It is patently absurd to apologize for doing something you did not do. Obama likes to go round the world apologizing for what past American governments did. Is he about to apologize to the present Japanese government for the bombs President Truman decided to drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? And ought they to be apologized for?
Victor Davis Hanson writes at Townhall:
The dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 remains the only wartime use of nuclear weapons in history.
No one knows exactly how many Japanese citizens were killed by the two American bombs. A macabre guess is around 140,000. The atomic attacks finally shocked Emperor Hirohito and the Japanese militarists into surrendering.
John Kerry recently visited Hiroshima. He became the first Secretary of State to do so – purportedly as a precursor to a planned visit next month by President Obama, who is rumored to be considering an apology to Japan for America’s dropping of the bombs 71 years ago.
The horrific bombings are inexplicable without examining the context in which they occurred.
In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted on the unconditional surrender of Axis aggressors. The bomb was originally envisioned as a way to force the Axis leader, Nazi Germany, to cease fighting. But the Third Reich had already collapsed by July 1945 when the bomb was ready for use, leaving Imperial Japan as the sole surviving Axis target. Japan had just demonstrated with its nihilistic defense of Okinawa – where more than 12,000 Americans died and more than 50,000 were wounded, along with perhaps 200,000 Japanese military and civilian casualties – that it could make the Americans pay so high a price for victory that they might negotiate an armistice rather than demand surrender. Tens of thousands of Americans had already died in taking the Pacific islands as a way to get close enough to bomb Japan. On March 9-10, 1945, B-29 bombers dropped an estimated 1,665 tons of napalm on Tokyo, causing at least as many deaths as later at Hiroshima.
Over the next three months, American attacks leveled huge swaths of urban Japan. U.S. planes dropped about 60 million leaflets on Japanese cities, telling citizens to evacuate and to call upon their leaders to cease the war.
Japan still refused to surrender and upped its resistance with thousands of Kamikaze airstrikes. By the time of the atomic bombings, the U.S. Air Force was planning to transfer from Europe much of the idle British and American bombing fleet to join the B-29s in the Pacific.
Perhaps 5,000 Allied bombers would have saturated Japan with napalm. The atomic bombings prevented such a nightmarish incendiary storm.
The bombs also cut short plans for an invasion of Japan — an operation that might well have cost 1 million Allied lives, and at least three to four times that number of well-prepared, well-supplied Japanese defenders.
There were also some 2 million Japanese soldiers fighting throughout the Pacific, China and Burma — and hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners and Asian civilians being held in Japanese prisoner of war and slave labor camps. Thousands of civilians were dying every day at the hands of Japanese barbarism. The bombs stopped that carnage as well.
The Soviet Union, which signed a non-aggression pact with Japan in 1941, had opportunistically attacked Japan on the very day of the Nagasaki bombing.
By cutting short the Soviet invasion, the bombings saved not only millions more lives, but kept the Soviets out of postwar Japan, which otherwise might have experienced a catastrophe similar to the subsequent Korean War.
World War II was the most deadly event in human history. Some 60 million people perished in the six years between Germany’s surprise invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, and the official Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. No natural disaster – neither the flu pandemic of 1918 nor even the 14th-century bubonic plague that killed nearly two-thirds of Europe’s population – came close to the death toll of World War II. Perhaps 80 percent of the dead were civilians, mostly Russians and Chinese who died at the hands of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
Both aggressors deliberately executed and starved to death millions of innocents.
World War II was also one of the few wars in history in which the losers, Japan and Germany, lost far fewer lives than did the winners. There were roughly five times as many deaths on the Allied side, both military and civilian, as on the Axis side.
It is fine for Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama to honor the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. But in a historical and moral sense, any such commemoration must be offered in the context of Japanese and German aggression.
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan started the respective European and Pacific theaters of World War II with surprise attacks on neutral nations. Their uniquely barbaric war-making led to the deaths of some 50 million Allied soldiers, civilians and neutrals – a toll more than 500 times as high as that of Hiroshima.
This spring we should also remember those 50 million – and who was responsible for their deaths.
The world owes America gratitude for winning two world wars – and the Cold War. And for so much more that a book as long as the Obamacare act or the IRS’s tax rules could not contain all the reasons.
Frankly, the waterboarding, if it was up to me, and if we changed the laws or had the laws, waterboarding would be fine. I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people.
So said Donald Trump on NBC’s Today show last Tuesday, March 23.
We agree with him. And, somewhat to our surprise since PowerLine has declared itself to be anti-Trump, Paul Mirengoff of that excellent website does too.
According to reports, the terrorists who carried out last week’s attacks in Brussels acted sooner than originally planned because they feared that captured terrorist Salah Abdeslam would inform authorities of the attacks. Apparently, they need not have worried.
Belgian officials questioned Abdeslam only lightly, and not at all about possible new attacks. Instead, using the discredited law enforcement model, they focused on the Paris attacks of last November, presumably hoping to obtain a confession.
Back in the days of the controversy over waterboarding, there was talk about a “ticking time bomb” scenario. The question was: When we know there’s time bomb ready to go off, but don’t know the location, is it okay to waterboard a captured terrorist who likely has knowledge of the impending attack?
Opponents of waterboarding, having no satisfactory answer, tended to pooh-pooh the question. It was based on an unrealistic scenario, they insisted.
Tell that to the victims of the Brussels attacks.
In reality, most captured terrorists present a variation of the ticking time bomb scenario. These days, organizations like ISIS are constantly planning new attacks. A captured terrorist who has been active recently might very well know something about upcoming attacks in his locale.
It’s unlikely that even in the Age of Obama, the U.S. would have handled Abdeslam as ineffectively as the Belgians did. One can imagine our people declining to question the terrorist for 24 hours because he was hospitalized and then questioning him only for a fairly short time because “he seemed very tired” after surgery. But I doubt that we would have failed to ask about future attacks.
But how far would we have gone to obtain answers? … What if Abdeslam proved to be among the one-third of detainees who don’t cooperate without enhanced interrogation?
In that scenario, no one with a decent regard for innocent human life could object to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on a terrorist like this. Abdeslam was the mastermind behind the Paris attacks. … This was a ticking time bomb scenario.
It’s time to revisit the question of enhanced interrogation, a question that the U.S. answered incorrectly during a lull in the terrorist threat.
The writer, it seems to us, clearly enough implies that the “correct” answer is Donald Trump’s.
It will be interesting to see whether, if Trump is elected to the presidency, the mere fact of his coming to power will deter Muslim terrorism – as the mere fact of Ronald Reagan’s entering the Oval Office on January 20, 1981, persuaded Iran to release the American hostages it was holding, on that very day.
President Obama believes that America is arrogant.* If his foreign policy can be explained by anything, it would be his intention to bring America down a peg or ten. Looked at like that, the disasters we see happening in many parts of the world are testimony not to Obama’s failure, but to his success.
Not that President Obama can have any objection to arrogance as such. He is an arrogant man. He just doesn’t want America to be proud of its superiority. He hates the very idea that it is superior. But while he would not even acknowledge its political-moral superiority as a republic constituted for liberty, he cannot deny that it is economically and militarily stronger than any other country. So he’s been working to change that for the last six years.
The whole world is the worse for his efforts.
This is from Front Page, by Bruce Thornton:
The 6 years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy have seen American influence and power decline across the globe. Traditional rivals like China and Russia are emboldened and on the march in the South China Sea and Ukraine. Iran, branded as the world’s deadliest state sponsor of terrorism, is arrogantly negotiating its way to a nuclear bomb. Bloody autocrats and jihadist gangs in the Middle East scorn our president’s threats and behead our citizens. Countries in which Americans have shed their blood in service to our interests and ideals are in the process of being abandoned to our enemies. And allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia are bullied or ignored. All over the world, a vacuum of power has been created by a foreign policy sacrificed to domestic partisan advantage, and characterized by criminal incompetence.
Incompetence is what it looks like. But if failure is the aim, then either the incompetence is only an appearance, or it is a means to the end.
How we have arrived at this point, the dangers to our security and interests if we don’t change course, and what must be done to recover our international prestige and effectiveness are the themes of Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. …
A clear sign of American retreat is the precipitous decline in military spending. “In the name of budgetary savings,” Stephens writes, “the Army is returning to its June 1940 size,” and “the Navy put fewer ships at sea at any time since 1916.” The Air Force is scheduled to retire 25,000 airmen and mothball 550 planes. Our nuclear forces are being cut to meet the terms of the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, even as its nuclear arsenal has been increasing. Meanwhile Obama … issues empty threats, blustering diktats, and sheer lies that convince world leaders he is a “self-infatuated weakling”.
Unfortunately, 52% of the American people agree that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally”, and 65% want to “reduce overseas military commitments”, including a majority of Republicans. This broad consensus that America should retreat from global affairs reflects our age’s bipartisan isolationism, the centerpiece of Stephens’ analysis. This national mood is not a sign of decline, according to Stephens, who documents the enormous advantages America still enjoys globally, from its superiority in research and entrepreneurial vigor, to its healthy demographics and spirit of innovation. But it does bespeak a dangerous withdrawal from the policies that created the postwar Pax Americana – even though this global order policed by the U.S. defeated the murderous, nuclear-armed ideology of Soviet communism, and made possible the astonishing economic expansion that has lifted millions from poverty all over the world. …
For Stephens, isolationism has not been the only danger to American foreign policy success. What he calls “the overdose of ideals”, specifically the “freedom agenda” of the sort George W. Bush tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, has misdirected our efforts and squandered our resources in the pursuit of impossible goals. The success of the Cold War and the subsequent spread of democracy and free-market economies suggested that the world could be not just protected from an evil ideology, but “redeemed” by actively fostering liberal democracy even in countries and regions lacking the necessary network of social mores and political virtues upon which genuine liberal democracy rests. But in attempting to redeem the world, Stephens notes, policy makers “neglected a more prosaic responsibility: to police it”.
The failures to create stability, let alone true democracy, in Iraq and Afghanistan have enabled what Stephens calls the “retreat doctrine”, one to be found in both political parties. Barack Obama is the master of this species of foreign policy, incoherently combining idealistic democracy-promoting rhetoric with actions that further withdraw the U.S. from its responsibility to ensure global order. Under the guise of “nation-building at home,” and in service to traditional leftist doubt about America’s goodness, Obama has retreated in the face of aggression, and encouraged cuts in military spending in order to fund an ever-expanding entitlement state.
But also, equally, in order to make America weaker.
Meanwhile, “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism’, a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.”
The “retreat doctrine” is dangerous because global disorder is a constant contingency. The remainder of Stephens’ book approaches this topic first from the perspective of theory and history, and then from today’s practice. History teaches us that all the substitutes for a liberal dominant global power have failed to prevent the descent into conflict and mass violence. The ideas of a balance of power, collective security, or the presumed peaceful dividend and “harmony of interests” created by global trade did not prevent World War I or its even more devastating sequel. Nor are they any more useful in our own times.
As for today, Stephens identifies several challenges to a global order fragilely held together by the commitment to liberal democracy, open economies, and the free circulation of ideas and trade. The “revisionists” attack this model from various perspectives. Iran sees it as a fomenter of godlessness and hedonism, Russia is moved to oppose it by “revanchism and resentment”, and China believes that it “is a recipe for bankruptcy and laziness”, lacking a “sense of purpose, organization, and direction”. All three see evidence for their various critiques in the failure of the U.S. to exercise its massive power in the face of challenges, and in the willingness of American elites to revel in guilt and self-doubt. These perceptions of national decline invite rivals and enemies to behave as if the U.S. is in fact declining.
The other international players that could worsen disorder are “freelancers” and “free radicals”. The former include those countries like Israel or Japan who, convinced that America will not act in its own or its allies’ interests, will understandably take action that necessarily entails unforeseen disastrous consequences. Much more dangerous are the “free radicals”, the jihadist gangs rampaging across 3 continents, and the nuclear proliferators like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose collaboration with each other and rogue regimes like Venezuela endangers the world through provoking even further proliferation on the part of rivals, or by handing off nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. And then there are “free radicals” like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have undermined global order by publicizing the necessarily covert tools, practices, and institutions that undergird and protect it.
Finally, there are the structural weaknesses of the globalized economy and its continuing decline in growth, which may create “breaks” in national economic systems that “will be profoundly disruptive, potentially violent, and inherently unpredictable”. Add America’s retreat from world affairs and reductions in military spending, and in the “nearer term”, Stephens warns, “terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers, ‘whistleblowers’, arms smugglers, and second-rate powers armed with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles will be able to hold the United States inexpensively at risk”, provoking further American retreat from world affairs and the inevitable increased aggression by our enemies and rivals. …
So what can be done? In his conclusion Stephens applies to foreign affairs the “broken windows” tactics of urban policing that caused rates of violent crimes to plummet over the last few decades. Thus “the immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder”.
This foreign policy would require increasing U.S. military spending to 5% of GDP, with a focus on increasing numbers of troops, planes, and ships rather than on overly sophisticated and expensive new weapons. It would mean stationing U.S. forces near global hotspots to serve as a deterrent and rapid-reaction force to snuff out incipient crises. It would require reciprocity from allies in military spending, who for too long have taken for granted the American defense umbrella. It would focus attention on regions and threats that really matter, particularly the borderlands of free states, in order to protect global good citizens from predators. It means acting quickly and decisively when conflict does arise, rather than wasting time in useless debates and diplomatic gabfests. Finally, it would require that Americans accept that their unprecedented global economic, cultural, and military power confers on us both vulnerability to those who envy and hate us, and responsibility for the global order on which our own security and interests depend. …
No matter how understandable our traditional aversion to military and political entanglements abroad, history has made us the global policeman, one committed to human rights, accountability, and political freedom. If we abdicate that position, there is no country powerful, or worthy enough, to take our place.
We agree with that.
And Thornton tantalizes us with this:
Stephens ends with an imagined “scenario” of how a serious global disruption could occur, one grounded in current trends and thus frighteningly believable.
When we’ve found out what that scenario is, which is to say when we’ve read the book, we’ll return to this important subject.
* “In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.” – Mitt Romney, quoted by PolitiFact.com
Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video.
Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.
We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.
We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.
As a member of Cobra, the UK national crisis management committee, I was involved in British efforts to rescue our citizens kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. No modern-day military action is so fraught: the odds are stacked against the captives, the whip hand is with the captors, it is a race against time, and it becomes extremely personal.
So the admirable Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, writes at Gatestone.
The world has undergone gut-churning revulsion this week at the videos of rows of kneeling young Iraqi men callously gunned down by Al Qaida terrorists in Mosul. But time and again, in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Hamas has shown itself to be just as capable of such brutal cold-blooded killing. That knowledge has galvanized Israel’s desperate hunt for those who abducted teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach as they hitchhiked home from their school in Gush Etzion a week ago. …
Nothing – nothing – stands in the way of our efforts to bring them back. Although we hope for the best, we prepare for the worst.
From the outside, it is difficult to read the realities of a kidnapping. Those with the responsibility of saving lives are forced into a cat and mouse game in which they must both reassure the public and sow seeds of disinformation among the captors. So far, for Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, the signs are not encouraging. As far as we know a week later, there is no proof of life, no demands, no negotiations.
Yesterday, June 19, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency apparently reported that Hamas leader Salah Bardawil said that the “Palestinian resistance” (Hamas — the acronym for the “Islamic Resistance Movement”) had carried out the kidnapping.
The first priority is always to establish the identity and the motive of the captors. Early on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that Hamas was guilty. [Even] US Secretary of State Kerry agreed, and this seems to be the view throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas leader Mohammad Nazzal, for his part, described the kidnapping of three teenage civilians as “a heroic capture”, and “a milestone” for the Palestinian people. He said that every passing day in which the Israelis failed to find the teenagers was “a tremendous achievement”.
The sheer sadism of the Palestinian Arab leadership, though bloodily demonstrated over and over again for nearly 100 years now – and so is fully expected – still shocks and revolts, and shows no sign of abating.
Nazzal’s comments reflect long-standing views on the abduction and butchering of Israelis by the leadership of Hamas, the internationally proscribed terrorist group responsible for firing thousands of lethal rockets indiscriminately against the civilian population of Israel from the Gaza Strip, the latest salvoes only this week.
It is the same terrorist group that the United Nations, the United States and the European Union – in a display of moral bankruptcy and betrayal – have all endorsed as a legitimate partner in a unity government for the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Just the day before the three boys were kidnapped, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, welcomed Hamas into the PA government while lambasting Israel for detaining terrorists and taking action to prevent Hamas terrorist attacks from Gaza and the West Bank.
Ashton, though never slow to condemn Israel, took five days to denounce this kidnapping. Both her words and actions have legitimized and encouraged Hamas. Her inaction in the face of repeated terrorist assaults has bolstered Hamas’s convictions.
The kidnapping will find favor with Ashton’s new best friends in Iran. Also desperate to appease the ayatollahs, British Foreign Secretary William Hague this week announced the re-opening in Tehran of a British embassy, closed in 2011 after being ransacked on the orders of the Iranian government. There are even reports of US military intelligence-sharing with Iran over the crisis in Iraq – where only a few short years ago, large numbers of American and British soldiers were being slaughtered — using Iranian-supplied munitions by terrorists trained, directed and equipped by Tehran and its terrorist proxy, Lebanese Hizballah.
As Ashton and the West cozy up to the ayatollahs, the ayatollahs are again cozying up to Hamas. A few weeks ago, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah, met with Hamas leaders to resolve the differences between Iran and Hamas that arose over the Syrian conflict. Hamas – isolated from Egypt following the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood regime – seems desperate to restore full relations with the Iranian tyrant. Iran is equally enthusiastic to bring Hamas back into the fold: Hamas remains an important instrument of the ayatollahs’ overriding, stated goal of destroying the State of Israel.
In these circumstances it is certainly not beyond probability that the three boys’ kidnapping was a goodwill gesture from Hamas to the ayatollahs.
It is hard to not be chilled to the bone by the thought of three teenage boys – who might easily be our own sons or brothers – spending night after night in the hands of ruthless terrorists… or worse. The anguish of the boys’ parents must be unimaginable.
Yet among the Palestinian Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza, including children, a new symbol has emerged – the three-fingered salute, signifying joy at the kidnapping …
Such celebration, including the handing out of sweets in the street, has been widespread. …
Both the US and the EU have paid the salaries of Palestinian terrorists by means of grants to the PA; they also fund this propaganda and incitement, no doubt including some of the imagery applauding the boys’ kidnapping.
The Israeli security operation has so far focused on finding the three boys. Over 330 Hamas suspects have been arrested, and illicit weapons and ammunition seized. Echoing the code-name of the rescue operation, “Brother’s Keeper,” the IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, has encouraged his troops to apply the same vigour to their task as if they were searching for their own brothers or members of their own platoon. He has also reminded them that most people in the areas they are searching are not connected to the kidnapping, and to treat them with care and humanity.
Concurrently, the IDF is taking steps to weaken and dismantle Hamas in the West Bank. In some quarters these have been criticized as an unnecessary and opportunistic widening of the operation. It is nothing of the sort. With this latest kidnapping, Hamas has confirmed its continued intent to abduct, attack and murder Israeli civilians in the West Bank. Like every government, Israel has an absolute duty to protect its citizens, and undermining this terrorist threat is an essential part of that responsibility.
All military operations are unpredictable; it is possible that Operation Brother’s Keeper could lead to an escalation of violence. Incidents have already occurred. It is unlikely that Israel will expand the current operation into Gaza, unless there is a serious upsurge in violence from there or a connection between Gaza terrorists and the kidnapping comes to light.
Whichever way this operation develops, the international community should avoid the same response to the current defensive actions that they have so often displayed whenever Israel has sought to defend itself from missile attacks from Gaza. The international community usually ignores repeated volleys of rockets fired at Israeli civilians, and then condemns Israel for taking defensive action to prevent further attacks. It is these responses from the international community that have encouraged Hamas, and amounted to nothing less than support for terrorism. And it is these responses, along with the endorsement of Hamas’s inclusion in a Palestinian unity government, that have led to the kidnapping of the boys in the West Bank.
We could not put it better ourselves.
How goes Obama’s “pivot” – or “tilt” – to the East?
The Washington Post reports that Defense Secretary Hagel is quietly busy seeing to it, with feeling:
Hagel, who has made five trips to the Far East in the past year, has sustained President Obama’s long-touted tilt toward Asia, even as he has been a nearly invisible player in the unending crises elsewhere that have eclipsed it.
By interest, history and temperament, Hagel appears to feel a sense of ownership in Asia.
A sense of ownership. What can that mean? Read on, and we may find out.
Despite the stalling of the Pacific trade agreement that is another cornerstone of Obama’s Asia “rebalance” …
What is being referenced here is Obama’s failure to reach a trade agreement with Japan. Notice that the Obamaspeak for “failing” is “stalling”. Implied is a temporary hitch soon to be overcome.
… Hagel can claim steady progress in the military’s role of building regional alliances and partnerships. But those gains risk being overtaken by China’s rapidly worsening relations with its neighbors and escalating belligerency from North Korea.
Yup, a little advance here a huge set-back there.
In a speech Saturday morning to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional defense conference he first attended as a senator more than a decade ago, Hagel criticized China’s “destabilizing, unilateral actions” in asserting its maritime claims against other countries in the region. [Some of his] aides said he purposely used language sharper than in previous public statements on the subject.
Purposely? Is sharp speaking usually done by him inadvertently? Obamarians feel uncomfortable speaking sharply to a foreign audience – other than Israel, of course.
So how sharply?
“We take no position on competing territorial claims,” Hagel said, repeating U.S. insistence that its interests are rooted in a desire to balance alliances with Asia’s smaller partners and a smooth relationship with China.
That sharply? Hang on – here it comes:
“But we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion or the threat of force to assert these claims.”
How firmly? As firmly as Obama opposed intimidation, coercion and the actual use of force by Assad and Putin?
The report mentions that intimidation, coercion and the threat of force is ongoing:
New air skirmishes have erupted in recent weeks in the East China Sea with Japan and in contested South China Sea waters with Vietnam.
So how firm on the Obama scale is Mr Hagel? There must be a shadow or a ghost of firmness somewhere about. It was detected by a Chinese lady general in a “restatement” of a “defense commitment” to Japan. Wow!
In questions following Hagel’s remarks, a Chinese general testily asked the defense secretary to explain what she called his own “subtle threat of force” in restating the U.S. defense commitment to Japan even as he called for a negotiated settlement of contesting claims to East China Sea islands.
Watch out now for the assertion that the Obama position is clear. Whenever an Obama position is very faint, particularly uncertain, he or one of his servants will say that it is “clear”:
“America’s position is clear,” Hagel said. “These territorial disputes should be resolved through international law.”
International law. That clear? That firm? “International law” is a will-o-the-wisp, a fancy, a trick of the light, smoke and mirrors.
But at the same time, he said, the United States has treaty commitments to several countries in the region, including Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.
We like that “but”. There’s the sharpness, you see. “But” the US has treaty commitments. They may involve mention of military support! The big contrast to international law. Strong stuff, like the treaty commitment the US had to defending Ukraine’s independence. When Ukraine’s independence was threatened, when a chunk of its territory was seized by Russia, the US commitment held like cardboard in the rain.
But enough of ghostly saber rattling.
Those Eastern countries towards which Obama is tilting must be reminded of what Obama expects of them. What he expects of them is his policy towards them.
Returning to familiar themes, Hagel nudged South Korea and Japan toward greater defense cooperation that will allow a unified missile defense system against North Korea, which is suspected of preparing a fourth nuclear test. He called on China to play “a more active role” in using its influence on Pyongyang, urged Thailand’s military to restore democracy and praised Burma for ending military dictatorship.
And if they would only take those decisive steps, US partnership would prove a real boon.
If anything, Hagel indicated, “the Asia-Pacific’s shifting security landscape makes America’s partnerships and alliances indispensable as anchors for regional stability.” …
While budgets may be cut elsewhere, Hagel said, “both President Obama and I remain committed to ensuring that any reductions in U.S. defense spending do not come at the expense of America’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific,” where they have said 60 percent of U.S. air and naval assets will be based by 2020.
Although the administration has promised that resources saved by ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be used both for the Asia rebalance and for the new Middle East and African counterterrorism strategy that Obama outlined this past week in an address at the U.S. Military Academy, a senior defense official said little competition was involved.
What could he mean by “competition”. Could he mean (shudder!) a possibility of military opposition? None of that sort of thing? So what matters are the alliances in themselves, not any purpose beyond them. Do not even think it.
Asia, Hagel said in his speech, is an example of the stronger “global partnerships and alliances” Obama described this week as a cornerstone of his foreign and security policy. …
Now at last we are told why Hagel has “a sense of ownership in Asia”. Get ready to be impressed.
Hagel’s Vietnam experience is only part of his attachment to Asia, the senior defense official said. His father was a bomber tail-gunner in the Pacific in World War II. As president of the USO and a business executive who founded a lucrative cellphone network, Hagel traveled frequently to the region even before his election to the Senate in 1996.
And that adds up to –
“I’ve got this long history, this confluence with my background, my history,” said [an] official, describing what he said was Hagel’s thought process. “It’s what I’m good at, what I’m interested in.”
We won’t even dignify all that with a comment – the silliness speaks for itself.
What we have to understand is that Hagel is determined to succeed. You may find this hard to believe, but he is as determined to succeed in the Far East as Secretary of State John Kerry was determined to succeed in the Middle East. That determined.
[His] aides portray Hagel’s dedication to the Asia-Pacific and his determination to succeed here as equal to that of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s highly publicized (but stalled) efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace, only with less media attention and more potential for long-term success.
More potential, eh? Efforts that will not “stall”? There’s optimism for you!
Meanwhile what is going on with the Far East in the real world?
Events so huge that they mark “a major alteration in the global balance of power”.
Charles Krauthammer writes (May 22, 2014) at the Washington Post:
It finally happened — the pivot to Asia. No, not the United States. It was Russia that turned East.
In Shanghai, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a spectacular energy deal — $400 billion of Siberian natural gas to be exported to China over 30 years.
This is huge. By indelibly linking producer and consumer — the pipeline alone is a $70 billion infrastructure project — it deflates the post-Ukraine Western threat (mostly empty, but still very loud) to cut European imports of Russian gas. Putin has just defiantly demonstrated that he has other places to go.
The Russia-China deal also makes a mockery of U.S. boasts to have isolated Russia because of Ukraine. Not even Germany wants to risk a serious rupture with Russia (hence the absence of significant sanctions). And now Putin has just ostentatiously unveiled a signal 30-year energy partnership with the world’s second-largest economy. Some isolation.
The contrast with President Obama’s own vaunted pivot to Asia is embarrassing (to say nothing of the Keystone pipeline with Canada). He went to Japan last month also seeking a major trade agreement that would symbolize and cement a pivotal strategic alliance. He came home empty-handed.
Does the Obama foreign policy team even understand what is happening? For them, the Russia-China alliance is simply more retrograde, 19th-century, balance-of-power maneuvering by men of the past oblivious to the reality of a 21st century governed by law and norms. A place where, for example, one simply doesn’t annex a neighbor’s territory. Indeed, Obama scolds Russia and China for not living up to their obligations as major stakeholders in this new interdependent world.
The Chinese and Russians can only roll their eyes. These norms and rules mean nothing to them. Sure, they’ll join the World Trade Organization for the commercial advantages – then cheat like hell with cyberespionage and intellectual piracy. They see these alleged norms as forms of velvet-glove imperialism, clever extensions of a Western hegemony meant to keep Russia in its reduced post-Soviet condition and China contained by a dominant US military.
Obama cites modern rules; Russia and China, animated by resurgent nationalism, are governed by ancient maps. Putin refers to eastern and southern Ukraine by the old czarist term of “New Russia”. And China’s foreign minister justifies vast territorial claims that violate maritime law by citing traditional (“nine-dash”) maps that grant China dominion over the East and South China seas.
Which makes this alignment of the world’s two leading anti-Western powers all the more significant.
It marks a major alteration in the global balance of power. …
China and Russia together represent the core of a new coalition of anti-democratic autocracies challenging the Western-imposed, post-Cold War status quo.
Their enhanced partnership marks the first emergence of a global coalition against American hegemony since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Indeed, at this week’s Asian cooperation conference, Xi proposed a brand-new continental security system to include Russia and Iran (lest anyone mistake its anti-imperialist essence) and exclude America.
This is an open challenge to the post-Cold War, US-dominated world that Obama inherited and then weakened beyond imagining.
If carried through, it would mark the end of a quarter-century of unipolarity. And herald a return to a form of bipolarity — two global coalitions: one free, one not… [A] struggle … for dominion and domination.
To which Obama, who once proclaimed that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation,” is passive, perhaps even oblivious. His pivot to Asia remains a dead letter. Yet his withdrawal from the Middle East — where from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, from Libya to Syria, US influence is at its lowest ebb in 40 years — is a fait accompli.
The retreat is compounded by Obama’s proposed massive cuts in defense spending … even as Russia is rearming and China is creating a sophisticated military soon capable of denying America access to the waters of the Pacific Rim.
Decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. In this case, Obama’s choice. And it’s the one area where he can be said to be succeeding splendidly.
In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.
Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.
President Vladimir Putin found that “he could annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.
That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.
[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …
[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …
Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.
Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.
What is Russia’s “region”?
Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.
Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.
If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.
Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?
Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.
Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it? NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?
The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.
America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.
And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.
Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.
[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.
Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.
If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.
We are in principle against intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. But we are not for isolationism or pacifism – we regard either philosophy as a formula for national suicide. If other countries become belligerent, build up their armed strength, send their warships towards our shores, establish bases in countries on our borders, and declare their aggressive intentions towards us, the politics of those countries become our business. That is happening now. We are under threat – because Obama is deliberately weakening America. And his reaction to the result is to weaken America even more.
The conditions for major war develop much more easily when the U.S. is too weak. They are developing as we speak.
To a meaningful extent, the significant increase we’ve seen in unrest around the globe since 2010 has been made possible, and inevitable, by the retraction of American power. Even where we still have power in place, it has become increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to use it.
We quote from a website interestingly named Liberty Unyielding. The article on the extreme folly of the Obama administration’s moves to weaken America is by Commander Jennifer Dyer, now retired from the US navy. (Her own blog is at Theoptimisticconservative.wordpress.com):
The collapse of order in the Arab nations in 2011 was the first significant stage of the process. The perception that the United States would do nothing about a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon was tested in January of that year. The perception proved to be true, and when protests erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, for causes both natural and manufactured, a set of radical Islamist actors – the “establishment” Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni jihadists, Iran – saw an opportunity. The establishment Muslim Brotherhood has largely won out in Tunisia, but the battle still rages among these radical actors for Egypt, Syria, and now Iraq. Lebanon is being incrementally sucked into the maelstrom as well.
In multiple venues, Russia has watched the U.S. and the West effectively back Islamists in Russia’s “near abroad”: in Turkey (with support for the now struggling Erdogan government); in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo; and in Syria. …
There was a time when the implicit determination of the U.S. to enforce the “Pax Americana” order – the post-World War II alignments of the region – held Russia in check. The Russians still derived some security benefit from that order, after all … It appears to me, however, that 2014 will be the year in which it becomes clear that, according to Russians’ perception, they no longer benefit from the old order. If we’re not going to enforce it, Russia will do what she thinks she has to.
In fact, Moscow’s pushback against the plan for Ukraine to affiliate with the EU constitutes just such a blow for perceived Russian interests. It is of supreme importance for Westerners to not misread the recent developments. The EU and the U.S. did back down when Russia pushed hard last fall. The only ones who didn’t back down were the Ukrainian opposition. I predict Vladimir Putin will try to handle the opposition factions cleverly, as much as he can, and avoid a pitched battle with them if possible. He respects what they are willing to do. But he has no reason to respect Brussels or Washington.
And that means he has more latitude, not less, for going after the regional props to the old order, one by one. As always, Russia’s inevitable competition with China is a major driver, along with Russia’s concern about Islamism on her southern border. The whole Great Crossroads – Southwest Asia, Southeast Europe, Northeast Africa, the waterways that snake through the region – is, if not up for grabs, at least in ferment. Look wherever you like: there are almost no nations where there is not a very present menace from radicalism, or where governments and even borders are not gravely imperiled by internal dissent.
Israel is the chief standout for politically sustainable stability and continuity. Romania and Turkey seem likely to at least retain their constitutional order in the foreseeable future, but Turkey’s geopolitical orientation, in particular, is less certain. Greece and Kosovo – even Bosnia – have serious internal problems. Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia all remain in crisis at various levels. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are relatively stable, and the Arab Persian Gulf states relatively so as well. But their neighborhood is going downhill fast. Iran is riding a wave of radical confidence, and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan.
In this tumultuous region, it’s actually a little funny that Pakistan looks stable and staid compared to Iran, Afghanistan, and neighbors west. We can hope that Islamabad’s perceived need to maintain a symmetrical stance against India will keep Pakistan’s loose federation of intransigents federated, and the nukes under central control. But as we move across South Asia, we near another boiling pot. Thailand – long an American ally and pillar of stability in the region – has been rocked in recent months by national unrest of a kind not seen in Southeast Asia for decades. Islamist radicalism is a growing threat in Indonesia, and an unpacified one in the Philippines, after more than a decade of U.S.-Philippines collaboration in fighting it.
And, of course, China is making real, transformative moves against regional security with her proclamations about air space and maritime rights off her southeast coast.
This disruptive process, like the battles for many of the Arab nations, is already underway. We’re not waiting for something to happen; it’s started.
China assumes, quite correctly, that there will be no effective pushback from the United States. But two other nations with power and means will regard it as intolerable for China to dictate conditions in Southeast Asia: Japan and Russia. The dance of realignment among these nations has implications for everyone in Central Asia and the Far East. The day may be on the horizon sooner than we think when maintaining a divided Korea no longer makes sense to at least one of the major players. The day is already here when Chinese activities in Central Asia are alarming the whole neighborhood, just as Chinese actions are in the South China Sea. …
Russia and Iran are advancing on the US through Central America:
It’s no accident that as radical leftism creeps across Central America (falsely laying claim to a noble “Bolivarian” political mantle), the maritime dispute between Nicaragua and American ally Colombia heats up – and Russia shows up to back Nicaragua and Venezuela – and so does Iran – and unrest turns into shooting and government brutality and violence in Venezuela – and Hezbollah shows up there to openly support the radical, repressive Maduro government.
Now Iran has a naval supply ship headed for Central America, very possibly with a cargo of arms that are not only prohibited by UN sanction, but capable of reaching the United States if launched from a Central American nation or Cuba.
We’re not still waiting for the shocks to start to the old order. They’ve already started. I haven’t surveyed even the half of what there is to talk about …
She looks at the latest defense cuts with dismay and considers what the consequences will be:
This is the world in which the United States plans to reduce our army to its lowest level since before World War II, and eliminate or put in storage much of its capabilities for heavy operations abroad (e.g., getting rid of the A-10 Warthogs, moving Blackhawk helicopters into the National Guard). It’s in this world that DOD proposes to cease operating half of our Navy cruisers, while delaying delivery of the carrier-based F-35 strike-fighter to the Navy and Marine Corps. These cutbacks come on top of cuts already made to training and maintenance expenditures in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that will affect unit readiness for years to come. …
Then comes what should be a shocking observation:
By cutting back on defense so drastically, America is deciding, in essence, to “fight fair”: to give whatever opponents emerge more of a chance to kill our soldiers, damage our interests, and drag out conflicts. …
That would be hard to believe of any American leadership – until now. It is ludicrous. Worse, it is lunatic. But Obama has never concealed or disguised his wish to weaken America’s military capacity.
The decision “to further limit our capabilities to use power in politically relevant ways” will result in “even more global unrest: more conflict, more shooting, more blood, more extortion and political thuggery menacing civil life in the world’s poorer and more vulnerable nations”, and that cannot be good for America. The point is that –
These unpleasant trends will spill over into civil life in the wealthier nations soon enough …
As it has, she points out, in Ukraine, Thailand, and Venezuela, “whether directly or through second-order consequences”.
Peace and freedom have to be tended constantly; they are not the natural state of geopolitical indiscipline, but its antithesis. …
We’re extraordinarily unprepared for the world that is shaping up around us. …
[And] a world that doesn’t want quiescent trade conditions, tolerance of dissent, the open flow of ideas, and mutual agreements, peacefully arrived at, will not have them.
That’s the world we are sentencing ourselves, for now, to live in. Perhaps we will learn from the consequences how to think again: about what it takes to guard freedom, and indeed, about what freedom actually is.
It is Obama who needs to think again, but there is no reason to hope that he will. It could hardly be more obvious that he does not care for freedom.
By 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun, adult diapers will outsell baby diapers: The sun also sets.
Mark Steyn writes about a people – the Japanese – dying out, and reminds us that Europeans are too. Whole nations have embraced “voluntary societal self-extinction”. It could also be called “auto-genocide“.
To Western eyes, contemporary Japan has a kind of earnest childlike wackiness, all karaoke machines and manga cartoons and nuttily sadistic game shows. But, to us demography bores, it’s a sad place that seems to be turning into a theme park of P. D. James’s great dystopian novel The Children of Men. … Baroness James’s tale is set in Britain in the near future, in a world that is infertile: The last newborn babe emerged from the womb in 1995, and since then nothing. … The Japanese seem determined to live up to the book’s every telling detail.
In Lady James’s speculative fiction, pets are doted on as child-substitutes, and churches hold christening ceremonies for cats. In contemporary Japanese reality, Tokyo has some 40 “cat cafés” where lonely solitary citizens can while away an afternoon by renting a feline to touch and pet for a couple of companionable hours. In Lady James’s speculative fiction, all the unneeded toys are burned, except for the dolls, which childless women seize on as the nearest thing to a baby and wheel through the streets. In contemporary Japanese reality, toy makers, their children’s market dwindling, have instead developed dolls for seniors to be the grandchildren they’ll never have: You can dress them up, and put them in a baby carriage, and the computer chip in the back has several dozen phrases of the kind a real grandchild might use to enable them to engage in rudimentary social pleasantries.
The loneliness, the hopelessness, the frustration of biological purpose and the profound longing it naturally gives rise to – the story is infinitely sad.
P. D. James’s most audacious fancy is that in a barren land sex itself becomes a bit of a chore. The authorities frantically sponsor state porn emporia promoting ever more recherché forms of erotic activity in an effort to reverse the populace’s flagging sexual desire just in case man’s seed should recover its potency. Alas, to no avail. As Lady James writes, “Women complain increasingly of what they describe as painful orgasms: the spasm achieved but not the pleasure. Pages are devoted to this common phenomenon in the women’s magazines.”
As I said, a bold conceit, at least to those who believe that shorn of all those boring procreation hang-ups we can finally be free to indulge our sexual appetites to the full. But it seems the Japanese have embraced the no-sex-please-we’re-dystopian-Brits plot angle, too. … A survey by the Japan Family Planning Association reported that over a quarter of men aged 16–24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” For women, it was 45 percent. … 49 percent of women under 34 are not in any kind of romantic relationship, and nor are 61 percent of single men. A third of Japanese adults under 30 have never dated. Anyone. Ever. … It’s a flight from human intimacy.
They’re not alone in that, of course. A while back, I flew from a speaking engagement on one side of the Atlantic to a TV booking on the other. And backstage at both events an attractive thirtysomething woman made the same complaint to me. They’d both tried computer dating but were alarmed by the number of chaps who found human contact too much effort: Instead of meeting and kissing and making out and all that other stuff that involves being in the same room, they’d rather you just sexted them and twitpiced a Weineresque selfie or two. As in other areas, the Japanese seem merely to have reached the end point of Western ennui a little earlier.
By 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun, adult diapers will outsell baby diapers: The sun also sets. In The Children of Men, the barrenness is a medical condition; in real life, in some of the oldest nations on earth, from Madrid to Tokyo, it’s a voluntary societal self-extinction.
In Europe, the demographic death spiral is obscured by high Muslim immigration; in Japan, which retains a cultural aversion to immigration of any kind, there are no foreigners to be the children you couldn’t be bothered having yourself.
In welfare states, the future is premised on social solidarity: The young will pay for the costs of the old. But, as the West ages, social solidarity frays, and in Japan young men aren’t even interested in solidarity with young women, and young women can’t afford solidarity with bonnie bairns. So an elderly population in need of warm bodies to man the hospital wards and senior centers is already turning to robot technology. If manga and anime are any indication, the post-human nurses and waitresses will be cute enough to make passable sex partners — for anyone who can still be bothered.
Unexpectedly, an important article on the current US and EU diplomatic talks with Iran, written by the excellent John Bolton (who would be a great Secretary of State) appears in the lefty pro-Islam British newspaper The Guardian. Here is a large part of it:
Tuesday’s opening of yet another round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear-weapons program creates enormous risks for America’s anti-proliferation efforts. Tehran’s extensive propaganda campaign, stressing the “moderation” of its new president, Hassan Rouhani, seems to be working, softening up the gullible in the United States and Europe.
As in previous iterations of the charade now reopening in Geneva, Iran’s bargaining position benefits from our own repeated mistakes. The ayatollahs need only take advantage of these unforced errors, and success may well fall into their undeserving hands. Consider the most blatant errors that Iran is eager to exploit.
First, both Presidents Bush and Obama conceded that Iran was entitled to a “peaceful” nuclear program, for energy and scientific purposes. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), however, that view is flatly wrong. By pursuing nuclear weapons for over two decades, Iran has violated key NPT provisions – notably, the obligation it freely undertook to be a non-nuclear weapons state. Tehran is not, therefore, entitled to claim benefits under NPT sections permitting peaceful uses of nuclear power.
Beyond treaty interpretation, Iran’s long record of ignoring its commitments and lying about its nuclear program demonstrates beyond dispute that it cannot be trusted. What conceivable reason exists to believe today’s pledge to abstain from nuclear weapons when the ayatollahs have violated so many previous pledges? …
Second, by allowing Iran to possess any uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, or spent nuclear fuel reprocessing capabilities, the west will both legitimize Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it can move to weaponization at a time entirely of its choosing. … By misunderstanding the physics of uranium enrichment, the Obama administration has made a mockery of itself.
Third, the White House retort that international inspections will prevent Iran from speedily moving to weaponization is a complete fiction. Given the broad, deep nuclear infrastructure Iran is building aggressively, Tehran need merely expel the International Atomic Energy Agency when it chooses to do so, and then move rapidly to weaponization. …
Fourth, what Iran really wants near-term, and what the west seems poised to give, is relief from international economic sanctions. Although these measures have caused Iran economic pain, there is no evidence they have impeded the nuclear program. …
So sanctions are working. But Obama and the Communist representative of the EU, Catherine Ashton, are already squandering that advantage.
While America and Europe insist they will demand reciprocal concessions for any weakening of the sanctions, Iran (with its backers, Russia and China) is bargaining from a position of strength. The ayatollahs sense from Obama’s desperate efforts for a handshake or phone call with Rouhani at September’s UN opening that he is hungry for a deal, thus allowing them to extract concession from the west before making even a superficial response.
Which is not just diplomatic ineptitude on Obama’s part, it’s downright dumb – unless Obama wants Iran to get the bomb. Actually, we suspect he does; that he is sympathetic to Islam and its efforts to gain power. And we are convinced he is anti-Israel.
Our negotiators are already talking about “sequencing” steps by the two sides – meaning, in reality, we will make the first concessions, hoping that Iran will make substantive concession later. In fact, the likely scenario is the exact opposite: Obama will make significant reductions in sanctions that will be very hard to restore subsequently, and Iran will give us blue smoke and mirrors. Even worse, these non-reciprocal episodes could continue at length, giving Tehran another precious resource, time, to continue building its nuclear facilities. …
We have only two very unpleasant choices: either Iran gets nuclear weapons in the very near future, or pre-emptive military force, fully justified by well-established principles of self-defense, must break Iran’s control over the nuclear fuel cycle and prevent (or, at least, substantially delay) weaponization. President Obama has said repeatedly that “all options are on the table”, the standard euphemism for military action. But, especially after Syria, no one believes him, the ayatollahs in Tehran, most notably.
By default that leaves Israel, which is watching today’s negotiations most uneasily.
The fact is we shouldn’t trust and can’t verify Iranian promises not to fabricate nuclear weapons. Indeed, even now, Washington really doesn’t know how quickly Iran could assemble a small number of nuclear weapons.
But a crash program has never really been Tehran’s objective. Iran is playing a much longer game that the west, largely because it fears neither our sanctions nor a possible military strike.
Our inability to see through this strategy has brought us grief time and again. Unfortunately, in Geneva, we may be watching a re-run.