Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pakistan-India, Hagel for SecDef, Assad speech, China threats, UK in EU, Debt Limit

1) The killing of a Pakistani soldier by the Indian military, illustrates the continuing tensions in Kashmir and beyond. I primarily blame Pakistan for this dynamic. Until the Pakistani intelligence service ends its support for anti-Indian terrorists, opportunities for a relationship of greater trust will not be forthcoming. It isn't too good when you have two states who a) hate each other, b) live next to each other, c) are both armed with nuclear weapons. Sadly, it doesn't seem to bother the Pakistani Government when their forces are killed by domestic extremists. Because they don't care, we must

2) I wouldn't pick Chuck Hagel to be my Secretary of Defense (for one, I think he was wrong to oppose sanctions against Iran), but I'm not the President. And if Obama wants Hagel for the role, I don't believe that Senate Republicans should oppose his nomination. Certainly, AIPAC's opinions of Hagel are irrelevant. Instead, a candidate's selection for this critical cabinet position should be made on the basis of three considerations: capability, knowledge and character. I believe that Hagel meets these standards and I don't believe that his nomination is worth another partisan battle (especially when he's a Republican anyway).

3) Assad is delusional. He still thinks that he has the power to survive. But he is running out of time. His regime is increasingly surrounded and is suffering defections and a dwindling supply of money. The only interesting part of Assad's speech came when he thanked China and Russia for supporting him. Those two states should be ashamed of their positions on the Syrian civil war. As I argued last week, Putin's Russia is a gangster state.

4) China is engaging in increasingly threatening behavior towards Japan. This follows further Chinese belligerence against other regional states like Vietnam. Obama must ensure that we stand firmly with our Pacific allies. And those around the world who hold fashionable anti-American views should also take note. China is no ally to international freedom. Western romanticism over China's economic rise must be tempered by reality.

5) The British Government is looking to fundamentally re-shape their relationship with the EU. This desire stems from two motivations. First, the UK has had to cede sovereignty to the EU and the UK Government now wants these powers repatriated. This is especially relevant in the field of Judicial issues. Second, with the UK economy still struggling, the Conservative Party needs an issue that can galvanize voters to support them. Because of public dissatisfaction with the EU, pushing for reform in this area is seen to present a political opportunity.

6) The Democrats are freaking out because they know that Republicans are going to push for major entitlement reform come the debt limit negotiations in March. As a conservative, for me this issue is simple. While I supported the fiscal cliff deal, I did so in large part because of the need to show conciliation as a foundation for future compromises from the President. Now, if the Democrats refuse substantial spending cuts/entitlement reforms in return for new revenue and a rise to the debt limit, the GOP should simply refuse to raise the debt limit. Again, this is simple. The American people have seen Republicans newly willing to make tough compromises for the sake of the national interest. Americans also understand that major spending cuts are necessary. So, if the Democrats want to be obstinate and refuse such cuts, then that is their prerogative. And their political risk. In such a situation, the Democrats will bear ultimate responsibility for the catastrophe that would stem from a default on the national debt. (Oh... and the 14th amendment debt argument/ platinum coin argument that some Democrats are throwing out... are totally absurd. I will be writing about the 14th issue in more detail next week.)

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