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The UAE on Edge

Blacklist the United Arab Emirates

November 11th 2012

International Currency 3

The security of many countries is being endangered by the United Arab Emirates, a confederation of seven small states located in the Arabian Peninsula. Usually considered a Western ally, this false friend also serves as a regional financial hub for mob figures, arms dealers, drug traffickers, jihadis and rogue regimes. The White House and the Financial Action Task Force—set up by the G7 to combat money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) —have so far failed to take action to stop this emerging threat.

The UAE possesses an advanced, regulated, but lightly enforced financial services sector. It is a cash-based society and a heavy trader of precious metals, especially gold and diamonds. This, combined with the widespread use of hawala, an informal banking system often abused by rogue actors, makes the Emirates a cesspool of illicit activity. The country is also home to several banks blacklisted by the United States and UN for aiding terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Rogue actors exploit these traits to move their money around the world, virtually without obstacles.

While gold and diamond smuggling has been somewhat curbed in certain regions of the world, it is still rampant in the Emirates. Dubai, the emirate that was the world's fifth-largest diamond center in 2007, maintains a reputation as a diamond and gold smuggling center. Its trade zones and tax-free status make it a convenient center for diamond dealers to launder profits and avoid taxes in their home markets. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Where Would Hezbollah Be Without the EU?

November 11th 2012

Hezbollah Nazi Salute

The EU has been here before. During the same period they came up with their false wall-of-separation within Hezbollah, they they did the same thing with Hamas. The fiction disappeared in Europe because it was no longer possible to allow a group to operate which blew up buses full of civilians.

However bad many Americans think that the Obama administration is on security matters, at least one thing can be said in their favor: they are not Europeans.

An advisor to President Obama last week condemned the European Union's weakness on security issues, and one, in particular, namely its disgraceful and pusillanimous behaviour on what should be an open-and-shut case. Speaking in Dublin last Saturday, the chief counter-terrorism adviser to President Obama, John Brennan, criticized the European Union for its complete failure to stand up to the terrorist group Hezbollah. Read more ..


After the Election

Obama's Sins of Omission: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

November 11th 2012

Click to select Image
President Obama greets King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Over and over again I’ve written about what President Barack Obama should do. Now the voters have given him a new chance. He could take it and change his policy. I don’t believe he will do that, but let me lay out both what he’s been wrong about and what he should do, just in case Obama is seeking a different approach.

What he did in the first term and will do in the second term: fostered revolutionary Islamism in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

What he should have done and should do now: what Franklin Rooosevelt did in 1941, Harry Truman did in 1947, and George Bush in 1990 — led an international coalition that will systematically fight against a totalitarian enemy.

Today, that means revolutionary Islamism. The loose coalition should include Europe, anti-Islamist Arab regimes (Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Arab states), and pro-democratic opposition movements (Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria). Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

United National Refugee Agency Keeps Mum about Syria

November 11th 2012

Palstinian refugee camp

When two employees of UNRWA, the United Nations organization for Palestinians, were killed in Syria, one by a sniper and the other in a crossfire, the organization responded by deploring "the tragic loss of life." It was even more subdued when Syrian artillery shells slammed into a United Nations school for Palestinians in a Damascus suburb, as it called for "all sides to refrain from conducting the conflict in civilian areas and to comply with their obligations under international law."

These mild responses were utterly unlike the cries of condemnation and calls for war-crimes investigations that came forth when an Israeli shell struck outside an UNRWA school during the 2009 Gaza. But double standards are sometimes revealing. The responses point to a new predicament for UNRWA and Palestinians. Simply put, they are no longer the Middle East's premier refugees. Some three hundred thousand Syrian refugees are now registered with the UN in neighboring countries, with estimates of up to seven hundred thousand refugees by year's end. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

What Voters Want: A Prez Who Cares

November 10th 2012

Barack Obama

Conservatives and Republicans should have two takeaways from Tuesday's election. First, they may comprise the single largest faction in American politics, but they do not comprise a clear majority. Second, if they want to gain a majority, they need to listen to people who rejected them to find out why.

The conservative and Republican challenge can be summed up in one question from the exit polls. The pollsters asked voters which of four characteristics they most wanted to see in their president. Mitt Romney won among voters who chose three of those characteristics: shares my values, is a strong leader and has a vision for the future. What's more, he carried them heavily, by between nine and 23 points. In all, 79 percent of voters selected one of these characteristics.

Romney lost because he lost among those who chose the remaining characteristic - by 63 points, 81-18. That characteristic? Cares about people like me. The entire Obama campaign was designed to tell swing voters that Romney and the Republicans did not care about them. You're a single woman? They oppose your use of contraception - they don't care about you. Hispanic voter? They oppose immigration reform and even oppose the DREAM Act - they don't care about you.

In 2010, the Canadian Conservative party destroyed the Liberal Party, which had dominated politics for 80 years, by tarring its leader as out of touch. That man, Michael Ignatieff, was a famous academic who returned to Canada to run for office. Tory ads ended brutally and succinctly: He didn't come back for you. Democrats ran an equally brutal and succinct campaign against Romney and the Republicans: They aren't running for you. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Reid Soars, Warren Shines

November 10th 2012

Harry Reid

At the moment of his greatest political triumph, which will rank among the finest in the history of the United States Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reaches out in the tradition of Henry Clay to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). I join most Americans hoping they reach back in word and deed.

Congratulations are in order for President Obama, Vice President Biden and all members of the House and Senate from both parties who were reelected on Tuesday. This column is about four senators who will have extraordinary roles to play in the coming hours and years, and what they tell us about the state of the union as 2012 comes to a close.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with the brilliant insight that the best politics for Democrats is to find the best candidates for America. The list of Democratic candidates for Senate seats that Murray did so much to assemble is among the most able and talented, as a group, of my lifetime and yours. She has earned the megastar status that now arrives for her. Read more ..


America and Israel

Friends with Benefits: Why the U.S.-Israeli Alliance Is Good for America

November 9th 2012

Click to select Image

At the final presidential debate of the 2012 campaign season, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney mentioned Israel some 30 times, more than any other country except Iran. Both candidates called the Jewish state "a true friend," pledging to stand with it through thick and thin. Some political commentators criticized these effusive declarations of support as pandering, suggesting that the candidates were simply going after Jewish and pro-Israel votes.

But if support for Israel is indeed such a political winner, then it's at least in part because the voters know best. The U.S.-Israeli alliance now contributes more than ever to American security, as bilateral cooperation to deal with both military and nonmilitary challenges has grown in recent years. The relationship may not be symmetrical; the United States has provided Israel with indispensable diplomatic, economic, and military support totaling more than $115 billion since 1949. But it is a two-way partnership whose benefits to the United States have been substantial. The other, less tangible costs of the U.S.-Israeli alliance -- mainly, damage to Washington's reputation in Arab and Muslim countries, a problem also caused by American interventions and decades of U.S. support for autocratic leaders in the Middle East -- pale in comparison with the economic, military, and political gains it affords Washington. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

Military Stats Reveal Epicenter of U.S. Drone War

November 9th 2012

MQ-1 Predator Drone

Forget Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and all the other secret little warzones. The real center of the U.S. drone campaign is in plain sight — on the hot and open battlefield of Afghanistan.

The American military has launched 333 drone strikes this year in Afghanistan. That’s not only the highest total ever, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. It’s essentially the same number of robotic attacks in Pakistan since the CIA-led campaign there began nearly eight years ago. In the last 30 days, there have been three reported strikes in Yemen. In Afghanistan, that’s just an average day’s worth of remotely piloted attacks. And the increased strikes come as the rest of the war in Afghanistan is slowing down.

The secret drone campaigns have drawn the most scrutiny because of the legal, geopolitical, and ethical questions they raise. But it’s worth remembering that the rise of the flying robots is largely occurring in the open, on an acknowledged battlefield where the targets are largely unquestioned and the attending issues aren’t nearly as fraught. Read more ..


Yemen on Edge

Why Yemen is the Scariest Challenge Facing Obama Abroad

November 9th 2012

Yemeni terrorists

Obama will have to face the growing menace of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the failing state in Yemen that it thrives on. The response must be nimble and careful because AQAP’s real goal is to drag America into another bleeding war in the Muslim world, this time hoping it will spread into the oil rich deserts of Saudi Arabia. Luckily, Gregory Johnson has written the best new book on al Qaeda in 2012 and the best book on Yemen in years.

The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia is a detailed narrative account of the development of AQAP.  It is also a great read; Johnson is a very good storyteller.  The story is fascinating, this is a group that was virtually destroyed in 2004 by drone attacks and effective counter terrorism operations, and then it recovered, helped immensely by the Arab world’s anger over the American invasion of Iraq. In 2009 it rebranded itself with new leadership composed of Saudis and Yemenis, several of whom had been prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. It’s number two, Saeed al Shihri, spent five years America’s Cuban prison before being released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 where he fled into Yemen. A drone had allegedly killed him last month, then he reappeared alive in a message threatening more attacks on America. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Make-or-Break for the U.S. and Iran

November 8th 2012

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

It is an accident of fate that the quadrennial American exercise in selecting a president happens to coincide almost precisely with the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. That episode unraveled the Carter Administration and left a legacy of U.S.-Iranian animosity that has confounded every subsequent America president. And so it was last week, on the eve of Barack Obama's historic reelection victory, that thousands of Iranians joined in the Islamic Republic's commemoration of the hostage ordeal, which has become an annual jubilee of anti-Americanism, with demonstrators showcasing effigies of Obama and shouting 'death to America.'

Such scenes, together with the bombastic rhetoric of Iranian leaders who used the anniversary to vilify Washington as "the most criminal regime on earth," might suggest that little has changed between the two old adversaries and that the prospects of any progress in resolving the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions remain as distant as ever. Read more ..


America on Edge

On Election Day, A New American Mainstream

November 8th 2012

Multiracial kids

Tuesday’s election might someday be seen as a historic turning point in American politics: the last time a major party candidate could hope to win the presidency with a campaign aimed directly at the nation’s “mainstream” white population. If that was Mitt Romney’s strategy, he succeeded wildly, gaining a nearly unprecedented Republican vote advantage over Democrats among whites, 59 percent to 39 percent.

In the end though, he lost largely by ignoring the rising clout of the country’s minority population, including blacks, Asian Americans and especially Hispanics.   

The failure to reach out more to these groups went a long way toward costing him the presidency, leading to losses in rapidly growing swing states like Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, and almost North Carolina—states that that once stood squarely within the GOP’s Sun Belt wheelhouse. In each of these states, through enthusiastic turnout or stronger support, Hispanics made bigger contributions to Obama’s election than in 2008. Read more ..


The Vote Aftermath

Four More Years of Gridlock Coming

November 8th 2012

Armstrong_Williams

To put it mildly, many in the GOP were not pleased with the outcome of Tuesday night’s elections. This represents a national repudiation of reality: we have tossed out the doctor because we don’t like his prognosis. The spending addict does not want an intervention; he wants more spending, no matter what.

​The Democrats banked on their 2008 coalition, and won big, bigger than big. This wasn’t just a narrow survival by a weak incumbent President, it was a nationwide wave, a sweep at every level, from the president down to ballot initiatives like redefining marriage and legalizing marijuana. You can’t blame Hurricane Sandy for that. The unfortunate fact is that the Millennial generation is the most secular generation in American history, the most socially liberal. They will be shifting every election to the Left from now on.

​The Obama campaign—Axelrod, Plouffe, Cutter—look even smarter than they did four years ago, when they got a freshman Senator elected President by seven points over an experienced war hero. This time, they got President Benghazi, President Obamacare, President Contraception Mandate re-elected after a historic midterm loss. And they did it all without actually revealing a second term agenda, or any evidence that their policies had done any good.

The Democrats have a mandate to govern, and Republicans are now in an uncomfortable position everywhere. The policies of the last four years have been not only affirmed but, with these ballot initiatives, shown to be now mainstream. Our nation’s culture has shifted to the Left, validating that self-fulfilling epithet of “Republican extremism.” It is apparently extreme now to balance a budget, to stay out of people’s lives, and respect tradition. Obama almost ran the table with swing states: it was a landslide. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

The Enemy of My Enemy in Damascus

November 7th 2012

Riot Gear Police

A reminder to the administration: the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.  The friend of my friend is not necessarily my friend.  And the friend of my enemy is not necessarily my enemy, but he may be not by my friend, either. Friends, in fact, are hard to come by in the Middle East.

Bashar Assad, for example, is Iran's puppet, Hezb'allah's patron, Israel's nemesis, Hamas's erstwhile landlord, and his people's tyrant.  He is the enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood -- our (former?) enemy.  And he has a mixed relationship with al-Qaeda, permitting it to infiltrate Iraq to kill Americans, Shiites, and non-compliant Sunnis, but now finding it joining the jihadis against him.

But Assad is also the friend of Russia, the object of the Obama administration's ardent courtship.  And Russia's enemies are Sunni jihadists, including Chechens and the Muslim Brotherhood.  One (admittedly unlikely) calculation of American interests might have had us join the Russians in stopping the rebels and then working with the Russians to effect political change in Syria.  It couldn't have worked any worse for the Syrian people or the U.S.-Russian relationship than Mrs. Clinton hectoring Putin but failing to change his deeply rooted interest in maintaining its port in Syria and hitting back at the jihadists. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Republicans: In Victory or Defeat

November 7th 2012

Mitt Romney

Regardless of the results of today's election, the Republican establishment will argue the party must move rightward and reinforce its most conservative values. True partisans will push for identical responses whether Governor Romney enters the White House or retirement. This reaction will not strengthen the GOP but hinder its future viability.

A Romney Win
If Governor Romney beats President Obama, Republicans will frame the result as a transcendent defeat of conservatism over New Deal-style liberalism. Policymakers, donors, and party activists will urge the swift replacement of existing fiscal, social, and regulatory policies. They will claim that Romney’s win—no matter the margin—signals a nation heartily embracing the most extreme of Republican values. The reaction will be to conflate a win and a mandate.

Four years ago, President Obama confused the two. He won the White House by a substantial margin. He grabbed a larger percentage of the popular vote than any candidate in 20 years and grew his party’s Senate majority to be filibuster-proof. The perceived mandate to pass legislation such as the Affordable Care Act overestimated support and underestimated backlash. The irony is that Republicans should learn from Obama in designing a legislative strategy. Yet, they won’t. They will repeat many of the same mistakes and likely in grander fashion. Read more ..


Broken Government

The Fiscal Cliff: Predictable, Reprehensible, But Still Avoidable

November 7th 2012

US Capital Day

As most Americans realize by now, after the election Congress and the president will face a so-called "fiscal cliff." The cliff is a series of tax and spending provisions that will either expire or start right after January 1. All the provisions have the effect of decreasing the deficit by either increasing taxes or reducing spending. If Congress fails to prevent these provisions from being implemented, the simultaneous increase in tax rates and the reductions in government spending, which would total nearly $8 trillion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office, will cause the nation to fall back into recession. To avoid this outcome, Congress can continue its past behavior and kick the can down the road by delaying implementation of the provisions.

Although no one planned for all these provisions to come into play at one time, there can be no doubt that Congress and the president have failed to deal with every element of the cliff until now. Moreover, anyone with a calendar should have known for a year now that these revenue and spending elements of the cliff were going to hit simultaneously shortly after New Year's Eve. Further, there have been any number of opportunities in the last several years to extricate the nation from the geological fault that caused the cliff - the nation's expanding debt. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Barack Obama Does Not Deserve Another Four Years in Office

November 6th 2012

Obama

For four years now–yes, I started before he was actually inaugurated–I have been chronicling the disastrous policies of President Barack Obama on the Middle East. I may have written as many as 1000 articles that deal with aspects of this issue. In the tradition of Scheherazade, perhaps the greatest of Middle Eastern story-tellers, that makes this my 1001th story.
And now the day has come when it will be decided if he will have the same period of time once again to do more damage, to help destroy more lives, create tens of thousands of refugees, and lay the basis for new wars.

I have written about how this administration has supported the bad guys–with guns and diplomatic help–in Syria, those who want to turn the country into an anti-American Islamic republic. Of how the nation’s leaders believe that helping just about every Islamist group except al-Qaida is a great idea because they will be moderate and good friends of America.

Then there’s the disgraceful Benghazi incident where, whatever the precise details, the White House stood by as Americans were murdered and then rationalized the motive of the terrorists by blaming the United States. Benghazi is the perfect symbol for Obama Middle East policy. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Next President and the Supreme Court

November 6th 2012

Supreme Court at the 2010 SOTU

Every vote counts. And this year, it could count double. One vote could decide both the immediate election and the course of constitutional law for decades to come.

Just ask the senior federal officials responsible for our security immediately after 9/11 who were sued years later by Javaid Iqbal. During the investigation into the attacks, FBI officials identified Iqbal as a suspect of high interest and detained him in New York. He sued alleging that high government officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, personally ordered that he be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, or national origin.

Iqbal provided no facts in support of his conspiracy theory. When his case finally reached the Supreme Court, five justices properly, but narrowly, rejected his speculative claims that would have cleared the way for plaintiffs’ lawyers to embark on fishing expeditions in hopes of winning windfall damages from current and former federal officials. Read more ..


America and India

India Helpful as U.S. Join Asian Maritime Grouping

November 6th 2012

Cargo Ship

Last week, India assisted the U.S. in securing dialogue-partner status in the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), a 20-member grouping of littoral nations of the Indian Ocean. India and the U.S.—as well as other Indo-Pacific nations such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia—share an interest in maintaining free and open trade routes in the Indian Ocean region. While the grouping has so far done little in terms of concrete solutions for improving maritime security, it is still important for the U.S. to take an active part in dialogue on these issues. The rise of China and its economic, military, and diplomatic heft are increasingly felt in the region. The U.S. joined as the sixth dialogue partner along with China, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Egypt. Iran had objected to Washington’s taking part in the group, and thus India (the group’s current chair) stepped in to defend U.S. membership.

Read more ..

The Obama Edge

The Obama Doctrine: Keeping Enemies Closer

November 5th 2012

Obama

When Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, the committee expected he would make "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." More than three years later, Mr. Obama has failed to meet expectations, but it has not been for lack of trying. His administration has consistently promoted international harmony and downplayed the root causes of global strife. And in so doing he has given an opening to adversary states and extremist movements to pursue their interests at America's expense.

One difficulty in assessing Mr. Obama's policies towards U.S. competitors is that the administration carefully avoids acknowledging that adversary states exist. This outlook was typified in the 2010 National Security Strategy. With the exception of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, the strategy does not identify any countries as standing threats to U.S. interests. The challenges the White House will acknowledge—such as violent non-state extremist groups, nuclear proliferation, global warming, economic contraction, and the spread of pandemic disease—come across as free-floating phenomena unconnected to state actors. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Romney Win Would be a Victory for Shameless Cynicism

November 5th 2012

Juan Williams 02

If Mitt Romney defeats President Obama in his bid for reelection on Tuesday, it will mark the success of one of the most deeply cynical political campaigns in American history. It is hard to beat an incumbent no matter the economic climate.

It is even harder to be a Republican in the aftermath of President Bush’s still widely criticized time in the White House, which included two wars and an economic recession.

And it is really hard to go against the first black president, who faced no primary opposition and has a unified party behind him.
In the last 100 years only Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford lost their bids for reelection. President Lyndon Johnson did not run for a second term.

So a Romney victory would defy the odds. But it will be even more memorable for its brassy, pioneering political strategy — one designed for the current era of political polarization and Twitter.

Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign broke ground on this strategy. Despite Bush’s lack of a combat record, the Bush team turned challenger John Kerry’s military service on the frontline of the Vietnam War into a weakness by “Swift-boating,” or attacking, Kerry’s military record.

Romney’s campaign has followed that game plan. For example, Romney attacked Obama’s handling of national security despite the president’s success in killing America’s top enemy, Osama bin Laden. Romney tried to find political gain by faulting Obama’s handling of the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and his response to Iran’s nuclear program. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

You Can Kiss Petraeus Goodbye

November 5th 2012

"Petraeus Throws Obama Under the Bus," was William Kristol's headline to his blog in the Weekly Standard, on October 26th. In effect, Kristol had cut a tree in the forest seemingly with no one around, and if it made a noise in Washington it was not discernable. 
 
Kristol noted that a CIA spokesman who reported on "breaking news" on Benghazi, declared that "No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate." This statement was probably made "at the direction of CIA director David Petraeus." But Kristol did not ask: "Tell us, General, what took you so long to issue that statement?"

By waiting more than two weeks before issuing the statement, Petraeus had managed to throw himself under a bus of his own making. It is obvious that the CIA fingerprints are all over the Benghazi operation.  It ran its own safehouse with what seems to be a score of actives. But as it turned out, not all the actives were CIA personnel. The Pentagon had issued a commercial contract shortly after the demise of Muammar Qaddafi a program to secure and/or buyback weapons that had belonged to the Libyan leader's weapons stockpile.  Of special importance was the reported plethora of hand-held ground-to-air weapons whose use by terrorists could be devastating.   Read more ..


The Arab Winter of Rage

The NGO Trial in Cairo

November 4th 2012

Egyptian Kid at Rally

Late November was to see  an end to the trial of 43 NGO employees charged with leading unregistered organizations and receiving illegal foreign funding.  Closing arguments have now been postponed to December 2, verdicts and sentencing to come a month or two after that.

These proceedings have been denounced by the United States, though we have done very little beside making speeches. While Egypt’s new government has continued with these prosecutions, various members of President Obama’s cabinet have visited Cairo and announced that they found President Morsi to be a dedicated supporter of democracy. Yet the trial has a chilling effect on NGO and civil society activity, and on financial support for it.

The verdict in this case will tell us a good deal about the direction in which Egypt is heading: toward an open society where individuals and groups can challenge the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, or a closed system much like the one over which Hosni Mubarak presided–only with the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the Army at the top and excluding voices it does not wish to hear. Read more ..


America After Sandy

Heroism Once Again as Disaster Strikes New York and New Jersey

November 4th 2012

Hurricane Sandy New York

As we struggle through the aftermath of the worst storm in New York’s history, my thoughts turn to the first responders -- firefighters, police officers, EMS worker -- and the role they played in the last great tragedy to strike New York, the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

The heroism these men and women displayed, both then now, is not a surprise to me. For the fifteen years I spent coaching and running youth programs in Brooklyn in the '80s and '90s, civil servants, especially firefighters, were an integral part of the coaching cohort I interacted with daily, both in my own neighborhood and throughout Brooklyn and Staten Island. There was never any doubt in my mind, based on that experience, that they would sacrifice their health, well-being, and, if necessary, their lives if called on to rescue people in trouble. Read more ..


The Defense Edge

America’s Military is Expensive But it Saves Money In the Long Run

November 4th 2012

The first U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom

Earlier this year, Barack Obama told military commanders and Pentagon civilian leaders that his goal was to “reduce US military activity around the world.” That’s what he said. But what he meant was that he intends to constrain US foreign policy by shrinking military capacity and capabilities so that the United States cannot engage in military activities around the world.

Under Obama, the number of missions heaped on those in uniform has not declined. Indeed, that number has not gone down under any president of either political party since the end of the Cold War. From Haiti to Bosnia to Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya, our forces keep getting busier.

Should we engage in these missions or shouldn’t we? This might be a worthy debate if the American people were somehow involved, but they’re constantly told otherwise: We can keep cutting the military’s budget but still magically retain a force that is second to none. At some point, getting more and spending less not only rings hollow but actually produces a hollow force. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Lessons from a Forgotten War--North Africa 70 Years Ago

November 3rd 2012

military convoy

U.S. troops to North Africa...Fighting in Benghazi...Scandal over the president's handling of crisis in the Middle East...

These themes sound like they were lifted from the presidential foreign-policy debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. In fact, they are echoes of events that occurred 70 years ago next week, when American forces, along with their British allies, launched Operation Torch, the largest amphibious assault in history at the time and America's first foray into the uncertain terrain of the modern Arab world.

Circumstances were, of course, very different from what they are today. The world was at war and North Africa was a critical front in the global conflict. France, the region's main colonial power, held sway in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Its collaborationist Vichy government, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain, worked closely with Nazi Germany. To the east, Fascist Italy controlled Libya, where Benghazi was a key target of back-and-forth fighting between Italian and British troops. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Can Romney Create those 12 Million Jobs?

November 3rd 2012

Romney

Mitt Romney says he could create 12 million jobs in a four year term. Could he really do it? The odds are he could.

Romney would start, of course, with energy, where gasoline prices have doubled under Obama. High energy costs have scuttled lots of small businesses; people could no longer afford their goods or services. High gas prices also drove some employees out of the job market as they could no longer afford commuting to a job with modest pay.

Obama campaigned on raising energy costs even higher; to protect us from the man-made global warming that is not occurring. He even hints about further slashing fossil fuel use after he wins “more flexibility” in a second term. Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Following the Elections, Mideast Peace Negotiations Should Resume

November 2nd 2012

Mahmoud Abbas at parliament

I was invited to meet with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority just before he spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations.  I came to the meeting with an agenda:  to persuade him to sit down with the Israelis and resume negotiations without first requiring the Israelis to accept a total settlement freeze.  I knew the Israelis would not—indeed could not—agree to a settlement freeze as a prior condition to beginning negotiations, since they had previously agreed to a nine month freeze and the Palestinians refused to come to the bargaining table until just before the freeze expired, and then demanded that the freeze be extended.  Prime Minister Netanyahu had invited the Palestinians to begin negotiations with no prior conditions—an invitation that the Palestinians had rejected because the Israelis refused first to impose a freeze. Read more ..


Israel's Looming Attack

Red Lines and Preemption in the Face of Nuclear Iran

November 2nd 2012

Israeli Jet Dive Bombing

Just like the role of "Red Lights” in intersections, so would "Red Lines” reduce the probability of a military collision with a nuclear Iran.  Clear "Red Lines” would upgrade the US posture of deterrence and enhance preparedness against – and minimizes the cost of - aggression. On the other hand, the absence of "Red Lines” constitutes a "Green Light” to aggression.

For example, a "Green Light” to Iraq's August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait was provided by the US upon failing to set any "Red Light” during the July 25, 1990 meeting between Saddam Hussein and the US Ambassador to Kuwait. At the meeting, which took place during the height of the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute, Ambassador April Gillespie echoed Secretary Jim Baker's self-destruct policy of engagement and diplomacy with rogue Iraq.  She stated that "we have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait…. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via the Arab League or via President Mubarak…. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly."  Prior to that meeting, the State Department clarified to Saddam that the US had no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.  Setting and implementing "Red Lines” would have deterred Saddam Hussein, and would have spared the US the first, and possibly the second, Gulf Wars and their devastating cost in term of lives, economy and military. Read more ..


The Obama Edge

Returning to an Economic Growth Agenda

November 2nd 2012

Mortgage foreclosure

The engine of growth that has fueled the U.S. economy for over 225 years appears idle. In the five-year period from the second half of 2007 through the first half of 2012, the U.S. GDP growth rate has averaged just 0.6 percent annually. In fact, as the accompanying chart indicates, the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy has been below 1 percent during the last five years, far slower than its recent historical average.

Furthermore, a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the median household income in the United States in 2011 declined for the second consecutive year to $50,054. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the median household income in 2011 was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007. And finally, the average unemployment rate in the first nine months of 2012 has been 8.2 percent. While an improvement relative to 2010 and 2011, the labor market remains weak as 12 million workers are unemployed. Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

By Avoiding a Strike on Iran before U.S. Election, Israel Is Learning from History

November 2nd 2012

Netanyahu's redline

Israel's non-strike against Iran means it is keeping its options open while avoiding once-familiar tensions with the United States.

Just days before the U.S. presidential election, it is worth considering how -- barring an unforeseen development -- one of the most widely trailed military operations in recent years will not in fact have taken place: Israel will not have attacked Iran before Americans go to the polls.

We do not know with absolute certainty if Israel did not attack because it chose not to do so, or if it felt compelled not to attack because of the red light for the operation from Washington. In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph at the end of October, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the delay of the strike was due to Iran diverting uranium from its military to civilian programs. Yet, based on private conversations, one cannot preclude the possibility that Defense Minister Barak withdrew his support because he feared it would be viewed as interfering with the upcoming U.S. election. The premise of any pre-election strike was that Israel would be taking advantage of a time when it had maximum political influence in Washington, since President Obama would have been constrained in his reaction. The implication is that the pre-election period could be 'insulated', and therefore the consequences would not be felt after the election. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

Unemployment Remains The Key Factor for US Voters

November 2nd 2012

Employee applications

Unemployment is a key issue in the U.S. presidential election, and on Friday the government publishes the last official jobless rate before voters go to the polls on November 6. More than 12 million Americans are out of work, another eight million have found only part-time jobs, and still others have stopped searching for work. There are different opinions about the job situation from voters in North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. Jobless Americans are concerned about the high unemployment rate.

"If Mitt Romney gets into office he is going to have to get these young black men and old black men jobs,” said Jeff Smith, who currently is unemployed. Larry Guinn, a small business owner, said economic uncertainty makes him reluctant to hire new workers. “I just see more and more unemployment in the country, and that’s not good for America," said Guinn. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

The Palestinian Strategy: War is Permanent

November 1st 2012

Palstinian refugee camp

In 1948 Secretary General of the Arab League Azzam Pasha articulated the Arab recipe for long term success when he stated, "we have a secret weapon which we can use better than guns and machine guns, and this is time. As long as we do not make peace with the Zionists, the war is not over, and as long as the war is not over, there is neither a victor nor vanquished. As soon as we recognize the existence of the State of Israel, we recognize by this act that we are conquered."

Of all the Arabs, Arab-Palestinians embraced Azzam Pasha's message and continue to follow it religiously today. Out waiting Israel is the Palestinian strategy. It is no coincidence that Mahmoud Abbas' trial balloon to see if the UN would consider upgrading the status of the Palestinian Authority to that of a state is set to be voted on November 29th 2012. Ironically, this will happen on the same date the partition of Palestine was voted on 65 years ago. Partition was flatly rejected by Palestinians and their Arab cousins. Read more ..


China on Edge

Why Haven’t Chinese Leaders Acted Decisively to Reduce Tobacco Use?

November 1st 2012

Chinese smoker

In mid-October, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev voiced support for a proposed ban on smoking in public places by 2015. “The government is not at war with smokers,” he said, “but we are making a stand against smoking.”

Compared to Russia, where about a third of the population smokes, China has “the biggest tobacco problem in the world.” As Cheng Li pointed out in a recent publication, China is “the world’s biggest tobacco producer, largest cigarette consumer, and gravest victim of the smoking-related health crisis.” About 350 million people smoke (which is approximately thirty percent of the world’s total smoking population), with 740 million people regularly exposed to second-hand smoke (including 180 million under the age of fifteen). Each year, more than 1.2 million people die of smoking related illness, which is twelve percent of the country’s total annual deaths. The numbers speak for themselves: the global anti-tobacco campaign cannot be successful without effective tobacco control in China. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

The Best Ideas Will Win This Election

November 1st 2012

Obama-Romney

Many in the conservative movement are frustrated that, despite the president’s liberalism, and despite the failure of his policies, he remains a very likeable personality, and enjoys high favorability ratings. Most people with his record would be run out of town, tarred, and feathered. But he is capable of a magnetic charisma, and it is keeping him in this race.
Some try to attack this strength of his. Sometimes it is a good strategy to attack your opponent’s strength, but not in this case. Ad hominem attacks on the president are as fruitless as they are unnecessary: his record is bad enough; we shouldn’t need to change the subject from that. And besides, attacking someone personally looks a lot like admitting defeat. ​I know that Election Day is almost here. But that’s precisely why I say this: we need to stay focused on ideas, not on people. This is the most critical messaging time of all. And, like I’ve said in the past, when we talk about ideas, we conservatives win.
Read more ..

Broken Borders

Starting All Over in Immigration Reform

October 31st 2012

US Border Patrol arrest

What do Americans really think about immigrants?
Consider the case of Sgt. Dan Zapalski. As he prepared to go into battle, his colonel berated him for acting like a "fathead Pollack ... typical of all stupid, emotional, first-generation Americans -- impractical, burdensome and unreasonable." What ticked off the colonel was Zapalski's refusal to be left behind. A leg wound suffered during the Normandy invasion had left him unfit for duty, but Zapalski didn't care. He wanted to go anyway.

The colonel begged the sergeant to think of his widowed, immigrant mother: What would she do if she lost her son?"I pointed out that my widowed mother was proof of why I was obligated to go," Zapalski recalled in "September Hope," John McManus' book about World War II's Operation Market Garden. "[T]he principal reason being the debt to my country for taking care of her and giving her the opportunity to raise three kids without much trouble." Read more ..


The Obama Edge

The Benghazi Scandal Will Not Go Away

October 31st 2012

Nonie Darwish headshot

Americans need answers as to why the Obama administration had no response to the eight-hour terror attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and who was involved in the decision not to go to their aid despite their repeated requests for help. And why is the producer of the "Innocence of Muslims" video still in a California jail cell, allegedly for violating his parole, while none of the people who refused to rescue Ambassador Christopher Stevens and these immensely courageous former Navy SEALS has been even been named and charged with negligent homicide, or even reckless endangerment?

From the Muslim world's viewpoint, the Obama administration's behavior makes perfect sense: The Muslim world is used to, and expects, victims of terror not to act. It is an unforgivable violation of Sharia law for non-Muslims to fight back against jihadi assaults. As Muslims interpret such passivity, those who want to appease the Muslim world and its Sharia law are expected to freeze when faced with Islamic terror -- freezing is the only acceptable response. Read more ..


Media on Edge

The Haaretz Poll Travesty, NIF Funding, and the Durban Strategy

October 31st 2012

Haaretz

There is now broad agreement in Israel that the pseudo-poll and headline published by Haaretz on Oct. 23 (“Majority of Israelis support apartheid regime in Israel”) was a mistake, to understate the case.

Haaretz published a correction (albeit a brief note on page 5, rather than as a major headline, as was the case for the original poll). Gideon Levy published a half-hearted retraction or explanation that primarily served to signal that even he, a hard-core warrior, realized the error. In columns and talk shows across the Israeli spectrum, the manipulative methodology and shallow questions were dissected.

However, a great deal of damage has been done outside Israel, where this farce was used to further the campaign of anti-Israel political warfare and demonization. The Guardian Independent, the Globe and Mail (Toronto) and the Sydney Morning Herald ran the story accompanied by headlines as misleading as that of the original Haaretz piece: “Many Israelis support apartheid-style state, poll suggests” and “The new Israeli apartheid.” Read more ..


America on Edge

State and Federal Disaster Relief: Expect the Best But Prepare for the Worst?

October 30th 2012

Hurricane Sandy Lashes Ocean City

As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, it seems like an opportune time to revisit federal disaster relief. Even in an election year, this may be one of those rare topics where most Americans can agree. There is a strong argument for the federal government serving as a backstop against risk, and pitching in when natural and human induced catastrophes outstrip local capacities to respond.

The current federal disaster response system dates to the mid-20th century. Before that, Congress responded to floods, earthquakes, and fires on an ad hoc basis - usually by passing specific legislation authorizing the purchase and distribution of aid. (This legislation was not always popular: President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill providing drought assistance to Texas. Backing him was Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, who thought local and private actors had the situation well in hand.) Read more ..


Myanmar on Edge

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Where Is Suu Kyi?

October 30th 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi

Over the past week, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State, in the western part of Myanmar, has flared up badly once again. According to reports in local media and the news wires, over the past seven days at least sixty —and as many as one hundred— people have been killed in clashes. The local security forces allegedly have been firing on some crowds, and other reports suggest that the refugee camps set up for Muslims in the area have already become so overcrowded that they can no longer hold new arrivals.

The cause of the new violence is very murky, with reports and rumors suggesting that some local activists, or even the security forces, have been triggering the clashes in order to lead to a crackdown on Muslims. Other reports suggest that some local fights between young men sparked the violence.

But amidst the murkiness and the chaos, a larger question has arisen: Who in Myanmar’s leadership is going to take a serious, progressive approach to solving this ethnic tension? Though President Thein Sein has passed laudable economic and political reforms, his government has been mostly silent on the violence in Rakhine state, refusing to allow the Organization of the Islamic Conference to open offices to help investigate and potentially resolve the violence. It remains unclear whether the security forces are directly involved in the violence, and whether Thein Sein has tried to restrain local commanders, or even has total control over them. Read more ..


Palestine on Edge

Washington's Failure to Rein in UNRWA

October 30th 2012

UNRWA Refugee Camp

General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11, 1948, offers two options, repatriation and resettlement, to achieve the reintegration of the Palestinian Arab refugees "into the economic life of the Near East." Yet, U.S. Department of State documents from 1949 through the early 1950s reveal that despite the lip service paid to repatriation, Washington and its allies effectively equated reintegration with the resettlement of the refugees in the neighboring Arab states.

Historical Context
Economic development has been viewed by successive U.S. administrations as the key to integrating regions and peoples, and since the 1930s, their vision of this endeavor was largely modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.

Created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1933, the TVA was conceived as a regional economic development agency. It was tasked with responsibilities for flood control, electrification, reforestation, fertilizer production, agricultural education, and river navigation throughout the Tennessee Valley, an area that includes the state of Tennessee, parts of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and smaller portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. Read more ..



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