Archive for April, 2011


April 29, 2011

In a speech reported by Fox News on April 28, 2011, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum slammed Obama for appeasing its enemies and failing to advance U.S. national security interests:

When a president…apologizes for our country and her immediate policies, we do not advance our security – we diminish our credibility. He doesn’t believe in American foreign policy” and is trying to hide from political heat.

Earlier in April, Santorum announced that he was “testing the waters” for a presidential run. He has said that:

Nothing has illustrated the failure of President Obama’s foreign policy more than how we have dealt with Iran. We sided with evil because our president believes our enemies are legitimately aggrieved and thus we have no standing to intervene.

Santorum went on to criticize the administration for causing a “no-win” “stalemate” in Libya and offering up an “olive branch” to “appease” America’s enemies stating also that:

Earlier this month the President suggested deep cuts to our military. Wrong signal, wrong effort and wrong time.

The criticism comes as President Obama is expected to nominate CIA chief Leon Panetta as his new Secretary of Defense. It is widely speculated that Panetta, a former head of the Office of Management and Budget under Clinton, would be aggressive in cutting defense spending.

The outspoken former Senator instead laid out a ten-point plan to restore American credibility in the international arena, including strengthening missile defense, increasing human intelligence operations in the Mideast, and “stand[ing] by Israel, especially at a time when it appears increasingly to be standing alone.”


April 27, 2011

On April 26, 2011, Fox News/AP reported that President Obama had authorized 25 million US dollars in non-lethal assistance to the Libyan opposition. This is the first U.S. aid after weeks of deliberation.

In a memo Obama said he was using his so-called “drawdown authority” to give the opposition, led by the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, up to $25 million in surplus American goods to help protect civilians in rebel-held areas threatened by Qaddafi’s forces.

As reported on this blog some U.S. lawmakers have urged, most notably Arizona Sen. John McCain, military aid to the Libyan opposition.

The pledge of non-lethal aid includes medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and Halal meals, which are meals prepared according to Islamic tradition. But the money may not be used to offer Libyan rebels broader assistance, including cash, weapons or ammunition.

At the same time the Obama administration eased sanctions against Libya to allow for the sale of oil controlled by the rebels. That move will allow Libya’s opposition forces to use the income from oil sales to buy weapons and other supplies. U.S. companies will be allowed to engage in transactions involving oil, natural gas and other petroleum products if the petroleum exports will benefit the opposition Transitional National Council of Libya.

The new order modified sanctions the administration had imposed in February freezing $34 billion in assets held by Qaddafi, his family members and top government officials. The original order had imposed sanctions on Libya’s oil companies.


April 25, 2011

Associated Press via Fox News on April 25, 2011, reported that the Bab al-Azizya compound of the Libyan tyrant was attacked. Several buildings were severely damaged.

On April 24, 2011, in Washington three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that more should be done to drive Qaddafi out of power, including targeting his inner circle with air strikes. Senator Lindsey, Republican South Carolina, said:

Qaddafi “needs to wake up every day wondering, ‘Will this be my last?”.


April 25, 2011

U.S. according to Fox News on April 24, 2011, seek to avoid a protracted struggle in Libya.

They want the administration to formally recognize the Libyan opposition’s transitional council, arm the rebels and unleash U.S. air power.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican South Carolina, is calling for the U.S. and NATO to launch direct strikes on Qaddafi’s inner circle in Tripoli.

Lindsey says:

The way to get Qaddafi to leave is have his inner circle break and turn on him. And that’s going to take a sustained effort through an air campaign. … That’s the quickest way to end this.

The long drawn-out protracted engagement is not good for the Libyan people. A lot of people are going to die unnecessarily.
Senator John McCain on his part wants an all-out air campaign on Tripoli to flush out Qaddafi.

The U.S., in his view, would do better to sufficiently train and equip rebel forces. McCain called for stepped-up military support for the rebels after visiting their stronghold in eastern Libya.

U.S. military’s AC-130 and A-10 aircraft should be employed, to support a Libyan rebel force.

McCain has also repeatedly called for all nations to recognize the legitimacy of the rebels’ Transitional National Council. In this he was supported by Senator Mark Kirk, Republican Illinois. Kirk called for a swift resolution to the conflict, with the assistance of U.S. air power:

Now that the U.S. military and our NATO allies are involved, we have a responsibility to win. I think we should wrap this up.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a grim assessment on April 22, 2011, saying that while Qaddafi’s ground force capabilities have been significantly degraded, the conflict is “moving toward a stalemate”.


April 19, 2011

On April 19, 2011, Fidel Castro (81), announced that he was resigning as Cuba’s president, one of the longest ruling tyrants in history.

President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition, though he doubts that would come about under the rule of another Castro.

In the pre-dawn hours, most Cubans were unaware of Castro’s message, and Havana’s streets were quiet.

Cuban dissidents and anticommunists around the world welcomed the news. It could be the first step toward freedom and change.

Meanwhile at first reaction was subdued in Miami’s exile community. There were however revelers who shouted “Free Cuba!” and sold little flags.

In Washington, the government said it had no plans to change U.S. policy or lift its embargo on Cuba.

President Bush in a statement said:

The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy. Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections — and I mean free, and I mean fair — not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy.

The United States built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after Castro’s death. But Cuban officials have insisted that the island’s socialist political and economic systems will outlive Castro.

Castro remains a member of parliament and is likely to be elected to the 31-member Council of State on Sunday, though he will no longer be its president. He also retains his powerful post as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.

The resignation opens the path for Raul Castro’s succession to the presidency, and the full autonomy he has lacked in leading a caretaker government.

Castro rose to power on New Year’s Day 1959 and reshaped Cuba into a communist state 90 miles from U.S. shores.
His ironclad rule ensured Cuba remained communist long after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe.

On April 17, 1961, the United States had an opportunity to remove the communist dictatorship with the Bay of Pigs invasion. It could have succeeded if the invading liberation force had been given the extensive air cover the administration in Washington DC had promised.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba has been in economic crisis.


April 15, 2011

In WSJ of April 13, 2011, Charles Wolf Jr. of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution reveals the facts about the so called decline of the United States.

Many academics starting with Yale historian Paul Kennedy in the 1980s proclaim that the United States is in decline and no longer No. 1 in the world.

The debate involves issues of absolute versus relative decline.

In absolute terms, Wolf wrote, the U.S. increased GDP by 21% in constant dollars, despite the shattering setbacks of the Great Recession in 2008-09 and the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001. In 2010, U.S. military spending ($697 billion) was 55% higher than in 2000. And in 2010, the U.S. population was 310 million, an increase of 10% since 2000.

But there were also some important declines relative to the rest of the world. In 2000, U.S. GDP was 61% of the combined GDPs of the other G-20 countries. By 2010, that number dropped to 42%. In 2000, U.S. GDP was slightly more than eight times that of China, but it fell to slightly less than three times in 2010.

In absolute terms, the U.S. increased its GDP, population and military spending from 2000 to 2010. In relative terms, the story is not always as good, especially in GDP.

The U.S. population grew by 10% more than that of Japan and 13% more than that of Russia between 2000 and 2010. Relative to the huge populations of China and India (1.3 billion and 1.2 billion, respectively), the U.S. population during the past decade increased slightly (0.16%) compared to China and decreased by a similar margin compared to India.

As noted, military spending by the U.S. increased across the board relative to China and Russia.

As for demography, there was a small U.S. increase relative to global population, a moderate increase relative to the EU, large increases relative to Japan and Russia, and slight and opposite changes relative to China and India.

So the overall picture is far more complex than the simple one portrayed by declinist academics. The real world is complicated, so a portrait in one dimension distorts rather than reflects reality.

Dr. Wolf correctly points out that the declinists are not correct. It should be added that Professor Kennedy has after 2000 admitted that he was wrong in the 1980s and that the United States is today’s hegemon. The economy is important and to remain No. 1 the US must solve problems like the debt issue and work towards balancing the budget.


April 2, 2011

Historian Bernard Lewis in a WSJ interview on April 2, 2011, says things might go right after all in the Mideast:

I think that the tyrannies are doomed. The real question is what will come instead.

Professor Lewis believes the U.S. and the West should to everything to bolster the popular movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. Western-style elections will, however, have to wait:

We have a much better chance of establishing—I hesitate to use the word democracy—but some sort of open, tolerant society, if it’s done within their systems, according to their traditions. Why should we expect them to adopt a Western system? And why should we expect it to work?

Elections, Professor Lewis argues, should be the culmination—not the beginning—of a gradual political process:

to lay the stress all the time on elections, parliamentary Western-style elections, is a dangerous delusion.

It is important to stress, says Lewis, that:

the whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule. There is a very strong tradition—both historical and legal, both practical and theoretical—of limited, controlled government.

To figure out how to build freer, better societies, Muslims need not look across the ocean. They need only look back into their own history.

In Middle Eastern history:

consultation is the magic word. It occurs again and again in classical Islamic texts. It goes back to the time of the Prophet himself.

It’s not that Ottoman-era societies were models of democratic wisdom. But power was shared such that rulers at the top were checked, so the Arab and Muslim communities of the vast Ottoman Empire came to include certain practices and expectations of limited government.

Professor Lewis warns that there is no precise equivalent in Arabic to Western freedom:

Liberty, freedom, it means not being a slave. . . . Freedom was a legal term and a social term—it was not a political term. And it was not used as a metaphor for political status. The closest Arabic word to our concept of liberty is “justice,” or ‘adl. In the Muslim tradition, justice is the standard of good government.

A problem in the Arab and Muslim world has been modernization:

It . . . enormously increased the power of the state. And it tended to undermine, or even destroy, those various intermediate powers which had previously limited the power of the state.

Thus the modern tyrants like Mubarak and Assad amassed greater power than even the mightiest of the sultans ever had.
In the view of Professor Lewis Tunisia has real potential for democracy, largely because of the role of women there:

Tunisia, as far as I know, is the only Muslim country that has compulsory education for girls from the beginning right through. And in which women are to be found in all the professions.

My own feeling is that the greatest defect of Islam and the main reason they fell behind the West is the treatment of women.
Egypt is a more complicated case, Mr. Lewis says in the interview. Already the young, liberal protesters who led the revolution in Tahrir Square are being pushed aside by the military-Muslim Brotherhood complex. Hasty elections, which could come as soon as September, might sweep the Muslim Brotherhood into power. We should have no illusions about the Muslim Brotherhood, who they are and what they want.

Professor Lewis in the WSJ interview brings up the Iranian revolution was beginning in the late 1970s and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini:

I was at Princeton and I must confess I never heard of Khomeini. Who had? So I did what one normally does in this world of mine: I went to the university library and looked up Khomeini and, sure enough, it was there.

Lewis found a short book called Islamic Government—now known as Khomeini’s Mein Kampf—available in Persian and Arabic:

It became perfectly clear who he was and what his aims were. And that all of this talk at the time about [him] being a step forward and a move toward greater freedom was absolute nonsense.

I tried to bring this to the attention of people here. The New York Times wouldn’t touch it. They said ‘We don’t think this would interest our readers.’ But we got the Washington Post to publish an article quoting this. Eventually the message got through—thanks to Khomeini.

I think that sooner or later the regime in Iran will be overthrown and something more open, more democratic, will emerge. Most Iranian patriots are against the regime. They feel it is defaming and dishonoring their country. And they’re right of course.

Let’s hope the Green movement is effective. Because Mr. Lewis doesn’t think that Iran can be contained if it does go nuclear:

This is not the Cold War. The mullahs “are religious fanatics with an apocalyptic mindset. In Islam, as in Christianity and Judaism, there is an end-of-times scenario—and they think it’s beginning or has already begun.”

“In Turkey”, Professor Lewis remarks, “the movement is getting more and more toward re-Islamization. The government has that as its intention—and it has been taking over, very skillfully, one part after another of Turkish society. The economy, the business community, the academic community, the media. And now they’re taking over the judiciary, which in the past has been the stronghold of the republican regime.” Ten years from now, Mr. Lewis thinks, Turkey and Iran could switch places.