Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Another Look At Obama's Cabinet

An interesting article from Middle East analyst and reporter Robert Dreyfuss takes a critical look at Obama's cabinet picks and how the neocons could still be calling the shots with Obama on Iran.
A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners and neo-cons expects Obama's proposed talks with Iran to fail - and they're already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of US strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country.

Once the future negotiations break down, as they are convinced will happen, they propose that Washington quickly escalate to war-like measures, including a US Navy-enforced embargo on Iranian fuel imports and a blockade of that country's oil exports. Finally, of course, comes the strategic military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran that so many of them have wanted for so long.

It's tempting to dismiss the hawks now as twice-removed from power: first, figures like John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were purged from top posts in the George W Bush administration after 2004; then the election of Obama and the announcement on Monday of his centrist, realist-minded team of establishment foreign policy gurus seemed to nail the doors to power shut for the neo-cons, who have bitterly criticized the president-elect's plans to talk with Iran, withdraw US forces from Iraq, and abandon the reckless "war on terror" rhetoric of the Bush era.

When it comes to Iran, however, it's far too early to dismiss the hawks. To be sure, they are now plying their trade from outside the corridors of power, but they have more friends inside the Obama camp than most people realize. Several top advisers to Obama - including Tony Lake, United Nations ambassador-designate Susan Rice, Tom Daschle and Dennis Ross, along with leading Democratic hawks like Richard Holbrooke, close to vice president-elect Joe Biden or secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton - have made common cause with war-minded think-tank hawks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and other hardline institutes.

Last spring, Tony Lake and Susan Rice, for example, took part in a WINEP "2008 Presidential Task Force" study which resulted in a report entitled, "Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen US-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge". The Institute, part of the Washington-based Israel lobby, was founded in coordination with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and has been vigorously supporting a confrontation with Iran. The task force report, issued in June, was overseen by four WINEP heavyweights: Robert Satloff, WINEP's executive director, Patrick Clawson, its chief Iran analyst, David Makovsky, a senior fellow, and Dennis Ross, an adviser to Obama who is also a WINEP fellow.

Endorsed by both Lake and Rice, the report opted for an alarmist view of Iran's nuclear program and proposed that the next president set up a formal US-Israeli mechanism for coordinating policy toward Iran (including any future need for "preventive military action"). It drew attention to Israeli fears that "the United States may be reconciling itself to the idea of 'living with an Iranian nuclear bomb'," and it raised the spurious fear that Iran plans to arm terrorist groups with nuclear weapons.
Obama has been as belligerent as Clinton was when it comes to Iran. He has made several strong statements completely backing the Israeli position on Iran as a clear and present danger to the Jewish state. He has said on a number of occasions that Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

Remember, Obama's pick for America's chief diplomat is a woman who said publicly not more than eight months ago that she would nuke Iran should Israel be attacked by Iranian nukes.

There's every reason to believe that under Obama, our relationship with Iran will only worsen and could lead to just the kind of massive escalation against Iran that the neocons are hoping and planning for.

Here is hoping cooler heads prevail in the Oval Office.

Nasty Neighbors With Nukes

Indian-Pakistani relations are about at the worst place they've been since they almost came to blows a few years ago. There's a preponderance of evidence pointing to the theory that the Mumbai terrorists received several months of training in Pakistan itself.
A former Defense Department official said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan’s Army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no specific links had been uncovered yet between the terrorists and the Pakistani government.

His disclosure came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held meetings with Indian leaders in New Delhi and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with their Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad, in a two-pronged effort to pressure Pakistan to cooperate fully in the effort to track down those responsible for the bloody attacks in Mumbai last week.

Also on Wednesday, a “fully functional” bomb was found and defused at a major Mumbai train station that had reopened days earlier, the Mumbai authorities announced. The discovery raised terrifying questions about why the authorities had failed to find it all this time.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people marched through Mumbai, both mourning the at least 173 dead and protesting the failures of Indian politicians and security services to protect citizens.

Ms. Rice strove to balance demands on both countries. She said that Pakistan had a “special responsibility” to cooperate with India and help prevent attacks in the future, here and elsewhere. At the same time, she warned India against hasty reaction that would yield what she called “unintended consequences.”

“The response of the Pakistani government should be one of cooperation and of action,” she said at an evening news conference in New Delhi with her Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee. “Any response needs to be judged by its effectiveness in prevention and also by not creating other unintended consequences or difficulties.”

Mr. Mukherjee said his government was convinced that the attackers and their “controllers” came from Pakistan. He said he had conveyed to Ms. Rice “the feeling of anger and deep outrage in India” and said that his government was prepared to act “with all the means at our disposal” to protect Indian territory and citizens.

Both American and Indian authorities have concluded that there was little doubt that the Mumbai attacks were directed by militants inside Pakistan, and Indian officials have said they have identified three or four masterminds of the attack, including a leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Yusuf Muzzamil.
If this is true, then we could very well have another war on our hands here. If this had happened in the US, right now we'd be lobbing a hell of a lot of missiles, bullets, bombs and troops into the tribal regions of Waziristan.

From Park To Reverse

A new CNN poll out ahead of tomorrow's Big 3 automaker Congressional hearings is more bad news for Detroit.
A new national poll suggests that six in 10 Americans oppose using taxpayer money to help the ailing major U.S. auto companies.

Sixty-one percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday are dead set against the federal government providing billions of dollars in assistance to the automakers, while 36 percent favor such a bailout.

The poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday, also indicates that a majority of Americans, 53 percent, don't think government assistance for the automakers would help the U.S. economy.

"Only 15 percent say that they would be immediately affected if the auto companies went bankrupt," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Seven in 10 say that a bailout would be unfair to American taxpayers."

Evidence strongly suggests that the Big 3 CEOs slit their own throats last month.
In early November, polls indicated that nearly half the public supported federal assistance to the big automakers when the issue first came before Congress. But evidence in surveys from other organizations suggested that the poor performance by executives from GM, Ford and Chrysler at congressional hearings, and the admission that they had flown in private jets to get there, resulted in a steep drop in support for the aid.
Even if the Big 3 do come up with a plan, the fact of the matter is they got into this mess by making cars Americans didn't want to buy, or couldn't afford to buy, and Americans who do buy cars aren't going to buy them from a company that most likely won't be around in 2009, much less five or ten years down the road.

Chrysler and GM say without billions in loans before the end of the month, they're goners. Ford may survive but not without the manufacturing subcontracting infrastructure that they share with GM and Chrysler. Short of a protectionist government backlash against foreign car companies, I don't see how the Big 3 can retool fast enough to survive without taking tens of billions in government cash.

And even so, if you're going to buy a new car on a 4 or 5 year loan and need that car to make it ten years or more, you're not going to be looking at a GM or Chrysler vehicle right now. No way. Should these companies go bankrupt and reorganize, loan companies will stop making loans on their products. They're all but done.

Which is depressing, because the practical upshot is if the Big 3 go under, the job losses will number up to 5 million more Americans out of work in this dismal economy. Some tough choices are going to have to be made well ahead of Obama's inauguration.

This January On CBS

Headline: "Bill Clinton says he'll stay out of Hillary's way".

Man, that sounds like a setup for a sitcom to me.

"Obama may be in charge of the country and Hillary may be America's chief diplomat, but that was before the wacky fun began! Bill Clinton may be the ex-President, but he's still the Partymaster-in-Chief in 2009's newest comedy smash, Big Dog Runnin'!"


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