Ooobie on Everything

The New Year Begins with More Nothingburgers

The New Year begins with no signs of imminent economic collapse, world war, or social chaos. I say that despite the nuclear attack alarm that went off “by mistake” in Democrat One-Party State Hawaii, leading people to hide their babies in drain pipes. Admittedly, a few Democrat loonies (redundant) insisted it was all Trump’s fault. I guess that means that if Obama was in office and they got a nuclear alert, they’d just make a p and j sandwich and relax with a tall glass of milk.

No matter how hard the Democrats tried, no calamities materialized, except the mudslide that sullied the homes of the ultra-rich, including the multi-homed Oprah Winfrey. Trump has annoyed North Korea’s Adored Leader so much that the latter is trying to kiss and make up with a very responsive South Korea, the entire government of which were said to have simultaneously wet their pants on hearing about how much bigger Trump’s button was. Rocket Man has gone so far as to permit his athletes to frolic at the Olympics with the arbiters of world opinion, thus transforming North Korea into nothing more than a member of the world community with a starving population where the army must forage for its own food. That special guest status, or status of any kind at the Olympics, has been denied to Russia, by the way, which has had all its athletes banned from competing because of a few bad apples. The rapprochement of North and South would appear to be in everybody’s best interests, and perhaps Rocket Man can do something spectacular to shame Trump, like personally winning for the highest pole vault. If we talk North Korea, we must talk China. Trump the Rude and Overly Direct managed to shame or perhaps frighten China, previously inscrutable on the subject of North Korea,  into having a word with Rocket Man, who would not ordinarily decide overnight that he wanted to suck up to the running dogs of imperialism and puppets of the American neo-imperialist colonizers. So it was kind of a 2-for-1 win on The Donald’s part.

The best part: if the North and South decide they like each other better than they like Americans, we could finally, at last, take our troops home from South Korea, a rich and increasingly smug little country that has fattened on the endless influx of US defense dollars and might. That money could be better spent doing transgender operations on members of our Armed Forces.

Regarding Russia, the Fairy Tale that has put most of us to sleep each night for what seems forever is losing its attraction. All the evidence that any half-true story has would by now have been trumpeted at every turn, but no. Instead it is petty crimes or entrapments that occupy Mueller, provided only that they have nothing to do with Russia or Trump. And even though they have no proof of their lurid fantasies, even if the story is a lie from one end to the other, all the Never-Trumpers insist that the fabrication “has the ring of truth”.

The rich irony is that, while the charge of Russian collusion with the Trumpists has failed utterly to pan out, the facts that are surfacing right and left are screaming Democrat/Clintonian conspiracy and collusion. Their goal was to tarnish irretrievably Trump’s candidacy. The possibility of a presidency was far-fetched, but by banding together cross-agency and intra-agency to form a clandestine network of activists, they could even destroy an unacceptable presidency. In pursuing their goals, these cretins utilized paid and/or bogus foreign sources, Russians and Brits, to surface damning false “revelations” about Trump to ensure Hillary the White House or take it from Trump, God forbid. As far as I’m concerned, there are a bunch of people in DOJ, FBI, IRS and other agencies who need to be under investigation and under indictment.

Now the other Clinton scandals, so long hidden, rotting, under the carpet, are seeing the light of day and the stink is horrendous. The first of what hopefully will be many crooks has fallen to an indictment in connection with the curious case of Uranium One. Perhaps this will feed the other investigation into the Clinton (Political Slush Fund) Foundation that seems to be underway.

On the down side, it seems possible that senile Pelosi will once again be at the helm of our hapless, useless, ignorant, treasonous Congress. Or even that it will be Trump against a Democrat-controlled House and Senate. If I were Trump, I’d be looking to invigorate a fraud detection network for the next vote, with special attention given to sanctuary cities and states, and I would be prepared to start bringing charges where voting fraud is found. Not only that, start doing state-by-state comparisons for voting data to determine how many people are voting in two places. That is a particular problem in places like Arizona and Florida, where people spend their Novembers.

And of course, how could I fail to mention the shithole comment surfaced by a famous liar, Richard Durbin of UniParty Illinois. If Trump said it, he was only giving voice yet again to the consensus of the American people, i.e. that our Walmarts are stuffed to the gills with the flotsam and jetsam of the world’s worst-governed, most violent, least democratic countries on the face of the earth, most of them under 5 feet tall. I had to give visas to them, because the law said so. We don’t have control over our borders when the standard for getting residency is whether your relative/petitioner also entered the US illegally and then managed to gain status. Instead of saying, well that person should have no rights to bring somebody else in, we fell for the left-wing ploy, “how can you break up families?”.  Give us all a break. End chain migration now, and any kind of lottery, and set high standards for entry. If the Congress can’t do this, why the hell do we need them?


The Year Ends

Gads, it’s the end of the year. When did life start picking up such speed? I remember being a kid and thinking I would explode if I couldn’t grow up and SOON. All the Golden Oldies are playing on our multi-media devices, it’s almost like having Santa in the room these days. We just got a super-dooper and frighteningly large television (I guess that is what they call them still) for our bedroom and it’s as if I’m watching Playhouse 90 again, it is the “studio effect.” Look how fast technology is changing, I’m sure in a year there will be something totally retro in this tv set and every six months it will become more so. You used to be able to keep a television set forever.

Oh, yes, politics. Well, as I have been saying since November, I’m waiting. There seems to be civil war brewing in the Congress and maybe it is about “pragmatism” versus “ideology.” This is true of both parties, although the Dems are splitting over the issue of being “left” and the Republicans over who is “true conservative.” That is good. I like the idea of keeping at least the GOP on its toes and considering this simple fact: we are watching you. Otherwise, the genial barkeep Mr. John Boehner is likely to reach some compromise over something fundamental (Obamacare? Immigration? IRS? EPA?) that is going to pull the rug out from under GOP cohesion. It will be war and the outcome foreordained. The GOP only wins if it pulls together all the discontented toward a re-consideration of the state of the union. To do that, it has to show it CAN do it. I’m waiting. I’m watching. I don’t need a list, I just count the whole bunch of them as guilty if the party doesn’t act appropriately.

On to that never-ending circus, the foreign affairs arena. North Korea hacks a damned film studio and we act as if they bombed Pearl Harbor. Of course it’s a cyber-crime, and Sony should sue or otherwise retaliate. It has the means to pay for a little assistance. Instead top US sages practically call for bombing North Korea and claim it is war against America. Furthermore, somebody surfaces the absurd claim that China, Russia, and Iran are also behind it. That is just so neat, tying up a handful of your deadly foes (per Washington) in one more global rumor intended to blacken their names. Psy-ops. Then somebody disrupted the internet system in North Korea and people have been quick to speculate that it was the US, just to show we can. But as my wise husband said, “they’re  doing the North Korean government a favor by doing that — the government would love to knock out the internet in North Korea!” And everywhere else if possible.

The US is not only saber-rattling in Russia’s face, it has two swords out and is making a terrible racket. Russia is now good and roused and the Bear is getting its own swords honed. The US Congress has authorized the US President to provide lethal military assistance to the government of west Ukraine and to impose still more economic sanctions, but it is up to Obama if he chooses to use the authority or not. Over in Russia, the Duma revoked the authority it gave Putin to act militarily and immediately in defense of Russian interests in event of a crisis, but it did so at Putin’s request as a “confidence-building measure.” I’m sure it was tongue-in-cheek for Mr. Putin, as “confidence building measures” (or CBMs in the industry) is a concept from west European leftists who promoted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to build bridges to the East that are now being burned down by the EU. Now the Duma is about to give the authorization to Putin again. I don’t doubt he will use it if necessary, but I think Russia prefers that this be settled through federation of Ukraine rather than continuation of an unsuccessful unitary state. On the other hand, it all depends on how the US proceeds. A course of militarizing Ukraine in NATO’s favor is going to lose Ukraine all its eastern sector and the south, too.

Russia isn’t ceding an inch, no matter what pressure the West exerts. Their money plummeted under what I am quite sure was a deliberately-provoked hysteria, but now the Central Bank is intervening and there is some stabilization. Russia is demanding its giant enterprises (LUKoil, Rosneft, etc.) sell part of their foreign currency domestically to ease the pressure and all of them are stepping to the plate (or else, no doubt), having sold a reported one billion dollars worth in the past days.  The US and EU have tried to injure Russia through the financial system the West controls, and Russia has responded by creating its own alternative systems, a growing trend among the world’s regional powers.  Russia is not denominating future contracts in US dollars and that, too, is a trend. Russia-China trade is one billion dollars — and it is being denominated in yuan or rubles henceforward. Everybody is learning from Russia’s trials, learning that the US is not trustworthy, that NATO is aggressive, and that the West will use any measure, regardless of how hurtful to ordinary populations, to impose its will. The only answer is to become independent of such channels of pressure. It is happening.

When Sweden complained that a Russian jet-fighter came too close to a Swedish plane and wasn’t using its transponders, the Russian military responded that NATO flights close to Russian borders had increased to 3,000 in the past year, and that NATO jet fighters fly without transponders along Russian borders and have had numerous documented near misses with Russian aircraft. He added that Russian maneuvers close to EU airspace are as dangerous to the EU as NATO flights close to Russian airspace are to Russia. In response to US military activity in eastern Europe, Russia is certainly going to be redeploying its own forces. In fact this was hinted at during the press conference when a woman from Kaliningrad (a Russian enclave surrounded by NATO) complained of the hateful propaganda coming at Kaliningrad from the west and the increased military activity at the territory’s borders. She asked if Russia would be deploying military assets to Kaliningrad to protect them. Putin carefully did not answer the question in his response.

And finally — how can I not mention Cuba? The resumption of diplomatic relations with this seedy little island, emigrants from which are among my relatives and friends, is being done “for the people of Cuba” and because we  now see that economic sanctions don’t work. I have never known the USG to do anything for anybody else; it is always a matter of US interests, as it should be. And second, on the sanctions thing — does this mean the US will be lifting sanctions elsewhere, like against Russia? Or Iraq? I mean — if a seedy little island can resist the full force and will of the US for all these years, do they really think Russia is going to cave?

Well, I sure hope the New Year brings us some people with clear vision, common sense and the right experience to guide our foreign policy, which is sinking into a bog of mistakes. And John Boehner — I’m watching you.




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 the territories against retaliatory military action. 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.



Moral Imperatives

chkThe US hawks have been released from their tethers. The likes of John McCain are pushing hard for a much deeper US military commitment to the riff-raff and terrorists opposing Assad in Syria — including the dispatch of military advisors and heavier arms. The US president is considering the request. Was one Iraq not enough? I guess not. The hawks want a whole team of people over there directing the effort to unseat an elected government. They insist that a government elected in the midst of civil strife, as Assad will be in June, cannot be a truly legitimate government. The US has a moral imperative to intervene to impose a government there (and depose one, as well) to balance out the scales of justice .

This contrasts to our position in Ukraine, where we backed a putsch-installed regime that forced an elected president to flee and then declared the putsch-installed regime legitimate. When pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine began resisting the Kiev authorities the US immediately condemned Russia for alleged military aid to those fighting . Now the West asserts the legitimacy of the new president who was elected in the midst of civil strife and without participation of the eastern part of the country.  The US has a moral imperative to help Kiev, so they say. These two cases alone highlight how utterly flexible US policy is and how the rationale used in one case to US advantage can be flipped somewhere else, also to answer US interests.

vietnameWe are currently in a pissing match with China over what the US says is bullying behavior in the South China Sea. China recently got into a row with Vietnam over fishing rights (and Chinese oil rigs) and China sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. Japan and China are now poised for a fight, backs arched and hissing, over who owns a handful of rocky islands. Japan’s legal claim is said to be stronger than that of China. But many Chinese think that doesn’t matter, what matters is who plants the flag.  A participant at the Davos economic forum wrote that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion. That sounds an awfully lot like what Russia just did, and in fact we have now moved from the stage where NATO overturned existing international law and set new precedents, to Russia and now China using those precedents to their own advantage and fine-tuning the precedents by adding new wrinkles.

The hard-liners pushing US policy demand a full-scale re-militarization of the former Warsaw Pact states (excluding Russia) that would involve deploying missile defenses and heavy equipment, and men, too. They want NATO to push ahead for the final NATO expansion that would put it belly-to-belly with the Bear. Russia is responding by re-militarizing itself, and moving to latest-generation weaponry as well as upgrading its nuclear arsenal.

benghaziA US troop carrier sits off the coast of Libya, waiting for what we do not know. Is it filled with the thousand Marines it can carry? They claim they are there to evacuate Americans if things go awry. What things? Do we know something is going to go wrong? Then why not evacuate now, before anybody dies? In any event, why do we have so many Americans there after what happened previously — is it the same illegal weapons dealing that was going on then? One thing is for sure, there is something afoot by one party or the other. I wonder if we are planning to help the inept and floundering government in Tripoli by going into and occupying Benghazi (in support of Libyan forces, of course).  It’s practically a US moral imperative to do so. And, coincidentally I’m sure, if the current US regime could only calm things down in Libya, even if only briefly, an image-spinner could maybe make it look like not such a disaster by the time Mrs. Clinton strides to accept the nomination of her stupidly adoring party. I’d guess that would be the rationale. If they don’t do anything in Libya, by the elections for the next president Mrs. Clinton will be pounded to dust over the massive failure of her chief foreign policy accomplishment (the murder of Qaddafi and the installation of a puppet regime).

We are currently using US resources to track down a large number of schoolgirls kidnapped by fanatics in Nigeria. Now we’re deploying to do the absolute duty of other governments, which is to protect their own people. It seems it’s a moral imperative. There and everywhere else.

hegemonWhen people talk about the “US hegemon,” this is what they have in mind. The US has put out so many tentacles into the world and is involved up to its neck in so many mutual defense agreements and intervenes in so many quarrels large and small that it is hard to escape the impression that what America wants is to control the globe and all its actors. What the US wants is one global sphere of influence, its own, which it calls no spheres of influence. It is an utterly futile fancy, of course. The move away from the “single superpower”  model is already well underway. All we do by injecting ourselves into every argument is to make more enemies  and stiffen the spines of those who will never let the US dictate to them. Russia and China have their own serious problems, but they can form a tactical or even strategic alliance that serves the purpose of bringing the US down to size.

The global power calculus is shifting. As the US loses its grip on things here and there, the perception spreads that the hegemon is not what it once was. It has been made vulnerable and weakened by its spread of commitments around the globe. The US is so weighed down and imperiled, it dare not trigger a major confrontation. So it talks tough to Russia and China, but stays its hand. The US can be challenged, and it can be challenged successfully as was already proven in Crimea. The US is not in a comfortable position these days. It’s the defending champion, but there are a lot of Mohammed Ali’s around.


The Great Dismal Swamp of US Foreign Policy

great dismalThe United States president has a foreign policy record of nearly unalloyed failure. His only plus was the killing of bin Laden. He and Hillary Clinton would add Qaddafi, but that had a different impact. It was an ugly and brutal and merciless act that was utterly unnecessary. But Hillary wanted her pound of flesh and she got it and Obama got to share in bragging rights. Read more at

Some Thoughts on the Syrian Madness

As I write this article, our president is addressing our Congress trying to  convince them that we have incontrovertible evidence that Syria’s Assad regime  has used chemical weapons against its own population. The only problem is that  the evidence is not incontrovertible about who used the chemical weapons.

Snowden: What Next?

usrussI’m back to Snowden again. This case fascinates me for two reasons: one, Snowden revealed how powerful the octopus of US intelligence has become, pulling in every scrap of information about us 24/7, and two, it involves Russia and its complex relationship with America.

It seems as if Russia is about to grant Snowden temporary asylum. A lot of hysterics in the US, in the Administration and in both parties, call this a slap in the face and harboring a criminal. Obama wants him back and nobody is cooperating. As I’ve written before, the law is clear that the nation accepting an asylee does so based on its own judgment of the merits of the asylum application. I don’t ever recall a case where spies were turned over — but then, in the old days the spies were generally absconding to the country for which they had spied. This is a horse of a different color, but it really makes the issue of asylum, from a moral perspective, easier to decide. Snowden did not violate his vow to secrecy for monetary reasons, or for fifteen minutes of fame, but out of conviction that the  US government was violating fundamental Constitutional principles in its non-stop and expansive monitoring of the nation’s personal business. He sought asylum knowing he would be imprisoned for life for what he did and suspecting that all sorts of not-quite torture awaited him. Who wouldn’t seek asylum? Just because you reveal the evils of an entity doesn’t mean you’d like to be punished for it. People who claim he’s a coward for running don’t get it. He wants to tell his story. He can’t do that from a prison.

I read someone or other recently who was bitterly asserting that Snowden’s character was evident in his choice of countries as possible asylum. Huh? Isn’t it quite clear that his choice of countries was not a choice? He had a handful of nations that were gutsy enough to challenge the US on this one, and not one more. He was roundly rejected by all the NATO countries to which he applied and China, that bastion of enlightened self-interest, shoveled him straight onto a conveyer belt into Russia, where a surprised Putin was pretty annoyed at the stunt. Putin, however, doesn’t have a personal problem dealing with the US. He considers Russia an equal in many respects to America — particularly today’s teetering America. And as a tough guy, he doesn’t react well to threats, veiled or otherwise, which is I’m sure what Obama offered during the famous meeting in which fisticuffs appeared under consideration or in Obama’s case, pouting.

When Snowden came to Moscow, Russia became the obvious asylum granter. After all, everybody makes it clear they couldn’t possibly grant asylum unless Snowden were in their country, and he can’t get to another country because the USG has indicated it will force down any flight suspected of carrying him — even if it is also carrying the president of another country. I wonder how Americans would react if Obama’s plane were forced down by Russians to take someone off it by force. Not well, I’d guess. The US is setting some really bad international precedents.

Of course the Chinese and Russia now know what Snowden knows. There’s nothing to be done about it. Such a hush-hush organization ought to have better security. But Putin’s hands are tied as far as Snowden’s status. He has said and his chief alter-egos have said that Snowden was never a spy for Russia and is not a criminal from their perspective. He will not be turned over. I know the US has people over there squeezing, threatening and pleading, but I think they ought to let this subside into oblivion. It isn’t doing much for the US image to be seen as begging at Russia’s door, and in vain.

european hypocrisyA couple of things occur to me. First, I’ve learned from the denial of Snowden’s asylum request that the Europeans’ claim to moral superiority (over America, certainly) is totally bogus. Their judgment that crimes of conscience are identical to crimes of venality makes it plain that they are quite amenable to abandoning any principles they might actually hold dear when it comes to stark self-interest. They didn’t want problems with the US, and they sure didn’t want all the details of their own felonious snooping on their citizens coming out in the open. They as much as put their imprimatur on US spying at home and abroad.

russian girlSecond, Snowden will be okay in Russia. He might even find a Russian girl to marry. It isn’t the US, or London or Paris, but it is Moscow, which is a very interesting place. It’s absolutely true, as former UK spy Matthew Dunn writes on the Fox News website, that the Russian government will always be watching him and he will never be trusted by the people who give him asylum. But aside from that, he will find a huge and fascinating country with people who generally  think what he did is heroic. What they really are reacting to in Snowden is probably their own secret wish for someone like Snowden who would blow the lid off the Russian State’s domestic espionage.

The Changing World Order

usreducedThe Wall Street Journal reports that Obama might not make a long-planned trip to Russia for a chit-chat with Vladimir Putin due to a list of bilateral spats that starts with Edward Snowden. According to the article, Sen. Lindsey Graham told an interviewer that he would fiercely consider not going, because everything Russia is doing at the moment is making the world a much more dangerous place.”

Fiercely is not a word I normally would associate with Lindsay Graham. Wimpy, yes. Collaborative, yes. Self-important, check. He and John McCain, the Senate bookends, are doing their best to get the US acting as judge, jury and executioner in every spat any two foreigners get into, and now both are ready to pick a fight with Russia over Snowden. Both men know full well that Russia didn’t run Snowden as an agent, he was dumped in their lap by China after Chinese intelligence had all it needed from the American. Of course they’re angry with China too. They ought to spend less time berating other countries for taking advantage of our official stupidity and more time trying to find out why there is so much official stupidity. A contractor of callow age walked off with such vital information that it might sink us (not). Who should be beaten about the head and ears for that offense?

And now on to substance. I can certainly understand why Obama wants to avoid a high-profile visit to the home of his former BFF, especially when Putin isn’t likely to yield on any of the outstanding issues. Mind you, all of the issues are impasses, it isn’t a matter of concessions on both sides. The US wants Edward Snowden, Russia won’t hand him over. The US wants an end to Russia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran, Putin is firmly against. The US wants Russia to abandon its old ally Syria and line up behind the US, and Putin would rather die. Only on Snowden is there still a possibility to put this behind us: Putin might agree to arrange a fatal accident for the whistle-blower now that Russian intelligence have all the goodies Snowden brought — but only if Barack Hussein asks nicely. What are the chances of that?

bad russiaThen there is the charge so eloquently leveled by Mr. Graham that everything Russia is doing makes the world a more dangerous place. What he means is, Russia won’t step aside and let the US have its way on every international issue, especially those dealing with the use of force. He doesn’t seem to think Russian actions might be based on Russian national interests, but instead sees it as Russia being stupidly obstructionist. It annoys him no end that Russia is supporting a secular government and long-time ally in Syria against opponents heavily represented by radical Islamist groups. Graham is one of the cheerleaders for giving arms and military training to that very same rabble, although he insists we’re only helping the good guys. As if the good guys all alone can overthrow Assad and as if he or any of us know who the good guys really are. In any case, the record so far of similar US meddling is not exactly a recommendation for such projects. Egypt is a good example of how things go wrong when political change is too rapid. That whole Middle East-North Africa region is an example of this.

Graham was no doubt also exercised when Russia opposed the partition of largely Orthodox Serbia by NATO. The US first secretly armed and trained the Moslem rebels in Kosovo and then bombed Serbia to end the fighting. Afterwards the US and the EU handed the Kosovar Albanians a big chunk of Serbian territory. Who benefitted from the weakening of a Christian state and creation of a new Moslem state? Was it really the US?

To sum it all up, who has racked up an impressive record of overthrowing governments by force since the end of the Cold War? Who has launched its bombers with relative frequency over the past twenty years? Who is really making the world a more dangerous place? I think you’ll find that Russia hasn’t had a single war outside its own borders since Afghanistan, and they learned their lesson. We haven’t.

globaldynamicsThe impulse behind these confrontations of will is the inevitable movement of global political dynamics. It was once and briefly a bipolar world, which was such a clear-cut game that it was easy to play and this made for a high level of actual global security. Then, even more briefly, we were a unipolar world, with the US calling virtually all the shots and throwing its military weight around in a way that was no doubt also inevitable — power does go to the head — and that led to the rise of coordinated opposition from other existing or emerging powers. With China beginning to exercise its own growing military might and Russia recovering from its long disarray, the US must once more contend with interest group politics on a world-wide scale. The new dynamic will require our government to move away from the profligate misuse of our military forces to change other countries’ leaders toward a more collegial form of interaction. That doesn’t mean our own vital national security interests should ever be subject to any other country’s veto; we don’t haggle over bottom-line interests. But it does mean we have to make sure we assert only truly vital national interests, rather than investing every two-bit domestic crisis around the world into another urgent need for intervention. Holding our punches has become a lost art.

Frankly, I think the emergence of blocs capable of checking the US on use-of-force matters is a healthy development. If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, I think we have been in a very dangerous place. The more we have to ration our power to conserve it for the great battles that may be coming, the less likely we are to continue wasting it.



No Heroes Anywhere

assangeWell, well, life is full of surprises. The fire-breathing anti-capitalist populist demagogue Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who doesn’t take orders from the US, seems to have lost his cojones. If I am not mistaken, he has reconsidered giving asylum to Snowden. You know the jig is up when they start citing technicalities, like “he isn’t in our country so he can’t ask for asylum.” I seem to recall countless cases of people walking into US embassies and demanding asylum, and some of them got it. All Moscow would have to do is get Snowden to the Ecuadorian Embassy, which is legally Ecuadorian territory. He asks for asylum and voilà, he’s an asylee. He could leave on any flight to Quito and there is only a middling chance that Obama would scramble the jets once they get on our side of the world.

assange2Apparently everybody is having some indigestion flowing from their take-that decisions. For Correa, granting Julian Assange asylum in his country’s Embassy in London has turned into a headache or perhaps even an ulcer. Ecuador can’t smuggle Assange out of London, the Brits would stop it. So our Wikileaks hero or villain is stuck there in some stuffy building for all eternity, highly limited in the mischief he can get up to and no doubt bored out of his mind. Sounds like my version of hell for both the asylee and the diplomats. (The US had a similar case in Moscow in the 80s when a large family of Pentecostals took refuge at the Embassy. They were there for years.) The Ecuadorian Embassy’s confidential communications have been leaking like water through a sieve and they suggest growing tensions with the Embassy’s tenant. Assange claims it’s an official disinformation campaign and the Ecuardorian diplomats privately accuse Assange of being the leak, which bit of information comes from leaked communications. (Oh, yes, there is that aspect of making spies welcome; you can never trust them.)

In Moscow, they have a different knotty issue. Having happily allowed Snowden to enjoy the benefits of the Sheremyetevo transit lounge while sharing his information with them, they would now like him to go. Anywhere. I bet the Russians have conveyed that unambiguously to Edward Snowden. But now it looks like a game of musical chairs and Putin is the last man standing. And if Correa can afford to turn tail at US threats, Putin cannot. The Russian public likes Edward Snowden, they look on him as a heroic young figure who risked everything to warn the world of US treachery. (I’d bet that is an image also widely shared among European youth.) Putin has swaggered and figuratively boxed our president’s ears. If nobody will take Snowden off his hands (and I wonder if China sent Snowden to Russia without asking Moscow?), then Russia must consider his asylum request, if made. That’s a big if. It sounds as though Snowden is weighing the benefits of allowing the dictatorial USG to handcuff him and try him for treason, thereby making him a global icon and ensuring the issue of US spying never goes to bed. If he decides against that route, he will probably be able to stay where he is, only as an official asylee. The WSJ reports that a number of Russian media and political types are now speaking out in favor of asylum for Snowden and this is seen as a way for the Kremlin to judge reactions. I might be proven wrong yet again, but I can’t see Moscow turning Snowden over to the US if they can’t offload him.

pigletPutin joked that the entire affair was like shearing a piglet: too much squeal, too little wool. As a former KGB agent, he might have been expressing his view of the new intelligence Snowden brought with him — not much they didn’t already know. Or he might have been trying to console the USG that it’s not such a big deal after all, when in fact it is a big deal. We will only know if Snowden comes home or our techno-geeks manage to trace his footsteps through the cyber-world.

But it doesn’t really matter anymore. Snowden was the agent, but it was what he revealed that must concern us. The pervasive electronic invasion of our lives is not okay, and if the system is good in the hands of good men, it can be evil in the hands of the wicked. I don’t have a lot of faith left in our government’s good will. And as far as I can see, there aren’t any heroes anymore.

Reduced to a Snarling Kind of Plea

russia usI’m hearing a lot of commentators from both sides of America who are very angry that China and Russia are thumbing their noses at us over Edward Snowden. Leaving aside for the moment all the sneering invective from the Obama regime about the anti-democratic regimes in those countries, the bottom line seems to be that somehow the US has been so good to both of them for, like, forever and now they owe us. John Kerry and Jay Carney want us to recall in particular that the US has bent over backwards to extradite people back to Russia. Over and over.

Okay, so tell me this: did the US actually have some interest in spending millions of dollars fighting the extradition of what were, frankly, common criminals and swindlers? Did we want these felons in the US forever? I think we will all agree that the answer is no and no. That suggests, then, that the US was pursuing simple self-interest in cooperating with Russia on extradition, which we quite naturally portray as beneficence. Everybody does.

solzIf you’re still doubtful, consider this: if the person the Russians had been trying to extradite from America had been someone we considered a political dissident in danger from his government, someone like the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, we would have refused the Russian request. Extradition does not apply to asylees. Nothing would make us budge.

Of course, the USG doesn’t consider Edward Snowden to be an errant philosopher, but a vile back-stabber and heinous criminal. But in this case what the US thinks of him is irrelevant. The host country, currently Russia, once China, later, who knows, North Korea? determines what he is. If they see him as having exposed massive global spying by the USG, deem such activity to be in violation of internationally accepted principles or law, and feel Snowden could not receive a fair trial in the US, they will endorse his action with asylee status. That’s the whole story.

Then there’s the back story. You and I know perfectly well that Russia and China both aspire to the same pervasive level of global spying that the US has attained, but their sins are hidden from view, potential whistle-blowers no doubt having been run down in the street or just disappeared. This gives them the theoretical high ground and they are milking it for all its worth. The world is finally getting their own back against us, and there is little to do except take it as long as this clique of morons in Washington is in power.

Is it because we know our prez is a blowhard that he is lately so unconvincing? Didn’t you cringe just a tiny bit when you heard our officials trying to give orders to other countries? Didn’t you find yourself adding after one of these vague threats of retaliation, “And what are you going to do about it?” In diplomacy we learn that you can say some pretty stiff things without resorting to open bullying. The White House and the Congress, not to mention the NSA, apparently missed that lesson. They didn’t use any finesse or tact, which is the norm when you want what in essence amounts to a favor, but they are still just huffing and puffing. Unfortunately for Obama he can’t use a drone in either of the two offending states, and thus our nations are at loggerheads. Diplomacy, it seems, is dead in Washington.

us in laAnd another thing: ultimatums aside, have you noticed how we talk to other countries as if they’re vassals? This is the way “gringo” diplomats have historically talked to Latin Americans, who are a chatty, friendly bunch under normal circumstances but bristle when dictated to and then get even in sly and sullen ways. US diplomatic snottiness is responsible for fully half of our problems there and the way we’re verbally shoving Russia and China isn’t doing much good, either. Did anybody really think that snarling at Vladimir Putin would frighten him into compliance? He’s belligerent by nature and nothing gets him going more than a weak opponent. In fact, it’s not just Putin, it’s pretty much all Russians. They hate a sniveler. Give them a smart, ruthless, self-interested and relentless opponent any day, but don’t offend them by sending out your B or even C team. Kiss of death. Now Putin is strutting for his Russian audience and they are enjoying the show.

lemonadeThere is a lot of speculation that China and/or Russia were in from the beginning and coordinated this very public humiliation. You don’t need to look for a conspiracy in any of this. Sometimes life gives you lemons (and who knows that better than the Russians and the Chinese?) and sometimes life gives you lemonade. Edward Snowden fell into the hands of our rivals and he brought with him invaluable information. They’re not letting him go until they have gotten every bit of useful intelligence out of him, and I would be willing to bet today that whoever ends up with him will never extradite him to the US.

In the meantime, we watch this unfolding sitcom with a mixture of “you deserve” it for our government and a deep concern for our country. We have been slapped down by people we have considered our inferiors and it stings. Now we are reduced to that snarling whimper we sometimes hear from cornered dogs.