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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 63414 times)
Reply #200 on:
July 09, 2011, 11:05:52 AM »
Panetta: US within reach of defeating al-Qaida
FILE - In this June 9, 2011 file photo, Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during a hearing on his nomination for defense secretary. Speaking with reporters flying with him on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking over as defense secretary, Panetta said Saturday, July 9, 2011 that the U.S. and its allies are within reach of defeating al-Qaida after killing Osama bin Laden and gaining new insights about the terrorist group's other leading figures. (AP Photo - Manuel Balce Ceneta)
From Associated Press
July 09, 2011 11:23 AM EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. and its allies are within reach of defeating al-Qaida after killing Osama bin Laden and gaining new insights about the terrorist group's other leading figures, new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Saturday.
The former CIA director offered an upbeat assessment about the prospects for ending al-Qaida's threat as he spoke with reporters flying with him on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking over as Pentagon chief July 1.
In a separate interview later, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he agreed with Panetta's assessment.
In the aftermath of the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan, the U.S. has determined that eliminating "somewhere around 10 to 20 key leaders" of al-Qaida would cripple the network, Panetta said. Those leaders are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa, he added.
"We're within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaida," Panetta said, addressing reporters for the first time since succeeding Robert Gates as defense secretary.
"The key is that, having gotten bin Laden, we've now identified some of the key leadership within al-Qaida, both in Pakistan as well as in Yemen and other areas," he said.
"If we can be successful at going after them, I think we can really undermine their ability to do any kind of planning, to be able to conduct any kind of attack" on the United States. "That's why I think it's within reach. Is it going to take some more work? You bet it is. But I think it's within reach," Panetta said.
In an interview at the main U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, Petraeus said al-Qaida is on the run.
"There has been enormous damage done to al-Qaida," beyond the death of bin Laden, in the areas of western Pakistan where the group is believed operating, Petraeus said. "That has very significantly disrupted their efforts and it does hold the prospect of a strategic defeat, if you will, a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaida."
Asked how he defines a "strategic defeat" for al-Qaida, Petraeus said it means that "they can't carry out strategically important attacks."
Petraeus, who is leaving his post this month and succeeding Panetta at the CIA, said there are small numbers of al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan. He said the al-Qaida "brand" is likely to remain a feature of the global terrain, even if the Pakistan-based core of al-Qaida is unable to carry out large attacks against the West.
Panetta said the 10 to 20 top terrorist figures in al-Qaida's hierarchy who are now the focus of U.S. efforts include Ayman al-Zawahri, the designator successor to bin Laden as al-Qaida's leader.
Panetta said the U.S. believes al-Zawahri is living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan.
The only other name he mentioned was Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen. The U.S. has put him on a kill-or-capture list.
"Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat" to America, he said.
Al-Qaida's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, triggered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban government that had sheltered bin Laden. But in the years since, the Taliban has reasserted itself and al-Qaida has managed to operate from havens in neighboring Pakistan.
Al-Qaida affiliates have emerged in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. That's led many in the U.S. to argue for a shift from fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to targeting al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan and other places.
Asked whether he thought Pakistani authorities knew that bin Laden had been living in their country, Panetta said, "Suspicions, but no smoking gun." The Pakistani government says it did not know bin Laden's whereabouts when Navy SEALs attacked his compound not far from Islamabad.
In Panetta's talks with Petraeus and his successor, Marine Gen. John R. Allen, a central topic was expected to be President Barack Obama's decision on June 22 to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by September 2012. The drawdown is to begin this month, but not all details have been worked out.
Offering an overview of the security situation in Afghanistan, Petraeus said he was encouraged that the number of insurgent attacks in June was down slightly from June 2010 and that the trend is holding thus far in July. This contrasts with intelligence analysts' forecast of an 18 percent to 30 percent increase for 2011, he said.
Panetta also intended to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai's mercurial character and frequent public criticisms of the U.S.-led international military coalition have soured his relations with many U.S. officials, including the current U.S. ambassador. Karl Eikenberry.
Eikenberry is handing off that post this month to Ryan Crocker, a veteran diplomat and former U.S, ambassador to Iraq who was coaxed out of retirement. Crocker reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban
Panetta said he believes he and Obama's "whole new team" of U.S. leaders in Kabul have a good understanding of Karzai.
"Hopefully, it can be the beginning of a much better relationship than what we've had over the last few years," he said.
On a lighter note, he said he has gotten a feel for his new job as defense secretary. He compared it to his official aircraft, a towering military version of the Boeing 747.
"It's big, it's complicated, it's filled with sophisticated technology, it's bumpy, but in the end it's the best in the world."
Re: Here is why Ka-daffy can wait us out
Reply #201 on:
July 10, 2011, 07:21:43 PM »
Quote from: G M on March 21, 2011, 01:44:51 PM
(Reuters) - Britain's military is capable of taking part in a swift campaign against Libya, but prolonged fighting could stretch its armed forces and raise pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to rethink deep defence cuts.
Despite its role in Afghanistan and severe financial pressures, senior British ministers and military chiefs say they can comfortably help to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.
However, if the operation grows or drags on for months, it could strain areas such as the support crews that arm and refuel planes and perform airborne reconnaissance.
Britain's involvement in the first stage of the strikes against Libya appeared to be relatively limited, with planes flying from one UK airbase and one submarine firing Tomahawk missiles, analysts noted.
France eyes five billion euro defence cuts
14 June 2010, 13:05 CET
(PARIS) - France will trim about five billion euros (6.1 billion dollars) from its defence budget, Defence Minister Herve Morin said Monday.
The defence budget cuts over the next three years are part of overall belt-tightening measures in the wake of the Greek debt crisis.
(Reuters) - A French minister said on Sunday it was time for Libya's rebels to negotiate with Muammar Gaddafi's government, but Washington said it stood firm in its belief that the Libyan leader cannot stay in power.
The diverging messages from two leading members of the Western coalition opposing Gaddafi hinted at the strain the alliance is under after more than three months of air strikes that have cost billions of dollars and failed to produce the swift outcome its backers had expected.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet signaled growing impatience with the progress of the conflict when he said the rebels should negotiate now with Gaddafi's government and not wait for his defeat.
The rebels have so far refused to hold talks as long as Gaddafi is still in power, a stance which before now none of NATO's major powers has publicly challenged.
"We have .... have asked them to speak to each other," Longuet, whose government has until now been among the most hawkish on Libya, said on French television station BFM TV.
"The position of the TNC (rebel Transitional National Council) is very far from other positions. Now, there will be a need to sit around a table," he said."
Oncle! At least Ka-daffy's forces won't be marching through the Arc de Triomphe........yet.
WSJ: US Naval Power
Reply #202 on:
July 11, 2011, 03:18:26 PM »
By GORDON ENGLAND, JAMES L. JONES, AND VERN CLARK
All our citizens, and especially our servicemen and women, expect and deserve a thorough review of critical security decisions. After all, decisions today will affect the nation's strategic position for future generations.
The future security environment underscores two broad security trends. First, international political realities and the internationally agreed-to sovereign rights of nations will increasingly limit the sustained involvement of American permanent land-based, heavy forces to the more extreme crises. This will make offshore options for deterrence and power projection ever more paramount in support of our national interests.
Second, the naval dimensions of American power will re-emerge as the primary means for assuring our allies and partners, ensuring prosperity in times of peace, and countering anti-access, area-denial efforts in times of crisis. We do not believe these trends will require the dismantling of land-based forces, as these forces will remain essential reservoirs of power. As the United States has learned time and again, once a crisis becomes a conflict, it is impossible to predict with certainty its depth, duration and cost.
That said, the U.S. has been shrinking its overseas land-based installations, so the ability to project power globally will make the forward presence of naval forces an even more essential dimension of American influence.
What we do believe is that uniquely responsive Navy-Marine Corps capabilities provide the basis on which our most vital overseas interests are safeguarded. Forward presence and engagement is what allows the U.S. to maintain awareness, to deter aggression, and to quickly respond to threats as they arise. Though we clearly must be prepared for the high-end threats, such preparation should be made in balance with the means necessary to avoid escalation to the high end in the first place.
The versatility of maritime forces provides a truly unmatched advantage. The sea remains a vast space that provides nearly unlimited freedom of maneuver. Command of the sea allows for the presence of our naval forces, supported from a network of shore facilities, to be adjusted and scaled with little external restraint. It permits reliance on proven capabilities such as prepositioned ships.
Maritime capabilities encourage and enable cooperation with other nations to solve common sea-based problems such as piracy, illegal trafficking, proliferation of W.M.D., and a host of other ills, which if unchecked can harm our friends and interests abroad, and our own citizenry at home. The flexibility and responsiveness of naval forces provide our country with a general strategic deterrent in a potentially violent and unstable world. Most importantly, our naval forces project and sustain power at sea and ashore at the time, place, duration, and intensity of our choosing.
Given these enduring qualities, tough choices must clearly be made, especially in light of expected tight defense budgets. The administration and the Congress need to balance the resources allocated to missions such as strategic deterrence, ballistic missile defense, and cyber warfare with the more traditional ones of sea control and power projection. The maritime capability and capacity vital to the flexible projection of U.S. power and influence around the globe must surely be preserved, especially in light of available technology. Capabilities such as the Joint Strike Fighter will provide strategic deterrence, in addition to tactical long-range strike, especially when operating from forward-deployed naval vessels.
Postured to respond quickly, the Navy-Marine Corps team integrates sea, air, and land power into adaptive force packages spanning the entire spectrum of operations, from everyday cooperative security activities to unwelcome—but not impossible—wars between major powers. This is exactly what we will need to meet the challenges of the future.
Mr. England is a former secretary of the Navy. Mr. Jones is a former commandant of the Marine Corps. Mr. Clark is a former chief of naval operations.
Reply #203 on:
July 12, 2011, 05:50:25 AM »
This could be posted elsewhere, but I am posting it here because of how it underelines just how bad the current trajectory is. What are we to do?
A Diplomatic Defeat for President Obama
by Newt Gingrich
The elite media largely ignored an astounding defeat recently for the United States and for the cause of freedom.
The Iranian dictatorship hosted an anti-terrorism conference in Tehran.
That's right. The world's leading state sponsor of terrorism--the country that funds and trains Hamas and Hezbollah and sends arms to the Taliban--simply stole our language and held a conference that professed to oppose terrorism.
Under the Iranian definition of that term, the United States and Israel are the primary supporters of terrorism in the world.
Amazingly, sixty countries--yes, sixty--participated in the Iranian conference.
In a scene worthy of a Kurt Vonnegut satire, the North Koreans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Palestineans and other enthusiastic supporters of anti-American activities all showed up.
Even more alarmingly, our so-called allies Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were also in attendance. After billions of dollars spent and thousands of Americans lost, these "allies" ignored our requests and dignified the dishonest event and a country that is funding terrorism worldwide.
Cliff May captured the disaster in the National Review.
"A few days ago, the regime that rules Iran, designated by the U.S. State Department as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, held what it called the First International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism. The U.S. and Israel were singled out as "satanic world powers" with a "black record of terrorist behaviors." This should have been the subject of scorn and ridicule from the "international community." But senior officials from at least 60 countries attended and U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon delivered a message via special envoy expressing his appreciation to Tehran. Apparently he was not bothered by the fact that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, was among those attending."
As an example of how bad some of the participants were who showed up to accuse the U.S. of "terrorism," consider the indictment of the Sudanese President: Omar al-Bashir was charged with genocide, with crimes against humanity (including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of civilian populations, torture, and rapes), and with war crimes (including intentional attacks against civilians and pillaging).
This is the company our so-called allies are comfortable with?
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To make this outrageous situation even worse, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon sent a special envoy to Tehran to deliver a message supporting the conference.
Perhaps nothing should have surprised us after Iran won a vice-presidency of the U.N. General Assembly recently. An organization founded to preserve peace has now elevated the world's top state sponsor of terrorism to a leadership role.
Unfortunately, also like a Vonnegut novel, these stories represent a reality that is less humorous than it is distressing.
The participation of allies like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the anti-American charade in Tehran is just the kind of sight that could become more common in the future amid questions about the United States' commitment in the region.
As the Obama Administration's policy--which appears to be "weakness and abandonment"--becomes clearer, allies will revaluate and reorient away from the United States and toward Iran. After all, the U.S. is leaving, and Iran is an increasingly powerful force in the region--and it will soon be armed with nuclear weapons.
The elite media has largely ignored this unfolding disaster. Yet the dangers of this realignment are serious. The radical Islamists that countries like Iran arm, train, and support while claiming to oppose terrorism are no small threat. They aim to destroy the United States and Israel, and to halt the cause of freedom wherever they can.
Radical Islamism is dangerous given weak state sponsors, and it will be even more serious when backed by a large regional power such as Iran is becoming.
The Obama Administration, meanwhile, remains blind to the forces threatening us.
Consider this additional report from Cliff May regarding a young Marine who was charged last month for repeated shooting attacks on the Pentagon and was arrested, in Arlington Cemetery, with explosives materials and literature referencing Al Qaeda:
"Yonathan Melaku was charged in federal court with shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The officials who arrested him later searched his home and found a videotape in which he is shouting "Allahu Akbar!" They also found a notebook in which he'd written about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda , the Taliban, and The Path to Jihad, a book of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric who was widely considered a moderate before he fled to Yemen where he is now a top Al Qaeda commander.
"So it's pretty obvious what Melaku was up to, right? Not if you're a federal employee, it's not. "I can't suggest to you his motivations or intent," James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, told reporters at a news conference. "It's not readily apparent yet."
"Many in the mainstream media also expressed befuddlement. A Washington Post story carried the headline: "Pentagon Shooting Subject Not Known to Law Enforcement." (Really? That's the news here?) The article told readers that "a motive for the shootings -- and why Melaku had possible bomb-making materials -- remains elusive." So does that mean we can't rule out a crime of passion -- or a paint-ball competition that got out of hand?"
In case after case, we have leaders who are determined to ignore obvious truths.
Not since the 1930s have our leaders so willfully deceived themselves about a growing threat to our survival.
Reply #204 on:
July 20, 2011, 12:49:26 AM »
Petraeus Departs Afghanistan, Wider American Challenges Remain
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus handed over command of the war in Afghanistan to his successor Monday after serving in the post for a little more than a year. Petraeus was appointed in 2010 as a provisional replacement for Gen. Stanley McChrystal .
As STRATFOR has argued, Petraeus’s departure represents anything but a routine personnel change. Despite being a key architect of the current counterinsurgency-focused strategy in Afghanistan and its principal proponent, Petraeus is now the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post that considerably constrains his ability to influence strategy in Afghanistan. Combined with the death of Osama bin Laden in May — an event with little tactical but enormous symbolic importance — Petraeus’s new appointment gives the White House some room to maneuver in the war effort in Afghanistan. Signs already indicate that the United States is attempting to redefine and reshape the psychology and the perceptions of the Afghan war and its parameters for “success.”
“While the American military focus appeared to shift toward Afghanistan years ago, Washington never solved its fundamental problem in Iraq, even as the United States successfully drew down its forces from the surge levels of 2007-2008.”
However, even as new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta describes the defeat of al Qaeda as “within reach,” the Taliban insurgency continues to rage. Just before Petraeus handed over command to U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen — a commander no doubt carefully vetted by the White House — Jan Mohammad Khan, the senior Afghan presidential adviser on tribal affairs, was assassinated in his home in Kabul. Khan’s assassination occurred just one week after an apparent family feud within the Karzai clan resulted in the death of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai — the clan’s most powerful ally in the country’s restive southwest. The Taliban continues to perceive itself as winning and shows little inclination toward a negotiated settlement aimed at facilitating an accelerated drawdown of forces.
Nevertheless, the drawdown begins this month with the withdrawal of some 1,000 U.S. National Guard troops and American allies beginning their own reductions. The incipient withdrawal is the first step toward a new reality wherein Washington dedicates far fewer troops and resources to Afghanistan and manages its interests in the country from a greater distance.
While the United States attempts to extricate itself from Afghanistan, Washington is making its final attempts to convince Baghdad to allow a sizeable contingent of troops to remain in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, the deadline for withdrawal stipulated by the current Status of Forces Agreement. While the American military focus appeared to shift toward Afghanistan years ago, Washington never solved its fundamental problem in Iraq, even as the United States successfully drew down its forces from the surge levels of 2007-2008.
That fundamental problem is Iran. U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan will ultimately strengthen Pakistan. A strong Pakistani state — whether that can be resurrected or not is a separate question — and a stable balance of power between India and Pakistan are in the long-term national interests of the United States. However, when the United States invaded Iraq, it destroyed the balance of power between Iran and Iraq. Initially, Washington wanted to establish a pro-American government in Baghdad, but instead it must now try to limit the extent to which the government in Baghdad favors Iran. Tehran has extensively penetrated the political and security apparatus of the Iraqi government. Iranian covert capabilities in Iraq — and within the wider region — are well-established. As the U.S. military leaves, Iran’s overt military capabilities will become the dominant military force in the region.
Even if the United States is able to secure an extended stay for its forces in Iraq, the problem with Iran will remain. An extension would merely bolster a weak American position — one in which the United States (rather than a proxy) is directly responsible for balancing a regional power.
This predicament is why Turkey — Petraeus’s first stop upon leaving Afghanistan — is important. In Ankara, Petraeus discussed counterterrorism and Turkey’s commitment to Afghanistan. However, even if doubled, the fewer than 2,000 troops Turkey contributes to the Afghan war effort will have no decisive impact. Turkey’s importance in current U.S. counterinsurgency efforts is small. Turkey matters because it is the historical pivot between Europe and the Middle East — and outside of Iraq, the natural counterbalance to Iran. Ankara is neither ready nor able to assume such a role within the next few years. Nevertheless, in the long run, Turkey is crucial to American hopes for returning balance to the region and it is the power whose resurgence Iran must fear.
George Friedman: Rethinking Arab Spring
Reply #205 on:
August 16, 2011, 12:21:54 PM »
By George Friedman
On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in a show of public protest. The self-immolation triggered unrest in Tunisia and ultimately the resignation of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This was followed by unrest in a number of Arab countries that the global press dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The standard analysis of the situation was that oppressive regimes had been sitting on a volcano of liberal democratic discontent. The belief was that the Arab Spring was a political uprising by masses demanding liberal democratic reform and that this uprising, supported by Western democracies, would generate sweeping political change across the Arab world.
It is now more than six months since the beginning of the Arab Spring, and it is important to take stock of what has happened and what has not happened. The reasons for the widespread unrest go beyond the Arab world, although, obviously, the dynamics within that world are important in and of themselves. However, the belief in an Arab Spring helped shape European and American policies in the region and the world. If the assumptions of this past January and February prove insufficient or even wrong, then there will be regional and global consequences.
It is important to begin with the fact that, to this point, no regime has fallen in the Arab world. Individuals such as Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have been replaced, but the regimes themselves, which represent the manner of governing, have not changed. Some regimes have come under massive attack but have not fallen, as in Libya, Syria and Yemen. And in many countries, such as Jordan, the unrest never amounted to a real threat to the regime. The kind of rapid and complete collapse that we saw in Eastern Europe in 1989 with the fall of communism has not happened in the Arab world. More important, what regime changes that might come of the civil wars in Libya and Syria are not going to be clearly victorious, those that are victorious are not going to be clearly democratic and those that are democratic are obviously not going to be liberal. The myth that beneath every Libyan is a French republican yearning to breathe free is dubious in the extreme.
Consider the case of Mubarak, who was forced from office and put on trial, although the regime — a mode of governing in which the military remains the main arbiter of the state — remains intact. Egypt is now governed by a committee of military commanders, all of whom had been part of Mubarak’s regime. Elections are coming, but the opposition is deeply divided between Islamists and secularists, and personalities and ideological divisions in turn divide these factions. The probability of a powerful democratic president emerging who controls the sprawling ministries in Cairo and the country’s security and military apparatus is slim, and the Egyptian military junta is already acting to suppress elements that are too radical and too unpredictable.
The important question is why these regimes have been able to survive. In a genuine revolution, the regime loses power. The anti-communist forces overwhelmed the Polish Communist government in 1989 regardless of the divisions within the opposition. The sitting regimes were not in a position to determine their own futures, let alone the futures of their countries. There was a transition, but they were not in control of it. Similarly, in 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, his military and security people were not the ones managing the transition after the shah left the country. They were the ones on trial. There was unrest in Egypt in January and February 2011, but the idea that it amounted to a revolution flew in the face of the reality of Egypt and of what revolutions actually look like.
Shaping the Western Narrative
There were three principles shaping the Western narrative on the Arab Spring. The first was that these regimes were overwhelmingly unpopular. The second was that the opposition represented the overwhelming will of the people. The third was that once the unrest began it was unstoppable. Add to all that the notion that social media facilitated the organization of the revolution and the belief that the region was in the midst of a radical transformation can be easily understood.
It was in Libya that these propositions created the most serious problems. Tunisia and Egypt were not subject to very much outside influence. Libya became the focus of a significant Western intervention. Moammar Gadhafi had ruled Libya for nearly 42 years. He could not have ruled for that long without substantial support. That didn’t mean he had majority support (or that he didn’t). It simply meant that the survival of his regime did not interest only a handful of people, but that a large network of Libyans benefitted from Gadhafi’s rule and stood to lose a great deal if he fell. They were prepared to fight for his regime.
The opposition to him was real, but its claim to represent the overwhelming majority of Libyan people was dubious. Many of the leaders had been part of the Gadhafi regime, and it is doubtful they were selected for their government posts because of their personal popularity. Others were members of tribes that were opposed to the regime but not particularly friendly to each other. Under the mythology of the Arab Spring, the eastern coalition represented the united rage of the Libyan people against Gadhafi’s oppression. Gadhafi was weak and isolated, wielding an army that was still loyal and could inflict terrible vengeance on the Libyan people. But if the West would demonstrate its ability to prevent slaughter in Benghazi, the military would realize its own isolation and defect to the rebels.
It didn’t happen that way. First, Gadhafi’s regime was more than simply a handful of people terrorizing the population. It was certainly a brutal regime, but it hadn’t survived for 42 years on that alone. It had substantial support in the military and among key tribes. Whether this was a majority is as unclear as whether the eastern coalition was a majority. But it was certainly a substantial group with much to fight for and a great deal to lose if the regime fell. So, contrary to expectations in the West, the regime has continued to fight and to retain the loyalty of a substantial number of people. Meanwhile, the eastern alliance has continued to survive under the protection of NATO but has been unable to form a united government or topple Gadhafi. Most important, it has always been a dubious assertion that what would emerge if the rebels did defeat Gadhafi would be a democratic regime, let alone a liberal democracy, and this has become increasingly obvious as the war has worn on. Whoever would replace Gadhafi would not clearly be superior to him, which is saying quite a lot.
A very similar process is taking place in Syria. There, the minority Alawite government of the Assad family, which has ruled Syria for 41 years, is facing an uprising led by the majority Sunnis, or at least some segment of them. Again, the assumption was that the regime was illegitimate and therefore weak and would crumble in the face of concerted resistance. That assumption proved wrong. The Assad regime may be running a minority government, but it has substantial support from a military of mostly Alawite officers leading a largely Sunni conscript force. The military has benefited tremendously from the Assad regime — indeed, it brought it to power. The one thing the Assads were careful to do was to make it beneficial to the military and security services to remain loyal to the regime. So far, they largely have. The danger for the regime looking forward is if the growing strain on the Alawite-dominated army divisions leads to fissures within the Alawite community and in the army itself, raising the potential for a military coup.
In part, these Arab leaders have nowhere to go. The senior leadership of the military could be tried in The Hague, and the lower ranks are subject to rebel retribution. There is a rule in war, which is that you should always give your enemy room to retreat. The Assad supporters, like the Gadhafi supporters and the supporters of Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, have no room to retreat. So they have fought on for months, and it is not clear they will capitulate anytime soon.
Foreign governments, from the United States to Turkey, have expressed their exasperation with the Syrians, but none has seriously contemplated an intervention. There are two reasons for this: First, following the Libyan intervention, everyone became more wary of assuming the weakness of Arab regimes, and no one wants a showdown on the ground with a desperate Syrian military. Second, observers have become cautious in asserting that widespread unrest constitutes a popular revolution or that the revolutionaries necessarily want to create a liberal democracy. The Sunnis in Syria might well want a democracy, but they might well be interested in creating a Sunni “Islamic” state. Knowing that it is important to be careful what you wish for, everyone seems to be issuing stern warnings to Damascus without doing very much.
Syria is an interesting case because it is, perhaps, the only current issue that Iran and Israel agree on. Iran is deeply invested in the Assad regime and wary of increased Sunni power in Syria. Israel is just as deeply concerned that the Assad regime — a known and manageable devil from the Israeli point of view — could collapse and be replaced by a Sunni Islamist regime with close ties to Hamas and what is left of al Qaeda in the Levant. These are fears, not certainties, but the fears make for interesting bedfellows.
Since late 2010, we have seen three kinds of uprisings in the Arab world. The first are those that merely brushed by the regime. The second are those that created a change in leaders but not in the way the country was run. The third are those that turned into civil wars, such as Libya and Yemen. There is also the interesting case of Bahrain, where the regime was saved by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, but while the rising there conformed to the basic model of the Arab Spring — failed hopes — it lies in a different class, caught between Saudi and Iranian power.
The three examples do not mean that there is not discontent in the Arab world or a desire for change. They do not mean that change will not happen, or that discontent will not assume sufficient force to overthrow regimes. They also do not mean that whatever emerges will be liberal democratic states pleasing to Americans and Europeans.
This becomes the geopolitically significant part of the story. Among Europeans and within the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration is an ideology of human rights — the idea that one of the major commitments of Western countries should be supporting the creation of regimes resembling their own. This assumes all the things that we have discussed: that there is powerful discontent in oppressive states, that the discontent is powerful enough to overthrow regimes, and that what follows would be the sort of regime that the West would be able to work with.
The issue isn’t whether human rights are important but whether supporting unrest in repressive states automatically strengthens human rights. An important example was Iran in 1979, when opposition to the oppression of the shah’s government was perceived as a movement toward liberal democracy. What followed might have been democratic but it was hardly liberal. Indeed, many of the myths of the Arab Spring had their roots both in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and later in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, when a narrow uprising readily crushed by the regime was widely viewed as massive opposition and widespread support for liberalization.
The world is more complicated and more varied than that. As we saw in the Arab Spring, oppressive regimes are not always faced with massed risings, and unrest does not necessarily mean mass support. Nor are the alternatives necessarily more palatable than what went before or the displeasure of the West nearly as fearsome as Westerners like to think. Libya is a case study on the consequences of starting a war with insufficient force. Syria makes a strong case on the limits of soft power. Egypt and Tunisia represent a textbook lesson on the importance of not deluding yourself.
The pursuit of human rights requires ruthless clarity as to whom you are supporting and what their chances are. It is important to remember that it is not Western supporters of human rights who suffer the consequences of failed risings, civil wars or revolutionary regimes that are committed to causes other than liberal democracy.
The misreading of the situation can also create unnecessary geopolitical problems. The fall of the Egyptian regime, unlikely as it is at this point, would be just as likely to generate an Islamist regime as a liberal democracy. The survival of the Assad regime could lead to more slaughter than we have seen and a much firmer base for Iran. No regimes have fallen since the Arab Spring, but when they do it will be important to remember 1979 and the conviction that nothing could be worse than the shah’s Iran, morally or geopolitically. Neither was quite the case.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in the Arab world who want liberal democracy. It simply means that they are not powerful enough to topple regimes or maintain control of new regimes even if they did succeed. The Arab Spring is, above all, a primer on wishful thinking in the face of the real world.
Stratfor: The geopolitics of the US-1
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August 25, 2011, 01:36:45 PM »
The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire
August 25, 2011 | 1159 GMT
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STRATFOREditor’s Note: This installment on the United States, presented in two parts, is the 16th in a series of STRATFOR monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.
Related Special Topic Page
Geopolitical Monographs: In-depth Country Analysis
Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States. They are a diverse collection of peoples primarily from a dozen different Western European states, mixed in with smaller groups from a hundred more. All of the New World entities struggled to carve a modern nation and state out of the American continents. Brazil is an excellent case of how that struggle can be a difficult one. The United States falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The American geography is an impressive one. The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway, and is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined. Two vast oceans insulated the United States from Asian and European powers, deserts separate the United States from Mexico to the south, while lakes and forests separate the population centers in Canada from those in the United States. The United States has capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin. So like the Turks, the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.
The North American Core
North America is a triangle-shaped continent centered in the temperate portions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is of sufficient size that its northern reaches are fully Arctic and its southern reaches are fully tropical. Predominant wind currents carry moisture from west to east across the continent.
Climatically, the continent consists of a series of wide north-south precipitation bands largely shaped by the landmass’ longitudinal topography. The Rocky Mountains dominate the Western third of the northern and central parts of North America, generating a rain-shadow effect just east of the mountain range — an area known colloquially as the Great Plains. Farther east of this semiarid region are the well-watered plains of the prairie provinces of Canada and the American Midwest. This zone comprises both the most productive and the largest contiguous acreage of arable land on the planet.
East of this premier arable zone lies a second mountain chain known as the Appalachians. While this chain is far lower and thinner than the Rockies, it still constitutes a notable barrier to movement and economic development. However, the lower elevation of the mountains combined with the wide coastal plain of the East Coast does not result in the rain-shadow effect of the Great Plains. Consequently, the coastal plain of the East Coast is well-watered throughout.
In the continent’s northern and southern reaches this longitudinal pattern is not quite so clear-cut. North of the Great Lakes region lies the Canadian Shield, an area where repeated glaciation has scraped off most of the topsoil. That, combined with the area’s colder climate, means that these lands are not nearly as productive as regions farther south or west and, as such, remain largely unpopulated to the modern day. In the south — Mexico — the North American landmass narrows drastically from more than 5,000 kilometers (about 3,100 miles) wide to, at most, 2,000 kilometers, and in most locations less than 1,000 kilometers. The Mexican extension also occurs in the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains longitudinal zone, generating a wide, dry, irregular uplift that lacks the agricultural promise of the Canadian prairie provinces or American Midwest.
The continent’s final geographic piece is an isthmus of varying width, known as Central America, that is too wet and rugged to develop into anything more than a series of isolated city-states, much less a single country that would have an impact on continental affairs. Due to a series of swamps and mountains where the two American continents join, there still is no road network linking them, and the two Americas only indirectly affect each other’s development.
The most distinctive and important feature of North America is the river network in the middle third of the continent. While its components are larger in both volume and length than most of the world’s rivers, this is not what sets the network apart. Very few of its tributaries begin at high elevations, making vast tracts of these rivers easily navigable. In the case of the Mississippi, the head of navigation — just north of Minneapolis — is 3,000 kilometers inland.
The network consists of six distinct river systems: the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, Ohio, Tennessee and, of course, the Mississippi. The unified nature of this system greatly enhances the region’s usefulness and potential economic and political power. First, shipping goods via water is an order of magnitude cheaper than shipping them via land. The specific ratio varies greatly based on technological era and local topography, but in the petroleum age in the United States, the cost of transport via water is roughly 10 to 30 times cheaper than overland. This simple fact makes countries with robust maritime transport options extremely capital-rich when compared to countries limited to land-only options. This factor is the primary reason why the major economic powers of the past half-millennia have been Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Second, the watershed of the Greater Mississippi Basin largely overlays North America’s arable lands. Normally, agricultural areas as large as the American Midwest are underutilized as the cost of shipping their output to more densely populated regions cuts deeply into the economics of agriculture. The Eurasian steppe is an excellent example. Even in modern times it is very common for Russian and Kazakh crops to occasionally rot before they can reach market. Massive artificial transport networks must be constructed and maintained in order for the land to reach its full potential. Not so in the case of the Greater Mississippi Basin. The vast bulk of the prime agricultural lands are within 200 kilometers of a stretch of navigable river. Road and rail are still used for collection, but nearly omnipresent river ports allow for the entirety of the basin’s farmers to easily and cheaply ship their products to markets not just in North America but all over the world.
Third, the river network’s unity greatly eases the issue of political integration. All of the peoples of the basin are part of the same economic system, ensuring constant contact and common interests. Regional proclivities obviously still arise, but this is not Northern Europe, where a variety of separate river systems have given rise to multiple national identities.
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It is worth briefly explaining why STRATFOR fixates on navigable rivers as opposed to coastlines. First, navigable rivers by definition service twice the land area of a coastline (rivers have two banks, coasts only one). Second, rivers are not subject to tidal forces, greatly easing the construction and maintenance of supporting infrastructure. Third, storm surges often accompany oceanic storms, which force the evacuation of oceanic ports. None of this eliminates the usefulness of coastal ports, but in terms of the capacity to generate capital, coastal regions are a poor second compared to lands with navigable rivers.
There are three other features — all maritime in nature — that further leverage the raw power that the Greater Mississippi Basin provides. First are the severe indentations of North America’s coastline, granting the region a wealth of sheltered bays and natural, deep-water ports. The more obvious examples include the Gulf of St. Lawrence, San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Galveston Bay and Long Island Sound/New York Bay.
Second, there are the Great Lakes. Unlike the Greater Mississippi Basin, the Great Lakes are not naturally navigable due to winter freezes and obstacles such as Niagara Falls. However, over the past 200 years extensive hydrological engineering has been completed — mostly by Canada — to allow for full navigation on the lakes. Since 1960, penetrating halfway through the continent, the Great Lakes have provided a secondary water transport system that has opened up even more lands for productive use and provided even greater capacity for North American capital generation. The benefits of this system are reaped mainly by the warmer lands of the United States rather than the colder lands of Canada, but since the Great Lakes constitute Canada’s only maritime transport option for reaching the interior, most of the engineering was paid for by Canadians rather than Americans.
Third and most important are the lines of barrier islands that parallel the continent’s East and Gulf coasts. These islands allow riverine Mississippi traffic to travel in a protected intracoastal waterway all the way south to the Rio Grande and all the way north to the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to serving as a sort of oceanic river, the island chain’s proximity to the Mississippi delta creates an extension of sorts for all Mississippi shipping, in essence extending the political and economic unifying tendencies of the Mississippi Basin to the eastern coastal plain.
Thus, the Greater Mississippi Basin is the continent’s core, and whoever controls that core not only is certain to dominate the East Coast and Great Lakes regions but will also have the agricultural, transport, trade and political unification capacity to be a world power — even without having to interact with the rest of the global system.
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There is, of course, more to North America than simply this core region and its immediate satellites. There are many secondary stretches of agricultural land as well — those just north of the Greater Mississippi Basin in south-central Canada, the lands just north of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Atlantic coastal plain that wraps around the southern terminus of the Appalachians, California’s Central Valley, the coastal plain of the Pacific Northwest, the highlands of central Mexico and the Veracruz region.
But all of these regions combined are considerably smaller than the American Midwest and are not ideal, agriculturally, as the Midwest is. Because the Great Lakes are not naturally navigable, costly canals must be constructed. The prairie provinces of south-central Canada lack a river transport system altogether. California’s Central Valley requires irrigation. The Mexican highlands are semiarid and lack any navigable rivers.
The rivers of the American Atlantic coastal plain — flowing down the eastern side of the Appalachians — are neither particularly long nor interconnected. This makes them much more like the rivers of Northern Europe in that their separation localizes economic existence and fosters distinct political identities, dividing the region rather than uniting it. The formation of such local — as opposed to national — identities in many ways contributed to the American Civil War.
But the benefits of these secondary regions are not distributed evenly. What is now Mexico lacks even a single navigable river of any size. Its agricultural zones are disconnected and it boasts few good natural ports. Mexico’s north is too dry while its south is too wet — and both are too mountainous — to support major population centers or robust agricultural activities. Additionally, the terrain is just rugged enough — making transport just expensive enough — to make it difficult for the central government to enforce its writ. The result is the near lawlessness of the cartel lands in the north and the irregular spasms of secessionist activity in the south.
Canada’s maritime transport zones are far superior to those of Mexico but pale in comparison to those of the United States. Its first, the Great Lakes, not only requires engineering but is shared with the United States. The second, the St. Lawrence Seaway, is a solid option (again with sufficient engineering), but it services a region too cold to develop many dense population centers. None of Canada boasts naturally navigable rivers, often making it more attractive for Canada’s provinces — in particular the prairie provinces and British Columbia — to integrate with the United States, where transport is cheaper, the climate supports a larger population and markets are more readily accessible. Additionally, the Canadian Shield greatly limits development opportunities. This vast region — which covers more than half of Canada’s landmass and starkly separates Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and the prairie provinces — consists of a rocky, broken landscape perfect for canoeing and backpacking but unsuitable for agriculture or habitation.
So long as the United States has uninterrupted control of the continental core — which itself enjoys independent and interconnected ocean access — the specific locations of the country’s northern and southern boundaries are somewhat immaterial to continental politics. To the south, the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts are a significant barrier in both directions, making the exceedingly shallow Rio Grande a logical — but hardly absolute — border line. The eastern end of the border could be anywhere within 300 kilometers north or south of its current location (at present the border region’s southernmost ports — Brownsville and Corpus Christi — lie on the U.S. side of the border). As one moves westward to the barren lands of New Mexico, Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora, the possible variance increases considerably. Even controlling the mouth of the Colorado River where it empties into the Gulf of California is not a critical issue, since hydroelectric development in the United States prevents the river from reaching the Gulf in most years, making it useless for transport.
In the north, the Great Lakes are obviously an ideal break point in the middle of the border region, but the specific location of the line along the rest of the border is largely irrelevant. East of the lakes, low mountains and thick forests dominate the landscape — not the sort of terrain to generate a power that could challenge the U.S. East Coast. The border here could theoretically lie anywhere between the St. Lawrence Seaway and Massachusetts without compromising the American population centers on the East Coast (although, of course, the farther north the line is the more secure the East Coast will be). West of the lakes is flat prairie that can be easily crossed, but the land is too cold and often too dry, and, like the east, it cannot support a large population. So long as the border lies north of the bulk of the Missouri River’s expansive watershed, the border’s specific location is somewhat academic, and it becomes even more so when one reaches the Rockies.
On the far western end of the U.S.-Canada border is the only location where there could be some border friction. The entrance to Puget Sound — one of the world’s best natural harbors — is commanded by Vancouver Island. Most of the former is United States territory, but the latter is Canadian — in fact, the capital of British Columbia, Victoria, sits on the southern tip of that strategic island for precisely that reason. However, the fact that British Columbia is more than 3,000 kilometers from the Toronto region and that there is a 12:1 population imbalance between British Columbia and the American West Coast largely eliminates the possibility of Canadian territorial aggression.
A Geographic History of the United States
It is common knowledge that the United States began as 13 rebellious colonies along the east coast of the center third of the North American continent. But the United States as an entity was not a sure thing in the beginning. France controlled the bulk of the useful territory that in time would enable the United States to rise to power, while the Spanish empire boasted a larger and more robust economy and population in the New World than the fledgling United States. Most of the original 13 colonies were lightly populated by European standards — only Philadelphia could be considered a true city in the European sense — and were linked by only the most basic of physical infrastructure. Additionally, rivers flowed west to east across the coastal plain, tending to sequester regional identities rather than unify them.
But the young United States held two advantages. First, without exception, all of the European empires saw their New World holdings as secondary concerns. For them, the real game — and always the real war — was on another continent in a different hemisphere. Europe’s overseas colonies were either supplementary sources of income or chips to be traded away on the poker table of Europe. France did not even bother using its American territories to dispose of undesirable segments of its society, while Spain granted its viceroys wide latitude in how they governed imperial territories simply because it was not very important so long as the silver and gold shipments kept arriving. With European attentions diverted elsewhere, the young United States had an opportunity to carve out a future for itself relatively free of European entanglements.
Second, the early United States did not face any severe geographic challenges. The barrier island system and local rivers provided a number of options that allowed for rapid cultural and economic expansion up and down the East Coast. The coastal plain — particularly in what would become the American South — was sufficiently wide and well-watered to allow for the steady expansion of cities and farmland. Choices were limited, but so were challenges. This was not England, an island that forced the early state into the expense of a navy. This was not France, a country with three coasts and two land borders that forced Paris to constantly deal with threats from multiple directions. This was not Russia, a massive country suffering from short growing seasons that was forced to expend inordinate sums of capital on infrastructure simply to attempt to feed itself. Instead, the United States could exist in relative peace for its first few decades without needing to worry about any large-scale, omnipresent military or economic challenges, so it did not have to garrison a large military. Every scrap of energy the young country possessed could be spent on making itself more sustainable. When viewed together — the robust natural transport network overlaying vast tracts of excellent farmland, sharing a continent with two much smaller and weaker powers — it is inevitable that whoever controls the middle third of North America will be a great power.
With these basic inputs, the American polity was presented a set of imperatives it had to achieve in order to be a successful nation. They are only rarely declared elements of national policy, instead serving as a sort of subconscious set of guidelines established by geography that most governments — regardless of composition or ideology — find themselves following. The United States’ strategic imperatives are presented here in five parts. Normally imperatives are pursued in order, but there is considerable time overlap between the first two and the second two.
1. Dominate the Greater Mississippi Basin
The early nation was particularly vulnerable to its former colonial master. The original 13 colonies were hardwired into the British Empire economically, and trading with other European powers (at the time there were no other independent states in the Western Hemisphere) required braving the seas that the British still ruled. Additionally, the colonies’ almost exclusively coastal nature made them easy prey for that same navy should hostilities ever recommence, as was driven brutally home in the War of 1812 in which Washington was sacked.
There are only two ways to protect a coastal community from sea power. The first is to counter with another navy. But navies are very expensive, and it was all the United States could do in its first 50 years of existence to muster a merchant marine to assist with trade. France’s navy stood in during the Revolutionary War in order to constrain British power, but once independence was secured, Paris had no further interest in projecting power to the eastern shore of North America (and, in fact, nearly fought a war with the new country in the 1790s).
The second method of protecting a coastal community is to develop territories that are not utterly dependent upon the sea. Here is where the United States laid the groundwork for becoming a major power, since the strategic depth offered in North America was the Greater Mississippi Basin.
Achieving such strategic depth was both an economic and a military imperative. With few exceptions, the American population was based along the coast, and even the exceptions — such as Philadelphia — were easily reached via rivers. The United States was entirely dependent upon the English imperial system not just for finished goods and markets but also for the bulk of its non-agricultural raw materials, in particular coal and iron ore. Expanding inland allowed the Americans to substitute additional supplies from mines in the Appalachian Mountains. But those same mountains also limited just how much depth the early Americans could achieve. The Appalachians may not be the Swiss Alps, but they were sufficiently rugged to put a check on any deep and rapid inland expansion. Even reaching the Ohio River Valley — all of which lay within the initial territories of the independent United States — was largely blocked by the Appalachians. The Ohio River faced the additional problem of draining into the Mississippi, the western shore of which was the French territory of Louisiana and all of which emptied through the fully French-held city of New Orleans.
The United States solved this problem in three phases. First, there was the direct purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. (Technically, France’s Louisiana Territory was Spanish-held at this point, its ownership having been swapped as a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 that ended the Seven Years’ War. In October 1800, France and Spain agreed in secret to return the lands to French control, but news of the transfer was not made public until the sale of the lands in question to the United States in July 1803. Therefore, between 1762 and 1803 the territory was legally the territory of the Spanish crown but operationally was a mixed territory under a shifting patchwork of French, Spanish and American management.)
At the time, Napoleon was girding for a major series of wars that would bear his name. France not only needed cash but also to be relieved of the security burden of defending a large but lightly populated territory in a different hemisphere. The Louisiana Purchase not only doubled the size of the United States but also gave it direct ownership of almost all of the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. The inclusion of the city of New Orleans in the purchase granted the United States full control over the entire watershed. Once the territory was purchased, the challenge was to develop the lands. Some settlers migrated northward from New Orleans, but most came via a different route.
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The second phase of the strategic-depth strategy was the construction of that different route: the National Road (aka the Cumberland Road). This project linked Baltimore first to Cumberland, Md. — the head of navigation of the Potomac — and then on to the Ohio River Valley at Wheeling, W. Va., by 1818. Later phases extended the road across Ohio (1828), Indiana (1832) and Illinois (1838) until it eventually reached Jefferson City, Mo., in the 1840s. This single road (known in modern times as Interstate 40 or Interstate 70 for most of its length) allowed American pioneers to directly settle Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri and granted them initial access to Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. For the better part of a century, it was the most heavily trafficked route in the country, and it allowed Americans not only to settle the new Louisiana Territory but also to finally take advantage of the lands ceded by the British in 1787. With the road’s completion, the original 13 colonies were finally lashed to the Greater Mississippi Basin via a route that could not be challenged by any outside power.
The third phase of the early American expansion strategy was in essence an extension of the National Road via a series of settlement trails, by far the most important and famous of which was the Oregon Trail. While less of a formal construction than the National Road, the Oregon Trail opened up far larger territories. The trail was directly responsible for the initial settling of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. A wealth of secondary trails branched off from the main artery — the Mormon, Bozeman, California and Denver trails — and extended the settlement efforts to Montana, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. The trails were all active from the early 1840s until the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railway in 1869. That project’s completion reduced East Coast-West Coast travel time from six months to eight days and slashed the cost by 90 percent (to about $1,100 in 2011 dollars). The river of settlers overnight turned into a flood, finally cementing American hegemony over its vast territories.
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Collectively, the Louisiana Purchase, the National Road and the Oregon Trail facilitated the largest and fastest cultural expansion in human history. From beginning to end, the entire process required less than 70 years. However, it should be noted that the last part of this process — the securing of the West Coast — was not essential to American security. The Columbia River Valley and California’s Central Valley are not critical American territories. Any independent entities based in either could not possibly generate a force capable of threatening the Greater Mississippi Basin. This hardly means that these territories are unattractive or a net loss to the United States — among other things, they grant the United States full access to the Pacific trading basin — only that control of them is not imperative to American security.
2. Eliminate All Land-Based Threats to the Greater Mississippi Basin
The first land threat to the young United States was in essence the second phase of the Revolutionary War — a rematch between the British Empire and the young United States in the War of 1812. That the British navy could outmatch anything the Americans could float was obvious, and the naval blockade was crushing to an economy dependent upon coastal traffic. Geopolitically, the most critical part of the war was the participation of semi-independent British Canada. It wasn’t so much Canadian participation in any specific battle of the war (although Canadian troops did play a leading role in the sacking of Washington in August 1814) as it was that Canadian forces, unlike the British, did not have a supply line that stretched across the Atlantic. They were already in North America and, as such, constituted a direct physical threat to the existence of the United States.
Canada lacked many of the United States’ natural advantages even before the Americans were able to acquire the Louisiana Territory. First and most obvious, Canada is far enough north that its climate is far harsher than that of the United States, with all of the negative complications one would expect for population, agriculture and infrastructure. What few rivers Canada has neither interconnect nor remain usable year round. While the Great Lakes do not typically freeze, some of the river connections between them do. Most of these river connections also have rapids and falls, greatly limiting their utility as a transport network. Canada has made them more usable via grand canal projects, but the country’s low population and difficult climate greatly constrain its ability to generate capital locally. Every infrastructure project comes at a great opportunity cost, such a high cost that the St. Lawrence Seaway — a series of locks that link the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes and allow full ocean access — was not completed until 1959.
Canada is also greatly challenged by geography. The maritime provinces — particularly Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island — are disconnected from the Canadian landmass and unable to capitalize on what geographic blessings the rest of the country enjoys. They lack even the option of integrating south with the Americans and so are perennially poor and lightly populated compared to the rest of the country. Even in the modern day, what population centers Canada does have are geographically sequestered from one another by the Canadian Shield and the Rocky Mountains.
As time advanced, none of Canada’s geographic weaknesses worked themselves out. Even the western provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — are linked to Canada’s core by only a single transport corridor that snakes 1,500 kilometers through the emptiness of western and central Ontario north of Lake Superior. All four provinces have been forced by geography and necessity to be more economically integrated with their southern neighbors than with their fellow Canadian provinces.
Such challenges to unity and development went from being inconvenient and expensive to downright dangerous when the British ended their involvement in the War of 1812 in February 1815. The British were exhausted from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and, with the French Empire having essentially imploded, were more interested in reshaping the European balance of power than re-engaging the Americans in distant North America. For their part, the Americans were mobilized, angry and — remembering vividly the Canadian/British sacking of Washington — mulling revenge. This left a geographically and culturally fractured Canada dreading a long-term, solitary confrontation with a hostile and strengthening local power. During the following decades, the Canadians had little choice but to downgrade their ties to the increasingly disinterested British Empire, adopt political neutrality vis-a-vis Washington, and begin formal economic integration with the United States. Any other choice would have put the Canadians on the path to another war with the Americans (this time likely without the British), and that war could have had only one outcome.
With its northern border secured, the Americans set about excising as much other extra-hemispheric influence from North America as possible. The Napoleonic Wars had not only absorbed British attention but had also shattered Spanish power (Napoleon actually succeeded in capturing the king of Spain early in the conflicts). Using a combination of illegal settlements, military pressure and diplomacy, the United States was able to gain control of east and west Florida from Madrid in 1819 in exchange for recognizing Spanish claims to what is now known as Texas (Tejas to the Spanish of the day).
This “recognition” was not even remotely serious. With Spain reeling from the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish control of its New World colonies was frayed at best. Most of Spain’s holdings in the Western Hemisphere either had already established their independence when Florida was officially ceded, or — as in Mexico — were bitterly fighting for it. Mexico achieved its independence a mere two years after Spain ceded Florida, and the United States’ efforts to secure its southwestern borders shifted to a blatant attempt to undermine and ultimately carve up the one remaining Western Hemispheric entity that could potentially challenge the United States: Mexico.
The Ohio and Upper Mississippi basins were hugely important assets, since they provided not only ample land for settlement but also sufficient grain production and easy transport. Since that transport allowed American merchants to easily access broader international markets, the United States quickly transformed itself from a poor coastal nation to a massively capital-rich commodities exporter. But these inner territories harbored a potentially fatal flaw: New Orleans. Should any nation but the United States control this single point, the entire maritime network that made North America such valuable territory would be held hostage to the whims of a foreign power. This is why the United States purchased New Orleans.
But even with the Louisiana Purchase, owning was not the same as securing, and all the gains of the Ohio and Louisiana settlement efforts required the permanent securing of New Orleans. Clearly, the biggest potential security threat to the United States was newly independent Mexico, the border with which was only 150 kilometers from New Orleans. In fact, New Orleans’ security was even more precarious than such a small distance suggested.
Most of eastern Texas was forested plains and hills with ample water supplies — ideal territory for hosting and supporting a substantial military force. In contrast, southern Louisiana was swamp. Only the city of New Orleans itself could house forces, and they would need to be supplied from another location via ship. It did not require a particularly clever military strategy for one to envision a Mexican assault on the city.
The United States defused and removed this potential threat by encouraging the settlement of not just its own side of the border region but the other side as well, pushing until the legal border reflected the natural border — the barrens of the desert. Just as the American plan for dealing with Canada was shaped by Canada’s geographic weakness, Washington’s efforts to first shield against and ultimately take over parts of Mexico were shaped by Mexico’s geographic shortcomings.
In the early 1800s Mexico, like the United States, was a very young country and much of its territory was similarly unsettled, but it simply could not expand as quickly as the United States for a variety of reasons. Obviously, the United States enjoyed a head start, having secured its independence in 1783 while Mexico became independent in 1821, but the deeper reasons are rooted in the geographic differences of the two states.
In the United States, the cheap transport system allowed early settlers to quickly obtain their own small tracts of land. It was an attractive option that helped fuel the early migration waves into the United States and then into the continent’s interior. Growing ranks of landholders exported their agricultural output either back down the National Road to the East Coast or down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and on to Europe. Small towns formed as wealth collected in the new territories, and in time the wealth accumulated to the point that portions of the United States had the capital necessary to industrialize. The interconnected nature of the Midwest ensured sufficient economies of scale to reinforce this process, and connections between the Midwest and the East Coast were sufficient to allow advances in one region to play off of and strengthen the other.
Mexico, in contrast, suffered from a complete lack of navigable rivers and had only a single good port (Veracruz). Additionally, what pieces of arable land it possessed were neither collected into a singular mass like the American interior nor situated at low elevations. The Mexico City region is arable only because it sits at a high elevation — at least 2,200 meters above sea level — lifting it out of the subtropical climate zone that predominates at that latitude.
This presented Mexico with a multitude of problems. First and most obviously, the lack of navigable waterways and the non-abundance of ports drastically reduced Mexico’s ability to move goods and thereby generate its own capital. Second, the disassociated nature of Mexico’s agricultural regions forced the construction of separate, non-integrated infrastructures for each individual sub-region, drastically raising the costs of even basic development. There were few economies of scale to be had, and advances in one region could not bolster another. Third, the highland nature of the Mexico City core required an even more expensive infrastructure, since everything had to be transported up the mountains from Veracruz. The engineering challenges and costs were so extreme and Mexico’s ability to finance them so strained that the 410-kilometer railway linking Mexico City and Veracruz was not completed until 1873. (By that point, the United States had two intercontinental lines and roughly 60,000 kilometers of railways.)
The higher cost of development in Mexico resulted in a very different economic and social structure compared to the United States. Instead of small landholdings, Mexican agriculture was dominated by a small number of rich Spaniards (or their descendants) who could afford the high capital costs of creating plantations. So whereas American settlers were traditionally yeoman farmers who owned their own land, Mexican settlers were largely indentured laborers or de facto serfs in the employ of local oligarchs. The Mexican landowners had, in essence, created their own company towns and saw little benefit in pooling their efforts to industrialize. Doing so would have undermined their control of their economic and political fiefdoms. This social structure has survived to the modern day, with the bulk of Mexican political and economic power held by the same 300 families that dominated Mexico’s early years, each with its local geographic power center.
For the United States, the attraction of owning one’s own destiny made it the destination of choice for most European migrants. At the time that Mexico achieved independence it had 6.2 million people versus the U.S. population of 9.6 million. In just two generations — by 1870 — the American population had ballooned to 38.6 million while Mexico’s was only 8.8 million. This U.S. population boom, combined with the United States’ ability to industrialize organically, not only allowed it to develop economically but also enabled it to provide the goods for its own development.
The American effort against Mexico took place in two theaters. The first was Texas, and the primary means was settlement as enabled by the Austin family. Most Texas scholars begin the story of Texas with Stephen F. Austin, considered to be the dominant personality in Texas’ formation. STRATFOR starts earlier with Stephen’s father, Moses Austin. In December 1796, Moses relocated from Virginia to then-Spanish Missouri — a region that would, within a decade, become part of the Louisiana Purchase — and began investing in mining operations. He swore fealty to the Spanish crown but obtained permission to assist with settling the region — something he did with American, not Spanish, citizens. Once Missouri became American territory, Moses shifted his attention south to the new border and used his contacts in the Spanish government to replicate his Missouri activities in Spanish Tejas.
After Moses’ death in 1821, his son took over the family business of establishing American demographic and economic interests on the Mexican side of the border. Whether the Austins were American agents or simply profiteers is irrelevant; the end result was an early skewing of Tejas in the direction of the United States. Stephen’s efforts commenced the same year as his father’s death, which was the same year that Mexico’s long war of independence against Spain ended. At that time, Spanish/Mexican Tejas was nearly devoid of settlers — Anglo or Hispanic — so the original 300 families that Stephen F. Austin helped settle in Tejas immediately dominated the territory’s demography and economy. And from that point on the United States not so quietly encouraged immigration into Mexican Tejas.
Once Tejas’ population identified more with the United States than it did with Mexico proper, the hard work was already done. The remaining question was how to formalize American control, no small matter. When hostilities broke out between Mexico City and these so-called “Texians,” U.S. financial interests — most notably the U.S. regional reserve banks — bankrolled the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836.
It was in this war that one of the most important battles of the modern age was fought. After capturing the Alamo, Mexican dictator Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched north and then east with the intention of smashing the Texian forces in a series of engagements. With the Texians outnumbered by a factor of more than five to one, there was every indication that the Mexican forces would prevail over the Texian rebels. But with no small amount of luck the Texians managed not only to defeat the Mexican forces at the Battle of San Jacinto but also capture Santa Anna himself and force a treaty of secession upon the Mexican government. An independent Texas was born and the Texians became Texans.
However, had the battle gone the other way the Texian forces would not have simply been routed but crushed. It was obvious to the Mexicans that the Texians had been fighting with weapons made in the United States, purchased from the United States with money lent by the United States. Since there would have been no military force between the Mexican army and New Orleans, it would not have required a particularly ingenious plan for Mexican forces to capture New Orleans. It could well have been Mexico — not the United States — that controlled access to the North American core.
But Mexican supremacy over North America was not to be, and the United States continued consolidating. The next order of business was ensuring that Texas neither fell back under Mexican control nor was able to persist as an independent entity.
Texas was practically a still-born republic. The western half of Texas suffers from rocky soil and aridity, and its rivers are for the most part unnavigable. Like Mexico, its successful development would require a massive application of capital, and it attained its independence only by accruing a great deal of debt. That debt was owed primarily to the United States, which chose not to write off any upon conclusion of the war. Add in that independent Texas had but 40,000 people (compared to the U.S. population at the time of 14.7 million) and the future of the new country was — at best — bleak.
Texas immediately applied for statehood, but domestic (both Texan and American) political squabbles and a refusal of Washington to accept Texas’ debt as an American federal responsibility prevented immediate annexation. Within a few short years, Texas’ deteriorating financial position combined with a revenge-minded Mexico hard by its still-disputed border forced Texas to accede to the United States on Washington’s terms in 1845. From that point the United States poured sufficient resources into its newest territory (ultimately exchanging approximately one-third of Texas’ territory for the entirety of the former country’s debt burden in 1850, giving Texas its contemporary shape) and set about enforcing the new U.S.-Mexico border.
Which brings us to the second part of the American strategy against Mexico. While the United States was busy supporting Texian/Texan autonomy, it was also undermining Spanish/Mexican control of the lands of what would become the American Southwest farther to the west. The key pillar of this strategy was another of the famous American trails: the Santa Fe.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Santa Fe Trail was formed not only before the New Mexico Territory became American, or even before Texas became an U.S. state, but before the territory become formally Mexican — the United States founded the trail when Santa Fe was still held by Spanish authority. The trail’s purpose was twofold: first, to fill the region on the other side of the border with a sufficient number of Americans so that the region would identify with the United States rather than with Spain or Mexico and, second, to establish an economic dependency between the northern Mexican territories and the United States.
The United States’ more favorable transport options and labor demography granted it the capital and skills it needed to industrialize at a time when Mexico was still battling Spain for its independence. The Santa Fe Trail started filling the region not only with American settlers but also with American industrial goods that Mexicans could not get elsewhere in the hemisphere.
Even if the race to dominate the lands of New Mexico and Arizona had been a fair one, the barrens of the Chihuahuan, Sonoran and Mojave deserts greatly hindered Mexico’s ability to settle the region with its own citizens. Mexico quickly fell behind economically and demographically in the contest for its own northern territories. (Incidentally, the United States attempted a similar settlement policy in western Canada, but it was halted by the War of 1812.)
The two efforts — carving out Texas and demographically and economically dominating the Southwest — came to a head in the 1846-1848 Mexican-American War. In that war the Americans launched a series of diversionary attacks across the border region, drawing the bulk of Mexican forces into long, arduous marches across the Mexican deserts. Once Mexican forces were fully engaged far to the north of Mexico’s core territories — and on the wrong side of the deserts — American forces made an amphibious landing and quickly captured Mexico’s only port at Veracruz before marching on and capturing Mexico City, the country’s capital. In the postwar settlement, the United States gained control of all the lands of northern Mexico that could sustain sizable populations and set the border with Mexico through the Chihuahuan Desert, as good of an international border as one can find in North America. This firmly eliminated Mexico as a military threat.
3. Control the Ocean Approaches to North America
With the United States having not simply secured its land borders but having ensured that its North American neighbors were geographically unable to challenge it, Washington’s attention shifted to curtailing the next potential threat: an attack from the sea. Having been settled by the British and being economically integrated into their empire for more than a century, the Americans understood very well that sea power could be used to reach them from Europe or elsewhere, outmaneuver their land forces and attack at the whim of whoever controlled the ships.
But the Americans also understood that useful sea power had requirements. The Atlantic crossing was a long one that exhausted its crews and passengers. Troops could not simply sail straight across and be dropped off ready to fight. They required recuperation on land before being committed to a war. Such ships and their crews also required local resupply. Loading up with everything needed for both the trip across the Atlantic and a military campaign would leave no room on the ships for troops. As naval technology advanced, the ships themselves also required coal, which necessitated a constellation of coaling stations near any theaters of operation. Hence, a naval assault required forward bases that would experience traffic just as heavy as the spear tip of any invasion effort.
Ultimately, it was a Russian decision that spurred the Americans to action. In 1821 the Russians formalized their claim to the northwest shore of North America, complete with a declaration barring any ship from approaching within 100 miles of their coastline. The Russian claim extended as far south as the 51st parallel (the northern extreme of Vancouver Island). A particularly bold Russian effort even saw the founding of Fort Ross, less than 160 kilometers north of San Francisco Bay, in order to secure a (relatively) local supply of foodstuffs for Russia’s American colonial effort.
In response to both the broader geopolitical need as well as the specific Russian challenge, the United States issued the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. It asserted that European powers would not be allowed to form new colonies in the Western Hemisphere and that, should a European power lose its grip on an existing New World colony, American power would be used to prevent their re-entrance. It was a policy of bluff, but it did lay the groundwork in both American and European minds that the Western Hemisphere was not European territory. With every year that the Americans’ bluff was not called, the United States’ position gained a little more credibility.
All the while the United States used diplomacy and its growing economic heft to expand. In 1867 the United States purchased the Alaska Territory from Russia, removing Moscow’s weak influence from the hemisphere and securing the United States from any northwestern coastal approach from Asia. In 1898, after a generation of political manipulations that included indirectly sponsoring a coup, Washington signed a treaty of annexation with the Kingdom of Hawaii. This secured not only the most important supply depot in the entire Pacific but also the last patch of land on any sea invasion route from Asia to the U.S. West Coast.
The Atlantic proved far more problematic. There are not many patches of land in the Pacific, and most of them are in the extreme western reaches of the ocean, so securing a buffer there was relatively easy. On the Atlantic side, many European empires were firmly entrenched very close to American shores. The British held bases in maritime Canada and the Bahamas. Several European powers held Caribbean colonies, all of which engaged in massive trade with the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War. The Spanish, while completely ejected from the mainland by the end of the 1820s, still held Cuba, Puerto Rico and the eastern half of Hispaniola (the modern-day Dominican Republic).
All were problematic to the growing United States, but it was Cuba that was the most vexing issue. Just as the city of New Orleans is critical because it is the lynchpin of the entire Mississippi watershed, Cuba, too, is critical because it oversees New Orleans’ access to the wider world from its perch on the Yucatan Channel and Florida Straits. No native Cuban power is strong enough to threaten the United States directly, but like Canada, Cuba could serve as a launching point for an extra-hemispheric power. At Spain’s height of power in the New World it controlled Florida, the Yucatan and Cuba — precisely the pieces of territory necessary to neutralize New Orleans. By the end of the 19th century, those holdings had been whittled down to Cuba alone, and by that time the once-hegemonic Spain had been crushed in a series of European wars, reducing it to a second-rate regional power largely limited to southwestern Europe. It did not take long for Washington to address the Cuba question.
In 1898, the United States launched its first-ever overseas expeditionary war, complete with amphibious assaults, long supply lines and naval support for which American warfighting would in time become famous. In a war that was as globe-spanning as it was brief, the United States captured all of Spain’s overseas island territories — including Cuba. Many European powers retained bases in the Western Hemisphere that could threaten the U.S. mainland, but with Cuba firmly in American hands, they could not easily assault New Orleans, the only spot that could truly threaten America’s position. Cuba remained a de facto American territory until the Cuban Revolution of 1959. At that point, Cuba again became a launching point for an extra-hemispheric power, this time the Soviet Union. That the United States risked nuclear war over Cuba is a testament to how seriously Washington views Cuba. In the post-Cold War era Cuba lacks a powerful external sponsor and so, like Canada, is not viewed as a security risk.
After the Spanish-American war, the Americans opportunistically acquired territories when circumstances allowed. By far the most relevant of these annexations were the results of the Lend-Lease program in the lead-up to World War II. The United Kingdom and its empire had long been seen as the greatest threat to American security. In addition to two formal American-British wars, the United States had fought dozens of skirmishes with its former colonial master over the years. It was British sea power that had nearly destroyed the United States in its early years, and it remained British sea power that could both constrain American economic growth and ultimately challenge the U.S. position in North America.
The opening years of World War II ended this potential threat. Beset by a European continent fully under the control of Nazi Germany, London had been forced to concentrate all of its naval assets on maintaining a Continental blockade. German submarine warfare threatened both the strength of that blockade and the ability of London to maintain its own maritime supply lines. Simply put, the British needed more ships. The Americans were willing to provide them — 40 mothballed destroyers to be exact — for a price. That price was almost all British naval bases in the Western Hemisphere. The only possessions that boasted good natural ports that the British retained after the deal were in Nova Scotia and the Bahamas.
The remaining naval approaches in the aftermath of Lend-Lease were the Azores (a Portuguese possession) and Iceland. The first American operations upon entering World War II were the occupations of both territories. In the post-war settlement, not only was Iceland formally included in NATO but its defense responsibilities were entirely subordinated to the U.S. Defense Department.
4. Control the World’s Oceans
The two world wars of the early 20th century constituted a watershed in human history for a number of reasons. For the United States the wars’ effects can be summed up with this simple statement: They cleared away the competition.
Global history from 1500 to 1945 is a lengthy treatise of increasing contact and conflict among a series of great regional powers. Some of these powers achieved supra-regional empires, with the Spanish, French and English being the most obvious. Several regional powers — Austria, Germany, Ottoman Turkey and Japan — also succeeded in extending their writ over huge tracts of territory during parts of this period. And several secondary powers — the Netherlands, Poland, China and Portugal — had periods of relative strength. Yet the two world wars massively devastated all of these powers. No battles were fought in the mainland United States. Not a single American factory was ever bombed. Alone among the world’s powers in 1945, the United States was not only functional but thriving.
The United States immediately set to work consolidating its newfound power, creating a global architecture to entrench its position. The first stage of this — naval domination — was achieved quickly and easily. The U.S. Navy at the beginning of World War II was already a respectable institution, but after three years fighting across two oceans it had achieved both global reach and massive competency. But that is only part of the story. Equally important was the fact that, as of August 1945, with the notable exception of the British Royal Navy, every other navy in the world had been destroyed. As impressive as the United States’ absolute gains in naval power had been, its relative gains were grander still. There simply was no competition. Always a maritime merchant power, the United States could now marry its economic advantages to absolute dominance of the seas and all global trade routes. And it really didn’t need to build a single additional ship to do so (although it did anyway).
Over the next few years the United States’ undisputed naval supremacy allowed the Americans to impose a series of changes on the international system.
The formation of NATO in 1949 placed all of the world’s surviving naval assets under American strategic direction.
The inclusion of the United Kingdom, Italy, Iceland and Norway in NATO granted the United States the basing rights it needed to utterly dominate the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean — the two bodies of water that would be required for any theoretical European resurgence. The one meaningful European attempt to challenge the new reality — the Anglo-French Sinai campaign of 1956 — cemented the downfall of the European navies. Both London and Paris discovered that they now lacked the power to hold naval policies independent of Washington.
The seizure of Japan’s Pacific empire granted the Americans basing access in the Pacific, sufficient to allow complete American naval dominance of the north and central portions of that ocean.
A formal alliance with Australia and New Zealand extended American naval hegemony to the southern Pacific in 1951.
A 1952 security treaty placed a rehabilitated Japan — and its navy — firmly under the American security umbrella.
Shorn of both independent economic vitality at home and strong independent naval presences beyond their home waters, all of the European empires quickly collapsed. Within a few decades of World War II’s end, nearly every piece of the once globe-spanning European empires had achieved independence.
There is another secret to American success — both in controlling the oceans and taking advantage of European failures — that lies in an often-misunderstood economic structure called Bretton Woods. Even before World War II ended, the United States had leveraged its position as the largest economy and military to convince all of the Western allies — most of whose governments were in exile at the time — to sign onto the Bretton Woods accords. The states committed to the formation of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to assist with the expected post-War reconstruction. Considering the general destitution of Western Europe at the time, this, in essence, was a U.S. commitment to finance if not outright fund that reconstruction. Because of that, the U.S. dollar was the obvious and only choice to serve as the global currency.
But Bretton Woods was about more than currency regimes and international institutions; its deeper purpose lay in two other features that are often overlooked. The United States would open its markets to participating states’ exports while not requiring reciprocal access for its own. In exchange, participating states would grant the United States deference in the crafting of security policy. NATO quickly emerged as the organization through which this policy was pursued.
From the point of view of the non-American founders of Bretton Woods, this was an excellent deal. Self-funded reconstruction was out of the question. The bombing campaigns required to defeat the Nazis leveled most of Western Europe’s infrastructure and industrial capacity. Even in those few parts of the United Kingdom that emerged unscathed, the state labored under a debt that would require decades of economic growth to recover from.
It was not so much that access to the American market would help regenerate Europe’s fortunes as it was that the American market was the only market at war’s end. And since all exports from Bretton-Woods states (which the exception of some Canadian exports) to the United States had to travel by water, and since the U.S. Navy was the only institution that could guarantee the safety of those exports, adopting security policies unfriendly to Washington was simply seen as a nonstarter. By the mid-1950s, Bretton Woods had been expanded to the defeated Axis powers as well as South Korea and Taiwan. It soon became the basis of the global trading network, first being incorporated into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and in time being transformed into the World Trade Organization. With a single policy, the Americans not only had fused their economic and military policies into a single robust system but also had firmly established that American dominance of the seas and the global economic system would be in the interest of all major economies with the exception of the Soviet Union.
5. Prevent any Potential Challengers from Rising
From a functional point of view the United States controls North America because it holds nearly all of the pieces that are worth holding. With the possible exception of Cuba or some select sections of southern Canada, the rest of the landmass is more trouble than it is worth. Additionally, the security relationship it has developed with Canada and Mexico means that neither poses an existential threat to American dominance. Any threat to the United States would have to come from beyond North America. And the only type of country that could possibly dislodge the United States would be another state whose power is also continental in scope.
As of 2011, there are no such states in the international system. Neither are there any such powers whose rise is imminent. Most of the world is simply too geographically hostile to integration to pose significant threats. The presence of jungles, deserts and mountains and the lack of navigable rivers in Africa does more than make Africa capital poor; it also absolutely prevents unification, thus eliminating Africa as a potential seedbed for a mega-state. As for Australia, most of it is not habitable. It is essentially eight loosely connected cities spread around the edges of a largely arid landmass. Any claims to Australia being a “continental” power would be literal, not functional.
In fact, there are only two portions of the planet (outside of North America) that could possibly generate a rival to the United States. One is South America. South America is mostly hollow, with the people living on the coasts and the center dominated by rainforests and mountains. However, the Southern Cone region has the world’s only other naturally interconnected and navigable waterway system overlaying arable land, the building blocks of a major power. But that territory — the Rio de la Plata region — is considerably smaller than the North American core and it is also split among four sovereign states. And the largest of those four — Brazil — has a fundamentally different culture and language than the others, impeding unification.
State-to-state competition is hardwired into the Rio de la Plata region, making a challenge to the United States impossible until there is political consolidation, and that will require not simply Brazil’s ascendency but also its de facto absorption of Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina into a single Brazilian superstate. Considering how much more powerful Brazil is than the other three combined, that consolidation — and the challenge likely to arise from it — may well be inevitable but it is certainly not imminent. Countries the size of Argentina do not simply disappear easily or quickly. So while a South American challenge may be rising, it is extremely unlikely to occur within a generation.
The other part of the world that could produce a rival to the United States is Eurasia. Eurasia is a region of extremely varied geography, and it is the most likely birthplace of an American competitor that would be continental in scope. Geography, however, makes it extremely difficult for such a power (or a coalition of such powers) to arise. In fact, the southern sub-regions of Eurasia cannot contribute to such formation. The Ganges River Basin is the most agriculturally productive in the world, but the Ganges is not navigable. The combination of fertile lands and non-navigable waterways makes the region crushingly overpopu
US Foreign Policy: We’re All Cheneyites Now
Reply #207 on:
August 29, 2011, 11:32:29 AM »
From Daily Beast and Newsweek, hardly right wing publications:
We’re All Cheneyites Now
Aug 28, 2011 10:01 AM EDT
The dark lord of American politics has a new book out, fiercely defending his Legacy. Lay down your arms, Dick. You won the fight.
On the Fourth of July, Dick Cheney surprised his friends and neighbors in Jackson, Wyo., by coming downtown for the parade, an annual procession featuring a rollerblading moose and a wagon of farmers tossing raw corn—the Wyoming equivalent of Mardi Gras beads—into the crowd. Cheney didn’t stay long and he didn’t say much. Mostly he chatted with folks about fishing (the water’s too damn high this year) and posed for a few pictures. But it was enough to reassure people that the former vice president, who had been rarely spotted during a year that combined recuperation from radical heart surgery with the burden of producing a lengthy memoir, was still on the scene.
This week, his book, In My Time, is scheduled to arrive in bookstores. Simon & Schuster paid Cheney a multimillion-dollar advance, and recouping it means mounting the kind of intensive marketing effort that would tax the energy of a much younger, healthier author. But much more than money is involved. After 40 years in the contentious center ring of American politics, this is Cheney’s last rodeo.
When he signed the deal in 2009, he was in bunker mentality—an embattled ideologue gearing up to defend a deeply unpopular terrorism policy under constant attack from the left. As his tome arrives in bookstores at summer’s end, the battlefield has changed dramatically. His defense brief lands after the court of public opinion has ruled—in his favor. President Obama has largely adopted the Cheney playbook on combating terrorism, from keeping Gitmo open to trying suspected enemies of the state in military tribunals. Obama’s drone war, which has quadrupled the number of attacks in the past two years, reflects Cheney’s whatever-it-takes approach. The leftist wrath once trained on Bush’s veep is aimed at the Democratic incumbent these days. Even the Bush-Cheney pro-democracy doctrine, born as a substitute rationale for the Iraq War after the failure to find WMD, is bearing fruit, toppling dictators from Cairo to Tripoli. The dirty little secret of the last few years is that the man George Bush called “Big Time” won. We’re all Cheneyites now.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney., David Hume Kennerly / Contour-Getty Images
But he’s still fighting the good fight—taking shots in the book at members of the national-security team who didn’t share his Manichaean view. George Tenet let the president down by bailing under fire, in Cheney’s telling; Condi Rice was wobbly on Iraq and suspect in her dealings with North Korea (Rice can return fire this fall, when her own book comes out). He’s rough on Colin Powell: “It was as though he thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government.”
But then it’s no real surprise that he’s drifted far from Powell politically. Two years ago, he said on Face the Nation that he was closer to Rush Limbaugh than the general. He won the lasting admiration of conservatives for speaking out against Obama at the height of his popularity, while 43 maintained a studious silence.
On May 2, as the final version of In My Time was coming together, American SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Cheney praised President Obama, but the hit meant going back to the book for “updating” as his editor, Mary Matalin, put it. Whatever edits Cheney made, they didn’t require a change of mind about how to deal with America’s enemies. As the anniversary of 9/11 draws near, and In My Time hits the bookstores, Dick Cheney will have one more moment on the national stage to remind people that the policies of today were shaped by his strategic vision. And then, if his HeartMate II keeps pumping and the water recedes, he can go back home and fish in peace.
Southern Pulse.com: Mexican Army operations on US soil?!?!?!?!?
Reply #208 on:
August 31, 2011, 06:03:16 AM »
Mexico - President Calderon calls for U.S. action following attack in Monterrey
Following the attack on Casino Royal, which killed more than 50 in Monterrey on 25 August 2011, Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed the nation on 26 August 2011, condemning the attacks and calling them acts of terrorism. Calderon placed some blame on the United States, citing the fact that the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of drugs and leading weapons retailer, stating that these activities finance the criminal activity plaguing Mexico. Calderon implored both the U.S. President and Congress to take action to prevent the transfer of profits from drug sales back to Mexico and also to curb the criminal sale of high-powered assault rifles.
MARC: Better talk to the BATF about the last point , , ,
Mexico - U.S. increases role in war against drugs in Mexico
The United States is expanding their role in the war on drugs in Mexico, allowing Mexican authorities to stage cross border helicopter raids in the U.S., in addition to staging drones to eavesdrop on cartel’s cell phone communications and to capture video of drug processing labs and smuggling units. While U.S. authorities maintain these are not joint operations, rather Mexican operations staged in U.S. territory, cooperation is increasing despite historical tensions between the two nations.
Ajami: From 911 to Arab Spring
Reply #209 on:
September 08, 2011, 10:47:21 AM »
By FOUAD AJAMI
The Arabic word shamata has its own power. The closest approximation to it is the German schadenfreude—glee at another's misfortune. And when the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago this week, there was plenty of glee in Arab lands—a sense of wonder, bordering on pride, that a band of young Arabs had brought soot and ruin onto American soil.
The symbols of this mighty American republic—the commercial empire in New York, the military power embodied by the Pentagon—had been hit. Sweets were handed out in East Jerusalem, there were no tears shed in Cairo for the Americans, more than three decades of U.S. aid notwithstanding. Everywhere in that Arab world—among the Western-educated elite as among the Islamists—there was unmistakable satisfaction that the Americans had gotten their comeuppance.
There were sympathetic vigils in Iran—America's most determined enemy in the region—and anti-American belligerence in the Arab countries most closely allied with the United States. This occasioned the observation of the noted historian Bernard Lewis that there were pro-American regimes with anti-American populations, and anti-American regimes with pro-American populations.
I traveled to Jeddah and Cairo in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the splendid homes of wealthy American-educated businessmen, in the salons of perfectly polished men and women of letters, there was no small measure of admiration for Osama bin Laden. He was the avenger, the Arabs had been at the receiving end of Western power, and now the scales were righted. "Yes, but . . . ," said the Arab intellectual class, almost in unison. Those death pilots may have been zealous, but now the Americans know, and for the first time, what it means to be at the receiving end of power.
Very few Arabs believed that the landscape all around them—the tyrannical states, the growing poverty, the destruction of what little grace their old cities once possessed, the war across the generations between secular fathers and Islamist children—was the harvest of their own history. It was easier to believe that the Americans had willed those outcomes.
In truth, in the decade prior to 9/11, America had paid the Arab world scant attention. We had taken a holiday from history's exertions. But the Arabs had hung onto their belief that a willful America disposed of their fate. The Arab regimes possessed their own sources of power—fearsome security apparatuses, money in the oil states, official custodians of religion who gave repression their seal of approval.
Demonstrators in Instanbul hold a Syrian flag in support of the protests in Syria.
.But it was more convenient to trace the trail across the ocean, to the United States. Mohammed Atta, who led the death pilots, was a child of the Egyptian middle class, a lawyer's son, formed by the disappointments of Egypt and its inequities. But there was little of him said in Egypt. The official press looked away.
There was to be no way of getting politically conscious Arabs to accept responsibility for what had taken place on 9/11. Set aside those steeped in conspiracy who thought that these attacks were the work of Americans themselves, that thousands of Jews had not shown up at work in the Twin Towers on 9/11. The pathology that mattered was that of otherwise reasonable men and women who were glad for America's torment. The Americans had might, but were far away. Now the terrorism, like a magnet, drew them into Arab and Muslim lands. Now they were near, and they would be entangled in the great civil war raging over the course of Arab and Muslim history.
The masters and preachers of terror had told their foot soldiers, and the great mass on the fence, that the Americans would make a run for it—as they had in Lebanon and Somalia, that they didn't have the stomach for a fight. The Arabs barely took notice when America struck the Taliban in Kabul. What was Afghanistan to them? It was a blighted and miserable land at a safe distance.
But the American war, and the sense of righteous violation, soon hit the Arab world itself. Saddam Hussein may not have been the Arab idol he was a decade earlier, but he was still a favored son of that Arab nation, its self-appointed defender. The toppling of his regime, some 18 months or so after 9/11, had brought the war closer to the Arabs. The spectacle of the Iraqi despot flushed out of his spider hole by American soldiers was a lesson to the Arabs as to the falseness and futility of radicalism.
It is said that "the east" is a land given to long memory, that there the past is never forgotten. But a decade on, the Arab world has little to say about 9/11—at least not directly. In the course of that Arab Spring, young people in Tunisia and Egypt brought down the dreaded dictators. And in Libya, there is the thrill of liberty, delivered, in part, by Western powers. In the slaughter-grounds of Syria, the rage is not directed against foreign demons, but against the cruel rulers who have robbed that population of a chance at a decent life.
America held the line in the aftermath of 9/11. It wasn't brilliant at everything it attempted in Arab lands. But a chance was given the Arabs to come face to face, and truly for the first time, with the harvest of their own history. Now their world is what they make of it.
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #210 on:
September 09, 2011, 10:59:08 AM »
I read Crafty's Stratfor's Turkey Post with great interest. It made me think if I substituted the word "America" for Turkey it had many of the same meanings. Also, if I substituted "America" for Turkey and "Taiwan" for Israel, again, the article makes some good points. It truly is more like two "who have interests and the question is will those interest realign?" And like Israel/Turkey our interests are "not as deep as they were 20 or 30 years ago.
America needs to look after her interests; period.
"The region in which Turkey operates is no longer threatened by the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have a common interest with Israel in fighting the Soviets. Turkey is living in a world that is increasingly Islamist as opposed to secular. It’s accommodating itself to it. Israel, in the meantime, has its own interests in trying to preserve what it thinks are its territorial interests, and they simply don’t coincide with what Turkey is saying. Therefore, these are two countries that were once linked with common interests. Those interests have withered, and the relationship is seriously in trouble.
Colin: In this context, do you think Israel and Turkey can repair their relationship and, if they can, what will that new relationship be?
George: Well this is not like a marriage that gets repaired or unrepaired. These are more like businesses who have interests and the question is: will those interest realign? And there are certainly some common interests, though they’re not as deep as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Because the foundation of the relationship has changed, the nature of the relationship is going to change. Also, the tolerance on the part of each side is going to change."
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #211 on:
September 09, 2011, 11:21:09 AM »
I agree JDN, time to cut Japan loose. The Chinese need to get revenge for the horrors of Nanjing, Manchuria and Unit 731, why should we get involved?
Not our problem, right?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #212 on:
September 09, 2011, 11:56:44 AM »
Many people on the right in Japan say the same thing. An armed nuclear Japan would be a force to be reckoned with in Asia. They argue we need
Japan and our massive bases there more than they need us. Also, it's to our strategic advantage to have bases in Japan. Do you know how valuable the extensive land is that Japan allows us to use? It's worth untold billions upon billions of dollars. And rather than us pay Japan, Japan pays us billions of dollars. Where else do we have such a good deal? In contrast we give foreign aid to Taiwan and Israel, Think about it; Japan gives money to us.
Not to mention our massive trade with Japan, their huge holding of our debt, etc. I'm missing something. So how is Japan again relevant or equivalent to Taiwan and Israel?
I'm curious GM: if my wife was Peruvian instead of being Japanese would you bring up Peru as an opposing arguement?
It would be about as relevant as this post of yours. Or not....
Or should we talk about your wife...
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #213 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:03:12 PM »
Just pointing out your hypocrisy.
If Japan were Jewish, I doubt you'd be such an advocate for them.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #214 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:11:55 PM »
Frankly, I don't know what religion Japan is. And I'm not necessarily an advocate for them; I can give you good and bad. But if they were Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian it would have nothing to do with the issue except how it affects America. The key is whether the relationship is mutually beneficial. As the Stratfor piece points out, it's a business relationship, not a marriage. So we need to be practical, not emotional.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #215 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:16:58 PM »
Methinks Japan better rediscover Bushido quickly.
We may have de-militarized them a bit too much. The Japanese Navy makes Obama's "mom jeans" look masculine.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #216 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:24:36 PM »
The US would not need Turkey for anti-Iranian missile defense if Baraq had not pussed out on the AMD batteries in eastern Europe.
Anyway, more to the point, it makes perfect sense to me that the best thing the US could do would be to sign a mutual defense treaty with Israel. Reliable and highly capable ally (e.g. two nuke enemies-- Iraq and Syria-- nipped in the bud), permanent base of operations in the mid-east, end to any doubt about viability of Israel's survival, great intel, foxy women, and much more.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #217 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:30:00 PM »
Good thing we don't have any cuts for the defense budget, right?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #218 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:35:38 PM »
If it comes down to a dance-off, Japan will totally crush the PLAN.
I bet the normally hostile towards the military Bay Area is now going to push for a Port Call from The Japanese Navy. So they got that going for them....
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #219 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:41:59 PM »
But I suggest you ask China? Or Korea? Or anyplace else in Asia....
What would China say if Japan decided to remilitarize, join the nuclear club, and become nationalistic?
Would they be laughing?
That said, you have to admit, they can dance.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #220 on:
September 09, 2011, 12:48:53 PM »
I'd say they should be doing this now, but they won't. Remember, PLA generals have threatened a nuclear exchange with us, you think they'd hesitate to trade nukes with their most hated enemy?
Make no mistake, the Chinese HATE the Japanese as much as the muzzies and europeans hate Jews. Much like Israel, Japan has no strategic depth and a nuclear exchange would mean the end of Japan.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #221 on:
September 09, 2011, 01:00:18 PM »
The PLA has come a long way since they were "A million guys with rifles".
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #222 on:
September 09, 2011, 01:46:14 PM »
"Thread Nazi" here again. The preceding posts I think would do just fine on the China-US thread or the Military thread.
I picture this thread as being more about "the vision thing"; e.g. "The US's unipolar moment is over. Now what?"
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #223 on:
September 09, 2011, 01:50:49 PM »
"The US's unipolar moment is over. Now what?"
Si vis pacem, para bellum
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #224 on:
September 09, 2011, 01:57:06 PM »
The Effect of Ever More Defense Budget Cuts
on U.S. Armed Forces
A joint project of
American Enterprise Institute, Foreign Policy Initiative, and
The Heritage Foundation
National security is neither a “sacred cow” nor just another federal budget line item. Providing for the common defense of the American people and our homeland is the primary responsibility of policymakers in Washington. However, in an effort to protect social entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the health care reform law from serious deficit and debt reduction efforts, President Obama has proposed not only to raise taxes, but also to cut another $400 billion more from future national security spending. As Obama said on June 29, 2011, “[Outgoing Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more.”
It appears the President wants to do much more when it comes to cutting defense. This week, Obama praised the latest in a series of plans to cut military spending by roughly $900 billion or more. He said the most recent plan that proposes cutting $886 billion from defense is “broadly consistent” with his own approach for getting the country’s finances under control. Although this plan, like the others, is light on details of how it would actually achieve trillions in overall spending cuts, it is clear that there is a willingness within the administration and among some members of Congress to slash defense well beyond the President’s earlier mark of $400 billion.
So far, the debate over long-term defense spending cuts has been a war among accountants—an abstract numbers game played with little regard for its concrete effect on the future of America’s armed forces and national security. This backgrounder describes the likely results of the significant defense spending reductions now being considered: a “hollow force” characterized by fewer personnel and weapon systems, slowed military modernization, reduced readiness for operations, and continued stress on the all-volunteer force. If realized, this modern day “hollow force” will be less capable of securing America’s interests and preserving the international leadership role that rests upon military preeminence.
Myth: Proposed cuts represent a small part of future military spending.
Fact: When adjusted for inflation, President Obama’s April 2011 proposal to cut $400 billion in long-term national security spending accounts for anywhere between 5%-to-8% of projected defense spending over a 12-year-period. For many, this appears to be only a marginal reduction in the Pentagon’s budget.
However, the President’s $400 billion in cuts is best understood as a floor—rather than as a ceiling—for reductions to baseline defense spending. If news reports are accurate, senior Obama administration officials and key members of Congress appear open to cutting the military’s future budget even more deeply. More likely, the cuts will occur over ten fiscal years starting in February 2012 when the President’s 2013 defense budget request arrives on Capitol Hill.
Moreover, it is worth recalling that Obama has already presided over two rounds of reductions to defense spending. In 2009, $330 billion was cut from future procurement programs and, in 2010, another $78 billion was sliced from the Pentagon’s budget. Add these to Obama’s new $400 billion in proposed cuts, and overall reductions to defense spending will surpass $800 billion—with perhaps even more cuts to come. Combined with the “procurement holiday” of the Clinton years and the “hollow growth” of the Bush years, when it comes to military modernization the Pentagon already finds itself in a deep hole. New cuts will create an even deeper hole.
Other factors will exacerbate the effect of Obama’s $400 billion in defense cuts. First, estimated long-term defense “savings” are premised, in part, on the Obama administration’s assumptions about a total withdrawal from Iraq, a greatly reduced role in Afghanistan by 2014, and the absence of unforeseen crises and contingencies in the future. Second, estimates of future defense spending requirements assume annual inflation will grow at just 2 percent, a rate that is wildly optimistic and in contradiction to the long-term tendency of defense inflation to outpace civilian inflation. Third, without significant reform, costs for military health care—which already represent 9 percent of Pentagon spending—are on course to double by 2030. And fourth, even before the administration began making cuts to national security spending, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had already predicted that the Pentagon’s research and procurement accounts would fall to just 28 percent of total defense spending.
Myth: Iraq and Afghanistan withdrawals will alleviate the military’s manpower problems and allow the armed forces to control personnel spending.
Fact: As recent U.S. military commitments outside of Afghanistan and Iraq have shown, the pace of operations is likely to remain high. President Obama has maintained every foreign policy commitment set by his predecessors and added to the military’s missions. The President surged forces twice in Afghanistan, started a new operation in Libya, sent troops to Japan and Haiti for disaster relief operations, and kept 1,200 National Guard troops at America’s southwest border.
The demand for military personnel may not decline.
The future posture and operational tempo of U.S. forces abroad are far from certain. In Iraq, current administration policy and defense planning are premised on a complete withdrawal by the end of 2011. That could quickly change, however. The government in Baghdad has indicated openness to a continuing American military presence after 2011. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently urged the Iraqis to consider allowing at least 10,000 U.S. troops to remain.
In Afghanistan, Secretary Panetta has noted that, even after the “surge” drawdown scheduled to run through 2012, 70,000 U.S. troops will remain. While Afghan security forces are scheduled to “take the lead” in security missions after 2014, it is likely that a significant U.S. military presence in the country will still be required. To be sure, it would not be responsible to base future U.S. planning in Afghanistan on the assumption of continued large-scale NATO assistance. At minimum, the United States should be prepared to retain brigade-sized forces in Kabul and in all the current NATO regional commands, including a larger presence in the Pashtun south and east, while continuing efforts to build Afghan military capability. For such objectives, an estimate of 40,000 troops in Afghanistan past 2014 is conservative.
Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan would represent only a part of U.S. posture in the greater Middle East—a historically unstable region now in the throes of a further transition and facing the prospect of an accelerated regional nuclear arms race sparked by Iran. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have attempted to reposture and redeploy U.S. forces to the Pacific, though the efforts have been slowed due to wartime needs, limited construction funds, and political uncertainties.
Importantly, recent history tells us to expect the unexpected. The last four U.S. presidents—two Republicans, two Democrats—have each sent America’s military into harm’s way for wars that were not anticipated.
Even if the U.S. military quickly clarifies its operational picture, it still will face, in addition to the rapid rise in health and benefits costs, expected increases in military pay. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, costs for base military pay will likely rise by $5 billion more than planned in the next five years. “Two of the big places the money is, is in pay and benefits,” lamented Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In sum, the size and disposition of today’s forces do not account for likely realities and unforeseen contingencies, and the military’s personnel accounts will continue to consume an increasing share of the Pentagon budget. Cuts to the military’s top-line budget will exacerbate all these troubles.
Myth: U.S. armed forces will continue to enjoy a technological advantage over any and all adversaries.
Fact: The Pentagon has nearly skipped a generation of modernization programs while, at the same time, failing to “transform” U.S. forces for the future. The defense budget growth of the past decade was largely on consumables related to current operations. All of the defense cuts over the past two years mortgaged the future to pay for the present.
Today America’s military flies the same basic planes (e.g., F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters; B-52, B-1 and B-2 bombers and a variety of support aircraft), sails the same basic ships (e.g., Trident ballistic missile and Los Angeles-class attack submarines, Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers, Nimitz-class aircraft carriers), and employs the same basic ground systems (e.g., Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Black Hawk and Apache helicopters) that it did at the end of the Cold War. The White House and Congress prematurely terminated, or never brought to production, follow-on systems such as the F-22 fighter, the Seawolf-class sub, or the Comanche helicopter. As a result, tens of billions have been invested on development with little fielded reward.
The F-35 fighter remains the sole major pillar of post-Cold War procurement—yet even that has been whittled away and now stands in danger. In his final day at the Pentagon, Secretary Gates said that purchases of F-35 fighters “might be cut back as part of the Pentagon’s new budget review.” Indeed, he had already placed the Marine Corps’ variant of the F-35 on a two-year “probation.” At the same time, while the Air Force has reduced its total F-35 procurement plans to about 1,700 aircraft, it has also identified a fighter shortfall of about 800 aircraft. The Air Force thus finds itself forced to extend the life of its existing F-15 and F-16 fleets. The Navy is in the same boat, and is extending its buy of F-18s fighters. Even these efforts to maintain an aging legacy fleet and buy additional fourth-generation tactical fighters are at risk due to budget cuts already underway.
No doubt, supposedly transformational systems like remotely-piloted vehicles have made immense contributions to the irregular warfare efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That said, the original vision of a new regime of high-technology conventional systems to offset Chinese military modernization has yet to be realized. The so-called “Next Generation Bomber,” the symbol of the defense transformation program, was originally planned for 2018 production, but then that date slipped with the 2010 budget cuts. Indeed, the project was directed to “close up shop” and has been subsumed in a broader long-range strike effort and a new program office created within the Air Force.
This dilemma—shortfalls of modernization and failures of transformation—plagues all of the military services. The looming budget cuts will diminish the number of current procurements like the F-35 fighter, while also delaying the day when more revolutionary capabilities will be developed and fielded.
Myth: Even if the future force is smaller, it will be well prepared for future crises and contingencies.
Fact: The U.S. military is on an almost-inevitable—and unsustainable—path toward a 21st-century form of “hollowness” that will leave it less prepared for unforeseen crises and contingencies in the future.
The long-term geopolitical trends reflect protracted and persistent irregular wars in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation in unstable regions, and a rising China that continues to modernize its military with the aim of undermining American dominance in the Asia-Pacific theater. In contrast, the military has struggled to recapitalize our own forces, has fought two major wars with only incremental increases in manpower, is beset with rising personnel costs, and faces the prospect of rising operational and maintenance costs as it operates aging and worn-out systems.
The Defense Department and Congress have worked hard to ensure that troops sent into harm’s way are well prepared and equipped; however, the military’s superb performance on the battlefield masks the true state of overall readiness. There is not a service—Reserves and National Guard included—which has not reported serious readiness shortfalls in the past few years. As an example, over half the Navy’s deployed aircraft is not ready for combat.
It is also important to consider the state of non-deployed U.S. forces, the country’s strategic reserve. Here the contrasts are increasingly stark. For example, the recent congressional testimony of Marine Lt. Gen. Frank Panter provides insight into the large-scale problem that all services face: “We continue to globally source equipment for Afghanistan and to meet other equipment requirements as we rapidly respond to emerging threats in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.”
In other words, the Marines are stripping equipment from units across the world to sustain those in the fight. Panter added: “The supply rating of units at home station hovers around 65 percent.” The Marines also discovered that their basic tables of organization and equipment were too small—that is, they didn’t have enough equipment to begin with before a decade of combat operations had ensued.
The result, combined with the fact that those in ground combat units are the most frequently deployed Marines and soldiers, is “a reduced ability of equipment to outfit and train our non-deployed units.” As the Corps scrapes the global barrel to outfit units now fighting, those units recovering or preparing for deployment are unable to conduct sustainment training and must accept a risky, just-enough approach to high-end training immediately before going to war. The long-term effect of just-in-time readiness is therefore a growing bill just for “reset”—that is, the cost of restoring the Marines’ gear to its pre-war condition that puts aside the costs of it for the future. Indeed, the Marines now estimate their reset costs at $10.6 billion, of which about $5 billion remains unfunded.
While no comprehensive analysis for long-term readiness has been undertaken, the rough overall pattern is apparent: the future of American national security is being mortgaged to fight today’s wars and reduce the deficit by an insignificant amount. As a result, America’s armed forces, which have been stretched thin for nearly a decade, will likely be asked in the years ahead to do the same or more with even less if defense spending is cut once again.
The Defending Defense Project is a joint effort of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative to promote a sound understanding of the U.S. defense budget and the resource requirements to sustain America’s preeminent military position. To learn more about the effort, contact Mackenzie Eaglen (
), Robert Zarate (
) or Richard Cleary (
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #225 on:
September 09, 2011, 02:28:10 PM »
WSJ: Did the US overreact to 911?
Reply #226 on:
September 09, 2011, 09:24:37 PM »
Editor's Note: We asked a group of leading national security thinkers to respond to the question: Did the United States overreact to the 9/11 attacks? Here are their answers:
We Had to Address State Sponsors of Terror
We Can't Reform the Arab World
Afghanistan Should Have Been the Focus
Resilience vs. Revenge
Right Cause, Wrong Response
Even Obama Embraces Drones
Islamist Extremists Are Losing
..We Had to Address State Sponsors of Terror
By Paul Wolfowitz
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were put in concentration camps. That there was no comparable overreaction after 9/11, and that we have been able to preserve a free and open society, owes much to the fact that for 10 years there has been no repetition of those terrible attacks.
Preventing further attacks required the U.S. to drop its law-enforcement approach to terrorism and recognize that we were at war. Consider the difference between Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—the mastermind of 9/11 who told us much of what we now know about al Qaeda—and his nephew Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center who can't be questioned (even most courteously) without his lawyer present and has told us nothing of significance. Or consider the difference between the ineffective retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan in 1998 and the 2001 response that brought down the Taliban regime.
The Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001
.We went to war with Germany in 1941 not because it had attacked Pearl Harbor but because it was dangerous. After 9/11, we had to do more to deal with state sponsors of terrorism than simply place them on a prohibited list, especially if they had connections to biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein—who was defying numerous United Nations resolutions and was the only head of a government to praise 9/11, warning that Americans should "suffer" so they will "find the right path"—presented such a danger.
That we made mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq does not prove that we overreacted. (Costly mistakes were also made in World War II: sending poorly prepared troops to North Africa, failing to plan for the hedgerows beyond the beaches at Normandy, failing to anticipate the German counterattack in Belgium.) The real question is whether a significantly different response would have produced a better result.
Would massive strategic bombing of Afghanistan—the 1998 response on a larger scale—been enough to defeat al Qaeda? Would the failing sanctions against Iraq not have collapsed and left us today with a Saddam Hussein committed, as he told his FBI interrogator, "to reconstitute his entire WMD program"—chemical, biological and even nuclear? What about the Libyan WMDs that Moammar Gadhafi gave up after he saw Saddam's fate?
Unfortunately, after it turned out we had been wrong about the existence of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, some accused President Bush of having overreacted or, even worse, of having lied. Others charged that our overreaction "gave democracy a bad name." Nonsense. Tens of thousands of Arabs today are risking their lives in Syria and elsewhere, not for bin Laden's dream of a heavenly paradise but for freedom and democracy.
Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense from 2001-05.
Back to Top
.We Can't Reform the Arab World
By Mark Helprin
When this war was brought to us, deliberations should have centered upon the aims and execution of our response. Instead, we debated its justice, and thus "whether or not" rather than "how best." The question here at issue echoes this, as if to inquire about the power of a shot rather than if it has hit its target. The answer is that in the absence of strategic clarity we have lurched from one extreme to another.
We underreacted in failing to declare war and put the nation on a war footing, and thus overreacted in trumpeting hollow resolution. We underreacted in attempting quickly to subdue and pacify, with fewer than 200,000 soldiers, 50 million famously recalcitrant people in notoriously difficult terrain halfway around the world. We are left with 10,000 American dead here and abroad, a bitterly divided polity, a broken alliance structure, emboldened rivals abroad, and two fractious nations hostile to American interests with little changed from what they were before.
We overreacted by attempting to revolutionize the political culture—and therefore the religious laws with which it is inextricably bound—of a billion people who exist as if in another age. The "Arab Spring" is less a confirmation of this illusion than its continuance. If you think not, just wait.
We underreacted when we allowed our military capacities other than counterinsurgency to atrophy while China strains for military parity—something that the architects of our national security a decade ago thought laughable, now deny, and soon will hopelessly admit.
Rather than embarking upon the reformation of the Arab world, we should have fully geared up, sacrificed for, and resolved upon war. Then struck hard and brought down the regimes sheltering our enemies, set up strongmen, charged them with extirpating terrorists, and withdrawn from their midst to hover north of Riyadh in the network of bases the Saudis have built within striking distance of Baghdad and Damascus. There we might have watched our new clients do the work that since 9/11 we have only partially accomplished, and at a cost in lives, treasure, and heartbreak far greater than necessary.
Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt, 1983) and "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt, 1992).
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.Afghanistan Should Have Been the Focus
By Robert C. McFarlane
The 9/11 attacks gave evidence of a well-financed, operationally capable organization committed to waging unrestricted war on Americans. It was imperative that our response eliminate those who planned the attack and destroy their capability to carry on. Yet our understandable haste in launching that counterattack on al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts foreclosed thorough analysis of at least two fundamental matters:
First, the enormous complexity, time and resources involved in forging a functional government, let alone an effective security system, in a diverse alien culture. And second, the latent tensions and instability that had been brewing for over a decade in Pakistan, the key ally on whom we would have to rely for logistic and intelligence support.
Editorial page editor Paul Gigot and deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger reflect on 9/11.
..More deliberate consideration of such factors could have limited our mission to the destruction of al Qaeda and the formation of a coalition government in Afghanistan (that alone a daunting challenge). It also could have foreclosed consideration of launching a second concurrent war in Iraq, where similar challenges were bound to emerge. Iraq posed no threat to us: The decision to invade it was inspired by quixotic zeal and towering hubris—the belief that we could easily establish there a functioning and prosperous democracy as a model to be adopted throughout the Muslim world.
However ill-conceived politically, the war in Iraq has been executed extremely well militarily. After eight and a half years, we have helped the Iraqis dislodge a tyrant and take the first steps toward a pluralistic, accountable future. In short, much of that original purpose could well be achieved in the years ahead—if we don't forfeit the potential gains out of fatigue and overreach.
The U.S. has also made gains in its national security institutions, notably in special operations and intelligence. Given the relationship of these capabilities to the threats we will continue to face—plus our nation's fiscal realities—the impending restructuring of our military is beginning to take shape.
Mr. McFarlane, who served as President Reagan's national security adviser, is a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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.Resilience vs. Revenge
By Anne-Marie Slaughter
It is possible to ask whether we overreacted to 9/11 only because of the hard and steady work of countless state, municipal and federal counterterrorism officials who have succeeded in preventing its repeat, or something even worse. After a decade without any such attacks (albeit with some near misses), and increasingly frequent and invasive security procedures permeating our daily lives, the costs of our reaction may be more immediately evident than the benefits. But another attack would change that calculus overnight.
One way in which Americans have overreacted, however, is emotionally—by assuming, as we so often do, that our experience of terrorism was qualitatively different from the experience of Europeans, Indonesians, Indians, Africans and others. We have since watched and admired the courage and determination of the British after coordinated attacks on subways and buses in July 2005, and of the Indians after the 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.
The world likewise watched the many acts of bravery and heroism on 9/11, from firefighters and police to the group of passengers who rushed the cockpit on United Flight 93. But as a society we were unable to resume business as usual in the way that the British and Indians and many others have done. Because the sensation of vulnerability to violent attack on American soil was so new to us, we gave the terrorists the satisfaction of knowing that they had changed our lives dramatically.
The lesson here is the power of resilience over revenge. As emotionally satisfying as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the attacks on other al Qaeda leaders are, in the long run they are a less effective response to terrorism than enhancing the resilience of our infrastructure, our economy and our people. If we are prepared for an attack and can return to normal as quickly as possible. even while grieving—with our planes flying, our markets open, and our heads high—we can diminish the impact and hence the value of that attack in the first place.
Ms. Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, served as the director of Policy Planning at the State Department from 2009-11.
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.Right Cause, Wrong Response
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
It was natural that the brutal murder of 2,700 Americans would provoke not only public outrage but precipitate a very strong national response. Unfortunately, that response lacked strategic coherence and political wisdom. A vaguely generalized global war on jihadist terror made it easier for the terrorists to portray America as hostile to all of Islam, while the U.S. military response eventually devolved into two separate campaigns.
At the time, I strongly supported the decision to go into Afghanistan in order to wipe out the culprits and to overthrow the regime that sheltered them. But I also urged, both in a high-level meeting and in a note to the secretary of defense, that we shouldn't repeat the mistake made by the Soviets, who became bogged down in an ideologically driven effort to remake Afghanistan by force of arms.
I also argued in this newspaper shortly after 9/11 that the U.S. should focus on the political dimension of the terrorist challenge, seeking to isolate the terrorists by gaining the support of Arab governments through broader regional cooperation.
The Bush administration didn't heed these warnings. Making matters worse, it then downgraded the military effort in Afghanistan with the largely solitary U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was undertaken without the political benefit of Arab allies that the U.S. enjoyed back in 1991. The U.S. government sought support for that additional war through top-level demagogy about the potential "mushroom cloud," and by claims of biological agents allegedly secreted in mobile trailers. Neither such nuclear nor biological weapons turned out to have existed. The resulting damage to U.S. credibility handicaps American diplomacy to this day, especially in regard to Iran.
At home, meanwhile, acts of prejudice against American Muslims became more frequent, while abroad anti-American sentiments in Muslim countries became more widespread. Ten years after 9/11, the future of Afghanistan is still in doubt, Iran is increasingly influential in Iraq, and U.S. influence in the Middle East is at its lowest point since America's major entry into the region after World War II.
The cause was right; the response was inept.
Mr. Brzezinski was national security adviser in the Carter administration.
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.Even Obama Embraces Drones
By Leon Wieseltier
We responded to the atrocities of September 11 with a mess of reactions. Some of them were excessive, some of them were not.
The excess was Iraq. If our leaders launched that war because they were certain that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, then their incompetence was historically scandalous. If they launched it as a "demonstration war," to frighten enemies who might be emboldened by the terrorist triumph on September 11 to attack us again, then they failed: The war opened a new anti-American front for al Qaeda in the Middle East.
I was deceived in my support of the Iraq war, but I rejoice in the dictator's destruction, and in the stirrings of Iraqi democracy despite the best efforts of Islamists and Iranians to thwart it. Good outcomes may come of bad origins.
Yet our other military responses to September 11 seem to me justified. I have no difficulty with the "war on terrorism," as a concept or a policy. We appear to have almost completely decimated al Qaeda, or at least Osama bin Laden's main branch of it. President Obama's relentless drone campaign against terrorist havens in Pakistan, and his somewhat surprising willingness to use covert operations as an instrument in that struggle, stands as one of his few accomplishments in foreign policy.
I believe in ferocity in self-defense; in intelligent ferocity. Now new formations of al Qaeda have been established in southern Arabia and eastern Africa—this is not surprising: jihadist culture is not primarily a response to our responses—and we must confront them, too.
As a corollary of our proper retaliation against al Qaeda, moreover, we emancipated Afghanistan from a primitive theocratic tyranny. But the president's current plan in Afghanistan seems incoherent to me, and I have given up on Afghanistan's willingness to fight for itself. We have worked at it for 10 years, but there is no Afghan Spring. From the standpoint of counterterrorism, the Af-Pak problem is more Pak than Af.
And I have one other anxiety: that we will overreact to our "overreaction." If we conclude, as we are everywhere counseled to do, that the time has come for the United States to recede from the forefront of history, we will compromise and injure ourselves, and our allies, and all freedom-seeking people around the world.
Mr. Wieseltier is literary editor of the New Republic.
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.Islamist Extremists Are Losing
By Joe Lieberman
It has become fashionable to characterize the American response to the attacks of 9/11 as an overreaction, but this view is profoundly mistaken. The U.S. response to the attacks, and to the broader challenge of Islamist extremism, has been necessary and justified. We were right to recognize that 9/11, made us a "nation at war" with an enemy that is real, evil and violent, and we were right to put this conflict at the top of our national security agenda. Had we not done so, it is likely we would not have the luxury today of debating whether we overreacted.
That we have gone a decade without another major terrorist strike on American soil hasn't been for lack of trying by our enemies. Our increased security has required bipartisan determination across two presidencies, far-reaching reforms to our homeland security institutions, and difficult, dangerous work by countless heroic individuals around the world. We have taken the offensive overseas with focus and ferocity our enemies did not expect, building the most capable and lethal counterterrorism forces in human history. The result is that violent Islamist extremists have achieved no significant victories in the last decade.
Have we made mistakes since 9/11? Of course—just as every nation always has in war. But as we look back over the past 10 years, a lot more went right than wrong.
Among the lessons of the past decade is that we still live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Despite the gains we have made, current geopolitical realities do not justify either a sense of complacency or closure about the world-wide war we are in. Our nation will face surprises again. In order to stay safe at home, the U.S. must remain engaged abroad, and—despite budgetary pressures—make the necessary investments to keep our military and other instruments of national power strong.
In addition, contrary to the current national pessimism, America has demonstrated since 9/11 that we remain a remarkably strong and resilient country, with people who are capable of bravery, ingenuity and resolve. When we pull together, we are able to achieve things no other country in the world can—and the best example of this is the new "greatest generation" who have chosen to serve our country in uniform during this past decade.
We do not know how long this conflict will last, but we can be certain of how it will end—in the triumph of our values, with the ideology of Islamist extremism joining fascism and communism on the ash heap of history.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.
Stratfor: Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) & Security Guarantees n Central Europe
Reply #227 on:
September 10, 2011, 09:52:27 AM »
In the last few days I have made some snarky comments about Baraq's policies concerning BMD in Central Europe and Turkey. Some informatin new to me is contained in the following.
Ballistic Missile Defense and Security Guarantees in Central Europe
Romanian President Traian Basescu announced Thursday that he plans to sign an agreement with the United States committing Washington to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors and American troops on Romanian soil. Basescu laid out both the number of U.S troops who would be deployed – 200 – and the specific interceptor — the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM3). A land-based launcher for this successful sea-based interceptor is still in development, and while the newest version of the SM3 failed in its first test Thursday, the sea-based Aegis SM3 system has proven the most capable of U.S. BMD systems.
“For Warsaw and Prague, the BMD installations have nothing at all to do with ballistic missiles and everything to do with the American security guarantee.”
The Romanian president’s announcement cements Romania’s segment of the U.S. “European phased adaptive approach” — Washington’s replacement for the previous BMD scheme pursued under the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. The previous plan envisioned a version of the interceptors already operational in Alaska and California (though with a questionable track record) and their concrete silos in Poland, while an X-band radar installation would have been placed in the Czech Republic. Warsaw and especially Prague had high hopes for the Bush-era plan and still remain frustrated with its 2009 cancellation.
Their hopes had little to do with the threat of ballistic missiles — and certainly nothing to do with the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles that Washington used to justify the system in the first place. Tehran and its crude stockpile of missiles could not be farther from Central European minds. What countries like Poland and the Czech Republic seek is a long-term U.S. military personnel presence, and Washington’s consequent imperative to defend them. For Warsaw and Prague, in other words, the BMD installations have nothing at all to do with ballistic missiles and everything to do with the American security guarantee.
The withdrawal of the previous scheme, under pressure from a resurgent Russia, was precisely what the Central Europeans feared and why they desired fixed American military installations. Washington’s broken commitment has already cost it a measure of credibility, in terms of its allies’ perceptions, in the durability of the American security guarantee. This U.S. credibility question has played no small part in the emergence of the proposal for a Visegrad battlegroup independent of NATO and the United States.
The perception of the U.S. security guarantee is precisely what remains at stake with this new phased adaptive approach. However, it is not clear that all parties view the approach in the same way. If the credibility of the American security guarantee is in question, it is partly because of the lessons Washington took from the failure to place fixed installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States learned that flexibility and redundancy are desirable in any deal. With the immense political pressure from the Kremlin on potential host countries and populations, as well as on more pressing American interests elsewhere in the world, expanding the range of options is certainly preferable. Consequently, while the United States has laid out a coherent scheme for the phased adaptive approach, improvements in weapons technology have allowed the inclusion of more mobile and dispersed components. Washington has also created a degree of ambiguity by waiting to formally sign specific deals.
This equivocation strengthens the plans to deploy a viable BMD system in Europe to defend the continental United States against an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (a weapon that does not yet exist). However, the consequence is a dimmed perception of American reliability among allies from Estonia to Romania, who are desperately seeking a firm, unambiguous demonstration of America’s commitment. To these allies, a U.S. demonstration of support is most important not when it is politically convenient, but when it is politically difficult.
This predicament is not lost on Russia. Both Moscow and Beijing have been refining their positions in order to make firm, unambiguous demonstrations of American commitment as politically inconvenient and difficult as possible. The issue was discussed Wednesday between Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the U.S. Defense attache in Moscow.
For Moscow, the problem of BMD is twofold. Details aside, Washington is flirting with the Central Europeans who, unlike their Western brethren, are highly concerned about Russia’s military capabilities. A significantly more aggressive U.S. BMD stance would greatly challenge Moscow. Longer-term, as Russia’s population declines, it will come to rely increasingly on its nuclear arsenal to guarantee its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. Therefore, no matter what assurances Moscow gleans from Washington concerning the current European scheme, the inexorable improvement in American BMD technology will increasingly challenge those promises.
Reply #228 on:
September 13, 2011, 12:55:06 PM »
Not really fitting in any other thread, I put it here:
Russia and Iran appear to be working together to counterbalance an apparently strengthening strategic relationship between the United States and Turkey — something neither Moscow nor Tehran wants. Though the relationship between Russia and Iran largely is one of convenience and not of mutual trust, the two powers appear to be boosting their nuclear cooperation and energy ties as leverage against a U.S.-Turkish alliance.
After numerous delays, the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant was officially launched in Iran on Sept. 12 at an inauguration ceremony attended by Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm. On the same day, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereidoun Abbasi, told Press TV that Iran and Russia will cooperate on future nuclear projects beyond Bushehr – a claim that was later confirmed by Russia. Also on Sept. 12, Russia announced that its natural gas firm Gazprom, despite having previously withdrawn from a project, ostensibly out of respect for international sanctions on Iran, might take part in developing Iran’s Azar oil field and would let Iran know its decision within the month.
Russia and Iran intend with this set of developments to signal to the United States that, despite some recent rough patches, ties between the two are stronger than ever. The events of Sept. 12 stand in stark contrast to what took place less than two weeks ago, when Iran threatened to sue Russia over Moscow’s failure to deliver the S-300 strategic air defense system, complained about delays in the Bushehr project and banned Gazprom from participating in the Azar project.
Of course, much of the cooperation displayed on Sept. 12 is still limited to political atmospherics: Iran remains wholly dependent on Russian staff and expertise to actually run Bushehr (not to mention any other projects that are proposed down the line), while Gazprom is unlikely to have the technical expertise to develop the Azar field on its own. Moreover, Russia is still holding back from more controversial maneuvers involving Iran, such as the potential sale of the S-300 air defense system.
A Convenient Relationship
The relationship between Russia and Iran is primarily one of convenience. Though Russia is not particularly interested in seeing a robust Iran that could end up posing a threat to Moscow, it regularly uses its relations with Iran as leverage against the West. Iran, meanwhile, sees Russia as its only major external patron, albeit one that it can never entirely trust to provide substantive support against outside threats.
Russia, during preparations for negotiations with the United States on the boundaries of a U.S.-led security framework in Europe, has looked to use Iran as leverage. The major concern during the U.S.-Russian dialogue is ballistic missile defense (BMD), which the United States declares is intended to defend against threats like Iran but is using to extend security commitments in Central Europe, with the strategic aim of containing Russia. Selectively amplifying the Iran threat is one of several ways Moscow intends to enhance its clout when it comes to the negotiating table with Washington and its allies in Central Europe.
But Iran was not necessarily ready to play along right away. Though Iran typically avoids actions that give the impression its external support is waning, Tehran made an exception when airing its grievances against Moscow in recent weeks. This is likely a reflection of Iran’s more confident position in the region, owed in large part to its strong status in Iraq and the low current potential for American or Israeli strikes against it. The less Iran feels vulnerable to external threats, the more open it can be about its distrust toward Russia.
The U.S.-Turkish Alignment
However, Iran is by no means free of worries, especially when it comes to its increasingly competitive relationship with Turkey. Iran is trying to counter a growing U.S.-Turkish alignment, which in turn is aimed against a perceived increase in the threat posed by Iran. Events in Syria and Iraq are already pushing Turkey (albeit subtly) into a more confrontational stance against Iran. Tehran appears to be using the common threat of Kurdish militancy as a foundation to maintain some level of cooperation with Ankara, but the strain in Turkish-Iranian ties will become increasingly difficult to conceal with time.
Turkey may also be a growing concern for Russia because of its potential role in the United States’ BMD strategy. Of great concern to both Iran and Russia is the potential for a stronger alignment of interests, between the United States and Turkey, and against Iran and Russia. BMD encapsulates this dynamic, which was on view when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Sept. 4 that Turkey was officially committed to hosting the X-band radar portion of the United States’ planned BMD system. Though Turkey tried to downplay the decision by claiming BMD was not directed at any of its neighbors in particular, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Turkey on Sept. 9 against allowing “enemies” to set up missile shields against Iran.
Russia also likely took note of this announcement as it seeks to keep its relations with Turkey on an even keel and prevent the further expansion of Washington’s BMD plans. In the current negotiations with Washington over BMD, Russia even explicitly said that if talks do not go well, Russian envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin would go to Iran to discuss the security situation regarding the United States’ BMD plans. This warning could allude to Russia’s threat to deliver S-300 strategic defense systems to Iran. Russia, though, will likely show a great deal of restraint when it comes to the actual delivery of those systems. Right now, Moscow is more focused on simply airing the Iranian threat.
Russia and Iran therefore both have incentive to put their cooperation on display. Iran, as it asserts itself in the region and deals with strains in its relationship with Turkey, wants to show it retains strong international backers. Moscow knows that Iran is the lever it can pull if BMD negotiations with the United States go awry. Meanwhile, Tehran shares with Moscow a concern about the strengthening relationship between the United States and Turkey. While Iran and Russia may typically share a simple relationship of convenience, they appear to be warming up to each other now.
Read more: Russia and Iran Improve Relations as U.S.-Turkish Alignment Grows | STRATFOR
Jews Send A Policy Message To Obama
Reply #229 on:
September 14, 2011, 06:07:41 AM »
What goes around comes around; Obama's treatment of Israel in the policy arena begins to bite him on the butt.
Op-Ed: Jewish Vote Key To Weiner’s Seat – And Swing States Too
(Monday, June 13th, 2011)
[By Yossi Gestetner]
Reports and analysis in recent days suggest that it would be a long-shot for Republicans to win Anthony Weiner’s House seat; New York’s 9′Th Congressional District which covers sections of Queens and Brooklyn.
Well, if Republicans do not reach out directly to some voters in the district addressing the issues they care most, then indeed it is a long shot for Republicans to win that seat. If Republicans fail to reach out directly to the mass amount of Jewish voters in Weiner’s district – as Republican Jane Corwin of NY 26 failed to do in a district that has enough Jewish votes to flip the outcome of the just held special election – then indeed, winning NY-9 would be a long shot.
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Main stream political consultants go with the long-standing belief that “Jews Vote for Democrats,” and as such, campaigns don’t bother reaching out to this community in an effective way. Indeed, if one looks at overall Jewish voting patterns in the USA, the above quote holds true. But in many recent elections, Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic voters in New York and elsewhere (masses of them residing in Weiner’s district), have taken a pattern of their own: In some cases, 70% of them vote Republican on State-wide and Federal-level seats!
Senator John McCain in 2008 and Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey a year later are two most notable examples of Republican candidates who won large percentages of the Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic Vote. In New York’s Assembly District 48 – the Orthodox/Hasidic stronghold of Borough Park, Brooklyn – Republican Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino with all his failings won a similar amount of votes than the incumbent Jewish NY Senator Charles Schumer who ran against an unknown, non-campaigner Jay Townsend. In that AD, Paladino came in considerably weaker than other State-wide Republican candidates who actively sought the Jewish Vote: Don Donovan for Attorney General and Joe DioGuardi for U.S. Senate (I worked for the latter during the Primary and the General elections).
It is not a done deal that Orthodox and Hasidic Jews will vote to the Right in State-wide or Federal elections. A Federal-level incumbent such as Weiner, who receives on average a total of 67,000 votes in off year elections, may retain in his district a larger percent of the Jewish Vote than other candidates. However, many Jewish voters, thinking that the Democrat will ‘anyway win,’ don’t participate in the election. This presents a large pool of untapped voters that Republicans can try and reach, in addition to chip away at a large number of current Jewish Weiner’s voters for the following reason:
Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic voters are extremely tuned in to the political discourse of this country. This holds especially true by those who are age 18 through 35. Many if not most of them grew up in immigrant households who voted Democrat in order to support politicians that hand out social programs, but these 18-35′ers see that the Democrats’ agenda has failed to provide them or their parents a reputable and independent living. In addition, it is a Democrat – New York Governor Cuomo – who is cutting social programs, which in turns shows to the Jewish Communality that relying on Government is not a sustainable thing.
These voters – many still in need of Government Assistance due to the system being rigged against those who try growing on their own, such as my self – want the pro-growth, pro-business, pro-family, pro-strong defense agenda of the Conservative Republicans. As a result, Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic voters flock to Republicans, and many more are fans of Conservative Talk Show Hosts.
Jewish voters in America – of all stripes – have more on their mind than just Israel, Israel and Israel. While being pro-Israel is important to many Jews, these communities have concerns that are closer to home and closer to their pocket than Israel. In fact, the history of Democrats being weak on foreign relations and defense is a minus to Israel, yet Jews still vote for Democrats. Why? Because other issues obviously matter more. As such, Republicans who want the support of Jewish voters should address issues beyond a focus on Israel. By doing so, Republican candidates – specially candidates in swing states where a mere 5,000 Jewish voters can swing the election – will find an ever-growing community that is welcome to these ideas and ready to vote Republican in larger numbers.
Yossi Gestetner is a New York-Based PR Consultant in the Orthodox Jewish/Hasidic Communities. He can be reached
and the vote is in
Turner dispatches David Weprin, dealing embarrassing blow to President Obama, DemocratsArticleComments (56)ShareBob Turner dispatches David Weprin, dealing embarrassing blow to President Obama, Democrats
BY Lisa Colangelo, Alison Gendar and Jonathan Lemire
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Originally Published:Wednesday, September 14th 2011, 12:09 AM
Updated: Wednesday, September 14th 2011, 3:22 AM
Jefferson Siegel for NewsBob Turner and wife Peggy celebrate Tuesday night's victory over David Weprin (below).
Aaron Showalter for NewsTake our PollTurner beats Weprin
Do you blame President Obama for David Weprin's loss to Bob Turner?
Yes. Weprin's defeat is an indictment of Obama's economic policies.
No. Weprin did a bad job on the campaign trail.
Not sure, but redistricting may eliminate the seat next year anyway.
Related NewsHammond: In NY-9, voters are the losersFrantic last-minute rallying for Weiner seatWeiner seat winner may be redistricting loser Dems call in Bubba to boost WeprinWinner of Weiner seat could lose districtEditorials: Dance of the duds
Republican Bob Turner scored a shocking victory late Tuesday night to capture disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner's congressional seat - and delivered what many political pros say is a stinging rebuke of President Obama.
Turner was named the winner by The Associated Press just before midnight. By the end of the night, the GOPer was ahead 54% to 46% - with about 86% of the Brooklyn-Queens district reporting.
His Democratic opponent, David Weprin, refused to concede, claiming there were many votes - including absentee ballots - still to be counted in a race that became a massive embarrassment for the Democratic Party.
SPECIAL ELECTION COVERAGE
The contest garnered national attention as partisan operatives and pundits cast it as a referendum on the increasingly unpopular Obama - who won the district with 55% of the vote in 2008.
"We've been asked by people of this district to send a message to Washington and I hope they hear it loud and clear," said Turner to a joyous crowd of supporters moments after he was declared the winner.
Turner, who deemed himself a "citizen candidate," said the election delivered a verdict that the American people were "unhappy" with the direction of the country.
"This message will resound for a whole year," said Turner, eyeing the 2012 elections. "We've lit one candle today and it'll be a bonfire."
The national GOP was downright giddy. "Even in the heart of New York City, in a traditionally liberal district, voters have turned on the President and his Congressional allies," party boss Reince Priebus said.
Turner, however, may not have long to enjoy his victory - the district may be phased out of existence next year as part of census-mandated congressional redistricting.
The seat opened up when Weiner resigned in disgrace in June amid a sexting scandal that made him a national punchline.
He served seven terms - and most insiders initially expected the Democrats would easily hold the seat.
When Gov. Cuomo called for a special election instead of a primary, the Queens Democratic party - led by Rep. Joe Crowley - tapped Weprin, an assemblyman who previously was a city councilman.
He was challenged by Turner, a cable executive who helped create the Jerry Springer show. He had a solid showing in a 2010 loss to Weiner.
Turner pulled ahead in several pre-election polls in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans - and where the GOP has not won in nearly a century.
The national Democratic Party, nervous about a humiliating defeat, pumped in last-minute cash to prop up a Weprin campaign that had been riddled with gaffes.
Weprin's poll numbers turned south after he had no clue about the size of the national debt during a meeting with the Daily News Editorial Board.
Weprin guessed $4 trillion - about $10 trillion off - and immediately handed Turner a cudgel, which the GOPer wielded to bash Weprin as out of touch on an issue that has consumed Washington all summer.
Another turning point came when former mayor Ed Koch crossed party lines and supported Turner to protest Obama's policies toward Israel - a move that seemed to resonate in the heavily-Jewish district.
Weiner voted for Weprin early Tuesday and, when asked if he thought it would be his fault if Turner won, the former Congressman told Reuters, "It is always bad when a district goes Republican. All 435 should be Democrat."
Last Edit: September 14, 2011, 06:25:16 AM by prentice crawford
Reply #230 on:
September 20, 2011, 06:02:48 AM »
As usual, Stratfor's grasp of economics is rather specious and glib, but as usual, the comments on geopolitics are not.
Obama's Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities
September 20, 2011
By George Friedman
STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it’s our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.
The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.
The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. The United States has a vast government that rests on a system in which significant change is not impossible but which demands a level of consensus over a period of time that rarely exists.
This is particularly true in domestic politics, where the complexity is compounded by the uncertainty of the legislative branch. Consider that the healthcare legislation passed through major compromise is still in doubt, pending court rulings that thus far have been contradictory. All of this would have delighted the founders if not the constantly trapped presidents, who frequently shrug off their limits in the domestic arena in favor of action in the international realm, where their freedom to maneuver is much greater, as the founders intended.
The Burden of the Past
The point of this is that all U.S. presidents live within the framework in which Barack Obama is now operating. First, no president begins with a clean slate. All begin with the unfinished work of the prior administration. Thus, George W. Bush began his presidency with an al Qaeda whose planning and implementation for 9/11 was already well under way. Some of the al Qaeda operatives who would die in the attack were already in the country. So, like all of his predecessors, Obama assumed the presidency with his agenda already laid out.
Obama had a unique set of problems. The first was his agenda, which focused on ending the Iraq war and reversing social policies in place since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. By the time Obama entered office, the process of withdrawal from Iraq was under way, which gave him the option of shifting the terminal date. The historic reversal that he wanted to execute, starting with healthcare reform, confronted the realities of September 2008 and the American financial crisis. His Iraq policy was in place by Inauguration Day while his social programs were colliding with the financial crisis.
Obama’s campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. To the anti-war faction it meant that the wars would end. To those concerned about unilateralism it meant that unilateralism would be replaced by multilateralism. To those worried about growing inequality it meant that he would end inequality. To those concerned about industrial jobs going overseas it meant that those jobs would stay in the United States. To those who hated Guantanamo it meant that Guantanamo would be closed.
Obama created a coalition whose expectations of what Obama would do were shaped by them and projected on Obama. In fact, Obama never quite said what his supporters thought he said. His supporters thought they heard that he was anti-war. He never said that. He simply said that he opposed Iraq and thought Afghanistan should be waged. His strategy was to allow his followers to believe what they wanted so long as they voted for him, and they obliged. Now, this is not unique to Obama. It is how presidents get elected. What was unique was how well he did it and the problems it caused once he became president.
It must first be remembered that, contrary to the excitement of the time and faulty memories today, Obama did not win an overwhelming victory. About 47 percent of the public voted for someone other than Obama. It was certainly a solid victory, but it was neither a landslide nor a mandate for his programs. But the excitement generated by his victory created the sense of victory that his numbers didn’t support.
Another problem was that he had no programmatic preparation for the reality he faced. September 2008 changed everything in the sense that it created financial and economic realities that ran counter to the policies he envisioned. He shaped those policies during the primaries and after the convention, and they were based on assumptions that were no longer true after September 2008. Indeed, it could be argued that he was elected because of September 2008. Prior to the meltdown, John McCain had a small lead over Obama, who took over the lead only after the meltdown. Given that the crisis emerged on the Republicans’ watch, this made perfect sense. But shifting policy priorities was hard because of political commitments and inertia and perhaps because the extremities of the crisis were not fully appreciated.
Obama’s economic policies did not differ wildly from Bush’s — indeed, many of the key figures had served in the Federal Reserve and elsewhere during the Bush administration. The Bush administration’s solution was to print and insert money into financial institutions in order to stabilize the system. By the time Obama came into power, it was clear to his team that the amount of inserted money was insufficient and had to be increased. In addition, in order to sustain the economy, the policy that had been in place during the Bush years of maintaining low interest rates through monetary easing was extended and intensified. To a great extent, the Obama years have been the Bush years extended to their logical conclusion. Whether Bush would have gone for the stimulus package is not clear, but it is conceivable that he would have.
Obama essentially pursued the Bush strategy of stabilizing the banks in the belief that a stable banking system was indispensible and would in itself stimulate the economy by creating liquidity. Whether it did or it didn’t, the strategy created the beginnings of Obama’s political problem. He drew substantial support from populists on the left and suspicion from populists on the right. The latter, already hostile to Bush’s policies, coalesced into the Tea Party. But this was not Obama’s biggest problem. It was that his policies, which both seemed to favor the financial elite and were at odds with what Democratic populists believed the president stood for, weakened his support from the left. The division between what he actually said and what his supporters thought they heard him say began to widen. While the healthcare battle solidified his opposition among those who would oppose him anyway, his continuing response to the financial crisis both solidified opposition among Republicans and weakened support among Democrats.
A Foreign Policy Problem
This was coupled with his foreign policy problem. Among Democrats, the anti-war faction was a significant bloc. Most Democrats did not support Obama with anti-war reasons as their primary motivator, but enough did make this the priority issue that he could not win if he lost this bloc. This bloc believed two things. The first was that the war in Iraq was unjustified and harmful and the second was that it emerged from an administration that was singularly insensitive to the world at large and to the European alliance in particular. They supported Obama because they assumed not only that he would end wars — as well as stop torture and imprisonment without trial — but that he would also re-found American foreign policy on new principles.
Obama’s decision to dramatically increase forces in Afghanistan while merely modifying the Bush administration’s timeline for withdrawing from Iraq caused unease within the Democratic Party. But two steps that Bush took held his position. First, one of the first things Obama did after he became president was to reach out to the Europeans. It was expected that this would increase European support for U.S. foreign policy. The Europeans, of course, were enthusiastic about Obama, as the Noble Peace Prize showed. But while Obama believed that his willingness to listen to the Europeans meant they would be forthcoming with help, the Europeans believed that Obama would understand them better and not ask for help.
The relationship was no better under Obama than under Bush. It wasn’t personality or ideology that mattered. It was simply that Germany, as the prime example, had different interests than the United States. This was compounded by the differing views and approaches to the global financial crisis. Whereas the Americans were still interested in Afghanistan, the Europeans considered Afghanistan a much lower priority than the financial crisis. Thus, U.S.-European relations remained frozen.
Then Obama made his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, where his supporters heard him trying to make amends for Bush’s actions and where many Muslims heard an unwillingness to break with Israel or end the wars. His supporters heard conciliation, the Islamic world heard inflexibility.
The European response to Obama the president as opposed to Obama the candidate running against George Bush slowly reverberated among his supporters. Not only had he failed to end the wars, he doubled down and surged forces into Afghanistan. And the continued hostility toward the United States from the Islamic world reverberated among those on the Democratic left who were concerned with such matters. Add to that the failure to close Guantanamo and a range of other issues concerning the war on terror and support for Obama crumbled.
A Domestic Policy Focus
His primary victory, health-care reform, was the foundation of an edifice that was never built. Indeed, the reform bill is caught in the courts, and its future is as uncertain as it was when the bill was caught in Congress. The Republicans, as expected, agree on nothing other than Obama’s defeat. The Democrats will support him; the question is how enthusiastic that support will be.
Obama’s support now stands at 41 percent. The failure point for a president’s second term lurks around 35 percent. It is hard to come back from there. Obama is not there yet. The loss of another six points would come from his Democratic base (which is why 35 is the failure point; when you lose a chunk of your own base, you are in deep trouble). At this point, however, the president is far less interested in foreign policy than he is in holding his base together and retaking the middle. He did not win by a large enough margin to be able to lose any of his core constituencies. He may hope that his Republican challenger will alienate the center, but he can’t count on that. He has to capture his center and hold his left.
That means he must first focus on domestic policy. That is where the public is focused. Even the Afghan war and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are not touching nerves in the center. His problem is twofold. First, it is not clear that he can get anything past Congress. He can then argue that this is Congress’ fault, but the Republicans can run against Congress as well. Second, it is not clear what he would propose. The Republican right can’t be redeemed, but what can Obama propose that will please the Democratic core and hold the center? The Democratic core wants taxes. The center doesn’t oppose taxes (it is merely uneasy about them), but it is extremely sensitive about having the taxes eaten up by new spending — something the Democratic left supports. Obama is trapped between two groups he must have that view the world differently enough that bridging the gap is impossible.
The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action. Foreign policy isn’t currently resonating with the American public, so any daring initiatives in that arena will likely fail to achieve the desired domestic political end. Obama has to hold together a coalition that is inherently fragmented by many different understandings of what his presidency is about. This coalition has weakened substantially. Obama’s attention must be on holding it together. He cannot resurrect the foreign policy part of it at this point. He must bet on the fact that the coalition has nowhere else to go. What he must focus on is domestic policy crafted to hold his base and center together long enough to win the election.
The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worse non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy.
This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.
The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it.
Re: US Foreign Policy, Baraq's dilemma
Reply #231 on:
September 20, 2011, 10:45:07 AM »
A good, neutral summary of the Obama years, interesting points throughout.
Friedman writes, "it could be argued that [Obama] was elected because of September 2008. Prior to the meltdown, John McCain had a small lead over Obama, who took over the lead only after the meltdown. Given that the crisis emerged on the Republicans’ watch, this made perfect sense." This isn't quite right. The 2008 election was the Dems to lose all the way through. McCain enjoyed a Palin euphoria at the very start of September (anyone remember that?) that solidified his shaky base and intrigued others but wore off quickly. The general accumulated hatred toward Bush extended to McCain and then McCain was front and center displaying his lack of economic knowledge and competence during the crisis. A lot like Obama Sept 2011, McCain was calling for a cancellation of a debate for a crisis that he had no insights on or plan any different or better than anyone else's. The right answer economically in that election was clearly not a sharp left turn; it was just that there was no sharp turn in any other direction available.
Friedman writes of the anti-war left, but in fact that has turned out to be the anti-Bush/Republican war left. They have been amazingly silent and tolerant of what in large part has been the continuation of the Bush foreign policy in the major conflicts. Can anyone imagine what the uproar to the Libya conflict would have been under a Republican. And it is not only the left who has war fatigue 10 years into this, really more like 20 in the case of Iraq.
The beginning of the toppling of Saddam proved to other tyrants that the U.S. could take decisive, surgical, successful actions against them as well. The reality of these drawn out conflicts now with low support is that we are actually less capable today of bold, decisive action.
If Obama's hands are politically tied on foreign policy for 14 months (in Friedman's analysis), all major regional players, rivals and enemies across the globe know it. That does not bode well for events overseas in that time. The key issues and circumstances that will dominate the next election are not all known yet. There are always surprises and as he correctly points out, facts on the ground here are encouraging new surprises there.
Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 10:54:46 AM by DougMacG
Stratfor: From the Med. to the Hindu Kush
Reply #232 on:
October 18, 2011, 12:12:50 PM »
From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region
October 17, 2011
By George Friedman
The territory between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush has been the main arena for the U.S. intervention that followed the 9/11 attacks. Obviously, the United States had been engaged in this area in previous years, but 9/11 redefined it as the prime region in which it confronted jihadists. That struggle has had many phases, and it appears to have entered a new one over the past few weeks.
Some parts of this shift were expected. STRATFOR had anticipated tensions between Iran and its neighboring countries to rise as the U.S. withdrew from Iraq and Iran became more assertive. And we expected U.S.-Pakistani relations to reach a crisis before viable negotiations with the Afghan Taliban were made possible.
(Click here to enlarge image)
However, other events frankly surprised us. We had expected Hamas to respond to events in Egypt and to the Palestine National Authority’s search for legitimacy through pursuit of U.N. recognition by trying to create a massive crisis with Israel, reasoning that the creation of such a crisis would strengthen anti-government forces in Egypt, increasing the chances for creating a new regime that would end the blockade of Gaza and suspend the peace treaty with Israel. We also thought that intense rocket fire into Israel would force Fatah to support an intifada or be marginalized by Hamas. Here we were clearly wrong; Hamas moved instead to reach a deal for the exchange of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, which has reduced Israeli-Hamas tensions.
Our error was rooted in our failure to understand how the increased Iranian-Arab tensions would limit Hamas’ room to maneuver. We also missed the fact that given the weakness of the opposition forces in Egypt — something we had written about extensively — Hamas would not see an opportunity to reshape Egyptian policies. The main forces in the region, particularly the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt and the intensification of Iran’s rise, obviated our logic on Hamas. Shalit’s release, in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, marks a new stage in Israeli-Hamas relations. Let’s consider how this is related to Iran and Pakistan.
The Iranian Game
The Iranians tested their strength in Bahrain, where Shiites rose up against their Sunni rulers with at least some degree of Iranian support. Saudi Arabia, linked by a causeway to Bahrain, perceived this as a test of its resolve, intervening with military force to suppress the demonstrators and block the Iranians. To Iran, Bahrain was simply a probe; the Saudi response did not represent a major reversal in Iranian fortunes.
The main game for Iran is in Iraq, where the U.S. withdrawal is reaching its final phase. Some troops may be left in Iraqi Kurdistan, but they will not be sufficient to shape events in Iraq. The Iranians will not be in control of Iraq, but they have sufficient allies, both in the government and in outside groups, that they will be able to block policies they oppose, either through the Iraqi political system or through disruption. They will not govern, but no one will be able to govern in direct opposition to them.
In Iraq, Iran sees an opportunity to extend its influence westward. Syria is allied with Iran, and it in turn jointly supports Hezbollah in Lebanon. The prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq opened the door to a sphere of Iranian influence running along the southern Turkish border and along the northern border of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi View
The origins of the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are murky. It emerged during the general instability of the Arab Spring, but it took a different course. The al Assad regime did not collapse, al Assad was not replaced with another supporter of the regime, as happened in Egypt, and the opposition failed to simply disintegrate. In our view the opposition was never as powerful as the Western media portrayed it, nor was the al Assad regime as weak. It has held on far longer than others expected and shows no inclination of capitulating. For one thing, the existence of bodies such as The International Criminal Court leave al Assad nowhere to go if he stepped down, making a negotiated exit difficult. For another, al Assad does not see himself as needing to step down.
Two governments have emerged as particularly hostile to al Assad: the Saudi government and the Turkish government. The Turks attempted to negotiate a solution in Syria and were rebuffed by Assad. It is not clear the extent to which these governments see Syria simply as an isolated problem along their border or as part of a generalized Iranian threat. But it is clear that the Saudis are extremely sensitive to the Iranian threat and see the fall of the al Assad regime as essential for limiting the Iranians.
In this context, the last thing that the Saudis want to see is conflict with Israel. A war in Gaza would have given the al Assad regime an opportunity to engage with Israel, at least through Hezbollah, and portray opponents to the regime as undermining the struggle against the Israelis. This would have allowed al Assad to solicit Iranian help against Israel and, not incidentally, to help sustain his regime.
It was not clear that Saudi support for Syrian Sunnis would be enough to force the al Assad regime to collapse, but it is clear that a war with Israel would have made it much more difficult to bring it down. Whether Hamas was inclined toward another round of fighting with Israel is unclear. What is clear is that the Saudis, seeing themselves as caught in a struggle with Iran, were not going to hand the Iranians an excuse to get more involved than they were. They reined in any appetite Hamas may have had for war.
Hamas and Egypt
Hamas also saw its hopes in Egypt dissolving. From its point of view, instability in Egypt opened the door for regime change. For an extended period of time, it seemed possible that the first phase of unrest would be followed either by elections that Islamists might win or another wave of unrest that would actually topple the regime. It became clear months ago that the opposition to the Egyptian regime was too divided to replace it. But it was last week that the power of the regime became manifest.
The Oct. 9 Coptic demonstration that turned violent and resulted in sectarian clashes with Muslims gave the government the opportunity to demonstrate its resolve and capabilities without directly engaging Islamist groups. The regime acted brutally and efficiently to crush the demonstrations and, just as important, did so with some Islamist elements that took to the streets beating Copts. The streets belonged to the military and to the Islamist mobs, fighting on the same side.
One of the things Hamas had to swallow was the fact that it was the Egyptian government that was instrumental in negotiating the prisoner exchange. Normally, Islamists would have opposed even the process of negotiation, let alone its success. But given what had happened a week before, the Islamists were content not to make an issue of the Egyptian government’s deal-making. Nor would the Saudis underwrite Egyptian unrest as they would Syrian unrest. Egypt, the largest Arab country and one that has never been on good terms with Iran, was one place where the Saudis did not want to see chaos, especially with an increasingly powerful Iran and unrest in Syria stalled.
Washington Sides with Riyadh
In the midst of all this, the United States announced the arrest of a man who allegedly was attempting, on behalf of Iran, to hire a Mexican to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. There was serious discussion of the significance of this alleged plot, and based on the evidence released, it was not particularly impressive.
Nevertheless — and this is the important part — the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama decided that this was an intolerable event that required more aggressive measures against Iran. The Saudis have been asking the United States for some public action against Iran both to relieve the pressure on Riyadh and to make it clear that the United States was committed to confronting Iran alongside the Saudis. There may well be more evidence in the alleged assassination plot that makes it more serious than it appeared, but what is clear is that the United States intended to use the plot to increase pressure on Iran — psychologically at least — beyond the fairly desultory approach it had been taking. The administration even threw the nuclear question back on the table, a subject on which everyone had been lackadaisical for a while.
The Saudi nightmare has been that the United States would choose to reach an understanding with Iran as a way to create a stable order in the region and guarantee the flow of oil. We have discussed this possibility in the past, pointing out that the American interest in protecting Saudi Arabia is not absolute and that the United States might choose to deal with the Iranians, neither regime being particularly attractive to the United States and history never being a guide to what Washington might do next.
The Saudis were obviously delighted with the U.S. rhetorical response to the alleged assassination plot. It not only assuaged the Saudis’ feeling of isolation but also seemed to close the door on side deals. At the same time, the United States likely was concerned with the possibility of Saudi Arabia trying to arrange its own deal with Iran before Washington made a move. With this action, the United States joined itself at the hip with the Saudis in an anti-Iranian coalition.
The Israelis had nothing to complain about either. They do not want the Syrian regime to fall, preferring the al Assad regime they know to an unknown Sunni — and potentially Islamist — regime. Saudi support for the Syrian opposition bothers the Israelis, but it’s unlikely to work. A Turkish military intervention bothers them more. But, in the end, Iran is what worries them the most, and any sign that the Obama administration is reacting negatively to the Iranians, whatever the motives (and even if there is no clear motive), makes them happy. They want a deal on Shalit, but even if the price was high, this was not the time to get the United States focused on them rather than the Iranians. The Israelis might be prepared to go further in negotiations with Hamas if the United States focuses on Iran. And Hamas will go further with Israel if the Saudis tell them to, which is a price they will happily pay for a focus on Iran.
The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
For the United States, there is another dimension to the Iran focus: Pakistan. The Pakistani view of the United States, as expressed by many prominent Pakistanis, is that the United States has lost the war against the Afghan Taliban. That means that any negotiations that take place will simply be about how the United States, in their words, will “retreat,” rather than about Pakistani guarantees for support against jihadists coupled with a U.S. withdrawal process. If the Pakistanis are right, and the United States has been defeated, then obviously, their negotiating position is correct.
For there to be any progress in talks with the Taliban and Pakistan, the United States must demonstrate that it has not been defeated. To be more precise, it must demonstrate that while it might not satisfy its conditions for victory (defined as the creation of a democratic Afghanistan), the United States is prepared to indefinitely conduct operations against jihadists, including unmanned aerial vehicle and special operations strikes in Pakistan, and that it might move into an even closer relationship with India if Pakistan resists. There can be no withdrawal unless the Pakistanis understand that there has been no overwhelming domestic political pressure on the U.S. government to withdraw. The paradox here is critical: So long as Pakistan believes the United States must withdraw, it will not provide the support needed to allow it to withdraw. In addition, withdrawal does not mean operations against jihadists nor strategic realignment with India. The United States needs to demonstrate just what risks Pakistan faces when it assumes that the U.S. failure to achieve all its goals means it has been defeated.
The Obama administration’s reaction to the alleged Iranian assassination plot is therefore a vital psychological move against Pakistan. The Pakistani narrative is that the United States is simply incapable of asserting its power in the region. The U.S. answer is that it is not only capable of asserting substantial power in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also that it is not averse to confronting Iran over an attempted assassination in the United States. How serious the plot was, who authorized it in Iran, and so on is not important. If Obama has overreacted it is an overreaction that will cause talk in Islamabad. Obviously this will have to go beyond symbolic gestures but if it does, it changes the dynamic in the region, albeit at the risk of an entanglement with Iran.
Re-evaluating the Region
There are many moving parts. We do not know exactly how far the Obama administration is prepared to take the Iran issue or whether it will evaporate. We do not know if the Assad regime will survive or what Turkey and Saudi Arabia will do about it. We do not know whether, in the end, the Egyptian regime will survive. We do not know whether the Pakistanis will understand the message being sent them.
What we do know is this: The crisis over Iran that we expected by the end of the year is here. It affects calculations from Cairo to Islamabad. It changes other equations, including the Hamas-Israeli dynamic. It is a crisis everyone expected but no one quite knows how to play. The United States does not have a roadmap, and neither do the Iranians. But this is a historic opportunity for Iran and a fundamental challenge to the Saudis. The United States has put some chips on the table, but not any big ones. But the fact that Obama did use rhetoric more intense than he usually does is significant in itself.
All of this does not give us a final answer on the dynamics of the region and their interconnections, but it does give us a platform to begin re-evaluating the regional process.
Reply #233 on:
October 22, 2011, 08:13:30 AM »
Well, we're out.
Not that the candidates with the Republican nomination will have much to say, but I am with Krauthammer in his comments last night on the Bret Baier Report: This is not a good thing. Team Baraq had various opportunities to get negotiations going in a timely manner and achieve our military's desired end of keeping some 25,000 troops there-- which would have been a very useful thing viz Iran- but instead communicated to all concerned no real desire to stay and so an insufficient numbers of Iraqi players wanted to take the chance of standing up in favor of us staying.
Opposition to going into Iraq was a reasonable position to take, but once we were in, ranks should have closed in support of success ESPECIALLY with the success of The Surge-- a success Baraq has had tremendous ego difficulty in admitting, let alone celebrating.
Instead Candidate Clinton and Candidate Baraq competed to declare who would get us out faster. Various Iraqi players took note and acted accordingly-- not unlike what is happening in Afpakia right now.
As noted in the Middle East FUBAR thread in the last couple of days, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and other players are drawing similar conclusions. Who in the Republican campaign is articulating anything that prevents Baraq from claiming all this as success? No one. Who in the Republican campaign is saying anything about Libya that would not or does sound churlish or opportunistic? Prediction: No one will point out that Kadaffy may well have had nukes by now but for his being intimidated into coughing up his nuke program by Bush's Iraq campaign.
I repeat a point I have made previously. No Republican is addressing the fundamental issues of foreign affairs; of what the guiding concepts should be as we return to a multi-polar world. No one is addressing the implications of the (unconstitutional?) budget "super committee" and its looming failure to come up with something and the resulting additional $500 Billion in military cuts on top of the cuts ($400B?) already in the pipeline.
WSJ: Eastward Ho!
Reply #234 on:
October 24, 2011, 03:46:38 PM »
The deluge of commentary following President Barack Obama's announcement that all American troops are leaving Iraq by year's end largely missed the most important strategic implication: The winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clears the way for the U.S. to shift its focus to Asia and, in particular, China, the part of the world that likely matters most in the long run.
If we're lucky, this shift might even lead to a more sophisticated debate in the 2012 presidential campaign about the U.S. approach to China, which has been pretty sterile so far.
Whatever the merits of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of their consequences has been to divert America's gaze from the direction it had been heading—toward the Asia-Pacific region and its gathering economic strength. It would be folly, of course, to think this means Iraq and Afghanistan now can be forgotten; the specter of a potentially nuclear-capable Iran stepping into a vacuum is enough to require continued American involvement.
But there's no doubt that economic pressures alone will produce a shift eastward. On Monday, in fact, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was visiting Asia, asserting that the U.S. now is at "a turning point" that will allow a strategic rebalancing toward Asia.
Similarly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has in recent days said such a shift is coming. In a speech in New York on the need to use diplomatic power to address America's economic ailments, she declared that in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan, "the world's strategic and economic center of gravity is shifting east, and we are focusing more on the Asia Pacific region."
In a new article in Foreign Policy magazine, she calls for "a substantially increased investment—diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise—in the Asia-Pacific region."
She defined that region to include India and Indonesia, but most of the focus will be on China and its complicated economic relationship with the U.S. It's safe to say that many Americans fear the rising economic power of China, worrying that their country is either losing ground to Chinese industrial might or, worse, becoming subservient to Beijing because of a reliance on Chinese investment to finance America's federal deficits.
Yet one of the opportunities in the coming shift of focus to the east is the chance for America's political leaders—and political candidates—to explain to the citizenry that China is not, in fact, 10 feet tall. China faces considerable economic problems of its own, a recognition of which might at least reduce the atmosphere of economic fear and anxiety that has crept across America.
Indeed, there is emerging a whole new school of China skeptics who think that country's economic potential is being exaggerated and its own problems downplayed. In a commentary distributed last week, Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, declared that "there is growing evidence that China's challenge to U.S. manufacturing has peaked, and its competitive advantage is in decline."
Mr. Jasinowski cited in particular a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group that the cost of producing goods in China is rising as wages, raw materials, real estate and energy all escalate in price there. Meantime, Mr. Jasinowski notes, American manufacturers have become more competitive amidst the painful economic adjustment now under way. Over time, he argued, when the cost of shipping goods from China is taken into account, making and buying American will become more attractive again.
If the competitive playing field is being brought closer to level, one goal of American statecraft is to push harder toward that goal by compelling China to play more by international economic rules. In particular, that means sustained pressure to end manipulation of its currency's value and protecting intellectual property. One of the goals of American diplomats, in fact, is to convince China its own long-term interest lies in a fair international system. "If a big country like China doesn't play to the rules, the global system will be hurt and ultimately so will China, which depends heavily on it," says Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats.
Which leads to the nascent presidential campaign. There already is plenty of China-bashing there, thanks in large measure to Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, who is promising a tougher line against China. He's proposed imposing duties in China in direct retaliation for currency manipulation and intellectual property theft, and last week even won applause at a debate by suggesting that China somehow be compelled to pick up the tab for foreign aid the U.S. now disperses.
But there are other ways to advance American interests, including making common cause with Asian and Latin American nations feeling bullied by the Chinese. Indeed, the best discussion might be about how to better compete with China, not to punish it.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #235 on:
October 26, 2011, 10:26:15 AM »
This piece is by Thomas Friedman. That is to say much of it is specious, full of non-sequiturs, and inconvenient facts e.g. the unremittingly destructive, hateful, and sometimes quasi-treasonous opposition and destruction waged by the Dems, Liberals, Progressives, Socialists, and Communists against our success during the Bush administration that mysertiosly
disappeared once his glibness took office AND perhaps it may stimulate our thinking here.
I continue to think our side is frequently incoherent and often opportunistic. The damage being done by Baraq et al is historic, yet many of us simply carp.
Who would have predicted it? Barack Obama has turned out to be so much more adept at implementing George W. Bush’s foreign policy than Bush was, but he is less adept at implementing his own. The reasons, though, are obvious.
In his own way, President Obama has brought the country to the right strategy for Bush’s “war on terrorism.” It is a serious, focused combination of global intelligence coordination, targeted killing of known terrorists and limited interventions — like Libya — that leverage popular forces on the ground and allies, as well as a judicious use of U.S. power, so that we keep the costs and risks down. In Libya, Obama saved lives and gave Libyans a chance to build a decent society. What they do with this opportunity is now up to them. I am still wary, but Obama handled his role exceedingly well.
No doubt George Bush and Dick Cheney thought that both Iraq and Afghanistan would be precisely such focused, limited operations. Instead, they each turned out to be like a bad subprime mortgage — a small down payment with a huge balloon five years down the road. They thought they would be able to “flip” the house before the balloon came due. But partly because of their incompetence and lack of planning, it took much longer to flip the house to new owners and the price America paid was huge. Iraq may still have a decent outcome — I hope so, and it would be important — but even if it becomes Switzerland, we overpaid for it.
So let’s be clear: Up to now, as a commander in chief in the war on terrorism, Obama and his national security team have been so much smarter, tougher and cost-efficient in keeping the country safe than the “adults” they replaced. It isn’t even close, which is why the G.O.P.’s elders have such a hard time admitting it.
But while Obama has been deft at implementing Bush’s antiterrorism policy, he has been less successful with his own foreign policy. His Arab-Israeli diplomacy has been a mess. His hopes of engaging Iran foundered on the rocks of, well, Iran. He’s made little effort to pull together a multilateral coalition to buttress the Arab Awakening, in places like Egypt, to handle the postrevolution challenges. His ill-considered decision to double down on Afghanistan could prove fatal. He is in a war of words with Pakistan. His global climate policy is an invisible embarrassment. And the coolly calculating Chinese and Russians, while occasionally throwing him a bone, pursue their interests with scant regard to Obama’s preferences. Why is that?
Here I come to defend Obama not to condemn him.
True, he was naïve about how much his star power, or that of his secretary of state, would get others to swoon in behind us. But Obama’s frustrations in bagging a big, nonmilitary foreign policy achievement are rooted in a much broader structural problem — one that also explains why we have not produced a history-changing secretary of state since the cold war titans Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and James Baker.
The reason: the world has gotten messier and America has lost leverage. When Kissinger was negotiating in the Middle East in the 1970s, he had to persuade just three people to make a deal: an all-powerful Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad; an Egyptian pharaoh, Anwar Sadat; and an Israeli prime minister with an overwhelming majority, Golda Meir.
To make history, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by contrast, need to extract a deal from a crumbling Syrian regime, a crumbled Egyptian regime, a fractious and weak Israeli coalition and a Palestinian movement broken into two parts.
We don’t even bother anymore to negotiate with the flimsy civilian government in Pakistan. We just go right to its military, which only wants to perpetuate the conflict with India — and exploit Afghanistan as a chip in that war — to justify the Pakistani Army’s endless consumption of so many state resources.
Making history through diplomacy “depends on making deals with other governments,” says Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert (and co-author with me on “That Used to Be Us”). “But now, to make such deals, we actually have to build the governments we want to negotiate with — and we can’t do that.” Indeed, in so many hot spots today, we have to do nation-building before we can do diplomacy. So many states propped up by the cold war are failing.
And where states are stronger — like Russia, China and Iran — we have less leverage because leverage is ultimately a function of economic strength. And while many of America’s companies are still strong, our government is mired in debt. When a nation is in debt as deep as we are — with severe defense cuts inevitable — its bark is always bigger than its bite.
The best way for us to gain leverage on Russia and Iran would be with an energy policy that reduced the price and significance of oil. The only way to gain more leverage on China is if we increase our savings and graduation rates — and export more and consume less. That isn’t in the cards.
So, Mama, tell your children not to grow up to be secretary of state or a foreign policy president — not until others have done more nation-building abroad and we’ve done more nation-building at home.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #236 on:
October 26, 2011, 10:33:28 AM »
Our retreats from Iraq and Afghanistan might look good to the uninformed now, but when the reality of putting 2 wins in the global jihad's pocket sets in....
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #237 on:
November 04, 2011, 11:36:29 PM »
For some years now, often under the influence of YA, I have been posting here of the incoherence of the US strategy in Afpakia. Today there are some major entries on today's Afpakia thread, with YA leading the way, as usual.
This is profoundly serious stuff. Serious wars are made of such things.
Yet where is a coherent conversation from the Republican preidential candidates? (Newt Gingrich excepted). Instead opportunistic pandering abounds as President Baraq surges out of Afg with a surge that was about half of what the generals wanted. Likewise Iraq. And this week we see our words after busting the Iranian assassination plan for Washington revealed as bluster as we refuse to do what would really hit Iran hard, which is to go after its central bank, , , and Al Qaeda flags fly in Libya.
Where is the serious conversation that needs to be had?!?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #238 on:
November 04, 2011, 11:40:32 PM »
Yet where is a coherent conversation from the Republican preidential candidates?
I'm sure polling has the public focused on the economy and foreign policy way down the list of priorities.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #239 on:
November 05, 2011, 12:14:22 AM »
The nation is in peril of throwing away so very much more than it realizes. Truth needs to be spoken!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Last Edit: November 05, 2011, 12:21:04 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #240 on:
November 05, 2011, 01:15:27 AM »
Pakistan along with the entire middle east is a dangerous place. I knew that years ago, but more dangerous now, especially the more that you know. People don't know what to do about it so it is hard to judge the candidates if they did offer plans and ideas.
If Iraq goes to hell on our exit, the lesson is what? Either that we should have kept a strong presence longer or that we should have left anarchy after deposing Saddam, as with Libya and Egypt now, let them sort it out and take actions again and again in the future. And same for Afghanistan?
Crafty you have good ideas of how to split Pakistan differently and I have a proposal for Kashmir, but that doesn't mean anyone there would accept our ideas.
"Serious wars are made of such things." - Yes. The main answer to all this danger we cannot control is to prepare for war, hopefully to avoid war. Step one is end American weakness at home; most of these Republicans believe at least vaguely in a strong defense. I would add that any of these nominees will need if elected an American military that does not rely on funding from a returned Pelosi-Reid congress.
"I'm sure polling has the public focused on the economy and foreign policy way down the list of priorities."
When we think it is all domestic policy, it turns out to be foreign policy or war, and vice versa. It is very possible that we don't yet know what the most important event or crisis of Obama years will be.
Foreign policy may weigh heavily in the general election debates. Was the 3am call the one where they decided not to take the Libyan war to congress? The Republican candidates mostly look readier than Obama did in 2007, but not ready. We will get more serious after we find out if comparing an anonymous person's height to that of your wife is a deal breaker for Commander in Chief.
"(Newt Gingrich excepted)" Very strong in the video! That doesn't make his other problems go away, just Murphy's law that he would be strongest on depth and delivery, Perry's economic plan best (JMO) and then the nominee will be one of the others.
Last Edit: November 05, 2011, 01:22:24 AM by DougMacG
This could go under Afghan thread I guess but..
Reply #241 on:
November 05, 2011, 09:31:36 AM »
It just seems more "apra po" (sp?) here. I am left wondering which is worse. Say something disparaging about a gay, a Muslim or the Corrupt Afghan leadership. Which is more politically incorrect? I dunno. Even Fareed Zakaria called the Pakistani shakedown of the US a "protection racket" this weekend. Pakistani leaders essentially telling us give us your money or if you think our situation is bad now just wait and see how bad it will get. As noted on the board before me where is the Republican position on this? Yes as GM implied we need John Bolton. The only one I can listen to who seems to make sense out of this mess. Wolfowitz is leading us to God's knows where. We must stop listening to him that is obvious:
****U.S. General Fired for Verbal Attack on Afghan Leader
By Justin Fishel
July 26: Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a gathering with high ranking Afghan military officials at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A top U.S. general in Afghanistan was fired Friday for making disparaging remarks about Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government.
Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, made the remarks in an interview with Politico that was published Thursday.
Fuller told Politico that major players in the Afghan government are "isolated from reality." Fuller reacted angrily to claims from Karzai that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan if it were to go to war with the United States.
Fuller called Karzai's statements "erratic," adding, "Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You've got to be kidding me … I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you're telling me, 'I don't really care'?"
Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), released a statement Friday saying Fuller was to be relieved of his duties, "effective immediately."
"These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan", Allen said.
"The Afghan people are an honorable people, and comments such as these will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission-bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan."
Pentagon officials who spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity agree that Fuller seemed to go off the rails in the Politico interview, admitting he showed extremely poor judgment. The fish line didn't help his cause:
"You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish," Fuller said. "We're giving them fish while they're learning, and they want more fish! [They say,] 'I like swordfish, how come you're giving me cod?' Guess what? Cod's on the menu today."
Fuller is not the only loose-lipped general to sink his own ship. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, once the commander of ISAF, was fired by President Obama himself after the Rolling Stone published disparaging remarks he and his staff made about members of the administration.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #242 on:
November 05, 2011, 01:25:42 PM »
I would think that John Bolton will be available to the contenders and to the nominee as natl security adviser, or sec of state or as VP.
It seems that most of the wisdom in foreign policy today needs to be applied behind the scenes, for example if we are aggressively strengthening our relationship with India while keeping a few billion and a pretend relationship with Pakistan, why should they know more then they need to about that. If we are working quietly with factions inside Egypt, below the radar would probably be more effective than publicly made demands. Somehow I doubt though that we are doing much along those lines but a lot comes down to electing the right people here and trusting them to act in our best interests.
The worst parts of Obama's foreign policy came at the beginning when he projected weakness. America doesn't belong over here and America will soon retreat. The drone strikes and OBL operation projected strength. The Libya from behind and from above maneuver probably projects wisdom to some, but we will see. The withdrawal deadlines from Iraq and Afghanistan project that this administration is shifting into campaign mode over security interests. Are we saying there is no longer an American security interest in these locations? If so, why did we stay 3+ years into the new administration and what changed? Are we saying mission accomplished? That implication seems to bring with it strings of bad luck.
People were quite war weary at the last election, also by the time the Libya operation began. Talking tough now like we are going to open a plethora of new war theaters is not going to play well past the hawk segment of the base. People will I think will prefer a calmness of strength, a restraint in policy that is not coming from weakness, ignorance or fear.
It is hard to believe that with a trillion or so invested and thousands of American lives lost that we aren't able or interested in negotiating permanent bases to allow some future security benefit to come from our effort.
Was China selling or offering weapons to Kadhafy DURING our war? If so, what are the consequences to them for that? (nothing) That was one problem with Huntsman not getting traction with his foreign policy experience, I have yet to meet or read someone who knows if we have a foreign policy toward the world's second largest power or what it is.
Romney on Iranian nukes
Reply #243 on:
November 10, 2011, 01:54:55 PM »
By MITT ROMNEY
The International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report this week makes clear what I and others have been warning about for too long: Iran is making rapid headway toward its goal of obtaining nuclear weapons.
Successive American presidents, including Barack Obama, have declared such an outcome to be unacceptable. But under the Obama administration, rhetoric and policy have been sharply at odds, and we're hurtling toward a major crisis involving nuclear weapons in one of the most politically volatile and economically significant regions of the world.
Things did not have to be this way. To understand how best to proceed from here, we need to review the administration's extraordinary record of failure.
As a candidate for the presidency in 2007, Barack Obama put forward "engagement" with Tehran as a way to solve the nuclear problem, declaring he would meet with Iran's leaders "without preconditions." Whether this approach was rooted in naïveté or in realistic expectations can be debated; I believe it was the former. But whatever calculation lay behind the proposed diplomatic opening, it was predictably rebuffed by the Iranian regime.
After that repudiation, a serious U.S. strategy to block Iran's nuclear ambitions became an urgent necessity. But that is precisely what the administration never provided. Instead, we've been offered a case study in botched diplomacy and its potentially horrific costs.
In his "reset" of relations with Russia, President Obama caved in to Moscow's demands by reneging on a missile-defense agreement with Eastern European allies and agreeing to a New Start Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons while getting virtually nothing in return. If there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin's support for tougher action against Tehran, that unilateral giveaway was the moment. President Obama foreclosed it.
.Another key juncture came with the emergence of Iran's Green Revolution after the stolen election of 2009. Here—more than a year before the eruption of the Arab Spring—was a spontaneous popular revolt against a regime that has been destabilizing the region, supporting terrorism around the world, killing American soldiers in Iraq, and attacking the U.S. for three decades. Yet President Obama, evidently fearful of jeopardizing any further hope of engagement, proclaimed his intention not to "meddle" as the ayatollahs unleashed a wave of terror against their own society. A proper American policy might or might not have altered the outcome; we will never know. But thanks to this shameful abdication of moral authority, any hope of toppling a vicious regime was lost, perhaps for generations.
In 2010, the administration did finally impose another round of sanctions, which President Obama hailed as a strike "at the heart" of Iran's ability to fund its nuclear programs. But here again we can see a gulf between words and deeds. As the IAEA report makes plain, the heart that we supposedly struck is still pumping just fine. Sanctions clearly failed in their purpose. Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power.
Recent events have brought White House fecklessness to another low. When Iran was discovered plotting to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador by setting off a bomb in downtown Washington, the administration responded with nothing more than tough talk and an indictment against two low-level Iranian operatives, as if this were merely a common criminal offense rather than an act of international aggression. Demonstrating further irresolution, the administration then floated the idea of sanctioning Iran's central bank, only to quietly withdraw that proposal.
Barack Obama has shredded his own credibility on Iran, conveyed an image of American weakness, and increased the prospect of a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the unstable Middle East.
The United States needs a very different policy.
Si vis pacem, para bellum. That is a Latin phrase, but the ayatollahs will have no trouble understanding its meaning from a Romney administration: If you want peace, prepare for war.
I want peace. And if I am president, I will begin by imposing a new round of far tougher economic sanctions on Iran. I will do this together with the world if we can, unilaterally if we must. I will speak out forcefully on behalf of Iranian dissidents. I will back up American diplomacy with a very real and very credible military option. I will restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. I will increase military assistance to Israel and coordination with all of our allies in the region. These actions will send an unequivocal signal to Iran that the United States, acting in concert with allies, will never permit Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Only when the ayatollahs no longer have doubts about America's resolve will they abandon their nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Stratfor on Iran and related matters
Reply #244 on:
November 11, 2011, 08:03:01 AM »
In the wake of the latest IAEA report on Iran, STRATFOR CEO George Friedman and special guest Robert Kaplan discuss potential threats to world oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, and U.S. President Barack Obama’s limited options.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
• Iran’s Nuclear Program and its Nuclear Option
Colin: Few will be surprised by the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran. Its finding that the Tehran regime has computer models that can only be used to develop a nuclear weapon has triggered a new wave of speculation on the prospects of an Israeli strike. But there may be other more pressing concerns as U.S. forces leave Iraq.
Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman, and joining also this week is a special guest — the writer and defense expert Robert Kaplan.
The obvious question as we move to a point where Israeli bombers can fly in clear skies over Iraq, or soon will be able to be, is this “high noon” for Iran?
Robert: Not necessarily, because just the fact that they are moving closer to developing a weapons capacity for their nuclear material does not mean that they can miniaturize, put it on a warhead and send it somewhere. It could be a long way from that. Of course it is a much more acute threat for Israel than it is for the United States. You also have to consider the possibility that so what if Iran has three or four nuclear weapons with no air defense system, relative to what the Americans can do. But what does that mean? Isn’t the 100 nuclear weapons in Pakistan a much greater threat? Or would the Saudis respond by parking Pakistani nuclear weapons in Saudi Arabia, thereby fusing the South Asian and the greater Middle East crisis into one? There are a lot of questions out there and they will continue to play out. But this is nothing particularly new at this point.
Colin: So George, there’s all this talk of an Israeli strike, and we’ve heard it before, is it just rhetoric?
George: We are at a critical point. The critical point is not about nuclear weapons. The critical point is that the U.S. is completing its withdrawal from Iraq. We’ve seen recently the arrests of Sunnis in Iraq by the Maliki government and the Iranians are increasing their power. The balance of power is shifting in the region. The United States and Israel both want the Iranians to pull back and as has happened several times before, they increased the drumbeat of the threat of nuclear weapons in order to create a psychological situation where the Iranians would reconsider their position. The problem that you have here is that the Israelis really don’t have the ability to carry out the kind of strikes we are talking about. They certainly have nuclear weapons if they want to use nuclear weapons on some of the facilities near Tehran. The more interesting question is do they have the ability to carry out the multiday attacks on multiple sites with a relatively small air force? The answer is they may be but they cannot deal with something else. What if the Iranians respond by putting mines in the Straits of Hormuz?
Colin: And this is critical, isn’t it, because 40 percent of the world’s sea-bound oil goes through the Straits. The Iranians have the longest coastline along the Straits of Hormuz and along the whole Persian Gulf.
Robert: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps navy, which is separate from the Iranian navy, is developing a very impressive asymmetric warfare capability of suicide boats that can ram into everything from merchant tankers to destroyers. Keep in mind in this “hot house” media environment where the world is all together, simply pinprick attacks on destroyers of other nations will garner incredible media news. It will seem to be an attack on an American Navy that has been inviolate since World War II in fact.
George: This is really crucial, that the psychological effect is substantial. But the effect on markets in this case is substantial. If the perception was that the Iranians have the ability to mine the Straits or some other way threaten these extremely expensive tankers that are up to a billion dollars including their cargo, which has to be insured, could really be threatened. The price of oil would rise dramatically and stock markets would tumble in a situation where Europe is in a major crisis and the financial system of the world is shaky. If we suddenly wound up with $200, $300 or $400 for a barrel of oil, the global landscape could be reshaped forever.
Robert: Keep in mind that personalities enter into this a bit. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been seen for years and even decades in fact seen as a very flawed personality in and of himself, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his viewpoints. As we enter into a presidential election season in the United States where even someone like President Obama would be forced not to criticize Israel publicly, the Israelis thinking cynically — and all governments think cynically — would say this is a window of opportunity for us to bomb Iran, with fewer American domestic repercussions.
George: That may be but it’s very important that there is one domestic American repercussion. If the oil is cut off, the effect on the United States would be enormous and Israel will be blamed for a massive recession or depression.
Robert: But as I was saying, Netanyahu has the kind of personality where he would risk that.
Colin: This will be a catastrophe given the situation that could evolve in the Persian Gulf. What kind of advice is Obama’s defense department giving him? Given that he is a man of great caution, I think what would you expect him to be doing?
George: I think it is very clear what they are saying to him — bluff. He is going out very publicly, which you don’t do if you are planning a major attack, and very publicly bluffing.
Robert: The U.S. Defense Department does not have the appetite for war with Iran. Remember, all Iranians, not just the regime, supports Iran being a nuclear power. Ten years from now we might have closer relations with Tehran than we have with Riyadh. The last thing we want to do is alienate even the Iranians who are sympathetic to us. Iran is a crucial country. It fronts not just the oil-rich Persian Gulf but also the oil-rich Caspian Sea. No other country does that. It has a window onto Central Asia, which no other country in the Middle East has. So it’s enormously important. We are playing for high long-term stakes with Iran, which may be a future ally of the United States.
George: We have to also recognize that with their increased power in Iraq, with the probability that the al Assad regime in Syria — Iranian allies — can survive, and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, we are looking at a situation where Iranian influences could stretch from the Afghan border to the Mediterranean. This is an enormously dangerous situation and it’s not really about nuclear weapons.
Robert: Afghanistan to the Mediterranean approximates the ancient Persian empire of antiquity. Remember, Persia — Iran — as a linguistic cultural force extends from Alawite Syria eastward right up to the Indus River in Pakistan.
Colin: George and Robert, we need to leave it there. Thank you very much. That is George Friedman and special guest Robert Kaplan ending Agenda for this week.
Strat: Significance of US-Australia
Reply #245 on:
November 17, 2011, 02:18:08 PM »
Dispatch: The Broader Significance of U.S.-Australian Military Cooperation
November 17, 2011 | 1909 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
Director of Military Analysis Nathan Hughes discusses the political nature of the timing of the announced military cooperation deal between the United States and Australia and the broader realignment of U.S. military expansion and wider governmental efforts in the region.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
• Washington’s Deal with Australia Highlights Growing Competition with Beijing
During his visit to Australia, U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard formally announced a significant expansion of American military activity in, and cooperation with, Australia set to begin as early as 2012. Though the timing of the announcement itself is clearly political, the agreement is part of a wider realignment of U.S. military forces, as well as broader national efforts that span the entire region.
It was no accident that Obama and Gillard chose to formally announce the new deal during the American president’s stopover in Australia which fell between the APEC summit in Hawaii last weekend and the 2011 East Asian Summit in Indonesia this coming weekend, where he will meet with regional leaders. After years of focus on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is not only in the process of rebalancing its global posture, but it is now resuming its reorientation towards the Pacific and East Asia that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In this most recent deal, increasing contingents of American Marines will train on large Australian proving grounds with 2,500-strong task forces expected to start rotating through by 2016. Royal Australian Air Force bases in the north and west of Australia will host American fighters, bombers, tankers and transport aircraft while Royal Australian Navy bases in Darwin and near Perth, already regular ports of call for American warships, will expand their capacity to host and support U.S. ships and submarines. Of particular significance here, is the more established presence and support capacity that there Australian facilities provide so close to the strategic Strait of Malacca.
Overall, this is a process that has been underway since the collapse of the Soviet Union but that was in many ways sidelined by the American response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The U.S. Navy, in particular, has continued the reorientation of its forces to the Pacific, but that process is intensifying across all services and across the American government. This includes updating the American military’s posture for post-Cold War realities and also responding to increasingly assertive and aggressive Chinese military efforts, particularly in the South China Sea and with anti-access and area denial capabilities. Indeed, the relevance and value of the distance of Australia and the further dispersal of facilities on which American forces rely is particularly relevant in this regard.
But from Washington’s perspective, this is all about returning to a more balanced global posture, prioritizing East Asia and the Pacific and rationalizing its presence and efforts there. But to Beijing this looks a lot like the United States essentially doubling down with its closest allies and partners in what China can only assume is a potential attempt at encirclement.
At stake is everything in-between. The American relationship with Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan is settled by comparison, though the United States appears to be making a big push in the region for reassuring these allies and partners. What really concerns China is the foundation this creates for the U.S. to expand engagement with countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and India and others in the years ahead.
Re: Strat: Significance of US-Australia
Reply #246 on:
November 17, 2011, 02:26:38 PM »
I really like this.
Let's put a "ring of steel" around the Pacific. If China wants to fight a demographic balancing war, let them push into the Stans, or take Siberia from Russia.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #247 on:
November 18, 2011, 07:46:37 AM »
Beijing and Washington's Contrasting Interests in East Asia
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Bali, Indonesia, Thursday for the East Asia Summit (EAS) — the first time an American president has attended the annual summit, now in its sixth year. He arrived from Australia, where he had just formalized an agreement with Canberra to expand U.S. military activity in and cooperation with Australia. That visit followed the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Hawaii the previous week, which Obama hosted. This has all the signs of a meticulously orchestrated political itinerary, but reflects a much deeper and more fundamental shift in the region.
“The United States cannot ignore the enormity and the long-term trajectory of Asian economic activity.”
EAS has expanded in its short existence to include almost every country in the region. Washington has not only reversed its longstanding wariness of multilateral East Asian forums, but it has embraced EAS specifically and deliberately. The United States wants EAS to serve as a decision-making body for policy in the region. Obama’s attendance is emblematic of an American strategy to address significant geopolitical realities.
The United States, which has depended heavily on maritime commerce since before its founding and which now controls long stretches of coast on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is drawn to Asian affairs by geography and economic interest. In 1980, the volume of trade across the Pacific matched for the first time in history that of trade across the Atlantic — and by 1990, had increased over transatlantic trade by half. The economic crises that followed, in Japan and in wider Asia, slowed this trend but did not reverse it. The United States cannot ignore the enormity and the long-term trajectory of Asian economic activity.
In fact, it is really the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that has been the anomaly. The United States obviously never left the region, but its attention was drawn elsewhere. With Washington focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China found a vacuum in which it could maneuver just as Russia did in its own periphery, without drawing American attention commensurate with the strategic value of the region. But the United States is now in the process of extracting itself from entanglements that have consumed its attention and resources for a decade. And just as for Russia, that window of opportunity is beginning to close for China.
Essentially, the United States is signaling to everyone that it is turning its attention back to the region: rebalancing and rationalizing its military presence while strengthening its engagement and involvement with longstanding partners and allies.
China and its potential response are impossible to ignore, regardless of Washington’s intentions. Obama’s formal address to the Australian parliament in Canberra was dominated by the topic of China. And as the power that has taken full advantage of the decade of American distraction — more so than any other country in the region — China is preparing to counter the United States’ intentions as Washington returns to the scene.
Many countries in the region — particularly those that have been on the receiving end of China’s more assertive behavior (particularly in the South China Sea) — have begun to find the idea of an increased American presence in the region desirable as a counterbalance to China.
China perceives itself as acting within its rights, as the region’s natural power, to carve out its own space. More simply, China views itself as acting in defense of its own national interests. The United States perceives itself as returning to a region filled with key trading partners and longstanding allies to continue to advocate for specific interests — its own and those of its allies and partners. And while the Pacific Ocean is enormous, East Asia is becoming an increasingly crowded place.
In middle ease it must all turn towards Iran.
Reply #248 on:
November 21, 2011, 09:56:40 AM »
Our middel east policy perhaps should focus mostly on Iran. Perhaps we should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrate all our efforts on Iran. Unless by staying in Afghan we are better positioned to deal with Iran.
Iran is leading the middle east towards nuclear war.
GM posts imagine what an attack on Iran would do to the oil chain of supply to the world.
I say imagine what Iran with nucs can do to that chain anytime it will want.
We are weak against Pakistan because THEY have nucs. Once Iran starts to get several nuclear devices even without missle delivery capability forget it. Game over.
Al Qaeda is a joke. The threat certainly needs to be taken seriously but we need to change focus away from this to Iran - just my take.
US Foreign Policy: The enemy is the enemy, call it by its name, Caroline Glick
Reply #249 on:
November 26, 2011, 11:08:27 AM »
Very worthwhile read! Timely if not too late.
Calling things by their proper names
November 25, 2011, 10:20 AM
Maliki and the dwarf.jpg
Next month, America's long campaign in Iraq will come to an end with the departure of the last US forces from the country.
Amazingly, the approaching withdrawal date has fomented little discussion in the US. Few have weighed in on the likely consequences of President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw on the US's hard won gains in that country.
After some six thousand Americans gave their lives in the struggle for Iraq and hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on the war, it is quite amazing that its conclusion is being met with disinterested yawns.
The general stupor was broken last week with The Weekly Standard's publication of an article titled, "Defeat in Iraq: President Obama's decision to withdraw US troops is the mother of all disasters."
The article was written by Frederick and Kimberly Kagan and Marisa Cochrane Sullivan. The Kagans contributed to conceptualizing the US's successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, popularly known as "the surge," that president George W. Bush implemented in 2007.
In their article, the Kagans and Sullivan explain the strategic implications of next month's withdrawal. First they note that with the US withdrawal, the sectarian violence that the surge effectively ended will in all likelihood return in force.
Iranian-allied Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is purging the Iraqi military and security services and the Iraqi civil service of pro-Western, anti- Iranian commanders and senior officials. With American acquiescence, Maliki and his Shi'ite allies already managed to effectively overturn the March 2010 election results. Those elections gave the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya party led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi the right to form the next government.
Due to Maliki's actions, Iraq's Sunnis are becoming convinced they have little to gain from peacefully accepting the government.
The strategic implications of Maliki's purges are clear. As the US departs the country next month it will be handing its hard-won victory in Iraq to its greatest regional foe - Iran.
Repeating their behavior in the aftermath of Israel's precipitous withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, the Iranians and their Hezbollah proxies are presenting the US withdrawal from Iraq as a massive strategic victory.
They are also inventing the rationale for continued war against the retreating Americans. Iran's Hezbollah-trained proxy, Muqtada al-Sadr, has declared that US Embassy personnel are an "occupation force" that the Iraqis should rightly attack with the aim of defeating.
The US public's ignorance of the implications of a post-withdrawal, Iranian-dominated Iraq is not surprising. The Obama administration has ignored them and the media have largely followed the administration's lead in underplaying them.
For its part, the Bush administration spent little time explaining to the US public who the forces fighting in Iraq were and why the US was fighting them.
US military officials frequently admitted that the insurgents were trained, armed and funded by Iran and Syria. But policy-makers never took any action against either country for waging war against the US. Above the tactical level, the US was unwilling to take any effective action to diminish either regime's support for the insurgency or to make them pay a diplomatic or military price for their actions.
As for Obama, as the Kagans and Sullivan show, the administration abjectly refused to intervene when Maliki stole the elections or to defend US allies in the Iraqi military from Maliki's pro-Iranian purge of the general officer corps. And by refusing to side with US allies, the Obama administration has effectively sided with America's foes, enabling Iranian-allied forces to take over the US-built, trained and armed security apparatuses in Iraq.
ALL OF these actions are in line with the US's current policy towards Egypt. There, without considering the consequences of its actions, in January and February the Obama administration played a key role in ousting the US's most dependable ally in the Arab world, president Hosni Mubarak.
Since Mubarak was thrown from office, Egypt has been ruled by a military junta dubbed the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Because SCAF is comprised of the men who served as Mubarak's underlings throughout his 30-year rule, it shares many of the institutional interests that guided Mubarak and rendered him a dependable US ally. Specifically, SCAF is ill-disposed toward chaos and Islamic radicalism.
However, unlike Mubarak, SCAF is only in power because the mobs of protesters in Tahrir Square demanded that Mubarak stand down to enable civilian, majority rule in Egypt. Consequently, the military junta is much less able to keep Egypt's populist forces at bay.
Throughout Mubarak's long reign, the most popular force in Egypt was the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood. The populism unleashed by Mubarak's ouster necessarily rendered the Brotherhood the most powerful political force in Egypt. If free elections are held in Egypt next week as planned and if their results are honored, within a year Egypt will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the outcome Obama all but guaranteed when he cut the cord on Mubarak.
Recognizing the danger a Brotherhood government would pose to the army's institutional interests, in recent weeks the generals began taking steps to delay elections, limit the power of the parliament and postpone presidential elections.
Their moves provoked massive opposition from Egypt's now fully legitimated and empowered populist forces. And so they launched what they are dubbing "the second Egyptian revolution."
And the US doesn't know what to do.
In late 2010, foreign policy professionals on both sides of the aisle in Washington got together and formed a group called the Working Group for Egypt. This group, with members as seemingly diverse as Elliott Abrams from the Bush administration and the Council on Foreign Relations, and Brian Katulis from the Center for American Progress, chose to completely ignore the fact that the populist forces in Egypt are overwhelmingly jihadist. They lobbied for Mubarak's overthrow in the name of "democracy" in January and February. Today they demand that Obama side with the rioters in Tahrir Square against the military. And just as he did in January and February, Obama is likely to follow their "bipartisan" advice.
FROM IRAQ to Egypt to Libya to Syria, as previous mistakes by both the Bush and Obama administrations constrain and diminish US options for advancing its national interests, America is compelled to make more and more difficult choices. In Libya, after facilitating Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow, the US is faced with the prospect of dealing with an even more radical regime that is jihadist, empowered and already transferring arms to terror groups and proliferating nonconventional weapons. If the Obama administration and the US foreign policy establishment acknowledge the hostile nature of the new regime and refrain from supporting it, they will be forced to admit they sided with America's enemies in taking down Gaddafi.
While Gaddafi was certainly no Mubarak, at worst he was an impotent adversary.
In Syria, not only did the US refuse to take any action against President Bashar Assad despite his active sponsorship of the insurgency in Iraq, it failed to cultivate any ties with Syrian regime opponents. The US has continued to ignore Syrian regime opponents to the present day. And now, with Assad's fall a matter of time, the US is presented with a fairly set opposition leadership, backed by Islamist Turkey and dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The liberal, pro-American forces in Syria, including the Kurds, have been shut out of the post-Assad power structure.
And in Egypt, after embracing "democracy" over its ally Mubarak, the US is faced with another unenviable choice. It can either side with the weak, but not necessarily hostile military junta which is dependent on US financial aid, or it can side with Islamic extremists who seek its destruction and that of Israel and have the support of the Egyptian people.
HOW HAS this situation arisen? How is it possible that the US finds itself today with so few good options in the Arab world after all the blood and treasure it has sacrificed? The answer to this question is found to a large degree in an article by Prof. Angelo Codevilla in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books titled "The Lost Decade."
Codevilla argues that the reason the US finds itself in the position it is in today owes to a significant degree to its refusal after September 11, 2001, to properly identify its enemy. US foreign policy elites of all stripes and sizes refused to consider clearly how the US should best defend its interests because they refused to identify who most endangered those interests.
The Left refused to acknowledge that the US was under attack from the forces of radical Islam enabled by Islamic supremacist regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Iran because the Left didn't want the US to fight. Moreover, because the Left believes that US policies are to blame for the Islamic world's hostility to America, leftists favor foreign policies predicated on US appeasement of its enemies.
For its part, the Right refused to acknowledge the identity and nature of the US's enemy because it feared the Left.
And so, rather than fight radical Islamists, under Bush the US went to war against a tactic - terrorism. And lo and behold, it was unable to defeat a tactic because a tactic isn't an enemy. It's just a tactic.
And as its war aim was unachievable, the declared ends of the war became spectacular. Rather than fight to defend the US, the US went to war to transform the Arab world from one imbued with unmentionable religious extremism to one increasingly ruled by democratically elected unmentionable religious extremism.
The lion's share of responsibility for this dismal state of affairs lies with former president Bush and his administration. While the Left didn't want to fight or defeat the forces of radical Islam after September 11, the majority of Americans did. And by catering to the Left and refusing to identify the enemy, Bush adopted war-fighting tactics that discredited the war effort and demoralized and divided the American public, thus paving the way for Obama to be elected while running on a radical anti-war platform of retreat and appeasement.
Since Obama came into office, he has followed the Left's ideological guidelines of ending the fight against and seeking to appease America's worst enemies. This is why he has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This is why he turned a blind eye to the Islamists who dominated the opposition to Gaddafi. This is why he has sought to appease Iran and Syria. This is why he supports the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian opposition. This is why he supports Turkey's Islamist government. And this is why he is hostile to Israel.
And this is why come December 31, the US will withdraw in defeat from Iraq, and pro- American forces in the region and the US itself will reap the whirlwind of Washington's irresponsibility.
There is a price to be paid for calling an enemy an enemy. But there is an even greater price to be paid for failing to do so.
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