Filed under: Europe, Foreign Policy, National Security, Politics, Progressivism, Russia, The United States | Tags: Foreign Policy Failure, Putin Is Not Our Friend, Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin just pitched the post Cold War rule-book out the window, and the European countries are understandably nervous. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement that he wants to downsize the military to the size it was before World War II, may go down in history as the most inappropriate announcement ever made by a cabinet member.
The White House spin machine is telling friendly reporters that Vladimir Putin has fallen into a trap, which may be carrying the idea of “spin” a little too far. Walter Russell Mead said “Putin is increasingly likely to go down in history as a failed state builder, a man who took Russia down the wrong path and who added to the burden of Russian history.”
But those are long term considerations that, unfortunately for the diligent White House staffers working to spin the next news cycle, won’t help the President now. In the short term President Putin has put President Obama in an ugly spot. President Obama’s foreign policy depends on three big ideas: that a working relationship with Russia can help the United States stabilize the Middle East, that a number of American adversaries are willing to settle their differences with us on the basis of compromises that we can accept, and that President Obama has the smarts to know who we can trust.
Putin’s attack on Ukraine calls all three propositions into question. What Obama’s belief in the possibility of deals with countries like Russia and Iran leaves out is that some countries around the world may count the reduction of American power and prestige among their vital interests. They may not be hampering and thwarting us because we are unnecessarily and arbitrarily blocking their path toward a reasonable goal; they may be hampering and frustrating us because curbing our power is one of their central objectives. This is not necessarily irrational behavior from their point of view; American power is not a good thing if you hate the post-Cold War status quo, and it can make sense to sacrifice the advantages of a particular compromise with the United States if as a result you can reduce America’s ability to interfere with your broader goals.
Washington’s flat-footed, deer-in-the-headlights incomprehension about Russia’s Crimean adventure undermines President Obama’s broader credibility in a deeply damaging way. If he could be this blind and misguided about Vladimir Putin, how smart is he about the Ayatollah Khameni, a much more difficult figure to read? President Obama is about to have a difficult meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he will tell Netanyahu essentially that Israel should ground its national security policy on the wisdom of President Obama and his profound grasp of the forces of history. The effect will be somewhat undermined by President Obama’s failure to understand the most elementary things about Vladimir Putin.
Foreign policy is harder than it looks, and Mr. Obama’s foreign policy team is not an impressive bunch. Will the American public see this as just another case of difficult foreigners doing bad things in some little-known country, or will they see this as clear evidence that this president is too naive and too passive and he is endangering the country?
Secretary Kerry said huffily on Face the Nation: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country. That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong, Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”
It’s easier to threaten friends. They probably won’t do anything. Obama said essentially that if Israel wouldn’t agree to the U.S. idea of a peace deal with the Palestinians, then the U.S. won’t be able to defend Israel if the peace talks fail. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which began last July, have made no visible progress. Palestine refuses to recognize the right of the Israeli state to exist, won’t stop shooting rockets into Israel, continues to teach its small children that martyrdom in the interest of killing Jews is a holy aim, and insists of the ‘right of return.’ Obama’s ideas about Israel were likely formed by his friendship with the radical Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi. He does not change his mind.
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Foreign Policy, Iran, Progressivism, Regulation, Russia | Tags: Crisis in Ukraine, Obama Campaigns, Russia Moves In
President Obama, focused like a laser beam on the crisis in the Ukraine, hits the campaign trail to pitch an increase in the minimum wage. He will appear with four Democrat governors from New England on Wednesday in Connecticut to boost his uphill fight to get Congress to approve an increase in the federal minimum wage.
His 2015 budget proposal will be released on Tuesday, calling for increased spending on manufacturing and early childhood education as well as hiking the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, theoretically redistributing income, but mostly destroying more jobs — in this case an estimated 2,500,000 jobs. We already have 7.8 million people working part-time who want full time jobs. Raising the minimum wage will put a lot more on part-time (ObamaCare regulations) and fulfill only the president’s fantasy of redistributing income.
The Democrats aren’t going to be able to run on the economy this fall. They won’t be able to run on increasing employment opportunities, nor on foreign policy, but by golly, there’s always the minimum wage. That’s the only thing they have to campaign on. If employers don’t just say the hell with it and purchase robots, tablet menus, or automated check out machines, they can always move to a state where business is more welcome.
You can trust Obama to always inadvertently come up with another way to kill jobs.
Filed under: Freedom, Heartwarming, History, Science/Technology | Tags: A 4.5 Billion Year-Old Spaceship, Thinking on a Larger Scale, Your Neighborhood
Filed under: Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, The United States | Tags: An Ill-Informed Media, Anticipating Events, Russian History
A Politico report called it “a crisis no one anticipated.” The Daily Beast, reporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” and quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.” The American Interest noted that the mainstream media remains deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are “the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. There were, we were told lots of reasons not to worry about Ukraine. War is too costly for Russia’s weak economy. Trade would suffer, the ruble would take a hit. The 2008 war with Georgia is a bad historical comparison, Putin doesn’t want to spoil his upcoming G8 summit, or his good press from Sochi.”
How many times did foolishly confident American experts and officials come out with some variant of the phrase “We all share a common interest in a stable and prosperous Ukraine.” We may think that’s true, but Putin doesn’t.
We blame this in part on the absence of true intellectual and ideological diversity in so much of the academy, the policy world and the mainstream media. Most college kids at good schools today know many more people from different races and cultural groups than their grandparents did, but they are much less exposed to people who think outside the left-liberal box. How many faithful New York Times readers have no idea what American conservatives think, much less how Russian oligarchs do? Well bred and well read Americans live in an ideological and cultural cocoon and this makes them fatally slow to understand the very different motivations that animate actors ranging from the Tea Party to the Kremlin to, dare we say it, the Supreme Leader and Guide of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As far as we can tell, the default assumption guiding our political leadership these days is that the people on the other side of the bargaining table (unless they are mindless Tea Party Republicans) are fundamentally reasonable people who see the world as we do, and are motivated by the same things that motivate us. Many people are, of course, guided by an outlook not all that dissimilar from the standard upper middle class gentry American set of progressive ideas. But some aren’t, and when worlds collide, trouble comes.
Canada has promptly recalled its ambassador to Russia, and cancelled their attendance at the G8 conference. The G7 are suspending their participation in any international summit in Russia. I think that The American Interest has it exactly right. The White House operates on the assumption that the people with whom we negotiate are really reasonable people who basically want the same things that we do. Well, no they’re not. Has no one noticed that Putin has allied himself with Syria, Iran, North Korea. Moscow denounced the overthrow of Moscow’s man in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych as the illegal work of fascist bandits.
Obama wants stability. He sees Ukraine as a crisis to be managed. Democracy must come organically from international developments, not imposed by outside intervention. What he does not understand is that American inaction creates a vacuum. Obama’s meaningless “red line” in Syria invited in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Obama’s failure to get a status of forces agreement with Iraq invited in Iran and al Qaeda. And he is apparently ready to turn Afghanistan over to the Taliban. Obama’s lifting of the sanctions against Iran has allowed them the freedom to finish developing their nuclear weapons.
These are not reasonable people who want the same things we do.The citizens of these countries may be reasonable people, but their governments are a different bunch. The people of Iran were once quite cosmopolitan, but the Mullahs await the return of the Mahdi and expect nuclear weapons to hasten the reestablishment of the Caliphate.
The Saudis and the leaders of the Gulf States are deeply worried about Iran. One might assume that they are more familiar with their neighbors than we are. We should perhaps pay attention.
Putin has told us over and over that the fall of Soviet Russia was the world’s greatest catastrophe, and he clearly regrets the loss of superpower status. Part of restoring the Soviet Union would seem to be recapturing its former satellite states. If we paid attention, and knew our history, we might anticipate such crises. That seems a worthy goal.
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, History, National Security, Russia, The United States | Tags: Formal Approval From Parliament, Obama Speaks Out, Russian Troops Invade Crimea
The situation in the Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Putin has invaded the Crimea, as expected. President Obama skipped the National Security Meeting on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
A Ukrainian official at the U.N. said an additional 15,000 Russian troops were streaming into Crimea after President Vladimir Putin received formal approval from the upper chamber of parliament to send forces into his neighboring country.
Ukrainian officials said two Russian anti-submarine warships had approached the coastline near Sevastopol, violating the two countries’ agreement on the Russian naval base there.
These moves came shortly after Obama said in the White House press briefing that “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” There’s a statement designed to send chills down the backbone of any Russian czar, or not.
“Russian troops will remain deployed until the “political-social situation in the country is normalized,” the Kremlin said.
President Obama skipped the National Security Meeting on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine., but I repeat myself.
He told us so back when he was running for office, but you didn’t pay attention. Richard Fernandez notes:
During the height of the Cold War it was believed that having to emphasize the obvious represented a failure of policy. Deterrence had to be self-evident; a daily thing. You didn’t go on the air to issue bloodcurdling warnings. You didn’t have to because stability was there, part of the normal like the air or the earth. The Russian president only had to look at the his daily briefing to know that the USAF was flying and hence that the day could begin as peacefully as the previous one.
Well, when the world heats up, just issue a firm statement — “there will be costs.” That should do it.
Filed under: Foreign Policy, History, Media Bias, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, Statism, The United States | Tags: No Longer a Free Press, No Longer a Government Watchdog, Shallow Superficial Work
I have not been unduly impressed with our journalists in general for a number of years. I got curious a while back and looked up Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism and Northwestern’s as well, and learned that the coursework offered concerned how to write a lede and writing about foreign policy or fashion, that sort of thing. This was some time ago, so I may have forgotten the particulars, but I had been looking for requirements in history or law, and international relations. I my quick perusal, it seemed to all be about how to write one kind or another of piece.
My investigation was superficial at best, and I sort of assumed that perhaps the study of history and foreign affairs and important things were requirements to get in to journalism school, and left it at that. But I kept noticing that journalists simply parroted what other journalists were saying, and didn’t seem to know what they were talking about. They did seem to be reliably of the leftist persuasion, however. But I already knew that.
Then this week, Governor Brewer of Arizona vetoed a law sent up by the legislature, the origin of which seemed to be a case in another state in which a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding because gay marriage was against his religious convictions. That case seemed to be a set-up when the gay couple sued, rather than go to any one of innumerable other bakeries available.
The national press, inspired by what American universities actually do teach — Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies, Imperial, Transnational and Postcolonial Studies, critical theory or creative writing, spoke in one voice. “Arizona Governor Brewer vetoes controversial anti-gay bill,” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill,” and other slight variations. Every radio announcer repeated the same thing.
The words “gay” or “homosexual” do not appear in the bill at all, nor was the bill directed at any criticism of gay people. There was no “anti-gay” in the bill. The bill was a simple effort to protect the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. Very obviously, the journalistic profession had not read the bill, but were off on a religious jihad. The text of the bill is here.
Governor Brewer vetoed the bill because, as she said, “Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.
Ed Whelan, at National Review wrote:
There has been a blizzard of hysterical misinformation about Arizona’s SB 1062. As anyone who takes the trouble to consult the text of the legislation will readily discover, SB 1062 does not mention, much less single out, gays or same-sex ceremonies.
As Douglas Laycock (who supports redefining marriage to include same-sex couples) and other leading religious-liberty scholars explain in a letter to Arizona governor Jan Brewer, SB 1062 “has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics.”
This is an absolutely pure example of media bias, which is real and pervasive. You just have to question what you are reading and hearing if you want to know the truth. Requires a little more work, but you avoid feeling sleazy when you find out that you’ve been had. Studies show that the media is much more liberal than the American people, and more likely to agree with the liberal position on policy matters than members of the general public. The public, according to public opinion polls sees the media as politically biased, inaccurate, intrusive and a tool of powerful interests. Huh. Wonder why.
Filed under: Politics
I am worried about the Obama administration’s efforts to diminish our military presence in the world. The Shiites and the Sunnis are embroiled in trying to kill each other, al Qaeda is a growing presence, Iraq is troubled and al Qaeda has taken over Fallujah, Iran — relieved of troublesome sanctions — is embarked on finishing up it’s nuclear weapons, Syria is a catastrophe, Russia is embarked on something or other in the Crimea, and President Obama has embarked on a grand strategy to relegate the United States to the status of just “one nation among many.”
He has rejected the idea of America as “exceptional” and the status of the United States as “the indispensable nation” that provides security for the world. His overspending and conspicuous consumption and the growth of the welfare state “have made it difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to increase defense spending in the future if such a response becomes necessary. This is a radical shift and a dangerous one,” according to Mackubin Thomas Owens, who is a professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He was a Marine platoon commander in Vietnam and retired as a Colonel.
In the wake of the widespread belief that we should not have been involved in the First World War, we whittled down the military and when Hitler came to power and began invading his neighbors, the isolationist movement and the Great Depression left us with a military that was 16th in the world. The total strength of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1939 was 1,308 officers and 18,052 enlisted men, fewer men than in the New York Police Department.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked and Hitler declared war, we were woefully unprepared., not just in trained men, but with old equipment. A lot of fine young men died because we were so unprepared. It took time to ramp up the factories and start turning out “the arsenal of democracy.”
We built the arsenal the free world needed. and in 1945 the Army strength was 8,266,373 men (including the Army Air Force), the Navy was 3,319, 586 and the Marine Corps 469,925. Peace dividend. World at Peace. United Nations. So when the North Koreans invaded South Korea in 1950, we were again woefully unprepared with an Army of 593,167, an Air Force 411,277, a navy of 660,695, and a Marine Corps of 74,279, all untrained, poorly equipped. And the North Koreans had the Red Chinese backing them up.
A lot of fine young men died because we were unprepared. You perhaps remember when roadside bombs began blowing up American Humvees in Iraq and there was an outcry about up-armoring them. Don Rumsfeld said “you go to war with the Army you have,” to anger from the press. But it’s true, over and over.
It boils down, of course to basic beliefs. Is the natural state of the world peace or war. If you believe the world is naturally peaceful, you can count on being unprepared. If you believe that cantankerous nations and people are too often in conflict with their neighbors, you need to be prepared, and if we are prepared, those cantankerous people are apt to think twice before they start shooting at their neighbors — because a prepared United States of America might just react.
Most colleges and universities do not require students to take courses in American history. If you have a college student, you might make sure they understand that you require it.
Colonel Owens writes for National Review as well. His article “Obama Chooses National Decline: But the Pentagon has chosen a path that may buy some time,” is invaluable. It’s worth your time.
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Foreign Policy, Freedom, National Security, Politics, Russia, The United States | Tags: Russia's Black Sea Fleet, The Crimean Peninsula, Ukrainian Freedom
President Obama just spoke on the situation in the Ukraine. Deeply concerned. Destabilizing. Profound interference. Situation remains fluid. We will continue to communicate.
Do you suppose President Putin noticed that President Obama wants to cut our military down to pre-World War II levels? Of course. The world pays attention to these things. Wire reports say that Russia has seized the government buildings in the Crimea, and taken control of the airport. The Russian Defense Ministry says it is taking measures to guarantee the safety of the Black Sea Fleet, which is based at Sevastopol in the Crimea. (It is helpful to look at Google maps if you are as fuzzy on geography as I am.)
The questions are — will Putin take the Crimea by force? And if so, will his ambitions be limited to simply securing the Black Sea Fleet’s bases or does he have greater ambitions?
What else, besides issuing statements of concern, is President Obama prepared to do? The new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, described it as a military invasion and occupation, and asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian forces denied any involvement.
Charles Krauthammer suggests that Putin’s mission is restoration. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century. The 2008 war with Georgia returned two of its provinces to the bosom of Mother Russia, and last year pressured Ukraine to reject a long-negotiated deal with the European Union. Putin, Krauthammer says, wants Ukraine back.
The New York Times says that Obama wants stability. He sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to change the autocratic trajectory of the region. Krauthammer says:
Sure, Obama is sympathetic to democracy. But it must arise organically, from internal developments. “These democratic movements will be more sustainable if they are seen as . . . coming from within these societies,” says deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes. Democracy must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own.
But Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.
Obama says he has assigned Vice President Biden to talk to the new Prime Minister of the Ukraine, whose name Obama couldn’t remember. Secretary of State Kerry said a vague something or other about Russian action being a mistake. That should be helpful.
This is a difficult situation. President Obama has staked his credibility on being the president who ended the dumb war in Iraq, got bin-Laden, and is getting us out of Afghanistan. He sees America as a world bully that needs be restrained, and Americans as “war-weary.”
Others see Obama as embarrassingly passive and demonstrating American weakness before an increasingly violent world. I am not surprised by Putin’s actions. He has told us that he regrets the demise of the Soviet Union — have people forgotten the Cold War?
Filed under: Capitalism, Democrat Corruption, Economy, Health Care, Politics, Progressivism, Regulation, The United States | Tags: Dysfunctional, The State Exchanges, Two x Cost of Federal Exchange
The disastrous rollout of ObamaCare continues apace, but the federal government spent more on broken stat-run exchanges than it did on its own troubled system. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia established their own health insurance coverage under ObamaCare. Of those fourteen, seven remain dysfunctional, disabled or seriously underperforming. The development of those exchanges was funded by the federal government through a series of grants that totaled more than $1.2 billion —almost double the $677 million cost of the federal exchange.
Oregon: Spectacular failure. $48 million “early innovator” grant from the federal government, which hoped the exchange would be a model for other states. Delays, delays, delays. Consultants warned that it was headed for disaster. Total federal grants —$303 million. I’m not sure that they have signed anyone up yet.
Maryland: Obama used Largo, Maryland as the background for a speech touting the benefits of ObamaCare. Maryland promptly turned out to be one of the worst in the nation. Announced this week it was terminating $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions, its IT contractor. Officials now say the existing system is so flawed they may dump the whole thing.
Massachusetts: The state’s 2006 reform supposedly helped inspire the design of ObamaCare. They hired CGI, the same contractor who built the federal exchange. Technical glitches from day one. By January the state lagged further behind their original enrollment goal than any other state. Only 5,428 people signed up during the first 3 months, 0.8% of the first year goal. $135.6 million in federal grants, and an early innovator grant.
Vermont: The Affordable Care Act is not progressive enough for Vermont. State officials said they would pursue a single-payer program beginning in 2017. Failed launch, $165.2 million in federal grants, still not working. Calls for an investigation.
Minnesota: Exchange was glitchy on rollout, problems persisted for the next few weeks. 14 exchange officials received bonuses prior to launch, the director took a tropical vacation while the site struggled. Officials and contractors blame each other. Outside assessment warned that problems would not be fixed by the end of open enrollment on March 31. Total federal grants $153.7 million.
Nevada: One official described the failure of the exchange as ‘catastrophic’. The system enrolled just 16,000 of the 118,000 expected. Projections have been reduced to 50,000. State officials are said to be thinking of ditching their own exchange in order to join the federal system. Federal grants $83.7 million. (All lies, according to Harry Reid)
Hawaii: Hawaii’s exchange was taken down right after the launch, but enrollment remains exceedingly low. The state has signed up just 4,300 people for coverage, the lowest of all the states. Total federal grants $205 million.
All Democrat-run states, but that is surely just a coincidence. We can probably assume that those who have signed up are those most in need of health insurance, those with pre-existing conditions, and the healthy folks will wait for a better offer. Those who signed up early will be the most costly.