Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Fruits Of Weakness

"We're in trouble with this joker and no mistake" - Ensign Keith in Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny."

Regular members of Joshua's Army will recall that I warned a number of times during the recent presidential campaign that Barack Obama's isolationist ideas along with his naivete, inexperience and ignorance of foreign policy would lead to the world challenging him relentlessly as soon as he got his hands on the reins of power.

It hasn't taken long.

During Barack Obama's first 2 weeks plus in office,he's made the following foreign policy moves:

*An apologetic, fawning and waffling interview on al-Arabiya that including an 'outreach' message to Iran, and a reiteration of the Obama administration's intent to negotiate directly with Iran on it's nuclear program.

*The retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, the appointments of George Mitchell as a special Mideast envoy, General James Jones as NSC and Susan Powers to a high level post in the NSC.

*The appointment of former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to South Asia and statements on resolving the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

*Clear signals that he was abrogating the Bush Administration's missile defense agreements with Poland and Czechoslovakia.

* A call for a major reduction in America's defense budget and the slashing of America's nuclear arsenal by 80%.

The results have been quick in coming.

Obama's overture to Iran was greeted by derision from Ahmadinejad, who announced that it was 'proof that America's policies of domination had not worked.'

And to launch Iran's first domestically built satellite, the Omid (Hope). The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit is exactly the same as the technology used launching weapons...which proves Iran is capable of hitting Europe...something Joshua's Army members have long been aware of.

Obama's call for slashing America's nuclear arsenal by 80% and abrogating our agreements for missile defense with our allies Poland and Czechoslovakia had the result of the Polish prime Minister Donald Tusk going hat in hand to Russian PM Vladimir Putin..who's in Warsaw right now as the Poles attempt to make a deal with the Russians now that the Obama Administration has greased out from under them. Look for the Czechs to be forced to do the same, cementing Russia's stranglehold on Europe.

The Russians have responded in other ways to Obama's perceived weakness... activating military bases not used since the Cold War, cementing relations with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro in the western hemisphere, and increasing the Russian naval presence in the Middle East.

They're also doing their best to shut down America's efforts in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and 75% of NATO's supplies to its forces there are landed at the Pakistani port of Karachi and shipped overland to Afghanistan through the Torkam border crossing. Because of the unstable nature of Pakistan, the US has been anxious to open up an alternative route to supply our troops there.

The only alternate routes would be through Georgia and Azerbaijan across the Caspian and through Turkmenistan ( assuming they let us) and then over rocky desert terrain into Afghanistan from the northwest, a hard slog. The other route is from north , through Russian territory into Kazakhstan and then through Uzbekistan or through Khrghzstan and Tajikstan.

The Bush Administration had apparently negotiated deals allowing access to bases in Central Asia to support the Afghan campaign.

But now that they're dealing with Obama, things have changed, and it seems the Russians have used their influence to close both of those northern routes off:

Russian news agencies are reporting that the government of Kyrgyzstan will close Manas Air Base, a vital conduit for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

RIA-Novosti quotes Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev as saying that his government "has made the decision to end the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan." (The RIA-Novosti news report, which followed a press conference in Moscow, has not been translated into English; the Associated Press has a summary.)

If true, it would be a major setback for U.S. operations. In 2005, Air Force Col. Randy Kee, the commander of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at Manas, told me the Kyrgyz base had become the "primary logistics hub" for Operation Enduring Freedom after neighboring Uzbekistan closed Karshi Khanabad airbase (better known as "K2") to U.S. forces. The United States has been working to open a northern supply line to Afghanistan in the face of ongoing insurgent attacks along the Khyber Pass route through Pakistan; Manas is a key link in the air bridge resupplying Afghanistan.

At best,Russia may allow the US to send materials to Afghanistan through their territory - but it will give them a stranglehold on US policy, with the option of cutting off resupply for Afghanistan whenever they feel like it. Or threatening to do so.

Afghanistan/Pakistan is going to a problem for the new administration, especially if resupply gets problematic. The Taliban just blew up a bridge on the land route from Pakistan in Jamrud and cut off NATO supplies to Afghanistan overland completely, if temporarily. Those European NATO allies Obama was so sure he could sweet talk into sending more troops to Afghanistan aren't giving the One the time of day,and President Obama could soon face the same calls from the American Left for a pull out that his predecessor had to put up with on Iraq. Except since that's Obama's political base, he's likely to comply.

In related news,Obama's attempt to court the Muslim world by making noises about 'settling the Kashmir question' and appointing a special envoy to work on it has already ticked off another of our major allies, India. They were quite plain about telling Obama literally that he was barking up the wrong tree' and to keep his nose out of their affairs when it came to Kashmir.

Another strong ally of the US, Israel, may also end up distanced from the Obama Administration. During the campaign,Obama made a point of saying that 'pro-Israel doesn't necessarily mean pro-Likud'. As it turns out, it's Bibi Netanyahu and Likud who are likely to win the upcoming Israeli elections and form a center right coalition that's unlikely to take kindly to pressure from the White house to deliver further territory and strategic concessions to the Palestinians when they will almost certainly end up in the hands of Hamas. The Administration has clearly signalled this approach to Israel by endorsing the Saudi peace plan and by appointing people like George Mitchell and Susan Powers to influential positions dealing with the region, showing that they intend to pressure Israel.

That undoubtedly would have worked with the Olmert/Livni/Barak government but it's unlikely to work with a government with Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.If that indeed is Israel's government, it remains to be seen if the Obama administration is going to pursue this course. If so, it's doubtful that Israel's public response would be akin to India's, but a downgrading of the relationship similar to the Carter years could result.

There's always a price to be paid in the world of foreign affairs when you appear weak and vacillating to your enemies,even with the best of intentions. The Obama Administration has provided proof of this truism in a mere two weeks in the saddle...quite an accomplishment!


Ymarsakar said...

This is exactly like David Weber's portrayal of the High Ridge government in "Ashes of Victory".

You could almost carbon copy the plot from there to here. Except Obama engineered his own "crisis" that put his party in power.

Anonymous said...

Two comments:

Living in Bradistan, West Yorks, UK I have a lot of time for the local Hindus and Sikhs. The Hindus homeland, India, has had a lot of shit from the West with US/UK/EU all focussing on cozying up to the Muslim nutters next door in Pakistan and stuffing India, the largest democracy in the world. Just remember India is not only a mass of different ethnic groups/cultures but in over 60 years there has never been a military coup in India or even an attempted coup. I have lost count of the number of coup's in Pakistan
Towards the end of the Bush regime he started to realise he was wasting time trying to get anything constructive out of President Musharref or Ali Zirdawi ('Mr Ten per cent') or whoever the Pakistani President is this week. Bush made overtures to India but of course Obama has gone back to State Dept plan No.1 'grovel to the Paki's'. I am glad to see the Indians have told Obama where to go with his latest dementia's.

FF: I think you will find the US has just negotiated access to Afghanistan through Turkmenistan. You might like to check this out.

Ivan the tea drinking yid from Bradford

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Ivan, nice to see you.

I totally concur with your remarks on India. Two weeks in office and Obama has already managed to tick them off, while exposing his soft underbelly to the jihadis...

As for Uzbekistan, to get the stuff there, they will have togo through Georgia and Azerbaijan assuming they let us . Both are very susceptible to pressure from Russia.


Ymarsakar said...

Carrying anything through Georgia and Azerbaijan is a bad idea. Too many terrorist insurgents are there, too many spies, and not enough loyalists, even for our allies there.

It sets up a "kill on the vine" scenario. You know, 500,000 troops starve because their logistical depot got taken over and destroyed by 5k troops? That kind of scenario. Shouldn't even put yourself into this kind of strategic position if any alternatives are available.

Freedom Fighter said...

I concur, Ymarsakar.
Anyway,I think Georgia and Azerbaijan will probably decline to get involved,under Russian pressure.

Ymarsakar said...

I really wanted to drop some nukes and Marines on Georgia. We owed them at least the threat of that. As a nation, as private individuals who put our honors at stake in supporting Iraq, our military's efforts there, and the dearly bought allies who eventually turned on Al Qaeda with the help of such folks as the Georgian units (a major portion of their standing army).

Not as bad as Vietnam or Gulf War aftermath, but still a stain. And these things last for decades, if not longer.

Freedom Fighter said...

Bush and especially Condi screwed the Georgians, just as they screwed Israel and the Kurds...and all for the sake of Iraq.

Even with Iraq going on, if we had rushed even a token force of US troops there with some air cover and explained to Putin that his aggression would have 'serious consequences' he would have backed off.

I saw what kind of equipment the supposedly 'elite' Russian troops were equipped with, and they were only able to take Georgia because their troops were in Iraq and th eRussians got into the Mountain pass first.

And you're quite coirrect...this will have a future effect and already has. Th eold Soiviet Empire now knows they could be next if they don't cozy up to Russia.