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“Obama And The World’s Ills”: The Republican Story Is: We Don’t Need To Bog Down In Details — Somehow, It’s All Obama’s Fault

It’s hard to recall a time when the world presented more crises with fewer easy solutions. And for the Republicans, all of these woes have a common genesis: American weakness projected by Barack Obama.

People in the Middle East, former Vice President Dick Cheney said recently, “are absolutely convinced that the American capacity to lead and influence in that part of the world has been dramatically reduced by this president.” He added, “We’ve got a problem with weakness, and it’s centered right in the White House.”

Really? It’s instructive to ask: What exactly would a Republican president advised by Cheney do in each of these crises? Let’s take them one at a time.

Iraq. It’s now clear that Cheney’s invasion of Iraq and its subsequent Shiite client state under Nouri al-Maliki only deepened sectarian strife and laid the groundwork for another brand of Islamist radicalism, this time in the form of ISIS, and more backlash against the U.S. for creating the mess. What’s the solution — a permanent U.S. military occupation of Iraq? Republican presidential candidates should try running on that one.

Syria. Obama took a lot of criticism for equivocating on where the bright line was when it came to Syrian use of chemical warfare. In fact, American military pressure and diplomacy has caused Syrian president Assad to get rid of chemical weapons. But the deeper Syrian civil war is another problem from hell. How about it, Republican candidates — More costly military supplies to moderate radicals, whoever the hell they are? A U.S invasion? See how that plays in the 2016 campaign.

Israel-Palestine. A two-state solution seems further away than ever, and time is not on the Israeli side. No American president has had the nerve to tell the Israeli government to stop building settlements on Arab lands, despite $3 billion a year on U.S. aid to Israel. What Would Jesus Do? (What would Cheney do?)

Putin and Ukraine. Russian President Putin’s fomenting of military adventures by ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has created a needless crisis. But our European friends, who have trade deals with Russia, don’t want to make trouble. So, what will it be — a new U.S.-led Cold War without European support? A hot war?

Iran’s Nuclear Capacity. The policy of détente with Iran in exchange for controls on Iranian ability to weaponize enriched uranium is a gamble that could well pay off. The alternative course of bombing Iran, either ourselves or via a proxy Israeli strike, seems far more of a gamble. Who’s the realist here?

China’s New Muscle. The U.S., under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, has become pitifully dependent on borrowing from China. Our biggest corporations have put the attractions of cheap Chinese labor ahead of continuing production in the U.S.A., creating a chronic trade deficit that requires all that borrowing. Now, China is throwing around its economic weight everywhere from its own backyard in East Asia to Africa and South America. Our troubles with Putin have helped promote a closer alliance between Moscow and Beijing. Anyone have a nice silver bullet for this one?

Those Central American Kids. What do you think — failure of immigration policy or humanitarian refugee crisis? On the one hand, American law says that bona fide refugees can apply for asylum and that children who are being trafficked fall into the category of refugees. On the other hand America is never going to take all the world’s refugees. Border Patrol agents interviewing terrified nine-year-olds lack the capacity to determine who is a true candidate for asylum. If shutting down the border — ours or Mexico’s — were the easy solution, we would have done it decades ago.

And I haven’t even gotten to Afghanistan, or the problem of nuclear proliferation, or new Jihadist weapons that can evade airport detection systems, or the total failure of democracy to gain ground in the Middle East.

The Republican story seems to be: we don’t need to bog down in details — somehow, it’s all Obama’s fault.

Here’s what these crises have in common.

  • They have no easy solutions, military or diplomatic, and U.S. leverage is limited.
  • They are deeply rooted in regional geo-politics. U.S. projection of either bravado or prudence has little to do with how recent events have unfolded.
  • Some of these crises were worsened by earlier U.S. policy mistakes, such as the Cheney-Bush invasion of Iraq, or the bipartisan indulgence of Israeli building of settlements, or the one-sided industrial deals with China, or 20th-century alliances with Middle Eastern despots to protect oil interests.

When I was growing up, there was a nice clean division between the good guys and the bad guys. Hitler was the ultimate bad guy. Or maybe it was Stalin. America won World War II, and we won the Cold War when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed.

Policy choices were easy only in retrospect. The neat world of good guys and bad guys started coming apart with the Vietnam War.

Today’s crises are nothing like the ones of that simple era. Who are the good guys and bad guys in Syria and in Iraq? In China’s diplomacy in South America? Among the murdered Israeli and Palestinian children and the children seeking refuge at our southern border?

To the extent that policy options are even partly military, the American public has no stomach for multiple invasions and occupations.

As Republican jingoists scapegoat President Obama for all the world’s ills and try to impose a simple story of weakness and strength on events of stupefying complexity, you have to hope that the American people have more of an attention span than usual.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, Co-Founder and Co-Editor, ‘The American Prospect’; The Huffington Post Blog, July 20, 2014

July 27, 2014 Posted by | Global Unrest, Middle East, Ukraine | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Professional Bashers”: GOP Will Find A Way To Blame President Obama On Ukraine Jet Downing

The monstrous downing of a Malaysian jet liner apparently by Russian backed separatists in the Ukraine did something that few thought could happen. It has gotten GOP leaders momentarily to agree with President Obama when he pointed the finger squarely at Russia for the horrific attack. But don’t expect the GOP’s hand hold with Obama to last. GOP leaders have been relentlessly snipping at Obama from the moment that Russia muscled into the Ukraine, lopped off slices of its territory, and cheered on and supplied pro-Russian separatists in the nation with sophisticated weapons. Presumably those weapons include the kind of missile thought to have taken down the jetliner. If it’s shown beyond doubt that the rebels downed the plane and did it with a Russian supplied missile, GOP leaders almost certainly will renew their barrage of attacks on Obama.

As always, their attacks will have absolutely nothing to do with indignation and outrage over the mass killing. It will have everything to do with politics. In April, when Obama first talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get him to stand down on stirring up tensions in the country, GOP leaders pounced. They branded him as too weak, soft and conciliatory. The smear was a rerun of the same smears it has repeated time and again against him on the issues of national security and foreign policy.

The GOP has dusted off the script on every foreign policy crisis that’s popped up since Obama entered the White House. The list is endless: Somalia, Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran and, of course, Benghazi. In each instance, just change the names and the rap is till the same, he’s weak, indecisive, and soft, and always the charge is that his alleged weakness somehow puts the nation at mortal risk. As in every one of the crisis’s that Obama allegedly bungled and jeopardized the nation’s security, the unreconstructed cold war hawks and professional GOP Obama bashers flatly declare that the U.S. must get tough, firm and resolute up to and including a military and even nuclear a saber rattle against a perceived American foreign enemy.

The Ukraine crisis has been no different. GOP leaders have called for Obama to do everything short of putting boots on the ground in the Ukraine to battle the Russian backed separatists. The only thing that has stopped those tempted to cross that line and make that call is the vehement overwhelming opposition of the American public. As horrible, bloody and now humanly catastrophic with the jetliner attack, the conflict is, it’s still a regional conflict in which the U.S., no matter how long and loud the saber rattle from the GOP, can do little beyond the strongest political and moral condemnation and sanctions. In themselves they are weak and for the most part ineffectual. As morally odious as the conflict is especially with its latest horrific turn, it still poses no direct threat to American security.

However, that means little to a GOP determined to score big in the mid-term elections. It will do everything it can to turn the heinous downing of the jetliner into yet another political indictment of Obama. They will scream louder to slap even tougher sanctions on Russia. Some of which are border on the absurd. This includes proposals to bar Russia from landing its Aeroflot planes in the U.S and other Western nation airports and even more dangerous and counterproductive, demanding that the U.S. arm the Ukraine military to the teeth. This almost certainly will guarantee a frantic arms race with Russia shipping even more heavy weaponry to the Rebels. The GOP nowhere explains exactly how any of this will bring Russia to its knees, to stop it from aiding the rebels or make airspace over Ukraine any safer.

Obama’s sensible option continues to be to redouble efforts through a combination of new sanctions which he did a day before the jetliner debacle that involved energy and banking transactions and negotiations aimed at stopping the flow of weapons and military support to the rebels. No matter how loud the war hawks scream about Obama’s actions, he has little choice but to try and help craft a solution through diplomacy. This hardly shows weakness, but recognition that the U.S.’s options are few.

The Malaysian jet liner downing was a senseless and heart-breaking tragedy that served absolutely no political or military purpose for the rebel separatists, if they indeed committed the dastardly deed. It will fuel even further the justifiable worldwide public rage at Russia and Putin. It will push Russia further to being branded a rogue state. Obama’s careful measures in dealing with the conflict have done much to insure that’s the case. The GOP’s inevitable finger point at him for the latest tragedy in the Ukraine will stand again as nothing more than the usual false, phony and opportunistic political pandering.

 

By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Associate Editor of New America Media; The Huffington Post Blog, July 19, 2014

 

 

July 22, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Russia, Ukraine | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Common Murderer, Ordinary Thug”: Putin Is Trying To Reconstruct The Russian Empire

After the bloody suppression of a patriotic demonstration in Warsaw in 1861, Alexander Herzen wrote to Tsar Alexander II: “You have become a common murderer, an ordinary thug.” He also described the Russian press as “shameless” and “unscrupulous.”

Today, we should repeat the words of this great Russian, and direct them at Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda-men who are lying ceaselessly and insolently. A while ago, we heard that Poland trained Ukrainian fascist squads that terrorized the Maidan; next we learned that Putinist conquerors of the Crimea bought their weapons and uniforms in stores and that the Kremlin had nothing to do with it. Now we are once again hearing about the Ukrainian state’s responsibility.

The 298 wretched victims of the crash of the Malaysia Air flight are a result of Putin’s ruthless and cynical policies. It was his decision to arm the so-called separatists who in reality are the Kremlin’s spy network and fifth column in the Donbass region. They were armed with Putin’s knowledge and approval. And these people are the ones who killed random, innocent individuals.

Putinwith his KGB lieutenant-colonel mentalitydoes not want to let Ukraine follow its own path toward democracy and Europe. He wants to reconstruct the empire. Inciting and upholding ethnic conflicts in Latvia and Estonia serves this aim, as does the creeping dismantling of Moldova, and maintenance of conflicts around Upper Karabakh. Indeedthis great power, great Russian chauvinism is the final and highest stage of communism. And Putin understands progress as gradual annexation of successive states.

The European Unionaccustomed to peace and quiethas neither determination nor an understanding of the growing threat. The clichéd faith in the possibility of placating the beast is replaying over and over again. The blindness and loyalty of European political and business elites gives reason for concern. But there is nothing that releases usintellectuals active in culture, scholarship, and mediafrom the duty to say clearly, stubbornly, and emphatically: This is very dangerous. We are not allowed to repeat the naiveté once displayed by intellectual elites toward Hitler and Stalin. And back then we were not allowed to close our eyes to the annexation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States.

My friend from Moscow says that there are two scenarios in which the Russian army will leave Ukraine: One realistic and the other miraculous. In the realistic scenario, Saint George will ride in on a dragon and use his fiery sword to chase this band of scoundrels away. That’s the realistic scenario. And the miraculous one? They’ll just up and leave on their own.

The policy of successive concessions leads nowhere. Putin is not a European-style politician; he’s a politician of permanent belligerence. Much seems to suggest that he has already let the genie out of the bottlecrowds of mercenaries are moving from Russia to Ukraine, crowds of sentimental monarchists, Orthodox fascists, National-Bolsheviks, and the like. Arming these bandits with first-class weapons is simply criminal. It is a good thing that Poland’s current government has taken an honest and judicious stanceit’s not flexing its muscles but it’s also not succumbing to illusions or hypocrisy.

 

By: Adam Michnik, Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, where this piece originally appeared; The Huffington Post, July 21, 2014

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The End Of The Russian Fairy Tale”: A Nihilistic Disregard For Human Life

Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political, and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane.

From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov—the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars—or Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government back in 1991.

With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices, and other symbols of political authority, in order to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide.

Into this ambiguous and unstable situation, the Russians cynically funneled a stream of heavy weapons: machine guns and artillery, and eventually tanks, armed personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft missiles. In recent days, the separatist forces were openly using MANPADS, and were also boasting of having taken down large Ukrainian transport planes, clearly with Russian specialist assistance. Indeed, Strelkov on Thursday afternoon boasted online of having taken down another military plane, before realizing that the plane in question was MH17. He removed the post. In late June, several different Russian media sources published photographs of BUK anti-aircraft missiles, which they said had been captured by the separatists—though they were probably outright gifts from Russia. These posts have also been removed.

This is the context within which a surface-to-air missile was aimed at a passenger plane: A lawless environment; irregular soldiers who might not be so good at reading radar; a nihilistic disregard for human life; scorn for international norms, rules, or standards. Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine, because the separatists were not flying airplanes.

Until now, these unorthodox methods have worked well for the Russians. They unnerved and distracted the Ukrainian government while at the same time allowing foreign governments, and European governments in particular, to turn a blind eye. Because the war was not a “real” war, it could be described as “local,” as “containable,” it could remain a low priority for European foreign policy or indeed for anybody’s foreign policy.

If it has done nothing else, the crash of Flight MH17 has just put an end to the “it’s not a real war” fairy tale, both for the Russians and for the West. Tragically, this unconventional nonwar war has just killed 298 people, mostly Europeans. We can’t pretend it isn’t happening any longer, or that it doesn’t affect anyone outside of Donetsk. The Russians can’t pretend either.

Without the fairy-tale pretense, some things are about to become clear. For one, we are about to learn whether the West in 2014 is as united, and as determined to stop terrorism as it was 26 years ago. When the Libyan government brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, the West closed ranks and isolated the Libyan regime. Can we do the same now—or will too many be tempted to describe this as a “tragic accident,” and to dismiss what will inevitably be a controversial investigation as “inconclusive?” It is insufficient to state, as President Obama has now done, that there must be a “cease-fire” in Ukraine. What is needed is a withdrawal of Russian mercenaries, weapons, and support. The West—and the world—must push for Ukrainian state sovereignty to be reestablished in eastern Ukraine, not for the perpetuation of another frozen conflict.

We will also learn something interesting about the Russian president. So far there is no sign of shock or shame in Russia. But in truth, this tragedy offers Vladimir Putin an opportunity to get out of the messy disaster he has created in eastern Ukraine. He now has the perfect excuse to denounce the separatist movement and to cut its supplies. If he refuses, then we know that he remains profoundly dedicated to the chaos and nihilism he created in Donetsk. We can assume he intends to perpetuate it elsewhere. And if we are not prepared to fight it, we should be braced for it to spread.

 

By: Anne Applebaum, Slate, July 18, 2014

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Higher Consciousness Thinking”: Who Started It Doesn’t Matter, Who Has The Wisdom To End It Does

Remember back in childhood how, whenever a melee erupted on the playground or in a backyard, mothers, fathers or teachers would suddenly emerge to pull wrestling bodies apart while some sweaty kid, with pointed fingers and glaring eyes, would caterwaul, “But he started it!”? That familiar, blurted defense was intended to justify the chaos and fisticuffs, rationalize the bullying and bloody noses, and, usually, it didn’t work.

Because instead of reacting as the finger-pointing child hoped, most intelligent adults would respond along the lines of (and this was my mother’s favorite rejoinder): “I don’t care who started it! I just want to know which one of you is going to end it?” And from there heads hung, consequences were meted, and we’d be on our way, grumbling about how unfair life was.

Yet our parents’ wisdom in understanding that who “started it” was irrelevant to the goal of peace was actually a highly evolved concept pulled right from the tenets of higher consciousness thinking, philosophy that seeks to transcend our biological response to aggression and adversity. Unfortunately, the persistence of human beings to assert that who “started it” matters terribly (with results that usually are terrible), is, in fact, the flawed rationale behind why rockets are blowing up families in the Middle East and passenger planes are being shot out of the sky in service to the Ukraine/Russian skirmish. We are a world beset by tragedy and trauma motivated by the battle cry, “they started it!” and… it’s killing us.

While many question who exactly shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 (according to the latest it was Russian-backed separatists), and media, social and otherwise, is aflame with heated discussions of who’s more right or wrong in the Middle East, there’s no end to the spectrum of finger pointing to be found. Charles Krauthammer’s “Moral Clarity In Gaza” was posted on Facebook today with an assertion that it defined who, at least, “started it,” but my own thought was: does that really matter at this point? Hasn’t the never-ending reality of war proven that defining who “started it” has no bearing on the impact and tragedy of the escalation beyond that inception?

But we continue to go round and round, century after century, for time immemorial, ripping each other to shreds with pointed fingers, bombs and rockets, terrorism and intolerance, in support of nationalism, ethnicity and religion, defended and justified by who “started it.” Seems we’ve not gotten much beyond our schoolyard defenses… except now the costs are so much more grave.

In response to the current state of warring humanity, l can’t help but ponder an oft-asked and existential question: what is a human being? Apart from our ethnic, national, religious and sexual background, what, really, are we? If one has a religious or spiritual bent (and isn’t religion most often cited for our historical attachment to war and violence?), doesn’t one embrace the doctrine that every human is a spirit, has a soul, or is in some way an energy or essence that transcends the physical self? If so, doesn’t it follow that, beyond life, as one transitions to whatever is next, the spirit shakes off those physical identities we hold so dear and fight for so viciously? And if that’s true (and if one has spiritual belief one typically believes some measure of that is true), then it also follows that, in fact, and beyond where we landed on this planet at birth, we are all, truly and irrevocably, made of the same stuff, regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion. If human beings — particularly those who would kill or die for their religious or national affiliation — instead embraced that spiritual philosophy of oneness, wouldn’t peace, then, be possible?

Certainly it should be. But history tells us peace is the greatest uphill battle. Because the invisible hand of religion, national and ethnic pride, and that unfortunate human impulse to, instead of turning a cheek, push when pushed, shoot when shot at, or rush to the killing field to decimate an enemy rather than negotiate a peace, keeps our warring factions ratcheting to higher and higher levels of discord and devastation. Strange how religious tenets of harmony and oneness are never the rallying cry of those who kill in religion’s name.

It doesn’t really matter who started it, whichever it we’re talking about. If it’s one side this time, it’s another the next. The anatomy of feuds, combat, war and strife depends on enflaming our differences — nationalities, religions, ethnicities – instead of honoring our shared humanity. And until someone on one side or the other finds the humility and wisdom to not shoot back, not point fingers, and not allow ancient wounds and animosities to persistently preempt peace, the human right to pursue happiness and raise our children in health and safety will never be a reality for some in some parts of the world. And that is unacceptable.

Our parents were right… it only matters who ends it. So let’s stop talking about “moral clarity,” and “who’s at fault this time.” Just tell me who will end it. That’s the only analysis I want to hear.

 

By: Lorraine Devon Wilke, The Huffington Post Blog, July 19, 2014

July 20, 2014 Posted by | Middle East, Russia, Ukraine | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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