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President Obama’s Legacy

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As the 2016 elections enter the general election season, everyone will be anticipating who will be the next president. Before everyone moves onto the next administration, it is imperative to review the current president’s legacy for it will affect the next president’s agenda. While many reflections will be written about President Obama’s tenure in office, a surfeit of these articles will tend to have a political bias in one way or another. Although attempting to discuss President Obama’s 8 years will not be an easy nor concise feat, an attempt at an adumbrated and neutral discussion is provided below.

Promise of a Candidate vs. Actions of a President

Before any discussion is done about the presidential tenure of Obama, readers must first remind themselves of the young senator from Illinois who broke many barriers in his run for the presidency. Senator Obama rose to the presidency on a promise to create a post-partisan utopia that many were yearning for. With voter confidence in government at an all-time low due to the false premises behind the Iraq War, Wall Street malpractices leading to the greatest economic disaster, and partisanship bifurcating the country; Obama appeared to be the savior the country needed. The political mantra of hope and change helped invigorate a public that was all but hopeless. The promise of creating the most transparent administration helped deliver Obama to the presidency. Many saw Obama not as a politician but as a redeemer who would restore the economy, public trust, and American global standing back to where it belonged. To the chagrin of many, the ascendancy of Senator Obama to the presidency did not live up to the hype that was promised. A look at the promises of the candidate versus the actions of the president will allow one to capture the president’s legacy and whether or not he stayed true to his principles.

Domestic Policy

Civil Liberties

Candidate Obama criticized President Bush’s draconian Patriot Act as undermining the civil liberties of all Americans. He promised to provide the effective tools necessary for law enforcement while restoring the Constitutional rights of Americans. As president, Obama not only extended the Patriot Act but also signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Patriot Act pales in comparison to the NDAA. One of the most chilling aspects of the NDAA is the indefinite detention of American citizens in the US. Not only did President Obama not keep true to his promise, but under his tenure the US has entered a darker period with respect to civil liberties.

Healthcare

One of the most remembered piece of legislations during President Obama’s tenure will be Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The outcome of this law has been mixed. While promising the utmost transparency and claiming that the days of closed-door negotiations were over, President Obama promised he would broadcast the process on C-SPAN. That did not happen, instead insurance lobbyist met with the President’s staff to craft a law in their favor. Later, President Obama acknowledged he did not keep his promise.

While the ACA did bring uninsured people into the system, it also raised costs for others and pushed many out as well. According to a RAND Corp. study, approximately 23 million people gained insurance under the plan while 6 million lost coverage. One of the more beneficial aspects was the requirement to cover those who have pre-existing conditions as well as extending the maximum age for young adults under their parent’s coverage. However, the spirit of the promise was lost by negotiating and essentially allowing lobbyist from the insurance side fashion the law, which naturally they did to their own benefit. One of the most remembered piece of legislation from this administration has not lived to the spirit nor intent of what was promised.

Immigration

As a candidate, Obama promised to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well introduce a comprehensive immigration bill to overhaul the failed immigration policy in the US. Such promises made Obama popular amongst the Hispanic voting bloc. Nevertheless once in office, President Obama not only failed on delivering on these two major promises but also increased deportations of illegal immigrants more so than his predecessor. It is believed that President Obama has deported 2 million immigrants during his tenure. One notable action by President Obama in favor of illegal immigration is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). The plan defers actions against illegal immigrants who have children who are either citizens or permanent residents. This plan is currently awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on its validity.

Foreign Policy

As the Bush tenure was coming to an end, both the American and global public had become weary of American interventionism. This sentiment arose out of the disastrous efforts in Iraq and the neglect towards the Afghan campaign. President Obama ran on the promise that he would mend the West’s relations with the Islamic world, avoid “useless” wars and win the “necessary” ones, “reset” America’s relations with Russia, and defeat terrorism.

Russia

Despite the warm ties between the US and Russia after 9/11, relations soured between the two countries towards the end of the Bush Administration. President Obama working with Secretary Clinton helped retune relations between the two nations in the hope that they could work together to resolve global issues. While Putin continued his autocratic measures in Russia, all was well between the two nations until the US intervention and support for the Ukrainian opposition. This was a great political faux pas. Since that period, the US and Russia have entered a new cold war. Almost in all conflict where their interests collide, the US and Russia find themselves supporting opposing sides. Despite the fail attempt to reset relations with Russia, tensions have become incensed due to the Obama Administration’s support of the opposition in the Ukrainian crisis. Russia will continue to be a thorn to American policymakers around the world in the upcoming decade.

Middle East

Despite dovish promises during his candidacy, President Obama has been more of a hawk in the Middle East than President Bush. There is no doubt that President Bush’s invasion opened Pandora’s Box of terror in the Middle East. While President Bush started the fire in the region, President Obama has doused it with gasoline. Unlike President Bush, the media has not covered President Obama’s adventurism policy in such detail. For whatever reason, the massive amount of protesters that continuously and justifiably heckled President Bush due to his failed policy appears to have disappeared for President Obama. One of the largest failures of President Obama’s tenure is his actions in the Middle East for the most part. Despite promising to rein in the wars, President Obama has inconspicuously expanded on all fronts.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, what was considered the “right war”, President Obama attempted to mimic the Iraqi-style surge to no avail. Today the Taliban are stronger than ever and controlling more territory. With Al Qaeda defeated and Osama Bin Laden dead thanks to President Obama, the objectives in Afghanistan is everything but clear. Despite promising to end the war by December of 2014, the US has continued on, making the Afghan campaign the longest war in US history and with no real resolution in the near future aside from withdrawal.

Iraq

Despite what presidential candidates claim now, President Bush had signed the status of agreement (SoFA), which had designated a withdrawal date from Iraq. President Obama attempted to renegotiate the terms of SoFA, but Prime Minister Maliki rejected any attempts of renegotiation. The biggest oversight under President Obama’s watch in Iraq has been ISIS. The neglect of ISIS’ threat has been a failure. Yet, President Obama managed no to hastily react and commit ground troops despite the overwhelming clamor by many to do so. In doing so, he has managed to prevent another quagmire in Iraq. Nevertheless, the future of Iraq appears to be bleak at best.

Syria

Syria will be forever immortalized as President Obama’s foreign policy bête-noire. As the region was caught up in the Arab Spring whirlwind, the Syrian dictatorial regime was another target. Unlike the other despotic regimes that fell, Assad resisted with the backing of Iran and Russia. This resistance led to a long drawn out civil war that is still raging on. In the midst of this civil war, ISIS pounced on the first chance they could to solidify their caliphate.

Syria represents a Great Game within a Great Game. It is the battleground for two proxy wars; a regional war between the Saudis and Iranians as well as the new cold war between the US and Russia. The US’s credibility as well as strategy in Syria is lost and not clear. Obama’s red line ended up being an empty threat and without Russian intervention, the Assad regime might still possess chemical weapons. While President Obama was aligned with neoconservative hawks to initiate an intervention in Syria, the overwhelming response of the public put a pause in his plans. Throughout the fiasco, President Obama has promised not to send in ground troops yet recently 250 ground troops are being sent to help “assist and train” rebels on top of the 50 currently there. Despite basing his initial presidential run against foreign intervention, President Obama has demonstrated he is more of a hawk than his predecessors.

Libya

The conflict in Libya was initially extensively covered but has become forgotten. Another Arab nation that was caught up in the Arab Spring fever received resounding European and American support to help topple the Gaddafi regime. Even though the US and EU were reconciling past differences with Gadaffi’s government, the uprising was the opportunity used by the administration to remove him. While Gaddafi was no pleasant figure, his threat to regional and global peace was non-existent after his rapprochement with the West. Yet utilizing a new strategy, President Obama led from behind and supported European efforts in removing the regime. Even though victory was achieved, it was short-lived. Similar to Iraq and Syria, tribal and local politics created a civil war that is raging on to this day with no resolution in sight. In the midst of this conflict, ISIS has managed to establish territorial holdings as well. Cloaking intervention in the name of humanitarian support, President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a disastrous environment in Libya today than prior to the intervention.

Drones and Guantanamo Bay

While campaigning, President Obama vowed that within his first year of office he would close the notorious detention center that had plagued US image abroad. Entering his final year of his second term, the prison is still open and operating with no closure date. While the numbers of detainees have been reduced, many in the prison have yet to know their fate. Recent reports have outlined that many imprisoned were captured by local militias in almost dubious circumstances and are innocent. As President Obama brings his tenure to an end, many will wonder if this will be another unfulfilled campaign promise.

A weapon occasionally employed by President Bush but fully embraced by President Obama, the drone program has become a lynchpin of Obama’s terrorism strategy even though it was intended to be a supplementary weapon to other tactics. Even though the program has been relatively inconspicuous, it has appeared that President Obama has geared the nation towards more autonomous forms of warfare. Aside from the ethical and moral questions involved in such a paradigm shift, the disproportionate killing of civilians by the drone strikes have created more terrorists than it has eliminated, rendering the program impractical. It is reported that 90% of those killed in these strikes tend to be civilians. Despite winning a Nobel Peace Prize and championing human rights, President Obama has done more to harm human rights than benefit it.

Economics

Based on what is published by government data and displayed by the stock market, one would think that the US is in a boom cycle yet economic sentiment resonates otherwise. The stock market is nearing an all-time high once again, the unemployment numbers are low, the US still appears to be relatively the most secure place to invest, so what is wrong? While the economic woes that still exist cannot solely be blamed on President Obama who inherited a near collapsing economy, his Keynesian approach has further enflamed the potential for failure. When President Bush came into office, he was about to endure the dotcom bubble that was due to occur as a result of the booming economy during Clinton’s administration. Knowing that it would be political catastrophe, President Bush and Alan Greenspan orchestrated the diversion of the bubble to the housing market. Even though 9/11 brought the markets down, the beginning of the housing boom by the government’s artificial intervention into that sector allowed for a new boom to enrich many. As President Bush’s term came to a near, so did the housing boom, which bubbled in his last year of office. As President Obama came into office, he had two choices; either let the bubble pop and discharge all foul economic players from the market, which would have led to a major recession if not depression, or intervene to put a bandage on the bubble to only grow worse and result in an economic crisis later. Allowing politics to come first, President Obama did what all Presidents have done and chose the latter.

In reality, the stock market has been buoyed up by government intervention via quantitative easing, interest rate reduction, etc., not actual market forces. The unemployment numbers do not reflect the actual number of those unemployed. Instead, the government’s statisticians are using numbers to mislead the public. They do not account for those who have stopped looking for work due to their inability to secure a job, but even worse many that have found a less paying job than a previous professional job are also considered employed. Many college graduates have gone from high paying professional jobs to lower paying jobs, yet this shift in the economy is not captured. In addition, a new study has found that more than half the country is on government assistance in one form or another. Despite the great and positive government data reflecting a strong economy, in reality, the fundamentals of the economy appear to be on the brink of another recession.

Conclusion

Although the legacy of any president cannot be captured in an article, the major issues of President’s Obama tenure have been discussed. While a candidate can never live up to all the promises they state during a campaign for a myriad of reasons, the principles they claim to guide them should always remain consistent. In this sense, President Obama has been inconsistent to the guiding principles he claimed to adhere to as a candidate compared to his actions as a president.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

Americas

The Secret U.S. & UK War Against Europe

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The secret U.S.-and-UK war against Europe is well documented but little known, and some conceptual and historical background is pre-requisite in order to understand that documentation.

Historically, nations which share the same currency don’t go to war against one-another unless one of them is a colony of the other and is (like America’s colonies were in 1776) in a revolution to establish its independence against the imperialist one of them. Having a common currency is therefore a strong factor — but not a decisive one — toward peace between nations.

UK (Britain) has its pound, EU (the European Union) has its euro, and U.S. (America) has its dollar. U.S. (its dollar) and UK (its pound) are now in a war against EU (its euro), so as to help to extend into the future the dollar’s (America’s) existing dominance as the main global reserve currency — the future political and financial dominance by America, heading ultimately to control over all nations by America’s Government, practically obviating the United Nations and its (crippled) role till now as the authoritative source of international law: the laws that govern not within nations but instead between nations — replacing that existing body of international laws, by “the international rules based order,” in which America’s Government will be setting those “rules.” It’s an international struggle to replace the U.N. and all international laws, by a global dictatorship either by the U.S. and the UK, or else by the U.S. and the EU. All three of those currencies are, however, agreed together, to prevent there ever being control over international laws by the U.N. and its agencies, or by anything OTHER THAN the nations that are in America’s fundamental military alliance, which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: NATO. NATO is to be expanded in order to increase the U.S. Government’s (and the U.S. dollar’s) dominance, and thereby weaken the U.N.’s authority and its already-crippled and ever-weakening power. 

UK’s aristocracy took control of American foreign policies on 25 July 1945, when, at the Potsdam Conference, America’s Anglophile General Dwight Eisenhower seconded Winston Churchill’s hostility against Joseph Stalin by telling the naive new U.S. President Harry Truman (who practically worshipped Eisenhower) that either the U.S. would ultimately conquer the Soviet Union, or else the Soviet Union would conquer America; and, so, the Cold War was then born, on that date, in Truman’s head, by his decision to agree with Eisenhower’s viewpoint and commence what became called “the Cold War” so as ultimately to conquer Russia. Truman then backed General George Marshall’s plan, The Marshall Plan, in 1948, to provide billions of dollars in U.S. reconstruction aid to any European country that would side with America against the Soviet Union in order to establish the planned future all-encompassing U.S. global dictatorship (control of the world by America’s billionaires and their corporations, especially granting them access to all countries’ natural resources).

America’s NATO military alliance was then created in 1949 to assist in the intended ‘anti-communist’ (actually anti-U.S.S.R) ultimate conquest (which would be the crowning achievement of America’s conquest over the entire world). Subsequently, America’s CIA brought America’s European allies together into what ultimately became the European Union, so that European nations would be controlled from Washington both militarily and economically. However, whereas formerly, the European Union was controlled by the U.S. Government almost as much as America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance is, that is no longer the case; and, therefore, UK’s aristocracy, during 2016-2020, led a secret campaign, to remove UK altogether from the EU, and to install at 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do Brexit — British exit from the EU — in what Britain’s billionaires saw as being the right way, keeping “the Anglosphere” (U.S. and UK) in control over the world, as opposed to the way in which UK’s then Prime Minister Theresa May was negotiating with the EU, which would have weakened not only America’s control over Europe, but also UK’s control over Europe, which latter (control over Europe) the UK controls only indirectly by virtue of its “Special Relationship” with the U.S. Government, which controls Europe. (For UK to lose its voting privilege in the EU was puny in comparison to UK’s increased power over the EU through being uniquely allied with America’s Government, which controls the EU.) That constitutes the necessary conceptual and historical background, in order to understand the following:

On May 15th, Kit Klarenberg at The Gray Zone bannered “Operation Surprise: leaked emails expose secret intelligence coup to install Boris Johnson”, and demonstrated from leaked private documents, that an authentic conspiracy by a clique of supremely well-connected individuals within Britain — Britain’s Deep State, answerable only to Britain’s billionaires and hereditary aristocracy — had actually engineered Theresa May’s downfall as Prime Minister and her replacement by Boris Johnson, so that UK would no longer be allied with EU except as being EU’s superior, because of Britain’s unique bonding with its former colony, America.

Here is how the leader of that cabal or conspiracy explained, on 4 October 2019, his strategy to a small group of followers — students, perhaps — which fortunately still remains on youtube:

However, his jargon in that stunningly revealing video (which now must be understood in light of Klarenberg’s 15 May 2022 revelations) requires some additional important historical and terminological background. 

“The five-eyes alliance,” that speaker said, “keeps the free world free,” but what does this mean? His “free” is actually a lie; really, it’s the opposite of free; it is the voting and taxpaying publics’ enslavement to the U.S. and British Military-Industrial Complexes (or “MICs”), after the 1991 termination of the U.S.S.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact military alliance that mirrored America’s NATO, and it now means only the U.S. regime’s rule of the world by its aristocracy, who are psychopathic and who control and profit from their armaments-makers while their publics pay for it in taxes and destructions and corpses. It means precisely what the originator of this conspiracy, Cecil Rhodes, had first stated in 1877, and it does constitute the “Special Relationship” that UK and U.S. have had ever since this “Special Relationship” was finally and fully in place and fully functioning, starting on 25 July 1945, when Truman set America onto this fateful path, of conquering the entire world — Rhodes’s vision of the world’s future, and of how Rhodes would create the organization to bring it about. Here is from that historic 1877 statement, by Rhodes (which the speaker in that video was actually — and very skiilfully — representing: this is the original statement of that viewpoint):

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. …

Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule for the recovery of the United States for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. …

What has been the main cause of the success of the Romish Church? The fact that every enthusiast, call it if you like every madman finds employment in it. Let us form the same kind of society a Church for the extension of the British Empire. …

To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible and promote the best interests of humanity.

This was to be, and is, the foundation-stone of the renewed British Empire’s Deep State. (Here is its full document.)

Rhodses’s phrase “the best interests of humanity” expressed actually his racist-cultural viewpoint. It is, ultimately, an allegation that Her Majesty’s Government will be better to rule over international relations than any alternative, such as FDR’s intention for an armed United Nations, could ever be. Though Rhodes wanted international relations to be ruled by Britain’s aristocracy, FDR wanted it to be ruled by a U.N. which would be an armed democracy (federation) of nations. Hitler had his vision of a “Thousand-Year Reich,” but Churchill, who was an ardent Rhodesist, and who had been a protégé of Rhodes, favored, instead, Britain’s version of such an all-encompassing global empire, and this was/is to be achieved by harnessing Britain’s empire to the back of the far stronger American horse. Rhodes knew, even in 1877, that this would be the only way that the British Empire could successfully continue into future centuries.

Right now, the EU is sinking because by adhering to America’s demand to halt importation of gas and oil from the EU’s main supplier, which is Russia, energy-costs throughout the EU will soar and destroy their economy. And this is the strategy of Biden, and of Johnson. Biden, too, is a Rhodesist — just as Obama and Trump and Bush I & 2 and Clinton and Reagan were. The Governments of both U.S. and UK are Rhodesist. This doesn’t mean that in each and every matter, the two dictatorships agree, but that almost always they do; and, that when they don’t, UK’s Government doesn’t prod its American horse to buck and throw off its British rider, because those Brits know that this — riding on the American horse — is the ONLY way that they can continue the British empire to the extent that they have been allowed to do after WW II. The Rhodesists, and their “Five-Eyes Alliance” (Prins also refers to it as “the Anglosphere”, which is yet another phrase for what Rhodes was advocating for) are realists, who are trying to extend for as long as possible into the future their joint and collective aristocratic exploitation of the entire world. This means: keep Europe down, and all other countries out. It’s especially the case with regards to Germany, which is the EU’s industrial giant. As the New York Times reported on 5 April 2022:

Already Germany has reduced its dependence on gas from Russia [from 55%] by 15 percent, bringing it down to 40 percent in the first three months of the year, the energy ministry said.

But industry leaders have pushed back against imposing sanctions on Russian natural gas. Turning off the taps would cause “irreversible damage,” warned Martin Brudermüller, the chief executive of BASF, the chemical producer based in southwestern Germany. Making the transition from Russian natural gas to other suppliers or moving to alternative energy sources would require four to five years, not weeks, he said.

“Do we want to blindly destroy our entire national economy? What we have built up over decades?” Mr. Brudermüller said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last week.

Already, due to pressure from the Biden Administration, and against German popular opinion and the pleas by German businesses of all sizes not to do it, Germany recently cancelled the recently completed Nord Stream II mammoth gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which would have reduced gas prices in Europe. Instead, those prices are expected soon to double. And almost all of the EU will be taking a big hit from such decisions by Germany and other EU nations. It is a U.S./UK war against not only Russia but also Europe.

That is what Gwythian Prins, the leader of their cabal or conspiracy, who speaks in that youtube video, was actually talking about. (Klarenberg’s article says nothing about Rhodes, but what Prins says in this yotube video of him is likewise totally in keeping with Rhodes’s plan, about which the article by Klarenberg reveals lots of private evidence.) And America’s European stooges are doing everything they can to impose American rule, despite the fact that in certain details, UK’s aristocracy are profoundly dissatisfied with the extent to which the EU is not doing everything that UK’s aristocrats want them to do. UK’s aristocrats know that bucking the American horse would cause them to be thrown off of it. So, they choose, instead, to stay on it, and to merely nudge it whenever they want a minor change in its direction. And that is what Prins is advocating for, against the EU, upon his colleagues and students.

And that explains the documentation linked-to here regarding the U.S.-and-UK war against Europe. It is their war to keep Europe down, and all the rest of the world out, and only Britain still in the saddle riding the American horse to permanent victory, against the publics everywhere. It is for continuation of “the Washington Consensus.”

Klarenberg’s article includes lots of fascinating documentation, such as this photo of Prins’s email dated “September 22, 2018 at 4:53 AM” to a certain “Julian Blackwell, addressing his chum as ‘Trooper,’ a reference to the publisher’s SAS special forces background, and thanking him for his ‘hugely welcome and generous willingness to cover my foregone income for effectively the first half of this FY [financial year] [so that Prins would be able to engineer Boris Johnson’s replacing Theresa May].’” It would all be highly incriminating, if UK weren’t a dictatorship and Prins himself weren’t one of that dictatorship’s key agents. Interestingly, the organization at which Prins was speaking, “Veterans for Britain” (of which Prins is a board-member) was revealed on 5 December 2017 to be a “Dark Money” group fronting for Conservative Party UK and for Republican Party U.S. financial backers; and the group which revealed that was “Open Democracy,” which itself is funded by mainly Labour Party UK, and Democratic Party U.S., financial backers, but also by some middle-of-the-road (i.e., anti-Trump) U.S. Republican Party financial backers — in other words: “Open Democracy” is funded by billionaires in both America and Britain. In both countries, membership in the dictatorship class (the nation’s aristocracy) requires being a billionaire, or else close to that. The public are merely their suckers, to be manipulated (via propaganda from their media) however at least some of the billionaires want them to be suckered. There is consequently a constant contest between conservative and liberal billionaires, in order to s‘elect’ into national office only politicians who are backed by at least SOME of the billionaires. And one of the things that all of the billionaires are funding is propaganda in favor of keeping U.S. and UK on top, ruling the rest of “The Anglosphere,” and keeping Europe down, and all other countries out.

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Americas

A U.S.-ASEAN summit—a face or a farce

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Photo credit: The White House

Inherited from the classic diplomacy of Europe, summit is a globally recognized instrument of highest-level meeting for common interests among nations. It has been practiced from time to time until now. Ad hoc summit principally aims to promote symbolic purpose rather than specific negotiations, therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that though controversial over its essential functions, summit is better suited to the promotion of friendly relations with an emphasis on ceremonial functions. Due to this, the U.S.-ASEAN summit held on May 12-13 is no exception.

At the end of the summit, the United States and ASEAN member states reiterated in the joint vision statement the importance of adhering to key principles, shared values and norms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter, the Declaration on Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). In addition, they committed to strengthen and build more comprehensive ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations, which have been seen indispensable to bilateral ties as well as the broader region and the international community.

It is clear that the U.S. officials had entertained the design to make the case that Russia’s invasion demonstrated the fragility of the international system while China’s tacit support for the invasion equally made a contrast with the United States’ principled stance. Yet, ASEAN members in general kept their heads down and avoided the issue rather than getting in the middle of a dispute between major powers. Rather than clearly denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the U.S. has acted globally, the joint vision statement called on an immediate cessation of hostilities and creating an enabling environment for peaceful resolution, and genuine respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity in line with the U.N. Charter and international law. As a result, it is inevitable that the geostrategic hawks in Washington were disappointed their unsuccessful persuasion of ten Asian countries to take side with the United States and its allies and partners. Because of this, the U.S. aid package to the ASEAN was seen as a joke because it agreed to offer $150,000,000 for peace in a sharp contrast to the multiple-billions dollars for supporting a long war to weaken its geopolitical rival Russia, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.

ASEAN is a regional economic community founded in 1967, yet it has been seen as the most dynamic economic powerhouse in the 21st century. With its hugely rich natural resources and technological innovation capacities, ASEAN has committed to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty). Therefore, ASEAN vow to fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, taking into account the international community’s call for diplomacy as the instrument to maintain peace and security in the region.

It is understandable that amid the Ukraine war, Washington was highly motivated to hold this special summit to demonstrate its leading role in the world affairs including Asia. As the Biden administration has said that it was the high time to show its enduring commitment to ASEAN and that the Indo-Pacific region is a U.S. national security priority. Yet, although China’s power projection in Southeast Asia figures prominently into the summit, the two-day meeting did not touch the question openly and collectively. Instead, the summit primarily discussed a host of other critical issues — from COVID to climate change to the uncertain scenario in Myanmar. Actually, as Brian Harding explained prior to the summit that considering the Biden administration’s geostrategic design, Washington as the host was sure to address how ASEAN factors into Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and how the nations showed their supports to Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia. Essentially, while competition with China is at the heart of the United States’ regional strategy, support for a cohesive and resilient ASEAN is one of the critical means for success in advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific alongside modernized alliances like the Quad (i.e., the U.S., Australia, India and Japan). However, it is not easy to achieve since ASEAN is an extremely diverse group of 10 countries that operates by consensus, meaning it is rarely nimble nor bold, even on its best day.

It is self-evident that ASEAN countries are highly alert to the fact that relations between the United States and China have important implications for themselves. Accordingly, they all want an engaged and present multiple players including United States, China, Japan, India, Australia and the EU member states to be involved into the regional equilibrium. As former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has called it more positively, a dynamic equilibrium. Yet, what they do not want is to be forced to choose between the United States and China.

China and ASEAN approved the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2021, and now it stands ready to strengthen coordination and collaboration with ASEAN countries to update the action plan and to deepen cooperation in fields such as digital connectivity, green economy, public health, and industrial and supply chains. More sensible is that China hopes that the consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will maintain the positive momentum and reach a consensus since Beijing has openly declared that the South China Sea is common asset of all the countries in the region.

From a geostrategic perspective, China opines that the ASEAN-centered regional cooperation architecture has formed in East Asia, which is the key to maintaining peace and stability in the region. Consider that the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy moves toward against the common and long-term interests of regional countries, China has to react against the U.S. to advocate the Cold War mentality and the relevant approaches such as establishing QUAD, a typical of bloc confrontation in the region, and promoting AUKUS which is essentially provoking an arms race in the region. Although China welcomes any countries outside the region to play a constructive role in the peace and development in the region, but it does not accept any actions that undermine peace, stability, solidarity and cooperation in the region. In brief, no matter what regional strategy is proposed by one country, the purpose should be mutual benefit and win-win results rather than a zero-sum game.

Despite all these arguments, there is no reasons for the world to underestimate the close and comprehensive cooperation between the United States and ASEAN. This summit agenda were primarily focused on apolitical areas cooperation, such as clean energy, health security, the digital economy and the deteriorating situation in Myanmar. President Biden was aware of the wisdom of not making his ASEAN guests to be as frustrated with the situation as himself since there was deep divisions among ASEAN member states on the issues and challenges they have to face. Accordingly, it is fair to say that the U.S.-ASEAN summit recently held in Washington was good enough in public relations but insufficient in tackling the real global issues from poverty, climate change and illegal change of regime by “color revolution”.

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Americas

Peace and Punishment: “Saving” Ukraine or Embarrassing Putin?

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

As we near 100 days of the special military operation in Ukraine it would be good to take a strategic-analytical step back and see where the current situation is in real terms. Unfortunately, despite all sides and all parties giving extensive and continuous rhetoric to the interests of peace and the cessation of violence, the reality is the Ukraine conflict does not seem to be close to ending and instead seems more poised to hunker down into an old-fashioned military quagmire. Unlike quagmires of the past, where historians and political scientists tend to examine missed opportunities and strategic missteps that made said conflicts almost inevitable devolutions into non-progressive stalemates, the Ukraine conflict today does not seem to structurally mimic those previous lessons. As such, the question that needs to be asked is not whether this is about striving for peace and peace alone as much as it might be about how one side is striving for peace AND punishment.

On May 9, President Biden signed a new Lend-Lease Act which would facilitate the easier transfer of weapons systems and other military aid to Ukraine in its defense against Russia. The US Senate passed the bill unanimously, a rare act of unity given the current state of domestic politics in America. Unfortunately, this bipartisanship is no signal of new-found friendship across both aisles between Republicans and Democrats. They still mistrust each other as much as they ever did. But, interestingly, the bipartisan unanimity of the bill does show that despite their differences and animosity for each other, the desire to “send a message” to President Vladimir Putin and the overall desire to continue to cause problems for the Russian military within Ukraine is a “single-issue unification” factor for the United States Senate. No matter what President Biden says publicly on the microphone, this military aid and the delivery of major weapons systems is not aimed at solely achieving peace. At least, not a constructive peace in which both sides are able to walk away with a semblance of dignity and self-respect (which is truly the only way this conflict will end and stay ended). Aid like the Lease-Lend Act is quite literally the opposite of the wiser intention of trying to create a “Gentleman’s Exit” that would be enticing for Putin. Rather, the peace Biden is really talking about with this measure (but never explicitly explained to the American people) is a peace in which Putin is first embarrassed and Russia is humiliated. THIS is the real goal. So, in this way, the so-called peace measure instead adds fuel to the fire because President Putin is neither naïve nor blind. It will not be difficult for him to see the real essence of the maneuver. Consequently, it will quite possibly force a reaction in which there is no capitulation but instead a ratcheting up of conflict.

Why else would all of these declarations of new military aid take place on “Victory Day” in Russia? Do not forget the Lend-Lease bill is reviving a form of military aid from WWII, where the US was helping the UK fight Germany more readily. Thus, in a humorlessly ironic way, the US is sending a signal that Putin is the Hitler-like figure, exactly on the day when Russia celebrates its own victory against actual Nazis in WWII. It is without doubt a vicious message. The West says it had to be sent because they were more worried Putin would officially declare a formal war against Ukraine on this day. But one must ask: logically speaking, does it make sense to say America is worried about Putin going deeper into war with Ukraine so therefore it must send even more weapons and deadly munitions into Ukraine? In other words, more weapons will make it “less” of a war??? It is almost laughable if not so tragic.

If one is relying on the acute intuition of the American people to see through these contradictions and put a stop to such counter-intuitive “peace” initiatives, then frustration can be expected. Unfortunately, the American public attention span has held true to form in that most people are no longer really paying that much attention to Ukraine. Unquestionably, they still generally support Ukraine as Americans always love supporting and rooting for the underdog. Especially when cheering for the underdog in this case not only comes without any physical risk to American soldiers but also adds on the benefit of getting to humiliate your rival while assisting the lesser power. That is a “win-win” in American public eyes.

But the fevered following of the news and exhaustive social media blasts garnering endorsement for Ukraine’s efforts do not, to me, seem as intense or as comprehensive as they did just two months ago. Thus, the frustration: this lack of attention to conflict details means no one can expect any kind of pressure from the American people seeking an end to the conflict. They will simply follow, sheep-like, the narratives being provided. Ergo, providing more weapons is the way to “peace.” Embarrassing Putin is the only way to “save Ukraine.” Humiliating the Russian military is what brings “greater security.” If there was even a modicum of greater introspection by the American people, there would be more questions about whether or not this is really the most efficient and best way to achieve peace. You would think after America’s own travails this century in Afghanistan, it would understand that quagmires benefit no one except the military-industrial complex and the many powerful corporations that feed into it. While not trying to be overly cynical, this is really the only side that truly and most obviously benefits from an extended and protracted military stalemate in Ukraine.

As for reports and rumors that the United States was actually considering the Lend-Lease Act back in January, that is, before the actual Russian declaration of a special military operation, I would not put too much conspiracy theory into the idea that this proves the United States was already intending to foment violence itself in Ukraine with Russia. The reality is tension between the US and Russia has existed over Ukraine for quite a long time and the United States Intelligence Community is extremely good at its job, ie, acquiring data and collecting information that gives it insights into the future maneuvers of other countries. I have no doubt the USIC had an inkling of suspicion that the special military operation was coming or at least quite likely. And as soon as this suspicion emerged, it would have instantly begun preparing responses and counteractions to undermine said operation. More importantly, this isn’t even the right question to focus on for the global community. The right question is this: are we truly convinced these American initiatives are aimed only at achieving the quickest and most efficient end to the conflict and establishing peace or is it aimed more than anything at using Ukraine as a field of play to ensure that Russia is damaged and weakened for decades after the conflict is finished?

The US and UK have made it rather clear that peace alone is not enough. Tranquility in Ukraine is not the only goal. Peace AND punishment is. Which is without a doubt the most depressing and dangerous aspect to the whole affair. The United States currently is trying to deftly balance itself on a knife edge of military and psychological speculation: how far can it go in helping Ukraine inflict damage on Russian military units? How much weakening of Russian power can occur before the situation becomes desperately untenable and the Russian side might be inclined to enact “more reckless” initiatives? It is not coincidence that American mainstream media pushes out daily reports about the worries and concerns NATO and the West have about Putin intending to utilize chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons as the conflict in Ukraine gets ever murkier and more unclear for his side. What the media leaves out, however, in this lament is the fact that it is not Ukraine creating the murkiness: it is the weapons systems being pumped into Ukraine and the Western “advisors” on the ground and embedded within Ukrainian units, teaching them how to use the systems with deadly efficiency, that potentially push Russia toward a so-called reckless edge. In short, the Americans declare concerns over dilemmas that are their own creation. And that, again, is because what is transpiring today in Ukraine has nothing to do with peace exclusively. The West does not want peace as soon as possible and by any means necessary. It wants peace with a lesson attached, with a weakening of power that places Russia back into a docile and less assertive state.

In which case, if true, perhaps everyone in this conflict is focusing on the wrong Germany. On both sides, the imagery constantly being invoked is of Nazi Germany, the Germany of WWII. In reality, the country everyone should be worried about is WWI Germany, the one that simply had to be humiliated and laid low for its hubris and aggression. The country that everyone had to make sure would never be in a position to threaten the world again. It was that Germany that directly led to the insanity and atrocity of WWII. We would be well-warned to remember the lessons of one hundred years ago when pride in the punishment was a higher priority than peace itself. When security was thought better established through humiliation and emasculation rather than through diplomacy and enhanced collaborative communication. Hopefully, the West remembers eventually that even an imperfect peace is preferable to peace through punishment. The former allows for development and evolution. The latter brings only destruction and devolution.

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