Focal Points Blog

Excuse the Middle-East for Resenting Tyranny

Few nations want American troops on their soil, but none less so than those of the Middle East, which have experienced the results first hand. Pictured: Afghan students demonstrating. (Photo: 1.bp.blogspot)

Few nations want American troops on their soil, but none less so than those of the Middle East, which have experienced the results first hand. Pictured: Afghan students demonstrating. (Photo: 1.bp.blogspot)

At Salon, FPIF regular David Vine, author of a book published this summer titled Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, writes about the Pentagon’s proposal to build yet more American bases in the Middle East.

Though this is being presented as a response to the rise of the Islamic State and other militant groups, there’s remarkably little that’s new about the Pentagon plan. For more than 36 years, the U.S. military has been building an unprecedented constellation of bases that stretches from Southern Europe and the Middle East to Africa and Southwest Asia.

Read More

President’s Obama’s Goals for Syria Are at Odd With His Actions

U.S. ability to effect change in Syria is limited. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

U.S. ability to effect change in Syria is limited. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

A number of words and terms can be used to characterize President Obama’s policy toward both Syria and the Islamic State. Charitably: evolving; less so: tentative, hesitant, undecided, in a state of flux.  

In a National Interest article titled Choosing Not to Choose: Obama’s Dithering on Syria, Paul Saunders provides some reasons why. Among them:

… the president’s defensive approach to foreign policy. On too many issues, President Obama seems primarily motivated by what he wants to avoid rather than what he wants to achieve.

Read More

Increasing Accuracy and Flexibility in Nuclear Weapons Actually Undermines Arm Control

The B-61-12 is a “dial-a-yield,” weapon, which means the explosive power can be tailored to its target. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The B-61-12 is a “dial-a-yield,” weapon, which means the explosive power can be tailored to its target. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The B-61 is 12-foot-long, 700-pound thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb that has been a stalwart of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal since the 1960s. (Hey, at least it’s not as old as the B-52 bomber, which first flew in — you guessed it — 1952.) Its re-design, which now makes it the B-61-12, has generated even more controversy than nuclear weapons in general. Here are three of the sticking points.

First, the cost of refurbishing the U.S. nuclear weapons program: Up to $1 trillion over 30 years, it does — under the department of thank-goodness-for-small favors — lend credence to those who think that the program will die a slow death due to budgetary attrition.
Read More

Saudi Arabia v. Iran as Much of a Schism as Arabs v. Israel

King Salman seems bent on returning Saudi Arabia to the past. (Photo: the Guardian)

King Salman seems bent on returning Saudi Arabia to the past. (Photo: the Guardian)

On January 3, Saudi Arabia announced that it had executed 47 people. Among them were prominent Shiite cleric and protester Nimr al-Nimr. As Rob Prince wrote at Focal Points, it may have been an attempt at goading Iran, ever growing in arch-enemy-hood in the eyes of Saudi Arabia, into responding and thus somehow torpedo-ing the recent nuclear deal it had signed.
Read More

Removing Cancer of the Islamic State Can Kill the Patient

Not only has the Islamic State been driven out of Ramadi, but most of its citizens. Pictured: Government building in Ramadi.(Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons)

Not only has the Islamic State been driven out of Ramadi, but most of its citizens. Pictured: Government building in Ramadi. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons)

Iraqi security forces, with the help of the United States, may have managed to dislodge most of the Islamic State forces and personnel occupying Ramadi, Iraq. But the combination of Iraqi ground forces and U.S. airstrikes took a terrible toll on the city. Writes Ben Hubbard in the New York Times.

… the widespread destruction of Ramadi bears testament to the tremendous costs of dislodging a group that stitches itself into the urban fabric of communities it seizes by occupying homes, digging tunnels and laying extensive explosives.

…  Few civilians remain from a population that once numbered around 400,000, and the city lacks electricity and running water.

The Islamic State plays dirty by embedding with the population. But neither did the U.S. and Iraq do Ramadi any favors by killing the patient to save it.

 

Recent Beheadings Show Saudi Arabia Is the One Really Running Around Like a Chicken Without Its Head

Iran refrained from over-reacting to the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Iran refrained from over-reacting to the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank.

The Saudi P5+1 counter-offensive sputtering

When Israel – Netanyahu in particular, but past Israeli prime ministers as well – wants to “stick it” to Washington, knowing that it could complicate Obama’s agenda some, it announces it is going to build more settlements in the Occupied Territories at a sensitive moment for Washington, the goal being, repeatedly, to sabotage any genuine progress towards a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

It works like a charm every time! Washington bristles, perhaps makes a few critical remarks, but never does anything that will seriously undermine the underlying strategic relationship. This political tango has gone on for decades ad nauseam. In the end, it is based on an illusion, that being that Israeli policy is somehow independent of Washington’s overall policy. Nothing could be further for the truth as Washington holds virtually all the cards in the relationship in its hand. The idea that the “tail is wagging the dog” is, in a word, nonsense.
Read More

Fear of Wounded Pride Drives Our China Policy

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Right-wing mass media, for instance, Fox and its publications, has demonstrably affected public opinion. Progressive sentiment is frozen out, but sometimes it does find its way into centrist or once conservative media. An example is the once conservative, now more centrist, New York Daily News featuring front page after front page attacking gun advocates. In that setting progressive media is probably capable of having its greatest impact.

Another example is the National Interest, a national-security publication that was actually co-founded by a Kristol (Irving), but, devoted to realist policy, is currently center right. Yet if often features progressive opinions.

For instance, a recent article by John Glaser titled The Ugly Truth About Avoiding War With China. He writes that “China threatens the United States only insofar as America insists on being the dominant power in China’s backyard.” Apparently the United States seeks to follow a policy of containment. But, “If we try to contain China’s rise … these predictions of doom may prove right.”
Read More

Islamic State Seeks to Lure West Into Ground War

The Islamic State seeks to create the greatest military costs possible for any Western power seeking to invade its territory.  (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Islamic State seeks to create the greatest military costs possible for any Western power seeking to invade its territory. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a strange disconnect (one of dozens probably) in the strategy of the Islamic State. In the Nation, Joshua Holland quotes terrorism expert Robert Pape and explains that, on the one hand, like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State is fundamentally motivated by the West’s incursions into Muslim lands. On the other hand, Holland writes:

… how does the notion that terrorists are intent on getting powers to withdraw from their territory square with the view that the group’s shift to terrorist attacks in the West is designed to draw France and its allies into a ground war in Syria?

Read More

Conn Hallinan’s 2015 “Are You Serious?” Awards

The U.S. Defense Department and Lockheed Martin lead the way in organizations having years as damaging as they are absurd. Pictured: the troubled F-35. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Defense Department and Lockheed Martin lead the way in organizations having years as damaging as they are absurd. Pictured: the troubled F-35. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The First Amendment Award to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for issuing a new Law Of War manual that defines reporters as “unprivileged belligerents” who will lose their “privileged” status by “the relaying of information” which “could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities.” Translation? If you report you are in the same class as members of al-Qaeda.

A Pentagon spokesperson said that the military “supports and respects the vital work that journalists perform.” Just so long as they keep what they see, hear, and discover to themselves? Professor of constitutional law Heidi Kitrosser called the language “alarming.”
Read More

Raining on Burma’s Parade

Is Suu Kyi actually considering amnesty for members of Burma’s military junta? (Photo: Jason / Flickr Commons)

Is Suu Kyi actually considering amnesty for members of Burma’s military junta? (Photo: Jason / Flickr Commons)

A Nobel Prize laureate winning leading her party to victory in an election in essentially a military government — what could be better? Aung San Suu Kyi is president of Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a majority in the recent elections. The NLD is thus ensured that its presidential candidate (not Suu Kyi because she wasn’t born in Burma) will elected.

Alas, Suu Kyi may share much in common with the military junta disguised as a democracy that has been ruling Burma for decades. At Dictator Watch, noted Burma watcher Roland Watson, long a critic of hers, pulls no punches and simply calls Suu Kyi Burma’s “new democratic dictator.”
Read More

Page 14 of 227« First...1213141516...203040...Last »