Category Archive 'Foreign Policy'
11 Aug 2014

China’s Strategic Goal: “All Under Heaven”

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Tianxia
Tianxia (天下) “All Under Heaven”.

Edward Luttwak, in a very learned essay on “The Cycles—or Stages—of Chinese History,” published by the Hoover Institution, describes the Chinese version of “Balance of Power” theory.

Tianxia (whose logographs 天下…). Literally “under heaven,” short for “all under heaven” or more meaningfully, “the rule of all humans,” it defines an ideal national and international system of ever-expanding concentric circles centered on a globally benevolent emperor, now Xi Jinping or more correctly perhaps, the seven-headed standing committee of the Politburo.

The innermost circle of the Tianxia is formed by the rest of the Politburo and top Beijing officialdom, while its outermost circle comprises the Solomon Islands along with the twenty or so other utterly benighted “outer barbarian” countries that still do not recognize Beijing, preferring Taipei. In between, all other Chinese from officials and tycoons to ordinary subjects and overseas Chinese fit in their own circles, further and further from the imperial coreas do foreign states both large and small, both near and far, both already respectful (too few) and those still arrogantly vainglorious. It is the long-range task of China’s external policy to bring each and every state into a proper relationship with the emperor—that is, a tributary relationship, in which they deliver goods and services if only as tokens of fealty, in exchange for security and prosperity, but even more for the privilege of proximity to the globally benevolent emperor1. All this is of course nothing more than an exceptionally elaborate rendition of universal ambitions that are merely grander for the greater—the Byzantine ranking of foreign potentates by their proximity to the emperor was only slightly less elaborate.

Nor is there anything peculiarly Chinese about the desire to bring other states into a tributary relationship—often better than a full incorporation, which may be unwanted for any number of reasons, and obviously superior to an alliance however close and secure but between equals, whereby there must be reciprocity, a quid for every quo, usually costly or irksome in some way. Hence from time immemorial, stronger clans, tribes, potentates, and entire nations have done their best to impose tributary relations on weaker clans, tribes, potentates and nations, obtaining goods and services for their forbearance and perhaps protection, or at least tokens of respectful subordination. Chinese emperors wanted no more than that, and unlike most recipients, not infrequently gave gifts more valuable than the tribute they received (as did many Byzantine emperors, by the way).

What is peculiar to China’s political culture, and of very great contemporary relevance is the centrality within it of a very specific doctrine on how to bring powerful foreigners—indeed foreigners initially more powerful than the empire—into a tributary relationship.

Be sure to read on in order to find out how it would be applied to us.

25 Jun 2014

“Six Years of Continual Foreign Policy Failure”

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ObamaTothe-rescue

Walter Russell Mead delivers, what Andrew Sullivan calls, “a majestically sweeping indictment of everything [P]resident Obama has achieved in foreign policy over the last six years.”

One wishes we had a Republican President right now if only because when a Republican is in the White House, the media and the chattering classes believe they have a solemn moral duty to categorize and analyze the failures of American strategy and policy. Today that is far from the case; few in the mainstream press seem interested in tracing the full and ugly course of the six years of continual failure that dog the footsteps of the hapless Obama team in a region the White House claimed to understand. Nothing important has gone right for the small and tightly knit team that runs American Middle East policy. Most administrations have one failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking; this administration has two, both distinctly more ignominious and damaging than average. The opening to the Middle East, once heralded by this administration as transformative, has long vanished; no one even talks about the President’s speeches in Cairo and Istanbul anymore, unless regional cynics are looking for punch lines for bitter jokes. The support for the “transition to democracy” in Egypt ended on as humiliating a note as the “red line” kerfuffle in Syria. The spectacular example of advancing human rights by leading from behind in Libya led to an unmitigated disaster from which not only Libya but much of north and west Africa still suffers today.

Rarely has an administration so trumpeted its superior wisdom and strategic smarts; rarely has any American administration experienced so much ignominious failure, or had its ignorance and miscalculation so brutally exposed. No one, ever, will call this administration’s Middle East policies to date either competent or wise—though the usual press acolytes will continue to do what they can to spread a forgiving haze over the strategic collapse of everything this White House has attempted, as they talk about George W. Bush at every chance they get.

Now, from the ruins of the Obama Administration’s Middle East strategy, the most powerful and dangerous group of religious fanatics in modern history has emerged in the heart of the Middle East. The rise of ISIS is a strategic defeat of the first magnitude for the United States and its allies (as well as countries like Russia and even China). It is a perfect storm of bad policy intersecting with troubled times to create the gravest threat to U.S. and world stability since the end of the Cold War.

The mainstream press and the professional chatterboxes of the news shows need to set aside their squeamishness at poring over the details of a major strategic failure by a liberal Democrat. The rise of ISIS/ISIL is a disaster that must be examined and understood. How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lost—and why? What role did the administration’s trademark dithering and hairsplitting over aid to ISIS’s rivals in the Syrian opposition play in the rise of the radicals?

Read the whole thing.

14 Jun 2014

Looking For Obama’s Foreign Policy?

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ObamasForeignPolicy

Hat tip to Clarice Feldman.

20 May 2014

Charles Lipson on Obama’s Foreign Policy Meltdown

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My Yale classmate, Charles Lipson is Professor of Political Science, specializing in international relations and international political history, at the University of Chicago.

This Chicago Tribune editorial demonstrates that Obama has lost the moderate professoriate,

At a recent meeting with two dozen Chicago leaders, some Democrats, some Republicans, I asked a simple question, “Can anyone name a significant American achievement in world affairs over the past five years?”

The room was completely silent. Since the group had traveled widely, I posed a second question, “Have any of you visited countries where relations with America are better than five years ago?” Again, silence.

These were people who zip all over the globe and deal with senior officials. Many had backed Barack Obama’s historic presidential candidacy in 2008 and his re-election in 2012. Yet they were stumped when asked to name any recent achievement in American foreign policy.

Over the past few months, I have posed the same questions to a variety of groups, some American, some European and Asian. Can anyone think of a major American success on the global stage? Can anyone name a stronger bilateral relationship? Silence. There’s usually an awkward pause before they begin grumbling about America’s sinking stature and incoherent policies. …

Today, the Obama strategy is a smoking ruin, torched by reality. That’s why nobody, including Hillary Clinton, can name any foreign policy achievements. The president has not acknowledged these gaping failures or devised a new approach beyond his rhetorical “pivot to Asia,” which infuriated our allies in Europe and the Middle East.

The president needs to articulate a coherent new strategy to contain a belligerent Russia, a rising China, a nuclear-obsessed Iran, and a resurgent al-Qaida terror network. He needs to finalize trade agreements with Europe and Asia, both to buttress our economy and to strengthen our alliances. He needs to stop voting “present” on the Keystone XL pipeline and give Canada an up-or-down decision. He needs to assure Europe that America is rapidly developing alternatives to its dependence on Russian natural gas. In short, he needs to stop lurching, rudderless, from crisis to crisis, outmaneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, and even the Syrian Baathists. It’s time for the president to discard his old, failed strategy, formulate a new approach, and offer some leadership before he, too, passes the baton.

This editorial is behind a subscription firewall. To get around it, just Google “America’s meltdown abroad.”

12 Sep 2012

How To Respond

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Islamist mob with some members wearing Guy Fawkes masks storms US Embassy in Cairo to tear down US flag on September 11.

On September 11th, the anniversary of the murder of 3000 innocent US civilians by Islamist fanatics, Muslim mobs attacked American diplomatic facilities in Cairo and Benghazi.

In Cairo, the mob merely tore down and desecrated the American flag, but in Benghazi a local militia stormed and burned the US consulate and murdered four diplomatic personnel (and several, at least two, Marine guards defending them).

So what should an American president do?

I have a few suggestions for Mr. Obama.

1) Freeze all Libyan and Egyptian assets.

2) Cancel all aid to Libya and Egypt.

3) Announce rewards for delivery to US military authorities of mullahs and militia leaders responsible for the riots and all prominent participants.

4) Launch cruise missile attacks on several principal Islamicist sites, including mosques, militia headquarters, &c. in Benghazi and Cairo. In the selection of targets, err on the side of excess.

5) Demand reparations of $10 billion from Libya, $1 billion from Egypt. (Russia received a very large and historic diamond in compensation in 1829 from Persia after the murder of its ambassador by a similar mob.

5) Announce a US Naval and Air embargo on flights and shipping from both countries to be sustained until the perpetrators have been captured and delivered and reparations have been paid. Shoot down any attempted flights, sink any ships trying to enter or leave the territorial waters of Libya or Egypt.

6) The President should make a speech informing the Islamic world that the United States will no longer regard extremist groups committing outrages against Americans or citizens of other civilized nations as distinct and separate from the governments of the same Islamic states which harbor them, fail to prevent their actions, and whose citizens provide their funding. Henceforward, any attack by Islamic extremists on Americans or citizens of allied civilized nations will be avenged promptly and with the utmost severity by similar acts of war directed at the governments, civil populations, national properties, and in particular Islamic religious sites on such a scale as which will cause Muslims everywhere to rue the day they permitted those extremists to act in their name. We are strong, Muslims are weak, and we will in future no longer refrain from avenging our people.


Islamist mob parades the body of murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.


A slightly enlarged version of this Google map of Benghazi identifies locations of mosques.

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CORRECTION, 9/13:

No Marines were killed, because evidently no Marines were present at the Benghazi Consulate to defend the ambassador. Politico.

Some commenters here have claimed that the photograph (which seems to have originated from a South Asian news source) shows Libyans trying to assist the ambassador. I think the photo image is indefinite. It isn’t clear whether Stevens is dead or barely alive, and the viewer cannot tell exactly what the men around him are doing. I simply quoted the original sources.

There are also reports today that Ambassador Stevens was raped by the mob before his death.

30 Mar 2011

Postmodern Policy and Premodern Chaos

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The key text guiding European and American policy today is the British diplomatist Robert Cooper‘s The Postmodern State and the World Order, a thoughtful and concise (merely 20 pages) monograph published in 2002.

Cooper observes that the ethos and goals of the advanced European and American states have changed fundamentally, producing the post-modern state.

The post-modern state is one that sets value above all on the individual. Hence its unwarlike character. War is essentially a collective activity: the struggles of the twentieth century have been the struggles of liberalism – the doctrine of the individual – against different forms of collectivism: class, nation, race, community, state. In their different ways both fascism and communism were systems designed for war. Fascism was open about it: its ethos and rhetoric – the uniforms, parades, the glorification of war: the state did not just have a monopoly on violence; violence was its raison d’être.

Communism also seems, in retrospect, like an attempt to run a state as though it were an army, and as if the country were continuously at war. Not for nothing was the term ‘command economy’ used. Both communism and fascism were attempts to resist the break-up of society brought about by the ideas of the enlightenment and the technology of the industrial revolution. Both ideologies tried to provide protection for the individual against the loneliness and uncertainty of life in a modernising society. Both tried to use the state to replace the sense of community that was lost as industrial cities replaced agricultural villages (and both thereby maintained inter alia the intrusiveness and conformity of the village too: ‘Upper Volta with
rockets’ – was exactly what they aimed at in a way: village life plus state power). These were thus the culminating points of the modern state – raison d’état made into a system of domestic governance as well as foreign policy.

The post-modern state is the opposite. The individual has won and foreign policy becomes the continuation of domestic concerns beyond national boundaries and not vice versa. Individual consumption replaces collective glory as the dominant theme of national life. War is to be avoided; empire is of no interest.

The result is the neglect of, and the post-modern world’s abandonment of the responsibility for governing, the premodern uncivilized and undeveloped portions of the planet.

What is different today is that the imperial urge is dead in the countries most capable of imperialism. Land and natural resources (with the exception of oil), are no longer a source of power for the most technologically advanced countries. Governing people, especially potentially hostile people, is a burden. No one today wants to pay the costs of saving distant countries from ruin. The pre-modern world belongs, as it were, in a different time zone: here, as in the ancient world, the choice is again between empire or chaos. And today, because none of us sees the use of empires, we have chosen chaos.

As a result we have, for the first time since the nineteenth century, a terra nullius. It may remain so or it may not. The existence of such a zone of chaos is nothing new; but previously such areas, precisely because of their chaos, were isolated from the rest of the world. Not so today when a country without much law and order can still have an international airport. …

The zone of chaos, nonetheless, will at times require attention, even intervention.

What of the pre-modern chaos? What should we do with that? On the basis of a rational calculation of interest, the answer should be: as little as possible. Chaos does not represent a threat, at least not the kind that requires a conventional military response. One may need to bar one’s door against its by-products – drugs, disease, refugees – but these are not threats to vital interests that call for armed Western intervention. To become involved in a zone of chaos is risky; if the intervention is prolonged it may become unsustainable in public opinion; if the intervention is unsuccessful it may be damaging to the government that ordered it.

Besides, what form should intervention take? The most logical way to deal with chaos is by colonisation, or hegemony. But this is unacceptable to post-modern states: so if the goal is not colonisation, what should it be? Usually the answer will be that the goals will be ambiguous.

The risk of ‘mission creep’ is therefore considerable. Those who become involved in the pre-modern world run the risk that ultimately they will be there because they are there. All the conventional wisdom and all realistic doctrines of international affairs counsel against involvement in the pre-modern world.

And yet such ‘realistic’ doctrines, for all their intellectual coherence, are not realistic. The post-Cold War, post-modern environment is one where foreign policy will be driven by domestic politics; and these will be influenced by the media and by moral sentiment. We no longer live in the world of pure national interest. Human rights and humanitarian problems inevitably play an important part in our policy-making.

A new world order may not be a reality but it is an important aspiration, especially for those who live in a new European order. The wish to protect individuals, rather than to resolve the security problems of states, is a part of the post-modern ethos. In a world where many states suffer breakdowns, there is wide scope for humanitarian intervention. Northern Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia and Rwanda are only the beginning of a trend. Operations in these areas are a halfway house between the calculation of interest which tells you not to get involved and the moral feeling which tells the public that something must be done. In different ways, all these operations have been directed towards helping civilians – against the military, the government or the chaos. The results are not always impressive and the interventions are in some respects half-hearted. That is because they live in the ambiguous halfworld where interest tells you to stay out and conscience tells you to go in – between Hobbes and Kant. Such interventions may not solve problems, but they may salve the conscience. And they are not necessarily the worse for that.

Thus we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are going to get involved in situations where interest and calculation would tell us to stay out. In this case, there are some rules to observe. The first is to moderate the objectives to the means available. The wars of ideology called for total victory; the wars of interests call for victory; in the premodern world victory is not a relevant objective.

Victory in the pre-modern world would mean empire. The postmodern power who is there to save the lives of individual civilians wants to stop short of that. In consequence, goals must be even more carefully defined than in wars of interest. They will be goals of relatives and not of absolutes: more lives saved, lower levels of violence among the local populations; and these must be balanced by low casualties for the interveners. At the same time, we must be prepared to accept, indeed we must expect, failure a good deal of the time. And then we must be prepared to cut our losses and leave.

The post-modern state, thus, finds itself guided in its policies by the media, crafting news reports to maximize readership through sensationalism and emotionalist appeals and framing all of its analysis to fit favored stereotypes, and by the sentimental response of its mass audience.

Mr. Cooper fails to observe the further obvious conclusion, which is that the foreign ministry of the post-modern state has been, de facto, turned over to an ill-informed, irresponsible mass entity with essentially the powers of reasoning and analysis and emotional maturity of an adolescent girl.

30 Jan 2011

Tunisia, Then Egypt, Then?

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Richard Fernandez thinks that a string of Middle Eastern dominoes are teetering and pictures just how bad the US economy is going to look if they all should happen to fall.

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Egyptian army officers in Cairo’s central square have tossed aside their helmets and joined the crowd. “The Army and the people are one,” they chanted. MSNBC’s photoblog shows protesters jubilantly perched on M1A1 tanks. The real significance of these defections is that the army officers would not have done so had they not sensed which way the winds were blowing — in the Egyptian officer corps.

And even as Mubarak tottered, the Saudi king threw his unequivocal backing behind the aging dictator — not hedging like Obama — but the Iranians continued to back the Egyptian protesters. The Saudi exchange tumbled 6.44% on news of unrest from Cairo. Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that Israel is “extremely concerned” that events in Egypt could mean the end of the peace treaty between the two countries. If Mubarak isn’t finished already, a lot of regional actors are calculating like he might be. …

    “If this can happen in Egypt, there is no reason that it can’t occur in Libya or Saudi Arabia,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy.

Unrest within, and therefore the loss of Saudi Arabia to the West, is now a thinkable proposition.

Indeed, events in Egypt are likely to prove as damaging to Riyadh as to Washington. Teheran will have won a great diplomatic victory over the kingdom if Mubarak is thrown out on his ear. Iran backed the demonstrators; the Saudi king backed Mubarak. This follows on the heels of the Saudi defeat in Lebanon. Washington had been counting on Saudi Arabia to hold off the Hezbollah, and the kingdom lost. With the Hezbollah in power, the flag of Iran may soon symbolically fly over Beirut and Cairo.

Worse, the Sunni coalition which Washington counted on to contain Iran is now a broken reed. The horse President Obama hoped to ride to the battle is now broken down and being hauled to the glue factory. With a Shi’ite dominated government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a Muslim Brotherhood that may keep Egypt in neutral or tacitly accept Teheran’s leadership, how could things possibly get worse?

They can if Saudi Arabia starts to go. And what response can the U.S. offer? With U.S. combat power in landlocked Afghanistan and with the last U.S. combat forces having left Iraq in August 2010, the U.S. will have little on the ground but the State Department. …

Events are unfolding, but they have not yet run their course; things are still continuing to cascade. If the unrest spreads to the point where the Suez and regional oil fall into anti-Western hands, the consequences would be incalculable. The scale of the left’s folly: their insistence on drilling moratoriums, opposition to nuclear power, support of negotiations with dictators at all costs, calls for unilateral disarmament, addiction to debt and their barely disguised virulent anti-Semitism should be too manifest to deny.

Because it will hit them where it hurts, in the lifestyle they somehow thought came from some permanent Western prosperity that was beyond the power of their fecklessness to destroy. It will be interesting to see if anyone can fill up their cars with carbon credits when oil the tankers stop coming or when black gold is marked at $500 a barrel. It is even possible that within a relatively short time the only government left friendly to Washington in the Middle East may be Iraq. There is some irony in that, but it is unlikely to be appreciated.

01 Aug 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

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The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia announced their intention to block Blackberry reception in response to Research In Motion (RIM)’s failure to facilitate government monitoring of transmissions. Mohammed Al Ghanem, director general of the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), said “In their current form, certain Blackberry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the UAE.”

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John Kerry apologizes for getting caught.

Kerry’s 76 foot yacht and the taxes he was trying to avoid paying. MSNBC

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Despite ethics lapses, democrats sticking with Rangel.

[L]awmakers say the dearth of calls for Rangel’s head reflects a mix of respect for both him personally and the institution. They see a veteran member of Congress and a war hero who has served the nation and Harlem in Washington and don’t want to “jump on his bones,” as one Democrat put it. …

Second, Democrats believe the Rangel scandal isn’t really hurting them all that badly back in their home districts. Some House Democrats think the media are overplaying the possible national implications of the case.

“I am not aware of anyone who is going to lose their election over this,” said one senior Democrat. “Until it becomes a problem for other members, they will stick with Charlie.”

Rangel’s three-stage defense: “I didn’t do it. I did it, but was inattentive. Others lawmakers were allowed to do the same thing without penalty.”

Barack Obama hopes Charlie Rangel can “end his career with dignity.”

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Undiscussed explosive recession bomb: lifetime savings of middle-class wiped out as unemployed Americans use savings and retirement plans to stay temporarily afloat.

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Even Harvard liberal Stephen M. Walt grades Obama 0 for 4 in Foreign Policy.

30 Jul 2010

A House Divided Felt Round the World

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Rep. Barney F. Bourbon

Richard Fernandez identifies the international aspects of the thesis of Angelo Codevilla’s recent important essay.

Niall Ferguson is touring Australia warning that the end of American dominance may be imminent and sudden. Somehow the ideas in Codevilla’s essay are popping up everywhere, whether people have read it or not. Ferguson describes how rapidly empires can fall.

    The Bourbon monarchy in France passed from triumph to terror with astonishing rapidity. The sun set on the British Empire almost as suddenly. The Suez crisis in 1956 proved that Britain could not act in defiance of the US in the Middle East, setting the seal on the end of empire.

But those things happen only to the denizens of history. People who live in the today usually think they are different. So despite evidence of dramatic change, people who have spent their whole lives among the policy certainties of the postwar period find it difficult to accept they may have to build a world of their own from first principles. Ferguson asks his audience: “what would you do in a world without America? Has the question even crossed your mind?”

Australia’s post-war foreign policy has been, in essence, to be a committed ally of the US. But what if the sudden waning of American power that I fear brings to an abrupt end the era of US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region? Are we ready for such a dramatic change in the global balance of power? Judging by what I have heard here since I arrived last Friday, the answer is no. Australians are simply not thinking about such things.

But if the Australians are not thinking about it, the Chinese are certainly preparing for it. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that Beijing objected to the right of US naval vessels to exercise in the Yellow Sea, despite the fact that they are international waters. At least they used to be. Waters are only international if kept so by a powerful navy committed to the freedom of the seas. People sometimes forget that treaties reflect realities rather than create them, no matter what the European Union may think. …

[Caroline Glick observes that] “[j]ust as US bureaucrats, journalists, politicians and domestic policy wonks tend to combine forces to perpetuate and expand the sclerotic and increasingly bankrupt welfare state, so their foreign policy counterparts tend to collaborate to perpetuate failed foreign policy paradigms that have become writs of faith for American and Western elites.” In other words, when it comes down to funding politics or funding defense, fund politics. Ferguson made the same point more starkly: “it is quite likely that the US could be spending more on interest payments than on defense within the next decade.”

If the love of money is the root of all evil, the lack of it is the cause of the fall of empires. Ferguson gave some examples:

    Think of Spain in the 17th century: already by 1543 nearly two-thirds of ordinary revenue was going on interest on the juros, the loans by which the Habsburg monarchy financed itself.

    Or think of France in the 18th century: between 1751 and 1788, the eve of Revolution, interest and amortisation payments rose from just over a quarter of tax revenue to 62 per cent.

    Finally, consider Britain in the 20th century. Its real problems came after 1945, when a substantial proportion of its now immense debt burden was in foreign hands. Of the pound stg. 21 billion national debt at the end of the war, about pound stg. 3.4bn was owed to foreign creditors, equivalent to about a third of gross domestic product.

    Alarm bells should therefore be ringing very loudly indeed in Washington, as the US contemplates a deficit for 2010 of more than $US1.47 trillion ($1.64 trillion), about 10 per cent of GDP, for the second year running.

But alarm bells aren’t ringing in Washington. The entire alarm system has been disabled, disconnected, perhaps scrapped. Anyone who wants to turn it back on will have to root through the dumpster to see if any usable parts can still be retrieved. No better symptom of the absence of alarms is the genuine astonishment of Charles Rangel that it is illegal to break the law. Almost as a matter of course he concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, used Congressional letterhead to solicit donations for private causes, took four rent controlled apartments for himself. Innocently. He probably didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Things had been so sweet, so long that even after he was offered the chance to negotiate his way out of 13 separate violations of House rules and federal statutes he simply refused to believe it was happening.

Like Brecht’s fictional Atlantean who “the night the seas rushed in … still bellowed for their slaves,” the members of what Codevilla called the “ruling class” can’t believe it is happening. They still want their last dollar, their last perk. Literally, no matter what. “Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank caused a scene when he demanded a $1 senior discount on his ferry fare to Fire Island’s popular gay haunt, The Pines, last Friday. Frank was turned down by ticket clerks at the dock in Sayville because he didn’t have the required Suffolk County Senior Citizens ID. A witness reports, ‘Frank made such a drama over the senior rate that I contemplated offering him the dollar to cool down the situation.’”

The worst thing about the ferry incident is the possibility that if the witness had really offered Frank the dollar he might actually have taken it. Automatically; out of conditioning, like a Pavlovian dog. The culture in which the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee rose to power is one in which it is OK to blithely borrow more money than the entire defense budget can service and yet refuse to spend one whole dollar of his own money. The ethos of that world can be captured in one phrase: “don’t you know who I am?”

19 Apr 2010

Isn’t It Awful About the US Being the Dominant Military Superpower?

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These kinds of partisan displays of particularist chauvinism always offend enlightened people.

FoxNews points out a not-even-Freudian lapse in Barack Obama’s recent remarks.

To a member in good standing of the community of fashion, like the current president, internalization of a galaxy of liberal perspectives embracing Pacifism, World Government, and Equality, and viewing with distaste anything to do with the military or the use of force, competition, conflict, and above all else any presumption to superiority on the part of the United States is de riguer.

In a little-noticed remark at the close of the two-day nuclear security summit in Washington, D.C., this week, President Obama suggested the United States is somehow burdened by its military might — a comment that drew a stern rebuke from his former rival in the presidential campaign.

Obama was responding to a question Tuesday about how the summit would play into peace-making efforts in the Middle East when he addressed the downsides of — by virtue of America’s world stature — being obligated to intervene in international conflicts.

“It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower, and when conflicts break out, one way or another we get pulled into them,” Obama said. “And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

In Barack Obama’s ideal mental world, the United States would simply be one more docile and obedient member state of the United Nations, or the Federation, which long ago renounced sovereignty and the use of force and which transferred all its armaments to the Central World Authority. Any particular disagreement with Iran, China, or some minor Pacific atoll would be gravely adjudicated by the wise and disinterested Supreme High Council, a compromise imposed, and universal peace perpetually preserved.

What a pity it is that as enlightened a being as the Chosen One is obliged to conduct a competitive foreign policy based on military force representing a technologically advanced, but morally backward, predominantly Christian and European power that continually asserts its own preeminence in world affairs, in a manner inevitably offending other nations. Naturally, Barack Obama would rather apologize and disarm.

18 Apr 2010

The Emperor Has No Strategy

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Much like the Emperor in the fairy tale who had no clothes, Barack Obama has received a wake-up call in the form of a secret memo from his own Secretary of Defense warning that his administration has no strategy for coping with a nuclear Iran.

Of course, in this case, it is the United States, her civilian population and her allies, who are naked and embarrassed by exposure to the threat of nuclear blackmail or actual attack by surrogates of the fanatical Iranian regime.


New York Times
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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo’s contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a “virtual” nuclear weapons state.

According to several officials, the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iran’s power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.

13 Apr 2010

The Goal of Obama’s Foreign Policy

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Can it be accidental that Obama persists in bowing to foreign leaders like China’s President Hu Jintao?

Victor Davis Hanson can see no rational direction to Barack Obama’s foreign policy and bitterly complains that “Obama has no idea of what he is doing, and wings his way from one embarrassment to another.”

But Michael Ledeen thinks Hanson has overlooked the obvious explanation of what Obama means to do.

[W]hat if Obama does know what he’s doing? What if Victor has it right when he says that we are being transformed into a much larger version of the E.U.? (Actually, it’s a somewhat smaller version, but no matter.) …

He is not an admirer of America. He believes that America’s past behavior is the root cause of the world’s problems, and he wants to bring America under control by making it just another European country: impotent in world affairs (except for spreading the wealth) and stripped of its traditional exceptionalism at home.

That’s what his latest initiatives are all about, the new nuclear policy and the removal of clarity from our national-security doctrine by banning words like “jihad” and “Islam.” Since he considers us the problem, he imposes a nuclear doctrine that reins in America — the root cause of evil in the world. And since he wants to turn America into a weak country that will accept the political correctness of the feckless “international community,” he adjusts our language to bring it into line with the U.N.’s version of Newspeak.

It’s worse than you thought, Victor. It’s not confusion at all. It’s a campaign to cut America down to size.

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