Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jindal on GOP, Iraq strife, Syria, US in Mali, North Korea

A few issues today.

1) BOBBY JINDAL has said that the GOP needs to stop being stupid. He's right. But unfortunately, the problem goes far deeper than defective PR messaging and the occasional rape remark. The hard truth is that the GOP is disconnected from far too many Americans. Jindal was wrong to pretend that a simple turn of phrase will alleviate this condition of political dysfunction. Instead, conservatives need real, substantial Republican evolution. Evolution that doesn't dilute conservatism, but re-frames and re-energizes conservatism for the 21st century. We need a message that connects with inner city Americans. We need to forge a social conservatism that serves society. We need to build broad coalitions. And most certainly, WE NEED a party valuing of intellectual curiosity, rather than condemning of debate as subversion and treason. If conservatives don't address these problems, we will keep loosing elections. It's not my opinion, it's the 21st century.

Side note- If Republicans select credible candidates, the GOP can re-take the Senate in 2014.

2) IRAQ is not looking good. Five Sunni protesters were killed by government forces in Fallujah yesterday. Now the head of the Anbar Awakening Council (which was critical in helping the US Military restrain Al Qa'ida in Iraq) has threatened insurrection against government forces in Iraq's huge western province. It's important to understand that this situation is not the product of a single incident. For the past couple of years, tensions between the Shia dominated Iraqi Government and Iraqi Sunnis have steadily increased. On the one hand, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Maliki, fears a return to a Sunni dominated autocracy like that of Saddam Hussein. However, in order to guard against this, Maliki is making the terrible error of creating his own semi-autocracy. In doing so, he is playing into the hands of violent extremists like the Islamic State of Iraq coalition (an heir to Al Qa'ida in Iraq) which find power in Sunni fear. These terrorists are attempting to drive Iraq into a 2006 style sectarian civil war. And if that happens, you can guarantee that every agitator in Iraq (cue- al-Sadr)/the region (cue - Iran) will poke out their heads in order to make things even worse. To avoid this calamity, Maliki needs to engage in substantial cross-sectarian dialogue with his primary political rival- al-Iraqiya (the nationalist block). If Iraq returns to the abyss, the consequences will be catastrophic.

3) ASSAD's regime continues its downward spiral towards defeat. Following the rebels capture of Taftanaz, heavy fighting is now underway in the south-west Damascus suburb of Darayya, about two miles from Damascus city center (check google maps to see the proximity). As Nicholas Blanford's notes, the regime and its allies are investing all their resources in this last gasp battle. As a further example of the regime's endangerment, Iran is loudly trying to deter western intervention by issuing threats of a counter-response. I believe that as the rebels begin to encroach on central Damascus, the psychological pressure on the regime will cause an irreversible crumble in its power- those who can flee will do so (I expect Assad among them), those who cannot flee will try and hide. Only the extreme hardliners will remain and they will be defeated.

4) CONCERNING MALI, the French Government is now requesting major support from the US. They need our refueling assets, our logistical transport capabilities and our ISTAR resources. They need these things because for many years they have elected not to spend on these crucial assets. The French (as with their EU partners) believe it is preferable to have American taxpayers carry the weight of international security. I have to be honest, this infuriates me. European governments love to claim that they are modern servants of the enlightenment - spending on social welfare instead of on an effective military capability. During peacetime, Europeans criticize the US for our military expenditures. But without us, they are impotent. This is the false moralism of EU defense policy. Every time that military force is applied, the gaping holes in European military power become apparent. We should provide France with the support that they need, but the French must carry the cost (probably wishful thinking on my part) and President Obama should make an open statement condemning European hypocrisy on defense issues/spending (definitely wishful thinking).

5) NORTH KOREA is threatening a further nuclear test and evidence suggests that this threat is more than rhetoric. While the North Koreans are steadily improving their ICBM capability, we already know that they have an albeit basic nuclear weapons capability. To be honest, while the North Koreans are loud, aggressive and seemingly unpredictable, their unpredictability has predictable contours. In essence, North Korea's foreign policy is similar to the actions of a young child. When a child wants attention or gifts, they cry. When North Korea wants attention or gifts (economic aid), it threatens war. True, the North Koreans sometimes take major action, most recently sinking a South Korean ship in 2010. But it's also true that whether headed by il-Sung, Jong-il or Jong-un, the North Korean regime resides on a foundation of luxury and patronage. It's leaders don't want to die. For all their threats, the North Koreans are cognizant that war with the US would be an act of suicide. With American resolve and strength, North Korea can be deterred.

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