Category Archives: European Union

What to do about Turkey?


Vice President Joe Biden’s highly publicized visit to Turkey next week is likely to prove critical, if inconclusive. Whether he is able to establish a new relationship with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], the one with by far the largest military forces after the U.S., is crucial to the whole Middle East as well as the U.S. bilateral alliance and with its European NATO allies.
Biden is seen as trying to make a new bargain with Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the past few months, Erdogan has accelerated his accumulation of power through the usual machinations of a popular leader but with authoritarian tendencies, shucking elements of Turkey’s secular constitution. The recent failed military coup – apparently by the last remnants of the secularists who through military dominance have been the guardians of an effort to maintain the non-Islamic state – has been an excuse for increased repression and rampant anti-American propaganda.
The fear is that Erdogan is now turning his back on almost a hundred years when the country tried to move to a modern state with top-down Westernization. The abandonment of the state capitalist role for liberalization of the economy over the last decade had delivered unprecedented growth and prosperity. But that boom has ended, in part another victim of the worldwide economic slowdown.
Turkey had always been a model for other Moslem governments trying fitfully to break away from traditional Islam which combines government with religion. That struggle goes on among the 1.3 billion people in the Arab-Moslem world – from Morocco to Indonesia. And while no adequate response has yet surfaced, Turkey had been perceived to have made the transition. That now appears dubious at best.
But once again, the world is in one of those periods when 1500-year-old concepts of Arab-Moslem conquest and forced conversion has been part of the religion’s creed. That many, perhaps most, Moslems would ignore this concept is not enough to block a determined, fanatical minority from jihad – propounding the duty of a Muslim to maintain and spread his religion by whatever means.
Erdogan has played a clever game. He has managed, despite the bitter rejection by many outspoken European Union officials, to continue the hope of Turkish adherence to the Bloc. His flirtation with the Islamists — with such moves as reestablishing the death penalty — has now, however, vitiated that prospect.
He blackmailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for free movement of Turkish nationals within the EU, swapped for Ankara stemming the flow of Syrian and other Middle East refugees into Western Europe. But Merkel’s original welcome resulting in more than a million migrants entering her country last year is increasingly producing a backlash. Integrating newcomers with completely different cultural values has failed spectacularly, demonstrated in highly publicized crimes including rape.
Unlike the Europeans, Biden has the luxury of negotiating from a stronger hand, unlike the Europeans’ proximity and increasing problem of their growing largely unassimilated Moslem minorities. He can exploit Erdogan’s wildly fluctuating foreign policy which has failed in establishing a neo-Ottoman regime building on its once imperial presence in the region. A flirtation with Moscow – which supplies half its energy thereby running a huge trade deficit — is a feint aimed at Washington and its European allies. But just as they find themselves on different sides in the Syrian civil war, Erdogan cannot ignore Moscow’s threatening attempt to reinstall the Soviet role in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Biden has to come home with something. One trophy would be at least promises for Turkey to tighten its borders, stop permitting aid to flow to the Muslim terrorists, and promising a more active Turkish collaboration in fighting Daesh [ISIS and ISIL], hoping that Erdogan recognizes that his Islamicism will not protect him from rising Moslem terrorism. But getting Turkey firmly back into the Western alliance would require stronger leadership of those partners than the Obama Administration can muster.
sws-08-16-16

Special Relationship II


Back in 1887 the famous poet and storyteller Oscar Wilde quipped: ‘We [English] have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language’. We got another example of this malediction in the blah-blah-blah which has attended Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. What is most apparent to all but the Talking Heads is that London’s negotiating a two-year exit from the EU will result in a revival not only of the vestiges of empire – as much legend as reality – but a renewed emphasis on the Anglo-American alliance, “the Special Relationship”
Like so much of traditional diplomacy, Pres. Barrack Obama and his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave that relationship short shrift. Obama, imbued with the Left’s religion of anti-colonialism – a view of the world which is not only unrealistic but ignores the actual relationship of the Metropoles of Britain, France, Italy, and once Germany, to their 19th centuries acquisitions. True, they were exploitive relation ships but they also accelerated the arrival of at least portions of modernism to pre-industrial societies.
As Obama’s attempts to “transform” American foreign policy have either miscued or collapsed over the last seven-plus years, his attempt to derail the historic relationship between the U.S. and Britain has also gone astray. Common language, shared democratic values and concepts, special interests throughout the work, have made a working relationship between Washington and London an irreplaceable part and parcel of U.S. internationalism.
The combination of Obama’s war on this tradition, his buffoonish attempt to influence British voters on withdrawal from the EU which boomeranged, and the U.S.’ expanding interests in the post-World War II world have tended to eclipse that relationship. That illusion was enhanced when London seemed to be throwing in its lot with the movement for a united Europe, one which had been a special project of American strategy for a half century, but not always with its final destination in view.
Now, the latter project is in deep trouble. Few Europeans want to face the reality of German domination as by far the largest and economically the most powerful of the EU states. That will halt the perfectly “logical” calls by Berlin that the EU must go forward to further political integration or collapse. But the French, once Germany’s twin partner in European unity, in a miraculous and real transformation, are for the first time abandoning dirigisme, French promotion of economic planning and control by the state, under the pressure of the competitive drive of “globalization” is being abandoned – and that under a socialist government! The concept had defined the distinctive character of French politics, inherited in part from its royal and multi-republican past, and which it had passed on to the Brussels Eurocrats it had largely supplied and still dominated.
London ‘s withdrawal — although it will continue to bargain for special trading and other economic rights inside the EU, whatever it means in the short-term — means a return to Britain’s diminished but continuing role as a world economic power. The good sense and good luck that kept Britain out of the EU’s now faltering monetary union means that once again, in parallel with the dollar, sterling will resume an stronger international character.
London’s City, which was ceding its role to Frankfurt and Zurich, will be reinvigorated in the longer term by the British withdrawal. That role of London as the world’s second financial center after New York will be felt all the way through the Middle East oil countries [with their traditional ties to the Colonial Office] to Hong Kong and beyond. [What the Japanese will do with their heavy investments in British manufacturing as a base for the EU remains to be seen. But it would not be the first time that Japanese business has had to make major adjustments to its successful formula for being the only non-European power to have made it to First World status].
The revival of the Special Relationship will have new and totally different aspects – again, despite Obama’s original high-priced energy policies, the U.S. and its Shale Revolution has put a new floor under world energy prices. It is one the Mideast producers can meet, of course, but not without cutting back on their enormously spendthrift policies of the past. It could well be that Special Relations II will see the U.S. as Britain’s major supplier of energy and energy technology for development of its own shale resources, environmental freaks notwithstanding.
Prime Minister David Cameron may have to go as a sacrifice on the altar of City business interests and the universal “internationalization” panacea which has dominated both U.K. and U.S. politics under his Conservatives – as well as the Democrats in Washington. And that may introduce new uncertainties along with some disturbing personalities.
But the dye is cast: Special Relationship II has begun with the British voters’ decision that they wanted autonomy and not collaboration at too high a price in cultural values with a Continental bureaucracy and its economy That bureaucracy, too, is now fatally wounded and events will lead to new and likely unpredictable changes in Paris, Berlin,.Brussels and the other EU capitals.
sws-06-24-16

US powerless as “Europe” collapses


The British vote in midweek looks more and more like endorsing withdrawal from the European Union.
But the process looks increasingly messy. The U.S., whose sponsorship of a united Europe has played a huge role in the past six decades, now appears powerless to limit the chaos. Pres. Barack Obama’s intervention to endorse the U.K. remaining in the European Union apparently backfired. Polls showed an immediate growth of the Brexit sentiment among U.K. voters. Obviously, British public opinion resented U.S. interference, especially from an Administration that has made no secret of its antagonism for the historic role between London and Washington and often denigrated its heroes, including Winston Churchill.
Theoretically, Article 50 of the Union agreement permits a member to withdraw over a two-year period with a minimum of controversy. But the backers of withdrawal in London have indicated they want to have their cake and eat it too. Some of the more prominent spokesmen for the British exit have argued that London must be given time to work out new details of commercial, trade and legal relations with the remaining 23 members. That, obviously would take more time than an immediate vote and quit which the referendum originally seemed to indicate.
Furthermore, it’s pointed out that a formal act of Parliament for withdrawal will take time in what many expect to be the chaotic political situation which would follow a withdrawal. Prime Minister David Cameron has advocated remaining in “Europe” – if with new special arrangements for Britain extending beyond its continued present absence from the monetary union. One of Britain’s highest priorities, for example, would be to again gain complete control over its immigration policies. At a time when the Schengen Agreement which endorsed complete freedom of movement [including of the labor force] among the EU’s members, that would only add additional controversy to already irascible problems at a time of high unemployment. There is a growing consensus in London that Cameron would have to go if Britain does vote to withdraw, even though his successors in the Conservative Party – not to mention Labor’s newly elected leftwing leadership – would not have his oersonal popularity and to some extent, commanding presence.
Paris, Berlin and Brussels have all expressed their opposition to such a step-by-step withdrawal by the British. They want Article 50 to be the only mechanism for the U.K..exit and to be followed swiftly. This sentiment is not only resentment of the British action in general and the coyness of some of its sponsors. But with so many internal basic issues now being debated among those who would remain in the EU, any kind of arguments over a British exit – if it comes – would be a new disaster affecting the whole proposed renegotiation n of the Union.
Germany and up to a point, France, the two most important remaining members of the EU, believe that further political integration is necessary if the EU is to prosper. They are led, of course, by the unelected Brussels bureaucracy which sees new power in such developments. But there is opposition to strengthening a federal government, even in The Netherlands and Denmark, and certainly among the Central European members who have always been at the periphery of the movement for integration.
As Obama’s gaff proved, American leadership in the next European developments will be missing for the first time in almost six decades. About all Washington can do, is stand by wringing it hands as the Europeans try to sort out their own differences.
sws-06-19-16

Troubled Britons


No matter the outcome of the British referendum June 23 on leaving the European Union, the argument over the U.K.’s role in Europe and the world is up for grabs. It promises a troubled British political scene for some time to come.
The argument over whether to leave the European Community, or stay in and try to bring it closer to what London would like it to be, has split the Conservative Party. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it probably means the end of the tenure of Prime Minister David Cameron who has opted for staying in against the Party’s possible majority of “Euroskeptics” At a time when the opposition Labor Party leadership has been grabbed by ultra-leftists who want to go back to the old socialist tenants of the movement, that is likely to produce a fractious political scene, trimming Britain’s traditional worldwide commanding role.
In turn, it is going to limit the supporting – and often leading – relationship that Washington has relied upon with Britain’s traditional worn but still abundant worldwide imperial heritage. Pres. Barack Obama not only chose not to use it, but made a fetish of his anti-English prejudices. A new president, however, even Hillary Clinton who quietly is rejecting much of her support of Obama as his secretary of state, is likely to again look to the traditional “special relationship: between the U.S. and the U.K.
Britain, of course, always had its reservations about joining the EU. London’s City role as one of the principal world financial centers, in part based on the universality of the British pound sterling, always negated joining the EU’s monetary union. But now with the Euro under attack, Germany’s Angela Merkel and her allies in the rest of Europe, not only want to reinforce the Euro but to move toward further political integration. In effect, there is a general consensus on the Continent among the advocates of the EU that if it doesn’t move further toward integration, it will fall apart. But the growing criticism of the EU’s inroads on what many British see as their independence and every day life is anathema in London.
Pro-Brexit Tories have been infuriated by Cameron’s campaign to keep Britain in the bloc and his dire warnings about the consequences of leaving. There is more and more questioning of his political achievements and the debate has turned very nasty. The usually mild manner former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major, an advocate of staying in, has called his Tory opponents “dishonest”, “deceitful” and “squalid” for favoring withdrawing from the EU.
Cameron initially promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership to quell a rebellion by Conservative Eurosceptics but it has turned out to be the opposite, producing a bitter fight which cuts across all party lines. That’s only a year since the Conservatives won a resounding national election but promises now to end Cameron’s reign long before its promised four more years.
The Conservatives have been divided for more than a quarter of a century over the issue. The argument has turned on whether the U.K.’s membership affords it additional trade and economic rewards or if interference by the unelected Brussels Eurocrats in sometimes minor British laws and customs is worth the price.
Cameron had already promised to quit the Party leadership before the 2020 election, and the referendum has given a platform to the contenders to succeed him. That could be Boris Johnson, the former Conservative mayor of London, a much more controversial figure. The offspring of upper class English parents living in New York, he has been called an elitist, lazy and dishonest and accused of using racist and homophobic language. Whether accurate or not, these accusations contrast with what had been a much more generally acceptance of Cameron, and promises political fireworks in the months ahead.
sws-06-17-16

La France, les pauvres!


The French are going through terrible times.
As a principle target for the Moslem terrorists, Paris, with two bloody attacks in the past 18 months, now has unlimited security concerns, bracing for further attacks.
The government of Pres. François Hollande, a socialist mind you, has taken the country’s restrictive labor laws in hand to make that peculiar if highly personalized French work ethic internationally competitive. France’s unions – actually a smaller portion of the work force than in most countries – are in revolt, as much among themselves as with Hollande, with daily strikes in transportation and other services. The old former Communist CGT is leading the pack, often violently.
In that inimitable French sympathy for the downtrodden, the public is largely supporting the strikers. So Hollande has had to resort to extra-legislative action to get the ruinously restrictive labor laws off the books. They not only make firing a worker almost impossible but also block the organization of new businesses through hiring restrictions. Eventually he will have to tackle the 35-hour workweek which was adopted in 2000, supposedly to minimize unemployment and to enhance quality of life in an industrial system demanding more of workers. Most observers believe it has failed on both counts.
Most of the economic indicators are grim. In the first quarter, the economy grew at only a half percent. Ten percent of the workforce or over 10% is unemployed, a rate almost twice that of the rest of the European Community. The worst is that among the young the figure is closer to 25%. The French government is borrowing at a rate higher than theoretically permitted by the EC. France’s enormous overstuffed public sector accounts for almost 60% of its GDP.
To aggravate the situation even more, Paris and most of central France, is suffering a record flood. The Seine has burst its bounds and threatened the Louvre, the world’s most historic museum, with paintings being carted off for safety. [Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was housed on an upper floor.] The terrorist threat, labor snafus and the flood are bound to cut into tourism, accounting for 3% of the GDP as the most favored destination in the world with almost 90 million foreign tourists in 2013.
It is common for Americans to denigrate France and the French. The rapid collapse before the Nazis in 1940 set that pattern of thinking. But the French deserve better of us. It has to be remembered that American independence might not have been achieved without George Washington getting the help of the French navy at Yorktown. It was the autocrat Napoleon Bonaparte who took the French Revolution’s promises of liberty, equality and brotherhood to the rest of Europe where they remained, at least, as goals of future governments. Nor can it be forgotten that France led world technology through the 19th and early 20th century. That hideous monument to Gustave Eiffel’s engineering skill, still towers over Paris as well as his constructions all over the world, in Vietnam, for example, where his railroads are still remarkable engineering achievements. The Panama Canal was his concept, even if the French companies failed in their attempt to create it.
France, traditionally has accommodated large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. But it is now handicapped with an Arab Moslem minority, given sanctuary after Charles DeGaulle recaptured power by abandoning the French military bitter victory in the Algerian War. For various reasons, the seven million have resisted the normal francoization and former indigestible and depressed separate communities around Paris. [Hollande does have a female Moslem minister of labor.] But it is increasingly clear that all of Europe, including Germany, has a similar growing problem of absorbing Mideastern and African migrants.
France still has a great deal to contribute to the wealth of Western culture. And it will likely get through the current crisis with its own inimitable solutions. In the meantime, it deserves the sympathy of American friends, and where possible, their assistance.
sws-06-13-16

The Donald’s foreign policy


Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed foreign policy speech was a minor disaster.
Not only did Trump fail to set out a succinct foreign policy philosophy and agenda, but the speech itself [even with a teleprompter] was a failure in his effort to move to a more “presidential” persona. One can only suppose that the address was the product of several of his relatively undistinguished foreign policy advisers which were never quite molded into a whole. [Signicantly, none have so far taken credit] The speech meanders from the overview to specific foreign policy conundrums and then back again, repetitiously.
Far be it for us to be recommending what Mr. Trump should be espousing as his approach to the myriad problems of American policy overseas. But the outline of what those problems are — if not their solution – can be presented relatively concisely.
Paramount, of course, is the problem of an Islam which has gone berserk – again as so many times since Mohammed’s lifetime 1500 years ago – threatening the entire world, not the least the 1.3 billion Moslems, with terrorism. Its origin and nucleus lies in the Mideast and there is where it must be attacked and destroyed rather than an attempt to contain its tentacles around the world.
Secondly, nuclear proliferation with the ensuing threat from unstable regimes continues to be a high priority. That, of course, includes Pres. Barack Obama’s supposed pact with Tehran, as well as a relatively unstable nuclear-armed Pakistan. There is the possibility of new nuclear powers arising in the Persian Gulf now feeling abandoned by their U.S. ally to the threat of Iran’s growing regional hegemony.
The renewed threat of Moscow aggression, even though it now comes from a power much inferior to the old Soviet Union, is pressing. How to reinvigorate NATO in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, and threats in the Baltic, is part of this bundle. It obviously calls for the reinstitution of the anti-missile defense system, with its bases in Poland and Czechia, which was abandoned as one of the first steps in Obama’s withdrawal of the U.S. from world leadership.
While it may be more apparent than real, Washington must confront the growing military power and what appears to be the growing chauvinistic elements in the Beijing regime. The Chinese economy, miraculous as the last two decades have been, is fragile, and perhaps now poised for a major default. But an ambitious Chinese military is building a blue water navy that challenges the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific where it has maintained the peace – with the major exceptions of the Korean and Vietnam Wars – for more than half a century. The challenged will have to be met and subtly.
There are a whole host of critical foreign economic issues that could be bundled as the fourth main preoccupation for any foreign policy agenda. Trump’s popularity is in part an expression of the resentment of the loss of American manufacturing and its jobs for the skilled and semi-skilled. Readjusting trade relations, particularly with China, which has aggressively taken advantage of American initiatives to include “a rising China” in the world economic system, has to be addressed. The growing failure of the effort to unite continental Europe politically – as well as Britain’s growing ambiguous relationship with the European Union — is impacting on the economic collaboration which was its origin and America’s huge trans-Atlantic commercial and economic interests.
There is the hardly acknowledged problem of the growing power and influence of the United Nations and its secretary-general, a role which was never defined in the early days of the organization and remains ambiguous today. That is true even though the secretary-general has become, willy-nilly, an important arbiter of world politics and the unanticipated crises that arise from it. While Washington has the official capacity to play a major role in defining UN policy at every level, it too often is left to bureaucratic maneuver rather considered as major policy.
And this, of course, leads into the whole growing need for a redefinition of how foreign policy is made in the U.S. government, Congressional critics of the amorphous but constantly growing National Security Council and its usurpation of the roles of not only the State Department but the Pentagon and its direction of American military forces is a constitutional issue at the heart of the Republic that must be solved.
It may be, as Mr Obama and his supporters have argued that it is a time for a complete overhaul of the American foreign strategy that has, for the most part, insured peace and stability for more than half a century. But to do so requires a more analytical survey of the world’s problems and the U.S. role that Obama and his advisers have given us.
Nor was not what Mr. Trump gave us in this speech.
sws-04-28-16
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Obama, you are there, nicht wahr?


Angela Merkel, Germany’s long-lifed chancellor, is noted for her Teutonic precision in public statements. So one cannot ignore her remarks after meeting Pres. Barack Obama on his present loop around the Europe. Over and over, she repeated the importance of the U.S. participation in Alliance strategies. The meaning might have been charged off to the ordinary polemics, except that the tone had a new quality. Merkel seemed to be ending each such assertion with an unspoken “that’s right, isn’t it?”
The German chancellor perhaps was hoping against hope that Obama assertion of American withdrawal from old leadership commitments to postwar Europe wasn’t true. If so, she was not only disappointed. For in an unusual public display of disagreement over policy, the two outlined their basic disagreement over Syria with its inundation of migrants and refugees for Europe.
Merkel, increasingly exposed to bitter opposition after continuing difficulties getting the rest of Europe to bear its share of the burden, is facing a crisis over the inflow. More than a million migrants invaded Germany last year, not only Syrians but other Mideasterners and Africans anxious to taste the fruits of the European welfare state.
Merkel has been trying to close the door she so righteously opened to all and sundry – a policy seen as a reflection in part of the guilt for the Nazis’ race policies. The business community at first welcomed the new labor recruits with a general German consensus. But as the numbers have increased, with the prospect of a continued flow, and the difficulties and cost of settling the newcomers, more and more Germans are questioning the policy.
But Merkel’s implied question was for a much larger question. In effect, she was asking how far Obama’s withdrawal of American leadership will go, and inferentially, whether another president in 2017 will continue that strategy. That Obama contradicted his own policy was probably irrelevant. He had, for example, taken a heavy hand in Britain arguing against Brexit, the U.K. pulling out of the European Union. But he offered nothing to amend his own erosion of Britain’s historic “special relationship” with the Americans. [British politicians, too, were quietly shaking their heads over the former university lecturer’s confusing the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with that of the European Union.]
Through smiles and reaffirmation of agreement, the division of Germany and the U.S. over Syria was laid out unusually forthrightly. Merkel has repeatedly called, and she did so again in this meeting, for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria. The theory is that Syrian “moderates” would herd refugees into areas protected through military intervention, if necessary, by the Western powers. Obama has continually and emphatically rejected this strategy, even when it was proposed by American critics of his Mideast policy. That’s despite he was simultaneously announcing another increment in the renewed U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Instead, Obama put the emphasis on Sec. of State John Kerry’s conference for a negotiated political settlement. That, of course, runs up against the hard reality that the civil war in Syria centers on the continuance in office of Basher al-Assad and his bloody regime. One of Obama’s “red lines” once called for Assad’s immediate departure, but like his other “red lines, it has now been eroded into a compromise for Assad to remain through a transition period. Most observers give Kerry’s conference little hope of success. And Merkel and her supporters argue that until the moderates can claim a bit of territory, they have no real voice. And, of course, there is the problem of the continuing flow to an overwhelmed Germany and Europe. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is blackmailing Berlin with the threat that he will renege on his pact to curb illegal migration to Europe if Brussels blocks his request for visa-free EU entry for his 78 million Turks.
All of this to say that Obama’s planned retreat from what he saw as overextended American commitments to leadership abroad is leaving no end of doubts and chaos in its wake.
sws-04-24-16

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose


The French, as always, have a word for it: the more things change, the more they are the same.
Looking around the world just now, one has to take that into account. After the cataclysmic destruction and rehabilitation of World War II, we would have thought that patterns of political life were so changed forever that nothing of the old would remain. That’s true, of course, to a certain degree.
But looking around the world just now, you will excuse old men from seeing much, in some instances far too much, which is the same.
With all the blood spilled in Europe and in Asia– over 60 million people killed, about 3% of the 1940 world population (estimated at 2.3 billion) – it would have seemed that old patterns were completely destroyed. Yet a look around the world some 60 years later suggests the opposite.
We might begin with European anti-Semistism, that unreasonable but merciless hatred of the Jews. True, there has been a change: except for the 400,000 or so Jews who live in France – and who are now rapidly emigrating for just this reason – The Holocaust destroyed the bulk of European Jewry, the six million lost souls. But the themes continue and we now have anti-Semitism without Jews, proving once and for all how nonsensical is this hoary Western sin.
Then there is European nationalism, which brought on the centuries of dynastic, religious and nationalist wars in one of the most sophisticated regions of the world. European economic and then political union was to finally end all this. And while we may not be facing warfare among the European nationalities, we are again seeing an effort to form a union falling apart from many of the same old ailments. Moscow’s Ukrainian aggression suggests even war may not be that far away.
Of course, the problem at the center of the European political conflict for generations was the overwhelming and always growing strength of a Germany, late to united but always hovering over the European scene. That, we were led to believe, would no longer be the case with a federal Germany dedicated to democracy and having given up its goal of unification with an Austria whose existence and neutrality would be subsumed in a united Europe guaranteed by the major powers. But one problem stalking the Europeans today is again the overwhelming strength, this time with an emphasis on the economic factors, of a strong Germany. Having exported part of its wealth to its neighbors on credit, it is now being forced into billcollecing – not an enviable role. And it is one that again puts Germany’s strength and power, seemingly threatening, against the center of European speculation as the united construct at Brussels shakes loose.
Pearl Harbor, it seemed, had decided once and for all the argument over America’s participation in world politics, a disputed role going back to The Founders. The success of U.S. arms in World War II not only preserved the world from Nazi barbarism and Japanese colonialism, but it placed Washington at the center of world’s disputes as arbiter and conciliator. But with the access to power – rather inexplicably – of a young and inexperienced historian-manqué as a “transformative” president, the old argument is back. The call of Donald Trumpet may not be called “isolationism” but it bears all the hallmarks of the all the old arguments updated with 21st century figures against what used to be called :”interventionists”, those who see an undeniable dominant role for the U.S. in world affairs.
One could go on with this analysis, of course. But the point is all too obvious. The question is, of course, what does it mean? Karl Marx, quoting the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that “xxx all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.xxx” True enough, when we observe some of those playing out these old roles now, we see them as buffoonery. But the sad part of any commentary must be that we will have to try to work our way to some sort of solution of all of the issues, as we have done in the past.
sws-04-17-16

Obamacare Catastrophe


As it enters its seventh year the enormity of the disaster of the Obama Administration’s effort to solve American health care problems continues to grow.
Nor will it be that easy to untangle its effects on the whole medical industry as statements from some of the presidential candidates indicate.
First of course are the astronomical costs which Obamacare has incurred.
The latest Congressional Budget Office report, released last week, estimates that over the next ten years Obamacare will add $1.4 trillion to the nation’s debt — were it to continue to exist.
Much of the discussion about the cost of the whole medical scene is totally unrealistic. Candidate Hillary Clinton, for example, after proposing new and expensive additions to Obamacare – while criticizing her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders for suggesting expansion of Medicare to all as unrealistic – proposes a completely nonsensical solution. She would put a 4% tax on millionaires to pay for the increased costs she acknowledges would occur. Unfortunately that would yield only about $150 billion over ten years, a tiny fraction of what her proposed additional new tax credits under the plan would require.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said last May that the ill-fated Obamacare website, the heart of the new regime, cost $834 million to build. But Bloomberg Government, put the total cost at $2.1 billion. It continues to be a hazard for any medical progress, or even to fathom what is happening.
Obamacare’s central skeleton, the coops of insured which were intended to inject competition and therefore lower prices into medical services, have been another disaster. All but 12 of the original 23 have failed and Congressional critics doubt that the $1.2 billion loaned them will be repaid.
Obamacare’s principal intent, to bring into the insurance fold the vast numbers of Americans who had no health insurance, is also dubious. Of the more than 11 million who signed up by the end of enrollment in 2015, three million had dropped out by the end of the year and all told 25% either didn’t buy into the plan or dropped out according to the Heritage Foundation. Although Obamacare spokesmen claimed they had been successful in enlisting non-insured persons in the program, only 10 states have more insured on the Obamacare rolls.
One of the most quoted of the promises by the President for the program has evaporated. Insurers are drastically reducing your choice of doctors and hospitals to cut costs. Among the industry stalwarts it is called “narrowing networks”. The average insured person can expect even fewer choices in the future, according to the Heritage Foundation..
Politically, perhaps the worst aspect of Obamacare is the constant call by its opponents – and the taunts of its few remaining supporters, even in the Administration – for the critics to come up with an alternative plan. But to do so would without doubt create another and equally crippling disaster.
The fact is that resolving the complexities of the American medical scene in one “comprehensive” program has always been an invitation to debacle. The medical complex accounts for one-sixth of the American economy. And, of course, an even more perplexing problem is that it is constantly changing, in no small part because of the progress of American medicine in many fields which however requires new and expensive technology. The often quoted comparisons with medical programs in other countries – especially by those advocates of government “single payer” systems – often ignore the statistics on health problems in the U.S. A good example is the survival rates for breast cancer which are so much better here than the most advanced European health systems.
That does not mean that strenuous effort should not be made, first to repeal most of Obamacare, and secondly to proceed with some individual relatively simple common sense solutions. Obamacare ignored the cabals that exist in most states between legislatures and favored insurers which prohibit buying insurance across statelines. Simply removing that barricade would go a long way toward beginning the kind of competition that could reduce health costs. Let’s take it one step at a time.
sws-03-30-16

Unseemly behavior


For an Administration which supposedly excels in its appreciation and manipulation of the media, the current presentation of Pres. Barack Obama’s activities is not only onerous but inexplicable.
All Europe and the civilized world is in mourning in sympathy with our ally Belgium. As blood is still being scraped off the walls of the Brussels airport waiting room and a nearby subway station, our president is going to baseball games and exhibiting his art of the tango.The fact that the terrorists explosions have blown dozens of victims into disintegration and that there are a substantial number of missing Americans among the unidentified intensifies the horror on both sides of the Atlantic.
The President has made what are seemingly pro forma brief statements about the depth of the tragedy and his intention to make the destruction of the terrorist network his highest priority in policymaking. But his insistence that the terrorist threat is not “existential” to U.S. security belies the seriousness with which his Administration treats the problem.
His social behavior on the current Latin American trip, which for important reasons of strategy he might be correct in not ending, is inexcusable. And the Administration has announced no real new political and military strategy to fulfill his promise to annihilate Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]. Administration claims that the terrorists have lost ground are obviously false with their continued attacks – now more than 175 – around the world and their growing amalgamation of terrorist groups in Africa and Asia.
A minimum action by the President might have been some new statement of coordinated policy and strategy within the North Atlantic Treaty Organizaation [NATO] iwith the psychological boost of its hesadquarters only a few thousand feet from the scene of the bombins. One has to harken back to how rapidly its members came to the U.S. assistance after 9/11 under Article 5 which pledges all of us to mutual defense. The comparison with Washington’s response to the growing European crisis is all too obvious.
The President’s partisans and supporters argue that the chief aim of the terrorists is to disrupt.our normal lives and purposeful routines. To lend unwarranted importance to their acts of violence would accomplish just that purpose, it’s argued.. That logic does not hold up. The incredible complexity of American life has, indeed, not been much affected by these terrorist episodes despite their horrendous psychological impact. But that does not mean their continuance will not eventually erode the American lifestyle. Especially if the reports of the growing number of returned Syrian jihadists and the squeleched plots uncovered by he FBI are taken into account.
They argue, too, that to put overly much significance to these events with the President’s attention would create a hysteria that might result in additional prejudice and even violence against our own Moslem minority. But the charge of Islamophobia against every effort to search out the origins of Islamic terrorism impedes an important part of the effort to eliminate it. The terrorists, after all, are not drawn from Southern Baptists or Mormons and their relation ship to some aspects of Islamic thought must be analyzed if it is to be defeated at the intellectual level..
Nor, again as the President’s apologists argue, is it counterproductive to pressure our Moslem allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to investigate the origins and pursue the terrorists. It is no secret that Saudi funds finance mosques in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world that tolerate imams [religious] spokesmen who advocate religious hatred and even violence. Qatar, which has played all side of the complicated Middle East political scene, is a chief sponsor of the Moslem Brotherhood, the fountainhead of the Moslem terrorist sects. [That is despite its hosting one of the most important U.S. military bases in the region.] Reforming Moslems who want to eliminate terrorism – which after all has taken many more Moslem victims than non-Moslems – welcome our aid in examining and eliminating the aspects of their religion which breed the violence.
The President’s social actions could be called largely irrelevant to the current political scene and the struggle against Islamic terrorism [which the Administration, of course, still refuses to name]. But gestures and behavior are important aspects of the political scene. And Obama’s obtuseness is going to contribute to the difficulties of eliminating this worldwide scourge.
sws-02-14-16

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

 

 

Dancing with Putin


There is a wild Russian folkdance, like so many Russian cultural artifacts linked to the Tartar Occupation, called the kasatka [ka-zatch-ka]. In one of its many forms, it tests the dancer’s calisthenics by having him crouch but fling out each leg and foot alternately, testing his balance and the nerves of those aroumd him.

Vladimir Putin, old secret service operator that he is with some inherited talents of the Soviet regime but steeped in Russian folkways, has been dancing a katsatka around Pres. Barack Obama. And the effect is as usual unnerving to the encircled and annihilates whatever more formal and customary dance routine the imprisoned spectator might have pursued.

When Obama first suggested an aggressive American role in Syria, but then quickly reneged, Putin saw his chance. After his aggression in George, Crimea and Ukraine, and continuing threats elsewhere, he had unnerved the European Union and the U.S. It was to the point that they, however reluctantly, threatened formal resistance. And they did go as far as sanctions against the Russian leading lights around Putin.

But Putin has enough sense of history to know that bluff can often be successful, especially if like lies – as Hitler’s propagandist Josef Goebbels said – they are ambitious enough. So Putin plunged into Syria, set up the beginning of bases on the coast, and backed his would-be host, the collapsing regime of Basher Al Assad. The effort had great psychological and propaganda value, for Syria had once been the Soviet Union’s Mediterranean anchor, and a return there hinted at a return of Moscow to world leadership.

So the kasatka began. Putin’s oncoming disaster at home with the West’s sanctions and the collapsing oil price for Russia’s only export certainly left Putin in a precarious crouching position. But he flung his military, however much its technological stars and nuclear armory, still the decrepit carcass of the once grand Soviet war machine, far overcommitted into the Syrian row. His aircraft indiscriminately committing atrocities against a highly vulnerable civilian population, and his highly trained special forces encadred al Assad’s old professional French-styled Syrian army, were able to turn the tide against the multi-head opposition. That was especially true since neither Washington nor its allies could pull together demoralized Syrian democrats, and all were trying to keep their distance from al Assad’s main jidhadist opposition.

But then with a new kasatka thrust, Putin grabbed Obama’s gallivanting Secretary of State’s effort to set up an armistice and peace conference. The armistice gave Putin some respite from his overtaxed kasatka thrusts. His dance had so wearied Kerry & Co. that the conferees agreed to gather in Vienna, even though they clearly had totally opposite positions: Washington was demanding that al Assad go, the Kremlin had staked its successful dance on his remaining in office. With the long and ugly history of such conferences throughout the post-World War II history, between the West and the Communists, it was clear Putin’s kasatka meant he would whittle down the American/EU position. With successful negotiations always Washington’s primary target, negotiating with an opponent who does not give ground, ultimately always means the U.S. makes the concessions.

So Putin’s kasatka continues. The latest fling of the limbs is to “order” the Russian military out of Syria. Crouched as he is, he dearly needs to end his commitment before it collapses. But his kasatka presents this as great concession of a noble and enlightened opponent, and, of course, he has made no firm commitment on date nor which and what he will withdraw. In fact, as so often happened with Soviet promises of cooperation, the withdrawal might not take place at all, were he not in an overextended position that he needs to withdraw.

The kasatka never quite ends with any final tour de force. Usually the dancer is so exhausted he just leaves off. That may well be the case with Putin’s dance around the bemused Obama, trying desperately to make something of historical moment of the few months of his last tenure in the presidency. After all, the kasatka has achieved its purpose – it’s rescued Putin from economic collapse, at least for the moment, and has bolstered his flagging domestic support by a feint at the old Soviet international glory.

sws-03-14-16

 

Refugees or Mubarizun


When we read Camp of the Saints in English translation sometime in the 1980s, we didn’t enjoy it much. It had been foisted on us by a friend, an old veteran of the political wars on The Hill. She saw it as a prediction of the future. But novels, after all, whether in the contemporary world, past golden eras, or in the future, have to have some verisimilitude. And this one didn’t seem to be in any way credible in its general thesis however well written and logical once you accepted one or two of its major assumptions.

Were we ever wrong!

If you have read the novel, you can’t be but comparing the current international geopolitical situation with its hypothesis. Said simply, it posits a takeover of Western civilization by hordes of migrants from what was then called “the underdeveloped world” as a result of a general misapprehension of guilt and innocence in relationships between Europe and the world of poverty in Afro-Asia [again a term that has disappeared].

Europe’s generous welcoming of what have been termed refugees from the destruction of the Syrian civil war was notable and praiseworthy. It is no secret that German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out the welcome mat in another effort to wipe out the memory of the Nazi holocaust leading to World War II. But as the numbers kept escalating and other European countries were more reluctant to take large numbers of the migrants, the problem is turning into a serious strategic miscalculation –and could even threaten Merkel’s tight hold on the German prime ministry.

Not only have the numbers continued to grow – but their character has changed from genuine “refugees” seeking asylum for families driven from their homes to an increasingly overwhelming cadre of young men, many from further east of Syria. The UN Refugee Agency, a forceful advocate for the migrants, counts one million arrivals in Europe in 2015. Furthermore, three nationalities are represented: Syrian [49%], Afghani [21%] and Iraqi [8%]. The most ominous admission by the agency, however, is that most were adult men [58%]. However sympathetic Europeans and Americans are to the strife of genuine refugees, dramatized by at least 3,800 lost at sea in their desperate attempt to reach Western Europe, a different crisis is developing.

The Erupeans have splintered over how to meet the growing crisis. The sudden and huge influx has led to temporary border controls to limit the flow. Turkey is demanding more after receiving a $3.3 billion Euro bribe to stem the flow. But for both Turkey and the Europeans, the problem is further complicated by some countries of origin, Pakistan, for example, which refuses to take back their migrants when they are halted in their flight to Europe..

Organized sexual attacks by bands of these migrant men on New Year’s Eve on women in Cologne and other German cities, and in Scandinavia have been suppressed by the mainstream media and government in an effort to prevent a backlash to refugees. But these events only dramatize the fact that integration of these young men will not come about easily. In fact, there is evidence of an organized effort to infiltrate the West by Moslem terrorist organizations – a terrible harking back to repeated attempts by mubarizun, the traditional Mohammedan warrior whose conquest of the Middle East and North Africa resulted in the spread of Islam and was beaten back in earlier times at crises moments by Christian Europe.

Charges of “Islamaphobia” notwithstanding, there are predictions that the flow will grow in the months ahead from the chaotic Middle East, North Africa, and burgeoning populations in Iran and Pakistan. Charging racism to those who publicly call for a change in strategy to meet the growing threat are not a proper response. And ultimately, as with every European crisis in recent history, American policymakers are going to be called on to lend a hand.

sws-01-25-16

 

No Brexit please!


 

There’s not much good news from Europe these days.

It’s clear that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has bitten off more than she can chew with her big, big welcome mat for any and all migrants. The Hungarians and the Poles have different ideas, don’t want to take their “share” as Berlin sees it. That could be the death of “Shengen”, movement within the EU as free as it was in the golden years before World War I when a flicking a passport got you anywhere from the Irish Sea to Carpathians.

Merkel & Co. have bared their teeth and not for the first time, talked of solving an EU problem by creating a “mini-Shengen”, in effect two levels of EU membership to maintain free-passage. Then there is the whole mess of the Euro, that common currency which was supposed to eliminate balance of payments. Instead it has been an artifice for pushing German exports down the throats of willing consumers – like Greece – who really didn’t have the wherewithal for all those Mercedes.

European, not to say Obama Administration resolve, to meet Ras’ continued aggression in Crimea, Ukraine, and threats in Belarus and the Baltic States, as well as his blind man’s bluff in Syria, has faded.

But the biggest cloud on the horizon was the possibility that the Brits would pick up their marbles and go home. That old hundred miles of often treacherous water which has given the not-so-longer United Kingdom its distance from Continental troubles is getting wider and stormier again. The growing encampment t of migrants [including legitimate refugees] on the Calais side epitomizes the issue. Britain, earlier than her neighbors was getting indigestion from absorbing unlimited numbers from her former empire to share the bounties of the original welfare state. And there is universal sentiment now in Britain that a Continental surge would tip the boat.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who unexpectedly won a majority in May’s elections, as part of his electioneering, promised what used to be called before Hitler discredited it, a plebiscite, on British EU membership. That is, Brits would go to the polls to decide whether they wanted to continue what has been their limited membership – no participation in the Euro, for example – in the Community. Armed with that, and the possibility that without concessions, the British might really exit, he has gone back to dicker with the autocrats at Brussels.

Now comes word that despite earlier statements on how the Brits would not pass, the EUrocrats are willing to make concessions. European Council president Donald Tusk December 17 opined: “Leaders voiced their concerns but also demonstrated willingness to look for compromise,” Tusk told a press conference, he was “much more optimistic” than before the talks began.

In all the welter of political shoving back and forth at the moment, this negotiation could in the long run be the most important. It goes without saying, Pres. Obama’s problems ousting Winston Churhill’s bust from the Oval Office as an opening gambit in his Administration notwithstanding, that the Special Relationship between Washington and London remains a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

Many, here and there, have seen Britain’s participation in the EU as an obstacle. We never have. That Britain has taken up the cudgels, in fact more forcefully than the Obama Administration, in the fight against Daesh, the Mideast terrorists, as an American ally is just one more example of the relationship’s importance despite Britain’s economic and therefore military travails. Blood, Roberts’ Rules of Order, and Shakespeare do count, you know!

But perhaps even more important, Britain’s presence inside the EU, with whatever limitations, is the best assurance that the tyranny of the clerks in Brussels will be held in check. More than its Continental neighbors,  perhaps for the younger folk out there, British representative democracy is so solid and so well grounded that it cannot but have an effect in Brussels. That is of the utmost importance, not only for the Brits and their EU partners, but also the whole of the democratic West including the U.S.

So please, let’s do have an old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon compromise and keep Britain in the EU with no Brexit on the horizon!

sws-12-17-15

 

The new old sick man of Europe


For a century European politics was dogged with “the sick man of Europe”: the collapsing Ottoman Empire and its implications for the major powers. That’s not the case now, of course. Multi-ethnic empires are a thing of the past, their death rattle came with the Soviet Union’s implosion. But policies of the Ottomans’ successors, the Turkish Republic, are sucking the Europeans further into the Middle East’s swamp.

The recent downing of a Russian aircraft darting in and out of Turkish territory has dramatized a situation everyone knew but few – most of all the Obama Administration – wanted to face. After a spectacular leap forward with liberalization of its economy, Turkey now faces both external and internal threats including economic stagnation. Ankara’s woes pose additional problems for the European Union, wrestling with obstacles in what was thought to be the inevitable economic and hence political continental integration.

From its outset the Obama Administration had courted Turkish Pres.Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, believing him the model for a modernizing Muslim world. As a popular mayor of cosmopolitan Istambul, he supposedly represented “moderate Islam”. Obama had reached out, apologizing for what he perceived as a history of American foreign misadventure, making him one of his principle foreign contacts.

But oncein national leadership Erdoğan has moved toward authoritarianism, flirted with Islamicists, and in lost control of his southeast border with chaotic Syria. He has looked away as body traffickers have used Turkey as a base for flooding Greece and Europe with destitute migrants, alternately moving recruits to Daesh and other Islamic terrorists, and fed them by permitting black market oil trafficking, some of it apparently close to his family.

With his hold on majority parliamentary power in jeopardy, Erdoğan deliberately created an atmosphere of insecurity. He abandoned peace efforts with his huge Kurdish minority, further complicating the the U.S. and the Persian Gulf Arabs’ efforts to use the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as their most effective local force against Daesh [ISIS or ISUIL]. The Europeans have just forked over $3.2 billion to finance Turkish refugee camps. But neither party believes this will staunch the migrant flow, much less as promised, be a new beginning for negotiations for Turkey’s European Union membership. The latter seems now increasingly unlikely, not the least with concern growing over Muslim minorities in Europe growing.

Erdoğan has restarted the Turks’ centuries-old feud with Moscow, ignoring a growing and extremely profitable bilateral commerce. As the plane incident proved, the Russian presence in Syria — supporting Erdoğan’s one-time friend but now bitter enemy Damascus’ Basher al-Assad – adds to the threat to peace.

Obama, meanwhile, has new promises that Turkey will close its Syrian border with the help of American forces. That commitment, too, seems less than realistic with Washington only reluctantly dribbling ground forces into the region to support an anemic bombing campaign. If Erdoğan uses his victory in the November 1 election to continue to pursue recent policies, it will add to the deteriorating Mideast situation.

It’s incumbent now for the Obama Administration using Turkey’s NATO alliance membership – seen as it ultimate defense against Russia – to pull up its socks. Ankara’s fulfillment of promises to police its Syrian border are essential to any American effort which Sec. John Kerry has been leading in Vienna talks to find a political solution to the Syrian catastrophe. Cooling the Syrian confrontation, in turn, is essential in avoiding a general breakdown and an even more general war. We can only hope that the Obama Administration will move more quickly out of its posture of “leading from behind” to get a handle on the situation.

sws-12-03-15  

 

 

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, America’s leaders are presented with a vexing problem of statecraft which poses realism versus idealism.

Millions of refugees are pouring out of Syria, victims of the more than four year bloody Civil War. Many choose a perilous path on to Europe; some certainly pursuing lifelong dreams for a better life in European countries with their elaborate safety nets and dwindling labor pool. More, even, are not Syrians at all, but Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and even Central Asians, seizing this opportunity for new lives in the West.

To the consternation of many of her fellow conservative party colleagues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel initially welcomed any and all of these migrants. Although of another generation, and in fact, reared under the Communist East German tyranny herself, she has said that given Germany’s onerous Nazi history, her country could do no less. The German welcome, since its social welfare benefits lead the field, has made it the destination of most of the migrants — what will be 850,000 or more this year. Berlin is now pleading with its fellow European Union members to take more. Some, like Poland and Hungary, however, are adamant that they cannot absorb these new non-Europeans, for economic and cultural reasons.

The flow shows little sign of abatement what with the Syrian chaos enhanced by the emergence of a barbaric, self-appointed Islamic “caliphate”, Daesh [or ISIS or ISIL. While Europe wrestles with the problem, the U.S. now explores its traditional role of welcoming “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Pres. Barak Obama has called for the admission of at least 10,000 of these migrants immediately, another 200,000 for the next two years.

The House of Representatives has just passed legislation calling for a pause in admission of the migrants. This comes after FBI Director. James B. Comey, among others competent to judge, have insisted that currently the federal government does not have the capacity to vet these newcomers, weeding out possible covert terrorists. Those defending the President’s initiative have called the opposition everything from racist to calling up the refusal of the U.S. to admit Jews during Nazi persecution and destruction of six million during the 1930s and 40s. While that blot on America’s moral record lives on, it is hardly relevant; although some of us greybeards remember arguments with some of the few German Jewish arrivals about the Versailles Treaty and Hitler, there were no suspicions any were German agents.

Nor is the argument that suggestions only Christians be s prejudicial as it sounds at first glance. The laws under which refugees are given special entry to the U.S. are couched in terms of rewarding specific groups who are the target of a foreign tyranny. That is certainly the case with Christians and other minority groups like the Yazidi and even non-Sunni Moslems who have been the victims of Daesh’s unspeakable barbarity.

Perhaps some of the President’s supporters are correct that opposition to his proposal is based on ulterior motives, for example, an appeal to old-fashioned xenophobia. But the strength of an argument for a “pause” to reconsider who we are admitting and under what conditions is a necessity. The growing evidence that the Paris terrorist acts – as others before them in Europe and the U.S. – were committed not by illegal immigrants but by visaed newcomers or even native-born Moslem ethnics, is evidence of a source of concern. Certainly the growing skill and increasing reach of Daesh indicates they would have every incentive and techniques for infiltrating the migrants.

The U.S. has committed $4.5 billion since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to aid Syrian refugees and the neighboring countries housing them, more than any other country. This might be a good time to up that ante if it is possible for it to be absorbed by the mechanisms now in place. But it makes all the sense in the world that for the moment we reexamine our vetting processes as a measure of national security for those additional refugees we intend to admit as permanent residents.

sws-11-20-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Netanyahu –again!


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done it again: he has repeated what any historian of the Middle East knows, that the so-called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, was a buddy of Adolph Hitler’s. Netanyahu has a terrible way of reminding the world of awful truths at a time – has it ever been otherwise? – when most people including major politicians would like to look away.
One is reminded of an old very Jewish joke: Britain’s then general, Harold Alexander [the hero of the ordinary Tommy, not “the movie star” Gen.Bernard Montgomery] was making a protocol visit to a synagogue in Jerusalem. He was back in British Mandated Palestine to check out logistics for Britain’s see-sawing grim war in the Western Desert against legendary Nazi Gen. Erwin Rommel. The president of the Congregation made a little speech: “General, I want to you to know that everyday we pray 24 hours a day for an Allied victory in The Desert”. One of the little old congregants, in tallis and phylacteries, totters up, tugs the president’s sleeve, and whispers in Yiddish, “Don’t say that! If they lose, they will take it out on us”.
There was never any question of what would happen to the Mandate’s then small Jewish community if the Germans did break through. It was well known at the time that Hussein, the leader of the Arabs’ war against the Jews, had escaped British capture and was in Germany. [“Palestinian” did not designate the Arabs of the Mandate until the 1960s but contradictorily did the two Jewish brigades recruited in Tel Aviv fighting with the British in Italy].
Netanyahu, not for the first time of course, has been misinterepted, in that he did not suggest Hussein gave Hitler the idea of wiping out the Jews but simply that they had mutual ideas on the subject. [The Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, which gathered high Nazi officials to lay out the techniques of the Holocaust would only take place a year after the publication of the official photograph of Hitler with Hussein.] It’s likely Hitler had already considered the ways in which he would try to extinguish the Jews long before Husseini recommended burning them, if he indeed he did.
Does any of this have relevance today?
Does the fact that the Palestinians only became Palestinians recently mean that their cause is any less just?
One is reminded that Ferhat Abbas, the leading Algerian intellectual, only a few years before the beginning of the bitter war by Algerian Muslims for independence from France, had questioned whether there was such a thing as an Algerian identity. He, like so many other Algerians, unlike Arab Muslims as well as those to be called Pieds Noir [Black Feet], European refugees, who later flooded into metropolitan France, came to believe in their “nationhood” as he came to be its first president on independence.
But whatever the present day claims of “The Palestinians” to “an independent state, living side-by-side in peace” with a Jewish Israel, the long history of Arab aggression and institutionalized hatred of and warfare against the Jews in that tiny piece of land must be taken into account. At a time when the Mainstream Media, again, distorts the fundamental aggression of Arab terrorists, in personal attacks, often on civilian targets, it is well to be reminded of the long history of violence and who perpetrated it.
Yes, it will be argued that the Jewish state is a colonial manifestation, the imposition of a Western culture in an aggression on a “native people”. That appeals as such leftwing rhetoric has so often to some American “political pilgrims” [see Paul Hollander’s Political Pilgrims: Western intellectuals in search of the good society]. They have in the last half century jumped from one miserable cause to another in search of perfection – Communist China, Castro Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and now, “Palestine”, only to be disillusioned by oppression and corruption. Fulsome examination of a blind loyalty to “the Palestinian cause” will eventually return the same results.
Netanyahu, as brutally frank as he sometimes is, was right to remind us of this little tidbit of history.
sws-11-25-15

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Turkey: another “Syria”?


Turkey is rapidly catching the Syrian disease – that is, a Mideastern country not only torn apart by internal factions but a playground for contending international forces.
But as an important member of the NATO alliance, Turkey plays a much more critical role in relations between the European Union, the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive Russia.
The analogies with Syria grow stronger even as the outcome is still as murky as the outcome appears there.
In Turkey, too, the “original sin” appears that from his once overwhelmingly popularity, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan developed egomania.
As the very successful mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan once allegedly said “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” His stop seems to be creating an authoritarian state. But his streetcar’s trolley has jumped the wire with the loss of his parliamentary majority in June 2015 elections. And polls indicate he won’t get new majority in elections he has now called for November. With increasing domestic violence, it has become problematical whether they can even be held.
Like Syria’s Basher al Assad, Erdogan has refused to meet his considerable opposition with compromises. The economic boom is staggering. He has virtually abandoned an attempt to join the European Union after his potential Western partners dragged their heels earlier with doubts about whether Turkey met the requirements of free governments.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s foreign policy which was to have only friends in all directions has turned into the exact reverse: he has growing disputes with all his neighbors and the major powers, including the U.S. That’s despite the fact that Pres. Barack Obama once called Erdogan one of a handful of leaders with whom he was on intimate terms.
Proof of the U.S. rift came with the announcement Washington [along with Germany] is withdrawing its Patriot missiles which Erdogan requested when his once highly advertised relations with Syria’s al Assad fell apart. The Pentagon’s official explanation is they need modification. But given Obama’s policies, there is a suggestion it is because Obama didn’t want to be dragged into Turkey’s increasing difficulties on its Syrian border, despite NATO assurances of support.
Washington’s relations with Ankara are also trapped in the Kurdish problem. Erdogan abandoned his efforts to bring the decades-old bloody Kurdish PKK insurgency to an end, in part because of the success of a Kurdish-led party. [The Kurds are at least 20%, maybe a third of Turkey’s 75 million]. But the Kurds inside Syria, whom Erdogan says are linked to his own internal enemies, are Washington’s only effective internal force against Daesh [the purported ISIS or ISIL caliphate]..
When Russian aircraft penetrated Turkey’s space in support of Assad [whose own airforce earlier had wandered in too], Erdogan threatened to cancel a growing economic exchange with Moscow including a giant nuclear power plant and cooperation to transmit Russian gas to Europe through a new pipeline across the Black Sea [which would eliminate Ukraine].
Erdogan abandoned his very profitable military alliance with Israel in a flurry of insults to Israel leaders and sponsorship of Hamas in Gaza whom the rest of the world calls terrorists. His strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood put him at odds with Egypt whose President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is trying to root out after overthrowing a Brotherhood regime.
Heavily dependent on Iran for gas, Erdogan has tiptoed around his growing differences with Tehran. But while he has lined up against the mullahs’ ally in Damascus, there are accusations – that certainly have alarmed Washington and the EU – of less than maximum efforts to cut off aid and recruits flow to Daesh,.
The question now is whether Erdogan will make a radical turn toward reconciliation. If not, there’s growing concern among Turkey’s friends that the country is moving toward growing chaos. A murderous bomb explosion this past week in the capital Ankara could signal that new level internal violence.
sws-10-10-15

Refugees, migrants, infiltrators


Refugees, migrants, infiltrators
Germany’s Angela Merkel appears about to make another 180-degree turn in her policy toward Mideast population flows to Europe. Initially, despite Germany’s troubled history of ethnic relations, she rejected accepting refugees from Syria’s bloody civil war which has already taken more than a quarter of a million lives. Then she switched to a welcome mat that had her being called “Mama Merkel” among the desperate survivors of growing inhospitable refugee camps in Syria’s neighbors.
Now, once again, with more than 550,000 new arrivals in Europe this year – and a threat of a million if present levels continue — Berlin appears to be closing the door. It has been unable to convince all its European Union partners they should take in some of the flow, and worried that one of the EU’s most important achievements – a common labor market – might be threatened. The German states are complaining they have reached their capacity, and there have been outbreaks of violence among migrants.
Through the cloudy glass of unprecedented movements and propaganda surrounding them, it is hard to know exactly what is happening. Certainly large numbers among the arrivals are not even Syrian, much less those escaping violence in that increasingly desperate country. Many are from further east – Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and Eritrea. There is now an increasing flow across the Mediterranean from includes Black Africans escaping the horrors of the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in West Africa.
But it is also clear that many of the arrivals are not, in a real sense, refugees from persecution and death but “economic migrants” looking for a better life. And what better way to begin one, giving them the benefit of the doubt, than at least temporarily taking advantage of the generous social welfare benefits of the EU states, but particularly Germany. Of course, there is the rapidly declining German birth rate and its need for immigrants for its labor pool. But as with the Turkish gastarbeiter in Germany in the 1960s – and even more France with its North African immigrant no-go ghettoes –fitting these people into the European society may not be that easy.
Many of the Moslem migrants carrying their culture in their suitcases; they do not want to accept European traditions. Then there are those photos of young men of military age and the possibility they have among their ranks followers of the plethora of Moslem terrorist groups now tearing the regions apart.
Without pushing the analogy too far – given America’s successful tradition of accepting and absorbing European for 200 years – are there lessons for the U.S. here? For some Americans there is still the guilt associated with the refusal in the 1930s to take in European refugees, particularly Jews, and indirectly contributing to that catastrophe for all Western civilization.
But over the last four decades American legal immigration has quadrupled. The U.S. is annually now admitting one million new permanent residents — half a million foreign students, 70,000 asylees and refugees, 700,000 foreign workers, and 200,000 relatives of foreign workers. Many more stay —whether originally as temporary visitors, lifetime immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, foreign students, or recipients of our “visa waiver program”.
The U.S. government cannot effectively track these legal foreign visitors, much less the illegals – those who overstay their visas or the flow over our poorly guarded borders and airports. The U.S. has already authorized 10,000 new Syrian refugees and Pres. Obama has proposed to make that 100,000. That is despite the fact that the Administration does not, as many of its critics here and in Europe, accept the allegation that American Mideast policy – especially in Iraq and with the new “deal with Iran – may have contributed to the chaos. But the question and a debate must proceed even with the risk that some arguments may drop into racism or prejudice, over whether, indeed, if is not taking on too much of an additional burden for the taxpayer and the economy.
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