Can Putin survive?

Ludwig von Gress

By George Friedman / July 21, 2014

There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events. 

Ukraine and the Bid to Reverse Russia’s Decline

Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine’s president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure. 

This was extremely important to Putin. Part of the reason Putin had replaced Boris Yeltsin in 2000 was Yeltsin’s performance during the Kosovo war. Russia was allied with the Serbs and had not wanted NATO to launch a war against Serbia. Russian wishes were disregarded. The Russian views simply didn’t matter to the West. Still, when the air war failed to force Belgrade’s capitulation, the Russians negotiated a settlement that allowed U.S. and other NATO troops to enter and administer Kosovo. As part of that settlement, Russian troops were promised a significant part in peacekeeping in Kosovo. But the Russians were never allowed to take up that role, and Yeltsin proved unable to respond to the insult.

Putin also replaced Yeltsin because of the disastrous state of the Russian economy. Though Russia had always been poor, there was a pervasive sense that it been a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. Under Yeltsin, however, Russia had become even poorer and was now held in contempt in international affairs. Putin had to deal with both issues. He took a long time before moving to recreate Russian power, though he said early on that the fall of the Soviet Union had been the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. This did not mean he wanted to resurrect the Soviet Union in its failed form, but rather that he wanted Russian power to be taken seriously again, and he wanted to protect and enhance Russian national interests. 

The breaking point came in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004. Yanukovich was elected president that year under dubious circumstances, but demonstrators forced him to submit to a second election. He lost, and a pro-Western government took office. At that time, Putin accused the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies of having organized the demonstrations. Fairly publicly, this was the point when Putin became convinced that the West intended to destroy the Russian Federation, sending it the way of the Soviet Union. For him, Ukraine’s importance to Russia was self-evident. He therefore believed that the CIA organized the demonstration to put Russia in a dangerous position, and that the only reason for this was the overarching desire to cripple or destroy Russia. Following the Kosovo affair, Putin publicly moved from suspicion to hostility to the West.

The Russians worked from 2004 to 2010 to undo the Orange Revolution. They worked to rebuild the Russian military, focus their intelligence apparatus and use whatever economic influence they had to reshape their relationship with Ukraine. If they couldn’t control Ukraine, they did not want it to be controlled by the United States and Europe. This was, of course, not their only international interest, but it was the pivotal one.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia had more to do with Ukraine than it had to do with the Caucasus. At the time, the United States was still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Washington had no formal obligation to Georgia, there were close ties and implicit guarantees. The invasion of Georgia was designed to do two things. The first was to show the region that the Russian military, which had been in shambles in 2000, was able to act decisively in 2008. The second was to demonstrate to the region, and particularly to Kiev, that American guarantees, explicit or implicit, had no value. In 2010, Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine, reversing the Orange Revolution and limiting Western influence in the country. 

ukraine_militaryRecognizing the rift that was developing with Russia and the general trend against the United States in the region, the Obama administration tried to recreate older models of relationships when Hillary Clinton presented Putin with a “restart” button in 2009. But Washington wanted to restore the relationship in place during what Putin regarded as the “bad old days.” He naturally had no interest in such a restart. Instead, he saw the United States as having adopted a defensive posture, and he intended to exploit his advantage. 

One place he did so was in Europe, using EU dependence on Russian energy to grow closer to the Continent, particularly Germany. But his high point came during the Syrian affair, when the Obama administration threatened airstrikes after Damascus used chemical weapons only to back off from its threat. The Russians aggressively opposed Obama’s move, proposing a process of negotiations instead. The Russians emerged from the crisis appearing decisive and capable, the United States indecisive and feckless. Russian power accordingly appeared on the rise, and in spite of a weakening economy, this boosted Putin’s standing.

The Tide Turns Against Putin

Events in Ukraine this year, by contrast, have proved devastating to Putin. In January, Russia dominated Ukraine. By February, Yanukovich had fled the country and a pro-Western government had taken power. The general uprising Continue reading

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

28th July, 1953: The war in Korea is over after three years of bloody fighting which has cost over two million lives. The armistice was signed at Panmunjom at 10.01 yesterday. The terms of truce, which has taken two years of bitter general.clarkwrangling to settle, stipulate that both sides will destroy their front line positions and withdraw for two kilometres. Allied troop will withdraw from the islands they occupy off North Korea, and the naval and air blockades will be lifted. Another important agreement is that no reinforcements of men or material will be brought in which will increase existing numbers and supplies. A special committee will be set up too supervise the exchange of prisoners. The Allied commander, General Mark Clark, said: “It is good to have the bloodshed end. But a long and difficult road lies ahead. There are no short cuts. We must continue our efforts to seek and defend peace.”

Is he playing golf or fundraising?

Is he playing golf or fundraising?

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For You O Democracy

…from the quills of the dead white poets

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

Come, I will make the continent dissoluble,

I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,

I will make divine magnetic lands,

With the love of comrades,

With the life-long love of comrades.

 usa.flag

I will plant companionship thick as trees along the rivers of America,

and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,

I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,

By the love of comrades,

By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!

For you, for you I am trilling these songs.

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Georgia on their mind

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

I do not know what provokes the Left moreguns or the people’s ability to think. Firearms in thinking people’s hands are thus for them the absolute anathema, of course. Guns in the hands of their followers, or groups likely to do their biding are no problem. They have no objection to, for example “the federal Secretary of Education who employs not a single teacher but is the only education minister in the western world with his own SWAT team” or to the Mexican bandits being “fast and furiously” supplied with firearms by the US Government.

 I write about America; the citizens of the other formerly democratic countries had been disarmed a long time ago; in Australia by the politicians (LibNats) falsely claiming to be the conservative.

 So, slightly encouraging news from Georgia (USA), where in April this year the Governor Nathan Deal signed a law, which “gives added protection to those who have played by the rules”. It is not really that much. For example, those renewing their licences will not have to be fingerprinted again. The Left is furious. Still, be grateful for small mercies. It will be a long time before the reason prevails.

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

 23rd July, 1955: The first East-West Heads of Government meeting since 1945 ended in Geneva today. With diplomatic humbug, Sir Anthony Eden, President Eisenhower, the French Premier, Edgar Faure, and Soviet Premier, Nikolai Bulganin,, declared it a success. In truth, they agreed about nothing – except that their Foreign Ministers will meet again in the autumn for another bid to solve the problem of Germany’s future. The Western leaders found the Russian delegation less sinister, but not less unyielding, than in the days of Stalin. On the question of European security, Mr Bulganin totally rejected a British plan for free all-German election followed by a peace treaty with a reunified Germany.

[ It took 45 years ... ]

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

 Saigon, April 1975

Saigon, April 1975

22nd July, 1954: Agreement was reached in Geneva to bring peace to Indochina. The main provision of the treaty calls for the division of Vietnam along the1 17t Parallel, with the Communist Viet Minh controlling the north and Emperor Bao Dai controlling the south with French support. One weakness is that there will be no joint guarantee actually signed by all the Geneva Conference powers. The French Premier, M. Pierre Mendes-France obviously believes that he has achieved his aim of “an honourable settlement”. Others are less convinced. Senator Knowland, the Republican leader in the US Senate, prophesied: “We may regret that such an agreement has been forced upon the French”.

[ The foreign affairs “expert”, an academic Henry (Kissinger) obviously did not read anything beside the Washington restaurants' menus before he committed his adopted country (USA) to even more ignominious “agreement”. The academic simpletons and corrupted politicians will sell their citizens for a piece of silver or a Nobel Peace Prize. Will they ever learn that papers signed by Lenin, Hitler, Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Putin are worthless?]

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Orel Balkánu

…from the quills of the dead white poets

Svatopluk Čech (1846 -1908)

 czech_flag_small

Sedl orel na mečetu,

sivý orel Balkánu,

pod ním muezzíni světu

hlásají zvěst koránu,

pod ním moslemím se beře

k harému, by touhy své

vlíbal bujné do kadeře

otrokyně tauridské.

 istanbuls-blue-mosque

Na mečetě na vysoké

zdá se orlu starému

o časech, kdy smavooké

prchnou děvy z harému,

o časech, kdy umlkne tu

tajemná zvěst koránu,

a k hrddému peruť letu

vznese orel Balkánu . . .

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Hope springs eternal *

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

This is the slightly truncated maiden speech by the newly elected Senator James McGrath, a Liberal, from Queensland. It looks good, but we have had many politicians elected, saying one thing, and then doing something else altogether. Many? Every single one of them. Perhaps this time?

 Freedom and liberty, 100 years ago this month, were under threat as the gods of war awoke. Armies of empires stretching back before the Middle Ages were slowly moving to Armageddon—a world war with deaths of millions, the end of four royal houses and the beginning of wicked new orders of communist and fascist cruelty. This war ended realms of geography but brought in dominions of political terror imprisoning generations under dictatorship, ending hope, freedom and liberty for many until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the war that began in 1914 with the invasion of Belgium was the second ‘Hundred Years War’, the war against tyranny, continuing from the Armistice, pausing in 1989, and resuming in 2001 in New York.

The ‘Hundred Years War against Tyranny’ continues today on three fronts: first of all Islamist fundamentalism intent on caliphates destroying Western civilisation, especially religious freedom; secondly, democratic governments restricting freedom of speech and association, betraying hundreds of years of liberty; and, finally, leftists delegitimising all views other than their own, especially in media and education.

Freedom and liberty are not abstract concepts. You either have freedom or you are not free. Whether I serve here for 16 days or 16 years, I shall always judge myself on how I have battled against tyranny and fought for the axis of enlightenment—that is, liberty of the individual, a free market, small government and low taxes. I will let others badge and brand and box me, as, in my great broad church that is the Liberal Party, my pew is a moveable feast. I have campaigned against dictator-loving Islamist fundamentalists in the Maldives; Sinn Fein- and PLO-supporting Labour candidates in London; and godless rebranded communists in Mongolia—not to mention the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party!

My life has not been about the pursuit or gain of power but to confiscate power back from government to free people. My story is not special or unique. I come from the great blancmange that is the Australian middle class. Families are modest and shy. They are joiners and doers, workers and strivers, not shirkers. Our homes are not big and flash, and cars often second-hand. The biggest investment is never super, bricks or shares, but education. My mob are farmers, saddlers, soldiers, gardeners, small business owners, nurses, teachers, doctors and, shamefully, the odd lawyer. One side is stridently Labor and unionist, the other cheerfully Liberal National and Tory.

The first McGrath was a convict, rightly punished by a sensible judge and sent down to Australia. Family folklore has it was for stealing a sheep. On my mother’s side are the Schneiders and Doughertys. The first to arrive was German, illegitimate, with barely a word of English. He moved to western Queensland in the 1870s. His son, my great-grandfather, patented the Schneider saddle, and his store stood on George Street in Brisbane until the 1970s. Schneiders would become guests of the emperor, caught in the fall of Singapore, on the way to fight the Nazis.

Like many, my journey started young. I worked on my first Liberal campaign in the 1989 Queensland state election. I started the Capitalist Club at Toowoomba State High School a year later. When 17, continuing my quest to become the most popular kid at school, I led the campaign to save the school principal when the new Queensland Labor government engaged in some restructuring. Our school community was the only one to actively campaign for their principal’s retention. Our school community was the only one whose principal was eventually made redundant. I learned early on that you can be right in life but still lose in politics.

Politics is not about the pursuit of power as an end in itself. Those who seek power for the sake of power will always fail. Politics is about seeking power though democratic means in order to take power away from the elites, whether bureaucratic or corporate, and return power to the people. I have been lucky in politics. I do not think I am that good at politics but I do learn from my mistakes, personal and political, and I have made a few—some spectacular. And I have learned from some wise mentors as, along my journey, I have been fortunate to work with some erudite people here in Australia and overseas.

I believe there are 11 principles of politics and power that should guide me as I work for Queensland, and all principles were taught to me or learnt from my own mistakes. I start with the greatest ever peacetime leader, Margaret Thatcher. I never met Mrs Thatcher, but I get her. I get that someone from a corner store in a small market town could be so strong to rise so high, not just in making decisions but holding fast to her underlying values—because she had to fight for everything, and she said, ‘You might have to fight a battle more than once to win it.’

Likewise, the moral courage of my friend Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, taught me the power of forgiveness. A former political prisoner and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, he forgave those who jailed and tortured him. I fail this principle. As much as I try, I cannot forgive and I Continue reading

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

 biafra_war18th July, 1967 : Some 2.000 Britons and 800 Americans are fleeing from Biafra in cars and canoes as Nigerian Federal troops step up their two-pronged drive into the break-away Eastern Region, but it is not an easy journey. Fred McKinnon, a British oil-drilling executive, said the his group encountered 31 road-blocks before they reached Onitsha to cross the Niger by canoe. The Nigerian forces, pushing into rebel territory from the north, have captured the university town of Nsukka, and in the south they have taken Ogoja. The Federal leader, Yakubu Gowon, now promoted to general, says the military successes are largely due to skilful use of artillery, baked up by infantry action. Most of Nigeria’s oil is produced in the area held by the Biafran forces under Colonel Ojukwu, and he is insisting that British companies operating the concessions must now pay him the royalties. When Shell-BP was reported to be ready to pay up, the Federal authorities retaliated by blockading all oil exports.

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Gaza smoking again

Ludwig von Gress

Smoke and fire from an Israeli bomb rises into the air ove Gaza CityThe Middle East, this time the Gaza strip, is smoking again. With monotonous regularity, the conflict cauldron let’s off the steam, saving it for the future use and thus far avoiding a catastrophic explosion. With nukes in the hands of both main antagonists, Judaism and Islam, perhaps we ought to be grateful. On that subject Fog of Chaos had Iron Dome on 11-02-13; and Israel’s Insightful Cynicism on 29-03-13. I suggest you read that to see what, if anything, has changed since then.

The current calefaction has the media salivating. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporting (if it could be described as such) is as always biased and fraudulent; and its Leftist commentariat is doing its International Socialist duty – see Andrew Bolt Memo to ABC. SBS (Special Broadcasting Services, an Australian taxpayer funded socialist propaganda media organization targeting people whose first language is not English) simply re-broadcasts Al Jazeera outpourings. These could be somewhat balanced by the Jerusalem Post.

Gaza Situation Report bGeorge Friedman / 14-07-2014/ from Stratfor

The current confrontation in Gaza began June 12 after three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank the month before. Israel announced the disappearance June 13, shortly thereafter placing blame on Hamas for the kidnappings. On June 14, Hamas fired three rockets into the Hof Ashkelon region. This was followed by Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Jerusalem region. On July 8, the Israelis announced Operation Protective Edge and began calling up reservists. Hamas launched a longer-range rocket at Tel Aviv. Israel then increased its airstrikes against targets in Gaza.

At this point, it would appear that Israel has deployed sufficient force to be ready to conduct an incursion into Gaza. However, Israel has not done so yet. The conflict has consisted of airstrikes and some special operations forces raids by Israel and rocket launches by Hamas against targets in Israel.

From a purely military standpoint, the issue has been Hamas’s search for a deterrent to Israeli operations against Gaza. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 disrupted Gaza deeply, and Hamas found itself without any Continue reading

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

16th July, 1961 : More than 1,000 migrants rioted at the Bonegilla camp in northern Victoria. Spokesman for migrant groups in Australia said the recent arrivals were “discontented” because they had not been given work as promised before leaving their homelands. The police used batons to quell the riot and one officer was injured. The camp’s employment office was wrecked during the demonstration. Some of the migrants have been waiting in the camp for months, where, apart from some instruction in English, they have little to do. Unemployment on Australia is now over 110,000.

[ Today the unemployment is 728,500, but new arrivals have more important matters to riot about – riotingmuslims

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Thoroughly modern Miliband, continued

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

When asked by the BBC to nominate his history hero, Ed Milliband could hardly say Stalin or Pol Pot, not yet anyway. Another female Communist activist Rosa Luxemburg might have done, but for the family connection: “I met her [ Ruth First ] when I was 12 years old and she came to dinner at my parents’ house with her husband, Joe Slovo, who I think was the chief of staff of the armed wing of the ANC, and a long-standing friend of my father Ralph.

 From Wikipedia: “Ruth First’s parents, Julius First and Matilda Levetan, immigrated to South Africa from Latvia as Jewish immigrants in 1906 and became founder members of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), the forerunner of the South African Communist Party (SACP). Ruth First was born in 1925 and brought up in Johannesburg. She too joined the Communist Party, which was allied with the African National Congress .”

She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1946. … She was involved in the founding of the Federation of Progressive Students, also known as the Progressive Students League., and got to know, among other fellow students, Nelson Mandela, future President of South Africa, and Eduardo Mondlane, the first leader of the Mozambique freedom movement FRELIMO.

SpearoftheNation.joinUnkindly, one could say that she showed her affinity to violent males early, confirmed by her marriage to Joe Slovo in 1949. Ms First became the editor-in-chief of the radical newspaper The Guardian, and when that was banned, the editor of a radical political journal called Fighting Talk. In 1963 she was imprisoned for 117 days. In 1964 First went into exile and became active in the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. She held various posts at the University of Manchester, the University of Durham, at university in Dar es Salaam and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. She was killed there by the South African police in 1982.

Her husband Slovo (Yossel Mashel Slovo) was born 23rd May 1926 in Lithuania to a Jewish family who emigrated to South Africa when he was eight. He joined Continue reading

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As you would expect

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

Australian Liberal (with capital L) politicians pretend to be conservative, mainly because Labor wouldn’t have them – Malcolm Turnbull is a good example. Ex-Liberal MP Peter Slipper or Ex-Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser, to name just two, are the embodiment of the underlying philosophy of that party – lie, lie and lie again, for the rewards are great.

 So, as one would expect:

 Not one person has contacted me arguing for abolition” of 18C.

On 12 March this year The Conversation published this report on a federal member of parliament who said: “But not one person has contacted me arguing for abolition. It shows the feeling is very strong the other way.” 

It wasn’t a member of the Australian Labor Party or the Greens that said that. It was Craig Laundy, a Liberal MP, who represents the electorate of Reid in New South Wales.”

This I received from Mr Simon Breheny of IPA, and before I got to my usual “I told you so” stage, I checked the Honourable Laundy on the internet. The leftipedia does not have much:

Craig Laundy (born 16 February 1971) is an Australian politician. He has been a Liberal member of the Australian House of Representatives, representing the Division of Reid in New South Wales, since September 2013. He opposes Prime Continue reading

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London 1802

…from the quills of the dead white poets

 

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee; she is a fen

Of stagnant waters; altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;

Oh! raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart;

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

So didst thou travel on life’s common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

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Thoroughly modern Miliband

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

 Oh, dear me. It started when I read the book, Cables from Kabul (HarperPress 2011) by the Her Majesty’s ex-ambassador to Afghanistan, so properly aristocratically hyphenated Sherard Cowper-Coles. In my humble opinion, expressed in my usual undiplomatic language, he is a typical public service diplomatic eunuch, who considers the things he is allowed to do to be important; i.e. to organise lunches, diners, balls, meetings, sitting arrangements, talkfests and more talkfests . . . Then, of course, comes the most important duty, i.e. writing, or should it be creating, memoranda in order to put oneself in the proper, Sir Humphrey Appleby, civil service class.

He would never admit, even to himself, that it was something a butler could do more efficiently for a fifth of the salary and that people who actually do , despise him, and only the parasites of his ilk tolerate him. And, naturally, award him. Cowper-Coles, pronounced, according to Wikipedia, as “cooper coals”, was made, during his march through the corrupt institutions, a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO), a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) and a Knight Commander of the Order. In the process, beside the above mentioned gongs, he also collected a French diplomat as a second wife.

However, coming to the next stage of his illustrious career – the butler did not do it, indeed a butler couldn’t do it, for many reasons, honesty being amongst them. Wikipedia: “In 2011 Cowper-Coles became BAE Systems’ international business development director, focusing on the Middle East and south-east Asia. His appointment at BAE caused some controversy, since he is thought to have “had a profound effect” on the decision by Robert Wardle, then director of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, to end an investigation into BAE‘s allegedly corrupt dealings with Saudi Arabia.”

 If you can’t have corrupt dealings with Saudi Arabia, with whom you can? Clintons? Obamas? Continue reading

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US missing in inaction

Ludwig von Gress

With Obama successfully doing to America what its enemies, mostly unsuccessfully, have been trying to do for ages, the world history chapter called Pax Americana is reaching its last pages. The enemies got Obama’s measure a long time ago; the allies and erstwhile allies are covertly scrambling for the exit. The experts still have a long way to go. For example, The Economist of 9th May, 2014 had on the front page an image of a leashed eagle on top of a globe, with a title – “What would America fight for?” It is clearly a rhetorical question, not requiring any answer, but the editorialist has to fill a page, so he/she tries.

 “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?” America’s cerebral president betrayed a rare flash of frustration on April 28th when dealing with a question in Asia about his country’s “weakness”. If The Economist considers Obama “cerebral”, how they would describe a person who can think? (Yes, I know – a racist, a denier) As to the question why is everybody eager to use military force – had he read any history, he would know that when dealing with dictators nothing else works. Of course, he knows that, but being a dictator-in-waiting, he does not want anybody to get the right idea. It was not a “flash of frustration”.

 us.eagleJapan knows that his promise it “can count on America if China seizes the Senkaku islands” is just as all his other promises. “If you like you plan, you can keep it” springs to mind. After all, Obama made it clearer: “Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China.” Probably too early for him to say: “Our, Michelle and mine, goal is to contain the United States of America.”

 On the history of the US foreign policy:

The Inevitability of Foreign Entanglements by George Friedman

The Fourth of July weekend gave me time to consider events in Iraq and Ukraine, U.S.-German relations and the Mexican borderland and immigration. I did so in the context of the founding of the United States, asking myself if America has strayed from the founders’ intent with regard to foreign policy. Many people note Thomas Jefferson’s warning that the United States should pursue “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none,” taking that as the defining strategy of the founders. I think it is better to say that was the defining wish of the founders but not one that they practiced to extremes.

As we know, U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to decrease U.S. entanglements in the world. Ironically, many on the right want to do the same. There is a common longing for an America that takes advantage of its distance from the rest of the world to avoid excessive involvement in the outside world. Whether Jefferson’s wish can constitute a strategy for the United States today is a worthy question for a July 4, but there is a more profound issue: Did his wish ever constitute American strategy?

Entangled in Foreign Affairs at Birth

The United States was born out of a deep entanglement in international affairs, extracting its independence via the founders’ astute exploitation of the tensions between Britain and France. Britain had recently won the Seven Years’ War with France, known as the French and Indian War in the colonies, where then-Col. George Washington led forces from Virginia. The British victory didn’t end hostilities with France, which provided weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the American Revolutionaries. On occasion, France landed troops in support of American forces, and its navy served a decisive role in securing the final U.S. victory at Yorktown.

America’s geopolitical position required that it continue to position itself in terms of this European struggle. The United States depended on trade with Europe, and particularly Britain. Revolution did not change the mutual dependence of the United States and Britain. The French Revolution of 1789, however, posed a deep dilemma for the United States. That later revolution was anti-monarchist and republican, appearing to share the values of the United States. Continue reading

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Sherpas’ dilema

…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger

 I read, and liked Edmund Hillary‘s Nothing Venture, Nothing Win (Coronet Edition 1977). My achievements are somewhat (forty times approx.) less than his – his Mount Everest, or Samarmatha or Quomalangma (depending on the inclination of your political correctness) 8,848 m; mine a sandstone hillock of about 200 m. Still, I made it with no ropes, no Sherpas and no snow; but sand in my eyes and everywhere, which, believe me, is most uncomfortable, especially everywhere. For, as Sir Edmund said: “Even the mediocre can have adventures and even the fearful can achieve.” I qualify on both grounds. I respect mountaineering – from a safe distance.

 Ed-Hillary-quoteSince Sir Hilary, everybody (over 3,000 people) and her dog got to the summit of the earth’s highest hillock, sorry, mountain. Without trying in any way to diminish the personal achievement of those intrepid mountaineers, (over 200 died so far), I sometimes get impression that it is not the fun it used to be. It is a rich man’s world summit – clients pay expedition organisers about $90,000 a time, out of which $10,000 goes to Nepali government. Ethnic Sherpas earn $2000 to $8000 a season. Though only about 1% (280,000) of the population of Nepal, they provide the majority of porters and guides.

 In April this year a piece of ice broke off and buried sixteen Sherpas – highest death toll from a single mishap there so far. The Nepali government reacted as governments do – by increasing the compulsory insurance by 50%. Thirty-two expeditions were planed for this season, and most were abandoned. The job is risky, but paying well in a region lacking everything but vistas.

 Now we get the usual, predictable racist outcry from the Left: Rich whites exploiting (and killing) poor Asians! Ban it all! There are two, at least, arguments to be considered. Firstly, the human yen for adventure, paid or not paid, which the Mafia of the politically correct tries to eliminate is here to stay. Many people, Sherpas included, are too smart to take up the bungee jumping or twitting and prefer to make good and exciting living in physically dangerous, adrenaline enhancing occupations.

 Secondly, people have different skills and abilities, something which equality-mongers do not wish to admit. One thinks of the fabricated saying, attributed by the Left to Marie Antoinette, “let them eat the cake”, while waiting for the socially aware experts to say “let’s retrain those poor people as computer programmers, social workers, securities traders, imaginary trauma counsellors…”quill.1

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

pacelli.309th July, 1933 : The new concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich was initialled today by Cardinal Pacelli, the Papal Secretary of State, and Herr von Papen, the German Vice-Chancellor. Within an hour of signing, Herr Hitler rescinded his orders dissolving Roman catholic organisations. Later, addressing 70,000 Storm troopers, he said the treaty and the disappearance of the Catholic Party signified the end of the fight for political power. “There are gigantic tasks before us, but we shall master them,” he said. “No one can resist us”.

[ Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli became Pope Pius XII in March 1939 and died in 1958 ]

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NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)

6th July, 1977 : Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, was overthrown and arrested by General Zia ul-Haq, the man Mr Bhutto had appointed Chief of Staff of the Army. The coup is the result of four month of unrest, in which hundreds have died and Mr Bhutto was forced to declare martial law in major cities. The trouble stemmed from the overwhelming victory which his People’s Party won in March. The elections, it was said, had been rigged.

[ Zia ruled for eleven years]

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Les

…from the quills of the dead white poets

Fráňa Šrámek (1877 -1952)

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Kyj v pravé ruce, v levé mladou krásnou ženu,

jež vínem smíchu třísní jalovčí a mech,

tak potkám já tě zas, hruď rozhalenu,

kyj křikem pozdravím a zpěvem uctím ženu

a s vámi třetí dám se v lehkonohý běh.

Tu zkrásní úsměv tvůj jak čerstě trysklý pramen

a kyjem o vzduch udeříš jak v slavný zvon -

a žena, všechny bohy vábíc do svých ramen,

v med lesní sládnouc, uzrávajíc v plamen,

šíp vyšle nejsladší, své touhy zpěv a ston.

Utančen vámi, až v rokyt pak se k spánku schýlím,

dva kosy zavoláš, bys s nimi tiše hrál.

Pokyneš ženě. Šeptne v sny mé, nazve mne svým milým.

A obláčkem pak zajde letním, bílým,

až vzbudím se, bych na ni krásně vzpomínal . . .

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