Category Archives: CIA

16China’s strategy clear


 

In a world of regional conflicts, new fighting in the high Himalayas in Bhutan sheds further significance on Beijing’s world strategy.

Bhutan, an incredibly beautiful retreat in the heart of the highest mountains in the world with only a million inhabitants, was a “protectorate” of British India. It, and a half dozen other frontier states – including Nepal with 30 million – drifted either into incorporation, semi-independence or independence [Nepal’s 30 million] in the new Subcontinent divided basically between predominantly Moslem Pakistan [later Pakistan and Bangladesh] and India [with its Islamic minority almost as large as Pakistan’s population].

In late June Beijing accused India of sending border guards from Sikkim, one of the Himalayan kingdoms that eventually became part of India, on to the Doklam plateau in Bhutan. [Bhutan maintains no formal relations with China.] Historically Bhutan  was linked geographically to Tibet rather than India below the Himalayas.]  China accused the Indians of trying to obstruct road construction. New Delhi did admit it had approached the Chinese crew warning them against disturbing the current status.

Indian and Chinese forces have clashed in various parts of the 3,000-mile frontier – much of it either disputed or indefinitely marked – since 1962. Then as a result of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s pushing the Indian demarcation of the British Indian border – apparently with the assurance from his chief foreign policy advisers, V.K. Krishna Menon, a Communist sympathizer, that Moscow would intervene with their Chinese Communist ally to prevent violence. Instead, the Indian military – heirs to the great British Indian Imperial tradition – suffered a devastating blow which brought the Chinese into the lowlands on the south side of the Himalayas but then with a rapid unilateral withdrawal.

Since then, there have been clashes between them– especially after their occupation of Tibet and the flight of the Dalai Lama, its religious-civil leader, to India in 1950, where he leads a government in exile among Tibetan refugees. Despite Pakistan’s one-time alliance and heavy dependence on U.S. arms, Islamabad has drifted into an alliance with Beijing

As American influence and aid has diminished, Beijing’s role in Pakistan – which already had nuclear weapons – has grown. China has been given permission to establish a naval base at Gwadar, on the Iranian border at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. An official announcement came just a few days after U.S. Navy SEALs conducted a secret raid to kill Osama Ben Ladin in Pakistani when relations between Washington and Islamabad took a nosedive.

Beijing plans for Pakistan to play a major role in China’s “Belt and Road”, a $1.4-trillion global trade plan, a rebuilding of the historic Silk Road from China’s west to the Persian Gulf and Europe. If the Chinese are successful, it could shift the global economy and challenge the U.S.-led order. Islamabad is banking on receiving more than $50 billion in Chinese loans and grants including a pipeline to bring Mideast oil and gas to China’s western province of Sinkiang.

Pakistan leadership – always fraught with division and corruption — has just lost its prime minister after a court’s ruling on his massive corruption. Some Islamabad politicians see China as its new “equalizer” with the U.S. and Indian relationship – after the decades of New Delhi’s alliance with Moscow — increasingly stronger. Prime Minister nahrenda Modi, during a two-day visit to Washington in June, called on Islamabad to end its support of terrorism, supporters of the Kashmir state disputed between the two neighbors.

American aid to Pakistan, once the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, is expected to total less than $1 billion in 2016, down from a recent peak of more than $3.5 billion in 2011.

The Trump Administration is again face to face with a decision: should it continue military and economic aid to nuclear armed Pakistan in order to win whatever support there is for the West among its elite or throw in the towel to what has become a Chinese ally in Beijing’s strategy to reach around India to extend its political influence based on its rank as the world’s No. 2 economy?”

 

 

Sws-08-04

Advertisements

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

The whirling dervish


Sec. John Kerry played hooky from the final session of a North Atlantic Treaty Organizationn meeting in Warsaw to attend “Hamilton” in New York City. Apparently seeing with his family and entourage the original cast of the musical was more important that concluding a NATO meeting in one of the central European states increasingly menaced by Russian Tsar Valdimir Putin. The slight to our NATO allies comes at a critical time when both Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, and other politicians and security experts, are calling for a remodeling NATO.
The Kerry escapade puts the finishing touch on a routine that begs the question of what are the responsibilities of the secretary of state and how does he fulfill them. Kerry, following in the airflow of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, is almost always on the road. His brief touchdowns are only exceeded by the flow of state press releases which clutter the same airways.
It is ironic – and a bit perplexing – that at a time when digital communications permit contact in almost every conceivable way [except touch and that is probably coming!] that the secretaries think their mission involves constant foreign travel.
This travel routine is revolutionizing the whole American diplomatic process. And there is good reason to believe that it is not for the better.
The old method of maintaining foreign relations had its flaws, of course. Political appointments handed out by newly elected presidents for elections support often went to unqualified or inattentive candidates. But, for the most part, these were to the major European fleshpots – London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc. – which had long and intimate relations with Washington and important lines of communication through business and cultural interests.
Then, too, there was the often arrogant attitude of the U.S. Foreign Service, the professionals in the State Department, recruited, first, through highly touted formal written examinations as well as personnel scrutiny. In the past, too often this had been a coterie from elite families and the Ivy League schools, isolating the service from the American public, and even from elected officials. Too often they became part of an international elite with interests and sometimes even attitudes closer to their foreign colleagues than to the American public they were supposed to serve.
But more recently, Madeleine Albright, who because of her foreign birth and her father’s role as a Czechoslovak diplomat and American professor of foreign affairs, already was a member of that international diplomatic elite. Albright, with the coming of faster jets and more accessible routes began to set the pattern of increasing personal visits abroad.
This Secretary-on-the-stoop role has elbowed out the ambassador on the spot, supposedly either a career professional steeped in the local political culture, or a political appointee with his own relationships. We have a strong suspicion that what happens, naturally enough, is that the local ambassador’s knowledge and reporting, gets drowned out by the parachuted-in secretary’s horseback judgments.
We can’t believe, either, that the secretary doesn’t have enough to keep him busy at home rather than gallivanting around the world. With a budget of $65.9 billion [FY 2015], 13,000 Foreign Service Officers, 11,000 Civil Service employees, and 45,000 local Foreign Service Local employees, the secretary of state has an enormous bureaucracy to police. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development [overseas economic aid] with 3,797 U.S. employees and a $35.6 billion budget [FY 2014] reports in to the Secretary. Having gobbled up the former U.S. Information Service [to its functions detriment according to many media observers], the flow of paper out of Foggy Bottom is endless and requires some supervision at the highest level.
That’s why we think there is a growing necessity for the secretary to stay home and attend his knitting rather than the near hysteria of constant foreign travel. [Those weekends in New York could, by the way, be better managed from Washington than Warsaw.]

sws-07-27-16

Comey, the FBI – and America – take a hit


For the first century of its history, the United States avoided having a national police force. The Founders, for the most, had eschewed the whole issue when under pressure from Thomas Jefferson [and nevertheless his slave-holding Virginia constitutions] adopted that colony’s Bill of Rights as the first amendments to the federal constitution. The Virginia code’s tenth measure was to reserve all other rights and prerogatives not specifically named as federal functions to the individual states and their electorates. That was intended to head off the tyranny of a federal police power which like the British parliament had oppressed the American colonists.
Finally toward the end of the 19th century, a number of scandals – one involving the state government of Oregon – forced Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, acting on the 1887 statutes regulating interstate commerce, to set up an investigative service. In theory, it reported to the attorney-general – who contrary to current misinterpretations of constitutional law is a political office, a member of the president’s executive council [cabinet], and not an independent, judicial organization. Gen. Charles Joseph Bonapart, a collateral Baltimore descendant of the Little Corporal – created it on Roosevelt’s orders after Congress had denied him the authiority to incorporate other federal policing activities — for fear of creating a secret police.
The FBI’s first serious activity was pursuit of the 1910 Mann act against involuntary prostitution. It took on new life with enforcement from 1932 of the ill-starred alsohol prohibition act, when its name was officially changed to the Bureau of Federal Investigation. It was under J. Edgar Hoover, a uniquely endowed and politically astute veteran of the earlier agencies, who directed the FBI through an incredible career from 1924 to 1972. Hoover, for the most part avoiding party politics, gave the FBI its legendary reputation in oursuit of the big city criminal syndicates of the 1930s. And with the advent of World War II, the Agency took on a new role investigating terrorism after 9/11 and the Patriot Act.
Today the FBI’s mandate derives from Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to “appoint officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States.” But it is other federal statutes which give the FBI responsibility to investigate specific types of criminal activity. By giving the director a ten-year sinecure, unlike any other federal appointee, an effort has continued to make it an independent agency, even if quartered in the executive under an elected president and his appointive attorney-general.
James Brien Comey, Jr. was sworn in as FBI director on September 4, 2013 for a full ten-year term.on the basis of a distinguished career as a prosecuting attorney. In several instances, he had distinguished himself by prosecuting former political colleagues. And many long-term observers of the Agency hoped for another extended tenure by a politically astute professional director.
Comey’s test has come with the politically explosive issue of the transgressions of Hillary Clinton, firstly through her use of personal e-mails for whatever proprietary reasons. The even larger issue of the Clintons’ use – probably with the complicity of her husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton — of a multi-billion foundation awaits in the wings.
Dozens of public officials – one of the latest and most well known, of course, Gen. David Howell Petraeus – have been convicted, ushered out of office and served prison sentences for just such violations of security. Mrs. Clinton is revealed in the e-mails, reluctantly turned over to investigators by her office and the State Dept, that she purposely chose to remove this traffic from its security restrictions. Whether, indeed, foreign intelligence agencies hacked into them remains obscure, but common sense tells us that any subject matter reaching the eyes of a secretary of state, makes them of high security value. Whether or not they were formally labeled as “classified” is largely irrelevant.
Comey has acknowledged all this in his statement announcing there will be no prosecution of Hillary Clinton. Furtheremore, to our consternation, he has acknowledged that another person in a similar situation might well be prosecuted for the same infringement of security.
“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences, Comey announced’ “To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”
Yet, Comey offers no explanation for his decision. It is not untoward, then, that the general public must now conclude that it is Hillary Clinton’s prominence, her candidacy for the presidency and her denials of earlier admissions of malfeasance, which have led to this “decision”
This is a very sad day for Comey’s reputation, for the FBI and for the attempts to uphold the morality of American politics.

sws-07-05-16

The American Exception


“American exceptionalism” is a term being bandied about a good deal these days by politicians and The Talking Heads. The Founding Fathers, of course, believed quite rightly that they had created a new and unique form of government even though they borrowed heavily on their English origins, and had, indeed, started their rebellion seeking to secure “the rights of Englishmen”.
But quite ironically the current phraseology if not the concept came out of Communist politics. In the early 1930s Josef Stalin was consolidating his role as dictator of the Soviet Union and arbiter in the international Communist apparatus, the Comintern, Moscow had built to bring Communism to other countries. Stalin had not completely achieved his totalitarian state which was to be the most oppressive regime the world had ever known.
Jay Lovestone, head of the then still semi-independent American Communist Party, told Stalin & Co. that a violent workers’ revolution would never come to America. Lovestone, then a loyal apparatchik, was not arguing on moral principles. but pragmatically. He argued that the American worker had too high a living standard – even in the worldwide Great Depression — and too much attachment to the American Dream of permanent progress to buy into Moscow’s violent revolutionary line.
Instead, Lovestone argued, to overcome resistance to socialism and communism, the Comintern should acknowledge that “the revolution” had to come to the U.S. through the ballot box. Stalin was having none of that, and Lovestone barely escaped Moscow with his life, returning to the U.S., first to lead a new “reformed” Communist splinter party, but eventually to become one of the most active and effective anti-Communists, with the international wing of the American Federation of Labor and CIA.
In most ways, today America is still the great exception.
Alhtough now the U.S. is in what the oldline Communists would have called “a revolutionary situation” with its institutions somewhat discredited, particularly its political class and the old political parties. The votes piling up for Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, most coming from the same kind of disaffected voters, are the result of this wave of opposition to the established politicians, on both sides of the aisle, and not that much unlike each other.
But Sanders even has gone so far, if softly peddled, to echo slogans of the 1920s and early 1930s calling for “democratic socialism”. As always has been the case, it is less than clear what Sanders’ democratic socialism means except for a further enlargement of the federal government and a further transfer of economic resources into government hands from the private sector and individual consumers. Perhaps some younger voters want that “free stuff” but for most of the protesters it ironically represents just the opposite of their goals of less government interference in the economy even where some contradictorialy would want enlarged social welfare benefits.
We reckon that America is still the venue it has always been for continued revolutionary changes. Thomas Jefferson had written, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” But the continuing American revolution must continue within that marvelous framework which The Founders laid out for a balance of power among the three arms of government, legislative, executive and judicial – and reserving the sovereignty of the states as a counter to an overanxious authoritarian central government. It is the erosion of the latter which has led to much of the current dissatisfaction. The ability of the 50 states to experiment regionally with new ideas of government has always been an essential part of the system. But it has recently been inhibited by the growth of rapid communication and transportation which has helped enhance the role of the feds.
We don’t need Sanders’ socialism which has proved such a failure in so many countries. And we could do with a little less histrionics from Donald Trump. What we need are candidates unreservedly committed to returning government – for example education and health – to state and local levels where it is most responsive to public opinion, and where, therefore, it would be most effective.
sws-06-03-16

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

Corruption international


There are more questions than answers, at least so far, in the leak of bits and pieces of what is said to be 11.5 million documents from, again, allegedly, said to be an incredibly corrupt Panamanian law firm.
The first gleanings from “the papers” has already toppled the prime minister of Iceland, caught ostensibly in a conflict of interest with the country’s banks which helped bring on the 2007-08 worldwide financial crisis. So far, more than seventy current or former heads of state and government have been implicated in the whole affair.
. According to findings partially published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, itself a somewhat mysterious newsgathering alliance of leftwing newspapers around the world, the records include three dozen entities blacklisted by the US. Why has this group refused to release all the documents? They apparently include everything and everyone from Mexican druglords to terrorist groups to sanctioned North Korea and Iran.
It’s not exactly new news that heads of state and government around the world have been dipping into the public trough, sometimes rather deeply as in a still blossoming scandal in Malaysia. There our colleagues at The Wall Street Journal are reporting a cool $1 billion has turned up mysteriously in the personal bank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak assuring his debtors his checks wouldn’t bounce.
We are being assured that overseas bank accounts are not necessarily intended as a way of evading taxes. But no one seems able to explain what other worthy uses they could be put to. Tax authorities in Australia, New Zealand and the UK apparently have come to the same conclusion since they have already announced they are looking into the whole Panamanian caboodle.
One big question occurs to us, however, about which we have heard no speculation. How is it that all this was going on in Panama, apparently on a scale that it is hard to believe the locals were not aware, and for some time, without the intervention of U.S. Treasury authorities? So far no prominent Americans have been implicated. But with the size of the documentation, we can’t believe that will not be long awaited.
The reason we ask is that the U.S. and Panama have a long and intensive and extensive association. As early as 1846 a treaty between Colombia and United States obliged Washington to maintain “neutrality” in Colombia’s Panama department in exchange for transit across the isthmus. Panamanians already had a long history of armed insurrection against the federal government in Bogota. In one of the later periods of instability, the U.S. in 1885 took over the Panamanian city of Colón to be met by a Chilean counter occupation of Panama City. Latin Americans speculated Washington was moving for annexation but it did not come..
In 1903, when the Columbian parliament rejected a treaty with the U.S. to grant Washington the rights to continue building a canal between the two oceans which the French [the builders of Suez] had started and could not finish, the Americans switched to supporting Panamanian independistas. The extraterritoriality of the U.S. Canal Zone that was created, was finally abandoned by Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1977 to much domestic U.S. controversy.
But a decade later, Pres. H.W. Bush intervened to dethrone a new corrupt dictator Manuel Noriega. Washington had tolerated Noriega’s drug facilitating operations but when he switched to pro-Cuban and pro-Soviet politics in Central America and stole a presidential election won by his opponents, the U.S. moved to unseat him despite strong criticism throughout Latin America and at the UN. Since, of course, a Hong Kong Chinese company with close connections to Beijing has acquired stevedore rights at both ends of the Canal, again to the consternation of some American strategists.
This brief review of the history begs the question: with the kind of traditional military and civilian ties to Panama, wasn’t the U.S. Treasury aware of these tax shelter shenanigans, some of them plainly illegal, but didn’t crack down, and if not, why not?
sws-04-06-16.

World War III


Everyone but the President of the United States seems to understand that the civilized world is in an all-out struggle with evil as represented by the Islamic terrorists. Nor is it less clear that Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] is gaining ground and consolidating the various Islamic terrorist groups around the world into an increasingly formidable foe.

Pres. Obama’s speech on Tuesday March 22nd was directed, he said, to the Cuban people as well as their Communist leadership and the American public. Well and good; it was a call for a new era of communication and hoped for collaboration with the Castro regime which remains in power. Most of us who know the history of U.S.-Cuban relations object to his innuendo that before 1969 the U.S. tried “to control Cuba”, something he charged in a throwaway line in his continued apology for world leadership. In fact, the U.S. after the Spanish-American war was critical with the venerated revolution leader Jose Marti in setting up Cuban independence, even at a time when some Cubans wanted amalgamation into the U.S.

Furthermore, one can only anticipate instability with the approaching departure of Raul Castro [88] and the crumbling economic and political regime with its old Soviet sponsor long since gone. Obama’s policy has helped rescue what will be an unstable continuing dictatorship. Throwing new political prisoners into jail and beating up the wives of current imprisoned dissidents on his arrival was hardly a good omen, nor were petty childish gestures by Raul Castro himself.

But whatever the long-term result of the President’s Cuba visit, one is struck by his insistence on delivering a formal prepared speech at a moment when a new horrendous episode of terrorism had erupted in Europe. There is hardly a terrorist expert who does not believe that the U.S. is inevitably doomed to more violence imitating that in Europe. For security reason the FBI and other intelligence units of our government are secretive about the number of plots that have been discovered and thwarted. But the Boston marathon bombing, the incestuous murders at Fort Hood, the shootings at military installations in Chattanooga, and the savagery of the attack at San Bernardino in California are only a foretaste of what will inevitably be our Paris and now our Brussels massacres unless the root cause of the problem is eliminated.

Obama’s 51-second acknowledgement of the Belgian atrocities was certainly not commensurate with the importance of the attack. Counter-terrorist officials in Belgium, the capital of Europe which made the attack all the more significant, in France, in Germany and in Britain all admit unofficially that they are overwhelmed with their problem. The sophistication of the weaponry and the coordination of a multi-targeted attack in Brussels prove that Daesh and its followers are gaining on the largely defensive effort of the U.S. and the Europeans.

In Iraq and Syria, Daesh’s headquarters operates an increasinly highly nuanced campaign using all the tools of the new digital world. The American response has been a limping incremental effort to bring the terrorists to heel, but with no long-term strategy and effort to end their existence as soon as possible. That kind of all-out goal is the only one which can turn around what is an essentially defense effort of the West to defend itself.

Hopefully, the President – as he enjoys a much more sympathetic atmosphere in Argentina where the leadership has turned in the U.S. direction – will begin the preparation for what must be a massive and immediate effort to destroy Daesh. Whether it is indeed World War III as Pope France called it months ago, it demands the full intellectual resources at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the mobilization of a new military effort in the Middle East, as weary as the American public is of armed encounters there. Leadership is, after all, not only the acknowledgement of problems but a determined effort to solve them.

sws-03-22-16

 

 

The Cuba-USA Scorecard


Pres. Obama’s open hand to the Castro Cuban regime has been met with the continuing clenched fist of the Castros.  Peaceful protesters against the most repressive regime in the history of the Western Hemisphere have publicly been beaten for the benefit of American TV cameras – where they have been shown. Several thousand new political prisoners have been thrown into jail on the eve of Obama’s arrival in his mission to reorient U.S. Cuban policy. Raul Castro even made the protocol gesture of not meeting Obama on his arrival at the tarmac, an additional childish thumb-your-nose at his guest.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects have continued their Greek chorus wailing about a half century of failed American policy toward Cuba.

That that policy has not resulted in the liberation of the Cuban people is certainly one of the cruelest elements in the relationship between the two countries.

In the realm of what might have been, of course, is the failure of the Kennedy Administration to follow through with air support for the Eisenhower Administration’s April 1961 plot to liberate the country. What will never be known is what U.S. air power would have done for the valiant effort of the Bay of Pigs Cuban patriots to usurp the Communists when the Castros had still not consolidated their hold on power.

It is certainly true, of course, that American policy tolerated a regime which so punished its own people with political and economic oppression that tens of thousands of them risked their lives at sea to escape. But U.S. policy also gave refugee to any Cuban who could set foot on American soil, perhaps encouraging this flight however somewhat masking the unknown loss of life of those who died at sea.

Nor does the list of mistakes and failures of the U.S. policy end there. Washington was unable to thwart Soviet efforts to establish with Cuban help a regime which still throttles freedom in the resource-rich southern African country of Angola.

But that is about as far as the minus side of the ledger goes.

The fact is that American policy toward Cuba through a half dozen Washington administrations did achieve important ends. John F. Kennedy, in about a face on Cuban policy, during the height of The Cold War in October 1962 prevented Moscow establishing a nuclear armed base just 90 miles off the U.S. Florida coastline. Had that effort been successful, who knows what different end the U.S.-Soviet conflict could have taken. Nikita Khrushchev’s Cuban missile defeat was an important milestone in the eventual implosion of the Soviet Union a decade later.

U.S. policy afforded hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles a home and a new life in America. No one should be so oblivious to the obvious cruelties of the regime as to underestimate the despair and courage it took for the brave souls who ventured onto flimsy craft to try to make their getaway. Fidel Castro in an obvious miscalculated stunt, opened the floodgates [and the prisons] in 1981 to permit the departure of some 10,000 victims of the regime, first taking refuge in the Peruvian Embassy. But the flood grew, and during those few months, more than 125,000 Cubans – the Marielitos – chose freedom in the U.S. to continued persecution in their own country, surely a victory for American sympathizers.

American policy was effective, too, however wanting in its tactics, in preventing armed Cuban attempts to set up other Soviet-oriented regimes in Central America – in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Threats to the smaller islands in the Caribbean were beaten back as part of the overall attempt to halt any advance of the Moscow satellite in the new world. Had that band of small Communist states come into existence, again The Cold War might have taken a quite different turn.

Yes, Washington policy toward Communist Cuba has sometimes been miscalculated and unproductive. But the charge that it has been a failure over half a century is another of the current empty slogans of an American Administration and its supporters who deny U.S power and would limit its use to try to lead toward peace and stability in an increasingly unstable world

sws-03-21-16

 

Putin’s domestic “Syria”


Hovering over Vladimir Putin’s reckless adventurism in Syria is the Moslem demographic shadow threatening his Russian Federation.
The Russians’ mushrooming Moslem population is part and parcel of the Russian leader’s whirling-dervish act to try to resurrect Moscow’s status as a superpower. It explains, in some measure, Putin’s desperate attempts to bring back under Moscow control the Slavs of Ukraine, Byelorussia, and ewven Russian-speakers in the Baltic States.
When Putin recently opened one of the world’s largest mosques in Moscow, it was a tacit acknowledgement of the power of his growing Muslim population. It was also an effort to forge a compact between a Moslem state organization and the Russian regime, modeled after that which ties the Kremlin – and Putin – to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The official 2002 census reckons Putin has 14.5 million Moslems [out of a total population of 144 million]. Ravil Gaynutdin, head of the Council of Muftis [Putin’s official Moslem religious hierarchy] claimed in August 2005 that Russia’s population included 23 million ethnic Moslems. The latter figure seems closer to reality with some estimates, for example, counting more than 3 million Moslems in Moscow alone, out of a total of some 13 million. Russian Federation population figures got a slight boost when, after the implosion of the Soviet Union, there was an immediate influx of Russian Slav ethnics from the former non-Slav majority “Soviet Republics” in Central Asia.
But the Moslem factor takes on additional significance because the overall Russian population is in sharp and unprecedented historical decline. It reached a tipping point at 148.6 million in 1991, somewhere around 140-145 million now, but declining toward a projected less than 130 million by 2025 While the Russian Federation’s Muslim population is also not reproducing at a rate to sustain it, it is considerably higher than for the Slavs.
That means that when Putin plunged into Syria to fight Moslems and called up an additional 150,000 conscripts, he had to wish away a Russian general staff estimate that by 2025, most of his new soldiers would come principally from Moslem non-Slav ethnic groups.. Contradictorily, his growing jingoistic domestic appeal – and in part the basis of his popularity — to traditional Russian Orthodox Christian loyalties is bound to clash, sooner or later, with the growing body of increasingly Islamicized Moslems on which his armed forces will be dependent.
The Russian leader’s highly unreliable puppet, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman “president” of Chechnya, called on Putin to expand his operations in Syria, “using Moslem ground troops”. Kadyrov was slyly reminding Putin, with whom he has had a stormy relationship, that increasingly the Russian regime is dependent on good relations with its Moslem minority. Even with Kadyrov’s gangster regime, with its long history of Russian wars of domination going back to the 18th century, Chechnya is a virtually occupied region. And its violence has spilled over to the neighboring North Caucus states, the route of traditional Russian imperialism toward Georgia and Armenia, and the dream for an opening one day to the Indian Ocean.
But whether or not Putin is taking the Chechen leader’s advice, on his way to a wider conflict with Daesh [ISIS, ISIL], he took time out to smack the shaky anti-Assad rebels backed by CIA. It was growing Russian air activity over Syria that took Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, not as traditionally waiting on his American ally, to Moscow a week ago, ostensibly to set up traffic controls. For the Israelis, the transfers of Iranian weaponry for Hezbollah’s participation on the Russian-Iran-Damascus side in the bloody civil war, is an important strategic and tactical issue. Did that mean that Israeli intelligence, unlike Washington, was prepared for the spurt in Putin’s Syrian intervention?
By bombing the CIA-supported relatively ineffectual anti-regime forces in Syria, especially those on the edge of Syrian leader Basher al-Assad’s Allawite base on the Mediterranean, Putin taunted Obama and his continued call for Basher to step down before a provisional end of the war can be found. It was also a way at thumbing his nose at Obama, answering the American and EU sanctions against Moscow for his flagrant aggression in Ukraine. Whether Putin can maintain a longer term commitment in Syria given the generally sorry state of the Russian military remains to be seen.
But with what the White House acknowledges is no U.S. strategy on Syria and almost total disarray among the Western allies, Putin comes across as a skilled strategist. The old Greek proverb, “In the kingdom of the blind, a one-eye man is king”, is well known to the Russians too.
Putin’s appeal to live with the worst of the Arab dictatorships in Damascus, hoping it will eventually keep a peace of the dead, flies in some circles even outside Russia, some European rightwingers and American isolationists. But it frightens America’s traditional regional allies, ironically Israel in tacit alliance with the Arabs led now again by Egypt, who see Obama’s “deal” with Iran as enhancing Tehran’s hand as it, and Putin, go all out to support the nominally secular Damascus tyranny.
sws-10-01-15

Dribling, drabling …toward defeat


There is almost a childlike innocence to the foreign policy initiatives of the Obama Administration, to be admired for their insouciance — were it not that they are contributing to world instability and promising even greater disaster for the U.S.!
The President, almost off the cuff [or at least off the teleprompter] acknowledges that there is no strategy for taking down the Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or ISIS]. That’s despite the fact that only a few months ago he announced he intended “to degrade and destroy ISIL” with a full fledge strategy underway .
But at the same time, the Pentagon announces that it is sending another 450 trainers into Iraq to try to restructure Baghdad’s badly tattered government military, joining another 3,000 or so American military already in-country. In a sense, it is a repetition of the President’s initial strategy in Afghanistan where simultaneously he announced reinforcements at the same time he announced a future total withdrawal.
It does not take much street smarts to know that such announcements are not only contradictory but reveal to even the dumbest and weakest of enemies just what opportunities await them and suggest how to exploit them.
It is no secret, of course, that the President does not want to admit – and never will perhaps – that his 2008 campaign “strategy” proposal which he immediately implemented, demanded a complete withdrawal from Iraq. It certainly helped bring on new regional disasters and, politically, suggested to the American people the huge sacrifices of the two Iraq wars had been for naught.
Now, alas! it appears that he is not going publicly to admit [one has to ask, to himself as well?] that Washington has few options but to move back into Iraq with substantial forces. Not to do so would embolden all those forces lined up, ironically, with both the Sunni Islamic terrorists who support Daesh and the Shia Islamic terrorists allied with Iran who dominate the Iraq government and whatever resistance it is able to mount to its enemies.
Whatever the shortcomings of Daesh – not excluding its continuing contest with other Islamic terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, particularly in Syria – it has been on a roll. The capture of Ramadi was not the relatively minor “setback” that White House was able to coax even outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Edward “Marty” Dempsey into saying.
It places Daesh in a position, if nothing else, to mount a continuing campaign of terror including the almost unanswerable weapon of suicide bombings against the two million Iraqis inside the capital less than 60 miles away. It also has been instrumental in aligning Iraqi Sunni forces with it, or neutralizing them, and in a surprisingly successful campaign to enlist foreign volunteers, even some from the U.S.
We don’t for a moment suggest that we have the necessary strategy for what needs to be done. Nor do we, on the other hand, believe that such strategies have not been proposed and elaborated – and thus far rejected at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – by the Pentagon.
But as amateur historians, what we do remember is one of the lessons of American engagements overseas during the whole postwar period – especially the terrible echo of “Vietnam” with its 54,000 American dead.
That lesson was pure and simple: if you are going to fight a war, you must fight it anticipating all the worst possibilities for as generals have always said, the battlefield changes the moment the first shop is fired. If you are to push a failing Vietnamese military aside, then send in the forces you need for the worst of situations. If you are to bomb Hanoi, do it immediately with maximum strength, not increase it incrementally and gave your enemy the ability to meet it. If you are enforcing a naval blockade, then mine the Haiphong harbor instead of chasing small craft up and down a 500-mile coastline, etc., etc.
Much has been made by our fellow talking heads of the American public’s fatigue after the long years of seemingly nconclusive war in the Middle East. That is certainly true.
But it is the primary obligation of leadership to examine current situations with more information than the average citizen and to anticipate the problems ahead. Then the necessary decisions, however difficult they are, have to sold to the American people with whom this president still has considerable support.
Dribs and drabs is not the way to go.
sws-06-11=15

Refighting the Vietnam War


A bitter struggle has developed over the Pentagon’s project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
The retirement May 5th of Army Lt. Gen. [Rtd.] Claude “Mick” Kicklighter who has headed the project for nearly four years is being viewed as a victory for the opponents of the war. Kicklighter with almost 60 years of service to the United States, including 34 years in uniform, was seen as an advocate of a broad representation including those now fighting for a “revisionist” narrative with new information of what happened in Indochina.
Allied on one side are former – and in some cases continuing – “activists”, mostly from the left — who saw the war as not only a mistaken strategic enterprise but an evil one. On the other are a minority of academics and a new veterans’ organization, Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, who seek to revise not only the conventional line in published histories but a general public concept of the origins of the war, how it was fought and its eventual conclusion.
In its first public event in early July, the veterans group stated their basic contention:

Today, politicians and pundits invoke the need to remember the “lessons of Vietnam,” but we
are unlikely to understand those “lessons” unless we establish what actually happened. Some say the
war was “unwinnable,” while others argue the other side was on the ropes by the early 1970s, until
Congress threw in the towel by outlawing the use of appropriated funds for U.S. combat operations
anywhere in Indochina. New information has emerged since the end of the war, and we believe the time has come to revisit the old debates

They hope to demonstrate the naiveté and often pro-Communist sympathies of war critics who falsely predicted “no blood bath” with a Communist victory. In fact, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were not only imprisoned in “reeducation camps” but vast numbers disappeared there without ceremony, still unacknowledged by Hanoi’s Communist regime, nor by its apologists in the U.S.
The spectacle of “the boat people” – uncounted thousands died in unseaworthy ships when they chose to flee rather than live under a Communist regime – is only a faint memory for most Americans today. Of course, there were the lucky 1.5 million refugees who reached the U.S. [and the 300,000 in France and 100,000 in Australia], many after months and years in wretched refugee camps.
But today Vietnam, despite its efforts to emulate China [and now its competitor] in securing foreign investment against a handicap of universal corruption and incompetent one-party rule, remains an oppressive Communist state with recent new waves of suppression against brave political opponents and the religious..
The original intent of the Congress with $65 million was to create a website portraying the war as one of “valor” and “honor”. Kicklighter had promised that the official commemoration would include “educational materials, a Pentagon exhibit, traveling exhibits, symposiums, oral history projects, and much more.” It would have reopened a long required debate with vast new information.
But after coming under attack by Tom Hayden, a notorious opponent of the war, and a new group, the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee, Klinglighter abandoned the outreach program. And with his departure, it looks like the whole celebration is taking on a mournful victimization hue if not the color of the war’s opponents rather than a more balanced picture.
It will be a new tragedy if the Pentagon program becomes just another addition to the false narrative which is being fed to Americans, in their media when the subject comes up at all, and by the leftwing academic community which dominates our higher institutions today.
Is there someone in Congress who is going to bring its program back to its initial concepts?
sws-05-10-15

Girding for the long haul of terror


Commentary
Girding for the long haul of terror

Home
\Opinion
\Commentary
Girding for the long haul of terror

America needs a new security strategy to deal with evil-doers in the homeland

Illustration on strategies to spread Western culture to the Islamic world by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times more >
Ads by Adblade

1.
By Sol Sanders – – Monday, May 11, 2015

Two seemingly unconnected recent events but in reality intimately connected are sure signs that the war on terrorism is being lost.

Of course, we must begin with that old Chinese adage: When a fish starts rotting, it stinks first from the head. President Obama has undeclared the war on terrorism, refusing even to name the enemy. But it takes two to tango — and the Islamic terrorists cling to their effort to inflict hurt on the United States whenever and now, alas, wherever, they can.

The recent attack in Garland, Texas, revealed what the general public only had guessed: There are resident terrorists — some U.S. born, others naturalized citizens, some of Muslim descent, others converts to Islam — ready to spring into action. Whether, indeed, the Garland two were under the discipline of Daesh, the Islamic State, claimed or “lone wolves” operating on their own may be irrelevant. FBI Director James Comey confirms our worst fears: There are hundreds if not thousands of American Daesh sympathizers.

The second event was the shift of Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, to become the State Department’s voice. However unprecedented and humiliating for State’s cadre, one guesses Foreign Service officers long have cringed as a duo of political hacks made a farce of the daily briefings. There was a bitter joke making the rounds: They might just start World War III with their ineptitude.

Whatever Mr. Obama’s reluctance to engage Daesh in Iraq and Syria with more than a token military force — e.g., aerial bombardment, a fraction of previous Mideast campaigns, a so-called 30-member coalition that doesn’t seem to have a central command — there is an even greater failing of intellectual engagement.

An analogy with The Cold War is all too obvious. Not only did the United States and its allies rise to the Soviet military threat with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the most successful alliance in history. But an American cultural offensive was constant through the official U.S. Information Service and semi-official organizations such as Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The role of the U.S. Information Service libraries, for example, while difficult to quantify, was enormous as a rallying point for factual information and propaganda to answer the onslaught of Soviet lies and their repetition by followers in the West. Nor are semi-hysterical cries of Islamophobia so different from shouts of McCarthyism, which too often excused covert members of the vast Communist conspiracy.

Today the United States not only faces the Islamic terrorists’ military threat, but propaganda waged so successfully on the social networks that it has enlisted thousands of recruits inside and outside the Middle East. That this has been accomplished despite their flagrant display of atrocities against American and foreign innocent civilians is remarkable. Just as during the Cold War, when U.S. policymakers had to cope with Europe’s neutralism, today it faces mobilizing the bulk of Muslims to stamp out terrorism in their ranks. Nor, with a traditional Islamic concept of taqiyya — the religious lie — is there all that much difference from Western Communists who kept their beliefs and activities secret.

With the Soviet implosion, American activities to sell its story of freedom and prosperity dimmed. The State Department takeover of the U.S. Information Service has been a disaster. Just as immigration problems arose in part from an earlier takeover of the Consular Service, the professional diplomat appears unable to cope with the detailed special knowledge that goes with propaganda.

The time has come to resurrect an independent American propaganda agency, and to encourage the Ford and Gates foundations and others with their vast financial resources to undertake private initiatives as well. There are going to be new problems, of course. It appears unlikely that the Obama administration would endorse such an initiative, so congressional leadership must move. The old fear, that government propaganda would have a blowback effect on domestic media, is even greater today with an Internet that hardly distinguishes national borders. Still, the Internet, with the help of those who know it best, must be a principle instrument of the new campaign.

An America whose popular culture penetrates every corner of the globe no matter how isolated — unfortunately sometimes with negative effect — certainly has the capacity to wage a worldwide campaign to expose Islamic terrorist horror, not least to their 1.3-billion fellow Muslims. Thinking about the problem needs to begin in congressional, academic and nonprofit circles for an early implementation in a war against Islamic terrorism that shows every sign of growing with no quick victory in sight.

• Sol Sanders is a veteran international correspondent.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/11/sol-sanders-lone-wolf-terrorists-mean-america-need/#ixzz3ZyVV73hA
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Remembering the fall of Vietnam


http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/3/sol-sanders-remembering-the-fall-of-vietnam/Opinion

\Commentary

Remembering the fall of Vietnam

Hopes for freedom died 40 years ago

Illustration on remembrance of the Vietnam War by Alexander Hunter/The Washington

By Sol Sanders – – Sunday, May 3, 2015

Probably no event in contemporary American history touched more of its citizens than “Vietnam.” I use the quotes to describe a concept that includes more than the country, the American war and 58,000 lost American lives, and convoluted arguments still haunting our political discourse.

Millions of words have been written about this tragedy. Unfortunately, much is ill-informed, ideological and distorting the issues. I sometimes despair historical truth will ever emerge from all the claptrap.

My own “Vietnam” begins much earlier than for most Americans, decades before the massive U.S. military buildup and its disastrous end. It began when I was a callow youth, a budding journalist fascinated with Asia after a short collision with India as an ambulance driver in the British army in World War II. That led to Indonesia, and thence to Vietnam. It metamorphosed into roaming Southeast Asia as a freelancer.

My year in Hanoi during “the French war” (1950-51) taught me basics of the convoluted Indochina conflict. And they were far from those I — and some of my well-meaning anti-colonialist friends — thought we knew. We thought we had done our bit when in 1946 a few Vietnamese emigres — mostly sailors who had jumped French ships — staged a highly successful protest meeting at the old McAlpin Hotel on Herald Square in New York City. Do Vang Ly, then a Columbia University Vietnamese student but already a veteran fighter for his country, and I were the spark plugs.

We drew for participants on an early United Nations General Assembly session Asian luminaries and Americans noted for their interest in the new “underdeveloped countries.” They included everyone from Norman Thomas, the old U.S. socialist warhorse, to Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru’s poet sister, and novelist Pearl Buck, epitome of Western interest in China. Naively, our purpose was to support Ho Chi Minh, purportedly heading a broad national alliance, still negotiating with the French for independence until almost by accident they stumbled into war. A quiet agent among us from Ho’s Paris “embassy,” we were to learn later, saw to it that we adhered to the Communist “line.”

In Hanoi, I learned that beyond the constantly mutating argument between the Vietnamese and the French was the more bitter struggle between the Vietnamese Communists and nationalists. During a 16-month post-World War II hiatus, when the Communists controlled the Tonkin Delta, they had massacred nationalist leaders. In my time, plaques — imitating those for fallen French Resistance heroes throughout Paris — marked the spot where anti-Communist nationalists were struck down. Those included, interestingly enough, the older brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, later to lead the Republic of South Vietnam — the man of that generation from their Confucian court family originally slated to have been the politician.

I still remember the shock when I wrote a friend back in Boston, Harold Isaacs, author of a famous tome on the Chinese Revolution, that were it a choice between Ho Chi Minh and the then-French puppet “chief of state” Bao Dai, I would choose the ex-emperor. As the dedicated southern Vietnamese Trotskyists calculated, it was clear what Ho’s Indochina would be, whereas the corrupt and incompetent Bao Dai might still afford an avenue to Vietnamese freedom.

These two currents — dedicated, efficient, merciless Stalinists with their calls on the Soviet Union and its propaganda and infiltration in the West — and the incompetent, feuding and often far too fallible non-Communists continued the Vietnamese struggle. That contest seemed to have been finally decided once and for all with the fall of the Saigon regime, the 40th anniversary of which we marked on April 30.

However painful the specter of Americans being hauled off the roof of the Saigon embassy as North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the Presidential Palace gates, the United States was ready to shrug and turn to other issues. Nor were officials in Washington ready to admit the cutoff in American military aid had produced the catastrophe. But alas, for the Vietnamese, it marked yet another milestone in that continuing struggle between an alien totalitarianism — morphing as Lenin had prophesied in his more pessimistic moments into traditional Asian despotism — and the universal search for freedom.

Tens of thousands fled the “reunification.” Unknown thousands died in unworthy seacraft. My friend, Do Vang Ly, managed only by an accident of fate to survive. Washing up on an eastern Malaysian beach, he and a little band shepherded by a Catholic priest, were about to be shoved back into the water by their fellow Southeast Asians (a long-forgotten footnote to all the horror). But he took his water-soaked diplomatic passport from his shoe and persuaded the police to take it to a friend, the Malaysian foreign minister.

As with more than 1.5 million other Vietnamese refugees, “Tony” and his family made it to America. But he did not live to see the democratic Vietnam to which he had devoted his life. The continuing travesty in Vietnam today mocks those hopes. Nor do the new self-serving American rationalizations — in which some of our most aspiring politicians indulge — mask that the old fight still goes on if under different auspices.

• Sol Sanders is a veteran international correspondent.

Copyright © 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

More Sharing Services

Share on email

All site contents © Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC

3600 New York Avenue NE | Washington, DC 20002 |202-636-3000

Putting the squeeze on Israel


One of the many anomalies of Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s collapsing foreign policy is Washington’s growing rift with Israel, despite the two countries’ historically intimate ties at every level.
Obama’s fundamental antagonism toward Israel was always apparent: during the 2008 campaign he announced one of his “transformations” would be putting “light between the U.S. and Israel”. Nor were his various close relationships to bitter American Israeli critics secret: Obama sat through two decades of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in turn a friend of the notorious Louis Ferrakhan. There was his close friendship with Rashid Ismail Khalidi, once Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman. [Obama’s 2005 speech at a send-off party for Khalidid departing the University of Chicago for Columbia University is bottled up along with all his other records.] The traditional “Arabists” in the Washington bureaucracy – for example, Obama’s CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to deny “jihad” is a call to war against the West – bring up the rear.
All this was somewhat camouflaged by the presence in the Obama entourage of a number of secular Jewish campaign apparatchiks – including some grownup Red Diaper babies. And, of course, there is his continued Democratic Party’s traditional hold on the miniscule but critical Jewish vote and political contributions since the days of FDR.
But now with presumably no more elections for Obama and a growing personalization of the Administration’s foreign policy in the President’s hands, the differences between Washington and Jerusalem are leading to strategic divergence.
In what to all intents and purposes looked like an Administration inspired plant, an “analysis” in The New York Times suggested Obama offers a “deal” to Jerusalem: lay off criticism [and lobbying on Capitol Hill] against Obama’s Iran proposals and Washington will not join the Europeans in the UN pushing a Palestinian state. [One of the fundamentals of American Mideast policy, of course, had been that only a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, rather than a dictated “peace”, would be long-lasting.] But this is a “bargain” even the most fervent Israeli Netanyahu critics among leftwing “peace” advocates could not accept.
The ugly truth is that – bitterly criticized by the Obamaites when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated it during his election campaign – there is no possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian compromise, at least for now.
First, of course, is that there is no negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. In their Arabic language pronouncements, at odds with what they feed their media friends in English in the West, Palestinian officials [and popular opinion] refuse to acknowledge the Jewish state’s right to exist. Secondly, of course, the Palestinians are divided – at least into two groups. There is the PLO kleptocracy of Mohammed Abbas on the so-called West Bank. [Called Judea and Samaria from Biblical times,“the West Bank” came into fashion only after the Jordanian state, itself carved illegally out of the League of Nations Palestine mandate took it in the 1947-48 war.]
The PLO is in a bitter struggle with Hamas which dominates Gaza. [Gaza PLO partisans have been thrown off roofs without benefit of parachute.] Furthermore, despite its ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood origins, Hamas has become a client of the Shia terrorists in Tehran who supply it arms. Although Abbas has postponed elections indefinitely on the West Bank, there are growing indications that Hamas’ Moslem terrorists would gain control there too absent the PLO’s collaboration with Israeli security.
All this has written finis to the whole concept of Israeli trading “land for peace”. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank – as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2005 exit from Gaza – would invite another hostile force within mortar range of Israel’s “heartland”. The proposed demilitarization of a Palestinian state by United Nations guarantees has vanished. On the contrary, UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza borders have become liabilities for the international community, unable to defend themselves in deteriorating situations.
In reality the whole concept of two states west of the Jordan River is dead for now, perhaps permanently. If, indeed, there is any possibility of compromise, it would go back to a plan drafted by the then Israeli foreign minister Yigal Allon just after the 1967 Six Day War. Allon proposed designating Jordan ruled by the old British allies, the Hashemite dynasty, the Palestinian state. It already has a Palestinian majority. Arab cantons on the West Bank would be annexed to its present territory east of the Jordan, and Israel would take over the traditional Biblical Hebrew centers. The fact that the Allon Plan gets no mention these days suggests the emptiness of Secretary of State John Kerry’s frantic calls to revive “the peace process”.
Obviously, reading Obama’s mind on the Mideast is an exercise in more than the usual frustration. It is hard to know whether his earlier adamant statements on policy, now completely reversed, were only politically convenient statements.
But whatever is behind his wholesale concessions to Tehran he publicly refused only months ago, it certainly does not include the interests of what has been the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
On this issue as in his proposed concession to the mullahs in Tehran, he will face overwhelming opposition in his own party as well as among Republicans in the Congress. But, once again, the enormous power of the American presidency is being tested by an executive who has always insisted he intended “to transform” long-held U.S. policies.
sws-04-05-15

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

Strategy, any one?


 

“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”

In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:

Domestic

Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html   Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.

Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.

Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:

 

  • Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
  • Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
  • Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
  • Asking  Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
  • Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
  • Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.

To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]

Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.

Mideast

            Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.

“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.

Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.

Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.

Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.

Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up  Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.

Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.

“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.

Europe

Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.

Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.

Establish a NATO base in Estonia.

Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].

See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.

Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.

East & South Asia

Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.

Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.

Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.

Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.

Latin America

Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.

Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.

Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.

Africa

Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.

If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.

But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.

sws-09-07-14

Islam: getting it right


by Sol Sanders

“Intelligence failures” – fundamental mistakes in evaluating a geopolitical situation – are not rare among state intelligence organizations. They are unfortunately common enough and have cost the lives of millions.

They are a reflection of what after all is a human endeavor with all its frailties. A technician’s intercept of a Japanese naval signal, in the infancy of radar, is ignored with disastrous consequences on Dec. 7. Failing to check a driver’s license more carefully when he is stopped for speeding fails to nab a 9/11 plotter. Placing the briefcase loaded with a bomb a few feet too far fails to kill Hitler costing more thousands of lives.

Such failures are only marginally reduced by the introduction of all the new techniques of the digital revolution since the opportunity for error is so great in these complex situations involving individual peculiarities as well as the presumed overriding political considerations.

Yet there are larger intelligence “failures”, those that result from a fundamental misunderstanding of a much larger cultural environment, whether it be the whole frame of reference of an opponent or constructing a seemingly logical scenario without all the facts. A case of the latter, for example: in 1937 Washington almost went to war with Japan over “The Panay Incident”, sinking of an American ship of the Yangtze Patrol thought to be an expression of Tokyo’s militarist aggression but actually the result of the smuggling activities of a corrupt Japanese admiral. That, of course, did not preclude the outbreak of that war a few years later.

Washington’s surprise and shock at the most recent events in Iraq are the quintessential example of the former, in this instance an inability to judge events in the context of the Muslim world.

For whatever reason, Pres. Barrack Obama and his national security team – despite the extraordinary credentials in Arabic studies of CIA Director John O. Brennan – are bent on misinterpreting the Islamic world. On that basis, Obama’s attempt to reach out for a new relationship with Arab and Islamic countries, expressed in his 2009 Istanbul and Cairo speeches, has come to naught. Instead, that simplistic outreach has further confused issues.

Neither Obama’s flattery nor efforts at appreciation of another culture have been successful. That is in no small part because his premises fundamentally distort or ignore history. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had a Koran in what was probably the most diverse and perhaps the largest library in colonial North America. But after years of trying to persuade the West Europeans to join the infant AmericanRepublic in suppressing piracy and abduction on the Barbary Coast, he ordered the U.S. infant navy and Marines [a standing army he had opposed] into action against Muslim warlords he could not understand but refused to knuckle under to.

Islam has not, as the President insists, played a role in the ideological formation of the American ethos. The Judeo-Christian ethic of The Founders and the founding documents owed no allegiance to Islam. It was an alien culture with which Americans have had only minimal contact until relatively recent decades.

Furthermore, all of this false rationalization is part and parcel of an attempt to equate Islam with “the other Abrahamic religions”. That, again, is a complete distortion of reality. For even where it is practiced in moderation, Islam’s fundamentals cannot be equated with contemporary Christianity and Judaism. Both of these beliefs have evolved through centuries of accomodation to Hellenism and modernization in their European existence. Islam has not, for example, given up its right to a fierce monopoly where its adherents hold political power – something now rejected by various Christian confessions after a painfully long history of bloody religious war.

Furthermore, in an excess of tolerance, any attempt to examine and relate Islam to current events is denounced as “Islamophobia”. Often the denunciations come from organizations with pretensions to representing Muslims residing in Western democracies but with hidden connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and other intolerant Islamic organizations and concepts.

Perhaps more than anything else, this misapprehension of Islam and its relation to the West explains the latest monumental failure of Washington “intelligence”. Despite entreaties from the al-Maliki government in Baghdad for months for help against a foe it recognized, Washington appears befuddled with the sudden blossoming of a crisis of the regime The threat is further magnified by the enormous commitment of blood and resources by the U.S. during its war against Sadam Hussein and the suppression of a sectarian civil war. That war was, too, initially based on the assumption that having fiddled with weapons of mass destruction earlier, Sadam was at it again – a belief shared if mistakenly by all the major allied intelligence organizations.

That is why the now seemingly sudden emergence of a barbaric terrorist force threatening to take over Iraq, one of the most important of the Arab states with its vast petroleum resources, has come as such a surprise for the Administration. All this is a repetition of the Administration’s attempt to minimize the importance of Muslim terrorism riding on the coattails of one of the world’s major religions. And that misperception has resulted in its inability to anticipate or to cope with political events, whether in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and now Iraq.

The President’s attempt to end the conflict with Muslim terrorism by unilaterally announcing its demise will fail of course. Unfortunately, Muslim terrorism is alive and well in half a dozen countries with every expectation that it will continue to make the U.S. and Americans one of its principal targets. The current advance of a terrorist group in Iraq with a significant number of international participants, many recruited from America and Europe and Australia, is only a manifestation of that general continuing problem for U.S. policymakers.

Probably even more damaging, by failing to acknowledge the traditional role of violence and conflict in the history of Islam, the Administration has further handicapped those forces in the West and in the Muslim countries seeking modernization. The fogging of issues has permitted essentially antidemocratic organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood to mask their real intent. It blinded the Administration to the growth of what was intended as another religion-based tyranny under former Pres. Mohammed Morsi, then its reluctance to accept his popular overthrow by the military reduced Washington’s ability to influence the new Egyptian regime. In Syria, Washington was unable to see that the popular resistance to the Assad dictatorship was coming under the domination of international Muslim fanatics which has now spread to Iraq, not only threatening that government and its neighbor Jordan, but with the possibility of providing the kind of sanctuary for attacks on the U.S. as took place in the Taliban’s Afghanistan on 9/11.

To quote the old cliché, ideas have consequences. Failure to deal with the relationship between Islam and the Muslim terrorists which threaten American interests in the region – and even the U.S. homeland as in 9/11 – is likely to cost dearly.

sws-06-15-14

 

Foreign Policy 101


In a revolutionary world environment, foreign policy of a great power – and especially the lone superpower – is bound to be full of inconsistencies. Interests are far-flung and constantly demanding new priorities. But one does not have to refer to Machiavelli to recognize rules of the road which when violated are costly and in the case of the U.S., destabilizing for the entire world.

Again, those guidelines are often internally contradictory in the nature of generalizations.  But a knowledge of and adherence to them is essential to pursue a foreign policy, and, in this instance, of the superpower, the United States, and world peace and stability..

That we living through cataclysmic times does not have to be extensively argued. Suffice it to say that the digital revolution alone has made it harder than ever to distinguish between reality and perception by exaggerating – to quote Sec. Donald Rumsfeld – unknown unknowns. A recent former CIA operative hired by a Swiss bank to prevent fraud put it to me succinctly: the ability to reproduce almost any document [or signature] has led to almost unlimited financial hoax.

In the world of international relations something similar is equally true. But, again, there are basic dictum which are as old, at least, as the European nation-state and apply today as they always have. Many are commonsensical. To be unacquainted with them is to introduce new and additional volatility in an uncertain world.

America’s role Because of its size, its population and continental breadth, and its economy, the U.S. under any conditions would play a major world role — disengaged as well as engaged. But there are important additional nonphysical aspects. The Founders, however conservative their personal backgrounds [with the unresolved problem of black slavery], constructed a new nation on ideology rather than ethnicity, race or language. They believed that they were creating a new and unique beacon of liberty and justice harking back to Greek and Roman institutions as well as a Judeo-Christian ethic.

That, in essence, is “American exceptionalism”. To associate it with such more precise policies as “interventionism” or “isolationism” is to misunderstand completely. All one has to do is hark back to the 1930s debate of America’s world role in which both poles invoked U.S. singularity, whether Midwest agrarian populist isolationists, or East Coast industrial and financial bureaucratic interventionists.

Furthermore, it might not make much difference whether the concept is valid.the fact that it has been accepted as a part of American foreign policy for more than 200 years – however much hypocrisy one might charge – makes it is an important part of any discussion. Perhaps that is why Pres. Barrack Obama had to make the sharpest possible break with his earlier [presumably] offhanded remark in Europe denigrating the whole concept. But he did so now “with every fiber of my being. ” – indeed a turnabout!

America’s tools The most important if the most nebulous of tools in making foreign policy is the prestige of the United States abroad.[So-called opinion surveys, especially those in countries with widespread illiteracy are ridiculous.] More than half a century of overwhelming domination of the world scene, especially the two decades since the implosion of the Soviet Union, have contributed to an overestimate, if anything, of the U.S.’ power and ability to solve problems.

But there is a general talking heads consensus that belief has eroded significantly for whatever reason – policies of the current Administration or the accumulation of debris from two indecisive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a welter of unidentified “mistakes” to which Obama has continually referred. That may be true, but that also depends on the strength of American prestige at its zenith, if, indeed, that point is behind us. My own reading from conversations with informed foreign friends at home and abroad is that the belief in American omnipotence, for better or for worse, is alive and well.

If I am correct, then American power arises in no small part from Harvard University’s political scientist and former government official Joseph Nye has called “soft power”. Americans who have not traveled abroad or those who have accepted internationalization of U.S. fashions as the norm are often unaware of how that influence permeates foreign cultures. However, some of the clichéd ideas concerning American influence are equally irrelevant; e.g., the idea that a U.S. education automatically makes a returned foreigner sympathetic to Washington policy. [Some of the most virulently anti-American politicians abroad have been – and continue to be – products of at least a partial American education, a tribute perhaps to our tolerant institutions.]

In the best of all worlds formal U.S. diplomacy would exploit these cultural levers. That is rarely the case. The massive efforts of American propaganda, for example, that accompanied The Cold War have been largely abandoned. Just as it demoralized a more efficient consular service, incorporation of United States Information Service by State has been a disaster. Libraries which once were the most important U.S. cultural activity [aside from American movies] in backward countries have disappeared without an organized digital replacement.

Less difficult to define, of course, are four other major instruments in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations: formal diplomacy, economic warfare, the U.S. military and clandestine espionage and “special” operations.

Unfortunately, over the years, U.S. diplomacy has taken on more and more the attributes of its traditional European model. As it has done so, for the most part, American embassies abroad deal with their counterparts in a bubble to the exclusion of any attempt to cultivate a wider public. [In many countries, with authoritarian governments, of course, this may not be a choice.]

Worse still, U.S. diplomats suffer from what the French call déformation professionelle – if you are a lawyer, your first instinct is to litigate, if you are a surgeon, you instinctively want to cut, etc. And if you ae a diplomat, you first seek to negotiate. But since a successful diplomatic outcome requires compromise, what do you do when your opponent refuses to budge? You  extend unilateral  concessions  to achieve “success”, including abandoning prematurely “the military option”.

Much is made of the fact that U.S. military expenditures are more than the sum of most other major military powers. The argument is fallacious. Unfortunately, our European NATO allies have cut back their military expenditures, too often already eaten away by non-fighting bureaucracies. Or, for example, the French in their desperate pursuit of a policing francophone Africa have had to rely on U.S. transport.

In a sense that the one and only time NATO’s famous Article 5 has been invoked in Afghanistan is unfotunate– answering the 9/11 attack on the U.S. that required all partners to come to a member’s aid.  For the intervention in an siolated pre-industrial soceity was always destined to be inconclusive otherthan t eliminate the immediate source of violence against America’s heartland.

Ironically, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine may have restored some relevance of that concept, for the Europeans if not for a war weary American public.

All that notwithstanding, the mere threat to use U.S. military in a given crisis – what the geopoliticians call “strategic ambiguity” – is perhaps American policymakers’ most potent weapon. A generally quiet if dramatic example has been the guarantees to Taiwan which permitted development of the first democratic and prosperous society in Chinese history. [However, recent Washington foot-dragging on arms and accomodation of the current Taipei government for economic collaboration with the Mainland may have put it in jeopardy.] Were the Chinese Communist to have bases on Taiwan, it would be a game-changer in the increasingly delicate Northeast Asian powder keg with a rapidly accelerating North Korean drive for WSM and an. aggressive Beijing posture.

To name specific conditions and dates when American military power is to be used [or withdrawn] is perhaps the greatest weakness of the current Administration’s foreign strategies. It prepares the ground for the opponent’s counterstrategy. Even worse is to rattle the cage of a potential opponent – whether Pres. Obama with an announced on-and-off “limited blow”, as against the bloody Syrian regime or Defense Sec. Chuck:Hagel’s latest provocative public denunciation of Chinese adventurism while at the same time cutting back military budgets.

Waging the U.S.’ economic weapon is also a mixed bag. International trade has increasingly become a larger part of the U.S. gross national product, producing jobs as well as profits. And because since 1985 there is more foreign investment in America than U.S. equity abroad, the Treasury has had to trim its use as an instrument of foreign policy. A tax structure which has U.S.-based multinationals holdings in the tens of billions in profits stashed overseas also weighs heavily.

Still, Americaneconomic sanctions – especially when they are applied to third parties – can be crippling as Tehran found out before the Obama Administration loosen the bolts as incentive for a hoped for negotiated settlement..

Clandestine American operations abroad are part and parcel of any effective foreign policy. But certain conventions, however false, have to be adhered to. Yes, everyone knows Washington is listening to their mail but to tell the world as Edward Snowden and his pal Glenn Greenwald did is not only to prejudice important sources of information but to raise doubts for those who would want secretly to collaborate with the U.S., including foreign intelligence organizations. It is no secret that because of its superior facilities, Washington quietly has sometimes done “favors” for those allies.

For the White House [it says] to accidentally reveal the name of a station chief is inconceivable; not that in virtually any country there has always been unacknowledged cognizance generally of who he was. [Our old joke was that he could always be identified because he collected “art”, had a wife named “Magda”, and stacked all Praeger’s books in his shelves – and wore U.S. Navy officer shoes.]

Perhaps the most important and incalculable element in the search for an effective foreign policy is political will. When presidential candidate Barrack Obama — whose team showed incredible smarts at manipulating the media so it seems hardly an accident — prominently carried a copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World so it could be photographed, friends and enemies got an unmistakable  signal.

Defensive backpedaling, even in front of an audience as important as West Point’s graduation class, will not be enough to avoid new crises through miscalculations, the kind which have brought on most wars. Nor must a policymaker wallow in what used to be called “mirror imaging” – assuming your opponent’s motivations are yours.

After the longest war in U.S. history, Obama is unilaterally calling an end to violence in Afghanistan – and, in fact, to “the war on terror”. Is he so certain a sprinkling of Al Qaeda splinters of increasing sophistication in a half dozen other countries – including their recruiting some of our native-bred — will do the same?

sws-06-01-14

Why “Benghazi”?


by Sol Sanders
Washington is notoriously a one-crisis town. And it may well be that the growing concern over Russian aggression in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s threats to other former Soviet-occupied areas in Central and Eastern Europe will soak up all the controversy oxygen in the U.S. capital.
But there is increasing evidence that the events of 9/11 2012 in eastern Libya were extremely significant although any effort to elucidate them studiously has been ignored by the mainstream media.
They may, indeed, be an important marker in the longer term development of U.S. politics and American foreign policy and therefore of world peace and stability.
There are two overarching reasons why those events were significant:
An analysis of what happened there – when more facts are available – could well reveal the basis of the growing worldwide perception of the fundamental failure of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. That perception, whether a reflection of reality or not, is increasingly an ingredient in world politics given the central role of the U.S. since the end of World War II.
The Benghazi events could produce in more detail than has been otherwise available an evaluation of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, whatever veneer her frenzied activity of almost constant world travel has given it. If, as might be argued, the events at Benghazi and the conditions leading up to them were a product of Mrs. Clinton’s decision-making at State, even at second hand, they are important indicators of her executive ability. Until now that executive command had never been tested in any other venue since she has had no election to executive office.
What is already apparent is that there is a long list of questions without official answers to the tragedy of the death of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. None of them have been answered with specificity by either the White House or the State Department. However, there is circumstantial evidence and unverified reports which indicate not only the nature of the events there but how they reflect a much wider view of the Obama Administration’s policies and their formulation and, not least, Mrs. Clinton’s role in their execution.
The questions start, of course, with the whole state of security in the American presence in Libya before the events. We know that contrary to repeated requests for additional security in the face of a growing breakdown of the Libyan domestic scene, those requests were not only refused by Washington but in fact, security forces were downgraded. Why?
It is also apparent that there was no augmentation or particular attention to security concerns on the eve of the anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks despite numerous references to it in jihadist propaganda. What is the explanation for this obvious lack of common sense precaution?
What then was the mission in Benghazi of Ambassador Stevens, a veteran Arabist, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary in an area already known as a fountainhead of jihadist cadre in both the Afghanistan War against the Soviets and subsequent Mideast violence?
What was the original mission of the CIA detachment in Benghazi, which ultimately [and it has been suggested against orders from its command in Washington] came to the aid of the Ambassador and others in the Consulate-General when they came under attack?
What was the extended deployment of American military forces in the region and the prospects of Africom, the joint military command with overall jurisdiction, to come to the aid of those under attack in Benghazi?
Given the general American military protocol of aiding those under fire, whether or not a rescue could be successfully achieved, were there orders from The Pentagon and the White House, or lack thereof, to Africom to stand down?
During the more than 10-hour attack, what was the disposition of the Secretary of State and the President in Washington, including activities in the Situation Room where we now have Congressional testimony from a former White House official present that the President did not appear?
Last but not least, why has the U.S. government not brought any of the terrorists involved in the affair to justice, despite repeated promises by the President he would do so, and media encounters with sources they have located who insist they personally took part in the attacks?.
As so often happens, particularly at the outset of a scandal or exposure of malfunctioning of a U.S. Administration, attention is now focused on the explanations given by Administration spokesmen during and immediately after the affair. And that could well be the case here. But it would be a mistake if not a tragedy to ignore the more fundamental underlying questions which are of the utmost importance to long term policy.
Contradictory testimony has been presented that the Administration – including all the various branches of government involved – were unaware of the real nature of the attack. That is, the White House and State Department spokesmen continue to insist that Washington had a mistaken belief that the events in Benghazi were part of a general wave of anti-American demonstrations throughout the Arab/Muslim world, allegedly in response to a somewhat obscure video attacking Islamic values. They do concede that that explanation was false and that it was eventually judged that the attack did not arise “spontaneously”. Furthermore, there has already been an admission that the attack was a well planned, long term, terrorist incident, calculated to exploit the anniversary of the original 9/11, and that it has resulted in an important propaganda victory for the jihadists in the Arab/Muslim world..
Former Secretary of State Clinton has rather famously gone on record in a statement to a Congressional committee that “what difference does it make” if there was an earlier mistaken evaluation of source of these events. She continued to insist that the reality is that four Americans were martyred in the event whatever the real explanation of the cause or that provided originally by government spokesmen. That, of course, is undeniable.
But it leads the argument back to the whole question of the competence and administrative acumen not only of the Administration in general but of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state in view of a widely held belief that she could be a successful candidate for president in 2016.
sws-05-04-14