Posts tagged ‘Russia’

04/19/2013

Roots of Chechnya Separatism

Towards the end of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1980-88), Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew troops from what was Russia’s Vietnam. He proceeded in 1988 to advocate reform from within, as he promoted glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Open elections in the Soviet Union followed in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. 200,000 marched in 1990 before the Kremlin, calling for an end to the central Soviet government.

Independent satellite states, like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others that had been occupied since the end of World War II, insisted on freedom and demanded that the Russians get out.

More significantly, the Soviet Union itself, comprised of 14 Republics, forged together in the 1920s after the Russian Revolution, also demanded independence from centralized Soviet control. The USSR soon imploded from within, as states like the Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, and 11 others gained independence. A reactionary coup tried to reassert control, but the Soviet egg had been broken, and it couldn’t be put back together again.

After Russia lost control over the states occupied since 1945, and the 14 Republics that formed the Soviet Union, all that remained was the Russian land that predated the Russian Revolution. The problem was the separatist spirit was alive and longstanding religious or ethnic forces sought to break up Russia. This is where the Russians drew the line and fought to hold their territories.

After Boris Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev in 1991, as President of the new Russian Republic, he presided over the 1st Chechen War (1994-96). He tried to stop a secessionist revolt in Chechnya, which borders North Ossetia to the west, and the Republic of Georgia to the south. When a 2nd Chechen War (1999-09) erupted, Islamic forces invaded Dagestan, and the Russia people turned to former KBG Chief Vladimir Putin to replace Yeltsin. Putin promptly took a hard line to subdue the separatists, as he bombed the Chechnya capital at Grozny. The war later migrated into Ingushetia in 2007, located between Chechnya and North Ossetia.

Although Chechnya is a part of Russia, its people differ ethnically and have beliefs at odds with the Russians in Moscow. While they say they are freedom fighters, Russia calls them terrorists.

After the World Trade Center attack in 2001, the U.S. and Russia became allies against their respective terrorist enemies. Since Chechnya is opposed to the Russian government, and the U.S. is allied with Russia, the U.S. is now a target of some Chechnyans.

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11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Foreign Policy Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) TRADE WITH CHINA: Although Romney called China a currency manipulator and promised to prosecute them in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the right to impose tariffs (10-11-11) (11-9-11) (11-12-11) (1-7-12) (1-19-12), since the Great Depression, both parties have worked together to eliminate tariffs, and in recent years, the Republicans have been the loudest advocate of free trade. It is highly unlikely Romney will seek or impose protective tariffs, or interfere with free trade.

(D) TRADE WITH CUBA: Although Romney said he would not open trade with Cuba, until Fidel Castro is dead (1-23-12) (1-26-12), there is actually no reason to treat Cuba any different than the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, or any other country we now trade with, who was once our enemy. Open the door now.

(D) EURO CRISIS: If the banks and economies around the world were collapsing, Romney said he would act to prevent contagion. (10-11-11). He also said Europe should take care of their own problems (11-9-11), and if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give them a blank check, or save their banks (1-16-12). He was critical of the European for using IMF Funds (11-9-11). It appears, as usual, Romney wants to cover both sides of the issue.

(D) IMMIGRATION: Romney promised to crack down on immigration. (8-11-11). He said employers who hire illegal aliens are magnets. (9-7-11) (9-22-11). He would make businesses check the E-Verify data base. (10-18-11) (12-15-11) (1-19-12) (1-26-11). He thinks illegal aliens without jobs will self-deport (1-26-12). He said amnesty for illegal immigrants is another magnet that only encourages more. (12-10-11). He would not give aliens tuition assistance. (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (10-18-11). He would not give them Driver’s licenses. (9-12-11). He wants people with math and science degrees (11-22-11), and English language emersion for immigrants. (1-23-12) (1-26-12). He opposes special routes to citizenship (1-16-12). Although many Republicans favor what Romney has said, business owners in his own party wish to continue hiring illegal aliens, so they can keep paying cash under the table, to avoid payroll taxes and other legal obligations.

(D) MILITARY SERVICE: Romney, who received several deferments during the Vietnam War, found it extraordinary that only a few families were paying the price for freedom (1-7-12)

(D) IRAQ: Obama carried out his campaign pledge to end the misguided War in Iraq. Romney said he thought we had to go to war against Iraq. (1-16-12). Why is that even remotely true?

(D) BIN LADEN: President Obama was the Commander-in-Chief over the raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. If a Republican had been President when the mission was accomplished, they would be carving his face into Mt. Rushmore. On the assumption Bin Laden was responsible for 911, it was a job well done, and Obama should be credited.

(D) ASSASSINATION: Romney said he thinks the President has a right to order the death of any “American citizens” suspected of terrorism (11-12-11) Sorry, Mitt, no such right.

(D) LIBYA: President Obama waged an almost flawless campaign to help the Libyan freedom fighters remove Gaddafi, their long-time dictator. He refused to put U.S. troops on the ground, but supplied aid to the rebels, and succeeded in bringing change to Libya. Republicans, who spend time on the recent incident in Bengazi, can’t see the forest for the trees.

(D) AFGHANISTAN: We should withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible, so our troops can come home, and we can save billions. Romney was vague about Afghanistan during the Republican debates. He said he would defer to generals and conditions on the ground. (6-13-11) (8-11-11) He thinks our commanders in the field don’t want to withdraw. He wouldn’t cut and run. He thinks Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal weakened us (1-16-12) He accused Obama of withdrawing early, but then he also said he would stay until 2014. (11-12-11) (11-22-11) He gave no reasons for wanting to stay until 2014. (1-7-12). He wouldn’t negotiate with the Taliban, since he said they’re terrorists. He incorrectly said they declared war on us. (1-16-12). Romney wants to win in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban (1-23-12) He also said he wants a gradual transfer to Afghan Security Forces. Frankly, I think Romney wants to be President and will say just about anything, depending on who’s listening.

(D) LAWS OF WAR: Romney said the rights that apply to criminal law are different than those applicable in war (11-22-11)

(D) GUANTANAMO: As to the Guantanamo Prison, Romney thinks we have a right to deny al Qaeda due process. (1-16-12).

(D) PAKISTAN: Romney is concerned about the fact Pakistan has nuclear weapons (2-22-12) He believes they are a fragile nation close to a failed state. He wants to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century (11-22-11) He wants them to let us go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network inside Pakistan (11-12-11). We need to stay out of Pakistan, Mitt. You’re playing with fire there.

(D) SYRIA: Romney said Syria is a threat to Israel (1-26-12), and an ally of Iran. He would use covert means to end Assad’s dictatorship (11-12-11) He would not however impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would use sanctions and covert means (11-22-11) I say let’s stay out of their war altogether.

(D) ISRAEL: Although Republicans accuse Obama of sticking a thumb in Israel’s eye (8-11-11), the American problem is not too little support for Israel, it’s too much. Our bipartisan American foreign-policy has been controlled by Israeli special interests for a long time. Romney is frightening, because he sounds like a weak leader, who would allow outsiders to control our foreign policy. Romney said it was wrong for Obama to criticize Israel for illegally constructing settlements in occupied Palestine (9-22-11) Weak Republicans like Romney would abandon our long-standing objection to Israel’s illegal taking of the Palestinian territories in 1967. (8-11-11) Since Obama courageously followed international law, we need him to keep Israel from taking the U.S. even deeper into their conflict. Romney pandered to the Jewish community while in Florida (1-26-12), and it’s not surprising his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel (11-22-11) We need a leader much stronger than Romney, one who would stand up to Israel.

(D) IRAN: Romney has a desire to impose crippling sanctions against Iran to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, which he called unacceptable (9-22-11) He falsely accused Obama of not putting crippling sanctions against Iran (1-7-12) He supports Iranian dissidents. He favors regime change and would take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (11-12-11) He called Obama weak on Iran (12-15-11) Romney said if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war (1-23-12). He thinks they will sneak dirty bombs into the U.S. through Latin America (2-22-12) Romney would indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Genocide Convention (11-22-11)

(D) LATIN AMERICA: Romney actually thinks the Hezbollah is working in Latin America (11-22-11) (2-22-12) Get real Mitt.

(D) RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he didn’t know the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He was still talking as though Russia was an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. (11-12-11). Romney worries me.

(D) FOREIGN AID: Romney thinks the U.S. spends more on foreign aid than we should (10-18-11). We are still the richest nation on earth, and if we want allies, we need to give some aid.

(D) HOMELAND SECURITY: Romney would let people who are a “lower risk” go through TSA screening quickly. (11-22-11). Sounds like he wants to set up a fast track for his friends like Donald Trump, while the rest of us wait in line.

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

04/11/2012

Korea: Time to Close Military Bases

The U.S. has roughly 39 disclosed military bases in South Korea, 57 years after an armistice put an end to the Korean War (1950-53), and the question now is whether they serve any purpose, or has our ongoing American military presence actually become an obstacle to reunification, and a roadblock to demilitarization?

A U.S. presence in Korea followed a vacuum caused by the defeat of imperial Japan in WWII. After trade started with Korea in 1875, the Japanese decided to simply take resources by force in the 20th Century, and their abuse did not stop until 1945, when the U.S. occupied South Korea, and the Soviets entered North Korea.

While the U.S. and Soviets forced Japan to grant independence, neither of the wartime allies was particularly focused on the needs of the Koreans. As the American and Russian forces withdrew in 1948, they divided Korea into a North Korean People’s Republic, north of the 38th Parallel, and the Republic of South Korea, south of it.

Two years later, the North invaded the South in an effort to reunite Korea. The United Nations, with Russia absent from the vote, found a breach of the UN Charter, and authorized the use of collective force to repel the invasion, in what became the Korean War (1950-53). Mao’s China soon entered the conflict on the side of the North, causing a stalemate, and an ultimate ceasefire. A 2½-mile Demilitarized Zone has separated two Koreas ever since.

After both North and South Korea joined the UN in 1991, train travel between the two was attempted to ease tensions, but the labeling of the North as a terrorist state, and fear of conflict, has kept both sides on edge, and has caused occasional flare-ups.

From the perspective of the North, since the Americans still have 30,000 troops stationed at various military facilities in the South along with their weapons, they must maintain a large military to repel a possible attack.

So what would really happen if the U.S. unilaterally withdrew all forces? Hawks may in a knee jerk fashion predict an invasion by the North. What is much more likely is a demolition of the barrier between North and South, and the commencement of trade. The North would gladly take the benefits of trade from the Southern economy, one of the strongest in Asia.

While a total unilateral withdrawal is largely a pipe-dream given the dysfunctional American political system, since very few American politicians would have the courage to do something so bold, progress always begins with an idea, and the idea is to unilaterally close our bases in Korea, and withdraw from their soil. Such a move would ease tensions, lead to reciprocal demilitarization, and eventual reunification.

04/10/2012

Japan: Close All Military Bases

The U.S. still has at least 22 military facilities in Japan, 67 years after the end of World War II, a conflict that transformed the Japanese government from a militaristic chain of command into a liberal democracy, such that now they pose no threat whatsoever to the U.S. So why do we still have a military presence in Japan?

While Korea is in the neighborhood, where the U.S. military has an even greater presence, Japanese bases add little to their needs. China, also nearby, is really no threat to the U.S. Since Hong Kong and Taiwan are part of sovereign China, the U.S. could not act lawfully, even if unrest developed in those enclaves. In the 1960s, we listened in on the Soviets from undisclosed bases in Northern Japan, but the Cold War ended over 20 years ago, and Russia has been our ally ever since.

While reports show some U.S. forces are now being moved to Guam, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the Philippines, the best place for them is back home in the U.S. We should work on withdrawing all of our forces from the following Japanese bases:

TOHOKO REGION (N Honshu)
Air Force: Misawa Air Base, Misawa-Aomori

KANTO REGION (SE Honshu, Tokyo)
Army: Camp Zama
Air Force: Yokota Air Base

SHIZUOKA PREFECTURE (SE Honshu)
Marines: Camp Fuji

KANAGAWA PREFECTURE (SE Honshu)
Navy: U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka
Naval Air Facility Atsugi

YAMAGUCHI PREFECTURE (SW Honshu)
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

KYUSHU ISLAND (Far SW)
Navy: U.S. Fleet Activites Sasebo

OKINAWA (Far S, Ryukru Islands,  Kyushu Region)
Army: Torii Station
Army: Fort Buckner
Marines: Camp Smedley Butler
Marines: Camp Courtney
Marines: Camp Foster
Marines: Camp Gonsalves
Marines: Camp Hansen
Marines: Camp Kinser
Marines: Camp Lester
Marines: Camp McTureous
Marines: Camp Schwab
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
Naval Forces Japan, Okinawa
Air Force: Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

12/07/2011

Romney: Weak Foreign Policy President

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, like George W. Bush, would be another weak foreign policy President, since he is not going to stand up to the special interests, but will instead continue the War in Afghanistan, and perhaps start another conflict in Iran, or in some other place the Israelis want us to deploy our troops.

VIETNAM: Romney, who is not a military veteran, would freely send the children of others into combat, even though he did not serve. Born in 1947, he came of age in 1965, just as the War in Vietnam was escalating. He was exposed to the draft throughout the war. He first obtained a 2-S student deferment, as a freshman at Stanford (1965-66). He then used Mormon missionary exemptions, while in France, from July 1966 through Jan. 1969. Curiously, he stayed in Europe, out of the reach of his local draft board, for a half year beyond his normal two-year Mormon hitch, which should have ended in July 1968. Upon returning to the U.S. in Jan. 1969, he added more deferments, by promptly enrolling at Brigham Young University, and by getting married on March 21, 1969. In the first military draft lottery, held in Dec. 1969, he luckily drew number 300. After finishing at Brigham Young in May 1971, the hawkish Mitt could have enlisted, but he played it safe, by enrolling at Harvard Law School. By the time the U.S. War in Vietnam ended, and the draft was abolished in 1973, he had successfully avoided military service for 8 continuous years.

ISRAEL: Romney sounds weak, like George W. Bush, because he would allow others to control our foreign policy. Not surprisingly, he said his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel. Although Israel continues to illegally construct settlements in occupied Palestine, Romney panders, claiming it’s wrong to criticize them.

MILITARY: Romney wants to appear tough, like John Wayne, by also pandering to the military.  He said in no uncertain terms he will not cut any defense spending, even though it is a major source of our national budget deficit. He seeks military support by complaining about proposed cuts for the F-22, Air Force bombers, and delays in new Navy aircraft carriers and cruisers, but he irresponsibly never suggests raising taxes to pay for these things.

FOREIGN AID: While Romney would somehow find money for guns, he has nothing for butter. He said we spend more on foreign aid than we should, and we should let China do it, because he said it makes no sense to borrow from China, to give aid to others.

ASSASSINATION: Romney incorrectly thinks it is legal for a President to order the death of Americans suspected of terrorism. He said if an individual allies himself with a group that declared war on the U.S., and bears arms, it is fair to simply execute them.

AFGHANISTAN: Although the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, Romney cowardly fails to show any courage, by refusing to pledge a withdrawal, at any time before 2014. He instead promises to defer to the generals and conditions on the ground, code for staying indefinitely. He uses slogans from the Vietnam Era, like we cannot “cut and run,” or withdraw precipitously. The truth of course is we can, if we just did it. It would be easy. While Romney said he will not deal with the Taliban, because he does not negotiate with terrorists, he contradicts himself by saying the Afghans are now free of the Taliban, due to our efforts. Romney dupes unknowing Americans into believing we need to “train” Afghan Security Forces, as if they are utterly stupid, and learned nothing over the past 10 years.

PAKISTAN: Romney wants to make sure Pakistan allows us to go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network, but laments that only 12% of Pakistanis approve of us. He admits we aren’t doing a good job. He thinks Pakistan is fragile, nearly a “failed state.”

IRAN: Romney believes it is unacceptable for Iran to develop nuclear power for energy purposes. He worries they would obtain a nuclear weapon, if Obama is re-elected, and thinks the President should have clearly said we will take military action to keep that from happening. Romney will do what Israel wants, by imposing crippling sanctions against Iran, even though the Iranians have done nothing to the U.S. While it is ok to support the dissidents who took to the streets, and to encourage regime change, if that fails, Romney would make the mistake of using our military to illegally intervene in the internal affairs of Iran.

SYRIA: Romney correctly supports the rebels fighting Syria’s dictatorship, and favors sanctions and covert action to bring down Assad, but instead of justifying his position on democratic principles, he unnecessarily links Syria to Iran. He seriously thinks Hezbollah is at work in Latin America. Get real Mitt.

SAUDI ARABIA: Instead of calling for the end of the absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Romney, a weak person, says we should support the backward kingdom, because they support us.

EUROPE: Romney’s ability to speak French is a definite plus by global standards, but a skill that will certainly raise serious suspicion among Tea Party wing nuts. While Romney believes the Europeans should take care of their own problems, he contradicts himself by saying if the economies of the world were collapsing, he would take action. When asked about U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund used to help the Euro-Zone, he said the U.S. must focus of our own deficits, but then he contradicts himself saying we need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks. So, no one really knows what Romney thinks, or what he would do, except perhaps speak French while in France.

RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he considered Russia an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. It was a strange, because the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and we’ve been allied with Russia for many years now.

America would be better off with Obama, than a man willing to send others into battle, despite his own avoidance of the draft. Romney is far too eager to do what Israel wants. The U.S. needs a strong President, willing to resist the Israeli Lobby. We need to withdraw from Afghanistan, a place where our troops have no winnable mission. Yet Romney promises to stay. We need to avoid additional conflict in Iran, but again Romney is not man enough to keep us out. Romney should not become our leader, as he would be just another weak foreign policy President.

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.

08/31/2011

Former Soviets Still Need Democracy

Five former Soviet states could do a much better job of advancing democracy, by removing their dictators, holding new elections, and by enforcing a two-term limit of no more than 10 years total.

BELARUS: Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet Republic of Belarus since 1994. After winning the 2001 election, he abolished presidential term limits in 2004, and essentially made himself dictator for life. Opposition candidates received just 2% of the vote in 2006, in a contest the EU called fundamentally flawed. Policemen severely beat two opposition candidates in the 2010 race, causing EU members to boycott his 2011 inauguration. Belarus must now remove Lukashenko, choose a new leader, enforce term limits, and rightfully join the democracies of Europe.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has been in power since the Soviet Union dissolved, under a system which is one of the most corrupt in the world. His regime drafted a constitution that virtually gives him unchecked powers. He took bribes in the 1990s from U.S. oil interests. He won the 1991 election, because opposition candidates were not allowed. Instead of using the electoral process, he extended his rule for four more years in 1995, through a referendum. Although the constitution had a two-term limit, it was amended by his friends in parliament to let him run as often as he wanted. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2005, with 91%, in races criticized by international groups.

UZBEKISTAN: Islam Karimov has controlled Uzbekistan since 1989. When independence was declared in 1991, he became their first president, with 86% support, by manipulating the vote. He limited opposition parties by requiring them to obtain 60,000 signatures to register. He extended his reign in 1995 for five more years via a referendum, and then claimed 91% of the vote in 2000. He let the U.S. use military bases (2001-05). Despite a two-term limit, he won a third term in 2007 with 88% of the vote against no opposition. As one of the worst dictators, Islam Karimov must go.

TAJIKISTAN: Emomalii Rahmon has held power in Tajikistan since 1992. He was “elected” in 1994, and again in 1999, with 97% of the vote. He controls much of the economy. Like others in the region, he used referendums, instead of elections, to remain in office beyond his term. He received 79% of the vote in 2006, and commenced another 7-year term. It is time to remove this dictator and establish a true democracy in Tajikistan.

RUSSIA: Outside pressure from Russia would help to change the politics in this region, but Vadimir Putin also has trouble letting go. When Boris Yeltsin resigned as President, Putin finished his term (1999-00). Putin was then elected in his own right, (2000-04), and re-elected for another 4-year presidential term (2004-08). Instead of stepping down at that point, and leaving government, he became Prime Minister (2008-). After 12 years as President and Prime Minister, Putin still appears to be the one in control, and it’s time for him to set an example by leaving the Kremlin.

03/25/2011

Term-Limit Treaty Is A Global Need

Recently, the world witnessed several uprisings in North Africa and the Mideast. The common denominator in many of them was a leader who had been in power for decades. Ben Ali was driven from Tunisia after 24 years. Hosni Mubarak governed Egypt for 30 years. Rebels in Yemen are fighting Ali Saleh, who has served for 32 years, and Col. Qaddafi in Libya, is trying to hold on after 42years.

While long-term service does necessarily make a leader ineffective, history has had its fill of tyrants. For 45 years in North Korea, Kim prohibited dissent. Gen. Suharto of Indonesia brutally suppressed opponents for 31 years. Joseph Stalin killed millions in the USSR, during his 30 years. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who started out on the right track, lost his way after 31 years.

The U.S. should introduce a Term-Limit Treaty in the UN, which could be co-sponsored by Tunisia and Egypt. People should no longer be subjected to the rule of men who refuse to leave office. The treaty should establish a fundamental right to live in a political system that limits a leader to no more than 10 years in office. The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands should make it a crime to remain more than 10 years, or to suspend a constitution that limits terms. Obtaining office through a coup or military junta, and not through normal electoral means, should also become criminal.

Currently a majority of countries have some term-limits. Some limit their leaders to one term of 4, 5, 6 or 7 years. Others allow two 4-year terms, like the U.S. The most common however is a limit of two 5-year terms. Those that currently have no limit would need to adopt one. Those whose limits in excess of 10 years would need to amend their constitutions to conform to the new international standard. While absolute monarchs and some constitutional monarchies like Britain would most likely resist, this is no reason not to get started with the majority of countries who would probably sign on.

03/18/2011

Afghanistan: Spending For What?

The Republican-controlled House voted 321-93 against a resolution calling for an Afghanistan troop withdrawal and a reduction in our wasteful federal spending. Only 8 Republicans voted to cut the budget by reducing discretionary appropriations for that optional war.

Has the conflict in Afghanistan become a permanent part of our budget? Do we plan to fight there forever? What is our goal in that mountainous landlocked Asian state?

Are we there to find Osama bin Laden and those involved in 911? That would be acceptable, if they were still alive, and we knew where they were. After 10 years of searching, perhaps it is time to give that approach a rest. It hasn’t worked.

I hope our goal is not to change their religion. 99% of Afghans were Muslim when President Bush invaded, and nothing our military has done, or will do, will ever change that. We cannot prohibit the use the Koran. We can’t stop Mullahs from interpreting Islamic law. We cannot change their culture by force.

Russia tried to promote a secular government, but the Muslims revolted. The Soviets invaded, because they feared an Islamic regime, like the one that emerged in neighboring Iran (1979). For 10 years, the Mujahedeen waged a guerilla war against 115,000 Russian troops, until Gorbachev finally gave up (1989). In the civil war that followed, the Mujahedeen, later known as the Taliban, ousted the secular government (1992). After more bloodshed, they imposed a harsh Islamic theology (1996). The Soviet effort made the question of religion worse, not better.

Is our goal is to create permanent bases? That isn’t going to work. Afghanistan has a long history of resisting foreign intervention. British troops tried to occupy Afghanistan in the 19th Century, but they were massacred in Kabul and eventually gave up.

I hope our objective is not to starve out our perceived enemies with sanctions. Following the 1998 bombings against U.S. embassies in Africa, President Clinton launched air strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan in an effort to get them to surrender bin Laden, but that did not work, and when the Taliban was accused of sheltering and training terrorists, sanctions were imposed, but they also yielded no results.

Finally, I hope we do not seriously expect a military victory. There never will be a Victory over Afghanistan Day. Thousands of unshaven men are not suddenly going to emerge from their caves carrying white flags with their hands up.

When Bush invaded Afghanistan, the UN refused to authorize the American war, because there was no evidence anyone there had anything to do with 911 and no proof U.S. forces would be acting in self-defense.

The Taliban has pledged there will be no peace, until the foreigners leave. Ho Chi Minh said something strikingly similar. It’s time to bring our boys home. It’s time to regroup and save our resources for a winnable mission.