Outside the Mideast, also a grim outlook....
KERRY'S WORLD. But begin first with the views of incoming SecState John Kerry. Barry Rubin ably dissects Kerry's confirmation testimony:
Unfortunately, Kerry subscribes — as is so fashionable today in the Obama administration and academia — to what I’ll call the “abusive relationship approach” to foreign policy.
If another country supports you and is good for your interests, you take that country’s good will for granted and mistreat it. If another regime — say, Turkey, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, and, at times in the recent past, Syria and Iran — walks all over you, then you chase after it all the more passionately and shower it with presents.
In the hands of a good realpolitik statesman, this balance would be managed well. For example: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would have kept the Egyptian government off-balance and made it understand that Washington was doing it a favor by providing aid. In other words, leverage would be used.
But in Kerry’s hands, leverage is tossed away. He is so afraid of using power or being tough that he throws away leverage, believing there can be no risk of problems. The recipient must not be intimidated or pressed to change, but instead shown that America is its friend — not the imperialist bully that people like Kerry and President Barack Obama see when they look back at U.S. history.
Kerry, long a proponent of engagement with Syrian thug Bashir Assad, will serve a president stumped as to what to do in Syria....
Mr. Obama wondered how to “weigh” the thousands dying in Syria against the thousands being killed in the Congo, as if all wars are of equal importance to the United States or the inability to solve every problem means America should not help even where it can
And there is worse to come, under Obama....In the article linked above, Barry Rubin then notes that Bush 43 used leverage to force the Palestinian Authority to drop a UN bid for statehood status; Obama, by contrast, channeled Kerry & did not use leverage. Thus the PA's play succeeded. Kerry surely shares Obama's "light footprint" foreign policy doctrine. Kerry last week expressed optimism about an Arab-Israeli peace deal, not shared by Israelis, who last week ignored the Palestinian issue in casting their parliamentary election votes. A top American pollster hired as a consultant for the election said that 2/3 of Israelis want a two-state solution but 2/3 also believe the Palestinians are not ready to make peace. In this they are as correct as Kerry is wrong in his view.
AFRICA. Once a minor factor in counter-terror wars, Africa has come front & center. Which makes former president Bush's setting up of AFRICOM in 2003 a prescient move.
Somalia. Team Obama claims a major victory in Somalia, where a new government has been formed after a victory in a long counter-insurgency against Islamist forces, with the US assisting an African coalition. America's AFRICOM theater command HQ is in Somalia.
Mali. But the Islamist revolt in Mali is another matter. As the crisis heats up--the latest dismal news is that Islamist rebels destroyed valued artifacts in Timbuktu--the US is stepping up its support of French operations. French forces lack logistical support necessary to project military power abroad.
While the French took the lead, the US special ops trained four commanders & their units; three were Taureg. National security scholar Adam Garfinkle skewers the US for training Isalmist members of the ethic group leading the Islamist uprising. The Tuareg defected with men & equipment, along with their newfound combat expertise. Garfinkle explains why we often fail in such local situations:
How do things like this (still) happen, after what we should have learned from years of dealing with Iraqis and Afghans and others on their home turf? [Teachers try] very hard to clear away the thick fog created by the innocent Enlightenment universalism that pervades the American mind—the toxic fog that tries to convince us that all people, everywhere, are basically the same, have the same value hierarchies, the same habits of moral and tactical judgment, and mean the same things by roughly comparable translated words.
Only officers with prior overseas experience are likely to learn the right things. Garfinkle rounds out his piece with a summary of the complex tapestry inside Mali, and hence the case for prudence on the part of the US. He notes that toppling Qaddafi ignited the Taureg revolt, a collateral consequence not on our radar screen.
Libya. Barry Rubin explains why, contra Hillary, the motives behind the Benghazi murders matter, in that they reveal terrorist goals. A special report from a top ex-diplomat suggested that the State Dept. conduct more "red term" security tests and examine threat information with more care. The British disclosed that they have been apprised of imminent security threats inside Libya.
Algeria. The sanguinary Algerian hostage crisis gave public testament to the mistrust between the US & Algeria (which antedates Team Obama). The Jan. 19 White House statement from the president contained this nugget: "This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa." It should be noted that the attack was meticulously planned, months in advance, with inside help.
Seems that al-Qaeda did not disappear after all, and that their war against us is still very much alive. What has largely disappeared is Obama's counter-terror policy, as the US retreats.
ASIA. More bad news for us, in many parts of Asia, with few positives.
Afghanistan. The Afghan theater is winding down, with Team Obama considering troop drawdown to levels insufficient to sustain a continuing effort against the Taliban. Maintaining a single major base there requires 6,100 soldiers.
China. China is losing its cost-competitive edge to southeast Asia, while its new political leadership faces stronger pushback from an emerging middle class seeking more personal & political freedom. China's hitherto favorable demographics are changing, as in 2011 the Chinese workforce shrunk for the first time; China's one-child policy has hastened to advent of this inflection point. But China's military buildup marches on, as it prepares to develop new rail-mobile ICBM trains and unveils a new jumbo military transport plane.
India. Fareed Zahkaria sees an "Indian Spring" in the making. With 250 million of the country's 1.2 billion population now middle class, and 35 percent (over 400 million) living in cities, a revolution driven by democracy, capitalism & technology is transforming India. The recent massive public protests over corruption and failure to protect women from rapine have, FZ writes, a different focus than historical protests. Earlier upheavals were motivated by caste identity, religious nationalism, or desires for preferential government assistance. A nation with 75 percent cellphone penetration & 300 TV channels is deep into information age politics.
Asia Minor: Turkey. Michael Rubin sees Turkey following Pakistan's path towards Islamization and thus exiting the Western alliance camp. All the while, Team Obama treats Turkey as if it still were anchored firmly in the Western alliance system. MR also notes that Turkey faces possible addition to the global terror finance list if it fails to change its applicable laws. The expected February announcement of a ceasefire in the 28-year Kurdish insugency that has claimed some 40,000 lives is a major milestone. Far from enhancing overall stability, it could free the Kurds to move against Syria & Iraq & set up a truncated, but real, Kurdish state. (If Iran's regime ever collapses, Iranian Kurds could join such an entity.)
SOUTH AMERICA. Venezuela remains a major challenge. Thug-tyrant Hugo Chavez fights for his life, and continues helping Iran & making petrodollar trouble wherever he can. He uses the $60 billion annual oil gusher to finance his projects at home & abroad; the government ran a record deficit of 17 percent of GDP in 2012, when gov't spending ran 51 percent of the total budget. Meanwhile, the egregious Christina Kirchner is allowing Iran to get away completely as to the 1994 Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy bombing, stiffing Israel & the US (though Team Obama doesn't seem to get this).
UNITED NATIONS. Leave it to the UN to begin an inquiry into the use of drones in warfare. This is the latest escalation by lawfare advocates, aimed at the US. The more successful a military tool is to the US, the more lawfare activists will target it for confinement, and ultimately outright extinction.
Bottom Line. Team Obama is behind the curve in Africa, as it remains behind in the Mideast. And it is falling behind the curve in Asia & the Indian Subcontinent. It is giving Hugo Chavez a pass in South America, despite the Iran-Venezuelan nuclear axis Chavez created. The only place it is ahead of the curve is at the UN, where it is egging on the UN in that august body's anti-Western crusades.
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