Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Illusion & Delusions & Arms Control

Much like the Olympics or the swallows returning to Capistrano, arms control almost magically appears and disappears. This process makes the world feel better, but alas, it is not safer as a result.

Most recently these arms control agreements have been between the USA and Russia. Apart from propaganda value, they do provide impetus to scrap aging nuclear weapons and delivery systems in a controlled manner. However, they seldom slow down the development of new strategic weapons systems.

The verification regimes always bear a whiff of skepticism and are pinned on mutual self interest rather than on trust. If one side decides to cheat, so what? Both sides are careful that the agreements do not change the strategic balance. Both parties have redundant break-out capabilities to implement, should either wish to restart the expensive arms race.

We are on the eve of another Russo-American arms control agreement. President Obama has announced that he, and his Russian counterpart Medvedev, will sign a new agreement on 8 April of this year at Prague, Czech Republic. Uncertain why Prague was chosen – maybe it was the lure of golden Pilsner Urquell beer or to honor the fact that Schweikist Czechs never quite have the heart to fight a war since their lost battle of White Mountain in 1620 during the Thirty Years War.

You must wonder why Russia, with teeming millions of nuclear armed Chinese on their South and Eastern borders and the USA, facing an ever-growing belligerent Chinese Navy and Army threat across the Formosa Straits, would spare a nuc to comfort world public opinion. The answer is that in both cases, their bomb reservoirs are really untapped and more than sufficient to deter attack.

Both US and Russian military planners understand the Chinese eventually will turn North and East in military adventure. In the 1960s the Russians already fried the Chinese with napalm in battles on the Usari River in Siberia. In the meantime the USA has turned the other cheek to Chinese provocations.

The provisions of the new agreement, similar to Obama's healthcare reform, are obscure at this time. We have been told that it will reduce the Russian and American nuclear arsenals by one third. President Obama also touts the agreement as a reset for Russo-American relations; this aspect of the agreement is probably correct after GW Bush, with his warped neocons, trashed the relationship for all the wrong reasons.

In the past, even more complicated then negotiation of the agreement, are developing implementing regulations for dismantling and destruction of weapons and verification measures. Further, the Russian Duma and US Senate must confirm the agreement. For the US it is problematic as the senate Republicans act as neocon zombies who are still smarting having their ears pinned back badly in Georgia by the gleeful Russians.

Some Republican senators already are using strategic missile defense issue as a red herring to derail the agreement. Maybe they have forgotten that it was Hopeless Henry Kissinger, a Republican, who surrendered US strategic missile defense advantages in the ABM Treaty in SALT I with hopes of getting a meaningful offensive arms treaty. Let us hope Obama did not consult Kissinger Associates on the agreement. We will not know until if secret protocols eventually leak.

The Strategic Defense Initiative was a billion dollar baby conceived by President Reagan in 1983. Since then over 100 billion dollars have been spent and no defense system, global or theater, really works. It has been the ultimate military-industrial boondoggle. There have been positive technology spin offs from the research and for certain, it frustrates the Russians who perceive a threat with a possible US breakthrough. So the program does provide negotiating leverage, albeit at a very high price.

There have been boasts by the US that it can shoot down a clunky North Korean strategic missile if it strays too far from the launching pad flying over the Pacific. That event, if it ever occurs, would be a sell out with tickets bought by skeptics.

President Obama, now with healthcare and an arms agreement has two thin feathers in his hat. He is apparently now foolishly trying to fly with them. In the realm of presidential soaring, he should be cautious, as he was just pitifully batted down by the abrasive Israeli toad Netanyahu. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Democracy Now – USA 2010

Healthcare reform exploded and stands to become law, a new reality as of last weekend. The fact is there is no national consensus on whether it is a boon or bust is best summarized by a White House, now hell bent on selling the American people on its disputed overall benefits at a 930 billion dollar cost over 10 years.

The bad news is that it passed and higher taxes begin soonest; the good news is that most key provisions kick in in 2014 so there is time to reform the reform healthcare – it is no accident there is a midterm and presidential election before the crazy bill is fully implemented. This wide gap between passage and implementation was a sign of the insecurity of the law makers who passed it.

Presidential Obama and his Democratic Party will rise and fall on how America perceives his controversial work. There were casualties on both sides of the aisle in the battle over the bill. For example, Mighty Mite Dennis Kucinich, about the only progressive liberal that over the years "hewed to line and let the chips fall where they may" folded on his core value, the public option; this came after an airplane ride on Airforce One with Obama. The Republican House minority leader, Man-Tan Boehner, is a politician with a reported scratch golf handicap, who lately always finds himself in a political sand trap. Boehner was last seen muttering SHAME ON YOU DEMOCRATS, while he was trying to figure out how to commit Hara Kiri with his putter.

Democracy was also at work in foreign affairs as Hillary predictably reversed her rebuke of the Israeli warlord Netanyahu; she did whimper that the Israeli polices did not further peace in the area. Of course, she repeated the act of faith that the US will protect Israel security.

This of course made no impact on Netanyahu who confirmed his intention to expand Israeli hegemony by building more Jewish housing in Palestinian areas. The Obama administration not only appears weak, but feeble, as it continues to pour military aid into Israel and provide political cover for Netanyahu's egregious policies.

The American Israel Political Action Committee is now having its annual convention in Washington DC; Netanyahu plans to attend. Hillary has already attended and gave a speech to a luke warm audience. It was a mistake for her to attend. She should have sent a low-ranking Arab-American from the STATE... that is, if they have not been all run off. Netanyahu is to meet with Obama. Another error. Instead, he and Emanuel should meet with each other outside a White House gate. Netanyahu reportedly called Emanuel and Axelrod self-loathing Jews. So let this Kosher cat fight take place outside the Oval Office.

In Iraq, Democracy is playing out much to the consternation of the US. After spending over 700 billion and having over 4000 US troops killed in action, the Iraqi abandoned a US puppet Maliki for another yet to be determined leader in a recent election. Surprised? At least General Odierno was not as he makes plans to keep troops in Iraq for an extended period; SAVEUS PETRAEUS.

Democracy in Afghanistan appears to get more elusive each day of our occupation. US Marines are now occupying Marjah set among the poppy-fields and they are uncertain what to do with the crop; if they destroy it, they enrage a population as it is a king cash crop. Use of poppy seeds for cakes, rolls and with buttered egg noodles is part of Central and Eastern European cuisine. To convert the Afghans to that diet is as difficult as making them develop the taste for democracy.

Last week General McCrystal, our supreme commander In Afghanistan, acknowledged that US Special Forces in theater were not under his command. He now has taken steps to bring them under his command structure, mainly because the special forces have been inflicting too many civilian casualties. This lack of unity of command was a stunning admission; they must have stopped teaching principles of war at West Point. The lack of unity of command was the main reason for the command confusion in the Vietnamese War... slow learners?

The ragged health care reform was achieved in a democratic fashion. Its result, however, has achieved a strong step toward Social Democracy. The bill fuses private enterprise, i.e., private health insurance and big pharma, with mandated government and public participation. These links will remain as they have with the no-bid defense contractors with the Department of Defense and STATE. It is is another nail in the coffin of the competitive free enterprise system.

The healthcare industry stock prices have continued to soar as the rich government subsidy has become a reality. There still is no safe-guard to control the costs of health insurance even after the passage of the bill.

With Democratic Socialism comes the limits on free choice. These new laws are now ratcheted in forward position that usually precludes retreat. All this is done in the name of common good; the issue always remains who gets to define common good?

USA, India and Israel, all stridently proclaiming democracies, are busy occupying other peoples countries or land. That is more of democracy now – March 2010. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Israeli Menace to US

Sending US VEEP Joe Biden to Israel to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is like sending a cocker spaniel to a dog fight to make a deal between two raging pit bulls. Predictably, Joe got mauled by Israeli pit bull Netanyahu, while the Palestinians began another round of rioting in Jerusalem.

Biden has been openly in the American Israeli lobby bag most of his political career, so it was surprising that publicly he was so blatantly kicked in the ass by the Israeli leadership. President Obama's policy to stop Israel expansion by more housing received another blow with the Israeli announcement to build 1600 more units on Arab land in Jerusalem; all this while Biden officially was visiting the Israeli government.

Not only does this make Biden appear to be sap, but as his representative, it makes Obama out to be weak. With two American Jews, Axelrod and Emanuel, in key positions, principally running his White House, it rightly or wrongly suggests Israeli penetration of the main US policy apparatus. This is especially true of Emanuel who served in Israel during the Gulf War greasing Israeli vehicles while his fellow Americans fought in the Gulf War. It is a fair question to ask whose flag he is under today?

There has been an effort by mostly American Jewish columnists to interpret Natanyahu's brashness as a process error in Israel in administrative procedures; but Netanyahu and his stooges in the US have apologized only for an error in process, but not in substance – the expansion of Israeli settlements will continue as planned. Call it an Israeli policy of SCREW YOU, AMERICA.

Hillary C. our SECSTATE, who has been remarkably unsuccessful in her tenure as American's number one diplomat, charged to Joe's defense chastising Israel for picking on the US right under the VEEP's nose. H. Clinton was a flop on her recent trips to Africa and South America, so doubt the Israeli will pay attention, especially since leadership at STATE is surrounded by pro Israeli embeds; and Axelrod and Emanuel are in the saddle at the White House. Expect only hot air from the former senator from New York who understands the political hazards of the Jewish question well.

The rant that Israel is the oldest and most reliable ally is propaganda. What ally of the US has attacked an American ship, i.e. the Liberty, killed American servicemen, constantly sent spies against the US, and advocated war against Islam involving the US as a pretense of fighting terrorism? Israel is, in fact, our oldest most reliable enemy. You have to ask what Israel has done for the US except cause headaches.

The Gulf War and Iraqi invasion demonstrated Israel is not needed for military intervention or projection of force in the region. As a matter of fact Israel complicated both operations. Efforts by President Reagan to rescue the Israelis from their foolish invasion of Lebanon in 1983 ended with the deaths of 241 marines and 59 French paratroopers who were part of an international force to permit the Israelis to exit from their ill-conceived operation.

The fact that the US insures building loans on Israeli settlements and provides 3-4 billion in aid so Israel can buy state-of-the-art US armaments makes the scheme more preposterous; especially when US white phosphorus and cluster bombs are used on Arab civilians.

There are plenty of remedies for the US to influence Israel-start by recognizing Iran diplomatically. Tweak the aid packages by the US to get its attention. Discourage massive Trotsky-like solidarity Israeli parades in NYC as counter productive to US foreign policy objectives. Solidarity with Netanyahu's Israel is not in the US interests. There is no reason Americans should die for Israel – that is an Israeli duty. This point should be made loud and clear as Israel flirts with unilateral bombing of Iran with US made aircraft and bombs.

All this takes political courage by US politicians who cannot resist contributions to their campaigns by Israeli lobbyists or opprobrium from elements of a main stream media who in knee-jerk fashion support Israel, right or wrong. Even the evangelical right has a misguided pro-Zionist spiritual faction that would have to be drawn in to restore sense and balance to US policy in the region.

Doubt Israel could have survived without US military aid and diplomatic support. The US even pays Egypt and Jourdan to be sweet to Israel. The UN investigations of Israeli atrocities during the most recent bombardments of Gaza and, Swedish reports of snatching body parts from dead palestinians should be enough to put distance between the association of US and Israel. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Sword is Mightier than the Pen

Based on the US Army's protracted conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, it has not learned much tactically or strategically from previous wars. It has taken one lesson away, however, from the Vietnam bloody conflict: that is, the necessity to control the main stream media. Otherwise it can lose American civilian support for the war.

This control was to be accomplished by Rumsfeld by embedding reporters with combat units and then censoring what they print in the name wartime security.

It boils down to the press that if it wants to get into the action, it must do it conforming to a Defense Department code of conduct. It can circumvent these regulations, but it risks getting chopped in little pieces by Jihadists who do not play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. As a matter of fact, these fanatics are way ahead of most Americans who naively cling to a fair and balanced press that exists only in their imaginations.

The dedicated Jihadist just wants to kill infidels whether they have a press card dangling from their neck or not; the high number of murdered journalists recently killed, attest to this. Even those who ride or walk into battle with American ground forces have been killed and seriously wounded. So any which way the war correspondent plays it, his or her life is in jeopardy.

The information gap that Rumsfeld failed to plug was the digital camera carried in the combat theater by many – without those, Abu Gharib atrocities never would have surfaced. Much of what the Defense Department sought to control by managing the news through embedding was undone by ineptly commanded hillbillies with cameras. Between this incident and the ruthless suppression in Fallujah II, the counter insurgency war was lost long term in Iraq.

Forget what General Saveus Patraeus spins. Check out instead the bombardment of Baghdad last Sunday as prelude to the latest election farce in Iraq. Sixty-nine Iraq political parties, 36 Iraqis killed and scores wounded. You have to keep expectations low when you understand warped American neocons advised the Iraqi on their constitution. Anyway, the creation of democracy while occupying a country is preposterous.

The recent three-week battle for Marjah, a town with 50,000 souls in Helmand province Afghanistan, is an example of a news blackout. One thing we learned right away was as with Fallujah II, the first casualty was a barking suspected insurgent dog! The Marines this time promised to pay the farmer for his dead animal .

On the very liberal Amy Goodman radio show, she attempted to determine what was happening during the operation; she interviewed a Wall Street Journal reporter in Kabul to find out what was going on in the provincial farm town. Thrust of what he said was that no one in Kabul knows and those in Marjah cannot tell even if they knew. There was another interview with a local doctor from a district hospital near the town; he complained the roads from the town were blocked by US/NATO forces, and Afghan wounded civilians cannot be evacuated to the hospital for treatment. No US embedded reporter could or would report such a story.

Whether there was a tactical necessary to implement such an action is strictly a military call. Whether the action is anti-humanitarian is a civilian call. In any case such action does not garner US support for the war; hence the the suppression of the information.

Apart from managing news from the battlefields, the Army has, like the Marine Corps, used the press to promote its favorite issues. The fact that GW Bush privatized the Army with mercenaries is beginning to fray the Army's high command nerves. For example, there are roughly 170,000 US troops deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan theaters of operations. At the same time there are more than 170,000 paid mercenaries also deployed in the same theaters. If there is any unity of command between these two components, it is obscure.

A new problem of the civilian substitution in the active army ranks in the continental US surfaced with a memorandum between Army LTG Dempsey and Chief of Staff of the Army General Casey. It was published publicly 16 February in the press. General Dempsey, chief of the army training command, TRADOC, decried the fact that only 30 per cent of his training staff is uniformed army; the rest are hired civilians. He deplored the shortage of captains and majors in key command and staff positions at his facilities; he noted that his civilian instructors do not have combat experience to pass on to trainees. These shortages are also at ROTC components at universities and colleges.

All these shortages were blamed on the pressure and priority of providing troops to the combat theaters.

Both Generals Dempsey and Casey were promoted with more stars under the Republicans. Both generals had extensive service in Iraq. So it is about time they faced the shortages caused by over commitment of forces. What are you going to do about it, Generals? This problem has festered over four years.

Problems stemming from GWBush's harum scarum politics seem to be ripening fast. President Obama has not intercepted them; on the contrary, his national security policies has enhanced them. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

March Comes in as a Lion Cub

March is the windiest month of the year. It is a time when the Irish in the US celebrate their escape from Ireland with a drunken fiesta; it is a time when the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was murdered by his own pals on the marble senate floor in Rome. Since then there has been a violent, gloomy foreboding associated with the Ides of March.

Last Thursday was a warm up for the stiff winds of March that are on the way – it was President Obama's health care summit at Blair House across from the White House that prompted the flow of brisk hot air. A whole day in camera was spent by Republican and Democratic congressmen and senators with the president repeating ad nauseam their loves and hates of healthcare reform.

My sense was that although the administration conceived forum was cheap political theater, President Obama won the day. You can ask yourself: So what?

The format showcased the president as earnest, trying to fix health care by legislation, whereas his Republican opponents wanted to solve problems with platitudes. The Republicans reenforced their image as running dogs of Big Pharma and Big Insurance. The only thing the Republicans could offer is interstate coverage and non-specific tort reform. This was in the face of a recent rise of healthcare costs in the past two weeks.

The Republicans, with Tea Baggers who love wars but hate taxes, operate in fantasy land. The Democrats simply lack spine to lead and are bugged by a surrender syndrome when the first shot is fired. Both parties are worn out, burnt out and bankrupt.

The military situation on both the Iraq and Afghan fronts appears grim. Instead of a definitive defeat of the enemy, the US military establishment gives us continued costly occupation and meaningless local corrupt elections as a substitute for withdrawal or victory.

In Iraq General Ordinero is already preparing the ground to extend the US occupation based on the future outcome of elections in which the Sunnis do not participate. These Sunni elements have been armed to the teeth by General Saveus Patraeus during the GWB surge and are prepared now to revolt when the US pulls its military finger out of the Iraq dike. General Patraeus on right-wing talk shows paints rosy scenarios as usual, but this time it is mainly in Yemen???

Afghanistan, both militarily and politically, is a disaster; as more money and troops is poured in, the worse the situation becomes. Karzai’s US supported regime has little popular support outside of Kabul and that is the way it has been for the past 8 years. CIA has had success killing and capturing Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan; but, like broken dragon's teeth, they are quickly replaced with more radicalized people.

The US/NATO Forces in Afghanistan can not pull off a major military operation without killing non-combatants or suspected insurgents, whatever they are? Under these circumstances counter insurgency fails long term.

Training of Afghan police is in turmoil because the US wants to fire private mercenary DynCorp because it mismanaged 1.2 billion dollars in police training in Iraq. The corporation, deeply involved in Afghanistan, is reportedly suing USG to prevent termination of billion-dollar contracts. Stop the feeding of these inefficient politically connected mercenaries; look to US Army MPs with a CIA to do the the hopeless task. With this set up you still will not prevent small-time thievery, but you will stop the robber barons from stealing billions.

March coming in like a Lion is a metaphor for coming in with force and vigor. On 1 March the US won a record total of 37 medals at the Winter Olympics. Despite the fact it came in behind Canada and Germany in gold medals, it was still something important for our national pride. I will take a small lion cub over a lamb anytime as a sign of hope. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret