Category Archives: Sunni

Going after Daesh


 

The U.S. is paying a rising price for the early failure of the Obama Administration to wage an all-out offensive to destroy Daesh [the Arabic name for the Islamic caliphate, ISIS or ISIL].

The Obama Administration – the President notoriously characterized them original as “J.V.” –originallysaid America’s objective was to “ultimately destroy” ISIS. .

Beyond the wildest earliest expectations, Daesh is lining up allies throughout the Moslem world – threatening to unite all the terrorist elements at least nominally in a juggernaut against the forces of civilization with every more barbarous acts.

The terrorists, despite some local defeats, still hold most of the large cities they have seized since 2014. It is funding itself with black market oil sales and other more sophisticated financial transactions. And with its hold on this piece of Syrian and Iraqi real estate as its sanctuary, Daesh is waging a very sophisticated campaign for support through the social media throughout the whole Moslem world.

Nothing succeeds like success, and its growing stature is attracting young misfits from throughout the Moslem world – as well some young Western adventurers.

With polls showing a widespread concern among Americans that Washington has failed to bring Daesh to heel, Obama has begun to step up his rhetoric at least about the fight. In his January state of the union address, he did say that fighting ISIS [also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh] and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration.

The U.S. is incrementally stepping up its program of bombing raids, inserting additional special operatives on the ground to more successfully direct what had been an air campaign only a fraction of earlier bombardment in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Daesh’s response has been a campaign to enlist the various insurgencies with Moslem leadership through Asia and Africa. Many have smouldered for decades, as much based on ethnic, linguistic and regional antagonisms as on any Islamic religious character. But that, too, is tending to change with their new found allegiance to Daesh.

In southern Thailand, for example, the long low-level insurgency in its three southern Malay-majority provinces is being enlisted by Daesh. The long-standing ties which both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok obfuscate between the Moslem rebels in southern Thailand and radical Islamic forces in northeastern Malaysia are strengthening with new political problems in the ruling party in the capital.

In the southern Philippines, the on and off rebellion of the Moros – going back to Spanish and American colonial days – is blossoming. A Saudi official, an opponent of Daesh, was recently assassinated there in a dramatic manifestation of Daesh’s increasing influence. Manila, facing an increasing threat to its position in the South China Sea by Beijing’s push there, has more than it can handle. And it has begun to restore the old alliance with Washington, if at a slow pace and against considerable domestic opposition.

Daesh has tried to link to the old Moslem radicals in West Java, again dating back to Dutch colonial days, but recently manifesting their deep roots with terrorist acts in the national capital of Jakarta. The blood attacks on the tourist island of Bali have shaken the Indonesian government and it is behind the curve in taking on the search for Islamic terrorist ties to the Mideast.

In Nigeria, the Boko Harum – originally a nativist movement rejecting all so-called Western cultural aspects – has now officially linked itself to Daesh. Its bloody attacks on local Christian and Moslem communities has become a major concern for the Nigerian government, always carefully balanced between its more developed southern and Christian and animist regions and the Moslem region in the north.

All this has brought into focus a crisis for Washington on how to deal with Libya and the growing strength there of Islamicist elements which, again, have now proclaimed their loyalty to Daesh. The Islamic terrorists are a product of the overthrow of the Mohammed Qadaffi’s dictatorship by a European alliance with the then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton pursuing Obama’s famous “leading from behind”. If the Libyan rebels, with their close geographic ties to Daesh – and their threat to Egypt’s western frontier – manage to grab Libyan oil fields where they are active, the whole international network will take on new and ominous significance.

Obama, despite his determination to withdraw from all Midesast conflicts, is now facing a brutal decision in Libya which could overturn what is left of his strategy of retreat from contested areas.

ws-03-05-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 American Iran disaster


It is hard to exaggerate the strategic disaster that has befallen American relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

At a time of increasing acts of terror – unfortunately now “lone wolf” murders that have no central command – the Obama Administration in a series of encounters has emboldened one wing of Islamic terrorism. It may be ironic but hardly laudatory that the U.S. and its allies are now more dependent for their ultimate defense on the conflict between the two wings of Islam, Sunni and Shia, and their terrorist offspring.

The Obama Administration early on lost its strategic bearings in dealing with a fanatical regime in Tehran aiming to become the hegemonic power in the Mideast. That defeat is at every level – strategic and military, economically, and in propaganda. It is true, of course, that much of the difficulties of dealing with the mullahs predates Obama’s seven years in the White House. One might even, at the risk of offending those who quite rightly worship at the shrine of Ronald Reagan, recall his failure to cope with Tehran. It was, after all, Reagan who did not retaliate after calling the suicide bombings which killed 299 American and French Marines in October 1983 in Beirut a “despicable act”. There was circumstantial evidence of Iranian complicity. Contradictorily, Reagan withdrew from the Lebanese peacekeeping force.

When a grass roots movement against the mullahs took to the streets following the stolen president elections of 2009 calling for American assistance, the Obama Administration turned its back on them. For all the talk about moderates and radicals in the Tehran regime, there is little hope that its leaders would modify their regional aggression and worldwide terrorist activity so long as it is successful in increasing Iranian influence. That is very much the case now with full-fledged allies on the Mediterranean: Hezbollah in Lebanon, the reeling but still functioning al Assad regime in Syria, and even the Sunni Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Instead, Obama has sought to make some sort of pact with the mullahs, apparently believing American concessions would satisfy their hunger for international aggrandizement. It is only likely to feed it. The lengthy negotiations to limit Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction have turned into a farce. When Tehran objected to inspection of their military installations as part of the enforcement arrangements, the issue was simply dropped by Washington. At the very moment the success of the agreement was being heralded in Washington, Iran launched tests of new intercontinental ballistics missiles in defiance of UN Resolutions which could one day strike the U.S..

It may be a long time before we know why a group of American sailors were captured and then publicly humiliated by Tehran to prove U.S. impotence in the region. We may not know soon whether it was indeed a navigation accident and engine problems which called for a quick and nonconfrontational return, or perhaps even more threatening, Iranian technical capacity to interfere with the ship’s GPS. But the spectacle will highlight the reputation of the U.S. in the region for a very long time, and undermine any American strategy. Again, as in the swaps with the Taliban, Washington has given back a disproportionate number of proven terrorists – including some involved in bombings against Jewish installations in Argentina, and at the very moment a new administration in Buenos Aires has again promised to take up investigations of the incidents. It seems not only possible but likely, that like the released Guantánamo prisoners, most soon will be back at their trade.

The removal of sanctions and return of blocked funds probably exceeding $150 billion will be significant in helping the mullahs through their current economic crisis brought on by heavy military expenditures – including maintaining Iran Revolutionary Guard forces in Syria. Renewed oil and gas sales in the price-gutted world market will help only marginally. But there is little hope for regime change without substantial assistance from abroad. That, obviously, will not come from this American administration, leading from behind to enhance rather than diminish the major threat to peace and stability posed by the Tehran fanatics.

sws-01-18-16

 

Help Egypt!


The Obama Administration seems to have a hard time recognizing who are our friends and who are our enemies in the Mideast.
Not only has the President gone ahead with his campaign promises “to put some light” between the U.S. and Israel, the Administration has alternately ignored, supported the wrong side, slapped on a military assistance embargo, then lifted it, with little or no commensurate grappling, with the Egypt relationship.
Now, again, the regime of Pres.-Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is asking for more help. Egypt already gets approximately $1.5 billion annually including $1.3 billion in military financing.
But the recent success of anti-government forces in the Sinai – allied with Daesh [ISIL], and, curiously, with Iran through Hamas in Gaza, has indicated el-Sisi’s Egypt is in a life and death struggle with Islamic terrorism.
In late July terrorists assassinated the Egyptian equivalent of our attorney-general with a car bomb. Meanwhile, in the critical Sinai peninsular – lodged between Egypt, the Suez Canal and Israel – there were two successful attacks by terrorists affiliated, curiously, with both Daesh [The Islamic State] and through Hamas in Gaza, with Tehran’s mullahs.
Not only does Egypt’s 90 million represent a quarter of the Arab world, but it has been the traditional intellectual and religious leader of the broader worldwide Sunni majority Muslim community. Furthermore, el-Sisi – who first overthrew with considerable public support the elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood – has come out four-square for the often unstated program of the U.S. and the West against the Islamic terrorists. [Washington, of course, seems to continue the take the Brotherhood’s professions of democratic intent for real, with CIA Director John O. Brennan making naïve pronouncements about the nature of Islam and its history of violence.]
When the Libyan terrorists made a show of killing three dozen Egyptian Coptic Christian workers, el-Sisi instantly loosed an aerial bombardment against them. He has launched a full-scale campaign against his own domestic widespread Muslim terrorist insurgency.
But more important, perhaps, he has taken up the cudgels for the larger political issues which too many of his fellow Muslims refuse to face. He has paid highly publicized personal visits to leaders of Egypt’s often victimized 20% Christian Copt minority. He looked in the eye the traditional Muslim ulema [Muslim clergy] in the eye at traditions. He has reinforced Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel, cooperating with Jerusalem squeezing Hamas in Gaza, designated officially as terrorist by the U.S.
After slapping on a partial embargo on weapons assistance after his coup against the, granted, elected, Muslim Brotherhood government, Obama then lifted it a few weeks ago. Still hanging over the Egyptians are end of military credits it shares only with Israel.
Human rights activists within the Administration couldn’t have been more heavy-handed with what has been al Sisi’s crackdown on dissidents, including reporters for al Jazeera, the news agency which was Osama Ben Ladin’s mouthpiece. But they would have been far more effective had they openly supported the regime and used that support to modify al Sisi’s rough edges. Instead, the President has fallen back into the same aloof manner with el-Sisi that characterizes so many of his relationships, domestic as well as foreign.
Egypt and the Egyptian role in the whole Mideast mess is just too important to allow to drift.
Sws-07-04-15

The Persian Thread


One thread runs through all the miasma of the tribal and ideological jungle of contemporary Mideast politics. Through it all is interwoven the power and influence of Iran.

With its 80 million people, its vast territory – the world’s 17th largest country, about the size of Alaska – and its abundant resources, Iran towers over all the other Mideastern territories [except Egypt and Turkey]. Despite its sudden cataclysmic downturn in fertility – a drop-off much deeper than Europe, Japan and China are also experiencing – Iran currently still has a young population that will reach 100 million by 2050.

But more than anything, Tehran is heir – unlike Egypt’s largely historical and tourist attractions – to the traditions of the ancient Persian empires dating from 500 years before Christ. Contrary to the primitive intolerance of the current regime, the Persians through the ages built remarkably strong political entities simultaneously using various ethnicities. [Again what a contrast to the neighboring puny Arab sheikhdoms, however endowed with petrodollars.] That thrust toward power is again a central issue in the region.

There is no dearth of evidence for Tehran’s aggressive ambitions beginning with worldwide terrorism that punctuated recent decades. Whether in the Beirut military barracks bombing of Americans and French troops [1983] or the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires [1994] or the bitter IED offensive against American forces during the Iraq war, Tehran’s gloved hand was there.

However vulnerable the ties, today Tehran has jumped the security fences first set up post-World War I by Britain and France, and then the U.S.. Its alliances extend to the Mediterranean with the Assad regime [if under siege] in Syria, Hezbollah that dominates ethnic-chaotic Lebanon, and even the scion of the bitterly anti-Shia Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas in Gaza.

Moving toward weapons of mass destruction with the help of other rogue states headed by North Korea and greedy merchants in Russia, Germany, Tehran’s mullahs are reaching for great power status. One suspects even their bitterest domestic enemies do not vouchsafe their country this role.

There is, indeed, growing evidence Iran may shortly be a “threshold” nuclear state, that is one able to produce nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in short order. Never mind its oft repeated threat to wipe out Israel, a bomb will give Tehran dominance in the region, possibly setting off a dangerous nuclear weapons race among the region’s inherently unstable regimes.

How is the world to cope with Iran as it again flexes its muscles in an effort to restore its ofttimes regional hegemony?

The U.S. once thought it could live with Iran as a regional super-power; Washington allied with Shah Reza Pahlevi, encouraged his stewardship of the area. He was seen as an important ally during the Cold War, blocking the old, old Russian ambition of reaching the warm waters. The U.S. was even prepared to tolerate Iran as a leader of the cabal to create an OPEC monopoly on world energy at higher prices. But in one of those moralistic flights of fancy. Amb. William Sullivan – who had already made his contribution to the debacle in Southeast Asia – helped pull the rug from under the Shah, buying into the false promises of the Muslim theocrats.

Looking back now, one could make the case that the seizure of Western oil in Iran and the Gulf states was the original sin. Their inability to efficiently absorb enormous wealth which flowed into their coffers was more than “a tax on the world economy” that the then Secretary of Treasury William Simon rationalized. Those dollars became the source of a major destabilization of the world order with huge surpluses in the hands of small backward populations led by tyrannical, shortsighted leaders. [One can only hope this aspect will perhaps to be tempered, finally, by the Americans’ shale revolution which is rapidly bringing down the real price of energy and defanging the Mideast’s hold on world oil and gas.].

But how to deal with this new set of chessmen continues to be a central problem of U.S. efforts to maintain world peace and stability. And perhaps the greatest unknown in the whole equation is trying to deduce what path the Obama Administration thinks it is pursuing.

There apparently is one train of thought with the career diplomats which sees U.S. benign neglect as the best answer to the Mideast problems. That would have been the inspiration for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of a “pivot” from U.S. concentration on the Mideast to deal with the growing potential threat of a nascent China. That was soon grabbed by the White House speechwriters as an answer to the self-evident failures of Obama’s initial outreach to the Moslem world which elicited only scorn and the false hopes of “the Arab spring”. It soon became all too apparent that the tarbaby with which Washington has been ensnared could not be wished away. [The President has just announced new reinforcements for ground troops in Iraq which he said he wouldn’t commit.]

And so the mystery of what the Obama Administration thinks it is doing in the Middle East continues.

Its rejection of an alliance of minor powers as a counter to Iran’s growing power based on the bilateral U.S.-Israeli alliance is all too obvious, even before Jerusalem’s latest Hamas engagement. Now, of course, Washington finds a tacit alliance between Israel and Egypt and even the Gulf states against the Muslim Brotherhood with whom so many of Obama’s advisers were infatuated. It has had to double back to try to create an alliance to destroy one of the Brotherhood outgrowths, ISIL, and even toys with unacknowledged cooperation with Tehran to defeat it, if slowly.

Obama’s advisers earlier had rejected the possible option of Iranian regime change in 2009, even when a near revolution erupted after falsified elections brought out the old Persian values and young activists calling for American help. Obama’s much ballyhooed personal relationship with Turkey’s pretended strong man, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Persians’ old, traditional cultural and political competitor, collapsed in the face of Ankara’s pipedream of recreating a version of the old Ottoman Empire’s domination of the Arabs. Even when the Egyptian public turned against an elected Moslem Brotherhood administration, supporting a military coup, Obama found it impossible to abandon support for that Sunni ideological mother of so much Mideast violence.

So the No. 1 mystery of the region is not the constant shifting of loyalties and alliances but the intent of American policy.

Obama has publicly hinted that he could salve the thousand-year-old Sunni-Shia vendetta. That might be an expression of a strategy of building a balance of Shia Persia against the Egyptian-Turkey-Gulf states Sunnis. If that were the intent, the Obama seers have blown it with their naïve expectations of “the Arab spring”, their flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and subsequent antagonism of the Egyptian military and false hopes for Turkish leadership.

There is some circumstantial evidence on the other hand that the Obama Administration is thinking that there is an inevitability about the Iranian hegemony in the area, and that a deal can be struck with it. How else to explain the constant unrequited supplications to the mullahs [including the most recent “secret” personal letter from the President] and the refusal to support Iranian dissidents?

That presumably would be the rationale for what looks like a negotiation to permit Iran to retain a capacity to enrich uranium, ostensibly for a nuclear power industry, but which would make them a “threshold” nuclear weapons state. For any but the most idealistic observer, it is hard to rationalize the past history of this fanatical Muslim regime’s secret nuclear efforts and any hope that it would abide by such an agreement, or, indeed, that UN or other surveillance would be more effective than in the past.

With the outlook for salvaging any of Obama’s domestic agenda poor what with not only a Republican-led Congress but a reinvigorated GOP, it could well be that Obama would turn to foreign policy in his two lame duck years of office. That is why the mystery of the Persian thread as it winds through the Obama Administration is a political conundrum of moment.

sws-11-09-14

Israel-Palestine — enough already!


By Sol Sanders

It must have been a shock to its “allright-nick” listeners. But even government-subsidized National Public Radio [NPR] had a commentator last week declaring that the so-called Israel-Palestine “Peace Process” isn’t going anywhere. And, more importantly, he noted, the rest of the Middle East at the moment doesn’t care all that much about the issue. That’s quite an admission for the increasing anti-Israel lobby which now counts The New York Times and NPR among its brightest stars.

Nor was Pres. Barack Obama likely to have heard much about the Israel-Palestine schmoozle in his peripatetic travels including trying to put a band aid on worsening Washington-Riyadh relations. True, the Arab League – which has more differences among its members than the United Nations Security Council –recently did come out against “a Jewish state”. But the Arab League has become less and less a spokesman for the Arabs. Its anti-Israel screeds are all that’s left of what broke away from British tutelage with Gama Nasser’s overthrow the British protected Egyptian monarchy in the early 50s.

Indeed, the list of issues is long facing the Arab world, and Muslim majority nations in general, and the Western powers ostensibly led by the U.S. in the Middle East. It is fraught with so many other threats that the problem of Israel’s relations with the Arabs pales in comparison. Nor does anyone believe the myth held among Pres. Obama’s Arabist coterie that “solution” of the Israel-Palestine problem would be an open sesame to solving all the Middle East myriad difficulties.

Foremost now, for the Sunni Arab regimes – and even those nominally secular such as Egypt’s new military rule – is the specter of the growing regional power of the mullahs in Tehran. That’s exemplified for the Saudis by the growing evidence that the bloody Syrian Dictator Basher Assad relies on Iran for life support. The Saudis publicly keep reminding Obama and the Europeans they had promised to eliminate him. Instead, there is even the prospect that Assad may negotiate his way into some sort of permanence through, ironically, Washington-sponsored peace talks.

The Saudis, who continue to call for an American commitment in Syria – which Pres. Barack Obama originally promised and then welshed on — see it as an extension of Tehran’s increasingly successful reach for regional hegemony. That’s not only by its support of Assad [along with Moscow] with both boots on the ground and armaments, but its encouragement of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization which before 9/11 had taken most American lives, has now become the dominant force in always sectarian strife-torn Lebanon. Furthermore, its troops blooded in the Syrian civil war are armed by Iran with increasingly state of the art missiles for any new engagement with Israel. Hanging over all this is the threat of the Tehran mullahs acquiring nuclear weapons and delivery systems which U.S. allies in the region increasingly see Washington’s efforts to halt faint-hearted.

Yet Obama puts an Israel-Arab settlement at the top of his public agenda most of the time, and Kerry frenetically hops from one side to another with professions of “progress”. They both ignore the reality, clear to all to see but Washington and Obama’s advisors – including CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to view the notorious Moslem Brotherhood as the Islamic equivalent of European Christian Democrats.

As this is written, there appears to be a considerable chance “the peace process” will break down completely. That could be the best thing all around, at least for the time being. In fact, there is in reality no negotiating process because there is no Arab partner and no policy but stonewalling from the Palestinian self-appointed leadership. No Israeli government facing these conditions can do more than stall, too. So anti-Israel forces in Europe and America use the failure as a weapon to beat the Israelis.

As this is written, a further “dispute” has paralyzed continuing talks: Israel refuses to release unilaterally another 30 Palestinian prisoners – some terrorist killers – unless the Palestinians agree to further “talks” before they are released. And the Palestinians say no talks resumption until the prisoners are released. This is just one more piece of the inanity of the whole “process”.

In the first place, Washington’s efforts are with an Arab leadership –only installed on the so-called West Bank. No one is prepared to negotiate, were it possible, with Hamas in Gaza. There terrorists, officially labeled by both the U.S. and the Europeans. publicly boast of their refusal to recognize Israel or give up claims to the whole of the old British League of Nations Palestinian Mandate.

No Palestinian leader – speaking in Arabic rather than English or French – has given a clear-cut statement of acceptance of the existence or the right to exist of an Israeli state. More recently, that has been reinforced with Washington’s chief Arab interlocutor, Mahmoud Abas now rejecting the concept of “a Jewish state”.

Obama and Kerry have reinforced the Palestinian objections to Jewish “settlements” on the West Bank, although, obviously, any agreement would have to include some 1.7 million Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 armistice lines. A two-state solution would have to include large minorities of each group or call for an enormous population swap – which Israeli Arabs have already forcefully rejected.

Demilitarization of any future Palestinian state would have to be a basic issue for the Israelis given the pattern in Gaza, where a withdrawal [including the Israeli destruction of Jewish “settlements”] has resulted in a base for constant missile harassment. Yet Abbas has already rejected the Israeli insistence that its security [concurred on by Jordan] requires it hold on to bases in the JordanValley, its first line of defense on the east.

Abandonment of the traditional Hebrew centers in Judea and Samaria [the time-honored names for the West Bank] would further the outrageous radical Muslim campaign to deny Jewish/Hebrew history despite their own religious texts reliance on it. In fact, it was there for the most part where the ancient Hebrew kingdoms which the Zionists seek to restore in their modern state were located – not in the plains around Tel Aviv, now its largest center of Jewish population. Abandoning them would further the whole campaign to delegitimate Israel.

Increasingly, so-called “pro-Palestinian” sentiment in the West has either merged with traditional anti-Semitism or the remnants of the Communist and their fellow travelers.. Whatever excesses exist – in an embittered Israeli Occupation of predominantly Arab areas — have followed six unsuccessful attempts of the Arab coalitions to wipe out the Jewish state.

Hamas and its rival Islamic Jihad in Gaza are gaining strength for Muslim jihadists in the West Bank [as witness recent rioting in Jenin, a flashp[oint going back to 1936 Arab attacks on British Mandate authorities and the then small Jewish community.]. There is every reason to believe that were elections held, Abbas and his “moderate” following in the non-Gaza areas would be decimated by Hamas [which may partially explain his tortured extension of his current office]

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRRA], the only organization created for a single refugee group, has well over a billion dollar basic annual funding. It perpetuates the refugee problem by including all descendants of those who either voluntarily left or were pushed beyond the 1948 armistice lines, its schools are a hot bed of racist propaganda against Jews and its summer camps sponsor training for terrorists according to its former counsel. The Palestinians’ negotiating demand for a return of all Arab “refugees” to Israel is not only unrealistic but is just one more stumbling block to real negotiations.

And the list goes on and on.

So what are Obama and Kerry talking about when they sponsor a continued “peace process”?

It appears more than anything else an extension of Obama’s highly trumpeted outreach to the Muslim world announced early in his first Administration [with the rather shaky historical review of his Istanbul and Cairo speeches]. Since then, we have seen The Arab Spring turn to The Arab Winter, a brutal massacre of his own people by Assad in Syria with an answering radicalization of the opposition, the fall of an Egyptian autocrat to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “one man, one vote – one election” to the reinstitution of a military authoritarian Cairo regime which Obama has spurned and therefore with whom Washington has little influence, and a frightened and disaffected group of Persian Gulf American allies.

There are times when “just stand there” is the proper advice.

Minus the encouragement – and financing of some of the most corrupt politicians in the world – by the U.S. and the Europeans of the so-called Palestinian cause, the current Israel-Palestinian stalemate continues intractable. Statesmanship dictates that it be put on the back burner, at least for a while, and a turn to other far higher priority problems from the Black Sea to the Baltic as well as the continuing threat of the Iranian bomb and East Asia where the results of the ballyhooed “pivot” are still awaited.

 

sws-03-30-14

 

A world ablaze – but different fuels


 

A bane of modern military studies [let’s eschew “science”] is the concept of counter-insurgency – the idea that indigenous revolts around the world can be analyzed with “the scientific method” and a set of general principles if implemented could cure the problem. Common sense tells us that the essence of any dissidence/armed insurrection is its particularity, its basis in specific local conditions. They differ not only in geography but in the characteristics of individual societies. So, yes, the army should not steal the peasants’ chickens is a good maxim – but such bromides do not go far to tell you how to prevent civil war.

At the moment, we have one bitter internecine war in Syria, and three incipient revolts between two or more elements in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand. Other conflicts, even messier to define, are growing in the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

The question, of course, is whether there anything that connects all these conflicts? And, if so, what if anything can be done to lessen tension and conflict?

Ukraine

The ambivalence between Ukraine and Russia is as old as the two peoples. In fact, it was from centers in what is now Ukraine that Christianity spread to the Great Russians and where they even got their name.  More recently, Ukrainians have suffered disproportionately in the Soviet Union – a bitter irony, often at the hands of ethnic Ukrainian members of the Communist hierarchy. Stalin’s man-made famine of the 1930s followed on to the horrors of those of World War I when the engineer Herbert Hoover first emerged on the world scene. But a flame of Ukrainian identity survived, expressing itself at the height of Soviet repression in such small protests as citizens of Ukraine’s western metropolis, the old Hapsburg city of Lviv [Lvov, Lemberg] unofficially using “our time” [Central European] rather than Moscow’s time zone to express their identification with the West..

So it is no wonder that [Ras] Putin, the new Russian dictator seeking to restore Soviet glory has intrigued in a state once called in the two World Wars “a figment of the imagination of the German general staff”. Whatever the outcome of fast-moving events, Putin has the most to gain or lose – aside from the Ukrainians themselves. Ras – who has said publicly that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the bloody 20th century — is gambling. By his direct intervention, he either hopes to bring Ukraine again under Moscow hegemony, or failing that, to destroy its unity as a cautionary tale for other former Soviet “republics” holding on to their fragile independence.

But for the moment, the anti-Soviet forces have gained the upper hand in Kiev and he faces a choice of backing the ultra-corrupt Russophile Viktor Yanukovych as he attempts to cling to power, apparently setting up shop in Russian-speaking and industrial eastern Ukraine. Or Ras could wait to see if Pres. Barack Obama and the European Union will do the necessary to back their friends in Kiev. Or, unlikely, Putin retreats, taking his licks and admitting a disastrous defeat. That result could escalate Moscow’s growing economic difficulties with its almost total dependence on fossil fuel exports, undercut by the growing impact of America’s shale revolution on world prices.

Syria

As ghastly as is Basher al Assad and his Iranian backers’ war on Syrian civilians – matching the ugly trial run Nazi and Fascist aircraft waged on Spanish Republicans in that prelude to World War II – geopolitically its importance lies elsewhere. Every day that al Assad’s regime survives, U.S. interests and those of its allies suffer: there is an intensification of the influence and control of radical jihadists in the opposition to Assad, and the growing influence of the Tehran mullahs not only in Damascus but in neighboring Lebanon and even among formerly rabidly Sunni Hamas jihadists in Gaza.

Continued Syrian fighting risks the stability of both Israel and Jordan, the major two outright allies along with Saudi Arabia. The growing perception of Iranian strength is posing an increasing dilemma for the Gulf Arab sheikdoms and even the military in Egypt: whether they knuckle under to Iranian Mideast hegemony or go nuclear themselves. For long ago it became apparent that despite public pronouncements, the Obama Administration is prepared to settle for a supposedly nuanced arrangement whereby Tehran has the capability of weapons of mass destruction but does not “weaponize”. That for a country which for 17 years was able to disguise its uranium enrichment from UN regulators of the non-proliferation treaty it had signed.

Venezuela

With its long history of repressive regimes since independence from Spain almost 200 years ago, Caracas again is saddled with new oppression. But this time its incompetence matches any effort to tyrannize a divided opposition. With one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Pres. Nicolás Maduro has taken the country further toward bankruptcy, in no small part because of the largesse he has continued from his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Chavez’ populist policies built a constituency among the nation’s poor until his death in 2013 and among leftist regimes around the continent.

Now Maduro, with his constant malapropisms, almost a caricature of Chavez, relies increasingly on Raul Castro’s Cuba and its secret police tactics, including Cuban “advisors”, against rising opposition. The cost in oil for the Castro dictatorship some observers reckon as much as $13 billion a year. Other discounts go to the leftist, and above all anti-American regimes, notably the Sandinista retreads in Nicaragua.

Thailand

The old contest between Bangkok’s Sino-Thai elite and the more ethnic Thai rurals, especially those in the poorer northeast, has come unhinged in the rapid economic and international integration of the once isolated nation that never became a European colony.. Ironically, the rural areas – which once got some taste of social and economic upward mobility through the frequent encroachment of the military on the political process – have now been seduced with long-awaited social services. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist handing out new entitlements while he used his connections for building an enormous personal fortune, is a fugitive from corruption charges. Nevertheless, from Dubai or wherever he has been running the country through his political machine with his sister as prime minister to the consternation of the old elite. [It is another irony that Shinawatra is, himself, only first generation Sino-Thai which he has never tried to hide.]

The elite, increasingly supported by students and Bangkok’s middle class, are now turning to the possibility of some sort of indirect rule rather than Shinawatra’s popular mandate. The crisis is deepening, beginning to affect Thailand’s tourism — $26.7 billion in 1013, up 20% over the year before. Street rioting has already canceled out an estimated 900,000 visitors in the next six months and their $1.6 billion. Violence would eventually cut into the steady low of foreign investment – Thailand’s auto industry dominates Southeast Asia, ninth largest in the world.

Solutions for half a century to periodic blowups have come from the intervention of the military, now more reluctant than ever before to jeopardize its $5.3 billion budget by bloodying its hands. Thailand’s sainted 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyade, despite his close associations with the elite, has spent much of the last year in hospital. The final arbiter in past political crises, he is coming to the end of a 68-year reign with the succession somewhat clouded by a scandal-prone crown prince.

Needless to say, the U.S. did not create any of these crises. But whatever the failings of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s endless peregrinations and John Kerry’s pledges of endurance, there is a growing worldwide perception that American power is retreating in the face of a poorly functioning domestic economy, a curtailment of military expenditures, and an Obama policy that attempts to “lead from behind”.Syria” has become the arch symbol of Obama’s indecisiveness. That carries over to a growing belief in a general withdrawal from the U.S.’ preeminent post-World War II leadership of free societies. With Obama’s threats and “red lines” increasingly ignored, an ominous vacuum in virtually all regions of the world invites chaos if not worse.

sws-02-12-14

 

The end of a geopolitical model


Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of “The Turkish model” is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey’s image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.

But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 Turkish million immigrants to Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live.

Erdogan, without daring to acknowledge it publicly, turned his back on the top-down secularization of Mustafa Kemal, the general-politician-philosopher who founded the modern Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Over the past decade, Erdogan nibbled at Atatűrkism’s basic building blocs – political authoritarianism, state capitalism and anticlerical tenets. He even edged into recognizing the multiculturalism of the Anatolian peninsular instead of Atatűrk’s Ne mutlu Turküm diyene! [How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk!]. That included not only the ancient, cosmopolitan megametropolis Istanbul [Constantinople] [14 million] at the crossroads of Europe and Asia where Erdogan’ S political career began as mayor. He also hesitantly recognized the identity of Turkey’s 15 million Kurds who have waged guerrilla war and terrorism for autonomy or independence for more than three decades. But simultaneously he moved toward more and more conservative Muslim concepts, appealing to rural Anatolia which had given him his big parliamentary majorities. That process is seen as a threat by the Alevi sect, another disproportionately wealthier 20 percent of the population, whose Sufism is considered apostate by many in the orthodox Sunni majority.

Erdogan’ policies – particularly his continued economic liberalization –ushered in a period of growing prosperity and optimism about the country’s future with continued if diminishing hope of entering the European Union. Most critically, he adroitly broke the hold of Atatűrk’s secularist heirs in the military. He probably ended the possibility of another of the half dozen coups by the military whose intervention had prevented political chaos and kept more outspoken Islamic forces at bay.

But in the process – and not least because of his egotism – his tactical skills were less than a strategy, bereft as it has been of consistency and integration. His foreign policy aiming at neo-Ottoman regional leadership has collapsed. Overall progress has been at the expense of growing destabilization Perhaps much of that was inevitable in a rapidly growing and changing society. But now the exploding corruption scandals and more importantly, the in-fighting inside his Justice and Development Party [AKP], a coalition of Muslim-oriented political groups, could bring down the regime as well as his administration.

But the culmination of these Turkish events has much larger implications:

  • ·        The increasing instability and possible collapse/transformation of Erdogan’s administration again puts the question of whether there can be a modern state in Muslim-majority lands without a formal break with traditional Islam.
  • ·        Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s reliance on Erdogan – in 2011 more telephone conversations with him than any other foreign leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron – is another sign of the failure of the American administration’s Mideast policies.
  • ·        The growing economic crisis in Turkey, a result of reaching a development plateau and the growing political instability, puts into question for other Muslim states economic liberalization which permitted growth but [as in Iran] fed a new reactionary Muslim-oriented middle class..
  • ·        Turkey’s growing instability is writing finis to its effective participation in NATO, and may, indeed, point to the growing inability to turn the spectacularly successful anti-Soviet alliance into a broader security and peacekeeping coalition.
  • ·        Turkish instability is going to further imperil assimilation of the 10 million Turkish émigrés in Western Europe, recruited, especially in Germany as gastarbeiter, but who now constitute a growing European social and political problem in a period of extended high unemployment and growing Muslim fanaticism.

Islam has never had its Reformation or its Counter-Reformation paralleling Christianity in the West. Its religious thinkers for at least a half millennium have largely been ignored Greek logic and philosophy and its Roman progeny, the foundations of Western – and increasing universal – law. Orthodox Islam calls for no separation of church and state. In fact, orthodox Muslims demand the reestablishment of a worldwide ruling religious leader such as the Ottoman Empire’s sultan who also as caliph was the commanding religious figure. In majority Muslim countries, both Sunni and Shia ecclesiastics refuse the hard fought fundamental of Western democracies, equality of all religions before the law – including minority Islamic sects. Turkey’s role as the most successful example of a predominantly Muslim country advocating that concept – and rejecting much of sharia, traditional Islamic law — is now crumbling. Advocacy by Asian and African leaders of emulating Ankara’s road to modernization is not likely to be heard in the future.

That has implications for American policy. Obama had accepted that old hypothesis and said that Erdogan was one of his closest friends. It was to him in part that the Arabists surrounding the U.S. president sought counsel. But Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams of becoming the go-to for the area’s regimes, has gone a glimmering. Instead, Turkey is at odds with virtually all its neighbors, especially Egypt and Israel, and, of course, Syria. There the al Assad regime now under siege after Erdogan effusively courted it only a few years earlier is driving tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey as well as the surrounding countries. Furthermore, the corruption accusations link some perpetrators to the mullahs of Iran – the Turks’ historic competitor for influence through the Mideast and Central Asia. As the internal conflict among Turkish Islamicist groups likely intensifies, Now Washington will find itself hard put – if it already has not done so – to pick sides.

Abetting the crisis is the rather sudden turn in Turkey’s economic outlook, after its gross domestic product more than tripled during Erdogan’s office. Now the trade deficit is widening dramatically, the lira is devaluating at a rapid pace, unemployment is increasing, and the political turmoil has taken a toll of the stock market, discouraging foreign investment as well as fueling a capital flight.

What may be even more significant longer term is that the liberalization of the economy which began in the 80s before Erdogan’s arrival at the helm has produced a new and growing class of entrepreneurs. They, like their Persian counterparts as a result of reforms by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, seeking a new orientation from their peasant backgrounds, tend toward religious obscurantism.

The growing Islamicist sentiment of the Erdogan administration itself – including accusations that growing opposition to his government among Turkish groups is plotted by kafir [unbelieving foreigners] including the Americans – is distancing Turkey from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It will add to NATO’s renewed conundrum of its future role with the messy U.S.-led alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Erdogan’s threat to go to the Chinese for new weapons, which would create security lapses in integration with NATO, has further put into question the allegiance of one of the alliance’s most loyal members in time past. With Western Europe’s dramatically falling birthrates, Turkey’s army was seen in Washington and European capitals as an important element in any NATO peacekeeping effort. Given the growing decline in most of the European military budgets, Brussels had looked to Turkey’s young population [more than a quarter under 14] as a stalwart partner. That hope vanishes as the political crisis matures.

Although a first generation of immigrants to Western Europe seemed to be assimilating, their offspring have in more than anticipated numbers turned to radical Islam. There is a growing number of second and third generation Turks [and European-resident and native Arabs] who have joined the jihadist-led opposition to the ostensible secular regime in Syria’s civil war. Mosques in Europe, many supported by the militant Wahabbi sect of Saudi Arabia, have become hot houses for the spread of radical Islamicism and recruitment for jihadist terrorism. If the once secular regime of Turkey continues to move away from its Atatűrk traditions, as seems likely whatever the result of the current political crisis, it will have an adverse influence on assimilation of these immigrants.

Overall, this Turkish crisis inevitably becomes an integral part of the instability sweeping the Muslim umma [world] from Casablanca to Zamboanga, an accelerator in the age-old struggle for modernization in that impoverished and retrograde cultural environment. At the moment, the forces of reaction [and terrorism] are winning in the face of the incapacity of Muslim modernists [or “moderates”] and the Obama Administration to offer an effective counter to a romantic call for a return to simplistic, medieval orthodoxy [Islam=”submission”]. That, unfortunately, as 9/11 tragically proved, produces a growing threat not only to the future of Muslims themselves but to peace and stability throughout the world.

sws-12-28-13

In a world he never intended [to make]


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The Obama Administration’s foreign policy begins to look like that tightly wound ball of crocheting thread which the kitten has been playing with for several hours and is now finally completely unraveling. How innocent the kitty is may be a question in the eye of the beholder. But the disarray is so vast as to be unfathomable:

 

Iran

 

The agreement not to reach agreement on a six-months pact for adjusting U.S. and Western interests with Iran, which Pres. Obama said only had a 50-50 chance, is falling apart even before it officially begins. Sources from inside the never very effective UN International Atomic Energy Commission say the agreement cannot be policed or enforced. The $10 billion in additional oil exports it permts the Mullahs in Iran will help bail them out of crisis economic situation while they continue to hurl threats at the world and call for an end to all sanctions. The Administration after giving Tehran relief by not instituting penalties against new violations of the existing sanctions regime, has now reserved itself. But Pres. Obama opposes bipartisan Senate and House members pushing legislation for new sanctions if and when the short-term agreement collapses. All sides admit/claim that Iran’s search for enriched uranium and nuclear weapons and a delivery system is going forward without hindrance during the truce period.

 

Israel

 

Ignoring the fact Secretary John  Kerry’s negotiations mandate is only dealing with one of the three Palestinian elements – the PLO on the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan – new obstacles have arisen. Kerry has thrown over bitterly and long time negotiated U.S.-Israeli guidelines for its security if a Palestinian state comes into being. So he has inadvertently manufactured a new crisis over Israel’s continued presence in the JordanValley. With growing threats from Iran-armed officially designated terrorists, Hezbollah in the Lebanon north and Hamas in the Gaza south, armed by Iran, no Israeli government is going to accede to any major concessions on their eastern flank with an always fragile Jordan now facing new difficulties with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

 

Syria

 

Washington has had to abandon the dribble of aid to the “moderate” opposition in Syria fighting for an overthrow of the Assad regime because of a takeover of the motley anti-Assad forces by jihadists. A new and even more violent jihad group has supplanted earlier groups linked to Al Qaeda. There are no prospects for the proposed U.S.-Soviet sponsored conference to end the civil war. Not only has the mechanics for disarming Assad’s chemical weapons collapsed, but the bloody dictator – perhaps now in the hands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – is currently carrying out a bloody air war against opposition elements in the second city of Aleppo. In part because of Obama’s maybe-in, maybe-out Syrian initiatives, the Assad government has a new lease on life, But this more and more desperate use of air power and heavy weaponry against poorly armed opposition forces and civilians not only continues the humanitarian crisis, but threatens to spread the war to its neighbors, including Israel.

 

Saudis and Gulf States

 

:The U.S. has lost all credibility with its longtime allies, the Saudis, and the Gulf sheikhdoms, because of its failure to formulate an effective Syrian policy and its hostility to the new military-sponsored government in Egypt [below]. Reports of Saudi overtures to both the Soviets and Iran are probably propaganda, but the Saudis – always pragmatic – are now apparently thinking of trying to compromise their differences with the Shia mullahs given the seemingly inevitable approach of a nuclear-capable Tehran. Intelligence cooperation between the Israelis and the Saudis, sharing their mutual hostility to Washington’s flirtation with Tehran, are probably exaggerated. All this is complicated for the vulnerability of the Saudis [and the rest of OPEC] to the shale revolution in the U.S. which is turning North America into major net exporter of fossil fuels and breaking the hold over the longer term of Mideast oil. China’s appetite for increasing imports of energy are also feeding into a deteriorating presence of the U.S. in the region, ironically despite the fact that the President is surrounded by “Arabists” long sympathetic to anti-Israel machinations of the radical Arabs.

 

Egypt

 

Washington’s alliance with Cairo [which along with the Egyptians’ peace treaty with the Israel and the alliance with Jerusalem] has been the cornerstone of U.S. middle east policy for almost four decades. It is now in tatters. The Obama Administration’s refusal to recognize the general popularity of the military coup which overthrew a growing oppression of the Islamicist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood has alienated the Egyptian military. And for the first time since former Pres. Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of the Mideast, Cairo is letting the Russian nose back under the tent. Moscow probably cannot fulfill its promised deliveries of arms to Cairo – nor are the Saudis and the Gulf sheikhdoms now footing Egypt’s deficits likely to permit it – but it has handed Russian President Vladimir Putin another bit of useful propaganda. The erosion of U.S. relations wit Egypt, by far the most populous Arab state and the longtime center of Sunni culture, is a major disaster for peace and stability in the area.

 

Russia.

 

With his tacit ally, Iran, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin has become the arbiter of the Syrian situation, continuing to support the Assad regime against the jihadist-dominated opposition which Washington now fears to support. By going to the aid of Pres.Viktor Yanukovych with emergency financing and discounted natural gas prices, Putin has forced the Ukrainian regime to curb its growing ties with the European Community. The hostility between the nationalist western Ukraine and the Russian-speaking eastern rust-belt threatens the unity of a very fragile new state. But Putin can, at least for the moment, quietly trumpet it as part of a growing successful plan to reassemble the old “Soviet republics” into a new Moscow sphere of influence and customs union resembling the old Communist state. Despite the refusal of the German, British and American heads of state to attend, Putin has lavished some $70 billion – and still counting – on the February Winter Olympics where he hopes to crown his and Russia’s return to superpower status. Obama’s concessions to Moscow on missile defense – embarrassing Polish and Czech allies – and other attempts at concessions for a modus operandi with Putin’s Moscow have fallen disastrously short. And while Putin’s ambitions are likely to be short-lived, he has the capacity to add additional muddle to U.S, policies in the Mideast, Europe and Asia.

 

China

 

While Beijing’s dependence on exports and massive overexpansion of its capital plant and infrastructure has had to be reigned in, U.S. economic policy still refuses to confront the enormous and increasing trade deficit with China which threatens the U.S. dollar. Luckily, Beijing does not have any place to go with its foreign exchange hoard – Sterling long ago was defrocked as a reserve currency, the Euro is in an attenuated crisis, and the Japanese refuse to permit the yen to become a reserve currency. But the Obama Administration refuses to indict the Chinese for currency manipulation which has gutted much of U.S. manufacturing and permitted the Chinese to have pretensions for their own internationalization of the yuan and to make significant if small overseas investments. Increasingly the U.S. is faced with a dilemma of either permitting semi-government Chinese companies to acquire American assets – with their record of mismanagement and corruption – or inhibit the play of market forces in the U.S. economy. The “pivot” to East Asia so portentously announced by former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – despite all denials an effort to meet an increasing aggressive “rising” China – is being inhibited by the continuing pull of the Mideast on military resources and a lack of clarity on the U.S. strategy in Asia. In riposte, the Chinese are proceeding with more and more territorial claims against their neighbors in the East and SouthChinaSeas further incurring demands on American military capacity.

 

Japan

 

The Obama Administration has failed to enthusiastically grasp the popularity and strategic clarity of the Abe Administration. In the case of the contested Senkakus Islands, it has taken an internally contradictory stand: it recognizes Japanese longtime occupation, it has repeatedly said the little, uninhabited rocky outcroppings which may or may not sit above fossil fuel deposits, are covered by the U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. But the masters of ambiguity at Foggy Bottom maintain Washington does not take sides in the dispute and does not recognize Japanese sovereignty. There must be some limit even to diplomatic “modalities”! Having initiated the Trans Pacific Partnership, an initiative to create a vast new common market – excluding China but including Japan – the Obama Administration has been allowed the project to dawdle. With Canada and Mexico having joined in, the issues are enormous for all the partners, especially for traditionally protectionist Japan with Abe staking his political life on their negotiating success. Yet it has not engaged the President in more than an occasional passing reference. And, probably correctly, it is no secret that Abe has maintained a stiff upper lip in the face of relatively little attention from his ally, and, in fact, political embarrassment with a growing suspicion in Tokyo’s elite circles that the President’s coterie is incompetent.

 

Korea

 

Seoul, succumbing to a campaign of seduction by Beijing, has steeped itself in the old arguments of the bitter half century of Japanese Occupation. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel, on his recent tour, shocked Tokyo and discomfited Seoul when he indicated he would be trying to mediate the growing Tokyo-Beijing tension, but then publicly refused to play conciliator to the two most important bilateral allies in the region, Japan and Korea. The Obama Administration seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that an accomodation between Japan and South Korea is the sine qua non of any multinational alliance in Northeast and Southeast Asia to meet the growing aggressive feints of the Chinese regime.

 

Meanwhile, coordination in a joint effort to anticipate the next unpredictable events in North Korea is less than adequate among the three allies, the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Washington’s continued reliance on Chinese intervention seems to be the weakest reed with the recent purges in Pyongyang, apparently, in part aimed at elements seeking to take Chinese advice and move toward liberalization of the economy. The current South Korean administration, with few illusions about North Vietnam, is nevertheless not in synchronization with Washington. Even military strategy, with its ultimate goal the further reduction in American forces but maintaining the nuclear shield is not being given its due priority. The conundrum remains of a North Korea, with the example of Qadaffi’s Libya before them and its profitable technical collaboration with other rogue states such as Iran, which is most unlikely ultimately to abandon its nuclear weapons. The Allies’ alternative is to seek regime change. But fear of the chaos of a post-Kim North Korea is preventing the formulation of alternative strategies to Pyongyang’s continued blackmail for additional aid to keep a starving if militarily advanced economy from collapsing.

 

India

 

Just as its predecessor Republican administrations, the Obama team has had illusions about the prospects of an alliance with New Delhi. India’s dreams of hegemony in the Indian Ocean, its largely continued reliance on Russian weapons, and the predisposition of its professional foreign service corps for a close relationship with Moscow, always defeat any American effort at closer relations. With the Indian economy still hidebound by its inheritance from its socialist and colonial past, there are dwindling prospects of extensive foreign investment and transfer of technology to accomplish the kind of economic superapid progress China has made in the past two decades.

 

The blowup over the arrest and indictment of a member of the Indian New York City consulate-general for alleged maltreatment of an employee seems a legitimate action of the American criminal justice system. But it does seem that the State Dept. with its inordinate pride in its diplomatic traditions might have handled the problem more discreetly. The degree to which the episode has been exaggerated and exploited in New Delhi suggests the underlying faultlines which continue to divide the U.S.-India relationship. The Obama Administration appears to have only deepened them.

 

It was, of course, unavoidable that the immense and complicated structure created since 1948 with the central theme its effort to fend off Communist aggression, would have had to be modified and reorganized after the post-1990 implosion of the Soviet Union. But afterfive years of the Obama Administration, it is caught in the toils of its leftwing participants’ fight against the largely post-World War II U.S. foreign policy. It has only contributed to further confusion. It remains to be seen if in three years, another administration in Washington, whether Republican or Democratic can rescue the still necessary role of American leadership in the world.

 

sws-12-21-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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