Green Room

The First One Hundred Days…While Obama Slept

posted at 8:18 am on April 29, 2009 by

Ever since FDR’s first Administration back in 1933, Americans have had this fascination with a President’s first One Hundred days.

Since 1933,  America watches and waits…voyeurs or merely concerned citizens?

America looking at the new Presidency.  Strong or weak, engaged or laissez faire?  Pushing an agenda or letting things coast along?  In these first one hundred days, we have come to take the measure of the man who occupies the White House, some praying for sweeping changes, many praying with equal fervor that old policies remain intact and are strengthened.

There is a lot of  interest in a President’s shaking out cruise on the USS Statesmanship…

Any runner can make a fast bolt out of the starting blocks, but the race doesn’t always go to the swiftest at the starting line.  Obama seems to be falling into this trap.  From his frenetic first day, signing anything put in front of him for another superb photo op, to holding a multitude of pressers and live television speeches, hasn’t a day gone by, it seems when Obama hasn’t been on all the major news channels,  a daily routine…perhaps Ritalin is called for…frenetic ADD does not help, Mr. President.

For the benefit our new President,  still trying to figure out the layout of the White House, I’d like to take a look at some things that have happened over the past one hundred days that are not centered in Washington,  or have slipped off the front burner in recent weeks, and that scant if any attention has been reflected in those interminable Gibb’s gab sessions…

The First Hundred Days, While Obama Slept:

India and Russia – A done deal…the Indian purchase of combat aircraft from Russia for the next 15 years.  Russia’s fifth-generation fighter, and the  MiG-35, will be produced in India.  India, in return, will assist Russia in Russia’s development of a microelectronics industry, and also assist Russia in advanced computer research.

For the previous eight years, India was viewed as a co-equal in technology by Washington.  India is here to stay…and growing.  New Delhi-Washington relations were at an historic high.   Since January, however,  U.S.-Indian relations have deteriorated in significant part because of Indian fears that White House wants to take a role in negotiating the future of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, an issue India regards as a purely internal affair, and India believes it is being treated as it was under the British…there to be used, exploited, but not an equal-partner.  Likewise, since Pakistan has begun to fragment amid the Taliban threat, a threat which India sees Washington doing nothing to prevent or even slow, India is being asked to restrain themselves, facing a possible Taliban takeover in Pakistan as Pakistan edges toward civil war.   Better send Biden over to Delhi, I’ve heard Biden understands Indians…so long as they work at a Kwiky-Mart.

Russia and Venezuela – Despite the slap and dap handshake between Chavez and Obama, Chavez has his eyes on another  prize.  Chavez has embarked on a breakneck program to expand Venezuela’s armed forces, including its capabilities for power projection into neighboring countries using heavy military air transports.  Chavez has purchased more than $4 billion in arms and military equipment from Russia alone, and has offered them basing rights for their Navy and Air Force.  Chavez has also strengthened his ties with Cuba, and has begun arms purchases from China.  One has to ask why Venezuela needs a new huge arsenal…to protect itself from an imagined American invasion, or perhaps to engage in old-fashioned power-projection?  No matter, that hand shake took care of things.  And to add a new dimension, Palestine has established formal diplomatic relations with Caracas, just this week.  Chavez in Venezuela has been actively seeking and obtaining recognition from a host of countries lately…Iran, North Korea, now Palestine…nothing to be concerned about, right?

Cuba and Russia – Russia has  pledged to help Cubapetroleo with prospecting, production, refining and other aspects of the oil industry just this January.  In March, according to major media outlets, Russian Air Force chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, announced  Cuba would be used to base Backfire bombers and strategic maritime patrol aircraft.  Russia has announced plans to build a military equipment repair base  in Cuba to help modernize Cuba’s mainly Soviet-era military hardware. Russia is looking forward to the Obama White House lifting the 50-year-old embargo…not because it is a nice thing to do for the poor unwashed Cuban masses, but because Russia needs access to hard currencies.  If the embargo is lifted, expect US dollars to end up in Russia.  The Russian GRU SIGINT facility at Lourdes, closed by Putin early in the Bush Administration, may be seeing a surge of new activity…China and Russia have both stepped up cooperation with Cuba’s DGI…Castro’s foreign intelligence apparatus.

Iran – Despite Obama’s offer, Iran  is not ready for talks with U.S. officials without preconditions.  The sentencing of an American jounralist to eight years in prison was met with a limp White House response.   No interest at all in a missing former FBI officer.   Iran continues to build its military capability, with help from its friends.  Iran continues to show that the United States has no power any longer to project itself in the region.  Rightly or wrongly, this is perceived on the streets in the region.  The previous Administration held Iran as one of the Axis of Evil nations…and despite Obama’s hope for a new beginning with Iran, seems Iran is pretty much set to keep it real…they are evil, they know it…so what?   Iran’s support for Gaza and Hamas is strong and growing.  Likewise Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Iran has also recently condemned what it has called US supported attacks on Shia’s in Iraq.  John Kerry claims that “bullying” Iran will not work, so let’s sit down and talk, instead.  About what, exactly?   Has Iran given up its announced desire to vaporize Israel?

Turkey – Obama told the Turks that the United States is not at war with Islam…all well and good…but then turned around and commemorated the Armenia Genocide, to which Turkey’s president Abduallah Gul criticized Obama for his statements concerning the same as one sided.  Turkey is assisting the US military in their withdrawal from Iraq, building high-capacity roads and bridges, opening up port facilities, and instead of praise from Obama for this contribution…Obama highlights a 100-year-old Ottoman-era tragedy, opening up wounds and causing new ones…with a NATO ally former Presidents have worked to usher into the modern world.  When you see yourself treated as a second-class partner…you go elsewhere when you really need assistance…thus Turkey plans to buy 32 used Mi-28 (Havoc) helicopters from Russia in a deal worth a total of $1 billion.  A NATO country being outfitted with Russian hardware?  What happened to Turk-US talks for purchases of Cobra and Super Cobra helicopter gunships from the United States?

Kirghizstan  – The Kirghiz government has decided to terminate US access and leasing of Manas Air base, rebuilt from the Soviet-era dilapidation with US tax-payer monies.  Eleven nations that also had air rights to Manas have been told that they are no longer welcome.  Not surprisingly, all these nations have been committed to boots on the ground in Afghanistan.  The fall-back position?  Turkey.  Let’s see how that works out.

Ukraine – Ukrainian officials are seeking assurances from the Obama administration that they would not be pushed aside as the United States seeks greater cooperation from Russia.  Despite Russia’s assurances that Russia would close down Russian Navy bases in Ukraine, they are still very much still there.  Russia says that their timetable for building new, replacement, Black Sea bases on Russian soil is behind schedule.   Ukraine has been independent since 1991…does it really take that long to build a navy base in Russia?  These naval bases provide enormous leverage to Russia militarily and psychologically as they continue to try to treat Ukraine as if it were still a Soviet Socialist Repulic under Breshnev.

Georgia – As the Obama Administration tries to “win” cooperation from Moscow on major policy goals, i.e., reigning in Iran’s nuclear program, of which Russia is the largest beneficiary, Russia continues to be very irked about both Ukraine and Georgia being considered for NATO full membership, and about continued US military support for Georgia.  Any projections as to whom will be thrown under the bus on this issue?  South Ossettia, sovereign Georgian territory, as much a part of Georgia as Ohio is to the United States, continues to see an influx of “Russians” and no sign at all of the Russian military leaving soon.

Kenya – Somali rebels have threatened fresh attacks on Kenya, seeking to annex Kenya’s  northern region and subject it to Islamic law.  Kidnappings of Kenyan citizens and attacks on Kenyan villages continue.   The Kenyan government has begun to disarm residents in the region…must not want to provoke the Somalis.  Kenya being a major holding point for Somali pirates captured at sea must rankle Somalia as well.  The Nairobi government has declared that the government was committed to safeguarding its citizens by all means possible and no one would be allowed to own firearms “illegally” in the guise of protecting themselves.  Of all the African nations, you’d think Obama would place more emphasis on Kenya?  It is a botched election away from becoming either a split nation or another Islamist-ruled state.

Egypt – The Obama Administration has announced it is reducing foreign aid to Jordan and Egypt as a budget measure…annual aid to Egypt will be cut to $1.5 billion this year, down from $1.7 billion in 2008…but $900 million for Gaza is a wise fiscal or diplomatic choice?   The greatest threat to Egyptian stability is pouring through Gaza.

Then there is the matter of succession following Hosni Mubarak.  He is 76, and ailing.  Egypt is fracturing as repression against the Moslem Brotherhood ratchets up, again, and most Egyptians find themselves no better off than they were 20 years ago.  One possible successor would be an old friend,  Egyptian Intelligence  Chief,  Omar Suleiman.

Suleiman brokered deals in the recent Gaza War, between Israel and Hamas.  Egypt,  wishes to be a major Middle Eastern player.  But the Egyptian government faces growing opposition at home for concentrating on foreign policy issues and less on actual domestic progress, other than further crackdowns on dissent.   Suleiman’s expertise is in international relations and espionage…not civil administration.  He is also more comfortable among Westerners than among the Egyptians on the street.  Suleiman does not suffer fools well…he appreciates people who say what they mean and mean what they say.  All others need only grovel.  Is Obama listening?

Suleiman would be a capable caretaker if he were to become president.  The big question remains the Moslem Brotherhood…if Obama pushes the crackdown on the Taliban in Pakistan, which resultant heavy Taliban and fundamentalist casualties, such a repression of the Taliban would spark Moslem Brotherhood to react against the United States and anyone they see as an ally or a patsy for the United States…and Omar Suleiman fills this bill for the Moslem Brotherhood.

Piracy — OK, the Administration has addressed this one.  21st Century solutions.  Asking other countries for assistance.  But, we did set up Combined Task Force 151 in January, just before Obama took Office, with the mission of coordinating anti-piracy operations.  What is not working is that to date there are no uniform ROE’s nor is there anything resembling a plan to actually combat piracy…everything is still defensive in nature.  if the pirates don’t attack everything is good.  But if they do attack, as they have in the past 24 hours,  then each nation of the more than 20 participating follow their own ROE.  Wars are not usually won by staying on defense.  Combating piracy needs to be far more active offense, and perhaps reading up on the old Admiralty law may provide some simple clues and some simple ideas, using proven 18th Century ideas to eliminate a 21st Century scourge.  At some point, innocent people are going to die.   And piracy is growing…not only in Somalia, but all across the globe.  Shouldn’t Obama,  as Commander in Chief, thus in charge of US Navy Task Force 151,  get the members of that Force to engage in a little unity of command…and simplicity?  Then go after the objective?  When Singapore, with a very real piracy problem much closer to home, sends its navy out to Somalia, you know the Somali piracy problem is growing.

The rest of the Middle East — Relying on Israel as the omnipresent perennial scapegoat, the Arab world sits idly by as Palestinians and Lebanese are encouraged to fight proxy wars so the Arab League has a purpose.   And by silence, or worse, condescension, the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” rubric keeps the Arabs standing aside as Iran makes huge inroads into not only the decades old Arab-Israeli war, but as the linchpin of any means to end this 60 years-old war.  Iran is invested in Hamas, Hezzbollah, and and other anti-Israeli entity…and the Arab League, despite the puindits telling us that Arabs and Persians don’t mix, looks the other way as Iran’s sub-rosa influence and growing popular support in the Arab Street grows.  Strong horse, weak horse…Iran is the strong horse in the region.  Most Arab leaders are more worried about their Swiss bank accounts than they are worried about their people.  This is how Iranian influence grows in the region daily.

We still give money and arms to the Arabs…and still give money and arms to Israel.  Does this make any rational sense?  We’ve defended the Holy Places of Islam from the Arab usurper — Saddam — and helped make a small coterie of Arab sheiks and princes incredibly wealthy,  and in return?  They’ve done what to actually bring peace and stability to the region?  So far, from Obama to Hillary and minor players below them it seems business as usual, business as it has been for over 60 years.  On Obama’s first day in office he placed calls to far more Middle Eastern despots than he did European allies.  That should have given us a hint.

Mexico — Swine flu.   Of course we cannot call it that anymore.  Might insult swine, or enrage Moslems…I have no idea why this Administration insists on changing the names but not the substance.  Swine flu is not the biggest threat coming out of Mexico.  As the oligarchs grow richer, and the poor poorer, armed drug gangs, no, let’s be accurate, drug armies still control major parts of Mexico, and are still causing death and destruction all across Mexico.  There is a war, a real war, going on in Mexico.  Handing out face masks isn’t going to stop a war.  Armed thugs cross our border with impunity, have taken over neighborhoods in our cities, and this Administration is more worried about insulting Mexico by closing the border to prevent swine flu than closing the border to prevent an armed invasion?

North Korea — Like a spoiled little kid, which he is once you get to know him, Kim Chong-il is still out to show the world that the Desolate Kingdom is going to be a world power, no matter the cost.  The only tactic that has been successful in recent memory to prevent Kim’s Korea from getting out of hand has been the six-party framework.  Obama has offered unilateral talks.  Not only will this enable Kim Chong-il to show his people that he is a world leader…the United States is calling me…I am a God!  But, it removes impetus from the other parties to seek a unified consistent message and strategy to keep North Korea in check.  This was then entire basis for the six-party talks…everybody on the same sheet of music, in tune, no improvizing at the expense of the others.  North Korea has been seeking bi-lateral talks and recognition with the United States since Kim Il-Sung died.  It is not only about showing the world North Korea is a co-equal,  a dangerous concept, but doing so would gut the foundations of the United Nations Command, and treaty obligations between the United States and South Korea.  In essence, these bi-lateral talks could well leave South Korea dangling alone.  It would also mean that the justification for the presence of US Forces Korea would be ended…as they remain in South Korea under the umbrella of the United Nations Command.  Crafty world leaders and despots learned through experience how to play governments off against each other.  Kim Chong-il has more experience as a world leader than our own Obama.  That should give us pause.

The North Korean export of long-range missiles continues, one of their leading exports, and North Korea is now pursuing with a vengeance their nuclear program.  While the Obama Administration is focused on Yongbyon…there are other facilities in North Korea that have never been visited by the IAEA or any other monitors.  Perhaps this Administration should insist on it, demanding access to all North Korean nuclear related faciltiies, in the Kangye Corridor and farther north toward China.  I doubt we will see this sort of demand from Obama.  Nor Hillary.  The largest two foreign embassies in P’yongyang are those of China and Iran.  Iran’s embassy in Kim’s Kingdom is massive.  Has been for some time.  Iranians are seen on the streets of P’yongyang routinely.    Must all be students studying ancient Korean civilizations and the art of the Silla Dynasty.

Never underestimate the power of North Korea.  They don’t care.  They’ve nothing to lose.  A potentially extremely dangerous combination.

OK, Let’s wrap it up…

The entire point here is to show that President Obama has some serious issues out there that if ignored or handled poorly can easily blow up all out of proportion.  My confidence that this Administration, at this point in our history, is so wrapped up in trying to placate ACORN and all the rest of the usual suspects that massive openings and weakness are appearing in our armor, and fatal openings at that.

Having a nice list of “what I will do when I am President” is all well and good for a fifth grade writing exercise, but in the real world?  Any of the above mentioned items can easily cause grave damage to America and Americans.  All the lists in the world won’t help when the unexpected becomes a major problem.  And bankrupting the American economy is no way to build or even maintian a real defense against agression pointed our way.

Instead of spending valuable time flitting from photo op to photo op, or televised speech to televised speech…in the manner of a community organizer…our Chief Executive should start at least acting like an executive.  If he says there will be transparency in government, then  make it so, no excuses.  If he says he will engage in bipartisan government, then make it so.   If he says he will protect and defend these United States…he darn well should.

So far, he is not.

Honesty and integrity with the American people.  That is what we demand, not more photo ops.

Given Obama’s performance on other more visible issues during his first one hundred days, I worry more about the last one hundred days of his Administration.

Sometimes, the rabbit loses the race.

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Fabulous post coldwarrior! I’m sending this post out to my entire groupie list…

Yes, when one looks past the pure crap, while focusing on the raw red meat data, Obama is the man we all feared. Those so called “Conservative” pundits that tried their best to sell us on the idea that Obama would lead from the center; well, those people have lost whatever credibility they had left in their tank.

Keemo on April 29, 2009 at 8:33 AM

Excellent evaluation. Well done.

andycanuck on April 29, 2009 at 9:23 AM

Great analysis and review, as always, Coldwarrior.

My deepest worry is that both the next Russian supply lines and the current Pakistan supply route to Afghanistan will be cut simultaneously. Maybe as part of a new thrust into Georgia by Russia, with a push to Islamabad by the Taliban.

The 3 brigade build up in Afghanistan means more equipment, and more supplies needed. Obama would be rid of a substantial portion of forces that may oppose a radical move in America. And our external enemies would welcome our focus on our troops in a new katabasis.

Can we rescue the entire NATO force?
How much supplies and equipment could we loose?

This event is unlikely, but I do not have a feeling that this scenario is impossible.

NaCly dog on April 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM

OK, Let’s wrap it up…

Great post CW! You’ve articulated much of what Biden said about Obama being tested and yet the general public has no idea. Of course our pathetic mainstream media will tell a different story by glorifying all of Obama’s accomplishments while forgetting to mention putting this nation in permanent financial debt along with weakening our standing/strengths with his world appeasement tour.

May I also include “while Obama slept”:

The U.S. Economy was down 6.1 percent in the first quarter of this year while:

700 billion has been infuesed in TARP money
400 billion FY 2009 (8000 earmarks)
700 billion in a stimulas/pork filled bill
3.2 Trillion FY 2010 Pending in the House
650 Billion in new government proposed health care take-over, (down payment only)
Energy and Education policies still on the table (estimated cost–800 billion to 1.5 trillion)

5 TRILLION 650 BILLION BEFORE EDUCATION AND ENERGY POLICIES ARE ADDED. (I’m sure I’ve missed a few hundred billion somewhere)
All this while the media hypes about the swine flu and torture memos, and the Specter defector???

Rovin on April 29, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Rovin on April 29, 2009 at 10:03 AM

I’m a foreign policy and security wonk…I know beans about economics besides what I learned in Econ 101-103.

Heard yesterday, cannot find the source, have been looking feverishly, too, that since Obama came to office, we are spending or are committed to over $35 billion a day…perhaps more.

$35 billion x 365 days…OK, let’s be fair, minus Saturdays and Sundays…x270 days = $9.5 trillion? Sure. that’s an outside figure, and not likely to happen over all fours years, right?

Regardless, seems the days of Weimar or Zimbabwe are indeed upon us.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 10:10 AM

Keemo on April 29, 2009 at 8:33 AM

andycanuck on April 29, 2009 at 9:23 AM

NaCly dog on April 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM

I appreciate the comments…just posted this thing, too.

For what it is worth, I spent the wee hours of this morning cutting and distilling to get it to this length. Have enough leftover material for several others, I think.

I hope I made a solid point, nonetheless.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Rovin on April 29, 2009 at 10:03 AM

Email me my friend….


I will look forward to the rest of this story!

Keemo on April 29, 2009 at 10:22 AM

Coldwarrior, the point is well made. We have counters to all of these threats, but not active leadership. Individually, the US and our allies can prevail. But the mindset at the top is willful neglect.

I’m not worried about Zimbabwe, yet. There it took a long time (15 yrs.) to isolate the few remaining producing farmers. In the US the forces of darkness seem to be less powerful. We had over 48% of voters that didn’t drink the Kool-aid.

NaCly dog on April 29, 2009 at 10:37 AM

NaCly dog on April 29, 2009 at 10:37 AM

Zimbabwe is a threat only insofar as it’s leadership model and its economics being parroted by this White House.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Thanks, cw!

As I’m sure you know well – probably in that material you mention leaving out – there’s a lot more that could wrong: We spent 60 years extending our influence globally, widening the realm of economic and political freedom. It seems we’re about to find out what happens when we stop leaning forward, and start pulling backward. Pick a spot on the globe, and there’s a problem. That’s what global reach is all about.

Seems to me that there are 3 main scenarios:

1) Graceful Degradation: Neglecting the world and encouraging our enemies works as the utopians envision, and we settled into a multi-polar arrangement with commerce and immediate US interests largely unimpaired, perhaps even benefited. Bad things will continue to happen to good people, but we can’t be bothered when we’re busy cleaning solar panels and making the oceans recede.

2) How Things Usually Go When Empires Decline: It’s a disaster, and we’ll struggle to restore lost ground – the process could go on for generations, with lots of great TV, but probably a lot of chaos and misery, too.

3) Faster Decline/Radical Re-Orientation: It’s a disaster, and we’ll struggle to implement a whole new security posture for a post-unipolar world.

It may remain very difficult to tell which way we’re going, but, to the extent that it’s closer to “1,” with the utopians in control anyway and doing alright, then who cares what we think?

We might as well figure out how to handle 2 and 3 if and when the time comes that someone asks us for our input.

CK MacLeod on April 29, 2009 at 11:05 AM

CK MacLeod on April 29, 2009 at 11:05 AM

Yes, who is manning the Black Swan lookout post?

NaCly dog on April 29, 2009 at 11:16 AM

great post…don’t worry though Obama cares for us…he’ll take care of us..big time…

right4life on April 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Before reading this I was just depressed.
After reading it I’m still depressed, only now I’m also scared shitless.

Bruno Strozek on April 29, 2009 at 12:02 PM

Bruno Strozek on April 29, 2009 at 12:02 PM

Find that happy place…think of unicorns and fairy dust…

Feel better? Me, neither.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 12:07 PM

I’m sending this link to all on my “VIP” list

oldernwiser on April 29, 2009 at 12:15 PM

why do you think there would be a cause/effect between Taliban treatment and the muslim brotherhood in egypt?
to the point where it will effect egyptian politics?

saL on April 29, 2009 at 12:16 PM

Crap… 1360 more days to go!

I can literally hear the wolves salivating.

Can you imagine what the world is going to look like and more importantly where America will be standing by November 2012?

I need to find a place to hibernate. 🙁

Texas Gal on April 29, 2009 at 12:28 PM

saL on April 29, 2009 at 12:16 PM

The first link…Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The second link…anything that smacks of a war against Islam.

The effectiveness of “the Enemy of My Enemy…” It has in our recent past shown that a Kurdish Islamist group in Trukey will fashion links to an Iranian group in Lebanon, which in turn fashions links to a Somali group, and on down the line. Doesn’t even have to be hard links or physical links, but mere links in philosophy.

Thus, as Hosni Mubarak continues to ferrete out and crackdown on dissidents, some with actual MB ties or those who may merely sympathize with MB or at least MB’s goals…they may see Egypt in the pocket of the US, and the US is killing Moslems in the Af-Pak zone…the Taliban, or Arab jihadis, and decide to exact revenge or stir up things locally, not being able to physically assist in the Af-Pak zone.

That old “Global War on Terror” was indeed global…yet, too many have dismissed it as merely being two wars…Iraq and Afghanistan, iognoring the global implications of the threat, and global implications of the reaction to that threat, believingin isolation that solving one at a time would make everything better all over.

A false rubric.

Radical Moslems are united, and “moderate” Moslems are quietly going along…and a friend of their enemy is their enemy. And, an enemy of their enemy is their friend.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Excellent point about Obama’s re-naming fetish. It seems that our organizer-in-chief thinks that calling a thing something else changes the facts of a situation.

No thought for real solutions or real progress, only for the appearance of the thing. Not surprising for one of his specific background.

Keep up the great work, coldwarrior. I look forward to your insightful posts and comments.

hillbillyjim on April 29, 2009 at 12:30 PM

Great post, coldwarrior! It’s going out now to all my friends.

petefrt on April 29, 2009 at 12:32 PM

The Messiah is an inept, incompetent empty suit, as are many of his appointees. He and his minions (or perhaps he is their minion?), in their rush to eliminate the two-party system and exercise total control over the US, are squandering our influence in the world and destroying our economy. They may well get what they want – but the country they control will possibly be no better than, and probably much worse than, a third-world dictatorship.

n0doz on April 29, 2009 at 12:37 PM

so this is a list of problems he should have solved in the first 100 days or a state of the world report?

While Obama Slept:

maybe you guys slept, but he widened the war in afghanistan, did the G20 and the summit of americas, and hillary has also been traveling the globe since january.

scant if any attention has been reflected in those interminable Gibb’s gab sessions…

gibbs talks about whatever he’s asked about. why aren’t our journalist asking about the egyptian succession? i dunno. it doesn’t mean the administration is not working on these issues.

Turkey is assisting the US military … and instead of praise from Obama for this contribution…Obama highlights a 100-year-old Ottoman-era tragedy, opening up wounds and causing new ones

obama was criticized on these pages for supporting turkey’s EU membership. he was criticized for his “apologetic” speech in the turkish parliament. also, he was actually criticized for not calling the armenian genocide as such.

Iran continues to show that the United States has no power any longer to project itself in the region. Rightly or wrongly, this is perceived on the streets in the region.

didn’t we, like, “win” in iraq? if we can’t project power anymore in the region, wasn’t the surge a colossal failure?

sesquipedalian on April 29, 2009 at 12:59 PM

A great man once said that it was amazing upon what small cogs history turns. Anything on that list could be the cog on which history turns.

I suspect that Obama’s too interested in spending like a drunken frat boy and staging awesome photo shoots to understand that the international events he ignores will become the things that will shape his Presidency more than he ever could.

mjk on April 29, 2009 at 1:19 PM

Excellent piece Cold! I had no idea you were in here writing and I keep forgetting to check.

I wish Ed would put this Green Room stuff on the main page in a side bar or something, so it’s more visable.

Knucklehead on April 29, 2009 at 1:26 PM

I mentioned in the earlier comments I cut a lot out of the draft for this missive…

But, since you insist,

but he widened the war in afghanistan, did the G20 and the summit of americas, and hillary has also been traveling the globe since january.

Widened the war? Sending three brigades, most of whom are not yet on station, to one region of Afghanistan, while our NATO allies, other than the Canadians and Brits, are studiously avoiding contact with the Taliban AQ, or foreign jihadis, is widening the war? He did the G20 and Summit of the Americas and came away with what? Didn’t get anything from the G-20. Got a nice gift from Chavez, a book excoriating the United States? And most of the Latin American leaders dissed Obama at every turn…hence dissing the United States. Obama got from the G20 promises to promise at some point to maybe put more boots on the ground in the Af-Pak zone, but not this year? Got silence or rebuttal on economic subjects.

Hillary’s out of town trips? Her public critique in Islamabad, for example, in the middle of a rapidly fracturing of Pakistan was to tell the Paks that the US was responsible for the unrest in the Af-Pak region…and then calls on Pakistan to fix it? The Pakistan press is all over this one. Did nothing to settle the issue, nor contain it. Widened the resentment of the Pakis, as well.

Re: Gibb’s and the White House press briefings

scant if any attention has been reflected in those interminable Gibb’s gab sessions…

Traditionally, as done by other press spokespersons, these briefs are opened with policy pronouncements and establishing current White House actions or initiatives.

Gibb’s comes out and basically says “any questions?”

As an NCO instructor and later in government, as an official, one never asks “are their any questions,” nor even hints at it. “Are there any questions on the material covered today?” or “Are there any questions about a, b, or c?” is a much more effective way of getting knowledge transmitted more clearly.

The press spokesman is supposed to control the message…and Gibb’s is not..or maybe he is, just that the message has more to do with the new puppy or a non-photo op photo op, or deflecting the press from more salient issues.?

Besides, most of the fawning press at the White House would never dare to ask a salient question…Tapper maybe…but the rest?

Turkey is assisting the US military … and instead of praise from Obama for this contribution…Obama highlights a 100-year-old Ottoman-era tragedy, opening up wounds and causing new ones

Obama made his second European tour to be his new smart diplomacy, and in that he failed. A careful reading of the Euro press, and there is plenty of material out there, is one of shock and amazement, or amusement. This is the President America elected? If one pays attention to the Euro press, there is more and more “let’s go it alone” sentiment in Europe today than at any point after WWII. We are no longer a dependable ally. We are asking Europe to follow our lead and “invest” trillions of Euros to get themselves out of debt. And the Euros are balking, and wisely. In addition, individual European nations are chaffing at each other for various policies that are more nationalistic than Euro-centered. This should give all of us pause…a fractured Europe in the recent past has had terrible results.

Further, the fast growing threat of internal Islamic angst and acts driven by anger is making Europe more prone to act, and rashly. Turkey, a NATO ally and a secular government, has been slapped in the face too many times by Europe…used as a cheap source of labor and the butt of too many jokes…and for the time being, they still wish to modernize, still wish to have a secular government and society…and each time they get slapped down, the Islamists in Turkey have more ammunition to tell all Turks that Europe and the US don’t give a damn about us, and the sooner we join our Islamist brethren the sooner Turkey can realize its historic ambitions.

Obama’s trip to Turkey did not help Turkey…not one bit.

Iran continues to show that the United States has no power any longer to project itself in the region. Rightly or wrongly, this is perceived on the streets in the region.

Our declared intent to get out of Iraq, pushing the date of our leaving and not the readiness of Iraq, and Hillary’s pronouncement that things are going well…followed by a string of violent attacks in Baghdad, to include two today, shows Iran that Iraq still has no capability to defend itself…that and the firm knowledge that the Iraqi army is for internal defense only, small infantry units specifically, means that Iran could at her call, do what they wished the moment we are gone. Other nations in the region, Syria, for example want to see a neutered Iraq…for their own aims.

And former President Carter’s announcement that Syria wants to have peace with Israel rings hollow as Syria continues to stir things up in Lebanon, making it far easier for Hezbollah to act with impunity. Turkey…seeing our resolve in the region, is fashioning new ties with its arch-nemesis, Russia, as a means to find an ally should things go rotten in the region. Not us…Russia.

No, we can’t project power in the region. We can’t even eliminate a hodge-podge of Somali pirates preying on woirld-wide shipping off their coast. Not because we do not have the weapons, do not have the systems, and do not have the dedicated personnel to use them, but we lack leadership…and if Obama, hence the United States, cannot take care of the small things, as the leaders in the region can easily understand, how can Obama, hence the United States, handle the big things?

Leadership requires…well, leadership. Talk is the cheapest commodity any world leader can use. Action comes at a higher price. Standing firm to principles takes even more.

Thus far, in these first one hundred days…I’ve seen a lot of talk, little action, and no standing firm on principles…not Obama’s principles…but American principles that friends and potential friends in the region can see, understand and accept. In that vacuum, the radicals and jihadis and even those present leaders who merely want to maintain raw power, our weakness real or perceived is money in the bank for them.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Outstanding compilation and analysis. Obama actions and inaction causes me to believe he is in over his head.

lookhearsee on April 29, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Great post, coldwarrior.

One slight objection though is that I’ve never seen any serious discussion on HA about the perils of Ukraine’s possible accession to NATO or even any recognition that it is a complicated issue.

Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: NATO at Sixty — Mission Implausible?

James George Jatras, Deputy Director, American Institute in Ukraine, Director, American Council for Kosovo:

Advocates of Ukraine’s accession to NATO have yet to confront the tough questions. First, nobody has yet explained where the billions, or perhaps tens of billions of dollars will be found to bring Ukraine’s military up to NATO standards. Such a transition would involve scrapping almost all of Ukraine’s current Soviet hardware and replacing it with NATO-operable equipment. It’s a bill Ukraine’s beleaguered economy can’t support, and U.S. taxpayers, hardly having an easy time with it either, shouldn’t support.

Secondly, a heavy majority of Ukraine’s citizens are opposed to NATO membership. One would think that for an alliance that is supposed to be a champion of democratic values that would be dispositive of the matter. Ukrainians’ reasons for opposing NATO are quite rational. A serious crisis over an attempt by “orange” forces to drag Ukraine into NATO would rip apart the fragile unity of a country where a very large part of the population feels much closer to Russia than to the NATO countries. Also, unlike earlier expansions of NATO, Ukraine’s accession would be regarded as a direct threat to Russia’s national security. Paris and Berlin are clearly focused on what might be possible countermeasures by Moscow. Kiev and Washington need to focus a bit as well.

Finally, more than anyone else, the Ukrainians need to ask what real price might be demanded for their contribution to NATO. Sending Ukrainian soldiers back to Iraq? Maybe someday to Iran? Of course, today Washington’s center of attention is Afghanistan. Ukrainians’ last involvement with that country was a few years ago, but I suspect it’s an experience few would be eager to repeat.

aengus on April 29, 2009 at 1:49 PM

aengus on April 29, 2009 at 1:49 PM

From my readings, I do not believe that Europe yet, has given this a thorough examination, more focused on keeping the Gas pipeline open at all costs. Today, via Interfax, Putin has called for an international consortium to manage that pipeline. Something to think about. It would sever that Russo-Ukraine tete a tete…but, in establishing this “international consortium” it would make Ukraine becoming a full member of NATO more difficult rather than easier. Having many European nations involved in the decision making process would shove Ukraine aside from being able to maintain and control an internal resource. Thus, Ukraine, in this instance, would have no say in what is rightfully its own.

Putin understands that getting the Euros on his side united to prevent Ukraine from upsetting the status quo is a successful means to stop Ukraine from joining NATO…Ukraine joins, the pipeline gets shut down.

Once this step is complete, Putin can apply pressure on Ukraine in other subtle ways, thus robbing Ukraine of its de facto independence without firing a shot.

As for Ukraine sending its military abroad…again, from my readings and a few conversations with former colleagues, Ukraine reaps major benefits from this…training, experience, growing a modern post-Soviet military command structure, familiarity with NATO doctrine and tactic, and is able to say they stand alone as a free and independent nation not a Russian vassal state.

Yes, such is complicated, but the active participation of the United States is vital. And openly declaring that the United States will stop its military programs set for Ukraine to placate Russia in the hopes that Russian will stop Iran’s nuclear program, well, that does not indicate US resolve to be there for Ukraine. Some very interesting commentary in the Ukraine press since January. Well worth a web visit.

coldwarrior on April 29, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Thanks, cw.

I have to go out for a few hours but I’ll have more questions and a response when I get back.

aengus on April 29, 2009 at 2:21 PM

Superb analysis, coldwarrior. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Anna on April 29, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Coldwarrior, many thanks for this post. Much appreciated!

Josiah on April 29, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Coldwarrior, looking forwards to more of your musings, thanks much!

For the EDitor: I second Knucklehead’s wish for a Green Room sidebar making these posts visible on the front page! The name of the poster and their headline would suffice.

Maquis on April 29, 2009 at 3:31 PM


Please take pleasure in knowing that this post went out to a great deal of people today. I personally sent this post to over 100 people, and dozens of them will send it out to people on their own personal favorite’s list.. This is a really good piece of work my friend, and will be read by many. If you’re like me, and you look at the total comments as a measuring stick, it’s easy to wonder if the time invested is worth the effort. Great work!

Keemo on April 29, 2009 at 5:34 PM

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