Today’s Foreign News that Obama Probably Doesn’t Know a Thing About…

Who can forget that interview way back in 2000 when George W. Bush was asked who was heading Pakistan? Bush dismissively answered that it was some general and that it didn’t matter if he couldn’t recall the name, because he would be surrounded by advisers who knew all this stuff.

Were you impressed then? I sure wasn’t and I’m not impressed with Obama’s “expertise” on foreign policy either. His policies and some speeches may in large part come chapter and verse straight from the party platform and he can buddy all he wants with Jimmy Carter…but that sort of “foreign policy by association” doesn’t cut it with me, especially after seeing Bush and Cheney in action. Spending a few years in Indonesia as a kid, having a dubious relationship with Odinga in Africa, and never having the curiosity to explore Europe doesn’t count either.

So, when I ask if Obama knows the name of the current Japanese prime minister it’s because I want to see his ATTITUDE when he answers. Is he going to act like Bush?

I wake up to the BBC World Service news every morning via shortwave radio and in about 5 minutes I learn more than I could ever learn from the American media. Today was a BIG NEWS DAY on at least 3 fronts–Russia, Lebanon, and, yes, Japan. Having followed a lot of the related news while churning out the World Media Watch for Buzzflash for quite a few years, the stories I heard really woke me up, fast! Because the spectre of Obama (or McCain) reacting to some of the situations reported gave me a kick in the gut.

Right off the bat, there’s Russia’s little parade that was held today. For the first time since the demise of the Soviet Union, military hardware has been featured in Moscow’s Victory Day parade.

On Wednesday, by the way, Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated as Russia’s President. But there’s no doubt that Putin is still on the scene. As reported by RIA Novosti, the Russian News and Information Agency:

The endorsement of the popular Putin ensured Medvedev a landslide victory in the March 2 elections, but has also left question marks over the nature of the president-elect’s position, with many analysts predicting that Putin will remain the real leader of the world’s largest country.

However, Putin has dismissed rumors of plans to give extra powers to the premier, saying in March that, “There is no need to change anything regarding this. The prime minister has sufficient powers.”

What are “sufficient powers”? Well, many analysts and the Russian people think Putin will still be at the center of power:

Despite all the reassurances that the Putin-Medvedev ‘tandem’ will be able not only to co-exist, but also work together, many Russian and foreign political commentators are at a loss as to explain exactly how this ‘power-sharing’ will work in practice.

However, ordinary Russians seem sure that ultimate power will remain with Putin, with more than two thirds of respondents stating in a poll carried out by the Levada Center in April that they believed the former KGB officer would “control” his hand-picked successor.

There’s no doubt that Russia will continue to work toward strengthening its position in the world, even though Medvedev, a businessman, does not have Putin’s ties to Russia’s security apparatus.

However, unlike Putin, Medvedev has no links to Russia’s ‘siloviki,’ representatives of the country’s security and defense agencies.

Despite this, Putin has already said that the West will find Medvedev, seen as a pro-business moderate, no ‘easier’ to deal with.

“He is no less, in the best sense of the word, a Russian nationalist than I am. I don’t think that our partners will find things easier with him,” Putin said, adding that, “He is a real patriot, and will actively uphold Russia’s interests on the global stage.”

So, two days after Russia gets a new President, the Victory Parade again features the military for the first time since 1990. From RIA Novosti:

A military parade involving almost 8,000 personnel, 111 sophisticated tracked and wheeled military vehicles, as well as 32 aircraft and helicopters was launched on Moscow’s Red Square at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time (06:00 GMT) on Friday, when Russia celebrates Victory Day.

Victory Day marks the final surrender by Nazi Germany to the U.S.S.R. in WWII, often referred to as the Great Patriotic War in Russia and other states in the former Soviet Union.

Moscow’s Military District Commander, General of the Army Vladimir Bakin, is running the parade, which was addressed by President Dmitry Medvedev, whose inauguration took place on Wednesday.

The parade accompanied by a large military orchestra of 550 musicians is divided into two parts, a historical and a modern. Personnel dressed in WWII uniform, carrying historical military banners, are to be followed by the passing of sophisticated military hardware, including BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, T-90 tanks, Topol-M mobile missile launchers and Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

Military hardware was last involved in a parade on Red Square on November 7, 1990. No military parades were held on the square from 1991 to 1994, and the May 9 parade in 1995 saw WWII veterans marching in central Moscow. Troops resumed their participation in military parades on Red Square in 1996.

OK, Obama, ready to go back to eating your waffle?

Oh, but not yet! Let’s talk about Lebanon! Remember that war a couple of years ago? Well, there has been nothing settled there in terms of the formation of a government –and yes, they’ve been trying to form a “unity” government–so today we find that Hezbollah now has taken control of half of Beirut!

The Daily Star out of Lebanon reports via an AFP story that:

Hezbollah gunmen seized control of west Beirut on Friday after a third day of battles with pro-government foes in the Lebanese capital pushed the nation dangerously close to all-out civil war.

“There are no clashes anymore because no one is standing in the way of the opposition forces,” a security official said on condition of anonymity.


Lebanon’s feud is is widely seen as an extension of the confrontation pitting the United States and its Arab allies and Israel against Syria and Iran, which back Hezbollah — regarded as a terrorist group by the West.

Okay, Obama, are you still bored?

Before you answer THAT question, I’m still wondering if you know the name of the Japanese prime minister. You really should know, because he and his government are following the US lead on a few things which you should know about if you talk to him anytime soon.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has rejected the use of force under Article 9 of its constitution. But the intent of this document has been eroded. In 2003, Japan sent troop to support the US in Iraq (“End of an Era as Japan enters Iraq,” The Guardian, UK):

Japan took its biggest stride yet from half a century of pacifism yesterday when parliament approved the dispatch of troops to support the US in Iraq.

The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, overrode opposition, a no-confidence motion and a late-night filibuster to ensure the passage of the legislation, which paves the way for the country’s biggest military deployment since the second world war.

Never before has Japan sent forces overseas without a UN mandate. In the past 10 years, small numbers have joined the UN’s peacekeeping operations in Mozambique, Cambodia, Zaire, the Golan Heights and East Timor.

But no Japanese soldier has fired a gun in combat since 1945, nor have any of them been killed in action because they have been restricted to low-risk activities – such as reconstruction – in safe areas.

Under the new law, however, 1,000 personnel from the self-defence force – Japan’s army – will be dispatched into a conflict. Instead of being neutral UN peacekeepers in a ceasefire, Japanese soldiers will join a US-led occupying army trying to quell a guerrilla war.

Mr Koizumi has insisted that they will only carry out non-combat activities in “safe areas”, such as securing the perimeter of Baghdad airport.

But they are likely to be seen very differently in Iraq, where no area is free from risk. American officials have also made it clear that they want their allies to carry arms and ammunition.

Today, the news is that Japan’s Diet is working to finalize a bill which will permit the country to join in the march toward the militarization of space. The Asahi Shimbun reports:

The ruling and opposition parties on Friday submitted to the Diet a bill to lift a ban on the use of space for defense purposes and allow Japan to deploy its own spy satellites.

The bill, which will give the Cabinet greater decision-making powers on overall space-related matters, passed the Lower House Cabinet Committee the same day.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, junior coalition partner New Komeito and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) plan to pass the bill in the Diet during the current session. Debate is expected to focus on the breadth of permissible activities of the Self-Defense Forces and how much authority the government will be given to keep such activities secret.

Currently, Japan’s space development programs are restricted to peaceful purposes under a 1969 Diet resolution, and the government has adhered to the principle of non-military use of space.

Well, there goes another eroding constitution! Hey, Obama, you’re a “constitutional lawyer”–what do you think? By the way, I haven’t heard your thoughts on our OWN constitution being thrown in the dumpster…

On the subject of space and the military, the Clinton Administration “said that the United States would develop and operate “space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space” only when such steps would be “consistent with treaty obligations.” (Washington Post, 20/17/2006; “Bush Sets Defense as Space Priority”)

Bush, of course, has moved beyond this position:

President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone “hostile to U.S. interests.”

The document, the first full revision of overall space policy in 10 years, emphasizes security issues, encourages private enterprise in space, and characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy.

“Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power,” the policy asserts in its introduction.

The administration said the policy revisions are not a prelude to introducing weapons systems into Earth orbit. “This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Nevertheless, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank that follows the space-weaponry issue, said the policy changes will reinforce international suspicions that the United States may seek to develop, test and deploy space weapons. The concerns are amplified, he said, by the administration’s refusal to enter negotiations or even less formal discussions on the subject.

“The Clinton policy opened the door to developing space weapons, but that administration never did anything about it,” Krepon said. “The Bush policy now goes further.”

Theresa Hitchens, director of the nonpartisan Center for Defense Information in Washington, said that the new policy “kicks the door a little more open to a space-war fighting strategy” and has a “very unilateral tone to it.”

So now Japan seems to be making moves to start jumping on the bandwagon. China and N. Korea are a big worry but Japan but until now, “high-grade spy satellites have been banned by the government”.

Passage of the bill will open the way for the SDF to possess and use satellites, particularly high-grade spy satellites, currently banned by the government. If the ban is lifted, Japan could make a missile surveillance satellite the core of the nation’s missile defense system.

Until now, the SDF had to rely on civilian-sector satellites. Although the government put into orbit an intelligence-gathering satellite after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan in 1998, the image-definition capability was limited to civilian-sector levels.

The new bill also calls for setting up a strategic headquarters in the Cabinet for space development, headed by the prime minister. The bill calls for appointing a state minister in charge of space affairs and enhancing Japan’s space industry, satellite use, scientific exploration and international cooperation. (Asahi Shimbun)

So, what’s Obama’s thoughts on all this? Is he for this move or against it? Does he plan to talk to the Japanese prime minister as he brushes up on foreign affairs? Heck, hasn’t he talked to Odinga in Kenya?

By the way, Barack, the Japanese PM is named Yasuo Fukuda.

Just in case you’re interested…

6 Responses

  1. His policies speeches may come chapter and verse straight from the party platform ?


    I don’t think that Obama’s speech in October 2002 came straight from the Democratic party platform.

  2. The one that had to be re-staged and taped for his campaign purposes?? MMMM…his votes for funding don’t quite connect with the transcript from 2002…

  3. Thnx so much for this post. I knew about the first two — missed the second entirely.

    Most interesting.

  4. I have previously contacted the DNC Howard Dean, Chairman.. You sir and the DNC must rectify this situation you put us in, as it stands in Florida.. we are too many voters for you and the DNC to try and force this state into a caucus. These so called caucus are a farce no matter what anyone says they are not democratic.

    Hillary deserves Florida and Michigan (the voters have spoken)! The DNC’s (Howard Dean) needs to get the story straight! We live in Florida and WE did vote (just as the Michigan voters). This is not about race… we agree that Hillary has more experience and ability to get this country back on track. We are sick of hearing the word “change” backed up with no concrete answers or plan. Obama echoes every stance Hillary already believes in (except for the mandate of Healthcare). When Hillary gets the delegates of Florida and Michigan, they were earned, not stolen. If individuals want to ride this Obama “change” cult revival… we are in serious trouble. Obama did run ads in Florida and they were on CNN; Hillary still won the primary. In Michigan he and John Edwards instructed their supporters to vote uncommitted and removed their names of the ballot, something they did not need to do. So let the Florida votes stand as is and the Michigan votes for Edwards and Obama should be combined so they can go to Obama, Clinton is still the front runner. Fair and square! If the Democratic party wants fairness this is as simple as it gets. Drink your medicine Howard and keep smiling because the Party is self imploding

  5. President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone “hostile to U.S. interests.”

    Who advises him to do this garbage?

    It’s as if this country is led with all the vision of a Hezbollah guerilla.

    We’re the US, we’re smarter and better, for a reason.

    Except for the neocons, apparently,


    PNAC is now defunct and they would like to take their incriminating website off the Internet but it still can be googled.

    Advises Bush? How about instructs?

    Did he suddenly become cerebral when he became President?

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