Posts Tagged ‘President Bush’

Barack Obama, a master of geopolitics?

September 16, 2015

Many of my Democratic friends think of Barack Obama as a well-meaning but naive and weak reformer.  I think of President Obama as a shrewd and strong defender of the status quo.

Alfred McCoy wrote a good article for TomDispatch arguing that this is just as true of his foreign policy as his domestic policy.

The greatest threat to American world power is the rise of China.  While the USA is dissipating its power through failed military interventions. China is extending its power by economic policies that add to its economic strength.

Obama hopes to counter China by leveraging American economic power through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will create a global trade bloc from which China and also Russia will be locked out.

The question is how long this will be feasible.  China’s economic power is growing.  American economic power is a legacy from the past.

President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy.

His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit.

china_central_asia_infrastructure_large

While Beijing has been moving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.

During the post-9/11 decade when Washington was spilling its blood and treasure onto desert sands, Beijing was investing its trillions of dollars of surplus from trade with the U.S. in plans for the economic integration of the vast Eurasian land mass.

In the process, it has already built or is building an elaborate infrastructure of high-speed, high-volume railroads and oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of what Sir Halford Mackinder once dubbed the “world island.”  [snip]

(more…)

The passing scene: January 7, 2015

January 7, 2015

enhanced-buzz-wide-25305-1389933990-1160 Words and a War Without End: The Untold Story of the Most Dangerous Sentence in U.S. History by Gregory D. Johnson for BuzzFeed.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President George W. Bush the authority to hunt down the terrorists who plotted the 9/11 attacks.  But President Bush and President Obama after him have used it as justification for any kind of covert or military action anywhere in the world that they deem necessary for national security.  This article tells how AUMF was enacted, and the debate over its meaning.

Nonviolent Conflicts in 2014 You May Have Missed Because They Were Not Violent by Erica Chenoweth for Political Violence @ A Glance.

Violent methods of struggle have more credibility than non-violent methods.  When mass defiance fails, it is seen as a reason to shift to violent struggle.  When violent struggle fails, it is seen as a reason to double down on violence.

FBI says search warrants not needed to use “stingrays” in public places by David Kravets for ars technica.

The FBI has erected fake cell phone towers which it uses to intercept and listen in on cell phone conversations.

Bernie Sanders Brutal Letter on Obama’s Trade Pact Foreshadows 2016 Democratic Clash by Zach Carter for Huffington Post.

Why the Tech Elite Is Getting Behind Universal Basic Income by Nathan Schneider for Vice News.

 

The billions nobody bothered to keep track of

October 16, 2014

Between $1.2 billion and $1.6 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, earmarked for Iraq reconstruction, reportedly turned up in a bunker in Lebanon, along with $200 million in Iraqi gold.

bagdad-money-palette-300x200

“Bricks” of cash in Baghdad

Stuart Bowen, a special inspector general appointed by President Bush to keep track of waste and corruption in Iraq, reported that he has been unable to persuade anybody in either the U.S. or Iraqi governments to check it out.  The U.S. embassy in Beirut denied him permission to go to Lebanon to look for himself.

The stacks of money are part of $12 billion to $14 billion in shrink-wrapped “bricks” of currency, provided by the Federal Reserve Bank.  The money was flown to Iraq on wooden pallets, to be handed out as needed. An additional $5 billion was sent via electronic transfer.

Bowen said most of the money was probably spent for legitimate purposes, but $6.6 billion is unaccounted for.  This is a staggering amount.

Notice the $2 billion margin for error in the estimate of what was sent.  That, too, is a staggering amount.

Why the lack of interest in what become of the money?

One possible explanation is that the U.S. government and the Iraqi government have a very good idea of who got the money, and don’t want it made known to the public.

Another is that they don’t know, and don’t want the public to be reminded that they don’t know.

 LINKS

Billions set aside for post-Saddam Iraq turned up in Lebanese bunker by Rory Carroll for The Guardian.

$1.6 billion in Iraqi cash seized in Lebanon by Ahmed Hussein for Iraqi News.  A good article with an inaccurate headline. The money was never seized and nobody knows whether it is still there.

Special Report: The Pentagon’s doctored ledgers conceal epic waste by Scot J. Paltrow for Reuters.  The bigger picture is that it’s simpler for the Defense Department to order new stuff than keep track of what they’ve got.  Hat tip for this link to Peter Van Buren.  He also had a post on the Lebanon bunker, but for some reason I can’t link to the post.  I’ll add the link when and if I can.

Previous post

“The biggest theft of funds in national history”

The Saudi roots of ISIS and the 9/11 attacks

September 22, 2014

It is impossible for the United States armed forces to put an end to Islamic jihadist terrorism.

That is because Al Qaeda, ISIS and their ilk have their roots in a country that is off limits to American military action.

In the same of fighting terrorism, the United States has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, helped overthrow the government of Libya, is working to overthrow the government of Syria and has imposed sanctions on Iran.

President Obama visits Saudi Arabia in March

President Obama visits Saudi Arabia in March

Yet the U.S. government does not touch Saudi Arabia.   Osama bin Laden was a Saudi and so were most of the 9/11 hijackers.  Sections of a Senate report that allegedly implicate elements of the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks have been blacked out and declared as classified information.

The Saudi government, along with Qatar and other Gulf sheikdoms, provided the funding for ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups now fighting  in Syria and Iraq.  All these groups are adherents of Wahhabism, the most radical and intolerant Islamic sect, which is based in Saudi Arabia and supported by the Saudi government.

Why would the U.S. government, through Republican and Democratic administrations, tolerate such a situation?

The U.S. “deep state”—the permanent part of the government that is untouched by elections—is committed to protecting Saudi Arabia in return for Saudi help in regulating oil prices and oil supply.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s richest countries, and one of its weakest.  The sparse Saudi population is incapable of defending the country against stronger nations such as Iraq or Iran.  But none of those nations dare attack Saudi Arabia so long as the nation is under the protection of the U.S. military.

The problem is that the source of the Saudi monarchy’s power, the force that enabled the House of Saud to conquer the Arabia peninsula in the first place, is the support of the Wahhabi movement, a highly strict Muslim sect which regards all other Muslims as untrue to the faith.

Wahhabi teachings are incompatible with the self-indulgent lives of many rich Arabs, including some of the members of the Saudi royal family, so the Saudis buy them off by subsidizing Wahhabi schools throughout the Muslim world, and supporting Wahhabi jihads, which, conveniently, are usually against nations such as Iran, Syria or the Shiite government of Iraq that are rivals to Saudi power.

The CIA on occasion found them useful tools as, for example, the overthrow of Qaddafi’s regime in Libya and the ongoing fight against the Assad regime in Syria.

Bandar-Rice-Bush-King-Abdullah

President Bush receives a Saudi delegation

The Saudis meanwhile have close ties with American politicians and business executives.  Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington, was a leading light on the Washington social scene.  He was so close to the Bush family that his nickname was Bandar Bush.

Matt Stoller wrote an excellent article about this for the Medium news site.  He pointed out that the Saudi monarchy is not a unified government, but consists of different factions with different aims.  The Saudi leaders have to be concerned with keeping a balance of power between the different factions and are not in a position to act decisively against any one of them.

The same is true of the government of Pakistan, which he didn’t mention.  Evidently there are factions in Pakistan’s government that are pro-Taliban, factions that are anti-Taliban and factions that think the Taliban is useful in fighting proxy wars against India.

Such a balance of power cannot be maintained forever.  Sooner or later there will have to be a showdown the Saudi monarchy and radical jihadist fanatics. which the monarchy may not win.

Last week the top Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa condemning ISIS and calling for public executions of its members.  Saudi Arabia has staged public executions of ISIS members.  That’s a welcome change.  I wish I knew enough to judge whether the change is permanent and whether the crackdown applies to top people in the Saudi power structure.

I must confess I don’t know what to do to prevent a jihadist takeover of Saudi Arabia, or what to do when and if it happens.  But if we Americans can bring our covert foreign policy out into the open, and discuss what to do, we at least will not be taken by surprise.

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees free speech to all Americans.   Article One, Section 6, says Senators and Representatives cannot be called to account outside of Congress for anything they say on the floor of Congress.   It is high time they exercise these rights and powers.

(more…)