Friday, November 06, 2009

America needs some true Realpolitik

Israel's edge in hi-tech makes it an essential ally; China is a potential friend

It is easy to confuse "realism" with a widely shared delusion. In the parlance of American foreign policy, "realism" means accepting a howling lie if it is accepted by a large enough number of people. The "realists" during the Ronald Reagan administration insisted that the Soviet Union was a successful, stable and permanent fixture in the world power equation. Reagan and his advisors saw in Soviet aggression a symptom of imminent internal breakdown. The head of plans at Reagan's National Security Council, Norman A Bailey, told me in early 1981 that American rearmament would overstrain the Soviet economy and bring about the collapse of communism by 2007. I thought him a dangerous lunatic and, like Tertullian, signed up forthwith.

Why pursue detente with a Soviet Union that inevitably would collapse of its own incompetence and corruption? And why ally with Muslim countries sinking into irreversible decline, in some cases civil war? Iran, Turkey and Algeria will age as rapidly as Western European countries, but without the wealth buffer to deal with a burgeoning cohort of dependent elderly.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan seem ungovernable. Among the largest Muslim countries only Bangladesh and Indonesia seem stable, but they have little relevance to American policy in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's influence in the region is expressed mainly by financing fundamentalist madrassas (seminaries) in neighboring countries and writing checks to compliant former American presidents as well as "realist" academics. The Saudis will sell us the oil; we do not need to wash their feet in return.

Reality presented itself to the White House in the course of the current give-and-take over Israel and Palestine in the person of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, perhaps the last functioning realist in the Obama administration. The Pentagon, as I noted two weeks ago, views with realistic horror the possibility that Israel might exchange military technology with Russia and India. An immediate concern is the Russian-Indian joint venture to produce a fifth-generation fighter, but drone, anti-missile, and other technology are also a concern. That, there is reason to believe, explains why the US administration abruptly dropped its demand for a complete Israeli freeze on settlement construction and accepted the Israeli offer of a freeze on acquiring new land, once 3,000 homes at present under construction are complete.

That, contrary to Mearsheimer and Walt, is realism: in a world of weapons of mass destruction, very large numbers of poorly educated people make no contribution to military power. Even in the age of edged weapons, Persia's advantage in numbers at Gaugamela posed little threat to Alexander the Great. Despite its declining population, Russia is determined to exercise military power on a world scale through its edge in key military technologies.

Israel's contribution might be decisive in a number of fields, for example avionics and especially drone technology. Among the million Russians who emigrated to Israel during the breakdown of the Soviet Empire are more than 10,000 scientists, including some who designed Russia's best weapons systems. Moscow's impulse to reunite the old team is understandable. Throw Israel into the briar patch, and America might not like the result.

It seems a long and drafty walk down the corridors of time since Richard Perle, the chairman of Bush's Defense Policy Board, and David Frum, the speechwriter who coined the term "axis of evil", joined to write a book with the grandiose title, An End to Evil. That was only five years ago. Never were policy wonks more full of themselves, or more challenged theologically, or more likely to be forgotten. And it seems like an eternity since Obama set out to dismantle American strategic superiority.

Unlikely as it sounds, there is no "realist" school of foreign policy at work in Washington, just the idiot twins of idealism and the majority-rule fantasists. Gates seems capable of realism, at least when the intelligence reports smack him in the face like a dead mackerel. No one in Washington seems to ask the obvious questions:

# Which countries are inherently friendly, which are inherently hostile, and which are neither friendly nor hostile, but merely self-interested?

# Which countries are viable partners over a given time horizon, and which are beyond viability?

# Where can we solve problems, and where must we resign ourselves to contain them at best?

# Where can we make agreements in mutual self-interest, and where is it impossible to make agreements of any kind?

# What issues affect American national security in so urgent a fashion that we should employ force if required?

A few suggestions:

China is the fulcrum of American strategy. The world's two largest economies have a natural self-interest in strengthening each other. Francesco Sisci and I proposed an economic alliance between America and China in this space a year ago (see US's road to recovery runs through Beijing Asia Times Online, November 15, 2008).

It goes without saying that the political implications of such an economic alliance would be profound. Forget about the Uyghurs of Xinjiang or the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama: China is an empire in constant risk of provincial rebellion and cannot show mercy to any regional separatist without risking internal dissolution. That is the last thing the West should want; were China to descend into internal instability, America's economic prospects would turn sour for a generation.

If America wants to promote human rights in China, it should promote open capital markets, immigration of Chinese entrepreneurs, and other benign ways of opening Chinese society to more individual power. China also wants America to remain a power in Asia: China and its neighbors distrust each other more than ever they distrusted the United States.

Russia is a spoiler, but a bargainer. America has no interest in color revolutions in the Russian "near abroad" (just what is the strategic significance of the "Tulip Revolution" in Kyrzgyzstan?). Georgia and the Ukraine are respectively last and second-to-last in the world fertility tables and will cease to exist as national entities by mid-century. Why should America make commitments there?

The notion that the United States can contribute substantially to energy independence by running pipelines around the edge of Russian borders seems fanciful. These are all bargaining chips. America should trade away what it does not require (democracy in the "stans") for what it does require, for instance Russian strategic cooperation in non-proliferation, especially where Iran is concerned. This may be the one thing that the Obama administration has done right, although it remains to be seen whether it has done anything at all.

India is a prospective friend. The precedent of nuclear cooperation with India as well as India's common interest in suppressing Muslim terrorists brought the world's largest democracy close to the American camp during the Bush administration. India's economic boom, moreover, increases its links to the American economy.

Iran is past bargaining with; it must be ruined.



Fall Of The Wall? U.S. Sends Regrets

The White House has announced our absence at ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile, Russia has been practicing a nuclear invasion of an abandoned Poland.

The Berlin Wall has been a famous backdrop for American presidents sounding the battle cry of liberty in the struggle against tyranny. It was there that John F. Kennedy expressed our solidarity with the encircled residents of that outpost of freedom with his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner." And it was there that Ronald Reagan, with a defiant "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," voiced our determination not to merely contain or get along with Soviet Communism, but to defeat it. On Nov. 9, 1989, the people of Berlin did just that, secure in the knowledge that an economically and militarily revived America had their back. But that was then and this is now.

Today, American leaders travel the world expressing their regrets for our alleged past transgressions, and American exceptionalism is no longer part of our vocabulary. We're just another one of the gang, sandwiched alphabetically between Uganda and Upper Volta, whose votes cancel ours in an international community to which we pledge our fealty. On the 20th anniversary of this triumph of freedom, it appears than no American president will be there to celebrate, much less remember, the day that the "evil empire" was consigned to the ash heap of history.

Words have consequences and dates have significance. It did not escape the notice of the Poles and indeed the rest of Europe when we chose the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland on Sept. 17, 1939, to tell the Polish government in a midnight phone call that we were pulling the plug on our commitment to place ground-based missile interceptors in Poland.

Documents obtained by Wprost, one of Poland's leading news magazines, reveal that at that same time the Russians were conducting war games in which nuclear missiles were fired and troops practiced amphibious landings on the coast of a "potential aggressor." In the exercises, the potential aggressor was Poland.

As the London Telegraph reports, the Russian air force practiced using weapons from its nuclear arsenal, while in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland on the northeast, forces stormed a "Polish" beach and attacked a gas pipeline. "It's an attempt to put us in our place," said Marek Opiola, a member of Poland's parliament. "Don't forget all this happened on the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland."

Before we reneged on our commitment to place ground-based interceptors in Poland, Soviet President Medvedev threatened to deploy SS-26 Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, right between our NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. In the 1980s, when the Soviet Union targeted Europe with its SS-20s, a first-strike weapon of unmatched power, President Reagan responded quite differently, upping the ante by deploying Pershing missiles in West Germany.

In July, leading European freedom fighters, including Poland's Lech Walesa and the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel, wrote an open letter to President Obama warning that the Russia of Medvedev and Putin "is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods."

In March, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red "reset button" to symbolize improved ties, but the gift drew smiles as the word "reset" was mistranslated into the Russian word for "overcharge." Something else was apparently lost in the translation. We need to press the reset button again, back to the days when American presidents stood in Berlin and echoed the cry of Scottish patriot William Wallace: "Freedom!"




Israel seizes Iranian arms shipment: "ISRAELI commandos and warships yesterday intercepted a ship carrying weapons from Iran to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in a raid dozens of miles off its coast. The pre-dawn seizure near Cyprus was a rare interception of a suspected arms shipment by Israel, which has long accused Iran of arming its enemies. "During the night a special marine force intercepted a ship that was supposed to be carrying cargo around 100 miles from our shore," a military spokeswoman said last night. Photographs of the ship being searched in Israel's Ashdod port identified the vessel as the Francop, sailing under an Antigua flag. "We suspected it was carrying weapons and when we inspected it that turned out to be true," the spokeswoman said. President Shimon Peres said it appeared to be ferrying weapons from Iran to Lebanon. "The IDF successfully seized a boat that apparently came from Iran and was heading to Syria and Hezbollah," Mr Peres said. "All those involved deny involvement, but the world is witness today to the huge gap between what Iran and Syria say and their actions." Local media reported that the vessel was carrying a shipment of several tonnes of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, and Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told army radio that Katyusha rockets were among the cache."

Salary raise counted as saved job: "President Barack Obama's economic recovery program saved 935 jobs at the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, an impressive success story for the stimulus plan. Trouble is, only 508 people work there. The Georgia nonprofit's inflated job count is among persisting errors in the government's latest effort to measure the effect of the $787 billion stimulus plan despite White House promises last week that the new data would undergo an "extensive review" to root out errors discovered in an earlier report. About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren't saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren't saved".

Be careful what you say: "If you hang around teenagers enough you notice they say some real interesting things. ‘I can kick his ass with my bare hands’ is high up on the list. ‘I’m going to get that little fag, he just stole my girlfriend,’ is another. That second one just turned a fight between two guys because one stole the other’s girlfriend into a hate crime under the defense appropriation bill Obama just signed.”

WTO 'could challenge internet censorship': "Internet censorship is open to challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as it can restrict trade in online services, a forthcoming study says. A censorship case at the WTO could raise sovereignty issues, given the clear right of member states to restrict trade on moral grounds - for example, by blocking access to child pornography websites. The study could hold implications for the Australian government, which is planning to introduce a national web filter against "unwanted material". But a WTO ruling could set limits on blanket censorship and compel states instead to use more selective filtering, according to the study, to be published this week by European think-tank ECIPE. "Many WTO member states are legally obliged to permit an unrestricted supply of cross-border internet services," Brian Hindley and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama wrote in the report. Many countries censor the internet for political or moral reasons. China has developed one of the most pervasive systems, in Cuba all unauthorized surfing is illegal, and the Australian Government is planning a mandatory filter for national rollout."

Tamil Tigers look to regroup in wishy-washy Canada: "The Tamil Tigers organization hopes to use Canada as a strategic base to continue the fight against the government of Sri Lanka, according to an authority on the alleged terrorist group. "I cannot think of any other country that is more important for the Tamil Tigers as Canada, to regroup and continue their campaign against Sri Lanka," said Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, a Singapore-based think-tank. Gunaratna is advising the Canadian government as it investigates the 75 Tamil migrants currently in immigration custody in Vancouver. The men were found aboard a ship seized off the coast of British Columbia on Oct. 17. Lawyers for the men have said they are not Tamil Tigers, but Gunaratna disagreed. "There are many members of the Tamil Tigers on board that vessel," Gunaratna said in an interview from Singapore. The Tigers — banned in Canada as a terrorist organization — were defeated in May 2009 after a 23-year insurgency."

Mortgage crisis shows that government regulation doesn’t work : "Headlines like this drive me nuts: Mortgage Crisis Shows Why Financial Regulation is Needed. Yes, regulation is needed. Market regulation, that is. At every turn, the government and its accomplices in the financial industry — the politically-connected players — have undermined the free market’s ability to self-regulate. But, of course, this is not the sort of regulation to which the author is referring. No, the market is to blame and our benevolent protectors in government must come to our aid through enlightened regulation.”

Daylight saving not helpful: "Although daylight-saving time was sold politically as an energy-conservation measure, it does no such thing. Studies conducted in Indiana prior to 2006, when that state operated under three different time regimes, show either no difference in energy consumption or a small increase in power usage during the months after clocks were moved one hour ahead. The annual ritual of springing forward and falling back thus possibly produces no energy savings and may be counterproductive. It also requires those who live in places where daylight-saving time is observed to waste time twice a year adjusting their clocks and watches. Yet the costs of switching between daylight-saving and standard time go far beyond the hassles of ‘losing’ an hour in the springtime and ‘gaining’ it back in the fall.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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