and cheeseburgers By Pepe
A specter haunts Europe. No, it's
not communism; it's US rating agencies. Greece is
bankrupt; the eurozone is about to crack; JP
Morgan makes billion-dollar "mistakes"; there's no
(jobs) future for the new generations. And yet the
weaponized arm of the Western 0.1% elites occupies
Chicago - turned into an Orwellian police
city-state - to discuss "smart defense".
In Afghanistan, the "smart" North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) is in fact bound for a
humiliating escape. "Smart defense"
is code for "there's no
money". Only five among 28 NATO member states
spend 2% of their gross domestic product on the
military - as NATO would have it. One of them was
- surprise! - Greece. Here's yet another crash
course on weaponized neo-liberalism. First Greece
was more or less forced to buy expensive
submarines from the French and the Germans; then
it was forced to make budget cuts. Call it the
"food for subs" NATO relief plan.
pays for no less than 75% of NATO's bills - yet
another graphic demonstration of NATO as the
European arm of the Pentagon. Still, in 2011
European Union (EU) members spent no less that
$180 billion on defense. Not anymore. There's no
money. So it will be up to the Pentagon to keep it
And keep it going it will - with
relish. As expected, this Sunday in occupied
Chicago NATO approved - better yet, US President
Barack Obama and his allies "just decided" - to go
with the first phase out of four of the US missile
shield for Europe.
This means in practice
an American warship armed with interceptors
stationed in the Mediterranean, and a NATO,
Turkey-based radar system controlled out of the
headquarters in Ramstein, in Germany. The
sprawling Ramstein base is led by an American
general. Now, according to the Turkish newspaper
Zaman, a Turkish general will be his
second-in-command. This is the kind of carrot
Turkey gets for campaigning for regime change in
Those who believe NATO's spin -
this shield is not aimed at Russia, but as a
defense against "evil" Iranian missiles - may join
Alice in Wonderland. For all practical purposes,
Russian military chief General Nikolai Makarov has
already said Russia is bound to respond by
stationing short-range Iskander missiles in
Kaliningrad, near the Polish border. You can take
NATO out of the Cold War but you can't take the
Cold War out of NATO.
Medium rare, no
ketchup On Afghanistan, the White House
spin is that Obama has urged Afghan President
Hamid Karzai to "implement electoral reform, cut
out corruption and press the Taliban for a
settlement". That's beyond wishful thinking; to
believe that the corrupt-tainted Karzai system
will "reform" is like believing the House of Saud
cherishes Jeffersonian democracy. If there were to
be a semblance of "electoral reform", Washington's
allies in Afghanistan would lose every single
election. And it's the Taliban that would force
Karzai into some settlement, not the other way
So what's left to save Western
civilization? Cheeseburgers. With French - not
"freedom" - fries.
This new cheeseburger
diplomacy, sealed at the Oval Office by Obama and
new French President Francois Hollande, is
supposed to save Greece, revamp the eurozone and
reignite the US economy, just in time for the
November US presidential election. How come the
redoubtable US burger chain Five Guys never
thought about that before?
Obama calculation. If his Republican challenger
Mitt Romney gets elected in November, we are even
more screwed than we are now. I need jobs. I need
a recovering economy. I need those damned
Europeans to put their house in order. I can't sit
down here waiting for them to solve the Greek
problem; I've got an election to win.
Here's the Hollande calculation. I won my
election. I promised to deliver jobs and growth.
Now I need my coalition of the willing - for
growth; otherwise we will be run over by the
extreme right, everywhere. Mon Dieu, how
come "Onshela" - aka German Chancellor Angela
Merkel - can't understand that?
Franco-American duo, it's a win-win situation.
Hollande's economic policy is in fact Team Obama's
economic policy. They may have laid down the (new)
law to "Onshela" at the placid Camp David Group of
Eight retreat - protected from the real world by
an army that could effect regime change anywhere
in five minutes.
Problem is, neither
Barack nor Francois has briefed the God of the
Market - and European and American banks - about
it. The Masters of the Universe couldn't give a
damn about Greece the birthplace of democracy;
they want their money back.
Obama is in a
hurry. Current Italian Supreme Interventor Mario
Monti - former Goldman Sachs - may have the market
credibility to convince Berlin and the troika
(European Central Bank, European Commission,
International Monetary Fund) that either Europe
grows or there's no money to anybody. But Obama
also needs a strategic political ally. That's
certainly not austerity dominatrix "Onshela".
I'd rather have a steak The
problem is these cheeseburgers are drenched in
oil. Iranian oil. Obama is playing the hardliner
on Iran essentially for electoral reasons. Over
the next five months he might be able to steer the
debate were it not for the Europeans - following
his directive, in fact - proceeding with their
Iranian oil boycott starting on July 1. He dreads
the inevitable consequence: an oil price spike.
Then it's bye bye European recovery - duly
followed by bye bye Obama's re-election.
This is what makes the next round of talks
in Baghdad this week between Iran and the P5+1
nations even juicier. From the point of view of
Team Obama, the best possible scenario would
be…let's agree to talk some more.
would leave Obama with a window to press - through
Hollande - the necessity for Europe to forget
about the oil boycott, at least while both parts
are talking, and at least for the next six months.
After all, the ultra-harsh sanctions package
remains in place - and that is certainly biting
the Iranian population, much more than the Tehran
The only thing that matters to
Team Obama, above all else, is to guarantee
victory on November 4. Will the cheeseburger
diplomacy work? Or will Mitt Romney counter-attack
promising a "No steak left behind" policy, with
lots of Iranian ketchup?