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Obama foreign policy: Wrong size, place and wrong strategy

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Boy, we taught them a lesson, right? Afghanistan won’t be host to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists anymore now that we have cleaned their clock. Iraq will become a stable democratic republic after we kicked them from here to kingdom come, correct? Now, we’ll just ask them if we can hang around in small numbers just in case. Just in case what? Here is a list of just-in-case:

1. Governments fail to maintain adequate control over terrorist organizations

2. Governments fail to produce sustainable economies to keep citizens happy

3. Governments fail to provide adequate protection for petroleum to flow to western allied nations

4. Governments fail to contain radical Islamists from threatening citizens

That short list of “just-in-case” is a slippery slope.

“‘I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,’ Obama said. ‘Yet this is how wars end in the 21st century — not through signing ceremonies but through decisive blows against our adversaries, transitions to elected governments, security forces who are trained to take the lead and ultimately full responsibility.’”

The Hill

“'It’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them,' Obama says

By Kristina Wong - 05/27/14 03:19 PM EDT

President Obama on Tuesday announced the United States will reduce its presence to Afghanistan to fewer than 10,000 troops.
Saying it was harder to end wars than to begin them, Obama said the U.S. would leave just 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in 2014.

“The bottom line is, it's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said in comments from the White House.

The 9,800 troop level will be cut in half in 2015, and when Obama's presidency nears its completion at the end of 2016, he said the only U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be those guarding the U.S. Embassy there.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/207292-obama-its-harder-to-end-wars-than-it-is-to-begin-them#ixzz32x0xwLeN

1. Governments fail to maintain adequate control over terrorist organizations
1. Governments fail to maintain adequate control over terrorist organizations Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

1. Governments fail to maintain adequate control over terrorist organizations

Here is a report that Congressional representatives probably didn’t read.

“COUNTERING THE CHANGING THREAT OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
Report of the National Commission on Terrorism
Pursuant to Public Law 277, 105th Congress

Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated, diffuse, bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that action gets lost. It includes gaps in intelligence, but also intelligence that, like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the alarm that has gone off so often it has been disconnected. It includes the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he'll be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also those that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes straightforward procrastination, but also decisions protracted by internal disagreement. It includes, in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion-- which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

The results, at Pearl Harbor, were sudden, concentrated, and dramatic. The failure, however, was cumulative, widespread, and rather drearily familiar. This is why surprise, when it happens to a government, cannot be described just in terms of startled people. Whether at Pearl Harbor or at the Berlin Wall, surprise is everything involved in a government's (or in an alliance's) failure to anticipate effectively.

Thomas C. Schelling,
Forward to Pearl Harbor; Warning and Decision, by Roberta Wohlstetter”

http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/commission.html

2. Governments fail to produce sustainable economies to keep citizens happy
2. Governments fail to produce sustainable economies to keep citizens happy Spencer Platt/Getty Images

2. Governments fail to produce sustainable economies to keep citizens happy

“How do we achieve a sustainable lifestyle?

By Rupert Blackstone

with contributions from Roger Middleton, Brian Robinson and Ian Arbon

Introduction

Although many of us, if not most of us, have some idea of what sustainability means conceptually, how many of us have an idea of what this means in terms of our lifestyle and personal responsibilities?  Where the progress of society towards a sustainable future may be viewed as inadequate, it may be easy for us to blame governments and corporations, but given that the activities of governments and organisations serve individuals, what can we as individuals do and influence?  How can engineers empower and equip us to live sustainably from day to day and what might a sustainable lifestyle look like?  This is the first in a series of Energy, Environment and Sustainability Group (EESG) articles on what a sustainable lifestyle might mean in practice and what engineers can do to influence this.  This is an extensive and complex subject that cannot be done justice in one article, but hopefully as we develop the theme there may be an exchange of ideas that can help us all move in the right direction.

Sustainability is generally understood to mean something along the lines of not consuming resources faster than their production and not polluting the environment in an irreversible way.  These resources may be environmental, economic or indeed societal.”

http://www.imeche.org/knowledge/industries/energy-environment-and-sustainability/news/Sustainable-Lifestyles

3. Governments fail to provide adequate protection for petroleum to flow to western allied nations
3. Governments fail to provide adequate protection for petroleum to flow to western allied nations Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

3. Governments fail to provide adequate protection for petroleum to flow to western allied nations

“China’s Global Search for Energy

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS and KEITH BRADSHERMAY 21, 2014

Whether by diplomacy, investment or in extreme cases, force, China is going to great lengths to satisfy its growing hunger for energy to fuel its expanding car fleet and electrify its swelling cities.

The Chinese government showed that desire on Wednesday when it reached a 30-year natural gas deal with Russia, even as China was locked in a tense standoff with Vietnam over a Chineseoil rig drilling in the contested South China Sea.

The two events involve different political dynamics. The agreement with Russia reflects closer economic ties between the two nations, while the other underscores the growing tension of two on-again, off-again Cold War allies.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/business/international/chinas-global-search-for-energy.html?hpw&rref=world&_r=0

4. Governments fail to contain radical Islamists from threatening citizens
4. Governments fail to contain radical Islamists from threatening citizens Carsten Koall/Getty Images

4. Governments fail to contain radical Islamists from threatening citizens

“‘The battle is among Muslims themselves – a battle for the very soul of Islam’

The British Muslim academic Mona Siddiqui writes about the “Arabisation” of Islam and changing attitudes to Muslims in the west.

BY MONA SIDDIQUI PUBLISHED 8 MAY, 2014 - 10:00

If you were to assess much of the current coverage of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Islam, you could be forgiven for thinking that the three are defined respectively through the issues of gay clergy, child sex abuse and violence. The talk of homosexuality and child sex abuse, however, can be understood as expressing institutional and social concern; they are divisive and damaging to the churches and their congregations and leave victims, but by no means are they a threat to world peace. Furthermore, although both Protestant and Catholic Christianity are growing predominantly in the global south, they are perceived as western religions. Much of the language about Christianity still makes sense to Europeans; it is familiar territory even if some of the thinking and traditions are contested in the paradigm of debates about human rights.

By contrast, Islam has gradually come to western consciousness as a religion of another world, essentialised, archaic, its own European significance largely absent from any modern understanding of European history. Many are unaware of its complex histories of empires, civilisations and intellectual life. Rather, its presence in the west has been felt through uncomfortable socio-ethical concepts that modernity finds baffling – sharia, jihad, forced marriages, honour killings, and so on.
All kinds of socio-ethical issues are lumped together irrespective of country, culture or context, because the words “Islam” and “Muslim” become the common denominator. Islam isn’t the only religion facing internal conflict but it is widely seen as the only faith marked by conflict alone. Millions of Muslims struggle to show that their Islam is open, just and generous, compatible with all the liberal freedoms the west holds dear, but this is not headline stuff because, let’s face it, these sentiments just aren’t that interesting.

In many ways the Muslim presence in the west didn’t mean much until the beginning of the new millennium. Before then it was embedded within the migration story of multiculturalism. We didn’t think much about multiculturalism because most people growing up in the 1970s and 1980s didn’t realise they were part of any political experiment. Issues around the significant and uncomfortable visibility of Islam began not with the arrival of the first generation of Muslims from south Asia but with the distinct wearing of the headscarf (hijab) on European streets from the 1980s onwards. Some recognised early on that this rising trend would force a different and more narrow kind of discourse about Muslim societies, where piety and modesty would be judged largely by clothing alone. Any thinking person knows that what women wear matters in all societies, but for Muslim women, clothing began to symbolise far more than individual piety.”

http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/04/arabisation-islam

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