Tag Archives: Middle East

Allen West – Who Is Leading America?

AS EVENTS UNRAVEL, WHO IS LEADING AMERICA?

By Allen West (Scribe) on March 22nd, 2011
Greetings constituents, fellow Floridians, and all Americans across our great land. It is again time for our weekly Congressional update. As I travel throughout the district, I certainly appreciate the feedback on these missives, and even the emails and support from those outside our district who are receiving these reports.
There are those who feel the issues facing America are not threatening, certainly not of immediate concern. As I did my regular Saturday morning run along Fort Lauderdale beach this weekend, I pondered a simple question: “Who is leading America?”
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Serious New Threat From Muslim Brudderhood

 

 
        
    


WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!

This morning the Muslim Brotherhood warned the United States that if  the United States meddling in the Middle East continued, they intend to cut off America’s supply of 7-11, and Motel 6 managers.

If this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next, followed by Dell, AT&T, and AOL customer service reps.

Finally, if all else fails, they have threatened not to send us any more presidents, either.

It’s gonna get ugly, people.

~Steve~       A Big  H/T   The   I- Man  


Now That is some Hat


 
 
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The Coming Collapse of the United States

Time for today’s “Let’s scare the crap out of our readers” story. 😀
This one I found on “Before it’s News.”
Please watch the video at bottom. It will kind of make you feel bad for an armed robber.
By The Dollar Vigilante (Reporter)
Friday, February 18, 2011 4:21
I received a lot of feedback about my interesting day in the land of the free yesterday.  Most were to tell me of similar horror stories they had witnessed.  But, some people suggested I must be exaggerating – or even made up the story completely.
To that, I offer some photo evidence.

Let's see, we have 3 cops for bringing a drink out side, mean while at the gas station...


A number of my colleagues from the conference witnessed me being taken down last night for having walked outside of a bar with my drink for a few moments and Your Trusty Chief Editor Being Attended to by the Authorities –
Interestingly, just after this, I walked into a gas station to ask someone for directions (trying to find a place I could go where I was not banned for 30 days).  The girl working at the store looked upset and was running around and trying to call someone on her mobile phone.  I asked her what was going on.  She said she had just gotten robbed.
I asked her if she was ok and if there was anything I could do and she told me, “No, it’s okay, this happens all the time.”
I asked her what she meant.  A few times per year?
“No, almost every night,” she replied, almost embarrassed.
Read the rest Here
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R4xL3AjSLvM]
~Steve~

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Beltway Insider Looks At Egyptian Unrest & the Failure of U.S. Policy

This is from one of my e-correspondents who wants be to be known as an anonymous “observer inside the Beltway.” He is not just an observer; he has worked long in the Beltway, most likely within the State Department.
In this missive, “Insider” describes a U.S. foreign policy apparatus that is distressingly out-of-touch and manipulated by our very enemies. Our government has relied and is still relying on the Muslim Brotherhood — no friend to the United States, Israel, and Western civilization — for intelligence! “Insider” also points out what we already know — the collusion between the Left and Radical Islam.
Since “Insider” wrote this as a stream-of-consciousness e-mail — with many “beltway” bureacratese acronyms — instead of as a polished publishable piece, I did some very minor editing to enhance his writing.
~Eowyn

Some of us (in media, thinktanks, academia, government) have been in a running dialogue about the recent events in Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. A theme has been the range of possible spill-on effects across the region, the Arab and Muslim world, and our allies and enemies near and far.  
For a recap, here’s the scoop on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin, or simply the ‘Ikhwan’ (brothers):
c. 1928, Egypt; supportive cooperators and combatants of Hitler (and Mussolini); fought in initial war against Israel; active in +- 89 countries; inspiration and/or parent of a working quorum of U.S. SDGTE’s (Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entities) to include AlQaeda, PIJ, Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Sudanese ruling front, etc.; established U.S. support network (CAIR, ISNA, MAS, CSID, and others, many of which, and their leaders/cadres, are indicted/unindicted co-conspirators or convicted, deported or fugitives in U.S. federal terrorism cases. This whilst the groups remain trainers and partners with the FBI, State, DHS, national law enforcement, chaplains in the US military and prison system, human rights commission members in many jurisdictions including NYC, etc.); Homologue apparatus exists in many countries of operation, to include major institutes, banks, Islamic movements and parties, e.g., that of MB senior Anwar Ibrahim and his family in Malaysia. 
Previous MB attempts to overthrow the Government of Egypt (GOE) include assassination attempts on Nasser and his PM (successful), Sadat (successful), and Mubarak. MB has access to billions of dollars of funds. Increasingly cooperative with shi’ite Iran/Hez’b’allah (Party of God), vice only Saudi/OIC and sunni dominated countries/groups.
MB’s End game goal: Establish the caliphate and achieve global governance under Islam.
MB’s Motto: the very democratic, moderate, pluralistic and inclusionary verses of:

Allah is our objective.
The Prophet is our leader.
Qur’an is our law.
Jihad is our way.
Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

[For a reasonably fair and accurate, well footnoted summary, see the main MB Wikipedia entry, and notably MB original documents and US trial evidence in the footnotes.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood#cite_note-24.  Pro-MB authors (Leiken, Graham Fuller, others), are in the mix and a dance card is useful, but the overall picture emerges.] See also, www.GlobalMBreport.com
Irrespective of the accuracy of The Telegraph‘s story that the U.S. cleverly has been planning/aware of this effort in Egypt for 3 years, working with “democracy activists” — who are rather clearly the Muslim Brotherhood (for which there is significant evidence) — it serves at least to highlight unsettling trends. Not least re our inability, in our present state, to consider, contain or even react in any effective way to these events and effects — of which there seems to be endless permutations.  
It should be noted that the Obama Administration has been all over the map on the issue in recent days, to include contradictory statements by the Pres, VP, SecState, and spokesmen as to human rights, Tunisia, whether Mubarak is or isn’t a dictator, whether the GOE is stable, whether we will suspend US aid, whether we support Arab world “people’s” movements (no in Iran, yes in Tunisia, maybe in Egypt, etc.), whether the claims of such movements are legitimate or not, etc. Not to mention inconsistencies, silence, reversals on similar subjects in the case of Lebanon, Syria, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc. Crisis management is not their forté and the Middle East has not been the scene of Administration victories. 
Re the “activists,” interlocutors and agents provocateur, aka, Muslim Brotherhood cadres: Virtually our whole approach to understanding of, and ‘outreach” to, the Arab and Muslim world, at home and abroad, has been contracted out — increasingly formally (funding, billets inside our decision and analytic loop, not just advisory, seats at tables, etc.) — to our enemies at home and abroad for years now, notably CIA, State, INR, and domestically — the Bureau, DHS, and the soft powers (NED, USIP).   Same for the UK.  The history of the UK and U.S. services, and others, over a long period stretching to the 1920-40’s, with the MB is another topic. Suffice it to say it is long and convoluted; but the point is that the engagement is of long standing, which might raise more questions than it answers.
The main, or even exclusive interlocutor, in Egypt and generally in the Muslim basket, is directly and indirectly the MB in all its disguises. As Melanie Phillips put it in Londonistan“we have long contracted our understanding of the extremists to the extremists”, with the predictable result.  At the very definitional level, the enemy has come to designate the parameters of the engagement and debate, to a remarkable extent. It is all so handy and timely, and certainly saves us having to read their damnable history, books and reams of doctrine and to learn their secret language, locate the Hijaz on a map,  etc.  It even runs the Islamic World polling operation of Pew and other major opinion firms who in turn stoke our policy and informational data inputs and objectives, and our broadcasts to the Muslim/Arab world, our Democracy/Civil Society money in Iraq and the greater MidEast/NoAfrica region. How very useful these MB friends and “assets” are.  
A consensus seems to emerge among us that, sadly, none of this is likely to get us what the (US Govt/architects) imagine.  If the recent Obama awarding of $60B arms to Saudi was part of this fantastic calculus for replacing dictatorships, then this is even dumber. In any case, the MB have no intent of being our partner, or dealing in any normative context of quid pro quo beyond whatever is strictly in their interest — which self-evidently does not include moderating or restraining world Islamist trends and capabilities. The Islamists are in particular need of a serious propaganda and recruitment boost on both the political and armed side, and now they are getting it.  Losing in Cairo, or a setback there of some sort, will only redouble the bracing effects, there and globally, of a new shot of adrenalin for their ummah-wide aspirations. I don’t expect them to lose, or to be held back for long, but rather to be strengthened overall.  
The Mubarak regime is weakened already, the police and military have fissures and know their future lies beyond the 80-year-old weakened Mubarek. The concession on the resignation of the Cabinet came quickly. The armed forces are unlikely to crush the MB — managing revolutions is notoriously difficult. But in such fluid situations the advantage most always accrues to the party with the most fervent willingness to ruthlessly apply the level of violence needed to prevail, especially if they have advantage of initiative. It is not a game for moderates, nor is there any serious “moderate” opposition in evidence. Such moderates as exist, who may hope to influence the MB, will suffer the usual fate of being swept along, co-opted, used and discarded by the revolutionary elite once power is consolidated.  
Revolutions also can benefit from a focus on external enemies — safety valves for the unrest they inherit, create and cannot quickly enough manage or suppress. Eliminating the border blockade and any pretense of partnership with Israel/U.S. in a peace process, recognizing a Palestinian state, and moving a war against Israel, are just some of the logical options for early action by an Islamist regime.  U.S. influence in Egypt, as in the rest of the region, is fast eroding and nearly impossible to advance in effective timeframes given the recent and near term realities and the overwhelming contingencies of the fortnight (Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, the Hariri tribunal, civil war within Lebanon, war with Israel, the Iranian program, to name some obvious ones).
Thus the table could soon shift, all over the globe, in the Islamists’ favor — with too few offsets for our side, even were we prescient and resourced enough to be able to exploit such.  
Part of our failure to ever conduct a serious global net-assessment of the Islamists or otherwise examine them in the global context — indeed to view them as global at all — was/is often rationalized as “We need to deal with them in Egypt, don’t trouble us about the rest”.  In the 1990’s, State Dept essentially said the same thing about elevating Hamas (officially the MB)  viz Arafat and the ‘process’ — “We need a 2nd ‘party’ to have a Palestinian democratic entity, and one we can deal with that has legitimacy and isn’t so corrupt — Hamas is it!”  (they speak English, went to school in the West, understand the media and can be trusted to run AID projects efficiently, are good organizers, earn us points in the Arab Street, etc. — same thing State said to justify support to the legacy parties of the CCCP in Russia in the same timeframe). I was at the table as a Democracy/Governance Advisor at State at that time as these things were said and programmed.  
Recent US Govt-sponsored efforts have whitewashed the MB by selective reporting, notably the IC-sponsored Robert Leiken paper in Foreign Affairs, which strove to portray the MB as a political party, democratic and moderate, while acknowledging its role as the predominant Islamist movement in the world. This report was anchored by numerous interviews, yet curiously done without reference to the three most important leadership cadre of the MB –then Supreme Guide, Atkef; the lead cleric, Qaradawi; or the chief fundraiser, Nada — whose positions repeatedly and consistently are opposite to those represented by Leiken and his sponsors (a charter founder of the Social Democrats USA, Leiken’s record with the Sandinistas was similar, and very late into the regime).  So the belief that another Iran won’t happen and that the revolutionary forces are moderate and manageable, gets another run. 
This “pragmatic” approach — along with factors such as Islam’s millenia of institutionalized D & D (in the religion’s books, shari’a, statecraft and culture); the IC’s Saudi black box (and the cash box of billions of dollars in Saudi funding since 1975 to ensure Islamist domination of all aspects of Islam, thus ensuring only the radicals are heard and effective while the chimerical ‘moderates’ are defunded, displaced, demoralized and discredited); the overall Arabist tilt and romance in the U.S. foreign service arms and the academy; and, the brilliant playing of the PC and fake “civil liberties-Muslim bigotry” elements domestically by the MB’s apparat orchestra — abetted by our witling and/or willing bureaucrats across government, media and academia, all have combined to blind us to the realities of the Islamist vision, resources, capabilities and networks and to their avowedly global project. In the process, our approach has also smothered and penalized any who ask the inappropriate or inconvenient questions (whether in the IC, Law enforcement, agencies, congress, media, publishing and the culture at-large). A controlled and shaded mirror guides our analysis under the cover of providing us the needed crescent of light.    
It will become increasingly hard to turn all this around, especially if Egypt does become MB soon, and as we go from crisis to crisis along a shifting, reactive, policy line (Saudi, Israel, Turkey, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, etc.).  Ponder whether we would then be better positioned for managing the dead “peace process’; affecting the leadership transitions in Saud, et al.; countering Iran’s nuclear program; holding the oil price in a reasonable range; containing Turkey’s Islamist government (and WMD development); or, prevailing in policy and security goals re Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, or among Central Asian Muslims, Nigeria’s Muslims, and all the relevant pipelines, governments, WMD’s, SLOCS, MB offspring and related Islamist terrorist groups, etc. 
Or imagine whether, after a MB-takeover in Cairo, France would be better able to manage its hundreds of Muslim “no go” areas, or England, Spain, Germany and the Benelux advancing increasingly needed countermeasures. Consider effects on Right-wing, Nazi, anti-immigrant and already heightened anti-semetic/anti-Israel activity, and other sectarian reactions and concomitant stressors, in a Europe already fraught with domestic pressures re economy/jobs, fuel supply/pricing, sovereign/unsustainable debt, immigration/welfare, aging populations and negative birth rates.  Imagine the effects in, say, the Balkans, Malaysia, Indonesia, the India-Pakistan subcontinent, and in energy patches of FSU (not to mention the Russian military and its Muslim cohort or the vast Muslim population proximate to the Moscow ring road).  None of these situations will be ameliorated by a renewed Islamist energy, added state sponsorship for Islamist fronts and terror groups, or the cascading effects of wars, blockades, commodity shortages, Muslim led strikes (Marseilles, e.g.), an Iran and Russia reaping windfall oil profits and arms sales markets, and a visibly weakened U.S. authority/credibilityand an attenuated crises of confidence generally among friends and allies.
If it is the US/Western assumption that the MB in Egypt or elsewhere is “a kind of solution,” then we are in deeper trouble considerably sooner than expected.  
It is possible that this might turn out to be the most grievous failure of strategy, intelligence and analysis in our time.  It may also turn out to be among the most rapidly and deeply effective influence operations ever perpetrated against us.  [The MB came here informally in the early 1960’s, and began formalizing institutions in the early 1980’s, and entering government and dominating dialogue in the 1990’s — all under foreign, illegal and criminal sponsorship and funding, and while actively criminally providing material support to global terrorism, including that aimed at the US and its allies. Truly an impressive feat from most any applicable metric.] 
One objective of the series of Senate hearings and other investigative, analytic, law enforcement support and reporting efforts that colleagues and I led and supported in 2003, was to set the predicate for an independent B-team analysis of Islam and Arab related intelligence, since so clearly much had been wrong, ignored or sidetracked.  This certainly would have quickly come to focus on the global MB and the strength and growth rates of its efforts. Two former Directors of Central Intelligence were willing to oversee such a blue-ribbon effort; no such comprehensive review or competitive analysis effort, to my knowledge, has occurred.  Nor has there been any similarly aimed top level coordination against the global MB/Islamist target.  Instead, considerable efforts have been devoted to loading the deck in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the requisite zig-zagging around the Sauds, while the majority of daily IC effort otherwise applied to things Muslim/Arab is devoted directly to warfighter support, something limned as “Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Iran’s nuclear program and some marginal drug/terrorist/threat finance support and WMD possibilities — all results of Islamist growth and depth earlier misjudged. 
Yet, almost assuredly, there now will be no time, even if demanded by Congress, for reviews, new assessments, independent forward thinking, all-points questioning, the sponsorship of rapid mastery of Islam or Arabic/regional certification programs, enhanced CI [counter intelligence] training and Islam awareness programs.  All instead will be invested in managing the daily crisis traffic and threat streams, defending the mistakes and investments already made, and maintaining endless cycles of rationalization and delusion, and general political spin.  The damage will evolve slowly and unevenly, continuing a long pattern. Disasters will be attributed to uncontrolled ‘unforseeable’ forces. We will adapt without retribution, reform or meaningful correctives — short of a 9/11 of some sort, and even then. Perhaps the defeat of Israel, who knows?   
It becomes a thing beyond Orwell — or Fred Ikle’s ‘semantic infiltration’ or V. Bukovsky’s remarking (speaking about arms control with the Soviets) on “the West’s need for delusion” — when we find ourselves rationalizing the Muslim Brotherhood as a force for democracy and moderation. And when, from our institutionalized post-religious, post-ideological, post-everything viewpoint, we imagine that we might usefully manage our rather global equities among the soon-to-be 1-in-4 persons who are Muslim (Pew’s latest projection for 2020) through the Muslim Brotherhood’s tender offices and missions. Such delusion makes our China policy seem considered, deeply informed and sober.  Fools who tried to hustle the East.
All enemies will now redouble their hustling of us –from China and Russia to DPRK and Iran, sensing, as jackals and rug merchants alike preternaturally do, the weakened tourist lost in the sands — the easy mark, the overextended, exhausted and fever-blinded grasping hand.  
Of course, the situation may be in varying degrees more happily positive than suggested. Yes, Mubarak or the military may find an interim hold on power, sufficient for U.S. policy to sort itself out.  Yes, the MB if in power will have to divert attention to managing Egypt, feeding its people, controlling its military, refining MB 3.0 and the “democratic mask”,  balancing the local of Arab world and the larger Islamist project, etc. The MB and the Islamist project could be diminished for a time by this, more likely over a dangerous amount of very bloody time. Its capacity for adaptation is not fully understood. Yes, China’s masses may be stirred, the CCP may be weakened, its military empowered more rapidly or the whole friable mess overturned (one can’t bear to think how unprepared we are for that!).  Or some unknowable internal chain of struggle may be set off within and among actors such as Iran or Saudi, or over time between the MB and the rest of Islam, that is somehow beneficial to some U.S. interest.  An awakening in Western governments and culture might begin, or a Presidency here or there be shortened. We may develop our own massive stores of oil and gas, whilst the Saudis run out, altering our calculus about the region notably.  There are many more possible outcomes. There is too much room for the accidents and miscalculations that can easily lead to wars. There is not much resiliency in the system, here or there.
One has to do what one can with any new hand, however dealt.  But it is always harder to play catch-up as MacArthur neatly postulated in his famous remark about the history of failure in war being a result of ‘too late comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy; too late in realizing the mortal danger; too late in preparedness; too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance, too late standing with one’s friends.’  A cliche for IR [international relations] students perhaps, but all too apt in the current circumstance, as we approach the end of what, in the larger context, might be adjudged a wasted decade regarding this enemy and our exertions afield, post-9/11.  If Mubarak’s Egypt goes, many allies, potential allies and enemies alike will have cause to more deeply question the reliability and credibility of the U.S., beyond the personality of this Presidency, and to consider alternatives. 
All for now. Back to the wires, Al Jazeera, and the rest. Comments welcomed. For various reasons, including the growing list size and members, (sensitive/institutional positions and equities), it is best that any responses come bcc’d and with an indicator as to whether they may be shared, attributed or not.
All best, 
ps. As some of you have pointed out, meanwhile the tanks, troop carriers, gas canisters and related paraphernalia and electronics deployed against the crowds are in the main U.S. origin or license (M1A1 tanks are made their under license, for instance). Those in Iran are Chinese, and those in China are ours and Israel’s.  Makes it all quite complex.   

Domestic influence codicil:
Attempts to view global Islam and its main motive force in the tired, routine and largely irrelevant lenses of the Cold War abound.  EuroIslam/a third way? MB as Social Democrats equivalent? Catholic and western formalist religious critiques recast as points of departure to analyze a wholly different religion which in its fundamentals rejects western rationality?  Memes of Civil rights, decolonialization, poverty remediation, cross cultural exchange and interfaith dialogue? 
These, and the other self-mirroring and studied tropes of the IR, aid and talkshop world have been generally reflections more of American obsessions and social science fashions than of the subject target of effort and its culture.  They will continue to be both 1) ineffective for us and 2) useful for the Islamists.  Useful for them because they are thus better funded, credentialed, and validated to be further introduced into our analytic, informational and decision loops whilst they gain intelligence on us and reinforce our misguided beliefs; and, because it buys them time and tactical room to exploit here and abroad, which for them are one line, Dar al Harb, the zone of war.  Ineffective for us because our approach insulates the MB from normal Law Enforcement and IC/Counterintelligence attention, reduces them in our conception as any level of threat in favor of viewing them as a client and lever whose confidence and favor we may gain by empowering them further.  The trade off is the cut off of most all critical thinking or review — not to mention limiting useful collection/tasking, purposeful and effective infiltration and turning, etc. 
So, this wilful distortion perpetrated by the MB and by ourselves, precisely blocks effective “connecting of the dots”. It is its own virtual Wall, to unpleasantly recall the Reno/Holder device. This is the case whether for a deplaning panty bomber who thus cannot be interrogated effectively and timeously, an influence agent in place, an MB appointee or judge, a psychotic military officer or sociopathic federal agent gone ‘native’, or an insider threat target (or an MB investment) in a vital government or private sector critical infrastructure — virtually none of whom have been, or can at present expect to be, subject to the normal scrutiny, review, procedures or questioning for fear of an unfavorable federal case, a private tort, a slap down from an interested agency, or simply an overwhelming MB-orchestrated public reaction which results in any of the above.
This new mau-mau has been fine-tuned with guidance from the old New Left, the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the remnant Socialist Worker Parties, et al —  and a clutch of their alumni, fresh from Gitmo representation and now in senior appointive slots at DOJ — all practiced at “widening the legal space for the revolution” as their godfather Wm. Kunstler put it. The MB’s experience in Egypt and elsewhere of having to play a behind the scenes, underground and two-faced role, often while banned or exiled — biding time and gathering strength — provides an organic understanding of such subversive approaches, which in turn has firm roots, nomenclature, and positive reinforcement in the religion, from the Koran and foundational authorities, and over time. Such is the MB’s alliance structure in America, its conception of engaging democracy, making alliances with secular elements, waging lawfare and propaganda, and more generally, how best to subvert the U.S. constitutional order.
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A World In Disarray

Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
Are full of passionate intensity.
-W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming

The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) wrote this poem in 1919, mere months after World War I ended and 18 years before the even more ruinous World War II began.
For me, the poem’s opening passage perfectly captures the disquiet and unease we are all feeling about our times. As humanity lurched toward WWII, there were identifiable monsters — Hitler, Hirohito, and their respective stormtroopers — who instigated the aggressions that would soon engulf the world in Inferno. Today, there are no monsters of Hitler’s dimensions to blame. The looming disaster is self-wrought….
~Eowyn

Things Fall Apart
By Walter Russell Mead – The American Interest – November 27, 2010
As World War Two broke out in Poland, WH Auden wrote about the despair of watching “the clever hopes expire/of a low, dishonest decade.” We are not yet at that pass, but Auden’s poem bears re-reading by anybody trying to read the signs of our increasingly dark and troubled times.
There are times when the ideas of the world’s rulers and the institutions through which they govern are adequate to the needs of the era, and there are times–like the present–when they are not. It is not just the Obama administration that seems mentally and even culturally unprepared to understand much less to guide the events now sweeping through the world. In Brussels, Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo and Delhi — to say nothing of Washington –  leaders seem equally clueless, equally committed to outmoded, inaccurate approaches to the issues of our time.
From my earliest posts on this blog, a major theme has been the approach of a dramatic time in human affairs when old certainties, old institutions and old habits of thought will no longer serve. Unfortunately the world’s leaders seem to cling ever more tightly to comfortable old certainties the less sense they make. The collective failure of leadership is most painfully on display at events like the G-20 and NATO summits when world leaders cluster nervously together to have their pictures taken and to issue vapid communiques.  As the year of grace 2010 moves towards its end, the leaders of all the world’s major power centers have lost their way. This makes it unlikely that 2011 will be a quiet year; the human race is headed into what looks more and more like a great storm with captains manifestly not up to the task.
Europe
The European Union is perhaps the most feckless of the world’s power centers. Its currency is built on a foundation of hopeful assumptions that haven’t panned out: for example that countries as disparate in culture and situation as Greece, Germany, Finland, Ireland and Italy can all live happily under a common currency. There has been no shortage of warning signs for the last decade: there was no secret about the housing bubbles in Ireland and Spain. The falsity of Greek statistics was well known, as were the imprudent habits of its governments and the dysfunctional nature of its economic culture.
Yet the Eurocrats in Brussels and their colleagues in the Union’s national capitals took no thought for the morrow: recklessly making no contingency plans for a day of reckoning. The chronic failures in planning and communication that have marked Europe’s deeply flawed response to the developing crisis for the last two years has deeply unsettled markets. Bank stress tests give banks a clean bill of health months before massive meltdowns; national leaders and banking officials make serial errors. In handling financial crises, unity of purpose and speed of action are the basic and irreplaceable elements of any workable strategy. Europe has neither and, I am sorry to observe, the uncoordinated and sloppy behavior of the Union’s various leaders (with a handful of honorable exceptions like Olli Rehn) has not improved as the crisis unfolds. The European political class is clearly not up to its job, and the accelerating decline of Europe’s world role is the natural and inevitable result of their failures to date.
Worse is clearly to come. The rickety Rube Goldberg contraption called the European Union simply cannot handle the stresses that threaten to shake it today. Europe will be very lucky to come out of the present storm without much deeper damage than it has so far sustained.
The key as always is Germany; and while there is no European country better fitted to take on the responsibility, it is far from clear that Germany will rise to the occasion. Germany is economically rich and the stolid determination of German political culture is admirable; the present German government for all its faults is much more competent and farseeing than its predecessor. Germany and its leadership have not, however, yet risen to the measure of Europe’s crisis. Rigidly self-righteous attitudes combined with political inflexibility will not allow Germany to lead Europe out of its current troubles.
Meanwhile, Europe continues its relentless failure to manage urgent challenges at home and abroad. The Europeans are unwilling (and in some cases, unable) to make the investments that would keep NATO strong; the continuing refusal to take Turkey’s application for EU membership seriously further and decisively marginalizes Europe in the Middle East. Wishful thinking cannot substitute for policy when it comes to the question of immigration, and Europe’s deepening demographic crisis ensures not only a future of population decline but of economic decline and welfare state bankruptcy as well.
This is a global tragedy and not merely a regional one; Europe has so much to offer the world, yet every day it is becoming less able to contribute to the common good, less able to play the role that only Europe can play in the construction of a more peaceful, more democratic and more prosperous human order.
China
Europe is not the only place where leaders don’t measure up to the problems. Although China is not as democratically governed as Europe, on the whole the technocrats of Beijing have handled the last twenty years better than the bureaucrats of the EU. Nevertheless Beijing is confronting a confluence of economic, environmental and social challenges that pose problems which even China’s leadership is unlikely to overcome. Arguments about China’s currency undervaluation, while real, miss the main point: Whether China revalues the renminbi or not, its model of rapid growth based on manufactured exports is reaching fundamental limits. China’s customers cannot absorb new products as fast as the Chinese want to make them; we Americans continue to struggle to Costco to do what we can, but our credit cards are maxed out and our home equity lines of credit don’t work that well anymore. We can’t increase our purchases of Chinese goods by ten percent a year — and neither can consumers in the EU. Rising raw material prices combined with consumer fatigue in the malls is squeezing the profitability of Chinese industry just as workers are demanding higher wages. Meanwhile, food price inflation in China is triggering mass anxiety and the financial system appears vulnerable to the kind of bubbles that have wreaked such havoc in the West.
China’s problems go beyond economics. Chinese public opinion, smarting from what it sees as two centuries of humiliation, and now elated by (overblown) press reports of China’s rise, wants its government to follow a more assertive and even aggressive foreign policy. Disputes with Japan, Korea and Vietnam over offshore islands stir deep currents of emotion, and public opinion judges the Chinese government by its ability to prevail in these disputes.
In fact, as I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, China has less room for maneuver in Asia than it appears. From India right through Southeast Asia and around to Korea, Russia and Japan, China’s neighbors worry about its rising power. Any signs of China becoming assertive encourage the neighbors to build up their armed forces and close ranks with Washington. India, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan all now look to the US to organize a regional response to perceived Chinese pressure.
Few governments have been as competent (yes, and sometimes as ruthless and harsh) as China when it comes to managing the challenges of the last twenty years; the problems now rising on the horizon, however, are so far challenging even China’s ability to cope. The rising expectations of its people, the rampant corruption and self-dealing of local officials, the clash between China’s internal reality and its constrained international position, and the growing complexity of an economy and society undergoing the most rapid and unpredictable series of transformations in the history of the world are combining to take the Chinese government well out of its comfort zone.
Looming environmental disasters threaten China’s future, with issues of water, air quality and the usual environmental devastation that accompanies communist governance on a massive scale already taking a toll. The consequences of the one-child policy threaten a demographic disaster as an aging Chinese population will place a growing burden on a society not yet affluent enough to support it.
I have never been one of those who heap criticism on China’s government without acknowledging the genuine difficulties it faces. China has the world’s largest population; between foreign invasion and domestic revolution it has been scarred by two centuries of upheaval and mayhem; the industrial revolution now convulsing the country is more rapid and far-reaching than the industrial revolutions that helped plunge Europe into a century of fratricidal war.
Perhaps China’s leaders look small only because the challenges they face are so large; but at the moment China appears to be groping for a way forward without a lot of success. The problems are mounting; the time available to solve them is not.
Russia
If Europe offers the most shocking example of incompetence, and China faces the greatest possibility of explosion and crisis, Russia’s current suicidal course may be the most tragic example of poor policy intersecting with cultural failure to drive a great people down.
Emerging from the sordid shadows of the Soviet Union, Russia faced four great challenges. It needed to come to terms with the horrors and failures of the past, recognizing the enormous evil that Russia both suffered and inflicted during the Soviet period. Just as Germany had to come to terms with the Nazi past to build a better future after 1945, Russia had to face the ghosts of Bolshevism and Stalin head on. It has failed, and Russian life and culture remain poisoned by the residue of unrepented horrors and uncomprehended crimes.
Second, Russia needed to build a modern and competent state that in turn could provide the framework for a new economy and a new society. Without a full reckoning with the Soviet past — and a full encounter in particular with the evils perpetrated by its security forces — this was not possible. Nevertheless Russia has fallen well short of what it might have accomplished. I remain glad that Vladimir Putin halted the disintegration of the Russian state that was visibly under way during the Yeltsin era, but with every passing year the critical failure of the Putin presidency to build the stable institutions and solidify the rule of law that a genuinely strong Russian state would require becomes more clear — and more costly.
The third task, of building the kind of capitalist economy that could provide its citizens with dignity and affluence, has also been left undone. There is no one who thinks that the rule of law is secure in Russia, or that investors (foreign or domestic) have any real security for their investments. Accumulating failures of governance ensure that Russia cannot enjoy the full benefits of its natural resources and this unhappy society remains a source of concern and confusion for itself and its neighbors.
The fourth task, of finding a suitable world role for a new Russia, has also been decisively botched. Russia has no real friends anywhere in the world; there are those it can bully and those (a much greater number) that it can’t. The United States, Germany and China all seek good relations with Moscow; no one trusts or respects it.  Prime Minister Putin’s recent visit to Germany, a country that quite recently hoped that stronger economic relations with Russia would be a cornerstone of its national strategy, was an embarrassing flop. Putin’s call for a free trade zone including Russia and the EU was dismissed by Chancellor Angela Merkel; the Russian leader reportedly spent more time with the discredited former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (who now works for Gazprom) than in substantive talks with German officials.
Russia’s failures in this department are not simply its own fault. The United States, NATO and the EU have been horribly shortsighted in their Russia policies. Since 1989 there have been two great western projects in Europe: the expansions of both NATO and the EU. NATO expansion was seen by Russia as a great threat; EU expansion has the effect of marginalizing Russia both economically and politically. While Russia’s own many failures and bad behavior did much to determine the west on this course, paying so little heed to Russian interests and sensibilities was unwise; now both Russia and the west must cope with the unpalatable consequences.
Other Powers, Other Problems
One can continue this depressing tour d’horizon. There is Japan, which has floundered for twenty years and is still no closer to rekindling the economic dynamism that once made it look like a credible rival to the United States. Dithering, incompetence, corruption and group-think have turned Japan into a pale shadow of its former self. Sadly, there is no sign of a change.
India’s growth and cohesion are challenged by a worsening culture of corruption and the country’s continuing inability to manage basic challenges like infrastructure. High profile scandals affecting the Commonwealth Games and the telecommunications industry, the persistence of utter misery and deep oppression in much of the countryside, the increasingly chaotic nature of the Indian political system, and the growing geopolitical strains of its rivalries with China and Pakistan are going to make life ever more complex for Indian policymakers.
Neither Israel nor its neighbors seems to have a clear vision for ending the Middle East conflict — or at least managing it. Turkey’s government seems to be missing the opportunity to become the kind of stabilizing force the region desperately needs. In a region that urgently needs rising standards of living for the majority and more cultural and political openness, there is little sign that anybody knows what to do.
About American shortcomings I have written in the past and will be writing again. Our propensity to elect charismatic but inexperienced leaders repeatedly lands us in trouble. We remain steadfastly blind to the deterioration of our long-term fiscal position as we pile unfunded entitlements on top of each other in a surefire recipe for national disaster. We lurch from one ineffective foreign policy to another, while the public consensus that has underwritten America’s world role since the 1940s continues to decay. Our elite seems at times literally hellbent on throwing away the cultural capital and that has kept this nation great and free for so many generations.
Our failings may not be as all-encompassing as Europe’s, as threatening as China’s or as sad and destructive as poor Russia’s — but America has a harder job than these other powers. It is our job, for better or for worse, to provide the world with some kind of security system that can allow the various peoples of the world to work out their destinies and to safeguard an economic system under which humanity as a whole can struggle forward into affluence and hope.
To do that, we must first of all take care of ourselves — and at that basic task we have signally failed.  Beyond that, we must gain a clear sight of our interests abroad, understand how those foreign and in some cases global interests relate to the core foundations of our prosperity and security at home, and then use what leverage we can to work with others to build a world system that works for us and our friends.
Building a better world is the common task of the world’s leading powers, and requires as well the support of the medium and small powers and peoples. At the moment not one power center on earth seems up to the task; it can hardly be surprising under these circumstances that William Butler Yeats’ prophecies about widening gyres and rough slouching beasts seem more compelling than usual.
Auden closed his grim poem with a flickering hope and a challenge. I hope and pray that the generations of today will not know the sick despair of September 1939; if we are to avoid that kind of fate under even uglier circumstances, we need to start demanding more of our leaders — and of ourselves.
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The author, Walter Russell Mead, of the above op-ed concluded with these words: “we need to start demanding more of our leaders — and of ourselves.”
How true. I suggest that Mead begin with himself. This is what Wikipedia says about Mead:

Walter Russell Mead (born 12 June 1952, Columbia, South Carolina) is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations] and was the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College, and is recognized as one of the country’s leading students of American foreign policy…. Mead currently teaches American foreign policy at Yale University. He is a Democrat, and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Election.

~Eowyn

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