JDB Update

With all of the comings and goings with regard to the Iowa Caucuses I have been rather busy. First Sky News, then ITalk FM, then copious amounts of tweeting and now two more appointments: I will be talking with Lisa Grant this evening on Talk Radio Europe, addressing the fallout from the Iowa result and the implications for the GOP race. Listen live from 19:15 GMT this evening at: http://www.talkradioeurope.com/

Tomorrow I will be a guest on the Voice of Russia, discussing the defence cuts that President Obama is announcing today and their implications for the United States military capability. The show is recording tomorrow, and I will post once I know an air time.

I am also working on a paper addressing the use of warfare to gain and secure elected office, which I anticipate getting to print later in the year.

I hope that you have all had a great Christmas break and that you all have a wonderful 2012.

JDB and The Global Freedom Report TONIGHT

Following my ongoing work with Sky News, the BBC, LBC and Aljazeera English, I will be making a return to the American airwaves tonight.

At the kind invitation of the producers, I will be  appearing on a radio discussion panel to address the international role of the United States. I will be joined by Prof. John Mathiason of Syracuse University and by Jason Ditz of antiwar.com. The panel will be chaired by Brent Johnson, host of the Global Freedom Report on Friday, August 26 at 22.oo London time.

I anticipate a spirited and fascinating discussion of the issues at hand and the manner in which they are perceived domestically and internationally.

Focus will no doubt be on the implementation of foreign policy by President Obama compared to George W. Bush, the Special Relationship with the UK, actions in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, the degree to which the United States should be engaged in the world and how all of this will impact the forthcoming presidential election.

Click here to access the show live on the internet.

JDB and Sky News

As some of you may have seen, I was on Sky News this morning, discussing President Obama’s trip to Europe. The conversation concentrated on his initial stop-over in Eire, where he will apparently revel in his Irish ancestry. I must admit that one doesn’t really look at Obama and immediately think of the Emerald Isle, but I guess that he is just the latest in a long line of president’s claiming Irish ancestry to bolster their domestic standing with the Irish community in the United States.

I seem to remember when Obama used to be from Kenya and Hawaii? Apparently that was soooo yesterday! I know he campaigned on a platform of ‘Change’ but I didn’t think that changing his ancestry was what he had in mind.

In London from Tuesday, Obama will hold meetings at Downing Street with the PM David Cameron to discuss Afghanistan and UK/US foreign policy. Doubtless to say questions of the Special Relationship will come up, along with issues pertaining to the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Obama will be staying as a guest of Her Majesty the Queen and will also address both houses of Parliament. A press briefing is expected at the FCO. The president will be accompanied by Secretary of State Clinton who is expected to hold meetings with her opposite number, William Hague.

Suffice to say, getting around central London may be a little tricky with the heightened security this week!

I will be returning to the airwaves through the week as the president spends his State Visit here in London, so watch this space for more news.

On Obama and Osama

So, after the better part of a decade the deed is done and the greatest manhunt in history is over. Finally, questions pertaining to whether bin Laden is dead or alive can cease and more substantive questions can be addressed.

How did the operation proceed? How could bin Laden have survived so long under the nose of Pakistani intelligence? What role did the Pakistani authorities play in the operation? What condition was bin Laden in when he was apprehended? Could he have been taken alive? Why the burial at sea? Expect answers to these questions in Bob Woodward’s next exposé.

No doubt the conspiracy theories will continue and be ramped up in the coming months. No doubt Donald Trump will be seeking publication Osama’s Death Certificate as he once sought Obama’s Birth Certificate.

This is a time for contemplation as to what this means on many fronts. It would be fantastic high upon which Defence Secretary Bob Gates could stand down. It does much to bolster the reputation of the US military and its Special Forces.

Domestically the timing is remarkable for President Obama. With numerous Republicans putting their toes in the water to test for a potential campaign in 2012, the timing could not have been better. This incident appears to have inoculated Obama against charges from the right that he is soft on Terrorism. How can they complain now that he has delivered what W. was unable to produce? With few Republicans focusing on domestic issues (except to overturn health care, something local courts will no doubt manage without them) there appears to be little incentive to run. As such the stage is set for a repeat of 1992, with potential opponents choosing to sit out the race in anticipation of an unbeatable incumbent. Clearly Bill Clinton proved that not to be the case, so it will be fascinating to see who chooses to enter the fray and who decides that Obama is a shoe-in.

Obama’s re-election odds are greatly helped by the news for another reason; it further removes any chance of a challenge from within his own party. The simple, salient fact is that incumbents who avoid a challenge from their own party go on to win re-election. Those who have to fight a rearguard action for their own party’s nomination, lose. What democrat could possibly challenge Obama now, having delivered Health Care and the head of Osama bin Laden? To do so would be to redefine the word ‘churlish.’

Let us be clear, however, this is not the end of the struggle against political violence. Bin Laden was the poster boy for international bad behaviour, but a bigger fish remains to be fried; Ayman alZawahiri. Incorrectly identified as bin Laden’s second in command amongst headline writers, alZawahiri’s capture would be far more detrimental to the operational capability of those who perpetuate political violence in the name of Jihad. For more on him and his place in the history of political violence, head straight to the work of Jason Burke. A potential down side to this is that with the death of bin Laden, interest in defeating proponents of political violence will wane until the next wake up call. Perhaps we should all heed the warning of history, that ‘Eternal Vigilance is the price of freedom.’

One death does not a victory make, but today’s news is a vital, symbolic step towards a goal that was established in the aftermath of the attacks of September 2001. Somewhere, George W. Bush can smile a little wider and sleep a little easier, as his legacy becomes easier to spin.

Obama’s Greatest Possible Gift: His Potential Opponents (Part One)

Ever since John McCain and his renegade running mate lost the presidential election in November 2008, vast sections of American society have been longing for redemption in the form of electoral defeat for their unloved and in their eyes un-Christian and un-American president. In the mid-term elections, the Democratic Party received a bloody nose from its opponents, losing its majority in the House of Representatives and their super filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Much attention was paid at the time to the rise of The Tea Party (as though such a single entity actually exists. It does not) and to the visceral loathing that President Obama attracts in many parts of the nation (which he does.) Parallels were rightly drawn between the mid-term election of 2008 and the mid-term election of 1994. In both cases the Democratic majority in the House was ended after the first two years of a Democratic Administration who had promoted a radical health care agenda. In 1994 that health care agenda had failed to even make it out of the committee hearings and the Republicans romped home, taking not only the House but also the Senate. For a while this made Newt Gingrich the seemingly most powerful man in Washington. His now famous Contract with America was credited with unifying the Republican Party after its defeat in 1992 and with delivering an historic result that ultimately allowed the party to impeach the president some years later.

That however, may be where the parallel ends, for what went less noticed last November was the total lack of a Gingrich-esque figure in the Republican Party. No one individual emerged to unite the party and the Tea Party Candidates as endorsed by the former Alaskan governor, former vice presidential candidate, former beauty queen, former mayor, former this, former that, failed to sweep the board as expected. Neither did the Speaker of the House-elect, John Boehner hardly inspired confidence or exhibited great signs of leadership by bursting into floods of tears at the drop of a hat.

However, given the Democrat’s thumping at the recent mid terms, you would be forgiven for thinking that a whole host of credible candidates would be lining up to challenge for the right to contest the presidency in 2012. But you would be mistaken. Instead we have a roll call of the desperate, the deluded and the downright unelectable.

This group of misfits has started inundating the good people of Iowa in the hope of gaining the all important momentum that comes following the votes that occur there and in New Hampshire in the first days of the election cycle, which of course, don’t actually occur until January 2012. This, however, is the all-important pre-game, where the campaign is arguable won or lost, where the money game is decided and where reputations are made and discarded. Front-runner status can easily handicap candidates, perceived arrogance can derail favourites and unknown politicians from unheard of locations can emerge from, well, nowhere.

So who are these singularly unimpressive individuals who seek to challenge for the presidency? You may have heard of some of them. Indeed, when you look over the list you may be forgiven for thinking that I have made some glaring error and merely replicated the list of candidates from 2008. But again, you would be mistaken. What emerges is the fact that no one has emerged in the last four years to be a credible candidate and what makes these characters think that they will fare any better this time around, having been trounced by Maverick McCain in 2008, is anyone’s guess.

But anyway, here we go with a rundown of runners and riders and the handicaps that they face on the road to eventual humiliation at the hands of the man they view as being a Kenyan Muslim Socialist/Communist usurper yellow-belly president…

Sarah Palin

A no-show in Iowa recently, apparently replying on her front-runner status to leave an announcement to the last minute. Massive problems with this. This state is all about Retail Politics, meaning you have to press the flesh and meet the voters personally else they will think they are being overlooked. Front runner status can disappear over night here, and Palin is in serious trouble of overcooking her celebrity status.

Newt Gingrich

Sure, you remember him, famously tagged as The Gingrich that stole Christmas for forcing the last government shutdown, that led to federal employees not being paid, that led to interns filling vital roles, that led to Monica delivering pizza that led to you know what, that led to “I did not have sexual relations…” that led to “Indeed I did have a relationship that was inappropriate,” that led to impeachment, that led to a Bush victory in 2000….that led to war in Iraq. Now he’s back, with his 17th wife, umming and arring about whether to run or not. Mario Cuomo was once called the Hamlet on the Hudson for his inability to decide whether to run for the White House or not. We need a new name for Newt’s level of indecision….

Mick Huckabee

Mmm, slap that bass, Mick. With his hopes of making the bass guitar a sexy instrument about as realistic as his hopes of making it all the way this time round, Huckabee’s candidacy will make life interesting if nothing else. I mean, who wouldn’t want to vote for a creationist who believes in the threat of death panels?

Tune in next time for more on this non-event. Trust me Obama is beatable on paper, it’s just in practice that he seems so much more credible than anyone who could challenge him at this stage…

JDB Live on Talk Radio Europe Tonight at 18:20 GMT

As the station’s dedicated North American correspondent, I will be talking with Richie Allen on Talk Radio Europe’s Tonight Show, from 6.20pm London Time, that’s 7.20pm in Europe and 1.20pm in New York.

Expect to hear my thoughts and observations on a raft of issues that have arisen in the last few weeks including my take on the Republican Party candidates seeking to replace Obama in the White House come November 2012. 

Obama, U.S. foreign policy and the link with the domestic constituency are all likely be covered, so tune in if you can.

Talk Radio Europe can be accessed on the internet at www.talkradioeurope.com and you can listen live and on-line through the options available at http://www.talkradioeurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1676&Itemid=125

Meanwhile, Somewhere in Texas…

Once upon a time there was an American president. No great diplomat, he took pleasure in calling a spade a spade and was beloved by his supporters for his plain-spoken folksiness. He called ‘em as he say ‘em and left no-one in any doubt as to what was on his mind. He was a president in time of war, indeed he faced two major conflicts, one that had widespread support, one that was contentious and would contribute to his downfall. He had no illusions about using American firepower against her enemies though he could do little to prevent a free fall in the polls that saw him leave office with opinion poll ratings in the 20s.

If you still think this is a description of W. then think again. This was Harry S. Truman, whom decades later has been extolled as a ‘near great’ American president whose actions initiated the successful policies that helped ‘win’ the Cold War.

Why is any of this relevant?

What if history is repeating itself?

Consider how the events that are occurring in North Africa right now could be considered to be George W. Bush’s legacy to the world. Recall his Freedom Agenda? What was the theory behind the invasion of Iraq? To export democracy. That removing Saddam from power would give rise to a ripple effect that could lead to a democratic and peaceful Middle East.

We are not there just yet, of course. The concept of a prevailing legacy for Bush was floated before he left office, in part by my good friends Tim Lynch and Rob Singh in their text, After Bush. Not all will agree, and again I direct you to the work of Oz Hassan and his forthcoming text on the subject.

None of this is guaranteed of course, but as I indicated on Talk Radio Europe this evening, it is based on a reading of history that reveals that the past can all too often be manipulated to a political conclusion at odds with thinking at the time. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that in years to come, people will look back at the events that occurred this year and link it all back to W. and his polices that were so reviled at the time.

George W. Bush as this generation’s Harry S. Truman? You heard it here first!

JDB Live on Talk Radio Europe Tonight

I will be talking with Richie Allen on Talk Radio Europe’s Tonight Show, from 7pm London Time, that’s 8pm in Europe and 2pm in New York.

Expect to hear my thoughts and observations on a raft of issues that have arisen in the last few weeks including my take on the White House reaction to the events in Egypt and Libya.

Obama, U.S. foreign policy and the role that the British government is playing will all likely be covered, so tune in if you can.

Talk Radio Europe can be accessed on the internet at www.talkradioeurope.com and you can listen live and on-line through the options available at http://www.talkradioeurope.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1676&Itemid=125

Time to Walk, Like an Egyptian Hosni

To quote the great Scottish International Relations philosopher, Rod Stewart, it would appear that ‘tonight’s the night’ in Cairo. All reports coming out of the Egyptian capital seem to point to an imminent departure from power by President Hosni Mubarak after some 30 years in charge. 

For more than a generation he has been the strong man in the region, ensuring that Egypt holds a pro-western stance in relation to Israel and as a result has ensured that Egypt has continued to receive billions of dollars in aid and in arms from the United States following the Camp David Accords. Regardless of political affiliation, the White House has been a constant ally to Mubarak and as such, U.S. foreign policy in the region is at a potential turning point.  Speaking in Michigan this evening, President Obama was careful to reference the movement for democratic change, whilst moving on quickly to other domestic policies. Behind he scenes, however, the president continues to be kept up to date by his experts at the CIA and the National Security Council.

As the world prepares for a post-Mubarak Egypt, the White House is playing a very careful game; not wishing to be seen to be interfering, but doubtless working furiously behind the scenes with the Egyptian military and intelligence services to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. The question is, to what? Is a military coup underway as some suggest? The irony in such a thought is that Egyptian leaders have traditionally come from the military, so a military coup appears to be  something of a contradiction!

What appears clear is that at 20:00 GMT, Hosni Mubarak will face the world and make an announcement of profound importance. If he announces his departure, a new era can begin. If he delays the inevitable, the possibilities appear to be endless. What is certain is that the risk of violence and potential deadly uprisings will increase the longer Mubarak clings to power and the longer the people continue to clamour for reform. Tonight we will find out if he departs in the manner of Ceauşescu or Gorbachev. The Mubarak regime is over. The only question that remains is over the timing of its demise.

Obama’s Egyptian Dilemma

Fifty-five years ago, the United States thwarted an effort by the British, French and Israelis to secure the Suez Canal and topple an Egyptian dictator. So here we are once more, face to face with the great dilemma in American foreign policy. People seek change and an end to undemocratic rule. The leadership, desperate to cling on to power, put tanks on the street and attempt to clamp down on the mass protests. Where does America stand? As a nation born of revolution against a perceived tyrannical empire, its natural inclination is to support the masses, but as a global hegemony, it has an interest in a balance of power and fears a domino effect that could have wider and longer lasting impacts than could be perceived by the protesters on the streets.

The scenes in Egypt are alarming for so many reasons. That they follow hot on the heels of the events in Tunisia indicate that in an increasingly interconnected world, the masses will be inspired to take events into their own hands if they see the potential for change. Clearly, change has come to Tunisia. For Egypt to fall to similar tensions would be a seismic shift that should send warning signals to all nations in the region. Uncertainty is the great fear of all diplomats, who seek stability and peaceful evolutionary change, if indeed change is necessary.

Ironically, of course, ‘regime change’ was the ambition of the George W. Bush Administration, but focused on Iraq, certainly not Egypt, a nation that the US sees as a major ally in the middles east, supplying it with billions of dollars in aid and military hardware. Since the Camp David Accords Egypt has been seen as the model ally in the Middle East and vitally the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel. First Sadat and then Mubarak proved to be strong leaders capable of leading Egypt with an iron fist, albeit wrapped in a velvet glove for western consumption, surviving on a mix of tourism and US aid.

America’s great fear is what comes next: The greatest fear must be a repeat of the fall of the Shah and the rise of a theocracy, either directly or as the result of knee-jerk elections. At present this appears unlikely and the benefit to the Mubarak regime is that the protests do not appear to be coalescing around a single opposition figure. For those in Washington attempting to brief the president, the logical figure may well be Elbaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Placed under house arrest this afternoon, he may well be the one figure who could be acceptable to Washington, would signify change in Egypt and prevent the rise of more radical elements that would threaten Egypt’s standing in the west.

Reports say the military and the police are clashing and may appear to be refusing to clamp down on the protests. If Mubarak looses the military, it would appear to be all over for his regime and for his hopes to be succeeded by his son. The longer the situation goes without an appearance from Mubarak, the more isolated and removed he will appear and in such a fluid situation, perception is more important than ever.

Flights into Egypt are starting to be suspended, the Internet is being restricted and the military appears to be on the brink…For the United States, for President Obama and for the Middle East, a great deal is at stake tonight. Get it right, and a new movement for democratic change could be nurtured into existence in a series of nations. Get it wrong, and the entire region could descend into a tinderbox of strife as a new generation seek to redefine the region on their own terms, with or without American approval. The risks therefore extend to the United States and to its place in the world.

The failure of the British to succeed in what became the Suez Canal Crisis ended its aspirations to a continued empire and to the downfall of a British Prime Minister. At the White House, Obama’s in initial statement was a clear example of equivocation. Unusually it is the State Department, headed by Hillary Clinton that has come out with stronger language. If Obama appears impotent or unsure, or hesitant, he will be personally damaged on the world stage. Worse, his actions or any perceived timidity risk the long-term hegemony of the United States. I wonder how all this looks from the vantage point of Beijing?