Tag Archives: Obama foreign policy

An India-Japan alliance


For most of the last half century, Washington “visioners” have been trying to cement relations between Japan and India. The match seemed natural: Japan’s highly industrialized economy needed markets and raw materials from a still industrializing India. That, it has always been argued, would reinforce a political, and perhaps eventually military alliance, between Asia’s two largest democracies. After the 1949 collapse of China’s Nationalists, such a combination seemed an important contribution to The Cold War effort to halt Communist expansion in Asia. After all, it was reasoned, Japan shared India’s Hindu origins of Buddhism as well as a contemporary dedication to representative democracy.

Washington’s planners even went so far as to include such calculations in the massive economic aid programs to India, South Korea, Taiwan and South Vietnam in the 1950s and 60s. But a special fund set up for regional collaboration – essentially Japan and India — extended year after year, only produced one project. That was a development of an iron ore deposit, a railroad, and a port – originally intended to replace Calcutta as India’s then major commercial center, on the Bay of Bengal.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toured India this month, it appeared that after all Washington’s huffing and puffing, the two countries were on their own settling into the kind of elaborate cooperation Washington geopolitcians hypothesized. The growing specter of Chinese economic as well as military expansion certainly played a role [China is, ironically on of both countries’ largest trading partners.] Leading the new effort is a $15 billion dollar low-interest Japanese loan to finance a favorite project of Prime Minister Narenda Modi, a new fast railway from Bombay, India’s commercial capital, to Ahmnebad, capital of Modi’s native Gujerat state – and eventually to the Indian capital of New Delhi.

Modi, trying to break the mould of a half century of Indian state capitalism, is using Japan to expand the country’s weak infrastructure which most economists see as its greatest barrier to the kind of economic take-off in China in the past three decades. India has the theoretical capacity not only to repeat China’s “miracle” but to go far beyond it with its enormous raw materials resources and one of the youngest – and soon to be largest – populations. Snuggling Japan into the Indian economic picture also could be the wedge needed to defeat the ever present “East India Complex” – the paranoia of India’s enormously powerful “babus”against foreign investment. These bureaucratic clerks whom politicians have relied on in post-British India are one of Modi’s most difficult problems.

Given the long history of Tokyo’s effort to achieve a breakthrough, it is still early to predict its ultimate success. Probably no two international negotiators have larger cultural differences than the Japanese and Indians; the first with their mania for an almost sexual satisfaction from extended negotiation, and the Indian tendency for talk for its own sake.

A shadow, too, hangs over Modi’s political following. He does represent new entrepreneurial tendencies among smaller Indian businessmen – India’s big brandnames often have chosen to go abroad rather than fight through local problems. But his party’s origins in Hindu chauvinism are dangerous at a time when the Islamicists are attempting to infiltrate India’s Muslims. [With 180-million, they are the world’s third largest the world’s third largest Islamic community, much of it mired in poverty and ignorance.] India’s blood links to the political disorder in neighboring Muslim Pakistan, carved too out of British India, make such a threat all the more real.

Still, the new Japan-India ties are a welcome development in an Asia where the Obama Administration’s “pivot” has failed to materialize, and Beijing’s aggressive intent is manifest all around – including India’s disputed Himalayan frontier with Tibet..

sws-12-12-15

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Putting the squeeze on Israel


One of the many anomalies of Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s collapsing foreign policy is Washington’s growing rift with Israel, despite the two countries’ historically intimate ties at every level.
Obama’s fundamental antagonism toward Israel was always apparent: during the 2008 campaign he announced one of his “transformations” would be putting “light between the U.S. and Israel”. Nor were his various close relationships to bitter American Israeli critics secret: Obama sat through two decades of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in turn a friend of the notorious Louis Ferrakhan. There was his close friendship with Rashid Ismail Khalidi, once Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesman. [Obama’s 2005 speech at a send-off party for Khalidid departing the University of Chicago for Columbia University is bottled up along with all his other records.] The traditional “Arabists” in the Washington bureaucracy – for example, Obama’s CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to deny “jihad” is a call to war against the West – bring up the rear.
All this was somewhat camouflaged by the presence in the Obama entourage of a number of secular Jewish campaign apparatchiks – including some grownup Red Diaper babies. And, of course, there is his continued Democratic Party’s traditional hold on the miniscule but critical Jewish vote and political contributions since the days of FDR.
But now with presumably no more elections for Obama and a growing personalization of the Administration’s foreign policy in the President’s hands, the differences between Washington and Jerusalem are leading to strategic divergence.
In what to all intents and purposes looked like an Administration inspired plant, an “analysis” in The New York Times suggested Obama offers a “deal” to Jerusalem: lay off criticism [and lobbying on Capitol Hill] against Obama’s Iran proposals and Washington will not join the Europeans in the UN pushing a Palestinian state. [One of the fundamentals of American Mideast policy, of course, had been that only a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves, rather than a dictated “peace”, would be long-lasting.] But this is a “bargain” even the most fervent Israeli Netanyahu critics among leftwing “peace” advocates could not accept.
The ugly truth is that – bitterly criticized by the Obamaites when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated it during his election campaign – there is no possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian compromise, at least for now.
First, of course, is that there is no negotiating partner on the Palestinian side. In their Arabic language pronouncements, at odds with what they feed their media friends in English in the West, Palestinian officials [and popular opinion] refuse to acknowledge the Jewish state’s right to exist. Secondly, of course, the Palestinians are divided – at least into two groups. There is the PLO kleptocracy of Mohammed Abbas on the so-called West Bank. [Called Judea and Samaria from Biblical times,“the West Bank” came into fashion only after the Jordanian state, itself carved illegally out of the League of Nations Palestine mandate took it in the 1947-48 war.]
The PLO is in a bitter struggle with Hamas which dominates Gaza. [Gaza PLO partisans have been thrown off roofs without benefit of parachute.] Furthermore, despite its ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood origins, Hamas has become a client of the Shia terrorists in Tehran who supply it arms. Although Abbas has postponed elections indefinitely on the West Bank, there are growing indications that Hamas’ Moslem terrorists would gain control there too absent the PLO’s collaboration with Israeli security.
All this has written finis to the whole concept of Israeli trading “land for peace”. An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank – as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2005 exit from Gaza – would invite another hostile force within mortar range of Israel’s “heartland”. The proposed demilitarization of a Palestinian state by United Nations guarantees has vanished. On the contrary, UN peacekeepers on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gaza borders have become liabilities for the international community, unable to defend themselves in deteriorating situations.
In reality the whole concept of two states west of the Jordan River is dead for now, perhaps permanently. If, indeed, there is any possibility of compromise, it would go back to a plan drafted by the then Israeli foreign minister Yigal Allon just after the 1967 Six Day War. Allon proposed designating Jordan ruled by the old British allies, the Hashemite dynasty, the Palestinian state. It already has a Palestinian majority. Arab cantons on the West Bank would be annexed to its present territory east of the Jordan, and Israel would take over the traditional Biblical Hebrew centers. The fact that the Allon Plan gets no mention these days suggests the emptiness of Secretary of State John Kerry’s frantic calls to revive “the peace process”.
Obviously, reading Obama’s mind on the Mideast is an exercise in more than the usual frustration. It is hard to know whether his earlier adamant statements on policy, now completely reversed, were only politically convenient statements.
But whatever is behind his wholesale concessions to Tehran he publicly refused only months ago, it certainly does not include the interests of what has been the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
On this issue as in his proposed concession to the mullahs in Tehran, he will face overwhelming opposition in his own party as well as among Republicans in the Congress. But, once again, the enormous power of the American presidency is being tested by an executive who has always insisted he intended “to transform” long-held U.S. policies.
sws-04-05-15

Rebuilding America’s role


The growing clash between the Presidency and the U.S. Senate– including prominent Democrats as well as Republicans—is the opening guns in an effort to restore American world leadership. After the aberration of the Obama renunciation and repudiation of American world dominance, Washington has little choice but to return to its role of world leadership. The growing chaos engendered by the Obama withdrawal is all too apparent.
Spokesmen for the parallel themes of decline and fall of American power are already retreating in the face of the catastrophes brought on in various regions by the willful withdrawal of U.S. power. [Fareed Zakaria, with his “Nationalist” Muslim Indian background so appealing to the Obama camp, whose book The Post-American World {2009} was prominently displayed by a campaigning Barack Hussein Obama, is now making a quiet if unannounced intellectual retreat. However, his hypercritical views of a U.S. past as CNN’s principal guru sets the tone for its worldwide coverage, in a sense ranged against the beneficent general influence of such international media conglomerations which form such an integral part of American “soft power.”]
Anticipating such a development, the return of an aggressive U.S. foreign policy, must include an analysis of a series of world strategic developments, some anticipated and others growing out of largely unanticipated changing conditions. But the obvious concern over arming the Iranian mullahs, leaders of world terrorism, with nuclear weapons becomes the totem of the emergence for a new American strategy.
The transformation to a new more sophisticated role from the long and costly Cold War had already been anticipated but effort to meet it was interrupted even before it could begin by the dramatic events of 9/11. Then there was the miasma of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fought inconclusively at Washington’s choice as much as by conditions on the ground. All this has been followed by whatever lasting effects the Obama interregnum– still to be evaluated as it winds down in these last two years—will add to the additional challenge.
But there is plenty of evidence everywhere that the vacuum created by a supposed lead from behind U.S. role over the last six years has led to near chaos in many regions of the world. And neither the increasingly benign attitudes of the Europeans nor the overestimated power developments in China and India would substitute for the application of U.S. power and strategic calculation to maintain world peace and stability. Nor, the Obama Administration’s hopes and efforts notwithstanding, can the corrupt and bloated UN bureaucracy be a substitute as world government.
For those still unknown leaders who will have to reformulate American leadership in the relatively near future, the task is as large as it is at the moment indefinable.
For one thing, there is every expectation now that a new, cardinal enemy has presented itself: Islamic terrorism. But unlike the Soviet threat, it may well not be targeted in a single capital, and in fact, may present different levels of threat in different parts of the world– not excluding domestic terrorist operations in the U.S. itself.
But the initial victories of the terrorists—to what extent aided and indeed abetted by the Obama Administration’s policies history will have to determine—is going to accelerate as is always the case with a ruthless new force in the world. That will be a scene including the allegiance of young recruits. They lend the Islamic terrorists a powerful if uncontrollable weapon against the West generally and especially Europe, in particular. Its very existence, however, the so-called lone wolf terrorist, will pose a particular and peculiar new problem for American strategists as well.
At the same time, Vladimir Putin’s old-style 19th century aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and his feints against the Baltic States mean that the promise of the Soviet collapse was not fulfilled. True, there is no longer a centrally directed world Communist movement with its constituent states—some of them formidable such as East Germany. But a “normal country: has not taken the place of the old Soviet empire. Moscow can and does in the face of a disunited Europe and with its nuclear arsenal present a continuing major challenge to American policymakers. [Ironically, the attempt, still in its early stages, of Putin to rebuild Russian conventional arms and its military industrial base could reduce the threat of a Moscow fallback on nuclear weapons in any unforeseen crisis.]
The remarkably effective North Atlantic Treaty Organization which played such a pivotal role in the defeat of the Soviet threat is now up for grabs, ironically having survived its critical test—at least nominally– by its commitment to routing out al Qaeda in Afghanistan post-9/11. It thus fulfilled the commitment of an attack on one as an attack on all but may have been the final flowering of a brilliant strategic concept.
The continuing irresolution in Western Europe—with falling military budgets and hesitation in the face of Putin’s challenge—presents Washington with a new strategic environment. Nowhere is it more demonstrable than in the case of Turkey, the geographically critical NATO ally on whom the alliance also had depended for its large human reserves. Ankara leadership flirts with the Islamicists and purchases Chinese weaponry while at the same time demanding NATO support for its defense on its fragile Syrian-Arab border. [One could make the case, of course, that for much of its life, France played a similar divisive role inside NATO with its flirtation with the Soviets and nominal withdrawal of its forces from NATO command. Yet there was never any doubt of Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s dedication to a Europe independent of Soviet control, whatever its relationship to the U.S. At the moment, Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not give an equal assurance of his opposition to the Islamicists.]
China, with its ambitions to redress twohundred years of colonial subjugation, is an unknown quantity. The remarkable economic progress, earned through an open door for foreign capital and technology, is nevertheless fragile. Its collapse could produce total disorder in China and now would have a huge effect on the world economy.
The reconstruction of American post-Obama leadership will have to take place on three different levels. The continued maintenance and rapid technological progress of weaponry, which may have slowed during the Obama years, will have to be restored. Given the level of American military technical sophistication and its worldwide leadership that may be the least difficult of the new challenges, working with dual purpose activities throughout the economy.
More critical and difficult will be the apportionment of resources to the various elements of the worldwide threats to peace and security. Traditional military balances, as with a possibly resurgent Russia, will have to be juxtaposed against the growing threat of Islamic terrorism. Despite optimistic predictions in many quarters – not the least among the Obama Islam experts with their generally minimal view of terrorism [including a woeful effort to avoid conflict with the greater Islam by identifying the problem directly] –the threat of Islamic terrorism may take on aspects of the Cold War. The very fact that the threat is so diverse and at different levels of violence will make for more difficult formulation of counter strategies.
One important asset in the American effort will be the use of “soft power”, often applied to the world scene even without Washington orchestration. The dominant cultural role of the U.S.—often underestimated if sometimes at odds with Washington policy—is so great that its effect and implications are often underestimated in any effort to achieve the worldwide geopolitical balance. At the moment, for example, the Chinese Communist leadership is waging a bitter if nebulous campaign against the employment by Chinese intellectuals and state institutions of Western [read American] methodology in studying, analyzing and finding solutions to political, economic and social problems. That sort of intractable U.S. influence, while often not an instrument guided by American policy, will be critical in the restoration of Washington’s worldwide leadership.
Perhaps the greatest handicap to the resumption of the U.S.’ world role will come—as it so often has in the past—from the competition of unresolved domestic issues. Ironically, the heritage of American racial conflict and discrimination has received a fillip from the Obama years with the U.S.’ first black president’s narrow effort to exploit rather than heal outbreaks of racial tension. Growing income inequality, as a political rather than an economic problem for U.S. society, appears to be rearing on the American domestic scene for the first in the 200-year history of the Republic.
The accidents of the American domestic political scene may or may not throw up leadership capable of meeting these challengers or at least striking a balance between them as the U.S. almost inevitably reassumes its world leadership role.
sws-03-9-15

Saving NATO


 

It was one great historical irony that when NATO’s famous Article 5 – an attack on any member is an attack on all and demands their assistance – was invoked, it would be not in the aid of the European states for which the Treaty was designed but for the U.S. Nor did the 9/11 attack come from NATO’s anticipated enemy, the Soviet Union, but the new international jihadist terror network.

Thus history’s most successful alliance – it protected Western Europe at the highwater mark of Communism both without and within for a half century until the Soviet Union imploded — met a new challenge in far-off Afghanistan. Yes, the German contingent spent too much time drinking beer and refusing night warfare, most of the Europeans sent token forces, and “the Anglo-Saxons” [certainly not excluding the Australians!] as usual carried the weight to a quick military victory despite outrageous rules of engagement. And, with the current kind of political impasse in “nation building” in Kabul, the longest war in U.S. history might still come to less. But the Treaty obligations worked.

Now, almost two decades after Moscow seemed a convert to a new universalism of free elections, an independent judiciary and media, a civil society and market economics, the European leadership is back to square one. A lying, hypocritical Russian dictatorship in all but name – if basically weak — has challenged with naked aggression the whole benign concept of what the Obama Administration keeps preaching is a new universal morality. Somehow, Putin doesn’t seem to have heard that sermon.

No, the Russian threat it is not now against a member of NATO. Only now, belatedly, has Kyiv decided to press for admission. But with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s infamous remark that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what is his goal. It is the restitution of domination of the Soviets over the old Tsarist Empire including much of eastern and central Europe [and Central Asia].

A good deal of fiery rhetoric from all the usual suspects in the West including the President of the United States as been launched against this new threat to more than a half century of relative European peace and stability. And even a learned professor, Dr. John Mearsheimer, is now willing to argue that it was all the fault of the U.S. and European leadership that Putin has been seduced into naked aggression. The fault, we are told, is that too many including our liberal government and media elite, had accepted pronouncement that the nature of world affairs had changed. [It certainly doesn’t take a call up of a lot of examples of the new horrors to make the case that human nature and world affairs hasn’t changed all that much.] But it hadn’t and so we should have recognized, this contrarian interpreter insists, that winning the 30 million people of Ukraine to Western values and prosperity was a trap we set for ourselves: we were messing around on Putin’s doorstep. We should have known better. But his obvious contradiction is clear: if one believes that international power politics are what they always have been [and by and large, I do], expressions of power and the will to use it, why would it have not been incumbent on the the West to welcome Ukraine and strengthen it precisely so it could resist potential aggression from a Russian neighbor dedicated to the old values?

If NATO falls away, it would have not been the first successful human institution to have fallen into decay precisely because of its success. At the moment, that certainly seems the case. America under the Obama Administration has chosen to join a multilateral cheering section rather than to lead a military alliance. The Europeans, for the most part, refuse to maintain their military effort at agreed standards of expenditure and discipline. Turkey, once looked to as a reservoir of strength for both its birthrate and historical fighting skills, has turned into the ragtail end of the alliance, often defying Brussels’ policies at the same time it asks for additional NATO support along its eroding Syrian border.

But most of all, NATO has no answer to anything less than an all out Russian aggression which, of course, however ad hoc his strategy, Putin will not choose.

Instead, whether by design or because of the nature of his regime, Putin has borrowed all the old tools of Hitler’s strategy which sapped European democracies’ will in the 1930s leading up to the final denouement of the attack on Poland and World War II. He has harked back to old territorial claims, only enforced in the past by Tsarist and Soviet power. He has claimed extraterritoriality for Russian ethnics in former Tsarist and Soviet territories liberated in the 1990 implosion. He has sent “volunteers” masquerading as locals to aid insurgencies he has initiated. And he has taken the old Josef Goebbels’ advice that the bigger a lie the easier the propaganda can be sold. [That has even brought the ultra-conservative Pat Buchanan as well as professors to his side.]

The miracle on the Don, in fact, is that a corrupt, inefficient and unstable Ukraine has nevertheless been able to achieve initial victories against the insurgents. It gives the lie, at least in part, to the generally accepted hypothesis in the Western media that Russian-speakers necessarily sided with Moscow in its effort to undermine Ukrainian unity. The word creeping out of relatively large numbers of prisoners taken by Ukrainian forces and deaths of Russians in the fighting being masked by the Moscow regime further confirms that not for the first time the Western mainstream media have it all wrong.

Perhaps the most serious threat to the cause of reinforcing a NATO peace is in diplomatic circles. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked the talk, and to some extent, given her country’s corrupt dependence on Russian energy, walked the walk, she is now becoming the principal negotiator between the West and Moscow. There is a growing suspicion that she – with the tacit agreement of American Secretary of State John Kerry who appears less and less competent – are acceding to Putin’s calls for an imposed Ukrainian “federalism”. Confederations, however accommodating they might appear to libertarians and other democrats, are the most difficult form of government. A Ukrainian federation, with its history of unique top-down bureaucratic government, might well lead to just the sort of watered-down independence that Putin aims to dominate, rather than another outrageous carving out of territory such as his grab of the Crimea.

Unfortunately, a pattern established in Ukraine could be all too much a template for all of the former Soviet-occupied Eastern and Central Europe – save perhaps the increasingly prosperous and successful Poland. Most have significant Russian-speaking minorities. Only tiny Estonia is bestirring itself to begin the kind of mobilization of military force that could make any Moscow feint difficult if not embarrassing. [The memory of The Winter War comes floating back; a defeat for the Finns but probably as much as anything a sacrifice which maintained their independence and eventually their incorporation in the European prosperity sphere.]

It doesn’t take a military genius nor, indeed, an amateur strategist to understand that NATO now needs to move quickly toward not only reinforcing its overall shield but in stiffening the resolve of its more exposed members in Eastern and Central Europe. That would include polished boots on the ground, a generally significant expansion of U.S. presence – including the re institution of the anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic which Obama so cavalierly dismantled in his “flexible” approach at winning Putin’s friendship.

That’s the agenda awaiting the world but above all Washington at the meeting this week in Wales. Only the wildest optimist can hope it will be met.

sws-08-31-14

The Obama Administration’s tutorials


Objectivity is one of the greatest assets in any human intellectual encounter. But no concept can be so easily abused in the white heat of crisis. And it can become a false front for a failure to come to grips with the issues at hand. For it can easily metamorphous into the belief that we are able to see beyond the current issues and put them in a broad historical perspective.

That is one of the conceits of the present pseudo-intellectuals of the Obama Administration. The fact is that politicians, even those who graduate to statesmen, are not historians except in some very rare instances. So it is better left to our progeny to determine the longer-term results of the current crises and their outcomes. In terms of national policy, we have enough on our hands in simply meeting the demands of the hour for what clearly can be seen in the here and now as a danger to national security. Even that essential concept is a difficult one to measure at any given moment.

To do otherwise has led, in part, to the current incapacity of American leadership to cope with half a dozen threatening geopolitical disasters around the world. It is expressed in the pomposity of the belief of policymakers in the White House that can always maintain sangfroid above the fray. It leads them to believe that because they are all knowing about all the issues, even viewed from the perspective of opponents or enemies, they are able to couch compromises which would satisfy all parties. As a corollary, they see the pursuit of methods of exchanging views, however contradictory and inconclusive, as the end-all of all international relations.

So, instead of devoting all our resources to coordinating our allies in reinforcing the ability of Ukraine to meet continuing Russian aggression, for example, the Obama Administration lectures Vladimir Putin on his failure to understand a new international morality and thereby jeopardizes his role in history. I can’t imagine the master of the Kremlin with all his ambitions and current problems arising from them cares much for this uninvited counsel on his legacy.

Objectivity in formulating a foreign policy requires above all knowing what our own national interests are and pursuing them to the full extent possible.  True, that is easier said than done. But it is the height of arrogance – and stupidity – to believe that one knows the irreconcilable interests of both parties to a dispute; it is more than enough to have clearly defined and registered our own.

So when an Obama Administration spokesman at the highest level of the national Security Council publicly presents the U.S. complaints of a near collision by a Chinese fighter and an American surveillance aircraft, he must present Washington’s case.  [Never mind that the highly sensitive role of State Department spokesman permanently has been turned over to an Obama political campaign hack.] To natter on about the on-again off-again of Washington’s longtime pursuit of direct military to military communication as a principle issue in the affair is to miss its essence. It is less than clear that a military “hot line” could have prevented the episode or ameliorated it after it took place

The incident took place over international waters. The American aircraft was within its rights to make observations of the region, including those of Chinese military operations. The Chinese fighter plane pilot risked the lives of himself and the U.S. crew by coming within yards of the U.S. aircraft.  His “barrel roll” over the American plane, apparently intended to show he was carrying missiles, was an adolescent antic. Those were the points that had to be made in any public statement, presumably and hopefully reflecting what had been said in a diplomatic note to the Chinese.

The Chinese leadership and the general public might also have been reminded that a similar episode which took place in the same general region on April 1, 2001, resulting in the death of the Chinese fight pilot and a forced landing on Chinese territory of the American plane. Given all these facts, it is unlikely American intelligence knows whether the Chinese pilot was a “rogue” or operating on instructions from the highest Red Army military command. And so instantaneous communication between the highest U.S. and Chinese military echelons is totally irrelevant to the event. And, in fact, it is another demonstration that the Obama Administration’s constant search for “modalities” is a preoccupation that ignores the country’s basic interests.

Over and over again, it leads the Obama Administration into diplomatic disasters. Only this kind of reasoning, warped as it is by egos larger than knowledge, could lead the American self-appointed negotiators into equating the roles of Israel and Hamas in the current warfare. When Sec. of State John Kerry proposed that Turkey and Qatar be the intermediaries, he not only exposed this falsity of moral equivalence, but he blew himself and his role up. That was Qatar whose feudal dictator poured tens of millions into Hamas’ tunnels to penetrate Israel defenses or Turkey which cultivates the generally acknowledge terrorists of Hamas.

Even an Israeli Establishment never far from having to acknowledge publicly and privately its dependence on U.S. support in a region surrounded by its enemies, had no choice but to come down with an emphatic “no”.  The negotiations were returned to Egypt’s military – which Kerry has continued to insult with his courtship of the Moslem Brotherhood, even though U.S. military and economic aid continues to the Cairo regime. That Kerry [and presumably his boss The President] did not realize they were walking into a blank wall could only come from their distorted concept of an all-knowing “objectivity” that can manage any situation.

We must take positions. Our weakness in the West is born of the fact of so-called ‘objectivity.’ Objectivity does not exist – it cannot exist!… The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: Sometimes truth stays on one side only.  Oriana Fallaci

sws-08-25-14

 

The bear is loose


 

No, not the self-designated ursus in the White House, but the Kremlin’s ruler.

Having launched a program attempting to reinstate Moscow’s hegemony over the former Tsarist/Soviet Empire, Vladimir Putin now has been hoisted on his own petard.

When his naked aggression in Georgia in 2008 elicited no significant American-EU response, he followed it with his 2014 annexation of Crimea. When that produced little more than Western denunciation, he mobilized for further aggression, attempting to use the Russian-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine.

But he has now become a prisoner of his own rhetoric and aggression.

True, like the European dictators of right and left of the 1930s, he has gained wide popular support at home. But the chauvinistic reaction of the Russian public is a false flag. Shamed and humiliated by the implosion of the Soviet Union [“the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century”, Putin has said], a catastrophic declining population, a start-and-stop economy, and an enormous flight of capital, Putin has used aggressive nationalism to try to reinvigorate a failed regime with all too well remembered demagoguery.

But he is now riding a tiger. Earlier he seemed to have won in Ukraine with an administration succumbing to pressure to back away from the overwhelmingly popular demand to move closer to European Union’s prosperity. [Even relative objective polling of Russian-speakers in Ukraine show their choice is to move into the EU orbit rather than to tie their destinies to a failing Russia.] Then when a popular movement overthrew that Kyiv administration and installed a new pro-European Union executive by a democratically elected parliament, reinforced now with new elections, Putin grabbed Crimea and began to try to manipulate the Russian-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine for his program to reestablish empire.

The criminal stupidity – and how far the Russian finger was actually on the trigger would still have to be determined – of his own intelligence operatives and their following inside eastern Ukraine in bringing down an innocent passenger aircraft has jeopardized his strategy. The scandal has rocked even the most timid in the EU — perhaps even the Germans with their aggressive business interests in Russia. [Citizens of the Netherlands, so often “the swing vote” in EU decision-making, were the overwhelming majority of the victims in the downed aircraft.]

How much it was the pull of a strategy he dare not halt or the push of the reluctance of the U.S. and the EU to engage him may be irrelevant. He has now decided to go ahead full blast. However, his bluff becomes increasingly more dangerous for his hold on the Kremlin as well as for the Russians generally. His difficulties are suddenly greater because even a fragile Ukrainian regime is pressing relatively successfully on his Ukrainian puppets. So, by all documented Western accounts, his response is to pour new weaponry across the border into Ukraine, even supporting his devastated puppets with artillery fired from across the border in Russia.

It is rapidly becoming an undisguised war of Moscow against Kyiv.

That will force even the Obama Administration – under Congressional pressure – to extend more than token aid to the Ukrainians. It may even move the Europeans to bite the bullet and challenge Putin to cut off his gas sales which he needs as desperately if not more so than the EU customers.

With the Russian economy dropping into negative growth and a World Bank estimate that more than $100 billion in capital flight is projected for this year – it has already exceeded by a third last year’s total – the domestic economic scene is rapidly deteriorating. No one expects Putin’s coterie of fellow KGB siloviki to desert him. But he can only confiscate and throw into prison so many corrupt oligarchs with their bank accounts in The City of London. They have been critical support for his regime. And economic distress will eventually erode the fashionable current ultra-nationalism of the Moscow bureaucratic elite which runs the country.

So Putin ploughs ahead into trying not to dismember the post-Soviet Ukrainian state but to dominate it, if perhaps with the cooperation of a Washington Administration still trying to accommodate him. That’s based on the incredible parity with which Sec. of State John Kerry publicly continues to conceptualize relations with friend and foe [whether Ukraine and Russia or Israel and Hamas].

But with an increasingly lame duck Pres. Barack Obama, probably facing a two-house Republican Congress after November, that, too, is eroding.

It is significant that Hillary Clinton, in full candidate mode, after endorsing the “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations as Obama’s secretary of state, now is publicizing her supposed differences with Obama when she was in office. She now takes a hawkish line, for example asking for U.S. arming of the Ukrainians. That, of course, is a part of her absolutely essential political gambit to distance herself from the increasingly unpopular Obama if she is, indeed, to make a successful run for the presidency. Her Sunday interview with Fareed Zakaria, who laid down a patter about the culpability of the Europeans – rather than the Obama presidency and Clinton’s failure of leadership while at the State Department, as the source of the deteriorating world scene is the foreign policy campaign line she will try to pursue. It could be no other given a poll that says 56% of the American people think Obama [and Clinton will get tagged in a campaign as his former Secretary of State] is not to be trusted on  foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the Obama-Kerry team continues to pursue its “lead from behind” catastrophic policies, pretending that there is no dire priority in the threat to U.S. national interest in the Russian aggression in the Ukraine [or for that matter, with international growing Islamic terrorism] That misapprehension of the current state of world affairs was illustrated with the incredible reporting of the Obama Administration’s current internal deliberations by The New York Times, the alter ego of the Administration. TNYT reports: “’The debate is over how much to help Ukraine without provoking Russia’”, said a senior official participating in the American discussions.”

Yes, indeed, without provoking Putin.

sws-07-27-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing, testing, testing…


The horror of 298 innocents, oblivious to the warfare 33,000 feet below them, blown out of the sky by criminally negligent fanatics supported by Russian Vladimir Putin, forebodes greater catastrophes.

The incident is a part of a worldwide scene wherein Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s strategy of withdrawal from what he — and a large part of the apolitical war-weary American people – sees as overreaching worldwide projection of U.S. power.

But Obama’s clumsy retreat has led to a continuing welter of probes by opponents – and even allies — of Pax Americana. Whatever the merit of arguments about a declining U.S., its power and influence on the rest of the contemporary world remains enormous. Obama’s withdrawal creates an international and regional power vacuum, setting up the kind of ambiguities that throughout history has led to misperceptions, and, often, major wars.

The classic example, often cited if by simplistic interpretation of a very complex episode, is Dean Acheson’s speech to the National Press Club on January 12, 1950. In what was considered a seminal statement, the secretary of state did not include the KoreanPeninsula in a statement of the all-important United States “defense perimeter”. Its omission was widely interpreted as a signal that Washington would not defend South Korea, a product of the division of the Peninsular at the 38th parallel at the end of a 50-year-Japanese Occupation on Tokyo’s World War II surrender.

With concentration on the postwar Soviet takeover of Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. had absent-mindedly occupied the Peninsular with only a vague understanding of its potential threat to highly industrialized if decimated Japan. Into that vacuum, the Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin, riding the full thrust of the developing Cold War, instigated his puppets, the well disciplined army led by Kim Il Sung, a former Soviet officer, to attack the South with the intention of reunifying the country as another Moscow satellite. The U.S. responded, if lamely in the beginning, but in force, and initially was victorious in threatening a complete reversal of the two superpowers’ goals.

But Mao Tse-tung, frightened by the prospect of a reunited Korea, an American ally on Communist China’s most important northeastern land frontier, hurled tens of thousands of former surrendered Nationalist troops as cannon fodder into the combat. Pres. Harry Truman, engaged on other European and Middle Eastern “fronts”, denied Gen. Douglas Macarthur his “all-out” strategy for a military victory even were it to bring on possible direct and perhaps nuclear conflict with Beijing, and the war ended in stalemate. “The Forgotten War” cost five million lives – including almost 40,000 U.S. soldiers — devastated the Peninsular, and left a festering international problem.

Today, looking around the world, there are too many places where just such complex unsolved geopolitical nodules present the same sort of potential.

In Europe, Obama cancelled anti-missile defense in Poland and Czechoslovakia.aimed at Tehran and Pyongyang’s potential for Intercontinental Ballistic warfare. The annulment as a concession to Moscow of an onerously arranged reinforcement of the Europeans’ spine only fed Putin’s growing fantasy of restoring the Tsarist/Soviet Empire. It also put into question effective American leadership of the always tenuous trans-Atlantic alliance.

Not even Russia’s partial dismemberment of pro-Western Georgia in 2008 brought an American response. Six years later, a “hot mike” revealed an obsequious American president trying to appease the all-but Russian dictator. Putin’s snatch of the disputed Crimea from Ukraine has been followed by a cat-and-mouse game to muscle Ukraine’s 50 millions back into the Russian orbit. Sec. of State John Kerry’s participation in trilateral talks aimed at deciding the future of the unstable Kyiv regime has inched toward just that sort of outcome. Other former Soviet appendages are next if Putin’s bluff – posturing because of his fragile economic and limited conventional forces despite his nuclear and ICBM armory – were accommodated again.

But were Moscow to move, for example, on the Baltic States with their accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, no American administration could remain aloof and conciliatory. That would be the case despite Obama’s habitual drawing of porous “red lines”. Such a thrust would have to be met, probably even moving the pampered and feckless Europeans.

In Asia, despite Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot” to Asia, Obama Administration policies have produced similar results. Bending to American business by refusing to name China as a currency manipulator – albeit a policy relic of the Bush Administration – Beijing’s grasp for regional and Pacific power led by a subsidized economic campaign has run amuck. Increasing bellicosity of Chinese military in public statements, matched in private conversations, is wished away with U.S. offers of military exchanges. Dangerous Chinese forays over their home islands air space forces incessant Japanese fighterplane scrambles. Exaggerated claims on East China Sea atolls – with their possible subterranean oil and gas reserves — and even more outrageous South China Sea map aggression establishes a Chinese pattern. All have been met with little more than U.S. diplomaticese and as yet largely unfulfilled promises of security collaboration with the frightened Southeast Asians

Washington’s cool relations with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinto Abe in his efforts to restore “normality” to Japan as the world’s third economy and a potentially powerful military player have deepened suspicions in Tokyo. In riposte, Abe’s effort to diffuse the issue of North Korean kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 70s and 80s with concessions to Pyongyang’s desperate need for economic aid is fracturing the effort to contain North Korea’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But Abe may not ignore the one foreign policy issue that has aroused domestic concern now that the American alliance has become acceptable even to Japan’s leftwing cliques and media. But at some point, Tokyo may question the reliability of its American shield and join its neighbors in a nuclear arms race.

A similar pattern has developed in the Mideast where the Obama Administration’s relations with Israel, its only dependable regional ally, are fraught with personal antagonism to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel’s acceptance at face value of Tehran’s threats of annihilation is endemic to Jewish history. That threat is enhanced by Tehran’s network of Shia allies in Damascus, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even Sunni Hamas on Israel’s southern border. It is leading to a major war of preemption by the Israelis.

In Iraq the Obama Administration’s abandonment of the always difficult negotiations for a status of forces agreement to protect a residual American military on the U.S. withdrawal has led to disaster. Tehran has more influence with a rump Baghdad regime than Washington. With the country literally falling apart, an additional threat of international Sunni fundamentalist terrorists’ redoubt and sanctuary out of Syria’s civil war has arisen in the strategic center of the Arab world.

Abandoning partial sanctions in all but name, the Obama Administration seems dedicated to a continued pause – at best – in Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a four-month extension of negotiations and handing Iran some $4.6 billion in frozen assets.. Furthermore, there is a growing suspicion that the Obama Administration would settle for “nuclear threshold”, that is, the ability of Tehran to produce nuclear weapons but a self-imposed restraint to be policed by a UN organization that for 17 years did not know the Persian were in the enriched nuclear business. Removing the threat – despite table-thumping declarations to the contrary – of U.S./Israeli military strikes to destroy its nuclear capacities, creates the kind of climate that could only encourage a fanatical theocratic regime to nibble further toward its goal of regional hegemony.

In its own always neglected Western Hemisphere, the Obama Administration’s flirtation with a Communist regime in Cuba now on the ropes mobilizes its followers for a lifting of the economic embargo. Whether Putin’s just concluded Habana visit really represents an attempt to renew the Soviet-Cuban Cold War alliance [given the Russian economy’s crippled state] remains to be seen.[It could mean at least “swaps” again of Russian for Mexican oil as the Cuban’s recent bankroller in Venezuela collapses.] Moscow has denied leaks from Russian security echelons it intends to restore the massive Lourdes monitoring of American domestic communications, perhaps not even at this stage technically necessary. Meanwhile, a North Korean merchant ship – much like one the Panamanians recently captured carrying arms – skulks around the Caribbean, and, theoretically, could even be carrying short-range missiles.

The assault on the southern border by an avalanche of Central American youths – no small number of whom are late teenagers with gang and drug cartel connections – is met only with humanitarian consideration. Never mind that even Administration surveys show the motivation was not as the kept media contends chaotic conditions in the region but the widespread belief that illegals would be welcomed. Overarching is the Mexican collaboration in facilitating the thousand mile journey over its territory. Turning away from the violence incurred by the fight against and between the drug cartels, Mexican Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto is invited by U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder to join in the federal government’s constitutional challenge of Arizona’s more stringent laws against illegal entrants as amicus juris, friend of the court, an historic precedent.

Any of these probes could, of course, become another dramatic incident further unsettling the world scene. But it is in their totality they suggest the amateurishness of the Obama Administration’s statecraft, its ideological weakness and its incompetence even judged from its own pronouncements and political self interest.

Already in a dangerous and volatile period, these continuing largely unmet tests of American resolve add to world insecurity and could be leading to new general war.

sws-07-19-14

 

 

 

Horror vacui


This column was originally published in The Washington Times,  Sunday, March 20, 2011. It has not been reedited.
 By Sol Sanders
President Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency.” It was slung at Richard M. Nixon not only for his extravagant White House “palace guard” — some in kitschy uniforms — but for his more serious unconstitutional overreaching.
But though imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.
Whether on domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to congressional or bureaucratic control, then spins the resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. One sees, for example, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen pontificating far above their pay grades, only to be contradicted either by events or Mr. Obama himself. The president takes a hands-on approach only in maintaining his left-wing political base, be they Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies.
This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. In the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, the result has been an almost total disaster. Having made what he considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, he now finds American interests in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, once a stalwart NATO ally and the site of his first lecture, defies the West on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused administration fostering regime change but adding little to the still-undetermined outcome in Egypt.
Of course, Mr. Obama did not create these long-simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, Ambassador Susan Rice preaches that gospel at the United Nations but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy. Only when Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join the move to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Aristotle observed nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum — the “horror vacui” — and we are getting a demonstration geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets a policy without following through. Minor players take the field, exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in Washington’s approach to the Egyptian regime’s collapse, the Bahrain religious conflict and now the Libyan civil war, with their attendant threat to world energy supplies.
Like a sick dog to its vomit, Washington returns again and again to the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the magic bullet to cure the Middle East’s troubles. It’s the one international issue where the president enthusiastically commits his prestige. But having chosen Israeli settlements in areas won in the 1967 war as fundamental — it was a subsidiary issue until he came along — Mr. Obama jeopardizes Israel’s basic security, further postponing any agreement. The absurdity of his position is self-evident: In a “two-state solution,” he ignores Israel’s almost 2 million Arabs but insists a Palestinian state must be “judenrein.”
Elsewhere, lack of U.S. leadership — withholding even rhetorical support for Iran’s opposition — has helped extend Tehran’s fanatic and kleptocratic tentacles across the Fertile Crescent. The Persian mullahs have managed to play all sides in “the Arab spring.” Not only does Tehran use Shiite Syrian and Lebanese co-sectarians, but it sponsors Sunni Palestinian terrorism, including Hamas. Iran may well profit from whatever comes of Mr. Obama’s belated moves to oust Col. Gadhafi.
The arguments against American intervention in Libya were strong but, ultimately, Mr. Obama could no more ignore Tripoli than rising oil prices spurred by his administration’s counterproductive domestic energy policies could fail to cripple American recovery.
Thus Mr. Obama and the U.S. have been sucked into a vacuum, in part of the president’s own making.
• Sol Sanders, veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly on the convergence of international politics, business and economics. He can be reached at solsanders@cox.net.

Why “Benghazi”?


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

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]


Normal
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MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

 

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.

 

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