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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Peter Brookes

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Peter Brookes

Last Build Date: Wed, 01 Apr 2009 00:00:00 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2009

Are al-Qaeda and Taliban Coming to a Prison Near You?

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 00:00:00 -0600

It also means that some of those held may be released, repatriated to their native land or transferred to third countries, leaving open the possibility of a return to the battlefield. Worse yet, others, who are deemed too dangerous to be released, may be transferred to prison facilities in the United States for detention, opening a Pandora's box of potential terrorist nightmares for local citizens. In this case, the rush to fulfill a campaign promise could be a dangerous thing. Objectionable Order Obama's executive order of Jan. 22, 2009--which, by the way, doesn't require congressional approval--makes the following judgment: "In view of the significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facilities in which they are detained would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice." The order also sets up a task force of senior government officials to study where Gitmo's nearly 250 detainees, mostly Taliban or al Qaeda, should go when the center is closed next year, as well as what kind of court should hear their cases. A long-standing debate has raged as to whether the detainees are entitled to the same legal rights as those afforded Americans, rather than being tried by military commissions, a system that has now been suspended under the order. Beyond the military commissions, other options being considered include trying the detainees in U.S. federal courts, traditional courts martial, "upgraded commissions" or a new national security court. The executive order also stipulates: "If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantanamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States." When asked about the order after its promulgation, Obama shockingly told NBC: "Can we guarantee that they [the detainees] are not going to try to participate in another attack? No. But what I can guarantee is that if we don't uphold our Constitution and our values that over time that will make us less safe. And that will be a recruiting tool for organizations like al Qaeda." Of course, not everyone agrees with the new president's call. In February, former Vice President Dick Cheney said the Obama administration is risking our security by closing the Gitmo detention facility, telling, "When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist that they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry." "If you release the hard-core terrorists that are held at Guantanamo," Cheney added, "I think they go back into the business of trying to kill more Americans and mount more mass-casualty attacks. ... If you turn 'em loose and they go kill more Americans, who's responsible for that?" Cheney insists that holding these terror suspects has thwarted terror attacks and saved American lives in the past. "If it hadn't been for what we did--with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees," Cheney said, "the Patriot Act and so forth--then we would have been attacked again." "Protecting America is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business ... and we're not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek," the former Vice President admonished the new administration. While popular with some, Obama's decision doesn't settle well with others, especially some 9/11 victims' families, who have a keen interest in the fate of the al Qaeda terrorists. According to a Washington Post report, one family member said, "In his first official act as commander in chief, [...]

China Tests--And Team Obama Blinks

Sun, 15 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600

The Chinese are not surprisingly nervous about US activities in the area. They're involved in a major naval build-up, especially on Hainan Island; as part of it, at least some of China's new Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile subs will make once-secret Sanya naval base their home port.

According to a Pentagon report, the Jin-class submarine will carry the new JL-2 submarine-launched ICBM, capable of reaching the United States.

Moreover, once at sea, the modern Jin-class subs, armed with the JL-2's, will be difficult to find and track, having a multiplier effect on China's existing land-based nuclear deterrent - and overall political and military clout.

The incident is also symptomatic of increased Chinese muscle-flexing - both legally and militarily.

Beijing claims Impeccable was violating its sovereignty by conducting operations within China's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as identified under the United Nations' 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. Thing is, the treaty doesn't give Beijing any right to veto activities outside their 12-mile territorial waters - and Impeccable was more than 60 miles beyond China's national waters.

The treaty gives them a right to object to certain economic activities in their EEZ, such as drilling for oil/gas or fishing - but that right clearly doesn't extend to noneconomic activities, including military operations, in international waters.

Then there's this week's congressional testimony from the new director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, who watched China as commander of US Pacific Forces in recent years: He raised red flags about Beijing's increasing military aggressiveness in enforcing its national will.

Then there's the hypocrisy in Chinese complaints about US operations. Beijing's spies may be the world's most active today - against the United States and others.

Sure, China may not be parking a ship off the US naval base at Pearl Harbor - yet - but Chinese intel ops against US government, military and industrial targets using cyber and human spies are at record levels.

The Chinese conduct aerial and maritime intel work against their neighbors, too, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan - and US forces in the region, sometimes infringing on those country's national waters or airspace.

Another alarming element of the incident was the tepid US response. The Obama administration did nothing more than lodge a protest with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and call their defense attaché here on the carpet. What's next - a really mean letter?

Nope: After meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said they'd agreed "that we must work hard in the future to avoid such incidents and to avoid this particular incident having consequences that are unforeseen." That'll show 'em!

The new team needs to realize that the United States must exercise its rights in international airspace and waters as we have done for years, including the right to monitor China's secretive and unprecedented military buildup - a significant worry to us and others.

Of course, given the White House's softly-softly approach to international affairs, it's no wonder the Chinese felt it was time to test our mettle after years of relatively quiet relations during the Bush administration. Imagine what they - and others, such as North Korea, Russia and Iran - have now concluded.

It's a Real Cold War in Europe

Sat, 10 Jan 2009 00:20:00 -0600

But cutting off gas in the dead of winter - especially with teeth-chattering, sub-zero temps in parts of Europe recently - is pretty harsh. (Happy New Year to you, too, comrade.)

In fact, Moscow is likely using the cover of a seemingly straight-forward business dispute to do some good ol' fashioned arm-twisting of its Ukrainian and European neighbors.

First, the Kremlin is unhappy with how things have gone politically in Kiev since the 2004 Orange Revolution, when a pro-West ticket won the presidency over Moscow's man. (In fact, Moscow's widely suspected of having had a hand in poisoning the pro-West candidate and current president, Viktor Yushchenko, with the dioxins that nearly killed him during the campaign.)

Cutting off gas in the depths of winter is a warning to Kiev - now in the midst of a financial crisis and facing elections next year - reminding it that Moscow can still call some shots there.

That is, it's a kinder, gentler version of Moscow's invasion of Georgia last year - sending a signal by walloping Kiev with an energy two-by-four. Message: Think twice about joining NATO - a red line that the Kremlin has been growling about, and may well be willing to go to the mat over.

Russia also wants Ukraine to knuckle under on extending the lease for Russia's Black Sea Fleet base in Crimea beyond the agreement's 2017 expiration. (Kiev said it won't be renewing the pact.)

The cut-off is also a shot across Europe's bow. It gets nearly 40 percent of its natural gas (and one-third of its oil) from Russia - and it's clear: Moscow is in no mood to be messed with.

Russia is displeased with Europe about its support for a planned US missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, for Kosovo's independence from Moscow's ally Serbia last spring and for Georgia during Russia's invasion last summer - to name just a few matters.

At the very least, Russia might hope Europe will use tools such as potential European Union membership and aid to pressure Ukraine to pay greater heed to Moscow.

Yet the cutoff costs the Kremlin, too - it's losing sales during peak gas-selling season. No help while Moscow navigates its own financial crisis. So emergency negotiations will likely lead to a resolution in the days to come, albeit with Moscow's tough message sent - and received.

This is the third time in three years Russia has cut deliveries to Ukraine. The impact on European energy supplies has counseled Russia's customers on the perils of protesting objectionable Kremlin policies. Indeed, some European capitals have plainly muted their criticisms of Moscow to avoid experiencing the wrath of its energy caprice.

No doubt: Russia will continue to use energy as a weapon - indeed, it has replaced the Red Army as the prime source of Russian power. It's high time Europe diversifies its energy sources, casting off the yoke of its dogged reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Hugo's Arms Spree

Thu, 07 Aug 2008 14:38:42 -0600

It gets worse.

Clearly not satisfied with the most recent arms delivery, Chavez isn't wasting a minuto building the region's most powerful military in a bid for hegemony, if his late-July visit to Moscow is any sign.

Post-summit reports indicate there might be another $1 billion or so in advanced Russian Tor M-1 air defense systems, T-90 battle tanks and Kilo-class diesel submarines in the pipeline.

But that's only the tip of the arms iceberg: The Russian press is reporting that arms sales to Venezuela over the next 10 years may top another $5 billion, including heavy-lift air transport, air-air refueling tankers (for the fighters) and long-range air-defense systems. Naturally, Chavez insists the buildup is necessary to defend against the US invasion that he's been saying is just around the corner for at least several years now.

Russia is also working with Venezuela on energy projects as the Kremlin looks to gain control over an increasing share of global oil production. This, of course, could lead to a squeeze on the US market, which gets 10 to 15 percent of its oil from Venezuela. In addition to giving the Russians preferential treatment to explore Venezuela's oil-rich Orinoco Belt, Caracas is also collaborating with Moscow to develop an OPEC-like, Russian-led natural-gas cartel.

Venezuela-Iran relations are also troubling. Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are chummy - and relish the idea of giving US policymakers heartburn when they think of the two states cooperating on missiles or nukes. There are allegations of Venezuelan-Hezbollah ties, too, with Israel insisting that Venezuela has become the largest base for the Iran-backed terror group outside of the Middle East.

Even though he's suffered a string of political setbacks at home recently, Chavez's still scheming to end presidential term limits, nationalize the economy and concentrate political power in Caracas; last week, he secretly approved 26 new laws to do just that, according to press reports. Two weeks ago, El Comandante horrified parents by calling for kids to study Marx's "Communist Manifesto" and emulate revolutionary Che Guevara - all on a day promoting children's welfare in Venezuela.

Fortunately, many Venezuelans are pushing back: They're fed up with high inflation, crime and corruption, especially considering the country's oil and gas wealth - which is often sent abroad to prop up the likes of Cuba.

Despite the shiny new "toys," the military is also none too happy with Chavez's meddling. He's creating militias and politicizing the armed forces, reportedly requiring a Cuban-inspired "Socialism or Death" salute.

And while Colombia is still responsible for 80 percent of the world's cocaine production, efforts under the US-backed "Plan Colombia" are making it tougher for traffickers like the FARC and others. So instead of facing the Colombian police/military, DEA or the US Navy, they're overflying Venezuela en route to Africa and Europe, where cocaine is becoming a big problem. (Chavez refuses to cooperate with US anti-drug efforts.)

Chavez also supports leftist political candidates with "suitcases" of cash, including in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Nicaragua. He's throwing money at kindred-spirit candidates in El Salvador, too.

So while there's progress here in Colombia, there are still challenges ahead in Latin America - especially in Venezuela, where Chavez's socialist Bolivarian revolution is a growing threat to regional stability and US interests.