That’ll teach them! 26

The fatuous Secretary of State John Kerry says that if Russia invades eastern Ukraine (what’s left of it now that the Crimean peninsula has been hitched to Russia), a “hard line” will have been crossed.

Daniel Greenfield comments:

It’s not clear what will happen when the “hard line” is crossed. It may involve…

1. A phone call from John Kerry to anyone in Russia who still takes his calls for laughs warning that Russia is on “the wrong side of history”.

2. Sanctions against the Deputy Under-Governor of Southern Siberia

3. An emergency shipment of 2,000 copies of “Dreams From My Father” to besieged Ukrainian soldiers

Posted under Commentary, Russia, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tagged with , ,

This post has 26 comments.

Permalink

The new-found riches of Afghanistan 0

The discovery in Afghanistan of vast deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, niobium, and lithium — used in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys – must change any prognostications made for that benighted country.

At last there’s something there that the world wants other than opium. Afghanistan will surely become richer, and may even be dragged into the 21st century. But will it be less strife-torn, or more?

How will it change American plans to withdraw troops? How will China act? How will Russia? How will Pakistan (part of the find being on its border)? How will India?

American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

And who among the Afghans will profit most from it?

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. …

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts.

Russians did the original prospecting that revealed the deposits, but the Soviets withdrew before they had time to assess their size, let alone exploit them. Americans found the Russian documentation and looked further.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted. …

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings …

Read it all – it’s a dramatic story.

Though probably not an introduction to a period of peace and co-operation.

Gate-crashing into history 0

Who or what now holds the office of President of the United States of America?

The answer to the question is itself a question mark.

David Solway asks the question and his answers are questions. Here is part of what he writes:

Who is this guy? And what does so enigmatic a figure augur for the United States and, indeed, for the future of us all? No matter what hypothesis or conviction one espouses concerning his definitive DNA, it seems fair to say that a shadow of the clandestine — or if one prefers, the inscrutable — envelops this president.

Even Obama’s most avid supporters, if they are honest, must allow that, compared to his POTUS predecessors, unambiguously little is known about his antecedents or, for example, the salient facts of his academic career — many of his records are still under seal, his college and university transcripts have not been released and, broadly speaking, his significant documentation is rather flimsy. There is not much of a paper trail here; for that matter, there is scarcely a Hansel-and-Gretel bread crumb trail. How such a man could be elected to the presidency … remains a riddle for the sphinx. …

In any event, there can be no doubt that the dossier is scanty and that this is a truly amazing deficiency. We simply do not have a clear portrait or a crisply factual biography of the president. But what we do know about his close affiliates — America-and-Jew bashing Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, hysterical and racially divisive Cornel West, unrepentant Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, unscrupulous entrepreneur Tony Rezko — is profoundly unsettling. … [T]he asymmetric relation between what we know and what we don’t know must distress any rational person curious about so influential an actor on the current political scene.

That Louis Farrakhan, like millions of others, feels that Obama was “selected” for our times should give us further pause. On the contrary, it may not be out of place to suggest that we are now afflicted with the worst possible president at the worst possible time, with Iran darting toward the nuclear finish line, the Palestinians as intransigent as ever, the Russians moving back into the Caucasus region, negotiating with Venezuela and solidifying ties with Iran, Syria and Turkey, terrorism … on the rise and U.S. citizens increasingly at the mercy of the jihadists, China holding massive quantities of American Treasury notes, Obama considering ruinous cap-and-trade legislation at a time when the AGW consensus is collapsing, the American debt estimated to hit 100% of GDP in 2011 and its unfunded entitlement liabilities totaling over $US 100 trillion, leading to the prospect of monetary collapse. None of these critical issues have been substantially addressed by the president, except insofar as his actions in some cases, lack of action in others, have only exacerbated them. The collateral fact that we really have no valid and comprehensive notion of who exactly is leading us at this crucial historical juncture boggles the mind.

Yes, this riddle of a man, this living quandary named Barack Hussein Obama is so unlikely a president of the United States, it’s as if he has gate-crashed into history.

A choice of dooms 0

In her Jerusalem Post column this week, Sarah Honig tells a story about a man being offered a choice between two ways of getting killed.

It is an apt illustration of the choice Obama is offering Israel.

Sarah Honig writes:

Time to quit quibbling. No pedantic hairsplitting can mitigate the evidence: The Obama administration cynically links Iran to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The premise is simple and chilling. If Israel wants a last-minute, last-ditch, quasi-credible American move to keep Iran from obtaining nukes, it must pay the piper by making hefty concessions to the sham paraded as the Palestinian Authority. Boiled down to its bare essence, the White House diktat means that Israel can maybe extricate itself from existential Iranian threats by submitting itself to existential Iranian-proxy threats.

Had Barack Obama ever read Shalom Aleichem’s autobiography he’d have encountered the author’s harrowing recollection of the story his grandfather told him about “the bird-Jew.” That was how the grandfather referred to Noah, a pious innkeeper who lived in constant dread of the gentile village squire. Trembling, Noah headed for the manor to renew his lease. His timing was off, because the courtyard was full of festive guests ready to go hunting.

The squire, in a jovial mood, agreed to renew the lease if Noah would climb the stable roof and pretend to be a bird, so he could shoot him. Fearful of angering the nobleman, the worst consequence the Jew could imagine, Noah obsequiously did his bidding. He went up and, as ordered, bent forward, flung his arms sideways and assumed a birdlike pose. At that point the squire fired and Noah fell, as any slain bird would.

Although realizing he was about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner, still absurdly terrified of what might happen if he didn’t. Obama is the proverbial squire in our own tale, casting Israel as the latter-day bird-Jew.

Israel is now squarely in Obama’s gun sights. It’s blamed for all Mideast ills. Obama, after all, is the high priest of the political theology of American/Western guilt. Israel embodies Western culpability. If Obama preaches American penance vis-à-vis Arabs/Muslims, Israel obviously must atone in more than words for the sins he ascribes to it.

Patriotic Americans are now told insidiously that by not bowing down to Obama’s ultimatums Israel jeopardizes the lives of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. When depicting a pacified Mideast as a “vital national security interest” that must be secured, the “peeved” Obama puts Israel on notice that he will shove a solution down its intransigent throat.

The nature of his cure is determined by his diagnosis, which in turn is colored by his perception of democracy’s foes as frustrated potential friends. In Obama’s universe, it’s the West’s haughty insensitivity which sparks Arab/Muslim hostility. Islamic expansionism and exclusionism aren’t problems but cultural assets for America. Consequently democratic Israel must sacrifice its self-preservation to facilitate appeasement of Muslims sworn to annihilate the Jewish state.

Obama’s radical worldview places the onus on the victim. Its corollary contention is that were the aggressor’s grievances redressed, all would be hunky-dory.

The great American silent majority may not be fully aware of Obama’s dangerous undertones. Many of his Jewish voters willfully prefer not to understand. They’d rather not admit liability for their political folly – a common psychological shortcoming.

So we Israelis are left alone. It’s up to us not to be bamboozled.

While the current US administration calls the shots, there is no Israeli-American alliance we can remotely count on. Obama will do nothing whatever to even diminish the danger of an Iranian nuclear threat against Israel. Otherwise he wouldn’t have frittered valuable time for more than a year, twiddling his thumbs. The sanctions Obama proposes are preposterously useless anyhow and further diluting them to win Chinese and Russian acquiescence would make them altogether laughable. China and Russia, let’s not forget, are Iran’s principal enablers. Obama knows this.

Had Obama wanted to effectively deal with Iran’s rogue regime, he’d need no allies. America could have unilaterally declared stringent sanctions, imposed them on prime trading partners and enforced an air-and-sea blockade that few would have dared breach. No military attack would be required. [We’re not convinced of this – JB.]

But that’s not Obama’s agenda. We must suspect that he desires a nuclear Iran to render Israel more vulnerable, pitiably dependent and pliable, thereby facilitating his envisioned great rapprochement with the Muslim world.

Obama’s endgame is to debilitate, demoralize and destabilize Israel. All he offers Israelis is a choice of how his inimical goal will be achieved. This may be via allowing Iran the weaponry with which to intimidate Israel or by shrinking Israel into the Auschwitz borders (as ultra-dove Abba Eban called the 1949 armistice lines into which Obama schemes to squeeze us).

We can avoid Iranian nukes by opting for the Auschwitz borders or we can avoid the Auschwitz borders but be bullied by Iranian nukes. The unspoken signal from Washington is: Either way, you’re dead. …

We agree that Obama is intent on debilitating, demoralizing and destabilizing Israel, but we don’t think that is his “endgame”.  Those are means to an end.

Obama’s end is to destroy the State of Israel.

The view from the left 0

Hard as it is to believe, this Washington Post column by Fred Hiatt is not satire. He seems seriously to mean what he says.

Gays, immigrants, union leaders, budget hawks, campaign finance reformers, environmentalists, free-traders, human rights activists and civil libertarians all have had cause to wonder whether they were right to trust Obama. The list is familiar, but the explanation remains disputed.

My theory: The culprit is less ideology than Obama’s fidelity to a strategy he can’t, for tactical reasons, publicly acknowledge. Given the hand he was dealt, the evidence suggests he resolved that he had to choose only one domestic and one foreign objective for his first two years in office.

An ambitious set of goals motivated Obama’s candidacy, and early in his presidency the rap was that he was taking on too many. But the legacy of wars abroad and the Great Recession at home threatened his ability to accomplish any of them. Simply managing that bleak inheritance, he realized, might consume his entire term.

To avoid that trap, Obama had to govern with discipline. First, he would have to turn potential negatives into successes. At home, that meant not only engineering a stimulus program to end the recession but also designing financial reform to prevent a recurrence. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it meant charting a path to not just to withdrawal but stable outcomes.

Since both fronts would take enormous energy and political capital, Obama could not afford to squander whatever remained across an array of worthy electives. So over time he subordinated everything to just two: health-insurance reform and blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Anything else, no matter how popular or deserving, had to give way if it interfered with those.

Obama has put enormous energy into repairing relations with Russia, for example, and relatively less into ties with allies such as India, Mexico or Britain because stopping Iran would require Russia’s support of sanctions. Without a new START arms-control treaty, Russia would not play ball on Iran, so Obama worked assiduously to negotiate a new START. The nuclear summit he hosted in Washington this month; playing down trade tensions with China; the relative reticence on North Korea’s nukes; prodding Israel toward peace talks — all of these were crafted with an eye toward Iran.

At home, the mono-focus is more obvious. Obama would like to close the Guantanamo prison, curb traffic of assault weapons crossing the Mexican border, reform immigration laws and reduce carbon emissions. But each would have carried a political cost, to Obama or Democratic allies he needed on health care, so they all had to wait.

I don’t mean to suggest that Obama would go to any lengths to achieve the main objective. He bargained hard on START, for example, insisting that the treaty meet U.S. military needs as well as serve the larger goal.

And it’s not that he has abandoned everything else: Where he could advance other objectives at minimal cost, he has done so, usually by executive action. He wouldn’t fight for labor law reform, but he promulgated regulations that favor unions. He hasn’t replaced No Child Left Behind, but he allowed his education secretary to spur reform by judicious granting and withholding of stimulus funds. There’s no climate change legislation, but the Environmental Protection Agency hiked mileage standards for cars and trucks. And so on.

Obama can’t acknowledge all this. You don’t tell allies, whether gay rights groups or India, that they’ve slipped down your priority list. (That’s especially true now, before an election, as immigration, education and energy advocates jockey to go next.) And the best negotiating strategy to get things you want isn’t always to show how much you want them.

So we may have to wait until Obama writes his memoirs to discover why he elevated these two goals. Was he set on health reform from the start, for instance, or did congressional politics nudge that ahead of, say, coping with climate change?

Abroad, the strategy, with its hope of turning autocracies such as China and Russia into long-term partners, remains at best unproven. At home, it seems to be paying off, with major health reform approved and financial reform in sight. For those at the back of the line — such as the District last week — the opportunity costs are sharply felt. But even at such times, it’s hard not to admire Obama’s focus.

Every statement cries out for exegesis. Some of them – Obama’s “ending of the recession”, his financial reform, his “charting a path to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan” – need at least a paragraph each. But there’s one that clamors for objection above the rest.

“Blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons” has been Obama’s foreign policy priority? Everything else except health care has been subordinated to that goal? He’s focussed on it?

Strange – we haven’t noticed that he’s done a damn thing about it. It seems to us that he’s perfectly willing to let Iran become a nuclear-armed power. A series of  “deadlines” have been allowed to pass without there being any penalty for Iran’s ignoring them. Talk of sanctions has been nothing but talk, and those talked of have been steadily weakened. No military option is “on the table”. Obama has begged Ahmadinejad for his friendship, and the poisonous little dictator has gleefully said no over and over again. How come Mr Hiatt hasn’t noticed all that?

How has the START treaty affected Iran? Russia is still not willing to vote for sanctions. And what US military needs have been served by it?  It is plainly to the detriment of the US and the advantage of Russia. Relations with Russia are in no way “repaired”. If changed at all, they’re probably worse. Nor will China vote for sanctions. And Obama’s “reticence” on North Korea’s nukes has resulted in – what?  As for the nuclear summit, Iran wasn’t even mentioned. And “prodding” Israel – that has made the world safe from Iranian bombs? What it has really done is tell Israel that it has “slipped down the priority list”, along with India and Britain and a number of other allies.

Well, we’ve recovered from being flabbergasted by Mr Hiatt’s quaint perspective and now we find it amusing. And it’s gratifying to know that numerous bunches of lefties (but surely “free-traders” and “budget hawks” do not belong among them) feel disappointed by the president of their dreams. From our perspective he has gone fearfully far to satisfy them, with the “executive action” and “regulations” and so on that Mr Hiatt tells us were thrown to them as mere sops or stop-gaps. So apparently he might have gone further and done even worse.

The implication of Mr Hiatt’s apologia for his hero is that when he has succeeded with his two chosen “electives”, he will go further. Now the health care legislation has been forced through, but there still remains the other goal Mr Hiatt believes Obama is focussed on: stopping Iran going nuclear.

If Mr Hiatt is right and the achievement of that goal really stands between Obama and the rest of the far left agenda he’s expected to foist on us, then we can rest easy. Or could, if dread of those bombs wasn’t keeping us awake nights.

But what if Mr Hiatt is wrong? We’ll get the bombs and the radical left agenda.

Why? 2

This warning is in today’s Investor’s Business Daily:

An unclassified Defense Department report says an Iranian missile could strike the U.S. by 2015. If only we were working as hard to defend ourselves as they are to destroy us.

In any discussion of the Iranian nuclear threat, the assumption is always that Tehran’s target is Israel. Iran’s quite mad president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has pledged to wipe Israel off the map as part of his grand scheme to usher in the age of the 12th Imam. Tehran may have a bigger fish that it wants to fry, namely us.

“With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” said the 12-page Defense Department report, released Monday, on the “Military Power of Iran” …

There is no shortage of such assistance. A recent report by the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center said production of medium-range missiles remains one of Tehran’s “highest priorities” and that China, North Korea and Russia are all helping Iran produce such missiles.

Iran has long worked with North Korea, particularly on intercontinental ballistic missiles. Iran’s cooperation with North Korea began in the 1980s, when Tehran financed Pyongyang’s production of Soviet-designed Scud missiles and received 100 of them. Later, North Korea shipped engines for Rodong midrange missiles to Iran. Pyongyang has also helped Tehran set up missile production facilities, and North Koreans are regular visitors to these plants. Iran’s Shahab-3, which can reach all of Israel, is simply the Islamic country’s enhanced version of the North Korean Nodong. Confirmed reports place Iranian scientists and engineers inside North Korea in 1993, when the Nodong-class missile was first tested and unveiled.

Iran is working hard to improve its missile capabilities. It has successfully test-fired the Sajjil-2, a solid-fuel, high-speed missile with a range of 1,250 miles. In February 2009, Iran demonstrated its global reach with the launching of its Omid satellite. Iran’s multistage Safir-Omid space launch vehicle owes much to North Korea’s Taepodong missile.

A country capable of orbiting a satellite is capable of putting a warhead anywhere on this planet. We forget that such a missile wouldn’t have to be accurate. A single nuclear warhead detonated over the American heartland would emit an electromagnetic pulse that would fry our technological infrastructure and catapult America and its economy back to the 18th century.

Iran has long been testing the in-flight detonation of its Shahab series over the Caspian Sea. Such tests would make no sense unless the Iranians were planning for the day when an Iranian missile with a nuke would detonate high over an Iowa cornfield and devastate the American nation.

Obama knows this. He  is doing nothing effective to defend America against it. He is actively taking steps to weaken America’s defenses.

Why?

Could the answer be that Obama wants Iran to be nuclear armed?

And here is another warning from the same source:

Now that the uptrend in homegrown terror is obvious, the FBI warns that American jihadists pose as big a threat as al-Qaida terrorists. And these bad guys may be living next door.

In a major switch from past rhetoric, authorities see an alarming rise in jihadist activity across the country. Radicalization is not confined to Europe, and it’s far more prevalent here than officials have been willing to admit.

Four years ago, FBI headquarters pooh-poohed concerns expressed by this paper that we had an internal security problem tantamount to Britain, which has far fewer Muslims. Following a PC script, the agency argued that our Muslim population is better assimilated and less extreme. That only lulled the American public deeper into a false sense of security about the homegrown threat.

“I don’t think al-Qaida is largely represented in the United States, or people that espouse violent extremism,” FBI Director Robert Mueller assured the public in 2006.

Now the nation’s top cop is singing a different tune.

Not only does al-Qaida still aim to strike inside the U.S., but “homegrown and lone-wolf extremists pose an equally serious threat,” Mueller warned lawmakers last week, citing the Fort Hood shootings. Many U.S.-born jihadists, such as Bombay attack planner David Headley of Chicago, are plotting terror overseas.

Mueller also pointed to the plot to bomb New York subways, hatched by three high school buddies from Queens. In the most serious terror plot in America since 9/11, the Muslim men planned to strap on explosives and hit the Grand Central and Times Square stations during rush hour.

From New York to the Denver suburbs, Americans have been shocked to find their own neighbors plotting or committing violence against them. In 2009 alone, 41 Muslim-Americans were involved in terror, accounting for almost a third of all the homegrown terror suspects since 9/11 (excluding terror-finance cases).

Even Muslim clergy are increasingly dangerous. U.S.-born imam Anwar Awlaki — who ministered to the 9/11 hijackers, inspired the Fort Hood terrorist and allegedly directed the Christmas crotch bomber — recently claimed jihad is “becoming as American as apple pie.” …

Another popular American-Muslim cleric — Detroit imam Luqman Abdullah — preached violent overthrow of the government before dying last fall in a shootout with FBI agents. He called cops “kaffir dogs” and exhorted his flock to shoot them in the head.

“America must fall,” he said, and be replaced by Saudi-style theocracy. “The worst Muslim is better than the best kaffir,” or infidel. Hardly fringe, Abdullah was embraced by the Muslim community. …

This is a powder keg ready to explode. Yet this administration remains focused on “right wing” militia groups and “anti-government extremists” as the top threats. It has even banned agencies from talking about “jihad” or “Islamic extremism,” as if that will defuse it.

Why?

Is it possible that Obama wants Islam to triumph?

Too big to see 0

A shift of power from the United States to its enemies – chief among them China, Iran, and Russia – is being deliberately carried out by Obama and his gang.

China now wields economic power over America. Iran is being allowed to develop a nuclear arms capability. Obama has concluded a treaty with Russia whereby America will weaken itself while Russia will strengthen itself militarily.

What’s more, America will pay Russia to do it.

Why is there no protest, no outcry about this?

Is it too dreadful for most Americans to notice, so they turn their eyes away from it?

Is it too big to see?

Frank Gaffney at Canada Free press explains just how the new START treaty is to Russia’s advantage and America’s detriment:

President Obama announced last Thusday that he had concluded a follow-on to the 1989 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. He characterized the cuts that it would make in the two nations’ nuclear arsenals as a major step towards his goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. In practice, however, the so-called “New START” accord will contribute primarily to the denuclearization of the United States and to making the world a more dangerous place. Accordingly, it would be more accurate to call it “False START.”

The first thing to note about the Obama treaty is that it confers real advantages on the Russians. For starters, the Kremlin will have to make essentially no cuts in the numbers of its deployed strategic launchers, whereas the United States will have to destroy several hundred of ours.

It is unclear at this writing whether such reductions by the U.S. will, as a practical matter, make it difficult – if not impossible – for America to preserve its strategic “Triad” of land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and long-range bombers. If so, there could be serious implications for strategic stability as the confidence of friends and foes alike in the robustness of our deterrent declines markedly.

What is clear, though, is that we will be obliged to cut back our arsenal to match the lower levels that the Russians can afford to maintain at the moment. The advisability of such a step would be debatable even if it produced a genuine equality between the two parties.

Unfortunately, the seeming equality thus established is deceptive in at least three respects:

First, the Russians are aggressively modernizing their strategic forces with both new missiles and warheads. They claim that by 2015 roughly 80% of their long-range arsenal will have been upgraded – an activity we are subsidizing by paying to dismantle their old weapon systems, freeing up funds for Moscow’s modernization programs.

By contrast, the United States has not introduced a new nuclear weapon in over fifteen years. Its missiles, submarines and bombers are, by and large, even older, with some dating back to the 1950s and ’60s. Today, the Nation has no capability to produce new nuclear weapons and could not manufacture them in quantity for many years – the only nuclear power of whom that can be said.

Second, the Russians are reintroducing multiple, independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) on their land-based ballistic missiles. This step could enable a break-out capacity that would allow Moscow rapidly to deploy far more weapons than its forces are allowed to have under the new START treaty. By contrast, the United States decided back in the 1980s that such a capability was “destabilizing”; it has systematically de-MIRVed its underground silo-launched intercontinental-range ballistic missiles ever since.

Third, the newly unveiled START accord fails to take into account or otherwise limit several thousand Russian “tactical” nuclear weapons. The Kremlin has focused for twenty years on such low-yield devices; some with the explosive power of the Hiroshima weapon and fitted on submarine-launched cruise missiles are deployed off our coasts today. While the administration says such armaments could be the subject of a future, bilateral treaty that makes still deeper reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stocks, don’t count on it. In any event, they will constitute a real, asymmetric advantage for Russia for many years to come. This is a particularly worrisome prospect to American allies in Europe who have long relied on America’s “extended deterrence” to counteract such threatening Kremlin capabilities.

Then, there is the matter of missile defense. The Obama administration tried to finesse Russian insistence on including in the new accord language that would capture American defenses against missile attack by confining to the preamble an acknowledgement of a “relationship” between such systems and offensive forces. The United States claims that, by its nature, such preambular language is not binding. Yet, a Kremlin spokesman has already served notice that Moscow will feel free to abrogate the START follow-on treaty if it believes that U.S. missile defenses in Europe are a threat to its deterrent.

The biggest problem of all with the New START treaty, however, is that it is a product of President Obama’s fixation with “devaluing nuclear weapons” and ridding the world of them. On these grounds, he refuses to take the steps necessary to modernize America’s deterrent. Even though he professes that a nuclear-free globe will not be realized any time soon, he is condemning the nation to unilateral disarmament by allowing the steady and unavoidable obsolescence of the U.S. stockpile, and the dissipation of the workforce and infrastructure needed to maintain it, to continue unabated.

The acuteness of this obsolescence has reached a point where the directors of the nation’s nuclear laboratories have felt compelled to express strong concerns about the continued reliability of the arsenal. …

These factors ensure that the New START treaty will contribute to U.S. nuclear disarmament alright, but do nothing to advance the ostensible purpose of the exercise – namely, enhancing the security of this country or the world.

Certainty of decline, probability of catastrophe 0

Read only a few pages of HR3200,The Affordable Health Care Choices Act 2009, and once you’ve got the gist of what they’re saying let your eye wander over a hundred or so more, and you’ll know beyond all doubt that you are now owned by the government. The link:

http://thomas.loc.gov/

To put it bluntly, this act has changed the USA into the USSA – the United Socialist States of America:

Here is part of Mark Steyn’s must-read article on the immediate and future costs of it:

On the day President Barack Obama signed Obamacare into law, Verizon sent an e-mail to all its employees, warning that the company’s costs “will increase in the short term.” And in the medium term? Well, U.S. corporations that are able to do so will get out of their prescription drugs plans and toss their retirees onto the Medicare pile. So far just three companies – Deere, Caterpillar and Valero Energy – have calculated that the loss of the deduction will add a combined $265 million to their costs. There are an additional 3,500 businesses presently claiming the break. The cost to taxpayers of that 28 percent benefit is about $665 per person. The cost to taxpayers of equivalent Medicare coverage is about $1,200 per person.

So we’re roughly doubling the cost of covering an estimated 5 million retirees.

Now admittedly the above scenario has not been, as they say, officially “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office, by comparison with whom Little Orphan Annie singing “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” sounds like Morrisey covering “Gloomy Sunday.” Incidentally, has the CBO ever run the numbers for projected savings if the entire CBO were laid off and replaced by a children’s magician with an assistant in spangled tights from whose cleavage he plucked entirely random numbers? Just a thought.

This single component of “health” “care” “reform” neatly encompasses all the broader trends about where we’re headed – not just in terms of increased costs (both to businesses and individual taxpayers) and worse care (for those retirees bounced from company plans into Medicare), but also in the remorseless governmentalization of American life and the disincentivization of the private sector. As we see, even the very modest attempts made by Congress to constrain the 2003 prescription drug plan prove unable to prevent its expansion and metastasization. The one thing that can be said for certain is that, whatever claims are made for Obamacare, it will lead to more people depending on government for their health arrangements. Those 5 million retirees are only the advance guard. And, if you’re one of those optimistic souls whose confidence in the CBO is unbounded, let’s meet up in three years’ time and see who was correct – the bureaucrats passing out the federal happy juice, or the real businesses already making real business decisions about Obamacare.

Can we afford this? No. Even on the official numbers, we’re projected to add to the existing $8 trillion in debt another $12 trillion over the next decade. What could we do? Tax those big bad corporations a bit more? Medtronic has just announced that the new Obamacare taxes on its products could force it to lay off 1,000 workers. What do those guys do? Well, they develop products such as the recently approved pacemaker that’s safe for MRI scans or the InterStim bladder control device. So that’s a thousand fewer people who’ll be working on new stuff. Well, so what? The public won’t miss what they never knew they had. So, again, the effect is one of disincentivization – in this case, of innovation.

If existing tax structures can’t cover the costs, what can we do? Start a new tax! The VATman cometh. VAT is Euro-speak for “value added tax.” … This is yet another imposition on businesses, taking time away from wealth creation and reallocating it to government paperwork. If the Democrats hold Congress this fall, I would figure on VAT sooner rather than later.

All of the above is pretty much a safe bet. What about the imponderables? Even Obama hasn’t yet asked the CBO to cost out, say, what happens to the price of oil when the Straits of Hormuz are under a de facto Iranian nuclear umbrella – as they will be soon, because the former global hyperpower, which now gets mad over a few hundred housing units in Jerusalem, is blasé and insouciant about the wilder shores of the mullahs’ dreams. Or suppose, as seems to be happening, the Sino-Iranian alliance were to result in a reorientation of global oil relationships, or the Russo-Iranian friendship bloomed to such a degree that, between Moscow’s control of Europe’s gas supply and Tehran’s new role as Middle Eastern superpower, the economy of the entire developed world becomes dependent on an alliance profoundly hostile to it.

Which is to say that right now the future lies somewhere between the certainty of decline and the probability of catastrophe. What can stop it? Not a lot. But now that your “pro-life” Democratic congressman has sold out, you might want to quit calling Washington and try your state capital. If the Commerce Clause can legitimize the “individual mandate,” then there is no republic, not in any meaningful sense. If you don’t like the sound of that, maybe it’s time for a constitutional convention.

Is America in decline? 2

Is the world entering a post-American era? Will the 21st century be dominated by some other power, or several others?

In the splendid speech that John Bolton delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2010, he said of Obama, “He is the first post-American president.”

In Obama’s eyes, American superpower status is already over. The decline is happening. There’s no reason to regret it, and it would be pointless and unnecessary to try to halt or reverse it. Obama is content to let America be a nation among the nations, no different in any important respect, and certainly no better. “He sees American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon,” Bolton said.

In Bolton’s own view, however, America is still exceptional and still the one and only superpower. If its status as such is under threat, that threat proceeds from Obama himself, who, almost casually – not caring very much, as John Bolton remarked, about foreign and national security policy – is himself weakening it.

What Obama does care about is domestic policy. To achieve his redistributionist goals he has put America into crushing debt; and being determined, it seems, to turn America into a European-style socialist state, he can only make the debt vaster and heavier. That alone weakens America.

China is America’s chief creditor, but that does not mean China is now a second superpower. A China growing in wealth and confidence, and becoming an increasingly significant world actor, may pose an economic threat to America but is not, or not yet, a rival world power. Militarily it is far from a match. Militarily, America is still far and away the most powerful nation.

But there again, if Obama has his way, it won’t be for much longer. He has, in Bolton’s words, an “incredibly naïve idea” that if the US would get rid of its own nuclear weapons, other countries would give up theirs; those that do not have them but want them – such as Iran and North Korea – would abandon their intense efforts to obtain them; and the world would live at peace forever after. This belief or ambition represents, as John Bolton put it, “a pretty deep-seated strain in the left wing of the Democratic Party.” Obama will soon negotiate an arms control agreement with Russia by which he will undertake substantially to reduce America’s nuclear capability. America will not develop new nuclear weapons, or arms in outer space, or even keep its existing arsenal battle-ready by testing for safety and reliability. It is as if America had no enemies; as if America were not under attack; as if 9/11 had never happened; and as if Iran and North Korea would not drop nuclear bombs on America and its allies if they could do it and get away with it.

Furthermore, with the rest of the dreaming Left both at home and internationally, he aspires to another vision of a new earth: one that is not only sweetly irenic but held forcibly in union by a supreme governing authority. Those proposals for world taxes that we hear of; the intricate business of trading in carbon indulgences in the name of saving the earth from being consumed by fire or ice; international treaty regulations that would result in banning the private ownership of guns – all these are measures to realize the tremendous objective of “world governance”. It would mean the end of American independence, the end of national sovereignty. It would mean that the Revolution was lost, as Bolton said.

In a sense it would be the end of America, because America is an idea of liberty. And it is an idea that the world needs. Its loss would be a colossal disaster, a tragedy for the whole human race.

Can America be saved?

In his book titled The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria asserts that “America is closing down”, but allows that it “won’t be demoted from its superpower position in the foreseeable future” because “it’s not that the United States has been doing badly over the last two decades. It’s that, all of a sudden, everyone else is playing the game.”

America can “remain a vital, vibrant economy, at the forefront of the next revolutions in science, technology and industry, as long as it can embrace and adjust to the challenges confronting it”.

“The challenges” come from other nations, now rising, which he groups together as “the rest”.

China is the first of them because it is becoming an economic giant. The 21st century, he considers, may be the Chinese century.

What if [China ] quietly positions itself as the alternative to a hectoring and arrogant America? How will America cope with such a scenario – a kind of Cold War, but this time with a vibrant market economy, a nation that is not showing a hopeless model of state socialism, or squandering its power in pointless military interventions? This is a new challenge for the United States, one it has not tackled before, and for which it is largely unprepared.

Next in line is India. Poorer but democratic, India is “the ally”. Then come Brazil and Chile (plausibly); South Africa (less plausibly); and (implausibly) Russia. (Russia is a demographic basket case.)

Ironically, Zakaria says, these nations are rising because they learnt from America:

For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. … We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism.

America, then, has not been a malign power, or not always. In Roosevelt’s day other countries believed that “America’s mammoth power was not to be feared”. It was after it had won the Cold War, when it became the only superpower, that it began to go to the bad. “Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has walked the world like a colossus, unrivaled and unchecked”, and this “has made Washington arrogant, careless, and lazy.” Furthermore, he tell us, “people round the world worry about living in a world in which one country has so much power.”

To relieve that worry, America “must reduce its weaponry and work towards a non-nuclear world.” It is hypocritical for the US to insist that other countries should not have nuclear weapons while it is hoarding a nuclear arsenal of its own. By giving them up it would “gain credibility”, an end he apparently considers so desirable that it would be worth risking the nation’s very survival to achieve it.

The summer of 2002, Zakaria says, was “the high water-mark of unipolarity”. The world felt sympathy for America after 9/11. America went to war in Afghanistan, which was not good but not too bad. But then it invaded Iraq, which was very bad, and the world’s sympathy dried up. America was being too “unilateral”, too “imperial and imperious”.

George W Bush and “the nefarious neoconservative conspiracy” antagonized the world. He and his conspirators “disdained treaties, multilateral organizations, international public opinion, and anything that suggested a conciliatory approach to world politics.”

So the world’s dislike, contempt, and fear of America were justified, or at least understandable, in the light of the foreign policies of the “arrogant” Bush administration. Zakaria even claims that the animosity filled the Republicans – already full of “chest-thumping machismo” – with pride.

He asks:

Can Washington adjust and adapt to a world in which others have moved up? Can it respond to shift in economic and political power? … Can Washington truly embrace a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints? Can it thrive in a world it cannot dominate?

The advice he gives to “Washington” for success in adjusting, adapting, responding, embracing, and thriving is to be conciliatory, apologetic. It must listen more; proclaim universal values”, but “phrase its positions carefully”; be like the chair of a board gently guiding a group of independent directors. America must “learn from the rest”. The president must meet more non-government people, have smaller entourages, rely more on diplomacy. Consultation, cooperation, compromise are the key words. He objects to such accomodations being called appeasement. Consult and cooperate, he urges, with Russia, and with “multilateral institutions” such as the UN, NATO, AFRICOM, OAS, and the International Criminal Court. (Even internally, the US legal system “should take note of transnational standards”.)

The federal government has been “too narrow-minded” about terrorism. When bin Laden got America to “come racing out to fight” him (in response to 9/11) this was “over-reaction.”  Zakaria’s advice: “take it on the chin” and “bounce back”. The government must stop thinking of terrorism as a national security issue, and think of it as criminal activity carried out by “small groups of misfits”. Although Democrats were on the whole “more sensible” about terrorism, both parties, he says, spoke “in language entirely designed for a domestic audience with no concern for the poisonous effect it has everywhere else.” His solution is better airport control round the world. The more urgent problem in his view is that American Muslims have become victims of over-reaction to terrorist attacks. Instead of being “questioned, harassed, and detained” they should, he urges, “be enlisted in the effort to understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism.”

Zakaria does not consider himself anti-American. He does not even see himself as a man of the left. He reiterates that he is a free marketeer. It is because America became “suspicious of free markets”, he says, that partly explains its “closing down”.

He wrote his book before the economic crisis. He saw a globalized economy bringing about an increasingly prosperous world in which the poorest nations were rising strongly enough for him to declare that “the world is swimming in capital”, and “there really isn’t a Third World any more “. But even then the dollar was sliding, and America was showing signs of being “enfeebled”.

At a military-political level America still dominates the world, but the larger structure of unipolarity – economic, financial, cultural – is weakening… every year it becomes weaker and other nations and actors grow in strength.

For all its military might, its chest-thumping phase is over and now it is “cowering in fear”. It must, he says, “recover its confidence.” ‘It must stop being “a nation consumed by anxiety”, with a tendency to “hunker down”, unreasonably “worried about unreal threats” such as terrorism, and rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. (Iran, he explains, has good reason to fear the United States, with its armies on two of its borders. It’s only to be expected that Iran would try to arm itself with nuclear bombs and missile delivery systems. He does not explain why America should not fear this as a real threat.)

He is certain about what America needs to do to propitiate and serve the world it has alienated. It should ‘‘build broad rules by which the world will be bound’’, rather than pursue “narrow interests”.

What the world really wants from America is … that it affirm its own ideals. That role, as the country that will define universal ideals, remains one that only America can play.

We know Obama has read Zakaria’s book, or at least looked into it, because there is a photograph of him holding it, one finger marking his place. Obama is doing much that Zakaria advises in foreign affairs. But that’s less likely to be because the writer has impressed the president with his arguments than because they have both drunk from the same ideological well.

Obama’s foreign policy lets us see if Zakaria’s theory works. So far it has not.

So is America’s decline beyond all remedy?

It’s a relief to turn from Zakaria’s dull and weakly reasoned book with its uncongenial credo to an article titled The Seductions of Decline (February 2, 2010) by brilliantly witty and insightful Mark Steyn. If America believes it is in decline, he says, it will be. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The view that America has been too arrogant a power; that it is not and should not be exceptional; that humility and apology are required of it; that only endlessly patient negotiation in a spirit of compromise will improve foreign relations and dissuade states like North Korea and Iran from acquiring nuclear arms; that Islamic terrorism should be treated as crime and not as the jihad its perpetrators declare it to be; that Russia should be consulted on, say, the deployment of American missile defense; and that the US should reduce its nuclear arsenal and work towards a non-nuclear world – will bring about the decline.

National decline is psychological – and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline.

His answer to the question “is America set for decline?” is yes, because of the policies of Obama and the Democrats, which arise from their acceptance of decline.

Strictly on the numbers, the United States is in the express lane to Declinistan: Unsustainable entitlements, the remorseless governmentalization of the American economy and individual liberty, and a centralization of power that will cripple a nation of this size. Decline is the way to bet.

American decline, he says, “will be steeper, faster and more devastating than Britain’s – and something far closer to Rome’s.” It will not be like France’s, or Austria’s.

Why did decline prove so pleasant in Europe? Because it was cushioned by American power. The United States is such a perversely non-imperial power that it garrisons not ramshackle colonies but its wealthiest “allies”, from Germany to Japan. For most of its members, “the free world” has been a free ride.

And after “Washington’s retreat from la gloire” as hegemon of the world, when America “becomes Europe in its domestic disposition and geopolitical decline, then who will be America?”

Of the many competing schools of declinism, perhaps the most gleeful are those who salivate over the rise of China. For years, Sinophiles have been penning orgasmic fantasies of mid-century when China will bestride the world and America will be consigned to the garbage heap of history. It will never happen: As I’ve been saying for years, China has profound structural problems. It will get old before it gets rich.

Not China then. Russia?

The demographic deformation of Tsar Putin’s new empire is even more severe than Beijing’s. Russia is a global power only to the extent of the mischief it can make on its acceleration into a death spiral.

Not Russia. How about the Caliphate that the terrorist war is being fought to establish?

Even if every dimestore jihadist’s dreams came true, almost by definition an Islamic imperium will be in decline from Day One.

So what might the post-American world look like? Mark Steyn’s answer is deeply depressing:

The most likely future is not a world under a new order but a world with no order – in which pipsqueak states go nuclear while the planet’s wealthiest nations, from New Zealand to Norway, are unable to defend their own borders and are forced to adjust to the post-American era as they can. Yet, in such a geopolitical scene, the United States will still remain the most inviting target – first, because it’s big, and secondly, because, as Britain knows, the durbar moves on but imperial resentments linger long after imperial grandeur.

But nothing is inevitable, and Mark Steyn offers a last hope. Though “decline is the way to bet”, the only thing that will ensure it is “if the American people accept decline as a price worth paying for European social democracy.”

When in 2008 a majority of the American electorate voted for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, it seemed that the deal had been made. But now Obama is failing, the Democratic majority is under threat, and the Tea Party movement is reclaiming the Revolution.

This could be another American century after all.

Jillian Becker   March 1, 2010

Come marvel at this nothing-much 0

Trying to justify Obama’s foreign policy towards North Korea and Iran, the Secretary of State salvages small successes out of a morass of failure. The unimpressive exhibits she holds up for admiration only serve to prove how poor a catch she has netted, how very little she has achieved.

From Commentary’s ‘Contentions’, by Jennifer Rubin:

In a rather devastating interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Hillary Clinton reveals the misguided premise at the heart of [Obama’s] Iran engagement policy and the disastrous results that have flowed from it. This sequence sums up the failure of engagement:

CROWLEY: I want to bring your attention to something that President Obama said in his inaugural a little more than a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Has Iran unclenched its fist?

CLINTON: No. But…

CROWLEY: How about North Korea?

CLINTON: No. Not to the extent we would like to see them. But I think that’s — that is not all — all to the story. Engagement has brought us a lot in the last year. Let’s take North Korea first, and then we’ll go to Iran. In North Korea when we said that we were willing to work with North Korea if they were serious about returning to the six party talks, and about denuclearizing in an irreversible way, they basically did not respond in the first instance. But because we were willing to engage, we ended up getting a very strong sanctions regime against North Korea that China signed on to and Russia signed on to. And right now is being enforced around the world.

The effectiveness, however, of the sanctions remains to be seen.

CROWLEY: Did the extended hand of the U.S. help in any way that you point to?

CLINTON: It did, because — because we extended it a neighbor like China knew we were going the extra mile. And all of a sudden said, “You know, you’re not just standing there hurling insults at them. You’ve said, ‘All right. Fine. We’re — we’re willing to work with them.’ They haven’t responded. So we’re going to sign on to these very tough measures.Similarly in Iran — I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.

So China awarded full marks to the US for effort. Or was it for humility? Anyway, Hillary Clinton gives the impression that the US is on trial for good conduct, and China is the judge. The merits of sanctions against North Korea, the desirability of the ends they are intended to achieve, are not by her account what concerns, or ought to concern, China and Russia. What matters to them is, did America go about it in a manner they approved of? It did, and its Secretary of State is proud to have earned their approval.

CLINTON: But the fact is because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it. When we started last year talking about the threats that Iran’s nuclear programs posed, Russia and other countries said, “Well we don’t see it that way.” But through very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two track process. Yes we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn’t respond on the engagement front.

So let’s unpack that. For starters, even Clinton admits that the policy has failed. No unclenched hands in North Korea and Iran. And her justification — that our Iran policy was justified because “the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it” — is simply preposterous. She would have us believe the world would not have seen the nature of the regime by its own actions (constructing the Qom enrichment site in violation of international agreements, stealing an election, and brutalizing its own people), but only now has begun to understand the nature of the regime because we have engaged in a futile Kabuki dance with the mullahs? It boggles the mind. And where is the evidence that Russia and China see it our way? When last we heard from them, the Russians were supplying missiles to Tehran, and the Chinese were rejecting sanctions.

There is no flicker of recognition that the president might have used his vaunted charisma and eloquence to get the world to “see Iran the way we see it” — that is, as an illegitimate and tyrannical regime. Indeed, she doesn’t even mention the democracy protestors other than to observe that she doesn’t know ”what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.” Not even a rhetorical bouquet to throw their way. Perhaps we are not even “bearing witness” these days. She seems oblivious to the notion that world opinion might be rallied to the cause of displacing, rather than soliciting the attention of, the despotic regime. And she gives no indication that the engagement policy has bestowed legitimacy upon the regime at the very time its citizens are seeking to overthrow it.

She also makes the bizarre claim that Iran really is not the greatest threat we face:

CLINTON: But I think that most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks. Primarily the extremists — the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Al Qaeda in — in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Al Qaida in the Maghreb. I mean the — the kind of connectivity that exists. And they continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity. The attacks that they’re going to make. And the, you know, the biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. So that’s really the — the most threatening prospect we see.

Where to begin? She seems to suggest that we shouldn’t be so concerned about an Iranian regime with a full-blown nuclear-weapons program because there are also non-state terrorists (some of whom are supported by none other than Iran) who pose a similar threat. But wait. Isn’t this further reason to do what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons? After all, they might be supplying those very same groups with nuclear materials.

In one short interview, Clinton has pulled back the curtain on the intellectual and moral hollowness and abject confusion at he heart of Obama’s engagement policy.

Older Posts »