America’s Cycles of Change

Baghdad Parliament Collapses in Fistfight

Wed, 20 April 2016

While shaky and uncertain Iraqi ground forces slowly move forward behind repeated US air strikes and artillery bombardments against ISIL, the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, their political masters brawled and threw water bottles at each other in the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday.

The fiasco led to a successful but disputed vote to topple Parliament Speaker Salaam al-Juboori, a leading Sunni Muslim ally of US-backed Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Abadi wants to reduce the endemic corruption in supposedly democratic Iraq by installed a clean, technocratic cabinet, but established political interests led by his predecessor Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, and rising radical, Iran-backed Moqtada al-Sadr have joined forces to oppose him.

Maliki, the darling of US neoconservatives and the George W. Bush administration ran Iraq with spectacular corruption and incompetence from 2006 until the collapse of the Iraqi Army in the face of ISIL in 2014 forced even Washington to drop him.

On Thursday, after the water bottle fight, Abadi’s foes ganged up to vote Juboori out of office but Juboori counted that the vote was not valid because not enough members of parliament had been in the chamber for a quorum and he had not been there either.

The Iraqi democratic system was meant to be a showcase to the entire region of the merits of democracy, US-style. Instead it destroyed any credibility that remained for US political leadership across the entire Middle East.

US-Russia Air-Sea Confrontation in Baltic Sea Alarms John Kerry

The video footage was spectacular. On Wednesday, two Russian Sukhoi- Su-24 bombers swept over a US guided missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, as close as 30 feet in the Baltic Sea, close to the heavily militarized Russian city and military base of Kaliningrad.

A furious US Secretary of State John Kerry called the close encounter “dangerous” and “unprofessional.”

From their perspective, the Russians were reacting to a continuing and relentless US buildup of military forces, not just to defend Western Europe, but in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member state yet, and in Estonia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, all of which are in NATO.

The mainstream US media generally ignores this build up, which increasingly enrages and alarms the Russians. Also, U.S. columnists and reporters never note that President Barack Obama looks upon former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as his mentor on foreign policy and defense.

But Brzezinski, who is of Polish background, has always been extremely hostile to all things Russian, a hostility that did not diminish with the collapse of communism.

This background suggests that Obama is not blind or naïve about the aggressive policies hostile to Russia engaged in by the hawks in his administrations such as then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton and current Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland, a Hillary favorite. Instead, he actively supports them.

In the short term, this has meant good business for America’s defense contracting giants like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. They have racked up one multi-billion dollar after another since the 2017 budget was finally passed, ending at least for now the nightmare of automatic sequestration cuts.

But the Obama policy, certain to be maintained and intensified by Clinton or Ted Cruz if either wins the presidency is propelling the American people straight toward a fateful thermonuclear confrontation with Russia. And the Russians, convinced their very survival is at stake, are not going to back down.

Russia Could Beat US in Battle, Fearless Army Hero General Tells Senate

Army generals especially American ones are expected to be macho and gung-ho, but sometimes they will speak harsh and necessary truths that supposedly more discreet politicians do not have the nerve or the brains to say themselves.

One such event took place on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 6 when three star US Army Lieutenant General Herbert McMaster told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US Army was likely to be outnumbered and outgunned in future confrontations with major powers especially Russia.

“It is clear that while our Army was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied US capabilities and vulnerabilities and embarked on an ambitious and largely successful modernization effort,” McMaster said.

“In Ukraine, for example, the combination of unmanned aerial systems and offensive cyber and advanced electronic warfare capabilities depict a high degree of technological sophistication,” he warned.

McMaster’s message was clear: The US Army would not be able to compensate for numerical inferiority by relying on massive air supremacy and close tactical ground support anymore because Russia had developed remarkable new capabilities.

McMaster warned that US troops may soon be “outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries and our Army in the future risks being too small to secure the nation.”

McMaster currently serves as deputy commanding general of Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and is the branch’s top strategist and war operations expert. He was a war hero while still a captain in the famous Battle of 73 Easting that smashed Iraq’s Republican Guard armor in the 1991 Gulf War. He has a deserved reputation for being fearless and outspoken.

When such a man gives such warnings, all of America’s political leaders should listen.

US Defense Chief Takes Macho Confrontational Stand Against China – Again

As US forces supporting NATO face growing challenges from Russia and fears again rise about the effectiveness of the rebuilt Iraqi Security Forces fighting ISIL, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter responded by approving a new military build-up – against China.

On Friday, April 15 Carter announced that the Pentagon was sending more aircraft and combat troops to the South China Sea to confront China over the contested Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Carter visited another nuclear-powered US navy aircraft carrier on Friday, the John C. Stennis and announced he had approved joint US and Philippine troops will be conducting joint naval patrols and joint air patrols to deter Chinese ‘expansionism’ in the region.

The move is certain to enrage Beijing, a country with which the United States had a half a trillion trade deficit last year and which holds about one third of all US Treasury bonds.

During his latest hyperactive trip across Asia, Carter has visited two aircraft carriers and unveiled new military agreements with India and the Philippines.

But this giung-ho tour de force alarmed even the staid New York Times. “The newly muscular approach on display during Mr. Carter’s tour represents a gamble,” reporter Michael Schmidt acknowledged on April 15. “While it sends a message that the United States will work with its allies to challenge Beijing’s expanding presence in the disputed South China Sea, it also plays into fears within the Chinese leadership about American efforts to halt China’s rise.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has so far withstood the more extreme pressures of popular nationalists in his country to in an effort to maintain good trade ties with the United States. It doesn’t hurt that China’s efforts to build its own aircraft carriers have so far proven costly fiascoes, leaving the US Navy as a preferred alternative to protect China’s now-vital import routes from Latin America and Africa to bring food and energy imports across the Indian Ocean.

However, Carter’s “in-your-face” policy towards Beijing in the South China coupled with high US moves to boost ties with both India and Japan, far from deterring China’s leaders, is much more likely to enrage them. The last thing the Pentagon really needs is yet another avoidable theater to prepare for potential war when it is already over-extended in so many more.