A Goldilocks Superpower Draws A Line In The Sand Before High Tide

Moscow’s pronouncement that Putin deems Obama weak shows how Obama’s Goldilocks syndrome poses risks for geopolitical miscalculations. A weak U.S. president destabilizes today’s even more anarchic than usual international order (as defined in Waltzian terms) because U.S. commitments and power are unpredictable. That’s not really Obama – although the resemblance is undeniable.

Iran, Iranian Nukes, Military Strikes

Obama’s Goldilocks syndrome actually offers a framework for some predictability, even if the outcome can be gamed by interested constituents. The rules are known, if not the exact results: pre-condition and define what the middle, compromise choice will be. Box him in. And U.S. power becomes a football in the rugby scrum. This international system – while not ideal for U.S. national interests – is distinguishable from the unilateral disarmament or hesitancy of the Carter Administration.

So now the Goldilocks superpower declares ‘a last chance’ for Iran to avoid military action. But tout le monde knows that’s just the opening gambit in the game to define Obama’s compromise space. The Israelis got that game down cold. The Europeans have Obama’s number, too:

European allies, especially the French and the British, say they are concerned that Mr. Obama will want to keep the negotiations going, however unproductive they might be, through the November presidential election to avoid the possibility of a military strike if the talks fail.

If Obama punts on BMD talks with the Russians until after the elections, trying to delay a third Middle Eastern War in a decade (with gas potentially reaching $8 a gallon) is a no brainer. Certainly the U.S. intelligence community is at war with Iran in all but name. Still, the Europeans game a defined ‘when’. How the worm turns since 2002 and De Villepin. The Russians work Obama the other way. By continually (twice weekly) predicting a summer U.S. military strike and thereby rule it out.

Even Tehran’s various factions must absorb all the billiard angles both internal and external. Still, Iran offers a new gambit ahead of new talks, seeking to make its play moving the compromise sweet spot.

We’ll see how long today’s ‘last chance’ lasts. And where it ends up. To continue the football analogy but in American vernacular, think of it best as NFL yardsticks on the sidelines. They’re designed to move. Where (and when) do you see the Obama compromise sweet spot?

Iran, Iranian Nukes, Military Strikes

Panetta And DoD Plain As Plain Can Be On Syria

Is it better the second time around? Leon Panetta and CJCS Dempsey again warn Congress about American intervention in Syria. Substantively and atmospherically, words now echo those of Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen over Libya. Recall Messrs. Gates and Mullen explained that a Libyan ‘no-fly zone’ would be tantamount to a full scale military assault and the post-Khaddafi scenario not thought through.

Predictably,McCain and a die hard group of Neocons push mindless bellicosity. More important politically are liberal pundits and policy advocates calling for sanctuary zones, special forces, drones, military assistance to regime opponents, etc. These voices, more than Neocons by all accounts, persuaded Obama to overrule Gates and Mullen and strike Libya.

Panetta and Dempsey explain what you, Dear Reader, have been saying for some time. Sanctuary spaces, no-fly zones or other calls face sophisticated Syrian air defenses, a 600,000 strong army, targets commingled, and solid officer corps tribal loyalties. Logistics even for a drone footprint let alone special forces non-trivial if not out right complicated.

Panetta could have channeled Gates when testifying:

The fundamental issue that is before us is whether or not the United States will go in and act unilaterally in that part of the world, and engage in another war in the Muslim world unilaterally. Or whether or not we will work with others in determining what action we take.

He mentioned that DoD is now preparing specific scenarios and planning.

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This Would Not Be Happening If Warren Christopher Were Alive *

What does the Obama Convention offer? Not much.

Nothing on Guatanamo, illegal and unconstitutional torture, nothing about Russia beyond platitudes about Neocon solidarity with Georgian freedom-loving activities, nothing about NATO expansion, nothing about China, India beyond a roll call of rising powers, and so on.

No specifics about Iraq (and skipping Biden’s vote for the war, too). No talk about restoring the constitution or separation of powers from a rogue Imperial Regime in both domestic and foreign affairs. We did get a shout out to the Iranians. And a gloss over the Crowned One’s glaringly thin credentials for the job patently ‘above his pay grade’.

Biden is the attack dog? It wasn’t a Dukakis 1988 gig but no Ann Richards there either. And Joe, lose the French cuff links. (We’re partial to them now and then but not when we pretend to be a working class stiff hob nobbing with Tweety and Scrantonians — and we know the area very well personally). Democrats can’t seem to take their gloves off to save their lives.

If not Biden, who? If not now, when? Carville must be bouncing off walls. Land one. Hard. And keep going. Repeat exercise. Politics is a contact sport — ‘change’ notwithstanding.

We agree Biden at least rose above Mark Warner — who was an outstanding govenor — but eh. Biden’s effort couldn’t even rouse a captive audience ready for red meat. Who would have thought the Democrats could once again teeter on the edge of pulling defeat from the jaws of inevitable victory. Even the Crowned Prince’s ‘surprise’ visit was flat — choreographed to put him in that building briefly for optics. A last minute pirouette to prevent his sole participation being his ‘Party Rally’ in that bizarre Flavian Amphitheatre. One can only pray some idiot doesn’t unknowingly say, ‘Yo dog, wouldn’t a cathedral of light be tight? Suburban soccer moms would think it was like, down with a U2 show. Hectic for sure.’

The Big Dog still shows them how to draw distinctions with ease — something he tried to teach Kerry to no avail. He truly is he most gifted natural politician of this generation. We can’t expect that from the Crowned One tonight based on his rhetorical history. A surprise would be welcome.

Last night was the best for the Democrats so far — although HRC has been exemplary through out. If the Crowned One or David Axelrod doesn’t pay down her debt now (or at a more felicitous moment) in a significant way, they are truly men of little vision, honor or decency.

And as an aside, who precisely anointed the slightly bloated Luke Russert the spokesperson for the Millennials?

*Old joke from 1993 (and yes, we know he is still ambulatory).

Buying Time For History

Is the U.S. sliding into war with Iran? Sy Hersh may be right.

What most Oppositionists and certainly the ‘Left’ [sic] in the U.S. fail to understand is that the EU behind the scenes is on board. Rumblings from Brussels (not just Carla Bruni’s beau) are clearly hawkish. In fact, EU blatantly public worries are that the Crowned One ironically may undercut the UN like the Warlord – here, seeking to use personal charm for engagement while ignoring UN sanctions and other action.

Zbig’s weighing in on all this is getting stale. He needs to retire. His son is a lobbyist and law partner. His daughter is now a blondika version of J Fred Muggs to Scarborough. More importantly, Zbig’s argument that the Iranians sought the bomb *because* of the Warlord is simply specious. (Zbig is often an ass when he writes about things outside the Polish-Great Russian geopolitical corridor — his immature writings on Japan back on the day merely one example). The Iranian program according to most honest observers began to take shape during their war with Iraq.

Interestingly, while this unfolds, a leading Neocon, Jim Hoagland in the WaPo advocates a backhand strategy for Russia. He argues that the Russians are feeling American weakness and are pushing for the rollback of American power across the board. Hoagland is at least sober about in old Sov speak the relative ‘correlation of forces’ and how depleted American assets are under Cher Condi and the Warlord. Instead of the typical cant one expects from Neocons (and Hoagland) of standing firm, promoting democracy, freedom, Georgia in NATO, etc. Hoagland says something different. He offers that we should let the Russians push, until they exhaust themselves. Then he envisions a new equillibrium of punched out American and Russian visions — sobered and weakened. Very much like Manstein at Kharkov in 1943 (hence the back hand label) — although as we all know, ‘that whole thing didn’t end so good’ as the kidz say.

Is Tehran vaut bien un Conférence sur la sécurité en Europe on Russian terms? Would it even buy Tehran? We think not. Yet, oddly, this notion of talking as a strategy — or even accomodating to a rollback — is not too far from what is emerging from the Crowned One’s camp as the framing architecture of his world view and policy.

One must ask therefore if the Crowned One and his retinue understand Power. Sentiments are fine. Lofty rhetoric is a nimbus and neither here nor there. He holds a bad hand thanks to the Warlord et al. But the world is still anarchical and Power still determines how international law, international institutions and international discourse function. How will he achieve U.S. goals balancing the UN, Brussels, Moscow and Beijing with Tehran? If Zbig and the crowd we know tossing themselves at at future Administration are any clue, we truly fear a calamitous Kennedy – Khruschev summit in Vienna. With all the potentially catastrophic misjudgments that ensued. And that is merely one small example of the larger question: what is Obama’s principle about the purpose and role of American power in the world?

That question of course cuts both ways. Domestically, forget for a moment whether he wears a flag pin, ‘she rocks’ or if he says love of America (Amerikuh?) is a given. He has yet to explain and demonstrate to the American voter his vision in practical terms. Similarly, abroad, it is not enough simply to say he will reverse the Warlord’s policies. Across the globe, everyone is asking the same question: does the Crowned One understand how to use and impose Power? Many of those flocking to the banner of Change for appointments do not, in our opinion. Talk as a strategy for buying temporal space can make sense — engagement — if part of a coherent framework that is strategic and furthers both American interests and power (not necessarily identical). Even provocations domestic and foreign (read recent choreographed exercises) can actually be used as tools to make engagement appealing. Nimble opportunism can be a plus if the goal does not get lost. But in the end, it is all about understanding the application of Power. We do not mean the Warlord’s ultimately nihilistic (behind the facade) machtpolitik. The Crowned One’s position is unenviable. So much frittered away thoughtlessly the last 8 years.

We just wonder.

Hypmotized

The (a?) problem with bluffs can be two fold: (i) they have to be credible; and (ii) they lose suasion geometrically through overuse. Perhaps if the Israelis ran an exercise over Florida (synchronized with a NASCAR championship, that might be the last straw. But as it is, move along. Keep moving. Nothing to see here.

peacock.jpg

BUT, a deeper game is the psychology not of the Iranians (or Russians or Chinese), but U.S. Democrat donors and their Neocon counterparts staggering in the wilderness. Can these charades get them on board? (McCain doesn’t count as a challenge). The Iranians aren’t intimidated. For all the reasons we have discussed ad nauseam here. Would an Obama fold? We think it is not unreasonable to venture a 60-40% thing — after his visit on January 23rd. Tragically, his caving and eventual endorsement to such an adventure would merely be the book end of General Jello’s UN debacle.