Category Archives: Pakistan

Misplaced charity


Pres. Barack Obama’s proposal for what would be a substantial new entry of Syrian refugees is a major miscalculation of traditional American morality and generosity.
It is true that the 13.5 million Syrian refugees, half of them expelled or hounded out of their country, are a momentous human tragedy. And America has almost always responded to some calamities.
But the question of additional Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. is part of a challenging failing American immigration policy which has become an extremely divisive political issue.
While generally unrecognized, it has arisen because of the profound changes which have taken place in worldwide migration patterns and the traditional one of entry into the U.S. Rapid and cheap transportation and communication has changed the pattern of the lives of newcomers to America.
In the great wave of American immigration of the late 19th and early 20th century, Europeans abandoned their homelands with a desire to build a new life in The New World. Ties to the old country, while culturally deep, dissolved – and, indeed, some ethnic and religious groups such as the Jews did not want to look back on persecution. Even the Italians, with their celebrated family ties, came and for the most part to their new neighborhoods, only occasionally maintained their European ties, mainly for remittances for family to follow them.
In the 21st century, immigrants to the U.S. may have much of the same motivation. But large numbers come for economic benefits and either maintain their relationships with their home countries, return at frequent intervals, or, indeed, return to their original homelands.
Those New York City Indian and Pakistani taxi drivers, for example, rarely bring their families, and return on long “vacations” to their families with whom they are in constant contact through cheap communication. This group, like other migrants with similar patterns, have no intention of becoming ‘Americans” in the traditional way although they might acquire U.S. citizenship for convenience and profit. Important, often influential, groups such as these exist today at every level of American society including the highest echelons of business and culture in our major cities.
Another significant difference from past patterns of immigration is that welcoming ethnic or religious communities in the U.S. which once helped integrate the newcomers are no longer prominent if they exist at all. Syrian Moslems, for example, find little institutional aid from coreligionists when they immigrate to the U.S. And, in fact, some of the existing Moslem organizations are suspect with ties to the Moslem Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terrorism. Ostensibly pursuing an electoral policy [The Brotherhood’s strategy of “One man, one vote – one time!”], Its attempt to establish an Islamic dictatorship was proved quickly to the satisfaction of the Egyptian electorate which welcomed the military back to power.]
On August First U/S. Homeland Security Jeh Johnson issued “temporary protected status” to some 8,000 Syrian, many of whom had arrived in the U.S. illegally. He did so, he said, because ““Syria’s lengthy civil conflict has resulted in … [A]ttacks against civilians, the use of chemical weapons and irregular warfare tactics, as well as forced conscription and use of child soldiers have intensified the humanitarian crisis.” Another 7,000 Syrian refugees – many of them persecuted Christians and other non-Moslem minorities — have been admitted legally to the U.S. since Oct. 1, 2015. Obama announced in September that the U.S. would admit 10,000 Syrian refugees by Sept. 30, 2016.
But GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has attacked this decision, arguing that – as FBI Director John Comey has admitted – despite elaborate UN and US procedures to process them, little is known of the refugees’ background. Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] like other Mideast terrorists has made no secret of their attempt to infiltrate refugee communities. Only a few such subversives, given the gruesome “effectiveness” of suicide bombers, could defeat efforts to defend Americans against attacks such as took place in Orlando, San Bernardino and Ft. Hood by immigrants.
American charity might better be directed toward relief efforts for the Syrian refugees in the region. Oil-rich neighbors in the Persian Gulf have not met demands that they absorb, at least temporarily, Syrians [and other Mideasterners masquerading as Syrians] who have moved into Jordan, Turkey and Western Europe by the hundreds of thousands. [Germany took in more than a million migrants from the Mideast last year, and difficulties of absorbing them and with highly dramatized attacks on women and other crinmes, are now producing a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcome].
Illegal migration from Mexico and Central America has already become a major problem for U.S. immigration policy, developing into a political football between the parties based on a still nebulous growing influence of Spanish-speaking voters. Adding the Syrian problem to this controversy neither benefits the humanitarian goals of its sponsors nor the formulation of new American immigration policies to meet a new world of migration.
sws-08-4-16

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

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

A Pakistan time-bomb?


Although the Obama Administration may well not recognize it, Pakistan is turning into the U.S.’ number one problem in fighting worldwide Islamic terrorism.
The massacre of 79, many of them children, by an Islamic terrorist group aiming at Christians on a community playground on Eastern Sunday – large numbers of Moslems were also killed and wounded – marks a new downturn in Pakistan. The suicide bomber’s choice of a target in Lahore, Pakistan’s most sophisticated and second largest city, marks a new turn in the two decades of terrorist activity. Lahore is capital of Punjab province with almost twothirds of Pakistan’s 185 million people. Noted for their pragmatism, Pujabis are widely represented in the Pakistan diaspora in the West and despite their religious differences, share much with their neighbors in bordering Indian Punjab.
It’s significant that the Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, which claimed credit for the attack, pledges allegiance to Daesh [The Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL].
Punjab is the power base of its native son Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, the province’s chief minister and power broker. It had been largely spared ghowing terrorism over the last two decades and the military’s counteroffensive.
The Sharifs’ political success has depended on support from the more religious, and financial help from Saudi Arabia. Their civilian rule – Pakistan has spent more than half its existence under military rule – is now in jeopardy. The military has been battling a growing insurgency from Islamic terrorists it out in Karachi, Pakistan’s huge port city. [In December 2014, terrorists, massacred 132 children at a military supported Army school in Peshawar, in the northwest frontier province adjoining Afghanistan.].
. Pakistan’s losses, far greater than those of Western terrorist episodes in the West, have been largely ignored by the foreign media. But this new turn of events, a strike at the heart of the Pakistan civilian regime, signals an increasing a growing threat to what has always been an unstable country. From its creation, carved from Moslem majority areas in British India in 1947 in a bloody partition of the Subcontinent, Pakistan originally included two disparate areas at the extremes of the Subcontinent separated by 1500 miles of the new India. That was resolved with a brief war with India when Bangladesh broke away in 1972. But Pakistan was also bound by other contradictions. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founding leader of the country who died shortly after its creation, while basing his claims on the distinction of “two nations” in British India, one Moslem and the other Hindu, like most of Pakistan’s leadership including its military were not devout Moslems.
Fanatical Moslem groups have become more and more active despite a campaign by the military to curb their sanctuaries in the Pakistan-Afghanistan areas. Always keying their foreign policy to their Indian neighbors with whom they have fought three wars since independence, Pakistan has drifted in and out of an alliance with the U.S. since Partition. With the U.S.’ growing ties to India, anti-Americanism is on the rise in Pakistan.
Washington policy makers had generally seen Pakistan as a bloc to former Soviet – and even older Russian imperial – efforts to reach the Indian Ocean and as a counter to Jawaharlal Nehru’s alliance with the Soviets. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the U.S. used Pakistan as a base to oust Moscow in 1980-82 with the help of NATO allies, and again, after the 9/11 [2001] attack by Osama Ben-Ladin from his base in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime.
If the Pakistan military are unable to curb the growing terrorist movements, Pakistani fanatics could well become the most important recruits for Daesh and its attempt to create a worldwide Moslem terrorist network. Contrary to much that has been written, Daesh’s recruits are largely from relatively privileged disaffected Moslems, not the impoverished mass. With the Pakistanis’ large English-speaking minority and its large body of technical immigrants in the West – widely represented in Silicon Valley, for example – it could add immeasurably to Washington’s effort to curb growing international terrorism.
sws-03-31-16

Moslems, Islamists, Terrorists and Islam


 

The time has come, and indeed, has long passed for a frank and open discussion of the growing confrontation between the Western democracies and the Moslem world.

Were there no other issue than the fact that there are some 1.3 billion world inhabitants who consider themselves Moslem, whatever their differences, the issue is moot. Now the combination of the continuing chaos in the Arab and Moslem world and the massive Moslem migration into the formerly non-Islamic societies requires it.

It perhaps goes without saying that the issues are complex and fraught.

Islam, despite its hundreds of millions of peaceful adherents, has never been a “religion of peace” as so many contemporary politicians espouse, including Pres. George W. Bush. From its very origins, Islam – a political as well as a religious movement – has confronted the Judeo-Christian West, more often than not relying on its sword to settle ensuing arguments It is equally false, as Pres. Barack Obama has repeatedly said, that Islam has played a great role in the development of the American ethic; indeed, the opposite is true when the first U.S. armed conflict abroad was a war against pirates espousing the Islamic cause on “The Barbary Coast” of North Africa.

In the current explosion of old arguments, Moslems are far more likely – given their inferior military and other effects of stable government – to seek other means than military to win arguments and concessions. In fact, the most powerful transnational organization in the Islamic world today is the Moslem Brotherhood whose origins lie in a strategy of using such Western institutions as representative government to gain influence, power. However, as the brief regime of Egypt’s Pres. Mohammed Morsi proved, the Brotherhood concept is “one man, one vote, one time”.

The cliché that Islam is an “Abrahamic” religion thereby sharing the concepts of Christianity and Judaism today toward the two other beliefs is false. Yes, Islam does borrow from the Jewish and Christian legends but it has never met the test and modifications of the Jews through 19th Century Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the Christian Reformation and the Counter-Reformations. Ironically, the highly influential 12th century Spanish Moslem philosopher Averroes [Ibn Rushd] contributed mightily to the origins of modern syncretic Christianity, but Islam lost the 12th century debate to the fundamentalists from which it has never recovered.

Toleration of all religions is a foundation of modern democratic society. In countries today where Moslems are in the majority, such tolerance is next to zero. Even Pakistan, with its enormous inheritance of British Indian law and pluralism, restricts Christian practice, and there is almost monthly violence – often deadly — against “nonbelievers”. The concept that, sharii, the great and ambiguous body of Islamic law, could have precedence over the American Constitution is unacceptable.

How, then, is the West to respond to these new demands of Moslems as individuals and sometimes as organized entities to participate in the power structures of the nation states created even in Afro-Asia by the European world?

The only response is that Moslems and their faith must meet the requirements of modern tolerant and pluralistic democracy in the same way as other religions and philosophies. The current tendency to accommodate Moslems and Islam through special courtesies is mistaken and can only lead to disaster. This is true not only in legal and political terms but also in the world of culture. When Simon & Schuster create a new imprint called Salaam Reads targeted to young Moslem adults, it is a misplaced effort. The publisher says it is to help integrate these new arrivals into our culture. But Simon & Schuster do not have Catholic, Jewish or Buddhist subsidiaries. And they are abandoning the essence of the American concept that the U.S. was created as a place that welcomes immigrants from all over the world precisely so they can have the freedom to believe what they wish live unbound by birth or class or government restriction – or incentive.

Nor can the great bulk of Moslems be excused from facing the cold fact that Islam, however falsely, is the foundation on which the contemporary world’s greatest threat to peace and security arises. They, above others, must be able to discuss openly and honestly why this is the case, and what concepts remain still unpurged from Islamic belief that give rise to these attacks on the civilized world.

Open covenants openly arrived at was not just a cliché which Woodrow Wilson hoped would be the foundation of the peace after World War I, but is as appropriately applied today to the problem of Islam and Islamic terrorism. Ignoring or obfuscating the problem of Islam in the 21st Century is as much a threat to world peace and stability as the acts of terror themselves.

sws-01-27-16

 

 

 

 

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

Democratic Taiwan


Largely ignored by the mainstream media, Friday’s Taiwan elections have enormous implications not only for the Island’s 25 million people, but for China – and the U.S.

Ironically, the election of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] leader, Tsai Ing-wen, a woman at that — reinstalled a movement dedicated to maintaining Taiwan’s separate identity, the Island remains essentially a Chinese culture. It marks only a second time in its 2,000-year a Chinese entity has peacefully transferred power. The DPP earlier won power in 100-1008 as a minority government.

The meeting last fall of Beijing’s Pres. Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s outgoing Pres. Ma Ying-jeou was not only unprecedented, but finally marked the tacit recognition by the Communists of the Island’s stature. Beijing now has to bite its lip, having apparently Communist leadership thought that protocol concession after six decades would help Ma’s Party.

Tsai’s victory speech was a ringing declaration for preservation of the current status quo and a call on Beijing to avoid provocations. With slightly hunched shoulders, shy for a public figure, 59-year-old Tsai made it clear she and her Party – a large section dedicated to formal independence – would oppose amalgamation with the Mainland. That flies in the face of the Communists’ claim that Taiwan is an integral part of “One China” which Taiwan and Mainland leadership acknowledged to reduce tensions in 1992. Meanwhile, Beijing refuses to renounce force in resolving the relationship between the two countries.

The defeat of Tsai’s opposition, the Kuomintang, was to a considerable extent a reaction to Ma’s series of economic agreements with Xi and a movement toward some political arrangement. A downturn in the Taiwan economy and increased unemployment also played a large role.

In part, of course, Ma’s concessions to Mainland integration were only recognizing the Island’s growing economic ties to the Communists. Taiwanese economic relations are now a significant economic force for both Mainland China and Taiwan. Two-way trade is well over $350-billion, with the transfer of technology and resident Taiwanese management an important element in the Mainland rapid economic growth. More recently Taiwan authorities have permitted Mainland investment, including a highly controversial Chinese Mainland $2.7 billion participation in Taiwan’s semiconductor industry

Washington’s relationship to the Taiwan regime has fluctuated. When the Kuomintang [Nationalist] leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949after his defeat by the Communists, Washington endorsed Chiang’s effort to reconquer the Mainland. [U.S. clandestine forces aided Nationalist military who had spilled over the borders into Burma, Thailand and Nepal.] During the Korean War, more than 20,000 former Nationalist soldiers defected from Communist North Korea to U.S.-led forces to join their old comrades in Taiwan. In 1958, when Beijing threatened to invade Taiwan, the U.S. responded with an implied threat to use nuclear weapons to prevent a Mainland takeover. When Pres. Jimmy Carter swapped recognition of “China” from Taiwan to the Communists, a rebellion of Congressional Taiwan sympathizers passed the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 pledging continued U.S. defense of Taiwan including arming its forces.

Meanwhile Taiwan has become an economic powerhouse – the fifth largest in Asia and 19th in worldwide purchasing power — with what now looks like stable political institutions. Real growth has averaged about 8% over the past three decades. Old labor-intensive businesses have been steadily shoved off-shore, replaced with more capital- and technology-intensive industries.

But Taiwan is again more than an important trading partner for the U.S. [roaring toward $65 billion both ways in 2015.] With an increasingly aggressive China threatening freedom of the seas in the East China and South China seas, it again has taken on strategic importance. In December Washington after dragging its feet through the Bush and Obama Administrations finally okayed $1.8 billion in weapons for Taiwan over Communist objections. Although the package, to be delivered over several years, contains two decommissioned US Navy frigates, surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles and amphibious assault vehicles, most observers see it as inadequate to deter any Mainland military adventure.

Maintaining a stable and democratic Taiwan is an essential part of any American Asian strategy. It needs to be high on the list for reexamination by the new president in 2017. The issue is pressing all the more given the Obama Administration’s failing effort for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announced “pivot to Asia” to meet the growing threat of Chinese aggression.

sws-01-16-16

 

Beijing’s water politics


There is increasing concern in South and Southeast Asia over Beijing’s control and implied threat to the major water arteries flowing through the region. Six of the major South Asian and Southeast Asian rivers, the heart of life in South and Southeast Asia, rise on the Tibetan plateau. The Chinese Communists have been on an intensive program of dam building on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, the Irrawady, the Meman Chao Phya and the Mekong, which would give them control of these arteries of commerce as well as irrigation for vast areas downstream.

The issue is further complicated by the effect of global warming on the Tibetan glaciers where snows are melting at an unusually rapid pace on 46,000 glaciers, the largest concentration of ice after the south and north poles. Tibet has some of the most rapidly rising temperatures on the planet. One of Tibet’s lakes, Namtso, a holy site where pilgrims circumnavigate its banks in prayer, expanded by 20 square miles from 2000 to 2014 from the melting ice and snow. It’s estimated that Tibet’s glaciers have shrunk by some 15% over the past 30 years. And some scientists have warned that if melting continues at current levels, the warmer temperatures will wipe out two-thirds of the plateau’s glaciers by 2050, affecting more than two billion people in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It is against this background that China has been building politically potent barrages. The most dramatic example is China’s plan to divert the Brahmaputra from its upper reaches where it flows a thousand miles through Tibet and then another 600 miles through India., including emptying into the harbor of its second largest city and port, Calcutta. The Brahmaputra is the lifeline of northeast India, an already troubled region with caste and other ethnic conflicts, some traditionally fed by Chinese subversion.

Concern has also been expressed by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over eight dams it is building on the upper reaches of the Mekong river. The Burmese military junta canceled a dam under construction inside Myanmar.one of six other Chinese-led hydroelectric projects planned for the upper reaches of the Irrawady which would have exported electricity to southern China.

Governments and the business communities are worried that Beijing’s apparent intention to dam every major river flowing out of Tibet will lead to environmental imbalance, natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, and most of all, divert vital water supplies. The extent of the Chinese program is monumental — on the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, Beijing has already completed 20 dams or has them under construction while it has announced plans for three dozen more.

The Dalai Lama has pointed out the obvious, that China’s program could lead to conflict. He warned that India’s use of the Tibetan water “is something very, very essential. So, since millions of Indians use water coming from the Himalayan glaciers… I think you [India] should express more serious concern. This is nothing to do with politics, just everybody’s interests, including Chinese people.”

The Chinese program for the Brahmaputra is only one of many issues which dog the India-China relationship. Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, from the nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party, has blown hot and cold over this issue as with other irritants in the relation ship between the two countries. Despite extensive contacts, the Himalayan border disputes which date back almost a century are no more near solution than they ever were with frequent if small set-tos by the countries’ military. Increasing penetration of the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, once dependencies of British India, has become a continuing concern for New Delhi.

Meanwhile, however, China has become India’s No. 1 trading partner – up to an estimated $80 billion in 2015, $10 billion more than 2014. That’s despite concern in New Delhi that Indian exports are largely raw materials and imports Chinese electronics and other manufactured goods. Extensive economic relations are often seen as insuring political disagreements would somehow be sorted out – but that has to contend with the U.S.-Japan relationship on the eve of World War II. An outbreak of uncontrolled violence between the two Asian giants is one more high priority concern that must be on America’s foreign policy agenda.

This takes on new weight as Washington negotiates with Modi for access for unlimited refueling and basing in Indian ports, a mutual treaty which of course is largely meaningless for Indians deployment in American waters. But access to Indian ports would be of considerable strategic advantage the U.S. operating in the vast Indian Ocean.

 

sws-01-15-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope in Pakistan


Reports that the Pakistan government has moved on Islamic “militants” who allegedly were involved in attacks on Indian border military installations in early January is good news – not only for the region but for the U.S.

The Subcontinent has long been plagued with guerrilla forces –imed at supporting Pakistan in disputed Kashmir, the Moslem majority Himalayan state largely ruled by India. These groups had the support of the military, especially the country’s notorious intelligence community. But inevitably these Muslim terrorists have have expanded their activities beyond Kashmir into the growing international networks. With Pakistan’s huge population, virtually all Moslem, of 185 million, there is the growing threat it could become a principal recruiting area for the Mideast Islamic terrorists, constituting an enormous increase in the threat to the U.S. and other Western countries. In fact, Pakistanis have already appeared in the ranks of the Mideast Muslim terrorists.

Now Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sharaz Sharif has arrested 13 Islamic militants including Masood Azhar, a notorious hardliner, in a move without precedent in response to Indian requests for aid in the investigations of the attack on the Indian air force base. The arrest followed recent impromptu meetings between Sharif, and Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi. The arrest surprised most Western observers, especially given the irony that the two leaders share radical pasts: Sharif is close to the Saudi Arabian royal family and Modi comes out of the current ruling party in India with origins in Hindu revivalism.

It is not clear, of course, given the long conflict – four wars since independence when British India was split between the two countries – that the cooperation will continue. Indian officials insist militants from Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group led by Azhar, carried out the attack in early January on the strategic base near the India-Pakistan-Kashmir border. But a senior Pakistani government official confirmed that while Azhar had been taken into “protective custody”, he has yet to be charged with a crime. Characteristically, a Pakistan official said “[O]nce India gives us evidence of Masood Azhar’s involvement in the air base attack, we can then formally charge him. So far there is no hard evidence.”.

Azhar became a leading Moslem radical figure in1999 when, released from an Indian prison in a hostage swap following the hijacking of an Indian commercial airliner, he went to Kandahar in Afghanistan then under Taliban rule. Azhar’s release and alliance with the Taliban was seen by Western observers as an important gain for Moslem terrorists in the area and elsewhere.

The fact that Azhar has been allowed to remain free until now is a reflection of the conflicted elements in the Pakistan regime, both civilian and military, and their ambiguous relationship with the terrorists. Neither Pakistan’s alliances, again contradictory, with both the U.S. and China – have been enough to strengthen the internal anti-Moslem radical elements in the regime. Washington, of course, wants to halt any Pakistani assistance to the growing Mideast Moslem insurgencies, and China is plagued with a growing anti-Han revolt in its huge strategic Western province of Singkiang, bordering Pakistan with a history of its Uighur terrorists having been trained in Pakistan.

It now remains to be seen whether Azhar’s arrest marks a new and tougher policy by the Pakistani authorities toward Moslem radicals, plaguing both their own regime and its neighbors in Afghanistan where the border areas are sanctuaries. Pakistan’s relations with its longtime American ally have weakened with increasing collaboration between the U.S. and India, Pakistan’s perennial enemy. But with Congress voting a new aid package – added to the $67 billion [in constant 2011 dollars] to Pakistan between 1951 and 2011 – of $7.5 billion over five years [FY2010 to FY2014], it its time for the Obama Administration to turn its attention, quietly, to the new Pakistan-Indian cooperation.

Sws-01-14-16

 

 

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The scandal of Christian persecution


The lack of public outcry over the continued persecution and murder of Christians in the Middle East is a scandal of enormous proportions. Only a few websites devoted to possible rescuing these victims dogs the internet. But pronouncements from public figures and even the leaders of Western Christendom are few and far between.

The fact is that Christians today face more persecution in more countries than any other religious group.

U.S. Christians sources estimate that 180 Christians are killed in 60 countries monthly for pursuit of their faith. Many of these are in notorious environments such as North Korea. But there are continuing incidents in nominally secular India, for example, where the current administration has its roots in Hindu chauvinism and in its twin, Moslem Pakistan.

But since 2011, of refugees official settlement in the U.S. just over 2,000 have been Muslim but only 53 Christians. It is true that particularly Syrian Christian refugees often more affluent, have made their way to the U.S. through ordinary visa channels and permanent residence. But the Obama Administration opposes legislation which would fast-track Christian refugees. That’s despite the fact that nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled, harried by extremist groups like the Nusra Front [an Al Qaida affiliate] and now Daesh.

The Obama Administration downplaying of Christians in the refugee crisis is based on its fear such support would be viewed and used by Daesh [ISI or ISIL]. Or that it might be considered in the U.S. as part of the argument of “the clash of civilizations”. As in his earliest public Mideast pronouncements, Obama has argued inordinately supposed “Islamohobia” and antagonism toward American Moslems and the world Islamic community. But the reluctance to take on the issue goes back to the Bush Administration when Condoleezza Rice told a refugee aid official the White House did not intervene in ‘‘sectarian’’ issues.

 

It’s also true that Mideast Christians, generally, suffered less under the former autocratic regimes – including Sadam Hussein’s Iraq – than they have under their successors which often have a strong Muslim cast. Syrian Christians, for example, tended to stay loyal to Basher al-Assad rather than join the originally peaceful opponents of his bloody regime. The various Christian sects, some “in communion” with the Roman Catholic Chruch, others related to Eastern Orthodoxy, and others unique to the region and India, do not want to give up their ancient claims to their historic homes.

But having said all this, the toll of Christians in the region has been horrendous. In many instances Daesh has simply beheaded locals where it has taken over traditional Christian villages. These ethnicities date back thousands of years even preceding their conversion as the earliest followers of Christ. They have been given the choice of converting, death flight, or paying jizya, a special tax on “followers of the book”, that is, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.

Obama did get around to referring to Christian and other minorities last fall when he said ‘‘we cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.’’ And when Daesh threatened to eradicate the Yazidis, an ancient syncretic sect combining elements of the region’s major religions, the U.S. beat back the terrorists with intensive bombing and Special Forces intervention.

But proposals to permit a large entry of Mideast Christians has been denounced as a violation of the constitution prohibition against religious favoritism. But in fact admission of refugees has often been based on a particular ethnic group targeted by oppressors abroad. And in this instance Christians constitute such a group.

The argument that more forceful rhetoric and more specific Christians worldwide, but particularly in the Mideast, must be made. The charge of “crusaders” – distorted as it is in all aspects – by Daesh and other Islamic terrorists should not be an excuse for not taking up the cudgels for an important and generally neglected human rights cause.

sws-12-15-15

 

The Growing China enigma


American policymakers are having to deal with an increasingly mystifying China.

The giant culture that is less than a nation-state but far more than an amorphous one and half billion people is, perhaps inevitably, moving rapidly in different and conflicting directions. As always is the case in a world of jungled conflicts, the U.S. must hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And that worst could be an inevitable conflict over basic American international policy, not least, freedom of the seas.

The Chinese are continuing to build what can only be called military bases in a barrier across one of the most strategic commercial route in the world through the South China Sea. It may take years before the Chinese can project sufficient power from those reconstructed coral shoals to challenge the U.S. Navy. But the world moves faster and faster, and assurances that we are technologically meeting the threat of asymmetrical warfare in which the Chinese traditionally have excelled has to be periodically reexamined

China continues spending in her own terms vast resources on these bases and on the expansion of her military, particularly her seapower. That’s despite the fact that her economy has drifted – one could say inevitably – into slower rates of growth than the double-digit increases of the past three decades. The actual drop, always subject to speculation because of Beijing’s “create accounting”, is perhaps less important than the speed at which she is slacking off.

This has already impacted world commodity markets where China custom had caused high growth, and those countries – including Russia — which had been sucked into single product export patterns. Beijing’s galloping economic invasion of raw material producers, particularly in Africa, where infrastructure projects were sold  as a “swap” for raw materials, are in trouble. That’s telling in such countries, such as Angola, with the energy price halving in no small measure because of the Shale Revolution in the U.S. American lower prices and a gas surplus has sent the oldtime oil price guardians such as Saudi Arabia, and now Iran, pumping as fast possible to maintain market share. But in Southeast Asia Beijing continues to push subsidized giant railroad and highway construction and damn the home finances.

These gambles have been matched by an unprecedented campaign against corruption by Pres. Xi Jinping in his effort to create a new personality political culture matching that of the fabled Mao Tse-tung. These campaigns in the past, while based on evidence in a totally corrupt society, actually are intended to eliminate opposition within the ruling one-party Communist state. More recently, Xi has gone further afield than just high Party officials, and named  multi-billionaire Party-favored oligarchs. That seems inevitably another economic gamble given the slowing economy.

In fact, Xi – despite criticism within and without the Party that they were the greatest obstacle to economic progress – has enhanced the power of the government-owned huge behemoths with near monopolies. Whittling them down and their political hold on credit for a move toward the tiny private sector and most of all, increased consumption, was supposed to be the order of the day. But it is not happening.

The Obama Administration, for the most part, is tip-toeing around all these issues and the puzzles they present for American policy in Asia, and, indeed, in the world. Cutting back on the U.S. military at a time of aggressive Chinese rhetoric and movement is not exactly apt. Minor tinkering with currency manipulation and export subsidies, which will probably expand given the Chinese slowdown, is not an answer to the loss of American manufacturing, now interestingly enough also moving away from China toward more low-wage countries.

China policy has, of course, been a major battleground for American strategists for the past half century or more. But it is looming still larger and the next administration, whatever and whoever it is, had better come with some preparation.

sws-12-14-15

 

 

Refugees, Terrorists and Morality


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sws-11-20-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pakistan’s shaky equilibrium


Pakistan’s 185 million people suffer a fragile combination of its military, probably the only viable national institution, its British Indian-descended civil Punjabi elite – and a growing body of Islamic terrorists. That balance may be coming unhinged. Chaos in Pakistan would threaten the whole 1.3-billion ummah, the Islamic world, from Zamboanga in the Philippines to Dakar in West Africa.
A secret trial has collapsed of 10 would-be assassins, originally charged with attempting to murder the then 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a teenage advocate of female education in the face of Islamic fundamentalists. Only two have been convicted from a gang which mounted a student bus, asked for her to be identified, and then shot her through the head. That she survived to become a Nobel Laureate, a symbol of resistance to the Muslim fanatics [even though she dare not go back to Pakistan] is something of a miracle.
Conviction in April of the original suspects to life imprisonment [25 years in Pakistan] has been annulled, and only two have been sentenced. Reuter’s quotes Salim Khan, a senior police official, saying that eight suspects were freed because of “lack of proof”. Such trials are held in deep secrecy because of the possibility of retribution from “militants”.
Hardly a day passes without a terrorist attack, either against the civilian government or felled in sectarian conflict between Pakistan’s majority Sunni and its smaller but important Shia sects including the Agha Khan’s Ismailis.In western Baluchistan province where a violent civil war has gone on for decades, dozens of bus passengers from the minority Muslim communities have been killed in the last few weeks. Christians have been condemned to death for violating Pakistan’s outrageous blasphemy laws. Last December 145 students and teachers were killed by Pakistan Taliban terrorists attacking a military-supported school.
Pakistan’s deficit economy survives with major infusions from the U.S., the Saudis and, to a more limited extent, the Chinese. Washington began providing economic assistance along with military aid in 1947shortly after the country’s creation, a total of nearly $67 billion [in constant 2011 dollars] between 1951 and 2011. After abandoning Pakistan [and Afghanistan] in the 90s in opposition to its nuclear weapons development, Washington moved to authorize $7.5 billion FY2010 to FY2014, not always actually meeting the $1.5 billion annual commitment.
This swing and sway of Washington’s policies, and virulent radical Muslim propaganda has produced bitter anti-American hostility. And the U.S. has had a hard time facing up to terrorism, sometimes an extension and outgrowth of the Pakistani military and intelligence in its constant low-level support of pro-Pakistan and independence guerrillas in Kashmir, the Himalayan state contested with India. Pakistani military and intelligence officialdom, for example, shaded off into the 2008 Bombay Massacre which took the lives of 164 victims and nine terrorists, including a half dozen Americans.
It was, in part, Washington pressure in 2008 which ousted Gen.-Pres. Pervez Musharraf and his “civilianized” military government. The current weak, Saudi-supported administration, imitating the rule of law of much vilified British India, is constantly under threat of another military takeover – more than half of Pakistan’s history has been under military government. The hidden drama of the Malala trial suggests a breakdown under the increasing terrorist threat may again bring back the army – or worse.
The implications for the U.S., India [with more Moslems than Pakistan], Bangladesh, and the Pakistan diaspora [a half million of the total of 45 million Diaspora live in the U.S.] are ominous. Given the sorry record of the Obama Administration in the Near East, Washington’s ability to cope with a Pakistan implosion are at best problematical.
sws-06-06-15.

India – a new beginning?


By Sol Sanders

Hardly.

In a conversation decades ago with an old Asia hand about differences between India and China, my friend claimed her pursuit of knowledge on China was so much easier than anything similar for India. There, she said, everything had 5,000-year-old origins. She could have said, too, that while the Chinese write elaborate histories of their dynasties [usually rewrite is the first order of a new dynasty] there is a timelessness about [Hindu] India: no graves, acres of ruins that can hardly be dated, names repeated endlessly, a vast variety of cultures versus the Chinese attempted homogeneity.

That is not to say that the landslide victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party isn’t meaningful. It brings a dramatic change to the infinitely complicated Indian political scene. The BJP governemnt, unlike its predecessors for almost three decades, will have a working majority in parliament without the debilitating compromises necessary for coalition. Modi – a good orator and facile inguist — has arrived as a charismatic figure, something the India psyche seems to not only relish as elsewhere but to exalt to almost godlike proportions.

As the first chief executive born after Partition of the British subcontinental colony and the creation of the new independent India, he is accompanied by an incredibly young population – half its 1.2 billion under 25. His reputation as chief minister in Gujarat state as a driving economic force is what the sagging Indian economy cries out for. He and his party have promised to turn their back on the previous government’s effort at expanding a corrupt social welfare system beyond the point any New Delhi government could sustain. In the campaign process, he may have wrung the deathknell for the Nehru dynasty which has dominated Indian politics since independence and further dramatized it with his own humble origins. Some in Washington will again see the hawkish wing of the BJP as an ally in its efforts to build a tacit alliance against an increasing aggressive Beijing, especially since India’s decades-long territorial disputes with China remain unresolved.

But a word of caution for those who believe India has once and for all turned its back on state capitalism or that its fantastic electoral process [more than a half billion voters for more than 8,000 candidates] insures rapid progress and ethnic peace. Much of Modi’s success, although his personal adulation does not reflect that, is due to his home state of Gujarat. It has always been in the forefront of economic progress since the days of British India when it was the Indian textiles center of the nascent industrialization. Gujarati offspring were willing early on to immigrate to East Africa, North America and elsewhere for economic opportunity – with their cherished remittances sent back home. Its entrepreneurs dominated the Bombay Presidency, India’s then second commercial city all during the days of Raj and the immediate postwar period. Its Muslim elite [the only large Brahmin high caste community converted en masse to Islam] built Karachi’s industrial center after their flight during Partition and it has kept Pakistan afloat. Even though it is as caste-ridden as the rest of the country, the great secret of caste mobility [get wealthier, go vegetarian and move up] is nowhere demonstrated more clearly, than its Patel subcaste..

Yet Gujarat has not always been a model that could be transplanted. In the 1960s, I investigated a novel milk supply operation for the nearby huge Bombay metropolis. A creative agronomist – by the way, a Christian from Kerala state in southwest India – had found that if water buffalo were kept pregnant and lactating, they produced larger quantities of milk with larger amounts of butter fat at cheaper cost than milchcows. He set up a collecting system, even invented a new cheese [which could not be sold and had to be converted to something resembling American process cheese which had an Indian market]. But U.S. Aid after spending time and money on trying to transplant the Gujarat experiment to other parts of India failed in the face of Hindu literal and figurative cow worship. Tradition and inertia die hard in the Indian environment.

Modi needs to strike lightning blows – always an unlikely phenomenon in India where everything moves slowly – at the South Bloc bureaucracy, a deadly accumulation of traditional Indian hierarchy and British colonialism. Probably more than any other single factor, the hangover from what the first Indian governor-general Rajaji called “the permit-license raj” restrains the economy. It is haunted by the East India Syndrome, the fear foreign investment with its advanced technology will sabotage sovereignty. But worst of all, for three decades former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s plunge for Soviet-style centralized, top-down planning added another accretion to the pattern of repression of one of the most accomplished entrepreneurial peoples in the world. It was so deadly the world began to accept “a Hindu rate of growth”, stagnation, only challenged with the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1990. [It’s often forgotten that outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has reigned for a decade with the Nehru clan pulling the strings was a compliant planning bureaucrat for much of his career.] Despite a partial liberalization of the economy, in no small part because of the Soviet collapse, India has lapsed back into lower rates of growth as resistance to painful liberalization policies reasserted itself through the babus [clerks]in the bureaucracy. That deadweight would only be uprooted quickly with a ruthlessness which Indian politics has never seen and is probably not likely to.

On the foreign policy front, Modi is encumbered in two ways: his Hindu revivalist background and, at a minimum, his lack of leadership during the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 when more than 2,000 Muslims were killed. It will make him suspect not only among his own huge Muslim [probably more than 150 million or bigger than the population of Pakistan] and other minorities. But it promises more difficulties in the ceaseless feud with Pakistan that has cost three and half wars. On the basis of this and accusations [by the U.S. State Dept.] that “Modi revised high school textbooks to describe Hitler’s ‘charismatic personality’ and the ‘achievements of Nazism’, Washington denied Modi entry to the U.S. until his election as prime minister became a probability. It will take some hard swallowing on both sides to overcome that past, as well.

Perhaps more important in a rapidly changing East European international environment, the continued adherence to a New Delhi-Moscow alliance – even after the implosion of the Soviet Union – dominates the Indian Foreign Ministry. Just as in Soviet times, India has rationalized Moscow’s aggression on Crimea and Ukraine – even at the risk of seeing it as a model for Chinese policies in the Himalayan states. Russia remains India’s principal supplier in one of the biggest rearmament programs in history. Political prejudice went out of its way to avoid put ting American fighter aircraft on Delhi’s short list last year for one of the largest proposed purchases in history. The possibility of more than tactical cooperation between the U.S. and India in defense of freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean [which New Delhi regards as its mare nostrum] and South China Sea appears dim.

India, as much or more than other societies, defies the kind of “logical” analysis which the more acquainted often apply. Over a half century ago, one of my favorite arguments in discussions with Indians and others interested in the country was the quip that New Delhi’s economic policies would have to change. “Two people cannot stand on the same piece of ground”, I would say, talking about the vast reaches of 600,000 largely unmonitored villages without the simplest creature comforts. Now India with a cell phone for almost every one of its 1.2 billion people and more than half of Indian households with TV would seemingly have a different character. And, of course, the population has almost tripled. Despite a relatively low birthrate of only 1.2%, India will soon surpass China as the world’s largest. Estimates are that it will reach a staggering 1,684.197 in 2050 before growth will begin to taper off.

Modi is up against a problem, as I use to miscalculate it, which defies …gravity.

sws-05-17-14

The War on Terrorism goes on


If the Boston Massacre and the growing Syrian Civil War jihadist outrages had not made it self-evident, the bloody attack on innocents at the Nairobi, Kenya, mall provide new evidence that the international terrorist conspiracy continues virtually unabated. The perpetrators were Islamic jihadists, apparently members of the al Shahid thugs in neighboring Somalia who call themselves adherents of al Qaeda. So, despite all the obfuscation of the Obama Administration and its adherents, The War On Terrorism goes on and Washington will be forced to fight it under whatever name and probably with growing resources.

Just as in the more than four decades of The Cold War, the outcome is not assured, no more than its length. The fanatics who wage a campaign to gain world dominance in the name of Islam are if anything even more single-minded of purpose and willing to sacrifice themselves than the utopians turned state terrorists of the earlier 20th century totalitarianism. That they tend to fall into internecine feuds and mutual self-destruction will not spare the world of their violence even if, luckily, it is likely to rule out  any new and coordinated central command such as Osama Bin Ladin once attempted.

But the continued upsurge of this violence means that despite the other myriad overwhelming problems which bedevil policymakers in Washington and the other capitals of the civilized world, carrying on a complex and difficult program to meet the terrorists’ challenge will not go away. The significance of the Nairobi episode, which is still not resolved and analyzed at this writing, is that it does show that the terrorist infection is not only alive but that it is continuing to spread. Like the Muslim extremist  threat in Mali and Nigeria, the terrorists have now shown their tentacles reach beyond the Middle East and Central and South Asia into Black Africa. And almost simultaneously with the Nairobi explosion, there was an attempted jihadist takeover of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines and a bloody attack on a Pakistani Christian church, both virtually blacked out in the mainstream media. These episodes show that the network of Islamic extremists stretches from one end of the umma [the worldwide Moslem community] to the other, and even when not directly linked, draw their intellectual vigor and sometimes material resources from one another.

The Syrian crisis has complicated the already confused strategies to effectively combat the jihadists. Unfortunately, a relatively spontaneous uprising against decades of unrestrained brutality of the al Assad family dictatorship has fallen under the shadow of international jihadist volunteers who are flooding in from all directions to fight it – not excluding second and third generation Muslims from all over the democratic West including the U.S and Australia. Their growing presence among the opponents of the regime and the Obama Administration’s fumbling of the issue of the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by Basher Assad has further muddied the waters.

But whatever the outcome of the Syrian struggle, these new volunteer jihadists will provide a new reservoir of terrorists, as did a similar liberation war against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, a new cadre of bloodied fanatics to return to their own countries or to the next terrorist front for new violence. Willy-nilly, al Assad’s support by Iran’s state terrorists in their effort to dominate the region and Pres.Vladimir Putin’s desperate ploy to reassert Soviet grandeur by supporting Damscus is further aggravating the terrorist picture. Both Moscow and Tehran believe they have a stake in exploiting the centuries-old bitter feud between the two principal wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia. In addition to attacks on non-Muslims and Islamic innocents, the result is likely to be a welter of explosive intra-Muslim conflicts, vitiating the possibility of one central command, but contributing to the general bloodshed of noncombatants.

There will not be any easy answers to the problem of combating this growing international menace to peace and stability, which could reach across continents as it did on 9/11 to the American homeland. But an effective campaign relies on three general categories of government activity:

Somehow the open societies of the West, inherently vulnerable to terrorism, will have to learn to take more protective measures, short of limiting the freedom which is their essence. The bumbling bureaucracy of air travel security, for example, needs a surgical overhaul. Too much effort and money is being expended on unnecessary gateway inspection procedures. New technologies will provide more inspection efficiency. But the introduction of common sense at the highest administrative levels appears a necessity. The airlines, themselves, should assume an increasing role in filtering out possible saboteurs. Without such programs, the terrorists are going to continue to be a jump ahead of security measures.

There are economic measures the American government needs to take to enhance any effort at defeating the terrorists. The sanctions against Iran, much too long coming in their current growing intensity, point to the enormous impact U.S. Treasury controls can have directly and indirectly on an adversary. The shale revolution with the enormous increases in domestic gas and oil production have now made it possible for the U.S. to do more than try to persuade those in the Persian Gulf states, including individual Saudis as well as officials in Riyadh, and the outrageous troublemakers in Qatar, to end their direct and indirectly financial support to the terrorist networks. What is require simultaneously, of course, but hardly likely, is an about face in the Obama Administration’s war on  fossil fuels, which nevertheless has ironically not haled new record production and possible exports.

Any attempt at taking security measures, of course, must ultimately rely on enhanced intelligence. Repeated efforts to reform the American intelligence community have only added additional layers of bureaucracy without, it seems, increasing actual benefits. If “stove-piping” – excluding necessary interchange among the various  intelligence bodies – has been somewhat eliminated, the Snowden treason episode and the Washington Navyyard Massacre are evidence that the whole system of “need to know” security precautions which once dominated government operations has fallen afoul of the digital revolution  Furthermore, it is clear that many of those who are entrusted with the war on Islamic intelligence have an inadequate knowledge of the history of the religion and its adherents. Unlike the British who in their imperial heyday could depend heavily on their academy for such resources, the U.S. faces a generally unrealistic, antagonistic and disloyal professorate with its hangers on from the parlor Marxist politics of the 1960s.

This leads to the a general failure reaching to the highest echelons of the Obama Administration which in its effort to reduce international tension has taken an idealistic and unrealistic attitude toward the problem of Islam and its radical appendages. Islam is not and never has been “a religion of peace”, from its earliest conquests in the Arabian desert to the subjugation of former Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu and pagan societies of the Middle East, North Africa and India. There are hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims, of course. But the idealization of an officially tolerant Islam, for example, in Berber-ruled kingdoms in Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries, is pure fiction. Islamic regimes have always condemned non-believing citizens, at best, to an inferior status with onerous tax burdens. Islam has never had its Reformation or Counter-reformation, nor its haskalah, having largely rejected Greek learning in monumental debates almost a thousand years ago. Unless and until the majority of Muslim intellectuals and spokesmen for Islam parse the indivisibility of their religion with the implanting of a sharia state, the seeds of jihadism and accompanying terrorism are planted wherever the religion prevails.

Therefore, an important element – perhaps the most important — in an effective and continuing defense against Islamic terrorism is a more realistic understanding of this relationship of the Muslim faithful and the jihadists. It is incumbent on American Muslims, for example, to halt their wailing about a nonexistent victimization. Since 9/11 – contrary to what might have been expected in another society less tolerant than the U.S. – they have seen little “Islamphobia”. Rather, such highly placed individuals as Ms. Huma Abedin, principal assistant to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have an obligation publicly to explain and renounce their family relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood, an original source of inspiration for much of the current jihadist leadership.

It is in the nature of the American system of government, unfortunately, that none of this is to be accomplished rapidly, even given the growing urgency for an effective reform of the efforts for dealing with terrorism. The wake-up call of 9/11 has been hushed, ironically, in the enormous vitalilty of U.S. society and pursuit of happiness which is the ultimate American goal. But unfortunately the problem of terrorism, even in the homeland, is not going to go away.

sws-09-22-13

Perfidious Americus


Running an empire is not for sissies.

Since 1945, the U.S., holding the aces, had to finesse a role once played by the Europeans with Washington pulling up the Latin American rear. But that tacit alliance maintained worldwide stability for only two decades, in part because pre-digital America could sulk behind two oceans.

After Western Civilization’s second bloody civil war, rules changed: colonialism was abnegated, first “officially” in the 1943 Cairo Declaration. Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Nationalist China ally Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek acknowledged European domination would go following the Allied victory. Of course, Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, there too, was soon to meet British class voter retribution, and within less than two decades, the last of the Tory Grandees, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, would wrap up what had been the empire on which the sun never set. So much for Churchill’s vow he had not become the King’s first minister to preside over liquidation of the British imperium.

But Soviet aggression setting off The Cold War, and, U.S. amateurism, never allowed Washington. to get ahead of the time curve. [After “Cairo” former Sec. of State Dean Rusk, then a young political officer in the South East Asia Command, signaled Washington for instructions on French Indochina. He never got a response.] Furthermore, it was always America’s idealistic aim to set new standards for mutual respect and benefit, even while it had not yet cleaned up its own racist backyard.

Washington learned quickly managing alliances never comes easy, even with hegemonic power. The reason is obvious: too many conflicting demands. Still Pres. Harry Truman’s good old Midwestern common sense, gifted European leadership, and American dough-re-me, girded Western Europe to defeat the Soviet challenge. Although we may well look aghast at today’s tatters, NATO was perhaps the most successful alliance in history, winning a long, costly struggle – “peacefully”.

You wouldn’t know that, of course, listening to the self-deprecation and, indeed, abysmal groveling, of the Obama Administration. That alone would have torpedoed current American prestige and strategy, unhinged by Islamic terrorism and an abrupt end to the most prosperous era in world history – gained in no small part through trillions of dollars in U.S. generosity still continuing to client states.

The Obama Administration, though, was intent on “leading from behind”. Too clever by half, as our British cousins would say, forgotten were the first elements in any alliance: at least temporary loyalty to a common cause, and stalwart if sometimes painful leadership by example. First there were petty insults to the Brits – return of Churchill’s bust from the Oval office, gimcrackery for the Queen, etc. Instead of securing an Iraq alliance at the heart of the Arab/Muslim world, there was a hallelujahed withdrawal timetable. There is, apparently, coming abandonment of a Kabul regime on lifesupport long before victory. Vociferous equating of Israeli and Palestinian claims doomed any accommodation there, especially after a problematic “Arab Spring” explosion demonstrated Israeli-Arab relations was only one, and probably not the most important, Mideast problem..

In all these instances, typically, semiruptures came with American media piling-on, campaigns of fact and fiction about the steadfastness, or lack thereof, of allies. This tactic flouts — particularly with third world countries — the obvious: helping inept, corrupt regimes to modernize is the name of the game. Were that not true, America would not be there in the first place.

Now in the election silly season, Obama Administration foreign policy proceeds on autopilot. Not only are arms – required under U.S. law – denied Taiwan but “a high official Administration source” publicly trashes the opposition candidate in the upcoming January presidential elections. Regarding Pakistan, whose overwhelming problem is dysfunctional government, Washington chooses war on the front pages and NPR, simultaneously publicly delivering ultimata. These latter may, in the end, turn bluff given the critical role that country’s geography and its menace of becoming a factory for creating jihadists [with nukes] on a half a billion impoverished, semiliterate Muslim base.

Alas! It is all too reminiscent of the unlearned lessons in the demise of the South Vietnam alliance now a half century ago after loss of 58,000 American lives and enormous treasure. Pompous media, including some conservatives, are still repeating old clichés. No wonder Washington doesn’t seem to have learned a lot about running alliances. Perfidious Albion, indeed!

 sws-9-30-11

Waging war from the pages of The Washington Post


Whatever else he has done, Pres. Barack Obama has introduced new forms of warfare.

In Cairo, in what is likely to be the most forgotten seminal speech in history, he waged propaganda warfare against any concept that the world’s problem was a bigoted, backward and reactionary Islamic world.

Then we got Libya, where a tinpot dictator, tottering after 30 years of the most idiosyncratic regime in history, was falling of its own weight. But rather than offer a helping hand to our European allies — who for whatever reason — thought Muammar Khadaffi had to go, Obama decided to “lead from behind”. He almost got his what’s-it in a ringer when it turned out that as everyone else knew, the Europeans did not have the wherewithal to do the job.  So we led, shall we say, “from the left side”?

Now we are faced with an even more dangerous and difficult job.

Our on and off — the switch in Washington used as much as in Islamabad — alliance with the Pakistanis is in deep do-do. The army, which we helped usher out of power in order to restore “democracy”, apparently cannot control some of its echelons.

Someone, perhaps not the senior officials, knew Osama was there. Shamed not only by our successful raid to grab him, but by an almost hilarious — had it not been so bloody — virtually simultaneous invasion of its principal naval base in its largest city through a whore house operating on the premises, the army is fraught.

And there isn’t much to Pakistan institutions except the military, as corrupt and inefficient as it may be.

The Obama Administration has decided in this instance to wage war from the pages of The Washington Post.  Given its past record of service to the cause of stable government and its current seediness, somehow that doesn’t seem the way to solve the problem for this observer.

Ultimata are usually delivered through diplomatic echelons — that’s so, that when you or the other party has to back down, it can be done with a certain amount, of shall we say, finesse? Delivering ultimata on the front page of The Washington Post is a little like undressing in Macy’s windows — seduction it is not, more like exhibitionism.

Pakistan, with its more than half billion people, most living in ignorance and on the verge of constant disaster, are being run by a government lost somewhere in the pages of Kipling and Somalian anarchy. At any moment, the army may have to step in as it has always done to save drowning politicians.

Excoriation on the pages of The Washington Post wont make it easier.

But what can be done there and is being done there is to further diminish the prestige, the stature and the power of any Pakistan government — leading not only to anarchy but to the further radicalization of Pakistani Muslims ready to believe any cock and bull story about the Americans.

It could be helping to set up a factory for turning out jihadists with unlimited resources in manpower and with enormous resources among its diaspora communities in the West. And there are always the nuclear arms lying around for the pickup.

It may well be as several spokesmen, loud and clear, have enunciated that the attacks on the US embassy in Kabul are coming from the Haqani network, egged on by elements in the army’s ISI, the notorious and probably vastly overvalued intelligence organization.

But rooting out the Haqani won’t be done on the pages of The Washington Post.  Either the US will have to satisfy itself that this is the case and go after the culprits in some of the most difficult terrain in the world, or reach a compromise with the Pakistani army for information which would defang them.

Either way, the Obama Administration can not lead this war from the pages of The Washington Post in a critical and perhaps the most dangerous situation facing the world today.

Energy at home, energy abroad: disaster


Pres. Barack Obama’s war on fossil fuels is adding to world instability already wracked by international debt, demographic bulges and largely unpredictable galloping technology.

Domestic implications of his policies are increasingly apparent: the closing in of prospecting and drilling is costing tens, perhaps hundreds of thousand of jobs. The attempt to choose winners and losers through “green energy” subsidies is producing market distortions, huge losses of taxpayers’ funds and corruption rarely seen since the old Soviet Union’s Gosplan. Using executive fiat for arbitrary environmental rulings after Mr. Obama’s “cap and trade” quietly died in Congress is eroding Constitutional government by creating “precedent” for defying public opinion as expressed through the legislative process.

On the world scene, the impact is equally grim, although as always with intricate politico-economic problems, difficult to quantify.

It is a given, of course, that world energy is, as the economists say, an imperfect market. It runs the gamut: Pres. Hugo Chavez gives 100,000 bbl/da to his ideological buddy Fidel Castro to keep Havana lights on from Venezuela production, a principal source of American imports. Hand-me-down restrictive policies, a heritage of the Carter Administration’s misbegotten Department of Energy and its first head, James R. Schlesinger, dogs natural gas. Cartelization of the industry despite all the legislation and litigation since the Supreme Court broke up John D. Rocekefeller’s Standard Oil in 1911 continues to inhibit competition with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] trying to set production quotas to control prices.

Yet, by and large, world energy is fungible – that is, production, stocks and therefore prices in one region impacts the worldwide market. After becoming a net importer in 1970, then doubling imports since the mid-80s to 50% of total consumption in 2010, the U.S. as world’s No. 1 consumer [and a producer of 25% of the world’s liquid gold] is decisive in establishing price, stocks and supply in other markets.

By impeding U.S. production through its refusal to lift controls, dragging out decisions or initiating or threatening to initiate new controls, the Obama Administration helps put a floor under world prices. That’s despite their erosion by a fall in consumption impacted by the worldwide economic recession, a very “leaky” OPEC struggling to control its 40% of world production, and production in the Persian Gulf for some grades a fraction of costs in North America. At a time of growing worldwide economic stagnation, despite the argument the real price of oil is skewed by a depreciating petrodollar in which most of it is traded, cheap oil remains as it has always been the sine qua non of American prosperity – and probably for world recovery.

Higher prices gorge feudal satrapies with their small backward populations in the Persian Gulf, unable to absorb and efficiently utilize capital. Worse, they indirectly finance world terrorists wherever they may be. For example, Saudi subsidies to mosques and community activities in the U.S. and the West as well as in the rest of the Muslim world carry with them Wahhabbi sect preachers insinuating sharia [pre-modern Islamic law] into Western legal codes, advocating armed jihad against “:infidels” and even fellow dissident Muslim sects or reformers.

Higher prices produce a petroleum bonanza for the increasingly authoritarian and corrupt Russian regime permitting it to avoid basic post-Soviet reforms. They give Moscow’s inefficient producers increasing international political leverage through gas sales to Germany and other Western countries. They reinforce the Putin regime’s efforts to reestablish Soviet hegemony over Ukraine and Central Asia and Moscow’s hope to intervene in a post-U.S. withdrawal Afghanistan.

Higher prices for its meager oil exports has propped up – along with Obama Administration appeasement – the bloody al-Assad dictatorship at war with its own Syrian people.

Not only has the natural gas snafu produced a temporary domestic surplus –with new technology pointing toward vast new production but it prevents potential liquefied natural gas [LNG] exports to high priced markets such as East Asia. U.S. sales to South Korea, for example, would block a proposed Moscow-Seoul gas project whose transit fees through North Korea would bolster the bankrupt, peace-threatening regime in Pyongyang.

Much of this, again, is the Obama Administration’s heritage. But its pandering to environmentalistas within its ranks has exacerbated old problems and invented new ones. With most of the President’s foreign policy initiatives in shambles, the external manifestations of his energy policy could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

sws-09-23-11

India: a perfect storm


Pollyannas had looked to“the emerging economies” – China, India, Brazil, etc. — for growth to help ward off worldwide economic recession, as the Western economies and Japan stumbled.

It’s clear that isn’t going to happen. China is trimming its sails to dampen inflation, braking unlimited infrastructure expansion at any cost to produce jobs while trying to meet increasing constraints on its subsidized exports. Brazil, with a new administration enmeshed in traditional corruption, faces a commodities export crash while fighting off devastating import competition for its domestic manufacturing from its major customer, China.

But largely ignored — what with the dramatic Euro crisis and a threat of double-dip American recession –   is the more important emerging economy, India, now slipping back into its traditional morass. At stake was the hope 1.5 billion people, almost a quarter of the human race, could move with democratic values into a modern society. That possibility was long seen as counter to “the Chinese model” which economically successful, possibly temporarily, is essentially oldstyle Oriental despotism.

Heading the list of New Delhi’s woes is a leadership deficit. Italy-born, 64-year-old Mme. Sonia Gandhi, widow of a former prime minister and backseat driver to the ruling Congress Party, has been secreted away to New York for cancer surgery [if by a noted Indian émigré physician]. She leaves behind a power vacuum, not only in her ruling Party but in government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a technocrat, increasingly is drowning in massive corruption, growing inflation and a flight of capital escaping crippling bureaucracy.

Rahul Gandhi, Mme. Sonia’s 41-year-old son, has yet to prove he has the charisma of three generations of independence leader Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s family who imperiously have dominated politics – if, arguably, preserving national unity. Caught in India’s worship of priestly figures, a traditional hunger strike by an anti-corruption hero, Anna Hazare, was mishandled. [Mr. Singh has had to backtrack from Mr. Hazare’s arrest.] The government, correctly, is terrified Mr. Hazare’s high-minded tactics could be appropriated by mushrooming anti-government, anti-business campaigns, further paralyzing governance and the economy.

India’s international role, too, is in jeopardy. Naïve Washington hopes for a U.S.-India alliance against Beijing’s growing aggressiveness have been dashed. American forgive and forget efforts have dawdled in extending nuclear and other advanced technologies after New Delhi defied the world to build atomic weapons — matched by Pakistan with Chinese and North Korean assistance. American vendors recently were shockingly left off the short list for a $10 billion fighter plane bid. There’s suspicion stricter American anti-bribery laws than notorious European “incentives” played a role. A 25-year-old case against Mme. Sonia’s deceased husband, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, for a Swedish purchase was recently shelved, more or less indecisively.

Meanwhile, decades of addiction to a Moscow alliance continues among India’s diplomats, illogical as it might be what with growing Russian arms delivery failures and Moscow’s massive military sales to China. Furthermore, India’s proposed huge overseas defense purchases may not meet its security requirements. Mr. Singh has called India’s greatest threat “Maoist” insurgencies in a dozen Indian states. New Delhi and state governments have passed responsibility for their suppression back and forth with little success. These social conflicts grew out of pro-Chinese proclivities of Bengal’s Communists whose 30-year hold on Calcutta, India’s second city, was recently broken, probably only temporarily.

After three and a half wars, negotiations continue fitfully to reach a compromise with Pakistan, the twin regime bloodily carved out of British India over half a century ago. With its own Muslim population as large as Pakistan’s, Indian leaders increasingly appreciate an implosion there would threaten its own breakup. But terrorists with tentacles leading from Pakistani military through the perennial dispute over Indian occupation of Kashmir are torturous, made even more dangerous by occasional clashes of regular forces such as took place in early September. Washington, after fitful attempts, has failed to mediate the feud, caught between aiding a bankrupt Islamabad and attempting to warm post-Soviet Cold War relations with India.

This picture is clouded further by New Delhi’s fishing in troubled ethnic waters in Afghanistan, and Pakistan itself. The Pushtoon terrorist hotbed on the Afghan border is where Pakistani, Indian and Chinese interests conflict. China, meanwhile, continues a campaign of seduction of Pakistan, a massive Tibet buildup, including missiles and probably nuclear weapons, as well as infiltration in the Himalayan border states of Nepal and Bhutan and at both eastern and western ends of the 1500-mile frontier.

sws-09-02-11

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.

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