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Author Topic: US Foreign Policy  (Read 178245 times)
Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #250 on: November 26, 2011, 07:39:54 PM »

THAT is a piece worth reading more than once.
Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #251 on: November 27, 2011, 01:57:56 AM »

Obama Goes Book Shopping, Buys “Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia”

Posted by Jammie on Nov 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Considering the big news today, maybe he’s just trying to stay up to speed on current events.

The president took his daughters, Malia and Sasha, along on a shopping run to a bookstore a few blocks from the White House.
He says he made the visit because it’s “small business Saturday” and he wanted to support a small business.
The retail industry is encouraging shoppers to patronize mom-and-pop businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s a counterpoint to Black Friday and the sales and special deals offered by department stores and other large retailers.
The Obamas walked out with a selection of books including “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever” and “Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.”
Come to think of it, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” seems more appropriate for him.
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #252 on: November 27, 2011, 03:36:01 PM »
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #253 on: November 29, 2011, 10:09:56 AM »

Let's see.  Great One was going to improve our relationships abroad.

Have our relations improved with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, China, N. Korea, Venezuela, Russia, Lybia, Egypt, Israel, PLO, or anyhwere?    I haven't seen the left wing media come out with some obscure foreign polling data claiming some other country, continent or region's people love Obama or the US lately.

Great One's charm was going to get everyone to love us.

All we needed was to get rid of Republicans and the world would be one big happy Pepsi generation.

Humanity will never be a Pepsi generation, the progressive's dream.

Why, even in our country alone no one can agree on anything and we fight and squabble over the money and our personal interests all day long - same as everywhere - same as every time in human history.

Power User
Posts: 9464

« Reply #254 on: November 29, 2011, 12:45:40 PM »

CCP: "Great One was going to improve our relationships abroad."

Being liked, it was thought, is to be more like them.  Unarmed, vulnerable, broke, waiting for others to solve problems, lead from behind, talk of American excesses, capitalism excesses, fossil fuel excesses, apology tour, bowing, bone-headed gifts, etc etc

As I was (twice) reading the Caroline Glick piece, 'Call it by its proper name', I was recalling how all the pundits, advisers, media, experts, opponents, foreign leaders etc. just couldn't stand it when Pres. Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire.  I think they had 100 million deaths on their hands - worse than Hitler, offered zero freedom, locked people in, took over nearly half the world, still expanding, constantly threatening us, how can you call that an evil empire?  A focus group pollster or friendship counselor would never have approved of that.  Our own allies were outraged.

June 12 1987 Reagan said "Tear down this wall" - against all advice.  Nov 9 1989 the wall came down.

Wanting to be liked often leads you in the wrong direction.  I would prefer to be respected.

Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #255 on: December 06, 2011, 10:44:43 AM »

This seems to me a piece most worthy of our discussion.


Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy
December 6, 2011


By George Friedman
The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections has taken place, and the winners were two Islamist parties. The Islamists themselves are split between more extreme and more moderate factions, but it is clear that the secularists who dominated the demonstrations and who were the focus of the Arab Spring narrative made a poor showing. Of the three broad power blocs in Egypt — the military, the Islamists and the secular democrats — the last proved the weakest.
It is far from clear what will happen in Egypt now. The military remains unified and powerful, and it is unclear how much actual power it is prepared to cede or whether it will be forced to cede it. What is clear is that the faction championed by Western governments and the media will now have to accept the Islamist agenda, back the military or fade into irrelevance.
One of the points I made during the height of the Arab Spring was that the West should be careful of what it wishes for — it might get it. Democracy does not always bring secular democrats to power. To be more precise, democracy might yield a popular government, but the assumption that that government will support a liberal democratic constitution that conceives of human rights in the European or American sense is by no means certain. Unrest does not always lead to a revolution, a revolution does not always lead to a democracy, and a democracy does not always lead to a European- or American-style constitution.
In Egypt today, just as it is unclear whether the Egyptian military will cede power in any practical sense, it is also unclear whether the Islamists can form a coherent government or how extreme such a government might be. And as we analyze the possibilities, it is important to note that this analysis really isn’t about Egypt. Rather, Egypt serves as a specimen to examine — a case study of an inherent contradiction in Western ideology and, ultimately, of an attempt to create a coherent foreign policy.
Core Beliefs
Western countries, following the principles of the French Revolution, have two core beliefs. The first is the concept of national self-determination, the idea that all nations (and what the term “nation” means is complex in itself) have the right to determine for themselves the type of government they wish. The second is the idea of human rights, which are defined in several documents but are all built around the basic values of individual rights, particularly the right not only to participate in politics but also to be free in your private life from government intrusion.
The first principle leads to the idea of the democratic foundations of the state. The second leads to the idea that the state must be limited in its power in certain ways and the individual must be free to pursue his own life in his own way within a framework of law limited by the principles of liberal democracy. The core assumption within this is that a democratic polity will yield a liberal constitution. This assumes that the majority of the citizens, left to their own devices, will favor the Enlightenment’s definition of human rights. This assumption is simple, but its application is tremendously complex. In the end, the premise of the Western project is that national self-determination, expressed through free elections, will create and sustain constitutional democracies.
It is interesting to note that human rights activists and neoconservatives, who on the surface are ideologically opposed, actually share this core belief. Both believe that democracy and human rights flow from the same source and that creating democratic regimes will create human rights. The neoconservatives believe outside military intervention might be an efficient agent for this. Human rights groups oppose this, preferring to organize and underwrite democratic movements and use measures such as sanctions and courts to compel oppressive regimes to cede power. But they share common ground on this point as well. Both groups believe that outside intervention is needed to facilitate the emergence of an oppressed public naturally inclined toward democracy and human rights.
This, then, yields a theory of foreign policy in which the underlying strategic principle must not only support existing constitutional democracies but also bring power to bear to weaken oppressive regimes and free the people to choose to build the kind of regimes that reflect the values of the European Enlightenment.
Complex Questions and Choices
 The case of Egypt raises an interesting and obvious question regardless of how it all turns out. What if there are democratic elections and the people choose a regime that violates the principles of Western human rights? What happens if, after tremendous Western effort to force democratic elections, the electorate chooses to reject Western values and pursue a very different direction — for example, one that regards Western values as morally reprehensible and aims to make war against them? One obvious example of this is Adolph Hitler, whose ascent to power was fully in keeping with the processes of the Weimar Republic — a democratic regime — and whose clearly stated intention was to supersede that regime with one that was popular (there is little doubt that the Nazi regime had vast public support), opposed to constitutionalism in the democratic sense and hostile to constitutional democracy in other countries.
The idea that the destruction of repressive regimes opens the door for democratic elections that will not result in another repressive regime, at least by Western standards, assumes that all societies find Western values admirable and want to emulate them. This is sometimes the case, but the general assertion is a form of narcissism in the West that assumes that all reasonable people, freed from oppression, would wish to emulate us.
At this moment in history, the obvious counterargument rests in some, but not all, Islamist movements. We do not know that the Islamist groups in Egypt will be successful, and we do not know what ideologies they will pursue, but they are Islamists and their views of man and moral nature are different from those of the European Enlightenment. Islamists have a principled disagreement with the West on a wide range of issues, from the relation of the individual to the community to the distinction between the public and private sphere. They oppose the Egyptian military regime not only because it limits individual freedom but also because it violates their understanding of the regime’s moral purpose. The Islamists have a different and superior view of moral political life, just as Western constitutional democracies see their own values as superior.
The collision between the doctrine of national self-determination and the Western notion of human rights is not an abstract question but an extremely practical one for Europe and the United States. Egypt is the largest Arab country and one of the major centers of Islamic life. Since 1952, it has had a secular and military-run government. Since 1973, it has had a pro-Western government. At a time when the United States is trying to end its wars in the Islamic world (along with its NATO partners, in the case of Afghanistan), and with relations with Iran already poor and getting worse, the democratic transformation of Egypt into a radical Islamic regime would shift the balance of power in the region wildly.
This raises questions regarding the type of regime Egypt has, whether it is democratically elected and whether it respects human rights. Then there is the question of how this new regime might affect the United States and other countries. The same can be said, for example, about Syria, where an oppressive regime is resisting a movement that some in the West regard as democratic. It may be, but its moral principles might be anathema to the West. At the same time, the old repressive regime might be unpopular but more in the interests of the West.
Then pose this scenario: Assume there is a choice between a repressive, undemocratic regime that is in the interests of a Western country and a regime that is democratic but repressive by Western standards and hostile to those interests. Which is preferable, and what steps should be taken?
These are blindingly complex questions that some observers — the realists as opposed to the idealists — say not only are unanswerable but also undermine the ability to pursue national interests without in any way improving the moral character of the world. In other words, you are choosing between two types of repression from a Western point of view and there is no preference. Therefore, a country like the United States should ignore the moral question altogether and focus on a simpler question, and one that’s answerable: the national interest.
Egypt is an excellent place to point out the tension within U.S. foreign policy between idealists, who argue that pursuing Enlightenment principles is in the national interest, and realists, who argue that the pursuit of principles is very different from their attainment. You can wind up with regimes that are neither just nor protective of American interests. In other words, the United States can wind up with a regime hostile to the United States and oppressive by American standards. Far from a moral improvement, this would be a practical disaster.
Mission and Power
There is a temptation to accept the realist argument. Its weakness is that its definition of the national interest is never clear. The physical protection of the United States is obviously an issue — and given 9/11, it is not a trivial matter. At the same time, the physical safety of the United States is not always at stake. What exactly is our interest in Egypt, and does it matter to us whether it is pro-American? There are answers to this but not always obvious ones, and the realists frequently have trouble defining the national interest. Even if we accept the idea that the primary objective of U.S. foreign policy is securing the national interest irrespective of moral considerations, what exactly is the national interest?
It seems to me that two principles emerge. The first is that having no principles beyond “interest” is untenable. Interest seems very tough-minded, but it is really a vapid concept when you drill into it. The second principle is that there can be no moral good without power. Proclaiming a principle without having the power to pursue it is a form of narcissism. You know you are doing no good, but talking about it makes you feel superior. Interest is not enough, and morality without power is mere talk.
So what is to be done about Egypt? The first thing is to recognize that little can be done, not because it would be morally impermissible but because, practically, Egypt is a big country that is hard to influence, and meddling and failing is worse than doing nothing at all. Second, it must be understood that Egypt matters and the outcome of this affair, given the past decade, is not a matter to which the United States can afford to be indifferent.
An American strategy on Egypt — one that goes beyond policy papers in Washington — is hard to define. But a number of points can be deduced from this exercise. First, it is essential to not create myths. The myth of the Egyptian revolution was that it was going to create a constitutional democracy like Western democracies. That simply wasn’t the issue on the table. The issue was between the military regime and an Islamist regime. This brings us to the second point, which is that sometimes, in confronting two different forms of repression, the issue is to select the one that is most in the national interest. This will force you to define the national interest, to a salutary effect.
Washington, like all capitals, likes policies and hates political philosophy. The policies frequently fail to come to grips with reality because the policymakers don’t grasp the philosophical implications. The contradiction inherent in the human rights and the neoconservative approach is one thing, but the inability of the realists to define with rigor what the national interest is creates policy papers of monumental insignificance. Both sides create polemics as a substitute for thought.
It’s in places like Egypt where this reality is driven home. One side really believed that Egypt would become like Minnesota. The other side knew it wouldn’t and devised a plan to be tough-minded — but not tough-minded enough to define what the point of the plan was. This is the crisis of U.S. foreign policy. It has always been there, but given American power, it is one that creates global instability. One part of the American regime wants to be just; the other part wants to be tough. Neither realizes that such a distinction is the root of the problem. Look at the American (and European) policy toward Egypt and I think you can see the predicament.
The solution does not rest in slogans or ideology, or in soft versus hard power. It rests in clarity on both the moral mission of the regime and its ability to understand and wield power effectively. And this requires the study of political philosophy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, with his distinction between the “general will” and the “will of all,” might be a good place to start. Or reading the common sense of Mark Twain might be a more pleasant substitute.
Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #256 on: December 06, 2011, 10:50:37 AM »

The road to hell is paved with....

The first rule of foreign policy should be to not make things worse than they were. A rule almost totally violated by this administration on a global basis.
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #257 on: December 06, 2011, 01:13:51 PM »

Our country is falling apart and now this is a priority:

By Margaret Talev
(Updates with quote from memorandum, reaction from gay rights advocacy group beginning in third paragraph.)

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration will weigh how countries treat gays and lesbians in making decisions about foreign aid, according to a presidential memorandum released by the White House.

President Barack Obama said in the document he’s directing all agencies engaged abroad to make sure U.S. diplomacy and aid programs “promote and protect” the rights of gays and lesbians.

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama wrote in the memorandum.

Directing all agencies engaged abroad to promote the human rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people reflects “our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people,” he wrote.

The memorandum directs all agencies engaged abroad to improve refugee and asylum protections for gay, bisexual and transgender people. It also calls for strengthening U.S. efforts to oppose foreign governments criminalizing homosexuality, bisexuality or transgender behavior.

Annual Reports

U.S. foreign aid programs will increase government and civil society engagement to promote gay rights, the memorandum says. The State Department will lead an interagency group tracking U.S. responses to “serious incidents that threaten the human rights of LGBT persons abroad.” Agencies are to report on their progress in six months, and then on an annual basis.

Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign in Washington, said in a statement that the presidential memorandum is important as the first U.S. government strategy dealing with rights related to sexual orientation of people in other countries.

“Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people,” he said.

--Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Terry Atlas

Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #258 on: December 06, 2011, 01:17:03 PM »

“Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people,” he said.

Sure. Unless it's done in the name of sharia law, then he'll go full Hellen Keller. Pretty desperate to shore up his base, isn't he?
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #259 on: December 06, 2011, 02:03:44 PM »

Well I dunno.  If Muslims in Muslim countries want to live by Sharia let them.  What do I care.

But not in this country.  Here we live by US law period.

Desperate to shore up his base?  Probably.  Fundraising time.  Go after the big monied part of the GLBT crowd.

I have to wonder if he is really raising the kind of money being claimed.

Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #260 on: December 06, 2011, 02:21:43 PM »

Returning now to the subject matter of this thread in general cheesy and the Stratfor piece I posted earlier today in particular, , ,
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #261 on: December 06, 2011, 03:22:13 PM »

Crafty I cannot think of anything to add to Freidman's piece.

He eloquently argues the dilemnas that exist that we face in the world.   

Trying to sort through all this can take an entire career - with no clear pathway forward.
Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #262 on: December 06, 2011, 07:24:39 PM »

Our World: An ally no more



Instead of warning Egypt against breaking its treaty with the Jewish state, US officials chose to criticize Israel instead.



With vote tallies in for Egypt’s first round of parliamentary elections in it is abundantly clear that Egypt is on the fast track to becoming a totalitarian Islamic state. The first round of voting took place in Egypt’s most liberal, cosmopolitan cities. And still the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists received more than 60 percent of the vote. Run-off elections for 52 seats will by all estimates increase their representation.

And then in the months to come, Egyptian voters in the far more Islamist Nile Delta and Sinai will undoubtedly provide the forces of jihadist Islam with an even greater margin of victory.

Until the US-supported overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance system in the Arab world. The Egyptian military is US-armed, US-trained and US-financed.

The Suez Canal is among the most vital waterways in the world for the US Navy and the global economy.

Due to Mubarak’s commitment to stemming the tide of jihadist forces that threatened his regime, under his rule Egypt served as a major counter-terror hub in the US-led war against international jihad.

GIVEN EGYPT’S singular importance to US strategic interests in the Arab world, the Obama administration’s response to the calamitous election results has been shocking. Rather than sound the alarm bells, US President Barack Obama has celebrated the results as a victory for “democracy.”

Rather than warn Egypt that it will face severe consequences if it completes its Islamist transformation, the Obama administration has turned its guns on the first country that will pay a price for Egypt’s Islamic revolution: Israel.

Speaking at the annual policy conclave in Washington sponsored by the leftist Brookings Institute’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered Israel, the only real ally the US has left in the Middle East after Mubarak’s fall. Clinton felt it necessary – in the name of democracy – to embrace the positions of Israel’s radical Left against the majority of Israelis.

The same Secretary of State that has heralded negotiations with the violent, fanatical misogynists of the Taliban; who has extolled Saudi Arabia where women are given ten lashes for driving, and whose State Department trained female-hating Muslim Brotherhood operatives in the lead-up to the current elections in Egypt accused Israel of repressing women’s rights. The only state in the region where women are given full rights and legal protections became the focus of Clinton’s righteous feminist wrath.

In the IDF, as in the rest of the country, religious coercion is forbidden. Jewish law prohibits men from listening to women’s voices in song. And recently, when a group of religious soldiers were presented with an IDF band that featured female vocalists, keeping faith with their Orthodox observance, they walked out of the auditorium. The vocalists were not barred from singing. They were not mistreated. They were simply not listened to.

And as far as Clinton is concerned, this is proof that women in Israel are under attack. Barred by law from forcing their soldiers from spurning their religious obligations, IDF commanders were guilty of crimes against democracy for allowing the troops to exit the hall.

But Clinton didn’t end her diatribe with the IDF’s supposed war against women. She continued her onslaught by proclaiming that Israel is taking a knife to democracy by permitting its legislators to legislate laws that she doesn’t like. The legislative initiatives that provoked the ire of the US Secretary of State are the bills now under discussion which seek to curtail the ability to foreign governments to subvert Israel’s elected government by funding non-representative, anti-Israel political NGOs like B’Tselem and Peace Now.

In attacking Israel in the way she did, Clinton showed that she holds Israel to a unique standard of behavior. Whereas fellow Western democracies are within their rights when they undertake initiatives like banning Islamic headdresses from the public square, Israel is a criminal state for affording Jewish soldiers freedom of religion. Whereas the Taliban, who enslave women and girls in the most unspeakable fashion are worthy interlocutors, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which supports universal female genital mutilation is moderate, Israel is an enemy of democracy for seeking to preserve the government’s ability to adopt policies that advance the country’s interests.


The unique standard to which Clinton holds the Jewish state is the standard of human perfection.
And as far as she is concerned, if Israel is not perfect, then it is unworthy of support. And since Israel, as a nation of mere mortals can never be perfect, it is necessarily always guilty.
CLINTON’S ASSAULT on Israeli democracy and society came a day after Panetta attacked Israel’s handling of its strategic challenges. Whereas Clinton attacked Israel’s moral fiber, Panetta judged Israel responsible for every negative development in the regional landscape.
Panetta excoriated Israel for not being involved in negotiations with the Palestinians. Israel, he said must make new concessions to the Palestinians in order to convince them of its good faith. If Israel makes such gestures, and the Palestinians and the larger Islamic world spurn them, then Panetta and his friends will side with Israel, he said.
Panetta failed to notice that Israel has already made repeated, unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians and that the Palestinians have pocketed those concessions and refused to negotiate. And he failed to notice that in response to the repeated spurning of its concessions by the Palestinians and the Arab world writ large, rather than stand with Israel, the US and Europe expanded their demands for further Israeli concessions.
Panetta demanded that Israel make renewed gestures as well to appease the Egyptians, Turks and Jordanians. He failed to notice that it was Turkey’s Islamist government, not Israel, that took a knife to the Turkish-Israeli strategic alliance.
As for Egypt, rather than recognize the strategic implications for the US and Israel alike of Egypt’s transformation into an Islamic state, the US Defense Secretary demanded that Israel ingratiate itself with Egypt’s military junta. Thanks in large part to the Obama administration, that junta is now completely beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood.
As for Jordan, again thanks to the US’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its aligned groups in Libya and Tunisia, the Hashemite regime is seeking to cut a deal with the Jordanian branch of the movement in a bid to save itself from Mubarak’s fate. Under these circumstances, there is no gesture that Israel can make to its neighbor to the east that would empower King Abdullah to extol the virtues of peace with the Jewish state.
Then there is Iran, and its nuclear weapons program.
Panetta argued that an Israeli military strike against Iran would lead to regional war. But he failed to mention that a nuclear armed Iran will lead to nuclear proliferation in the Arab world and exponentially increase the prospect of a global nuclear war.
Rather than face the dangers head on, Panetta’s message was that the Obama administration would rather accept a nuclear-armed Iran than support an Israeli military strike on Iran to prevent the mullocracy from becoming a nuclear-armed state.
Clinton’s and Panetta’s virulently anti-Israeli messages resonated in an address about European anti-Semitism given last week by the US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. Speaking to a Jewish audience, Gutman effectively denied the existence of anti-Semitism in Europe. While attacks against European Jews and Jewish institutions have become a daily occurrence continent-wide, Gutman claimed that non-Muslim anti- Semites are essentially just all-purpose bigots who hate everyone, not just Jews.
As for the Muslims who carry out the vast majority of anti-Jewish attacks in Europe, Gutman claimed they don’t have a problem with good Jews like him. They are simply angry because Israel isn’t handing over land to the Palestinians quickly enough. If the Jewish state would simply get with Obama’s program, according to the US ambassador, Muslim attacks on Jews in Europe would simply disappear.
Gutman of course is not a policymaker. His job is simply to implement Obama’s policies and voice the president’s beliefs.
But when taken together with Clinton’s and Panetta’s speeches, Gutman’s remarks expose a distressing intellectual and moral trend that clearly dominates the Obama administration’s foreign policy discourse. All three speeches share a common rejection of objective reality in favor of a fantasy.
In the administration’s fantasy universe, Israel is the only actor on the world stage. Its detractors, whether in the Islamic world or Europe, are mere objects. They are bereft of judgment or responsibility for their actions.
There are two possible explanations for this state of affairs – and they are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that the Obama administration is an ideological echo chamber in which only certain positions are permitted. This prospect is likely given the White House’s repeated directives prohibiting government officials from using terms like “jihad,” “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamist,” and “jihadist,” to describe jihad, Islamic terrorism, Islamists and jihadists.
Restrained by ideological thought police that outlaw critical thought about the dominant forces in the Islamic world today, US officials have little choice but to place all the blame for everything that goes wrong on the one society they are free to criticize – Israel.
The second possible explanation for the administration’s treatment of Israel is that it is permeated by anti-Semitism. The outsized responsibility and culpability placed on Israel by the likes of Obama, Clinton, Panetta and Gutman is certainly of a piece with classical anti-Semitic behavior.
There is little qualitative difference between accusing Israeli society of destroying democracy for seeking to defend itself against foreign political subversion, and accusing Jews of destroying morality for failing to embrace foreign religious faiths.
So too, there is little qualitative difference between blaming Israel for its isolation in the face of the Islamist takeover of the Arab world, and blaming the Jews for the rise of anti-Semites to power in places like Russia, Germany and Norway.
In truth, from Israel’s perspective, it really doesn’t make a difference whether these statements and the intellectual climate they represent stem from ideological myopia or from hatred of Jews.
The end result is the same in either case: Under President Obama, the US government has become hostile to Israel’s national rights and strategic imperatives. Under Obama, the US is no longer Israel’s ally.
Power User
Posts: 7824

« Reply #263 on: December 08, 2011, 02:06:57 PM »

Yet the recent Zogby poll (Zogby is a well known fan of the Palestinians and anit Israel) shows Brockster's popularity to be on the rise in Israel to around 54%.

Sure I believe that. rolleyes

Bob Grant has to be right - he suspects there are some big liberal machers pushing the Democrat party agenda in Israel as well as perception there and here.  Nothing new there though.

How else can one explain this?

It has to be all propaganda bulls''t
Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #264 on: December 08, 2011, 08:41:45 PM »

Generally I see the purpose of this thread as being for the discussion of deeper underlying themes.

The specific point I bring up here is that it was reported on Bret Baier tonight that three plans were presented to the President to destroy or capture the drone in Iranian hands.  He turned all of them done on the grounds that they might be taken as an act of war.

Given all that the Iranians have done to cause American deaths in Iraq and Afpakia, plotting to assassintate in our capital, and much much more (and yes we do things too, thank God!) this seems to me yet another manifestation of the underlying disease of of vaginitis.

The costs here will be heavy.  This is the sort of thing where we desperately need to keep an edge on the Chinese.  For me conceptually it overlaps with profound yet virtually unmentioned abandonment of our current edge in space-- and edge the Chinese already see as a weak link in that we depend upon it and if they can take it out we will be blind, deaf, and mute.   cry angry
« Last Edit: December 08, 2011, 08:44:36 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Power User
Posts: 2268

« Reply #265 on: December 08, 2011, 09:49:03 PM »

What were the three plans?
Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #266 on: December 09, 2011, 08:45:34 AM »

As we would hope would be the case (but often is not) we don't know.

I get the point of the question, but the logic of the CiC's answer communicates that the plans themselves were not the issue, not pissing off Iran was.
Power User
Posts: 2268

« Reply #267 on: December 09, 2011, 01:49:13 PM »

OK, but since we don't know, there could be plans in the works.  This is the same president who smiled at jokes about his inability to find bin Laden as the plans to kill him were being launched.  This is the same country that was the target of Stuxnet (something I am confident pissed Iran off).  I get your concern/lack of confidence/etc. but...
Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #268 on: December 09, 2011, 03:03:48 PM »

Plans in the works?!?  IT IS ALREADY TO FG LATE!!!  The Chinese (and Russians) are already all over this!!! 

Baraq's obsequiousness to Iran is already a matter of public record.  This latest episode of vaginitis is but another example.

As for Stuxnet, my vote is for the Israelis having done it, not Baraq.
Power User
Posts: 15530

« Reply #269 on: December 13, 2011, 01:52:07 PM »

Doomsday war games: Pentagon's 3 nightmare scenarios

Pentagon planners have plenty to deal with these days – Iran in search of nuclear-weapons technology, suicide bombings in Afghanistan, and the final pullout of US troops in Iraq potentially leaving behind a security vacuum in the Middle East. But in war games in Washington this week, US Army officials and their advisers debated three nightmare scenarios in particular. Here are the doomsday visions that Pentagon planners have been poring over:

 By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer
posted December 7, 2011 at 9:07 am EST

1.Collapse of Pakistan

Members of the Azad Welfare Society burn a replica US flag Sunday during a rally to condemn NATO air strikes on Pakistani troops.
(Anjum Naveed/AP)

Following the assassination of the Pakistani president in a scenario that begins in 2013, Pakistan begins to descend into chaos. It is a time of great uncertainty, in which Pakistan’s “Islamist Army faction and its militant Muslim allies” decide to act.

Their plan, according to the war game: “to exploit that country’s growing civil disorder to seize power and create a radical Islamist state.” Compounding this chaos is the confusion over who will gain control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal, estimated to number 80 to 120. These weapons are believed to be located at a half-dozen or so sites around the country.

At least one site is occupied by Islamist units. “Both US and other national intelligence services have concluded that sympathetic elements of the ISI [Pakistan's spy agency] have provided Islamist officers leading the breakaway army units with the activation codes needed to arm the nuclear weapons under their control,” notes the scenario, which is drawn from "7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century" by Andrew Krepinevich, a former staffer in the Office of Net Assessments, the Pentagon’s futuristic and highly influential internal think tank.

If this were to happen, “there may be little to prevent these weapons from being used.”

The principal targets of such weapons would be United States, and US citizens draw little comfort, the scenario adds, from the efforts of US government officials to emphasize the difficulties involved in transporting nuclear weapons halfway around the world, which would be necessary, they add, in order to target an American city.

US forces have considered a preemptive strike on the area where the weapons are thought to be located, but Islamist forces have warned of the “horrific consequences” that would result if any foreign power attempted to do this. While the crisis in Pakistan “comes as a shock to most Americans,” the scenario notes, “to many observers, including senior government officials, it is hardly a surprise at all. To them, the greatest surprise is that Pakistan did not implode sooner.”

2.Rise of militant China

US Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships sail in formation during Annual Exercise 2011, an annual bilateral field-training exercise.
(US Navy Photo/REUTERS/File)

It is the year 2013, and “what experts are calling the greatest aggregation of naval power the world has ever seen is assembling in a long arc several hundred miles off the maritime approaches to China.” The leaders of the United States and Japan are debating what to do next “in what many fear may be the opening gambits in a new world war.”

The People’s Liberation Army is blockading Taiwan – and diplomats know that a blockade is an act of war. That’s why they are calling it a “quarantine,” and US allies, including Japan, are contemplating a retaliatory “counterquarantine” against Chinese ports.

Defense analysts conclude that a series of internal crises in China has brought the world’s great naval powers to the cusp of war. China’s economic growth has slowed dramatically. This has worried Chinese leadership, which “needs a rapidly growing economy to ensure its legitimacy,” according to the scenario, also drawn from "7 Deadly Scenarios" by Mr. Krepinevich, who now is the executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

At the same time, China’s young male population is rising, the result of China’s one-child policy and widespread selective abortions that favor male offspring.

Now girls are at a premium, leaving many young men unmarried and suffering “from low self-esteem, and feel[ing] alienated from (and rejected by) ‘mainstream’ society. Some scholars, studying the consequences of historical cases of profound sex-ratio imbalances, argue that this situation may set the stage for high levels of internal stability,” the scenario warns.

"They also ominously note that at times governments faced with this prospect have attempted to redirect that frustration against external rivals.”

A succession of US administrations, “distracted by the Long War with radical Islamist states and groups, and enjoying the short-term economic benefits of trade with China, failed to take the growing Chinese military machine seriously.” Yet “for those who looked closely, the warning signs have been there.”

China has pursued cyberwarfare “to introduce a wide range of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other cyber ‘weapons’ into the information grids” of the United States, especially US military computer networks. China has also expanded its fleet of submarines specially equipped to “cut undersea fiber-optic cables that provide data links both to US military forces and to the civilian economy.”

Then, in quick succession, America suffers two major cyberstrikes. One penetrates the Pentagon’s major link to troop supply lines. The other hits the New York Stock Exchange, resulting “in a termination of trading for nearly two days.” Now Pentagon planners must decide how to respond.

3.Collapse of North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (r.) and his son Kim Jong-un (l.) pose for photographs with the visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang during their meeting in Pyongyang Oct. 24.

Authoritarian dictators can repress their populations for decades, but now the regime of Kim Jong-il “is embarking on the most difficult challenge that such regimes face: succession,” according to a scenario by Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Lind, published in the fall issue of the journal International Security.

Yet “the transition from apparent stability to collapse can be swift.” A government collapse in North Korea “could unleash a series of catastrophes on the peninsula with potentially far-reaching regional and global effects.”

This could trigger a massive outflow of the nation’s 24 million people, many of whom are severely malnourished, across the border into South Korea. With the food shortages could come civil war.

Equally troubling, “North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction could find their way out of the country and onto the global black market.” As a result, the consequences of a “poorly planned response to a government collapse in North Korea are potentially calamitous.”

North Korea has 1.2 million active duty military troops. What’s more, China will likely send its forces to aid in humanitarian efforts, as well. “The specter of Chinese forces racing south while US and South Korean troops race north is terrifying given the experience of the Korean War, a climate of suspicion among the three countries, and the risk of escalation to the nuclear level.”

Based on the most optimistic assumptions, according to the scenario, as many as 400,000 ground forces would be required to stabilize North Korea – more than the US commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

This would strain US forces, but the Pentagon noted in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that the “instability or collapse of a WMD-armed state is among our most troubling concerns. Such an occurrence could lead to a rapid proliferation of WMD material, weapons, and technology, and could quickly become a global crisis posing a direct physical threat,” the scenario warns, “to the United States and all other nations.”
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« Reply #270 on: December 18, 2011, 12:55:11 PM »

Coming War Threat: Terrorists Developing a Safe Haven in Egypt to Attack Israel

December 18, 2011 - 12:01 pm - by Barry Rubin
What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech….
–William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
Or, in other words, do these writers, policymakers, and “experts” care  what happens in the Middle East? War? Bloodshed? Repression? Christians fleeing; women being turned into chattel? Just a possible boost to their careers and a test for their theories. A good luncheon topic. But this is real, all too real.
First, a word on contingencies. Governments and political analysts are supposed to examine likely problems in order that they can be evaded or minimized. The time to be alarmed is not when problems become visible but when governments refuse to recognize their existence. Western regimes and analysts are generally taking a best-possible-case view on Egypt and other developing issues in the region. I’m tempted to say they are taking a fantasy view. They dismiss not just worst-case but highly likely case scenarios. Now that’s what’s alarming.
In the Sinai Peninsula, Hamas is building support bases and arms-manufacturing facilities including those for building rockets. Over time, these rockets will no doubt be upgraded.  In other words, Egypt is becoming a safe haven for anti-Israel terrorism. We know that these attacks will come from the Gaza Strip. The only question is whether at some point they will come directly across the Egypt-Israel border.
Israel had a long experience with three comparable situations. In the  1950-56 era, Egypt was a safe haven for terror attacks into Israel; in the 1967-1970 period, Jordan played this role. During the 1970s and 1980s, even down to today, Lebanon did so, with the safe haven in Syria. The difference was that Israel did attack into Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and even occasionally into Syria in reponse to this situation.
Such an attack into Egypt in response to Egyptian involvement in attacks through the Gaza Strip is unthinkable given what an Egypt-Israel war would look like. And that doesn’t mean there won’t be sporadic attacks across the Egypt-Israel border also that would present similar problems.
There is a pattern here.
Israel, of course, is quickly building a border fence, paid for by a 2 percent cut in the budgets of government agencies, and thus the salaries of government employees.
Meanwhile, too, Libyan weapons, including Russian-made anti-plane rockets that can be fired by one man, are also making their way into the Gaza Strip. From there, or from Egyptian territory, one of them could be fired at an Israeli passenger plane on the Tel Aviv-Eilat route.
Israel has permitted more Egyptian military units to enter Sinai even though this was restricted by their peace treaty. But that doesn’t mean those forces will do anything, or at least do much, against these activities. After all, would Egypt’s army dare suppress Hamas though it is seen by most Egyptians — and soon by a majority in Egypt’s parliament — as heroic? What! Will they act as bodyguards for the evil Zionist entity that is allegedly committing genocide right next door? (That last sentence was a paraphrase of what a leading Egyptian “moderate” claimed in speaking to an American university audience.)
And let’s not forget that there are corrupt officers and also officers who sympathize with Hamas. What if they just don’t follow orders from Cairo?
So Israel’s first step is to go to the Egyptian army and ask that it do something. If it says “yes,” well and good. But what if it doesn’t do much or anything? Have you noticed that even now, the army keeps backing down to the Brotherhood? For example, the military junta claimed a share in writing the new Constitution and when the Brotherhood rejected this, the generals then pulled back. The parliament dominated by the Brotherhood and Salafists will write the Constitution without outside interference.
What does this tell us about the army’s future willingness or ability to stop the Islamists from running wild, attacking Israel, etc.?
There will also be the large Salafist contingent in parliament to keep happy. The Salafists will build networks to protect and help Hamas and small groups that might want to attack Israel from Egypt. Indeed, large parts of the Sinai are already developing toward anarchy and becoming a safe haven zone for international terrorists.
Next, what happens when there is an Islamist parliament, a president who is either Islamist or dependent on Brotherhood support, and an Islamist constitution? Who is going to order Egypt’s army to crack down on Hamas and to close its facilities?  Nobody.
And finally, what happens when Israel goes to the United States and asks President Obama to put pressure on Egypt to close down Hamas operations? Just guess.
Here’s a wonderful example of how this system works in another country. In Lebanon, Hizballah is creating its own secure strategic communications network without any government sanction. In one place, local people attacked workers building Hizballah facilities in their village. The Lebanese communications minister refused to interfere, supporting Hizballah’s actions. He explained that the Lebanese government accepted the project since almost anything was justified since Hizballah was fighting Israel. The opposition publication, NowLebanon, responded that this is “a phone network that will be used by Iran and Syria (let’s not mince words) to carry out its regional ambitions.”
But Lebanon’s government has no interest in restricting any war-making activities on Israel. So what can we expect in Egypt?

What counter-forces are going to make the problems go away? The army does not have to close Hamas facilities to maintain its own interests. Nor does it have to do so to keep U.S. aid. There is nothing that is going to block this from happening unless Hamas makes the huge mistake of interfering in Egyptian politics and becoming involved with those staging armed struggle within Egypt. Hizballah made that mistake a few years ago.
Want to know how Middle East politics really work? A couple of years ago Israel noted that the Egypt-Gaza smuggling level had gone way down. Western media praised Egypt for acting. In fact, what had happened was that Egyptian officers on the border had demanded a higher price in bribes; the smugglers had refused, so the officers had cracked  down until they got more money at which point they opened the gates again.
I repeat: to point out the likelihood of such contingencies is of vital importance. The Israeli government is aware of these things and working to deal with them. What kind of planning and thinking for such dangerous situations is going on in the West? Little or none, because they don’t take these things seriously.
Also please read my article, “How Can Israel Please the American Government, Media, and “Experts”? It Can’t”
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« Reply #271 on: January 04, 2012, 12:52:27 AM »

That's rather pithy  smiley
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« Reply #272 on: January 09, 2012, 01:28:57 PM »

Could go under Glibness or media issues.  Is the coalition between the DNC and the MSM showing some cracks? I chose 'US Foreign Policy' thread for the serious points presented.

Obama’s foreign initiatives have been failures

By Jackson Diehl (Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor)

The political writers tell us that President Obama’s foreign affairs record will be one of his strengths with voters in the 2012 campaign. The logic is pretty simple; Obama himself summed it up in 11 words at the Pentagon last week: “We’ve ended our war in Iraq. We’ve decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership.”

That may well be enough in a year when foreign policy is a low priority for voters. Of course, there could be unexpected crises; a confrontation with Iran that sends U.S. gasoline prices soaring, for example. But even some foreseeable disasters might not hurt much: Will independents in Ohio or Florida really be swayed if Iraqis go back to slaughtering one another?

To those voters, Obama looks relatively good, for now, on the big problems he inherited: the wars and al-Qaeda. What could go missing is a discussion about the president’s performance on his own priorities for foreign affairs — the initiatives he chose to launch.

If so, Obama will be fortunate. As he heads into the last year of his first term, the president’s biggest failures have been his own ideas.

The easiest one to document — and the one most likely to draw Republican attention next fall — is the busted Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obama arrived in office afire with the ambition to create a Palestinian state within two years. But his diplomacy was based on a twofold misunderstanding: that the key to successful negotiations was forcing Israel to stop all settlement construction — and that the United States had the leverage to make that happen.

Veterans of the Middle East “peace process” shook their heads in wonderment as what at first appeared to be a rookie error evolved into a two-year standoff between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There was only one possible explanation for this persistence in futility: The president himself was fixed on it.

Obama’s next big project was global nuclear arms control — an initiative so impressive to Norwegians that it won him the Nobel Peace Prize before he could act on it. Yet the results to date hardly seem prizeworthy. The New Start nuclear arms agreement with Russia merely ratifies warhead reductions already underway in Russia, while imposing a modest cut on the U.S. arsenal. More ambitious multilateral initiatives by Obama — to control nuclear materials, for example — have made little progress, despite an elaborate summit the president hosted in 2010.

Here again there appears to be a disconnect between Obama’s 1970s-vintage ideas and the real world of the early 21st century. There’s nothing wrong, and modest good, in extending Cold War nuclear conventions with Russia, or extracting highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Chile. But the most dangerous proliferation threats emanate from countries that don’t attend summits or sign international treaties, such as North Korea and Iran. In terms of nuclear capability, both are ahead of where they were in 2009.

This brings us to Obama’s most distinctive — and most ill-fated — idea, and the one most identified with his 2008 campaign: the determination to “engage” with U.S. adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Obama promised “direct diplomacy” — even one-to-one meetings — with the likes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Il. More broadly he made the case that the United States could benefit by reaching out to autocratic regimes, while dropping the George W. Bush administration’s moralizing “freedom agenda.”

In his first year Obama dispatched two letters to Khamenei while keeping his distance from the revolutionary Green movement. He shook hands with Hugo Chavez. He launched a “reset” of relations with Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin and dispatched envoys to reason with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. He delivered a sweeping address to the Muslim world from Cairo.

The results have been meager. Khamenei spurned the U.S. outreach. Relations with Putin warmed for a time but now have grown cold again. In Egypt and across the Middle East, the president’s popularity is lower today than when he gave the Cairo address.

That’s largely because, in pursuing “engagement,” Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy. Detente with dictators can sometimes yield results, but Obama’s outreach turned out to be spectacularly ill-timed. Following the failure to back Iran’s Green movement, the strategy caused the administration to lag in supporting the popular uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.

The consequences of all this are not yet clear. To voters and maybe even to history they may be trumped by the dismantling of al-Qaeda. Taken together, what they describe is a president who has been a good counterterrorism commander, who has ended a war he promised to end — and whose signature initiatives have flopped.

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« Reply #273 on: January 12, 2012, 02:52:25 PM »

Annual Forecast 2012
January 11, 2012 | 0609 GMT

There are periods when the international system undergoes radical shifts in a short time. The last such period was 1989-1991. During that time, the Soviet empire collapsed. The Japanese economic miracle ended. The Maastricht Treaty creating contemporary Europe was signed. Tiananmen Square defined China as a market economy dominated by an unchallenged Communist Party, and so on. Fundamental components of the international system shifted radically, changing the rules for the next 20 years.

We are in a similar cycle, one that began in 2008 and is still playing out. In this period, the European Union has stopped functioning as it did five years ago and has yet to see its new form defined. China has moved into a difficult social and economic phase, with the global recession severely affecting its export-oriented economy and its products increasingly uncompetitive due to inflation. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq has created opportunities for an Iranian assertion of power that could change the balance of power in the region. The simultaneous shifts in Europe, China and the Middle East open the door to a new international framework replacing the one created in 1989-1991.

Our forecast for 2012 is framed by the idea that we are in the midst of what we might call a generational shift in the way the world works. The processes are still under way, and we will therefore have to consider the future of Europe, China and the Middle East in some detail before drawing a conclusion. The 2012 forecast is unique in that it is not a forecast for one year in a succession of years, all basically framed by the same realities. Rather, it is a year in which the individual forecasts point to a new generational reality and a redefinition of how the world works.

2012 may not be the conclusion of this transformative process. Neither was 1991 the conclusion. However, just as 1991 was the year in which it became clear that the old world of the Cold War no longer functioned, 2012 is the year in which it will become clear that the Post-Cold War world has come to an end, being replaced by changed players and changed dynamics.

The European Union and eurozone will survive 2012, and Europe's financial crisis will stabilize, at least temporarily. However, Stratfor expects Europe to continue its long, painful slide into deepening recession. We expect accelerating capital flight out of peripheral European countries as investors in Europe and farther afield lose confidence in the European system. We expect financial support measures to be withdrawn on occasion to maintain pressure on governments to implement fiscal reforms, which will lead to financial scares.

However, the driving force behind developments in Europe in 2012 will be political, not economic. Germany, seeing an opportunity in the ongoing financial crisis, is using its superior financial and economic position to attempt to alter the eurozone's structure to its advantage. The core of this "reform" effort is to hardwire tight financial controls into as many European states as possible, both in a new intergovernmental treaty and in each state's national constitution. Normally, we would predict failure for such an effort: Sacrificing budgetary authority to an outside power would be the most dramatic sacrifice of state sovereignty yet in the European experiment -- a sacrifice that most European governments would strongly resist. However, the Germans have six key advantages in 2012.

First, there are very few scheduled electoral contests, so the general populace of most European states will not be consulted on the exercise. Of the eurozone states, only France, Slovakia and Slovenia face scheduled national elections. Out of these three, France is by far the most critical: The Franco-German partnership is the core of the European system, and any serious breach between the two would herald the end of the European Union. If Germany is to compromise on its efforts for anyone, it will be for France, and if France needs another country in order to secure its own position in Europe, it needs Germany. Consequently, the two have chosen to collaborate rather than compete thus far, and we expect their partnership to survive the year. Luckily for the German effort, French elections will be at the very beginning of the ratification process, so any possible modifications to the German plan will come early.

Second, Germany only needs the approval of the 17 eurozone states -- rather than the 27 members of the full European Union -- to forward its plan with credibility. That the United Kingdom has already opted out is inconvenient for those seeking a pan-European process, but it does not derail the German effort.

Third, the process of approving a treaty such as this will take significant time, and some aspects of the reform process can be pushed back. European leaders are expected to sign the new treaty in March, and the rest of the year and some of 2013 will be used to seek ratification by individual countries. Amending national constitutions to satisfy Germany will be the bitterest part of the process, but much of that can be put off until 2013, and judgment by European institutions over how the revision process was handled comes still later. Such delays allow political leaders the option of pushing back the most politically risky portions of the process for months or years.

Fourth, the Germans are willing to apply significant pressure. Nearly all EU states count Germany as the largest destination for their exports, and such exports are critical for local employment. In 2011, Germany used its superior economic and financial position as leverage to help ease the elected leaderships of Greece and Italy out of office, replacing them with unelected former EU bureaucrats who are now working to implement aspects of the German program. Similar pressures could be brought to bear against additional states in 2012.

Those most likely to clash with Germany are Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and Spain. Ireland wants the terms of its bailout program to be softened and is threatening a national referendum that could derail the ratification process. Finland's laws require parliamentary approval by a two-thirds majority for some aspects of ratification. The normally pro-European government of the Netherlands is a weak coalition that can only rule with the support of other parties, one of which is strongly euroskeptic. Spain must attempt the most painful austerity efforts of any non-bailout state if the reform process is to have credibility -- and it must do so amid record-high unemployment and a shrinking economy. Also, if Greece decides to hold new elections in 2012, European stakeholders will attempt to ensure that the new government in Athens does not end its collaboration with the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission and International Monetary Fund. None of these issues will force an automatic confrontation, but all will have to be managed to ensure successful ratification, and the Germans have demonstrated that they have many tools with which to compel other governments.

Fifth, the Europeans are scared, which makes them willing to do things they would not normally do -- such as implementing austerity and ratifying treaties they dislike. Agreeing to sacrifice sovereignty in principle to maintain the European economic system in practice will seem a reasonable trade. The real political crisis will not come until the sacrifice of sovereignty moves from the realm of theory to application, but that will not occur in 2012. In many ways, the political pliability of European governments now is all about staving off unbearable economic catastrophe for another day.

The economic deferment of that pain is the sixth German advantage. Here, the primary player is the ECB. The financial crisis has two aspects: Over-indebted European governments are lurching toward defaults that would collapse the European system, and European banks (the largest purchasers of European government debt) are broadly insolvent -- their collapse would similarly break apart the European system. In December, the ECB indicated that it was willing to put up 20 billion euros ($28 billion) a week for sovereign bond purchases on secondary markets to support struggling eurozone governments, while extending low-interest, long-term liquidity loans to European banks in unlimited volumes. The bond program is large enough to potentially purchase three-fourths of all expected eurozone government debt issuances for 2012, while the first day of the loan program extended 490 billion euros in fresh credit to ailing banks.

Together these two measures make a eurozone financial meltdown highly unlikely in 2012, but they will greatly degrade European competitiveness and efficiency. That will be a problem for another time, though. For now, ECB actions are buying economic and political breathing room: economic in that austerity efforts can be somewhat softer than they would otherwise need to be, and political in that there is a feeling that Germany is willing to compromise somewhat on the issues of budgetary discipline today in order to achieve its broader goals of budgetary control tomorrow. Therefore, while the financial support is not exactly buying good will from other European states, it is certainly buying time.

As the ratification process proceeds, European hostility toward Germany and Brussels will increase. Internationally, the key theme will be states attempting to protect themselves from what they see as a growing -- and unwelcome -- German intrusion into their internal affairs. At the national level, the deepening recession will translate into general anger toward the government's announced austerity measures. The relative dearth of elections will deny that anger its normal release valve of centrist opposition parties, emboldening nationalist and extremist movements and leading to social unrest.

Political and financial turbulence will persist within this framework as Germany negotiates the new treaty with other eurozone countries. Though the core of these negotiations is a highly contentious abdication of national fiscal sovereignty, Europe is highly likely to adopt the new treaty since a perceived failure would dramatically accelerate the collapse of EU political structures and implementation will not happen in 2012.

Former Soviet Union
Russia's Challenges
In 2012, the Kremlin will face numerous challenges: social unrest, restructuring Russia's political makeup (both inside and outside of the Kremlin) and major economic shifts due to the crisis in Europe. The social unrest seen at the end of 2011 will continue festering throughout the presidential elections in 2012. Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin will have to reshape the political landscape from one dominated by his party to one that accounts for the increasing support for the nationalists and a new class of young, liberal activists. Simultaneously, Putin will restructure his inner circle of Kremlin loyalists, who have allowed infighting to divert their attention from their roles in tackling Russia's social unrest and financial problems. None of this will significantly diminish Putin's authority. The Kremlin will also have to adjust its economy in 2012 to accommodate changes in previous plans involving billions of dollars in investments from Europe in some of Russia's most strategic sectors. The crisis in Europe means any such investments will be significantly reduced, so the Kremlin will have to restructure the economic plans for its modernization and privatization programs and fund many of the projects itself. Putin will be able to navigate through these obstacles, though they will take up much of the Kremlin's attention. None of these factors will fundamentally change Russia's direction either domestically or in its foreign policy.

Russian Resurgence
Russia will continue building its influence in its former Soviet periphery in 2012, particularly by institutionalizing its relationships with many former Soviet states. Russia will build upon its Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan as it evolves into the Common Economic Space (CES). This larger institution will allow the scope of Russia's influence over Minsk and Astana, as well as new member countries such as Kyrgyzstan and possibly Tajikistan, to expand from the economic sphere into politics and security as Moscow lays the groundwork for the eventual formation of the Eurasian Union, which it is hoping to start around 2015.

As Ukraine's chances to grow closer to the European Union decrease, Kiev will realize that Moscow is the only outside power it can turn to. Russia will be able to take advantage of Ukraine's inability to maneuver and will gain access to strategic Ukrainian assets, possibly including minority control in its natural gas transit system. However, Ukraine will continue to resist the institutionalization of Russia's influence via the CES by maintaining a degree of cooperation with the West.

In the Baltic countries -- which, unlike other former Soviet states, are committed members of NATO and the European Union -- Russia's ultimate goal is to neutralize the countries' pro-Western and anti-Russian policies, a goal it will make progress toward in Latvia in 2012. It will face setbacks in Lithuania, but Lithuania will not be able to seriously challenge Russia's maneuvers in the region because of ongoing difficulties for its primary supporters: NATO and the European Union.

Russia and the West
Russia will continue managing various crises with the West -- mainly the United States and NATO -- while shaping its relationships in Europe. Moscow and Washington will continue their standoff over ballistic missile defense and U.S. support for Central Europe, and Moscow will react to the ongoing row by increasing security pressure on Central Europe and bolstering its economic presence in the region. Russia will use these crises as an opportunity to deepen divisions among the Europeans, between the Europeans and the United States, and within NATO while promoting the perception that Russia is being forced to act aggressively. The security situation will become tenser, and Russia will attempt to push these crises with the United States to the brink without actually rupturing relations -- a difficult balance.

Russia will also use the financial and political crises in Europe to bolster its influence in strategic countries and sectors. Moscow and Berlin will continue their close relationship, especially in the areas of economics and security, but Russia will focus more on Central Europe in areas of security and energy and in picking up assets. There is no real counter to Russia in Europe, as the Europeans will be absorbed with domestic and EU issues. But this does not mean Russia has a free pass, as it must still manage the domestic effects of its neighbors' crisis.

Central Asia
Numerous factors will undermine Central Asia's stability in 2012, but they will not lead to a major breaking point in the region this year. Protests over deteriorating economic conditions will occur throughout the region, particularly in Kazakhstan, though these will be contained to the region and will not result in overly disruptive violence. Serious issues in Kazakhstan's banking sector could lead to a financial crisis, though the government will be able to manage the difficulties and contain it during 2012 by using the oil revenues it has saved up.

The more pressing problem is the rising Islamist militancy in the region. Sporadic attacks will continue in Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan could see an increase in attacks. However, these attacks will not achieve their strategic goal of overthrowing regimes or coalesce into a transnational movement capable of destabilizing the region. In addition to these security tensions, looming successions for the longtime leaders in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will create political tensions, but barring the death of either leader, no major political upheavals are expected.

Middle East
Iran and the Saudi Dilemma
Iran's efforts to expand its influence will be the primary issue for the Middle East in 2012. The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq has rendered Iran the pre-eminent military power in the Persian Gulf, but Tehran cannot count on the United States being as constrained beyond this year, and Turkey, Iran's natural regional counterweight, is rising steadily, albeit slowly. Iran's efforts to consolidate and extend its regional influence must therefore accelerate this year before its window of opportunity closes. Iran will still be operating under heavy constraints, however, and will therefore be unable to fundamentally alter the politics of the region in its favor.

Iran's regional expansion will be felt most deeply by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royals now doubt that the United States has the ability or the willingness to fully guarantee Riyadh's interests. Adding to Saudi Arabia's vulnerabilities, the Gulf Cooperation Council states fear that if Iran is not contained within Iraq, it will exploit continued Shiite unrest in Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia's Shia-concentrated, oil-rich Eastern Province. In 2012, Saudi Arabia will lead efforts to shore up and consolidate the defenses of Gulf Cooperation Council members to try to ward off the threat posed by Iran, but such efforts will not be a sufficient replacement for the United States and the role it plays as a security guarantor. A critical part of Iran's regional agenda for the year will be to force Riyadh into an accommodation that benefits Iran and allows Saudi Arabia some reprieve. This could lead to temporary truces between the two adversaries, but given Iran's constraints and limited timetable, Saudi Arabia is more likely to stay committed to the U.S. security framework in the region -- for lack of better options.

Turmoil in Iraq and Syria
The effects of Iran's expansion efforts will be most visible in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, Iran's main challenge is to consolidate Shiite power among several competing groups. As Iraq's fractured Shiite leadership tries to solidify its influence with Iranian support, Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish factions increasingly will be put on the defensive. This ethno-sectarian struggle and the security vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal will degrade Iraq's overall security conditions. Meanwhile, Turkey will attempt to contain the spread of Iranian influence in northern Iraq by building up political, economic, military and intelligence assets.

In Syria, the ultimate goal of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States will be to disrupt Iran's Shiite arc of influence by trying to crack Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime. However, without direct foreign military intervention, the Syrian regime is unlikely to collapse. Al Assad will continue to struggle in trying to stamp out domestic unrest. The regime's limited options to deal with the crisis will force Syria to further rely on Iran for support, which will allow Tehran to reinforce its presence in the Mediterranean.

Stratfor cannot rule out the remote possibility that the al Assad clan will be coerced into a political exit. Such an outcome would risk inciting a sectarian struggle within the regime. Iran's goal is for Syria to maintain a regime -- regardless of who leads it -- that will remain favorable to Iranian interests, but Iran's ability to influence the situation is limited, and finding a replacement to hold the regime together will be difficult. It should be noted that the battle for Syria cannot take place without spilling over into Lebanon. In that regard, Lebanon faces a difficult year as proxy battles intensify between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Levant.

Turkey's Struggles
Overwhelmed by instability in its periphery, Turkey will continue to face significant challenges to its regional ascendency. Despite its rhetoric, Turkey will not undertake significant overt military action in Syria unless the United States leads the intervention -- a scenario Stratfor regards as improbable -- though it will continue efforts to mold an opposition in Syria and counterbalance Iranian influence in Iraq. Ankara will thus work to maintain a decent bilateral relationship with Tehran despite growing tensions between the two. Economic conditions in Europe will slow Turkey's economic growth, Kurdish militancy in Turkey will remain a significant threat, and concerns over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's health could turn the government's focus inward as it tries to work through a contentious set of proposed constitutional changes. On the foreign policy front, Turkey will try to influence the rise of political Islamists, particularly in Egypt and Syria, but Ankara's own constraints will prevent it from taking meaningful steps in that regard.

Egypt's Political Transition
Egypt's turbulent political transition likely will give rise to a parliament with a significant Islamist presence, thereby complicating the ruling military elite's hold on power. However, the democratic transition will be a partial one at best; the country's fractious opposition and impotent parliament will continue to suffer from internal divisions and will be unable to overrule the military on issues of national strategic importance. Thus, the military will remain the de facto authority of the state.

Concerns over the country's struggling economy will outweigh the military's concerns over its political opposition. Egypt's preoccupation with its economic and political issues will undermine its ability to patrol its Sinai buffer, leading to increased tensions with Israel. However, both sides will continue to maintain the peace treaty that has been the foundation of Israeli-Egyptian relations for the past generation.

The Hamas Agenda
Hamas will take advantage of the slowly growing political clout of Islamists throughout the region in hopes of presenting itself to neighboring Arab governments and the West as a pragmatic and reconcilable political alternative to Fatah. These moves will help protect Hamas from the potential regime crisis in Syria (where its politburo is based) and bolster its relationships with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Hamas will be on alert for tactical opportunities to undermine security in the Sinai Peninsula with the hope of creating a crisis between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt's preoccupations and Hamas' expanded room to maneuver will incentivize the Jordanian leadership to strengthen its ties with Hamas. It will also allow Jordan to manage its own unrest by building more credibility among Islamists, leverage its relations with Fatah and keep a tab on Hamas' actions as the Jordanian monarchs adjust to changing regional dynamics.

East Asia
Three things will shape events in East Asia: China's response to the economic crisis and possible social turmoil amid a leadership transition; the European Union's debt crisis and economic slowdown sapping demand for East Asia's exports; and regional interaction with the U.S. re-engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 2008 financial crisis exposed the inherent weaknesses of the Chinese economy, which, like its East Asian powerhouse predecessors, largely was based on a growth model driven by exports and government-led investment. While Beijing had been aware for some time of the need to shift toward a more balanced economic model, the continued slump in Europe and fears of another global slowdown have forced the government to face the challenges of economic restructuring now, rather than constantly staving them off. Even in the best of times, the redirection of an economy the size of China's would be difficult, but the pressure for change comes amid a leadership transition, when Beijing is particularly sensitive to any disruptions. With the politburo lineup changing in October and the new state leaders taking office in early 2013, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is focused on maintaining social stability to preserve the legacy of the outgoing leadership and solidify the legitimacy of the incoming leadership.

A rapid drop in economic growth poses a serious threat to China in 2012; a modest slowdown is widely expected this year due to the weakening export sector, a slump in the real estate market, and investment and risks to the banking system. Beijing is betting the decline will remain at a manageable level -- at least for a year of transition. The sharp drop in demand from Europe will harm the export sector in particular, with growth likely reduced to single digits. This declining external demand will threaten the already weakened export-oriented manufacturing industry, which has experienced rising costs in labor, raw materials and utilities as well as appreciating currency on top of its already thin-to-nonexistent profit margins. China will seek to compensate in part by refocusing on exports to the United States and expanding in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America or Africa, though this will not fully make up for the drop-off from Europe. Moreover, growing trade protectionism because of the economic downturn and political considerations -- especially the upcoming U.S. election season -- will likely put Chinese manufacturers at the center of trade frictions, making their position even more vulnerable. Beijing will employ traditional tools including targeted credit, tax reductions and direct subsidies to mitigate the risks of rising unemployment and bankruptcy in the financially strained manufacturing sector.

While Beijing knows that rolling out another massive fiscal stimulus and bank loans as it did in 2008-2009 is unsustainable and would put the economy at risk, it sees few other short-term options and thus will use government-led investment to sustain growth in 2012. Beijing will resume and launch a number of large infrastructure projects even at the expense of overcapacity and lack of productivity. However, accounting for around 10 percent of gross domestic product and a quarter of fixed investment, the decline in the real estate sector due to Beijing's tightening measures since 2010 represents one of the largest threats to Beijing's effort to stabilize growth. With affordable housing projects -- Beijing's plan to offset the negative consequences from falling real estate prices and weakening investment -- unlikely to reach their designated goal, Beijing may have to selectively relax its real estate tightening policy in 2012 while trying to avoid overcompensating by causing a sharp market rebound or property price inflation. The ruling Communist Party had promised it would bring these issues under control; its failure to do so could undermine the Party's credibility.

The continued high-level credit boom combined with the need to work out nonperforming loans (NPL) from the 2008-2009 stimulus will bring China into heightened NPL risk. The actual NPL ratio may rise as high as 8-12 percent in the next few years. At least 4.6 trillion yuan ($729 billion) out of a government-estimated local debt of 10.7 trillion yuan is set to mature within two years, and Beijing expects 2.5 trillion to 3 trillion yuan of the total risk to turn sour. The NPL risk, the 2.1 trillion-yuan debt from investment in the railway system and the massive informal lending from the shadow banking system that grew significantly during Beijing's credit tightening pose a systemic risk to the banking sector. Beijing may have to take some pre-emptive actions, such as refinancing measures or capital injections, in 2012 to ensure Chinese banks are able to maintain confidence in China's financial system. China's leaders, faced with near-term stabilizing options and long-term deep reforms, will choose the former, postponing the crisis but amplifying it when it becomes unavoidable in the future.

Given the economic uncertainty and political sensitivity surrounding the leadership transition, political elites in Beijing will attempt consensus at the highest levels. As it learned from the Tiananmen Square incident, CPC factional infighting exploited at a sensitive time is a serious risk, and we expect to see measures to ensure ideological and cultural control throughout the Party and down through the rest of society. Meanwhile, the priority to ensure a smooth transition means Beijing will be much less tolerant of actions that could spread instability, though Beijing is also cultivating pre-emptive methods for social control, such as community-level management or providing carefully controlled outlets for expressing grievances to better manage the country's social frustration, which will likely be exacerbated by the deteriorating economic situation.

Internationally, China will continue to accelerate its resource acquisition and outward investment strategy. As domestic problems mount, China may use external disputes to ease public dissatisfaction. Anticipating U.S. economic and trade pressure due to the electoral season and strategic encroachment in China's periphery, Beijing will focus its attention on reducing miscalculation and stressing interdependence in its relations with Washington while clarifying its response to the U.S engagement. Meanwhile, China will balance nationalistic initiatives with maintaining neighborly relations -- particularly with the South China Sea claimant countries, India and Japan -- and countering perceived moves by the United States to constrain China's economic influence in the region and lines of supply. The South China Sea claimant countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, will respond by accelerating their military purchases, taking advantage of the U.S. re-engagement efforts to hedge against China.

Most Asian countries -- which showed a strong economic recovery throughout 2010 and early 2011 -- will experience reduced growth amid the global economic slowdown. As the most important economic partner to many countries, China will increase its economic assistance and trade to Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries to leverage its influence. Beijing hopes to again project economic power in the region through aid, the import of consumer goods, currency swaps and regional trade agreements, but Beijing's role may also face challenges by renewed interest from other nations -- for example, the United States and Japan.

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has increased uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula. The first six months of the year will be critical as the unity of the regime is tested amid the leadership transfer. The leadership structure between civilian and military elements was established in recent years to strengthen the role of the Workers' Party of Korea as one of the pillars of power and to rebalance the military's role, but the process was not yet complete at the time of Kim's death. North Korean leaders are unlikely to fundamentally change the direction of Pyongyang's foreign policy in the near term. Their attention initially will be focused internally, and they will seek to avoid any sudden shift in policy that could destabilize the regime or significantly increase foreign pressure. China will look to make a push to ensure even greater influence on the Korean Peninsula during the transition period. In addition, bilateral discussions with the United States on resuming the six-party nuclear talks were showing progress before Kim's death, and Pyongyang is likely to restart these discussions sometime during the year.

South Asia
The U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan will not maintain sufficient force levels long enough to militarily defeat the Taliban -- and their various factions -- or pacify the country. But the Taliban will not be in a position to drive the United States and its allies from the country by force. Force structure choices must be made in 2012 to define the war effort through 2014, but the United States and its allies will continue to combat the Taliban in 2012 even as Afghan forces increasingly bear the brunt of the war effort. The United States will continue to consider a political accommodation with the Taliban, but such accommodation is unlikely to be reached this year.

The most important development in South Asia is Pakistan's ongoing political evolution. While other states, including Iran, are interested in shaping the future political landscape of Afghanistan, Pakistan continues to be at the heart of the Afghan war. As such, U.S.-Pakistani tensions will intensify in 2012 as the United States reaches an understanding with Pakistan, which will have to deal with the situation in the region after the United States leaves. Political, religious, ethnic and ideological tensions will intensify inside the country, and these will affect Pakistan, Afghanistan and U.S.-Pakistani relations moving forward.

Latin America
Through the first half of 2012, Mexico will be enmeshed in campaigning for its July 1 presidential election. The country faces the possible end of what will be 12 years of rule by the National Action Party (PAN). Faced with public condemnation of rising violence, the PAN has lost a great deal of credibility over the past five years, something likely to benefit the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the newly unified Revolutionary Democratic Party. We expect no major legislative action under the administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon as the three main parties compete for public approval. The new president takes office Dec. 1, meaning most of the new administration's major policy moves will not occur until 2013.

Regardless of any change in party, Mexico's underlying challenges will remain. The country's drug war rages on, with Los Zetas having consolidated control over most of Mexico's eastern coastal transportation corridor and the Sinaloa cartel having done the same in the west. Both cartels have a significant, growing presence in Central America and relations with South American organized crime. We expect the cartels to intensify their efforts to extend control over regional supply chains in 2012, although the Mexican cartels will remain dependent on relationships with local organized crime in other transit and producing countries. Despite significant territorial control in Mexico by Sinaloa and Los Zetas, numerous smaller criminal entities are still struggling for access to key transport hubs such as Acapulco. Meanwhile, the two main cartels will continue to attack each other in critical transit cities such as Veracruz and Guadalajara.

Continued inter-cartel competition among Mexico's diverse criminal groups will prevent any kind of alliance between Los Zetas and Sinaloa that allows them to abandon violence in favor of more profitable smuggling conditions. Similarly, the government faces severe constraints on its counter-cartel activities. It cannot afford to be seen publicly backing away from attempts to rein in violence. At the same time, any significant uptick in military offensives against the cartels carries the risk of intensifying the violence. The government will therefore attempt to emphasize social and economic policies while maintaining its current, high-tempo counter-cartel strategy.

Brazil will spend 2012 focused on mitigating shocks to trade and capital flows from the crisis in Europe. However, with only 10 percent of Brazil's gross domestic product dependent on exports, Brazil is much less vulnerable than many other developing countries. In politics, Brazil will remain focused on trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation during the expected slowdown with judicious fiscal outlays and monetary expansion. Brazil will thus remain primarily focused on domestic issues through 2012. Trade protectionism will play a strong role in efforts to shield vulnerable industries. With global trade slowing, China will look for alternative export markets; these two trends will drive increased bilateral tensions between China and Brazil over the next year. Key Brazilian domestic issues will include ongoing city and border security initiatives; social welfare programs; infrastructure construction; and the development of, and politics surrounding, Brazil's petroleum reserves.

Uncertainty surrounding the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez makes it difficult to forecast the precise direction of Venezuelan politics in 2012. There will certainly be continued speculation about a potential successor from the Chavista elite, and growing dissatisfaction with the status quo among Chavez's base will be a prominent political force. Meanwhile, the political opposition parties -- which at this point appear prepared to unite behind a single candidate to be selected in February -- will make their most credible play for power in a decade. Under these conditions, the 2012 election will serve as a disruptor of Venezuelan politics. While the exact details of the outcome are unpredictable, 2012 will likely see some sort of power transition away from Chavez.

Regardless of who holds power at the end of the year, 2012 will continue to be characterized by growing domestic economic uncertainty, periodic infrastructure failure and poor distribution of basic goods. Dissatisfaction with these and other socio-economic issues will drive further protests, but the majority of political action will be centered on the election.

Cuba's slow and cautious transitional measures can be expected to continue in 2012. Key reforms such as making credit and private property available to individuals are under way, and similar reforms, including attempts to loosen travel restrictions, can be expected in the next year. Cuba's ultimate international challenge is to balance the liberalization demands of the United States with its need for subsidized Venezuelan oil. A sudden disruption of these shipments is unlikely, but a political shift in Venezuela could force Cuba to reach out to the United States as a much more powerful -- but also more politically invasive -- economic partner.

Sub-Saharan Africa
In 2012, a containment strategy will solidify against Somali jihadists -- both the transnationalist group al Shabaab and its nationalist rival, the Somali Islamic Emirate. This strategy will have three elements. The first will feature African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces consolidating their presence in Mogadishu. These forces include peacekeepers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, and additional forces from Sierra Leone will be deployed soon.

In the second part of the strategy, Kenyan troops will strengthen the cordon along the Kenyan border with southern Somalia. The 4,000 Kenyan troops there, nominally part of AMISOM, will hold territory and interdict Somali jihadists moving about the area. Lastly, Ethiopian forces will fortify a cordon along Ethiopia's border with central Somalia, also attempting to hold the territory and interdict jihadists.

To deny the Somali militias propaganda material, AMISOM, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians will not push deep into Somali territory to engage the jihadists. Instead, local militias employing guerrilla tactics will fight the jihadists within the containment zone. The combined efforts will successfully disrupt the jihadists' lines of supply, but they will not bring about their defeat. The United States will continue covert action in the Somali theater. U.S. special operations forces and unmanned aerial vehicles will collect and share intelligence with the Somali government and its allies. Additionally, U.S. forces in East Africa and the Horn of Africa will remain poised to strike high-value Somali jihadists or senior al Qaeda targets, should the opportunity arise.

Nigeria will see sustained militant violence in its northern region. Aggrieved political elites in the north, believing the government of President Goodluck Jonathan stole political power from them, will seek to use the Boko Haram militant group to their advantage. As part of their campaign to regain political power in 2015 national elections, these northern politicians will provide Boko Haram with arms and funding while protecting it politically.

This will enable the group to carry out frequent attacks on Nigerian government and civilian targets in its core area of operations in the country's northeast and northwest. Boko Haram will also conduct operations in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, but these will be rare. Boko Haram's statements will be jihadist and fierce, but the nature of its support will prevent it from carrying out attacks that would trigger an international response and result in a loss of leverage for northern Nigeria's political elite, such as transnational operations or attacks against foreign political or commercial facilities in Nigeria.

The Niger Delta in the south will also see a slow but steady return to militant violence. Though the Jonathan administration has stated that it will serve only from 2011 to 2015, divisions will start to emerge within the Jonathan camp over whether a single term is sufficient. Like their peers in northern Nigeria, political elites in the Niger Delta region, including Jonathan, will start reactivating alliances with regional militant groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Attacks by MEND or other Niger Delta militants in 2012 will be infrequent and ultimately will not threaten oil production. However, they will form the basis for a counter-campaign by the Niger Delta political elite to demand political patronage while the region's elite decides whether to run for the ruling party's nomination for the presidency in the next elections.

Domestic opposition in Sudan and South Sudan will prevent both governments from signing a legally binding oil revenue-sharing accord. Instead, they will accept the continuation of ad hoc agreements regarding the distribution of oil revenues. Additionally, U.N. peacekeepers will maintain their deployments in South Sudan and Darfur to respond to border clashes between militias on both sides of the Sudan-South Sudan border. It will take much of the year, but Khartoum and Juba will settle into an informal understanding over border demarcation.

South Africa
South Africa will remain focused on internal rivalries that will inhibit its ability to consolidate its influence in the southern African region. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will contend with internal rivalries as it moves toward a leadership convention and election in December 2012. South African President Jacob Zuma will be working to secure a second term as ANC president, a post that would effectively make him the party's candidate for South African president in 2014 elections. Simultaneously, the Zuma camp will work to ensure that no rival faction in the ANC gains enough momentum to challenge Zuma.

Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #274 on: January 13, 2012, 08:53:56 AM »

When I was taking International Relations at Penn with William Quandt (formerly Kissinger's aide on the NSC for the mid-east desk) he spoke of Kissinger's conceptual construct of a militarily bi-polar and economically multi-polar world.

With the collapse of the Soviet Empire we have had a uni-polar moment, both militarily and economically.

That is now done.

Whither the world now and what concepts should guide the US?
Power User
Posts: 42454

« Reply #275 on: January 17, 2012, 01:41:08 AM »

View today's fresh analysis on our site:

The European Crisis in 2012
Geopolitical Calendar: Week of Jan. 16, 2012
Denmark's European Union Presidency
Nigeria Lifts Popular Fuel Subsidy
Obstacles for Egypt's Islamists After Elections
Video: The Middle East in 2012
Graphic of the Day: Somali Pirate Activity, 2008-2011
For the past six years, Stratfor has published an annual forecast on al Qaeda and the jihadist movement. Since our first forecast in January 2006, we have focused heavily on examining and documenting the change of jihadism from a phenomenon involving primarily the core al Qaeda group to one based primarily on the broader, decentralized jihadist movement -- and the lesser threat the latter poses.

The central theme of last year's forecast was that the al Qaeda core would continue to be marginalized on the physical battlefield and would struggle to remain relevant on the ideological battlefield. While we did not forecast the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden, his death certainly furthered the downward trend we predicted for the al Qaeda core organization. Due to the al Qaeda core's struggles, we forecast that regional jihadist franchise groups would continue to be at the vanguard of the physical battle and would eclipse the al Qaeda core in the ideological realm. We also noted that grassroots operatives would remain a persistent, albeit low-level, threat for 2011.

The past year saw hundreds of attacks and thwarted plots planned by jihadist actors in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But in terms of transnational plots and attacks, activity was down considerably compared to 2010. As we forecast, almost all of these plots involved grassroots operatives or militants from regional jihadist groups rather than militants dispatched by the al Qaeda core leadership. For 2012, we anticipate that these trends will continue and, given bin Laden's death, the core al Qaeda group will not only continue to degrade but struggle to survive. Like the past two years, jihadism in 2012 will be defined by the activities of the franchise groups and the persistent grassroots threat.


Contemporary vernacular imbues "al Qaeda" with a number of definitions, and the al Qaeda label is applied, often incorrectly, to several distinct actors. Therefore, we need to define what we refer to as jihadism, al Qaeda and the various agents in the jihadist movement to understand jihadism as a phenomenon.


In Arabic, "jihad" means to "struggle" or "strive for" something. The word commonly refers to an armed struggle, and one engaged in such a struggle is called a "mujahid" (mujahideen in the plural). Mainstream Muslims do not consider "jihadist" an accurate term for those who claim to fight on their behalf. In fact, those called jihadists in the Western context are considered deviants by mainstream Muslims. Therefore, the jihadist label reflects this perception of deviancy. We therefore use the term jihadist to refer to militant Islamists who profess the violent overthrow of existing regimes in favor of global or regional Islamic polities. We use the term "jihadism" to refer to the ideology propagated by jihadists.

Al Qaeda, al Qaeda Prime or al Qaeda Core

Stratfor views what most people refer to as "al Qaeda" as a decentralized global jihadist network rather than a monolithic entity. This network consists of three distinct and quite different elements. The first is the vanguard al Qaeda organization, which we frequently refer to as al Qaeda prime or the al Qaeda core. The al Qaeda core is the small organization founded by bin Laden and currently led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and a small circle of trusted associates.

Although al Qaeda trained thousands of militants in its camps in Afghanistan, most of those trained were either grassroots operatives or members of other militant groups who never became members of the core group. Indeed, most of the trainees received only basic guerrilla warfare instruction, and only a select few were designated to receive training in terrorist tradecraft skills, such as bombmaking. Of the few who received this advanced training, fewer still were selected to join the al Qaeda core organization.

The al Qaeda core was designed to be a small and elite organization stationed at the forefront of the physical battlefield. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies have applied intense pressure on this core organization. This pressure has resulted in the death or capture of many al Qaeda cadres and has ensured that the group remain small due to operational security concerns. The remnants of this insular group are lying low in Pakistan near the Afghan border, and this isolation has significantly degraded the group's ability to conduct attacks. Accordingly, the al Qaeda core has been relegated to producing propaganda and providing guidance and inspiration to other jihadist elements. With the death of bin Laden, the burden of the propaganda efforts will fall to al-Zawahiri, Abu Yahya al-Libi and, to a lesser extent, native English speaker Adam Gadahn. Despite the disproportionate amount of media attention it receives, the al Qaeda core constitutes only a very small portion of the larger jihadist movement and has not conducted a successful terrorist attack for years.

Franchise Groups

The second element of jihadism associated with al Qaeda is a worldwide network of local or regional terrorist or insurgent groups. These groups have been influenced by the al Qaeda core's philosophy and guidance and have adopted a similar jihadist ideology. In many cases, members of these groups received training in al Qaeda camps in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these groups have publicly claimed allegiance to bin Laden and the al Qaeda core, becoming what we refer to as franchise groups. These include such organizations as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Notably, even though these groups adopt the al Qaeda label, they are locally owned and operated. As such, some group leaders, like Nasir al-Wahayshi of AQAP, maintain relations and are philosophically aligned with the al Qaeda core. Others, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of the al Qaeda franchise in Iraq, can be at odds with the al Qaeda core's leadership and philosophy.

Other regional groups may adopt some or all of al Qaeda's jihadist ideology and cooperate to some degree with the core group. But for a variety of reasons, they maintain even more independence than the franchise groups. They are more akin to allies than true members of the al Qaeda movement.

Grassroots Jihadists

The third and broadest element of the global jihadist network encompasses what we refer to as grassroots jihadists. These are individuals who are inspired by the al Qaeda core -- or, increasingly, by the franchise groups -- but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups. Some grassroots operatives, such as Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty to charges related to a New York City Subway bomb plot in 2009, travel to places like Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen, where they receive training from jihadist franchise groups. Other grassroots jihadists, like accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, may communicate but have no physical interaction with members of a franchise group. Some grassroots militants have no direct contact with other jihadist elements. Lastly, some would-be grassroots militants seek out contact with other jihadist elements but accidentally make contact with government informants. In recent years, such cases have been occurring more frequently, resulting in sting operations and arrests.

Moving down the hierarchy from the al Qaeda core to the grassroots operatives, there is a decline in operational capability and expertise in what we refer to as terrorist tradecraft -- the skills required to effectively plan and execute a terrorist attack. The operatives belonging to the al Qaeda core generally are better trained than their regional affiliates, and both of these elements tend to be far better trained than grassroots operatives, who must travel abroad to obtain training.

While these various elements of the jihadist network are distinct, the Internet brings them together, especially at the grassroots level. Videos, websites and online magazines indoctrinate aspiring militants in the jihadist ideology and provide a forum for like-minded individuals and groups.

2011 Forecast in Review

As noted above, the heart of our jihadist forecast for 2011 was the idea that the efforts of the U.S. government and its allies would continue to marginalize the al Qaeda core on the physical battlefield, which would in turn cause the organization to continue to struggle for relevance on the ideological battlefield. We concluded that the regional jihadist franchise groups would remain at the forefront of the physical battlefield and assume a more prominent position in the ideological battlefield. While the franchise groups have indeed subsumed the al Qaeda core, many groups, such as al Shabaab and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are weaker than they were a year ago.

We did not see a successful attack attributed to the al Qaeda core in 2011, though there is evidence to suggest the group had never stopped planning. For example, in April German authorities arrested a Moroccan-born man, Abdeladim el-K (German privacy law prevents suspects from being fully identified), who they claim was sent to Germany by al Qaeda operational leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman to conduct an attack. German police on Dec. 15 also arrested a man who reportedly was inspired by el-K and who was allegedly attempting to continue el-K's attack plans.

2011 differed from previous years in that there were no transnational attacks from franchise or affiliate groups. AQAP conducted an attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August 2009, attempted an attack on a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009, and attempted to bomb cargo planes in October 2010, but was quiet last year, as were the TTP and AQIM. The Caucasus Emirate, a jihadist group loosely affiliated with al Qaeda, was active in the Caucasus and conducted some attacks in Moscow, but those attacks were not categorically transnational. Likewise, al Shabaab carried out some attacks in northern Kenya following the Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia, but we consider those attacks more regional than transnational despite their occurring across a national border.

In our 2011 forecast, we also noted our belief that, due to the accessibility of U.S. and European societies and the ease of conducting attacks against them, we would see more grassroots plots, if not successful attacks, there than attacks by the other jihadist elements. This forecast was accurate. Of the 12 plots against the West in 2011 that we classify as jihadist (down from 20 in 2010), one plot was connected to the al Qaeda core, 11 to grassroots elements (down from 15 in 2010) and none to franchise groups (down from 4 in 2010). The one plot connected to the al Qaeda core involved an operational planner who linked up with grassroots militants in Germany.

We also forecast that, because of the nature of the jihadist threat, soft targets would continue to be attacked in 2011 and that additional plots targeting aircraft would take place. We saw the continued focus on soft targets, but aside from the March 2 attack against U.S. Air Force personnel outside the Frankfurt airport and the Caucasus Emirate's suicide bombing attack at the arrival terminal of Moscow's Domodedovo airport in January, we did not see plots directed at aircraft. Instead, we saw aviation-related plots often focused on soft targets outside airport security.

In addition, we predicted an increase in plots and attacks involving firearms and other weapons rather than improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The shooting in Frankfurt, the thwarted knife attack against cartoonist Lars Vilks in Goteborg, Sweden, and several thwarted plots in the United States, including those in Seattle, Alabama, New York and Killeen, Texas, all evidence our prediction.

Our regional forecasts for 2011 were accurate, especially for the United States, Europe, North Africa and Indonesia. Our biggest miss was underestimating how involved AQAP would become in Yemen's internal conflict as different groups challenged President Ali Abullah Saleh's rule and how this involvement would distract the group from conducting transnational attacks.

Forecast for 2012

We anticipate that the al Qaeda core will continue to struggle in the physical and ideological arenas. The group still has prolific spokesmen in al-Zawahiri, al-Libi and Gadahn, but in 2011 the group issued remarkably few messages. The remaining leaders appear to be lying low following the deaths of bin Laden, al-Rahman and others.

Even though AQAP lost important English-speaking ideological figures when Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed (Khan was the editor of AQAP's English-language Inspire magazine) the group's main operational and ideological leadership remain at large. Among this leadership are the group's emir, Nasir al-Wahayshi, operational commander Qasim al-Raymi, and innovative bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.

The remaining ideological leaders include the group's mufti, or religious leader, Saudi-born Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish. With a degree in Islamic law, fighting experience with bin Laden at Tora Bora and time served in Guantanamo Bay, al-Rubaish has impeccable jihadist credentials. The influential head of AQAP's Shariah Council, a Yemeni imam named Adel bin Abdullah al-Abab, is among AQAP's ideologues. While AQAP is unlikely to ever recreate what Samir Khan accomplished with Inspire magazine, the group's al-Malaheim Media is still active, and its Arabic-language offerings continue. Those messages frequently are translated into English on such websites as the Ansar Al-Mujahideen English forum.

Moreover, the English-language statements of al-Awlaki and the editions of Inspire magazine remain on the Internet with a readership that numbers in the thousands. Indeed, an article from the first edition of Inspire, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," was linked to thwarted grassroots plots in Texas and New York in 2011. We believe that the threat from grassroots jihadists will persist for the foreseeable future.

We disagree with those who claim that the unrest in the Arab world will end jihadism. The overthrow of the Gadhafi regime in Libya and the democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt will provide alternative outlets to jihadism for dissent, and other Islamist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, will undercut jihadism ideologically. But the small core of hard-line jihadists will remain undeterred; this group will continue to propagate its ideology and recruit new adherents.

Recruitment will be more difficult in the current environment, and while this may hasten the eventual decline of jihadism, it will not kill the ideology this year. In addition to persisting in such lawless places as Yemen, Somalia and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, jihadism will maintain its niche in the West, and grassroots jihadists will continue to be radicalized and mobilized in the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

Regional Forecasts

The United States and Europe

The al Qaeda core and franchise groups will continue to struggle attacking the United States and Europe directly and will continue to reach out to grassroots operatives who have the ability to travel to the West. Otherwise, they will attempt to recruit aspiring jihadists living in the West. This means we will likely see more thwarted or botched plots involving poorly trained operatives and simple attacks like the shooting in Frankfurt. While such attacks can and do kill people, they are not spectacular events as 9/11 and the 2008 Mumbai attacks were. This trend also means that travel to places like Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or contact with jihadist planners there, will continue to be an operational weakness that Western intelligence agencies can exploit. Such was the case in Birmingham, England, where 12 suspected plotters were arrested in September and November. Individuals seeking to acquire weapons and explosives will also remain vulnerable to detection.

While Nasir al-Wahayshi's appeal for aspiring jihadists to avoid contacting franchise groups and traveling overseas in search of training is sound, it has been difficult for jihadists to follow. This is evidenced by the fact that we have seen very few plots or attacks in which the planners were true lone wolves who had absolutely no contact with outside jihadists -- or with government agents they believed to be jihadists. While the leaderless resistance model can be difficult for law enforcement to guard against, its downside for jihadists is that it takes a unique type of individual to be a true and effective lone wolf.

Since we believe most plots in the United States and Europe in 2012 will involve grassroots jihadists, we also believe that soft targets -- public gatherings and mass transportation hubs, for example -- will continue to be the most popular target set. In places like Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia, we believe hotels and housing compounds will be more attractive targets than U.S. embassies or consulates, which are much more difficult to successfully attack. With a thwarted plot against a cartoonist involved in the Mohammed cartoon controversy taking place as recently as September, we do not see any end to that threat.

We predict that al-Wahayshi's advice will go unheeded and that grassroots jihadists in the United States will continue to plan and conduct simple attacks using firearms and other weapons. We do not foresee difficult and elaborate attacks employing explosives.


The government of Pakistan has been busily trying to divide the TTP and channel the group's efforts toward other targets in the region, such as foreign forces in Afghanistan and India. Islamabad has had some success in that regard, but we anticipate that some factions of the TTP will continue to target the Pakistani state. In any case, we expect to see fewer and smaller attacks in Pakistan in 2012 than in 2011.


We will need to keep a close eye on the leadership of the Afghan Taliban and their dialogue with the Karzai government. The current conflict between the Taliban and Afghan and NATO forces will lessen somewhat if the Taliban become more involved in the political process, but we do not anticipate the militant group renouncing violence altogether. With some Pakistani jihadist groups vowing to target foreign forces in Afghanistan, acts of terrorism may increase against foreigners in Kabul and Kandahar. Given the intensity of foreign counterterrorism operations and the ongoing insurgency, jihadist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan will have little opportunity to set their sights on targets beyond the immediate region.


India continues to face the threat of Kashmir-based militant groups as well as transnational jihadist groups supported by state and non-state elements within Pakistan. These groups include the Haqqani network and residual elements of Lashkar-e-Taiba, all of which will continue to plan attacks inside India and against Indian interests in nearby countries, such as Afghanistan. India also faces a persistent but smaller threat from domestic jihadist groups like Indian Mujahideen.

Central Asia

For the first time in modern history, Kazakhstan in 2011 was the site of multiple suspected jihadist attacks, including three suicide attacks. Jund al-Khalifa, a Kazakh al Qaeda franchise group, emerged last summer, and we anticipate that it will continue its activities in 2012. Other groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, are active in the region, but because these groups are weak and disorganized and operate largely from the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, they do not pose a major threat to the region's governments.


The Russians have hit the Caucasus Emirate very hard, arresting or killing several key leaders. The group was already suffering from internal divisions at the beginning of 2011; consequently, it did not pose a strategic threat to Russia last year. However, the jihadist group will continue to attack Russian and local government security forces in the Caucasus and will continue its attempts to take the fight to the heart of Moscow -- especially since Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov and dissenting Chechen insurgent leaders resolved their differences last summer. Low-level attacks against soft targets can be expected in the coming year. With the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi, we anticipate the Russians will focus a great deal of effort on weakening the jihadist groups in the region.


As noted above, AQAP has lost some important English-speaking ideologues, yet the group maintains much of its militant capability. Yemen, where AQAP is based, increasingly is seen as a destination to which foreign jihadists travel to fight and receive training. With the government in Sanaa struggling to retain power in 2011, AQAP was able to take advantage of the instability of the Saleh regime, which was cracking down on protests and fighting throughout the country, and seized portions of southern Yemen. The group also has become very adept at using ambushes, roadside IEDs and sticky bombs to assassinate government officials and military officers. AQAP's experience could later be applied elsewhere if the group is able to again expand its focus beyond Yemeni government targets.

As the crisis in Yemen is resolved and the government turns its attention to regaining control of the country, we anticipate severe clashes between AQAP and government forces. If AQAP declines to fight and withdraws to its remote hideaways, the group may resume operations against foreigners in Sanaa and Aden and conduct transnational attacks. Given AQAP's tactical advances, such attacks might be more deadly than similar attacks in the past.


While the Islamic State of Iraq was greatly damaged by Sunni cooperation with the Americans, the U.S. military withdrawal will change that dynamic. The power struggle between Sunnis and Shia could allow the Islamic State of Iraq to regenerate because the Sunni sheikhs not only tolerate the organization, but support it as a tool against the Shia and their powerful Iranian supporters. Given the tense political situation and the still-unresolved ethno-sectarian balance of power, there will be plenty of opportunity for terrorist attacks.

North Africa

In northern Algeria, AQIM has continued to resist the al Qaeda core's targeting philosophy, instead concentrating on attacking government and security targets. In a sense, AQIM essentially functions as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat but with a different name. The Algerian government has hit AQIM very hard in its traditional mountain strongholds east of Algiers, and the ideological rift over whether to follow al Qaeda's dictates also has hurt the group. Increased abductions of Westerners and clashes with security forces in the Sahara-Sahel are not convincing evidence of AQIM's expanding reach -- nor are incompetent attacks to the south of Algeria. Much of this expanded activity in the south is the result of rivalries between sub-commanders and attempts at raising money via kidnapping and banditry for survival. This is a sign of weakness and lack of cohesion, not strength.

A cell of Moroccan militants allegedly linked to AQIM conducted a successful bombing attack in April against a cafe in Marrakech, Morocco, that killed 17 people, but it was a relatively unsophisticated attack against a soft target. Moroccan authorities claim to have arrested those responsible for the attack.

AQIM elements in the mountains east of Algiers remain weak and ineffective. Even the IEDs the group has employed have been somewhat weak, indicating that the group is running out of explosives. Some of the factions in the Sahel allegedly have received weapons from Libya, but aside from some landmines we have not seen signs of advanced weaponry, such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles or anti-tank guided missiles.

On the whole, AQIM is a shadow of what it was five years ago. It will continue to kidnap victims in the Sahel -- or acquire kidnapped foreigners from ethnic Tuareg rebels in Mali and Niger -- and conduct the occasional small attack, but it still is not a unified militant organization that poses a regional, much less transnational, threat.


Former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) fought against the Gadhafi regime, and the group's leader, Abdelhakim Belhadj, is now the commander of the Tripoli Military Council. (Belhadj and the LIFG renounced jihadism in March as part of a deradicalization program run by Seif al-Islam Gadhafi.) With the fall of the regime in Libya and the current struggle for power among the various militias -- some of these militias, like the Tripoli Military Council, are Islamist -- jihadists have been presented an opportunity. It will be important to monitor Libya to see if the jihadist elements are able to make any gains there.


The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak has created an opening for Egyptian citizens to participate in the political process. This will help dilute jihadist sentiment in the country. A faction of former militant group Gamaah al-Islamiyah is even taking part in the elections. However, while Mubarak was deposed, the military regime is still in place. The small core of hard-line jihadists is unlikely to embrace the change and will continue its struggle. Indeed, jihadist elements have attacked a number of oil pipelines in the months since Mubarak fell. We anticipate that attacks against pipelines and security forces will continue, and 2012 could also see a return of attacks against tourists in the Sinai if the authorities are unable to weaken the jihadists there.

If the military regime is unwilling to relinquish power to the newly elected parliament, the resultant conflict and disillusionment with the democratic process could convince people to turn to jihadism as a viable political alternative.


Divisions between Somali jihadists weakened al Shabaab in 2011, with rifts emerging between factions with nationalist goals and those aligned with al Qaeda with transnationalist goals. Al Shabaab has lost much of its territory in Mogadishu, and though it still has assets in the capital city and can conduct attacks and occasional raids there, it no longer controls large sections of the city. The Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia, the increased presence of African Union Mission in Somalia peacekeepers in Mogadishu and continuing pressure from U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle operations has forced al Shabaab to retrench. Aside from some low-level attacks in northern Kenya, the group cannot plan or conduct attacks outside Somalia. We do not see al Shabaab being defeated in 2012, but we believe that they will be unable to conduct a spectacular attack outside their immediate region.


Boko Haram made huge operational leaps in 2011; the group now employs vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) instead of small IEDs and small arms and machetes. This indicates that at least some element of the group has received outside training, likely from AQIM or al Shabaab (there have been reports of both). Boko Haram also became a transnational threat when it conducted a VBIED attack against a United Nations compound in Abuja that killed at least 21 people. Boko Haram has made threats to conduct attacks in the Niger Delta, but so far it has been unable to strike outside northern Nigeria or the capital. Despite its operational advancement, Boko Haram is still far from being a true transnational threat. The group may attempt to increase its operational range inside Nigeria, but we expect it to remain predominantly focused on northern Nigeria. We also believe that Boko Haram would strike other Nigerian cities, such as Lagos, before embarking on transnational attacks.


The Indonesian government has continued to hit the remnants of Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad and other jihadist elements hard, and it is unlikely that Indonesian jihadists will be able to regroup and conduct large-scale terrorist attacks in 2012. However, they will likely continue low-level attacks against soft targets, such as Christian churches in places like Poso, to incite sectarian violence. Non-jihadist Islamist groups -- Front Pembela Islam, for example -- may also incite riots and contribute members to other jihadist groups.


While the al Qaeda core has been marginalized and heavily damaged, the ideology of jihadism continues to survive and win new converts, albeit at progressively lower numbers. As long as this ideology is able to spread, the war its adherents are waging will continue. While jihadists do not pose a strategic geopolitical threat on a global, regional or national scale, they nonetheless are capable of killing scores of people. For that reason alone, the jihadist threat remains in 2012.
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« Reply #276 on: February 13, 2012, 11:22:34 AM »

History shows that world orders, including our own, are transient. They rise and fall, and the institutions they erect, the beliefs and "norms" that guide them, the economic systems they support—they rise and fall, too. The downfall of the Roman Empire brought an end not just to Roman rule but to Roman government and law and to an entire economic system stretching from Northern Europe to North Africa. Culture, the arts, even progress in science and technology, were set back for centuries.

 Many of us take for granted how the world looks today. But it might look a lot different without America at the top. The Brookings Institution's Robert Kagan talks with Washington bureau chief Jerry Seib about his new book, "The World America Made," and whether a U.S. decline is inevitable.

.Modern history has followed a similar pattern. After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, British control of the seas and the balance of great powers on the European continent provided relative security and stability. Prosperity grew, personal freedoms expanded, and the world was knit more closely together by revolutions in commerce and communication.

With the outbreak of World War I, the age of settled peace and advancing liberalism—of European civilization approaching its pinnacle—collapsed into an age of hyper-nationalism, despotism and economic calamity. The once-promising spread of democracy and liberalism halted and then reversed course, leaving a handful of outnumbered and besieged democracies living nervously in the shadow of fascist and totalitarian neighbors. The collapse of the British and European orders in the 20th century did not produce a new dark age—though if Nazi Germany and imperial Japan had prevailed, it might have—but the horrific conflict that it produced was, in its own way, just as devastating.
If the U.S. is unable to maintain its hegemony on the high seas, would other nations fill in the gaps? On board the USS Germantown in the South China Sea, Tuesday.

Would the end of the present American-dominated order have less dire consequences? A surprising number of American intellectuals, politicians and policy makers greet the prospect with equanimity. There is a general sense that the end of the era of American pre-eminence, if and when it comes, need not mean the end of the present international order, with its widespread freedom, unprecedented global prosperity (even amid the current economic crisis) and absence of war among the great powers.

American power may diminish, the political scientist G. John Ikenberry argues, but "the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive." The commentator Fareed Zakaria believes that even as the balance shifts against the U.S., rising powers like China "will continue to live within the framework of the current international system." And there are elements across the political spectrum—Republicans who call for retrenchment, Democrats who put their faith in international law and institutions—who don't imagine that a "post-American world" would look very different from the American world.

If all of this sounds too good to be true, it is. The present world order was largely shaped by American power and reflects American interests and preferences. If the balance of power shifts in the direction of other nations, the world order will change to suit their interests and preferences. Nor can we assume that all the great powers in a post-American world would agree on the benefits of preserving the present order, or have the capacity to preserve it, even if they wanted to.

Take the issue of democracy. For several decades, the balance of power in the world has favored democratic governments. In a genuinely post-American world, the balance would shift toward the great-power autocracies. Both Beijing and Moscow already protect dictators like Syria's Bashar al-Assad. If they gain greater relative influence in the future, we will see fewer democratic transitions and more autocrats hanging on to power. The balance in a new, multipolar world might be more favorable to democracy if some of the rising democracies—Brazil, India, Turkey, South Africa—picked up the slack from a declining U.S. Yet not all of them have the desire or the capacity to do it.

What about the economic order of free markets and free trade? People assume that China and other rising powers that have benefited so much from the present system would have a stake in preserving it. They wouldn't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

A Romney Adviser Read by Democrats
Robert Kagan's new book, "The World America Made," is finding an eager readership in the nation's capital, among prominent members of both political parties.

Around the time of President Barack Obama's Jan. 24 State of the Union Address, Washington was abuzz with reports that the president had discussed a portion of the book with a group of news anchors.

Mr. Kagan serves on the Foreign Policy Advisory Board of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but more notably, in this election season, he is a foreign policy adviser to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.

The president's speech touched upon the debate over whether America is in decline, a central theme of Mr. Kagan's book. "America is back," he declared, referring to a range of recent U.S. actions on the world stage. "Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about," he continued. "America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I'm president, I intend to keep it that way."

Says Mr. Kagan: "No president wants to preside over American decline, and it's good to see him repudiate the idea that his policy is built on the idea that American influence must fade."
Unfortunately, they might not be able to help themselves. The creation and survival of a liberal economic order has depended, historically, on great powers that are both willing and able to support open trade and free markets, often with naval power. If a declining America is unable to maintain its long-standing hegemony on the high seas, would other nations take on the burdens and the expense of sustaining navies to fill in the gaps?

Even if they did, would this produce an open global commons—or rising tension? China and India are building bigger navies, but the result so far has been greater competition, not greater security. As Mohan Malik has noted in this newspaper, their "maritime rivalry could spill into the open in a decade or two," when India deploys an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean and China deploys one in the Indian Ocean. The move from American-dominated oceans to collective policing by several great powers could be a recipe for competition and conflict rather than for a liberal economic order.

And do the Chinese really value an open economic system? The Chinese economy soon may become the largest in the world, but it will be far from the richest. Its size is a product of the country's enormous population, but in per capita terms, China remains relatively poor. The U.S., Germany and Japan have a per capita GDP of over $40,000. China's is a little over $4,000, putting it at the same level as Angola, Algeria and Belize. Even if optimistic forecasts are correct, China's per capita GDP by 2030 would still only be half that of the U.S., putting it roughly where Slovenia and Greece are today.

Getty Images/The Bridgeman Art Library
Multipolar systems have historically been neither particularly stable nor particularly peaceful. Nearly a halfmillion combatants died in the Crimean War (depicted in "The Taking of Malakoff" by Horace Vernet, pictured here.)
.As Arvind Subramanian and other economists have pointed out, this will make for a historically unique situation. In the past, the largest and most dominant economies in the world have also been the richest. Nations whose peoples are such obvious winners in a relatively unfettered economic system have less temptation to pursue protectionist measures and have more of an incentive to keep the system open.

China's leaders, presiding over a poorer and still developing country, may prove less willing to open their economy. They have already begun closing some sectors to foreign competition and are likely to close others in the future. Even optimists like Mr. Subramanian believe that the liberal economic order will require "some insurance" against a scenario in which "China exercises its dominance by either reversing its previous policies or failing to open areas of the economy that are now highly protected." American economic dominance has been welcomed by much of the world because, like the mobster Hyman Roth in "The Godfather," the U.S. has always made money for its partners. Chinese economic dominance may get a different reception.

Another problem is that China's form of capitalism is heavily dominated by the state, with the ultimate goal of preserving the rule of the Communist Party. Unlike the eras of British and American pre-eminence, when the leading economic powers were dominated largely by private individuals or companies, China's system is more like the mercantilist arrangements of previous centuries. The government amasses wealth in order to secure its continued rule and to pay for armies and navies to compete with other great powers.

Although the Chinese have been beneficiaries of an open international economic order, they could end up undermining it simply because, as an autocratic society, their priority is to preserve the state's control of wealth and the power that it brings. They might kill the goose that lays the golden eggs because they can't figure out how to keep both it and themselves alive.

Finally, what about the long peace that has held among the great powers for the better part of six decades? Would it survive in a post-American world?

Most commentators who welcome this scenario imagine that American predominance would be replaced by some kind of multipolar harmony. But multipolar systems have historically been neither particularly stable nor particularly peaceful. Rough parity among powerful nations is a source of uncertainty that leads to miscalculation. Conflicts erupt as a result of fluctuations in the delicate power equation.

War among the great powers was a common, if not constant, occurrence in the long periods of multipolarity from the 16th to the 18th centuries, culminating in the series of enormously destructive Europe-wide wars that followed the French Revolution and ended with Napoleon's defeat in 1815.

The 19th century was notable for two stretches of great-power peace of roughly four decades each, punctuated by major conflicts. The Crimean War (1853-1856) was a mini-world war involving well over a million Russian, French, British and Turkish troops, as well as forces from nine other nations; it produced almost a half-million dead combatants and many more wounded. In the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the two nations together fielded close to two million troops, of whom nearly a half-million were killed or wounded.

The peace that followed these conflicts was characterized by increasing tension and competition, numerous war scares and massive increases in armaments on both land and sea. Its climax was World War I, the most destructive and deadly conflict that mankind had known up to that point. As the political scientist Robert W. Tucker has observed, "Such stability and moderation as the balance brought rested ultimately on the threat or use of force. War remained the essential means for maintaining the balance of power."

There is little reason to believe that a return to multipolarity in the 21st century would bring greater peace and stability than it has in the past. The era of American predominance has shown that there is no better recipe for great-power peace than certainty about who holds the upper hand.

President Bill Clinton left office believing that the key task for America was to "create the world we would like to live in when we are no longer the world's only superpower," to prepare for "a time when we would have to share the stage." It is an eminently sensible-sounding proposal. But can it be done? For particularly in matters of security, the rules and institutions of international order rarely survive the decline of the nations that erected them. They are like scaffolding around a building: They don't hold the building up; the building holds them up.

Enlarge Image

CloseUS Great Seal/Illustration by The Wall Street Journal
International orderis not an evolution; it is an imposition. It will last only as long as those who favor it retain the will and capacity to defend it.
.Many foreign-policy experts see the present international order as the inevitable result of human progress, a combination of advancing science and technology, an increasingly global economy, strengthening international institutions, evolving "norms" of international behavior and the gradual but inevitable triumph of liberal democracy over other forms of government—forces of change that transcend the actions of men and nations.

Americans certainly like to believe that our preferred order survives because it is right and just—not only for us but for everyone. We assume that the triumph of democracy is the triumph of a better idea, and the victory of market capitalism is the victory of a better system, and that both are irreversible. That is why Francis Fukuyama's thesis about "the end of history" was so attractive at the end of the Cold War and retains its appeal even now, after it has been discredited by events. The idea of inevitable evolution means that there is no requirement to impose a decent order. It will merely happen.

But international order is not an evolution; it is an imposition. It is the domination of one vision over others—in America's case, the domination of free-market and democratic principles, together with an international system that supports them. The present order will last only as long as those who favor it and benefit from it retain the will and capacity to defend it.

There was nothing inevitable about the world that was created after World War II. No divine providence or unfolding Hegelian dialectic required the triumph of democracy and capitalism, and there is no guarantee that their success will outlast the powerful nations that have fought for them. Democratic progress and liberal economics have been and can be reversed and undone. The ancient democracies of Greece and the republics of Rome and Venice all fell to more powerful forces or through their own failings. The evolving liberal economic order of Europe collapsed in the 1920s and 1930s. The better idea doesn't have to win just because it is a better idea. It requires great powers to champion it.

If and when American power declines, the institutions and norms that American power has supported will decline, too. Or more likely, if history is a guide, they may collapse altogether as we make a transition to another kind of world order, or to disorder. We may discover then that the U.S. was essential to keeping the present world order together and that the alternative to American power was not peace and harmony but chaos and catastrophe—which is what the world looked like right before the American order came into being.

—Mr. Kagan is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. Adapted from "The World America Made," published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 2012 by Robert Kagan.
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« Reply #277 on: February 17, 2012, 08:59:46 PM »

The U.N.Security Council's inability to pass a resolution condemning Syria is the latest failure of the institution at preventing mass violence. In 1994, the council voted to pull peacekeepers out of Rwanda shortly before its genocide. The same body declared safe havens for Bosnian Muslims in 1993, only to stand by as Serbs slaughtered thousands of them.

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« Reply #278 on: February 18, 2012, 11:26:33 AM »

February 18, 2012
The Myth and Danger of Non-Interventionism
By Josh Holler

When it comes to analyzing non-interventionism, it's helpful to identify the two extremes of the spectrum of debate.  On one hand, the United States could mind its own business, withdraw its troops entirely from military bases worldwide, cash in the savings, and live prosperously as America once did in its infant years.  On the other hand, the U.S. can continue the advancement of freedom and democracy through its imperialistic ideals, spend money into oblivion, and dominate the world in a fashion indicative of a hegemony.  The friction between these two paradigms has been present for many years, and more so recently in light of the U.S.'s economic situation.
Simply put, the first approach of returning to a period of isolationism is not an option for the United States, and no reasonable person should argue for it.  Yet non-interference is a proposed and advocated position that draws upon the history of prosperity in the U.S. when it adhered to the founding fathers' wisdom and did not get involved with foreign affairs.
According to Huntington1, the most recent period of isolation the United States ever experienced was between 1815 and 1914.  The reality of the matter, though, is that while the United States may have seemed "isolated," it was actually incredibly active in the world theater.  Its activities included developing relations, interfering fairly regularly in other nations' affairs for various reasons, and establishing trade that would lead to globalization.
Contrary to the labeling of an isolated period, the actual presence of the U.S. is captured most accurately by Meade in his book Special Providence:

As early as 1832, the United States sent a fleet to the Falkland Islands to reduce an Argentine garrison that had harassed American shipping. The Mexican War was, of course, the greatest example of American intervention, but by the Civil War, American forces had seen action in Haiti (1799, 1800, 1817-21), Tripoli (1815), the Marquesas Islands (1813-14), Spanish Florida (1806-10, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1816-18, 1817), what is now the Dominican Republic (1800), Curacao (1800), the Galapagos Islands (1813), Cuba (1822), Puerto Rico (1824), Argentina (1833, 1852, 1853), and Peru (1835-36). Between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, marines were sent to Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Haiti.2
This is by no means an exhaustive list of America's presence in other countries during the "isolated" time period, either.  The intervention into Guangzhou (1843), Liberia (1860), Japan (1863), Panama (1863), and China (1900)2 only add to a long list of foreign endeavors illustrating that the U.S. has never been isolated or a nation of non-interferers.
So the belief in the myth of a past "non-interference America" is not a very sophisticated or educated one.  Some relatively quiet periods do exist in U.S. foreign affairs from time to time, but these hardly characterize the history of America in these matters at all. 
Over the course of history, the myth of isolationism has snuck its way into increasing popularity and belief, evolving into the current paradigm and school of thought that is non-interventionism or non-interference.  A number of politicians in the U.S. today wish to switch U.S. foreign policy to this framework.  Ron Paul, a devoted non-interventionist, has been notorious for his inaccurate claims that the U.S. has been subject to terrorist attacks because of the many U.S. bases throughout the world.  According to this belief, if the U.S. followed a non-interventionist policy, 9/11 would have never happened.
Yet Paul and others who subscribe to this view have serious facts to wrestle with.  First is that these other nations, such as Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, that are very much non-interferers in our modern world, are also subject to terrorist attacks.  These countries are not "occupiers," in Ron Paul's parlance, but somehow they fall subject to attacks nonetheless.  Secondly, the U.S. leaving its bases and involvement in Beirut as well as Somalia after suffering losses in attacks and conflicts has only encouraged radical Islamists rather than caused them to cease.  In the theoretical framework of non-interventionists, this should have appeased those wishing to visit harm upon America.
In light of 9/11, however, it is highly probable that radical Islamists had already been at war with the U.S. since before any base went up in Beirut or Somalia.  Said Islamists would sooner declare a fatwa than accept a withdrawal of troops.  In the specific cases mentioned above, the U.S., in their eyes, was perceived to lack the resolve to fight after lives were lost and the stakes were raised.
The power-projection that the U.S. possesses is what aids so greatly in protecting America, freedom, and democracy throughout the world.  If the U.S. withdraws its troops everywhere, it sacrifices an important role in shaping the world in a positive way.  This does not mean that interference is always the answer, however, It requires good judgment and prudence to choose from the forms, quantity, and variations of statecraft.  This includes the "use of assets or the resources and tools (economic, military, intelligence, [and] media)"3.
If the U.S. steps aside as the principal shaper of the world, who will step up to fulfill the role?  China is already on the rise, advancing its economy greatly in the past decade.  Its military, already quite large, is growing in its diversity of logistic capability and mobility.
China already possesses nuclear weapons and now its first aircraft carrier.  It did not take long for China to move from a coastal force to having a small fleet.  How long will their "good will missions" last until they want to further expand their own power projection?  The possible foundation for this is already in the works.
By constantly undermining the Western powers on the U.N. Security Council, the Chinese have also sent messages in the new scramble for Africa that they do not care about the state of a developing country as long as it benefits them.  Namibia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe are but a few of these nations that have seen significant investments and loans enter their country while their resources leave to China.
It is a strong trend in history that a nation that is democratic before economic prosperity tends to keep its democracy and improve upon it.  Likewise, a nation that economically attempts to stand up before it lays the foundation for democracy faces high likelihood of having its resources exploited by the foreign investors, and by its own leaders.  In addition to this, the power of the government lies in the hands of a few, and the majority of the people suffer bitterly as a result.
Take a look at oil-rich nations such as Nigeria, Turkmenistan, and now Syria that have been unable to achieve democracy or substantial freedom.  How long will it take for these nations to achieve any form of democracy or basic freedoms if they are constantly exploited by un-democratic countries such as China?  The foreign policy of China is the antithesis of the U.S.'s own when considering the fact that China is unresolved and apathetic when it comes to pressuring Syria to stop killing its own people.  A regime that has killed five thousand is likely supported by Iran and has not received hard sanctions against it on account of China possessing veto power in the U.N. Security Council.
Should it come as a surprise that the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square is censored in Chinese textbooks and, until recently, was also censored by Google?  The People's Republic of China has even censored its American Idol knock-off because the people voted for a winner.  The presence of the underground church and its endured suppression cast doubt upon the future of freedoms in China, as evaluated by Freedom House.
No, the U.S. must maintain its role in the world, not stepping down or backing away from its important part.  The number-one problem the U.S. faces, though, is the challenge of the economy.  This is a very valid point and a dark reality that the U.S. must come to terms with.  The military and the defense department should not be the first to be put on the chopping block of funding cuts.
If frivolous spending is occurring, then yes, of course, get rid of it, be wise, and invest well.  However, there already exist many ways to cut spending significantly and bring certainty back to employers and the economy.  The Heritage Foundation lists 10 of these examples, in which there is significant government waste and flexibility already within the budget to make cuts (not to mention repealing ObamaCare), and not one of them includes the military.
Being a responsible steward of money is good not just for the U.S., but also for the world. The successes of the U.S. become the successes of others in the world; in the same manner, so do the failures.  Those who advocate for billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid can take lessons from this; many occurrences take place in which the foreign aid that is given does more harm than good.  This requires a true understanding of the reality of a problem, including the willingness to work through NGOs and appropriate forms of statecraft.  Simply throwing money around is not enough.
Another point of criticism of interventionism comes in opposition to the notion of nation-building and the failures that are "guaranteed" in this regard.  Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent examples of this.  Perhaps the first time a nation seeks freedom and just governance, it will fail, but nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and the United States have all taken their own unique routes to achieve a form of freedom and governance -- none of which worked the first time.  To that effect, past failures and present challenges should not prevent the U.S. from supporting other nations that have an opportunity to achieve freedom.  It takes leadership and calculated risks to pick and choose battles while exercising the wisdom to know how and when to intervene.
Yet another common rejection to the U.S.'s involvement in foreign affairs comes from non-interventionists invoking the founding fathers' warnings of foreign entanglements.  Interestingly, the Constitution gave the basis for the U.S. to engage in foreign affairs to begin with.  The Articles of Confederation did not allow for a unified diplomacy, effective foreign policy with other nations, or even the ability to make war (more accurately, it did not grant the power to levy taxes, making the ability to raise and maintain an army very difficult).  Jefferson, who warned of entanglements, could not avoid foreign policy altogether himself.  He simply urged caution, as Washington did, when it comes to foreign entanglements.  This was the placement not of an absolute to never be involved with the world, but rather of an absolute to seek a higher standard than others.  And when the U.S. falls short, be encouraged by the fact that the U.S.'s aims are higher than the rest.
The modern world is globalized, connected, and increasingly dangerous.  The U.S. should be careful but not timid, while being willing to engage oppression and tyranny whenever and wherever they may appear.  Circling the wagons would be unjust for freedom, democracy, and humanity everywhere.  Missed opportunities and failed attempts have happened in Somalia, Rwanda, Iran, Bosnia, and most recently in Iraq with the Christians.  Responsibility, good judgment, and a resolve to learn and adapt to new challenges -- not the neutrality of non-interventionism -- should be characteristic of the U.S.'s foreign policy stance.
To sit back and watch genocide occur is of the same neutrality that led to Hitler's rise to power.  As Elie Wiesel said, "[n]eutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."  A belief in practicing non-interference is indicative of the appeasement which Reagan warned about; it is perilous, and just as foolish as devastating an economy and weakening a country from within.
Josh Holler served as an Infantry Marine with 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment on two tours to Iraq.  He is currently on the board of directors for Uganda N.O.W. Outreach and is pursuing a degree in international relations from Wheaton College. You can follow him on twitter @Josh Holler.


1Ross, Dennis. "Preface: X." Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.
2Huntington, Samuel P. "American Ideals versus American Institutions." Political Science Quarterly 97.1 (1982): 1-37.
3Mead, Walter Russell. "Chapter 1: The American Foreign Policy Tradition." Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. New York: Knopf, 2001. 24-25.

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« Reply #279 on: February 18, 2012, 04:29:02 PM »

An interesting read, GM.  Thank you. 
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« Reply #280 on: February 28, 2012, 08:38:14 AM »

The State of the World: Explaining U.S. Strategy
By George Friedman | February 28, 2012

The fall of the Soviet Union ended the European epoch, the period in which European power dominated the world. It left the United States as the only global power , something for which it was culturally and institutionally unprepared. Since the end of World War II, the United States had defined its foreign policy in terms of its confrontation with the Soviet Union. Virtually everything it did around the world in some fashion related to this confrontation. The fall of the Soviet Union simultaneously freed the United States from a dangerous confrontation and eliminated the focus of its foreign policy.

In the course of a century, the United States had gone from marginal to world power. It had waged war or Cold War from 1917 until 1991, with roughly 20 years of peace between the two wars dominated by the Great Depression and numerous interventions in Latin America. Accordingly, the 20th century was a time of conflict and crisis for the United States. It entered the century without well-developed governmental institutions for managing its foreign policy. It built its foreign policy apparatus to deal with war and the threat of war; the sudden absence of an adversary inevitably left the United States off balance.

After the Cold War

The post-Cold War period can be divided into three parts. A simultaneous optimism and uncertainty marked the first, which lasted from 1992 until 2001. On one hand, the fall of the Soviet Union promised a period in which economic development supplanted war. On the other, American institutions were born in battle, so to speak, so transforming them for a time of apparently extended peace was not easy. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton both pursued a policy built around economic growth, with periodic and not fully predictable military interventions in places such as Panama, Somalia, Haiti and Kosovo.

These interventions were not seen as critical to U.S. national security. In some cases, they were seen as solving a marginal problem, such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's drug trafficking. Alternatively, they were explained as primarily humanitarian missions. Some have sought a pattern or logic to these varied interventions; in fact, they were as random as they appeared, driven more by domestic politics and alliance pressures than any clear national purpose. U.S. power was so overwhelming that these interventions cost relatively little and risked even less.

The period where indulgences could be tolerated ended on Sept. 11, 2001. At that point, the United States faced a situation congruent with its strategic culture. It had a real, if unconventional, enemy that posed a genuine threat to the homeland. The institutions built up during and after World War II could function again effectively. In an odd and tragic way, the United States was back in its comfort zone, fighting a war it saw as imposed on it.

The period from 2001 until about 2007 consisted of a series of wars in the Islamic world. Like all wars, they involved brilliant successes and abject failures. They can be judged one of two ways. First, if the wars were intended to prevent al Qaeda from ever attacking the United States again in the fashion of 9/11, they succeeded. Even if it is difficult to see how the war in Iraq meshes with this goal, all wars involve dubious operations; the measure of war is success. If, however, the purpose of these wars was to create a sphere of pro-U.S. regimes, stable and emulating American values, they clearly failed.

By 2007 and the surge in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy moved into its present phase. No longer was the primary goal to dominate the region. Rather, it was to withdraw from the region while attempting to sustain regimes able to defend themselves and not hostile to the United States. The withdrawal from Iraq did not achieve this goal; the withdrawal from Afghanistan probably will not either. Having withdrawn from Iraq, the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan regardless of the aftermath. The United States will not end its involvement in the region, and the primary goal of defeating al Qaeda will no longer be the centerpiece.

President Barack Obama continued the strategy his predecessor, George W. Bush, set in Iraq after 2007. While Obama increased forces beyond what Bush did in Afghanistan, he nevertheless accepted the concept of a surge -- the increase of forces designed to facilitate withdrawal. For Obama, the core strategic problem was not the wars but rather the problem of the 1990s -- namely, how to accommodate the United States and its institutions to a world without major enemies.

The Failure of Reset

The reset button Hillary Clinton gave to the Russians symbolized Obama's strategy. Obama wanted to reset U.S. foreign policy to the period before 9/11, a period when U.S. interventions, although frequent, were minor and could be justified as humanitarian. Economic issues dominated the period, and the primary issue was managing prosperity. It also was a period in which U.S.-European and U.S.-Chinese relations fell into alignment, and when U.S.-Russian relations were stable. Obama thus sought a return to a period when the international system was stable, pro-American and prosperous. While understandable from an American point of view, Russia, for example, considers the 1990s an unmitigated disaster to which it must never return.

The problem in this strategy was that it was impossible to reset the international system. The prosperity of the 1990s had turned into the difficulties of the post-2008 financial crisis. This obviously created preoccupations with managing the domestic economy, but as we saw in our first installment , the financial crisis redefined the way the rest of the world operated. The Europe, China and Russia of the 1990s no longer existed, and the Middle East had been transformed as well.

During the 1990s, it was possible to speak of Europe as a single entity with the expectation that European unity would intensify. That was no longer the case by 2010. The European financial crisis had torn apart the unity that had existed in the 1990s, putting European institutions under intense pressure along with trans-Atlantic institutions such as NATO. In many ways, the United States was irrelevant to the issues the European Union faced. The Europeans might have wanted money from the Americans, but they did not want 1990s-style leadership.

China had also changed. Unease about the state of its economy had replaced the self-confidence of the elite that had dominated during the 1990s in China. Its exports were under heavy pressure, and concerns about social stability had increased. China also had become increasingly repressive and hostile, at least rhetorically, in its foreign policy.

In the Middle East, there was little receptivity to Obama's public diplomacy. In practical terms, the expansion of Iranian power was substantial. Given Israeli fears over Iranian nuclear weapons, Obama found himself walking a fine line between possible conflict with Iran and allowing events to take their own course.

Limiting Intervention

This emerged as the foundation of U.S. foreign policy. Where previously the United States saw itself as having an imperative to try to manage events, Obama clearly saw that as a problem. As seen in this strategy, the United States has limited resources that have been overly strained during the wars. Rather than attempting to manage foreign events, Obama is shifting U.S. strategy toward limiting intervention and allowing events to proceed on their own.

Strategy in Europe clearly reflects this. Washington has avoided any attempt to lead the Europeans to a solution even though the United States has provided massive assistance via the Federal Reserve. This strategy is designed to stabilize rather than to manage. With the Russians, who clearly have reached a point of self-confidence, the failure of an attempt to reset relations resulted in a withdrawal of U.S. focus and attention in the Russian periphery and a willingness by Washington to stand by and allow the Russians to evolve as they will. Similarly, whatever the rhetoric of China and U.S. discussions of redeployment to deal with the Chinese threat, U.S. policy remains passive and accepting.

It is in Iran that we see this most clearly. Apart from nuclear weapons, Iran is becoming a major regional power with a substantial sphere of influence. Rather than attempt to block the Iranians directly, the United States has chosen to stand by and allow the game to play out, making it clear to the Israelis that it prefers diplomacy over military action, which in practical terms means allowing events to take their own course.

This is not necessarily a foolish policy. The entire notion of the balance of power is built on the assumption that regional challengers confront regional opponents who will counterbalance them. Balance-of-power theory assumes the leading power intervenes only when an imbalance occurs. Since no intervention is practical in China, Europe or Russia, a degree of passivity makes sense. In the case of Iran, where military action against its conventional forces is difficult and against its nuclear facilities risky, the same logic applies.

In this strategy, Obama has not returned to the 1990s. Rather, he is attempting to stake out new ground. It is not isolationism in its classic sense, as the United States is now the only global power. He appears to be engineering a new strategy, acknowledging that many outcomes in most of the world are acceptable to the United States and that no one outcome is inherently superior or possible to achieve. The U.S. interest lies in resuming its own prosperity; the arrangements the rest of the world makes are, within very broad limits, acceptable.

Put differently, unable to return U.S. foreign policy to the 1990s and unwilling and unable to continue the post-9/11 strategy, Obama is pursuing a policy of acquiescence. He is decreasing the use of military force and, having limited economic leverage, allowing the system to evolve on its own. Implicit in this strategy is the existence of overwhelming military force, particularly naval power.

Europe is not manageable through military force, and it poses the most serious long-term threat. As Europe frays, Germany's interests may be better served in a relationship with Russia. Germany needs Russian energy, and Russia needs German technology. Neither is happy with American power, and together they may limit it. Indeed, an entente between Germany and Russia was a founding fear of U.S. foreign policy from World War I until the Cold War. This is the only combination that could conceivably threaten the United States. The American counter here is to support Poland, which physically divides the two, along with other key allies in Europe, and the United States is doing this with a high degree of caution.

China is highly vulnerable to naval force because of the configuration of its coastal waters, which provides choke points for access to its shores. The ultimate Chinese fear is an American blockade, which the weak Chinese navy would be unable to counter, but this is a distant fear. Still, it is the ultimate American advantage.

Russia's vulnerability lies in the ability of its former fellow members of the Soviet Union, which it is trying to organize into a Eurasian Union, to undermine its post-Soviet agenda. The United States has not interfered in this process significantly, but it has economic incentives and covert influence it could use to undermine or at least challenge Russia. Russia is aware of these capabilities and that the United States has not yet used them.

The same strategy is in place with Iran. Sanctions on Iran are unlikely to work, as they are too porous and China and Russia will not honor them. Still, the United States pursues them not for what they will achieve but for what they will avoid -- namely, direct action. The assumption underlying U.S. quiescence, rhetoric aside, is that regional forces, the Turks in particular, will be forced to deal with the Iranians themselves, and that patience will allow a balance of power to emerge.

The Risks of Inaction

U.S. strategy under Obama is classic in the sense that it allows the system to evolve as it will, thereby allowing the United States to reduce its efforts. On the other hand, U.S. military power is sufficient that should the situation evolve unsatisfactorily, intervention and reversal is still possible. Obama has to fight the foreign policy establishment, particularly the U.S. Defense Department and intelligence community, to resist older temptations. He is trying to rebuild the foreign policy architecture away from the World War II-Cold War model, and that takes time.

The weakness in Obama's strategy is that the situation in many regions could suddenly and unexpectedly move in undesirable directions. Unlike the Cold War system, which tended to react too soon to problems, it is not clear that the current system won't take too long to react. Strategies create psychological frameworks that in turn shape decisions, and Obama has created a situation wherein the United States may not react quickly enough if the passive approach were to collapse suddenly.

It is difficult to see the current strategy as a permanent model. Before balances of power are created, great powers must ensure that a balance is possible. In Europe, within China, against Russia and in the Persian Gulf, it is not clear what the balance consists of. It is not obvious that the regional balance will contain emerging powers. Therefore, this is not a classic balance-of-power strategy. Rather it is an ad hoc strategy imposed by the financial crisis and its impact on psychology and by war-weariness. These issues cannot be ignored, but they do not provide a stable foundation for a long-term policy, which will likely replace the one Obama is pursuing now.
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« Reply #281 on: March 06, 2012, 08:30:53 PM »

Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood: Unexpected Adversaries
March 6, 2012
A demonstrator steps on an ostrich egg with a drawing of Saudi King Abdullah on March 17 in Ankara


The political gains of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have breathed new life into long-suppressed political Islamist forces across the Arab world. While it may appear on the surface that Saudi Arabia is supportive of the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, its Sunni co-religionists, a quiet but growing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Turkey over the increasing regional clout of the Muslim Brotherhood reveals the Saudi royal family's long-standing aversion to the world's oldest and largest Islamist movement.


In Egypt's first parliamentary elections since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB's) Freedom and Justice Party won just under half of the seats available. The party, and by extension the MB, are expected to take a leading role in the next Egyptian government.

At first glance, an Islamist movement taking power in one of the Arab world's most significant countries would seem to be a development that Saudi Arabia -- a country where Islam is central to the state's cultural and political identity -- would welcome enthusiastically. However, Riyadh is increasingly worried about the political movement's growing popularity throughout the region, and the consequences that the rise of a republican form of Islamism may bring for the Saudi royal family's absolute monarchy.

Competing Intellectual Roots

The ideological and political divide between the Saudi political establishment and the MB is rooted in each of their histories. The majority of Saudi Arabia's citizenry adheres to Wahhabism, an ideology founded by Muhammad ibn Abdel-Wahhab, who sought to purify the creed and religious practices of Muslims in 18th-century Arabia. Wahhabism was based on ibn Abdel-Wahhab's austere interpretation of the teachings of the Salaf (the companions of the Prophet Mohammed and the subsequent two generations). Wahhabis thus prefer the term Salafists to describe their following. In the Salafist view, any deviation from the prophet's core religious principles represented a contamination of the religion and was rejected outright.

An alliance was forged in 1744 between ibn Abdel-Wahhab and the patriarch of the Saudi ruling family, Muhammad bin Saud, effectively dividing the religious and political domains of the Saudi state. With the al Saud family running the political affairs of the state, the descendants and associates of ibn Abdel-Wahhab were able to exert their authority through the religious establishment without needing to engage in political activity.

The Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, took a more adaptive approach toward Islam. Blending modern Western political thought with Islamic tradition, the movement that the MB founded saw Islamic ideology as a political remedy to the ills that had afflicted the Islamic world in the preceding several centuries. By 1928, when Hassan al-Banna founded the MB in Egypt, it had more than two generations of Islamic political thought in the late Ottoman period to draw on in making the case that a political ideology embedded in Islam constituted the necessary response to European secularism. This would help revive the Islamic world and effectively compete with the West. In contrast to the largely apolitical Salafists, the MB Islamists actively sought the creation of Islamic states throughout the Arab and Muslim world to counter the rise of secular Arab nationalism.

Threats to the Saudi Monarchy

When the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was firmly established in 1932, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was still in its nascent stages and thus did not pose a threat to the Saudi royal family. However, by the late 1940s the MB not only had emerged as a major social and political movement in Egypt, but it was also spreading as an organization across the Arab world. At this point, the Saudi royal family started to view the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood's variant of Islamism with suspicion. After all, the Brotherhood's call for a republican form of Islamic governance stood in stark contrast to the monarchical system from which the Saudi royals derived their power.

But before they could deal with MB-style Islamism, the Saudi royals had an even bigger threat to address. The founding of the Egyptian republic in 1952 under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser marked the advent of secular left-wing Arab nationalism in the region. With Soviet backing, Nasser made it his mission to export his ideology to the Arab world. Nasserism threatened to rip the carefully balanced foundation of the Saudi kingdom out from under the Saudi royals. At the same time, the secular-nationalist movement also impeded the rise of the political Islamists and drove many of the MB groups in the Arab world underground.

The spread of Nasserism thus led to a strange, temporary alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi royal family. The Saudi royal family tried to use the Muslim Brotherhood to counter Nasserism across the Arab world, while many MB leaders fled to the Saudi kingdom for refuge. Among these leaders was Muhammad Qutb, the brother of MB figure Sayyid Qutb, who was one of the most influential Islamist thinkers of the 20th century and was executed in Egypt in 1966.

An exchange of ideas between the two camps was almost inevitable, as Salafists and MB Islamists joined in fighting Soviet-backed Nasserism throughout the Islamic world. Afghanistan was perhaps the most visible battleground, where volunteer fighters from both the Salafist and MB Islamist trends shared ideas, resulting in some degree of synthesis of thought. The MB ideology more or less retained its basic character during this time, but Salafism, which had been largely devoid of political philosophy, became heavily influenced by the ideas of prominent figures like Sayyid Qutb, thereby diluting the Salafist support network in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the most notable example of this dynamic was the relationship between Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian religious scholar affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the leader of the Arab fighters in 1980s Afghanistan. Through Azzam's mentoring, bin Laden's Salafist ideas underwent a radical transformation. It was not until Ayman al-Zawahiri began mentoring bin Laden in the early 1990s that bin Laden began to embrace jihadism.

The Spread of Islamism to the Kingdom

The Saudi monarchy witnessed its first major Islamist challenge in 1979, when the Iranian revolution led to the foundation of an Islamic republic. This was the first modern example of an Islamic state, the creation of which supported the Muslim Brotherhood's premise that a state can be ruled under Islamic norms. Though the Saudi royals were concerned that the Iranian revolution would inspire similar transformations across the Islamic world, they could take comfort in the fact that the ethno-sectarian makeup of the mainly Persian Shiite state would limit its ability to export its Islamist model to the mostly Sunni Arab world. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, during which the region was largely split along ethno-sectarian lines, also helped Saudi Arabia contain the Islamist threat from Iran.

What the Saudi royals could not prevent was the spread of Islamist ideas in the kingdom itself. This became clear in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. After Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in an attempt to change the regional balance of power, the Saudis relied heavily on the United States to ensure Saudi Arabia's national security. The monarchy was harshly criticized by many in the Saudi religious establishment as well as civil society because the war had laid bare the inherent weakness of the kingdom. Calls for reform grew in intensity among a group of Sunni religious scholars who sought the rights to critique the government, widen the sphere of policy-making beyond the royal family and hold the Saudi rulers accountable for their policy decisions. This reformist trend was referred to as the Sahwah, or awakening.

The Saudi royals first attempted to appease these Salafist scholars as well as the non-religious voices of dissent by issuing the Basic Law, the country's first attempt at and closest thing to a constitutional framework, in 1992. The move only emboldened the reformists, eventually leading in 1994 to a government crackdown on the dissenters, which led to the arrest of many prominent ulema, or religious scholars. The crackdown exacerbated rifts within the Salafist establishment. Those who remained loyal to the kingdom and remained strict adherents to traditional Salafist ideas were pitted against those who had taken a critical stance on the monarchy. The former accused the latter of being Islamist deviants and branded them Ikhwanis and Qutbis, negative references to the Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyid Qutb, respectively.

Though the Salafist splits endured in the early 1990s, the Saudi royal family contained the Sahwah trend at home and was relieved to see the MB kept under tight control by the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian regimes. However, another Islamist threat was developing under the leadership of bin Laden, whose move to engage in armed rebellion against corrupt regimes and their international patron, the United States, was heavily influenced by the ideas of Sayyid Qutb.

Bin Laden had already broken with the al Saud family over its decision to allow half a million U.S. troops to be stationed in the kingdom during the Gulf War. At the same time, a large number of celebrated Saudi veterans of the 1979-1989 insurgency in Afghanistan were returning home with ideas that fused together jihad, Islamic governance and an intense anger toward the al Saud family for allowing U.S. troops to use their country as a base from which to kill Muslims in Iraq. In the early 1990s, bin Laden still engaged in debates with the monarchy over its policies, but the monarchy cast aside bin Laden's transnational jihadist views as another deviant, and thus illegitimate, extension of the Muslim Brotherhood's Islamist ideology.

Post-9/11 Complications

The 9/11 attacks put the Saudi royal family in the uncomfortable position of having to answer to the West for al Qaeda's radical interpretation of Salafism. The United States, unlikely to see the nuances of Salafism as the Saudis did, saw the radical fringe of Salafism espoused by al Qaeda as the Saudi kingdom's responsibility to contain.

By 2003, Saudi Arabia had become a major target of the jihadist movement and saw an urgent need to drastically reform Salafism in the kingdom to both keep the royal family standing and crush the jihadist threat. A major effort was initiated by the kingdom to reinforce its historical alliance with the ulema. The message was fairly simple: If al Qaeda's rebellion succeeded on the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudi royals would not be able to hold the Western powers back from intervening, thereby creating an even bigger crisis of legitimacy for the royal family and the ulema that could break apart the foundation of the Saudi state.

The bulk of the ulema received the message. The same religious, tribal, security and commercial channels that al Qaeda relied on to build its network were turned on the group when religious leaders aligned with the royal family led a campaign to expose al Qaeda's ideological deviance from traditional Salafist thought and rapidly undercut the legitimacy of the jihadist movement in the kingdom.

But the Saudis still faced a major legitimacy issue. The Saudi government's efforts to reform Salafism were designed to exclude any notion of political reform that would threaten the monarchy. The jihadist movement had already made the case that political dialogue with the Saudi rulers to avoid rebellion was impossible when there were no political institutions in the kingdom to work through to begin with. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood used the rise of al Qaeda to distinguish itself as the legitimate Islamist mainstream while labeling the Salafists, al Qaeda and their affiliates as the radical fringe.

Where they were permitted to participate, Islamist political forces across the region began rising to power via elections. In 2002 alone, MB-style Islamist political forces in Turkey, Morocco and Pakistan made substantial gains in polls. In 2005 candidates from the still-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, running as independents, won 25 percent of the parliamentary seats. That same year, the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood took the majority of seats won by Sunnis in the second post-Saddam Hussein parliamentary elections. Even a militant strand of MB ideology, Hamas, swept the polls in the Gaza Strip when it made its electoral debut in 2006.

In a more isolated case in Bahrain, where the Sunni monarchy rules over a mostly Shiite population, the Saudi and Bahraini royals resorted to supporting both Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood in the broader strategic interest of countering the main Shiite parliamentary bloc.

Saudi Arabia was thus caught between the jihadists of al Qaeda and the Islamist political movements that derived from the Brotherhood. Further complicating matters for the kingdom were the repeated calls by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush for Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other U.S.-backed Arab allies to move toward democratic reforms. From the Saudi point of view, a democratic opening would only help the MB by legitimizing their Islamist political ideology and undermining the monarchy. Saudi Arabia was able to manage this array of challenges in the 2000s, but the Arab unrest that defined the region in 2011 is once again threatening to unhinge Saudi Arabia's containment strategy toward Islamism.

The Saudi Response to the 'Arab Spring'

The spread of Arab unrest from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula has compounded the number of threats facing the Saudi kingdom. At the most basic level, Saudi Arabia has been deeply disconcerted by the fall of long-standing autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. These were all leaders who emerged from the Nasserist tradition, but the very idea that these once-stalwart regimes have succumbed to domestic pressures has made the Saudi royal family nervous for itself and its fellow Arab monarchies. The last thing Saudi Arabia wanted to hear in the midst of the unrest was more democratic pronouncements from the United States that would embolden the Saudi reformist camp.

Yemen's political crisis, which Saudi Arabia had no choice but to mediate, has reopened fissures in the state and provided jihadists from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with an opportunity to try to revive their militant nodes in the Saudi kingdom and greater space for the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, the al-Islah party.

Then there is the issue of Iran. The spread of Shiite unrest in the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, where it threatens the minority Sunni monarchy in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, has reinforced a Saudi imperative to contain Iran's regional rise. Once the unrest spread to Syria, a close ally of the Iranian regime, Saudi Arabia (along with Turkey, the United States, Qatar and other Arab states) recognized a historic opportunity to dislodge Iran from the Levant. The challenge Saudi Arabia faces is that its containment strategy against Iran in Syria runs counter to Saudi Arabia's imperative to contain Islamism as a political ideology.

The Muslim Brotherhood has factored prominently into nearly every case of Arab unrest. The strength of the MB branches varies greatly from country to country, but even after decades of political repression, the MB and its affiliates have been able to maintain the largest and most organized civil society networks. When power vacuums are created in autocratic states, the MB networks are typically best positioned to convert public support for their social services into votes. This dynamic was most clearly illustrated in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing emerged as the single-largest party in the parliament. More liberal incarnations of the MB in Tunisia and Morocco also made significant political gains in 2011.

The unrest in Syria represents yet another complication for the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia is certainly enticed by the prospect of undercutting Iran's leverage in the Levant, but it also cannot ignore the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as a powerful force in the opposition movement. The Sunni armed resistance operating under the label of the Free Syrian Army takes care to publicly distance itself from any Islamist ideology in the hopes of attracting Western support, but local anecdotes and the limited polling that has been done by journalists embedded among Sunni protesters has so far revealed strong support for the MB should the political struggle come to a vote.

Saudi Arabia is thus caught between a geopolitical imperative to contain Iran and a domestic strategic imperative to contain Islamism as a political force. This dilemma has put Saudi Arabia directly at odds with Turkey, the rising regional counterweight to Iran and Saudi Arabia's co-collaborator in backing the Syrian Sunni opposition against the al Assad regime. Turkey's own liberal Islamism, shaped by Sufi Islamic culture, Ottoman religious values and Kemalist secularism, is distinct from the MB's conservative model of Arab Islamism and allows far more room for secularist practices, but the two strands share a basic ideological principle in using Islam as a path toward governance. Whereas Turkey is actively trying to mold the MB in Syria according to its own moderate Islamist vision, Saudi Arabia would like nothing more than to see the MB marginalized in the Syrian opposition.

Saudi Arabia has resorted to its old tactics of funneling support to Salafists to serve as a counter to the MB Islamists. In Egypt, for example, the Salafist bloc surprised much of the Egyptian populace and wider region when it came out with more than a quarter of the seats in both the upper and lower houses of parliament, coming second only to the Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia reportedly played an important role in providing funding and support to the Salafist bloc. In Syria, Saudi Arabia is also likely to channel its support to Salafist groups to compete with Turkey's backing of the MB.

The strategy of supporting Salafists comes with risks, however. The Salafists were latecomers to politics, whereas the MB was born as a political movement, and the Salafists lack the broad appeal of the MB Islamists and their affiliates. The Salafists, in sticking to a more puritanical strain of thought, have not engaged in the same intellectual rigor that the Islamists have in evolving their political ideology. In the classical Salafist view, it is anathema to think of the law of man supplanting the law of God. Though the Salafists have proved capable of making notable political gains in Egypt and can at the very least undermine the MB's ability to dominate the broader Islamist political scene, they alone cannot compete effectively with the MB ideology.

Moreover, there are a range of Salafists in the Levant who have embraced jihadism and have been utilized by various state intelligence agencies in the region to carry out attacks. These Salafist-jihadists may be a useful tool for Saudi Arabia to use to try to destabilize and ultimately topple the Syrian regime in order to counter Iran. However, given the evolution of Salafist-jihadists, especially over the past decade, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia's control over Salafists in the Levant is as tight as it would like it to be.

Divisions among foreign backers of the Syrian opposition constitute one of many impediments to the mission in Syria. The United States and other Western stakeholders are already unnerved by the idea of secularism giving way to Islamism in Syria. They are certainly not going to be supportive of a Saudi strategy that favors more radical Salafists over those who at least present themselves as moderates. Turkey is also much closer to the Syrian situation than Saudi Arabia, and Turkey is not going to pull back from its agenda to see the MB rise in Syria as a dominant political force.

The Risks of Accommodating MB-Style Islamists

Whether or not the Saudi royals are ready for the challenge, the MB Islamists are on the rise and have far more room to expand their political legitimacy than they did one year ago. In the past, Saudi Arabia could rely on its shared interests with Arab regimes, particularly in Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, to keep Islamists tightly contained. Now, even in cases where the regimes have remained intact, Arab leaders are having to make political concessions to Islamists for fear of creating a larger conflict at home and inviting more pressure from the West to undergo democratic reforms.

Saudi Arabia is still deliberating how exactly to manage this Islamist threat. Debates are likely under way within the royal family over whether Saudi Arabia has no other choice but to reach an accommodation with some of the more viable MB-like Islamist organizations. Such an accommodation would allow Saudi Arabia a means of influencing the political evolution of the states in question and would theoretically develop a unified Sunni bulwark against Iran.

But this problem is not just confined to the foreign policy sphere. If Saudi Arabia decided to work with the MB abroad, it would be only a matter of time before the royal family faced an emboldened reformist movement at home. The reformist trend, largely based in the Red Sea coastal region of Hejaz, is backed by such Saudi notables as business tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and has the potential to develop into a broader movement.

The Saudi royals are deeply divided over how to manage this issue when it emerges in Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah and the al Faisal clan have been more open to the idea of limited Salafist democratization, but the king's most likely successor, Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz of the Sudeiri clan, has taken a far more conservative approach toward reforms and wants to see the religious and political affairs of the state clearly delineated, in line with the kingdom's founding principles. Complicating matters further, those currently debating this topic among the current Saudi leadership are all very old and, in some cases, approaching their deathbed. When the second generation of Saudi rulers takes over in the next decade, it is unlikely to agree on how to divide power, much less how to manage a growing Islamist threat to the monarchy.

The rise of political Islamists challenges the historical Saudi claim that their ulema-backed political system is the authentic model of governance, whereas parliamentary elections and Islam simply cannot coexist. Indeed, the political gains of the MB and its affiliates across the region have exposed the obsolescence of the Saudi model and have raised questions about the future moves of the nontraditional Salafists who carry political ambitions. To date, the dominant question confronting Saudi Arabia has been whether it can manage a division of power within the monarchy once the sons of the kingdom's founder are gone. An equally critical question for the longer term is whether the Saudi royals will be able to manage what may be an inevitable transition to a legitimate constitutional monarchy.
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« Reply #282 on: March 07, 2012, 09:54:08 AM »

This is the sort of big overview piece that this thread is about.  Though it has some glib moments, there are points worthy of reflection.

By Walter Russell Mead
The Middle East is on fire. As waves of populist, ethnic and religious unrest sweep the region, long-established regimes totter like ninepins, violent conflicts explode in once-quiet countries, and all the rules seem up for grabs.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is on life support and Iran is marching steadily toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. And even as President Obama assures us that he has Israel's back and "will not countenance" Iran getting a nuclear weapon, as he did this week, his administration speaks about "leading from behind" and of a "pivot toward Asia."

Many observers see all this as reflecting a sharp decline in American power. But the reality is more complicated and less dramatic. The reality is that the United States remains the paramount power in the region and will remain committed to it for a long time to come.

In all the tumult and upheaval, it's easy to miss the main point: America's interests in the Middle East remain simple and in relatively good shape. The U.S. wants a balance of power in the region that prevents any power or coalition of powers inside or outside the region from being able to block the flow of oil to world markets by military means. It wants Israel to be secure. And in the middle to long term, it hopes to see the establishment of stable, democratic governments that can foster economic growth and peace.

If it must, the U.S. will act directly and on its own to achieve these goals. But given its global responsibilities and the multitude of issues in which it is concerned, the U.S. by nature is a burden-sharing rather than a limelight-hogging power. It prefers to work with allies and partners, preferably regional partners.

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ClosePaul Corio/
 .In today's Middle East, core U.S. goals enjoy wide, even unprecedented support. As the Sunni Arab world joins hands with Europe, pushes back against Iran, and works to overthrow Syria's Bashar al-Assad, a strong coalition has formed around Washington's most urgent regional priority—the Iranian drive for regional hegemony capped by its nuclear program.

France and the Arab League cursed the U.S. when it invaded Iraq in 2003; in 2011 they seconded and promoted the overthrow of Libya's Gadhafi. Turkey hesitated but joined. Now, as the crisis in Syria sharpens once again, U.S. objectives command enormous support across the region.

If this is decline, we could use more of it.

Yet those who believe the U.S. can now turn its full attention on Asia, ignoring the unhappy Middle East, miss the degree to which U.S. interests remain deeply bound up in the fate of the region. In recent weeks, rising Middle East tensions have helped drive up the price of gasoline in the U.S. More price increases will anger voters, scare consumers, and could well knock the nascent U.S. economic recovery on its head.

For President Obama, those developments would pretty much doom his re-election efforts. The same will be true of his successors. Even as the U.S. reduces its direct dependence on Middle East oil, the global nature of the world oil market, and the effect of supply insecurity in other major markets, which affect our economy given the globalization of commerce, means that American presidents will simply not be able to set this region off to the side. It is easier to pivot toward Asia than to pivot away from the Middle East. The reality is that the U.S. will have to walk and chew gum at the same time.

The U.S. government first began to play a major role in Middle East power politics after World War II. (As late as World War I, the U.S. stayed resolutely away, refusing to declare war on the Ottoman Empire and rejecting proffered League of Nations mandates over Armenia and Palestine.) That role has never been particularly pleasant. During much of the Cold War, public opinion in much of the Middle East favored the Soviets. America's relations with Israel were never popular in the Arab nations. Friendly regimes left over from the British era toppled in many countries, yielding to radical and anti-American juntas and dictators.

The U.S. changed alliances many times during the Cold War. Egypt started out as a pro-Western country, shifted to radical socialist nationalism, and came back to the West in the late 1970s. Iraq and Iran turned from staunch allies of the U.S. to bitter opponents. The Gulf states and the Saudis had little love for the U.S., but their interests lay so close to ours that most of the time alliances prospered even if friendship soured.

Today the grounds of alliance are once again shifting, and in unpredictable ways. Turkey and the U.S. are closer than they were three years ago; Egypt and the U.S. are further apart. The Saudis if anything are impatient with U.S. moderation on Iran; here they and the Israelis are reciting from the same book of prayers.

Should political conditions change in Iran, the kaleidoscope could change again. Before 1979, the U.S. and Iran were close allies; new leadership in Tehran might seek to rebuild the relationship. The Sunni world will likely divide if the Iranian threat diminishes, and as usual, some Sunni states will want U.S. support to protect them from others.

For now at least, the past looks like a good predictor for the next phase of American engagement with the Middle East. Often hated, rarely loved, the U.S. remains indispensable to the region's balance of power and to the security of the vulnerable oil-producing states on the Gulf. There are many people in the Middle East who would like the U.S. to bow out of the region, and there are many people in the U.S. who would like very much to leave.

For now, both groups must learn to accept disappointment.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. His blog, Via Meadia, appears at the American Interest Online.

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« Reply #283 on: March 07, 2012, 10:45:46 AM »

Second post of the day.

Obviously I could post this in the Israel thread, or the Miiddle East FUBAR thread, but I post it here for its discussion of balance of power geopolitics for the US.

A senior Hamas leader said Tuesday that the Palestinian Islamist movement would not fight against Israel on behalf of Iran, the Guardian reported. The British daily quoted Gaza-based Hamas politburo member Salah al-Bardawil as saying, "If there is a war between two powers, Hamas will not be part of such a war." Al-Bardawil went on to say that Hamas has never given its "complete loyalty" to Iran, and that their relationship "had been based on common interests."

Stratfor has never put much stock in the speculation that Hamas would automatically jump into the fray if Israel were to conduct a military strike against Iran's nuclear program. However, Hamas publicly stating that it will not fight against Israel on behalf of Iran is extremely significant.

First and most obviously, it means that Israel may not have to worry as much about attacks against its southern flank in the event that Israel takes military action against Iran. But even more significant, the statement underscores Hamas' efforts to join the mainstream of Sunni Arab politics in the wake of the Middle East unrest and the electoral gains of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. Not only is Hamas being courted by different Arab states, particularly Egypt and Jordan, it is trying to take advantage of the emerging climate within the region to gain recognition as a legitimate political entity.

In order to do so, the group appears to have come to the conclusion that it must distance itself from some of its patrons. In January, Hamas began criticizing the Iranian-allied Syrian regime after the crackdown on protesters, and in February the group moved its politburo-in-exile out of Damascus. With Hamas now declaring its unwillingness to fight on Iran's behalf, these moves are signs of the significant obstacles in Iran's path as it attempts to become a major player in the Middle East.

While Iran can exploit many divisions and rivalries throughout the region, ultimately the Islamic republic's influence is necessarily limited by facts outside its control. Iran’s dominant ethnicity, culture and language is Persian, and its dominant religious sect is Shia Islam. This places severe constraints on the degree to which it can penetrate a largely Sunni Arab Middle East. Likewise, there are many Arab actors who share certain interests with Iran, but they are not ready to unequivocally align with the Iranians due to the damage this sort of alliance could do to their relations with the West and elsewhere.

This situation works well for those who seek to contain an assertive Iran, i.e., the United States, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Arab states in general. From Washington's perspective, the rise of Sunni Islamist groups (mostly the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded forces) in the Arab world serves as a strong counter to Iranian expansionism. Conversely, Sunni Arab Islamism is at odds with American interests in the region, and Iran's own efforts to contain that movement serve U.S. interests.

This emerging fault line between Arab Sunni Islamism on one side and Iran and its Arab allies on the other is extremely unstable and liable to change, with the Syrian regime's long-term prospects for survival very much in question. However, the fault line does exist and is not going anywhere. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq complete and the removal of several reliable allies from power during the so-called Arab Spring -- chief among them Hosni Mubarak in Egypt -- U.S. influence in the region appears to be waning. However, the careful manipulation of actors on either side of that fault line could give the United States the tools it needs to secure its interests in the Middle East in the decades ahead.
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« Reply #284 on: March 19, 2012, 10:41:12 AM »

Now that Vladimir Putin has allowed the Russian electorate to rubber-stamp him back into power, he can return with redoubled purpose to his consistently regressive interference in world affairs. That nobody is surprised at his obdurate defense of the regimes in Tehran and Damascus speaks volumes. Dictators support dictators, don't they?

At this point Mr. Putin apparently doesn't mind much that anyone should include him in that category. After all, if Putinism could be defined by any single principle, if it had a formula, it would have at its core the "power now people later" approach common to all strongmen. Less than 10 years before he ordered the 2008 invasion of Georgia in order to "protect" the separatist South Ossetians, he "solved" the Chechnya problem by ordering the scorched-earth obliteration of its capital, Grozny, where more civilians were killed than at Sreberniza and Homs combined.

And yet one shouldn't suspect Mr. Putin of sentimentality. He doesn't favor dictators for mere principle's sake. Iron-hard strategic calculations underpin his support for the Syria-Iran axis.

Russia is rebuilding its Soviet-era naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, which allows Moscow to reassert a plausible Mediterranean threat to NATO. Syria also provides Iran with a front line against Israel via Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that too can be a most effective anti-Western arrowhead for Russia. When I covered the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, I learned that a year earlier Israel had stopped providing Tbilisi with antitank and anti-aircraft missiles because the Russians had threatened to supply Hezbollah with the same.

But in the end, the pivotal consideration in Mr. Putin's efforts to re-establish his country's superpower status centers on Iran. Syria is a domino. Without its Syrian ally, Iran would be almost totally isolated and crucially weakened. That Moscow cannot allow.

Why is Iran so central to Mr. Putin's global pretensions? Take a look at the Caspian Sea area map and the strategic equations come into relief. Iran acts as a southern bottleneck to the geography of Central Asia. It could offer the West access to the region's resources that would bypass Russia. If Iran reverted to pro-Western alignment, the huge reserves of oil and gas landlocked in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and the like could flow directly out to the world without a veto from Moscow.

According to an Oct. 16, 2008, Wall Street Journal report, Turkmenistan is "one of the world's hydrocarbon provinces" with enough natural gas to supply Europe's annual needs three times over. Similarly, Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field is considered one of the world's largest. As things stand, these countries depend on Russian pipelines for their national income.

At stake here is not merely the liberation of a vast landmass from the Kremlin's yoke. The damage to Russian leverage would amount to a seismic shift in the global balance of power equal to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact.

Russia's gas and oil leverage over Turkey, Ukraine and much of Europe would evaporate. The Silk Road countries would finally reclaim their history since it was diverted forcibly toward Moscow in the 19th century. Their nominal post-Soviet independence would become a reality. Perhaps most irksome for Mr. Putin and his kind, large swaths of the non-Russian zone would prosper disproportionately in comparison to neighboring Russian Federation provinces.

After some 12 years in the Kremlin, Mr. Putin has failed to deliver prosperity and a hopeful future to much of his population. In return for their sacrifice, he has fed them inflated dreams of empire and superpower nostalgia which he has deliberately identified with his own judoka personality cult.

This is not a scenario in which free peoples voluntarily choose their destinies and alliances. They bow to what's good for them as determined by a kind of paternal supreme power.

If the mystique of Russian hegemony were to deflate, if formerly subject colonies suddenly rose to stability and affluence—as is happening in Georgia—Mr. Putin's threadbare illusionism would fall apart entirely. He would never recover from the triumph of freedom in Syria and Iran.

Mr. Kaylan is a writer in New York.

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« Reply #285 on: March 23, 2012, 07:03:41 AM »
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« Reply #286 on: April 09, 2012, 09:30:50 AM »

The world balance of power is changing. Countries like China, India, Turkey and Brazil are heard from more frequently and on a wider range of subjects. The European Union's most ambitious global project—creating a universal treaty to reduce carbon emissions—has collapsed, and EU expansion has slowed to a crawl as Europe turns inward to deal with its debt crisis. Japan has ceded its place as the largest economy in Asia to China and appears increasingly on the defensive in the region as China's hard and soft power grow.

The international chattering class has a label for these changes: American decline. The dots look so connectable: The financial crisis, say the pundits, comprehensively demonstrated the failure of "Anglo-Saxon" capitalism. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sapped American strength and, allegedly, destroyed America's ability to act in the Middle East. China-style "state capitalism" is all the rage. Throw in the assertive new powers and there you have it—the portrait of America in decline.

Actually, what's been happening is just as fateful but much more complex. The United States isn't in decline, but it is in the midst of a major rebalancing. The alliances and coalitions America built in the Cold War no longer suffice for the tasks ahead. As a result, under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, American foreign policy has been moving toward the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead.

From the 1970s to the start of this decade, the world was in what future historians may call the Trilateral Era. In the early '70s, Americans responded to the defeat in Vietnam and the end of the Bretton Woods era by inviting key European allies and Japan to join in the creation of a trilateral system. Western Europe, Japan and the U.S. accounted for an overwhelming proportion of the international economy in the noncommunist world. With overlapping interests on a range of issues, the trilateral powers were able to set the global agenda on some key questions.

Currency policy, the promotion of free trade, integrating the developing world into the global financial system, assisting the transition of Warsaw Pact economies into the Western World—the trilateralists had a lot to show for their efforts.

Enlarge Image

 .The system worked particularly well for America. Europe and Japan shared a basic commitment to the type of world order that Americans wanted, and so a more cooperative approach to key policy questions enlisted the support of rich and powerful allies for efforts that tallied pretty closely with key long-term American goals.

It is this trilateral system—rather than American power per se—that is in decline today. Western Europe and Japan were seen as rising powers in the 1970s, and the assumption was that the trilateral partnership would become more powerful and effective as time passed. Something else happened instead.

Demographically and economically, both Japan and Europe stagnated. The free-trade regime and global investment system promoted growth in the rest of Asia more than in Japan. Europe, turning inward to absorb the former Warsaw Pact nations, made the fateful blunder of embracing the euro rather than a more aggressive program of reform in labor markets, subsidies and the like.

The result today is that the trilateral partnership can no longer serve as the only or perhaps even the chief set of relationships through which the U.S. can foster a liberal world system. Turkey, increasingly turning away from Europe, is on the road to becoming a more effective force in the Middle East than is the EU. China and India are competing to replace the Europeans as the most important non-U.S. economic actor in Africa. In Latin America, Europe's place as the second most important economic and political partner (after the U.S.) is also increasingly taken by China.

The U.S. will still be a leading player, but in a septagonal, not a trilateral, world. In addition to Europe and Japan, China, India, Brazil and Turkey are now on Washington's speed dial. (Russia isn't sure whether it wants to join or sulk; negotiations continue.)

New partnerships make for rough sledding. Over the years, the trilateral countries gradually learned how to work with each other—and how to accommodate one another's needs. These days, the Septarchs have to work out a common approach.

It won't be easy, and success won't be total. But even in the emerging world order, the U.S. is likely to have much more success in advancing its global agenda than many think. Washington is hardly unique in wanting a liberal world system of open trade, freedom of the seas, enforceable rules of contract and protection for foreign investment. What began as a largely American vision for the post-World War II world will continue to attract support and move forward into the 21st century—and Washington will remain the chairman of a larger board.

Despite all the talk of American decline, the countries that face the most painful changes are the old trilateral partners. Japan must live with a disturbing rival presence, China, in a region that, with American support, it once regarded as its backyard. In Europe, countries that were once global imperial powers must accept another step in their long retreat from empire.

For American foreign policy, the key now is to enter deep strategic conversations with our new partners—without forgetting or neglecting the old. The U.S. needs to build a similar network of relationships and institutional linkages that we built in postwar Europe and Japan and deepened in the trilateral years. Think tanks, scholars, students, artists, bankers, diplomats and military officers need to engage their counterparts in each of these countries as we work out a vision for shared prosperity in the new century.

The American world vision isn't powerful because it is American; it is powerful because it is, for all its limits and faults, the best way forward. This is why the original trilateral partners joined the U.S. in promoting it a generation ago, and why the world's rising powers will rally to the cause today.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. His blog, Via Meadia, appears at the American Interest Online.

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« Reply #287 on: April 22, 2012, 10:04:49 AM »

John Bolton: Obama taking credit for killing bin-Laden is like Nixon taking credit for landing on the moon
Posted by The Right Scoop The Right Scoop on April 20th, 2012 in Politics | 58 Comments

Bolton weighs in on Obama taking credit for Bush’s successes with regard to the killing of bin-Laden, saying that the only thing Obama really did was get out of the way. The intelligence that led us to bin-Laden came from the very thing Obama railed against and thus banned when becoming president, enhanced interrogations. So for him to take credit for killing bin-Laden, Bolton says, is like Nixon taking credit for America landing on the moon.

The entire interview is great as Bolton also weighs in on much more of Obama’s foreign policy, Iran, N.Korea, Russia, intelligence, START, defense budgets, international law, sovereignty, problems growing around the world.
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« Reply #288 on: April 24, 2012, 10:55:05 AM »

I don't know if this is official policy but this thinking strikes me as the most fuddled, mixed up, unclear, mixed message foreign policy thinking I have ever seen:

Blog'The War on Terror Is Over'
9:29 PM, Apr 23, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER

    In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration is grappling with how to handle Islamists, radical adherents to Islam. Particularly, the issue has come to the fore in regards to Egypt, which, as Reuel Marc Gerecht notes, "is now certain" to elect "an Islamist" as its leaders the next time the Egyptian people go to the polls.

But some in the Obama administration are now seeing things differently.

"The war on terror is over," a senior official in the State Department official tells the National Journal. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."

This new outlook has, in the words of the National Journal, come from a belief among administration officials that "It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists."

The National Journal explains:

The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama's savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.

For the president himself, this new thinking comes from a "realiz[ation that] he has no choice but to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood and other relatively 'moderate' Islamist groups emerging as lead political players out of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere."

This new outlook is radically different than what was expressed under President George W. Bush immediately after September 11, 2001. "Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," Bush said on November 6, 2001. "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."

For President Barack Obama, it would seem, one can be both with us and against us--or not with us, but not quite against us.
   © Copyright 2012 The Weekly Standard LLC - A Weekly Conservative Magazine & Blog. All Rights Reserved.

« Last Edit: April 24, 2012, 12:05:07 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #289 on: April 24, 2012, 01:41:50 PM »

"The war on terror is over," a senior official in the State Department official tells the National Journal. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."

Can you imagine that in WWII, with Hitler dead, we'd be ok with the emergence of a "legitimate nazism"?   rolleyes
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« Reply #290 on: April 24, 2012, 01:49:54 PM »

So you equate "legitimate Islamism" with "legitimate Naziism"?
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« Reply #291 on: April 24, 2012, 01:59:16 PM »

Yes. It's not accidental they were allied in WWII and there is still a relationship between neonazis and "islamists" today.
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« Reply #292 on: April 24, 2012, 02:11:50 PM »

""It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists."

NO ONE ever said every single follower of Islam is a terrorist or potential terrorist.  Did not these idiots hear Bush W say LOUD AND CLEAR that we are not at war with Islam?

The problem is many still do wish us all dead.  Try figuring out which ones do and which ones don't.
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« Reply #293 on: April 24, 2012, 02:14:58 PM »

Not every muslim is an islamist/jihadist, but every islamist/jihadist is a muslim. Thus, the bloody borders of islam across the planet.
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« Reply #294 on: April 24, 2012, 05:27:11 PM »

As a Jew I can't think of a single Muslim country where I would feel at ease and I can think of more than a few where being a Jew would be a death sentence.  

Perhaps we understand the word differently, but for me Islamist is something even more than Islam-- e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt instead of the Turkey that until not too long ago could ally with Israel.

Returning to CCP's interesting post, thanks in part to Baraq's efforts, Islamism IS becoming the fact in places where it wasn't the fact before.  What posture is the US to take?
« Last Edit: April 24, 2012, 05:31:33 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #295 on: April 27, 2012, 11:52:49 AM »

Strange to me that in Egypt the ruler we helped take down was our ally.  Not so for the thugs in Syria.  There is no world leadership when the US is absent.

Krauthammer: "...a coherent case for hands off could be made. That would be an honest, straightforward policy. Instead, the president, basking in the sanctity of the Holocaust Museum, proclaims his solemn allegiance to a doctrine of responsibility — even as he stands by and watches Syria burn."
While Syria Burns
If the U.S. is not prepared to intervene, we should be candid about it.

By Charles Krauthammer

Last year, President Obama ordered U.S. intervention in Libya under the grand new doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” Moammar Gaddafi was threatening a massacre in Benghazi. To stand by and do nothing “would have been a betrayal of who we are,” explained the president.

In the year since, the government of Syria has more than threatened massacres. It has carried them out. Nothing hypothetical about the disappearances, executions, indiscriminate shelling of populated neighborhoods. More than 9,000 are dead.

Obama has said that we cannot stand idly by. And what has he done? Stand idly by.

Yes, we’ve imposed economic sanctions. But as with Iran, the economic squeeze has not altered the regime’s behavior. Monday’s announced travel and financial restrictions on those who use social media to track down dissidents is a pinprick. No Disney World trips for the chiefs of the Iranian and Syrian security agencies. And they might now have to park their money in Dubai instead of New York. That’ll stop ’em.

Obama’s other major announcement — at Washington’s Holocaust Museum, no less — was the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board.

I kid you not. A board. Russia flies plane loads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Supports a feckless U.N. peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the peacekeepers were summarily executed.) And establishes an Atrocities Prevention Board.

With multi-agency participation, mind you. The liberal faith in the power of bureaucracy and flowcharts, of committees and reports, is legend. But this is parody.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that we do not have a duty to protect. That foreign policy is not social work. That you risk American lives only when national security and/or strategic interests are at stake, not merely to satisfy the humanitarian impulses of some of our leaders.

But Obama does not make this argument. On the contrary. He goes to the Holocaust Museum to commit himself and his country to defend the innocent, to affirm the moral imperative of rescue. And then does nothing of any consequence.

His case for passivity is buttressed by the implication that the only alternative to inaction is military intervention — bombing, boots on the ground.

But that’s false. It’s not the only alternative. Why aren’t we organizing, training, and arming the Syrian rebels in their sanctuaries in Turkey? Nothing unilateral here. Saudi Arabia is already planning to do so. Turkey has turned decisively against Assad. And the French are pushing for even more direct intervention.

Instead, Obama insists that we can only act with support of the “international community,” meaning the U.N. Security Council — where Russia and China have a permanent veto. By what logic does the moral legitimacy of U.S. action require the blessing of a thug like Vladimir Putin and the butchers of Tiananmen Square?
Our slavish, mindless self-subordination to “international legitimacy” does nothing but allow Russia — a pretend post-Soviet superpower — to extend a protective umbrella over whichever murderous client it chooses. Obama has all but announced that Russia (or China) has merely to veto international actions — sanctions, military assistance, direct intervention — and the U.S. will back off.

For what reason? Not even President Clinton, a confirmed internationalist, would acquiesce to such restraints. With Russia prepared to block U.N. intervention against its client, Serbia, Clinton saved Kosovo by summoning NATO to bomb the hell out of Serbia, the Russians be damned.

If Obama wants to stay out of Syria, fine. Make the case that it’s none of our business. That it’s too hard. That we have no security/national interests there.

In my view, the evidence argues against that, but at least a coherent case for hands off could be made. That would be an honest, straightforward policy. Instead, the president, basking in the sanctity of the Holocaust Museum, proclaims his solemn allegiance to a doctrine of responsibility — even as he stands by and watches Syria burn.

If we are not prepared to intervene, even indirectly by arming and training Syrians who want to liberate themselves, be candid. And then be quiet. Don’t pretend the U.N. is doing anything. Don’t pretend the U.S. is doing anything. And don’t embarrass the nation with an Atrocities Prevention Board. The tragedies of Rwanda, Darfur, and now Syria did not result from lack of information or lack of interagency coordination, but from lack of will.
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« Reply #296 on: April 28, 2012, 07:09:39 PM »

Funny how Buraq has empowered jihadists around the globe as president. Sure would be interesting to see the Rashid Khalidid speech he gave.....

Friday night news dump: Obama bypasses Congress, funds Palestinian Authority

posted at 4:26 pm on April 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Isn’t it funny what you can find out on Friday evening about what our executive branch does?  For instance, Agence France-Presse reported last night that Barack Obama bypassed Congress to send $192 million to the Palestinian Authority, claiming that national security required the US to put money into Mahmoud Abbas’ pocket:

President Barack Obama has signed a waiver to remove curbs on funding to the Palestinian Authority, declaring the aid to be “important to the security interests of the United States.”
A $192 million aid package was frozen by the US Congress after the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the United Nations last September.
But in a memo sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, published by the White House, the president said it was appropriate to release funds to the authority, which administers the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In signing the waiver, Obama instructed Clinton to inform Congress of the move, on the grounds that “waiving such prohibition is important to the national security interests of the United States.”
Congress deliberately froze those funds, and not just because of the statehood demand through UNESCO.  Hamas, a terrorist organization, reconciled with Fatah and has rejoined the PA, which means we’re putting almost $200 million into the hands of a terrorist organization.  The language of the Palestinian Accountability Act could not be clearer: “[N]o funds available to any United States Government department or agency … may be obligated or expended with respect to providing funds to the Palestinian Authority.”  Obama literally waived that statutory language off yesterday afternoon.
The Times of Israel reported on the official White House explanation of why Obama did so:

The AFP news agency quoted White House spokesman Tommy Vietor as saying the $192 million aid package would be devoted to “ensuring the continued viability of the moderate PA government under the leadership of [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.”
Vietor added that the PA had fulfilled its major obligations, such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and accepting the Road Map for Peace.
Have they?  They certainly haven’t done so since Hamas rejoined the PA in February.  Hamas has refused to change its charter to recognize Israel or renounce violence, and certainly they have rejected the Road Map for Peace, which has been lying dead for years thanks to the PA’s refusal to seriously implement it.  When Hamas broadcasts its recognition of Israel in Arabic — something that the PA has never done, to my knowledge — then perhaps the Obama administration’s claims can be taken seriously.
Andy McCarthy calls this a “triple play,” and slams this claim by Vietor as fantasy:

In the real world, the very immoderate PA has reneged on all its commitments. In addition to violating its obligations by unilaterally declaring statehood, the PA has also agreed to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The PA continues to endorse terrorism against Israel as “resistance.” Moreover, the PA most certainly does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Back in November, for example, Adil Sadeq, a PA official writing in the official PA daily,Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, declared that Israelis
“have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist…”
In sum, everything Obama is saying about Palestinian compliance is a lie. Even if we were not broke, we should not be giving the PA a dime. To borrow money so we can give it to them is truly nuts.
The White House knows it, too — which is why we only found out through the Friday night news dump.
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« Reply #297 on: May 01, 2012, 05:31:43 AM »

This thread is for big picture themes of US foreign policy.

The latest details of Baraq's anti-Israel policies belong in the Israel thread please.
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« Reply #298 on: May 03, 2012, 09:32:38 PM »

Ron Paul's treatment by mainstream media, other Republican hopefuls, and the punditry makes me think the W.B. Yeats lines "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" also describe the year 2012 in the United States. Indeed, Paul's experience in the nomination campaign suggests U.S. politics lacks reasoned substance, common sense, and an understanding of what America's Founding Fathers intended.

Open up any newspaper to see the mess America has sunk itself into around the world: for example, facing off with China over a lone, non-American dissident whose safety has no relation to U.S. security. Yet today, Paul's call for staying out of other people's wars unless genuine U.S. national interests are at stake is deemed radical, immoral, even anti-American. Amazing.
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« Reply #299 on: May 03, 2012, 11:00:24 PM »

Well, I'm hoping that will kick off a discussion , , , one for which I have insufficient energy at the moment due to being on what I hope will be the final couple of days of something nasty I picked up in Europe.

I will say for the moment that I take a contrary view of this matter concerning the Chinese dissident as my comments in the US-China thread have already noted.

I will also note the lack of notice that has been given to a Russian general threatening to militarily attack the US anti-missile bases in the works for eastern Europe.  THIS IS EXTRAORDINARY AND SHOULD BE NOTED ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM AS SUCH. The silence from Baraq  & Hillary is deafening.

It occurs to me that on a deeper level the two events are rather related. 
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