American Elephants


Obama’s Delay of the Keystone XL Pipeline is All About Politics. by The Elephant's Child

Last month at a press conference after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Obama was asked about his delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Harper has been urging Obama to do the right thing and approve the pipeline that would pump oil from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The president is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. He has claimed that all the jobs are just “temporary.” The State Department has approved the pipeline twice, both Hillary and Kerry. It will not increase greenhouse gases. Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer has promised $100 million to the Democrats if they just keep opposing global warming. Green activists are continually demonstrating against the Keystone, for unknown greenie reasons. Unions badly want the jobs involved. The oil is being moved by rail at present, which is more dangerous.

By delaying a decision, Obama is hoping to get past the 2014 election without hurting the re-election chances of several Senate Democrats running in red or purple states that strongly support the Keystone XL and the energy industry.

Those candidates include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Udall of Colorado, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, plus two open seats in Montana and West Virginia held by two retiring Democrats.

Think about the political problems facing these Democrats.

Montana, where Democratic Sen. Max Baucus just retired, will be able to ship 100,000 barrels a day of oil from the Bakken shale formation. If Obama kills the Keystone XL, he kills Montana jobs and may hurt the chances of a Democrat holding that Senate seat.

TransCanada has released a detailed job breakdown in response to critics who argue that the company’s job creation estimates for the project are too high and will lead only to ‘a few hundred’ temporary jobs. They presented a detailed account of employment potential in the U.S. right down to the number of oilers, labourers and welders needed for the  U.S. $7 billion project.

Their claim (January 2012)breaks the project into 17 pipeline segments with 500 workers per segment —8,500 jobs. Thirty pump stations, each station requires 100 workers—3,000 jobs. Six hundred jobs for the six construction camps at Cushing, Oklahoma.Construction, management and inspection oversight — 1,000. That’s 13,000 construction employment opportunities and 7,000 in manufacturing. The spin-off jobs for materials, steel pipes, related services would generate all sorts of indirect jobs and revenue for suppliers.

If the vulnerable Democrats can waffle on the issue, and Obama continues to deny the project, he gets money from the green activist lobby, and they have a lot to donate.

Democrats biggest claim in an election year is that they care about the little people. They don’t. ObamaCare is a clear example. Once they get  you signed up and dependent on their program, they don’t care what kind of health care you actually receive. Evidence: “If You like your doctor you can keep your doctor,” “Your insurance will cost $2,500 less,” VA insurance. Indian Health Service. Medicaid.

It’s all about politics. Not the “little guy.”



President Barack Obama Visits Brussels by The Elephant's Child

The imperial presidency at work. The president is off to Brussels with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three planes, to attend the EU and NATO summits.The visit will cost Belgium more than €10 million, to cover his 24 hours in the country.

The president will arrive on Tuesday night with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes. Advance security teams orchestrating every last detail have combed Brussels already, checking the sewers and the major hospitals, while American military helicopters were last week given the green light for overflights. The city hosts at least four EU summits a year, with each of these gatherings costing €500,000 in extra police, military and transport expenses. “But this time round, you can multiply that figure by 20,” said Brussels mayor, Yvan Mayeur.

Belgium itself is mobilizing 350 police and military on motorbikes to secure the president’s routes to EU and NATO summits on Wednesday, while a convoy of nine US helicopters will take Obama to an American first world war cemetery.

Brigette Grouwels, who heads the city’s transport policy, said locals should just take the occasion to walk, cycle and take public transport, and experience first hand a city unencumbered by cars.

I want our president to be safe on foreign visits, but this is getting ridiculous. Every time he takes a trip, we hear more about the disruption his grandiose entourage causes, and the expense, than about anything accomplished by the trip.

Imposing a €2 million cost on Belgium for a 24 hour visit seems both excessive and unnecessary. But an entourage of 900? Besides drivers for the 45 vehicles and pilots and crew for the three planes, who are those 900 people? What bothers me is that the Obamas seem unaware of the problems they cause, and simply feel it is their due.

Michelle’s presidential suite in Beijing runs $8,350 a night. I don’t know what kind of entourage she has. But it makes a nice Spring Break for the kids.



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?



More About Our “Ruling Class,” And What To Do About Them by The Elephant's Child

Back to Angelo Codevilla:

“Our ruling class is a machine. That is, it lives by providing tangible rewards to its members. “Machine parties” around the world often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods, and enhance mightily the upper level members’ wealth. Because of this, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges—civic as well as economic—to the party’s clients, whether directly or indirectly. …

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, it to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make American kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our Ruling Class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. …By endowing some in society with the power to force others to sell cheaper than they would like to, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices—or even to buy in the first place—modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Whatever else government may be, it is inherently a factory of privilege and inequality. “

***************

Reason said: “Few essays attracted as much attention from right-wing readers this summer as “America’s Ruling Class—and the Perils of Revolution,” an extended argument that an incestuous social set “rules uneasily over the majority of Americans.” Written by Angelo Codevilla of the Claremont Institute and first published in The American Spectator, this very long article has now been expanded into a very brief book, called The Ruling Class.”

I’ve found the book fascinating because there are so many good arguments to ponder. Real food for thought about just where we are and what we might do about it. Recommended



Here Is What is Troubling Americans About Our Politics and Our Government by The Elephant's Child

I read a lot, but I seldom seem to get to the newest books when they are new, partly because I’m suspicious of blurbs and wait for reviews by people I trust. I’ve been fooled by blurbs once too often. So I didn’t get to Angelo  Codevilla’s book on “The Ruling Class” when it came out in 2010. It is a delight.

The people who run our government at the state and federal level have come to believe that—

Ever since the 1930s, as people who think this way have taken over more and more functions in an ever bigger government, they have become ever more inclined to dismiss the public’s opposition as ignorant and to believe themselves entitled to shape a new and different America.

Through their conception of their own superiority, and by accumulating power, they have made themselves into a bipartisan Ruling Class that now dominates public affairs and encroaches ever more into our lives’ most intimate details….

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems is to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for  hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself.

Codevilla says “While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled in the same way shocked this country into well-nigh revolutionary attitudes.”

Professor Codevilla spreads the blame around in bipartisan fashion, but if you surf the internet or listen to talk radio, you are well aware that this is a major concern of the American people and they are continually trying to  figure out just what to do about it. This lucid little book is a great help to understanding.



Fifty States of ObamaCare Failure by The Elephant's Child

Harry Reid’s pathetic attempt to claim that everyone is lying about the failure of ObamaCare brands him irrevocably as a fool, a liar, and a failure as a Majority Leader.

These few people represent multitudes. It is poor quality health insurance. You can’t travel. It’s too expensive now and the cost is going up dramatically next year.

ObamaCare is on life-support; the patient is comatose and brain dead. The family just won’t admit it.



A Bully at Home, Feckless in Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Henninger began his column in the Wall Street Journal today thusly:

By the time the second World Trade Center tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world was watching it. We may assume that Vladimir Putin was watching. Mr. Putin, a quick calculator of political realities, would see that someone was going to get hit for this, and hit hard.

He was right of course. The Bush presidency became a war presidency that day, and it pounded and pursued the Islamic fundamentalists of al Qaeda without let-up or apology.

During that time, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer in East Germany, deeply regretted the fall of the Soviet Union’s empire and despised the Americans who caused it to fall. But no one cared what Mr. Putin thought then.

Mark Steyn added:

That’s true. A couple of days after September 11th, the Bush Administration called Moscow and demanded the Russians agree to letting the US use military bases in former Soviet Central Asia for their planned invasion of Afghanistan. That must have been quite a phone call. Washington was proposing not only to do to the Afghans what the Kremlin has so abysmally failed to do, but to do it out of the Russians’ old bases. And yet Moscow understood that, for once, America was serious. And so, presented with a fait accomplis, they agreed to it.

Back to today, Daniel Henninger again:

Sometimes world affairs go off the grid. Diplomats may give reasons why it is not in the interests of Mr. Putin or Russia to take this course. Vice President Biden told the Poles in Warsaw Monday that Mr. Putin’s seizure of Crimea was “flawed logic.” It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin’s point of view: He doesn’t care what they think.

And everything Obama does confirms to Putin that the Crimea is his, so why stop there. So Putin will roll on, reassembling the Russian Empire. The Obama Administration pursues its own foreign policy priorities:

Secretary Kerry says the U.S. will send scientists to discuss homosexuality with the President of Uganda.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wants to take affirmative action in the legal sense on behalf of women. The post of U.S. ambassador to Russia has been vacant for three weeks. Al Kamen of the Washington Post says Ms. Rice would like to place a woman in Moscow. It was rumored that White House press secretary Jay Carney who once worked in Moscow for Time magazine wanted the job of ambassador.

Russian forces invade the Ukraine Naval Base.  President Obama reveals his “Final Four” picks. Joe Biden is in Eastern Europe conferring with our allies there, and trying to convince them that we are serious.

Conservatives who note the stark difference between Obama’s domestic legally questionable hardball and his passive international posture must wonder whether Obama behaves as he does because he is naive or just because he wants the U.S. to have less say in the world. His stated foreign policy objectives are to keep the U.S. out of war and transform America’s image from that of unilateralist bully to a nation that plays well with others.

The trouble is that under Obama the U.S. does not play well with others. Obama’s view of the world is extraordinarily naive, as is the substance and the style of his foreign policy.



Congress Calls Obama’s Attention to a Matter of Backbone.. by The Elephant's Child

Eighty-three U.S. senators got together yesterday to demand that President Obama meet with core principles, including unmistakable consequences, in any final nuclear agreement with Iran. Leaders in the bipartisan letter were Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE) Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

The number of senators included serves as a warning to the administration that they have the support to override a veto on tougher Iran sanctions.  Harry Reid (D-NV) who held up a sanctions vote at the request of the White House, did not sign the letter. The letter stated:

For twenty years, Congress has consistently focused attention on the threat of the Iranian program and taken the lead in initiating sanctions.  Congress has repeatedly stated that preventing an Iranian nuclear capability is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy.  Nine separate pieces of sanctions legislation have passed Congress since 1996.  We appreciate your continued commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and your efforts to implement the sanctions, which isolated and pressured the regime into negotiations.

We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran.  As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.

They enumerated these core principles:

  • We believe Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  • We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.
  • We believe Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities.
  • We believe Iran must fully resolve concerns addressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions including any military dimensions of its nuclear program.
  • We believe Iran must submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime to achieve the goal described in the Joint Plan of Action “reaffirm[ing] that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Finally, we believe Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions. We view this period as one fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran, especially given recent reports of rising purchases of Iranian oil. Iran cannot be allowed to be open for business. As you have stated, we must come down on those who are undermining sanctions “like a ton of bricks.”

If negotiations failed, or if Iran violated the Joint Plan of Action, Congress will ensure that the legislative authority exists to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions.

A similar letter was sent to President Obama from the House, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer(D-MD) and signed by 395 lawmakers.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who previously opposed unilateral military action against Iran, is losing faith in America’s ability to keep it secure. Israel is one of America’s staunchest allies in the region. Other regional U.S. allies are already making contingency plans. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, worried about the U.S. withdrawal from the region, have forged closer ties than before. Turkey is less willing to work with the U.S. and has even made moves to improve ties with Iran. Israel will go to great lengths to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, with or without Washington’s blessing.



So It’s Now Time to Dump Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Eastern Europe and Iraq. by The Elephant's Child

As long as we’re talking about the free flow of information, as Vladimir Putin extends his grasp over former satellites of the Soviet Union, the Obama administration is cutting back the U.S. broadcasting outreach in eastern Europe and Iraq. It’s time for the reset button, and the pivot to Asia.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2015 budget request favors expansion in Africa as “an emerging top priority for U.S. foreign policy,” and concentration on the Asia re-balance” with video and digital initiatives targeting next-generation audiences” particularly in Burma, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. That’s to be sure to reach everybody’s iPod? I thought one of the great problems in Africa was that so many people didn’t have any electricity.

This agency has a strategic imperative to tie its priorities to global realities, making the most of relatively scarce resources while responding to shifts in audiences, technology use and media markets,” BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell said in a March 4 statement. “As we wrestle with difficult budget trade-offs, excellence in journalism remains our most important objective. Hundreds of millions of people around the world count on our journalists for accurate news and information.”

Their $721 million budget request is a $12 million decrease from what was enacted in FY 2014, axes key diplomatic programs. Of course they didn’t anticipate Russia’s acting up, but neither did the administration.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill) wrote the Board the day after the budget release and the board’s vote:

Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) were established during the Cold War as a way to broadcast unbiased news to Eastern Europe to combat Communist propaganda coming from the then-Soviet Union.  Eventually, it was revealed to be a CIA-front organization in the 1960s, and the funding responsibility shifted to Congress, where it has remained. Since then, RFE/RL’s coverage has expanded to many other countries and languages as a source of free speech and Western thought.

“The ongoing situation in Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula has reinforced the importance of these services in recent weeks, and has underscored the original pretext upon which these broadcast services were established. Furthermore, there is the concern that these broadcasts, originally developed with great purpose, investment, and thought will not be easily reestablished once closed down,” Schock wrote. “These broadcast services promote the values of freedom of speech and democracy: values that must remain in the forefront of Iraqi thought, especially as our troops withdraw and that are needed in the Balkans more than ever, as expansionist policies threaten to unmake all the progress that has been made over the past two decades.

If the values of democracy, free speech, and liberty lose their foothold in these regions, it will become an increasingly hostile world for the United States, and a far more difficult world for the people of Iraq and the Balkans. It is for these reasons that I urge the Broadcasting Board of Governors to overturn their decision to shut down the RFE/RL Balkans’ Service, and Radio Free Iraq. I believe that it is imperative that these services be restored, and I respectfully request that the Board of Governors reconsider their initial course of action.

Here is the website for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.  The Hoover Institution at Stanford University houses the broadcast archives and corporate records of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — 10.5 million pages of documents and over 100,000 sound recordings. The collection is being made available in stages, but it’s pretty interesting to poke around in what is available. It was an important effort in keeping hope alive behind the Iron Curtain. The Left has never had much interest, and I don’t think this is the first effort to shut parts of it down.

Most of this piece is shamelessly stolen from Bridget Johnson at pjmedia, who did all the hard work. I am a great believer in Radio Free Europe and fascinated by their story.

 



Now Obama’s Giving the Internet Away to the International Community by The Elephant's Child

“U.S. Officials plan to relinquish federal control over the administration of the internet to something called the “global internet community,” which is full of tyrants to whom the free flow of information is a threat.” (Investors)

“The Commerce Department said Friday it plans to relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which manages a number of technical functions that serve as signposts to help computers locate the correct servers and websites. …

Alan Marcus, senior director of the World Economic Forum, said “the NSA tarnished the U.S. stewardship” of the Web. Mr Marcus said the U.S. needs to relinquish control over the Web before new leadership can emerge. “There are real issues that get clouded” by US. leadership, he said.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The Internet is often described as a miracle of self-regulation, which is almost true. The exception is that the United States government has had ultimate control from the beginning. Washington has used this oversight only to ensure that the Internet runs efficiently and openly, without political pressure from any country.

This was the happy state of affairs until last Friday, when the Obama administration made the surprise announcement it will relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, which assigns and maintains domain names and Web addresses for the Internet. Russia, China and other authoritarian governments have already been working to redesign the Internet more to their liking, and now they will no doubt leap to fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” (L. Gordon Crovitz: The Wall Street Journal)

Our president has always been a communitarian, a globalist; he has proclaimed himself a “proud citizen of the world.”The administration was caught flat-footed at an International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency, conference in 2012 stage-managed by authoritarian governments. Google organized an online campaign with a petition that”a free and open world depends on a free and open web.” A former Obama aide called it “the chosen vehicle for regimes for whom the free and open Internet is seen as an existential threat.”

Regimes in Russia, China, and Iran are notable for denying their citizens access to the Internet, controlling speech, and using propaganda as a force to control their people. The United Nations was a ‘we are the world’ fantasy that quickly became one of the earth’s most corrupt organizations. Consider the IPCC, Oil for Food, and the Blue Helmet reputation for child rape. We are still in massive denial of the obvious, and keep insisting that it is worthy.

Obama’s view of Freedom is truly Orwellian. He wants the Democrats to reclaim the word “freedom” as their own; but what he means by it is deeper dependence on government. So we have to be cautious when he suggests that some action will give us more freedom.

The National Journal cautions that the Obama administration is opening the door to an internet takeover by Russia, China, or other countries that are eager to censor speech and limit the flow of ideas.

Investors again: “In 2008, the Internet trade journal Cnet reported the ITU was quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. Regimes in places such as Russia and Iran also want an ITU rule letting them monitor traffic routed through or to their countries, allowing them to eavesdrop or block access. …

Before Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, Moscow launched attacks against its Internet infrastructure with coordinated barrages of millions of requests, known as distributed denial-of-service attacks, which overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.

Today, the largely self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a site and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The Internet freely crosses international boundaries, making it difficult for governments to censor. To many governments, the Internet is a threat to statist goals.”

Charles CW Cooke at National Review: We might worry about who is reading our e-mails, but we don’t fret about the Internet being restricted at its core. We may be concerned about the lack of free communication in other countries, but we don’t have to sweat about those countries’ governments shutting off our access here. And yet, having grown cocky in its maturity, the U.S. government is now considering inviting those countries’ censors to the table and giving them a vote on how to fix a problem that never was. Why?

From National Journal:”Coming Soon: Free Internet From Space. Outernet wants to use tiny satellites to take the whole world online — even in countries where dictators wish they wouldn’t.” Is this the solution?

We’d probably better re-read Orwell’s 1984 too, to remind ourselves of the potential when free communication and free speech are not allowed.



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.




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