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State Department

Keystone XL pipeline: How long will Obama delay this time

In the wake of sequestration, an opportunity to do the right thing for this country arises.  Unfortunately, it arises within an administration ideologically, and therefore adamantly, opposed to the idea of more fossil fuel:

Today the State Department released yet another positive environmental review for the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The State Department approved the original pipeline route through Nebraska, which was supposedly less environmentally friendly, without any problems.

It is no surprise, then, that the State Department also seems to look favorably on this second iteration of the project in this fourth report—a report that should have been unnecessary. For the record, the pipeline also received a stamp of approval from Nebraskans.

Yes, that’s right, the Obama State Department has given the Keystone XL pipeline favorable reviews before.  It has been the executive, in this case, arbitrarily overruling the reports, inserting himself in a process he really has no business in and delaying the project.

IER senior VP Daniel Kish sums it up pretty well:

"This is, as President Obama says, ‘a teachable moment.’  It teaches us why our government’s policies continue to stifle job creation, investment and new energy sources and instead spends valuable time and increasingly limited resources studying things to death.

"While we welcome this report, we also note this is the 4th such environmental report on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and since it is only a “draft” there will be at least 5 federal environmental studies before a decision is made by our government on the pipeline. The Canadian government made a decision in 6 months; our government has taken 54 months so far.  This is an abject lesson in why – when it comes to energy – no one wants to deal with our government.  This is evident also by continuing falling production on federal lands at the same time U.S. oil and gas production on non-federal lands makes historic gains.  It is time for our Leaders to make a decision….Canada’s did a long time ago.  Too many are hurting and too much is at stake for any more time or money to be wasted on trivial matters and long addressed and re-addressed chimeras advanced by opponents of any and all affordable sources energy."
54 months, numerous positive reports and counting.  Canada, meanwhile, has moved on, planning, while we dither, to sell it’s product to China.  Pipelines don’t have to run through other countries which make life difficult, they can run only in Canada, to their coast for shipment to the Far East.
 
What is Obama delaying?
The project will accommodate up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day, create some 179,000 jobs on American soil, and continue good trade relations with a close ally. The benefits won’t stop with the oil sector, though—the Keystone project will have a positive ripple effect even in areas without the pipeline that will provide goods and services to support the pipeline.
And where do we stand in the wake of this latest favorable report?
Before any real decision is made, there will be a 45-day comment period and some time for the State Department to consider the comments. Then the notably anti-carbon Secretary of State, John Kerry, will give his recommendation and the final decision will lie with the President.
Any feeling of confidence that this administration, no matter how late in the game, will make the right decision isn’t exactly surging in me right now.
 
More than anything, it’s just sad that the lives and livelihoods of so many Americans rest in the incompetent hands of Barack Obama and John Kerry.
 
~McQ

Meanwhile in Egypt, an Islamic Constitution is signed into law

And apparently, our current government, given their history, will really have no problem with it.   Why do I say that? Because their love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood extends back quite some time. Despite all the warnings that the Brotherhood was radical and Islamist, this administration and Democrats have been making overtures for years.

Going back to April 2007, Democrats made special efforts to link up with the MB when visiting then-House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., met with Dr. Saad el-Katatni, the MB’s parliamentary leader, at former U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone’s home, at a time when then-Secretary Condoleezza Rice has publicly refused to meet with the Brotherhood.

Mr. Ricciardone, who I can call a friend, once told me that his friendship with another MB leader, Essam El- Erain, extended for close to 30 years. Perhaps that was the catalyst for this meeting and subsequent meetings that took place at his residency.

A stream of meetings as well as public and private contacts followed between current U.S. Ambassador Ann Paterson and members of the Brotherhood since her arrival to Egypt shortly after the revolution. The ambassador seemed to favor the Brotherhood and the hardliner Salafis over the rest of the secular players in Egypt.

In fact, she has turned down requests for meetings from heads of political parties and other secular politicians, myself included, who opposed the Brotherhood.
In addition to the ambassador, other U.S. officials such as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Sen. John Kerry made the pilgrimage to the MB headquarters and made sure to meet with their leader, Khairat El-Shater, at times even publicly praising him, as did Mr. Kerry. Those visits were made during a time where no political group had emerged as a leader in post-revolution Egypt.

The result, of course, is a state much more inclined to hostility toward Israel and the United States. Additionally, with the signing of the new Constitution, the secular state is dead. It will relegate women and minorities to second-class status. Additionally, given the Brotherhood’s history, Egypt is likely to lend more support to Hamas and Hezbollah. It is also likely, given the fact that it controls a border area on Gaza, that weaponry into that area will flow unimpeded.

I wanted to bring John Kerry’s role in this  to light, since it is likely he will be the next Secretary of State. Just as he provided propaganda fodder for the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war, he and other Democrats have provided “justification” for the Muslim Brotherhood’s move to establish Sharia law in Egypt.

The MBs used these high-level meetings to tell the Egyptian people that the U.S. was supporting them and did not object to their rule. Many of us reached out to U.S. officials at the State Department and complained that the U.S. policy regarding the MB was putting the secular forces in Egypt at a disadvantage because it seemed to be propping up the MB, but our concerns were dismissed.

We warned of the MB’s desire to impose Sharia law once in power and the grim effect it would have on the rights of the millions of Christians and moderate Muslims, including women and children, yet all of our warnings were dismissed. It seems that a policy decision was made to bring the MB to power in Egypt at all costs, and it happened.

As it turns out, the situation in Egypt, backed by Democrats and this administration, has made the country a less reliable US ally, has turned the cultural clock there back to the seventh century with the establishment of Sharia law, and has relegated a large portion of Egyptians to second-class status all the while becoming much more of a threat to the country of Israel.

If the purpose of foreign relations is to create situations that are favorable to the United States, this has been an epic failure.

~McQ

Hillary jumps under the Obama bus … or was she pushed?

Seriously.  After spending 8 years holding Bush responsible for everything from 9/11 (it was an “inside job”) to a Pelosi’s hangnail, we now have the left settling on “it’s Hillary’s fault”?

Truman’s “buck” stops at the State Department now?

The point, of course, as any good commander in the military knows, is that everything that happens or doesn’t happen while you are in command is your responsibility.

So this doesn’t cut the mustard:

“I take responsibility,” Clinton said during a visit to Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.”

Hillary, for political reasons, is trying to fall on Obama’s sword for him.  Someone has to take the blame (and Bush is unavailable for this one) so Obama can once again seem faultless. He does no wrong, you know.  And besides, he has a debate tonight and he wants someone to point his finger at when the subject is inevitably brought up.  Now he has her.

Jumped?  Or pushed?

This episode illustrates how spot on Eastwood’s empty chair metaphor really is.  John McCain, the stopped clock that is right twice a day, actually gets this one right:

“The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the commander-in-chief. The buck stops there.”

Of course the left first tried to blame it on the GOP claiming they’d cut millions from State’s security budget.

Here’s the bottom line on that line of attack: If you have a security contingent of Marines in the Embassy at Barbados, but not Tripoli or Benghanzi, your problem isn’t “funding”.  It’s resource allocation and politics.

Secondly, when something like this happens, you don’t act like a politician, you act like a leader.  IF you’re a leader.

This past weekend we were treated to the spectacle of David Axlerod avoiding answering Chris Wallace’s direct question about whether or not Obama met with his national security advosors and State in the aftermath of the murder of the US ambassador in Libya.

We all knew the answer before Wallace finished the question.  And Axlerod’s non-answer answer confirmed it.

Hell no, he was late for a political fund raiser in Las Vegas, and besides, these are just “bumps in the road”.

Leadership?

While Clinton’s attempt will seem courageous and loyal to some, it is pure, calculated politics.  Hillary knows that by 2016 this will be well behind here and, actually, an advantage, since she’ll have stepped up into the leadership void and acted like a leader.  Obama?  Not so much.

And make no mistake, as the state of the world and our foreign policy have announced loudly this past month – we are indeed suffering from a leadership void.

The empty chair we now have must be filled.  We, nor the world, can afford 4 more years of it remaining empty.

~McQ

Mercenaries? Serving the Obama Administration?

Hey, weren’t “Blackwater” and “mercenary” a bad words during the Bush administration?  Didn’t the left spend an inordinate amount of time demonizing private contract security in Iraq?   Weren’t we told that wouldn’t be something we’d see in an Obama administration?

Er, not so fast:

By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this, could it?  Ackerman is asking the right questions.  Civilians and diplomats running a quasi-military organization the size of a combat infantry brigade, and trying to keep it secret to boot.

Let’s be honest here – this is a private army.   And since taxpayers are obviously paying for it, a little transparency (yeah, you remember that promise too, right?) would be nice.

But that’s not going to happen if the ambassador has his way.  Citing jurisdictional conflicts, he’s told the IG to butt out.

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.

“Apparently, Ambassador Kennedy doesn’t want us doing the oversight that we believe is necessary and properly within our jurisdiction,” Bowen says. “That hard truth is holding up work on important programs and contracts at a critical moment in the Iraq transition.”

So here we have this secret private army of 5,500 that is way above and beyond what is necessary to guard diplomats (something the State Department has been doing for years and years all over the world).  This isn’t just about diplomatic security – not with those numbers:

They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”

I would be too if I were the military.   This is dangerous stuff and if they do stupid things, it could get other Americans, specifically those in the military, killed.

Of course, with this crew, you also have to ask, “how much am I getting taxed to pay for this debacle looking for an opportunity to happen?”

So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.

About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.

And here I thought we were leaving Iraq.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Where are the Navy and Marines to protect and evacuate US citizens in Libya?

Right now, in Libya, there are hundreds of Americans waiting for evacuation … by ferry.

Seriously.  The State Department has chartered a ferry to take the hundreds of waiting Americans to Malta.  But rough seas have delayed the ferry’s departure until Friday.

So where is our military and why aren’t they involved in the evacuation of Americans threatened by the violence in Libya?

Well there’s actually a simple answer to that:

So far the State Department has not requested the U.S. military to assist in the evacuation of civilians from Libya, something it would specifically have to request. Several U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN there is a vigorous debate inside the administration about whether to involve the military because of concern it could cause further provocations by the Libyan regime.

Ah … fear and intimidation.  Assume the worst and … do nothing.   And when I say nothing, I mean “nothing”. Per POLITICO’s Morning Defense newsletter:

THERE IS NO U.S. MILITARY ROLE IN LIBYA FOR NOW, officials across Washington said Wednesday. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t explicitly reject calls by McCain, Lieberman and others for a no-fly zone above the country, but that seemed unlikely for the present. Gates told The Weekly Standard the U.S. hasn’t talked with NATO about doing anything. Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon had received no requests to stand up a no-fly zone or use its ships or aircraft to help evacuate Americans.

Nothing.   That’s not to say that the military isn’t trying to at least be prepared should someone decide to call them and ask that they help look out for the safety and security of Americans in an apparent war zone:

In the first indication the crisis with Libya could take on a military dimension, the Pentagon is looking at "all options" it can offer President Barack Obama in dealing with the Libyan crisis a senior U.S. military official tells CNN.

The official declined to be identified because of the extremely sensitive nature of the situation but he has direct knowledge of the current military planning effort.

"Our job is to give options from the military side and that is what we are thinking about now," he said. "We will provide the president with options should he need them."

While all true, we’re in the 10th day of this blowup … 10th day!  And apparently the military, on its own initiative, is trying to provide options to the national governing authority that it has just as apparently not requested.  Notice the wording in the very last sentence above.  “Will provide” and “should he need them”.  That says to me he hasn’t requested them and the military is trying to get ahead of the game without any guidance.

It took the President 9 days to speak out about the situation there and then his remarks were anything but forceful.  Even Chris Matthews found them wanting saying they “lacked dignity”.   Essentially we got the “unacceptable” line and a promise to send the Secretary of State to … Geneva?  Well yes, that’s where she’ll repeat how “unacceptable” all of this is – in 5 days from now, of course.

So in sum, we find out that our government has no plans, other than a ferry  – which I’m sure isn’t big enough to carry the full number of Americans from Libya who might need to be evacuated, but, because of violence, haven’t been able to make it to that particular evacuation point – to evacuate the thousands of American citizens there.  No military plan.  No orders to ships such as the Kearsarge group (which is the closest) or the Enterprise group off Pakistan to redeploy to the coast of Libya to aid in the evacuation of Americans.

No.

As POLITICO’s Morning Defense reminds us:

The Navy and Marines evacuated some 15,000 Americans from Lebanon in 2006, but that was a major undertaking that required several ships.

Well, yes, of course … and we should have had “several ships” moving toward Libya 10 days ago when this thing blew up  — that’s what a prudent administration concerned with its citizens abroad would have done in order to try to ensure that the lives of those citizens in Libya were protected.

Instead, 11 days later those citizens get … a ferry?

~McQ

Why Turkey’s change of attitude toward Israel is important and could be ominous

Someone apparently had an extra bowl of Cheerios this morning:

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla has increased the chances of war in the Middle East, in a BBC interview on Wednesday. Assad said that Syria was working to prevent a regional war but he added that there was no chance of a peace deal with the current Israeli administration, which he called a “pyromaniac government”.

The rhetoric keeps ratcheting up as if various Arab factions are trying to talk themselves into testing Israel again. It’s been a while, but the in the past the results have been uniformly bad for the Arab nations.

But there has been a recent change. Turkey is now talking tough as well. And, add in Iran’s attempt to ingratiate itself with the Arab world and suddenly it’s a little different ballgame.

Turkey’s inclusion against Israel in the rhetorical wars now being waged has encouraged many Arab pundits to hail the Turks and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the much awaited “leader” of the movement against Israel. One writer hailed him as “more Arab than the Arabs” while criticizing Arab leaders as too passive.

There have been huge pro-Turkey rallies in Gaza, Beruit and Damascus. Recently, text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during a June 4th Erdogan speech in Konya, some of which said: “Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs,” and “Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans.”

Hizbullah considers Erdogan the new rock star of anti-Israeli leadership, and some Gazans are naming their children after him.

What Turkey and Erdogan have apparently managed to do, according to one writer, is bring those who have rejected Hamas and Hizbullah because of their Iranian ties on board in a unified “Islamic” effort to confront Israel:

“Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi’a… They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi’ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.

“Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam.

Turkey seems to have finally rejected the west and put to rest its desire to be a part of it. Although it retains NATO membership, it appears to have no further interest in the EU. Turkey also appears to be again casting its eyes in the direction of its past glory – the Ottoman Empire. Certainly it isn’t pretending it would again rule over all of its former territories, but Turkey seems to feel it could be a major if not the major influence in the area of the Middle East. One sure way to work toward that goal is to take on Israel.

While it publicly claims it is still a secular nation ruled by secular institutions, this latest situation with Israel and Turkey’s reaction are all Islamic and designed to appeal to the Islamic world in general and the people of the Middle East specifically.

This is one of the conflicts that is brewing on the horizon. It is a new twist in a very old situation. But it promises real trouble if not addressed and defused quickly.

Of course, that will take leadership, not apology tours. I’m not sure that the US is up to the job. And I think the reason we’re hearing all this from Turkey now is they sense that is the case.

~McQ

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Obama, Clinton and the State Department Are Wrong About Honduras

I think we know the answer to the question “what in the world are Constitutions for if not to be followed” as we address it to those named in the headline, but we now have the Congressional Research Service weighing in on Honduras and it isn’t good news for the US’s policy toward that country.

David Freddoso reports that the CRS’s Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma Gutierrez has completed a study of the Honduran actions as they relate to former president Mel Zelaya and they don’t reflect well on the US. Freddoso has distilled them to the following:

* The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras’s Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president’s official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.

* The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress’s ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was “no longer a high-ranking government official.”

* The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.

* The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya’s ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.

So the only unlawful or improper act, according the the CRS, was the forceful expatriation of Zelaya. Despite the desire to avoid bloodshed, the military should merely have removed and arrested him. Other than that, everything appears to go precisely as it should according to their constitution and their legal interpretation of it.

For a man who just stood up in the UN and claimed the right of people for self-determination (except in Iran, of course), he sure is working awful hard to ensure Honduras’s citizens don’t enjoy that right.

He’s wrong. Secretary of State Clinton is wrong. The State Department’s actions against Honduras are wrong. No equivocation here – the US is on the wrong side of this issue. This needs to be rethought and readdressed quickly and Mel Zelaya ought to be treated like he deserves – as someone who broke the law of the land.

[HT: looker]

~McQ

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