Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It Is Obama, Not America, That Has Really Changed

President-Elect Barack Obama has virtually completed top officials for his cabinet. This is an extraordinarily rapid pace. It is noteworthy that one of the most leftist Democrats at the Senate is changing into the President of a centrist administration. Why has Obama changed so drastically?

Apparently, conservatives were infuriated with newly elected Obama just after the election. See the video below at John McCain’s concession speech. McCain is soothing his supporters’ utmost anger toward Obama, a radical liberal President-Elect.

Their outrage could have some influence on Obama. The President-Elect takes ideological and racial balance into account as he selects his cabinet members. As show in the table below, Obama’s transition is unprecedentedly rapid.

Also, I would like to show a list of cabinet candidates in the Obama administration through this link.

The Wall Street Journal points out some characteristics of the Obama administration. While the Bush team included top corporate executives from aluminum, railroad, and financial industries, the Obama team is largely devoid of business experience. Also, Obama has given key cabinet posts to those who are unfamiliar to him.
This is noticeable among his appointees to national security posts. His Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was the archrival for Democrats’ presidential nomination. Secretary of Defense Appointee Robert Gates is a member of the Bush cabinet. He has served a couple of Republican presidents, including George W. Bush. National Security Advisor James Jones worked for John McCain for in the past, and he still has close ties with the Republican candidate in the last presidential election. In other words, this is something like appointing John McCain to one position in Obama’s cabinet.

On the other hand, Obama’s liberal loyalists were appointed to lesser positions. Homosexual rights, labor, and environmental activists failed to obtain key positions, such as Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Labor, and Secretary of Environment.

Democrat activists do not complain Obama’s personnel choice in public. However, it is apparent that those who bowed and praised their savior Obama have been betrayed (“Obama Sets Fast Pace for Transition”; Wall Street Journal; December 22, 2008).

The Economist comments positively about balanced selection of cabinet members by Barack Obama. However, it raises concerns, “The trouble is that pulling in so many big names may, in time, produce rivalries that Mr. Obama will have difficulty reconciling.” (“Barack Obama: A well-stocked cabinet”; Economist; December 22, 2008)

Shortly after the election, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton left a similar comment in his article. Bolton advises Obama as the following (“Letter to the President-Elect”; AEI Online; November 13, 2008 & also, in Daily Telegraph; November 5, 2008).

Although President George W. Bush tried to make this his mantra, his administration was plagued in its first term by incoherence in national security decision-making. Crisp decisions were not made, strong differences of opinion among cabinet secretaries were not resolved, and policy too often oscillated between conflicting options with no consistency or direction.

Ironically, the Bush administration's second term erred in the opposite direction, almost eliminating differences in advice to the president until there was only one voice in his ear at critical points. You must avoid both pitfalls, and you must make that immediately clear. You must resolve disagreements among your advisers, not allow drift, and insist on discipline once you make a decision.

Yoshihisa Komori, Chief of Washington Bureau at Sankei Shimbun, points out that Barack Obama was judged the most radical liberal as a Senator by AFL-CIO (“Barack Obama’s Bright Side and Dark Side #7”; Stage-kaze Hastu; December 20, 2008).

How could he convert himself into centrist? Despite longtime experience in Washington, Komori has not found the clue to this question (“The Prospect of the Obama Administration”; December 11, 2008). I understand his puzzlement. Obama’s primary agenda is the economy, and in this area, his selection is heavily dependent on Clintonites. Komori wonders why Obama included Clintonites and Republicans in his team. Is Obama confident in addressing his own agenda of radical leftism even though he needs help by Republicans and Clintonites? Partly, it is true. But I think Obama needs help beyond his creed because he has only 3 year experience at the Senate. This implies that Obama does not have strong personal contacts to manage Washington politics.

Seemingly smooth, Obama’s transition faces difficulties in appointment of some positions. The CIA Director is a key post in the War on Terror. However, due to clashes between CIA officials and liberals who denounce Bush policies on Guantánamo prisoners (“Obama Faces CIA Appointment Dilemma”; Washington Independent; December 12, 2008), Obama has not appointed anyone to the CIA Director yet (“No One Wants to Be CIA Director Thanks To Bush”; Washington Independent; December 30, 2008).

It is Obama, not America, that has really changed. John McCain was right to soothe his supporters during the campaign that there was nothing to worry if Obama was elected. Now, the 3 year boy is leaning what the President of the United States is. This is an OJT. Will the world test Obama in 6 month as Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden said? In such a case, it is Biden himself who tutors the Boy Obama.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Review of Russian History through the Anthem

It is very important to understand the history of the country when people discuss foreign policy. National anthems can tell about the country more than hundreds of books. As Bruce Lee said, “don’t think but just feel” the country. Few nations have experienced regime changes so drastic as those of Russia, from czarist, communist, to capitalist. Even current capitalist Russia is in the process of drastic change as commented by Professor Andrei Zorin, Oxford University.

In order to feel Russia, let me review the anthem chronologically.

First, I hereby would like to introduce the anthem of czarist Russia, composed in 1830. Just watch the following video and feel it.

This is a very beautiful song. It hardly sounds national anthem. I feel this more like a hymn of Christian church. The title of czarist anthem is “God Save the Czar”, which is quite similar to that of British anthem, “God Save the Queen (or King)”. However, British anthem does not sound so religious. Apparently, it is an anthem of a modern and secular nation state of constitutional monarchy. But czarist Russian anthem sounds strongly religious.

There is nothing strange about religious tone with this anthem. Historically, Russia has a strong tie with the Byzantine Orthodox Church since Grand Duke Vladimir Ⅰ of Kiev converted to Christianity in 988. After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, Moscow Grand Duke Ivan Ⅲ married Prince Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine Emperor Constantine Ⅺ. Since then, Russian emperor inherited the chief of the Orthodox Church.

Although I am deeply moved to hear this beautiful music, I feel feudalistic backwardness of czarist Russia on the other hand. History proves it right. Alexander Ⅱ emancipated serfs so late in 1861. Russia was defeated by rapidly modernizing Japan in 1905. Czar’s army was no rival to Kaiser’s Germany in World War Ⅰ.

The second video below is the communist anthem with English subtitles. This is a mighty and impressive song. Numerous Soviet athletes stood proudly on the stage with this Leninist anthem at medal reception ceremonies in the Olympic Games.

When you read the lyric of this anthem, you will understand that it is propaganda of the Communist Party in Moscow. I am surprised to find a phrase, “Sing to the Motherland, home of the free”. Is communism free? No! Never!

However, peoples of 15 republics believed in the ideal declared in this song during the Soviet era. Also, it is important to keep it in mind that patriotism and devotion to communism were identical in the Soviet regime.

Another version of Soviet anthem in English was sung by an American singer Paul Robeson, in order to commemorate the victory against the Nazi Germany. See the video below.

This is nothing but a flattery to Josef Stalin. “Long live our people, united and free”? Stalin was one of the most dreadful autocrats in history. Even Soviet citizens felt scared to hear his name.

The Soviet Union has collapsed finally in 1991, and the anthem changed accordingly.

This anthem lacks beauty of the Romanov song and might of the Soviet song. It sounds like just a banal music, as if symbolizing shrinking power of Russia during the Yeltsin era.

When Vladimir Putin was inaugurated to the president in 2000, he restored the Soviet anthem, but changed the lyric. In the video below, you can read the lyric in English and Russian.

As you understand, communist propaganda has been eliminated. Russia has become a capitalist nation, but people yearn superpower might of the Soviet era. Strangely enough, the Russian public takes pride in both Czarist tradition and Soviet power.

The above video is the concert at the Red Square in Moscow on the Russia Day, June 12 in 2005. President-then Putin sings the anthem with Russian pop stars. In the film, you will find the Romanov emblem of double-headed eagle around the top of the arch covering the stage. In terms of ideology, the Soviet melody and the Romanov emblem are at odds each other. This is unlikely set symbolizes Russian nationalism today.

I hope videos in this post will be helpful to feel nationalism in Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin. Also, I hope them helpful to feel Russian history. Don’t think, just feel!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Realities behind the Surge of Nationalism in Russia

The Free World may have defeated communism, but have we really won the Cold War? These days, people talk about resurgence of Russia, but come to think of it, this country is still a gigantic nuclear power, roughly tying with the United States. Also, Russia has been the 2nd largest arms exporter after the United States.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, American and British economists may have preached capitalism and market economy to Russians. However, none of Western forces occupied the Russian territory to disarm the Red Army. In other words, post Soviet Russia is neither Japan nor Germany defeated in World War Ⅱ. Actually, I missed this point until quite recently, just as most of the people in the Free World.

The Economist has released a special report on Russia. This report written by Arkady Ostrovsky, Moscow Correspondent of the Economist, presents very helpful insights on a broad range of Russian foreign and domestic politics under the Putin and Medvedev administrations. Quite interestingly, Ostrovsky points out that anti-Americanism in Russia is virulent, not among unreformed communists but among successful and westernized businessmen. Let me review the special report.

Ostrovsky summarizes the current state as the following (“RUSSIA: Enigma variations”; Economist; November 27, 2008). Russia has not become free and democratic as insisted by its government. Also, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev take belligerent stances against the West: invading Georgia, and threatening to deploy short-range missiles in Kalingrad against US missile defense system in Eastern Europe. In addition, Kremlin decided to produce new submarine launched missile, named Bulava (“Russia starts production of new ballistic missiles”; Reuters; December 1, 2008). Previously, Global American Discourse quoted a comment by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the United States has stopped producing new nuclear arsenals for a long time. It is a serious challenge to the United States.

Though post-Soviet business élites in Russia have strong ties with the West, this does not deter Putin’s nationalist policy. He portrays himself a symbol of Russian patriotism rising from humiliation in the post-Soviet confusion.

Quite interestingly, Ostrovsky points out Russia’s love-hate relationship with America. He says that anti-Americanism among Westernized Russian élites is based on conviction that Russia is not different from America, both in terms of political and economic structure. They take Western preach of liberal democracy as a hypocrisy. However, new Russian élites are no less hypocritical than Western preachers. Quoting Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, Ostrovsky argues that Russian élites reject democratic governance of the West while they enjoy a Western lifestyle. According to Shevtsova, “hostility towards America and the West sustains the authoritarian and corrupt rule of the rent-seeking elite which portrays its narrow corporate interests as the interests of the nation.” Ostrovsky articulates “By imitating and repelling America at the same time, Russia tries to ward off a hostile value system that includes democracy and the rule of law.”

Professor Andrei Zorin of Oxford University comments “Russia may yet emerge as a nation state, but in the process it could also turn ugly and nationalistic.” Ostrovsky introduces viewpoints among Russian liberals that American triumphalism after the Cold War provokes nationalism in Russia, as Germans felt resented with the Allied Powers after the World War Ⅰ(“RUSSIA: Handle with care”; Economist; November 27, 2008). He argues that missile defense system in Eastern Europe and NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia invigorate hawks in Russia. The latter was a key issue at the last NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels from December 2 to 3.

Simultaneously, he points out that it is domestic politics that leads to the rise of Russian nationalism. America is a catalyst. Ostrovsky insists that current Russia is more dangerous than the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

This special report presents invaluable psychological analyses of Russia’s new élites and the public. British and American authors will not narrate so much in depth as Ostrovsky does. However, some of his commentaries sound too Russian. From missile defense to NATO expansion, inclusion of New Europe into the West is a vital agenda to restructure the security of the Euro-Atlantic region. It is necessary to be careful to read this article.

Ostrovsky explores furthermore on domestic politics and the economy of Russia in this report. Finally, I would like to introduce his audio comments through this link. Overall, this report is well-balanced to understand Russia from both Western and Russian perspectives. Therefore, I recommend this special report.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Terrorist Attack in India Poses Grave Challenges to the Next US Administration

In view of Mumbai terrorist attack on November 26, the Washington Independent has published “Obama’s First Test?: The Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai Highlight a Simmering Crisis in South Asia” on November 28. Since the attack, the relationship between India and Pakistan is turning worse. This is a critical challenge to the War on Terror in Afghanistan and nuclear non-proliferation in the Indian subcontinent.

Ever since the United States started negotiations on a nuclear deal with India, Global American Discourse has been paying attention to the Subcontinent. This blog quoted commentaries by Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, and mentioned a broad range of bilateral issues from nuclear weapons, terrorism, regional security, and the economy. Stable relations between India and Pakistan are essential for further US-Indian partnership. However, as there were Pakistanis among the terrorist attackers, India suspects some involvement of Pakistan.

The Mumbai attack reminds me of a controversial remark by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.” It seems to me that the world is testing President-elect Obama before he is inaugurated. Both India and Pakistan are frontlines against Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. Political tensions between both nuclear powers in this region undermines strategic blueprint of the United States.

At this stage, real backgrounds of this attack need to be investigated completely. Ties between the attackers and terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and Taliban are suspected.

According to Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent, the Mumbai terrorist attack poses significant challenges to US and NATO mission in Afghanistan. Currently, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has begun to demand withdrawal of Western forces while talking with Taliban leaders (“Karzai — Whoa! — Calls for a Timetable to End the Afghanistan War”; Washington Independent; November 25, 2008).

Furthermore, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington DC, has released a new report to recommend that the Obama administration renew military-oriented approaches in US-Pakistani relations by the Bush administration (“Partnership for Progress: Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region”; November 17, 2008). The report says “U.S. policy must recognize that the military component alone is insufficient to build stability and security in Pakistan,” and calls for “a diverse approach, including strengthening governance and rule of law, creating economic opportunities and exploring political negotiations” with insurgents.

The terrorist attack inflicted dreadful impacts on US strategy in this region. Thorough investigation will reveal critical network of terrorists in this region. The Bush administration has created a strategic framework in the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan. Will the Obama administration succeed in developing the framework made by current administration? Yes, Mumbai attackers test incoming administration in Washington, DC.