Pres. Barack Obama’s proposal for what would be a substantial new entry of Syrian refugees is a major miscalculation of traditional American morality and generosity.
It is true that the 13.5 million Syrian refugees, half of them expelled or hounded out of their country, are a momentous human tragedy. And America has almost always responded to some calamities.
But the question of additional Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. is part of a challenging failing American immigration policy which has become an extremely divisive political issue.
While generally unrecognized, it has arisen because of the profound changes which have taken place in worldwide migration patterns and the traditional one of entry into the U.S. Rapid and cheap transportation and communication has changed the pattern of the lives of newcomers to America.
In the great wave of American immigration of the late 19th and early 20th century, Europeans abandoned their homelands with a desire to build a new life in The New World. Ties to the old country, while culturally deep, dissolved – and, indeed, some ethnic and religious groups such as the Jews did not want to look back on persecution. Even the Italians, with their celebrated family ties, came and for the most part to their new neighborhoods, only occasionally maintained their European ties, mainly for remittances for family to follow them.
In the 21st century, immigrants to the U.S. may have much of the same motivation. But large numbers come for economic benefits and either maintain their relationships with their home countries, return at frequent intervals, or, indeed, return to their original homelands.
Those New York City Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers, for example, rarely bring their families, and return on long “vacations” to their families with whom they are in constant contact through cheap communication. This group, like other migrants with similar patterns, have no intention of becoming ‘Americans” in the traditional way although they might acquire U.S. citizenship for convenience and profit. Important, often influential, groups such as these exist today at every level of American society including the highest echelons of business and culture in our major cities.
Another significant difference from past patterns of immigration is that welcoming ethnic or religious communities in the U.S. which once helped integrate the newcomers are no longer prominent if they exist at all. Syrian Moslems, for example, find little institutional aid from coreligionists when they immigrate to the U.S. And, in fact, some of the existing Moslem organizations are suspect with ties to the Moslem Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism. Ostensibly pursuing an electoral policy [The Brotherhood’s strategy of “One man, one vote – one time!”], Its attempt to establish an Islamic dictatorship was proved quickly to the satisfaction of the Egyptian electorate which welcomed the military back to power.]
On August First U/S. Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued “temporary protected status” to some 8,000 Syrian, many of whom had arrived in the U.S. illegally. He did so, he said, because ““Syria’s lengthy civil conflict has resulted in … [A]ttacks against civilians, the use of chemical weapons and irregular warfare tactics, as well as forced conscription and use of child soldiers have intensified the humanitarian crisis.” Another 7,000 Syrian refugees – many of them persecuted Christians and other non-Moslem minorities — have been admitted legally to the U.S. since Oct. 1, 2015. Obama announced in September that the U.S. would admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by Sept. 30, 2016.
But GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has attacked this decision, arguing that – as FBI Director John Comey has admitted – despite elaborate UN and US procedures to process them, little is known of the refugees’ background. Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] like other Mideast terrorists has made no secret of their attempt to infiltrate refugee communities. Only a few such subversives, given the gruesome “effectiveness” of suicide bombers, could defeat efforts to defend Americans against attacks such as took place in Orlando, San Bernardino and Ft. Hood by immigrants.
American charity might better be directed toward relief efforts for the Syrian refugees in the region. Oil-rich neighbors in the Persian Gulf have not met demands that they absorb, at least temporarily, Syrians [and other Mideasterners masquerading as Syrians] who have moved into Jordan, Turkey and Western Europe by the hundreds of thousands. [Germany took in more than a million migrants from the Mideast last year, and difficulties of absorbing them and with highly dramatized attacks on women and other crinmes, are now producing a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome].
Illegal migration from Mexico and Central America has already become a major problem for U.S. immigration policy, developing into a political football between the parties based on a still nebulous growing influence of Spanish-speaking voters. Adding the Syrian problem to this controversy neither benefits the humanitarian goals of its sponsors nor the formulation of new American immigration policies to meet a new world of migration.
Category Archives: Latin America
Pres. Barack Obama’s proposal for what would be a substantial new entry of Syrian refugees is a major miscalculation of traditional American morality and generosity.
The news that Mexico is moving one more step to break the monopoly of Petróleos Mexicanos [Pemex], the government-owned producer and until now monopoly retailer, is big and good news.
With the world’s tenth largest economy, Mexican growth at between four and five percent over the past few years is considered well below its potential. The World Bank reckons less than 2% of Mexico’s population lives below the international poverty line but the Mexican government estimates a third of its population in moderate poverty and some ten percent of that in extreme poverty.
Competing with Brazil as Latin America’s largest economy, the country has vast disparities of income, including between those more prosperous states bordering the U.S. Mexico City and the south. Growing remittances, largely from the U.S.’ southwest, are an important part of the country’s income, more than $22 billion in 2012. But all this produces tax revenues of less than 20 percent of GDP , the lowest among the 34 OECD countries.
Although Mexico is the sixth largest oil producer in the world, its exports have fallen from just under 62% of total exports in 1980 to just over 7% in 2000. Most observers agree this is a result of the inefficient monopoly over its oil resources and distribution by Pemex which has neither the capital – even though it provides more than 60% of government revenues – nor the technology to expand to meet domestic and foreign demand. But long the holy of holies for Mexico’s left, opening it up to competition and collaboration with foreign oil companies has been fought at every step since the 2014 decision was made to privatize at least some aspects of the monopoly.
Now the government has announced it will allow private companies to import gasoline for the first time since the late 1930s. That will permit the country’s independently owned 11,400 filling stations now all bound to Pemex franchises to link with other companies. The government had already permitted Pemex to form joint ventures with foreign companies to explore for more oil and increase production. But that may be years away given the bureaucracy and the long neglected technological aspects of the company.
Opening service stations to other franchises is going to be the most visible aspect of the new more liberal strategy and, hopefully, encourage faster development of the whole process. London-based Gulf Oil International already has plans to slap its Gulf de Mexico brand on a few stations in the largest cities, to expand to a wide scale national network. Motorists will be enthusiastic because of the poor service of most Pemex stations including shortchanging customers according to widespread convictions by Mexico’s consumer-protection agency.
Still, it is going to be a slow process. Mexico already imports more than half of its daily consumption of gasoline from the U.S. because the country has only six refineries. Pemex controls virtually all of the oil and gas infrastructure — pipelines and storage facilities — and the government is encouraging investors to expand the infrastructure to supply the newly freed stations. .
With trade running at well over $530 billion in 2015, the U.S.’ number three trading partner, American have a special interest in seeing more rapid liberalization and growth of the Mexican economy. Mexico, whose free trade pact with the U.S. produced a trade surplus of nearly $60 billion last year can afford to see an increase of U.S. imports – along with an accompanying investment and technology transfer for what has become its dormant oil industry. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will be pushing these developments ahead of its curious interest in the Cuban Communist dictatorship.
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
Jeffrey Goldberg has made a valiant effort in a lengthy [and often repetitious] article in The Atlantic [striving desperately to become high-brown] to present a comprehensive explanation of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy. Goldberg is both exhaustive and sympathetic, giving us extended references to intimacies with the President over many years – dating, as he tells us, to Obama’s days as an unknown Illinois state senator.
Goldberg fails, however, for one simple reason: he trifles with the facts as well as the interpretations.
Many of my readers will abandon us here, for what we will have to do is to burrow into the article. Nor can we do more than skim the surface of our differences with Goldberg’s misstatements and interpretations.
• “xxx Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union.xxx” The New Oxford tells us “bellicosity:” means “Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight”. Does that really describe a Churchill as leader of a lonely Britain holding out against the most criminal tyranny the world had ever seen? Or later against Communism which had taken tens of millions of lives of innocent citizens in Both the Soviet Union and China?
• “xxx Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union xxx” That’s a very interesting if wholly bogus interpretation of the implosion of the Soviet Union in the face of a relatively passive foreign policy of Bush I and an even more passive policy advocated by Scowcroft.
• “xxx Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was ‘Don’t do stupid shit.’ xxx” Goldberg repeatedly quotes this Obama axiom as a guideline to making foreign policy. Enough said.
• “xxx Four years earlier, the president believed, the Pentagon had ‘jammed’ him on a troop surge for Afghanistan. Now, on Syria, he was beginning to feel jammed again.xxx” Goldberg neglects to remind readers that at the same time Obama injected new troops into Afghanistan, he announced a deadline for withdrawal – hardly a great strategic concept.
• “xxx Within weeks, Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would engineer the removal of most of Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal—a program whose existence Assad until then had refused to even acknowledge.xxx” The operative word is “most”; Assad has continued to use chemical weapons against his own people; only days ago there was another instance in Aleppo.
• “xxx A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory xxx” One of Goldberg [or Obama’s] more curious statements given the fact that the more often heard accusation [obviously false given their vast differences] is that Washington think tanks are enthralled by Jews/Zionists/Israelis.
• “xxx Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. xxx” “xxx But achievements nevertheless xxx” Oh? The Cuban dictatorship remains in place having made no concessions, arresting new political dissidents even as the Obama-Castro agreement was announced. The Paris climate-change accord binds no one to anything, is based on scientific assumptions under fire, and does nothing to clear up the controversial claims of the Obama supporters that human activity is the critical issue. The Trans-Pacific Parntership trade pact is yet to be accepted in any of the constituent partners and is now under attack from both right [Trumpites] and left [Obama’s trade union supporters]. The Administration itself admits that the Iran nuclear “deal” is yet to be proved, that Tehran continues to pour billions [now augmented by the dropping of sanctions] into a worldwide state terrorist network, and is demonstrably proceeding with the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
We won’t bore our readers with additional examples. But the Goldberg presentation of what he ceremoniously calls The Obama Doctrine is a tissue of false information and prejudiced interpretation. There is no Obama Doctrine except a general withdrawal of American power in critical areas of the world with the traditionally anticipated results.
It’s been said that the only problem that Argentina has is that it is populated by Argentineans. With its incredible endowment of resources – the richest soils in the world, a variety of climates including a huge temperate zone, mineral resources including oil and uranium, vast hydroelectric resources, a homogenous population of European descent –.it should be one of the world’s most prosperous and stable societies.
It’s in the lost annals of history that less than a century ago, Argentina seemed destined to become just that, one of the major countries of the world, just behind Italy. In fact in 1909, per capita income in Argentina was 50% higher than in Italy, 180% higher than Japan, and almost five times higher than in neighboring Brazil. Buenos Aires was – and remains — one of the leading cultural centers of the Ibero-American world.
But Argentina’s dependence on unprocessed agricultural exports set it up as a particular victim of the Great Depression and the adverse terms of trade for commodities. What followed were decades of far-fetched efforts to industrialize through state capitalism under demagogic leadership, most famously represented by Juan Peron and his consort, Evita – romanticized in the U.S. but in fact an insidious influence..
Pres Barack Obama’s short visit to Buenos Aires scheduled for March 23 and 24 is a recognition that something is afoot. In fact it’s a revolution in Argentine politics brought about by the election last November of the U.S.-educated, pro-business conservative Pres. Mauricio Macri, former mayor of Buenos Aires One of Macri’s announced principle aims is too strengthen Argentina’s foreign ties after years of combative relations under his leftist predecessors, particularly with the U.S.
“We believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relations with Argentina,” top Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes says. Recognizing this, French President Francois Hollande and Italian premier Matteo Renzi scooted in for visits just ahead of Obama.
Macri’s election was a surprise and he has an enormous job ahead of him..Although Argentina’s 38 million live in Latin America’s third largest economy, a $100 billion default in 2001 made it a financial pariah, closing it out of international capital markets.
Macri has moved swiftly to try to clear the remaining $9 billion in claims by offering a $6.5 billion settlement. Within days of taking office, he whacked 21,000 public sector workers from the bloated public payroll, devalued the peso and zeroed out long-running fuel subsidies, Macri has made it clear that he is against a government role in promoting industry,. He has proposed tax cuts for upper-income groups. That suggests that budget cuts are in the offing, since Macri has pledged to reduce the government deficit.
But Macri’s rapid policy moves have already created largescale opposition. Within a few weeks of his taking office, he was already hit by public sector workers as a protest against rocketing inflation — at a stubborn 30%.– and his job cuts. Polls indicate Macri still has the approval of much of the electorate that put him in office, with polls saying support runs relatively high at 60%. Still it has fallen 11 percentage points in the two months since he took office. And some 12% of those polled who voted for him said they would change their vote now.
Macri has made his new orientation for Argentine foreign policy clear. He has denounced the taking of political prisoners by the increasingly leftist dictatorial government in Venezulea and called for it to be tossed out of Mercosur, the South American politico-economic alliance. His pro-U.S. sentiments have been made equally clear,
Instead of continuing his flirtation with the Cuban Communist dictatorship, Obama and the U.S. would be better served with some kind of dramatic gesture of support for Macri, perhaps new and more liberal insurance to back promotion of U.S. investment.
It is hard to exaggerate the strategic disaster that has befallen American relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
At a time of increasing acts of terror – unfortunately now “lone wolf” murders that have no central command – the Obama Administration in a series of encounters has emboldened one wing of Islamic terrorism. It may be ironic but hardly laudatory that the U.S. and its allies are now more dependent for their ultimate defense on the conflict between the two wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and their terrorist offspring.
The Obama Administration early on lost its strategic bearings in dealing with a fanatical regime in Tehran aiming to become the hegemonic power in the Mideast. That defeat is at every level – strategic and military, economically, and in propaganda. It is true, of course, that much of the difficulties of dealing with the mullahs predates Obama’s seven years in the White House. One might even, at the risk of offending those who quite rightly worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan, recall his failure to cope with Tehran. It was, after all, Reagan who did not retaliate after calling the suicide bombings which killed 299 American and French Marines in October 1983 in Beirut a “despicable act”. There was circumstantial evidence of Iranian complicity. Contradictorily, Reagan withdrew from the Lebanese peacekeeping force.
When a grass roots movement against the mullahs took to the streets following the stolen president elections of 2009 calling for American assistance, the Obama Administration turned its back on them. For all the talk about moderates and radicals in the Tehran regime, there is little hope that its leaders would modify their regional aggression and worldwide terrorist activity so long as it is successful in increasing Iranian influence. That is very much the case now with full-fledged allies on the Mediterranean: Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reeling but still functioning al Assad regime in Syria, and even the Sunni Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Instead, Obama has sought to make some sort of pact with the mullahs, apparently believing American concessions would satisfy their hunger for international aggrandizement. It is only likely to feed it. The lengthy negotiations to limit Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction have turned into a farce. When Tehran objected to inspection of their military installations as part of the enforcement arrangements, the issue was simply dropped by Washington. At the very moment the success of the agreement was being heralded in Washington, Iran launched tests of new intercontinental ballistics missiles in defiance of UN Resolutions which could one day strike the U.S..
It may be a long time before we know why a group of American sailors were captured and then publicly humiliated by Tehran to prove U.S. impotence in the region. We may not know soon whether it was indeed a navigation accident and engine problems which called for a quick and nonconfrontational return, or perhaps even more threatening, Iranian technical capacity to interfere with the ship’s GPS. But the spectacle will highlight the reputation of the U.S. in the region for a very long time, and undermine any American strategy. Again, as in the swaps with the Taliban, Washington has given back a disproportionate number of proven terrorists – including some involved in bombings against Jewish installations in Argentina, and at the very moment a new administration in Buenos Aires has again promised to take up investigations of the incidents. It seems not only possible but likely, that like the released Guantánamo prisoners, most soon will be back at their trade.
The removal of sanctions and return of blocked funds probably exceeding $150 billion will be significant in helping the mullahs through their current economic crisis brought on by heavy military expenditures – including maintaining Iran Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria. Renewed oil and gas sales in the price-gutted world market will help only marginally. But there is little hope for regime change without substantial assistance from abroad. That, obviously, will not come from this American administration, leading from behind to enhance rather than diminish the major threat to peace and stability posed by the Tehran fanatics.
For those of us who had our doubts about the Obama “opening” to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s son, a photographer, has confirmed the worst in an interview with a Chilean radio station. Alex Castro, the regime’s official photographer, went to Chile to present his photographic books at an international book fair.
Alex, however, accuses his uncle, Raúl, and his buddies, who took over from his father in mid-2006, of bureaucracy, moving too slowly toward change, and extensive corruption. Furthermore, Castro hints that he wants to defect and that he would go to Miami to show his pictures there if an American visa is forthcoming.
Alex follows several other second generation Castro offspring x-wives and lovers who have flown the coop. Alex is the second son of Fidel Castro y Dalia Soto del Valle. He has published a number of photograph books about his father. But he refused to answer a question about the details of the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl, other than to say that it arose from changes the latter have made and had come come about for “various reasons.” Raúl was longtime head of the military under Fidel and there is a growing suspicion the Havana dictatorship is turning into the traditional Latin American military regime.
One of the many ironies in the interview is that Alex says Raúl has failed to follow the example of Communist Vietnam. That is “difficult [because] there are no other [political] parties, “ he said. “It’s likely to be that we don’t follow the Vietnamese path in five years but take 40 to 40 years the way we are doing things.”
“The way we change things in our socialist system”, although he added that he recognizes that “many things have changed”, is being done “without submitting the population to shock treatment.”
Castro was equally pessimistic about the future of foreign investment in 84-year-old Raúl’s Cuba. He said he would like to have seen great progress in the negotiations for such investments with the prospect for important gains for the Cuban people with ”large companies.” But he pointed out that the majority of these negotiations are going with the Cuban state not with any equal partners in the virtually nonexistent private sector.
In his opinion, Castro said, these negotiations won’t produce much. These are big companies “in trade or industry or large chains of hotels” that cannot negotiate except with similar enterprises and those do not exist in Cuba. “They don’t exist now in Cuba and they aren’t going to come about. Some people can get rich but they aren’t going to be millionaires”, he said.
Castro referred to elements in the current regime which are “hard-line and blind”. He said that power is wielded only by a small group, all of whom are “conservatives” who oppose any fundamental changes.
He said relations with the Vatican are better “at this moment”. But he said while relations :”have been lit”, “we nevertheless understand that instead of a war, the Church and the government want to improve relations, the same as with the Americans” and for the moment don’t go further than that.
Laughing, in an aside on his three divorces, he said that each one of his ex-wives “gave him a haircut”. That came through a division of assets, the feeling of responsibility, and they left him with little, he said between guffaws.
Without doubt, Castro’s comments about the slow movement toward change indicate “[there are] forces even more conservative than Raúl, in a highly personalized regime such as Cuba’s,” according to Sebastián Arcos, deputy director of the Institute of Cuban Studies at The International University of Florida in Miami.
American businessmen coming up against these barriers – like their Canadian and European colleagues during the last several decades – are going to find it slow going in Cuba. The promise of new markets and trade, one of the things for which the Obama Administration excused its dealings with a regime still jailing political opponents, isn’t likely to come about. Except – of course – if the American taxpayer picks up the tab with new credits which a bankrupt Cuban economy certainly cannot justify. Obama’s recent request for lifting the Cuban embargo, now only a shadow of its former self, may be the first step in that direction.
It apparently isn’t enough that the Obama Administration is going out of its way to try to reset relations with some of our longstanding enemies, but the State Department is muddying the picture.
It is what the French call deformation professionelle, the tendency to judge problems solely on the basis of your professional skills. If you are a lawyer, you want to litigate them away, a physician, you want to prescribe medicines to wipe them out, a surgeon to cut them away, and if a diplomat, to bargain them away – whatever the sacrifice and cost to reach a “successful negotiation”.
It’s not enough that Washington has made a deal with a bankrupt Cuban regime, actually throwing them a line of support when their last Sugar Daddy, Chavez of Venezuela and his heirs, can no longer afford to give them oil. At the very moment, the agreements were being initiated, Raul Castro, ageing dictator once-removed, was throwing new political prisoners in jail.
There’s a good deal of ballyhoo about how Cuba has now opened up to foreign [that is U.S. if the embargo is lifted] investment, and will turn into another China. What’s forgotten is that our allies, including the Canadians, have had open sesame to the Cuban economy and its supposed markets for decades but unable to do much because of the restraints of the Castros’ incredibly incompetent Soviet economic policies. Now, of course, in sheer desperation, some small business ownership is being permitted. And soon there will be a few more luxury hotels and boutiques only available to foreigners and Cubans with dollars remitted from their kith and kin in the U.S.
If all that weren’t enough, now the cookie-pushers at State have decided to mask the continuing human rights cruelties of the regime with whom they have chosen to sup. In this year’s annual report by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – or J/TIP [read slavery in non-diplomatese], Cuba was removed from the “Tier 3” blacklist. There was the claim, even though the Department’s own trafficking experts laid out evidence to the contrary, that it had made notable improvements in its sorry record of kidnappings and imprisonment without cause.
The State Department’s own Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau completely refuted these claims that Havana is making any progress toward decency. Nor is there any attempt to show the incredible lengths to which the regime goes to indenture its citizens. The Castros’ highly touted extension of medical services – again of questionable quality – to other Latin and African nations is not as presented a voluntary activity by its medical community but a carefully disguised penal servitude for its medical students and graduates in which the Cuban regime rakes in most of their earnings. Meanwhile, an epidemic of dengue fever has broken out in the city of Trinidad on the south coast of the Island, a UNESCO Heritage site and tourist mecca, apparently as a result of a virtual breakdown in sewage facilities.
The careful exposure of the very complexity of the Cuban tyranny, developed over a half century, which has impoverished the nation and driven much of its elite abroad, is all the more necessary if the President’s grandiose initiative to improve relations is to have meaning. Instead, it is impossible to find a single concession that the Castros have made in return for the offer of respectability that the Obama Administration has given them with the diplomatic interchange.
Unfortunately it is one more instance of the inability – or is it unwillingness – of the Obama Administration to defend American interests and those of subjugated peoples such as the Cubans – in its foreign relations. No one asks for the Johnny-one-note of on human rights of Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, but there is some limit to what the U.S. should tolerate when it extends the prize of diplomatic relations to a foreign regime.
A new Administration in 2016, whatever its party and personal affiliations, will have a huge diplomatic mess to clean up.
Just when we thought the so-called debate about immigration couldn’t get more screwed up, we get another round.
Donald Trump provided the gotcha media with a confused statement on illegals, and then trying to take it back in the fashion of Jeb Bush with his Iraq War fandango.
Then a prince of the Church wades in accusing Trump of being a neo-Klu Klux Klaner. [Would it be uncharitable of us to suspect this, too, has something to do with the growing competition in Latin America between their traditional Church and the evangelicals?] In any case, the good father has overshot his critique since we don’t have any evidence that Trump, whatever else his sins, is a racist.
Then we get the more disheartening news involving the death of innocents at the hands of illegal Mexican immigrants with criminal records. Nothing could be more heart-rending than the most recent story of a couple and their daughter who stopped to help a roadside motorist only to be murdered. But then he was an illegal who had been here so long, ICE officials had given him a green card!
And so it goes …
It is unlikely that debate among the Republican aspirants coming up shortly will do much to clarify issues.
So may we add our few cents, restating the more than obvious basis on which any sensible eventual solution of the knotty immigration conundrum is to be found?
We don’t know how many illegal aliens are in the U.S. And we suspect that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] doesn’t either. Have you noticed that suddenly the mainstream media has abandoned the 12 million figure for an 11 million estimate – a million here, and a million there, as someone has said, and you have a lot of illegals. Has anyone among our learned professional colleagues asked ICE where they get that figure?
More than a few years ago when the predecessor to ICE estimated the illegals at 5 million, we asked for an accounting procedure. We were told that it was based on examining the number of applications for visas from a particular country and then on-the-spot census takers. Our response was that we doubted if one of their young ladies with her clipboard wading into what was then called Spanish Harlem would know the difference between Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean Hispanics masquerading as Puerto Ricans who, of course, had U.S. citizenship
The reason we ask where the estimate comes from is that somewhere, again, pulled out of an old Christmas Eve sock, someone has said that 40% of the illegals are actually legal immigrants who have simply overstayed their visas. Were that the case, then we are probably talking about a much larger portion of illegals being non-Latino– with their economy in collapse again, for example, we suspect there may be more Irish overstaying as was the case in the past.
The beginning and end of this whole discussion has to be the simple proposition of closing the southern border and tightening up at immigration airports.
We don’t underestimate that problem. And that is why we say it is principle concern and should take all the energies of all those – calling all Congressmen – who sincerely want to deal with the problem. As Gov. Rick Perry has shown with the Texas National Guard, we know what is required to seal the border..
Once the borders are sealed against additional immigration – a big if for we know there are special interests, not the least the agro-industrial lobby, that wants a unskilled, cheap and dependent labor – we can proceed. Contrary to the fiction perpetrated on both sides of the aisle, our own Latino populations – who are the first victims of the illegal presence here – are not wedded to continued wideopen borders and their Texas votes have proved they are not for sale only on that issue.
But the beginning of any solution of the presence of whatever number of illegals is in the country, and other issues connected with it, lies first in closing the border.
Can we stick to that one goal for the moment please, and end this circus?
“Open covenants, openly arrived at” That whishing sound is Woodrow Wilson, for the nth time turning in his grave, as Pres. Obama defies the World War I president’s cardinal point in the search of “a permanent peace”. The leaks picked up by visiting Congressmen to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna inform us that there are secret “protocols” to the announced agreement Obama has slipped through with the mullahs in Tehran. Like so much that has already been rationalized about the “deal”, some of our pseudo-sophisticate talking heads claim that is always the way with such undertakings. But they add – although we are still not sure what they are exactly – these new secret dimensions add to a vague and failed effort to block Tehran from developing intercontinental weapons of mass destruction. That, we remind our readers, was the original intent announced so many times by members of the Obama Administration. Instead, at best and we are giving everyone concerned the benefit of the doubt, we have an agreement that would permit Iran to have all the makings of a nuclear weapon and its delivery system to these very shores. But out of the goodness of their heart and a system of international inspection, they would not choose to actually make a weapon – at least for a decade or so. It is hard to exaggerate the failings of this so-called agreement: • There is a long history of the Tehran mullahs hiding developments from the international community. Especially when the UN IAEA has had lackluster chairmen, it has been ignorant of Tehran’s violations of its signature to non-proliferation agreements. In fact, our first knowledge of their uranium activities came to us from the Persian exile community, some 17 years after they had begun, not from the UN body. • Despite their denials, by their own quotations, spokesmen for the Administration have contradicted their earlier claims that any agreement would leave the mullahs open to immediate inspection at any time. Under what purports to be the agreement – is this too covered by other secret protocols? – we would now get inspection rights after we asked them and gave them up to 24 days to destroy any evidence. • What really upsets us, however, is all this talk of what happens a decade or more from now. Would anyone really try to make any prediction about the Middle East a few months from now, much less a few years, on the basis of what has gone passed us in the last few months, not to say years? • Certainly by releasing the mullahs from the economic sanctions Washington so laboriously put together and the flood of trade, capital and technology which will now flow to them, Iran’s situation vis-à-vis the U.S. and its regional neighbors will be completely changed in a matter of months. To talk about “snap-back” sanctions which would be put into place if and when they were found to violating the terms of the “deal”, is equally ludicrous. • Obama’s reliance on the UN is therefore in every sense nonsensical. Going there for an endorsement of the “deal” before the Congress has had a chance to examine it – with or without the newly discovered secret protocols – was an affront to the American people’s representatives. The UN imprimatur on the “deal” in no way strengthens it. Would the UN Security Council – given the Russian and Chinese veto over its long history of inadequacies in international emergencies – really act in the face of flagrant violations of the covenant the Five + 1 have now made with the mullahs under American leadership? Remembering Wilson’s admonitions, which like so much the idealistic if largely unsuccessful President did not achieve at the end of The Great War, we may again be facing a terrible dilemma: Obama has made the prestige of the international organization now as part of the “deal” he has wangled with the mullahs. In addition to the domestic political calculations — particularly Democratic — Senators and Congressmen must make, they must also now decide if the American legislative branch is to take on a confrontation with the UN. That smacks all too much of Wilson’s failure to persuade the U.S. even to accept membership much less the leadership of his proposal for international government, the League of Nations. And that, alas! contributed mightily to the long series of misadventures of the 1930s when American chose “isolationalism” and then “neutrality” and then, finally, plunged into World War II. Just as Obama has led the U.S. and the rest of the world into this Iranian disaster, it now behooves the greatest statesmanship on the part of the Congress to retrieve any part of the situation for peace and stability. sws-07-23-15
“Open covenants, openly arrived at”
That whishing sound is Woodrow Wilson, for the nth time turning in his grave, as Pres. Obama defies the World War I president’s cardinal point in the search of “a permanent peace”.
The leaks picked up by visiting Congressmen to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna inform us that there are secret “protocols” to the announced agreement Obama has slipped through with the mullahs in Tehran. Like so much that has already been rationalized about the “deal”, some of our pseudo-sophisticate talking heads claim that is always the way with such undertakings.
But they add – although we are still not sure what they are exactly – these new secret dimensions add to a vague and failed effort to block Tehran from developing intercontinental weapons of mass destruction. That, we remind our readers, was the original intent announced so many times by members of the Obama Administration.
Instead, at best and we are giving everyone concerned the benefit of the doubt, we have an agreement that would permit Iran to have all the makings of a nuclear weapon and its delivery system to these very shores. But out of the goodness of their heart and a system of international inspection, they would not choose to actually make a weapon – at least for a decade or so.
It is hard to exaggerate the failings of this so-called agreement:
• There is a long history of the Tehran mullahs hiding developments from the international community. Especially when the UN IAEA has had lackluster chairmen, it has been ignorant of Tehran’s violations of its signature to non-proliferation agreements. In fact, our first knowledge of their uranium activities came to us from the Persian exile community, some 17 years after they had begun, not from the UN body.
• Despite their denials, by their own quotations, spokesmen for the Administration have contradicted their earlier claims that any agreement would leave the mullahs open to immediate inspection at any time. Under what purports to be the agreement – is this too covered by other secret protocols? – we would now get inspection rights after we asked them and gave them up to 24 days to destroy any evidence.
• What really upsets us, however, is all this talk of what happens a decade or more from now. Would anyone really try to make any prediction about the Middle East a few months from now, much less a few years, on the basis of what has gone passed us in the last few months, not to say years?
• Certainly by releasing the mullahs from the economic sanctions Washington so laboriously put together and the flood of trade, capital and technology which will now flow to them, Iran’s situation vis-à-vis the U.S. and its regional neighbors will be completely changed in a matter of months. To talk about “snap-back” sanctions which would be put into place if and when they were found to violating the terms of the “deal”, is equally ludicrous.
• Obama’s reliance on the UN is therefore in every sense nonsensical. Going there for an endorsement of the “deal” before the Congress has had a chance to examine it – with or without the newly discovered secret protocols – was an affront to the American people’s representatives. The UN imprimatur on the “deal” in no way strengthens it. Would the UN Security Council – given the Russian and Chinese veto over its long history of inadequacies in international emergencies – really act in the face of flagrant violations of the covenant the Five + 1 have now made with the mullahs under American leadership?
Remembering Wilson’s admonitions, which like so much the idealistic if largely unsuccessful President did not achieve at the end of The Great War, we may again be facing a terrible dilemma: Obama has made the prestige of the international organization now as part of the “deal” he has wangled with the mullahs. In addition to the domestic political calculations — particularly Democratic — Senators and Congressmen must make, they must also now decide if the American legislative branch is to take on a confrontation with the UN.
That smacks all too much of Wilson’s failure to persuade the U.S. even to accept membership much less the leadership of his proposal for international government, the League of Nations. And that, alas! contributed mightily to the long series of misadventures of the 1930s when American chose “isolationalism” and then “neutrality” and then, finally, plunged into World War II.
Just as Obama has led the U.S. and the rest of the world into this Iranian disaster, it now behooves the greatest statesmanship on the part of the Congress to retrieve any part of the situation for peace and stability.
After 50 years, later this month an American flag will again fly over the old U.S. Embassy in Havana and the Cubans will open their diplomatic representation in Washington.
Pres. Obama has justified the move because it was time to change a policy that has not worked. That, not to put a fine point on it, is not true. Over five decades Washington was able – sometimes with direct intervention as with the Contras in Nicaragua – to prevent the spread of the Castros’ Communism in Latin America. And it wasn’t for lack of trying by Fidel Castro with Soviet inspiration and help. The list of by Cuban Communist attempts to subvert other governments in the Hemisphere, sometimes with actual military infiltration, is too long to list here.
That, of course, poses the next question coming up quickly.
There are already demands that Washington lift the Cuban “embargo”, a misnomer for the refusal of the Castro government in the 1960s to compensate American investors for the seizure of their properties. Of course, Cuban propagandists – with their chorus of supporters on the American left and among some U.S. business interests. – argue that it was the American blocking of economic relations with Havana which brought on the Cuban disaster. And, they argue, there are all sorts of mutual economic opportunities for American business as well if the U.S. takes the next big leap forward and authorizes investment and trade – including economic aid.
The answer to that pitch, of course, is that the Obama Administration got nothing in return for resuming diplomatic relations. In fact, what has happened is that a dying regime is being given a helping hand in its final moment of crisis. Cuba, after all, has relations with 190 other countries. The Europeans and Canada have tried to invest and trade and have had near zero success. [One suspects, aside from those in Ottawa always ready to tweak Uncle Sam’s beard, it was Canada’s historic investment in one of Cuba’s few mutually held resources, nickel, that has kept that relationship alive.]
It’s hard to exaggerate how diffcult Cuba’s situation is as it comes back into the real world. A large portion of its traditional elite long since fled, and while interested and perhaps willing to cooperate, will not go back. Its former special quotas for sugar in the U.S. are an historic anomaly. Not only will its sugar industry have to be rebuilt almost from scratch, but Cuban cane sugar faces a completely changed world now competing with subsidized beet sugar, corn syrup and all the other sweeteners developed while Havana slept as well as favored sugar industries around the world..
No one would argue that we shouldn’t do what we can to help impoverished Cubans sitting on our doorstep. Leaving humanitarian generosity aside, it is in the interest of U.S. security to contribute to a more prosperous and stable Cuba. When the Castro regime finally collapses – as seems inevitable – a freed but impoverished more than 11 million will be swimming toward Miami.
There is a lot of hot air being spread about the economic prospects for American business in Raul Castro’s Cuba, some of it coming from the President himself. Not a little of it comes from American businesses which profit from export subsidies. But lifting the sanctions before Raul Castro makes the concessions necessary for economic and political progress on the Island would be, among other things, a waste of the taxpayers’ money.
Puerto Rico is in bad trouble.
Governor Alejandro García Padilla says that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, that he is not prepared to kick the can down the road with additional higher cost borrowing from the always ready hedge funds.
He is backed up by a recent World Bank-IMF study.
But that means the Governor and the municipal bond market – that already has been suffering from bankruptcies in Detroit and Stockton, California – are caught between a rock and a hard place.
What happened? Last time anyone in Washington and on the Mainland looked, Puerto Rica was zipping along solving its problems by enticing manufacturing and other Mainland industries with tax holidays, including those voted on federal taxes by the Congress. Manufacturing nearly doubled between 1970 and 1980, as firms, especially pharmaceutical companies, opened plants across the island.
It made remarkable progress, too, in other ways. It moved into all the forms and realities of a republican government, not that different from the 50 states – except that Puerto Ricans are second-class American citizens, obligated to pay federal taxes, eligible for the draft but denied full protections of the Bill of Rights and the right to vote for president.
It was always assumed that territories acquired from Spain as spoils of the Spanish-American War at the turn of the last century would either be given freedom [immediately Cuba, post-World War II for the Philippines, etc.] or integrated into the union. Puerto Rica, Guam and American Samoa are still waiting.
One reason was that the Puerto Ricans had stuck close to the Democratic Party ever since Franklin Roosevelt sent his leftwing dingbat protégé Rex Tugwell as the then appointed governor in 1941. Remember that Hawaii and Alaska only came in, finally, when there was a compromise on admitting a traditionally Republican Alaska and a traditionally Democratic Hawaii. No such deal has turned up for Puerto Rico, and meanwhile, all kinds of fixes have been invented by the lobbyists in Washington.
Now two things have happened: globalization has made a lot of other places around the world more attractive as cheap labor manufacturing sites even with all the subsidies. And a two party system has, more or less, emerged in Puerto Rico.
It’s time the Congress grabbed the issue. Wipe out Puerto Rico’s current special “Commonwealth” relationship and either go for independence – which only a very vocal Puerto Rican minority wants – or statehood. Yes, Spanish is still the family language of most Puerto Ricans – but that is true of an increasingly large minority in the U.S. and most of the islanders do speak English.
Give a state of Puerto Rico the opportunity fully to exploit its resources as a part of the union – some of the best beaches in the world, a tourist paradise in many ways [despite high crime in some areas], and other opportunities which would come with statehood. Will it take a class action suit by Puerto Ricans going to this new legislating Supreme Court to decide what should have long ago been a clear-cut issue?
In that simplistic jargon characterizing Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s worldwide “transformation” of U.S. foreign policy, the chief argument for his Cuban shift has been “[T]hese 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.”
In the facts of history, in this as in so many other instances, Obama is wrong.
The fact is that U.S. policy toward Cuba, with its ups and downs, has been generally successful.
First, of course, the outcome of the Cuban Missiles Crisis of October 1962 prevented the Soviet Union from obtaining an advanced offensive weapons base just off the U.S. southern coast. The confrontation was a turning point in the Cold War. Moscow’s victorious march through control of Central and Eastern Europe and its threat to Western Europe began to be reversed when JFK backed off Nikita Khrushchev’s gamble.
Secondly, the Soviet Union’s Cold War effort, using the Castros’ regime, to infiltrate and create other Communist states in Latin America was beaten back – in Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Colombia. Indeed almost every Latin American government at one time or another was a target, if unsuccessfully.
That is not to say, of course, that American policy toward Habana was a string of unbroken successes, or that, in fact, it was always clear-headed.
It was, after all, American support for the Castros which brought down the Batista dictatorship in 1959 and installed the Communists. With the help of the American media, Washington was lulled into the trap that Fidel Castro was a reformer and not a Soviet model for his new regime.
Indeed, the settlement with Khrushchev of the Missiles Crisis resulted in a U.S. commitment to end its active efforts to bring regime change in Habana, whether through aid to such abortive military adventures as the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Cuban émigrés invasion or plots directed against eliminating the Castros themselves. But the continued presence of the Castro regime posed a constant threat to American interests – as far away as Africa, where the Soviets employed Cuban forces in Angola to install a Marxist regime [still in power]. That was despite Ronald Reagan’s elimination in 1983 of the Caribbean stepping stone of a Cuban-supported regime on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
First Soviet and later Chinese intelligence and subversion operations as well as listening posts in Cuba, before the digital revolution and new long-range communications, provided a continuing important base of operations by Washington potential enemies.
But by 1970, a combination of U.S. pressure [and, ironically, opposition from the more orthodox Communists not only in Moscow but among the other Latin American parties] forced Castro to withdraw his more active support for the overthrow of other regimes.
Left behind was an impoverished island – Cuba had among the highest standards of living in Latin America when Castro came to power – and a corrupt and oppressive regime, a potential source of instability and intrigue. More recently Habana’s transfer of its allegiance from Moscow to Caracas is the result of the emergence of an anti-American regime in Venezuela. But the growing economic difficulties of the Caracas regime, despite the largest proven oil reserves in the world, have put a kibosh on its aid to the Castros, the lifeblood of the regime.
In effect, the Obama Administration has now thrown a lifeline to the increasingly endangered Habana dictatorship. Not only is Obama at least temporarily saving a collapsing tyranny, he has done so without demanding that in return Raul Castro make concessions to the U.S. and the Cuban people. Instead, it has reinforced its nefarious activities: for example, new political persecutions were initiated at the very moment Obama was making his overtures to the Castros. Cuba still remains a sanctuary for fugitive American criminals. Only this month Castros’ thugs brutally attacked peacefully demonstrating anti-Castro activists at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Obama’s announcement he is considering removing Cuba from the list of sponsors of state terrorism will strengthen Habana’s relations with leftwing totalitarians throughout the Hemisphere.
However limited the real possibilities for economic development given the present state of the Cuban economy and the regime’s continuing restrictions on private initiative, just the hope of investment and trade – including tourism – from the U.S. is seen as rescuing the regime.
That, indeed, will be the end of what has been, whatever its inadequacies, American policy for half a century, a successful strategy to isolate a threatening totalitarian regime in the Hemisphere. And it comes at the very moment when there was every prospect that the regime might implode, a victim of its own contradictions, leading to a new democratic Cuba.
Whether the fourth quarter 5% growth of the U.S.gross development product [GDP] is a fluke, another wave of the troubled sea of the longest recovery in recent American history, it is evidence of the miraculous strength of the U.S. economy.
Some are predicting it means a return to 3% annual growth rates next year, still not what is required to reduce both cyclical and the new digital revolution induced structural unemployment, but back to “normal” trends..
The war the Obama Administration has been waging against business, private initiative, and historical American innovation hasn’t been able to stifle the basic American entrepreneurial spirit. Nowhere is that more apparent, of course, than in energy.
For the energy revolution which has come about as a result of the private sector pursuing new technologies to develop shale gas and oil, of course, are at the center of the miniboom. And, the chutzpah of the Obama Administration’s claiming credit for something it fought as vigorously as its amateur planners could – promoting higher energy costs to encourage their vaunted shift to new fuels — is even by the standards of this Administration, outrageous. It remains to be seen whether a new administration in 2017 might open government including offshore lands and reinforce the U.S.’ position already as the number one oil producer in the world and a potential major gas exporter.
Whether it is recreational drivers enjoying the new, lower gasoline prices, or the petrochemical industry moving back from overseas to use as throughput cost a price for gas a quarter of deliveries in East Asia, the domestic economy is getting a shot in the arm. Not even the threat of an unconstitutional Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency all-out attack on all American electrical production and manufacturing can stymie the trend.
The international impact of this remarkable and relatively sudden development is still playing out.
The world energy price, however much markets are segregated by political concerns, is still in the throes of being threshed out. But lower energy prices, even in the fickle oil market, are obviously with us for several years. That’s the result of the American shale revolution, but also – despite all the feuds and guerrilla in the Mideast – the coming on market of more and more production. Boycotts and sanctions have only increased the black-markets nipping and tucking through all the back alleys of the world economy to market more oil.
It’s hard to know where to begin with what we already see as the immediate results of the world energy goldmine:
Saudi Arabia, hoping to impede the American and foreign shale revolution with its higher costs, is pumping more oil than ever from its low-cost resources. It hopes not only to have an effect on a possible competitor as the U.S. moves to becoming, again, a gas [liquefied natural gas, LNG] and oil exporter, but to deal a blow to its Mideast rivals.
Venezuela’s two-bit caudillos are in trouble with their heavy oil. [They will have new competition as the Keystone XL Pipeline finally overcomes Obama’s opposition to deliver similar Canadian tar sands oil to the Houston where one of the few refineries which can handle Caracas’ goo exists]. Nor can the collapsing Venezuelan regime continue to feed subsidized energy to its leftwing anti-America playmates. It remains to be seen if Obama’s life preserver thrown to a Castro regime, the first victim of such a shutoff, can save that crumbling dictatorship which has brought infinite misery to its people.
Lower world oil prices may be able to restrain an aggressive Tehran. They may do what American sanctions and a less than dedicated Obama negotiation to block the mullahs’ drive for nuclear weapons has not done. Lower oil prices for its relatively high cost production is tearing the guts out of an economy already in trouble on a variety of scores.
The Chinese are also on a downward spiral as their two big economic props – massive infrastructure development and exports – are being undermined, the first by a crippling debt crisis and the second by a dawdling world economy and growing competition from other low wage producers. But new cheaper worldwide energy will help as they are unable to turn to their own shale resources [mismanagement and lack of technology] as they become larger importers.
Japan and South Korea’s stagnating economies, too, will profit from their lower energy import costs, especially Abemomics in Japan which has had to suffer cutbacks in its heavy reliability on nuclear power as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami catastrophe.
There are going to be groans and yelps from the great international oil conglomerates, too, who have Veneuzle=been riding high in the stock markets on high prices and profits. That may discombobulate some of the financial crowd and some of their kept media, but cheaper worldwide energy is bound to move the world economy forward – and in the process cripple some of the worst corrupt regimes. Not a bad way to enter the New Year, all things considered.
The amateur ideologues of the Obama Administration have fallen into another snakepit with their tacit endorsement of the notorious Cuban dictatorship. That’s despite all the nonsense about a blossoming Cuban economy if Washington just relents.
In reality, Washington is buckling in its opposition to one of the world’s most hideous regimes. Now its death throes will be perpetuated for Cuba’s 12 million people with the help of such deep thinkers as Sen. Rand Paul who dreams despite all the evidence in China and Vietnam to the contrary that contagious capitalism will bring down a police state.
Even more shameful is the helping hand – which Pres. Barack Hussein Obama acknowledged – of Canada and the Vatican in this new Obama enterprise. For half a century Canadian nickel interests and the always anti-American wheat lobby have blackened Ottawa’s reputation with its support of the Castros. At the Vatican, whose help Obama also acknowledged, there are echoes of the Church’s tacit support of Franco and other cruel dictatorships, as well as Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s ambiguous relationship with Argentine totalitarians as Jesuit Father Provincial in his native country before mounting the papacy. [Nor is this gesture likely to help stave off the growing influence of Evangelical Christians on the old Roman Catholic monopoly of Christian believers throughout Latin America.]
Despite all the talk of the regime moderating , Raúl Castro holds more than 57,000 political prisoners. And his dungeons have sucked in more new victims in the past year than the five previous years. Conditions are as bad as in the worst days of the Soviet Union and the East Eruopean Communist Bloc, producing hunger strikes in a noble if feeble effort against solitary confinement, beatings, restricted family visits and denial of medical care. There is no redress except for American citizens like the naïve and very lucky Alan Philip Gross who had maximum U.S. support for his release on trumped up charges, but only after five years..
The fiction that Cuba has anything to sell or that investments there could pay off has been refuted by decades of failed efforts by the Europeans – especially Spain – to circumvent the now tattered American embargo. Little Cuba has no hope of repaying some $25 billion it already owes these ambitious “investors”. Prepare yourself for the coming suggestion that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank [with the U.S. carrying its quarter or more of support] to “amortize” these bills.
The destruction of a thriving if troubled Latin American society in the 1950s came with the help of the same cheering section of the current White House strategy [notably The New York Times]. When Cuba left the real world a half century ago, it ranked fifth in the Hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in ownership of cars and telephones with a 76% literary rate. [The fact that it was 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita gives the lie to the Castros’ claims of creating a new medical miracle.] Cuba’s prosperity then was largely paid for by a guaranteed sugar import quota in the U.S., its principal industry and income producer, and tourism for a glamorous if corrupt nearby tourist capital in Habana..
Now Cuba comes back into the world not only with its sugar industry in ruins, but in a world with a half dozen “new” sweetener competitors [including highly subsidized U.S. domestic beets], no possibility of a guaranteed American market, and a world drowning in subsidized sugar programs. [This week the U.S. has hauled Mexico up on a charge of dumping its subsidized sugar in American markets in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.]
After decades of Communist repression and mismanagement, Cuba has reached a desperate crisis. Its Venezuelan ally which had provided subsidized energy in exchange for Castro assistance in setting up its own police state can nolonger foot the bill for Cuban energy.
That was the situation when Obama and his speechwriters rushed to fill the gap.
Now greedy American exporters – supercharged with their own program of an annual $14 billion in corruption-ridden agricultural and export subsidies – will be bidding with their Canadian taxpaying counterparts for supplying the starving country. Any extension of aid – private or government – will end up in the hands of the regime in its effort to survive by continuing to exploit an impoverished population.
Not only did Raúl Castro not make even the nominal concessions he has made in the past toward a liberalization of the regime, but so-called “reforms” permitting small scale private enterprise are a sham.
To the extent Obama can carry out his tactics despite formidable opposition in the Congress, his strategy will only intensify the implosion when it comes in Cuba. Rather, the American government should be preparing for that day, not the least for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees who will flow toward Miami. Fifty years of dealing with the problems of another small Caribbean tropical island, Puerto Rica, a third Cuba’s size, have taught us just how difficult those problems will be.
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.
The horror of 298 innocents, oblivious to the warfare 33,000 feet below them, blown out of the sky by criminally negligent fanatics supported by Russian Vladimir Putin, forebodes greater catastrophes.
The incident is a part of a worldwide scene wherein Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s strategy of withdrawal from what he — and a large part of the apolitical war-weary American people – sees as overreaching worldwide projection of U.S. power.
But Obama’s clumsy retreat has led to a continuing welter of probes by opponents – and even allies — of Pax Americana. Whatever the merit of arguments about a declining U.S., its power and influence on the rest of the contemporary world remains enormous. Obama’s withdrawal creates an international and regional power vacuum, setting up the kind of ambiguities that throughout history has led to misperceptions, and, often, major wars.
The classic example, often cited if by simplistic interpretation of a very complex episode, is Dean Acheson’s speech to the National Press Club on January 12, 1950. In what was considered a seminal statement, the secretary of state did not include the KoreanPeninsula in a statement of the all-important United States “defense perimeter”. Its omission was widely interpreted as a signal that Washington would not defend South Korea, a product of the division of the Peninsular at the 38th parallel at the end of a 50-year-Japanese Occupation on Tokyo’s World War II surrender.
With concentration on the postwar Soviet takeover of Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. had absent-mindedly occupied the Peninsular with only a vague understanding of its potential threat to highly industrialized if decimated Japan. Into that vacuum, the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin, riding the full thrust of the developing Cold War, instigated his puppets, the well disciplined army led by Kim Il Sung, a former Soviet officer, to attack the South with the intention of reunifying the country as another Moscow satellite. The U.S. responded, if lamely in the beginning, but in force, and initially was victorious in threatening a complete reversal of the two superpowers’ goals.
But Mao Tse-tung, frightened by the prospect of a reunited Korea, an American ally on Communist China’s most important northeastern land frontier, hurled tens of thousands of former surrendered Nationalist troops as cannon fodder into the combat. Pres. Harry Truman, engaged on other European and Middle Eastern “fronts”, denied Gen. Douglas Macarthur his “all-out” strategy for a military victory even were it to bring on possible direct and perhaps nuclear conflict with Beijing, and the war ended in stalemate. “The Forgotten War” cost five million lives – including almost 40,000 U.S. soldiers — devastated the Peninsular, and left a festering international problem.
Today, looking around the world, there are too many places where just such complex unsolved geopolitical nodules present the same sort of potential.
In Europe, Obama cancelled anti-missile defense in Poland and Czechoslovakia.aimed at Tehran and Pyongyang’s potential for Intercontinental Ballistic warfare. The annulment as a concession to Moscow of an onerously arranged reinforcement of the Europeans’ spine only fed Putin’s growing fantasy of restoring the Tsarist/Soviet Empire. It also put into question effective American leadership of the always tenuous trans-Atlantic alliance.
Not even Russia’s partial dismemberment of pro-Western Georgia in 2008 brought an American response. Six years later, a “hot mike” revealed an obsequious American president trying to appease the all-but Russian dictator. Putin’s snatch of the disputed Crimea from Ukraine has been followed by a cat-and-mouse game to muscle Ukraine’s 50 millions back into the Russian orbit. Sec. of State John Kerry’s participation in trilateral talks aimed at deciding the future of the unstable Kyiv regime has inched toward just that sort of outcome. Other former Soviet appendages are next if Putin’s bluff – posturing because of his fragile economic and limited conventional forces despite his nuclear and ICBM armory – were accommodated again.
But were Moscow to move, for example, on the Baltic States with their accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, no American administration could remain aloof and conciliatory. That would be the case despite Obama’s habitual drawing of porous “red lines”. Such a thrust would have to be met, probably even moving the pampered and feckless Europeans.
In Asia, despite Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot” to Asia, Obama Administration policies have produced similar results. Bending to American business by refusing to name China as a currency manipulator – albeit a policy relic of the Bush Administration – Beijing’s grasp for regional and Pacific power led by a subsidized economic campaign has run amuck. Increasing bellicosity of Chinese military in public statements, matched in private conversations, is wished away with U.S. offers of military exchanges. Dangerous Chinese forays over their home islands air space forces incessant Japanese fighterplane scrambles. Exaggerated claims on East China Sea atolls – with their possible subterranean oil and gas reserves — and even more outrageous South China Sea map aggression establishes a Chinese pattern. All have been met with little more than U.S. diplomaticese and as yet largely unfulfilled promises of security collaboration with the frightened Southeast Asians
Washington’s cool relations with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinto Abe in his efforts to restore “normality” to Japan as the world’s third economy and a potentially powerful military player have deepened suspicions in Tokyo. In riposte, Abe’s effort to diffuse the issue of North Korean kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 70s and 80s with concessions to Pyongyang’s desperate need for economic aid is fracturing the effort to contain North Korea’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But Abe may not ignore the one foreign policy issue that has aroused domestic concern now that the American alliance has become acceptable even to Japan’s leftwing cliques and media. But at some point, Tokyo may question the reliability of its American shield and join its neighbors in a nuclear arms race.
A similar pattern has developed in the Mideast where the Obama Administration’s relations with Israel, its only dependable regional ally, are fraught with personal antagonism to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s acceptance at face value of Tehran’s threats of annihilation is endemic to Jewish history. That threat is enhanced by Tehran’s network of Shia allies in Damascus, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even Sunni Hamas on Israel’s southern border. It is leading to a major war of preemption by the Israelis.
In Iraq the Obama Administration’s abandonment of the always difficult negotiations for a status of forces agreement to protect a residual American military on the U.S. withdrawal has led to disaster. Tehran has more influence with a rump Baghdad regime than Washington. With the country literally falling apart, an additional threat of international Sunni fundamentalist terrorists’ redoubt and sanctuary out of Syria’s civil war has arisen in the strategic center of the Arab world.
Abandoning partial sanctions in all but name, the Obama Administration seems dedicated to a continued pause – at best – in Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a four-month extension of negotiations and handing Iran some $4.6 billion in frozen assets.. Furthermore, there is a growing suspicion that the Obama Administration would settle for “nuclear threshold”, that is, the ability of Tehran to produce nuclear weapons but a self-imposed restraint to be policed by a UN organization that for 17 years did not know the Persian were in the enriched nuclear business. Removing the threat – despite table-thumping declarations to the contrary – of U.S./Israeli military strikes to destroy its nuclear capacities, creates the kind of climate that could only encourage a fanatical theocratic regime to nibble further toward its goal of regional hegemony.
In its own always neglected Western Hemisphere, the Obama Administration’s flirtation with a Communist regime in Cuba now on the ropes mobilizes its followers for a lifting of the economic embargo. Whether Putin’s just concluded Habana visit really represents an attempt to renew the Soviet-Cuban Cold War alliance [given the Russian economy’s crippled state] remains to be seen.[It could mean at least “swaps” again of Russian for Mexican oil as the Cuban’s recent bankroller in Venezuela collapses.] Moscow has denied leaks from Russian security echelons it intends to restore the massive Lourdes monitoring of American domestic communications, perhaps not even at this stage technically necessary. Meanwhile, a North Korean merchant ship – much like one the Panamanians recently captured carrying arms – skulks around the Caribbean, and, theoretically, could even be carrying short-range missiles.
The assault on the southern border by an avalanche of Central American youths – no small number of whom are late teenagers with gang and drug cartel connections – is met only with humanitarian consideration. Never mind that even Administration surveys show the motivation was not as the kept media contends chaotic conditions in the region but the widespread belief that illegals would be welcomed. Overarching is the Mexican collaboration in facilitating the thousand mile journey over its territory. Turning away from the violence incurred by the fight against and between the drug cartels, Mexican Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto is invited by U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder to join in the federal government’s constitutional challenge of Arizona’s more stringent laws against illegal entrants as amicus juris, friend of the court, an historic precedent.
Any of these probes could, of course, become another dramatic incident further unsettling the world scene. But it is in their totality they suggest the amateurishness of the Obama Administration’s statecraft, its ideological weakness and its incompetence even judged from its own pronouncements and political self interest.
Already in a dangerous and volatile period, these continuing largely unmet tests of American resolve add to world insecurity and could be leading to new general war.