George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘obama

GETTING BUSHED

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George W. Bush made a statement today that no doubt will be widely praised in the liberal media as courageous and realistic for “breaking his silence” snd coming forward to broadly criticize the Trump era; never mind that he has a good deal of responsibility for creating it in the first place, as well as for the election of Democrat Barack Obama.  His presidency was an overall failure and a disaster for conservatives and Republicans who supported him, who only managed to recover because his successor was hardly any better. There is simply no way around this. Giving credit where it is due, he did acquit himself well in the wake of the 9/11 attack, but it was downhill from there. He is also a likable guy, of the sort you could easily share a beer with, he was honest, and has a lovely wife. But that’s about it.

The “divisions” he essentially lays on Trump in fact became ossified during his presidency, starting with his failure to unify the country when he had the opportunity and did little to move it forward. The fact that his successor only made this worse does not relieve him of his own responsibility. His foreign policy was disastrous, and cost us dearly, in terms of treasure, and lives lost while aggressively pursuing an ill-advised policy of nation-building and promoting democratic freedom all over the world, whether feasible or not. Those of us who supported him at the time simply can no longer ignore the fact that he misled us, took us into an unnecessary war, and in its wake left the Middle East in chaos. As much as one might argue that his successor let all that effort go to waste, and made it worse due his distaste for the war in Iraq, the fact remains that it was Bush who started it all. It may be painful for some to admit this, but by any objective standard the conclusion is unavoidable.

He managed to alienate an entire generation of young people from his party, while also causing it to lose control of congress by his policy failures. When together they had an opportunity to get things done with a reform conservative agenda they completely squandered it and accomplished nothing.  Instead he greatly increased the scope and power of the federal government, while claiming the opposite. Domestically he was a lot like Richard Nixon; using conservative rhetoric to gain support while actually pursuing generally liberal policies. When he did do anything that was somewhat associated with the right, it was something idiotic, like cutting off birth control assistance for poor countries. He ran up the deficit with nothing to show for it, precipitated a recession, and presided over an unnecessary financial crisis. While much of the cause of the latter can be attributed to the policies of his predecessor, particularly in mortgage finance, his administration did nothing to stem the growth of the problem or introduce any fiscal discipline,.

Overall then, he not only accomplished very little, but was actually counterproductive in many areas. As the epitome of establishment Republicans and followed by two lackluster candidates from the same mold, the base of the party ultimately became so frustrated that when the opportunity arose they gravitated to the most anti-establishment candidate to come along,

namely Donald Trump. They were so tired of being Bushwhacked they nominated the most improbable candidate to ever arise, and one who otherwise would never have been chosen. It was a total loss of confidence in the establishment along with a desire to avoid another Bush-style presidency that led to this. I am not suggesting anything about the wisdom of any of these choices but simply trying to describe how we wound up where we are today, thanks in so many ways to George Bush. For him to now decry what he himself had a major role in precipitating is simply disingenuous to say the least.

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Written by georgesarant

October 20, 2017 at 2:14 AM

STAY OUT OF THE LINE OF FIRE

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The USA has not been blessed with leaders with a clear-eyed, long-term geopolitical view of the interests of the country for decades, and that record, along with the consistent ineptitude of the present administration, makes inaction preferable to action on a number of fronts. Iraq is descending into a chaotic civil war, due to the precipitous disengagement of the Obama administration and a total lack of strategic vision. There is no question that the blunders of the Bush administration are responsible for instigating these problems, but in that case at least half the blame belongs to Saddam Hussein himself for so successfully faking WMD capabilities in order to be perceived as a more formidable force in the region. That posture backfired, as did his removal. Sadaam was an awful dictator, but he counterbalanced the equally odious Iranian regime, which became the principal beneficiary of his demise. Broader strategic thinking would have made that outcome obvious. 

More importantly, Sadaam was a secular leader who checked religious extremism as long as he was in power. The same dynamic is at work in Syria now, where the US currently has zero credibility or respect, having drawn a  “line in the sand,” which it then ignored.  A wiser, long-term geopolitical understanding would have informed us of the saliency of the religious extremism in the two branches of Islam, and guided our strategic thinking accordingly. This is a long term, historic conflict that could still last centuries. Do we want to be part of that? At this stage, given the bumbling proclivities of our leaders, I think the best course for the US is to use this as an opportunity to get out of the line of fire. By that I mean ceasing to be enemy number one to extremists on both sides of the Islamic rift.  We have managed to fumble our way into that position, and it is now time to extricate ourselves. 

There are many countries in the world with an “Islamic problem,” meaning either a restive minority population or conflict with an aggressive neighbor. The US is not one of them, and a cursory examination of global borders makes that obvious. There is no inherent reason for the US to be at odds with any of these players, but for inserting ourselves into their affairs. Contrary to the beliefs of some on the left, it’s not about oil. We are more self-sufficient in this hemisphere than most other countries, and would be even more so but for the anti-energy policies of this administration, which sooner or later will be undone. The people who depend on mideast oil are the Japanese, the Europeans, and increasingly, the Chinese. Consequently what happens in the area is of far more consequence for them than it is for us. 

As for cultural conflict, Europe has a large, unassimilated Muslim population. Russia, and even China have restive Muslim minorities. Thus, the problems are far more acute for them, so why should the US wind up being the Great Satan? Bin Laden (who primarily targeted the US for stationing forces in Saudi Arabia, which are now gone) is dead and most of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack are accounted for. The Muslims are not our problem, and the more we disengage from conflict with them the less we would be targeted. Their main goal is obtaining power within the Islamic world. They are basically a headache for the existing regimes, who until now have managed to deflect such hostility onto the west. We are not sufficiently ruthless for this kind of conflict.

This does not mean cutting and running, but making a realistic policy that in essence says you don’t bother us and we won’t bother you, for if you do you will be annihilated with overwhelming force.  We would basically make an offer they couldn’t refuse. Let the CIA do its job for a change and come up with accurate information on these movements. Given the nature of the present administration I do not see a better path. 

We have paid dearly for all of this, not just in lives and treasure, but in terms of our own liberties. We now have a massive security state that is adept primarily at inconveniencing us at airports. Yet the end result is a situation no better than it was before, and given the instability in the area, arguably worse. We need to focus on rebuilding strength at home, where our way of life has deteriorated significantly. I am not suggesting isolationism here, but realism, as per Theodore Roosevelt’s axiom, speak softly but carry a big stick. 

 

RUSSIA AND UKRAINE PART 2

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There are those who are criticizing President Obama for not doing more about Russia and the Ukraine. I would argue that he and Kerry ought to be doing less because what they are doing is so inept it is almost comical. We have a weak leader (as perceived by a majority of Americans) playing a weak hand. Given that, less is better than more, lest the US be perceived as even weaker. Red lines that are indefensible and threats of “consequences” that impress no one are pointless. Given the nature of this administration, the less action there is the less embarrassment there will be.

Putin sees a power vacuum, with weak, irresolute western leaders that he has only contempt for, and he is acting on it. The main basis for the “illegality” of Russian actions is an agreement made in the 1990s to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine as it gave up its nuclear weapons. Among the signatories to this were Russia and the US. So Russia has reneged on another agreement. Who is surprised by this? For it is not only international agreements that they have discarded but also contracts with gullible western corporations dumb enough to do business there under current conditions. 

The notion of the “west” and Russia as the “east” is a false dichotomy. The Russians inherited the same Greek foundation as the west via Greek monks who created their alphabet and converted them to Christianity a thousand years ago. It is ironic that after more than seven decades of communism Russia today is far more Christian than the west. It is through this prism that Putin views western countries as degenerate and weak. But Russia also feels threatened by NATO expansion to its borders, which is one of the main reasons that Putin wants the former Soviet republics to get in line with Russia. 

The real barrier to better relations and integration with the western world is the lack of rule of law in Russia, which involves more than just arbitrary government. Normal business cannot be conducted with parties who renege on contract agreements. This will continue as long as there is not a a truly independent judiciary. Constitutional government requires more than the formal edifice of institutions with separate powers. Putin’s government is not so much in opposition to this as several steps removed. His model now is essentially that of the state as protector of traditional values, defender of the faith, etc.  with himself at the apex of the state. Nevertheless his government still has support with the majority of the population.

This is not to suggest that Russian aggrandizement should not be opposed, but realistically just what assets do we have available for this? This administration does not have the standing in the world to support its posturing. We need to take a longer term view to a post-Obama (and Putin) world. If Russia annexes Crimea based upon a popular vote it will backfire on them badly. For if Crimea can have self-determination then logically the restive regions in the Caucasus could do the same. Thus Chechnya and Dagestan could use the same pretext to break away from Russia. What the US and other western countries need to do is focus on rebuilding the economy, institutions, and strength at home before we can be taken seriously abroad. 

 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

March 16, 2014 at 7:38 PM

WHAT TO DO ABOUT RUSSIA & UKRAINE?

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Russian actions in Ukraine continue to dominate the headlines, and there is no common western policy beyond expressions of disapproval. The question now is what should be done about Putin’s actions? The short answer is, not much. First, because not much can realistically be done by outsiders, and second, given the extent to which the Obama administration has abandoned leadership in the world, things like this are bound to happen in that power vacuum. With the “reset” in relations with Russia in shambles who can have confidence in the ability of this administration to handle this appropriately?

There has been some tough talk from Hillary Clinton, which makes some sense on the surface. She compares the Ukrainian situation to that of Nazi Germany, which grabbed the Czech sudetanland followed other territories on the pretext of protecting Germans in those areas. When there was no effective response Hitler’s appetite increased until the invasion of Poland finally brought on World War II.  However, Putin is not Hitler, and the global context is quite different. Britain and France were committed to alliances with Poland. No one apart from Russia is allied with the territories of the former Soviet Union, which we can assume Putin dreams of recreating. But what can he realistically do in that regard?

If Russia were to regain all those territories the Russians themselves would become a minority in the federation. They would have a substantial, growing and increasingly restive population on their hands. They have yet been unable to completely subdue the existing Muslim population in Chechnya and other Russian territories in the Caucasus. The Russian population is roughly 142 million and declining, with a non-Russian minority at nearly 20% and growing. Russia cannot possibly maintain a stable society with more ethnic minorities in its fold. Putin is no fool and he must know this. But he also knows that he can annex some territories with little to lose. 

Crimea, which is now basically occupied, has a Russian majority and the regional government is seeking a referendum on joining Russia. That should be amended to say rejoining Russia, insofar as Crimea was in fact Russian territory until Kruschev ceded it to the then Ukrainian SSR, in what was basically an internal shuffle, never imagining an independent Ukraine. From the Russian point of view they are simply reoccupying historically Russian territory. Given the history and the demographics there is not much of a case for a strong response to this by anyone. Putin took advantage of the political turmoil in Ukraine. A similar case could be made for Russian majority areas in eastern Ukraine. As long as there are substantial majority-minority population differences there is certain to be instability, and a degree of sorting out would mitigate that and eliminate any pretext for further aggrandizement. A more Ukrainian Ukraine could then pursue its goal of joining the west via the European Union. 

What disturbs much of the world is the use of force in this situation, and for that there should be consequences. The problem is that there is really no one in a position to do much of anything. The next step would be to give a strong message along the lines of “this far but no further.” The problem is that the US administration has drawn red lines before that fell away without consequences, and has no credibility left. The outrage of some hawks on the right is misplaced. This is not the Soviet Union. Russia is not an enemy and there is nothing to be gained by treating it like one. The notion of the west versus Russia is a false dichotomy. . Russia has been a part of the “west” in some sense, at least since Peter the Great. The real barrier to better relations and integration with the western world is the lack of rule of law in Russia. To be continued. 

 

Written by georgesarant

March 6, 2014 at 6:59 PM

THE WEST & THE MIDDLE EAST 1: SYRIA

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It’s a crazy world we live in when one has to decide whether John Kerry or Vladimir Putin is lying about who is using chemical weapons in Syria.  Kerry testified there is ample evidence it was initiated by the Assad regime, while Putin says he has a detailed 100 page report indicating that the rebels did it. Given the murkiness of this situation congress ought to think twice before rushing into another Middle East conflict, the consequences of which cannot be known. There has been no indication of any contingencies which might result from such action. Are we really prepared for this? 

The President’s credibility is on the line, or what’s left of it, but contrary to prevailing assumptions that does not mean America’s credibility is also hanging by a thread. For what we have here is a regime of the Left such as we have never seen before, mismanaging just about every aspect of government. The administration only now has had to reach out to Republicans to get something done, who would be ill-advised to be suckered in, despite some naturally hawkish tendencies.  Do they really have confidence in the leadership of this administration at this point? Then there is John Kerry, the point man on this mission, who once falsely testified before congress that American forces were regularly committing atrocities in Viet Nam and who met with Assad several times, praising him, against the wishes of the Bush administration.  Can we trust this man now? Republicans are out of their minds if they fall in line for what is likely to be a fiasco, given this kind of leadership. Can they really still have any confidence in them at this point? 

The only sensible thing to do is to either vote against this action, and/or get out of the way and let the administration take the fall for botching this entire situation. Given its tenuous credibility, drawing red lines and then saying they didn’t, and then stating that  “the world” did; never mind that virtually no one else in the world wants any part of this mission. Action was not taken two years ago when it would have mattered. It is too little too late, and yes, action at this point would be worse than doing nothing. There is nothing to be gained and a lot to lose by doing it now. If there were another chemical attack and it was clear who did it, then action might be justified. But the UN has yet to issue a report either way, which at least give some substantive support to whoever is right. 

A wise government would be looking to get us out of the line of fire, but they instead want to jump into it. Both Secretary Kerry and President Obama strongly opposed the Iraq war, but now are pursuing a comparable policy on far more tenuous grounds. There is no coalition, no congressional support as yet, and no conclusive proof. To claim that Syria is a threat to our national security is preposterous. Just what national security do we gain when this administration has leaked like a sieve and a good portion of our national secrets have been spilled all over, and governments the world over are alienated and angry. Due to their breathtaking ineptitude they have managed to make Russia a major player again, and make Putin look like a statesman. What we really need is a congressional no confidence vote, so at least the rest of the world know it is not us taking action but an administration acting against the wishes of the people, and then somehow muddle through three more years of this lame duck presidency. 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

September 6, 2013 at 5:11 PM

G-7, G-8? CANADA, US, & EUROPE

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The west again has a leader with vision, courage, and resolve. Too bad he’s not an American. He is Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, who had the fortitude to directly call out Vladimir Putin for his bad behavior, particularly with regard to Syria, where Russia continues to provide vital support for the Assad regime. At the “G8” summit Harper boldly stated that there is no G8. He stated that instead “this is the G-7   plus one. Let’s be blunt, that’s what this is: the G-7 plus one,” basically giving up on Russia ever behaving like a normal country. 

The G-7 was originally a group of the world’s leading economic powers with a shared democratic government and market economy. Membership consisted of the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, and Japan. Then Russia was invited in in 1997 to encourage the continued transformation toward democracy, political and economic freedom. Unfortunately Russia has instead reverted to an authoritarian tradition that goes back centuries. It is nowhere near as odious as the Communist Soviet Union was, but it has consistently been at odds with the west on issue after issue. Part of this is Putin’s illusion of being a great power, which is achieved by opposing anything the US does. He is basically disruptive of the G8, as Harper suggested, and is not suitable for participation. This doesn’t necessarily mean expelling Russia, if only for the Russian people, and the hope that they will eventually produce a less thuggish regime instead of one headed by a clown who cannot be taken seriously. 

Leaving this aside the US is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe, which would be a tremendous plus for the economies of all participants as well as the whole world. Obama deserves credit for pursuing this opportunity, which if consummated, will be the major achievement of his administration. Notwithstanding very justified criticism on the domestic front, when the President does something good in foreign affairs he ought to get credit for it. One of the principle roadblocks to completing the agreement has been put up by France,which wants some exemptions and protections for its cultural institutions. In this instance I sympathize with the French, in trying to maintain their national culture and not be overwhelmed, i.e.  by Hollywood. They do not want their culture ruined the way Hollywood has ruined ours, with mediocre productions, offensive material, and monotonous left-wing themes. I hope that they can be accommodated and that other countries will follow suit, in order to maintain their distinctive cultural identities. For that matter it would be nice if Americans rediscovered their own identity, which has been trampled not only by Hollywood, but by a dysfunctional education system. 

Written by georgesarant

June 17, 2013 at 7:21 PM

EGOMANIA AND POWER

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Today’s New York Times, of all places, contains an article about President Obama’s unbridled ego, his hypercompetitiveness, his high opinion of himself, and his need to dominate, even in relatively trivial pursuits. However, “he tends to overestimate his capabilities,” to put it mildly. For a long time I have felt that egomania is one of the most significant negative features of our time, an idea that will be developed in detail subsequently.

 Everything kids are taught and fed today is designed to build and reinforce “self-esteem.”  As a result, we have a population that views itself as the center of the universe, has a sense of entitlement, and often engages in obnoxious behavior as a result. Everything revives around “me,” and “I” is a term you read and hear ad nauseum. The world is viewed entirely through the prism of the self, so that everything is perceived in terms of how it affects or relates to that individual, which determines its place in the hierarchy of values. Everything is perceived in terms of how it relates to “me.” So, for example, in the case of an actor who was informed of the death of a friend, his only reaction was to say that he wasn’t feeling so good either, going on to describe a slight pain he had. But if everyone, or at least many people, go around thinking “I am special,” we wind up with things like aggressive driving and road rage when they are not given their proper due behind the wheel.

But the more severe the pathology, the more one is likely to fall off a cliff at some point, as limitations become unavoidable, and it becomes clear that one is not so special after all. When this recognition is achieved, it essentIally determines how mature a person is, and the best characters learn it sooner rather than later. But a few people go through life never having to deal with a larger reality, as everything they encounter seems to reinforce their special status and confirm their self-perception. It never registers that their situation has come about largely due to luck and they continue to perceive themselves as possessed with some special grace. The result is the kind of megalomania we see with stars and their entourages, or Presidents with their worshipful aides.
However, under such conditions contradictory information tends to get filtered out, reinforcing a sense of invincibility increasingly divorced from reality. That appears to be what is happening in the White House today, with a President who believes he is always right, the best at everything, and inherently great. He was anointed with a Nobel Prize before he even did anything. He was chosen as “the One” by millions around the world. He was validated by a fawning media, which only confirmed the inevitability of his rise. Thus it is unsurprising that he has an overabundance of confidence.
There are, however, “facts on the ground.” He is often described as “eloquent,” which only indicates how far our standards of rhetorical quality have fallen. For he is a mediocre man in a time of mediocrity. His idea of the Presidency is all appearance and ceremony rather than substance, so, for example, he left it to the congress to fashion his unpopular health plan, while he has spent his time almost continuously campaigning with agreeable crowds. When there is such a dynamic in Hollywood it is frivolous, but when coupled with real power in government it is frightening.
Due to the fact that his eminence is constantly reinforced, anything that stands in the way is heretical. Thus, his greatness should not be limited by inconvenient nuisance things like the the Supreme Court and congress, or an obsolete document like the constitution. Given this, we may be headed for catastrophe if he wins the election- not because he would be President again, but because he would feel vindicated to the point where he would feel entitled to rule by decree. He would issue proclamations and presidential orders contravening the other branches of government and possibly precipitate a constitutional crisis, resulting in impeachment proceedings. Then while our government is self-destructing the world would spin out of control; all because we have a man who is not as great as he thinks he is, but there is no one who can convince him of that fact. That is the truth of our situation today, which can only be rectified, perhaps, by the electorate.

 

Written by georgesarant

September 5, 2012 at 12:08 AM