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Suspended

I have suspended writing new posts for this blog.  I watch the Republican presidential debates and listen to the debate about bombing Iran and am speechless.  There is hardly anything left to say.

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Obama Couldn’t, Maybe Paul Can

Once again, blogs are on fire.  This week, Andrew Sullivan, the maestro of the blogsphere, endorsed Ron Paul for the GOP nomination.  (He still supports Obama for the general elections.)  Others, including other media, criticized Fox News for their condescending and unfair coverage of Paul’s campaign, and Fox ended up giving Paul an unusual amount of time in this week’s debate to explain his ideas.

Jonathan Chait is astounded that many left-of-center politicos or pundits so appreciate a man whom he chronicles as promoting some serious racist views.  Frum blames everything sectarian about today’s GOP on the libertarian trend that Paul represents.

Wow! The ‘intellectuals’ -both right and left – seem obsessed with Paul.  Why? After all, Paul had an intense and vocal following in 2008 which got him into the GOP debates as a sid-show.

This year is different.  He may even win Iowa and has shown stamina in other states leading up to the primaries.  More importantly, at a time when it’s downright embarrassing to listen to what comes out of the mouths of each GOP candidate for the presidential nomination, Paul is at least consistent, humble and genuine.  This in itself is attracking attention.

But Paul’s real contribution to American politics in 2011 is his uncompromising anti-interventionist foreign policy framework.

In 2008, Obama held out the promise of the new path for US foreign policy.  He was against the Iraq war and pledged to ‘talk to’ enemies like Iran and to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Obama instead has proved a ‘realist’ without the scope and vision that once defined realism nor does he offer an integral, unique vision arising from his own views.

Here comes Paul.  The Iraq war was a huge waste of money.  So are all the other costs of America policing of the world.  Iran isn’t a threat; it doesn’t even have the flying ability to reach the US.  In fact, Iran reacts to what it sees as American military moves all around it, primarily American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this summer NATO actions in Libya, with threats against its ally, Syria.  Iraq is in defensive, not offensive, mode.

Israel is more a problem than an asset for the United States. Why should the US stay involved in the ‘peace process’?  Let them figure it out on their own.

Paul is the only politician within the Democrats or Republicans who can and does consistently advocate a new way of looking at the US role in the world.  His world view counters establishment ‘realism’, ‘neoconservatism’ , ‘liberal imperialism’, an ill-define and muffled ‘Obama’ doctrine and other theories so in vogue in America since it became a Great Power after WW2 – a phenomenal rise for a country not yet 200 years old!

Paul appealed to strong sentiments within the American electorate in last night’s GOP debate.  Why are we trying to change the world: we have too many problems here.  All the money going into war would be better spent here.

Paul ignores  ‘popular’ intellectual discussions about, say, Iran.  He offers up a completely different world view.  It’s no longer ‘should we have given more  support to the Green movement’ or ‘how close are the Mullahs to possessing a nuclear bomb’?

It’s ‘why are we in this conflict with Iran in the first place’?  Maybe Iran is reacting to the Anglo-American coup against their democratically-elected government in 1953; the forced installation of a brutal Shah; support for Iraq during the Iraq/Iran war; the rejection of Iran’s olive branch to the US after 9/11?

I voted for Obama because I thought he would put American foreign policy on a new track.  I thought he might actually do something with Iran on the same level that Nixon did with China.  But that takes skill, patience and sometimes years of preparation, not to mention a clear understanding on both sides of what each gets out of it.  It didn’t happen.

I thought Obama would actually work behind the scenes for a regional solution to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Deals with Assad. Deals with Saudi Arabia.  That did not take off.

Paul dismisses all that. As a candidate he asks: could America help build an international order based on trade that could move beyond the balance of power politics that has been the foundation of international relations for several centuries.

I may be reading too much into Paul’s views as well as Obama’s.  But the world went from a regional balance of power framework for understanding   foreign policy relations, into a two superpowers framework, and now into something variously described as a’unipolar’ model, a ‘multi-polar’ world or a ‘hyper power’ framework.  If not these, then the foundation is  ‘American decline’ and paralysis among everyone else.

This is too much, too fast.  Someone who can get the stage has to advocate for a competing world view.  That wasn’t Obama.  At least for a moment, it’s Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentagon: Pants on Fire

(click to right under ‘featured’ for a previous article)

The Pentagon is itching to sell armed drones to NATO allies, supposedly to spread the burden of reconnaissance and direct hits on terrorists in Afghanistan and future war arenas.  The US already sells drones, also known as UNFs, for reconnaissance to many countries, but only the UK is authorized to receive the armed version.  The stakes are enormous.

Drones don’t spell out a new area of warfare in the same way the atomic and hydrogen bombs ushered in a new arena of war and war lexicon.  ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ is the key strategic ‘insight’ atomic powers developed, particularly the US and Soviets, to manage and prevent nuclear warfare.  ‘Containment’ of another nuclear power became US policy against the option of appeasement of the USSR after WW2 or immediate preparation a new war over Europe.

If the atomic age made warfare too destructive for any power to unleash it, the drone age makes it more antiseptic and distant.  Big land, air and sea battles were fought to take out enemy defenses, equipment and offensive capability, always measured in terms of infrastructure destroyed and enemy killed.

What will become the measure of successful drone warfare?  So far, it’s been mainly used for assassination and highly targeted killings of individuals or groups of individuals without as much ‘collateral waste’ or civilian casualties associated with traditional warfare.

Does that mean that in the future the first goal in war will be cutting off an enemy’s head?  Will the initial knocking out the Pattons and McAuthurs and Petraeus’s, then the next five layers of leadership spell quick victory?  How would that reconcile with the truly vicious bombing of WW2 where high-tech equipment and distance from the target actually encouraged more carnage?

We don’t know the answers.  We haven’t had much of a discussion.  For the Defense Department to sell armed drone, even to allies  would be premature and dangerous.

Of course, even if armed drone become popular in the future, no one should doubt America’s resolve or technical know-how to build even more lethal, hidden and sanitary methods to kill enemy forces to stay one step ahead.

 

 

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Think Budget Will Get Resolved: Think Again

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China and ‘Gun-Boat Diplomacy’

IT may seem strange in an era of cyberwarfare and drone attacks, but the newest front in the rivalry between the United States and China is a tropical sea, where the drive to tap rich offshore oil and gas reserves has set off a conflict akin to the gunboat diplomacy of the 19th century.

The Obama administration first waded into the treacherous waters of the South China Sea last year when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, at a tense meeting of Asian countries in Hanoi, that the United States would join Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in resisting Beijing’s efforts to dominate the sea. China, predictably, was enraged by what it viewed as American meddling. – New York Times

It’s not strange. It’s alarming!  Then today, President Obama announced that the US will station troops in Australia, its first new Pacific troop deployment since the Vietnam War.

Mr. Obama and his Sec/State tell us that American allies in the region (Vietnam, Philipines, Indonesia) are begging for a stronger US military presence in the Pacific to off-set China’s.  They don’t explain how this jives with China being the major trading partner of those same nations.

The competition boils down, once again, to energy.  More and more, oil will be discovered and pumped from large sea deposits.  China claims a large part of the South China Sea but other countries challenge those claims.  China has explicitly thrown its support behind regional talks on solving the problem. Right now, the islands at issue are uninhabited and worthless.  No country has plans to drill into the sea anytime soon, although exploration continues.

Who is the aggressor?

China doesn’t even have one aircraft carrier.  It has not attempted to project its military power globally and has not foreign bases.  It is slowly rebuilding its navy but spends only a fraction of GDP on its military compared to the US.   Talks among the nations on the South China Sea are ongoing.

So why is the Obama Administration rattling sabres in East Asia?

 

 

 

 

 

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Existential Threat to Israel? Netanyahu Government

In another last-minute turn-around, Israeli PM Netanyahu failed to bring Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax money to a vote by his cabinet.  Defense Minister Barak and officers from the military spoke for releasing the Palestinian money (collected from Palestinian economic activity) immediately and without conditions.  The Israeli military fears that if the PA collapses from a crippling financial emergency, the West Bank will become even more volatile and a real danger to Israel’s security.

PM Netanyahu had signaled he favored releasing the Palestinian money but the ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs opposed the release.  In addition, Haaretz reports that Netanyahu was told the Palestinians had hardened their position regarding peace negotiations, and Netanyahu retaliated by shelving the Cabinet vote to release the funds.  As if the two are related! They are not.

Above the policy implications, Netanyahu’s decision underscores his own mercurial nature and why so many Palestinians and Europeans don’t trust him.

Mr. Netanyahu apparently wants to break the PA and take Israeli/Palestinian relations back to the pre-Oslo period.  He has already negated provisions that two former PMs (Barak and Olmert) negotiated as part of a  ‘final status’ treaty solution and insists that negotiations under his Administration start at zero.

While Defense Minister Barak argued that continued withholding of Palestinian revenue adds to the increasing friction between the two sides and Israel’s negative reputation in the international community, Netanyahu signaled he doesn’t really care about those consequences.

Does Netanyahu care if the PA collapses?  Apparently not.  He released hundreds of PA prisoners, including known terrorists and sent some back to the West Bank, the rest to Gaza, where some will once again be tempted towards violence.   Either West Bank violence or the PA’s collapse would draw immediate Israeli retaliation up to and including the return to full occupation of Gaza and the West Bank with full Palestinian dependency on Israel.

Netanyahu’s vision of the immediate future looks increasingly like a lurch into the pre-Oslo past.  If so, all bets are off and all restraints will be removed in the Middle East.  And this is a man in charge of over 200 nuclear missiles!  No wonder Iran wants its own bomb.

 

 

 

 

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Does IAEC Report Say Anything New?

Not according to the Arms Control Association:

The broad outline in the IAEA’s latest report on the military dimensions of Iran’s program is not new, but rather, provides greater detail regarding weapons-related activities outlined in previous public reports.

The IAEA report and annex reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some time: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others.

The activities documented in the IAEA report, including research related to nuclear warheads, underscore that Tehran’s claims that it is only seeking the peaceful use of nuclear energy are false.

Iran’s warhead work also contradicts its obligation not to pursue nuclear weapons under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which states parties commit “not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

The report suggests that Iran is working to shorten the timeframe to building the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.

The report should prompt greater international pressure on Tehran to respond more fully to the IAEA’s questions, allow for more extensive inspections of its nuclear facilities, engage more seriously in talks on its nuclear program, and to agree to confidence building steps to help resolve the crisis.

In other words, Tehran is moving towards being capable of building a nuclear bomb and war-head delivery system, does not have one now nor is the IAEA is reporting an imminent threat.

The ambiguity in Iran’s intentions, not to mention those of Israel and the US, also shows no sign of lifting anytime soon.


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Why Israel Won’t Bomb Iran

Why should it?  It appears Israel and the US have a covert strategy that is building obstacles for Iran on several fronts of its nuclear program.  Top Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in the last few years.  A virus set back the complex computer networks necessary for a nuclear program.

Now, more and more people are speculating that a large explosion in a Tehran missile factory last Saturday was not, as the government claims, an accident but may have been the work of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.  Even without Israeli involvement, the death of Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the leader of Iran’s missile programs and favorite of the Ayatollah Khamenei,  is in Israel’s interests.  Mastering the technology needed to build a nuclear bomb is one part of a weapons program.  Developing missiles and warheads that can carry a nuclear device is the other.

“Something strange is happening in Israel,” former IDF General Israela Oren told 300-plus guests attending a Jstreet luncheon yesterday.  She referred to the open discussion within Israeli media about PM Netanyahu’s efforts to gain support from his cabinet for a bombing raid on Iranian nuclear facilities.   Usually, such talk is kept secret and discouraged by the government, so the recent speculative chatting is seen by many Israelis as a smoke-screen shifting focus away from covert actions or else as a hawkish ploy to drive the US and Europe into tougher sanctions against Iran.  Most of the Israeli military and intelligence networks seem opposed to a military strike against Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

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