Category Archives: Middle East

The Obama Legacy


Historians will debate the importance of the Obama Administration and its role in American history for decades to come, of course. The legacy which presidents leave behind them is always a concern of our chief executives, and it has been of even more importance to Barack Obama. As he marked a milestone in his tour of duty. leaving on a foreign tour, with a successor he opposed now chosen, he publicly drew his own optimistic record. He carefully picked, of course, in a press conference, what he considered the best interpretation of events over the last eight years. But at least for the time being, when his policies and their repercussions are still relatively fresh, it is hard to draw a balance sheet which is less than disastrous.
Obama, of course, perhaps more than any other recent president, is an ideologue – and he insisted in his political campaigns that he aimed at a “transformation” of American society. His framework for events is a combination of his studies of history but overlaid by the socialist and pro-Communist views of the little social-political group around the University of Chicago who launched his career.
There is no doubt that he has effected changes, whether they are indeed transformations, and whether any have been beneficiary, only time will tell.
But any honest examination of the effects of his strategies is a record of miscalculation and failures. Perhaps the most dramatic ones have been in foreign policy. His campaign to withdraw American power and decision-making from the international scene has demonstrated what had always been apparent to serious students of foreign affairs: the enormous power of the U.S., economic, political and military, has a role in any international confrontation even when Washington chooses to remain neutral or withdraw its influence. A world order without U.S. participation is not only unimaginable to our allies but something our adversaries always question as a possibility.
The Middle East is the most dramatic example of the failure of Obama’s effort to remove American leadership and power in the interelated conflicts there. First, his effort to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance encouraged the Moslem terrorists in the area. Then, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s courted the brief Moslem Brotherhood regime in Egypt – overthrown by the military through popular demand. Obama and Hillary attempted to boycott the new military rulers thus providing an opportunity for Russian arms sales and influence where it had been expelled a half century ago by pro-Western Egtptians. In Syria, Obama’s initial declaration of opposition to the Basher al Assad regime was followed by withdrawal. Washington’s retreat assured the descent into a bloody, irresolute civil war sending a flood of millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe. The threat of force followed by its withdrawal has returned Moscow to a base in the eastern Mediterranean and helped extend Tehran mullahs’ state terrorisn excesses across the Fertile Crescent, even into Latin America. A treaty to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons, never submitted to the Senate as the Constitution fdemands, is rapidly disintegrating
In East and South Asia, Obama’s ambivalent policies toward Chinese aggression have encouraged Beijing to aggressive territorial claims against its neighbors, discouraged unity among the Southeast Asians against Chinese Communist threats. Again Hillary’s much publicized pivot to the Western Pacific has failed to materialize. Slowly, the rape of the American economy by the Chinese through export subsides and currency manipulation – begun in the Bush Administrations — has become so clear that the Trump Administration qill have no option but a dangerous crackdown.
Obama’s role as the first American Afro-American president was, whether admitted in public discussion, seen as an important opportunity to continue to heal the historic American race problem. But whether in part because his own exotic background linked him neither to the rising black middle class nor the poor of the ghetto, he either took nondefensible positions on individual race incidents or neglected completely the mayhem of his own Chicago hometown. One has to assume that the American black leadership can only see these past eight years as a failure by a president, whatever his color, to contribute to solution of the race problem which appears to most observers to be in an even worse condition than at his entry into office.
Obama’s claim for his Affordable Care solution to long-term U.S. medical care is nearing collapse with skyrocketing costs and failure of the insurance framework which was to support it. His steady stream of executive directives for additional regulation and environmental restraints has contributed toward the slowest and most erratic economic recovery since World War II.
Despite his rhetorical skills and personal popularity as the first black president, Obama’s legacy will be a negative one. As the anti-Obama vote for Donald Trump has demonstrated, it will also cast a shadow on many of the techniques and political forms his very talented political team gave the nation.
sws-11-14-16

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Obama’s Syrian legacy


It would be hard to exaggerate the mess in the Middle East that Pres. Barack Obama is leaving his successor.
While the five-year Syrian civil war continues unabated, pitting a number of different armed groups against each other with their foreign sponsors, Washington is caught in its own contradictions. In August American special forces assistance and bombing was given a Turkish incursion into northern Syria even though Ankara’s target was the American Kurdish Syrian ethnic ally most effective in the contest, and Washington’s target the Islamicist rebels now involved in the anti-regime movement.
Ankara fears Syrian Kurdish ethnics are attempting to set up a ministate, perhaps aiming to link up with its own Kurdish armed guerillas it has been fighting for three decades, often with Soviet assistance. The Turks fear America’s autonomous ally, the Syrian Kurds, the Kurdish region in Iraq, and ultimately, Iranian ethnic Kurds may try to form a new secessionist state with their own huge Turkish Kurdish minority.
Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Americans of having been involved in the recent failed coup against an elected Turkish government, one that under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is steadily headed toward an authoritarian Islamicist regime. Erdogan blames Fethullah Gulen. Muslim cleric and politician, once his closest infiltrating the state judicial and security system, for leading the coup and has formally asked for his extradition from the U.S.
Turkish airmen at the NATO-Turkish-U.S. base at Incirlik air base near the Syrian border were accused by Erdogan of implication in the failed coup, and U.S. operations there aimed at the Daesh [ISIS or ISIL Islamic terrorists] were halted temporarily. Not a comforting thought for Washington planners with nuclear weapons deployed there.
Erdogan’s leaky southern border has seen Islamicist support move south from Ankara and hundreds of thousands of migrants — some refugees from violence, others economic immigrants – moving on to Europe. His effort to blackmail German Chancellor Angela Merkel for additional aid and free movement of Turks inside the European Union in exchange for blockin the migrants has collapsed. Germany is hiccupping violently from the more than a million “refugees” it admitted last year with Merkel’s welcome.
Meanwhile, Obama courts Tehran’s mullahs. He signed what many believe was a no enforceable pact to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon, even though within weeks they publicly bragged of their firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile for carrying such a weapon. The American president went through secret contortions to pay $400 million – originally part of earlier arms purchases by the government of Reza Shah Palevi which Washington helped unseat – to free hostages. Billions more apparentlyis on its way.
The mystery is, of course, what Obama [and supporters of his Persian policy] think they are buying: Iran is already the world’s leasing sponsor of state terrorism and has lined up Mediterranean satellites in Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both, of course, threaten Israel. One of the troubled aspects between Jerusalem and Ankara, once close military allies, is Turkish support of Hamas, a common enemy now of Egypt and the Israelis.
Obama didn’t create the bitter and explosive Mideast animosities, of course. But he has built on that inheritance, antagonizing America’s tradition Sunni and Israeli allies in the region. In Syria, the crux of the conflict, Turkey is ostensibly an ally of the U.S. is seeking to oust the Damascus regime under Basher al Assad, supported in turn by the Russians as well as the Persians. Moscow, despite its still a crippled relic of Soviet power, is creating naval and air bases in Syria – culpable in mass bombing of civilian populations – aiming at the old Soviet influence.
Whether Obama’s original threat to intervene in Syria, then withdrawn, would have made the difference in controlling the Mideast chaos, is an unanswerable question. But there is no doubt that his policies have helped create the current chaotic situation, increasingly involving the major powers, that could be the beginning of a regional conflict spreading beyond its current confines.
sws-08-30-16

What to do about Turkey?


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

Aleppo’s appeal


An epic continuing battle continues for control of Syria’ largest city, historically one of the most famous centers of urban civilization in the world. Before its demise in the post-World War I Franco-British partition of the Levant it ranked with Cairo and Istanbul [Constantinople] as a major cosmopolis, the Western end of the famous Silk Road from China to the West.
A call by 15 physicians in a letter personally directed to Pres. Barack Obama has dramatized the dilemma facing Washington. Obama’s history of “drawing red lines” in the Syrian conflict only to be forfeited has confused foreign participants in the struggle and the American people. His statements led finally only to America abandoning Syria to the tender mercies of the ruthless Basher al Assad regime which allied with the Russians wages war on an unprecedented scale on its civilian population, matched by the incredible brutality of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] and its terrorist allies in the opposition.
Government and rebels in the past few days have clashed in southern Aleppo, voiding a truce promised by the Russians to enter the city. Moscow had earlier promised “humanitarian windows” to permit humanitarian convoys of food and medicines to transit. Mosocw now refuses to comment on the current situation including the use of Russian planes against the rebels and civilian populations. Human Rights Watch listed six deliberate strikes in the past two weeks by al Assad regime or Russian warplanes on health facilities in the north that killed 17 people.
Obama’s determination not to involve the U.S. in another irresolute Mideast war is certainly understood by a war-weary American public and justifiable to many of his supporters among the foreign policy experts. But now that has to be balanced with the possibility of another one of those catastrophic destructions of human life which the U.S. and the world have promised “never again”.
The doctors point out that hospitals and medical facilities have become not accidentally but deliberate targets in the warfare. This small group of health providers remaining in the city is dealing with an impossible situation as their letter dramatizes, including a shortage of medicines and supplies which often culminates in triage among wounded children. Furthermore, the rebels accuse government forces of carrying out an attack Wednesday using chlorine gas on rebel-held residential neighborhoods.
It seems unlikely that Obama can openly reverse his Mideast and particularl Syrian policy in the last few months of his administration, He has made American withdrawal the essence of his foreign policy and with serious and obvious U.S. failures on all fronts, its ideological goal is about all that is left of his tattered effort for “transformation” of U.S. foreign policy. Whether he has the courage to do so with a good deal of obscurantist rhetoric remains to be seen.
But we believe it is incumbent on the Congress immediately to take the lead in this human crisis. The physicians have pointed out that Americans earlier had promised to set up “corridors” into the embattled areas. These would carry drugs and foodstuffs to the estimated more than 1.2 million living in the government-held zone as well as some 250,000 now in the rebel-held areas of the city.
Also additional public pressure must be placed on the al Assad regime through Moscow and its allies in Tehran to end what have been reported as recent chemical warfare attacks on the rebels by government forces, apparently with the tacit cooperation of Russian air. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday he was “concerned by reports of a new chemical attack… that is said to have claimed four lives people and left dozens injured.”
A United Nations framework is in place to handle humanitarian aid to both those in the rebel and government areas. It is incumbent now that the U.S. tale the lead in utilizing it to prevent a monumental human disaster.
sws-08-11-16

Obama’s deadly compromise


President Barack Obama confirmed in his press conference Thursday that he has accepted as unavoidable the recurrent, periodic Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. That was the import of his answers to questions wherein he indicated that he would not modify what he considers his winning policy in the Mideast to “degrade and destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
His response to criticism and demands that the U.S. should undertake a more aggressive policy toward the Mideast source of Islamic terrorism was to warn about additional civilian casualties from any such American action. Yet he acknowledged that Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is accompanied by massive attacks on the civilian population. He mocked spokesmen, including inferentially the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have called for the kind of all-out military effort against ISIS that destroyed Nazism and held the Communists at bay during the 35 years of The Cold War. Obama’s response is despite the fact that most American military commanders and planners argue that ISIS falls only behind Russia as Washington’s principal threat.
In effect, Obama’s program of action accepts an unspecified duration when the current worldwide wave of terrorist activity would continue. His rationalization for accepting such a level of violence against the civilian population was that there has always been terrorist activity from many different quarters over the past decades and that it was therefore not a new phenomenon. The implication was that terrorism is a natural phenomenon and may not ever be completely eliminated.
Obama outlined at some length the failure of his continuing negotiations with the Russians to end their support of the Basher al Assad regime in Syria. However, he took no note of the limited Moscow commitment in Syria today compared with Soviet times because of Russia’s diminished military capacity. Admitting that negotiations with the Russians have not produced any diminishment of Moscow’s activities in Syria, he offered the admonition that should such activity continue, it would condemn Russia as an international pariah in world opinion. That such an epithet would have already been accepted in most democratic circles around the world did not seem to reduce for him the importance of such additional evidence coming out of the Syrian civil war. Nor did Obama’s concentration on the Syrian conflict take account of Russian aggression in the Crimea, its subversion among Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine, and its continuing threats to the Baltic states.
The President did argue that the U.S. military activity against Daesh in the Mideast, however successful, would require a more comprehensive program to meet ISIS’ ideological concept. Yet, he failed again, to grapple with that very problem, that is to meet the challenge of the terrorists’ allegiance to Islam which forms their ideological framework. Obama continues, as do most observers, to acknowledge but intellectually ignore that however perverted and distorted their view, the terrorists base their creed on their own version of Islam. Obama ignores that a discussion of Islam and its relation to the terrorists is critical to any examination of their ideology.
Like other important international spokesmen, in fact Obama refuses to advocate that the world examine and discuss whatever tenets that religion holds which produce the current wave of terrorism. Instead, he like others fall back on such clichés as “Islam is a religion of peace” and the obvious conclusion that most Moslems are not advocates of terrorism. What Obama and his supporters ignore is that the terrorists are not Christian Scientists nor Mormons, but while all Moslems are not terrorists, all terrorists are Moslems. They ignore the long history of Arab and Moslem holy war [jihad] to force non-believers [kafirs] or face death or enslavement.
Obama’s acceptance , in effect, of the current level of world terrorism will lead to further augmentation of ISIS as it spreads it network around the world, gaining psychotic and fanatical adherents of an aggressive version of Islam because of its “success” in terrorizing the civilized world.

sws-08-04-16

The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

Shame on us!


The almost total absence of public mourning for an 85-year-old Christian priest whose throat was slit by Islamicist terrorists while he led prayer in a small church in Normandy, France, is a scandal.
Even the French have demonstrated less feeling for this horrendous deed than one would expect from an event which took place in the village which once hosted the trial of Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine and a saint of French Christianity.
There was no moment of silence in the U.S. Democratic Convention, not unexpected given its total avoidance of the worldwide terrorist threat. One could have expected that Pres. Barack Obama, too, would have made a special effort to acknowledge this incident, so gratuitously evil as to be virtually indescribable. But that might be charged to his continuing effort to obscure the terrorist threat by refusing to name its origin in Islam and his elaborate courting of the terrorist mullahs in Tehran.
Searching for the answer to our question is the general concern above all others of the American and European political elites to avoid any hint of criticism or Islam. To be accused of Islamophobia now is an accusation in the Establishment which ranks above all others by the moral standards of those believers in bien pensé Being “politically correct” bans any negative reference to Islam.
Not only is this errant nonsense but it is a continuing impediment to the forceful pursuit of a worldwide campaign to end Islamic terrorism. Moslems, above all, must concede that the terrorists now among us who pledge their loyalty to Islam as a religion must be confronted on that ideological score..As the crude phrase has it, not all Moslems are terrorists, of course. But all terrorists are Moslems.
What is it, indeed, that however twisted in the history and practice of Islam which can be misinterpreted, if you will, into a rational for the kind of killing of innocents that took place in Etienne du Rouvray, in an almost empty church, involving three parishioners, two nuns and a very old priest. Knife-wielding ISIS terrorists interrupted the service and slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel and recorded their crime to use to attract new followers.
The truth is that much of the rationale which is constantly mouthed by our leadership about Islam simply is not true. It is not one of the three Abrahamic religions. It is a totalitarian concept which demands total adherence on the part of its believers for whatever its tenets as expressed by its largely uneducated clergy. The test of Greek knowledge which early was applied to Judaism and was a part of early Christianity was rejected almost a thousand years ago by Moslem theorists. The few Moslem voices who oppose Islamic terrorism are nevertheless reluctant to take on the problem of the political movement Islam represents.
Since its founding in the Arabian deserts, Islam has not been a religion of peace is so often stated. It has, in fact, from its origins been spread largely by the sword with the death of “non-believers” and those Moslems who have rejected its principal tenets.
The history of Europe shows how since its founding 1500 years ago, organized Islam – when it has existed – has challenged the political status of the European states. At its high points of strength, it has come near overpowering European armies and putting the West to the sword of forced conversion.
Yes, it is true, that Islam has absorbed – after its initial brutal and primitive organization among the Arabs – some of the rich philosophical background of its conquests such as from the Persians. But it remains, largely, a religion of conquest wherein now reside many, perhaps a majority, of supposed adherents who reject this concept. But it is also true that often through intimidation and intellectual confusion this vast majority refuses or fears to publicly oppose its ignominious concepts.
Until this problem of the fundamental relationship between Western societies and the peaceful Buddhist societies of Asia is addressed, there is no hope of defeating the continuing worldwide terrorist threat.
sws-07-30-16

Plugging, common sense and precision


It was inevitable, of course, that when The Digital Revolution spawned The Information Revolution, it would simultaneously open up The Misinformation Revolution.
If anyone, anywhere, anytime – except perhaps in China – can gap on the internet and pontificate, a great deal of what is there is bound to be even worse than nonsense, but poisonous. The only defense is a resort to history, which seems to have gone out of style as an academic discipline, and common sense.
Here are cases in point:
The CN-NPR war against the candidacy of Donald Trump, whatever your own views about The Donald, constantly harps on the theme of the minority vote which they conclude he will not receive. Mebbe. But it is well to remember that in the past – with the enormous exception, granted, of 2008 and 2012, and for obvious reasons — was never a major factor in elections. Even registered black voters notoriously did not vote, and the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, less half as much as they. It remains to be seen if Pres. Barack Obama’s face, and the incredibly honed digital machine his supporters built, has reversed these historic trends.
Speaking of Hispanics. There are none. There are Americans who language in their household – or perhaps their only language in parts of the Southwest – is Spanish, properly Castellano. But, for example, antagonism between Mexico and Cuba in the Spanish Empire was the feud to end all feuds. That carried on among their progeny in the U.S. The Florida and New Jersey Cuban minorities, because of the flight of many of them and their antagonism to the Castro regime, have in the past been Republican with notable exceptions, e.g. Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey (2006–Present), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 13th district [993-2006]. The flirtation with Raúl Castro of the Obama Administration is likely to end the erosion which was taking place among younger Cuban Americans in recent years. Puerto Ricans is the largest Spanish-speaking minority in Florida; they cannot vote in federal elections in Puerto Rico. They tend to be Democrats because of the long affiliation the first popularly elected governor of the Rican Commonwealth Luis Muñoz Marín local social democratic party was tied to the Democrats’ New Deal on the Mainland. California Mexican-Americans, when they vote tend, to be indeed solidly Democratic, but the Bushes and the current governor, Greg Abbott, has cut heavily into their formerly Democrat base. By the way, all speak Spanish but most Mexicans will admit – unless they come from their own Caribbean coast, e.g. Tampico – that they have great difficulty understanding Cubans and Puerto Ricans’ Spanish.
The Trump campaign keeps trumpeting a “fact”; the candidate earned more votes than any GOP primary candidate in history , they argue, in his primary race with 17 opponents whom he liquidated [or did more or less so until Ted Cruz’ ghost showed up at the third day of the Republican convention]. The “fact” is indisputable, but in no small part explained by another fact: the current estimate of the U.S. population is 322.48 [not counting an unknown number of illegals], more than double the 163.03 million estimated in 1954. Obviously, what is considered the minority political party – kept under an Electoral College handicap by the huge and continuing Democratic majorities in New York and California – has gained spectacularly? With an unprecedented number of candidates all salivating at the possibility of running against a “third Obama administration masquerading as Hillary Clinton, that impetus would have been even stronger. There was large numbers of Democrats and independents, in the states where registration can be changed easily, switching their party affiliation to Republican to take part in the free-for-all.
The CNNers and NPRers are trumpeting the divisions of the just ended Republican Convention, again, as the first time ever, etc. In fact, in the modern era both political parties have been coalitions of regional forces – often at ideological loggerheads with one another but both more interested in power than more egests. The Talking Heads ignore, for example, the fact that the Democratic Party which ruled [under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman] for two decades was a coalition of segregationists [“The Solid South, Dixiecrats, etc], highly personal urban political “machines [Tammany in NYC, Hague in Jersey City, Daley in Chicago and Pendergrass in Kansas City – from which Truman, himself emerged], the AFL-CIO unions, socialists and Communists, and FDR’s “kitchen cabinet” of academic advisers. Furthermore, vice presidents – to “balance” ticket geographically – virtually disappeared with FDR’s firing of Henry Wallace, an Iowa and agricultural society icon, in 1936. [I know; I was writing editorials in my hometown weekly supporting Wallace and the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee!] So-called platform committees in both parties have been irrelevant in terms of influencing the candidates’ policy but simply a combat ring for battling. Party apparatchiks.
So what’s the lesson here? Obviously, don’t believe everything The Talking Heads say with great authority. [It’s something of a delight to listen to one noted female star that has suddenly blossomed into an expert on the Mideast!] Remember, — at least for the time being –Google, and there are dictionaries, the Britannica, to check them out. But most of all maintain your own skepticisms – everything on the Internet is not The Word!
sws-07-21-16

The Islam debate


The most difficult political and cultural debate since the decision of the Western alliance to destroy fascism in 1939 or the American decision to help resurrect Europe in 1945 has begun.

The discussion will be an intense examination of Islam and its role in the modern world.

It is an argument fraught with danger, not only for Islam, but for the democratic liberties of religion, free speech and economic well being of an increasingly interrelated world.

One could well argue that the debate is well underway, sotto voce. Certainly Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech was, if not the opening, one of the curtain raisers. Obama, in essence, extended the hand of friendship to the Moslem world. As part and parcel of his message, he not only accepted responsibility as he saw it for past American aggression against the Moslem world. But he denigrated, in the eyes of most American and international historians, the unparallel magnanimity of a rich and powerful U.S. since the end of World War II..

Even most Americans are unaware of the vast outpouring of U.S. resources, overwhelmingly private but official as well, which helped rehabilitate post-World War II Europe, and then went on to attempt, however unsuccessfully, the uplifting of what was then called “the third world” of poverty and ignorance in the pre-industrial societies.

But for many reasons – not the least the unrest produced by the beginning stirrings of modernity – the Arab and Moslem world beyond it went into a revolutionary period of upheaval and violence. It is a vast exaggeration to blame this movement from Dakar to Zamboanga on the decision of the Bush Administration to topple one of the most ruthless and cruel dictatorships the world has seen in Iraq’s Sadam Hussein. Likewise, the Obama decision to abandon the Iraqis to their own machinations with the sudden and complete withdrawal of American power only added to the tumult.

What is basic to the argument is the very nature of Islam.

The continued repeating of the cliché that Islam is a religion of peace does not alter the fact that history proves otherwise. The Arab acceptance of Mohammed’s preaching, according to their own and what other accounts we have, led immediately to warfare. Islam, first against Medina Jews who refused to accept Mohammed as the messiah, but thereafter, spread by the sword through the Middle East, crushing ancient Christian and other beliefs,. Tenets from forced conversion to death for those who Moslem believers who reject the faith are still part and parcel of the Moslem ethic and in the hadith, the literature surrounding Mohammed’s life, times and values.

A complicating factor, of course, is that the fundamental Islamic concept that the Koran, the store of Moslem teaching, is the word of Allah, the supreme being. Even though there has been historical research indicating at least some of the Koran predates Islam, that fundamental of the Moslem creed is basically different from both Christianity, Judaism and most other religions which accept even their holy writ as created by others. Thus the cliché that all three religions are “Abrahamic” and based in “the book’ is erroneous as is the Moslem claim that at times sanctifies certain relationships with others ‘of the book”, such as marriage. From almost the beginning of Judaism, and certainly of Christianity, exegeses of sacred texts has continued, although at times considered heresy and punished, It was this tradition which eventually led Martin Luther to success in his Reformation of the medieval Catholic Church and its Catholic Counter-Reformation which produced modern Christianity..

Today no matter how much non-violent Moslems refute the accusations that the Islamic terrorists – a name Obama and his associates refuse to use – have their roots in Islam, there is considerable contradictory evidence. Furthermore, there is also evidence that in recent terrorist episodes in the U.S., family members or other Moslems had information about the preparation for these outrages but either were sympathetic or intimidated into remaining silent. Some traditional concepts continue unreformed; for example, that Moslems who lie to nonbelievers are excused from moral stigma if the deed can be ascribed to fostering the fortunes of Islam..

There are numerous spokesmen today calling for a “ Moslem Reformation”. But they work at the margins of Islamic society and rarely have a foothold in the mosques, the halls of prayer, where inforunately too much of the recent violence has been plotted. Unquestionably, U.S. authorities responsible for the defense of the American people as their first and foremost responsibility, will have to servile domestic Moslem circles for possible terrorists in hiding. They certainly will have to examine as carefully as possible new migrants where agents of the terrorists may well be entering the U.S. as they have Western Europe as they have been publicly instructed to do.

. The bounds of this surveillance will have to be carefully monitored by human rights organizations. But if they are to assume that it is not necessary, as seems to be the case with the venerated but increasingly ideological National Association of Colored People [NAACP], then their role will not only restricted but useless. There are guidelines that might be adduced from the long fight against Communist penetration during The Cold War. But there is no way that the necessary pursuit of terrorism can be avoided unless and until there is an administration in Washington which is willing to declare an all-out war and is successful in destroying their sanctuaries to reduce “the victories” of the Mideast terrorists which unfortunately continue to draw malcontents and deranged adherents.

sws-07-15-16

The only strategy


Originally posted on June 13, 2016 |

While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.

There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.

The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando.

It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures.

But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.

Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.

But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve.

Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.

Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.

The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.

sws-06-20-16

Undiplomatic diplomacy


Fifty-one career diplomats have signed a protest to the Secretary of State and Pres. Barack Obama concerning U.S. policy toward the chaotic situation in Syria. Their essential point, that the U.S. should be doing everything it can to unseat the barbarous regime of Haffez al Assad, is well taken. Al Assad’s regime is now responsible for some 400,000 deaths by using weapons of war including aerial bombing against innocents caught up in the fighting. The barbarism of the regime is unparalleled. save perhaps that of Al Assad’s father, the former Syrian dictator. Unfortunately the regime is now regaining lost territory and taking a stronger line against any negotiated settlement of the civil war proposed by the U.S. and its allies in the Geneva peace conference which would see Al Assad go.
Yet we think the diplomats’ protest is a mistake. First of all, diplomats are civil servants, whose duty lies in implementing policies in which they have a participatory contribution, but one that demands public loyalty. For diplomats who cannot and will not abide by what they see as unredeeming strategic or policy mistakes, there is only one position: either keep still and work against policies within the Department or, resign with a public denunciationt as the Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, a career diplomat, did in May 2014. Ford was pulled out of Syria in a U.S. protest in February 2012 as the civil war escalated. He remained ambassador until 2014 but with an active campaign on against the regime on the social media.
But the diplomats’ statement – and surrounding publicity engendered by its being leaked to The New York Times. — has a much graver problem. The memorandum, or at least what has been released to the media, places the entire onus for the current state of Syria, on the al Assad regime. Unfortunately, there is not much now to choose from as far as U.S. policy is concerned in the parties in the chaotic internal struggle.
A moderate and democratic opposition to the al Basher regime — if it ever existed in sufficient numbers and influence even had it had American assistance which was not forthcoming from the Obama Administration — has been wiped out. Opponents of the regime now consist of Islamic terrorists of whatever flavor, but including both the two principal American enemies, Al Qaeda and Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
While one can make the argument, and that is implied in the diplomats’ statement, that the nature of the al Basher regime was the fundamental reason for the breakdown in civilization in the country, today the threat to U.S. national security comes from the Islamicist opponents of the regime. That has been proved conclusively in the series of terrorist attacks in the U.S. over the last year culminating in the greatest mass killing in U.S. history in Orlando.
The final outcome of the civil war in Syria – with growing Russian and participation by other Arab regimes – appears likely to culminate in an international conflagration ended only by an international negotiation. From the U.S. standpoint, absolutely essential to such a settlement would be the disarming and destruction of the regime’s Islamicist enemies. In that, at least, we appear to have the support of Moscow and certainly of our Western allies, led by the French with their long influence in the country and who have long advocated a more aggressive policy than the Obama Administration.
The Obama Administration has made its concept of threats to U.S. national security the sine qua non of its foreign policy. Whether it has, indeed, always recognized the issue in the tangled Syrian environment is another question. It may well be argued that it was Pres. Obama’s reluctance to intervene, after initially announcing a “red line” in Syria, and his earlier overly rapid withdrawal from Iraq, which brought on the current situation.
It would be well, then, were the concerned diplomats to consider the broader issues involved in the current Syrian inferno, before taking a position outside what are their normal demanding functions.
sws-05-18-16

The only strategy


While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.
There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.
The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando. It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures. But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.
Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.
But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve. Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.
Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.
The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.
sws-06-20-16

Mr. Obama’s conscience


The schizophrenic nature of the Obama Administration continues to run amok.
Polls, for what they are worth with liberal media sponsors, say the President’s approval rating is high; over 50% of the population admires him. But the Administration’s failures are becoming more apparent with each day.
It’s early but there are strong indications that the horrendous Orland mass shooting attack was a product of Mideast terrorism. And while the Administration claims gains in its declared war against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], the organization continues to expand its influence throughout the Moslem world. Inevitably, that means recruits will emerge among American Moslems for such attacks.
The Administration has failed to root out terrorist sympathizers among our native Moslem population, abandoning methods used so successfully by the New York Police department after the 9/11 attacks. Politically correct nostrums in and out of the Administration defy the logic that hidden terrorists exist in the community. Those who would reveal suspects are intimidated by some muddled-headed Moslem imams and pure and simple threats to their own lives. Nor has the Administration tackled the problem that our ostensible ally, Saudi Arabia, permits its closely aligned Wahabi Moslem fundamentalists to finance mosques and Moslem centers in the U.S. and around the world. Their doctrines reinforce traditional Islamic beliefs in forced conversion, the exclusion of other religious practices, and even political jihad and death to nonbelievers.
To examine and to argue against these beliefs among American Moslems and even foreign Moslem communities is not Islamophobia, a prejudiced and irrational attitude toward that religion and its followers. The truth is that Islam has never had its Reformation and Counterreformation and many of its adherents today nominally at least believe in concepts incompatible with American democratic values.
Any campaign to destroy Daesh and other manifestations of internationally organized Islamic terrorism has no alternative but to examine and openly discuss this problem. An ancillary is, of course, to provide security and protection to those American Moslems willing to speak out against misbegotten interpretations of their religion, or those which glorify instances of Moslem Jihad in its long struggle with the West. [The Crusaders, incidentally, were not a prejudiced aberration of the West as so often presented in arguments today, but an effort to defend native Christians and their sacred places in the Middle East.]
But living up to the requirements of its own declared war on Daesh is not the only problem of conscience for those in the Administration and its supporters.
Pres. Obama has now endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the next presidency. He does so with a host of contradictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its highly respected chief, James Comey, confirms that it is directing a criminal investigation of Ms. Clinton. Comey is somewhat protected from the narrower politics of Mr. Obama’s Democrats with his nine-year tenure. There is already enough evidence in the public record to charge Ms. Clinton with irresponsibly in using her private e-mail account. Such a charge has cost other public officials their careers. Much worse apparently is to come when more is known of why Ms. Clinton went to such effort to use nonofficial communications for official documents
It will be Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who must decide whether a prosecution goes forward. Ms. Lynch received the approval of Republicans as well as Democrats when Mr. Obama nominated her for the post because of her considerable record as prosecutor. But she is a member of the President’s cabinet and subject to his oversight and decisions. A decision not to prosecute Ms. Clinton, whether now, after her nomination, or after the election, would be a violation of the trust and duty demanded by her office.
These are issues which should be if they are not on Mr. Obama’s conscience. And they, more than his minimal legislative and administrative accomplishments, will be the historic legacy he seems so eager to advance in his last months in office.
sws-06-19-16

The Saudi revolution


The Saudi family is engaged in a struggle to overhaul their notoriously pragmatic if autocratic regime.
Younger, foreign [many American] educated members of the farflung family recognize that The Shale Revolution has changed the whole nature of the world energy market. They recognize that despite opposition from enviromentalists and lack of technology in some countries, the exploitation of shale oil and gas deposits widely distributed around the world is going to continue to produce fossil fuel surpluses. That may even be the case if the world economy and consumoption take an upturn from the near-recession conditions in Europe and China reverse.
America is again emerging as a gas and oil exporter to challenge the longtime hold of the Saudis as the arbiter of world prices. Pres. Barack Obama’s “deal” with the Iranians, whether successful or not, for ending their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, has begun to lifted sanctions against the Tehran mullahs. And Iran is slowly moving back into world markets with its reserves, among the largest in the world. Other smaller producers are emerging in West Africa and throughout Asia and Latin America. To some extent they will compensate in the world market for any temporary blocs against Libyan, Syrian or other Mideast producers.
Thirty-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and the king’s favorite son is leading the charge for a radical departure from the norm. Saudi policy in the post-World War II era, after securing a tacit alliance with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, has been preservation of the status quo. As the guardians of the Moslem holy shrines in Mecca, they have had disproportionate influence not only on their fellow Arabs but throughout the Moslem world. [One of the religious duties of all Moslems is to make at least once in a lifetime to these shrines.]
Bin Salman recognizes that the kingdom’s public finances are unsustainable and unlikely to rebound in a future oil market . He wants to radically change all that with. “Vision 2030”. The plan aims to slash wasteful government spending, develop a non-oil economy and wean the population off its total dependency on cradle to grave benefits. It also aims to boost private sector investment and job creation. Khalid al-Falih, the new chairman of state-owned oil company Aramco, recognizes that he is unlikely to hold the central role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], that in the past dictated world oil prices.
The Saudis are late in following in the footsteps of their oil-rich neighbors who have moved away from crude oil. Abu Dhabi, much wealthier on a per capita than Saudi Arabia, has struggled to do so. But fellow emirate Dubai has engineered a transformation over the past 40 years that has weaned it almost entirely off oil, which once contributed 50 per cent of its GDP.
The planned changes will be extremely difficult to execute. Public wages are to be reduced as a proportion of the budget to 40 per cent by 2020 from the current 45 per cent currently, a goal that could increase public opposition given expectations of rising inflation. It would mean a decrease in total salaries from Sar480 billion to Sar456 billion by 2020, with two-thirds of Saudi workers state-employed.
Other equally difficult targets include raising non-oil revenues to Sar530 billion from Sar163.5 billion last year by 2020 through an increase in government fees and taxes, including a sales tax, income taxes on non-Saudi residents and “sin taxes” on harmful products such as tobacco. The Saudis aim to balance the budget by 2020, with debt rising to 30 per cent of GDP by 2020 from 7.7 per cent currently. But the IMF forecasts a budget deficit of 14 per cent this year.
All this is to be accomplished while the Saudis continue to try to mobilize their fellow Arabs – with American support – against the continuing threat of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], terrorists in Syri and Iraq threatening its neighbors. Crossing the Sunni-Shia, these Saudi enemies will try to exploit the traditional unrest among Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority in the critical southeastern oilfields.
No Middle East phenomenon matches the long-time outcome of these events in Saudi Arabia.

sws-06-15-16

Facing up to Mideast realities


With all signs pointing to a new war between the Israelis and the Moslem terrorist Hamas in Gaza, now supported despite their Sunni-Shia differences by Tehran’s mullahs, one lesson seems not to have been learned by Washington. That is that whatever opportunities there are for a Jewish-Moslem, Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement in the region, they are not through the old suggestion of “land for peace”
The unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Strip in 2005, had been proposed in 2003 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the Government in June 2004, approved by the Knesset [Israeli parliament] in February 2005 and enacted in August 2005. Sharon saw it as a step, the first step, in an accomodation with the Palestinians and their Arab allies after Israel’s blitkfrieg in the June 1967 Six-Day War. The Israelis had demonstrated they were the primary regional military power and could, again, however reluctantly, take on all comers.
What neither Sharon nor the Talking Heads anticipated was that free elections would turn up a plurality of the 1.6 million Gazans for Hamas, an Islamicist opposition to the secularist Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] of Yasser Arafat. Arafat and his PLO had had a virtual monopoly as the only spokesmen for growing Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas proceeded to try to literally eliminate the PLO in Gaza, including throwing PLO supporters off roofs. Arafat’s successors have continued to maintain their hold on the 2.5 million West Bank Arabs [despite a quarter of a million Jews in “settlements” there] and the 200,000 Arabs and Jews in East Jerusalem. These areas were held by Jordan after the 1947 declaration of an Israeli state and what the Jews call their war for independence, but its Husseini rulers were pushed back across the Jordan in 1967.
However, there have been major changes in what had seemed a long stalemate.
Hamas, only opposed by terrorist organizations even more violent, not only maintains its grip on Gaza but probably would win an election in what is generally called the West Bank. A stronger Israel now increasingly argues that while it hosted a major Arab, largely Moslem, minority, after independence, its claims to Judea and Samaria, traditional names for the West Bank, must be honored. Predictions that Israel’s Arab [and Druse] minority would be a quarter of its total population by 2050 [now just over eight million] are now being revised. In the always difficult estimates of fertility and population increase, the Israeli Arab population – those in the pre-1967 state – has fallen behind the now more rapid increase among the Jews.
Another and perhaps the most complicating factor is that Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem are the sites of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, finally suppressed by the Romans with the dispersal of the Jews. The urban and agricultural developments which the Zionists have achieved with enormous success in such areas as Tel Aviv and Haifa were never the heart of the Jewish homelands which the current Israeli state attempts to restore. Yet most observers believe that were free elections now held Hamas might well win elections there too With no widely recognized successor to seventy-nine -year-old Mohammed Abbas who now heads the PLO/Palestinian “state” the Israeli argument that they have no negotiating partner has substance..
A militant, threatening Hamas-dominated state on the West Bank would be an existentialist threat to Israel’s existence, as the PLO always threatened pre-1967. Pres. Barak Obama’s public statements suggesting that pre-1967 borders be the basis for new negotiations has not only infuriated the Israelis, but is an obvious non-starter. Those boundaries included, for example, only a slender corridor connecting Tel Aviv and the Israeli plains with Western Jerusalem that target would be the object of any militarized Arab state on the West Bank.
In theory, both Israel and the U.S. accept the possibility of two states, one Israeli, Jewish, “within secure borders”, and another which recognizes Palestinian yearnings. But no Palestinian group, from so-called “moderates” to Hamas, has been willing to make even a nominal formal pledge to accept the Jews’ right to a state in the region.
That, unfortunately, is where the Israel-Palestinian problem awaits the next president of the United States if he is to make a major contribution to Mideast peace and stability.
sws-06-09-16

Stumbling into war


Despite Pres. Barack Obama’s continued insistence that he has pulled the U.S. out of endless – and unsuccessful – wars in the Mideast, American military involvement continues there.

Witness to the continued engagement, and in fact what appears to be an escalation of that commitment, is in the official news within the last 24 hours of another as yet unnamed Navy Seal killed. He appears to have been an adviser in what is a growing offensive to retake Mosul. A city normally of about two and a half million people in northern Iraq, Mosul has been occupied since June 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and become one its crown jewels..

This is the third death announced since last fall in the more recent American engagement in the region. Theoretically, Americans are only acting as noncombatant but in the fog of war that distinction may fall away quickly The news was blanketed in the extended government and general media publicity given the fifth anniversary of the purtsuit and killing of Osama Ben Ladin, The elimination of Ben Ladin, as well as the continued drone strikes by U.S. forces of known and wanted terrorists, is offered as proof that the Obama Administration has been effectively pursuing a campaign and in eliminating enemies in the continuing struggle against Islamic terrorism.

With what we know of the U.S. commitment there these latest casualties are Special Forces or Seals encadred in local forces to give spine to Iraq government military efforts. It is part of what Obama ordered “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL” That is the way Obama has characterized the renewed effort of the U.S to end the base of the new terror threat in a September 2014 speech to the nation.

But the refusal by the Obama Administration to acknowledge that the enemy is Islamic terrorism, with its ties however obscure and rejected by other Moslems, is hampering the prosecution of any effective effort against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL]. It is no secret that a larger part of the worldwide 1.3 billion Moslem community is neutered by fear of the minority pusuing jihad, or indeed has a substantial minority sympathetic to the Moslem theis of tradional conquest or conversion of non-Moslems. So long as Daesh is victorious – that is, able to lay a claim that it is a new rising Moslem caliphate or worldwide regime – it will be gathering adherents in the Moslem world. As always, the military and hits supporters wants a maximum effort as soon as possible to destroy the enemy.

Nor is the Obama Administration yet willing to acknowledge that contrary to the advice of the U.S. military, immediately on entering office he removed any American military presence in Iraq. He claimed, although denouncing the two Bush Administrations’ intervention to pull down the dictator Sadam Hussein and his Baath Party, that he was leaving a stable and peaceful country behind. That immediately turned out not to be the case, and his critics have argued that unlike our continued occupations after World War II of Germany and South Korea, it was predictable that we were leaving imminent chaos. That is in part why there have been 260 deaths added during the Obama Administration to the 4497 deaths since the Iraq wars began.

Now a new danger has arisen. By feeding American forces incrementally into the current effort to destroy Daesh, Obama risks that Daesh as long as it exists will take on new and effective strategies to counter the U.S. and Iraqi anti-terrorist forces. Furthermore, it is clear that with its very sophisticated propaganda and successful financial manipulation, Daesh is gaining ground with the various Islamic terrorist movements in Libya, West , North and Central Africa and Indonesia as well as in Syria and Iraq.. And through its influence in the Moslem Brotherhood, nominally Islamicist forces seeking to gain power through the ballot – and hang on to it – Daesh is putting pressure on Turkey and other Moslem-majority countries such as Pakistan with their own jihdist threats.

Washington is in fact groping into a new full-fledged conflict in the Middle East without proper planning and preparation. The kind of incrementalism that the current Obama strategy indicates is to a considerable extent the cause of our stalemate in Korea and our ultimate defeat in Vietnam. It is not a path we should be pursuing.

sws-05-09-16

Jews, Zionism, Israel


With all the current economic and political problems, it is something of a curiosity that the Europeans – including the British – are again tussling over the Jews and their relationship to the larger society. It’s no secret that Europe’s old-fashioned anti-Semitism – hatred of the Jews – has found a new ally in the new radical political left. That explains, to some extent, why the British Labor Party, so long a bastion for U.K. Jewish voters, has just expelled two prominent members for their alleged anti-Jewish statements.
No one has ever given a completely adequate explanation of Western anti-Semitism. True enough, in a time of more radical fundamentalist Christian beliefs in the Catholic Church, particularly; there was the accusation that “the Jews killed the Christ”. Of course, what makes that accusation ridiculous for those who know the history of the Roman conquest of Biblical Palestine and the repeated Hebrew revolts against it, is the acceptance in Christianity of so much of the older religion. That “the Jews” like other social, ethnic or religious groups have their share of ignominy could never be contested but whether it merits the attention it gets is another issue altogether That is, why anti-Jewish prejudice and activity should be such a prominent part of European social history, even now that the great bulk of European Jewry has been annihilated by the Nazis, is again inexplicable..
“The Jewish question” as it used to be called in European politics, merges, of course, into the issues of Zionism. This is the catch-all name for all those various efforts and movements to return the Jews, or at least a significant portion of them, to a state of their own in its former historic hinterland. The subject, unfortunately, covers everything from those – Christian as well as Jew – who have propounded the idea from the late 19th century. Some antagonists saw it as an effort to expel the Jews from European society, others as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and/or the culmination of their faith which would bring a second coming of the Christ and usher in a period of heaven on earth. But in part as a result of the Holocaust, Zionism in the post-World War era took on a mantle of dynamic secular statehood which despite all odds and repeated efforts by its Arab Moslem neighbors has created a new independent and relatively successful state of the Jews in the Middle East.
But the existence of a functioning state has — if not aggravated — made the problems of Jew-hatred and its “solution” even more complex. It was inevitable, perhaps, that any state – much less a Jewish one created in the morass of the Middle East – would undertake policies to which some of its critics have taken strong objection. One aspect is that the Arabs of British Mandated Palestine between the two world wars took on their own identity – “the Palestinians” — and a nationalism which had never existed in an Arab or Moslem state in the area. It was also perhaps inevitable that as the Israeli state became stronger and assertive, a less cohesive if modernized Arab population in the same neighborhood would become a sympathetic underdog figure for Western idealists, particularly on the left.
This has, in turn, added to a powerful political debate over Israeli policies, and the difficulty of distinguishing its more virulent critics from the traditional anti-Semites with their Jew hatred. Why, the accusations and counter-accusations over these arguments given so many other issues, should take such a prominent place in current European politics is again something of a mystery. One explanation, of course, is that the growth of anti-Semitism in the contemporary period is as seen by many as a candle in the mineshaft. It is too often associated with those European political circles tempted, now once again, by authoritarianism and chauvinist dictatorship which dominated European politics in the 1930s and helped bring on World War II.
Whatever the failings of the Israeli state, it still constitutes the only country in the area which represents Western democratic values. It is no accident, as the Communists used to say, that Mideast Christians today are only safe from persecution and even annihilation in an Israel which while dedicated to the concept of “a Jewish state” preserves the rights of its significant Arab minority however much they are victims of their own incapacities and discrimination.
As the debate continues, it is important to try to cultivate the particulars. By not doing so, we again risk running into dangerous territory.
sws-04-30.16

The Donald’s foreign policy


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


More than ever before – the history stretches back to the 1950 Korean War outbreak and recognition that the Cold War had come to Asia – U.S.-Japan relations are the keystone of American strategy for peace and stability in Asia. .
But tending a vast network of bilateral and multilateral connections in which Japan plays a role is as important as cultivating all the bits and pieces of the bilateral alliance. That’s true even with the alliance’s permanent sore spots such as Okinawa with its local radicals and blackmailers. The recent slightly deemphasis of Okinawa with U.S. troops transfers and power projection to Guam are only a slight modifications of a larger strategic concept.That American Okinawa base along with other Japanese Main Island air and navy installations – particularly the naval base at Yokosuka so close to Tokyo — remain central to the U.S. East Asian strategic interests.
Coaxing Japan — with a significant and potent resistance from those clinging to the old illusion of the radical pacifist constitution written by the American Occupation — is among the most important U.S.’ diplomatic Asian projects. It includes trying to integrate Japan’s potential military power as well as its great economic clout into a multinational alliance.
Unfortunately, perhaps the most crucial link between two American bilateral Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, is constantly butting up against the history of Tokyo’s often embittered occupation of the peninsular. North Korea’s sympathizers and as well as genuine Korean nationalists have a hard time forgetting this past. Beijing, increasingly more pragmatic, has exploited this gaping hole in the U.S. strategy with a campaign of seduction of Seoul. It has done so even at the expense of its relationship with its satellite in Pyongyang but who is increasingly dependent on Beijing for its economic survival. So far Beijing’s ability to balance these two relationships has exceeded expectations in Washington and Tokyo and suggests the enormity of the growing problem of how to deal with China,
However strong the aversion to “creating an enemy” in some American academic and political circles, “the problem of a rising China” is growing. China’s aggressive military expansion into the East China Sea where it challenges traditional Japanese claims and its creation of new bases athwart one of the world’s most important naval highways in the South China Sea have to be a cause of concern. Hopefully, China’s still “developing” economy dependent on its successful trade with the U.S., Japan and other Western industrial states, is a counter to its more chauvinist forces. But the increasing reliance of Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping on the military as he has tried to build a highly personalized regime is a source of concern.
All this, of course, led then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 to announce “a pivot to Asia” for U.S. foreign policy. While the Pentagon dutifully announced readjustment of forces, in fact the Mideast crises have continued to ensnarl the Obama Administration. That’s despite its overall goals of reducing regional military commitments as part of the Obama general retreat by the U.S. from world leadership. The “pivot’ has been furthered encumbered by China’s growing regional economic influence, even among the Southeast Asian states who feel threatened.
The latest example of these complications is the decision by Australia to go to the French – for an advanced design – with a $50-billion submarine program over the next decade. The Australian buildup is an important part of what Washington would like to see as a grand alliance among Japan, the Southeast Asians, India and Australia to curb Chinese military expansion. The Japanese had been favored by the Americans for the contract but lost out, at least in part, because of Tokyo’s amateurism in military equipment export diplomacy – only recently begun by Prime Minister Shinto Abe as the latest in the stretching of Japan’s “no war” constitution. Tokyo is convinced that Australia’s dependence on China for massive raw materials purchases, and Beijing’s opposition to the Japan bid was the main obstacle.
The complexity of the Asian scene will continue to dog the last months of the Obama Administration and leave a legacy of demands for diplomatic expertise of the highest caliber for the next administration.
sws-04-26-16

Obama, you are there, nicht wahr?


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