Posted on 07-11-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

We won’t have Mitt Romney to kick around for much longer.  However, just released back story for Romney’s Benghazi blunder shows just how much Romney was in thrall to the neo-con elements of his base.  When the American consulates in Cairo and Benghazi came under attack on September 11, Mitt Romney jumped the gun to score cheap political points while the consulates were still under attack.  The Washington Post notes  that Mitt Romney was aware the next day he had blundered.  However, fear of the neo-cons being outraged prevented him from admitting his boneheaded mistake.

Within hours, on the advice of his messaging shop and with the blessing of his foreign policy advisers, Romney approved a statement that accused Obama of sympathizing with anti-American interests in the Muslim world. It was sent out shortly after 10 p.m.

By sunrise the next day, it was clear to Romney that they had acted too quickly. The campaign learned that four Americans had been killed in an attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Even to some Republicans, Romney’s hasty statement looked insensitive.

“We screwed up, guys,” Romney told aides on a conference call that morning, according to multiple people on the call. “This is not good.”

His advisers told him that, if he took back his statement, the neoconservative wing of the party would “take his head off.” He stood by it during an appearance in Florida.

A gutless weasel who cannot stand up to the extremists of his own party has no business being President.  We are lucky to have avoided a Romney presidency.

 

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-10-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Hugo Chavez was re-elected to another 6 year term this week and his crumbling “Bolivarian revolution” will go on for now.  This was by no means a totally fair election given that Chavez used the full powers of incumbency and his grip on government controlled media against his opponent.  Yet his margin of victory dropped, a combination of a united opposition rallying around a strong candidate and the economic mismanagement of Venezuela by Chavez and the soaring crime rate.  Chavez is the forerunner or recent autocrats who hold on to power by semi-free elections but show no respect for the checks and balances and respect for institutions needed in a democracy.

The future though is murky.  Chavez has suffered from cancer in recent years.  While Chavez earned some deserved plaudits for noting that Venezuela’s oil wealth did not benefit its masses, his populist mismanagement and white elephant projects have dissipated the benefits of that oil wealth.  Hollywood stars like Danny Glover and Sean Penn who bask in the Caudillo’s glow fail to note Chavez’s assault on a free press and independent judiciary and support for narco-terrorists like FARC.

So nothing changes for now.   Chavez will remain a thorn in America’s side, Cuba will get their freebies and Venezuela’s economic malaise will continue.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 13-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy, Politics) by Rashtrakut

Last November, Mitt Romney offered up powerful chest thump:

“If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon.  If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not.”

Of course like his arithmetic challenged tax plan or his mutating mysterious Afghanistan policy, there has been no substance offered to support this platitude.  Since Mitt Romney feels that the harsh sanctions regime Obama has imposed on Iran is a sign of weakness (or more commonly asserts does not exist), he evidently has access to some magic pixie dust that will stop an Iranian dream that dates back to the Shah.

Today, facing withering fire for his statements on the embassy attacks one of his foreign policy advisers offered up more pixie dust.  The inspiration is likely the tweet below from the most incompetent defense secretary of our generation:

The attacks on our embassies & diplomats are a result of perceived American weakness. Mitt Romney is right to point that out.
@RumsfeldOffice
Donald Rumsfeld

This conveniently ignores the fact that there were 12 such attacks under Bush, including 8 on Rumsfeld’s watch.  This is the highest number in American history and if it were an appropriate measure of strength would make 43 one of the weakest presidents in history.  Rummy’s amnesia spreads to the neo-cons advising Romney.  Richard Williamson, who worked in 43’s administration, asserted that the Muslim world would be so cowed by the man who does not have the guts to take on Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump that they would never dare send an unruly mob (or organized assault) against an American embassy.  That or they have magic pixie dust at their disposal.

Barack Obama’s foreign policy is not perfect.  He has made mistakes.  There are legitimate questions about the security for the Libyan embassy.  But the Republican assertions of a weak President are ludicrous figments of their imagination.  Romney on foreign policy is a sad caricature and should quit making a fool of himself.  But of course he won’t.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 13-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

David Frum has an odd article up criticizing Barack Obama for his “Foolish Embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood.”  According to Frum:

Nobody remembers now, but after Mubarak’s fall there was much debate whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be allowed to participate in Egypt’s new political system. It is hardly illiberal to ban a party that aims at the overthrow of a liberal state. West Germany banned neo-Nazi parties after 1945; the post-1989 Czech Republic forbade former communist officials to hold government jobs – and both democracies are stronger for it. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood escaped the ban by promising not to run a candidate for president, a promise it promptly broke.

First let us begin with the prime fallacy in Frum’s argument.  Unless he intervened in the debate like prior American interventions in Latin America (and thankfully he did not do something that silly), this was not America’s decision to make.  American intervention here would have backfired badly on all concerned.  Years of blind American support for Mubarak has led to widespread distrust of America on the Egyptian street.  Obama did the wise thing, he stayed the hell out of another country’s political debate.

Let us also dismiss the comparison to the Nazi ban in Germany.  That is an extremely unique situation based on the horrors of the Second World War and German determination to prevent such extreme groups from ever returning to power.  It is rarely duplicated in western democracies (the American ban on the Communist Party in the height of Cold War paranoia is an exception) for a very good reason, because it is an extremely illiberal act.  The ban in Germany is also sustainable because the neo-Nazis are a fringe group despised by German society at large.  The Muslim Brotherhood is not a fringe group and has mass support.

The problem with quasi-secular incompetent dictatorships like Mubarak is that they often leave religious fundamentalists as the most organized opposition to the regime.  Not co-opted by the tools of the autocratic regime and often subject to persecution, Islamic groups often emerge as the most coherent opposition to dictatorship.  Perversely, the dictators often allowed the Islamists to remain the only organized opposition to marginalize secular opponents and to gain support in the west from fears of the Islamist bogeyman – Mubarak did both. Iran under the Shah was another example.

It is true that the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in politics did cause unease.  They were the most organized political opposition to Mubarak and that gave them a huge advantage over the rest of the fractious opposition.  To soothe such fears they promised to not run a candidate in the Presidential elections.  As Frum notes they broke that promise.

Banning the Muslim Brotherhood would have been a profoundly stupid move that would have triggered significant unrest.  It would have given them instant martyrdom.  Given the lack of administrative experience of the opposition, it is very likely that when they eventually came to power it would have been in an even stronger position.

Turkey demonstrates this scenario very well.  The regime instituted by Ataturk aggressively excluded devout Muslims from the public sphere – to the extent that women were not allowed to wear headscarves in government buildings.  The military was the power behind the throne and repeatedly intervened by open or quasi coups.  This system survived until the 1990s.  By then the global consensus had moved to democracy.  The communist bloc had collapsed.  All the dictatorships in Latin America were gone.  And Turkish politicians were extremely corrupt and incompetent.  The Islamists were the only alternative left standing, and they kept winning elections only to have the army force them out.  Eventually the Turkish army had to bow to popular pressure leaving Recep Erdogan and his Islamists firmly ensconced in power.  Erdogan’s competence compared to his predecessors has kept him in power.

Egypts generals were likely aiming for the old Turkish model, but for now Morsi has outflanked them.  Morsi has displayed some disturbing tendencies of attacking critics for lese majeste, but has not yet become a Sunni reincarnation of Ayatollah Khomeini.  For now there are checks on his behavior from the Army, parliament and civil society.

There are many on the right who bemoan our abandonment of the Pharaoh to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power.  This is an extremely short sighted view that contributes to widespread distrust in the Arab World (along with charges of hypocrisy) against the self proclaimed “leader of the Free World”.

Ultimately I see three likely (though not exhaustive) scenarios resulting from the Muslim league assuming power:

  • They turn out to be spectacularly incompetent, resulting in a drop of support (e.g. the Ayatollahs in Iran) and eventual defeat at the ballot box.
  • They turn out to be competent stewards of Egypt’s economy and manage to tap into its human capital.
  • They lapse into populist claptrap like Hugo Chavez, take delight in poking Uncle Sam in public forums or worse and drive the Egyptian economy to a ditch.  They then rig elections like Chavez to stay in power.

The third scenario is the most disturbing.  However in this scenario, Egypt rapidly loses military aid and is not really in a position to cause too much damage – help that they have no oil either.  They will be a nuisance but not a threat.

Ultimately it just is not our problem.  Egypt deserves the right to do what the United States has done for over 200 years – choose its own leaders and chart its own destiny.  Blaming Barack Obama for his “foolish embrace” of the party that was likely to win a fair election is silly.  Engaging Egypt and insentivizing it for good behavior was the smart thing to do.  If Egypt fails to do just that, it is Egypt’s loss.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

On September 12, 2012 the alliance between Egypt and the United States appears to have officially faded away.  Its end was not surprising. Under Sadat and then Mubarak, Egypt became an American ally and one of the biggest recipients of American aid after Israel.  Then the Pharaoh was swept away by the Arab spring and Egypt began its messy transition to democracy.  The much ballyhooed freedom agenda of George W. Bush withered away when it became clear that the popular franchise would not magically bring friends of the United States to power.

The transition in Egypt has been interesting to say the least.  Pharaoh Mubarak was forced out of power after popular protests, but the departure (like Tunisia) was stage managed by the army.  The Egyptian generals were showing signs that what they would live with was a “managed” democracy like Turkey until the 1990s and Pakistan today.  The civilians could rule within the margins set by the men in khaki.  If so, that belief was misplaced.  In August, the newly elected Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi – a former leader of the Muslim brotherhood – fired his military chiefs and nullified their constitutional declaration that gutted his office.

So far Morsi has not ended the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel, but it is clear that relations with Egypt had changed.  The embassy attacks highlight just how much.  The Libyan attacks were met by apologies of the Libyan government and were condemned by the government and people.  Indeed, the Libyan attacks appear to be more of a planned attack than triggered by the anti-Islam film.

In contrast the response from Morsi for a failure of his government to honor its diplomatic obligations has been….crickets.  For domestic consumption Morsi has ordered his embassy in Washington to try to make the pointless effort to prosecute the twits who made the movie that was used as an excuse for the riots.  David Frum speculates that Morsi is using this to solidify his power base.  Notably, President Obama’s statement today pointedly did not mention the Egypt attacks but evidently has sent the message to Egypt that it has the obligation to protect American diplomatic establishments.  This evening the Egyptian police dispersed the crowds without violence.

This evening Obama also gave an interview that made a now obvious point.  Egypt is not an ally, but is not an enemy either.  Clips of the interview from the Rachel Maddow show below:

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

This is a huge strategic change in the Middle East.  Left unsaid (unless it is in the full interview to be aired tomorrow) is what happens to the huge aid package that went to the former ally.  The conduct of Morsi in the last couple of days is not likely to endear his government to Congress – where many on the right are already fulminating at the abandonment of the dictator to allow the election of Islamists to office.  Will the drying up of American military aid encourage Morsi and the khaki clad men who remain in line for now to temper their actions?  It is unlikely that the Obama administration would use this to encourage a Latin American style coup and it should not.  It complicates the strategic situation for Israel, which is already facing the possible replacement of the devil it knows in Syria with chaos.  It makes Netanyahu’s obsession of a war with Iran even crazier.

Ultimately, I am not upset about the end of an alliance forged with an unpopular dictator rather than with a government backed by public support.  The former is inherently unstable and makes the United States look away from abuses that tarnish our reputation by association.  The latter are generally more enduring.  Far too many foreign policy hawks pine for the client state relationships that existed in the Cold War.  They gave a type of negative stability but cost America in the long run.  Other countries have interests too and they will not always align with ours.  That is the basic principle that in coming years will guide American relations with India, Brazil, South Africa and other countries with whom we will have warm relations without a NATO style alliance. In the long run it is a healthier and more mature approach.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   
Posted on 12-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Today was a brutal day for Mitt Romney.  His irresponsible and incoherent political cheap shot while the American embassy was under attack blew up in his face today.  Even as Romney doubled down in his mendacious irresponsibility in a smirk filled press conference, most Republicans did not follow his position.  When America is under attack there is one President, and John Boehner, John McCain, Lyndsey Graham etc. followed that basic principle.  The Republicans supporting Romney tended to be of the caliber of the quitter turned reality show star, the bloviating windbag and Torquemada.

This evening President Obama observed Romney’s tendency to shoot first and aim later.  Video below:

 

 

This is not the first time Romney has made a fool out of himself by this tendency.  This summer Romney took to the airwaves to accuse the Obama administration of abandoning Chinese defector Chen Guangcheng, while negotiations with the Chinese were still ongoing.  After Chen was allowed to depart for the United States even Bill Kristol called the attacks foolish.

Tsar Vladimir stuck the knife into Romney today by using Romney’s nutty classification of Russia as our primary geopolitical foe.  He noted that the danger of someone like Romney assuming the presidency made him firm up his opposition to a missile defense system based in Europe purportedly aimed at Iran.

The problem is that Romney has not given foreign policy much deep thought.  His foreign policy team is largely composed of the geniuses who gave us the foreign policy debacles of the Bush years.  His conduct in the last 24 hours raises serious questions about his temperament and fitness for the Presidency.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

This blog excoriated the politicization of the death of an American diplomat in a violent attack on the embassy in Benghazi yesterday.  Turns out the attack was even worse.  The death toll currently sits at 4, including the American ambassador Christopher Stevens.  Video below:

 

 

This blog is about as militant a supporter of free speech there is, but has no sympathy for deliberate provocation to stir up trouble.  Most countries do not have our free speech protections or do not share our heritage of protecting them.  So acts/statements by private individuals who then walk free are easy tools to gin up anti-American violence in the region.  Personally I find riots based on an obscure statement by an unimportant asshole on the other side of the world profoundly stupid.  But since the Satanic Verses we have known that insults or presumed insults against the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran trigger a reaction that most Americans find puzzling and overheated.

The movie blamed for the riots was a deliberate attempt to goad the bull.  Congrats Sam Bacile, Terry Jones and the other assholes who made or are promoting this film.  It worked.  You proved how easy it is to trigger riots in the Muslim world.  You have exercised your right to free speech.  Now others will pay the price.  That will range from American diplomats and citizens in the Arab world to Coptic and other Christian minorities.  I hope you are happy with the results as you head into hiding.

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Every time Mitt Romney opens his mouth on foreign policy he makes me very nervous.  He typically makes me very angry too because some muscle in his tongue makes him spew a diet of misleading statements or outright lies.  A film produced in California mocking the Prophet Muhammad triggered attacks on American diplomatic establishments in Egypt and Libya.  An American diplomat in Benghazi was killed.  This is the latest incident where an insult (or in some cases an alleged insult) to the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran draws out anti-American mobs into the streets across the far reaches of the middle east.  America’s freedom of speech gives bigots the ability to goad Muslims and without fail the bait is taken.  Even though this was not an act by an American governmental actor, it is American institutions abroad that take the heat.

One cannot reason with irrational fanatics and the smart thing to do is to distance yourself from the triggering cause and do your job of protecting American interests.  So before the embassy attacks, the American embassy criticized the attempt to incite Muslims.  Yet the riots happened anyway, triggering condemnation from the administration.

But a flailing Romney campaign has a narrative to sell.  Even though it has been widely debunked, Mitt Romney’s standard line is to accuse the Obama administration of apologies.  After all Mitt Romney, who curls into a fetal position when confronted by windbags like Rush Limbaugh, is a macho macho man when it comes to foreign policy.  Video below:

 

 

 

So Romney did, what Romney does.  He politicized the tragic death of the diplomat and twisted the chronology of events to fit his mendacious Obama apology tour meme.

Even more despicable is RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, whose contribution to the politicization of the tragedy was this:

Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.
@Reince
Reince Priebus

The few sane Republicans left on foreign policy keep assuring us that Romney is only playing to the galleries.  But so far his foreign policy pronouncements have needlessly antagonized Russia, promised a trade war with China, seem to back Netanyahu’s attempts for a shooting war with Iran, and presumably pour oil on fires when Americans in the middle east are at risk.  When it comes to Afghanistan, he has every position (video below):

 

 

It is scary that Republicans evidently believe that parking yourself in a French chateau as a missionary to gain an exemption from the Vietnam War draft (after marching is support of the war in college) and a business career overcome a serious deficiency of foreign policy gravitas.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   
Posted on 11-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

To the likely delight of the stumbling Romney campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum, after a week of warnings from his allies, bulldozing his way into the Presidential race and attempting to blackmail the American political establishment into joining him in an unnecessary war of aggression against Iran.  The last three years have been an amazing case of the tail wagging the dog.  The United States is committed to the preservation of Israel.  But both are sovereign nations with independent interests.  Yet the entire Republican party and a large chunk of the Democratic party have essentially sworn fealty to Israel and given Netenyahu carte blanche in the West Bank.  Even worse they have backed the Obama administration into a position likely to lead to a premptive war.

The war drums on Iran are insane.  Nobody has proven that Iran actually wants to build a nuclear weapon.  Many people think, what Iran actually wants is what Japan has – the ability to build one if needed.  And that unfortunately is not explicitly barred by the ridiculous Non Proliferation Treaty.  Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is expensive and if that is the goal, it would be a smart one.  Iran having a nuclear weapon or the capacity is highly undesirable, because it would remove a check on their actions and would trigger a domino effect in the region.  Yet it would not be the end of the world.  The far more psychotic North Korean regime has one and has been contained.

Contrary to propaganda, Iran’s Ayatollahs have shown a high sense of personal preservation.  During the Iran-Iraq war the actually issued a decree allowing deviation from Islamic tenets when national interest was at stake.   This is not a behavior of a bunch of suicidal zealots.  Oh and one other thing – Israel has nuclear weapons and is under the United States nuclear umbrella.  Iran would have to be batshit crazy to launch a strike on Israel.

The other problem is that a military strike almost certainly will not work.  For one thing, Israel may not have the capacity for such a long range strike even if it wanted to.  In that case Netanyahu’s statement that “[t]hose in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” is even more offensive.  Because it requires active American assistance in a war he wants to start even if America does not want to join.  And by pulling this stunt just before a presidential election he is counting on the craven Mitt Romney attacking President Obama for “abandoning” Israel.  Worse, even an American bombing campaign would at best delay Iran’s program, would likely make up their mind to actually build the bomb, would make it easier for the mullahs to make their countrymen rally around the flag and could send the global economy into a spiral.

Its not as if the Israeli establishment is united around the war drums.  Israeli Defense Minister (and former prime minister) Ehud Barak is a hawk on Iran too.  But he appears to have recognized the wisdom of trying to blackmail the United States at such a delicate time.  Netanyahu is playing a dangerous game here.  Most Americans oppose a war with Iran.  Israel has benefited from bipartisan political support in the United States.  If Netanyahu’s gambit helps throw the election to Romney (or is perceived to have done so), the backlash for Israel will be severe.

Increasing numbers of Americans (and for that matter American Jews) are no longer willing to give Israel free rein with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu’s tendency to refer to such critics as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews does not help matters.  The brazen gambit by Netanyahu also reaffirms why all of his western allies – including the last 3 American presidents – distrust and dislike him.

It appears that calmer heads may be prevailing for now.  However, I am pessimistic that this will be the last war gambit before the election.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 11-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

A mural in Corvallis, Oregon put up by a Taiwanese American businessman has drawn the ire of China.  It depicts “riot police beating Tibetan demonstrators, Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule and images of Taiwan as a bulwark of freedom.” See the picture here. Consular officials contacted the mayor to express their displeasure at the mural.  The should have stopped there.  But perhaps used to pliant officialdom in other parts of the world (like in India when the visit of Chinese officials is a signal to sanitize New Delhi from those pesky pro-Tibet demonstrators), they went further and asked for help in getting this taken down because Tibet and Taiwan are internationally deemed parts of China (though Taiwan is not necessarily deemed part of the corporatist state in Beijing).  They received a helpful response from the mayor’s office that the first amendment prevented them from taking any action.

And then the silly consular officials went to Corvallis in person (something few people unaffiliated with Oregon State University or attending a sporting event typically do) to make the  case in person to protest “political propaganda.”  Gee whiz!!  What part of free speech and the First Amendment did you not understand.  Perhaps Baidu censors the definition of free speech and the First Amendment to the United States constitution.  But a quick Google search gives you the easily comprehensible this and this.  Now evidently the second meeting did not have any demands but perchance they were attempting the strategy in the video below:

 

 

Well suffice it say a doubling down with a strenuous objection does not trump the first amendment either.  Sadly, given its track record China could seek revenge in the form of petty retaliation against relatives of the offending businessman who make the mistake of travelling to China.  Such are the insecurities of rising superpowers.

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

While Syria and Iran draw the attention of the world, the country between the two has a slow burning fuse heading towards civil war.  It is a bad sign when a country divvies up the top political positions on sectarian grounds.  The failure of Lebanese democracy in the 70s should have given people some pause.  Yet Iraq divides its presidency into three components – a president and 2 vice presidents – to give Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis equal representation.  The current President of Iraq is a Kurd.  The Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is Shiite.  The Shiite Vice President,a rival of al-Maliki, resigned last year.  That leaves Iraq with just one vice-president, the Sunni Tariq al-Hashemi.

Unfortunately, since December 2011 Mr. Al-Hashemi is on the run.  The Prime Minister has accused him of running Sunni death squads.  So far none of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors have given this accusation much credibility.  Mr. Al-Maliki returned to power in early 2010 after a very controversial election and has shown the usual authoritarian instincts.  The arrest warrant on Mr. Al-Hashemi was conveniently delivered the day after American troops left Iraq.  Iraq’s Kurdish president refused to surrender the fugitive Vice President when he was in the Kurdish autonomous zone.  Since then Mr. Al Hashemi has traveled to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia before settling down to exile in Turkey.

Yet the Iraqi prime minister is undeterred.  This weekend Mr. Al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia, an escalation hardly likely to endear Mr. Al-Maliki to his Sunni countrymen or neighbors.  Whether or not the charges are true, nobody seems to believe them.  As Iraq suffers through another bout of suicide bombings, it shows disquieting signs of a slow slide into civil war.

Like Afghanistan, Iraq needs a statesman in charge.  While Al-Maliki does not appear to be as corrupt and incompetent as the Mayor of Kabul, he has shown tendencies to sectarian one-upmanship and no signs of being the unifying figure the country needs.  The Kurds for all practical purposes have seceded into their ethnic enclave subject to resolution for their claims to the oil rich province of Kirkuk.  Sharing oil revenues is still a sore subject.

With its current leadership, it seems only a matter of time that this erupts into civil war.  If/When that happens it will be a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran.  Turkey could be sorely tempted to intervene and stomp the Kurds.  Hopefully sane leadership arises to pull this country from the brink, but my pessimism reigns.

Iraq should be another cautionary tale on blindly stepping into the Syrian morass.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 08-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Syria was always the most dangerous tinderbox to catch fire in the Arab spring.  While it is not important in oil geopolitics, it occupies a strategic location between Turkey, Iraq and Israel.  Its population is two-thirds that of Iraq and its ethnic quilt far more patchy.  Like Iraq under Saddam Hussein it is ruled by a brutal Baathist regime of a faith different than the vast majority of its people.  The fact that Baathists arose in the socialist and nationalist currents of the 1960s means that the non-Sunni groups like the Christians have been fairly ambivalent in wanting to replace the Alawite regime.  To make things worse, Syria is a proxy between the Sunni Gulf monarchies and Shiite Iran (the biggest sponsor of the Assads).  As previously noted here, the Assad regime is brutal but the Saudis have no business lecturing anybody on human rights – particularly after helping the Sunni Al-Khalifas supress their restive Shiite majority in Bahrain.  If this was not complicated enough, the Russians have proved extremely resistant to letting their last former client state in the region fall.  The expansion of the Libyan intervention from saving Benghazi to toppling (and ultimately lynching Gaddaffi) probably means that Russia will stand firm.

And the fighting is getting worse as Syria’s largest city is now the front-lines of  what is essentially a civil war.  The problem is that the opposition to the Assads is and incoherent hodge podge and there is no clarity on what follows the fall of the regime and how much autonomy to give groups like the Kurds.

Like Iraq, Syria was more of an abstract concept before its creation (like Yugoslavia and Iraq) in the aftermath of World War I by carving up the Ottoman Vilayets of Damascus, Beirut and Aleppo – the residues ending up in Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Turkey.  Like Iraq this state was notoriously unstable until the Assads came to power.  And they have absolutely no incentive to leave.  Likewise the Alawites can probably expect a bloodbath when the Assads fall – so they have no incentive to stop supporting the Assads either.  Syria’s Christians have probably taken a look at the fate of their brethren in Iraq and the worries of the Copts in post-Mubarak Egypt.  Until they can be convinced the fundamentalist element will be kept at bay, they will likely at best remain ambivalent too.

I have to wonder what Israel thinks about the fall of the Assads.  There is no love lost there, but would they prefer the devil they know versus the devil they don’t?

It is striking that the West is calling for Assad to leave but there has been precious little public debate on what happens next.  What have they learned from the Iraq fiasco that they will use to prevent a cycle of violence and ethnic cleansing?  And who will intervene? The EU’s minister in charge of pontificating on foreign policy, Baroness Ashton has made all the necessary pronouncements about organizing the opposition blah blah blah.  There still seems to be nothing on the ground.

There seems precious little appetite among the loudest critics of the Assads (other then war mongerers like John McCain) to bell the Assad cat.  The Libyan or Northern Alliance solution leaves the risk of an ethnic bloodbath at the finish.  Yet preventing the opposition from arming would repeat the tragedy of Bosnia – where the Muslims fought with one are tied behind their back and the Serbs were funded by Yugoslavia/Serbia.  So the tragic civil war continues, as the world ponders the dilemma posed by yet another flawed offspring of Versailles.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 02-06-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

The Arab Spring toppled long standing autocrats in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.  For a while it looked like the al-Khalifas of Bahrain would ease the suppression of their Shiite majority (this blogger was among those caught up in premature excitement), but that hope has been crushed with Saudi military intervention.  Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad is showing he is a chip off the old block by responding to protests with a iron fist.

The bloodbath in Syria has erased any illusions that Bashar al-Assad could be a reformer (and made laughably timed puff pieces like this one about his wife Asma even more ridiculous).  The Alawite regime is and has always been a brutal military dictatorship.  It has hosted assorted anti-Israel terrorist groups, held Lebanon in vassalage for almost two decades and is Iran’s only remaining friend in the Arab world.  The massacre last week in Houla has brought renewed calls from a motley bunch for military intervention.

And this is truly a motley bunch.  You have bellicose American Senators like John McCain (who 4 years ago seemed willing to get into a shooting war with Russia in support of an autocratic and bellicose Georgian regime).  You get neo-cons tossing out laughable justifications.  You have human rights do-gooders who insist that the world cannot stand idly by.  And then you have Saudi Arabia (fresh off suppressing the Shiite protests in Bahrain) bleating cries of human rights.

Of these, the Saudis are the most cynical.  Syria is one of the few (other than Iraq and Yemen) Shiite Arab regimes.  When you factor in the Iranian alliance of the Alawite regime and that many of the protestors in Syria are Sunni, the Saudi human rights concerns appear primarily sectarian.

The Libyan intervention should also not serve as a template for a military intervention by the United States in Syria.  The Syrian army is far more equipped, Syrian society is far more diverse and stratified and the military commitment will approach what was needed in Iraq.

 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. – George Santayana

 

In fact, it is fascinating to see how quickly people have forgotten the lessons of Iraq.  The fall of Saddam was followed by the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population out of parts of Baghdad and the dispersal of the Christian minority in Iraq into forced exile.  The Syrian ethnic quilt is far more confusing than Iraq in ethnicity and religion.

One notable characteristic of the Arab Spring has been the reluctance of religious minorities to trust their fate to popular democracy.  The regimes in Egypt and Syria (or even Saddam’s Iraq) were not beacons of religious tolerance but they were/are markedly more secular than their successors or likely successors.  The opposition to the Assads has often had a heavy Sunni Islamist tinge and the Christian, Alawite and other minorities appear to have been largely lukewarm to the protests – the Alawites in particular must be quaking in their boots at the retribution that will likely follow when the Alawite Assads fall.

This does not mean that the protests are not justified and no apologia for the Assads is intended.  However, any interventionists should be prepared for an ethnic bloodbath and population transfer that will likely dwarf what happened in post-Saddam Iraq.  An added complication is the absence (or lack of knowledge) of an alternative leadership that could replace the Assads.

Finally, and to put it crudely, this is not America’s fight.  As the United States ends a decade long commitment to the Iraqi blunder it makes no sense for it to be sucked into another invasion of a Baathist regime in support of a fractured, incoherent and leaderless opposition and reaping yet another bloody ethnic whirlwind.  If Turkey (wouldn’t the Arab Syrians just love an occupation by their former imperialist overlord *snark*), Saudi Arabia (whose historic track record against well armed regimes is to talk loudly and let someone else do the fighting) or France (who ran out of bombs fighting Gaddafi’s weak Libyan military) want to take the lead, be my guest.  Unlike (yet another chest thumping) Senator Rubio, I think it is time for America to roll back the role of global gendarme rather than continue on a course of unsustainable global overreach that will drive us into bankruptcy faster than Barack Obama’s mythical spending increases.

President Obama please continue your work in keeping us out of the Syrian quagmire.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   

News readers across the world suddenly discovered that Timbuktu actually exists.  Unfortunately this was for the wrong reasons.

The half baked war to topple Muammar Gaddafi did topple the world’s longest serving non-royal ruler and few tears are being shed for his grisly demise.  However, the fallout still reverberates over the Sahel.  The mercurial Gaddafi had a romantic fondness for the Tuareg people.  Libyan oil largess was spent in the region and the Tuareg were recruited as mercenaries for a dictator who was careful not to arm his people.  The Tuareg of Libya were one of the only Libyan ethnicities (other than Gaddafi’s own tribe) to stick with him till the bitter end and Gaddafi’s dauphin Saif was captured as he tried to flee to Tuareg territory.

As the fighting in Libya drew to a close, many of the Tuareg mercenaries returned home.  They brought along the military equipment Gaddafi paid for.  The result has been turmoil in the region.  In Mali, one of the relatively long lived democracies in the region, it turned a simmering rebellion into a hot civil war.  The Tuareg inflicted a series of reverses on the poorly equipped and led Malian army.  The frustrated soldiers mutinied and almost accidentally launched a coup.

This leaves Mali’s erstwhile allies in the horns of a dilemma.  Without the cold war to rationalize it, supporting dictators is a no no – even for Mali’s African neighbors.   Even though the coup leaders have promised to restore democracy (at an unspecified time) and not try to retain power, aid has been cut off.  Then there is the ugly military reality on the ground.  The legendary city of Timbuktu fell to the rebels this week.  It appears very unlikely that Mali, even with the assistance of West African neighbors, can win the territory back by force.

For now the Tuareg in Mali are content with their ethnic homeland.  But the conflagration could spread with regional involvement sparking a Tuareg revolt in Niger, Algeria and Libya.  Even if the fighting does not spread, Mali is effectively partitioned by force.

In the post colonial era the African Union elected to suppress an ethnic free for all by retaining colonial borders.  Secessionist movements like Katanga and Biafra were strongly discouraged.  Even though Eritrea could claim an exception as an Italian colony before World War II, it took 45 years and the fall of the communist Derg in Ethiopia for Eritrea to break free.  The effective partition of Somalia into three parts is ignored as if it does not exist.  South Sudan has been the one carve-out from the colonial borders that has been grudgingly accepted.  Now Mali could be the next.  And accepting a Tuareg homeland creates the type of uncertainty that causes Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran to collude in preventing an independent Kurdish state.

This was not what the world wanted to see in the aftermath of toppling Muammar Gaddafi.  The risks had been noted, but had largely been ignored.  Now Mali reaps the whirlwind.

It should serve as a cautionary tale for the current drumbeat to get involved in the Syrian ethnic quagmire.  The Assad regime is vile, but the Alawite, Shiite and Christian communities of Syria fear the alternative of a Sunni dominated regime.  The Saudis who had no qualms in crushing a Shiite rebellion against the Sunni al-Khalifa despots in Bahrain have cynically become the apostles of human rights for the largely Sunni Syrian rebels.  And the bomb everybody trio in the United States Senate (Messers. McCain, Lieberman and Graham) are chomping at the bit to suck the United States into another ethnic quagmire.

Good intentions can have unintended consequences.  Beware those who would launch us into costly wars without weighing the consequences.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 02-04-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

In 1990 the Burmese junta announced elections and decided to take on the recently returned charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi at the ballot box.  To the surprise of most observers the elections were free and fair and not rigged.  The result was a resounding victory of the Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy.  The stunned generals reacted petulantly and nullified the elections results.  Ms. Suu Kyi spent 15 of the next 22 years under house arrest.  Even when not under arrest she was not free and refused to leave the country for the legitimate fear that a return would be blocked.

Over the next 22 years the already isolated Burmese nation became an international pariah.  Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize and became the conscience of the suppressed Burmese people.  During the last two decades Myanmar’s secessionists wars continued.  The junta displayed its  brutality in suppressing widespread protests spearheaded by the respected Buddhist monks and its incompetence during Cyclone Nargis.  In these years Myanmar became the latest international pariah befriended by a cynical China eager to harvest abundant Burmese resources.  Unwilling to see another neighbor become a Chinese satellite, India swallowed its distaste and permitted economic ties with the Burmese junta.  For all the bravery of the Burmese monks and the dignity of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar was the land the rest of the world largely gave up on.

And suddenly this year things changed.  Possibly fearing life as a Chinese puppet  and worried about its long term future, the junta sent out feelers to Ms. Suu Kyi and her supporters and transferred power to a nominally civilian government.  Even though the 650 seat parliament is dominated by the uniforms it announced elections for 45 seats.  As an additional carrot, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to run.

Even with attempts to rig the elections, it appears that the National League for Democracy may have won 44 of the 45 seats.  If the result holds up, it is a stinging rebuke to the junta.  The question is what happens next.  The junta obviously has no legitimacy and for now will have given up control of less than 7% of parliament.  Hosni Mubarak held on to power in Egypt for almost three decades by allowing the opposition to nibble at the edges of parliament.  But until two years ago Hosni Mubarak never faced such a debacle at the ballot box.  For the second time in 22 years the Burmese people have shown their contempt for the junta at the ballot box.

So will the generals fade away quietly into the good night?  What assurances will the NLD be willing to give to hasten this transition?  Given the thumping the junta has taken in what should have been its pampered strongholds, how much control do they retain on the rank and file?  It is a time for statesmanship of the sort that allowed Spain in 1975 and Chile in 1989 to transition to democracy.  Will the characters on stage step up?

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 02-04-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

This blog vented last week on Pakistan’s misplaced priorities in accounting for how Osama Bin Laden ended up in the cantonment town of Abbotabad.  The farce continues.  Now Osama Bin Laden’s widows and two of his adult daughters (who have been in custody since last May and formally arrested March 3) have been sentenced to 45 days in prison (with credit for time served) and fined about $110 each.  The crime?  Illegally entering Pakistan.  After serving their sentences the women, and presumably their progeny, will be deported to their home countries.

No news on whether Pakistan’s crack investigative teams have come up with an explanation on how the women ended up in Abbotabad to begin with.  The Pakistan farce continues.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 29-03-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Pakistan was humiliated last year when the most wanted man in the world was discovered comfortably ensconced in Abbottabad, barely 50 miles from Pakistan’s capital.  Pakistan faced difficult questions.  How long was Bin Laden in Abbotabad?  How could he live there for so long without Pakistan’s security services knowing about it?  To what extent did the Pakistani state and its notorious secret service, the ISI, sponsor Bin Laden’s stay?  How far up the chain did the knowledge of Bin Laden’s whereabouts go?

Most states would try to discover the answers to these questions.  But this is Pakistan we are talking about.  After 20 years of two faced tactics in condemning terrorist activity directed at the west while sponsoring it against India but still hosting/turning a blind eye to the training grounds for both, it was too much to hope that Pakistan would look deep into its soul and provide answers to the questions above.  So far no answers to the Bin Laden mystery have been provided.  The Quetta Shura of the Taliban still resides unmolested in that country, probably with the ISI’s blessings.  Pakistan still makes at best half hearted moves against the Taliban and Al-Queda remnants in the North West Frontier Province.  American drone attacks that have become essential to make up for Pakistan’s failure to act are greeted with howls of outrage.  And with Pakistan perfectly capable of shutting off the land supply lines of American troops in Afghanistan and with the ever present fears of a military coup, it has not been pressed too hard on the Bin Laden story.

What Pakistan has done is go after scapegoats.  I have yet to hear of any arrest of a Pakistani official for enabling Bin Laden’s stay.  However they have pursued Dr. Shakeel Afridi for the “crime” of helping the United States track down Osama Bin Laden.  A panel investigating the Bin Laden raid recommended Dr. Afridi be put on trial for treason.  Today Dr. Afridi was sacked from his position as a governmental surgeon on disciplinary grounds.  Other health workers who assisted Dr. Afridi in discovering Bin Laden’s location have also been sacked.

With “allies” like Pakistan, who needs enemies.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   
Posted on 26-03-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Indian MP’s are upset.  They are outraged…outraged…that anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his team are publicly referring to the unsavory past of many of their brethren.  It was enough for these whiny crybabies to trot out the tired old favorite about the ever present “foreign hand” motivating Hazare’s crusade.  Unfortunately, Indian politicians have the credibility of Casablanca’s Captain Renault being shocked at gambling taking place in a casino.

 

 

I am not an Anna Hazare fan.  In my opinion he displays many autocratic anti-democratic tendencies, does not seem to understand the critical importance of institutional legitimacy in sustaining a democracy and all too easily allowed his anti-corruption crusade to devolve into a personality cult.  Yet he struck a chord for a reason.  In my last trip to India the increasing prosperity of the middle class was evident.  However, a permeating sense of lawlessness and lack of accountability for the political class was also evident.  India’s politicians have become real estate barons and mining executives.  They no longer bother to hide their rapid rise in wealth without any clear legitimate source for such riches.  Corruption scandals have become all too commonplace at all levels of government with the dollar amount of graft rising exponentially.  Hazare’s cherished Lok Pal bill may create another bloated over-powerful bureaucracy but at least represents an effort to deal with the problem.

India’s electorate does punish graft by repeatedly voting out incumbent governments at the state and the national level (unlike the United States incumbency is an electoral liability).  Unfortunately the losers can often count on being recycled back into power at the next round of general elections.  A case in point is the recent elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh.  Voters ejected the megalomaniacal  Chief Minister Mayawati who used government funds to erect statues of herself around the state.  They returned to power the Samajwadi Party whose new young leader Akhilesh Yadav (the son of a former Chief Minister) promised a break from his party’s past history of  thuggishness and hostility to modernity.  It took less than 24 hours following the election for the promises to ring hollow.  Samajwadi Party goons have resumed their old habits and Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet is dotted with the shady characters of years past.

Ultimately nothing will change in India as long as the same batch of thugs is recycled through parliament and legislators.  India’s middle class does not help matters by throwing up its hands and not bothering to vote.  Also, while the Indian populace reviles the corruption of its leaders it is often too willing to see governmental regulations as a nuisance to be bypassed.

Breaking a culture of corruption is hard.  It took the assassination of a President for the United States to start paring back the spoils system at the federal level.  It took another century to break up many of the state and city party machines.  And after all that, corruption does flourish in vast sectors of American life.  Combating a culture of corruption will take time in India.  However, a good start would be for the buffoons in India’s parliament to stop pretending that they are models of probity.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 25-03-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

The neo-cons, theo-cons and other clowns who helped generate the Iraq fiasco are back with a vengeance.  This time the target has shifted east to a country with five times the population.  The world will be a better place without Iran’s loathsome regime.  It dispensed with its veneer of popular support and democracy by rigging the presidential election three years ago.  It has cheerfully backed entities such as Hezbollah.  And the nuclear program is a cause for concern and could start a nuclear domino effect in an unstable neighborhood.

Yet the clamor for war is profoundly misguided.  Iran is a third rate military power with a crumbling economy.  The recent round of sanctions have all but brought its economy to its knees and almost made it impossible for Iran to conduct foreign exchange transactions.  Iran’s mullahs may speak in apocalyptic terms but have never displayed suicidal instincts.  Ayatollah Khomeini wrote an open letter in 1986 to the present Supreme Leader (who was at the time the president of the Islamic Republic) asserting that if the survival of the Islamic regime was at stake, even the basic tenets of the religion could be shut down to protect the Islamic system from destruction.  Like tyrants everywhere the ayatollahs have a fine sense of self-preservation.

Almost no military expert has asserted that a surgical strike like Israel’s 1981 attack on the Osirak reactor in Iraq and its 2007 attack on a Syrian nuclear project would stop Iran’s nuclear program.  The distances are too great, the sites are too spread out (and many are buried deep underground beyond the reach of Israeli bombs) and Israel may not have the military capacity to pull off such an assault.  The result of such a strike would probably simply delay the Iranian march to the bomb (a popular policy goal that has been an Iranian dream since the reign of the last Shah) and convince the regime that only a nuclear device will protect it from future assaults (a lesson that the North Koreans appear to have taken from Saddam Hussein’s demise).  Eliminating the current nuclear program would probably require a sustained bombing campaign (which would require American help), lead to far greater civilian casualties and further rile anti-American sentiment in the Arab world.  And then there is the added economic shock of spiking oil prices and Iran unleashing its proxies in the region.

Finally the American army needs a break.  The United States army was trained to fight the Red Army tank divisions in the plains of Central Europe.  Yet for the last decade it has been fighting two draining counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Even the best trained army in the world can only take so much.  It is a factor that must be considered before the chickenhawks send the army into yet another poorly thought out war.

There has been a tendency in the past decade to compare every nasty regime to Hitler.  Hitler ruled the most populous and industrialized state in Europe whose industrial regions (unlike France) had not been damaged by World War I.  He had an extremely well trained army and the industrial complex to support rearmament and conquest.  Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad and the Iranian mullahs do not come close to measuring up.  The Iranian army has never recovered from the purges after the fall of the Shah.  Iran’s domestic politics force the regime to shower goodies on the revolutionary guard at the expense of the army at large.  Barring the rally around the flag effect from a foreign attack, Iran’s youth despises its regime.  With much of the world rallied around the United States in enforcing sanctions against Iran, a war makes no sense at this time.

The loudest cheerleader for war has been Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – over the advice of many of his own military advisers.  This blogger’s inner cynic notes that banging the war drums has allowed Netanyahu to avoid tough decisions on illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank that is slowly strangling what remains of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  At present the Iranian regime is on its knees, the Syrian regime is struggling to survive, Hezbollah’s enthusiastic embrace of Assad is destroying its domestic support base and Hamas appears to have lost its Syrian support.  A far sighted statesman would seize the favorable strategic environment to finalize a deal with the Palestinians (who do need to come to terms with the fact that the right of return is simply not happening).  But then other than his enablers in the United States and the irredentist wing in Israel, nobody has accused Mr. Netanyahu of visionary statesmanship.

Barack Obama has held off the war cries for the last three years.  Here’s hoping he holds strong in the face of a media campaign from people whose credibility should have been shot after Iraq.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   

Saturday’s Presidential debate saw most of the Republican candidates embrace torture.  Most pretend that “enhanced interrogation” is a magic incantation that prevents acts like waterboarding from being torture.  Herman Cain channeled his inner Romney to try to have it both ways, but the magic incantation trumped deference to the military (which calls waterboarding torture).

As Conor Friedersdorf  notes Newt Gingrich was outright scary on assassinating US citizens.   Friedersdorf reserves his praise for the two Republicans who understand why we do not torture, why it is counterproductive and how it militates against American values.  Neither of them will get the nomination, though Jon Huntsman could win the general election if nominated.  Ron Paul, while he has some kooky economic theories and is an isolationist, has always had the moral courage to stand up for what he believes in (like refusing to join the post 9/11 frenzy to rubber stamp the Patriot Act) – unlike most of the weasels in public life today.

The clip below highlights the stark contrast between the candidates of the soundbite (Cain and Bachmann) versus two men who have clearly given it some thought.

 

 

I don’t praise Republicans often in this blog, but today I will.  Thank you Mr. Paul and Mr. Huntsman for having the guts to stand up for American values and opposing a practice that has been illegal for over a century.

I wonder how loudly the rest of the candidates would howl in outrage if another country subjected captured Americans to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-11-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Mitt Romney deviated from his tired canard about Obama apologizing for America to provide the sort of platitudes that comprise his foreign policy platform.  After all, you have to dig deep to call the President who ordered a raid into the heart of Pakistan to get Osama Bin Laden and who helped bring down Gaddafi weak.  So the solution is the blanket statement below on the Iranian push for a nuclear bomb.

 

 

So Mitt, since you are evidently willing to go to war to achieve this end please tell us how you manage this:

  • Almost every military expert agrees that an aerial bombardment of the type Israel is itching to launch would at best delay the Iranian push for the device.  So are you going to send in ground troops?
  • Where would such an invasion be launched from?
  • How would we pay for this?
  • What would be the impact on an overstretched military that is seeing light at the end of the tunnel of two long wars in the countries on the West and the East of Iran?
  • What will be the impact in Iraq if Iran unleashes its Sadrite proxies or on Israel if Hezbollah gets involved?
  • How will you handle the economic shock of an almost certain spike in oil prices (to go with the mess in Europe)?
  • If this is a snatch and grab, how will we prevent Iran from restarting the program?
  • How will you handle the fallout with Russia and China – or do you just not give a damn?
  • Are you willing to consider a full fledged invasion?  If so, how will you handle an occupation?

The ugly reality is that there are few good options to prevent Iran from getting the Bomb.  Iran has wanted the Bomb since the days of the Shah.  The pursuit of the Bomb is incredibly popular even among the anti-cleric democratic movement.  The Obama administration has been incredibly successful in getting Russian and Chinese support for a practical containment policy.  But if Mittens has a silver bullet for Iran other than his usual foreign policy bluster, I am all ears.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   
Posted on 21-10-2011
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

This blog has been dormant for a while, but the graphic images from Sirte has shaken it out of its stupor.  Perhaps for the first time since Baghdad residents got to vent their anger on the corpse of Nuri as Said in 1958, has a middle eastern mob had a similar opportunity against a despised and hated leader.  A year ago the graphic videos from Libya were unthinkable.  A few months ago with his tanks at the gates of Benghazi it looked like the 41 year rule of the mercurial dictator would survive the Arab Spring.  And then NATO with the fig-leaf of Arab support got involved and the “Northern Alliance” strategy finally bore fruit.

And then the hunt for the deposed tyrant began.  The end was pathetic.  As his hometown of Sirte finally fell to his enemies the wounded Gaddafi was dragged from his hiding place (a drain pipe).  As the fallen dictator pleaded for mercy he met his end soon after in murky circumstances.  Cell phone videos of a bleeding Gaddafi are available for anybody willing to conduct a Google search.

The rest of the Gaddafi clan is either captured, dead or has fled (warning gruesome pictures in link).

Apart from one expected quarter, Gaddafi goes to his grave unmourned.  His legacy is broken, factitious oil rich tribal mish-mash bunched under a new/old national flag.   Libya faces an uncertain future once the euphoria over the lynching in Sirte fades.

Also uncertain is the future of NATO.  The French and the British wanted this operation, but soon discovered that they could not sustain a campaign against a fourth rate military without access to the American arsenal.  Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates departed with a well timed salvo at Europe questioning the worth of an alliance where only one country carries the weight.  The solution from Congressional hawks appears to be to bankrupt the United States by continuing to sustain 40% of global military spending alone.  A reappraisal of American military commitments and spending is long overdue.

With the specter of their crazy leader gone, the people of Libya sleep easier tonight.  So do perhaps diplomats in a land of cheese, chocolates and banks.

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 21-08-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

After weeks of horrendous economic news, Barack Obama and NATO can heave a sigh of relief. The longest ruling despot in the world appears to have fallen.

As expected, the fall was dramatic. Just last week the squabbling rebel alliance cut off the dictator’s supply lines. Today they entered Tripoli to cheering crowds. Some of Gaddafi’s sons appear to be in custody. Gaddafi’s fate is yet unknown.

It remains to be seen whether the tribes united by the Libyan flag can create a national state. Hopefully a revenge bloodbath can be avoided.

This also turns the spotlight uncomfortably on Bashar Assad. The fears of unraveling Syria’s ethnic quilt kept many Western states quiet. Last week it became clear patience was running out. While NATO bombardment is unlikely, the younger Assad is finding it hard to emulate his father in suppressing dissent with an iron fist.

The bufoonish Gaddafi falls largely unmourned, except perhaps in Caracas, Havana, Harare and some African capitals.

The bloody Arab summer has harvested its first tyrant.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-07-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

As previously noted, South Sudan officially became the world’s latest nation today, triggering joyous celebration on the streets of Juba.  Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir magnanimously appeared for the independence celebrations in what was once the southern half of his country, but the conflict is not over yet.  The run-up to independence saw the two sides clash over the border town of Abeyi, and a division of oil revenues is still a sticking point.  But let the wringing of hands wait for next week.  This weekend South Sudan gets to celebrate the success of its struggle for independence.  Happy birthday.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 08-07-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

It appears the uniformed thugs of Europe’s last dictatorship (the authoritarian regime in Moscow deserves a bold asterisk on its classification as a democracy) are capable of medical miracles.  The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is struggling to contain public protests over the collapsing (and already impoverished) economy.  So the security services have started hauling in perceived dissenters.  And therein lies the miracle – one armed men have been convicted of clapping and deaf-mutes have been convicted of shouting.

Lukashenko has survived so far due to the tacit support of Moscow, which likes pliant states in its “near abroad.”  Yet last year Vladimir Putin sent out signals that the Kremlin’s patience for Lukashenko was not unlimited.  Russia’s favorite foreign policy bludgeon – cutting of gas supplies – was used to bring Belarus to heel.  Going forward Russia has denied Lukashenko’s bankrupt regime needed loans, focusing instead on (in competition with China – another regime used to dealing with nasty despots) buying up Belarusian assets at cut rate prices.

It is hard to see a clean solution to this crisis.  Lukashenko is unlikely to go without a fight.  Putin’s Russia is terrified of the “color revolutions” in its neighborhood planting subversive thoughts in the heads of its serfs…I mean citizens.  Russia can be counted on to sabotage any independent minded popular government that emerges from any such revolution (see Ukraine).

Unfortunately for Belarus, its past probably gives some hint of its future.  The frustration of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has already shown Little Russia how hard it is to escape the suffocating embrace of Great Russia.  Poor White Russia which spent most of the last 800 years shuttling from the imperial domination of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Empire of the Czar of All the Russias is well on its way to repeating history.  Impoverished, with no functioning government structures or tradition of democratic rule and fatally dependent of the Kremlin for gas and oil, Belarus will likely end up in tighter Russian thralldom.  The West will probably lose interest after Lukashenko leaves, and in any case will not pick a fight with Russia over Belarus.

Yet another example of the perils of being a midget in a giant’s backyard.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More