Tom Rinaldo's Journal
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In 1983 a government of disputed legitimacy in Grenada, a small Caribbean nation well within the long acknowledged U.S. sphere of influence, was itself overthrown by a coup amid social turmoil that resulted in some deaths, including that of the then Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Within days of that outbreak of political and social unrest, the United States of America militarily invaded Grenada. Quoting from Wikipedia here: “U.S. officials cited the murder of Bishop and general political instability in a country near U.S. borders, as well as the presence of U.S. medical students at St. Georges University, as reasons for military action.” While Wikipedia may not always be the final word in authoritative sources, that's pretty much how I remember things going down also. The recently deposed head of the Ukraine government wasn't himself murdered, like Bishop of Grenada was, but he did feel in necessary to flee his nation for reasons that included his personal safety.
There are other unsettling similarities between the U.S. military invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the Russian invasion of Crimea last week. In the year prior to U.S. use of force in Grenada the then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, had been expressing alarm over developments there. Quoting Wiki again, and again it is consistent with my own recollections of that period; “In March 1983, U.S President Ronald Reagan began issuing warnings about the threat posed to the United States and the Caribbean by the "Soviet-Cuban militarization" of the Caribbean as evidenced by the excessively long airplane runway being built, as well as intelligence sources indicating increased Soviet interest in the island.” In the year preceding the Russian invasion of Crimea the Russian President Vladimir Putin issued warnings about the threat posed to Russian interests by Western meddling in the Ukraine seeking to draw it closer to an alliance with NATO and Western Europe against “traditional ties” with Russia.
Of course there are plenty of differences between the two invasions as well. Arguably what happens inside the Ukraine is much more central to Russian national interests than anything that took place inside Grenada could ever have been to American interests. The Crimea had long been an internationally recognized part of Russia/the Soviet Union before Nikita Khrushchev handed it off to the Ukraine in an inside political maneuver, whereas Grenada has never been under U.S. sovereignty. American interests in Cuba, Chile, and even Nicaragua came far closer to rising to the level of current Russian interests in the Ukraine than anything that precipitated the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
None of this speaks to who is/was right and who is/was wrong, nor to who occupies/occupied the higher moral ground in either of these uses of military force. Power, legality, and morality are not always closely aligned. In both military engagements however the predominant international view holds that the invasions were staged in violation of international agreements. The United Nations General Assembly, for example, condemned the American invasion of Grenada as "a flagrant violation of international law”. It appears that Russia would have a similar problem now in winning the blessing of that world body for its military actions in the Crimea. The United States did not allow unfavorable readings of international law to deter it from invading Grenada, nor have similar views constrained Russian military action over the last week. Wisely or foolishly, each nation used its military outside of its borders but within its self defined geographic sphere of influence to promote its national interests, as determined by those in power at the time.
No doubt the Soviets were livid over the use of America's military within our perceived sphere of influence during the Reagan presidency, but taking direct military action against the U.S. was never a real option for them to utilize in response. There was no international military opposition to the use of force by America in Grenada in 1983, just like there wasn't when we invaded the Dominican Republic under President Johnson in 1965 either. The harsh truth is that there are times and places when military action can be construed as an at least somewhat viable option for one major player operating in an international arena, but not reciprocally for others. The United States and its western allies, unlike Russia, have no direct military options available inside the Ukraine and every Republican in the U.S. Congress of even marginally sound body and mind knows it. Outrage and bluster that the recent Russian use of force in the Crimea was triggered by an America weakened by the policies of our current President, profoundly misconstrues geo-political realities.
At virtually no point during the decades long Cold War were either the United States or the Soviet Union able to directly counter the overt use of military force by its adversary when that adversary was operating within its own geographic sphere of influence, protecting its perceived vital national interests. That goes for both Democratic and Republican Presidents, moderates and hawks alike. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the U.S. Five Star General who defeated Hitler in Europe could not, as President, stop the Soviet Union from invading Hungary any more than the Soviets could prevent us from occupying Santo Domingo. Mutual deterrence, even when it overall succeeds in preserving the larger peace, has a downside as well as an upside. Direct large scale military conflicts between major powers are painstakingly avoided because the costs associated with such warfare, for both sides, are astronomical. For that very same reason, however, regionally confined acts of military intervention by a major military power against a third party nation, one not closely allied with an opposing major military power anyway, are seldom countered militarily by adversarial outside forces.
The last time that happened was during the Korean War when the United States directly confronted the military of Communist China. The human costs associated with that conflict were staggering. Between 1950 and 1953 there were 33,686 direct U.S. combat deaths in Korea far outstripping total American casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Especially after our Viet Nam experience where even more American troops died over a longer period of time, there is little public tolerance for seeing such sustained bloodshed revisited. Very few threats to our national interests rise to a level where the American people would support entering into a war that could result in hundreds of thousands of American casualties. Not only do most Republicans in Congress know that to be true, but with just a few note worthy exceptions the Republican leadership and Republican rank and file members in both houses of Congress were conspicuously gun shy when it appeared they have the opportunity to vote for authorizing missile strikes against Russian client state Syria, after Syria was accused of war crimes for using poison gas against its own civilian population. That would only have entailed a limited air attack on a Russian client state, not a direct engagement with Russian forces, and no American ground troops would have been involved. Still most Republicans in Congress had no stomach for signing their names to any legislation calling for direct military action against Syria, let alone directly confronting the Russian regime that is instrumental in keeping Assad in power in Damascus.
So many Republicans love bluster and routinely confuse it with strength, while reflexively scorning a broad range of diplomatic initiatives as only singling weakness, but they too read polls. The American public by overwhelming numbers wanted no part of any military strikes against Syria when that option was seriously being looked at. All indications are that the majority of Republicans in Congress would have voted to deny our President the authority to militarily punish Syria for its deadly and illegal transgressions. Yet they still persisted in calling the President weak.
How can military aggression by Russia against a regional neighbor be prevented or countered by the U.S. if direct use of the American military in such a conflict is realistically off the table? One option is set up and sponsor proxy forces to exert counter military pressure in support of our security objectives. The United States went that route in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion there. But proxy forces can be notoriously unreliable and ineffective, often accomplishing little at the cost of dangerously strained relations with the powerful aggressor state that we seek to counter. And the standing up of proxy forces can come with unanticipated negative consequences, such as the rise of Osama Bin Laden as a credible jihadist leader who morphed into our mortal enemy. Not to mention that Afghanistan was plunged into a decades long civil war that left that nation in shambles from which it has yet to recover. The U.S. belatedly came to recognize the actual cost of that chaos in Afghanistan, but initially disruptions inside that supposedly inconsequential nation were thought to have only minimal and manageable effects on American concerns, since aside from Cold War politics, the U.S. had little vital interest in Afghanistan. The Ukraine, sitting near the heart of Eastern Europe in close proximity to NATO nations, with growing economic ties to Western Europe, is on its face a very different matter. Armed conflict inside a nation like the Ukraine could not as easily be ignored or contained as it seemingly long was within Afghanistan.
Treaties and alliances are a traditional deterrent to military aggression and that is how NATO came to be. It's mutual defense clause guarantees that all member nations will come to the defense of any one of its members should that country be attacked. That explains why former Eastern Europe Soviet satellite states such as Poland, and reluctant Eastern Europe member states of the Soviet Union itself such as Latvia, were so eager to fall under the NATO umbrella as protection against possible Russian expansionism . But a military alliance in a multipolar world where no one side is all powerful is in essence a type of doomsday machine. It promises horrific violence for all concerned if an aggressor triggers it's mutual defense provisions. That functions well to deter violence if the threat of mass retaliation is suitably respected. But doomsday in a nonpartisan event. Both sides suffer grievously in any all out war. Defense pacts set up trip wires; cross that line and all hell breaks loose.
But trip wires have much in common with mine fields. The more mines that are buried over greater and greater amounts of territory, and the more trip wires that get strewn across expanding geo-political landscapes, the more likely it becomes that one will be intentionally or perhaps inadvertently be tested if events should ever spin out of control, as they sometimes are want to do. Will that doomsday machine actually be triggered or is it really just a bluff? At what point does the steady encroachment of new mine fields ever closer to your home become more threatening than confronting the mines previously put in place? Some make the case that were the Ukraine a part of NATO Russia would never have invaded it. A case can also be made that had NATO not kept advancing closer and closer to Russia's borders that Russia would have been less motivated to take a stand and cross a line into the Crimea. Military Alliances are powerful potential tools for peace but they too can bring with them potential unintended consequences of a very serious nature. They too present inherent risks.
The Russians long viewed Eastern Europe as a buffer zone protecting it from aggression from the West. In recent years they have seen carefully cultivated and frequently imposed buffer shrink. That can be unnerving to leaders with a strong nationalist streak and a sightly paranoid bent. For generations the United States proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine, defining the Western Hemisphere as our special domain. One could say that U.S. leaders became a bit unhinged when Fidel Castro proclaimed Cuba to be a Marxist state. We narrowly avoided a nuclear cataclysm and assured mutual destruction over Cuba before all was said and done.
What options are left then, if a direct military response to Russian military moves against one of its neighboring states is ruled out, when a proxy war is ill advised, and when expanding a military alliance becomes dangerously uncertain as to whether it would succeed at keeping the peace or instead tempt an even greater disaster? In the Ukraine of course that latter option is officially moot, at least for the immediate future. The Ukraine is not a NATO member and Russian troops are already on the ground there. So, when both sides wield big sticks and it appears each would get maimed if they were simultaneously swung, what other incentives exist that could ultimately influence the behavior of an adversary in a positive rather than negative direction? We all know that alternative well. We call it Carrots. But Carrots, Republicans say, are a reward, and you should never reward bad behavior. There is an alternative to either punishing with sticks or rewarding with carrots however, and that is to withdraw some carrots previously put in place. Of course that requires a degree of planning and general foresight, to get those carrots in their place to begin with, but at this point in human history it should be apparent that a prolonged peace is never achieved easily. It always takes effort and planning, and it takes sustained relationship building in many simultaneous spheres of endeavor for extended periods of time.
There is a word for the policy of doing exactly that, and that word in engagement. It isn't a new concept nor is it particularly ideological at its core. It's what Nixon did with China. It involves weaving a web of subtle interdependency in ways both large and small. It means transforming the status quo so that formerly entrenched adversaries begin to have more to lose than gain by allowing remaining flash points that exist between them to escalate rather than dissipate. There are bumps on any road, some more severe than others. And those become the times when existing carrots embedded in a relationship are at least temporarily withdrawn instead of offering new ones. At some point in an interdependent relationship the loss of some hard earned and long counted on carrots carries a sting as sure as a blow from a stick, without directly risking an escalation of violence.
Yes Putin wants Russia to again be a great nation, but he wants Russia to be great within a community of nations, standing proudly alongside great peers, not for it to now be isolated as some type of brooding and troubled pariah. Like China, Russia sees a need to integrate its economy ever more closely with the rest of the world to remain relevant and prosper over the coming century. A stick is a very blunt tool to wield, limited in its useful applications as I've discussed above relative to our current options regarding the Russian invasion of the Crimea. It is the strings of an international social and economic order that Russia benefits from participating in that most forcibly constrain Russia's military actions now. It is the past fruit of long pursued bi-partisan efforts consistent with the Obama Administrations recent efforts to “reset our relationship with Russia” that are providing us with whatever leverage the G8 nations now hold over Putin's next actions now. It is the carrots we now can threaten to withdraw, only because we had the foresight to have tendered them earlier under less tense circumstances, that provides us with any influence as events in the Ukraine continue to evolve. And hollow bluster has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Obama isn't weak, he's right. This is a serious episode flaring up in the middle of a continuing long term game plan. The overall strategy remains correct. Embracing a new Cold War, in so many ways, would be a mistake of epic proportions. That truly should be the last resort.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Mar 6, 2014, 06:41 PM (23 replies)
Have a progressive agenda we want implemented? "Make me do it" is the presidential reply. That clearly applies to Obama, since he literally said it, but it also applies to every President we are likely to ever see elected in our lifetimes. It is a very long hard climb to reach the presidency and whoever gets there arrives accompanied by a truck load of I.O.U.s. We have a political system that is obscenely skewed by money, but even if money wasn't as disproportionately transcendent in American politics as it is, the presidency is an inherently conservative institution. The federal government, and the cumulative interests that it has served for generations, has tremendous inertia behind it to remain on track in whatever track it now is running on. And that by definition is the status quo, which always means that the people who are getting what they want from the current societal order always start out holding most of the strings.
The only time I half expected anything remotely resembling revolutionary changes flowing top down from the President to the people was during that brief shining moment when it looked like RFK would become the next President of the United States But those were extraordinary times and Bobby was an extraordinary person whose character was forged in fires during those extraordinary times. We don't know how much he could have accomplished, but even he would have needed to lean heavily on the support he knew he could summon from a breathtaking broad spectrum of socially engaged grass roots backers.
For every degree left of center that Barack Obama navigates he does so by breaking through thick political pack ice, and it always takes its toll, even when it ultimately shatters. It is true that some women, and some men, are made of steel more hardened than the norm, and they will confront some storms that others would shy away from, but they too ultimately have to pick their fights in order to be viable. Which is ultimately why I am not overly disheartened by the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton Democratic candidacy for President. In the end it is less about the candidate and more about us.
In the binary political world of American politics, where the cumulative forces of every national special interest conceivable places its chips on either black or red in each national election, the field of political combat starts off tightly confined. The lines are drawn just short of the extreme right on one side of the field, and narrowly left of center at the other. In that binary world, at the national level, our team is the one that will at least occasionally acknowledge the legitimacy of occupying any ground laying left of center. How hard they will fight for that ground is a different story. Pragmatic considerations usually pull toward the center of the well worn playing field with its inherent conservative bias, not to the center of an abstract political spectrum where actual socialism remains a theoretically valid option
The President we elect can venture outside traditionally defined boundaries, but only on rare occasions, and only when there is a strong groundswell of popular support pushing hard for that line to be crossed. The lines themselves are theoretically subject to change, but bringing about that type of change is much more formidable to accomplish than are isolated single transgressions across those boundaries. It is our continuing struggle and responsibility to move the lines, of what it is possible to achieve in the way of social justice in America. That initiative won't come from the man or woman we manage to elect as President in any given four year cycle. We will have to make him or her move toward us. We can't place all of our eggs in any presidential basket, no matter how inspirational on one hand, or disillusioning on the other, he or she may ultimately turn out to be.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Feb 13, 2014, 03:50 PM (10 replies)
It's the only plausible explanation left for what happened with the George Washington Bridge access lane closures if you accept Chris Christie at his word. Sure Bridget had a secure six figure job with a promising path forward for career advancement. Her immediate supervisor was slated for promotion to become New Jersey's Attorney General, opening up his slot as Chief of Staff to the Governor. Her ultimate boss, New Jersey Governor Christie, was being talked about widely as in line to become President of the United State; lots of potentially great new job possibilities lay waiting over that horizon. Life was running smoothly. There was no suspense left in Christie's campaign for reelection to a second term as Governor, everyone knew that he was cruising toward a rout of his Democratic opponent in November. What could go wrong? The future looked bright, and apparently it's a very fine line that separates bright from boring.
It's true that Bridget was a single mom with four kids, and most people would think that by itself provided excitement enough, but apparently not for a thrill seeker like Bridget Kelly. Her life was mired in a secure and predictably successful rut. So one morning it seems she work up and thought "Now is the time to go rogue!" Why, who really knows? Not all mortals are created equal. Some choose to climb Mount Everest, simply because it's there. No one had ever ordered the closure of two Fort Lee access lanes onto the George Washington Bridge for four days for no apparent reason before, but Bridget Kelly was in uncharted territory, boldly going where no politico had gone before. Isn't that reason enough? If something had gone wrong during Sir Edmund Hilary's ascent of Everest, it could have cost him his life. If something had gone wrong during the gridlock in Fort Lee it could have cost Bridget Kelly her career and freedom. Some would say that's a small price to pay for the rush of screwing with other people's lives. Apparently Bridget Kelly is one of those people.
People like that have charisma. People like that are born leaders. And so when Bridget Kelly told David Wildstein “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” he was compelled to obey her. Not because the man who appointed David to that newly minted, no resume needed to apply, plush position at the Port Authority would have wanted him to. In his heart of heart Wildstein knew that Chris Chrisite was no bully. It simply wasn't the Governors style to throw his weight around. The Governor cultivated a culture of deference to the needs of others within his office, even when that undermined his own political ambitions. David Wildstein knew all that about Chris Chrisite, but still he obeyed Bridget Kelly; “Got it” he unhesitatingly replied when her potent gaze fell upon him. Bridget ordered Wildstein to go rogue and he, now under her considerable spell, complied.
Chris Christie was wise not to question Bridget Kelly about her motives before he fired her on that fateful and resolute morning. New Jersey could have ill afforded having the Governor himself tempted by her siren ways. But somewhere in Hoboken a Mayor was watching closely. “Being at the center of a political fireball looks like fun” Dawn Zimmer said to no one in particular. “Maybe I should offer some false testimony to a federal prosecutor.”
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Feb 4, 2014, 04:57 PM (17 replies)
I, like millions of other Americas, have watched the emergence of this new generation of television journalists with delight. Like the whole political world, it seems, I am glued to their collective coverage of the assorted scandals that the Chris Christie administration (and the Port Authority) are now embroiled in. But the sentiment I want to express here is only tangentially connected with that, or more accurately, their Christie coverage is an illuminating example of a promise finally kept which suddenly dawned on me this morning while watching Up with Steve Konaccki.
Their kind of in depth reporting is what I long ago expected would become much more commonplace after the explosion of new TV channels that cable TV opened up, after decades of Americans being limited to television programming provided by three major networks and a handful of independent stations. This is what I once thought CNN would evolve into, and if not them than someone else after hundreds of new channels became available to viewers to choose between.
Yeah I know that for the most part we live in a vast corporate media wasteland but even so there was always daily in depth investigative journalism provided by many newspapers throughout the United States. True it didn't always make above the fold front page coverage, but in depth reporting did make its way into print and could be found by those diligently inclined to look for it. I once naively believed the same would be true with cable news. I didn't expect an ABC, CBS, or NBC news anchor to walk viewers through nuanced webs of circumstantial evidence in a search for smoking guns. I didn't expect the major networks to devote their precious few minutes of prime time national news on connect the dots exercises through the murky backwaters of government agency filings. But I thought someone would, probably someone found on a station with not one, but two or even three digits attached to it. Cable TV could make that happen, I thought to myself back then. But it didn't, not with any dependable regularity anyway.
But this morning I remembered those long ago expectations about the type of TV news coverage I expected would soon be reliably available to those who chose to seek it out. All those hours in a 24 hour news cycle, all those hundreds of channels, it should be possible to find it. Today it suddenly struck me that I was watching exactly that, not hours of video of a smoking airplane crash with recaps every ten minute of what was currently known, or an incessant parade of talking heads speculating on just how juror X would relate to the latest revelation in a newly minted celebrity murder trial.
These three fine television journalists in particular ; Steve, Chris, and Rachel, are fulfilling the promise that I long ago had forgotten once seemed so promising. Painstaking details, a dedication to fully inform the public of whatever relevant back stories were in play. What a joy to see that live and kicking on my TV screen in America.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Feb 1, 2014, 11:52 AM (32 replies)
Oh yeah, Chris Christie, from 2002 to 2008. He was the guy who Zimmer originally went out on a limb for, giving him cross party praise for helping clean up corruption inside New Jersey. Christie helped bust Democrats who abused state power when he was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Then Zimmer discovered that Christie was abusing it himself. Why on earth would she trust anyone to be honest given the evidence of long term endemic serial political corruption in New Jersey? How far did the power of money in New Jersey penetrate? I sure as hell would have been asking myself that question back in July if I were Mayor Zimmer.
Back in July the entire national media was having a love fest over Chris Christie because of his image as a straight shooter that they all swallowed hook line and sinker. Christie was riding high in New Jersey running away with his bid for reelection. He was being praised for being above politics when it came to Sandy relief. Had Zimmer come out against Christie then he and his media friends would have immediately pounced on her for being politically motivated. They would have spread rumors that key Democrats had gotten to her, that there would likely be some pay off for Zimmer if her charges against Christie derailed his expected victory in November. That would have been a plausible line of attack against her back in July.
What supporting evidence did Mayor Zimmer have to make her case against Christie back then? Her diary would have been worthless as evidence in July since clearly she could have fabricated journal entries against Christie concurrent with her going public against him if her accusations were false. Back in July there was no way Zimmer could have known that Christie would become embroiled in a national scandal stemming from a bridge related traffic jam that hadn't happened yet. She had every reason to expect that Christie would be a national darling after sweeping to reelection in November; it makes zero sense that she would have plotted against Christie in July expecting to take him down in December. Had Zimmer moved to expose the Governor's corruption in July she could only expect to be swept aside, she had to feel alone back then not knowing if there was anyone she could trust to not do Christie's bidding. Why would she trust the U.S. Attorney for NJ in that political climate? Just because he was appointed by a Democrat this time? Corruption in New Jersey has long been a bipartisan affair.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 21, 2014, 11:26 AM (10 replies)
One issue centers on domestic politics, and all of the implications that may hold for us as a nation moving forward. The other centers on international relations, and all of the repercussions that may hold for us as a nation moving forward.
One involves Chris Christie, the other involves Iran. Which outcome will have the most far reaching consequences?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Jan 20, 2014, 11:30 AM (7 replies)
Iran nuclear deal comes into force as US sanctions loom
"In line with the implementation of the Geneva joint plan of action, Iran suspended the production of 20 percent enriched uranium in the presence of UN nuclear watchdog inspectors at Natanz and Fordo sites," Mohammad Amiri, director general for safeguards at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, told the official IRNA news agency.
UN inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the freeze had begun, diplomats said in Vienna, headquarters of the watchdog...
Iran's conservative newspapers on Monday came out strongly against the implementation of the deal.
Under the headline, "Nuclear holocaust', Vatan-e Emrooz paper said that the Geneva deal will see most of the country's nuclear activities come to a halt.
Threatening to scupper the process is a push by US lawmakers -- including some from Obama's own party -- to slap new sanctions on the Islamic republic, even though this would contravene the November deal.
Where do your U.S. Senators stand on scuttling negotiations with Iran?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Jan 20, 2014, 10:57 AM (0 replies)
No one in either the media or politics is foolish enough to try to defend what happened to the general public in Fort Lee when George Washington Bridge access lanes were closed for indefensible reasons. But turn on Morning Joe for example and you will witness a wink wink nod nod acceptance of "hardball politics" in New Jersey as something only to be expected. The inference is that successful politicians, at least those in New Jersey, know how to reward their friends and punish their enemies. True, in this particular instance some red line was crossed when the lives of the public were put at risk while some form of as yet murky retribution was exacted by the Christie administration against presumed political enemies. But If you keep the general public out of the direct line of fire, this line of reasoning goes, why shouldn't a politician reward his or her political friends and punish his or her political enemies? That's how things get done in the real world, or so some say.
What isn't noted though is the perverse nature of the sting operation Chris Christie ran during his last election campaign. It was the political equivalent of criminal entrapment. Christie didn't merely target preexisting enemies in an attempt to take them down. He offered "deals that you can't refuse" to numerous mayors who showed up in his sights simply because they happened to have been elected as Democrats. They weren't Christie enemies, not if you take him at his word that he values governing in a bipartisan manner. These simply were mayors who held office as Democrats at a time when Christie wanted Democratic endorsements so he could demonstrate to a national audience that he had "bipartisan support" to further his personal ambitions. From what I have seen so far the mayors of Fort Lee, Jersey City and Hoboken never went out of their way to cross Chris Christie. Chris Christie went out of his way to put them on the hot seat.
When did it become a political capital offense for an elected official of one party to not endorse the head of the opposing party's state wide ticket in an election? That wasn't bare knuckled politics Chris Christie was playing in New Jersey during his last campaign for governor, whether or not he actually ordered those bridge access lanes closed. It was extortion pure and simple.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 14, 2014, 10:53 PM (16 replies)
NOTE: I posted this two weeks ago in Democratic Underground's General Discussion Forum. Since then the legislation spoken of has gathered steam, and now is nearing the level of support needed to over ride a presidential veto. While this OP offers little if any "new" information, I think it confronts and refutes the arguments being used by those seeking new restrictions on Iran, and exposes the actual motivations of those proposing them - along with the most likely ramifications if their efforts succeed.:
Pending legislation actively supported by a significant minority of the U.S. Senate, including 15 Democratic Senators, establishes strict economic sanctions to be imposed on Iran should it not adhere to actions demanded of it during the current interim six month negotiating window regarding it's nuclear program. The Obama Administration opposes the Senate Bill, arguing that talks with Iran are at a fragile and sensitive stage and any further talk of sanctions at this point runs the risk of scuttling them. Not surprisingly the Senate sponsors of this bill deny any desire to torpedo the current negotiations with Iran. They claim their intent is to provide incentives to Iran to negotiate in good faith. Their actions, they say, increase the likelihood of reaching a negotiated outcome with Iran consistent with long stated U.S. security concerns. They may say that, and some of them may even believe it, but their actions are far more likely to increase the chances of a war with Iran.
No knowledgeable observer can deny that powerful forces, some inside Iran, others associated with the U.S. and our allies, are unsettled if not unabashedly alarmed, at the direction the current nuclear talks have taken. That type of concern seems to flare up whenever long time adversaries show mutual signs of breaking loose from deeply entrenched opposing positions. International disputes ultimately are settled in one of two ways. Either one side essentially capitulates in the face of threats, up to and sometimes including the use of force against them, or some type of settlement of outstanding differences is negotiated. The former often leads to war. The latter almost always involves some degree of compromise, but hardliners on BOTH sides of a dispute usually oppose the granting of any real concessions to their adversaries.
The motives of those opposed to the current negotiations over Iran's nuclear program on both sides may differ wildly, but the short term tactical goal is identical; derail any real diplomacy that proposes anything other than a blueprint for the terms of the other side's surrender. When hardliners lose an internal struggle with more moderate elements to shape their nation's stance in an international dispute, they will try to inflame extremist passions on BOTH side of the dispute. They know it makes no difference which side ultimately disrupts negotiations. All that matters is the failure of the negotiating process.
No doubt opponents of the current peace process inside of the Iranian regime are doing all that they can to poison the well; to stoke up as much hatred of and suspicion toward America as possible. Opponents of the current peace process inside of America, Israel, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are counting on exactly that. There is a phrase that gets used in diplomacy that we seldom stop to ponder the meaning or implications of, and that term is “in good faith”. It's not the sort of precise criteria that is easily verifiable, but whether or not each side believes that the opposing side is negotiating in “good faith” is critical to the success of most negotiations. Another important diplomacy related concept is “trust building initiatives”. There seems to be a diplomatic consensus that trust building measures are crucial before real progress can be made resolving long standing disputes between nations with an entrenched distrust of each other.
If it is possible for a party to be recognized for “negotiating in good faith” it is equally possible for it to be accused of “negotiating in bad faith”. The latter is actually the more likely outcome when negotiations occur against the backdrop of deeply held suspicions. And that is precisely why trust building measures are so central to diplomacy, and why they are needed now during the standoff with Iran. Diplomacy at the highest levels has resumed between the United States and Iran. It is an historical breakthrough. Both sides are intently studying how this breakthrough is being perceived by the other, across the great divide. Is it being viewed with relief, and at least cautious optimism, or is it a cause for greater concern, with an expectation of failure and worse days to come?
Cue the United States Senate, where lobbyists representing the interests of other nations aligned with the United States are hard at work behind the scenes trying to influence U.S. policy toward Iran during the current stand off regarding Iran's nuclear program. Clearly there are honest differences of opinion over if and how to proceed with negotiations. Those differences have been at the heart of countless debates within the U.S. State Department and have been the focus of endless consultations with our allies. They were fully weighed, they were fully considered, and the current negotiations with Iran are the product of those deliberations.
Secretary of State John Kerry could not be clearer in warning that new Congressional initiatives regarding Iran policy at this point in our relationship with that nation are not only counter productive, they are dangerous and undercut the chances of successfully defusing our impasse with Iran, and significantly increase the likelihood of armed conflict with that nation. Those warnings have not deterred those who object to the diplomatic process now underway, but they have influenced the tactics that they are using to undercut those negotiations
An initial flurry of voices rose in stark opposition to the 6 month interim agreement reached with Iran when it was first announced, until the American people weighed in on the deal. Most polls have shown a clear majority of Americans supporting it. As a result, rather than directly opposing the current six month window for negotiations, opposition strategy has shifted toward more subtly undermining it. Hence the current emphasis on providing “incentives to Iran”, in the form of specifically defined threats. Yes, it is argued, they will not take effect unless the negotiations fail, but the effect of those threats is to increase the likelihood of that failure. New threats from America coincident with the first hesitant warming of relations between our nation in over 30 years, predictably play poorly inside of Iran, and that plays directly into the hands of hard line Iranian elements who thrive on opposing America.
That is the real goal of the threats the U.S. Senate is weighing against Iran. The neocons may have lost the last few Middle East rounds but they have not exited the field. They still want to topple the Iranian regime, just like they wanted to depose Saddam Hussein. They still are promising the American people that it will be a “cakewalk” to liberate Iran from oppression, just like it was supposed to be in Iraq. Just a few more hard turns of the economic screws and the regime will crumble in the face of domestic unrest, “Don't stop now, we're winning” is their mantra. And if it comes to blows there is always shock and awe.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Jan 11, 2014, 08:59 AM (3 replies)
MINNEAPOLIS —" Hildagard Omete, 36, a mother of three who has been unemployed for a year and a half, went job hunting on Monday.
Sitting at the public library scanning help-wanted ads on a computer, Ms. Omete was wearing two hoods and a knitted hat, along with a full-length down jacket. It was cold inside the library
Outside, the temperature was downright frigid, even by Minnesota standards. The thermometer read minus 15 to minus 20 degrees for most of the day..."
The story was titled: "Arctic Cold Blankets Midwest, Freezing Routines". Most of what followed was pure weather talk, facts and and bone chilling figures (a homeless shelter was also mentioned far down in the text). But the lead in featured the long term unemployed. Out of work for a year and a half and this woman was out there on a brutally cold Monday morning searching for job leads from a frigid public library.
The truth about this economy and the plight of those who the Republicans cut loose from the economic safety net by refusing to extend unemployment benefits is now breaking through in frigging weather coverage.
P.S. Obviously they are all lazy do nothing unemployment queens.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Jan 7, 2014, 09:19 PM (7 replies)