Presidential hopefuls are nearly universally mocked for their non-committal prior to their official announcements. Stephen Colbert, famed for his tongue-in-cheek runs for the White House in 2008 and 2012, began his first campaign with the firm declaration that “I, Stephen Colbert, am officially announcing, that I am officially considering whether or not I will announce that I am running for President of the United States.”
Tag Archives | Dick Cheney
“There is still the possibility of a peaceful transition within Ukraine, but it’s going to require the government, in particular, to actively seek that peaceful transition.” – President Obama
When the EU mediated a deal between the opposition and the government, I thought Yanukovich had dodged the bullet. Not quite. In parsing the circumstances of Yanukovich’s downfall, it is interesting to look for the machinations of Victoria Nuland, the State Department neo-con (wife of Robert Kagan) who was apparently given a free hand in matters Ukrainian by President Obama
Consider this. The background of Nuland’s notorious “F— the EU” audio was her feeling that the EU was insufficiently confrontational with the Ukranian government, especially on the issue of sanctions. As to what “sufficiently confrontational” might look like, consider this AFP report from back in January that showed up in the Yahoo! Sports feed, since its subject, R. Akhmetov, is the owner of Ukraine’s most successful football outfit:
“Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, in remarks published Sunday, that he expected his country to be playing a more assertive security role throughout ‘the entire world’ — and have a new constitution to back this ambition.” – Maxim Kniazkov, Agence France-Presse
Punch line is, this AFP article is datelined April 22, 2007, during Abe’s brief, first prime ministership. In 2007 PRC “assertiveness” was not on the table. In fact, at that time the George W. Bush administration was looking forlornly for the PRC’s help on the intractable North Korean issue. The problem, in other words, was not that China wasn’t being “assertive”; it was that the PRC was being insufficiently “assertive” in stepping up on the world stage and shouldering its “responsible stakeholder” obligations, a phrase that has rather ironically evaporated from the State Department’s China-bashing lexicon in recent years.
Without an easily exploitable China menace, Prime Minister Abe, in order to peddle his constitutional revision nostrums and enable the projection of Japanese power beyond the nation’s boundaries, had to lean on the relatively slender reeds of the a) the North Korean menace b) global terrorism.
“So there should not be a shred of doubt by now…When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” – President Obama, address to AIPAC
Is Israel really planning to attack Iran, or are declarations about the possibility of a pre-emptive strike at Teheran’s nuclear program simply bombast? Does President Obama’s “we have your back” comment about Israel mean the U.S. will join an assault? What happens if the attack doesn’t accomplish its goals, an outcome predicted by virtually every military analyst? In that case, might the Israelis, facing a long, drawn out war, resort to the unthinkable: nuclear weapons? Such questions almost seem bizarre at a time when Iran and negotiators from the P5+1—the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany—appear to be making progress at resolving the dispute over Teheran’s nuclear program. And yet the very fact that a negotiated settlement seems possible may be the trigger for yet another war in the Middle East.
A dangerous new alliance is forming in the region, joining Israel with Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, thus merging the almost bottomless wealth of the Arab oil kings with the powerful and sophisticated Israeli army. Divided by religion and history, this confederacy of strange bedfellows is united by its implacable hostility to Iran. Reducing tensions is an anathema to those who want to isolate Teheran and dream of war as a midwife for regime change in Iran. How serious this drive toward war is depends on how you interpret several closely related events over the past three months.
In the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula the Obama administration is virtually repeating the 2004 Bush playbook, one that derailed a successful diplomatic agreement forged by the Clinton administration to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. While the acute tensions of the past month appear to be receding—all of the parties involved seem to be taking a step back— the problem is not going to disappear and, unless Washington and its allies re-examine their strategy, another crisis is certain to develop.
A little history. In the spring of 1994, the Clinton administration came very close to a war with North Korea over Pyongyang’s threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expel international inspectors, and extract plutonium from reactor fuel rods. Washington moved to beef up its military in South Korea, and, according to Fred Kaplan in the Washington Monthly, there were plans to bomb the Yongbyon reactor. Kaplan is Slate Magazine’s War Stories columnist and author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. “Yet at the same time,” writes Kaplan, “Clinton set up a diplomatic back-channel to end the crisis peacefully.” Former President Jimmy Carter was sent to the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea (DPRK) and the Agreed Framework pact was signed, allowing the parties to back off without losing face.
In return for shipping their fuel rods out of the country, the U.S., South Korea and Japan agreed to finance two light-water nuclear reactors, normalize diplomatic relations, and supply the DPRK with fuel. The U.S. pledged not to invade the North. “Initially, North Korea kept to its side of the bargain,” say Kaplan, “The same cannot be said for our side.” The reactors were never funded and diplomatic relations went into a deep freeze. From North Korea’s point of view, it had been stiffed, and it reacted with public bombast and a secret deal with Pakistan to exchange missile technology for centrifuges to make nuclear fuel.
Following the disclosure that Al Qaeda detainees provided information that lead to Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the debate over the effectiveness of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding has largely fallen along partisan lines.
One side of the debate reflects former Bush administration officials who are arguing that “advanced interrogation” methods lead to Osama bin Laden while on the other side, Democrats and some Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) are arguing that diligence by the intelligence community and detainees who were not subjected to waterboarding and other methods of torture provided the intelligence community with information that lead to Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.
“I would assume that the enhanced interrogation program that we put in place produced some of the results that led to bin Laden’s ultimate capture,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News. Other former Bush administration officials are also perpetuating this argument. “According to anonymous government sources quoted in the press today, it was the interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders that led to the identification of the courier, who led us to bin Laden’s hiding place. Reports suggest that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself may have given up the identity of the courier,” wrote John Yoo, a former Justice Department official in the Bush administration, in the National Review.
Ambassador John Bolton was one of two speaker at this years CPAC meeting to offer any substantative details on Egypt.
His speech largely reflected the typical line of attack on President Obama and his administration’s foreign policy. Bolton suggested that Obama is ignoring the dangers posed by the Muslim Brotherhood should they be included in a future Egyptian government. Bolton has essentially ignored the reality that the Muslim Brotherhood will most likely be represented in the future government. While John Bolton’s chances of securing the nomination are nil he implored the conservative audience to “work to return national security to the center of our political debate over the next two years, and thereby help to make Barack Obama a one-term president.”
With the exception of Ron Paul’s advocacy for an isolationist foreign policy the GOP largely avoided any mention of Egypt or what their individual visions of America’s foreign policy would be under their watches. According to Rep. Paul “We need to do a lot less, a lot sooner, not only in Egypt but around the world…they’re upset with us for propping up that puppet dictator for 30 years.” The presumed front-runners at CPAC missed an important opportunity. By ignoring the realities unfolding in the Arab world they are portraying a GOP that largely agrees with how Obama has handled his first foreign policy crises. They are essentially ceding the ground to the president and allowing him to drive the overall narrative.