4/27/14

In my previous blog I wrote that President Obama’s wrong policies managed to dismantle the deterrence power of the U.S. and as a result, the U.S. lost its superpower status. So what are the real life consequences of that? Here’s a quick summary of where we are in the world:

Russia/Ukraine and why does it matter? 

The situation in Ukraine is well known and does not need repeating here. It is, however, important to cover the following:

  • The near future. My prediction is that over the next few months Putin will get what he wants, one way or another. He will regain full operational control of, at the very least, those parts of Eastern Ukraine and Southern Ukraine that he desires. He will regain that by force, by cunning, by subversion, or most probably a combination of all three.
  • No military option. The mantra by more or less everyone is that the U.S. has no military option in this conflict. The president clearly states so. Except that of course it has a military option. What military option did the U.S. have in Kuwait in 1990–1991? None. So it created one. What military option did the U.S. have in the Bosnia conflict or the Serbia situation in the late 1990s? None. It created it. In Afghanistan? Here, too, the U.S. could have been much more forceful. Move significant NATO troops into Ukraine. Not to the border with Russia but into Ukraine. Provide massive air support via both land bases in Europe and an aircraft carrier group or two. Provide the Ukrainian military intelligence, communication, and logistical support, as well as sophisticated and modern arms. Probably even some limited special forces assistance in clearing the so called “local” Russian supports in east Ukraine. Such moves would have made it clear to Putin that he cannot continue on his plan with impunity.
  • Generally speaking the notion that gradual escalation in the response, the “additional costs” strategy espoused by the administration (another administration invented “term” to describe a lackluster response to military aggression), will work best is nonsense. If you want to stop a bully you immediately face him with the strongest and most ferocious response you can master. That will cause him to think twice and possibly seek to withdraw or negotiate a settlement. The gradual response just makes him want to pursue his goal until the “cost” reaches a level that will hurt him. By then he will be in a much better position to negotiate a favorable outcome. For instance, does anyone even talk about Crimea anymore?
  • It is Bush’s fault. Many in the media egged on by administration officials are seriously trying to lay the blame for what is happening now at President Bush for his supposed failure to handle Russia’s Georgia incursion. I do not want to get into the details of why this is a rouse and not even credible. Suffice it to say that this happened in the last FOUR MONTHS of Bush’s presidency and it was SIX YEARS ago. What did Obama do to confront Russia on Georgia? The “Reset”?
  • A lot of the blame in the media here is laid at the feet of European leaders. That is another diversion and an effort to protect Obama by the media, which is submissive and slavish to this administration. But that is ridiculous. Europe never was and cannot today be the leader when it comes to Russia or any other major world conflict. It needs to be led. Clinton bombed Serbia without any European support to start with other than the UK. Bush Senior launched the operation to free Kuwait with again no initial support from Europe other than the UK. If Obama were a leader, he would have certainly commanded the full support of Europe on the Ukrainian issue.
  • Why does it all matter? This is probably the most misunderstood issue in this entire debacle. Ukraine is fairy important in the context of Europe. But it is not about Ukraine. It is about the Baltic States, it is about the Senkaku Islands (see below), it is about Taiwan, it is about the Middle East, it is about the world as we know and want it to be.

What will the U.S. do if Russia attacks one of the Baltic countries? And why do these tiny, really insignificant countries matter more than the huge Ukraine? What will the U.S. do if China attacks Taiwan? One could superficially say that the U.S. will react then because it has treaties with the Baltic countries as they are part of NATO. It also has a treaty with Taiwan. But then it also has a treaty with Ukraine! Why can the U.S. breach its clear obligation under the treaty it has with Ukraine but maintain credibility in the eyes of both allies and adversaries that it will keep other treaty obligations? Because the treaty with Ukraine is called a “Memorandum” and not a treaty (the Budapest Memorandum)? Nonsense. The answer to the question “Why does it all matter?” is that it is NOT about Ukraine. It is ALL about the U.S. and its credibility as the protector and guarantor of freedom, human rights, prosperity, and democracy. It is about everything. It is about our way of life.

China

The biggest fallout from the president’s weak posture in geopolitics will be in the Far East. Where China is the emerging threat, the only possible world Superpower-to-be. China can clearly see the weakness of the U.S. and will take advantage of it. It is obvious that they will become much more aggressive in relation to the various islands’ disputes it has with Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and others. These disputes sound anachronistic as none of these islands are habitable and they are each the size of a postage stamp, but they convey control of the South and East China Sea via the rules of the Exclusive Economic Zone, thus providing China (or whoever control these islands) with very important mineral and fishing economic value.

China can take it a step further by pressuring Taiwan to succumb to its bear hug. It will not necessarily need to use military force; it is enough that it will threaten and hint at it. Given the state of world affairs and the weakness of the U.S. what would Taiwan leaders do? Risk a military confrontation with China knowing that the U.S. defaults on its agreements and has no will to get involved in a military conflict with China?

Where is the “military option” in the Taiwan case? Is it any better than in Ukraine? Ukraine is on the border of many NATO states. Twain is an island very close to China’s mainland. One can say that Taiwan has a treaty with the U.S. and that should assure them of the U.S.’s support, but Ukraine had a treaty with U.S. too. So what would you do if the Chinese come bearing gifts in the one hand and threats in the other hand?

Next in line could be Korea. You may think that this is far-fetched but not really. What if China is the architect of a “unification” of the two Koreas, a declared goal of both South Korea and the U.S., but on China’s terms, which will involve the unified country being very much under the control of China as the north is right now? Again, who will have the courage to resist such a powerful country like China, given where the U.S. is?

China will need to decide if they want to use the next two and a half years to make such huge strategic gains. I predict with a high level of confidence that at the very least that they will be even more aggressive on the island disputes and that they will make serious progress in reclaiming Taiwan. They need to take advantage of the weakness of the U.S. while it lasts.

Korea is a bit longer-term adventure but cannot be ignored. At what stage will they miscalculate and wake up the American giant? That is not clear to me. But it will not happen on Obama’s watch because he will just refuse to act, no matter how aggressive the Chinese become.

North Korea

The notion that North Korea is a threat on its own is simply baseless. Anyone who really believes that there is ever a risk of NK doing something serious on its own is naïve and a fool. The only risk from NK is that they are a tool for China—a tool to be used at the right time to create a diversion, to open another front, and to make serious trouble for the U.S. China has full control of NK and could have long ago resolved the terrible situation there if it did not have a clear interest of allowing this devastating tragedy to continue exactly for that purpose—being a weapon to keep attention away from China.

Another naïve idea is that sanctions can bring NK to a negotiation table. How naïve can one be? First of all china is not adhering to the existing sanctions on NK, so no matter how many more sanctions are put on NK, China will keep breaking them. But in any case there is not one instance in the world where sanctions worked on a totalitarian regime. Some people will say Iran but Iran is actually the proof that sanctions do not work, as I write below. So one can add sanctions to president Obama’s useless tool kit. Of course his belief in those is second only to his belief in his power of convincing people, facts notwithstanding.

Iran

Ayatollah Khamenei must be laughing loudly. He is probably thanking his god. Could he ever be in a better situation? The stupid, amateurish, and naïve American administration has just agreed to an official crack-in-the-wall of the sanction dam. We all know what happens to the dam after that and there is no child to put his finger in the crack. The sanction regime is collapsing. Reinstating it to the level that it was before the so-called joint agreement will be difficult. To impose more stringent sanctions—impossible. So he now has the time to slowly and methodically finish his nuclear weapons strategy. The uranium enrichment cycle has already been mastered by Iran. The only thing they need now is the ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear head. Once they have that they will announce to the world that they are a nuclear weapon country and will become much more aggressive in their quest to achieve hegemony over the Middle East and through that oil-rich region over the world. There is nothing to stop him now. He is clearly not afraid of an American military action. Is there anyone who believes that this president will take military action? Given its general posture enhanced by the total failure on all other fronts it is clear that the U.S. is desperate, indeed frantic, to achieve “success” in the current round of negotiations. It is patently clear that whether or not the negotiations are DECLARED successful, Iran’s nuclear weapons march will continue.

Syria

Although in terms of world geopolitics Syria is not very important, what is happening there is the clearest example of the disdain and contempt felt by all of the U.S.’s adversaries toward the current American administration. Not only are the killings continuing and reaching probably 150,000 people or more, not only is this the largest human catastrophe of the last 50 years with 6 million refugees and people removed from their homes, not only is Assad still in power 2 years after this president declared that Assad lost his legitimacy and “cannot stay in power,” not only is he winning the war and about to be “elected” for another seven-year term, if all of that is not enough . . . the Syrians just used chemical weapons again against the rebels. This is tantamount to spitting in the face of the U.S. The action from the U.S.? They are still investigating. Maybe we should send the CSI team there…

Europe

Many in the media are laying the blame for Ukraine at least equally on the shoulder of European leaders. That is misplaced. If this was a game between two teams, team Obama and team Putin, who would you bet on? Why do we expect European leaders to step ahead or even in lockstep with this president who shunned them on so many occasions, who made it clear that he is not willing to risk anything on this matter and whose words, promises, and threats are consistently broken? The total lack of leadership demonstrated by this president is the prevailing reason why European leaders and their public are unwilling to step forward and cross Putin.

 Turkey

As I wrote once before, Turkey is becoming unhinged more and more and a problem for the West. Turkey is a member of NATO and its rogue policies and close ties with China, Iran, and Muslim Brotherhood factions are becoming an issue for the West. Erdogan is slowly edging in the direction of becoming a totalitarian ruler. Accusations of U.S.-led conspiracies against Turkey are ripe by his ruling party. This is not looking good. Things are likely to get worse.

Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

This is another predictable failure, another total waste of time by the U.S. administration. Another show of how inept and lacking understanding of how the world works. Was there really ANY chance for these talks to succeed? I and many others said from the beginning that the probability of success is zero. Not close to zero, but zero. This conflict is very entrenched and until the world will open its eyes and start being realistic about it, it will never be resolved. Certainly not when the Middle East is in a total upheaval and when the US has absconded from the Middle East. The only way to make peace between Israel and Palestine is to make it clear to the Palestinians that unless they make the necessary, and very basic, concessions to Israel, such as the basic demand that they will recognize it as an independent Jewish majority state living in peace in the Middle East, until they do that the world will stop supporting them. Once the Palestinians understand that they have NO other options they will come to the table. But not until then. As long as they are given the red carpet treatment by Arab nations, UN, EU, and even U.S. they will never compromise. They have no incentive to do that. Their leaders like things as they are. They do not care about the suffering of their people. Actually they use it for their own personal aggrandizement. As I predicted the U.S. did try to lay the blame on Israel for the failure of the negotiations and Israel did give them a thread to use in order to do that. Fortunately the Palestinians were egregiously at fault and thus the best we can get from this disingenuous administration is that both parties were unhelpful. It is the corrosive language of moral equivalency between one party that has been very good but less than perfect, Israel, and another party that is 90 percent at fault for the failure.

Middle East

The Middle East is in turmoil. The Arab spring was a huge opportunity, the ground for which was laid out by President’s Bush policies, that was lost by this bungling administration. Syria was a great opportunity lost by this fatuous administration. Egypt, Saudi and Iraq, all opportunities that this administration missed and culminating, of course, with the biggest threat of them all- Iran. Needless to say this administration is in the process of making a huge mistake in the case of Iran. The Middle East still has disproportionate importance in world affairs, due to the concentration of energy resources and due to it being the frontier in the Clash of Civilizations. The U.S. abdication of its superpower status here in particular will probably cause, at the very least, a regional war soon and that just may ignite a more serious conflict.

The New Axis of Evil

President Reagan called the USSR the Evil Empire. He was right and he created a coalition to deter and beat that empire. President Bush called Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the Axis of Evil. He was right, too, but failed in his mission to beat this axis. He was close but lacked Reagan’s leadership abilities to take the people with him. Once Bush lost the people he lost the war. Of course the original Axis was the German-Japanese one in WWII. I believe that the current Axis of Evil is led by Iran. There is just no doubt in my mind that they have seriously nefarious intentions for the Western world and its values. I think that Russia and China will each do their thing in their region to create dominance for themselves. At some stage these three will join forces to beat the West and its standard bearer, the U.S., to submission. That is when the U.S. will be able to ignore it no more.

President Obama came to power promising to make the U.S. more liked in the world. He naïvely thought that being liked is A) important and B) possible. It is neither. A strong leading country like the U.S. can never be liked by other countries (as opposed to people). It can be either respected, at times even admired, or disdained. Respect encompasses a touch of fear. It is not ONLY fear but you cannot have respect toward a country you do not fear.

There is simply nowhere in the world where Obama managed to achieve what he promised. Indeed, as in so many of his misguided polices on any subject, he did manage to achieve the exact reverse. The U.S. today is less respected, or even not respected at all in EVERY part of the world. You name it and it is so. Add to the above main areas of conflict: Brazil whose leader spurned Obama’s begging to come to a state visit to Washington ostensibly due to the spurious excuse of the Snowden affair; and India where diplomatic relations are at an unprecedented low due to another bogus affair and will get worse if, as expected, the new prime minster is Narendra Modi who has a very tense relationship with Washington. Then there’s Africa where in Nigeria the radical Islamists are gaining power, and South Africa, which is hedging its bets vis-à-vis Russia and China, and who can blame them for it? And on and on and on.

What a pitiful state of affairs.

I am dismayed.