Articles by John Lyman:
May 11, 2013 by John Lyman
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime…that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”
– President Barack Obama, August 20, 2012
There is mounting evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has deployed a limited amount of chemical agents against the rebels who are trying to depose the beleaguered Syrian president. Israel, the UK and now the U.S. intelligence community have asserted that Assad has used chemical weapons against Syrian insurgents.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the White House notes, “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.” Hawkish US lawmakers jumped at the White House’s statement that Obama’s “red line” had indeed been crossed and that a more robust policy must be implemented. The inherent dilemma faced by conservative lawmakers is that public support for U.S. involvement hovers around 20 percent, so they have been noticeably vague about what that involvement entails.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee said on ABC’s “This Week” that “some action needs to be taken” against Assad’s government for its alleged deployment of chemical weapons. Rogers emphasized, the Obama administration’s red line “can’t be a dotted line.”
March 31, 2013 by John Lyman
Like his father, Kim Jong-Un is best compared to a bellicose 13-year old child who stomps his feet and makes a fuss until he gets his way. Unlike an ordinary child, this one’s tantrums come with high stakes. The young Mr. Kim has now taken his game of chicken as far as it can go without actually pulling the trigger. The series of exchanges and threats are indeed worrisome for Washington and its allies; China, Japan, South Korea and the United States are taking it all seriously. Is Kim Jong-Un dumb enough to actually follow through?
According to a statement released by state-run KCNA, North Korea has stated that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea. “Situations on the Korean Peninsula, which are neither in peace or at war, have come to an end,” the statement read. “From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.”
March 21, 2013 by John Lyman
Harrison Ford, best known for his roles playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones waded in on the need for conservation. In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan, Ford, sitting alongside Peter Seligmann of Conservation International explained in very simple terms the urgent need to invest in conservation. Seligmann went on to explain that overfishing led to the rise of Somali pirates as just one example. “It’s a lot cheaper to intervene before it becomes a national security issue,” Ford explained. “Every dollar that we spend on international conservation comes back to us.”
Ford much like Ben Affleck and his campaign to focus attention on Africa’s Congo region and other celebrities are using their star power to highlight problem areas in the world.
March 17, 2013 by John Lyman
North Korea, the recalcitrant hermit kingdom, has decided yet again that the international community is ignoring it. Pyongyang has voided the 1953 Korean armistice and warned that it will launch a nuclear attack on the United States as U.S.-South Korean military exercises involving 3,000 American and 10,000 South Korean soldiers began earlier this month.
Exactly how Pyongyang plans to launch a nuclear salvo on the United States is still unclear and whether it has the capacity is questionable. Most North Korea watchers remain doubtful that the belligerent nation has the technical means to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States. This does not, however, undermine the seriousness of the threat nor detract from North Korea’s intentions to up the ante.
Already, Pyongyang has severed communications with South Korea and launched a propaganda campaign designed to seek out concessions from the United States while at the same time bolstering the credentials of Kim Jong-Un among North Koreans and the country’s military establishment.
March 15, 2013 by John Lyman
The film Argo has its problems. First it came under criticism for historical inaccuracies and in particular for not giving enough credit to Canada which director and star, Ben Affleck addressed during interviews and at awards shows. Second, the opening sequence was perhaps a little one sided. But with that said, Argo worked on a number of levels. With news that Iran is considering suing Hollywood over the depiction of Iranians during the period of the hostage crisis, the obvious question is whether Iran needs to realize that Hollywood is in the business of making money and winning awards, which it did with Argo. The overhyped and stylized violence depicted in the film is one way of drawing audiences. How exactly Iran plans on pursuing a lawsuit remains to be seen. Iran’s displeasure over the film follows a long line of perceived slights to the Iranian Republic.
While Tehran is undoubtedly unhappy over the portrayal of Iranians during the 1979 revolution, it wasn’t exactly a bloodless revolution and Argo attempted to show some aspect of the ensuing bloodshed. While the Shah escaped what would have certainly led to his execution, estimates range from several hundred to several thousand killed by the new Islamic government.
March 14, 2013 by John Lyman
Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai would like the world to perceive him otherwise, Karzai finds himself in an untenable position. As the U.S. prepares to withdraw the majority of its remaining troops, the country’s security forces remain woefully unprepared to assume responsibility for the country’s security, corruption remains endemic, and many observers admit that Afghanistan is in reality little better off today than it was when Karzai assumed power in 2004. With his leadership slated to end next year, there is little reason to believe that his successor will do any better in meaningfully addressing Afghanistan’s plethora of problems.
Hamid Karzai has never hesitated to challenge the U.S. publically, whether for a domestic or international audience, but the pace at which he is forcefully challenging the U.S. now is unprecedented. Equating the U.S. with the Taliban as forces working to undermine the government really is over the top, particularly given the tremendous resources the U.S. has provided to Karzai’s government over the past decade – and that he owes his position, as well as any progress that has been made to date – to the U.S. It is a little late to be attempting to change his image as “America’s Man”. We find ourselves wondering why he would be trying to do so in the first place. His legacy is clear to all. No pandering to domestic political interests is going to change that.
March 8, 2013 by John Lyman
“If we don’t run Chris Christie, Mitt Romney will be the nominee and we will lose.”
– Ann Coulter, speaking at CPAC in 2011
The fortieth Conservative Political Action Conference begins Thursday amidst growing questions about its relevance. One ominous sign has been the fracas over invites or lack thereof, both this year and last, to particular groups and individuals to participate in the convention. This controversy has been front and center in large part due to the declining stock of the Republican brand among the U.S. electorate.
Under the leadership of Texas lobbyist Al Cardenas, the conference has grown. However, attendance was already growing; David Keene, now of the National Rifle Association presided over a continuous growth in conferees despite allegations of mismanagement prior to Cardenas’ takeover. This steady growth in attendance has resulted in the second change of venue for the gathering in five years, abandoning the convenience of Northwest Washington, D.C. for the National Harbor development south of the capital in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Yet, despite its growth, the once consequential gathering of conservative activists from across the United States appears by some accounts to be stuck in the past.
March 6, 2013 by John Lyman
The news of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s death understandably made headlines across the world. Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday after a long fight against cancer. In his place, Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency until new national elections are held.
To Chávez’s credit or detriment, he stirred opinion across the political spectrum. Following Chávez’s death, Venezuela has announced a week of mourning. Chávez died at the age of 58 after 14 years serving as Venezuela’s president. Thousands of Venezuelans poured onto the streets to grieve his passing. As Chávez’s body was being transported to the Military Academy, thousands came out to greet the procession. As expected, his fellow leaders began arriving in the country’s capital, Caracas, to pay their respects. Among them, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a staunch ally of Chávez, described him as a “martyr” and announced a day of mourning throughout Iran. In announcing that Hugo Chávez had died, Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to be “dignified heirs of the giant man.”
January 28, 2013 by John Lyman
One of the fundamental reasons why comprehensive gun control legislation is unlikely to pass this year or for that matter ever is the passion Americans have for guns. Pro-Second Amendment folks and gun control advocates fundamentally disagree about what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Second Amendment.
Per any article on guns and especially one titled, “Obama a Skeet Shooter? President Asks Gun Control Advocates to Listen More” the user comments section is perhaps the best gauge about the prospects of having a reasonable gun control debate this year.
Below are some of the more enlightened user comments. Out of the nearly 200 user comments most track towards civility which is a good trend.
January 20, 2013 by John Lyman
“The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same…By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change, but this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s the beginning.”
– President Barack Obama, Feb. 11, 2011
Uprising depicts the Egyptian people’s deposition of Egypt’s brutal dictator Hosni Mubarak, a quasi-military leader who for thirty years kept the country under emergency law and who was responsible for many deaths and disappearances.
Egyptian citizens’ peaceful and effective protest against Mubarak’s injustice is a pure example of Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha. (In Egypt’s case – it was on a nearly unthinkable scale – 20 million people took to the streets in protest.)
January 7, 2013 by John Lyman
“Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history.”
– Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Over protests from some Senate Republicans, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will be nominated as Secretary of Defense. Upon reading various opinion pieces on a Hagel nomination one gets the impression that the gates of Hell will open should the nomination occur. They won’t and U.S. foreign policy will continue more or less along the same trajectory under his leadership at the Pentagon. In other words, the United States will continue to be a staunch ally of Israel despite the impression given by Hagel’s opponents that he’s anti-Israel.
December 15, 2012 by John Lyman
While the Obama administration has for many months stressed the need to give diplomacy another chance to work in Syria, the administration has now decided that if Assad were to employ his vast chemical weapons stockpile against the rebels, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene in the nearly two-year old conflict. Fears about the potential fallout of the demise of the Assad regime are running high, as a post-Assad Syria could likely degenerate into a sectarian civil war that would make Iraq look like a picnic, given the complex religious and ethic fabric of Syrian society.
With the rebels making significant advances throughout Syria, and inching closer to the heart of Damascus, the fear is that Assad could launch chemical weapon attacks against rebel positions in a bid to halt their advance. Employing chemical weapons is not a precision game – numerous factors would impact the success or failure of their use, including prevailing winds. Collateral damage would likely be immeasurable, essentially constituting mass murder on a scale not witnessed in decades. Assad could be using the threat of chemical weapons as a bargaining chip to secure more preferential terms, should he decide to flee – which is becoming increasingly likely.
November 30, 2012 by John Lyman
In light of Susan Rice’s less-than stellar coming out party as a possible nominee to replace Hillary Clinton at State, the Obama administration would do well to find a consensus candidate. Among those mentioned, the one that seems the most obvious is Jon Huntsman, Obama’s former ambassador to China until he stepped down to run for the GOP presidential nomination only to come in 3rd in New Hampshire. Al Gore, the soon to be former Sen. Richard Lugar, Colin Powell and a smattering of other former policymakers and politicos have also been mentioned as possible nominees to replace Clinton.
November 28, 2012 by John Lyman
The likelihood of a quick confirmation hearing in the Senate vanished following a sit-down between Ambassador Susan Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell on Capitol Hill with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The meeting was an attempt to address any concerns the lawmakers had about Ambassador Rice and to insure that her confirmation hearing would be less bruising. That attempt, according to interviews given after the meeting by McCain, Graham and Ayotte, was not successful.
November 12, 2012 by John Lyman
Regardless of which political party occupies the White House, American presidents are allowed a certain degree of latitude on foreign policy, where initiatives are not as constrained by Congressional oversight in comparison to the nation’s domestic issues. The absence of comprehensive oversight does not provide any Commander-in-Chief a blank check, however. Given the current chill between Moscow and Washington, we expect to see limited progress on the issues that confront both nations during Obama’s second term.
The Obama administration needs to find a way to refocus both nations’ policy interests, but it remains unclear how the United States will be able to achieve this objective. Should Washington create security guarantees with Moscow in order to diminish uncertainty? Or should the missile defense shield continue as planned to protect its European allies? Can common ground be found with NATO’s objectives, on Iran and on Syria? Or is it the responsibility of the Obama administration to plot a new course – sans Russia – without completely alienating the Kremlin from possible cooperation?