Ooobie on Everything

Straight to hell, full speed ahead

You probably think I’m talking about the Republican party conciliators a la Boehner, but no. I’m talking about the whole world.

Every day the news seems to this observer to get worse and worse. Our compulsion to bring down Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has become a matter of global record, blatantly illegal under international law, as our politicians publicly discuss how they can make an army out of a wide variety of murderous gangs in Syria, how many arms they can provide these laughably-named Freedom Fighters, and how much logistical support we can throw in. This isn’t highly hush-hush back-door double-dealing as in Kosovo, where we secretly helped the KLA against Belgrade while pretending to act as peacekeepers. This is open, in-your-face, whadda ya gonna do about it militarism and yes, that silly word, imperialism. There are now rumors that the US would like a little regime change in Israel, which just goes to show how quickly a government can become a “regime” if the US is offended. Since we have an imperial president, we should have no problem with our imperial foreign policy, under which we occupy not so much territory, beyond all the US and NATO military bases we are establishing in other people’s countries, but markets — arms markets, oil markets, consumer markets.

Moving along from one quagmire to the next, the West under US guidance is currently waging a ferocious economic war against the Russian Federation, that country that stretches eleven time zones, and it is doing a good job of damaging the Russian economy. But if Serbia could withstand the sanctions and punishments of the West for as long as it has, Russia can withstand it even longer. Furthermore, the fall-out from Russia’s woes will not be, cannot be, confined to Russia. Russian  money has been a boon to the EU countries, and that money is going to pull out of the EU as Russia circles the wagons and prepares to defend its life. As Stratfor analyst George Friedman said in a post I  copied here the other day, Russians suffer better than practically anyone in the world (except maybe the Chinese). West Europeans do not suffer well at all. And the struggling economies of eastern Europe (looking from Moscow) are of course most vulnerable to the loss of easy trade to the east. At this point, what the West is doing is focusing the attention of the Russian nation and making it feel in a very real way the threat that emanates from the West. It is unifying the Russians like nothing else possibly could. By attempting to move militarily into Ukraine, the West forced Russia to make its military counter-moves and now the West is elevating the threat level. The latest news is that NATO has admitted an increase in its presence in the Russian border region, but insists everything is on the up-and-up, totally transparent and above-board (unlike those sneaky Russians). So is a train rolling toward you at 200 mph. Totally straight-forward. Still I have yet to hear something from NATO HQ or even NATO loose lips about the issue of flying without transponders — do NATO jets do turn off their transponders in the vicinity of the Russian border? A simple yes or no will suffice.

From the Russian side, Lt. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev had a few words in response to western indignation over the recent near-miss of a Swedish civilian plane and combat aircraft out of Russia:

… Lieutenant-General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s joint military command center told Bloomberg news that NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe is becoming a concern for Moscow. “The Russian Defense Ministry leadership has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the significant increase of NATO military activity near the Russian borders,” Mizintsev said. The General was quick to point out that NATO’s flights have doubled to about 3,000 this year. Mizintsev told Bloomberg that foreign jets were flying in “dangerous proximity” to Russian long-range military aircraft at least on 55 occasions at a distance of less than 100 meters, in 2013-14. Russia’s missions were “as risky as NATO aircraft flights near the Russian border can be considered risky,” Mizintsev said.

I sit here wondering who the hell is making these mad decisions. Gen. Philip Breedlove, an American in NATO and its woefully wrong-footed SACEUR, is getting to be openly referred to among Russians and many Europeans as well as Dr. Strangelove. The man comes across as a Cold War relic, a bellicose, arrogant and demanding American. But it isn’t only Breedlove; the entire professional apparat of NATO, including a slew of recycled retirees from the Cold War gang, are demanding NATO step up to the plate over Ukraine. And at home of course, we have not only the usual cohort of Russophobes and warmongers, to include John McCain, but we have the human rights crowd on the left, which lives off the detritus of war through the many NGO money-suckers.

We are picking up speed toward a grave encounter. The West has its claws in Ukraine and Russia won’t give it up without a fight. In the meantime, watch for the European pacifists to begin agitating and organizing as Russia redeploys its weapons closer to its western border and ramps up rearmament and modernization. Those are things Russia can do without help from the West or the expenditure of a single dollar. The future is looking pretty bleak — the closer and tougher we get with each other, the more likely that a single miscalculation or misunderstanding can be the spark that ignites the war. It pains me that so few people seem to care.

 

 

 



Madhawk on the Loose

Finally something worth writing about, and I am talking about The Man, John McCain. Today he showed the whole word how close to dementia he truly is when he declared that a NATO ally is headed by a modern-day Hitlerite and chastised said Storm Trooper for having friendly relations with Russia. Speaking with regard to the pitiful nomination of another Obama entertainment hack as US Ambassador to Hungary, McCain declared her unfit to hold that position when “Hungary is on the verge of losing its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dicator Victor Orban, who is in bed with Vladimir Putin.” Wow. I’m gasping in amazement. In one sentence, McCain managed to link his favorite boogie-man Putin (much scarier than any ISIS beheader) with someone edging up at the rail, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, alleged fascist. McCain also managed in that one sentence to mortally offend the Prime Minister’s supporters and many others in NATO’s ex-Warsaw Pact group of members who think their countries gave up one master for another (and resent it). He is becoming the poster child for a nation very ill with regime-change-itis and thrashing around the globe like a wounded beast. The US eagle is in danger of morphing into McCain’s gloating ancient mug. I know a lot of people who would give him credit for Vietnam but I’m afraid Vietnam was only the beginning of his readiness for war. Only  problem is, the next one he could drag us into isn’t going to be nice, like Vietnam.

Here’s another good bit. Putin pulled the rug out from under the EU, which was running around twisting the arms of Russia’s supposed partners in central/eastern Europe on the South Stream oil pipeline. One of those subject to extreme pressure is not even an EU member (Serbia). The EU is insisting that no EU member (or anybody who even dreams of one day being a member) is allowed to participate in a pipeline that is owned by the same source as the energy (in this case gas) that flows through the pipeline. In reality, this is about checking Russian influence in Europe and hurting Russia financially. It is about opening a market for the US shale oil industry. Back in June of 2014 the EU used threats to block South Stream to force Russian recognition of the Kiev government. Seems clear that Europe’s primary interests are other than the stated ones and involve a desire to dictate to Russia it’s foreign policy and to subordinate it to the US/EU axis. Russia’s partners looked set to make a fool of Russia, hemming and hawing, promising a decision but never giving one. The Serbian President only recently gave two interviews back to back, in the first stating that Serbia was not an EU member and would do what was in its interests vis a vis South Stream; and in the second stating that Serbia had to do whatever the EU told it to. Russia had enough of the waffling and decided to cut its losses.

Putin unexpectedly announced with deep regret that Russia was jettisoning the project as a result of the great pressures brought to bear by the EU on the countries involved. Even though Austria and Turkey said they would cooperate, other countries were over a barrel. He said it would be a blow to those countries that had been counting on the income and the jobs, but that Russia had no choice. How could it be expected to invest the billions needed in a project that could never be completed? Russia would be directing the gas that would have flowed via that route (paying out fat transport fees to the partner countries) to other buyers (sub-text: never to return). It is rich in irony that one of those upgraded customers is Turkey, which has wanted to be a member of the EU forever and has been a member of NATO forever, and at last is able to thumb its nose back at the EU. As a non-member with no likelihood of entry into the EU in the near future, it is free to follow its self-interest. I am sure that the spineless political leaders in more than one NATO country look on in envy. In fact Putin’s decision has been like an explosion in the countries concerned. For a good glimpse at what is going on, I recommend a Financial Times article, Anger and Dismay as Russia Scraps $50bn gas plan.

Serbia provides another example of the things countries give up with their membership (even potential) in the EU. Serbia is not a Union member and there is no guarantee when it might be invited to join. If ever. But the EU did not hesitate to threaten Serbia’s prospects for membership and other Serbian interests should Serbia not concede on South Stream. It is clear that the Serbian government did not manage to resist the threats and it was at that point that Putin made a command decision. Russia won’t be asking again for cooperation from Europe. It will build its interests away from Europe with the bulwark of Russia itself between them and the EU/NATO. The idea of not relying on the other guy cuts both ways.

On another subject, I note that the government of Ukraine, so-called, has now given over-night citizenship to three foreigners to help them run that so-called government as top officials. One is an American of Ukrainian parentage who worked in the US State Department and is a west Ukrainian zealot. As my better half has noted, not exactly the best type to have sent to the US Embassy in Kiev (but the Statement Department did send her there, perhaps while Victoria Nuland was handing out cookies to the Maidan mob). The other guy is a Georgian who just finished serving in the Georgian government, so I guess it is musical governments on an international level. The third guy is a Lithuanian businessman who will now be minister of economics. This all sounds like some hare-brained US/EU scheme to salvage a failing state. What other self-respecting state picks its top officials from foreigners? (Yes, I know, the Lithuanians and Latvians, but they had the decency to make them all ethnic Lithuanians or Latvians.) Ukraine is getting to look a lot like Chernobyl.

And back to US politics. I’m not sure what is going on. It’s pretty much back to smokey room politics, with cozy meetings between our new Senate majority leader and the President. I know  immigration is right up there among the top ten priorities for the GOP, but I don’t have any idea what they are planning. My guess is it will be amnesty for millions, with some window-dressing along the border. The stationing of US troops along our own border would probably be considered too Rand Paul for most of them. Same on Obamacare — do they have a plan? We’re waiting. I really hope they do some good work, and they are under the gun. In two years, if the GOP has failed at major tasks, it’s back to ground zero and the return of the zombie left.

 


Regime change here, regime change there

The Republicans are back in control of Congress and the war drums are louder already. The US has opted for in-your-face regime change in Syria, largely dropping the fig-leaf of an anti-ISIS “air campaign” and openly recruiting for fighters to take down the legal Assad government. We always knew the ISIS crap was just that. ISIS was the Obama Administration’s Osama bin Laden, our creation, and we aren’t even trying that hard to defeat them in Syria and Iraq. America only wants that military opening it needed to contrive some reason to get on with the damned “air campaign.” I was pretty convinced that was the game after the US had to be dragged away, kicking and screaming, from a bombing war against Syria over chemical weapons even when Syria conceded the terms. The US was never satisfied, and always warning that bombing might be necessary. Now it’s marauding inside Syria without so much as a “may I?” to the Syrian government, able to ship weapons around at will, able to arm a bigger proxy army against Assad. It is all utterly disgusting. Why is it that everybody can see what is going on in this country, and so few care? Don’t Americans realize what they look like more and more abroad? A brute with a big military machine.

I’d really like to know all the ins and outs of this US obsession with a man (it is always one man, never a people or country) that Hillary Clinton had declared okey-doke not long before she put out the contract on him. Of course Saudi Arabia has its oily paws in there, and so does Turkey with its own time-bombs ticking in the form of ethnic rebellion. But what is in it for America? I hesitate to say O – I – L but I bet most people don’t.

Okay, so the Mideast is on fire and getting worse, as the US promises air campaigns to the left and to the right to stop the flames. But in Europe, things are if anything worse. True, nobody is beheading anybody, but the re-armament of Russia is well underway on all fronts. The US, EU and NATO are digging themselves ever deeper into the business of west Ukraine in the hopes of capturing pro-Russian east Ukraine and its riches and its delicious proximity to Russia itself. In response, Russia has ever more overtly sent in its military equipment and personnel to support the east Ukrainian separatists. The West itself precipitated these radical developments in Ukraine by making existential threats against Moscow. Ukraine should never have been included by NATO as expansion territory, not even as a Partner for Peace, aka Junior NATO. Russia’s top officials have now openly warned America that if the US moves to provide lethal weapons to west Ukraine it will be a game-changer. It stands ready to do more, including moving in missiles (I would guess) and elements of the Army itself. If it does so, it will take everything it needs as it moves, including roads, bridges and airports.

Russia has also moved to more active engagement with Georgia’s two separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two regions broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s with some Russian help and have existed as independent entities under Russian protection since then. A Georgian effort to recapture one of these regions by force in a rather pitiful “blitzkrieg” sent a spike through international nerves in 2008, when Russia struck back, sent the Georgian Army running, and officially recognized the independence of both regions. Annexation by Russia may now be the only safe haven now for these two national groups.

Russia’s responses to NATO policies and actions is absolutely logical, they were predictable, and they were predicted. And to what end? Why is the US seeking constant eastward expansion toward Russian borders, knowing from a simple reading of history that this is the trigger for war? Now Henry Kissinger, one of America’s greatest diplomats, has given an interview to a German newspaper in which he laments the West’s actions in Ukraine and its failure to recognize the peril of trying to expand into an area of extraordinary Russian interests and historical importance. Kissinger suggested that Ukraine should be removed from NATO’s ambit entirely. On trade, that is another matter and Ukraine should be free to trade with whom it chooses.

Again, to whose benefit all of this confrontation and permanent warfare? Weapons manufacturers? NGOs distributing disaster relief? International bureaucracies? Deep pockets? A fellow blogger points out that there are oil interests in eastern Ukraine now that science has shown us how to suck up every ounce of oil within the earth through fracking (and remember that Ukraine has a part claim on the Black Sea resources, too). He suggests that perhaps groups led by such people as Joe Biden’s son might have an interest in a military solution that secured east Ukraine’s natural resources for international sharing. One thing is for sure: it is not happening to make you and me safer, or to bring democracy to a kleptocracy. There are money interests there, under all the pony poop.

 


Gruber the Goober and Other Things

More observations on the latest news.

First we have the case of the insufferably smug Jonathan Gruber. I bet Gruber was the butt of a lot of jokes when he was a kid. No doubt the nerd thought to himself, “I’m smarter than they are! Just wait!” And he sure paid back every bully who ever lived and all the bystanders, too. But here is the thing: Gruber is not actually as brilliant as he thinks he is. And here is the evidence: would a strategic, brilliant thinker have carried off a shameful act of treachery against the American people and then boasted about it openly and often? Wouldn’t a bright fellow have thought, uh-oh, if people know what a slime-bucket I am and realize I connived to cost them hundreds of dollars a month in unnecessary health coverage so as to carry out a Marxist agenda for re-distributing wealth, somebody might have a grudge against me? I think its always a good rule of thumb that if you can’t be honest and decent, at least don’t brag about being deceitful, self-centered and treacherous. Our new Congress claims it is going to look into this and make sure the American public hears the facts, as the state media over at such places as NBC don’t think we dummies need to know a thing. I hope the Congress acts. We need to document this government’s abuse of Constitutional rights for all future generations.

Then there are foreign affairs where there are some really interesting developments on several fronts. Let’s start with Syria, where the US has now thrown all pretense aside and is behaving in true bully fashion. As we are currently flailing on the ISIS front — and flailing could be too soft a word after the latest beheading of a well-meaning but misguided American. I don’t know if they are right, but the Iraqi Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria claim the jihadists have an army of 200,000 fighters from everywhere. Of course they are guessing, but about these vermin crawling in from every side they are right. The US is judged to be under-reacting with its leisurely pace of bombing, but I think the reality is there is nothing to bomb. Only human beings, and even if some of them are evil, some of them are just human beings. I don’t understand people who think day/night, 24/7  bombing runs are the solution. I’m afraid all our up-ending and mischief-making in the Middle East is coming home to roost (and poop) right on our heads. Everybody is out to kill everybody else, and us above all. We must more and more often resort to force, because we can’t choose between what is vital (checking ISIS is) and what is not (overthrowing Assad). Our alliances are increasingly confounded and twisting and intertwined. We are responsible for the security of so many countries today it could only appeal to a One Worlder hoping to be the Vanguard and not the down-trodden.

Now even the once-sensible Gen. Dempsey is suggesting that the US (flopping on the ISIS front) should turn its sights on Damascus and its legally elected president, Bashar al-Assad. For the moment, open, in-your-face regime change is on the front burner, defeating the jihadists rampaging and murdering is somewhere back there, but not necessarily in second place of importance. Turkey is on fire, the Kurds want to dismember Syria and make their own country out of part of it, other countries in the region are increasingly imperiled, and all the US is doing is throwing money down the drain with a sort of dilettantish bombing campaign. As for dismembering Syria — the kind of partitioning and regime change that was good for Serbia under NATO’s heel, but not good for Ukraine under Russia’s heel — you can take this to the bank: the US is actively encouraging the Kurds to believe that if this works out and they can oust Assad the US will make sure they get a big chunk of Syria for their very own homeland. All they have to do is fight off the Jihad. What a coup! Think about all the upsides for the US: Assad, the man we could do business with only a few short years ago per Hillary Clinton, would be gone and probably murdered in some shameful fashion by our proxies; our friends would now suddenly be the government; Turkey would be rid of the troublesome Kurds; Syrians would be punished for being recalcitrant and supporting Assad when told not to; and best of all, Russia, the patron saint of Syria, will be shown up! In fact I’d guess that showing up Russia is probably our number one foreign policy goal these days.

Which brings me to all things Ukraine. Russia has decided to emulate NATO boldness in Syria and elsewhere with its own boldness in what it considers part of the Russian homeland, eastern Ukraine. It is pretty openly moving in the heavy weapons and tanks to hold the territory its proxies now control in eastern Ukraine,maybe taking some more before it allows a line to be drawn, while NATO arms and trains up its proxies in western Ukraine. Simultaneously, Russia has made a move to forever partition Georgia (a la Serbia) by formally recognizing the independence of Georgia’s two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is some expectation that Russia will then offer to take those territories into safe waters by bringing them into the Russian Federation as autonomous republics, perhaps South Ossetia uniting with North Ossetia to form one entity. This also buffers them against international retaliation. There still remains Moldova and I haven’t heard anything from that quarter. On the other hand, it would not surprise me to see Russia move to fortify its position in the Transdnestr. All of this enrages NATO and especially its easternmost parties and “partners.” The US just used the occasion of the G-20 to castigate Russia for doing the same kinds of things the US is doing at this very moment elsewhere (and in Ukraine, too).

Henry Kissinger just gave an interview in Der Spiegel. He lamented that the West had made a terrible blunder in Ukraine when it pushed so hard to get an exclusive position shutting out Russia, and that it was time for the EU/US to simply admit they had gone down the wrong path. Kissinger thought the western parties ought to have included Russia as an equal player in settling issues. He didn’t condone Russia’s extreme response, but he thought it was predictable. George Kennan, God rest his soul, made opposition to NATO expansion his last cause because he thought it was a grave error that would lead to global war again. And here we are, face to face in Ukraine, and not because Russia has expanded.

Then there is China, where President Obama was treated to the fly-by of drones built on the basis of technology stolen from the US.  Having watched Obama give America the finger so many times, it was kind of fun  to watch him get it back.

 

 


A Big Hooray and I Really Mean It

I refused to turn on the television yesterday, not even via internet. All the talking heads had made it seem as if it was not only close, but the momentum was on the Dem side. More teeth-gnashing was not on my list of things to do, so I skipped it all.

Boy, am I sorry today. Now I wish I had watched every minute of the returns. I am relishing the idea of the geniuses of the infallible Democrat Machine making up excuses and gnashing their own teeth. I love that the arrogant, insufferably empty and vain Obama was shown to be just as empty and useless as he is.

What goes around, comes around. Politics is a pendulum. I have said from time to time over the past year that I felt the pendulum, having gone as far left as it could in six years, was swinging to the right. Sometimes I lost faith in the American voters’ ability to act on their own beyond the influence of Big Politics and Big Money. I mostly despaired. But now I am a little bit more chipper. As a doctor and friend said today, this was an incredibly important step in addressing the mess the Democrats left. Yes, it certainly is.

I want to send hugs and kisses to all those GOP campaign volunteers who manned the phones and knocked annoyingly on doors and drove cars and handed out literature and waved posters. They made the difference, as did every one of us who voted a straight Republican ticket despite all our resentment and frustration. In the end, there was never a real choice, and we took the only rational one.

I want to thank Florida voters for giving Charlie Christ a pass. (And hats off to Jeb Bush for being willing, like his mother, to say it like it is when it came to Crist. I am sure it helped. I am richly enjoying that Crist has now lost state-level elections as a Republican, an Independent, and a Democrat. There’s only the Communist Party of the USA left for Charlie!

Now — let’s see how the GOP handles success. We are watching…

 


The Ghost of NATO Past

I am reprinting an opinion piece I wrote in 2001 on the subject of NATO expansion. This was at the opening stages in what today has become NATO’s headlong hurtle toward Russia’s very borders. The op-ed was published in the English-language independent newspaper The Moscow Times. Because of a discussion group I’m in, I looked up this old piece and found that it was pretty close to the mark.

 

Counting the Cost of NATO Expansion

April 2001 by Norma Brown

In recent weeks, The Moscow Times has printed two opinion pieces by Americans urging the further expansion of NATO to include the former Soviet republics in the Baltic region. The authors would have us believe that such expansion is inevitable, that it is somehow in Russia’s greater interests, and that Russia should cease its hopeless efforts to block it. Most recently, Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment advised that Russia would be better off by “demonstrating that Russia is too strong and self-confident to worry about the ascension of the tiny Baltic States to the NATO alliance.” Such advice is sophistry. The arguments of the pro-expansionists are ludicrous against the backdrop of NATO’s strategic concept and the reality of what has happened in the wake of its thus-far limited expansion.

NATO’s first “new strategic concept” of November 1991 was a far cry from its previous cautious and highly defined doctrine, but it nonetheless retained some element of restraint in recognition of the fact that the Soviet Union still existed. After the Soviet collapse, however, NATO began to shift toward a more assertive posture, issuing warnings to Russia on its behavior toward former Soviet states and the countries of Central Europe.

The logical culmination of NATO’s emerging policy, as embodied in documents issued between November 1991 and April 1999, was NATO’s revised strategic concept. This was an aggressive and preemptive doctrine that provided justification for the bombing of Yugoslavia and will justify similar responses to any situation deemed by NATO to be directly or indirectly “threatening” in the future. The 1999 revised strategic concept set forth an extremely vague rationale for NATO action — military or otherwise — in an undefined territorial area (“in and around the Euro-Atlantic area” and “at the periphery of the Alliance”) and in response to a range of situations that could and almost certainly would involve strictly internal issues of non-member countries.

Among the stated risks to NATO security that would serve as potential triggers for NATO action are “territorial disputes, inadequate or failed efforts at reform, the abuse of human rights, and the dissolution of states,” as well as “organized crime” and “the uncontrolled movement of large numbers of people, particularly as a consequence of armed conflicts.” NATO also identifies as a risk to its security states on NATO’s periphery that sell or acquire or attempt to acquire nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and delivery means. Last, but hardly least from Russia’s perspective, NATO states in its 1999 strategic concept that there is potential for the reemergence of “large-scale conventional aggression against the Alliance.” This is as close as the strategic concept comes to naming names without actually naming names.

The merits of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo have been and will long continue to be a subject of considerable controversy. What cannot be denied is that the effort to attain a quick and bloodless (for NATO combatants) solution to a centuries-old problem has not achieved the Alliance’s stated goals. There is not and has never been a long-term strategy for preserving territorial integrity while protecting the rights of minorities. Kosovo is not a multi-ethnic society. Repression previously directed by Serbian authorities against ethnic Albanians now is directed by the criminal KLA against ethnic Serbs, Roma and politically irritating ethnic Albanians. On the bright side for NATO members, ethnic Serbs and others fleeing repression in Kosovo are by and large heading for Serbia proper rather than for Western Europe. In this sense, the bombing of Yugoslavia may be considered by some NATO members as a success.

Most recently, we have witnessed a cynical “movement” of ethnic Albanians, armed from Kosovo, against the legitimate authorities in Macedonia. In that event, we were also treated to the spectacle of NATO — which created the monster — feverishly attempting to turn a blind eye to the dispute. Instead of joining forces with the Macedonian government to put down the terrorists, NATO and the EU urged the Macedonian authorities to come to a “political settlement” with those who took up arms against it in pursuit of Greater Albania. We thus see that NATO is very good at military adventures, especially against essentially defenseless “opponents,” but pitifully incompetent when it comes to avoiding the negative political consequences of its military actions — of which it was repeatedly warned in advance from many quarters. Despite this vivid and fresh history, we are still to believe that adding more countries to NATO to help out in future ill-conceived military adventures will add to stability on the continent (and no doubt on other continents, as well).

Russia is right to consider further NATO expansion against this background. In the conflict against Kosovo, Russia was “protected” from the folly of disagreeing with NATO actions by having Hungary and Bulgaria (a non-NATO member, but a NATO “partner”) collaborate in blocking Russian efforts to provide assistance to Belgrade. Now many are keen to invite Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the NATO fold, which would mean moving NATO infrastructure up to Russian borders and putting Russia squarely in the area of “the periphery of the Alliance” — where NATO actions in response to that vast array of potentially destabilizing events would be justified by the Alliance’s strategic concept. Indeed, with regard to Kaliningrad, it would put non-member Russia within NATO territory. It is in this context that we should judge arguments that the inclusion of the “tiny Baltic States” — and no doubt everybody else in the former Warsaw Pact except Russia — is in Russia’s interests.

NATO has already demonstrated its readiness to use its power and resources in pursuit of self-serving, short-term goals without any sort of long-term policy or vision. It has demonstrated a blithe lack of concern about using force unilaterally and in defiance of international law. Is there thus any serious reason to believe that advancing NATO to Russia’s doorstep — that is to say, up against a country that NATO’s own strategic concept has set out as a potential future enemy — would heighten European security? Is this a step that Russia should regard as helpful to its own security? Is the prospect of the Baltic and Central European states collaborating to block Russian defense of its vital interests in the face of NATO “crisis response” one that Russia should embrace? In the case of NATO’s bombardment of Yugoslavia, the only negative fallout was the expansion of armed separatist action to Macedonia. In the case of Russia, the results of miscalculation carry much graver risks.

Russia should not abandon its efforts to persuade the more rational Europeans and Americans that further expansion of NATO is not in anybody’s interests. What is needed today is a new European-Atlantic security system that recognizes Russia’s right to be fully engaged as an equal partner. It is inarguably in the interest of Europeans and Americans to forge a genuine partnership with Russia that will avoid the creation of an artificial enemy. A bigger NATO is simply a bigger threat to both European and global security.


The Good News and the Bad News

The good news is that here we are, at a point that seemed impossibly far away two years ago, on the verge of breaking the Democrats’ ungodly control of our political power. We’re not sure of course, because the dead are voting in unprecedentedly high numbers this election, along with half of Central America. The GOP is working hard because it is either win or evanesce. I have so many things on the wish list of things for the GOP to do, but one of them should certainly be legislation to mandate a national identity card, like a Social Security card but better, for US citizens. No ID, no citizenship rights at the voting booth.  I would also like to see a full court press to get a Benghazi Special Prosecutor and one for the IRS, as well. The GOP has to start rooting out the politicization of our civil service or we’re headed to become a banana republic with heavy doses of repression. Of course we know in our hearts that the GOP is going to plow ahead with amnesty, because that is what US business wants and the heck with the rest of us. In any case, there are going to be real fights in the next two years and our Congress had best be prepared to fight hard. The Dems will try to use their remaining lever of power, the Presidency, to push through all kinds of initiatives that they want in place to help them get back in control.  I think that if the Republicans continue business as usual and just give us more of the same and some face lift, there will be problems in the Republican Party and worse than before.

The bad news is the foreign policy arena, where things remain as scary as ever. The US has been bombing part of Syria where there are practically no targets that aren’t already rubble, and the Brits and Canadians have each dropped a bomb or two, as well. Not much to show for all the drama and the vows to get ISIS. Turkey caved to US pressures, sort of, and is allowing Iraqi Kurds to pass through its land into Syria to fight ISIS. I’ve mentioned before that the Kurds are a powder-keg all by themselves. Spread across Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, these clans would like to reunite taking all of the land they are sitting on. The Kurds have fought the Turks on this issue. Now Turkey is forced into colluding in an operation against Turkey’s old friends ISIS, giving the Kurds a chance to hone their military skills and get ginned up for action back home. Turkey wants instead to depose foe Bashar al Assad in Damascus rather than piss around with ISIS, but first things first. Here is a snippet from an Israeli newspaper that gives you a sense of Turkey’s exasperation:

“The U.S. is too focused on Kobani and isn’t paying enough attention to other places,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Monday. He also disclosed that some of the weapons provided to the rebels in the Kurdish town had fallen to Islamic State while others had been seized by fighters of the Kurdish Union Party, which is working with the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, which is listed internationally as a terror group.

Here is another excerpt, this one from the Wall Street Journal, on recent setbacks:

Fighters from al Qaeda’s Syrian branch have advanced along a northern area bordering Turkey after driving out several moderate factions from longtime strongholds, rebels said, complicating the U.S. effort to recruit and train the Syrian opposition battling Islamic State and trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

The weekend advance by Jabhat al-Nusra into territory that since 2012 has been the base for Syria’s most Western-friendly rebels dealt another blow to the country’s moderate opposition groups, including the main faction backed and armed by the U.S.

These rebels have for months lost ground in their two-pronged war—to Syrian government forces and to extremists from the group calling itself Islamic State, which parted ways with al-Nusra last year. Panicked and besieged by al-Nusra, some moderate fighters switched sides to al-Nusra this weekend as their towns fell.

Al-Nusra fighters on Monday amassed at a town in Idlib province, Sarmada, four miles from a gate on Turkey’s border, local rebels said, in what could be a move to grab the border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. Over the weekend, al-Nusra seized villages—along with weaponry, ammunition and armored vehicles—in Idlib’s mountainous Jabal Zawiya area.

The success of the overseas operations of these jihadists is why I continue to support putting more of our effort into securing our borders and our own homeland rather than trying to stem the disease in other peoples’ countries. We’re not winning. The only way we could win is if all the non-jihadists took up guns and other weapons and murdered the marauders. Don’t hold your breath.

In Ukraine, both western Ukraine and eastern Ukraine have held elections. No surprise that the sitting President Poroshenko won handily in the west and in the east the incumbents were returned as well. The fighting is sporadic as the two sides jockey over objectives they want to seize before international meddlers leave them each frozen where they are. The one interesting and new development is that Ukraine’s Deputy Energy Minister told reporters that Kiev was ready to buy coal from the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics because it was the cheapest fuel they can get. Of course doing so — buying through the “government authorities” of those two places would serve as recognition of their legitimacy. Big problem for Poroshenko and my instinct is that the Deputy Minister will lose his job shortly for mentioning the deal publicly. Meanwhile Poroshenko, having no practical steps he can reasonably take, is mulling over overturning legislation that gave certain autonomous rights to the rebel provinces.

I have a feeling the next two years are going to be pretty tumultuous. The rest of the world sees Obama the Lame as Obama the Lame Duck, and like the Democrats in Washington will be hurtling forward to get what they can while the World’s Biggest Wuss is still sitting in the White House.

 



The Tangled Web We Weave

I’ve been trying to concentrate on the upcoming mid-terms, but it’s like love lost: once gone, never re-captured. I just can’t get into it. That is because I have no credible reason to believe that anything hugely bad done under Obama will be destroyed by the GOP, and that means more of same. You see where that got us. No, what will be will be, as Doris Day used to say. Maybe when things go so far beyond the acceptable in this country it will ignite something else, and then we’ll see.

It’s the foreign policy screen that has me rapt. I just read an article saying that Kobani, that tiny Nowheresville on the outskirts of both Turkey and Syria, is being swarmed by the ISIS death beetles. Then it says that the US military sees a rich array of targets of opportunity in this situation.

I can’t help it, I  keep thinking that the foreign policy inanity and incompetence and ignorance I’m seeing and the fall-out it is provoking have inured me to any further shocks, but I’m always wrong. Kobani is a strategic town in the ISIS-led Neo-Caliphate’s effort to take over the world. It is an important battle site because the turbaned fanatics are attacking ethnic Kurds, who are running to Turkey. In Turkey there are age-old tensions between the Turks and Kurds aggravated by Kurdish separatist sentiment. There are armed Kurdish rebels who have fought the Turkish government. At present, the Kobani Kurds are fighting off ISIS valiantly but they are losing. On the Turkish side, enraged ethnic Kurds are flocking to the border to help their brethren in Kobani, but they are being beaten back by the Turkish military and that could spark more problems inside Turkey. The US sits doing nothing because it insists (and rightly so) that Turkey take out ISIS at Kobani with ground troops. Then the US could give air support. But Turkey won’t attack ISIS. Why? For the same reason that it won’t let the Kurds go to Kobani’s defense — because Turkey hates Syria’s Assad worse than it hates ISIS, at least for the moment. Turkey insists that if the US wants Turkey’s action in Kobani, the US has to agree to go after and unseat Assad. Turkey wouldn’t profit if its own ethnic Kurds went and did the job for the US, depriving Ankara of its leverage. Turkey also doesn’t want to give the Kurds, some of them ex-guerrillas, the chance to hone their military skills or develop a special relationship with the USG.

croc_editedIt seems there hasn’t been a deal, because everybody is just watching this disaster unfold. I’m sure behind the scenes there are many screaming matches at the moment. Some want Obama to okay commitment to regime change in Damascus in exchange for Turkey’s action on the ground at Kobani. The pressure is high. The McCains of both left and right are yammering about the need to remove Assad. Others sense what a quagmire this all is promising to become and worry about Obama’s Peace Prize and how Obama can’t afford to ruin his image. Where are we currently? Nowhere good. ISIS is all over Kobani. The civilized world’s common enemy is winning against America and its power. Even a loss after such a glorious battle doesn’t diminish their success. To the ordinary person, it seems the US comes out looking weaker than ever, despite our endless bombing runs. It looks like this is just driving more and more high-hormone teenagers into the fight. It’s like blood in the water.

Okay, but granting that this is so, think about this: the USG has looked at the situation and finds that it is not a disaster! This is because now US bombers can swoop practically from outer space and drop ordnance killing all kinds of targets (we always call them targets instead of verminous bastards or in the case of the innocent victims, human beings) and they are concentrated. It is likely that quite a few ISIS victims are going to die under our bombs along with their tormenters. I guess it’s a more merciful death than what was waiting for them. But from our perspective, what difference does it make if we kill a bunch of ISIS guerrillas? In fact, what difference does it make if ISIS loses control of Kobani? They will be promptly replaced and pop up elsewhere, maybe in Europe. And they will simply wait until the defenders abandon Kobani, as we will, and then re-swarm and take even uglier vengeance there. On the other hand, if we lose Kobani because the Kurds can’t do the job, I don’t see a good bombing environment as a big counterbalance to that central fact. And if we arm the Kurds and send them in, we are probably setting up Turkey for major destabilizing domestic developments somewhere down the road. You can see why it’s so difficult to make sound policy — every step we take or don’t take has a counter-effect on another one of our alliances or goals. This is another example of how America’s proliferating commitments are entangling us hopelessly and greatly complicating decision-making.

Assad might well have been ready to send in his Army to fight ISIS with US collaboration, but we couldn’t ask Assad because the USG wants to have another go at regime change in Syria. Like Turkey, we seem to see Assad as a scarier foe than ISIS, and this is why the US is manning up and arming its own military force in Syria to act as our proxy in an overthrow. Isn’t it crazy — wouldn’t you think, given the convergence of interests, that the US would have agreed with Turkey’s proposal and then both goals would be met — overthrow and blows against ISIS. But no. And yet there are rumors that the US is going to declare a no-fly zone in the airspace over Syria, including northern Syria where Assad and the government are. ISIS, supposedly the chief focus of our actions, has no air force. They have captured three Syrian Air Force antique aircraft that are visually known to the US which they hope to send on a suicide mission to some not too-distant spot loaded with chemical weapons taken from ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq quite recently. (I won’t get into that can of worms here.) Unlikely the suicide missions would ever get off the ground loaded before being vaporized, so why this no-fly zone? That sounds and smells really stinky to me and to many others, including Syria’s ally Russia, which supplies Damascus all its defense equipment.

It appears to me the US strategy goes like this: illegally arm and train proxies to fight against Assad domestically (check); get legislation authorizing a virtual US military take-over of the rag-tag army under the guise of fighting ISIS (check); as soon as there is a lull in the ISIS fighting, turn the rebels against Damascus by unleashing them throughout the country (soon come); begin bombing Damascus in support of our proxy army on grounds that Damascus is responding brutally to popular discontent (time to be determined). After that, insure that the Russian military is replaced by the US military, thus opening a huge new military hardware and technology market.

There are, of course, many things that can intervene to change a situation. Perhaps the ISIS fight will become so serious in Europe that nobody will support the insane overthrow of the last secular Arab leadership outside of the Egyption Army. Perhaps the US will have so many problems elsewhere and at home that it cannot afford a feckless fight against Assad. Or perhaps a change in the USG will bring in a hawkish president who decides that the US military really can control the world. I hardly know which scenario is scariest.