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Crafty_Dog
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« on: May 30, 2009, 01:16:20 PM »

Where possible, please use this thread instead of the Cognitive Dissonance thread. 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2009, 06:28:24 PM »

GM's post moved to here

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25557458-5013460,00.html

Loose cannon gives Obama a lesson

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | May 30, 2009

Article from:  The Australian
THERE has been a battle of wills between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and US President Barack Obama. So far, Kim has won.

However history finally judges Kim - genocidal narcissist, self-declared god king, supreme Stalinist end point of communism - it also will have to acknowledge his extraordinary success in imposing his own reality, his personal paradigm, on the international system and on the US.

This week, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans argued that Kim's ambitions were essentially reasonable. Kim wanted recognition from the US, a reliable security guarantee and, according to Evans, didn't really want nuclear weapons.

That a sane man can make this judgment after decades of relentless nuclear development by Pyongyang, and after it has rejected or broken this same deal time and time again, demonstrates the feebleness of the foreign policy process mind.

It shows a complete failure of political imagination as to what the North Korean political culture really is.

It is the same kind of mind that dominates the Obama White House.

On May 12, Obama's special envoy on the Korean peninsula, Steve Bosworth, declared: "I think everyone is feeling relatively relaxed about where we are at this point in the process. There is not a sense of crisis." This could go down as one of the great ambassadorial dumb remarks of all time, indicating a disturbing detachment from reality. It certainly would do if it had been uttered by one of George W. Bush's officials.

Consider the implications of Bosworth's remark. Either the US knew a new nuclear test was imminent and Bosworth was telling a blatant lie in an effort to keep everyone calm or, likelier, it was the truth and indicates that the US had not the faintest idea what the North Koreans were up to, despite numerous analysts across the world, operating with far less information than the US Government had available, predicting Kim's nuclear explosion.

Certainly Obama's subsequent remarks, and those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as US efforts at the UN Security Council, indicate that once the test was undertaken Washington was anything but relaxed.

To put it another way, Kim can predict Obama, but Obama cannot predict Kim.

Obama is plainly a leader of the highest intelligence, with a calm temperament and a very good bedside manner. But sometimes he seems to think he can change the world with PR.

Kim is teaching him that the world is a very intractable place. It is useful for the US to have good PR, but there are no serious problems that good PR alone will solve.

Obama is deeply involved in the detail of his foreign policy. Yet he came to the presidency with no foreign policy experience and few settled or even articulated views on national security. His multi-volume autobiography is noteworthy for its lack of anything resembling foreign policy substance.

Instead, as President he seems to have simply absorbed the world view of the US's great institutions of state, in particular the State Department and the Pentagon. In general this is not bad, as these institutions are generally reservoirs of expertise.

It also has led to Obama adopting almost exactly the foreign and national security policies of Bush's second administration. In the second Bush administration, with Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, the State Department's world view shaped the administration's actions.

The same is true for Obama, even if, through his vast panoply of special envoys and the beefing up of the National Security Council, he has continued the process of concentrating ever more direct power in the White House.

But on policy substance, Obama is an almost eerie replica of Bush's second term. In response to the Korean nuclear crisis, Obama is begging China to allow some sanctions through the UN Security Council, reassuring Japan and South Korea of the US military commitment, and trying to appear calm, all as Bush and Rice would have.

On Iraq, Obama is withdrawing on a slower timetable than he promised and one approved by his Republican rival, John McCain, with plenty of caveats allowing course correction.

On Afghanistan, Obama is surging with more than 20,00 additional US troops. Meanwhile the US predator drones are still flying and still firing missiles at al-Qa'ida and Taliban targets, including in Pakistan, wherever possible. On Pakistan, Obama is pleading with Congress to authorise billions of dollars in new aid for a corrupt and hopeless government because the alternative is Islamist extremists, exactly as Bush did.

On Guantanamo Bay, Obama has not yet closed the prison camp. He says he will try to within a year. He also says some inmates will be detained indefinitely without trial because of the risks they pose, while others will be tried in military commissions, not civilian courts. He has not flung open Guantanamo's doors, and rendition continues.

On Israel, Obama's support for Israel's security and its special relationship with the US is every bit as strong as Bush's. His promotion of the peace process, and his criticism of some aspects of Israeli West Bank settlement policy, are the same as Rice's and follow precisely from the Bush-initiated Annapolis process.

On Iran, Obama has indeed changed the tone, but not the substance, of the policy. He is pursuing dialogue to see if he can talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions. This, in fact, is just what Bush and Rice were doing. Obama is even using exactly the same senior State Department official as Bush did to pursue this dialogue.

Iran is nonetheless one area where Obama's PR efforts may do some good. The dialogue with Iran will not work, but when crunch time comes the US will be in a better position for having made the effort.

Obama is even following Bush in taking a ridiculous amount of time to appoint an ambassador to Canberra.

In saying all this I am not criticising Obama (except for not appointing an envoy to Australia). Even the Left is slowly waking up to what a conventional and sensible President Obama mostly is on national security.

Even Maureen Dowd in The New York Times last week mocked Obama's national security policy as representing Dick Cheney's third term. Any president who earns that kind of abuse from Dowd is certainly doing a lot right.

At least for the past four years US foreign policy has been completely pragmatic, which is why Obama term I so far closely resembles Bush term II (which ought in honesty to lead to a re-evaluation of Bush II).

The sad reflection thereby arising, however, is that Bush had absolutely no success in stopping North Korea's progress along the nuclear path. The only real success in halting Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation came in 2007 when Israel bombed a North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria.

Obama has all the charm. Kim, demented, twisted, weird and evil, certainly has the will.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 06:30:44 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2009, 06:29:58 PM »

CCP's post moved to here:
=====================
I don't get the previous post.  Is he critical of BO, Bush, BO because he is too much like Bush, Bo is too naive, or what?
He is all over the place.  I have no idea what his point is or what his conclusion is.

Here is another one who sounds mixed up but states BO is while on the surface similar to Bush's it is at its heart diametrically opposed.

It appears to me that he is saying that it is tranformational in a positive way.  Yet one gets the feeling that these people really are holding back because they are not sure that the cuddly adorable we are all the world we are one rhetoric, which is right out of a 1960s pepsi commercial, is going to work.

IN any case my opinion is that BO is selling the US down the river.  Sure, he may be popular around the world - he is giving our soveriegnty to them.  So what's for them not to like:
 
***Obama's Foreign Policy Isn't Bush Part 2
by Peter Scoblic
Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.

 
 NPR.org, March 25, 2009 · With his bold budget and ambitious plans for health care, no one seems to think that Barack Obama's domestic agenda is anything like George W. Bush's. But many commentators seem to think that when it comes to foreign policy, the new president is just like the old.

Foreign Policy magazine, for example, ran a piece titled "The Making Of George W. Obama." And in the Washington Post, a former John McCain adviser wrote that the "pretense" of change has required "some sleight of hand."

Sure, there are some similarities: Obama hasn't immediately withdrawn troops from Iraq, and he's continuing Predator strikes against Pakistani militants. But his worldview is diametrically opposed to Bush's. And if the last eight years are any guide, that difference will be incredibly important.

At the most basic level, President Bush and the conservatives around him believed that the world was divided into good and evil. They certainly weren't the first to do so. The early colonists proclaimed America a holy refuge from the evils of Europe. And when Thomas Jefferson famously spoke against "entangling alliances," he too was dividing the world into two categories: "us" and "them."

That attitude worked in the 1800s, but in the 20th century, as our security became intertwined with that of other countries, those kinds of binary distinctions lost power. That's why isolationism fell out of fashion. That's why Woodrow Wilson and FDR spoke of a community of nations. And with the invention of nuclear weapons, our very existence became dependent not simply on our ability to wage war against our enemies, but on our ability to cooperate with them.

Yet conservatives resisted history's push toward globalism. They saw the Cold War as a quasi-religious struggle. So they rejected coexistence with communism, negotiation with Moscow and containment of the Soviet Union, because each of these represented accommodation with "evil."

Even after the Cold War ended and transnational threats — like terrorism, disease and proliferation — became paramount, conservatives clung to that vision. In 2000, Bush said, "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world. And we knew exactly who the 'they' were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who 'them' was. Today we're not so sure who the 'they' are, but we know they're there."

In office, he put that attitude into practice. He derided diplomacy while emphasizing military action, which didn't require cooperation with other countries. Rejecting negotiation, containment and coexistence with the "axis of evil," Bush invaded Iraq while refusing to engage North Korea and Iran despite their accelerating nuclear programs. The results were disastrous.

Obama's approach is strikingly different. Last month, he said: "In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America."

True, this approach is still developing. But, in and of itself, Obama's dismissal of us vs. them ideology is a crucial transformation in U.S. foreign policy. The only way you can argue it won't matter in the future is to completely ignore the past.

Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.****
 
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G M
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2009, 09:27:12 PM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/05/30/administration-now-north-korea-is-a-threat-again/

Administration: Now North Korea is a threat again
POSTED AT 12:04 PM ON MAY 30, 2009 BY ED MORRISSEY   


Sometimes, we need a scorecard to keep up with the Obama administration’s positions on foreign policy and national security.  The latest case of whiplash comes from the ping-pong position shifts on North Korea.  When Pyongyang tested a long-range missile in April, Barack Obama called the DPRK a “regional threat” to security.  Last weekend, he upgraded North Korea to a threat to global peace.  Wednesday, though, Obama’s national security adviser James Jones dismissed Kim Jong-Il almost entirely, claiming that he poses no imminent threat to the US.

Today, Defense Secretary William Robert Gates goes back to Square One (via Flopping Aces):

The United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday at an international conference. …

His comments came amid growing concern across the globe over North Korea’s latest nuclear test and test-firings of short-range missiles.

On Friday, two Defense Department officials said the latest U.S. satellite imagery has spotted “vehicle activity” at a North Korean ballistic missile facility.

“North Korea’s nuclear program and actions constitute a threat to regional peace and security. We unequivocally reaffirm our commitment to the defense of our allies in the region,” Gates said in Singapore.

Gates sounded a lot less concerned on Thursday:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, en route to an annual security summit in Singapore Friday, signaled as much, saying North Korea’s actions so far do not warrant sending more US troops to the region.

“I don’t think that anybody in the [Obama] administration thinks there is a crisis,” Mr. Gates told reporters aboard his military jet early Friday morning, still Thursday night in Washington.

Anyone playing Pyongyang Bingo should note that the Obama administration has covered almost all of the positions on the card.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2009, 08:58:32 AM »

Not 24 hours after North Korea's nuclear test last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a statement insisting "we don't have any cooperation [with North Korea] in this field." The lady doth protest too much.

When it comes to nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, history offers two hard lessons. First, nearly every nuclear power has been a secret sharer of nuclear technology. Second, every action creates an equal and opposite reaction -- a Newtonian law of proliferation that is only broken with the intercession of an overwhelming outside force.

On the first point, it's worth recalling that every nuclear-weapons state got that way with the help of foreign friends. The American bomb was conceived by European scientists and built in a consortium with Britain and Canada. The Soviets got their bomb thanks largely to atomic spies, particularly Germany's Klaus Fuchs. The Chinese nuclear program got its start with Soviet help.


 
David Klein
 Britain gave France the secret of the hydrogen bomb, hoping French President Charles de Gaulle would return the favor by admitting the U.K. into the European Economic Community. (He Gallicly refused.) France shared key nuclear technology with Israel and then with Iraq. South Africa got its bombs (since dismantled) with Israeli help. India made illegal use of plutonium from a U.S.-Canadian reactor to build its first bomb. The Chinese lent the design of one of their early atomic bombs to Pakistan, which then gave it to Libya, North Korea and probably Iran.

Now it's Pyongyang's turn to be the link in the nuclear daisy chain. Its ties to Syria were exposed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007. As for Iran, its military and R&D links to the North go back more than 20 years, when Iran purchased 100 Scud-B missiles for use in the Iran-Iraq war.

Since then, Iranians have reportedly been present at a succession of North Korean missile tests. North Korea also seems to have off-shored its missile testing to Iran after it declared a "moratorium" on its own tests in the late 1990s.

In a 2008 paper published by the Korea Economic Institute, Dr. Christina Lin of Jane's Information Group noted that "Increased visits to Iran by DPRK [North Korea] nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a DPRK-Iran agreement for the DPRK to either initiate or accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the DPRK No-dong missiles that the DPRK and Iran were jointly developing. Thus, despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran in 2003 had halted weaponization of its nuclear program, this was the time that Iran outsourced to the DPRK for proxy development of nuclear warheads."

Another noteworthy detail: According to a 2003 report in the L.A. Times, "So many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran that a resort on the Caspian coast is set aside for their exclusive use."

Now the North seems to be gearing up for yet another test of its long-range Taepodong missile, and it's a safe bet Iranians will again be on the receiving end of the flight data. Nothing prevents them from sharing nuclear-weapons material or data, either, and the thought occurs that the North's second bomb test last week might also have been Iran's first. If so, the only thing between Iran and a bomb is a long-range cargo plane.

Which brings us to our second nuclear lesson. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has lately been in Asia taking a tough rhetorical line on the North's nuclear activities. But it's hard to deliver the message credibly after Mr. Gates rejected suggestions that the U.S. shoot down the Taepodong just prior to its April test, or when the U.S. flubbed the diplomacy at the U.N. So other countries will have to draw their own conclusions.

One such country is Japan. In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, then the leader of the country's Liberal Party, told Chinese leaders that "If Japan desires, it can possess thousands of nuclear warheads. Japan has enough plutonium in use at its nuclear plants for three to four thousand. . . . If that should happen, we wouldn't lose to China in terms of military strength."

This wasn't idle chatter. As Christopher Hughes notes in his new book, "Japan's Remilitarization," "The nuclear option is gaining greater credence in Japan because of growing concerns over the basic strategic conditions that have allowed for nuclear restraint in the past. . . . Japanese analysts have questioned whether the U.S. would really risk Los Angeles for Tokyo in a nuclear confrontation with North Korea."

There are still good reasons why Japan would not want to go nuclear: Above all, it doesn't want to simultaneously antagonize China and the U.S. But the U.S. has even better reasons not to want to tempt Japan in that direction. Transparently feckless and time-consuming U.S. diplomacy with North Korea is one such temptation. Refusing to modernize our degraded stockpile of nuclear weapons while seeking radical cuts in the overall arsenal through a deal with Russia is another.

This, however, is the course the Obama administration has set for itself. Allies and enemies alike will draw their own conclusions.
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2009, 02:12:41 PM »

In his speech about Iran's rigth to nuclear technology he has to add this at the end.   He simply cannot resist beratin the US:

Obama added that there is a danger "when the United States, or any country, thinks that we can simply impose these values on another country with a different history and a different culture."

Do other people notice the incredible hypocrisy of this guy downing the US for imposing values while at the same time he has imposed more values, more of his agenda than any President in history on his electorate?

You know what the problem with him similar to Clinton - is the *deceit*, the deception, the down right lies.

The Democrats have made this into a an art form in US politics over the last two decades.

I can only imigane the speech he will give in Egypt this week.

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DougMacG
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2009, 11:20:04 PM »

CCP correctly notes the berating of the US in glibness speeches.  I would add the hypocricy of acknowledging Iran's need for nuclear power generation while denying ours.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2009, 05:48:37 AM »

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: June 3, 2009
During a telephone interview Tuesday with President Obama about his speech to Arabs and Muslims in Cairo on Thursday, I got to tell the president my favorite Middle East joke. It gave him a good laugh. It goes like this:

Skip to next paragraph
 
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

There is this very pious Jew named Goldberg who always dreamed of winning the lottery. Every Sabbath, he’d go to synagogue and pray: “God, I have been such a pious Jew all my life. What would be so bad if I won the lottery?” But the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Week after week, Goldberg would pray to win the lottery, but the lottery would come and Goldberg wouldn’t win. Finally, one Sabbath, Goldberg wails to the heavens and says: “God, I have been so pious for so long, what do I have to do to win the lottery?”

And the heavens parted and the voice of God came down: “Goldberg, give me a chance! Buy a ticket!”

I told the president that joke because in reading the Arab and Israeli press this week, everyone seemed to be telling him what he needed to do and say in Cairo, but nobody was indicating how they were going to step up and do something different. Everyone wants peace, but nobody wants to buy a ticket.

“We have a joke around the White House,” the president said. “We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working — and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.”

A key part of his message, he said, will be: “Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly.” He then explained: “There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the ‘threat’ from Israel, but won’t admit it.” There are a lot of Israelis, “who recognize that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution — that is in their long-term interest — but not enough folks are willing to recognize that publicly.”

There are a lot of Palestinians who “recognize that the constant incitement and negative rhetoric with respect to Israel” has not delivered a single “benefit to their people and had they taken a more constructive approach and sought the moral high ground” they would be much better off today — but they won’t say it aloud.

“There are a lot of Arab states that have not been particularly helpful to the Palestinian cause beyond a bunch of demagoguery,” and when it comes to “ponying up” money to actually help the Palestinian people, they are “not forthcoming.”

When it comes to dealing with the Middle East, the president noted, “there is a Kabuki dance going on constantly. That is what I would like to see broken down. I am going to be holding up a mirror and saying: ‘Here is the situation, and the U.S. is prepared to work with all of you to deal with these problems. But we can’t impose a solution. You are all going to have to make some tough decisions.’ Leaders have to lead, and, hopefully, they will get supported by their people.”

It was clear from the 20-minute conversation that the president has no illusions that one speech will make lambs lie down with lions. Rather, he sees it as part of his broader diplomatic approach that says: If you go right into peoples’ living rooms, don’t be afraid to hold up a mirror to everything they are doing, but also engage them in a way that says ‘I know and respect who you are.’ You end up — if nothing else — creating a little more space for U.S. diplomacy. And you never know when that can help.

“As somebody who ordered an additional 17,000 troops into Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama, “you would be hard pressed to suggest that what we are doing is not backed up by hard power. I discount a lot of that criticism. What I do believe is that if we are engaged in speaking directly to the Arab street, and they are persuaded that we are operating in a straightforward manner, then, at the margins, both they and their leadership are more inclined and able to work with us.”

Similarly, the president said that if he is asking German or French leaders to help more in Afghanistan or Pakistan, “it doesn’t hurt if I have credibility with the German and French people. They will still be constrained with budgets and internal politics, but it makes it easier.”

Part of America’s “battle against terrorist extremists involves changing the hearts and minds of the people they recruit from,” he added. “And if there are a bunch of 22- and 25-year-old men and women in Cairo or in Lahore who listen to a speech by me or other Americans and say: ‘I don’t agree with everything they are saying, but they seem to know who I am or they seem to want to promote economic development or tolerance or inclusiveness,’ then they are maybe a little less likely to be tempted by a terrorist recruiter.”

I think that’s right. An Egyptian friend remarked to me: Do not underestimate what seeds can get planted when American leaders don’t just propagate their values, but visibly live them. Mr. Obama will be speaking at Cairo University. When young Arabs and Muslims see an American president who looks like them, has a name like theirs, has Muslims in his family and comes into their world and speaks the truth, it will be empowering and disturbing at the same time. People will be asking: “Why is this guy who looks like everyone on the street here the head of the free world and we can’t even touch freedom?” You never know where that goes.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2009, 05:57:18 AM »

Second post of the AM

By PAUL WOLFOWITZ
President Barack Obama faces great challenges when he speaks to the Muslim world tomorrow from Cairo. He must counter some of the myths and outright falsehoods about the United States that are commonly believed in many parts of the Muslim world, and he needs to present his audience with some inconvenient truths. But he also has an opportunity, based in no small part on his own remarkable career, to make the case that the political principles and values that are sometimes mistakenly labeled as "Western" are appropriate for the Muslim world.

The challenge of addressing the entire Muslim world in a single speech can be appreciated if one imagines what the reaction would be if some other world leader attempted to speak to the "Christian world," with all of its diversity. For example, although Islam is the state religion in most countries with Muslim majorities, there are a number -- including Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world -- where it is not. Moreover, some countries have large non-Muslim minorities. And the second largest Muslim population in the world lives as a minority in India. There is an enormous variety of views among Muslims around the world on everything from religion to politics to family values.

Although there are many expectations for this speech, one that Mr. Obama hopefully will disappoint is the expectation that he will walk away from what President George W. Bush called "the freedom agenda." That would be a great mistake for the U.S. and for the Muslim world.

Some observers have viewed the choice of Egypt as the venue for this important speech as a deliberate distancing from that idea. Egypt is an important country and the largest in the Arab world. But it is not the largest country in the Muslim world, or the most tolerant, or the freest, or the most democratic, or the most developed, or the most prosperous. The president should make clear that his decision to speak in Cairo does not mean he is indifferent to how the Egyptian government treats its own people, despite the importance of Egypt in the Arab-Israeli peace process and as an ally in confronting Iran.

The president said correctly in an NPR interview on Monday that "part of being a good friend is being honest," and that we need to be honest with Israel about "the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests." The president also needs to be honest with the Muslim world. That means addressing the causes of the poverty and tyranny which are so pervasive that they create a widespread belief the U.S. is at best indifferent -- and at worst actively complicit -- in maintaining those conditions in order to deny Muslims their rightful place in the world.

Mr. Obama's own remarkable career is living testimony to the strengths of America's open society and free institutions. Most Muslims recognize his achievement in becoming the leader of a country that, despite our problems, is still admired and envied for its prosperity and freedom. At the same time, they recognize that no one of comparable background could become the leader of any of their own countries. That empowers Mr. Obama to argue persuasively that the institutions and practices that have enabled the U.S. to change so much over the course of two centuries can provide the key for their progress as well.

Genuine democracy is a matter of making government accountable and transparent, not only through elections but through many other means as well, including a free press. It means protecting the rights of all citizens to develop their full potential, both for their own prosperity and for the society as a whole, by protecting equal rights under the law. That includes the right of private property, which is recognized clearly in Islam. In speaking to the Muslim world, it is particularly important for the president to emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of women and those of minorities -- subjects on which he can be particularly eloquent and persuasive.

The denial of equal rights to women is unjust. It hurts society as a whole when half the population is prevented from achieving its full potential. The countries in the Muslim world that have developed most successfully are those -- such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia -- where women have been able to play a substantial role. Those same countries have also benefited enormously from giving scope to Christian and Jewish minorities to prosper, although the record is imperfect. Turkey's Jewish minority found refuge there 500 years ago from the Spanish Inquisition. In those days, when Islamic civilization was the most advanced in the world, it was also one of the most tolerant.

Unfortunately, today's trend is in the wrong direction in much of the Muslim world. Church burnings and other intolerant acts are increasing. As a member of a minority himself, Mr. Obama is strongly positioned to speak out against that trend.

More generally, the president could counter the belief that the U.S. is indifferent to the fate of the world's Muslims or, worse, that we demonize Islam. He could remind his listeners of the many occasions in the past 20 years when the U.S. put its men and women in harm's way -- in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, not to mention Afghanistan and Iraq -- to assist people suffering from tyranny or famine who happened to be Muslims.

He could tell them of the deep respect that Americans have for religious belief in general and for Islam as one of the world's great religions. He could reiterate our understanding that the actions of extremists do not represent the majority of Muslims, as his predecessors emphasized repeatedly.

Hopefully, however, the president will not repeat what he said to Al-Arabiyah television in January about going back to "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago." Throughout the Muslim world that was interpreted as a return to a time when, as President Bush said, the U.S. preferred stability to freedom in the Middle East and ended up with neither.

The president should make clear that the U.S. does not believe that democracy can be imposed by force. Nor should he suggest that stability is unimportant. Free institutions cannot be expected to develop overnight, and certainly not in Egypt. But particularly in Egypt it is appropriate to emphasize that true stability requires giving that country's persecuted liberal democrats the space to begin growing free institutions, rather than leaving the field entirely to extremists who organize effectively in secret.

One of those persecuted Egyptian liberals, Ayman Nour, recently asked whether Mr. Obama will "confirm his commitment to democracy, or will he appease dictators and aggressors?" One single speech cannot definitively answer that question but hopefully, tomorrow in Cairo, Ayman Nour will be pleased with Barack Obama's words.

Mr. Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has served as deputy U.S. secretary of defense and U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2009, 12:10:54 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Outreach to the Muslim World
June 3, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama embarked late Tuesday on a key trip that includes visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The stopover in Riyadh was a late addition to his original itinerary, but Cairo — where Obama will deliver a much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world on June 4 — remains the main event.

The speech is part of a diplomacy initiative by Obama, with the stated objective of improving relations between the United States and the Islamic world. The campaign began with his inaugural address, in which Obama called for a new beginning with the Muslim world and relations based on mutual respect. That was followed by an interview with Saudi-owned satellite channel al-Arabiya (his first with a foreign news organization after becoming president), a message to Iran on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, and his speech to the Turkish parliament.

Reaching out to a global religious community in such a manner is a very unorthodox form of diplomacy. International relations usually concerns bilateral and multilateral dealings between governments of nation-states. But in the case of the U.S. relationship with the Islamic world, Obama is going beyond the standard approach to diplomacy and creating a new channel by reaching out directly to the Muslim masses, which harbor serious grievances over U.S. foreign policy, especially in light of the post-9/11 U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While many in Muslim countries take issue with Washington, they are often equally (if not more) opposed to their own governments. In fact, these two views are linked together in the criticism that Washington continues to support authoritarian regimes that have long suppressed citizens. The Obama administration, while it seeks to engage Muslim populations, obviously is not about to withdraw from its relationships with the governments that rule over them.

In this diplomacy initiative, Obama will have to find a balance between the states and their citizens in order to avoid further entanglement in what, to a great degree, is an internal struggle within the Muslim world. This is going to be extremely difficult: The masses seek change to the political status quo, which, from Washington’s point of view, translates into instability that might threaten U.S. interests. In fact, the likely purpose behind the president’s unconventional initiative is to offer what little assistance he can, in the form of an improved U.S. image, to governments in the Muslim world that find themselves increasingly estranged from the societies they govern.

Many within the target audience already are skeptical about the potential for change in U.S. policy — and rightfully so. The foreign policy of any country is a function of its objective geopolitical realities, which do not shift much with a change in leadership. Indeed, his rhetoric notwithstanding, Obama’s actual policies are very much a continuation of those of his predecessor.

While the administration says it is reaching out to the Muslim world, the choice of Cairo as the venue clearly indicates that the focus is on the largely Arab Middle East and, by extension, South Asia. There are many who argue that, while a major change in policy naturally cannot be expected, this should not discount the possibility of modest adjustments. But within the Middle East, the administration is caught within a complex constellation of relationships that include rival Arab states, Iran, Israel and Turkey. Any meaningful shift likely would upset the balance in the region. The latest example of this is the concern among Arab states and the Israelis over U.S. efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. In other words, there isn’t much room to maneuver with policy adjustments.

Ultimately, what this means is that the Muslim masses are in for a disappointment when it becomes clear that the Obama administration is not going to overhaul U.S. foreign policy. But this will not pose much of a problem for Obama. The fond feelings of the Muslim world might be nice to claim, but ultimately, he does not need their support. In the end, it will be the American people, not the rest of the world, who will issue the final referendum on his performance as president.
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2009, 05:19:00 AM »

One benefit of the Obama Presidency is that it is validating much of George W. Bush's security agenda and foreign policy merely by dint of autobiographical rebranding. That was clear enough yesterday in Cairo, where President Obama advertised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." But what he mostly offered were artfully repackaged versions of themes President Bush sounded with his freedom agenda. We mean that as a compliment, albeit with a couple of large caveats.

So there was Mr. Obama, noting that rights such as "freedom to live as you choose" and "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed" were "not just American ideas, they are human rights." There he was insisting that "freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together," and citing Malaysia and Dubai as economic models for other Muslim countries while promising to host a summit on entrepreneurship.

There he was too, in Laura Bush-mode, talking about the need to expand opportunities for Muslim women, particularly in education. "I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles," he said. "But it should be their choice."

Mr. Obama also offered a robust defense of the war in Afghanistan, calling it "a war of necessity" and promising that "America's commitment will not weaken." That's an important note to sound when Mr. Obama's left flank and some Congressional Democrats are urging an exit strategy from that supposed quagmire. On Iraq, he acknowledged that "the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein" and pledged the U.S. to the "dual responsibility" of leaving Iraq while helping the country "forge a better future." The timeline he reiterated for U.S. withdrawal is the one Mr. Bush negotiated last year.

The President even went one better than his predecessor, with a series of implicit rebukes to much of the Muslim world. There would have been no need for him to specify that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis if Holocaust denial weren't rampant in the Middle East, including Egypt, just as there would have been no need to name al Qaeda as the perpetrator of 9/11 if that fact were not also commonly denied throughout the Muslim world. There also would have been no need to insist that "the Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems," if that were not the modus operandi of most Arab governments.

Mr. Obama also noted that "among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's," a recognition of the supremacist strain in Islamist thinking. He also included a pointed defense of democracy, including "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed" and "confidence in the rule of law." We doubt the point was lost on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, now in his 29th year in office. All of this will do some good if it leads to broader acceptance among Muslims of the principles of Mr. Bush's freedom agenda without the taint of its author's name.

As for the caveats, Mr. Obama missed a chance to remind his audience that no country has done more than the U.S. to liberate Muslims from oppression -- in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo and above all in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 50 million people were freed by American arms from two of the most extreme tyrannies in modern history. His insistence on calling Iraq a "war of choice" is a needless insult to Mr. Bush that diminishes the cause for which more than 4,000 Americans have died.

He also couldn't resist his by now familiar moral self-indulgence by asserting that he has "unequivocally prohibited the use of torture" and ordered Guantanamo closed. Aside from the fact that the U.S. wasn't torturing anyone before Mr. Obama came into office, his Arab hosts can see through his claims. They know the Obama Administration is "rendering" al Qaeda detainees to other countries, some of them Arab, where their rights and well-being are far less secure than at Gitmo.

The President also stooped to easy, but false, moral equivalence, most egregiously in comparing the U.S. role in an Iranian coup during the Cold War with revolutionary Iran's 30-year hostility toward the U.S. He also compared Israel's right to exist with Palestinian statehood. But while denouncing Israeli settlements was an easy applause line, removal of those settlements will do nothing to ease Israeli-Palestinian tensions if the result is similar to what happened when Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza. We too favor a two-state solution -- as did President Bush -- but that solution depends on Palestinians showing the capacity to build domestic institutions that reject and punish terror against other Palestinians and their neighbors.

Hanging over all of this is the question of Iran. In his formal remarks, Mr. Obama promised only diplomacy without preconditions and warned about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Yet surely Iran was at the top of his agenda in private with Mr. Mubarak and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, both of whom would quietly exult if the U.S. removed that regional threat. They were no doubt trying to assess if Mr. Obama is serious about stopping Tehran, or if he is the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

It is in those conversations, and in the hard calls the President will soon have to make, that his Middle East policy will stand or fall
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2009, 03:31:36 PM »

 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124476677973008511.html

The Kyrgyz say 'nyet' to Obama

Not to deny President Obama's diplomatic charms, but they seem lost on the world's harder cases. The latest is Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation of five million that has been home to a U.S. air base at Manas, a critical transit center to supply troops in Afghanistan.

In February, hours after securing $2 billion in aid from Russia, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced -- in Moscow no less -- that the U.S. will have to leave by August 18. Mr. Obama this week sent a confidential letter to the Kyrgyz leader implicitly asking him to reconsider by "expressing his gratitude to the nation and government of Kyrgyzstan for its efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and in the fight against international terrorism and narcotics trafficking," according to a summary released by the Kyrgyz government yesterday.

The Kyrgyz quickly shot those hopes down. "The decision to abolish the agreement on the military air base, Manas, has been made, and there is no turning back from this," Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbayev told a Kyrgyz news agency.

Russian fingerprints are all over this U.S. setback. Like many other authoritarians, Vladimir Putin's regime in Moscow derives its legitimacy in part from anti-Americanism. No "restart" in relations promised by Mr. Obama can easily change that. And for Russia, in its neighborhood, the policy consequence is to push America out and prop up local dictators.

That's true whether the U.S. President is named Obama or Bush. Perhaps this young Administration can learn with experience that goodwill alone gets one only so far in the real world.
---------------------
There is another more in-depth article discussing Putin's craft here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124467909278604353.html
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2009, 10:30:24 PM »

Middle East
Jun 30, 2009
 
Obama creates a deadly power vacuum
By Spengler

There's a joke about a man who tells a psychiatrist, "Everybody hates me," to which the psychiatrist responds, "That's ridiculous - everyone doesn't know you, yet." Which brings me to Barack Obama: one of the best-informed people in the American security establishment told me the other day that the president is a "Manchurian Candidate".

That can't be true - Manchuria isn't in the business of brainwashing prospective presidential candidates any more. There's no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a

 
strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself. The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider.

Obama doesn't want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America's enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi'ite majority.

America also sought Iran's help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama's imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington's turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi'ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama's face.

Iran already has made clear that casting America's enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America's enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America's terms. Iran's verbal war with the American president over the violent suppression of election-fraud protests leaves Washington with no policy at all. The premise of Obama's policy was that progress on the Palestinian issue would empower a Sunni coalition. As the president said May 18:
If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians - between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.
Israel's supporters remonstrated in vain. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Obama supporter, wrote, "If there is to be any linkage - and I do not believe there should be - it goes the other way: it will be much easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran does not have a nuclear umbrella under which it can continue to encourage Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli civilians."

No matter: America made clear that it had annulled the George W Bush administration's promise that a final settlement would allow most of Israel's 500,000 "settlers" to keep their homes, in order to launch the fantasy ship of Iranian cooperation with America.

That policy now is in ruins, and Washington has no plan B. David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, told television interviewers on January 28 that Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who spent the last week denouncing the United States, "Did not have final say" over Iran's foreign policy and that America still wanted to negotiate with Iran. This sounds idiotic, but the White House really has painted itself into a corner. The trouble is that Obama has promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq, and Iran has sufficient influence in Shi'ite-majority Iraq to cause continuous upheaval, perhaps even to eventually win control of the country.

By a fateful coincidence, American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq's urban centers on June 30. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein left Iraq open to Iranian destabilization; that is why the elder George Bush left the Iraqi dictator in power in 1990.

Offering Iran a seat at the table in exchange for setting a limit to its foreign ambitions - in Lebanon and Gaza as well as Iraq - seemed to make sense on paper. But the entity that calls itself revolutionary Islam is not made of paper, but of flesh and blood. It is in danger of internal collapse and can only assert its authority by expanding its influence as aggressively as it can.

After the election disaster, Iran's revolutionary leadership urgently needs to demonstrate its credibility. Israel now can say, "A country that murders its own citizens will have no compunction about massacring its enemies," and attack Iran's nuclear capacity with fewer consequences than would have been imaginable in May. And if an Israeli strike were to succeed, or appear successful to the world, the resulting humiliation might be fatal to the regime.

Israel may not be Tehran's worst nightmare. Iraq's Sunnis are testing the resolve of the weakened mullahs. The suicide bombing that killed 73 people at a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk on June 20 and a second bombing that killed another 72 Shi'ites in Baghdad's Sadr City slum most likely reflect Sunni perceptions that a weakened Tehran will provide less support for Iraqi Shi'ites. Although Shi'ites comprise more than three-fifths of Iraq's population, Sunnis provided the entire military leadership and are better organized on the ground. America's hopes of enlisting Iran to provide cover for its withdrawal from the cities of Iraq seem delusional.

What move on the chessboard might Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei venture to pre-empt an Israeli air raid against the nuclear facilities? Iran has the rocket launchers of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world. Iran might seek to pre-empt what it anticipates to be the next move from Israel by demonstrating its capacity to inflict injury on Israel or on Jewish targets elsewhere. That would require careful judgment, for a heavy handed action could provide a pretext for even more serious action by the Israelis and others. The same sort of consideration applies to Iranian support for Pakistan Shi'ites, for Hezbollah, and other vehicles of Iran's program of imperial expansion.

The Obama administration has put itself in a peculiar bind. It has demanded that the Pakistani army suppress the Taliban, after Islamabad attempted a power-sharing agreement that left the Taliban in control of the Swat Valley. To root out the largely Pashtun Taliban, Pakistan's largely Punjabi army has driven a million people into refugee camps and leveled entire towns in the Swat Valley. Tens of thousands of refugees are now fleeing the Pakistani army in the South Waziristan tribal area. Punjabis killing Pashtuns is nothing new in the region, but the ferocity of the present effort does not augur well for an early end to the conflict.

While the Pakistan army holds nothing back in attacking the Taliban, American troops in Afghanistan have been told that they no longer can call in air strikes if civilians are likely to suffer. That will put American forces in the unfortunate position of the Pirates of Penzance, who exempted orphans. Once this became generally known, everyone they attempted to rob turned out to be an orphan.

The Taliban need only take a page from Hamas' book, and ensure that civilians are present wherever they operate. The US has made clear that it will not deal in civilian blood, the currency of warfare in that region since before the dawn of history. It will not be taken seriously in consequence.

What will the administration do now? As all its initiatives splatter against the hard realities of the region, it will probably do less and less, turning the less appetizing aspects of the fighting over to local allies and auxiliaries who do not share its squeamishness about shedding civilian blood. That is the most dangerous outcome of all, for America is the main stabilizing force in the region.

The prospect of civil wars raging simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq is no longer improbable. The Israel-Palestine issue is linked to all of these through Iran, whose credibility depends on its ability to sustain such puppies of war as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whether or not the Israelis take the opportunity to strike Iran, the prospect of an Israeli strike will weigh on Iran's proxies in the region, and keep Israel's borders in condition of potential violence for the interim.

America's great good fortune is that no hostile superpower stands ready to benefit from its paralysis and confusion. When Soviet troops landed in Afghanistan in December 1979, America was in the grip of an economic crisis comparable to the present depression. American diplomats at the Tehran Embassy were still hostages to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The price of gold doubled from around $400 to $800 after the Russian invasion because most of the world thought that Russia would win the Cold War. If America lost its dominant superpower status in the West, the dollar no longer could serve as a global reserve currency. To the superpower goes the seigniorage, the state's premium for providing a currency.

By contrast, the gold price barely fluttered all through the present crisis. America remains the undisputed global superpower for the time being. America's creditors express consternation about its $1.8 trillion budget deficit and many trillions more of guarantees for the banking system, but there is nothing they can do about it for the time being but talk. That is how one should interpret a June 25 Reuters report that a "senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party" had urged China to shift some of its $2 trillion in reserves out of dollars and into gold.
Li Lianzhong, who heads the economic department of the Party's policy research office, said China should use more of its $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to buy energy and natural resource assets. Speaking at a foreign exchange and gold forum, Li also said that buying land in the United States was a better option for China than buying US Treasury securities.

"Should we buy gold or US Treasuries?" Li asked. "The US is printing dollars on a massive scale, and in view of that trend, according to the laws of economics, there is no doubt that the dollar will fall. So gold should be a better choice."
There is no suggestion that Li, even though he is a senior researcher, was enunciating an agreed party line.

The last thing China wants at the moment is to undercut the US dollar, for three reasons. First, as America's largest creditor, China has the most to lose from a dollar collapse. Second, Americans would buy fewer Chinese imports. And third, the collapse of the dollar would further erode America's will to fulfill its superpower function, and that is what China wants least of all.

America remains the indispensable outsider in Asia. No one likes the United States, but everyone dislikes the United States less than they dislike their neighbors. India need not worry about China's role in Pakistan, for example, because America mediates Indian-Pakistani relations, and America has no interest in a radical change to the status quo. Neither does China, for that matter, but India is less sure of that. China does not trust Japan for historical reasons that will not quickly fade, but need not worry about it because America is the guarantor of Japan's security. The Seventh Fleet is the most disliked - and nonetheless the most welcome - entity in Asia.

All of this may change drastically, quickly, and for the worse. Obama's policy reduces to empowering America's enemies in the hope that they will conform to American interests out of gratitude. Just the opposite result is likely to ensure: Iran, Pakistan and other regional powers are likely to take radical measures. Iran is threatened with a collapse of its Shi'ite program from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and Pakistan is threatened with a breakup into three or more states.

Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely to create a void in the region by withdrawing American power. The result is likely to be a species of pandemonium that will prompt the leading players in the region to learn to live without the United States.

In his heart of hearts, Obama sees America as a force for evil in the world, apologizing for past American actions that did more good than harm. An example is America's sponsorship of the 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the left-leaning government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government," the president offered in his Cairo address to Muslims on June 5. Although Iran's theocracy despises Mossadegh - official Iranian textbooks call him the "son of a feudal family of exploiters who worked for the cursed Shah, and betrayed Islam" - Iran's government continues to reproach America for its role in the coup. "With a coup they toppled the national government of Iran and replaced it with a harsh, unpopular and despotic regime," Ahmadinejad complained in a January 28 speech.

It is s a bit late to offer advice to Obama, but the worst thing America can do is to apologize. Instead, it should ask for the gratitude of the developing world. Weak countries become punching-bags in the proxy wars of empires. This was from the dawn of history until the fall of the last empire - the "evil" empire of Soviet communism.

The Soviets exploited anti-colonial movements from the 1917 Bolshevik coup until the collapse of the Afghanistan adventure in the late 1980s. Nationalists who tried to ride the Russian tiger ended up in its belly more often than on its back. Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Angola and numerous other weak countries became the hapless battleground for the contest of covert operations between the Soviet Union and America - not to mention Vietnam and Korea.

The use of developing countries as proxy battlefields and their people as cannon fodder came to an end with the Cold War. As a result, the past 20 years have seen the fastest improvement in living standards ever in the global south, and a vast shift in wealth towards so-called developing countries.

By defeating Russia in the Cold War, America made it possible for governments in the global south to pursue their own interests free from the specter of Soviet subversion. And by countering Soviet subversion, America often averted much worse consequences.

Many deficiencies can be ascribed to the Shah of Iran, but a communist regime in the wake of a Mossadegh administration would have been indescribably worse. The septuagenarian Mossadegh had his own agenda, but he relied on the support of the communist Tudeh party. The US feared a Soviet invasion of Iran, and "the [Harry S] Truman administration was willing to consider a Soviet invasion of Iran as a casus belli, or the start of a global war", according to Francis J Gavin's 1999 article in The Journal of Cold War Studies.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with help from British intelligence helped the shah overthrow the left-leaning regime. But this was no minor colonial adventure, but a flashpoint with the potential to start a world war.

It is painful and humiliating for Iranians to recall the overthrow of a democratically elected government with American help. It would have been infinitely more humiliating to live under Soviet rule, like the soon-to-be-extinct victims of Soviet barbarism in Eastern Europe.

The same is true of Chile, where the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, with help from the CIA. Allende was surrounded by Cuban intelligence operations. As Wikipedia reports:
Shortly after the election of Salvador Allende in November 1970, the [Cuban Directorate of Intelligence - DI] worked extremely closely to strengthen Allende's increasingly precarious position. The Cuban DI station chief Luis Fernandez Ona even married Salvador Allende's daughter Beatrice, who later committed suicide in Cuba. The DI organized an international brigade that would organize and coordinate the actions of the thousands of the foreign leftists that had moved into Chile shortly after Allende's election. These individuals ranged from Cuban DI agents, Soviet, Czech and North Korean military instructors and arms suppliers, to hardline Spanish and Portuguese Communist Party members.
My Latin American friends who still mourn the victims of Pinochet's "night and fog" state terror will not like to hear this, but the several thousand people killed or tortured by the military government were collateral damage in the Cold War. Like Iran, Chile became the battleground of a Soviet-American proxy war. The same is true in Nicaragua. (Full disclosure: I advised Nicaragua's president Violeta Chamorro after she defeated the Cuban-backed Sandinistas in the 1990 elections; I did so with no tie to any government agency.)

Obama's continuing obsession with America's supposed misdeeds - deplorable but necessary actions in time of war - is consistent with his determination to erode America's influence in the most troubled parts of the world. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. We are entering a very, very dangerous period as a result.
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« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2009, 09:12:33 AM »


Missing Our Moment in Iran
Obama’s policy is a lose/lose proposition that will please neither side.

By Victor Davis Hanson

Last month, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest a rigged presidential election. Our president was extremely cautious in his initial criticism of the Iranian government’s fierce crackdown against the protestors. At first, President Obama said that the United States — given our history in Iran — should not be “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs.

Obama suggested that the leading opposition candidate, the reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi, might not be that different from the entrenched theocracy’s choice, the incumbent (and declared winner of the June election) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Finally, as both the crowds in the Iranian streets and the violence against them increased over the next several days, Obama conceded that he was “appalled” at the clerics’ repression.

In defense of the president’s hesitation, some of his supporters argued that our initial neutrality was aimed at not spoiling the administration’s earlier efforts at outreach to Iran’s Islamist regime. We were taking the realistic long view, they added, in which negotiations with the clerics might still curb Iran’s nuclear-weapon aspirations and their support for terrorism. As Obama’s U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, put it, the  “legitimacy” of the regime was “not the critical issue in terms of our dealings with Iran.”

Perhaps Obama also wishes to avoid former President Bush’s muscular approach in the Middle East, which ended up in costly efforts to foster legitimate constitutional governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, after removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, Obama’s policy is a lose/lose proposition that will please neither side in Iran. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, isn’t suddenly going to embrace the U.S. because of Obama’s more charismatic approach, much less stop subsidizing terrorists and developing a nuclear arsenal.

For over three decades, the Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II administrations all reached out — both overtly and covertly — to the Iranian theocracy, with offers of normalizing relations, secret arms deals, back-channel meetings, and occasional apologies. But the clerics today are as anti-American as they were in 1979. And they’re still rounding up, killing, and torturing dissidents in the same manner that they used to consolidate power after the fall of the Shah.

In addition, our belated, tepid criticism of the repressive Iranian government may not translate into goodwill from Iranian advocates for freedom — given our painful silence in the early days of the demonstrations, when achieving global support was critical.

And what about other pro-democracy dissidents abroad — whether in Cuba, the Arab world, or Venezuela? Will they still trust that the U.S. supports their efforts to obtain a free society?

Meanwhile, authoritarians in China, North Korea, Russia, the Middle East, and South America may draw two unfair and unfortunate conclusions. One, the United States does not care much what other regimes do to their own people. Two, a new America will overlook almost anything in order just to get along with these authoritarians.

But is the U.S. at least consistent in its promises not to meddle?

Not all the time.

When Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in Israel, the Obama administration made its distaste clear. It also has tried to find ways to isolate Hamid Karzai’s elected government in Afghanistan — and was initially not happy about the prospects of its reelection.

Most recently, the U.S. condemned the Honduran military’s arrest of Pres. Manuel Zelaya. The nation’s supreme court had found his efforts to extend his presidential tenure in violation of its constitution, once Zelaya tried to finesse an illegal third term.

In other words, the U.S. pressures other nations as it pleases — though strangely now more to lean on friends than to criticize rivals and enemies.

In contrast, had President Obama voiced early, consistent, and sharp criticism of the Iranian crackdown, the theocracy would have worried that the president’s stature could have galvanized global boycotts and embargos to isolate the theocracy and aid the dissidents. And the reformers in the streets could have become even more confident with a trademark Obama “hope and change” endorsement.

Internal democratic change in Iran is the only peaceful solution to stopping an Iranian bomb, three decades of Iranian-sponsored terrorism, and a Middle East arms race. When thousands risked their lives for a better Iran, a better Middle East, and a better world, we, the land of the free, simply were not with them.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. © 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NmY3ZTg4YjAyMTQ0M2Q2NDA5MTljOWFhOGVjMTNiZTE=
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2009, 01:22:28 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: America's Indivisible Imperatives
July 2, 2009
Americans will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday on Saturday. For STRATFOR, this is a time to reflect on just how the world came to look the way it does today.

In the late 18th century, Britain was the most powerful country in the world for two reasons: first, it was an island, and second, the height of human technology at the time was deepwater navigation. Combining advancements in naval operations with the protection of the English Channel, Britain could focus all of its efforts on maritime-based imperial expansion, while its European peers were forced to fight for dominance on land. The result was a far-flung and remarkably lucrative empire with which no one could compete.

Eventually, Britain’s American colonies grew too large in land area, wealth and population to control from afar, and a revolution wrested them from the Crown’s control. Since that development, five core rules – what we call “geopolitical imperatives” — have determined the behavior of the colonies that became the United States.

The first imperative was to secure strategic depth for the new nation. One of the most successful tactics employed by the British during the American Revolutionary War was the coastal raid. Britain’s superior navy proved able not only to blockade the fledgling country’s coast, but also to move men and materiel up and down the coast much faster than the Americans could over land. That combination of economic and military disadvantages almost cost the nascent United States the revolution — and gravely threatened it again in the War of 1812, when the new country lost its capital for a short time. Thus, in its early years, the United States aggressively pushed inland to establish economic centers that were less exposed to naval power. By moving across the Appalachians, the United States opened up vast tracts of territory to absorb all the immigrants that Europe could supply.

The second U.S. imperative was to secure North America. Depth — particularly that acquired in the Louisiana Purchase — gave the United States insulation from the sea, but it also put the country into direct contact with land-based powers. This was partially resolved immediately after the War of 1812, when the United States and Canada forged agreements that would gradually loosen Canada’s ties to mother Britain.

But the much larger event was settled in Texas. During Texas’s battle for independence, the forces of Mexican general Santa Ana crossed north of the Chihuahuan Desert and sacked the Alamo. From there, they marched east to pursue retreating Texican forces in a series of battles that, at the time, the Mexicans seemed fated to win. Had Santa Ana succeeded in subduing the Texas rebellion, he would have been within reach of the very lightly defended New Orleans. (And after the agony of crossing the deserts and mountains of Chihuahua, this would have been a cakewalk.)

Santa Ana’s intent is lost to history, but if he had chosen to seize New Orleans, history would have turned out very differently. The Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Red and Tennessee River basins — all the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, in addition to that ceded by Britain to the United States at the end of the Revolutionary War — would have been held hostage by Mexican forces, which would have controlled the only point of sea access. As fate had it, Santa Ana did not make it that far; Texican forces defeated his army at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, achieving independence for Texas and pushing Mexican forces back through the desert. The United States quickly annexed Texas in the aftermath (1845), largely to secure New Orleans, and a mere year later prosecuted a war with Mexico to underscore the point. North America — or at least the really useful bits — belonged to the United States.

With North America largely secure from land invasion and coastal raiding, the third step for the United States was to gain control of the ocean approaches. This was accomplished in two phases.

First, the United States took over the Sandwich Islands (aka Hawaii), the only territory in the Pacific that lay within an easy sail of the West Coast, in 1898. That pretty much sealed up the Pacific.

The Atlantic — which contained European assets in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada and South America — was more complicated. The United States seized Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain in 1898. But the breaking point here did not occur until the early days of World War II, when the United States allowed the United Kingdom to borrow some mothballed destroyers in exchange for almost every naval base the British owned in the Western Hemisphere. What had been the world’s largest navy for three centuries was suddenly a nonpower in half the globe.

Once a nation controls its approaches, the next logical step — the fourth imperative — is to reach farther and control the oceans themselves. In this endeavor, the battles of World War II proved pivotal. The United States seized direct control of places like Micronesia in the Pacific, and the Azores and Iceland in the Atlantic. At the war’s conclusion, the United States’ containment strategy first and foremost included courting island and naval powers. Some, like Australia and Norway, proved to be new friends. The United Kingdom and Japan, onetime rivals, became regional lynchpins. But there was a deep commonality among these powers: They all controlled maritime chokepoints and were situated at or near the world’s major shipping lanes. Leveraged by U.S. naval power, their strategic locations ensured American dominance of the waves. In the years since, alliances with states like Singapore, Denmark and Taiwan have sealed the United States’ maritime dominance.

The only way to challenge a country that controls a continent-sized mass is to control an even bigger one. To prevent that from happening, the United States works to keep Eurasia divided. World Wars I and II both were fought in large part to prevent a single power from rising to dominance. After these wars, the United States developed a much more nuanced approach to its fifth imperative; rather than fighting battles directly, the Americans assisted states that were in a position to — and wanted to — resist local hegemons. The strategy most famous in this regard was containment of the Soviet Union — ringing a hostile power with a necklace of willing allies that feared the Soviets every bit as much as the Americans did. That strategy has been repeated with other powers ever since — backing Taiwan against China, Yugoslavia against the Soviet Union, Pakistan against India, Iraq against Iran, and more recently, Kuwait against Iraq.

These five strategic imperatives are not found anywhere in the Constitution or laws of the United States. But every one of the country’s 44 presidents, regardless of intention, has conformed to them, compelled by the inexorable logic of geography. In yesterday’s wars, under George W. Bush, U.S. forces stormed into Afghanistan and Iraq to preclude the formation of a unified, jihadist-inspired Muslim empire. In preparation for tomorrow’s conflict with a resurgent Russia, Barack Obama is attempting to recruit Poland and Turkey as active checks on Russian power. And the same geopolitical imperatives that drove these actions will shape American efforts into the future — just as they have since 1776.
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« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2009, 06:03:24 AM »

NYT

U.S. Mulls Alternatives for Missile Shield Sign in to Recommend
         by JUDY DEMPSEY and PETER BAKER
Published: August 28, 2009

BERLIN — The Obama administration has developed possible alternative plans for a missile defense shield that could drop hotly disputed sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move that would please Russia and Germany but sour relations with American allies in Eastern Europe.

Administration officials said they hoped to complete their months-long review of the planned antimissile system as early as next month, possibly in time for President Obama to present ideas to President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia at a meeting in New York during the annual opening at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

But they cautioned that no decisions had been made and that all options were still under discussion, including retaining the Polish and Czech sites first selected by President George W. Bush. The Obama review team plans to present a menu of options rather than a single recommendation to a committee of senior national security officials in the coming weeks. Only after that would the matter go to cabinet-rank officials and the president.

Among the alternatives are dropping either the Polish or Czech site, or both sites, and instead building launching pads or radar installations in Turkey or the Balkans, while developing land-based versions of the Aegis SM-3, a ship-based anti-missile system, officials said. The changes, they said, would be intended not to mollify Russia, but to adjust to what they see as an accelerating threat from shorter-range Iranian missiles.

People following the review, including anxious officials in Eastern Europe, said they thought that the administration was preparing to abandon the Polish and Czech sites. “It is clear that Eastern Europe is out of the epicenter of this American administration,” said Piotr Paszkowski, a spokesman for Poland’s foreign minister. “The missile defense system is now under review. The chances that it will be in Poland are 50-50.”

Dmitry O. Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said Moscow anticipated news from Mr. Obama in September. “I hope that Medvedev will take some good result from this bilateral discussion in New York, and maybe in October we will live in a new world in Russian-American relations,” he said.

Administration spokesmen said it was premature to discuss what the review would conclude or when it would be finished. “Our review of our missile defense strategy is ongoing and has not reached completion yet,” said Philip J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman.

The proposed system inherited by Mr. Obama envisioned stationing 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a sophisticated radar facility in the Czech Republic to defend against potential ballistic missile threats from Iran or other hostile nations. But Russia has long objected to what it sees as a threat in its own backyard and has insisted that the Obama administration abandon the plan as a sign that it is serious about improving relations.

Shifting an anti-missile system out of territory once dominated by Moscow might mollify Russian concerns without jettisoning the missile shield altogether. At the same time, it could set off criticism both at home and in Eastern Europe that Mr. Obama was caving in to Russian pressure.

Polish fears that the United States was having second thoughts were heightened after diplomats learned of a meeting last week in Huntsville, Ala., that included generals who oversee missile defense, including Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of the United States Strategic Command.

“What was revealing about such a high-level gathering was that the speakers did not discuss how and when the missile shield would be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic,” said Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a Washington-based lobbying group, who attended the meeting.

But administration officials rejected the assertion that a reformulated missile defense system would forsake Eastern European security. “We definitely are not abandoning our commitment to defend our European allies from a missile threat from Iran,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the review was not complete. “We are exploring options that will enhance the defense of our European allies.”

The cost of building the complexes in Poland and the Czech Republic could increase to more than $1 billion from $837 million, according to the Government Accountability Office, which published a report this month on preparations to deploy the system.

The cost estimates do not include support at the sites or the development, testing and procurement costs. The overall cost of establishing a modest ballistic missile system in Europe would exceed $4 billion through 2015, according to the G.A.O. report. Even at that, it said, “Congress does not have accurate information on the full investment required for ballistic missile defenses in Europe.”

The Bush administration strongly advocated a missile shield. Mr. Obama has been more skeptical, saying he will proceed only if it is financially and technically feasible. He has also told the Russians that the system would not be needed if they used their leverage to persuade Iran to drop its suspected nuclear weapons programs.

The discussions in Huntsville caused a stir among diplomats in Poland. Eastern European leaders worry that the Obama administration is playing down their security needs even though, they contend, Russia’s war with Georgia last year and increasing tension between Russia and Ukraine show the need for a strong American presence in the region.

“You can see that compared to the former Bush administration, the Obama administration is more interested in Russia, China and of course Afghanistan than Eastern Europe,” said Slawomir Debski, director of the Institute of International Affairs in Warsaw.

In Huntsville, General Cartwright made clear that the administration was focusing on the relevance, adaptability and affordability of any new programs, including missile defense, according to people who were at the meeting.

He also said that the United States had to take into account Russian sensitivities toward the missile shield for Eastern Europe.

Judy Dempsey reported from Berlin, and Peter Baker from Washington. Ellen Barry contributed reporting from Moscow.
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« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2009, 09:23:14 AM »

Second post of the morning:

Obama's Foreign Policy: The End of the Beginning
August 24, 2009

By George Friedman


As August draws to a close, so does the first phase of the Obama presidency. The first months of any U.S. presidency are spent filling key positions and learning the levers of foreign and national security policy. There are also the first rounds of visits with foreign leaders and the first tentative forays into foreign policy. The first summer sees the leaders of the Northern Hemisphere take their annual vacations, and barring a crisis or war, little happens in the foreign policy arena. Then September comes and the world gets back in motion, and the first phase of the president’s foreign policy ends. The president is no longer thinking about what sort of foreign policy he will have; he now has a foreign policy that he is carrying out.

We therefore are at a good point to stop and consider not what U.S. President Barack Obama will do in the realm of foreign policy, but what he has done and is doing. As we have mentioned before, the single most remarkable thing about Obama’s foreign policy is how consistent it is with the policies of former President George W. Bush. This is not surprising. Presidents operate in the world of constraints; their options are limited. Still, it is worth pausing to note how little Obama has deviated from the Bush foreign policy.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, particularly in its early stages, Obama ran against the Iraq war. The centerpiece of his early position was that the war was a mistake, and that he would end it. Obama argued that Bush’s policies — and more important, his style — alienated U.S. allies. He charged Bush with pursuing a unilateral foreign policy, alienating allies by failing to act in concert with them. In doing so, he maintained that the war in Iraq destroyed the international coalition the United States needs to execute any war successfully. Obama further argued that Iraq was a distraction and that the major effort should be in Afghanistan. He added that the United States would need its NATO allies’ support in Afghanistan. He said an Obama administration would reach out to the Europeans, rebuild U.S. ties there and win greater support from them.

Though around 40 countries cooperated with the United States in Iraq, albeit many with only symbolic contributions, the major continental European powers — particularly France and Germany — refused to participate. When Obama spoke of alienating allies, he clearly meant these two countries, as well as smaller European powers that had belonged to the U.S. Cold War coalition but were unwilling to participate in Iraq and were now actively hostile to U.S. policy.

A European Rebuff
Early in his administration, Obama made two strategic decisions. First, instead of ordering an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, he adopted the Bush administration’s policy of a staged withdrawal keyed to political stabilization and the development of Iraqi security forces. While he tweaked the timeline on the withdrawal, the basic strategy remained intact. Indeed, he retained Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, to oversee the withdrawal.

Second, he increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Bush administration had committed itself to Afghanistan from 9/11 onward. But it had remained in a defensive posture in the belief that given the forces available, enemy capabilities and the historic record, that was the best that could be done, especially as the Pentagon was almost immediately reoriented and refocused on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Toward the end, the Bush administration began exploring — under the influence of Gen. David Petraeus, who designed the strategy in Iraq — the possibility of some sort of political accommodation in Afghanistan.

Obama has shifted his strategy in Afghanistan to this extent: He has moved from a purely defensive posture to a mixed posture of selective offense and defense, and has placed more forces into Afghanistan (although the United States still has nowhere near the number of troops the Soviets had when they lost their Afghan war). Therefore, the core structure of Obama’s policy remains the same as Bush’s except for the introduction of limited offensives. In a major shift since Obama took office, the Pakistanis have taken a more aggressive stance (or at least want to appear more aggressive) toward the Taliban and al Qaeda, at least within their own borders. But even so, Obama’s basic strategy remains the same as Bush’s: hold in Afghanistan until the political situation evolves to the point that a political settlement is possible.

Most interesting is how little success Obama has had with the French and the Germans. Bush had given up asking for assistance in Afghanistan, but Obama tried again. He received the same answer Bush did: no. Except for some minor, short-term assistance, the French and Germans were unwilling to commit forces to Obama’s major foreign policy effort, something that stands out.

Given the degree to which the Europeans disliked Bush and were eager to have a president who would revert the U.S.-European relationship to what it once was (at least in their view), one would have thought the French and Germans would be eager to make some substantial gesture rewarding the United States for selecting a pro-European president. Certainly, it was in their interest to strengthen Obama. That they proved unwilling to make that gesture suggests that the French and German relationship with the United States is much less important to Paris and Berlin than it would appear. Obama, a pro-European president, was emphasizing a war France and Germany approved of over a war they disapproved of and asked for their help, but virtually none was forthcoming.

The Russian Non-Reset
Obama’s desire to reset European relations was matched by his desire to reset U.S.-Russian relations. Ever since the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine in late 2004 and early 2005, U.S.-Russian relations had deteriorated dramatically, with Moscow charging Washington with interfering in the internal affairs of former Soviet republics with the aim of weakening Russia. This culminated in the Russo-Georgian war last August. The Obama administration has since suggested a “reset” in relations, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually carrying a box labeled “reset button” to her spring meeting with the Russians.

The problem, of course, was that the last thing the Russians wanted was to reset relations with the United States. They did not want to go back to the period after the Orange Revolution, nor did they want to go back to the period between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Orange Revolution. The Obama administration’s call for a reset showed the distance between the Russians and the Americans: The Russians regard the latter period as an economic and geopolitical disaster, while the Americans regard it as quite satisfactory. Both views are completely understandable.

The Obama administration was signaling that it intends to continue the Bush administration’s Russia policy. That policy was that Russia had no legitimate right to claim priority in the former Soviet Union, and that the United States had the right to develop bilateral relations with any country and expand NATO as it wished. But the Bush administration saw the Russian leadership as unwilling to follow the basic architecture of relations that had developed after 1991, and as unreasonably redefining what the Americans thought of as a stable and desirable relationship. The Russian response was that an entirely new relationship was needed between the two countries, or the Russians would pursue an independent foreign policy matching U.S. hostility with Russian hostility. Highlighting the continuity in U.S.-Russian relations, plans for the prospective ballistic missile defense installation in Poland, a symbol of antagonistic U.S.-Russian relations, remain unchanged.

The underlying problem is that the Cold War generation of U.S. Russian experts has been supplanted by the post-Cold War generation, now grown to maturity and authority. If the Cold warriors were forged in the 1960s, the post-Cold warriors are forever caught in the 1990s. They believed that the 1990s represented a stable platform from which to reform Russia, and that the grumbling of Russians plunged into poverty and international irrelevancy at that time is simply part of the post-Cold War order. They believe that without economic power, Russia cannot hope to be an important player on the international stage. That Russia has never been an economic power even at the height of its influence but has frequently been a military power doesn’t register. Therefore, they are constantly expecting Russia to revert to its 1990s patterns, and believe that if Moscow doesn’t, it will collapse — which explains U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s interview in The Wall Street Journal where he discussed Russia’s decline in terms of its economic and demographic challenges. Obama’s key advisers come from the Clinton administration, and their view of Russia — like that of the Bush administration — was forged in the 1990s.

Foreign Policy Continuity Elsewhere
When we look at U.S.-China policy, we see very similar patterns with the Bush administration. The United States under Obama has the same interest in maintaining economic ties and avoiding political complications as the Bush administration did. Indeed, Hillary Clinton explicitly refused to involve herself in human rights issues during her visit to China. Campaign talk of engaging China on human rights issues is gone. Given the interests of both countries, this makes sense, but it is also noteworthy given the ample opportunity to speak to China on this front (and fulfill campaign promises) that has arisen since Obama took office (such as the Uighur riots).

Of great interest, of course, were the three great openings of the early Obama administration, to Cuba, to Iran, and to the Islamic world in general through his Cairo speech. The Cubans and Iranians rebuffed his opening, whereas the net result of the speech to the Islamic world remains unclear. With Iran we see the most important continuity. Obama continues to demand an end to Tehran’s nuclear program, and has promised further sanctions unless Iran agrees to enter into serious talks by late September.

On Israel, the United States has merely shifted the atmospherics. Both the Bush and Obama administrations demanded that the Israelis halt settlements, as have many other administrations. The Israelis have usually responded by agreeing to something small while ignoring the larger issue. The Obama administration seemed ready to make a major issue of this, but instead continued to maintain security collaboration with the Israelis on Iran and Lebanon (and we assume intelligence collaboration). Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has not allowed the settlements to get in the way of fundamental strategic interests.

This is not a criticism of Obama. Presidents — all presidents — run on a platform that will win. If they are good presidents, they will leave behind these promises to govern as they must. This is what Obama has done. He ran for president as the antithesis of Bush. He has conducted his foreign policy as if he were Bush. This is because Bush’s foreign policy was shaped by necessity, and Obama’s foreign policy is shaped by the same necessity. Presidents who believe they can govern independent of reality are failures. Obama doesn’t intend to fail.
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« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2009, 11:37:57 AM »

"The U.S. has abandoned plans to install a missile defense system in Europe, according to a report. If true, this is a major strategic error that will have serious consequences for our allies in Europe and for us. Quoting a U.S. source, the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza says the Obama administration has decided against building a missile shield to protect Poland and the Czech Republic. The reason? Russian opposition. Now, if we want to build a defense system for friends in Europe, we'll have to place it in the Balkans, Israel or somewhere else. That is, if Russia approves. This is a stark reversal of past policy and reneges on promises made by the current administration. Worse, it shows weakness. We got into a staredown with the Russian bear and we blinked. ... We've just weakened America's standing in a critical region of the world -- Eastern Europe -- and let our allies down. We've made them vulnerable, in ways that only we could, to Russia's growing military menace. Polish and Czech friends who had relied on us to stand firm and keep our word no doubt feel betrayed. This diminishes our global influence. What smallish country will now take our word at face value when we promise to protect them? ... Given the threat to millions of American lives -- not to mention millions of our allies -- reducing missile defense is both dangerous and irresponsible." --Investor's Business Daily
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« Reply #18 on: September 17, 2009, 04:16:20 PM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/09/17/un-nuke-agency-iran-can-build-a-bomb-right-now/

Foreign policy is raAAAAaaaaaaaacist!
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« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2009, 08:59:03 AM »

Poles, Czechs: US missile defense shift a betrayal
By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press Writer Vanessa Gera, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 45 mins ago
 
WARSAW, Poland – Poles and Czechs voiced deep concern Friday at President Barack Obama's decision to scrap a Bush-era missile defense shield planned for their countries.

"Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back," the Polish tabloid Fakt declared on its front page.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said he was concerned that Obama's new strategy leaves Poland in a dangerous "gray zone" between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

Recent events in the region have rattled nerves throughout central and eastern Europe, a region controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, including the war last summer between Russia and Georgia and ongoing efforts by Russia to regain influence in Ukraine. A Russian cutoff of gas to Ukraine last winter left many Europeans without heat.

The Bush administration's plan would have been "a major step in preventing various disturbing trends in our region of the world," Kaczynski said in a guest editorial in the daily Fakt and also carried on his presidential Web site.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he still sees a chance for Poles and Czechs to participate in the redesigned missile defense system. But that did not appear to calm nerves in Warsaw or Prague.

Kaczynski expressed hopes that the U.S. will now offer Poland other forms of "strategic partnership."

In Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said he made two concrete proposal to U.S. officials on Thursday in hopes of keeping the U.S.-Czech alliance strong: for the U.S. to establish a branch of West Point for NATO members in Central Europe and to "send a Czech scientist on the U.S. space shuttle to the international space station."

An editorial in Hospodarske Novine, a respected pro-business Czech newspaper, said: "an ally we rely on has betrayed us, and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid."

The move has raised fears in the two nations they are being marginalized by Washington even as a resurgent Russia leaves them longing for added American protection.

The Bush administration always said that the planned system — with a radar near Prague and interceptors in northern Poland — was meant as defense against Iran. But Poles and Czechs saw it as protection against Russia, and Moscow too considered a military installation in its backyard to be a threat.

"No Radar. Russia won," the largest Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, declared in a front-page headline.

Obama said the old plan was scrapped in part because the U.S. has concluded that Iran is less focused on developing the kind of long-range missiles for which the system was originally developed, making the building of an expensive new shield unnecessary.

The replacement system is to link smaller radar systems with a network of sensors and missiles that could be deployed at sea or on land. Some of the weaponry and sensors are ready now, and the rest would be developed over the next 10 years.

The Pentagon contemplates a system of perhaps 40 missiles by 2015, at two or three sites across Europe.

_____

Associated Press writer Karel Janicek contributed reporting from Prague.
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« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2009, 12:48:54 PM »

Summary
Despite the scrapping of current U.S. plans for placing ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, American ballistic missile defense efforts will continue in Europe, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Just what those efforts will look like is still uncertain.


Ballistic Missile Defense

In a press conference Sept. 17 announcing the scrapping of current U.S. plans for placing ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright spent most of the press conference talking about the future of BMD in Europe — and insisting that U.S. BMD efforts were not dead.

The announcement marked the confluence of changes already under way in the architecture of the U.S. BMD system, some potential alternative deployments down the road and political equivocation. As part of this shift, Gates and Cartwright insisted that the nature and timetable of the threat of Iranian long-range ballistic missiles had changed, allowing for some adjustment of the technologies and timetables necessary to address the threat. (With Iran’s successful satellite launch earlier in the year, it is difficult to see how the threat has been pushed very far into the future.)

The original system slated for Poland and the Czech Republic was the ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) system, which is already deployed in Alaska and California. An early BMD system, it was fielded aggressively by the George W. Bush administration out of concern over the long-range ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea. The rationale was expediency: It was considered the only reasonably mature system capable of the necessary range and altitude that could be fielded immediately — and even then its deployment was accelerated. Despite being plagued by test failures, it was a version of GMD that the Bush White House also believed would be the most expedient choice for fielding a limited defense against an emerging long-range missile threat from Iran.





(click here to enlarge image)
But even before the Sept. 17 announcement, the situation had begun to shift. There were delays in Washington, Warsaw and Prague alike in nailing down the details. As time slipped by and ground was not broken on the installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, the potential benefits of GMD in terms of expediency began to erode. Competing technologies like the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) matured faster and proved more robust and reliable, and improvements and follow-on systems inched closer to fruition. Indeed, Gates has taken a different approach to BMD than his predecessor (former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was a key proponent of the aggressive fielding of GMD), and the new Obama administration has allowed him to push forward with a new approach.


Photo by Chris Bishop/U.S. Navy via Getty Images
A Standard Missile Three (SM-3) is launched from the guided missile cruiser USS Shiloh in June, 2006Indeed, the Gates Pentagon may well have wished to scrap the GMD system slated for Poland even if it had not become so controversial. And many of the changes in the architecture of U.S. BMD efforts announced Sept. 17 had already been put in motion.

For example, BMD-capable, Aegis-equipped cruisers and destroyers armed with the SM-3 have long been postulated as an alternative to the Poland-based interceptors and Czech-based X-band radar. Indeed, though almost all U.S. BMD-capable warships are currently stationed in the Pacific, funds have already been allocated to upgrade more Atlantic-based ships to carry the SM-3. Gates has suggested that these warships could begin to patrol north and south of Europe as soon as 2011, though whether there would be a continuous at-sea presence is just one of a number of decisions yet to be made.

Another consideration was the potential deployment to Poland of an American Patriot air defense battery. Warsaw had originally hoped to see a Patriot battery deployed alongside the GMD interceptors (unlike GMD, Patriot missiles would actually be capable of defending Polish territory). Now the Poles are concerned that instead of a permanently stationed Patriot battery, they may see only U.S. troops conducting transitory training exercises with the Patriot, perhaps even with inert rather than actual interceptors. Gen. Cartwright said during the press conference that training deployments with the Patriot would precede any operational deployments, although there are no formal agreements on even the proposed training exercises, much less a sense of whether Washington will follow through on the deployment of Patriots in a more permanent way anytime soon.

The press conference was characterized by this sort of equivocation. A series of ideas divided into phases were announced in a very concrete way, as Gates and Cartwright tried to make it clear that U.S. BMD efforts in Europe would continue — that this was a shift in the hardware and scheme of maneuver, not the overall mission. But much like the limbo that the GMD system has been in for two years now, nothing has been decided (at least from all indications). When it comes to ground-based BMD systems in Europe, whatever might come next is still subject to change.

Gates raised the prospect of a still-to-be-developed ground-based version of the SM-3 that might be stationed in several unnamed locations in Europe, along with mobile X-band BMD radars system currently stationed in Israel. He insisted that Poland and the Czech Republic would be among the first countries the United States would talk to when the Pentagon considered the deployment of these land-based SM-3s in the 2015 timeframe.

While the conversion of the SM-3 to a ground-based system and its integration with other BMD radar systems should not pose any major technical hurdles, a lot can happen in six years’ time. One of the possibilities is the development of a deployable land-based SM-3, along with the fielding of Block 2 versions of the missile now under development that are larger and more capable. This would mean not only that the SM-3s the United States might deploy on land in Europe would be able to cover more ground from fewer locations but also that sea-based SM-3s would be able to cover more territory from the sea.

As the Pentagon insisted during the press conference, the United States is certainly not giving up on BMD in Europe. Some 18 U.S. warships equipped with the SM-3 already boast the most capable and deployable BMD interceptor that the world has ever seen (one that also has proven utility in a satellite role). The SM-3 and other mobile systems like the terminal high altitude area defense (or THAAD) in the pipeline will mean that the U.S. BMD network will be increasingly mobile. But while providing coverage to Europe remains a stated goal, the picture Gates and Cartwright painted of future plans for BMD basing in Europe was not well defined at all. And 2015 is a long way off — especially with the relationship between Washington and Moscow so susceptible to rapid change.
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« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2009, 06:59:02 AM »

Op-Ed Contributor
A Better Missile Defense for a Safer Europe
By ROBERT M. GATES
Published: September 19, 2009
Washington


THE future of missile defense in Europe is secure. This reality is contrary to what some critics have alleged about President Obama’s proposed shift in America’s missile-defense plans on the continent — and it is important to understand how and why.

First, to be clear, there is now no strategic missile defense in Europe. In December 2006, just days after becoming secretary of defense, I recommended to President George W. Bush that the United States place 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic. This system was designed to identify and destroy up to about five long-range missiles potentially armed with nuclear warheads fired from the Middle East — the greatest and most likely danger being from Iran. At the time, it was the best plan based on the technology and threat assessment available.

That plan would have put the radar and interceptors in Central Europe by 2015 at the earliest. Delays in the Polish and Czech ratification process extended that schedule by at least two years. Which is to say, under the previous program, there would have been no missile-defense system able to protect against Iranian missiles until at least 2017 — and likely much later.

Last week, President Obama — on my recommendation and with the advice of his national-security team and the unanimous support of our senior military leadership — decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles — weapons that are growing in capability — in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe.

The second phase, which will become operational around 2015, will involve putting upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe. All told, every phase of this plan will include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors. This will be a far more effective defense should an enemy fire many missiles simultaneously — the kind of attack most likely to occur as Iran continues to build and deploy numerous short- and medium-range weapons. At the same time, plans to defend virtually all of Europe and enhance the missile defense of the United States will continue on about the same schedule as the earlier plan as we build this system over time, creating an increasingly greater zone of protection.

Steady technological advances in our missile defense program — from kill vehicles to the abilities to network radars and sensors — give us confidence in this plan. The SM-3 has had eight successful tests since 2007, and we will continue to develop it to give it the capacity to intercept long-range missiles like ICBMs. It is now more than able to deal with the threat from multiple short- and medium-range missiles — a very real threat to our allies and some 80,000 American troops based in Europe that was not addressed by the previous plan. Even so, our military will continue research and development on a two-stage ground-based interceptor, the kind that was planned to be put in Poland, as a back-up.

Moreover, a fixed radar site like the one previously envisioned for the Czech Republic would be far less adaptable than the airborne, space- and ground-based sensors we now plan to use. These systems provide much more accurate data, offer more early warning and tracking options, and have stronger networking capacity — a key factor in any system that relies on partner countries. This system can also better use radars that are already operating across the globe, like updated cold war-era installations, our newer arrays based on high-powered X-band radar, allied systems and possibly even Russian radars.

One criticism of this plan is that we are relying too much on new intelligence holding that Iran is focusing more on short- and medium-range weapons and not progressing on intercontinental missiles. Having spent most of my career at the C.I.A., I am all too familiar with the pitfalls of over-reliance on intelligence assessments that can become outdated. As Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a few days ago, we would be surprised if the assessments did not change because “the enemy gets a vote.”

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The new approach to European missile defense actually provides us with greater flexibility to adapt as new threats develop and old ones recede. For example, the new proposal provides some antimissile capacity very soon — a hedge against Iran’s managing to field missiles much earlier than had been previously predicted. The old plan offered nothing for almost a decade.

Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what we are doing. This shift has even been distorted as some sort of concession to Russia, which has fiercely opposed the old plan. Russia’s attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue. Of course, considering Russia’s past hostility toward American missile defense in Europe, if Russia’s leaders embrace this plan, then that will be an unexpected — and welcome — change of policy on their part. But in any case the facts are clear: American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well.

This proposal is, simply put, a better way forward — as was recognized by Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland when he called it “a chance for strengthening Europe’s security.” It is a very real manifestation of our continued commitment to our NATO allies in Europe — iron-clad proof that the United States believes that the alliance must remain firm.

I am often characterized as “pragmatic.” I believe this is a very pragmatic proposal. I have found since taking this post that when it comes to missile defense, some hold a view bordering on theology that regards any change of plans or any cancellation of a program as abandonment or even breaking faith. I encountered this in the debate over the Defense Department’s budget for the fiscal year 2010 when I ended three programs: the airborne laser, the multiple-kill vehicle and the kinetic energy interceptor. All were plainly unworkable, prohibitively expensive and could never be practically deployed — but had nonetheless acquired a devoted following.

I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies to combat future threats.

The bottom line is that there will be American missile defense in Europe to protect our troops there and our NATO allies. The new proposal provides needed capacity years earlier than the original plan, and will provide even more robust protection against longer-range threats on about the same timeline as the previous program. We are strengthening — not scrapping — missile defense in Europe.
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« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2009, 08:38:23 AM »

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/18/AR2009091803046_pf.html

Shattered Confidence In Europe

By Ronald D. Asmus
Saturday, September 19, 2009



President Obama's decision to shelve the Bush administration's missile defense plans has created a crisis of confidence in Washington's relations with Central and Eastern Europe. The defense architecture the administration proposes may make more strategic sense in addressing the immediate Iranian threat. Nevertheless, it runs the risk of shattering the morale and standing of transatlantic leaders in the region who now feel politically undermined and exposed. The roots of this crisis lie less in missile defense than in policy failures over the past decade. Understanding and rectifying those errors is key to getting back on track with our allies.

Our first mistake was being overly optimistic about what would happen when these countries joined NATO and the European Union. We basically checked the box "mission accomplished." We assumed that Russia would finally accept that Central and Eastern Europe were gone from its sphere of influence and stop trying to interfere in their regional politics. But geopolitical competition didn't stop. Moscow simply tried to pressure and interfere in new ways, using energy and other weapons. It seeks to marginalize these countries in NATO and the European Union by going above their heads. It still wants to create a zone of special Russian interest, influence and lesser security.

The second mistake was poor handling of our commitment to defend Central and Eastern Europe counties under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. Given the low-threat environment, we decided NATO did not need to station troops in those countries' territory and pledged instead to create a reinforcement capability that could be used in times of crisis. I sat at the table in the mid-1990s as Washington promised Polish leaders that NATO would have a corps-size reinforcement capability to provide for their security.

But that NATO corps-size reinforcement capability never materialized. There are not even official defense plans for these countries. The power of Article 5 was always the fact that these commitments were backed up by planning, exercises and boots on the ground. Yet a lack of leadership and divisions within NATO prevented the alliance from fulfilling such pledges.

The alliance has also decayed in its role as the key crisis manager in Europe. Central and Eastern Europeans have watched as one ally after another has prevented NATO from acting over the past decade. NATO was AWOL during the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. When Georgian leaders quietly approached the alliance several months before hostilities, NATO demurred. When war broke out, the secretary general interrupted his vacation for one day to hold a meeting and issue a statement. NATO's supreme allied commander did not even do that much. The NATO Military Committee met only after the war was over. Hardly an inspiring performance.

Given this record, we should not be surprised that Central and Eastern Europeans doubt what NATO would do to help them in a pinch. While they are loath to say it publicly, their leaders have told me that they are no longer certain NATO is capable of coming to their rescue if there were a crisis involving Russia. They no longer believe that the political solidarity exists or that NATO's creaky machinery would take the needed steps.

Had we handled these issues differently, our debate about missile defense would be quite different. The Poles and Czechs bought into the Bush administration's plans for missile defense not because of Iranian missiles but because they were losing confidence in NATO. Atlanticist leaders were seeking additional security through an American military presence on their soil. That is why missile defense assumed a political significance in the region that transcended the merits of the actual program. And that is why abandoning the program has created a crisis of confidence.

We must take real steps toward solving this problem by providing strategic reassurance to Central and Eastern Europe through the front door of NATO and not the back door of missile defense. President Obama has already decided to push for defense plans for these countries. But a top-secret NATO defense plan in some safe in Brussels will not mollify Central and Eastern European anxieties. Their primary worry is not the prospect of an imminent Russian military attack but political intimidation or blackmail or a regional crisis that spins out of control. It is above all their lack of belief in our solidarity in the alliance.

That is why we need a broader package of political, economic and military measures that will reinforce that solidarity and provide reassurance. We also need to fix NATO so that it can again function as a crisis manager, as it did in the Balkans in the 1990s. Nothing prevents us from taking these steps. They do not contradict any of our commitments to Russia. They require only political imagination, will and a modest investment of resources. If we get that right, then the Obama administration's decision on missile defense can be a catalyst that helps us get this relationship back on track. If we don't, the crisis of confidence in the region will only deepen.

The writer, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, is executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The views expressed here are his own.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2009, 08:44:59 AM »

Nice one GM.  That seems to me a very sound piece.

This from the WSJ:

It's been a good few weeks in what used to be called the war on terror. The main credit here goes to the folks in the intelligence community that our friends on the left love to hate.

Credit goes as well to Barack Obama, who as President has abandoned much of his previous opposition to proven antiterror measures like warrantless wiretaps, and who has only stepped up the campaign of targeted hits on terrorist ringleaders. He's fortunate the Bush Administration left him with a potent intelligence team and the precedent of taking the fight, pre-emptively, to the terrorists on their home turf.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Pakistani army troops fix their long-range gun in Taliban's stronghold of Piochar in the Swat Valley.
.On Monday, U.S. special forces operating in Somalia killed top al Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed to have been a planner in the November 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya in which 15 were killed. Also killed in recent days was senior al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri—via a U.S. drone attack in western Pakistan—and Indonesian terrorist mastermind Noordin Muhammad Top, suspected in the July bombing of two Jakarta hotels.

Last week, too, a British court convicted three men for an August 2006 plot to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic. The convictions were obtained largely on the strength of communications intercepts—possibly warrantless—gathered by the U.S. National Security Agency, according to a report by Britain's Channel 4.

All this follows important gains for the Pakistani army in the area of the Swat valley, which fell briefly to the Taliban in the spring. Key among those gains was the August killing—again by a U.S. drone—of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, suspected in the assassination of former Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto. Two of Mehsud's senior deputies were also killed in drone attacks in recent months, while at least eight key al Qaeda commanders have been killed in the last 12 months alone.

For those who were the victims or near-victims of the attacks perpetrated by these men, this is justice. For the rest of us, it is an additional measure of safety. Despite conventional wisdom that killing terrorists only breeds more terrorists and fuels the proverbial "cycle of violence," there is a reason that the U.S. has not been attacked in the eight years since September 11, and that major terrorist plots in Europe have been foiled.

Last week, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that it had seen interrogation documents showing that European Muslim volunteers "faced a chaotic reception, a low level of training, poor conditions and eventual disillusionment after arriving in Waziristan [Pakistan] last year." It added that there is "evidence that al Qaeda's alliance with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is fraying, boosting the prospect of acquiring intelligence that will lead to Bin Laden's capture or death." This from a paper not exactly known as a cheerleader for the use of military force.

The logic of these attacks is simple, even if too many people are reluctant to accept it. Terrorist groups tend to coalesce around charismatic leaders, such as Abimael Guzmán of Peru's Shining Path, Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdish PKK, or Abu Musab al Zarqawi of al Qaeda in Iraq. Not only are these men difficult to replace, but their death or capture often leads to infighting, disarray and disillusion within the group. As terrorist leaders are forced to spend more time trying to save their own lives, they also have less time to devote to plans for killing others.

None of this means that the war on terror (or whatever you'd like to call it) is anywhere near over. It may never be. But in a struggle in which a day when nothing happens is a victory, it's worth recalling that nothing doesn't happen by accident.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2009, 08:56:15 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2009, 09:33:52 AM »

The Gates piece is important: "Last week, President Obama — on my recommendation and with the advice of his national-security team and the unanimous support of our senior military leadership — decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles — weapons that are growing in capability — in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe."

It doesn't seem that he bothered to inform the Czechs or the Poles of his new enlightenment before springing it on the world.  Either that or they knew the plan and were not particularly impressed or reassured.

One problem with scrapping the old plan is that is was a PROMISE MADE BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to key allies that rely on our word for their survival and sovereignty.

Another problem is that the new improved plan is also a promise made by the united states of america, a lower case nation that sometimes keeps its word and sometimes doesn't, like our support for the u.s.dollar.

A bigger problem is that the current President along with his closest allies in the congress oppose missile defense systems on the grounds that the rogue states targeting missiles find them threatening and destabilizing.  Worst is that the current Secretary of Defense despite all of his intelligence gathering capabilities and budgets doesn't seem to be aware of that.
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« Reply #25 on: September 22, 2009, 06:46:34 AM »

A Pragmatist, Gates Reshapes Policy He Backed Recommend

PETER BAKER and THOM SHANKER
Published: September 21, 2009

WASHINGTON — On his tenth day on the job, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed off on an ambitious if politically charged plan to build a new missile shield in Europe. Just two weeks later, he supported an even more wrenching decision to send additional American troops to Iraq, into a war that was not going well.

That was nearly three years, one president and a political lifetime ago. Now serving Barack Obama instead of George W. Bush, Mr. Gates just recommended jettisoning his own missile defense program in favor of a reformulated version and once again is wrestling with whether to send more troops abroad, in this case to Afghanistan.

Quiet and unassuming, Mr. Gates has emerged as the man in the middle between policies of the past he once championed and the revisions and reversals he is now carrying out. His stature and credibility have allowed him to extract concessions on the inside, including on missile defense, according to senior officials, while serving as a formidable shield against Republican spears on the outside.

Along the way, Mr. Gates has become a White House favorite, for both his pragmatic style and his political value. With little national security experience of his own, Mr. Obama has leaned heavily on the holdover Pentagon chief for advice, aides said. And as a result, Mr. Gates has played a central role in reshaping national security policy, including fixing a broken Pentagon procurement system and recalibrating the size of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

“The president values what Secretary Gates says — and not just values, he knows what he brings to the table is 30 years of experience in Democratic and Republican administrations,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “He understands that none of these decisions are between good and bad but between bad and worse.”

The looming decision on Afghanistan could put Mr. Gates’s experience to the test as never before. With both Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now on record as saying more combat troops would be required for victory, Mr. Gates must balance his commanders’ desires and his president’s stated skepticism.

Mr. Gates has made the transition from the Bush years to the Obama administration with insider skills honed over decades of working for presidents of both parties. He reached out from the start to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to encourage more civilian roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and teamed up with Mr. Emanuel to kill the F-22 fighter program.

Just as he was in the Bush cabinet, he has at times been caught between high-powered hawk and dove figures. When Mr. Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan this year, Mr. Gates maneuvered between Mrs. Clinton, who strongly favored the reinforcement, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who resisted it. And he has been a voice of caution on issues like Mr. Obama’s desire to eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons.

For Republicans, Mr. Gates poses a quandary in assessing Mr. Obama’s national security decisions: do they look at him as a turncoat for dismantling some of Mr. Bush’s policies or as the best hope for moderating changes brought by a Democratic administration?

“He’s got a president who’s pushing in a different direction than the previous president and he’s got to deal with that,” said Peter H. Wehner, a White House strategic adviser to Mr. Bush. “For us in the Bush administration, he’s got a lot of money in the bank because of Iraq and the surge.”

Mr. Wehner recalled a conversation over the weekend with fellow conservatives about the missile defense decision. “Nobody said anything nasty or vicious about him,” he said. “There was genuine puzzlement.”

Mr. Gates’s shifting role can be summed up in terms familiar to the defense secretary, an avid film buff who routinely brings piles of DVDs on long trips and cites favorite movies in conversation to make a point.

In his new memoir, Matt Latimer, a Pentagon speechwriter under Mr. Gates’s predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, compares Mr. Gates to the Harvey Keitel character in “Pulp Fiction” — the one who shows up after the grisly killing to wipe away all traces of blood.

Now that Mr. Gates has evolved from the clean-up guy to one of the most powerful members of the Obama cabinet, senior officials at the Pentagon have come up with their own nickname for him: “The Godfather.”

The missile defense decision demonstrated both the awkwardness and potency of Mr. Gates’s position. The Obama team arrived in office skeptical of the plan Mr. Gates had signed off on in December 2006 to build a system in Eastern Europe to counter potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A new intelligence estimate on global ballistic missile threats in May concluded that Iran was making less progress than expected on such long-range missiles, but rapidly building short- and medium-range missiles that would not be stopped by the Bush program. Mr. Gates accepted that the threat had probably shifted, officials said, and that changing technology meant that the United States could counter shorter-range missiles more effectively with an expanded ship-based SM-3 system.

But officials debated whether to also continue the Bush program. Mr. Gates wanted to keep going in case Iran made a breakthrough in longer-range missiles; other officials wanted a clean break from the old system. In the end, at Mr. Gates’s insistence, the government will continue to finance research and development on interceptors that were at the heart of the Bush plan while deploying the new system.

“Secretary Gates played a pivotal role,” said James L. Jones, the national security adviser. “It was a rich and robust discussion. If there was a dramatic moment, it was when Secretary Gates affirmatively and without hesitation said this is a better solution.”

On Afghanistan, Mr. Gates has repeatedly declared his concern that more troops would make Americans look increasingly like occupiers. But he has recently softened that opposition, citing General McChrystal’s argument that an occupation is defined less by numbers than by how troops carry out their mission.

Whatever the president decides in the coming weeks, it will fall again to Mr. Gates to sell it — to the armed forces, to Congress and to the public. “We need to understand that the decisions that the president faces on Afghanistan are some of the most important he may face in his presidency,” he said at the Pentagon last week. “Frankly from my standpoint, everybody ought to take a deep breath.”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #26 on: September 22, 2009, 08:41:14 AM »

Hope I'm not overloading here this morning:

Beggar thy neighbor, bankrupt thy country, appease thy foe. As slogans (or counter-slogans) go, it isn't quite in a class with Amnesty, Acid and Abortion. But it pretty much sums up President Obama's global agenda—and that's just for the month of September.

In 1943, Walter Lippmann observed that the disarmament movement had been "tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament." That ought to have been the final word on the subject.

So what should Mr. Obama, who this week becomes the first American president to chair a session of the U.N. Security Council, choose to make the centerpiece of the Council's agenda? What else but nonproliferation and disarmament. And lest anyone suspect that this has something to do with North Korea and Iran, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice insists otherwise: The meeting, she says, "will focus on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries."


 .But the problem with this euphemistic approach to disarmament, as Lippmann noticed, is that it shifts the onus from the countries that can't be trusted with nuclear weapons to those that can. Is Nicolas Sarkozy, with his force de frappe, about to start World War III? Probably not, though he has the means to do so. Should Mr. Obama join hands with Iran and the Arab world in pushing for Israel's nuclear disarmament, on the view that if only the Jewish state would set the right example its enemies would no longer want to wipe it off the map? If that's what the president believes, he should say so publicly, especially since he's offering the same general prescription for America's nuclear deterrent.

Of course what the administration wants is to set the right mood music for its upcoming talks with Iran. Mr. Obama would be better served having a chat with Moammar Gadhafi, who will be seated just a few chairs away at the Security Council: The mood music for his disarmament was set by the 4th Infantry Division when it yanked Saddam Hussein from his spider hole in December 2003. Col. Gadhafi gave up his WMD a week later.

Then again, it's not as if the administration doesn't know how to play hardball when it has a real villain in its sights. Like Chinese tire makers, for instance, who last week were slapped with a 35% tariff because Mr. Obama owed political favors to his friends in Big Labor. Quite something for a president who last year sounded off on the dangers of "trade policy [being] dictated by special interests."

In an op-ed in this newspaper, Brookings Institution economist Chad Bown noted that "the count of newly imposed protectionist policies like antidumping duties and other 'safeguard' measures increased by 31% in the first half of 2009 relative to the same period one year ago."

That's a global trend, and the sort of thing a group like the G-20, which meets Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh, is supposed to set its teeth against. Instead, the agenda will be given over to such brainstorms as capping bankers' bonuses—"a critical part of our broader reform agenda," according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Now there's a way to attract the best and the brightest to the world's dullest profession.

The G-20 also has no plans to put the brakes on further infusions of stimulus spending, the removal of which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says would be an "error of historical proportions." But what's really historical is the explosion in the debt-to-GDP ratios of the G-20 countries, which the IMF predicts will rise to 81.6% next year from 65.9% in 2008. For the U.S. the jump is especially pronounced—to 97.5% next year from 70.5% last. Only Japan and Italy will be deeper in the red; even Argentina looks good by comparison. This is before the first baby boomer hits retirement age next summer, to say nothing of the liabilities coming from ObamaCare.

What happens to countries with these kinds of fiscal burdens? They decline. In 1983, Japan's gross government debt stood at 67% of GDP. It has since tripled. West Germany's was a little under 40%. It is twice that today. These used to be the economies of the future. They are, or ought to be, the cautionary tales of the present.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is earning kudos from the Russian government for his decision to pull missile defense from central Europe, even as Poland marked the 70th anniversary of its invasion by the Soviet Union. Moscow is still offering no concessions on sanctioning Iran in the event negotiations fail, but might graciously agree to an arms-control deal that cements its four-to-one advantages in tactical nuclear weapons.

Also on the presidential agenda this week is a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Too bad for all concerned that the two-state solution has been superseded by the three-state fact on the ground.

And all of this in a single month. Just imagine what October will bring.
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ccp
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« Reply #27 on: September 22, 2009, 10:31:26 AM »

Crafty,
Did you see Larwence Eagleberger on one of the  cable talk shows (CNN?) recently calling OBama's foreing policies "amateur hour"?

I could not believe I was hearing a Dem saying that.  He was pointing out how Obama ahs marginalized Hillary and more or less simply blows her off.

So he may have a bit of an ax to grind (being an ex Clintonite) who is not making his/her fame and fortune with the present leftist regime ala the rest of the liberal polictical mercenaries.

Yet it may also be a *true* reflection of reality and not the spin coming from the other Dems, MSM.  It may also be a kind of a leak as to what many Dems are thinking and saying privately but just not publically.

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ccp
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« Reply #28 on: September 22, 2009, 11:04:26 AM »

I guess it was Greta's show.  I see Obama has been critical of the One for quite some time going back to the campaign as  a search pulls up past criticisms on the World's Savior:

http://radioviceonline.com/eagleburger-on-obama-foreign-policy-amateur-hour/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #29 on: September 22, 2009, 01:45:47 PM »

Eagleburger said that?  Wow.


=========

Taking the liberty of moving CCP's post here:

This could go under different threads but it seems reasonable here because it does illustrate the disconnect between Israeli
Jews view of OBama and (most though not all - Jakcie Mason, Horowitz, Levin, Bernie Goldberg, me, Crafty) American Jews (best evidenced by Hollywood and NYT):

***Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it's not just that they're saying no, it's also the way they're saying no.

US President Barack Obama
Photo: AP

SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region  |  World The Saudis twice said no to his request for normalization gestures towards Israel (at Barack Obama's meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and in Washington at meetings with Hillary Clinton). Who says no to the American president twice? What must they think of Obama in the desert kingdom?

The North Koreans said no to repeated attempts at talks, by test-launching long-range missiles in April; Russia and China keep on saying no to tougher sanctions on Iran; the Iranians keep saying no to offers of talks by saying they're willing to talk about everything except a halt to uranium enrichment; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying no by refusing to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction; the Israelis said no by refusing to agree to a settlement freeze, or even a settlement moratorium until and unless the Arabs ante up their normalization gestures. Which brings us back to the original Saudi no.

The only thing Obama did manage to get Bibi and Abbas to say yes to is a photo-op at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NY. Mazel tov.

RELATED
Editorial: Wobbling Washington
So why is everyone saying no to Obama?

It's the economy, stupid.

Everyone has worked it out by now: The great secret is out. America's economy has made Obama a weak president, and he will likely remain weak throughout his first term. He has about two years to pull the American economy out of its free-fall before he begins his reelection campaign. If he can do it, and that's a big if, chances are good that he'll get reelected, and in his second term he can try to pull some geopolitical strings. But for the next three years, expect to see a world that says no to Obama. No meaningful and dramatic diplomatic initiative can come out of the White House in the next three years, as long as Obama remains weak.

And that's a real pity, because there are some serious and imminent issues that need to be addressed.

Pyongyang is getting more bellicose and not being punished. The North Koreans have violated every single international agreement and norm, and nothing tangible has happened to them.

In Iran, this registers. "Look at how bad they're being," the mullahs say, "and they're getting away with it." Even so, the Iranian government is weak internally and internationally following its election fiasco.

The US and EU could tighten sanctions against Iran without the support of Russia and China, but they would need political will for that. Sanctions, such as a ban on refined oil imports, barring Iranian flights to America and Europe etc., could have a serious impact on Iran and weaken the regime further. The US and EU can act now against Iran like the US and UK did against Libya several years ago when they persuaded Gaddafi to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Back then, though, the US was much stronger. Now, the American economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea have all weakened the US.

In retaliation for increased, unilateral sanctions, Iran could turn up the heat on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will stymie Obama's plan to win and withdraw. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has the US president by the kishkes, in a manner of speaking. And so do the Taliban.

So, when a president with so many problems comes asking for a favor, everyone finds it easier to just say no.****

For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs
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DougMacG
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« Reply #30 on: September 22, 2009, 03:36:23 PM »

Point of clarification and I hope this doesn't take away from the importance or credibility of his criticism, but Lawrence Eagleburger served under Republican Presidents RR and GHWB.  - Doug
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« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2009, 05:25:54 PM »

Whoops!  I misremembered him as a Clintonite  embarassed
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« Reply #32 on: September 26, 2009, 11:13:16 AM »

Obama creates a deadly power vacuum
By Spengler

There's a joke about a man who tells a psychiatrist, "Everybody hates me," to which the psychiatrist responds, "That's ridiculous - everyone doesn't know you, yet." Which brings me to Barack Obama: one of the best-informed people in the American security establishment told me the other day that the president is a "Manchurian Candidate".

That can't be true - Manchuria isn't in the business of brainwashing prospective presidential candidates any more. There's no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself. The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider.

Obama doesn't want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America's enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi'ite majority.

America also sought Iran's help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama's imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington's turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi'ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama's face.

Iran already has made clear that casting America's enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America's enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America's terms. Iran's verbal war with the American president over the violent suppression of election-fraud protests leaves Washington with no policy at all. The premise of Obama's policy was that progress on the Palestinian issue would empower a Sunni coalition. As the president said May 18:
If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians - between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.
Israel's supporters remonstrated in vain. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Obama supporter, wrote, "If there is to be any linkage - and I do not believe there should be - it goes the other way: it will be much easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran does not have a nuclear umbrella under which it can continue to encourage Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli civilians."

No matter: America made clear that it had annulled the George W Bush administration's promise that a final settlement would allow most of Israel's 500,000 "settlers" to keep their homes, in order to launch the fantasy ship of Iranian cooperation with America.

That policy now is in ruins, and Washington has no plan B. David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, told television interviewers on January 28 that Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who spent the last week denouncing the United States, "Did not have final say" over Iran's foreign policy and that America still wanted to negotiate with Iran. This sounds idiotic, but the White House really has painted itself into a corner. The trouble is that Obama has promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq, and Iran has sufficient influence in Shi'ite-majority Iraq to cause continuous upheaval, perhaps even to eventually win control of the country.

By a fateful coincidence, American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq's urban centers on June 30. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein left Iraq open to Iranian destabilization; that is why the elder George Bush left the Iraqi dictator in power in 1990.

Offering Iran a seat at the table in exchange for setting a limit to its foreign ambitions - in Lebanon and Gaza as well as Iraq - seemed to make sense on paper. But the entity that calls itself revolutionary Islam is not made of paper, but of flesh and blood. It is in danger of internal collapse and can only assert its authority by expanding its influence as aggressively as it can.

After the election disaster, Iran's revolutionary leadership urgently needs to demonstrate its credibility. Israel now can say, "A country that murders its own citizens will have no compunction about massacring its enemies," and attack Iran's nuclear capacity with fewer consequences than would have been imaginable in May. And if an Israeli strike were to succeed, or appear successful to the world, the resulting humiliation might be fatal to the regime.

Israel may not be Tehran's worst nightmare. Iraq's Sunnis are testing the resolve of the weakened mullahs. The suicide bombing that killed 73 people at a Shi'ite mosque in Kirkuk on June 20 and a second bombing that killed another 72 Shi'ites in Baghdad's Sadr City slum most likely reflect Sunni perceptions that a weakened Tehran will provide less support for Iraqi Shi'ites. Although Shi'ites comprise more than three-fifths of Iraq's population, Sunnis provided the entire military leadership and are better organized on the ground. America's hopes of enlisting Iran to provide cover for its withdrawal from the cities of Iraq seem delusional.

What move on the chessboard might Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei venture to pre-empt an Israeli air raid against the nuclear facilities? Iran has the rocket launchers of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and terrorist sleeper cells throughout the world. Iran might seek to pre-empt what it anticipates to be the next move from Israel by demonstrating its capacity to inflict injury on Israel or on Jewish targets elsewhere. That would require careful judgment, for a heavy handed action could provide a pretext for even more serious action by the Israelis and others. The same sort of consideration applies to Iranian support for Pakistan Shi'ites, for Hezbollah, and other vehicles of Iran's program of imperial expansion.

The Obama administration has put itself in a peculiar bind. It has demanded that the Pakistani army suppress the Taliban, after Islamabad attempted a power-sharing agreement that left the Taliban in control of the Swat Valley. To root out the largely Pashtun Taliban, Pakistan's largely Punjabi army has driven a million people into refugee camps and leveled entire towns in the Swat Valley. Tens of thousands of refugees are now fleeing the Pakistani army in the South Waziristan tribal area. Punjabis killing Pashtuns is nothing new in the region, but the ferocity of the present effort does not augur well for an early end to the conflict.

While the Pakistan army holds nothing back in attacking the Taliban, American troops in Afghanistan have been told that they no longer can call in air strikes if civilians are likely to suffer. That will put American forces in the unfortunate position of the Pirates of Penzance, who exempted orphans. Once this became generally known, everyone they attempted to rob turned out to be an orphan.

The Taliban need only take a page from Hamas' book, and ensure that civilians are present wherever they operate. The US has made clear that it will not deal in civilian blood, the currency of warfare in that region since before the dawn of history. It will not be taken seriously in consequence.

What will the administration do now? As all its initiatives splatter against the hard realities of the region, it will probably do less and less, turning the less appetizing aspects of the fighting over to local allies and auxiliaries who do not share its squeamishness about shedding civilian blood. That is the most dangerous outcome of all, for America is the main stabilizing force in the region.

The prospect of civil wars raging simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq is no longer improbable. The Israel-Palestine issue is linked to all of these through Iran, whose credibility depends on its ability to sustain such puppies of war as Hezbollah and Hamas. Whether or not the Israelis take the opportunity to strike Iran, the prospect of an Israeli strike will weigh on Iran's proxies in the region, and keep Israel's borders in condition of potential violence for the interim.

America's great good fortune is that no hostile superpower stands ready to benefit from its paralysis and confusion. When Soviet troops landed in Afghanistan in December 1979, America was in the grip of an economic crisis comparable to the present depression. American diplomats at the Tehran Embassy were still hostages to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The price of gold doubled from around $400 to $800 after the Russian invasion because most of the world thought that Russia would win the Cold War. If America lost its dominant superpower status in the West, the dollar no longer could serve as a global reserve currency. To the superpower goes the seigniorage, the state's premium for providing a currency.

By contrast, the gold price barely fluttered all through the present crisis. America remains the undisputed global superpower for the time being. America's creditors express consternation about its $1.8 trillion budget deficit and many trillions more of guarantees for the banking system, but there is nothing they can do about it for the time being but talk. That is how one should interpret a June 25 Reuters report that a "senior researcher with the ruling Communist Party" had urged China to shift some of its $2 trillion in reserves out of dollars and into gold.
Li Lianzhong, who heads the economic department of the Party's policy research office, said China should use more of its $1.95 trillion in foreign exchange reserves to buy energy and natural resource assets. Speaking at a foreign exchange and gold forum, Li also said that buying land in the United States was a better option for China than buying US Treasury securities.

"Should we buy gold or US Treasuries?" Li asked. "The US is printing dollars on a massive scale, and in view of that trend, according to the laws of economics, there is no doubt that the dollar will fall. So gold should be a better choice."
There is no suggestion that Li, even though he is a senior researcher, was enunciating an agreed party line.

The last thing China wants at the moment is to undercut the US dollar, for three reasons. First, as America's largest creditor, China has the most to lose from a dollar collapse. Second, Americans would buy fewer Chinese imports. And third, the collapse of the dollar would further erode America's will to fulfill its superpower function, and that is what China wants least of all.

America remains the indispensable outsider in Asia. No one likes the United States, but everyone dislikes the United States less than they dislike their neighbors. India need not worry about China's role in Pakistan, for example, because America mediates Indian-Pakistani relations, and America has no interest in a radical change to the status quo. Neither does China, for that matter, but India is less sure of that. China does not trust Japan for historical reasons that will not quickly fade, but need not worry about it because America is the guarantor of Japan's security. The Seventh Fleet is the most disliked - and nonetheless the most welcome - entity in Asia.

All of this may change drastically, quickly, and for the worse. Obama's policy reduces to empowering America's enemies in the hope that they will conform to American interests out of gratitude. Just the opposite result is likely to ensure: Iran, Pakistan and other regional powers are likely to take radical measures. Iran is threatened with a collapse of its Shi'ite program from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and Pakistan is threatened with a breakup into three or more states.

Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely to create a void in the region by withdrawing American power. The result is likely to be a species of pandemonium that will prompt the leading players in the region to learn to live without the United States.

In his heart of hearts, Obama sees America as a force for evil in the world, apologizing for past American actions that did more good than harm. An example is America's sponsorship of the 1953 coup in Iran that overthrew the left-leaning government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

"In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government," the president offered in his Cairo address to Muslims on June 5. Although Iran's theocracy despises Mossadegh - official Iranian textbooks call him the "son of a feudal family of exploiters who worked for the cursed Shah, and betrayed Islam" - Iran's government continues to reproach America for its role in the coup. "With a coup they toppled the national government of Iran and replaced it with a harsh, unpopular and despotic regime," Ahmadinejad complained in a January 28 speech.

It is s a bit late to offer advice to Obama, but the worst thing America can do is to apologize. Instead, it should ask for the gratitude of the developing world. Weak countries become punching-bags in the proxy wars of empires. This was from the dawn of history until the fall of the last empire - the "evil" empire of Soviet communism.

The Soviets exploited anti-colonial movements from the 1917 Bolshevik coup until the collapse of the Afghanistan adventure in the late 1980s. Nationalists who tried to ride the Russian tiger ended up in its belly more often than on its back. Iran, Chile, Nicaragua, Angola and numerous other weak countries became the hapless battleground for the contest of covert operations between the Soviet Union and America - not to mention Vietnam and Korea.

The use of developing countries as proxy battlefields and their people as cannon fodder came to an end with the Cold War. As a result, the past 20 years have seen the fastest improvement in living standards ever in the global south, and a vast shift in wealth towards so-called developing countries.

By defeating Russia in the Cold War, America made it possible for governments in the global south to pursue their own interests free from the specter of Soviet subversion. And by countering Soviet subversion, America often averted much worse consequences.

Many deficiencies can be ascribed to the Shah of Iran, but a communist regime in the wake of a Mossadegh administration would have been indescribably worse. The septuagenarian Mossadegh had his own agenda, but he relied on the support of the communist Tudeh party. The US feared a Soviet invasion of Iran, and "the [Harry S] Truman administration was willing to consider a Soviet invasion of Iran as a casus belli, or the start of a global war", according to Francis J Gavin's 1999 article in The Journal of Cold War Studies.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with help from British intelligence helped the shah overthrow the left-leaning regime. But this was no minor colonial adventure, but a flashpoint with the potential to start a world war.

It is painful and humiliating for Iranians to recall the overthrow of a democratically elected government with American help. It would have been infinitely more humiliating to live under Soviet rule, like the soon-to-be-extinct victims of Soviet barbarism in Eastern Europe.

The same is true of Chile, where the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, with help from the CIA. Allende was surrounded by Cuban intelligence operations. As Wikipedia reports:
Shortly after the election of Salvador Allende in November 1970, the [Cuban Directorate of Intelligence - DI] worked extremely closely to strengthen Allende's increasingly precarious position. The Cuban DI station chief Luis Fernandez Ona even married Salvador Allende's daughter Beatrice, who later committed suicide in Cuba. The DI organized an international brigade that would organize and coordinate the actions of the thousands of the foreign leftists that had moved into Chile shortly after Allende's election. These individuals ranged from Cuban DI agents, Soviet, Czech and North Korean military instructors and arms suppliers, to hardline Spanish and Portuguese Communist Party members.
My Latin American friends who still mourn the victims of Pinochet's "night and fog" state terror will not like to hear this, but the several thousand people killed or tortured by the military government were collateral damage in the Cold War. Like Iran, Chile became the battleground of a Soviet-American proxy war. The same is true in Nicaragua. (Full disclosure: I advised Nicaragua's president Violeta Chamorro after she defeated the Cuban-backed Sandinistas in the 1990 elections; I did so with no tie to any government agency.)

Obama's continuing obsession with America's supposed misdeeds - deplorable but necessary actions in time of war - is consistent with his determination to erode America's influence in the most troubled parts of the world. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. We are entering a very, very dangerous period as a result.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman, Associate Editor of First Things (www.firstthings.com)
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« Reply #33 on: September 28, 2009, 06:04:16 PM »

Obama's Move: Iran and Afghanistan



September 28, 2009
by George Friedman



During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, now-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that like all U.S. presidents, Barack Obama would face a foreign policy test early in his presidency if elected. That test is now here.

His test comprises two apparently distinct challenges, one in Afghanistan and one in Iran. While different problems, they have three elements in common. First, they involve the question of his administration’s overarching strategy in the Islamic world. Second, the problems are approaching decision points (and making no decision represents a decision here). And third, they are playing out very differently than Obama expected during the 2008 campaign.



During the campaign, Obama portrayed the Iraq war as a massive mistake diverting the United States from Afghanistan, the true center of the “war on terror.” He accordingly promised to shift the focus away from Iraq and back to Afghanistan. Obama’s views on Iran were more amorphous. He supported the doctrine that Iran should not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons, while at the same time asserted that engaging Iran was both possible and desirable. Embedded in the famous argument over whether offering talks without preconditions was appropriate (something now-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked him for during the Democratic primary) was the idea that the problem with Iran stemmed from Washington’s refusal to engage in talks with Tehran.



We are never impressed with campaign positions, or with the failure of the victorious candidate to live up to them. That’s the way American politics work. But in this case, these promises have created a dual crisis that Obama must make decisions about now.

Iran



Back in April, in the midst of the financial crisis, Obama reached an agreement at the G-8 meeting that the Iranians would have until Sept. 24 and the G-20 meeting to engage in meaningful talks with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (P-5+1) or face intensely increased sanctions. His administration was quite new at the time, so the amount of thought behind this remains unclear. On one level, the financial crisis was so intense and September so far away that Obama and his team probably saw this as a means to delay a secondary matter while more important fires were flaring up.



But there was more operating than that. Obama intended to try to bridge the gap between the Islamic world and the United States between April and September. In his speech to the Islamic world from Cairo, he planned to show a desire not only to find common ground, but also to acknowledge shortcomings in U.S. policy in the region. With the appointment of special envoys George Mitchell (for Israel and the Palestinian territories) and Richard Holbrooke (for Pakistan and Afghanistan), Obama sought to build on his opening to the Islamic world with intense diplomatic activity designed to reshape regional relationships.



It can be argued that the Islamic masses responded positively to Obama’s opening — it has been asserted to be so and we will accept this — but the diplomatic mission did not solve the core problem. Mitchell could not get the Israelis to move on the settlement issue, and while Holbrooke appears to have made some headway on increasing Pakistan’s aggressiveness toward the Taliban, no fundamental shift has occurred in the Afghan war.



Most important, no major shift has occurred in Iran’s attitude toward the United States and the P-5+1 negotiating group. In spite of Obama’s Persian New Year address to Iran, the Iranians did not change their attitude toward the United States. The unrest following Iran’s contested June presidential election actually hardened the Iranian position. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remained president with the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while the so-called moderates seemed powerless to influence their position. Perceptions that the West supported the demonstrations have strengthened Ahmadinejad’s hand further, allowing him to paint his critics as pro-Western and himself as an Iranian nationalist.



But with September drawing to a close, talks have still not begun. Instead, they will begin Oct. 1. And last week, the Iranians chose to announce that not only will they continue work on their nuclear program (which they claim is not for military purposes), they have a second, hardened uranium enrichment facility near Qom. After that announcement, Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy held a press conference saying they have known about the tunnel for several months, and warned of stern consequences.



This, of course, raises the question of what consequences. Obama has three choices in this regard.



First, he can impose crippling sanctions against Iran. But that is possible only if the Russians cooperate. Moscow has the rolling stock and reserves to supply all of Iran’s fuel needs if it so chooses, and Beijing can also remedy any Iranian fuel shortages. Both Russia and China have said they don’t want sanctions; without them on board, sanctions are meaningless.

Second, Obama can take military action against Iran, something easier politically and diplomatically for the United States to do itself rather than rely on Israel. By itself, Israel cannot achieve air superiority, suppress air defenses, attack the necessary number of sites and attempt to neutralize Iranian mine-laying and anti-ship capability all along the Persian Gulf. Moreover, if Israel struck on its own and Iran responded by mining the Strait of Hormuz, the United States would be drawn into at least a naval war with Iran — and probably would have to complete the Israeli airstrikes, too.



And third, Obama could choose to do nothing (or engage in sanctions that would be the equivalent of doing nothing). Washington could see future Iranian nuclear weapons as an acceptable risk. But the Israelis don’t, meaning they would likely trigger the second scenario. It is possible that the United States could try to compel Israel not to strike — though it’s not clear whether Israel would comply — something that would leave Obama publicly accepting Iran’s nuclear program.



And this, of course, would jeopardize Obama’s credibility. It is possible for the French or Germans to waffle on this issue; no one is looking to them for leadership. But for Obama simply to acquiesce to Iranian nuclear weapons, especially at this point, would have significant diplomatic and domestic political ramifications. Simply put, Obama would look weak — and that, of course, is why the Iranians announced the second nuclear site. They read Obama as weak, and they want to demonstrate their own resolve. That way, if the Russians were thinking of cooperating with the United States on sanctions, Moscow would be seen as backing the weak player against the strong one. The third option, doing nothing, therefore actually represents a significant action.

Afghanistan



In a way, the same issue is at stake in Afghanistan. Having labeled Afghanistan as critical — indeed, having campaigned on the platform that the Bush administration was fighting the wrong war — it would be difficult for Obama to back down in Afghanistan. At the same time, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has reported that without a new strategy and a substantial increase in troop numbers, failure in Afghanistan is likely.



The number of troops being discussed, 30,000-40,000, would bring total U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to just above the number of troops the Soviet Union deployed there in its war (just under 120,000) — a war that ended in failure. The new strategy being advocated would be one in which the focus would not be on the defeat of the Taliban by force of arms, but the creation of havens for the Afghan people and protecting those havens from the Taliban.



A move to the defensive when time is on your side is not an unreasonable strategy. But it is not clear that time is on Western forces’ side. Increased offensives are not weakening the Taliban. But halting attacks and assuming that the Taliban will oblige the West by moving to the offensive, thereby opening itself to air and artillery strikes, probably is not going to happen. And while assuming that the country will effectively rise against the Taliban out of the protected zones the United States has created is interesting, it does not strike us as likely. The Taliban is fighting the long war because it has nowhere else to go. Its ability to maintain military and political cohesion following the 2001 invasion has been remarkable. And betting that the Pakistanis will be effective enough to break the Taliban’s supply lines is hardly the most prudent bet.



In short, Obama’s commander on the ground has told him the current Afghan strategy is failing. He has said that unless that strategy changes, more troops won’t help, and that a change of strategy will require substantially more troops. But when we look at the proposed strategy and the force levels, it is far from obvious that even that level of commitment will stand a chance of achieving meaningful results quickly enough before the forces of Washington’s NATO allies begin to withdraw and U.S. domestic resolve erodes further.



Obama has three choices in Afghanistan. He can continue to current strategy and force level, hoping to prolong failure long enough for some undefined force to intervene. He can follow McChrystal’s advice and bet on the new strategy. Or he can withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Once again, doing nothing — the first option — is doing something quite significant.

The Two Challenges Come Together



The two crises intermingle in this way: Every president is tested in foreign policy, sometimes by design and sometimes by circumstance. Frequently, this happens at the beginning of his term as a result of some problem left by his predecessor, a strategy adopted in the campaign or a deliberate action by an antagonist. How this happens isn’t important. What is important is that Obama’s test is here. Obama at least publicly approached the presidency as if many of the problems the United States faced were due to misunderstandings about or the thoughtlessness of the United States. Whether this was correct is less important than that it left Obama appearing eager to accommodate his adversaries rather than confront them.



No one has a clear idea of Obama’s threshold for action.



In Afghanistan, the Taliban takes the view that the British and Russians left, and that the Americans will leave, too. We strongly doubt that the force level proposed by McChrystal will be enough to change their minds. Moreover, U.S. forces are limited, with many still engaged in Iraq. In any case, it isn’t clear what force level would suffice to force the Taliban to negotiate or capitulate — and we strongly doubt that there is a level practical to contemplate.



In Iran, Ahmadinejad clearly perceives that challenging Obama is low-risk and high reward. If he can finally demonstrate that the United States is unwilling to take military action regardless of provocations, his own domestic situation improves dramatically, his relationship with the Russians deepens, and most important, his regional influence — and menace — surges. If Obama accepts Iranian nukes without serious sanctions or military actions, the American position in the Islamic world will decline dramatically. The Arab states in the region rely on the United States to protect them from Iran, so U.S. acquiescence in the face of Iranian nuclear weapons would reshape U.S. relations in the region far more than a hundred Cairo speeches.



There are four permutations Obama might choose in response to the dual crisis. He could attack Iran and increase forces in Afghanistan, but he might well wind up stuck in a long-term war in Afghanistan. He could avoid that long-term war by withdrawing from Afghanistan and also ignore Iran’s program, but that would leave many regimes reliant on the United States for defense against Iran in the lurch. He could increase forces in Afghanistan and ignore Iran — probably yielding the worst of all possible outcomes, namely, a long-term Afghan war and an Iran with a nuclear program if not nuclear weapons.



On pure logic, history or politics aside, the best course is to strike Iran and withdraw from Afghanistan. That would demonstrate will in the face of a significant challenge while perhaps reshaping Iran and certainly avoiding a drawn-out war in Afghanistan. Of course, it is easy for those who lack power and responsibility — and the need to govern — to provide logical choices. But the forces closing in on Obama are substantial, and there are many competing considerations in play.



Presidents eventually arrive at the point where something must be done, and where doing nothing is very much doing something. At this point, decisions can no longer be postponed, and each choice involves significant risk. Obama has reached that point, and significantly, in his case, he faces a double choice. And any decision he makes will reverberate.
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« Reply #34 on: September 28, 2009, 06:43:17 PM »

Israel will burn, Afghanistan will fail as Obama fiddles.

He's busy trying to get the Olympics for Chicago.
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« Reply #35 on: September 29, 2009, 09:25:00 PM »

http://formerspook.blogspot.com/2009/09/todays-reading-assignment_26.html

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Today's Reading Assignment

...courtesy of Ralph Peters, in the New York Post. In his latest column, Colonel Peters (essentially) asks the same questions we posed yesterday: how long did President Obama know about that Iranian nuclear nuclear facility before he publicly acknowledged its existence? And why keep it a secret, particularly if you're trying to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear program?

The answer, according to Peters, can be found in the President's lack of military experience; his unswerving faith in diplomacy and humiliation over a situation that is spinning out of control:

Obama didn't want you to know how much progress Iran had made. It's an embarrassment.

And it raises the pressure on the White House to act -- something this president's squirming to avoid. But the Iranians have now realized we know, so they tipped it themselves.

Obama had no choice but to come clean.

Yesterday, he interrupted the G-20 summit to go public -- before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did. Flanked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's dead man walking, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, our president offered more uselessly vague rhetoric in response to proof of a major "covert Iranian enrichment facility" and its implications.

So what happens next? Peters predicts a coming apocalypse, caused (in part) by Mr. Obama's refusal to act. We've said the same thing, predicting that the commander-in-chief will face a foreign policy reckoning in the coming months, a catastrophic event that will make last year's market crash seem tame by comparison. Here's how Ralph Peters sees events playing out:

Obama will try more talks. We may see half-hearted sanctions -- which will be violated right and left. Russia, which profits hugely from dirty trade with Iran, can slip goods across the Caspian Sea or through Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

And maritime sanctions are meaningless, unless our president is willing to order our Navy to fire on Chinese-flagged or Venezuelan-flagged merchant vessels.

Think that's going to happen?

How will it end? With desperate Israeli attacks that do only part of the job, followed by Iranian counterstrikes on Persian Gulf oil facilities, the closure of the Straits of Hormuz and oil above $400 a barrel.

Only the United States can stop Iran's nuclear program before it's too late. And this president won't.
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« Reply #36 on: September 30, 2009, 08:42:34 AM »

Twilight of Pax Americana
Since the end of WWII, the world has depended on the United States for stability. But with American military and economic dominance waning, capitalism and global security are threatened.

The international order that emerged after World War II has rightly been termed the Pax Americana; it's a Washington-led arrangement that has maintained political stability and promoted an open global economic system. Today, however, the Pax Americana is withering, thanks to what the National Intelligence Council in a recent report described as a "global shift in relative wealth and economic power without precedent in modern history" -- a shift that has accelerated enormously as a result of the economic crisis of 2007-2009.

At the heart of this geopolitical sea change is China's robust economic growth. Not because Beijing will necessarily threaten American interests but because a newly powerful China by necessity means a relative decline in American power, the very foundation of the postwar international order. These developments remind us that changes in the global balance of power can be sudden and discontinuous rather than gradual and evolutionary.

The Great Recession isn't the cause of Washington's ebbing relative power. But it has quickened trends that already had been eating away at the edifice of U.S. economic supremacy. Looking ahead, the health of the U.S. economy is threatened by a gathering fiscal storm: exploding federal deficits that could ignite runaway inflation and undermine the dollar. To avoid these perils, the U.S. will face wrenching choices.

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have adopted policies that have dramatically increased both the supply of dollars circulating in the U.S. economy and the federal budget deficit, which both the Brookings Institution and the Congressional Budget Office estimate will exceed $1 trillion every year for at least the next decade. In the short run, these policies were no doubt necessary; nevertheless, in the long term, they will almost certainly boomerang. Add that to the persistent U.S. current account deficit, the enormous unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs and the cost of two ongoing wars, and you can see that America's long-term fiscal stability is in jeopardy. As the CBO says: "Even if the recovery occurs as projected and stimulus bill is allowed to expire, the country will face the highest debt/GDP ratio in 50 years and an increasingly unsustainable and urgent fiscal problem." This spells trouble ahead for the dollar.

The financial privileges conferred on the U.S. by the dollar's unchallenged reserve currency status -- its role as the primary form of payment for international trade and financial transactions -- have underpinned the preeminent geopolitical role of the United States in international politics since the end of World War II. But already the shadow of the coming fiscal crisis has prompted its main creditors, China and Japan, to worry that in coming years the dollar will depreciate in value. China has been increasingly vocal in calling for the dollar's replacement by a new reserve currency. And Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's new prime minister, favors Asian economic integration and a single Asian currency as substitutes for eroding U.S. financial and economic power.

Going forward, to defend the dollar, Washington will need to control inflation through some combination of budget cuts, tax increases and interest rate hikes. Given that the last two options would choke off renewed growth, the least unpalatable choice is to reduce federal spending. This will mean radically scaling back defense expenditures, because discretionary nondefense spending accounts for only about 20% of annual federal outlays. This in turn will mean a radical diminution of America's overseas military commitments, transforming both geopolitics and the international economy.

Since 1945, the Pax Americana has made international economic interdependence and globalization possible. Whereas all states benefit absolutely in an open international economy, some states benefit more than others. In the normal course of world politics, the relative distribution of power, not the pursuit of absolute economic gains, is a country's principal concern, and this discourages economic interdependence. In their efforts to ensure a distribution of power in their favor and at the expense of their actual or potential rivals, states pursue autarkic policies -- those designed to maximize national self-sufficiency -- practicing capitalism only within their borders or among countries in a trading bloc.

Thus a truly global economy is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. Historically, the only way to secure international integration and interdependence has been for a dominant power to guarantee the security of other states so that they need not pursue autarkic policies or form trading blocs to improve their relative positions. This suspension of international politics through hegemony has been the fundamental aim of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s. The U.S. has assumed the responsibility for maintaining geopolitical stability in Europe, East Asia and the Persian Gulf, and for keeping open the lines of communication through which world trade moves. Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. has sought to preserve its hegemony by possessing a margin of military superiority so vast that it can keep any would-be great power pliant and protected.

Financially, the U.S. has been responsible for managing the global economy by acting as the market and lender of last resort. But as President Obama acknowledged at the London G-20 meeting in April, the U.S. is no longer able to play this role, and the world increasingly is looking to China (and India and other emerging market states) to be the locomotives of global recovery.


Going forward, the fiscal crisis will mean that Washington cannot discharge its military functions as a hegemon either, because it can no longer maintain the power edge that has allowed it to keep the ambitions of the emerging great powers in check. The entire fabric of world order that the United States established after 1945 -- the Pax Americana -- rested on the foundation of U.S. military and economic preponderance. Remove the foundation and the structure crumbles. The decline of American power means the end of U.S. dominance in world politics and the beginning of the transition to a new constellation of world powers.

The result will be profound changes in world politics. Emerging powers will seek to establish spheres of influence, control lines of communication, engage in arms races and compete for control over key natural resources. As America's decline results in the retraction of the U.S. military role in key regions, rivalries among emerging powers are bound to heat up. Already, China and India are competing for influence in Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Even today, when the United States is still acting as East Asia's regional pacifier, the smoldering security competition between China and Japan is pushing Japan cautiously to engage in the very kind of "re-nationalization" of its security policy that the U.S. regional presence is supposed to prevent. While still wedded to its alliance with the U.S., in recent years Tokyo has become increasingly anxious that, as a Rand Corp. study put it, eventually it "might face a threat against which the United States would not prove a reliable ally." Consequently, Japan is moving toward dropping Article 9 of its American-imposed Constitution (which imposes severe constraints on Japan's military), building up its forces and quietly pondering the possibility of becoming a nuclear power.

Although the weakening of the Pax Americana will not cause international trade and capital flows to come to a grinding halt, in coming years we can expect states to adopt openly competitive economic policies as they are forced to jockey for power and advantage in an increasingly competitive security and economic environment. The world economy will thereby more closely resemble that of the 1930s than the free-trade system of the post-1945 Pax Americana. The coming end of the Pax Americana heralds a crisis for capitalism.

The coming era of de-globalization will be defined by rising nationalism and mercantilism, geopolitical instability and great power competition. In other words, having enjoyed a long holiday from history under the Pax Americana, international politics will be headed back to the future.

Christopher Layne is a professor of government at Texas A&M and a consultant to the National Intelligence Council. Benjamin Schwarz is literary and national editor of the Atlantic.
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« Reply #37 on: October 02, 2009, 08:11:56 AM »

Obama's Moment of Reckoning

EVERY AMERICAN PRESIDENT, early in his term, discovers that vision and reality rarely meet. Some — Ronald Reagan comes to mind — are able to recover. Others — Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush, for example — do not. But the world is the way it is for a reason. States do not have as much room to maneuver in their policymaking as election campaign rhetoric would suggest. U.S. President Barack Obama’s mistake to date has been very similar to that made by every president before him: namely, basing his foreign policy on the assumption that he, unlike his predecessors, will be able to talk to “those people” in a way that solves problems — that if things are just handled in a different way, a different president can achieve a different end.

That particular bundle of optimism pretty much shorted out this week. American diplomats will be in Geneva on Thursday for talks with their counterparts from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China and Iran. The topic: how to force the Iranians to come clean about their nuclear program. From what we’ve been able to gather from intelligence efforts, Iran is challenging the very agenda of the meeting. Russia is indicating that it doesn’t care a whit about Iran, but is willing to exert pressure if the Americans will grant concessions in the former Soviet Union, specifically Ukraine and Georgia. The Chinese are livid at Obama for his decision to implement tire tariffs and are not appearing particularly helpful either. Germany isn’t even sending an Iran expert to the talks, and is distracted by internal politics anyway.

“It is too early to pass judgment on Obama’s first year in office, but things are getting dicey.”
Nor is Iran the only issue that has forced its way onto Obama’s agenda. Afghanistan is a war that is going nowhere, and even with a massive increase of forces, it is unlikely that anything more than a stalemate will be feasible. Many empires have disappeared into the maw that is Afghanistan. The Greeks left. The Huns left. The Mongols left. The British left. The Soviets left. The Taliban is pretty sure the Americans will leave too. Obama’s campaign promise to fight the “right war” of course makes for some interesting public relations acrobatics, whatever direction policy — or the war — should take. But the problem remains that this war has gone from bad to worse — and to worse still — since Obama took office.

Things could be better at home, too. On Tuesday, the White House lost two major votes on health care, the issue that has crowded out nearly everything else on the domestic agenda — and this despite the tire tariffs, which were pushed through explicitly to guarantee the loyalty of some domestic groups. Making a sacrifice of China — and thereby complicating the Iran issue — has not generated a victory, but instead a loss.

It is too early to pass judgment on Obama’s first year in office, but things are getting dicey. Obama is now facing two crises in the Islamic world — Afghanistan and Iran — and by all indications he doesn’t have a clear strategy on either. His advisers are good enough, and he is smart enough, to realize that simply continuing in the same direction on either issue will not be a recipe for success. Iran, Russia and the Taliban already view him as weak. Doubling down in Afghanistan in order to confront the Taliban would rob the United States of its ability to act elsewhere. Going to war with Iran would (at a minimum) remove 3 million barrels per day of crude from the market and reverse the nascent economic recovery — not to mention reigniting conflict in Iraq. Shifting the country’s military orientation to re-contain Russia would leave Iraq and Afghanistan in the hands of potentially (if not already outright) hostile forces. Not a nice menu from which to select.

Obama’s moment is shaping up to arrive very soon. It well might be Thursday.

But it is not all bad news. Iran’s foreign minister on Wednesday flew from U.N. meetings in New York City to Washington, to visit the Iranian interests section at the Pakistani Embassy. Because Iran and the United States do not have direct ties, they operate via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. And given that lack of direct ties, any such visit requires a special visa with a high-level clearance. Someone like Manouchehr Mottaki does not simply visit Washington without approval. It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t come — and that the White House didn’t allow him to come — to go sightseeing. And if Mottaki simply wanted to mock Obama, he could have done that from the United Nations building in New York. He came to talk directly to the Americans before the public talks in Geneva on Thursday.

We see really only one clean way out of Obama’s dilemma: a deal with Iran. Should the Iranians and the Americans find a way to live with each other, then a great many other issues would fall into place. The Russians would lose their lever in the Middle East. The Americans could smoothly (for the Middle East) withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. American and Iranian intelligence and training in cooperation could limit any Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.

Such a “happy” ending naturally faces some touchy obstacles. Israel would retain the ability to scrap any rapprochement, and would have strong incentives to do so if Iran’s nuclear program was not clearly and publicly defanged. Russia might have a thing or two to say (and do) to scuttle any warming in U.S.-Iran relations. And then there is that issue of a lack of trust between Tehran and Washington on just about everything.

But Mottaki visited Washington. And he did so with the full knowledge and permission of the White House. That’s a fact that cannot be ignored, and one that just might shine a light for an increasingly beleaguered president.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #38 on: October 05, 2009, 07:20:09 AM »

Nice article title by Pravda on the Hudson  rolleyes

Voice of Bush’s Pentagon Becomes Harder to Hear Recommend
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: October 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was called upon by President Obama “several times” during the big Afghanistan strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will be back for two more meetings this week.

David H. PetraeusBut the general’s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obama’s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.

No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington’s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.

The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration’s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him “Dave the Dull,” and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.

The general’s aides requested anonymity to talk more candidly about his relationship with the White House.

“General Petraeus has not hinted to anyone that he is interested in political life, and in fact has said on many occasions that he’s not,” said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and professor of military history at Ohio State University who was the executive officer to General Petraeus when he was the top American commander in Iraq.

“It is other people who are looking at his popularity and saying that he would be a good presidential candidate, and I think rightly that makes the administration a little suspicious of him.”

General Petraeus’s advisers say he has stepped back in part because Mr. Obama has handpicked his own public face for the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who last week gave an interview to CBS’s “60 Minutes,” met with Mr. Obama on Air Force One and used a speech in London to reject calls for scaling back the war effort.

If anything, General McChrystal’s public comments may prove that General Petraeus might be prudent to take a back seat during the debate. On Sunday, when CNN’s John King asked Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, if it was appropriate for a man in uniform to appear to campaign so openly for more troops, General Jones replied, “Ideally, it’s better for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

How much General Petraeus’s muted voice will affect Mr. Obama’s decision on the war is unclear, but people close to him say that stifling himself in public could give him greater credibility to influence the debate from within. Others say that his biggest influence may simply be as part of a team of military advisers, including General McChrystal and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The men are united in what they see as the need to build up the American effort in Afghanistan, although General Petraeus, who works closely with General McChrystal, said last week that he had not yet endorsed General McChrystal’s request for more troops.

Together the three are likely to be aligned against Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as other administration officials who want to scale back the effort. In that situation, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has worried about a big American presence in Afghanistan but left the door open to more troops, could be the most influential vote.

What is clear is that General Petraeus’s relationship with Mr. Obama is nothing like his bond with Mr. Bush, who went mountain biking with the general in Washington last fall, or with Mr. Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain of Arizona, whose aides briefly floated the general’s name last year as a possible running mate.

By then the general had been talked about as a potential presidential candidate himself, which still worries some political aides at the White House.

But not Mr. Obama, at least according to one of his top advisers. “The president’s not thinking that way, and the vice president’s not thinking that way,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “The president values his insights in helping to turn around an eight-year-old war that has been neglected.”

General Petraeus’s advisers say that to preserve a sense of military impartiality, he has not voted since at least 2003, and that he is not sure if he is still registered in New Hampshire, where he and his wife own property. The general has been described as a Republican, including in a lengthy profile in The New Yorker magazine last year. But a senior military official close to him said last week that he could not confirm the general’s political party.

In the meantime, General Petraeus travels frequently from his home in Tampa to Washington, where he met last week with the Afghan foreign minister. He also had dinner with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general also makes calls on Capitol Hill.

“He understands the Congress better than any military commander I’ve ever met,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who said that General Petraeus had the nationwide influence to serve as a spokesman for the administration’s policy on the Afghan war.

But until the president makes a decision, and determines if he wants to deploy General Petraeus to help sell it, the commander is keeping his head down. “He knows how to make his way through minefields like this,” said Jack Keane, the former vice chief of staff of the Army.

Peter Baker contributed reporting
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Freki
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« Reply #39 on: October 05, 2009, 09:10:27 AM »

Hi,

I thought this PJTV Video: "  Game Theory and a Losing Strategy: Obama's Bad Judgment With The Prisoner's Dilemma" was interesting and hope you do too.

http://www.pjtv.com/v/2523
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G M
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« Reply #40 on: October 06, 2009, 12:14:02 AM »

Dictionary: kow·tow   (kou-tou', kou'tou')
 

1.To kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in expression of deep respect, worship, or submission, as formerly done in China.
2.To show servile deference. See synonims at fawn1.
n.
1.The act of kneeling and touching the forehead to the ground.
2.An obsequious act.
[From Chinese (Mandarin) kòu tóu, a kowtow : kòu, to knock + tóu, head.]
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6262938/Barack-Obama-cancels-meeting-with-Dalai-Lama-to-keep-China-happy.html


Barack Obama cancels meeting with Dalai Lama 'to keep China happy'
President Barack Obama has refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington this week in a move to curry favour with the Chinese.
 
By Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 6:20PM BST 05 Oct 2009

 
President Barack Obama has delayed a meeting with the Dalai Lama Photo: REUTERS The decision came after China stepped up a campaign urging nations to shun the Tibetan spiritual leader.

It means Mr Obama will become the first president not to welcome the Nobel peace prize winner to the White House since the Dalai Lama began visiting Washington in 1991.

The fog of war The Buddhist monk arrived in Washington on Monday for a week of meetings with Congressional leaders, celebrity supporters and interest groups, but the president will not see him until after he has made his first visit to China next month.

Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, has accused the United States and other Western nations of "appeasement" toward China as its economic weight grows.

"Today, economic interests are much greater than other interests," he said.

Mr Obama's decision dismayed human rights and Tibetan support groups, who said he had made an unnecessary concession to the Chinese, who regard the Dalai Lama as a "splittist", despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet. The Chinese invaded in 1950, forcing the young leader to flee.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocate for Human Rights Watch, said: "Presidents always meets the Dalai Lama and what happens? Absolutely nothing.

"This idea that if you are nice to the Chinese Communist Party up front you can cash in later is just wrong. If you lower the bar on human rights they will just move it lower and lower."

Over several months of discussions the Tibetans resisted entreaties to delay the meeting, arguing that a refusal would make smaller countries more vulnerable to pressure from China not to meet the Dalai Lama.

But they were told by US officials they wanted to work with China on critical issues, including nuclear weapons proliferation in North Korea and Iran, according to The Washington Post. Mr Obama then sent a delegation to the Dalai Lama's home in exile in India last month that confirmed the meeting would be deferred.

Mr Obama has changed his position on Tibet since his election campaign.

In April 2008, he was joined by Hillary Clinton, then his rival for the Democratic nomination and now his Secretary of State, in calling on George W Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in protest at the bloody repression of a popular uprising in Tibet.

"If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the President should boycott the opening ceremonies," they said.

Mrs Clinton has been at the forefront of a new approach, called "strategic reassurance", which seeks a more amicable partnership with the emerging power.

On her first trip to China in February she said public pressure on China over human rights was ill-advised as she "knew what the Chinese were going to say".

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Washington-based special envoy to the Dalai Lama, issued a brief statement, saying: "We came to this arrangement because we believe that it is in our long-term interests."

A White House official said the administration and the Tibetans had "agreed the timing would be best after the visit".

"Both sides attach importance to a strong US-China relationship," the official said. "There are benefits in that to our goals for Tibet, as we have been working to resume discussions between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representatives.”

The Tibetan leader's ten meetings with US presidents have played an important role in maintaining his international profile, even though they have never been filmed or followed by a press conference.

The exception was 2007, when George W Bush conferred the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian award, on the Dalai Lama in front of the cameras.

Frank Wolf, a Republican congressman and outspoken critic of China's human rights record, said: "What would a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun in Drapchi prison think when he heard that President Obama, the president of the United States, is not going to meet with the Dalai Lama?

"It's against the law to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States."

Ms Richardson said treating human rights as separate from other issues guaranteed failure "across the board".

"If there is no explicit agreement to stop locking up environmental activists and whistle blowers then any environmental agreement will be weakened.

"If the press in China is muzzled it won't investigate industrial safety and you will have more toxic toys coming to the United States," she said.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #41 on: October 22, 2009, 10:32:07 AM »

I found this speaker/author to be well-informed.  - Doug

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/10/22/concerns_about_americas_foreign_policy_drift.html

Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country's word.

So among my other concerns about the drift of events under the present administration, I consider the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe to be a strategic blunder and a breach of good faith.

It is certainly not a model of diplomacy when the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic are informed of such a decision at the last minute in midnight phone calls. It took a long time and lot of political courage in those countries to arrange for our interceptor system in Poland and the radar system in the Czech Republic. Our Polish and Czech friends are entitled to wonder how strategic plans and promises years in the making could be dissolved, just like that - with apparently little, if any, consultation. Seventy years to the day after the Soviets invaded Poland, it was an odd way to mark the occasion.

You hardly have to go back to 1939 to understand why these countries desire - and thought they had - a close and trusting relationship with the United States. Only last year, the Russian Army moved into Georgia, under the orders of a man who regards the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. Anybody who has spent much time in that part of the world knows what Vladimir Putin is up to. And those who try placating him, by conceding ground and accommodating his wishes, will get nothing in return but more trouble.

What did the Obama Administration get from Russia for its abandonment of Poland and the Czech Republic, and for its famous "Reset" button? Another deeply flawed election and continued Russian opposition to sanctioning Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In the short of it, President Obama's cancellation of America's agreements with the Polish and Czech governments was a serious blow to the hopes and aspirations of millions of Europeans. For twenty years, these peoples have done nothing but strive to move closer to us, and to gain the opportunities and security that America offered. These are faithful friends and NATO allies, and they deserve better. The impact of making two NATO allies walk the plank won't be felt only in Europe. Our friends throughout the world are watching and wondering whether America will abandon them as well.

Big events turn on the credibility of the United States - doing what we said we would do, and always defending our fundamental security interests. In that category belong the ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need to counter the nuclear ambitions of the current regime in Iran.

Candidate Obama declared last year that he would be willing to sit down with Iran's leader without preconditions. As President, he has committed America to an Iran strategy that seems to treat engagement as an objective rather than a tactic. Time and time again, he has outstretched his hand to the Islamic Republic's authoritarian leaders, and all the while Iran has continued to provide lethal support to extremists and terrorists who are killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic continues to provide support to extremists in Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, the regime continues to spin centrifuges and test missiles. And these are just the activities we know about.

I have long been skeptical of engagement with the current regime in Tehran, but even Iran experts who previously advocated for engagement have changed their tune since the rigged elections this past June and the brutal suppression of Iran's democratic protestors. The administration clearly missed an opportunity to stand with Iran's democrats, whose popular protests represent the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979. Instead, the President has been largely silent about the violent crackdown on Iran's protestors, and has moved blindly forward to engage Iran's authoritarian regime. Unless the Islamic Republic fears real consequences from the United States and the international community, it is hard to see how diplomacy will work.

Next door in Iraq, it is vitally important that President Obama, in his rush to withdraw troops, not undermine the progress we've made in recent years. Prime Minister Maliki met yesterday with President Obama, who began his press availability with an extended comment about Afghanistan. When he finally got around to talking about Iraq, he told the media that he reiterated to Maliki his intention to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. Former President Bush's bold decision to change strategy in Iraq and surge U.S. forces there set the stage for success in that country. Iraq has the potential to be a strong, democratic ally in the war on terrorism, and an example of economic and democratic reform in the heart of the Middle East. The Obama Administration has an obligation to protect this young democracy and build on the strategic success we have achieved in Iraq.

We should all be concerned as well with the direction of policy on Afghanistan. For quite a while, the cause of our military in that country went pretty much unquestioned, even on the left. The effort was routinely praised by way of contrast to Iraq, which many wrote off as a failure until the surge proved them wrong. Now suddenly - and despite our success in Iraq - we're hearing a drumbeat of defeatism over Afghanistan. These criticisms carry the same air of hopelessness, they offer the same short-sighted arguments for walking away, and they should be summarily rejected for the same reasons of national security.

Having announced his Afghanistan strategy last March, President Obama now seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission.

President Obama has said he understands the stakes for America. When he announced his new strategy he couched the need to succeed in the starkest possible terms, saying, quote, "If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban - or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged - that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can." End quote.

Five months later, in August of this year, speaking at the VFW, the President made a promise to America's armed forces. "I will give you a clear mission," he said, "defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That's my commitment to you."

It's time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger.

Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries. Waffling, while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy, endangers them and hurts our cause.

Recently, President Obama's advisors have decided that it's easier to blame the Bush Administration than support our troops. This weekend they leveled a charge that cannot go unanswered. The President's chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn't asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.

In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama's team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt. The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them. They made a decision - a good one, I think - and sent a commander into the field to implement it.

Now they seem to be pulling back and blaming others for their failure to implement the strategy they embraced. It's time for President Obama to do what it takes to win a war he has repeatedly and rightly called a war of necessity.

It's worth recalling that we were engaged in Afghanistan in the 1980's, supporting the Mujahadeen against the Soviets. That was a successful policy, but then we pretty much put Afghanistan out of our minds. While no one was watching, what followed was a civil war, the takeover by the Taliban, and the rise of bin Laden and al-Qaeda. All of that set in motion the events of 9/11. When we deployed forces eight years ago this month, it was to make sure Afghanistan would never again be a training ground for the killing of Americans. Saving untold thousands of lives is still the business at hand in this fight. And the success of our mission in Afghanistan is not only essential, it is entirely achievable with enough troops and enough political courage.

Then there's the matter of how to handle the terrorists we capture in this ongoing war. Some of them know things that, if shared, can save a good many innocent lives. When we faced that problem in the days and years after 9/11, we made some basic decisions. We understood that organized terrorism is not just a law-enforcement issue, but a strategic threat to the United States.

At every turn, we understood as well that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. We had a lot of blind spots - and that's an awful thing, especially in wartime. With many thousands of lives potentially in the balance, we didn't think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.

The intelligence professionals who got the answers we needed from terrorists had limited time, limited options, and careful legal guidance. They got the baddest actors we picked up to reveal things they really didn't want to share. In the case of Khalid Sheik Muhammed, by the time it was over he was not was not only talking, he was practically conducting a seminar, complete with chalkboards and charts. It turned out he had a professorial side, and our guys didn't mind at all if classes ran long. At some point, the mastermind of 9/11 became an expansive briefer on the operations and plans of al-Qaeda. It happened in the course of enhanced interrogations. All the evidence, and common sense as well, tells us why he started to talk.

The debate over intelligence gathering in the seven years after 9/11 involves much more than historical accuracy. What we're really debating are the means and resolve to protect this country over the next few years, and long after that. Terrorists and their state sponsors must be held accountable, and America must remain on the offensive against them. We got it right after 9/11. And our government needs to keep getting it right, year after year, president after president, until the danger is finally overcome.

Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after 9/11 was a fading memory. Part of our responsibility, as we saw it, was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America ... and not to let 9/11 become the prelude to something much bigger and far worse.

Eight years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed. So you would think that our successors would be going to the intelligence community saying, "How did you did you do it? What were the keys to preventing another attack over that period of time?"

Instead, they've chosen a different path entirely - giving in to the angry left, slandering people who did a hard job well, and demagoguing an issue more serious than any other they'll face in these four years. No one knows just where that path will lead, but I can promise you this: There will always be plenty of us willing to stand up for the policies and the people that have kept this country safe.

On the political left, it will still be asserted that tough interrogations did no good, because this is an article of faith for them, and actual evidence is unwelcome and disregarded. President Obama himself has ruled these methods out, and when he last addressed the subject he filled the air with vague and useless platitudes. His preferred device is to suggest that we could have gotten the same information by other means. We're invited to think so. But this ignores the hard, inconvenient truth that we did try other means and techniques to elicit information from Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and other al-Qaeda operatives, only turning to enhanced techniques when we failed to produce the actionable intelligence we knew they were withholding. In fact, our intelligence professionals, in urgent circumstances with the highest of stakes, obtained specific information, prevented specific attacks, and saved American lives.

In short, to call enhanced interrogation a program of torture is not only to disregard the program's legal underpinnings and safeguards. Such accusations are a libel against dedicated professionals who acted honorably and well, in our country's name and in our country's cause. What's more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future, in favor of half-measures, is unwise in the extreme. In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.

For all that we've lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings - and least of all can that be said of our armed forces and intelligence personnel. They have done right, they have made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.

Last January 20th, our successors in office were given the highest honors that the voters of this country can give any two citizens. Along with that, George W. Bush and I handed the new president and vice president both a record of success in the war on terror, and the policies to continue that record and ultimately prevail. We had been the decision makers, but those seven years, four months, and nine days without another 9/11 or worse, were a combined achievement: a credit to all who serve in the defense of America, including some of the finest people I've ever met.

What the present administration does with those policies is their call to make, and will become a measure of their own record. But I will tell you straight that I am not encouraged when intelligence officers who acted in the service of this country find themselves hounded with a zeal that should be reserved for America's enemies. And it certainly is not a good sign when the Justice Department is set on a political mission to discredit, disbar, or otherwise persecute the very people who helped protect our nation in the years after 9/11.

There are policy differences, and then there are affronts that have to be answered every time without equivocation, and this is one of them. We cannot protect this country by putting politics over security, and turning the guns on our own guys.

We cannot hope to win a war by talking down our country and those who do its hardest work - the men and women of our military and intelligence services. They are, after all, the true keepers of the flame.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #42 on: October 24, 2009, 05:50:57 AM »


Pravda on the Hudson

Biden Dismisses Cheney’s Criticisms Over Afghanistan Sign in to Recommend
PETER BAKER
Published: October 23, 2009
PRAGUE — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had a blunt response on Friday to the latest broadsides from former Vice President Dick Cheney: “Who cares?”

In the latest exchange between old and new administrations, Mr. Biden rebuffed his predecessor’s criticism about President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan as “absolutely wrong.” And Mr. Biden rejected the last review of the war conducted by the White House under former President George W. Bush and Mr. Cheney as “irrelevant.”

The dismissive reply, which came at the end of Mr. Biden’s three-day swing through Eastern Europe during an interview with reporters traveling with him, underscored the weariness in the current White House with Mr. Cheney’s periodic assaults. At the same time, advisers to Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden consider the former vice president a useful public foil and have not shied away from escalating the debate by taking him on directly.

At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental disagreement on national security, from how to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan to how to protect Americans at home from possible terrorist attacks. In a speech in Washington this week, Mr. Cheney complained that Mr. Obama was “dithering” in deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan and had committed a “strategic blunder” in scrapping the last administration’s missile defense plan in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Biden spent much of this week in Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic assuring leaders in the region that the cancellation of Mr. Bush’s antimissile shield in favor of a more mobile replacement was not a concession to Russia, as Mr. Cheney and others contended. Mr. Biden secured an agreement with the Czech Republic on Friday to participate in the new missile defense system, as he earlier did with Poland.

Asked about Mr. Cheney’s criticism during a half-hour interview at the American ambassador’s residence here, Mr. Biden responded indirectly at first, saying leaders in the region now agree that the Obama plan will be more effective. “They believe that the new architecture is better,” the vice president said.

But as he warmed to the discussion, he became sharper in his rebuttals of Mr. Cheney. “I think that is absolutely wrong,” he said of the “dithering” charge. “I think what the administration is doing is exactly what we said it would do. And what I think it warrants doing. And that is making an informed judgment based upon circumstances that have changed.”

Mr. Biden shrugged off Mr. Cheney’s point that the old administration had left behind a review of Afghanistan.

“Who cares what — ” he said, and then stopped himself to find another way to put it. (“I can see the headline now,” said the famously free-wheeling vice president. “I’m getting better, guys.”)

But he went on to dismiss the Bush-Cheney review as inadequate. “That’s why the president asked me to get in the plane in January and go to Afghanistan,” Mr. Biden said. “I came back with a different review.”

Moreover, he said, the Bush-Cheney review is now dated. “A whole lot has changed in the last year,” Mr. Biden said. “Let’s assume they left us a review that was absolutely correct. Is that review relevant and totally applicable to today in light of the changes that have taken place in the region, in Afghanistan itself? So I think that is sort of irrelevant. Not sort of — I think it’s irrelevant.”

The interview was the first time Mr. Biden had publicly talked about Afghanistan in the weeks since the president began intensively rethinking his strategy and considering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for about 40,000 more troops. Mr. Biden has been a forceful skeptic of General McChrystal’s request and an advocate for keeping troop levels roughly the same while focusing attention on hunting down Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Mr. Biden said that Mr. Obama had lived up to a pre-election pledge to take his vice president’s views seriously and added that he would not be upset if the president rejected them at the end of the Afghanistan policy review. “He has sought my opinion not generically but in detail,” Mr. Biden said. “And if he reaches a different conclusion than I do, that’s O.K. He’s the president.”

The vice president acknowledged that at every stop on his trip through Eastern Europe he ran into uncertainty from allies about whether America was going to stay the course in Afghanistan. “What they wanted to know was, ‘Are you leaving?’ ” he said, adding that they were satisfied with his reassurances that America was not withdrawing.

Mr. Biden wrapped up his trip on Friday with meetings with Czech leaders. Jan Fischer, the prime minister, said his country would participate in the new antimissile shield. “I used the opportunity to express our readiness as a NATO member to participate because the new architecture is going to be NATO based and the Czech Republic is ready to participate,” Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Biden said a high-level defense team would visit Prague next month to discuss how to structure that participation. While Poland agreed to host SM-3 interceptors, the Czech Republic might help with research and development or by hosting a command and control center. Yet the Czech commitment remains uncertain since Mr. Fischer is a caretaker prime minister until elections next spring.

Still, securing Polish and Czech involvement in the new system may go a long way toward reassuring the region of America’s commitment to its security. Both Poland and the Czech Republic were supposed to host parts of the Bush system and the Obama administration did not inform them of his decision until just before the announcement. As news of his decision was leaking last month, Mr. Obama scrambled to reach Mr. Fischer by telephone after midnight to tell him first.

Mr. Biden acknowledged that the announcement was not handled well. “Could it have been done better?” he asked. “Yeah. Obviously it could have been done better.” He added, “That’s the reason for the trip.”

He said Eastern European leaders were reassured. “There is an understandable reason for the anxiety here. You’ve got a new administration.” But he added, “Missile architecture was more sort of a metaphor for ‘Are we committed?’ ”
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #43 on: October 28, 2009, 08:52:19 AM »

George Friedman and Peter Zeihan | Tuesday, 27 October 2009
tags : Biden, Iran, Obama, Russia, StratforRussia, Iran and the Biden speech
The Obama Administration's aggressive diplomacy in Eastern Europe could sink its hopes for a peaceful resolution of its conflict with Iran.
This article was first published on the Stratfor website. George Friedman, is chairman and CEO of Stratfor. Peter Zeihan is a Stratfor analyst.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region.

While the Obama administration strongly denied that the decision to halt the BMD deployment and opt for a different BMD system had anything to do with the Russians, the timing raised some questions. Formal talks with Iran on nuclear weapons were a few weeks away, and the only leverage the United States had in those talks aside from war was sanctions. The core of any effective sanctions against Iran would be placing limits on Iran's gasoline imports. By dint of proximity to Iran and massive spare refining capability, the Russians were essential to this effort -- and they were indicating that they wouldn't participate. Coincidence or not, the decision to pull BMD from Poland and the Czech Republic did give the Russians something they had been demanding at a time when they clearly needed to be brought on board.

The Biden Challenge

That's what made Biden's trip interesting. First, just a few weeks after the reversal, he revisited these countries. He reasserted American commitment to their security and promised the delivery of other weapons such as Patriot missile batteries, an impressive piece of hardware that really does enhance regional security (unlike BMD, which would grant only an indirect boost). Then, Biden went even further in Romania, not only extending his guarantees to the rest of Central Europe, but also challenging the Russians directly. He said that the United States regarded spheres of influence as 19th century thinking, thereby driving home that Washington is not prepared to accept Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Most important, he called on the former satellites of the Soviet Union to assist republics in the FSU that are not part of the Russian Federation to overthrow authoritarian systems and preserve their independence.

This was a carefully written and vetted speech: It was not Biden going off on a tangent, but rather an expression of Obama administration policy. And it taps into the prime Russian fear, namely, that the West will eat away at Russia's western periphery -- and at Russia itself -- with color revolutions that result in the installation of pro-Western governments, just as happened in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004-2005. The United States essentially now has pledged itself to do just that, and has asked the rest of Central Europe to join it in creating and strengthening pro-Western governments in the FSU. After doing something Russia wanted the United States to do, Washington now has turned around and announced a policy that directly challenges Russia, and which in some ways represents Russia's worst-case scenario.
What happened between the decision to pull BMD and Biden's Romania speech remains unclear, but there are three possibilities. The first possibility is that the Obama administration decided to shift policy on Russia in disappointment over Moscow's lack of response to the BMD overture. The second possibility is that the Obama administration didn't consider the effects of the BMD reversal. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the one had nothing to do with the other, and it is possible that the Obama administration simply failed to anticipate the firestorm the course reversal would kick off in Central Europe and to anticipate that it would be seen as a conciliatory gesture to the Russians, and then had to scramble to calm the waters and reassert the basic American position on Russia, perhaps more harshly than before. The third possibility, a variation on the second scenario, is that the administration might not yet have a coordinated policy on Russia. Instead, it responds to whatever the most recent pressure happens to be, giving the appearance of lurching policy shifts.

The why of Washington decision-making is always interesting, but the fact of what has now happened is more pertinent. And that is that Washington now has challenged Moscow on the latter's core issues. However things got to that point, they are now there -- and the Russian issue now fully intersects with the Iranian issue. On a deeper level, Russia once again is shaping up to be a major challenge to U.S. national interests. Russia fears (accurately) that a leading goal of American foreign policy is to prevent the return of Russia as a major power. At present, however, the Americans lack the free hand needed to halt Russia's return to prominence as a result of commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Kremlin inner circle understands this divergence between goal and capacity all too well, and has been working to keep the Americans as busy as possible elsewhere.

Distracting Washington While Shoring Up Security

The core of this effort is Russian support for Iran. Moscow has long collaborated with Tehran on Iran's nuclear power generation efforts. Conventional Russian weapon systems are quite popular with the Iranian military. And Iran often makes use of Russian international diplomatic cover, especially at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia wields the all-important veto.

Russian support confounds Washington's ability to counter more direct Iranian action, whether that Iranian action be in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration would prefer to avoid war with Iran, and instead build an international coalition against Iran to force it to back down on any number of issues of which a potential nuclear weapons program is only the most public and obvious. But building that coalition is impossible with a Russia-sized hole right in the center of the system.

The end result is that the Americans have been occupied with the Islamic world for some time now, something that secretly delights the Russians. The Iranian distraction policy has worked fiendishly well: It has allowed the Russians to reshape their own neighborhood in ways that simply would not be possible if the Americans had more diplomatic and military freedom of action. At the beginning of 2009, the Russians saw three potential challenges to their long-term security that they sought to mitigate. As of this writing, they have not only succeeded, they have managed partially to co-opt all three threats.

First, there is Ukraine, which is tightly integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland. A strong Ukrainian-Russian partnership (if not outright control of Ukraine by Russia) is required to maintain even a sliver of Russian security. Five years ago, Western forces managed to short-circuit a Kremlin effort to firm up Russian control of the Ukrainian political system, resulting in the Orange Revolution that saw pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko take office. After five years of serious Russian diplomatic and intelligence work, Moscow has since managed not just to discredit Yushchenko -- he is now less popular in most opinion polls than the margin of error -- but to command the informal loyalty of every other candidate for president in the upcoming January 2010 election. Very soon, Ukraine's Western moment will formally be over.

Russia is also sewing up the Caucasus. The only country that could challenge Russia's southern flank is Turkey, and until now, the best Russian hedge against Turkish power has been an independent (although certainly still a Russian client) Armenia. (Turkish-Armenian relations have been frozen in the post-Cold War era over the contentious issue of the Armenian genocide.) A few months ago, Russia offered the Turks the opportunity to improve relations with Armenia. The Turks are emerging from 90 years of near-comatose international relations, and they jumped at the chance to strengthen their position in the Caucasus. But in the process, Turkey's relationship with its heretofore regional ally, Azerbaijan (Armenia's archfoe), has soured. Terrified that they are about to lose their regional sponsor, the Azerbaijanis have turned to the Russians to counterbalance Armenia, while the Russians still pull all Armenia's strings. The end result is that Turkey's position in the Caucasus is now far weaker than it was a few months ago, and Russia still retains the ability to easily sabotage any Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Even on the North European Plain, Russia has made great strides. The main power on that plain is the recently reunified Germany. Historically, Germany and Russia have been at each other's throats, but only when they have shared a direct border. When an independent Poland separates them, they have a number of opportunities for partnership, and 2009 has seen such opportunities seized. The Russians initially faced a challenge regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel is from the former East Germany, giving her personal reasons to see the Russians as occupiers. Cracking this nut was never going to be easy for Moscow, yet it succeeded. During the 2009 financial crisis, when Russian firms were snapping like twigs, the Russian government still provided bailout money and merger financing to troubled German companies, with a rescue plan for Opel even helping Merkel clinch re-election. With the Kremlin now offering to midwife -- and in many cases directly subsidize -- investment efforts in Russia by German firms such as E.On, Wintershall, Siemens, Volkswagen and ThyssenKrupp, the Kremlin has quite literally purchased German goodwill.

Washington Seeks a Game Changer

With Russia making great strides in Eurasia while simultaneously sabotaging U.S. efforts in the Middle East, the Americans desperately need to change the game. Despite its fiery tone, this desperation was on full display in Biden's speech. Flat-out challenging the Central Europeans to help other FSU countries recreate the revolutions they launched when they broke with the Soviet empire in 1989, specifically calling for such efforts in Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia, is as bald-faced a challenge as the Americans are currently capable of delivering. And to ensure there was no confusion on the point, Biden also promised -- publicly -- whatever support the Central Europeans might ask for. The Americans have a serious need for the Russians to be on the defensive. Washington wants to force the Russians to focus on their own neighborhood, ideally forgetting about the Iranians in the process. Better yet, Washington would like to force the Russians into a long slog of defensive actions to protect their clients hard up on their own border. The Russians did not repair the damage of the Orange Revolution overnight, so imagine how much time Washington would have if all of the former Soviet satellites started stirring up trouble across Russia's western and southern periphery.

The Central Europeans do not require a great deal of motivation. If the Americans are concerned about a resurgent Russia, then the Central Europeans are absolutely terrified -- and that was before the Russians started courting Germany, the only regional state that could stand up to Russia by itself. Things are even worse for the Central Europeans than they seem, as much of their history has consisted of vainly attempting to outmaneuver Germany and Russia's alternating periods of war and partnership.

The question of why the United States is pushing this hard at the present time remains. Talks with the Iranians are under way; it is difficult to gauge how they are going. The conventional wisdom holds that the Iranians are simply playing for time before allowing the talks to sink. This would mean the Iranians don't feel terribly pressured by the threat of sanctions and don't take threats of attack very seriously. At least with regard to the sanctions, the Russians have everything to do with Iran's blase attitude. The American decision to threaten Russia might simply have been a last-ditch attempt to force Tehran's hand now that conciliation seems to have failed. It isn't likely to work, because for the time being Russia has the upper hand in the former Soviet Union, and the Americans and their allies -- motivated as they may be -- do not have the best cards to play.

The other explanation might be that the White House wanted to let Iran know that the Americans don't need Russia to deal with Iran. The threats to Russia might infuriate it, but the Kremlin is unlikely to feel much in the form of clear and present dangers. On the other hand, blasting the Russians the way Biden did might force the Iranians to reconsider their hand. After all, if the Americans are no longer thinking of the Russians as part of the solution, this indicates that the Americans are about to give up on diplomacy and sanctions. And that means the United States must choose between accepting an Iranian bomb or employing the military option.

And this leaves the international system with two outcomes. First, by publicly ending attempts to secure Russian help, Biden might be trying to get the Iranians to take American threats seriously. And second, by directly challenging the Russians on their home turf, the United States will be making the borderlands between Western Europe and Russia a very exciting place.
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« Reply #44 on: November 15, 2009, 04:17:44 PM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2009/11/15/video-46-handshakes-one-bow/

Smart power!
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #45 on: December 16, 2009, 11:52:03 PM »

This could have gone on the Nuclear War thread too , , ,

China and the Brewing Iranian Crisis
PRESSURE CONTINUED TO BUILD in the showdown over Iran’s nuclear program, with the end-of-the-year deadline approaching for international negotiations to yield concrete results or have Iran face U.S.-led sanctions (or possibly military strikes). Attempting to underscore the urgency of the matter for Israel, head of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin claimed Tuesday that Tehran has gathered enough materials in the past year to build a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, conflicting reports have emerged in the past two days about a planned face-to-face meeting of the P-5+1 group of major negotiators — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany. The meeting was allegedly to be held on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Dec. 18 or in Brussels on Dec. 22, but has been replaced with a conference call scheduled for the latter date. Interestingly, all reports agree that the change of plans came at the behest of Chinese diplomats, who have thus far played a neutral role in the negotiations. It is unclear whether the Chinese adjusted the meeting for genuine scheduling reasons or to avoid U.S. demands to adopt sanctions against Iran. With the deadline weeks away and Iranian defiance already fully demonstrated, perhaps Beijing felt it would be doing everyone a favor by deemphasizing a meeting doomed to produce no results.

“China’s interests require that it not incur the wrath of superior outside forces.”
Regardless, the uncertainty raises the subject of China’s involvement in the brewing Iranian crisis. China’s core interests lie in maintaining regime stability and internal security, primarily through a steadily growing economy that keeps its massive population fed and employed. In foreign policy, this interest means promoting international trade that benefits the export-driven Chinese economy, while taking trade-conducive, non-confrontational stances on controversies and developing a wide range of diplomatic partners.

More importantly, China’s interests require that it not incur the wrath of superior outside forces — for instance, the United States — that could deal crushing blows to the economy, whether through trade barriers against Chinese exports or naval power that could threaten critical supply lines of energy and raw materials.

Given these core interests, Beijing’s stance on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and South Asia makes sense. Beijing is content with the current configuration of U.S. forces in the region, as the wars and subsequent surges in Iraq and Afghanistan keep the United States tied down and constrained. Though ultimately the U.S. Navy, not land forces, poses the chief threat against China, the two wars nevertheless ensure that Washington continues the status quo with China rather than create unnecessary distractions for itself. This enables China to focus on managing its growing economy and allaying internal socio-political tensions without the United States breathing down its neck.

The Iranian crisis, however, poses a far less predictable threat than the Afghan surge. Beijing has repeatedly stated that it prefers diplomatic solutions and rejects sanctions and war. The Chinese have maintained this standard line throughout the latter part of 2009 when it became clear that a crisis — including a higher potential for U.S. and Israeli military strikes against Iran — was just around the corner. At the same time, Beijing participated in the latest round of negotiations (initiated by the Obama administration). Beijing has urged Iran to cooperate, and has endorsed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s resolution against Iran’s defiance of nuclear transparency.

In other words, the Chinese are playing it both ways. On one hand, they do not want war — or sanctions stringent enough to trigger war — that would further destabilize the inherently unstable Middle East. This is especially true of the Persian Gulf, the source of most of China’s crude oil. The commerce-threatening nature of any Iranian war would put pressure on China’s energy-hungry economy during an exceedingly inauspicious economic period.

On the other hand, the Chinese are not particularly fond of nuclear proliferation that would also destabilize the region, so they nudge Iran to negotiate. If the United States were to strike a deal with Russia bringing Moscow into a gasoline sanctions regime against Iran, then China would not make itself conspicuous (or anger the United States) by resisting. At present, however, the United States has not met Russia’s demands, and Russia has refused to join in sanctions. Therefore, China cannot be blamed for dashing Washington’s efforts. Beijing can claim there is no international consensus and continue to call for further dialogue.

The Chinese position is to gauge which way the wind is blowing and only then set off in that direction. It will not go out on a limb for Iran, nor will it do so for Israel or the United States. China is watching and waiting — a tactic it shares with Iran, the United States and Russia. The Israelis alone find the situation increasingly unbearable — and yet the Israelis have a guarantee from the United States to do something about Iran. There can be no doubt that a crisis is building.
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captainccs
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« Reply #46 on: January 05, 2010, 10:56:25 AM »

America is losing the free world
By Gideon Rachman
Published: January 5 2010 02:00 | Last updated: January 5 2010 02:00

Ever since 1945, the US has regarded itself as the leader of the "free world". But the Obama administration is facing an unexpected and unwelcome development in global politics. Four of the biggest and most strategically important democracies in the developing world - Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey - are increasingly at odds with American foreign policy. Rather than siding with the US on the big international issues, they are just as likely to line up with authoritarian powers such as China and Iran.

The US has been slow to pick up on this development, perhaps because it seems so surprising and unnatural. Most Americans assume that fellow democracies will share their values and opinions on international affairs. During the last presidential election campaign, John McCain, the Republican candidate, called for the formation of a global alliance of democracies to push back against authoritarian powers. Some of President Barack Obama's senior advisers have also written enthusiastically about an international league of democracies.

But the assumption that the world's democracies will naturally stick together is proving unfounded. The latest example came during the Copenhagen climate summit. On the last day of the talks, the Americans tried to fix up one-to-one meetings between Mr Obama and the leaders of South Africa, Brazil and India - but failed each time. The Indians even said that their prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had already left for the airport.

So Mr Obama must have felt something of a chump when he arrived for a last-minute meeting with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, only to find him already deep in negotiations with the leaders of none other than Brazil, South Africa and India. Symbolically, the leaders had to squeeze up to make space for the American president around the table.

There was more than symbolism at work. In Copenhagen, Brazil, South Africa and India decided that their status as developing nations was more important than their status as democracies. Like the Chinese, they argued that it is fundamentally unjust to cap the greenhouse gas emissions of poor countries at a lower level than the emissions of the US or the European Union; all the more so since the industrialised west is responsible for the great bulk of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

Revealingly, both Brazilian and Chinese leaders have made the same pointed joke - likening the US to a rich man who, after gorging himself at a banquet, then invites the neighbours in for coffee and asks them to split the bill.

If climate change were an isolated example, it might be dismissed as an important but anomalous issue that is almost designed to split countries along rich-poor lines. But, in fact, if you look at Brazil, South Africa, India and Turkey - the four most important democracies in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the greater Middle East - it is clear that none of them can be counted as a reliable ally of the US, or of a broader "community of democracies".

In the past year, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil has cut a lucrative oil deal with China, spoken warmly of Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, and congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad on his "victory" in the Iranian presidential election, while welcoming him on a state visit to Brazil.

During a two-year stint on the United Nations Security Council from 2006, the South Africans routinely joined China and Russia in blocking resolutions on human rights and protecting authoritarian regimes such as Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and Iran.

Turkey, once regarded as a crucial American ally in the cold war and then trumpeted as the only example of a secular, pro-western, Muslim democracy, is also no longer a reliable partner for the west. Ever since the US-led invasion of Iraq, opinion polls there have shown very high levels of anti-Americanism. The mildly Islamist AKP government has engaged with America's regional enemies - including Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran - and alarmed the Americans by taking an increasingly hostile attitude to Israel.

India's leaders do seem to cherish the idea that they have a "special relationship" with the US. But even the Indians regularly line up against the Americans on a range of international issues, from climate change to the Doha round of trade negotiations and the pursuit of sanctions against Iran or Burma.

So what is going on? The answer is that Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and India are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced - or even trumped - by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich, western world. All four countries have ruling parties that see themselves as champions of social justice at home and a more equitable global order overseas. Brazil's Workers' party, India's Congress party, Turkey's AKP and South Africa's African National Congress have all adapted to globalisation - but they all retain traces of the old suspicions of global capitalism and of the US.

Mr Obama is seen as a huge improvement on George W. Bush - but he is still an American president. As emerging global powers and developing nations, Brazil, India, South Africa and Turkey may often feel they have more in common with a rising China than with the democratic US.

gideon.rachman@ft.com


http://www.ft.com/cms/s/cd24b6ac-f999-11de-8085-00144feab49a,dwp_uuid=ebe33f66-57aa-11dc-8c65-0000779fd2ac,print=yes.html

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Denny Schlesinger
G M
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« Reply #47 on: January 05, 2010, 11:03:03 AM »

Why pander to the empty suit president leading the US into decline? China understands power politics and continues to put pieces into play on the global chessboard.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #48 on: January 05, 2010, 11:17:51 AM »

George Friedman of Statfor argues powerfully that geo politics will determine more about a nations alliances than political structures.  I think he overstates his case, but he makes it well.

I just tried laying my hands on his statement of the US's five imperatives but did not succeed.   embarassed
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G M
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« Reply #49 on: January 05, 2010, 11:23:31 AM »

Friedman is a smart guy, but some of his analysis is a not much more than a geopolitical just so story.
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