A Reckoning Called Pakistan

Today the Trump administration revealed a distinct policy regarding U.S. aid to Pakistan that remained unfulfilled for the fiscal year ending 2016.  This admonishment will definitely anger the ruling Punjabi’s of “the Citadel” who’ve arrogated to themselves a praetorian rule usurping Mohammed Jinnah’s idea of Pakistan.  Secretary of Defense Mattis revealed that the U.S. commitment to Pakistan is limited and under review.

For realists, this bodes well given the institutionalized duplicity that characterizes Pakistani posture as an ally in southwest Asia.  Given that Islamabad has always sought to prostrate itself as a client state reveals a bewildering hope that Pakistan would one day demonstrate a sound strategic hold of a national identity; instead, Islamabad has sought to pursue relations with Beijing for identical reasons that it openly courted Washington.  The ruling Punjabi class does not want to openly pursue functioning capital  markets or industrial bases, it simply wants to exploit a geostrategic advantage by openly availing itself to superior nations, in the hope of getting paid.  Foreign aid remains Pakistan’s second achilles heel, the first is nuclear proliferation.  Team Trump has decided that its time to get tough on Pakistan.

This will probably damage U.S. – Pakistan relations for some time.  Islamabad has not availed itself to capture terror proxies that serve its interests, and it openly uses the diffused Haqqani network in the destabilization of Kabul.  Both are now up for grabs.

August will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of Pakistan, and this policy reversal prompts a long detailed look at the profound civil-military dysfunction that animates this praetorian regime.  Team Trump has stumbled upon a fault line that needs to be remedied; we can only push Pakistani leadership so far before its encirclement is complete, just ask Tehran or Beijing.  Islamabad isn’t capable of fielding sound policy initiatives favoring U.S. policy, nor is it willing to openly accommodate Beijing’s petrol interests evidenced in the continued kidnappings throughout the Gwadar project linking the eastern Arabian Sea oil depositories to western China.

The news cycle throughout the west continuously derides failed U.S. policy, can these mandarins fortify Islamabad’s suicide?  Pakistani leadership at “the Citadel” believes that time is on its side.  It isn’t.  Tehran is openly recruiting Shia throughout Pakistan’s abandoned badlands and al-Qaeda grows pushing northeast.  Does Pakistan really believe it has an economy that can weather further diplomatic isolation?

Islamabad’s encirclement is nearly complete.

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An Emerging Domestic Presidency

The current health care debate is actually the third; Obama’s initial tenure rammed through the ‘Affordable Care Act‘, Trump’s initial foray at the beginning of his presidency  and now the U.S. Senate failure to ‘repeal & replace‘.  It looks like team Trump will need to spend more dwindling political capital on a failing initiative.  His presidency looks domestic, small and very much in line with Clinton’s.  This needs to change IF he’s to gain traction on large foreign related policy gains that often singlehandedly define any Presidency.

We don’t need another domestic presidency, that is after all the job of both chambers of Congress and the judiciary.  As it stands now, team Trump’s policy on Syria, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mesopotamia is identical to Obama’s.  It looks like this president will not spend anymore capital to wrestle the American imperium in a direction aligning our interests to indigenous institutions in war torn theatre.  The sad truth is, we’ll need to act like praetorian guards to win our current engagements, and even then, it isn’t clear that a Clausewitzian imperative of linking politics to war can deliver us any reprieve.  Aside from fielding new aims alloyed to realist notions of statecraft, we’re going to have to live with grossly limited achievements in pursuit of limited aims.  Fair enough, but how we get there matters.

If we look at team Trump’s current war posture, it reflects a profound understanding of civil-military relations that mired previous presidencies.  While Obama used drones, special forces and air power to shield his party from un-welcomed realities, team Trump’s view of partial withdrawal and negotiation maybe the best result in regions that don’t have sufficient political institutions to solidify war gains.

Remember Rumsfeld’s admonition that “you go to war with the army you have. . . ” The U.S. Army, Defense & Pentagon don’t do reconstruction.  We’re unable and unwilling to do to Southwest Asia, Mesopotamia & Syria what we did in South Korea, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Germany and hosts of other places.  We reconstituted their governing institutions favorable for peace.  We don’t seem to be able to do that with Islamic Civilization.  What our current operations reveal are limits to our overt myopic positivist framework of war.

When John F. Kennedy admitted in 1961 that Khrushchev had savaged him in Vienna, we got the Cuban missile crisis and the construction of the Berlin Wall.  Meetings have consequences and we’ll have to wait to see Putin’s geostrategic behavior in the coming months evidencing his own judgement of Trump.  In the meantime, a small bit of humility could foster greater reach for team Trump as he seeks to pursue U.S. advantages.  Trump’s Hamburg meeting with king Vladimir revealed that Putin wants to deflect the issue of interfering in U.S. elections while preserving Moscow’s regional position in Syria, ratifying Russian propaganda that Moscow arbitrates Syria’s future.  Putin also seeks to gain stature in the post liberation of Raqqa while eliminating post-Crimea sanctions and normalization of Ukraine.

What did Trump get?

According to the Lawfare  blog, Trump acknowledged that the current status of Syrian political, demographic geography should protect rebel territory.  However, team Trump ratified Moscow’s Astana framework relying on Russian initiatives to monitor and enforce any ceasefire.  This entire framework required Trump to drop America’s stated policy demanding the removal of Assad.

Its Obama 2.0

So what’s the big deal?  Moscow does not have U.S. regional interests.  With Trump’s strategic blunder we cannot begin to initiate proceedings on Russian war crimes in Aleppo or Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Trump’s accession in Hamburg really ratifies Putin’s hold on eastern Ukraine.  Hamburg also permits the opening for a ‘special channel’ laying the groundwork for normalized relations.

All of this dooms U.S. efforts because it leaves the initiative to autocrats.

This is what happens when an American executive goes abroad unprepared.

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Venezuela Is Cuba Again!

The ideals of romanticized guerrilla war have a long history throughout Latin America, think of Jesuit priests waging insurgent war against oligarchies sanctioned by the Catholic Church throughout Central-South America; the 1980’s saw the tip of a Russian spear in Nicaragua.  Although the Soviet Union was collapsing, it was expanding rapidly while weakening internally.  Only a Pole could implicitly know that Reagan’s political handlers sought to confirm, the edifice was collapsing.

Those with historical perspective know that Venezuela is Batista’s Cuba, and Castro is embodied by Iranian Shia and old Soviet handlers from Havana.  Venezuela is Cuba writ large.

The sad story is simple, yet increasingly difficult to tell.  The American’s really aren’t up for this fight, but the Tehran welcomes it.  The tip of another spear faces north from Tehran beginning in Caracas.

As Robert Bartley’s own Mary Anastasia O’Grady has written, “an engagement strategy will fail“.  What’s needed is a functioning State Department willing to do the Republic’s work.  This is another ‘long war’ given Cuba’s nearly seventy-five year reign of sowing ideological revolution throughout the Caribbean, Central-South America.  The Cuban’s rely on a cut rate Caracus petrol and illicit drug trafficking.  By any account, their winning.

Team Trump has no ally at the Vatican with Pope Francis, this is very unfortunate given how U.S. policy architecture works through local alliances.

The fact remains that the local governing opposition party continues to display leadership.  What Nicolas Maduro seeks now is July 30th elections effectively rewriting the Constitution ratifying Tehran & Havana’s spear moving north to Mexico.

I’m afraid to say it, but we should be tearing into Iranian proxies in Venezuela.  Sadly, we don’t have the stomach for this fight.

O’Grady was right, for too long we’ve overlooked the atrocities of the police state reigning throughout Latin America, because of this, we now have Moscow and Tehran establishing firm beachheads in Latin America.

This won’t end well.

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Islamic Finance Unravels

Dana Gas remains a stellar exploration business in Abu Dhabi, it remains stuck trying to recover nearly $800 million dollars worth of investment in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Having underwritten heavy capital infrastructure with Egypt, it currently faces a liquidity problem, hence the lawsuit against its debtors seeking to restructure nearly $700 million dollar Islamic bonds maturing this October.  Islamic bonds are called sukuk, they possess their own courts, lobbies and banks.  Dana Gas is seeking to have its entire debt erased by declaring its interest bearding instruments non compliant with Sharia law.

Here’s how sukuk works; Islamic bonds are different from western bonds in that the borrower isn’t getting cash but a nominal share, a ratio of profit generated by investment.  At maturity, the issuer must return the principal by buying the investor’s share in the agreed upon asset.

Here’s their problem:  their is no global embodied standard for sharia compliance.

As Dana Gas remains squeezed, its seeing injunctions against other creditors seeking damages.  This is happening in an environment of high volatility, low oil prices and globally restructured political economies in transition.  Monarchies throughout the Gulf region are finding themselves having to float bonds from foreign investors to stay cash compliant.  Moody’s and other global rating agencies are watching to see how Islamic finance breaches nearly insurmountable problems.

Watch for compressed yields from Gulf related central banks, risk discounts and multiple emerging sharia compliance authorities seeking wealth.  This entire environment will only diminish the liquidity and growth of previously stable financial economies.  What Islamic finance needs are indigenous institutions that provide stable norms, until that happens, remember Shakespeare:  when the kind lay dying, the clowns cash in.

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The Case for War: Target, Regime Change North Korea

The case has yet to be made for regime change in North Korea.  By any standard, its time to unify the peninsula. Team Trump continues its diplomatic initiatives, but that track will exhaust itself quickly, if only to confirm how weak our alliances continue.  Without having robust reform with America leading, the vast majority of Asian political economies cannot, will not sustain any longterm held initiative against Beijing or Pyongyang.  Even still, we can’t go it alone.  The case must be made for regime change and Moscow, Tehran and the bus load of autocratic clowns that dominate the world must be given a lesson in American resolve.

The July 04, the launch of a two stage ICBM openly threatens western interests.  Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Tehran and other are watching.  Diplomatic initiatives alone aren’t credible, nor are sanctions, especially given how isolated Pyongyang remains from globalized norms.  If we fail to credibly threaten Beijing and Pyongyang, U.S. threat deterrents will fold up.  This scenario is unfolding before us now.

The best open source platform for understanding North Korea remains ’38 North. Dr. John Schilling’s research proves that Pyongyang’s proxy in Beijing uses North Korean belligerence as a wedge opening geo-strategic fissures exploited by autocratic regimes.  Its working.  As of this writing we’re losing.  The only way forward is to build the case for unifying the peninsula.

The world’s autocracies have taken the measure of the west and discerned that we won’t fight.  Are they right?

South Korean leadership remains flaccid.  They are threatened by Pyongyang and don’t seek to promote the very initiative that threatens Beijing & Pyongyang.

Stage one:  U.S. and regional allies must deploy faster interceptors to kill North Korean ICBM’s in either their launch or boost phase.  That means unleashing our Aegis-class destroyers.  Stage two:  regime change in North Korea, unification of the peninsula.

Little Kim’s program advances; if he can’t launch, he can’t build reliable threats.

Its’ TIME.

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Simone Veil: Elizabeth Taylor of French Politics Dies

Contemporary people demonstrate perpetual blindness by refusing to accept things as they are; maybe only a poet or someone who has suffered can easily understand the necessity of accepting things on there terms.  Reading the obituaries of Simone Veil reminds me of how silly contemporaneity remains.  Even still, she endured with class.  Her temper cannot be understood outside the very cauldron that shaped her.  Teutonic ovens, death marches and cunning matched her, she found herself equal to the satanic wiles of history.  The women endured.  We need more like her today, even though, by any measure she remains identified with militant atheist secularism.  To understand why that is, one needs to visit the informing cauldrons that destroyed western Christian Civilization.  She was secular Mother Theresa for France.  How could it have been otherwise!

Today’s feminism is attenuated so far from reality, making it difficult for anyone to sympathize with its goals.  Look at the strength of Elizabeth Taylor throughout her oeuvre, the sustained strength she emanated never embodied the empty pathos of Marylin Monroe;  to understand Veil you need to measure her beside a Gold Meir, Oriana Fallachi and Racquel Welch, a difficult act to follow for any mortal.  Simone Veil remains a Gallic Emma Goldman or Coco Chanel seeking to tear down the very bonds of womanhood that characterized anarchism; yet for France, one cannot grasp Veil’s secularism outside the fall of France’s Third & Fourth Republic.

Upon entering politics, she sought to deliver a fatal blow to the old order through legalizing abortion.  Although she never became Prime Minister, she was often thought of as perpetually stolid. Watching her career peek in 1979 delivering her the Presidency of the European Parliament, she would eventually find herself unable to foot the emerging wiles of the counter-revolution beginning with John Paul II.  When Solzhenitsyn delivered the final fatal blow to French Marxism with the publication of The Gulag Archipelago, she watched and lived through the demise of the very foundations that underwrote both her personal and ideological identity.  She never recovered.  There was no second act for Veil.

But Veil was born for the storm.  Her most painful and powerful memory was of her mother Yvonne, her lifelong inspiration, dying slowly of typhus in Belsen after a 45-mile death march.  When the German Gotterdammerung unfolded before her in ’44 she walked right though it, forever remembering a universe of death, humiliation and barbarism.  She often told friends alone how she remembers the “haunt of images, the odours, the screams, the humiliation, the blows, the sky-ashen with smoke from the crematoriums.”

She returned home with all the rage and fury of a revolutionary.  A French Oriana Fallachi.  She’s interred alongside Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Emile Zola in Paris’ Pantheon.

Let’s not forget even Rousseau and Voltaire died with Jesuit’s by their sides.  Having spent a lifetime waging war against the pillars of French society, Voltaire’s dispensation was sought on his death bed.  Interesting that he sought to acknowledge the limited writ of his life’s work.

Simone Veil’s rage is indistinguishable from the humiliation engraved on her left arm:  78651.

Blessed rage for order, may she be forgiven and receive peace.

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Our Afghan Struggle

Having weak borders contributes to the long slog that has become Afghanistan.  Having President Obama for two terms didn’t help either, for as it stands now, the American’s must revisit a phase of our mission that was abandoned by team Obama.  This means we must acknowledge profound loss of strategic capital and direction, components of warcraft that are irreplaceable.  Even still, by any measure, Afghanistan remains both a proxy ground and a near permanent sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other emerging transnational terror groups, we simply cannot permit Kabul’s writ to remain limited.  If Afghanistan is to regroup under American tutelage, then concepts like nation state, rule of law and other social, political markers of nationalism must take hold.  As it stands now, we’re losing.

The social state of Islam makes it nearly impossible to coalesce Afghanistan into a nation state.  We’re pushing against this reality in all directions while Islamabad’s proxies (seminary students called Taliban) run roughshod throughout Afghanistan.

As of now, the U.S. can assist in training, fielding competent capacities of Afghan forces, but an advisory role isn’t sufficient to deter both Iran & Pakistan.  A widening on diplomatic and military fronts will be needed before Tehran or Islamabad rescinds effort. Secondly, air power and the rule of law are needed if the Afghan people are to secure an economic baseline from which to seed a viable nation state.  To that effect an indigenous industrial base is required with additional institutions servicing a budding Afghan state.  All of this has yet to begin.

By far, the largest problem is the strategic mindset of the Punjabi’s that rule Islamabad and their pathological hatred of India.  Pakistani interests are inimical to the U.S. in Kabul, we run the risks of a near permanent rupture with Islamabad if Pakistan cannot reform itself out from a garrison state into a functioning political economy.  To secure U.S. interests in Kabul, we need to fix Islamabad.  A tall order. . .

Our counter-terror posture throughout Afghanistan should remain the targeting of Haqqani networks throughout Waziristan and Quetta including Pakistani territory.  This is a deadly policy mix because it foments domestic instability threatening Pakistan, effectively making them less reliable as a putative ally.

The long hard slog that is Afghanistan continues, with no end in sight.

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India’s Prospectus: A Market Based Economy?

The Raj lives on in India as a near permanent rentier economy.  Often called the license Raj, the sobriquet is fitting yet damaging.  The ground harnessing this collectivist agenda is geography and history, the twin engines for international relations.

Indian consciousness isn’t like any other nation, it remains shaped mostly by geography and its communal domestic relations.  By any measure, Indian consciousness is inward facing the northwest passage as it has been for centuries.  Air power resolved this geographic determinant, but for India it remains. Indian socialism is no longer ascendant yet it thrives to the detriment of any reform agenda.  Just witness Modi’s flailing as he seeks a second term.  Gone is any resemblance of reform or globalization.  India has its reasons for not seeking reform, the entire nation state is born from within the confines of nativist thought; sadly, this political economy is ripe for either sale or closure.  Like England and most of western Europe, it will remain paralyzed for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t have to be this way, but self inflicted wounds are difficult to purge, especially in this neighborhood.

China rivals India in having its GDP tied to state owned firms.  Public sector undertakings comprise one in every six rupee.  Banks are government proxies that loan unsecured monies to state owned firms that often have political leaders running them.  India’s upper chamber is littered with CEO’s that run state owned enterprises.  Fiat grants to lucrative monopolies aren’t efficient, but India and China don’t really possess indigenous market based economies.  They more likely identify with Keynesian based revenue sourced from monetary velocity than actually productive, ground breaking industry.

As of this writing, Indian monopolies are racking up impressive losses.  In 2016 alone, nearly one third of India’s public sector industries filed losses.  Nearly 25% of all of India’s monopolies have failed for over three straight years.  Labor may be in abundance in India but not capital; currently the return on investment for India’s public sector remains a meager 5%; its actually negative if you look at inflation.  With over $18 billion dollar annual market capitalization, India’s coal, petroleum and power generation remains a dinosaur. Indian companies fare worse when they must compete.

The ’90’s witnessed attempts to push state owned enterprises into privatization, making Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao a permanent pariah.  By knocking several dominant players off the commanding heights of an indigenous Indian political economy, they remain wary of any policy reform.  Even still, India cannot continue with fat, inefficient and grossly distorted domestic industries.

To address this problem, Modi needs a reversal.  He needs a truly independent central bank that will pursue foreign direct investment to underwrite liberalization.  Soft loans, subsidies and bail outs must end.  India must embrace revitalization strategies that mimic surging military industrial base growth.  Having New Delhi reach out and suture its defense needs to American requirements needs to be replicated domestically.  This is a very tall order, given the fiscal state of these monolithic industries.

Nearly 24 state owned monopolies possess loans greater than their assets.  Eighty-four generate little profit to cover interest on their borrowings; thousands need to be closed, sold off or even dismantled.  If India is to grow, it must seek to openly confront this fiscal mess.  It won’t, so it will remain weak, tepid and inward looking.  A dangerous mix given the neighborhood.

India is “that ’70’s Show” because its top management is excessively cautious, risk averse; an ethos fitting perpetual failure.

If Modi and by extension all of India, is to grow, then it must openly confront the politics that dominates its upper chamber.  My guess is, it will fail to do so because Indian leadership has run out of alternatives.

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A Reckoning Called Qatar

Inter Arab rivalry remains the source of geopolitical friction between Qatar and the House of Saudi on the peninsula.  What makes it deadly is the fiscal and strategic security environment in which its occurring.  Given how weak Riyadh remains after failing to control sliding oil prices, it no longer has patience with smaller Arab nations in its periphery.  However, by any historical measure this rift had to be exposed if only to reveal the sustained perfidy Qatar has enjoyed for decades.  Just ask the Muslim Brotherhood, or better yet, al-Sisi who continues to straddle a domestic insurgency funded by Qatari’s while accepting Gulf aid.

CENTCOM’s major base is housed in Qatar and for good reason.  It enables the American’s an unrivaled ability to monitor traffic between Doha and Tehran.  It also permits us access to the ever shifting components of Arab rivalry.  The Shia of Bahrain are currently besieged by Riyadh while the Saudi’s wage a brutal, ruthless war in Yemen.  But Cairo and Abu Dubai continue to assist both Israeli, Saudi and American regional policy aims.  The significance of the rift has yet to play out, but the Saudi’s are deadly serious and aren’t accepting anything short of compliance.  Expect Tehran to widen this rift, if only to aggravate Riyadh.

As it stands now, al-Jazeera is reforming itself amid falling oil prices, but it still hosts Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a high profile Islamist providing cover for regimes that seek to overthrow Sunni regional power relations.

Unless the Saudi’s are capable of weaning Qatar off its Iranian natural gas dependency, this is a long fight.  The Iranians don’t have refining technology for either crude or liquified natural gas.  We should expect Tehran to fight this one out on the plains of Syria and Yemen.  As such, they’ve managed to tie down Saudi commitments throughout the region at great cost.  No one knows how long Saudi finances can sustain a military commitment in an environment of low oil prices and a non-existent military industrial base.

Team Trump should provide Saudi cover for diplomatic initiatives seeking regional Arab unity, if only to forge a common front against the Shia in Tehran.  As of this writing, the Saudi’s are seeking to isolate Qatar, but Iran is redoubling efforts to open new avenues into Doha; the exact opposite Riyadh needs.

If anything, the American’s need to flank Iran upon the plains of Syria and deep into Mesopotamia.

By any standard, we need to escalate.

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The Phantom Menace: Syria

The cynicism animating much of Washington remains at face value, worthless.  That’s because it is born from within the confines of self preservation alone.  Take Syria for example.  The fatal conceit dominating the halls of D.C. is that the U.S. can defeat the Islamic State by having no dog in a fight called Syria.  Mull than one over for a while.  As Tehran seeks to consolidate its regional arc moving west from Baghdad, it seeks to envelop both Saudi Arabia and by extension Israel.  Its doing that today in Syria.  As long as we stay out, Moscow and its proxies in Tehran possess unqualified hegemony.

Our allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as Kurds, have gathered themselves near the city of Taqba to rekindle checking Iran.  Its working, but only because we remain backing them.  Recent spats regarding the downing of a Syrian SU22 was as test of U.S. resolve.  Both Moscow, Damascus, Jerusalem, Riyadh & Tehran witnessed whether we’d back our footprint in Syria.  We did and the message we intended was received. Trump isn’t Obama!

Now we must push through Syria offending both Moscow and Tehran.  We should risk escalation if only to dominate these clowns.  We don’t need to consolidate any hold on land, but we do need to kill off those who seek to check SDF territory.

Moscow has escalated with Iran in placing anti-aircraft missiles west of the Euphrates as part of an intimidation strategy.  If anything, we should seek to bankrupt both Moscow and Tehran in any regional proxy struggle to capture or dominate Syria and western Iraq. We must prevent Putin from looking credible while he advances arrangements to acquire naval ports in the eastern Mediterranean threatening Israel.  The Iranians wish to finance lethal Shia proxies throughout Syria and Lebanon.  The entire corridor is now awash in militant Sunni’s from Central Asia.  Given the comity underwriting relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh, one should expect the Saudi’s to reign in everyone allied to Sunni Islam.  Still, the arc from Tehran to Lebanon must be extinguished.

We need to escalate if only to punish Putin and Iran.

We’re out of time and we need to make these regimes pay a high price for their ideological and geo-political ambitions.

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