America from the Outside

                                       Eagles+Birds+Wallpapers_

This report was written ten years ago but may as well have been written today – a $750 million dollar embassy in Baghdad with intelligence officers, last year missed the rise of Islamic State – there is still a lack of co-operation between agencies and one questions if counter terrorism, intelligence gathering & or analysis would not be best partially or fully outsourced to the private sector. If not being outsourced then an independent audit and review carried out. http://www.foia.cia.gov/document/0001229684-0

The Congress as with the Westminster system of government is going to have the occasional polarization over certain issues. Congress has been on a trajectory of polarization which is not going to reverse anytime soon and impedes the legislative process and undermines confidence. Polarization has been the norm in Congress throughout most of America’s history but what about some form of reform. Maybe a forum…”If the dominant metaphors for politics in America are the market and the arena, both holding vigorous competition central to how we think politicians and citizens should behave, perhaps we should find room for an alternative venue: the forum.” http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/dking/Extreme_Politics.pdf

What implications are there for domestic and foreign policy with this current system. Health Care & Social Security are two major challenges that have been around for more than ten years and so has the fiscal cliff and yet we keep seeing the same old battered can being kicked down the road. Maybe the House of Representatives could reassert itself somehow and be a conduit for law making…I am not an expert on US legislative process and it is outside of my area of expertise. 2017 is critical mass for the Dept. Social Security where money out will be more than money in – http://www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/solvency/THarkin_20130318.pdf

Economic Flaws – Systemic risks within the economy are real and not perceived based on and not limited to – algorithms, derivatives, collateral debt obligations, lack of a truly free market and more. The 401K is directly linked to the stock market – other countries have a broad spread in the superannuation portfolio which minimizes the risk of devaluation as occurred in circa 2008. The Federal Reserve Bank needs some form of review of its mandate/s. The head of the Fed from Allan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen have all failed to address underlying problems in monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank is a private company and the owners and board are an interesting read. Fiscal flaws are the responsibility of the government.

The establishment of Fannie May & Freedie Mac by government and regulated by government for the mortgage market (they basically dictated the interest rate for mortgages with around 50% of the marketplace in which they operated) and even as of 2005 Greenspan was waxing eloquently about how wonderful they were –  “Critical to the success of this innovation has been the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in promoting mortgage securitization–the key to the development of secondary mortgage markets in the United States. Their efforts spawned the vast asset-backed securities market that, along with credit derivatives, has contributed to the transfer of credit risk from highly leveraged originators of credit–especially banks and thrifts–to less-leveraged insurance companies and pension and mutual funds, among other investors.http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2005/20050519/default.htm

The speech found in the link above, is a wonderful read and full of praise for two G.S.E.s that directly contributed to the G.F.C.
How can the marketplace be free with this type of activity occurring and who was at fault, legislators or regulators or both ? Impunity seems to run hand in hand with government along the yellow brick road. Now going back to the Federal Reserve Bank and specifically the NY Fed, why were Maiden Lane LLC, Maiden Lane II LLC, Maiden Lane III LLC established – to take billions of dollars of toxic debt out of the marketplace – http://newyorkfed.org/markets/maidenlane.html#tabs-1

Look at the relationship with J.P. Morgan Chase and the loan where the NY Fed earns profits. Oh but this is all justifiable because it is a free and open market. Has anyone questioned greed, corruption and or dishonesty within the system and apology in advance for my skepticism here, but that would not be politically correct in our modern world and far to cynical. There is nothing wrong with democracy or a free marketplace capitalism…I believe that both of these have benefits and are better than the alternatives. The debt ceiling level and the process of dealing with it is flawed because the answer is not lifting it, time and time again and printing money…it does not address the structural reforms that are required to control it.

What is wrong with Operation Twist http://useconomy.about.com/od/Fed/g/Operation-Twist.htm
I refuse to be drawn into any Zionist debate or argument regarding the Federal Reserve Bank or any conspiracy theories about the same. Facts and figures can do the talking…but I personally believe that the underlying premise of a government monopoly on the money supply is detrimental to the economy and ultimately limits people’s freedom as it promotes the expansion and control of the state is wrong in that it is most flawed. I will cite Australia as an example with twenty two years of successive growth as a combination of the resources boom and well managed monetary and fiscal policy from the Australian Federal Reserve Bank & the government.

Foreign Policy Flaws – Lost opportunities to build and establish strong working relationships post Cold War. Underestimating or over estimating the capacity, strengths and weakness of either US capabilities or the country and culture of intervention/operation. Failure to meet objectives and counterproductive operations in various regional conflicts.  Nicaragua, Vietnam, Iraq Gulf War, Iraq War, Afghanistan, Libya and others. With Nicaragua –  The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America – the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras.
http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?sum=367&p1=3&p2=3&case=70&p3=5
http://www.alternativeinsight.com/Foreign_Policy_Failures.html
The reader can search for other countries and current flaws in foreign policy.

Constitutional Flaws – the ten questions asked by Professor Sanford Levinson from The School of Law at The University of Texas at Austin are worthy of reading and the very least, serious consideration…the two links at the end of the page are also worthy of  perusal. http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2006/100906_che.html

The writer is not anti-American. What American men and women do every single minute of every single day in the pursuit of freedom and liberty I am most appreciative of and applaud their courage and commitment to upholding the idea of democracy and global stability. These people are from a range of government and non-government groups and place their lives on the line. If the United States of America can lead by example, then it would be think globally acting locally first.

To conclude, this is one view that does not matter if it is correct or incorrect and I hope it stimulates thought regarding any real or perceived flaws in North America, Europe or the world. Globally we are facing serious challenges that require effective solutions to be found as a united world.The hegemonic behemoth that is struggling to retain global stability has become a basket case in international politics. If America can not or will not perform triage on itself and undertake radical surgery, the multi-polar world will rapidly correct this and place it in a hospice.

John Coffey, retired Foreign Affairs Officer at the US State Department points out about Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power by Zbigniew Brzezinski:  Brzezinski highlights greater significance to the nation’s domestic problems such as a crushing national debt; a financial system driven by self-destructive greed; widening inequality; decaying infrastructure; a citizenry ignorant of the world; and a gridlocked political system.

May the captains of industry and global governors guide, protect and direct towards a sustainable future with…

  Truth, Trust & Transparency.

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African Conflict & Sustainable Development

 

The following is taken from Center for Strategic & International Studies
Document
A Report of the CSIS Program on
Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation
October 2014

Africa is the continent with the highest concentration of countries that are affected by violence and conflict and that appear regularly on lists of fragile states. CSIS senior fellow Robert D. Lamb sat down with Africa Program deputy director Richard Downie to talk about the conflicts and crises Africa is likely to face in the future and how the United States has positioned itself to deal with those challenges.

In Angola, the United States played an unhelpful role in prolonging the civil war through its continued support for U.N.I.T.A. [the National Union for the Total  Independence of Angola]. But elsewhere, it’s played a constructive diplomatic role, helping negotiate an end to conflicts in South Africa, Namibia, and Mozambique. This region—Zimbabwe aside—has for the past two decades been by far the most stable region of Africa.

China’s influence in Africa has been a net positive, actually, providing Africans with much-needed infrastructure and increased opportunities for trade and investment. At the same time, China’s avowed policy of noninterference in domestic politics has meant it’s been willing to do business with some of the continent’s most corrupt, authoritarian regimes, such as those in Sudan, Angola, and Zimbabwe. This has been a boon for incumbent autocrats. But it’s hard to make the case that China has directly fueled conflict and extremism in Africa. It shares with the United States an interest in peace and stability, and conflict threatens its business interests, in places like South Sudan, for instance. As its ties in Africa get deeper, China’s doctrine of noninterference is going to come under more strain.

China does limit U.S. influence in Africa although not to the extent commonly portrayed in the media mainly by offering itself as an alternative suitor to African governments who have no interest in heeding U.S. advice on promoting democracy and good governance.

There are two big, intractable problems that have implications for security in the region. The first is poor governance, which continues to blight a number of [African] countries. Indeed, that number has increased in recent years, reversing some of the positive progress made in the 1990s and early 2000s. One particular manifestation of this problem is leaders who remove constitutional term limits. By altering, or threatening to alter, constitutions in order to stay in office, leaders like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso undermine their nations’ institutions and run the risk that opposition to their incumbency will take on increasingly desperate, even violent, forms.

The second big problem is the lack of viable African security institutions to respond to conflict in a timely, professional manner. The continent currently lacks political leaders with the skill and vision to take ownership of the issue and produce models for a homegrown and financially sustainable African security architecture.

In July 2014, former UK foreign secretary William Hague described a turbulent global landscape as one not simply experiencing a series of regular disruptions; instead, he suggested that the world was suffering from “systemic disorder.” In a similar vein, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski characterized the environment as “historically unprecedented in the sense that simultaneously, huge swaths of global territory are dominated by populist unrest, anger, loss of state control.

Indeed, every day seems to bring news of emerging crises and deeper chaos, with few signs the world’s troubles are abating. China’s assertive posture in Asia has the neighbors scrambling to bolster their armed forces, reinforce territorial claims, and buttress relations with the United States. Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine and NATO holds the prospects of conflict in Europe. A worsening in one or both of these regions could herald a new economic downturn worldwide.Beginning in North Africa in late 2010, the Arab Spring offered the promise of economic opportunity, justice, and self rule. But four years later, the region has more often witnessed despair, economic paralysis, and violence. The players include countless militias, insurgents, terrorists, government security services, and political factions all contesting control of territory, populations, and resources. The integrity of Libya, Syria, and Iraq are in serious jeopardy at the same time insurgent groups like ISIS are surging in influence and capability and in some places governing as a state.

At the heart of this turmoil are two distinct but related phenomena. States are less able or willing to exercise power and authority over their people, territory, and (shrinking) resources, while actors at the sub state level are simultaneously wielding greater capabilities than ever before. This is not a new state of affairs, but the trend has worsened sharply over the past year. Incompetent or corrupt regimes are failing to provide basic services and opportunity to their populations. Filling that void are ethnic- or sectarian based groups and sophisticated criminal gangs that are not only supplanting traditional government roles but challenging states on the battle field. The ongoing confrontation between ISIS and several powerful nations bears witness to this reality.

Caught in the middle are millions of citizens with scant economic opportunities, security, and little control over their own lives. With their own governments often at fault, many people look to alternative sources of authority and service provision. Violent extremist groups offer a respite for those seeking relief, along with a promise of empowerment and even revenge very appealing choices for many individuals in this environment, given their lack of other options.

Despite the strong desire by many to avoid these cofounding problems, there is little doubt that the United States will remain deeply engaged in finding solutions. The prospects for continued violence, radicalization, and global “systemic disorder” appear to be very strong, and the United States and its partners must prepare themselves for a rough ride ahead.

At the end of the Cold War, humanitarian assistance by civilian aid workers to alleviate suffering evolved into “humanitarian intervention.” This dramatic shift in conflict from interstate wars, which declined during the last decade of the twentieth century, to intrastate conflicts arising from weak and fragile states tested the capacity of both civilian and military agencies to find appropriate responses to the dual crises of human suffering and bad governance.

Urban growth was rapid over the course of the twentieth century, and it will continue to advance quickly over the next 20 years. The overall world population reached 7.3 billion people in 2014 and is projected to exceed 8.3 billion by 2030. Notwithstanding its scale, this rate of population growth will not match the projected scale of urban growth over the same period: urban populations will grow from 3.8 billion in 2014 to more than 5 billion in 2030. Most of this growth will occur in Asia and Africa.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children relocate to periurban spaces. The newly urbanized commonly find themselves forced to live in the most insecure spaces, such as along the edges of ravines, on flood prone streambeds, on unstable slopes, or in slums and shantytowns so densely populated that they become marked with ignominious titles such as Lagos’s “Face Me, I Face You” complexes. The speed and nonuniformity of this migration overwhelms existing urban infrastructure and service provision capacities, generating interrelated negative social, health, and economic externalities. The severity of this insecurity is nowhere more apparent than for the 930 million inhabitants in developing countries, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, who live in a slum.

Organized crime and the potential for violence from terrorist or insurgent networks pose a further challenge to human security in quickly urbanizing environments. Problems found in mega cities economic disparity and high unemployment make them a prime breeding ground for violent non state actors. Many fear the sheer size of these cities will allow criminal groups to flourish undetected by local government or legal authorities. The absence of rule of law and basic services has the potential to provide safe haven to organized criminals, insurgents, and other violent non state actors.

Transnational criminal organizations corrupt and intimidate governments and facilitate illicit trafficking, which makes them one of the more pernicious non state actors. UNODC emphasizes in its 2013 West African Threat Assessment that underserved communities particularly those in border areas can profit from the flow of contraband, “leading them further and further from the reach of the state.”

Livelihoods that benefit from governance vacuums are unsustainable but usually preferable to poverty. Those involved in illicit trade are willing to defend themselves violently when their livelihoods are threatened whether by the state or by rivals. To make matters worse, wealth accrued through illicit trafficking is often sufficient to buy cooperation from high levels of government, meaning corruption is both enabled by and an enabler of organized crime.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are still experiencing a new kind of threat as stateless armies of criminal actors threaten the peace and security of many countries. In 2014, we still face the problem of accepting how long it takes to build strong institutions, grow civil society, and restore economic growth. Foreign assistance budgets are developed in five year bundles, yet reality tells us that state building is a 20 year task at a minimum. A generation is usually needed to see the results of stabilization and institution building, yet the high level of demand for the immediate resolution of conflict, often characterized by impatience and quick fixes, checking a box on a “to-do” list, fails to create a genuine understanding of how any short-term development interventions support a path to national development and a return to stable governance.

The rapid changes and instability emergent today require a comprehensive and effective response that brings people together to resolve differences peacefully and strengthens their ability to better overcome future potential conflict or strife.

I would like to focus here in conclusion, on two sub- Saharan African countries  that have overcome some  challenges and made some progress towards a modern democratic civil society. South Africa & Zimbabwe have enormous natural resources some of which contribute to their GDP and also a revenue stream for the government which can be further strengthened with bilateral trade agreements with their trading partners. Both countries share a common history in that they have had precolonization and colonization and are now in the third stage of their history which is post colonization.

The countries share a border and there is a certain amount of commonality with the challenges that they face moving into the Twenty First Century. South Africa & Zimbabwe are both part of the South African Development Community and the African Union. Ideally for progress to happen and for them to reach their full potential, truth, trust and transparency in government are paramount. Sustainable development that is part of a transformative state requires a collaborative and consultative approach with all of the stakeholders. There are many real challenges ahead, some of which were addressed in the Millennium Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals have continued the MDGs and also focus on future remaining challenges.

Governments can to be proactive regarding matters such as health, education, employment, infrastructure, gender equality, food security, population growth, structural reforms(whether they are regulatory, or institutional, or political, or fiscal, or social) and climate change, which will benefit the current citizens and future generations. It also is the duty and responsibility of foreign governments to work with these two countries to establish mutually beneficial relationships that benefit the citizens.

The proactive approach that government needs to address with structural reform is highlighted by a 2012 report by KPMG (http://www.kpmg.com/Africa/en/IssuesAndInsights/Articles-Publications/Press-Releases/Documents/Africa%20Fraud%20Barometer%20June%202012.pdf ) where it claims ” Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa make up 74 percent of all fraud cases reported in Africa. While fewer cases are reported in South Africa, the overall value of these cases is far greater in Nigeria”.

The writer welcomes and feedback and or ideas regarding the subject and appreciates the work that C.S.I.S. carries out and the contribution that is makes globally.

China & TheTwenty First Century

China 2015 White Paper Beijing issued its first white paper on military strategy, ushering in greater military transparency by giving details of the direction of its military buildup to other nations. The document of about 9,000 Chinese characters revealed a list of new expressions that have never before appeared in Chinese white papers.

In the preface it reaffirmed China’s adherence to peaceful development and its “active defense” military strategy. It interpreted the policy as “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked”. “China will never seek hegemony or expansion,” it added.

On China’s security environment, it mentioned increasing security challenges brought by certain countries, citing the growing US military presence in Asia and Japan’s major adjustment in its security policies.

For the first time, the paper noted that “some offshore neighbors take provocative actions and reinforce their military presence on China’s reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied”. “It is thus a long-standing task for China to safeguard its maritime rights and interests.”

Vietnam and the Philippines have kept building on some of China’s islands in the South China Sea. Accordingly, the paper said the navy of the People’s Liberation Army will “gradually shift its focus from ‘offshore waters defense’ to a combination of ‘offshore waters defense’ and ‘open seas protection'”.

China Military

China’s air force will soon commission the J-10B fighter jet, the most advanced military aircraft the country has ever developed on its own.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

It also mentioned an adjustment in preparations for military struggle. Following the guideline set in 2004 in order to win “informationized local wars”, the new expression highlighted maritime military struggle.

Regarding outer space, the paper reaffirmed China’s opposition to the weaponization of outer space and its disapproval of an arms race in outer space.

As for cyber space, it said “China will expedite the development of a cyber force” and enhance its capabilities in cyber situation awareness and cyber defense.

The paper also noted that as Chinese national interests stretch further abroad, it will “strengthen international security cooperation in areas crucially related to China’s overseas interests”.

It said the PLA will engage in extensive regional and international security affairs, and promote the establishment of the mechanisms of emergency notification, military risk precaution, crisis management and conflict control.

The paper highlighted future cooperation with Russian armed forces, saying the PLA will foster a comprehensive, diverse and sustainable framework to promote military relations.

On cooperation with the US, China intends to build a “new model of military relationships” that conforms to the two nations’ new model of major-country relations.

It will strengthen defense dialogues, exchanges and cooperation with the US military, and improve the mechanism for the notification of major military activities as well as the rule of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.

Zhao Weibin, a researcher on China-US military relations with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, said though the paper named the US, Japan and some neighbors which pose security challenges, it is not written to counter them.

“In this chapter on the security environment, we just objectively assessed China’s situation.”

Wen Bing, a researcher on defense policies with the academy, said China has become one of the few countries that have published white papers to clarify military strategy. According to him, the US, Russia and Britain have issued similar reports.

“That is indeed a big step in China’s military transparency.”

Wen suggested the readers of the report examine every word of it, as “there are so many new expressions and ideas, through which you can better understand today’s PLA.”

Further to this white paper, The General Political Department of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has compiled Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings on national defense for release in the military system.

The book, compiled and released under the approval of the Central Military Commission, includes major strategic thinkings, theories and policies reflected in 36 key articles by Xi between Dec. 2012 and March 2015.

The PLA General Political Department urged soldiers and officers to study the book to improve the army, with guided sessions to explain key theories and deepen the reader’s understanding.

China said on Wednesday that it was deeply shocked and dissatisfied with the Philippine president’s remarks likening China to Nazi Germany, warning Manila to stop provoking Beijing on the South China Sea issue.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the Philippines has tried to occupy Chinese islands for decades and has kept “colluding with countries outside the region to stir up trouble and sling mud at China”.

“I once more seriously warn certain people in the Philippines to cast aside their illusions and repent, stop provocations and instigations, and return to the correct path of using bilateral channels to talk and resolve this dispute,” she said.

During a speech in Japan on Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino compared China’s actions to Nazi Germany’s territorial expansion before the outbreak of World War II.

Tensions have risen recently as the Philippines, as well as the United States and Japan — two nations that are not directly involved in the issue — repeatedly criticize China over its construction on some of its islands in the South China Sea.

China has said its projects mainly aim to provide a civilian service that will benefit other countries.

US President Barack Obama conceded on Monday that “it may be that some of their (China’s) claims are legitimate”, but he urged China to stop construction on the islands. The US has sent reconnaissance planes over Chinese islands with reporters on board.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai told The Wall Street Journal it was “very surprising to us that the US has overreacted to the situation and is escalating the situation.”

He said China is more concerned than anybody about the safety and freedom of navigation in the region, given China’s huge trade volume going through the South China Sea.

“If somebody wants to see escalation of tension, then that could be used as an excuse for advancing their military deployment, for setting up Cold War-type alliances and for setting up new missile defense systems,” he said.

During Aquino’s visit, Tokyo and Manila are likely to agree to start talks on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology. Japan last year eased restrictions on arms exports set after World War II.

“As a major victim of Japan during the war, it is really cynical for the Philippines to unite with Japan and link China to Nazi Germany,” said Chen Qinghong, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

“Manila wants Tokyo to help press Beijing on the South China Sea issue. And Japan — which is under great international pressure for its attitude on history as the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches in August — seeks to transfer the regional focus.”

In previous posts I have written about understanding China and the rise of the Red Dragon in this “The Asian Century”. I wonder how may of us in the West truly independently understand the complexities of this state and the global challenges we will face during the 21st Century as our global power structure transitions.

Brave Budget Behest

Lip Service

or

Action

Prevention is better than cure…

heck we all know that

and prevention in the short-term may be the more expensive option.

But over the lifetime of something it may be the cheaper alternative.

http://www.economywatch.com/features/world-economy-2014-recovery-strengthening.29-01.html

Who said that there was going to be a bubble burst in America in 2017 ?

http://www.economywatch.com/features/post-financial-crisis-lack-of-reforms.22-11.html

If there are systemic flaws in America will they blame the Obama era or will they leave him alone, not because he was the first African-American President but more so that he tried to make it matter and in two terms tried to make a difference.

The mid terms are coming up in America and one questions who is there to replace the current president and to take on the responsibility of leading the country through challenging turbulent seas. There is not one strong leader who can lead in America, not because there aren’t any dynamic leaders of vision and strength, but because there are other influences in America and the president is merely one person at the apex.

Budget requests & demands from a myriad of sources for all worthwhile programs from health & education to defence and cyber-security. I have no bias towards America but what I do have is a keen interest in where they are headed and how they are hopefully going to be proactive rather than reactive during the remainder of the Obama era.

What will political science academics and foreign policy analysts anticipate will be the word from the State Department & the White House during 2014 & the end of the second term ? Will it be not what is said but what is not said that will be of importance. One questions what the Middle East will look like in 2017 and will  the American people be involuntarily dragged into another global conflict.

          images (4) 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hed1nP9X7pI&feature=share

Whilst the words well delivered as they may have been by Barack Obama have a positive spin, that spin one questions.

Let us hope & pray that a dead cat bounce does not happen.

111912_skydiving_cats_t