Category Archives: Libya

Obama and Christians


 

Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s attitude toward the persecuted minorities in the Middle East has become nothing short of bizarre.

He has taken a muted attitude toward the problem of the persecution and threatened annihilation of some of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. Curiously there also have been only subdued protests from the American Mainline churches, infatuated with their social and political programs. While the Vatican has sounded off against generally against persecution of Christians, it too has given them less than their due.

Last week Obama belatedly chose to visit a mosque to reassure American Moslems against any backlash from the activities of the Islamic terrorists. It came seven years into his two administrations rather than the only two weeks Pres. George W. Bush had taken after 9/11 for a similar gesture.But in his sermon to the congregation, Obama apologized for acts of revenge and discrimination against American Moslems. In fact, there have been only isolated instances.

On the contrary, there has been considerable evidence that mosques throughout the country have been used by jihadists as propaganda and recruitment centers.  Futhermore, American Moslems attempting to isolate the terrorists and make the distinction between the great mass of peace-loving co-religionists were shocked by Obama’s choice of venues. The Administration chose a mosque with strong past associations with the Moslem Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots.

This appears a manifestation of the sympathies of many of Obama’s closest advisers on Islamic affairs who view the Brotherhood as some sort of Islamic version of Western Christian Democrats. Their presence and influence in this Administration channels the infiltration of Communists in the U.S. and other allied governments during World War II. It has added to the confusion of the Obama Administration’s policies in the Middle East.

Although the President now proposes to bring in large numbers of Syrian refugees – without the capacity as Administration spokesmen have admitted to eliminate planted jihadists – it has turned a blind eye to Christian persecution. Only a few dozen Syrian Christians have received visas. The Administration’s explanation is that it cannot discriminate on religious grounds. But it is obvious that Christians in countries where the jihadists have control are a political class and not just a religious group. Meanwhile, some of the oldest Christian sects in the region of its origin are being obliterated through violence and forced flight.

Obama’s attitude and policies run the risk of repeating the shame of the 1930s when the Roosevelt Administration refused to accept German Jewish refugees and later other European Jews. Anti-Semites in the then Consular Service blocked their entry until 1944 – long after Hitler and the Nazis had adopted “the Final Solution” – when under the auspices of the President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, the War Refugee Board was created.

 Until then only small groups were admitted under strict quotas and through the intercession of fellow professionals organized in such groups as the International Rescue Committee. Many of these talented refugees contributed to the U.S. war effort. It was Albert Einstein, a German refugee, as a spokesman for fellow German and Austrian refugee scientists, who warned FDR that the Nazis were working on nuclear weapons, spurred Washington to initiate the supersecret Manhattan program to develop an atomic bomb.

Now a new wave of Christian persecution has begun under the Xi Jinping regime in China. This time Xi has moved against the leadership of the government-sponsored Christian Communist Party front groups, Christianity in China, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council. The central government in 2014 named religion as one of four “severe challenges” to national security. Beijing has demolished more than 1,800 crosses across Zhejiang province, home to officially sponsored Christian organizations. Pastor “Joseph” Gu Yuese, one of those Christians most associated with the government-sponsored churches, is under prosecution.

The new Communist crackdown may be the result of the extraordinary growth of Christianity in China. In 1980 there were an estimated 10 million Christians in the People’s Republic, but by 200760 million. These numbers suggest an annual growth rate of 7 percent yield which means that by last year, there were nearly 100 million Chinese Christians. The conversions have been most dramatic among the educated, explained by some observers as a part of an attempt to cope with the Westernization of Chinese society as it rapidly industrializes.

While Obama has reported he brought up the question of closing of Chinese churches in recent talks with Xi, the growing persecution is going to demand a more forceful American response, both from officialdom and the American churches.

sws-02-07-16

Goodbye to Leading from behind


The Obama Administration is facing the ultimate exposure of the failure of its lauded strategy of “leading from behind”.

The phrase came into use when Washington stood back in 2011 while its European allies toppled the Mohammed Qadaffi regime in Libya. Qadaffi had abandoned his earlier pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism — including the bombing with the Syrians of Pan Am 103 over Scotland in 1988. But he was collapsing under the siege from Islamist terrorists. By 2014, the country was being torn apart between an Islamist-led administration in Tripoli and an internationally recognized government based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Now Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] is threatening a Libyan takeover in the near chaos that has followed. Not only would the would-be caliphate acquire a critical North African staging area for migration to Europe, but it is already installed in Libya’s principal oil producing area. With the largest oil reserves and production in Africa – larger than both Nigeria and Algeria – growing control in Libya would enhance the self-proclaimed international revenues and leadership of the Islamic terrorists based in Syria and Iraq.

Local affiliates of the Islamic State last year grabbed the coastal city of Sirte, Mohammed Gadhafi’s hometown. And they have moved on to four other strong points, some closer to the critical oil fields. With warmer weather approaching, European governments – already overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of Mideast migrants – fear Libya could become an even greater trampoline for an enlarged invasion of refugees and economic migrants from Black Africa.

There is virtual chaos among the country’s six million people with two power centers vying for control. Turkey and Qatar, with their strong ties to the Moslem Brotherhood, are supporting the Islamists in Tripoli on its Western border with troubled Tunisia. Egypt, which feels threatened directly by Libyan events on its western border, and the United Arab Emirates are backing the more secular regime in Tobruk in the east.

Daesh is operating from four different points in the country which would demand a sizeable allied operation.Sec. of State John Kerry has been trying with the help of Washington’s allies to put together an interim government which could call for international assistance. The U.S. already has a Special Operations team operating in the country and the British and Americans are operating drones overhead. British sources have already proposed a plan for a 10,000-man joint expeditionary force. Another drawn up by the Italians calls for a 6,000 invasion source to reestablish order. Both anticipate American leadership as well as transport which the allies do not have.

The diplomats’ plan for a united Libyan government to call for foreign intervention to boot out the Islamic state is moving slowly. The United Nations has failed for more than a year to get the two rival administrations and their allied militias into a unity. And there is growing concern that Daesh may consolidate its hold. Britain, Italy and France are urging the U.S. to intervene immediately even before a government is formed. The White House is reportedly concerned Islamist terrorist control of Libya would be catastrophic.

Libya, always a contested approach to southern Europe – as it was during the World War II between Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Nazi army and the Britain’s Desert Rats– is critical to any kind of regional stabilization.

Handling the crisis this time around is going to take direct American intervention at the head of the line, however much nostalgia there is now at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for Obama’s formula of the U.S. as a backseat driver.

sws-01-09-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El-Sissi takes control


Pres. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is rapidly resuming Egypt’s role as leader of the Arab world, nosing out U.S. Mideast leadership under Pres. Barrack Obama’s “leading from behind”.
Initially snubbed by Obama after his military coup last year against the Morsi Islamicist government, el-Sissi has moved away from his military predecessor Hosni Mubarak’s all-out alliance with Washington. He has negotiated new arms purchases with Moscow, and taken advantage of France’s cancellation of four warships for the Russians to buy them and new fighter aircraft at discount. By Egyptian standards, his completion of the expansion of the Suez Canal traffic has been a major economic victory.
El-Assi is moving to choke off Hamas in Gaza, the offspring originally of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood. The Egyptian army has flooded the smuggling tunnels from the Sinai through which Iran armed Hamas and where bootlegged traffic has fed its coffers. In tacit cooperation with Israel, he has minimized traffic through Gaza’s Egyptian gateway. And he is doing what he can to break Hamas’ hold, announcing he wants Palestinian Authority’s rule returned to Gaza.
Last week at the UN, he called for an overall Arab settlement with Israel, acknowledging the new tacit alliance among the Mideast Sunni states against the Shia mullahs in Iran. In effect, although their public statements have been supportive, it’s no secret that all the American allies in the region are fearful Obama’s “deal” on nuclear weapons has given Tehran new power.
Nevertheless, El-Sissi threw a bouquet to Washington insisting relations were “improving” after what he admitted had been a two-year “real test of the endurance and strength”. He also tried to disarm his human rights critics with release of two Al-Jazeera journalists, whom his regime had accused of acting as agents of the Islamists – not altogether without merit given the history of the agency as mouthpiece for Osama Ben Ladin.
El-Sissi is pursuing a ruthless campaign against the Islamicists, with a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsular, now linked to Daesh [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL]. And for the first time in living memory, Egypt’s western frontier on chaotic Libya is also facing insurgency. The terrorists have been able to carry out bombings and attacks on police, even in Cairo. El-Sissi has responded with the killing of hundreds of terrorist suspects and a series of trials – questioned by Western human rights groups – condemning his predecessor Morsi and other Moslem Brotherhood leaders to death.
Nor does El-Sisi have an answer to the most critical Middle East question of the moment, what to do in Syria. He hints that he is siding with those – some of whom like German Chancellor Angela Merkel has just changed sides – willing to include Syrian Pres. Al-Assad in any provisional government He acknowledges that the West and the Arabs have a dilemma with the overwhelming dominance of the Syrian regime’s opponents by Muslim terrorists, including Daesh. The Obama Administration is still stuck, at least for the moment, with the argument that any solution in Syria must start with Al-Assad’s departure since it was his refusal to make concessions to then peaceful demonstrators which initiated the bloody four-year struggle.
Cairo and Washington still have their differences what with El-Sisi arguing an Israeli-Arab settlement would revolutionize the Middle East situation, urging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s formula of no prior conditions. But Kerry is urging the Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas, barely clinging to power after announcing his retirement, to wait for the fallout of the Iranian “deal. Nor do the sympathetic views of the Moslem Brotherhood among Obama’s closest advisers help further Egyptian-U.S. realignment.
sws-09-27-15

Obama “evolving” on Syria


It looks like another of Pres. Obama’s policies is “evolving”.
The announcement that Ankara has agreed to permit its NATO airbase at Incirlik to be used for bombing missions against Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] in Iraq not only makes them more efficient and cheaper. It became necessary with the gap sequestration has produced for American power projection. It seems definite now that there will be no aircraft carrier in the region from which to launch for several months this fall with their retreating to Norfolk for overlong deployment and refitting.
Meanwhile, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved away from his somewhat ambiguous position after a suicide bomber of Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] pulled off a deadly attack in chaotic southeastern Turkey. There is a suspicion that part of the new arrangement with the U.S. includes Erdogan’s longtime proposal for a neutralized zone in northern Syria, perhaps a “no-fly” zone used earlier in Iraq. That would bring American bombing into Syria as well as Iraq [which some of the U.S.’ allies, including the U.K., are already doing.]
Erdogan moved because his position was becoming increasingly difficult with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey. Its border towns have been used for entry into Syria by volunteers from the rest of the Muslim world and the West [including the U.S.] for one of the many groups in the Syrian civil war. The fact that at the same time Turkish forces have cracked down on Daesh’s supporters inside Turkey, Erdogan has moved against representatives of the Marxist–Leninist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a guerrilla group that waged a 30-year-long insurgency against Ankara on behalf of Turkey’s 20% minority Kurds. Ankara’s fear now is that the Kurds, who are the most effective force in Iraq fighting the Daesh with American support, and the Kurdish minority in Syria will make common cause for an independent Kurdish state.
If, as now seems the case in the Mideast’s shifting alliances, Daesh has made a deal with the Turkish Kurds – the suicide bomber was a Kurd – then Erdogan has a bigger problem. And he is trying to press Washington into supporting any new action he is being forced to take in the border areas and perhaps in Syria.
That, of course, may drag Washington into a more forceful campaign against Daesh – something Obama’s Republican critics in the Congress have been calling for. It’s clear that the relative weak bombing campaign has been only partially successful in stemming Daesh’s gains. It has been relatively ineffective without adequate American military resources on the ground in Iraq to direct the campaign, and the additional complication of basing it on aircraft carrier launches and bases further afield.
It now remains to be seen if the new arrangement with Ankara includes an additional effort on the ground by both the Turks and the Americans to trim Daesh’ sails, and speed up any effort to destroy it. The nominal allegiance of other Islamic terrorist groups from West Africa to Indonesia could take on real strategic significance given Daesh’s brilliant exploiting of the internet. And that may well dictate a U.S. effort to smash the movement quicker than the promise to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” which the President made 10 months ago. The lack of progress so far certainly suggests Confederate General Nathan B Forrest’s first admonition for war, “get there fustest with the mostest”.
sws-07-24-15

“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. 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.
sws-07-23-15

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


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

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

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

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

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

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

Two points need to be made quickly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sws-10-05-14

The “New” Middle East


As usual, there are more questions than answers about the current Middle East situation. And, for that matter, there is difficulty following the gyrations of Obama Administration policy.

But there is growing evidence a defiant Israel, stoic in the face of Hamas’ ability to exploit the misery of its own making for Gaza’s 1.8 million and growing pressure from the Obama Administration for an indecisive ceasefire. Jerusalem appears dedicated to the destruction of the most dynamic terrorist organization in the Mideast. Successful demilitarization of Gaza would not only remake the Israel-Palestine relationship but could be the world’s first conclusive victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. In a rapidly evolving situation, not only changing conditions but loyalties and alliances is breathtaking.

Here are some basic considerations:

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset with the typical domestic Israeli ideological in-fighting, from peace advocates on the left to proponents of reoccupation of Gaza on the right. But he rides a wellspring of domestic support, despite heavy casualties, for refusing a temporary compromise with Hamas such as those in 2008, 2009 and 20012 . Furthermore, what is seen now as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004-5 unilateral Gaza withdrawal and destruction of its four Israeli Settlements has further discredited “land for peace” – that is abandoning 1967 conquests of the locales of the historic Hebrew kingdoms for a “two state solution”. But the Israeli public is still absorbing the evidence of a major intelligence failure in underestimating Hamas’ capacities with its sophisticated tunneling operations. That surge of suicide bombing, mayhem and kidnapping was planned for September 2014 Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year]—to take advantage of a Jewish holiday, an echo of the Arab surprise of the 1973 Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] War. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Jerusalem with the tacit concurrence of Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Mohammed Abbas’ Fatah movement, will have the stomach for completing of Hamas decimation.

Iran

Destruction of Hamas would be a severe blow to Tehran’s mullahs, who have used it as a further diversion from demands by the U.S., Israel and other American allies to halt the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was not only that Hamas represents part of the strategic pincers in the south with Iranian supported Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north against any Israeli attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapon potential. But the ability of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to jump the deadly 1600-year-old sectarian divide to support Hamas as a product of the ultra-anti-Shia Sunni Moslem Brotherhood. The Tehran-Gaza alliance unites Islamic terror in a way not seen before. Even Iran’s traditional enemy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now reaching for ultimate power in the Turkish presidential elections this fall as he moves closer to the Brotherhood, had also become one of Hamas’ patrons. Will the Tehran mullahs watch this asset fall apart, or would they, for example, finally unleash Hezbollah and its missiles on Israel’s north in order to try to rescue the Hamas remnant?

Egypt

Contrary to the 2012 Gaza ‘truce” when Mohammed Morsi rode the wave of a Moslem Brotherhood electoral victory, Pres. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees Hamas as an enemy. The ruling Egyptian military is in a brutal campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood’s domestic political and paramilitary following. Furthermore, Hamas’ Iranian connection on Egypt’s doorstep imperils Cairo’s traditional political and cultural leadership of the Arab and Muslim world. Tacit military cooperation with the Israelis is restoring Egypt’s control over Sinai and presumably would close the smuggling routes for longer-range Iranian missiles and other weaponry reaching Hamas through the Red Sea and Sudan. It remains to be seen if al Sisi can maneuver a ceasefire/truce in tacit cooperation with the Israelis which will dismantle Hamas’ military as a minimum while all the while paying enough homage to Gazan victims to quiet the Arab Street’s overall sympathies for the Palestinian cause.

Qatar

This tiny little Gulf sheikhdom with only 2 million people – if the highest per capita income in the world from its enormous gas reserves – has taken a hit. That’s because Qatar’s al Thani family’s high stakes game of playing all sides included being the principal backer of Hamas. It was not only Qatar’s financing but IT controls which permitted Hamas to launch thousands of missiles at Israel from its sophisticated tunnels, protecting them from air power and preparing a growing terrorist plot against Israel. While Qatar played a principal role in the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” in toppling Muamar Qadaffi in Libya, it is the principal funder for the jihadists against Washington-backed moderates seeking overturn of the al Basher regime in Damascus. Qatar also was middleman in swapping of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years by the Taliban/ Although it has the smallest military force in the region – 11,800 conscripts – Washington sold it $11 billion in weapons earlier this year including anti-aircraft missiles and looking forward to a major fighter purchase later. This was the price for use of a major air base where Washington strategists attempt to coordinate defense for all the Gulf states against an increasingly menacing Iran. Washington reached agreement to continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base at least through 2024, having moved there when Saudi Arabia reversed course after originally hosting U.S. forces during the Gulf Wars. Qatar’s bitter feud with Saudi Arabia, restrictions on the use of the base and meddling in its Gulf neighbor’s domestic politics limit that cooperation. A collapse of Hamas could prejudice the whole shaky network of Qatar’s activities, perhaps demanding a new American strategy to oppose Tehran in the Gulf rather the dawdling talks extended for four months which are neither inhibiting Tehran’s weapons progress, and now lightened sanctions, are restoring its economy.

UN

Admission that three UN Gaza schools stored Hamas armaments [then returned to Hamas] is finally giving currency to the region’s greatest “secret”, the 70-year-old effort of the UNRWA, a highly paid international secretariat [including Hamas members], with the collaboration of neighboring Arab states, to cultivate a “refugee” status for Palestinians. UN operated schools have preached anti-Semitic hatred and jihad against the Israeli state. Simultaneously while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, shorn of all their possessions, the oil-rich Gulf states imported millions of labor from South and Southeast Asia, largely refusing Palestinian Arabs emigration or naturalization. Recent events have forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into condemnation of Hamas violation of repeated attempts at cease fire in contradiction to the UNWRA. Slowly the barbarity of Hamas’ strategy of deliberately exposing Gazans to additional jeopardy from Israeli aerial and ground bombardment in order to exploit world sympathy is seeping through a media unable to report actual conditions in Gaza for fear of their reporters’ lives. For example, CNN interviews with spokesmen for Hamas have without identification taken place in one of the area’s largest hospitals. Some UN officials – for example, from the head of the UN Human Rights organization condemning the U.S. for its participation in developing Israel’s Iron Dome defense and suggesting Washington should aid Hamas in a parallel effort – may finally be bringing some semblance of balance into mass media reporting in the area. It remains to be seen whether Washington, as the disproportionate bankroller of UN activities and massive direct payments to the Palestinians, will use its leverage to reform the aid-giving process. U.S. .Sec. of State John Kerry’s proposal – apparently “demanded” in a bitter conversation by Obama with Netanyahu – to use Qatar and Turkey as mediators in a Gaza ceasefire outraged the Israelis and their American supporters. The effort to cut out Egypt, the traditional mentor for the Gazan Arabs, appeared to be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s flirtation with the Moslem Brotherhood and its cool relations with the Egyptian military. But, almost immediately, including public statements, Washington flipped back to endorsing Cairo as the mediator, including a role for Mohammed Abbas and his West Bank Palestinians. Cairo’s backing by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab League has not only strengthened what had been seen as Abbas’ fading role but that of the Palestinian “moderates” despite their public caterwauling in defense of Hamas.

Washington, momentarily, has few options but to wring its hands over the civilian carnage in Gaza and to hope that others will find the basis for ending the crisis successfully, that is, with the demilitarization of Gaza.

Sws-08-02-14

Why “Benghazi”?


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sws-05-11-13

Dealing with Islam


A decade after 9/11 the U.S. still puzzles over how to deal with an Islam of 1.3 billion people, most of whom either cannot or refuse to move into the modern era. This American [read broader Western] inability to find an ideological approach will enhance a threat to U.S. security long after troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The problem is profound, involving the history of Christendom’s relations with Islam for one and a half millennium. Recently new complications arise from declining Western populations seeking immigrant labor, welcoming large numbers of Muslims, again, often either unable or unwilling to integrate into a heterogeneous West. This aggravates external security, not least because many sophisticated Islamic leaders condone deception [taqiyya] about their aims. In a traditionally open, sometimes to the point of naiveté, American society, this adds additional burdens on law enforcement and the justice system.

Washington’s armed attempt to root out state-sponsored terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan not only has taken an enormous toll in lives and treasure, but produced war’s inevitable “collateral damage” used by the terrorists to misrepresent U.S. aims. In a world where simply the charge of “colonialism” precludes serious discussion between advanced and backward societies, Washington, even were it capable, cannot impose its values as it did after World War II on Nazi Germany and militaristic Japan.

Nor is there an economic determinist solution. Even where development has taken place – in Lebanon or Algeria or the Gulf sheikhdoms – cultural advancement is stymied, even retrogressing under tutelage of subsidized reactionary preachers. And although private capital [globalization] has brought industrialization quickly to many new corners of the world, cultural factors block what the economists used to call “take off” in the vast Arab belt and Persia despite incredible raw material resources [oil and gas].

A new test of Islamic renewal is underway in recently “liberated” eastern North Africa and, probably soon in Syria. Rebellion driven by the youthful demographic bulge has blown away the old despots. But the best organized to fill the leadership vacuum are political incarnations of Islamic totalitarianism led by Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood. That will further imperil Egypt’s 85 million, a third of the Arab world with a traditional claim to lead Muslims culturally, relying on foreign handouts after Pres. Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of protected crony capitalism.

Nowhere is Washington’s conundrum more apparent than in current deteriorating relations with Turkey, now falling away from its post-World War II alliance with Western Europe and America in search of a new role as Mideast regional leader. Although it never quite reached application elsewhere, the 20th century post-Ottoman Caliphate top-down, Leninist secular revolution, had been seen as a model for intellectuals as far removed as Iran and Pakistan. But Ankara’s contemporary Islamic politicians, building on an empowerment from a hinterland far from old cosmopolitan centers, have recast the Turkish model.

Their still unresolved relationship between Islam and modern government puts the whole question of where the Turkish experiment is going into question. The ruling AKP Justice and Development Party reached its current dominant position not least because of a thriving if always fragile fast-growing economy, benefiting long stagnant regions. But its political ambitions have conflicted with its economic model. Its militant advocacy of the Palestinian cause [including the radical terrorist Hamas in Gaza] has produced a nasty blowup with Israel. A UN inquiry, as always, has only aggravated the falling out from what had been an opportunistic if mutually advantageous strategic and commercial relationship with new markets for Israel and technological transfers for the Turks. Washington has been unable to defuse the escalating blowup between its two most important allies in the region.

Ankara’s strategies zigzag: for example, okaying NATOs’ antimissile deployment but denying Washington’s aim to protect Europe and the US from Iranian weapons of mass destruction, its vacillating role as conveyor of gas to Europe, its failure to win entry to the European Community, its refusal initially to join NATO’s war against Qadaffi. Ankara could even jeopardize NATO’s southeastern anchor with its flirtations with Beijing and Moscow, casting a new pall on the alliance’s always ambiguous future. Thus Turkey, once the poster child for Islamic accommodation, could become the most serious part of the West’s failed efforts to meet the longterm challenge which stretches out far beyond the immediate effects of 9/11.

 sws-09-09-11

 

 

Nowhere is Washington’s conundrum more apparent than in current deteriorating relations with Turkey, now falling away from its post-World War II alliance with Western Europe and America in search of a new role as Mideast regional leader. Although it never quite reached application elsewhere, the 20th century post-Ottoman Caliphate top-down, Leninist secular revolution, had been seen as a model for intellectuals as far removed as Iran and Pakistan. But Ankara’s contemporary Islamic politicians, building on an empowerment from a hinterland far from old cosmopolitan centers, have recast the Turkish model.

Their still unresolved relationship between Islam and modern government puts the whole question of where the Turkish experiment is going into question. The ruling AKP Justice and Development Party reached its current dominant position not least because of a thriving if always fragile fast-growing economy, benefiting long stagnant regions. But its political ambitions have conflicted with its economic model. Its militant advocacy of the Palestinian cause [including the radical terrorist Hamas in Gaza] has produced a nasty blowup with Israel. A UN inquiry, as always, has only aggravated the falling out from what had been an opportunistic if mutually advantageous strategic and commercial relationship with new markets for Israel and technological transfers for the Turks. Washington has been unable to defuse the escalating blowup between its two most important allies in the region.

Ankara’s strategies zigzag: for example, okaying NATOs’ antimissile deployment but denying Washington’s aim to protect Europe and the US from Iranian weapons of mass destruction, its vacillating role as conveyor of gas to Europe, its failure to win entry to the European Community, its refusal initially to join NATO’s war against Qadaffi. Ankara could even jeopardize NATO’s southeastern anchor with its flirtations with Beijing and Moscow, casting a new pall on the alliance’s always ambiguous future. Thus Turkey, once the poster child for Islamic accommodation, could become the most serious part of the West’s failed efforts to meet the longterm challenge which stretches out far beyond the immediate effects of 9/11.

sws-09-09-11

It’s the hareem, man!


 

To hell with where Qadaffi is, where are those female body guards?

 

What Obama Could Do


The dust has far from settled on the Washington stalemate over setting a new debt limit. As Thomas Sowell pointed out, so logically, were an increase in the debt ceiling only  “routine”, held up by pesky Congressional Tea Partiers, as the spenders charged, then what would be the purpose of having a ceiling at all? But while an indecorous debate encapsulated the larger ideological divide, America rapidly moves on, remorselessly, to threatening politico-economic issues cascading in from Europe and Asia as well as at home.

Ironically the current world crisis proved one thing: a continuing overwhelming faith in America’s importance, whether economically or culturally. Proof is “the flight to quality” by investors worldwide into the American Republic’s indebtedness as witness all-time record low interest in U.S. Treasuries auctions. Prime Minister David Cameron’s turn to American police [overcoming the usual our British Greek to your American Roman prejudices] in the face of chaotic English urban rioting is another indicator. But disquieting news from Libya approaching indecisive civil war and tragic events in Afghanistan where withdrawal leaves a highly vulnerable Pakistan indicate just how wanting is continued Obama Administration “leading from behind”.

US economic amelioration and patching up its world role would require extraordinary statesmanship. And as many observers, Pres. Harry Truman for one, have judged, the Constitution and history has made the presidency a very strong executive, and it sometimes matters less what he decides but that he act. “The buck stops here”, Mr. Truman’s pithy saying, remains a call for presidential courage on Pres. Barack Obama.

Here’s the kind of action that might result were that summons answered:

  • Send Michelle and the kids off to Martha’s Vineyard while making a seminal Oval Office Labor Day speech on economic affairs.  The spin might be: while holding to fundamental beliefs for a new era of economic justice, pragmatism demands that agenda be put on hold to meet the deepening emergency replaced by a program of cooperation with business to produce jobs immediately.
  • Ask the Congress to skip vacation and reconvene in special session, if needs be three days a week, to consider economic-political measures necessitating legislative action, or simply as a forum to vent the public’s criticism.
  • Call for a summit at the highest level with our allies in Europe and Japan on the world economy — including the simultaneous attendance of all central bankers –to discuss coordinating economic strategies and tactics.
  • Begin weekly meetings in closed session with a group of recognized private sector leaders to brainstorm recovery strategies and tactics.
  • Call for an immediate minimum two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, ask Congress immediately to cut capital gains to zero, and begin the examination of longer term tax alternatives including a flat tax.
  • Propose a tax reform commission of experts modeled after the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to suggest immediate incremental incentives for small businesses – the fountainhead of jobs.
  • Lift all administrative restrictions on discovery and production of fossil fuels, especially in the Gulf and Alaska and Virginia, creating perhaps a quarter of a million jobs immediately.
  • Use the extensive administrative powers written into Obamacare to suspend any implementation for at least five years and suggest its review by a body of medical, insurance and regulatory technocrats to be presented to the Congress before November 2012.
  • Ask Congress for a one-time tax remission for multinationals to encourage repatriation of an estimated $2.5 trillion in profits held overseas, on condition 25% be invested immediately in an infrastructure fund [highways, bridges, airport, rail reconstruction, etc.], a private sector Reconstruction Finance Corporation administered by those companies in collaboration with local governments.

And then sit back and see the American economy take off!

Alas! I fear we have as much hope for such a program, either thematically or in its specifics, as the proverbial snowball in the nether regions. Hangers-on, leftwing Democrats and the kept mainstream media will continue to hope for victory in next year’s elections, clinging to an agenda designed to enthuse the President’s “politically correct” base, demonize his opponents and flimflam independents by pretending a position of compromise.

Unfortunately, it looks like that indomitable American economy with its incredible history of jobs creation will have to continue to tread water – as it will manfully — against a Washington tide.

sws-08-12-11

Obama’s foreign policy: Look the other way to avoid disaster


Whatever the motives by all parties behind the Libyan intervention, the worst fears expressed in the UN resolution “authorizing” the use of force are coming true.

At this writing, half a million civilians in Libya’s third largest port-city of Misurata feel the blast of Muammar Qadaffi’s only half-crippled firepower. Pitifully, they include tens of thousands of Black African illegal migrants trying to get to Europe –hostages like oil in Qadaffi’s blackmail games with the Europeans. Two Western journalists’ deaths dramatized what could well turn into the kind of humanitarian catastrophe the UN trumpets but repeatedly fails to prevent. [A harbinger of a coming catastrophe, ignored by the media, was loss of 200 souls on a refugee ship in early April.]

Misurata is emblematic as the rebels’ outpost in the west close to the Libyan capital, 500 miles from their Benghazi stronghold in eastern Cyrenaica, proof Qadaffi rules largely by terror.

But the Obama Administration has failed to hand off to NATO the dictator’s ouster for which Washington itself along with the Europeans and most Arab states repeatedly calls. Half-hearted attempts to arm the rebels – first with “non-lethal” equipment and later with armed drones – are too little and too late to end what Washington admits is stalemate.

At the UN Security Council, opposition from China and Russia [and hypocritical India] always ready to sabotage Western initiatives, blocks expanding sanctions, including tens of billions Qadaffi’s family still dispenses. They help bribe African states – long on Qadaffi’s dole — who call for a negotiated settlement to rescue the regime. It also whets Russia and China’s appetite for re-initiating lucrative weapons sales to Qadaffi.

This fiasco is only the most flagrant in a growing list of Obama foreign policy disasters. Granted most crises are long in the making, nevertheless, Mr. Obama’s indecisiveness in all but his adamant refusal to fulfill the U.S. role as leader of the Western alliance aggravates every Mideast problem:

· Washington’s obstinate pursuit of accommodation with Syria, perhaps the Arab world’s bloodiest regime, has come a cropper as opponents test whether Dictator Basher al-Assad will escalate current dozens of killings against peaceful demonstrators to the tens of thousands during his father’s reign or abdicate to proliferating Muslim radicals.

· The Obama Administration’s insistence on pressing the issue of outposts in the West Bank, putting the Jewish state’s security at risk, has brought a near Washington-Jerusalem breakdown, endangering the U.S.’ only stable alliance in the region, further negating Israeli-Arab compromise.

· Washington’s indecision in fostering a Mubarrak transition opened the floodgates to the Moslem Brotherhood [whom only Mr. Obama’s Arab experts characterize as “moderate”], weakening Cairo’s military leadership and jeopardizing Egypt’s opposition to Iranian regional expansion.

· The Administration’s belated tepid support for Tehran’s dissidents has not only emboldened the mullahs to strengthen their terrorist tentacles to the Mediterranean and into Afghanistan, but encouraged the Germans, Indians, and of course, the Chinese, to continue flaunting economic sanctions.

· The President’s pretentious “outreach” rhetoric only strengthened the Arab/Muslim “victimization” complexes and symbolic bows to the Saudi monarchy have soured with what Riyadh sees as sabotage of its interests in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen resulting in its noncooperation on boosting OPEC quotas thereby hiking petroleum prices.

· Everywhere U.S. prestige is taking a shellacking, not only from its opponents, but increasingly becoming suspect to European allies who suddenly have been set adrift without their traditional recourse to American leadership and firepower, in the midst of their own Euro/EC crisis.

The approaching electoral season’s probable concentration on domestic concerns is likely to give the Obama Administration some respite from foreign policy critics. Grounding his campaign headquarters in Chicago – to mask his dependence on its political base among the chattering classes on both coasts – may help obscure international issues. Indeed, American foreign policy since its emergence on the eve of World War I as a major player on the world stage has too often been piquancy for violent fluctuation between withdrawal and forced engagement.

But in the 21st century the digital revolution has sounded the death knell of many older perceived choices with instantaneous communication, globalize economics and space age weapons of mass destruction missilery. And, in the end, what may well be building is a new and unforeseen crisis – at the level of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Turning away may not be a real option the American public will have this time.

sws-04-21-11

What “Libya” is not


Pres. Barack Obama’s Libyan initiative splintered the political spectrum creating strange bedfellows. The wrangle reflects not only infinite complications but the Administration’s obfuscation. Momentarily it is far easier, with the outcome still very much in doubt, to define what is not true than what it is.

So here we go, what is “Libya” all about:

  • Humanitarianism Not exactly. Yes, there is little doubt Qadaffi would use any barbarism to maintain control – as he always has. But that does that differ from a half dozen other Arab leaders. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton called Syrian Pres. Basher al-Asaad “a reformer” although he has maintained his father’s regime which mowed down as many as 80,000 civilians in a 1982 “Syrian spring” — and he is at it again
  • Oil Not exactly. True, Libya’s 2 million b /da light crude was important to the Europeans [and our East coast product imports]. But its loss isn’t going to determine world crude prices – or our skyrocketing pump prices. When this bash is over, a free for all will develop for Libyan crude – including prospecting for presumed large reserves.
  • Terrorism Not exactly. True, Muammar Qadaffi has led state-sponsored terrorism which cost 270 mostly American lives in the Lockerbie PanAm103 crash and killed two and wounded 250 Americans in a Berlin discothèque. He has cost tens of thousands of lives in Black Africa backing rival politicians. But he has also been an al Qaeda target, reportedly exchanging intelligence with Washington. Now some of his hard-core opposition in Cyrenaica [eastern Libya] are drawn from Afghanistan veterans who fought the Soviets and later US/NATO forces.
  • Democracy Not exactly. It’s not an accident, as the Communists used to say, not a single democracy exists among 22 Arab states. There is no Arab tradition of individualism, local government, sacrosanct private property, independent judiciary or pluralism. Islam arose among the Arabs not only as a religion but as an all encompassing lifestyle incorporating primitive tribalism. Democracy is more than elections. Indeed, several North African and Mideast countries would vote in – probably once only — Islamicist totalitarians [as they tried to do in Algeria]. It won’t come to Libya soon.
  • US strategic interest Not exactly. The U.S. has an enormous stake in the region from which 40% of world crude production powers economies for the near term if not longer. As a leading trading nation the U.S. maintains the free flow of commerce through the Suez Canal, the Bab el Mandeb and the Hormuz Strait. U.S. national security would be threatened by weapons of mass destruction and intercontinental missiles in the hands of enemies in the region. Iran’s ability to fish in troubled Arab waters is as important as its attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Libya is a minor player in this game but its civil war inevitably sucks in its neighbors.
  • Obama Doctrine success Not exactly. The Administration’s claim to have pulled off a multinational rescue effort as an alternative to traditional post-World War II American leadership and sacrifice is smoke and mirrors. The UN resolution, to avoid Russian and Chinese vetoes, excluded regime change even as the President called for Qadaffi to go. The “turnover” to NATO is to an American military commander and largely U.S. logistics if not frontline fighters. Other Arabs’ support is fickle at best. CIA and other “sneakers” on the ground, essential to coordinate operations, could eventually draw in American “boots”.
  • Constitutional authority Not only did the President omit the traditional Oval Office l’envoi to American troops going into battle and reassure he public, he did not seek simultaneous Congressional endorsement. Instantaneous communication and ever faster transportation again have defeated the purpose of the War Powers Act aimed at reinforcing the Constitutional provision only Congress declares war. So look again for new amendments, as useless in defining the Constitutional guarantee as earlier versions.

Does that mean the U.S. should have remained out? Probably not. Two of its major NATO allies – Britain and France – were gung ho to take on Qadaffi. When Washington demurred in the Suez Crisis of 1956, taking an equally moralistic position but against its allies, it resulted in Soviet Mideast mischief-making for two generations. Unanticipated consequences are always the name of the game.

sws-04-01-11

Horror vacui


Pres. Barak Hussein Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency”. It was slung at Pres. Richard Nixon not only for his extravagant “palace guard” – some in kitschy uniforms – but his more serious unconstitutional overreach.

But if imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.

Whether domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to Congressional or bureaucratic control then spins the often resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. It results, for example, in outgoing Sec. of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen pontificating far above their pay grade, to be contradicted almost instantaneously by events or Mr. Obama himself. The President’s hands-on applies only to maintaining his leftwing political base, whether Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies, reinforcing his South Side Chicago-Hyde Park 1960s leftwing agenda and his search for reelection campaign dollars.

Given the presidency’s dual role as chief of state as well as chief executor, celebration of a multitude of ceremonies is necessary and fitting – all the more in times of peril when the nation’s spirit needs uplift. But Mr. Obama’s sports addiction, his gliterrati extravaganzas, his causal acknowledgement of our closest allies’ tragedies, and his wife’s Marie-Antoinette progressions are increasingly bizarre. Importing a Chicago Daley mob family member, supposedly as a pragmatic chief of staff, so far has not injected restraint much less austerity.

This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. Symptomatically, in the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, there’s almost total disaster. Having made what he, if not most scholars, considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, American interests are now in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, site of his first lecture, once a stalwart NATO ally, defies the West’s policies on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused Administration fostering regime change but adding little to its still awaited outcome.

Of course Pres. Obama did not create these long simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his Administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, his UN representative, Amb. Susan Rice, preaches that gospel but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy for which taxpayers pick up too much of the tab. Only when Muammar Qadaffi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the UN Human Rights Council.

In this world of rampant behaviorism and relativism, Aristotle may not dominate as he once did. And his concept that nature abhors a vacuum [horror vacui in Latin] may be questioned with such new mysteries as black holes in outer space. But we are getting  its proof in what happens geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets policy without following through. Minor players with fewer resources, physical and intellectual, take the field exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.

Nowhere has that been more apparent than Washington’s approach to the Egyptian regime’s collapse, the Bahrain religious conflict and now the Libyan civil war with their attendant growing threat to world energy supplies.

Like a sick dog to its vomit, Washington returns again and again to the Israel-Palestine issue as the magic bullet to cure Mideast troubles. It’s the one international issue where the President enthusiastically commits his prestige. But having chosen Israeli settlements in areas won in the 1967 war as fundamental – it was subsidiary until he came along – Mr. Obama jeopardizes Israel’s basic security further postponing any agreement. The absurdity of his position is self evident: in a “two-state solution”, he ignores Israel’s almost 2-million Arabs but infers a Palestinian state must be “judenrein”.

Elsewhere lack of U.S. leadership – even withholding rhetorical support for Iran’s opposition — has helped extend Tehran leadership’s religious fanatic and kleptocratic tentacles across the Fertile Crescent. The Persian Mullahs have managed to play all sides in “the Arab spring”. Not only does Tehran use Shia Syrian and Lebanese co-sectarians, but it sponsors Sunni Palestinian terrorism including Hamas, offspring of Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood. [The latest unspeakably barbaric murder of an Israeli family eclipsed by the Japanese catastrophe was apparently Tehran-sponsored.] Iran may well profit from whatever comes of Mr. Obama’s belated moves to oust Qadaffi.

The arguments against American intervention in Libya were strong. Though Washington’s choice was to disremember his murder of Americans, in a Berlin discothèque in 1986 and PanAmerican 103 at Lockerbie in 1988, it is not forgotten in a region where mayhem and revenge are ever present. Ultimately, Mr. Obama could no more ignore Tripoli [ah! the ghosts of Thomas Jefferson and his Marines!] than rising oil prices spurred by Obama Administration counterproductive domestic energy policies could fail to cripple American recovery.

Thus Pres. Obama and the U.S. have been sucked into an undelineated vacuum, in part of his own making.

sws-03-17-11