The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2008.11.9 16:42

Iran vs Obama: Reality Strikes Again

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 16:42

To briefly give a preview of what Obama supporters (and the US in general) should expect it is somewhat humorous, interesting, and I believe highly pertinent to note that Iran — one of the countries which openly endorsed Barak Obama — is already at odds with him, and trying in an amateurish way to pressure him by throwing his own campaign rhetoric back his way. During the campaign Obama spoke a lot about “change” without any specific definitions. It is a shallow enough notion in the realm of geopolitics for any single American President to talk a lot about change without explaining himself, but it was enough when coupled with ethnic concerns and a grand distaste for the Republicans on the Left to get the man elected.

“Change” simply is something which cannot happen very quickly within a system as deep and complex as the American one. I noted before in an introductory article to a series I am writing about future American geopolitical realities that reality will likely bite the Democratic majority in the ass, and as a clear majority in Congress and with the White House under their control they will have no scapegoats to blame the current state of the world on. Nobody, of course, accept the other 200-odd countries which comprise the planet upon which we live.

The key problem of perception here is that the Left still chooses to observe the world as a merry place where the only evil is America itself and that no other nations or organizations (not even Islamists) have competing interests or any malicious plans for anyone else. All problems stem from America. This is their view and a hardcore Leftist will conduct immensely complex intellectual gymnastics to force the world to conform to that view in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary. The major components of this view were also adopted by the Right from the end of the Cold War until around 1998 when the combined lack of a NATO or EU enemy (the USSR had collapsed) and the strain of a financial crisis made the EU seem to pull apart for a bit. 9/11 forced the rest of the Right squarely into a more realistic world view and even snapped many in the Left out of their daydream of a harmonious global human experience.

The important thing to note here is that what Obama meant by “change” is that he wants to be elected, that he is little bit black (which is a change from a white President) and he wants to conduct foreign policy through a Democrat-controlled Congress (which is a change from a Republican-controlled one). What Iran chose to hear when they heard him say “change” was that America would suddenly just lay down and allow Iran all the diabolical means (such as nuclear weapons) it desires to destabilize Iraq, destroy Saudi Arabia as a competitor and state, annihilate Israel and re-establish the Persian Empire.

It should be noted here also that Iran can have all the enriched uranium it wants and still be years away from actually weaponizing them. Nuclear weapons are delicate and intricate. It is a long way from having some fissinable material and having a functional, high-yield bomb that can be launched and delivered with any success, confidence, reliability and accuracy through modern air- and missile-defense networks. Obama’s resistance to Iran’s continued research, however, is something that Iran views as against what he said with the word “change”. They will continue to attempt to pressure him even before he reaches office in any way possible.

He will continue to find himself trapped in the foreign policy game with limited options to persue outside of the policies Bush has already laid out. Fortunately, he has shown the wisdom to remain cautious and largely silent in response to this attack by Iran and let his far more seasoned staff handle things for him.

Implications of Democratic Control of Congress and Presidency

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics,Special Series — zxq9 @ 12:26

I have been pretty quiet about the elections in the US. This is because in addition to recently catching up with what is going on I have had a lot to consider before writing anything except for a simple article explaining a simple situation. I have also always maintained that the course a nation takes is largely predetermined by circumstances, accidents of geography, and social realities. This leaves little room for the influence of one man — in this case Barak Obama — to have much effect, and indeed reality will be imposed upon him and we will soon see his policies and views change significantly. Obama will be dealing with — and expected to be at least on par with — the likes of Putin, Merkel, Sarkozy, Hu Jintao, the Ayatollahs and a host of other highly experienced persons of power who will not be moved by charisma or any childish notions of “change” that are not strictly to their benefit and often America’s specific detriment. A similar process will unfold in the Congress. That being considered, I did not view the election campaign itself or its outcome to be of significance, as the course they must take is largely already determined.

The Democrats have been elected, proving that they have mastered the art of saying the right things in public to get elected and convincing the media to frame them in the desired way. Now it is time to deal with reality and we will soon see how masterful they are at playing the actual game of geopolitical balance while trying to appear to live up to their campaign promises. It is very easy to say radical things, make broad sweeping gestures and produce emotionally pleasing sounds about some entirely undefined and ambiguous “change” when you are in the minority of Congressional and Executive power. Once you are actually in control, however, you must obey the laws of reality or risk sinking your ship.

Reality will be imposed upon the next version of the American government in three ways which differ significantly from the general public view of how government works:

  1. The roles of the President, the Congress, the Treasury and the Judiciary (i.e. Supreme Court) vary significantly from the way the public tends to imagine them to be.
  2. Government finance and the way the economy functions are grossly misunderstood by the public.
  3. The effects of competing foreign interest is almost always not only misunderstood but greatly discounted when understood by the public.

That being said, the Democrats have a desire to be in power. They are power hungry. That is why they have formed a political party — to gain and maintain as much power as possible over the workings of the United States. That means also that they desire to have the US be powerful itself. This means they do not wish to preside over the decline and demise of the US as a global superpower, the only meaningful military power left in the world and the only national economic entity sufficiently diversified enough to weather the current financial turmoil without panic. Here it should be noted that there is absolutely no distinction between economic and military power — they are deeply related, particularly in the case of the US, and are two sides of the same coin in the view of powerful statesmen and leaders. To maintain the base of American power in the world it will be fundamentally necessary to behave in a way which is in direct contradiction to campaign promises.

The electoral votes were decisive and substantial, but the popular vote was anything but a landslide. This leaves plenty of room for a public shift in public opinion. I predict that this in combination with the impending demise of the Democratic wishful imaginings about the status of the world will have two effects: Barak Obama will find himself with a drastically reduced support base as his presidency moves forward, and the support base of the Democrats will either split entirely or shift such that they will no longer enjoy a majority confidence after a few years. [While this series focuses on geopolitical issues and foreign policy — the principal job of the Office of President — Stratfor has written an excellent article which focuses on the domestic political control issues facing Obama and how he is handling them early by selecting his political appointees.]

Fully understanding this position requires a good bit of background explanation. I am therefore going to attempt to produce a small series which will investigate some of the larger forces at work in the world and how these forces will constrain and limit the choices America has over the next several years. Geopolitical issues I see as significant to the next American government are:

  • The Defining Realities of Russia and Cold War II
  • Necessary US plays in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Iranian regional control issues
  • Iraq
  • The Lebanese equation
  • Global economy and finance
  • Georgia
  • Turkey’s re-emergence
  • The Mexican Drug War
  • Bolivian unrest
  • Brazil’s emergence
  • Venezuela-Cuba-Russia
  • Saudi Arabia, OPEC and oil politics
  • Dysfunction and demise of the EU concept
  • India’s regional role
  • Status of terrorist organizations
  • The Koreas
  • China’s potential for turmoil

Each of these topics will be the subject of an article. I will update this introduction page and link to each article as I write it. Some may morph, split, or combine as I work my way through them. All are closely related to one another. I just have to pick the places to divide each major issue into manageable chunks for myself and the reader. This will culminate in a final essay explaining what I see as the major constraining factors at work against any attempt at abrupt “change” in the American system.

South Koreans Worried About Obama

Filed under: Politics / Geopolitics — zxq9 @ 11:40

With all the gush about Obama in the news it is difficult to separate the fat from the meat. Even the financial news sections have shown no immunity and have started writing stories based in fantasy (such as claiming that East Asia is happy he, not McCain, won) — they have apparently elected to believe their own pre-election stories about an economic disaster and have pinned their hopes on the ambiguous notion of “change” that Obama campaigned on. That is not to say that there are no financial problems in the world, there are.

Those problems are simply not of great concern to the US. The US economy is not about to fall apart, indeed it has already taken appropriate measures to ensure its well-being. With a $14 trillion GDP behind it, the US can generally take care of itself. The sum total of all of Europe’s GDP is far less than that of the US, however, and its exposure runs far deeper into much scarier places than any of the problems in the US. The problems Europe faces are severe, particularly Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe was propped up as a developing economy model by Western European banks, financed largely through the carry trade in Swiss Francs and Japanese Yen (educate yourself: Investopedia, Forbes, Motley Fool, Wikipedia). This says nothing of the problems East Asia will face as exports suffer a drastic decline.

The focus of this article is not finance specifically (I’ll write another one about that later), but South Korean worries about Obama as the next American President and, more broadly, Democratic control of the Congress. The concerns South Korea has expressed over an Obama presidency must be viewed in relation to a broader global cool-down, so I’ve mentioned just how broad the cooldown is, and tried to highlight how America will (as usual) be the best place to either be or be doing business with during the global economic correction. It is important to remember that regardless of how many individual’s personal routines are interrupted or how scary that is this is only a market correction so long as it does not lead to another World War.

South Korea considers it a great foreign and economic policy success to have recently negotiated and signed a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the US. South Korea is worried that Obama and a Democratic Congress will reneg on the promises the Bush administration has made with them. Obama has been very outspoken about his opposition to FTAs, NAFTA being one of his principle targets in the Democratic primary race against Clinton. Once he spoke, he couldn’t exactly stop speaking, which has made his temporarily advantageous campaign stance against something that is almost universally good — FTAs almost always benefit everyone in the long-term — into something he will need to be perceived as acting in accordance with. South Korea is going to be his first test. South Korea needs this agreement with the US, particularly as its European export market is expected to fall through the floor over the next year. The Bush administration, with a longer-term relationship with a potentially reunited Korea in the future in mind, was accomodating with an FTA. Obama could upset that, and this has South Korea very worried.

The outcome is not of concern only to South Korea, however. All of East Asia and much of the world will be watching to see how the US Congress and the new President-elect will deal with this issue. If he invalidates deals made under the Bush administration, he could severely damage the American image of reliability which has been forged by over two centuries of solid foreign policy consistency, each president following in the footsteps of the last (several) to maintain continuity and consistency so that everyone knew what they were dealing with when they dealt with America. This has played no small part in allowing America to maintain its role as the prime geopolitical pivot and the only remaining world leader.

Foreign policy is the only area the President really has much control over as an individual office. Breaking deals that were just made is a rough way to start things out.

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