Friday, January 17, 2014

Wall Street Journal's instruction on US foreign policy

You don’t read The Wall Street Journal but you’re interested in current thinking of American establishment? You should read this newspaper well known not only for being a mouthpiece of Wall Street fatcats, obnoxious, often filled with untruths and propaganda Op-Ed pages and much better researched news analyses gathered by large corpus of its foreign correspondents.

In the first edition of this year, on January 2, the newspaper published interesting memo, “Global Disorder Scorecard”. It is list of current or anticipated conflicts of 2014, presented with descriptions of antagonists of these conflicts and whom American officials, politicians, journalists should “root for”.

WSJ scorecard photo WSJ.jpg

Here is this scorecard with my commentary

 • In the Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening and bribing to pull authoritarian Viktor Yanukovych away from Europe and into Moscow’s orbit. Street protestors and the opposition want to join the West with its rule of law and greater democratic transparency.

Whom to root for: The opposition. Without Ukraine, Russia can’t become a new empire, and a democratic victory in Kiev might have a useful demonstration effect in Moscow.

No surprise here, hostility to Russia is very well entrenched in psyche of US elite so WSJ urges readers to route for everything damaging for Moscow.
My comment: Ukrainian protesters are very naïve bunch of people, elderly babushkas hope to get 1000 euro a month pension from European Union, youngsters want visa free regime with EU that they can find work there, but I am afraid such dreams won’t be fulfilled in any scenario in foreseeable future. Presently they’re being exploited by not less crookish than Yanukovich opportunistic opposition composed of ex-gas princess Timoshenko, ultranationalists and Jewish circles. Russians naturally support Yanukovich but I have little hope he will use Moscow’s money wisely to break out of vicious circle between bankruptcy and anarchy.

• Thailand used to be one of Southeast Asia’s more stable nations. But the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra is under assault by opposition protestors who refuse to contest new elections and are openly begging for another military coup. The military has stayed neutral but may be tempted.

Root for: The Yingluck government. The opposition Democrat Party last won an election in 1992, and another coup would further destabilize a country that ought to be emerging as a beacon of Asian prosperity.

It’s only surprise for me as US before supported Thai royalist cliques, Bangkok middle class in form of Thai Democrats party and Thai military which ruled the country with short breaks since 1932.
Contrary I have been supporter of populist Thaksin policies since he was in office, he seemed to me visionary leader albeit flamboyant and immodest. Thailand lost its privileged position in South East Asia after the end of Vietnam war and now fiercely competes for tourists and investments with neighbors first of all Vietnam and royalist self-destructive antics only hold back the country.  

• China is increasingly assertive in its dispute with Japan over control of the small islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus (Diaoyus to the Chinese). With nationalism rising in both countries, especially China, this is the world’s most dangerous flashpoint outside the Middle East.

Root for: Japan, with the caveat that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stop worshiping at the shrine of World War II criminals. The U.S. is treaty-bound to defend Japan if it is attacked, and the best way to deter Chinese aggression is to let Beijing know that it will be resisted by both countries.

I don’t have any priorities here and I suspect American elite also divided in sympathies to US two largest foreign creditors.

• South Sudan, a new nation the U.S. helped to midwife over two decades, is descending into civil war. The main causes are personal rivalries and enmity between the Dinka and Nuer tribes over who will benefit from the East African country’s oil riches.

Root for: U.N. peacekeepers. Neither side merits Western support, so the goal should be to protect civilians. Some 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers will patrol land half the size of Western Europe, and they could use U.S. support as the two sides try to kill each other.

Vicious internecine conflicts in Africa will be very much mainstay of violence-addicted TV reporting in 21st century but as it’so far from the Far East I have little knowledge of what’s going on there, who kills whom and why. Still I strongly disagree with American scientific racists (and Francis Fukuyama) who argue that blacks genetically incapable of good governance citing random research of black children adopted in white families.

• North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un eliminated an internal political adversary when he had uncle Jang Song Thaek put to death in early December. But that may not have ended the internal threats to the crazy nephew’s consolidation of power, as the regime’s elites brawl over who gets the cash from their businesses and Western bribes.

Root for: More regime feuding and collapse. No amount of bribery will make the baby-faced despot give up nuclear weapons. The West should keep squeezing the North, denying the money it needs to buy domestic support, and heightening the internal contradictions, as the world’s last Marxists like to say.

North Korea is not far and baby-faced dictator who eliminated relative for not clapping enthusiastically enough on party forums is very scary figure. When I heard news of Jang Song Thaek’s execution by machine gun I said maybe it’s time to apply some calibrated pressure on the regime.

• The Syrian civil war will soon enter its fourth year, with President Bashar Assad and his Iranian protectors making gains against the divided opposition. With President Obama’s refusal to help moderates, and now his de facto alliance with Assad over chemical weapons, the opposition has become a breeding ground for Islamist fighters.

Root for: Some American strategists want a hundred year’s war, but as the conflict goes on the damage escalates. Lebanon is teetering, al Qaeda is spreading from Syria to Iraq, Jordan must cope with nearly a million refugees, and a region-wide Sunni-Shiite war is possible. With the U.S. on the sidelines, the least bad option is that the conflict burns itself out. Perhaps the country will split into de facto Shiite (Alawite), Sunni and Kurdish enclaves. The worst outcome is a victory for the Assad-Iran-Hezbollah axis.

Putin soon will be part of Shia axis of Russia-Syria-Iran but I hope he will held back as these regimes have nothing in common with Russian Federation. However as Saudi and Qatari funded terrorists continue to strike Russia with impunity I support some help to Damascus and Teheran in order to apply pressure on KSA.

• In Egypt, the military government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and is rewriting the constitution to enhance its power, but this has bred a domestic terror campaign that may cost thousands of civilian lives.
Root for: An enlightened military leadership. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi views this as a fight for survival with the Brotherhood, and at this stage he’s probably right. The U.S. has squandered whatever influence it had with its inconstancy since the protests began against former strongman Hosni Mubarak. Let’s hope General Sisi leaves enough space for a more normal politics to develop over time and not leave Egyptians to choose only between two kinds of dictatorship—Islamist or military.

Probably Egypt is most terrible disappointment for the West. I don’t have much sympathy for Sisi who sold out to Saudis while clamping down on Muslim Brotherhood but understand he has to feed hungry mobs

• The greatest threat to world peace is Iran’s nuclear program, and President Obama seems determined to strike a diplomatic deal in the New Year that will let Iran retain much of its nuclear capacity and even to keep enriching uranium.
Root for: Political intervention from a bipartisan majority in Congress that opposes any deal short of dismantling Iran’s program and ending its enrichment capacity. It probably won’t happen as the White House pressures Senate Democrats to bend, but it’s the last hope other than Israeli military action for stopping the Iranian bomb.

I don’t have any trust in US Congress and even less in Iranian ayatollahs but I think US and Iran should civilize their rocky relationship and heal the past traumas. Threat to Israel from Iran is greatly exaggerated.

What is missing in this scorecard?

First of all Russia herself. WSJ probably rooted for ultranationalist Navalny but Bolotnaya protests dissipated.

Bangladesh. US hostility to Hasina became muted as American interest in the region has waned.

Iraq which became battleground for Iran who dominate Maliki’s regime and Iraqi Al-Qaeda financed by Saudi Arabia (just other day Maliki claimed he has evidence of $150 mln Saudis gave to one group).

Overall Wall Street Journal's scorecard is comic-book style with cartoonish black and white good guys vs bad guys that is why American foreign policy often than not faces fiasco around the world.

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