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The Ukraine crisis – and the dollar’s decline

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 11:18 am - April 14, 2014.
Filed under: Debt Crisis,Economy,National Security,Obama Incompetence

We know the Ukraine crisis is hot, with Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of terrorism and east Ukraine basically expecting a Russian invasion. But what interests me is the larger backdrop: the erosion of the U.S. dollar as the world “reserve currency” (or centerpiece of global finance and trade).

You see, the more President Obama tries to isolate Putin, the more he pushes Russia and its trading partners – such as China, India, Germany, Iran – to speed their efforts to integrate their economies and financial systems, to the exclusion of the U.S.

Consider the following news items. None are earth-shattering, but each reveals a bit of the picture.

So, Russia annexing territory (the Crimea) is not really a big deal to Washington; it triggers token U.S. sanctions. But Russia trading with its own neighbor (Iran), in a way that bypasses the dollar-based financial system and thus the U.S. ability to eject little countries from world trade – that gets Washington’s attention. That tells you where the sore spot is.

To continue:

Do you see where this is going? Not toward Russia being isolated. Maybe, in time, toward the U.S. being isolated.

UPDATE: Ordinary Russians are only annoyed, not frightened, by U.S. sanctions.

Sunday cartoon

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 4:42 pm - April 13, 2014.
Filed under: cartoons,Democrat incompetence,National Security

Kerry the Magician:

U.S influence goes Poof

Courtesy of ZH.

The dollar’s removal proceeds apace

Like aging, the overthrow of the U.S. dollar (as the key world currency) is a gradual process. In the last month, I’ve blogged on Russia as a U.S. financial opponent, growing ties among the BRICS nations, and growing Germany-China ties, all tending toward the decline (or eventual elimination) of the dollar from those countries’ relationships with each other.

Today it’s growing Russia-Iran ties (that remove the U.S. dollar from their partnership):

(Reuters) – Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions, people familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

In January Reuters reported Moscow and Tehran were discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods…

[A] source said the two sides were looking at a barter arrangement that would see Iranian oil being exchanged for industrial goods including metals and food…

The Iranian official said missiles would also be part of the deal, together with Russia providing assistance with building two nuclear plants in Iran…

Missiles? Yikes! But this is what you can expect, with Jimmy Carter President Obama at the helm. He should have assisted Iran’s (aborted) Green Revolution back in 2009-10, when he had the chance.

Hat tip, ZH.

As Russia and China Flex Their Muscles, Obama Guts the US Military

Posted by V the K at 6:21 pm - March 24, 2014.
Filed under: National Security

Russia is well-along in its plan of gobbling up Ukraine and its plan to deploy bombers and warships in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. And East Asia in 2014 looks more and more like Europe in 1914, with China in the role of Germany (rising power), Japan in the role of Great Britain (declining power), and the Koreas in the role of Austria-Hungary (just one crazy event away from igniting the whole powderkeg).

And what is Obama doing? Gutting the American military to Great Depression levels.  The latest budget also eliminates three of the military’s most vital weapons systems — the A-10 Warthog attack fighter, the Hellfire missile, and the Tomahawk missile.

The cost of the Tomhawk missile program is less than $200 million per year. In perspective, that cost is less than 1/3 the cost of the hopeless Obamacare website. It is less than the cost of two foreign vacations for Michelle Obama. It is less than half the amount of money that was flushed into Solyndra. It is less than half of the taxpayer dollars given to Planned Parenthood every year.

There can be no doubt that the despicable man in the White House is bound and determined to reduce the United States to a bankrupt, ineffectual, third-rate power. And the Congress will do nothing to stop him. We have in this country a “Let it burn” Congress and a pyromaniac in the White House.

This will not end well.

Related (from Jeff): A legitimate question, What would a Republican president do about Ukraine? “At this point, the GOP is split among hawks, realists and libertarians.”

How the wheel turns!

We’ve gone from liberals who’d make fun of former GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney (on Russia), to…well…Russians openly mocking President Obama.

Now being remembered, a typical example of liberals who made fun of Romney:

Arianna Huffington
@ariannahuff

So I guess if Romney is elected we can get ready for a new cold war with Russia.
#justwhatweneed
8/31/12, 8:56AM

Romney got in his (well-justified) “I told you so” last weekend:

Why, across the world, are America’s hands so tied?

A large part of the answer is our leader’s terrible timing. In virtually every foreign-affairs crisis we have faced these past five years, there was a point when America had good choices and good options. There was a juncture when America had the potential to influence events. But we failed to act at the propitious point; that moment having passed, we were left without acceptable options….

Meanwhile, Obama’s sanctions on a few individual Russians, and calls to try to make their stock market go down and stuff, have provoked their contempt:

“The US and EU sanctions against Russia are absurd and unreal,” State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Deputy Chairman Alexander Romanovich told Itar-Tass…“This is an operetta, and we can only laugh…”

Ordinary Russians are none too impressed, either.

UPDATE: Russia and China drawing closer together. “The worse Russia’s relations are with the West, the closer Russia will want to be to China. If China supports you, no one can say you’re isolated.” It’s just like Obama, to not get that.

New lingo for you: BRICS Development Bank

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 2:56 am - March 16, 2014.
Filed under: Anti-Americanism Abroad,Economy,National Security

Did you know that since 2009, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) have had a summit each year where, basically, they plot a new world financial system with a greatly reduced role for the West, and the U.S. dollar?

This will be a long explanation. I’ll keep it as neutral as I can (not expressing outrage in any direction).

The dollar is (or has been) the chief currency of international trade and finance. The international oil trade, for example, is settled almost entirely in dollars. This is part of why America has gotten away with decades of trade deficits.

A trade deficit means, among other things, that other countries want to give us real goods (produced by their workers) in exchange for our paper money. That’s intuitively unfair; it gives us extra goods from other countries’ production. Why would other countries do it? Because, up to now, they’ve liked getting the dollars. They have wanted to have dollars in their back pocket (say for buying oil, etc.).

And that’s part of the reason (just one part!) why U.S. inflation statistics have stayed moderate, in the face of the Federal Reserve’s policy of massive “QE” or money-printing. Other countries have absorbed some of our excess dollars. To the extent that such a country wants to keep its currency’s value in line with the (declining) dollar, it must create more of its own money, sort of matching its dollar inflows. That inflicts inflation on its people. In effect, the U.S. has been able to export inflation to other countries.

It’s a cushy arrangement for the parts of the U.S. that live off the Fed’s money-creating machine (or get effectively bailed out by it). In other words: cushy for the U.S. Big Government – Big Banking complex.

Those Americans who know about it, often take it for granted. They’ll say things like “Oh, of course we can get away with it. The dollar is too entrenched for other countries to get rid of it. Of course other countries want our dollar, and they will keep wanting it, no matter if we keep over-printing it.”

But history shows that no country stays at the center of world trade and finance (enjoying exorbitant privileges) for more than 50-80 years. This post is about the fact that America is, in historical terms, nearing the end of its run.

The first BRIC summit was in 2009. As The Guardian puts it:

…Brazil, Russia, India and China expressed mounting dissatisfaction with the inertia in [current world financial] institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) and agreed to “advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the global economy.” Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev, said the main point of the meeting was to show that “the Bric should create conditions for a more just world order.”

“A more just world order.” Get it?

It’s code for knocking down Western influence, including the U.S. dollar. Thus ending the privileges just described; the privilege of the U.S. endlessly bailing itself out by creating new money and then exporting the inflation (or some of it) to other countries via trade deficits, which give Americans cheap foreign goods. Or the privilege (for Europe) of an IMF that bails out profligate European countries, such as Greece, and helps buy Ukrainian revolutions on Russia’s doorstep.

The BRICS countries know they can’t change things overnight. But each year, they move the ball forward a little. Last year’s summit (2013) saw an announcement that they would create a BRICS Development Bank, designed to duplicate the functions of the IMF and World Bank on the BRICS’ terms. The 2014 summit should see the announcement of some progress. For example, in September, they agreed on how the bank should be capitalized at $100 billion.

Some Westerners think the duplication-of-effort is stupid (for example, see Laurson and Pieler, at Forbes). Or they scratch their head over why it’s happening and whether the 5 BRICS countries will keep it together. Such criticisms miss the point.

The point is that the IMF and World Bank serve Western interests; and the BRICS countries, who are the up-and-coming powers, are tired of it. They will create duplicate institutions in some form, so as to be able to leave the Western-oriented ones or at least bypass them. Not surprisingly, non-Western observers get it.

We are moving to a world which increasingly rejects Western influence, especially American financial and political influence. For example, last October, Chinese media openly called for a “de-Americanized world”.

I blame 20 years of bad U.S. policies which have debauched the dollar, abandoned freedom, and given America a phony economy of endless deficits and debts, welfare, bubbles and bailouts. Policies which President Obama has obstinately made much worse. But however that might be, the “de-Americanized world” is coming. It is no surprise to see India and China tilting Russian in the Ukraine crisis.

In the bigger picture, it will mean foreigners needing a lot fewer U.S. dollars. When that happens, America’s inflationary chickens will come home to roost. As foreigners return their dollars to America in contempt, we won’t be able to run trade deficits anymore, and the dollar’s international buying power will go down. The cost of imported goods will skyrocket, and U.S. inflation with them. America will face some tough times.

Potluck

These items have been all over, and deserve to be noticed here at GayPatriot.

Liberal bias, in media & academia? Why, yes.

More people seeing that the Emperor Has No Clothes? Thankfully, yes.

  • Obama is under water on the Ukraine crisis. 42% approve his handling, 43% disapprove.
  • While a bipartisan majority support sanctions against Russia, they’re mainly older people, because younger people say no. Among the Obama-voting 35-and-under, 55% are against it.

IRS / Tea Party scandal as real as ever? Yup.

  • Great, daily coverage at TaxProf Blog.
  • Yes, Lerner targeted the Tea Party, and even what she called “organizations woven by the fabulously rich and hugely influential Koch brothers”. More Koch Derangement Syndrome. Some people are on too much Koch!
  • Lerner continued last week to plead the 5th. The IRS will give up all her emails, supposedly; I put it that way because enough time has passed that only God knows what they may have scrubbed.

FROM THE (OTHER) COMMENTS: In the other Koch Derangement Syndrome thread, some fine comments are relevant here.

  • runningrn says “The Koch brothers didn’t even crack the top 10 when it came to the top political donors. In fact they are way the heck down the list at number 59…The 6 biggest union donors in American politics gave 15 times more to mostly Democrats…”
  • And Annie gives us the WSJ link.

One should ask why the IRS doesn’t target all that union money? Or target, to coin a phrase, “organizations woven by the fabulously rich and hugely influential George Soros”?

AND SOME FOLLOW-UPS:

  • Rep. Alan Grayson (D – FL) won’t be charged after allegations that he physically abused his wife. GP talked about it here. The video evidence – which was incomplete (having gaps in it) – did not support Lolita Carson-Grayson’s story. Nonetheless, a judge granted her a restraining order against Rep. Grayson. We’re still waiting for the new feminist campaign, “I BELIEVE YOU, LOLITA!”
  • Gary Lyngar answers his son, who had made a splash by claiming “I lost my dad to Fox News”. Hint: The son was about as real and honest with us as you’d expect from a writer who whines about his parent’s politics. As the elder Mr. Lyngar puts it, his son was “dead wrong” and “a lot of it’s his perception of what’s going on and not reality”.

Did the U.S. seek trouble in Ukraine?

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 2:02 pm - March 9, 2014.
Filed under: National Security,Obama Incompetence

To be clear: Putin is a tyrant, and I condemn him. I condemn Russia’s military actions against Ukraine, and I support the people of Ukraine in being free and determining their own government. (Should it still be called the Ukraine, in English? Some say no.)

Having said that: As human beings, Obama and Kerry tend to be hypocrites who overplay their hands. And they strike me as surprised that Putin has offered military resistance to their wishes in the Ukraine crisis. Which raises the question: What are their real wishes? Did U.S. agencies organize the most recent Ukrainian revolution?

If so, the U.S. security apparatus would have motive in plenty. Russia supplies Europe’s oil and gas via pipelines that go through Ukraine. Putting those pipelines under control of an anti-Putin, anti-Russia government would be payback for a lot of Russian moves, not limited to Russia’s harboring of Edward Snowden (of the NSA surveillance revelations).

As to evidence of U.S. meddling: first, the Voice of Russia claims to have revelations about it, including a story that Ukrainian protestors had been murdered by their new government as a ‘false flag’ operation to foment the revolution. But Voice of Russia isn’t good enough. After all, the KGB (Putin’s first career) specialized in putting out disinformation. Is there other evidence?

In February, the Financial Times leaked a phone conversation allegedly between US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and the US envoy to Ukraine (Geoffrey Pyatt) wherein they explicitly plan who will be in Ukraine’s next government. The ZH link provides audio; the Nuland voice famously says “F**k the EU”, near the end.

That’s still not hard evidence, because Nuland/Pyatt might have been fantasizing or delusional about the extent of their influence. Overall, although motive abounds for the U.S. to have brought about the Ukraine revolution, the evidence for it is still weak.

Regardless of the answer here, my feelings are mixed. It would be nifty if President Obama really cared about promoting freedom in Ukraine and/or U.S. interests, especially after he failed to support them in Iran’s aborted Green revolution of 2009-10. On the other hand, I’m against murdering protestors; and the U.S. shouldn’t be making trouble on Russia’s doorstep without a very compelling U.S. security interest. It would be just like Obama to overplay his hand with something like that. Containing Putin is one thing; aggressive (and losing) games of brinksmanship with Putin are another.

Speaking of the U.S. possibly losing the game: Russia is keeping up the the financial threats I mentioned a few days ago. Russia’s foreign minister, Lavrov, affirms that sanctions would “hit the U.S. like a boomerang”. And yes, China is siding with Russia against Obama’s threat of sanctions (so China may join Russia in dumping U.S. Treasury bonds). FWIW, India also seems to lean toward Russia. It is not at all clear that, in a diplomatic contest between Obama and Putin, Putin would be the one who ends up isolated.

Obama in Fantasyland, summed up

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 10:37 pm - March 8, 2014.
Filed under: National Security,Obama Incompetence,War On Terror

From Stephen F. Hayes:

For five years, the Obama administration has chosen to see the world as they wish it to be, not as it is. In this fantasy world, the attack in Fort Hood is “workplace violence.” The Christmas Day bomber is an “isolated extremist.” The attempted bombing in Times Square is a “one-off” attack. The attacks in Benghazi are a “spontaneous” reaction to a YouTube video. Al Qaeda is on the run. Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer.” The Iranian regime can be sweet-talked out of its nuclear weapons program. And Vladimir Putin is a new, post-Cold War Russian leader.

In the real world, it was a pen pal of the late jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki who opened fire on soldiers at Fort Hood. The Christmas bomber was dispatched from Yemen, where he was instructed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Times Square bomber was trained and financed by the Pakistani Taliban. Benghazi was a deliberate attack launched by well-known terrorist groups. Al Qaeda is amassing territory and increasing its profile. Assad is a brutal dictator, responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Syrians. The Iranian regime is firmly entrenched as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and remains determined to lead a nuclear state. And in Russia we face a Cold War throwback willing to use force to expand Russian influence.

And Vladimir Putin, it turns out, is who we thought he was. Unfortunately, so is Barack Obama.

Russia threatens financial retaliation if Obama proceeds with sanctions

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 3:25 pm - March 4, 2014.
Filed under: Economy,National Security,Obama Incompetence

I’m amazed to see financial threats being made this openly. Like real military threats, real financial threats are usually made via backchannels. But, then again, President Obama has threatened Russia openly with sanctions.

MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – An adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that authorities would issue general advice to dump US government bonds in the event of Russian companies and individuals being targeted by sanctions over events in Ukraine.

Sergei Glazyev said the United States would be the first to suffer in the event of any sanctions regime…

Glazyev noted that Russia is a creditor to the United States.

“We hold a decent amount of treasury bonds – more than $200 billion – and if the United States dares to freeze accounts of Russian businesses and citizens, we can no longer view America as a reliable partner,” he said. “We will encourage everybody to dump US Treasury bonds, get rid of dollars as an unreliable currency and leave the US market.”

Is it just bluster? As recently as last year, the answer would be yes. But China holds approximately $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds; and if Russia ‘goes there’, China will not want to be left behind.

And for several years now, China has been working with its partners (including Russia, Japan, Brazil, the UK, France and Germany) to set up facilities for trade & finance that would enable them, collectively and at long last, to be independent of the U.S. dollar. Even before this crisis, some experts were predicting that 2014-15 would see those efforts bear fruit.

Leave it to John F.-n Kerry and Barack Obama to be just stupid enough to push Russia and China further along a road that they are already well-and-gladly on.

Russia’s threat also comes via its Foreign Ministry: (more…)

Obama in Fantasyland

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 9:13 pm - March 3, 2014.
Filed under: National Security,Obama Incompetence

V picked up on the Obama Fantasy aspect of the Ukraine crisis earlier; consider this part 2.

President Obama thinks he can hit Russia with economic sanctions but, as they did last summer in the Syria crisis, Britain is siding with Russia for practical purposes.

Of course the Telegraph article tries to make it sound nice, in the lede:

Britain is preparing to rule out trade sanctions against Russia amid fears that the Ukraine crisis could derail the global economic recovery.

Further down is the truth:

…the capacity of European leaders to react decisively has been hampered by the dependence of much of the European Union on Russian oil and gas…

On Monday, Mr Obama…said he had warned Russia that if it continued on its “current trajectory”, it would face “a whole series” of economic and diplomatic steps that would leave it isolated.

However, there was little sign that the increased pressure was doing anything to deter Mr Putin…

It is not a foregone conclusion that Russia is the one facing isolation. This is a measure of how much American influence has been lost on Obama’s watch.

True conspiracies?

It’s healthy to be skeptical of conspiracy theories; especially ones whose truth would require bad science, illogical motives, the implausible silence of thousands of people, etc. For example, the Rosie O’Donnell form of 9-11 Trooferism, in which absurd claims are made that fire somehow can’t melt nor weaken structural steel, that employees spanning vast security agencies of multiple nations conspired in vast deceptions, etc.

But occasionally, a conspiracy might be real, or partly so. I recently web-surfed to this interesting video from the folks at list25.com. They claim to list 25 true conspiracies.

Note: I DO NOT AGREE with, or vouch for, their entire list. For example, their item 18 (the Nayirah al-Sabah war propaganda case) specifically asserts a CIA connection that Wikipedia does not mention at all. Or their item 15 (about polio vaccine containing a cancer-inducing agent) appears to be weakly sourced.

Still, here are three of their items which were new to me – and which did seem to be supported, when I did quick Google searches for them. If true, they would be historically interesting. If untrue, please feel free to say so in the comments (hopefully with links).

25. Did the NSA in the early 1960s propose to foment war with Cuba, by means of false terrorist incidents that would kill Americans? Search for Operation Northwoods. Again, if this story is false, please let us know in the comments. ABC News reported it as true. If it was a real proposal, then President Kennedy deserves kudos for rejecting it.

24. Did technology exist, as early as the 1970s, to assassinate people ‘trace-free’? A senate.gov page says that:

At the first televised hearing [of the 1975 Church Committee]…Chairman Church dramatically displayed a CIA poison dart gun to highlight the committee’s discovery that the CIA directly violated a presidential order by maintaining stocks of shellfish toxin sufficient to kill thousands.

Some say the point was to deliver a tiny dart, and a toxin, that would decay on impact and become undetectable, after having induced a massive heart attack. I (Jeff) would add that, if the CIA had it in the 1970s, then surely others must have it in the 2000s; which must be why some people wonder about the sudden heart attack of Andrew Breitbart. (more…)

Must be that smart diplomacy about which we’ve heard tell

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 9.42.39 AM

The article, Saudi spy chief says Riyadh to ‘shift away from U.S.’ over Syria, Iran

To be sure, the Saudis have their own problems, but if our diplomats were a bit more, shall we say, deft in the dealings with our allies, we might have been able to avoid this.

UPDATE (from Jeff): Lots of irony here. First, the article sort-of-implies that Saudi Arabia was behind Kerry and Obama’s sudden, urgent push in August for a Syria war. (Once again, the Left *is* what it accuses the Right of.) Second, if the Saudis are shifting ‘away from’ U.S. protection, the article ought to state whose protection they are shifting ‘to’. I’ll say it: either Russia or China. Which is not good. Apart from the implied failure of the U.S. to contain Iran, it brings us a step closer to the world’s eventual rejection of the U.S. dollar as the basis of international trade. Whether through policies of insane spending/deficit/debt at home, or flailing incompetence abroad (no grand scheme), Obama is getting the U.S.’ world position to unravel. “Thanks, Obama!”

SYrial appeals to emotion

Last night, President Obama made an emotional appeal for…America to NOT act in Syria. Transcript here.

If you only caught his conclusion, you’d never know that Obama has spent the last few weeks loudly war-mongering on Syria, seeking unilaterally to plunge America into a new war that over 60% of Americans oppose.

Obama started out his speech with a lot of “Oh! Won’t somebody please think of the children!” But he offered only a series of assertions (no evidence) on a crucial point: whether Syria’s President Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons attacks. (The intelligence is still weak; since the rebels are some nasty people, it’s still worth considering whether they did the attacks as a ‘false flag’ operation to draw the U.S. in, or if it was perhaps a rogue Syrian general.)

Obama then offered a thin connection to U.S. security interests: (more…)

Obama administration in diSYRray

I don’t even have to comment; HotAir’s headlines alone make all the points. OK, I’ll throw in a few little ones.

Sorry if my title pun was too painful.

UPDATE: Gaffe-tastic: Hillary pretty excited about Kerry’s accidental proposal for international control of Syria’s WMD arsenal. With the way this Obama-Syria mess writes itself, blogging has never been easier. I promise I’ll try harder, next time.

In light of Obama’s Syria struggles,
Democrats Should Reassess Their Critiques of W’s Foreign Policy

Quite frequently it seems that if there is any principle guiding President Obama’s foreign policy, it is the desire not to do what  his predecessor did.  He and his national security advisors and officials, in public at least, have acted as if Mr. Bush’s foreign policy were an absolute disaster, needing, in their view, a “reset” in relations with Russia and requiring them to distinguish their policies from his.

They would exercise “smart power,” a term which implies that Bush’s team acted without consideration for the consequences of its actions.  Yet, much as Democrats  faulted that team for a supposed “go-it-alone” foreign policy, George W. Bush and his top national security advisors did take time to cultivate relationships with a great variety of world leaders.  And when they failed, the problem wasn’t entirely (and sometimes not even remotely) related to their efforts, but due instead the posturing of other nations.

In short, Obama and his team critiqued Bush’s foreign policy not as it was, but as it was depicted in the editorial pages of left-leaning newspapers and in their own party’s talking points.  Despite France and Germany’s refusal to join the coalition to liberate Iraq, Bush and his team did succeed in building a coalition of forty nations to enforce United Nations resolutions and to hold that then-rogue nation to account for violating the terms of the 1991 cease-fire ending the Gulf War.

Obama and his team may have “reset” relations with Russian and operated under the assumption that they were using “smart power,” but they have failed to build the kind of coalition in response to events in Syria than Bush’s team built in response to Iraq’s violation of international agreements.  And President Obama is now blaming the international community for his failure to muster a coalition to act against the Syrian regime:

Obama said Wednesday that “my credibility is not on the line — the international community’s credibility is on the line.” (more…)

Making sense of Syria

Why would President Obama want to commit U.S. forces, basically to help al Qaeda (with the occasional cannibal among them) in a Syrian civil war? What is the compelling U.S. national interest?

I’ve noticed something odd in the administration’s arguments for attacking Syria. They emphasize that chemical weapons were used, but on the crucial dispute over “who did it”, they offer almost nothing beyond mere assertions. (One example here.) It’s almost as if the administration has not wanted people to stop and think about Syria.

I am still keeping an open mind, that the administration’s version of events in Syria could be true. But, for sake of argument, here are some articles giving reason to question it:

It may be worth considering “who benefits” from Obama attacking Syria. Reports say that Saudi Arabia backs the rebels (although I am not sure why they do, unless it’s part of their complicated dance with Russia over the future of OPEC and world energy). Wouldn’t it be ironic, if the Obama administration is acting at the Saudis’ behest?

But I must admit that Obama has finally done something right, in seeking Congress’ authorization to attack Syria.

I think it would be a great mistake for Congress, and especially for the GOP, to authorize in haste – before the many serious, open questions about Syria have been answered to the public’s satisfaction. I do not agree with Speaker Boehner, yet, on supporting a U.S. attack on Syria.

FROM THE COMMENTS: mixitup reminds us that, actually, Obama himself benefits from his attacking Syria. How? “Benghazi, IRS scandal, NSA scandal, gun running scandal [ed: Fast And Furious], unemployment, sad economy…are off the front pages…”

UPDATE: Michael Synder (the Economic Collapse Blog) suggests that the Syrian crisis could really be about which powers get to build pipelines where, to sell whose natural gas to Europe.

I rejected “pipeline thinking” in debates over the wars of a decade ago (Afghanistan, Iraq) – because U.S. security interests were a good-enough explanation for those wars. Again, Syria in 2013 is different. With U.S., NATO, Israeli and even Saudi security *not* obviously at stake in Syria, one may as well start wondering about other explanations for the crisis.

Roundup of some Syria news & opinion

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 11:35 am - August 29, 2013.
Filed under: National Security,Obama Watch,War On Terror

- President Obama has “concluded that the Syrian government in fact” carried out chemical weapon attacks.

- But the intelligence in favor of Obama’s conclusion is considered to be thin. Some agree that it was the Syrian Army, but not President Assad; perhaps a rogue commander.

- Obama is not waiting for the U.N. to agree on it, much less Congress. Why won’t he? UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tells him to “give peace a chance”.

- Even if the Syrian government did carry out the attacks, Donald Rumsfeld points out that Obama has yet to justify attacking Syria, in terms of U.S. security interests.

- George Will, Obama is talking America into a war. Among many good points, Will notes a weird Obama quote to justify attacking Libya back in 2011: “It is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions”. Umm…so the U.S. must fight whenever, and only when, mysterious “others” tell us? Also, wouldn’t that argument justify the Iraq war, too? Will proceeds to delve into Obama’s equally-tortured language on Syria; RTWT.

- Bruce McQuain makes an argument that Obama has already doomed his own Syria mission, with his wildly-flailing public build-up to it.

Bonus: Did you know that President Smart Power, per the New York Times, insulted Vladimir Putin as “looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom”? (Via HotAir.) Item #35,221 for the “If Bush Did It, The NYT Would Make An International Crisis Of It” file.

UPDATE: Via ZH and Michael Krieger, here is Candidate Obama’s declaration in 2007:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

UPDATE: The UK pulls out. It looks like Obama must launch his unauthorized, highly questionable attack on Syria by himself.

Syria vs. Iraq

With the 2003 Iraq war, President Bush dealt with a widely-acknowledged threat to world peace, a dictator who had attacked no less than four of his neighbors (at different times, with one such war costing probably over a million lives), and who sheltered and supported various terrorists.

Bush had the participation of 40 other nations in a coalition. The move was authorized by an accumulation of 17 U.N. resolutions, which had effectively voided the dictator’s sovereignty and promised him action over his continued flouting of the U.N.

Most important, Bush’s move was authorized by Congress (as required by the U.S. Constitution) and as well, was supported by clear majorities of the American people at the time.

We can still argue (with hindsight) about the wisdom of the move, if its aftermath was planned right, etc. But the above were and are facts. Do any of them apply to what President Obama has done in Libya, or may be about to do in Syria?

Lefties bleated that Bush had plunged America into a unilateral, illegal/unauthorized “war of choice”. Their claims were wrong on the facts, but let’s set that aside. Has not their President Obama actually plunged America into one near-unilateral, unauthorized “war of choice” – and threatens now to do a second?

Today as yesterday, I’m a bit skeptical of the Obama administration’s version of events in Syria. Not because Syria has just accused Kerry of lying (and, sadly, both Assad and Kerry are known to lie about important matters). Not even because reports continue to suggest that Obama means to bypass Congress, as well as the U.N.

No, I’m still skeptical because of the slap-dash feeling to the public buildup of this crisis. Many of us have heard reports that the U.S. military has been building up to move against something/someone, for weeks if not months. I myself have a friend in the Army who was put on a rather mysterious regime of 80-hour work weeks, starting over two months ago. I thought maybe they were getting ready to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. And then suddenly, just in the last few days, Kerry is there to claim justification for some sort of military action on Syria, from a very recent chemical weapons attack which – while quite horrible and tragic – is still in active debate as to its authorship.

The Obama administration could be telling the truth, like I said yesterday, but… it still doesn’t smell right. The Iraq war build-up was relatively more ‘in the open’, the culmination of years of public debate about a long-term threat.

Obama ready to strike in Syria…against America’s will?

To borrow a few lines that Bruce re-tweeted, “I’m so old, I remember the press having a healthy skepticism for military involvement in the Middle East…I’m also glad we amended the constitution to exclude that congressional authorization for war…”

I’m so old, I remember that President Bush actually troubled himself to get approval from Congress for the Iraq War, including a majority of Senate Democrats. But President Obama, with Syria? I doubt he’ll try.

According to Reuters this weekend:

About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act. More Americans would back intervention if it is established that chemical weapons have been used, but even that support has dipped in recent days…

…just 27 percent said they supported his decision to send arms to some Syrian rebels; 47 percent were opposed…

About 11 percent said Obama should do more to intervene in Syria than sending arms to the rebels, while 89 percent said he should not help the rebels…

Obama is considering a range of options. The most popular option among Americans: not intervening in Syria at all. That option is backed by 37 percent of Americans…

If “Obama” (was Reuters disrespectful for calling him that?) intervenes in Syria, he will be doing it without the support of the American people.

There may be no good options in Syria. Just to review: An Iranian-backed dictatorship is fighting rebels who are, basically, al Qaeda. We have claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons; and counter-claims that it was the rebels, running a vicious false flag operation.

UPDATE: Kerry says it was the Syrian government. I must be frank: Hearing it from Kerry makes me a little more skeptical than I was before. The man has been a gigantic, shameless liar on public issues ever since he slandered a generation of veterans in testimony before Congress, in 1971.

I realize that Kerry is backed up, in this instance, by hundreds of functionaries in the Obama administration, and that makes deception less likely (or harder to pull off). But not impossible; and because of Benghazi among other scandals, we know that the Obama administration can be untruthful on foreign policy. They may be telling a true story this time; but skepticism is not wholly unwarranted, and should not be faulted automatically.

If President Obama wanted trust to come forth in a more automatic fashion, then he should have (1) not let his administration mislead the American people on Benghazi, and (2) not chosen a figure known for his decades of lying, as Secretary of State. Having said that, could the administration’s version of events be true? I’m keeping an open mind. Kerry has promised more evidence in days to come; we’ll see.