Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There is no Benghazi Gate, Libya is an Obama strength


Tonight's Presidential debate is on foreign policy. By all accounts the most important issue to be discussed, in terms of how it will effect the election is the so called "Benghazi Gate". Now, readers of Gubu World will know that I have been relatively neutral in this election although I have leaned toward Romney somewhat because of the debt issue. However all I can do is call things as I see them. That is why I want to do a post on the so called Benghazi controversy and why I believe it is one of the most contrived political controversies I have ever come across. Before I go further I want to stress that the reasons I am about to cite are based entirely on my own observations and instincts. I have not copied or expanded them from any other source. So let me begin.

1. Ambassador Stevens was not killed by gunfire or in an explosion. The cause of death was smoke inhalation. When I heard this the morning after his death I assumed that the building had been attacked in a violent demonstration, that it caught fire and that the ambassador was trapped. When one hears of any crime that has been committed one tends to piece together in their head what the motives and methods were. Sometimes it is clear, other times it takes a few days. In my view the mere fact that the ambassador died from smoke inhalation sufficiently explains why it took a couple of days for the administration to be clear that it was in fact an organised terrorist attack. The fact that it coincided with simultaneous protests in several other Muslim countries further muddied the waters. I do not believe there was anything sinister it the disjointed response from the administration. I do think Romney's attempt to associate the apology that came from the US Embassy in Cairo as being an Obama apology that came after the ambassadors death was in bad taste.

2. The impression I got from Ambassador Stevens was that he was not a conventional diplomat. He sneaked into Libya during the revolution and was tasked with liaising with rebels and assisting in the post Gadaffi transition to democracy. He seemed to be a fairly hands on type a guy who wanted to move freely through out Libya. I can't prove this but I would guess that he did not want to travel around Libya in a massive motorcade, nor did he want the US embassy to look like a fortress. I suspect it was part of an image he wanted to portray of America as an ally of Libya. This is my explanation for why the consulate in Benghazi looked more like a holiday villa. Of course if he requested more security he should have got it but that cannot be seriously blamed on the President.

3. The narrative from the Romney campaign is that Obama constantly blamed the attack on a youtube video because in his heart he rejects the idea of unprovoked terrorism. He is sceptical of American power and believes the US on some level brings terrorism on itself, just as the classic leftist believes. I believe that this is a fantasy. Obama did not blame the attack on the youtube video. What he did say from day one was that the attackers used the video as an excuse. This is absolutely accurate. The Republicans are claiming that the attack was entirely unconnected to the movie controversy. This is not the case. While I don't for a second deny that the fanatic terrorists who murdered the four Americans were motivated by Al Queada style anti western hatred, and that they would have committed terrorism against the US anyway, they nevertheless clearly did choose to attack at the time of the controversy in the hope that it would inspire others to sympathise with them.

4. The most important point regarding Libya is as follows. In my view Obamas wider Libya policy has been a great success. It may in fact turn out to be a spectacular success if the democratic experiment in Libya permanently succeeds. All week I have been hearing how Benghazi is a major weakness for Obama. I suspect tonight he will try to illustrate it as a strength. American military action ended the 42 year rule of Col Gadaffi. Some Republicans who still haven't realised that there is no such thing as a stable mad man, argued that they should have left Gadaffi in power because he had started to play ball on the war on terror. Taking Gadaffi down was a risk and Libya is far from stable but the electorate have chosen a moderate government and in the wake of the Benghazi attack we saw the most notable pro American demonstration to occur in an Arab country since Desert Storm. Obamas risk has paid off. The death of four Americans does not invalidate his wider action on Libya. America lost 5000 people trying to bring democracy to Iraq, in Libya they have lost four. How this is continueing to be such a negative for the President surprises me greatly. I suspect tonight that he will try to turn that disadvantage into an advantage.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

EU Deserves It


The European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The announcement yesterday has and will continue to lead to ridicule among critics of the EU and of the prize itself. Here is my view. I agree that the EU has been the greatest peace making institution in all of human history and is therefore a worthy recipient of the prize. I believe this for the following reasons. 70 years ago the European Continent was engulfed in a rampage of savagery and butchery that led to the deaths of over 35 million people. 40 years ago the European continent was still rife with dictatorship, communist in the East and military in the South. 20 years ago the European continent was faced with with brutal war in the Balkans, and the emergence of many newly independent nations in Eastern and Central Europe from the former communist block and the USSR itself. Today there are 45 countries on the European continent, all but one or two of which are solid democracies. For this spectacular transition from war and dictatorship to peace and democracy the EU deserves much of the credit.

Of course the EU does not deserve all of the credit. Many Eastern dissidents and their American supporters deserve great credit for the fall of communism as does the Catholic Church. But I have been surprised how for many this has turned into a NATO versus the EU debate. After all, most members of NATO are also in the EU. NATO undeniably was the main factor in wrestling the Soviet Union to the ground. But had it not been for the lure of democracy and prosperity that the EU provided many of the newly independent Eastern nations would have fallen under the influence of hard men of various political persuasions. And that lure was real and tangible. To be eligible for EU membership one had to satisfy the key economic indicators that makes up a modern economy. One had to have an independent judiciary, a military that was under civilian control, free elections, free media, workers rights and investors rights. The criteria to join was high. And as a result, after independence the national debates in Poland, Hungry, Checkislovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lituantia and Estonia became about satisfying those criteria. The same is true in Southern Europe after the fall of military regimes in Spain, Portugal and Greece. And perhaps most impressive of all is how those same debates are now taking place internally in Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia having already been granted membership. It is in the Balkans that we really see the EU's peace making in practical action.

Humans as we know are tribal. It is an unfortunate human characteristic but we tend to fight with our neighbours that our different. We have seen it in every corner or Europe over the centuries. We have even seen it in my own country. Most recently we saw it in the Balkans during the 1990's as the Serb, Croat and Bosnian went to war with each other with devastating consequences. While it took the muscle of American led NATO to stop the violence, it was the lure of EU membership that won the peace. But more than that, It was the EU concept of free trade and open borders within members that has led to a gradual erosion of hatred. Think about it, the Serbs are bitter because they lost territory in the war and that many of their towns and villages now lie inside Bosnia and Kosovo. This naturally serves as a nationalist rallying cry for the Serbs who want to come to the aid of their besieged brothers. The practical every day manifestation of this tension is the border. If the Serb living inside Kosovo wants to visit his relatives who live 20 miles away inside Serbia he has to jump through hoops to get there and back. Crucially however, with full EU membership comes free trade within the union. With this comes the erosion and eventually the removal of internal borders. And with the removal of the borders begins the gradual process of removing the reason for the nationalist rallying cry. Trade with each other, don't kill each other, that's the EU message. Not surprisingly the message of trade, get rich and live is much more powerful than fight, be poor and die. Of course old hatreds don't die easily, but with robust policing, a strong independent judiciary and a universal increase in living standard, the prospect of the three principal antagonists of the Balkan war living in peace, prosperity and harmony is very real. Could any other institution have achieved this?


The elephant in the room here is naturally the financial crisis. The Euro is struggling and may even collapse. The wide spread prosperity which is supposed to be central to the European project is looking dubious. But am I supposed to believe that if there was no EU there would be no debt, and no financial crisis. It is after all a global problem. I don't want to come across as an apologist for the EU. I don't like everything about the EU, particularly the EU commission and I am gradually coming to the conclusion that the Euro itself was a mistake at best, a sinister attempt to bully European nations into coming under the control of Brussels at worst. But I don't for a second think that its current financial problems invalidate its aforementioned success. And frankly, I think that any problem that I, or the Libertarian or the Socialist has with the European Union pale in significance in comparison with the success of a peaceful and democratic Europe. I sometimes get confused with right wing Americans and there views on the EU. It's like they had more respect for us when we were butchering each other. And that is the key to why I hold these views on this area. Readers of Gubu World will know that I am a World War Two enthusiast. I have read dozens of books on the conflict. But I have never fallen into the trap of thinking that it was a glorious, noble or even exciting time. It was in fact the worst thing that ever happened the human race. When I read about Normandy, Crete, Lenningrad, Malta, Anzio, the Bulge, Dunkirk, Barborossa, Arnem, Stallingrad, kursk, Berlin I am always left with a sick feeling in my stumoch that this is how it was in Europe at the time that my parents were infants. Some people don't get that. The American experience of war is totally different. The American people haven't actually experienced one since the 1860's. Putting on a uniform and travelling thousands of miles overseas is very different than seeing your home, your town, village, city and country become totally consumed by burning and killing. Hopefully in Europe that will never happen again. If the EU stays strong and democratic, I believe it never will.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Honours Even


I like this photo of President Obama watching the Vice presidential debate from Air force One. I suppose the debate was a draw. I could give my personal views but they are largely irrelevant because whether or not you liked Joe Biden's smile or found it inappropriate is entirely a matter of opinion. Likewise some found Paul Ryan's tame manner to be a sign of weakness, others found it Presidential. Again, it's entirely subjective. Biden probably succeeded in halting Obamas slide in the polls and what looked like a sea change may now just be a significant bounce. That is the most important aspect of last nights debate. The next Obama V Romney debate is massive.

Would it be worth it ??


I haven't decided yet whether I'm waiting up tonight to watch the Vice Presidential debate. I would like to because I missed most of Obamas disasterous performance last week and still haven't managed to post on the consequences of it. But I have had a hard week which included some exams, a two day wedding bash and a flu. Right now, I feel like the baby in this video. I doubt I can last another four hours. The only point I want to make now is that Joe Biden must do something tonight to change the narrative away from Obamas bad performance last week. One week later and it is still the main Presidential news story. Obama/Biden desperately need it to be something else tomorrow morning.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Rumble


I watched this on youtube today before they took it down. It's over an hour and there is a good bit of sillyness in it particularly in first ten minutes but it's worth a look all the same. It's a solid debate between two men I respect. You can still see it on the link below if you're willing to pay a fiver. Anyway my hectic wedding season is over as are my exams so you can expect full time blogging between now and the presidential election.