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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 38932 times)
Susan Rice of US Foreign Policy
Reply #450 on:
October 27, 2013, 04:04:01 PM »
WASHINGTON — Each Saturday morning in July and August, Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s new national security adviser, gathered half a dozen aides in her corner office in the White House to plot America’s future in the Middle East. The policy review, a kind of midcourse correction, has set the United States on a new heading in the world’s most turbulent region.
At the United Nations last month, Mr. Obama laid out the priorities he has adopted as a result of the review. The United States, he declared, would focus on negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and mitigating the strife in Syria. Everything else would take a back seat.
That includes Egypt, which was once a central pillar of American foreign policy. Mr. Obama, who hailed the crowds on the streets of Cairo in 2011 and pledged to heed the cries for change across the region, made clear that there were limits to what the United States would do to nurture democracy, whether there, or in Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia or Yemen.
The president’s goal, said Ms. Rice, who discussed the review for the first time in an interview last week, is to avoid having events in the Middle East swallow his foreign policy agenda, as it had those of presidents before him.
“We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” she said, adding, “He thought it was a good time to step back and reassess, in a very critical and kind of no-holds-barred way, how we conceive the region.”
Not only does the new approach have little in common with the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush, but it is also a scaling back of the more expansive American role that Mr. Obama himself articulated two years ago, before the Arab Spring mutated into sectarian violence, extremism and brutal repression.
The blueprint drawn up on those summer weekends at the White House is a model of pragmatism — eschewing the use of force, except to respond to acts of aggression against the United States or its allies, disruption of oil supplies, terrorist networks or weapons of mass destruction. Tellingly, it does not designate the spread of democracy as a core interest.
For Ms. Rice, whose day job since she started July 1 has been a cascade of crises from Syria to the furor over the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, the review was also a way to put her stamp on the administration’s priorities.
The debate was often vigorous, officials said, and its conclusions will play out over the rest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Scrawling ideas on a whiteboard and papering the walls of her office with notes, Ms. Rice’s team asked the most basic questions: What are America’s core interests in the Middle East? How has the upheaval in the Arab world changed America’s position? What can Mr. Obama realistically hope to achieve? What lies outside his reach?
The answer was a more modest approach — one that prizes diplomacy, puts limits on engagement and raises doubts about whether Mr. Obama would ever again use military force in a region convulsed by conflict.
For Ms. Rice, 48, who previously served as ambassador to the United Nations, it is an uncharacteristic imprint. A self-confident foreign policy thinker and expert on Africa, she is known as a fierce defender of human rights, advocating military intervention, when necessary. She was among those who persuaded Mr. Obama to back a NATO air campaign in Libya to avert a slaughter of the rebels by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
But Mr. Obama drove the process, officials said, asking for formal briefings in the Situation Room and shorter updates during his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. He gave his advisers a tight deadline of the United Nations’ speech last month and pushed them to develop certain themes, drawing from his own journey since the hopeful early days of the Arab Spring.
In May 2011, he said the United States would support democracy, human rights and free markets with all the “diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.” But at the United Nations last month, he said, “we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action — particularly with military action.”
Critics say the retooled policy will not shield the United States from the hazards of the Middle East. By holding back, they say, the United States risks being buffeted by crisis after crisis, as the president’s fraught history with Syria illustrates.
“You can have your agenda, but you can’t control what happens,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “The argument that we can’t make a decisive difference, so we’re not going to try, is wrongheaded.”
Other analysts said that the administration was right to focus on old-fashioned diplomacy with Iran and in the Middle East peace process, but that it had slighted the role of Egypt, which, despite its problems, remains a crucial American ally and a bellwether for the region.
“Egypt is still the test case of whether there can be a peaceful political transition in the Arab world,” said Richard N. Haass, who served in the State Department during the Bush administration and is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But here, the administration is largely silent and seems uncertain as to what to do.”
The White House did not declare the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last July a coup, which would have required cutting off all aid to the government. Instead, it signaled its displeasure by temporarily holding up the delivery of some big-ticket military equipment, delegating the announcement to the State Department.
Ms. Rice and other officials denied that Egypt had been sidelined, arguing that the policy was calculated to preserve American influence in Cairo. They also said the United States would continue to promote democracy, even if there were limits on what it could do, not to mention constraints on what the president could ask of a war-weary American public. “It would have been easy to write the president’s speech in a way that would have protected us from criticism,” said Philip H. Gordon, the coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Council. “We were trying to be honest and realistic.”
Mr. Gordon took part in the Saturday sessions, along with two of Ms. Rice’s deputies, Antony J. Blinken and Benjamin J. Rhodes; the national security adviser to the vice president, Jake Sullivan; the president’s counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco; a senior economic official, Caroline Atkinson; and a handful of others.
It was a tight group that included no one outside the White House, a stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan review in 2009, which involved dozens of officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Ms. Rice said she briefed Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel over weekly lunches.
Some priorities were clear. The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran presents the West with perhaps its last good chance to curb its nuclear program. Mr. Rouhani has a mandate to ease sanctions on Iran and has signaled an eagerness to negotiate.
But other goals appear to have been dictated as much as by personnel as by policy. After vigorous debate, the group decided to make the Middle East peace process a top priority — even after failing to broker an agreement during the administration’s first term — in part because Mr. Kerry had already thrown himself into the role of peacemaker.
More than anything, the policy review was driven by Mr. Obama’s desire to turn his gaze elsewhere, notably Asia. Already, the government shutdown forced the president to cancel a trip to Southeast Asia — a decision that particularly irked Ms. Rice, who was planning to accompany Mr. Obama and plunge into a part of the world with which she did not have much experience.
“There’s a whole world out there,” Ms. Rice said, “and we’ve got interests and opportunities in that whole world.”
Fantasy vs. Reality
Reply #451 on:
November 12, 2013, 11:05:36 AM »
Stephens: Axis of Fantasy vs. Axis of Reality
France, Israel and Saudi Arabia confront an administration conducting a make-believe foreign policy.
updated Nov. 11, 2013 7:42 p.m. ET
When the history of the Obama administration's foreign policy is written 20 or so years from now, the career of Wendy Sherman, our chief nuclear negotiator with Iran, will be instructive.
In 1988, the former social worker ran the Washington office of the Dukakis campaign and worked at the Democratic National Committee. That was the year the Massachusetts governorcarried 111 electoral votes to George H.W. Bush's 426. In the mid-1990s, Ms. Sherman was briefly the CEO of something called the Fannie Mae Foundation, supposedly a charity that was shut down a decade later for what the Washington Post WPO -0.47% called "using tax-exempt contributions to advance corporate interests."
From there it was on to the State Department, where she served as a point person in nuclear negotiations with North Korea and met with Kim Jong Il himself. The late dictator, she testified, was "witty and humorous," "a conceptual thinker," "a quick problem-solver," "smart, engaged, knowledgeable, self-confident." Also a movie buff who loved Michael Jordan highlight videos. A regular guy!
Benjamin Netanyahu with America's top diplomat. Reuters
Later Ms. Sherman was to be found working for her former boss as the No. 2 at the Albright-Stonebridge Group before taking the No. 3 spot at the State Department. Ethics scolds might describe the arc of her career as a revolving door between misspending taxpayer dollars in government and mooching off them in the private sector. But it's mainly an example of failing up—the Washingtonian phenomenon of promotion to ever-higher positions of authority and prestige irrespective of past performance.
This administration in particular is stuffed with fail-uppers—the president, the vice president, the secretary of state and the national security adviser, to name a few—and every now and then it shows. Like, for instance, when people for whom the test of real-world results has never meant very much meet people for whom that test means everything.
That's my read on last weekend's scuttled effort in Geneva to strike a nuclear bargain with Iran. The talks unexpectedly fell apart at the last minute when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius publicly objected to what he called a "sucker's deal," meaning the U.S. was prepared to begin lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for tentative Iranian promises that they would slow their multiple nuclear programs.
Not stop or suspend them, mind you, much less dismantle them, but merely reduce their pace from run to jog when they're on Mile 23 of their nuclear marathon. It says something about the administration that they so wanted a deal that they would have been prepared to take this one. This is how people for whom consequences are abstractions operate. It's what happens when the line between politics as a game of perception and policy as the pursuit of national objectives dissolves.
The French are not such people, believe it or not, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Speculation about why Mr. Fabius torpedoed the deal has focused on the pique French President François Hollande felt at getting stiffed by the U.S. on his Mali intervention and later in the aborted attack on Syria. (Foreign ministry officials in Paris are still infuriated by a Susan Rice tirade in December, when she called a French proposal to intervene in Mali "crap.")
But the French also understand that the sole reason Iran has a nuclear program is to build a nuclear weapon. They are not nonchalant about it. The secular republic has always been realistic about the threat posed by theocratic Iran. And they have come to care about nonproliferation too, in part because they belong to what is still a small club of nuclear states. Membership has its privileges.
This now puts the French at the head of a de facto Axis of Reality, the other prominent members of which are Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this Axis, strategy is not a game of World of Warcraft conducted via avatars in a virtual reality. "We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid," a defensive John Kerry said over the weekend on "Meet the Press," sounding uncomfortably like Otto West (Kevin Kline) from "A Fish Called Wanda." When you've reached the "don't call me stupid" stage of diplomacy, it means the rest of the world has your number.
Now the question is whether the French were staking out a position at Geneva or simply demanding to be heard. If it's the latter, the episode will be forgotten and Jerusalem and Riyadh will have to reach their own conclusions about how to operate in a post-American Middle East. If it's the former, Paris has a chance to fulfill two cherished roles at once: as the de facto shaper of European policy on the global stage, and as an obstacle to Washington's presumptions to speak for the West.
A decade ago, Robert Kagan argued that the U.S. operated in a Hobbesian world of power politics while Europe inhabited the Kantian (and somewhat make-believe) world of right. That was after 9/11, when fecklessness was not an option for the U.S.
Under Mr. Obama, there's been a role reversal. The tragedy for France and its fellow members of its Axis is that they may lack the power to master a reality they perceive so much more clearly than the Wendy Shermans of the world, still failing up.
Stratfor: US Foreign Policy with Iran
Reply #452 on:
November 15, 2013, 08:57:19 PM »
The U.S.-Iran Talks: Ideology and Necessity
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 04:12 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
The talks between Iran and the Western powers have ended but have not failed. They will reconvene next week. That in itself is a dramatic change from the past, when such talks invariably began in failure. In my book The Next Decade, I argued that the United States and Iran would move toward strategic alignment, and I think that is what we are seeing take shape. Of course, there is no guarantee that the talks will yield a settlement or that they will evolve into anything more meaningful. But the mere possibility requires us to consider three questions: Why is this happening now, what would a settlement look like, and how will it affect the region if it happens?
It is important to recognize that despite all of the other actors on the stage, this negotiation is between the United States and Iran. It is also important to understand that while this phase of the discussion is entirely focused on Iran's nuclear development and sanctions, an eventual settlement would address U.S. and Iranian relations and how those relations affect the region. If the nuclear issue were resolved and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table. In solving these two outstanding problems, the prospect of a new U.S.-Iranian relationship would have to be taken seriously.
But first, there are great obstacles to overcome. One is ideology. Iran regards the United States as the Great Satan. The United States regards Iran as part of the Axis of Evil. For the Iranians, memories of a U.S.-sponsored coup in 1953 and Washington's support for the Shah are vivid. Americans above the age of 35 cannot forget the Iranian hostage crisis, when Iranians seized some 50 U.S. Embassy employees. Iran believes the United States has violated its sovereignty; the United States believes Iran has violated basic norms of international law. Each views the other as barbaric. Add to this that the ideology of radical Islamism regards the United States as corrupt and evil, and the ideology of the United States sees Iran as brutal and repressive, and it would seem that resolution is impossible.
From the American side, there is precedent for reconciling national differences: China. When the United States reached out to China in the 1970s, Beijing was supplying weapons to the North Vietnamese, who used them against American troops. China's rhetoric about U.S. imperialism, replete with "running dogs," portrayed the United States as monstrous. The United States saw China, a nuclear power, as a greater threat for nuclear war than the Soviet Union, since Mao had openly stated -- and seemed to mean it -- that communists ought to welcome nuclear war rather than fear it. Given the extremism and brutality of the Cultural Revolution, the ideological bar seemed insurmountable.
But the strategic interests of both countries superseded ideology. They did not recognize each other, but they did need each other. The relative power of the Soviet Union had risen. There had been heavy fighting between China and the Soviet Union along the Ussuri River in 1969, and Soviet troops were heavily deployed along China's border. The United States had begun to redeploy troops from Europe to Southeast Asia when it became clear it was losing the Vietnam War.
Each side was concerned that if the Soviet Union chose to attack China or NATO separately, it could defeat them. However, if China and the United States collaborated, no Soviet attack would be possible, lest Moscow start a two-front war it couldn't win. It was not necessary to sign a treaty of military alliance or even mention this possibility. Simply meeting, talking and establishing diplomatic relations with China would force the Soviet Union to consider the possibility that Washington and Beijing had a tacit understanding -- or that even without an understanding, an attack on one of them would trigger a response by the other. After all, if NATO or China were defeated, the Soviets would be able to overpower the other at its discretion. Therefore, by moving the relationship from total hostility to minimal accommodation, the strategic balance changed.
In looking at Iran, the most important thing to note is the difference between its rhetoric and its actions. If you listened to Iranian government officials in the past, you would think they were preparing for the global apocalypse. In truth, Iranian foreign policy has been extremely measured. Its one major war, which it fought against Iraq in the 1980s, was not initiated by Iran. It has supported third parties such as Hezbollah and Syria, sending supplies and advisers, but it has been extremely cautious in the use of its own overt power. In the early days of the Islamic republic, whenever Tehran was confronted with American interests, it would pull closer to the Soviet Union, an atheistic country making war in neighboring Afghanistan. It needed a counterweight to the United States and put ideology aside, even in its earliest, most radical days.
New Strategic Interests
Ideology is not trivial, but ultimately it is not the arbiter of foreign relations. Like all countries, the United States and Iran have strategic issues that influence their actions. Iran attempted to create an arc of influence from western Afghanistan to Beirut, the key to which was preserving and dominating the Syrian regime. The Iranians failed in Syria, where the regime exists but no longer governs much of the country. The blowback from this failure has been an upsurge in Sunni militant activity against the Shiite-dominated regime.
But the arc of influence was interrupted elsewhere, particularly Iraq, which has proved to be the major national security challenge facing Iran. Coupled with the failures in Syria, the degradation of Iraq has put Iran on the defensive when, just one year earlier, it was poised to change the balance of power in its favor.
At the same time, Iran found that its nuclear program had prompted a seriously detrimental sanctions regime. Stratfor has long argued that the Iranian nuclear program was primarily a bargaining chip to be traded for guarantees on its security and recognition of its regional power. It was meant to appear threatening, not to be threatening. This is why, for years, Iran was "only months" away from a weapon. The problem was that despite its growing power, Iran could no longer withstand the economic repercussions of the sanctions regime. In light of Syria and Iraq, the nuclear program was a serious miscalculation that produced an economic crisis. The failures in foreign policy and the subsequent economic crisis discredited the policies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, changed the thinking of the supreme leader and ultimately led to the electoral victory of President Hassan Rouhani. The ideology may not have changed, but the strategic reality had. Rouhani for years had been worried about the stability of the regime and was thus critical of Ahmadinejad's policies. He knew that Iran had to redefine its foreign policy.
The United States has also been changing its strategy. During the 2000s, it tried to deal with Sunni radicals through the direct use of force in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States could not continue to commit its main force in the Islamic world when that very commitment gave other nations, such as Russia, the opportunity to maneuver without concern for U.S. military force. The United States did have a problem with al Qaeda, but it needed a new strategy for dealing with it. Syria provided a model. The United States declined to intervene unilaterally against the al Assad regime because it did not want to empower a radical Sunni government. It preferred to allow Syria's factions to counterbalance each other such that neither side was in control.
This balance-of-power approach was the alternative to direct military commitment. The United States was not the only country concerned about Sunni radicalism. Iran, a Shiite power ultimately hostile to Sunnis, was equally concerned about jihadists. Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis' complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests. On the broadest level, a stronger Iran, aligned with the United States, would counter Sunni ambitions. It would not address the question of North Africa or other smaller issues, but it would force Saudi Arabia to reshape its policies.
The Arab Spring also was a consideration. A mainstay of Washington's Iran policy was that at some point there would be an uprising that would overthrow the regime. The 2009 uprising, never really a threat to the regime, was seen as a rehearsal. If there was likely to be an uprising, there was no need to deal with Iran. Then the Arab Spring occurred. Many in the Obama administration misread the Arab Spring, expecting it to yield more liberal regimes. That didn't happen. Egypt has not evolved, Syria has devolved into civil war, Bahrain has seen Saudi Arabia repress its uprising, and Libya has found itself on the brink of chaos. Not a single liberal democratic regime emerged. It became clear that there would be no uprising in Iran, and even if there were, the results would not likely benefit the United States.
A strategy of encouraging uprisings no longer worked. A strategy of large-scale intervention was unsustainable. The idea of attacking Iran was unpalatable. Even if the administration agreed with Israel and thought that the nuclear program was intended to produce a nuclear weapon, it was not clear that the program could be destroyed from the air.
Therefore, in the particular case of Iran's nuclear program, the United States could only employ sanctions. On the broader issue of managing American interests in the Middle East, the United States had to find more options. It could not rely entirely on Saudi Arabia, which has dramatically different regional interests. It could not rely entirely on Israel, which by itself could not solve the Iranian problem militarily. These realities forced the United States to recalibrate its relationship with Iran at a time when Iran had to recalibrate its relationship with the United States.
All Things Possible
The first U.S.-Iranian discussions would obviously be on the immediate issue -- the nuclear program and sanctions. There are many technical issues involved there, the most important of which is that both sides must show that they don't need a settlement. No one negotiating anything will simply accept the first offer, not when they expect the negotiations to move on to more serious issues. Walking away from the table for 10 days gives both sides some credibility.
The real negotiations will come after the nuclear and sanctions issues are addressed. They will pertain to U.S.-Iranian relations more broadly. Each side will use the other to its advantage. The Iranians will use the United States to repair its economy, and the Americans will use the Iranians to create a balance of power with Sunni states. This will create indirect benefits for both sides. Iran's financial woes will be an opportunity for American companies to invest. The Americans' need for a balance of power will give Iran weight against its own enemies, even after the collapse of its strategy.
The region will of course look different but not dramatically so. The balance of power idea does not mean a rupture with Saudi Arabia or Israel. The balance of power only works if the United States maintains strong relationships on all sides. The Saudis and Israelis will not like American rebalancing. Their choices in the matter are limited, but they can take comfort from the fact that a strictly pro-Iranian policy is impossible for the United States. The American strategy with China in the 1970s was to try to become the power that balanced the Soviet Union and China. After meeting with the Chinese, Henry Kissinger went to Moscow. Thus, in terms of bilateral relationships, U.S.-Saudi and U.S.-Israeli relations can stay the same. But it now creates another relationship and option for the United States. In the end, Iran is still a secondary power and the United States is the primary power. Iran will take advantage of the relationship, and the United States will manage it.
It is hard to imagine this evolution, considering what the United States and Iran have said about each other for the past 34 years. But relations among nations are not about sentiment; they are about interest. If Roosevelt could ally with Stalin, and Nixon with Mao, then it is clear that all things are possible in U.S. foreign policy. For their part, the Persians have endured for millennia, espousing many ideologies but doing what was necessary to survive and prosper. All of this may well fall apart, but there is a compelling logic to believe that it will not, and it will not be as modest a negotiation as it appears now.
Read more: The U.S.-Iran Talks: Ideology and Necessity | Stratfor
Stratfor: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, part two
Reply #453 on:
November 27, 2013, 12:12:04 PM »
Editor's Note: The following is the second installment of a series examining the global jihadist movement. Click here for Part 1.
Last week's Security Weekly was the first in a series of analyses intended to gauge the current status of the jihadist movement. The introduction to the first part discussed the two standards that will be used to assess the jihadist movement. The first scale is the goals and objectives of the movement itself and the second gauge is insurgent and terrorist theory. An analysis of the jihadists' goals noted that almost all jihadists -- whether they are transnational or nationalist in ideology -- seek to establish an Islamic polity along the lines of a medieval emirate. This goal is not only a matter of rhetoric, but action -- several jihadist groups have attempted to establish emirates. Once established, the emirate would be ruled under an extremely austere interpretation of Sharia, as seen in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which was the first jihadist emirate. Transnational jihadists also seek to expand beyond the creation of an emirate to re-establish the caliphate.
Insurgency is armed rebellion, and militant organizations waging insurgencies will often utilize terrorism as a tool in that rebellion. There are many conflicting definitions of terrorism, but for our purposes we will loosely define it as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. By definition, all insurgencies employ violence, but not all of them employ terrorism. Therefore, while the two concepts are often complementary, they are not synonymous. In the specific case of the jihadist movement, we have seen them utilize terrorism as an element of their various insurgent campaigns. However, in order to fully understand them, we must approach these two complementary concepts -- and the theory behind them -- separately.
This week's security weekly will examine insurgent theory and terrorism theory to see how they can be used to measure the jihadist movement.
Insurgency, the Long War
Insurgency, sometimes called guerrilla warfare or irregular warfare, has been practiced for centuries in a variety of different regions and by a number of actors from different cultures. One of these historical examples was the Prophet Mohammed, who is seen by the jihadists as a model for their military campaigns. After Mohammed left Mecca and established the first Islamic polity in Medina, his forces began to conduct asymmetrical military operations against their stronger Meccan foes, attacking their commercial caravans and conducting hit-and-run attacks until they were able to amass the power necessary to conquer Mecca and expand the Islamic state to include a large section of the Arabian Peninsula.
In the 20th century, insurgent theory was codified by leaders such as Russia's Vladimir Lenin, China's Mao Zedong, Vietnam's General Vo Nguyen Giap and Latin America's Che Guevara. But at its core, the theory is based on the historic concepts of declining battle when the enemy has superior forces and attacking at a time and place where the insurgents can mass sufficient forces to strike where the enemy is weak. The insurgents take a long view of the armed struggle and seek to survive and fight another day rather than allowing themselves to be fixed and destroyed by their enemy. They may lose some battles, but if they cause losses for their enemy, forcing them to expend men and resources disproportionately while remaining alive themselves to continue the insurgency, it is a victory for them. Time is on the side of the insurgent in an asymmetrical style of battle, and they hope that a long war will serve to exhaust and demoralize their enemy.
There are varying conceptual differences between figures such as Mao, Lenin and Guevara regarding how to best advance a given political situation in order to strengthen an insurgent's position and recruit forces. For example, Mao believed in extensive political preparation among the peasant citizenry before launching an armed struggle. In contrast, Guevara believed that a small vanguard (or foco) of guerrillas could begin to conduct attacks without extensive political priming and that the armed struggle itself could shape public opinion and raise popular support for the cause. These differences are largely based upon what worked in a specific insurgency situation. However, looking at the bigger picture, all insurgent theorists promote the concept of insurgent leaders working to build their military forces so that they can engage in progressively larger military engagements while simultaneously degrading their enemy's capabilities. Starting with small-scale attacks (sometimes utilizing terrorism), they want to move up from hit-and-run raids to conventional combat, eventually seeking to achieve military parity and then superiority with the enemy so that they can conquer and hold territory.
In the case of an insurgency against a foreign occupier, it is not always necessary to follow this progression and achieve military parity with them. Local insurgents invariably have superior intelligence as well as the advantage of fundamental interest. Put another way, a foreign occupier nearly always has less interest in a particular piece of territory than the locals who call it home. If the insurgents resist long enough and cause enough expenditure of blood and treasure, often the occupier can be forced to leave, even if the insurgents are taking disproportionately heavier casualties.
As noted above, the jihadists seek to emulate what they believe to be the pattern of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers, who progressed from caravan raids, to irregular warfare, to the capture of Mecca and eventually the formation of a vast empire conquered and realized by conventional military forces.
Given insurgent theory and the example of Mohammed, we are in a position to look at the various jihadist groups and gauge their current status -- and more important, their trajectory -- based upon their stage of insurgency. Has the group progressed from small-scale attacks to irregular warfare? Have they regressed? Have they conquered and held territory? Have they lost it?
Terrorism tends to be a tool of the weak. It is often used as a way to conduct armed conflict against a militarily stronger enemy when the organization launching the armed struggle is not yet at a stage where insurgent or conventional warfare is viable. Marxist, Maoist and Focoist groups often seek to use terrorism as the first step in an armed struggle. In some ways, al Qaeda also followed a type of Focoist vanguard strategy by using terrorism to shape public opinion and raise popular support for their cause. Terrorism can also be used to supplement insurgency or conventional warfare when it is employed to keep the enemy off balance and distracted, principally by conducting strikes against vulnerable targets in the enemy's rear. The Afghan Taliban employ terrorism in this manner. Such attacks against "soft" targets require a disproportionate allocation of resources to defend against. While costly in terms of materiel and manpower, such an allocation is absolutely necessary if the security forces wish to prevent the targeted population from feeling terrorized.
Used as a tool by any organization conducting an armed struggle -- whether that organization is Marxist, Maoist or jihadist -- terrorist attacks are most effective when employed in a manner that is guided by an overarching strategy, one that seeks to achieve the organization's military (and ultimately political) objectives. Because of this, a hierarchical organizational structure, with direct lines of command and control, is the best model for terrorists to use in a perfect world -- as it is for any military organization for that matter. However, conditions on the ground often prohibit the use of a hierarchical organization, the most significant inhibitor in the field being the aggressiveness of security forces.
In a location where the security forces are weak and disorganized, it is quite possible for terror groups to utilize a hierarchical command model. But in places where the security forces are competent and aggressive, the terrorists' job is harder. A proficient security force can become quite successful at collecting intelligence on a militant organization, perhaps even to the extent of penetrating the organization with agents, or developing informants from within. Such intelligence operations permit the security forces to quickly identify and round up members of the group, using their own established hierarchy as a targeting framework.
Practicing good operational security can help a militant organization protect itself from the intelligence collection efforts of the security forces, but those measures can only go so far. If the security forces are capable and aggressive, they can still find ways to infiltrate the organization. One way militant groups have countered such aggressive intelligence efforts is to move away from a hierarchical configuration and toward a cellular structure in which small teams or cells work independently and do not have links to each other.
In some organizations, the cells can be totally independent and self-contained operationally, conducting all their activities internally based on direction received from their central command. Other organizations will employ functional cells that conduct the different sorts of tasks required for a terrorist operation. In such an operational model, there might be finance and logistics cells, command cells, bomb-making cells, propaganda cells, recruitment cells, surveillance cells, assault cells and so on. The idea is that if one cell is compromised, the damage will be contained and will not allow the authorities to identify the entire organization. But still, these various cells are linked by a common command element and directed in their operations.
However, even cellular organizations are vulnerable to intelligence penetration. Because of this fact, some terrorist theorists have proposed an operational model called leaderless resistance, in which independent cells and individuals conduct attacks without direction from a central command.
The concept of leaderless resistance is really quite old, but its modern form was perhaps best articulated and documented by a series of American white supremacist leaders following the 1988 Fort Smith Sedition Trial. While the 13 white supremacist leaders charged in the Fort Smith case were eventually acquitted, testimony and evidence from that trial demonstrated that the white supremacist movement had been heavily infiltrated by American law enforcement agencies. Some of the leaders of those penetrated groups began to advocate leaderless resistance as a way to avoid heavy government intelligence activity.
In 1989, William Luther Pierce, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance and one of the Fort Smith defendants, published a fictional book under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald titled Hunter, which dealt with the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager. Pierce dedicated the book to convicted serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin and he clearly intended it to serve as an inspiration and model for lone-wolf operatives. Pierce's earlier book, The Turner Diaries, was based on a militant operational theory involving a clandestine organization, while Hunter represented a distinct break from that approach. (Coincidentally, Franklin was executed by the state of Missouri as this article was being written.)
In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins, an influential "Christian Identity" ideologue, published a book titled Vigilantes of Christendom in which he introduced the concept of the "Phineas Priesthood." According to Hoskins, a Phineas Priest is a lone-wolf militant chosen by God and set apart to be God's "agent of vengeance" upon the earth. Phineas Priests also believe their attacks will serve to ignite a wider "racial holy war" that will ultimately lead to the salvation of the white race.
In 1992, another of the Fort Smith defendants, former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, published an essay in his magazine The Seditionist that provided a detailed roadmap for moving the white hate movement toward the leaderless resistance model. Beam's roadmap called for lone wolves and small "phantom" cells to engage in violent action to protect themselves from detection.
The leaderless resistance model was advocated not only by the American far right though. Influenced by their anarchist roots, left-wing extremists also moved in the phantom direction and movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front adopted operational models that were very similar to the leaderless-resistance doctrine prescribed by Beam.
Upon seeing the success the United States and its allies were having against the al Qaeda core and the wider jihadist network following 9/11, jihadist military theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri began to promote a leaderless resistance model for jihadists in late 2004. This was based on the jihadist concept of individual jihad. As if to prove his own point about the dangers of maintaining a high profile and communicating with other jihadists, al-Suri was reportedly captured in November 2005 in Pakistan. It is believed that he was released from prison in Syria in late 2011 or early 2012.
Al-Suri's concept of leaderless resistance was embraced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda franchise group in Yemen, in 2009. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for this type of strategy in both its Arabic-language media and its English-language magazine, Inspire, which published long excerpts of al-Suri's theories pertaining to individual jihad. The magazine also endeavored to equip aspiring do-it-yourself jihadists with practical material, such as bomb-making instructions. Inspire's bomb-making directions have been used in a number of plots, including the Boston Marathon Bombing.
In 2010, the al Qaeda core also embraced the idea, with U.S.-born spokesman Adam Gadahn echoing the call for Muslims to adopt the leaderless resistance model.
However, in the jihadist realm, as in the white-supremacist realm before it, the shift to leaderless resistance is an admission of weakness rather than a sign of strength. Jihadists recognized that they have been extremely limited in their ability to successfully attack the West. And while jihadist groups openly welcomed recruits in the past, they are now telling them it is too dangerous to travel because of the steps taken by the United States and its allies to combat the transnational terrorist threat. The advice is that they should instead conduct attacks in the Western countries where they live.
The net result is that we can use terrorist theory as a way to measure the status of a particular jihadist group. Are they able to operate as a hierarchical organization, or do they have to work in a cellular structure? Can they project their power by conducting attacks across transnational boundaries, or is their reach confined to a specific city, country or region?
Next week we will apply these measures of insurgent and terrorism theory to a variety of jihadist groups. By also incorporating the objectives of the jihadist movement (as examined in part one of this series) as a benchmark, we will be able to see exactly where these groups stand in relation to each other and interrogate their relative condition and status.
Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 2: Insurgent and Terrorist Theory | Stratfor
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #454 on:
December 04, 2013, 09:40:04 PM »
Krauthammer: Woe to US Allies
Reply #455 on:
December 08, 2013, 10:46:41 AM »
Pasting this here from the Incorrect thread
VDH: The World's New Outlaws
Reply #456 on:
December 09, 2013, 10:55:51 AM »
Glick: The NY Times Destroys Obama
Reply #457 on:
January 04, 2014, 12:27:56 PM »
The New York Times Destroys Obama
Caroline Glick | Jan 04, 2014
The New York Times just delivered a mortal blow to the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Call it fratricide. It was clearly unintentional. Indeed, is far from clear that the paper realizes what it has done.
Last Saturday the Times published an 8,000-word account by David Kirkpatrick detailing the terrorist strike against the US Consulate and the CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. In it, Kirkpatrick tore to shreds the foundations of President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism strategy and his overall policy in the Middle East.
Obama first enunciated those foundations in his June 4, 2009, speech to the Muslim world at Cairo University. Ever since, they have been the rationale behind US counterterror strategy and US Middle East policy.
Obama’s first assertion is that radical Islam is not inherently hostile to the US. As a consequence, America can appease radical Islamists. Moreover, once radical Muslims are appeased, they will become US allies, (replacing the allies the US abandons to appease the radical Muslims).
Obama’s second strategic guidepost is his claim that the only Islamic group that is a bona fide terrorist organization is the faction of al-Qaida directly subordinate to Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Only this group cannot be appeased and must be destroyed through force.
The administration has dubbed the Zawahiri faction of al-Qaida “core al-Qaida.” And anyone who operates in the name of al-Qaida, or any other group that does not have courtroom-certified operational links to Zawahiri, is not really al-Qaida, and therefore, not really a terrorist group or a US enemy.
These foundations have led the US to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are the rationale for the US’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood worldwide. They are the basis for Obama’s allegiance to Turkey’s Islamist government, and his early support for the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Syrian opposition.
They are the basis for the administration’s kneejerk support for the PLO against Israel.
Obama’s insistent bid to appease Iran, and so enable the mullocracy to complete its nuclear weapons program. is similarly a product of his strategic assumptions. So, too, the US’s current diplomatic engagement of Hezbollah in Lebanon owes to the administration’s conviction that any terror group not directly connected to Zawahiri is a potential US ally.
From the outset of the 2011 revolt against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, it was clear that a significant part of the opposition was composed of jihadists aligned if not affiliated with al-Qaida. Benghazi was specifically identified by documents seized by US forces in Iraq as a hotbed of al-Qaida recruitment.
Obama and his advisers dismissed and ignored the evidence. The core of al-Qaida, they claimed, was not involved in the anti-Gaddafi revolt. And to the extent jihadists were fighting Gaddafi, they were doing so as allies of the US.
In other words, the two core foundations of Obama’s understanding of terrorism and of the Muslim world were central to US support for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
With Kirkpatrick’s report, the Times exposed the utter falsity of both.
Kirkpatrick showed the mindset of the US-supported rebels and through it, the ridiculousness of the administration’s belief that you can’t be a terrorist if you aren’t directly subordinate to Zawahiri.
One US-supported Islamist militia commander recalled to him that at the outset of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, “Teenagers came running around… [asking] ‘Sheikh, sheikh, did you know al-Qaida? Did you know Osama bin Laden? How do we fight?”
In the days and weeks following the September 11, 2012, attack on the US installations in Benghazi in which US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, the administration claimed that the attacks were not carried out by terrorists. Rather they were the unfortunate consequence of a spontaneous protest by otherwise innocent Libyans.
According to the administration’s version of events, these guileless, otherwise friendly demonstrators, who killed the US ambassador and three other Americans, were simply angered by a YouTube video of a movie trailer which jihadist clerics in Egypt had proclaimed was blasphemous.
In an attempt to appease the mob after the fact, Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton shot commercials run on Pakistani television apologizing for the video and siding with the mob against the movie-maker, who is the only person the US has imprisoned following the attack. Then-ambassador to the UN and current National Security Adviser Susan Rice gave multiple television interviews placing the blame for the attacks on the video.
According to Kirkpatrick’s account of the assault against the US installations in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the administration’s description of the assaults was a fabrication. Far from spontaneous political protests spurred by rage at a YouTube video, the attack was premeditated.
US officials spotted Libyans conducting surveillance of the consulate nearly 15 hours before the attack began.
Libyan militia warned US officials “of rising threats against Americans from extremists in Benghazi,” two days before the attack.
From his account, the initial attack – in which the consulate was first stormed – was carried out not by a mob, but by a few dozen fighters. They were armed with assault rifles. They acted in a coordinated, professional manner with apparent awareness of US security procedures.
During the initial assault, the attackers shot down the lights around the compound, stormed the gates, and swarmed around the security personnel who ran to get their weapons, making it impossible for them to defend the ambassador and other personnel trapped inside.
According to Kirkpatrick, after the initial attack, the organizers spurred popular rage and incited a mob assault on the consulate by spreading the rumor that the Americans had killed a local. Others members of the secondary mob, Kirkpatrick claimed, were motivated by reports of the video.
This mob assault, which followed the initial attack and apparent takeover of the consulate, was part of the predetermined plan. The organizers wanted to produce chaos.
As Kirkpatrick explained, “The attackers had posted sentries at Venezia Road, adjacent to the [consulate] compound, to guard their rear flank, but they let pass anyone trying to join the mayhem.”
According to Kirkpatrick, the attack was perpetrated by local terrorist groups that were part of the US-backed anti-Gaddafi coalition. The people who were conducting the surveillance of the consulate 15 hours before the attack were uniformed security forces who escaped in an official car. Members of the militia tasked with defending the compound participated in the attack.
Ambassador Stevens, who had served as the administration’s emissary to the rebels during the insurrection against Gaddafi, knew personally many of the terrorists who orchestrated the attack. And until the very end, he was taken in by the administration’s core belief that it was possible to appease al-Qaida-sympathizing Islamic jihadists who were not directly affiliated with Zawahiri.
As Kirkpatrick noted, Stevens “helped shape the Obama administration’s conviction that it could work with the rebels, even those previously hostile to the West, to build a friendly, democratic government.”
The entire US view that local militias, regardless of their anti-American, jihadist ideologies, could become US allies was predicated not merely on the belief that they could be appeased, but that they weren’t terrorists because they weren’t al-Qaida proper.
As Kirkpatrick notes, “American intelligence efforts in Libya concentrated on the agendas of the biggest militia leaders and the handful of Libyans with suspected ties to al-Qaida. The fixation on al-Qaida might have distracted experts from more imminent threats.”
But again, the only reason that the intelligence failed to notice the threats emanating from local US-supported terrorists is because the US counterterrorist strategy, like its overall Middle East strategy, is to seek to appease all US enemies other than the parts of al-Qaida directly commanded by Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Distressingly, most of the discussion spurred by Kirkpatrick’s article has ignored the devastating blow he visited on the intellectual foundations of Obama’s foreign policy. Instead, the discussion has focused on his claim that there is “no evidence that al-Qaida or other international terrorist group had any role in the assault,” and on his assertion that the YouTube video did spur to action some of the participants in the assault.
Kirkpatrick’s claim that al-Qaida played no role in the attack was refuted by the Times’ own reporting six weeks after the attack. It has also been refuted by congressional and State Department investigations, by the UN and by a raft of other reporting.
His claim that the YouTube video did spur some of the attackers to action was categorically rejected last spring in sworn congressional testimony by then-deputy chief of the US mission to Libya Gregory Hicks.
Last May Hicks stated, “The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya. The video was not instigative of anything that was going on in Libya. We saw no demonstrators related to the video anywhere in Libya.”
Kirkpatrick’s larger message – that the reasoning behind Obama’s entire counterterrorist strategy and his overall Middle East policy is totally wrong, and deeply destructive – has been missed because his article was written and published to whitewash the administration’s deliberate mischaracterization of the events in Benghazi, not to discredit the rationale behind its Middle East policy and counterterrorism strategy. This is why he claimed that al-Qaida wasn’t involved in the attack. And this is why he claimed that the YouTube video was a cause for the attack.
This much was made clear in a blog post by editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, who alleged that the entire discourse on Benghazi is promoted by the Republicans to harm the Democrats, and Kirkpatrick’s story served to weaken the Republican arguments. In Rosenthal’s words, “The Republicans hope to tarnish Democratic candidates by making it seem as though Mr. Obama doesn’t take al-Qaida seriously.”
So pathetically, in a bid to defend Obama and Clinton and the rest of the Democrats, the Times published a report that showed that Obama’s laser-like focus on the Zawahiri-controlled faction of al-Qaida has endangered the US.
By failing to view as enemies any other terror groups – even if they have participated in attacks against the US – and indeed, in perceiving them as potential allies, Obama has failed to defend against them. Indeed, by wooing them as future allies, Obama has empowered forces as committed as al-Qaida to defeating the US.
Again, it is not at all apparent that the Times realized what it was doing. But from Israel to Egypt, to Iran to Libya to Lebanon, it is absolutely clear that Obama and his colleagues continue to implement the same dangerous, destructive agenda that defeated the US in Benghazi and will continue to cause US defeat after US defeat.
Iran and US working together against AQ in Iraq?!?
Reply #458 on:
January 05, 2014, 01:38:48 PM »
As I have stated here previously various times, I do not read, let alone cite Debka. However, 12 Tribes is doing so in this case AND the hypothesis is consistent with what Stratfor has been predicting for years, often to much disapproval around here:
Let's ask an expert
Reply #459 on:
January 16, 2014, 01:39:41 PM »
Re: Let's ask an expert
Reply #460 on:
January 17, 2014, 07:59:20 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 16, 2014, 01:39:41 PM
Funny how some of us saw this coming in 2008.
Method to BO's Madness
Reply #461 on:
January 26, 2014, 08:24:56 PM »
Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.
Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.
Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on.
Does such American behavior display any consistent strategic coherence?
I think it most certainly does.
The Obama administration believes that past administrations’ strategic objectives and the methods of achieving them not only were flawed, but led to the sort of world that is not in our interests as defined by the Obama team. The contemporary world landscape is an unfair place. “Have” nations exploit the “have-nots,” in large part because of the rigged postwar system of free-market commerce, alliances, and politics that the United States created. While it would be dangerous and indeed impossible to abruptly disown our responsibilities — we can still hunt down bin Laden, kill terrorists with drones, and jawbone rogue dictators — we can begin to withdraw our sponsorship from the mess that, in a variety of ways, we were responsible for.
Our past and most secure alliances — the special relationships with Britain and Israel especially — are now seen as having alienated more people than they encouraged. Islamist movements in Turkey and Egypt were either inevitable or justified, given historical grievances against the West and the fact that they reflect grass-roots indigenous support.
Arbitrary American axioms — an enemy Iran was going to get the bomb to threaten the Middle East; a good Israel was a force for democracy and prosperity in an otherwise unhinged Middle East; the Persian Gulf monarchies were corrupt and anti-American, but not as corrupt and anti-American as the likely alternatives to them — were simplistic and outdated.
China and Russia were needlessly estranged, given that they both sought reform, only to be gratuitously alienated by the bullying United States. Anti-Americanism was fed not by envy or the fact that the nation’s superpower responsibilities were easily caricatured, but rather by our often haughty behavior and a long history of global misdeeds. Obama in his Cairo speech, in his apology tour, and through his subordinates was not shy about voicing these reappraisals of the American past.
Most Americans are proud that we won the Cold War; Obama wonders whether we had to fight it as we did. Most Americans believe Islamists hate us for who we are and what we represent. Obama believes that we may have earned such enmity. Most Americans believe that the world outside the U.S. can be a pretty wretched place; Obama believes either that it is not so wretched, or that its wretchedness is mostly due to the American omnipresence.
What were the president’s methods of achieving this repositioning of the United States?
Obama sought to assure the world that he would restrict the use of the American military. In practical fact that meant he would not use it unless the target was so weak as to nearly capitulate upon contact, or the target was at odds with a revolutionary uprising (Iran’s theocracy excepted).
Obama’s drone assassinations have been more than four times the Bush total, but they have been largely stealthy and unreported, and they came at no cost in American life. Libya was a misadventure, but American led Britain and France only from behind. We never had any intention of using force in Syria; the miscalculation lay in Obama’s blustering that he might use force and that his pseudo red lines, like his deadlines with Iran, were real.
Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.
The methods to achieve this recessional are tricky — as they are for any aging sheriff, guns drawn, who hobbles slowly out of a crowded saloon on his last day on the job. American withdrawal must be facilitated by the semblance of power. That is, rhetoric, loud deadlines and red lines, and drones can for now approximate the old U.S. presence, as America insidiously abandons its 70-year role as architect of a global system that brought the world unprecedented security and prosperity. “No option is off the table” tells most foreign leaders that very probably no option ever was on it.
Finally, what is the ideology that fuels the Obama doctrine — both its objectives and its methods?
For Obama, America abroad is analogous to the 1 percent at home. We need not squabble over the reasons why the wealthiest Americans enjoy unequal access to the things money can buy, or why America, of all nations, finds itself with unmatched global clout and influence. The concern is only that such privilege exists; that it is unfair; that it has led to injustice for the majority; and that it must be changed.
Obama, of course, cannot issue a global tax aimed at the United States. He cannot easily expand U.S. foreign aid as a sort of reparations. And he cannot craft the international equivalent of Obamacare. But he does seek the same sort of redistributive readjustment to America’s presence abroad that he does to some Americans at home — in the interests of fairness, equality, and social justice.
Just as the United States would be a lot better place if a few million were not so rich, so too the world would be better off if the United States — and to a lesser extent Europe — were not so powerful and interventionist.
For every foreign concern, there is a greater domestic concern. Each Marine posted abroad, each GPS-guided bomb, each new frigate does not add to our deterrence and thus help keep the peace. Instead, such investments only raise the likelihood that unnecessary tensions will follow — and, meanwhile, precious dollars are diverted from far more important domestic constituencies who rightly object that a cruise missile means hundreds of new food-stamp applicants denied.
That the American public is supposedly exhausted after two wars and a variety of interventions, and that it is struggling with $17 trillion in debt and expanding entitlements, suggest that the Obama Doctrine, for all its radicalism, will not necessarily be seen as such by the public — any more than Depression-era American isolationism, after the disappointment with the aftermath of World War I, was considered unwise in an ever more dangerous world.
In short, Obama has a strategy. He has found a means of advancing it. He believes in the ideological basis for seeing it succeed. And he assumes that the public, for a variety of reasons, is quite supportive of it.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.
Letters of Marque
Reply #462 on:
February 13, 2014, 06:48:06 AM »
the rare Earth crisis
Reply #463 on:
February 17, 2014, 02:10:17 PM »
From the article:
U.S. dependence on rare earths imports substantially exceeds our dependence on imported petroleum. In 2011, the United States imported 45 percent of the petroleum we consumed, but we imported 100 percent of the rare earth materials we consumed that same year — and rare earths are far more essential to a wider variety of industries than petroleum is. China controls the production, refining, and processing of over 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements despite only controlling about half of the world’s rare earth resources. In the 1980s, there were approximately 25,000 American rare earth-related jobs; now we barely have 1,500. The United States must take action now to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of rare earth materials and bring back jobs.
Stratfor: Serious Read: Indifference to Foreign Affairs
Reply #464 on:
February 18, 2014, 11:43:39 PM »
The American Public's Indifference to Foreign Affairs
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 04:13 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
Last week, several events took place that were important to their respective regions and potentially to the world. Russian government officials suggested turning Ukraine into a federation, following weeks of renewed demonstrations in Kiev. The Venezuelan government was confronted with violent and deadly protests. Kazakhstan experienced a financial crisis that could have destabilized the economies of Central Asia. Russia and Egypt inked a significant arms deal. Right-wing groups in Europe continued their political gains.
Any of these events had the potential to affect the United States. At different times, lesser events have transfixed Americans. This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them. This may be part of a cycle that shapes American interest in public affairs. The decision to raise the debt ceiling, which in the last cycle gripped public attention, seemed to elicit a shrug.
The Primacy of Private Affairs
The United States was founded as a place where private affairs were intended to supersede public life. Public service was intended less as a profession than as a burden to be assumed as a matter of duty -- hence the word "service." There is a feeling that Americans ought to be more involved in public affairs, and people in other countries are frequently shocked by how little Americans know about international affairs or even their own politics. In many European countries, the state is at the center of many of the activities that shape private life, but that is less true in the United States. The American public is often most active in public affairs when resisting the state's attempts to increase its presence, as we saw with health care reform. When such matters appear settled, Americans tend to focus their energy on their private lives, pleasures and pains.
Of course, there are times when Americans are aroused not only to public affairs but also to foreign affairs. That is shaped by the degree to which these events are seen as affecting Americans' own lives. There is nothing particularly American in this. People everywhere care more about things that affect them than things that don't. People in European or Middle Eastern countries, where another country is just a two-hour drive away, are going to be more aware of foreign affairs. Still, they will be most concerned about the things that affect them. The French or Israelis are aware of public and foreign affairs not because they are more sophisticated than Americans, but because the state is more important in their lives, and foreign countries are much nearer to their homes. If asked about events far away, I find they are as uninterested and uninformed as Americans.
The United States' geography, obviously, shapes American thinking about the world. The European Peninsula is crowded with peoples and nation-states. In a matter of hours you can find yourself in a country with a different language and religion and a history of recent war with your own. Americans can travel thousands of miles using their own language, experiencing the same culture and rarely a memory of war. Northwestern Europe is packed with countries. The northeastern United States is packed with states. Passing from the Netherlands to Germany is a linguistic, cultural change with historical memories. Traveling from Connecticut to New York is not. When Europeans speak of their knowledge of international affairs, their definition of international is far more immediate than that of Americans.
American interest is cyclical, heavily influenced by whether they are affected by what goes on. After 9/11, what happened in the Islamic world mattered a great deal. But even then, it went in cycles. The degree to which Americans are interested in Afghanistan -- even if American soldiers are still in harm's way -- is limited. The war's outcome is fairly clear, the impact on America seems somewhat negligible and the issues are arcane.
It's not that Americans are disinterested in foreign affairs, it's that their interest is finely calibrated. The issues must matter to Americans, so most issues must carry with them a potential threat. The outcome must be uncertain, and the issues must have a sufficient degree of clarity so that they can be understood and dealt with. Americans may turn out to have been wrong about these things in the long run, but at the time, an issue must fit these criteria. Afghanistan was once seen as dangerous to the United States, its outcome uncertain, the issues clear. In truth, Afghanistan may not have fit any of these criteria, but Americans believed it did, so they focused their attention and energy on the country accordingly.
Context is everything. During times of oil shortage, events in Venezuela might well have interested Americans much more than they did last week. During the Cold War, the left-wing government in Venezuela might have concerned Americans. But advancements in technology have increased oil and natural gas production in the United States. A left-wing government in Venezuela is simply another odd Latin government, and the events of last week are not worth worrying about. The context renders Venezuela a Venezuelan problem.
It is not that Americans are disengaged from the world, but rather that the world appears disengaged from them. At the heart of the matter is geography. The Americans, like the British before them, use the term "overseas" to denote foreign affairs. The American reality is that most important issues, aside from Canada and Mexico, take place across the ocean, and the ocean reasonably is seen as a barrier that renders these events part of a faraway realm. Terrorists can cross the oceans, as can nuclear weapons, and both can obliterate the barriers the oceans represent. But al Qaeda has not struck in a while, nuclear threats are not plausible at the moment, and things overseas simply don't seem to matter.
Bearing Some Burdens
During the Cold War, Americans had a different mindset. They saw themselves in an existential struggle for survival with the communists. It was a swirling global battle that lasted decades. Virtually every country in the world had a U.S. and Soviet embassy, which battled each other for dominance. An event in Thailand or Bolivia engaged both governments and thus both publics. The threat of nuclear war was real, and conventional wars such as those in Korea and Vietnam were personal to Americans. I remember in elementary school being taught of the importance of the battle against communism in the Congo.
One thing that the end of the Cold War and the subsequent 20 years taught the United States was that the world mattered -- a mindset that was as habitual as it was reflective of new realities. If the world mattered, then something must be done when it became imperiled. The result was covert and overt action designed to shape events to suit American interests, perceived and real. Starting in the late 1980s, the United States sent troops to Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait. The American public was engaged in all of these for a variety of reasons, some of them good, some bad. Whatever the reasoning, there was a sense of clarity that demanded that something be done. After 9/11, the conviction that something be done turned into an obsession. But over the past 10 years, Americans' sense of clarity has become much more murky, and their appetite for involvement has declined accordingly.
That decline occurred not only among the American public but also among American policymakers. During the Cold War and jihadist wars, covert and overt intervention became a standard response. More recently, the standards for justifying either type of intervention have become more exacting to policymakers. Syria was not a matter of indifference, but the situation lacked the clarity that justified intervention. The United States seemed poised to intervene and then declined. The American public saw it as avoiding another overseas entanglement with an outcome that could not be shaped by American power.
We see the same thing in Ukraine. The United States cannot abide a single power like Russia dominating Eurasia. That would create a power that could challenge the United States. There were times that the Ukrainian crisis would have immediately piqued American interest. While some elements of the U.S. government, particularly in the State Department, did get deeply involved, the American public remained generally indifferent.
From a geopolitical point of view, the future of Ukraine as European or Russian helps shape the future of Eurasia. But from the standpoint of the American public, the future is far off and susceptible to interference. (Americans have heard of many things that could have become a major threat -- a few did, most didn't.) They were prepared to bet that Ukraine's future would not intersect with their lives. Ukraine matters more to Europeans than to Americans, and the United States' ability to really shape events is limited. It is far from clear what the issues are from an American point of view.
This is disconcerting from the standpoint of those who live outside the United States. They experienced the United States through the Cold War, the Clinton years and the post-9/11 era. The United States was deeply involved in everything. The world got used to that. Today, government officials are setting much higher standards for involvement, though not as high as those set by the American public. The constant presence of American power shaping regions far away to prevent the emergence of a threat, whether communist or Islamist, is declining. I spoke to a foreign diplomat who insisted the United States was weakening. I tried to explain that it is not weakness that dictates disengagement but indifference. He couldn't accept the idea that the United States has entered a period in which it really doesn't care what happens to his country. I refined that by saying that there are those in Washington that do care, but that it is their profession to care. The rest of the country doesn't see that it matters to them. The diplomat had lived in a time when everything mattered and all problems required an American position. American indifference is the most startling thing in the world for him.
This was the position of American isolationists of the early 20th century. ("Isolationist" admittedly was an extremely bad term, just as the alternative "internationalist" was a misleading phrase). The isolationists opposed involvement in Europe during World War II for a number of reasons. They felt that the European problem was European and that the Anglo-French alliance could cope with Germany. They did not see how U.S. intervention would bring enough power to bear to make a significant difference. They observed that sending a million men to France in World War I did not produce a permanently satisfactory outcome. The isolationists were willing to be involved in Asia, as is normally forgotten, but not in Europe.
I would not have been an isolationist, yet it is hard to see how an early American intervention would have changed the shape of the European war. France did not collapse because it was outnumbered. After France's collapse, it was unclear how much more the United States could have done for Britain than it did. The kinds of massive intervention that would have been necessary to change the early course of the war were impossible. It would have taken years of full mobilization to be practical, and who expected France to collapse in six weeks? Stalin was certainly surprised.
The isolationist period was followed, of course, by the war and the willingness of the United States to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," in the words of John F. Kennedy. Until very recently, that sweeping statement was emblematic of U.S. foreign policy since 1941.
The current public indifference to foreign policy reflects that shift. But Washington's emerging foreign policy is not the systematic foreign policy of the pre-World War II period. It is an instrumental position, which can adapt to new circumstances and will likely be changed not over the course of decades but over the course of years or months. Nevertheless, at this moment, public indifference to foreign policy and even domestic events is strong. The sense that private life matters more than public is intense, and that means that Americans are concerned with things that are deemed frivolous by foreigners, academics and others who make their living in public and foreign policy. They care about some things, but are not prepared to care about all things. Of course, this overthrows Kennedy's pledge in its grandiosity and extremity, but not in its essence. Some burdens will be borne, so long as they serve American interests and not simply the interests of its allies.
Whether this sentiment is good or bad is debatable. To me, it is simply becoming a fact to be borne in mind. I would argue that it is a luxury, albeit a temporary one, conferred on Americans by geography. Americans might not be interested in the world, but the world is interested in Americans. Until this luxury comes to an end, the United States has ample assistant secretaries to give the impression that it cares. The United States will adjust to this period more easily than other governments, which expect the United States to be committed to undertaking any burden. That may come in the future. It won't come now. But history and the world go on, even overseas.
Read more: The American Public's Indifference to Foreign Affairs | Stratfor
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #465 on:
February 18, 2014, 11:49:29 PM »
We've hit the idiocracy tipping point. Panem et kardashians.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #466 on:
February 19, 2014, 01:00:57 AM »
Well, it is not exactly like we have been well led for quite some time.
Bush 1 snatched stalemate from victory in Gulf-1.
Clinton acted only when it did not matter and did so indecisively and let Saddam get rid of the inspectors
Bush 2 flinched in going after OBL in Tora Bora and took his eye off the ball in Afpakia and chose an utterly incoherent strategy and left Baraq a hideous hand in Afpakia. He led quite badly on Iraq, getting it right after trying all the wrong options.
Baraq threw it all away in Iraq, , , , and Egypt, and Libya, and and and
I can't say the American people doubt the competence of our foreign affairs leadership without reason.
VDH: Lessons of WW1
Reply #467 on:
February 23, 2014, 09:51:00 AM »
5 Q& As about the Ukraine
Reply #468 on:
March 03, 2014, 01:49:50 PM »
VDH: Stepping Stones to the Ukriane Crisis
Reply #469 on:
March 03, 2014, 02:37:04 PM »
The Stepping Stones to the Ukraine Crisis
March 3, 2014 10:35 am / victorhanson
by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner
Each step to the present Ukrainian predicament was in and of itself hardly earth-shattering and was sort of framed by Obama’s open-mic assurance to Medvedev to tell Vladimir that he would more flexible after the election.
Limbic viz Flickr
Limbic viz Flickr
Indeed, Obama, as is his wont, always had mellifluous and sophistic arguments for why we had to take every soldier out of Iraq after the successful surge; why we needed to drop missile defense with the Poles and Czechs; why we needed both a surge and simultaneous deadline to end the surge in Afghanistan; why we first issued serial deadlines to Iran to ask them to please stop proliferation, then just quit the sanctions altogether just as they started to work; why we needed to “lead from behind” in Libya; why the Muslim Brotherhood was largely secular and legitimate and then later not so much so; why we issued redlines and bragged about Putin’s “help” to eliminate WMD in Syria, and were going to bomb and then not bomb and then maybe bomb; why we kept pressuring Israel; why we cozied up to an increasingly dictatorial Turkey; why we reached out to Cuba and Venezuela; and why we sometimes embarrassed old allies like Britain, Canada, and Israel.
Amid such a landscape of deadlines begetting redlines begetting step-over lines always came the unfortunate pontificating — the Cairo mytho-history speech, the adolescent so-called apology tour, the sermon about “exceptionalism,” — and also the dressing down delivered to a mute Obama by a pompous Daniel Ortega, the bows and hugs, and Obama’s constant apologies for past American sins. Again all this was trivial — and yet in aggregate not so trivial for the lidless eye of a Putin.
Amid both the deeds and the facts came the serial $1 trillion annual deficits, the surge in borrowing for redistributionist payouts, the monetary expansion and zero-interest rates, and finally the vast cuts in the military budget, all of which fleshed out the caricature of a newly isolationist and self-indulgent America, eager to talk, bluster, or threaten its way out of its traditional postwar leadership role.
Again, each incident in and of itself was of little import. None were the stuff of crises. But incrementally all these tiny tesserae began forming a mosaic, fairly or not, of the Obama administration as either weak or clueless or perhaps both.
Accordingly, Mr. Putin, in empirical fashion, after factoring in the rhetoric and the facts, has decided that it is time, in the fashion of 1979–80, to move with probable impunity. Others are, of course, watching what Obama derides as Cold War chess games. Should Iran now go full bore on its nuclear program? Should China test Japanese waters and airspace a bit more aggressively? Should North Korea try to gain new concessions from its nuclear lunacy? Should the failed Communists of Latin America try forcibly exporting their miseries to neighbors? And all are operating on the shared assumption that the American reaction will be another “outrageous,” “unacceptable,” “don’t cross this line,” or another solemn Kerry lecture about the existential threats of global warming.
For some, like the now furrow-browed Europeans who once giddily lapped up the Victory Column pabulum, there is irony. For the Baltic states, Georgians, the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, and the South Koreans, there is increased anxiety about regional strains of Putanism spreading to their own backyards. And among our allies such as the British, Israelis, Canadians, and Australians, there is still polite bewilderment.
This will probably end in either two ways : Either Barack Obama will have his 1980 Jimmy Carter revelatory moment as something like an “Obama Doctrine,” or we could see some pretty scary things in the next three years as regional thugs cash in their chips and begin readjusting the map in their areas of would-be influence.
POTH/Brooks: The Leaderless Doctrine
Reply #470 on:
March 11, 2014, 12:24:32 PM »
The Leaderless Doctrine
MARCH 10, 2014
We’re in the middle of a remarkable shift in how Americans see the world and their own country’s role in the world. For the first time in half a century, a majority of Americans say that the U.S. should be less engaged in world affairs, according to the most recent Pew Research Center survey. For the first time in recorded history, a majority of Americans believe that their country has a declining influence on what’s happening around the globe. A slight majority of Americans now say that their country is doing too much to help solve the world’s problems.
At first blush, this looks like isolationism. After the exhaustion from Iraq and Afghanistan, and amid the lingering economic stagnation, Americans are turning inward.
But if you actually look at the data, you see that this is not the case. America is not turning inward economically. More than three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. should get more economically integrated with the world, according to Pew.
America is not turning inward culturally. Large majorities embrace the globalization of culture and the internationalization of colleges and workplaces. Americans are not even turning inward when it comes to activism. They have enormous confidence in personalized peer-to-peer efforts to promote democracy, human rights and development.
What’s happening can be more accurately described this way: Americans have lost faith in the high politics of global affairs. They have lost faith in the idea that American political and military institutions can do much to shape the world. American opinion is marked by an amazing sense of limitation — that there are severe restrictions on what political and military efforts can do.
This sense of limits is shared equally among Democrats and Republicans, polls show. There has been surprisingly little outcry against the proposed defense cuts, which would reduce the size of the U.S. Army to its lowest levels since 1940. That’s because people are no longer sure military might gets you very much.
These shifts are not just a result of post-Iraq disillusionment, or anything the Obama administration has done. The shift in foreign policy values is a byproduct of a deeper and broader cultural shift.
The veterans of World War II returned to civilian life with a basic faith in big units — big armies, corporations and unions. They tended to embrace a hierarchical leadership style.
The Cold War was a competition between clearly defined nation-states.
Commanding American leaders created a liberal international order. They preserved that order with fleets that roamed the seas, armies stationed around the world and diplomatic skill.
Over the ensuing decades, that faith in big units has eroded — in all spheres of life. Management hierarchies have been flattened. Today people are more likely to believe that history is driven by people gathering in the squares and not from the top down. The liberal order is not a single system organized and defended by American military strength; it’s a spontaneous network of direct people-to-people contacts, flowing along the arteries of the Internet.
The real power in the world is not military or political. It is the power of individuals to withdraw their consent. In an age of global markets and global media, the power of the state and the tank, it is thought, can pale before the power of the swarms of individuals.
This is global affairs with the head chopped off. Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm. The ensuing doctrine is certainly not Reaganism — the belief that America should use its power to defeat tyranny and promote democracy. It’s not Kantian, or a belief that the world should be governed by international law. It’s not even realism — the belief that diplomats should play elaborate chess games to balance power and advance national interest. It’s a radical belief that the nature of power — where it comes from and how it can be used — has fundamentally shifted, and the people in the big offices just don’t get it.
It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.
One set of numbers in the data leaps out. For decades Americans have been asked if they believe most people can be trusted. Forty percent of baby boomers believe most people can be trusted. But only 19 percent of millennials believe that. This is a thoroughly globalized and linked generation with unprecedentedly low levels of social trust.
We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting.
VDH: Eisenhower's foreign policy
Reply #471 on:
March 11, 2014, 05:02:43 PM »
An interesting trip down memory lane.
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