Cynical Synapse

Sun, 23 Oct 2011

Changing Landscapes of the Arab World

Arabian desert

Much is and has been changing in the Middle East. Syria is a holdout against the Arab Spring, but, in the first free, democratic elections in decades, Tunisians are voting today. Of course, one problem is we—the US—may not like the outcome of the election.

Second to depose its despot, former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has not made any substantial progress toward elections. Libya became the third Arab state to win its freedom with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi a few days ago. In a bizarre twist, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Office called for inquiries into the manner of Gaddafi’s death.

Presidents Obama and Mubarak

Despite public diplomacy in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, the US gained substantial benefits from close ties with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. In Bahraini ports, the US has headquarters for its Fifth Fleet. Last month’s killing of Anwar al-Awlaki had Yemeni complicity, if not outright support. Despite these cozy relationships, Pres. Obama warned the oppressers their time was short:

Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and those leaders that try to deny their dignity will not succeed.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz al Saud, 83, died at a New York hospital. Al Saud served as his country’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation. He was Saudi King Abdullah’s half-brother. While Saudi Arabia will likely remain a close US ally in the region, uncertainty of Saudi succession and other key governmental changes leave the future at least somewhat unpredictable. On top of that, on Friday Pres. Obama announced all but a couple hundred US troops will leave Iraq by year’s end. Those remaining will provide security and other diplomatic-related services as US missions, a common practice around the world.

New Year’s 2012 will usher in a Middle East vastly different from what the US is accustomed to. That’s new, and unpredictable, territory for the presidential candidates.
 


 

Fri, 16 Sep 2011

Mission Distraction Redux: Train the Libyans

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Global War on Terror, Government, Libyan War, Middle East, Oil, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:07 am

Libyan rebels capture another city

I don’t know what the real deal is with Libya, but I’ll tell you “we” (the US/NATO) had no business there from the beginning of the uprising. Say what you want, but intervene not; until everyone looked the other way, Libya was a sovereign state. As for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), they said preventing civilian casualties was their primary purpose. So, why not NATO (or even United Nations) action regarding the thousands of casualties in Syria? A little huffing and puffing by the international community has accomplished nothing.

On the surface, Syria and Libya seem like very similar “Arab Spring” situations. There are distinct differences, however. Key US allies, in particular France and Britain, have substantial stakes in Libyan oil interests while none of the western countries have appreciable involvement in Syrian resources. Ugly as it is, that’s the simple reality of it.

volunteers receive military training in Tripoli

Since the French, especially, and British are the key stakeholders, I say let them train the Libyans in security and defense matters. Except the Brits and French want no part of supporting a new Libyan regime. Unfortunately, because we always have to have our fingers into the pie, US State Department officials are offering US assistance to Libya. From my perspective: what part of Iraq do you not realize was a distraction from the Global War on Terror? Why would you not think Libya is also a distraction?

In the Global War on Terror, which political correctness now calls “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), the Taliban, especially in Afghanistan, has always been the enemy of concern. I believe the war in Iraq distracted us—the US—from the key fight against terrorism and allowed the Taliban to build the insurgency we are now battling. We are paying a price—in lives, dollars, and public support—for failing to keep the focus where it needed to be.

Despite such recent history, my concern is we’re about to repeat the same mistake regarding operations in Afghanistan as we did in 2003. It doesn’t matter if it’s as big as Operation Iraqi Freedom or as small as training teams for Libya. In the likely future of constrained resources, we can’t afford anything taking our eye off the ball. And in my mind, we cannot permit the Taliban, who aided and abetted the 9/11 terrorists, any appreciable powerbase in Afghanistan.
 

Previously on Libya:

Thu, 18 Aug 2011

Political Brinksmanship, the Debt Bubble, and Impending Anarchy

Filed under: Africa, Congress, Crime, Government, Hypocrits, Indecision, Opportunists, Oppression, Politics, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:48 pm

ready for a political fight

The recent refusal of either party to compromise on the debt ceiling issue, and the resulting lowering of the United States’ credit rating, should be proof enough of the dysfunctionality of our current Congress. People talk about debt reduction and deficit reduction as though they were one and the same, but they are two distinct issues. Every deficit adds to the debt. So, until the US stops spending more than it takes in, the national debt will continue to grow.

In theory, the debt reduction “Super Committee” will fix the national debt. In reality, it fixes nothing. It will not eliminate annual deficit spending. As a result, the national debt will continue to spiral out of control.

project funded by your grandkids

During his midwest bus tour, Pres. Obama actually called for more spending:

[T]he key is not to try to cut more out of programs for poor folks or programs for seniors. The key right now is to get a long-term plan for fiscal stability. And in the short term, we should actually make more investments that would put people to work and get the economy moving.

While many want to reign in entitlement spending, including Social Security and Medicare, new laws are actually expanding entitlement programs. Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan are the three pilot states, with the program expanding to all 50 states by the 2014-15 school year. It’s all part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The program will provide free meals to all students, regardless of ability to pay in districts where at least 40% of families are on public assistance.

flash mob

The rise of dissent via social media has resulted in peaceful flashmobs becoming violent menaces to society. In the absence of proof positive, it appears social media definitely fueled the London riots.

What does this matter to us, as in the US? How about we don’t have a clue what’s going through these peoples’ minds? We don’t have a solution to their economic or political disenfranchisment.

The riots we saw play out in London and the greater UK may have involved thuggery and looting, but the driving force was much the same as the protests, riots, and uprisings we saw in the middle east in the first half of 2011. As in the middle east (specifically, Tunisia), the catalyst for the London riots involved a single person, in this case a teenager who was reportedly beaten by police. In response and looking for any reason to rebel and revolt, large masses of people, namely those living in poverty in the UK, organized and then headed for town squares, where the burned, pillaged and fought. While the London riots are being written off by many as nothing more than a bunch of vagrants and welfare recipients looking to loot small businesses, there is a strong likelihood that similar incidents will play out on the streets of America. In fact, it can be argued that this is what we are seeing already, as groups of teenagers and gangs are organizing via social networks and subsequently causing chaos, violence and looting. For now, like in London, we are seeing the poverty stricken segments of society losing it, and it is being downplayed strictly as criminal mob-driven behavior. But soon, as Michael suggests in the article below, more and more people will lose everything. And, as our favorite trend forecaster Gerald Celente has oft repeated, “when people lose everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

Mon, 08 Aug 2011

Jill Biden Visits Starving Somalis to Address Their Concerns

Filed under: Africa, Famine, Helping others, Hypocrits, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:37 pm

Dr. Jill and VP Joe Biden visit Somali refugees

All the media hype has been about Jill Biden visiting a Somali refugee camp in Kenya. As it turns out, Dr. Jill’s husband, Vice President Joe Biden is clearly pictured as being there, too. The US officials are touring the most populous refugee camp in the world “to underscore the United States’ commitment to working with the governments and people of the region, and the international community, to assist the people of the Horn of Africa.” How do you suppose Somalis in the Dadaab camp felt about their VIP visit?

To be sure, hundreds of thousands of children may die in East Africa’s famine, perhaps up to 12.5 million total, according to the UN. Dr. Biden’s whole point is to bring awareness to the crisis and increase donations.

What I’m asking is for Americans reach out and help because the situation is dire. There is hope if people start to pay attention to this.

C-32/Boeing 757

How do you suppose Dr. Biden got to the refugee camp in Kenya? Probably by C-32, the US Air Force designation for a Boeing 757 aircraft. The flight to and from cost taxpayers about $797,066, based on official costs of $25,547 and flight times of 15.6 hours. On top of that, add Secret service and protection costs, ground transportation, and lodging costs.

At a cost easily exceeding $1 million, can someone tell me how Jill Biden’s visit to a refugee camp is helping address the problem? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to provide direct aid to the Somalis? Just sayin’…
 

Sat, 26 Mar 2011

Inconsistency, Questionable Morality Mark War in Libya

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Government, Hypocrits, Libyan War, Military, Oil, Opportunists, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 11:40 am

US F-15 crash in Libya

Operation Oddity Dawn might be a better name for US military actions in Libya instead of the Pentagon’s Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Libyan war marks an increase in US military commitment without Congressional approval. There was no message from President Obama to the American people. And yet, US military are engaged in hostile missions over Libya on a daily basis. Never mind where funds are coming from to pay for this major operation by a US fleet in Libya while under a continuing resolution. By definition, continuing resolution means funding at previous year levels and no new programs or expenses.

Beyond domestic politics and policy, why Libya? President Obama says the basis of intervention is preventing a “humanitarian threat.” But how is Libya different from Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, or even Darfur? Certainly there were or still are humanitarian threats in those places. But no international hue and cry and no international intervention. With inconsistent policy and unpredictable actions, we should not be surprised other countries view the US with suspicion and a degree of mistrust.

Qaddafi compound hit by air strike

Last time I checked, Libya was a sovereign state; a full member state of the United Nations. Whether you like Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi or not—and I don’t—he is recognized as head of state. Clearly, the popular uprisings—revolution—is strictly an internal matter. There is no legitimate basis for the UN to sanction military action against the Libyan regime absent some threat to the international community.

At best, the “humanitarian threat” is a selectively applied rationale for attacking Libyan forces. The as-yet nebulous mission morphed from establishing a no-fly zone to attacking Libyan ground forces to regime change. Those are all questionable escalations of force or end state. Consider, also, the disproportionate use of force in attacking ground troops with jet combat aircraft and precision guided munitions.

NATO air strike in Libya

So, why did a western coalition come together so quickly? Simply put, Western Europe has a lot of business interests in Libya and there’s a lot of oil there. And what of the driving force behind the UN resolution on Libya? It seems the Arab League is not actively involved in the no-fly zone. It is more likely using Western forces to its own ends.

Here’s the real question: will Libya be better off without Qaddafi? Will the world?

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