Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happiness in Annapolis

Today's Mid-East Peace meeting in Annapolis will be run like Bush’s other foreign policy initiatives. All participants are told that they will be welcomed with flowers and kisses but will be ambushed by unanticipated attacks when they get there. Bush’s foreign policy advisors will be totally oblivious of age old rivalries among participants and will sit people alphabetically according to the nickname Bush has given them.

Participants will be told the meeting is to discuss the Palestinian problems but it will be about Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They will be searched for those missing Iraqi WMD’s that Bush’s truly faithful believe must be someplace.

The Neocons will usurp the meeting to manipulate its proceeding for their own naïve theories for the Middle East. In another secret agenda, Darth Cheney will come speak, and with an obtuse comment and wave of the hand make it difficult for many participants to find their breath and scare the hell out of everybody else.

Some how, a justification for the U.S. attacking Iran will come out of the meeting.

And even if nothing gets done during the conference, Bush will come flying into the Annapolis airport in his flight suit with Mission Accomplished banners flying all over. Condi will get an ’at a girl or heck of job, and everyone will live happily ever after in Bush world.

Bizarro World and no Superman, what are we to do?

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Foreign Policy Machiavelli Would Love

A major power involved in a continuous conflict with a much smaller, weaker country in which the major power can never truly win or afford to lose can greatly benefit all others nations major and otherwise.

While I’m not aware that Machiavelli ever wrote anything like that, I’m sure he would agree that, as a matter of statecraft, it ranks right up there with fear. Nothing benefits other nations than having a major nation bogged down in a struggle that they can never completely win or allow a loss, but must continue bleeding their resources which would be used elsewhere against other nations. It doesn’t matter if the major nation is friend or foe, other nations can exploit the situation to their advantage.

Two centuries ago and at the beginning of the previous century, when the world’s colonial period was coming to an end, England, France, and Spain fought continuously to maintain the last of their colonies. Countries not directly involved benefited from these major countries attention being diverted in their individual struggles. The emerging U.S. economy comes to mind. England recognized what was happening in time to become Great Britain instead of just a small island that once ruled the world.

In the modern era, the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and now Iraq, hamstrings the most powerful nation in the world in dealing with other countries. Vietnam should have taught the policy wonks a lesson, but some people just will not learn. The “neo” in The Neoconservative Movement or Philosophy not only stands for “new” it also stands for neophyte when it comes to foreign policy.

The involvement of the USSR in Afghanistan may have hastens its breakup. The big communist threat of the Cold War was lessened by their involvement in Afghanistan. Eastern Europe, always under the threat of the communist hammer, was given room to breathe a little free air. The U.S. should have taken a more Machiavellian approach in aide to Afghan rebels. They should have given them just enough to harass the Russian but never enough to really drive them out. They should have never have given rebels Stinger missiles. U.S. aide to foreign rebels in Afghanistan leads directly to Al-Qaeda. Payback is a bitch.

The euro and its home, Europe, benefits while U.S. foreign policy is held captive in Iraq. They can condemn, ridicule, and laugh at the U.S. and feel good about themselves as well as benefiting their economies. They feel the naive Americans are hosted on their own idealist petards. With the concentration camp in Getmo and the stories of renditions to foreign prisons and no good ol’ American habeas corpus for any of them, world-wide critics have proof that Americans don’t practice their holier-than-thou preaching.

Of all the nations in the world, no country has benefited more by the U.S. overthrow of Saddam than Iran. The U.S. changed a neighboring threat to an opportunity for Iran to advance their religious based cause. Today, Iran has more influence in Iraq than the U.S. Shiites have come into a position they have never known before because of the U.S. takeover of Iraq. The U.S. will eventually have to leave Iraq. The Shiites never will, and have power and position not only in Iraq but in the Middle East as a whole than they ever had before. This is real historic precedents. The rest of the Islam is going to have to deal with the rise of the Shiites – courtesy of a naïve foreign policy by the U.S.

Russia struggling to find itself after the breakup of the USSR benefits from the U.S. involvement in Iraq. With the U.S. stuck in Iraq, Russia has the liberty to take chances and do things it might not be able to do. We’ve not heard the last of Russia. One day in the not to distant future, Russia will be just a powerful and influential as the USSR ever was.

With Iran at odds with the U.S., Russia can make inroads with Iran that might not be available otherwise. Who knows, perhaps Russia’s and Iran’s entanglements may lead to one of those detrimental struggles of which this post is about. If that happens, I hope the U.S. will not make another foreign policy blunder as it did in Afghanistan.

The rise of China has benefited by the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq. While the U.S. loses friends and influence, China gains what the U.S. is losing. The new world order includes the economic powerhouse China. The question is will China be able to avoid the same pitfalls other major nations have continuously fallen into. Will China follow the path of other powerful nations? Will it become bogged down in some small war that will bleed its growing economy and ability to wield power elsewhere?

China has been involved with a debilitating struggle, although its distraction was with itself and not another country. The Culture Revolution benefited everybody except China. A fact the Chinese leadership is well aware and will not allow that to happen again. If it had not been for the Culture Revolution, China would be where it is today twenty years ago. Perhaps fate will give China a small war in which they can never win and cannot afford to lose.

We could all breathe easier if that happened, and hopefully the Neocons will not be in control of American’s foreign policy and cooler more Machiavellian heads will prevail.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Smoked Filled Back Primaries

During a political progressive period at the turn of the previous century, the idea of the major parties' presidential nominations being chosen by a few power brokers and party bosses in "smoked filled back rooms" was considered undemocratic and the statewide primaries were born or at least taken up by progressives as a means for people to seize the political nominating process. It seemed a novel experiment in Americana but by the middle of the previous century, politicians and their strategists realized they could win enough delegates in primaries prior to the convention to hold their parties nomination out right or be significantly on the way to the point of being able to dictate terms to the parties' power elite.

But no good intention, no matter how sincere the intent, goes untainted when politics are concerned. Just as in today’s attempt to reform campaign financing, there is too much power and too much money at stake for it not to be corrupted. I don’t mean today’s primary system is corrupted as in the criminal sense, but corrupted as to its democratic ideal. A few primaries determine who the rest of us will get to vote for. Today's first primaries filter the political field leaving the rest of us with who they liked. A candidate that would do well nationally – but may not have a chance in the region of the first primaries – is not available for the majority of Americans to choose one way or the other.

On the flip side, early primaries may choose someone who doesn't have a chance nationally. John Kerry and Michael Dukakis won New Hampshire, their parties' nomination, and did terrible in the general election. They're both New Englanders which gave them an advantage in New Hampshire. Many pundits thought anybody could beat Bush in 2004, but they hadn't counted on Kerry's ineptitude or Karl Roves' spinmaster abilities.

New Hampshire likes to brag about being the first primary. They have made their state laws so no matter when another states has their primary, New Hampshire’s will automatically be a week earlier. The early primaries are no different than the power brokers of old who didn’t want to give up their power in those “smoke filled back rooms” in choosing the next president, or at least the next nominee, and will do whatever they can to keep power. I wouldn’t be surprise if the 2012 first primary vote is the day after the 2009 inauguration.

This is especially noticeable with the coming 2008 election. Rarely do we get such a large group of candidates from which to choose, and yet, most of us will get to vote for only two or three top runners in each party. How is the winnowing to a few candidates different than party bosses selecting the next nominee in "smoked filled back rooms"?

What would the political arena be like if we all got to vote on the current gang of candidates running for their parities' nomination? What if they had all primaries on the same day? Political wonks would have to re-think the whole campaign process. Like the beginning of the primary selection process at the turn of the previous century, old school strategist would be at a loss and innovators would have the advantage. Political junkies like myself would have a reality TV show like no other.

Given my rule above about there being too much power and too much money at stake in who is president for any selection process to go uncorrupted, how long would it go before the noble idea of same-day primaries becomes tarnished?

And thus we end on a cynical note.