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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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Study: Brain Drain Helps Poor Countries

It sounds counter-intuitive, but a new study finds that countries whose highly skilled citizens emigrate to seek their treasure in more developed countries are not ‘draining’ but actually ‘building’ the local economies where they were born, as long as the percentage doesn’t top 20%.

Why?  A few points in the study: those who emigrate and ‘make it’ inspire others in their country to learn professions and skills (not all of them will emigrate); remittances sent back to the home country; the stability of remittances during times of crisis; the long-term prospects of remittances (cash coming into the country) that are not subject to shorter-term profit requirements as commercial investment may be.

The money that migrants send home is a huge source of income for poor countries. Recorded remittances to developing countries surged tenfold between 1990 and 2009, from $31 billion to $316 billion. Unrecorded ones — those envelopes stuffed with cash — nudge the total even higher. All told, remittances are more than double the amount of foreign aid sent to the developing world, and unlike aid, they are seldom stolen by grasping officials.

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North Korean Leader Dead

Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea, died Saturday.  He was 69 years old and suffered a stroke in 2008.

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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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Obama’s New ‘Security Architecture’ Finishes Bush’s War

If you ever thought that Barack Obama would change the post-Cold War/War on Terror assumptions and find a new direction for US global security policy, the last nail has been hit into the coffin of hope.

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

It is clear that the US ‘footprint’ in the Persian Gulf and Middle East will continue to expand with both the goal and justification of encircling Iran.   Although overthrowing Saddam Hussein removed the ‘natural enemy’ of Iran, thus enhancing the latter’s influence in the region, it was also a war to clear the path of an aggressive US national security strategy.   The US needed both an excuse and a place to establish a strong military presence in the region and was counting on a weak Iraq to provide both.

In addition, last year the Administration agreed to sell Saudi Arabia $60 billion in weapons and began building a tailored down ‘missile defense system’ against Iran. It will send more naval ships through international waters in the area and strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other assorted emirships and kingdoms (do we still need to add ‘undemocratic’).

Nuclear issue only part of Iran story?

The US is actively challenging Iran on its nuclear program.  But this is only half the story.  The real goal is to halt China and Russia from expanding their influence and economic partnerships in the region.

This is the stuff World Wars are made of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Europe Asks China: Bail Us Out!

In a stark sign of the times, Europe the head of the European Financial Stability Facility flew to Beijing this week, asking the Chinese, who have $3.2 trillion in foreign reserves, to invest in Europe’s recovery.  The New York Times, a reliable China-basher, is beside itself reporting:

That Europe would turn so openly to China to help stabilize the debt crisis shows how quickly the Chinese economic juggernaut has risen on the world stage. Indeed, if China comes to Europe’s aid, it will signal a new international order, with China beginning to rival the role long played by the United States as the world’s pivotal financial power.

But the Chinese aren’t so quick to bite:

A senior Chinese official, Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao, said China — like the rest of the world — was still waiting for the Europeans to deliver crucial details on how the rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, would operate and be profitable before deciding on whether to participate.

The Chinese are also worried about domestic reaction to the government investing so much in the West instead of at home.

Now, Chinese-owned companies run the biggest shipping port in Greece. They own highways and other crucial infrastructure, and are working to snap up other strategic businesses to anchor their presence on European soil.

Chinese citizens have also been venting anger on the Internet about government investments in Europe that have turned out to be anything but profitable, including billions of euros worth of volatile bond holdings from stricken countries like Spain and Greece.

Although China says it is opposed to mixing political issues with investment decisions, it has wanted Europe to recognize it as market economy, and has steadfastly refused to address US demands to raise the level of its currency.

Is the World Collapsing?

Changes in the world order are accelerating at a dizzying rate ever since the US invaded Iraq and lost credibility as the ‘can-do’ country.  Now, in the wake of the Western financial crisis, it is losing its place as the ‘go-to’ economic power.

But these are not bad things.  The economies of many other countries, particularly in Asia, have exponentially expanded in the last 30 years and that’s increased the world’s economic breadth.  The more other countries ‘catch up’ to the US,  the larger the world’s economy and greater the world market for US goods and services.  England, France and Germany survived the ascendence of US power after WW2 and they’d been destroyed by the war.

The US, never so unfortunate as to experience a major foreign war on its own soil, nor the destruction such war brings, will survive the ‘rise of China’.  It is in the economic interest of every nation in the world to see other nations prosper as well.  Access to markets and control of land – gained through claims, occupation, invasion, royal marriages, colonialism, etc. – are the fundamental reasons for war.   International organizations, not war, are the forum for handling these disputes.

If China can help save Western capitalism, why not?

 

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Hillary’s New BBF: Field Marshal Tantawi?

The other day, I mentioned Hillary Clinton’s approval of a postponed date, sometime in 2013, for the Egyptian elections, a delay the pro-democracy movement in Egypt opposes.  A column in Asia Times today gives insight into Hillary’s support of the decision by SCAF (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces) from the perspective of how the Hamas-Israeli prisoner swap ‘changed’ the geopolitical map of the Middle East.

First and foremost, Egypt is being widely applauded for its role in negotiating the swap deal and thereby it has moved to the center stage of regional politics, regaining its traditional leadership role in Arab politics. The fallouts are going to be immense in terms of its relations with the United States, Israel and its neighbors.

Conversely, the outcome of the current political transition in Egypt has transformed and has become a phenomenally significant thing for the entire region and beyond. In the process, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi may just have consolidated his power base and underscored his importance to Western powers, especially the United States. It stands to reason that the US played a behind-the-curtain role “dialoguing” with Tantawi over the intricacies of the deal and encouraging him to go ahead.

These two paragraphs are troublesome.  If ‘Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi may just have consolidated his power base and underscored his importance to Western powers’, where does that leave the Egyptian democracy movement?

The goal of the democracy movement is not to endear itself to Western powers.  It is to deliver the promise of self-determination in domestic and foreign affairs to the Egyptian public.  In contrast, the chief fear of the US and other Western powers has been the potential ‘destabilization’ of the Middle East, meaning how the Arab Spring in general and the Egyptian movement as its vanguard, might negatively affect Israel.

So the question pivots around the role of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi representing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces..  The Supreme Council so far has shown several faces to the people of Egypt and the world, leading to the following questions.  Will Tantawi turn real power in Egypt over to a civilian government?  Or will an ‘elected’ parliament and civilian President become appendages of military rule as they did under Mubarak?  Is there a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between the US and Tantawi regarding Israel?  What is the Supreme Council demanding and getting in return?  In others words, is there a plan to continue the ‘status quo’ with a different dressing?

The military council in Egypt has positioned itself expertly.  Internally, it fanned religious divisions between Coptic Christians and Muslims and used them as a reason to crack down on the democrats and postpone elections.  On the other hand, it lifted the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, knowing the Brotherhood is the most organized electoral movement in Egypt and could win the majority in Parliament.  How far has this relationship gone?

On the international front, SCAF has inserted Egypt into the middle of Palestinian-Israeli peace politics, first brokering a weak Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, then boosting Hamas with the prisoner exchange.  The Supreme Council clearly has a more activist agenda than the Mubarak regime, which had become ossified and unable to navigate deep changes in the Middle East.  SCAF’s shown it’s ability to ‘deal’ by allowing the Israeli embassy to be sacked by dissident Egyptians, then turning around to broker a prisoner exchange with Hamas that President Abbas and the PLA could not pull off.

That Clinton heralded Egypt’s role in the prisoner exchange and at the same time publicly called SCAF’s postponing democratic elections ‘appropriate’ is highly troublesome.  We’ll see.  The Supreme Council may be trying to do a deja vu Mubarak all over again and in the process, stamping out or co-opting the democratic movement.  Or it may be teaching the civilian leadership how to navigate huge international interests.  Either way Egypt is center stage as an object lesson in political maneuvering and high-stakes diplomacy.

 

 

 

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More on So-Called Iranian Plot

The more I read about the Iran Plot, the more I am disgusted and shocked at the Obama Administration.  The story has holes in it that make me shudder in the same way I did reading about Iraq’s WMD and seeing shaky US intelligence shipped around the world.

Not only are most Iranian experts registering skepticism, but now legal bloggers are adding their two cents worth.  From The Atlantic, Mary Wheeler writes:

The details provided about the $100,000 in the complaint also do not implicate Quds Force as strongly as they might. The complaint describes an unnamed person calling Arbabsiar to tell him the money would be transferred to “Individual #1.” And it describes Arbabsiar telling the informant that Individual #1 had received the money the morning before the first taped July 14 conversation. Then, it describes the money being sent from two different “foreign entities” through a Manhattan bank into an FBI account. The complaint doesn’t even specify that these two foreign entities were Iranian, much less tied to Quds Force.

Furthermore, the complaint doesn’t describe who Individual #1 is, though the way that the complaint is written suggests that he or she was not a member of Quds Force: three Quds Force members are described as “Iranian Officials” in the complaint and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani is named explicitly. More curiously, Individual #1, who allegedly served as middleman for the down payment on the planned assassination, was neither charged for his role nor was he among the five people sanctioned for this operation by the Treasury Department. What the complaint describes about this key piece of evidence, in other words, is money being transferred from someone not even charged in this case to the FBI. But if the plot began with the Quds Force hatching it in Iran and extended to Arbabsiar acting on their behalf in the U.S., and if the U.S. government appears to be either charging or sanctioning everyone involved, why would this middleman, Individual #1, go unnamed and untouched?

This next quote is from commondreams.org, a site I’ve never read before that was linked in a comment section from one I read everyday.  I can’t vouch for it, but the items it raises can all be fact-checked easily.  In essence, this article questions whether used-car salesman Arbabsiar may have been used to sting his cousin in the Al Quds force.  It poses the possibility that Arnbabsiar first implicated himself in a drug deal, mentioned that he knew Reza Shalai to the DEA and was then used by the FBI to entrap his Iranian cousin.

But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign country, according to the FBI’s account. It would be impossible to deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.

Pure, unadulterated speculation: Israel attacks Iran before year’s end.

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