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Where possible, please use this thread instead of the Cognitive Dissonance thread. 

GM's post moved to here


Loose cannon gives Obama a lesson

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | May 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama has all the charm. Kim, demented, twisted, weird and evil, certainly has the will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Scoblic is the executive editor of The New Republic and the author of U.S. vs. Them: Conservatism in the Age of Nuclear Terror.****

G M:

Administration: Now North Korea is a threat again

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gates sounded a lot less concerned on Thursday:

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

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

Anyone playing Pyongyang Bingo should note that the Obama administration has covered almost all of the positions on the card.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This, however, is the course the Obama administration has set for itself. Allies and enemies alike will draw their own conclusions.


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