Posts tagged ‘International Law’

04/16/2012

Guantanamo Bay Base: Give It Up

The U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, has been operated illegally, against the wishes of the Cuban government for 114 years, and it should now be torn down, and the port should be returned to the Cuban people.

As far back as 1854, the U.S. has made frivolous claims to Cuba. When Franklin Pierce (1853-57) was President, future President James Buchanan, a member of his administration, issued the Ostend Manifesto, which claimed the U.S. had a right to seize the island by force, if Spain refused to sell it. Buchanan was afraid a slave rebellion would turn the island into a disorderly republic, like Haiti, but his real motive was to create another slave state.

After a revolt broke out in 1895 between the Cubans and colonial Spain, the Maine, an American ship, was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, and though there was no proof the explosion was caused by the Spanish, the U.S. invaded, and won the Spanish-American War.

When the Americans first occupied the island, they were greeted as liberators, but the mood soon changed, as the newly liberated people were forced, under the Platt Amendment (1901), to give the U.S. a right to intervene in their internal affairs. Although President Theodore Roosevelt granted independence, under the Cuban-American Treaty (1903), the catch was they had to give the U.S. a perpetual lease to Guantanamo Bay.

A generation later, President Franklin Roosevelt offered to annul the right to intervene, provided the Cubans signed the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba (1934), which allowed the unwelcome U.S. military presence at Guantanamo to continue. Realizing they would never get a better deal from a conservative American President, the Cubans accepted a half a loaf from liberal FDR, instead of nothing at all.

The Cubans have since continued to protest the American military presence on the island. When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, he escalated the objection by shutting off the water to the American base, in an attempt to get the U.S. to go home, but the U.S. Navy started filtering seawater through a desalination plant in 1964. To this day, Cuba does not cash rental checks from the U.S.

The U.S. has no legitimate right to use the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, as the lease was forced upon Cuba under what international law would refer to as an unequal treaty. Since President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, now would be the perfect time to give the port back.

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04/07/2012

Guam and Marianas: Go Independent

The Southern Marianas, whose population of 173,450 is mostly on the island of Guam; and the Northern Marianas, whose 88,662 mainly live on the island of Saipan, are two Pacific U.S. Territories, roughly 6,175 miles from San Diego, that should be consolidated and granted independence.

The Spaniards first sent explorers to the Marianas in 1521. Following the Spanish-American War (1898), Spain surrendered the Southern Marianas (Guam) to the U.S., under the Sixth Treaty of Paris (1898), and sold the Northern Marianas to Germany.

After Germany surrendered in WWI, the Northern Marianas were transferred to Japan, under a League of Nations Mandate (1920). The Japanese then used the Northern islands in WWII as a base in 1941 to invade and occupy the U.S. Southern Marianas (Guam). In 1944, Americans defeated Japanese troops in a bloody battle at Saipan, as they seized the Northern Marians, and retook Guam.

The Americans subsequently governed the Northern Marianas under a UN Trust, through 1978, when a U.S. Commonwealth was created. Meanwhile, Guam received a limited form of U.S. Citizenship in 1950, which denied them a vote for U.S. President, but gave them a Congressional Representative (since 1972), who can participates in committee, but not on the House floor.

The idea of independence should not be alarming as it would not change their military relationship with the U.S., since Guam will most certainly want to lease land for U.S. Air Force and Navy bases, as their economy heavily depends on it. Guam’s population is slated to increase through 2015, when 8,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 dependents, currently at Okinawa, are scheduled to arrive.

It is time to end our quasi-colonial arrangement, and for the Marianas to stand up on their own. Since they are never going to become a U.S. State, they should now be granted independence.

04/06/2012

American Samoa: Reunite with Samoa

American Samoa, some 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, and nowhere near the continental U.S., is an American territory in the South Pacific, which should either become an independent free state, or be reunited with the separate island-nation of Samoa, 84 miles to the west, from which it was forcibly severed by the United States in 1899.

Western intervention in Samoa dates back to the 18th Century. After Dutch navigators first sighted Samoa (1722), French sailors arrived (1768), followed by English missionaries, who erected a permanent settlement (1830). A visit by an American Expedition in 1839, was followed by a U.S.-Samoa Friendship Treaty (1878).

In the First Samoan Civil War (1886-94), the German Navy raided the island, causing the U.S. and Britain to support the opposition in 1887. A battle between the U.S. and Germany was narrowly avoided in 1889, as a typhoon damaged both fleets. A resolution was reached, under the Treaty of Berlin (1889), which created a three-power protectorate to jointly govern the islands, but soon the deal fell apart, and fighting resumed.

In the Second Samoan Civil War (1898-99), Germany, Britain, and the U.S. finally settled the dispute, by partitioning the islands under the Tripartite Convention (1899), which transferred Fiji to the UK, Western Samoa (now Samoa) to Germany, and Eastern Samoa (now American Samoa, east of the 171st meridian) to the U.S. Republican President McKinley, an imperial expansionist, had no trouble annexing the islands, even though his conduct went against the grain of over 100 years of anti-colonial U.S. policy.

In WWI, New Zealand seized German Samoa, renamed it Western Samoa, and governed for 48 years (1914-62), under a League of Nations mandate (1921), and subsequent UN Trust (1945), until independence was granted in 1962. The name Western Samoa was later shortened to simply “Samoa” (1997).

Although the U.S. has not granted independence for American Samoa, in 1967, self-rule was allowed, and in 1981, the territory received a non-voting seat in the U.S. House. Since American Samoans are not U.S. Citizens, they cannot vote in American elections, or hold public office, but as U.S. Nationals, they may reside or work in the U.S. without restriction, and may apply for U.S. Citizenship, as resident aliens.

The colonial relationship between the U.S. and American Samoa should now come to an end. It started in 1899 when there was no Panama Canal, and ships needed to sail around the horn of South America into the South Pacific, to ultimately reach the West Coast. The reason we took American Samoa is now long gone.

American Samoa, 4,770 miles from San Diego, has no chance of becoming a U.S. state, and it should now either merge with the nation of Samoa, or gain recognition in the UN as an independent country. Their population of 65,628 could easily assimilate with the 219,998 who live on one of 14 inhabited Samoan islands, and it is time for the U.S. to let go and allow American Samoa reunite with Samoa.

04/05/2012

UK Falklands Violate Monroe Doctrine

The Falkland Islands, a British territory in the South Atlantic, is a cold, windy, and rainy place (more than half the year), as temperatures range between 30 F and 55 F. They neighbor Argentina, 300 miles to the west, the uninhabited Sandwich Islands, to the southeast, and Antarctica, 700 miles to the south. There is virtually no work here, except fishing and shepherding.

The Falklands War broke out in 1982, some 30 years ago, when roughly 3,140 English citizens on the islands witnessed an invasion by thousands of Argentine troops. After ignoring a UN Resolution calling for a withdrawal, a British submarine sank the Gen. Belgrano, an Argentine ship, causing 362 sailors to die at sea, and soon thereafter, Argentina’s military junta surrendered. 13 years later, a different government agreed not to invade again, as weekly flights between the islands and Argentina resumed.

Today, Argentina continues to assert that they own the Falklands. They point out Spain was the first European power to claim them, when Magellan sailed past in 1502. Although Englishmen erected a settlement in 1766, they argue Spanish forces evicted them in 1779, just four years later. While a 1771 treaty gave Britain a right to return, they note the English voluntarily gave up the place again in 1776. Argentina asserts Spain subsequently governed the islands, until Argentine independence was declared in 1811. Argentina alleges an unbroken chain of title flowing through Spain, their predecessor-in-interest, all the way back to Magellan.

Britain, on the other hand, has a claim traced back to Capt. Davies who visited in 1592. After Viscount Falkland, a Royal Navy treasurer, went ashore in 1690, the islands were named after him. Although a newly independent Argentina opened a penal colony on the islands in 1828, it was closed down when British citizens started arriving in 1833. The UK argues English descendants have continuously occupied the Falklands since 1833, and the islanders have voted to remain a territory of the United Kingdom.

At the time of the 1982 Falklands War, President Reagan, a light-weight in international affairs, sided with Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, and her Conservative government, because he simply did not know any better. He could have reminded Britain that when the people of Latin America rose up against Spanish colonialism, in the early 19th Century, and won their various wars of independence, the U.S. through President Monroe, issued the Monroe Doctrine in which the Americans sided with Argentina, and the other newly independent Latin American republics.

President Monroe declared in 1823, ten years before the British started colonizing the Falklands: “The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”

When the British started colonizing the Falklands in 1833, they were in direct violation of U.S. Foreign Policy, under the Monroe Doctrine. At that time, Monroe would have sided with the Argentines and against the British, and if he were alive in 1982 or today, he would take the same anti-colonial stand.

While giving the islands to Argentina now would go against 179 years of ongoing British rule, and the self-determination rights of the islanders, the Falkland Islands will have a more stable future, if they established permanent relations with Argentina, their only real neighbor. The era of colonialism is over, and it is time for Britain, Argentina, and the people of the Falklands to work out a new arrangement.

12/09/2011

Ron Paul: Still Best Foreign Policy

Since Texas Congressman Ron Paul has by far the best foreign policy of any candidate, including President Obama, as he consistently opposed our military adventurism around the globe, those who agree, regardless of political affiliation, should pull his lever in states with “open primaries,” (where party identification is not required) knowing full well the Democrats will nominate Obama anyway, and even if Paul won the general election, a very unlikely scenario, Congress will block his domestic agenda.

MILITARY: Paul correctly sees our financial condition as the greatest threat to National Security. He rightly pointed out there is a lot of waste in the military budget. We should not have an empire with 900 bases in 150 countries, he argued, adding we would actually be safer if we weren’t in so many places. He asked why we have troops in Korea, Japan, and Germany, 66 years after WWII, and 58 years after the Korean Armistice. It angers foreigners, he said, when we occupy their lands. He asked why we need more weapons than all other nations combined, enough to destroy the world 25 times over. He said America’s wars have cost trillions, and we have to stop spending so much. If budget cuts are going to be made, the military must be on the table.

DECLARATION OF WAR: The Constitution, Paul noted, requires Congress to pass a Declaration of War. Since they have not done it, we are not legally at war. He said our unconstitutional interventions abroad have done nothing but undermine our prosperity, curtail our liberties, and add to budget deficits.

TERRORISM: Paul criticized the so-called “War on Terrorism,” warning against a careless use of the word “war.” We pretend we are at war, he said, but terrorism is nothing but a tactic. He explained we were attacked on 911, because we had troops in Saudi Arabia, and we side with Israel, even when they violate international law. We should negotiate with terrorists, he said, noting even Reagan talked to Iranian militants regarding hostages.

CIVILIAN COURTS: Paul said we should not give up so easily on the rule of law. If the hijackers who committed 911 had lived, they could have been convicted in criminal court. Over 300 individuals charged with terrorism have been convicted in civilian courts. The system has worked, as they have been sent to prison.

TORTURE: Paul correctly pointed out torture is illegal under our laws and international law. He doesn’t attempt to sugar coat water-boarding, by attempting to label it anything but torture. He said its use is an uncivilized violation of the Geneva Conventions.

PATRIOT ACT: Paul reminded us we can have security, without sacrificing rights. Our Founders, he explained, would not have sacrificed liberty. He warned surrendering freedoms may lead to a police state. Timothy McVeigh, the white Oklahoma City bomber, is an example of why profiling will never work, he said.

AFGHANISTAN: Paul favors an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, criticizing weaker politicians who duck the issue by deferring to the generals. A withdrawal would save billions. He reminded us the Soviets were brought down by their intervention in Afghanistan, and if we stay, the same will happen to us.

IRAQ: Paul explained it has already cost us 1 billion to build one U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, adding we are wasting money overseas. He would pull our remaining troops out of Iraq, now.

ISRAEL Paul would not support an unprovoked unilateral and illegal attack by Israel upon Iran. He noted Israel has 200 to 300 nuclear missiles, and they can defend themselves. If they want to bomb Iran, it’s their business, and they can suffer the consequences. He asked: why we should endlessly commit our kids and money to support Israel? Paul would cut their aid.

IRAN: Paul explained Iran’s neighbors, such as Israel, Pakistan, and Russia, already have the bomb, and it is only natural that Iran would want to join the club for defensive reasons. He correctly pointed out Iran, half way around the globe, is no threat to the U.S. What is going on right now, he said, is the same type propaganda used in the build-up to the Iraq War. He warned sanctions didn’t work in the past against states like Cuba, and they will only increase the risk of war. It would not be worth it, he said, to go to war to try to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

SYRIA: Paul said the Syrians need to deal with Syria. While it is a tragedy many rebels died, we would only get in trouble if we got involved in their dispute. Just support self-determination, he said.

CUBA: Paul said it is time to end our 50-year old trade embargo against the island-nation, since it never worked against Castro.

WAR ON DRUGS: The war on drugs, Paul argued, has been a total failure. He suggested drugs should be controlled like alcohol.

FOREIGN AID: Paul argues the Constitution does not authorize Congress to provide foreign aid. With regards to military aid, he correctly said we spent billions pumping up dictators, which makes their peoples hostile to us. Paul goes too far when he says all foreign aid is worthless, and when he says all we do is take money from our poor, and give it to the rich in poor countries.

IMMIGRATION: We need to bring our National Guard units home, Paul argued, so they can man our borders. The Texas House member said our government should not provide benefits to illegals. If amnesty is made easy, we will get more illegals.

12/06/2011

Perry Should Not Be President

Texas Gov. Perry should not become the Republican nominee for President or VP, because his foreign policy would destroy the UN, violate international law, and expand our military role in the world. Perry does not understand economics. He would refuse to use Fiscal Policy during economic downturns. He would repeal corporate regulations that protect us all, and would not bust up entities too big to fail. His solution is to lower taxes for the rich, and increase them for the poor, by imposing a flat tax of 20% on all. He would not promote solar, but would instead advance gas and nuclear energy. On social issues, he would wreck Social Security Retirement, as we know it, by privatizing it. He would turn health care over to the states, and end federal Medicare and Medicaid. He would abolish the federal Dept of Education. On the issues, Texan Rick Perry simply does not deserve our vote.

FOREIGN POLICY: Perry asked why we contribute to the UN, and promised to defund it, a pledge that should work against him. He would use foreign aid to bribe recipients into approving U.S. foreign policy, right or wrong. Even though no nation attacked the U.S., or was named in a Congressional Declaration of War, Perry believes we are involved in a real war, and thinks nations at war have a right to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” to gather information, even though the Geneva Conventions we used in many previous conflicts, ban torture during wartime. Perry also has no reservation about continuing the use of Guantanamo Bay.

MIDEAST: Perry does not seem to realize America’s bipartisan foreign policy is dictated by Israel’s desire to disarm all Muslim countries in the Mideast, North Africa, and Asia. He is ignorant of the history of the Palestinian people, as he said their desire to seek statehood in the UN was a travesty. He would engage the U.S. in a No-Fly Zone over Syria. He would impose sanctions against Iran, and would shut down their economy, even though they did no harm to us. He actually thinks Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, are at work in Mexico, drawing up plans to come across our border.

ASIA: Perry lacks a vision of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He thought we are making progress in Afghanistan and wants to “complete the mission,” but failed to define what it is. After our nebulous mission is completed, he wants to maintain a presence, but failed to explain why. He opposes a timetable for withdrawal, saying it would telegraph a departure, but did not mention why that would be so bad. He never explained the point of staying in Afghanistan. As to neighboring Pakistan, ostensibly our ally, he said they can’t be trusted, and he wouldn’t give them a penny, until they showed they had our best interests in mind, even though Pakistan is a nuclear power we cannot alienate.

IMMIGRATION: Perry correctly placed blame on the federal government for not securing the 1,200-mile Texas border. He said it would take 15 years and 30 billion to build a fence. Since it is unrealistic to maintain a wall from Brownsville to El Paso, he recommended strategic fencing where it matters, and predator drones to direct boots on the ground. He opposed amnesty for illegals, and said businesses who hire them must be punished.

ECONOMY: Perry does not seem to have a handle on economics. He proclaimed the death of Keynesian fiscal policies for dealing with economic problems. He should have instead recognized that Fiscal Policy is sometimes necessary during economic downturns.

ANTITRUST: “If a company is too big to fail,” Perry said, “it is too big,” but then he failed to go to the next step, by promising to break up big corporations under federal Antitrust law.

JOBS: Perry wants to do away with regulations, because he thinks they kill American jobs, but he failed to identify any specific ones he would eliminate. While he said he wants to focus on the unemployed, he provided no plan for lowering joblessness. He thinks people will risk capital if taxes are lowered, and that will create employment, but President Bush tried that, and yet millions lost their jobs under his watch. Perry showed his true opposition to working people, by promising to eliminate the TSA union.

MANUFACTURING: Although Perry said he wants to bring manufacturing back, he failed to explain how he would do it. His proposal to eliminate the Commerce Dept. would certainly not help.

ENERGY: Perry rightly said we should not rely on oil producing countries. Without government subsidies, he thinks 1.2 million jobs could be created, through energy independence. He would repeal regulations that affect the energy industry, and would eliminate the Energy Dept. He would not invest in solar, like Obama did, but instead supports nuclear, saying France gets 70% of their energy from it. He thinks climate change is not science.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Perry is bad news for the seniors of the future. He considers SS a Ponzi Scheme, saying it was wrong from the very beginning. He thinks it’s a lie to tell young people they will receive benefits. In his book, he wrote it should not be a federal program. He would privatize it, and essentially destroy it.

HEALTH CARE: Perry would also repeal federal health care, by giving block grants to the states for Medicare, and letting them administer it, changes that would ultimately get the federal government out. Perry opposed Romney’s and Obama’s approach, saying people don’t want mandates. As to prescription drugs, he disagreed with President Bush for establishing Medicare Part D, but would not now repeal that unfunded budget busting program.

EDUCATION He would eliminate the federal Dept. of Education.

BUDGET-TAXES: Perry thinks a Balanced Budget Amendment is needed. He said we raise taxes, but don’t get spending down. He promised not to spend money we don’t have. He opposed Cain’s 999 tax plan. He said Texas has a 6.25% sales tax and no state wants a 9% federal sales tax on top of it. He would instead impose a flat tax of 20% on all personal and corporate incomes.

11/30/2011

Iran: History Behind Embassy Seizures

While the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked yesterday by an angry mob, this was not the first time this kind of thing has happened. We all remember the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by armed Iranian students in 1979. To understand why Iranians distrust the U.S., Britain, and the West, a review of history is needed.

Iran (historically Persia) is a relatively large country of 66 million. It is in the Persian Gulf, and borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the east. The people are predominately Shiite Muslim. Ethnically, they are Persian, but some are Kurd. Their economy is fueled by the Khuzestan oil fields, in the northwest.

After colonial Britain severed Afghanistan from Iran in the Anglo-Persian War (1856-57), a British Protectorate was attempted, but the Persians resisted. England did however create an Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (1909), and started taking the resource. The English Army subsequently occupied the Iranian oil fields at Khuzistan in WWI, and again in WWII (1941). This is also when Muhammad Reza Pahlavi became Shah of Iran (1941).

Upon the election of Mohammad Mossadeq as Prime Minister (1950), Iran nationalized their oil, and gave British and U.S. firms one month to get out of the country (1951). The UK sued on behalf of Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., but the case was dismissed, on a jurisdictional issue. UK v Iran (1951).

When the Shah of Iran subsequently lost a fight against Mossadeq, he fled, but soon returned, when CIA and British intelligence executed the Prime Minister (1953). The Shah allowed Anglo and American oil companies to resume their businesses (1954). These events were never lost on the collective memory of the Iranian people.

Under the Shah’s brutal dictatorship, the country joined the Central Treaty Organization, and helped to encircle the Soviet Union (1954). To Shiite Muslims, the Shah added insult to injury, as he launched a White Revolution to westernize Iran, by allowing women to vote (1963). Islamic resistance to the Shah’s puppet regime grew, as hundreds were executed, and political opposition was banned. Following riots against the Shah, religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and other important Shiites, were exiled (1963).

The Iranian dictator became a U.S. ally. During the Arab-Israeli War (1967), Iran thwarted a brief Arab oil boycott by increasing oil production by 20%. President Nixon supported the Shah during a visit, as Iran purchased U.S. Phantom jets and SAM missiles (1972).

Opposition to the Shah grew, as protests swept through the country (1978). Iran fell under military rule, when Shiites threatened civil war. Fundamentalist uprisings finally forced the Shah to flee, allowing the Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile (1979). Scores who had backed the Shah were lined up and shot. The Ayatollah said: “Our final victory will come when all foreigners are out of the country.” He ordered women, who ventured in public, to wear veils and robes, and if they refused, they were to be called whores, and stoned. Alcohol was removed from the hotels.

A major international incident occurred when armed students took 62 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy (1979). They demanded a return the Shah, so he could be put on trial. Although four women and six blacks were freed promptly, the other 52 were held for 444 days. The UN reminded Iran of their treaty obligations to diplomatic and consular staff, and warned that international law made the taking of hostages illegal.

After a failed rescue attempt by U.S. forces, the Shah died in exile (1980), and the Iranians finally freed the hostages, one day after President Carter left office, in consideration for a release of frozen assets (1981). The International Court of Justice ruled Iran had an obligation to protect the U.S. Embassy, and they violated that duty by failing to stop the students. U.S. v Iran (1980). An Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was convened at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Holland, where financial claims for the hostages, as well as 683 others adversely affected, were settled (1981).

The U.S. then enlisted Saddam Hussein to invade Iran on the pretext the oil-rich Iranian Khuzestan Province was actually in Iraqi territory. Even though Hussein started the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88), the U.S. supported Iraq, and opposed fundamentalist Iran. Meanwhile, President Reagan simultaneously sold more than one billion in military equipment to Iran, during the so-called Iran-Contra Scandal. He did this even though Persia was labeled a terrorist state, and the sales were illegal under U.S. law.

In the war, the U.S. helped Iraq by attacking three Iranian Persian Gulf offshore oil production complexes, acts the International Court of Justice found were not justified by self-defense. Iran v U.S. (1987). The U.S. also shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, while in flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 defenseless passengers, including 65 infants and children. President Reagan apologized for the conduct of the USS Vincennes, and agreed to pay wrongful death damages. Iran v U.S. (1988).

The U.S. subsequently accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, and imposed trade sanctions (1995). The Congress passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (1996). President George W. Bush named Iran a part of an axis of evil (2002). The International Atomic Energy Agency found Iran violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, triggering UN sanctions (2006). Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad defended Iran’s right to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes (2007).

Over the years, the Iranians have not forgotten Britain was a 19th Century colonial power that severed Afghanistan from them, and tried to conquer them. They know Britain took their oil from 1909 onward, and occupied their lands in WWI and WWII to guard it. When Iran seized their own natural resources in 1950, to keep the profits for themselves, they have not forgotten the 1953 CIA intervention that took out their elected leader, and made them give their oil to Western corporations, while they were forced to live under a brutal dictatorship for the next 26 years. The Iranians have not forgotten the U.S. prompted Saddam Hussein to invade their country in 1980, in an 8-year war that caused many thousands to die. They remember the attacks by the U.S. military against their facilities in the Persian Gulf, and particularly the killing of 290 defenseless civilians, when the U.S. shot down one of their passenger airliners. They are aware of Israel’s paranoia regarding nuclear weapons, and they know the U.S. will foolishly and blindly follow.

One could ask: Why would any Iranian like the U.S. or Britain? Iranians lash out against U.S. and British embassies, because they are not a superpower, and that is all they can do to vent their anger. We should all pause, and think about why the Iranians get angry at us, before we do something really foolish, like bomb or invade Iran.

11/29/2011

EU: Not Ready For U.S. of Europe

The origin of the European Union dates back to 1952, when six nations formed the European Coal and Steel Community. The Treaty of Rome (1957) broadened the relationship into a Common Market, known as the European Economic Community (EEC). A European Court of Justice (ECJ) followed to monitor compliance. A Customs Union (1968) was added to abolish duties between members, and to set a common tariff as to foreign goods.

The EEC grew to 12, as the UK, Ireland, and Denmark enlisted in 1973, Greece was added in 1981, and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986. The Schengen Agreement (1985) gave EEC citizens the right of free movement in and out of the other member states.

The EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, under the European Union Treaty. The EU soon grew to 15, as Sweden, Finland, and Austria signed up (1995). Questions arose as to how much power the EU should have, and what authority should be retained by the states. While customs and commercial policy were yielded to the EU, many other law-making areas remained national. Although the EU had a Parliament, questions arose as to the number of votes each state would have in the EU. To correct some of these issues, the Treaty of Nice (2000) was ratified.

At the same time, the EU created an Economic and Monetary Union (1999). A European Central Bank opened in Frankfurt, which issued the Euro (2002), and abolished national currencies. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden opted out of the Euro, as criteria were set for new EU states, before they could adopt the Euro. The states no longer governed monetary policy, as the Central Bank set interest rates. Although the Bank opposed deficits by national governments, members retained control over fiscal policy. Critics of this said the EU could not maintain tight monetary policies, while states were allowed to have expansive fiscal policies.

The EU states made an attempt to be guided by one written Constitution, in lieu of a series of treaties, but the effort failed when France and the Netherlands rejected it (2005). Nevertheless, 10 additional countries became members of the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania brought the number to 27 in 2007.

The states of the EU are currently administered by a 27-member Commission, which is their primary source of legislation. The Commission has the power to issue regulations and directives to states. The EU also has a 27-member Council of Ministers, which has the final say on most legislation. Since each state has one vote in the Council, smaller countries have disproportionate influence. The European Parliament is a 732-member elected body, but it has no general law-making power. It must base what it does on existing treaties. It may challenge the acts of other institutions and reject budget proposals, but the Council remains more powerful. Since the Parliament is relatively weak, issues of representative democracy have been raised. The EU also has a 27-member European Court of Justice which has the authority to review: EU treaties, the conduct EU institutions, and enforcement actions brought against the states.

While the EU currently has law-making functions, they are largely limited by treaty to common market issues. They have no authority to legislate regarding national pensions, or health care, for example. The EU has no general power to tax and spend. Under the current arrangement, it would be difficult for a majority of states to change the behavior of another country.

To complicate matters, it will be a real challenge in Europe to take benefits away, because people have rights to them under various Human Rights Treaties. Europeans enjoy the right to collective bargaining, and protection in the event of an unfair dismissal at work. They have a right to fair and just working conditions. They have a right to social security and health care.

The immediate problem in the EU is national governments control their own fiscal policies, and the crisis of the Euro is without a mechanism to save it. The difficulty in creating a fiscal union, or a political union which would entail a loss of state sovereignty, is the strong sense of nationalism that exists in most European countries. A radical change in thinking will definitely be needed before the peoples of the EU could ever become a United States of Europe.

11/23/2011

Republican Debate Foreign Policy (11-12)

The Republican Presidential candidates debated again on Nov. 12, 2011.

CHINA: Romney said we have something China needs, which is a global market, but they must play by the rules and cannot manipulate currency to cause prices to fall below market levels. He would sue China in the WTO to win the right to selectively impose tariffs. Huntsman said the WTO does not allow us to sue over currency issues, and trade war would only hurt U.S. exports. Perry believes China will end up on the ash heap of history.

EURO: Huntsman warned Europe is second only to Canada as a U.S. export market, and if they go down, it will spread back to us.

RUSSIA: While discussing Iran, Romney sounded like he considered Russia an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. It was not clear if he knew what he was saying.

ISRAEL: Paranoid Bachmann thinks “the table is being set for a worldwide nuclear war against Israel,” as she baselessly accused Obama of not being willing to stand with them.

FOREIGN POLICY: Ron Paul noted our foreign policy is bad, because we pretend we are at war. We are only at war against a tactic, he said. There is in fact no declared war. Gingrich said our foreign aid should start at zero for each country every year. Egypt should explain why they should receive a penny. He would adopt a strong policy against what he called UN “absurdities.” Perry thinks we are in a real war, and would deal with every country, including Israel, by denying foreign aid if they do not support us.

AFGHANISTAN: Huntsman said there is a lack of security in Afghanistan, but it is time to come home. We achieved our objectives by uprooting the Taliban, dismantling al-Qaeda, and killing Osama bin Laden. Elections were held. The U.S. should not use 100,000 troops to do nation-building there. Romney would not negotiate with the Taliban, because he said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. He claims our commanders in the field do not want our troops withdrawn, but Obama is taking them out early. His timetable is to stay until 2014. Perry said he would complete the mission (whatever that means). He thinks we are making progress, and a timetable to pull out is irresponsible. He said our military is doing the best they can, considering the lack of support from the administration, and the telegraphing to the enemy that we are leaving. Santorum said victory over the Taliban does not mean wiping them out, because we can’t do that. It means neutering them, so they are no longer a security threat. Bachmann said Obama sent a surge of only 30,000, instead of the 40,000 requested, and made a fatal decision to withdraw by Sept. 2012. Gingrich said the Taliban survive, because they have sanctuary in Pakistan. Cain was asked what it is about the situation in Afghanistan that has been going on for 10 years that is so unclear that he cannot answer questions about it. He said victory is not clearly defined. He would define the mission.

PAKISTAN: Romney said Pakistan is a fragile nation which is close to a failed state. He wants to make sure they allow us to go after Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Santorum said we cannot be indecisive about whether Pakistan is a friend, because they have nuclear weapons. He would continue aid for Pakistan, and would work through our difficulties. He would work with the Pakistani military and their intelligence network, because they do not back the Haqqani Network. Gingrich said we do not getting reliable intelligence from Pakistan, and we have to rely on friends. Bachmann said Pakistan is a place where terrorists receive training, but she would not deny aid, because they have nuclear weapons. Cain said he didn’t know if Pakistan was a friend or foe.

IRAN: Ron Paul said it is not worth going to war against Iran to prevent them from gaining nuclear weapons. Intervention would have to go through Congress, because the Commander-in-Chief cannot make that decision. What is going on right now is the same war propaganda used against Iraq. If a Declaration of War is made, you fight to win, and get it over with. Romney would support the Iranian dissidents who took to the streets and would impose sanctions. He said Obama should have made it clear we will take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If Obama is re-elected, he predicted Iran will gain nuclear weapon, but if Romney is chosen, they will not. In addition to crippling sanctions, he would encourage regime change, and if that fails, he would use military force. Perry would sanction the Iranian Central Bank and shut down their economy. Santorum said Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. He hopes we have been acting covertly to make sure it does not happen. He wants to work with Israel and let them take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities, like they did in Iraq and Syria. Gingrich would maximize covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program. He would take out their scientists. He would coordinate his efforts with Israel. Cain would assist the Iranian opposition who are trying to overthrow the regime. Because Iran uses oil as a weapon, he wants U.S. energy independence. He would put economic pressure on Iran through sanctions. He would deploy ballistic missile defense Aegis warships in the Persian Gulf.

ARAB SPRING: Cain thinks Obama was on the wrong side in nearly every Arab Spring situation. He thinks Obama mishandled the revolutions. Our relationship with Egypt may not survive, because the Muslim Brotherhood may gain control. Obama said the President of Yemen must go, even though he is our friend.

SYRIA: Ron Paul said the Syrians need to deal with Syria. It is a tragedy many died, but we would only get in trouble if we got into it. We should support self-determination. Romney said it is time for the Assad dictatorship to end. We should help with covert activities. He said Syria is an ally of Iran, and we should aid Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Gingrich said it was good the Arab League suspended Syria. The administration dumped Egypt’s Mubarek in a heartbeat, but did not go after Assad. He would take covert action against Assad.

GUANTANAMO AND TORTURE: Ron Paul correctly pointed out torture is illegal under our laws, and international law. He added water-boarding is torture. He said there is no evidence reliable information is gained. It’s uncivilized and immoral, he said.  Huntsman, who lived overseas four times, said we diminish our standing in the world as to liberty, democracy, and human rights, when we torture. Water-boarding is torture, and we should not use it. Perry is for enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks we are involved in a war. Santorum would allow enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks they are successful in obtaining information. He would keep Guantanamo open. Bachmann would use water-boarding, because she thinks it is useful for gaining information. She made the ridiculous statement Obama is letting the ACLU run the CIA. She claims Obama wants to lose the war on terror, because we now have no place for terrorists. Cain does not agree with torture, but trusts the military leaders to determine what is, and what is not, torture. He called water-boarding an enhanced interrogation technique, but not torture. He would allow the military to use enhanced interrogation techniques, because he thinks anyone picked up must necessarily be a terrorist.

CIVILIAN COURTS: Paul said over 300 individuals charged with terrorism were convicted in civilian courts and most are in prison. We should not give up so easily on the rule of law, he said. Santorum thinks civilian courts are one of the worst ideas he ever heard of, because people there have constitutional rights. People who attacked our country should not enjoy rights, he said. He also said he believes in the Geneva Conventions, but when they don’t play by the rules, they don’t enjoy rights under Geneva.

ASSASSINATION: Romney said it was correct for the President alone to order the death of American citizens suspected of terrorism. He claimed one individual allied himself with a group that declared war on the U.S. and if they bear arms against us, they are fair game. Gingrich said they were more than suspects. They were found guilty of trying to kill Americans, not by a court, but by a panel. He said enemy combatants have no right to go to court. Waging war on the U.S. is outside criminal law. It is correct to kill people who are trying to kill you.

BUDGET: Huntsman said our debt is a national security risk. Greece has a 170% debt to GDP. Italian debt is 120% to GDP. Japan is 100% debt to GDP. Our debt is 70% to GDP and moving up. We need to send Medicaid and Education back to the states. The Ryan plan puts everything on the table, he said. Romney would eliminate programs we cannot afford, such as Obamacare. That would save 95 billion per year. He would eliminate Public Broadcasting, and the Endowment for the Arts. He would re-direct Medicaid to the states. Gingrich wants the unemployed to receive training, so they do not get something for doing nothing.  Bachmann said the debt is out of control since LBJ created the welfare state. She said military expenditures should also be reduced. Instead of a cost plus billing, we need a fixed cost system. We have to modernize military medical costs. Gingrich thinks the Navy is shrinking and would invest in it and rebuild it.

10/26/2011

Greece Limited By Euro Monetary Union

Although the U.S. Congress controls Fiscal Policy under an unlimited Constitutional power to tax and spend, and Monetary Policy through the Federal Reserve Bank and the ability to “coin money,” European Union states, such as Greece, who elected by treaty to adopt the Euro currency, are no longer able to use a national Monetary Policy to print money, or a Fiscal Policy to spend in excess of limits set by the European Central Bank.

European unification has been a work in progress since the 1950s when certain European states created a Common Market for the purpose of trading, under a system that allowed them to maintain their control of over national economics. A Customs Union was added in 1968 to abolish tariffs between the member states, and to establish a common tariff as against goods from the outside.

The existence of several currencies and a desire for a easier flow of capital led to a Monetary Union, which created a European Central Bank in Frankfurt, abolished German Marks, French Francs, and other currencies, and replaced them with the Euro in 2002, by making it the exclusive legal tender in Euro Zone states.

The problem with the Monetary Union is the lack of a Political Union to oversee it. Unlike the U.S., where all 50 states obey Washington DC on national matters, the EU is a collection of independent countries that happen to have a Central Bank. The EU Parliament cannot pass national legislation, like the Congress; they can only follow existing treaties, or propose new ones.

It is doubtful the recent European Monetary Union financial crisis will cause the independent countries of the EU to form one Political Union. It is more likely to have the opposite effect.

The problem is national governments like Greece already gave up aspects of national control under prior EU Treaties. When the Monetary Union was made, the EU Framers required the various national governments to coordinate their economies. National Debt, for example, was not to exceed 60% of GDP. Countries that previously used Monetary Policy were no longer able to do so, since these powers were transferred by treaty to the Central Bank.

National governments that previously spent their way out of recession, now had their Fiscal Policies controlled by the EU Central Bank, which imposed spending caps. Their Stability and Growth Pact (1997) required states to pursue balanced budgetary policies, and imposed sanctions against those that failed to adjust.

The European Central Bank has the authority under treaty law to restrict the democratic wishes of the Greek people and to operate without regard to political pressures. The risk is a renunciation of the EU Treaty by Greece, which may trigger others to follow, in a manner like South Carolina’s secession from the U.S. in 1861.

While the EU is not going to allow member states to default, the question is whether the Greeks will allow the Central Bank to reduce their jobs and pensions without a secessionist revolt, which Greeks may feel is their only option, since the Bank now controls their national Monetary and Fiscal policies, under the EU Treaty.