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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Diplomacy For Dummies

After eight years of wavering and inconsistent foreign policy under President Bush (quasi-isolationist to neoconservative to realist) and nine months of a "one world, one dream" hand-holding and Kumbaya-singing approach to diplomacy under President Obama, the United States desperately needs to get back to statecraft basics. At least that's the clearly delivered and well-articulated argument put forward by Angelo Codevilla in his book Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft.

The book is a primer for statesmen and especially presidents to follow in order to return the country to a more pragmatic approach to foreign affairs. Codevilla doesn't propose a specific label to cover what he proposes, but it might be called "common sense statecraft." To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Codevilla wants the United States to "speak clearly, carry a big stick, and don't be afraid to swing it hard when you must" when dealing with other countries.

He lays out a withering critique on the three schools of statecraft (Liberal Internationalist, Neoconservative, and Realist) that he believes have--in various forms and combinations--usually guided American foreign policy over the last eighty years or so. He contrasts and compares them unfavorably with the relative simple and straightforward approach to diplomacy envisioned by the Founders.

It isn't a prescription for Buchananite isolationism. Codevilla asks that America understand her international interests, clearly state them, and be prepared to go to war (if necessary) to protect them. He also asks that our leaders understand other countries' motivations, recognize that they don't share the same interests as we do, and grasp our limitations in changing either through talk.

In the opening chapters, he discusses how important it is that we use clear and precise language in diplomacy. The old "say what you mean and mean what you say" adage. Using weasel words and crafting ambiguous compromises that leave both side free to interpret as they choose may help politicians spin their policies, but it does nothing to advance U.S. interests.

He loathes half-measures. If you want to use economics sanctions to influence a country's behavior, then they should be implemented as completely, severely, and hopefully shortly as possible. Call it the Sherman approach. For economics sanctions are akin to war and like war they should only be undertaken if you are committed to victory from the start.

Codevilla has a excellent chapter on the proper role of intelligence and recognizes the importance of the home front. He knocks the notion that the country can be protected from terrorism through the auspices of Homeland Security. He says that if we are serious about being at war we need to clearly declare who are enemies are and aggressively go about defeating them.

So it is self-evident--to those who understand the meaning of the terms--that freedom and internal security will take care of themselves to the extent that war on foreign enemies is taken seriously.

He laments that too often, America's foreign policies aren't aligned with the common sense values of the American people.

The only bones in America's body politic that yearn to shape mankind belong to those Americans who fancy themselves the world's leaders--who like Woodrow Wilson feel more comfortable among the foreign potentates they imagine to be their peers, pretending that their agendas represent their countrymen's commitment, than they do at home dealing with their equals' concerns, which they deem parochial and low.

All in all "Advice to War Presidents" is a thoughtful, engaging work that one fervently hopes would somehow find its way into the hands intended in the title. Alas, that flight of fancy is not likely to come to pass. Codevilla's ideas simply make too much sense.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009
Down the (Communist) Rabitt Hole

I've been waiting.

Ever since I read the news early Sunday morning (late Saturday night if you're in Santa Monica) that the beloved founder of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement was no longer working at the White House. The victim of vicious smears, he resigned.

A tough environment for jobs, coming home to roost.

Nobody, no where, no how, has had the temerity to raise the issue of "Communists in the White House!" So passe is the notion of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist "intellectuals" in the academy, in the arts, in the unions and in the Democrat Party, that they no longer merit attention.

The notion of "smearing" someone with the label (of self-professed Communist) has lost it's cachet along with the long forgotten epithet of "McCarthyism". Today's thirty-second attention span generation can't be bothered to waste time texting or tweeting such terms, much less understanding their historical context or factual foundation, emanating from the "witch-hunts" of yore.

Let's be honest. The communist "threat" died with the glorious experiment formerly known as the Soviet Union. A moribund ideology, left on the scrap heap of history. (Hat-tip Ronaldus Maximus) And so it is. Except.

Except Communist China. Except Communist North Korea. Except Communist South Africa. Except Communist Zimbabwe. Except Communist Venezuela.

Except SEIU. Except ACORN. Except Code Pink. Except Move-On.Org. Except Bill Ayers.

And except Van Jones. The highly valued, highly regarded, widely respected (?) and highly sought-after (former) Special Assistant to the President of the United States of America.

"Sure, sure" say the sceptics and nay-sayers, groaning and rolling their eyes. "Thin gruel that, Crazy Uke. Hardly anyone noticed, and even less people care." Maybe.

Maybe professing allegiance to an ideology that consumed EIGHTY-FIVE TO ONE HUNDRED MILLION LIVES during a sixty to seventy year slice of the twentieth century no longer causes concern, or for that matter a raised eyebrow. (The Black Book of Communism)Most of this genocidal madness occurring during peace-time, and was committed against a compliant and cowering citizenry by it's own dictatorial rulers. How are these ancient historical events and long-forgotten tragedies meaningful today?

The reality of the situation is this. The President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, has for his entire life has been surrounded, influenced, shaped, guided, advised and assisted by those who professed allegiance and swore fealty to that ideology. It is readily apparent that this unsettling phenomenon continues to this day.

No one, including your aghast interlocutor, suggests or intimates that devastation, destruction or death camps are imminent, resulting from the above noted current state of affairs. It is passing curious however, that no one (NY Times, CBS, MSNBC, et.al.) finds the situation disturbing on it's face.

Two more thoughts, for your individual consideration, before I leave.

The appeal and root core of the Communist creed is the notion of the perfectibility of man, by virtue of a perfected ideological understanding. Unfortunately the true-believers who are charged with delivering and administering our promised salvation, inevitably fall prey to human failings and human conceit. Leading to the devaluing of all other human thought, belief, ideology and faith. In fact, to the very devaluing of human life itself.

With predictable results.

And so it seems, in the face of odles and boodles of crisises hither and yon, the enlightened elite hasten us, the polity, towards urgent solutions, unavoidable actions and decisive decisions based on what THEY KNOW is best for US.

And those who question or oppose? Enemies, obstuctionsists, fear-mongers and worse.

Why hurry to pass legislation to solve a health-care "crisis" when the cure won't take effect for years?

Why hurry to pass legislation to stimulate (?) growth in the face of an economic "crisis", when that "stimulus" won't be spent for years?

Why hurry to pass legislation to shackle economic and industrial growth to solve a climate-change "crisis" when that policy won't be implemented for years? (A crisis whose central premise continues to disapate in the face of honest scepticism and true science.)

Because Van Jones says so, and he's a member of the elitist cadre that's been appointed (selected not elected!) to lead us to the Promised Land. He and his fellow travlers.

Understand also, that this cursed ideology is antithetical to the system of governance we enjoy, and to the philosophical underpinings that engendered it. Personal property. Personal liberty. Personal responsibility. Political, religious and philosophical pluralism.

Take Honduras for example. Is it inconceivable and unconscionable that the world's oldest democratic republic would reject the will of the Honduran people as evidenced by a free and fair election.

And yet this stands as the current foreign policy of our elected government. Cleary a position based on the enlighted understanding and superior intellect of the perfected ideologues currently steering our ship of state. And not so much the citizens of Honduras.

Beware!

There are Socialists, Communists, Marxist-Leninists and revolutionaries imbeded in our government apparat. And what if you don't personally fear their ideology, or share concern over their beliefs?

Be aware.

They are striving mightly to impose their enlightenment on you.

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Nothing To Kill Or Die For

At First Thoughts, Keith Pavlischek notes that when it comes to their views on whether war is every justified, the differences between Americans and Europeans are much more significant that using mayo as a condiment with french fries:

The most striking difference between Americans and Europeans is reflected in answers to the following rather cautiously worded statement:

Please tell me to what extend you agree with the following: Under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice.

The American response:

Strongly agree: 37 percent
Somewhat agree: 34 percent
Somewhat disagree: 11 percent
Strongly disagree: 14 percent

For those who are counting, that's 71 percent who agree to 25 percent who disagree.

By contrast, the Europeans answer:


Strongly agree: 8 percent
Somewhat agree: 17 percent
Somewhat disagree: 22 percent
Strongly disagree: 49 percent

That's 25 percent who agree to 71 percent who disagree.

The UK is the only European nation that could muster a majority who agree that under some conditions war is necessary to obtain justice, but only barely at 55-40 percent, coming in at percentages of: 20, 35, 15, and 25 respectively.

On the Continent one finds a rather dismal picture. Worth mentioning is the high percentage of Europeans who strongly disagree, suggesting that they believe that under no conditions can war ever be necessary to obtain justice: 57 percent of the French (5, 13, 24, 57), 55 percent of the Germans (6, 13, 25, 55), 64 percent of the Italians (4, 12, 20, 64), 55 percent of the Spanish (4, 10, 30, 55), and 60 percent of the Belgians (3, 14, 18, 60). Only 47 percent of the Dutch strongly disagree (10, 19, 22, 47), which makes them, I suppose, the warmongers of the Continent.


Or perhaps the ones more mindful of what it's like to be occupied by powerful neighbors.

Pretty bleak, but then again, let's look on the bright side. Who wouldn't prefer having a nation of German pacifists than a nation of goose-stepping Nazis traipsing through Europe? Certainly, the German pacifism of the first part of the twenty-first century is to be preferred to the German militarism of the first half of the twentieth.

But militarism and pacifism, of course, don't exhaust the range of moral options (and I would argue that they tend to go together like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but that is for another day.) If they thought real, real hard, and reached deep into their heritage, Europeans just might be able to come up with a few conditions under which war should be waged for the sake of justice. Or maybe not so deep, maybe just as far back as, say, Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald. A visit to the American cemetery at, say, Normandy, for example, might also serve to jar their collective conscience. But I doubt it.


Back in aught-two, I shared my thoughts on the rise of post-war European pacifism in a lengthy post. Most of what I wrote at the time still holds up pretty well today based on the latest survey results that Pavlischek cites:

Because the Germans did suffer tremendously in the World Wars and the Cold War they tend to view themselves as victims of war and proof that war is never justified. And when you see the evidence of how thoroughly their country was ravaged, particularly from the aerial bombing in Word War II, it is possible to understand the basis for their belief. They witnessed the horrors of World War II firsthand and the fact that they are now able to peacefully coexist with their past enemies from that conflict leads them to believe that the war was avoidable and so are all future wars. The nearly sixty years of peace that they have enjoyed since 1945 is attributed to their diplomacy and communication and they feel that the fall of Communism was inevitable.

This view seems to ignore the fact that it was not diplomacy or communication but rather war that ended the terrors of Nazism. It also does not recognize that the fall of Communism was not a historic inevitability and that only the threat of war (the U.S. nuclear umbrella, 350,000 American troops in West Germany) ensured the security of Western Europe during the Cold War.

The Germans, the Italians, other small European countries, and even the French were at one time or another defeated on the field of battle, occupied by foreign powers, and to differing levels had their countries devastated during World War II. Even the countries that were on the victorious Allied side, emerged beaten down physically and psychologically from the conflict. The French were allowed to be a part of the Allied coalition that reestablished peace in Europe but they knew in their hearts that they had lost the war and that their country was much weaker as a result of it. So for most of the countries of continental Europe the Second World War was a disaster for their peoples, their economies, and their national psyches. After what had happened many lost their faith in their national identities and patriotism was seen as outdated and unnecessary. The ensuing Cold War cloaked this uneasiness as the U.S. rebuilt the economies of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe.

But the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union has brought this lack of confidence in their individual countries to the forefront of European attitudes about themselves. Like insecure school children they crave acceptance by the group (in this case the world) and so are unwilling or unable to stand on their own. Besides they are not really sure anymore about what is right or wrong so they go along with the majority seeking safety in numbers. They want disputes to be handled by the U.N. rather than having to become involved and individually pass judgment or take action. The fact that many European countries have already ceded much of their national sovereignty to the E.U. (currency, banking system, etc.) makes this surrender of power to the will of the "international community" all the easier.


The one thing that may no longer be quite as true--at least based on this data--was my belief that the British were different. While a majority of Brits (55%) still believe that war is sometimes necessary to obtain justice, that number is hardly overwhelming and far short of where American public opinions stands.

While the Europeans will likely be able to carry on with these pacifist attitudes for some time without consequence, you have to wonder (and worry) about what will transpire when they are faced with a threat from people who do believe that there are still things worth fighting and dying for.

UPDATE: Another data nugget from the survey that caught my eye:

People on both sides of the Atlantic were concerned about climate change, but respondents in the European Union (48% very concerned) were more intensely worried than Americans (40% very concerned). The most anxious were the Portuguese (62% very concerned), while the least apprehensive were the Dutch (just 23% very concerned) and the Poles (29% very concerned).

It's interesting that the country in Europe most threatened by the rising sea levels that are predicted to accompany climate change are the least worried about it. Hard to beat the Dutch when it comes to being practical.

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Monday, August 31, 2009
Still Blaming Neocons For Iraq? Get Real

Whilst reading the provocative and convention challenging Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft by Angelo Codevilla, I came across this passage (which is the book's first endnote from the preface) which definitely goes against the grain of standard thinking:

There is no truth to the commonly held opinion that Neoconservatisim and Neoconservatives were primarily or even substantially responsible for the G.W. Bush Administration's foreign policy, especially its venture in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq was urged by Secretary of State Colin Powell using arguments both Realist (the Saudis demand it) and Liberal Internationalist (since we've broke it we've got to fix it). The occupation's political policy was set by Robert Blackwill, a Realist from the Council on Foreign Relations, and military policy by Walter Slocombe, a Liberal Internationalist from the Carter and Clinton Administrations. The intellectual architect of the Administration's 2007-2008 political military strategy was Stephen Biddle, another Realist from the Council. National Security Advisor and (later) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice--the person closest to the President--either enabled whatever tendency in the Administration was strongest at any given time or just amalgamated the factions' contrasting recipes into "bridging documents." Yet she herself had risen through the Realist ranks under the patronage of former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. As we will see, Iraq was no different from other twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy ventures in that it was a vessel in which the several tendencies of contemporary American statecraft mixed like oil and water.

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Monday, April 13, 2009
Facing Old Enemies With New Allies

One of things that makes Thomas P.M. Barnett such an interesting strategic thinker is his ability to look past the alliances of yesterday and today and imagine future relationships based on actual shared strategic interests that are stripped of previous political and cultural biases. While I don't always agree with Barnett about whether some of his proposed alliances are actually beneficial to US interests or even possible to achieve, when you look at the world the way he does it does open up intriguing ideas.

For example, when faced with the problem of pirates threatening the sea lanes and imperiling global trade, the United States would normally consider options such as:

1. Work with traditional allies like NATO to provide security

2. Try to work with the United Nations to assemble some sort of international coalition

3. Go it alone as the world's sole superpower

But if you start thinking about who really could be the most impacted by the threat of piracy and who can actually do something about, maybe it would be better if the United States looked to China and India instead. The two emerging Asian economic powers require a lot of imported materials and exported goods to keep their economies humming. They should have as much interest as we do in seeing that the threat from Somali pirates is eliminated.

Given their location and the fact that they have the world's fifth largest navy, it seems like the Indians could definitely make a meaningful contribution. And they already have been involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. The Chinese Navy has also been escorting Chinese ships in the Gulf of Aden and could bring additional resources to bear. More importantly, they might be willing to pony up some dough to help an expanded multinational force provide security to patrol the shipping lanes.

To throw Europe a bone and recognize their place in history, we could also add the Royal Navy to the mix. Then we would have a scenario where American forces were working alongside forces from their oldest ally Great Britain, their most recent emerging ally India, and their current rival but possible future ally China. It's definitely an interesting exercise in unlimited strategic thinking.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Popularity Not Yet Capitalized Upon

Being Mr. Congeniality is enough to make you President of the United States. But that doesn't get you very far in Tehran. Iran responds to the Obama charm offensive mentioned yesterday:

"When they say policy would change, it means they would end America's military presence around the world," he said, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

"Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said.

Back to you, President Obama. As he's already made his humble, concilliatory, non-beligerant face, I'm not sure what other arrows he has in the quiver. But he's got to have someting else, right?

A primary reason for to vote for Obama was this power he was supposed to have. Not to do what any garden variety Democrat candidate would do. Certainly not to do what former Presidents have done. But, due to his unique abilities and magnetism, he would end the intractable problems we face, and make everyone feel good about it at the same time.

Well, were waiting .......

Obviously he can't end the US military presence around the world and drop to his knees and beg forgivness of the Iranian mullahs, that would make many Americans feel bad. And, it seems, he won't be able to sweet talk the Iranians out of their nukes and their wishes to end Israel. But there's got to be a third way, right? Something George Bush or John McCain wouldn't have been able to do. Something not even Hillary and John Edwards could do.

No idea what that would be. Seems like it would have to be magic or divine intervention or something. Whatever it might be, I'm keeping hope alive that those campaign pledges are going to work out as promised.

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Monday, December 29, 2008
Under Siege

Reading the paper this morning I noticed an interesting similarity between the theory of a Russian academic of the imminent (2010) disintegration of the United States brought about by economic collapse and civil war:

He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.


And the Milton Bradley board game Fortress America (released in 1986):

The game opens with the world divided into three major world powers outside of the US:

1) The Asian Peoples Alliance (yellow player)

2) The Central American Federation (blue player)

3) The Euro-Socialist Pact (red player)

These three powers have launched a surprise assault on the now-conventionally-weak United States: Asian invaders on the Pacific coast, Central American invaders along the Southwestern border with Mexico, and the Euro-Soviet invaders along the eastern seaboard. The United States Navy is brushed aside. The land and air forces, still capable of resistance, are nevertheless insufficient to halt the invasions.


Other than Canada jumping in to snatch a piece of the American pie, it's pretty much the same scenario. American readers will be relieved to note that in my somewhat limited (at least compared to "Axis and Allies") Fortress America gaming experiences of youth, the United States typically held off the foreign invaders.

Here's the map of how the US would look if the Russian's prediction came true:



A couple of points regarding the Central North America Republic come to mind:

1. With Minnesota and Michigan and in the Canadian sphere of influence, we would definitely be the hockey power.

2. While we would be self-sufficient in most areas, we'd need a strong navy to keep the Great Lakes trading route open.

3. We'd be a little weak at the corners with Ohio and Colorado, but they would probably just end up being much fought over border outposts anyway.

UPDATE A few further thoughts on the CNAR:

4. While there would be a temptation to locate the capitol in Chicago, St. Paul would make a better choice. It would allow for a defense in depth from potential invaders.

5. The only real military threat would come from the Texas Republic. Atlantic America would quickly splinter with West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North and South Carolina breaking off from the New England states to form their own independent country. The CNAR could probably form an alliance with this new country although we may have to cede portions of southern Ohio. No great loss there.

While there are a lot of military resources available in the California Republic, most of the states are sparsely populated. It's difficult to imagine the laid back sunshine softies of the current day state of California having the fortitude and gumption to mount a military operation across the Rockies. California supporting fifth columnists in Colorado could be a concern, but they could be rounded up and deported back to their native land once the CNAR was born.

I for one welcome our new Canadian overlords.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Hil's Excellent Adventure

The adventure begins:

Sen. Hillary Clinton decided to join her one-time rival's team because she wanted to be part of the "greatest adventure of our century," she said Monday after President-elect Barack Obama named her as his nominee for secretary of state.

"President Kennedy once said that engaging the world to meet the threats we face was the greatest adventure of our century," Clinton said during a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, when Obama unveiled his national security team. "Well, Mr. President-elect, I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century."


She then added that she hoped the peoples of the world would embrace the motto, "Be excellent to each other."

No, what she really added was this:

Clinton said she would work to restore America's position as "a force for positive change" in the world.

"America is a place founded on the idea that everyone should have the right to live up to his or her God-given potential. And it is that same ideal that must guide America's purpose in the world today," she said.


The list of "rights" that the country was supposedly founded upon continues to expand into ever more far-reaching and amorphous areas. In addition to freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and the press we can know add "freedom of potential realization." Words sure to stir the hearts of liberty lovers everywhere.

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Monday, August 04, 2008
Don't Fail Me Now

I am an admirer of renowned geo-politico grand strategist Thomas PM Barnett. And not just for getting the word "grand" in his job title. (Outside of the worlds of contract bridge and hip hop, it really is quite rare).  His thoughts on worldwide political and economic trends and how the US should position itself to best capitalize are always insightful and provocative.

However .... the problem with grand strategists is that they're thinking three or four moves ahead of the rest of us. In the realm of geo-political trends, that plays out to like 50 - 100 years. And while his arguments are persuasive and we trust his judgment, there's always the nagging suspicion that we don't know how good he is at his job. He might be nuts. Sure, in 50-100 years we can do some fact checking.  But by that time, our strategic plan is to have Fraters Libertas dedicated to covering news and developments in the world of Scottish indie-punk music, exclusively. So, who'll have the time?

Fortunately, a recent development will allow us to do some verification on the accuracy of Mr. Barnett on an accelerated schedule. From his latest post:

It seems clear that Favre wants to play for the Packers, and if he's going to play anywhere in the league, we're the logical team to give him a good shot at the Super Bowl. His implied threat of wanting to play for the Vikes so he can play against the Packers is simply a negotiating maneuver the Packers should ignore.

As this situation should resolve itself in the next couple of week's, Barnett is officially on the clock. Although I'd like to see Farve in purple this year, I really like reading Barnett. And I really can't afford to have to go back to getting my information on geo-political trends from Syl Jones and the Star Tribune editorial page.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007
Nature's Not The Only One Who Abhors 'Em

Walter Russell Mead writes in today's Journal on Why We're in the Gulf (sub req):

For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global power -- with help from allies and other parties -- maintains the security of world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in an orderly way. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India do not need to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. Nor must each country's navy protect the supertankers carrying oil and liquefied national gas (LNG).

For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War, and the security and independence of the oil sheikdoms had to be protected from ambitious Arab leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. During the Cold War Americans forged alliances with Turkey, Israel and (until 1979) Iran, three non-Arab states that had their own reasons for opposing both the Soviets and any pan-Arab state.

When the fall of the shah of Iran turned a key regional ally into an implacable foe, the U.S. responded by tightening its relations with both Israel and Turkey -- while developing a deeper relationship with Egypt, which had given up on Nasser's goal of unifying all the Arabs under its flag.

Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran's drive for power in the Gulf. Israel, a country which has its own reasons for opposing Iran, remains an important component in the American strategy, but the U.S. must also manage the political costs of this relationship as it works with the Sunni Arab states. American opposition to Iran's nuclear program not only reflects concerns about Israeli security and the possibility that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to project conventional forces into the Gulf.


And what would happen if we left:

The end of America's ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging -- and not just to us. Defense budgets would grow dramatically in every major power center, and Middle Eastern politics would be further destabilized, as every country sought political influence in Middle Eastern countries to ensure access to oil in the resulting free for all.

The potential for conflict and chaos is real. A world of insecure and suspicious great powers engaged in military competition over vital interests would not be a safe or happy place. Every ship that China builds to protect the increasing numbers of supertankers needed to bring oil from the Middle East to China in years ahead would also be a threat to Japan's oil security -- as well as to the oil security of India and Taiwan. European cooperation would likely be undermined as well, as countries sought to make their best deals with Russia, the Gulf states and other oil rich neighbors like Algeria.


As tempting as the idea of picking up our toys and coming home sounds, such a course would not make us more secure in the long run and it could be disastrous for the global economy. The reality is that a country (or some combination of them) is going to project power in the Gulf. While doing so is a significant burden for the US to bear, the alternative of leaving it to someone else would be far more costly.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The World According to Barnett

After we interviewed Thomas PM Barnett last year on NARN, about his books The Pentagon's New Map and Blue Print for Action, Chad and I talked about how interesting it would be to have him on and just start naming countries and regions and get his commentary on what's happening there now and how it will effect global security concerns in the future.

We never did that. But I'm glad to see we don't have to feel guilty about it, because Esquire Magazine has done the work for us, publishing Barnett's article The State of the World.

Barnett is a brilliant guy, with important things to say, and there is much to be learned from him. But, be warned Conservatives - he's a rather strident Democrat. He's a fan of Hillary (called her a "centrist" on the NARN interview) and likes her prospects in '08. Not coincidentally, he doesn't like Bush and he's not above using petty insults and hyperbole to communicate that. I wish he could stay above this lefty blogger level of discourse, he's better than that. I suspect some of this is playing to his presumed audience (metrosexual Esquire Magazine subscribers) and the Esquire editors surely wouldn't do him any favors by cleaning it up.

But, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, it's a fine article explaining what is and what might be all around the world. Hold your nose and enjoy. The truth is in there, somewhere.

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Monday, August 14, 2006
Rally Round Tha Family

The rain no doubt limited attendance at yesterday's Rally for Israel at the Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis. I'm not very good at estimating crowd size, but I'd guess that around fifteen hundred people were on hand (if I were an anti-war activist, I would say 150,000). The local media is curiously devoid of stories on the event with the exception of KSTP, whose piece, "Rally for Israel in St. Louis Park" (technically, I believe the JCC is in Minneapolis), doesn't include an estimate of the size of the crowd.



(Note the one media organization involved: AM1280 The Patriot)

There were a plethora of politicians on hand and it was a truly bipartisan gathering. US Senators Norm Coleman and Mark Dayton, former US Senator Rudy Boschwitz, US Representative Mark Kennedy, US Representative John Kline, and Hennepin County Attorney Amy Kloubuchar were all on the stage and, with the exception of Boschwitz, rose to speak. Also in attendance were congressional candidates Ember Reichgott Junge, Michele Bachmann, Alan Fine, Paul Ostrow, and even Keith Ellison (no Mel Gibson though). Plus a number of candidates for the Minnesota senate and house, Minneapolis city council members, local mayors, county commissioners, etc.

Of the pols, I found John Kline to be the most impressive speaker. Surprisingly enough, the most bombastic and bellicose, if perhaps a bit inappropriate, defense of Israel was delivered by Senator Mark Dayton. Dayton's passion left little doubt as to where he stood regarding Israel and you had the impression that he wanted to hop in a Merkava and personally have at Hezbollah.

The crowd was probably mostly Jewish (as evidenced by their knowledge of the prayers and songs in Hebrew), but there were some Christians representin' as well and one of the speakers was a minister from a local church. There were also a few scruffy-looking youths who showed up to distribute "anti-war" literature, but they were largely ignored until they were quietly shuffled off the premises by some of the local boys in blue.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the rally was the clarity of the message delivered by the speakers:

- Hezbollah is a terrorist organization sponsored by Iran and Syria.

- Israel has the right to defend itself and do whatever is necessary to halt Hezbollah's attacks.

- This is not just Israel's fight. This is another front in the battle of Western Civilization against Muslim fanaticism.

While there was some hope expressed that the UN cease fire would bring peace, the prevailing attitude toward the resolution and the UN in general was one of grim cynicism and the sense that it was only a matter of time before hostilities would recommence. An Israeli liaison to the local Jewish community, who was due to return to Israel today, commented that the cease fire would be celebrated as a victory by the Arab street and that no one would be celebrating in Israel.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005
The Power To Change The World

Publius Pundit asks if Andijon was another Tiananmen? If you're not sure what he's talking about, you're not alone. Recent events in Uzbekistan have not gotten the attention they probably deserve. It's a difficult situation for the Bush administration and their oft professed support for democratic movements around the world. Publius Pundit hopes they make the right call:

Remember, freedom has the power to change the world. When the time comes, none of those issues will matter anymore. Unfaltering support for the values of democracy will bring America both the friends and security it needs throughout all regions of the world, quelling Islamofascism and the remnants of totalitarian communism where they hide. The war on terrorism can only be fought by conducting a war on tyranny. Stability can only be achieved when democratic governments held directly accountable to the people are instituted. Please, President Bush and Secretary Rice, keep this doctrine in mind when facing the challenges posed by the uprising in Andijon. Reform and regime change cannot be expected over night, but it should certainly be expected.

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Friday, July 23, 2004
Compare And Contrast

On this morning's Laura Ingraham show, I caught an interview with the woman Ted Rall has described as a "house nigga". One thing's certain: she's no Sandy Berger.

Thanks God she's no Sandy Berger.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004
And You Think YOU Had A Bad Day...

I felt a twinge of empathy when reading this piece regarding President Nixon's state of mind on October 11, 1973:

...U.S.-Soviet tensions were peaking over the Arab-Israeli war, and British Prime Minister Edward Heath's office called the White House just before 8 p.m. to ask to speak with Nixon.

"Can we tell them no?" Kissinger asked his assistant, Brent Scowcroft, who had told him of the urgent request. "When I talked to the president, he was loaded."


Egypt and Syria were blasting the Israelis, General Secretary Brezhnev was hopping mad, Vice President Spiro Agnew had just resigned and Prime Minister Heath was on the horn trying to reach him...so President Nixon was holed up in the Oval Office with a bottle of scotch drinking himself silly.

Brilliant.

You can bet that any cigars he had that day went nowhere near any chubby beret-wearing interns.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2003
They?re All Greek to Me

Yesterday, Mitch Berg, over at Shot in the Dark, ably anthropomorphized the pillars of Old Europe:

The various states of Europe seem to exhibit personalities that remind me of people I've known over the years: Germany reminds me of someone who did hard time for a wild youth, and is now very careful to obey the letter of the law - he doesn't want to go back in the joint. He makes absolutely certain that he's not screwing up in any way. France reminds me of a very smart person who was jilted by a spouse or lover early in life. Embittered, fading fast, but still kind of a control freak. Britain - the recovering alcoholic, doing well in his 12 step program.

Per usual, Mitch is right on the money. And his idea has got me thinking about my relations, acquaintances, and their remarkable resemblance to our friends on the Continent:

Luxembourg - that old woman who lived below me in a duplex I rented in college. She was cheerful enough, but the onset of dementia resulted in her forgetting my identity and not realizing I lived upstairs. When going down to get the mail, I'd see her warily peering at me through a crack in her door. Upon my turning to make polite conversation, she?d shriek and slam the door in my face.

The Netherlands - that cousin of mine who stopped attending family Thanksgivings and Christmases when he was 16 because, according to my shrugging aunt, "he had other things go do." I never saw him again, but occasionally heard rumors of drug use and petty theft.

Belgium - the guy I shared an office with during my first job out of college. He smoked a lot of weed and only showered once a week. When I expressed my objections to his foul body odor, he responded with the greatest example of postmodern moral relativism I've ever heard: "Oh yeah, well the smell of soap offends ME!"

Finland - the middle-aged, strange neighbor who I see in the summer mowing his lawn while wearing a bucket hat, t-shirt, Bermuda shorts, black socks and wingtip shoes. In five years of living next to me, he's never initiated a conversation or made eye contact with me. However, while puttering around his garage, he's often heard whistling the melody to Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don?t Pull Your Love Out."

Vatican City - Father Rowan, the priest at the parish I attended while growing up. Because he was Catholic and read the Bible and talked about Jesus and stuff.

With that last creative flourish, I think I better stop. (And in the future I vow to leave the national identity related similes to those more qualified).

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Monday, December 30, 2002
Designated Driver for the World

Usually I don't like to post links to articles that have already been linked by InstaPundit since many regular blog readers check out InstaPundit on a daily basis and adding a link here is merely redundant. But this piece called Confessions Of An Isolationist Wannabe at Right Wing News is so damn funny that I had to mention it. It's a P.J. O'Rourkian look at the United State's reluctant acceptance of responsibility for the rest of the world.

If you want put it in perspective, it's like we're the guy who ended up being the designated driver for the planet. Sure we'd love to sit back and drink ourselves into a stupor with the rest of the globe but we're responsible for getting as many people home safe and sound as possible. Every so often while we're sitting around wishing we could kill a few beers like the rest of the planet, a sloppy drunk, drooling, Europe comes over to where we're sitting. Then they take another swig of Vodka straight out of the bottle and tell us not to worry about a thing because they'll drive everyone home in their 'international law' van. But we know if we go ahead and drink up that we'll just get a call at 4 am asking us to bring our tow truck and the 'jaws of life' to clean up the bloody mess on dead man's curve. That's the burden of being an American.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2002
GW Hardly the First to Question the Value of the U.N.

Last night while plowing through the my latest reading project, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East (and who isn't!), I came across a quote from LBJ in which he described the U.N. as "a zero" and explained to an aide that if Israel's hopes for peace rested with the U.N. then he could not blame them for striking their enemies preemptively.

The notion today that the Bush administration's reluctance to rely on the U.N. in shaping American decisions abroad is somehow a dangerous departure from fifty plus years of established American relations with the U.N. is ridiculous. Every adminstration from Truman through Clinton has acted through the United Nations when such action would benefit the United States (or at least cause it no harm) but has not hestitated to circumvent the world body when they felt that U.S. strategic interests were at stake.

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Friday, October 04, 2002
A windy, rambling look at "Euro-pacifism"

One thing that struck me on my recent trip to Germany was the prevalence of what I would call "Euro-pacifism". Simply put I define it as the belief that "all war is inherently wrong and we have the experience to prove it." This attitude cropped up numerous times at museums, war memorials, and historical sites that had been damaged by war in the past.

Because the Germans did suffer tremendously in the World Wars and the Cold War they tend to view themselves as victims of war and proof that war is never justified. And when you see the evidence of how thoroughly their country was ravaged, particularly from the aerial bombing in Word War II, it is possible to understand the basis for their belief. They witnessed the horrors of World War II firsthand and the fact that they are now able to peacefully coexist with their past enemies from that conflict leads them to believe that the war was avoidable and so are all future wars. The nearly sixty years of peace that they have enjoyed since 1945 is attributed to their diplomacy and communication and they feel that the fall of Communism was inevitable.

This view seems to ignore the fact that it was not diplomacy or communication but rather war that ended the terrors of Nazism. It also does not recognize that the fall of Communism was not a historic inevitability and that only the threat of war (the U.S. nuclear umbrella, 350,000 American troops in West Germany) ensured the security of Western Europe during the Cold War.

The Germans, the Italians, other small European countries, and even the French were at one time or another defeated on the field of battle, occupied by foreign powers, and to differing levels had their countries devastated during World War II. Even the countries that were on the victorious Allied side, emerged beaten down physically and psychologically from the conflict. The French were allowed to be a part of the Allied coalition that reestablished peace in Europe but they knew in their hearts that they had lost the war and that their country was much weaker as a result of it. So for most of the countries of continental Europe the Second World War was a disaster for their peoples, their economies, and their national psyches. After what had happened many lost their faith in their national identities and patriotism was seen as outdated and unnecessary. The ensuing Cold War cloaked this uneasiness as the U.S. rebuilt the economies of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and the Iron Curtain descended on Eastern Europe.

But the end of the Cold War and the rise of the European Union has brought this lack of confidence in their individual countries to the forefront of European attitudes about themselves. Like insecure school children they crave acceptance by the group (in this case the world) and so are unwilling or unable to stand on their own. Besides they are not really sure anymore about what is right or wrong so they go along with the majority seeking safety in numbers. They want disputes to be handled by the U.N. rather than having to become involved and individually pass judgment or take action. The fact that many European countries have already ceded much of their national sovereignty to the E.U. (currency, banking system, etc.) makes this surrender of power to the will of the "international community" all the easier.

Contrast this with the United States and Britain. Both countries have well established democracies that have survived independently for hundreds of years. Neither country has lost a war that involved their total defeat and occupation by foreign powers. Since the Second World War they both have pursued strong independent foreign policies willing to buck international opinion if they believed it was in their best national interest (numerous cases for the U.S., the Falklands provide a good example for the Brits).

Although the British paid a heavy price in World War II in blood and treasure and emerged from the war as a shadow of the international power they were before it, they were one of the victors and had earned their place with their spirited defense of their country in 1940 and 1941 when they were virtually alone. Psychologically they had never been defeated and retained their national pride and belief in the British nation. And the war cemented the strong relationship between the U.S. and the British. The US emerged from the war as the strongest nation in the world economically and one of two military superpowers The victory over Communism in the Cold War made the U.S. the sole world superpower and marked the third time in the century it had triumphed over the forces of tyranny.

Today when the U.S. and the British perceive a threat to their countries they are willing to act with or without the rest of the world. Their leaders can look back on their past as a guide and see that their nations core believes and values have been tested and proven again and again. History is on our side. We're the strong, confident kids willing to take on the school yard bully if even the rest of the school may not approve.

The Euros (I don't consider Britain a part of Europe except in strictly geographic terms) have no such reservoir of success to draw on and so are left to fret and worry about whether this action is appropriate or not and maybe we should talk some more or wait for international support. They lack the moral clarity and conviction that the U.S. and British possess and are afraid of taking chances. Considering their past this attitude is not all that unreasonable. I am not a European sympathizer but rather a European empathizer. I don't agree with their views but I believe I understand them. We should not expect nor wait for full fledged European support in any upcoming military campaign. The best we can hope for is that they sit quietly on the sidelines and let us do what needs to be done. Their pacifism will allow for little else.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Unilateralism Is Not A Dirty Word

Wonderfully telling editorial in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune decrying what it describes as the United State's "go it alone" attitude. One paragraph in particular caught my attention:

That's the problem in a nutshell, and no amount of PR can polish it away. The rising outcry about U.S. unilateralism -- its refusal to heed any law but its own -- isn't born of foreign confusion about what America stands for. It's an expression of dismay about what America is doing. In dozens of ways over dozens of years, onlookers say, the United States has defended its own interests at global expense. As Sachs puts it, "The world thinks we're fighting for ourselves. What people say is, 'You're so rich and powerful, you don't even think about us -- unless you need something.' "

If you actually believe that a nation should not act in its own self interest but rather for the greater good of the world than you are either incredibly naive or a supporter of some type of world government organization that would supercede national sovereignty. I'm not a black helicpoter believer and don't think the UN is plotting to invade any time soon, but beliefs such as these seem to invariably lead to a one world governing body. The United States is not just another country among the many of the world and to subject ourselves to their rule would be absurd. We have been and still are the leader and defender of freedom and liberty in the world and we must continue to act in that role.

The day that the United States of America stops defending its own interests and instead heeds the call of the "global community" is the day that we might as well hang her up and call it quits as a country. The United States was founded to be unlike any nation that had come before her and has always followed its own path in international relations.

I have always thought that to truly be a leader you must not "go along to get along" but rather be willing to fight for your values and beliefs even if your opinions were not shared by all. During the Cold War the US was often criticized for its actions in building nuclear weapons, stationing troops around the world, and aiding countries fighting Communism, but our persistent efforts lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union and freedom for millions in Eastern Europe. It took courage to win the Cold War but we felt that we were right and history proved it.

Today, if the United States believes that Iraq must be neutralizied for both our security and the security of the world then we must act accordingly with or without the support of the rest of the world.

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Thursday, August 01, 2002
Tanks versus Talk

Good read on the European versus the American view on how to secure peace by Jonah Goldberg on National Review Online. I happened to catch the Bill Moyers special that he references and it was a fascinating discussion during which Krauthammer was able to demonstrate once again why he's one of the sharpest minds in the game.

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Thursday, March 14, 2002
Why unilateralism ain't that bad

Collection
Of
Ancillary
Late arriving
Indecisive
Tepid
Ill equipped
Obfuscating
Nations

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TALK O' THE TOWN
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