US foreign policy calculated cul-de-sac

US foreign policy calculated cul-de-sac (Op-Ed)

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/AFP

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images/AFP


The siege mentality that successive teams of US policy-makers have finessed to perfection in the last decade in Pakistan and Afghanistan was inspired by the famous Bush slogan “who is not with us, is against us.”

Spurred by the discovery “we have watches and they have time,” it crept into the paranoia about the global forces of darkness conspiring against Captain America.

Here’s the self-defeating  fundamental flaw of US foreign policy that generates anti-American sentiments: the responsibility to protect ‘My way or highway’ is a sacred cow for good and all, but other nations have the inalienable right and solemn duty to embrace unilaterally the values and vital interests of the United States, come hell or high water.­

For America the exceptional, foreign ‘partnership’ is just a euphemistic oxymoron for designated morons eager to be US minions to promote ‘the freedom agenda’ of the unipolar world disorder at the expense of their nations’ sovereignty and dignity.

Most of the time, the Disneyworld Order works just fine, but sometimes, somewhere …things happen and woe betide anyone who gets in the US way!

When Russian and American presidents came from their parleys right into the limelight with TV cameras zooming in, the telltale body language of the close-up said it all: the ‘reset’ in bilateral relations, if it had ever been for real, was definitely out of the picture.

If there’s any tacit agreement between the opposite sides, this is it: the American/Russian strategic ‘partnership’ has reached an impasse. As far as why, opinions differ.

Andrew S. Weiss, who won his spurs at NSC, DOD and the State Department, is no stranger to Beltway bandits and pundits, and therefore, is perfectly qualified to illuminate Washington’s groupthink vis-à-vis Moscow’s stance.

As director of the RAND Center for Russia and Eurasia, he’s also supposed to reflect the intellectual rigor and integrity of the most prominent US think-tank and demonstrate the virtues of an unbiased Kremlinologist with total immersion in Russian realities.

He titled his subtle invective “Putin’s Waiting Game”, implying that the Russian president is playing games with gentle naïve Obama and is just biding his time for the next occupant of the White House to keep the log rolling.

It is hardly coincidental that his insinuation was parroted on June 26 by a NYT editorial: “We’re not sure what kind of cynical game Russia is playing.”

Well, from the outset, the Kremlin-astrologists got it wrong twice:

Firstly, as the former CIA chieftain Leon Panetta used to say, ‘there’s only one game in town’ – in this case, the US Global Blame Game, aka Information Support Operation for R2P and ‘humanitarian’ interventions.

Secondly, you don’t have to be a KGB colonel to figure out that a White House figurehead is whimsical dependent variable; in the meantime US foreign policy towards Russia is a real constant, bolstered by non-negotiable bipartisan ideological dogma since the days of yore.
If there’s anything for the Russian president to wait for, it has nothing to do with the US November elections: American presidents don’t formulate Russian policy; they are just allowed to execute it.

Well, despite all his credentials, the maven has badly failed to meet the expectations: his take was to tank rather than to think the imponderables.

What could have been unvarnished analysis of the undercurrents, intricacies and complications in American/Russian entanglement, has been relegated to a thinly veiled character assassination leaflet against the Russian president.

However it’s tempting to engage the author in a verbal skirmish, if you put emotions aside and take a broad look, you might suddenly realize that, given Andrew S. Weiss and the FP magazine bona fides, this ‘unofficial’ viewpoint says what the ‘official’ Washington thinks about its relations with Moscow but, due to political correctness, is too gun-shy to articulate it openly.

However, don’t blame the messenger – sure, his message is ugly, but it betrays the true color of the White House attitude towards the Kremlin.

The sheer enormity of the challenge to ‘wait out’ the change of Washington attitude towards Moscow, is this – yes, Congress does rein in US Foreign Policy, but the American electorate, which is supposed to control the legislative branch, hasn’t expressed in unequivocal terms a long overdue need for change in Russian policy – yet.

Until that paradigm shift happens, our bilateral relations will remain hostage to the almighty ghosts of cold war which hold sway over Beltway.

Evgeny Khrushchev for RT

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NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Dozhd TV

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Non-governmental organizations funded by foreign donors and involved in “political” activity face hefty fines and jail terms if they fail to register on a state list, under plans drawn up by ruling party United Russia.

The amendments to the law on NGOs, officially submitted to the State Duma on Friday, open a new front in the struggle between the government and civil society groups, following the passing of a law earlier this month that drastically increases the fines for illegal demonstrations.

The proposals, drafted by United Russia Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin, would require all non-governmental organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in “political” activities to register on a special list as “foreign agents”. These NGOs would also have to publish a report of their activities every six months and undertake an annual financial audit.

Any organizations failing to register within 90 days of the law coming into force would be liable to civil and criminal penalties, the deputy told RIA-Novosti on Friday. The penalties included a maximum prison sentence of four years, fines up to 300,000 rubles ($9,128) or 480 hours of mandatory community service.

U.S. Air Force identified 31 victims of sexual abuse among cadets

[One of the side benefits of trying to fight multiple wars with an all volunteer force.  Women have no place in combat and should never be placed in harm’s way unless they are MASH nurses.  Placing all of these attractive, healthy young women amongst mobs of pubescent young men, who are in the process of training and getting “pumped-up” for war, is a formula for multiple rapes and rampant sexual abuse.  The Air Force is lucky that the victim count in this case is not higher.   That luck may prove to be illusory if all the female and male victims of rape and sexual abuse manage to overcome their victim’s shame and come forward together.]  

The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active.
AP The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active.
SCANDAL 
A dozen instructors, all men, are being investigated on charges ranging from rape, in severe cases, sexual behaviors that do not involve physical contact.

The U.S. Air Force said Friday it has identified 31 female cadets who have been sexually abused by instructors from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio (Texas), one of the military training centers in the country. A dozen instructors , all men, are being investigated on charges ranging from rape, in severe cases, sexual behaviors that do not involve physical contact, said at a news conference Gen. Edward Rice, commander Command Air Education and Training.

Of the twelve instructors, nine of them belong to the same unit, the 331 Training Squadron, one of nine that are responsible for providing basic training for future pilots. The general regretted the incident, calling it “unacceptable” in a institution in which the cadets have to be “safe” but did not think it is an “endemic problem” but located in this squad that is being investigated in depth. Rice said detected events occurred during the past two and a half years but the first victim came to light until last year when one of those affected complained to Sergeant Luis Walker, who is being tried in a military court. According to Rice, other cases have been known later, thanks to allegations three instructors revealed that they had heard some of his colleagues gave evidence talks about the abuse and reported to his superiors. So far, only one of the twelve instructors suspects, Sergeant Peter Vega Maldonado, has been convicted had an “improper relationship” with a student and having breached the standard of “no contact”, which prevents any contact of any kind beyond what strictly professional. Sergeant Vega, who is currently serving a sentence, was sentenced to 90 days in prison, a $ 2,000 fine and airman degradation. The unit commander, Lt. Col. Mike Paquette was relieved of his command earlier this month as responsible for what happens in his unit and is on administrative waiting for a new destination. Rice said they are investigating whether there were more victims and more instructors involved and said he will not stop “until you are completely convinced that we have done a thorough job.” He has instructed the General Division Margaret Woodward, Acting Director of Strategy, Policy and Operational Planning of the Air Force, a comprehensive investigation on all training units of the Air Force, which will be delivered within sixty days. The objective is to analyze the situation training centers and study how to improve the selection of instructors and to protect the cadets. Rice said it is too early to draw conclusions and wait for the Woodward report before taking action, but one of which deck is that the cadets are trained by instructors. The Air Force has provided assistance to victims, which he said are still active. Basic Training Center, located at the base of Lackland Air Force in San Antonio ( Texas) trains annually to 35,000 soldiers, of whom 22 percent are women. EFE

Arab League To Host Syrian Opposition Groups Meeting In Cairo

[Instead of supporting and encouraging this Arab tribal warfare and providing it with a transparent cloak of legitimacy, under the mantle of an alleged “human rights” crusade, we should be fighting the war on Saudi Arabian soil, against all of the Arab League.  The Saudis and their Gulf State allies have always been the primary sponsors of ALL Sunni terrorism.  The Syrian government has refused to support these efforts, or to help in the Saudi/Israeli plots against Iran, thus explaining the Saudi/Arab League vendetta.  It is time to back out of this Sunni tribal war and take steps to shut it down, or at least guide it to its proper conclusion.  

War on Saudi Arabia.]

Arab League to host Syrian Opposition Groups meeting

داي برس

CAIRO- Syrian opposition figures said they will meet in Cairo on July 2 via the invitation of the Arab League (AL) to discuss the increasing amount of violence against civilians after the Syrian revolt entered its 16th month.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi said Thursday that the Arab League will host on July 2-3 a broad meeting for Syrian opposition to outline a unified vision over power-transition in their country witnessing a 15 month-long popular uprising.

In a press statement following a preparatory gathering held here Thursday, Al-Arabi said the coming conference will be attended by representatives of all opposition and national parties and movements.

Russia’s Lavrov Warns U.S. Over ‘Magnitsky law’

Russia’s Lavrov warns U.S. over human rights law: agency

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012. REUTERS/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov leave a meeting in St. Petersburg June 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Pool

MOSCOW | Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:42am EDT

(Reuters) – Russia has warned the United States that their relations would suffer “serious damage” if Washington adopts a bill to penalize Russian officials for human rights abuses, a state news agency reported on Saturday.

Itar-Tass said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at talks on Friday in St Petersburg that “the possible endorsement in the United States of the ‘Magnitsky law’ will bring serious damage to relations between our countries.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the report.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week passed the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act”, named after a Russian anti-corruption lawyer whose death in 2009 while in pre-trial detention drew widespread condemnation.

The bill would deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians suspected of involvement in his death.

Despite broad support in Congress, the bill’s future remains uncertain, partly because the U.S. administration is unenthusiastic about a measure that Russia says would be an unwarranted intrusion into its internal affairs.

The passing of the bill has added to tension between the White House and the Kremlin over international engagement in Syria, among others. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Diana Abdallah)

Criticism of Obama’s Reset with Russia–First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

[When you begin to hear voices from mainstays of the “legitimate press,” like Forbes magazine, echoing the alternative press, as we support Russian efforts to stall war the drive to civil war in Syria, then you know that some major changes are afoot.  The author points out the absurdity of the American right-wing, as they have been pushing us towards a senseless war with Russia, and he does it with a fairly devastating effect.

American foreign policy has been driven by this right-wing “Neocon” war fever for more than thirty years, no matter which party has claimed to hold power.  The so-called “Jacksonian” Democrats, who worship Reagan or Brzezinski are in line for a comprehensive comeuppance for that failed foreign policy.  Beginning here, with a refreshing look at the insanity of seeking world war, I hope this author, Mark Adomanis, continues to expose the insanity of all American foreign policy, which has been formulated by the neocon crowd.  When we start to hear the legitimate press echoing the alternative press view that the entire “war on terrorism” has been based on an endless series of lies and deceptions, then we will know for sure that that wondrous thing we have called the “Arab Spring” is starting to blossom on American soil.]

Criticism of Obama’s Reset withRussia:

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Mark Adomanis

Mark Adomanis, Contributor

The reset has, by this point in time, attracted media attention out of all proportion to its observable real-world impact. A modest policy that modestly improved relations between Russiaand the United Stateshas become, particularly for people of a hawkish persuasion, evidence that Russiahas comprehensively outmaneuvered the United Statesto some sort of dastardly and wicked end (though precisely what the end is is never specified). Adding to the growing canon of pieces arguing that “the reset is the worst thing in the world” Michael Weiss recently penned a story “Putin has America right where he wants it” that might very well be the single most ludicrous thing that anyone has said about the issue.

Weiss deep confusion about the reset, and his tendency to make totally irrelevant and marginal issues key parts of the American-Russian bilateral relationship, is nicely demonstrated by the following paragraph:

But the two countries’ fundamental disagreement about what to do about Assad, the dictator whose bloody attempts to suppress a popular revolt has resulted in the deaths of 14,000 Syrians, was only the last straw for a policy that has been on life support since its inception. On a vast array of issues — ranging from human rights to Iran to the territorial integrity of the post-Soviet states — Russian behavior has consistently been a thorn in the side of the United States and its allies. The reset only provided Obama with a justification to cover his retreat in the face of Russia’s advance.

Underlying this paragraph are several unproven assumptions: that theUnited Stateshas an interest inSyria, that theUnited Statesfaces a significant threat fromIran, that theUnited Stateshas a genuine interest in promoting human rights, and that the Russian attempts to project power throughout the post-Soviet space are dangerous for theUnited States. But why should theUnited Statessuddenly become interested inSyria’s internal political arrangements when it hasn’t had any notable influence in the country for the past 50 years?  Is theUnited Statesreally threatened by a third-rate economic backwater likeIran, a country that is surrounded not only by American military installations but by close American allies? If the United States genuinely cares about promoting human rights, why does it continue to closely cooperate (on Syria, among other things) with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most violently authoritarian, repressive, and backwards societies?* Is the United States actually in any danger from Russian attempts to strong-arm Georgia and other post-Soviet republics, or does it merely find these things distasteful?

Reasonable people can disagree on any of the issues I’ve just outlined, and many people I respect disagree sharply with my own views. But Weiss’ positions, regardless of how correct he thinks they are, are not intuitively obvious: they can be advanced through argument and debate but one cannot simply wave ones hands and airily assume that the United States needs to intervene everywhere and that occasional Russian opposition to this interventionism is proof of their base hostility and of the failure of the reset.

Indeed, if you look at the issues that Weiss blames for the reset’s failure they are impossible to square with his contention that:

“The hard truth is that the reset was doomed from the beginning by Russia’s increasingly autocratic political system.”

Why would a more democratic Russiasupport a USeffort to overthrow Assad? Why would a more democratic Russiasupport a USwar with Iran? Why would a more democratic Russiastop trying to influence the “near abroad?” Weiss’ contentions on the likely course of a “democratic” Russian foreign policy could be true. Authoritarian governments can and have distorted their foreign policies in fundamentally anti-democratic ways (e.g. Egypt).  There could be polls demonstrating that most Russians strongly dislike the Kremlin’s foreign policy and that they would welcome increased American involvement in the former Soviet space and American armed interventions throughout theMiddle East with open arms. I, however, have never seen nor heard of any such polls because I strongly suspect that they do not exist. Indeed, in contrast to Weiss’ airy assumptions that a more democratic Russian government would automatically be a more  pliant and accommodating one, Turkey’s experience as it democratized over the past 12 odd years would strongly suggest that the relationship between “democracy” and “a foreign policy in line with American needs” is not a straightforward one.

Even more strange than the magical thinking about “democracy” is Weiss’ habit of saying things that would appear to simply not be true. For example:

The men and women who have paid the price for Obama’s gullibility on these points are the beaten-down Russian dissidents, whose fate used to matter to the United States. Even as they have begun the hard work of constructing a domestic opposition movement, they have been denied even token support by the White House.

Russian dissidents have been fighting against Putin since he first came to power. In what possible sense can they be said to be “beginning” the construction of an opposition movement? They’ve been doing this for over a decade and they’ve failed at doing so. That doesn’t mean they’ll always fail, or that their failure is fated, but pretending that the Russian opposition came into existence sometime since Barack Obama‘s election is the kind of carelessness and sloppiness  the calls into question all of the articles other points.

Lastly, while arguing in favor of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of LawAccountability Act, Weiss demonstrates why using opinion polls to argue for a preffered policy outcome can be very dangerous:

This legislation would not only impose travel bans and asset freezes against the 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky case, but carries a universal clause that applies to gross human rights violators in any foreign country. This is why an ever-growing number of Russians supports the bill and Putin wholeheartedly opposes it.

Is it actually true that an “ever-growing growing number of Russians” supports the passage of the bill? Well, no. In August of 2011, 44% of Russians were in favor of efforts  in the West “to ban from entry into European countries and the United States figures from the Magnitsky case (i.e. those against whom he gave testimony and those who were involved in his death).” Just the other day Levada released another poll asking Russians how they related to “the proposals being discussed in theUS and in a number of other Western countries to ban entry to Russian officials who participated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.” 36% of respondents related positively or very positively, which would seem to suggest precisely the opposite  of what Weiss is alleging: that momentum for the passage of the act is not growing, but slipping. Is the act still a good idea? I have my doubts. But what is quite clear, what is not a matter of debate, is that there is no “growing” consensus among Russians that it is necessary: polls show that the number has decreased over the past year precisely during the time when discussion of the act has grown more frequent.

The reset is a modest policy that has yielded modest results and a modest improvement in Russian-American ties that, under the confrontational policies of George W. Bush, had decayed to their worst levels since before the end of the Cold War. Weiss argument that the rest is a titanic and crippling failure, and that it should immediately be replaced, strongly suggests that his goal is not regime change in Syria or the isolation of Iran (two things that are going to happen regardless of the Kremlin’s wishes) but confrontation with Russia itself. Why anyone would want a comprehensive confrontation with Russiais utterly beyond me. On some issues even I will agree that it makes perfect sense to “confront” (or “oppose” or “disagree with” or whatever you want to say”) the Russians: once they’re in the WTO I hope and expect that the White House will play hard ball defending American commercial interests. But on other issues, I would argue a much larger number of issues, it makes perfect sense to work with the Russians because while their interests are in many respects different from ours they are not diametrically opposed. In short, Weiss prescription is a prescription for the return of policies that have already been tried and have already failed spectacularly.

* Saudi Arabia, on most objective measures, is actually more domestically repressive thanIran. The ludicrousness of working with a country likeSaudi Arabia to “promote human rights” is impossible to exaggerate. Only marginally less ridiculous is the idea that theUnited States government has a genuine and apolitical interest in promoting human rights.

Doubts Cast on Turkey’s Story of Jet

Doubts Cast on Turkey’s Story of Jet

U.S. Intelligence, Contradicting Ankara, Indicates Aircraft Was Shot Down by Syria in Its Own Airspace, Officials Say

BY JULIAN E. BARNES, ADAM ENTOUS AND JOE PARKINSON

U.S. intelligence indicates that a Turkish warplane shot down by Syrian forces was most likely hit by shore-based antiaircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace, American officials said, a finding in tune with Syria’s account and at odds with Turkey.

The Turkish government, which moved tanks to the Syrian border after the June 22 incident, says the debris fell in Syrian waters, but maintains its fighter was shot down without warning in international airspace. Ankara also has said the jet was hit too far from Syrian territory to have been engaged by an antiaircraft gun.