Monthly Archives: September 2015

#GOPDebate – The Second Night at the Clown House

I will be very brief here. I watched both of the 2016 U.S. Republican primary debates on CNN on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

The first debate, featuring Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Jon Gilmore, and George Pataki, was more substantive and more revealing, in some ways. What did it reveal? Graham knows the demographic challenges of the GOP and he knows the chances of the GOP winning in 2016 are low if young people, single women, and people of color come out in the same numbers that they did in 2008. Graham’s responses were the most rooted in reality. This is scary because his comments were only loosely rooted in reality. It’s all relative when your talking about the GOP. However, No one candidate from the first debate has any real chance of becoming president. Also: Bobby Jindal said he was more angry at his party then the Democratic party. It’s become a truism that the left is divided and this is why it loses. However, ever since we saw the rise of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, we are totally seeing a deep fracture opening up full of infighting. Jindal embodies this divide in everything he says. Speaking of divide? Trump.

The second debate featured eleven candidates; too many to name them all right here because I promised myself – and you the reader – that this will be very brief. After a couple days of reflecting, here is who I think did the best and who did the worst.

I posted this on Facebook even before the debate was over:

“Who will gain in the polls? Fiorina, Christie, Kasich, Trump annnnnd maybe Rubio.

Who will lose? Jeb, Jeb, Jeb, Jeb, Carson

Who? Huckabee, Rand, Cruz, Walker.”

It looks like the consensus is that Fiorina won the debate and Jeb, Walker, and Huckabee did the worst. The latest polls show Carson gaining; Trump holding steady; and basically everyone else staying right where they were including Bush. In my opinion, Jeb Bush is the ultimate loser because, like I wrote regarding the first debate, Bush needs to crush it and he was embarrassing to watch.

My 2016 prediction that I have been saying to friends is a Rubio/Kasich ticket – I still think Rubio will be on the ticket, either as the presidential candidate or the vice president. Kasich? Eh. Probably not. I saw a couple of people mention a Rubio/Fiorina ticket which is horrifying because that might be their best chance. Ultimately, I don’t think any of these candidates can win a general election against any of the Democratic field. 2016 will we determined by who goes to the polls.

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US-Pakistan: Magnificent Delusions, Part 3

Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, The United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding
by Husain Haggani. PublicAffairs. 413 pp.

Part 1 covered the years 1947-1951. Part 2 covered 1951-1959. Part 3, below, covers 1960-1969.

JFK vs Ahub
Enter: John F. Kennedy, the telegenic Democratic senator from Massachusetts who won the 1960 presidential election over the incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon (For new students of U.S. history, don’t worry, Mr. “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon will get his chance later…) by way of the Electoral College. John F. Kennedy, and his Vice President Lyndon Johnson, continued Eisenhower’s tactic of basically supporting both India and Pakistan. Ayub, now the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan used this for domestic propaganda and conspiracy-drivel. The Kennedy administration invited Ayub to Johnson’s personal ranch in Texas and Ayub left “with assurances of continued military and economic assistance.” Concrete successes happened during this administration: the Indus Water Treaty, from 1960, “enabled Pakistan and India to share the six rivers flowing into Pakistan from the north, with the World Bank providing funding for Pakistan to build dams and storage capacity.” Similar to the grain shipment, the Kennedy Administration continued to pour in hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan; while simultaneously questioning the relationship similar to Eisenhower.

October 1962
China and India went to war in 1962, mostly over disputed Himalayan territory; It ended with China gaining control over the territory. During this war, the U.S. supplied India with arms – this angered Ayub, who – of course – used this as domestic fuel. However, Ayub understood – privately – that Pakistan didn’t have that much leverage but Kennedy “did keep his promise to Ayub to try to address the Kashmir dispute” between India and Pakistan. Mediated talks between India and Pakistan went nowhere and the Kashmir Problem remained.

November 22, 1963
U.S. President JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald and interim president Lyndon Johnson, focused on domestic issues, “attempted to offer reassurance” to Pakistan that not much would change regarding their relationship. Haqqani adroitly describes Ayub’s three-prong strategy. First, Ayub would continue to complain about U.S. aid to India – while still asking for military assistance himself. Second, Ayub would further ties with Communist China. Finally, Ayub was not scared of using force regarding Kashmir. Why did Ayub think he had leverage? The Badaber Intelligence base set up by the CIA-U.S. Air Force Security Service to intercept radio signals coming from the Soviet Union. Ayub was getting more aggressive. The Prime Minister of India, Nehru, died in 1964 and this allowed for Ayub to engage militarily for the Kashmir region. Ayub insisted the the U.S. must support them in this battle. “From the US point of view there was no commitment to assist Pakistan in war it had initiated,” remarks the author.

Much happened in the next 6 years; one thread-line through all of this so far is continued military assistance from the US to Pakistan in exchange for vague anti-communist promises from Pakistan and – privately – the US reconsidering this relationship while simultaneously changing no behavior. On the Pakistan side, Ayub in the spring of 1969 resigned and counter to their constitution, implemented martial law. Neither country was fully satisfied and the status-quo became entrenched and full of more risks and possible flashpoints. Including: India. US and India were allies and Pakistan promised to not go to war against India with American-supplied arms; Pakistan did not listen. In 1965, Pakistan and India went to war over Kashmir and Jammu. In the end no territory changed hands and in a normal world, this would have really challenged the US-Pakistan relationship. In our real geopolitical realist world, all parties involved put blinders over their eyes and kept moving forward with their self-selected bad hands of cards.

So what became of that listening base? The lease expired and it was not renewed because, per Pakistan, this base did not benefit them and strained their relationship with China. The Pakistani public was not aware of this base; yet they were told about the ending of the lease. This dynamic is seen throughout this relationship.

The next decade is the Nixon/Kissinger decade, on the US side; on the Pakistan side saw the rise of Amin, and Bhutto. We see more war; genocide; and a military coup.

#BrookingsDebate: Is the JCPOA Deal Between the P5+1 a good or bad deal?

I have read the JCPOA, or “The Nuclear Iranian Deal” and I have read many analyses regarding the deal, as well. Last night, Brooking’s had a debate regarding the deal. The proponents of the deal were Suzanne Maloney and Bruce Riedel – both Senior Fellows at the Brookings Institution. The opponents were the senior Senator John McCain – Republican from Arizona and Leon Wieseltier, who is the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow on Culture and Policy.

Some Thoughts on the #BrookingsDebate

McCain: Blabble, babble, and blah. (“Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” remember that?) Also: Red Herrings. Non-sequiturs. Seriously, Senator McCain did not say a whole lot that he hasn’t said before; also, he didn’t say anything that my mother’s boyfriend hasn’t said regarding politics. McCain appealed to fear and didn’t really have a cohesive or strong argument.

Maloney: Well, she has read the deal and basically just delineates it as such. Her take on the alternative choices are all valid, too. Maloney demonstrates a strong grasp of all of the relevant actors – U.S., Israel, Iran, Russia, the American public, for example – and does so in a very serious non-partisan way.

Wieseltier: You can see why he is considered a public intellectual. Very smart words. But more suitable for a good polemical piece in The New Republic or the New York Review of Books than actually addressing the deal as a policy. I enjoy listening to this man speak, though.

Riedel: He explained the facts on the ground in a very practical way. Referencing the former Mossad agent was particularly important and an interesting way of thinking about it: Israel benefits in this deal in particular. Iran prior to the deal, theoretically, was a couple of months away – for all we know – from enrichment levels that could be used in a bomb. Now: not so much. The U.S. now has more leverage if Iran does cheat. Riedel mentioning just how superior of a power that Israel is, thanks to us, for the most part, is was particularly refreshing and honest. Israel is and will continue to flying the latest military jets; Iran – not so much. The international community also has more leverage. Neither McCain or Wieseltier addressed Riedel’s points at all.

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I think this agreement is about realizing that Iran is and will be a regional power and one that will be more stable than Saudi Arabia, for example. This is a hedge on our current relationships with an eye on the future layout of the region. Gideon Rose says when he teaches polsci his polsci 101 rule is this: All policy choices are bad; some are worse than others. If you want to look at it in this way then the key is that this deal is more towards the bad side of the spectrum and not the absolutely horrible side. In my opinion, there is much to applaud in the agreement; in particular, the IAEA inspections and the Iranian commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Former Secretary of State, and #2016 presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton responded to the Iranian deal today, at Brookings. Her speech was very hawkish and she reconfirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Israel and that all options were on the table including military force on Iran if they cheat. Regardless of what any of us think, it looks like the Iranian deal will go through. (Edit: “Senate Dems Block GOP Measure to Kill Iran Deal,” Kim & Everett, POLITICO, September, 10, 2015.)