Posts Tagged 'US'

Guantanamo Will Close

Trends are moving regarding the situation in Guantanamo. President-elect Barack Obama had already signaled his intention to close the facility, but questions remained regarding the fate of the prisoners. Portugal’s offer to take in some of the detainees breaks European resistance to assisting the US deal with the problem, and can prelude a concerted European effort to help the incoming administration break the jam.

Assessment:
President-elect Barack Obama will announce Gitmo’s closure early on the mandate, capitalizing on the good-will generated by the measure to push diplomatic initiatives. The remaining detainees will likely be scattered across the globe.

Markets Will Receive Boost

Financial trends seem brighter in the Near Future. After the Senate rejection of the $14 billion bailout plan, the White House is now considering allowing the automakers to share some of the $700 billion earmarked for the banking system. In Europe, and after initial strong resistance from Germany, the EU approved a package of €200 billion to stimulate the economy.

Assessment:
The converging effects of this two plans should build some confidence in the market, prompting gains across all main indexes on Monday.

US Will Commit To Emissions Cuts

Trends on Climate Change seem to be improving. The US is set to join the global effort to cut carbon emissions, with Sen. Kerry saying that the US will be willing to lead if other countries commit to emission cuts. The auto industry troubles open a window of opportunity for the government to push for the adoption of a green business model in exchange for aid.

Assessment:
The Obama administration will commit to concrete emission cuts in the Near Future, taking advantage of the crisis to promote a medium and long-term transition to a green economy.

Senate Rejects Auto Bailout Plan

Global economic trends continue gloomy, with ongoing problems compounded by the Senate rejection of the $14 billion bailout for the auto industry. The bill’s collapse sent shock waves through the global market, prompting losses across all the main indexes. However, given the weight of the auto industry in the economy, it is unlikely that the US government will allow for the bankruptcy of one or more of the Big Three.

Assessment: Some deal will be hammered out in the Near Future that will prevent the loss of the 3 million jobs that the auto industry sustains.

There Can Be Only One

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The “team of rivals” concept is utter nonsense. Bringing Clinton to the State Department is a terrible idea, and it won’t take long before Obama regrets it bitterly.

Following intense speculation in the past couple of weeks, it was now confirmed that Clinton will be the new Secretary of State. This is a major event, and one that is bound to shape irreversibly the Obama presidency. In any administration, the Secretary of State is one of the most powerful figures, since it is assumed that the incumbent enjoys the absolute confidence of the President. In this case, the nomination assumes special significance, since it was over foreign policy matters that Clinton and Obama spat more bitterly.

Less than six months ago, Clinton was scolding Obama for wanting to engage in talks with Iran regarding its nuclear program, joining McCain’s line in depicting him as naive and dangerously inexperienced. Obama, on the other hand, was fast to point out the fact that Clinton supported the Iraq War (while he was strongly against it from the beginning) thus portraying her as a backer of Bush’s most loathed policy decision.

Could it be that they’re now seeing eye to eye on matters over which they were tearing each other apart during the primary trail? Or has Obama, despite all the idealistic platform on which we was elected, already succumbed to the real politik diktat, and felt the need to disarm Clinton by having her on the team? Is he living by Corleone’s maxim of “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”?

Obama’s supporters call the move a “master stroke”, speaking about building a “team of rivals” that has the potential to make this the most accomplished Democratic administration since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One can understand the argument: Clinton is, after all, an undisputed political powerhouse, and, thanks to her former role as First Lady, will be able to hit the ground running when she starts touring the world capitals.

So, by nominating Clinton to the State Department, Obama accomplishes two things: one, he ensures that she is kept on board with the administration, instead of being left loose on the Senate, where she could become a rallying figure for Democratic discontent over unpopular measures he will be forced to take. And two, he gets a Secretary of State with instant face recognition, who will be warmly welcomed in the chancelleries where (right or wrong) Clinton’s consulate is kindly remembered as the golden age of multilateralism.

All this, however, pale in comparison with the immense downsides of having a fake believer on the team. It’s true that, by having her on the State Department, Obama saves himself, and especially the Senate Democratic leadership, the trouble of having to constantly appease her over each and every measure expected to pass the Senate. On the other hand, he risks seeing barricades erupting at Foggy Bottom, with everything, from Israeli-Palestinian peace plans to withdrawal from Iraq to positioning towards Iran subject to endless and paralyzing bickering.

Given the present state of Brand America, and the dimension of the challenges ahead, the last thing the new president needs is to voice a dubious message through a staggering positioning. It is, however, very hard to see how a coherent strategy can emerge out of this “team of rivals”.

In Cash-Rich Japan, World’s Financial Woes Inspire a Grand Plan – washingtonpost.com

Kotaro Tamura, an investment banker turned Japanese lawmaker, has an immodest proposal for healing the sick global economy, making all Japanese richer and compelling the United States to be more deferential toward Japan.

“We are in a special position because we have huge money,” Tamura said, referring to about $950 billion in government foreign reserves, $1.5 trillion in public pension funds and $15 trillion in personal financial assets, about $8 trillion of which is on deposit at shockingly low interest rates in Japanese banks.

“We should send the signal that we are ready to save the world with this money,” he said in an interview.

Tamura leads a group of 65 lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who have proposed to Prime Minister Taro Aso that Japan treat the global financial meltdown “as a huge opportunity for us.”

They are urging the government to inject some of its abundant cash into troubled U.S. and European banks, in return for equity, and to purchase distressed corporate assets at fire-sale prices.

“The economy of every major power has crashed, and Japan has the least tainted market in the world,” Tamura said.

“Everything is very cheap right now [in world stock markets], and 10 years from now we would make very big money,” he said

Finally, Tamura said, Japan could gain much more than mere money by coming to the aid of the United States and its many distressed companies. “If we can save the United States economy, then the U.S. government will owe us in other ways,” he said.

A U.S. move that has offended many Japanese is the Bush administration’s decision last weekend to take North Korea off its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

The Japanese public vehemently opposes the delisting because North Korea has refused to provide satisfactory information about the fate of eight Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents during the 1970s and ’80s.

“If we make the proper moves with our money, we can gain diplomatic fruit,” Tamura said. “We can insist that the United States put more pressure on North Korea. As I said, this is a huge opportunity for us.”

via In Cash-Rich Japan, World’s Financial Woes Inspire a Grand Plan – washingtonpost.com

The Barracuda Doctrine

In her first interview since being nominated as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican party, Sarah Palin showed the US and the world why she was nicknamed the “Barracuda”.

Despite having the thinnest of grasps of international and security issues, she didn’t shy away from diving in those troubled waters, and already laid out the foundations of what can come to be known as the “Barracuda Doctrine”

Being, by her own description, a regular “hockey mom” from a small town, Palin carries the same simple mental frame to the stage of international affairs. The “Barracuda Doctrine” can be characterized as follows: the US “must not blink” and do “whatever it takes” to “stop the terrorists that are hell-bent on destroying America”.

Three simple propositions: “don’t blink”, “everything it takes”, “stop terrorists” – Robocop couldn’t have done it better.

If this means going across international borders and breaking every international treaty in the book, so be it. If it means going to war with Russia, so be it as well. It’s all according to “God’s plan”.

In her case, “God’s plan” meant that, until last year, her total foreign experience amounted to trips to Canada and Mexico; she only left North America in 2007 to visit American troops in Kuwait and injured soldiers in Germany, in what she describes as “the trip of a lifetime”.

She has also never met a foreign leader – which is something that she is not in the least worried about. In fact, that only comes to prove that she is not part of the “politics as usual” gang. One has to assume that would be the gang of those that actually know with whom they’re talking to.

Classifying as “unprovoked” the Russian military action on Georgia, Palin expressed her believe that the US must “keep an eye” on Russia – one has to assume it would be the same unblinking eye of American righteousness.

Strongly in favor of getting Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, she lightheartedly (and unblinkingly) admitted that “perhaps” that could lead to war with Russia.

Not that she loses a lot of sleep thinking about what goes on inside the Kremlin. Asked what insides on Russia she has (being governor of a state that neighbors Russia), Palin didn’t hesitate to mention that she could see Russia from Alaska. She may not have a clue about Putin and Medvedev’s intentions, but she sure is your woman if you want to spy the seals across the Bering Strait.

On another hot matter, Iran, Palin made clear that she did not believe Ahmedinejad would come so far as to use atomic weapons (would Iran ever get so far as to actually build them). However, Palin fears that he would “allow terrorists” to use them, which calls for “putting the pressure” on Iran.

This “pressure” could come in the form of a Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, which would be regarded as entirely justifiable by the vice-presidential candidate.

In fact, one has to assume from this interview that anything Israel chose to do would be pre-approved by a vice-presidential cabinet under Palin. Pressed on this matter, she repeated again and again that, being a “friend of Israel”, the US could not “second guess” any actions that Israeli leaders would take in order to “defend themselves”.

One wonders if this view would go so far as to approve an Israeli preemptive nuclear attack on Iran, Israel being thus far the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

On 9/11, Palin pinpoints the hijackers “not believing American ideals” as the reason behind the attacks. At the point of standing up to salute the flag, Palin exposed her answer to the problem, which consists in providing them “the hope that all Americans have instilled” in them.

Palin’s poor understanding of security matters became even more evident when, asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine, she made clear that she didn’t have a clue on what that would be.

She blathered about Bush’s “world view” – which, according to her, made him try to “rid this world of islamic extremism and terrorists that are hell-bent on destroying” the US – and the “beauty of American elections”, that provide “new leadership” to correct the “blunders” that were made while ridding the world of evil-doers.

Charlie Gibson, the interviewer, then helped her a little, explaining that the Bush Doctrine consisted in asserting the right of the US to preemptively attack any foe deemed to pose a threat, even if no hostile action had been taken against the US.

Energized by the fresh understanding of what this “Bush Doctrine” was, Palin jumped to confirm that the US had “every right” to defend itself, given that “legitimate and enough intelligence” was provided that a “strike is eminent”, which makes her a strong backer of the Bush Doctrine after all, although oblivious of its existence.

In the end, what comes out if this interview is the portrait of a “hockey mom” that feels the need to consider everything in the simplest of terms, and is not in any way prepared for the complexities that a cabinet-level position entail.

One that, thrown in the global playing field and armed with a nuclear stick, would not hesitate to shoot away, not pausing for a moment to consider if she wasn’t scoring against her own team.

If elected, McCain, at 72, would become the oldest man to reach the White House. In the event of his incapacitation, Palin would automatically assume the presidency, making her, now at 44, the youngest President in American history.

America is just coming out of 8 years of the most inexperienced President in living memory. At a time when reestablishing American standing in the world is a crucial concern for Washington, could it afford a repeat of history?

Is America ready for the “Barracuda President”? Would the world survive it?

These are to questions that American electors should consider very carefully when they elect their new President.


May 2017
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