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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 126140 times)
US, Romania, Russia
Reply #400 on:
June 01, 2013, 09:03:52 AM »
Geopolitical Journey: The Search for Belonging and Ballistic Missile Defense in Romania
WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2013 - 05:00 Print - Text Size +
By George Friedman
During the Cold War, Romania confused all of us. Long after brutality in other communist countries declined, Romania remained a state that employed levels of violence best compared to North Korea today. Nicolae Ceausescu, referred to by admirers as the Genius of the Carpathians, ruled Romania with a ruthless irrationality. Government policies left the country cold and dark, and everyday items readily available just a few kilometers south in Bulgaria were rarities in Romania. At the same time -- and this was the paradox -- Romania was hostile and uncooperative with the Soviets. Bucharest refused to submit to Moscow, and this did not compute for many of us. Resistance to Soviet power, in our minds, meant liberalization, like what we saw in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. But not in Romania; Romania played a different game.
Romania is an inward-looking country that longs to be better integrated into the international system -- a difficult posture to maintain. Each time I return to Romania, I watch this struggle unfold. If Bucharest was an exception in the Soviet bloc, it is now finding it much harder than countries such as Poland to adapt to Europe. For Romania, becoming normal means becoming part of Europe, and that means joining the European Union and NATO. The idea of not being fully accepted in Brussels creates real angst in Bucharest. When I point out the obvious difficulties affecting both institutions and suggest that membership may not be the best solution for Romania, I am firmly rebuffed. They remember something I sometimes forget: After the insanity of Ceausescu, they need to be European. No matter how flawed Europe is today, the thought of being isolated as they once were is unbearable.
The United States plays a unique role in the culture of countries like Romania. My parents in Hungary, the country next door to Romania, listened to Voice of America in 1944. When they heard of the Allied landing in Normandy, they thought they were saved from the Germans and Soviets. They were not, but it was the Americans -- noble and invincible in their imaginations -- in whom my parents placed their hope. Throughout the Cold War, Eastern Europeans listened to VOA and imagined liberation from the Soviets. When that liberation finally came in 1989, it was unclear whether and to what degree the Americans had precipitated the Soviet collapse. It remains unclear, but in Eastern Europe and in Romania, the concept of liberation is fixed, and despite all of their concern for the European Union, the United States remains the redeemer.
This region is perhaps the last place in the world where the United States is still seen as noble and invincible. Power is complex -- the more of it you gain, the more ambiguous you become. For a growing power, there is a moment before the exercise of responsibility in which you appear perfect. You have not yet done anything that requires ruthlessness or brutality, but you have shown strength. That was the image of the United States during the two world wars. As the United States started to mature, the world discovered that power distorts even the best of wills. But in Eastern Europe, the original sense of the United States, though certainly tattered and somewhat worn by the complexities of real power, is still a moving force. In my view, the relationship between the United States and Romania needs to be nurtured, not through showcase projects of little impact but through a substantial development of economic and military relations. This might not sound glamorous, but it would address the national security interests of both sides.
My view on Romania's place in the world apparently does not sit well with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Romanian President Traian Basescu. My discussions with these leaders are a tale worth telling, since they have led me on a true geopolitical journey.
During my visit to Romania, I met with Basescu, Prime Minister Victor Ponta and other notables. I also gave a talk at the National Bank of Romania. During these meetings, I made arguments that are familiar to my readers. I argued that the post-Cold War world is over and that Romania needs to vastly lower its expectations as to what membership in the European Union would mean. I told Romanian leaders they should be relieved that Romania has its own currency. I also argued that NATO has neither a common intent nor the military capability to act jointly, since most of Europe's militaries lack the ability to carry out sustained military operations. NATO is not an alliance but merely a grouping of countries -- a coalition of the willing who for the most part, as seen in Libya and Mali, are not very willing.
I further argued that the Russians are not pursuing their national interests by military force. Rather, Moscow is taking advantage of the weakness of the European Union to foster a web of commercial relationships in the countries of old Eastern Europe, creating an economic fait accompli. It follows that Romania's national security interests would be better served by U.S. investment -- particularly in the strategic energy and mineral sector -- than by reliance on the European Union or NATO.
The Romanians understand the weakness of these alliances. Yet for all of Europe's disarray, Romania's belief in Europe runs deep. Belief in a European economic bloc, and in a North Atlantic alliance that includes the United States, is a fundamental tenet of Romania's political culture. Perhaps the biggest current concern for Romanian leaders, though, and one that dominated many of my conversations, is the development in Europe of a ballistic missile defense system.
The Full Spectrum of Military Support
The United States has allowed a missile defense program based in Europe to become the leading symbol of American commitment to the region. Eastern Europeans in particular see the basing of that system as a sign of American commitment, even if it is not specifically intended to shield the country in which it is based. The theory is that anywhere the United States sets up an installation, American troops will be there to protect it. Washington's thinking on the defense shield has been in flux since the Bush administration. Evolving technology has opened the door for alternative basing, but the Romanians sense another reason for the shift: The Russians object deeply to the program. While their missiles could easily overwhelm the system, the Russians believe, along with Eastern Europeans, that the program is simply the first phase of American deployment along the frontiers of the Russian sphere of influence. The Americans have no wish to confront the Russians over what for Washington is a marginal issue, and they are constantly looking for ways out of the commitment.
This rattles nerves in the region, particularly as the European Union disintegrates. I argued that the missile shield should not be seen as the only measure of American commitment. Romania and other Eastern European countries certainly require substantial military support and assistance. But what they need are anti-air and anti-tank systems, air superiority fighters and logistics -- and they need enough of these things to deal with more mundane but immediate national security threats. The missile defense system addresses one dimension of Romanian security, but it does nothing to address other, more salient dimensions.
I argued that Romania's strategic focus ought to center on acquiring practical conventional systems that could deal with evolving threats. The United States should therefore not be judged by its commitment to missile defense but by its willingness to contribute to the full spectrum of Romania's security needs. Likewise, NATO should not be judged by its commitment to missile defense but by its members' willingness to collaborate and by their armed forces' actual ability to do so.
Real and Perceived Threats
Rasmussen met with the Romanian president a couple of days after I was there, and apparently my views came up. In a public statement, Rasmussen said he disagrees with my assessment. He stressed that Romania will be protected against a potential missile threat and said NATO has adopted a phased adaptive approach to building a missile defense system, with the aim being to cover all populations in Europe and all NATO nations, including Romania. Rasmussen said he expects the third and final phase to be completed by 2018.
The problem with Rasmussen's statement is that he assumes Romania faces a missile threat. Put differently, if I consider the full range of threats that Romania faces, missile attacks are not high on the list. Russia is not about to use them, and this system couldn't block them. The Iranians don't have a ballistic missile system yet, and an offensive option would far more effectively address a threat emanating from Iran. Essentially, missile defense projects spend huge amounts of money without addressing real Romanian national interests. These include internal security against non-state actors, border security and managing the future of Moldova in the event of destabilization in that country.
What interests me most about this exchange is that when I was asked about missile defense, I was not asked about NATO but about the United States. I was also not asked about a European missile shield but about the basing of a component in Romania. What the Romanians wanted was an American military facility in Romania, and they saw American redesigns that might eliminate such a facility as an abandonment of the United States' commitment to Romania. Nevertheless, the Romanian president affirmed Rasmussen's position and explicitly rejected mine.
Rasmussen is the head of NATO, an organization that has few significant projects underway -- and this is a big one. Having someone assert that NATO's centerpiece project ignores the broader requirements of Romanian national security will obviously irritate him, particularly since he knows that the missile defense shield, rather than being part of a NATO strategy, is a substitute for a NATO strategy. NATO has no real strategy right now because there is no political agreement on what that strategy ought to be.
The final argument I made to the Romanians was that only they can ultimately guarantee their national security. The United States can be pushed to participate in accordance with its strategic and economic interests, but it cannot be a substitute for Romanian forces protecting Romanian national interests. That was the way NATO worked during the Cold War, and that is the way it must work now. Only Romanian power can ensure the hard and multiple dimensions of Romanian national security. NATO or the United States can serve as the final recourse, but they cannot be the first option. Therefore, Romania ought to be pursuing support to enhance the basic, unglamorous requirements for adequate self-defense. Bucharest should not concern itself with the basing of a piece of advanced hardware designed for a single scenario if that comes at the expense of being able to handle many other scenarios. Europe as a whole might need missile defense, but Romania and its brother countries that have experienced Soviet occupation need other things far more.
We also discussed the Romanian interest in aligning with Poland and Turkey. These three countries share a history of facing Russian power. All three require and want to build strong commercial relations with the Russians, but they need to ensure that those commercial interests do not reduce national autonomy or undermine national interests. I have written in the past about the Intermarium -- the alliance of nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea -- and for the Romanians, Poland and Turkey are potentially important partners.
My argument against the land-based missile shield is not that it is an inherently bad idea, or that participating at the highest levels is not in the Romanian interest, but that NATO is currently incapable of addressing more pressing security requirements in the region, particularly security for the line that runs along Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. This line represents the eastern frontier of the European peninsula today, and while every country must trade extensively with Russia, they must also be able to protect themselves. American dollars spent limiting Russian hard power in the region will do more to boost Romania's interests than missile defense will, and this will also better align with the interests of the United States. In this discussion, NATO unfortunately does not play a significant role. While a substantial commitment to defend Romania might come from the United States, a regional grouping, whether inside or outside NATO, is first needed in order to create a framework for meaningful collaboration.
Developing a Crucial Relationship
The challenge facing Romania is to create an economic dimension to its political and military relationship with the United States. A multidimensional relationship is inherently more self-sustaining than simply a political-military relationship. The problem is not a lack of projects, of which potentially there are many. The problem is Romanian bureaucracy, which can be paralyzing. In economic relations, predictability, transparency and efficiency are essential. None of these exist in Romania. One of the points I made during the visit was that for Romania, reducing bureaucracy and increasing bureaucratic speed and predictability are matters of national security. The United States, like most countries, finds it easier to support countries where it has an economic interest.
Given the weakness of the European Union and the disarray in NATO, Romania needs to nurture its bilateral relations with the United States, and that requires moving beyond its relationships in Washington. Military affairs are discussed in Washington, D.C.; business is done in Seattle, Houston and Chicago. A geopolitical journey of the United States would begin by explaining the limits of Washington and the power that is present in other American cities. The Romanians must understand the United States as it is and understand that Washington's commitment to a country increases with its business interests. If Romania wants closer military ties in the United States, rationalizing the rules on investment is far more important than missile defense.
It is not clear that the United States understands the strategic significance of Romania or the other Eastern European countries. It is not clear that Romania understands how the United States works or how to draw it into a strategic commitment. The United States spent the last half of the Cold War baffled by Romania, and Romania has spent the time since the fall of communism baffled by the United States. From where I stand, the conversation needs to move away from the American obsession with complex technology, NATO's need for a project that seems significant without addressing serious risks and Romanian fears of exclusion from Europe. The United States and Romania must focus on cold calculations of national interest, including basic matters such as the sale of transport helicopters and the rapid processing of projects by ministries. If a missile defense system is developed along with these things, I have no objection. If it is built instead of these things, then we should all read histories of the Maginot Line.
Read more: Geopolitical Journey: The Search for Belonging and Ballistic Missile Defense in Romania | Stratfor
In defense of Kissinger
Reply #401 on:
June 19, 2013, 09:50:27 AM »
Bowing and the reset button not seeming to work....
Reply #402 on:
June 24, 2013, 08:23:34 PM »
Cold war: U.S. tells Russia to give back Snowden, or else
posted at 9:01 pm on June 24, 2013 by Allahpundit
Imagine how much worse U.S./Russian relations might be right now if we hadn’t had that “reset.”
Does this mean Snowden really did get on a plane to Russia? Because if it turns out he didn’t and the whole Russia-to-Cuba-to-Ecuador thing was just a ruse, then we should dismantle the NSA on principle. If they can’t locate America’s most wanted man, who can’t bear to be apart from his computer, after he’s absconded with a treasure trove of intelligence, then they’re not so useful that we need to keep this eye in the sky afloat.
“They are on notice with respect to our desires,” Kerry said. “It would be deeply troubling if they have adequate notice and notwithstanding that they make a willful decision to ignore that and not live within the standards of the law.
The U.S. has transferred seven prisoners to Russia over the last two years, Kerry said, and the U.S. expects reciprocity. He also took a shot at China and Russia’s treatment of freedom of speech online…
A State Department official said Monday that as far as the U.S. government knows, Snowden is still in Russia and while the State Department is frantically contacting several governments about Snowden, Russia is the primary focus. The State Department is laying out a range of consequences for the Russians if they don’t cooperate and the Russians seem to be holding Snowden in Moscow while they consider their response to Washington, the official said…
To drive home that point, several senior officials have reached out to their Russian counterparts over the last 24 hours. FBI Director Robert Mueller has called his Russian counterpart at the FSB twice today, an administration official said Monday. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul, a former senior White House official, have also been working the issue hard with their Russian contacts, the official said.
If I were Putin I’d hand him over, after “debriefing” him and his hard drives thoroughly, of course. What benefit is there to holding him once you’ve gotten what you need from him? They’ve already scored big propaganda points by humiliating Obama and we do, of course, have ways of making life more difficult for Moscow if they drag this out. Better to give him up as a “goodwill” gesture, to ensure that we’ll continue to extradite prisoners that they want and, maybe, be a bit more conciliatory on Syria than we’ve been lately. Frankly, Putin might relish the thought of “partnering” with Obama in seeing someone viewed by many Americans as a heroic dissident sent to prison. That’ll come in handy the next time the State Department accuses Moscow of taking political prisoners and persecuting regime critics.
First, though, comes the “extraction.” And it is, almost certainly, coming:
“Russian intelligence and counter-intelligence will have a lot to ask such a well-informed person. I have no doubt that this will be done,” a Russian special services veteran told the Interfax news agency on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
“I am sure that Snowden will have had a busy evening and a sleepless night,” the source added of the American’s reported stayover Sunday night in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after landing from Hong Kong.
“Snowden presents a lot of interest for the FSB (security service). He can give information on technical aspects of intercepting data,” said Russian security expert and commentator for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper Pavel Felgenhauer.
“A debriefing in the presence of technical specialists takes a lot of time,” Felgenhauer told AFP, suggesting that interviews with Russian secret services could take place in a third country.
I can’t think of a reason why ruthless intel services like Russia’s and China’s wouldn’t be as rough as they need to be with this guy to get him to turn over what he has. He’s already revealed that the NSA spied on Medvedev at the G20 summit a few years ago and hacked into Chinese computers. Both regimes now have a national interest in finding out what he knows, which they can sell to their respective publics just in case the locals take an interest Snowden’s fate. This is why, for the life of me, I can’t understand why Snowden’s defenders insist that he hasn’t compromised national security in what he’s done. Even if that’s true so far, he claims to know much more than what he’s leaked; Glenn Greenwald’s giddily declared many times that more leaks are coming. National intelligence sources are telling ABC this afternoon that, in fact, if Snowden made public everything he knows, it could deal a “potentially devastating blow” to U.S. security. Follow the last link and read at least the section titled “Technical Roadmap of the U.S. Surveillance Network.” If they’re telling the truth, which is debatable, the security lapse in making this stuff available to an IT guy is unimaginably gigantic.
Is there any scenario, realistically, in which Russia or China or whoever ends up getting him doesn’t put the screws to him to find out what he knows? If someone fled from Russia or China to the U.S. with the kinds of secrets about them that Snowden has about the U.S., wouldn’t you hope/expect the FBI or CIA would “debrief” that guy at length? Either you believe (a) that Snowden doesn’t know much and therefore can’t hurt U.S. interests — and I’m not sure why anyone would think that at this point — or (b) that Snowden knows a lot and therefore it’s extremely dangerous for him to be placing himself within arm’s reach of Russian and Chinese intelligence. Either the whole FISA/PRISM/Snowden storyline is no big deal because it’s all small potatoes or it’s a very big deal, in which case we have a very, very big national-security problem. Pick one.
Cold War Presidents
Reply #403 on:
June 26, 2013, 09:50:32 AM »
Why Cold War Presidents Were Better
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 05:01 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
For two decades now, there has been a disappointment with American presidents in the realm of foreign affairs. Bill Clinton was seen, fairly or not, as fundamentally unserious: insufficiently decisive on humanitarian tragedies in the Balkans and Rwanda and believing in the delusion that, as he reportedly put it, geoeconomics had replaced geopolitics. George W. Bush was more decisive and skeptical about elite nostrums like geoeconomics uniting the world, but he decided upon invading Iraq and subsequently prosecuted the aftermath of that invasion in such an undisciplined fashion until 2006 that it is hard to see how his reputation will be restored. Barack Obama has all the discipline that Bush lacked, and little of the delusion that marred elements of Clinton's presidency, but absolutely no compelling vision about the world – except to keep it far away so that he can concentrate on the home front.
Now compare Clinton, the younger Bush and Obama with George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman. The difference is profound. The elder Bush helped steer the Cold War to a nonviolent conclusion beneficial to the United States, even as he fought a war with Iraq without a quagmire ensuing. Reagan hastened the end of the Cold War through Wilsonian rhetoric combined with pragmatic diplomacy and targeted defense expenditures. Nixon opened up relations with "Red" China in order to balance against the Soviet Union, even as he restored diplomatic relations with pivotal Arab countries while coming to Israel's rescue during the 1973 war. Kennedy accepted full responsibility for the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs, then expertly steered the country through the Cuban missile crisis. Eisenhower, for eight long years, combined toughness with restraint in dealing with the Soviet Union and Communist China. Truman rightly dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in order to avoid a land invasion of Japan, prevented a Communist takeover of Greece and established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Of course, all these men made major mistakes, and some of them would not be suited for -- and thus would not perform well in -- a post-Cold War environment. (For example, Reagan was a man who knew only a few things, but they were the right things to know at the right time in history.) Moreover, the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter were far less distinguished: Johnson got the United States deeply embroiled in Vietnam, and Carter was powerless to prevent pro-Soviet takeovers in Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, to say nothing of the loss of an important American ally in Iran under his watch.
Nevertheless, overall, there is a qualitative difference between Cold War and post-Cold War presidencies. Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, presidents have been more distracted, more -- not less -- enslaved to the barons of punditry in the media (whether liberal or neoconservative), and seemingly less cognizant of the realities imposed by geography. During the Cold War, the word "realist" was a mark of distinction in foreign affairs; it was afterward a mark of derision. Nothing could better illustrate the decline of American foreign policy -- both the practice and public discourse of it -- than that.
What made Cold War presidents generally appear more serious than their successors in foreign policy? The Cold War elevated geography, and hence geopolitics, to the highest level. The primacy of geopolitics simply could not be denied, except at a president's reputational peril.
Indeed, the Soviet Union was the world's pre-eminent land power, dominating Eurasia. The United States was the world's pre-eminent sea power, dominating the Western Hemisphere, with power to spare in order to affect the balance of forces in the Eastern Hemisphere. The battlefield was the Rimland of Eurasia, toward which the Soviets wanted to extend influence to the sea: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Vietnam and Korea. The crucial questions were, henceforth, geographical -- geopolitical, that is. For example, how to prevent the Soviets from extending their reach into Western Europe? How to use the geography and demography of China against that of the Soviet Union?
Ideology and philosophy mattered, but only if they were combined with geography: hence the American fixation with Fidel Castro's Cuba, 145 kilometers (90 miles) from Florida. Yes, that fixation was unhealthy and self-destructive at times; just as getting involved in a massive land war in Asian jungles proved a nightmare. But the map did not just say: Go to war or refuse to be reasonable. Rather, the map for the most part imposed a structure and discipline on Oval Office thinking.
The post-Cold War is less one-dimensionally geographic. But geography still plays a significant role. Russia still seeks to undermine Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia for the sake of buffer zones. China covets adjacent seas in the Western Pacific as well as the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Japan, Vietnam and other Pacific nations push back at China for the same geographical reasons. China and India engage in an intensifying, albeit quiet, strategic rivalry. Energy deposits in the Persian Gulf, North America and elsewhere will continue to determine power relationships more than any lofty ideas. Israelis and Palestinians battle in zero-sum style over the same territory. The toppling of a regime in Iraq abets Iranian influence, even as a civil war in Syria may possibly undermine it. A dictatorship dissolves in Libya, indirectly leading to the dissolution of nearby Mali into anarchy. These are all geographical phenomena about which globalization -- with which elites are so fixated -- has relatively little to say.
While it is true that financial markets and electronic communications make the world more integrated, they also make geography more claustrophobic, so that an obscure geopolitical competition in one area echoes worldwide. Every place matters now to a degree it didn't before. Even the militarization of space and cyber warfare have geographical dimensions. After all, cyber attacks by China against the United States are simply another form of warfare directed from one continental-sized country in Asia against another in North America. These are realities that the Pentagon, for one, has deeply internalized.
However, American elites, who help condition the thinking of American leaders, have become spellbound over democratization, humanitarianism and other values-driven enterprises, so that leaders must make excuses for acting geopolitically to a degree they never had to during the Cold War. Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, could justify moving closer to totalitarian China in geopolitical terms, without the risk of embarrassment or the need for excuses. But Obama has been castigated in the media on moral grounds for wanting to improve relations with a far less authoritarian regime in Russia, even though it may make geopolitical sense to do so. It certainly isn't that Obama is dumber than Nixon, or thinks less in terms of geography than Nixon. It's more that he is operating in a less serious public policy climate, and that helps make his public explanations less serious.
It was easier for Cold War presidents to explain their actions geopolitically. Nowadays presidents continue to want to act geopolitically and periodically do so, but more often they have to explain their actions solely in moral terms. Thus, by speaking exclusively in moral terms, they, counterintuitively, lack the courage of their convictions. Reagan's morality was in line with his geopolitics -- eject Red Army troops from Central and Eastern Europe in order to end regime-inflicted poverty and tyranny there. Conversely, Obama speaks out against the tyranny of the al Assad regime in Syria while doing relatively little to undermine it, because he does not want the United States to own, even partially, the responsibility for the ground situation there. But Obama rarely speaks honestly about this. Thus, his policy lacks serious purpose.
Geopolitics is not immoral. Actually, as many a Cold War president showed, it can be quite moral. If a liberal democracy like the United States does not employ geopolitics to its own purposes, illiberal autocracies like China and Iran certainly will -- and will have the field to themselves. Indeed, China is acting and speaking geopolitically in the South and East China seas; Iran is doing likewise in Iraq and Syria. When post-Cold War presidents justify to the American people their actions in geopolitical terms, the public will likely understand and support them, even if some sectors of the elite do not. And from that will flow a more serious, more coherent foreign policy.
Read more: Why Cold War Presidents Were Better | Stratfor
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America needs its frontline allies
Reply #404 on:
July 05, 2013, 02:05:30 PM »
America Needs Its Frontline Allies Now More Than Ever
Sensing an opening, China, Russia and Iran are testing U.S. resolve and alliances.
By A. WESS MITCHELL And JAKUB J. GRYGIEL
While the world was focused on last month's G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, U.S. forces were quietly conducting military exercises to prepare for worst-case scenarios in the Baltic Sea and Pacific Ocean. In the first, U.S. Navy vessels were joined by ships from Poland, the Baltic States and their neighbors in a simulated crisis involving a large but unnamed nearby power. In the second, troops from Canada, New Zealand and Japan joined U.S. troops at Camp Pendleton in California to simulate the retaking of an island captured by a larger (but also unnamed) power.
The exercises highlight the similar predicaments facing U.S. allies in critical regions. In an arc that stretches from Eastern Europe to the Persian Gulf to East Asia, vulnerable states on the outer periphery of U.S. power are re-examining their strategic menus in the face of rising or revisionist powers, most notably China, Russia and Iran.
Many of these smaller states are embarking on major, though largely unnoticed, arms buildups. Singapore is shopping for missiles, Vietnam is buying Kilo-class submarines, Saudi Arabia recently bought 84 F-15 jets, and the Gulf states are expanding their defense budgets.
Even Poland, despite being a member of NATO and thus under the U.S. security umbrella, has embarked on a $40 billion spending spree to acquire everything from anti-ship missiles and drones to a new air-defense system. According to a report published this year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, frontline U.S. allies now make up five of the top 10 military importers in the world.
As much as armaments, U.S. allies are also collecting new friendships. In Asia, littoral U.S. allies such as Japan, the Philippines and Singapore are forging new security agreements among themselves to contain Chinese military power. In the Middle East, the Gulf states are ratcheting up cooperation as a regional hedge against Iran. And in East-Central Europe, regional networks like the Nordic-Baltic Group and Central Europe's Visegrad Four are providing a backup to NATO and creating bulwarks to Russian influence.
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers deplane U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey during U.S.-Japan joint military drill at the Camp Pendleton in February 2013.
This is not surprising. Historically, small states have been opposed to powers that aim to upset the regional status quo or threaten their political independence and economic well-being.
But the frenzy of activity also shows that all is not well in these regional ecosystems. America's frontline allies are less confident of U.S. strength and fidelity. This is partly a result of recent U.S. policy, which has often seemed to downgrade alliances in favor of accommodation with large, authoritarian powers. At the same time, they see Washington's deepening defense cuts and shrinking Navy and wonder where American power will stand in a few years.
Just as the U.S. appears to be retrenching militarily, the world's rising powers are growing more aggressive. China, Russia and Iran are increasingly conducting targeted probes of U.S. allies in places such as the South China Sea, Georgia and the Strait of Hormuz, employing low-intensity standoffs, diplomatic pressure and violations of sea and airspace to assess the response of America's allies. Some allies may be tempted to bandwagon with rising powers, as vulnerable states—see Finland—have done throughout history.
Such outcomes would not be good for the United States. America benefits strategically from its globe-encompassing array of small allies. Economically, the presence of pro-U.S. states near such global choke-points as the Malacca Strait, the Strait of Hormuz and the Baltic Sea helps to keep open the commercial and energy arteries upon which the global economy depends. Strategically, these states act as built-in stabilizers that suppress conflict and deter large rivals.
Clearly, it is in the U.S. interest to see these alliances flourish in the 21st century. Here's how:
First, Washington should develop a global strategy to better utilize frontline alliances and encourage linkages among them. For a maritime power like America, onshore allies can provide a natural method for containing continental rivals and limiting their ambitions. Far from downgrading these alliances to pursue big-power realpolitik or seeking short-term cost savings by reducing its military presence in their regions, the U.S. should view them as cost-effective tools for managing multi-region competitors.
Second, the Department of Defense should look for ways to further sync U.S. military structures and planning with those of its allies. As Jim Thomas, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments has suggested, small allies can create their own version of access-denial strategies—the practice of using high-tech defensive capabilities to prevent a larger adversary from exercising air, land or sea dominance. The combination of these efforts with a judicious mix of U.S. sea power, forward-basing and a strengthened nuclear deterrent could provide a sustainable basis for extending American power despite the domestic pressures of austerity.
Third, the U.S. should seek to strengthen industrial-defense ties with its frontline allies—and among them. Already, groupings are emerging that utilize similar U.S. weapons systems to deter and defend against similar large-power threats. We see this in nascent air-defense linkages between Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Poland. Washington should formally promote these ties, centered on U.S. technologies, encouraging allies to learn from each other and exchange their homegrown systems. Doing so would not only benefit U.S. and allied defense industries but also lower the risk of escalating, regional arms races.
By reassuring and preserving America's frontline allies, these steps will bolster the U.S.-led liberal order in the 21st century and drive up the costs of would-be revisionists at a time of growing geopolitical instability.
Mr. Mitchell is president of the Center for European Policy Analysis. Mr. Grygiel is a senior fellow at CEPA and a senior associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
WSJ: George Schultz: The North American Powerhouse
Reply #405 on:
July 12, 2013, 02:46:31 PM »
The North American Global Powerhouse
By GEORGE P. SHULTZ
Discussions of rising economies usually focus on Asia, Africa and the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China. But what may well be the most important development of all is often overlooked: the arrival of North America as a global powerhouse. What's going on?
The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas in 1992. It was ratified in the U.S. thanks to the leadership of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since then, the integration of the three economies has proceeded at a sharp pace. Consider:
The three countries constitute around one-fourth of global GDP, and they have become each other's largest trading partners. Particularly notable is the integration of trade. A 2010 NBER study shows that 24.7% of imports from Canada were U.S. value-added, and 39.8% of U.S. imports from Mexico were U.S. value-added. (By contrast, the U.S. value-added in imports from China was only 4.2%.) This phenomenon of tight integration of trade stands apart from other major trading blocks including theEuropean Union or East Asian economies.
Tighter trade integration has been accompanied by a staggering level of legal movement of people. Total intra-North America movement is 230.8 million annually—over half stemming from same-day travel between the U.S. and Mexico alone. Looking just at overnight tourism, Canadians made 21.3 million trips to the U.S. in 2011 and spent $23.9 billion. U.S. visitors made 11.6 million trips to Canada and spent $7.7 billion. Mexican visitors made 13.5 million trips to the U.S. and spent $9.2 billion. U.S. visitors made 20.1 million trips to Mexico and spent $9.3 billion. (Mexico is the top outbound destination of U.S. travelers.) Legal border crossings for trucks in 2010 amounted to 10.7 million between the U.S. and Canada, and 9.5 million between the U.S. and Mexico.
The three Nafta countries together account for $6.63 trillion in total exports and imports. They have among them free-trade agreements with 50 other countries and there is massive overlap among them. The U.S. is now engaged in negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Europe. Mexico already has such an agreement, and Canada is close to one.
North America, with the U.S. in the lead, is the world's center of creativity and innovation. Any measure will do: new companies formed, Nobel Prizes received, R&D spending, attractiveness to high talent from anywhere, patents issued, and numbers of great universities.
Meanwhile, the energy picture is being transformed by the innovative use of horizontal drilling in the process called fracking. North America is on its way to being a net exporter of energy. The implications for geopolitical developments are vast. North America will have security of supply no matter what happens in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the North American energy trade is itself notable: $65 billion annually between the U.S. and Mexico and over $100 billion annually between the U.S. and Canada. Cross-border infrastructure and markets for crude oil, refined products, natural gas and electricity increasingly enable the integration of both conventional and emerging forms of energy across the three economies.
Even more important than fracking are the potentials for new ways of producing energy and ideas for using energy more effectively. The promise of these new developments will emerge from the research and development under way at universities and companies in North America. Much of this research is funded by a combination of government and industry money. When good ideas do emerge, the system means that organizations are on hand that know how to scale and commercialize them. Through this R&D, North America can lead the way to a more environment-friendly outlook for the production and use of energy.
The fundamental determinant of productivity of people stems from their education. In the U.S., Canada and Mexico, there is a wide disparity in average K-12 achievement scores, even though, in all three countries, there are plenty of examples of outstanding schooling. In math, Canada is clearly and by far the best of the three countries in K-12 education. The U.S. lags considerably behind Canada, and Mexico is even further behind.
There are continuing efforts in all three countries to improve performance, and the potential for raising living standards is enormous. If the K-12 attainments of students in the U.S. and Mexico were to rise to the level in Canada, the average paycheck in the U.S. could grow by 20% per year. In Mexico, the increase in the average paycheck would be off the charts.
Addictive drugs present our continent, particularly the U.S. and Mexico, with a pressing problem. Every aspect of their use and sale has been criminalized in the U.S. The results are high prison rates in the U.S., high profits for drug dealers, and criminal activity in Mexico, Central and South America as drug cartels, with money and guns from the U.S., wreak havoc in many countries. Deaths in Mexico associated with the drug war have been estimated at around 60,000 over the past five or six years.
The U.S. should vigorously adopt the view expressed by Nancy Reagan in her address to the United Nations in 1988. She said that "if we cannot stem the American demand for drugs, then there will be little hope of preventing foreign drug producers from fulfilling that demand. We will not get anywhere if we place a heavier burden of action on foreign governments than on America's own mayors, judges, and legislators."
There needs to be an open debate on this subject in the U.S. and with our North American partners. We should examine the efforts by other countries and find better ways to deal with this savage problem.
Concerning immigration in North America, it should be noted that with fertility in Mexico declining, and an expanding Mexican economy that is now more than competitive with China in many ways, net immigration of Mexicans to the U.S. last year was zero. Meanwhile, approximately 70% of the people who work on farms in this country are immigrants, legal and illegal. The U.S. needs them. All this underlines the importance of sensible reform in the U.S. immigration system.
People often ask me what Ronald Reagan would think of this or that subject. In the case of immigration, we don't have to speculate. On Jan. 19, 1989, in his last formal statement at the White House, he said:
"We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people—our strength—from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.
"While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we're a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier.
"This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost."
Mr. Shultz, a former secretary of labor, Treasury and state, and director, Office of Management and Budget, is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Straftor: Huntington on Upheaval
Reply #406 on:
August 02, 2013, 04:32:04 PM »
By Robert D. Kaplan
In 1968, Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington published Political Order in Changing Societies. Forty-five years later, the book remains without question the greatest guide to today's current events. Forget the libraries of books on globalization, Political Order reigns supreme: arguably the most incisive, albeit impolite, work produced by a political scientist in the 20th century. If you want to understand the Arab Spring, the economic and social transition in China, or much else, ignore newspaper opinion pages and read Huntington.
The very first sentences of Political Order have elicited anger from Washington policy elites for decades now -- precisely because they are so undeniable. "The most important political distinction among countries," Huntington writes, "concerns not their form of government but their degree of government." In other words, strong democracies and strong dictatorships have more in common than strong democracies and weak democracies. Thus, the United States always had more in common with the Soviet Union than with any fragile, tottering democracy in the Third World. This, in turn, is because order usually comes before freedom -- for without a reasonable degree of administrative order, freedom can have little value. Huntington quotes the mid-20th century American journalist, Walter Lippmann: "There is no greater necessity for men who live in communities than that they be governed, self-governed if possible, well-governed if they are fortunate, but in any event, governed."
Institutions, therefore, are more important than democracy. Indeed, Huntington, who died in 2008, asserts that America has little to teach a tumultuous world in transition because Americans are compromised by their own "happy history." Americans assume a "unity of goodness": that all good things like democracy, economic development, social justice and so on go together. But for many places with different historical experiences based on different geographies and circumstances that isn't always the case. Americans, he goes on, essentially imported their political institutions from 17th century England, and so the drama throughout American history was usually how to limit government -- how to make it less oppressive. But many countries in the developing world are saddled either with few institutions or illegitimate ones at that: so that they have to build an administrative order from scratch. Quite a few of the countries affected by the Arab Spring are in this category. So American advice is more dubious than supposed, because America's experience is the opposite of the rest of the world.
Huntington is rightly obsessed with the need for institutions. For the more complex a society is, the more that institutions are required. The so-called public interest is really the interest in institutions. In modern states, loyalty is to institutions. To wit, Americans voluntarily pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and lose respect for those who are exposed as tax cheaters.
For without institutions like a judiciary, what and who is there to determine what exactly is right and wrong, and to enforce such distinctions? Societies in the Middle East and China today reflect societies that have reached levels of complexity where their current institutions no longer suffice and must be replaced by different or improved ones. The Arab Spring and the intense political infighting in China are, in truth, institutional crises. The issue is not democracy per se, because weak democracies can spawn ineffective institutional orders. What individual Arabs and Chinese really want is justice. And justice is ultimately the fruit of enlightened administration.
How do you know if a society has effective institutions? Huntington writes that one way is to see how good their militaries are. Because societies that have made war well -- Sparta, Rome, Great Britain, America -- have also been well-governed. For effective war-making requires deep organizations, which, in turn, requires trust and predictability. The ability to fight in large numbers is by itself a sign of civilization. Arab states whose regimes have fallen -- Egypt, Libya, Syria -- never had very good state armies. But sub-state armies in the Middle East -- Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mehdi Army in Iraq, the various rebel groups in Syria and militias in Libya -- have often fought impressively. Huntington might postulate that this is an indication of new political formations that will eventually replace post-colonial states.
Huntington implies that today's instability -- the riotous formation of new institutional orders -- is caused by urbanization and enlightenment. As societies become more urbanized, people come into close contact with strangers beyond their family groups, requiring the intense organization of police forces, sewage, street lighting, traffic and so forth. The main drama of the Middle East and China over the past half-century, remember, has been urbanization, which has affected religion, morals and much else. State autocrats have simply been unable to keep up with dynamic social change.
Huntington is full of uncomfortable, counterintuitive insights. He writes that large numbers of illiterate people in a democracy such as India's can actually be stabilizing, since illiterates have relatively few demands; but as literacy increase, voters become more demanding, and their participation in democratic groupings like labor unions goes up, leading to instability. An India of more and more literate voters may experience more unrest.
As for corruption, rather than something to be reviled, it can be a sign of modernization, in which new sources of wealth and power are being created even as institutions cannot keep up. Corruption can also be a replacement for revolution. "He who corrupts a system's police officers is more likely to identify with the system than he who storms the system's police stations."
In Huntington's minds, monarchies, rather than reactionary, can often be more dedicated to real reform than modernizing dictatorships. For the monarch has historical legitimacy, even as he feels the need to prove himself through good works; while the secular dictator sees himself as the vanquisher of colonialism, and thus entitled to the spoils of power. Huntington thus helps a little to explain why monarchs such as those in Morocco, Jordan and Oman have been more humane than dictators such as those in Libya, Syria and Iraq.
As for military dictatorships, Huntington adds several twists. He writes, "In the world of oligarchy, the soldier is a radical; in the middle-class world he is a participant and arbiter; as the mass society looms on the horizon he becomes the conservative guardian of the existing order. Thus, paradoxically but understandably," he goes on, "the more backward a society is, the more progressive the role of its military..." And so he explains why Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa underwent a plethora of military coups during the middle decades of the Cold War: The officer corps often represented the most enlightened branch of society at the time. Americans see the military as conservative only because of our own particular stage of development as a mass society.
The logic behind much of Huntington's narrative is that the creation of order -- not the mere holding of elections -- is progressive. Only once order is established can popular pressure be constructively asserted to make such order less coercive and more institutionally subtle. Precisely because we inhabit an era of immense social change, there will be continual political upheaval, as human populations seek to live under more receptive institutional orders. To better navigate the ensuing crises, American leaders would do well to read Huntington, so as to nuance their often stuffy lectures to foreigners about how to reform.
Read more: Huntington on Upheaval | Stratfor
The Mensch: Chuck Hagel
Reply #407 on:
August 02, 2013, 09:17:33 PM »
From the article:
"There's just a strategic opportunity, given Iran's threat, and given the instability in the region that we can try to help try to build a new strategic coalition, with the U.S. acting at the center, and the role Hagel has played is the strategic thinker," said one senior defense official. "I think there is a real amount of engagement and personal diplomacy that he has taken on from the beginning in really less than six months into his time as secretary of defense."
Hagel's success at courting the Israelis is counterintuitive to those who watched Hagel's bruising confirmation battle, in which his allegedly-unkind views on Israel figured prominently.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #408 on:
August 02, 2013, 11:29:27 PM »
I just read this article and must say I was pleasantly surprised. I hope my hopes are realized.
Walter Russell Mead: White House Losing Its Grip on the Middle East?
Reply #409 on:
August 03, 2013, 07:01:30 AM »
Secretary of State John Kerry went uncomfortably off-message yesterday in Pakistan, voicing a surprising level of support for Egypt’s military to journalists in Islamabad:
“In effect, they were restoring democracy,” Mr. Kerry said of Egypt’s military to Pakistan’s Geo News during a South Asia tour on Thursday. “The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment—so far, so far—to run the country. There’s a civilian government.”
Obama administration officials tried to walk back the remarks—”He didn’t stick to the script,” an unnamed source growled to the WSJ—but it was too late. The media pounced, the remarks were quickly torn apart on Twitter, and Team Obama is again struggling to regain its balance on Egypt, trying not to call what happened a coup while hoping that the military doesn’t get too much more blood on its hands in restoring order to Cairo and Alexandria.
Let’s get the obvious parts out of the way: No, the Egyptian military is not restoring democracy in Egypt. You can’t “restore” something that never existed, and it takes a lot more than a couple of elections to make a democracy. Democracy requires a host of institutions, tacit agreements, and social norms most of which don’t exist in Egypt. It also depends on a certain basic level of economic progress and prosperity, also not exactly likely to sprout up on the banks of the Nile anytime soon.
The army wasn’t trying to build democracy, either; it was restoring order and protecting the deep state, more or less in accordance with the will of a large number of middle class and urban Egyptians. That’s the beginning and end of it. Americans desperately want somebody to be the pro-democracy good guys. But right now at least, democracy doesn’t seem to be on the menu at the Egypt café.
We don’t want to be too hard on Secretary Kerry. Foreign policy is never easy to do in real time, and the world is in a good deal of disarray at this very moment. But his remarks do point to a deeper problem with the Obama administration’s foreign policy approach—a problem that’s finally starting to bite.
The Obama administration has made a fundamental strategic choice that hasn’t worked out well. Officials decided to support the Muslim Brotherhood in the hope of detoxifying US relations in the Middle East and promoting moderation among Islamists across the world. Between Prime Minister Erdogan’s surging authoritarianism in Turkey and the unmitigated Morsi disaster in Egypt, that policy is pretty much a smoking ruin these days, and a shell-shocked administration is stumbling back to the drawing board with, it appears, few ideas about what to try next.
Adding insult to injury, the Obama administration has conducted itself erratically enough to have lost everyone’s respect in the process. It hastily and indecorously ditched long time ally Mubarak and embraced the Muslim Brotherhood only to drop the Brothers when the going got tough. It’s hard to blame anyone in Egypt right now for thinking that the Americans are worthless friends whose assurances are hollow and who will abandon you the minute you get into trouble. At every point along the way, the administration made the choices it did out of good motives, but it would be difficult to design a line of policy more calculated to undermine American prestige and influence than the one we chose.
Rarely has an administration looked as inconsequential and trifling as the Obama administration did this week as it tried to square the circle. It isn’t using the c-word because it doesn’t want to offend the military, but it bleats ineffectually about human rights in hopes of retaining a few shreds of credibility among the supporters of the ousted President. The armed forces appear to be treating the United States with indifference; our support won’t help and our scolding won’t hurt.
It’s very hard to see how all this has won us friends or influenced people. The kerfuffle with Kerry’s remarks in Pakistan wouldn’t normally amount to much. Even Secretaries of State are human, it is hard to explain complicated ideas in short television interviews, and all of us get our feet in our mouths sometime. But as one more misstep in a long series, it has had more impact than usual.
We’ve said from the beginning that the Arab Spring was going to present the administration with some horrible headaches and impossible choices. George Washington was the first US President to learn just how much trouble a long and complicated revolutionary process in an allied nation could cause. The French revolution split his cabinet, caused him huge political and diplomatic headaches, and so embittered American politics that he felt and feared that he had failed. Those who criticize the President should never forget just how difficult these challenges really are. Flip and vain talking heads are always sure that there are simple, easy alternatives that would make everything work out okay. That is almost never the case, and it certainly isn’t now.
All that said, it’s unlikely that the President and his team can be anything but unhappy with the view as they look across the Atlantic: Edward Snowden is sitting pretty in Moscow with Putin humiliating the administration (once again) by failing to give it advance notice of the decision, Assad is still holding court in Damascus and even predicting victory, there appear no easy outs in Afghanistan, Iran is surging in Iraq, and the promise of the Arab Spring has mostly evaporated. The recent jailbreaks in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan, along with Thursday’s announcement that the US would be temporarily closing its embassies across the Middle East due to an unspecified terrorist threat, suggest al-Qaeda and other fanatical terror organizations are on a roll. Meanwhile, the US is farther than ever from the kind of partnership with relatively liberal and democratic Muslim parties and movements that the Obama administration sees as the best way to tame terror and build a better future. Success in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would have a large impact, but that prospect, sadly, still seems unlikely.
Fortunately for the administration, the public seems to want to think about the Middle East as little as possible. Yet the President’s poll numbers on foreign policy continue to decline, and much of the foreign policy establishment seems to be tip toeing away from the administration as quickly as it can.
Failure in the Middle East has the potential to wreck the President’s foreign policy world wide. The “pivot to Asia” was predicated on a shift of American attention and resources away from the Middle East. That seems less likely now; many in Asia are wondering what happens to the pivot when the Secretary of State has clearly put the peace process at the center of his priorities. It is not easy to discern a commitment to humanitarian values or human rights in an administration that has passively watched the Syrian bloodbath metastasize and that has put together global surveillance programs that have angered many human rights groups as well as some allied powers.
President Obama still has more than three years left in the White House, but many of the policies that he brought with him or developed early in his tenure have now passed their sell-by dates. Abandoning Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan, intensification of the drone war in Pakistan, alliances with moderate Islamists, and a democracy agenda in the Middle East: sadly, those dogs won’t hunt anymore.
Many in the State Department and the broader foreign policy establishment believe that the relatively small group of trusted aides with whom the President has worked most closely don’t have the depth or experience to manage the country’s international portfolio well. We aren’t going to arbitrate that issue here; such criticisms are often self-serving. But whether he relies on the same aides or reaches out to more and different advisers, the President is going to have to change his approach to the Middle East and, one suspects, to Russia.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #410 on:
August 03, 2013, 11:54:10 AM »
I liked the emotional balance of that piece as well as the nuts and bolts of its analysis.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #411 on:
August 04, 2013, 09:25:55 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 03, 2013, 11:54:10 AM
I liked the emotional balance of that piece as well as the nuts and bolts of its analysis.
Yes. I have noticed Walter Russell Mead in only the last year or so and he has come to be my favorite Democrat - knowledgeable, wise and insightful on a wide range of topics. I haven't figured out where I disagree with yet. He has a nice way of pointing out problems with administration policies without ripping them personally the way the partisans tend to do to each other.
Newt rethinks neocon views
Reply #412 on:
August 05, 2013, 11:36:55 AM »
The question presented and the willingness to evolve one's thinking are both worthy and at this point in time the conclusion drawn may well be correct, but I would note that IMHO President Bush and SecDef Rumbo did a piss-poor job planning for Iraq. After we overthrew the government, we were utterly unprepared both in thinking and in resources brought to bear for what to do next. Although I do not agree with all of the analysis of the book "Fiasco", by Thomas E. Ricks, the book's analysis, based heavily upon USMC General Zinni's analysis, offered both before and after the invasion, (and mentioned in this forum btw) has considerable merit.
We will never know what would have been the outcome if Rumbo had not been the hubristic know-it-all that he turned out to be and if Bush instead had listened to Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shinseki about the numbers needed to do the job. Bush also supervised the war badly and avoided for far too long adjusting, instead staying with Rumbo's "No worries, it's only Saddamite dead-enders" and failing to increase US troop levels (a criticism I leveled here several times at the time).
With Baraq's determination to throw away the results of the Surge by purposely failing to establish a troop status agreement with the democratically elected Iraqi government, the democracy that WAS established now appears to be withering away in the face of Iran, a resurgent AQ, and factionalism.
This is the stuff of deep tragedy.
Our uni-polar moment is gone, and what might have been achieved then with competence, is no longer relevant now.
Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 11:40:19 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #413 on:
August 05, 2013, 12:04:30 PM »
There are many foreign policy experts who argue that the idea of unipolarity by the US was myth to begin with, though that wouldn't necessarily undermine the base discussion here.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #414 on:
August 05, 2013, 12:17:39 PM »
In the 1970s Henry Kissinger wrote of a world that was bi-polar militarily and multi-polar economically. What would you call the state of things after the collapse of the Soviet Empire?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #415 on:
August 05, 2013, 07:07:12 PM »
What do we call the world, post-American collapse?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #416 on:
August 05, 2013, 07:20:11 PM »
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #417 on:
August 06, 2013, 04:21:11 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2013, 12:17:39 PM
In the 1970s Henry Kissinger wrote of a world that was bi-polar militarily and multi-polar economically. What would you call the state of things after the collapse of the Soviet Empire?
See chapter 11, p. 155-169, with particular focus on 157-164.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #418 on:
August 06, 2013, 05:13:51 PM »
My first effort at reading that led to a serious case of MEGO.
Care to summarize?
Newt: We are losing the war with Islamic Fascism
Reply #419 on:
August 07, 2013, 08:34:03 PM »
Losing the War
In the last few months we have had at least six events that prove the American strategy in the Middle East is not working.
The evidence is so clear that it demands a serious national conversation about our national security strategy and the system which implements it.
Five of these events were prison breaks. The other was the closing of nineteen American embassies which the government had to temporarily close out of fear and ignorance.
If you connect the dots of these stories you will understand that this is what losing looks like.
Twelve years after the 9/11 attacks, the American strategies of Bush and Obama are losing. Our enemies in the Middle East (and increasingly around the world as they spread by Internet and migration) are winning. The forces of law-abiding civilization are losing.
The key question is whether we will have the courage as a people to insist on a serious investigation of this failure and to seek to understand the requirements of a strategy of success. Countries that are winning do not have to close their embassies in nineteen countries. This is a statement of impotence and incompetence on a grand scale, an admission that the United States cannot even defend its own embassies (and this is after decades of turning our embassies into fortresses isolated from local communities).
These were not nineteen trivial countries. As Jack Copeland notes, "Approximately 25 million barrels of crude oil are produced in these thirteen countries. To put this is in perspective the total consumption was at 79 million barrels per day worldwide."
So the United States has demonstrated that it has to act out of timidity and weakness in countries which produce one third of the world's oil. This is after thousands of Americans killed, many thousands of Americans wounded, and trillions spent in the Middle East. Twelve years of the wrong strategies on a bipartisan basis have led to this failure.
Lets look at another symptom of losing-- major prison breaks have been occurring throughout the Middle East.
Afghanistan, April 25, 2011. The London Telegraph reported: "Taliban insurgents dug a 1,050-foot (320-metre) tunnel underground and into the main jail in Kandahar city and whisked out more than 450 prisoners, most of whom were Taliban fighters, officials and insurgents have claimed."
Afghanistan, June 8, 2012. CBS News reported: “Taliban fighters blew a hole in the side of a prison in northern Afghanistan Thursday night, allowing 31 inmates to escape.”
Iraq, July 22, 2013. Reuters reported a prison break at Abu Ghraib, the notorious prison on the outskirts if Baghdad: “‘The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al Qaeda and had received death sentences,’ Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters."
Libya, July 27, 2013. CNN reported that 1,200 prisoners broke out of a Benghazi jail in an attack linked to Al Qaeda: “A riot inside Al-Kuifiya prison erupted when a number of masked gunmen launched an attack from outside the prison facility. As a result, more than 1,000 prisoners escaped.”
Pakistan, July 30, 2013. Sixteen months of planning led to a successful prison break. McClatchy reported: "The operation was completed in two hours, 40 minutes, and the militants were gone before the military arrived and surrounded the prison. The 250 prisoners they’d freed included about 40 experienced but otherwise not extraordinary militant commanders who’ve been repatriated to their parent factions in the tribal areas, as part of a quid pro quo for those factions’ logistical support of the operation, the activists said.
"Similar tactics were adopted during a July 25 assault on an office of the military’s Inter Services Intelligence directorate in the southern town of Sukkur. That attack killed nine ISI operatives in an area that had previously not seen terrorist activity."
So nearly 2,500 prisoners escape in four different countries. In case some apologists suggest this was just a coincidence consider the Associated Press report that "Interpol, the French-based international policy agency, has also issued a global security alert in connection with suspected al-Qaida involvement in several recent prison escapes including those in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan."
So after 12 years of intense effort, two overt wars, dozens of minor skirmishes in Somalia, Libya, Mali and other countries, widespread use of drones to kill people, and a massive investment in power projection and intelligence gathering, the fact is our enemies are widespread, growing and increasingly dangerous.
The House and Senate should launch hearings into the growing defeat facing the United States and we should have the courage to face the facts and think through the consequences.
Isolationism and withdrawal will not work. The very existence of the United States and the free, open culture of America is a mortal threat to radical Islamists. There is no practical act of withdrawal which will make America so unimportant that terrorists and propagandists will not want to replace our civilization with their belief system.
Massive intervention will not work. I warned for years that we could turn Iraq into a Western democracy if we were prepared to stay as long as we have in South Korea (now 63 years and still engaged) and if we were prepared to be as ruthless as we were in post-Nazi Germany and post-Imperial Japan.
It was clear we were not prepared to do either. Our limited engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan will disappear as a rock in the desert is gradually covered by the sand.
We need a fundamentally new strategy that recognizes the scale of the threat and the limitations of our military, financial, and political powers.
Such a strategy does not exist today.
In fact, neither Republicans seeking to sustain the Bush interventionism nor the Democrats seeking to defend the Obama “lead from behind” model are prepared to even have the discussion.
Hopefully the disaster of having to close nineteen embassies, the danger of having 2,500 escaped prisoners, and the daily reports of violence in Mali, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc. will convince our elected leaders that they need to open a serious in depth analysis of what is really happening, what we thought would happen, and what we have to consider in developing a new strategy and a new system of implementation.
Re: US Foreign Policy - Backyardianism
Reply #420 on:
August 11, 2013, 10:31:24 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2013, 12:17:39 PM
In the 1970s Henry Kissinger wrote of a world that was bi-polar militarily and multi-polar economically. What would you call the state of things after the collapse of the Soviet Empire?
A post of Denny S. in this thread 3 1/2 years ago pointed us to the concept of "Backyardianism".
"Eisenhower let the Russian invade Hungary in 1956 but Kennedy did not let them set up missiles in Cuba. Eastern Europe is Russia's back yard while the Caribbean is America's back yard. Those are hard facts on the ground.
Russia let America invade Grenada but did not let America set up missiles in Poland. Just the mirror image of the above Eisenhower/Kennedy policies. Backyardianism at work."
Perhaps America is/was the power of the world of last resort, but around China the power is China. Russia never stopped pursuing back its influence and domination over former Soviet republics and as far as it can reach in other directions. The EU may have no army but works its influence to pull 28 nations in a common direction. Iran in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain. Pakistan in Afghan, Kashmir. Around Venezuela, the wannabe influence was Chavez.
Bambi Meets Godzilla In The Middle East
Reply #421 on:
August 21, 2013, 12:14:22 PM »
Bambi Meets Godzilla In The Middle East
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
"What Americans often miss is that while democratic liberal capitalism may be where humanity is heading, not everybody is going to get there tomorrow. This is not simply because some leaders selfishly seek their own power or because evil ideologies take root in unhappy lands. It is also because while liberal capitalist democracy may well be the best way to order human societies from an abstract point of view, not every human society is ready and able to walk that road now."
Newt: Time for a real "Reset"
Reply #422 on:
August 25, 2013, 01:36:20 PM »
Egyptian Realities vs. American Fantasies
The gap between Egyptian realities and the opinions of American leaders of both
parties is simply amazing.
The American leaders seem to live in a fantasy world in which America is all
powerful, our definition of legitimacy is unchallengeable, and our right to take
risks with the lives of other people is unquestioned.
Both Democratic and Republican leaders (and their allies in the news media) seem to
have no sense of the realities facing the Egyptian military.
Put yourselves in the shoes of the senior officers of the Egyptian military.
Two years ago they watched the Obama Administration abandon President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak had been President of Egypt for 30 years and throughout that time had
supported the United States -- through two wars in Iraq, the decade of war in
Afghanistan, and an amazing number of other contingencies. His reward for being a
faithful ally was abandonment and imprisonment.
The Obama desertion of Mubarak almost certainly reminded the Egyptian military of
President Jimmy Carter's desertion of the Shah of Iran. In November of 1978
President Carter toasted the Shah as a great ally. A few months later, the Americans
pressured him to give in to the "reformers." The Shah was driven from his country
and died overseas. His generals were imprisoned and many executed. Their families
fled Iran. Today, 34 years later, the "reformers" have consolidated their
dictatorship and are trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The United States invaded Iraq and left behind a high level of violence.
The United States helped drive Qaddafi from power and has left Libya in shambles.
The United States has wrung its hands and publicly dithered while Assad has worked
with the Iranians and the Russians to consolidate his control over Syria.
American senators and American secretaries of state can fly to Cairo to offer advice
and advocate idealistic but impractical reforms. When they are done lecturing
Egyptians, they fly home to safety.
The senior officers of the Egyptian military know that they will still be there when
the Americans leave. Indeed, many of them remember the Americans abandoning their
allies in South Vietnam.
Most senior American officials do not understand this and assume their prestige is
Cutting off American aid will have no effect. (I favor cutting it off because it is
no longer furthering American interests.) The Saudis and their Persian Gulf allies
have already committed $10 in new aid for every dollar of American aid.
The senior officers of the Egyptian military know that their lives and their
families' lives depend on defeating the Muslim Brotherhood.
They know that Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak all followed hard line policies against
the Muslim Brotherhood and it worked.
They know that the Algerian Army rejected an Islamist election victory in 1991 and
fought an eleven year civil war to impose order on Algeria. More than 44,000
Algerians were killed in the campaign to defeat Islamists. Westerners were
horrified. The Algerian Army won.
The hardest-line example of survival through repression was Hafez Assad of Syria who
survived in power for 30 years (from 1970 to his death in 2000). Assad was
relentlessly tough in fighting the Muslim Brotherhood. When they tried to
assassinate him in 1980 he retaliated by executing over 600 prisoners. When the city
of Hama sought to rebel he crushed it so thoroughly that it became a model of
horrifying repression. Tom Friedman of the New York Times coined the term "Hama
Rules". In Hama that meant literally destroying entire neighborhoods to eliminate
opposition. That brutal operation cost 20,000 Syrians their lives but Assad stayed
The United States must rethink its entire policy in the Middle East.
We have to recognize that on a bipartisan basis for the last 12 years we have tried
to create and impose an American fantasy in Middle Eastern realities.
Egypt is a good place to begin rethinking this policy.
The Failed Grand Strategy in the Middle East
Reply #423 on:
August 26, 2013, 08:03:26 AM »
The Failed Grand Strategy in the Middle East
By WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
In the beginning, the Hebrew Bible tells us, the universe was all "tohu wabohu," chaos and tumult. This month the Middle East seems to be reverting to that primeval state: Iraq continues to unravel, the Syrian War grinds on with violence spreading to Lebanon and allegations of chemical attacks this week, and Egypt stands on the brink of civil war with the generals crushing the Muslim Brotherhood and street mobs torching churches. Turkey's prime minister, once widely hailed as President Obama's best friend in the region, blames Egypt's violence on the Jews; pretty much everyone else blames it on the U.S.
The Obama administration had a grand strategy in the Middle East. It was well intentioned, carefully crafted and consistently pursued.
Unfortunately, it failed.
The plan was simple but elegant: The U.S. would work with moderate Islamist groups like Turkey's AK Party and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to make the Middle East more democratic. This would kill three birds with one stone. First, by aligning itself with these parties, the Obama administration would narrow the gap between the 'moderate middle' of the Muslim world and the U.S. Second, by showing Muslims that peaceful, moderate parties could achieve beneficial results, it would isolate the terrorists and radicals, further marginalizing them in the Islamic world. Finally, these groups with American support could bring democracy to more Middle Eastern countries, leading to improved economic and social conditions, gradually eradicating the ills and grievances that drove some people to fanatical and terroristic groups.
President Obama (whom I voted for in 2008) and his team hoped that the success of the new grand strategy would demonstrate once and for all that liberal Democrats were capable stewards of American foreign policy. The bad memories of the Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter presidencies would at last be laid to rest; with the public still unhappy with George W. Bush's foreign policy troubles, Democrats would enjoy a long-term advantage as the party most trusted by voters to steer the country through stormy times.
It is much too early to anticipate history's verdict on the Obama administration's foreign policy; the president has 41 months left in his term, and that is more than enough for the picture in the Middle East to change drastically once again. Nevertheless, to get a better outcome, the president will have to change his approach.
Syrian activists inspect bodies in Damascus on Aug. 21, following an alleged chemical attack. Instability has spread from Syria into neighboring countries.
With the advantages of hindsight, it appears that the White House made five big miscalculations about the Middle East. It misread the political maturity and capability of the Islamist groups it supported; it misread the political situation in Egypt; it misread the impact of its strategy on relations with America's two most important regional allies (Israel and Saudi Arabia); it failed to grasp the new dynamics of terrorist movements in the region; and it underestimated the costs of inaction in Syria.
America's Middle East policy in the past few years depended on the belief that relatively moderate Islamist political movements in the region had the political maturity and administrative capability to run governments wisely and well. That proved to be half-true in the case of Turkey's AK Party: Until fairly recently Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whatever mistakes he might make, seemed to be governing Turkey in a reasonably effective and reasonably democratic way. But over time, the bloom is off that rose. Mr. Erdogan's government has arrested journalists, supported dubious prosecutions against political enemies, threatened hostile media outlets and cracked down crudely on protesters. Prominent members of the party leadership look increasingly unhinged, blaming Jews, telekinesis and other mysterious forces for the growing troubles it faces.
Things have reached such a pass that the man President Obama once listed as one of his five best friends among world leaders and praised as "an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues" is now being condemned by the U.S. government for "offensive" anti-Semitic charges that Israel was behind the overthrow of Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi.
The Saturday Essay
Compared with Mr. Morsi, however, Mr. Erdogan is a Bismarck of effective governance and smart policy. Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were quite simply not ready for prime time; they failed to understand the limits of their mandate, fumbled incompetently with a crumbling economy and governed so ineptly and erratically that tens of millions of Egyptians cheered on the bloody coup that threw them out.
Tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists and incompetent bumblers make a poor foundation for American grand strategy. We would have done business with the leaders of Turkey and Egypt under almost any circumstances, but to align ourselves with these movements hasn't turned out to be wise.
The White House, along with much of the rest of the American foreign policy world, made another key error in the Middle East: It fundamentally misread the nature of the political upheaval in Egypt. Just as Thomas Jefferson mistook the French Revolution for a liberal democratic movement like the American Revolution, so Washington thought that what was happening in Egypt was a "transition to democracy." That was never in the cards.
What happened in Egypt was that the military came to believe that an aging President Hosni Mubarak was attempting to engineer the succession of his son, turning Egypt from a military republic to a dynastic state. The generals fought back; when unrest surged, the military stood back and let Mr. Mubarak fall. The military, incomparably more powerful than either the twittering liberals or the bumbling Brotherhood, has now acted to restore the form of government Egypt has had since the 1950s. Now most of the liberals seem to understand that only the military can protect them from the Islamists, and the Islamists are learning that the military is still in charge. During these events, the Americans and Europeans kept themselves endlessly busy and entertained trying to promote a nonexistent democratic transition.
The next problem is that the Obama administration misread the impact that its chosen strategies would have on relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia—and underestimated just how miserable those two countries can make America's life in the Middle East if they are sufficiently annoyed.
The break with Israel came early. In those unforgettable early days when President Obama was being hailed by the press as a new Lincoln and Roosevelt, the White House believed that it could force Israel to declare a total settlement freeze to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. The resulting flop was President Obama's first big public failure in foreign policy. It would not be the last. (For the past couple of years, the administration has been working to repair relations with the Israelis; as one result, the peace talks that could have started in 2009 with better U.S. management are now under way.)
The breach with Saudis came later and this one also seems to have caught the White House by surprise. By aligning itself with Turkey and Mr. Morsi's Egypt, the White House was undercutting Saudi policy in the region and siding with Qatar's attempt to seize the diplomatic initiative from its larger neighbor.
Many Americans don't understand just how much the Saudis dislike the Brotherhood and the Islamists in Turkey. Not all Islamists are in accord; the Saudis have long considered the Muslim Brotherhood a dangerous rival in the world of Sunni Islam. Prime Minister Erdogan's obvious hunger to revive Turkey's glorious Ottoman days when the center of Sunni Islam was in Istanbul is a direct threat to Saudi primacy. That Qatar and its Al Jazeera press poodle enthusiastically backed the Turks and the Egyptians with money, diplomacy and publicity only angered the Saudis more. With America backing this axis—while also failing to heed Saudi warnings about Iran and Syria—Riyadh wanted to undercut rather than support American diplomacy. An alliance with the Egyptian military against Mr. Morsi's weakening government provided an irresistible opportunity to knock Qatar, the Brotherhood, the Turks and the Americans back on their heels.
The fourth problem is that the administration seems to have underestimated the vitality and adaptability of the loose group of terrorist movements and cells. The death of Osama bin Laden was a significant victory, but the effective suppression of the central al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan was anything but a knockout blow. Today a resurgent terrorist movement can point to significant achievements in the Libya-Mali theater, in northern Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. The closure of 20 American diplomatic facilities this month was a major moral victory for the terrorists, demonstrating that they retain the capacity to affect American behavior in a major way. Recruiting is easier, morale is higher, and funding is easier to get for our enemies than President Obama once hoped.
Finally, the administration, rightfully concerned about the costs of intervention in Syria, failed to grasp early enough just how much it would cost to stay out of this ugly situation. As the war has dragged on, the humanitarian toll has grown to obscene proportions (far worse than anything that would have happened in Libya without intervention), communal and sectarian hatreds have become poisonous almost ensuring more bloodletting and ethnic and religious cleansing, and instability has spread from Syria into Iraq, Lebanon and even Turkey. All of these problems grow worse the longer the war goes on—but it is becoming harder and costlier almost day by day to intervene.
But beyond these problems, the failure to intervene early in Syria (when "leading from behind" might well have worked) has handed important victories to both the terrorists and the Russia-Iran axis, and has seriously eroded the Obama administration's standing with important allies. Russia and Iran backed Bashar al-Assad; the president called for his overthrow—and failed to achieve it. To hardened realists in Middle Eastern capitals, this is conclusive proof that the American president is irredeemably weak. His failure to seize the opportunity for what the Russians and Iranians fear would have been an easy win in Syria cannot be explained by them in any other way.
This is dangerous. Just as Nikita Khrushchev concluded that President Kennedy was weak and incompetent after the Bay of Pigs failure and the botched Vienna summit, and then proceeded to test the American president from Cuba to Berlin, so President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now believe they are dealing with a dithering and indecisive American leader, and are calibrating their policies accordingly. Khrushchev was wrong about Kennedy, and President Obama's enemies are also underestimating him, but those underestimates can create dangerous crises before they are corrected.
If American policy in Syria has been a boon to the Russians and Iranians, it has been a godsend to the terrorists. The prolongation of the war has allowed terrorist and radical groups to establish themselves as leaders in the Sunni fight against the Shiite enemy. A reputation badly tarnished by both their atrocities and their defeat in Iraq has been polished and enhanced by what is seen as their courage and idealism in Syria. The financial links between wealthy sources in the Gulf and jihadi fighter groups, largely sundered in the last 10 years, have been rebuilt and strengthened. Thousands of radicals are being trained and indoctrinated, to return later to their home countries with new skills, new ideas and new contacts. This development in Syria looks much more dangerous than the development of the original mujahedeen in Afghanistan; Afghanistan is a remote and (most Middle Easterners believe) a barbarous place. Syria is in the heart of the region and the jihadi spillover threatens to be catastrophic.
One of the interesting elements of the current situation is that while American foreign policy has encountered one setback after another in the region, America's three most important historical partners—Egypt's military, Saudi Arabia and Israel—have all done pretty well and each has bested the U.S. when policies diverged.
Alliances play a large role in America's foreign policy success; tending the Middle Eastern alliances now in disarray may be the Obama administration's best hope now to regain its footing.
As the Obama administration struggles to regain its footing in this volatile region, it needs to absorb the lessons of the past 4½ years. First, allies matter. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military have been America's most important regional allies both because they share strategic interests and because they are effective actors in a way that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller states aren't. If these three forces are working with you, then things often go reasonably well. If one or more of them is trying to undercut you, pain comes. The Obama administration undertook the hard work necessary to rebuild its relationship with Israel; it needs to devote more attention to the concerns of the Egyptian generals and the House of Saud. Such relationships don't mean abandoning core American values; rather they recognize the limits on American power and seek to add allies where our own unaided efforts cannot succeed.
Second, the struggle against terror is going to be harder than we hoped. Our enemies have scattered and multiplied, and the violent jihadi current has renewed its appeal. In the Arab world, in parts of Africa, in Europe and in the U.S., a constellation of revitalized and inventive movements now seeks to wreak havoc. It is delusional to believe that we can eliminate this problem by eliminating poverty, underdevelopment, dictatorship or any other "root causes" of the problem; we cannot eliminate them in a policy-relevant time frame. An ugly fight lies ahead. Instead of minimizing the terror threat in hopes of calming the public, the president must prepare public opinion for a long-term struggle.
Third, the focus must now return to Iran. Concern with Iran's growing power is the thread that unites Israel and Saudi Arabia. Developing and moving on an Iran strategy that both Saudis and Israelis can support will help President Obama rebuild America's position in the shifting sands. That is likely to mean a much tougher policy on Syria. Drawing red lines in the sand and stepping back when they are crossed won't rebuild confidence.
President Obama now faces a moment similar to the one President Carter faced when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The assumptions that shaped key elements of his foreign policy have not held up; times have changed radically and policy must shift. The president is a talented leader; the world will be watching what he does.
Mr. Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.
Stratfor: It is all about spheres of influence
Reply #424 on:
August 26, 2013, 09:56:01 AM »
Geography Rules: It's All About Spheres of Influence
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 04:42 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
The media is preoccupied with democracy, human rights and other values-driven elements that reflect the discourse of foreign policy among elites and that often have little to do with the actual motivations of governments behind closed doors. So what is really going on in the world, what really motivates governments? In fact, the globe is a venue for struggles over geographic spheres of influence to the same extent it has been in former ages. Once that reality is accepted, relatively little that happens in the world is surprising.
Take the Middle East. The United States has a security problem in the Middle East because the so-called Arab Spring, rather than lead to democracy, has led to anarchy. The anarchy unleashed has provided opportunities for disease germs such as al Qaeda. Otherwise, the United States is engaged in a balance-of-power struggle with Iran for geographic influence in the Levant. The Iranian leadership uses the language of Islam, even as it also thinks like the pagan Persians of antiquity, in terms of a desired sphere of influence stretching from the Mediterranean to the Central Asian plateau. But as long as the sea lines of communication remain secure and transnational terrorists are containable and kept away from America's or Israel's borders, for example, whether places like Egypt or Libya or Yemen struggle for years on end with enfeebled governments matters only modestly to Washington and is, in any case, something Washington cannot do that much about.
While the media is preoccupied with Middle Eastern chaos, the more significant geopolitical changes occurring in the globe involve the sphere of influence Russia is trying to carve out from the Baltics to the Caucasus, including Central and Eastern Europe, and the one China is trying to carve out in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans as far away as Africa.
Europe's sustained economic crisis and Russia's surfeit of cash from energy revenues has created an opportunity for the Kremlin to establish pipelines and buy up infrastructure, as well as employ other forms of financial pressure, in order to gain political leverage with regimes as far-flung as Hungary, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan, not to mention quite a few others. The Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union are not re-emerging, but a more traditional, soft sphere of influence based on historical Russian geography and empire building is. The media is, by and large, absent regarding this story. The media condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin as a human rights violator who did not return an American defector. But just how often in history has Russia had a sympathetic ruler? Far more important, Putin has what, in terms of Russia's history, is a legitimate geographical vision that he is trying to implement. Hungary's drift to quasi-authoritarianism under Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a possible means to accommodate Putin, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's balancing act between Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States -- in which he has lately shifted back somewhat toward Russia -- constitutes a register of global geopolitics more telling than any individual development recently in the Arab world.
China, even as its rate of economic growth slows, is continuing to both enlarge and modernize its navy while expanding its commercial interests around the southern navigable rimland of Eurasia. China has been putting money or displaying interest in deep-water port projects in Kenya, Tanzania and Bangladesh, following its hands-on construction and financing of other Indian Ocean ports in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. In addition, China has established a resource-extraction empire throughout sub-Saharan Africa to link up with these budding, western Indian Ocean ports. The Venetian, Dutch and British maritime commercial empires all had their beginnings in less demonstrable form. At the same time, China is trying to develop a full-spectrum naval presence in East Asian waters -- from nuclear submarines to small fishing boats with potential for intelligence gathering. James Holmes, Toshi Yoshihara, Andrew Erickson and many other scholars at the U.S. Naval War College and other places have been meticulously chronicling these developments. China's maritime forces, both warships and other sea platforms, are designed to do what has been a traditional role of world navies throughout modern history: affect perceptions of power by meshing maritime movements with diplomatic, political and economic activity. (For it is in the creative combination of both hard and soft power that true strategy emerges.) If China calibrates its naval expansion well, it will never have a shooting war with the United States -- or with anybody else for that matter -- even as the perception of its influence expands over two oceans.
Russian and Chinese expansion, as Stratfor has reminded readers, may be unsustainable over the long term. Russia faces demographic challenges, even as it may not dominate the energy market to the degree that it has, owing to hydrocarbon discoveries elsewhere. China's economic slowdown may very well in the future reduce its ability to keep strengthening its military -- at least at the level that it has for decades. Russia and China both face structural problems in their economies and political arrangements that do not augur well for the future. But for the moment, while the American elite fixates on Middle Eastern anarchy about which it can do little, the two Eurasian behemoths are attempting to push out their zones of geographic influence.
Beyond the geographic power play by Russia in Greater Europe, and China's nascent attempt at a two-ocean commercial strategy, there are the smaller great games being engaged between China and India in Greater South Asia, between Russia and China in Central Asia, between China and Japan in northeast Asia and between China and smaller powers in Southeast Asia.
In Greater South Asia, China and India compete for influence in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. China built a new deep-water port for Sri Lanka and helped its Sinhalese Buddhist regime win a civil war against Hindu Tamils by supplying it with arms while the West did almost nothing. But Sri Lanka's very proximity to India, and its inextricable links with it through the Tamil community, means China cannot ultimately dominate Sri Lanka. Bangladesh holds the key to the opening of trade routes beneficial to both southwestern China and India's poor and troubled northeast. Thus, both Beijing and New Delhi compete for influence in Dhaka. Nepal has a long and badly policed border with India so that influence in Kathmandu is vital for New Delhi, even as China has been attempting to establish a military and diplomatic bridgehead there. Myanmar, once part of British India and home to an Indian middleman-minority before World War II, is where China has built a port and pipeline for natural gas. Here is where India's and China's geographic interests truly crosshatch, and thus why both are active there: with India involved in its own port and pipeline projects.
In Central Asia, where Russia has military and economic links with several former Soviet republics, China has been investing in concessions for minerals and hydrocarbons, even as it has been constructing pipelines and trying to build a rail system from the former Soviet Central Asian republics to western China. Indeed, the scholars Raffaello Pantucci and Alexandros Petersen of the United Services Institute in London and the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington have documented in detail how China, despite obstacles, is constructing an "inadvertent empire" in Central Asia.
As for maritime East Asia, from Japan in the north to Indonesia in the south, China has been steadily expanding its influence in recent years and decades through its naval, economic and political reach. China's perceived aggression has been an element in the waning of Japanese quasi-pacifism and the rebirth of nationalism in Japan, with probable military consequences. Chinese-Japanese sparring over islands in the East China Sea has to be seen in this light. The same with island disputes in the energy-rich South China Sea: the result of expanding Chinese naval power, even as the military and institutional capacities of countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have grown, too, over the course of the decades. Rather than grope toward a post-historical nirvana in which nationalism wanes and the power of the individual waxes triumphant, capitalist prosperity in Asia since the 1970s has culminated in military expansion and thus a simmering battle for space and power.
In short, Eurasia from Europe to the Pacific is engaged in various king-of-the-hill turf battles, in which geography is paramount and ideas relatively insignificant.
Read more: Geography Rules: It's All About Spheres of Influence | Stratfor
GAffney: America's Vanishing Deterrent
Reply #425 on:
August 28, 2013, 12:25:31 PM »
GAFFNEY: America’s vanishing deterrent
Syria’s chemical weapons serve as a reminder that few are following the U.S. in disarming
By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
The Washington Times
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
President Obama appears to be poised to embroil the United States in a new war in Syria in response to the recent, murderous use of chemical weapons there. Ill-advised as this step is, it is but a harbinger of what is to come as reckless U.S. national security policies and postures meet the hard reality of determined adversaries emboldened by our perceived weakness.
The focus at the moment is on what tactical response the president will make to punish Syrian dictator Bashar Assad for his alleged violation of Mr. Obama’s glibly declared “red line” barring the use of such weapons of mass destruction. There seems to be little serious thought given at the moment to what happens next: What steps Mr. Assad and his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, may take against us, our interests and allies; what the repercussions will be of the United States further helping the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda forces who make up the bulk of Mr. Assad’s domestic opposition; and the prospects for a far wider war as a result of the answers to both of these questions.
Even more wanting is some serious reflection about decisions made long before Mr. Obama came to office — but that are consonant with his own deeply flawed predilections about deterrence. More than two decades ago, President George H.W. Bush decided he would “rid the world of chemical weapons.” The United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention has had the predictable result that the United States has eliminated all such arms in its arsenal, leaving only bad guys like Mr. Assad with stockpiles of Sarin nerve gas and other toxic chemical weapons.
No one can say for sure whether the threat of retaliation in kind would have affected recent calculations about the use of such weapons in Syria. What we do know is that they have been used, evidently repeatedly, in the absence of such a deterrent.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems determined to repeat this dangerous experiment with America’s nuclear forces. He has made it national policy to rid the world of these weapons. As with our chemical stockpile, Mr. Obama seems determined to set an example in the hope that others will follow.
This policy has set in motion a series of actions whose full dimensions are not generally appreciated. All planned steps to modernize our nuclear arsenal have either been canceled or deferred off into the future, which probably amounts to the same thing. Consequently, we will, at best, have to rely indefinitely on a deterrent made up of very old weapons. Virtually all of them are many years beyond their designed service life, and most are deployed aboard ground-based missiles, submarines and bombers that are also approaching or in that status as well.
Another symptom of the deteriorating condition of our nuclear arsenal is the fact that the Air Force has taken disciplinary action for the second time in the past few months against some of those responsible for the operations of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. There are surely specific grounds for these punishments. We are kidding ourselves, though, if we fail to consider the devastating impact on the morale and readiness of such personnel when they are told, at least implicitly, by the commander in chief that their mission is not only unimportant — it is one he wishes to terminate as soon as practicable.
Does this seem far-fetched? Recall that eliminating outright our land-based missile force is something Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel personally endorsed prior to taking office. That may be the result if the president succeeds in reducing our nuclear forces to just 1,000 deployed weapons. As of now, it is unclear whether he intends to take that step only if the Russians agree or will do so unilaterally if they don’t. Another uncertainty is whether Congress will go along with such rash cuts.
What is clear is that with no more serious debate than has been applied to the implications of becoming embroiled in another war in the Middle East — this time with a country armed with chemical weapons against which we can threaten no in-kind retaliation — the United States has been launched on a trajectory toward a minimal nuclear deterrent.
Fortunately, a group of the nation’s pre-eminent nuclear strategists and practitioners under the leadership of the National Institute for Public Policy has just published a powerful indictment of this misbegotten policy initiative titled “Minimum Deterrence: Examining the Evidence.” It lays bare the faulty assumptions that underpin the Obama denuclearization agenda — not least the fact that the other nuclear powers, including all the threatening ones, are not following the president’s lead.
Some say America can no longer afford a strong and effective deterrent. We may be about to test that proposition in Syria. Heaven help us if we compound the error there by continuing our slide toward a minimum nuclear deterrent posture, en route to a world rid only of our nuclear weapons.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio.
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter
Fix These National Security Cracks
Reply #426 on:
September 03, 2013, 10:40:35 AM »
The Democrats’ ‘Smart Power’ Lies in Ruins
Reply #427 on:
September 04, 2013, 01:31:12 PM »
The Democrats’ ‘Smart Power’ Lies in Ruins
By Jim Geraghty
September 3, 2013 7:19 AM
Welcome back from Labor Day weekend. From the first Morning Jolt of the week:
Democrats Suddenly Realize What They Miscalculated About the World: Everything
As we await Congress’s decision on authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria, Democrats are suddenly realizing that their foreign-policy brain-trust completely misjudged the world.
Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no “international community” ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.
You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, “smart power.” (These people can’t even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn’t see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough.
How stressed is Obama? He’s starting to climb onto the Resolute desk during phone calls. To the right, Vice President Biden thinks about squirrels.
Well, here we are, five years later. Anthony H. Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, yesterday:
When Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot,” he was not writing an instruction manual on strategy for American Presidents. Unfortunately, however, that seems to be the instruction manual President Obama has read. He has suddenly transformed a rushed call for immediate action into a waiting game where it is not clear what he or the U.S. is waiting for, and where much of the action may come to border on tragicomedy…
The President needs to show real leadership, not overreaction, sudden reversal, and uncertainty. We need the President to shape a broad policy for the Syrian civil war even more than we need a far clearer policy for preventing the use of chemical weapons. More broadly, we need leadership to deal with Iran, its moves towards nuclear weapons and any new options created by Iran’s election. We need clear decisions over how the U.S. will deal with Afghanistan as it pulls out its combat troops. We need a clear definition of what “rebalancing” in Asia really means. We need a clear concept for our future national security posture and spending, and our defense strategy, rather than a food fight over defense spending alone. This is the 21st century. It is not a play and we cannot wait for Godot.
Lest you think this is some Bush-team cheerleader, back in 2006, Cordesman was writing:
As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.
Honest to God, the self-described smart set told us, again and again, Obama would bring a calmer world, just by showing up. (In their defense, the Nobel Committee did practically gve him the Nobel Peace Prize based on attendance.)
Let’s recall how Andrew Sullivan hyperventilated about how Obama would calm anti-American tensions in the Middle East just by showing his face:
Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
The other obvious advantage that Obama has in facing the world and our enemies is his record on the Iraq War. He is the only major candidate to have clearly opposed it from the start. Whoever is in office in January 2009 will be tasked with redeploying forces in and out of Iraq, negotiating with neighboring states, engaging America’s estranged allies, tamping down regional violence. Obama’s interlocutors in Iraq and the Middle East would know that he never had suspicious motives toward Iraq, has no interest in occupying it indefinitely, and foresaw more clearly than most Americans the baleful consequences of long-term occupation.
This was not some drunken screed (as far as we know); this was a cover piece in The Atlantic magazine. The chattering classes considered this serious thought back in December 2007. Events have proven that ultimately, the president’s hue and middle name don’t really matter. Anti-Americanism is driven by the United States’s role in the world as a secular, Judeo-Christian, economic, cultural and military superpower and the fact that so many other nations and cultures require a scapegoat, rival, or demon figure.
The mega-hype continued into 2009. Here’s Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, in April 2009:
President Obama’s accomplishments, as listed by Hamilton, include: “Re-energizing our efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, commencing the withdrawal from Iraq, dramatically shifting nuclear-weapons policy, including support for the CTBT and cooperation with Russia, changing policies towards Cuba, an opening to Iran, working with our partners to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula, pushing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and Syria, helping Mexico fight the drug cartels and more.”
Think about it. Hamlton genuinely believed those were his accomplishments! Note the ATF and DOJ were sending guns to the Mexican drug cartels back when he was saying that.
Now Kerry tells us, “because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the UN Security Council, the UN cannot galvanize the world to act as it should.”
No @%, Senator Global Test. The United Nations could rarely, if ever, galvanize the world. Maybe back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait back in 1990. Now, whenever there’s a crisis in the world, Russia and China see an opportunity – to make a few bucks through arms sales, to build a relation with a client state, to expand their sphere of influence, or to just antagonize us for the sake of antagonizing us.
The United Nations did not suddenly become an ineffective debating society with little or no influence on the real crises in the world. It has been that for years, and some of us noticed this long before the current crew did.
(This doesn’t stop some of the Democrats’ alleged foreign-policy geniuses from reflexively uttering their rote talking points. Friday night, on Chris Hayes’s show, Bill Richardson said, “I would try to get some kind of ban on arm shipments, send Assad to the International Court of Justice, that the Security Council can do, a condemnation statement. I would continue this U.N. effort.” Keep banging your head against the wall! Sooner or later those bricks will break!)
The whole “reset button” ceremony with Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov was a formal commemoration of the incoming administration’s naïveté. The “famously stormy” relationship between Condi Rice and Lavrov was not a matter of Rice not being diplomatic enough or nice enough or trying hard enough. It reflected that Vladimir Putin and most of Russia’s highest levels of government defined their interests as opposing our interests.
But no one could have foreseen that, right? Russian implacability on Syria was completely a shock to all the experts, right? Could anybody have seen this coming? Oh, wait:
“[Russia] is without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight for every cause for the world’s worst actors.” – Mitt Romney, March 26, 2012.
But hey, that guy thought negotiating with the Taliban was foolish, too.
This crew, so certain of their charm, persuasiveness, and diplomatic mettle somehow failed to persuade the British government or people that the effort against Assad is worth joining.
When it hits the fan elsewhere in the world, the EU is not going to come running with peacekeepers. There is nobody else but us.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #428 on:
September 09, 2013, 07:43:40 AM »
Syria and the Byzantine Strategy
By Robert Kaplan
In March 1984, I was reporting from the Hawizeh Marshes in southern Iraq near the Iranian border. The Iran-Iraq War was in its fourth year, and the Iranians had just launched a massive infantry attack, which the Iraqis repelled with poison gas. I beheld hundreds of young, dead Iranian soldiers, piled up and floating in the marshes, like dolls without a scar on any of them. An Iraqi officer poked one of the bodies with his walking stick and told me, "This is what happens to the enemies of Saddam [Hussein]." Of course, the Iranians were hostile troops invading Iraqi territory; not civilians. But Saddam got around to killing women and children, too, with chemical weapons. In March 1988, he gassed roughly 5,000 Kurds to death. As a British reporter with me in the Hawizeh Marshes had quipped, "You could fit the human rights of Iraq on the head of a pin, and still have room for the human rights of Iran."
The reaction of the Reagan administration to the gassing to death of thousands of Kurdish civilians by Saddam was to keep supporting him through the end of his war with Iran. The United States was then in the midst of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, and as late as mid-1989 it wouldn't be apparent that this twilight struggle would end so suddenly and so victoriously. Thus, with hundreds of thousands of American servicemen occupied in Europe and northeast Asia, using Saddam's Iraq as a proxy against Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran made perfect sense.
The United States has values, but as a great power it also has interests. Ronald Reagan may have spoken the rousing language of universal freedom, but his grand strategy was all of a piece. And that meant picking and choosing his burdens wisely. As a result, Saddam's genocide against the Kurds, featuring chemical weapons, was overlooked.
In fact, the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, coterminous with the life of the Reagan administration, was a boon to it. By tying down two large and radical states in the heart of the Middle East, the war severely reduced the trouble that each on its own would certainly have caused the region for almost a decade. This gave Reagan an added measure of leeway in order to keep his focus on Europe and the Soviets -- and on hurting the Soviets in Afghanistan. To wit, only two years after the Iran-Iraq War ended, Saddam invaded Kuwait. Peace between Iran and Iraq was arguably no blessing to the United States and the West.
Likewise, it might be argued that the Syrian civil war, now well into its second year, has carried strategic benefits to the West. The analyst Edward N. Luttwak, writing recently in The New York Times, has pointed out that continued fighting in Syria is preferable to either of the two sides winning outright. If President Bashar al Assad's forces were to win, then the Iranians and the Russians would enjoy a much stronger position in the Levant than before the war. If the rebels were to win, it is entirely possible that Sunni jihadists, with ties to transnational terrorism, will have a staging post by the Mediterranean similar to what they had in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan until 2001, and also similar to what they currently have in Libya. So rather than entertain either of those two possibilities, it is better that the war continue.
Of course, all of this is quite cold-blooded. The Iran-Iraq War took the lives of over a million people. The Syrian civil war has so far claimed reportedly 110,000 lives. Even the celebrated realist of the mid-20th century, Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, proclaimed the existence of a universal moral conscience, which sees war as a "natural catastrophe." And it is this very conscience that ultimately limits war's occurrence. That is what makes foreign policy so hard. If it were simply a matter of pursuing a state's naked interests, then there would be few contradictions between desires and actions. If it were simply a matter of defending human rights, there would similarly be fewer hard choices. But foreign policy is both. And because voters will only sustain losses to a nation's treasure when serious interests are threatened, interests often take precedence over values. Thus, awful compromises are countenanced.
Making this worse is the element of uncertainty. The more numerous the classified briefings a leader receives about a complex and dangerous foreign place, the more he may realize how little the intelligence community actually knows. This is not a criticism of the intelligence community, but an acknowledgment of complexity, especially when it concerns a profusion of armed and secretive groups, and an array of hard-to-quantify cultural factors. What option do I pursue? And even if I make the correct choice, how sure can I be of the consequences? And even if I can be sure of the consequences -- which is doubtful -- is it worth diverting me from other necessary matters, both foreign and domestic, for perhaps weeks or even months?
Luttwak himself offers partial relief to such enigmas through a meticulous and erudite study of one of the greatest survival strategies in history. In "The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" (2009), he demonstrates the properties by which Byzantium, despite a threatened geographic position, survived for a thousand years after the fall of Rome. This Byzantine strategy, in its own prodigiously varied and often unconscious way, mirrored Morgenthau's realism, laced as it is with humanism.
The Byzantines, Luttwak writes, relied continuously on every method of deterrence. "They routinely paid off their enemies....using all possible tools of persuasion to recruit allies, fragment hostile alliances, subvert unfriendly rulers..." He goes on: "For the Romans...as for most great powers until modern days, military force was the primary tool of statecraft, with persuasion a secondary complement. For the Byzantine Empire it was mostly the other way around. Indeed, the shift of emphasis from force to diplomacy is one way of differentiating Rome from Byzantium..." In other words, "Avoid war by every possible means in all possible circumstances, but always act as if it might start at any time [his italics]." The Byzantines bribed, connived, dissembled and so forth, and as a consequence survived for centuries on end and fought less wars than they would have otherwise.
The lesson: be devious rather than bloody. President Barack Obama's mistake is not his hesitancy about entering the Syrian mess; but announcing to the Syrians that his military strike, if it occurs, will be "narrow" and "limited." Never tell your adversary what you're not going to do! Let your adversary stay awake all night, worrying about the extent of a military strike! Unless Obama is being deliberately deceptive about his war aims, then some of the public statements from the administration have been naïve in the extreme.
A Byzantine strategy, refitted to the postmodern age, would maintain the requisite military force in the eastern Mediterranean, combined with only vague presidential statements about the degree to which such force might or might not be used. It would feature robust, secret and ongoing diplomacy with the Russians and the Iranians, aware always of their interests both regionally and globally, and always open to deals and horse-trades with them. The goal would be to engineer a stalemate-of-sorts in Syria rather than necessarily remove al Assad. Reducing the intensity of fighting would thus constitute a morality in and of itself, even as it would keep either side from winning outright. For if the regime suddenly crumbled, violence might only escalate, and al Qaeda might even find a sanctuary close to Israel and Jordan.
Such a strategy might satisfy relatively few of the cognoscenti. Though, the American public -- which has a more profound, albeit badly articulated sense of national survival -- will surely tolerate it. The Congressional debate that preceded the Iraq War did not save President George W. Bush from obloquy when that war went badly. The lack of such a debate would not hurt Obama were he to successfully execute the methods described in Luttwak's book.
Laurel & Hardy
Reply #429 on:
September 12, 2013, 10:37:41 AM »
Henninger: The Laurel and Hardy Presidency
After the Syrian slapstick, it's time to sober up U.S. foreign policy.
After writing in the London Telegraph that Monday was "the worst day for U.S. and wider Western diplomacy since records began," former British ambassador Charles Crawford asked simply: "How has this happened?"
On the answer, opinions might differ. Or maybe not. A consensus assessment of the past week's events could easily form around Oliver Hardy's famous lament to the compulsive bumbler Stan Laurel: "Here's another nice mess you've gotten us into!"
In the interplay between Barack Obama and John Kerry, it's not obvious which one is Laurel and which one is Hardy. But diplomatic slapstick is not funny. No one wants to live in a Laurel and Hardy presidency. In a Laurel and Hardy presidency, red lines vanish, shots across the bow are word balloons, and a display of U.S. power with the whole world watching is going to be "unbelievably small."
The past week was a perfect storm of American malfunction. Colliding at the center of a serious foreign-policy crisis was Barack Obama's manifest skills deficit, conservative animosity toward Mr. Obama, Republican distrust of his leadership, and the reflexive opportunism of politicians from Washington to Moscow.
It is Barack Obama's impulse to make himself and whatever is in his head the center of attention. By now, we are used to it. But this week he turned himself, the presidency and the United States into a spectacle. We were alternately shocked and agog at these events. Now the sobering-up has to begin.
The world has effectively lost its nominal leader, the U.S. president. Is this going to be the new normal? If so—and it will be so if serious people don't step up—we are looking at a weakened U.S president who has a very, very long three years left on his term.
The belief by some that we can ride this out till a Reagan-like rescue comes in the 2016 election is wrong. Jimmy Carter's Iranian hostage crisis began on Nov. 4, 1979. One quick year later, the American people turned to Ronald Reagan. There will be no such chance next year or the year after that—not till November 2016.
The libertarian lurch on foreign policy among some Republicans is a dead end. Libertarians understand markets. But left alone, the global market in aggression won't clear. Like a malign, untreated tumor, it will grow. You can't program it to kill only non-Americans. The world's worst impulses run by their own logic. What's going to stop them now?
A congressional vote against that Syria resolution was never going to include a sequester for the Middle East. Iran's 16,600 uranium-enrichment centrifuges are spinning. Iran's overflights of Iraq to resupply Damascus with heavy arms and Quds forces will continue until Assad wins. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, U.S. allies, will start condominium talks with Iran, a U.S. enemy. Israel will do what it must, if it can.
On Wednesday the Russian press reported that the Putin government has sold state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles and batteries to Iran, a system with the capability to create a no-fly zone along the Syrian-Lebanon border. It should be running like clockwork by 2016. Europe will consider a reset with the new status quo.
There also isn't going to be a continuing resolution that defines limits for China the next 40 months. Articles now appear routinely describing how the U.S. "pivot" toward Asia is no longer believed by Asians. What if, after watching this week's Syrian spectacle, China next year lands a colony of fishermen on the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus to their Japanese claimants?
China on Tuesday warned India about setting up new military posts along their disputed 4,000-kilometer border. Is North Korea's Kim Jong Un on hold till 2016? There isn't going to be a House vote to repeal al Qaeda, which can still threaten U.S. personnel or assets around the world.
The White House, Congress and Beltway pundits are exhaling after the president of Russia took America off the hook of that frightful intervention vote by offering, in the middle of a war, to transfer Syria's chemical weapons inventory to the U.N.—a fairy tale if ever there was one. Ask any chemical-weapons disposal specialist.
Syria looks lost. The question now is whether anyone who participated in the fiasco, from left to right, will adjust to avoid a repeat when the next crisis comes.
The president himself needs somehow to look beyond his own instinct on foreign policy. It's just not enough. The administration badly needs a formal strategic vision. Notwithstanding her piece of Benghazi, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who gave a surprisingly tough speech Monday on the failure of the U.N. process and America's role now, may be the insider to start shaping a post-Syria strategy. (That lying C^&*! NFW!!!) Somebody has to do it. Conservative critics can carp for three years, which will dig the hole deeper, or contribute to a way forward.
Allowing this week to become the status quo is unthinkable. A 40-month run of Laurel and Hardy's America will endanger everyone.
Stratfor: Strategy vs. Ideology
Reply #430 on:
September 17, 2013, 12:59:32 PM »
Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 04:04 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
It is said that when famed Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich heard of the death of the Turkish ambassador, he said, "I wonder what he meant by that?" True or not, serious or a joke, it points out a problem of diplomacy. In searching for the meaning behind every gesture, diplomats start to regard every action merely as a gesture. In the past month, the president of the United States treated the act of bombing Syria as a gesture intended to convey meaning rather than as a military action intended to achieve some specific end. This is the key to understanding the tale that unfolded over the past month.
When President Barack Obama threatened military action in retaliation for what he claimed was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he intended a limited strike that would not destroy the weapons. Destroying them all from the air would require widespread air attacks over an extensive period of time, and would risk releasing the chemicals into the atmosphere. The action also was not intended to destroy Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime. That, too, would be difficult to do from the air, and would risk creating a power vacuum that the United States was unwilling to manage. Instead, the intention was to signal to the Syrian government that the United States was displeased.
The threat of war is useful only when the threat is real and significant. This threat, however, was intended to be insignificant. Something would be destroyed, but it would not be the chemical weapons or the regime. As a gesture, therefore, what it signaled was not that it was dangerous to incur American displeasure, but rather that American displeasure did not carry significant consequences. The United States is enormously powerful militarily and its threats to make war ought to be daunting, but instead, the president chose to frame the threat such that it would be safe to disregard it.
Avoiding Military Action
In fairness, it was clear at the beginning that Obama did not wish to take military action against Syria. Two weeks ago I wrote that this was "a comedy in three parts: the reluctant warrior turning into the raging general and finding his followers drifting away, becoming the reluctant warrior again." Last week in Geneva, the reluctant warrior re-appeared, put aside his weapons and promised not to attack Syria.
When he took office, Obama did not want to engage in any war. His goal was to raise the threshold for military action much higher than it had been since the end of the Cold War, when Desert Storm, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq and other lesser interventions formed an ongoing pattern in U.S. foreign policy. Whatever the justifications for any of these, Obama saw the United States as being overextended by the tempo of war. He intended to disengage from war and to play a lesser role in general in managing the international system. At most, he intended to be part of the coalition of nations, not the leader and certainly not the lone actor.
He clearly regarded Syria as not meeting the newly raised standard. It was embroiled in a civil war, and the United States had not been successful in imposing its will in such internal conflicts. Moreover, the United States did not have a favorite in the war. Washington has a long history of hostility toward the al Assad regime. But it is also hostile to the rebels, who -- while they might have some constitutional democrats among their ranks -- have been increasingly falling under the influence of radical jihadists. The creation of a nation-state governed by such factions would re-create the threat posed by Afghanistan and leading to Sept. 11, and do so in a country that borders Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon. Unless the United States was prepared to try its hand again once again at occupation and nation-building, the choice for Washington had to be "none of the above."
Strategy and the specifics of Syria both argued for American distance, and Obama followed this logic. Once chemical weapons were used, however, the reasoning shifted. Two reasons explain this shift.
WMD and Humanitarian Intervention
One was U.S. concerns over weapons of mass destruction. From the beginning of the Cold War until the present, the fear of nuclear weapons has haunted the American psyche. Some would say that this is odd given that the United States is the only nation that has used atomic bombs. I would argue that it is precisely because of this. Between Hiroshima and mutual assured destruction there was a reasonable dread of the consequences of nuclear war. Pearl Harbor had created the fear that war might come unexpectedly at any moment, and intimate awareness of Hiroshima and Nagasaki generated fear of sudden annihilation in the United States.
Other weapons capable of massive annihilation of populations joined nuclear weapons, primarily biological and chemical weapons. Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the scientific work of the Manhattan Project, employed the term "weapon of mass destruction" to denote a class of weapons able to cause destruction on the scale of Hiroshima and beyond, a category that could include biological and chemical weapons.
The concept of weapons of mass destruction eventually shifted from "mass destruction" to the weapon itself. The use and even possession of such weapons by actors who previously had not possessed them came to be seen as a threat to the United States. The threshold of mass destruction ceased to be the significant measure, and instead the cause of death in a given attack took center stage. Tens of thousands have died in the Syrian civil war. The only difference in the deaths that prompted Obama's threats was that chemical weapons had caused them. That distinction alone caused the U.S. foreign policy apparatus to change its strategy.
The second cause of the U.S. shift is more important. All American administrations have a tendency to think ideologically, and there is an ideological bent heavily represented in the Obama administration that feels that U.S. military power ought to be used to prevent genocide. This feeling dates back to World War II and the Holocaust, and became particularly intense over Rwanda and Bosnia, where many believe the United States could have averted mass murder. Many advocates of American intervention in humanitarian operations would oppose the use of military force in other circumstances, but regard its use as a moral imperative to stop mass murder.
The combined fear of weapons of mass destruction and the ideology of humanitarian intervention became an irresistible force for Obama. The key to this process was that the definition of genocide and the definition of mass destruction had both shifted such that the deaths of less than 1,000 people in a war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives resulted in demands for intervention on both grounds.
The pressure on Obama grew inside his administration from those who were concerned with the use of weapons of mass destruction and those who saw another Rwanda brewing. The threshold for morally obligatory intervention was low, and it eventually canceled out the much higher strategic threshold Obama had set. It was this tension that set off the strange oscillations in Obama's handling of the affair. Strategically, he wanted nothing to do with Syria. But the ideology of weapons of mass destruction and the ideology of humanitarian intervention forced him to shift course.
An Impossible Balance
Obama tried to find a balance where there was none between his strategy that dictated non-intervention and his ideology that demanded something be done. His solution was to loudly threaten military action that he and his secretary of state both indicated would be minimal. The threatened action aroused little concern from the Syrian regime, which has fought a bloody two-year war. Meanwhile, the Russians, who were seeking to gain standing by resisting the United States, could paint Washington as reckless and unilateral.
Obama wanted all of this to simply go away, but he needed some guarantee that chemical weapons in Syria would be brought under control. For that, he needed al Assad's allies the Russians to promise to do something. Without that, he would have been forced to take ineffective military action despite not wanting to. Therefore, the final phase of the comedy played out in Geneva, the site of grave Cold War meetings (it is odd that Obama accepted this site given its symbolism), where the Russians agreed in some unspecified way on an uncertain time frame to do something about Syria's chemical weapons. Obama promised not to take action that would have been ineffective anyway, and that was the end of it.
In the end, this agreement will be meaningful only if it is implemented. Taking control of 50 chemical weapons sites in the middle of a civil war obviously raises some technical questions on implementation. The core of the deal is, of course, completely vague. At the heart of it, the United States agreed not to ask the U.N. Security Council for permission to attack in the event the Syrians renege. It also does not clarify the means for evaluating and securing the Syrian weapons. The details of the plan will likely end up ripping it apart in the end. But the point of the agreement was not dealing with chemical weapons, it was to buy time and release the United States from its commitment to bomb something in Syria.
There were undoubtedly other matters discussed, including the future of Syria. The United States and Russia both want the al Assad regime in place to block the Sunnis. They both want the civil war to end, the Americans to reduce the pressure on themselves to aid the Sunnis, the Russians to reduce the chances of the al Assad regime collapsing. Allowing Syria to become another Lebanon (historically, they are one country) with multiple warlords -- or more precisely, acknowledging that this has already happened -- is the logical outcome of all of this.
The most important outcome globally is that the Russians sat with the Americans as equals for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, the Russians sat as mentors, positioning themselves as appearing to instruct the immature Americans in crisis management. To that end, Putin's op-ed in The New York Times was brilliant.
This should not be seen merely as imagery: The image of the Russians forcing the Americans to back down resonates all along the Russian periphery. In the former Soviet satellites, the complete disarray in Europe on this and most other issues, the vacillation of the United States, and the symbolism of Kerry and Lavrov negotiating as equals will shape behavior for quite awhile.
This will also be the case in countries like Azerbaijan, a key alternative to Russian energy that borders Russia and Iran. Azerbaijan faces a second consequence of the administration's ideology, one we have seen during the Arab Spring. The Obama administration has demonstrated a tendency to judge regimes that are potential allies on the basis of human rights without careful consideration of whether the alternative might be far worse. Coupled with an image of weakness, this could cause countries like Azerbaijan to reconsider their positions vis-a-vis the Russians.
The alignment of moral principles with national strategy is not easy under the best of circumstances. Ideologies tend to be more seductive in generalized terms, but not so coherent in specific cases. This is true throughout the political spectrum. But it is particularly intense in the Obama administration, where the ideas of humanitarian intervention, absolutism in human rights, and opposition to weapons of mass destruction collide with a strategy of limiting U.S. involvement -- particularly military involvement -- in the world. The ideologies wind up demanding judgments and actions that the strategy rejects.
The result is what we have seen over the past month with regard to Syria: A constant tension between ideology and strategy that caused the Obama administration to search for ways to do contradictory things. This is not a new phenomenon in the United States, and this case will not reduces its objective power. But it does create a sense of uncertainty about what precisely the United States intends. When that happens in a minor country, this is not problematic. In the leading power, it can be dangerous.
Read more: Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis | Stratfor
Noonan: A new kind of credibility gap
Reply #431 on:
September 20, 2013, 12:18:58 PM »
Noonan: A New Kind of 'Credibility' Gap
Americans and their leaders have different ideas about what that word means.
An accomplished American diplomat once said that there are two templates of American foreign-policy thinking. The first is Munich and the second is Vietnam.
When America does not move militarily as some people wish it to, they say, "This is another Munich"—appeasement that in the end will summon greater violence and broader war. When America moves militarily as some people do not wish it to, they say, "This is Vietnam,"—a jumping in where we do not belong and cannot win.
This is serviceable as a rough expression of where our foreign policy debates tend to go. But I suspect the past 12 years' experience in the Mideast has left us with a new template: "It's Chinatown," from the classic movie. This is where you try to make it better and somehow make it worse, in spite of your best efforts. This is a place where the biggest consequences are always unintended.
Surely this is part of the reason for the clear and quick public opposition to a U.S. strike in Syria, and it echoed in the attention paid to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates's statement this week that such a move "would be throwing gasoline on a very complex fire in the Middle East."
This week I spoke to a few U.S. senators about the meaning of the Syria drama. They were a mix—some had given supportive soundings early on; all had been taken aback by the public reaction, the wave of calls and emails. There was gossip. Apparently some White House staffers have a new nickname for the president: "Obam-me," because it's all about him and his big thoughts. I guess the second-term team is not quite as adoring as the first.
Two senators spoke of their worry about what the Syria mess—the threat, the climbdown, the lunge at a lifeline, the face-saving interviews—signaled to the world about U.S. credibility. If an American president says there's a red line and the red line is crossed, there can be no question: America must act. No one said this but I think I correctly inferred a suggestion that the American people may not be willing right now to appreciate the fact that in a world full of bad guys the indispensable nation must show it is serious.
©2012 Krista Rossow
The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
It seems to me U.S. credibility is a key issue in the Syria drama, but the problem is not that the U.S. public is newly unconcerned with it. The problem is that the public now sees the issue of U.S. credibility very differently from the way many lawmakers understand it.
For weeks I've been going back in my mind to a talk I had with a deeply accomplished, America-loving foreign policy expert. He too felt credibility was at issue. He said the other leaders of the world are no longer certain we are a great military power. I started to answer but someone joined us and the conversation turned. But I wanted to say no, the world thinks we are a great military power. They know all about the missiles and tanks and satellites, they've seen our soldiers. They know our might. The world is no longer certain we are a great nation, which is a different problem.
The world knows a lot about us, and in ways removed from specific military actions. Their elites come here, and increasingly their middle class. They know our unemployment problem—it's not a secret. They take the train from New York to Washington and see the abandoned factories. They know about our budget problems, they know who holds our bonds. They read about the kids who are bored so they killed the visiting Australian baseball player, and the kids so bored they killed a World War II veteran. They read about the state legislator who became a hero because she tried to make sure babies can be aborted at nine months—they see the fawning interviews. They go home with the story of the guy who spent his time watching violent videos and then, amazingly, acted out his visions of violence at the Washington Navy Yard. They notice our mass killings are no more than two-day stories.
And of course it isn't only "the world" that sees this—Americans see it. And they are worried about their country. Deep down they, too, wonder if we are still a great nation or will be able to remain one. They think our economy is in a shambles and our government incapable, at the moment, of creating the conditions that will allow it to come back. They fear our culture is rotting our children's heads.
And so, asked to support a strike that could spark a response that could start a real war they say no, not now and not in Chinatown. But this is not a turning inward, it is not about fortress America. They do not think they are protecting an unsullied beacon of light from the machinations and manipulations of the cynical Old World. They have fewer illusions than their policy makers do!
They are not "armchair isolationists." If you've ever taken a walk in one of our cities or suburbs—if you've ever taken a walk in America—you know we have all the people in the world here. You can barely get them off the phone back home with Islamabad, Galway and Lagos. Longtime Americans deal every day, in the office and the neighborhood, with immigrants and others from every culture and country. And so many of the new Americans are trying desperately to adhere to America, to find reasons to adhere. They are not unaware of the larger world. They came from the larger world. They're trying to love where they are.
They know this place is in need of help and attention. They care about it. That impulse should be encouraged and lauded, not denigrated as narrow-minded or backward. They're trying to be practical. They're Americans trying to take stock in their nation and concluding: "We have got to get ourselves in order, we have got to turn our attention to getting stronger. Then we will be fully credible in the world."
What I am saying is that the old, Washington definition of credibility, which involves the projection of force in pursuit of ends it thinks necessary, and the American people's definition of credibility, which is to become stronger and allow the world, and the young, to understand you are getting stronger, are at variance. And that will have implications down the road.
The public's sense of U.S. credibility, and how it is best secured and projected, probably began to vary more broadly from Washington's when the Great Recession hit home, five years ago this week.
Political leaders have got to start twigging on to this. It's not as if it just happened. They can argue for any foreign military action they think necessary, but the American people will not be of a mind to support it until they think someone is really trying to clean up America.
A diplomat might say, "But the world will not go on vacation while America gets its act together!" True enough, and that fact will demand real shrewdness from America's leaders, who the past few weeks got quite a lesson in how Americans on the ground view American priorities.
Noonan: A Small President
Reply #432 on:
September 27, 2013, 09:08:48 AM »
The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.
That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented. As for those who are not America's friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?
It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn't know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.
"We want American leadership," said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend.
"In the past we have seen some America overreach," said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. "Now I think we are seeing America underreach." He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise. The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: "The biggest risk is not political but social. Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change." His hope? That the things that made America a giant—"so much entrepreneurialism and vision"—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.
The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama's reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.
But some of it, surely, is just five years of Mr. Obama. World leaders do not understand what his higher strategic aims are, have doubts about his seriousness and judgment, and read him as unsure and covering up his unsureness with ringing words.
A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. "World leaders are very negative about Obama," he said. They are "disappointed, feeling he's not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don't pay that much attention to him anymore."
The diplomat was one of more than a dozen U.S. foreign-policy hands who met this week with the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. What did he think of the American president? "He didn't mention Obama, not once," said the former envoy, who added: "We have to accept the fact that the president is rather insignificant at the moment, and rely on our diplomats." John Kerry, he said, is doing a good job.
Had he ever seen an American president treated as if he were so insignificant? "I really never have. It's unusual." What does he make of the president's strategy: "He doesn't know what to do so he stays out of it [and] hopes for the best." The diplomat added: "Slim hope."
This reminded me of a talk a few weeks ago, with another veteran diplomat who often confers with leaders with whom Mr. Obama meets. I had asked: When Obama enters a room with other leaders, is there a sense that America has entered the room? I mentioned De Gaulle—when he was there, France was there. When Reagan came into a room, people stood: America just walked in. Does Mr. Obama bring that kind of mystique?
"No," he said. "It's not like that."
When the president spoke to the General Assembly, his speech was dignified and had, at certain points, a certain sternness of tone. But after a while, as he spoke, it took on the flavor of re-enactment. He had impressed these men and women once. In the cutaways on C-Span, some the delegates in attendance seemed distracted, not alert, not sitting as if they were witnessing something important. One delegate seemed to be scrolling down on a BlackBerry, one rifled through notes. Two officials seated behind the president as he spoke seemed engaged in humorous banter. At the end, the applause was polite, appropriate and brief.
The president spoke of Iran and nuclear weapons—"we should be able to achieve a resolution" of the question. "We are encouraged" by signs of a more moderate course. "I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort."
But his spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn't happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.
Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.
While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.
He appears to be intelligent, smooth, and he said all the right things—"moderation and wisdom" will guide his government, "global challenges require collective responses." He will likely prove a tough negotiator, perhaps a particularly wily one. He is eloquent when speaking of the "haunted" nature of some of his countrymen's memories when they consider the past 60 years of U.S.-Iranian relations.
Well, we have that in common.
He seemed to use his eloquence to bring a certain freshness, and therefore force, to perceived grievances. That's one negotiating tactic. He added that we must "rise above petty politics," and focus on our nations' common interests and concerns. He called it "counterproductive" to view Iran as a threat; this charge is whipped up by "alarmists." He vowed again that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, saying this would be "contrary to Islamic norms."
I wondered, as he spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn't say, and nobody thought to ask him.
So, this is what al qaeda on the run looks like....
Reply #433 on:
September 30, 2013, 04:34:47 PM »
The new face of terror
The West thought it was winning the battle against jihadist terrorism. It should think again
Sep 28th 2013 |From the print edition
A FEW months ago Barack Obama declared that al-Qaeda was “on the path to defeat”. Its surviving members, he said, were more concerned for their own safety than with plotting attacks on the West. Terrorist attacks of the future, he claimed, would resemble those of the 1990s—local rather than transnational and focused on “soft targets”. His overall message was that it was time to start winding down George Bush’s war against global terrorism.
Mr Obama might argue that the assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi by al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, the Shabab, was just the kind of thing he was talking about: lethal, shocking, but a long way from the United States. Yet the inconvenient truth is that, in the past 18 months, despite the relentless pummelling it has received and the defeats it has suffered, al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies have staged an extraordinary comeback. The terrorist network now holds sway over more territory and is recruiting more fighters than at any time in its 25-year history (see article). Mr Obama must reconsider.
Back from the dead
It all looked different two years ago. Even before the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, al-Qaeda’s central leadership, holed up near the Afghan border in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, was on the ropes, hollowed out by drone attacks and able to communicate with the rest of the network only with difficulty and at great risk. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), its most capable franchise as far as mounting attacks on the West is concerned, was being hit hard by drone strikes and harried by Yemeni troops. The Shabab was under similar pressure in Somalia, as Western-backed African Union forces chased them out of the main cities. Above all, the Arab spring had derailed al-Qaeda’s central claim that corrupt regimes supported by the West could be overthrown only through violence.
All those gains are now in question. The Shabab is recruiting more foreign fighters than ever (some of whom appear to have been involved in the attack on the Westgate). AQAP was responsible for the panic that led to the closure of 19 American embassies across the region and a global travel alert in early August. Meanwhile al-Qaeda’s core, anticipating the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan after 2014, is already moving back into the country’s wild east.
Above all, the poisoning of the Arab spring has given al-Qaeda and its allies an unprecedented opening. The coup against a supposedly moderate Islamist elected government in Egypt has helped restore al-Qaeda’s ideological power. Weapons have flooded out of Libya and across the region, and the civil war in Syria has revived one of the network’s most violent and unruly offshoots, al-Qaeda in Iraq, now grandly renamed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
The struggle to depose the Assad regime has acted as a magnet for thousands of would-be jihadists from all over the Muslim world and from Muslim communities in Europe and North America. The once largely moderate and secular Syrian Free Army has been progressively displaced by better-organised and better-funded jihadist groups that have direct links with al-Qaeda. Western intelligence estimates reckon such groups now represent as much as 80% of the effective rebel fighting force. Even if they fail to advance much from the territory they now hold in the north and east of the country, they might end up controlling a vast area that borders an ever more fragile-looking Iraq, where al-Qaeda is currently murdering up to 1,000 civilians a month. That is a terrifying prospect.
No more wishful thinking
How much should Western complacency be blamed for this stunning revival? Quite a bit. Mr Obama was too eager to cut and run from Iraq. He is at risk of repeating the mistake in Afghanistan. America has been over-reliant on drone strikes to “decapitate” al-Qaeda groups: the previous defence secretary, Leon Panetta, even foolishly talked of defeating the network by killing just 10-20 leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The general perception of America’s waning appetite for engagement in the Middle East, underlined by Mr Obama’s reluctance to support the moderate Syrian opposition in any useful way has been damaging as well.
A second question is how much of a threat a resurgent al-Qaeda now poses to the West. The recently popular notion that, give or take the odd home-grown “lone wolf”, today’s violent jihadists are really interested only in fighting local battles now looks mistaken. Some of the foreign fighters in Syria will be killed. Others will be happy to return to a quieter life in Europe or America. But a significant proportion will take their training, experience and contacts home, keen to use all three when the call comes, as it surely will. There is little doubt too that Westerners working or living in regions where jihadism is strong will be doing so at greater risk than ever.
The final question is whether anything can be done to reverse the tide once again. The answer is surely yes. When Mr Bush declared his “war on terror”, his aim was the removal of regimes that sponsored terrorism. Today, the emphasis should be supporting weak (and sometimes unsavoury) governments in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger and elsewhere that are trying to fight al-Qaeda. Even Kenya and Nigeria could do with more help. That does not mean a heavy bootprint on the ground, but assistance in intelligence, logistics and even special forces and air support. Most of all, it means more help to train local security forces, to modernise administrations and to stabilise often frail economies.
The most dismaying aspect of al-Qaeda’s revival is the extent to which its pernicious ideology, now aided by the failures of the Arab spring, continues to spread through madrassas and mosques and jihadist websites and television channels. Money still flows from rich Gulf Arabs, supposedly the West’s friends, to finance these activities and worse. More pressure should be brought to bear on their governments to stop this. For all the West’s supposedly huge soft power, it has been feeble in its efforts to win over moderate Muslims in the most important battle of all, that of ideas.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #434 on:
September 30, 2013, 06:11:47 PM »
As usual, the Economist writes in a way that sounds sage, makes some good points, and profoundly misses others.
In the last category for me is that Egypt REJECTED the MB when it asked the military to take over and supported its suppression of the MB. Unfortunately His Glibness failed to realize (and with him, the Economist) that this is pretty much EXACTLY what we have been hoping for-- an Arab people rejecting Islamic Fascism in a forceful manner.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #435 on:
September 30, 2013, 06:45:06 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on September 30, 2013, 06:11:47 PM
As usual, the Economist writes in a way that sounds sage, makes some good points, and profoundly misses others.
In the last category for me is that Egypt REJECTED the MB when it asked the military to take over and supported its suppression of the MB. Unfortunately His Glibness failed to realize (and with him, the Economist) that this is pretty much EXACTLY what we have been hoping for-- an Arab people rejecting Islamic Fascism in a forceful manner.
They didn't, they just rejected Morsi-nomics.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #436 on:
September 30, 2013, 09:20:50 PM »
A fair point, but at least the Coptics and the "modern worldists" rejected Islamo-Fascism.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #437 on:
September 30, 2013, 10:34:39 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on September 30, 2013, 09:20:50 PM
A fair point, but at least the Coptics and the "modern worldists" rejected Islamo-Fascism.
And face death as a result. Both are a distinct minority and reaping very bitter fruits from the "Arab Spring".
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #438 on:
October 01, 2013, 09:13:26 AM »
I but point out that for a goodly percentage of those supporting the overthrow of the MB were doing so not merely as a matter of economics.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #439 on:
October 01, 2013, 10:40:07 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on October 01, 2013, 09:13:26 AM
I but point out that for a goodly percentage of those supporting the overthrow of the MB were doing so not merely as a matter of economics.
Any polling that shows that?
Stratfor: Kerry's Obsession- the clusterfcuk continues , , ,
Reply #440 on:
October 01, 2013, 04:45:48 PM »
by Robert D. Kaplan
John Kerry has made his choice. Chaos in the Middle East is more important to him than historic power shifts in Asia and Europe. Passion, rather than geopolitical vision, drives this secretary of state. And it is a very derivative passion that drives him: one that has its origin in media obsessions.
Kerry, it seems, will be tied down in two major negotiations in coming months: one with the Russians about overseeing the elimination of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's chemical weapons, and the other with the Israelis and Palestinians to get them to agree on terms for a comprehensive peace. The first negotiation grants Russia a pivotal role in the Middle East, thereby undoing decades of American grand strategy -- but now necessary to rescue President Barack Obama's credibility after the president, in an undisciplined moment, threatened war over Assad's use of chemical weapons. Oh, by the way, the deal is probably for the most part unworkable because of the logistical complexities of removing dozens of chemical weapons sites from a war zone. The second negotiation has only a small prospect of success, even as its strategic value for the United States is arguably over-rated: for the United States is already the dominant outside power in geographical Palestine, even without a peace treaty. Perhaps Kerry will get a reprieve of sorts if serious negotiations commence over Iran's nuclear program; at least then he will be involved in a regional discussion that has undeniable value.
Kerry, to be sure, will likely be making official visits to other theaters, including Asia and Europe. But he will fool nobody in those regions. The Asians know that he has much less interest in their region than did his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who traveled back and forth to Asia throughout her tenure -- giving the world's economic and demographic hub more attention than any secretary of state since Henry Kissinger. China, with its growing military, can breathe a bit easier now as the Americans look once again to be distracted in the Middle East. As for those in Central and Eastern Europe, they know that the Obama administration's open-door policy to the Russians in the Middle East will only encourage Russian assertiveness, however subtle, in their region. The Obama administration's message to countries like Poland, Romania, Ukraine and Azerbaijan is one of neglect combined with weakness.
Indeed, the only strategic innovation of Obama's presidency thus far has been his "pivot" to Asia. The pivot meant that rather than withdraw inward following two wars in the Middle East -- a policy of quasi-isolationism that served America poorly throughout its history -- America would instead shift its focus to a more important region of the world. You may not agree with the pivot, or with its assumptions, but in the uncreative world of State Department bureaucracy it does count as a major innovation. Kerry has now undermined it.
But can't the Pentagon fill in for the State Department in Asia? After all, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, both being thoroughly practical men who clearly want no part of a war in Syria, would be only too happy to focus on the balance of military power in Asia, given China's latent aggression. And isn't the pivot anyway mere empty atmospherics? The answer to both suggestions is a qualified "no."
Precisely because Kerry is so focused on the Middle East and continues to threaten consequences if Assad does not turn over his chemical weapons, the Pentagon will continue to be distracted by war plans for Syria. Hagel and Dempsey simply can't focus on Asia to the extent that they want and need to. Moreover, power, especially in the media age, is often the power to persuade and to coerce, which, in turn, is based on ground-level presence, both military and diplomatic. If your diplomacy is, relative to another region, absent, then people doubt the level of your commitment. And when the level of your commitment is doubted, your power declines. For diplomacy is often a matter of subtexts and intangibles. So if you are a country threatened by a militarily rising China -- like Japan or Vietnam or the Philippines -- you know that Hillary Clinton was a more reliable friend than is John Kerry with his occasional drive-by visit.
Middle Eastern chaos is tragic in human terms but so far limited in its effect on the world economy, and, in any case, is something that the United States can do very little about. Meanwhile, Russia is increasing its influence in Central and Eastern Europe and China's military growth threatens to upset the regional power balance. These are more important phenomena about which America can do more to help. Russia will not always be so dominant in world energy markets and China's slowly unraveling economy may at some point threaten its military rise: but these are middle- and long-term possibilities that America and its allies cannot count on for the moment.
Of course, it is possible for Kerry to use a Syrian chemical weapons deal with Russia in order open a wider negotiating track with Moscow, one in which Washington and the Kremlin might reach understandings on Europe, the Caucasus, and the Far East -- with Russia restraining itself a bit more in Europe, balancing against Turkey and Iran in the Caucasus, and balancing against China in the Far East. But that is a somewhat fantastic hypothetical, which to be even partially achieved would require considerable American leverage. And Kerry, rather than communicate leverage, has signaled only an obsession with the human rights consequences of Syrian chaos, even as the Russians must now doubt Washington's threats to ever use force against Damascus. Rather than an overarching strategy to deal with encroaching Russian and Chinese power in Eurasia, Kerry has instead demonstrated strategic incoherence: the sacrificing of considerable geopolitical consequences for the sake of an American president's domestic reputation.
Again, it is a matter of all-important perceptions. When Henry Kissinger invited the Russians to participate in Middle East peace talks in December 1973 in Geneva, it was clear that he was giving them only the appearance of influence without the substance. For the substance he had already worked out through shuttle diplomacy in the region. Contrarily, Kerry has the air of desperation about him, with no choice left but to grasp the offer of Russian power in both its form and substance.
Few can be as frightened over this spectacle as the leaders in the eastern half of Greater Europe, from the Baltic states to the Caucasus. Here Russian intimidation is often expressed in terms of decisions on pipeline routes and hydrocarbon prices. Ukraine, for example, dependent on Russia for energy, was able to look to the United States for support in the 1990s and early 2000s; now it has little choice but to look more to Germany, knowing that Germany must -- because of its geography -- maintain its own balance of power between the West and Russia. Truly, the Obama administration's perceived lack of cunning in the Middle East will continue to have ripple effects around the globe.
Talleyrand, the Napoleonic era statesman who was opposed to stern morals in foreign policy, is credited with the notion that in affairs of state a blunder is worse than a crime. So here we have a secretary of state who plays the role of a moralist, trying to rescue his president following a colossal blunder: that of threatening force without being serious about it. The United States is so geographically well endowed that it can afford years of mediocre foreign policy and even occasional incompetent foreign policy without having its security fundamentally undermined. But it is America's allies, not so geographically endowed, who suffer.
Read more: Kerry's Middle East Obsession | Stratfor
Stratfor: 4Q Forecast
Reply #441 on:
October 01, 2013, 06:54:03 PM »
Second post of the day:
Fourth Quarter Forecast 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 06:06 Print Text Size
At the beginning of the year, we outlined how U.S. foreign policy increasingly would be defined by its restraint as the United States attempts to reorient its priorities away from the Middle East. At the same time, we noted that the Syrian chemical weapons issue would be the wild card that would challenge this policy of restraint and compel the United States to cobble together a coalition in haste. That forecast materialized in the third quarter, with the United States trying -- and failing -- to build a coalition for an intervention that it was not particularly enthused about. Both Iran and Russia were quick to seize on the opportunity, and out of the diplomatic fog emerged two aggressive negotiating tracks that will feature prominently in the final months of 2013.
Stratfor's Annual Forecast 2013
Stratfor's Second Quarter Forecast 2013
Stratfor's Third Quarter Forecast 2013
While both Iran and the United States are serious about pursuing a dialogue, the transition from making positive gestures to negotiating substantial concessions will be difficult. Iran will expect some give-and-take from the United States on sanctions in negotiating the nuclear issue, but the U.S. president will have a limited range of choices for highly visible concessions he can make independently without having to consult an obstinate Congress. A nervous Saudi Arabia and Israel, meanwhile, will exercise their respective levers to undermine the negotiation, though they will face limits as the United States and Iran try to fast-track the talks while Iranian President Hasan Rouhani still carries support at home.
The United States simultaneously will try to sustain another highly ambitious negotiation with Syria and Russia to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. Political, logistical and security complications will arise this quarter in planning and carrying out an operation of this magnitude, though neither Washington nor Moscow will allow the plan to collapse. Russia, while trying to manage rising economic pressure at home, will ensure its heavy involvement in both the Syrian and Iranian negotiating tracks to keep the United States dependent on Moscow for managing the Middle East.
Russia will then use that leverage to make sure the United States keeps its distance from an intensifying competition between Russia and Europe this quarter over a number of former Soviet states. Ukraine, the most critical state in this competition, will likely end up balancing any favorable actions toward the European Union with energy concessions to Russia.
Germany will stay out of that fight, focusing instead on battles within the eurozone after a relatively quiet summer. Headline statistics out of Europe on marginal growth improvements and the debate over a banking union will lead many observers to conclude that the crisis is abating, but we will instead be focused intently on the amount of consumer debt quietly piling up in Europe as unemployment levels remain critically high and banks continue to refrain from lending in the buildup to the next phase of the crisis.
Developing economies vulnerable to short-term capital outflows will get some reprieve from a U.S. decision to delay or at least move more slowly in its policy to taper quantitative easing, but the structural deficiencies exposed in the last quarter for many of these economies are now on full display. A number of Southeast Asian states will try tactical adjustments to prepare themselves internally for the coming capital crunch, but the reforms will necessarily remain shallow to manage social unrest and populist demands. Even as India tries to pass long-awaited legislation to encourage more stable and long-term foreign direct investment, those measures may end up being too little, too late for New Delhi and other governments trying to implement long-deferred structural reforms under mounting political pressures.
Locator - Middle East
Iran Seeks an Opening for Dialogue
As we saw last quarter, Iran has attempted to use a U.S.-Russian diplomatic framework for Syria to edge itself into a more comprehensive dialogue with the United States. Under the direction of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, and with the approval of the supreme leader, the Iranian government will make conciliatory gestures on a political settlement for Syria and on the Iranian nuclear program in laying the groundwork for a diplomatic rapprochement. The United States will move cautiously toward dialogue, beginning in a multilateral setting, but the U.S. president will also be sensitive to Rouhani's limited timetable to show progress in the negotiation back home. The attempt to fast-track the talks will eventually run into hurdles, and the U.S. president faces limits in what he can concede, particularly on energy sanctions, without the consent of an intractable U.S. Congress. For this quarter at least, the negotiation will move forward.
Given Washington's cautious approach to talks, Iran will try to diplomatically re-engage the United Kingdom to build a Western channel to Washington. Iran will also make quiet diplomatic outreaches to Saudi Arabia as it tries to convince Riyadh that a U.S.-Iranian accommodation is inevitable. Saudi Arabia does not face enough pressure from Iran at this stage to enter a negotiation with its main adversary and will instead focus its efforts in boosting weapons, money and fighters to the Syrian rebels from the Arabian Peninsula to compensate for U.S. inaction. Saudi Arabia, along with the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, will draw negative attention to Iranian and Hezbollah activity in the region in an effort to undermine a U.S.-Iranian dialogue.
The Plan for Syria
The U.S.-Russian diplomatic plan to strip Syria of its chemical weapons will encounter a number of political and logistical hurdles this quarter, particularly in forging a cease-fire and providing adequate protection for weapons inspectors. Nonetheless, the United States will rhetorically maneuver around these obstacles to sustain the diplomatic option and thus avoid another ill-fated campaign to rouse support for a military response against Syria.
Another large-scale chemical weapons attack would be a deal-breaker for the plan, but the Syrian regime likely will avoid such a provocation and focus instead on using this period of diplomatic limbo to attack rebel positions using conventional assets. As we emphasized last quarter, the regime will be constrained in this multi-pronged offensive, resulting in an overall stalemate on the battlefield. Though Syrian rebel factions will try to derail the U.S.-Russian diplomatic initiative through attacks and propaganda, they will remain too weak and divided to undermine the plan and force a military intervention. In fact, rebel frustrations over U.S. inaction in Syria will only heighten rebel infighting this quarter and complicate external considerations to arm seemingly moderate factions.
Table of Contents
Former Soviet Union
The Syrian Conflict's Other Effects in the Region
Spillover sectarian violence in Lebanon will remain steady in the coming months. Hezbollah will concentrate its fighters along the Syria-Lebanon border and boost its security presence in its neighborhood strongholds to counter Sunni militant provocations. Israel will maintain a pre-emptive military posture to target any attempts by the Syrian regime to transfer advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah.
Turkey will try to balance this quarter between maintaining a stable relationship with Iran in the evolving diplomatic environment and maintaining its support for the Syrian rebels. The Syrian regime will in turn try to enhance its working relationship with Kurdish factions in Syria, Iraq and Turkey to sabotage Turkey's broader containment strategy with the Kurds. Turkey's ongoing struggle in trying to push forward its shaky peace agreement with the Kurdistan Workers' Party and continued economic stress will be exploited by the ruling Justice and Development Party's political opponents, preventing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from trying to reshape the Turkish presidency through a constitutional referendum with Kurdish backing.
Iraq's Sectarian Tensions to Continue
Sunni militant violence in Iraq will remain at a relatively high but steady level as the overall regional jihadist focus stays on the Syrian battlefield. In northern Iraq, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government will advance construction on a pipeline and alternate pumping and metering station designed to circumvent Baghdad's veto on Kurdish exports and investment deals with foreign firms. As the project enters its final stage, the long-standing political impediments to the plan will overshadow any announcements on the pipeline's near-completion. Turkey will not be able to convince Baghdad to accept its proposed payment mechanism for exports. Moreover, heightened intra-Kurdish political competition and potential unrest will limit the ability of a divided Kurdish leadership to challenge Baghdad on energy exports this quarter.
Egypt's Military Tries to Combat Militancy
In Egypt, the military's ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood will radicalize more Islamists and result in a steady increase in low-level attacks on police stations and other state infrastructure across Egypt. An increase in religious violence by radical Islamists against Coptic Christians will be exploited by the military to justify further crackdowns. At the same time, Salafist-jihadists will sustain near-daily attacks against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula. Some of these groups will continue to expand their target set and launch attacks in mainland Egypt and tourist areas. These attacks will be more infrequent, but will have the potential to inflict more casualties and structural damage.
In trying to contain the Salafist-jihadist threat and keep the Islamist political landscape divided, the Egyptian military will maintain relations with Salafist political groups and former jihadists and try to keep them politically engaged with the government and constitutional committee. Political friction within the committee over the drafting of the Constitution will extend the process into next year, prolonging the political transition.
The Egyptian military's growing distraction with Islamist militancy will increase pressure on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where it will see its influence challenged by competing Palestinian and jihadist factions. Faced with limited means to force Egypt or Israel into a negotiation to reopen its borders, Hamas will remain caught between efforts to threaten the Egyptian military by facilitating attacks in the Sinai and an imperative to not completely alienate Cairo.
North Africa: Tensions in Libya, a Succession in Algeria
In Libya, Tripoli will face significant challenges to its authority from regional power centers in Zintan, Misurata and Benghazi. At the same time, the local city councils will struggle in trying to rein in competing militias and tribal groups in their respective regions, resulting in a highly fragmented political landscape overall. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan will also face external pressure to stabilize the country's political and security environment enough to revive Libya's oil production. However, oil production will continue to fluctuate significantly this quarter as power struggles on multiple levels persist.
Ailing Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika will proceed with the final steps of his succession plan this quarter. Constitutional amendments, including the creation of a vice presidential position, can be expected. Any objections to this carefully choreographed succession plan will be mitigated by increases in social spending.
As Algeria maintains relative calm on the domestic front, it will gradually deepen its involvement in its periphery in response to growing political instability and militancy in both Tunisia and Libya. As Stratfor highlighted in the annual forecast, Algeria will use security cooperation with its neighbors and its energy relationships with the West to strengthen its regional role. In Tunisia, in particular, Algeria will mediate a slow-moving political negotiation, in which the embattled Ennahda party will try to avoid replicating the mistakes of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in seeking a compromise with its political rivals. Morocco, meanwhile, will be inwardly focused as it attempts to balance the implementation of political and subsidy reforms.
Locator - Europe
Europe Focuses on Finances
After a period of relative paralysis in the lead-up to the German elections over the summer, Europe will be thrown back into a lively debate over the creation of a banking union, the expansion of credit to small and medium-sized companies and the granting of additional financial assistance to crisis countries. The debate itself will expose growing polarization on the Continent as economic pressures migrate north, but little headway will be made in addressing the structural roots of the crisis.
As a first step toward creating a banking union, the European Union agreed last quarter on a centralized bank supervision authority (due to start in 2014). Over the next three months, EU leaders will probably arrive at a generic agreement on the decision-making process for bank resolutions in the eurozone, the so-called Single Resolution Mechanism. However, critical points regarding its implementation will be deferred until next year.
After a quiet summer, high unemployment and lack of credit for small and medium-sized companies will again top the EU agenda. Member states and institutions (such as the European Central Bank and the EU Commission) will issue various proposals designed to fight unemployment and dearth of credit, especially in the eurozone periphery. Though some positive economic indicators will give the impression that the crisis is abating, Stratfor expects unemployment to remain critically high during the quarter and credit for households and companies to remain tight, particularly in the periphery.
EU members will approve their budgets for 2014, which will lead to political friction at the state level. Most countries will push for a relaxation of fiscal consolidation measures, seeking to avoid an escalation in social unrest. The budgets for next year will still primarily involve spending cuts, but they will not be as deep as initially thought. While we expect the European Union to criticize some countries for their lack of reforms, no meaningful sanctions will be applied.
Table of Contents
Former Soviet Union
Europe and the Syrian Crisis
France and the United Kingdom, which have been the most vocal EU member states in trying to pressure Syria, will join the United States in its attempt to sustain the diplomatic proposal to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. European member states will lend their diplomatic support for the plan and may pledge to send funds or technical experts and equipment, but will not be willing to play a leading role in providing the security necessary for such a mission. Moreover, after the traumatic experience at the British and French parliaments, London and Paris will not provide troops without formal parliamentary approval. Increased rebel infighting in Syria will complicate and likely delay any proposals to upgrade support for rebel factions with arms shipments.
As the economic crisis in Europe lingers and the civil war in Syria continues, the high flow of Syrian refugees into southern Europe will pressure southern European countries politically and economically. These countries will push for an EU-wide solution for the refugee issue, but to no avail. Nationalist (and, to some extent, center-right) parties in the European Union are likely to use the refugee situation to increase their anti-immigration rhetoric.
The Eurozone's Core: Germany and France
As we identified in the annual forecast, the economic crisis will continue spreading northward in Europe. After relatively positive news in the second quarter, economic performance will remain modest in Germany, weak in France and contracting in the Netherlands.
In the general elections held Sept. 22, Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party secured a strong presence in the German parliament, but not enough seats to form a government by itself. Coalition talks with smaller parties will take place during the first weeks of the quarter. As a result, the decision-making process in Germany is likely to be frozen for several weeks, thus delaying the debate over structural reforms at the European level during the first half of the quarter.
France will approve a pension reform this quarter. While this could spark additional protests from some unions, we do not expect demonstrations to derail the approval of the reform. The EU Commission will keep pushing France to apply deep structural reforms, but Paris will keep its gradual and slow approach to reforms, favoring increased taxes over spending cuts.
Peripheral Eurozone: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland
Ireland, Portugal and Greece (three countries that previously received bailouts) will push for additional assistance from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The Irish and Portuguese bailouts end in January and June 2014, respectively, and Dublin and Lisbon will push for extra assistance to secure a safe transition once their programs end. Ireland will probably reach an agreement on a precautionary credit line this quarter, but we do not expect a formal agreement with Portugal in the next three months.
Negotiations between the so-called troika (the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) and Greece for additional financial assistance for 2014 will take place during the quarter, but an agreement is unlikely this year. Greece will be under pressure to apply additional reforms, including privatizations and layoffs in the public sector, which will spark protests in Athens and other cities. As we predicted in our annual forecast, Athens will continue to struggle to meet its lenders' demands, but the troika will still be lenient and will release further aid tranches under the current program.
In all the bailout countries, visits by troika inspectors will lead to clashes over structural reforms and conditionality between national governments and their international lenders. The lenders will grow more resistant to offering additional financial help as parties aim to show they are protective of their taxpayers, who feel the effects of the crisis as it moves north. Following a trend that we identified in our annual forecast, we expect the European Union and International Monetary Fund to be flexible with crisis countries, and bailout tranches will be disbursed where needed. This will prevent a major financial crisis in the eurozone in the next three months.
The Italian government will remain extremely fragile and under the long-standing threat of collapse. This will undermine its ability to apply substantial economic reforms. The Italian economy will continue to contract during the quarter. While the situation in Italy will generate concerns in the European Union and the financial markets, the European Central Bank's promise of intervention in sovereign markets will be enough to prevent a substantial escalation of the eurozone crisis because of Italy during the quarter.
In Spain, the pace of economic decline will slow, and unemployment levels will probably stabilize, but significant job creation is unlikely during the quarter. The Spanish government is likely to approve a reform of the pension system during the quarter as it seeks to reduce public spending. Any resulting protests will not impede Madrid from proceeding with the reform. As a corruption scandal involving the Popular Party deepens, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will reshuffle his Cabinet in an effort to refresh his government's image. However, this will do little to improve the ruling party's popular support.
Beyond the Eurozone: Hungary, Poland and the United Kingdom
In a continuation of Hungary's unorthodox economic policies, Budapest will apply a plan to convert foreign-denominated loans into forints. Additionally, as the elections scheduled for early 2014 approach, Budapest will intensify its populist and anti-European Union rhetoric and increase public spending. EU officials and banks operating in Hungary will protest these measures and rhetoric, but we do not expect any substantial sanctions against Budapest.
The political situation in Poland will remain fragile during this quarter, as Prime Minister Donald Tusk attempts to strengthen his government through new alliances with smaller parties and independent lawmakers. Tusk will try to stabilize the government with a Cabinet reshuffle, but its popularity is likely to remain low. Moreover, former members of the ruling Civic Platform party will establish new factions, and the opposition and labor unions will intensify their rallies against the government's economic policies. Despite these pressures, Tusk will be able to remain in power during the quarter.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron will use criticism of the European Union to try to appease the more rebellious members of his coalition and compensate for a drop in support following his government's failure to approve a military intervention in Syria. Intra-coalition frictions will remain high, but Cameron's government will survive the quarter. On the EU level, Cameron's government will continue its anti-immigration rhetoric and its push for a re-evaluation of its links with the European Union.
Former Soviet Union
Locator - Former Soviet Union
Diplomacy Over Syria
The United States and Russia will sustain a diplomatic arrangement over Syria through this quarter. The details of the U.S.-Russian plan for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria are still vague enough that both the United States and Russia can manipulate the plan to avoid another major standoff. Russia will manage the diplomatic negotiations in such a way that Washington will remain dependent on Moscow for the sustainability of the plan.
The Kremlin will try to play up its diplomatic success in striking an agreement with the United States over Syria to divert attention away from a deteriorating economic situation at home. Moscow can also leverage the negotiations over Syria to keep Washington from bolstering Europe's efforts to expand its influence into a number of former Soviet states.
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Russia-EU Competition in the Periphery
The fourth quarter will be important for the intensifying competition between Russia and the European Union for influence in the Russian periphery. A summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius at the end of November is designed to increase political and economic cooperation between the European Union and the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The European Union has expressed hopes that several countries will either initial or sign association and free trade agreements during the summit, but Russia will take steps to dissuade the target states from further integration with Europe. Moldova and Georgia are likely to move forward with the EU agreements, while Ukraine -- the most important state in the competition -- will balance any movement toward the Europeans with concessions to Russia, particularly in the energy sector. Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan -- states with which Russia has increased ties -- will not enter into association and free trade agreements with Europe.
Caught in the middle of the EU push toward Russia's periphery is Germany, which is more cautious about such EU integration projects than Poland or Lithuania. Berlin has shown in the past that it will block any major Western move to integrate certain former Soviet states into its alliances, as it did when Germany blocked NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. Poland will take the lead among Central European states in making an appeal for the United States to become more involved in the region, but, to the Poles' disappointment, the United States will be more cautious in balancing against Russia this quarter.
Domestic Russian Issues
The Kremlin will be heavily focused in the fourth quarter on its economic situation. The country's gross domestic product has dropped with each passing quarter this year. Russia's economic troubles have not reached the level of its 2009 financial crisis, though stagnation has already set in due to tight financial conditions facing the private sector (exacerbated by capital flight and high interest rates), a significant drop in export values, relatively high inflation and significantly decreased investment into Russia. As a result, the government has revised its growth expectations down to 1.8 percent from 3.4 percent for 2013. This will represent a significant slowdown from 2011 and 2012, when growth was above 4 percent.
Starting in the late third quarter, the Kremlin maintained high interest rates in order to control inflation and began implementing other policies, such as pricing caps in energy and transportation. An increase in hiring in the public sector has compensated for job losses in the private sector. These policy shifts will continue into the fourth quarter. The most important driver of growth in the fourth quarter will be increased investment, primarily through the implementation of stimulus packages that will see the Kremlin pump billions into expanding ports, roads and railways. Even as private businesses struggle, the Russian government still has the cash to spend due to high oil prices.
The Kremlin will also debate in the fourth quarter how it will trim at least 5 percent of the 2013 government budget through possible cuts to military expenditures or by tapping Russia's reserve funds, which total $685 billion. The government will also revise downward its budget and spending in the fourth quarter for 2014-2016, as the Kremlin is anticipating drops in future energy revenues. The Kremlin's policies to keep the Russian economy stable in the short term will have negative long-term consequences, particularly in future investment in the energy sector and in military industrial procurement -- both sectors that the Kremlin uses to expand its influence beyond its borders.
With only four months until the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the Kremlin will remain highly cautious on domestic security issues. Crackdowns against suspected militants in the Russian Caucasus republics will continue. Russian security forces in Moscow, the primary transit point for most travelers attending the Olympics, will broaden their target set to include militants, criminals and illegal migrants in crackdowns.
Shifting Geopolitics in the Caucasus
Presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Georgia this quarter will underscore the regional shift in Moscow's favor that Stratfor has tracked in previous forecasts. The Georgian elections likely will end the decade-long hold on power that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili's camp has maintained, resulting in a closer relationship between Georgia and Russia. This reorientation, combined with the beginning of Armenia's integration with Russia via the Customs Union, will compel Azerbaijan to cooperate more closely with Russia on political and energy matters.
Central Asian Instability
Central Asia will continue to see low-level violence and political instability in the fourth quarter. Particularly at risk is Tajikistan, which will hold presidential elections in November. These elections will test stability in the country from a security perspective and could re-aggravate regional divisions (especially in the rebel strongholds in the east) amid concerns over the implications of the drawdown of U.S. and NATO forces from neighboring Afghanistan.
Locator - East Asia
China Launches its Reform Agenda
As we wrote in the annual forecast, China will struggle to balance between the competing domestic needs for economic growth and reforming its economic model. By letting annual gross domestic product growth slip to the mid-7 percent range this year, the Communist Party of China has attempted to show its greater tolerance for the short-term effects of slower growth (such as rising unemployment) for the sake of shifting from an economic model overly reliant on exports and state-led investment to one grounded in greater domestic consumption.
But the fourth quarter, like the third, will show that such tolerance has its limits. In the coming months, Beijing will shift between measures to prop up weak sectors and other measures to tighten monetary and credit policy and better control the increasingly volatile shadow lending and real estate markets. The ability to tighten may be aided in the near term by the seasonal uptick in external demand for Chinese exports, temporarily relieving some of the pressures on Chinese manufacturers pinched between rising costs and competition from overseas. Nonetheless, this will not forestall the deeper trend of decline in China's export sector, nor will it remove the economy's continued reliance on state-led investment. In the fourth quarter, the government will ease credit conditions as needed to maintain stability and growth in the short term, even if doing so runs counter to long-term efforts to rebalance the economy.
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The Chinese government's ongoing tactical struggle to balance investment-led growth against small, targeted reform initiatives will be overshadowed in the fourth quarter by the Third Plenum of the Communist Party. At the November meeting, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang will introduce the reform platform that will guide their administration's domestic policy over the next five years. The reforms will include relaxing the hukou system to improve living conditions for migrant workers and create a more flexible, mobile labor force; adjusting the fiscal relationship between central and local governments to give locals more responsibility over their budgets; and enacting financial liberalization to make capital allocation more efficient.
Beijing will be slow and cautious in implementing each of these new policies, and any concrete effects probably will not be felt until well into 2014. Regardless, the Plenum meeting in November will be an important moment for the Party to establish the direction and credibility, both at home and abroad, of its planned reforms. It will also help clarify the nature and scope of economic reform that the administration deems possible within the constraints of a one-party system.
Regional Responses to China's Transition
As we forecast at the beginning of the year, China's transition away from its two-decade reign as the world's leading low-end manufacturer will have enormous ripple effects in the region. The fourth quarter will provide a microcosm of those effects.
The region's emerging economies, including Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia, will continue trying to capitalize on the gradual shift of manufacturing investment away from China. But they are facing a more immediate challenge as exports and commodity prices fall, since these were key factors in the region's prosperity over the past decade. China's slower growth rates are thus forcing another turnaround to growth prospects.
Adding to the pressure is the ongoing concern over the United States' eventual withdrawal of easy monetary policies. While the Federal Reserve decided to delay the withdrawal of quantitative easing in September, the inevitable transition will pressure countries to begin adjusting their policies now.
In the next quarter, Indonesia will face weakening energy exports while currency volatility continues to threaten its efforts to bring down inflation and policymakers become increasingly preoccupied with elections scheduled for 2014. Falling external demand is exacerbating Thailand's slowing economy, which has already entered a technical recession, creating another challenge for the ruling party as it struggles with national divisions.
Malaysia, while better situated in the current correction cycle, nonetheless needs to cope with its rising deficit while managing internal party politics and rising ethno-political divisions. For Vietnam, despite signs of recovery, the ruling party will struggle to maintain stability while pressing forward with restructuring efforts centering on improving efficiency in state corporations and clearing debts away from the financial sector.
In the coming quarter, Japan will take advantage of a rare moment of government unity and public support to pursue domestic reforms and burnish its international prestige. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will balance his proposed structural reforms with measures to maintain short-term growth. Under his party's leadership, the parliament will vote on bills intended to spur corporate investment and internal competition, including a plan to break up the power sector oligopoly over the next decade.
Japanese diplomacy will seek to improve relations particularly with India, Russia, and emerging markets in Europe and the Asia-Pacific states as Tokyo attempts to expand infrastructure exports, energy investments and free trade deals. Meanwhile, Tokyo will speed up military normalization by boosting defense spending, creating a National Security Council to coordinate diplomacy and military affairs, and broadening its range of military activities with the United States and other allies.
The government will also ignite debate as it discusses a new national security strategy, revisions to defense guidelines and a reinterpretation of the Constitution that allows for collective self-defense. These policies face resistance from vested interests opposed to structural reform, public disagreement on the scope of military expansion and ongoing problems managing nuclear issues. But the Abe administration will maintain policy momentum this quarter and project an image of a revitalized Japan.
Balancing Against China's Assertiveness
In the fourth quarter, two themes will give prominence to the regional responses to China's military modernization and territorial assertiveness identified in our annual forecast. First, U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the Asia-Pacific region will demonstrate Washington's commitment to the region through its trade and security agenda. Second, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will continue to address their maritime disputes through the slow process of negotiating on an official Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
The Obama administration will show determination in developing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key trade framework, when the president attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. As a number of highly sensitive particulars remain unresolved, the negotiations and framework will require a host of compromises and concessions. But Washington is courting the Southeast Asian nations and other regional partners with its trade agenda as it positions itself to take a greater role in the region, per its "pivot" strategy.
Washington will also continue to work with allies to enhance its security presence in the region. The fourth quarter will see a U.S. agreement with the Philippines that could allow U.S. forces to gain greater access to the Philippines' military bases and to step up training and exercises. The growing U.S. military presence could further complicate the maritime environment in the long term. In the fourth quarter, despite the slow process on the Code of Conduct between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, rhetorical exchanges and tensions in the East and South China seas will continue to dominate the security environment, particularly ahead of regional summits.
Developments in Myanmar and Cambodia
Myanmar has continued to open up its nascent economy in a way that has gained credibility with international investors. In a move critical to the country's economic transformation, Naypyidaw will push forward its proposed cease-fire with ethnic armies in the fourth quarter. But as the rainy season draws to a close, freeing up the military option for Napyidaw, the slow progress of cease-fire negotiations is likely to translate into an offensive against a few ethnic armies. Thus, Naypyidaw will not abandon its dual strategy of military offensives and peace negotiations.
In Cambodia, a political settlement is likely to alleviate the current political deadlock and tense security situation. Nonetheless, the opposition's strong showing in recent elections could open a longer-term rise in political tensions as the ruling party struggles to retain political domination while winning back public support and accommodating the interests of the opposition, which has gained prominence and support.
New Delhi's Economic Challenges
Economic issues will dominate India's concerns in the fourth quarter as the country continues to face significant domestic political gridlock ahead of national elections in 2014. Agricultural output and hydropower projects will benefit from this year's bumper seasonal monsoon rains, but inflation, especially of key food prices for goods such as onions, will continue to challenge the ruling United Progressive Alliance's attempts to manage the domestic economy amid lagging foreign investor interest and the fluctuating value of the rupee.
The U.S. Federal Reserve's decision not to taper off quantitative easing will bring some relief to India and other emerging markets, but New Delhi will struggle to stymie inflows of hot money in lieu of the more permanent infrastructure and development investment it needs. The United Progressive Alliance government will attempt to pass more foreign direct investment liberalization reforms and economic measures through the winter session of parliament, but strong resistance from opposition political forces led by the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2014 elections will reduce the effectiveness of these measures.
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India's External Relations
Beyond its borders, India will continue to work with countries within its periphery -- Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal -- in an attempt to prevent the erosion of its sphere of influence. Most of these countries will balance against Indian attempts to influence their domestic policy by pursuing development and trade plans with China.
New Delhi will reinforce security forces along its eastern border to limit the effects of Bangladesh's domestic destabilization, specifically the steady outflow of illegal immigrants, on the security and social stability of West Bengal and northeastern India.
New Delhi and Islamabad will continue a slow but deliberate dialogue as the NATO drawdown of troops in Afghanistan approaches, though no breakthroughs should be expected. Iran's efforts to renegotiate the current unfavorable terms in its energy deals with India amid its diplomatic outreach to the United States could contribute to some friction in the Indo-Iranian relationship even as the countries maintain robust energy ties.
A stabilizing domestic economy -- even temporarily -- will again allow for Indian state and private energy firms to pursue energy assets abroad. As India continues to normalize relations with China, New Delhi is expected to resume negotiations with Japan and Australia regarding nuclear cooperation, trade and regional issues of mutual concern, namely energy and China.
Growing Instability in Bangladesh
The current government's term expires Oct. 25, ushering in another period of uncertainty in Bangladesh's difficult post-independence history. The ruling Awami League has seen some of its support falter since it was elected in 2008 with a landslide of popular support. However, it has made military-backed caretaker regimes -- once a hallmark of Bangladesh's political system -- unconstitutional, and the upper body of the Supreme Court is currently made up entirely of Awami League nominees. Thus, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party will attempt to create a level of public unrest and political instability sufficient to force the army to re-enter the political scene and oversee fresh elections and the transition period between the outgoing ninth and future 10th parliament session.
The ruling Awami League will most likely attempt a negotiation with the military and opposition that aims for fresh elections and a transitional period on its own terms to prevent a military intervention. Though elections can take place anytime within 90 days following the dissolution of the current government, conditions probably will not allow a vote to be held before the end of 2013.
Clashes between supporters of the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, including Islamist groups such as the recently sanctioned Jamaat-e-Islami, can be expected in the fourth quarter. Bangladesh's textiles and manufacturing operations could be affected, but long-term disruptions in production and exports are unlikely. Both sides of the political spectrum rely on the garments sector's significant contributions to the Bangladeshi economy.
Sri Lanka's Balancing Act
The strong local showing of the Tamil National Alliance in September's provincial council elections will force the Rajapaksa administration to balance between northern demands for greater autonomy and the ruling Sinhalese imperative to maintain firm control over the entirety of the island. This will complicate President Mahinda Rajapaksa's efforts to modify the Constitution's 13th Amendment, which allows for significant self-rule under the provincial council system. Colombo will try to undermine Tamil autonomy through indirect channels, such as the Supreme Court, and by working to maintain a strong security presence in the north and east. At the same time, Colombo will balance this strategy with offers of economic and infrastructure development, funded by foreign investors including China, to better integrate Tamil areas with the rest of the island.
As India moves closer to its own national elections, Sri Lanka's internal Sinhalese-Tamil divide will become a rallying point for politicians seeking votes in India's state of Tamil Nadu. New Delhi and Colombo will manage these domestic pressures as both sides try to redefine a relationship strained by India's decadeslong support of northern Tamil militant separatists.
Pakistan's Troubled Negotiations with the Taliban
Pakistan's attention will be split in the fourth quarter between trying to manage the cross-border Taliban insurgency and the country's deepening economic problems. Islamabad will struggle to facilitate a negotiated settlement between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul while engaging in a dialogue with its own Taliban rebels. It will be harder for Islamabad to try to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, as militants in Pakistan are likely to step up attacks in an attempt to boost their leverage in talks. The Pakistani establishment will also be divided in how to proceed with talks; the army, which is undergoing a leadership transition, will resist Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's plan.
A small boost in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan after Islamabad's recent release of a former deputy of Mullah Mohammed Omar, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, will help facilitate negotiations with the Afghan Taliban. However, that negotiation will still be constrained by an intensification in President Hamid Karzai's efforts to put forth a preferred candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for April 2014.
The Sharif government in Pakistan will put forth proposals to improve tax collection and power generation, but progress on both of these fronts will remain limited. Building upon the Sept. 5 signing of a three-year, $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund package, the government will also unveil a new national strategy to modernize the economy in an attempt to attract foreign investment. Militant violence, however, will largely keep investors away, especially given the uncertainty of post-2014 Afghanistan.
Locator - Latin America
Mexico's Push for Reforms
As anticipated, Mexico's ruling party -- the Institutional Revolutionary Party -- presented its tax and energy proposals to the public in the third quarter. While tax reform will likely pass in the coming months, reaching a conclusive agreement on the comparatively more controversial energy reform will likely extend into 2014. The leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party will unsuccessfully try to sink the bill, while the conservative National Action Party will condition its support on the passage of electoral reform.
Stratfor suggested in the annual forecast that the energy reform could result in the implementation of production-sharing agreements. According to the Institutional Revolutionary Party's proposal, profit-sharing, not production-sharing, agreements will be the middle-ground licensing scheme to balance the interests of more left-leaning elements within the party with those of the National Action Party, with which an alliance is necessary for approval.
Mexico will continue to see a fragmentation and reorganization of its major organized crime networks, particularly among the Zetas and the Gulf cartel, both of which have had top commanders killed or arrested in recent months. Stratfor originally forecast that the government would attempt to increase control over the local-level law enforcement bodies by implementing the so-called "Mando Unico," or "Unified Command," and by rolling out a new gendarmerie in 2013. Nationwide implementation of the Mando Unico is highly unlikely in the next three months. The rolling-out of the gendarmerie has been delayed and is unlikely to occur by the end of the year.
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Colombia Continues Talks with Rebels, Farmers
Neither a definitive peace deal nor a complete breakdown in the negotiations with Colombia's largest rebel group -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- is likely to occur by the end of the year. Negotiators may reach a deal on the second point of negotiation -- political participation -- but the rebels will continue to drag out the process as long as possible while continuing to attack energy infrastructure and the military in the periphery. The Colombian government will continue preparing to initiate formal peace talks with the country's second-largest rebel group -- the National Liberation Army -- though a breakthrough by the end of the year is unlikely.
In the previous quarter, we underestimated the momentum behind the Colombian agricultural producers' protests. The protests have moderated but could reappear in the final quarter if the government does not make good on its promises. The government will do everything in its power to reduce social unrest ahead of the legislative elections in March 2014 and the presidential elections in May 2014, but will not heed protesters' calls to reverse the recently implemented free trade agreements with the United States and European Union.
Venezuela Struggles with Economic Woes
The Maduro administration in Venezuela will spend the remainder of 2013 attempting to stabilize the country's dire economic situation and ameliorate persistent challenges such as food shortages, declining central bank reserves, limited access to foreign currency, crumbling infrastructure and high inflation. The government will make piecemeal adjustments to the economic system but will ultimately stop short of radically changing the direction of the economy.
One of these measures will be the development of yet another currency exchange system, the details of which will likely be announced by year's end. This mechanism will complement the Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange and Complementary System Administration of Foreign Exchange mechanisms already in place and attempt to allocate foreign exchange more effectively, at a more market-determined rate. Nevertheless, foreign exchange will remain scarce, and high inflation will persist.
With broad support in the National Assembly, President Nicolas Maduro may try to pass an enabling law by the end of the year, which will grant him extraordinary powers and the ability to pass decrees without the approval of the National Assembly. Even if Maduro decides to pass the controversial law, it will not free him from the fundamental political and economic constraints inherited from his predecessor.
Brazil Focuses on Economic Stability
Brazil's policymakers will spend the fourth quarter of 2013 focusing on the country's economy amid a turbulent global economic environment. The stewards of the Brazilian economy will attempt to prevent increasing inflation and currency fluctuations, even at the expense of economic growth. The Central Bank of Brazil will continue to intervene in the currency derivative markets where necessary to shore up the value of the real, especially so if the U.S. Federal Reserve begins its slow taper of quantitative easing, and will likely raise the benchmark interest rate if inflation remains high. The government may raise the price of subsidized fuel to ease pressures on state-controlled energy firm Petroleo Brasileiro.
In the fourth quarter, the Brazilian government will continue its efforts to attract investment into its energy and infrastructure sectors. The country will hold its long-anticipated auction of pre-salt hydrocarbon deposits Oct. 21. This is the first round of pre-salt licensing since the new regulatory framework was put into place and will serve as a litmus test for future investor interest. In late November, Brazil will hold its first auction of unconventional shale gas deposits onshore, and in December, the government will attempt to auction off its several road and rail concessions to improve its transportation infrastructure. While these auctions will continue to face bureaucratic hurdles and delays and could struggle to attract sufficient investor interest, they nonetheless bring the country one step closer to increasing energy production and decreasing the country's infrastructure deficit.
Argentina Faces Elections, Tough Economic Climate
Argentina will hold its midterm parliamentary elections Oct. 27, signaling an inflection point in the country's domestic politics. Due to the underwhelming performance of the ruling party in the August primaries, the prospect of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's Front for Victory party gaining the two-thirds majority needed to allow for Fernandez' re-election is now negligible. This legislative election will begin a two-year process culminating in the 2015 elections characterized by intense political maneuvering as both the Fernandez camp and opposition factions position themselves for the succession.
In the wake of the elections, with less urgency to keep growth up and prices down, the Argentine government will make minor adjustments to long-neglected economic issues to prevent an economic crisis from further damaging the president's legacy and the electoral chances of her successor. Nevertheless, Central Bank reserves will continue falling, the currency will remain distorted, monetary expansion will continue to fuel high inflation, and public spending will remain high.
Finally, the government will continue to negotiate with energy firms to stimulate investment in the sector and attempt to increase domestic production. Despite the Neuquen provincial legislature's approval of Chevron's $1.2 billion investment and a raft of financial incentives in August, the response from international energy firms has been and will continue to be lukewarm as a result of general wariness about the Argentine government's role in the economy and energy sector. Select deals could be signed, but a general reversal in investor sentiment on the Argentine market is unlikely in 2013.
Mercosur Changes Stall
In the annual and third quarter forecast, Stratfor posited both that Paraguay would rejoin Mercosur after the inauguration of now-President Horacio Cartes, and that Ecuador and Bolivia would become Mercosur's new members. While both trends are still developing, our timing appears to be off. Paraguay's re-entry has been approved by the customs union's full members, but the country has delayed re-entry. Because Paraguay still enjoys Mercosur's trade benefits, the urgency to rejoin as a full member was considerably less than we anticipated. Ecuador and Bolivia's progress toward Mercosur membership has been slower than predicted and is not likely to occur in 2013. In the fourth quarter, Brazil will continue its efforts to reach a trade agreement with the European Union. Brazil is expected to present to the rest of Mercosur a proposal for a Mercosur-EU trade agreement in October. Even if this is tactic is unsuccessful, Brazil will push Mercosur to make tariff reductions on raw materials to bring down industrial costs.
South Africa Manages Strikes Ahead of Elections
South Africa's ruling African National Congress will use the fourth quarter to build up its re-election campaign ahead of national elections scheduled for April 2014. The country will wrap up its strike season with wage agreements in the mining sector (no agreement has been reached for coal miners as of yet) and other industrial sectors. There may be a brief strike or two in the early weeks of the quarter, but these will be manageable. The government will use wage agreements that balance labor and private industry interests to show voters it is the best-qualified political manager of the country's economy. Political rhetoric by South African opposition parties will attempt to portray the African National Congress as failing to fulfill socioeconomic expectations, but the ruling party will counter these claims as insubstantial and coming from narrow elite interests.
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Nigeria Prepares for Party Primary Elections
Nigeria will see heightened political rhetoric geared toward political party leadership primaries to be held next year. The ruling People's Democratic Party will likely hold its primary in December 2014 ahead of national elections in April 2015, but political frictions and campaigning will commence well ahead of those dates. The political future of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan will be at the center of the political debate as rifts within the ruling party persist in the fourth quarter. To avoid losing political influence, Jonathan will conduct a campaign as if he is running for re-election. Although he will not formally announce his candidacy, he will promote his right to stand for re-election. Jonathan will also be hesitant to push through controversial legislation, notably the Petroleum Industry Bill, as he seeks to avoid further opposition to his administration.
The political debate will extend into the militant sphere, as politically motivated violence continues unabated in the oil-producing Niger Delta region and in northern Nigeria. Neither the Niger Delta militants nor Boko Haram militants operating in the north are expected to launch attacks outside of their core areas of operation.
Mozambique Anticipates Violence Ahead of Vote
Mozambique also will see a rise in political agitation and low-level violence ahead of national elections, which are scheduled for October 2014. The ruling Mozambique Liberation Front party faces an emerging challenge to its authority because of the recent development of significant natural resources -- coal and natural gas -- in territory controlled by the opposition Mozambique National Resistance party. The government wants to profit from these resources through definitive investment decisions, especially by international energy companies in the offshore natural gas sector, which will be made during the fourth quarter. Although violence will be infrequent, popular agitation including protests stirred up by the Mozambique National Resistance will lead the ruling party to begin adjusting its unilateral decision-making style to include opposition concerns and inclusion in government decision-making and spending.
East Africa Focuses on Infrastructure
East African countries will advance plans for infrastructure projects that facilitate greater economic integration. Because of the amount of capital required and the length of time it takes to rehabilitate and construct new infrastructure ranging from ports to rail to roads, planning for projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will advance, but the projects will remain in early stages of development. Greater regional coordination will lead the "northern corridor" from Kenya's port at Mombasa to the Great Lakes region to see more advanced planning and development than the "southern corridor" linking Tanzania's ports at Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo with central Africa.
A Relative Calm in Mali
Mali will see a calmer security situation in the final quarter of the year. Considerable foreign political, economic and security support will continue during the quarter and beyond, as will governance consultations within Mali among ethnic groups. Jihadists in Mali will not be able to unite into a strategic threat, though surviving members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb could still carry out infrequent attacks in the Sahel and Maghreb regions.
Sudan, South Sudan Reach an Understanding
Sudan and South Sudan will maintain cautious cooperation with each other as crude oil drilled in South Sudan is exported via Sudanese pipelines. There will be an attempt in the fourth quarter to resolve the issue of sovereignty over the disputed Abyei region, with a possible referendum in Abyei as early as October. Sudan will try to retain influence over the region, and especially its oil revenues, through efforts to inflate the population of pro-Sudanese voters in the region and through Abyei's longer-term dependence on pipelines running through Sudan.
Operations Against al Shabaab Continue in Somalia
In Somalia, Kenyan and African Union peacekeepers will increase their efforts to degrade the capabilities of al Shabaab militants. Kenyan and other African military forces in Somalia, supported by foreign intelligence providers, will try to hunt down al Shabaab leader Abdi Ahmed Godane following Godane's likely instigation of the September attack on Kenya's Westgate shopping mall. Al Shabaab could attempt guerrilla attacks on soft targets in Somalia this quarter, but will mostly avoid large-scale confrontations to try to preserve its leadership and fighting capabilities.
Jude Wanniski from 1995
Reply #442 on:
October 01, 2013, 07:02:35 PM »
Third post of the day:
I'm really laying on a heavy reading load in this thread today!
Jude Wanniski is the extraordinary supply side economist who wrote "The Way the World Works", a book which influenced not only me greatly but was also called by the WSJ, where he wrote during the heyday of its editorial page in the 80s and 90s, as "one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century". Unfortunately towards the end of his life (2005?) he veered towards crackpottery, anti-semitism, and was a propagandist for Saddam Hussein in the run up to his overthrow. Nonetheless his earlier writings, which were untainted by such nonsense, retain their value.
August 24, 1995
AN AMERICAN EMPIRE
By Jude Wanniski
The end of the Cold War in 1991 marked not only the end of the Soviet experiment in communism, but also the dawn of a unique epoch in the history of civilization. For the first time since all of humankind lived in the Garden of Eden, there is now only one nation alone on earth that clearly sits atop the global pyramid of power. Throughout the history of the world, there have always been several national experiments in political economy underway at the same time. Even at the peak of the Roman Empire`s dominance of its portion of the civilized world, other empires thrived in Asia, Africa and in the western hemisphere. In a quest for an ideal, each was experiencing a variant form of governance, testing separate evolutions of social, cultural and economic organization. In the Pax Britannica of the 19th century, England was the dominant imperial power in its realm, on which the sun never set. Neither the United States nor Russia were under its sway, however. The U.S. was engaged in its own experiment in political economy, while czarist Russia was still attempting to make dynastic capitalism work.
These trial-and-error strivings for perfection continue today around the planet, but for the moment the United States alone dominates the entire world`s experimentation in organization. Without exception, every nation-state looks up to the United States as the undisputed leader in history`s long march. Each wishes to know what we have in mind. How shall we proceed to organize ourselves in this new American empire? What is the nature of the new world order that accompanies the first singular leader in all of history? How shall we go about determining the limitations on our powers and the extent of our responsibilities? The questions are different than any we have ever encountered, requiring that our people think about the world differently than we ever have before. There is no historic guidebook to help us at this frontier of boundless opportunity. All the rules have been written for a world of adversarial divisions. This means we must think through with extraordinary care the steps we take and the paths we choose. Major missteps can only mean we will lose this preeminence and find new power pyramids forming to challenge our leadership. To avoid that possible occurrence, we might first do well to think through where we have been.
At the start of the 20th century, the newer democratic structures of the United Kingdom, France and the United States were still in competition with the dynastic forms that had prevailed throughout the history of civilization, chiefly in the Austro-Hungarian empire, Russia, China and Japan. The First World War essentially ended dynastic rule as a serious competitor to democratic rule. The world was left with three major forms of democracy, according to its broadest definition -- a system that theoretically allows any citizen, including those of the lowest birth, to rise to political leadership of the nation. In other words, leadership emerging from the common pool. Prior to the industrial revolution that began in the 18th century, there were never sufficient resources to educate entire populations from birth in preparation for leadership. The masses permitted themselves to be taxed in order to finance the educations of a small elite, who would be able to guide them through adversity. This pattern was broken with the French Revolution, coincident with popular rebellion against the use of the increased national wealth to finance a leisure class instead of relevant political leadership. As more national wealth was freed to educate a larger share of the population, the selection pool for political leadership was broadened. In the West, religious leadership was drawn from the common pool beginning with Moses, a man of ordinary birth who by a quirk of fate was educated by the dynastic elite to where he could liberate his people. With the birth of Christ, the masses demonstrated that from among them a spiritual messiah could arise without the help of a dynastic elite.
From the French Revolution through the 19th century, there was an acceleration of the process, by which the selection pool for leadership positions in all aspects of society was broadened. Ordinary people demonstrated a willingness to die in battle in order to preserve the gains of this expansion of democracy. At the armistice of WWI, the United States found itself atop one of the three power pyramids, representing the nations considered the capitalist democracies. The Soviet Union emerged as the leader of the socialist democracies. Germany emerged as the leader of the fascist democracies. The term democracy seems discordant when linked with socialism and fascism, because we equate democracy with competitive elections in multi-party systems. Yet socialist and fascist democracies draw their leadership from the broad, common pool. The difference is that their competitive elections occur in one-party systems, with individuals advancing up the ranks as they do in corporate democracies. Alas, except where mandatory retirement rules are observed, such corporate democrats who rise to the top tend to stay there until removed by death or force of arms. WWI was supposed to be the war that would end all wars, making the world safe for democracy. The assumption was that democracies would always find ways to settle their national differences with peaceful instruments. The Wilsonian concept of a League of Nations, which embodied that ideal, obviously assumed too much. Our own democracy almost did not survive the differences, north and south, on the slavery question.
The three power pyramids were unable to contain their differences and were driven to the use of force, first in World War II, in which the capitalist and socialist powers teamed to defeat the fascist. This left the two remaining power pyramids to compete. The coincident discovery of the atomic bomb in the United States -- led by émigrés from the fascist states -- changed the history of warfare, making it impossible for the two remaining power blocs to settle their differences through direct confrontation. In the Cold War, so named to distinguish this new form of global antagonism, lower levels of force were used in the battlefields of Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan as well as in lesser skirmishes in Africa and South America. The Cold War ended with the economic exhaustion of the socialist democracies. Gueorgui Markossov, who was political counselor of the Soviet Embassy in Washington as the Cold War came to an end, believes the single event that most discouraged his superiors in Moscow was their observation that even as the U.S. budget deficit was rising during the Reagan arms buildup, taxes had been cut and interest rates were falling. "It seemed like magic," says Markossov, now an official with the International Monetary Fund in Washington.
With this triumph, the United States and its style of democratic capitalism now extends its reach, its example and its influence to every corner of the planet, without any apparent threat to its national security. Our ever-vigilant national security watchdogs continue to imagine potential military threats, but in each instance these appear to be relatively trivial residual problems of the Cold War. Having faced down a Soviet menace of 10,000 nuclear warheads, our military leaders are not really worried about a bomb being acquired by a North Korea or Iran or some other straggler from the Cold War chess games. The chief reason Americans admire General Colin Powell, I think, is that he understands these pipsqueak adversaries will not use weapons of mass destruction against us unless we try to annihilate them. It was this wisdom that led Powell to call off the "turkey shoot" in Iraq, refusing to heed the urgings of our most ferocious hawks that we mow down Saddam Hussein`s Republican Guard, capture Baghdad and destroy Saddam himself.
It was enough that we demonstrate a willingness to shed American blood to end Iraq`s aggression against its neighbors, once it became clear that Iraq`s neighbors themselves were prepared to shed the blood of their children to halt the aggression. If President George Bush had rejected General Powell`s advice, we might well have achieved our objectives with small additional loss of American lives. The lesson would have been double-edged, however. Observing the awesome, unforgiving might of the United States, every little country in the world would have been forced to think about acquiring a weapon of mass destruction, with which to threaten an America bent on annihilation of their leaders and armed forces in similar circumstances. Just as we understood in the Cold War that our weakness could be provocative to an adventurous and expansive USSR, every nation-state would be alarmed by an American government that displayed carelessness in its use of force. If our own citizens reacted violently against our federal government, following Waco and Ruby Ridge, why should we expect foreigners to exercise restraint? A bullying Uncle Sam invites private militias at home and defensive secret weapons projects abroad.
The concept of empire throughout history has had at its core a central authority`s protection of a diversity of people. Empires were always meant to embrace and harmonize myriad cultures, religions, ethnicities, languages. Smaller and weaker groupings of people willingly submit to a central authority if the advantages of membership outweigh the costs. The just application of a protective cloak is paramount in such relationships and remains so today. The Soviet Union, the "Evil Empire," as President Reagan termed it in 1982, began with an idyllic vision of harmony and diversity, in a communal dictatorship of the proletariat. Its decline and fall resulted from the central authority`s ascending taxation of individual freedoms even as collective benefits steadily declined. On the other hand, since its unconditional surrender in August 1945, Japan has been relatively comfortable under the protective cloak of the American imperium. There are inevitable frictions having to do with commercial engagements and burden sharing. At times these seem to strain to the breaking point, especially as our government tests Tokyo`s submissiveness. Invariably, though, the Japanese people to this point have been satisfied with the justice available in our imperium. It was our government that backed down earlier this year in our latest trade confrontation, when Tokyo refused to dictate our terms to their auto industry. In addition, their own democracy is transparent enough to persuade us that there is no hidden intent in Japan to develop weapons of mass destruction.
For the American Empire to succeed in producing a Pax Americana in the 21st century, we must first recognize that a posture appropriate in a world at war is inappropriate in a world at peace. In the past half century of Cold War, diplomacy was always an important adjunct to our military might. In reorganizing our thoughts for this unique epoch, it is military might that must play the ancillary role to that of creative diplomacy. Japan, for example, has less reason to bend to our will for military considerations. For that matter, so does the rest of the world. The considerations are now more subtle, having to do with the trust we can command in managing the peace. The face the United States presents to the entire world should be smiling, open, generous rather than glowering, dark, and threatening. (Father is in the background, ready to discipline if necessary; Mother is in the foreground, offering to teach.) House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is struggling to find his way in this direction, refers to himself as a "cheap hawk." Jack Kemp, another global optimist, says he is a "heavily armed dove." Yet neither has really broken from the Cold War perspective that has shaped their political careers. They are still quick to rattle sabers and the B-2 flying brontosaurus. This widespread perspective is not satisfied that U.S. spending on national defense is greater than the rest of the world combined. Old habits die hard.
Future of the nation state in question
Reply #443 on:
October 13, 2013, 10:37:30 AM »
Pasting here Big Dog's post from Rants and Interesting Thought Pieces.
From the article:
One scenario, “Nonstate World,” imagined a planet in which urbanization, technology and capital accumulation had brought about a landscape where governments had given up on real reforms and had subcontracted many responsibilities to outside parties, which then set up enclaves operating under their own laws.
The imagined date for the report’s scenarios is 2030, but at least for “Nonstate World,” it might as well be 2010: though most of us might not realize it, “nonstate world” describes much of how global society already operates. This isn’t to say that states have disappeared, or will. But they are becoming just one form of governance among many.
In a similar vein note Michael Yon's predictions for Afghanistan http://www.michaelyon-online.com/afghanistan-a-bigger-monster.htm#comments
China calls for De-Americanized world
Reply #444 on:
October 13, 2013, 08:23:09 PM »
Re: China calls for De-Americanized world
Reply #445 on:
October 13, 2013, 08:37:28 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on October 13, 2013, 08:23:09 PM
Obama is doing it as fast as he can.
VDH: America is intervened out
Reply #446 on:
October 20, 2013, 11:27:12 AM »
I recommend serious attention be given to this piece; it articulates many of the very points that led me to start this thread:
In the immediate future, I do not think the United States will be intervening abroad on the ground — not in the Middle East or, for that matter, many places in other parts of the world. The reason is not just a new Republican isolationism, or the strange but growing alliance between left-wing pacifists and right-wing libertarians.
Some of the new reluctance to intervene abroad is due to disillusionment with Iraq and Afghanistan, at least in the sense that the means — a terrible cost of American blood and treasure — do not seem yet to be justified by the ends of the current Maliki and Karzai governments. Few Americans are patient enough to hear arguments that a residual force in Iraq would have preserved our victory there (Marc: A key point of mine!!!) or that Afghanistan need not revert to the Taliban next year. Their attitude to the Obama administration’s unfortunate abdication of both theaters is mostly, “I am unhappy that we look weak getting out, but nonetheless happier that we are getting out.”
There is not much optimism left that either of those two nations will, over the coming decades, evolve along the lines of South Korea, from a stable free-market authoritarianism to true consensual government. Endemic ingratitude also seems to matter to the public. Most Americans don’t feel that either Iraqis or Afghans appreciated us very much for ridding them of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban. For that matter, do Egyptians, Jordanians, or Palestinians seem thankful for U.S. aid?
We are broke and owe $17 trillion in long-term debt, which makes it harder, psychologically, to borrow the money to intervene in Syria. The lack of money, like mental exhaustion and ingratitude, is an additional catalyst for inaction. Obama certainly is not just an isolationist who welcomes a U.S. recessional; he is also an isolationist who understands that his do-nothing policy is not all that unpopular with a broke and underemployed public.
The American people do not worry so much now over the traditional Western interests in the Middle East as they did in the past. China is now the largest importer of Middle Eastern oil. It pays almost nothing for the safe commercial environment of the Persian Gulf ensured by the U.S. military. If North America proves to be energy-independent by 2020, the U.S. will be largely immune from embargoes and boycotts. OPEC in general, and its Arab franchises in particular, are no longer so critical to the security of the United States. It is becoming an untenable situation when a democratic United States continues to keep safe the sea-lanes of the autocratic and sometimes anti-American Persian Gulf to ensure oil for an autocratic and sometimes anti-American China. That does not mean that the oil-rich Persian Gulf will not be vitally important to the world at large, or of strategic interest to our rivals and enemies — only that it will be more difficult to invest U.S resources in the Middle East with the traditional urgency.
Mediterranean Europe is a mess, largely because of the fiscal imbalances brought on by the euro. Amid financial collapse, Greece and Cyprus increasingly look to Israel and Russia to counter Turkey in lieu of the old, engaged United States. In any case, Athens, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul, and Tripoli don’t seem to be centers of innovation or wealth creation. For that matter, almost the entire rim of the Mediterranean, with the exception of Israel, is stagnating.
Other than Israel, and NATO members Greece and Turkey, we have almost no allies in the region. Note in that regard that Greece is bankrupt and still conspiracist and anti-American, and Turkey is increasingly Islamist.
But more important, the removal of tyrants so far has not led to much social, economic, or political improvement, much less an upswing in pro-American sentiment. Egypt and Libya are as bad off after the demise of their tyrants as they were before. Assad’s opponents don’t seem all that much better than the monster in Damascus. Maliki, once freed of U.S. overseers, increasingly reverts to tribal politics. Afghanistan may go the way of Vietnam once we leave. Successful nation-building requires a sizable and long-term U.S. ground presence, something apparently politically toxic for the foreseeable future.
The threat of a rival global hegemon in the Middle East like the Soviet Union is gone. China seems unable so far to craft regional power over its oil suppliers. Al-Qaeda is ascendant, but it is hard to know whether it thrives better under dictators who stealthily pay it subsidies to direct its violence westward, or under the tribal postwar chaos that follows the Western-inspired downfall of tyrants.
The U.S. has kept out of Syria, not because we suddenly became isolationist, but rather because Obama had not a clue about what he was doing, and by 2013 there are fewer U.S. strategic interests in the region, at least in comparison with other areas of the world. Those that remain — maintaining Israel’s safety and the sanctity of the Suez Canal, forestalling Iranian nuclear proliferation, protecting Europe’s southern strategic flank — don’t seem to require ground intervention as much as traditional sea and air patrolling. If the borders of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union changed without a major American intervention other than in the Balkans, then few Americans believe that the current upheaval over colonial-era demarcation lines in the Middle East demands our stewardship. Intervening in Libya and considering it in Syria more likely hindered rather than enhanced U.S. readiness to preempt a nuclear Iran.
A similar diffidence seems to be occurring with respect to Latin America — an area, we are always lectured, that is on the verge of becoming the new regional powerhouse. Argentina is a basket case. The “new era” of democratization and free-market economics seems undermined by statist authoritarians in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Brazil and Argentina often sound as anti-American as our worst enemies — and in the Age of Obama, no less. If Mexico were in the Middle East, its level of violence would earn calls for U.S. humanitarian intervention in the manner of Libya and Syria.
Of course, much of Latin America’s hostility to the United States is just loud talk, given its growing cultural and commercial ties with the U.S. and its bizarre need to export millions of its people to a country it so publicly rebukes — as if to say, “I hate you so much that I’ve sent you my children to care for.” In general, the American people do not see any crisis in Latin America that warrants intervention. We mostly declaim that we want good will and prosperity, while privately we hope that Mexico refrains from sending another 15 million of its unwanted citizens illegally across our border.
In truth, our vital interests seem confined to two areas: Europe and East Asia. The EU can survive without the euro’s being used in all its participant countries. And to the degree it cannot, NATO, the fact of a nuclear France and Britain, and German commercial self-interest all ensure a continued peace within the continent, and not much worry about invasion from the south or east.
What America should be concerned about is the ascendance of China in the neighborhood of our close allies Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan, and to a lesser extent the countries of Southeast Asia. Yet the U.S. already has a sizable presence in the Pacific, and Obama has promised to augment it. We should be concerned that our key allies — should they doubt this administration’s adherence to past commitments (a legitimate concern) — could easily become nuclear, and in a frighteningly rapid and effective manner. In any case, in times of regional crisis, other than at the 38th parallel, our allies and interests can largely be defended by air and sea. There seems little likelihood in the immediate future of a Pacific war fought along the lines of Vietnam.
Terror is still with us. Tomorrow terrorists could topple a U.S. skyscraper or bring down American airliners. This kind of aggression would trigger a U.S. response, but even such an act would probably not result in another Afghanistan-like invasion. A sustained bombing campaign would probably suffice, not because it would necessarily be more effective than boots on the ground, but because there is less evidence these days that a ground insertion would be all that much more useful in the long term.
There will be more Rwandas, Srebrenicas, and Syrias in the immediate future, along with more calls to do something — and fewer American interventions in response. That reluctance is not necessarily because we are broke, tired, isolationist, or indifferent to moral concerns, although we are becoming all of that. Rather, Americans are not sure that we have the security interests we once had in the Middle East and elsewhere, and our elites do not have the wisdom to explain how our projected aims, methodologies, and desired results will improve life for the supposed beneficiaries of limited U.S. intercessions. In short, the more humanitarian crises develop, the less we are convinced that we could make things better by intervening — or, even if we could, that those whom we thought we were helping would actually believe that we did.
Implications of changes in military technology
Reply #447 on:
October 23, 2013, 04:58:40 PM »
Hat tip to Big Dog, pasting this here from the Drones thread.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #448 on:
October 23, 2013, 05:05:08 PM »
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Man in the White House
Posted By Robert Spencer On October 23, 2013
When the State Department announced early in October that it was cutting hundreds of millions in military and other aid to Egypt, it was yet another manifestation of Barack Obama’s unstinting support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a support that has already thrown Egypt back into the Russian orbit. The aid cut was essentially giving the Egyptian people a choice between Muslim Brotherhood rule and economic collapse. Nothing else could have been expected from Obama, who has been a Brotherhood man from the beginning.
Obama’s support for the Brotherhood goes back to the beginning of his presidency. He even invited Ingrid Mattson, then-president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), to offer a prayer at the National Cathedral on his first Inauguration Day – despite the fact that ISNA has admitted its ties to the Brotherhood. The previous summer, federal prosecutors rejected a request from ISNA to remove its unindicted co-conspirator status. Obama didn’t ask Mattson to explain ISNA’s links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. On the contrary: he sent his Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to be the keynote speaker at ISNA’s national convention in 2009.
Even worse, in April 2009, Obama appointed Arif Alikhan, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development at the Department of Homeland Security. Just two weeks before he received this appointment, Alikhan (who once called the jihad terror group Hizballah a “liberation movement”) participated in a fundraiser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Like ISNA, MPAC has links to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a book entitled In Fraternity: A Message to Muslims in America, coauthor Hassan Hathout, a former MPAC president, is identified as “a close disciple of the late Hassan al-Banna of Egypt.” The MPAC-linked magazine The Minaret spoke of Hassan Hathout’s closeness to al-Banna in a 1997 article: “My father would tell me that Hassan Hathout was a companion of Hassan al-Banna….Hassan Hathout would speak of al-Banna with such love and adoration; he would speak of a relationship not guided by politics or law but by a basic sense of human decency.”
Al-Banna, of course, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an admirer of Hitler and a leader of the movement to (in his words) “push the Jews into the sea.”
Terror researcher Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project has documented MPAC’s indefatigable and consistent opposition to virtually every domestic anti-terror initiative; its magazine The Minaret has dismissed key counterterror operations as part of “[t]he American crusade against Islam and Muslims.” For his part, while Alikhan was deputy mayor of Los Angeles, he blocked a Los Angeles Police Department project to assemble data about the ethnic makeup of mosques in the Los Angeles area. This was not an attempt to conduct surveillance of the mosques or monitor them in any way. LAPD Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing explained that it was actually an outreach program: “We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.” But Alikhan and other Muslim leaders claimed that the project manifested racism and “Islamophobia,” and the LAPD ultimately discarded all plans to study the mosques.
And early in 2009, when the Muslim Brotherhood was still outlawed in Egypt, Obama met with its leaders. He made sure to invite Brotherhood leaders to attend his notorious speech to the Islamic world in Cairo in June 4, 2009, making it impossible for then-President Hosni Mubarak to attend the speech, since he would not appear with the leaders of the outlawed group.
Then on January 31, 2011, when the Mubarak regime was on the verge of falling in the Arab Spring uprising, a former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, met secretly in Cairo with Issam El-Erian, a senior Brotherhood leader. That meeting came a week after a Mubarak government official announced the regime’s suspicions that Brotherhood and other opposition leaders were coordinating the Egyptian uprising with the Obama State Department.
Early in February, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, tried to allay concerns about a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt by claiming, preposterously, that the group was “largely secular.” Although the subsequent torrent of ridicule compelled the Obama camp to issue a correction, the subtext of Clapper’s statement was clear: the Obama Administration had no problem with Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, and was not only going to do nothing to stop it, but was going actively to enable it.
And so in June 2011, the Administration announced that it was going to establish formal ties with the Brotherhood. The U.S.’s special coordinator for transitions in the Middle East, William Taylor, announced in November 2011 that the U.S. would be “satisfied” with a Muslim Brotherhood victory in the Egyptian elections. In January 2012, Obama announced that he was speeding up the delivery of aid to Egypt, just as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns held talks with Brotherhood leaders – a move apparently calculated to demoralize the Brotherhood’s opposition in the Egyptian elections.
Not surprisingly, when Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was declared the winner of Egypt’s 2012 presidential election, Obama immediately called Morsi to congratulate him. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hurried to Cairo to meet with Morsi in July 2012, as anti-Brotherhood protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy complex there. The Obama administration’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had been so glaringly obvious that foes of the Brotherhood regime pelted her motorcade with tomatoes and shoes for delivering that country up to the rule of the Brotherhood. Protestors held signs reading “Message to Hillary: Egypt will never be Pakistan”; “To Hillary: Hamas will never rule Egypt” and “If you like the Ikhwan [Brotherhood], take them with you!”
Obama invited Morsi to visit the U.S., although by September 2012, when Morsi had called for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the 1993 World Trade Center jihad attack plotter, as well as for restrictions on the freedom of speech, and persecution of Egyptian Christians had increased dramatically, Obama quietly canceled the proposed meeting.
Meanwhile, Obama’s foreign policy displayed a decided pro-Brotherhood orientation. Former U.S. prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has listed a great many strange collaborations between Obama’s State Department and Muslim Brotherhood organizations, including:
• Secretary Clinton personally intervened to reverse a Bush-administration ruling that barred Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Brotherhood’s founder and son of one of its most influential early leaders, from entering the United States.
• The State Department collaborated with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of governments heavily influenced by the Brotherhood, in seeking to restrict American free-speech rights in deference to sharia proscriptions against negative criticism of Islam.
• The State Department excluded Israel, the world’s leading target of terrorism, from its “Global Counterterrorism Forum,” a group that brings the United States together with several Islamist governments, prominently including its co-chair, Turkey — which now finances Hamas and avidly supports the flotillas that seek to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas. At the forum’s kickoff, Secretary Clinton decried various terrorist attacks and groups; but she did not mention Hamas or attacks against Israel — in transparent deference to the Islamist governments, which echo the Brotherhood’s position that Hamas is not a terrorist organization and that attacks against Israel are not terrorism.
• The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer $1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the parliamentary elections.
• The State Department and the Obama administration waived congressional restrictions in order to transfer millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian territories notwithstanding that Gaza is ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
• The State Department and the administration hosted a contingent from Egypt’s newly elected parliament that included not only Muslim Brotherhood members but a member of the Islamic Group (Gamaa al-Islamiyya), which is formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The State Department refused to provide Americans with information about the process by which it issued a visa to a member of a designated terrorist organization, about how the members of the Egyptian delegation were selected, or about what security procedures were followed before the delegation was allowed to enter our country.
Once in power in Egypt, the Brotherhood government drafted a new constitution, enshrining Islamic law as the highest law of the land, restricting the freedom of speech and denying equality of rights for women. The Associated Press reported that the constitution reflected the “vision of the Islamists, with articles that rights activists, liberals and Christians fear will lead to restrictions on the rights of women and minorities and civil liberties in general.”
AP reported that the constitution’s wording gave the Muslim Brotherhood “the tool for insisting on stricter implementation of rulings of Shariah,” and that “a new article states that Egypt’s most respected Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, must be consulted on any matters related to Shariah, a measure critics fear will lead to oversight of legislation by clerics.”
Cairo’s Al-Azhar is the foremost exponent of Sunni orthodoxy. Its characterization of what constitutes that orthodoxy carries immense weight in the Islamic world. It hews to age-old formulations of Islamic law mandating second-class dhimmi status for non-Muslims, institutionalized discrimination against women, and sharp restrictions on the freedom of speech, particularly in regard to Islam. Al-Azhar’s having a role in the government of Egypt and its administration of Sharia meant the end of any remaining freedom in Egyptian society.
While forcing this constitution on Egyptians, the Morsi regime became increasingly brutal toward dissenters. In a move reminiscent of Communist governments, the Brotherhood regime had opposition leaders investigated for high treason. Morsi even tried to arrogate dictatorial powers for himself, although he backed off after protests. Huge crowds came out to protest against the Morsi regime – a clear indication that if Obama had backed the Brotherhood because he thought it represented the popular will of the vast majority of Egyptians, he was dead wrong. Yet as all this was happening, Hillary Clinton demonstrated how out of touch the Obama Administration was with what was really happening in Egypt when she said, according to Fox News, that “the U.S. must work with the international community and the people in Egypt to ensure that the revolution isn’t hijacked by extremists.”
The Arab Spring “revolution” was “hijacked by extremists” as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood regime took power. Yet as the turmoil in Egypt increased, Obama responded not by admonishing the Muslim Brotherhood regime to respect the human rights of all its citizens, but by shipping over twenty F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, as part of an aid package amounting to over a billion dollars. A Republican congressional aide noted at the time that “the Morsi-led Muslim Brotherhood government has not proven to be a partner for democracy as they had promised, given the recent attempted power grab.” The Obama Administration responded by downplaying the significance of the Brotherhood’s increasing authoritarianism, speaking blandly about “Egypt’s democratic transition and the need to move forward with a peaceful and inclusive transition that respects the rights of all Egyptians.”
It was no surprise last summer, then, when millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against the Brotherhood regime and it was suddenly and unexpectedly toppled from power, that numerous anti-Brotherhood protesters held signs accusing Obama of supporting terrorists. One foe of the Brotherhood made a music video including the lyrics: “Hey Obama, support the terrorism/Traitor like the Brotherhood members/Obama say it’s a coup/That’s not your business dirty man.” A protestor in Tahrir Square held up a sign saying, “Obama you jerk, Muslim Brotherhoods are killing the Egyptians.” Signs like that one became commonplace at anti-Morsi protests; another read, “Hey Obama, your bitch is our dictator.”
Yet as the anti-Muslim Brotherhood riots reached their peak, Obama responded by sending a group of American soldiers to Egypt to help with riot control.
As an Egyptian newspaper crowed about the influence of Muslim Brotherhood operatives within the Obama Administration, it was no surprise that Obama would want them in power in Egypt as well. By cutting off aid in October 2013, he was strong-arming the Egyptians until they would have no choice but to agree – or turn to the Russians, as Egypt’s military regime has recently said it might do. Egypt has been an American ally, but is now returning to the sphere of influence of a resurgent Russia – thanks to Barack Obama’s uncritical support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt, albeit imperfect, was a reliable and pivotal ally of the U.S. in the Middle East for three decades. With the Camp David Accords it kept an uneasy but unmistakable peace with Israel, while the Sadat and Mubarak regimes kept a lid on the Brotherhood and Salafist forces that were clamoring for Egypt to declare a new jihad against the Jewish State. Egypt’s unwillingness to go to war with Israel during that period stymied the anti-Israel bloodlust in neighboring Muslim countries as well, for Egypt’s size, position, and history give it a unique stature in the Islamic world.
All that is gone now. Egypt is on the way to renewing its alliance with Russia, which led it to mount two wars against Israel, in 1967 and 1973. Obama has alienated America’s allies and emboldened her enemies, all in a vain attempt to appease a group that was never going to be a friend of the U.S. in the first place. If he didn’t have so many other blots on his record, this could be the most dangerous aspect of his legacy.
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Stratfor: US Foregin Policy from the Founding Fathers Perspective
Reply #449 on:
October 26, 2013, 09:32:37 AM »
US foreign policy from the founders’ perspective
How does Thomas Jefferson's principle of neutrality guide the United States now?
George Friedman | 24 October 2013
comment 7 | print |
Last week I discussed how the Founding Fathers might view the American debt crisis and the government shutdown. This week I thought it would be useful to consider how the founders might view foreign policy. I argued that on domestic policy they had clear principles, but unlike their ideology, those principles were never mechanistic or inflexible. For them, principles dictated that a gentleman pays his debts and does not casually increase his debts, the constitutional provision that debt is sometimes necessary notwithstanding. They feared excessive debt and abhorred nonpayment, but their principles were never completely rigid.
Whenever there is a discussion of the guidelines laid down by the founders for American foreign policy, Thomas Jefferson's admonition to avoid foreign entanglements and alliances is seen as the founding principle. That seems reasonable to me inasmuch as George Washington expressed a similar sentiment. So while there were some who favored France over Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars, the main thrust of American foreign policy was neutrality. The question is: How does this principle guide the United States now?
A Matter of Practicality
Like all good principles, Jefferson's call for avoiding foreign entanglements derived from practicality. The United States was weak. It depended heavily on exports, particularly on exports to Britain. Its navy could not guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, which were in British hands and were contested by the French. Siding with the French against the British would have wrecked the American economy and would have invited a second war with Britain. On the other hand, overcommitting to Britain would have essentially returned the United States to a British dependency.
Avoiding foreign entanglements was a good principle when there were no other attractive strategies. Nonetheless, it was Jefferson himself who engineered a major intrusion into European affairs with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. Initially, Jefferson did not intend to purchase the entire territory. He wanted to own New Orleans, which had traded hands between Spain and France and which was the essential port for access between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri river system. Jefferson sensed that Napoleon would sell New Orleans to finance his war in Europe, but he was surprised when Napoleon countered with an offer to sell all of France's North American holdings for $15 million. This would change the balance of power in North America by blocking potential British ambitions, opening the Gulf route to the Atlantic to the United States and providing the cash France needed to wage wars.
At the time, this was not a major action in the raging Napoleonic Wars. However, it was not an action consistent with the principle of avoiding entanglement. The transaction held the risk of embroiling the United States in the Napoleonic Wars, depending on how the British reacted. In fact, a decade later, after Napoleon was defeated, the British did turn on the United States, first by interfering with American shipping and then, when the Americans responded, by waging war in 1812, burning Washington and trying to seize New Orleans after the war officially ended.
Jefferson undertook actions that entangled the United States in the affairs of others and in dangers he may not have anticipated -- one of the major reasons for avoiding foreign entanglements in the first place. And he did this against his own principles.
The reason was simple: Given the events in Europe, a unique opportunity presented itself to seize the heartland of the North American continent. The opportunity would redefine the United States. It carried with it risks. But the rewards were so great that the risks had to be endured. Avoiding foreign entanglements was a principle. It was not an ideological absolute.
Jefferson realized that the United States already was involved in Europe's affairs by virtue of its existence. When the Napoleonic Wars ended, France or Britain would have held Louisiana, and the United States would have faced threats east from the Atlantic and west from the rest of the continent. Under these circumstances, it would struggle to survive. Therefore, being entangled already, Jefferson acted to minimize the danger.
This is a very different view of Jefferson's statement on avoiding foreign entanglements than has sometimes been given. As a principle, steering clear of foreign entanglements is desirable. But the decision on whether there will be an entanglement is not the United States' alone. Geographic realities and other nations' foreign policies can implicate a country in affairs it would rather avoid. Jefferson understood that the United States could not simply ignore the world. The world got a vote. But the principle that excessive entanglement should be avoided was for him a guiding principle. Given the uproar over his decision, both on constitutional and prudential grounds, not everyone agreed that Jefferson was faithful to his principle. Looking back, however, it was prudent.
The Illusion of Isolationism
The U.S. government has wrestled with this problem since World War I. The United States intervened in the war a few weeks after the Russian czar abdicated and after the Germans began fighting the neutral countries. The United States could not to lose access to the Atlantic, and if Russia withdrew from the war, then Germany could concentrate on its west. A victory there would have left Germany in control of both Russian resources and French industry. That would have created a threat to the United States. It tried to stay neutral, then was forced to make a decision of how much risk it could bear. The United States opted for war.
Isolationists in World War II argued against involvement in Europe (they were far more open to blocking the Japanese in China). But the argument rested on the assumption that Germany would be blocked by the Soviets and the French. The alliance with the Soviets and, more important, the collapse of France and the invasion of the Soviet Union, left a very different calculation. In its most extreme form, a Soviet defeat and a new Berlin-friendly government in Britain could have left the Germans vastly more powerful than the United States. And with the French, British and German fleets combined, such an alliance could have also threatened U.S. control of the Atlantic at a time when the Japanese controlled the western Pacific.
A similar problem presented itself during the Cold War. In this case, the United States did not trust the European balance of power to contain the Soviet Union. That balance of power had failed twice, leading to alliances that brought the United States into the affairs of others. The United States calculated that early entanglements were less risky than later entanglements. This calculation seemed to violate the Jeffersonian principle, but in fact, as with Louisiana, it was prudent action within the framework of the Jeffersonian principle.
NATO appeared to some to be a violation of the founders' view of a prudent foreign policy. I think this misinterprets the meaning of Jefferson's and Washington's statements. Avoiding entanglements and alliances is a principle worth considering, but not to the point of allowing it to threaten the national interest. Jefferson undertook the complex and dangerous purchase of Louisiana because he thought it carried less risk than allowing the territory to remain in European hands.
His successors stumbled into war partly over the purchase, but Jefferson was prepared to make prudent judgments. In the same way, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, realizing that avoiding foreign entanglements was impossible, tried to reduce future risk.
Louisiana, the two world wars and the Cold War shared one thing: the risks were great enough to warrant entanglement. All three could have ended in disaster for the United States. The idea that the oceans would protect the United States was illusory. If one European power dominated all of Europe, its ability to build fleets would be extraordinary. Perhaps the United States could have matched it; perhaps not. The dangers outweighed the benefits of blindly adhering to a principle.
A General Role
There is not an existential threat to the United States today. The major threat is militant Islamism, but as frightening as it is, it cannot destroy the United States. It can kill large numbers of Americans. Here the Jeffersonian principle becomes more important. There are those who say that if the United States had not supported Israel in the West Bank or India in Kashmir, then militant Islamism would have never been a threat. In other words, if we now, if not in the past, avoided foreign entanglements, then there would be no threat to the United States, and Jefferson's principles would now require disentanglement.
In my opinion the Islamist threat does not arise from any particular relationship the United States has had, nor does it arise from the celebration of the Islamic principles that Islamists hold. Rather, it arises from the general role of the United States as the leading Western country. The idea that the United States could avoid hostility by changing its policies fails to understand that like the dangers in 1800, the threat arises independent of U.S. action.
But militant Islamism does not threaten the United States existentially. Therefore, the issue is how to apply the Jeffersonian principle in this context. In my opinion, the careful application of his principle, considering all the risks and rewards, would tell us the following: It is impossible to completely defeat militant Islamists militarily, but it is possible to mitigate the threat they pose. The process of mitigation carries with it its own risks, particularly as the United States carries out operations that don't destroy militant Islamists but do weaken the geopolitical architecture of the Muslim world -- which is against the interests of the United States. Caution should be exercised that the entanglement doesn't carry risks greater than the reward.
Jefferson was always looking at the main threat. Securing sea-lanes and securing the interior river systems was of overwhelming importance. Other things could be ignored. But the real challenge of the United States is defining the emerging threat and dealing with it decisively. How much misery could have been avoided if Hitler had been destroyed in 1936? Who knew how much misery Hitler would cause in 1936? These thoughts are clear only in hindsight.
Still, the principle is the same. Jefferson wanted to avoid foreign entanglements except in cases where there was substantial benefit to American national interests. He was prepared to apply his principle differently then. The notion of avoiding foreign entanglements must therefore be seen as a principle that, like all well-developed principles, is far more complex than it appears. Foreign entanglements must be avoided when the ends are trivial or unattainable. But when we can get Louisiana, the principle of avoidance dictates involvement.
As in domestic matters, ideology is easy. Principles are difficult. They can be stated succinctly, but they must be applied with all due sophistication.
U.S. Foreign Policy from the Founders' Perspective is republished with permission of Stratfor.
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