Wednesday, January 28, 2009

USA & Russia – In Love Again?

Does the US and Russian agreement to transship so-called non-lethal military goods through Russia and Central Asia to Afghanistan signal another detente? Recent Russian US relations have been tense over Russian military intervention in Georgia and the US effort to extend NATO along Russian borders to include missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland. So this recent cooperation in the form of a 20 January agreement this year comes as a surprise.

The fact the agreement was signed on the day Obama took power is not a coincidence. This was a good-bye kiss by the Russians for GW Bush who did not want to credit Bush for improved relations. Despite US stiff-upper-lip pronouncements to the contrary, the insurgent attacks on US supply lines that extend from the Pakistan seaport of Karachi overland through Pakistan across the the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan have been interdicted more and more effectively.

Hundreds of trucks loaded with supplies, humvees, and helicopter engines have been destroyed in Pakistani depots. Trucks moving through the Khyber Pass have been hit, sometimes halting supplies for days. Pakistani drivers have been threatened with death if they continue to move supplies for the US/NATO and subsequently refuse to drive. Logistics are the Achilles Heel to any extended military campaign; 75% of supplies to US/Nato Forces in Afghanistan go through Pakistan. Intended US build up of 30,000 troops makes this choke point even more dangerous.

Russians see an advantage to the agreement. They are concerned about the Taliban extending the insurgency into Central Asia and want to stem narcotics from Afghanistan. Central Asian countries and Russia will sell food, construction materials and fuel to the US and pump profitable trade into their sluggish economies. Now, Russia also has real leverage on the US to keep hands off the Ukraine, Georgia and Eastern Europe. The Russians also enjoy the fact that US/NATO, with forces pinned in Afghanistan, bleed and spend while they profit politically and economically.

This new logistic route has its own problems for the US besides the political costs. The route combines sea, rail and truck transport over longer distances than the current Pakistani route. It is more extended, more complicated as it involves several countries and is far more costly. The vulnerability of the cargo to attack is high in the north of Afghanistan as it must be moved by trucks from Central Asia. The Russians were never able to protect this supply route reliably when they fought and lost in Afghanistan.

If you must fight a foolish war in godforsaken Afghanistan, the best logistic route is through Iran, through the Iranian port of Chabahar located in the Gulf of Oman. It is the shortest route into the Afghan area of operations. Iran has a big interest in Afghanistan and has many bones to pick with the Taliban. Iranians assisted the US in the initial US attacks on Afghanistan, but GW Bush's war in Iraq stopped the US/Iranian cooperation against the Taliban.

Thirty percent of the Afghans are Tajiks and related to the Persian tribes. Sixteen per cent of the of the Afghan population is Shia. The Dari language is the lingua franca in Afghanistan and is closely related to the Farsi Persian dialects. Smart US policy and strategy is to work with Iran against the Taliban – a lot more intelligent than with the Pakistanis who have a vested interest in the Taliban success.

It has been rumored that Dennis Ross is being considered as a special envoy to Iran under the Obama special envoy system. If this is true, forget any rapprochement with Iran and the US. Ross is an American Jew who as a previous US envoy to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis was predictably unsuccessful finding a just peace – as the cofounder of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), what would one expect from him. It is the biggest pro-Israeli lobbyist group in the US; the fix was in.

Is it not strange that most US strategic problems always return to the US one-sided support of Israel. Last time I checked, Israel wanted to bomb Iran. If Ross gets the appointment, we know that Obama has learned little and it is business as usual in the Middle East... at least he did not send him back to negotiate with the Jews and Palestinians.

As far as the recent Russo/American marriage, it was one of convenience. The US paid a steep dowry to sleep with an ornery Russian bear. Colonel Robert E. Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Goes to Washington

Obama was finally inaugurated as US President against all odds. As a mulatto with almost no constituency in the beginning, he forged ahead with hard work, intelligence and the force of his own personality; he smashed the discredited Republican Party and took down the Clinton machine in the process. The irony, of course, is that with his transition team he has effectively reinstalled a Clinton machine; he is THE DECIDER, but has seeded his junta with people wedded to their own competitive agendas.

While most Americans want him desperately to succeed, his cabinet and staff appointments do not auger well for his ability to pick his main subordinates. And that leadership ability is key to any successful enterprise, whether governmental, business or military. This appears easy, but it is not. Sometimes loyalty and brains conflict to the boss's discomfort.

His ability to fire incompetent, insubordinate, or morally challenged members of his team remains to be tested. Whether he has the executive tool box to determine when these conditions exist, remains part of his unknown executive equation. By all standards, he conducted a next to flawless presidential campaign, but this success and ruling the country are two distinct operations. Take GW Bush as your latest example of succeeding in one sphere, but failing badly in the other.

He has had problems beginning in Chicago with petty conflicts with Illinois Governor Blagojevich over which he publicly had to back down. Bill Richardson was improperly vetted and forced to withdraw as Secretary of Commerce. He has selected a recently reformed tax dodger as his Treasury Secretary which has cast pall over his forthright approach to clean government. By Obama selecting Geithner, he erodes his leadership by example. But his biggest ticking time is Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – it is just a matter of time before her husband's escapades will damage his administration. His Attorney General selection, Eric Holder still suffers from moral turpitude for his role in Clinton's sleazy pardon of the fugitive Marc Rich.

Obama's national security staff especially has no change figuratively tattooed on their foreheads. The conventional wisdom is that there must be continuity in foreign policy. The last thing needed is to extend the self-destructive GW Bush/Neocon foreign policy. VEEP Biden, Hillary and Gates are certainly status quo proponents – they may change process, but not substance.

We will know soon if change is at hand; whether the Israelis put a ring in Obama's nose and whether the US will participate in the incarceration of Gaza. Israeli reps will soon be in Washington to replenish their basic load of ammunition, equipment and spare parts expended in the destruction in Gaza. Will the US again assent with no strings attached? Will the US pull all of its troops out of Iraq in 16 months? Will The US develop a more realistic policy in Afghanistan rather than just to reinforce failure with more troops? On all of the above, I remain skeptical, especially since he has chosen his national security team.

Obama enjoys big bang, big gang events. He has echoed Abe Lincoln in his inauguration; has duplicated Abe's train trip from Philadelphia to Washington, DC; made the Lincoln Memorial into a temple and lifts generously from Abe's speeches. He even took his oath on Lincoln's bible.

This is all presumptuous hoopla and should fade quickly... Obama ain't Abe by a long shot. For example, unlike Abe, he did not have to creep secretly into Washington for his first inauguration; he certainly did not have abolitionist John Brown at Harpers Ferry killing citizens; or pro-slavery Quantrill slaughtering people at Lawrence, Kansas. Most importantly, he is not faced with winning or losing a bloody civil war.

Right now Obama is a public relations one-pony show – an exceptional, inspirational orator. We will, however, watch hopefully whether he can take punches. The Reverend Wright embarrassment, sliming by Hillary, Palin and Bomb Bomb McCain were sweet caresses compared to perils he faces when his inauguration honeymoon is over.

As historians try to determine who was dumber, either GW Bush or the people who voted for him; and, as the English lexicon experts search for a new meaning to MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, Obama should be a sharp contrast. All America wishes him success. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GW Bush’s Last Tango

Seldom has the US been so eager to experience the departure of a president than that of GW Bush. He exits with two wars unfinished; an economy that is in ruin, with soaring unemployment; an international reputation trashed by unrepentant torture of captives; and a war on terror sapped by his bloody material and moral support of Israeli atrocities.

His main accomplishment claim stems from shame when he failed to intercept or prevent the 9/11 attacks. He is proud of the fact he prevented a second attack. So that is fine. Had he prevented the first instead of acting incompetently, there never could have been a second one. The Ghost of Gobbles must write his propaganda.

Most administrations have enough skill and cleverness to manage an exit from power, deferring untoward events until at least the first few months of the next administration. You remember President Bill Clinton deferred his magic bubble of the Dot Com explosion that temporarily stopped GW Bush in his tracks.

Inept GW Bush has left the US cratered with his failures with repercussions that the Obama administration has to confront immediately. GW Bush is escaping the consequences of his conduct under fire, under the rockets red glare. There is a creepy, almost loathsome quality as he and VEEP Cheney hit the TV talk shows in the final moments of their regime to try to revise history of their bungled rule. It is the last gasp of a lost administration – a pathetic spastic lurch for sympathy for failure.

Perhaps one of the permanent consequences of his administration is that it destroyed the Republican Party that stood for small government, strong local rule, private enterprise, fiscal sanity, and the importance of the individual over the collective. Whether you subscribe to these values or not, it was important that this philosophical choice remain viable. That the Republican Party became the party of state capitalism is more than even Vladmir Lenin had ever expected. As Obama becomes trapped by Bush's deep economic failures, he instinctively will turn more to state-sponsored socialist solutions.

Socialist countries seem to work where the populations are homogeneous; for example, in Scandinavia. USA is not homogeneous by a long shot. People are split sharply by income, race, nationality and religion; and the fissures run deep – Obama or no Obama. To reverse this socialist trend, once embedded, is almost impossible as FDR's legacy demonstrates. Obama will contribute to this acceleration, but foolish GW Bush was the game changer; he ironically used the traditional greed of the Republican Party as his instrument. Smarter Republican presidents at least regulated this greed and put money on the streets.

One has to give GW Bush credit for one thing. This week the NY TIMES reported that he refused to green-light the Israeli bombing of Iran with US support. Israel wanted bunker-busting bombs and over-flight permission across Iraq to bomb suspected Iranian nuclear sights. Bet the Pentagon vetoed the request. It understood that Iranian retaliation would have turned Iraq into battlefield Marne.

The most disgusting Parthian shot by GW Bush is the US role in the massacre of civilians in Gaza. As with the Israelis he believes one can conquer people who have nothing to lose. You can slaughter them, but not conquer them... Israeli atrocities in Gaza are conducted with US weapons, bullets and diplomatic support. Bush wants the people of Gaza to stop importing arms as a condition of a ceasefire while he continues to supply Israel without restraint.

Thus far after over two weeks of war, the Israelis have failed to stop Hamas rocket fire or drive into the heart of Gaza. Their urban warfare will turn Gaza into a Stalingrad graveyard.

The US and Israel are taking a public opinion beating over the events in Gaza as the world broadcasts film from Arab Al Jezzera; democratic Israeli prohibits foreign journalists to enter Gaza, so they dutifully report Israeli propaganda handouts that US news networks gleefully pass on uncritically. American Jewish TV media personalities slant the news further; just watch CNN Blitzer and Kurtz... MNBC Shuster and Gregory... FOX NEWS Kristol and Krauthammer... Their Zionist rallying cry is apparent – UNITY

At this writing over 900 Palestinians have been killed; 3000 wounded. Most of these are non-combatants including hundreds of children. Israelis claim they are destroying Hamas and the world will thank them for this in the end. This self-serving bleat sounds similar to the Nazi propaganda when Hitler was exterminating Jews in WWII.

What was NYC Mayor Bloomberg's rush to Israel on the news of their invasion into Gaza all about? This is unsettling. Does this mean it is okay for the mayor of Los Angeles to rush to Mexico if the country goes to War or the mayor of Miami to Havana under similar circumstances?

One of the most interesting recent exchanges occurred on CNN between Arab-advocate Zogby and Jewish promotor Dershowitz, also a famous defense attorney. As the exchange ended, Zogby told Dershowitz that he was good at defending guilty people.

Recently GW Bush has proclaimed himself a Type A personality. In my opinion this characterization diminishes this classification as it normally describes an accomplished person with a combination of fierce drive and brains. About the only drive the president exhibits is on his mountain bike. As for brains, the US would not be in its current pickle had he had any. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Blagojevich & Balkan Revelries

Where do I send my contribution to the Illinois governor Radomir Blagojevich's defense fund? Not that I have any doubt that the man is guilty of something, but he is not indicted, tried or convicted; I just want to pay for my ticket to watch this comic political opera, hopefully to continue to unfold.

Blago the Serb is a man of steel. When in trouble, he does not squeal like those evangelical TV bible preachers who weep publicly for forgiveness when confronted by their transgressions of the flesh; neither does he prostrate himself before the media on stage like those contrite squalid politicians standing with their stricken, embarrassed wives; nor does he try to hide from justice like those pedophile Irish Catholic priests who had to be dug out by the law from bisphoric protection in their dioceses. Blago is a BLEEP YOU sort of a guy whose species I thought had perished with the demise of Mafioso Don John Gotti.

Blago was arrested by federal prosecutor Fitzgerald for some sort of criminal conspiracy for allegedly trying to sell the senate seat vacated by President elect Obama in Chicago to the highest bidder in a pay-and-play scheme. He is free on bond for around four thousand dollars which is a pittance for corruption charges in high places. Despite this inconvenience, he still conducts the duties of his office when he is not jogging on Chicago icy streets in his designer gym suit. As a matter of fact, he just legally appointed a 71-year old Illinois politician named Roland Burris for the subject-embroiled, hot senate seat.

And it has Team Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership pulling out their hair and rendering their clothes – politically correct main stream media is having a calf over the Serb's temerity. Establishment Democrats are doing their utmost to stop the Senate confirmation of the appointment.

Fitzgerald claims he has proof of Blago's nefarious deeds based on court-ordered wire taps. When the prosecutor arrested Blago weeks ago, it seemed that the governor would be immediately indicted and swiftly tried. Not so.
Weeks after his arrest, on the day the governor recently filled the senate seat, Fitzgerald announced he needed another 90 days to proceed to trial on Blago. Smell a rat? Yeah, one of those big, fat stockyard fed Chicago ones.

I had dismissed Blago as just another venial corrupt politician, but the fact he is a first generation Serb should have alerted me that he is a tough man to knock down. My experience with Serbs runs through my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Up front, have to confess that of all the bloody Balkan tribes, they are my favorite. Though in the past and most recently they seem to lose their battles, they reflect an indomitable spirit who always justify their loss based on flawed reasoning; the tribe certainly has panache. They are a handsome group of people – Blago is of course an exception.

First rule in Balkan politics is every tribe hates the other and each tribe is prepared to carry out these hatreds murderously – Serbs are no exception – so Blago-the-Serb has the DNA to at least make a very game fight to defend himself. He will not fold without delivering grief to his enemies; Obama and Fitzgerald should beware. Team Obama has already been tagged while Fitzgerald appears to be fumbling Blago's indictment.

Blago's pick for Obama's senate seat bears not a hint of bribery or pay-to-play. Burris is an earnest Illinois politician who has a quirky vanilla personality who has served as State attorney general with integrity; though no ball of fire, he is certainly more qualified than Caroline Kennedy chosen to replace Hillary in New York.

What do you know? Senate Majority leader Reid has also contacted Blago to prevent him from appointing congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr (Aka JJJ). It is assumed the calls are also on Fitz's tape recorders. Conflict of interest by our number-one law giver? Tsk-Tsk...

Apparently, Reid does not think JJJ could win in a statewide election for senator in 2010. My hunch is that Reid feels the same about Burris, who has already lost a few state-wide elections. Reid needs quick votes for Obama's critical legislation in the next few months, so it seems foolish for him to tie up the Burris seating in the Senate. If Reid kept that worm, Judas Joe Lieberman, in the Democratic caucus for his vote, why not Burris too ?

This drama goes on as the Illinois Legislature prepares to impeach Blago – so what? President William Jefferson Clinton was also impeached; seems to be doing well despite the fact he was disbarred. He remained in office to trade pardons for donations to his presidential library.

My advice to Blago is have a couple shots of slivovitz and sit back and watch the Democratic leadership implode over the issue. During this time he should, however, only communicate by carrier pigeon. As far as Fitz goes, he should turn the case over to a deputy; Fitz blew the high profile Valerie Plane Wilson case badly and if he boots this one too, he had better find another line of work...

If Blago can behave himself, Obama might even appoint him to be Ambassador to a fly-blown, bullet-riddled post of Zimbabwe or Sudan or Somali... Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.