Category Archives: Bengazhi

Taking responsibility


We may never get to the end of the Susan Rice story.

History tells us that Rice rattled off a false tale on several networks after the attack and death of Four Americans – including the ambassador to Libya — in the Benghazi. Her detailed lie was that the deaths were the result of a semi-spontaneous anti-American demonstration occasioned by broadcasts from the then pro- Muslim Brotherhood broadcasts from radio Cairo that had spread throughout the Arab and Moslem world.

The truth was, of course, that the Libyan jihadists had plotted to kill Americans for some time, that the local U.S. diplomatic corps had been pleading unsuccessfully for weeks for additional defenses against what it knew were plots against them. Although Rice’s performance was almost immediately exposed, she suffered no particular consequences and continued as a high national security official.
The Rice story has barged into the headlines again with the revelation that she “unmasked” American citizens who, presumably, were only incidentally recorded in secret U.S. intelligence agencies’ search of communications for important leads. Theoretically such persons were protected unless specific requests were made for their identity by Administration officials, presumably because they would lead to further insights on the principal target of the surveillance.

When word eked out that Rice had been responsible for “unmasking” some of these names, she initially denied the role. But, again, she has backtracked and admitted that it was she who unasked some of these conversational participants. Why? is not yet to be explained since theoretically she was only a recipient of intelligence as she served as the 24th United States National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. It was in this role as a consumer of intelligence that she had access to the surveillance but theoretically had no authority except in unusual circumstances to direct its contents, a role for the several American intelligence agencies who produced the material for the president’s office to examine.

What is still at issue is whether having “unmasked” various U.S. persons who fell into the hands of the surveillance teams, she passed this material on to others in the Obama Administration, perhaps to be used against the Republican candidate in the run up to the presidential election last fall. Rice says she did no such thing, but given her record of stretching the truth, there is considerable speculation that is precisely what she did do.

It is here that we begin to enter the territory of does the punishment fit the crime?

Much too often recently, in “the swamp” in Washington that Donald Trump says he was elected to drain, there has been no penalty for either skirting the outer reaches of the law or, indeed, breaking it.

Instead, American public and private life has fallen into the speech formula of “taking responsibility” for the infraction. That epithet has moral and propaganda implications but it does not actually penalize the miscreant. In most cases, he [or she] either does not pay the price in dollars and cents for his failure to conform to the law nor does he surrender privileges and prestige that surround the position that has been violated. The most notorious example, of course, is Hillary Clinton’s use of her private e-mail [for whatever reason] to move official documents, which among other things increased their exposure to foreign espionage.

In both these instances of outright violation of the law, Hillary Clinton has announced that she “takes responsibility” for these missteps. But she has paid no other price.

This new version of the formula “I take responsibility” but requires no actual pain or suffering — either in prestige or in wealth – has eroded the whole concept of right and wrong in public life. It may be too late to fill the widening gap. But an effort ought to be done to take up this responsibility.

Sws-04-06-17

Hillary’s E-mails, Obama and Common Sense


Not a lot that is being said by The Talking Heads makes sense in the case of Hillary Clinton’s E-mails.
First of all, everything would tell us that any domestic or foreign political figure would be interested in the very fact that a specific subject had reached the Himalayan heights of the Secretary of State’s eyes. She is, after all, in addition to her vast power and influence as the decision-maker after The One in foreign relations matters, one of the most powerful figures in government.. And, of course, the secretary of state is the fifth in line to the presidency in the event a catastrophe eliminates the vice president, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the house, and the pro temp leader.
It may well be, as many government officials have long argued, that too many documents are “classified”, said to be of lesser importance than their originator believed when he accorded them a secret status. But, as is obvious, that decision must be left with the originator of the document, not to be trifled with by the recipient. And as some of the released e-mails indicate, not only did Clinton disregard the classification, but she instructed subordinates in the State Department to remove the classification, acknowledging that she knew their significance even if she did not agree with its evaluation.
It is probably impossible for third parties, unless they are directly involved and know the subject matter, to evaluate the damage done by Clinton’s purposefully declassification. It is not even self-evident why she did it. But one has to assume that there are such things as state secrets, many of them in fact, and the necessity to prevent their disclosure to enemies foreign and domestic is an obligation all government employees or political appointments take on in their oath of office as well as the commonsensical performance of their duty. This, Clinton did not do.
Again, a good deal of speculation has gone on about whether the continuing inquiry into the matter of her e-mails will result in an indictment by the Attorney General of this Administration. It is, of course, possible that Loretta E. Lynch., who after all was confirmed with a bi-partisan vote based on her record for judicial perspicuity and balance, will proceed to authorize a prosecution after the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] inquiry is completed with evidence for an indictment of Clinton. Its results according to all the speculation in Washington would seem to lie in that direction.
But it appears for her to do so would require great political bravery, and probably self-sacrifice, judging from the President’s TV interview April 10. In that interview, he made it clear that he already has taken a decision that nothing in the investigation would incriminate Clinton. It bears noting, of course, that for a former supposed university law professor – of course, he was instead a part-time instructor and then a rather poor one by all accounts – the President has violated one of the principal axioms of executive conduct. That is that no executive should offer a public appraisal of a future verdict while any judicial or police inquiry is under way. He has done it, of course, repeatedly. Sub judice in the law, means according to the dictionary, “under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere”. That would include, and above all, by the president of the United States as the chief executive officer and enforcer of our laws.
Last, and perhaps most important, for some time the Mainstream Media have been talking about the Attorney-General’s office and the Justice Department as another branch of what has until now been considered a three part government, executive, legislative and judicial. That still remains the case. The Justice Department and its head under Pres. Obama remains, as it has always been, a part of the president’s cabinet – not mentioned in the Constitution. And, therefore, it is under his jurisdiction and control. Given his now infamous public statement, it seems unlikely that any justified prosecution of Clinton will be pursued for whatever miscarriage of justice. At least not until 2017 at the earliest.
sws-104-12-16

Going after Daesh


 

The U.S. is paying a rising price for the early failure of the Obama Administration to wage an all-out offensive to destroy Daesh [the Arabic name for the Islamic caliphate, ISIS or ISIL].

The Obama Administration – the President notoriously characterized them original as “J.V.” –originallysaid America’s objective was to “ultimately destroy” ISIS. .

Beyond the wildest earliest expectations, Daesh is lining up allies throughout the Moslem world – threatening to unite all the terrorist elements at least nominally in a juggernaut against the forces of civilization with every more barbarous acts.

The terrorists, despite some local defeats, still hold most of the large cities they have seized since 2014. It is funding itself with black market oil sales and other more sophisticated financial transactions. And with its hold on this piece of Syrian and Iraqi real estate as its sanctuary, Daesh is waging a very sophisticated campaign for support through the social media throughout the whole Moslem world.

Nothing succeeds like success, and its growing stature is attracting young misfits from throughout the Moslem world – as well some young Western adventurers.

With polls showing a widespread concern among Americans that Washington has failed to bring Daesh to heel, Obama has begun to step up his rhetoric at least about the fight. In his January state of the union address, he did say that fighting ISIS [also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh] and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration.

The U.S. is incrementally stepping up its program of bombing raids, inserting additional special operatives on the ground to more successfully direct what had been an air campaign only a fraction of earlier bombardment in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Daesh’s response has been a campaign to enlist the various insurgencies with Moslem leadership through Asia and Africa. Many have smouldered for decades, as much based on ethnic, linguistic and regional antagonisms as on any Islamic religious character. But that, too, is tending to change with their new found allegiance to Daesh.

In southern Thailand, for example, the long low-level insurgency in its three southern Malay-majority provinces is being enlisted by Daesh. The long-standing ties which both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok obfuscate between the Moslem rebels in southern Thailand and radical Islamic forces in northeastern Malaysia are strengthening with new political problems in the ruling party in the capital.

In the southern Philippines, the on and off rebellion of the Moros – going back to Spanish and American colonial days – is blossoming. A Saudi official, an opponent of Daesh, was recently assassinated there in a dramatic manifestation of Daesh’s increasing influence. Manila, facing an increasing threat to its position in the South China Sea by Beijing’s push there, has more than it can handle. And it has begun to restore the old alliance with Washington, if at a slow pace and against considerable domestic opposition.

Daesh has tried to link to the old Moslem radicals in West Java, again dating back to Dutch colonial days, but recently manifesting their deep roots with terrorist acts in the national capital of Jakarta. The blood attacks on the tourist island of Bali have shaken the Indonesian government and it is behind the curve in taking on the search for Islamic terrorist ties to the Mideast.

In Nigeria, the Boko Harum – originally a nativist movement rejecting all so-called Western cultural aspects – has now officially linked itself to Daesh. Its bloody attacks on local Christian and Moslem communities has become a major concern for the Nigerian government, always carefully balanced between its more developed southern and Christian and animist regions and the Moslem region in the north.

All this has brought into focus a crisis for Washington on how to deal with Libya and the growing strength there of Islamicist elements which, again, have now proclaimed their loyalty to Daesh. The Islamic terrorists are a product of the overthrow of the Mohammed Qadaffi’s dictatorship by a European alliance with the then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton pursuing Obama’s famous “leading from behind”. If the Libyan rebels, with their close geographic ties to Daesh – and their threat to Egypt’s western frontier – manage to grab Libyan oil fields where they are active, the whole international network will take on new and ominous significance.

Obama, despite his determination to withdraw from all Midesast conflicts, is now facing a brutal decision in Libya which could overturn what is left of his strategy of retreat from contested areas.

ws-03-05-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hillary and Common Sense


Hillary and Common Sense
If there is anything left of the strategy of the Hillary Clinton grab for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, it must be a plot to create a numbing boredom for the voters producing a kind of stupor which would accept her coronation whatever its conditions.
The continuing series of charges and lies and admission and new denials and new admissions of some pretty obvious facts is beginning to wear on our nerves. We can’t but imagine that that is true for most of the voters, even the most politically motivated and engaged partisans who try to follow every complicated turn of events.
There is an additional problem, of course: None of this falderal is helped by the media, as increasingly inept in this subject as it has been all through hitching its wagon to the Obama star some six years ago. For most of the talking heads, whether knowingly or unwillingly, fall into every trap of the general confusion set in motion by the Hillary team and we get a so-called discussion of detail that constantly misses the whole point of the argument. .
Let’s get a few things straight:
First of all, it is perfectly clear that Hillary set up the separate nonofficial server [or was there more than one?] to hide whatever it was that she thought the usual official registration required of all government servants. It had nothing to do with her original claim that it was to lessen the claim on her operating several handheld devices, since we now know she several devices and have the photographs to prove it.
She did that, we must assume, because she wanted to hide something.
Nor is it acceptable that she would not know that official messages must move on official lines of communication. That is why there are official networks, or at least, one of the reasons. The other, and that brings up still another point, is that those networks have elaborate if sometimes faulty, we learn, methods of hiding their contents from the view of out potential enemies. That may or may not be the case with her own specially designed network, whatever the expert hired help she may have rented which now takes the Fifth.
The question, then, still unanswered, is: What did she want to hide? That is, what did she fear even within the strictures of confidentiality of government documents, did she believe her official correspondence would reveal that would be damaging to her own reputation. She surely could not have believed she was increasing security by ignoring the government networks. For she had to assume, that government networks already had provided for guarding national security secrets that she might be privy to because of her correspondence.
In all the digging in the minutiae, growing by the hour, the media have not really put that question front and center.
Secondly, it is also perfectly clear that any message transmitted to the Secretary of State, whatever its official classification, takes on an importance of its own simply for that reason. Furthermore, we have to assume that few if any messages are sent to the Secretary of State which someone in the bureaucracy or in her own entourage do not think are important.
The fact is, of course, that the Secretary of State is not only one of the most important officials of the federal government, with duties that have enormous implications in domestic as well as in foreign affairs. But since the Secretary of State is now the fourth in line for succession to the presidency in a major emergency, a crisis which can never be altogether discounted, that makes her correspondence and her knowledge gained from it all the mort important. Any piece of information which flows to the Secretary, presumably to be scanned if not studied becomes important for that very reason.
Okay, now we risk going off the deep end ourselves and adding more blather to the general cacophony.
But enough already! Hillary Clinton knowingly took her communications in office as Secretary of State out of the purview of official examination. Is that, or is that not, enough to discredit her campaign to make herself the chief executive of The Republic. And that we have to leave to the voters to decide.
sws-09-07-15

Islam is the problem


The worship of Mohammed’s followers throughout their history has rarely constituted a religion of peace, contrary to repeated statements by leaders in the West – above all Pres. Barack Hussein Obama. These have been made in their pursuit of trying to defuse the current crisis, but nevertheless are now a part of the problem..

One might stretch to argue that Mosses, founder of Judaism, had a “battlefield commission”. But neither Jesus, Gautama nor Confucius, leaders or founders of the several other great world religions, advocated violence. Nor were they soldiers as was Mohammed, the messenger who carried the word of Allah to his flock.

Furthermore, virtually all Muslims accept that in his last decade of what may be a largely legendary life, he pursued that career with ferocity in the destruction of his Arabia peninsular enemies, most notably the contemporary Jewish tribes who refused to accept his new religion. The history of Islam is inseparable from its attempt to conquer alien societies and turn them forcibly to its belief. That code demands – unlike the other great religions today – unquestioned obedience to a legal as well as a moral code of contradictory but supposed God-given dictums from the Koran and the accumulation of practices in the hadith, pronouncements and activities surrounding Mohammed the man.

Again today, as repeatedly in the past 1500 years, the West is fighting off a campaign of Muslim fanatics to overtake and replace its Judeo-Hellenist-Christian- civilization. Rather than massive armies at the Tours battlefield in the 8th century or at the gates of Vienna in the 16th and again 100 years later, this time the attacks are continual thrusts at the ineludible vulnerable “soft targets” of modern open societies.

As incomprehensible as it is to Westerners and non-Muslim societies of the East, these fanatics are willing to die so long as they can bring pain and disaster on their targets. It is, as some Muslim fanatics have proclaimed proudly, that the rest of the world loves life and these psychotics worship death.

When the leaders of the whole world – not excluding both Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Liberation Organization Mahmoud Abbas – came together in Paris for a demonstration of unity of purpose against this new threat to humanity, there was a missing figure. It was no accident, as the Communists would say, that Obama was not there among the leaders of most of the civilized world.

In a tortured and benighted view of the world’s issues, Obama apparently believes that outreach to the Muslim fanatics through Islamic state leaders – including the mother hen of all the contemporary terrorists, the insidious Muslim Brotherhood – will appease the tiger. His closest advisers make desperate attempts to convince the rest of the world that the great mass of Muslims are innocents. True enough, but that they will [the “good”Germans with the Nazis or a dozen other historical instances] bring down the militants is highly questionable. .

Obama rides this tiger not only in great peril to the country he leads and to the world in general, but at the risk of his own role in history. Calling a blatant attack at Ft. Hood by a twisted mind – a psychiatrist indeed! – “workplace violence” not only distorts the real meaning of the incident making it impossible to deal with it, but this refusal to name the crime makes it difficult to meet out the modest reparations to the survivors.

In the same vein, by not identifying the current worldwide campaign of terrorism – now into its second decade – as an outgrowth of Islam itself, he and his advisers make it impossible to understand it and mobilize to defeat it.

At the United Nations, instead of a straightforward attack on the origins of this violence to all civilized society, Obama was busy warning against any attack on the sanctity of Mohammed’s name. [A documentary producer who had the audacity if however clumsily to challenge the relationship of Islam to the wave of terrorism still is serving a prison sentence, part of the design to obscure the martyrdom of four Americans at the hands of terrorists at Benghazi.] Nothing plays more into the lying of Muslim fanatics in dealing with their fellow citizens; they can carefully site elements of their dogma which sanction deceit in their professions of innocence with nonbelievers.

Any attempt to take on the long awaited need to bring the religion of Mohammed to a test of modernity and contemporary morality is denounced. Earlier attempts were abandoned after a bitter debate in Andalusia, Spain, in the late 12th century when Ibn Rushid [Averroes], ironically sometimes called “the father of modern Western secularism”, was defeated in his efforts to find a synthesis of Hellenic, Judeo-Christian and Islamic values. Ironically Averroes contributed mightily to Western religious and philosophical thought. But his Islam retreated into the thousand-year bowels of a totalitarian conformity that imprisons it to this day. Those who call for a constructive new debate are quickly denounced as “Islamophobia” – even when they come from acknowledged scholars such as the eminent modern philosopher, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger.

It remains to be seen if Muslim leaders will rise to join Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who recently pleaded with Islamic clerics to examine their game. He argued Moslem “thinking” had stymied, that concepts “we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”. In practical terms of a hard-bitten military leader of the largest and most important Arab nation, he argued that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [a reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”. He warned that Egypt [or the Islamic world in its entirety] “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

Again, it is no accident that the Obama Administration’s relations with the al-Sisi regime hang by a thread while it has continued to court the likes of Turkey’s increasingly Islamicist Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan [and with a lesser and lesser degree of success]. It also continues to bemoan the fall of al Sisi’s predecessors, the discredited Muslim Brotherhood. [Alas! That is also true of Hillary Clinton with her own close connections to the Brotherhood leadership through her principal aid, Huma Mahmood Abedin.].

Recognizing Islam’s relationship to the Muslim terrorists is critical if the U.S. and the world is to defeat this aberration before it destroys Western civilization through its steady depredations, always forcing restraints on our liberties in order to defend ourselves.

sws-01-11-15

 

 

 

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The U.S. polity: a wonky fit


The polls tell us that those Americans interested in politics are split almost evenly into two groups: those who approve of President Barak Hussein Obama’s leadership and those critical of it.

Further analysis shows quite basic differences between the two groups – and disturbing for those of us who want a country rich in diversity but engaged in a constant healthy exchange of ideas.

The President’s supporters are what my Mom in her retirement among the elderly in Florida, with some envy, used to call “the alright-nicks”. They are members of an elite who either financially or politically – or both – have disproportionately profited from the system. They see themselves, and their nominal leader, Obama, as tapped by some unseen but knowing source to lead — especially to guide a rabble [excluding themselves, of course] which does not know its own interests and therefore what is best for them.

In fact, their numbers have recently been reinforced as the economy has marginally improved and the noise around Administration scandals and policy failures has dissipated with time in a fast moving society. [IRS persecution of political opponents, veterans dying because of illtreatment at the VA, the sacrifice of lives at Benghazi, massive infractions of border security, mishandling of government lands, near collapse of the president’s personal security – Poof! Gone With the Wind!]

The other half of the politically oriented are fervent, if sometimes highly prejudiced, critics of Obama’s policies – or, indeed, the lack thereof in many avenues of leadership where he is counted among the missing. Domestically, they perceive inhibiting bureaucratic intervention or neglect of the always marginally effective governmental actions which could speed the economic recovery out of the disaster of 2007-08. Abroad, they see perennial crises deepen with a strategy of withdrawal of American power in areas where it has long been the arbiter, indeed, the presumed leader by the other foreign participants.

Any attempt by the critics to entertain a meaningful debate is largely ignored by the Obama followers whose allegiance to their leader lies elsewhere than in loyalty to issues. In reality, the Obama coalition is a motley crew whose interest in their leader is largely pro forma – that is, loyalty as a member of an ethnic or an interest group rather than based on broader issues or an attachment to ideology.

Some might take issue with this argument, of course, claiming that Obama, himself, is an ideologue of the left and has the support of what constitutes the American left in politics. That has some validity, of course. But as a scion of the amateur radicalism of the 1960s, I would argue Obama and his followers’ allegiance to leftwing politics is more sloganeering with as little understanding as their 60s mentors had of the long traditions of socialism and its offspring in Western thought.

Rather, the Obama coalition is a collection of Alrightnicks. There is the rapidly growing political class of government employees headed by his appointed superbureaucrats, many circulating through the revolving door of Washington government appointments and lobbying. It doesn’t take long for a visitor Inside the Beltway, the anointed circle of Washington, D.C., and some of the country’s wealthiest counties in Maryland and Virginia that surround it, to know that they are passing through a world all its own – often inured from the rest of the country’s trials and tribulations.

There is, of course, Obama’s following among Afro-Americans – who however disenchanted with the little accomplished by the Administration in pushing the economy, and therefore the fortunes of their impoverished and crime-ridden ghettoes, feels it has no choice but loyalty to the first Afro-American chief executive. The media, of course, are kept – best explained by Pat Moynihan’s dissection more than a generation ago of the capital press corps. He saw how – even before the print media began to collapse under the dynamics of the digital revolution – working class newspapermen had turned into media elite as they moved off to the suburbs to join the ruling class. There is Hollywood glitz, of course. Recently revealed cynical backstage exchanges have shown just how meaningless on both sides of the footlights Tinseltown’s is the glamor that rubs off on the Administration. More difficult to explain, of course, are the small but highly influential Jewish followers of Obama – although they have in so many ways built themselves into the Establishment in the shortest order, perhaps, of any once discriminated American minority. That they ignore Obama’s war on Israel is camouflaged by the increasing lack of liaison between younger Jews and Israel and the continuing barrage of empty statements from Obama’s spokesmen [some of them Jews] of the unbreakable U.S. alliance with Jerusalem.

Bringing up the rear is the traditional support for any president which is part of the American political scene, backed by the increasing influence of what Harry Truman rightly described as the most powerful executive in the world, accumulating strength contrary to the efforts of the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to limit it, as the world and the U.S. becomes an increasingly complex society to govern.

Looking at these two bumping mobs, we may well be at an historic crossroads just now.

For all the myriad reasons, the electorate has seen fit not only to give the Congressional opposition its greatest strength since the 1920s, reinforced with similar movement in most of the state legislatures and governors’ mansions. With what has been an all too incompetent leadership, that powerful control of the legislature branch – and has so often been argued, the courts, too, follow elections – the Republicans now have an opportunity to force a discussion of issues rather than of emotional loyalties. If they avoid the siren song of its few media sympathizers and reject “comprehensive” solutions to vast problems, but instead tend to the nitty-gritty of legislative minutiae, there will be a contest. It means avoiding such catastrophes as the pretension that myriad problems of one sixth of the economy could be solved with the bumbling as well as bogus ideology of Obamacare in a single piece of legislation.

Obama – or his most intimate counselors, whoever they are – has had a great deal of luck. But he does exhibit the art of a demagogue in directing the Greek chorus from his bully pulpit. Whether by happenstance or design, he has managed by moving immediately without the Congress on such issues as immigration and environmental regulation, to obscure the massive electoral victory of his opponents last fall. [The prostituted media helped, of course.] Someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue obviously sees what otherwise would be a gross violation of separation of powers as the way to bull through the lame duck years.

But, for the moment at least, the ball is now in the Congressional Republicans’ court. Let’s see if they know how to ace it!

sws-01-05-15

But will it “deliberate”?


Americans like to believe as a culture they excel at detail. It’s not true. The Japanese, the Germans, and sometimes the French, may well do so. But the American forte is to reduce the complexity of big ideas – whether in politics or industry – and broaden their appeal or their functionality. The Brits invented TV, radar, discovered antibiotics – but Americans made them marketable and a commonplace.

Indeed, so-called popular culture, now a worldwide phenomenon, is a product of the American lifestyle which strives for universality. The ability to achieve a common denominator, sometimes at the risk of higher quality but wider acceptance, has characterized U.S. decision-making through its history and been the genius of the society.

Therefore, the devil remains in the details. And when they are lost sight of, among other things, there is the avalanche of continuing disasters which have befallen the Obama Administration. True, it is inspired by a 19th century ideology of progressivism that reduces all standards to relativism. But it also borrows heavily – what a comment on the history of ideas! – from the failed Communist and socialist theory that fell in on itself in 1990 with the sudden crash of one of the greatest and most cruel pipedreams in the history of governance.

But the self-evident nature of the Fast and Furious guns smuggling scandal, the Benghazi fiasco and martyrdoms, the IRS persecutions and their discrediting of government institutions, the NSA’s perceived overreach and threat of Big Brother, Eric Holder’s star-chamber pursuit of newsmen, the Secret Service’s corruption and mishaps, the Ebola muckup and threat of epidemic – all are in large part the failure to tend to detail.

One of the more inane criticisms, by Republicans as well as their opponents, is that the GOP did not offer large package proposals to solve all problems in the current midterm election campaign. In the first place there are no such remedies. Nothing has so led the Obama Administration into disasters as its so-called comprehensive solutions, whether Obamacare or its Mideast strategy. Their corollary of comprehensive solutions, that compromise is always best, is also belied by history – whether Dred Scott or the 1935 Neutrality Act.

Yes, the Senate Democrats with some Republicans in tow did pass a comprehensive immigration reform package which the House Republicans, rightly, refused to consider. Anyone who has taken the most superficial look at any aspect of the problem, for example the control of the southern border or the problem of overstayed visas, knows its infinite complications and the difficulties of finding solutions to them. Only by tackling individually each one of the many manifestations of immigration and in detail will progress be made. Nor will it be made by accepting an improvable estimate of the millions of illegal aliens in the country. That has significantly recently bounced back and forth from 11 to 12 millions with nothing by way of substantiation. A million here, a million there, and you have an insoluble problem! Common sense tells you U.S. officialdom obviously does not have even a ballpark estimate of the true number, given their wide varieties of entry, their origins, the refusal of local governments often to cooperate with U.S. Enforcement and Immigration Service [ICE]. An ICE which turns hundreds if not thousands of illegal alien criminals lose back on the general population obviously cannot find a “scientific” way to calculate how many “undocumented” it is really tallying.

Therefore, as we roll into an election which will give the Republicans control of the Senate – and not, if as this writer believes, with more than a splinter margin — one can only hope that body will return to its proudest moments. “The world’s greatest deliberative body” needs to deliberate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will go down in history as a leader who did more than any other, perhaps in its history, to limit debate. [If that old Capitol Hill adage that after the Senate dictatorship of Lyndon Johnson, the senators “learned” never to have a strong majority leader bears scrutiny, Reid has proved the point.]

It’s not just that there are almost 370 bills passed on by the House Republicans waiting for some sort of action in the Senate. Most of these were detailed pieces of legislation designed, however disputatious and boring, to create new law or more than likely simply amend existing nonperforming or ill performing legislation on the books. It certainly gives the lie to the accusation of a do-nothing Republican majority in the House.

One of the reasons why one might be optimistic about the new senate is that dozens if not most of these stalled House bills in the new environment will have the support of some Senate Democrats as well as their Republican majorities in the House and Senate. For example, there were probably a couple of dozen Senate Democratic votes for the Obama-blocked Keystone XL Pipeline go-ahead and the energy policies it represents; 11 of the current Senate had the courage to write the President calling on him to change his mind and support it. But Reid did not let it get to the floor.

Reid has invoked the so-called nuclear option on some votes, a simple majority vote rather than the traditional two-thirds, eroding the tiresome, troublesome, inhibiting ability of senators to talk endlessly, but hopefully in their best moments to say something significant and use their powers of persuasion. There may be no turning back now; what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But it would be a terminal disaster if the new senate does not get back to its historic role of talking it out.

Need one say, too, choosing the new executive coming in 2016 calls for men or women of more decisive and quicker action? Recent events have proven Harry Truman’s old comment that the constitution and historical usage has made the American presidency a very strong executive and he must exercise its powers. In the presidential elections ahead, hopefully a lesson has been learned and the American electorate should restore the Senate to its proper place of dialogue but look among the governors and other executives for the talent to run 1600 Pennsylvania.
sws-11-02-14

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.

With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.

That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.

The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.

The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]

To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.

Two points need to be made quickly:

The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.

Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.

That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]

Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.

• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.

• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.

• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.

• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.

• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.

• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.

• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.

It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.

sws-10-05-14

Horror vacui


This column was originally published in The Washington Times,  Sunday, March 20, 2011. It has not been reedited.
 By Sol Sanders
President Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency.” It was slung at Richard M. Nixon not only for his extravagant White House “palace guard” — some in kitschy uniforms — but for his more serious unconstitutional overreaching.
But though imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.
Whether on domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to congressional or bureaucratic control, then spins the resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. One sees, for example, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen pontificating far above their pay grades, only to be contradicted either by events or Mr. Obama himself. The president takes a hands-on approach only in maintaining his left-wing political base, be they Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies.
This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. In the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, the result has been an almost total disaster. Having made what he considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, he now finds American interests in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, once a stalwart NATO ally and the site of his first lecture, defies the West on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused administration fostering regime change but adding little to the still-undetermined outcome in Egypt.
Of course, Mr. Obama did not create these long-simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, Ambassador Susan Rice preaches that gospel at the United Nations but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy. Only when Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join the move to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Aristotle observed nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum — the “horror vacui” — and we are getting a demonstration geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets a policy without following through. Minor players take the field, exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in Washington’s approach to the Egyptian regime’s collapse, the Bahrain religious conflict and now the Libyan civil war, with their attendant threat to world energy supplies.
Like a sick dog to its vomit, Washington returns again and again to the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the magic bullet to cure the Middle East’s troubles. It’s the one international issue where the president enthusiastically commits his prestige. But having chosen Israeli settlements in areas won in the 1967 war as fundamental — it was a subsidiary issue until he came along — Mr. Obama jeopardizes Israel’s basic security, further postponing any agreement. The absurdity of his position is self-evident: In a “two-state solution,” he ignores Israel’s almost 2 million Arabs but insists a Palestinian state must be “judenrein.”
Elsewhere, lack of U.S. leadership — withholding even rhetorical support for Iran’s opposition — has helped extend Tehran’s fanatic and kleptocratic tentacles across the Fertile Crescent. The Persian mullahs have managed to play all sides in “the Arab spring.” Not only does Tehran use Shiite Syrian and Lebanese co-sectarians, but it sponsors Sunni Palestinian terrorism, including Hamas. Iran may well profit from whatever comes of Mr. Obama’s belated moves to oust Col. Gadhafi.
The arguments against American intervention in Libya were strong but, ultimately, Mr. Obama could no more ignore Tripoli than rising oil prices spurred by his administration’s counterproductive domestic energy policies could fail to cripple American recovery.
Thus Mr. Obama and the U.S. have been sucked into a vacuum, in part of the president’s own making.
• Sol Sanders, veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly on the convergence of international politics, business and economics. He can be reached at solsanders@cox.net.

Syria’s “black hole” threatens the universe


Syria, like one of those mysterious black holes in space, is irrevocably sucking its neighbors and the major powers into an unknown vortex that could lead to regional war – or more. Historical analogies are rarely valid but one has to recall a royal assassination at Sarajevo, the Nazi Luftwaffe bombardment of Guernica during Spain’s Civil War, the question of the Sudentenland’s German minority, the U.S. oil embargo on Japan. All were relatively minor tripwires which led to much larger unpleasant events.

In Syria all the regional powers already have a critical stake in the outcome of what started out as a peaceful protest against a long-time demagogic, tribal and corrupt dictatorship but turned into a civil war. That, in turn, is leading to the entanglement of all the major powers. Some – certainly the Obama Administration – are trying desperately, but increasingly unsuccessfully, to resist the pull of a political morass they cannot decipher or resolve.

My metaphor can be extended: the astrophysicists tell us that black holes form when stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. Nothing could be closer to this historical parallel: the 1920s creation by the Allied powers of a group of artificial Arab states with lines drawn in the sands of the old Ottoman Empire is now imploding for a variety of reasons. Around a spatial black hole, there is a surface called an event horizon that marks the point of no return for those nearby and so the black hole grows. That also correlates with the Syrian conflict’s increasing seduction of co-religionists and co-ethnicities with its neighbors across its borders, not the least the regime of the mullahs in Tehran which is its principal financial and military support.

It’s no wonder that high Iranian officials are adamant that Tehran will never abandon its “51st province”, the Basher al Assad Syrian regime. The mullahs supply not only oil, finance and weaponry but increasingly they organize local militia directed by its notoriously brutal and effective Iranian Revolutionary Guard. For that price Iran reaches into the Arab world and to the Mediterranean. As important, Syria provides the trampoline for aiding Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its growing role as a worldwide surrogate for Tehran. That includes alliances and infiltration in Latin American with the Lebanes’ ongtime background of drug-running out of the Bekka Valley now allied with the Mexican cartels extending their tentacles into the U.S.

This spillover into Lebanon which has always faced a Syrian claim against its very existence, has initiated a mew bitter sectarian struggle there, a reflection of the struggle inside Syria. And it suggests the frightening possibility of another internecine struggle like the bloody Lebanese civil war [1975-90] which took more than 120,000 casualties and destroyed Beirut’s roaring prosperity as the Mideast’s outstanding commercial capital.

It’s these Lebanese connections that bring continued Israeli air and  naval strikes to destroy Soviet, Chinese and Iranian weaponry arriving in Syria destined for Hezbollah. Although unacknowledged by either side, they dramatize the growing “non-Syrian” aspects of the conflict. It was Hezbollah’s antecedents who inaugurated the current era of international Islamic terrorism when a Persian suicide bomber killed 300 U.S. Marines, soldiers, civilians and French military in Beirut in 1983. Now heavily armed, they constitute a state within a state in Lebanon, threatening its fragile multiethnic, multi-religious structure. Hezbollah’s growing missile arsenal if used again as in the past to bombard northern Israel becomes a weapon for Tehran in any regional conflict. Syrian interventions could be a prelude to an Israeli strike to slow Iran’s development of weapons of mass destruction. With memories of The Holocaust always present, Israeli leadership cannot ignore Tehran’s repeated official threats to destroy “the Zionist entity” as a minimal part of its effort to dominate the region and thereby world oil.

That growing Tehran presence and in Syria and other Arab Shia areas, of course, puts the wind up for the Saudis and their friends among the other Sunni-dominated regimes in the Persian Gulf.  Riyadh, unusual for a regime that plays its cards close to its chest, has publicly excoriated the Obama Administration for its failure of promised aid to the Syrian rebels. Washington, of course, whatever the current state of its wildly gyrating Syrian policy, fears those weapons could fall into the hands of the jihadists with al Qaeda connections among the rebels. And, in fact, that ties into the resurrected scandal of the American deaths at Bengazhi where the CIA was collecting the downed Libyan dictator Mohammad Qadaffi’s untended weapons for shipment through Turkey to the Syrian opposition. Meanwhile, ineffectual American and French efforts to bolster the opposition has helped put the Basher regime back on track to a continuing bloody war of attrition against the squabbling, divided anti-regime forces.

Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor and the channel for Saudi — and the trickle of U.S. — aid to the anti-regime rebels is increasingly entwined. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with his more and more blatant Muslim-revivalist agenda, has pointed the aid at jihadist elements that are rapidly coming to dominate the Syrian opposition. At home Turkey’s politically vanquished but still powerful secular and Alevi minorities are under pressure to conform to Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule as the country, after a period of unrivaled prosperity, heads into an international payments and economic crisis. In this process, a promised accomodation has virtually collapsed with Turkey’s Kurdish minority, perhaps a quarter of its population, heavily concentrated near Syria with a long history of border disputes. At any moment, a three-decades long armed Kurd insurrection could reignite. The Syrian flood of refugees produces both a humanitarian crisis and sanctuary for the opposition darting back and forth across the border and occasioning clashes between Turkish and Damascus forces.

Damascus’ own Kurd minority, disaffected from the regime, lends weight to the independence ambitions of adjoining Iraqi Kurdistan, emboldened by its growing oil production – some of it with U.S. companies’ new finds. The federal Iraqi government in Baghdad, with a Shia-dominated government, virtually bereft of American influence by the precipitous flight of the Obama Administration, faces a growing Sunni/al Qaeda revolt, increasingly linked to the most radical elements of the Syrian opposition forces. Whether, indeed, because of its lack of fighter aircraft which is the proffered reason, Baghdad acquiesces in the continuing Iranian overflights of materiel and cadre from Tehran to Damascus on my enemy’s enemy is my friend basis.

Iraq’s neighbor, Jordan, an Arab state carved out of the old British League of Nations Palestine Mandate, is threatened by a flood of some 600,000 Syrian refugees. King Abdullah II, always carefully balancing his own volatile “Palestinian” majority with his largely Bedouin army which keeps the regime afloat, has threatened unspecified action if the refugee flood continues, crippling his economy. Always dependent on U.S. and other international aid, as well as tacit Israeli military protection, Abdullah has expressed ambivalence about his own role at the outset of this crisis. So he looks frantically to Washington for additional support.

But U.S. policy has foundered in the face of all these conflicts.

Pres. Obama fist threatened to play the world policeman when Damascus used chemical weapons against its own people – a catastrophe avoided in World War II and succeeding wars in Korea and Vietnam and the Balkans [although not in Sadam Hussein’s Iraq]. In fact, Basher’s use threatened the relatively successful worldwide dismantling — including the Russians and the Americans — of old stockpiles. But Obama welshed on that threat, and fell into a trap laid by Pres. Vladimir Putin and Damascus, when they swapped the issue of eliminating his chemical weapons for Washington’s earlier dictum Basher’s regime had to go. Now Secretary John Kerry – his State Department media claque calls it a great diplomatic coup – is scrounging up a United Nations conference which would “settle” the Syrian question. With both the opposition and Basher initially adamant they are not going to participate, Putin’s veto, and the long dreary history of such unrequited efforts on Laos, Vietnam, Korea, and the Balkan civil conflicts, it hardly seems a winner.

Furthermore, there’s China, ominous with its veto at the UN Security Council, continuing to maintain its hypocritical position of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries. Recent frictions with African raw materials sellers has given the lie to that claim, unnoticed by the world media in the welter of dramatic events elsewhere. Beijing hardly looks more a Putin ally in any attempt of the Obama Administration in its search for “comprehensive solutions”, notorious whether in U.S. domestic health care or in international relations.

Finally, our metaphor dims. Can we be approaching a point the scientists tell us radiation from a black hole reaches a level at which it disappears? Alas! unlike the theories about space’s black holes, our earthbound example is certain to leave – even if it disappears – ugly debris. That, for example, would be a new body of jihadist terrorists recruited and trained as opposition to Basher al Assad’s crumbling dictatorship. They destabilize their own and other countries — a repeat of what happened when the U.S. and its allies successfully mobilized Islamicists to topple the Soviets in Afghanistan leading to the collapse of Communism. But that enormous victory left behind embittered veterans who followed the likes of Osama Bin Laden — and in some instances still fight on — for other goals.

By their very nature, spatial black holes do not directly emit any signals, or at least enough to know what is really going on inside them, the scientists tell us. That’s true of the Damascus regime, probably in deep disarray internally, perhaps as some have speculated entirely in the hands of its Persian aid-givers. So this geopolitical black hole is one we can only watch, hoping – or praying if you are of a mind – for the best.

sws-11-03-13

 

Beyond Obamcare. lies the world waiting …


 

With the U.S. transfixed by the Obama Administration’s massively bungled attempt to nationalize one sixth of the economy, the health welfare system, the rest of the world watches the slow motion unfolding of another debacle: the loss of post-World War II American leadership of the worldwide alliance for peace and stability.

Pro forma protests over snooping by the U.S. National Security Administration European and Latin American leaders are for popular consumption. Spying, and unfortunately counter-espionage which the Snowden revelations appear to be, have been and will continue to be a generally unspoken part of international relations. In fact, one can imagine German Chancellor Angela Merkel berating her own intelligence organizations for superior U.S. technology’s ability to listen to her limousine cell phone. The Saudis’ “renunciation” of a UN Security Council seat is no more than a media event. With their new vulnerability brought on by the Shale Revolution in the U.S., Riyadh’s antediluvian princes in their colorful robes have no place to go.

But these are tokens, taglines to a much larger eroding international picture.

Of course, the current disarray is not sudden, nor only the product of the Obama Administration. But Obama’s missteps have exaggerated growing difficulties for international governance “inevitably” arising from changes in the international balance of power over a half century since the Allied victory in World War II. And as always, of course, there is the unanticipated and the unintended consequences of well intended strategies and policies.

America’s junior partners, the European democracies, after five decades of unprecedented peace and prosperity, are facing domestic breakdown increasingly limiting their contribution to the world system. Social democratic remedies at the workplace have failed everywhere. A demographic catastrophe not only threatens their economies, but growing unassimilated immigrants from alien societies threaten to overwhelm their post-Christian cultures. A pampered public will not accept belt-tightening much less painful surgical elimination of waste and corruption. Greece, ancient home of democracy, is the apotheosis of the problem, a ticking timebomb on the doorstep of the rest of Europe.

Furthermore, the attempt to create an integrated European economy – let along a new international polity which could speak with one voice on international affairs – is in jeopardy and probably failing. British participation, essential to the project, is now more remote than ever given the failures of the continental Euro and resurgent English as well as Scot and Irish nationalism.

European integration had been seen as the ultimate panacea. It is now clear that is not the case, nor, indeed, is it apparent it can even be effected. In Berlin Das Mädchen,, representing the disproportionately most powerful of the member nation states, talks out of both sides of her mouth. She advocates a new European superstate but zealously guards Germany’s narrowest national interest as demanded by her role as an elected leader still obligated to put together an unstable governing coalition.

The Obama Administration’s answer to this dilemma is not that different from the waning years of the Bush Administration. Pres. George W. Bush’s earlier steadfast resolve gave way to Condoleezza Rice’s “clerk” management. In any case, Washington’s stance toward Europe in part always has been a myth about who led whom and how during the post-World War II recovery. Alas! the charismatic and determined [if occasionally misguided] leadership of Churchill, Adenauer, DeGaulle, and de Gaspari, and their technocratic supporters, has been replaced by feckless politicians. The 80s decade-long common-sense reign of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was only brief relief from the general intellectual decline.

The American standard around which the Europeans rallied, even when they were in denial or hypercritical, has been replaced by a bogus concept of “leading from behind” That kind of Machiavellian manipulation of others’ power would under the best of circumstances have been exquisitely difficult. But in the hands of the Obama amateurs, it descends into virtual chaos. Witness the Libyan intervention as its classic example. The Obama Administration and European friends failed to provide a model for a small, fragile but oil-rich Arab state. And the U.S. paid a terrible price with the murder of an ambassador and a major psycho-political blow to American prestige which will dog U.S. foreign – and domestic — politics for decades.

The naïve “transformation” which an inexperienced but arrogant elitist presidential mafia thought they could foist at home on a traditional society but one in revolutionary technological transition has been matched with aberrant theory abroad. For whatever reason, the idea that the Obama Administration could make a pact with a nonexistent, romantic version of Islam – a political religious belief still mired alternatively in pre-modern torpor and nihilistic violence — has shredded what was left of decades of Middle East strategy.

There Washington now finds itself on the wrong side of virtually every issue. By rote it nudges Israeli-Arab “negotiations”, which long ago foundered on Palestinian corruption and incompetence. Washington mistakenly believed it were the central issue, not the region’s poverty, illiteracy, tribal warfare and demagoguery. Obama’s refusal to personally intervene for a status of forces agreement to permit a continued military presence in Iraq squandered 4,000 spent American lives. It removed all possibility Washington could have a major impact on a recreated but highly volatile Baghdad and its enormous oil resources. Obama then launched into an effort to dethrone the barbarous al Assad Syrian regime, backed away, and now finds U.S. Syrian strategy at the mercy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, himself increasingly turning to despotism and foreign adventure to hang on to his throne.

The Obama Administration continuously has importuned Iran, oblivious to that regime’s single-minded goal of making itself the hegemonic power and arbiter of the region’s vast fossil fuel resources. In the process, the White House ignores the interests of America’s longtime allies in the Gulf including, until now, the world’s marginal oil producer, Saudi Arabia. The Obama Administration helped install and got into bed with the Moslem Brotherhood in Cairo, the fountainhead of modern Islamic terrorism, apparently believing it some sort of Islamic equivalent of European Christian democracy. When that regime collapsed from ineptitude and domestic violence, Washington refused to accommodate to a popular military takeover endorsed by its other regional allies. Pres. Obama’s “best friend”, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has turned out to be a very bad regional weathervane. Even worse, Erdoğan duplicity [confusion?] in dealings with Palestinian Islamicists, Israel, the Brotherhood, the jihadists in the Syrian opposition, aided by an intelligence chief who favors Iran’s Shia fanatics, is adding to the regional chaos. Worst of all, Erdoğan with whom Obama fellow-traveled, endangers what’s left of NATO by playing with Chinese weapons possibilities.

The continued U.S. entanglement in the Mideast, always predictable, has put into question Washington’s announced “pivot” of resources to the growing Chinese Communist aggressive feints toward East and South Asia neighbors and Washington’s friends. With that strange aloofness which characterizes this Administration’s treatment of allies, it has failed to respond enthusiastically to the first strong government in two decades in the U.S.’ keystone Asia ally, Japan. [Luckily reflex collaboration between the U.S. military and its Asian allies, hangover from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, has reinforced strategy in the absence of White House leadership.]

Perhaps the most important politico-economic Asia-Pacific instrument in Washington’s hands, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an effort to create a common market to meet the competition of China’s state capitalism and subsidized trading, is hanging. The concern is that the Obama Administration’s next three lame-duck years, especially after the drubbing it seems now likely to take in next year’s elections, will not pursue it forcefully. In the balance is a revolutionary overhaul of a quarter of the world’s commerce and what may be the reemergence of a more vital Japanese economy.

Alternatively, the Obama Administration’s increasing reliance on the United Nations burdens that organization with more responsibility than its corrupt and incompetent secretariat can bear. Idealistic multilateralism is an excuse for lack of U.S. policy and inaction on a huge variety of fronts. Washington has, for example, increasingly abandoned leadership of the UN specialized agencies – whether the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, ignorant of the 17-year Tehran march toward nuclear weapons, or the growing specter of out of control biological breakthroughs which have enormous potential for solving life problems, or creating new diabolical weapons of destruction.

The shock and geopolitical lesson of 9/11 has been left behind somewhere in the bowels of the State Department and the Obama Administration’s National Security Council. Lost is recognition that the American homeland was no longer – if it had ever been in the world of intercontinental missiles – immune to the kind of destruction that our allies and enemies in Europe and Asia suffered in World War II.

With the strong prospect that the U.S. domestic scene will continue an impasse, as Obamacare has proved, America’s role abroad will be in abeyance. The world will just have to get along with the beached whale of a U.S — at least for a while.

sws-10-27-13

Hold your horses!


The old cliché has it that history is written by the victors. But the victors’ historians, too, are human. In an effort to write a narrative which the rest of us can follow, they pick up what we diginicks call a “thread”. Until someone identifies a major theme and writes [and rewrites] that narrative, much of the important peripheral events get lost in the shuffle. Or they may get exaggerated beyond their eventual importance. All of this to say that in our world just now of instantaneous communication, everyone and his brother is grasping at straws in an unfolding crisis and drawing conclusions that will not stand the test of the coming historical narrative.

If that sounds wordy and pretentious, dear reader, you are right. What I want to say is, simply, the old-fashioned, “Hold your horses!” Wait out developments because we do not know what is happening or what will happen next before making final or even partial judgments.

I am appalled that radio and TV talking heads – as well as friends – grab a piece of this infinitely complicated geopolitical and humanitarian puzzle and run with it.

At the risk of seeming glib myself, may I just throw out a few of what I hope are helpful if not saving interpolations:

No, I am not an “Arabist” nor have I done more than stick my foot across the Israeli-Syrian Golan Heights truce line toward Damascus only 40 [all downhill] miles away. But I have watched the Mideast for half a century out of the corner of my eye and if for no other reason, do think I have some semblance of historical perspective.

Yes, there is a general consensus that the U.S. should not intervene further in what began as a civil war in Syria unless “American national interest” is threatened. But like so many other political concepts, “national interest” is defined in many different ways: the fact that Basher al Assad is increasingly kept in power by the mullahs in Iran while developing their own weapons of mass destruction and a Russian UN Security Council veto camouflages Putin’s arms sales to Assad has changed the nature of the conflict.

No, Pres. Obama does not need a vote in the Congress in order for him to take military action in Syria in pursuit of American national interest and without a declaration of war. Almost every recent U.S. president has done just that. It irony that many of today’s opponents trace their opposition to foreign intervention as “progressives” to Pres. Woodrow Wilson who “unilaterally” used American military power repeatedly including intervention in the Mexican Revolution and, indeed, its civil war..

Yes, there isn’t much chance the U.S. or any one else can stabilize Syria, an artificial state created in the last gasp of British and French colonialism in the 1920s. Before the murdering al Assads arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s with their domination of its airforce by their Alawaite minority, there were some two dozen Syrian [mostly failed] coup d’etats. The Assads established whatever stability the country has had by brute force – including a 1982 month-long artillery shelling of a civilian population in Hamma that killed tens of thousands.

No, there is nothing new about the reluctance of America’s ostensible allies to join in what they generally say is a worthwhile military effort. After years of lobbying the British and the French whose citizens like those of the infant American Republic’s were being held for ransom, Pres. Thomas Jefferson [who had originally opposed any kind of permanent military] in 1802 went to the Congress for permission but no declaration of war to go for a military “strike” against the Barbary pirates.

Yes, there is no telling where Pres. Obama’s request to the Congress would lead were his “strike” against Syria with or without Congressional endorsement to be carried out.  [Please note all the essential subjunctives!]  I recall the old generals’ adage that all war plans and strategies go aglimmering with the firing of the first shot in any military engagement Assad, for example, has chosen not to respond to Israel’s three raids wiping out Russian munitions intended for Hezbollah, Assad’s ally in Beirut and southern Lebanon, who threaten the destruction of Israel, and he might try to ignore any American attack however effective.

No, Washington cannot back away from the Mideast whatever the decision Obama/Congress makes on this current issue. The U.S. has too many interests there including the region’s essential role in the world economy producing about two-thirds of the oil necessary to keep European and East Asian economies afloat even though the U,.S. is now approaching fossil fuel self-sufficiency [no thanks to Obama Administration policy but] because of the new shale technological revolution.

Yes, there is an overriding issue in Basher al Assad’s use of chemical warfare because for a hundred years the world has largely abided by an international agreement not to use this merciless of all weapons in combat, even with occasional violations by such monsters as Saddam Hussein and the Assads. That prohibition has been observe red in no small part because “poison gas” – used by both sides — turned out to be a dubious weapon in World War I for both its user and its victims. That evaluation could be hanging by a thread because of new delivery systems [i.e., medium and long-range missiles].

No, the power vacuum created by Obama’s four year effort “to lead from behind” and his Administration’s flirtation with the terrorist Moslem Brotherhood cannot be used as an excuse now to quit and run. As the saying goes, we are where we are, and unfortunately for an American public tried of war, the U.S.’ overwhelming economic and  military power is as potent when it is not directed and applied as when it is engaged.

Yes, a victory in the civil war would embolden Assad’s principal backer, the mullahs in Tehran moving to dominate the area, and Russia’s Pres. Putin, trying desperately to reassert the Soviet Union’s gone-with-the-wind superpower status. Failure of American resolve to handle this crisis will likely lead to a new and more dangerous breakdown in world stability if and when the Iranians get their nuclear weapon for which “Syria” is their diversionary sideshow or Putin with his oil and gas revenues collapsing tries some new stunt to hang on to power.

No, the U.S. did not start it all when with the British the CIA toppled the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. It was, indeed, about the nationalization of Anglo-Persian Oil Co. [ancestor of BP]. But it was also about the opening salvos of the Cold War with Mossadegh’s off-and-on-support from Moscow and its Iranian Tudeh-Communist Party. [Read my Christian Science Monitor pieces in mid-summer 1951 from Tehran when, by the way, I was subbing for their Moscow staff correspondent who later turned out to be a Soviet agent!]

Yes, Syrian Christians are caught in the crossfire as almost unnoticed by the U.S. mainstream media and the American mainstream churches 15 million Egyptian Coptic Christians were about to be slaughtered by the former Egyptian Brotherhood regime. But leftwing Christians [e.g., one of the co-founders of the so-called Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party which installed Assad’s equally monstrous father] have been Assad’s collaborators. So much for a propaganda video of a female Syrian Christian spokesman haranguing cornered, hawkish Sen. John McCain at a town meeting.

No, Assad will not be able to write off the effects of any American “strike” although, obviously, it has lost its surprise element and permitted him to move possible targets. Many if not most of the “hard” targets cannot be moved, and while he might fly his aircraft to Iran as Sadaam Hussein did when America attacked, moving his third world command and control operations centered on a family dictatorship won’t be that easy. The mere threat of a “strike” – or its further escalation under pressure from Congressional hawks such as Sen. McCain and Congressman Pete King– is already shaking the regime to its secret police torturing roots.

Yes, it would be a lot better if Obama had an overall strategy in the Mideast before setting out on a rather idealistic rectification of world morality which in a more perfect world should be left tothe UN. But that is not where we are, and the issue is whether the U.S. is to try to reinforce some international standards of decency. It is a question this country cannot escape with impunity any more than it has in the past. It is a choice that the American Republic has had to make, often to its chagrin, many times in the past.

No, historical analogies are odious as some dead white European has said, but it does seem that we are moving from the Spanish Civil War aspects of this conflict to the Munich era. Two oceans and six and a half minutes for an Iranian or North Korean ICBM to reach us no more protect us today than they did in 1939 – nor in 9/11 when a ragtag terrorist band planned and executed the death of some 3,000 innocents at long distance from their hideouts in isolated, backward, primitive Afghanistan.

Yes, we are under fire from propaganda [and conspiracy theorists] from various interests with their own agendas. But rest assured that the confusion is so rampant that just as the issue has cut across nominal Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative lines, it is rearranging normally Mideast and international European and Asian players. Russia wants to protect its old Soviet satellite Syrian Mideast legacy but its nominal UN Security Council partner vetoing American action, China, is more interested in keeping Mideast peace so its growing oil and gas import bill doesn’t go through the roof [as its economy slows].which, in turn, would profit their pal {Ras} Putin.. Ditto various U.S. domestic conflicts.

No, there are no easy explanations nor answers. This is a messy affair.

sws-09-08-13

How do you say “schmooze” in Chinese?


There was less than met the eye at the two-day summit of China’s Xi  and Pres. Barack Obama.Neither party was in a position to tackle the growing list plaguing the relationship between the superpower and the superpower-wannabe. That might or might not have been a product of their particular personal abilities – and the much too often media true- romance about relations among major world figures. It is a question better left to future historians.

But a two-day schmooze session was about all the leaders of two mighty world powers could hope for. Given their miserable overflowing in-boxes back at homeoffice, it was to be welcomed by both leaders.

Pres. Barack Obama’s administration has turned premature lame duck – even before midterm Congressional elections next year. They hold, at least for the moment, little promise for his Democrats to either retake the House where the purse strings abide but even threaten the fragile Democratic leftwing-nonentity Senate alliance.

Obama came to Sunnylands –  how appropriate for a supposedly serious geopolitical conclave vacuous to its core  – bloodstained from Washington.scandals still metastasizing Try as he has, Obama has failed to use the bully pulpit to take the spotlight with his talk of a somewhat improved economy and a handful of endorsements for social issues for his farleft base. Instead, there is the Republican Greek chorus drumbeat exploitation a growing spectacle of incompetence, petty corruption and failed ideologically-driven failed “comprehensive” solutions. Obama’s directed feints at infinitely complicated social, political and economic problems requiring petty politics maneuvering has never had White House vigor.

Pres. Xi Jinping, although superficially in better shape, also was vacationing from domestic problems that not only threaten his administration, but according to many knowledgeable observers, the Communist Party’s regime itself. Such warnings have come even from CPC leaders public statements. Xi’s answer to multitudinous crises bearing down on him in his first months in office is ever more slogans. A little learning is a dangerous thing, as they say, and Xi’s short American sojourns have apparently given him a heady notion of “soft power”. He played the role of Charming Old Uncle leading up to his elevation — assisted by his sing-along wife, purportedly a nationally known chanteuse if in military uniform.

But even the best imitation of American PR cannot camouflage a flagging economy with growth falling far below the formerly accepted minimum for stability, a pending regional and local debt-credit crisis, and an overall economy increasingly victim as “the world’s factory” of general world economic malaise, not excluding the EU. Despite repeated assertions of policy changes, Beijing has failed to get off the top-down unlimited expansion of capital plant jeopardizing what must in time become a shift to a  more consumer oriented economy if it is to prosper.

For all the talk of lessons learned from an entirely illogical historical analogy of China to Germany and Berlin’s aggressions in the 20th century as a latecomer to the table of the Westphalian nation-state, there isn’t much evidence Beijing has learned whatever “lesson” there was to be had. All the while touting peace and stability, China has laid fantastic claims to southern ocean resources never claimed before except with a few dots on a map, initiated a border incident to the century-old Himalayan frontier map dispute with India on the eve of their vice president’s visit, challenged a new more assertive Japanese government over islands for whose claim the Chinese can muster little authority, and been unwilling or unable to rein in chauvinistic and even threatening talk by mid-level military. Neighbors like the Southeast Asians, while always intimidated by their huge northern goliath when it is ascendant, are furious, flirt with whatever surcease Obama offers with his so-called “pivot” to East Asia, and try to get their ducks together for a united front to Beijing. [Meanwhile, they are lapping up the benefits of a new China economy next door.] Soft power, indeed!

Nor will Obama’s new foreign policy team likely have answers for any of the outstanding issues which Beijing’s policies or lack thereof present the U.S. Navy, the traditional peacekeeper in the Western Pacific. All are leaders from behind, American exceptionalism deniers, and UN-firsters who like their boss mask all this with macho pronouncements on drone warfare and guard intelligence data mining. SecState John  Kerry apparently blithely plans to outdo Hillary Clinton in accumulating mileague in some sort of timewarp in which he thinks he is continuing the old Mideast shuttle diplomacy in the midst of a total breakdown of the 1920s Anglo-French biorder arrangments. Susan Rice, with some of the sharpest elbows in Obama’s inner circle, is now supposed to be the great mediator of conflicting bureaucracies as National Security Adviser. Many will see her appointment, finally, as conclusive evidence it is time to make that NSA, too, subject to Congressional advice and consent, like every other cabinet post. For her very appointment was a poke in the eye to the Republicans – if not some of the conservative Democratic senators – given her still unexplained role as spokesman for the Administration in the Benghazi affair. The President, himself, had said she knew nothing and had nothing to do with it. The new ambassador-designate  to the United Nations, Samantha Power, is noted for her shoot-from-the-hip pronouncements on everything from how the UN should organize a military operation to “free” the Palestinians from the Israelis to hints Washington intervene in the current Syrian shambles. She is consistent in believing the highest US foreign policy priority is averting human rights catastrophes, whenever, wherever, however. In the not so far background is Brennan of Arabia as head of CIA, apparently the main influence on Obama’s serendipitous theories about Islam and Muslims – at least before the Arab Spring ripped open the real Mideast underbelly.

There is, of course, the mysterious disappearing act of Tom Donilon, outgoing NSA, as one of the President’s intimates and supposedly author of “the pivot”. Without much Asia background he was the China hand who went to Beijing to set up the meeting’s agenda such as it was. Civilian life is not, in the end, one would assume, going to protect him from Congressional inquisitors – if they ever get back to it – asking his role in the Benghazi “stand down” that refused aid to the beleaguered murdered victims in Libya

None of the outstanding issues between Washington and Beijing will get anything but rhetoric for a while: Former chief of staff and now Treasury Sec. Jack Lew has reaffirmed that Chinese manipulation of their currency is still as big an issue as ever despite its small appreciation in recent months as Fed Chairman Ben Bernandke continues to roll the dollar printing presses. But Treasury will not formally invoke the sanctions required if Beijing were to be formally named. The private sector, fortunately, has waked up to what continued, persistent and defiant cyberwarfare by the Chinese is doing to the already shredded concepts of intellectual property which Beijing ignores and, of course, eroding our vast but dwindling technological military lead.

Washington keeps lighting candles and praying Beijing will do something to restrain the North Koreans building weapons of mass destruction. But despite warm noises from various official and media sympathizers, in fact, what Beijing is doing is turning all its efforts to harnessing the North Korean economy such as it is but with its valuable direct access to the Pacific. Beijing obviously is anticipating that day when the starving, bluffing Pyongyang regime finally implodes and the remnants slide into the lap of South Korea, an American ally.

So, another year, another summit – although actually we are going to have at least two more this year. One has to have sympathy for poor old grand sumiteer Henry Kissinger, running around China before the big affair. The ageing Henry was only able to get the BBC to listen to his views of what, where and how relations ought to be arranged between the two powers. After all, Kissinger, whatever his exaggerations of his role, did live in the world of the giants now taken over by pigmies in pseudosumitry. No wonder he can’t get his foot in the door.

sws-06-09-13

 

 

 

 

Bengazhi: the honor of the American military is hanging in the balance


A version of this column is scheduled for publication in worldtribune.com, Monday, May 13, 2013.

Despite the distractions of a continuing unemployment crisis and the media’s concentration on stories of human depravity, the scandal of the death of four Americans including an ambassador in Bengazhi — “a long time ago” according to the Administration’s spokesman — will not be put down.

Three sets of issues follow the testimony of three whistleblowers from the Department of State appearing before the early May meeting of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform:

Why were proper preparations not made to defend American personnel and territory [the embassies and consulates] in the chaos of newly liberated Libya, especially on the anniversary of 9/11?

Why did the Obama Administration feed explanations of the origins of the event which were boldfaced lies – a “cover-up” for which we now have confirmation from U.S. government documents?

Why were American military forces in the region ordered not to go to the aid of the embattled American ambassador and his handful of ad hoc defenders, even including that additional small Special Forces group available in Tripoli?

It is, of course, the second set of these questions which has gained what little media attention there has been, largely until this past week reported only by Fox News. That is the nature of the American political process. For quite correctly, if the party in power has made extraordinary efforts to mask failures in strategy and tactics, it assumes an even wider political significance than the very events themselves. To lie in covering mistakes is seen in the American political culture as a greater sin and violation of the voters’ mandate than the act itself.

But in the long run of history, it may well be that the third of this group of questions is the most meaningful, that is, the role of the American military.

Despite their magnificent performance as the most skilled warriors in modern history, the American military have been bogged down in continuous war for more than a decade. Huge mistakes in strategy – the decision not to finish off Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the First Persian Gulf War and the notorious articles of engagement in Afghanistan have prevented conclusive victories.

But there are almost no critics of substance of the performance of American soldiers, sailors and marines themselves. Not only is their valor self-evident, but their honor in pursuing the brutal demands of extended conflict are also a cardinal aspect of this past decade. [I would be one of those who argue that pinpointing in so far as that is possible in any armed engagement of terrorist leadership with unmanned aerial vehicles is as humane a pursuit as war permits against an enemy which boasts of its own attacks against civilian targets.]

Sacrifice is, of course, the name of the game for every man and woman enlisted in the U.S. armed forces. The possibility of losing life and limb in defense of American national interest is of course implicit in their service contract with their country. Yet one of the time-honored traditions of the U.S. military, paid for with countless lives over the two hundred years of the Republic, is that embattled comrades are never voluntarily left on their own to face an enemy no matter the prospects for an outcome. “Just as you have a responsibility to your country under the Code of Conduct, the United States government has an equal responsibility—to keep faith with you and stand by you as you fight for your country”, says The Code of the U.S. Fighting Force.

But in his testimony before the House Committee, Gregory Hicks, in command in the Tripoli embassy in the absence [and later death] of Amb. Chris Stevens in Bengazhi, claims the remnant of a Special Forces security force — already shredded by orders from Washington — was ordered to “stand down”. Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”

Nor did assistance arrive from the U.S. military outside Libya during the eight hours that Americans were under attack, trapped inside compounds by hostile forces armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles. Obama administration officials have insisted that no military resources could have made it in time. This has been refuted categorically by former military and CIA officials.

A White House official told CBS that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”

Hicks has testified: “…I talked with the Defense Attaché, Lt. Col. Keith Phillips, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything coming?’ And he said that the nearest fighter planes were Aviano [Italy], that he had been told that it would take two to three hours to get them airborne, but that there were no tanker assets near enough to support a flight from Aviano. [Fighters were routinely refueled in NATO bases in nearby Sicily during the overthrow of Qadaffi.]

“…And for the second time that night [before 5:15 AM attack], I asked the Defense Attaché, is there anything coming, is there anything out there to help our people from, you know, big military? …The answer was, it’s too far away, there are no tankers, there is nothing, there is nothing that could respond.” [A Delta Special Forces strike force was on exercises in Croatia, not more than four hours away.]

“…The second team — the Defense Attaché worked assiduously all night long to try to get the Libyan military to respond in some way. Early in the morning — sorry, after we were formally notified by the Prime Minister, who called me, that Chris had passed, the Libyan military agreed to fly their C-130 to Benghazi and carry additional personnel to Benghazi as reinforcements. Because we at that time — at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly. …I still remember Colonel Gibson, he said, ‘I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.’ A nice compliment. “

Members of the Committee – except for Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York’s 14th Congressional District who immediately charged critics of trashing the military – have tiptoed around this issue. Apparently they fear further accusations such as Ms. Maloney’s.

Yet at the heart of the Bengazhi unknown is Gen. Carter N. Ham, commander of the Africa Command, who, suspiciously, was removed within a month of the events ahead of the usual end of his command and then given early retirement. The Committee and the country need to hear from him where the order to stand down came from, whether it was, indeed, his decision, his superiors at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, or with the Commander-in-chief in the White House where constitutionally it should have been. At least according to official statements, the President went to bed and departed on Air Force One the next day for a fundraiser only seven weeks before the election.

The honor, the integrity and the reputation of the American military hangs on the legitimate answers from the participants to these questions, the military as well as the civilians.

sws-05-11-13