Monday, August 22, 2011

The Downfall of Ghadafi: What It Means

It's been a while since my last post, but I'm please to refresh my blog with news that Muammar Ghadafi, dictator of Libya, has finally been ousted from his base city Tripoli by rebels fighting against his rule since February.
This will mean a short-term boost in approval rating for Nicholas Sarkozy, leader of France, James Cameron (Britain) and Obama, for it was their decision to enact a no-fly zone and air strikes amid sizable opposition, with Dennis Kucnich (Rep. from Ohio) even saying Obama has committed impeachable offenses by breaking the War Powers Act (1972). This gives the main NATO leaders a chance to pitch their judgement and leadership as credible, and can potentially change the electoral landscape for Obama in 2012.
     Economically, this relieves pressure for Obama as well. Stocks have been extremely volatile recently, and warnings of a double dip recession add to decreased confidence and increased anxiety. As gas has been averaging around $4.00/gallon, the end of  the civil war (thus unstable oil supply coming from Libya) could mean cheaper oil, thus freeing up consumers' money for spending and revitalizing the economy.
    It will be interesting to see the effects this war and the ousting of Ghadafi have on world politics, and the world economy, but for now the outlook remains positive.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

United States Countdown on Defaulting

The August 2nd deadline slowly approaches as the date in which the US will default on it's debt, if nothing is done about raising the debt ceiling.
    As a moderate liberal, I always try to give the opposing side which is the conservative base the benefit of the doubt. But when I hear that many conservatives don't want to raise the debt ceiling no matter what deal is agreed on, it makes me lose hope in this view. A default on our debt will effectively make us lose our grade A rating as a borrower, and we'll see higher interests on the same debt. Additionally, government will be shut down for at least a few days, and as Obama has warned, there's a chance that social security checks won't be sent out. This isn't even the worst of it- stock market prices will plummet and send shockwaves throughout the financial world. Ben Bernanke, Treasury secretary described the possible event as potentially 'catasrophic'. This will have a devastating impact on the economy, and some far right Republicans are in denial of this, accusing the president of "fear mongering" in order to get a deal passed. I believe Obama has been a true bipartisan in this deal brokering, offering spending cuts to social security and MediCare- the core of the Democratic Party- in exchange for revenue increases. The Republican side hasn't budged, mainly because many freshmen representatives in the House have been elected as Tea Party candidates- and have vowed in their campaigns to not raise taxes.
     This is a disaster waiting to happen. The Senates' "Gang of Six" bipartisan effort has promise, but will surely fail in the House. If there is no deal by August 1st, I have faith that an emergency effort will be based on this plan.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Economic Recovery: Follow the German Model?

There is no doubt that Germany's economy has been fairing a lot better than most other countries since the recession. In recent years Germany has emerged as the export juggernaut of Europe in a time when many economies are struggling with vast trade imbalances.
     I had come across a great NY Times article about how German governmental policies reflect this newfound rise in economic power, and how strict regulation helped avoid a major collapse of major markets, including the housing market, for example: German banks demanded a 40% down payment for a new home loan. This would largely avoid any collapse, because with a house already almost half paid, failure to pay the rest is less likely; a risk is largely avoided. Capitalism is a very rewarding economic model, but unregulated, it could have devastating effects when risk on home loans is committed on a large scale.
     Due to the large conservative presence in America, many think that cutting poverty/social security policies from the budget will further plunge us into chaos; to the contrary as proven in Germany. These policies keep the economy flowing by providing consumer markets with income, therefore jobs are kept. The problem isn't social security and unemployment; it is the incentives attached to them. A large part of American unemployment incentives don't encourage returning to work, whereas Germany's entire structure is based on this.
       Germany's economic model isn't conservative nor liberal; its simply practical and encourages incentives of individuals, controls incentives of corporations and industries, and neatly aligns these policies with a common national goal for rapid growth.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Long Term Afghanistan Strategy

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, and budgetary concerns mounting at home, the US effort in Afghanistan is facing mounting criticism involving the purpose of continued occupation of the country. Obama, so far, is sticking to his goal of ending combat operations in the country by the end of 2011. This plan could leave devastation in Afghanistan. With no American support and an ill prepared Afghan army, the opportunity for the Taliban to re-emerge as a force in the country is great.
     Some top American officials are offering alternatives; continued talks for a power sharing deal with the Taliban, and withdrawing NATO and American forces, but leaving small regiments specifically for cracking down on terrorists.
     But I think the only concrete goal that Afghanistan should achieve in the long term is simple: money. Many forget that Afghanistan has minerals such as lithium and copper in its grounds that some project to be worth in the trillions of dollars. With direct foreign investment in these areas, and jobs plentiful for Afghan workers, there will be no need for revolution or fundamentalism, and stability can prosper. Until then, a tricky situation remains. China has already capitalized on these opportunities by investing in the country, although the US has done all of the work.
     It will take years for the Afghan mining infrastructure to be built, and even longer for these natural resources to be converted into jobs. However, we can't afford to stay around until these goals materialize. I believe a power sharing deal needs to happen while any defectors to the government remain targets for the US armed forces.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Peace in Israel and Palestine: An Attainable Goal?

     Since Obama's speech to the Middle Eastern world outlying his support for peace negotiations to be based on the pre-1967 borders of Israel and Palestine, much has changed throughout the international community.
     With Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the U.S, he voiced his devout opposition to Obama's plans, with those close to the matter even describing him as 'furious'. As he had eventually cooled down, he had changed his tone and reiterated his want for peace in the region: with certain conditions, however. It is these conditions (refusal to give up any part of Jerusalem, continued military presence along the Jordan River, and keeping parts of the West Bank) that had made their Palestinian counterparts unhappy, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calling these conditions a 'declaration of war' against the Palestinian people.
     With Netanyahu's goals seemingly forced, the cards may not be in Israel's favor. Israel's goal is to make peace by direct talks with the Palestinians, and concessions will be have to be made to achieve this. The reason for this is that if direct talks don't achieve goals for both parties, the Palestinian Authority will then go to the United Nations in September for an international vote proclaiming Palestine an official state, laying groundwork for peace with lmited Israeli say. With strong lobbying power for Israel in Congress, and a crucial minority vote by many pro-Israeli Jews, Obama will support Israeli interests, should this UN vote come about; but it is here that the Americans will stop, with Obama refusing to put pressure on other Security Council members to vote in Israel's favor; Russia, Britain, and Germany have already voiced approval of Obama's plan to negotiate based on the pre-1967 borders, and with this sentiment they are likely to vote for a Palestinian state in September, should the vote ever be enacted.
     In my opinion, I understand Netanyahu's actions this week based on pressure from his conservative base in Isreal. However the concessions he's offering and the demands he's making in return are extremely lopsided, and are simply not rational for lasting peace. We've supported Israel unconditionally for far too long, which has been a direct obstacle for peace in the region. I'm sick and tired of some pro-Israelites branding those who disagree with Israel's policies as anti-Semetic and ignorant; this has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with practical politics.  There's no doubt Israel remains one of our most important allies, but as a hegemonic power we must realize that Israel doesn't have an incentive to act in a peaceful manner due to our unconditional support. Israel takes advantage of our strong relationship to make expansionist demands, and with this, peace can not last.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Jon Huntsman Tests Waters for Presidential Run

Jon Huntsman, the former the U.S. Ambassador to China under the Obama administration, is currently in New Hampshire testing the waters for a presidential run on the Republican ticket. With relations between the U.S. and China becoming ever more important given Chinas extremely fast growing economy and increased  trade between the two countries, I believe Mr. Huntsman is best qualified to run for the Republican party in 2012.
      Although I'm personally a supporter of Obama, if I had to choose a Republican candidate, Hunstman would be my pick as the Republican challenger. The relevance of his job during the Obama administration is ever- increasing; fluent in Mandarin and maintaining close relationships with many high Chinese officials, Huntsman is best qualified for the position involving foreign policy. With increased dialogue and trust between China and the U.S, together they can achieve larger and more beneficial world goals.  Relations with China had been worsened during the Obama administration, with the U.S. accusing China of fabricating the depreciation of their currency, differences in opinion involving the North/South Korea conflicts, and territorial disputes between China and other American allies. With Huntsman in office relations between the two countries would be mended and broader cooperation on the world stage could be achieved. This could involve many events, involving dealing with North Korea, sanctions against Iran, help in the war on terror, and other goals involving approval in the UN Security Council.
      That's not to say I would support Huntsman as president; he is simply a Republican that stands out among many candidates that simply cannot be taken seriously at this time. Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty are in my opinion the only other candidates that have a chance at the Republican ticket. Gingrich is already on his way to plundering his campaign. With a $250,000 account at Tiffany's Jewelry, he's already distancing himself from the average middle class voter, and with the disagreement with Paul Ryan's Republican healthcare plan alternative, he's distancing himself from his conservative base.
      Mitt Romney also has contradictions in his past. With strong Republican support for the repeal of the healthcare legislation, Romney had, as Governor, implemented a strikingly similar piece of legislation in his home state, alienating his Republican base. Not only that, but he's a Republican who also supports gay marriage, gun control, and legalized abortion.
     Pawlenty lacks the national name recognition and experience on the national stage, and his personal wealth could lead to his downfall. His only advantage is that he's governor of Iowa; the first state with a primary. This is a must win for him; if he loses this, he will simply not have the momentum, and more importantly the donations to continue. A risky run, in my opinion.
      Many say part of Huntsman's weakness is the fact that he's been in China the past two years. I disagree; I believe this is one of his strengths, because time away from home equals time away from the microscope. There won't be a lot of obvious dirt to dig up about this man, at least from the past two years. Although only 2% of the public recognize his name, there's plenty of time for Huntsman to develop a positive image for himself, and that will be easy, given his personal wealth and network of connections. Although he worked for the Obama administration, this could alienate his Republican base; fortunately for him, he doesn't yet have a conservative base, and working for Obama could shed him in a favorable light among moderate republicans, independents, and even some democrats (although as of now it is still unclear what his plans for the economy are) who approve of Obama's foreign policies; and it just so happens the Iowa caucus is known for many independent voters. We should remember that few knew Obama back in 2008, and it was the Iowa caucuses that catapulted him into the spot light. I believe the Iowa caucus will be a close battle between Huntsman and Pawlenty.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Debunking the Top Seven Myths on Iran's Middle East Policies"

With the news media running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it's easy for sensationalism and nationalistic bias to run rampant through our headlines. This interesting perspective towards Iran and its national ambitions offers an alternative view on the country and it's foreign relations.
    Don't get me wrong -- Ahmadinejad remains a very real and serious threat towards innocent people in neighboring countries, especially Israel- but we must remember that every move Iran makes is not a threat against America and its allies- it may not even be a threat at all.
     Beeman, the author of this piece, is reacting to a radio program painting Iran as an absolute evil- he best describes the overall thesis in this quote:
"This implication that Iranian influence is somehow negative or evil as opposed to being just what nations do was prevalent in the program."
You can read the full article here: