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Tag: Middle East

The Obama legacy: Trump

Tuesday, 17 January, 2017 0 Comments

“Eight Was Enough” says Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The fact that he said it at the weekend in the New York Times suggests that the Great Denial, which has gripped the paper since 9 November last year, may be coming to and end. Snippet:

“To make matters worse, the Obama presidency has been characterized by injurious incompetence, in particular with regard to his signature achievement, Obamacare. The unveiling of the website was a disaster, and the promises the president made — that Americans could keep their doctors and plans if they chose to — were false. Mr. Obama guaranteed lower insurance costs to families and lower health costs to the taxpayer; instead, costs rose. Several of the state-run exchanges appear to be headed for collapse.

Overseas, the Obama years have been defined by spreading disorder and chaos, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, with nations collapsing and borders dissolving. More terrorist safe havens have been established than ever before. Russia and China have become more aggressive and significantly increased their geopolitical influence. America is now held in brazen contempt by our enemies and mistrusted by many of our allies.

Yet in some respects the greatest failure of the Obama years is in the area where many people thought he would excel. Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his 2008 campaign a promise to end a politics that ‘breeds division and conflict and cynicism.’ In February of that year, I praised him for “a message that, at its core, is about unity and hope rather than division and resentment.” Yet he leaves office with America more conflicted and cynical than when he took office. More than 70 percent of Americans say the country is either more divided or no more united than it was in 2009. Race relations are the worst in decades, and our nation is as polarized as it has been in the modern era.”

How will history regard the Obama presidency? Well, it might compare his two terms with those of Reagan presidency. Thirty years after he left office, Ronald Reagan remains the modern father figure of his political party. The Supreme Court justices he appointed shaped American jurisprudence and the reforms he enacted have never been rolled back. And what about President Obama? Peter Wehner is caustic: “It was his arrogance that proved to be Mr. Obama’s undoing. (Even leaders of his own party felt Mr. Obama’s derision, as if dealing with them was somehow beneath him.) Mr. Obama dismissed those who disagreed with him like a professor forced to deal with simple-minded, wayward students.”


Heading for the freedom train in Keleti

Wednesday, 2 September, 2015 0 Comments

“Hungarian police cleared hundreds of migrants desperate to get to Germany from Budapest’s main railway stations on Tuesday, prompting protests and confusion at a site that has become the latest focus of Europe’s refugee crisis.” So reports the Wall Street Journal in an article titled “Chaos Erupts in Budapest as Hungary Clears Migrants From Train Station“.

The focus of the drama is Keleti, which was constructed in eclectic style between 1881 and 1884 and was considered one of the most modern railway stations in Europe at the time. In May, your blogger passed through Keleti and it was obvious then that it was a magnet for Middle East migrants making their way to northern Europe. Kelati will remain in the news until Europe agrees on anti-trafficking and nation-building policies for Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. In the meantime, terror, repression and dire economic circumstances will continue to convince young people that the only way to a better life is to emigrate and board those trains in Budapest.

Kelati faces

This just in: “Hungary will register all migrants that come to the country and send economic migrants back to the state from which they first entered its borders.”


Understanding Syria’s first family: like father, like son

Wednesday, 28 August, 2013 0 Comments

“To many people Syria is an object not just of suspicion but of mystery, and Asad’s moves are often seen as both malevolent and impenetrable. In the United States in particular, there is a certain incredulity that a small country with a population of under twelve million should have the effrontery to stand up for itself. Certainly, in defending Arab interests as he sees them, Asad has used skill, stealth and brute force to challenge the interests of others — Israel, its Western backers, and even those Arabs who do not endorse his strategy. Yet there is a poignancy about his story in that the task he assumed twenty years ago was larger than the means at his disposal. As the head of a relatively poor and underdeveloped country, he has had a basically weak hand, forcing him to play his cards close to his chest, a style which does not make comprehending Syria any simpler.”

Asad That’s an excerpt from Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East by Patrick Seale. Since it was first published in 1988, the population of Syria has grown to 21 million but the country is still ruled by the same family, although the favoured spelling is now “Assad”. It’s worth noting, incidentally, that a lot of what Patrick Seale wrote about Hafiz al-Asad a quarter of a century ago applies to his son, Bashar al-Assad. Consider this:

“Asad’s sense of limited resources and permanent siege have undoubtedly had an impact on the way he runs his country and conducts his diplomacy. His regime is a very personal one. He insists on controlling everything and in particular foreign affairs and information because, unlike more powerful leaders who walk away from their blunders, he can ill afford to make a mistake. At every stage he risks being knocked out of the game altogether, and that remains the main hope of his enemies.”

When the old butcher died in June 2000, control of Syria passed to his son, who has made some major mistakes of late and now risks being knocked out of the game altogether.

By the way, does anyone know what Patrick Seale is up to these days? His last column syndicated by Agence Global is dated 30 April. Since then, nothing. That April column is titled, typically, “How Israel Manipulates US Policy in the Middle East.” Like the elder Asad, Seale is obsessed by Israel and this fixation has deformed his writing on the Middle East. Still, he’s an expert on the region and, despite our differences, Rainy Day wishes him well and we hope that he’ll soon be adding his experienced voice to the Syria debate.


Is that Carter or Kennedy in the mirror?

Monday, 26 August, 2013 0 Comments

“President Obama now faces a moment similar to the one President Carter faced when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The assumptions that shaped key elements of his foreign policy have not held up; times have changed radically and policy must shift.” That’s the conclusion of “The Failed Grand Strategy in the Middle East” by Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal. This is a very dangerous moment says Mead:

“Just as Nikita Khrushchev concluded that President Kennedy was weak and incompetent after the Bay of Pigs failure and the botched Vienna summit, and then proceeded to test the American president from Cuba to Berlin, so President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now believe they are dealing with a dithering and indecisive American leader, and are calibrating their policies accordingly. Khrushchev was wrong about Kennedy, and President Obama’s enemies are also underestimating him, but those underestimates can create dangerous crises before they are corrected.”

Bottom line: “Drawing red lines in the sand and stepping back when they are crossed won’t rebuild confidence.”

On the other hand, Edward Luttwak, whose name was always modified with “hawkish” in the days of George W. Bush, believes that “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” His depiction of the battleground is grim: “The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.”

Luttwak is a realist and he calls out the red-line hardliners who wish to see the US enter this mire: “Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.”

With his red line, President Obama gave a hostage to fortune and now, despite Edward Luttwak’s sensible call for caution, he must act or be regarded as a coward. And, as history shows, Jack Kennedy was no coward.

President  Obama


Obama and the “Syrian affair”

Wednesday, 5 June, 2013 1 Comment

While reading this Al Jazeera article, “Hezbollah: The Syrian connection“, the following jumped out: “Lebanon’s former Prime Minster, Fouad Siniora, has made it clear that he is calling on Hezbollah members to put an end to their involvement in the Syrian affair.” The use of “affair” there is surely one of the great trivializations of our time because what’s happening in Syria is a civil war of almost unimaginable savagery in which both sides are committing crimes against humanity. Consider these two items:

These acts of barbarism place US President Barack Obama in a quandary. He once called on Assad resign and he warned gravely of red lines, and then he abandoned the Syrians to their abattoir. Now, amidst the carnage, he looks increasingly duplicitous. Michael Totten, writing in City Journal, says that Syrians are confused by the American hesitation to remove Assad, and “In The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy“, he notes:

“Extreme caution is called for in Syria, but that hardly changes the fact that it is in America’s national interest to see Assad removed. This man has more American blood on his hands than anyone in the Arab world who hasn’t been killed yet. He is a totalitarian state sponsor of international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida. His government has exported chaos and violence, not just to Israel, but also to every one of its neighbors. His regime is part of the Iranian-Hezbollah axis, which may well go nuclear. Calling for his ouster doesn’t require undaunted courage. It won’t yield results by itself, but the White House, and the United States as a whole, without even realizing it, are paying a price for refusing to do even this much.”

Yes, America will be pilloried for whatever it does in Syria, but the arguments against intervention are starting to sound as hollow as those making them.


Karl reMarks about Fisk and Friedman

Friday, 24 August, 2012

In times of trouble and strife, one turns for light relief to the great Karl reMarks. This week has been brightened by the superb “Robert Fisk: Reporting from Syria ‘with sensational quotes in the headline’“. Background: The fanatical idiotarian Robert Fisk is employed by the likes of The Independent and Raidió Teilifís Éireann to channel […]

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