December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Wishing all my readers and commenter’s a safe, industrious and, as a fellow blogger foreshadowed, “polemically” stimulating 2008...

December 29, 2007

Pakistan: What now

"I cannot help but recall Gaza. As the world pushed hard for elections the voters elected a Muslim terror group to power, alas Hamas. This is the risk we face for holding democratic style elections in a nation so filled with fanatics of a militant nature..."

As noted in USA Today, for the United States, Harvard-educated Benazir Bhutto was “the key piece in a belated-but-promising attempt to bring stability to the world's most dangerous nation. The hope was that the popular former prime minister could recapture the job after parliamentary elections next month, then strengthen democratic institutions, helping to keep Pakistan's nuclear weapons away from its large radicalized Islamic population.”

On latest reports President Bush is continuing to pledge support Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in the struggle against extremism. Whilst praising Ms Bhutto, a twice elected prime minister who returned to Pakistan in October to be part of elections that were scheduled for January 8, the State Department added, “It would be a victory for no one but the extremists responsible for this attack to have some kind of postponement or a delay directly related to it in the democratic process," said spokesman Tom Casey.

Some $11 billion on U.S. aid so far has failed to secure a process leading to the promise of democracy in the ravaged nation and whilst many are shouting that it was Musharraf’s own that contributed to the tragic event and that he should now resign, they need ask themselves; then what?

For as long as Musharraf continues to condemn terrorism the U.S. may have no other viable option but to assist him to root out terrorists and bring some semblance of order to fractious population.

Some important questions need be asked, for someone in Pakistan holds the keys to a small but deadly nuclear arsenal; that someone is part of the military who till now, are loyal to Musharraf but for how long? Although I approve the continuing support offered to the Pakistani leader I cannot help but recall Gaza. As the world pushed hard for elections the voters elected a Muslim terror group to power, alas Hamas. This is the risk we face for holding democratic style elections in a nation so filled with fanatics of a militant nature; we may just be adding our bit to producing another Gaza style result, but this is not Gaza. There are no easy answers and the Bush administration is well aware of the potential pitfalls ahead.

The threat of terror unleashed by the assassination is already swaying the U.S. Presidential campaign with candidates Clinton, Obama, and Giuliani, McCain and Thompson using the assassination to highlight the need for strong foreign policy and war on terror experience in the White House and portray themselves as reliable leaders in a dangerous world. No doubt they are all correct.

As I noted in my November post, Pakistan’s constitutional crisis is the biggest problem the world has faced since 9/11. It is quite possible that the nation, a nuclear one at that, could end up being run by radical Islamists or as a failed state. Stephen Cohen, perhaps the pre-eminent Pakistan expert in Washington, was forthright that he does not “know what’s going to happen” and warned then, "I don't think any Pakistan expert knows what will happen even tomorrow”.

The Australian reports today:

“The gloomy predictability of Benazir Bhutto's assassination cannot detract from the diabolical crisis into which it has plunged Pakistan and the free world's struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. Ms Bhutto's death potentially holds the seeds of international catastrophe, allowing radical forces to move one step closer to gaining control of the world's most unstable nuclear-armed state. In her final months, Ms Bhutto foresaw the murderous attacks against her and warned that, left unchecked, Taliban forces would be marching on the Pakistan capital, Islamabad, within two years.”

For all the risk involved to give up the promise of free elections now would serve the terrorists responsible for Bhutto’s death and only to intensify their cause. The attack had all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda or Taliban act, quite swiftly they are weakening the nation, making it vulnerable to yielding a most advantageous prize, those sixty or so nuclear devices.

Over to you…

December 27, 2007

Attitude to America: A question of Ambivalence

..."America is a country that, for all its faults, continues to represent something quite admirable and idealistic..."

For all the prevailing anti-Americanism sentiments abroad many, when asked (and they are honest) would admit that if circumstances permitted they would immigrate to America.

Gerard Baker in writing for the TimesOnline tells us:

“Last year The Daily Telegraph published the results of one of those now routine opinion polls that document the British public’s rising disdain for the United States. The poll captured all the usual antipathies towards American policies – the Iraq War, Guantanamo, Kyoto - as well as the familiar popular perceptions of modern American pathologies – a nation of overweight, gun-toting, gay-baiting, lethal-injection-loving, religious nutters. The British expressed haughty distaste for the global spread of American culture (which the Telegraph helpfully summarised for us as “fast food, popular music and Hollywood”), but right at the end, almost buried amid all the unflattering stereotypes was a remarkable finding. In answer to the question, “Would you immigrate to the United States if you could?” a staggering 19 per cent said “yes”.”

I would venture to suggest that if a similar survey were conducted in Australia it might well produce similar findings. I am reminded of a conversation I heard on a top rating radio show here in Melbourne recently. The host asked her guest about a recent trip to Los Angeles, a fairly predictable reply followed, “well I gotta tell ya, “faaaantastic”.” She went on briefly describing the known landmarks and streetscapes, the glamour of Hollywood and general attraction of consumer culture unique to the States before pulling herself up hastily and adding, “I dunno, are we allowed to say that?”

Makes one wonder, does people’s disdain of America stem from envy? Lord help us if we actually like the U.S. and admit it loudly!

Says Baker, “deep down, in a layer of their consciousness formed by more enduring perceptions than the last Ten O’Clock News, I think people have a sense that America is a country that, for all its faults, continues to represent something quite admirable and idealistic."

“A country that promotes individual freedom that rewards hard work that fosters an extraordinarily productive and open system that engenders creativity and ingenuity. Above all, a country that remains uniquely hopeful.”

Read the whole piece here.

Remember Reagan’s words, "The United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people."

One reason why I am drawn to liking and vigorously promoting America is fuelled by my hatred for Marxism and its determinism; the idea that history pursues a predictable course that is to be followed. I loathe talk of inevitable outcomes that render the individual powerless more exactly; history is shaped by independent actions of thought through the enactment of human judgements.

What does this have to do with America? Through its defining papers and leadership, the nation stresses qualities that are in harmony with the most natural human disposition of liberty, the pursuit of democracy, rules of law, and religious and civic equalities. Abstract and idealistic values that engender hope.

Baker concludes by quoting the words of Amy Chua, a Harvard law professor who suggested that the “popular attitude towards the United States” could be summed up as:

“America, get out. And take me with you.”

Feel free to comment...

December 24, 2007

An American Life

“My parents had me absolutely convinced that you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's, but you can be President of the United States.”

She is the very first black female to be chosen as US Secretary of State and the 66th to be appointed to the position, after her stint as National Security Adviser. Easily the most academic member of the Bush team and very distinguished. But who is Condoleezza Rice? Almost enigmatic, she has the ear of the President and yet remains on the outer of the Washington social circuit.

Journalist Elisabeth Bumiller gives us some insight in her book, Condoleezza Rice: An American Life. The site Hiram7 site publishes Ann Applebaum's review of the work exploring Rice's past from childhood to education. In the book Bumiller successfully tells us why she was such a good fit in the Bush administration.

“Way back when George W. Bush was still a candidate and “Condi” was not yet an internationally recognized nickname, someone who had observed the present secretary of state in a previous incarnation told me to watch her carefully. “Everyone underestimates her, because they think she’s a token. Condi’s not a token. Condi plays the game better than anyone else.”

“No, Condi is not a token, and yes, Condi played the game better than anyone else–so much so that Condi has now dispensed with pretty much everyone who underestimated her to begin with, most notably Donald Rumsfeld, but for all practical purposes Dick Cheney, too. At this point it is she, the small, athletic black woman, and not one of them, the older, gray-haired white men, who is commonly understood to be the most influential foreign-policy figure in this administration. Condi has the president’s ear, Condi calls the shots, and Condi’s particular form of pragmatism has triumphed too. Step away from questions of substance (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan), examine the results of seven long years of infighting, and it’s hard not to conclude that she is this administration’s star player.”

Read the whole review here.

Her career ascension is an amazing story of doggedness and consistency, appearing to possess unyielding self- belief and ruthless devotion to her success. She once said, “My parents had me absolutely convinced that you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's, but you can be President of the United States.” We explore a life that began in the Deep South and arrived at the private sanctums of the White House.

To gain further insight into the dynamics of Bush's inner team and, how State Department and White House relations have altered during Rice's incumbency I point you to a 2006 New York Times piece which articulates her influence.

Comments welcome

December 20, 2007

Climate Change and anti-Americanism

... "I draw attention to just some, of what mainstream media conveniently omits from its reporting of climate change issues and especially, in relation to the U.S. position"...

After two weeks of exhausting negotiations, no less than eight hundred meetings and the participation of some twenty thousand Diplomats, Politicians, Scientists, Bureaucrats, Business leaders and interested observers, the UNFCC Conference finally ended on Saturday 15 December. Given all the deliberations and sheer dramatics prior to and during the conference, its amazing that conformity was reached at all, it was only after the talks went beyond the Friday deadline that consensus emerged as disputes lingered about how far the new agreement should go in terms of action by India, China and other developed economies. With the agreement comes a framework in which to continue talks in pursuit of a road map leading to Copenhagen in 2009 where supposedly, nation specific targets on Carbon emissions will be adopted. Copenhagen will represent the grand final for the new agreement but in truth, it shall be brokered in meetings leading up to it.

For the U.S. a primary sticking point was the inclusion of targets that would see a 25-40 percent reduction of carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 as recommended by the U.N; a set of figures supported by the European Union. Thankfully, by the Saturday the U.S. Delegation had forced a draft compromise that saw the term "targets" relegated to a footnote within the preamble and replaced by a weaker derivation, "objectives.” Still, the U.S. has sinced voiced "serious concerns" whilst emphasizing the need to bring major developing economies to the table. Understandably, if only developed nations take action whilst China and India continue to belt out new Aluminum smelters political support will falter. As Paula Dobriansky noted at a December 13 press conference:

"We must develop a comprehensive, global approach. To paraphrase the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments yesterday, our atmosphere doesn’t differentiate among emissions from the Americas, Europe, Asia, or Africa. It doesn’t differentiate among emissions from coal, cars or deforestation. Emissions are global and the solution, to be effective, must be global" ... "We must catalyze the technology transformations that will make emissions reductions economically viable worldwide."

It is not my intention to examine and clarify details of the conference dealings or the final agreement, there are numerous on-line pages providing more than adequate coverage. Instead, I draw attention to just some, of what mainstream media conveniently omits from its reporting of climate change issues and especially, in relation to the U.S. position.

Firstly, there is technology transfer and funding adaptation. The U.S. firmly recognizes that developed economies do have a responsibility. Again Dr. Dobriansky,

"The United States has a responsibility which we’ve spoken to and which I think we’re devoting a significant amount of resources, some $37 billion, to providing, particularly in the area of technologies and access to technologies, development, deployment, commercialization of technologies."

As part of the same response let's read into James Connaughton's remarks at the same conference:

"The U.S. is one of the largest foreign direct investment countries in the world. And through that foreign direct investment, we are massively transferring technology and skills all around the globe. That is backed-up by very significant investments through our international development bank activities, as well as, by the way, bringing some of those technologies and skills, to build them and make them, bring those technologies back to America. In fact, in the clean energy technology area, America is a net importer of technologies built and put together overseas in this arena. So, when you’re looking at the particular issue that I think you’re referencing, there’s some legalistic issues in the weeds of our negotiations related to what is meant by and how you structure tech transfer. But let there be no doubt, America is engaged in the transfer and receipt of technology on a massive scale."

I briefly touched on the role of technology as part of my earlier post aimed at delivering greater understanding of the U.S. position.

Secondly, during the same press conference James Connaughton provided a revealing outline of other U.S. initiatives:

"We had a very lengthy, and quite constructive, and I think, almost exciting side event yesterday. Some of you were there. We outlined a number of the current and new measures that we are working on in America, as well as some of the initiatives that we are dealing with abroad."

"In particular, Assistant Secretary Andrew Karsner at the side event outlined the fact of our fivefold increase in the use of wind and solar energy in America. He pointed to the fact that, I think, 22 percent of our new generation last year, the nameplate capacity came from the renewables. We walked through a number of the programs. We have well over $10 billion going to bring forward low-carbon, clean-energy technologies, and this will backup the investments the people want to make in those."

"We talked about the work we are doing internationally to combat deforestation, to prevent illegal logging, and I think that was very new and interesting information for a lot of the people in the room. And I then gave a broad policy overview of where we are going next, in particular, our effort to replace 20 percent of our gasoline, with advanced biofuels and other alternative fuel technologies, coupled with our increasingly enhanced program on tackling the issue of carbon capture and storage from coal fire-powered generation, and a whole series of partnerships we are doing with the states and with local governments, in terms of supporting their efforts in combating greenhouse gases. "

The third omission, though not specific to the recent conference, relates to a body of science that questions whether humans have anything to do with the warming predictions in the first place. There are a notable group of experts that believe that it has more to do with natural climate phenomenon and they point to a mass of data to back up the claim. In a recent article published in "The International Journal of Climatology" provided to us by Britain’s Royal Meteorological Society they write:

"The observed pattern of warming, comparing surface and atmospheric temperature trends, doesn't show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming," wrote lead author David Douglas, a climate expert from the University of Rochester, in New York state" .. "The inescapable conclusion is that human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming..."

For further reading and, in the interests of balanced assessments, I recommend visiting the ICECAP site for it addresses the many facts and myths related to climate change.

It becomes imperative therefore, that we tread sensibly, practically in relation to purported emissions targets; mandatory restrictions that can stifle the U.S. economy and in doing so impact world economies.

In another significant development that also went unreported, the conference addressed the question of deforestation resulting in a “Deforestation pact". This was as distinct to Kyoto and the fact that MSM showed little interest reveals a lack of climate-change comprehension on the part of all media interests; deforestation accounts for nearly one fifth of all world emissions. The pact resulted in the formation of a $300 million grant program administered through the World Bank to assist developing countries with planting new trees.

Too frequently America is depicted as the "stubborn villain" of the issue, the obstructionist nation or rogue state that threatens the very survival of the human race. This was most evident by way of the intensity of crowd response - more like a sporting event than a major conference - following Gore's accusing the U.S. of "Blocking the deal". The former Vice President is an American, hence he has a right to criticise his own but the rapturous reaction to his address was more than a little telling, for it confirmed the fanatical attachment of those pushing the climate change agenda, a devotion that automatically questions the validity of any response contrary to their own.

The motivation behind the view is unmistakably obvious; Climate Change is one of the new and many mediums for the promotion of anti-Americanism.

Further reading: Common sense on Global Warming

Comments welcome

Russia and Iran: A risky liaison

Peter Brookes of Real Clear Politics tells us that the Kremlin may ultimately weaken its own position with its decision to supply Iran with nuclear fuel.

"Like the bone-chilling Siberian winter winds, the bad news just keeps howling out of Mother Russia these days."

"Following on the heels of less-than-free-and-fair parliamentary elections, last week Russia concluded a deal with Iran to finish construction of the nuclear reactor at Bushehr early next year."

"And this week, Russia delivered a year's worth of nuclear fuel - 82 tons - for Bushehr, broadening and deepening Tehran's atomic aptitude and its potential for joining the once exclusive nuclear-weapons club."

"Of course, the Russians say there's no reason to worry because they have written assurances from the Iranians the fuel won't go for anything but power generation at the plant - and will be returned to Russia after it's "spent."

"The Kremlin's foreign ministry also assures us that the nuclear fuel, while in Iran, will be under the "control and guarantee" of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Yes, the same agency Iran has hoodwinked for over 20 years.)"

Read the whole piece here

Is it about international competitiveness in the Middle East or increasing its bargaining position with the U.S. in relation to the missile defense systems planned for Europe?

One thing is certain, the decision weakens the UN Security Councils efforts to end Iran's defiance and risks undermining plans to regulate the spread of nuclear technologies particularly in the region.

Either way, more evidence that Russia is well and truly back from the cold.

What do you think?

General Petraeus: American Interests Person of the Year

In a return to the tradition of choosing an an individual rather than last year's choice of anyone creating or using content on the World Wide Web, Time Magazine has selected Russian President Vladimir Putin as its 2007 Person of the Year.

Time magazine is makes it clear that, "it is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world-for better or for worse. " Thankfully it also appears the editors didn't get duped by Putin's rugged appearance as it clearly states “Putin is not a boy scout."

The magazine states its case for choosing him here.

In a November post I suggested that it ought be General David Howell Petraeus, adding a great qoute from the spectator:

"At the beginning of this year, Iraq looked like a lost cause but now thanks to his strategy there are real grounds for optimism. When you think of the consequences of failure—an emboldened Iran, a weakened America, a base for terrorists in the heart of the Middle East, the real risk of a region-wide sectarian war—you realise what a difference Petraeus has made".

To gain a further understanding of how General Petraeus’s achievements in Iraq we note Time’s profile:

“At a Pentagon meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in December 2006, President Bush asked the Chiefs how many supported the idea of a surge — the deployment of more troops (which Petraeus would command) into Baghdad to secure the city and create the conditions necessary for a reconciliation of the various Iraqi political factions. The Chiefs were unanimously opposed.”

Britain's Times on-line calls the US surge of troops into Iraq as, "the most important story in the world this year":

"By any measure, the US-led surge has been little short of a triumph. The number of American military fatalities is reduced sharply, as is the carnage of Iraqi civilians, Baghdad as a city is functioning again, oil output is above where it stood in March 2003 but at a far stronger price per barrel and, the acid test, many of those who fled to Syria and Jordan are today returning home."

Ahead of Times’s announcement, the National Review nominated its person of the year on December 14:

“Time magazine hasn’t announced its pick for “man of the year” yet, but we certainly know ours: Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq and architect of the surge strategy that is turning the tide in the war. Petraeus formulated a brilliant counterinsurgency plan. He executed it with care and diligence. And when much of the country didn’t want to notice the security gains that the surge had wrought, he took the national media spotlight to defend his strategy and his honor. In all this, he was nothing less than masterly.”

“For making victory in Iraq look possible again, and for pulling a nation back from the brink of civil war, Petraeus deserves the praise and thanks of all Americans. With or without a Time cover, he is the man of the year.”

Just as in November, General Petraeus is American Interests Person of the year.

Over to you

December 13, 2007

Iran: Come what may Bush’s actions justified

..."The words of Theodore Roosevelt, remain true today, “Diplomacy is utterly useless where there is no force behind it.” ...

..."if the NIE report were correct then, like Gore before him, is Bush going to Stockholm in 2008 to collect a peace prize" ...

Running contrary to many media reports that depicted the NIE report as a major blow for the President, William Hawkins has put together an interesting piece over at FrontPage. He points out that the administrations hard-line policy was both warranted and successful.

He writes, “Opponents of confrontation with Iran were quick to hail release of an unclassified summary of a National Intelligence Estimate report, Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. The report concluded that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003. The Washington Post ran a story with the headline “A Blow to Bush’s Tehran Policy.” The leftist New American Foundation held a snap event on the theme “Iran Policy After the NIE.” It proclaimed, “Today, the administration's Iran policy is in doubt.” Yet two years ago, when there was an NIE that concluded Iran was “determined to develop nuclear weapons,” these same voices cast doubts on the credibility of the intelligence community that had put the report together. So, have the spies changed their minds? Is the 2007 NIE at odds with the 2005 NIE? Or is the issue more complex than the headline writers and partisan pundits want to admit?

If one actually reads the new NIE summary, one finds vindication for the hard-line that the Bush administration has taken towards Iran, up to and including the initial invasion of Iraq. The NIE argues that the reason Iran “does not currently have a nuclear weapons program” is that “the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure.”

Of course, I do not believe the report was accurate, as I have stated my position clearly, I am simply highlighting how critics of the President cannot both at once believe that the report was conclusive whilst asserting that Bush’s policy on Iran is flawed.

“The NIE states, “We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.” This effort had been underway since “at least the late 1980s.” So, why the sudden decision to halt in 2003? What happened that year to send Tehran a message? The capture of Baghdad by U.S. forces that April. President George W. Bush showed he was willing to follow up his earlier characterization of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil” by destroying one of the “axis” regimes.”

“The Bush hard line cannot be called “counter productive” if it has been successful in forcing Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program. Is that not what the objective has been? A successful outcome, even if partial or tentative, should not be abandoned, especially when facing leaders like Ahmadinejad and Kim who have a record of deception and violence. As the new NIE notes, “Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.” The United States and its allies must continue to tell Tehran in no uncertain terms that it must not decide to build such weapons, and to block Iran from acquiring the specific means needed to build such weapons as long as the country is ruled by an “axis” regime. What one of America’s greatest presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, said remains true today, “Diplomacy is utterly useless where there is no force behind it.”

Meanwhile in news that supports the view that the NIE has it wrong, an Iranian exile has accused Tehran of pursuing its efforts to gain a nuclear device warning that the report was inaccurate. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is the body responsible for exposing Iran’s program said that “they checked back with sources inside Iran after the NIE was released, and those informants reported that work on nuclear weapons was still being pursued at three sites.”

Not surprisingly, Ahmadinejad has refuted the NCRI allegations.

It goes then, that if the NIE report were correct then, like Gore before him, is Bush going to Stockholm in 2008 to collect a peace prize.

Finally, French President Sarkozy reminds us that the possibility of war over this issue is high, if Israel continues to feel threatened.

"The problem for us is not so much the risk that the Americans launch a military intervention, but that the Israelis consider their security to be truly threatened," Sarkozy told Le Nouvel Observateur. "Everyone agrees on the fact that what the Iranians are doing has no civilian explanation," Sarkozy said, referring to Tehran's uranium enrichment work. "The only debate is about whether they will develop a military capacity in one or five years."
Israel considers Iran its number one enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map."

Read the whole piece here...

Further reading:

Iran: No Smoking Gun but Strong Evidence

Iran still poses a threat, says Brown

Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010

Comments always appreciated...

December 7, 2007

NIE and Iran: Time for a reality check...

Ahead of any peacenik comment opposed to my position, imagine for a moment how Israeli’s must feel. If someone down the street publicly indicates that he hates you and, given the chance wants to harm you, adding that when he gets the means he’s going to do it…would you not be concerned about how and when he acquires the means?

With intent, I have held back on posting about the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran preferring instead, to contemplate the mass of posting and reporting that followed it, to let the dust settle, if you will. To be sure, both before and after its release, it occurred to me that the U.S. appeared to be getting soft on Ahmadinejad even though Iran continued pressing ahead with its program to enter the nuclear club. I know what you are thinking; pressing ahead? Yes, I know, the report spells out that Tehran has halted its nuclear program. However, is that really the case? Well, yes and very much no, indeed, if any judgment were based solely on mainstream media that is, mainstream Liberal media, then most folk would unwisely conclude that the threat ceased as early as 2003 thus those recent comments by the Bush about military action were archetypal administration spin.
Yet it was only just over three weeks ago that, you know who, bragged about how Western resistance had been “defied” and (Tehran) was "one step away from peak of nuclear success."
So let allow me to cut to the chase, we should remain very concerned and both the U.S. and Israel must hold fast on talk of military action if U.N. sanctions and diplomacy fail to prevent Iran from expanding its enrichment program.
Now for the reality check:
  • How confident can we be about the intelligence assessment anyway? Its contributors include no small measure of politico’s and those aligned to Liberal thought. Given the players, it gives reason to be doubtful, a case of cooked intelligence maybe. Said Shabtai Shavit, former Mossad head, “we shouldn't rule out the possibility that often intelligence is being used for political purposes and hidden agendas."

  • Even the International Atomic Energy Agency has taken on a cautious approach in drawing conclusions, “To be frank, we are more sceptical…we don’t by the American position 100% …we are not that generous with Iran.”

  • Broadly, speaking committees that combine assessments from many intelligence agencies cannot be relied upon as a basis for deductions, especially about one as critical as a nuclear Iran.

  • We should distinguish between Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its intentions. The former takes years but the latter can change very quickly. As National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley explains, "Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons if a decision is made to do so.”

  • The NIE only says the program is “paused”, to quote Alan Dowd from FrontPage, “Indeed, if history is any guide, Iran’s nuclear program is probably as dead as North Korea’s was in the 1990’s."

  • The report fails to integrate the broad view of Iranian actions in the region. Its continuing support of insurgents in Iraq tells us much; an Iran that remains defiant and aggressive not, as the report suggests a timid and amenable nation.

  • What the report does not tell us is noteworthy, that it is not difficult to convert a civilian nuclear program into a military one if a nation has the “scientific, technical and industrial capacity” and some highly enriched material. The NIE says “with high confidence” that Iran has the former and we know its trying to produce the latter.

Let us therefore move on from the distortion of the past week and once again embrace the words of Cheney at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy:

"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

American Interests demands that we dismiss the NIE report and realise that Iran is still on a path – direct or indirectly - leading to the production of an atomic arsenal. A nuclear Iran will certainly tilt the adjoining Arab states in the direction of fanaticism and if the world fails to act, Tehran will most certainly be the catalyst for a regional arms race. It would also greatly empower Shi'ite fundamentalism altering the balance of power of the Middle East. Moreover, if it were to happen, how can we ever be certain that a device will not land in the hands of any number of anti-Western or anti-Israel terror groups whom they are aligned with? Make no mistake a nuclear Iran poses a completely unacceptable threat to Israel and the West. Click here and here to read about Ahmadinejad position on the Jewish state.

I also found it alarming that the report was discussed so openly. One cannot help but think that Liberal interests leaked sections in support of their standpoint thus dealing a blow to Bush and undermining the administration.

Frankly, the more Washington or the world dither over what to do, the more progress Iran makes in its enrichment program. In posting on the NIE report, Donald Douglas at American Power concludes, “The ultimate winner is Iran, which can call for reprisals against the West as its leadership continues to work for its ultimate goal of establishing regional hegemony in the Middle East.” However, Ahmadinejad would be foolish if he thinks he is off the hook for the Bush administration is not so easily deflected.

Success in the wider war on terror means taking whatever action may be necessary to put a permanent halt to Iran’s push for nuclear capability; action in whatever shape or form…

Ahead of any peacenik comment opposed to my position, imagine for a moment how Israeli’s must feel. If someone down the street publicly indicates that he hates you and, given the chance wants to harm you, adding that when he gets the means he’s going to do it…would you not be concerned about how and when he acquires the means?

One may be excused for interpreting this post as a call to bomb, more accurately it serves as a call to keep all options open and above all the real threat of military action.

Over to you...

December 3, 2007

The U.S. and Climate Change: Toward a better understanding...

Contrary to public perception outside the U.S., President Bush recognizes the need to address global warming; it is just a question of detail...

Ahead of this weeks, UNFCCC (United Nations Climate Change Conference) to be held in Bali 3 - 14 December, I thought it proper to extend an understanding of the U.S. position on this contested issue. The Conference, hosted by the Government of Indonesia, brings representatives from over 190 countries together with observers from intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, as well as the media. In short, twenty thousand delegates, observers, business leaders, and government ministers. The meeting is expected to agree on a road map for extended negotiations aimed at framing a new climate change treaty to come into effect post 2012 when Kyoto expires.

Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will head the U.S. delegation in Bali. “In recognition of the importance the United States attaches to this conference, the White House is sending Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality James L. Connaughton to join in leading the Ministerial sessions December 12-14. Chairman Connaughton is a senior advisor to President Bush and his personal representative to the Major Economies Process on Energy Security and Climate Change”.

Before I delve into some detail, I fell duty-bound to clarify my position. Firstly, on climate change and humankind's association, this blog post acknowledges that the problem is, in some measure, man made. However, and I want to be quite unequivocal about this point, I will promptly dismiss the doomsday predictions put forward from greens and leftist quarters. The environment and the mystery surround it is a classic liberal temptation, and I can both hear and picture them writing off solutions consistent with those proposed by the Bush administration (more on this below) or any other related proposals in preference for, binding Kyoto style caps.”

Secondly, in relation to Kyoto, and for the benefit of those familiar with my earlier writings. I was initially drawn to the convention, arguing that in spite of its obvious flaws, it represented a foundation point for addressing the problem and, whilst I remain loyal to its aims and values, I now see it as little more than a symbolic expression of Governments concern; one that ultimately fails as an instrument for achieving emission reductions. In addition, some recent writings by European experts (more below) convinced me beyond doubt, that it was time to authenticate the U.S. position. The argument evokes extreme views from all ends, from Al Gore who advocates that it is a planetary emergency to those like weather channel founder John Coleman who proposes that Global Warming is nothing but a con, or as he puts it, the “greatest scam in history."

The U.S. and Australia have endured much condemnation for there failing to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In a decision that I now support Mr. Bush and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard rejected the treaty saying that emission targets would be very costly and that the agreement wrongly omitted goals for emerging nations. Indeed, had President Bush ratified it and taken effective steps to meet its targets it would have required a 30% reduction in U.S. emissions resulting in a 4% cut in GDP – a policy that would have literally put Americans out of work!

The protocol came into effect on 16 February 2005 and requires participating countries to reduce Carbon emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels within the commitment period 2008 – 2012. The Kyoto pact was an early attempt at collective action but was never a good model to slow climate change for an effective treaty must engage broad participation because all countries emit greenhouse gases. To exempt Brazil, India and China made the agreement a debacle. The latter deserves special mention for it just overtook the U.S. as the biggest emitter in the world. Furthermore, Chinese President Hu Jintao recently vowed to double the nation’s wealth by 2020, a goal that if met, would emit plumes of seismic proportions. Notably, the United States reduced emissions on 2006.

Canada provides us with an example of Kyoto’s weakness. It was one of the first to ratify the agreement yet in 2005, its emissions were nearly 35% above the Kyoto target and rising. Its Government recently funded a round table of experts and concluded that emissions would exceed the targets by a whopping 45% by 2010.

Unlike Australia and the U.S., the Canadians appeased environmentalists by ratifying early and were loudly applauded for doing so. However, as Kyoto does not enforce compliance ratification becomes superfluous. As the round table concluded, the ultimate cost of compliance is “considerable”, meaning “completely unacceptable”. In any event, compliance would have had no discernible effect in the context of world emissions. Turkey, Spain, and New Zealand, all signatories, have reported increases of up to 50%.

British scientist Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics and climate change researcher Steve Raynor of Oxford were recently cited in the journal Nature. Remarkably, whilst they urged Governments to ‘ditch Kyoto’ they did not detract from existing arguments about the seriousness of the greenhouse problem arguing instead that Governments engage in much more research through investment, rather that tightening Kyoto style caps. They added that the money be invested in clean energy research and development, a proposal consistent with the U.S. position.

There is common recognition in the U.S. that research leading to technological solutions holds the key to reducing emissions without restricting economies. This was the theme of the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change held in Washington last September and attended by representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, United Kingdom, the EU, the EC, and the UN. In total, the participating nations represented 85% of the global economy. The gathering effectively initiated a post Kyoto process for agreeing on key elements of the emission problem. The assembly offered an opportunity to discuss the viability of both current and emerging technologies and how best address funding challenges.

Among the key points proposed by President Bush were:

  • To create an international clean energy technology fund to finance projects

  • Free trade in all associated technologies through the elimination of trade barriers on clean energy goods, and services and

  • A formal recognition of the important role played by forests and the urgent need to address de-forestation.
In summary, a technology based approach that advocates flexibility, innovation, and teamwork on a global scale and, a much needed acknowledgement that our carbon soaking ecosystems (natural forests) are to be protected.
In addition, the U.S. believes each country should find it own method of address. According to Chairman Connaughton, an incentive-based approach at the federal level, combined with mandatory commitments on industries that are set at the state level is preferable to nationwide mandatory caps on industrial emissions. “We have to be careful to avoid (a) one size fits all solution”, he said. “We are seeking the same global goal with a different mix.” The U.S. is also willing to discuss aid and technology transfers to help developing nations, says Connaughton. “Let’s work with China and India as they develop their future on this.”

Not surprising many climate change commentators failed to point out both Bush’s proposed action with respect to clean energy and affordable technologies. Of note, in 2006 the U.S. budget allocated $6.5 billion to developing technologies for using Coal, Hydrogen, and nuclear fusion and renewables. It also developed a range of tax incentives for companies to develop market-based solutions to curb emissions. Similarly, this too has not been reported widely, if at all.

In response to a technology-based solution, let us consider Los Angeles in 1975, a year that saw the capital experience no less than 192 days in which the ozone levels safe standard was exceeded. This was ozone formed near Earth's surface when the ultraviolet light in sunlight triggered a chemical reaction with other pollutants as emitted by cars, power plants, and industrial sources. That is 192 days or over 50% of the year where children and the elderly were advised to stay indoors because of smog. Thirty years later, in 2005, in spite of the city’s growth and a marked increase in automobile use, the standard was exceeded on just 27 days. This was not achieved by asking the population to use tricycles or a horse and buggy, the gains were a result of technological; innovations – catalytic converters and re-formulated gasoline.

It is critical that governments hasten the development of new technologies for with every week that passes, China is building one new coal fired power station as based on old technologies; power stations that collectively bellow out more greenhouse gases that one could possible imagine.

Aside from global endeavors such as Kyoto and Bali, the U.S. senate has no shortage of options to consider as generated from within its borders. Of the nine bills that have surfaced over the past 12 months, and although none have managed to gain the interest of environmental activists, surprise surprise, one in particular warrants mention here. A bi-partisan emissions cap and trade proposal from Senators Lieberman and John Warner “projected to reduce total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 19% below the 2005 level (4% below the 1990 level) in 2020 and by as much as 63% below the 2005 level in 2050. The bill contains a robust set of measures to sustain U.S. economic growth, protect American jobs, and ensure international participation in emissions reductions”.

Whilst the bill offers the U.S. Senate another option, I would venture to add that any final agreement to curb emissions must be practical and economically responsible; one way to achieve this is to bring forward technologically based options similar to those presented in Washington last September.
I never believed that Washington would moderate its approach in Bali given that it has lost its main supporter, Australia following John Howard’s election loss recently, and am encouraged by comments made by the U.S. ambassador to Australia, Robert McCallum just last week. Mr. McCallum said the decision “of the new Labor Government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol will have no impact on America's decision not to. The new Australian Prime Minister Mr. Rudd has promised to commit Australia to the climate change agreement, but Mr. McCallum says while Australians support the policy, the situation in the US is different. In fact, contrary to public perception outside the U.S., President Bush recognizes the need to address global warming; it is just a question of details.

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addendum: What is greenhouse effect - a straightforward explanation.
The suns warmth heats up the surface of the Earth, which in turn radiates energy back into space. Some of the radiation (heat) is trapped in the atmosphere by ever-rising greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons). This trapped heat warms the lower atmosphere with some of the heat finding its way back to the surface making it warmer than it would otherwise be hence, the Greenhouse effect.