Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

18Reality and foreign policy


 

 

Donald K. Trump and his base went into office – unexpectedly for most observers – with a promise to cut back on American commitments abroad and to avoid new ones. That was the essence of ”America First”, an echo of an isolationist group and slogan in the pre-World War II debate over U.S. involvement in European arguments.

 

But what they have found to their chagrin is that it is not possible. Overwhelming relative power of the U.S. not only in relation to smaller countries but to other major world leaders makes it ipso facto a determining factor – even when it exercises the option not to take part in the decision-making.

 

The extent of U.S. power in relative terms cannot be overstated. The American GDP of almost 19 billion – the sum total of all its economic activity — in 2016 was $8 billion more than its nearest rival, China. That GDP is a combination of high average individual incomes, a large population, capital investment, moderate unemployment, high consumer spending, a relatively young population, and technological innovation. None of these are challenged by most of its competitors, again save China, and then only n a couple of categories.

The United States shares 24.9 percent of global wealth, while the smallest economy, Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation, contributes only 0.00005 percent. Fist ranked China shares 18.3 percent. In nominal data, in 2017 five economies would have GDPs above $1 trillion, 62 above $100 billion and 177 above $1 billion. The top five economies account for approximately 53.82 % of the total of world production, where as the top ten account for approx. 67.19 %.

The U.S. overseas involvements continue with few changes in American policy by the Trump Administration.

Washington’s involvement in the Middle East continues to be one of its most important foreign entanglements. The U.S. alliance with Israel depends not only on the important lobby of pro-Zionist Americans including the influential Jewish community, but important commercial and technological ties based on their commercial relationship.

When Trump initially tried to downgrade if not reject American participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO], he encountered counter pressure. The threat of NATO intervention blocked further Moscow action against Ukraine, and supported UN and U.S sanctions against Russian as a lever against further aggression against its Western neighbors which its leader Vladimir Putin had threatened.

Trump’s short-lived love affair with China’s Xi Jinping has been torpedoed by China’s aggressive moves in the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Beijing’s base-building athwart one of the major commercial naval routes of the world is inimitable to America’s longtime advocacy of freedom of the seas for itself and all navigators.

The China relationship also is critical to fending off the threat of North Korea to use its intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons against Guam or other U.S. territory. China not only accounts for 90% of North Korea’s external trade, but Pyongyang’s IBM and nuclear weapons owe much to the earlier transfers of Chinese technology.

A Trump hands-off policy in the civil war which has developed in Venezuela is not likely to be sustainable. The attempt to set up a so-called :”socialist” dictatorship backed by the Castro Regime in Cuba is an effort to seek anti-American allies among the left throughout the Hemisphere. Washington’s relations with Latin America are too intimate in terms of trade, immigration and defense capabilities to be left to the machinations of the bankrupt regime in Havana whose only strategy continues to be anti-American.

Trump, as his predecessors – since the end of World War II – finds increasingly that the U.S. must have a policy toward any of the major developments in world politics.

Sws08-09-17

 

 

 

 

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The Saudi revolution


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

sws-06-15-16

The Donald’s foreign policy


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


Not a lot that is being said by The Talking Heads makes sense in the case of Hillary Clinton’s E-mails.
First of all, everything would tell us that any domestic or foreign political figure would be interested in the very fact that a specific subject had reached the Himalayan heights of the Secretary of State’s eyes. She is, after all, in addition to her vast power and influence as the decision-maker after The One in foreign relations matters, one of the most powerful figures in government.. And, of course, the secretary of state is the fifth in line to the presidency in the event a catastrophe eliminates the vice president, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the house, and the pro temp leader.
It may well be, as many government officials have long argued, that too many documents are “classified”, said to be of lesser importance than their originator believed when he accorded them a secret status. But, as is obvious, that decision must be left with the originator of the document, not to be trifled with by the recipient. And as some of the released e-mails indicate, not only did Clinton disregard the classification, but she instructed subordinates in the State Department to remove the classification, acknowledging that she knew their significance even if she did not agree with its evaluation.
It is probably impossible for third parties, unless they are directly involved and know the subject matter, to evaluate the damage done by Clinton’s purposefully declassification. It is not even self-evident why she did it. But one has to assume that there are such things as state secrets, many of them in fact, and the necessity to prevent their disclosure to enemies foreign and domestic is an obligation all government employees or political appointments take on in their oath of office as well as the commonsensical performance of their duty. This, Clinton did not do.
Again, a good deal of speculation has gone on about whether the continuing inquiry into the matter of her e-mails will result in an indictment by the Attorney General of this Administration. It is, of course, possible that Loretta E. Lynch., who after all was confirmed with a bi-partisan vote based on her record for judicial perspicuity and balance, will proceed to authorize a prosecution after the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] inquiry is completed with evidence for an indictment of Clinton. Its results according to all the speculation in Washington would seem to lie in that direction.
But it appears for her to do so would require great political bravery, and probably self-sacrifice, judging from the President’s TV interview April 10. In that interview, he made it clear that he already has taken a decision that nothing in the investigation would incriminate Clinton. It bears noting, of course, that for a former supposed university law professor – of course, he was instead a part-time instructor and then a rather poor one by all accounts – the President has violated one of the principal axioms of executive conduct. That is that no executive should offer a public appraisal of a future verdict while any judicial or police inquiry is under way. He has done it, of course, repeatedly. Sub judice in the law, means according to the dictionary, “under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere”. That would include, and above all, by the president of the United States as the chief executive officer and enforcer of our laws.
Last, and perhaps most important, for some time the Mainstream Media have been talking about the Attorney-General’s office and the Justice Department as another branch of what has until now been considered a three part government, executive, legislative and judicial. That still remains the case. The Justice Department and its head under Pres. Obama remains, as it has always been, a part of the president’s cabinet – not mentioned in the Constitution. And, therefore, it is under his jurisdiction and control. Given his now infamous public statement, it seems unlikely that any justified prosecution of Clinton will be pursued for whatever miscarriage of justice. At least not until 2017 at the earliest.
sws-104-12-16

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

Unseemly behavior


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

Calling it Christian genocide


 

Among the many anomalies of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, none appear so anachronistic as its refusal to label the persecution and annihilation of Christians in the Middle East as genocide.

Granted that the term has been too often thrown around carelessly, used incorrectly as a synonym for prejudice and persecution of minorities. It does of course have a specific meaning. In the 1948 United Nations Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide it was defined as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” including by the means of “killing members of the group.” 

The stubborn refusal of the Obama White House and State Department to apply it to current events in the Mideast is therefore something of a mystery. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Azidis and other religious minorities have been driven from their ancestral homes in Iraq and Syria or have been slaughtered during the rise of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].

Iraq’s Christian population 10 years ago was about 1.5 million, but now is estimated at only 500,000. In Syria, of the 1.1 million Christians, about 600,000 have fled or died. Christians have been tortured, raped and even crucified. Mosul, Iraq, which was home to 35,000 is now empty of Christians after an ISIS ultimatum that they either convert to Islam or be executed. In Syria, Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, reported “entire villages” have been “cleared of their Christian inhabitants.”

American human rights activists – Jews as well as Christians – have called on the Obama Administration to admit Christian refugees to the U.S. under special quotas In an ironic twist, American policy now discriminates against Mideast Christian entry. The State Department accepts refugees from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees which oversees large refugee camps in the Mideast. However, endangered Christians do not dare enter these camps where they have been attacked by fellow Moslem refugees.

Christian groups and human rights and religious freedom advocates have been calling on the Obama administration to label the situation as a “genocide” — arguing that the terminology would help to bring a global community response to the crisis. But Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last week that he is having an “additional evaluation” to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East should be declared “genocide.” Earlier White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest conceded that the Obama administration’s hesitation to label the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians and other religious minorities as “genocide” is because of the legal ramifications. Kerry was responding to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.), sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that the slaughter of Christians is in fact genocide.

The Administration’s hesitation appears to be part of its general effort to find common ground with Moslem regimes in the Middle East, many of whom have long placed restrictions on Christian religious practice or looked the other way when violence occurred. This is after all an Administration which refuses use the words “Islamic radical” or “Islamic terror”and coming to the defense of the Christians in the region would clearly not fit into their strategy.

But U.S. Christian groups are demanding that the label genocide be invoked and that the Administration come up with a program to end it. Co-sponsored by an organization called In Defense of Christians and the Knights of Columbus, a petition is being promoted with a new nationwide TV ad. The ad includes quotes by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll. The signers “implore” Secretary Kerry “to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations and urge him “to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide.”

sws-03-09-16

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Venezuela, the world – and the U.S.


 

Another chapter in the long and tortured history of Venezuela is being written.

But this time, given the new digital world of communication and interdependence, what happens there is not just a spectacle for occasional American Marine intervention to keep the peace. Not only are U.S. firms being clobbered in a hapless manipulation of currency by government now rapidly going toward chaos. [Goodyear Tire & Rubber reported a $646 million loss against fourth-quarter earnings, mostly the result of the collapse of the Venezuelan Bolivar.]

Most observers expect the Venezuelans will meet the $1.5 billion in debt payment due later this month But after that, the picture gets murky. With oil prices a third of what they were just a few months ago, and apparently to rock along the bottom for some time, the will await a worldwide economic upturn and increasing world consumption. All out Saudi pumping of its super low-cost Gulf reserves has made a dent in the new American shale technologies playing a big role in the lower world wide energy prices. But new technology there has mitigated the blow. And now Iranian [and additional Iraqi oil] is about to enter the market as Pres. Obama’s deal on nuclear weapons with Tehran lifts sanctions, especially for the Europeans and the Chinese.

A Venezuelan default on its $120 billion in government and state oil company loans from overseas investors during the past decade.would go a long way toward creating a new world financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Veneuela’s 32 millions are taking it on the chin. The latest is government trimming electricity to a 100 malls which have been sanctuaries for escaping the growing discomfort and violence in the tropical country. In this latest crisis to hit the country, El Nino has caused a drought and shortages from hydro plants. This, of course, is taking place in a county with some of the largest reserves of fossil fuels in the world, The fact is that Venezeuela has suffered brownouts for decades. One of the reasons is that electricity is virtually free in the country leading to incredible waste. Meanwhile, unlike other oil producers, in the good times Venezuela did not set up a rainy day fund and has now had to dig into its vurrency reserves.

The electricity crisis is only the latest in a bundle of incompetencies and ideological perversions inherited by the Maduro government from its predecessor, the charismatic Hugo Chavez. Chavez ran a regime o bread and circuses, destroying among other things the efficiency of its oil industry which he nationalized.  Now the country’s economy after decades of mismanagement has been one of the worst hit worldwide by oil price fall, accounting 95 per cent of the country’s trade revenue. At the moment, Caracas  has four exchange rates: three official ones and the black market which has been trading at some 1016 a dollar against official rates a quarter of less of that..

Before Chavez took the Caribbean country of 32  millions down the road toward state capitalism, it for many years after the second world war one of the richest in the region, with a vibrant economy buoyed by oil exports, much of this heavy oil to Texas refineries.

But were it to default in the months ahead, its debt failure would ripple through emerging-market economies, many of which borrowed heavily when commodity prices were soaring. China had provided Venezuela with a steady source of financing in exchange for oil but as its economy slows and it tries to staunch a hemorrhage of capital outflow, Beijing is reluctant to lend more.

Venezuela’s story, by and large, is being repeated in the oil-dependent countries scrambling for funding. Nigeria and Angola are already seeking help from international institutions to plug their deficits.

For the moment, the U.S. Treasury appears to be listening and cringing. But here too the world is waiting for an Obama initiative.

sws-2-11-16

 

 

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

 

 

Refugees or Mubarizun


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

Were we ever wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

sws-01-25-16

 

Wrong man, wrong job


Pres. Barak Obama repeatedly refers to the end of his time in office and that he is no longer campaigning. There is more than a little ambiguity there, however, for his modus operandi is a permanent campaign – even when it is for more limited objectives than the highest office in the land.
But now come rumors from the Middle East that he is, indeed, campaigning, and for a new and powerful job. The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida says he has been secretly sounding out Democrats, Republicans and Jewish officials in the U.S. for support for a campaign to become the UN chief.
There is no confirmation anywhere of these Arab media reports, but they take the possibility serious and also refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already engaged in a campaign to head Obama off.
Al-Jarida says Netanyahu is recruiting the Persian Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, his new tacit allies in their fear and opposition to Iran. Obama’s attempt to reach new accomodation with the Persian mullahs has raised the hackles of the Arabs and raised the ante in the Arab-Persian, Sunni-Shia conflicts.
The Jerusalem Post claims a source close to Netanyahu doesn’t deny that the prime minister is aiming to “torpedo the Obama project.” The source added: “His presidency was characterized by Washington’s moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and attempts to ally itself with political Islam.”
According to some sources, Obama figures he can somehow resolve the internecine warfare between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Copts and Salafists, and get all “the fifty-seven [UN] states” to support for him as a messianic UN Secretary General. The UN boss is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General’s selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The UN General Assembly, dominated by anti-American leftist and autocratic regimes, the argument runs, would support even an American candidate, one who has made reducing U.S. power abroad his principal strategy. But an okay from China and Russia, both of whom as permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a veto over the secretary-general’s appointment, is another question.
It seems likely that the whole story is another of those wild figments of the imagination which characterize the Arab world and its media. But, then, Obama was a most unlikely candidate for president of the U.S. and there is still something of a puzzle of just how he made it to the office, and furthermore, was reelected. And one gets the impression that outrageous ambition is not far from the center of the President’s personality.
We can’t think of a worse idea, however. Even under the lackluster former South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General whose term ends this year, the office has taken on increased activities never intended in the original UN proposals. Ban, much more than his predecessors, has taken to advancing his own policy proposals, when, in fact, he was supposed to be a creature of the Security-Council limited to its convoluted and often stymied instructions. The office in the hands of an activist like Obama – moving his current controversial presidential initiatives to an international level – would create an unelected, unrepresentative new element into an already increasingly unstable international scene.
Offhand, we don’t have a job for a former U.S. president, still too young and obviously too vigorous, to settle for retirement and elder statesmanship. But running the UN certainly isn’t the right niche.
sws-901-11-16

The energy revolution [cont.]


“You and me we sweat and slave, but that old man energy just keeps rolling along”. Good news to sing about!

In one of that witches ’ brew that come out of the Congress and are called “compromise”, a bill seems to be working its way through the toils of the legislative process to end the four-decades-old ban on oil exports. In exchange, the Republicans and oil companies have agreed to put more money into the so-called green energy subsidies.

It’s not the best of solutions. But the possibility of shoving the growing gas and oil surpluses in the U.S. – a product of the Shale Revolution – on the world market argues well for the American economy. We hope it makes it.

The ban on exports – proving again when a law gets into place it is hard to dislodge even in the face of revolutionary changing conditions – dates back to the 70s. That’s when our growing imports were hit by the price-fixing Persian Gulf and others’ monopoly, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC]. But OPEC, despite recent huffing and puffing, has been dying on the vine, or rather swamped by the world energy glut.

The leading OPEC producers are now pumping violently, even though it is tearing the world energy price to shreds, in order to garner more market share. They obviously see the possibility of the Americans reentering the market, particularly in Western Europe. The Saudis, particularly, see their once catbird seat as the arbiter of world oil pricing dissolving in the American technology which has opened up enormous new possibilities in gas and oil in shale deposits worldwide once beyond the bit of the drills. [Don’t look now but that may also affect how the rest of the world views the Saudis’ sponsorship of reactionary Islamic religio-political movements.]

The U.S. production boom in Texas and the Dakotas and Montana, is cranking out more than one million barrels of crude a day. Current law does permit the export of half a million barrels a day from Alaska to Asian customers and exchanges with Canada. And as the largest consumer in the world, the U.S. even during an economic downturn is burning 19 million barrels a day according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So far, at least, although the Saudis have oil that can be produced at a few cents a barrel, their gushers have not totally crippled the American shale producers. Good old American technological innovation continues to make leaps in shale productivity – and moderate world demand in a period of economic “malaise” – has so far saved a good part of the new industry.

Still, the glut causing low prices is keeping a lot of rigs from pumping full blast. Luckily for all concerned, the new crudes are mostly light, not the kind of heavy oil the huge Texas refineries were geared to handle from older U.S. fields and Caribbean imports but are welcomed by foreign refineries. The lifting of the export ban would produce an immediate spurt in jobs for the oil transportation systems and suppliers of their equipment needed for the new export capacity. The Aspen Institute says that means adding 630,000 new jobs and an additional $165 billion annually to the Gross Domestic Product for the next six years.

Hopefully, this deal is not going to get sidetracked as the Congress winds down for the holidays.

Not everyone is happy about the new developments, of course. Some investors in oil stocks are holding their heads. But we have always argued that cheap energy is the soul of American economic progress and development and that hasn’t changed, even if some of the players have. [Electricity producers are turning from coal to gas, or combinations of natural gas and coal gas – switches that probably are still in their infancy and too early to judge. But the gains in trimming emissions are already obvious.]

So bring on the oil – and gas [liquidifed natural gas] – exports!

sws-12-16-15

 

 

 

Dangerous Mideast Reality


The volatility of Middle East events notwithstanding, a new picture is emerging of alliances very different from those preceding the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the now five-year-old Syrian civil war.
That new reality is obscured by the Obama Administration, suspended in contradictory strategies of removing the American military option from the table while incrementally increasing U.S. special forces and bombing, adamantly calling for the ouster of Basher al Asaad in Damascus but negotiating for his participation in a “settlement”, and most of all, insisting on talking up an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation which has died.
There are growing signs that the relatively artificial national-states created by Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire breakup after World War II may be crashing.
Central to the new picture emerging is Saudi Arabia’s position. Western pressure and internal reformists are moving against the most egregious aspects of the regime, e.g., its long time allegiance to Wahhabism – an Islamic fundamentalism at the root of much of the current terrorism. Although the Saudis are flooding the world oil markets in an attempt to criiple their competitors, the Shale Revolution in the U.S. has deflated its once pivotal energy role. Saudi movement is occasioned by some internal reform elements, but more importantly the Obama Administration’s flirtation with Riyadh’s chief rival Iran. [Thet have just announced women will be permitted to vote, a revolution in a country which does not permit them to drive.] The Saudis themselves have been forced into direct talks with Tehran in an effort to short circuit Washington-Tehran deals. But at the same time, the Saudis are rallying Sunni allies in Syria against the growing influence – including direct military participation – of Iran. The nomination of a pro-Syrian president in Lebanon and the growing domination of the Iranian ally, the Shia Hezbollah, is a defeat for the Saudis.
Whether traditional family domination and loyalties can withstand this turmoil remains to be seen.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which has dominated Mideast politics may be dissolving in the face of the greater fear of an aggrandizing Iran. The recent announcement that Israel is opening a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, although enmeshed in a number of subterfuges, is the most dramatic recent evidence of the growing new tacit alliances. Jerusalem and Cairo are in a tight security and military alliance against Hamas in Gaza, supported by Iran, and the remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood fighting a guerrilla movement against the al Ssisi regime. But virtual disintegration of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under aging Pres. Mohammed Abbas – under bitter attack from Hamas– means there is no negotiating party on the Palestinian side. The current wave of Palestinian violence –“lone wolf” episodes unorchestrated by any Palestinian organization if encouraged by Hamas – is being met stoically by an Israeli public. It has not slowed a growing French Jewish in-immigration occasioned by violent anti-Semitic episodes in France, Despite American and EU opposition [the latter in a trade offensive], Israel is consolidating its enclaves [”settlements”] in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The Obama Administration’s response to these dramatic reversals in the region is an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War. While Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin has nominally joined the effort, he has bid up his hand in the Syrian conflict in support of the al Basher regime which Washington still insists must go. How long Putin, with a collapsing economy facing Western sanctions over the Ukraine issue and a tumbling international oil price for its only export, can maintain the Syrian thrust remains to be seen. But the use of sea-born missiles this week was a dangerous escalation, not the least because some Russian missiles fired earlier from the Caspian earlier had fallen short in Iran
While references to World War III [by none other than Pope Francis himself] are exaggerated, the volatility of events suggests the possibility of miscalculations at any moment with even more escalating violence.
sws-12-11-15

Palestinian Radicalization


The growing disintegration of Palestinian secular forces promises a new Mideast threat as difficult as Daesh [ISIL]
Luckily for the U.S., Israel and the Western allies generally, so far the growing Islamicist Palestinians have not merged with Daesh, even confronting it in several areas. This is, of course, part of the internal chaotic Muslim wrangle which so far has benefited their secular opponents.
But the daily individual terrorist attacks by individual Palestinians against Israelis, both inside the Green Line and in the West Bank [traditional Judea and Samaria where Jewish claims on the ancient Hebrew states reside] are evidence of a fracturing leadership. The attacks, almost unremarked in the Western media, range from stabbings of Israeli military and civilians, to automobiles used to mow down passengers waiting at bus stops. They have been answered in kind, to a much lesser degree, by Israeli rightwing terrorists’ attacks on Arab paramilitary and civilians.
The 80-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, who extended his Palestinian presidency officially ending in 2009, now suddenly, has dissolved its executive committee without naming a successor. His call for a new executive from the Palestine parliament – which has not met in 20 years – may not be enough to stop the erosion among secularist forces under siege from the growing Islamicist Palestinian Hamas leadership in Gaza. Most observers believe free elections among West Bank Palestinians could bring them to power there, as it did in Gaza where they now use every means to hang on against internal opposition from both secularists and even more radical Islamicists.
Hamas is the offspring of the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood, much appreciated by then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – her chief assistant Huma Abedin has family ties to the Brotherhood – and the Obama Administration But it has jumped the Sunni-Shia divide and is now empowered by money and arms from Tehran’s mullahs. Hamas’ “military wing” is rearming with Iran’s help, apparently for another go with the Israelis, the third only last year. Meanwhile, Egyptian Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has joined Israel; in trying to shut off dual-use imports to the Gaza strip because Hamas actively supports a growing insurgency in Sinai against the Cairo government.
The usual Western suspects – those Paul Hollander called “political pilgrims”, “activists” and intellectuals who fall in and out of love with insurrectionary regimes, first the Guatemala Communists, then the Castros, then the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, etc. – have transferred their affection to the “Palestinians”. They ignore the lack of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s accountability and its successor Fatah, and the massive corruption financed by the U.S., the EU and the UN. That’s gone into Swiss bank accounts and such projects as Abbas’ new palace in Rammalah.
The Palestinians, taking their cues from their Israeli opponents, have become a group of powerful if vulnerable professionals throughout the region. Unlike Israel which absorbed some 800,000 Jews either expelled or in flight from Arab and Moslem countries, the Arab regimes refused the 650,000 Palestinians absorption, now to a second and third generation. The Palestinian “cause” until recently when the new threat from an increasingly powerful and aggressive Tehran regime became the overwhelming menace, was used against the Israelis. But now — despite the Obama Administration’s effort to appease Tehran with an increasingly controversial nuclear weapons deal – the Persian Gulf Arab states and the Egyptians have become tacit allies with the Israelis against the growing Iranian menace, particularly manifested in its support of the embattled Basher al Assad regime in Syria.
This virtual abandonment of the Palestinians by the other Arabs is certain to increase their radicalization. It will make them more susceptible to Islamist terrorist seduction and a growing menace not only to Israel and its controversial occupation of the West Bank, but to U.S. interests. Hopefully, Pres. Barack Obama will not see them too as another “varsity” team which led the U.S. to ignore Daesh in its early days.
sws-09-01-15
.

Energy: let’s go!


The markets – including old-fashioned American technological know-how – has almost turned the Obama Administration’s original energy policies 180 degrees.
But there is still a lot to be done. And it will require the cooperation of a Congress, too long besotted with narrow-minded subsidies for powerful lobbies.
The Obama Administration which started out six years ago calling for outrageous gasoline prices to force the country into so-called new, green energies, has lost the game. That’s been acknowledged by several recent quiet White House decisions along the way toward an enlightened energy strategy, the basis, of course, of all economic and most of our social activity.
With the growing technological breakthrough in shale gas and oil, the U.S. again has the potential to be a net exporter. And letting the markets – rather than government fiat – decide which and where would be a major step in energy rationalization is obviously the way to go. Along the way, we would joint Gov. Rick Perry and others who have called for dismantling the Energy Department, which, where effective, duplicates other federal government activities.
New and hugely important developments are popping up everywhere:
The White House has just okayed a swap of lighter American crudes for Mexican heavier petroleum for which we have refinery capacity in the southwest [designed originally and still working on similar Venezuelan imports]. That’s not the lifting of all export controls which ought to be a high priority, their heritage going back to the 1970s embargos and our dependence on foreign oil.
The Sabine Pass, Texas, liquified natural gas facility, originally designed for imports, has signed a deal on 2011 permits to ship LNG to France. With U.S. domestic gas prices a fraction of LGP delivered prices in East Asia, there are a dozen applications for the expensive export facilities to cash in on the global market, now Europe too reinforced with the US-EU sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s machinatioins in Ukraine menacing his high-cost oil and gas exports..
Dutch Shell, which has already spent $7 billion looking for oil and gas off the Arctic coasts of Alaska, has now received permission for offshore deep drilling for gas. Later this month Alaska Governor Bill Walker argue in a personal session with Obama l that his state’s LNG and natural gas development is a main strategy to cut carbon emissions and lower energy costs. With proposals for his state to take 51% of some new oil and gas developments, he has a sheaf of proposals for a huge boost for Alaska’s revenues, impacted by the general economic downturn.
Looking back, luckily there were enough private shale holdings to develop the technologies which have brought about the whole energy revolution. And kudos again go to the industry for meeting – at least so far – Saudi efforts to undercut American shale production by going full blast in their own production and export to keep world prices low.
Yet several factors have so far defeated the Saudis in their effort to sabotage American selfsufficiency: the increasing skills of American technology, the cutbacks in China’s imports because of a rapidly declining economy and a moderation in the anticipated Indian takeoff, and the cutback in American imports because of the shale bonanza.
The Obama Administration has even timidly announced what could be one of the most important reforms in the domestic economy: removing the forced use of grain alcohols [ethanol] in gasoline sold gasoline sold at domestic pumps. Although ethanol has been a hallowed icon for some enviromentalists, its actual application has been a $10 billion a year bill for the taxpayer. Furthermore, the process distorts the food chain: making ethanol of corn requires huge tracts of land, fertilizers, pesticides, tractor and truck fuel, and natural gas for processing. That’s even a pretty strong argument against forcing the motorists to use it for the dedicated enviromentalist.
There is a worldwide economic and moral issue as well. Turning corn into ethanol raises feed prices and thereby the cost of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish and international food aid. It raises world food prices, a critical problem for many in the backward parts of the world who are food importers. So in addition to other concerns, there is a humanitarian aspect as well.
Ethanol is a bobanza of course, for the auto repairman. It wreaks havoc on the automobile itself, especially older cars. It can cause gaskets and other rubber parts to fail, causing fuel leaks and even engine failure or fires. With every prospect of American fossil fuel surpluses for the foreseeable future it is time to step back to the market and end required ethanol additives for gasoline and diesel fuel.
sws-09-18-15

Obama’s Iranian deadend


The growing absurdity of Pres. Barack Obama’s arguments in favor of his negotiations with the Tehran mullahs grows ever more self evident.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, itself at best never much more than a token effort to enforce anti-proliferation agreements, has revealed that Iran’s nuclear fuel stockpile is growing. In fact, the AIEA says, it has grown 20% during the last eighteen months. During that period Washington has been insisting the preliminary November 2013 Joint Plan of Action Agreement between the Islamic Republic and the West, had put a cap on Iran’s nuclear activities, and perhaps had the makings of a final agreement to halt any Iranian move toward nuclear weapons.
But only a month before the proposed completion of that constantly postponed final agreement, the IAEA calculations completely give the lie to Obama’s continued insistence his negotiations at leasdt temporarily had reigned in Iran’s nuclear developments.
Furthermore, the proposed final deal is supposed to reduce the Iranian fuel stockpile to 300 kilograms of nuclear fuel, less than requirements for a single bomb. That means Tehran would have to get rid itself of nine tons of enriched uranium fuel. No one really knows how that would be done. [The mullahs long ago ignored their agreement when Moscow sold them a reactor with the proviso fuel byproducts from its generating capacity would be shipped back to the then Soviet Union.]
Having backed off the whole concept of restricting Iran’s capability to make nuclear weapons to a position where the mullahs would have the capacity to do so but would foreswear it, Obama’s critics now have a new concern. Obviously, the size of its nuclear fuel stockpile would be decisive in any calculation – now ridiculously the new major issue in the whole discussion – of how long it would take the mullahs to make bombs. That “breakout” calculation, foolishly enough, has become a central argument between Obama and his Congressional critics. Obviously, a political judgment, an estimate, of whether the mullahs would and could be trusted to abide by any such self-imposed schedule, is the more demanding and paramount issue.
The IAEA report matter of factly pointed out that no progress has been made in its efforts to implement UN Security Council resolutions calling for information from the mullahs on possible movement toward “weaponization” .Needless to say, the IAEA report also says Tehran has made no suggestions how it might move to conform to the UN demands.
The IAEA report sums up that given the missing intelligence, it is not able to make a judgment on whether Iran is moving toward producing weapons.
The combination of Washington having lifted some economic sanctions – apparently the only weapon in its effort to restrain the mullahs short of military intervention – and the White House bogus claims on progress in restraining Tehran, already has led to diplomatic disaster. Washington’s nominal allies in the Persian Gulf and a disgruntled Egypt and Turkey are increasingly showing every evidence of abandoning the U.S.’ traditional leadership and looking to their own security calculations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to scold, but he most of all, will have to decide what happens in the absence of what he has called “a good agreement”. Israel is after all a continued target for the mullahs’ threats to wipe it off the map.
Apparently the Obama Administration will continue to issue preposterous statements on progress of the negotiations – or ask for further extensions — as the region and the world slide toward crisis.
sws-06-01-15

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.

Clinton’s Islamic Connection


Clinton’s Islamic Connection

Among the avalanche of accusations about the Clinton’s finances, perhaps the most serious are the
Abedin comes from a distinguished Muslim family; her father, of Indian Muslim heritage, after teaching in an American university was set up in Saudi Arabia in a private foundation. It’s not clear exactly what its purposes were, but certainly a part was to influence international opinion. His work has been carried on by his widow, a leading member of what could be called the Moslem Brotherhood’s women’s auxiliary. Abedin and Clinton made visits to meet her in the Middle East, apparently to discuss the chaotic region and American policy. Obama Administration officials have tended to see the Moslem Brotherhood as some sort of Islamic version of the Christian Democratic Parties in Western Europe, ignoring that the current plethora of Islamic terrorist organizations have all sprung from its bowels
The conservative public interest law firm Judicial Watch has filed a request to open Abedin’s emails during her four years at the State Department. News reports had claimed that Abedin used the same private email server Clinton set up to handle government business, avoiding the normal procedures of using the official State Dept. network. Granted that that had been done sometimes in the past, new Obama Administration rules had reinforced the regulation that government traffic had to flow on government networks.
That puts Clinton directly in violation of the State Dept. regulations if not the law, and makes the Abedin correspondence, critical, adding a whole new dimension to the rat’s nest.
In what must now be seen as an overabundance of political correctness, when Abedin’s connection was brought to the attention of the country in June 2012, by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and other Republican Congressmen, liberals and The Washington Post” joined in a denunciation of the request for more information. They were joined by Sen. John McCain and some other Republican as well as Democratic senators. But Senator Chuck Grassley had raised questions about Abedin’s working as a State Department employee as a part-time aide to Clinton while working as a consultant to private clients for the consulting firm Teneo Holdings and the Clinton Foundation as well as member of Clinton’s political staff. The State Department’s response was that there was no question of her passing government information to her private employers.
Attempts to bring public scrutiny to Abedin’s activities have been, characteristically, called “McCarthyism” as Islamophobia. But it is well to remember the historical context of the investigations of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Whatever their excesses, the fact was that some of those accused and questioned had been members of the Communist Party and its conspiracy at a time when the Soviet Union was powerful and potential enemy of the U.S.
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The Egyptian bet


Any hope for an exit from the current Middle East chaos lies with the efforts of Gen. Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to stabilize its politics and rebuild the Egyptian economy.
With its 90 million people and traditional role as the intellectual leader of the Sunni Arab world, el-Sisi’s efforts to move out of the collapse of four years ago is critical not only for his own country but for the region as a whole.. There is general acknowledgement in the area of Egypt’s overwhelming importance and leadership – except in the pro-Iranian elements dominant in Damascus, Lebanon-Hezbollah, Gaza-Hamas, and Yemen-Houthi, and increasingly in Baghdad.
Egypt’s importance brought thirty country leaders, dozens of financial companies– more than 1,000 potential investors— including non-Arab states for his conference at Sharm el-Sheikh in mid-March. The Gulf states alone pledged $30 billion in loans and investments. That’s in addition to larger earlier Gulf emergency loans to Cairo after el-Sis’s takeover.
El-Sisi has laid out an ambitious economic agenda: he has launched a second, wider Suez Canal, proposes to build a new capital linking Cairo to Suez, and invites a massive inflow of foreign investment.
His political agenda is even more ambitious. He has declared war on the Moslem Brotherhood and other Islamic radicals, imprisoning thousands of activists of the previous regime. He proposes to lead a strengthened Arab alliance against ISIL, now controlling large sections of Iraq and Syria. When the Islamic terrorists murdered 30 Copt Christian Egyptians in Libya, he immediately struck with air raids and is pushing his Arab allies and the Western powers to come down militarily on the Libyan Islamicists.
Perhaps his most important contribution to the current scene, however, has been his courageous attempt to address the traditional Moslem origins of the current outbreak of terrorism. He went to al-Azhar University, the fountainhead of Sunni theology, to personally to call on the Muslim clergy there for a reformation of Islamic thought. . He said that without such a revision of traditional Muslim thought, the basis of the present terrorism will not be eradicated. In effect, he has turned his back on Western apologists– including Pres. Barack Hussein Obama—who identify Islam as “a peaceful religion”.He made a demonstration visit to a Coptic church at Christmas, acknowledging that this 15% of the population has been under traditional persecution and particularly recently by Muslim extremists.
El-Sisi’s undertaking cannot be underestimated. Three-quarters of Egyptians are under the age of 25, one of the most youthful populations in the world. This demographic bulge drives an additional 4% of the population into the workforce annually, with a formal unemployment figure estimated at 14%. Unemployment among college graduates is even higher.
Although his 2013 military overthrow of the previously elected Brotherhood government of Pres. Mohammed Morsi was generally popular, and despite his brutal efforts to smash its remnants, el-Sisi may be facing a growing insurgency. Islamic terrorists have controlled parts of the Sinai peninsular for several years. He has broken with Hamas in neighboring Gaza because of its terrorist activities and its flirtation with Tehran. But individual urban terrorist acts threaten a full revival of Egyptian tourism which at its peak employed about 12% of Egypt’s workforce as well as contributing more than 11% of GDP and 14.4% of foreign currency revenues.
Although the U.S. was officially represented by Sec. of State John Kerry along with American firms at the investment conference, the Obama Administration still flirts with remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood whom some of its leading lights believe represents “moderate” Islam. The cutoff of $1.3 annual American military aid after the 2013 coup— especially delivery of F16s needed in the Sinai campaign– has sent el-Sisi searching for other suppliers, including a recent initialization of a French fighters deal and negotiations with the Russians.
El-Sisi’s relations with the Israelis remain formally cool. The Israelis, despite their request, were denied entry to the investment conference. But there are reports of frequent personal contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And there is obvious on the ground collaboration in further isolating the Hamas regime in Gaza, a common Egyptian-Israeli concern.
Despite repeated public and private appeals by el-Sisi for a resumption of the U.S.-Egyptian alliance, the Obama Administration— bending to its leftwing human rights critics and pro-Palestinian sympathizers – has refused. The danger, of course, is that as el-Sisi’s project becomes more intense and difficult—and with outside support for the Islamic terrorists—he will move further away from Washington toward a more independent position. Washington risks that, particularly, with its present attempt to find a working arrangement with the Tehran mullahs despite their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
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