American Elephants


Is President Obama Interested in Doing His Job? by The Elephant's Child

The White House on Monday said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Russia is stirring the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but President Obama hasn’t yet decided if further sanctions are warranted. …[T]he juxtaposition is a perfect summary of the current state of U.S. foreign policy.

Vladimir Putin uses Russian special forces to cow a neighbor and steal territory , while Mr. Obama agonizes about what to do.

That was the Wall Street Journal. The White House dithers about what response they may choose. The U.S. has refused to send Ukraine military aid, but offered MRIs, and military type socks.

The Journal adds “We know Mr. Obama didn’t run for President to engage in great power politics, but it is still part of the job description. Is he still interested in doing his job?

In the Weekly Standard, Ruel Marc Gerecht asks:

Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production? Is he prepared to strike if the regime denies inspectors access to the personnel and documents that would allow the West to see whether—how much—the regime has been lying about weaponization?

Again in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol:

The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration’s Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

The Open Skies treaty allows the United States and Russia to fly over each other’s territory with planes loaded with certain agreed-upon sensor packages, in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements and to provide assurance against preparations for various military surprises. Russia has asked the U.S. to agree to an upgrade in the sensor package their planes can carry…The request would apparently result in a significant increase in Russian spying capabilities; the first response from Pentagon was, according to one government official close to the situation, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But the State Department has been making the case for acceding to the Russians’ demands, and the White House seems to be on State’s side. The White House has also stonewalled requests for information from the congressional intelligence committees.

 



Photoshoppers at Work: Humor 1, Government 0. by The Elephant's Child

a_betobama

We heard on the radio that President Obama had a telephone conversation with President Putin.  I thought this was funny!



Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by The Elephant's Child
April 3, 2014, 6:32 am
Filed under: Europe, Freedom, History, Politics, Russia | Tags: , ,


Obama’s Fantasy World Is Dangerous to Our People by The Elephant's Child

eucom-photo

President Obama’s budget for FY 2015 was widely heralded as “dead on arrival.” Spends too much on all the wrong things, and it will never get by the House of Representatives. Fortunately.

But reporters continue to dig into it to try to understand the president’s priorities. We know the major outlines—he’s big on redistribution of wealth,  and wants millions to waste on climate restraining efforts.

We’re in the middle of the seventeenth year of a complete lack of observable global warming but the investment in catastrophic climate change is huge, and nobody’s going to give up with or without a fight. How is Obama to reward his supporters if he cant funnel subsidies to them through the guise of saving us from a nonexistent  rise in temperatures caused by a benign rise in carbon in the atmosphere. But I digress.

What is noticeable as they dig into the budget is that in the wake of a world in turmoil, where it seems that everywhere passions and anger are rising, the cuts to our national defense are indefensible. Now we learn that the cornerstone of U.S. Naval power is eliminated under the Obama budget. The president is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades. The U.S.Navy has been responsible for keeping the world’s sea lanes open and safe—no small matter.

The Tomahawk missile program—the world’s most advanced cruise missile— is set to be cut by $128 million under the FY budget proposal and completely eliminated by FY 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy. The Long Range Anti-Ship missile, an experimental anti-ship missile not yet capable of passing basic tests. The number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States will drop significantly from 196 last year, to 100 in 2015, and zero in 2016. The stock would be completely depleted by 2018.

The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015.

The proposed elimination of these programs came as a shock to lawmakers and military experts, who warned that cutting these missiles would significantly erode our ability to deter enemy forces.

Seth Cropsey, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, said “It doesn’t make sense. This really moves the U.S away from a position of influence and military dominance.” If someone were trying to “reduce the U.S. ability to shape events” in the world, “they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the U.S. fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”

While the military is seeing budgets cut dramatically, and equipment scaled back—the Tomahawk cuts seem not to be due to a lack of funds.  The administration seems to be taking the millions spent on the Tomahawk program and investing it in an experimental program that experts say will not be battle-ready for at least 10 years.

Putin has on the border of Ukraine 20,000 troops, artillery, and attack helicopters. The Ukrainians asked for weapons, we said no, but offered MREs (meals ready to eat). Putin essentially said Russia was swindled at the end of the Cold War, swindled of its empire, swindled of its colonies and swindled of its own territory and I’m here to get it back. He’s also establishing bases in South America.

China is attempting to make the South China Sea its own private pond. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe  is attempting to reform their pacifist constitution, and re-arm.  North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Iran. Clearly a time to reduce our power in the world—so we won’t be thought to be a bully.

And the president can’t be bothered to attend National Security meetings?



Unprepared for the Office to Which He Aspired. by The Elephant's Child

The Russian absorption of the Crimea seems to be a done deal. Obama is ordering sanctions, but apparently on the wrong people. One would think that they could at least sanction the bank accounts of people who would mind and do something about it. This is what Russia has been doing since the end of the Cold War— when it sees weakness and vacillation, they slide in.

The big problem is that our lack of understanding of how the world works, speaks loudly to the rest of the world. Putin, former KGB Colonel,  knows what he is doing and has a good idea about what he can get away with. Russia is a mess. Life expectancy is around 55. Their manufactured goods are only for home use, and are not competitive on the world market. What they do have is lots of oil and natural gas, which Europe, due to their romance with wind and solar, and fear of global warming, desperately needs. Europe can thus be blackmailed. They have relied for too long on an American superpower which they can no longer trust.

On September 17, 2009, President Barack Obama officially announced that he would abandon the Eastern European missile shield. The new man in the White House apparently felt that his “mandate” meant that he was free not only to break with the past, but to undo it.  No scruples about reneging on long-term commitments of his country when they interfered with his own plans. So he scrapped the treaties George W.Bush had signed with Poland and the Czech Republic. The latter countries were not exactly pleased.

“Catastrophic for Poland” a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense said. Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and founder of Solidarity observed with bitterness: “I can see what kind of policy the Obama administration is pursuing toward this part of Europe. The way we are being approached needs to change.”Aleksander Szczyglo, the minister of defense at the time, told the press: “From the point of view of our interests, every U.S. soldier, every U.S. base on Polish territory, increases our security and binds us to the United States by a closer alliance.”

Continuity in international relations is essential. You just can’t jerk other countries around. The U.S. has historically respected it’s treaties, even those that the Senate did not ratify. We now have an administration unconstrained by preceding commitments. Nations whose good-faith gestures and risks are snubbed may have a very different view. Simply dumping treaty commitments may seem unimportant at the time, but it is the kind of thing that reverberates around the world affecting countries willingness to act in concert with us. Diplomacy by “reset button” damages our relations with everyone.

In a joint statement on December 4, 2009, the president of the United States, Barack Obama and the president of Russia, Dimitry Medvedev, confirmed the assurances of security to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus given on the heels of these countries consent in 1994 to give up their nuclear weapons. According to the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, the signatories pledged to “Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders” and “Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.” The Russians ignored the memorandum, but one does not expect much of Russia. Apparently one does not expect much of the United States either.



A New Cold War? by The Elephant's Child

Michael McFaul is the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. He left his position last month. From a March 15 Facebook post:

I am very depressed today. For those of us, Russians and Americans alike, who have believed in the possibility of a strong, prosperous, democratic Russia fully integrated into the international system and as a close partner of the U.S., Putin’s recent decisions represent a giant step backwards. Tragically, we are entering a new period with some important differences, but many similarities to the Cold War. The ideological struggle between autocracy and democracy is resurgent. Protection of European countries from Russian aggression is paramount again. Shoring up vulnerable states, including first and foremost Ukraine, must become a top priority again for the US and Europe. And doing business with Russian companies will once again become politicized. Most tragically, in [the West's] seeking to isolate the Russian regime, many Russians with no connection to the government will also suffer the effects of isolation. My only hope is that this dark period will not last as long as the last Cold War.



The Background to Current Events: by The Elephant's Child

Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin is the essential history to current events. We tend to think of World War II as “the good war,” celebrated in movies and fading memory. It was good in the sense that it was a war waged against true evil, but it was a desperate war in which the whole world was threatened. But we tend to forget the Cold War, a time when kids hid under their desks, and people built fallout shelters. Before World War II even began, index America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.

Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.

Timothy Snyder has done a series of articles for the New York Review of Books about the current crisis. Worth your time:  “Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine,” “Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda,” and “Crimea: Putin vs. Reality.



Parliament Authorized Putin to Restore “Social and Political Normality.” by The Elephant's Child

So much for “liberal internationalism.” Fantasies are pleasant, but President Obama threatens consequences. He does not do consequences. President Obama’s National Security team convened this weekend to discuss the Ukraine crisis, after a last-ditch effort to find a diplomatic solution to Putin’s Cold War-style standoff. Secretary of State John Kerry was back from a London meeting with his Russian counterpart and was at the White House meeting along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. President Obama did not attend the meeting but was briefed about it separately.

60,000 Russian troops, according to Bloomberg News, are massed along the Eastern Ukrainian border. They are apparently waiting to enforce the will of the people, which is either vote to join Russia now or vote to join Russia shortly. Vice President Joe Biden will leave Monday on a visit to NATO allies Poland and Lithuania to show support for our key partners in the region. In Vilnius he will meet with the presidents of all three Baltic nations, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. The Wall Street Journal said:

And what is to stop Mr. Putin? In the two weeks since Russian troops occupied Crimea, President Obama and Europe have done little but threaten “consequences” that Mr. Putin has little reason to take seriously.

The U.S. has refused Ukraine’s request for urgent military aid, and it has merely sent a few NATO planes to the Baltic states and Poland. The Russian strongman might figure he’s better off seizing more territory now and forcing the West to accept his facts on the ground. All the more so given that his domestic popularity is soaring as he seeks to revive the 19th-century Russian empire.

Left in shambles are the illusions of Mr. Obama and his fellow liberal internationalists. They arrived at the White House proclaiming that the days of U.S. leadership had to yield to a new collective security enforced by “the international community.” The U.N. would be the vanguard of this new 21st-century order, and “international law” and arms-control treaties would define its rules. …

The 19th-century men understand that what defines international order is the cold logic of political will and military power. With American power in retreat, the revanchists have moved to fill the vacuum with a new world disorder.

We could do broad economic and financial sanctions against Russia and its elites. If Europe does not go along, it’s another failure of U.S. diplomacy. The world’s banks can be made to face a choice between doing business with America and doing business with Russia. NATO could move quickly to deploy forces to Poland and the Baltic states. We could update the Bush-promised missile defense installation in Eastern Europe. Europe needs wake up to reality. Mr. Obama needs to learn that America’s adversaries aren’t impressed by his fanciful 21st century rules.

We’ll see. This national security team is not an impressive bunch.



There Are Also Consequences to Not Having a Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

In the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan says:

Sept. 11 started the century and brought forward the face of terrorism. It is still there and will continue to cause grave disruptions. Since then we have seen we are living in a time of uprisings, from the Mideast to Africa to the streets of Kiev. We are learning that history isn’t over in Europe, that East-West tensions can simmer and boil over, that the 20th century didn’t resolve as much as many had hoped.

A Mideast dictator last year used poison gas on his own population and strengthened his position. He’s winning. What does that tell the other dictators? What does it suggest about our future?

At the American Enterprise Institute, John Bolton writes:

President Obama has three significant Middle East diplomatic initiatives underway, treating, respectively, Iran’s nuclear weapons program; Syria’s deadly, exhausting conflict; and the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Into these negotiations, Obama and his administration have poured enormous amounts of American prestige, time and effort.

Although rarely considered collectively, these three efforts constitute a significant strategic package for a White House that all too often hardly bothers with foreign policy. These initiatives truly reflect Obama’s view of America’s international role: His is a world of rhetoric and talk, not power.

Thus, Iran has not feared U.S. military strikes against its nuclear weapons program, and now, as a result of November’s interim agreement in Geneva, it does not even fear international economic sanctions. Neither the Bashar Assad regime nor Al Qaeda terrorists in Syria see any prospect of material U.S. intervention. And the main pressure being applied in the Israeli-Palestinian matter is against Israel, heretofore Washington’s strongest regional ally.

The Obama administration’s three initiatives will come to naught because they are based on error. Iran uses negotiations to buy time to continue work on their nuclear program. Obama thought Russia shared his objective of a peaceful transition from the horror of the use of chemical weapons on his own people, to something else. We could have dealt with it directly by helping the opposition in Syria, or tackling the problem’s root cause, the regime of the mullahs in Tehran.

We don’t seem to know who our friends are. The Palestinians have no legitimate governing institutions that are capable of hard decisions, like making compromises or overcoming resistance from Hamas or other terrorists. A regime that trains its small children to grow up to be suicide bombers is not going to make reliable agreements about anything.

Failing to understand reality, and failing to grasp the consequences of such failure weakens the United States and emboldens our enemies.

An interview with Col. Austin Bay pointed out that there are approximately 200 wars going on currently in Africa — real wars.

Venezuela is falling apart. Their foreign minister blames the United States and called US Secretary of State John Kerry a “murderer” who has fomented unrest that has killed 28 people in their country. Since street demonstrations began against President Nicholas Maduro’s socialist government in early February, Venezuelan ministers have been accusing Washington of stirring u[ the country’s worst political troubles in a decade. President Maduro says that a bird is giving him advice from the late President Chavez.

There’s more, of course. Argentina is in deep trouble, our newly appointed ambassador neither speaks the language, nor has ever been to Argentina, but did provide significant funds for Obama’s reelection.

Qatar hosts the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, but also supports the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and radical Sunni outfits in Syria. Support for Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels was too much for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the U.A.E. all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar.

And so the World turns on, altering and illuminating the affairs of man. Or something like that.



President Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy: by The Elephant's Child

“Secretary of State John Kerry warned that there will be serious repercussions for Russia on Monday if last-ditch talks over the weekend to resolve the crisis in Ukraine failed to persuade Moscow to soften its stance.” That’s the Washington Examiner. And the repercussions are? The New York Times said Russian Troops and armored vehicles were massing in at least three regions along Ukraine’s eastern border. Angela Merkel warned that the Russian Government must abandon what she called the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries or face diplomatic and economic retaliation from a united Europe. Retaliation?

Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov made it clear that President Putin is not prepared to make any decision regarding Ukraine until after the referendum on Sunday. (Washington Post) Putin was prepared to let the referendum go ahead despite warnings that it would violate both Ukrainian and international law. Kerry warned that “there will be consequences.”

Secretary Kerry said he offered assurances during the talks that the United States is not trying to threaten Russia.”We’re not trying to challenge Russia’s rights or interests” in Ukraine. But he said that he and President Obama are convinced that “there is a better way for Russia to pursue its legitimate interests in Ukraine.”

Lila Shevtsova, a member or the American Interest editorial board and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says that we are falling into Putin’s trap.”Russia,” she says “is a ‘unique’ civilization and must contain the demoralized West: Russia can only exist as a galactic center, around which orbit satellite-statelets; Russia is the civilizational pillar whose mission is to defend ‘traditional values’ globally.”

Peggy Noonan notes in The Wall Street Journal   that what is happening in the Ukraine is demanding our attention, demanding that we focus.

The most obvious Ukraine point has to do with American foreign policy in the sixth year of the Obama era.

Not being George W. Bush is not a foreign policy. Not invading countries is not a foreign policy. Wishing to demonstrate your sophistication by announcing you are unencumbered by the false historical narratives of the past is not a foreign policy. Assuming the world will be nice if we’re not militarist is not a foreign policy.

What is our foreign policy? Disliking global warming?

Ouch.



Liberal Intellectuals and Why They Are: by The Elephant's Child

From the preface to Jean François Revel’s Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a post-Soviet Era, by Anthony Daniels:

[L]iberal democracy is not an ideology in the sense that Marxism or any other form of utopian political thought is an ideology; liberal democracy does not hold out the hope of a denouement of history in which all human contradictions are resolved, no conflicts can arise and everyone is ceaselessly—and one might almost add remorselessly—happy. It assumes that conflicts, difficulties, problems and dissatisfactions are inescapable characteristics of the human condition, and that the best that can be hoped for is compromise without slaughter, bringing with it some faint hope, though not the certainty of progress. There is no blueprint. …

Intellectuals, the justification for whose existence is that they have a superior understanding of the world to that of non-intellectuals, find it hard to accept that all understanding of empirical matters is partial, temporary, subject to revision and doubtful; and that any political system that does not take this into account will end up imposing lies (and worse) upon whole populations. There have been times and places in history, perhaps, when to impose a prori schema on society has not been utterly disastrous; but Europe in the twentieth century was decidedly not one of them.

But intellectuals not only want to think well of themselves; they want to be important. The attraction of ideology is that it offers a simple principle, or a few simple principles, by which to understand the world; and of course, it offers the prospect of power to those who know and wield those principles with the greatest facility. It seems to me likely that inside every Marxist Western intellectual there has been a Stalin trying to get out.



The Soviet Story (2008) by The Elephant's Child

A question that occasionally comes up in conversation: “How come the villains  are always Nazis? We hear constantly about the Nazi concentration camps, but never about the Gulag. Stéphane Courtois’ The Black Book of Communism and Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror alone should make it clear that Russia is not exactly going to respond cordially to ‘reset buttons’ or pleas for conversation, even when we have more ‘flexibility.’ Or perhaps Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History, Or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’ s The Gulag Archipelago. Why do we choose not to know, when the information is right there? How can our administration be “astonished” when the Russians choose not to risk losing their Black Sea port and access to the Mediterranean? This is the country that planned and carried out the Holodomor — The Great Terror, on the Ukraine.

This is long, an hour and a half film from 2008, that probably most people never saw. If you can’t spare that much time now, make time to watch it later.




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