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It's our UN party
A grandstanding Tea Party Republican last week sponsored a senate bill demanding that Iran rescind Hamid Aboutalebi as its choice for its envoy to the United Nations. Yet, Iran has a sovereign right to choose whomever it wants to represent it at the UN, just as Texans have the right to choose whatever Ivy League meathead they want to represent them in congress. - John Feffer (Apr 17, '14)

CULTURE
Rockefeller rebooted for Asia's century
As pioneers of US-China cultural and business collaboration, the Rockefeller family would probably approve of plans by the Asia Society to create a think-tank that will develop "solutions for the Asian century". The society was founded by John D Rockefeller III at a time when most Americans perceived Asia as a region of poverty, disease, overpopulation and war, and while the oil magnates saw Asia as home of immense potential. - Dinesh Sharma (Apr 17, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Breaking bad in
southern NATOstan

Joie de vivre and fine wines won out as the Roving Eye and Roving Son spurned NATO's anti-Russian paranoia in Brussels in favor of breaking out to Provence. The road passed through towns strong in culture and artisan delights yet paved with malaise, revealing why - at a time China and Russia are forging ahead with mega-deals - locals in NATO's southern territory view its economic march with Van Goghian apprehension. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 15, '14)

Asia bucks military spending decline
Factors including China's military modernization, India-Pakistan rivalry and America's "Pacific pivot" all combined to help Asia raise military spending in 2013. The US weapons industry appears to be the main beneficiary, and continuing tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and territorial disputes suggest the upward trajectory is unlikely to slow anytime soon. - John Feffer (Apr 15, '14)

US veterans promote 'right to heal'
Recent shootings of soldiers at Fort Hood and other US military bases and rising suicide rates among American troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are inexorably linked to the wars. Now, veterans are holding the US government accountable for innocent victims on all sides of the fighting. - Phyllis Bennis (Apr 15, '14)

Broken-down US could go any minute
Leaking chemical dumps, creaking infrastructure, deep-water drilling rigs and 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel scattered across the country. Americans don't need to look abroad for their next nightmare - it's all around them, in a vast array of dangerous facilities that need to be maintained, regulated and in many cases cleaned up. Meanwhile, budgets are cut to the bone. - Emanuel Pastreich and John Feffer (Apr 11, '14)

How many watch lists
on head of a pin?

Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University, could not reenter the US to finish her studies thanks to being put on a "watch list"; nor could she even attend her subsequent trial and speak in her own defense. Her story became an increasingly common epic of bureaucratic and "security oversight" insanity. - Peter Van Buren (Apr 7, '14)

New US reality: Empire beyond salvation
After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, US Secretary of State John Kerry has acknowledged the latest setback to be a "reality check" for the Palestinian peace process. But for the Americans, the last few years have been less a "reality check" around the globe, more the new reality itself. - Ramzy Baroud (Apr 7, '14)

'Saudi America' faces a barren future
US media intoxicated with the idea of a fracking-based surge in domestic oil and gas production are already envisioning a new era of world domination. However, dreams of regaining energy independence could be deflated by the realities of the severe climate change coming the world's way - especially as devastating shifts can only be halted by sharp reductions in carbon emissions. - Michael Klare (Apr 4, '14)

Top court lets the cash flow in US politics
The US Supreme Court ruling this week that there will no longer be a limit to the total that one individual can spend on federal election campaigns said that campaign spending is a constitutionally protected right. Critics said the ruling will give a handful of super-rich Americans - the country's "oligarchs" - the ability to buy the US political system. - Jim Lobe (Apr 4, '14)

The Pentagon’s mystery missions in Africa
About the only thing the US military will admit about its operations in Africa is that there are a lot of them - more than one per day last year, in countries across the continent. Pentagon-speak like “security cooperation activities” could cover anything from training allies to air strikes or kidnapping jobs on Washington’s perceived enemies. And reporters are rarely invited along when AFRICOM swings into action. - Nick Turse (Mar 31, '14)

INTERVIEW
Wang Ping and the kinship of rivers
Chinese poet and activist Wang Ping's most recent project aims to create a sense of connection between the peoples of the Yangtze and Mississippi River valleys - she grew up on the Yangtze's banks and now teaches along the American river. An exploration of immigration, migration, and environmental issues, the project saw Wang take an inspirational journey down the Yangtze's length with 2,000 flags. - Susan Scheid (Mar 28, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Asia will not 'isolate' Russia
Envy the fly on the wall in The Hague when cool Xi Jinping met Barack Obama, pivoting around himself because China and the rest of Asia will not "isolate" Russia. China is Russia's strategic partner and along with Japan and South Korea (essentially US protectorates) identifies more with a steady supply of oil and gas, and business deals struck in Moscow, than helping stir an anachronistic Western-provoked New Cold War. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 25, '14)

The uses of Ukraine in crisis
The crisis in Ukraine and Russia's de facto absorption of Crimea are providing lots of opportunities for interests in Washington to push their favorite causes. Republicans and those in the military-industrial complex employ the Cold War chills predictably to attack President Barack Obama, while US energy companies see the crisis as a chance to rebalance US gas exports - now mostly to Asia - in order to cut Europe's dependency on Russian supplies. - Jim Lobe (Mar 25, '14)

US and India are brothers in arms
Relations between the US and India continue to be defined by mutual mistrust rather than the shared ground that is their British colonial past, multicultural societies and federal structures. America doesn't have so much in common with other Asian powers, yet Washington continues to display a lack of patience towards its South Asian brother and this is sabotaging the dynamic's potential. - John West (Mar 25, '14)

Relations between the US
and India continue to be defined

by mutual mistrust rather than the shared ground that is their British colonial past, multicultural societies and federal structures. America doesn't have so much in common with other Asian powers, yet Washington continues to display a lack of patience towards its South Asian brother and this is sabotaging the dynamic's potential. - John West (Mar 25, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Gains for China, India in new cold war
China and India stand to gain significantly from the crisis in Ukraine if they can cherry-pick advantages presented by competing courtships of the United States and Russia. Both must, however, avoid the temptation to gather low-hanging fruit, when with careful climbing, quality produce can be harvested from higher up the tree. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 25, '14)

JOHN PILGER
Australia still 'breeding out the color'
Australians like to believe that the country's repugnant record of "assimilating" Aborigines is ancient history. Not for Pat, who had her young child taken away by family-services officers who decided she wasn't a fit mother. They are part of a racist and punitive bureaucracy that can split indigenous families on the basis of hearsay. (Mar 24, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Sanction me
baby one more time

Sanctions salvos from the West in the war-as farce over Russia's annexation of Crimea are coming in thick and fast. Sanctioned Russians, however, are not exactly quaking in their made-in-London brogues: the practical impact of sanctions on them is exactly zero. As Moscow returns fire by announcing it will play hardball - Western geopolitical interests and Europe's dependency on Russian energy supplies make easy targets. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 21, '14)

COMMENT
Asia: The elephant versus the shark
The Obama administration's nebulous "Pacific Pivot" is setting the stage for a superpower conflict with China and will make it more difficult than ever for countries of the region to stay neutral. US-China rivalry in East Asia will become like an epic contest between the land-bound elephant and the sea-swimming shark: Their attempt to grapple with one another will create a sheer hell for everyone within proximity. - Lawrence Wilkerson (Mar 21, '14)

The death of revolution
Revolution is alive and well in many parts of the world, but has lost its will to power in the United States, where it is past its sell-by date as a noun. As an adjective, that's another matter, since few have time for care about political change when it takes all there is to stop oneself drowning in a flood of revolutionary technology and messages to aspire for "more". - Lewis H Lapham (Mar 19, '14)

HOSSEIN ASKARI
Sanctions help US feel better, no more
Clear messages emerge from the American fanfare that has accompanied the "most comprehensive" sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War and the drumbeating preceding it: aggression is accepted if it doesn't threaten US economic interests, there is no morality in foreign policy, and sanctions are just for keeping up appearances. (Mar 18, '14)

DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
By the way, your
home is on fire

Given a choice between their bottom lines and the fate of the Earth, US corporations have chosen to deny increasingly clear scientific evidence of climate change. As energy firms launch multi-pronged efforts to prevent fossil fuel divestment, the planet is nearing the upper temperature limit of an inhabitable planet. Executives may have enough money to burn, but soon their world will catch light too. - Rebecca Solnit (Mar 14, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
The Rocky punch in US foreign policy
When US Secretary of State John Kerry invoked an anti-Russian Hollywood movie to implore a Russian leader to heed US warnings over the Russian putsch in Ukraine, he displayed the lack of self-awareness that is stamped all over US foreign policy. Rocky IV was a masterpiece of political propaganda, and a showcase for the absurdities of faith in American exceptionalism. - Issa Ardakani (Mar 12, '14)

Obama: The publicist-in-chief
Barack Obama's "magical" ascent to the Oval Office gave him a strong belief in the power and significance of his own words. But, by leading too far from the back, his convictions have faded. In the absence of a performance to match grand promises, it is growing less clear how Obama will define this presidency and his legacy. - David Bromwich (Mar 11, '14)

The Pentagon's phony budget war
Washington's coffers to fund the war in Afghanistan are filling up even as the US military prepares to withdraw. That's just one aspect of the smoke-and-mirrors game that is the US military budget and the fiction that American forces are being held hostage to cuts in funding. Despite the cries of "sequestration" injustice, the Pentagon has seen few actual reductions.
- Mattea Kramer (Mar 7, '14)

Missing in action in world at boiling point
Take a look around and you'll see a world at the boiling point. From Ukraine to Syria, South Sudan to Thailand, Libya to Bosnia, Turkey to Venezuela, citizen protest (left and right) is sparking not just disorganization, but what looks like, to coin a word, de-organization at a global level. What is more or less absent - effectively missing in action - is outright war. - Tom Engelhardt (Mar 3, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Unrealistic ethics shape foreign policy
From critical decisions on US American intervention in Syria to debate over preventing genocide in Rwanda, policy approaches in Washington by both liberals or realists typically rely on beautifully coherent concepts rather than a hard-edged appraisal of facts on the ground. The self-interest of government agencies, budget battles and political rivalries only bolster this intellectual distortion. - Gary Wasserman (Feb 28, '14)

COMMENT
A spring-song for the 'Pacific president'
Barack Obama, the United States' self-proclaimed "first Pacific president", must now decide if he wants to fulfill that legacy by leading the US to new levels of engagement in the Asia-Pacific. His place in history is not only on the line, but also his country's national security and economic future. Obama has a spring-window of opportunity to shift the US from anachronistic and self-absorbed thinking. - Ernest Z Bower (Feb 28, '14)

The Clark Kent president
Americans can consider themselves as having two presidents rolled into one man. One can never get what he wants on the home front; the other flies (by drone) like Superman and can intervene wherever he wants. Barack Obama's is a schizophrenic presidency, one half remarkably impotent, the other ever more potent. - Karen J Greenberg (Feb 28, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Unrealistic ethics shape foreign policy
From critical decisions on US American intervention in Syria to debate over preventing genocide in Rwanda, policy approaches in Washington by both liberals or realists typically rely on beautifully coherent concepts rather than a hard-edged appraisal of facts on the ground. The self-interest of government agencies, budget battles and political rivalries only bolster this intellectual distortion. - Gary Wasserman (Feb 27, '14)

COMMENT
A spring-song for the 'Pacific president'
Barack Obama, the United States' self-proclaimed "first Pacific president", must now decide if he wants to fulfill that legacy by leading the US to new levels of engagement in the Asia-Pacific. His place in history is not only on the line, but also his country's national security and economic future. Obama has a spring-window of opportunity to shift the US from anachronistic and self-absorbed thinking. - Ernest Z Bower (Feb 27, '14)

COMMENT
US creates a power vacuum in Asia
For the countries of Asia, China's presence is a matter of "geographical fate" whereas the US "rebalancing to Asia" gives the Obama administration the opportunity to pivot at will. It is little wonder therefore that close monitoring of Washington's every move raises concern. The US president deems international politics a "space for possibilities", but the perception that his country is actually withdrawing is creating a power vacuum that will increase instability. - Nakayama Toshihiro (Feb 26, '14)

COMMENT
Nuclear disarmament, the state of play
If psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, the present status of nuclear disarmament can best be described as psychotic. US policy on nuclear disarmament is at best a mixed bag and that of the other eight nuclear-armed powers is not much better. The good news is that last year saw more encouraging action by non-nuclear powers than most previous years. - Peter Weiss (Feb 26, '14)

US adopts Israeli demand on Iran's missiles
The United States is insisting that Iran discuss its ballistic missile program in talks for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, even as history suggests it knows Iran will not accept the stance and that it is not necessary to guarantee that Tehran's atomic program is not used for a weapon. The demand, however, brings Washington into line with a pro-Israeli position aimed at torpedoing the negotiations. - Gareth Porter (Feb 24, '14)

T-10 - or Ukraine in a test tube
Ukraine's crisis, which developed from a simple protest to regime change and perhaps eventually a full-blown civil war, highlights humans' inability to assess the potential evolution of events from the ordinary to revolutionary sea-changes. Predictions of how such events might progress would be less contradictory if thought were given to such simple cases as the growth of bacteria in a test tube. (Feb 24, '14)

Vietnam: A butchered memory of war
Counterfeit history is in your future, if the US government's official 50th anniversary account of the war in Vietnam is any guide. From the Tonkin Gulf Incident to the My Lai massacre, the Pentagon is still butchering that war. The online memorial is the Pentagon's latest "Mission Accomplished" moment and a lesson in how not to remember a war. - Nick Turse (Feb 19, '14)

Drone killing the Fifth Amendment
Top American officials proudly leak details about ongoing efforts to use drones to assassinate suspected terrorists - the most recent case being the prospective killing of an American citizen and suspected "al-Qaeda facilitator" in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan. Yet there seems to be little interest in the US about the transformation of the White House into a killing machine. - Peter Van Buren (Feb 18, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
The new US-Russia Cold War
There's never a dull moment in the New Great Game in Eurasia. One day, it's the implications of Washington's "pivoting" to Asia, and the next it's the perennial attempt to box Russia in, as in belittling all things in the Sochi. Yet US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's verbal salute to the European Union over the Ukraine is way more serious as a sign of opportunistic US "strategic thinking", and will elicit a muscular response when Vladimir Putin swings back into action after the Winter Olympics. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 14, '14)

US pledges restraint in arms bazaar
The Barack Obama administration regularly touts the role of US officials in promoting the country's arms sales, worth US$60 billion in transfer agreements last year alone, with little apparent concern over where the arms eventually end up. Administration officials now say promotion is only one side of its approach to arms transfers, and a recent policy directive includes a pledge to show restraint. - William Hartung (Feb 14, '14)

JOHN PILGER
War and forgetting on Jeju Island
The Korean peninsula has an unrecognized distinction as the place in which the US turned itself into "an archipelago of empire" from the smoldering ruins of war. Atrocities such as a massacre by US-supported militia on Jeju Island were the "forgotten" prelude to war in 1950, and now, as islanders protest against the building of a US base there, will the threat to all of us posed by US missiles trained on China be "forgotten" too? (Feb 13, '14)

US blind to barbs in Japan defense plan
The United States is supporting Japanese plans for "collective self-defense", which are described as the biggest shake-up in relations since World War II and would permit Tokyo to manage its own security ties with Asian allies. The US believes the plans ensure Tokyo's loyalty to Washington while keeping Japan's military ambitions constrained by the pacifist constitution. This ignores the instrument's potential uses against China. - Peter Lee (Feb 13, '14)

Truth and dare
in US aid to Israel

Foreign aid is normally a hot-button topic in Washington, especially for cost-cutters, yet the fact that Israel has been the largest beneficiary of the US foreign aid budget - almost all of it is military - receives little attention. Israel got $3.1 billion in US military aid in 2013 - from tear gas to F16s, Apache attack helicopters to "bunker defeat" munitions - but it all makes little sense in terms of solving the endless crisis in the Middle East. - Chase Madar (Feb 10, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
The NSA does the 1980s
It was 1986, the year that the Michael J Fox blockbuster Back to the Future still felt fresh, when "Artificial Intelligence" was beginning to leap from sci-fi mags and into military laps, and the Japanese were still coming. In hallowed laboratories throughout the United States, Emmet Brown-like but minus the time-travelling DeLorean, the brightest minds were sketching visions of a human universe that have spooky parallels in the NSA today. - Pepe Escobar (Feb 6, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Fear strikes echoes of 1914 in Asia
History will probably not repeat itself as a war between China and the United States, but some comparison between events in pre-1914 Europe and a growing conflict mentality in Asia shows that the classic elements of fear and misunderstanding are strikingly present - and suggests ways to reduce the tension. - Andreas Herberg-Rothe (Feb 6, '14)

COMMENT
A papal challenge to an Islamic conundrum
Fundamentalists and communists across Asia who point to exploitative Western powers as proof of democracy's inherent evil have no similarly strong argument against the Vatican's universal calls for greater social justice and equality. The voice of the pope can show moderate Muslims that there are more choices in life than simply between colonialists and extremists. - Francesco Sisci (Feb 5, '14)

Abe leads the 'contain China' two-step
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has changed costume to promote his "contain" China initiative, metaphorically dressed in the military regalia of 1914 at Davos and later redressing in sheepish clothing. While it looks like everybody's ready to join Japan in standing up to China (except perhaps that Chamberlain in VPOTUS clothing, Joe Biden), they can only expect more surprises in the evolution of the Japanese security posture. - Peter Lee (Jan 30, '14)

The US pivot: Rebalancing as retreat
Presented as a forceful reassertion of American power in the Asia-Pacific, the Obama administration's "pivot" is more likely a shell game designed to mask an accelerating decline in regional military influence. Although essentially a cosmetic plan, the Pacific realignment has "worked" so far because for disparate actors - from China to Vietnam and the Philippines - its a useful provocation to believe in. - John Feffer (Jan 30, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
The real State of the Union
The American Dream is not in a coma. So said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address. The spectacle of the grand, old Hollywood production - and a nod to inequality for (nearly) all - is not a potent enough smelling-salt to dispel the surreal nature of the Bush-Obama continuum and its odiferous foreign policy absurdities. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 29, '14)

US rhetoric ignores Iran nuclear proposals
A narrowing of Iranian flexibility in the next step of international negotiations will be the inevitable consequence of the Obama administration's repeated and erroneous claims that Tehran will be required to "dismantle" parts of its nuclear program. While Washington views the rhetorical demand as a minimum sop to Israel, it represents a serious provocation to a government in Tehran that is accused at home of an act of surrender. - Gareth Porter (Jan 27, '14)

US urged to rethink Af-Pak conflation
A Washington think tank hasis urging the Obama administration to drop the term "Af-Pak" and regard Pakistan relations as more important strategically than a current focus on the Afghan security question. The Council on Foreign Relations, noting the label is seen in Pakistan as degrading, says a revised view as the end-2014 deadline for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches would advance US interests in Asia. - Ramy Srour (Jan 24, '14)

COMMENT
1914 revisited
Some political scientists argue that China cannot "rise" peacefully. While it is enthralling to compare US-Sino strains caused by China's aggressive stance in Asia to the geopolitics that were tinder for the fires of World War I a century ago, one should be wary of analysts wielding historical analogies, particularly if they have a whiff of inevitability. - Joseph S Nye (Jan 22, '14)

Scandal machine keeps on turning
The story of the NSA revelations, placed in the context of the history of American spying, emphasizes how the agency offers Washington a cut-rate way to project power in an age of growing austerity - and it has proven irresistible to two administrations. The song remains the same from 1898 in the Philippines to J Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s to today: surveillance has always been focused on the harvesting of scandal and the use of blackmail. - Alfred McCoy (Jan 21, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
We are all living
Pasolini's Theorem

The real cause for the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975 has never emerged. The words of this poet, painter, writer and filmmaker remain alive and prophetical. His critique of the then new generation of alienated Italian youth - "fragile, brutish, sad ... " - can easily explain their modern counterparts: the cross-border Islamic youth who joins a jihad in desperation. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 17, '14)

Secret wars and
black ops blowback

The Obama administration has overseen the reorganization of the Global War on Terror as a vast secret operation of unrivaled proportions. It now oversees a planetary surveillance network of staggering reach and the spread of a secret military spawned inside the US military that is now undergoing typically mindless expansion on a gargantuan scale. What could possibly go wrong? - Nick Turse (Jan 17, '14)

BOOK REVIEW
Doing soft time in US prisons
The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice among the Worst of the Worst
by Robert Blecker
The American prison system offers far too pleasant a daily existence for long-term inhabitants such as rapists and murderers, according to death-penalty advocate Robert Blecker, who suggests an alternative where serious offenders face either execution or life sentences in the strictest lockdown. Yet his demands that violent prisoners suffer are undermined by the humanity in his interactions on death-row. - Jim Ash (Jan 17, '14)

Israel lobby thwarted in Iran sanctions bid
President Barack Obama has overcome a bid by the Israel lobby and its most powerful constituent, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to pass a new sanctions bill to block rapprochement with Iran. The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 has stalled in the Senate, with Democrats backing Obama after Sunday's successful conclusion of an implementation agreement following November's historic international deal in Geneva. - Jim Lobe (Jan 16, '14)

Surveillance myths debunked
Defenders of the "intelligence" world like to say, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", while claiming the state surveillance system has stopped untold terror plots. Take a tour of the dark labyrinth of the defenses of the NSA, and the bumper-sticker slogans and notion of the "legality" of the spies who steal our privacy are revealed as bunkum. - Peter Van Buren (Jan 15, '14)

Russia needs the US in Afghanistan
Russia's need to ensure that Afghanistan remains a buffer state between it and the Islamic world will see unprecedented support lent towards American plans to remain encamped there. Moscow knows US bases can be used for running spies and influencing Afghan policy, but the specter of Islamic insurgency - glimpsed in recent suicide blasts in Volgograd - leaves it with little choice. - Salman Wattoo (Jan 15, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Reliving Machiavelli
in Florence

A freezing evening at the dawn of 2014 in Florence brings to mind Machiavelli looking on at the burning of Savonarola, a popular puritanical Dominican preacher who was put to death after upsetting the Florentine merchant classes. Machiavelli lived in a Florence under the Medici, so he understood the nature of the (rigged) game and that, with every failing republic, the real rot comes from within. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 14, '14)

Asian conflict 'ayes' have it wrong
Ask a Western-based think tank and it will say a clutch of indicators point to conflict breaking out in Asia this year. The conflict "ayes" may be rightly concerned about the factors, such as territorial disputes, that produce tension, but Asians are on a curve of hope and crave peaceful development, not war. It is therefore important not to exaggerate the potential impact of the threats. - Namrata Goswami (Jan 10, '14)

SPENGLER
Common traits bind Jews and Chinese
It may seem odd to compare the largest of peoples with one of the world's smallest, but Chinese and Jews have something in common that helps explain their success and longevity; the ability to transcend tribalism through a unifying civilization. It should be no surprise that they have enemies in common. (Jan 10, '14)

The black-ops blackout
Since 9/11, a secret military has been gestating inside the US armed forces. The US Special Operations Command has grown at a startling pace, and as leaders of the special ops keep their expansionary dreams secret, they spread their tentacles in the shadow of Washington's urge to control the globe. - Nick Turse (Jan 9, '14)

America: Hooked on hegemony
China expects the United States to gravitate towards a "balance-of-power" arrangement in Asia that recognizes the benefits of Washington occasionally siding with Beijing to moderate the destabilizing actions of Japan and other Asian countries excessively emboldened by the US "pivot". This assumption rests on US reasonableness in the Pacific in late 2013 that was actually motivated by convenience and tactics. American containment is still doomed to create a fatal flashpoint. - Peter Lee (Jan 8, '14)

COMMENT
The importance of Asia
At the close of 2013, still early in what many see as Asia's century, there is cause to rejoice at how well the region is doing on several counts, not least the spread of prosperity even as some of Asia risks regressing into needless conflict. One way to try to avoid disaster is to create and hold fast to a sense of something bigger and more important - a vision of unity across a fractured landscape.
- Aidan Foster-Carter (Dec 23, '13)

SPENGLER
What is musical style?
Mendelssohn's Instrumental Music: Structure and Style
by Erez Rapoport
Chopin's complaint that most pianists resemble actors who have memorized lines phonetically in a foreign language they don't understand will strike a chord with many learners. Simply, they may lack the cultural expectations to make sense of the sequence of events they are experiencing. Erez Rapoport's posthumously published work may not be for them, but advanced teachers will be among those who will appreciate this work and the author's rare insight into "style". (Dec 23, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
God's magic bullet of fate
If the philosopher St Augustine's vision of a God who "stood above time" was correct, then God would have had foreknowledge more than 13.8 billion years ago about John F Kennedy's fate in 1963. If Dutch thinker Spinoza's destiny theory is also on target, it was pre-determined that years later Ronald Reagan would survive his assassin's bullets. - Myint Zan (Dec 23, '13)

Best medicine for the darkness
On days when news moves briskly from bad to worse, laughter is a tonic to take us through our gilded age without total loss of joy, to give a little distance on what passes for reality. Lewis Lapham, in this adaptation from the Winter issue of his remarkable magazine, Lapham's Quarterly, grabs his Mark Twain and steps directly into the darkness. (Dec 20, '13)

Parading America's child soldiers to war
The United States condemns recruitment of child soldiers in Africa and Southeast Asia, yet its own Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps is structured to convince youths from vulnerable minorities that military service is the only escape from a "troubled" past. Methods may be different from Charles Taylor's in Sierra Leone, but the militarism, glorification of violence and seeding of bigotry are similar. - Ann Jones (Dec 17, '13)

The great American class war
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once cautioned that America was surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle for justice for the poor, for members of minority groups, for the criminally accused ... for the urban masses. Some two decades on, and 150 years since Lincoln referred to "the great task remaining", Brennan's words are more true than ever. - Bill Moyers (Dec 13, '13)

The twilight of leadership
With the death of Nelson Mandela, the world is lamenting not just the passing of a great liberator but the era of great leaders. Modern society has become too complex for any one person to master, and we don't really like the more pedestrian politicians and colorless technocrats with which we have been saddled. - John Feffer (Dec 12, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Mandela leaves behind a troubling legacy
Nelson Mandela's place in history, thanks to his role in helping to end apartheid, looks assured, and his passing is genuinely mourned by millions of South Africans. His legacy, however, is another matter, with economic apartheid still a harsh reality, disparities between black and black widening even as those between white and black have narrowed. (Dec 12, '13)

COMMENT
Expanding scandal of the Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Committee has failed to respect Alfred Nobel's will and true intentions, with Norwegian politicians using the peace prize for years in order to pursue their own ideas and purposes, says Fredrik S Heffermehl, Norwegian lawyer and author of The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted. (Dec 11, '13)

Genocide and the 'national interest'
The most frequent explanations for the United States' failure to prevent genocide concern a lack of national interest or political will. While both have been influential, a more honest account would acknowledge a history of American complicity in backing genocidal regimes, including in Myanmar and Bangladesh. - Jeff Bachmann (Dec 10, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
A bunch of sexy, badass patriots
Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, by Erik Prince.
Driven to "serve God, family and the United States", ex-SEAL Erik Prince made Blackwater into "the ultimate tool in the war on terror". His account of "performance excellence and driven entrepreneurialism" has been severely holed by US censors and his company reduced to shepherding diplomats. But make no mistake - with or without Blackwater, "surrogate armies" are the future. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 6, '13)

Nelson Mandela - 1918-2013
The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95, after a prolonged period of deteriorating health, was long anticipated, yet it has left much of the world far beyond South Africa with a deep sense of loss. While political leaders sing their official praises of a man who was more than their peer, it is perhaps ordinary people who will most regret his passing, and no more so than in his beloved home country. (Dec 6, '13)

Welcome to the digital memory hole
That almost every action and word is logged digitally in today's world seems like a boon for whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden. But as our near future sees control of the Internet increasingly centralized in the hands of the few, this will mean that all traces of a whistleblower's life can be deleted in seconds. - Peter Van Buren (Dec 6, '13)

Forwarding the American way
Americans puzzled by the intricacies of their country's way of war are simply blind to the needs presented by the complex system of international diplomatic etiquette. When it comes to leaving conflicts with dignity, or figuring who are the "real" existential threats to the American way, matters are best left to the US's all-knowing and all-seeing military. - Colonel Manners (Dec 4, '13)

US shift in motion from Tehran to Tokyo
From the Middle East to the East China Sea, last week's events offered a particularly vivid example of the much-heralded shift in United States policy priorities under the Barack Obama administration. President Obama is determined to free the US of military commitments in the Greater Middle East to deploy resources in Asia. - Jim Lobe (Dec 2, '13)

THE SAKER
US diplomatic iceberg spotted near China
The tip of the immense iceberg of US diplomatic stupidity has been spotted off the Chinese coast with President Barack Obama's decision to mock Beijing's decision to extend its air defense zone by flying in two B-52 bombers. Imagine for a second that the Chinese had shot them down. Instead sanity prevailed, and China will bide its time to respond. (Nov 27, '13)

INTERVIEW
Intelligence services and democracy
Annie Machon, the former UK intelligence operator who resigned to reveal criminality within the intelligence services, discusses with Lars Schall the relationship between those services and democracy (and Fascism), their limited success in combating "terror", and the extent to which profiteering is part of their modus operandi. (Nov 27, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
US-Iran: The ever-spinning deal
The deal carved out in Geneva at the weekend between international powers and Iran is far from definitive, but gets the ball rolling for the "real deal" to end the oil and banking blockade of Iran. That's if the brigades of assorted hysterics don't manage to succeed in pushing the ball back uphill. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 25, '13)

Public warms to green revolt
Anti-nuclear chants in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and the full-scale challenge to Chinese government authority in the 2012 protest over construction of a petrochemicals plant in Ningbo are among positive rebellions that demonstrate it is in people's hands to see that a green energy revolution arrives ahead of a human-created apocalypse. - Michael T Klare (Nov 19, '13)

US digs a security black hole
US spymasters believed that operating at the technological frontiers of surveillance and cryptography would hand them universal knowledge needed to grasp to universal power. However, not only has storing endless tweets, social network interactions and phone calls proved useless in influencing global actors and winning wars, the surveillance system they created with trillions of tax dollars has itself become a security hole. - Tom Engelhardt (Nov 14, '13)

BOOK REVIEW
Hell on the home front
They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story by Ann Jones
Piercing the patriotic silence of US soldiers returning from Afghanistan, this unwaveringly human narrative reveals how physical and mental wounds mercilessly torment combatants and their families. No screed against US foreign policy, the book instead uses brutal examples of destroyed lives to highlight war's inhumanity. - Prashanth Kamalakanthan (Nov 8, '13)

DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
A field guide to alienating the Middle East
Twelve years after the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and a decade after the invasion of Iraq - both designed to expand America's regional clout by removing adversaries - Washington's standing in country after country in the Middle East has never been weaker. It is as if the Obama administration is following a a field guide to losing friends, influencing no one, and alienating the whole region. - Bob Dreyfuss (Nov 6, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Australia's nasty Utopia
Folk in Wilcannia, New South Wales, know how to keep their town tidy, but don't live long to enjoy the fruit of their work - they tend to die before they are 35. If they can read and write, it is no small thanks to the Cuban government. The brutal past and present are another country in secret Australia. (Nov 6, '13)

Kerry is a true man of his times
In the 1960s, John Kerry was distinctly a man of his time, going from Yale to Vietnam and on his return home, when popular sentiment on that war shifted, becoming a vocal opponent of the conflict. Several decades on, he is the US secretary of state, where he looks a first-class bumbler - and so remains a true man of his times. - Peter Van Buren (Nov 4, '13)

Obama, the offshore balancer
Barack Obama's strategy of simply managing and reacting to global events rather than shaping them is driving America towards an "Offshore Control" doctrine, which emulates Britain's centuries-old strategy of keeping the European continent divided by organizing coalitions against rising hegemonic powers. While it is clever diplomacy to "play both sides", history suggests Washington will eventually face an "either/or" situation. - Miguel Nunes Silva (Nov 4, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Secret Australia

John Pilger's new film Utopia reveals a shocking secret behind the postcard image of Australia as the "lucky country". It is released from this month. Click here to view a trailer.

Congress versus Obama on Iran
Influential politicians in Washington, including prominent congressional Democrats, are hard at work attempting to scuttle a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran. Some Senate hardliners insist that sanctions must remain in place even if the nuclear issues are resolved. - Stephen Zunes (Nov 1, '13)

How Obama created endless war on terror
Despite Barack Obama's second-term promises of ending "perpetual war", his administration has ensured that future presidents will inherit a streamlined process for assassinating enemies, and an executive branch with sweeping powers rationalized under the banner of national security. By sanctifying the "kill list", Obama has made the war on terror a self-fulfilling prophecy. - Jeremy Scahill (Nov 1, '13)

Tiny wars still don't work
Every significant US military action of this century has demonstrated that boots on the ground and force, no matter in what form, are incapable of achieving even Washington's most minimal goals. In the face of spilt blood and lost treasure, the US has turned to drones and assassins as a new micro-force. US leaders still don't grasp that war doesn't work. - Tom Engelhardt (Oct 29, '13)

Cyberspace: a global threat to peace
Cyberspace presents the world with a security threat on a par with, and in some ways more invidious than, nuclear weapons. For that reason, the equivalents of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Authority are required to contain the threat and ensure the peaceful growth and use of the Internet. Joseph R DeTrani (Oct 28, '13)

The enduring 'threat' of isolationism
Since the 1940s, any hint that the US is thinking twice about waging a war has been met with media cries of a dangerous "new isolationism" that will hand enemies the initiative. The perpetual argument is that the US needs just one more intervention or dirty alliance to win. Such delusions are as unlikely as the US simply turning its back on the world. - Andrew J Bacevich (Oct 28, '13)

Abenomics and the climate challenge
Were Japan to choose to tackle climate change with radical energy efficiency and renewables, and expand its information and communications technology initiatives, it could become the model for a sustainable and resilient 21st-century urban and rural economy. But Abenomics is currently not up to the challenge. - Andrew DeWit (Oct 25, '13)

War easily evades
US shutdown

Even as political stalemate in the US halted the most basic government services, the advanced weaponry used to generate profit and project power across the world continued to roll off the assembly line. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, it's also the first recourse of those seeking to mobilize customers for the latest bloodletting exercise in combat as commerce. - William J Astore (Oct 22, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Bad movies, and what to do about them
The drumbeat of bad movies with big promotional budgets, mostly from the US, is incessant, making unconscious acolytes of those who once might have operated outside the pack. Yet when feeling (drink in hand before the big screen) subverted by PR hype, the way out shines brightly: it's called the exit. (Oct 18, '13)

America's orphaned diplomacy
Washington's view that hard-power investments are more relevant to US security than diplomacy has diverted key financial and human resources away from the foreign service towards the military-industrial complex. This and the Obama's administration's tendency to award ambassador posts to political appointees rather than career diplomats riaises the potential for foreign policy blunders exponentially. - Moritz Laurer (Oct 18, '13)

COMMENT
Iran pushes ball into Western laps
There is no denying that the Geneva talks showcased a new level of Iranian commitment to untie the blind knot of nuclear standoff that has brought sanctions on Iran. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has succeeded in putting the diplomatic ball in Western laps, and much now depends on the White House's ability to deliver sanctions relief. - Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Oct 17, '13)

THE SAKER
Russia-bashing debunked
Opening a new occasional column on Asia Times Online, blogger The Saker debunks recent Russia-bashing in the Western media and sees no end to the barrage of propaganda, simply because it has become a form of psychotherapy for a panicked and clueless plutocracy. (Oct 17, '13)

Geneva talks light spark for Iran nuclear deal
Reports of candid conversation in just-ended talks in Geneva have generated optimism for an end to the long-running impasse over Iran's nuclear program. Tehran's openness to giving international inspectors complete access to all parts of its nuclear fuel cycle sparks hope for a deal, though the lifting of sanctions remains a sticking point. - Kitty Stapp (Oct 17, '13)

Iran-US detente gives Israel,
Gulf states jitters

As hopeful statements about the nuclear talks in Geneva were issued from the Swiss city, foes of detente between Iran and the US were working overtime to persuade the White House not to ease sanctions until their maximalist demands have been met. Israel and the Gulf states are showing their concerns that a nuclear deal will help Iran re-emerge as a major power at their expense. - Jim Lobe (Oct 17, '13)

The NSA war on Internet integrity
The US government, in one of life's little ironies, has been forced to degrade the security functions and overall integrity of the Internet because the US Constitution, law, and public and techie opposition combined to impede legal data surveillance. But instead of accepting these limits, the National Security Agency has sought to evade them. - Peter Lee (Oct 16, '13)

SPENGLER
Reports of Russia’s
death are exaggerated

Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America

The United States can make strategic plans in Asia on the premise that Russia's recent return to world power status will ultimately be undermined by demographic disaster triggered by long-term social collapse. But while that outcome - put forward in Ilan Berman's new volume, cannot be excluded, neither is it likely. Russia will be around for quite a while, and requires strength, not bluff, to handle. (Oct 15, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Birth of the 'de-Americanized' world
China has had enough. A Xinhua editorial makes it plain the (diplomatic) gloves are off to build a "de-Americanized" world, with a "new international reserve currency" to replace the US dollar. The straw that did it - the US shutdown - is a graphic illustration that the US decline is as inexorable as China spreading its wings to master 21st century post-modernity. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 15, '13)

Mining your data for big brother
Personal data is the new oil, and a slew of companies have created technologies designed to mine it from you for the United States intelligence services. Listening to phone calls, recording locations, and breaking into computers are just parts of their tool kit, the other is software that can refine the data "riches" into the equivalent of high-octane fuel for government investigations. - Pratap Chatterjee (Oct 15, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Fear and loathing
in House of Saud

An end to mistrust between the United States and Iran would slash energy prices and create huge trade opportunities. Benefits would show in combating Salafi-jihadis and on Afghanistan, and Washington could even pivot to Asia for real. No wonder Israel will fight an US-Iran agreement like the plague. As for the House of Saud and its shadow master Bandar bin Sultan, rapprochement would be nothing short of Apocalypse Now.- Pepe Escobar (Oct 11, '13)

Obama no-show isolates allies
A sudden sense of solitude among the United States strategic Asian partners is palpable after Barack Obama's no-show in the region this week. Doubts over the US commitment to Asia amid oncoming US defense budget cuts are leaving many of its allies to wonder if the US has the political and economic wherewithal to counterbalance China's growing regional clout. - Richard Javad Heydarian (Oct 11, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Old game, new enemy: China.
The shopping mall massacre in Nairobi was a bloody facade behind which a full-scale invasion of Africa and a war in Asia are the great game. More than jihadism or Iran, China is now Washington's obsession. With 60% of US and naval forces to be based in Asia by 2020 - aimed at China - high-level meetings this week in Tokyo of US and Japanese officials accelerated the prospect of war. (Oct 11, '13)

Sarin a credible terrorism risk
Concerns over the consequences should Syria's chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists seem plausible given the very real efforts of al-Qaeda and its affiliates to build a toxic arsenal. However, jihadist organisations are weak technically in terms of weaponizing raw materials, and it's unlikely that any state - no matter how rogue - would risk the blowback from supplying them. - Weimeng Yeo (Oct 10, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
America as a sidelined force
Russia's use of the United Nations to force the United States into accepting a diplomatic semi-solution over Syria's chemicals weapons underlines that a new era is underway in which America no longer controls the course of history. From the end of 1940s to the 1990s, Washington made the agenda for international relations. Now it finds itself on the sidelines. - Riccardo Dugulin (Oct 10, '13)

The NSA isn't foiling terrorist plots
There's still no credible evidence that the National Security Agency's global digital surveillance has disrupted any terrorist plots, even as US politicians say it has and the agency itself puts the price of lost privacy at 54 foiled attacks. Information about how all terrorist plots have been detected is scant, but few can be attributed to the success of mass digital surveillance. - Teun van Dongen (Oct 9, '13)

No direction home for Capitol Hill
The United States is operating from a position of weakness, not strength. But powerful individuality and obsessed absolute rulers capable of inflicting a shutdown of government on their own people show no sign of changing their evil ways against innocent humanity. Yet even as politicians give priority to their own agendas, the force of natural laws will out. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Oct 9, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Shootout at the APEC free-trade corral
A multipolar rendition of Happy Birthday, Mr (Russian) President rang through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia. Even as the shootout in Washington excluded Barack Obama from the party, the bullets from Bali fired at the world's largest debtor must have stung. And forget America's China-excluding Trans-Pacific Partnership; Beijing, as lord of the Rim, made it abundantly clear it is gunning for one APEC trade deal to rule them all. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 8, '13)

Going to extremes to ignore climate change
Although climate change is claiming hundreds of thousands of lives more every year than terrorism, the complexity of its causes means media attention is disproportionately slanted against the issue. Keeping "the big picture" in mind is hard as a disaster unfolds on a scale that's difficult for humans to grasp. Yet the problem is not so big that one person can't make a difference. - Rebecca Solnit (Oct 8, '13)

Obama can rebook, but can he deliver?
The problem with Barack Obama's cancellation of a trip to Asia this week is that perceptions about declining global power dynamics have a way of becoming entrenched. The red carpet will always be unrolled for the US president in Asia. But the key question is whether he will have anything substantive in hand once he shows up. - David J Karl (Oct 8, '13)

General Giap, Wallace, and freedom
Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led his country through two wars of liberation died on Friday, aged 102. On the same day, former black panther Herman Wallace died after being exonerated of a charge that had put him in jail for most of his life. Both men possessed voices that defined the hero's search for freedom. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 7, '13)

America's greatest enemy is itself
As the US "pivot to Asia" throws a spotlight on the superpower's credibility, power politics in Washington are throwing the proverbial spanner in the works. Washington has tried mightily to persuade others that its Asian strategy contains strong economic, political and military aspects, but the stalemate on Capitol Hill reinforces the opposite message. - Ralph A Cossa (Oct 7, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
China: We don't
do shutdowns

The bumper-to-bumper debt gridlock in Washington leaves no room for US President Barack Obama to pivot to Asia as he is forced to give regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei a miss. That leaves Chinese President Xi Jinping to bask, unrivalled, in center-stage glow. The no-show only reinforces perceptions that US foreign policy is in a mess - and that while the US does shutdowns, China brings cash to the table. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 4, '13)

SYRIA'S CIVIL WAR
Moscow seeks full-spectrum US engagement
An element of the tectonic shift in Syria sees Free Syrian Army "moderates" engage Damascus in jaw, not war, as President Bashar al-Assad emerges as the only figure capable of rolling back the al-Qaeda. The growing strength of groups linked to al-Qaeda puts the US and Russia (and also Iran) on the same page, and presents an opportunity for the Kremlin to build on "common achievements" and focus White House eyes on fronts beyond Syria's civil war. - M K Bhadrakumar (Oct 4, '13)

How to win a lost war
If you decide to go to war you have to decide to win. The question after Iraq and Afghanistan is what does it mean to win a war? The answer in the 21st century: coming out on top in the political narrative to communicate superiority in the battle space of policy, morality and the conduct of warfare, regardless of the military outcome. - Andreas Herberg-Rothe (Oct 4, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Breaking American exceptionalism
What if the US government actually shut down to mourn the passing of Breaking Bad, arguably the most astonishing show in the history of television? It would be nothing short of poetic justice - as Breaking Bad is infinitely more pertinent for the American psyche than predictable cheap shots at Capitol Hill. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 1, '13)

Middle East turns
a deaf ear to the US

The United States' authority in the Greater Middle East was slumping well before Barack Obama entered the Oval Office. The process has accelerated in the wake of the Arab Spring, with Egyptian generals, Saudi princes, Iraqi Shi'ite leaders and Israeli politicians now regularly defying Washington's diktats. The role reversal is a far cry from the pacified region neoconservatives envisioned. - Dilip Hiro (Oct 1, '13)

Obama moves on Iran, Putin keeps Syria
Russian triumphalism over the UN resolution on Syria's chemical weapons contrasts with US President Barack Obama's inaudible sigh of relief at the weekend that he can avoid military action - for the present at least - and focus on the feelgood Iran file. Yet amid celebrations that Washington and Moscow actually agree on something, a dark foreboding is simmering away. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 30, '13)

BOOK REVIEW
How the West denied China's law
Legal Orientalism: China, the US and Modern Law by Teemu Ruskola This important book traces the remarkable hold Orientalist views demonizing China as lawless still have on political and cultural narratives about China's laws and legal institutions. It argues that at a time the word needs more accurate knowledge of Chinese legal concepts, present-day reforms equating to a "self-Orientalism" make that unlikely. - Dinesh Sharma (Sep 27, '13)

Obama: A hapless and wandering minstrel
Prospects for the Geneva process on Syria may be looking less dismal today than at dawn in New York on Tuesday. Yet, what lingers after President Barack Obama's United Nations speech is the sense of a lone superpower in a diminished role as a hapless regional power, unable or unwilling to assert itself. An era seems to be ending. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 26, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
Libya: Still Gaddafi's fault?
Western media decrying a lack of support for Libya's nascent democracy blame poorly run institutions created by former dictator Muammar Gaddafi rather than the chaos that has followed "Operation Odyssey Dawn". At the forefront of critics seeking deeper US engagement are lobbyists for energy firms bemoaning the fact that an anticipated rebuilding bonanza is yet to materialize. - Dieter Neumann (Sep 26, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Rouhani surfs the new WAVE
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to the United Nations, listened "carefully" to US President Barack Obama officially recognize the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons - and then called for a global coalition for peace to replace coalitions for war - in effect a call for a World Against Violence and Extremism. Now for the heavy lifting ... - Pepe Escobar (Sep 25, '13)

US, Iran trade cautious overtures at UN
US President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani both put diplomatic cards on the table at the United Nations. The real action begins on Thursday in the nuclear arena, when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet for the highest-level formal encounter of the two countries since 1979. - Kitty Stapp (Sep 25, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
Putin wins the war on terror
Russian President Vladimir Putin's policy of combating jihadists wherever possible and his will to put Russia's full diplomatic and military weight behind his fight against terror are in stark contrast to the Obama administration's focus on dialogue and humanitarian actions. Russia's international prestige is growing as it outplays the US in a fight it started but seems unable to finish. - Riccardo Dugulin (Sep 24, '13)

The gospel according to Vladimir Putin
The deepest challenge Vladimir Putin made to "American exceptionalism" while chastising the US over its Syria strike plan was towards the concept's theological roots. For the United States, a country that sees itself as a "shining city on a hill", mandated by providence, the Russian president's reminder that "God created us all equal" bordered on heresy. - Ninan Koshy (Sep 23, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Obama-Rouhani: lights, camera, action
Though a meeting with Barack Obama at the UN next Tuesday is by no means certain, it's well-established that the stage is set for President Hassan Rouhani's administration to talk directly to Washington about Tehran's nuclear program. The question is whether Obama will have the "heroic flexibility" to face 34 years of history and stare down the spoilers. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 19, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
Toxic agenda-setting in Washington
While the Obama administration beats the war drum and produces dubious proof that Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people, a potentially larger tragedy is brewing at the site of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant. The 300 tonnes of radioactive water leaking every day from the destroyed plant into the Pacific could directly impact about a third of the world's population. - Jonny Connor (Sep 19, '13)

SPENGLER
US plays Monopoly,
Russia plays chess

As Russia's president carefully gauges how each Syria maneuver impacts on Moscow's spheres of interest, the US administration continues to view geopolitical real estate in isolation. The big prize is a restoration of Russia's great power status, and as American popular revulsion over foreign intervention intensifies, Vladimir Putin can simply wait as the clock runs down. - Spengler (Sep 16, '13)

Paving the way for the Road to Damascus
What Syria is really about involves water rights, pipelines, nation-state reconfigurations, militarized economies ... and on, and on. Somewhere well down the list are chemical weapons (perhaps), but these suit war-waging, propaganda-propounding elites. In the face of their criminal and deadly simplifications, it's high time we restored fear-mongering in America to its rightful place as a privilege that must be earned. - Norman Ball (Sep 13, '13)

Putin eyes Obama's Iran file
As even Fox News says Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel prize for the "deft diplomatic maneuvers" that handed his struggling American counterpart a Kremlin-embossed way out of the Syrian crisis, the Russian president has set his sights on a move that would up the ante for a gong: taking another dog-eared file out of Barack Obama's hands and turning it into a Moscow-backed peace plan for Iran. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 13, '13)

And then there was one
Even if global economic power has become, thanks to a rising China, more "multipolar", no actual state seriously contests the United States' role on the planet. It's taken a couple of decades since the Soviet Union collapsed even to be able to consider what that really means: delusional thinking of the first order as, from 9/11 to the Syrian crisis, Washington re-imagines the world. - Tom Engelhardt (Sep 13, '13)

JOHN PILGER
Enemy whose name we dare not speak
Regardless of diplomatic attempts to delay an attack on Syria, the United States' objective has nothing to do with chemical weapons and everything to do with wiping out the last independent states in the Middle East. Barack Obama accepted the war crimes of the Pentagon of his predecessor, George W Bush, and militarism camouflaged as democracy. (Sep 12, '13)

Cheers and jeers greet Obama's bear hug
President Barack Obama's decision to embrace a Russian proposal to place Damascus' chemical-weapons arsenal under international control and delay a congressional vote on the use of military force against Syria has brought praise and condemnation from across the political spectrum. - Jim Lobe (Sep 12, '13)

THE ROVING EYE
Al-Qaeda's air force still on stand-by
It was 12 years ago today that, according to the official narrative, Arabs with minimal flying skills turned jets into missiles to attack the US homeland in the name of al-Qaeda. 9/11 elevated them to Ultimate Evil status. Twelve years on, the President of the United States wriggles on a Syrian hook, and the amorphous "al-CIAeda" eagerly awaits the US Air Force to clear the road to Damascus. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 11, '13)

OBITUARY
Ronald Coase: A respectful dissent
The late economist Ronald Coase showed how individuals and firms in the private market can do a better job at most things than government regulators. But we should keep in mind that markets are never better than the people who trade in them. - Spengler (Sep 10, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
A post-9/11 view of John Adams
Although his strategies helped keep American free from the whims of European powers and their trans-Atlantic Wars, second president John Adams' search for national security through peaceful neutrality has been long forgotten by modern America. The US has instead embraced the partisan strife and perpetual war footing he rejected. - Dallas Darling (Sep 10, '13)

Congress to the rescue on Syria?
From the manipulations that led to a "slam dunk" war in Iraq to the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden on the scale of United States spying, enough of the world is ticked off with the United States for a "coalition of the willing" to be the failed dream of a waning power. True to form, expect this week's congressional debate on Syria to yield little of value beyond entertainment. - Andrew J Bacevich (Sep 9, '13)

Suppose we gave a war ...
Air Sea Battle, US military's latest grand doctrine and megaboondoggle, is not, absolutely not, about war with China, which just happens to be the one power at which the related plans can be targeted. But just suppose the PRC fails to respond with fangs drawn ... just suppose ... - Peter Lee (Sep 6, '13)

Obama dips toe in Syrian Rubicon
For the first time through the two-year old Syrian conflict, and against all expectations, the United States has mentioned the necessity of its commander-in-chief having the option to put "boots on the ground". Whether Barack Obama ends up deploying troops in Syria, the demarche that he should have such a choice underscores that iron has entered into the president's soul.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 4, '13)

SPEAKING FREELY
Obama challenges pathology of power
US President Barack Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before using military force against Syria has been dismissed by his opponents as symptomatic of a lame duck presidency, even "red lines" turning to a "yellow streak". But as he veers from a gun-ho path, he is challenging the pathology of presidential power. - Dallas Darling (Sep 3, '13)

Manila, Beijing, and UNCLOS: a test case?
Manila's request for international arbitration over competing territorial claims with Beijing in the South China Sea prompts the question of whether right or might will determine their fate. China's refusal to cooperate also makes it a compelling and deeply Asian test of whether the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or diplomacy will play the lead role in securing a peaceful settlement. - Alex Calvo (Sep 3, '13)


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