Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bush's Foreign Policy Loves Obama, Iran Plays Whack the Opposition, Pentagon's Black Budget

Dana Milbank
Mark McKinnon
Ulrike Putz
Gihan Shahine

"God spoke to Moses through a burning bush on Mount Horeb. He apparently speaks to Republicans through a spewing oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico." - Dana Milbank
"While pundits may joke that the easiest way to get a job in the Obama administration is to announce your candidacy to run against an Obama favorite, voters are tired of it all. The oil spill continues to threaten a fragile economy and ecology in the Gulf, there is still no Wall Street reform, or energy bill, or immigration legislation, and voters are being told they are too dumb to understand." - Mark McKinnon
"People who are not in with Hamas don't see any of the relief goods or the gifts of money," - Zaed Khadar

An interesting group of pundits linked above, all on different subjects. I found the Shahine article to be a primer on how US foreign policy is formed, and why it is so often dysfunctional, making Obama come off as ineffective: "It is common knowledge that American foreign policy is a complex affair that is not determined exclusively by the White House. "There are other institutions that have their say in the making of foreign policy," El-Sayed says, including the National Security Council, the State Department, the Defense Department, the Congress and a number of think tanks closely involved in the process of foreign policy-making.

"Even inside the White House, the president is surrounded by advisers who have their own views, biases and interests. It is very rare for these institutions to agree on a certain line of policy, or agree on concrete steps to be taken in order to translate a certain line of policy into action." Meanwhile, according to El-Sayed, the US is no longer the sole power in the world that can tell other countries what they have to do." If you have ever gone to a think tank's web page or tried Foreign Policy's site, there is a lot of nit-picky speculation over trivial matters, while often getting the big picture wrong. Why is that?

Ironically, it was the Bush White House that seeked a coalition of nations to back its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that brought the UN and NATO greater power and influence, and empowered many Arab nations, giving them an equal voice in finding solutions in their region of the world. Previously, conservatives had no use for the UN, wanted it off of our soil, and the US to withdraw from any participation. George W Bush did the next best thing by appointing John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN, knowing that his abrasive manner and condescending attitude would piss off everyone. But Bush's desire to put on a public face of building world support for his war on terrorism overcame the inherent revulsion, enabling the diplomatic monster that we know today. And we use it, from approving sanctions on Iran, to supplying food and aid to countries like Haiti, Somalia, and the Palestinians in Gaza. This morning, in a joint press conference in Germany, Angela Merkel and Dmitry Medvedev announced their support for sanctions against Iran, and called for the leaders of Iran to be sensible and work with them before the Security Council votes.

But we won't be getting any response from Iran, as they are too busy playing their latest national sports game, Whack the Opposition. In the US, we wrap ourselves in the flag to spout jingoistic rhetoric, in Iran they wrap themselves in the Ayatollah Khomenei, which is uncomfortable because he's been dead for a few years and his beard is itchy and moldy. In a poor imitation of their Great Leader, the current head honcho warned the country's opposition leaders that he was importing over 2 million of the dreaded basij, with their fondness for vicious, outnumbering attacks with batons and stun guns.

He is trying to head off another protest taken to the streets of Tehran on the anniversary of the first set of protests a year ago. To begin with, he is making out that he alone carries the revolutionary mantle of the dead ayatollah: "His castigation of the government’s opponents, whom he did not name, highlighted the continuing struggle over who carried the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini. The two principal leaders of the opposition, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Moussavi, have insisted that they, too, are fighting for the goals of the revolution.

Loyalty, Ayatollah Khamenei declared, was measured by one’s position today, not in the past. “One cannot say, ‘I am the follower of Khomeini’ and then align with those who clearly and frankly carry the flag of opposing the imam and Islam. Protesters have vowed to stage rallies in Tehran and in other large cities on June 12, the anniversary of a presidential election that the opposition charges was rigged to keep President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power." While the government touts that it released 89 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, none of them were considered to be of the opposition, or Green Movement.

And although the streets have been quieter lately, the opposition has been creating another form of protest,through music: "The government has tried all manner of methods to mute what has become known as “resistance music.” They have blocked Web sites used to download songs and shut down social networking sites, which were also used by the opposition to organize protests and distribute videos of government and paramilitary violence." Again, most of Iran's population is under 30 years old, trying to stop an accepted form of music is as futile as my parents trying to keep us away from rock and roll. As long as there are communications satellites circling overhead, there will be ways for young people to download the music. The government may use those same satellites to show propaganda movies on the day of protest. During the last scheduled march on the streets, the government played a marathon of movies by the Great Satan Walt Disney, to try and keep people safe in their homes, and I'm sure that they will use this subversive tactic again. Don't worry, all of the movies are pirated versions smuggled in from Pakistan...

black budget...
The Pentagon has a black budget this year of $59 billion, for projects by Special Forces that will not get an oversight by Congress. These projects are called our secret war against terrorists, and operations are taking place in 75 countries right now, that we know of...: "Commanders are developing plans for increasing the use of such forces in Somalia, where a Special Operations raid last year killed the alleged head of al-Qaeda in East Africa. Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group.

The surge in Special Operations deployments, along with intensified CIA drone attacks in western Pakistan, is the other side of the national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values President Obama released last week. One advantage of using "secret" forces for such missions is that they rarely discuss their operations in public. For a Democratic president such as Obama, who is criticized from either side of the political spectrum for too much or too little aggression, the unacknowledged CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, along with unilateral U.S. raids in Somalia and joint operations in Yemen, provide politically useful tools. Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed "things that the previous administration did not." This may explain why Obama hasn't been giving many press conferences, to keep from having to answer some embarrassing questions. There are a lot of bogus criticisms being tossed at Obama, but there are also a lot of valid ones that he has kept his distance from, and he needs to start explaining some of the squirrelier policies. Assassination lists, special operations, counter-terrorism training, it all sounds like bad spy novels from the 1960's. Barry, what had you been reading in your spare time growing up in Hawaii?

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