Chuck Hagel Is The Right Person For Defense Secretary

While I am quite sure Chuck Hagel will not be nominated for the next Defense Secretary, I am also quite sure he would be the best choice for Defense Secretary.

Tom Friedman writes one of those must reads in the morning newspaper.  The logic is hard to dismiss.

I find the opposition to him falling into two baskets: the disgusting and the philosophical. It is vital to look at both to appreciate why Hagel would be a good fit for Defense at this time.

The disgusting is the fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the “Jewish lobby” (it also contains some Christians). And because he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst. If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated — but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn’t mean having America go along with Israel’s self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution — it is now.       

I am certain that the vast majority of U.S. senators and policy makers quietly believe exactly what Hagel believes on Israel — that it is surrounded by more implacable enemies than ever and needs and deserves America’s backing. But, at the same time, this Israeli government is so spoiled and has shifted so far to the right that it makes no effort to take U.S. interests into account by slowing its self-isolating settlement adventure. And it’s going to get worse. Israel’s friends need to understand that the center-left in Israel is dying. The Israeli election in January will bring to power Israeli rightists who never spoke at your local Israel Bonds dinner. These are people who want to annex the West Bank. Bibi Netanyahu is a dove in this crowd. The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. But most U.S. senators, policy makers and Jews prefer to stick their heads in the sand, because confronting Israel is so unpleasant and politically dangerous. Hagel at least cares enough about Israel to be an exception.

Obama Administration Wrong To Release Oil From Strategic Petroleum Reserve

The news today from the Obama Administration was political, and it was wrong.

The Obama administration will release 30 million barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve in an effort to offset oil supply disruptions in the Middle East, the Energy Department announced Thursday morning. Other countries will release an additional 30 million barrels.

There is no doubt the national economy is rocky, and even Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke admitted to being dumbfounded Wednesday by the lackluster recovery.  But that should in no way have led anyone to think the strategic petroleum reserve is an option to be employed at this time.

The reserves should only be used in emergency situations when international conditions make the use of this oil a necessity. That the economy is fragile, and the increase of oil prices may limit economic expansion is not enough of a reason to consider tapping the reserves. There is never a good time, economically speaking, for a spike in oil prices.

It is obvious that instability in the Middle East is causing some of the price increase. But the international need for oil and energy, along with the higher demand that will take place when world-wide economies do truly bounce back, will insure higher oil prices well into the future.

Just how long do Americans think the reserves should be used?

Lets be honest, high gas prices make drivers upset but that is not a reason at all to think about the reserves.

That for decades the American people have not wanted to address the tough decisions about how to modernize cars, find alternate sources of energy, and remove themselves from the seemingly never-ending oil supplies from the Middle East is no reason to tap these reserves now.

We should have forced Congress to mandate that car companies make engines with higher miles-per-gallon. We should have understood the need for alternate methods of transportation, and been willing to pay for it like other modern places around the globe.

Democrats Should Not Over-React To ‘Vulnerability’ With International Relations

With the killing of Osama bin Laden it is argued that Democrats have a chance to again define their leadership with foreign policy.   I am a bit perplexed at the ‘need’ to showcase a muscular stance in an effort to demonstrate a thoughtful way forward with international affairs.  While I understand that there are many voters who view the Clint Eastwood approach as the ‘manly’ way, I have always found the kid on the playground who could talk his way out of a fight with words and a powerful presentation to be much more the hero.  That is the type of person I want leading my nation.

So the past week’s back and forth about the way Democrats need to latch onto the killing of bin Laden to underscore Democrat’s resolve to ensure the nation’s security seems rather lame.  While I am pleased that bin Laden was dealt with in a most dramatic fashion, I am also very content with the step-by-step leveraging that seems to be underway regarding peace efforts in the Middle East.  It is after all that slow and seemingly stodgy way of working through international disputes that we should encourage.

At the end of the day it is the brains, and not the brawn, that will allow our nation and world to work more harmoniously together.  It will be the efforts with our international partners at limiting climate change, or curbing  cyber-terrorism that will require the best minds and the most creative options.  While we will always need the military to step in when all else fails, and the Libya air campaign is one such example as after all we are far from perfection as mere humans, we should always first mightily strive to reach diplomatic accords with those we have issues with.  To do that we need the best and brightest engaged in government, and especially in the diplomatic corps.

I am not sure exactly what those who would have the Democrats present themselves more forcefully on international relations have the party do to look more like leaders.

Lets recall the brawny Republican adventure of invading Iraq squeezed needed resources from the real war on terrorism in Afghanistan.  As a result of the Iraq War instability continued bubbling in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was able to refocus their efforts at controlling regions of that country.

On the flip side of how international affairs can be handled, and even using Republicans to make the case, was the opening to China that President Nixon and his most able Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accomplished in 1972.  If there was ever a time to praise the efforts of dialogue and out-reach that would be such an example.   That would be the model that our government, political party aside, should work to emulate.

The world needs a lot of things right now, but more political/military bombast is not one of them.  To attempt to beat the Democratic chest harder and prove we growl louder than those on the other side of the aisle is short-sighted and not worthy of the voters time.

President Obama’s Foreign Policy

This whole article will either catch your interest or bore you.

I offer the summation here.

This spring, Obama officials often expressed impatience with questions about theory or about the elusive quest for an Obama doctrine. One senior Administration official reminded me what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said when asked what was likely to set the course of his government: “Events, dear boy, events.”

Obama has emphasized bureaucratic efficiency over ideology, and approached foreign policy as if it were case law, deciding his response to every threat or crisis on its own merits. “When you start applying blanket policies on the complexities of the current world situation, you’re going to get yourself into trouble,” he said in a recent interview with NBC News.

Obama’s reluctance to articulate a grand synthesis has alienated both realists and idealists. “On issues like whether to intervene in Libya there’s really not a compromise and consensus,” Slaughter said. “You can’t be a little bit realist and a little bit democratic when deciding whether or not to stop a massacre.”

Brzezinski, too, has become disillusioned with the President. “I greatly admire his insights and understanding. I don’t think he really has a policy that’s implementing those insights and understandings. The rhetoric is always terribly imperative and categorical: ‘You must do this,’ ‘He must do that,’ ‘This is unacceptable.’ ” Brzezinski added, “He doesn’t strategize. He sermonizes.”

The one consistent thread running through most of Obama’s decisions has been that America must act humbly in the world. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Obama came of age politically during the post-Cold War era, a time when America’s unmatched power created widespread resentment. Obama believes that highly visible American leadership can taint a foreign-policy goal just as easily as it can bolster it. In 2007, Obama said, “America must show—through deeds as well as words—that we stand with those who seek a better life. That child looking up at the helicopter must see America and feel hope.”

In 2009 and early 2010, Obama was sometimes criticized for not acting at all. He was cautious during Iran’s Green Revolution and deferential to his generals during the review of Afghanistan strategy. But his response to the Arab Spring has been bolder. He broke with Mubarak at a point when some of the older establishment advised against it. In Libya, he overruled Gates and his military advisers and pushed our allies to adopt a broad and risky intervention. It is too early to know the consequences of these decisions. Libya appears to be entering a protracted civil war; American policy toward Mubarak frightened—and irritated—Saudi Arabia, where instability could send oil prices soaring. The U.S. keeps getting stuck in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”

Donald Trump Is Dangerous, Unstable, Wants To Take Over Middle East Oil Fields With Military Force

If this story does not make you embarrassed to be an American tonight….

I stated last night that Donald Trump is not prepared to be President of the United States.

I offer this as Exhibit 1…2…and 3 to make my case.

I am sure that if we followed the outrageous proposal offered by Donald Trump the nations in question would greet us as liberators…right?!!

Let us understand one thing before we go further.

There is a sick perception within the minds of people like Trump that America somehow is at the center of the world, and whatever is good for us should be fine for everyone else.  Well NUTS to that!

We do not own the oil fields, and if those nations want to ratchet the price up to the heavens, so be it.  That the oil-producing nations have no interest in world-wide economic decline means they also have no desire to make the price of oil beyond the world’s ability to purchase.    OPEC is not crazy, or out-of-line.  They are no different from the corporate types that Republicans love to defend in America. 

America has had more than one chance to make a serious move away from oil but chose each time to duck the hard choices and take the easy route.  Now things are getting more dicey and Trump wants to take over oil field in the Middle East.

Trump tries to somehow make it seem the oil fields would just be in America’s hands by magic.  There is no way the oil fields could be taken and safeguarded without U.S. military force, and Trump knows that. 

There is no way to paint this whole story as anything but a very sick attempt at making a headline for Donald Trump.

I had a feisty 35 minute sit-down with Donald Trump today in which he dug in on the “birther” controversy, answered Club for Growth’s charge that he is a “liberal,” talked about a possible independent run and answered your questions.

But we began with his get tough approach on gas prices:

Trump: Look at what’s going on with your gasoline prices. They’re going to go to $5, $6, $7 and we don’t have anybody in Washington that calls OPEC and says, “Fellas, it’s time.  It’s over.  You’re not going to do it anymore.”  I don’t know if you saw yesterday, Saudi Arabia came out and said very strongly there’s plenty of oil.  “We’re going to cut back.”  You know what cutting back means?  They’re going to drive up the price even further.

Stephanopoulos: So, what would you do to back up that threat?

Trump: Oh, it’s so easy George.  It’s so easy.  It’s all about the messenger.  They wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for us.  If it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be there.  These 12 guys sit around a table and they say, “Let’s just screw the United States.”  And frankly, the rest of the world.

Stephanopoulos: And so finish this sentence.  “If you don’t produce more oil…”

Trump: Look. I’m going to look ‘em in the eye and say, “Fellas, you’ve had your fun.  Your fun is over.”


Stephanopoulos: So, you would threaten to take away that [security] protection?

Trump: Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  Let’s– let me tell you something.  Oil prices might go down.  Because there’s plenty of oil, all over the world.  Ships at sea.  They don’t know where to dump it.  I saw a report yesterday.  There’s so much oil, all over the world, they don’t know where to dump it.  And Saudi Arabia says, “Oh, there’s too much oil.”  They– they came back yesterday.  Did you see the report?  They want to reduce oil production.  Do you think they’re our friends?  They’re not our friends.

And Trump was even more specific on what he would do with the Iraq oil fields: seize them.

Trump: George, let me explain something to you.  We go into Iraq.  We have spent thus far, $1.5 trillion.  We could have rebuilt half of the United States.  $1.5 trillion.  And we’re going to then leave.  So, in the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils.  You go in.  You win the war and you take it.

Stephanopoulos: It would take hundreds of thousands of troops to secure the oil fields.

Trump: Excuse me.  No, it wouldn’t at all.

Stephanopoulos: So, we steal an oil field?

Trump: Excuse me.  You’re not stealing.  Excuse me.  You’re not stealing anything.  You’re taking– we’re reimbursing ourselves– at least, at a minimum, and I say more.  We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves

President Obama Shows American Resolve In Libya Speech

If anyone wonders why I voted for President Obama to lead the nation the answer was found in the speech he delivered concerning military action in Libya.  Obama’s advancing of a larger parameter from which to lead the world was powerful, and essential.

I am glad that President Obama made it clear that there is a difference between values and interests. 

And that values in foreign affairs matter.

It is essential for America  to be engaged in putting pressure on Col. Moammar Gadhafi, and protecting the Libyan people.  Obama also made the  case I have argued for concerning the larger role our nation needs to play in the world. 

Operating from a moral perspective even when there is not a direct threat to the United States is one that matches our ideals, along with the expectations of those who want our deeds to match our words.

Bottom line is I am not ashamed of our power or the wise use of it. 

The reason we are now engaged with our international partners in Libya is to make sure the historic moment of democratic uprisings is not undone by the  ruthless hand of Gadhafi.  It would send a horrible message to the people in the Middle East and northern Africa if America did not put our resolve where out mouth is. 

President Obama said it perfectly.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action

I almost jumped to my feet several times to applaud certain sections of the speech.  He stated what I firmly have believed for a long time about the use of force for the betterment of others.

Sadly, we do not always employ this framework as evidenced by the slaughter that took place in Darfur.  International politics and human nature never allows for perfection. 

I am very pleased with these sections of the speech tonight which I post.  

I am one who strongly supports these thoughts having been put into action in Libya.  

Thank you, Mr. President.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security — responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act — but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

###

Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith — those ideals — that are the true measure of American leadership.

My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas — when the news is filled with conflict and change — it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I have said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength at home. That must always be our North Star — the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring of our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

Strong Show Of Support For Libya Policy

When the United States military can be used for the greater good, and a solid and reasonable policy has been established for its use, then you are going to see this blog in strong support. 

Such is the case with the policy concerning Libya.

The reason we are now engaged with our international partners in Libya is to make sure the historic moment of democratic uprisings is not undone by the  ruthless hand of Kadafi.  It would send a horrible message to the people in the Middle East and northern Africa if America did not put our resolve where out mouth is. 

Our determination over the skies of Libya sends a message that will not be lost on others who would find the slaughter of civilians as a way to contain the natural aspirations of people who wish to breathe freedom.   Having said that, I would hope that in places like Syria there will be an appreciation for the mood of the international community.  There are limits to what will be allowed. 

Libya is proof of that.

While I understand that there is a war-weary frustration in America due to the policies started by President Bush, there is also a need for the public to understand that America has a unique and distinct role concerning international relations.  I never want America to shrink from the duties that come with being a super-power on the world stage. 

What is required, I would argue, is a more informed electorate about the foreign policy goals of the U.S.  There seems to be a disconnect from the foundations of this country on the one hand, and the reluctance to make a real difference for others who wish to remove the face of tyranny.

We must hold candidates more accountable at election time for a deeper examination of what will be needed of this nation.   We did not force the Bush Administration to forge a more inclusive policy with the world community, and instead allowed for a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to international disputes. 

It is due to that manner of conducting foreign policy that we invaded Iraq, which was a colossal mistake.

On the other end of the specturm we have the various players on the international stage, led in large part by France and Britain, that helped to develop the policy that is now taking place over Libya, and is allowing for progress on the ground by the rebels.

I make no apologies for the role we play in the world, or look for ways to minimize it. 

The show of timidity, including from some Democrats, when it comes to the robust nature of what is now taking place in the air over Libya, is embarrassing.

Those who denounce the policy should then explain how they feel when reading that on the ground in Libya there are the signs of success.

The major Sunday newspapers across this nation made that very clear with big headlines.

L.A. Times 2-col. lead: “Kadafi’s forces are in retreat: After punishing allied airstrikes, troops leave a pivotal city that rebels quickly reclaim” … NYT 2-col. lead: “Rebels Retake Libyan City As Airstrikes Clear a Way: First Major Advance Since Bombing Began Captures a Strategic Crossroads.” … WP 2-col. lead: “Airstrikes in Libya help rebels advance: DOOR OPENS TO THE WEST — Obama praises coalition’s collaboration.”

When he construct a policy with our international partners, and have it applied for the best interests of the nation in question, and the larger moral good, than it deserves the backing of all my fellow citizens.

Nation’s Oil Reserves Should Not Be Used For High Gas Prices

It was only a matter of time before the topic was raied in this country of using the Strategic Petroleum Reserves in response to rising gasoline  prices.  That it even took this long before Americans felt the need to consider this idea surprises me.   That it was not knocked off the table at once by the Obama White House is equally surprising, and alarming.

When asked this morning on “Meet The Press” about the idea of opening the reserves, Bill Daley, the White House Chief Of Staff said, “We’re looking at the options. The issue of the reserve is one we are considering.”

That is a wrong answer.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve should not be used in response to the rising price of oil.  

The reserves should only be used in emergency situations when international conditions make the use of  this oil a necessity.  That the economy is fragile, and the increase of oil prices may limit economic expansion is not enough of a reason to consider tapping the reserves.  There is never a good time, economically speaking, for a spike in oil prices.

It is obvious that instability in the Middle East is causing some of the price increase.  But the international need for oil and energy, along with the higher demand that will take place when world-wide economies bounce back, will insure higher oil prices well into the future. 

Just how long do Americans think the reserves should be used? 

Lets be honest, high gas prices make drivers upset but that is not a reason at all to think about the reserves.

That for decades the American people have not wanted to address the tough decisions about how to modernize cars, find alternate sources of energy, and remove ourselves from the seemingly never-ending oil supplies from the Middle East is no reason to tap these reserves now. 

We should have forced Congress to  mandate that car companies make engines with higher miles-per-gallon.  We should have understood the need for alternate methods of transportation, and been willing to pay for it like  other modern places around the globe.

If the American driver thinks these are tough times at the gas pump consider the possibilities of world unrest and the actual cut-off of supplies that could happen. 

The Obama White House needs to be honest about the reasons we have the reserves in the first place, and not play politics with them, as former Presidents have done. 

As for the American drivers who whine about the high price of gas I only ask that they think about the political candidates they supported over the years, and the types of energy plans advocated by the people they cast a ballot for.

In other words, stop the whining.