The Campaign and Foreign Policy: The Balance between Obama and Romney (Part II)

Below you will find a continuation which follows our separate commentary on key issues in the campaign and foreign policy.

The So-Called “Rise of China” and Asian Policy:

Romney, as a candidate for the presidency, has shown little awareness of the complexity of our relations with the Chinese and of our long-term objective of engaging this key power in ways that reinforce cooperation and responsibility rather than antagonism. He has yet to outline a comprehensive approach to China that fully addresses all the key problems and their solution or amelioration. Again, his only “strategy” seems to be antagonisms and name calling. He also has little to say except general and uninformed criticism of Obama’s policies about North Korea, Japan, and the problem of South sea conflicts over jurisdiction to otherwise insignificant “islands.” 

Romney criticizes Obama for being “weak” on China despite the administration’s key pivot towards Asia and engagement with Chinese leaders on a multiplicity of fronts, including a trip to China by the Secretaries of State and Defense and our on-going intense economic dialogue at the highest levels.

 

Nor has he said a reasonable word about solving the delicate balances that exists between China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the North Korea nuclear weapons issues.  The man appears out of his depth on any and all of these issues.

President Obama has had now extensive exposure to issues related to China and Asia and made the key decision to establish an American “full court press” towards the Asia/Pacific region.  This is more than simply sending added military assets into the region. It includes significant economic and diplomatic focus and attention.  He has met with just about every key leader in the region and has made numerous trips over the last four years that have added to his understanding of the thinking and view of the decision makers in Asia. The key to his approach is to work very hard on these difficult issues and not exacerbate the existing problems and keep at the effort to seek lasting solutions.   

Middle East and Israeli-Palestine Peace:

This is an issue which will be covered in more detail in another post, but simply put; this is a major tinder box of many different elements with each country’s situation being unique and needing individual attention. The Arab Spring is right, messy, and inevitable and can’t be “controlled” by the U.S. but rather, by the citizens of each country; with help by the international community to support democratic change and protection of human rights.

Romney has closed off any meaningful effort by the U.S. to find peace in the Middle East by his quote in his infamous “47%” speech. His stance on the Israel-Palestine confrontation seems more an effort to gain votes and money from a pro-Israel conservative lobby than to seek a peaceful outcome or a just and lasting security for Israel and Palestine. His speech implies an abandonment of the U.S. supported (for a decade) “two state” solution, which is the only true basis for a lasting peace. He seems to have contracted out American policy in the Middle East to his good friend, the right wing and author of the inappropriate “red line,” demanded by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The latter interestingly has moderated his stance at the UN General Assembly, perhaps by some observers noting the election poll ratings of Obama and the U.S. opinion polls saying a large proportion of Americans do not favor a war with Iran.

What Romney does not recognize is that his stance undermines the traditional role of honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians and the other Middle East states.  His ignorance of Middle East politics and security issues is mind boggling.

Obama has not given up on seeking peace but the elections here, intransigence by Israel (over new settlements), the Palestinians (over their Humas wing), and the upheavals in the Arab world that require massive attention has frankly put personal engagement on hold until after November. But he has said that America remains committed that Iran will not get nuclear weapons, but will not have Bibi dictate our decisions on going to, what is after all, “war” with all its consequences. Perhaps the Israeli cabinet and citizens recognize now the danger of the “red line” demands on the rightly close relations between the U.S. and Israel.         

Defense Spending and National Security Posture:

Again, here the divide between the Republican right wing, which has taken over the GOP party (including Romney), and Obama could not be greater.  The blind support for more money for defense, the stance on Iran, Middle East upheavals, attitude towards China and Russia, their reliance on “military” options rather than diplomacy, and their cozy relations with the military-industrial lobby dictate a more unstable international landscape if they were to come to power.

Here a key determinate of future effective employment of our military depends on a fundamental assessment, judgment, and knowledge of consequences – all of which is lacking with Romney and his advisers.

Obama has both supported “smart” discrete military actions and largely avoided the stupid ones. His role as Commander-in-Chief has been outstanding compared to his recent predecessor. He both listens to military advice but makes his own judgments and asks the hard questions which have proven wise in most cases, such as his leaving Iraq, his timetable for stopping military combat activities in Afghanistan, and his supervision of making the US military more shaped for future dangers rather than throwing money at projects for wars of decades ago.

 

Sadly, the GOP in Congress has been profligate in wasting billions in massive programs, which often had to be accepted to get some useful reforms agreed to. We need a president that at least is willing to question and decide and think deeply about choices and consequences. Romney even in his speeches, positions, and managing his campaign seems unable to do any of this. There should be budget cuts but they should be smart ones and that is what the Obama administration is trying to do against the current of powerful forces in Washington.

 

Trade and Global Economic Policy:

We will deal with this area in another post, but in sum, Romney and the GOP Platform’s domestic and international economic policy are both a disaster and will result in further deterioration in American and global economy since it is based on false economic theories that have long been proved to be fallacious and counter a growth strategy.

Cutting taxes for the rich seems to be the only basis to their economic policies and nothing else. The GOP platform even has a section asking for a Commission to examine the reestablishment of the previously disastrous gold standard for our currency that would have given gold miners and speculators control over our monetary policy and drive us into a global depression. That shows how out of touch Romney and his party are to economic realities and the need for national and global stimulus effort.

Obama is supported at home and in forums abroad a concerted global growth policy; but European leaders, including the right wing Cameron Tory party went down the GOP proposed path of austerity and the result is a second recession for the UK which thankfully America, under Obama, has avoided.  

Climate Change, Energy policy, and Environmental Issues:

For Romney it is simply “drill baby drill” as a solution to the horrific impact of global warming and its consequences that it will have to our globe. His attacks and that of the GOP in Congress has been to undermine environmental and health related rules and restraints on pollution from fossil fuels and for that matter the dangers of many chemicals that can cause serious harm to American and global health. He even doubts, despite scientific evidence, that man made pollution is to blame and even questions climate change itself…and above all doing anything about it. Case closed!

Obama recognized the criticality of climate change but has had only partial success in addressing the issue, both internationally and at home. But his efforts at bolstering “clean energy” and increasing auto efficiency will help. Internationally getting an agreement with the developing world and with countries like China, Russia and Australia remain a hope.  But to accomplish these goals requires Congress to act; and here Romney and the GOP in Congress are, as they say, “deniers.”  This has also forced Obama to sometimes retreat on promises he made and finds he is not able to accomplish his goals because of the obstruction by the GOP in Congress.   

 

We welcome comments! 

The Campaign and Foreign Policy: The Balance between Obama and Romney (Part I)

The time is ripe to start assessing the balance of qualities, experience, judgment, and specific policies of President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. 

This can’t be the last judgment since the election is still some 6 weeks away and much can happen in that time. But we have, frankly, seen enough to do a general appraisal of the two on foreign affairs and national security issues based on their statements and party platforms.  More analysis will follow. 

I have decided to list here some of the key issues and the fundamental question of judgment and experience: 

Perceptions of the World and America’s Role:

Romney’s main point has been a rhetorical attack that President Obama has been weak abroad and has diminished American leadership and prestige abroad. The problem with this kind of attack is that it falls to pieces in the face of reality and public opinion polls around the world and the views of leaders abroad.

Go to Pew global polling data and in most countries abroad Obama and America’s standing has (with a few exceptions) been enhanced over the former Republican president George W. Bush. Indeed, the option polls in Europe, the key region of our NATO allies, show a huge imbalance between favorables for Obama versus Romney. It is no contest.

 Romney has yet to articulate specific differences and actions he would take that significantly differ from Obama’s in most areas and issues.  His attacks are filled with negatives, but not real specifics of his own. 

In general summary, Romney and the GOP platform mimic a neo-con belligerent anti-Islam perspective and far right (even sometimes ignorant) global perspective where America acts like a super-imperialistic power and others are told to follow blindly; where cooperation with key powers like China and Russia are reduced to slogans and antagonisms which highlight differences or engender fears instead of seeking areas of cooperation, mutual advantage, security, and long term engagement. It ignores or is dismissive of global problems like climate change, poverty, water and food issues; emerging areas of conflict and not dealing with difficult issues like North Korea and Iran. This perspective is found in many of the issue areas below.  His approach seems long on simplistic slogans and short on real insight, vision, and specifics. It does not seem to see the costs of its own policy pronouncements or policies.

Obama, in a strange way, is both more bold and at the same time more careful and judicious in his foreign and national security policy and statements. This is exemplified in both his initial hesitancy in Libya and finding an effective and “low profile” intervention strategy that put NATO allies at the forefront.  The same can be said about Syria, where restraint seems both careful and perhaps a bit too hesitant.  

Yet his “global view” is not of an America in decline or even an America disengaged from world affairs and threats.  His “grand vision” can be seen in his Prague speech on security in Europe and beyond, his pronouncements on approaching the Islamic world, and in the national posture statements and State of the Union speeches.

He has in fact made major accomplishments to overcome the weaknesses and costs of past decisions (like withdrawal from Iraq as promised), tried in the most difficult global environment to ameliorate dangers and threats, and acting early to rising conflicts and dangers.  

Not all have been successful but many of these problem areas are beyond the power of the U.S. to determine. Some are likely better for us to not have “boots on the ground” and efforts to “own” a country or conflict. In other places we have acted boldly but with “low profile” and in clandestine ways with some successes as exemplified in the taking of Bin Laden and drone attacks. Both the success and failures will be noted below. 

My overall judgment has been that Obama has been a successful keeper of the effective leadership role of America and is also more careful and thoughtful than his predecessor and of what looks to be a Romney promise of more of the Bush years: mindless aggression, proclivity, and a certain blindness to the cost to America.      

Indeed, on the substance, Obama has achieved major international gains in the face of a very difficult landscape that he inherited. 

Non-proliferation and Arms Control and Nuclear Weapons Policy:

Romney and his neo-con and “Cold War warriors” advisers seem bent on dismembering or weakening our treaties on arms control and non-proliferation.  They are more bent on increasing our already overwhelming nuclear weapons than on joint reductions with Russia and others. They oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which the United States has signed long ago and Congress with the Republican opposition has not ratified.  Romney would have opposed the New START treaty that the U.S. military supported.

The Republicans are also pushing for much higher expenditures on nuclear weapons modernization than needed as well as increases in the Defense budget including systems that the military does not want or need.  Romney has never seen a defense boondoggle that he does not like. Yet he opposed saving the U.S. auto industry which has strengthened our manufacturing base and contributed greatly to our industrial infrastructure. One has to wonder who has bought who?    

Obama has successfully negotiated the New START treaty with the Russians that reduced nuclear weapons on both sides and ensured mutual inspection and verification of these reductions and key stockpiles as he gained the almost impossible task of getting it passed in the Senate after much effort. He is now seeking further agreements on mutual arms reduction and strengthening efforts at confidence building measures and reduction of tactical nuclear weapons.  

Relations with Europe:

Here, the differences are as great as can be imagined. Romney talks a lot of support for our allies and weakness of Obama in dealing with our allies. Yet the reality is that, overwhelmingly, both the leaders of Europe and its citizens both admire Obama, respect him, and are for him over Romney – even the conservative leaders in the EU know that Romney and his blind belligerence and nationalistic bombast is not good for them.  He showed his ignorance and tin ear in his trip to Europe which only underlined his inaptitude.  

Dealing with Russia:

Romney’s statement making Russia, in advance of the election and a possible presidency, a “geopolitical foe,” rather than a nation we must and should deal with for mutual advantage, indicates a misperception of the complexity of our relations with Russia and our long-term interests.  He seems to think that antagonizing major powers is somehow in our interests or perhaps he thinks it is simply in his own interest with his base and thinks nothing of its impact on American interests overall.  As noted, he is against the New START treaty and seems negative towards further reduction in nuclear weapons and the NTP treaty.

Obama has in fact achieved major gains in dealing with the often picky Russian duo of Putin/Medvedev. He got the New START treaty, obtained an entry point for our supplies into Afghanistan via Russia, and had the Russians support the Libya intervention in the Security Council. He recognizes the limits and constraints of the Putin era but recognizes that constructive engagement is more likely to achieve results than simple hostility. We do not need to make Russia an enemy.  We need clearly to try long-term to have the Russians see the benefits of cooperation with the West. That is Obama’s goal and does not seem to be that of Romney.  

Our next blog will look at more areas including:

“Rise of China” and Asian Policy

Middle East and Israeli-Palestine Peace

Defense Spending and National Security Posture

Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environmental Issues

Trade and Global Economic Policy

Libya Killings: The Exploitation of Tragedy and Our Corrosive Politics

As a former diplomat I am appalled not just by the act of mindless violence that resulted in the death of four professional American diplomats, but also by the use of this sad event by the Republican candidate for president and his team to exploit it for partisan advantage. This, in my view, is truly unforgivable.

There are enough dangers and complexity in the various areas of trouble in the world without adding to them and saying silly things or to exacerbate hatreds and anger which seems sometimes to be the aim of Gov. Romney and his crew. America’s aim is to make peace and bring democracy and prosperity to the Middle East region and beyond. This fact seems of little worth to the Republicans if there is some gain in risking this goal to gain power.

The Middle East has been a kind of tinder box for as long as I can remember and its politics and national and ethnic makeup call for very wise and judicious handling which was the forte of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his many colleagues in the region. This is also a critical time in Middle East transition after the Arab Spring. It is time for both parties to continue the tradition of a subtle, balanced, and wise unified approach as taken by Reagan, the first Bush, Carter, Clinton, even the second Bush for some of his time (despite his indifference to its dangers), and now Obama. The simple fact is that Obama has been stronger and more effective against terrorism than the Bush people even came close to. He has shown strength in American determinism but also judiciousness in approach which has gain America much respect.     

Unfortunately, I agree with Senator Kerry’s judgment about Romney when he said, “Frankly I don’t think he knows what he is talking about.” 

At a time when U.S. Embassies are under attack, there is more need for voices of sanity, calm, and reconciliation. Not for stirring up partisan, ethnic, or religious animosities and least of all, in a time of turmoil and sadness of blatantly accusing the president (who has steadfastly fought terrorism successfully and also reached out to the vast majority of peaceful Muslims), of “sympathizing” with terrorists.

We do need a rational and thoughtful debate on American foreign policy but it is best done on the basis of facts, careful study, and thoughtful analysis; rather than the degrading and wrongheaded statements of someone who clearly is out of his depth but just does not know it. 

We welcome your comments!

The Charlotte Convention: Clashing Voices on Foreign Policy

Below you will find our take on the Democratic Convention in Charlotte which follows our earlier separate post commentary on the Republican Convention in Tampa. 

Charlotte: Accomplishments and Caution  

There were a number of speakers who touched on foreign policy but the main speakers directed their attention mostly on economic issues as well as the gap between the two parties on the future direction of America.  This included addressing controversial social issues and the growing gap between the rich and the middle class.  

But while foreign policy did have a less prominent  role in most of  the speeches, the reality of getting it right or wrong in this sector is critical for the security and constructive leadership in international affairs by America and the peace and progress of the globe.

It was largely the speech by Senator Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that set the context and landscape of the challenges America faces and set forth the case of what the Obama administration has achieved in a difficult environment.

Kerry quipped that, “Our opponents like to talk about ‘rebooting Exceptionalism.’ But all they do is talk. They forget that we are exceptional not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.” He went on to say, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”

The interesting fact is that polls were finding that the public thought Obama and the Democrats were better at foreign policy/national security than the Republicans– a change from past historical results over decades. It is clear that after the convention, with the strong statements by Kerry, Clinton, and Obama, that perspective has not changed. 

Recent talk after the tragic events in Libya by Romney and Ryan has only strengthened the image of “foot in the mouth” neophytes on the part of the GOP team.  

At the convention, the three key and other speakers (and in the platform) voiced a long litany of accomplishments in the international arena. They include the New START agreement with Russia which will reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons, the gaining of access via Russia to supply our forces in Afghanistan, the vote in the UN Security Council for sanctions and NATO action against Libya, which resulted in the ousting of a tyrannical regime. Successes included the “rebooting” of our relations with Russia, the pivoting towards Asia, the withdrawal from Iraq as promised, and the set date for ending US combat role in Afghanistan.  Further, Obama has led the rethinking of our defense posture and a focus on future dangers rather than building unneeded weapons and forces for past wars. 

Senator Kerry, himself a Vietnam hero, made the main foreign policy speech and it was effective and direct. He said: 

“…..our opponents like to talk about American exceptionalism, but all they do is talk. They forget that we’re exceptional, not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things. We break out of the Great Depression, win two World Wars, save lives fighting AIDS, pull people out of poverty, defend freedom, go to the moon and produce exceptional people who even give their lives for civil rights and for human rights…”

“…and despite what you heard in Tampa, an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet. That — that is a responsibility — that is a responsibility from the Scriptures. And that too is a responsibility of the leader of the free world. The only thing exceptional about today’s Republicans is that almost without exception, they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place. An exceptional nation demands exceptional leadership.

While the Republicans largely ignored Afghanistan, Senator Kerry ripped into the varied and clearly thoughtless GOP positions. In Kerry’s own sarcastic words: 

It isn’t fair to say that Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position.

He — he was against — he was against setting a date for withdrawal. Then he said it was right. And then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was tragic to leave Iraq. And then he said it was fine. He said we should have intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to run away from the reporters who were asking questions. Then he said, the intervention was too aggressive. And then he said the world was a better place because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it, before you were against it.” 

Vice President Joe Biden in his talk put it when talking about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound — that “if you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the world.” By contrast, Biden recalled, Republican challenger Mitt Romney once said that it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just to catch one person.”

More extraordinary still, it was the Democrats who saluted, mourned, and celebrated the “fallen angels” and “wounded warriors” of the U.S. military. Romney thoughtlessly observed no such understanding, leaving Sen. John Kerry to note, in his speech Thursday night, never before had a wartime nominee for president, of either party, “failed to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech.” 

IN SUMMARY COMPARISON:  

One interesting fact is that Romney and Ryan both on domestic, international issues, and on the challenges America faces were unwilling to get into the specifics of what their policies are, what exactly they would do different, and why their policies are more realistic and would be more effective.

The simple answer is that often while they mouth that they are different or better, in fact, you can see where their prescriptions for the most difficult issues are similar to Obama’s, simplistic and “mother and apple pie” (like supporting our allies), and where they are massively different: like climate change. Their position flies in the face of sound science and would bring catastrophes to the global environment and is just nonsense in addressing one of the great existential risks the world faces in this century. 

The Democrats were able to demonstrate clarity and experience in the Obama, Biden, and Kerry team.  They did sometimes also fall back on generalizations and there were some gaffs like the “Jerusalem” wording.  But the history of four years of actions and policies spoke for themselves, and Kerry’s summary of accomplishments and criticism of outlandish foreign policy positions provided Obama the change to focus on larger goals and connect on an emotional level. 

The recent events underline how events abroad can intrude on campaign efforts the “keep on message” on domestic topics. It also shows how stupidity by the GOP team in this area can cause a backlash and expose to light the shallowness of the GOP posture on national security and diplomacy.  

We welcome your comments,

Tampa and Charlotte Conventions: Clashing Voices on Foreign Policy

Below you will find our take on the Republican Convention in Tampa which will be followed by our separate post commentary on the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.

TAMPA: Republicans at their Worst and Most Cunning 

There were many disturbing elements coming out of the Republican Convention in Florida apart from offensive acts to both African-Americans and Hispanics, or Clint Eastwood’s babbling dementia and smutty gross remarks, or Paul Ryan’s miss- characterization of Obama’s programs and acts. They all seemed so typical of a certain unfortunate crudity of people who had no wise, wit, nor sympathy for others that were not like them or perhaps anyone.  The words I thought of were, “selfishness,” “mindless,” and “misleading;” the last being a nice word for lies. (See Factcheck for the footnotes re lies.)  How sad.

Romney’s speech was appalling in terms of national security and foreign policy, filled with empty words without substance.  He rarely spoke about Iraq or Afghanistan at all where our troops have made so many sacrifices. He set no directions and he designed not to share his real specific thoughts with those who must vote in November for their president.  He had no clear statement on his Iran policy other than an indication of a yet unneeded military option.

The New York Times had it right in their editorial on August 31st which looked at the foreign and security policy issues that it said were not fully addressed by Romney or Paul Ryan.  Here a few selected quotes:

“Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.”

“…..the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy.”

 “……Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy.”

“….Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war?

“She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling.

“Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world.

The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently.”

That was as good a summary as one can find of the emptiness of Romney’s foreign policy and the Republican lack of serious thought.

On some of the specifics of the GOP foreign policy positions: 

On the economic sphere —key to American long-term security – the Republican platform calls for the establishment of a Gold standard commission to examine going back to a gold standard for our currency. It is hard to imagine a more stupid and dangerous policy – putting our entire economy into the hands of a metal of no set worth and limited supply, open to manipulation and control largely by foreign mine owners – it would cause an immediate financial crisis and then a depression along with instability in our cooperation with other nations and in international trade. I will not bother our readers with the other economic policies which mirror the failed austerity policies in the EU/EURO Zone.   

Law of the Sea: The same platform says America should not ratify and indeed not be a part of the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Yet almost every administration after Reagan, including that of George W. Bush, has agreed to its ratification, but the right-wing of the Senate Republicans have opposed it. The US Navy and the Chiefs of Staff support the treaty as now does industry.  Keeping out of the treaty system puts our rights off free passage and access to seabed minerals in peril. Again, another example of Romney’s foolishness in the world abroad and I do not just mean insulting our UK friends on his trip abroad this August.

Reckless Belligerency: There is a carelessness and willingness to enter into conflicts and zones of deep instability, complexity, and danger that Romney and his neo-con advisors have indicated in position papers, statements, and in the GOP platform that boggles the mind. While making reckless statements that only infuriate countries with whom we have a wide range of interests (and even areas of cooperation), there is little indication of any deeper understanding of the interconnecting of issues and interests or of real as against least likely or imagined risks.  

Climate Change and Global Environmental Dangers: This is a prime example of ignoring serious dangers and clear catastrophic risks.  Romney, running mate Paul Ryan, and the GOP Platform and other GOP leaders deny the risks of global warming, the overwhelming scientific evidence, and above all are pushing for energy policies which will make the problem worse. They flatly refuse to deal with this true risk to global security in the face of major hurricanes, droughts, and coastal ocean levels rising.  

These are but a few examples of a national security and foreign policy platform and mindset that shows ignorance, recklessness, and myopia that spells major danger to American leadership abroad.  Just recently, for example, a Pew poll showed a vast majority of Indians (and in other polls, many other countries) with a high regard for America and Obama…..which would evaporate with a Romney presidency. Leadership starts through wise policies and cautious but clear actions.

Our next blog will look at the Democrat Convention and Platform and speeches.

We welcome your comments!

Iran: Still a Difficult Nut to Crack

The current negotiating deadlock between the P5+1 (UK, France, Germany, Russia, France, EU, and the U.S.) and Iran remains, but with the hope that wiser views might still prevail as we edge towards the semi-breakout deadline of enough highly enriched uranium above the 20% level to build a bomb.

This is not likely to happen this year and Iran might not take that “last step” to actually build such a weapon. But the danger and its risks remain. President Obama himself has said that would not be permitted– the so-called “red line.” Israel has been making noises that it might act with a preemptive strike, even alone – a move that might have worse consequences for Israel in the long term and likely immediately cause major risk of major conflicts aimed at Israel by multi-parties.

In short, not a very nice picture for either Iran or Israel or for the Western countries or for peace in the Middle East.

Coming up shortly is the International Atomic Energy Agency report to be given to its board of governors on Iran’s nuclear program. Much of that report has already been leaked to the press and its outline indicates that Iran is making progress in its uranium enrichment program. The next meeting of the IAEA board of governors is Sept. 10 when the implications of the report will be discussed and perhaps recommendations on next steps made. Despite progress on enrichment experts believe that Iran will not be in a position of having an actual effective weapon before the end of this year and into next year and some believe it would take two years. Intelligence experts also believe that we would be able to detect such a “breakout” if it occurred, and still affirm that the decision to actually make such a weapons has not be taken.

In the U.S. the right wing-neocon crazies of the Republican Party are doing their best to again “saber-rattle,” as they did in the unneeded and disastrous Iraq war. Romney just said that Iran with nuclear weapons would be “unacceptable” (Frankly, not much different from Obama’s “red-line” remark.)

The simple fact is such a “war” would be a shared tragedy for all including Iran. No sane country would either attack Iran before an actual “real time” threat, and Iran would be totally suicidal to build a nuclear bomb and its delivery system knowing that act itself would spell a conflict that would bring destruction. The consequences are beyond rational contemplation. So that is the conundrum and the risk for all parties.

As this is written the so-called “nonaligned” conference is opening in Tehran and “surprise” Iran says it is not seeking nuclear weapons and conference says it wants to rid the world of such weapons. Yet IAEA experts in the new report see evidence of a coverup by Iran of a site said to be related to its weapons program before IAEA inspections.

As we have written earlier there is always the change of miscalculation on the part of Iran and mistakes by others that can create a crisis which would undoubtedly be a tragedy for all.

There are however ways out. The problem is for all sides to accept some compromise that saves face for Iraq and still ends up ensuring that Iran does not become a nuclear weapons power. Whatever the final compromise would have to ensure that the world has high confidence that there is almost no chance of Iran gaining nuclear weapons. There have been a number of reasonable proposals from both national governments and outside experts on how this can be done. Iran would have to gain some advantages including on easing sanctions and continued development of fully peaceful nuclear power efforts under inspections and the international community would have to gain assured security from any Iran WMD threat. A regional security pact also is a possible mechanism for the necessary compromises.

So far the contending parties have not yet taken this road to a stable peace and mutual stable security for all. One problem is domestic politics among the contending parties especially in Israel with the conservative government pushing the preemptive “war” option, and in America, with a belligerent stance on Iran by Romney pushed by his key financial backers and fanatical neocon advisors. Iran also needs to seem strong against so-called external threats to maintain its own support internally of its “hard line’ supporters.

The path now is for the imposed UN and U.S./EU sanctions to do their work and their eventual impact to bring Iran to the negotiating table. They are in fact starting to work with large reductions in exports of Iranian oil which is the main driver of Iran’s economy. The question is whether any progress can be made before the elections in the U.S. That is doubtful, but if I were the Iranian leader I’d want to act swiftly given the alignment of forces and likely high risks.

We welcome your comments.

Grownups Mess Up, by Harry C. Blaney III

Teenagers are a tough audience, and my 14 year old niece, Autumn, is among the toughest. She is curious about the world—and wants to know how it works and how it doesn’t. She logged on to my blog in search of some answers. Her take, after reading a few of my blog posts, was that they were too long and too complicated.

In the Twittersphere, she’s right. And since Autumn and her generation are going to inherit the mess we so-called grownups are leaving behind, this blog post—short and to the point—is for her. 

Look at climate change. Go on EPA’s website  Find out that due to the fossil fuel industry – and its minions – countries have not invested enough in cleaner energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuels. As a result, Autumn, you are already seeing rising global temperatures and changes in weather. This is causing more floods, droughts, and intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves and droughts. According to the EPA, the planet’s oceans are warming, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising.

Consider nuclear weapons. Click on The Arms Control Association’s website (In the spirit of full disclosure, your Aunt Julia once was a member of ACA’s Board of Directors). Five countries – the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain – have well over 10,000 nuclear warheads. Three nations – India, Israel, and Pakistan – are known to possess nuclear weapons and have 400 warheads between them. Iran and North Korea are both pursing the capability to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. This is not enough to destroy the entire earth but it would create a planet where the living would have reason to envy the dead.

Study the economy and global health. Today, powerful people care less about improving the welfare of the many than maintaining the wealth of the few. Their actions seldom reflect a concern for the world you and your children will be left with.

Despite all these global challenges, I am an optimist because I know you, Autumn, along with my other nieces and nephews, are smarter than many grownups. Your Uncle Harry and Aunt Julia know you will help make this world a better place. You and young people like you—in North and South America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa—are beginning and will continue to demand new leaders like President Obama who are dedicated to fixing the future. You have the most at stake. And my money, Autumn, is on you!