A Reuters report claims that a series of “sister marches” took place in Australia and New Zealand over the weekend in protest against US President Donald Trump. The denounced what they say is his misogyny as well as xenophobia, among other things. Read more here.
It is official. Donald J Trump is president of the United States. The inauguration and swearing in took place this morning and a glamourous ball followed where all the Trump women decked out in white and pale colors. President Trump and his wife Melania shared an awkward first dance to Frank Sinatra’s song “I did it my way.”
With her attorney by her side, former Apprentice star Summer Zervos announced her intentions to sue incoming US president Donald Trump who she claims subjected her to unwanted sexual advances during filling of the popular TV series. Mr Trump subsequently denied the charges and accused Zervos of perpetrating a hoax for publicity and money. Her attorney said in a press conference that this is Defamation against her client and they will be suing.
More on Reuters
China is on the prowl to expand its influence and carve out new friendships. In Venezuela, where civil unrest erupted following food shortages and hyper inflation, Chinese citizens and business owners in Venezuela were being targeted by looters and protesters. They appealed to their government through the Chinese embassy and the government has instructed the Venezuelan regime to ascertain that no harm comes to Chinese citizens during the revolts.
In the Philippines, the Chinese government has reportedly gifted strongman Duterte $14 million in arms and boats – no strings attached – to help Duterte fight an virulent drug crisis in his country. In exchange, Duterte’s regime will pull back a case the country lanced against China at the Hague concerning China’s shenanigans in the South China sea.
Read more here.
According to Quartz, there are a slew of foreign policy situations that are extremely worrisome for foreign policy experts and it is anybody’s guess how a President Trump will handle them. There are:
Likelihood: Moderate; Impact: High
A serious military confrontation between Russia and a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
A severe crisis in North Korea involving nuclear or inter-continental missiles
A cyber attack on US infrastructure
A terrorist attack on US soil
The question is how will the new president handle these with finesse? Especially a conflict involving Russia? It is easy to predict how he might respond to a terrorist attack on US soil on his watch but not so easy to predict a military confrontation between Russia and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. Do you agree?
President Kim Jong Un of North Korea gives leaders of the more powerful nations constant headaches. Nobody seems to know what to do with, and/or about, the recalcitrant thirty-something leader in the Korean Peninsula. He is just wild; off the rails; and not even China seems to be able to rein him in. Will Donald Trump? At his annual New Years address this year he apparently hinted, though did not expressly say, that he will be testing an inter-ballistic missile soon. Cause basically he is fed up. According to a CNBC report:
Kim threatened in the address to boost his country’s military capabilities further unless the U.S. ends war games with rival South Korea. But he also said efforts must be made to defuse the possibility of another Korean war and stressed the importance of building the economy under a five-year plan announced in May.
“The political and military position of socialism should be further cemented as an invincible fortress,” Kim said, according to an outline of the speech carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. “We should resolutely smash the enemies’ despicable and vicious moves to dampen the pure and ardent desire of the people for the party and estrange the people from it.”
A lot of experts think that Kim is crazy. Maybe that is why nobody dares to mess with him.
President Xi Jinping of China realizes that his country needs to do a better job with “influence” in the global community. In spite of being the second richest country in the world, China lacks the influence of many lesser states such as Russia, France and UK. One reason might be that the country and its leaders have not done a good enough job of spreading China’s voice and showcasing its strengths and contributions to the world community. This is all probably going to change with the creation of CGTN, a rebranded version of CCTV that has been given the presidential stamp of approval;
The broadcaster published a congratulatory letter from President Xi Jinping on Saturday urging the newly launched CGTN to “tell China’s story well, spread China’s voice well, let the world know a three-dimensional, colorful China, and showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace.”
The government has long grumbled about the Western news media’s hold on international discourse and has spent vast sums in recent years to enhance its own influence and shape global opinion, with CCTV as one of its spearheads. The broadcaster has channels in English, Arabic, French, Spanish and Russian, and production centers in Washington and Nairobi.
This will hardly be enough to change China’s reputation as not such an important global player but at least it is a start. For sure the country will have to do a better job of getting its hands dirty with some of the numerous global problems and crisis from which it often keeps its distance. They will have to commit greater resources and capital – military, economic and humanitarian in order to tellement rebrand their image. But certainly the TV network is a good place to commence.
Impeached South Korean president Park Guen Hye is not going to go without a fight. Holed up in the presidential palace, the Blue House, since early December, the beleaguered leader has been working on devising a strategy for her own defense despite the fact that, for months, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have been marching in the streets demanding her ouster.
According to a recent Reuters report, Ms Guen Hye has come out of the starting block punching. She has been quoted as saying that the charges are all “fabrications and falsehoods.”
The convoluted case against Ms Guen Hye involve her relationship with longtime friend Choi Soon Sil, who Ms Guen Hye is accused of giving inappropriate access to state affairs. It also involved the country’s pension funds and a merger between two Samsung groups. Guen Hye is accused of colluding with Choi to pressure certain conglomerates to “make contributions to certain non-profit foundations backing presidential initiatives.” There is also some talk about “negligence” in her handling of a sinking of a ferry in which 300 people perished.
How all these dovetail, is not easily understood but suffice to say is that the net result is that Guen Hye’s job is on the line and she is now put in the uncomfortable position of fighting for her political life.
Tayyip Erdogan vows to free Turkey from terrorist attacks following a recent massacre at an Istanbul discothèque over the New Years Eve celebrations. Thirty-nine people were left dead. According to Reuters, the Turkish president issued a written statement which said in part:
“As a nation, we will fight to the end against not just the armed attacks of terror groups and the forces behind them, but also against their economic, political and social attacks.”
John McCain loves wars. His reset button seems to always be, let’s go to war. He is not satisfied with the sanctions that President Obama has levelled against Russia. He wants other sanctions and possibly “exercises” against Russia.
This is heavy. President Obama should tread cautiously with this advice and consider the source. Indeed, maybe John’s ideas are good but he should speak with the incoming administration as Trump is in a better position to “conduct these exercises.”
Young men in the prime of their lives in the Middle East are not happy. They are not inclined to go to the local pub for a beer on a friday night with their friends. They are not in art museums on first dates. They are not at university studying to be engineers. They are not getting married and having babies. Instead, across a large swathe of the region, young men are rip shit angry about something and to show their displeasure, they are willing to reduce every building and monument in their own countries to rubble. They are willing to mass murder one another. They are willing to die themselves.
What is wrong? Something is terribly wrong. Even if they are indoctrinated by extremist ideology what predisposes them to this option as opposed to other options? This is their own country, their own institutions, their own lands, their own people, their own selves. What would drive people – any human persons – to become so disenchanted with everything that they are willing to wage non-stop war against each other, and others as well.
Has anyone figured this out? What is at the root of this rage that is felt by young men in the Middle East and how can the global community help them to be less enraged? What is it that they want that the don’t have? What do they need? What is missing? What?
Perhaps deservedly, Vladimir Putin is getting a lot of international attention these days and one can see in the way he struts, stands and smiles, that he is enjoying his new perch at the top of the global political hierarchy. He is all everybody is talking about. He seems like a winner, having installed (allegedly) Donald Trump to the presidential dais in the United States (the United States!!!) and having brokered an unexpected ceasefire in Syria.
He felt so big that when Obama lost his patience and expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying on the United States, Putin demurred and decided not to act in kind, instead wishing Obama the best and expressing the hope that things will be better (he thinks) under the new incoming Trump administration.
People are giving him a lot of high fives. Trump called him smart on Twitter. The US congress, meanwhile, dug it into Obama by saying “yes, you finally acted but it is a little bit too late and not enough and on top of that your foreign policy with Russia and Syria failed.” (Paul Ryan seems capable of great vindictiveness for such a handsome guy, does he not?)
Obama must have some doubts about things from time to time. Did he take the right course of action in Syria? Could he have tried harder with Russia and Putin? Did Kerry go to far with Israel?
It is natural to feel doubts. Hindsight is always 2020. But this story is not over yet; indeed it is only beginning. And people who are now excoriating Obama and elevating Trump and Putin could do a 180 by the time the dust settles on this.
History will show one thing on Syria: nobody can say the United States imposed its will or committed human rights atrocities against the Syrian people. Nobody can say that Obama caused unnecessary loss of American lives in that quicksand situation in the Middle East by involving the country in a new war.
And his foreign policy worked in the sense that his doctrine is all about “multilateralism.” He believes, rightly so, that American muscle, dollars and capital are not infinite and that America an ill afford to continue these adventures in the Middle East without, at some point, over-extending itself and perhaps even self-destructing. He believes that other countries in the region needed to step up and do their share of the heavy lifting.
Amazingly, with Russia’s intervention, along with its regional allies Turkey and Iran, Obama’s foreign policy vision (and his incredible patience to stay still when every instinct was to institute a no fly zone and “take over Syria) worked!
So what if Russia and Iran are the ones who gets all the reconstruction contracts to put Syria back together? America does not have to have it all. In the short run, it is a loss but in the long run, having preserved capital, lives and resources — that were expended by others — America may very well come out on top.
Moreover, the image of America in the Middle East is definitely tarnished as a peacemaker and broker. Blame all the realpolitik or whatever is the cause. But the thing with that is the push back from terrorist groups who then turn their anger on America after America has gone in to “help.” In the case of Syria, this is not about America. It is Russia’s puppy. It is Iran’s puppy. They take the spoils and their also bear the consequences, if any.
With regard to Russia, how quickly everyone forgets. There are countless photographs over the course of his presidency – both terms – that show Obama and Putin discussing and conferring. Now the media writes all these stories that Obama “refused to talk to Putin.” What a lie. What a barefaced lie. And then they wonder why Trump refuses to engage with the media. Trump will be the match for a dishonest media. It is important that the global media is more honest and quit with spreading propaganda. Trump will be their match there.
Of course, it is convenient for Trump when the media excoriates Obama for his relationship with Putin knowing full well that often, it was Putin who refused to have a mutually respectful relationship with Obama and not the other way around. Trump, from the start, disdained Obama’s presidency and from the beginning, he used Putin’s disrespect for Obama as a reason he (Trump) would make a better president, rather than calling out the Russian president for less than statesmanlike behavior towards the American president.
Putin appreciated that. But Putin does not necessarily appreciate Trump. Trump is a smart guy and he probably knows this but Putin is looking to eclipse Trump not share the stage with him. Putin’s interest is making Russia great again and this time, for a million and one reasons, he wants to make sure that Russia is way greater than the United States, such that there is no return to the post-cold war era. He wants to do to America what America did to Russia. Tit for tat? Maybe. But he is going to skilfully use Trump’s own hate of Obama and Trump’s kissing up to exact the outcome he craves. He has backed Trump into a corner.
In the end, the entire world will see this and will turn its attention again to Obama’s policies and how he viewed the world and his relationship with Russia, etc. The new world order that will come out of Trump’s relationship with Putin will put America in a much worse place than it ever was under Obama. For one thing, the more Russia hacks America and perpetrates cyberwarfare on the country the more in denial Trump will have to go (he is trapped!) and the bigger the damage and harm that will come to the country as a result.
Time will show this. And it is Trump’s own hate that is his achilles heel and that will have dire consequences for himself, his supporters, his country and the world. And really, this is penance. This is how nature is.
As for Israel, both Obama and Kerry are right and it is important that he leaves office having set his own record straight on this issue. Whatever happens after, he has no control. But his doctrine on Israel is morally, legally and strategically correct in the interest of the national security of not just the region and the United States, but also the world.
Time will tell. Time is on President Obama’s side.
Numerous reports from Brazil is that Greek Ambassador to Brazil, Kyriakos Amiridis, who was found dead in a burned out car in a sketchy area of Rio De Janeiro, was actually murdered by his wife’s younger lover. The wife is Brazilian, and according to Reuters, the lover confessed that they both planned to take out her husband so that they could be together. The Brazilian government is calling the murder a “crime of passion..”
Trump is very loyal to Vladimir Putin and he sent a tweet of approval to his Russian BFF yesterday calling the Russian “smart.”
If you recall, the Obama Administration decided to sanction Russia for its interference into America’s election and the Administration labelled 35 Russian diplomats as “persona non grata” and basically tossed them from the United States, Perhaps predictably, Vladimir Putin was displeased with this and through his Foreign Minister vowed to expel 35 American diplomats from Russia (and there were rumors that he planned to close an American school in Russia as well.)
But at the last minute, he seems to have had a change of heart and Mr Putin instead wished Obama a nice holiday and vowed to wait for president elect Trump to take office in order to reset relations with the country. It is for this that Trump deemed Putin “smart” – whatever that means. Remember that Trump is king of double speak.
Keep in mind also that Trump’s congressional allies in the GOP are not very impressed with this relationship he has with Putin and they want to hit Putin and Russia “hard” for interfering in America’s elections – whatever that means.
Bien sûr, everybody knows that Trump is not afraid of the GOP and the chances are much more likely that they will come around to his way of thinking that he is to come around to theirs.
But voilà. This is where it stands for now.
In Vermont, they apparently found evidence that the electricity system has been hacked and of course they are pointing their fingers you-know-where. The Obama Administration has given it this interesting name: Grizzly Steppe.
Could there ever come a time when the Russians could just turn off all electrical power in the US with sophisticated malware? In which case they can probably even disable America’s nuclear codes such that even if the President puts his finger on the button and hit “go” nothing will happen?
Considering the fact that Britain voted for the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, and the United States abstained, it is incredibly ballsy of British Prime Minister Theresa May to come out in criticism of John Kerry, the US Secretary of State who recently held a press conference to explain why the US abstained.
Respectfully, what is Theresa smoking?
Considering Britain’s stated policies on Israel and Palestine, considering how UK voted (they had veto power too!) she comes out and excoriates Kerry in this context?
Honestly, what is she smoking?
Perhaps it is just that she is trying to be Trump’s bedfellow considering the fact that with this BREXIT craziness the UK and the EU are not going to exactly be BFFs. So she is going to need friends and so she sells her soul in this uncroyable display of hypocrisy – and I say that with all due respect because I like her style and I can’t wait to get a pair of Burberry sneakers like hers. But she is a hypocrite! And it is unbearable! Or maybe she is just smoking something. But what? Cause it is giving her memory losses. She has forgotten not only what John Kerry said in his speech but how her own government voted in this resolution!
Maybe she is just scared about BREXIT and she is trying to curry favor with Trump. I should warn her: TRUMP IS TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE. If I were May I would wait to see which way the wind blows with this guy before I hitched on my wagon and threw my old friends under the bus.
According to the Moscow Times, Charlie Hebdo, the satirical french paper has angered Russia with several arguably distasteful cartoons depicting the crash on Christmas day that killed 92 people, including 64 member of the Red army choir. One Russian blogger has called for Russia to impose sanctions on France as a result:
Just hours after Charlie Hebdo’s latest work, there’s already a petition hosted on Change.org calling for Russian sanctions against France, against the staff of Charlie Hebdo, and against Audrey Azoulay, France’s minister of culture and telecommunications. Initiated by Russian journalist and blogger Nikolai Zubov, the petition had 419 supporters, at the time of this writing.
One Kremlin spokesperson found the satirists’ drawings “blasphemous,” saying:
“This has nothing to do with democracy, self-expression, or whatever,” the Kremlin’s spokesperson said at the time about the drawings, calling them “pure blasphemy.”
The former prime minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev tweeted in Russian to President Obama to RIP (Rest in Peace). Isn’t this an acronym for something you say to someone who is dead?
It seems a rather strange thing to say, almost like a coded message.
Is Obama’s life in danger?
Next up for Putin and the Kremlin: Form a new Union. The Russian Union or the United States of Russia. How? Easy:
- Step one: Infiltrate and take over the following states and make them part of the Russian Empire willingly or unwillingly:
2. Convince Iran and Turkey of the wisdom of being part of the Russian Union instead of the European Union (especially in the case of Turkey).
3. Declare military dominion over the Middle Eastern states by sheer force of will.
4. Once the initial steps have been solidified and all these states are on board, infiltrate Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Poland and take those over by sheer force of will. (Putin will probably use diplomacy though and go for a EU type of deal with these states and in the case of states that are already in the EU, he will convince them to bail and jump ship.
5. Once these states are all safely part of the new union, it is fait accompli for Russia and the Kremlin. As far as Putin is concerned, China can have Africa if it wants or fight with the US to see who gets what.
6. With respect to the rest (and this is very key) break up the European Union with machiavellian strategies so that there is no alliance that can match him on this side of the Atlantic.
7. Across the Atlantic, weaken and tie up the United States with cyber-warfare and possibly even open and hostile military attacks and completely dismantle their idea of being a democracy. Moreover, destroy the country’s reputation in the global arena such that they lose ALL credibility.
This can all be accomplished in four short years.
Vladimir Putin is poised to become the new leader of the world. He did it in SIX easy steps:
- Form the right alliances and create a new power structure (Iran, Turkey, China)
- Dismantle the power structure in America and plunge the country into chaos (Donald Trump, Hacks)
- Achieve a high profile military win (Syria)
- Divide Europe (Brexit, far right insurgence)
- Encourage the dismantling of NATO (while creating a new alliance to fill the void)
- Bow to the UN (while at the same time encourage the US to diss the UN)
Vladimir Putin is on a roll and he will be seen as the leader of the world very soon. He is calling all the shots in Syria, for example, and has just brokered a ceasefire to a five-year conflict which so far, is holding steady. Now, he is about to submit the agreement between the al Assad regime and the rebel fighters to of all places the United Nations Security Council. According to a recent report in the Atlantic:
The agreement that is reached will be submitted to the UN Security Council later Thursday, the Russian foreign minister said. Both Turkey and Russia said representatives of the Syrian government and the rebels will meet soon in Astana, the Kazakh capital. Turkey added that they will be accompanied by the guarantor countries.
This says something about Putin and how he views his role in this conflict. He is not just doing this haphazardly and in a totally lawless way. It is not totally “clean” of course. Bad things have occurred but he is moving now to put a stamp of legitimacy on it by taking it to the UN Security Council for approval. This is a big time political coup for this player on the international stage. This gives him credence. This gives him power.
What is power anyway? As I have always argued, it is not about money. Money does not make you powerful. It is about influence. Russia’s economy is in the abyss at the moment. Even India has better balance sheets than Russia right now. But Russia is emerging a very powerful country and Putin as a very powerful leader because of his ability to influence the outcome of global events.
By bringing Turkey and Iran in for the ride, he also creates this center of gravity that cannot be ignored or taken for granted going forward from a foreign policy perspective.
The more influence Putin achieves, the greater the likelihood that Putin’s allies like Iran and Turkey will also grow in stature. Trump will be in deep trouble here because of his expressed disdain for Iran, for example. Putin is going to force Trump to eat humble pie with respect to Iran. Iran will become a nuclear state as well. Behind the scenes, they probably already are despite the Iran deal.
Europe is in a very precarious position right now. If European leaders are not worried about the turn of events in international politics and global affairs, then each and every one of them is a fool.
As for America, once Putin takes over the power in the Soviet region and the Middle East, (AND THEN EUROPE!) America is probably done. Because China is also more likely to team with Putin. And Trump is hostile towards China. China has Africa. America is probably done.
And when you factor the internal chaos in the United States in, the hatred among its people for each other, the division, the raw hate that spews from every direction for each other, the Congress and how they preferred to block everything the president tried to do and to work to sabotage their own president domestically and internationally, America is probably done. They don’t know it yet.
But its the beginning of the end and maybe we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
With the recent sanctions against Russia that include the ejection of 35 Russian diplomats from the Russian Republic from the United States, Barack Obama demonstrates that he understands that chaos can be an effective strategy in foreign policy as well as in presidential politics. Russia loves chaos and one of its spokesmen even say that they “sell” it.
Trump also is king of chaos. Jeb Bush rightly called Trump the “chaos candidate” but what Jeb failed to understand is that chaos is a strategy and it is a commodity. You can buy it and sell it in the marketplace.
What is behind Obama’s play of the chaos card? Why now and why this way? That is the question for the pundits to answer.
In the meantime, Russian Foreign Minister Maria Zakharova (she looks like an ice skater, doesn’t she? Or is this sexist?) had a press conference yesterday where she disclosed that Russia will close an American school in Moscow as well as take other counter measures to be disclosed later today.
Meanwhile, members of the GOP have chastised Obama for his tardy response to the alleged Russian hacking and espionage despite seeming to approve of the president’s actions that, as indicated above, include expulsion of diplomats and a declaration that these individuals are “persona non grata.”
They have called for STRONGER measures against Russia at the same moment when Trump is pleading for everyone to get over the hacking and move on with their lives. Notably, however, the president elect has promised to meet with intelligence officials shortly to discuss their findings about the espionage and the hacks. The president elect, who has expressed doubts about these hacks will likely find himself between a rock and a hard place following these intelligence briefings when coupled with Russia’s countermeasures.
It is chaos.
It is bloody chaos.
Donald Trump and his GOP compatriots seem to be on different sides of the issue when it comes to Russian hacking. He strongly defends the Kremlin and members of his party including John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan, as well as Senate leader Mitch McConnell sound ominously like they have a plan for Russia and Trump. Their strong language suggests that a serious probe will follow after the inauguration of Trump and if Trump is implicated in any way, he will face a congressional hearing.
He has already set himself up as a fattened, juicy, Thanksgiving goose because he has given all of these people the jobs they want and need. He delivered the White House to them and basically, the three branches of the government. It was an unprecedented rout.
But do they want Trump as president?
What if this is a ruse? What if they are planning to impeach him for these election activities and give the job to Mike Pence? Their words are very suspicious in the sense that it heralds heavy action to come. But they have chosen not to take this action yet to make sure that all goes well with the inauguration. If they take action now, and show conclusively that Trump won because of Russia, the win would be illegitimate and they would have to face this and face the real possibility that Hillary Clinton would mount a legal challenge and demand the presidency (after all she won 5 million more popular votes). So instead, they have chosen not to rock the boat till after the inauguration. By doing it this way, it is less likely that they will be forced to change the presidency over to the democrats because it would be too much chaos for the country.
So they are biding their time with Trump. At the right moment, they will hang him out to dry with this Russia thing and give the job to Mike Pence – who they prefer for more reasons than six.
Are you still reading Mr Trump?
Do you copy?
President Obama is not pleased with the Kremlin and to express his displeasure for Russian hacking and frankly other grievances, he took action today by expelling three dozen Russian diplomats, deeming them “persona non grata.” He also issued executive order 13694
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a post election bedfellow of Donald Trump, apparently issued a response:
“While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world,” he said in a statement.
He added that “Russia does not share America’s interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world.”
It seems Mr Ryan is not a bedfellow of Vladimir Putin. Will this create any post-inauguration tensions in the Trump Administration, given that Mr Trump has publicized his affinity for the Soviet leader?
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros is bearish on the way things are developing in the world’s leading democracies at the moment. From Brexit and the looming implosion of the Maastricht Treaty to the Election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, he sees a full blown crisis ahead for democracy the world over. He goes so far as to call Donald Trump a “would-be dictator” in a recent op-ed in Project Syndicate, where he wrote in part:
Democracy is now in crisis. Even the US, the world’s leading democracy, elected a con artist and would-be dictator as its president. Although Trump has toned down his rhetoric since he was elected, he has changed neither his behavior nor his advisers. His cabinet comprises incompetent extremists and retired generals.
What lies ahead?
I am confident that democracy will prove resilient in the US. Its Constitution and institutions, including the fourth estate, are strong enough to resist the excesses of the executive branch, thus preventing a would-be dictator from becoming an actual one.
Politico just ran an article about a guy named Sigmar Gabriel. Apparently, he could be the next Chancellor of Germany. Angela Merkel better watch out!
Sigmar at a Glance:
- He is Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
- He is Vice Chancellor of Germany
- He is Federal Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy
- He is 57 years old
- He is married with two kids
- He started out his career as a school teacher in Germany
- He is a union member
- He has called Israel an “apartheid regime”
- He is in favor of easing sanctions against Russia in exchange for cooperation in Syria
- He has said that Google, Amazon and Apple are “anti social” organisms.
Can this personality win over the majority of German voters in 2018? It is a question mark but he certainly so far “has won the backing of the liberal-economic wing of his SPD party,” according to Politico.eu. Apparently, for all his good points, Gabriel does not have populist appeal.
Has he successfully brokered a peace deal in Syria? It seems as if Vladimir Putin, along with Turkey, has successfully assisted the Syrian fighters in reaching a deal to stop the slaughter in their country. Sixty-thousand fighters (60,000) have reportedly agreed to lay down their arms and bring to an end this protracted multi-year struggle for power and control of the country. Mr Putin describes the accord as “fragile” perhaps recognizing that similar UN-backed and US supported accords have quickly imploded.
If this agreement sticks, however, it will undoubtedly raise Mr Putin’s stature in the international community, and perhaps even elevate him to the “leader” of the current global system in some people’s minds. Will this sit well with Mr Trump? Will he willingly allow Mr Putin to enjoy the “leader” mantle? Or will he compete to be number one?
Many world leaders have lamented that the US has lost influence in global affairs over the last several years in the Post-Iraq war era. Increasingly, leaders in the Arab states as well as in Europe have looked beyond the UN and the US for solutions to these gnawing conflicts in the Middle East. President Obama’s foreign policy has been that the US should not be the only one shouldering the burden of keeping a misbehaving world in order. He has stressed multilateralism as far as costs and capital and manpower. The wisdom of this approach is indisputable but the result is also evident – the US could lose its “leadership” position in global affairs. Correspondingly, if President Trump adopts the isolationist posture he has threatened during the campaign and focus his energies entirely on reupholstering America’s airports and other infrastructure as well as create jobs domestically and build that Great Wall, America could render itself nearly irrelevant in the international arena.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? America followed an isolationist path before and existed quite happily and productively apart it its cocoon prior to the Second World War. Sure, the world is different from what it was then, and not only from the standpoint of globalization and technological advancement. But it does not mean that America could not successfully isolate itself once again and turn the world over to Russia (and maybe to a lesser extent China) to deal with all the minor headaches – and leaving itself the option of butting in only for the biggest of the big fights. Right?
Reuters is reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be facing a criminal investigation by the Israeli justice department. The nature of the charges have not yet been publicly disclosed but could be imminent according to the report.
Some speculate that it could pertain to Mr Netanyahu’s purchase of German submarines and conflicts of interest, however it is all speculation at this juncture.
No official response from Mr Netanyahu’s Tel Aviv office have been issued. Mr Trump, US President Elect and new BFF of the Israeli prime minister, has so far been silent.
His rebuke of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu was classy, necessary and overdue. John Kerry defended the United States right to love its friends while also staying true to its values. This is fundamental and non-negotiable – even if it means having to lose favor with a friend like Israel. And it seems that is exactly the result. Even president elect Trump is accusing Mr Kerry of “disdaining” and “disrespecting” Israel.
Putting aside the president elect’s penchant for siding with everybody else instead of his own country, the Kerry speech resonated and struck some dark chords:
Kerry painted a dark picture of what that future might look like: “millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms.”
Using an emotionally charged phrase drawn from America’s history of segregation, Kerry condemned such conditions as “separate and unequal.” “Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?” he asked.
To think that any American president could support such policies and blindly profess “friendship” and loyalty in any and all circumstances is appalling. Hopefully the next president will reconsider his position.
The current leadership in Israel seems bent on a far right agenda that could alienate support for the Zionist state around the world. Already, 15 UN Security members have voted against the illegal Jewish settlement and in January, up to 70 nations will convene in France to discuss next steps in this Israel-Palestine saga. Indeed the only person who is openly supporting Israel’s actions is US president elect Donald Trump.
Is he enough to fight the world on Israel’s behalf tout seule? Is America strong enough and resilient enough and popular enough and influential enough at this point in time to take on the entire rest of the world on behalf of Israel? Or will Israel become an albatross for the Trump administration? And does it have to be like that? Or could parties behave with more reasonableness?
It seems that even with the American/Israeli friendship, there has to be some limits. It cannot be utterly without parameters and conditions. If Mr Trump fails to understand that, then he could be biting off more than he can chew with Israel and could find himself in over his head when the whole thing, for lack of a better world, explodes.
You can’t make this stuff up:
For years Venezuelans have struggled with mounting shortages of food, medicine and other consumer goods, as well as triple-digit inflation that has rendered the national currency, the bolivar, worthless. By this month the 100-bolivar bill, the largest note in circulation, was worth only 2 cents, forcing people to carry piles of them in order to make the most rudimentary purchases. Then came this coup: On Dec. 11, President Nicolás Maduro, an economically illiterate former bus driver, announced that all 6 billion 100-bolivar notes would cease to be legal tender in just 72 hours. He also closed Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil, on the theory that traders were hoarding currency in those countries.
Almost overnight, millions of Venezuelans — about 40 percent of whom do not have bank accounts in which the currency could be deposited — lost the ability to purchase even those goods still available on the market. The result was predictable: looting and riots in at least eight cities.
Added to that, a recent Chicago Tribune article reveals that millions of people in the country are on the verge of starvation, literally and the government appointed military officials are literally trafficking food – the basics such a rice and cornmeal.
Meanwhile, where is President Nicolas Manduro? He is dancing the salsa on his TV/radio show!
US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the United States and the world this Wednesday to articulate the vision of the Obama White House of a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine and “lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the Middle East Region.”
The Kerry speech at the State Department at 11am (4pm GMT) is expected to restate the Obama administration’s continued faith in a two-state solution to the chronic impasse. It is a parting shot after eight years in office, during which there has been a dearth of diplomatic progress. It is not expected to lead to any new initiative but rather lay down a marker on a longstanding US and international approach to the region before the US president-elect, whose commitment to such a solution is in doubt, assumes office.
Benjamin Netanyahu is on a foreign policy blitzkrieg after the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously (with the abstention of the United States which is tantamount to a “yes” vote) that Israel indeed is guilty of disturbing the peace by its insistence on settling disputed territory in Palestine and the West Bank. Further, the resolution declared that Israel indeed is in violation of International law.
Fourteen nations voted against Israel on this resolution. The sole voice in support of Israel on this specific issue is US president elect Donald Trump who tweeted shortly after the resolution was passed that the UN is nothing but a club for people who want to chat over coffee.
The diplomatic fallout from the vote was spectacular and continues to reverberate, after Israeli prime minister Netanyahu took a number of measures in reprisal for what he called a “gang up against Israel” at the UN. He even vowed to yank Israel’s participation in the UN and he also summoned several diplomats to Israel to discuss the consequences for their betrayal. Countries like Senegal were told they would get no more Israeli cash because of their vote and other countries like New Zealand were given verbal reprimands and told that a vote against Israel would be considered a “declaration of war.”
In Israel, Mr Netanyahu does not enjoy unanimous approval and support for his handling of this foreign policy setback. According to the Guardian, there has been a lot of backlash against the Israeli prime minister:
The latest planned reported moves also come amid evidence of a mounting backlash against Netanyahu’s handling of the situation. On Monday Yesh Atid, the party of one of Netanyahu’s biggest rivals on the right, Yair Lapid, urged the Knesset to summon Netanyahu to explain the “dangerous deterioration in Israel’s foreign relations” following the vote. Israeli columnists also continued to damn Netanyahu’s handling of the fallout with Ben Caspit, of the Maariv, describing his “campaign of chastisement” as the “most unwarranted and looniest in the world of diplomacy in modern history”.
But it does not appear to stop there. Now there is Rumor that Mr Netanyahu planned to diss British Prime Minister Theresa May in Davos where all the heads of state will be meeting for an annual forum. There have been denials from Netanyahu’s Tel Aviv office about this. But the rumors persist anyway because Mr Netanyahu is said to be “rip shit angry” about this stab in the back from the UN and its permanent members like UK who voted against Israel and its illegal settlements.
Under threat of suspension by the Romanian parliament, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has rejected a Muslim woman Sevil Shhaideh to fill the role as prime minister. Madame Shhaideh is the first woman and first Muslim who has ever been in line for this position in the Romanian government and she is married to a man who happens to be Syrian and who supports Assad.
Trumputing (US president elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin but with a “g”) would probably like this woman.
The current US position on Syria is “Bashar Al Assad Must Go.” This has been Barack Obama’s stated position and it would have been Hillary Clinton’s as well. The rationale for this position is understood and commendable. Had a “no fly zone” occurred in 2011, perhaps it would have even been achievable. But the world is a long way from 2011.
Even assuming the clock could be turned back at this point and there had been a no fly zone instituted, and Bashar al Assad had been toppled, there is no guarantee that there would be law and order in Syria today. The textbook case for this type of intervention is Libya. There was intervention in Libya in 2011. A no fly zone was instituted. The regime was toppled, Gaddafi is dead and there is total and complete bedlam in the country.
It is now 2016. Five years have passed. Bashar al Assad has held on to his power with the help of Vladimir Putin. What are the realistic alternatives now for the United States and its allies as far as a solution in Syria? Is there an opposition government that is strong and trustworthy waiting in the wings to take over – assuming this regime is toppled – so that there is not a repeat of what happened in Libya?
If the answer to this question is not a strong “yes” then it is folly to remove Bashar al Assad at this time. Prior to 2011, Syria was a functioning country. Life there was not perfect, bien sûr. People had their beefs, as they do everywhere in the world. But it was functioning, was it not? There was law and order. There was food. People went to work and to the mosque and to the movies. Is this not enough? To be able to eat and go to work and to the mosque and to the movies? What else does anyone need these days? None of us live in heaven no matter where we live whether that is France, America, Venezuela, Congo or Iran. Everywhere, there are problems. Everybody has to make do.
The problem is, that Western ego wants things to be how they want things to be and this has led to a lot of disastrous adventurism – especially in the Middle East. Why is it that Western governments cannot mind their collective business when it comes to the Middle East and their lives and their culture? So what if Bashar al Assad is an autocrat? So what if he has been ruling for a really long time and his father before him? This is their country. This is their culture and maybe this was fine with the Syrian people before all this meddling occurred! Where is it written in the Bible or Koran or any other book that a leader can only be president for 8 years? Where is it written that a leader should be changed after a certain number of years?
This is a Western notion! And that is fine for the West. But in the Middle East, it is their norm that a leader can lead till whenever. And if it is OK with them it ought to be OK with us in the West. Moreover, even if it becomes not OK with them, and they want a change, they have to achieve that in a certain way. Breaking the entire country down to rubble because you become disenchanted with the leader is not, necessarily, the smartest and most effective way. But if that is the way they chose, it is their country. What business is it of ours?
Yes, I know. People are dying. This, obviously, is not a good thing. It is a bad thing. But are we making it better by going in there and “meddling” in these people’s affairs? I guess if we go in as third party arbitrators or third party good officers, it might be one thing. But we are going in there all wrong. We are going in there to throw our weight around. This is wrong. This is a mistake.
Look, West, let’s butt the hell out of Syria. Assad may be the devil but we know the devil we have. We do not know the one we are going to get. Plus, he is tough. He has staying power. He did not die. Let him have his country back. In a few years, maybe they can sort it out and have an election and move on with their lives.
If we get out of Syria and let them sort it out…we need to but the hell out of the Middle East! This, really, is the bottom line! We need to get the hell out! Completely!
The more I think about this the angrier it is starting to make me. What part of “get the hell out” do these Western leaders not understand? I think all of the parts because I just read that they are arming the opposition in Syria again and I just think this is madness.
Really, this is just madness.
The prospect of US President elect Donald Trump meeting with the leader of an African nation, during his transition to the White House was unusual and unprecedented and it lit up the Internet with many people being critical of the decision. As it turns out, the whole thing was one big misunderstanding. Donald Trump is not meeting with Mr Dennis Sassou Nguesso after all. At least, not before taking office on January 20th.
Mr Trump does express an interest in having strong relations with African leaders, however. At the same time, it is questionable whether MR Nguesso is the right type of leader. According to Quartz.com:
Many were disappointed at the prospect of Nguesso becoming the first African president that president-elect Trump would meet. The Congolese leader has a shaky record on democratic and human rights. Nguesso, 73, has been president of Congo Brazzaville (also known as Republic of Congo) for 19 consecutive years, and was re-elected in March for another seven years. He has been president for a total of 32 years, excluding the five years he didn’t run the country between 1992 and 1997.
President Obama did it first by visiting memorial sites in Hiroshima, Japan (he was the first US President to do so) commemorating the death by nuclear bombing of Japanese men, women and children during World War II. Now, it was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s turn. Along with president Obama, Mr Abe visited the USS Arizona Memorial.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a historic visit Tuesday to the USS Arizona Memorial. “I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls who lost their lives here,” said Abe, who was accompanied by President Obama, at the site of the deadly Japanese attack that prompted the U.S. entry into World War II. The visit would have been unthinkable even last year when Abe visited the U.S. because the issue is a sensitive one in Japan where the legacy of the nation’s wartime actions remain a divisive issue. But earlier this year, Obama became the first U.S. president in office to visit Hiroshima, the Japanese city whose bombing with a nuclear weapon by the U.S. led to Japan’s surrender in the war, easing some of the domestic opposition to Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor.
Speaking of political bedfellows, in Argentina, a former president was indicted by using her position as president to award construction projects to a family friend. The judge in the case also ruled that well over half a million dollars of her personal assets should be seized.
Cristina Kirchner, the former president of Argentina, was indicted Tuesday by a federal judge over allegations of corruption tied to an infrastructure project. Kirchner is accused of using her position to award government-funded public works projects to a construction company owned by a close family associate. The judge’s order also seizes $640 million of Kirchner’s assets, and indicts the country’s former planning minister, the former public works secretary, and the man who owns the construction company that profited from the contracts. Kirchner has called the allegations politically motivated, and accused current President Mauricio Macri of concocting the plot against her. In an October court appearance, she said the accounts had all been approved by both parliament and the country’s auditor general.
Is this “fake news” or is this real? There is an insane Rumor that Donald Trump and President Barack Obama will be playing golf together in advance of the inauguration on January 20th. What possibly can they hope to gain from such a move if indeed this is true?
The two men have been at war with each other (mostly it has been the president elect who has unabatingly attacked the president over the course of eight years) for ages and during the presidential campaign President Obama did his best to convince the majority of voters to vote for Hillary – which they did by about 3 million votes even though she still lost.
But there clearly is no love lost between these two.
So it comes as a shock that they have agreed to play golf together.
When is the blessed event?
Will the media be present?
Dennis Basso, a Manhattan furrier, was robbed on Christmas Eve, according to a New York Times report. He was in Aspen Colorado at the time and he does have insurance to cover the losses so it will not be a big whup for the furrier (he may even make out a lot better (perhaps even like a bandit) because all of these unsold coats will be paid for by the insurance company).
But the video is amazing. It was incredibly brazen and bold-faced and unapologetic and it made me think of what hackers are doing to America, and what organizations like Wikileaks can do to America’s democracy – and perhaps even global security.
Nothing is secure!
It is the Age of Brazen Thieves!
It is unbelievable!
Of course, Basso has insurance and he can cut his losses and move on. But how does America cut its losses from, for example, state-sponsored hackers? What insurance policies do other countries have against similar attacks? The world has become very vulnerable, hasn’t it? No one is safe. Nothing is sacred.
One of Basso’s associates lamented “this is Madison Avenue. This is civilised.”
And after chuckling, I thought to myself, “yea. And?”
According to recent reports, it appears US president elect Donald Trump is cultivating his first political bedfellow in the African Union. It is the president of the Republic of the Congo, Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
Mr Sassou-Nguesso heads the African Union High Level Commission on Libya. A communique was released from his presidential office in Brazzaville indicating the meeting which is scheduled to take place in New York on December 27 2016.
This is a strategic move by Mr Trump to gain alliances and bedfellows in the African Union – without doubt. His advisers must have advised him of the strategic economic, military and nuclear advantages China currently enjoys because of the country’s expansive relationships in the continent.
This is a good move by the US President elect.
Did you know that there is such a thing as the “Donald Trump IPhone”? There are about 10 people in the world right now who own one and they forked over $151,000 for the privilege.
The phones are being sold in the United Arab Emirates in a shop called Goldgenie, according to a report in Market Watch.
No word if Trump owns one of these eponymous collector’s items but if he does not, it is rumoured that a wealthy Chinese woman has bought one of the phones and intends to offer it to Mr Trump as an inauguration gift.
Do you suppose that she is looking for a quid quo pro? With a gift like that is she hoping to become one of his political bedfellows?
If it kills him, Donald Trump intends to bring some dignity back to the White House after those rocking and rolling Obama years where everything was a free for all. For starters, he reportedly sacked his pick for White House Communications Director – Jason Miller. Apparently, Mr Miller, who is married, possibly could have been involved in some type of extra marital hanky panky – although these are allegations at this point and have not be substantiated with any hard proof. Be that as it may, Mr Miller recently tendered his resignation to Mr Trump citing family priorities and a heavily pregnant wife who he hardly ever gets to see since he began on Trump’s campaign about a year ago.
But a recent report in Politico suggests that there could have been more to the story. A woman by the name of A.J. Delgado reportedly dropped a few juicy tid bits on Twitter about a purported relationship that perhaps she and Mr Miller had been partaking it at some point.
Comparisons are being made to Rielle Hunter and John Edwards
Mr Miller subsequently tendered his resignation although it is not one hundred percent clear that he was not coaxed to do so by the Trump campaign to save Mr Miller’s face.
If indeed he was coaxed, this would seem to send a clear signal that Mr Trump intends to have zero tolerance for this type of conduct on the part of his employees who he takes with him to the White House. A happily married man, Mr Trump seems in no mood to tolerate any kind of nonsense and Miller is the first casualty of this zero tolerance policy.
It quite possibly would win the Pemmy (Political Emmy Award) for “The biggest tantrum by a political leader in 2016.” Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel is very displeased by a UN Security Council vote that has determined that Jewish settlements in the West Bank infringe on the rights of the people of Palestine. Boy, did this anger Mr Netanyahu. He launched a verbal assault on President Obama and then he did the following according to the Washington Post:
Following the U.N. vote, Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal and canceled scheduled trips to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister and Ukraine’s prime minister. He also said that Israeli aid to Senegal will be canceled and that contributions Israel makes to five U.N. agencies will be halted. “I share my ministers’ feelings of anger and frustration vis-a-vis the unbalanced resolution,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. He laid blame for the resolution squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.
It is noteworthy that while he blamed Obama for this situation, it was not Obama that proposed this resolution – Egypt did, until President Abdel Fattah el Sisi called it off, after a call from President elect Trump (but ultimately Egypt voted with the other members of the Council for the measure); and it certainly was not Obama who voted for it. Indeed, of the 15 members on the Security Council at this time, “Obama,” i.e. the United States, was the only country that abstained from the vote. One would have almost hoped that Obama would have had a little bit more symbolic courage and actually had voted with the other 14 members on the Council as his ultimate parting shot, his ultimate statement on this issue.
Regard, if you will, the countries that voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 – against the behavior of the State of Israel and its leaders with respect to Jewish settlements in the West Bank:
- New Zealand
Is it not significant that even the permanent members on the Council which include Russia and China and France and England voted for this resolution? Why did Mr Netanyahu not direct his “disrespect” to the leaders of these countries? Russia and China and France are hardly weak countries. They voted for the resolution. Why is he directing his anger towards the Obama White House alone? Does he “fear” the others?
Mr Netanyahu called the resolution a “gang up.” But the diversity of countries that voted for this resolution does not suggest any collusion. Russia has no obligations towards Angola and Malaysia for example. France does not need to curry favors from Ukraine and Uruguay. These all seem like independent actors and independent countries and independent voters. Maybe the world community is simply coming to its senses that if global peace is going to be even remotely possible, US policies towards Israel and the Middle East needs a little bit of a tweak and certainly the rest of the world community can no longer remain silent if they feel that international law is being violated – whether we are talking about Netanyahu, Putin, Assad or anyone. Each has a responsibility to at least say “we disagree with your behavior.”
What is particularly troubling is how Mr Netanyahu seemed to single out Senegal to pull Israeli aid to the country. It almost sounds like blackmail, like a shake down. Is this appropriate? He completely ignores the strong countries who voted for the resolution and he picks on and bullies probably the weakest country and takes his aid away. This way, countries like Senegal will think twice about how they interpret what is “right” and what is “just” for fear they will lose money and financial assistance from bigger countries that are bullying them. This culture of bullying others needs to stop.
Trump’s demand that Obama veto the resolution was also classic bullying. He has promised that everything will change at the United Nations after January 20th when he takes office.
That’s what he thinks. He may find that it is not as simple as it seems.
During the presidential campaign, President elect Trump blamed Russia and China and other countries for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States. He promised to bring jobs back to middle America and curtail Chinese imports with heavy tariffs.
But a recent report from the Brookings Institute suggest that the real culprit of lost manufacturing jobs in America may not be Mexico or China or trade deals gone bad. Rather, it is technology. Digital technology and automation and robotics that have resulted in the loss of jobs in these sectors. Such that whereas a company would have to pay a worker $25 per hour to work on, say, a car, the same company would incur a cost of $8 per hour if a robot did the work.
This is not to say that no manufacturing jobs are due to bad trade deals. But the bulk of the lost manufacturing jobs seems to be due to other causes such as, primarily technology, innovation and robotics.
Thus Trump can wrestle a job back from Mexico by giving the company incentives to stay in America but what does he do when the foe is a robot?
President Barack Obama was correct in making “don’t do stupid shit” his fundamental guiding principle with respect to his foreign policy agenda – especially when it comes to skirmishes in the Middle East. And yes, he is right. Some traps were laid for him with that – especially with Syria and that red line he drew after his ally Cameron pulled out due to his parliament not authorizing him to go in and other variables such as Obama’s own CIA director telling him that going in would not be a “slam dunk” and that they would not be able to actually hit the targets – which were the gas tanks that Assad has allegedly used on his people.
That whole thing was a well laid trap. That was a landmine. He almost stepped on it. But he pulled back at the last minute and foiled the plot. Some people will never forgive him for wising up to them. They see it as weakness and blame that one decision for the escalation of the problem in Syria.
For others, job well done, Barack Obama. Good for you that you corrected course at the last minute, the last second, and refused to let your ego and hubris and need for “credibility” (as that word is defined by others with questionable intentions) to push you into doing more “stupid shit.” The day you took that detour is the day in fact that you liberated yourself as observed below in the excerpt from the interview with the Atlantic:
I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”
“Obama’s Choice” is what is should be known as in history. He had many “choices” in Syria. But the one he selected was to walk away from his own red line and not do stupid shit. This is a huge and defining moment in history and it should be known as Obama’s Choice. Had he made a different choice would there be peace in Syria today? All citizens and governments in that country and in that region would be living harmoniously with each other? Or would there still be unrest of some sort, some new radical group that would have sprung up to avenge whatever other choice Obama would have taken? There is almost no doubt that even had he made a different choice and followed through with the red line, and/or regime changed Assad, that there still would be unrest in this region and that many American lives would consequently be put at risk trying to out new fires.
The Middle East is definitely an expensive, high maintenance, resource draining, never satiated BFF. There does come a time when, as difficult as it is, one BFF has to tell the other BFF “enough is enough.” History will thank Obama for having enough self-control and humility and wisdom to walk away from his own red line. As an architect of history (at least a portion of it) he understood his power as president of the leader of the free world in a very crucial moment and thankfully, he drew his blueprints in pencil. When he realized he had an error, he easily was able to erase it. Thank God. As a wise man once said “any man is liable to err, only a fool persists in error.” (Cicero)
Bien sûr, not everyone will see it that way:
History may record August 30, 2013, as the day Obama prevented the U.S. from entering yet another disastrous Muslim civil war, and the day he removed the threat of a chemical attack on Israel, Turkey, or Jordan. Or it could be remembered as the day he let the Middle East slip from America’s grasp, into the hands of Russia, Iran, and isis.
The problem with the latter viewpoint is this: the Middle East is not a petulant child who is being reared by responsible adults. This notion of Obama “letting the Middle East slip from America’s grasp” is insulting to the Middle East. The Middle East is not America’s responsibility; nor is it America’s property. These are full blown adults with all their faculties and resources soundly in tact. They know what they want and they know what they are doing. It is beyond hubris to have believed in the first place that the Middle was ever in America’s grasp. This was probably the fundamental mistake that lead to all the erroneous policies in this region. The thinking of new American administrations with regard to the Middle East needs to change. These people are not in anybody’s grasp. Can’t everyone discern that by now? Indeed, in a lot of ways, it is America who is in their grasp. Think about it: In a certain way, given all the resources and capital that has been expended and dispersed by America and their allies in this region only to have things get incrementally worse, something is not adding up. It is time to step back and analyse: Who is in whose grasp in the Middle East?
Obama came to his senses and refused to step on that landmine:
“Having said that,” he continued, “I also believe that the world is a tough, complicated, messy, mean place, and full of hardship and tragedy. And in order to advance both our security interests and those ideals and values that we care about, we’ve got to be hardheaded at the same time as we’re bighearted, and pick and choose our spots, and recognize that there are going to be times where the best that we can do is to shine a spotlight on something that’s terrible, but not believe that we can automatically solve it. There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights. There are going to be times where we can do something about innocent people being killed, but there are going to be times where we can’t.”
Next up: Donald Trump. Will he let himself be tricked into doing “stupid shit”?
Former US Secretary of State and current international consultant Henry Kissinger likes the idea of a President Trump. He also seems to be bullish on a Trump – Putin collaboration that could reset the equilibrium in the world order and lead to greater peace through a multipolar anarchical system of methodical chaos.
Kissinger, who has reportedly been advocating a stronger US-Russian relationship and is positioning himself and his private firm, Kissinger Associates, to get the job of “intermediary” between the two administrations, has met and spoken with President Elect Trump numerous times during the last few months.
A long-time ami of Vladimir Putin and a critic of Barack Obama, Mr Kissinger was the subject of an interview & recent article The Lessons of Henry Kissinger that appeared in the Atlantic. In it, the former Secretary displayed a bit of self-deprecating humor, at one point encouraging the interviewer thus:
He paused. “Please write the following down, and print it in your story as a first-person observation,” he said. “ ‘Though Kissinger has been out of government service for several decades, I found his egomania to be undiminished by time.’ ”
He also spoke at length about Sino-American relations under a Trump administration and significantly, he sees China’s leader Xi as a bigger player than Putin. So, yes, Kissinger seems to think there is a lot of opportunity for a beautiful tango between Trump and Putin – a pasodoble, if you will – but Russia is definitely not China. Not according to Kissinger’s gospel.
Around the world, including in Asia, Donald Trump is often described as a “racist” and his election into power has many people worried that America will become more racist than at any other time in its history. Is this a “fair” assessment especially when one considers the following excerpt from a recent interview by the Atlantic of former US secretary of State, Henry Kissinger:
President Xi, for his part, has put forward two objectives for China. The first is “Asia for the Asians.” The second is an effort to turn adversaries into partners. In my opinion, we must try to make this second framework the dominant theme of U.S.–China relations. The Chinese view the world very differently than we do. We have to combine our own diplomatic and military capabilities to respond to this reality. But is that possible in the current world, with its weapons of mass destruction and cyber capabilities?
It is the first objective “Asia for Asians” that begs the question posed in the title of this post. Granted, fundamentally, if President Xi’s objective was “Asia for Africans” or “Asia for Europeans” or “Asia for Americans” it would have been especially bizarre. But in the grand scheme of the current world in which these objectives are allegedly being pursued, is it farfetched to wonder if it at least sounds a little bit “racist” to have such a stated goal? Is it too isolationist in a world where internationalism and globalism are norms and where China’s very existence depends on a diverse patchwork of people from all corners of the globe?
Moreover, what if Trump said “America for Americans”? Or what if a European leader said “Europe for Europeans”? Or an African leader says “Africa for Africans”? Would these statements be viewed as “racist”?
Or is this issue more nuanced than the mere utterance of these words? Is this objective on the part of the Chinese influenced by China’s historical past, for instance? For example, the 100 years of European occupation of China? That is, is Xi being racist? Or is he trying to say “what is yours is yours and what is ours is ours”?
Indeed, Europe has no need to declare that Europe is for Europeans because everybody already knows that. Europe has never been occupied or colonized in the way that other countries and continents have. Out of the starting block, all actors know the deal: Europe is for Europeans. This goes perhaps even further back than the ancient Greeks and Romans. Europe calls the shots. Europe decides who is allowed to come in and under what conditions. Europe has historically had all the power – even over the great and mighty United States.
China’s power is new and rising. It is not yet fully established and fully entrenched. Especially when you have American, British and other western powers flying their planes and drones over the South China Sea – and in the interim trying to dictate to China about how they should run their country and region.
How many Chinese planes and drones are flying over European and American seas to assert any perceived rights under the auspices of international law? Probably zero. One might then point out that there are no territorial disputes in European and American seas as exists in the South and East China seas. Yes. But even if there had been, one can rest assured there still would be no Chinese planes flying over Britain or America or France or any of their allies. To the Chinese, it appears (perception is not necessarily reality) that Europe is for Europeans and America is for Americans. China would not dare, it seems, to try to impose its will on its European and American contemporaries.
So is it racist for Xi Jinping to have this “Asia for Asians” objective? Yes and no. On the one hand, the historical context is consequential and China has to draw its line. On the other hand, any country (or continent for that matter) in the twenty-first century (or region for that matter) whose “racial” make up is almost 100 percent genetically congruent, and where there are no active policies to open the country or countries to immigration from countries that share racial differences – such that there is clear and discernible “racial diversity” within its borders in numbers that are more than de minimis -(and where, possibly, one could argue that there are active policies that discourage new immigrants from diverse groups) could probably be justifiable accused of being at least a little bit “racist.” So it is not just a question even of “Is China racist” it could very well be a question if Asia as a region, is racist.
And in the twenty-first century, yes, this could be a little bit of a problem.
If China wants to have the type of global influence it is obviously courting in its 100 year goal, the leaders of that country will have to be open-minded enough to think about this issue. Because at least, in Europe, and certainly in America, people who are not genetically “Asian” are let in.
Henry Kissinger gave a lengthy interview to the Atlantic recently. One of the questions posed by the interviewer was what would a war between the United States and China (who Kissinger view as the only two consequential world powers today) would look like. His response is one that President Elect Trump ought to consider very carefully as he maps out his strategy for dealing with China:
A military conflict between the two countries, given the technologies they possess, would be calamitous. Such a conflict would force the world to divide itself. And it would end in destruction, but not necessarily in victory, which would likely prove too difficult to define. Even if we could define victory, what in the wake of utter destruction could the victor demand of the loser? I am speaking of not merely the force of our weapons, but the unknowability of the consequences of some of them, such as cyberweapons. Traditional arms-control negotiations necessitated that each side tell the other what its capabilities were as a prelude to limiting those capacities. Yet with cyber, each country will be extremely reluctant to let others know its capabilities. Thus, there is no self-evident negotiated way to contain cyberwarfare. And artificial intelligence compounds this problem. Machines that can learn from their own experience and communicate with one another on their own raise both a practical and a moral imperative to find a way to keep mankind from destroying itself. The United States and China must strive to come to an understanding about the nature of their co-evolution.
The interesting aspect was his views on how cyberweapons could complicate an already potentially fragile security situation in the world because President elect Trump seems to have a disturbingly blasé attitude to this potential threat. Indeed, he has basically told nearly two dozen intelligence agencies to go fly a kite when they disclosed that the American political system and the elections and members of both parties had been hacked by Russians.
Rather than express concern or even outrage, Mr Trump instead excoriated these agencies and stated that “these are the same people who said the Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Clearly, they were proven wrong in the latter sense. That is not the point. The point is Mr Trump’s attitude to the very serious threat to American national security that cyberweapons pose. And nobody is suggesting that this threat comes only from Russia. Mr Trump was at least partly correct in saying that it cannot be substantiated beyond all doubt that it was Russia behind the hacks. He said it could be a 400 pound guy sitting on his couch in Texas (or someplace). This is true. Cyberwarfare will be difficult to manage because it could come from anywhere. The issue really is the attitude of the incoming president towards this threat and what it could mean in the long run for the national security of the United States.
According to a Reuter report , Russia has a new tragedy to mourn just days after losing its ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. This time it is being reported that up to 100 people might have perished over the Black Sea after take a defense force aircraft took off from Sochi.
According to Reuters:
A Russian defense force Tu-154 aircraft has disappeared from radar, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Sunday.
Citing Russian media, the BBC said the plane was believed to be carrying between 70 and 100 people when it went missing soon after taking off from the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Vladimir Putin is not going to be happy to hear this. Will he blame Washington?