The First One Hundred Days…While Obama Slept
posted at 8:18 am on April 29, 2009 by coldwarrior
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.