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Foreign Affairs

American Caesar?

Katherine Jean Lopez had this to say the other day at The Corner:

Yesterday, at a rally for R. Creigh Deeds in Virginia, President Obama said: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

For Barack Obama, democracy appears to be a distraction. He really does seem to view himself as a Caesar.

Shortly after taking office, Obama held a meeting with governors. At the time, one person in the room relayed Obama’s request that critics and skeptics of the stimulus plan keep their concerns to themselves. Just let me do it, was his attitude. He got pushback and he wasn’t happy. He wanted democratically elected state governors to shut up so he could do as he pleased. He knows better and we should respect that, seems to be the attitude.

There seems to be quite a bit more of an authoritarian streak in Barack Obama than one might think. I was willing to dismiss the first statement at the Deeds event as a little red meat for the locals. But I wasn’t aware of the second incident, which makes dismissing the first a little less likely.

Then this story coincidentally showed up which adds fuel to the fire:

President Obama has issued signing statements claiming the authority to bypass dozens of provisions of bills enacted into law since he took office, provoking mounting criticism by lawmakers from both parties.

Apparently Obama feels much the same as his predecessor did about the laws passed by Congress – he doesn’t have to obey provisions he doesn’t care for:

They were reacting to a statement Mr. Obama issued after signing a bill that expanded assistance to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank while requiring the administration to pressure the organizations to adopt certain policies. Mr. Obama said he could disregard the negotiation instructions under his power to conduct foreign relations.


Other laws Mr. Obama has said he need not obey as written include format requirements for budget requests, limits on whom he may appoint to a commission, and a restriction on putting troops under United Nations command.

While there is some argument to be made about Congress getting into the foreign relations area, there’s certainly none which should arise from budget questions or other domestic legal considerations. However, there is a very easy way for Obama to confront Congress over areas he thinks they overstep their bounds – veto the bill. Instead, displaying that authoritarian streak, he chooses to disregard the law and do what he wants to do through a signing statement.

All of this after calling Bush’s use of signing statements “abuse” and promising much greater restraint than practiced in the previous administration. Thus far, at least according to a Democratic Congress, no such restraint has been practiced and it appears Congress deems his use to date just as “abusive” as they did George Bush’s use of signing statements.

Two things are obvious, at least to me – one, he has an agenda and he doesn’t like anyone standing in his way as he tries to accomplish it, to include the law. And two, he’s a glib pretender when it comes to bi-partisan ship or opposition in general. He wants none. The two statements highlighted by Lopez above are simply extended examples of his “I won” quote (and the not so subtle but implied “so shut up”) Obama gave not long after taking office.

Lopez entitled her NRO posting, “American Caesar”. The more I watch this guy operate, the more I’m coming to believe she may have a point.


Quietly, Honduras Has Won

Yes I meant to put that in the title.  They have won.  As Investors Business Daily  reports, things have quietly changed to the advantage of Honduras.  While Chavez could run his mouth and the OAS could make threats, the 800 pound gorilla which could really make it miserable for Honduras was the US, and it has quietly backed off its former stance:

In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.

Nor will it insist on Zelaya’s return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can’t find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court’s refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a “military coup.”

This marks a shift. The U.S. at first supported Zelaya, a man who had been elected democratically but didn’t govern that way. Now they’re reaching out to average Hondurans, the real democrats.

Sure, the U.S. continues to condemn Zelaya’s ouster and still seeks mediation of the dispute through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. But no U.S. sanctions means Hondurans have won.

You have to admire the little country that stood up to the world and said, “it’s our Constitution, it’s our law and we’re going to enforce it”, and refused to back down.

And it is apparent that our State Department, after its initial knee-jerk reaction, has seemingly come to understand that what happened was done legally and in accordance with the Honduran constitution. The Senate was unable to find anything illegal about the action taken.

Certainly things are not back to normal in Honduras, but with the US backing off, the chances of returning to normal are greatly increased. Congrats to the Honduran people for sticking up for their Constitution and refusing to allow it to be violated, and for demonstrating that no man is above the law.

I just wish we had the same level of respect for our own Constitution.


NoKo, Bill Clinton And The Hostages

I think the WSJ has the best take on the freeing of the kidnapped journalist situation to this point:

We don’t begrudge the congratulations Bill Clinton deserves for saving the two journalists from what might have been a nightmare 12 years of hard labor; that was the sentence a kangaroo North Korean court imposed for allegedly blundering across its border with China in March. But the important question going forward is whether Mr. Clinton’s visit was merely the down payment Kim extracted from the Obama Administration for a potentially larger set of American concessions.

The point, of course, is this time the hostage negotiations forced by NoKo required, as the WSJ says, “the full prestige of a former US president” to bring the situation to a successful conclusion, i.e. the freeing of the two US journalists.

Instead of assuming we know what transired and condemning it, we need to wait and find out. However, given the level of envoy and the obvious propaganda value NoKo milked from the occasion, the WSJ’s question is valid.

What, if anything, was the cost of getting the two journalists out of there. I’m sure we’ll eventually find out and then can render some sort of judgment as to whether the outcome was beneficial or not to the US. That said, I’m happy to see Clinton got those two out of that hell hole. I just hope we didn’t give away the store to do it.


Six months and counting: Team Obama looks pretty pitiful at this point

I have not posted much lately. Busy. Very busy. I don’t see how McQ does it. He’s a machine.

But I have been paying attention, and I must say Obama is as amusing during his first six months as I had hoped, and maybe more. Here’s a brief summary of where he’s at as far as I’m concerned, categorized into various types of success and failures on the political front.

Continue reading

Iran Ready To Build Nuclear Bomb?

That’s what the UK Times is reporting:

Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.

The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.

Of course, what we don’t know about Iran’s capability could fill a book. We’ve seen it variously reported that they a year away to ten years away – a good indicator that for the most part intelligence agencies haven’t a clue in reality.

However, as we know, nuclear bombs are old technology. The genie has been out of the bottle way too long to believe that Iran can’t build a bomb if it dedicates the time and resources to do so. And it certainly seems to have done both.

So now what?

That’s the salient question now. Let’s assume Iran has a bomb by this time next year – then what?

Well here’s the apparent game plan:

If Iran’s leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran’s first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.

Last week, during a series of high-level US visits to Israel, officials outlined Washington’s plans to step up sanctions on Iran, should Tehran fail to agree on talks. Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, and General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, said that Iran had until the end of next month, when the UN General Assembly is to meet, to make a positive move towards engagement.

If Tehran fails to respond, Washington aims to build a tough international coalition to impose harsh sanctions focusing on petroleum products — an area where Iran is particularly vulnerable because it sends almost all of its crude abroad for refinement.

The feeling, of course, is if these sorts of sanctions can be imposed, it will hurt the regime even further by adding more unrest among a population already not happy with the election outcome. And, per the Times, hit directly at the Revolutionary Guards Council, which is the main exporter of terrorism through its surrogates in various parts of the world.

Of course what isn’t mentioned by the Times is the one big fly in the ointment of getting this done – China. No China, no sanctions. And China has developed a pretty close relationship with Iran based on petroleum trade. In 2004 it signed two huge oil and gas deals with Iran. Presently 45% of China’s crude imports come from the Middle East and that’s expected to rise to 70% by 2015. In 2008, China finalized a $70 billion deal to develop Iran’s Yadavaran oil field in exchange for the supply of liquefied natural gas. And much, much more.

So China is not going to be keen to cripple a nation which it has invested so much time and money in developing a relationship with – especially if it wants to maintain its own economy (and keep its own internal unrest to a simmer) during recessionary times.

Bottom line? My guess is a lot of tough talk and fist shaking at Iran, but in the end, nothing much happens and Iran ends up with its nuke. The play will be made in the UN where China has a seat on the Security Council and I’d almost bet the house that nothing comes out of that organization with any teeth whatsoever or China won’t vote for it.

Bottom bottom line – Israel, who we seem bound and determined to have worse relations with, is probably going to have to find a way to destroy the capability on their own. Militarily they’ve been quietly developing the strike capability for some time. And Saudi Arabia, which is very worried about an Iranian nuke and what it would do to the balance of power in the region, has given Israel a subtle nod that it would turn its back should the Israelis fly over their territory to strike Iran – unprecedented in the history of the region and an indication of the depth of fear the Saudis harbor.

But reliance on the UN and “sanctions”? I just don’t see that happening.


Hell Freezes Over – NYT Fact Checks Obama

I‘ll leave it to you to read the health care fact check. But this was of particular interest to me:

The president continued to take credit for deficit reduction by making a claim that has been challenged by many experts.

“If we had done nothing, if you had the same old budget as opposed to the changes we made,” the deficit over the next 10 years would be $2.2 trillion greater, the president said.

In fact, $1.5 trillion of those “savings” are mainly based on an assumption that the United States would have had as many troops in Iraq in 10 years as it did when Mr. Obama took office. But before leaving office, President George W. Bush signed an agreement with Baghdad mandating the withdrawal of all American forces within three years.

So Mr. Obama is claiming credit for not spending money that, under the policy he inherited from Mr. Bush, would never have been spent in the first place.

For those of you who missed it, even Bush didn’t plan on keeping as many troops as we had then for 10 years. The SOFA agreement and the general withdrawal timetable had been announced before Obama ever took office.

A perfect example of why every “fact” Obama utters needs to be examined carefully (that’s true for every politician, but this one especially), especially now when he’s promising the moon and stars in health care for less cost. Again, read the fact check for some of the points addressing that.


Nicaragua: And The Pattern Repeats

I have to wonder what our State Department and President, who seem completely enamored with process over actual democratic institutions, will have to say about this:

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.

Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let “the people say if they want to reward or punish” their leaders with reelection.

His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.

My guess is they’ll applaud this even while it has essentially established “democratic” dictatorships in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And my guess is the “certified election results” are complete for Nicaragua, just as they were for Hodura’s Zelaya, even as I write this. They only need to be produced at the proper time to “validate” the referendum.

Call it the Venezuelan model.

And our puddin’ heads in Washington will again applaud this step toward totalitarianism as a wonderful exercise in democracy we should all support.

Meanwhile those meanies in Honduras who take their Constitution too seriously? Not so much.


Certified Honduran Referendum Results Found

Criminal investigators in Honduras have reportedly found computers containing the certified election results of the referendum which was to confirm Mel Zelaya as president for…however long he wanted to be president, I guess.  Anyway, the certified results contained voting tallies, information about the voters, and other electoral information.  An example:

One of the district attorneys that participated in the operation that took place this Friday showed reporters an official voting result from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa, in which the specific number of people that participated in table 345, where there were 550 ballots, 450 of which were votes in favor of Zelaya’s proposal and 30 were against, in addition to 20 blank ballots and 30 ballots, which were nullified.

That’s a very complete report of the election, and contains a wealth of details about the results that would be a credit to the authorities in charge of any election.

Of course, it would be even more impressive if the referendum had actually taken place.

There was no referendum.  It was aborted by the legal, constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya from power.

And yet, in the presidential palace’s computer, Mr. Zelaya apparently had a complete, certified result of an election that never took place.

If the Honduran authorities are to be believed, the evidence is that he had already completed a plan to steal the election, and the only remaining act to be performed was to conduct a sham referendum, whose results had already been determined.

Yet, this is the guy that the Obama Administration and the OAS thinks should be the legitimate leader of Honduras.

The OAS’s Double Standard

Surprisingly, one member of the Washington Post – Jackson Diehl – has noticed the double standard the OAS has applied when it comes to Honduras vs. Venezuela.

Venezuelan Antonio Ledezma is no gadfly or dissident; as the mayor of Caracas, he received almost as many votes in last November’s election (700,000) as Manuel Zelaya (915,000) did when he won the presidency of Honduras in 2005. Yet while the Organization of American States has been united in demanding Zelaya’s return to his post, and in suspending Honduras for violating the Inter-American Democratic Charter, it has studiously ignored the case of Ledezma — who, since his election, has been illegally driven from his office by a mob, stripped of most of his powers and budget, and subjected to criminal investigation by the regime of Hugo Chávez.

The reaction of the OAS? “None of our business”.

While championing Zelaya — whose attempt to illegally rewrite the constitution united Honduras’s Congress and Supreme Court against him — Insulza refused to interest himself in the case of Ledezma and other elected Venezuelan mayors and state governors who have been subjected to power-stripping and criminal prosecution by Chávez. The OAS “cannot be involved in issues of internal order of member states,” said a statement Insulza issued after a June meeting in Washington with Ledezma — a declaration he quickly contradicted once the pro-Chávez Zelaya was deposed.

The “Insulza” Diehl is referring too is OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza who has been absolutely uninterested in what has happened to the democratically elected mayor of Caracus or, for that matter, state governors and other mayors who’ve essentially enjoyed the same fate as Ledezma in Venezuela.

The reason? Simple – Insulza is counting on, in fact banking on, the support of Hugo Chavez for a second term as OAS GS. Insulza, who Diehl characterizes as a “Chilean socialist” knows he’s dead in the water without it. So he’s not at all inclined to rock the boat when it comes to Chavez’s illegal and unconstitutional moves in Venezuela.

Ledezma has courageously been pushing Insulza to acknowledge the problems in Venezuela:

Ledezma’s hunger strike eventually shamed Insulza into making a phone call in which he promised to meet with the Venezuelan mayors and governors in Washington, and to investigate their charges that Chávez had violated the democracy charter. But Insulza later repeated that “it is very difficult to determine how a country should organize itself internally.”

This is the face of the “new” OAS, which recently admitted the totalitarian dictatorship of Cuba into fold. It is now an organization which is driven by a socialist agenda that uses the veneer of ‘democracy’ as a way of legitimizing advancing its agenda throughout Latin America and as a weapon to thwart real democracy should it attempt to stop that agenda from successfully subverting a country.

But it obviously has no desire to really support democracy or investigate illegal and unconstitutional moves by despots in good ideological standing with the OAS leadership. That is reserved for those countries which haven’t yet converted to the socialist “Bolivar revolution” championed by Hugo Chavez – the defacto leader of the OAS. And, as Diehl points out, the OAS has been quite happy with the new administrations policies:

Such willful disregard of political repression was the prevailing policy among OAS members before the Honduran coup — including the Obama administration. Though Chávez launched his latest and most virulent campaign against elected opposition leaders and independent media shortly after Obama’s inauguration, the administration for months refused to publicly respond; instead, it agreed on a new exchange on ambassadors with Venezuela and repeatedly announced its hope to “work with” the caudillo.

My goodness, it sounds like Iran, doesn’t it?

Diehl holds out hope that the administration is figuring it out citing a recent Hillary Clinton interview with Globavision as proof. One interview, however, doesn’t prove that the administration has figured out it is being played like a fiddle or that it will take another look at how it has reacted to Honduras or the agenda of the OAS.

Diehl cites testimony before Congress the day after the interview and wonders what it means:

In testimony to Congress the next day, the State Department’s incoming assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Arturo Valenzuela, said that following the Honduras crisis, “it should be clear that the collective response of the hemisphere in support of democracy should not be limited to taking action simply when elected leaders are removed from office by force.” Does that mean the United States now will also push Insulza and the OAS to judge what is happening in Venezuela — and in Nicaragua, Ecuador and other states where freedom of the press and free elections have been under sustained attack? The administration’s high-profile effort to defend a hostile Honduran president has provided an opportunity to take the offensive against the hemisphere’s most dangerous anti-democratic actors.

Given what I’ve seen so far from this administration and its foreign policy, I’d have to guess the answer is a flat “no”.


All Quiet On The Western Front

In Iran, the “pro-democracy” element remains under threat of government violence:

Seeking to pre-empt a revival of street protests in Tehran after days of apparent quiescence, Iranian authorities told opponents that a planned demonstration Thursday would be met with a “crushing response” and was illegal.

Protesters had planned to rally on Thursday on the 10th anniversary of violent confrontations when protesting students were beaten and jailed. The protests could rekindle the demonstrations that followed the disputed June 12 elections, provoking a sweeping official crackdown.

Iranian officials said Wednesday that they had released 2,000 people who were arrested for participating in the demonstrations, but continued holding l 500 prisoners who would be put on trial, according to the state-run Press TV news service.

Meanwhile in Italy, the G8 managed this “crushing response” to the Iranian government’s violence, killings and arrests:

G8 foreign ministers have managed to find common ground on the situation in Iran. The joint statement says the G8 regrets the actions by Iranian authorities after the presidential election, which killed civilians.


Meanwhile our Secretary of State will be futzing around with some constitutionally deposed would-be dictator from Honduras.