By Showing Captured US Sailors Iran Scored A Huge Propaganda Victory

WASHINGTON – Two small US Navy boats drifted off course while sailing in the Persian Gulf and ended up in Iranian territorial waters. The Iranian navy surrounded them and apprehended the 10 American sailors on board.

Matter resolved

The matter was resolved peacefully and quickly. The sailors were released and the boats, with all their equipment, were returned to the US Navy. So, all is well? is this a palpable demonstration that the new era of better relations between Iran and the US is actually bearing fruits?

The whole episode was filmed 

Not quite. The Iranians filmed the whole incident. And so the whole world can now see young US sailors taken prisoners, looking forlorn. There is ample footage showing all of them on their knees, with their hands clasped behind their necks, the universal sign of surrender.

Deliberate humiliation 

While it is true that the incident was resolved favorably and quickly, it is also true that America has been deliberately and publicly humiliated. The Iranians certainly did not need to release this video; but they did it anyway. Who can pass this opportunity to show US servicemen at the mercy of the mighty Iranian armed forces?

No reaction from the White House

Apparently, the White House is happy. No comments so far about this slap in the face. This is how CNN reported official reactions:

“The White House told reporters Thursday that President Barack Obama had seen the images of the detained sailors.

With the administration on the defensive over the video, State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that the images were “hard to look at” but urged critics to concentrate on the fact that the sailors were returned quickly.

“What we are most happy about here in the State Department is that we were able to get them home in less than 24 hours, (with) 10 fingers, 10 toes, nobody hurt. They are all safe and we got our boats back, and I think that is the most important thing.”

Embarrassment

Of course, let’s focus on the good news. All the sailors were promptly released. But only an idiot would ignore the fact that Tehran got a huge propaganda victory out of this incident.

You can rest assured that this video of the American sailors on their knees will go around the world, many times. You can rest assured that it will be used by all those who hate America –for years to come.

“You see? The Americans are weak. Look at them: on their knees, begging for mercy. They are not fighters. They are cowards. Confronted with determined warriors, what do they do? They surrender”.

Stain on America’s prestige will not be removed

No matter how much the White House, the State Department, or the Pentagon will try to spin this story, these sad images of captured and humiliated American sailors will be used in the worst possible way by a variety of groups and political forces that hate America.

Mark my words, this stain on America’s prestige cannot and will not be removed.

No price to be paid for offending America

Without trying to make too much of this one incident, let’s not forget that Great Powers are respected in large measure because of what others know or believe they can do. However, these days America’s prestige is tarnished, and its resolve is also in question.

As America is perceived to be weak, a deliberate swing at Uncle Sam’s image is no big deal. After all, what is America going to do in retaliation? Most likely nothing.

Therefore, let’s have some fun. Let’s film our prisoners and show the world that we Iranians are strong and the Americans are weak.




Obama Talks About Gun Violence In Order To Avoid Embarrassing Issues

WASHINGTON – I’ve got to hand it to President Obama. He is a really capable politician. And probably the greatest skill a politician can display is the ability to force Americans to focus on what he wants them to, as opposed to other important issues that could potentially damage him or his party.

Gun control initiative 

On January 5 President Obama made a major White House announcement about new measures that should prevent wanted criminals, or people with felony records from legally buying guns. On close inspection, this initiative amounts to almost nothing.

Obviously this is not a new legislative proposal. This would require congressional approval. And there is no chance that the Republican majority would vote for any new measures. And it is not an executive order either. This could have more teeth; but it could be challenged in court.

Obama’s announcement is about new “guidance” on how to interpret and properly follow existing laws and regulations, while devoting more resources to process background checks on would-be gun buyers more rapidly. These directives will also instruct people in the gun selling business on how to properly adhere to existing regulations. In other words, this is virtually nothing.

No impact 

Indeed, even assuming faithful adherence to this new guidance, the impact would be negligible at best. If you are not convinced, please consider that there are already in excess of 300 million guns –yes this is 300 million– in circulation in the US. This is a staggering amount. New rules that may restrict access for some future gun buyers, however well intentioned, will not change this underlying reality. Plenty of guns in America.

News of the day 

And yet, notwithstanding the triviality of all this, Obama’s White House announcement completely dominated the news cycle. There was full live TV coverage of the event, followed by almost mandatory commentaries in which gun violence experts were called upon to opine on what will be the impact, if any, of these new measures. They were followed by NGOs representatives who spoke in favor or against guns. And then, of course, each and every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate had to be given a chance to comment on what Obama had said.

Diversion 

All this amounts to yet another instance of masterful media manipulation. Obama dominated the news. As a result of this gun control diversion, there has been almost no coverage of other really important issues that would deserve real analysis and scrutiny.

But why the diversion? Because going deep into these other matters would expose America’s weaknesses and Obama’s lack of leadership. Therefore, if we can, let’s create a diversion. Let’s talk about something else.

“Hey, how about another “non-initiative” about gun control? We know that this is a crowd pleaser. The Democratic “base” loves it. OK, let’s do it”. 

Nothing about China 

And so it went. As we were watching Obama, no coverage of the disturbing news from China. Yes, there are nasty economic tremors in China. It is quite possible that, if China is sick and the whole world catches a bit of this Asian flu, the already fragile US economy may go south. This would be bad news for Democrats at the beginning of a critical election year.

Saudi Arabia-Iran crisis forgotten 

Likewise, no coverage of the additional crisis in the Persian Gulf in the aftermath of the public execution of Nemer al-Nemer, a Shiite cleric, by the Saudi government. Saudi Arabia, along with its smaller Arab Gulf allies, cut relations with Iran after an Iranian mob (the Iranians are all Shiites) burnt down the Saudi Embassy in Tehran as a reaction to the execution.

Could this new major friction between traditional religious and political foes escalate to violence? What about the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf? Should Americans worry about this? Has the administration any contingency plans?

Add to this Saudi-Iran spat Iranian open defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions when it comes to its ongoing ballistic missile program. The Iranians proclaim that they can do whatever they want with their missile programs. Well, does this defiance impact in any way the implementation of the separate but related nuclear deal that Obama rated as a major US diplomatic accomplishment aimed at preserving peace in the region and beyond?

US policy towards Afghanistan?

Last but not least, here is another unpleasant topic drowned by the gun safety initiative: US soldiers keep getting killed in hopelessly messy Afghanistan.

Discussing this matter would invite scrutiny on the fundamentals of US policy towards Afghanistan. What is the end game? Are we making progress? Can we defeat the Taliban? Can we confidently leave the country with the expectation that the fragile Kabul government will keep things under control after we are gone?

We do not discuss real issues 

So, you get the picture.

The world economy is on shaky ground. Nervous investors from Japan to New York are looking for any additional deterioration in China as a sign that it is time to run for the exit.

The Middle East is one step away from another crisis to be added to Syria, Iraq, and ISIL.

The US-Iran deal is potentially in jeopardy because of Tehran’s behavior.

Obama’s Afghanistan policy is looking bad.

And what does Obama do? He delivers a “hot air” White House address on how to cut gun violence focused on minor initiatives that will change nothing. I cannot blame him for trying. This is politics after all.

All US media accepted diversion as real news 

But what is shameful is that the entire US national media establishment bought the diversion. All the networks and cable TV news shows felt obliged to cover in detail this non event, at the same time adding layers and layers of irrelevant commentary.

And so, this became the news of the day, with more ripples to follow.

Obama knew what he was doing 

But here is the thing. Obama knew exactly what he was doing: a diversion. Whereas the media is apparently unable to call this presidential theater for what it is: a masquerade. News programs could have mentioned (in 20 seconds) Obama’s initiative, and then they should have focused on the real issues: the world economy, international security. But it did not go this way.

Therefore, instead of talking about the US economy and the new Saudi Arabia-Iran crisis –real issues with possible grave consequences–  we debate the merit of yet another presidential gun control initiative that according to most experts will change absolutely nothing.

The US media should know better.




Very Modest Military Effort Against ISIL

WASHINGTON – With a straight face, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that while the United Arab Emirates stopped flying bombing missions against ISIL last December, (somehow this development had not been made public until now), this should not be interpreted as a lessened UAE committment to the fight. Really?

UAE has left

Well, in theory the UAE could contribute substantially without fighting, for instance by paying for the cost of military operations. But we have not ben told in what way this staunch ally will help us win.

And how much was the UAE actually contributing before withdrawing? We do not know exactly. But here are some figures that may help shed some light on the issue.

As of December 2014 the “Coalition” had launched 1,371 air striked against ISIL, 799 in Iraq ,and 572 in Syria. (This is a very small number). 81% of these were conducted by the US, the remaining 19%  –yes, this is only 19%– by the rest of the “Coalition”. This would include Great Britain, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others.

It was not doing much anyway

From this we can safely conclude that, whatever the UAE was doing before withdrawing, (a fraction of an already puny 19%), it did not amount to much. And this is not for lack of means. The UAE air force has a total of 368 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. Of these more than 200 are fighter jets (US made F-16, and French made Mirage 2000). Not insignificant numbers for a relatively small country.

62 Coalition Members

And what about the rest of the large “Coalition”? What are they doing to help win the war? We are told that there are 62 countries on board. This sounds impressive. Yes, except that it is not.

Among the members we have: Singapore, Malta, Moldova, Mexico and Andorra. Yes, Andorra, a tiny little place sandwiched between Spain and France, and not exactly a major or even minor political or military anything. While there are others like Hungary, only a handful of countries among those that are nominally Coalition Members are involved in combat operations. And you have seen above how insignificant the total non US military effort is.

In other words, this whole “war against ISIL” is so unimpressive that it looks frankly unserious.

The Kosovo air campaign

Indeed, please compare this anti-ISIL air campaign to the NATO-led 1999 air campaign against Serbia aimed at stopping the Kosovo conflict. Over a period of 78 days NATO combat planes flew 38,000 air sorties, of which 10,484 were strike sorties. (ISIL campaign: 1,371 sorties as of December 2014. Now, February 2015, the number must be a bit higher).

Modest effort

This war against ISIL is a small effort led by a reluctant America with extremely modest military contributions from a handful of countries, plus symbolic nods from 50 or more nations that sent a little money and/or a little humanitarian aid.

Allow me a prediction. Given what I would call a low level of enthusiasm, this war against ISIL will not be won any time soon.




Susan Rice: Bergdahl Served With “Honor And Distinction” Because He Volunteered – Really?

WASHINGTON – The whole “liberation of Bowe Bergdahl” operation was supposed to be good public relations for President Obama. Instead, in the blink of an eye, it turned from heart warming end-of-the -long-war story into a gigantic fiasco for the Obama administration.

Fiasco

It turns out that the US went to great lengths to free a deserter about whom nobody who served with him has anything nice or even charitable to say. And the President, who should have known all this, still went ahead and made a high profile White House announcement about the regained freedom of a good American soldier held in captivity by the evil Taliban, with Bergdhal’s parents on his sides. So these are the people this President believes deserve special recognition? Deserters?

Obama defends his decision

Taken aback by the strong reactions about what was supposed to be good news, but still hoping that the general public will get tired of the story of how the administration traded 5 senior Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay for 1 US soldier held by the Taliban who may actually be tried for desertion, Obama stood his ground.

Indeed, in subsequent days, the President reaffirmed –actually with defiance– that this was the right thing to do. You see, we are Americans. We do not leave any of our own behind, no matter who they are or what they did. We just do not do that, under any circumstances.

Why the White House statement? 

Well, this may be a good argument about working towards the liberation of any POW, Bergdahl included. But if it is so, if this is routine, established practice, what was the point of inviting Bergdahl’s parents to the White House in order to make the announcement of the end of the long ordeal of a good American held in captivity ?

If Obama knew about Bergdahl’s at least questionable service record, what was the point of describing him as a brave soldier who had to endure 5 long years in the hands of the Taliban?

Sadly, in all this Obama looks clueless, and therefore silly.

Susan Rice does it again

But, wait, for there is more. Indeed, Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, looks even worse. She did say on CNN, after the prisoners exchange and the eruption of the controversy, that Bowe Bergdhal was a good American soldier who had served “with honor and distinction”. Really? A soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post in a war zone and disappeared served with “honor and distinction”?

“Honor and distinction”

When given a chance to explain what she meant, Ms. Rice said this:

“What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform in a time of war. That is itself a very honorable thing”.

Ah, you see, that explains it. What Ms. Rice really meant is something like this: All members of the United States Armed Forces, no matter their actual record during their service, served with “honor and distinction” , because they all volunteered in a time of war. Bergdahl volunteered and so, no matter what he did or did not do during his service, he served “with honor and distinction”.

Explanation worse than the statement

This “explanation” is preposterous, lame and silly. Think about it, according to Ms. Rice, all enlisted men or women, whatever their record during their service, automatically are recognized as having served with “honor and distinction” by virtue of the fact that they volunteered. Imagine this: while wearing the uniform, you committed war crimes. But, hey, you volunteered, and so you served with “honor and distinction”.

The honorable thing would have been for Ms. Rice to apologize for having said something really out of place, in the light of what she knew or should have known about Bergdahl’s desertion.

Remember the Benghazi story?

But no. She wanted to defend an absurd statement by explaining it. And so she said another preposterous thing.

Of course, it is impossible not to connect this implausible characterization of Bergdahl’s military record with her deceitful explanation of the “Benghazi Attack” a few years ago, in September 2012.

At that time, she went on several TV shows repeating  a misleading story about what caused the (September 11) attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the US Ambassador and three other Americans. The point of that fabrication was to protect the President who was running for re-election.

This time she did not say that the characterization of Bergdahl as a very good soldier came from some “talking points” she had been given. But the result is the same. She lost credibility.

Loss of credibility

There you have it: as a result of yet another botched affair, the President lost credibility; the National Security Advisor lost credibility.

In the broader context of “red lines” about the use of chemical weapons in Syria that have been crossed, inconclusive “negotiations” with Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities, token reprisals against Putin who acts like the neighborhood bully regarding Ukraine, while we offer meals ready to eat and socks as military aid to the Kiev government, (this is not a joke), all this makes me sad.

 




Because of Her Role In The Aftermath Of The Benghazi Debacle Ambassador Susan Rice Lost Her Chance To Become Secretary Of State – She Played A Political Role In Spinning A False Tale, Now She Pays A Political Price – But More To Come About Responsibilities Of Line Officers

[the-subtitle ]

By Paolo von Schirach

Related story:

http://schirachreport.com/index.php/2012/09/27/the-obama-administration-failed-to-protect-the-us-consulate-in-benghazi-from-credible-terror-threats-after-the-killing-of-ambassador-stevens-it-created-the-video-story-to-obfuscate-the-facts-and-d/

December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON – The terror attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya has made another victim. It is UN Ambassador Susan Rice, the high ranking official who was sent back in September by the White House on all Sunday TV shows to push the silly explanation that the terror attack was in fact a spontaneous riot caused by the (unfortunately) made in America anti-Muslim video.

Ambassador Rice as messenger

Soon thereafter it became obvious that, when the White House sent Ambassador Rice as “messenger” on all Sunday TV shows, the administration knew very well what had actually happened in Benghazi. I wrote then (see link above to related stories) that Ambassador Rice was made to look like a fool, telling a lie to the American public because at the time –this whole affair was unfolding just weeks before the elections– the killing of a US Ambassador in the line of duty, (on September 11 of all possible dates), was treated like a potential political liability that needed to be explained away as a tragic event beyond Obama’s control.

Anyway, Susan Rice, the hapless loyal servant sent to play politics on TV is now paying a political price. As the messenger for the Obama White House untruths she has been openly attacked by senior Republican Senators, including John McCain. Having become a political liability, Ambassador Rice on December 13 withdrew her name from consideration as a possible future Secretary of State.

Political scapegoat

Of course this is all about politics. She was sent in front of the TV cameras because back then it seemed politically expedient to spin the story. She must have known that she was being used, just as a pawn. Still, being a good trooper, she went on her mission aimed at obfuscating, this way doing her bit to help Obama’s re-election. And now that she has become a political liability she lost her chance to be “promoted” by the boss she so loyally served.

She became the scapegoat. Obama regrets her decision to withdraw her name from consideration, but he accepted it. The Republicans who (along with the Murdoch media, that is FOX and the WSJ) clamor for the truth may feel partially vindicated, and so forth.

Truth about Benghazi yet to come

But this Benghazi story is not over yet. We are still waiting for the results of an official investigation that hopefully will reveal how was it possible to neglect basic security in such a critical diplomatic post like Benghazi. Someone made serious mistakes and this is the real blunder. Ambassador Rice is just an unfortunate political casualty because of her role as messenger. Indeed, as the President said, she had nothing to do with any decision-making regarding Benghazi. Certainly the UN Ambassador is not in charge of diplomatic security. (That being the case, then why was she chosen to tell the “video-did-it” story on all the TV networks? Because at the time it seemed politically expedient to send her).

Secretary Clinton unscathed

Ironically, for the time being, Secretary Hillary Clinton, the person who is in charge of the Department of State, and therefore ultimately responsible for any security lapses at the US Consulate in Benghazi, is left unscathed. So far at least, almost no political damage to her reputation. She will soon leave (voluntarily) the Secretary of State job sought by Ambassador Rice without any public embarassment. If and when Clinton will decide to run for president in 2016, this whole Benghazi story will have been forgotten.

As for President Obama who no doubt had a role in sending Ambassador Rice to tell a fairy tale on TV, any political consequences? Well, he just got re-elected; and it is unlikely that this story will damage him in the future.




Because of Her Role In The Aftermath Of The Benghazi Debacle Ambassador Susan Rice Lost Her Chance To Become Secretary Of State – She Played A Political Role In Spinning A False Tale, Now She Pays A Political Price – But More To Come About Responsibilities Of Line Officers

[the-subtitle ]

By Paolo von Schirach

Related story:

http://schirachreport.com/index.php/2012/09/27/the-obama-administration-failed-to-protect-the-us-consulate-in-benghazi-from-credible-terror-threats-after-the-killing-of-ambassador-stevens-it-created-the-video-story-to-obfuscate-the-facts-and-d/

December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON – The terror attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya has made another victim. It is UN Ambassador Susan Rice, the high ranking official who was sent back in September by the White House on all Sunday TV shows to push the silly explanation that the terror attack was in fact a spontaneous riot caused by the (unfortunately) made in America anti-Muslim video.

Ambassador Rice as messenger

Soon thereafter it became obvious that, when the White House sent Ambassador Rice as “messenger” on all Sunday TV shows, the administration knew very well what had actually happened in Benghazi. I wrote then (see link above to related stories) that Ambassador Rice was made to look like a fool, telling a lie to the American public because at the time –this whole affair was unfolding just weeks before the elections– the killing of a US Ambassador in the line of duty, (on September 11 of all possible dates), was treated like a potential political liability that needed to be explained away as a tragic event beyond Obama’s control.

Anyway, Susan Rice, the hapless loyal servant sent to play politics on TV is now paying a political price. As the messenger for the Obama White House untruths she has been openly attacked by senior Republican Senators, including John McCain. Having become a political liability, Ambassador Rice on December 13 withdrew her name from consideration as a possible future Secretary of State.

Political scapegoat

Of course this is all about politics. She was sent in front of the TV cameras because back then it seemed politically expedient to spin the story. She must have known that she was being used, just as a pawn. Still, being a good trooper, she went on her mission aimed at obfuscating, this way doing her bit to help Obama’s re-election. And now that she has become a political liability she lost her chance to be “promoted” by the boss she so loyally served.

She became the scapegoat. Obama regrets her decision to withdraw her name from consideration, but he accepted it. The Republicans who (along with the Murdoch media, that is FOX and the WSJ) clamor for the truth may feel partially vindicated, and so forth.

Truth about Benghazi yet to come

But this Benghazi story is not over yet. We are still waiting for the results of an official investigation that hopefully will reveal how was it possible to neglect basic security in such a critical diplomatic post like Benghazi. Someone made serious mistakes and this is the real blunder. Ambassador Rice is just an unfortunate political casualty because of her role as messenger. Indeed, as the President said, she had nothing to do with any decision-making regarding Benghazi. Certainly the UN Ambassador is not in charge of diplomatic security. (That being the case, then why was she chosen to tell the “video-did-it” story on all the TV networks? Because at the time it seemed politically expedient to send her).

Secretary Clinton unscathed

Ironically, for the time being, Secretary Hillary Clinton, the person who is in charge of the Department of State, and therefore ultimately responsible for any security lapses at the US Consulate in Benghazi, is left unscathed. So far at least, almost no political damage to her reputation. She will soon leave (voluntarily) the Secretary of State job sought by Ambassador Rice without any public embarassment. If and when Clinton will decide to run for president in 2016, this whole Benghazi story will have been forgotten.

As for President Obama who no doubt had a role in sending Ambassador Rice to tell a fairy tale on TV, any political consequences? Well, he just got re-elected; and it is unlikely that this story will damage him in the future.




The Economy Keeps Sputtering At 1.3%, But Obama’s Numbers Are Getting Better – People Got Used To Mediocrity, While Romney Failed To Connect With Voters

[the-subtitle ]

By Paolo von Schirach

September 28, 2012

WASHINGTON – Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “Teflon President”. No matter how big his blunders, he exuded magic likability. So, nothing bad would stick to him. The American public was in love with “The Great Communicator”. But Obama’s magic looks even more amazing.

Obama’s magic

The American people say that the country is going in the wrong direction, that the economy is in terrible shape; but they still like the man in charge. This President does not walk on water; but somehow he managed to make every body believe that he can do magic. Consider this not sequitur accepted now by most as true: “The US economy is not doing well; but it is not the fault of the man who has been in charge for the past four years”. And so, these days in America people do believe that the sun shines at midnight, because a White House press release says so. I call this magic; because it defies any logic.

Bad economy, popular president

Look, I have no partisan animosity here and I fully recognize that Obama should get credit for stopping the financial meltdown in 2009. Obama also has the good fortune of facing Mitt Romney, a surprisingly dull Republican challenger who just cannot “connect” with the people. However, armies of political scientists and political operatives with decades of experience had told us that no incumbent President could ever be re-elected with a weak economy and unemployment at or above 8%. Americans are very practical people, we were told. If the economy stinks, they get another coach.

Obama’s numbers getting better

Well, not this time, it would seem. Ironically, just as we get closer to voting day, the economic news gets a bit worse and Obama’s numbers get a bit better. Second quarter GDP growth has been revised down from 1.7% to just 1.3%. The manufacturing sector is losing steam, while orders for consumer durables are down, led by a decline in commercial aircraft orders. Business sentiment is lukewarm, given the uncertainties about taxes, regulation, health care costs and the future of federal spending.

Let’s make it clear. This is not a disaster. But this is the continuation of a slide into economic mediocrity. Historically the US used to grow at an average pace of 3% a year. After the end of the Big Recession we never had the “V” shaped curve. We never had a big bounce. America is growing. But we have been limping along, slowly and weakly.

In the past this level of economic under performance would have been considered totally unacceptable. Americans want more than the 1.7% growth we have achieved so far this year.

Ahead in all the polls

But it is not so. President Obama, the steward of this economy, is ahead in all the polls. Most ominously for Romney, Obama is widening his lead in most of the ultra critical swing states. If Romney loses in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, there is no path for him to the White House.

People got used to mediocrity

Well, how is all this possible? Unsatisfactory economy and popular President? I have a simple explanation. Most people have gotten so used to mediocre performance that by now it looks and feels alright. Persistent 8% plus unemployment would have looked like a national calamity until recently. Now it is regrettable but tolerable.

Bush’s fault

And Obama has managed to convince the media and the public that America’s still sputtering economy is really a legacy of the terrible recession that occurred under George Bush and that he unfortunately inherited. Likewise, the explosion of public spending and the unprecedented federal deficits, with a net addition of $ 5 trillion to the national debt in the Obama years, is also a George W. Bush legacy; just as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were started by Bush.

Romney-Ryan will destroy the welfare state

Besides, right now the issue is not just the economy, Obama tells the voters, but the threat to entitlement programs represented by the Romney-Ryan ticket. This mean spirited duo, composed of a vulture capitalist (Romney) and an out of control, extremist ideologue (Ryan) are determined to destroy all entitlement and safety net programs created to support and defend the poor, the weak and the struggling middle class.

So, there you have it. “The disappointing economy is not so bad after all. But if you really think that it should be a lot better, remember that George W. Bush is the culprit. Besides, the next four years are going to be great, trust me. And if this is not enough to convince you to vote for me, consider the nightmare of a Romney presidency: no more Medicare or Medicaid. And poor children will go hungry”.

Oversimplified narrative works

You may find this oversimplified narrative funny. But it is working, rather well. May be Obama’s surprising popularity in large part it is the responsibility of an uncharismatic Romney who drives people away. Still, the Obama magic is working. As I said, Obama does not walk on water. But he did a splendid job convincing a majority of Americans that he really belongs to a different dimension in which performance and accountability do not go together.

America on a path to decline

That said, whatever the popular perceptions and the feelings about this President, the reality is that America is on a path to mediocrity and eventually irrelevance. If President Obama in his second term will vigorously promote pro-business and pro-growth policies, this national decline can be reversed. But if we continue with timid half measures while drowning in red ink, then the damage may become irreversible.




Herman Cain Still The GOP Favorite – Republican Base Craving A Fresh Face – Yet He Is Awfully Short On Details – Do We Want A Conservative Amateur In The White House?

[the-subtitle ]

By Paolo von Schirach

November 4, 2011

WASHINGTON – Herman Cain, the retired Godfather pizza entrepreneur now running for the Republican Party 2012 nomination, is very popular with the party “base” because he is a genuine straight shooter. He’s a hard core conservative and he’s got solid principles: low taxes and less government, while he favors a “strong” US foreign policy. Speaking to an audience in Washington, Cain walked to the podium used also by other Republican candidates and, after having disdainfully looked at a teleprompter, made a point to declare that the contraption from which one can read a text was not for him. No, sir. Cain is not scripted. He does not come and talk to good Americans reciting a prepackaged speech prepared by advisers. Cain speaks from the heart, and he’ll tell it to you like it is.

Republican base does not like professional politicians

Fine. There is ample ground for being suspicious of the Washington insiders, the professional politicians who curry favors and who’ll tell any audience anything, just to get their votes. And how about the other pros who will hide behind complicated jargon and ambiguous language, so that they can cover all the bases, trying to skillfully navigate to the nomination without offending anybody? And there is also legitimate skepticism against the super experts who come in, with a touch of academic arrogance, promising clever solutions and then falling flat on their faces, because their 15 parts programs turn out to be wrong.

Enter Herman Cain, the outsider

Because of all this, Herman Cain the ‘non politician” is a refreshing new comer. Still, is it really alright for a person aspiring to be president of the United States to be blissfully ignorant about the intricacies of policy? Is it really enough to have –so he claims– just good instincts about a couple of key policies, leaving the rest to the hired hands? This is awfully close to flying blind.

Remember Ross Perot?

No, America, it is not enough. And, by the way, not being a professional politician is no guarantee of wisdom. There are biased ideologues and many other narcissists who never run for public office in an earlier life. Remember Ross Perot in 1992? For quite a while he was a national sensation. Riding the otherwise legitimate issue of the federal budget deficit, he run as a third party candidate in 1992. He got enough Republican votes to wound the incumbent George Bush senior and help Bill Clinton get elected. But then Perot faded, never to be heard from again.

And yet, just like Cain, he was a successful businessman and he exuded the same folksy appeal –heavy Texas accent and all. He would tell you things the Washington crowd would not tell you, America. He would level with you, and he would come up with no nonsense solutions that would displease the special interests, but would delight The People. Like Cain, he had big ideas; but he was short on details.

Herman Cain, just like Ross Perot

Well, Herman Cain belongs to the same school. He is not a billionaire like Perot; but he has the ever revered credentials of the self-made man who did well and ended up running a sizable business. Still, can he seriously run for president merely on the strength of his conservative convictions and a platform consisting of just a couple of concrete policy recommendations?

We know about his flat tax proposal, the “9-9-9″- mantra. Will it work, as presented? Who knows? But it has the appeal of bumper sticker politics. Simple, easy to remember. (And why should it be any worse –many would argue– than the ultra complicated US tax code, with its thousands of pages, and thousands of special interests treated favorably because of their political clout?) Cain promises to come in and clean house. And his audiences cheer.

Self assurance or just biased arrogance?

As I said, fresh air does not hurt. But Cain self-assurance, with no details, is mostly the arrogance of the man who has figured everything out and does not need to do more home work. And this is border line dangerous. Having principles is one thing. Having biases presented as principles and not much else is a serious problem.

Knowing a lot of details about issues is certainly no guarantee of being able to make wise policy choices about where to take the country. (The evidence is in the fact that policy experts vehemently disagree about direction. At least some of them, with all their knowledge, must be wrong). But knowing little, and being sort of proud about ignorance, as if details do not matter, is a bad sign.

Republicans want a fresh face

The Republicans are entitled to demand a fresh leader, not tainted by Washington. But they could also ask for someone who actually understands that America’s problem are enormously complex and systemic in nature. Quite simply, bumper sticker policy solutions may be a crowd pleaser, because people crave straight answers; but the actual policy world is really complicated.

Cain is a conservative ideologue

And I am not sure that Herman Cain gets this. He gives the impression that he’s already got all the answers. His superior judgement, grounded on his strong conservative principles, gives him the tools to deal with everything. Well, this approach may sell with Republican primary voters, at least for now, but it does not work. We have now an amateur president, (zero, repeat zero, executive experience for Barack Obama prior to 2008), with a left wing bias. A conservative amateur is not gong to be any better.




Obama Announced That All US Troops Will Leave Iraq By December 2011 – Issue Presented As Major US Success – But President Did Not Say That Administration Wanted Troops To Stay Longer For Fear Of Iraqi Instability – Americans Not Told About Threats That May Jeopardize Years Of Military Efforts

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By Paolo von Schirach

October 21, 2011

WASHINGTON – At this miserable time, Americans care about only one thing: the sputtering US economy and sky high unemployment. Iraq, only a few years ago an extremely high profile and very contentious issue, has now receded into near oblivion. For this reason, the October 21 announcement by President Barack Obama that all US troops will leave Iraq by the end of this year , according to existing agreements with the Baghdad Government, did not cause much of a stir. And President Obama could say with some justification that, by getting all US soldiers out by the end of December, he is fulfilling his 2008 campaign promise regarding the need to bring to a close the American military occupation of Iraq.

White House e-mail announces US withdrawal from Iraq as major success

In an e-mail many received from The White House, this is how Obama put it:

“I’m writing to tell you that all US troops will return home from Iraq by the end of December. After nearly nine years, the American war in Iraq will end. Our servicemen and women will be with their families for the holidays.

The war in Iraq came with tremendous cost. More than a million Americans served in Iraq, and nearly 4,500 gave their lives in service to the rest of us. Today, as always, we honor these patriots.

When I came into office, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. As Commander in Chief, I ended our combat mission last year and pledged to keep our commitment to remove all our troops by the end of 2011. To date, we’ve removed more than 100,000 troops from Iraq…[…]“.

So, “Mission Accomplished“? This time for real? (We all remember the ill fated “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 displayed behind then president George W. Bush when he announced, a few years ahead of schedule as it turned out, the end of major combat operations in Iraq).

Well, yes and no.

“Status of Forces Agreement” negotiated by Bush not by Obama

What is remarkable in this announcement is what has been deliberately –in fact brazenly– left out. And these gigantic omissions confirm that the US president, even on foreign affairs, is talking politics, not policy. In his desire to be the bearer of good news for which he wants credit, he is not interested in presenting the complete context surrounding this announcement, including the fact that he did not want this outcome.

Let’s start from the most obvious omission. The Status of Forces Agreement, (SOFA), whereby all US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of December 2011 was not negotiated by the Obama administration, as some might now believe. It was negotiated by the Bush administration and finally ratified by the Iraqi parliament on November 27, 2008. The Obama administration, whatever its position on the war in Iraq, simply inherited it.

No special merit in enforcing a treaty obligation

So, there is no special merit for Obama in carrying out the letter of a bilateral arrangement that committed the US government, no matter who is in the White House, to withdraw all US troops from Iraqi soil by the end of December 2011. But, instead, the spin here is that this all Obama’s doing. He promised the end of our commitment in Iraq and here he is delivering on his promise. The fact is that he had to do this, based on a pre-existing arrangement that committed the US Government.

Obama in fact wanted to keep troops in Iraq

But this is just the beginning. The really juicy stuff comes now, The SOFA allowed for changes in the withdrawal schedule, if both parties –the US and Iraq– agreed to it. And it is an open fact that the Obama administration –the people who absolutely wanted to bring all the troops home from Iraq– wanted to keep US troops in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline. And, to this end, Obama negotiated until the last minute with the Government led by Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki in Baghdad to obtain an amended SOFA that would have extended the US military presence there, albeit at reduced numbers. (Anywhere between 5,000 to 15,000 troops).

Fear that Iraq is still too weak

And why do that? Because (until today at least) it was the opinion of the US Government that the Iraqi Government, although a bit more solid and resilient, is still unable to take care of its own security. (Bombings and attacks against police and government targets, although less frequent, continue to this day). The thinking behind the desire to keep a substantial US military presence was that US troops in Iraq might have helped to discourage the rekindling of sectarian violence that might bring the country back into chaos.

In other words, the same Obama administration that is now hailing the final withdrawal of all troops from Iraq as a great success and as the logical fulfillment of 2008 campaign promises, actually did not want this outcome and tried to avoid it. It was only when it became clear that the Iraqi Government would not budge on the issue of granting legal immunity to US troops, that Washington finally gave up.

Now it is all about political spin

And now, in true political spirit, and entirely for the benefit of a somewhat distracted home audience, Obama calls this significant draw back –the failure to keep troops in Iraq for a longer period– a major victory. This way of characterizing what actually happened is at best disingenuous, at worst openly dishonest.

It is no secret that negotiations had gone on for quite a while to secure a continued US military presence in Iraq. But the fact that the president made zero mention of this fact in his announcement is worrisome. He is not leveling with the American people about the pitfalls of this unwanted outcome, probably counting on the fact that Iraq is no longer on the political front burner. This being the case, a bit of manipulation of the facts would go unnoticed. America would get the good news about the troops coming home for the Holidays and no one would ask any probing questions about the implications of this withdrawal. No, we do notice that we have not been told the entire story; and we do not like it.

With no US troops there, Iraq may become once again unstable

Let’s look at the actual implications of this withdrawal. The president tells us that we can all go home because our job is done. Iraq is now secure and capable of taking care of itself. But the open desire to keep troops there tells the opposite. It says that in fact Washington is not at all convinced that Iraq is safe. Iraq, while in much better shape than in 2006-2007 when descent into an all out civil war seemed inevitable, is better; but not well.

And many experts have expressed strong reservations on the wisdom of all US troops leaving. Of course, we do not know what will happen. Hopefully nothing. Hopefully after the last US soldier is gone, the Iraqis will manage to carry on and deal with any security threat, domestic or instigated by neighboring Iran, quite effectively.

President told only what makes him look good

Still, no matter what, the President only told the part of the story that made him look good politically: “I got all troops out of Iraq, as I had promised during the 2008 campaign“. This is a way to score points for a politician already in full re-election campaign mode. But it is not an honest way to inform the American public about a very complicated issue that has been at the center of US security policies for almost a decade.