Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rough days ahead

I almost feel bad for Obama, actually. Well, about as much as I feel bad for Bush. Contrary to what most presidential candidates (and most people) think the president has very say in what will define his term. The only recent president without significant surprises was Clinton, who instead manufactured his own. Carter was defined by OPEC and Iran; Reagan by the USSR and a recession (and subsequent recovery); Bush by the Gulf War; Clinton by... a Republican congress, sex scandals, and a non-war in Bosnia which is directly related to NATO / Russian tensions today; and GWB by 9/11. What will define Obama's presidency? He ran on getting out of Iraq. By the time he takes office, his position on that will be largely irrelevant.

Things Obama will have to deal with:

The possible demise of NATO. NATO represents an era of foreign policy in the world defined by long term alliances between many nations against a mutual threat. That era may well be over. Germany's chancellor essentially told NATO to shove it during the Russo-Georgian incident a few months ago. NATO is struggling to maintain a coherent face to the rest of the world, largely due to stresses induced on it by the global financial crises, a resurgent Russia and the ongoing fight in Afghanistan. It's being pulled apart. Without NATO we are back to an environment of short, shifting alliances similar to the 19th and early 20th century.

A Resurgent Russia. Russia was largely a non-factor on the world stage for the past decade. Other than a few fits of pique involving Ukranian natural gas contracts, threats of energy supply cutoffs to Europe and an internal rebellion in Chechnya which was ignored by the rest of the world, Russia has been relegated to obscurity. That all changed when Russian troops invaded South Ossetia and nearly toppled a US-backed state in the process of applying for NATO membership. It was a direct statement to the rest of the world. Russia is reasserting itself in its sphere of influence lost in the breakup of the Soviet Union. The opportunity exists because the United States is stretched thin due to deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and because NATO is no longer coherent enough to object. The world is discovering that the EU has no real power, and the UN has been a joke for decades. Russia was seemingly deliberately baited by NATO membership hints to Georgia, the Western-inspired Orange revolution in Ukraine (a nation which was direct geopolitical consequences to Russia, including Mediterranean port access, pipeline control to Europe, and geographic defense value), and western involvement in the Balkans during Clintons term. Now they have the opportunity to object to these perceived threats, and they are taking full advantage of it while it lasts.

A deteriorating state of affairs in the Indian subcontinent. One of Obama's first, and possibly most important, challenges will be to pick up where the Bush administration leaves off in India and Pakistan. Condoleeza Rice is heading to Islamabad after she finishes in New Dehli to try to prevent a crisis between the two nations. However, there are fewer and fewer options available to all players. India, driven by public opinion within, must react to these attacks. They must assure their populace that a similar attack will not occur again, much as the United States was forced to react to 9/11. The only way they can accomplish this is to address the growing factions of militant Islam functioning with increasing boldness in Pakistan. So far this has been limited to a demand for Pakistan to control these elements of their populace and military. If this does not happen, they may follow the US model in Afghanistan: namely, that a nation providing asylum or aid to terrorist interests is acting in a state of war and react accordingly. This will result in a crisis of some sort, anywhere from a buildup of troops on the border to artillery or airstrikes into Pakistan's interior.

Pakistan is in a state of near-crisis. The civilian government is almost insolvent and seems to be at direct odds with the military government, which is a separate entity. The civilian government is writing checks it cannot cash in an attempt to prevent crisis with India. They are caught between a rock and a hard place with the US and India. The United States is demanding (via Obama's incoming administration's statements) that they increase their participation and cooperation on Taliban and al Qaeda factions in Waziristan along the Afghan border. They currently have 100,000+ troops stationed along that border. However, action against the militant Islamic factions is not very popular with the Pakistani population, and even less so among factions of the military and intelligence services. How mainstream those factions are will be seen in the coming days. Any threatening action by India will result in a movement or reaction by Pakistan away from Afghanistan and toward India, which will upset the US. Any significant action against the Taliban or other militant Islamic factions may result in a failed state or elimination of the civilian government. A failure to act in any meaningful way will result in increased US cross-border attacks, which will also stir public opinion against the civilian government.

Afghanistan / Iraq. Directly related to the former, Obama will have to deal with realities in Afghanistan -- namely, that without a significant increase in troop levels or a drastic change in policy, the US will not win in Afghanistan. The Taliban is too entrenched in "off limits" areas to directly engage. Without NATO involvement (see above) or Pakistani compliance, the US will have to go it alone -- a proposition most of the population is not ready to face. If the Indo-Pakistani crisis develops into a real mess, the options for the US in Afghanistan will rapidly decrease. The Bush administration is preparing for this already. Gen. Petraeus has already began to float indications of negotiations of some sort to reconcile Taliban factions into the existing government. This is very similar to the recent about-face the Bush administration did on their stance with Iran in the face of the Russian crisis. As Russia asserts itself, other geopolitical issues must be reprioritized. US "agreements" with Iran and Iranian factions in Iraq led to a not-good-but-OK solution in Iraq. If not a US-friendly government, Iraq will at least be, for now, a US-neutral state. Obama will be left with this tenuous arrangement and will be the deciding factor in the future of Iraq. Again, this future is largely out of his control, as most of his options will be reactionary.

And that doesn't even begin to factor in all of the mess on the economic front -- all the better, too, because he seems hell-bent on following the path of FDR and the New Deal. It wouldn't make his future look any brighter.

The biggest problem for Obama is going to be that the decisions he must make have no happy answers, particularly for his base. He will be, as all successful politicians, a pragmatist. This is why his cabinet has been largely Clinton retreads and middle-ground people. This will make a lot of people happy, but it will (and has) infuriate large portions of his base. He will have to consolidate his base of power while navigating through decisions that have no win-win solutions. We'll see how he does -- and how long it is before people evaluate Bush fairly.


Matt said...

W. isn't going to go down as a president defined by just the day. His administration will also be defined by being incompetent enough to ignore the warnings that led to it.

He'll be defined by misleading a nation into war, and cherry picking evidence extracted from drunkards, liars and shadow pr agencies in order to legitimize a pre-emptive invasion, occupation, and subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

He'll be defined by the retribution his administration wraught on the people that dared to speak up in dissent.

He'll be defined by further inflaming the Muslim world, and creating more terrorists than there ever were before:

He'll be defined by his response (or lack thereof) to the victims of Katrina. He'll be defined by the meltdown of the economy. He'll be defined by the orwellian redefinition of the meaning of words in order to justify illegal torture, imprisonment and warrantless wiretapping on ordinary americans.

He'll be defined by the massive fraud that is the war in Iraq and the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars he allowed the Pentagon to flush down the "democracy building" toilet like so much shit. see here:

He'll be defined by being the worst steward of the environment .


The only good this guy EVER did was increase funding for AIDS in Africa. Now he'll be defined as the only president to have two shoes thrown at him at a press conference (on his so called "victory lap" to Iraq no less):

Dubya is without question the WORST PRESIDENT EVER (yes, worse than Nixon)!! Bush should have stuck with something he sucked less at, like acquiring and owning a baseball team with his daddy's money. I almost feel bad for the guy. ALMOST. (until i realize how much he's f--ked up our country)

k2aggie07 said...

I would go into detail about why most of the stuff you posted is so much malarky, but isn't worth the effort. I wrote a post about upcoming foreign policy challenges and you responded hate for the outgoing president. Perfect case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

It also doesn't help your case that you're citing articles from 2005 and 2006...indicating that, by and large, history has forgotten quite a bit about him already.

Just out of curiosity, what is Tyler remembered for? Or Taylor? How about Arthur?

Try not to be quite so narrow minded. It is unlikely that history will remember much of anything about George W Bush - whatever your partisan beliefs may be.

PS: It really undercuts your argument to use Nixon as the benchmark for worst president ever. Nixon? Really?

Matt said...

First of all, I responded with "hate" (which is more than justified by his actions as president) because, in briefly summarizing America's recent presidents, you chose to slime the Democratic ones, and skim over the Republicans. I was merely adding what I thought the vast majority of the people in the world will remember him for... 9/11 sure -- incompetence, corruption, cronyism, and abuse of power -- most definitely. I will never forgive him for what he did to my country.

Arthur, Tyler and Taylor huh? Great comparisons to extremely obscure presidents that nobody remembers. None of them invaded and occupied two countries... I'm pretty sure thats why nobody cares. You've gotta be kidding me.

Yes, Nixon was the worst president of the 20th century... sorry! He was the only president to resign for god's sake. I should have been more historically accurate and gone for Buchanan, maybe that would have made you happier. But I didn't know you were a presidential historian (on top of being a climate expert, economist, and all-around boy genius)-- yes, sarcasm.

Here is the difference between you and me. You are a hyper-partisan individual with blinders on and one eye open (as the bush administration said yesterday of the NYT). Obama is dissappointing me to the max with this whole Blagojevich crap and not releasing the full report on his involvement. That's bullshit. Never once have I ever read a post or comment from you that even remotely criticized the rampant corruption in your party.

P.S. if you want me to send you articles from 2008, i can do that. i didn't know history ran on a two year cycle. i didnt have all the time in the world to find the most up-to-date, freshest information. if you can find me anything that disputes the info in those articles, i will concede the point. but you didnt read them, and you won't because you don't trust anyone who's name isn't Hannity, Krauthammer or Limbaugh. i love this back and forth... its fun pointing out how utterly wrong you are about everything.

k2aggie07 said...

Again, it wasn't supposed to be a comprehensive review of the Bush presidency. Actually, the post wasn't even about Bush at all. I mentioned him once, briefly, in passing. Then there were a few hundred words on upcoming foreign policy decisions that are going to land in Obama's lap.

You call me a hyperpartisan, but I fail to see how outlining the current state of affairs in the world can be partisan at all. These are the challenges that exist right now, they are the same no matter who is in the White House, and they will require unpopular decisions. How is that in any way partisan? And what on earth does Rush have to do with it?

Did you even read the post?

Matt said...

Of course I read it. Everything else was pretty much matter-of-fact, and its a very well written post. I'm just being a thorn in your side. This is a running debate and isn't specifically about the context of one post. When I get bored and feel like arguing, I jump on here, read the most recent post and pick apart the statements that I disagree with and rarely mention the things that I do agree with (but whats the fun in that?). The overall theme of Obama's inevitable political pragmatism in the post was right on point. It's just frustating to me when someone so smart refuses to acknowledge how bad things have gotten and it seems to me that you would rather forget the last 8 years, who was in charge, and what they could have done differently. I think you're next post should take a critical look backwards instead of forwards.

I'll try not to be so dickish about it next time but you have to understand that my passion for being so critical of Bush and Neocons in general comes from a real place, based on facts and reason, and isn't some kind of horrible disease that afflicts just me and my liberal freinds. Bush is still president, and he isn't just some unlucky SOB that was dealt a bad hand... he had a real substantive impact on this country, and not for the better. His administrations legacy is being written now, and I'll be damned if anyone tries to rewrite or downplay his role in history.

Федоренко said...

Global crisis as Russians see it
The corridors in office buildings have either pluses or minuses. Let’s not speak about minuses but about pluses. Everybody knows each other; you can hear helloes, greetings, goodmornings.

But the last few months silence dominates here.

Crowds of clients just disappeared, nobody enters and asks:”Sorry, where can I find?..” , there are no more strangers smoking in common rest rooms, girls from nearby offices don’t rush in asking to change money for a change. The director of real estate office drooped off, you can’t hear scissors and hairdryers from a hairdressing salon, and women from the office you never could spell its name frequently hang “Closed for today” card. People drink a lot in the offices and it’s impossible to breathe in smoking areas. Visits of Santa and parties had been cancelled this year.

Anonymous said...

Everyone fastens where there is gain.........................................

オテモヤン said...


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