Obama’s Brutal Foreign Policy
The Democratic left’s worldview was defined forever by the Vietnam War. LBJ’s budget got caught between guns for Vietnam and butter for the Great Society. Barack Obama is refusing to be trapped by this dilemma. The Obama legacy will be about butter…
We have reached that point. They are not enough.
In just the past few weeks, the following events have happened. They are a blur of chaos and brutality.
Islamic State videotaped its beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya and Egypt’s bombed Islamic State camps in retaliation. An ISIS sympathizer sprayed bullets into a free-speech meeting in Copenhagen. A 4,000-man army post in Yemen was overrun by fighters from al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Russian-supported rebels in Ukraine commenced an artillery barrage on Kiev’s forces inside the city of Debaltseve after the grand cease-fire brokered by Germany and France.
Jordan’s King Abdullah asked the U.S. to send aircraft parts and munitions after ISIS immolated a caged Jordanian pilot. Nigeria’s homicidal Islamic jihadist group, Boko Haram, extended its assaults into Niger and Chad. Both Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi separately called on the United Nations, of all things, to organize a coalition to clean up Libya. A Jewish cemetery in France was smashed to pieces.
The reaction of the U.S. government to all this?
The White House this week assembled a “summit” on “countering violent extremism,” where on Wednesday Mr. Obama restated the difference between Islam and the perversion of Islam.
Ukraine’s embattled army, encircled in the strategic railway city of Debaltseve by rebels using Russian artillery and tanks, desperately needed defensive military equipment from the U.S. They didn’t get it. On Tuesday Vladimir Putin said they should surrender. On Wednesday, hours before Mr. Obama spoke to the extremism summit, they gave up.
“Before I go through the elements of this strategy, I want to note how our approach may differ from what others may recommend. We believe in the importance of economic growth, but we insist upon investing in the foundations of American power: education and health care; clean energy and basic research.”
– National Security Adviser Susan Rice
Islamic State’s videotaped barbarism expands, but the U.S. commitment against them in Iraq and Syria will not move beyond limited airstrikes.
Nigeria, like Libya and Iraq, is a nation of vast oil revenue for whoever controls it. Nigeria’s chance of getting support from the Obama administration before it falls into chaos is zero, no matter how many girls Boko Haram kidnaps.
“Leftist realpolitik—melting guns so it can churn more butter—may survive a pullout from the world in normal times. But it’s not going to hold for the next two years, not at this pace, not with Islam’s jihadists using social media to make all of us party to the de-civilizing of the world.”
It is a mistake to think that Mr. Obama’s passivity or indecision are sufficient explanation. What is on offer here is the American left’s version of realpolitik. The decision by the Obama White House not to deploy American resources is thought-out, brutal and unapologetic.
“Eventually Barack Obama will be forced to act, or his presidency will erode politically, taking many Democrats with him.”
President Obama in his Feb. 6 national-security statement explained what he is doing—or not doing. He was precise and clear:
“We have to make hard choices among many competing priorities and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.”
Short version: He’s not spending real money on any of this. Get over it. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted on TIME:
(MINSK, Belarus) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says the warring parties in the Ukrainian conflict have agreed on a cease-fire beginning midnight on Saturday and a division line for withdrawing heavy weapons.
After 15 hours of talks in the Belarusian capital, Putin said agreements had been signed, one declaring the cease-fire, the other to implement it.
Meanwhile, both rebels and government troops reported fighting across eastern Ukraine.
A ceasefire will begin in eastern Ukraine on 15 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced.
“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” he said following marathon talks involving Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as well the leaders of France and Germany.
French President Francois Hollande said it was a “serious deal” but not everything had been agreed.
Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the east of Ukraine.
via BBC News
News of the research project, which is called “Body Leads” and run by the Pentagon’s internal think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, was first reported in an article by Ray Locker of USA Today.
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday confirmed the existence of the program, which costs about $300,000 a year. He said it’s designed to help U.S. officials get a better understanding of world leaders’ “decision-making processes.” But, he added, it’s not used to inform any policy decisions.
“Mr. Marshall is an out-of-the-box thinker who likes to study all kinds of issues,” Kirby said during a press conference, referring to the 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, who directs the office and was first appointed to the position during the Nixon administration.
Of Marshall’s reports, Kirby said, “Many of them will never go beyond his office.”
The department has no plans to make the documents public, even though they’re not classified, Kirby added. When asked whether they would be released under a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, “We’ll certainly take the request under consideration.” Read the rest of this entry »
Pentagon 2008 Study Claims Vladimir Putin Has Asperger’s Syndrome: ‘An Autistic Disorder Which Affects All of His Decisions’Posted: February 4, 2015
Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since early 2014, when Russian annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine
WASHINGTON — Ray Locker reports: A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome, “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions,” according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.
Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,” wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal “that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality.”
The 2008 study was one of many by Connors and her colleagues, who are contractors for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), an internal Pentagon think tank that helps devise long-term military strategy. The 2008 report and a 2011 study were provided to USA TODAY as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Putin’s ‘neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy…the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality’.”
– Brenda Connors, expert in movement pattern analysis
Researchers can’t prove their theory about Putin and Asperger’s, the report said, because they were not able to perform a brain scan on the Russian president. The report cites work by autism specialists as backing their findings. It is not known whether the research has been acted on by Pentagon or administration officials.
The 2008 report cites Dr. Stephen Porges, who is now a University of North Carolina psychiatry professor, as concluding that “Putin carries a form of autism.” However, Porges said Wednesday he had never seen the finished report and “would back off saying he has Asperger’s.”
Instead, Porges said, his analysis was that U.S. officials needed to find quieter settings in which to deal with Putin, whose behavior and facial expressions reveal someone who is defensive in large social settings. Although these features are observed in Asperger’s, they are also observed in individuals who have difficulties staying calm in social settings and have low thresholds to be reactive. “If you need to do things with him, you don’t want to be in a big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace somewhere quiet,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian Air Force SU-27 Cockpit Detail
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin
Islamists set the time machine to the Dark Ages. Putin dreams of czarist Russia. A common enemy: America
Garry Kasparov writes: The recent terror attacks in Paris at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, and at a kosher supermarket, leaving 17 people dead, represented the latest offensive in a struggle that most people, even many of its casualties, are unaware is even taking place.
“The guaranteed freedoms represented by the First Amendment frighten the radical mullahs and dictators more than any drone strike or economic sanction.”
Globalization has effectively compressed the world in size, increasing the mobility of goods, capital and labor. Simultaneously this has led to globalization across time, as the 21st century collides with cultures and regimes intent on existing as in centuries past. It is less the famous clash of civilizations than an attempt by these “time travelers” to hold on to their waning authority by stopping the advance of the ideas essential to an open society.
“Many politicians and pundits in the Free World seem to think that refusing to acknowledge you are in a fight means you can avoid losing it. But ignoring the reality of the conflict puts more innocents like the Paris victims—instead of trained soldiers and law enforcement—on the front lines.”
Radical Islamists, from the Taliban and al Qaeda to Boko Haram and Islamic State, set the time machine to the Dark Ages and encourage the murder of all who oppose them, often supported by fatwas and funds from terror sponsors like Iran. The religious monarchies in the Middle East are guilty by association, creating favorable conditions for extremism by clamping down on any stirring of freedom.
“There are no easy ways to deter homegrown terrorists or nuclear-armed dictators, but this culture of denial must end before true progress can be made.”
Vladimir Putin wants Russia to exist in the Great Power era of czars and monarchs, dominating its neighbors by force and undisturbed by elections and rights complaints. The post-Communist autocracies, led by Mr. Putin’s closest dictator allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan, exploit ideology only as a means of hanging on to power at any cost.
Since the time travelers cannot fight head-to-head with the ideas and prosperity of the Free World, they fall back on their arsenal of ideology, violence and disregard for human life.”
In the East, Kim Jong Un ’s North Korea attempts to freeze time in a Stalinist prison-camp bubble. In the West, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and the Castros in Cuba use anachronistic socialist propaganda to resist increasing pressure for human rights. Read the rest of this entry »
STICKIN’ IT TO THE MAN: ‘I refuse to comply with the requirements of my illegal detention under house arrest. The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors’Posted: January 5, 2015
Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Defies House Arrest
Navalny received suspended sentence on 30 December for embezzling money but was not released from house arrest
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday he would no longer comply with the terms of his house arrest and had cut off his monitoring tag.
Navalny, who led mass protests against Vladimir Putin three years ago, was handed a suspended sentence on 30 December after being found guilty of embezzling money in a trial that led to his brother being jailed on similar charges.
“It is stupid to brag, but I am the first person in the history of Russian courts to be sitting under house arrest after the verdict.”
He was placed under house arrest almost a year ago during the investigation but said in a blog that he was perhaps the only person in Russian legal history to be kept under house arrest after being sentenced.
He said he should have been released after sentencing in late December but instead was being held pending the publication of the verdict on 15 January – a situation that even the police did not know how to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »
A rare photo of Vladimir Putin from when he worked as an informant for Starsky and Hutch. pic.twitter.com/yf7UxfBMqf
— Andre Golo (@AndreGoLow) December 9, 2014
MOSCOW—James Marson and Andrey Ostroukh report: Striking a defiant tone, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the West of provoking a crisis in Ukraine and using sanctions to try to constrain Russia.
In his annual state of the union address, Mr. Putin defended Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying Russia would never give up the “sacred” peninsula. He accused the U.S. and Europe of cynically using the Ukraine crisis as an excuse to pursue a long-held strategy aimed at weakening Russia.
“The policy of containment was not invented yesterday. It has been carried out against our country for many years,” he said. “Whenever someone thinks that Russia has become too strong or independent, these tools are quickly put into use.”
Mr. Putin’s one-hour speech in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall underscored his hard-line response to Western sanctions that, along with low oil prices, have pushed Russia’s economy toward recession. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 1, 2014 the US State Department published a report, in which it was stated that for first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russia reached parity with the US in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Washington admitted that Moscow regained the status that the Soviet Union had obtained by mid-70’s of the XX century and then lost.
According to the report from the State Department, Russia has 528 carriers of strategic nuclear weapons that carry 1,643 warheads. The United States has 794 vehicles and 1,652 nuclear warheads.
It just so happens that today, Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (SNF) are even more advanced in comparison with those of the US, as they ensure parity on warheads with a significantly smaller number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons. This gap between Russia and the United States may only grow in the future, given the fact that Russian defense officials promised to rearm Russia’s SNF with new generation missiles. Read the rest of this entry »
Patrick de la Chevardière, CFO of Total SA (which is France’s largest energy company), has publicly announced that Total is looking to finance its share in the $27-billion Yamal LNG project using euros, yuan, Russian rubles, and any other currency but US dollars.
The effect of US sanctions was that Yamal LNG [in Russia’s far North] will be prevented from raising any dollar financings,” Patrick de la Chevardière stated in London at a news briefing.
Patrick de la Chevardière’s boss — the CEO of Total SA and presumably the man who made that decision — was Christophe de Margerie. De Margerie is now dead, along with three crew members aboard his private jet when it collided with a snowplow just after midnight at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport. The plow’s driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators, and was seemingly unhurt.
[Check out Marin Katusa’s book “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Grasp” at Amazon]
You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a plow or any other ground support vehicle.
So… is it a coincidence that the one CEO who prominently broke with the petrodollar is now dead?
In my new book The Colder War, there is a whole section on “suspicious deaths” that have occurred during the current conflict between Vladimir Putin and the West. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this political stare down, and it doesn’t much matter whether you’re against Putin or against the West. Many have fallen on both sides.
De Margerie could now be one of them. We may never know for sure.
What we are sure of is that he was outspoken in his support for Putin’s agenda, and believed Russia was a good partner for Europe. He wasn’t afraid to take on the U.S. and its primary support mechanism, the petrodollar. Read the rest of this entry »
Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS
Because They Want the Same Things Teenage Boys Want: A Strong Sense of Meaning and Purpose
For Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith writes: Teenage girls are the West’s center of gravity: Virtually all of Western pop culture, the key to our soft power, is tailored to the tastes of teenage girls. Through the wonders of information technology, the mobile phone mass-produced the mores and habits of phone-mad teenage girls locked in their bedrooms. Indeed, Western civilization is a success largely insofar as it has made the world a safe place for teenage girls—to go to school, get a job, and decide who and when to marry, or if they want to marry. When teenage girls turn away from One Direction and embrace ISIS, it means the West is losing.
[Order Lee Smith’s “The Consequences of Syria (The Great Unraveling: The Remaking of the Middle East)“]
“The idea of a caliphate, ripped from the pages of Muslim history, resonates with a kind of existential authenticity missing from the vast and drab European suburbs warehousing Muslim youth.”
A Washington Institute poll last week showed that the Islamic State has more support in Europe than it does in the Middle East. The poll reported that only 3 percent of Egyptians, 5 percent of Saudis, and under 1 percent of Lebanese “expressed a positive opinion of the IS.” On the other hand, 7 percent of U.K. respondents had a favorable view of the group, as did 16 percent of French polled—with 27 percent of French citizens between 18-24 responding favorably.
“So, why given a choice between a comfortable, if somewhat boring, life as a pharmacist in Hamburg, or fighting and dying in the desert, are thousands of Western Muslims opting for the latter?”
The numbers should hardly come as a surprise. Thousands of young European Muslims have already left the continent for the Middle East to help the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, build an authentic Islamic caliphate. Doubtless thousands more are on their way, to kill and die for an idea they believe in.
“Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. “
It is a striking fact that ISIS appeals not only to young men, but also young European women, many hundreds of whom have gone to Syria and Iraq to marryIslamic State fighters. Sure, some of them, like the 15-year-old French Jewish girlNora el-Bathy, may have come to regret their decision. But that hardly alters the essential point: The girls sought out IS fighters because the West seems weak and unmanly and they pine for real men who are willing to kill and die for what they believe in. Read the rest of this entry »
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: Tesla, an electric-car company on which the political class has showered subsidies, rolled out its newest model last week, complete with high-tech safety features like lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring, collision avoidance and self-parking. Tesla’s stock promptly dropped 8%, though probably not because these mundane features long have been available in other luxury models.
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) October 15, 2014
At $2.99, the price to which gasoline had fallen at some California stations last week, electric cars becoming a mass-market taste and not just an item for wealthy hobbyists recedes from probability. If Democrats especially start to find it politically no longer saleable to subsidize a toy for the rich, the company may be in real trouble.
Since World War I, the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated in a band between $2 and $4 (using 2006 dollars as a benchmark). Since the 1970s, though, politicians have repeatedly wedded themselves to policies premised on the idea that oil prices can only go up, up, up, in prelude to oil running out altogether. Read the rest of this entry »
“Two of the world’s powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong.”
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators turned out in Hong Kong on Monday, defying a government crackdown over the weekend that saw riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. As demonstrations grow against Beijing’s violation of its promise to allow universal suffrage, there is a danger that the infamous 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square could be repeated in Hong Kong.
“Requiring voters to select leaders from two to three candidates selected by a committee controlled by Beijing is not meaningful “universal suffrage.'”
The crisis began in June, when Beijing released a white paper that reneged on the “One Country Two Systems” principle laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
China had pledged that Hong Kong could rule itself on all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs, and voters could freely choose their own leader.
Instead, the white paper claimed that Beijing has complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, with the only autonomy being what the central government decides to grant. All aspects of local government are subject to oversight by Beijing, and even judges must meet its standard of patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »
The chef-turned-television host on the world’s cuisine, the ‘absurd’ foodie culture and why he has left restaurants behind
If you’ve read “Kitchen Confidential“, you’ll know you can’t think of restaurant food quite the same way. Bourdain’s hipster wise-ass writing style is actually funnier and more memorable than his tv travel show narration style, I think, but the sensibility is the same. Best night to eat out, according to Anthony? Tuesday, his book says. I dined once at Le Halles in New York, where he was (and perhaps still is) executive chef, and even though it wasn’t a Tuesday, the food was great. The book that made Anthony Bourdain a household name remains a favorite of mine, I’ve probably given away more than one copy. Here’s at taste of this weekend’s Wall Street Journal profile of Bourdain, go here to read the whole thing.
“Are you here to see the chef?” whispers a waiter at Sant Ambroeus restaurant in Southampton, N.Y. He’s not referring to the restaurant’s actual chef but to chef-turned-television host Anthony Bourdain, who is sitting outside on the patio.
[Check out Anthony’s book “Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly“ at Amazon]
Although Mr. Bourdain now focuses his career on showcasing world cuisine rather than creating his own dishes, to the waiters and busboys eagerly refilling his coffee cup, at least, he’s still “Chef.”
“Bourdain once described Vladimir Putin’s face as being as taut as a Real Housewife’s.”
He earned his title: He spent nearly 30 years as a cook and a chef before writing his best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000. That led to a series of television shows. His current show, “Parts Unknown” on CNN, which has won three Emmy Awards, provides a look at the culture and cuisine of different cities world-wide; its fourth season begins on Sept. 28. (Watch a promo for “Parts Unknown: Russia.”)
He still remembers his days in the kitchen well. “Most of my life I’ve been a pretty pessimistic guy, and I’ve had a pretty dark view of human nature,” he says, referring to how he used to see the world from the kitchen. It’s taken touring around the globe to turn him into a reluctant optimist.
“I assumed humans were basically bad people and if you stumbled…you would be devoured. I don’t believe that anymore.”
He likes going to controversial locales, and he doesn’t hesitate to criticize world leaders, if only in jest. (Mr. Bourdain once described Vladimir Putin‘s face as being as taut as a Real Housewife’s.) He hopes that his shows offer a new perspective on foreign locations. Read the rest of this entry »
The Islamic State and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are enemies of liberty, democracy and the rule of law
Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes: The abhorrent beheading of two American journalists and a British aid worker shocked the world. So did the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The deaths of these innocents show the global consequences of two major crises on Europe’s doorstep: the advance of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group across Iraq and Syria, and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The peace and security we enjoy in Europe and North America are under threat like never before.
These challenges will last for years, and we need to face that reality.
With Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has tried long and hard to build a partnership that respects Russia’s security concerns and is based on international rules and norms. Regrettably, Russia has rejected our efforts to engage. Russia has trampled on all the rules and commitments that have kept peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Cold War. It is now clear that Russia regards the West as an adversary, not a partner.
The terrorist threat is now growing in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State terrorists are fueling the fire of sectarianism already burning across the Middle East and North Africa, with the risk rising that terror will be exported back to our shores. Read the rest of this entry »
George Dvorsky writes: As Russian troops advance into Ukraine, and as ISIS forces ravage parts of the Middle East, the world is being forced to confront an uncomfortable fact: these belligerents aren’t just winning battles on the ground, they’re also winning over minds. Here’s what propaganda looks like in the 21st century — and how the West has failed to adapt.
Propaganda may seem like an archaic concept, but it’s very much alive and well. The world has changed significantly in the past few decades, as has our means of consuming information. Many state and non-state actors have taken notice, developing new strategies to sway public opinion both at home and abroad, and as a means to further their foreign policy agendas.
The Revival Of State Controlled Media
One area in which Western leaders have most certainly lagged behind is the effective use of media to promote its perspective. Much of this has to do with the independent nature of media in democratic countries; freedom of the press is a much-vaunted institution of free thinking and critical societies who look to the media for unbiased accounts of world events and as a way to hold their governments to account.
But these values aren’t shared at the global scale, particularly in authoritarian states such as China and Russia. Inspired by the state-controlled media of the Soviet regime, President Vladimir Putin is making a concerted effort to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon mass media” and to “illuminate abroad the state policies” of the Kremlin. To that end, he’s pouring incredible amounts of money into Russian media. The country now invests around $136 million each year just to influence public opinion abroad.
Russia is currently expanding its foreign broadcaster RT (formerly known as Russia Today) and the Ruptly News Agency. Launched back in 2005, RT is currently available in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and is being positioned as an alternative to Western international media, such as CNN and the BBC. Ruptly is currently working to establish itself as an alternative to Reuters and the Associated Press in providing video coverage.
As noted by Anton Troianovski, “While viewership is relatively small, observers say that by airing increasingly shrill criticism of the West and comments from anti-American conspiracy theorists as well as far-right and far-left Western politicians, RT has sought to undermine the authority of Western media.”
According to Andrew Weiss, the Vice President of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war.” He describes RT as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. By using the Internet, newspapers and television — along with the deployment of allegedly neutral journalists and pundits dispatched around the world — the Kremlin is effectively propagating its position.
Currently, RT reaches out to more than 644 million people worldwide, and as a state-influenced organization, it can slip messages about Russian policy into its programming (a good example can be found here). Looking ahead, Russia plans on expanding its Berlin office from two staff members to 30. It has also adopted a $39 million budget for expansion into French.
By using the media and other information channels, the Russian Federation has relentlessly and effectively conveyed it’s own narrative on unfolding events. Its startling ability to control information has become a critical tactic in its current efforts to annex portions of Ukraine and to influence events in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »