruthless battalions, fighting both in the East and, near the end of the war, in Romania. The Tatars made the wrong choice: Stalin mercilessly deported many of them to his gulags after the war.
In the Balkans many Muslims turned to Germany in the middle of a brutal civil war, fleeing the rampages of the Croatian Ustase. The infamous all-Muslim Handžar battalion of the SS, organized in the Balkans late in the war, committed many atrocities. In Serbian areas, noted one British officer, the Handžar “massacres all civil population without mercy or regard for age or sex.”
The Nazis made sure, with few exceptions, that the Nuremberg laws could be applied only to Jews, not to those other Semites, the Arabs, nor to Turks and Persians—which paradoxically allowed certain communities of Jews in Muslim regions to also survive the Shoah. In Crimea, two puzzled officers of the Wehrmacht, Fritz Donner and Ernst Seifert, reported on “Near Eastern racial groups of a non-Semitic character who, strangely, have adopted the Jewish faith,” while also noting that “a large part of these Jews on the Crimea is of Mohammedan faith.” What to do? In the end the Reich ruled that the Karaites, traditionally seen as a Turkic people, could be spared, while the Krymchaks should be murdered as Jews, though both these Crimean tribes followed Jewish law. In the northern Caucasus, the Nazis decided that the Judeo-Tats, a tiny Torah-observant island in a sea of Muslims, had only their religion in common with Jews. In effect, they became honorary Muslims and were saved from death. The Karaites were close to the Muslim Crimean Tatars, and the Judeo-Tats also had deep ties to their Muslim neighbors. It was their supposed affinity to Islam that saved the lives of these observant Jews. In these cases the Nazi wish to cultivate the Muslim world even affected to a small degree their anti-Semitic policy—to the Jews’ advantage.
Hitler cultivated many parts of the Muslim world, but he was fanatically enthusiastic about only one country: Turkey (the Nazis officially decided in 1936 that the Turks were Aryans). Stefan Ihrig’s brilliant new book Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination demonstrates convincingly that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s conquest of Turkey was the most important model for the Nazis’ remaking of Germany, far more so than Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which is usually cited as Hitler’s main inspiration. Turkey had taken control of its destiny in manly fashion, in proud defiance of the international community—if only Germany would do the same! So argued many on the German right, including Hitler, during the 10 years between Atatürk’s victory and the Nazi seizure of power.
The victorious Entente had vastly curtailed Ottoman territory under the Treaty of Sèvres after WWI, just as the Treaty of Versailles shrank German territory. But the new nation of Turkey threw off the victors’ shackles and, after Mustafa Kemal (later renamed Atatürk) marched from Ankara westward, the Turks won the right to a homeland in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Weimar Republic’s newspapers obsessively celebrated the Turks’ victory and endorsed their claims to the disputed region of Hatay (the Turks’ Alsace-Lorraine), portraying the Turks as more advanced than the Germans, trailblazers on the path to strong nationhood. “If we want to be free, then we will have no choice but to follow the Turkish example in one way or another,” the right-wing military man and journalist Hans Tröbst announced in the newspaper Heimatland in 1923. Nearly every item in Hitler’s playbook can be found in such Weimar-era endorsements of Atatürk: All Turkey had mobilized for the war; strong faith in their leader had saved them.
Ihrig argues that the Turkish treatment of minorities, both under Atatürk and earlier, was the true precursor for Hitler’s murderous policy in the East. Those “bloodsuckers and parasites,” the Greeks and Armenians, had been “eradicated” by the Turks, Tröbst explained in Heimatland. “Gentle measures—that history has always shown—will not do in such cases.” The Turks had achieved “the purification of a nation of its foreign elements on a grand scale.” He added that “Almost all of those of foreign background in the area of combat had to die; their number is not put too low with 500,000.” Here was a chilling endorsement of genocide, and one that surely did not escape Hitler’s eye. Shortly after his articles appeared, Hitler invited Tröbst to give a speech on Turkey to the SA.
From 1923 on, Hitler consistently praised Atatürk in his own speeches as well. Berlin, like Istanbul, was cosmopolitan and decadent. Munich, site of Hitler’s beer-hall putsch, was the place for a German “Ankara government.” When Hitler seized power in 1933 his Völkischer Beobachter cited Atatürk’s victory as the “star in the darkness” that had shone for the beleaguered Nazis in 1923, after the putsch’s failure. Turkey was “proof of what a real man could do”—a man like Atatürk, or Hitler.
The Third Reich produced many idolizing biographies of Atatürk. Six years after the Turkish leader’s death, in late 1944, a delusional Hitler was still dreaming of a postwar alliance between Turkey and Germany. He never got his wish. During the war, Turkey, as a neutral power, kept its distance from the Nazis until it finally declared war against Germany in February 1945.
In Turkey, criticizing Atatürk can still get you three years in jail, though the country’s increasingly unhinged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan broke the law himself last year when he called Atatürk a drunkard. While Erdogan wants to reverse his predecessor’s program for secularizing Turkey, he appears to be imitating Atatürk’s extravagant cult of personality along with his habit of demonizing his enemies. But while Atatürk disdained Hitler’s anti-Semitism, Erdogan is obsessed with Jews. The 2014 Gaza operation, he has remarked, was worse than anything Hitler ever did, and the Israelis have been committing “systematic genocide every day” since 1948. Perhaps if Erdogan had been in power in the 1940s, the Nazis would have found the Muslim ally they so desperately sought.
Weaponizing Islam has often been a temptation for the United States, just as it was for Germany. In its battle against Moscow, Washington recruited Islamic leaders after WWII, most famously Said Ramadan, a major figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States even smiled on Saudi Arabia’s funding of radical Islamist organizations, hoping that religion would serve as a bulwark against Soviet Communism. Then the Muslim Brotherhood killed U.S. ally Anwar Sadat, and its follower Ayman al-Zawahiri became, along with Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida. We supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, until the Mujahedeen turned into the Taliban.
We are still trying to turn the Muslim world to our own purposes, but this time by supporting Shiite against Sunni. In addition to courting Erdogan, President Barack Obama hopes to make use of Iran as a stabilizing regional force. In his most recent personal letter to Ayatollah Khamanei, Obama seems to have made a promise: We will repeal sanctions, fight against ISIS, and preserve the rule of Iran’s client Bashar al Assad as long as Iran agrees to a deal on nuclear weapons. But what will the United States get in return? In the best-case scenario—which is far from assured—Iran’s bomb-making abilities will be hindered by the deal they sign. But even an Iran without the bomb cannot be relied on to make the Middle East less conflict-riven, unless we are aiming at the kind of stability famously mocked by Tacitus: They make a desert and call it peace. Iranian actions speak for themselves: support for Hezbollah, with its hundred thousand weapons aimed at Israel, and support for Assad, who has massacred his people endlessly and thrown massive numbers of them into concentration camps. Anyone who looks at the Syrian defector “Caesar” ’s photographs of the thousands of starved, mutilated bodies produced by Syria’s bloodthirsty optometrist-in-chief, which are now on permanent exhibition at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, a few blocks from the White House that has refused to grasp their meaning, will ask the same question: Don’t these Arab bodies, resembling so exactly the bodies of Jews at Auschwitz, have the same call on our conscience?
One thing is certain: If Khamanei and Rouhani are given a larger role in the Middle East, they will not serve U.S. interests, nor those of the majority of Muslims. They will serve their own interests, which are inimical to ours. We still have not learned the major lesson of 20th-century history so adeptly conveyed by Motadel and Ihrig: Western leaders who try to get Islam on their side through propaganda and favors will be unpleasantly surprised.
Re: US Foreign Policy: 31% approve
Reply #604 on:
November 30, 2014, 05:17:05 PM »
US Foreign Policy, Pearl Harbor attack, May we never forget!
Reply #605 on:
December 07, 2014, 12:22:32 PM »
Happy December 7th everybody. I wonder how long a period FDR meant by "May we never forget!"?
What were the lessons?
Peace comes through strength and deterrence.
There are people and regimes out there who would love to harm us.
Never has this been more true than now.
FDR did not say, may our strength and resolve oscillate with the polling data of current era focus groups!
Washington's Farewell Address, 1796
Reply #606 on:
December 08, 2014, 12:01:51 PM »
"There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
T. Friedman: Vacation is Over
Reply #607 on:
December 24, 2014, 11:50:00 AM »
More than we may realize, the world has been riding a lucky streak since the global financial meltdown in 2008. How so? The years between 2008 and late 2013 were — relatively speaking — a rather benign period of big power politics and geopolitics. This allowed the major economic powers — the United States, the European Union, China, India, Russia, Brazil and Japan — to focus almost exclusively on economic rehabilitation. But now there are strong indications that our vacation from geo-instability is over.
Thomas L. Friedman
Foreign affairs, globalization and technology.
The last time the world witnessed such a steep and sustained drop in oil prices — from 1986 to 1999 — it had some profound political consequences for oil-dependent states and those who depended on their largess. The Soviet empire collapsed; Iran elected a reformist president; Iraq invaded Kuwait; and Yasir Arafat, having lost his Soviet backer and Arab bankers, recognized Israel — to name but a few. Admittedly, other factors were involved in all these events. But, in each case, steep drops in direct or indirect oil revenues played a big role.
If today’s falloff in oil prices is sustained, we’ll also be in for a lot of surprises. Some will have happy endings. Cuba’s decision to bury the hatchet with America had to have been spurred in part by Havana’s fears of losing some or all of the 100,000 barrels of subsidized oil a day it gets from the now cash-strapped Venezuela. Others could be very destabilizing. Today’s world is much more tightly interconnected and interdependent than in the last oil price drop-off, which was before the spread of the Internet. And today’s world has so many more actors — superpowers and superempowered individuals and hackers who can destabilize companies and countries with cyberweapons. See dictionary for “Sony” and “North Korea.”
When I hear President Vladimir Putin of Russia bragging that lower oil revenues won’t affect the Russian people because they are stoic — look what they tolerated in World War II — my reaction is: “Mr. Putin, that was before there was a significant urban middle class in Russia, one you helped to build with trickle-down oil and gas revenues.” A lot more Russians today have gotten used to traveling abroad, owning a car (note Moscow’s traffic jams), consuming Western goods and seeing how the rest of the world lives. Let’s see how stoic they are today. Russia’s former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin was quoted by The Financial Times on Monday as saying, “There will be a fall in living standards. It will be painful. Protest activity will increase.”
The Western sanctions on Putin’s banks, combined with the sudden sharp drop in oil prices and capital flight also triggered by the sanctions, mean that Russia has a dangerous gap between the funds flowing into its economy and what it needs to send out to pay its debts and finance its imports. Putin can’t relieve the pressure without a lifting of Western sanctions. That would require him to reverse his seizure of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine.
If Putin admits his Ukraine adventure was a mistake, he will look incredibly foolish and the long knives will be out for him in the Kremlin. If he doesn’t back down, Russians will pay a huge price. Either way, that system will be stressed with unpredictable spillovers on the global economy. Remember: Russia’s 1998 economic collapse — also triggered by low oil prices and the moratorium it declared on payments to foreign debtors — helped to sink the giant American hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, sparking a near meltdown on Wall Street.
A prolonged drop in oil prices will impact Algeria, Iran and Arab Gulf states, where aging regimes have used high oil prices to increase government salaries to buy quiet from their people during the Arab Spring. Also, in an age when machines and software are ensuring that average is over for workers in developed countries, and everyone needs to be upgrading their skills, what happens to the developing Arab states and Iran, who have used oil money to mask their deficits in knowledge, education and women’s empowerment? Egypt’s military-led government is highly in need of Arab oil money to get through its crisis. A bit of good news: The Islamic State, which depends on oil smuggling, will fail at governing even faster than it already has.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s increasingly tyrannical president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been arresting domestic opponents, is looking like “Vladimir Putin Jr.” Erdogan is a tragic figure because he did much to build Turkey’s economy into a powerhouse. But, today, according to The Financial Times, Turkey now “needs more than $200 billion of foreign financing a year, more than a quarter of gross domestic product,
to maintain its current level of growth.” There will be less Arab and Russian oil money for that and, last week, with Erdogan being criticized by the European Union (a big source of investment income) for arresting his opponents, the Turkish lira hit a low against the dollar. Watch that space.
High oil prices covered many sins and fostered many sins. If they stay low again for long, a lot of leaders will have to pay retail for their crazy politics, not wholesale. The political and geopolitical fallouts will be varied — good and bad — but fallout aplenty there will be.
POTH surprised-- DBMA forum is right-- the free market saves US once again
Reply #608 on:
December 25, 2014, 03:37:00 PM »
There are many threads this could go in but I put it here because of the multi-faceted implications:
Leslie Gelb turns on Obama
Reply #609 on:
January 16, 2015, 12:44:15 PM »
Foreign policy guru Leslie Gelb is no conservative -- he's the former assistant secretary of state for Jimmy Carter. Early on, Gelb championed Barack Obama's administration and the change it brought from the George W. Bush years. But now, the hope has faded. Late to the party, Gelb writes, "The failure of Obama or Biden to show up in Paris made clear that most of the president's team can't be trusted to conduct U.S national security policy and must be replaced -- at once. Here's why America's failure to be represented at the Paris unity march was so profoundly disturbing. It wasn't just because President Obama's or Vice President Biden's absence was a horrendous gaffe. More than this, it demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It's simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is -- with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War. Mr. Obama will have to excuse most of his inner core, especially in the White House." But even that won't be enough if Obama remains his old, stubborn self. Gelb adds, "In the end, making the national security system work comes down to one factor, one man -- Barack Obama." Indeed it does, and that's why we're in bad shape until at least 2017. Then again, John Kerry took James Taylor to France to sing "You've got a friend," so that should fix it.
Noonan: America's Strategy Deficit
Reply #610 on:
January 29, 2015, 11:45:31 PM »
Jan. 29, 2015 6:24 p.m. ET
Something is going on here.
On Tuesday retired Gen. James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command (2010-13) told the Senate Armed Services Committee of his unhappiness at the current conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He said the U.S. is not “adapting to changed circumstances” in the Mideast and must “come out now from our reactive crouch.” Washington needs a “refreshed national strategy”; the White House needs to stop being consumed by specific, daily occurrences that leave it “reacting” to events as if they were isolated and unconnected. He suggested deep bumbling: “Notifying the enemy in advance of our withdrawal dates” and declaring “certain capabilities” off the table is no way to operate.
Sitting beside him was Gen. Jack Keane, also a respected retired four-star, and a former Army vice chief of staff, who said al Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years” and is “beginning to dominate multiple countries.” He called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation” and said we are failing to meet it.
The same day the generals testified, Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast reported that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a retired director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told a Washington conference: “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists.” The audience of military and intelligence professionals applauded. Officials, he continued, are “paralyzed” by the complexity of the problems connected to militant Islam, and so do little, reasoning that “passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies.”
These statements come on the heels of the criticisms from President Obama’s own former secretaries of defense. Robert Gates, in “Duty,” published in January 2014, wrote of a White House-centric foreign policy developed by aides and staffers who are too green or too merely political. One day in a meeting the thought occurred that Mr. Obama “doesn’t trust” the military, “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his.” That’s pretty damning. Leon Panetta , in his 2014 memoir, “Worthy Fights,” said Mr. Obama ”avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
No one thinks this administration is the A Team when it comes to foreign affairs, but this is unprecedented push-back from top military and intelligence players. They are fed up, they’re less afraid, they’re retired, and they’re speaking out. We are going to be seeing more of this kind of criticism, not less.
On Thursday came the testimony of three former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger (1973-77), George Shultz (1982-89) and Madeleine Albright (1997-2001). Senators asked them to think aloud about what America’s national-security strategy should be, what approaches are appropriate to the moment. It was good to hear serious, not-green, not-merely-political people give a sense of the big picture. Their comments formed a kind of bookend to the generals’ criticisms.
The seemed to be in agreement on these points:
We are living through a moment of monumental world change.
Old orders are collapsing while any new stability has yet to emerge.
When you’re in uncharted waters your boat must be strong.
If America attempts to disengage from this dangerous world it will only make all the turmoil worse.
Mr. Kissinger observed that in the Mideast, multiple upheavals are unfolding simultaneously—within states, between states, between ethnic and religious groups. Conflicts often merge and produce such a phenomenon as the Islamic State, which in the name of the caliphate is creating a power base to undo all existing patterns.
Mr. Shultz said we are seeing an attack on the state system and the rise of a “different view of how the world should work.” What’s concerning is “the scope of it.”
Mr. Kissinger: “We haven’t faced such diverse crises since the end of the Second World War.” The U.S. is in “a paradoxical situation” in that “by any standard of national capacity . . . we can shape international relations,” but the complexity of the present moment is daunting. The Cold War was more dangerous, but the world we face now is more complicated.
How to proceed in creating a helpful and constructive U.S. posture?
Mr. Shultz said his attitude when secretary of state was, “If you want me in on the landing, include me in the takeoff.” Communication and consensus building between the administration and Congress is key. He added: “The government seems to have forgotten about the idea of ‘execution.’ ” It’s not enough that you say something, you have to do it, make all the pieces work.
When you make a decision, he went on, “stick with it.” Be careful with words. Never make a threat or draw a line you can’t or won’t make good on.
In negotiations, don’t waste time wondering what the other side will accept, keep your eye on what you can and work from there.
Keep the U.S. military strong, peerless, pertinent to current challenges.
Proceed to negotiations with your agenda clear and your strength unquestionable.
Mr. Kissinger: “In our national experience . . . we have trouble doing a national strategy” because we have been secure behind two big oceans. We see ourselves as a people who respond to immediate, specific challenges and then go home. But foreign policy today is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world.
America plays the role of “stabilizer.” But it must agree on its vision before it can move forward on making it reality. There are questions that we must as a nation answer:
As we look at the world, what is it we seek to prevent? What do we seek to achieve? What can we prevent or achieve only if supported by an alliance? What values do we seek to advance? “This will require public debate.”
All agreed the cost-cutting burdens and demands on defense spending forced by the sequester must be stopped. National defense “should have a strategy-driven budget, not a budget-driven strategy,” said Mr. Kissinger.
He added that in the five wars since World War II, the U.S. began with “great enthusiasm” and had “great national difficulty” in ending them. In the last two, “withdrawal became the principal definition of strategy.” We must avoid that in the future. “We have to know the objective at the start and develop a strategy to achieve it.”
Does the U.S. military have enough to do what we must do?
“It’s not adequate to deal with all the challenges I see,” said Mr. Kissinger, “or the commitments into which we may be moving.”
Sequestration is “legislative insanity” said Mr. Shultz. “You have to get rid of it.”
Both made a point of warning against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which Mr. Shultz called “those awful things.” The Hiroshima bomb, he said, was a plaything compared with the killing power of modern nuclear weapons. A nuclear device detonated in Washington would “wipe out” the area. Previous progress on and attention to nuclear proliferation has, he said, been “derailed.”
So we need a strategy, and maybe more than one. We need to know what we’re doing and why. After this week with the retired generals and the former secretaries, the message is: Awake. See the world’s facts as they are. Make a plan.
Re: US Foreign Policy - ISIS
Reply #611 on:
February 04, 2015, 09:28:10 AM »
King of Jordan furious over ISIS
Krauthammer: Congress Should Declare War On The Islamic State
Pentagon intelligence lists Islamic State as threat to US:
President Obama, ISIS is / is not the JV team of terrorists, pick your quote:
Previously from this administration: Iraq was my greatest achievement.
It is hard not to merge the US Foreign Policy and Glibness threads.
We can ask or answer the hypothetical question of what we should be doing if not for those last two Presidential elections, and we can ask what we should do with the pieces that are left when he leaves, but US Foreign Policy is linked to having a Commander in Chief, and the world is suffering from a US leadership vacuum.
Last Edit: February 04, 2015, 09:31:50 AM by DougMacG
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #612 on:
February 04, 2015, 10:08:28 AM »
Iraq is his greatest achievement.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #613 on:
February 04, 2015, 11:42:21 AM »
"We can ask or answer the hypothetical question of what we should be doing if not for those last two Presidential elections, and we can ask what we should do with the pieces that are left when he leaves, but US Foreign Policy is linked to having a Commander in Chief, and the world is suffering from a US leadership vacuum."
Disagree in part.
A big part of what this thread is about is articulating an overarching vision for US foreign policy.
Should we seek to return to the US anchoring world-wide peace? Are we up to that economically? Do we have a government of sufficient competence for that mission?
Can such a vision be articulated (Rubio?) and win?
Should we go "Fortress America"? Pull back to the western hemisphere (no foreign bases in Cuba, Venezuela, etc) in a return to the Monroe Doctrine and in return concede China's dominance of the South China Sea. The Philippines threw us out of our bases there, now they want us to protect them. What about Russia and Europe? Russia and Central Asia? Do we allow the collapse of the EU/Euro and the resulting Russian expansionism? Why should be bother to defend the Euros when they will not spend or act to defend themselves? Good chance that Islamo Fascism continues to spread -- how do we keep it from hitting us?
What to do about Iran's rush to nukes? Are we willing to go to war? I gather the Pentagon is decidedly unenthusiastic about such a course of action , , , Yes, yes, I know sanctions sanctions, but given how close Iran is to the finish line do any of us believe they are likely to work?
It is not enough to yap at Obama asking for him to define a strategy. The man either is not up to it or is against us on some fundamental level. WE NEED TO SAY WHAT WE THINK THE STRATEGY SHOULD BE.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #614 on:
February 04, 2015, 11:56:13 AM »
Sit back and enjoy the collapse. We are past the point of stopping what is coming.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #615 on:
February 04, 2015, 03:37:49 PM »
Washington Turns Mistrust Into a Virtue in Negotiations
February 4, 2015 | 03:14 GMT Text Size Print
More than two weeks after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took a 15-minute stroll in Geneva with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran's hard-line journalists and politicians are still lambasting the foreign minister for the seemingly innocuous move. As parliament grilled him, Zarif defended himself by arguing he had just taken a midnight flight followed by five hours of intense negotiations and needed fresh air. His opponents, however, charged him with "trampling the blood of martyrs" and of displaying a level of intimacy appropriate only for lovers or "partners of international thievery."
Sideline discussions are part and parcel of any negotiation. Away from the cameras and the microphones, frank discussions can be had and, on occasion, progress made. But as one might expect after more than three decades of mutual enmity, distrust layers Iran's negotiation with the United States. The uproar over the Geneva stroll was a message to Iran's negotiators that they should not assimilate to Western negotiating styles and feign friendship prematurely but should instead treat this negotiation as they would in wartime — without emotion and with minimal sacrifice. For many in Iran, including those who have economically benefited from the sanctions regime, the path toward easing sanctions is long and unclear. And with the U.S. Congress readying a fresh sanctions draft, Washington cannot be trusted to follow through with its end of the bargain.
What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.
While Iran believes the United States will sacrifice too little in this negotiation, Israel's concern is that the U.S. administration will end up compromising too much, thereby leaving the danger of Iran using diplomatic cover to continue surreptitious work on a nuclear weapons program. With a Republican-majority U.S. Congress now in session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is gambling that his alliance with a faction of U.S. lawmakers will tie the president's hands, paralyzing the negotiations with Iran. Israel has even gone out of its way to talk up a free trade negotiation with Russia after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, at a time when Washington is trying to economically isolate Moscow. Apparently, Netanyahu's distrust of the U.S. administration is so great that he is willing to boldly and consciously widen the gap between Israel and its only external patron.
Russia, too, has deep misgivings toward Washington. The New York Times reported Sunday that the U.S. administration is closer to supplying Ukraine with weaponry, including anti-tank Javelin missiles. After letting that message marinate with the Kremlin for 48 hours, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes announced Tuesday that the U.S. government will not "in the near future" deliver those weapons. Moscow reciprocated with its own pseudo-conciliatory message the same day, when the Donetsk People's Republic representative at the Minsk talks announced that the militias do not intend to launch an offensive in Mariupol "in the very near future." Moscow and Washington are talking to each other through such signals, telegraphing the various ways they can each ratchet up the pressure while hinting strongly that they would rather not go down that path.
Russia especially would like to avoid a military escalation that risks crippling its economy, yet Russian President Vladimir Putin does not have the luxury of a clear picture of U.S. motives. From his point of view, Russia is already extremely exposed, with the Baltic states in NATO's pocket. Losing Ukraine, not to mention Belarus, would place Russia in an untenable situation. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the West has shown a willingness to encroach deeper and deeper into the Russian periphery, and now the United States is building up defense relations along Russia's European rim, including the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Even under immense economic constraints, the uncertainty over U.S. intentions will drive Russia's actions in the end.
Whether the United States is dealing with Russia, Iran, Israel or Cuba for that matter, mistrust is an unavoidable theme. Although it might seem like a major detriment to U.S. foreign policy, it could in fact be a virtue. The United States' combination of strength and unpredictability compels others to the negotiating table. Israel has no other patron. Iran has to live with the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Russia cannot live with U.S. weaponry and forces in Ukraine. On the other hand, the United States will not face an existential crisis if it deepens its involvement in Ukraine, holds out on a negotiation with Iran or reduces aid for Israel. The United States can conduct diplomacy over an evening stroll or in a camera-filled Swiss boardroom. Either way, the global hegemon will reap the benefits of an inevitably asymmetric negotiation.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #616 on:
February 04, 2015, 07:07:32 PM »
The epic goat rope that is our foreign policy isn't a bug, it's a feature!
Baraq's pivot to Iran
Reply #617 on:
February 05, 2015, 11:28:20 AM »
Nuclear Dreams: Iran Now Controls Four Arab Capitals, Plus Washington, D.C.
What the burning of a Jordanian pilot reveals about Obama’s flawed Middle East game
By Lee Smith|February 5, 2015 12:00 AM|Comments: 3
Anwar Tarawneh (center), the wife of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured and murdered by Islamic State (IS) group militants on Dec. 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)
By Ron Rosenbaum
With Help From Tehran and Moscow, and Inaction by the U.S., Assad Is Poised To Stay
Thanks to outside forces waging a proxy battle in Syria, 2013 has become a year of attrition rather than endgames
By Jonathan Spyer
Jewish Aleppo, Lost Forever
The Syrian diaspora in Israel watches its once-vibrant ancestral home fall to ruin in the country’s civil war
By Joseph Dana
The point of burning alive Jordanian pilot First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh was to outrage onlookers, including his family—but especially the members of his large tribe, the Bararsheh, in southern Jordan. The Jordanian tribes form the core of support for the Hashemite kingdom against the Palestinian West Bankers, who may constitute the country’s majority. The East Bankers are also the bulwarks of Jordan’s internal and external security, with both the armed forces and security services made up almost exclusively of tribal members.
To be sure, Kasasbeh’s clansmen are going to be very angry with the Islamic State for killing him in such a gruesome manner. What IS seems to betting on is that Kasasbeh’s death was so gruesome, and so evocative of the hellfire that awaits false believers, that the dead pilot’s tribe, a pillar of the Hashemite monarchy, is likely going to be shocked into wondering whether King Abdullah has pulled them into the wrong war, on behalf of a frivolous and potentially treacherous ally—the United States.
Right now, the Obama Administration sees the Islamic State as a major threat to U.S. national security—and to the political fortunes of President Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party. An episode like the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cacher attack played out on the streets of Chicago, say, or New York, would be a catastrophe for the administration, which is why it has enlisted allies like Jordan in its campaign against the deranged jihadists of the fertile crescent.
However, it’s worth understanding how the Hashemites and their loyal tribal subjects understand the new threat. From their perspective, the Islamic State is only one part of a larger regional movement, a Sunni rebellion trying to beat back the Iranian security apparatus that now represses them mercilessly throughout the Levant while controlling four historic Arab capitals—Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a. The wider Sunni rebellion against Persian domination comprises not only lunatic foreign fighters (Chechens, Saudis, Swedes, etc.) but also former elements of Saddam Hussein’s regime as well as—and this is the central fact of the Sunni rebellion—Sunni Arab tribes. In other words, Jordan’s Arab tribes have been enlisted to fight Arab tribes who are fighting against Iran and its allies—who are coordinating their anti-Sunni campaign with the United States.
Jordan’s tribes are hardly alone at this moment in their torment and confusion. The United States has alienated its former Sunni tribal allies in Anbar province and throughout Iraq by conducting air strikes on behalf of sectarian Shiite militias loyal to Iran, which murder Sunni tribesmen with seeming impunity whether they are associated with IS or not. Saudi Arabia is aghast at U.S. support for Iran’s role in Yemen, where the Shia Houtha tribesmen backed by Iran now control the country. Israel nearly got into a shooting war last week because of Hezbollah’s ongoing attempt to implant itself on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, where the Iranian-backed sectarian Lebanese Shia militia operates under cover of U.S. airstrikes and implicit political backing that support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian client. While Egypt fights a war against IS and al-Qaida-backed tribes in Sinai, the White House shuns the country’s leader Gen. al-Sisi in favor of meeting in Washington with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have sworn to overthrow his regime.
That’s a lot of turmoil for America to be stirring up for its erstwhile allies, at a moment where our larger national goal is supposedly a clean exit from the region. So, why is the White House turning the Middle East upside down? Obama is willing to throw away a U.S. framework built by American statesmen, soldiers, businessmen, and educators over the last century because he sees a really big prize out there for the taking—an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program that will be the linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order, in which Iran will play a major stabilizing role.
The Dream: An agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program will be the linchpin of a new Middle Eastern order, in which Iran will play a major stabilizing role.
The Iran deal that Obama has in mind is going to be so awesomely epic and world-changing that it will easily be worth all the chaos the region is now undergoing—from broken alliances and promises, to the high and rising death toll, massive population transfers, the destruction of ancient cities, and the trauma of an entire generation for whom beheadings and human barbeques have become a normal part of life. The United States is on its way out of the Middle East, which is why we need a reliable regional partner like Iran, with the muscle to make its dictates stick. Yes, the dominant partner in that arrangement will obviously be Iran—especially once the Iranians are free of the sanctions that have crippled their oil industry, and can control the oil resources of their client state in Iraq, as well as provide security in the once-and-future Persian Gulf. But Obama would always have the photographs of his triumphant visit to Tehran to remember his role in crafting a new world order from the tribal mayhem of a region in which Americans once fought and died.
But, wait a minute. It seems like it was just yesterday that the government of the United States, its armed forces and clandestine service, had an entirely different set of goals in mind—namely, defending American troops and our allies in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf, and Israel from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, of late the American intelligence community has been reminding us of our recent past through leaks to the Washington Post and Newsweek saying that not all that long ago, in 2008, the agency teamed with the Mossad to kill Hezbollah’s head of operations, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus. The point seems to be that, if the U.S. intelligence community now shares intelligence with Hezbollah and leaks the details of Israeli strikes on Hezbollah convoys, we were once proud to collaborate with our Israeli allies to kill Hezbollah terrorists.
Why does the U.S. intelligence community care about this ancient history? Mughniyeh didn’t just plot the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, among other spectacular terrorist attacks targeting Americans, he also directed the campaign against U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq waged by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
Today, however, Shiite militias like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataib Hezbollah, and Badr Corps get indirect air support from U.S. warplanes. Before the White House launched its campaign against ISIS in Syria, it told Iran it wasn’t going to attack its ally Bashar al-Assad there—even though Obama called for the Syrian dictator to step down in August 2011. By going after ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other Syrian rebel units, the White House freed up Assad to use his forces elsewhere.
As former George W. Bush White House aide Michael Doran meticulously lays out in his recently published tour-de-force “Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy,” the U.S.-Iran partnership that is reshaping the Middle East has been in the making since Obama first came to office. The most salient point then about the current P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran isn’t the nuclear issue, but the fact that they create a channel to allow both sides to keep talking—which means that all sorts of subjects are going to come up, from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon to Yemen and maybe even other thorny issues, like Argentina and the Nisman investigation into Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in 1994. U.S. response to everything in the region is now tied to the fate of the Iranian nuclear program, which in turn is simply the linchpin of Obama’s larger vision of a partnership between Washington and Tehran.
Obama may dream of a U.S.-Iran partnership and going skiing in the mountains above Tehran. But what does Obama’s grand vision look like these days from the Iranian side? From Iran’s perspective, then, it controls not only four Arab capitals, but it also holds Washington captive. If Obama pushes back, the Iranians walk away from the table, confounding the U.S. president’s dreams of achieving a historic reconciliation—and maybe worse, leaving him vulnerable to Republican majorities in the House and Senate ready to pounce on an epochal diplomatic failure.
But why does Obama’s vision have to fail? First of all, it’s not clear how Iran can accept any permanent agreement with the White House about the nuclear program, or anything else, for that matter. From Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ perspective, a deal might empower President Hassan Rouhani at their expense. From Rouhani’s perspective, a deal might make him, a so-called moderate, superfluous as someone who’s already played his role. Most important, there is the point of view of Khamenei, which partakes of the historic rationale of the Islamic Republic. Its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini promised one thing—not to raise the standard of living or educate women, nor even to hasten the return of the Mahdi, but rather that the life of a genuine Muslim rested on the pillar of resistance against the godless, the arrogant West, especially America. Signing an accord with the Great Satan would undermine the fundamental legitimacy of the regime.
Obama wants a deal with Iran so much in large part because he doesn’t think the United States should be the world’s policeman—and he’s right. Our oil and natural gas industry won’t make us energy independent but it makes us less dependent and we simply don’t need that high a profile in a part of the world that has seldom returned our love. So, why keep shedding blood and spending money—as well as domestic political capital—in the Middle East?
The answer is not that we need to look out for the world’s interests, but that we need to continue protecting our own. A nuclear weapon in the hands of an expansionist regime doesn’t get the United States out of the Middle East. It puts Iran on our doorstep, by turning the clerical regime into an aggressive global nuclear-armed power. There can’t be much question by now about what Iran has in mind for the Middle East, or for other countries that it enlists in its schemes, like Argentina. What Iran wants makes the world a more dangerous place for Americans. The question is not whether there’s a deal to be had with Iran, but if it’s too late to crash the comprehensive agreement the White House has already struck with our new regional partner—whose sickening consequences are plain to see.
POTP: Even WaPo is alarmed about the coming deal with Iran.
Reply #618 on:
February 07, 2015, 03:08:17 AM »
Re: POTP: Even WaPo is alarmed about the coming deal with Iran.
Reply #619 on:
February 07, 2015, 03:15:56 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on February 07, 2015, 03:08:17 AM
No worries, I've been told Iran is a rational actor.
U.S. Embassy Shuts in Yemen
Reply #620 on:
February 11, 2015, 12:09:25 PM »
Along with Iraq, Syria, Libya and Ukraine, another US Foreign Policy success, if we measure everything upside down.
NYT says the new militant leader was reaching out to the US.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #621 on:
February 14, 2015, 05:50:26 AM »
I strongly recommend reviewing Reply #602 in this thread.
Obama's requested AUMF is unconstitutional
Reply #622 on:
February 14, 2015, 03:57:04 PM »
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #623 on:
February 15, 2015, 10:06:07 AM »
One hopes the Stupid Party will have a flash of intelligence and use it to recognize this point and make good use of it.
Why the World's Best Military Keeps Losing Wars
Reply #624 on:
February 18, 2015, 08:02:31 AM »
Why The World’s Biggest Military Keeps Losing Wars
14 Jan 2015
Before Korea, America never lost a war. Ever since, other than the first Gulf War, it hasn’t won any. In Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan America spent trillions of dollars, exploded countless tons of munitions, killed hundreds of thousands of enemy combatants along with innocent civilians and accomplished hardly any of the goals its leaders proclaimed when they sent their soldiers into battle.
America’s inability to translate its immense firepower into meaningful political effect suggests the $500 billion it spends annually on defence is wasted. In a recent article in the Atlantic Magazine, James Fallows asked the previously unmentionable question: how can America spend more on its military than all the other great powers combined and still be unable to impose its will on even moderately sized enemies?
I think the media generally ignores this question because the answers skewers shibboleths revered by both left and right. I spent much of the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a news cameraman embedded with the American military. I like American soldiers, enjoy their company, respect their bravery, their loyalty, their ethos: but hanging out on their Forward Operating Bases, I could see why the world’s most expensive military doesn’t win wars. Here are four factors worth considering, in descending order of importance.
Too much logistics, not enough combat.
They call it the tooth to tail ratio: the number of combat soldiers compared to the number in support roles. More than three-quarters of Americans in Iraq didn’t fight. A ridiculously large number of American soldiers spent their entire tour in Iraq “inside the wire”, barely leaving their huge prefabricated bases that felt more like Arizona than Anbar.
My Baghdad based colleagues and I used to look forward to embeds so we could eat all American cuisine at the mess halls. Pecan pie, sweet ice tea, lobster and steak on Fridays, all shipped halfway around the globe. The logistical tail was wagging the combat dog. In Afghanistan, the Americans had to pay off the Taliban so the supplies could get through.
I never thought I would say this out loud, but Donald Rumsfeld was right about one thing: the American military is too big and bulky. Special Forces are lean and mean and - not coincidentally - more successful. The one triumph of the misbegotten War on Terror was the rapid defeat of the Taliban in the fall of 2001. With almost no regular army involvement, a handful of Special Forces commandos slipped into Afghanistan, liaisoned with Northern Alliance units, and coordinated air strikes against Taliban positions. At the time, the Taliban held all but a few slivers of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance was outnumbered, outgunned and heading towards ignominious defeat, but the combination of local boots on the ground, elite American scouts and massive American airpower proved unbeatable. Within a month, the Taliban recognized they had lost and faded away, at least for a few years.
The military would be more successful if it was smaller and more concentrated. America should shrink its regular army and focus on elite units who can get in, accomplish a targeted mission, and get out quickly. A smaller footprint solves a multitude of problems, both logistical and political.
Learn the Language
One desert night on a Marine base outside Basra, I chatted with an Egyptian interpreter hired by the US military. Knowing that Cairene Arabic is vastly different from that of Southern Iraq, I asked him if he had any trouble understanding the local dialect. He shook his head. “I have no idea what they are saying. I have a much easier time understanding you.” His English was excellent, which is presumably why he got the job, but his comprehension of Basrawi Arabic was almost nonexistent. But Marine officers, who inevitably spoke no Arabic, depended on him to explain what the locals were trying to tell them. Since the interpreter just made up what he thought his bosses wanted to hear, the Marines were operating with negative intelligence.
The moral: don’t invade a country if you are too lazy to learn the language. If you can’t understand what people are saying, you are operating blind. I’ve been told by American officials that up to 95% of the Iraqis imprisoned in American brigs were probably guilty of nothing. They were ratted out, perhaps by someone who owed them money, and the gullible Americans just locked them up. Imprisoning the innocent created unnecessary enemies for the occupation. In 2003, most Iraqis were pleased at Saddam Hussein’s ouster. They could have been predisposed to support American aims, if the Americans hadn’t alienated so many of them for little reason. It is impossible to successfully conduct a war if you can’t distinguish friend from foe because they all look the same to you. If more American soldiers understood Arabic, their insight and awareness of Iraqi culture could have made a huge difference.
Fear of Casualties
One of the most moving moments of my time in Iraq was a memorial service for a young soldier, nicknamed “Doc”, a 19 year-old medic killed by an improvised explosive device in Diyala Province. Almost all of Camp War Horse showed up for the ceremony. We stared at his boots and dog tags while his comrades remembered his bravery and kindness. As the service came to a close, his Sergeant called roll. He barked out the dead man’s name; the silence was blistering, and unforgettable. Four Generals flew in from Baghdad to pay their respects. As well they should. The death of a young man is always a tragedy. But had generals in the First World War gone to as many funerals, they would never have been able to plot the next battle.
The American military is deeply committed to force protection, to not losing soldiers. Captains tell you proudly their primary goal is to get through the tour without any fatalities. This is an admirable sign of human decency, but it is not particularly bellicose. It is impossible to imagine William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, or Patton focusing above all else on not losing soldiers. Historically, officers are happy to use their men as cannon fodder if it will help them achieve their objectives.
In 1982, Reagan sent Marines into Beirut to try and stop the Civil War. When a car bomb killed 241 of them, he soon withdrew the entire force. In 1993 Clinton sent US soldiers into Somalia for a similar humanitarian purpose. When a few of them were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the domestic political fallout was such that they too were quickly extracted. Our fear of death sends a message to our enemies. Despite apparent American strength, its enemies know if they have a little patience and inflict a little pain, the Americans will probably leave.
Only go to war if it is worth sacrificing your children. When Hitler invaded Russia, Stalin’s son went to the front, was captured and eventually died in a POW camp. Would Bush have been so happy to invade Iraq had he expected Jenna and Barbara to end up on point in Fallujah? Of course not. And that brings us to the last and most important reason America keeps losing wars.
War as Symbol
From a military perspective, the Tet offensive was a great victory for American arms. For several years the Americans had been desperate for the Viet Cong to stand up and fight, to stop hiding in the shadows. In February 1968, they did. Initially, they were successful. For a few hours they captured the US embassy in Saigon. For a few weeks they conquered the ancient imperial capital of Hue. But soon, the immense firepower of the US army took its toll. The Viet Cong were slaughtered, more than decimated, destroyed as a fighting force for the rest of the war. Tet was a great battlefield success for the US army. It is also the moment the United States lost the Vietnam War.
Vietnam was televised. Civilians watching at home did not see victory, they saw carnage. They recognised that their President had been lying to them when he suggested that victory would be easy, and they wanted out.
Fifty thousand Americans died in Vietnam. So did more than 2 million Vietnamese. If war were a numbers game, America would have been victorious. But war is ultimately a matter of will. The North Vietnamese were willing to suffer more than the Americans were, because victory was more important to them.
Lyndon Johnson only went to war because he feared being accused of “losing” Vietnam by congressional Republicans. Indochina was insignificant to America, important only as a symbol of US resolve, as a message to China and Russia that the US would stand by its allies, no matter the cost.
In 1975, Saigon finally fell. Other than psychologically, the effect on America was negligible. Likewise, in a few years, most Americans won’t know or care who controls Mosul or Helmand or South Waziristan. America lost in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan primarily because it had no real reason to go to war in the first place, no compelling national interest. Were Canada to invade North Dakota or Mexico to invade California, I suspect the US military and people would find the will to win. But the American people, wiser than their bellicose elites, ultimately are unwilling to make sacrifices for mere symbols.
War, What is it good For? Absolutely Nothing
In 1910, Norman Angell wrote The Grand Illusion, a long pamphlet suggesting that a general war between the great powers was impossible. Of course, 1914 proved him wrong, and history professors since then have mocked Angell for his mistimed prophecy. But on a deeper level Angell was just a bit ahead of the curve. He argued that in an intertwined capitalist economy, war was self-destructive. Even the victor would lose.
Angell observed that no German personally profited from the annexation of Alsace in 1870. All land remained in its legitimate owners’ hands. When William conquered Britain, when Cortez conquered Mexico, their soldiers made fortunes. War traditionally was mostly an excuse for plunder. In the modern world, Angell argued, armies slaughtered not prospective slaves but potential customers. Today, in the developed world, war is pointless. China needs America to buy its manufactured goods. America needs China to buy its government debt. No geopolitical dispute can trump their symbiotic ties.
For the developed nations today, going to war is more a signifier than anything else. If their primary interest was oil, American diplomats would have told Saddam to grant exclusive contracts to select oil companies and he would have gladly complied in order to avoid invasion. But Bush, Cheney et al weren’t really interested in Iraq’s oil but rather in an opportunity to demonstrate America’s awesome military power, in order to cow the rest of the Middle East and the world beyond. It didn’t work out as they had hoped.
Had Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen been able to post YouTube videos of the horrific and pointless slaughter on the western front in World War 1, the British public would have sued for peace. In a democracy, with a free media, the horrors of war are a hard sell, especially when war serves little purpose other than to make the country or its leaders look tough. The most fundamental reason America’s huge military can’t win wars is that it doesn’t need to.
Stratfor: The Intersection of Three Crises
Reply #625 on:
February 25, 2015, 10:08:05 AM »
The Intersection of Three Crises
February 24, 2015 | 08:57 GMT
By Reva Bhalla
Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.
Germany and the Eurozone Crisis
Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe's largest creditor, it has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest we forget, Germany is exporting the equivalent of about half its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany's national wealth.
Many have characterized the recent Brussels deal as a victory for Berlin over Athens as eurozone finance ministers, including the Portuguese, Spanish and French, stood behind Germany in refusing Greece the right to circumvent its debt obligations. But Merkel is also not about to gamble an unlimited amount of German taxpayer funds on flimsy Greek pledges to cut costs and impose structural reforms on a population that, for now, still views the ruling Syriza party as its savior from austerity. Within four months, Greece and Germany will be at loggerheads again, and Greece will likely still lack the austerity credentials that Berlin needs to convince its own Euroskeptics that it has the institutional heft and credibility to impose Germanic thriftiness on the rest of Europe. The more time Germany buys, the more inflexible the German and Greek negotiating positions become, and the more seriously traders, businessmen and politicians alike will have to take the threat of a so-called Grexit, the first in a chain of events that could shatter the eurozone.
The Role of the Crisis in Ukraine
In order to steer Germany through an escalating eurozone crisis, Merkel needs to calm her eastern front. It is no wonder, then, that she committed herself to multiple sleepless nights and an incessant travel schedule to put another Minsk agreement with Russia on paper. The deal was flawed from the start because it avoided recognizing the ongoing attempts by Russian-backed separatists to smooth out the demarcation line by bringing the pocket of Debaltseve under their zone of control. After several more days of scuffling, the Germans (again leveraging their creditor status — this time, against Ukraine) quietly pushed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to accept the battlefield reality and move along with the cease-fire agreement. But even if Germany on one side and Russia on the other were able to bring about a relative calm in eastern Ukraine, it would do little in the end to de-escalate the standoff between the United States and Russia.
The Connection Between Ukraine and Iran
Contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not driven by crazed territorial ambitions. He is looking at the map, just as his predecessors have for centuries, and grappling with the task of securing the Russian underbelly from a borderland state coming under the wing of a much more formidable military power in the West. As the United States has reminded Moscow repeatedly over the past several days, the White House retains the option to send lethal aid to Ukraine. With heavier equipment comes trainers, and with trainers come boots on the ground.
From his perspective, Putin can already see the United States stretching beyond NATO bounds to recruit and shore up allies along the Russian periphery. Even as short-term truces are struck in eastern Ukraine, there is nothing precluding a much deeper U.S. probe in the region. That is the assumption that will drive Russian actions in the coming months as Putin reviews his military options, which include establishing a land bridge to Crimea (a move that would still, in effect, leave Russia's border with Ukraine exposed), a more ambitious push westward to anchor at the Dnieper River and probing actions in the Baltic states to test NATO's credibility.
The United States does not have the luxury of precluding any one of these possibilities, so it must prepare accordingly. But focusing on the Eurasian theater entails first tying up loose ends in the Middle East, starting with Iran. And so we come to Geneva, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met again Feb. 22 to work out the remaining points of a nuclear deal before March 31, the date by which U.S. President Barack Obama is supposed to demonstrate enough progress in negotiations to hold Congress back from imposing additional sanctions on Iran. If the United States is to realistically game out scenarios in which U.S. military forces confront Russia in Europe, it needs to be able to rapidly redeploy forces that have spent the past dozen years putting out fires ignited by sprouting jihadist emirates and preparing for a potential conflict in the Persian Gulf. To lighten its load in the Middle East, the United States will look to regional powers with vested and often competing interests to shoulder more of the burden.
A U.S.-Iranian understanding goes well beyond agreeing on how much uranium Iran is allowed to enrich and stockpile and how much sanctions relief Iran gets for limiting its nuclear program. It will draw the regional contours of an Iranian sphere of influence and allow room for Washington and Tehran to cooperate in areas where their interests align. We can already see this in effect in Iraq and Syria, where the threat of the Islamic State has compelled the United States and Iran to coordinate efforts to contain jihadist ambitions. Though the United States will understandably be more cautious in its public statements while it tries to limit Israeli anxiety, U.S. officials have allegedly made positive remarks about Hezbollah's role in fighting terrorism when speaking privately with their Lebanese interlocutors in recent meetings. This may seem like a minor detail on the surface, but Iran sees a rapprochement with the United States as an opportunity to seek recognition for Hezbollah as a legitimate political actor.
A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement will not be complete by March, June or any other deadline Washington sets for this year. Framework agreements on the nuclear issue and sanctions relief will necessarily be implemented in phases to effectively extend the negotiations into 2016, when Congress could allow the core sanctions act against Iran to expire after several months of testing Iranian compliance and after Iran gets past its parliamentary elections. Arrestors could arise along the way, such as the death of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but they will not deter the White House from setting a course toward normalizing relations with Iran. The United States, regardless of which party is controlling the White House, will rank the threat of a growing Eurasian conflict well ahead of de-escalating the conflict with Iran. Even as a nuclear agreement establishes the foundation for a U.S.-Iranian understanding, Washington will rely on regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to eat away at the edges of Iran's sphere of influence, encouraging the natural rivalries in the region to mold a relative balance of power over time.
Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.
Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.
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Stratfor Decade Forecast
Reply #626 on:
February 26, 2015, 10:50:15 AM »
This is the fifth Decade Forecast published by Stratfor. Every five years since 1996 (1996, 2000, 2005, 2010 and now, 2015) Stratfor has produced a rolling forecast. Overall, we are proud of our efforts. We predicted the inability of Europe to survive economic crises, China's decline and the course of the U.S.-jihadist war. We also made some errors. We did not anticipate 9/11, and more important, we did not anticipate the scope of the American response. But in 2005 we did forecast the difficulty the United States would face and the need for the United States to withdraw from its military engagements in the Islamic world. We predicted China's weakness too early, but we saw that weakness when others were seeing the emergence of an economy larger than that of the United States. Above all, we have consistently forecast the enduring power of the United States. This is not a forecast rooted in patriotism or jingoism. It derives from our model that continues to view the United States as the pre-eminent power.
We do not forecast everything. We focus on the major trends and tendencies in the world. Thus, we see below some predictions from our 2010 Decade Forecast:
We see the U.S.-jihadist war subsiding. This does not mean that Islamist militancy will be eliminated. Attempts at attacks will continue, and some will succeed. However, the two major wars in the region will have dramatically subsided if not concluded by 2020. We also see the Iranian situation having been brought under control. Whether this will be by military action and isolation of Iran or by a political arrangement with the current or a successor regime is unclear but irrelevant to the broader geopolitical issue. Iran will be contained, as it simply does not have the underlying power to be a major player in the region beyond its immediate horizons.
The diversity of systems and demographics that is Europe will put the European Union's institutions under severe strain. We suspect the institutions will survive. We doubt that they will work very effectively. The main political tendency will be away from multinational solutions to a greater nationalism driven by divergent and diverging economic, social and cultural forces. The elites that have crafted the European Union will find themselves under increasing pressure from the broader population. The tension between economic interests and cultural stability will define Europe. Consequently, inter-European relations will be increasingly unpredictable and unstable.
Russia will spend the 2010s seeking to secure itself before the demographic decline really hits. It will do this by trying to move from raw commodity exports to process commodity exports, moving up the value chain to fortify its economy while its demographics still allow it. Russia will also seek to reintegrate the former Soviet republics into some coherent entity in order to delay its demographic problems, expand its market and above all reabsorb some territorial buffers. Russia sees itself as under the gun, and therefore is in a hurry. This will cause it to appear more aggressive and dangerous than it is in the long run. However, in the 2010s, Russia's actions will cause substantial anxiety in its neighbors, both in terms of national security and its rapidly shifting economic policies.
The states most concerned — and affected — will be the former satellite states of Central Europe. Russia's primary concern remains the North European Plain, the traditional invasion route into Russia. This focus will magnify as Europe becomes more unpredictable politically. Russian pressure on Central Europe will not be overwhelming military pressure, but Central European psyches are finely tuned to threats. We believe this constant and growing pressure will stimulate Central European economic, social and military development.
China's economy, like the economies of Japan and other East Asian states before it, will reduce its rate of growth dramatically in order to calibrate growth with the rate of return on capital and to bring its financial system into balance. To do this, it will have to deal with the resulting social and political tensions.
From the American point of view, the 2010s will continue the long-term increase in economic and military power that began more than a century ago. The United States remains the overwhelming — but not omnipotent — military power in the world, and produces 25 percent of the world's wealth each year.
The Decade Ahead
The world has been restructuring itself since 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia and the subprime financial crisis struck. Three patterns have emerged. First, the European Union entered a crisis that it could not solve and that has increased in intensity. We predict that the European Union will never return to its previous unity, and if it survives it will operate in a more limited and fragmented way in the next decade. We do not expect the free trade zone to continue to operate without increasing protectionism. We expect Germany to suffer severe economic reversals in the next decade and Poland to increase its regional power as a result.
The current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine will remain a centerpiece of the international system over the next few years, but we do not think the Russian Federation can exist in its current form for the entire decade. Its overwhelming dependence on energy exports and the unreliability of expectations on pricing make it impossible for Moscow to sustain its institutional relations across the wide swathe of the Russian Federation. We expect Moscow's authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia. The security of Russia's nuclear arsenal will become a prime concern as this process accelerates later in the decade.
We have entered a period in which the decline of the nation-states created by Europe in North Africa and the Middle East is accelerating. Power is no longer held by the state in many countries, having devolved to armed factions that can neither defeat others nor be defeated. This has initiated a period of intense internal fighting. The United States is prepared to mitigate the situation with air power and limited forces on the ground but will not be able or willing to impose a settlement. Turkey, whose southern border is made vulnerable by this fighting, will be slowly drawn into the fighting. By the end of this decade, Turkey will emerge as the major regional power, and Turkish-Iranian competition will increase as a result.
China has completed its cycle as a high-growth, low-wage country and has entered a new phase that is the new normal. This phase includes much slower growth and an increasingly powerful dictatorship to contain the divergent forces created by slow growth. China will continue to be a major economic force but will not be the dynamic engine of global growth it once was. That role will be taken by a new group of highly dispersed countries we call the Post-China 16, which includes much of Southeast Asia, East Africa and parts of Latin America. China will not be an aggressive military force either. Japan remains the most likely contender for the dominant position in East Asia, both because of its geography and because of its needs as a massive importer.
The United States will continue to be the major economic, political and military power in the world but will be less engaged than in the past. Its low rate of exports, its increasing energy self-reliance and its experiences over the last decade will cause it to be increasingly cautious about economic and military involvement in the world. It has learned what happens to heavy exporters when customers cannot or will not buy their products. It has learned the limits of power in trying to pacify hostile countries. It has learned that North America is an arena in which it can prosper with selective engagements elsewhere. It will face major strategic threats with proportional power, but it will not serve the role of first responder as it has in recent years.
It will be a disorderly world, with a changing of the guard in many regions. The one constant will be the continued and maturing power of the United States — a power that will be much less visible and that will be utilized far less in the next decade.
The European Union will be unable to solve its fundamental problem, which is not the eurozone, but the free trade zone. Germany is the center of gravity of the European Union; it exports more than 50 percent of its GDP, and half of that goes to other EU countries. Germany has created a productive capability that vastly outstrips its ability to consume, even if the domestic economy were stimulated. It depends on these exports to maintain economic growth, full employment and social stability. The European Union's structures — including the pricing of the euro and many European regulations — are designed to facilitate this export dependency.
This has already fragmented Europe into at least two parts. Mediterranean Europe and countries such as Germany and Austria have completely different behavioral patterns and needs. No single policy can suit all of Europe. This has been the core problem from the beginning, but it has now reached an extreme point. What benefits one part of Europe harms another.
Nationalism has already risen significantly. Compounding this is the Ukrainian crisis and Eastern European countries' focus on the perceived threat from Russia. Eastern Europe's concern about Russia creates yet another Europe — four, total, if we separate the United Kingdom and Scandinavia from the rest of Europe. Considered with the rise of Euroskeptic parties on the right and left, the growing delegitimation of mainstream parties and the surging popularity of separatist parties within European countries, the fragmentation and nationalism that we forecast in 2005, and before, is clearly evident.
These trends will continue. The European Union might survive in some sense, but European economic, political and military relations will be governed primarily by bilateral or limited multilateral relationships that will be small in scope and not binding. Some states might maintain a residual membership in a highly modified European Union, but this will not define Europe.
What will define Europe in the next decade is the re-emergence of the nation-state as the primary political vehicle of the continent. Indeed the number of nation-states will likely increase as various movements favoring secession, or the dissolution of states into constituent parts, increase their power. This will be particularly noticeable during the next few years, as economic and political pressures intensify amid Europe's crisis.
Germany has emerged from this mass of nation-states as the most economically and politically influential. Yet Germany is also extremely vulnerable. It is the world's fourth-largest economic power, but it has achieved that status by depending on exports. Export powers have a built-in vulnerability: They depend on their customers' desire and ability to buy their products. In other words, Germany's economy is hostage to the economic well-being and competitive environment in which it operates.
There are multiple forces working against Germany in this regard. First, Europe's increasing nationalism will lead to protectionist capital and labor markets. Weaker countries are likely to adopt various sorts of capital controls, while stronger countries will limit the movement of foreigners — including the citizens of other EU countries — across their borders. We forecast that existing protectionist policies inside the European Union, particularly on agriculture, will be supplemented in coming years by trade barriers created by the weaker Southern European economies that need to rebuild their economic base after the current depression. On a global basis, we can expect European exports to face increased competition and highly variable demand in the uncertain environment. Therefore, our forecast is that Germany will begin an extended economic decline that will lead to a domestic social and political crisis and that will reduce Germany's influence in Europe during the next 10 years.
At the center of economic growth and increasing political influence will be Poland. Poland has maintained one of the most impressive growth profiles outside of Germany and Austria. In addition, though its population is likely to contract, the contraction will most probably be far less than in other European countries. As Germany undergoes wrenching shifts in economy and population, Poland will diversify its own trade relationships to emerge as the dominant power on the strategic Northern European Plain. Moreover, we expect Poland to be the leader of an anti-Russia coalition that would, significantly, include Romania during the first half of this decade. In the second half of the decade, this alliance will play a major role in reshaping the Russian borderlands and retrieving lost territories through informal and formal means. Eventually as Moscow weakens, this alliance will become the dominant influence not only in Belarus and Ukraine, but also farther east. This will further enhance Poland's and its allies' economic and political position.
Poland will benefit from having a strategic partnership with the United States. Whenever a leading global power enters into a relationship with a strategic partner, it is in the global power's interest to make the partner as economically vigorous as possible, both to stabilize its society and to make it capable of building a military force. Poland will be in that position with the United States, as will Romania. Washington has made its interest in the region obvious.
It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form. Russia's failure to transform its energy revenue into a self-sustaining economy makes it vulnerable to price fluctuations. It has no defense against these market forces. Given the organization of the federation, with revenue flowing to Moscow before being distributed directly or via regional governments, the flow of resources will also vary dramatically. This will lead to a repeat of the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s and Russia's in the 1990s, in which Moscow's ability to support the national infrastructure declined. In this case, it will cause regions to fend for themselves by forming informal and formal autonomous entities. The economic ties binding the Russian periphery to Moscow will fray.
Historically, the Russians solved such problems via the secret police — the KGB and its successor, the Federal Security Services (FSB). But just as in the 1980s, the secret police will not be able to contain the centrifugal forces pulling regions away from Moscow this decade. In this case, the FSB's power is weakened by its leadership's involvement in the national economy. As the economy falters, so does the FSB's strength. Without the FSB inspiring genuine terror, the fragmentation of the Russian Federation will not be preventable.
To Russia's west, Poland, Hungary and Romania will seek to recover regions lost to the Russians at various points. They will work to bring Belarus and Ukraine into this fold. In the south, the Russians' ability to continue controlling the North Caucasus will evaporate, and Central Asia will destabilize. In the northwest, the Karelian region will seek to rejoin Finland. In the Far East, the maritime regions more closely linked to China, Japan and the United States than to Moscow will move independently. Other areas outside of Moscow will not necessarily seek autonomy but will have it thrust upon them. This is the point: There will not be an uprising against Moscow, but Moscow's withering ability to support and control the Russian Federation will leave a vacuum. What will exist in this vacuum will be the individual fragments of the Russian Federation.
This will create the greatest crisis of the next decade. Russia is the site of a massive nuclear strike force distributed throughout the hinterlands. The decline of Moscow's power will open the question of who controls those missiles and how their non-use can be guaranteed. This will be a major test for the United States. Washington is the only power able to address the issue, but it will not be able to seize control of the vast numbers of sites militarily and guarantee that no missile is fired in the process. The United States will either have to invent a military solution that is difficult to conceive of now, accept the threat of rogue launches, or try to create a stable and economically viable government in the regions involved to neutralize the missiles over time. It is difficult to imagine how this problem will play out. However, given our forecast on the fragmentation of Russia, it follows that this issue will have to be addressed, likely in the next decade.
The issue in the first half of the decade will be how far the alliance stretching between the Baltic and Black seas will extend. Logically, it should reach Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. Whether it does depends on what we have forecast for the Middle East and Turkey.
The Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East — particularly the area between the Levant and Iran, along with North Africa — is experiencing national breakdowns. By this we mean that the nation-states established by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries are collapsing into their constituent factions defined by kinship, religion or shifting economic interests. In countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq, we have seen the devolution of the nation-state into factions that war on each other and that cross the increasingly obsolete borders of countries.
This process follows the model of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, when the central government ceased to function and power devolved to warring factions. The key factions could not defeat the others, nor could they themselves be defeated. They were manipulated and supported from the outside, as well as self-supporting. The struggle among these factions erupted into a civil war — one that has quieted but not ended. As power vacuums persist throughout the region, jihadist groups will find space to operate but will be contained in the end by their internal divisions.
This situation cannot be suppressed by outside forces. The amount of force required and the length of deployment would outstrip the capacity of the United States, even if dramatically expanded. Given the situation in other parts of the world, particularly in Russia, the United States can no longer focus exclusively on this region.
At the same time, this evolution, particularly in the Arab states south of Turkey, represents a threat to regional stability. The United States will act to mitigate the threat of particular factions, which will change over time, through the use of limited force. But the United States will not deploy multidivisional forces to the region. At this point, most countries in the area still expect the United States to act as the decisive force even though they witnessed the United States fail in this role in the past decade. Nevertheless, expectations shift more slowly than reality.
As the reality sinks in, it will emerge that, because of its location, only one country has an overriding interest in stabilizing Syria and Iraq, is able to act broadly — again because of its location — and has the means to at least achieve limited success in the region. That country is Turkey. At this point, Turkey is surrounded by conflicts in the Arab world, in the Caucasus and in the Black Sea Basin. But Turkey has avoided taking risks so far.
Turkey will continue to need U.S. involvement for political and military reasons. The United States will oblige, but there will be a price: participation in the containment of Russia. The United States does not expect Turkey to assume a war-fighting role and does not intend one for itself. It does, however, want a degree of cooperation in managing the Black Sea. Turkey will not be ready for a completely independent policy in the Middle East and will pay the price for a U.S. relationship. That price will open the path to extending the containment line to Georgia and Azerbaijan.
We expect the instability in the Arab world to continue through the decade. We also expect Turkey to be drawn in to the south, inasmuch as its fears of fighting so close to its border — and the political outcomes of that fighting — will compel it to get involved. It will intervene as little as possible and as slowly as possible, but it will intervene, and its intervention will eventually increase in size and breadth. Whatever its reluctance, Turkey cannot withstand years of chaos across its border, and there will be no other country to carry the burden. Iran is not in a position geographically or militarily to perform this function, nor is Saudi Arabia. Turkey is likely to try to build shifting coalitions ultimately reaching into North Africa to stabilize the situation. Turkish-Iranian competition will grow with time, but Turkey will keep its options open to work with both Iran and Saudi Arabia as needed. Whatever the dynamic, Turkey will be at the center of it.
This will not be the only region drawing Turkey's attention. As Russia weakens, European influence will begin inching eastward into areas where Turkey has historical interests, such as the northern shore of the Black Sea. We can foresee Turkey projecting its power northward certainly commercially and politically but also potentially in some measured military way. Moreover, as the European Union fragments and individual economies weaken or some nations become oriented toward the East, Turkey will increase its presence in the Balkans as the only remaining power able to do so.
Before this can happen, Turkey must find a domestic political balance. It is both a secular and Muslim country. The current government has attempted to bridge the gap, but in many ways it has tilted away from the secularists, of whom there are many. A new government will certainly emerge over the coming years. This is a permanent fault line in contemporary Turkey. Like many countries, its power will expand in the midst of political uncertainty. Alongside this internal political conflict, the military, intelligence and diplomatic service will need to evolve in size and function during the coming decade. That said, we expect to see an acceleration of Turkey's emergence as a major regional power in the next 10 years.
China has ceased to be a high-growth, low-wage economy. As China's economy slows, the process of creating and organizing an economic infrastructure to employ low-wage workers will be incremental. What can be done quickly in a port city takes much longer in the interior. Therefore, China has normalized its economy, as Japan did before it, and as Taiwan and South Korea did in 1997. All massive expansions climax, and the operations of the economies shift.
The problem for China in the next decade are the political and social consequences of that shift. The coastal region has been built on high growth rates and close ties with European and American consumers. As these decline, political and social challenges emerge. At the same time, the expectation that the interior — beyond parts of the more urbanized Yangtze River Delta — will grow as rapidly as the coast is being dashed. The problem for the next decade will be containing these difficulties.
Beijing's growing dictatorial tendencies and an anti-corruption campaign, which is actually Beijing's assertion of its power over all of China, provide an outline of what China would like to see in the next decade. China is following a hybrid path that will centralize political and economic powers, assert Party primacy over the military, and consolidate previously fragmented industries like coal and steel amid the gradual and tepid implementation of market-oriented reforms in state-owned enterprises and in the banking sector. It is highly likely that a dictatorial state coupled with more modest economic expectations will result. However, there is a less likely but still conceivable outcome in which political interests along the coast rebel against Beijing's policy of transferring wealth to the interior to contain political unrest. This is not an unknown pattern in China, and, though we do not see this as the most likely course, it should be kept in mind. Our forecast is the imposition of a communist dictatorship, a high degree of economic and political centralization and increased nationalism.
China cannot easily turn nationalism into active aggression. China's geography makes such actions on land difficult, if not impossible. The only exception might be an attempt to take control of Russia's maritime interests if we are correct and Russia fragments. Here, Japan likely would challenge China. China is building a large number of ships but has little experience in naval warfare and lacks the experienced fleet commanders needed to challenge more experienced navies, including the U.S. Navy.
Japan has the resources to build a significantly larger navy and a more substantial naval tradition. In addition, Japan is heavily dependent on imports of raw materials from Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. Right now it depends on the United States to guarantee access. But given that we are forecasting more cautious U.S. involvement in foreign ventures and that the United States is not dependent on imports, the reliability of the United States is in question. Therefore, the Japanese will increase their naval power in the coming years.
Fighting over the minor islands producing low-cost and unprofitable energy will not be the primary issue in the region. Rather, an old three-player game will emerge. Russia, the declining power, will increasingly lose the ability to protect its maritime interests. The Chinese and the Japanese will both be interested in acquiring these and in preventing each other from having them. We forecast this as the central, unsettled issue in the region as Russia declines and Sino-Japanese competition increases.
Post-China Manufacturing Hubs
International capitalism requires a low-wage, high-growth region for high rewards on risk capital. In the 1880s it was the United States, for example. China was the most recent region, replacing Japan. No one country can replace China, but we have noted 16 countries with a total population of about 1.15 billion people where entry-level manufacturing has gone after leaving China.
To identify these countries, we looked at three industries. The first was garment manufacturing, particularly low-end and of garment parts like coat linings. Second was the manufacturing of footwear. Third, we looked at cellphone assembly. These industries require low capital investment, and manufacturers move their facilities around rapidly to take advantage of low wages. Industries of this sort, such as inexpensive toys in Japan, served as a foundation for manufacturing sectors to evolve into broader low-wage products in high demand. The workforce, frequently women at first, expanded dramatically as new low-wage industries moved in. The wages were low on a global scale but very attractive on the local scale.
Like China during its takeoff in the late 1970s, these countries tend to be politically unstable, with uncertain rule of law, poor infrastructure and all of the risks advanced industrial businesses try to avoid. But companies from other countries excel in these environments and have built business models around this.
The map of these countries shows that they are concentrated in the Indian Ocean Basin. Another way to look at it is that these are the less developed countries (or regions) in Asia, East Africa and Latin America. Our forecast is that in this next decade, many of these countries — and perhaps some not identified — will collectively take on the role that China had in the 1980s. This would mean that by the end of the decade, they would be entering an intensifying period of growth in a much wider array of products. Mexico, whose economy exhibits potential in both low-end manufacturing and higher-end industry in a cost-competitive environment, stands to benefit substantially from its northern neighbor's investment and healthy level of consumption.
The United States
The United States continues to make up more than 22 percent of the world's economy. It continues to dominate the world's oceans and has the only significant intercontinental military force. Since 1880, it has been on an uninterrupted expansion of economy and power. Even the Great Depression, in retrospect, is a minor blip. This expansion of power is at the center of the international system, and our forecast is that it will continue unabated.
The greatest advantage the United States has is its insularity. It exports only 9 percent of its GDP, and about 40 percent of that goes to Canada and Mexico. Only about 5 percent of its GDP is exposed to the vagaries of global consumption. Thus, as the uncertainties of Europe, Russia and China mount, even if the United States lost half its exports — an extraordinary amount — it would not be an unmanageable problem.
The United States is also insulated from import constraints. Unlike in 1973, when the Arab oil embargo massively disrupted the U.S. economy, the United States has emerged as a significant energy producer. Although it must import some minerals from outside NAFTA, and it prefers to import some industrial products, it can readily manage without these. This is particularly true as industrial production is increasing in the United States and in Mexico in response to the increasing costs in China and elsewhere.
The Americans also have benefited from global crises. The United States is a haven for global capital, and as capital flight has taken hold of China, Europe and Russia, that money has flowed into the United States, reducing interest rates and buoying equity markets. Therefore, though there is exposure to the banking crisis in Europe, it is nowhere near as substantial as it might have been a decade ago, and capital inflows counterbalance that exposure. As for the perennial fear that China will withdraw its money from American markets, that will happen slowly anyway as China's growth slows and internal investment increases. But a sudden withdrawal is impossible. There is nowhere else to invest money. Certainly the next decade will see fluctuations in U.S. economic growth and markets, but the United Stares remains the stable heart of the international system.
At the same time, the Americans have become less dependent on that system and have encountered many difficulties in managing — and particularly, in pacifying — that system. The United States will become more selective in assuming responsibilities politically in the next decade, and even more selective in military interventions.
For a century, the United States has been concerned about the emergence of a hegemon in Europe, and in particular of either an accommodation between Germany and Russia or a conquest of one by the other. That combination, more than any other, might be able to muster a force — between German capital and technology and Russian resources and manpower — capable of threatening American interests. Therefore, in World War I, World War II and the Cold War, the United States was instrumental in preventing this from occurring.
In the world wars, the United States came in late, and though it absorbed fewer casualties than other countries, it nevertheless suffered more than was comfortable for it. In the Cold War, the United States intervened early and, at least in Europe, had no casualties. Based on this, the United States has a core policy imperative that is almost automatic: When a potential European hegemon arises, the United States will act early, as in the Cold War, in building alliances and deploying sufficient force in primarily defensive positions.
This is happening now against Russia. Though we forecast the decline of Russia, Russia poses danger in the short term, particularly with its back against the wall economically. Moreover, whatever we forecast, the United States cannot be certain that Russia will decline and indeed, if it launches a successful expansionary policy (politically, economically or militarily), it may not decline. Therefore, the United States will take measures according to its imperative. It will try to build an alliance system outside of NATO, from the Baltics to Bulgaria, encompassing as many nations as possible. It will try to involve Turkey in the alliance and have it reach to Azerbaijan. It will deploy forces, proportional to the threat, in those countries.
This will be the primary focus in the early part of the decade. In the second part, Washington will focus on trying to assure that Russia's decline does not result in nuclear disaster. The United States will not become involved in trying to solve Europe's problems, it will not have a war with China, and its involvement in the Middle East will be minimal. It will conduct global counterterrorism operations but will do so with the full knowledge that those operations will be only partially effective at best.
The Americans will have an emerging problem. The United States has 50-year cycles that end with significant economic or social problems. One cycle began in 1932 with the election of Franklin Roosevelt and ended with the presidency of Jimmy Carter. It began with a need to rebuild demand for products from idle factories and ended in vast overconsumption, underinvestment and with double-digit inflation and unemployment. Ronald Reagan's presidency laid the groundwork for restructuring American industry through a change in the tax code and by shifting the focus from the urban industrial worker to the suburban professional and entrepreneur.
We are now about 15 years from the end of this cycle, and the next crisis will make itself felt in the second half of the next decade. It is already visible. It is the crisis of the middle class. The problem is not inequality; the problem is the ability of the middle class to live a middle class life. Currently, the median household income in the United States is about $50,000. Depending on the state you live in, this is actually about $40,000. That allows the literal middle to buy a modest home and live frugally outside major metropolitan areas. For the lower middle class, the 25th percentile, this is almost impossible.
There are two causes. One is the rise of the single-parent household. Having two households is twice as expensive. The other problem is that the same incentives that led to the badly needed re-engineering of the American corporation and vastly improved productivity also limited job security and income for the middle class. This is not a political crisis yet. It will become one toward the end of the next decade, but it will not be addressed until the elections of 2028 and 2032. It is a normal, cyclical crisis, but painful nonetheless.
There is no decade without pain, and even in the most perfect of times, there is suffering. The crises that we expect in the next decade are far from the worst seen in the past century, and they are no worse than those we will see in the next. There is always the expectation that what we know now as reality will define the future. There is also the belief that our pain now is the most extraordinary anguish that has ever been. This is simply narcissism. What we have now will always change — usually sooner than we believe possible. The pains we are having now are merely the normal pains of being human. This is not a comfort, but a reality, and it is in this context that this decade forecast should be read.
A new improved Bush Doctrine
Reply #627 on:
March 01, 2015, 07:19:32 PM »
I like the way this guy thinks!
Reply #628 on:
March 12, 2015, 07:58:18 PM »
"When I was serving with the U.S. Army in Baghdad during 04-05 I thought we should give the northern region to the Kurds, the west to Kuwait as reparation for the invasion in 91, and the eastern region to Iran in return for stoping their nuclear program."
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #629 on:
March 13, 2015, 04:32:23 AM »
Iran Occupies Iraq
As the U.S. leads from behind, Tehran creates a Shiite arc of power.
Photo: Getty Images
March 11, 2015 7:21 p.m. ET
While Washington focuses on Iran-U.S. nuclear talks, the Islamic Republic is making a major but little-noticed strategic advance. Iran’s forces are quietly occupying more of Iraq in a way that could soon make its neighbor a de facto Shiite satellite of Tehran.
That’s the larger import of the dominant role Iran and its Shiite militia proxies are playing in the military offensive to take back territory from the Islamic State, or ISIS. The first battle is over the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit, and while the Iraqi army is playing a role, the dominant forces are Shiite militias supplied and coordinated from Iran. This includes the Badr Brigades that U.S. troops fought so hard to put down in Baghdad during the 2007 surge.
The Shiite militias are being organized under a new Iraqi government office led by Abu Mahdi Mohandes, an Iraqi with close ties to Iran. Mr. Mohandes is working closely with the most powerful military official in Iran and Iraq—the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s official news agency last week confirmed Western media reports that Gen. Soleimani is “supervising” the attack against Islamic State.
This is the same general who aided the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Quds Force operatives supplied the most advanced IEDs, which could penetrate armor and were the deadliest in Iraq. One former U.S. general who served in Iraq estimates that Iran was responsible for about one-third of U.S. casualties during the war, which would mean nearly 1,500 deaths.
Mr. Soleimani recently declared that Islamic State’s days in Iraq are “finished,” adding that Iran will lead the liberation of Tikrit, Mosul and then all of Anbar province. While this is a boast that seeks to diminish the role of other countries, especially the U.S., it reveals Iran’s ambitions and its desire to capitalize when Islamic State is pushed out of Anbar province.
The irony is that critics long complained that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 created a strategic opening for Iran. But the 2007 surge defeated the Shiite militias and helped Sunni tribal sheikhs oust al Qaeda from Anbar. U.S. forces provided a rough balancing while they stayed in Iraq through 2011. But once they departed on President Obama’s orders, the Iraq government tilted again to Iran and against the Sunni minority.
Iran’s military surge is now possible because of the vacuum created by the failure of the U.S. to deploy ground troops or rally a coalition of forces from surrounding Sunni states to fight Islamic State. With ISIS on the march last year, desperate Iraqis and even the Kurds turned to Iran and Gen. Soleimani for help. The U.S. air strikes have been crucial to pinning down Islamic State forces, but Iran is benefitting on the ground.
The strategic implications of this Iranian advance are enormous. Iran already had political sway over most of Shiite southern Iraq. Its militias may now have the ability to control much of Sunni-dominated Anbar, especially if they use the chaos to kill moderate Sunnis. Iran is essentially building an arc of dominance from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut on the Mediterranean.
This advance is all the more startling because it is occurring with tacit U.S. encouragement amid crunch time in the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, competed last week with Gen. Soleimani’s anti-ISIS boasts by touting U.S. bombing. But this week he called Iran’s military “activities” against ISIS “a positive thing.” U.S. civilian officials are publicly mute or privately supportive of Iran.
While Islamic State must be destroyed, its replacement by an Iran-Shiite suzerainty won’t lead to stability. Iran’s desire to dominate the region flows from its tradition of Persian imperialism compounded by its post-1979 revolutionary zeal. This week it elected hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi to choose Iran’s next Supreme Leader.
The Sunni states in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf are watching all of this and may conclude that a new U.S.-Iran condominium threatens their interests. They will assess a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal in this context, making them all the more likely to seek their own nuclear deterrent. They may also be inclined to stoke another anti-Shiite insurgency in Syria and western Iraq.
All of this is one more consequence of America leading from behind. The best way to defeat Islamic State would be for the U.S. to assemble a coalition of Iraqis, Kurds and neighboring Sunni countries led by U.S. special forces that minimized the role of Iran. Such a Sunni force would first roll back ISIS from Iraq and then take on ISIS and the Assad government in Syria. The latter goal in particular would meet Turkey’s test for participating, but the Obama Administration has refused lest it upset Iran.
The result is that an enemy of the U.S. with American blood on its hands is taking a giant step toward becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.
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Newt: We are losing
Reply #630 on:
March 26, 2015, 03:24:38 AM »
Yesterday the House Committee on Homeland Security
, under the leadership of Chairman Michael McCaul, held the first of a series of
very important hearings on the threat of radical Islamism.
As I told the committee in my testimony, it is vital that the United States Congress
undertake a thorough, no-holds-barred review of the long, global war in which we are
now engaged with radical Islamists. This review will require a number of committees
to coordinate since it will have to include Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign
Affairs, Judiciary, and Homeland Security at a minimum.
There are three key, sobering observations about where we are today which should
force this thorough, no-holds-barred review of our situation.
These three points—which are backed up by the facts—suggest the United States is
drifting into a crisis that could challenge our very survival.
First, it is the case that after 35 years of conflict dating back to the Iranian
seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis, the United
States and its allies are losing the long, global war with radical Islamists.
We are losing to both the violent Jihad and to the cultural Jihad.
The violent Jihad has shown itself recently in Paris, Australia, Tunisia, Syria,
Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Yemen to name just some
of the most prominent areas of violence.
Cultural Jihad is more insidious and in many ways more dangerous. Cultural Jihad
strikes at our very ability to think and to have an honest dialogue about the steps
necessary for our survival. Cultural Jihad is winning when the Department of Defense
describes a terrorist attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence”. Cultural Jihad is
winning when the President refers to “random” killings
in Paris when they were clearly the actions of Islamist terrorists and targeted
against specific groups. Cultural Jihad is winning when the administration censors
training documents and lecturers according to “sensitivity” so that they cannot
radical Islamists with any reference to the religious ideology which is the primary
bond that unites them.
In the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, we have gone a long way down the road of
intellectually and morally disarming in order to appease the cultural Jihadists who
are increasingly aggressive in asserting their right to define how the rest of us
think and talk.
Second, it is the case that, in an extraordinarily dangerous pattern, our
intelligence system has been methodically limited and manipulated to sustain false
narratives while suppressing or rejecting facts and analysis about those who would
For example, there is clear evidence the American people have been given remarkably
misleading analysis about Al Qaeda based on a very limited translation and
publication of about 24 of the 1.5 million documents captured in the Bin Laden raid.
A number of outside analysts have suggested that the selective release of a small
number of documents was designed
to make the case that Al Qaeda was weaker. These outside analysts assert that a
broader reading of more documents would indicate Al Qaeda was doubling in size when
our government claimed it was getting weaker—an analysis also supported by obvious
empirical facts on the ground. Furthermore, there has been what could only be
deliberate foot-dragging in exploiting this extraordinary cache of material.
Both Lt. General Mike Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and
Colonel Derek Harvey, a leading analyst of terrorism, have described the
deliberately misleading and restricted access to the Bin Laden documents.
A number of intelligence operatives have described censorship from above designed to
make sure that intelligence which undermines the official narrative
simply does not see the light of day.
Congress should explore legislation which would make it illegal to instruct
intelligence personnel to falsify information or analysis. Basing American security
policy on politically defined distortions of reality is a very dangerous habit which
could someday lead to a devastating defeat. Congress has an obligation to ensure the
American people are learning the truth and have an opportunity to debate potential
policies in a fact based environment.
Third, it is the case that our political elites have refused to define our enemies.
Their willful ignorance has made it impossible to develop an effective strategy to
defeat those who would destroy our civilization.
For example, the President’s own press secretary engages in verbal gymnastics to
avoid identifying the perpetrators of violence as radical Islamists. Josh Earnest
such labels do not “accurately” describe our enemies and that to use such a label
This is Orwellian double-speak. The radical Islamists do not need to be
de-legitimized. They need to be defeated. We cannot defeat what we cannot name.
There has been a desperate desire among our elites to focus on the act of terrorism
rather than the motivation behind those acts. There has been a deep desire to avoid
the cultural and religious motivations behind the Jihadists’ actions. There is an
amazing hostility to any effort to study or teach the history of these patterns
going back to the Seventh Century.
Because our elites refuse to look at the religious and historic motivations and
patterns which drive our opponents, we are responding the same way to attack after
attack on our way of life without any regard for learning about what really
motivates our attackers. Only once we learn what drives and informs our opponents
will we not repeat the same wrong response tactics, groundhog day-like, and finally
start to win this long war.
Currently each new event, each new group, each new pattern is treated as though it’s
an isolated phenomenon—as if it’s not part of a larger struggle with a long history
and deep roots in patterns that are 1400 years old.
There is a passion for narrowing and localizing actions. The early focus was Al
Qaeda. Then it was the Taliban. Now it is ISIS. It is beginning to be Boko Haram. As
long as the elites can keep treating each new eruption as a free-standing
phenomenon, they can avoid having to recognize that this is a global, worldwide
movement that is decentralized but not disordered.
There are ties between
Minneapolis and Mogadishu. There are ties between London, Paris and ISIS. Al Qaeda
exists in many forms and under many names. We are confronted by worldwide recruiting
on the internet, with Islamists reaching out to people we would never have imagined
were vulnerable to that kind of appeal.
We have been refusing to apply the insights and lessons of history but our enemies
have been very willing to study, learn, rethink and evolve.
The cultural Jihadists have learned our language and our principles—freedom of
speech, freedom of religion, tolerance—and they apply them to defeat us without
believing in them themselves. We blindly play their game on their terms, and don’t
even think about how absurd it is for people who accept no church, no synagogue, no
temple, in their heartland to come into our society and define multicultural
sensitivity totally to their advantage—meaning, in essence, that we cannot criticize
Our elites have been morally and intellectually disarmed by their own unwillingness
to look at both the immediate history of the first 35 years of the global war with
radical Islamists and then to look deeper into the roots of the ideology and the
military-political system our enemies draw upon as their guide to waging both
physical and cultural warfare.
One of the great threats to American independence is the steady growth of foreign
money pouring into our intellectual and political systems to influence our thinking
and limit our options for action. Congress needs to adopt new laws to protect the
United States from the kind of foreign influences which are growing in size and
Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, written 500 years before Christ, warned that "all
warfare is based on deception". We are currently in a period where our enemies are
deceiving us and our elites are actively deceiving themselves—and us. The deception
and dishonesty of our elites is not accidental or uninformed. It is deliberate and
willful. The flow of foreign money and foreign influence is a significant part of
that pattern of deception.
We must clearly define our enemies before we can begin to develop strategies to
We have lost 35 years since this war began.
We are weaker and our enemies are stronger.
Congress has a duty to pursue the truth and to think through the strategies needed
and the structures which will be needed to implement those strategies.
WSJ: A world remade by fracking
Reply #631 on:
April 01, 2015, 06:51:18 AM »
A World Remade by Fracking
With storage tanks full, panickers have no place to hoard oil in response to Middle East fears.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
March 31, 2015 6:52 p.m. ET
If not for fracking, oil would probably be $200 a barrel and gasoline $6.50 in the U.S.
Western economies would likely be in free fall. The grudging U.S. recovery would be in retreat. The modest and possibly illusory green shoots seen in Europe, largely a function of cheap oil and a strong dollar, would wither. Japan would be even more of a write-off than it already is.
Russia would be even more emboldened in its geopolitical predations. Vladimir Putin would be raking in vaster bucks, rather than vastly diminished bucks, for his oil. Europe and the U.S., feeling broke and bedraggled, would be even less eager for confrontation.
Speculating about counterfactuals can be a foolish exercise, but oil traders usually take fright at geopolitical upsets that threaten supplies out of the Middle East. Yemen sits at the narrow Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint through which 3.8 million barrels a day flow from Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea terminals and elsewhere to the world. Yemen’s upheaval comes at the hands of Houthi tribalists backed by Iran, whose military already threatens another key Mideast oil chokepoint, at the exit of the Persian Gulf.
To register panic about all this and drive up prices, however, oil buyers have to be able to hoard oil. That’s becoming all but impossible. A huge amount of surplus production is already sloshing around the world, mostly as a result of U.S. fracking. As a consequence, storage tanks are full to overflowing. Panickers and speculators may well be physically unable to drive up prices significantly if they wanted to.
Even with the world increasingly clear-eyed about the consequences of the fracking revolution, if not the unprecedentedly sharp episodic growth in U.S. output last year, oil still topped $100 a barrel as recently as eight months ago.
To belabor what was once obvious, instability in the Middle East typically has been bullish for oil prices, as witnessed by various Arab-Israeli wars and Iraq’s wars with its neighbors. Saudi jets have already entered the fight to stop Iran’s allies in Yemen. If necessary, Saudi troops will likely intervene on the ground, waging a fight that would also be a fight for the interests of global oil consumers.
A direct confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia over Yemen could be shaping up. Iran is on the march in Iraq and Syria. Much of the Middle East is in chaos. That all this could be happening and yet oil pundits are more concerned about oil dropping to $20 a barrel, because of a lack of storage to accommodate our abundance, testifies to a geopolitical somersault the world is still trying to make sense of.
Fracking overnight has relieved Saudi Arabia of its swing-producer dominance. Fracking overnight has relegated the Middle East to a sideshow, albeit a still-important sideshow, in the world economy.
Things change fast and could change back. A sizable share of the world’s oil still flows from the Persian Gulf and so far production has not been disrupted. Prices would shoot up—they’re already creeping up. But a weight on U.S. fracking would also be lifted. At prices below $50, much fracking becomes long-term unprofitable. But then there’s the flip-side: the flexibility exhibited by the U.S. wildcat sector, allowing drilling to ramp up quickly in response to higher prices, helping to counteract any damage to global growth.
Naturally we come to the potentially least important piece of today’s mélange: the Obama administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
In its saner moments, the administration allows that the U.S. cannot secure Iranian sanctions for the long run unless it’s also prepared to negotiate over the concerns that led to sanctions being imposed in the first place. Iran wants sanctions lifted and doesn’t intend to abandon its pursuit of nuclear capability. Banish any other thought from your head. Not only are potent swaths of the Iranian elite getting rich directly and indirectly off the nuclear program. The regime would likely fatally discredit itself if it now disavowed a nuclear quest for which it has inflicted so much suffering and penury on the Iranian people.
Not going to happen. So unless the purpose is simply to let Team Obama get out of town without Iran calling its bluff on Iran’s nuclear effort, a useful deal would be one that legitimizes the continuation of sanctions, despite the clamor of the Europeans, Russians and Chinese to resume business with Tehran, once it becomes clear the Iranians aren’t going to deliver.
Such a deal could make sense, but from Israel and Saudi Arabia you hear a different fear. By design or by default, the deal being negotiated would end up formalizing a U.S. tendency to cede its Mideast power broker role to Iran. Why? Because, thanks to fracking, the U.S. just doesn’t care that much about the Middle East anymore.
Popular on WSJ
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #632 on:
April 02, 2015, 07:10:42 AM »
Entirely too glib on Iranian nukes and the nuke arms race now starting, but many points of interest
The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures
March 31, 2015 | 08:01 GMT
By George Friedman
Last week, a coalition of predominantly Sunni Arab countries, primarily from the Arabian Peninsula and organized by Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in Yemen that have continued into this week. The airstrikes target Yemeni al-Houthis, a Shiite sect supported by Iran, and their Sunni partners, which include the majority of military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What made the strikes particularly interesting was what was lacking: U.S. aircraft. Although the United States provided intelligence and other support, it was a coalition of Arab states that launched the extended air campaign against the al-Houthis.
Three things make this important. First, it shows the United States' new regional strategy in operation. Washington is moving away from the strategy it has followed since the early 2000s — of being the prime military force in regional conflicts — and is shifting the primary burden of fighting to regional powers while playing a secondary role. Second, after years of buying advanced weaponry, the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are capable of carrying out a fairly sophisticated campaign, at least in Yemen. The campaign began by suppressing enemy air defenses — the al-Houthis had acquired surface-to-air missiles from the Yemeni military — and moved on to attacking al-Houthi command-and-control systems. This means that while the regional powers have long been happy to shift the burden of combat to the United States, they are also able to assume the burden if the United States refuses to engage.
Most important, the attacks on the al-Houthis shine the spotlight on a growing situation in the region: a war between the Sunnis and Shiites. In Iraq and Syria, a full-scale war is underway. A battle rages in Tikrit with the Sunni Islamic State and its allies on one side, and a complex combination of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army, Shiite militias, Sunni Arab tribal groups and Sunni Kurdish forces on the other. In Syria, the battle is between the secular government of President Bashar al Assad — nevertheless dominated by Alawites, a Shiite sect — and Sunni groups. However, Sunnis, Druze and Christians have sided with the regime as well. It is not reasonable to refer to the Syrian opposition as a coalition because there is significant internal hostility. Indeed, there is tension not only between the Shiites and Sunnis, but also within the Shiite and Sunni groups. In Yemen, a local power struggle among warring factions has been branded and elevated into a sectarian conflict for the benefit of the regional players. It is much more complex than simply a Shiite-Sunni war. At the same time, it cannot be understood without the Sunni-Shiite component.
Iran's Strategy and the Saudis' Response
One reason this is so important is that it represents a move by Iran to gain a major sphere of influence in the Arab world. This is not a new strategy. Iran has sought greater influence on the Arabian Peninsula since the rule of the Shah. More recently, it has struggled to create a sphere of influence stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The survival of the al Assad government in Syria and the success of a pro-Iranian government in Iraq would create that Iranian sphere of influence, given the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ability of al Assad's Syria to project its power.
For a while, it appeared that this strategy had been blocked by the near collapse of the al Assad government in 2012 and the creation of an Iraqi government that appeared to be relatively successful and was far from being an Iranian puppet. These developments, coupled with Western sanctions, placed Iran on the defensive, and the idea of an Iranian sphere of influence appeared to have become merely a dream.
However, paradoxically, the rise of the Islamic State has reinvigorated Iranian power in two ways. First, while the propaganda of the Islamic State is horrific and designed to make the group look not only terrifying, but also enormously powerful, the truth is that, although it is not weak, the Islamic State represents merely a fraction of Iraq's Sunni community, and the Sunnis are a minority in Iraq. At the same time, the propaganda has mobilized the Shiite community to resist the Islamic State, allowed Iranian advisers to effectively manage the Shiite militias in Iraq and (to some extent) the Iraqi army, and forced the United States to use its airpower in tandem with Iranian-led ground forces. Given the American strategy of blocking the Islamic State — even if doing so requires cooperation with Iran — while not putting forces on the ground, this means that as the Islamic State's underlying weakness becomes more of a factor, the default winner in Iraq will be Iran.
A somewhat similar situation exists in Syria, though with a different demographic. Iran and Russia have historically supported the al Assad government. The Iranians have been the more important supporters, particularly because they committed their ally, Hezbollah, to the battle. What once appeared to be a lost cause is now far from it. The United States was extremely hostile toward al Assad, but given the current alternatives in Syria, Washington has become at least neutral toward the Syrian government. Al Assad would undoubtedly like to have U.S. neutrality translate into a direct dialogue with Washington. Regardless of the outcome, Iran has the means to maintain its influence in Syria.
When you look at a map and think of the situation in Yemen, you get a sense of why the Saudis and Gulf Cooperation Council countries had to do something. Given what is happening along the northern border of the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudis have to calculate the possibility of an al-Houthi victory establishing a pro-Iranian, Shiite state to its south as well. The Saudis and the Gulf countries would be facing the possibility of a Shiite or Iranian encirclement. These are not the same thing, but they are linked in complex ways. Working in the Saudis' favor is the fact that the al-Houthis are not Shiite proxies like Hezbollah, and Saudi money combined with military operations designed to cut off Iranian supply lines to the al-Houthis could mitigate the threat overall. Either way, the Saudis had to act.
During the Arab Spring, one of the nearly successful attempts to topple a government occurred in Bahrain. The uprising failed primarily because Saudi Arabia intervened and imposed its will on the country. The Saudis showed themselves to be extremely sensitive to the rise of Shiite regimes with close relations with the Iranians on the Arabian Peninsula. The result was unilateral intervention and suppression. Whatever the moral issues, it is clear that the Saudis are frightened by rising Iranian and Shiite power and are willing to use their strength. That is what they have done in Yemen.
In a way, the issue is simple for the Saudis. They represent the center of gravity of the religious Sunni world. As such, they and their allies have embarked on a strategy that is strategically defensive and tactically offensive. Their goal is to block Iranian and Shiite influence, and the means they are implementing is coalition warfare that uses air power to support local forces on the ground. Unless there is a full invasion of Yemen, the Saudis are following the American strategy of the 2000s on a smaller scale.
The U.S. Stance
The American strategy is more complex. As I've written before, the United States has undertaken a strategy focused on maintaining the balance of power. This kind of approach is always messy because the goal is not to support any particular power, but to maintain a balance between multiple powers. Therefore, the United States is providing intelligence and mission planning for the Saudi coalition against the al-Houthis and their Iranian allies. In Iraq, the United States is providing support to Shiites — and by extension, their allies — by bombing Islamic State installations. In Syria, U.S. strategy is so complex that it defies clear explanation. That is the nature of refusing large-scale intervention but being committed to a balance of power. The United States can oppose Iran in one theater and support it in another. The more simplistic models of the Cold War are not relevant here.
All of this is happening at the same time that nuclear negotiations appear to be coming to some sort of closure. The United States is not really concerned about Iran's nuclear weapons. As I have said many times, we have heard since the mid-2000s that Iran was a year or two away from nuclear weapons. Each year, the fateful date was pushed back. Building deliverable nuclear weapons is difficult, and the Iranians have not even carried out a nuclear test, an essential step before a deliverable weapon is created. What was a major issue a few years ago is now part of a constellation of issues where U.S.-Iranian relations interact, support and contradict. Deal or no deal, the United States will bomb the Islamic State, which will help Iran, and support the Saudis in Yemen, which will not.
The real issue now is what it was a few years ago: Iran appears to be building a sphere of influence to the Mediterranean Sea, but this time, that sphere of influence potentially includes Yemen. That, in turn, creates a threat to the Arabian Peninsula from two directions. The Iranians are trying to place a vise around it. The Saudis must react, but the question is whether airstrikes are capable of stopping the al-Houthis. They are a relatively low-cost way to wage war, but they fail frequently. The first question is what the Saudis will do then. The second question is what the Americans will do. The current doctrine requires a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the United States tilting back and forth. Under this doctrine — and in this military reality — the United States cannot afford full-scale engagement on the ground in Iraq.
Relatively silent but absolutely vital to this tale is Turkey. It has the largest economy in the region and has the largest army, although just how good its army is can be debated. Turkey is watching chaos along its southern border, rising tension in the Caucasus, and conflict across the Black Sea. Of all these, Syria and Iraq and the potential rise of Iranian power is the most disturbing. Turkey has said little about Iran of late, but last week Ankara suddenly criticized Tehran and accused Iran of trying to dominate the region. Turkey frequently says things without doing anything, but the development is still noteworthy.
It should be remembered that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hoped to see Turkey as a regional leader and the leader of the Sunni world. With the Saudis taking an active role and the Turks doing little in Syria or Iraq, the moment is passing Turkey by. Such moments come and go, so history is not changed. But Turkey is still the major Sunni power and the third leg of the regional balance involving Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The evolution of Turkey would be the critical step in the emergence of a regional balance of power, in which local powers, not the United Kingdom or the United States, determine the outcome. The American role, like the British role before it, would not be directly waging war in the region but providing aid designed to stabilize the balance of power. That can be seen in Yemen or Iraq. It is extremely complex and not suited for simplistic or ideological analysis. But it is here, it is unfolding and it will represent the next generation of Middle Eastern dynamics. And if the Iranians put aside their theoretical nuclear weapons and focus on this, that will draw in the Turks and round out the balance of power.
The Obama Doctrine
Reply #633 on:
April 05, 2015, 09:54:13 AM »
Stratfor: Kicking over the Table in the Middle East
Reply #634 on:
April 05, 2015, 04:04:57 PM »
Kicking Over the Table in the Middle East
April 2, 2015 | 22:10 GMT
The United States and Iran, along with other members of the Western negotiating coalition, reached an agreement whose end point will be Iran's monitored abandonment of any ambition to build nuclear weapons, coupled with the end of sanctions on Iran's economy. It is not a final agreement. That will take until at least June 30. There are also powerful forces in Iran and the United States that oppose the agreement and might undermine it. And, in the end, neither side is certain to live up the agreement. Nevertheless, there has been an agreement between the Great Satan and a charter member of the Axis of Evil, and that matters. But it matters less for what it says about Iran's nuclear program, or economic sanctions, than for how it affects the regional balance of power, a subject we wrote on in this week's Geopolitical Weekly.
Israel is the country that will be the most visible. It has been vociferous in opposing any deal with Iran. But in the end, this deal affects others less than Israel pretends. First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's behavior does not indicate that he truly believes in an imminent Iranian nuclear threat. He has been asserting for more than a decade that the Iranians are a year or two away from a nuclear weapon. According to him, they are always a year or two away. It has become a non-falsifiable assertion. No matter what deadline passes, it does not deter Netanyahu.
What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.
But more important, if Netanyahu actually believed what he said, it is inconceivable that he would not have taken military action, with or without U.S. support, to protect Israel from an existential threat. Israel has a substantial military capability, including tactical nuclear weapons. While its forces are relatively far from Iran, there are other regional powers on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Caucasus who are hostile to Iran and frightened of Iranian nuclear weapons who could, theoretically, allow Israel to base aircraft and special forces out of their countries for an Israeli strike on Iran's facilities.
Netanyahu's statements and Netanyahu's actions — or lack of them — are utterly contradictory. If he meant what he said about the threat, and the United States was not prepared to act, the prime minister of Israel would be derelict in his responsibilities by failing to act. Netanyahu is not a man to neglect his duty. Therefore, he cannot believe what he says. Indeed, what he has wanted consistently was a U.S. attack on Iran, or at least unremitting U.S. hostility toward Iran. His fear of Iran's nuclear program had more to do with limiting a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement than protecting Israel from Iranian nuclear weapons. The latter would have produced different actions. Fear of a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is not unreasonable, and all nations must use what tools they have to shape their environment. But in this case, the Israeli response will be of secondary importance.
Of far greater importance will be the Saudi and Turkish response. Saudi Arabia is the mortal enemy of Iran, not merely over religious issues, but geopolitically. Riyadh understands that it is rich and yet militarily constrained, while Tehran is poor but has more robust military capabilities. This is an uncomfortable position to be in. Obviously, Iran would like to dominate the Arabian Peninsula. The United States has been the guarantor of Saudi national security. The understanding with Iran, if it endures and if it evolves into a broader relationship, threatens the security of the entire Arabian Peninsula. This can also put the United States in a position where the Arabian Peninsula can no longer simply assume U.S. hostility toward Iran or U.S. support of their interests. The airstrikes on Yemen are the first indication of the region having to bear the burden of its strategic interests. There will be more such military initiatives, and the Arabian Peninsula will be wooing the United States rather than the other way around.
The same is true for another country that is far more important: Turkey. During the last few years, Ankara has played a complex game with Washington, supporting those things that were in its own interests and opposing things that were not. This makes perfect sense, but the U.S. relationship with Iran changes the basic dynamic. Last week Turkey made hostile gestures toward Iran. Turkish and Iranian interests are not identical and can easily diverge. It is important for Turkey that the United States keeps its distance from Iran. To this point, the United States wooed Turkey and both countries become reluctant partners. If the United States has a closer relationship with Iran, Turkey, like Saudi Arabia, will have to pay a much higher price for alignment with the United States and bear increasing risks if it is unwilling to pay that price.
The question of Iranian nuclear weapons is more theoretical than real. Iran will become, if not an ally, then possibly a country with which to cooperate on matters, such as what is happening in Iraq. There is a saying in chess: When you are being outplayed, kick over the table and start a new game. The understanding between Washington and Tehran is in itself both incomplete and uncertain. However, if it evolves into something solid, then we can look at this as the day the United States kicked over the table and started a new game.
T. Freidman interviews Obama in depth
Reply #635 on:
April 05, 2015, 04:43:54 PM »
46 minutes of video at
The Obama Doctrine and Iran
APRIL 5, 2015
Continue reading the main story Video
The Obama Doctrine and Iran
President Obama talks with Thomas L. Friedman about the calculations that informed the Iran nuclear framework and what they say about his overall approach to foreign policy.
Thomas L. Friedman
In September 1996, I visited Iran. One of my most enduring memories of that trip was that in my hotel lobby there was a sign above the door proclaiming “Down With USA.” But it wasn’t a banner or graffiti. It was tiled and plastered into the wall. I thought to myself: “Wow — that’s tiled in there! That won’t come out easily.” Nearly 20 years later, in the wake of a draft deal between the Obama administration and Iran, we have what may be the best chance to begin to pry that sign loose, to ease the U.S.-Iran cold/hot war that has roiled the region for 36 years. But it is a chance fraught with real risks to America, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies: that Iran could eventually become a nuclear-armed state.
President Obama invited me to the Oval Office Saturday afternoon to lay out exactly how he was trying to balance these risks and opportunities in the framework accord reached with Iran last week in Switzerland. What struck me most was what I’d call an “Obama doctrine” embedded in the president’s remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that “engagement,” combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-à-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities — like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.
President Obama lays out his preference for engagement over isolation in his approach to foreign policy. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.
By A.J. Chavar, Quynhanh Do, David Frank, Abe Sater and Ben Werschkul on Publish Date April 5, 2015. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing ... people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. ... You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”
The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. ... We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”
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Obviously, Israel is in a different situation, he added. “Now, what you might hear from Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, which I respect, is the notion, ‘Look, Israel is more vulnerable. We don’t have the luxury of testing these propositions the way you do,’ and I completely understand that. And further, I completely understand Israel’s belief that given the tragic history of the Jewish people, they can’t be dependent solely on us for their own security. But what I would say to them is that not only am I absolutely committed to making sure that they maintain their qualitative military edge, and that they can deter any potential future attacks, but what I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them. And that, I think, should be ... sufficient to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table.”
He added: “What I would say to the Israeli people is ... that there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward — and that’s demonstrable.”
The president gave voice, though — in a more emotional and personal way than I’ve ever heard — to his distress at being depicted in Israel and among American Jews as somehow anti-Israel, when his views on peace are shared by many center-left Israelis and his administration has been acknowledged by Israeli officials to have been as vigorous as any in maintaining Israel’s strategic edge.
With huge amounts of conservative campaign money now flowing to candidates espousing pro-Israel views, which party is more supportive of Israel is becoming a wedge issue, an arms race, with Republican candidates competing over who can be the most unreservedly supportive of Israel in any disagreement with the United States, and ordinary, pro-Israel Democrats increasingly feeling sidelined.
President Obama explains why the nuclear deal is the best, and only, option to keep Israel safe from Iran. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.
By A.J. Chavar, Quynhanh Do, David Frank, Abe Sater and Ben Werschkul on Publish Date April 5, 2015. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
“This is an area that I’ve been concerned about,” the president said. “Look, Israel is a robust, rowdy democracy. ... We share so much. We share blood, family. ... And part of what has always made the U.S.-Israeli relationship so special is that it has transcended party, and I think that has to be preserved. There has to be the ability for me to disagree with a policy on settlements, for example, without being viewed as ... opposing Israel. There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat, and I think the right way to do it is to recognize that as many commonalities as we have, there are going to be strategic differences. And I think that it is important for each side to respect the debate that takes place in the other country and not try to work just with one side. ... But this has been as hard as anything I do because of the deep affinities that I feel for the Israeli people and for the Jewish people. It’s been a hard period.”
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You take it personally? I asked.
“It has been personally difficult for me to hear ... expressions that somehow ... this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest — and the suggestion that when we have very serious policy differences, that that’s not in the context of a deep and abiding friendship and concern and understanding of the threats that the Jewish people have faced historically and continue to face.”
As for protecting our Sunni Arab allies, like Saudi Arabia, the president said, they have some very real external threats, but they also have some internal threats — “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances. And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, ‘How can we build your defense capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than [the Islamic State, or ISIS] to choose from. ... I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. ... That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”
That said, the Iran deal is far from finished. As the President cautioned: “We’re not done yet. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.”
On Congress’s role, Obama said he insists on preserving the presidential prerogative to enter into binding agreements with foreign powers without congressional approval. However, he added, “I do think that [Tennessee Republican] Senator Corker, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, is somebody who is sincerely concerned about this issue and is a good and decent man, and my hope is that we can find something that allows Congress to express itself but does not encroach on traditional presidential prerogatives — and ensures that, if in fact we get a good deal, that we can go ahead and implement it.”
Since President Obama has had more direct and indirect dealings with Iran’s leadership — including an exchange of numerous letters with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — than any of his predecessors since Iran’s revolution in 1979, I asked what he has learned from the back and forth.
“I think that it’s important to recognize that Iran is a complicated country — just like we’re a complicated country,” the president said. “There is no doubt that, given the history between our two countries, that there is deep mistrust that is not going to fade away immediately. The activities that they engage in, the rhetoric, both anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is deeply disturbing. There are deep trends in the country that are contrary to not only our own national security interests and views but those of our allies and friends in the region, and those divisions are real.”
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But, he added, “what we’ve also seen is that there is a practical streak to the Iranian regime. I think they are concerned about self-preservation. I think they are responsive, to some degree, to their publics. I think the election of [President Hassan] Rouhani indicated that there was an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community, an emphasis on the economics and the desire to link up with a global economy. And so what we’ve seen over the last several years, I think, is the opportunity for those forces within Iran that want to break out of the rigid framework that they have been in for a long time to move in a different direction. It’s not a radical break, but it’s one that I think offers us the chance for a different type of relationship, and this nuclear deal, I think, is a potential expression of that.”
What about Iran’s supreme leader, who will be the ultimate decider there on whether or not Iran moves ahead? What have you learned about him?
President Obama explains why Iran does not need to have nuclear weapons to be a regional powerhouse. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.
By A.J. Chavar, Quynhanh Do, David Frank, Abe Sater and Ben Werschkul on Publish Date April 5, 2015. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
“He’s a pretty tough read,” the president said. “I haven’t spoken to him directly. In the letters that he sends, there [are] typically a lot of reminders of what he perceives as past grievances against Iran, but what is, I think, telling is that he did give his negotiators in this deal the leeway, the capability to make important concessions, that would allow this framework agreement to come to fruition. So what that tells me is that — although he is deeply suspicious of the West [and] very insular in how he thinks about international issues as well as domestic issues, and deeply conservative — he does realize that the sanctions regime that we put together was weakening Iran over the long term, and that if in fact he wanted to see Iran re-enter the community of nations, then there were going to have to be changes.”
Since he has acknowledged Israel’s concerns, and the fact that they are widely shared there, if the president had a chance to make his case for this framework deal directly to the Israeli people, what would he say?
“Well, what I’d say to them is this,” the president answered. “You have every right to be concerned about Iran. This is a regime that at the highest levels has expressed the desire to destroy Israel, that has denied the Holocaust, that has expressed venomous anti-Semitic ideas and is a big country with a big population and has a sophisticated military. So Israel is right to be concerned about Iran, and they should be absolutely concerned that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” But, he insisted, this framework initiative, if it can be implemented, can satisfy that Israeli strategic concern with more effectiveness and at less cost to Israel than any other approach. “We know that a military strike or a series of military strikes can set back Iran’s nuclear program for a period of time — but almost certainly will prompt Iran to rush towards a bomb, will provide an excuse for hard-liners inside of Iran to say, ‘This is what happens when you don’t have a nuclear weapon: America attacks.’
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“We know that if we do nothing, other than just maintain sanctions, that they will continue with the building of their nuclear infrastructure and we’ll have less insight into what exactly is happening,” Obama added. “So this may not be optimal. In a perfect world, Iran would say, ‘We won’t have any nuclear infrastructure at all,’ but what we know is that this has become a matter of pride and nationalism for Iran. Even those who we consider moderates and reformers are supportive of some nuclear program inside of Iran, and given that they will not capitulate completely, given that they can’t meet the threshold that Prime Minister Netanyahu sets forth, there are no Iranian leaders who will do that. And given the fact that this is a country that withstood an eight-year war and a million people dead, they’ve shown themselves willing, I think, to endure hardship when they considered a point of national pride or, in some cases, national survival.”
The president continued: “For us to examine those options and say to ourselves, ‘You know what, if we can have vigorous inspections, unprecedented, and we know at every point along their nuclear chain exactly what they’re doing and that lasts for 20 years, and for the first 10 years their program is not just frozen but effectively rolled back to a larger degree, and we know that even if they wanted to cheat we would have at least a year, which is about three times longer than we’d have right now, and we would have insights into their programs that we’ve never had before,’ in that circumstance, the notion that we wouldn’t take that deal right now and that that would not be in Israel’s interest is simply incorrect.”
Because, Obama argued, “the one thing that changes the equation is when these countries get a nuclear weapon. ... Witness North Korea, which is a problem state that is rendered a lot more dangerous because of their nuclear program. If we can prevent that from happening anyplace else in the world, that’s something where it’s worth taking some risks.”
“I have to respect the fears that the Israeli people have,” he added, “and I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expressing the deep-rooted concerns that a lot of the Israeli population feel about this, but what I can say to them is: Number one, this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, and number two, what we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there. And I think the combination of a diplomatic path that puts the nuclear issue to one side — while at the same time sending a clear message to the Iranians that you have to change your behavior more broadly and that we are going to protect our allies if you continue to engage in destabilizing aggressive activity — I think that’s a combination that potentially at least not only assures our friends, but starts bringing down the temperature.”
President Obama says that a final nuclear deal would require further engagement, with and monitoring of, Iran. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.
By A.J. Chavar, Quynhanh Do, David Frank, Abe Sater and Ben Werschkul on Publish Date April 5, 2015. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
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There is clearly a debate going on inside Iran as to whether the country should go ahead with this framework deal as well, so what would the president say to the Iranian people to persuade them that this deal is in their interest?
If their leaders really are telling the truth that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon, the president said, then “the notion that they would want to expend so much on a symbolic program as opposed to harnessing the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the Iranian people, and be part of the world economy and see their nation excel in those terms, that should be a pretty straightforward choice for them. Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons to be a powerhouse in the region. For that matter, what I’d say to the Iranian people is: You don’t need to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel or anti-Sunni to be a powerhouse in the region. I mean, the truth is, Iran has all these potential assets going for it where, if it was a responsible international player, if it did not engage in aggressive rhetoric against its neighbors, if it didn’t express anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment, if it maintained a military that was sufficient to protect itself, but was not engaging in a whole bunch of proxy wars around the region, by virtue of its size, its resources and its people it would be an extremely successful regional power. And so my hope is that the Iranian people begin to recognize that.”
Clearly, he added, “part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I’ve told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past. ... But if we’re able to get this done, then what may happen — and I’m not counting on it — but what may happen is that those forces inside of Iran that say, ‘We don’t need to view ourselves entirely through the lens of our war machine. Let’s excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people,’ that those folks get stronger. ... I say that emphasizing that the nuclear deal that we’ve put together is not based on the idea that somehow the regime changes.
“It is a good deal even if Iran doesn’t change at all,” Obama argued. “Even for somebody who believes, as I suspect Prime Minister Netanyahu believes, that there is no difference between Rouhani and the supreme leader and they’re all adamantly anti-West and anti-Israel and perennial liars and cheaters — even if you believed all that, this still would be the right thing to do. It would still be the best option for us to protect ourselves. In fact, you could argue that if they are implacably opposed to us, all the more reason for us to want to have a deal in which we know what they’re doing and that, for a long period of time, we can prevent them from having a nuclear weapon.”
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There are several very sensitive points in the framework agreement that are not clear to me, and I asked the president for his interpretation. For instance, if we suspect that Iran is cheating, is harboring a covert nuclear program outside of the declared nuclear facilities covered in this deal — say, at a military base in southeastern Iran — do we have the right to insist on that facility being examined by international inspectors?
“In the first instance, what we have agreed to is that we will be able to inspect and verify what’s happening along the entire nuclear chain from the uranium mines all the way through to the final facilities like Natanz,” the president said. “What that means is that we’re not just going to have a bunch of folks posted at two or three or five sites. We are going to be able to see what they’re doing across the board, and in fact, if they now wanted to initiate a covert program that was designed to produce a nuclear weapon, they’d have to create a whole different supply chain. That’s point number one. Point number two, we’re actually going to be setting up a procurement committee that examines what they’re importing, what they’re bringing in that they might claim as dual-use, to determine whether or not what they’re using is something that would be appropriate for a peaceful nuclear program versus a weapons program. And number three, what we’re going to be doing is setting up a mechanism whereby, yes, I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors can go anyplace.”
Anywhere in Iran? I asked.
“That we suspect,” the president answered. “Obviously, a request will have to be made. Iran could object, but what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection, and if they determine it should be, that’s the tiebreaker, not Iran saying, ‘No, you can’t come here.’ So over all, what we’re seeing is not just the additional protocols that I.A.E.A. has imposed on countries that are suspected of in the past having had problematic nuclear programs, we’re going even beyond that, and Iran will be subject to the kinds of inspections and verification mechanisms that have never been put in place before.”
A lot of people, myself included, will want to see the fine print on that. Another issue that doesn’t seem to have been resolved yet is: When exactly do the economic sanctions on Iran get lifted? When the implementation begins? When Iran has been deemed to be complying fully?
“There are still details to be worked out,” the president said, “but I think that the basic framework calls for Iran to take the steps that it needs to around [the Fordow enrichment facility], the centrifuges, and so forth. At that point, then, the U.N. sanctions are suspended; although the sanctions related to proliferation, the sanctions related to ballistic missiles, there’s a set of sanctions that remain in place. At that point, then, we preserve the ability to snap back those sanctions, if there is a violation. If not, though, Iran, outside of the proliferation and ballistic missile issues that stay in place, they’re able to get out from under the sanctions, understanding that this constant monitoring will potentially trigger some sort of action if they’re in violation.”
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There are still United States sanctions that are related to Iran’s behavior in terrorism and human rights abuse, though, the president added: “There are certain sanctions that we have that would remain in place because they’re not related to Iran’s nuclear program, and this, I think, gets to a central point that we’ve made consistently. If in fact we are able to finalize the nuclear deal, and if Iran abides by it, that’s a big piece of business that we’ve gotten done, but it does not end our problems with Iran, and we are still going to be aggressively working with our allies and friends to reduce — and hopefully at some point stop — the destabilizing activities that Iran has engaged in, the sponsorship of terrorist organizations. And that may take some time. But it’s our belief, it’s my belief, that we will be in a stronger position to do so if the nuclear issue has been put in a box. And if we can do that, it’s possible that Iran, seeing the benefits of sanctions relief, starts focusing more on the economy and its people. And investment starts coming in, and the country starts opening up. If we’ve done a good job in bolstering the sense of security and defense cooperation between us and the Sunni states, if we have made even more certain that the Israeli people are absolutely protected not just by their own capacities, but also by our commitments, then what’s possible is you start seeing an equilibrium in the region, and Sunni and Shia, Saudi and Iran start saying, ‘Maybe we should lower tensions and focus on the extremists like [ISIS] that would burn down this entire region if they could.’ ”
Regarding America’s Sunni Arab allies, Obama reiterated that while he is prepared to help increase their military capabilities they also need to increase their willingness to commit their ground troops to solving regional problems.
“The conversations I want to have with the Gulf countries is, first and foremost, how do they build more effective defense capabilities,” the president said. “I think when you look at what happens in Syria, for example, there’s been a great desire for the United States to get in there and do something. But the question is: Why is it that we can’t have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done? I also think that I can send a message to them about the U.S.’s commitments to work with them and ensure that they are not invaded from the outside, and that perhaps will ease some of their concerns and allow them to have a more fruitful conversation with the Iranians. What I can’t do, though, is commit to dealing with some of these internal issues that they have without them making some changes that are more responsive to their people.”
One way to think about it, Obama continued, “is [that] when it comes to external aggression, I think we’re going to be there for our [Arab] friends — and I want to see how we can formalize that a little bit more than we currently have, and also help build their capacity so that they feel more confident about their ability to protect themselves from external aggression.” But, he repeated, “The biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. Now disentangling that from real terrorist activity inside their country, how we sort that out, how we engage in the counterterrorism cooperation that’s been so important to our own security — without automatically legitimizing or validating whatever repressive tactics they may employ — I think that’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.”
President Obama on the “dangers” that arise when lawmakers breach traditional channels of foreign policy. This is an excerpt of an interview with Thomas L. Friedman.
By A.J. Chavar, Quynhanh Do, David Frank, Abe Sater and Ben Werschkul on Publish Date April 5, 2015. Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
It feels lately like some traditional boundaries between the executive and legislative branches, when it comes to the conduct of American foreign policy, have been breached. For instance, there was the letter from 47 Republican senators to Iran’s supreme leader cautioning him on striking any deal with Obama not endorsed by them — coming in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu being invited by the speaker of the House, John Boehner, to address a joint session of Congress — without consulting the White House. How is Obama taking this?
“I do worry that some traditional boundaries in how we think about foreign policy have been crossed,” the president said. “I felt the letter that was sent to the supreme leader was inappropriate. I think that you will recall there were some deep disagreements with President Bush about the Iraq war, but the notion that you would have had a whole bunch of Democrats sending letters to leaders in the region or to European leaders ... trying to undermine the president’s policies I think is troubling.
“The bottom line,” he added, “is that we’re going to have serious debates, serious disagreements, and I welcome those because that’s how our democracy is supposed to work, and in today’s international environment, whatever arguments we have here, other people are hearing and reading about it. It’s not a secret that the Republicans may feel more affinity with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views of the Iran issue than they do with mine. But [we need to be] keeping that within some formal boundaries, so that the executive branch, when it goes overseas, when it’s communicating with foreign leaders, is understood to be speaking on behalf of the United States of America, not a divided United States of America, making sure that whether that president is a Democrat or a Republican that once the debates have been had here, that he or she is the spokesperson on behalf of U.S. foreign policy. And that’s clear to every leader around the world. That’s important because without that, what you start getting is multiple foreign policies, confusion among foreign powers as to who speaks for who, and that ends up being a very dangerous — circumstances that could be exploited by our enemies and could deeply disturb our friends.”
As for the Obama doctrine — “we will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities” — the president concluded: “I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it. But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement — and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations — and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.”
Whatever happened in the past, he said, “at this point, the U.S.’s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. ... Our core interests are that everybody is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked, that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them, that massive displacements aren’t taking place. Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it’s working well, then we’ll do fine. And that’s going to be a big project, given what’s taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.”
Re: T. Freidman interviews Obama in depth
Reply #636 on:
April 06, 2015, 11:45:09 AM »
As always, Pres. Obama is the master of the straw man argument, skillfully shooting down arguments the other side is not making.
“We know that if we do nothing, other than just maintain sanctions, that they will continue with the building of their nuclear infrastructure and we’ll have less insight into what exactly is happening,”
- Doing nothing is NOT the only alternative put forward by people more concerned than him about the Iranian nuclear threat!
"America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks"
- Permitting Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure is a calculated risk?!
Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us.
- Tell that to the families of servicemen and women blown up by Iran-made IEDs in Iraq. Does he live in a cave? They already are fighting us! They are the world's number one state sponsor of terror. Compare terror budgets, not"defense".
Obama doctrine: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”
- While allowing sworn enemies to grow their capabilities exponentially!
"we’re preserving all our options"
- We can "snap" sanctions back on them anytime we want, but "we" now includes unanimous consent agreement with the enemy adversaries of Russia and China. Why don't we put Israel and Taiwan on the P5 security council in place of adversarial, totalitarian regimes, if serious about peace. Options not even on the table would be the obvious ones, to take out these known enemy nuclear sites militarily and to tighten, not loosen, sanctions until the regime drops its support for terror and its commitment to the destruction of both Israel and America.
"What I’m willing to do is to make the kinds of commitments that would give everybody in the neighborhood, including Iran, a clarity that if Israel were to be attacked by any state, that we would stand by them."
- Nothing says clarity like another Obama red line. Chemical weapons in Syria, you can keep your health plan, and a thousand other falsehoods come to mind.
“What I would say to the Israeli people is ... that there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward — and that’s demonstrable.”
- Osirak? http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/7/newsid_3014000/3014623.stm
“the one thing that changes the equation is when these countries get a nuclear weapon. ... Witness North Korea, which is a problem state that is rendered a lot more dangerous because of their nuclear program. If we can prevent that from happening anyplace else in the world, that’s something where it’s worth taking some risks.”
- Then take some risks!
If there is a different site needing inspection, "obviously a request will have to be made. Iran could object, but what we have done is to try to design a mechanism whereby once those objections are heard, that it is not a final veto that Iran has, but in fact some sort of international mechanism will be in place that makes a fair assessment as to whether there should be an inspection"
- Again, subject to a Russia or China veto, and subject to endless delays.
“The conversations I want to have with the Gulf countries is, first and foremost, how do they build more effective defense capabilities,”
- Ask them, they all need to go nuclear as Iran does.
"I also think that I can send a message to them about the U.S.’s commitments to work with them and ensure that they are not invaded from the outside"
- As we did with Ukraine... And that was a P5 member attacking! And Yemen. We stand with you every step of the way. Oops, we're out.
Not asked and not answered: Why does oil-rich Iran need nuclear facilities for "peaceful energy production" when the US and allies do not?
Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 12:49:35 PM by DougMacG
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #637 on:
April 06, 2015, 11:58:01 AM »
Excellent response Doug!
Continuing to explore additional perspectives, here is something Stratfor wrote five years ago-- though I find it quite glib regarding the nuclear issue, there are a number of ideas worthy of considerable reflection IMHO:
Thinking About the Unthinkable: A U.S.-Iranian Deal
March 1, 2010 | 17:03 GMT
By George Friedman
The United States apparently has reached the point where it must either accept that Iran will develop nuclear weapons at some point if it wishes, or take military action to prevent this. There is a third strategy, however: Washington can seek to redefine the Iranian question.
As we have no idea what leaders on either side are thinking, exploring this represents an exercise in geopolitical theory. Let's begin with the two apparent stark choices.
Diplomacy vs. the Military Option
The diplomatic approach consists of creating a broad coalition prepared to impose what have been called crippling sanctions on Iran. Effective sanctions must be so painful that they compel the target to change its behavior. In Tehran's case, this could only consist of blocking Iran's imports of gasoline. Iran imports 35 percent of the gasoline it consumes. It is not clear that a gasoline embargo would be crippling, but it is the only embargo that might work. All other forms of sanctions against Iran would be mere gestures designed to give the impression that something is being done.
The Chinese will not participate in any gasoline embargo. Beijing gets 11 percent of its oil from Iran, and it has made it clear it will continue to deliver gasoline to Iran. Moscow's position is that Russia might consider sanctions down the road, but it hasn't specified when, and it hasn't specified what. The Russians are more than content seeing the U.S. bogged down in the Middle East and so are not inclined to solve American problems in the region. With the Chinese and Russians unlikely to embargo gasoline, these sanctions won't create significant pain for Iran. Since all other sanctions are gestures, the diplomatic approach is therefore unlikely to work.
The military option has its own risks. First, its success depends on the quality of intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities and on the degree of hardening of those targets. Second, it requires successful air attacks. Third, it requires battle damage assessments that tell the attacker whether the strike succeeded. Fourth, it requires follow-on raids to destroy facilities that remain functional. And fifth, attacks must do more than simply set back Iran's program a few months or even years: If the risk of a nuclear Iran is great enough to justify the risks of war, the outcome must be decisive.
Each point in this process is a potential failure point. Given the multiplicity of these points — which includes others not mentioned — failure may not be an option, but it is certainly possible.
But even if the attacks succeed, the question of what would happen the day after the attacks remains. Iran has its own counters. It has a superbly effective terrorist organization, Hezbollah, at its disposal. It has sufficient influence in Iraq to destabilize that country and force the United States to keep forces in Iraq badly needed elsewhere. And it has the ability to use mines and missiles to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf shipping lanes for some period — driving global oil prices through the roof while the global economy is struggling to stabilize itself. Iran's position on its nuclear program is rooted in the awareness that while it might not have assured options in the event of a military strike, it has counters that create complex and unacceptable risks. Iran therefore does not believe the United States will strike or permit Israel to strike, as the consequences would be unacceptable.
To recap, the United States either can accept a nuclear Iran or risk an attack that might fail outright, impose only a minor delay on Iran's nuclear program or trigger extremely painful responses even if it succeeds. When neither choice is acceptable, it is necessary to find a third choice.
Redefining the Iranian Problem
As long as the problem of Iran is defined in terms of its nuclear program, the United States is in an impossible place. Therefore, the Iranian problem must be redefined. One attempt at redefinition involves hope for an uprising against the current regime. We will not repeat our views on this in depth, but in short, we do not regard these demonstrations to be a serious threat to the regime. Tehran has handily crushed them, and even if they did succeed, we do not believe they would produce a regime any more accommodating toward the United States. The idea of waiting for a revolution is more useful as a justification for inaction — and accepting a nuclear Iran — than it is as a strategic alternative.
At this moment, Iran is the most powerful regional military force in the Persian Gulf. Unless the United States permanently stations substantial military forces in the region, there is no military force able to block Iran. Turkey is more powerful than Iran, but it is far from the Persian Gulf and focused on other matters at the moment, and it doesn't want to take on Iran militarily — at least not for a very long time. At the very least, this means the United States cannot withdraw from Iraq. Baghdad is too weak to block Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, and the Iraqi government has elements friendly toward Iran.
Historically, regional stability depended on the Iraqi-Iranian balance of power. When it tottered in 1990, the result was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The United States did not push into Iraq in 1991 because it did not want to upset the regional balance of power by creating a vacuum in Iraq. Rather, U.S. strategy was to re-establish the Iranian-Iraqi balance of power to the greatest extent possible, as the alternative was basing large numbers of U.S. troops in the region.
The decision to invade Iraq in 2003 assumed that once the Baathist regime was destroyed the United States would rapidly create a strong Iraqi government that would balance Iran. The core mistake in this thinking lay in failing to recognize that the new Iraqi government would be filled with Shiites, many of whom regarded Iran as a friendly power. Rather than balancing Iran, Iraq could well become an Iranian satellite. The Iranians strongly encouraged the American invasion precisely because they wanted to create a situation where Iraq moved toward Iran's orbit. When this in fact began happening, the Americans had no choice but an extended occupation of Iraq, a trap both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to escape.
It is difficult to define Iran's influence in Iraq at this point. But at a minimum, while Iran may not be able to impose a pro-Iranian state on Iraq, it has sufficient influence to block the creation of any strong Iraqi government either through direct influence in the government or by creating destabilizing violence in Iraq. In other words, Iran can prevent Iraq from emerging as a counterweight to Iran, and Iran has every reason to do this. Indeed, it is doing just this.
The Fundamental U.S.-Iranian Issue
Iraq, not nuclear weapons, is the fundamental issue between Iran and the United States. Iran wants to see a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq so Iran can assume its place as the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf. The United States wants to withdraw from Iraq because it faces challenges in Afghanistan — where it will also need Iranian cooperation — and elsewhere. Committing forces to Iraq for an extended period of time while fighting in Afghanistan leaves the United States exposed globally. Events involving China or Russia — such as the 2008 war in Georgia — would see the United States without a counter. The alternative would be a withdrawal from Afghanistan or a massive increase in U.S. armed forces. The former is not going to happen any time soon, and the latter is an economic impossibility.
Therefore, the United States must find a way to counterbalance Iran without an open-ended deployment in Iraq and without expecting the re-emergence of Iraqi power, because Iran is not going to allow the latter to happen. The nuclear issue is simply an element of this broader geopolitical problem, as it adds another element to the Iranian tool kit. It is not a stand-alone issue.
The United States has an interesting strategy in redefining problems that involves creating extraordinary alliances with mortal ideological and geopolitical enemies to achieve strategic U.S. goals. First consider Franklin Roosevelt's alliance with Stalinist Russia to block Nazi Germany. He pursued this alliance despite massive political outrage not only from isolationists but also from institutions like the Roman Catholic Church that regarded the Soviets as the epitome of evil.
Now consider Richard Nixon's decision to align with China at a time when the Chinese were supplying weapons to North Vietnam that were killing American troops. Moreover, Mao — who had said he did not fear nuclear war as China could absorb a few hundred million deaths — was considered, with reason, quite mad. Nevertheless, Nixon, as anti-Communist and anti-Chinese a figure as existed in American politics, understood that an alliance (and despite the lack of a formal treaty, alliance it was) with China was essential to counterbalance the Soviet Union at a time when American power was still being sapped in Vietnam.
Roosevelt and Nixon both faced impossible strategic situations unless they were prepared to redefine the strategic equation dramatically and accept the need for alliance with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats. American history is filled with opportunistic alliances designed to solve impossible strategic dilemmas. The Stalin and Mao cases represent stunning alliances with prior enemies designed to block a third power seen as more dangerous.
It is said that Ahmadinejad is crazy. It was also said that Mao and Stalin were crazy, in both cases with much justification. Ahmadinejad has said many strange things and issued numerous threats. But when Roosevelt ignored what Stalin said and Nixon ignored what Mao said, they each discovered that Stalin's and Mao's actions were far more rational and predictable than their rhetoric. Similarly, what the Iranians say and what they do are quite different.
U.S. vs. Iranian Interests
Consider the American interest. First, it must maintain the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. The United States cannot tolerate interruptions, and that limits the risks it can take. Second, it must try to keep any one power from controlling all of the oil in the Persian Gulf, as that would give such a country too much long-term power within the global system. Third, while the United States is involved in a war with elements of the Sunni Muslim world, it must reduce the forces devoted to that war. Fourth, it must deal with the Iranian problem directly. Europe will go as far as sanctions but no further, while the Russians and Chinese won't even go that far yet. Fifth, it must prevent an Israeli strike on Iran for the same reasons it must avoid a strike itself, as the day after any Israeli strike will be left to the United States to manage.
Now consider the Iranian interest. First, it must guarantee regime survival. It sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. In less than 10 years, it has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders. Second, it must guarantee that Iraq will never again be a threat to Iran. Third, it must increase its authority within the Muslim world against Sunni Muslims, whom it regards as rivals and sometimes as threats.
Now consider the overlaps. The United States is in a war against some (not all) Sunnis. These are Iran's enemies, too. Iran does not want U.S. troops along its eastern and western borders. In point of fact, the United States does not want this either. The United States does not want any interruption of oil flow through Hormuz. Iran much prefers profiting from those flows to interrupting them. Finally, the Iranians understand that it is the United States alone that is Iran's existential threat. If Iran can solve the American problem its regime survival is assured. The United States understands, or should, that resurrecting the Iraqi counterweight to Iran is not an option: It is either U.S. forces in Iraq or accepting Iran's unconstrained role.
Therefore, as an exercise in geopolitical theory, consider the following. Washington's current options are unacceptable. By redefining the issue in terms of dealing with the consequences of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there are three areas of mutual interest. First, both powers have serious quarrels with Sunni Islam. Second, both powers want to see a reduction in U.S. forces in the region. Third, both countries have an interest in assuring the flow of oil, one to use the oil, the other to profit from it to increase its regional power.
The strategic problem is, of course, Iranian power in the Persian Gulf. The Chinese model is worth considering here. China issued bellicose rhetoric before and after Nixon's and Kissinger's visits. But whatever it did internally, it was not a major risk-taker in its foreign policy. China's relationship with the United States was of critical importance to China. Beijing fully understood the value of this relationship, and while it might continue to rail about imperialism, it was exceedingly careful not to undermine this core interest.
The major risk of the third strategy is that Iran will overstep its bounds and seek to occupy the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf. Certainly, this would be tempting, but it would bring a rapid American intervention. The United States would not block indirect Iranian influence, however, from financial participation in regional projects to more significant roles for the Shia in Arabian states. Washington's limits for Iranian power are readily defined and enforced when exceeded.
The great losers in the third strategy, of course, would be the Sunnis in the Arabian Peninsula. But Iraq aside, they are incapable of defending themselves, and the United States has no long-term interest in their economic and political relations. So long as the oil flows, and no single power directly controls the entire region, the United States does not have a stake in this issue.
Israel would also be enraged. It sees ongoing American-Iranian hostility as a given. And it wants the United States to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. But eliminating this threat is not an option given the risks, so the choice is a nuclear Iran outside some structured relationship with the United States or within it. The choice that Israel might want, a U.S.-Iranian conflict, is unlikely. Israel can no more drive American strategy than can Saudi Arabia.
From the American standpoint, an understanding with Iran would have the advantage of solving an increasingly knotty problem. In the long run, it would also have the advantage of being a self-containing relationship. Turkey is much more powerful than Iran and is emerging from its century-long shell. Its relations with the United States are delicate. The United States would infuriate the Turks by doing this deal, forcing them to become more active faster. They would thus emerge in Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran. But Turkey's anger at the United States would serve U.S. interests. The Iranian position in Iraq would be temporary, and the United States would not have to break its word as Turkey eventually would eliminate Iranian influence in Iraq.
Ultimately, the greatest shock of such a maneuver on both sides would be political. The U.S.-Soviet agreement shocked Americans deeply, the Soviets less so because Stalin's pact with Hitler had already stunned them. The Nixon-Mao entente shocked all sides. It was utterly unthinkable at the time, but once people on both sides thought about it, it was manageable.
Such a maneuver would be particularly difficult for U.S. President Barack Obama, as it would be widely interpreted as another example of weakness rather than as a ruthless and cunning move. A military strike would enhance his political standing, while an apparently cynical deal would undermine it. Ahmadinejad could sell such a deal domestically much more easily. In any event, the choices now are a nuclear Iran, extended airstrikes with all their attendant consequences, or something else. This is what something else might look like and how it would fit in with American strategic tradition.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #638 on:
April 06, 2015, 01:34:20 PM »
Interesting to see that Stratfor also recognizes the defect of needing continuing cooperation from Russia and China on our side, who are not at all on our side, in this flawed framework. - 5 years before it happened.
"Iraq, not nuclear weapons, is the fundamental issue between Iran and the United States."
I would hope this is not true. (Note: That was 5 years ago.) The conflict in Yemen is Iran-backed. Terrorists attacking Israel are Iran-backed. To say having nuclear weapons is a game changer in all these places, Israel, Syria, Saudi, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and more is an understatement.
"Fifth, it must prevent an Israeli strike on Iran for the same reasons it must avoid a strike itself, as the day after any Israeli strike will be left to the United States to manage."
Again note that was 5 years ago. It wouldn't be my objective then or now to stop Israel from striking nuclear sites in Iran, though most certainly that is the Obama objective of having us all see these phony diplomats engaging in Switzerland, or wherever this is. The aftermath of a successful strike would be Iran losing a facility, Arab nations silently applauding, a UN PR mess and everyone including Obama still committed to destroying Israel.
"Now consider the Iranian interest. First, it must guarantee regime survival. It sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. In less than 10 years, it has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders."
Again, 5 years elapsed. The US is not a threat to Iran anymore, at least until after the next election. The US is now an advocate for Iran! ISIS is now the threat. Also sanctions and the collapse of oil prices threaten the future of the regime. These economic facts bring a horrible regime to its knees and we can't wait to jump in and bail them out of it.
I also disagree with this:
"The United States did not push into Iraq in 1991 because it did not want to upset the regional balance of power by creating a vacuum in Iraq."
The US did not push further and topple the Saddam-Iraq regime because our mandate was limited by the agreements we made in order to form a large, multinational coalition. The benefits of having such a broad coalition came with limitations as well. The reason given by Stratfor above might also have been true but didn't matter because of promises and limitations already agreed to limited a further move that in hindsight should perhaps have been taken. Now our "coalition partners" include Russia and China with the limits they impose not based on facts or our best interests.
Stratfor: WW2 and the Origins of American Unease
Reply #639 on:
May 14, 2015, 10:20:34 AM »
World War II and the Origins of American Unease
May 12, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
By George Friedman
We are at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. That victory did not usher in an era of universal peace. Rather, it introduced a new constellation of powers and a complex balance among them. Europe's great powers and empires declined, and the United States and the Soviet Union replaced them, performing an old dance to new musical instruments. Technology, geopolitics' companion, evolved dramatically as nuclear weapons, satellites and the microchip — among myriad wonders and horrors — changed not only the rules of war but also the circumstances under which war was possible. But one thing remained constant: Geopolitics, technology and war remained inseparable comrades.
It is easy to say what World War II did not change, but what it did change is also important. The first thing that leaps to mind is the manner in which World War II began for the three great powers: the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. For all three, the war started with a shock that redefined their view of the world. For the United States, it was the shock of Pearl Harbor. For the Soviet Union, it was the shock of the German invasion in June 1941. For the United Kingdom — and this was not really at the beginning of the war — it was shock at the speed with which France collapsed.
Pearl Harbor Jolts the American Mindset
There was little doubt among American leaders that war with Japan was coming. The general public had forebodings, but not with the clarity of its leaders. Still, neither expected the attack to come at Pearl Harbor. For the American public, it was a bolt from the blue, compounded by the destruction of much of the U.S. Pacific fleet. Neither the leaders nor the public thought the Japanese were nearly so competent.
Pearl Harbor intersected with another shock to the American psyche — the Great Depression. These two events shared common characteristics: First, they seemed to come out of nowhere. Both were predictable and were anticipated by some, but for most both came without warning. The significance of the two was that they each ushered in an unexpected era of substantial pain and suffering.
This introduced a new dimension into American culture. Until this point there had been a deep and unsubtle optimism among Americans. The Great Depression and Pearl Harbor created a different sensibility that suspected that prosperity and security were an illusion, with disaster lurking behind them. There was a fear that everything could suddenly go wrong, horribly so, and that people who simply accepted peace and prosperity at face value were naïve. The two shocks created a dark sense of foreboding that undergirds American society to this day.
Pearl Harbor also shaped U.S. defense policy around the concept that the enemy might be identified, but where and when it might strike is unknown. Catastrophe therefore might come at any moment. The American approach to the Cold War is symbolized by Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain. Burrowed deep inside is the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which assumes that war might come at any moment and that any relaxation in vigilance could result in a nuclear Pearl Harbor. Fear of this scenario — along with mistrust of the wily and ruthless enemy — defined the Cold War for Americans.
The Americans analyzed their forced entry into World War II and identified what they took to be the root cause: the Munich Agreement allowing Nazi Germany to annex parts of Czechoslovakia. This was not only an American idea by any means, but it reshaped U.S. strategy. If the origin of World War II was the failure to take pre-emptive action against the Germans in 1938, then it followed that the Pacific War might have been prevented by more aggressive actions early on. Acting early and decisively remains the foundation of U.S. foreign policy to this day. The idea that not acting in a timely and forceful fashion led to World War II underlies much American discourse on Iran or Russia.
Pearl Harbor (and the 1929 crash) not only led to a sense of foreboding and a distrust in the wisdom of political and military leaders, but it also replaced a strategy of mobilization after war begins, with a strategy of permanent mobilization. If war might come at any time, and if another Munich must above all be avoided, then the massive military establishment that exists today is indispensible. In addition, the U.S.-led alliance structure that didn't exist prior to World War II is indispensible.
The Soviet Strategic Miscalculation
The Soviet Union had its own Pearl Harbor on June 22, 1941, when the Germans invaded in spite of the friendship treaty signed between them in 1939. That treaty was struck for two reasons: First, the Russians couldn't persuade the British or French to sign an anti-Hitler pact. Second, a treaty with Hitler would allow the Soviets to move their border further west without firing a shot. It was a clever move, but not a smart one.
The Soviets made a single miscalculation: They assumed a German campaign in France would replay the previous Great War. Such an effort would have exhausted the Germans and allowed the Soviets to attack them at the time and place of Moscow's choosing. That opportunity never presented itself. On the contrary, the Germans put themselves in a position to attack the Soviet Union at a time and place of their choosing. That the moment of attack was a surprise compounded the challenge, but the real problem was strategic miscalculation, not simply an intelligence or command failure.
The Soviets had opted for a dynamic foreign policy of shifting alliances built on assumptions of the various players' capabilities. A single misstep could lead to catastrophe — an attack at a time when the Soviet forces had yet to recover from one of Josef Stalin's purges. The Soviet forces were not ready for an attack, and their strategy collapsed with France, so the decision for war was entirely Germany's.
What the Soviets took away from the June 1941 invasion was a conviction that political complexity could not substitute for a robust military. The United States ended World War II with the conviction that a core reason for that war was the failure of the United States. The Soviets ended World War II with the belief that their complex efforts at coalition building and maintaining the balance of power had left them utterly exposed by one miscalculation on France — one that defied the conventional wisdom.
During the Cold War, the Soviets developed a strategy that could best be called stolid. Contained by an American-led coalition, the Soviets preferred satellites to allies. The Warsaw Pact was less an alliance than a geopolitical reality. For the most part it consisted of states under the direct military, intelligence or political control of the Soviet Union. The military value of the block might be limited, and its room for maneuver was equally limited. Nonetheless, Soviet forces could be relied on, and the Warsaw Pact, unlike NATO, was a geographical reality that Soviet forces used to guarantee that no invasion by the United States or NATO was possible. Obviously, the Soviets — like the Americans — remained vigilant for a nuclear attack, but it has been noted that the Soviet system was significantly less sophisticated than that of the Americans. Part of this imbalance was related to technological capabilities. A great deal of it had to do with the fact that nuclear attack was not the Soviet's primordial fear, though the fear must not be minimized. The primordial fear in Moscow was an attack from the West. The Soviet Union's strategy was to position its own forces as far to the west as possible.
Consider this in contrast to the Soviet relations with China. Ideologically, China ought to have been a powerful ally, but the alliance was souring by the mid-1950s. The Soviets were not ideologues. They were geopoliticians, and China represented a potential threat that the Soviets could not control. Ideology didn't matter. China would never serve the role that Poland had to. The Sino-Soviet relationship fell apart fairly quickly.
The Soviet public did not develop the American dread that beneath peace and prosperity lurked the seeds of disaster. Soviet expectations of life were far more modest than those of Americans, and the expectation that the state would avert disaster was limited. The state generated disaster. At the same time, the war revealed — almost from the beginning — a primordial love of country, hidden for decades under the ideology of internationalism, that re-emerged spontaneously. Beneath communist fervor, cynical indifference and dread of the Soviet secret police, the Russians found something new while the Americans found something old.
France's Fall Surprises Britain
As for the British, their miscalculation on France changed little. They were stunned by the rapid collapse of France, but perhaps also relieved that they would not fight in French trenches again. The collapse of France caused them to depend on only two things: One was that the English Channel, combined with the fleet and the Royal Air Force, would hold the Germans at bay. The second was that in due course, the United States would be drawn into the war. Their two calculations proved correct.
However, the United Kingdom was not one of the ultimate winners of the war. It may not have been occupied by the Germans, but it was essentially by the Americans. This was a very different occupation, and one the British needed, but the occupation of Britain by foreign forces, regardless of how necessary and benign, spelled the end of the British Empire and of Britain as a major power. The Americans did not take the British Empire. It was taken away by the shocking performance of the French. On paper, the French had an excellent army — superior to the Germans, in many ways. Yet they collapsed in weeks. If we were to summarize the British sensibility, after defiance came exhaustion and then resentment.
Some of these feelings are gone now. The Americans retain their dread even though World War II was in many ways good to the United States. It ended the Great Depression, and in the aftermath, between the G.I. Bill, VA loans and the Interstate Highway System, the war created the American professional middle class, with private homes for many and distance and space that could be accessed easily. And yet the dread remains, not always muted. This generation's Pearl Harbor was 9/11. Fear that security and prosperity is built on a base of sand is not an irrational fear.
For the Russians, the feelings of patriotism still lurk beneath the cynicism. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Russia's sphere of influence have not resulted in particularly imaginative strategic moves. On the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin's response to Ukraine was as stolid as Stalin's or Leonid Brezhnev's. Rather than a Machiavellian genius, Putin is the heir to the German invasion on June 22, 1941. He seeks strategic depth controlled by his own military. And his public has rallied to him.
As for the British, they once had an empire. They now have an island. It remains to be seen if they hold onto all of it, given the strength of the Scottish nationalists.
While we are celebrating the end of World War II, it is useful to examine its beginnings. So much of what constitutes the political-military culture, particularly of the Americans, was forged by the way that World War II began. Pearl Harbor and the American view of Munich have been the framework for thinking not only about foreign relations and war, but also about living in America. Not too deep under the surface there is a sense that all good things eventually must go wrong. Much of this comes from the Great Depression and much from Pearl Harbor. The older optimism is still there, but the certainty of manifest success is deeply tempered.
At least he is a first class groveler
Reply #640 on:
May 16, 2015, 11:10:45 AM »
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #641 on:
May 18, 2015, 11:10:41 AM »
Gerald F. Seib
May 18, 2015 11:37 a.m. ET
The political world was obsessed last week with Jeb Bush’s problems in saying whether he would or wouldn’t have ordered the invasion of Iraq. But a more provocative statement about projection of American power actually came from a fellow presidential contender, Marco Rubio, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space,” Sen. Rubio declared. “This includes the economic disruption caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in chokepoints such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz.”
That expansive formula for using American power to protect economic and well as national-security interests was, in turn, followed over the weekend by Sen. Rand Paul staking out a far less aggressive position at a Republican candidate forum in Iowa. He questioned whether ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a good idea under any conditions: “Is Iraq more stable or less stable after Saddam?”
Combine all that with the fact that Democrat Hillary Clinton seems inclined to show that she would be more aggressive than President Barack Obama has been abroad, while also trying to avoid alienating her party’s liberal (and largely anti-interventionist) base, and you can see something very significant breaking out: a wide-open 2016 debate over American intervention in the world.
In this emerging debate, there are no clear lines in either party. “It’s not terribly useful to speak of a Democratic foreign policy or a Republican foreign policy because essentially you have Republican foreign policies, plural, and Democratic foreign policies, plural,” says Richard Haass, a former State Department and White House aide who now is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
This debate is the logical extension of a tumultuous decade and a half since the terror attacks of 9/11, when the old rule book about American intervention was thrown out without a new one to take its place. Fair or not, a common rap on President George W. Bush was that he was too eager to intervene abroad, and a common rap on President Barack Obama is that he hasn’t been eager enough.
On one level, this isn’t a new debate. “American history has been one of oscillation between two extremes: Pulling back from everything or getting involved in everything as if it’s our fight,” says James Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state who now is dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
But the backdrop has changed significantly. We now are in a post-Cold War world, where the threats to American security lie as much in nonstate actors as in hostile nations, where economic competition weighs as heavily as military competition, and where the searing experience of long and unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has shaken easy assumptions about America’s ability to steer events.
On the Republican side, those circumstances have opened a path for the arguments of Mr. Paul, who has found some traction within his usually hawkish party with his argument that the U.S. has been too eager to intervene around the world, especially in the Middle East. In essence, he seeks to take the GOP back to its early 20th century skepticism of America as global cop.
But the same circumstances also have produced the diametrically opposed views Mr. Rubio expressed in his speech last week. He laid out perhaps the most aggressive view of American power projection of any of the 2016 contenders. He said he would be guided as president by three “pillars”—a more robust military, use of American power to guard the global economy and use of that same power to promote American values.
In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr. Rubio said his formula referred to diplomatic power as much as military power, and the role he envisions “is not world’s policeman.” Still, his is an aggressive view of using American muscle by any standard. Other Republican candidates fall somewhere in between the Paul and Rubio poles.
For her part, Mrs. Clinton faces some tough decisions. As secretary of state, she pushed for intervention in the civil war in Syria, and, ultimately, became an advocate of an multinational military move into Libya to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi. She’s also been a proponent of keeping military options on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
But she’ll also have to defend herself against Republican charges that she and her Obama administration colleagues were too eager to withdraw troops from Iraq, as well as the jibe Mr. Paul delivered from the opposite direction this weekend, that the Libya intervention was misguided.
In short, the debate over global intervention is on. You’ll need a new scorecard to keep it all straight.
Write to Gerald F. Seib at
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Noonan: Choosing a Path
Reply #642 on:
June 05, 2015, 09:36:50 AM »
Presidential candidates have begun to nibble around the edges of the most important question of 2016, which is what approach we should take toward the world in the 21st century. This of course is not only an international-affairs question. Foreign-policy decisions bring domestic repercussions and effects. Sometimes they are dramatic and sometimes long-lasting.
The political scientist and global risk strategist Ian Bremmer, a foreign-affairs columnist at Time, has written a book asking Americans themselves to decide what our policy should be, and offering what he sees as three central options.
“America,” he writes, “will remain the world’s only superpower for the foreseeable future. But what sort of superpower should it be? What role should America play in the world? What role do you want America to play?”
The world is in flux, its tectonic plates shifting: Old settlements and dispensations are falling away, new ones are having rough births. No one knows what comes next. No American consensus has emerged. President Obama himself has never chosen or declared a foreign-policy vision, which has made nothing better and some things worse.
The worst choice now, says Mr. Bremmer, is to refuse to choose. We can’t just continue improvising—that has become dangerously confusing to our allies, our rivals and ourselves.
So what way do we want to go?
Mr. Bremmer calls the first option “Independent America.” We can’t be the world’s policeman; we’re not Superman. We must “declare independence from the need to solve other people’s problems and . . . finally realize our country’s enormous untapped potential by focusing our attentions at home.” We spend too much on the military, which not only adds to our debt but guarantees our weapons will be used: “Policymakers will find uses for them to justify their expense,” which will “implicate us in crises that are none of our business.”
In this view, our national-security bureaucracy threatens our own freedoms and strains relations with allies. The hidden costs of war include individual anguish, cultural stress and a demand for secrecy that “poisons American democracy.” Drones seem neat and effective, but their use is dangerous: “Our actions in the Middle East and South Asia make us more vulnerable at home, by persuading a new generation of Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others that it’s better to attack Americans who aren’t wearing state-of-the-art body armor.” Not every country wants democracy. “For all the damage a foolish foreign policy inflicts on US interests abroad, the greatest damage is done in the United States.” It follows that we must reorient our thinking: “It is not power that makes America exceptional. It is freedom.”
Is “Independent America” a pleasant term for isolationism? That charge, Mr. Bremmer argues, “is not meant to shed light but to close conversation”—to dismiss “every legitimate reservation that ordinary Americans have” about U.S. foreign-policy excesses and miscalculations. The best way to promote our values around the world is by “perfecting democracy at home.” Among the priorities: protect the U.S. from a terrorist attack “that might push America permanently off course,” protect our borders and infrastructure, clean up and invest in public education, put more money back in taxpayers’ pockets. Stronger at home will mean stronger in the world, which will note our renewal.
The second choice, according to Mr. Bremmer, is “Moneyball America.” The job of U.S. foreign policy is to make the U.S. safer and more prosperous, full stop. Some things must be done in the world, and “it’s in America’s interest for Americans to do them.” But we are not Hercules, and our resources are finite. We must focus our attentions “where they are best able to promise U.S. national security and economic opportunity.”
We should lead international efforts against terrorism, join coalitions of the willing, build partnerships—“Never walk alone”—do more with less, keep our eye on the bottom line. Our military should be state-of-the-art, but we should look to make the arms race into a trade race. Look to America’s value, not its values. There is no bias toward projecting strength; the U.S. should get over its obsession with looking weak. “Those who make American foreign policy and those who implement it must be guided by both discretion and humility.”
At the end of the day, Mr. Bremmer says of the world, “everyone . . . is playing Moneyball.”
The third choice he calls “Indispensable America.” This involves a burly, all-in commitment to international leadership. It has practical and idealistic aspects; it is a long-term project but one consonant with our greatness as a nation. “America can never establish lasting security and prosperity in the interconnected modern world until we have helped others win their freedom.” We are called to “promote and protect” American values globally. “No one else will fill this breach.” We are the world’s only indispensable nation because only we have the means and will to stabilize international politics and the world economy. America is exceptional, and its work is not finished. “America must now think bigger and in more ambitious terms” than ever before. “We must build an entirely new foreign policy” based on the insight that in a globalized world “we can’t succeed unless others succeed too.” Get over ideas like peacetime and wartime: “We live in a world of permanent tension.” We can’t solve every problem, “but this does not excuse us from the responsibility to solve the ones we can.” As to cost, “the United States can pay its debts by simply printing more money.” At the end of the day the dollar will still be the world’s reserve currency—still the safest port in the world economic storm.
As I read, I found myself wondering how a politician would react. I think he’d find it all both too abstract and too concrete. He would want one from column A (independence of action and a shown concern for the home front), one from column B (of course safety and prosperity are paramount) and one from column C (a known willingness to use unquestioned military power can be a handy thing in the world).
Politicians hate to speak about their vision of America’s immediate place and role in the world for several reasons. They have risen in the ad hoc, provisional, moment-to-moment world of daily politics. That life teaches you long-term plans don’t have to be part of your long-term plan. In foreign policy especially, declaring a clear stand wins you committed enemies and tentative friends. Best to dummy up and speak in generalities.
But at a certain point all the candidates for president, even Hillary Clinton, will have to give a sense of what’s in their heads. They hope to guide U.S. foreign policy for the next eight years. It isn’t asking too much to that they speak about where we are and where we ought to be going.
Mr. Bremmer gave his choice at the end of the book. It seemed to me surprising from one who appears to have thrived in the heart of the foreign-policy establishment. He felt the tug of each course but in the end came down for Independent America, and for interesting reasons. Candidates especially could get the book and find out what they are.
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