Archive for September, 2009

We should remember the past these last few weeks as we watch U.S. foreign policy turned topsy-turvy.

Consider Obama’s outreach to Russia. He assumes Bush gratuitously polarized Russia, a state that otherwise had few post-Cold War preexisting problems with the U.S., despite its oil wealth, autocratic government, policy of serially assassinating dissidents at home and abroad, and loss of face with the breakup of the former Soviet republics. So we blamed Bush with the monotonous “reset” refrain.  Then we threw the eastern Europeans under the bus with the vague “we have a better mobile missile system anyway” defense. Then we claimed a thankful Putin will appreciate such magnanimity and help on Iran.

Thinking like a Russian

But we are looking at all this from our postmodern eyes. Try, as in the case of 1941 Japan, seeing it from theirs.  Bush’s friends are now America’s expendables—whether a Poland, Israel, Honduras, Columbia, or Iraq’s Maliki. Bush’s enemies are now its friends or neutrals—suggesting that Obama agrees that to be angry with America, as Russia was, was once understandable, and during 2001-9 to be friendly with it logically suspect. All the past Russian sins from assassination to oil leveraging of Europe are now washed away as “Bush did it.”

So Putin starts off with the idea that his past trouble-making was understandable in Obama’s eyes, given they share a Bush antipathy. And given Obama’s UN speech that the powerful not only will not, but cannot dominate the weak, the Russians must smile  “But why not?” or better, “Pray God, that this naïf really believes this!” (The UN, remember, cannot even enforce a 15 minute limit for the crazy Gaddafi who rambled for 90 minutes without a single, “Stop!”)


So what will stop Russian aggrandizement, bullying, or even reincorporation of former republics? Only their own notion of self-interest, dangers, and cost to benefit analysis. It surely is not regional military deterrence. Most states in the way like Georgia or Latvia are small and weak. And Eastern Europe is essentially defenseless. NATO is toothless and would only be embarrassed if it  promised guarantees of Article V protection to a Ukraine, since no Belgian or Italian would be willing to die for Kiev. The UN is not only irrelevant, but even more irrelevant the more Obama praises its human rights council, and chest-thumps about its importance. And the U.S? Well, well.

We are desperate to court Russia. But nothing they have done with Iran had anything to do with Bush, but everything to do with the idea that whatever is bad for the U.S. is good for an ascendant Russia.

Here’s what the Asia Times quotes a Russian expert  about our recent courtship, “An influential voice in the Russian strategic community, Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, forewarned not to expect anything very much. ‘The US, of course, has a right to hope for various compromises on this issue, but I do not think Russia will make them. We are not interested in spoiling relations with the rising power of the region [meaning Iran]. Breakthroughs cannot be expected yet,’ he said.”

And here’s what the Asia Times quotes of those administration hopes, “A delighted Michael McFaul, the White House’s senior advisor on Russia, trumpeted, ‘We’re at a different place in US-Russia relations.‘”

In other words, we think Russia in the past was offended by Bush, unfairly ostracized, and simply needed rapprochement to reenter the family of nations as a good actor, and now we have a different, and much better relationship.

But the notion of not spoiling “relations with the rising power of the region” seems better to explain why Putin would sell reactor materials to a Holocaust-denying nut intent on getting a bomb. It may be that in the Russian view, now that an unpredictable Bush is gone, things are looking up.

Consider Russian calculation: A nuclear Iran causes the U.S. all sorts of headaches, along with its Sunni Arab allies. There is money to be made in arms and nuclear sales. Nuclear Iran–or the efforts to stop it– will cause havoc in the oil-exporting region, and such uncertainty can only help raise the price of oil for what is now the world’s largest oil exporter (7.4 million Putin barrels sold per day abroad).

In other words, Iran is a win/win/win deal for a Russian dictatorship, always was and probably will be. We wonder why is Putin causing trouble, or why did Bush offend him? The only proper question is why not cause trouble without much risk if you’re an ex-KGB thug?

Trouble means lucrative trade, with rogue oil states that want to buy blow ‘em up stuff from Russia.

Trouble shuts up the self-important, moralizing Western Europeans.

Trouble sends a message to former subjects.

Trouble means the U.S. is tied down with a nuclear power threatening Israel and the pro-US Arabs.

Trouble means billions of dollars in new oil profits as global prices soar.

Trouble means showing the world’s onlookers that the Obama hope and change rhetoric is a good way to get yourself in a lot of trouble, and reminds others that Russia is a dependable if not thuggish regime to have on your side. (When the Wehrmacht approached Moscow in late 1941, “civilized” European neutrals like Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Spain and Portugal all started to horse-trade with the sure winner Hitler, angling for trade, cash, borderland, the clearing of old grudges, etc—without a whit of care that he was killing millions of Russian civilians and murdering on sight the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine.[By late 1944 these same “civilized” states were damning Hitler and now angling with the allies]). So yes, the past is helpful.

Footnote on World War II

There are plenty of inexplicable things about WWII, especially the Pacific “second” theater. If one were to examine in depth the First Marine Division, it is almost inexplicable that a mere few months after Pearl Harbor it could go head-to-head with battle-hardened Japanese brigades in Guadalcanal, without adequate air and naval support, and beat the Japanese on their own turf. Where did such men come from? For the answer about the Old Breed, read E.B. Sledge.

And where in just a few months, by say late 1943, did all these brilliant designs and new planes come from? The Hellcat, Corsair, Helldiver, Lightning, etc., that were not just as good as Japanese head-start models, but suddenly far better? How did an American aeronautical industry, without wartime experience, design and produce the world’s best fighters (cf. the Thunderbolt and Mustang) in less than 30 months? And more amazingly, how does a peacetime country in a little over two years begin to produce hundreds of B-29s and an entire fleet of Essex carriers ex nihilo? It’s quite inexplicable. Each time I restudy the Pacific theater it become even more mysterious, absolutely inexplicable. I wish only that Obama had not spent his Sundays lapping up liberation theology from Rev. Wright but had read instead With the Old Breed, Guadalcanal Diary, or Goodbye, Darkness to understand why his country is what it is, and why it ensures him such a forum of respect and influence.

Footnote on Guantanamo

Now that Obama’s has apparently broken his promise and won’t close Guantanamo within the year, a kindergarten question arises: did he think Bush/Cheney dreamed up a Stalag to torture people and win them leftwing hysteria?

Is it just possible that after 9/11 they quickly learned there were no good choices in dealing with the epigones of Mohammed Atta—they were neither criminals to be tried nor soldiers in uniform to be accorded the Geneva protections (as Eric Holder once himself chest-thumped)? In such a nether world, Guantanamo was always a bad choice among worse alternatives. That is proven by Obama’s failed nine-month long quest to dream up something better. Now that Guantanamo has no more campaign value, Obama apparently has thrown the old Close the Gulag under the bus too.

Yet Obama did a lot of damage in the meantime, demagoguing the facility and besmirching the careful work of those who must guard the sort of people who, as we saw the last week in the U.S., are trying to kill us.


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H/T Bob Parks at Black & Right….

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Why Does Anyone Have To Know?

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Seeing the world as it is, once again

President Obama’s war of words with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has hurt Obama’s standing in Israel, as a majority of Israelis have concluded that the U.S president is pro-Palestinian. But Obama’s attacks have not hurt the standing of Israel, or even of Netanyahu, in the United States.

So suggests a poll conducted by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR). The pollsters put the following question to 800 likely U.S. voters:

Thinking about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East, please tell me whether, in general, you consider yourself to be an Israel supporter, Palestinian supporter, or neither/undecided.

59 percent of the respondents said they were Israel supporters, compared to 8 percent who support the Palestinians. This represented something of a rebound in support for Israel; after Obama’s Cairo speech, only 49 percent of respondents said they considered themselves Israel supporters.

In more good news, respondents by a margin of 57-39 said they believe Israel is committed to peace. Only 36 percent thought the PA is committed to peace, while 30 percent somehow thought Hamas is.

And now for my favorite result: When respondents were asked whether they had a warm or cold attitude to various leaders, Obama (at 59) barely outpolled Netanyahu (at 56). The poll’s margin of error is 3.5 percent.

Finally, and I liked this too, by a 72%-23% margin, Americans agree with Netanyahu’s policy of not building any settlements, but allowing Israel to accommodate for natural growth of existing settlements.

As Obamamania wears off, Americans are beginning to see the world as it is — or at least as they have traditionally thought it be — once more.

Via Power Line

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A bejeweled white glove Michael Jackson tossed to an Irish fan more than a decade ago sold at auction Sunday for 57,600 Irish dollars ($48,400), almost twice the estimated selling price.

Warwick Stone, a buyer for the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, beat out five other bidders for the late King of Pop‘s glove, said Charlotte Stanes, spokeswoman for the Irish auction house Bonhams and Goodman. The estimated selling price before the auction was $30,000.

“We are very happy with the result,” Stanes said. “It’s the first glove we know about in Ireland.”

Bonhams and Goodman said it was the first auction of a Michael Jackson glove since his death on June 25 this year at age 50.

Jackson visited Ireland in 1996 as part of his HIStory world tour. While in Dingle, he attended the Ireland premiere for the film “Ghosts,” in which he had a starring role. At the end of the screening, he tossed the glove at audience member Bill Hibble, who has since died, said national head of collectables Giles Moon.

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By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 4, 2009

What happened to President Obama? His wax wings having melted, he is the man who fell to earth. What happened to bring his popularity down further than that of any new president in polling history save Gerald Ford (post-Nixon pardon)?

The conventional wisdom is that Obama made a tactical mistake by farming out his agenda to Congress and allowing himself to be pulled left by the doctrinaire liberals of the Democratic congressional leadership. But the idea of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi pulling Obama left is quite ridiculous. Where do you think he came from, this friend of Chávista ex-terrorist William Ayers, of PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi, of racialist inciter Jeremiah Wright?

But forget the character witnesses. Just look at Obama’s behavior as president, beginning with his first address to Congress. Unbidden, unforced and unpushed by the congressional leadership, Obama gave his most deeply felt vision of America, delivering the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president. In American politics, you can’t get more left than that speech and still be on the playing field.

In a center-right country, that was problem enough. Obama then compounded it by vastly misreading his mandate. He assumed it was personal. This, after winning by a mere seven points in a year of true economic catastrophe, of an extraordinarily unpopular Republican incumbent, and of a politically weak and unsteady opponent. Nonetheless, Obama imagined that, as Fouad Ajami so brilliantly observed, he had won the kind of banana-republic plebiscite that grants caudillo-like authority to remake everything in one’s own image.

Accordingly, Obama unveiled his plans for a grand makeover of the American system, animating that vision by enacting measure after measure that greatly enlarged state power, government spending and national debt. Not surprisingly, these measures engendered powerful popular skepticism that burst into tea-party town-hall resistance.

Obama’s reaction to that resistance made things worse. Obama fancies himself tribune of the people, spokesman for the grass roots, harbinger of a new kind of politics from below that would upset the established lobbyist special-interest order of Washington. Yet faced with protests from a real grass-roots movement, his party and his supporters called it a mob — misinformed, misled, irrational, angry, unhinged, bordering on racist. All this while the administration was cutting backroom deals with every manner of special interest — from drug companies to auto unions to doctors — in which favors worth billions were quietly and opaquely exchanged.

“Get out of the way” and “don’t do a lot of talking,” the great bipartisan scolded opponents whom he blamed for creating the “mess” from which he is merely trying to save us. If only they could see. So with boundless confidence in his own persuasiveness, Obama undertook a summer campaign to enlighten the masses by addressing substantive objections to his reforms.

Things got worse still. With answers so slippery and implausible and, well, fishy, he began jeopardizing the most fundamental asset of any new president — trust. You can’t say that the system is totally broken and in need of radical reconstruction, but nothing will change for you; that Medicare is bankrupting the country, but $500 billion in cuts will have no effect on care; that you will expand coverage while reducing deficits — and not inspire incredulity and mistrust. When ordinary citizens understand they are being played for fools, they bristle.

After a disastrous summer — mistaking his mandate, believing his press, centralizing power, governing left, disdaining citizens for (of all things) organizing — Obama is in trouble.

Let’s be clear: This is a fall, not a collapse. He’s not been repudiated or even defeated. He will likely regroup and pass some version of health insurance reform that will restore some of his clout and popularity.

But what has occurred — irreversibly — is this: He’s become ordinary. The spell is broken. The charismatic conjurer of 2008 has shed his magic. He’s regressed to the mean, tellingly expressed in poll numbers hovering at 50 percent.

For a man who only recently bred a cult, ordinariness is a great burden, and for his acolytes, a crushing disappointment. Obama has become a politician like others. And like other flailing presidents, he will try to salvage a cherished reform — and his own standing — with yet another prime-time speech.

But for the first time since election night in Grant Park, he will appear in the most unfamiliar of guises — mere mortal, a treacherous transformation to which a man of Obama’s supreme self-regard may never adapt.

Via WP

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CW is the Man; Go ND.

Watching. Waiting. Ready.


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