Romney Foreign Policy Would Make Americans Unsafe

July 16, 2012

It is no surprise that the main issues of this election cycle are chronic high unemployment, massive budget deficits, and rising health care costs.  Mired in an economic downturn for close to five years now, many commentators agree that the outcome of the presidential election hinges on who voters believe can best manage the economy.  Unfortunately, neither of the major party candidates are capable of managing the economy effectively (by essentially getting the government out of it) as the American electorate once again has a choice between Establishment Front Man #1 and Establishment Front Man #2 for president.

Also unfortunate is that economic issues are overshadowing foreign policy this election cycle.  Obama’s record is in this area is horrendous.  Unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries, threats and intimidation toward others, illegal detentions, the killing of innocence, and the murder of American citizens without due process of law are hallmarks of the Obama Regime.

But, from the looks of things, a potential Romney Administration would be even worse foreign policy wise.  Not only has he surrounded himself with a bunch of warmongering advisors from the Bush years, he has through other appointments and actions indicated that he will be the most pro-Israel American president ever.  Why is that bad?  Because molding American foreign policy around the needs of Israel is contrary to American interests – more about that in a bit.

Recently Mitt Romney announced he would travel to Israel to meet with government officials there.  He will also hold a $60,000 a plate fundraising dinner while in Jerusalem.  This all comes on the heels of his super PAC receiving a $10 million contribution from casino magnet Sheldon Adelson.  This is the same Sheldon Adelson who is vehemently against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian mess, who called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist, and who expressed regrets that his own military service was done in an American uniform and not an Israeli.

Now, on the surface, this all seems so political.  After all, there are a lot of Jewish and Evangelical Christian voters in several swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.  Romney’s trip to Israel will be a positive for these groups.  But, aren’t there a lot of Italian, Irish, and Polish voters in those states as well.  Why not pay a visit to the ancestral homelands of those groups in an effort to endear yourself to them?  It is because Mitt Romney knows the political payoff wouldn’t be as great in terms of fundraising and political activism.  And because it is so great with the advocates for Israel, they will expect a lot from a Romney Administration.

If Romney’s junket to Jerusalem and his acceptance of Adelson’s largess aren’t bad enough, at an elite gathering of Romney supporters in Utah recently he boasted that he receives briefings from Israeli officials on Middle East developments.  And then there is Romney’s extremely pro-Israel national security team.  It includes hardliners like Walid Phares and Dov Zakheim.  Even as more drone attacks in Pakistan have been launched and been deadlier under Obama than Bush, Zakheim recently penned an article entitled, “Obama’s Drone War has Actually Not Gone Far Enough.”  Make no mistake about it, Romney getting briefings from the likes of Zakheim and Israeli officials does not guarantee that he will be getting unbiased, balanced intelligence.  How can we expect him to make good decisions?  Let’s not forget the last time a president got bad intelligence from biased advisors – we went to war for a decade looking for the allusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So, returning to the question, why is it bad for America if Mitt Romney gets elected president and is the most pro-Israel leader in our history?  It is because it makes us less safe as a people.  Whether Israel carries out a military mission with our blessing or even worse we carry it out on Israel’s behalf in the Middle East, our public image is damaged and groups like al Qaeda use the event to fanaticize young Muslims to commit Jihad.

Additionally, Israel and the United States have different priorities in the Middle East.  Israel thrives on Arab disunity and instability for her own security.  If Arabs are quibbling with each other than they are distracted from harming Israel.

On the other hand, the United States is better off with peace and stability in the Middle East due to our continued dependence on the region’s oil supplies.

This is by no means an endorsement of Obama for reelection.  He has proven himself incapable of doing the right things with regards to the economy and foreign affairs.  Instead it is calling attention to the disastrous foreign policy that Mitt Romney will bring with him to the White House if he is elected president.  This all leaves Americans with no real choice when it comes to voting in November.  But we should be used to that by now, given that our choices are always Establishment Front Man #1 and Establishment Front Man #2.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina


Romney’s Foreign Policy would be Disastrous for America

November 2, 2011

Even though he continues to dwell in the “top-tier” of Republican candidates for president, former Massachusetts’s Governor Mitt Romney continues to draw the distrust of many Republicans primary voters.  Questions continue to surround his positions on the high priority conservative issues of abortion, gun control, taxes, federal spending, and socialized medicine.  Many conservatives are just not sure they can trust Romney given his previous actions and statements on these issues.

But as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney has a relatively blank slate of positions when it comes to foreign policy.  However, his foreign policy appointments to his presidential campaign and recent statements he has made are more than enough to please conservative voters in the Republican Party.  As a matter of fact, they make it hard to determine if Romney is running for President of the United States or prime minister of Israel.

Take Romney’s appointment of Walid Phares to chair the Middle East and North Africa working group of his Foreign Policy and National Security Advisory Team.  Mr. Phares currently serves on the board of ACT! For America, a lobbying group that Politico described as being part of an “effort to transform anti-Islam crusading into a mainstream lobbying effort”.  He has stated that global jihad is already in progress and within a short period of time jihadists will have ten million suicide bombers ready to wreak devastation on the West.  To beat jihadists he is a strong proponent of preemptive strikes and “putting our allies’ forces on existing and new battlefields.”

The problem with Walid Phares is that he sees the world in black and white.  You are either for us or against us.  This of course has been proclaimed before and the consequences of this mentality have been disastrous for America – trillions spent on the War on Terror, two almost decade long wars, and erosion of our civil liberties.  Phares’ anti-Islam/pro-Israel positions will certainly help Romney with neoconservatives.  But, an advisor with such extreme views on Romney’s staff should raise red flags for the rest of us.  Phares’s positions would be great if he was advising a candidate for Israeli prime minister, but he is not.  He is advising Mitt Romney.

Now, if Romney’s appointment of Walid Phares isn’t bad enough, the web site Think Progress Security reports that Romney has admitted that if he becomes president he will leave his foreign policy decisions as they relate to Israel to Israel.  Specifically, when questioned by an Israeli reporter if he would consider moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Romney responded, “The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders. I don’t seek to take actions independent of what our allies think is best, and if Israel’s leaders thought that a move of that nature would be helpful to their efforts, then that’s something I’ll be inclined to do. But again, that’s a decision which I would look to the Israeli leadership to help guide.”

Two points need to be made.  First, Jerusalem is an incredibly sensitive issue.  Every American leader has understood that moving our embassy there was out of the question because it would lend legitimacy to Israel’s claim over that city and immediately squash any hope for a peace settlement between Jews and Arabs.

Secondly, what leader of a country would give up his authority over policy to leaders of another country?  That is called a dereliction of duty and certainly violates the confidence of American voters that their president will advocate for their interests 100 percent of the time.  Romney is running to be our president, not the de facto prime minister of Israel.
At the end of the day, Romney’s appointment of Walid Phares to his campaign staff and his comments on his policy towards Israel are indications of what we could expect from the foreign policy of a Romney Administration.  At the very least, it would be a continuation of Bush/Obama foreign policies. At the worst, it would be an escalation of those policies.  American can ill afford either.

What Obama Should Have Said

May 23, 2011

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last week was nothing really new.  He chastised the usual culprits for suppressing human rights in their countries and assured us all that the United States government would remain vigilant in its pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way when it comes to supporting the oppressed in the Middle East.  Oh, he did shock Israel and her proponents by mandating that any peace talks between her and the Palestinians must begin with an acceptance by both sides of the borders as they existed in 1967.  This proposition of course has Israel losing territory before it has even started to negotiate.  One question is will this really result in successful peace talks this time around?

Of course the bigger question for Americans is, where does Obama get the authority to issue any mandates with respect to Middle East peace negotiations?  The simple answer is he has no authority in that area.  He is the president of our country chosen to protect our rights, defend our Constitution, and enforce our laws.  The issue of Middle East peace is between Middle Easterners and that is who should decide the matter if there is to be any long lasting peace in the region.

But I read the president’s speech anyway.  In fact, at some point as I was reading the usual implied dribble about how America would solve all of the world’s problems I dosed off into a glorious daydream.  Here is the speech Obama gave in that splendid fantasy:

“My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight to mark a new beginning for American foreign policy.  Israel, the Palestinians, and the other Middle Eastern nations are going to have to solve their own problems.  America is done ruling the world.  We have enough problems of our own that need our attention and as a nation we have learned for way too long that when we meddle in the affairs of other nations instead of pursuing a foreign policy of friendship, trade and exchange things normally turn our poorly for us.

Take America’s entry into World War I for instance.  It was meant to “Make the world safe for democracy”.  Instead our involvement ultimately produced Adolph Hitler in Germany.  President Wilson, like all presidents, had good intentions, but America’s unnecessary entry into the war was the deciding factor leading to victory for the Triple Entente.  His support for France’s over the top retribution toward Germany manifested in the Treaty of Versailles economically destroyed that country and paved the way for the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist party.  The result was another word war where millions more died.

Then there are the smaller conflicts our government has gotten engaged in from time to time.  On the Korean peninsula in the 1950s, 40,000 Americans and 2 million civilians lost their lives fighting an enemy that is still a thorn in our side to this day.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans and 1.5 million civilians perished and many more vets are still experiencing the effects of that war some 35 years later.

Closer to our own time period, let’s not forget that the CIA’s covert overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeegh in the 1950s ultimately led to the menacing theocracy in present day Iran.  Our military support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.  Lastly, our decade’s long support for Israel, even when she has been egregiously in the wrong, has produced terrorist networks bent on violently persuading America to change her policy.

There are many more examples of American meddling that have resulted in dire consequences for our country.  In the interest of time I will stop there.

My friends, it took us 10 years, 3 wars, 5000 American, and countless Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani lives and at least $2 trillion dollars to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing.  Al Qaeda has appointed an interim head to replace bin Laden, the organization has threatened retribution for his death, and our liberties at home are still being violated in the name of national security.

After deep reflection, I have devised a new direction for U.S. foreign policy.  A foreign policy which will go much further to ensure our safety than any illegal wiretap or airport groping ever could.  Effective immediately, I have ordered the following:

The immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya;

The immediate halt to drone attacks and military incursions into Pakistan;

A cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending;

And the promise to friend and foe alike that the United States seeks peaceful relations with you based on integrity, mutual respect, and trade.

By ending our quest for worldwide hegemony, we will be able to focus all of our attention and resources on the dire state of our economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but by bringing the troops home and cutting our monstrously large military budget we can make great strides to balance the federal budget and get our economy moving again.  Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better speech?

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

U.S. and Israel Unfortunately Share Common Values

February 9, 2011 defines values as “the ideals and customs of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard.  Values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy”.

Our leaders often tells us that the main reason the U.S. supports Israel, it often seems unconditionally, is because more than any other country in the region we share important values.   We are led to believe that these values include a respect for human rights and adoration for democracy.  Given both governments’ handling of the Egyptian crisis it does seem the U.S. and Israel have common values, but unfortunately not positive ones.

Israel’s position on whether Egyptians should enjoy the same civil rights and democratic government that Israelis enjoy was expressed last week in an urgent message Tel Aviv sent to its allies encouraging them to save Mubarak and his dictatorial regime.  In spite of Mubarak’s anti-democratic, anti-human rights measures the Netanyahu government has become his biggest fan club.  I mean we are talking about a man who has brutally squashed dissent, tortured people sometimes at the behest of our own government, and stolen elections by intimidation and fraudulent vote counting.  Just recently he sent his goons into Tahrir Square to harass and beat protesters and journalists.  By all definitions Mubarak’s 30 year reign in Cairo has been a dictatorship.  But Israel, who allegedly cherishes democracy, not only would like to see Mubarak remain in power in Egypt but is leading the foreign efforts to make it happen.

The Obama Administration’s response to the crisis has been more subtle but no less egregious.  Why we just can’t leave Egypt’s affairs for Egyptians to decide is beyond me?  But, of course the U.S. government has to get involved.  Currently it is attempting to broker a deal whereby Mubarak steps down immediately and eventual constitutional reforms, free and fair elections, and a renewed respect for civil rights would take place.  This sounds good, however the U.S. plan is unacceptable because the man chosen to take control of the government in the transitional phase is Mubarak’s handpicked vice president Omar Suleiman.  Suleiman is the former head of Egypt’s spy agency, an alleged “CIA point man” and the go to guy for Egypt’s rendition program – whereby terror suspects caught by the U.S. were taken to Egypt for extraordinary interrogation sessions.  In other words Suleiman is even more of a thug than Mubarak and could not be trusted to follow through on reforms.

At the end of the day this whole situation is the same old same old.  You can hardly fault Israel for supporting Mubarak.  He is a brutal dictator to Egyptians, but he has been a loyal friend to Israel.  He has adhered to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.  He has protected Israel politically from demands that Tel Aviv obey international law and halt new settlements in East Jerusalem.  Lastly, he has worked closely with Israel in its campaign to eradicate Hamas in Gaza.  Thus, in the name of self-preservation Israel is acting like any other self-respecting nation-state.

But what justifies the actions of the U.S. government?  Nothing.  Our government is once again looking at a major world crisis through a narrow black and white lense.  You are either for us or against us.  What’s a shame is that this could have been Obama’s big chance to actually bring promised “change” to our foreign policy.  But, once again Washington is supporting the wrong side in a pivotal crisis.  Like Tel Aviv, Washington speaks with a forked tongue.   We talk a good game about supporting democracy, but when push comes to shove we support the next brutal dictator in waiting all because he can be purchased to fall in line behind the so-called “War on Terror”.

So, yes, Israel and the U.S. share common values and unfortunately they are not good ones.  All the verbiage about respect for human rights and adoration for democracy is just rhetoric.  The bottom line is that both governments support despots at the expense of democratic movements.  Israel has an excuse.  It’s called self preservation.  The U.S. has no such excuse.  We pursue policies that support only Israel to our own peril.  And we wonder why we have a terrorism problem.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

U.S. Foreign Policy Produces Terrorism

January 29, 2011

The President of the United States or any member of Congress has tremendous gall anytime they stand in front of an audience and proclaim that the United States is still the great beacon of the world when it comes to justice and human rights.  It no longer is.  Through its foreign policy, our government continually brushes aside those principles in the name of national security.  We support through money, military aid, and international diplomacy what is supposed to be the very antithesis of our own governing system – undemocratic, ruthless, and corrupt autocrats all because they are with us and not against us in our war on terror.  At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, are we comfortable with violating our principles for what seems to be a fleeting safety?  Can we rest easy knowing that our support of tyrants brings carnage and chaos to millions?  Lastly, and most importantly, are we sure that our betrayal of American ideals abroad makes us safer or does it just, like many experts believe, provide a huge recruitment boost for terrorist organizations?

For 23 years the U.S. government turned a blind eye to Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  In Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s speech in Doha last week he mentioned a conversation he recently had with a friend in the joint special operations business.  The friend was devastated that Ben Ali had been overthrown because, “he was such a good friend” of the United States.  You see as long as he supported us in our “War on Terror” he had the full blessing of Washington.  Never mind that he ruled his country corruptly by stealing successful private businesses and abusing political contacts to enrich himself.  Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was our “guy” in Tunisia because he was for us and not against us in our fight against terrorism.

Of course many analysts are predicting that the Tunisian revolt is just the tip of the iceberg.  Right now in Egypt violent upheaval against the long time rule of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak is well underway.  Mubarak is a man much despised by his own people but supported by the U.S. because he again supports our war on the so-called “bad guys”.  When I was in Egypt last year I asked several Egyptians their opinion of their president.  None responded at all or simply changed the subject.  Understand that unlike in the U.S. any dissent against Mubarak in Egypt is brutally put down.  After 29 years of his rule many Egyptians still live on about $2 a day.  It is the widespread poverty caused by high unemployment and rising prices that have sparked the most recent turmoil.  Oh, and throw in a few alleged stolen elections by Mubarak and you have the recipe for a major revolt.

And just what has been the reaction of our leaders to Egypt’s strife?  As expected, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spewed the standard pablum delivered at a time like this, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”  Blah, blah, blah.  You mean to tell me that it takes violent protests in Egypt to get Hilary Clinton to realize Mubarak is a thug?  Besides it’s a little late now given the regime has resorted to killing its own people in the streets.  But again, Mubarak is our buddy.  What are several dead Egyptians when the larger ‘War on Terror” is at stake?

An analysis of our government’s hypocrisy would not be complete without a discussion of our unconditional support for Israel.  Let’s face it, with U.S support Israel is perpetuating an apartheid state no less egregious than the one that existed in South Africa pre-1994.  Within Israel the movement of Palestinians is restricted.  Millions are imprisoned in cramped quarters in Gaza and the West Bank.  New Israeli settlements expand onto previously held Palestinian land.  Essentially, the Palestinians are at the complete mercy of the Israelis with Washington’s full support.

Now we have the release of the so-called “Palestine Papers”.  These are secret documents that have leaked out detailing conversations between American and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials about the Goldstone Report.  The report was a culmination of the United Nations’ probe into war crimes committed during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009.  If approved by the U.N. the report would have opened the door for international tribunals to try Israeli officials accused of war crimes.  According to the leaked documents, the U.S. connived the PA into stalling a U.N. vote on the report in the name of Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations.  Additionally, U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell got the PA to agree to the following:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

So essentially, the U.S took away about the only bargaining chip the Palestinian people have in their negotiations with the Israelis, namely the ability to prosecute Israeli war criminals in front of the world.  How could this happen and why would the PA agree to this?  It has been speculated that perhaps the U.S. threatened to cut off aid to the PA.  or simply that Israel threatened to release tapes implicating  PA president Mahmoud Abbas helping Israel coordinate the attack on Gaza.  Abbas has been accused of this treasonous act because at the time Hamas was on the rise and he sought to destroy them in Gaza.  Either way it was an enormous sell out of the long suffering Palestinian people.  And once again, the United States was there helping a regime (Israel) orchestrate a massive injustice.

So the next time we hear some politician proclaim that America is that “shining city on a hill” for upholding the high standards of justice, democracy, and human rights around the world don’t believe them.  It is all hyperbole.  Behind the rhetoric are millions who are suffering because of our support of tyrannical regimes.  And that is why they (extremists) hate us.  It is not because of our freedom, but because we contribute to taking away theirs.

Article first published as Hypocrisy of U.S. Foreign Policy Produces Terrorism on Blogcritics.

Why the Hell Are We Allied with Israel? The Sequel

June 17, 2010

Back in January 2009, during Israel’s bombing of Gaza, I wrote an article asking why the United States was allied with Israel.  After all, countries act on their instinct to survive and not for any higher moral purposes.  Thus, if Israel possessed a vital natural resource essential to America’s well-being the current relationship between the two countries would be justified.  If Israel’s geographic location was critical to the security of a trade route or a convenient military outpost I would have no problem with the relationship as it currently exists.  But Israel possesses neither of the aforementioned benefits for the United States.  No, according to official Washington our support of Israel is a moral obligation because it is one of only two democracies (the other being Iraq) in the region and democracies must stick together.

Of course, this is a crock.  What good is sticking together when it makes your citizens vulnerable to terrorist attacks?  911 was blowback for American bombing of Muslim land in Iraq in the 1990s and our unconditional support of Israel in general.  The real reasons our elected officials in Washington sell us out on a continuous basis by supporting Israel no matter what are because they don’t want to be labeled anti-Semitic and they receive huge support from the American Jewish lobby and Evangelical Christian groups at election time.   

Don’t believe me?  The recent abrupt firing of media legend Helen Thomas is a testament to the power of the pro-Israeli forces in American politics.  After 57 years in journalism her, “tell them to get the hell out of Palestine” comment was considered unacceptable and led to her professional demise.  Was it reasonable that this one remark should end a career that included coverage of every president since Kennedy, various awards, and 30 honorary degrees?  Even her previous comments made during the Bush years where she stated, “I’m covering the worst president in American history” and “The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I’ll kill myself. All we need is another liar… I think he’d like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does”, didn’t get her in nearly as much trouble. 

Helen Thomas is just one example of what happens when the wrath of pro-Israel forces are riled.  Even though he stated time and again his support for Israel and before he made his comments on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul drew opposition in his primary battle against Trey Grayson from the Republican Jewish Coalition.  Seems they didn’t like his non-interventionist foreign policy views and how they would affect Israel.

Examples of pro-Israel wrath aside, recent events are indicative of America’s absolute, yet nonsensical support of Israel.  In January of 2009, Israeli bombers blew up an American International School in Gaza as part of Israel’s siege on that occupied territory.  Not only was there no condemnation from Washington, there was no coverage by the mainstream media in the U.S.! 

Then there was Vice President Biden’s trip to Israel when Netanyahu’s government announced new settlements would be built in East Jerusalem.  A real slap in the face to the visiting American delegation since East Jerusalem is an important component to Middle East peace.  Washington did voice outrage at Israel but little else happened and Israel still maintains it right to build settlements in the disputed area.

Lastly, of course, there was Israel’s military raid on the aid vessel headed for Gaza.  The attack on the Turkish vessel in international waters, where nine Turkish humanitarian workers were killed, was a violation of international law and nothing short of an act of piracy.  Israel claims it was done in self-defense to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas in Gaza.  But no weapons were found and let’s not forget the crux of the matter:  Israel continues to imprison Palestinians in Gaza – an area of land too small to support the population and prone to being sealed off from the rest of the world by Israel at any time.  Now, if we support Israel because it is a democracy, how democratic are its actions with regards to Gaza?  At the end of the day, instead of outrage from Washington over Israel’s warlike act, Republican Senator John Cornyn introduced a resolution supporting Israel’s military action as an act of self-defense.  Just another example of America’s unconditional support for Israel no matter what the Jewish state does.

Unbelievably, given these recent actions of Israel, Congress this summer will debate President Obama’s proposal to increase  U.S. aid to Israel.  A 2007 agreement between the two countries grants Israel $30 billion in military aid over a ten year period.  After all of the actions of Israel mentioned above, the president wants to increase aid to her?  What has to happen for Washington to consider cutting all aid to Israel?

And that is what should happen – a complete end to all American aid to Israel.  We don’t have the money anyway.  But it is just as wrong for the United States to support Israel’s apartheid as it was when we supported South Africa’s.  Most of all, aid should be abolished because it puts America at risk of future terrorist attacks.  Voting to end aid to Israel would certainly cost many members of Congress their jobs, but it would ultimately save American lives.  Isn’t that more important to members of Congress?     

Article first published as Why the Hell Are We Allied with Israel? The Sequel on Blogcritics.