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February 2010

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

THE COST OF EMPIRE: The Budget Deficit Can Only Be Controlled When American Military Intervention Abroad Retrenches

According to a report in the February 7th New York Times, President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year has an estimated $1.267 trillion budget deficit – and that probably is based upon some hopeful economic assumptions.  It is clear that for the longer term, deficits of this magnitude cannot be sustained, but while commentators will talk about the need to cut domestic spending or to maybe – dare we – raise taxes on our wealthy citizens, banks and corporations, few are talking about the $846 billion gorilla in the room:  the massive expenditure of resources mandated to preserve and to protect American military domination of the world.  That $846 billion not only represents the cost of the military services but also probably the cost of intelligence services – and maybe does not even include some secret programs the government forgot to mention. It is not clear whether this figure also represents the costs for past wars – such as for veterans’ pensions and for health care.

While informed commentators like Paul Krugman are correct when they say that short-term concerns about the deficit are misplaced and must be endured for the sake of economic recovery, even he does not link the long-term solution to redefining – which has to mean retrenching – America’s military intervention abroad.  This means not just systematically disengaging from misbegotten wars such as Bush’s Iraq and now, sadly, Obama’s Afghanistan, but also avoiding other possible military intervention in virtually every nook and cranny in the world: Yemen for example. In the eight years of President Bush’s budgets, this country engaged in a financial adventure in Wonderland raising domestic and national security spending while cutting taxes for the wealthy.  “Deficits don’t matter,” as Vice President Dick Chaney so famously declared.   President Bush and the Republican Congress borrowed from our future as recklessly as did the Wall Street speculators, but now the bill is coming due.  No politician seems ready to challenge the American people to pay fully for our current and future commitments for both butter and guns.  Maybe, they hope that economic recovery will magically remove the dilemma. 

Regardless,  it is unlikely that magic will work this time, which leaves this country with a choice. If we want the social programs and the economic recovery this country needs, we cannot have those at the same time as America continues on the path of extensive military intervention. And the political will to limit America’s military intervention cannot be mustered until the hysteria about the extent to which Al Qaeda can harm the United States is challenged and a less military-oriented strategy to counter it is developed.  This will not be easy because politicians can score points by hollering about being soft on the “war on terror,” just as some used to speak about liberals being “soft on Communism.”  But for this country’s long-term economic welfare, the link between widespread military intervention and the impossibility of keeping our deficits at a sustainable level must be recognized. This country needs to develop a strategy to counter al Qaeda based more on – but not just on – a combined political, police-work and counter-intelligence strategy.   This will be quite a challenge given the right-wing media machine, but it must be done for the country’s sake.

More on this to come in future posts.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Haven’t Blogged At TDTR Since January 4 Due to Wife’s Death

I haven’t posted at The Diplomatic Times Review since 12:46 p.m. on Monday, January 4, 2010, due to the death of my wife. She died around 5:15 p.m. on January 4. Her funeral was January 7, 2010, in Chicago, USA. I will try to resume blogging on Monday, January 11, 2010.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Was Killing of CIA Agents in Afghanistan A Lashkar al-Zil Operation?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief, reported January 4, 2009, that, “The suicide attack on the United States Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) forward operating base of Chapman in the Afghan province of Khost last week was planned in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.” See “US spies walked into al-Qaeda's trap,” which I highly recommend According to Mr. Shahzad:

Timage he plan was executed following several weeks of preparation by al-Qaeda's Lashkar al-Zil (Shadow Army), Asia Times Online has learned. This was after Lashkar al-Zil's intelligence outfit informed its chief commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, that the CIA planned to broaden the monitoring of the possible movement of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Mr. Shahzad said, “Once it became clear that efforts to track down al-Qaeda were being stepped up and that the base in Khost was being extensively used by the CIA, the Lashkar al-Zil (Brigade 055) moved into top gear. It is the soul of al-Qaeda, having being involved in several events since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. Under the command of Ilyas Kashmiri, its intelligence network's coordination with its special guerrilla action force has changed the dynamics of the Afghan war theater. Instead of traditional guerrilla warfare in which the Taliban have taken most of the casualties, the brigade has resorted to special operations, the one on the CIA base being the latest and one of the most successful.

Note: Some links were added to the quotes above for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with some of the names mentioned.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Japan Needs Diplomatic Retooling In Wake of The Rise Of China

“With the rise of China and other economies in Asia, Japan's position as a major power is growing increasingly shaky,” asserts Japan Times staff writer Masimi Ito in the first of a series of articles on Japan’s “looming crisis”

According to Ito, “For Japan to maintain its place in the international community, it needs to shift from the old "follow the U.S." diplomacy to one that better balances its relationships with both the U.S. and China, analysts say.”

For more, please see “Diplomatic retooling needed in face of China.” It raises interesting questions both Japan and China must address as China’s revs uses diplomacy to increase its economic power.

Namik Tan Is Turkey’s Next Ambassador To The U.S.

“Ambassador Namik Tan will become the next Turkish ambassador” to the United States,” according to Today’s Zaman columnist Ali H. Aslan. He replaces Nabi Sensoy. See “Ambassador Tan: The right choice for Washington.”

By the way, Today’s Zaman is a Turkish, English-language daily widely read by those interested in Turkish affairs.

South Korea’s Lee: Economy, Improved Inter-Korea Ties Are Priorities

Lee Chi-dong, YonHap News Agency, Seoul, South Korea, January 4, 2010 -- President Lee Myung-bak said Monday January 4, 2010] he will make it his priority this year to reinvigorate the economy and "open a new chapter" in tumultuous inter-Korean relations.”

If you want to read more, please see “Lee vows to improve ties with N. Korea, speed up job creation.”

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review

David Judson, editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, a 48-year old Turkish newspaper, said “the indelible memories of the year [2009] will be of the 50 or so remarkable young journalists who come to work each day at this very Turkish newspaper that just happens to be produced in the English language.” See “The year of the Daily News reporter.” He adds:

They positioned themselves in Baku, Kars and Yerevan to bring the world the details of a high-drama image diplomatic deal between Turkey and Armenia. Hours after a mass murder in Mardin, our reporter was there to chronicle the pain of survivors. On another wet and miserable morning in the town of Silivri, we were in the courthouse for another round in the Ergenekon tribunal that has transfixed the nation. We were inside Parliament for the first debate of the “Kurdish initiative” and later we spent a week in the dusty villages of Dalbudak and Sivritepe to examine what it meant on the ground. And so much more.

Judson said, “Internationally, just a few staff-made datelines that come to mind include Washington, San Francisco, Brussels, Helsinki, Paris, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Khartoum, Moscow, Tokyo, Riga, Bratislava, Budapest and Lisbon. Just how the hell did we get to all those places?”

It’s a great post about American editor running and English language newspaper in Turkey under a Turkish boss. I wonder how many other American journalists can find work abroad.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pakistan: ‘Coalition Forces Shouldn’t Leave Afghanistan in Haste’

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) spokesman, told journalist on December 30, 2009, that “The decision to leave Afghanistan should be taken when the country is able to look after itself effectively.” See “Coalition should not leave Afghanistan in haste, says FO.” According to Pakistan Daily Times reporter Sajjad Malik, Mr. Basit said:

Stability and peace in Afghanistan is in our strategic interest. We are therefore engaged with the US in ensuring that the new US Afghan policy delivers. Coalition forces should not leave Afghanistan in haste. There are some concerns and we are in talks with the US over these concerns.

Mr. Basit also said, according to Mr. Mailk: “We hope that our concerns (regarding Indian interference) will be taken seriously because we do not want this region to destabilise. Should this interference continue, I am afraid things will not improve.”

Basit said “these concerns had been discussed with Kabul and other relevant countries several times,” according to the Daily Times report.

CIA Deaths a Successful Taliban Intelligence Operation

Tom Coghlan, Times Online, January 1, 2010: “The Taleban have infinitely smaller resources. But their successful strike within a CIA base indicates that their own intelligence operation can also hit its mark.” See “CIA caught in dirty and secretive war against al-Qaeda on Afghan border.”

Links On This Topic

President Obama's Letter to CIA EmployeesABC White House News Team, Political Punch, ABC Blog, USA

CIA's darkest day: Eight killed in Afghanistan -- Toby Harnden, The Telegraph, UK

CIA agents killed in Afghanistan were in Taliban's backyard – Mark Sappenfield, The Christian Science Monitor, USA

How Will the Killing of 7 Agents Affect the CIA? – Benjamin F. Carlson, The Atlantic Wire (blog), USA

For CIA, Afghan attack a historic blow -- Shaun Tandon, Agence France Presse, France

Assassinated CIA agents worked for "contractor" active in Venezuela – Eva Golinger, VHeadline.com, Venezuela

Terror and the west: A decade of misjudgment – Editorial, The Guardian, UK

The CIA Takes a Big Hit in the Afghan War - – Bobby Ghosh, Time, USA

Panetta on CIA losses –- Ben Smith, Politico, USA

Taliban infiltrator who killed 7 from CIA wore Afghan uniform –- Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Washington Bureau, USA

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Question Israelis Don’t Want To Ask

Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner raises an important question for Israelis in a December 30, 2009, post headlined “Rattling the Cage: A taboo question for Israelis.” He writes:

There's a question we Israelis won't ask ourselves about the Palestinians, especially not about Gaza. The question is taboo. Not only won't anyone ask it out loud, but very, very few people will dare ask it in the privacy of their own minds.

However, I think it's time we start asking it, privately and in public. If we don't, I think there's going to be Operation Cast Lead II, then Operation Cast Lead III, and each one is going to be worse than the last, and the consequences for Palestinians and Israelis are going to be unimaginable.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If anybody treated us like we're treating the people in Gaza, what would we do?

“We don't want to go there, do we?” Mr. Derfner asks. “And because we don't, we make it our business not to see, hear or think about how, indeed, we are treating the people in Gaza.”

It’s an article I think everyone should read regardless of one’s opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian question. The question could just as well apply to the U.S. role in Iraq. For example, what would we do if another country invaded the U.S. the way the U.S. invaded Iraq, without provocation or just cause. What we do if an occupier caused the deaths of thousands of Americans? Would we accept the humiliation of being occupied? I doubt it.

Angela Merkel’s ‘Wild Boys’

“Seasoned German foreign policy experts, such as the head of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee, Ruprecht Polenz, are beginning to worry about Chancellor Angela Merkel's ”wild boys,” reports the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (German Wave) on its an online news site.

"If there are differences in opinion, successful diplomacy consists of not making them worse by using a rough tone”, Polenz told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily, according to Deutsche Welle.

The publication said, Mr. Polenz “was first and foremost referring to the German foreign, defense  and environment ministers, all relatively young and seemingly unruly cabinet members who've chosen to fire some broadsides at the US administration in recent days and weeks.”

If you wan to read more, please see “Berlin cabinet ministers ruffle US feathers.”

Will 2010 See A Major Shift In U.S.-Cuba Relations?

“Relations between Cuba and the United States are still bogged down in longstanding political and ideological differences, in spite of the signals of greater openness and opportunities for dialogue when Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama arrived at the White House,” writes Patricia Grogg in a December 29, 2009, post at Inter Press Service (IPS) headlined “CUBA-US: Stuck at a Standstill.”

Grogg list several moves the Obama Administration has made to improve ties with Cuba but noted that, “initial perceptions that Obama could be the president to bring about a shift in Cuba policy appear to have changed, only a few weeks before the first anniversary of his inauguration in January.”

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lee Hamilton: Tensions Between U.S., Japan Won’t Alter Relationship

“Despite recent tension, the U.S.-Japanese security alliance is, and will remain, a fixture of the international order, American foreign policy, and Japanese foreign policy,” maintains former U.S. Representative Lee H. Hamilton, currently the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

Mr. Hamilton said, “Changes in the relationship's dynamics now taking place should not be mistaken for its implosion or even deterioration, but rather viewed in their historical and political context.”

He makes a compelling argument. See “A new U.S.-Japan order,” published December 28, 2009, in The Indianapolis Star.

When Did The U.S. Become Involved In Afghanistan?

Former New York Times reporter and prolific author Stephen Kinzer reports in a December 28, 2009, article in the Guardian’s informative Comment is Free blog that, “This week marks the 30th anniversary of the fateful decision, little noted at the time, that drew the US into its Afghanistan quagmire. If the current Afghan crisis can be said to have begun at any single moment, it was in the last week of 1979,” Mr. Kinzer contends.

He explains how and why at “The moment that changed Afghanistan.”