American Elephants


World Turmoil Unseen Since the Seventies. Now What? by The Elephant's Child

A Wall Street Journal’s front page article on Monday said politely “Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since 70s.” “A convergence of security crises is playing out around the globe from the Palestinian territories and Iraq to Ukraine and the South Chin Sea, posing a serious challenge to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and reflecting a world in which U .S. global power seems increasingly tenuous.”

The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s, U.S. security strategists say, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, revolutionary Islamists took power in Iran, and Southeast Asia was reeling in the wake of the U.S. exit from Vietnam.

In the past month alone, the U.S. has faced twin civil wars in Iraq and Syria, renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, an electoral crisis in Afghanistan and ethnic strife on the edge of Russia, in Ukraine.

Bewildered leftists say that he promised to end the War in Iraq, and wind down the war in Afghanistan and he did. He fulfilled his campaign promises. But there is ending and ending. I don’t know if anyone voted for Obama because he said he would end the War in Iraq. They voted for Hope and Change, and fancy theatrics and a litany of carefully crafted meaningless phrases.

Foreign policy is hard, and the big things may be controlled by the little things like personalities, and ego as well as deep knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of a country. Obama wasn’t much interested in foreign policy. He seems to have had in mind simply being the anti-Bush. Bush made wars, he would make peace. Bush had a muscular presence in the world and emphasized American strength. Obama wanted us to be just a nation among other nations, and let other nations deal with stuff. Obama found his national security briefings boring and quit going.

He yanked our people out of Iraq too abruptly and failed to establish a status of forces agreement to help prepare the Iraqi army for just what is happening now. The countries in Eastern Europe didn’t get their missile defense. Obama said in a May speech at West Point that the Obama foreign policy doctrine, would rely on U.S. leadership, but not troop deployments. Well, we’re not any good at the U.S. leadership business either, it seems.

A few meetings with Obama and Hillary’s “reset button” convinced Putin that nobody was likely to do anything, so he went right ahead to annex Crimea. The allies who had relied on America to prevent Russia’s ambitions lost confidence in American action as well. The Taliban got their leaders back. Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, and then erased it. The Arab Spring was misunderstood from the beginning, and the administration fell for the Muslim Brotherhood’s claim to Egypt. The feckless John Kerry has been trying to solve the problems of the Middle East by forcing Israel to give more land to the Palestinian terrorists. The Chinese, watching our military downsize, have decided to upsize theirs and are vigorously growing their navy and submarine fleet and flexing their muscles in the South China Sea.

And there is the self-declared new Caliphate, now encircling Baghdad, another surprise to the administration, and our negotiations with Iran go on. We want assurances, they are happy to give assurances. We seem unable to learn that deception is a way of life in the Middle East, and expect an agreement to be worked out that will enable them to have all the sanctions lifted.To call it all an “Arc of Instability” is perhaps the understatement of the year. But the stakes have never been higher.

Jonathan Karl lists some of the “instabilities.” Obama, we are told, no longer talks to anyone but Valerie Jarrett and Michelle. We are in the best of hands.



The Official Foreign Policy of the Obama Admistration by The Elephant's Child

This is actually a clip from the British comedy series “Yes, Minister,” but it seems so precisely applicable, and funny, that I couldn’t resist. The comedy that captures accurately the foibles of humanity is always the best, though we like the comedy of the other guy’s foibles better than when our own are exposed.



Southern England Holds Billions of Barrels of Shale Oil by The Elephant's Child

Shale rock underneath some of the wealthiest counties in the south of England may contain billions of barrels of oil, a government report said. The Weald basin covers counties south of London, including Surrey and Sussex, may have oil in quantities as large as 8.6 billion barrels, according to a British Geological Survey report published on the 23rd. It was also noted that the potential for shale gas may be limited.

Britain is required by law to shut down their elderly gas-fired power plants. Dependence on alternative sources like wind has not turned out to be as dependable as advocates assumed. They have been reduced to importing wood pellets from U.S. North Carolina forests.

The Bowland basin, which extends across east and northwest England may hold as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas. That would be enough to meet demand for almost half a century if they had extraction rates similar to US. fields. The U.K. government has offered tax breaks to drillers to stimulate the infant industry.

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The European Union is determined to shift away from dependence on Russian gas imports, according to a draft European Commission document on energy security. Producing oil and gas from shale could partially compensate for declining conventional production. There will be the usual protests about high volumes of water, sand and chemicals to drill shale, and whether it can damage the environment. Probably more protests than we have experienced. Big steps forward always being out the Luddites.

The European Union has enough gas trapped in shale to free the bloc from reliance on Russian energy supplies for about 28 years if the member countries are prepared to extract it. Russia has been fairly clear that they are prepared to use their vast supplies of gas as blackmail.

According to Reuters, Russia is the world’s top oil producer, but is pumping near capacity. It needs advanced technologies to sustain their output. They want a boom in unconventional oi; output by the start of the next decade. They are targeting a new shale oil boom by the next decade.

It would be very good news indeed if Britain and the EU are self-sufficient in energy, and cannot be blackmailed by Russia, who is inclined to do just that.



Russia Will Ban U.S. From Using the International Space Station! by The Elephant's Child

article-2227338-15D4A236000005DC-550_634x465Russia will now ban the US from using the Space Station over our Ukraine sanctions. If the Obama administration is going to deny export licenses for some high-technology items, a blow to Russian industry, well two can play that game. They will also bar its rocket engines from launching U.S. military satellites, as it hits back at American sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis.

The two countries have long cooperated closely on space exploration in spite of clashes on foreign policy. The space station is manned by both Russian and American crews, but now the only way to get there is by using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. The U.S. now pays Russia $70 million per seat to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station.

Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin pointed out that Russia could use the station without the United States. “The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one. The U.S. one cannot.”

And they will suspend the operation of 11 GPS sites on Russian territory from June, and will seek talks with Washington on opening similar sites in the U.S. for Russia’s own navigation system Glonass. So there.

We will see how this all turns out. I would suggest, however, that Vladimir Putin is more accustomed to playing hardball.



Struggling To Understand Obama. The World Can’t Be Ignored. by The Elephant's Child

So many of us on the right have felt we were confronted by a puzzle. The left was caught up in a bubble of ecstasy about their president. No superlatives were too extreme. After the Cairo speech in June, 2009, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas gushed ” I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above, above the world, he’s sort of God.”

Thomas added ,”He’s going to bring all different sides together … Obama is trying to sort of tamper everything down. He doesn’t even use the word terror. He uses extremism. He’s all about let us reason together…He’s the teacher. He is going to say,’now, children stop fighting and quarreling with each other.’ And he has a kind of a moral authority that he—he can—he can do that.”

Republicans were puzzled by the bubble. Republicans have been proud of some presidents and some candidates, but are not given to hero worship, and  quick to point out flaws. Unfortunately. Democrats still worship FDR, sure that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that he saved the country from the Great Depression and from Hitler and Tojo. So they believe in intent, and are not given to analyzing the results — but we knew that.

Republicans thought Obama did not have the experience either in the private sector or in managing anything —  no executive experience — to be successful in the presidency. Democrats, desperately aware of their own long dismal history with race, jumped on any lack of enthusiasm for the Obama presidency as a clear example of racism. If you didn’t think Barack Obama was beyond criticism, then you clearly were opposed to having a black man as president and you were a racist.

That’s getting harder to maintain as President Obama’s claim that he is “on the right side of history” has crumbled in the wake of his ineptness in foreign policy. He was famously caught ‘off mike’ telling then-president of Russia Dimitri Medvedev that “he could be more flexible after the election.”

Paul Mirengoff sums it all up very effectively at Powerline, in a piece titled “Barack the Surprised.” Mr. Mirengoff sums it up: “Obama’s biggest mistake is to ascribe his own ambivalence towards America to the world at large.” He quotes Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic in a piece titled “The Inconvenience of History.”

[T]he richest of the ironies about Obama’s foreign policy is this: the world that in his view wanted to be rid of American salience now longs for it. It turns out that Obama’s Iraq-based view of America’s role in the world, according to which American preeminence is bad for the world and bad for America, is not shared by societies and movements in many regions.

They need, and deserve, support in their struggles. (In Syria, for example, the tyrant enjoys the significant support of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, the Islamist rebels enjoy the significant support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the moderate secular rebels enjoy the significant support of nobody.)

There are many places in the world where we are despised not for taking action but for not taking action. Our allies do not trust us. Our enemies do not fear us. What if American preeminence is good for the world and good for America?

Obama brought to the presidency a view that George W. Bush was responsible for most of the troubles in the world, and the United States was unnecessarily involved in the world. Obama told us he had a better understanding of the world because he had lived in Indonesia as a child, visited Pakistan, and his father was from Kenya. His opposition to everything Bush led him to want a much smaller military, less involved.

It was a shock to many when in the wake of Putin’s takeover of the Crimea, when Ukraine begged for help we sent MREs and military-type socks.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn of playing politics with military readiness in a dangerous world. Al Qaeda is on the rise, encouraged by a passive White House. Panetta is speaking softly, but attempting to wake up those in charge.

While the temporary two-year budget deal in Congress provided some short-term stability, it failed to repair the extensive damage to readiness. There is simply no slack left in the system if the U.S. must respond to another crisis abroad.

In a troubled world, both our friends and our enemies will take note if we reduce our military readiness. No one questions the capability of our troops, our weaponry or our technology. What they do question is whether our democracy can function effectively to ensure our strength.

We have been told by those who know Obama that he does not change his mind. That does not portend well for the next 2½ years. Obama’s interest is focused on the midterm elections, not the world as it is.



Not “a Student of History,” Not By A long Shot! by The Elephant's Child

Reporting from Manila, Major Garrett said that  Obama is growing frustrated with recent editorial criticism portraying his foreign policy as weak and naive.

We seem to have gotten in the habit of thinking that when there are hard foreign policy problems that there may actually be a definitive answer; typically, those who offer that definitive answer come up with the use of force as the definitive answer,” Obama said. “You would think, given that we’ve just gone through a decade of war, that that assumption would be subject to some questioning.”

Obama then said as a student of history and as commander-in-chief he understood the limits of military power. “Very rarely have I seen the exercise of military power providing a definitive answer.” Obama may believe himself to be a “student of history” but it’s clear that he skipped class a lot.

“If there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them,” Obama said here during a press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. “We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy. It may not always be sexy. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run.”

He must have missed the day when Teddy Roosevelt’s phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was discussed. It’s fairly simple. If your adversaries believe you to be strong, and capable of doing real damage to them, they will be more apt to avoid annoying you.

President Obama turns it upside down, and informs our adversaries right off that we have no intention of doing anything in any way violent ever, and then asks them to pretty please do something they have no intention of doing. Where did he get the idea that would work?

The Washington Post, certainly not a “neo-con” paper editorialized:

FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, “It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.”

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

“power in world politics is perceived power, and perceived power is a vector that results from perceived military capability, and perceived political will.”
…………………………………………………………………………Michael Lind



First May Day March in Moscow Since the Soviet Union Fell by The Elephant's Child

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Seems like I wrote too soon. These are scenes from today’s May Day March in Moscow, the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party is still around, and at least one person still honors Joseph Stalin.

Vladimir Putin is good at propaganda, and he has roused the Russian people with national pride. They consider the Ukraine as a Russian province. We may have “won” the Cold War, but it was a humiliation for Russia. Putin wants to restore Russian pride and Russian power. Has the president given any indication that he understands that?

We are having a May Day march in Seattle, which seems to be about illegal immigrants who don’t want to be deported. Except there are also the usual bunch of anarchists who are angry about everything in particular and hope to be able to smash some windows to show how angry they are. And there is a bunch of native Americans in strange colored headdresses. Some stores are boarded-up as a precaution. Lots of police on bicycles and horses.The radio says “for Workers and Immigrants Rights.” The word “illegal” is not any more allowed than “recovery” or “jihad.”



Sanctions, Strategic Pivots, Peace Processes: Nothing’s Working! by The Elephant's Child

From the front page of the New York Times:

TOKYO — President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.

Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. …

In Jerusalem, Israel’s announcement that it was suspending stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians, after a reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the militant group Hamas, posed yet another obstacle to restarting a troubled peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry has been greatly invested.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. and the European Union imposed more sanctions on Russia Monday and both the ruble and Moscow stock index rallied, the latter up 1.5% The markets didn’t take this response to the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine seriously, and neither will Vladimir Putin.

The Journal added:

Sanctions only make sense if they cause enough economic pain to make Russians begin to question the wisdom of Kremlin imperialism. Otherwise they make the West look weak and disunited. This is exactly what Mr. Putin is counting on, and so far he’s been right.



President Obama’s “Pivot” to The Minimum Wage by The Elephant's Child

The United States is sending ground troops to Poland, the Polish defense minister says after meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. But not to worry, this is not a major escalation. Supposedly they are sending a company, about 150 soldiers, for exercises with the Polish military for a short stay, or something like that.

The Ukrainians asked for military aid, we denied them weapons, but sent MREs and military style socks, and reportedly helmets as well. They were trucked into Ukraine as it was thought a military cargo plane might be too provocative.

President Putin, on the other hand has something like 40,000 troops massed on the Ukrainian border, but says they are just there as a precaution since there is so much unrest in the Ukraine. The officers above the rank of Major in the Ukrainian military all came up through the Russian military, and they aren’t going to fight Russians.

The Russian President denies that the militants in the Ukraine have anything to do with Russia, and he is quite helpless to stop them. Although the pro-Russian activists seem to have had military training, their weapons and equipment are all Russian, and their use of tear gas and stun grenades is inconsistent with a spontaneous local militia. Last Thursday Mr. Putin referred to Ukraine as part of “New Russia.” Even when Mr. Putin openly declares his goal, Mr. Obama prefers to ignore it. The Wall Street Journal said:

The larger problem is that Mr. Obama can’t seem to admit that his assumptions about the world are being repudiated by the week. He came to office believing his own campaign rhetoric that the U.S. was unpopular mainly because of President George W. Bush. He would end these misunderstandings through diplomatic engagement, especially with our adversaries, who would respond in kind to our good will and moral example. Nowhere in the world has that happened.

Diplomacy in Geneva has come up with about what one would expect. After seven hours of negotiations they agreed that “all parties including separatists and their Russian backer, would stop violent and provocative acts, and all illegal groups would be disarmed. A joint statement made no presence of what the U.S. has said are 40,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders. Kerry said that Russia is “absolutely prepared to begin to respond with respect to troops,” provided the agreement is observed.

The U.S. has sent 12 F-16 fighters and 200 support personnel to Poland. NATO’s secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance would fly more air patrols over the Baltic region and allied ships would deploy to the Baltic.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re–pivot” to Europe, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trend.

The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more. Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.

According to the New York TimesMr. Obama has concluded that he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin. As a result he will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, and otherwise turn to other foreign policy area where progress remains possible.

The White House is preparing to nominate John Fl Tefft, a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine , Georgia and Lithuania.  Administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow’s influence would irritate Russia.

Obama is less concerned with irritating Russia now, and is reportedly pivoting to the George F. Kennan strategy of containment.

The more hawkish faction in the State and Defense Departments has grown increasingly frustrated, privately worrying that Mr. Obama has come across as weak and unintentionally sent the message that he has written off Crimea after Russia’s annexation. They have pressed for faster and more expansive sanctions, only to wait while memos sit in the White House without action. Mr. Obama has not even imposed sanctions on a list of Russian human rights violators waiting for approval since last winter.

Mr. Obama says that Ukraine is not a major concern for Americans. He has concentrated his public schedule around “important” issues like job training and the minimum wage. Since Mr. Putin is not interested in a partnership, Mr. Obama is not interested in the Ukraine or Russia. But then, he’s not much interested in foreign policy at all—though it’s the major part of his job description.

David P. Goldman, writing as “Spengler” says Americans are playing Monopoly, Russians are playing chess. Ukraine is a basket case with a per capita income a tenth of that of the European Community. They are deeply in debt to the Russians and dependent on Russian energy. Putin will let the West take charge of the Ukrainian disaster until it festers, and then pick and choose what he wants. And what he wants is a “new Russia.”



Anti-Semitism Arises in Donetsk, Ukraine. Not from the Ukrainian Government, but Who? by The Elephant's Child

This was not Ukrainian government’s doing, but the source is unknown. The Ukrainian government is trying to find the source.

Pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Jews emerging from a synagogue there were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee — “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” according to Ynet News, Israels largest news website.

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The leaflet was written in Russian and had Russia’s two-headed eagle on it, and distributed by masked men outside the Donetsk synagogue after Passover prayers. the region is home to about 17,000 Jews. It was signed by Denis Pushilin, as chairman of Donetsk’s temporary government. Pushilin has reportedly denied responsibility for them. The leaflets are not any official order, but they weren’t just scrawled on a sign either.

Ugly. The White House should respond in the harshest terms. The president said “there will be consequences,” and went on to claim another million for ObamaCare.



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

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




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