In Depth Analysis http://english.irib.ir Tue, 17 Oct 2017 02:06:33 +0000 en-gb Spinning US voters to stay passive http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/222063-spinning-us-voters-to-stay-passive http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/222063-spinning-us-voters-to-stay-passive

As public anger toward America’s self-interested establishment bubbles into a boil, the mainstream media has grown frantic appealing to the masses to “stay sane,” reject populism and renew the establishment’s lease on the White House.

Norman Solomon, the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org, has more on this.

For a long time, as he campaigned for President, a wide spectrum of establishment media insisted that Bernie Sanders couldn’t win. Now they’re sounding the alarm that he might. And, just in case you haven’t gotten the media message yet — Sanders is “angry,” kind of like Donald Trump.

Elite media often blur distinctions between right-wing populism and progressive populism — as though there’s not all that much difference between appealing to xenophobia and racism on the one hand and appealing for social justice and humanistic solidarity on the other. Many journalists can’t resist lumping Trump and Sanders together as rabble-rousing outliers.

But in the real world, the differences are vast. Donald Trump is to Bernie Sanders as Archie Bunker is to Jon Stewart.

Among regular New York Times columnists, aversion to Bernie Sanders has become more pronounced in recent days at both ends of the newspaper’s ideological spectrum, such as it is. Republican Party aficionado David Brooks, whose idea of a good political time is Marco Rubio, has been freaking out in print, most recently with a column headlined “Stay Sane America, Please!”

Brooks warned that his current nightmare for the nation is in triplicate — President Trump, President Cruz or President Sanders. For Brooks, all three contenders appear to be about equally awful; Trump is “one of the most loathed men in American public life,” while “America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are.”

That “political center” of power sustains huge income inequality, perpetual war, scant action on climate change and reflexive support for the latest unhinged escalation of the nuclear arms race. In other words, what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.”

Meanwhile, liberal Times columnist Paul Krugman, whose idea of a good political time is Hillary Clinton, keeps propounding a stand-on-head formula for social change — a kind of trickle-down theory of political power, in which “happy dreams” must yield to “hard thinking,” a euphemism for crackpot realism.

An excellent rejoinder has come from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Reich wrote “Krugman doesn’t get it,” “I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen.”

And former Labor Secretary Robert Reich added: “Political ‘pragmatism’ may require accepting ‘half loaves’ — but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful.” Reich noted that “That’s why the movement must aim high — toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example.”

But for mainline media, exploring such substance is low priority, much lower than superficial labeling and horseracing … and riffing on how Bernie Sanders sounds “angry.”

On “Morning Edition,” began with National Press Review political reporter Mara Liasson telling listeners that “Bernie Sanders’ angry tirades against Wall Street have found a receptive audience.” Meanwhile, without anger or tirades, “Hillary Clinton often talks about the fears and insecurities of ordinary voters.”

The momentum of the Sanders campaign will soon provoke a lot more corporate media attacks along the lines of a Chicago Tribune editorial that appeared in print just recently. The newspaper editorialized that nomination of Trump, Cruz or Sanders “could be politically disastrous,” and it declared: “Wise heads in both parties are verging on panic.”

Such panic has just begun, among party elites and media elites. Eager to undermine Sanders, the Tribune editorial warned that as a “self-declared democratic socialist,” Sanders “brandishes a label that, a Gallup poll found, would automatically make him unacceptable to nearly half the public.”

A strong critique of such commentaries has come from the media watch group FAIR, where Jim Naureckas pointed out that “voters would not be asked to vote for ‘a socialist’ — they’d be asked to vote for Bernie Sanders. And while pollsters don’t include Sanders in general election matchups as often as they do Hillary Clinton, they have asked how the Vermont senator would do against various Republicans — and he generally does pretty well.

Based on polling analysis by the website Real Clear Politics, in particular, against the candidate the Tribune says is ‘best positioned’ to ‘capture the broad, sensible center’ — Jeb Bush — Sanders leads in polls by an average of 3.0 percentage points.

In mass media, the conventional sensibilities of pundits like Brooks and Krugman, reporters like Liasson, and outlets like the Chicago Tribune routinely get the first and last words. According to the Tribune, “When pollsters match Sanders against the four top-polling Republican hopefuls, on average he does better than Clinton does against each of them — even though she, like Bush, is supposed to be ‘best positioned’ to ‘capture the broad, sensible center’.

Actually, the elements of Sanders’ platform that elite media are most likely to associate with social affairs — things like universal, publicly funded healthcare and eliminating tuition at public colleges — are quite popular with the public, and go a long way to explain his favorable poll numbers.
But they are also the sort of proposals that make Sanders unacceptable to the nation’s wealthy elite — and to establishment media outlets.
What you heard was parts of the media game play on the favorites towards the White House. By the way, none of them referred to a ground reality in the way. The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US, is holding its biggest annual conference yet with around 13,000 delegates in Washington.

For all those bidding to become the next US president, it has become an essential campaign stop. The pro-Zionist group has strong ties to the evangelical voters. And it is a very influential force in Washington politics.
So what role do pro-Israel lobby groups, and AIPAC in particular, play in the US election and why are they courted by those competing to be the next US president? How do Barack Obama's dealings with the usurper regime of Israel compare with those of his predecessors, including Republicans? The matters, unfortunately, have been a source of decision-makings in the United States of America. Yes, forget about the sufferings of Palestinians as usual!
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In Depth Analysis Fri, 29 Jan 2016 10:44:28 +0000
US exploiting NATO for global warfare, arms sales: Analyst http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/221806-us-exploiting-nato-for-global-warfare,-arms-sales-analyst http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/221806-us-exploiting-nato-for-global-warfare,-arms-sales-analyst

The Pentagon chief’s call on members of the US-led coalition against Daesh (ISIL) shows that the United States is exploiting NATO to advance its global warfare and arms sales, according to an international lawyer and analyst.

 

“The United States cannot seem to make up its mind whether it wants a political solution in Syria and Iraq or a full military confrontation,” Barry Grossman said in an interview with Press TV on Saturday.

“Of course, bearing in mind the way the United Nations-sponsored Syria talks have been engineered to fail, a person could be forgiven for assuming that any prospect for a political solution stands no chance given the US-led coalition’s demands, its myriad objectives in the region which are inconsistent with peace and its unqualified commitment to escalating the use of force,” he continued.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter criticized some members of the so-called coalition against Daesh on Friday for doing “nothing at all” to destroy the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

“Many of them are not doing enough, or are doing nothing at all,” Carter said in an interview with CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In a speech at the forum, Carter singled out Turkey as a country the US wants to see play a more effective role, especially by tightening its border. "Turkey is a longtime friend of ours. It's a NATO ally. We're strongly in support of it. We stand with it in terms of defense of its own territory."

Grossman said that Carter’s comments “need to be understood in the context of another agenda which has been quietly playing out for some time now.”

“While not so long ago, conventional wisdom considered NATO to be a relic of the Cold War that should be relegated to the dustbin of history, but its quite recent usefulness to US hawks as a tool for advancing belligerent US foreign policy cloaked with the legitimacy of multilateral support at times when the United Nations has been less than perfectly compliant, has given NATO a second lease on life which has now made it all but indispensable to the US-led war program,” the analyst explained.

“Apart from creating the impression of broad-based multilateral support,” Grossman said, “NATO also provides a convenient mechanism for the US to spread the cost of its now continuous global warfare and, at once, market its overpriced weapons technology to member countries.”

Carter has spent the past week in Europe, primarily in Paris, where he urged allies to step up the fight against Daesh.

The United States has carried out the bulk of nearly 9,800 airstrikes launched in Iraq and Syria since the summer of 2014. The air campaign has done little to dislodge the Daesh terrorists from their territories.

“The last thing the US wants is a bunch of coalition member states from NATO or from the Saudi-owned Arab League, getting overly involved in this contrived conflict except, perhaps, by putting boots on the ground filled with expendables from other client states or by sharing the cost of expensive US manufactured hardware,” Grossman noted.

“Those who have been listening already understand that during the past couple of years, there has been no shortage of public commentary by US officials calling on recalcitrant NATO member states to make good on their financial obligations, while Arab League countries are expected to purchase their weaponry from a US armaments industry which is only too happy to sell them the latest military technology,” he added.

“Ashton Carter’s comments, in my opinion, are little more than a marketing campaign for America’s weapons producers and a terse reminder to NATO member countries that they need to ramp up their spending on weapons of mass destruction,” Grossman concluded.
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In Depth Analysis Sat, 23 Jan 2016 11:57:57 +0000
Lack of Russia experts alarms US intelligence officials: Report http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/220775-lack-of-russia-experts-alarms-us-intelligence-officials-report http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/220775-lack-of-russia-experts-alarms-us-intelligence-officials-report

American intelligence officials warn that Washington’s shortage of experts on its arch-rival Russia exposes the US to Moscow’s unpredictable activities that may threaten US national security.

 

Citing experts, lawmakers and former administration officials, the Washington Post reported Wednesday that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of troops and experts stationed in Europe, who are tasked with understanding and responding to “threats emanating from Moscow.”

Washington’s limited understanding of Moscow has made it more difficult to predict Russian moves in areas such as Ukraine and Syria, although clues were readily available, the report said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said, “We’ve been surprised at every turn. We were surprised when they went into Crimea; we were surprised when they went into Syria.”

The Post report also quoted Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama on Russian and Eurasian affairs, as saying that the quality of Eurasia analysis is “shallower.”

He said after the 9/11 attacks in New York, the US increased “focus on the Middle East and it’s had consequences.”

According to McFaul, “Figuring out decision-making in Russia on foreign policy requires a great deal of qualitative depth… and that requires new investment and knowledge.”

“The mistake that was made 20 years ago was assuming Russia’s a weak power, a declining power,” he added.

McFaul further said, “Whether they’re a great power or a middling power, we can argue about. But they are a major power, in the top 5 or 10 economies in the world, a top nuclear country in the world.”

Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said the US needs to reverse the current trend towards Russia expertise that has been in decline since the Cold War. He said Washington needs to “double down on re-looking at Russia.”

Russian airstrikes against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists and other militant groups in Syria drew strong criticism from Washington and its Western allies.

The US and Russia have also been at odds over Ukraine since the crisis began in the east of the country last year. Washington accuses Russia of having a major hand in the conflict, which has killed more than 6,000 people. Moscow has denied any involvement in Ukraine's crisis.
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In Depth Analysis Thu, 31 Dec 2015 11:20:38 +0000
The US terror scare http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/220403-the-us-terror-scare http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/220403-the-us-terror-scare

In a commentary published December 17 in the Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius, who has close connections with the US military-intelligence apparatus, comments on the debate within US ruling circles about the scale and timing of an escalation of the US military intervention in Iraq and Syria.

 

After noting that US President Barack Obama has so far rejected calls to deploy substantial numbers of US ground troops against ISIS, Ignatius poses this revealing question that what would cause Obama to change his mind and treat the war against the ISIS as an existential crisis requiring a major US military intervention? Probably the trigger would be a big, orchestrated terrorist incident that so frightened the public that it began to prevent the normal functioning of America. At that point, Obama might decide there was no alternative to taking ownership of the Middle East mess with tens of thousands of US troops.

This observation explains far more about the political significance of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris and the December 2 killings in San Bernardino than the feverish denunciations of the ISIS in Syria and Iraq by American politicians and the corporate-controlled media.

The US is mulling over its options in Iraq and Syria, well aware of the powerful domestic opposition to the expanding war in the Middle East. Wall Street, the Pentagon and the CIA know that to embark on a major escalation, including the use of large numbers of ground troops, they will need a suitable pretext to overcome popular antiwar sentiment. The media firestorm following San Bernardino has served as something of a dress rehearsal for how this would be done.

Terrible and tragic as it was, the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino was only one of dozens of such mass shootings in the United States over the past few years, and only the second—following the Ft. Hood, Texas killings by Major Nidal Hassan in 2009—in which the attackers were apparently motivated by extremism. In the period since the 9/11 attacks, white supremacist and Christian fundamentalist terrorists have killed more people in America than what they wish referring to as Islamists, yet there is no political or media firestorm demanding state repression of such right-wing fanatics.

San Bernardino has been seized upon to roll out a political agenda prepared well in advance, with demands for the elimination of encryption in Internet services, mass surveillance of all social media postings, a crackdown on visa waivers and a dramatic escalation of US military operations in the name of a war against ISIS.

This despite the fact that the two killers, husband and wife, did not prepare their attack using encrypted communications, did not, contrary to press claims, announce their terrorist intentions on social media, did not make use of the visa waiver program, and had no direct connection to ISIS at all.

This is a recurring pattern over the past 15 years, going back to the murky origins of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which have never been the subject of a serious and independent investigation. Terrorist attacks take place that are attributed to shadowy so-called ‘Islamist’ organizations that have longstanding ties to the CIA and other imperialist intelligence agencies. Al Qaeda, for example, arose out of the US-backed guerrilla war against the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

These attacks become the pretext for the launching of predatory wars long planned by the imperialist powers and needing only a suitable pretext. Thus 9/11 became the launching pad for the US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The Paris attacks have brought a French aircraft carrier into the bombing campaign in Syria along with the participation of British bombers and a substantial troop deployment by Germany.

War abroad is inevitably accompanied by repression at home, with police-military mobilizations that are carried out in the name of fighting “terrorism,” but whose real purpose is to suppress domestic antiwar sentiment and opposition to the austerity measures required by the deepening crisis of world order. Thus the Paris attacks were followed by a savage crackdown by the French government, whose first victims were environmental protesters outside the climate summit earlier this month.

According to Ignatius, who participated in a closed-door briefing at the White House with a group of editors and columnists on December 15, the Obama administration does not view San Bernardino as providing a sufficient casus belli for a full-scale US war in Syria. Something bigger would be required.

This should be taken as a warning. There are many in the vast US intelligence apparatus with the experience and ruthlessness required to manufacture such an incident, either by permitting an ongoing terrorist plan to go forward without disruption—as was apparently the case in the 9/11 attack—or by directly organizing such an operation under a false flag. At the very least, they consider events such as the Paris and San Bernardino attacks as a political godsend.

It is instructive to recall the words of former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who played a key role in the Carter administration’s anti-Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, in his book on US imperialist foreign policy, The Grand Chessboard, published just four years before 9/11. He said it is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy.
But, according to Brzezinski, the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial that is, defense spending and the human sacrifice, casualties, even among professional soldiers, required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. According to this US policy think tank, Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.

When such an event occurs, the faster the media reaches unanimity on what organization was responsible and what country must be bombed or invaded to allegedly “defend” the American people, the more certain it is that a long-prepared contingency plan is coming to fruition.

This reality underscores the completely manipulated and stage-managed character of the 2016 presidential election. An event such as San Bernardino can be dropped on the US public like a bomb at any time for the purpose of provoking a war, tipping an election or even calling off voting altogether. It is worth remembering that in 2004 there was open discussion within the Bush administration of the possible postponement or cancellation of the presidential election, using a possible terrorist attack as the pretext.

Recent debates by the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates displayed bipartisan agreement on the essential political rationale for a new imperialist war in the Middle East. All these capitalist politicians, from the pseudo-socialist Bernie Sanders to the libertarian Rand Paul, adhered to the media narrative that the San Bernardino killings are the central issue in the election, that the American people are completely preoccupied with the danger of terrorism. They added that every action of the US government, foreign and domestic, must be judged through this lens. At this juncture, the American people should not to be deceived or swayed by the barrage of pro-war propaganda disguised as anti-terrorism. They are expected for the independent political mobilization against imperialist war, against mounting state repression, and against austerity policies and the destruction of jobs and living standards among many others; and all in all against ‘the US terror scare’. A fact that Patrick Martin, a Canadian journalist and bureau chief for The Globe and Mail newspaper, talked about it in this article.
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In Depth Analysis Wed, 23 Dec 2015 11:09:26 +0000
US defense secretary threatens Russia and China http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/218500-us-defense-secretary-threatens-russia-and-china http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/218500-us-defense-secretary-threatens-russia-and-china

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter delivered a pointed warning of future wars in an address to a forum at the Reagan Library in southern California.

The reckless and provocative character of the Pentagon chief’s speech is underscored by the targets of his saber-rattling: Russia, with the world’s second largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and China with the third.
The subject of the forum was the restructuring of the military-intelligence apparatus to deal with the threats that strategists for US imperialism anticipate in the coming years. As Carter noted after 14 years of counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism–two skills they wanted to retain–they were in the middle of a strategic transition to respond to the security challenges that will define their future. A Canadian journalist and bureau chief for The Globe and Mail newspaper, Patrick Martin, has more disclosures on the issue by recapping the bold parts of speech delivered by the US defense secretary; in fact showing the White House militaristic policy.

Giving only brief mention of the ongoing US wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, the US defense secretary said he wanted to focus his remarks on another kind of innovation for the future, which is how they’re responding to Russia, one source of today’s turbulence, and China’s rise, which is driving a transition in the Asia-Pacific.

Ashton Carter paid tribute to the warmongering of the Reagan administration (1981-1989) in which he served, holding his first Pentagon job as an aide to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. He credited Reagan with a military buildup that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, particularly America’s support for the so-called mujahedeen in Afghanistan, although Carter was diplomatically silent about this support giving rise to Al Qaeda.

The US defense secretary claimed that both Russia and China, in different ways, were challenging the foundations of international order laid down by successive US administrations throughout the period since the end of World War II. He said “The principles that serve as that order’s foundation, including peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, freedom of navigation and overflight–are not abstractions, nor are they subject to the whims of any one country.”

Actually, those principles have been systematically violated by the US in war after war over the quarter century since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was the existence of the USSR, not any respect for “principles,” that set limits to the depredations of US imperialism.

From 1991 on, Washington has felt itself empowered—its strategists wrote openly of a “unipolar moment” in world history—to use military force in an increasingly unrestrained and reckless fashion. Wars and other military interventions have followed in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Haiti, Yemen and now Syria, along with the ongoing buildup of US forces along the western border of Russia and the coastal waters of China.

Towards the end of his speech, Carter referred in passing to the “more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat.” That figure exceeds the total number of troops deployed by all other countries in the world outside their own borders. By itself, that number demonstrates the basic reality of 21st century global politics, that is: US imperialism considers itself the policeman of the world, entitled to intervene in any country, to bomb and kill at will, against any challenge to its domination. According to Carter, “Russia appears intent to play spoiler by flouting these principles and the international community. Meanwhile, China is a rising power, and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.”

After denouncing Russia for what they liked to dub as “violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia” and for its recent legally intervention in Syria, Carter raised the danger of what he called “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling.” The US defense secretary claimed that this “raises questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.”

In fact, Ashton Carter used this nonexistent danger to justify the vast US expansion of its own nuclear arsenal, by far the world’s largest, in an Obama administration initiative now estimated to cost more than $300 billion.

The US defense secretary also hinted enthusiastically at the potential of new weapons for use against Russia, including “new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace.” Carter reiterated the US commitment to Article V of the NATO charter, which requires an all-out war by NATO in the event of a conflict between Russia and one of the Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, each ruled by rabidly anti-Russian cliques and with large Russian-speaking minorities. Few citizens of the United States—or Britain or Germany, for that matter—realize that their governments are committed to war with a nuclear-armed Russia in the event of a border clash with Estonia. Let’s not forget that the US often put forth words of commitments, but it never shows up committed to basic international norms in different parts of the world.

In a blatant show of warmongering, the US official also hailed recent NATO exercises, including Trident Juncture, simulating a Russian invasion of one of the NATO countries in Eastern Europe, in which 4,000 American troops participated. On China, he was less openly confrontational, and he revealed that he had accepted an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Beijing in 2016.

Militaristic rhetoric was unnecessary, however, since he was coming straight from a well-publicized appearance on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The ship is one of the American aircraft carriers redeployed from the Middle East to the Pacific as part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” aimed at confronting China with a massive military buildup.

The visit to the aircraft carrier took place shortly after a US destroyer, the USS Lassen, made a provocative sally in Chinese waters around an islet in the South China Sea, not far from the carrier task force. The US deliberately challenged the 12-mile limit China has declared around its islets in that sea, on the grounds that the islets are either manmade or have been artificially expanded.

Responding to questions in media reports about whether the US Navy engaged in what is technically known as “innocent passage,” which would concede Chinese territorial claims, or a “freedom of navigation exercise,” which asserts that the waters are international, not Chinese, Carter made it clear that it was the latter. He emphasized the connection between the repositioning of US military assets to the Pacific, the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an anti-Chinese trade bloc dominated by the US and Japan, and the buildup of US alliances in the region. Mere provocation!

Just as important as the rampant militarism of Carter’s speech was its bipartisan character. Carter is a lifelong Democrat, and his threats to Russia and China have the full backing of the liberal wing of the US ruling elite. His remarks were not impromptu or offhand comments, but part of a carefully prepared, deliberately bipartisan event. It was in a forum on the “Force of the Future” sponsored by the Reagan Foundation, which operates the presidential library in Simi Valley, outside Los Angeles. And the Obama administration was represented by Carter, his deputy Robert Work and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. A question comes to mind here, “what is the US following with this militaristic approach towards the world issue?” Don’t forget that hollow, threatening tone has been part of the US literature in foreign policy domain, today pointing towards Russia and China, against others on the other day.
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In Depth Analysis Thu, 12 Nov 2015 11:40:24 +0000
The story of notorious hands in Afghanistan http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/216999-the-story-of-notorious-hands-in-afghanistan http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/216999-the-story-of-notorious-hands-in-afghanistan

US Commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell has a lot of nerves to revise his narrative on the recent US attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan, claiming it was “mistakenly struck.”

 

It is not that hard to understand why he insists the US army “would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.” Though he has conceded that the US chain of command had indeed made the decision through “a rigorous procedure” to attack the hospital in Kunduz, a strike that killed 22, including 12 Doctors Without Borders staff.

The UN Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders have both condemned the hospital massacre as a “war crime” and are demanding an independent investigation beyond the silly one carried out by the Pentagon. The White House rejects the suggestion that bombing the hospital full of civilians is a “war crime,” and Gen. Campbell declines to offer a timeline on the Pentagon probe.

This write-up is not an attempt to politicize the whole thing or present it as a repeated accident that the US general is desperate to sweep under the rug. What’s important to realize is that you may make mistakes, but you are not a failure until you start blaming someone else. And being a failure and blaming the Afghan troops for the Kunduz tragedy is what Gen. Campbell has been doing all this time.
Lest he forgets, to err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish. People are still dying in Afghanistan for all the wrong reasons. Attacks on medical centers cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. They affect humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermine the core principles of humanitarian action throughout the world.

Strange enough, the “tough” US general refuses to recognize all this and more. Instead, he is talking of "succeeding" in perhaps a decade in order to prolong the US army’s bloodstained occupation. The unfortunate American and NATO troops who think they have a decade to win a pointless war against insurgents have clearly not been reading military history.

Many polls are showing that the majority of Afghans want the American and NATO forces to leave and the majority of US voters want the same thing from their presidential candidates. This is because as long as the occupying troops remain in Afghanistan there will be no security for the American public back home amid the nasty continuing inter-ethnic wars between the warlords as well as between the Taliban and the US-led forces. Simply put, the result is what we just saw in Kunduz: Chaos and an ocean of blood.

Regardless of the polls, certain arrogant US generals on the ground still insist that the desperate situation can be turned around if only more time and more troops are committed. Even with US forces being increased to 10,000-strong allied army, the generals also know the situation in Afghanistan is serious and that success is not achievable.
There is no impressive purpose to having US military forces operating in Afghanistan. Those who favor an escalation of the war ought to own up to its heavy costs and bloody consequences. Of course, none of this is likely to be the case as long as the US and NATO commanders pursue their strategy of bomb and apologize, while garrisoning the planet and fighting open-ended wars on not only Afghan but global frontiers.

Instead of fueling global outrage for their illicit wars and occupations, the warmongers would be better off – and safer - if they come to their senses and downsize their pointless missions in the world, particularly in Afghanistan. By making deadly mistakes, the War Party will never become superior in Afghanistan. Here, when the US army “mistakenly” strikes and then scrambles for a scapegoat, they call it evil.

Yes, the US military's October 3 airstrike on a charity hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, is a war crime. The US military, which initially described the hit as "collateral damage," is now claiming that Taliban fighters had been hiding in the medical center. The Doctors Without Borders rejects those charges, stating unequivocally, "We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.” The organization condemned the attack and said it constituted a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.
As always, the US government says it will conduct an investigation into the bombing, but will wait until the Department of Defense completes its own probe - a silly response that Doctors Without Borders rejects as weak. This is because relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict will be wholly insufficient. Physicians for Human Rights, a medical and science advocacy organization, has also referred to the targeting of the hospital as a war crime, and similarly called for an independent investigation into the bombing. In a statement, the organization said, "Targeting a hospital is a war crime.”

However, this truly horrific and inexcusable incident is not something new; except that it was carried out by an occupying force that claims is there to protect people from the Taliban. This particular incident also becomes ever more important seeing that the US has decided to scrap their pullout plans.

It is now an open secret that the Taliban were formed under a US plan and with Saudi cash. The plan to occupy Afghanistan and create havoc in Pakistan is just a continuation of that initial project, with the sole purpose of making the situation ever more complex. Although it is true that the terrorist activities of Taliban pose a real threat to the region, it is also true that this is a major achievement for Washington.

Washington has no intention to clobber the Taliban for the simple fact that they serve its illicit interests: To win more allies by exaggerating the threat of the Taliban; to stay longer in the occupied countries and territories; and to target civilians to enhance regional unrest and sectarian violence.

Just as importantly, Saudi Arabia is busy sponsoring the Taliban and al-Qaeda throughout the region. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states friendly to Washington are the chief source of funding for these terrorist groups. Shadowy “donors” in Saudi Arabia also constitute the most significant source of funding to terrorists groups worldwide.
Despite international pressure, the Arab states have been hesitant to act against known terrorists that are threatening stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They also refuse to disrupt their finance channels, which are the Taliban's greatest source of income - above revenues from the opium-poppy trade.
The chief funders of al-Qaeda in Syria and Yemen continue to sponsor the Taliban in Afghanistan, and as anticipated, this makes them US partners in crime in the latest massacre in Kunduz. The regime changers are promoting terrorism and violence in the Muslim world and one way or another they will have to pay a heavy price for their thoughtless subversion and crimes against humanity.
EA

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In Depth Analysis Sun, 11 Oct 2015 10:35:56 +0000
US should attempt to disarm Russians in Syria: Brzezinski http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/216796-us-should-attempt-to-disarm-russians-in-syria-brzezinski http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/216796-us-should-attempt-to-disarm-russians-in-syria-brzezinski

US foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski says the United States should retaliate if Russia does not stop bombing its assets in Syria.

 

Brzezinski, the national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, advised President Barack Obama to attempt to disarm the Russians if they keep attacking the CIA-trained militants in Syria.

"The Russian naval and air presences in Syria are vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland," Brzezinski wrote in an article published by the Financial Times on Sunday. "They could be 'disarmed' if they persist in provoking the US."

"But, better still, Russia might be persuaded to act with the US in seeking a wider accommodation to a regional problem that transcends the interests of a single state," he added.

A new US intelligence assessment has found Russia has targeted militant groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Syria.

The assessment, shared by commanders on the ground, has led American officials to conclude that Russian warplanes have intentionally struck CIA-backed militants in a string of attacks running for days, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Moscow's apparent decision to strike CIA’s militants "at best" reflects "Russian military incompetence," and worst, "evidence of a dangerous desire to highlight American political impotence," wrote Brzezinski.
He added that if Moscow continues to target these people, then Washington should retaliate against Russians.

"In these rapidly unfolding circumstances the US has only one real option if it is to protect its wider stakes in the region: to convey to Moscow the demand that it cease and desist from military actions that directly affect American assets," he said.

Obama administration officials are debating how the United States can come to the aid of its proxy forces on the ground without risking a broader conflict, according to the Wall Street Journal.

US officials said Russia’s moves in Syria posed a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s foreign policy on the Middle East.

Moscow’s commitment to the Syrian government runs counter to current US policy, which calls for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia has been beefing up its military presence in neighboring Syria, deploying warplanes, tanks and personnel to an airfield in the western port city of Latakia. It launched a coordinated air campaign to fight Daesh (ISIL) and other terrorists.

Senior Russian officials have said the current campaign is limited to airstrikes, but have not ruled out “volunteers” on the ground.

Syria has been gripped by a foreign-backed militancy since March 2011 aimed at toppling the Assad government. The violence has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people so far.
EA

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In Depth Analysis Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:44:02 +0000
It’s time to break with ‘Kingdom of Horrors’ http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215989-it’s-time-to-break-with-‘kingdom-of-horrors’ http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215989-it’s-time-to-break-with-‘kingdom-of-horrors’

Saudi King Salman decided that a 10-vehicle motorcade in Washington, D.C., was too small for his needs, so his people rented 400 black Mercedes S-class automobiles to make it bigger.

There was no place to put them all, so the White House housed them at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland until they were needed. Wall Street Journal correspondent Carol Lee snapped a picture. Salman was in D.C. earlier this month for a meeting with US President Barck Obama. To house his retinue, he rented the entire Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. The lavish hotel evidently wasn’t decorated up to his standards, so gold furniture and red carpets had to be wheeled in to spruce it up.

Salman does live large. At the end of July he vacationed on the French Riviera at his royal villa in Vallauris. The public beach was fenced off for the occasion and a temporary elevator built to bring the 79-year-old ruler down to the sand. As big as the mansion was, it couldn’t contain his entire retinue. Forbes reported that the 1,000-strong collection of officials, aides, “courtiers, hangers-on, and wannabes” had to be housed elsewhere.

In Yemen, where the monumental vanity of the Saudi regime caused it to interfere and invade, conditions are far less opulent. UNICEF said in August that 10 million children need urgent humanitarian assistance. “Ten million children” is an abstraction, hard to understand. Instead think about one child crying all night in pain or hunger and multiply the sound 10 million times.

What a collection of heroes the Saudis have gathered to make war on Yemenis! It includes Persian Gulf monarchs whose construction and domestic work is done under conditions of near slavery, the Egyptian military ruler who holds the one-day record for slaughter at a sit-in and alike. Let’s not leave out the U.S president, who has kill notches on his Nobel Peace Prize for missions ranging from Libya to Pakistan.

As Barack Obama met the Saudi king, scores of protesters stood in front of the White House with signs and banners. Among them was a man in striped prison garb with a King Salman mask. The activists were mostly Yemenis residing in the U.S and members of the anti-war group Code Pink. Some had signs displaying the hashtag #KefayaWar, meaning “Enough War.” One photo shows the man masked as Salman giving a mock flogging, a favorite regime punishment. In June, blogger Raif Badawi’s 1,000-lash sentence was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court.

The demonstration took place at a time when an effort has started to end the 70-year U.S.-Saudi alliance. A new website was unveiled with that demand on its home page. The initial sponsors of the campaign were the Institute for Gulf Affairs, Code Pink, Massachusetts Peace Action and the Middle East Crisis Committee, chaired by the author of the article, Stanley Heller. The site links to a simple petition that says: “The U.S. has spent trillions on military forces in the Persian Gulf. Washington supports tyrannical regimes, wars and cruel occupations without making us safe. Close the U.S. bases and bring the fleet home NOW.”

That phrase “spent trillions” may be surprising. It’s well known that the U.S. sells the Saudi regime immense amounts of weapons. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters that Obama and Salman had discussed “fast-tracking of the release of American military technology and weapons systems” at their White House conclave. Arms sales bring in money to the U.S. or at least to merchants of death who own U.S. weapons factories. However, there’s also the cost to U.S. taxpayers that for some reason is rarely mentioned. Back in 2011, Princeton University professor Roger Stern estimated that since the time of Jimmy Carter the U.S. had spent more than $8 trillion on military measures in the Persian Gulf.

An earlier study by the University of California at Davis said that if there was no oil in the Persian Gulf, “defense expenditures might be reduced in the long run by roughly $27-$73 billion per year in 2004 dollars.” Military bases, soldiers, sailors, contractors, weapons system, fleets, CENTCOM—they’re all financed by a flood of dollars. Without the Saudi-U.S. alliance, there could be an enormous peace dividend.
Yemen is the most obvious location of Saudi troublemaking, but its money-fueled ambitions are region-wide and beyond. It supports the most extreme sectarian forces in Syria and the thousands of potential terrorists who rally to their call. At a crucial moment after the 2013 Egyptian coup led by General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi—when Western nations temporarily cut off funding—the Saudis gave the general a cool $12 billion in aid. They sent tanks into Bahrain in 2011 to help the minority-led ruling system there continue to oppress the majority Shiites. In 2010, the Times of London reported that the Saudi air defense system had practiced procedures to allow Israeli jets free passage over the Saudi heartland in order to blitzkrieg Iran, if Tel Aviv dares to enter into such a blaze. The Israeli Jerusalem Post reported on the claim with the headline “Saudi airspace open for Iran attack.” However, Saudi plans go beyond the Middle East. The kingdom’s funding for Wahhabi madrassas worldwide is notorious.

Breaking the U.S. alliance with the Saudis would also free Americans from the stain of being partners with a hideous human rights abuser, nicknamed the Kingdom of Horrors. Its executions by decapitation often occur in public spaces for public edification or gruesome amusement. In a new report, Amnesty International says at least 175 people were executed by the Saudis between August 2014 and June of this year.
Its farcical ban on female driving is well known, but its fanatical devotion to “female modesty” practically knows no bounds. In 2002, morality police blocked a rescue of girls in a school fire because the girls were “not wearing the headscarves and abayas, black robes”. Fifteen burned to death in the school. Just shocking!
Obviously, trying to break a longstanding alliance is a major, major battle, but it’s not hopeless. Just before Salman’s visit, New York Times pundit Tom Friedman wrote a column calling the Saudis the main purveyor of certain kind of ‘Islam’ in the world. Forbes magazine followed with a piece calling the kingdom “the world’s most un-American country” and suggested that “thanks to the oil glut President Obama need not kowtow to King Salman.” The Washington Post had a piece about the near-identical views on justice held by the Saudi regime and it’s backed terrorist outfit, ISIL, at the start of this year. Even among the establishment, there’s unease with the alliance.

The left is generally quiet about all this. Even after it saw warm relations develop between the usurper regime of Israel and the kingdom, not much was said. The muted reaction is no doubt motivated by fear of helping those who try to spread hatred for Islam. Yet the fear is misplaced.
Take a look at hater sites like that of Pamela Geller and you see that they don’t go after the Saudis at all. Chairman of the Middle East Crisis Committee and the author of this article, Stanley Heller, says that the bigot sites are not going to criticize allies of Israel. So there’s no reason to hold back. It’s time for an unrelenting campaign to break with the Quote “cruel and grasping Persian Gulf hereditary dictatorships”.

EA

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In Depth Analysis Sun, 20 Sep 2015 11:23:06 +0000
Seattle teachers continue strike http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215986-seattle-teachers-continue-strike http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215986-seattle-teachers-continue-strike

Despite a resumption of negotiations, teachers in Seattle remained on strike over wages, teacher evaluations and student testing.

The walkout by 5,000 teachers, members of the Seattle Education Association affects 53,000 students in the Seattle Public Schools. The school year was scheduled to begin September 9, but it didn’t and according to the Seattle Public Schools spokesperson the strike is costing the district $100,000 a day. David Brown, an English teacher at McLoughlin Middle School, has written on the story of disrespect for teachers in the United States, this time under the guise of “school reform.”

The Seattle Education Association is calling for a 4.75 percent wage increase in the first year and a 5 percent wage increase in the second year of a two-year contract. The union is also asking for a 4.8 percent cost-of-living raise, something that has been agreed to by the state. That is down from a 15.3 percent cost-of-living raise initially sought by the union.

Over the past five years, Seattle teachers have seen an effective 2 percent cut in wages due to inflation. At the same time, housing costs have been skyrocketing in Seattle, with the median rental price reaching $2,354 a month, amounting to about two-thirds of a starting teacher’s salary of $44,000 a year.

Teachers are also striking over issues of recess length, which is as little as 15 minutes at some schools, and the use of student test scores in punitive teacher evaluations. Negotiators between the Seattle Education Associationand the Seattle Public Schools resumed talks, with both sides reportedly giving ground on wages. The school district stated it offered an unspecified amount of money in exchange for an extra 20 minutes of daily work from teachers. For its part, the union reduced its wage demands from 10.5 percent over two years to 9.75 percent over the same period.

The issues facing teachers in Seattle are part of a broader attack on teachers across the state and nationwide. Teachers in the Kelso School District in Southwest Washington State are being offered a mere 1.7 percent raise over three years.

In district after district across the United States, teachers are facing declining real wages and the use of arbitrary, standardized test benchmarks to close schools, fire teachers, and shift students into privately run charter schools. School budgets have been devastated by years of cuts following the 2008 economic crisis where banks got trillions of dollars in bailouts and low-interest loans from the Democrats and Republicans paid for by cuts to public services like education.

Policies promoting charter schools and the scapegoating of teachers were started under the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” program and intensified under Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is behind the hard line taken by school districts across the United States as they compete for ever scarcer federal dollars from Washington.

For their part, the unions are seeking to keep any strikes that do erupt limited to local and isolated actions. Shortly after the Seattle teachers walked out, the Pasco Education Association in Southeast Washington announced a tentative deal in a strike involving 1,160 teachers who had been on the picket line since September 1. The teachers had been striking over wages and curriculum issues and held a ratification vote finally.

Teachers in Pasco faced victimization by the courts, with a county judge declaring their strike illegal and fining the union $2,000 for each day the strike continued retroactive to September 8. The judge has also levied fines of $250 a day on the Pasco Education Association president and two other union officials. That same day the school district issued a statement saying teachers might not be paid or receive benefits for the month of September due to the strike. Neither the teachers in Pasco nor the striking teachers in Seattle receive strike benefits.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union and the largest union in the nation to endorse Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, is carrying out a deliberate policy of isolating teachers and allowing the imposition of concessions district by district. The Seattle walkout takes place at a time when teachers in major school districts across the United States, from Pittsburgh to Detroit to Chicago—members of the American Federation of Teachers—are working without contracts.
While racial disparities exist, these are a product of the massive social inequality and the plans carried out by both big business parties over the last three-and-a-half decades.

Far from being a distraction, the court attack on Pasco teachers is a direct warning to striking Seattle teachers of the kind of attacks being prepared. The Seattle School Board has already threatened to take the union into court to get the walkout declared illegal.

However, the alliance of the teachers’ unions with the Democratic Party precludes any kind of mobilization of teachers against the threat to their jobs and working conditions and the destruction of public education in general. This is because the Obama administration is spearheading the attack on teachers under the guise of “school reform.”

EA

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In Depth Analysis Sun, 20 Sep 2015 11:17:19 +0000
America’s short-sighted ‘grand strategy’ http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215914-america’s-short-sighted-‘grand-strategy’ http://english.irib.ir/voj/in-depth-analysis/item/215914-america’s-short-sighted-‘grand-strategy’

As military analyst Franklin Spinney says “Tough-guy-ism” remains the dominant rhetorical approach to foreign policy emanating from official Washington, which may protect the political and media careers of the tough-talkers, but it is doing grave damage to America’s strategic standing in the world.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney, a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press, explains the issue.  

The contemporary theory and practice of grand strategy by the United States can be summarized in the sound byte uttered in 2001 by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” Bush did not invent this conception of “grand strategy”. His sound byte was simply a variation of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s triumphalist theory that America had become the world’s “essential power” with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that Bush’s assertion of unilateral prerogative blew back on itself to create all sorts of problems at home and abroad. It is also clear that, notwithstanding the blowback, his coercive grand strategic outlook became more entrenched and ossified during the Presidential tenure of Barack Obama.

This is evident in Obama’s unilateral escalation of drone attacks; his fatally flawed Afghan “surge” decision; the foreign and domestic spying by the NSA, which included tapping the cell phones of close allies like German Prime Minister Angela Merkel. This is also evident in his administration’s aggressive meddling in Ukraine, together with the demonization of Vladimir Putin that is now well on the way to starting an unnecessary new cold war with Russia; and also in Obama’s so-called strategic pivot to the East China Sea to contain China.

Surely, the art of “grand strategy” is more subtle than a bipartisan theory of coercive diplomacy grounded on an assertion of a unilateral military prerogative. Surely, there is more to the art of grand strategy than the notion of coercion embodied in the question Secretary of State Albright’s posed to General Colin Powell during a debate over whether or not to intervene in the Balkans, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” America’s descent into a state of perpetual war ought to suggest it is time to rethink the approach to grand strategy.
So, how do we define grand strategy? More to the point of this essay, “what considerations make up a constructive grand strategy?”

Obviously, it is difficult to construct policies that conform to or reinforce all the criteria at the same time. This challenge is particularly difficult in the case of the unilateral military strategies and the coercive foreign policies so popular with the foreign policy elites on both sides of the political aisle in the United States. Military operations and political coercion are usually destructive in the short term, and their destructive strategic effects can be in natural tension with the aims of grand strategy, which should be constructive over the long term. History is littered with failures to reconcile the natural tension between military strategy and grand strategy.

Moreover, the more powerful a country becomes, the harder it is to combine these often conflicting criteria into a sensible grand strategy. The possession of overwhelming power breeds hubris and arrogance that tempts leaders to use their power coercively and excessively. But lording over or dictating one’s will to others breeds lasting resentment. Thus, paradoxically, the possession of overwhelming power increases the danger of going astray grand strategically over the long term.

That danger becomes particularly acute and difficult to control when aggressive external actions, policies, and rhetoric are used to prop up or increase internal cohesion for domestic political reasons, such as the goal of winning an election. Very often, the effects of military strategies or coercive foreign policies that are perceived as to be useful in terms of strengthening domestic political cohesion backfire at the grand-strategic level, because they strengthen the adversaries’ will to resist and push the allies into a neutral or even an adversarial corner, and/or drive away the uncommitted. This taken together, can set the stage for growing isolation and continuing conflict, which eventually blows back on itself to erode cohesion at home.

Today, a 101 years after the start of World War I, the world is still paying a price for Germany’s grand-strategic blunder in 1914 and the Allies ruthless exploitation of that blunder at the Versailles Peace Conference — the problems in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Russian heartland, and the Caucasus, to name a few. They have roots reaching back to destruction of world order that flowed from the invasion of 1914, the vengeance of 1919, and the violent aftermath of that vengeance.
So, the important lesson of this German case study is this: It is very dangerous to allow military strategy to trump grand strategy. Whenever a great power fails to adequately consider the criteria shaping a sensible grand strategy, painful unintended consequences can metastasize and then linger for a very long time.

Today America’s central foreign policy problem and the problem of American militarism can be simply stated: Military strategy is trumping “grand strategy”. The result is not only a state of perpetual war, but as the emerging Ukraine and China policies show, it is one of an expanding confrontation that can lead to even more war and more blowback.
That, in a nut shell, is why it is time to do a grand-strategic evaluation of the coercive unilateralism that is evident in America’s ever-mutating war on the so-called terror, its meddling in Ukraine, and its so-called strategic pivot into China’s backyard to threaten China’s sea lines of communication and “contain” China, whatever that means. The time is ripe for a substantive political debate on a real issue.

The Presidential campaign will move into high gear on the day after Labor Day. But as it now stands, the American people are about to be inundated with speeches and debating points over why it is time to rebuild America’s defenses, with most of the candidates beating their breasts in an effort to out-tough each other.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if at least one candidate stopped beating his or her breasts and spoke thoughtfully to the importance of moving their country onto a pathway away from blind militarism toward a more sensible grand strategy?

Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen; in America, all foreign policy is local in the sense that it is shaped by domestic politics. And in the United States, too many people in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex on both sides of the aisle are becoming rich and powerful by feeding off America’s self-referencing politics of unilateralism, fear, and perpetual war. Does anyone on both sides of the aisle mind the real term of grand strategy? Do they care about peace and stability for all in the world, including the Americans? Apparently, not. What is happening in the Middle East?

EA

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In Depth Analysis Fri, 18 Sep 2015 14:11:28 +0000