Monday, June 30, 2014


World Affairs has had two excellent articles analyzing Putin's policies and goals.

Melik Kaylan has written "Kremlin Values:  Putin's Strategic Conservatism."

I first got wind of this new pan-Putinist ideology in Tbilisi, Georgia, while covering the national elections in the fall of 2012. Having reported from there during the Russian invasion of 2008 and after, I knew the population to be virulently anti-Moscow and largely pro-West. So I was astounded when the country elected an oligarch, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had made his money in Moscow, who refused to criticize Putin, and who ran against a government headed by the volubly pro-American Mikheil Saakashvili. In the space of a few years, President Saakashvili had stamped out Georgia’s legendary corruption, driven out the mafias, notched up eight percent annual growth rates despite global banking failures and a Russian invasion, and had delivered efficiency, transparency, and foreign investment. Yet the other side won. I saw a most skillful, well-financed, pre-prepared opposition campaign with Moscow-based funds, one that deftly cooked up a prison abuse scandal with scary videos to smear the government. It convinced me that the KGB was rebooted, modernized, formidable, and once more able to redirect the destiny of its near abroad satellites as it had for years, even in democratic contests. Above all, I got a foretaste of the ideas Putin has expounded more openly and systematically since 2008.

Jeffrey Gedmin has written "Beyond Crimea:  What Vladimir Putin Really Wants."

Kasparov’s comment is reminiscent of the remark made by Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who once said the “Russians are like a burglar going down a hotel corridor, trying all the doors. When they find one unlocked, they go in.” It’s not just Ukraine and Georgia where Putin has been at work. For more than a dozen years now, he has burglarized Eastern Europe and territories of the former Soviet Union. Putin’s weapons of choice have not been tanks and MiG fighters; he has mastered the dark side of soft power.  [emphasis mine]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


American foreign policy????

A Paris correspondent argues that "no one trusts the US anymore."  Wonder why?

How to fix it? Well, the first step is to admit you have a problem. But perhaps I can offer a suggestion, or just a wish. Perhaps if America actually had a strategy for how to deal with the world; perhaps if America viewed the world as something definite to embrace and work on, rather than an amorphous blob out there; perhaps if America actually had a sense of mission, rather than necessity, about its role in the world; perhaps then it would feel a bit ashamed to so rarely honor its commitments.

Monday, June 23, 2014


When he came into office in 2009 the Middle East was relatively stable.  Since then it has been a disaster.  Why?  Elliot Abrams analyzes Obama's Middle East policy in Politico in an article titled "The Man Who Broke the Middle East."

The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.

How did it happen? Begin with hubris: The new president told the world, in his Cairo speech in June 2009, that he had special expertise in understanding the entire world of Islam—knowledge “rooted in my own experience” because “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” But President Obama wasn’t speaking that day in an imaginary location called “the world of Islam;” he was in Cairo, in the Arab Middle East, in a place where nothing counted more than power. “As a boy,” Obama told his listeners, “I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.” Nice touch, but Arab rulers were more interested in knowing whether as a man he heard the approaching sound of gunfire, saw the growing threat of al Qaeda from the Maghreb to the Arabian Peninsula, and understood the ambitions of the ayatollahs as Iran moved closer and closer to a bomb.

Even more interesting is liberal Peter Beinart's criticism of Obama for the current problems in Iraq.  Beinart does not exonerate Bush, but argues that Obama "ignored" the country (and really no country, big or small, should ever be ignored.

But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.
I wonder if "honest liberals" will admit this fiasco?

Friday, June 20, 2014


With ISIS closing in on Baghdad news reports stated that ISIS forces were closing in on an Iraqi WMD facility. Obviously this raises many concerns about how terrorists would use these weapons.   But we have been told for years by the media and liberals that Saddam did not have WMD, which obviously undermines Bush's reason for invading Iraq in 2003.  Liberals and the media have argued that Bush lied, destroying the neo-con rationale for the invasion.

But now we hear that there was a WMD facility of some kind so did Saddam have WMD or not?  Obviously he used something to kill Kurds.  A Frontline PBS (liberal) report indicated that Saddam did have some kind of WMD program which was more than just a plan or a few buildings.

CNN has an interesting timeline which indicates that in 2002 Iraq submitted a 12,000 page (!) report on its WMD programs.  And in January 2003 some WMD warheads are discovered, but they are largely empty (but could presumably be filled with agents).  In February Secretary of State Collin Powell gave his speech to the UN saying that Iraq lied to UN inspectors.  By March the US has invaded.  CIA director George Tennant said, regarding Iraqi WMD, that it was a “slam dunk.”

Hot Air (conservative) argued in 2010 that WikiLeaks proves the US found WMD in Iraq.  But the Guardian (liberal) in 2004 stated that UN and US inspectors found no credible program.

In 2012 Time  (liberal) reported on the CIA’s confession that it was “bamboozled” when it reported Saddam had WMD.

Commentary (conservative) argues that the weapons ISIS finds will not be usable, but reflects on how the weapons could have been used if Iraq had not been invaded.

What does all of this mean?  It would appear that Saddam Hussein did not have a massive delivery capability for WMD, but he did have something and may have been working on building more.  Whether Bush should have invaded can still be debated, but the media myth that there was no WMD is not supported by the evidence.  However, it would not appear to be a massive buildup of WMD that could be used to justify the US invasion of Iraq.

7/12/14 UPDATE.  From Wired:  "WikiLeaks Show WMD Hunt Continued in Iraq -- With Surprising Results."

By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.

An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Responding to hurricanes:  You heard a lot about how George W. Bush botched Katrina aid in New Orleans, but you don't hear the same criticisms raised about Washington's failure to deal with hurricane Sandy.

When the storm hit in 2012, damaging around 200,000 homes in New York and New Jersey, President Obama said, “My message to the federal government: No bureaucracy, no red tape.”

But seventeen months later, the reality has been vastly different, according a new WSJ piece. Of the 15,000 New York residents who have applied for relief, only 352 have received it; of the 11,500 eligible New Jersey residents, only 2,032 have been able to start rebuilding or repairing their homes.


Recent headlines have argued that "whites" dominate the tech industries and that somehow racism is in play.  But this is far from accurate because Asians play a very large role in high tech.

So why does the “mostly white” meme persist about tech companies? I think it’s because those who are obsessed with diversity for diversity’s sake have a hard time reconciling one very inconvenient truth: If you want to equalize the races—be your concern tech companies or colleges, the two places this argument seems to pop up more than anywhere else***—you must do so at the expense of Asian Americans. Rather than saying “Ugh, these institutions are disproportionately Asian,” the diversity set says “Wow, these places are mostly white!”


From WAPO. And keep watching what Iran does in Iraq, because it could further disillusion the Saudis who are not keen on Shiites.

On Thursday, at the invitation of the pro-Israel group JINSA, former George W. Bush administration officials John Hannah and Eric Edelman, together with Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Dennis Ross, former adviser to President Obama, assembled to discuss the prospects for a final Iranian deal. It was illuminating, to say the least.

Ross and the other panelists were emphatic that bringing Iran into the Iraq picture and allowing the mullahs to succeed in their aspiration of a Shiite state beholden to Tehran was a very bad idea. Ross reminded the audience that Iran has killed numerous Americans by its manufacture of improvised explosive devices and “in many ways Iran is responsible for what is happening in Iraq.”

It is easy to lose U.S. credibility in the world. We’ve done it before in the Middle East, Ross reminded us. But what is different now is that the administration thinks it has been wildly successful. It doesn’t use leverage and won’t use leverage because the president fails to admit that anything is amiss. As bizarre as this may sound, inside the White House bubble presidents — especially ones surrounded by political hacks — can convince themselves of a great many things. This one seems especially prone to do so.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


According to Ruth Marcus at WAPO, "Obama misreads history."

Two instincts — one predictable, the other surprising — help explain the arc of Barack Obama’s presidency. The predictable instinct is Obama’s tendency to overlearn the lessons of history. The second, more surprising but related to the first, is Obama’s frequent audacity deficit.

Every capable leader learns from history. But key moments of the Obama presidency demonstrate that he has erred in precisely the opposite direction, by being overly reluctant to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors.


While this is a GOP production, it does show the verbal support given George Bush when he first invaded Iraq.

And here is Biden in 2010 about the administration's success in Iraq.

Friday, June 13, 2014


From Reihan Salam at Slate. He argues that Bush going into Iraq was a mistake, but also that Obama's withdrawal in 2011 from Iraq was a mistake as well.  Obama did not work hard enough to build a strong Iraq. . .but there is the question of whether Obama's foreign policy is working anywhere.

The notion that we were wrong to go in but that we were also wrong to get out is hard to comprehend for many people. Once Americans collectively settled on the idea that the Iraq War was a disaster, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d want to wash our hands of the whole ordeal. President Obama appeared to do just that when he declared in December of 2011 that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq,” knowing full well that we were doing no such thing. The disaster that is the Iraq War did not end when the last convoy of U.S. combat troops left the country more than three years ago, as many of us are now learning as the fragile Iraqi state loses ground to Sunni extremists.

Brent Scowcroft argues that Obama did not give Iraq time to develop democracy.

And the radical Islamist leading the ISIS in Iraq was released in 2009 as a non-threat.

Michael Totten on the end of Iraq. . .perhaps a regional war.  At some point the US will get sucked in.

God only knows what happens next, but this much is clear—the Syrian war is no longer the Syrian war. It’s a regional war. It spilled into Lebanon at a low level some time ago. It sucked in Iran and Hezbollah some time ago. Now it is spreading with full force at blitzkrieg speed into Iraq and has even drawn in the Kurdistan Regional Government which managed to sit out the entire Iraq war.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


"The world is less violent than it has ever been."  From RealClearPolitics.  I am not so sure about this as I read headlines this morning about Iraq, the Middle East, etc..

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


In Illinois recently Hillary Clinton called Lincoln that Senator from Illinois. . .NOT.  Her knowledge of American history is somewhat lacking.