Tuesday, April 28, 2009


"I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists....

Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world....

And I want to take this occasion ... to state unequivocally that not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora ... need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents....

The government of Pakistan ... must begin to deliver government services, otherwise they are going to lose out to those who show up and claim that they can solve people’s problems and then they will impose this harsh form of oppression on women and others....

[We] cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances now within hours of Islamabad that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state. I don’t hear that kind of outrage or concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan".

American Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 22 April 2009, in www.state.gov

The comments by the American Secretary of State, in one of those idiotic exercises endemic to the American form of government known as a 'Congressional Hearing', received wide attention last week. Indeed, so much so, that the head of Pakistan's army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, over the week-end, hit back at what he referred to as: "pronouncements by outside powers raising doubts on the future of the country",remarks which were widely seen as being directed exclusively at the American Secretary of State (see: "Pakistan's army chief hits back at US criticism", in www.ft.com). No doubt Clinton's criticism raised a stir in both Pakistan and elsewhere simply by virtue of the fact, that from the very beginning, the new American Administration, has been harping on its new strategy for dealing with the country in conjunction with the different but related problems of Afghanistan. The administration's new approach being more fixated upon using economic assistance in order to help stabilize the country from the 'ground-up', as it were. Assistance which we are told, will be held up to 'benchmarks', on Pakistani 'performance', upon which failing, said assistance will be held up or even cancelled. The rationale being that unlike the policy of the prior American Administration, there will be no 'blank cheques', by the Administration of the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name. The problem with this is of course, is that it assumes that the rather small amount of American economic and military assistance can 'change things on the ground', in a nation of almost two hundred million people. As the ever erudite and knowledgeable Anatol Lieven commented recently:

"If the Obama administration wants to have any hopes of transforming such public attitudes in Pakistan then it will need to fund Pakistan to a vastly greater degree than is envisaged in its new strategy, in ways that will visibly transform the lives of many ordinary Pakistanis. This requires above all massive investment in infrastructure – especially relating to water – in ways that will also generate many jobs. At $1.5bn (€1.1bn, £1bn) a year, the new US aid that is promised sounds like a lot – until you remember that Pakistan now has about 170m people. Eight dollars per head is not going to transform anything much in the country. More-over, the US statement emphasises that the aid will be made conditional on Pakistan’s help to the US against the Taliban. This is a recipe for constant hold-ups, congressional blockages and the wrecking of any consistent, long-term programmes".

Anatol Lieven, "For America the problem is Pakistan", in www.ft.com

Headline catching statements about the current (admittedly both corrupt & incompetent) regime in Pakistan, giving in to the 'extremists', do nothing but, burnish the new American Secretary of State's reputation for 'toughness'. It does not assist one iota with changing the situation on the ground in this increasingly unstable country. A country which as every school child knows, possesses nuclear weapons. The recent advances by the Taliban and their local allies in the Northwest frontier province, are part and parcel of trends dating back to the Zia regime of the 1980's. Which in turn will given an added fillup during Musharraf years in power. Trends which by definition will not by any means be changed overnight. And, while this fact in turn may sound annoying or even defeatist to American ears, the fact of the matter is that there is no alternative, to promoting an organic, hence slow-moving stabilization and change in this country. A policy which will require many years of economic and military assistance, as well as a great deal of patience and indeed patient diplomacy. Something which one is tempted to say, the new American administration, is as lacking as their much maligned predecessor. As Anatol Lieven again comments:

"Unfortunately, it seems as if the new administration has not recognised two critical facts about Pakistan. The first is that the stabilisation and development of this country is not merely an aspect of the war in Afghanistan, but a vital US interest in itself. Indeed, Pakistan in the long term is far more important than Afghanistan. The second is that changing Pakistani opinions will mean changing Pakistani society, and that is a project that will require massive, sustained and consistent aid over a generation".

The less said by Mme. Secretary Clinton on Pakistan (and one is tempted to say elsewhere) the better for all.

Friday, April 24, 2009


"The rebirth of China's modern navy, which celebrates its 60th anniversary today in the north-eastern port of Qingdao, is an inevitable by-product of the country's economic renaissance. China's navy may not yet quite match that of Japan, though it has a better name: the People's Liberation Army Navy (which, in English, sounds like a revolutionary clothing store) versus Japan's Maritime Self Defence Force. Yet the trend is clear enough. Japan's military spending is limited - by postwar pacifist convention, if not by law - to 1 per cent of gross domestic product. Defence analysts estimate that China spends roughly 4 per cent of a smaller but far faster-growing GDP on its military, of which the navy is an increasingly prestigious part....

One does not need to swallow this hook, line and sinker (no maritime pun intended) to acknowledge that, as China becomes more deeply embedded in global trade, it will feel the need to protect its interests....

If only for that reason, the rise of China's navy may actually be a good thing. As China turns seawards, after centuries of looking inwards, it would be foolish to imagine there were no dangers. But it would be equally unwise to ignore the fact that a more powerful navy is an almost inevitable consequence of China's growing integration into the global economy. That too carries risks. But on balance, it is surely something to be welcomed".

David Pilling, "China flexes new economic muscle at sea". Financial Times, 23 April 2009.

"Dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles...tout est au mieux",

Voltaire, Candide ou l'Optimisme, 1759.

Apparently, the good offices of the Financial Times have been invaded by that special air which was once inhabited by Voltaire's early contemporary, Leibniz ("tout est pour le mieux dans le mielleur des mondes possibles"), and, which one would think not only the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, but more contemporary events of the twentieth century, would have dispelled and obliterated by now. Apparently not it would appear judging from the comments in David Pilling's column in yesterday's FT. The mere idea that anyone would actually believe or take seriously, Peking's propaganda claims (and those of its adherents) that:

"China has joined the web of the global economy. The new mission of the PLA navy is to protect our national interests in coastal areas and the high seas, not to engage in an arms race."

By definition, for anyone who has any knowledge of the world history of the last five hundred years, the only possible purpose of the PRC's going out and building and then deploying a high seas fleet (or fleets) would be to project militarily Peking's power and influence around the globe. Given the fact that Peking has ongoing ocean basin disputes with the following countries: Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, as well as the ongoing problem with Formosa, one would have to have a great deal of Panglossian optimism about the nature of man to believe that the current regime in China does not at some point envisage using its fleet for less than peaceful purposes. However the really astonishing aspect of the Pilling article is that the entire basis for his relative optimism concerning the PRC becoming a major naval power is erroneous. Meaning the post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning that: 'China joins the world economy and becomes a major trading country, therefore China must become a major naval power.' Using that yardstick of reasoning, it could quite easily be argued that both Germany and Japan must by definition also have become major naval powers. Indeed, based upon the sizes of their economies, both should possess the second and third largest navies in the world. And, yet, both powers chose not to. For reasons which need not detain us here, except to show that Pilling's reasoning has no basis in fact or in recent history. Just at the negative analogy of Sovietskaya Vlast's investment in the fifties, sixties and seventies in becoming the second largest naval power in the world, had of course nothing to do with its (non)involvement in the world economy. The rationale for this investment was purely grossmachtpolitik and most definitely not handel-politik. Similarly, if Peking is expanding its military and investing monies into building a high seas fleet, it is purely for power political reasons. Reasons similar to that which saw its fleet engage in the none-to-friendly harassment of US ships near its coastline. No doubt, if given its head, Peking would engage in these tactics quite often, as suited it. Make no mistake: the masters of Chinese policy are not adherents to any Kantian ideas of international relations. They are interested purely in realpolitik and machtpolitk. As long as they think that an ocean going navy will suit its needs for browbeating (if not worse) other powers, then they will build and then deploy the same. Which means that the West and Japan must be on our guard and must be prepared for what comes next from Peking. Whatever it might be, it will not be suited to any Panglossian universe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


HRH Prince Turki, the former head of the Saudi Arabia's security services (1977 to 2001), Ambassador to the UK (2002-2005) and the US (2005-2006), currently an instructor at his alma mater Georgetown (one of his classmates was William Jefferson Clinton), gave a talk to a group of us at an event sponsored by New York University's Center for Global Affairs. Among other things the Prince who by virtue of his being the younger brother of the Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and, the nephew of King Abdullah is close to the centers of power in Riyadh, told us that the primacy of the Arab-Israeli dispute is unquestionable and cannot be overestimated. Indeed according to the Prince the failure of the Western Powers to settle the conflict has lead the area into: 'the dark tunnel of conflict'. According to the Prince, there is an overwhelming need and necessity to end the conflict and with it the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. As per the Gaza War of earlier this year, the Prince repeated several times that it was in terms of Near Eastern public opinion, a debacle of the highest order. With the overall impression being given to the latter that Israel is completely intransigent and unwilling to commit to a serious exploration of the peace process. According to the Prince, Israel is: 'afraid of peace'.

Delving back into some recent history, the Prince claimed that it was the Israeli failure to live up to the promises of the Oslo peace process which resulted in the Second Intifada of 2000-2004. The entire process revealing that Israel has consistently failed to reconcile itself to a compromise of its security needs with basic Palestinian desiderata. With whatever peace proclamations made by Israeli politicians belied by their actions on the ground in expanding settlements from 1994 to 2000. Especially under the Labour Governments of Peres and Barak. On the Palestinian side, the Prince stated that the Second Intifada's reliance on force was: "strategic mistake", and, that the Palestinians should have kept to the primarily peaceful tactics of the First Intifada. A point of view which he still maintains as he accused the Hamas Government in the Gaza Strip of committing "a crime against the Palestinians", by using rockets against Israeli towns in Southern Israel. In terms of recent moves towards peace talks, the Prince stated that "I am not an optimist", and, that in the absence of clear and overwhelming American pressure (what he whimsically characterized as 'the big bear') on all the parties to the conflict for a peace settlement, then nothing of a positive nature would occur. And, that any recent hopes and expectations raised by the new American Administration would be capsized by the failure to follow up words with action.

The overall impression that the evening left one with was that time is running out for the Americans to re-start the peace process and to positively reshape the extremely negative impressions left the the Bush regime's non-policy (at best) towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the region. As the Prince noted, it was due to the negative treatment of PA President Mahmoud Abbas by both the Sharon government as well as the Bush regime, which had the end-result of enormously increasing Hamas' popularity, both in the Palestinian territories as well as the Near East as a whole. Much the same can be said for the recent popularity of recent years of Hezbollah and Persia by the predominately Sunni Arab opinion: it is simply that all three parties give evidence of being utterly resistant to Israel power and its American backers. Something that no one would say of Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia. Something has to give diplomatically, and soon perhaps. And, one fears that the administration of the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name is merely playacting at peacemaking.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


"In a country with extreme poverty that has been at war for decades, there will also be no peace without reconciliation among former enemies. I have no illusions that this will be easy. In Iraq, we had success in reaching out to former adversaries to isolate and target AL Qaeda. We must pursue a similar process in Afghanistan, while understanding that it is a very different country.

There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. That is why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province. As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated. And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans – including women and girls".

The President of the United States, 27 March 2009, see: www.state.gov.

At the present time, when there is a lot of blithe talk about 'new strategies' and 'new ways forward', in the morass of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is a useful reminder that the world was not (contrary to what one hears occasionally on both sides of the Atlantic) 'created anew' on the 21st day of January Anno Domini 2009. One of the new courses that the new American Administration is said to be eager to pursue is an endeavor to split off 'moderate', 'pragmatic' or simply 'opportunistic' segments of the Taliban from the more Al-Qaeda inclined core leadership grouping. The thinking being that many if not much of the Taliban's more recent recruits and members are not really ideologically committed to the ideals of the group, and, that it is quite possible to follow the 'Iraqi model', `a la the splitting off of the Sunni tribes in 2007 and 2008 from the hard-core 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' element. The only problem is that the parallels are rather inexact at best, with a closer analysis of the two situations indicating that in point of fact, while such a 'splittist' model of divida et impera, has always worked in Iraq (the late dictator Iraqi Saddam Hussein being a past-master of such tactics), there is not nearly the same experience in Afghanistan. As the American academic, Mark Katz, has recently noted:

"The problem for the United States in applying the Iraqi model to Afghanistan is that a key element is lacking. While Iraq’s Sunni tribes saw al Qaeda in Iraq and similar movements as dominated by outsiders (i.e., non-Iraqis), the Taliban are drawn largely from the Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. The Taliban, then, are not seen as outsiders by many Afghans, but are viewed an indigenous movement. Pashtuns in particular see the Taliban as their champions, not as a threat. The sharp split between indigenous tribesmen and foreign jihadis that the United States was able to exploit in Iraq does not exist in Afghanistan".

Mark N. Katz, "Afghanistan: Talking To The Taliban Unlikely To Succeed at Present", in www.eurasianet.org

Indeed, perhaps the major difference is that while the Sunni tribes which abandoned the insurgency never had the slightest prospects of winning their war against both the Americans and the Shiites of Iraq, and, in effect faced up to this prospect and accordingly changed sides, the Pashtun tribes who support the Taliban are hardly in the same position. For the following reasons: a) Pashtuns are the largest national grouping in the country; b) the Taliban (and ergo the Pashtuns as well to some extent), currently have the wind at their backs, and are to all appearances winning the war against both the government in Kabul (such as it is) and the Americans and their allies. Why should those 'moderate', Pashtun elements associated with the Taliban abandon the latter at this juncture? As Katz puts it, it is just as easy to imagine that:

"the Taliban may be able to use talks to turn the tables on Washington by exposing and exploiting differences among the United States, other NATO members, as well as Afghan, and Pakistani governments".

In short, in the absence of a convincing strategy to 'win the war,' on the ground in Afghanistan, there does not appear to be any likely way of attracting and splitting the Taliban. It is only when the Americans and their allies succeed on the ground, that they will be able to split off, and, detach the moderate from the extremist elements in the Taliban. Right now, that is a merely forlorn hope.

Sunday, April 12, 2009



Charles G. V. Coutinho, Ph. D. & family.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


The following is a 'just-in' report from the American on-line journal, Stratfor.com. It is a prediction that the demonstrations which will occur later on today, the 9th of April will result in a coup d'etat by the opposition in Georgia, ousting the current Saakashvili regime. As per Stratfor, the opposition will be joined by members of the ruling circles, who at this point are eager to jump ship and join the prospective winning side. Id est., somewhat what occurred back in 2003 when Saakashvili then overthrew the regime of Eduard Shevardnadze. Obviously, such an event, even if there were zero Russian backing (as per Stratfor, Russia's hand is in the pie, as it were), would be viewed as a tremendous victory for Russia and concomitantly, also viewed as a defait for the Americans. The latter being viewed as the prime patron of Saakashvili's regime. However allow me at this point to let Stratfor predictions speak for itself. Please read and enjoy:

Red Alert: A Possible Revolution Simmering in Georgia, April 8, 2009 1943 GMT
"Georgian opposition movements have planned mass protests for April 9, mostly in Tbilisi but also around the country. These protests could spell trouble for President Mikhail Saakashvili. The Western-leaning president has faced protests before, but this time the opposition is more consolidated than in the past. Furthermore, some members of the government are expected to join in the protests, and Russia has stepped up its efforts to oust Saakashvili.

Opposition parties inside Georgia are planning mass protests for April 9, mainly in the capital city of Tbilisi but also across the country. The protests are against President Mikhail Saakashvili and are expected to demand his resignation. This is not the first set of rallies against Saakashvili, who has had a rocky presidency since taking power in the pro-Western “Rose Revolution” of 2003. Anti-government protests have been held constantly over the past six years. But the upcoming rally is different: This is the first time all 17 opposition parties have consolidated enough to organize a mass movement in the country. Furthermore, many members of the government are joining the cause, and foreign powers — namely Russia — are known to be encouraging plans to oust Saakashvili.

The planned protests in Georgia have been scheduled to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Soviet crackdown on independence demonstrators in Tbilisi. The opposition movement claims that more than 100,000 people will take to the streets — an ambitious number, as the protests of the past six years have not drawn more than 15,000 people. But this time around, the Georgian people’s discontent is greatly intensified because of the blame placed on Saakashvili after the Russo-Georgian war in August 2008. Most Georgians believe Saakashvili pushed the country into a war, knowing the repercussions, and into a serious financial crisis in which unemployment has reached nearly 9 percent.

Georgia’s opposition has always been fractured and so has only managed to pull together sporadic rallies rather than a real movement. But the growing discontent in Georgia is allowing the opposition groups to finally overcome their differences and agree that Saakashvili should be removed. Even Saakashvili loyalists like former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze and former Georgian Ambassador to the United Nations Irakli Alasania have joined the opposition’s cause, targeting Saakashvili personally. The problem now is that opposition members still do not agree on how to remove the president; some are calling for referendums on new elections, and some want to install a replacement government to make sure Saakashvili does not have a chance to return to power. But all 17 parties agreed to start with large-scale demonstrations in the streets and go from there.

If the movement does inspire such a large turnout, it would be equivalent to the number of protesters that hit the streets at the height of the Rose Revolution, which toppled the previous government and brought Saakashvili into power in the first place.

Saakashvili and the remainder of his supporters are prepared, however, with the military on standby outside of Tbilisi in order to counter a large movement. During a demonstration in 2007, Saakashvili deployed the military and successfully — though violently — crushed the protests. But that demonstration consisted of 15,000 protesters; it is unclear if Saakashvili and the military could withstand numbers seven times that.

There is also concern that protests are planned in the Georgian secessionist region of Adjara, which rose up against and rejected Saakashvili’s government in 2004 after the Rose Revolution. This region was suppressed by Saakashvili once and has held a grudge ever since, looking for the perfect time to rise up again. Tbilisi especially wants to keep Adjara under its control because it is home to the large port of Batumi, and many of Georgia’s transport routes to Turkey run through it. If Adjara rises up, there are rumors in the region that its neighboring secessionist region, Samtskhe-Javakheti, will join in to help destabilize Saakashvili and the government. Georgia already officially lost its two northern secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russian occupation during the August 2008 war and is highly concerned with its southern regions trying to break away.

These southern regions, like the northern ones, have strong support from Russia; thus, Moscow is square in the middle of tomorrow’s activities. Russia has long backed all of Georgia’s secessionist regions, but has had difficulty penetrating the Georgian opposition groups in order to organize them against Saakashvili. Though none of the 17 opposition groups are pro-Russian, STRATFOR sources in Georgia say Russian money has been flowing into the groups in order to nudge them along in organizing the impending protests.

Russia has a vested interest in breaking the Georgian government. Russia and the West have been locked in a struggle over the small Caucasus state. That struggle led to the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war, after which Moscow felt secure in its control over Georgia. Since Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama met April 1 and disagreed over a slew of issues, including U.S. ballistic missile defense installations in Poland and NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, Russia is not as secure and is seeking to consolidate its power in Georgia. This means first breaking the still vehemently pro-Western Saakashvili. This does not mean Russia thinks it can get a pro-Russian leader in power in Georgia; it just wants one who is not so outspoken against Moscow and so determined to invite Western influence.

The April 9 protests are the point at which all sides will try to gain — and maintain — momentum. The 2003 Rose Revolution took months to build up to, but the upcoming protests are the starting point for both the opposition and Russia — and opposition movements in Georgia have not seen this much support and organization since the 2003 revolution. April 9 will reveal whether or not things are about to get shaken up, if not completely transformed, in Georgia".


Tuesday, April 07, 2009


For the first time since the crisis erupted two years ago, global leaders went a few millimetres beyond what was expected of them. The decision by the Group of 20 developed and emerging nations to commit $1,100bn (€816bn, £741bn) in new funds for international institutions is no doubt substantial. It will allow the International Monetary Fund to deal with the current and future torrent of balance of payment crises more effectively. But the London summit comprehensively failed to do what it set out to do. Not one of its resolutions will move the world a small step closer to resolving the global economic crisis.

As world leaders return home, they will be confronted by the reality of the decisions they have not taken. They will return to economies in which bankruptcies and unemployment are about to rise to the highest levels since the Great Depression. They will face an outraged public that seeks to exact revenge on bankers and banks....

The forward looking indicators do not tell us the situation is getting better. US house prices are down 30 per cent, and have further to fall. Countries with large current account deficits are cutting consumption of imported goods. One of the results will be that the combined export surpluses of Japan, China, and Germany will shrink dramatically. World trade has been collapsing faster than during the Great Depression.

The monetary indicators are also absolutely awful. In Europe, both real and nominal growth of M3, a broad measure of money, is falling on a month-by-month basis – with no turnround in sight. Whether you look at this as a Keynesian or a monetarist, you come to the same conclusion: the world economy is in serious trouble....

The G20 summit has ducked the important question of bank rescue beyond a few meaningless and self-congratulatory statements. Instead, our leaders showed more interest in future crises than in the current one. But the probability that another crisis may break out soon, is inversely related to the length and depth of this one. The longer this crisis lasts, the more absurd the G20’s order of priorities will seem.

If the crisis shows no sign of ending in the autumn, our great leaders may gather for another desperate summit, in another city, facing another set of protesters, producing yet another series of desperate but ineffective pledges to save the world economy, embedded in another pretentious communiqué. The London summit has shown us what “We, the leaders of the Group of Twenty” can do, and what they cannot. The G20 has shown that it can fix international institutions, but not the biggest economic crisis in our lifetime.

"The London Summit has not fixed the crisis", by Wolfgang Munchau, 6 April 2009, The Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/).

It is gratifying that ones initial opinion on such an important subject matter as the G20 Summit, is shared by such an eminent commentator as Wolfgang Munchau. As can be seen the G20 was indeed very much a damp squib. And, not much more, except functioning as a photo opportunity for our rulers both in Europe and in this side of the Atlantic. Notwithstanding the fact that as Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O'Rourke has recently pointed out the global economic indicators are drastic if not indeed dire:

"The decline in Industrial production in the last nine months have been as least severe as the nine months following the 1929 peak [of production prior to the crash]....Similarly while fall in the US stock market has tracked 1929, global stock markets are falling even faster than in the Great Depression....Another area where we are 'surpassing' our forebearers is in destroying trade. World trade is falling faster now than in 1929-1930".
Barry Eichengreen & Kevin O'Rourke, "A Tale of Two Depressions", 6 April 2009, in www.voxeu.org

The upshot of this rather frightening situation is that what the world needs and requires are world leaders who can grasp the nettle and lead, and, not merely gather together for purposes which are as ignominious for those who watch as for those who participate. Instead, we saw the liberal-bourgeois, bien pensant idol, the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name, settle for the lowest common denominator in a valiant effort to not come a cropper in the public relations stakes. As the American online journal, Stratfor.com, noted in its analysis of the London Summit, it was the new American President, not his European interlocutors who 'blinked' (using the word in the Dean Rusk sense):

"Overall, the G-20 and the NATO meetings did not produce significant breakthroughs. Rather than pushing hard on issues or trading concessions — such as accepting Germany’s unwillingness to increase its stimulus package in return for more troops in Afghanistan — the United States failed to press or bargain. It preferred to appear as part of a consensus rather than appear isolated. The United States systematically avoided any appearance of disagreement".

George Friedman, "Geopolitical Weekly: Obama's Strategy and the Summits," 6 April 2009, in http://www.stratfor.com/

In short: rather than an old Roman triumph, in which the victor deserves to wear the laurel wreath which he has been bestowed, we have one more akin to that in the decadent period of the Roman Empire (think Caligula, Domitian or Caraculla), in which a contrived or bogus victory abroad is invented for purposes of gratifying the mob or the degenerate ruler. I have no knowledge of the morals or lack thereof of the American President: no doubt he is the moral paragon that he appears to be. That however does not obviate the fact that any claims for either the success of the G20 by the UK Premier or his American counter-part are equally nonsensical. The continuation if not the deepening of world crisis is the best (if saddest) proof of this

Monday, April 06, 2009


Notwithstanding the hoopla and the politically motivated euphoria by UK Premier, Gordon Brown (political desperation is surely the mother of invention for the beleaguered First Lord of the Treasury), in point of fact there were few concrete achievements coming from the London Summit. With perhaps the most important being that it did not break-up in disarray or disorder. Other than this admittedly important result, there does not seem to be any great or important results coming specifically from this Summit (id est., result or results which would not have occurred if the meeting in London never took place). Most of the monies for example (as Chris Giles noted in a first-rate article in this week-end's past Financial Times, see: "London Summit has little Impact on Global Economics", in http://www.ft.com) going to the IMF and the World Bank were already agreed to prior to the meeting in London. Similarly, it does not appear that the meeting was able to obtain any solid agreement on the more contentious issues of IMF voting rights (Belgium has more than the PRC), or was able to move forward an inch on the Doha trade round negotiations. And, of course the issue that had raised itself most prominently prior to the meeting, that being of the need (or lack thereof) for a world-wide fiscal stimulus, was politely dropped by the assembled leaders, since no consensus was possible on the topic. Which is more the pity since, this is one instance perhaps where the UK Premier and his American confrere the American President, are more right than wrong. With the thinking of Monsieur Sarkozy and Mme. Merkel, bearing all too much a resemblance to Weimar Chancellor Bruning, than one is entirely comfortable with. Indeed, of the five major items for positive decision that a report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London (Chatham House) idendified as being needed, only one, that relating to the increase in funds available to the IMF, were agreed to at the Summit (see: "New Ideas for the London Summit: Recommendations to the G20 Leaders," in www.chathamhouse.org.uk/G20). In short, one does not have to be an especially cynical individual (admittedly something which I can at times be labeled as), to claim that the Gordon Brown's 'New World Order', is merely another case of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


"Power has a psychological and not only technical component. Men can be lead by statistics only up to a certain point and then more fundamental psychological values predominate. In the final analysis the military profession is the art of prevailing, and while in our times this required more careful calculations then in the past, it also depends on elemental psychological factors that are difficult to quantify".
Henry Alfred Kissinger, The White House Years (1979).

On the 2nd of Thursday, the Oxonian Society held a luncheon in honor of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen. The luncheon was crowded and full. Admiral Mullen has been the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs since the summer of 2007, hence he is very much a Gates, post-Rumsfeld appointee. He appeared in full dress uniform, and, spoke that somewhat awkward, quasi-bureaucratic, quasi-Washingtonian language and diction that our military leaders have tended to speak in since the days of Robert McNamara, if not Eisenhower and Marshall. Reflecting the fact that like most American military leaders of the last half century, the Admiral has been educated in the world of American post-graduate education with its emphasis on 'management', 'systems', and 'process'. In short he is in essence a bureaucrat, not a warrior. According to the Admiral Mullen, the key goals of American policy in the world were the search for 'stability in the broader Middle East'. As well as in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. He praised the Bush surge policy in Iraq as: 'a good glide slope'. He warned that Al-Qaeda, was 'still active there [in Iraq]'. And, that 2009 with its provincial and other elections coming up was: 'a critical year in Iraq'. He praised the Iraqi forces improvement in the last two years, stating that: 'trends were in a very positive direction'.

According to Admiral Mullen, the new American Administration's Strategic Review of the Near East was now complete, and, the following were the highlights of the same: Al-Qaeda was the chief enemy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area as well as the Taliban. Indeed, one of the surprises of the Admiral's talk was the constant emphasis on the dangers of Al-Qaeda in the Near and Middle East, something which one imagined would no longer be so much emphasized under the new dispensation of the ex-junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name. According to Admiral Mullen, the building up of local governmental forces in Afghanistan was more complicated than in Iraq. Hence the need, in essence for nation building, from the ground-up in both countries. As well as the need for: 'allies, friends and partners'. He praised the forthcoming, Senate bill to provide economic as well as military assistance for the two countries (the Kerry-Lugar bill). He expressed a 'continuing concern about Persia', worried about Persia's nuclear ambitions and the knock-on effect a Persian test of its nuclear capability would have in the region. He also expressed concern for Teheran's support for 'terrorist groups' like Hamas and Hezbollah. He complained that there were too many American forces in 'Central Command's OLR'. The Admiral expressed the view that the current world economic crisis, 'has potential to generate lots of instability', with 'lots of surprises', for the United States.

According to Admiral Mullen, the recent incident involving the PRC's aggressive shadowing of an American destroyer off the Chinese coast was 'of great concern', and he was 'glad that it did not escalate' any further. He further expressed the hope that the incident would not prevent further co-operation with Peking. And, in general played down the incident's future importance. On the subject of counter-insurgency, the Admiral stated (the historically dubious assertion) that the United States 'now had the best counter-insurgency force in the history of warfare'. Concerning future operations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, Admiral Mullen stated that the 'end-game' was one of: 'economy, jobs, how I earn income'. With a strategy for the region of: 'focus[ing] on Al-Qaeda', with the latter 'pos[ing] an existential threat' to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus the need to eliminate Al-Qaeda's 'safe haven' in the latter country. Concerning the Pakistani military he stated, correctly enough that the Pakistani army was 'not a counter-insurgency force', and he remarked that the powerful Pakistani military intelligence (the so-called 'ISI'), had to refocus itself on countering the threat from Al-Qaeda, and, 'detach itself from its terrorist links'. He expressed himself 'reasonably comfortable' with the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Summing up, Admiral Mullen, expressed himself on the Mexican situation: 'a tough fight', noting that: 'my charge is to assist the Mexican military' in its war with the drug cartels. A war that 'will take some time', due to a 'very corrupt Mexican police' force. Continuing with the Latin American region, Admiral Mullen expressed to the almost total laughter of the audience (including myself) that: 'I am not overly concerned about Mr. Chavez'. And, he closed with a reiteration of the importance of the threat from Al-Qaeda: 'they are enemy number one right now'. Again an emphasis that would seem on the surface to be a hold-over from the Bush regime, rather than the new dispensation. The Admiral was given a standing ovation by the audience at the close of his talk.