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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 40374 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.
The Revenge of Geography
Reply #472 on:
March 14, 2014, 02:42:06 PM »
Crimea: The Revenge of Geography?
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
The Obama administration claims it is motivated by the G-8, interdependence, human rights and international law. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a more traditional historical actor. He is motivated by geopolitics. That is why he temporarily has the upper hand in the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea.
Geopolitics, according to the mid-20th century U.S. diplomat and academic Robert Strausz-Hupe, is "the struggle for space and power," played out in a geographical setting. Geopolitics is eternal, ever since Persia was the world's first superpower in antiquity. Indeed, the Old Testament, on one level, is a lesson in geopolitics. Strausz-Hupe, an Austrian immigrant, wanted to educate the political elite of his adopted country so that the forces of good could make better use of geopolitics than the forces of evil in World War II.
Adherence to geopolitics allowed the British geographer and liberal educator Sir Halford J. Mackinder in a 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," to accurately forecast the basic trend lines of the 20th century: how the European power arrangement of the Edwardian age would give way to one encompassing all of Eurasia, with a battle between Western sea power and Russian land power. Geopolitics was at the heart of 19th-century America's bout of imperialism in the Greater Caribbean: By dominating its nearby sea the United States came, in turn, to dominate the Western Hemisphere, enabling it to affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere -- the story of the 20th century. Geopolitics was at the heart of World War II, with the German military machine's lunge for the oil of the Caucasus and the Japanese military machine's lunge for the oil and raw materials of Southeast Asia. Geopolitics was at the heart of the Cold War, with U.S. bases and allies guarding the southern Eurasian rimland from Greece and Turkey to South Korea and Japan against the Soviet Union. The celebrated diplomat George Kennan's "containment" strategy was, in significant part, a geopolitical one.
It isn't that geography and geopolitics supersede everything else, including Western values and human agency. Not at all! Rather, it is that geography in particular is the starting point for understanding everything else. Only by respecting geography in the first place can Western values and human ingenuity overcome it. It is not one or the other, but the sequence of understanding which is crucial.
To wit, the late military historian John Keegan explains that Great Britain and the United States could champion freedom only because the sea protected them "from the landbound enemies of liberty." Alexander Hamilton observed that had Britain not been an island, its military establishment would have been just as overbearing as those of continental Europe, and Britain "would in all probability" have become "a victim to the absolute power of a single man."
Likewise, the Berlin Wall may have fallen in 1989, but Russia is still big and right next door to Central and Eastern Europe. And Russia remains illiberal and autocratic because, unlike Britain and America, it is not an island nation, but a vast continent with few geographical features to protect it from invasion. Putin's aggression stems ultimately from this fundamental geographical insecurity. Though, this does not doom him to be a reactionary. A far-sighted ruler would see that only civil society can ultimately save Russia. But Russia's geographical setting does place Putin in an understandable context.
Geographical facts are often simple, brutal, obvious -- not interesting or inspiring or intellectually engaging in any sense -- but they are no less true as a consequence. It is not a matter of denying them, but of overcoming them. George H. W. Bush intuited such truths and thus was careful not to offend Soviet sensibilities, even as the Soviet empire was collapsing in Europe, for fear of providing Moscow with a pretext to crack down more than it did in the Baltic states, next door to the Kremlin. The elder Bush administration was aware, amid all the euphoria surrounding the events of 1989, that geography was still depressingly relevant, if not determinative.
Putin is for the moment in a strong position in Ukraine because Ukraine simply matters to him more than it matters to the United States or even to Europe. And it matters more to him because of geography. Ukraine, for all the familiar reasons, is central to the destiny of European Russia, to Russia's history and identity and particularly to Russia's access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean via the Black Sea. And because Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based on the Crimean Peninsula, Putin feels he cannot just stand by and watch his fleet become subject to an emerging, overtly pro-Western state in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, geography dictates that Ukraine has a long border with Russia and is not separated from it by any formidable geographical features. Thus, even as Putin needs Ukraine and Crimea more than the West does, he also has more leverage over Ukraine and Crimea than the West does. Because of geography, natural gas deposits are primarily in Russia rather than in Ukraine. And thus Ukraine is dependent on Russia for not only trade, but energy, too. (Ukraine's shale reserves are mainly in the eastern, pro-Russian part of the country.)
Because of geography, the Baltic states, Poland and Moldova are threatened: They are contiguous to Russia and Ukraine, with no natural impediments to protect them. In the Baltic states in particular, there are Russian minorities useful to Putin, for the flat geography of the North European Plain has enabled the flow of peoples and changeability of borders over the centuries (even if most of the Russian speakers in the Baltics ended up there during the Soviet period).
Again, these are obvious, elementary school facts, but ones that are central to the relative strengths and weaknesses of the West and Russia in the current crisis. Only from such facts can a useful narrative of the crisis emerge, and ways found to trump Putin's geographical advantage. The Baltic states, Poland and Moldova are in danger primarily because of where they happen to be located. Ukraine, despite its pro-Western upheaval, cannot ultimately be entirely independent of Russia because of where it happens to be located.
And Ukraine and Crimea are but prologue to a reality across the globe.
In Asia, the crises in the South and East China seas are all about geography -- lines on the map in blue water and where they should be drawn. This is traditional geopolitics, stunningly unaffected by the advance of Western liberal thought. In the Middle East, Israel faces the tyranny of distance in its planning for any military strike against Iran -- the fundamental fact of the Israel-Iran conflict. Tunisia and Egypt, while politically troubled, are nevertheless cohesive, age-old clusters of civilization -- natural outgrowths of geography, in other words. This keeps them viable as states, unlike Libya, Syria and Iraq, which are geographically illogical within their present borders and thus have collapsed in various degrees following the weakening or toppling of their dictatorships.
Geography is no less relevant to the 21st century than it has been throughout history. Communications technology has not erased geography; rather, it has only made it more claustrophobic, so that each region of the earth interacts with every other one as never before. Intensifying this claustrophobia is the growth of cities -- another geographical phenomenon. The earth is smaller than ever, thanks to technology. But like a tiny wristwatch with all of its mechanisms, you have to disaggregate its geographical parts and features in order to understand how it works.
Thus, any international relations strategy must emanate initially from the physical terrain upon which we all live. And because geopolitics emanates from geography, it will never go away or become irrelevant. Strausz-Hupe had it right. If liberal powers do not engage in geopolitics, they will only leave the playing field to their enemies who do. For even evolved liberal states, such as those in America and Europe, are not exempt from the battle for survival. Such things as the G-8, human rights and international law can and must triumph over geography. But that is only possible if geopolitics becomes part of the strategy of the West.
Read more: Crimea: The Revenge of Geography? | Stratfor
Spengler: The Cold Ashes of Republican Foreign Policy
Reply #473 on:
March 17, 2014, 10:20:29 AM »
Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 11:17:54 AM by Crafty_Dog
WSJ: Ukraine and nuclear proliferation
Reply #474 on:
March 19, 2014, 09:01:18 PM »
The damage to world order from Vladimir Putin's invasion of Crimea will echo for years, but one of the biggest casualties deserves more attention: the cause of nuclear nonproliferation. One lesson to the world of Russia's cost-free carve-up of Ukraine is that nations that abandon their nuclear arsenals do so at their own peril.
This story goes back to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia's nuclear arsenal was spread among the former Soviet republics that had become independent nations. Ukraine had some 1,800 nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, air-launched cruise missiles and bombers. Only Russia and the U.S. had more at the time, and Ukraine's arsenal was both modern and highly survivable in the event of a first strike.
Russian forces wait outside the Ukrainian firefighters brigade headquarters. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The U.S. was rightly concerned that these warheads could end up in the wrong hands, and the Clinton Administration made controlling them a foreign-policy priority. The result was the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in which Ukraine agreed to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and return its nuclear arsenal to Russia in exchange for security "assurances" by Russia, the U.S. and United Kingdom. Those included promises to respect Ukraine's independence and sovereignty within its existing borders, as well as refraining from threatening or using force against Ukraine.
Officials in Kiev clearly had the potential for Russian aggression in mind when they sought those assurances, which is one reason they wanted other nations to co-sign as well. China and France later added somewhat weaker assurances in separate attachments to the Budapest Memo.
Ukraine also wanted to take many years to turn over its weapons, but the U.S. wanted quicker action and by 1996 Ukraine had given up its entire nuclear arsenal. It was an important victory for nonproliferation—a success rooted in the world's post-Cold War confidence in American power and deterrence.
Contrast that with the current crisis. President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have blasted Russia for its clear violation of the Budapest accord, but those U.S. and U.K. assurances have been exposed as meaningless. That lesson isn't lost on Ukraine, but it also won't be lost on the rest of the world.
Had Kiev kept its weapons rather than giving them up in return for parchment promises, would Vladimir Putin have been so quick to invade Crimea two weeks ago? It's impossible to know, but it's likely it would have at least given him more pause.
Ukraine's fate is likely to make the world's nuclear rogues, such as Iran and North Korea, even less likely to give up their nuclear facilities or weapons. As important, it is likely to make nonnuclear powers and even close U.S. allies wonder if they can still rely on America's security guarantees.
Japan and South Korea are sure to consider their nuclear options as China presses its own territorial claims. South Korean public opinion is already in favor of an independent nuclear deterrent. And several Middle East countries, notably Saudi Arabia, are already contemplating their nuclear options once Iran becomes a nuclear power. Ukraine's fate will only reinforce those who believe these countries can't trust American assurances.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that President Obama has made nuclear nonproliferation one of his highest priorities. In April 2009 in Prague, he promised to lead a crusade to rid the world of nuclear weapons with treaties and the power of America's moral example. But documents and "assurances" have never kept any country safe from the world's predators. Only comparable military power or the protection of a superpower like the U.S. can do that. When the superpower's assurances are called into question, the world becomes a far more dangerous place.
On present trend Mr. Obama's legacy won't be new limits on the spread of nuclear weapons. Instead he'll be the President who presided over, and been a major cause of, a new era of global nuclear proliferation.
To underscore the point, next week Mr. Obama will travel to The Hague to preach the virtues of nonproliferation at his third global Nuclear Security Summit. Also expected: Vladimir Putin.
WSJ Henninger: American Fatigue Syndrome
Reply #475 on:
March 19, 2014, 11:30:36 PM »
March 19, 2014 7:16 p.m. ET
By the time the second World Trade Center tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world was watching it. We may assume that Vladimir Putin was watching. Mr. Putin, a quick calculator of political realities, would see that someone was going to get hit for this, and hit hard.
He was right of course. The Bush presidency became a war presidency that day, and it pounded and pursued the Islamic fundamentalists of al Qaeda without let-up or apology.
During that time, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer in East Germany, deeply regretted the fall of the Soviet Union's empire and despised the Americans who caused it to fall. But no one cared what Mr. Putin thought then. Russia's power was a sliver of its former size. Besides, Mr. Putin's hurt was salved with the limitless personal wealth that flowed from doing business with the West. Conventional wisdom clicked in easily: Capitalism's surplus was enough to sate any rational autocrat.
In 2008, the American people elected a new president, and Vladimir Putin, a patient feline, would have noticed that President Obama in his speeches was saying that American power would be used "in concert" with other nations and institutions, such as the United Nations. What would have made Mr. Putin's eye jump was the decision by George Bush's successor not just to leave Iraq but without leaving a residual U.S. military presence to help the new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Sometime in the first Obama term, opinion polls began to report that the American people were experiencing what media shorthand came to call "fatigue" with the affairs of the world. The U.S. should "mind its own business." The America-is-fatigued polling fit with Mr. Obama's stated goal to lead from behind. A close observer of American politics also could notice that Republican politicians, the presumptive heirs of Reagan, began to recalibrate their worldview inward to accommodate the "fatigue" in the opinion polls.
We are of course discussing Vladimir Putin's path to the forced annexation of Crimea. And possibly in time a move on the independence of Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan or Moldova. This narrative has one more point of Putin demarcation: Syria.
Last September, every foreign chancery in the world concluded that the United States would bomb Bashar Assad's airfields with Tomahawk missiles in reprisal for killing nearly 1,500 Syrians with chemical weapons, including sarin gas. Vladimir Putin placed a bet. He suggested to the American president that in lieu of the U.S. bombing Assad's airfields, their two nations, in concert, could remove all of Syria's chemical weapons. Mr. Obama accepted and stood down from bombing Assad. Six months later Vladimir Putin invaded and annexed Crimea.
This moment is not about Barack Obama. By now we know about him. This is about Vladimir Putin and the self-delusions of Western nations and their famous "fatigue." Vladimir Putin is teaching the West and especially the United States that fatigue is not an option.
Sometimes world affairs go off the grid. Diplomats may give reasons why it is not in the interests of Mr. Putin or Russia to take this course. Vice President Biden told the Poles in Warsaw Monday that Mr. Putin's seizure of Crimea was "flawed logic." It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin's point of view: He doesn't care what they think.
The solitary but thrilling world of Vladimir Putin's mind is the one inhabited by the Assads, Saddams, bin Ladens, Kims, Gadhafis and Khomeinis of the world, and when it really runs out of control, or is allowed to, by a Stalin, Hitler, or Mao. Whether one man's grandiosity will burst across borders is not about normal logic. It is about personal power and forcing the obeisance of other nations.
Vladimir Putin re-proves that sometimes a bad person gains control of the instruments of national power. Their populations do nothing or can't, because they are disarmed by thugs with overwhelming firepower. Or, as on Russian TV now, they are marinated in anti-U.S. propaganda. Today even second-rate megalomaniacs gain access to high-tech weaponry, including missiles and nuclear bombs.
Running alongside these old realities is a new phenomenon, surely noticed by Mr. Putin: The nations of the civilized world have decided their most pressing concern is income inequality. Barack Obama says so, as does the International Monetary Fund. Western Europe amid the Ukraine crisis is a case study of nations redistributing themselves and perhaps NATO into impotence.
Because no modern Democrat can be credible on this, some Republican presidential candidate will have to explain the high price of America's fatigue. Fatigue will allow global disorder to displace 60 years of democratic order. If the U.S. doesn't lead, the strongmen win because for them it's easier. They don't lead people; they coerce them. Ask the millions free for now in the old countries of the Iron Curtain.
WSJ: A gas export policy
Reply #476 on:
March 19, 2014, 11:32:54 PM »
third post of the day
A Gas Export Strategy
Opponents don't understand energy markets or price expectations.
March 19, 2014 7:28 p.m. ET
The latest excuse for not exporting America's domestic energy resources to reduce Vladimir Putin's political influence is that it's too late to save Crimea. The anti-fossil-fuel left always has a reason not to drill, but their argument this time defies economic logic.
The U.S. oil and gas revolution has handed President Obama a powerful policy tool, and one way to wield it would be for the Energy Department to approve immediately the 25 applications for liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. Opponents, including the White House, claim the timing is wrong because the first U.S. LNG export facility isn't due online until next year; others are even further off; Ukraine doesn't have a facility to receive and convert LNG back to gas; and U.S. LNG exports are most likely destined for Asia in any event.
Asked how the U.S. could liberate Europe from Russian gas, White House press secretary and geostrategist Jay Carney opined that exports are a "complicated process and more of a long-term proposition." For people who don't understand markets, supply and demand expectations may be complicated. For anyone else, this is easy.
The growth of LNG—which can ship internationally—has created a more global natural gas market. That market is forward-looking, and any clear signal that the U.S. intends to boost its exports will contribute to expectations about lower future prices. Even if some U.S. gas flows to Asia, the global supply will increase.
This is especially important to the many European nations that are currently dependent on Russia for 70% to 100% of their gas. Jaroslav Zajicek, deputy chief of mission for the Czech Republic, told a House hearing last year that his country has found that even the decline in U.S. gas imports in recent years has freed up more gas for Europe, lowered prices, and thus "weakened" the "Russian negotiating position during contract-renewal talks."
Europe has an extensive pipeline network, which means that U.S. gas making it to any port of entry would reduce overall European dependence on Russia. Spain has an LNG receiving terminal that can add fuel to the European pipeline, while countries like Lithuania (100% dependent on Russian gas) are racing to get a floating LNG import terminal online by the end of the year.
The ambassadors of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently wrote to House Speaker John Boehner with a plea for more gas, noting that technology allows them to reverse gas flows back to Ukraine. In 2013 alone, Ukraine imported from Poland and Hungary almost two billion cubic meters of gas. With Russia unilaterally raising gas prices on the Ukraine, the more ability Europe has to undermine those price hikes, the more limited the Russian influence.
Another excuse for doing nothing is that even if Energy approves all 25 applications, the projects must still endure federal and local environmental and safety reviews. True enough. Yet this misses that blanket approval would let the market sort which facilities are best positioned for an efficient regulatory review, project financing and contracts. The Energy bureaucracy's current approach—plodding through each application on a first-come-first-serve basis—means that the best projects may be at the end of the queue.
Blanket approval would have an equally important psychological impact. The Russian economy—and Mr. Putin's political cronies—are highly dependent on petro dollars. His gas stranglehold has also given Mr. Putin enormous political leverage over former Soviet satellites. Every dollar of U.S. gas that flows to the world market is one less dollar flowing to Mr. Putin's economy and his energy blackmail racket. Mr. Putin would get the message that even if he can swallow Ukraine, his future leverage will decline.
Martin Dempsey, as dovish a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as America has had, told a House hearing last week: "An energy independent [U.S.] and net exporter of energy as a nation has the potential to change the security environment around the world—notably in Europe and in the Middle East. And so, as we look at our strategies for the future, I think we've got to pay more and particular attention to energy as an instrument of national power. And because it will very soon in the next few years potentially become one of our more prominent tools."
Mr. Obama has been told all this by his military advisers, American CEOs, foreign leaders and Members of Congress. He knows more gas exports are in the U.S. national interest. The case is so overwhelming that the White House "timing" excuse can only be explained as cover for the President's unwillingness to offend his green money-men who hate fossil fuels. He is letting partisan politics interfere with U.S. economic and strategic interests.
Fareed Zakaria: "I'm so smart if I do say so myself"
Reply #477 on:
March 28, 2014, 11:05:12 PM »
The snarkiness of my subject line aside, there are some points of interest in here apart from it as a study in a certain mindset. For example, what are the implications of cyberwar? If China has a hold of our infrastructure via planted stuxnet type viruses and is dumping its holdings of our bonds thus spiking our interest rates, what is our motive and what relevance our military in deciding whether to fight for free passage in the South China Sea? Economic leverage does matter, and increasingly so-- and interdependence cuts both ways.
Though I think he gets it wrong, the reference to Pinker's thesis is worth considering, and is well in line with thought processes explored by Konrad Lorenz in his On Aggression and The Waning of Humanness.
Anyway, Mr. Smartypants pants out a paean to "smart power".
Obama’s 21st-century power politics
by Fareed Zakaria,
Published: March 27
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to its harsh realities because it believes, as the Wall Street Journal opined, in “a fantasy world of international rules.” John McCain declared that “this is the most naive president in history.” The Post’s editorial board worried that President Obama misunderstands “the nature of the century we’re living in.”
Almost all of these critics have ridiculed Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th-century behavior in the 21st century. Well, here are the facts. Scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force, something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, that practice has sharply declined, and in recent decades, that decline has accelerated. Before 1950, wars between nations resulted in border changes (annexations) about 80 percent of the time. After 1950, that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946, there have been only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force — and all of them before 1976. So Putin’s behavior, in fact, does belong to the 19th century.
The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker has collected war data in his superb book “The Better Angels of Our Nature.” In a more recent essay, he points out that “after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945. Nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.” Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries — not just major powers, not just in Europe — have also dropped dramatically, by more than 50 percent over the past three decades. Scholars at the University of Maryland have found that the past decade has seen the lowest number of new conflicts since World War II.
Many aspects of international life remain nasty and brutish, and it is easy to sound tough and suggest that you understand the hard realities of power politics. But the most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945.
It is ironic that the Wall Street Journal does not recognize this new world because it was created in substantial part through capitalism and free trade.Twenty years ago, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, as hardheaded a statesman as I have ever met, told me that Asian countries had seen the costs of war and the fruits of economic interdependence and development — and that they would not choose the former over the latter.
This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world.
Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.
((What specious twaddle!!! By 2008 the US had no bandwidth because it was fighting not one but two wars of the sort that FZ seems to think don't happen because of Pinker's book. Bush's polling was in the 20s! You think he could have gone to the American people and asked for a third war-- this time with Russia?!? And, two major wars notwithstanding, FZ thinks Bush do nothing! And he Baraq a man of action because he "has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such"? Are you fg kidding me?!?))
You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally ((because the Germans in particular and the French too were so fg venal in their desire to make money by undercutting the sanctions Bush wanted , , ,). The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. ((Ummm details details-- the US Congress, especially the Reps, had to push Obama to do this. Obama has LOOSENED the noose in return for nothing and has appointed a Sec Def who is taking US military spending down to less than 3% GDP while opposing sanctions on Iran from the beginning. Again, are you fg kidding me?!?))
This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century. ((And a profound tragedy it is.))
There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare ((due e.g. to US arms standing at the Berlin Wall and its analogues)). We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #478 on:
March 28, 2014, 11:14:20 PM »
As pax Americana fades, expect those stats to change in the other direction.
Zakaria makes Thomas Friedman look smart in comparison. At least Friedman makes up his own hack phrases.
WSJ: The Outlaw Vladimir Putin
Reply #479 on:
April 09, 2014, 11:28:50 AM »
The Outlaw Vladimir Putin
Moscow's flouting of treaties, international law and the Geneva Conventions is raising world-wide dangers.
By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey
April 8, 2014 7:26 p.m. ET
President Obama has repeatedly described Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal and illegitimate, but he also has sought to minimize the strategic significance of Vladimir Putin's land grab. In fact, Moscow's actions—including threatening "civil war" if Ukraine resists the orchestrated seizures of government buildings and uprisings in eastern Ukraine by ethnic Russian separatists this week—are more than isolated instances of law breaking. Russia's behavior, and its legal and institutional justifications, are dangerously destabilizing the existing international system. What is the likely result? The use of force around the world will be encouraged, and the incentive to acquire nuclear weapons magnified.
The three basic principles of international law, reflected in the United Nations Charter and long-standing custom, are the equality of all states, the sanctity of their territorial integrity, and noninterference by outsiders in their internal affairs. Yet Moscow now insists that it has unique rights and privileges to protect the interests of Russian-speaking populations outside its borders and has special prerogatives regarding "historically Russian" territories that were not included in the Russian Federation upon the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991.
Regarding Ukraine, these claims have been translated into a set of specific demands that Moscow has made in speeches by Mr. Putin and others, in articles sanctioned by the Kremlin, and in discussions between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry. The demands include that Ukraine postpone its planned May elections, change its constitution to provide for regional autonomy (making eastern Ukraine more vulnerable to Russia's capture), and dramatically weaken the national government in Kiev. Moscow insists that Ukraine make Russian the country's second "official" language and ban certain nationalist political parties.
Moscow also says Ukraine must become a neutral, non-allied and essentially demilitarized state—a status known during the Cold War as "Finlandization," after terms that the Soviet Union imposed on Finland as the price of its "independence."
Mr. Putin's demands clearly violate the principle of nonintervention in internal affairs enshrined in the U.N. Charter and customary international law.
Moscow's use of troops that have removed their Russian insignia, coupled with explicit denials that its military forces were even engaged in operations in Crimea, violates the Geneva Conventions. The failure to promptly repatriate captured Ukrainian troops and equipment after the invasion of Crimea was complete, and ended, and Russia's attempt to coerce Ukrainian soldiers to join the Russian military, are also major violations.
The laws of war are already under assault from terrorist organizations, whose fighters routinely operate out of uniform to blend into the civilian population. Having a major power like Russia engage in similar conduct further erodes respect for these vital norms—and encourages such rogue behavior by other governments and by rebel movements.
Moscow's disregard of its treaty commitments has also gravely undermined the cause of nuclear nonproliferation. In particular: The takeover of Crimea shreds the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, by which Ukraine agreed to give up its formidable nuclear arsenal in exchange for commitments from Russia, Britain and the U.S. to respect its political independence and territory.
Now Russia has demonstrated that military force in general, and nuclear weapons in particular, may well remain the only reliable means of protection against hostile actions by larger, more powerful states. If the Russian takeover of Crimea continues to meet with only a tepid international response, the message is clear: Security commitments among states are worthless. This development is certain to have profoundly destabilizing consequences world-wide.
Thus it is hard to comprehend the Pentagon's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. would drastically reduce its nuclear-weapons capability to comply with the New START treaty with Russia. America is reducing its ability to defend itself in order to honor a treaty with a country that has just flagrantly violated a treaty.
In the event that the U.S. and its allies decide to abandon the minimalist and ineffective approach they have taken so far, several options for challenging Russia's bogus claims come to mind. These measures are not a substitute for strong leadership, but they at least offer the prospect of countering what so far has been a one-sided conflict.
As a start, the Obama administration should seek a U.N. General Assembly resolution requesting the International Court of Justice's opinion on the legality of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Russia would have no veto over such a request. Since the General Assembly has already voted overwhelmingly to declare the annexation illegal, this should easily be achieved. If the International Court of Justice concurs that the annexation is illegal, that would eviscerate Moscow's bogus international-law arguments and could serve as the basis for future legal claims against Russia and Russian entities.
The U.S. and its allies should also challenge the legality of Russia's actions in every conceivable legal venue, whether domestic or international. Since Moscow has justified its annexation by claiming Ukrainian governmental corruption and repression against Russian speakers, Western governments should give high-profile publicity to whatever evidence of Russian official corruption they possess, and to evidence that unrest in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has been fostered by Russian military and intelligence agents.
Nongovernmental organizations, which cast themselves as guardians of the international order, have a role to play in condemning and challenging in courts of law and in public opinion Russia's actions against Ukraine. This would also offer NGOs the opportunity to show their neutral commitment to maintaining the international order, as many of these groups claimed to be doing in challenging the legality of American actions in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula.
More than arcane legal principles are at stake. Western failure to champion a narrative of international rights and wrongs, rooted in the language of law and legitimacy, would be tragic. Meeting Russia's aggression with passivity undermines already weakened domestic support for a robust and engaged foreign policy in the U.S. and other Western countries, and it promises to make the world a more lawless and violent place.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. They are partners in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker Hostetler LLP. Mr. Rivkin is also a senior adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
US Defense policy in the wake of the Ukrainian Affair
Reply #480 on:
April 09, 2014, 01:42:34 PM »
U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 02:59 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and "the long war." Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete.
There was a profoundly radical idea embedded in this line of thought. Wars between nations or dynastic powers had been a constant condition in Europe, and the rest of the world had been no less violent. Every century had had systemic wars in which the entire international system (increasingly dominated by Europe since the 16th century) had participated. In the 20th century, there were the two World Wars, in the 19th century the Napoleonic Wars, in the 18th century the Seven Years' War, and in the 17th century the Thirty Years' War.
Those who argued that U.S. defense policy had to shift its focus away from peer-to-peer and systemic conflict were in effect arguing that the world had entered a new era in which what had been previously commonplace would now be rare or nonexistent. What warfare there was would not involve nations but subnational groups and would not be systemic. The radical nature of this argument was rarely recognized by those who made it, and the evolving American defense policy that followed this reasoning was rarely seen as inappropriate. If the United States was going to be involved primarily in counterterrorism operations in the Islamic world for the next 50 years, we obviously needed a very different military than the one we had.
There were two reasons for this argument. Military planners are always obsessed with the war they are fighting. It is only human to see the immediate task as a permanent task. During the Cold War, it was impossible for anyone to imagine how it would end. During World War I, it was obvious that static warfare dominated by the defense was the new permanent model. That generals always fight the last war must be amended to say that generals always believe the war they are fighting is the permanent war. It is, after all, the war that was the culmination of their careers, and imagining other wars when they are fighting this one, and indeed will not be fighting future ones, appeared frivolous.
The second reason was that no nation-state was in a position to challenge the United States militarily. After the Cold War ended, the United States was in a singularly powerful position. The United States remains in a powerful position, but over time, other nations will increase their power, form alliances and coalitions and challenge the United States. No matter how benign a leading power is -- and the United States is not uniquely benign -- other nations will fear it, resent it or want to shame it for its behavior. The idea that other nation-states will not challenge the United States seemed plausible for the past 20 years, but the fact is that nations will pursue interests that are opposed to American interest and by definition, pose a peer-to-peer challenge. The United States is potentially overwhelmingly powerful, but that does not make it omnipotent.
Systemic vs. Asymmetric War
It must also be remembered that asymmetric warfare and operations other than war always existed between and during peer-to-peer wars and systemic wars. The British fought an asymmetric war in both Ireland and North America in the context of a peer-to-peer war with France. Germany fought an asymmetric war in Yugoslavia at the same time it fought a systemic war from 1939-1945. The United States fought asymmetric wars in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti and other places between 1900-1945.
Asymmetric wars and operations other than war are far more common than peer-to-peer and systemic wars. They can appear overwhelmingly important at the time. But just as the defeat of Britain by the Americans did not destroy British power, the outcomes of asymmetric wars rarely define long-term national power and hardly ever define the international system. Asymmetric warfare is not a new style of war; it is a permanent dimension of warfare. Peer-to-peer and systemic wars are also constant features but are far less frequent. They are also far more important. For Britain, the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars was much more important than the outcome of the American Revolution. For the United States, the outcome of World War II was far more important than its intervention in Haiti. There are a lot more asymmetric wars, but a defeat does not shift national power. If you lose a systemic war, the outcome can be catastrophic.
A military force can be shaped to fight frequent, less important engagements or rare but critical wars -- ideally, it should be able to do both. But in military planning, not all wars are equally important. The war that defines power and the international system can have irreversible and catastrophic results. Asymmetric wars can cause problems and casualties, but that is a lesser mission. Military leaders and defense officials, obsessed with the moment, must bear in mind that the war currently being fought may be little remembered, the peace that is currently at hand is rarely permanent, and harboring the belief that any type of warfare has become obsolete is likely to be in error.
Ukraine drove this lesson home. There will be no war between the United States and Russia over Ukraine. The United States does not have interests there that justify a war, and neither country is in a position militarily to fight a war. The Americans are not deployed for war, and the Russians are not ready to fight the United States.
But the events in Ukraine point to some realities. First, the power of countries shifts, and the Russians had substantially increased their military capabilities since the 1990s. Second, the divergent interests between the two countries, which seemed to disappear in the 1990s, re-emerged. Third, this episode will cause each side to reconsider its military strategy and capabilities, and future crises might well lead to conventional war, nuclear weapons notwithstanding. Ukraine reminds us that peer-to-peer conflict is not inconceivable, and that a strategy and defense policy built on the assumption has little basis in reality. The human condition did not transform itself because of an interregnum in which the United States could not be challenged; the last two decades are an exception to the rule of global affairs defined by war.
U.S. national strategy must be founded on the control of the sea. The oceans protect the United States from everything but terrorism and nuclear missiles. The greatest challenge to U.S. control of the sea is hostile fleets. The best way to defeat hostile fleets is to prevent them from being built. The best way to do that is to maintain the balance of power in Eurasia. The ideal path for this is to ensure continued tensions within Eurasia so that resources are spent defending against land threats rather than building fleets. Given the inherent tensions in Eurasia, the United States needs to do nothing in most cases. In some cases it must send military or economic aid to one side or both. In other cases, it advises.
U.S. Strategy in Eurasia
The main goal here is to avoid the emergence of a regional hegemon fully secure against land threats and with the economic power to challenge the United States at sea. The U.S. strategy in World War I was to refuse to become involved until it appeared, with the abdication of the czar and increasing German aggression at sea, that the British and French might be defeated or the sea-lanes closed. At that point, the United States intervened to block German hegemony. In World War II, the United States remained out of the war until after the French collapsed and it appeared the Soviet Union would collapse -- until it seemed something had to be done. Even then, it was only after Hitler's declaration of war on the United States after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that Congress approved Roosevelt's plan to intervene militarily in continental Europe. And in spite of operations in the Mediterranean, the main U.S. thrust didn't occur until 1944 in Normandy, after the German army had been badly weakened.
In order for this strategy, which the U.S. inherited from the British, to work, the United States needs an effective and relevant alliance structure. The balance-of-power strategy assumes that there are core allies who have an interest in aligning with the United States against regional enemies. When I say effective, I mean allies that are capable of defending themselves to a great extent. Allying with the impotent achieves little. By relevant, I mean allies that are geographically positioned to deal with particularly dangerous hegemons.
If we assume Russians to be dangerous hegemons, then the relevant allies are those on the periphery of Russia. For example, Portugal or Italy adds little weight to the equation. As to effectiveness, the allies must be willing to make major commitments to their own national defense. The American relationship in all alliances is that the outcome of conflicts must matter more to the ally than to the United States.
The point here is that NATO, which was extremely valuable during the Cold War, may not be a relevant or effective instrument in a new confrontation with the Russians. Many of the members are not geographically positioned to help, and many are not militarily effective. They cannot balance the Russians. And since the goal of an effective balance-of-power strategy is the avoidance of war while containing a rising power, the lack of an effective deterrence matters a great deal.
It is not certain by any means that Russia is the main threat to American power. Many would point to China. In my view, China's ability to pose a naval threat to the United States is limited, for the time being, by the geography of the South and East China seas. There are a lot of choke points that can be closed. Moreover, a balance of land-based military power is difficult to imagine. But still, the basic principle I have described holds; countries such as South Korea and Japan, which have a more immediate interest in China than the United States does, are supported by the United States to contain China.
In these and other potential cases, the ultimate problem for the United States is that its engagement in Eurasia is at distance. It takes a great deal of time to deploy a technology-heavy force there, and it must be technology-heavy because U.S. forces are always outnumbered when fighting in Eurasia. The United States must have force multipliers. In many cases, the United States is not choosing the point of intervention, but a potential enemy is creating a circumstance where intervention is necessary. Therefore, it is unknown to planners where a war might be fought, and it is unknown what kind of force they will be up against. The only thing certain is that it will be far away and take a long time to build up a force. During Desert Storm, it took six months to go on the offensive.
American strategy requires a force that can project overwhelming power without massive delays. In Ukraine, for example, had the United States chosen to try to defend eastern Ukraine from Russian attack, it would have been impossible to deploy that force before the Russians took over. An offensive against the Russians in Ukraine would have been impossible. Therefore, Ukraine poses the strategic problem for the United States.
The Future of U.S. Defense Policy
The United States will face peer-to-peer or even systemic conflicts in Eurasia. The earlier the United States brings in decisive force, the lower the cost to the United States. Current conventional war-fighting strategy is not dissimilar from that of World War II: It is heavily dependent on equipment and the petroleum to power that equipment. It can take many months to field that force. That could force the United States into an offensive posture far more costly and dangerous than a defensive posture, as it did in World War II. Therefore, it is essential that the time to theater be dramatically reduced, the size of the force reduced, but the lethality, mobility and survivability dramatically increased.
It also follows that the tempo of operations be reduced. The United States has been in constant warfare since 2001. The reasons are understandable, but in a balance-of-power strategy war is the exception, not the rule. The force that could be deployed is seen as overwhelming and therefore does not have to be deployed. The allies of the United States are sufficiently motivated and capable of defending themselves. That fact deters attack by regional hegemons. There need to be layers of options between threat and war.
Defense policy must be built on three things: The United States does not know where it will fight. The United States must use war sparingly. The United States must have sufficient technology to compensate for the fact that Americans are always going to be outnumbered in Eurasia. The force that is delivered must overcome this, and it must get there fast.
Ranges of new technologies, from hypersonic missiles to electronically and mechanically enhanced infantryman, are available. But the mindset that peer-to-peer conflict has been abolished and that small unit operations in the Middle East are the permanent features of warfare prevent these new technologies from being considered. The need to rethink American strategy in the framework of the perpetual possibility of conventional war against enemies fighting on their own terrain is essential, along with an understanding that the exhaustion of the force in asymmetric warfare cannot be sustained. Losing an asymmetric war is unfortunate but tolerable. Losing a systemic war could be catastrophic. Not having to fight a war would be best.
Read more: U.S. Defense Policy in the Wake of the Ukrainian Affair | Stratfor
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US Foreign Policy, Is This What We Want??
Reply #481 on:
April 14, 2014, 09:11:15 AM »
Whatever one thinks about the US' role in the world, and whether or not we should be the world's policman, can we just agree on one obvious certainty - under this leadership and mindset the US is going to defend no one.
Under any real threat of aggression, the non-nuclear states of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are going to fold like Asian Ukraines, falling first for the neo-liberal-US 'guarantee' of their security, and second for non-threatening rhetoric of their power hungry neighbors.
Let Asia Go Nuclear | The National Interest | April 14, 2014
America’s policy of opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons needs to be more nuanced. What works for the United States in the Middle East may not in Asia. We do not want Iran or Saudi Arabia to get the bomb, but why not Australia, Japan, and South Korea? We are opposed to nuclear weapons because they are the great military equalizer, because some countries may let them slip into the hands of terrorists, and because we have significant advantage in precision conventional weapons. But our opposition to nuclear weapons in Asia means we are committed to a costly and risky conventional arms race with China over our ability to protect allies and partners lying nearer to China than to us and spread over a vast maritime theater.
None of our allies in Asia possess nuclear weapons. Instead, they are protected by what is called extended deterrence, our vaguely stated promise to use nuclear weapons in their defense if they are threatened by regional nuclear powers, China, North Korea and Russia. ... More at link
As we build down our arsenal, de-fund our ships, bring home our troops, and focus on our bureaucracy at home, what is Plan B for securing our allies?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #482 on:
April 14, 2014, 10:50:30 AM »
They are on their own. They know it.
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #483 on:
April 14, 2014, 01:34:36 PM »
Doug's question is a very good one. Those interested in pursuing it please do so in the Nuclear War or WMD thread.
VDH: America'snew Anti-Strategy
Reply #484 on:
April 14, 2014, 04:09:50 PM »
Oz preparing for post pax-americana
Reply #485 on:
April 14, 2014, 05:23:10 PM »
The Australian Defence Force looks to overseas candidates to fill gaps in our Services, which can't currently be satisfied by standard recruitment.
Who we are looking for
We are looking for serving or ex-serving foreign military personnel, who can directly transfer their job and life skills to whichever Service they join, with limited training and preparation.
Serving Down Under: Australia offers military jobs to US troops facing separation
As the U.S. is looking to trim the number of troops serving in the military, the Austrailian Defence Force is recruiting U.S. servicemembers join its ranks. Many troops, especially enlisted servicemembers, stand to make more money in the Australian military.
David Byron/U.S. Air Force
Stars and Stripes
Published: May 8, 2012
Australian air force Squadron Leader Bart Langland, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, deployed to Afghanistan last year with the Australian Defence Force.
Courtesy of Bart Langland
Growing US presence in Australia to include aircraft
The U.S. is preparing to add aircraft to its military presence in Australia, which will include 2,500 Marines rotating through the northern port of Darwin starting in 2016.
■US, Kiwi troops wrap up large-scale combat training May 7, 2012
■US, Aussie sailors recover bombs dropped within Great Barrier Reef park boundary September 1, 2013
■Australia exercise to test facilities for expanded US Marine Corps presence August 27, 2013
■Marines to deploy more troops to Pacific under program March 15, 2012
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — U.S. servicemembers looking at career options in this era of shrinking military budgets and force drawdowns might want to take a look Down Under.
The Australian government is recruiting experienced U.S. enlisted personnel and officers to fill a range of positions — from submariners to doctors — in its military, according to a posting on the Australian Defence Force website.
“The Australian Defence Force looks to overseas candidates to fill gaps in our Services, which can’t currently be satisfied by standard recruitment,” reads the intro for overseas applicants on the Defence Force’s recruitment website. “We recognise that these candidates can bring skills and attributes to the Navy, Army and Air Force that will strengthen their overall operation and success rate.”
The job offers could be tempting for U.S. troops as the Afghan War winds down and the Department of Defense looks to trim billions of dollars and more than 100,000 uniformed personnel from its books.
Read also: The Pacific pivot
At a time when other Western countries have slashed spending, the prosperous Australians have been growing their military. In the past five years, the Australian military has recruited more than 500 personnel from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Applicants have to meet certain minimum rank levels, as well as medical and interview requirements, Australian defense officials said in an email this week.
Known as the Lucky Country, Australia has had a booming economy for almost two decades due to rising commodity prices and strong Chinese demand for its mining products. It has also seen the Australian dollar rally against the U.S. dollar in recent years, meaning U.S. veterans — especially enlisted — stand to make more money working for the Australia military.
Read also: Last Australian combat troops leave Afghanistan
The U.S. Air Force website lists the annual base pay for an E-5, staff sergeant, with six-years’ service at $31,946. An O-3, captain, with six years’ service makes $63,263.
By comparison, a newly promoted E-5, corporal, in the Australian air force makes $57,277, when converted to U.S. dollars, while newly promoted O-3, flight lieutenant, takes home $66,417.
Squadron Leader Bart Langland has flown under both flags.
Langland served 15 years on active duty for the U.S. Air Force and another five in the reserves before joining the Royal Australian Air Force in March 2008. The veteran F-16 and U2 spy plane pilot is helping train Australian fliers at RAAF Base Williamtown, just north of Sydney.
Read also: Growing US presence in Australia to include aircraft
From an Australian perspective the costs to train and develop fighter pilots are enormous, hence the RAAF greatly benefits from being able to get experienced pilots from the U.S. and other countries, Langland said. Joining the Australian Defence Force took Langland a year and included physical examinations, security checks and getting dual Australian-U.S. citizenship, which the State Department had to approve, he said.
Langland said the job was almost exactly the same as serving with the U.S. Air Force.
“If you walk into an Australian fighter squadron or a U.S. fighter squadron, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference,” Langland said.
Australia has about 23 million people, less than the population of California, in a country about the same size as the U.S. Naturally, the all-volunteer Australian Defence Force is a lot smaller than the U.S. military but it has dedicated itself to quality over quantity, Langland said.
In recent months, the U.S. and Australia have grown even closer with plans to base thousands of U.S. Marines in the northern Australian town of Darwin.
“Australia has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.A. and, as such, would count on U.S. support in times of major conflict,” Langland said.
The Australian Air Force trains regularly with U.S. units, although it also trains with partner nations in Southeast Asia, he said.
One notable difference serving in Australia is that the pace of work is slower than in the U.S. Air Force, Langland said, adding that his deployment to Afghanistan last year was voluntary.
Langland’s biggest challenge was moving his wife and three children to Australia, far from relatives. However, he rated the schools near RAAF Williamtown as excellent and the weather and beaches on a par with Southern California.
The family plans to stay in Australia at least five more years, he said.
“I feel that by serving here I am making a difference to Australia and America,” he said.
For more information on the program, go to the Australian Defence Force website.
The Australian Defence forces are recruiting U.S. servicemembers to join their ranks. A look at some of the job specialities needed Down Under:
■ Principal warfare officers
■ Submarine warfare officers
■ Marine engineering Officers
■ Medical officers
■ Cryptologic systems and electronic warfare specialists
■ Maritime and electronic technicians
■ Combat systems operators
■ Range of officer roles in the aviation, artillery, engineering, dental, intelligence and signal fields.
■ Range of enlisted roles including groundcrew air support, electricians, ammunition technicians, intelligence specialists and communication specialists.
■ Focus on jet pilots, electronic engineers, surveillance and reconnaissance specialists.
Well, that is a very kind interpretation , , ,
Reply #486 on:
April 17, 2014, 09:13:17 PM »
Why Obama Can't Explain Himself
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 16:28 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Secretary of State John Kerry evidently runs a tight ship, given the paucity of leaks that emerge from his office. So we know he is organized and disciplined. He is also an energetic risk-taker, jumping into high-wire negotiations with Iran, and forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table -- enterprises that could likely end in failure and ruin his reputation. This is a man with character. By contrast, his predecessor at State, Hillary Clinton, appeared to take few risks and has been accused of using the position of secretary of state merely to burnish her resume in preparation for a presidential run.
But there is one thing that Kerry has not been good at: explaining what he is doing and why to the public. How do these high-wire negotiations fit into a larger strategic plan? What do the Iran talks have to do with those between Israel and Palestine? What is the relationship between the two sets of Middle East negotiations and American strategy in Asia and Europe? The Obama administration has provided the public with little insight on any of these matters.
Why can't the administration explain better what it is doing? I believe the reason is that the administration cannot own up to the philosophical implications of the very policy direction it has chosen. It is as though top officials are embarrassed by their own choices.
The administration has refused to intervene in Syria in a pivotal way, and it has very awkwardly still not managed to make its peace with Egypt's new military dictatorship -- though it does not oppose the new regime in Cairo outright. But it is embarrassed that it has done these things. The Obama team wants to pursue a foreign policy of liberal internationalism, in the tradition of previous Democratic administrations. It wants to topple a murderous dictatorship in Syria. It wants democracy in Egypt. But instead, it finds itself pursuing a foreign policy of conservative realism, in the tradition of previous Republican administrations, like those of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. It is doing so because realism is about dealing with the facts as they exist on the ground with the goal of preserving American power, whereas liberal internationalism is about taking risks with the facts on the ground in order to seek a better world.
President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry are afraid that if they intervene militarily in Syria they will help bring to power a jihadist-trending regime there -- or conversely, Syria will disintegrate into even worse anarchy, with echoes of Afghanistan in the 1990s. So they do little. Obama and Kerry must know that the choice in Egypt is not simply between dictatorship and democracy, but between military authoritarianism that can be indirectly helpful to Western interests and an Islamist regime that would be hostile to Western interests. So they quietly, albeit angrily, accept the new order in Cairo. The administration knows that if it wants to pivot toward the Pacific, it must also attempt to put America's diplomatic house in order in the Middle East: thus, it seeks a rapprochement with Iran and a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
All of this is reasonable, if uninspiring. But the Obama team has been relatively tongue-tied because it cannot admit to being a liberal Democratic administration pursuing a moderate Republican foreign policy. It is a shame because publicly explaining some of these actions should be relatively easy. In regards to Egypt, all the administration needs to say is, We support democracy where we can and stability where we must. In regards to Syria, it can warn about the unpredictable dangers that come with serious military intervention. It can explain Iran and Israel-Palestine in terms of America's larger goals in the Middle East and Asia. The more peace there is in the Middle East, the more that America can concentrate on Asia -- the geographic center of the world economy.
Though Hillary Clinton was risk averse, unlike Kerry, she did explain what she was doing. Her "pivot" to Asia may have been sniped at by some experts and pundits. But it was a strategic conception that was somewhat original, and she did, in fact, explain it better than Kerry has explained anything. In fact, she authored a long essay about the Asia pivot in the magazine Foreign Policy. That was rare, since original ideas ordinarily do not come out of government.
Obama has good realistic instincts, but thus far he doesn't have a strategy that he has been able to explain to the public. And without a strategy he loses influence, since power in the media age is not only about deeds and capabilities, but about what you rhetorically stand for. Ronald Reagan was a powerful president in significant part because of his soaring rhetoric. (After Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, Reagan would have flown to Poland or the Baltic states and declared, "Mr. Putin, I am standing on hallowed NATO ground!") George W. Bush was a weaker president than he might have been because he was perceived to be inarticulate. Obama is a fine speaker, but he has explained little in the foreign policy realm, and even when he does so he appears to lack passion, as if he is merely reading his lines. This makes his foreign policy weaker, regardless of the inherent strengths of it. And it makes his opponents overseas have less respect for him.
Once again, in a media age, presentation and branding can be 50 percent of everything -- especially if one is on the world stage. If this were not the case, political leaders in both democracies and dictatorships would never give speeches, but would confine their activities strictly to behind-the-scenes meetings.
Obama certainly has material with which to work. Just look at the world today. China and Russia, with all of their problems and limitations, have emerged as major geopolitical rivals of the United States in their respective regions. The Middle East is fundamentally more unstable than it has been in decades, with several state collapses having provided fertile breeding grounds for the most extremist groups. Of course, the United States cannot dominate the world. It cannot kick China out of Asia and Russia out of Europe. And it cannot fix societies like Syria and Libya. But it can intelligently maneuver, affecting power balances everywhere more often than not to its advantage. And one of the ways it can do this is by -- to repeat -- supporting democracy where we can and stability where we must. It can also do this by preserving a measure of global stability through air and sea deployments in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The United States can be the organizing principle for working with Europe against a revanchist Russia. All of these parts fit together. This and much more can be explained to the American people. And doing so would certainly enhance U.S. power, making it less likely to be tested in the first place.
Read more: Why Obama Can't Explain Himself | Stratfor
Spengler: Putin isn't a genius, we are complete idiots
Reply #487 on:
April 18, 2014, 08:11:36 AM »
Re: Spengler: Putin isn't a genius, we are complete idiots
Reply #488 on:
April 18, 2014, 08:26:29 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on April 18, 2014, 08:11:36 AM
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #489 on:
April 18, 2014, 08:35:39 AM »
As perceptive and knowledgeable as Spengler invariably is, this rant by him misses quite a bit-- mostly, what SHOULD be done? If the answer is "nothing" then what are the implications of that?
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #490 on:
April 18, 2014, 08:47:27 AM »
Move troops into NATO allies, like Poland. Remember that missile shield? Maybe look at that. Start massive oil production and flood the market and see how pooty-poot likes his suddenly bare coffers and a bunch of angry oligarchs at his back.
Nah, let Biden and Lurch handle it.
What could go wrong?
The Disappearance of U.S. Will...
Reply #491 on:
April 18, 2014, 11:29:48 AM »
The Disappearance of US Will
Posted By Caroline Glick On April 18, 2014
Originally published at the Jerusalem Post.
The most terrifying aspect of the collapse of US power worldwide is the US’s indifferent response to it.
In Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East and beyond, America’s most dangerous foes are engaging in aggression and brinkmanship unseen in decades.
As Gordon Chang noted at a symposium in Los Angeles last month hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, since President Barack Obama entered office in 2009, the Chinese have responded to his overtures of goodwill and appeasement with intensified aggression against the US’s Asian allies and against US warships.
In 2012, China seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Washington shrugged its shoulders despite its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines. And so Beijing is striking again, threatening the Second Thomas Shoal, another Philippine possession.
In a similar fashion, Beijing is challenging Japan’s control over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and even making territorial claims on Okinawa.
As Chang explained, China’s recent application of its Air-Defense Identification Zone to include Japanese and South Korean airspace is a hostile act not only against those countries but also against the principle of freedom of maritime navigation, which, Chang noted, “Americans have been defending for more than two centuries.”
The US has responded to Chinese aggression with ever-escalating attempts to placate Beijing.
And China has responded to these US overtures by demonstrating contempt for US power.
Last week, the Chinese humiliated Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his visit to China’s National Defense University. He was harangued by a student questioner for the US’s support for the Philippines and Japan, and for opposition to Chinese unilateral seizure of island chains and assertions of rights over other states’ airspace and international waterways.
As he stood next to Hagel in a joint press conference, China’s Defense Chief Chang Wanquan demanded that the US restrain Japan and the Philippines.
In addition to its flaccid responses to Chinese aggression against its allies and its own naval craft, in 2012 the US averred from publicly criticizing China for its sale to North Korea of mobile missile launchers capable of serving Pyongyang’s KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles. With these easily concealed launchers, North Korea significantly upgraded its ability to attack the US with nuclear weapons.
As for Europe, the Obama administration’s responses to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and to its acts of aggression against Ukraine bespeak a lack of seriousness and dangerous indifference to the fate of the US alliance structure in Eastern Europe.
Rather than send NATO forces to the NATO member Baltic states, and arm Ukrainian forces with defensive weapons, as Russian forces began penetrating Ukraine, the US sent food to Ukraine and an unarmed warship to the Black Sea.
Clearly not impressed by the US moves, the Russians overflew and shadowed the US naval ship. As Charles Krauthammer noted on Fox News on Monday, the Russian action was not a provocation. It was “a show of contempt.”
As Krauthammer explained, it could have only been viewed as a provocation if Russia had believed the US was likely to respond to its shadowing of the warship. Since Moscow correctly assessed that the US would not respond to its aggression, by buzzing and following the warship, the Russians demonstrated to Ukraine and other US allies that they cannot trust the US to protect them from Russia.
In the Middle East, it is not only the US’s obsessive approach to the Palestinian conflict with Israel that lies in shambles. The entire US alliance system and the Obama administration’s other signature initiatives have also collapsed.
After entering office, Obama implemented an aggressive policy in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere of killing al-Qaida operatives with unmanned drones. The strategy was based on the notion that such a campaign, that involves no US boots on the ground, can bring about a rout of the terrorist force at minimal human cost to the US and at minimal political cost to President Barack Obama.
The strategy has brought about the demise of a significant number of al-Qaida terrorists over the years. And due to the support Obama enjoys from the US media, the Obama administration paid very little in terms of political capital for implementing it.
But despite the program’s relative success, according to The Washington Post, the administration suspended drone attacks in December 2013 after it endured modest criticism when one in Yemen inadvertently hit a wedding party.
No doubt al-Qaida noticed the program’s suspension. And now the terror group is flaunting its immunity from US attack.
This week, jihadist websites featured an al-Qaida video showing hundreds of al-Qaida terrorists in Yemen meeting openly with the group’s second in command, Nasir al-Wuhayshi.
In the video, Wuhayshi threatened the US directly saying, “We must eliminate the cross,” and explaining that “the bearer of the cross is America.”
Then there is Iran.
The administration has staked its reputation on its radical policy of engaging Iran on its nuclear weapons program. The administration claims that by permitting Iran to undertake some nuclear activities it can convince the mullahs to shelve their plan to develop nuclear weapons.
This week brought further evidence of the policy’s complete failure. It also brought further proof that the administration is unperturbed by evidence of failure.
In a televised interview Sunday, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akhbar Salehi insisted that Iran has the right to enrich uranium to 90 percent. In other words, he said that Iran is building nuclear bombs.
And thanks to the US and its interim nuclear deal with Iran, the Iranian economy is on the mend.
The interim nuclear deal the Obama administration signed with Iran last November was supposed to limit its oil exports to a million barrels a day. But according to the International Energy Agency, in February, Iran’s daily oil exports rose to 1.65 million barrels a day, the highest level since June 2012.
Rather than accept that its efforts have failed, the Obama administration is redefining what success means.
As Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz noted, in recent months US officials claimed the goal of the nuclear talks was to ensure that Iran would remain years away from acquiring nuclear weapons. In recent remarks, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US would suffice with a situation in which Iran is but six months away from acquiring nuclear weapons.
In other words, the US has now defined failure as success.
Then there is Syria.
Last September, the US claimed it made history when, together with Russia it convinced dictator Bashar Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal. Six months later, not only is Syria well behind schedule for abiding by the agreement, it is reportedly continuing to use chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians. The most recent attack reportedly occurred on April 12 when residents of Kafr Zita were attacked with chlorine gas.
The growing worldwide contempt for US power and authority would be bad enough in and of itself. The newfound confidence of aggressors imperils international security and threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
What makes the situation worse is the US response to what is happening. The Obama administration is responding to the ever-multiplying crises by pretending that there is nothing to worry about and insisting that failures are successes.
And the problem is not limited to Obama and his advisers or even to the political Left. Their delusional view that the US will suffer no consequences for its consistent record of failure and defeat is shared by a growing chorus of conservatives.
Some, like the anti-Semitic conservative pundit Patrick Buchanan, laud Putin as a cultural hero. Others, like Sen. Rand Paul, who is increasingly presenting himself as the man to beat in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, indicate that the US has no business interfering with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Iran as well is a country the US should be less concerned about, in Paul’s opinion.
Leaders like Sen. Ted Cruz who call for a US foreign policy based on standing by allies and opposing foes in order to ensure US leadership and US national security are being drowned out in a chorus of “Who cares?” Six years into Obama’s presidency, the US public as a whole is largely opposed to taking any action on behalf of Ukraine or the Baltic states, regardless of what inaction, or worse, feckless action means for the US’s ability to protect its interests and national security.
And the generation coming of age today is similarly uninterested in US global leadership.
During the Cold War and in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the predominant view among American university students studying international affairs was that US world leadership is essential to ensure global stability and US national interests and values.
Today this is no longer the case.
Much of the Obama administration’s shuttle diplomacy in recent years has involved sending senior officials, including Obama, on overseas trips with the goal of reassuring jittery allies that they can continue to trust US security guarantees.
These protestations convince fewer and fewer people today.
It is because of this that US allies like Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, that lack nuclear weapons, are considering their options on the nuclear front.
It is because of this that Israeli officials are openly stating for the first time that the US cannot be depended on to either secure Israel’s eastern frontier in the event that an accord is reached with the Palestinians, or to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
It is because of this that the world is more likely than it has been since 1939 to experience a world war of catastrophic proportions.
There is a direct correlation between the US elite’s preoccupation with social issues running the narrow and solipsistic gamut from gay marriage to transgender bathrooms to a phony war against women, and America’s inability to recognize the growing threats to the global order or understand why Americans should care about the world at all.
And there is a similarly direct correlation between the growing aggression of US foes and Obama’s decision to slash defense spending while allowing the US nuclear arsenal to become all but obsolete.
America’s spurned allies will take the actions they need to take to protect themselves. Some will persevere, others will likely be overrun.
But with Americans across the ideological spectrum pretending that failure is success and defeat is victory, while turning their backs on the growing storm, how will America protect itself?
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
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