Monday, July 21, 2014

FAILURE OF "RESET DIPLOMACY"

From Michael Rubin at World Affairs.  Maybe Obama and Hillary spent too much time blaming Bush and Cheney than trying to understand Putin.  The issue is how to negotiate with one's enemies or rivals.  In addition the Russians (Soviets) have been excellent at diplomatic deceit (and I might add the Iranians, North Koreans, and others are just as good).  Americans diplomat seem to believe whatever they are being told at the bargaining table.

The idea that diplomacy with rogue regimes is cost-free is a relatively new idea, one that may sound good in the abstract but is less durable in reality. Policymakers often advocate diplomacy with rogue rulers and even terrorist groups because other options seem unattractive. As our recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, war extracts a tremendous price not only in terms of blood and treasure but in terms of national morale as well. The American public is exhausted by these conflicts and wondering if their price was worth paying.

Sanctions don't work because dictators don't care about their people.

Obama sought Russian cooperation in Syria, for example, to resolve a horrendous human rights tragedy, but for Putin, the only question was how to achieve an outcome that diminished American influence.

Putin is a modern-day Machiavelli, unapologetic about saying and doing whatever is necessary to regain the glory and respect he believes the Soviet Union enjoyed. With his tireless efforts to engage and pour emollients on fundamental disagreements, Obama has acted as a modern-day Chamberlain. Simply declaring the Cold War over does not make it so unless both parties seek a new beginning. Obama sincerely wants peace, but so long as Putin seeks the restoration of an imperial Russian past, peace will never occur. Hitting the reset button should not mean allowing an opponent to use diplomacy to wage war by other means.

This is the first author to link Obama and Chamberlain that I have come across.

MILLENNIALISM

An historical overview and analysis of millennial thinking. The author examines millennial thinking, especially in the context of Christian thinking, from an historical perspective.  But even secular writers have toyed with this them.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

MORALITY AND SOCIALISM

From the Economist.  The more people are exposed to socialism the more unethical they become!  The case of East Germans vs. West Germans.

MAKING DECISIONS IN THE WHITE HOUSE

John Fund has written an article about Democrats holding office avoiding President Obama at fundraisers because of his presumed unpopularity.  Criticism is rising in Democrat circles regarding his leadership and his "detached" presidency.

What struck me most was a quote from Bob Beckel, a strong Democrat presence on Fox News.  When I have listened to him he has never said a negative word about the president or Democrats, but Fund quotes him as saying:

Bob Beckel, a former Democratic campaign consultant, said on Fox News this week that he spoke with a Democrat “intimately involved in [Obama’s] campaigns, both of them.” The message was sobering: “He said you have to know what it’s like to get through [presidential counselor] Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama, and I think that’s a tough deal for anybody on a staff to do. . . . [Obama] lives in a zone that nobody else goes to.”

So if you want to get through to the president you have to go through Valerie Jarrett or Michelle Obama!  But this does become an increasing concern with the multiple international crises the United States is facing.  Who and how are decisions being made?

One presidential historian says that if the president’s bizarre behavior deepens, people will start making jokes comparing Obama to President Woodrow Wilson, who was debilitated by illness during his last two years in office, with decisions increasingly made by his aides and his wife, Edith. “The comparisons of course wouldn’t be fair, but they don’t have to be to have elements of truth to them.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

THE WEEK OF JULY13th

This is a week filled with tragedies and crises:  a Malaysian airliner is shot down over the Ukraine and Israel enters Gaza to stop the missiles from being fired.  And added to these events are the scandals and crises in Washington and the world ranging from the IRS destroyed hard drives to what is happening on the U.S. border with Mexico.

The reaction of the Obama administration to much of this is astounding.  Here is a video of President Obama speaking about the tragedy of the lost Malaysian airliner only to follow a few minutes later with jokes and humor (in public).  It makes his sorrow seem somewhat hypocritical.  And in addition the State Department ended the day with  tweets about fashion!  The world is in serious trouble and people are dying.

Victor Davis Hanson argues that this is the summer that "America fell apart".  Here is his list of "messes" Washington is facing:  1) get caught again spying on our ally Germany; 2) doing nothing with Chinese agressiveness in Asia and seeing relations with our ally Japan damaged; 3) Syria; 4) ISIS in Iraq; 5) Afghanistan; 6) Palestine and Israel; 7) Crimea and Ukraine; 8) Edward Snowden's release of U.S. spying activities; 9) foreign leaders don't trust the U.S.; 10) a shrinking economy; 11) immigration; 12) Benghazi; 13) Bowe Bergdahl; and 14) the IRS scandal.  He could have added a number of more such as Iran's nuclear program.  I don't recall a summer with as many scandals, crises, and problems.

And where is the media in all of this?  MSNBC is taken in by a fake report regarding the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner!--hardly sophisticated reporting.  Watching the mainstream media report on the firing of Hamas rockets into Israel has been interesting.  Hamas tends to be regarded as innocent in all of this and somehow it is Israel's fault for what is happening when it is Hamas that wants to "eradicate" Jews.  Charles Krauthammer has an interesting quote from a prominent Israeli in his column:

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews.

Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza.

When Israel finds 20 rockets in a UN-run school in Gaza, I don't see a rush of reporters to discuss this. And a CNN reporter calls Israelis watching the missiles go into Gaza "scum."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

HILLARY'S FOREIGN POLICY

Peter Beinart criticizes Hillary Clinton's foreign policy vision stated on the Daily Show and applauds Obama for having a more accurate vision of America in the world.  But I believe I side with Hillary on this one.  I sense she is trying to affirm America in spite of our mistakes.  Not everything the U.S. has done since World War II is bad for the world.  He goes on to accuse Hillary of siding with the right in America.

For Hillary, America’s current problem is that once the Cold War ended, we “withdrew from the information arena.” As a result, across the world, a new generation no longer remembers the great things we supposedly did in the past, and America has stopped telling them about the great things we are still doing today. Her answer: “get back to telling” the story of America’s greatness, not only to the rest of the world but “to ourselves first and foremost.”

Really? Is America’s biggest post-Cold War foreign policy problem really that we’ve failed to adequately remind others, and ourselves, how good we are? After all, George W. Bush told Americans endlessly that the “war on terror” was another grand American crusade for freedom, in the tradition of World War II and the Cold War. In his second inaugural address and other thundering rhetorical displays, he announced to the world that America would champion liberty far and wide, as in days of old.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

CONSERVATIVES LEARN FROM RADICAL LEFT

An interesting thesis--the 1960s have returned:  many conservatives and the Tea Party have learned from the tactics used by Saul Alinsky and Occupy Wall Street to let their voices be heard.

In 2012, the conservative site Townhall.com ran an essay arguing that conservatives should see Saul Alinsky's famous how-to guide Rules for Radicals not as a reason to mock their opponents, but as a useful guide for their own protest. Listing Alinsky's 13 rules for shifting the balance of power between the Haves and Have-Nots (which Alinsky framed in economic terms), the site's John Hawkins suggested that conservatives "learn from what he wrote and give the Left a taste of its own medicine."

If this is true, expect more confrontations between Left and Right.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

WHY WE LOST IRAQ

Ali Khedery, who served in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad until 2010 when he resigned in protest about U.S. policy, has a lengthy critique on why we lost Iraq.  He blames the Obama administration for going with Maliki when there were better alternatives for Iraqi leadership.  In addition when the U.S. withdrew its military forces it lost any leverage it had with Maliki.

The crisis now gripping Iraq and the Middle East was not only predictable but predicted — and preventable. By looking the other way and unconditionally supporting and arming Maliki, President Obama has only lengthened and expanded the conflict that President Bush unwisely initiated. Iraq is now a failed state, and as countries across the Middle East fracture along ethno-sectarian lines, America is likely to emerge as one of the biggest losers of the new Sunni-Shiite holy war, with allies collapsing and radicals plotting another 9/11.

Victor Davis Hanson argues that it was Obama's fault for what we see today and he is trying to find someone else to blame.  He pulled out peace-keepers in his "mission accomplished" (Bush) moment.  But Vice President Biden said Iraq would be Obama's "greatest achievement."  Is it?

But what exactly was the new Obama strategy that supposedly had all but achieved a victory in the larger War on Terror amid Middle East hostility?

Fuzzy euphemisms replaced supposedly hurtful terms such as “terrorism,” “jihadist,” and “Islamist.” The administration gave well-meaning speeches exaggerating Islamic achievement while citing past American culpability.


In short, the Obama administration put politics and ideology ahead of a disinterested and nonpartisan examination of the actual status of the 2009 Middle East.


From the Daily Beast.  "Why the White House Ignored All Those Warnings about ISIS."  Maliki asked Obama to send some troops back.  U.S. intelligence knew there were problems but the White House would not act.

On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request. Maliki, who celebrated when the last U.S. troops left his country in 2011, asked Obama to quietly send the military back into Iraq and help his beleagured Air Force develop targets for air strikes; that’s how serious the threat from Sunni insurgents led by the extremist group ISIS had become.

Twelve days later, Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state and the Obama administration’s senior U.S. official in Baghdad since the crisis began last month, presented to Congress a similarly dark warning. ISIS was launching upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month, he said, encouraged in part by the weakness of Maliki’s military and the aggressively anti-Sunni policies of the Shi’ite prime minister. It was the kind of ominous report that American intelligence agencies had been delivering privately for months. McGurk added that ISIS had “benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Nineweh provinces.”

Friday, July 04, 2014

AMERICA IN DECLINE

From Foreign Policy:  "Have We Hit Peak America?"  Up to 60% of Americans believe U.S. power is waning.  And a CNN poll indicates that 63% of Americans believe their children will be worse off them they are.

In other words, a greater number of Americans are worried about diminishing U.S. influence today than in the face of feared Soviet technological superiority in the late 1950s, the Vietnam quagmire of the late 1960s, the 1973 oil embargo, the apparent resurgence of Soviet power around the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, and the economic concerns that plagued the late 1980s -- the five waves of so-called declinist anxiety that political scientist Samuel Huntington famously identified.

Global power & wealth are shifting and the American people feel and see it.  The U.S. is in decline economically, becoming increasingly less competitive.  National wealth influences military power.

Whereas in 1990 just 14 percent of cross-border flows of goods, services, and finances originated in emerging economies, today nearly 40 percent do. As recently as 2000, the GDP of China was one-tenth that of the United States; just 14 years later, the two economies are equal (at least in terms of purchasing power parity).

National wealth influences military power.  China's military budget is increasing while that of the U.S. is decreasing.  Regional powers like Iran are also growing in military sophistication.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council recently projected the future distribution of global power using two distinct methodologies that incorporated a range of "hard" and "soft" factors. By both estimates, the U.S. share of global power will fall dramatically, from around 25 percent in 2010 to around 15 percent in 2050.

The U.S. national debt is impacting the problem.  

Today, well over 60 percent of federal revenue is consumed by spending on Social Security, the major health-care programs (including Medicare, Medicaid, and subsidies under the Affordable Care Act), and interest payments on the federal debt. By 2043, spending on entitlements and net interest payments will consume all federal revenue, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The authors argue that the U.S. has much potential strength, but America has to be realistic and face its problems.