Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

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Stray Voltage

As Venezuela slowly starves and the economy has all but shut down, guess who the richest person in the country might be?

The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports.

The figure would make Gabriela Chavez wealthier than media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, whom Forbes named the wealthiest Venezuelan earlier this year with $3.6billion in assets.

I know … purely a coincidence.  But it does prove, if true, that socialism does pay … those in charge (I’m sure this wasn’t something he saved up from his army pay).  The rest?  They get stores with nothing on the shelves and hyper-inflation.  Brilliant.

Jazz Shaw is thinking Hillary may shrug off email flap (he’s speaking purely in a political sense, not if someone grows a pair and actually arrests and indicts her):

The bottom line is that there are a significant number of Americans out there – mostly Democrats, but not all – who seem to be telling us, yes, you’ve made your point. Hillary is all those things you said she was. But what the heck. I’ll vote for her. And one of the major reasons for this is that this email server story simply isn’t resonating with people.

Well, to be fair, it’s not resonating with those people.  The reason it isn’t resonating with other people is they really haven’t heard much about it thanks to the media.  But for those that have, they want the allegations investigated.  Look, yellow dog Democrats are going to vote for their particular yellow dog – regardless of the cur’s pedigree, problems or evidence against it.  In this case I think Clinton will find a minion to take the fall, and, in effect, will shrug it off.  But that doesn’t change Shaw’s point … even if she’s in prison orange, those people will vote for her.

Megan McArdle talks about the nonsense that is going on at colleges everywhere.  That is the cosseting of the student body who have become so fearful of ideas that they don’t like that they invoke “safety” as their concern.

Students demanding that campus life be bowdlerized to preserve their peace of mind seem to believe that the best way to deal with trauma is to avoid any mention of it. But Lukianoff and Haidt argue that this is exactly backward; chronic avoidance breeds terror. The current climate on campus is a recipe for producing fearful adults who are going to have difficulty coping in an adult world. It’s as if we were trying to prepare the next generation of American citizens by keeping them in kindergarten until the age of 23.

I’m not sure that anyone should be surprised.  These are the kids who come from the era of everyone gets a trophy and we don’t keep score so the other team won’t feel bad.  Why in the world would any one expect anything else from them.  When they finally gain the halls of ivy, they’re conditioned to eschew competition.  So the idea of competing ideas, especially ideas they’re not comfortable with, is terrifying.

They’ll do great in the real world, won’t they?

Meanwhile, on another planet:

If Vice President Joe Biden makes the leap into the Democratic presidential race, he could promise that he would serve just one term in the White House, journalist and author Carl Bernstein said Friday.

“And one thing that I keep hearing about Biden is that if he were to declare and say, because age is such a problem for him if he does, I want to be a one-term president. I want to serve for four years, unite Washington. I’ve dealt with the Republicans in Congress all my public life,” Bernstein told CNN’s “New Day.”

“I think there’s a conversation going on to that effect among his aides and friends,” he said. “It could light fire to the current political environment.”

It would be a back-fire, if anything.  Anyway, the circus could use one more clown.

~McQ

Hey Fidel, we don’t owe you a single centavo

Got to love how all this stuff blows up in Obama’s face.  Arrogance and naivety will do it every time.

Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the half-century-old American trade embargo.

Of course, given how poorly they negotiated the deal with Iran and understanding how willing they are to bow down to every enemy the nation has had, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is the reaction from a totalitarian – it’s your fault US that we’re an economic basket case and it is your duty to fix the problem.

And, my guess is he’ll find a sympathetic ear somewhere, even though the “embargo” was the loosest and most ineffective embargo in the history of embargoes. But in the era of blame shifting, what else would you expect from a failed dictator?

Castro wrote: “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations.”

Naturally no word on “compensation” for seized property when Castro took over Cuba.

As for timing – certainly it shows a lack of respect:

Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries’ restoration of diplomatic relations.

Not that this administration has done anything that has gained the respect of friend or foe alike.

~McQ

Is ISIS transforming into a “functioning state?”

According to some, that’s exactly what is happening:

While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.

“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.

Granted, the tools it uses to establish and maintain control are terror and violence, however that’s not much different than hundreds of totalitarian regimes throughout history. And, at this point, it is in its first generation of “rulers”, which means they’re likely to be the most true to their warped “principles”. So corruption, pre se, isn’t yet a problem (they’re too frightened of their own organization to accept bribes, for instance).

Remember history, say the experts:

Drawing on parallels from history, experts say, the group’s violence can be seen in a different light. Mr. Walt mentioned the guillotine of the French Revolution, and the atrocities of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the Communist one in China — imperfect analogies, to be sure, but ones that underscored the violence and oppression that can precede creation of a revolutionary state.

Then there’s Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It finally failed, but the same formula was applied there.

The problem, of course, is this isn’t the way it had to be. Certainly the left will say “if that evil Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, it wouldn’t be that way”. Well with people often disappearing into wood chippers in Saddam’s day, Iraq was already that way.

The problem, as we face it now, really comes down to ideology and neglect – squarely placed in this administration’s lap. Gen. Ray Odeirno, outgoing Army Chief of Staff, said as much in an interview:

But Odierno had pointed words on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria – suggesting it didn’t have to be this way.

“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”

Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.

“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”

But this administration wasn’t interested in staying longer regardless of the possible negative outcome of pulling troops from Iraq early. It had a campaign promise to fulfill, one of the few it ever has fulfilled. So it made routine SOFA negotiations impossible for Iraq to agree with, then blamed the lack of an agreement on Iraq and pulled our troops out before the job was done – giving ISIS the opportunity to rise.

Odierno made it clear that wasn’t the only problem we’ve let ‘rise':

“Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.

“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”

The answer to these problems?  Cut the end strength of the Army so we’re even less capable.

Can’t you just feel it?

We’re in good hands.

~McQ

“Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations?”

That’s the question Charles Krauthammer asked today.

Anyone care to make a guess?

When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks.

Are conventional weapons not a separate issue? After all, conventional, by definition, means non-nuclear. Why are we giving up the embargoes?

Because Iran, joined by Russia — our “reset” partner — sprung the demand at the last minute, calculating that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were so desperate for a deal that they would cave. They did. And have convinced themselves that they scored a victory by delaying the lifting by five to eight years. (Ostensibly. The language is murky. The interval could be considerably shorter.)

There is the second pregnant question – if the hostages are a separate issue, so are conventional weapons, aren’t they?

But then, you find out that both Obama and Kerry fell victim to a negotiating trick that only a rookie would cave too.  The tactic is well known and has been associated with Cold War USSR negotiations for decades. They teach it in Negotiating 101.  This is what they always do and you have to know your opponent well enough to expect it and have a strategy to counteract it.  As usual, Obama and Kerry were unprepared.

What Obama said about the hostages, if he really believes it, was the perfect answer to the Iranians when they sprang this on them.

But desperation is what the Iranians and Russians were counting on.  Anything to make the deal. They knew how desperate these two were.  So they held one of the most outrageous demands until the seeming end of the negotiations.  When the end was tantalizingly in sight and time was running out.  The Iranians gauged well the desperate desire for an agreement that the Obama/Kerry cabal had.

And so they used it against them to make a mockery of the deal.

Stunning.  The incompetence and ineptness aren’t what stun anyone – that’s been demonstrated so many times in the past 6 years it’s the new normal for this administration.  What’s stunning is what they gave away when they didn’t have too.

But then, this is the Obama administration and the Secretary of State is John Kerry.

‘Nuff said.

~McQ

“Legacy” … that’s what Iran was about

Abe Greenwald explains:

As far as legacy, what politician doesn’t want one? For Obama, a nominal nuclear deal may make him feel as if he’s earned the Nobel Prize once furnished him as election swag. John Kerry’s own efforts to earn a Nobel by brokering Middle East peace became another footnote in the story of Palestinian obstinacy. He too had something to prove.

From the administration’s standpoint, the deal was a grand slam. If it left Iran as an official nuclear power on the perpetual verge of a breakout, well, that was always the bargaining chip to get everything else. And with the United States having shown extraordinary cooperation and forgiveness, the thinking goes, even a nuclear Iran will become a less bellicose and more collegial member of the community of nations. What good the deal has already done, the administration believes, will continue to pay dividends. As is his wont, Obama is now declaring as much. But by the time his vision is upended by facts, he’ll be out of office, and we won’t have the luxury of fighting reality with abstractions.

Obama is desperate for a positive legacy.  Obamacare is the White Elephant in the room.  It will, one day, be declared the disaster it really is (but that will require the time for it to really demonstrate how horrendous a piece of legislation it truly was … it’s getting there).  The man who wanted to make “government cool” has managed to make it not only cool but the butt of jokes.  Ratings for all branches of government have plunged on his watch. Race relations and corruption are worse on his watch.  And his foreign policy has been clueless.  It has also be reactive and rudderless.  Just as respect for government has plunged, so has respect for the US (even Jimmy Carter admits this).

So yeah, two guys who have accomplished little or nothing in their lives are wanting to leave a mark.

Too bad it will more likely resemble a skid mark in a pair underwear, when all is said and done, than any mark of accomplishment.  But then, we’ve always known the left was more into style than substance.   And Obama and Kerry have built in some blame shifting room in the Iran agreement.  If, 8 or 10 years out, Iran has the bomb, it will be the fault of whoever is in the White House (and GW Bush, if they can swing it), not them.

Just watch.

~McQ

A short quiz …

Who is one of the only groups successfully fighting ISIS and consistently winning?

If you said the Peshmerga or the Kurds, give yourself a point.

What should we, the US, be doing because the Peshmerga is, in fact, winning engagements regularly against ISIS?

Well the smart thing, and something a leader would do at a minimum, would be to help them in any way we can and supply them with the weaponry they need.

If you said that, another point.

Now, the big question – are we doing that?

If you said “no” you get 3 out of 3.  If you said we’re actually working against that, you get a bonus of 1 point.

Yes, according the the Telegraph, we’ve been active in blocking needed heavy weapons shipments to the Kurds:

The Peshmerga have been successfully fighting Isil, driving them back from the gates of Erbil and, with the support of Kurds from neighbouring Syria, re-establishing control over parts of Iraq’s north-west.

But they are doing so with a makeshift armoury. Millions of pounds-worth of weapons have been bought by a number of European countries to arm the Kurds, but American commanders, who are overseeing all military operations against Isil, are blocking the arms transfers.

One of the core complaints of the Kurds is that the Iraqi army has abandoned so many weapons in the face of Isil attack, the Peshmerga are fighting modern American weaponry with out-of-date Soviet equipment.

At least one Arab state is understood to be considering arming the Peshmerga directly, despite US opposition.

The US has also infuriated its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, by what they perceive to be a lack of clear purpose and vacillation in how they conduct the bombing campaign. Other members of the coalition say they have identified clear Isil targets but then been blocked by US veto from firing at them.

“There is simply no strategic approach,” one senior Gulf official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”

Another in a long litany of failures by this administration.  We have both the means and a reason to supply the Kurds with the weaponry they need, and yet ….

As mentioned yesterday, Jimmy Carter is right.

Failure of leadership.

Again.

~McQ

Even Jimmy Carter thinks Obama the worst president

Still laughing about this one:

“On the world stage, I think [Obama’s accomplishments] have been minimal,” Carter said. “I think he has done some good things domestically, like health reform and so forth. But on the world stage, just to be objective about it, I can’t think of many nations in the world where we have a better relationship now than when he took over.”

Carter declined to blame Obama for the U.S.’s dismal foreign policy outlook, stating simply that circumstances “have evolved.” However, he did state that the U.S. had suffered a reversal of fortunes in foreign policy since Obama took over from President George W. Bush.

“I would say the U.S.’s influence and prestige and respect in the world is probably lower than it was six or seven years ago,” Carter said.

Ya think?!  At the moment I’d say our “influence and prestige and respect” in the world is at its lowest since the turn of the century — the last century.

Carter, often sighted as the worst foreign policy president we’ve ever had … until Obama … is probably feeling a little frisky now that it is apparent even to him.

He’s bound and determined to ensure his “next to last” position in the “worst president” category now that Obama’s position as the worst seems assured.

~McQ

How to increase China’s influence and enable China’s global energy policy in two words

And those two words are “Barack Obama”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve gotten real tired of seeing the US play the dope on the world stage these last 6 years.  I’ve touched on this before, but it doesn’t get much coverage and is indicative of how much foreign policy damage this administration is doing.  I touched on this earlier, but I’m fascinated by how totally tone-deaf and inept this administration appears to be.

The story, as the administration wants it to unfold:

The US government has stepped up pressure on the World Bank not to fund coal-fired power plants in developing countries. In a letter sent to the World Bank United States Executive Director Whitney Debevoise said, “The Obama Administration believes that the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have a potentially critical role to play in the future international framework for climate finance, and, in particular, to assist developing countries in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening their economies’ resilience to climate risks.” Following Debevoise’s controversial guidelines, the axe has already fallen on Pakistan’s Thar Coal and Energy Project on the grounds that “the limited financing available from the Bank should be directed toward investments that address energy supply shortfalls in an environmentally sustainable manner’’.

So there Pakistan?  No coal fired plants for you! We have spoken!

Oh, wait:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to unveil a $46 billion infrastructure spending plan in Pakistan that is a centerpiece of Beijing’s ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants.

It’s just blatant now … total disrespect for the US.  Even our ally in the region, Australia, has had enough.  Japan is tired of the posturing and pushing of ideology in support of something science doesn’t support much less prove.  More importantly, they’re not going to play ball anymore and aren’t making any bones about it.

Who do you suppose Pakistan is looking too for leadership in the energy sector now? Who do you suppose they might see as a champion of their economic growth?

The Geological survey of Pakistan reveals that 175 billion ton of coal is buried under the Thar Desert. These coal reserves alone are equivalent to total combined oil reserves (375 Billion Barrels) of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The coal deposits in Thar can change the fate of the country if utilised in a proper way. The coal reserves at Thar Desert are estimated around 850 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas, and are worth USD 25 trillion.  According to experts, if this single resource is used properly, we not only can cater to the electricity requirements of the country for next 300 years but also save almost four billion dollars in staggering oil import bills.

And if Pakistan feels that way, what about India?

India is hoping a new China-backed multilateral lender will fund coal-based energy projects, an official said, putting it in direct conflict with the World Bank, whose chief has maintained that it would stick to its restrictions on such lending. A senior Indian official told Reuters the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), sponsored by China, is expected to allow funding of coal-fired power plants that the World Bank has almost totally blocked. “When you have 1.3 billion people starved of electricity access and the rest of the world has created a carbon space, at this point denying funding is denying access to cheap energy,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

So now “rich America” is trying to force developing countries to forgo cheap energy in the name of  … ideology.  Hey, wasn’t Obama the guy always apologizing for the way he felt America bullied other countries?

Well, at least he only bullies allies.

~McQ

How disastrous is our foreign policy?

There are so many places to point to that illustrate the answer to the question (Libya, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, China, Russia … ad infinitum, ad nauseum), but there’s one that’s been going on sort of behind the scenes that illustrates it perfectly.

As we all know, our President has an ideological agenda item labeled “global warming” “climate change” that he is hell bent on forcing on not only us, but the world to his agenda.

Here’s the interesting part – much of the world is sympathetic with his agenda.  Just look at the UN and those who adhere to the UN line about climate change.  A smart guy – at least the guy who supporters claim is always the “smartest guy in the room” – would use that fact to try to fashion some sort of coalition and agreement that would advance his agenda.

Not our prez.  He’s an “all-or-nothing” sort of guy when it comes to things like this – science be damned.  And he likes to bully and shame people and countries into doing his bidding.

Except that never seems to work.  What am I talking about?

The Infrastructure Investment Bank – A China led initiative that not only extends China’s influence but will extend loans to developing countries to help develop their energy infrastructure – to include coal.

Well, Obama’s well known for his war on coal and his inflexibility about including it in future.  But if you’re actually trying to be a  diplomat – you know, foreign policy – you might end up understanding that you are at the extreme with the “no coal” position and see if you can’t influence the agenda via compromise.  Oh, and if you’re against China’s initiative, you gather allies to work against their goal and toward yours.  That’s if you have any savvy at all concerning diplomacy and foreign policy.

So, you have to ask, how did this happen?

Australia’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank follows a reversal of policy, revealed in The Australian this month, based on strategic ­arguments about China. The change followed a reassessment within government and intense talks within the G7 group of ­finance ministers and central bank governors.

Australia had been one of our allies, along with Japan, in resisting this effort by China.  What happened?

While Australia, Japan, South Korea and Britain have been cautious and aware of the US criticism, all are moving towards joining. Japanese industrialists keen to sell “ultra-super-critical coal-fired” electricity generators to India for more efficient use of brown coal are pushing for Tokyo to sign up.

Mr Obama’s administration has been tightening internat­ional funding for coal-fired ­generation but the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank is likely to be more sympathetic to the pleas of developing nations.

The expansion of coal-fired power generation is a boon to Australia’s coal exporters and represents a boost to the flagging Japanese economy.

So, knowing that, what did the bully-in-chief do? Well, if you know anything about him, you’re unlikely to be surprised.  Just think – “ally” and it will come to you:

Australia has joined forces with Japan in international ­forums to resist the US campaign of limiting lending to developing nations seeking more efficient coal-fired generation. The technology offers the promise of cheaper power. The moves follow Mr Obama’s climate change speech at the G20 summit in Brisbane last November. The US President’s remarks, which embarrassed Mr Abbott and angered his ministers, were seen as an ­attempt to push the administration’s climate change policies in Mr Obama’s final year in office.

Yup, condescension and embarrassment have a tendency to move things in a direction you don’t want – especially when you do it in the country of your ally.

Result?  Another in a long, very long line of foreign policy failures.  Australia joins with China in rebuffing Obama’s agenda.

On the whole, I’m quite pleased with that.  However, it does indeed demonstrate how badly this circus is being run by the clown-in-chief.  I’m sure, even now, that James Taylor is tuning up for a trip down under.

~McQ

Meanwhile in Yemen

We see the end-state of what this administration deems a “success”:

Secret files held by Yemeni security forces that contain details of American intelligence operations in the country have been looted by Iran-backed militia leaders, exposing names of confidential informants and plans for U.S.-backed counter-terrorism strikes, U.S. officials say.

U.S. intelligence officials believe additional files were handed directly to Iranian advisors by Yemeni officials who have sided with the Houthi militias that seized control of Sana, the capital, in September, which led the U.S.-backed president to flee to Aden.

For American intelligence networks in Yemen, the damage has been severe. Until recently, U.S. forces deployed in Yemen had worked closely with President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government to track and kill Al Qaeda operatives, and President Obama had hailed Yemen last fall as a model for counter-terrorism operations elsewhere.

Let’s see … SOF forced out of the country, President of Yemen on the run and both sides (Houti and AQ) romping all over the place.  Oh, and the security breech which is likely to cost a lot of lives.

But the identities of local agents were considered compromised after Houthi leaders in Sana took over the offices of Yemen’s National Security Bureau, which had worked closely with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.

Yemeni intelligence officers still loyal to Hadi’s besieged government burned some secret files, one official said. But they couldn’t destroy all of them before the Houthi fighters, whose leaders have received some weapons and training from Iran, moved in.

The loss of the intelligence networks, in addition to the escalating conflict, contributed to the Obama administration’s decision to halt drone strikes in Yemen for two months, to vacate the U.S. Embassy in Sana last month and to evacuate U.S. special operations and intelligence teams from a Yemeni air base over the weekend.

“Success”.  Just breath it in.

Reminds you of the “success” in Libya, doesn’t it?

~McQ

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