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THE ROVING EYE
A chessboard
drenched in blood

The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake, but it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. Washington has been quick off the blocks to ignite and in theory win the spin war to persuade the world that Russia's hand was wittingly or otherwise behind the downing of the civilian aircraft. Moscow, more rationally, is seeking the facts first, before pointing fingers of blame. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 23, '14)

How US policies
sealed Iraq's fate

Strikingly devoid of comprehension of the forces at play in Iraq and the region, post-invasion US policy in Iraq followed a simplistic dichotomy of "good guys" versus "bad guys". Distressingly aware of what was happening to their country, Iraqis have long dreaded that the destabilization and sectarian disintegration would lead to the mass bloodletting that's now been unleashed. - Dahr Jamail (Jul 22, '14)

JOHN PILGER
Orwell alive in Palestine, Ukraine
Western coverage of contemporary events from Palestine to Ukraine reveals that Orwell's 1984 is only too real in today's world. Yet as Leni Riefenstahl knew only too well, the "messages" the media carry of government atrocities depend not on "orders from above" but on a "submissive void" in the population as a whole, not least in the "intelligentsia". (Jul 22, '14)

The charge of the Atlanticist Brigade
No credible version of events points to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine as intentional mass murder or terrorism, and with international experts now getting access to the black box, there seems to be little the Atlanticist Brigade can use to point the finger at Moscow. Still, expect sanctions on Russia to follow, and for the reverberations to reach east all the way to China. - Peter Lee (Jul 22, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
BRICS against
Washington consensus

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa come together today to play top class geopolitical ball with the launch a development bank for the emerging world. The new institution has the power to leave the World Bank in the dust, never mind challenge the order of the Washington consensus that's been received wisdom since the end of World War II. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 15, '14)

US gets dream team in Kabul, almost
US Secretary of State John Kerry secured significant steps towards a resolution of the contested vote for the Afghanistan presidency over the weekend - and revealed Washington's secret hand to unite both candidates as a ''dream team'' to follow Hamid Karzai's rule. Yet, the perceived slight of the incumbent could have unpleasant repercussions for Washington in the tricky weeks that lie ahead for the transition of power. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jul 15, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
The fall of a superpower
The Brazilian football team's fall from glory was a long time coming, and foreseeable except by its handlers, the Brazilian football federation and the "technical commission" they appointed; a talentless, arrogant/ignorant lowly bunch that mirrors, crystal clear, the arrogance/ignorance of Brazilian political/economic elites, old and new. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 10, '14)

CHAN AKYA
Monkeys, the IS and the US
With the right mix of punishments - such as scalding water and mutual beating up - even monkeys can "learn" to choose the least harsh of foul options, a grim thought when considering the prospects facing the populations of the Middle East and those who fancy ruling them. (Jul 3, '14)

How Washington protects itself
'National security' in the accepted sense of protecting citizens has been of scant regard in US policy formation since its earliest days. Rather, an enemy is hoisted and a defensive stance promoted to ensure leaders atop a national security state hold on to power. As policy makers play roulette with the fate of the species, this century could yet prove our most fateful. - Noam Chomsky (Jul 3, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
The lessons of war
There is no guarantee that friction in Asia will not escalate into a world war just because it would benefit no one. History, particularly as seen through the lens of the Great War 100 years ago, shows the danger of irrationality causing failure to learn lessons from our past. - Andreas Herberg-Rothe (Jul 3, '14)

Why was Blackwater in China?
Reports that Blackwater was once hired to protect North Korean asylum-seekers in China suggest the West wants Beijing to follow "non-refoulement" principles to guarantee refuge. An acid test of this would be if Beijing started reviewing asylum dossiers, forcing the US and South Korea to live up to human-rights rhetoric and accept an influx of thousands of brutalized North Korean refugees. - Peter Lee (Jul 3, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Arab Spring, Jihad Summer
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy before he metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer, blowing up Shi'ite kids at ice-cream shops. Now declared the Caliph of Islamic State, a catchier militant moniker than formerly used by the Men in Black, al-Baghdadi is the new Osama bin Laden, leading a group with sights set on conquering lands that include large swathes of Asia. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 2, '14)

US ploy seen in Iran centrifuge demand
With the July 20 deadline approaching for an international agreement, the US warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges to demonstrate that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. Evidence points to a negotiating ploy in which the US would give up the demand in return for Iranian concessions on the enrichment capability allowed at a later stage. - Gareth Porter (Jul 2, '14)

SPENGLER
Musil and meta-Musil:
The inevitable World War I

We will hear endless variations on a lament for Western Civilization as the centenary of World War I approaches. Robert Musil's masterpiece The Man Without Qualities is particularly pertinent. The novel depicts Vienna's elite pursuing petty concerns in ignorance that their bubble of a world was about to burst. After Musil - meta-Musil, so to speak - comes a great evacuation. Western culture will not end; it will pass into the hands of Asians. (Jun 30, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Fear and loathing
at Hotel Babylon

Hardcore Sunnistan is going to descend into a noughties-style militia hell again as Men In Black of different persuasions slug it out in and beyond the Iraqi battlefield. While the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and their coalition of the willing won't take Baghdad just yet, the Empire of Chaos would cheer a final sectarian push towards a Great Kurdistan and across a balkanized Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 27, '14)

World War next
Western aversion to intervention to stop dangerous forces rising in East Asia and the Middle East represents a throw-back to the sleepwalking style of geopolitics a century ago that resulted in the Great War. Trade and technology mask the reality that the world remains atomized, with a grim tapestry of conflict signaling a revival of great power rivalry that the United Nations is powerless to stop. - Michael Vatikiotis (Jun 27, '14)

It's the oil, stupid!
No one in power ever mentions the oil when reasoning for the invasion of Iraq or weighing up the US response to the current disintegration of the country. Yet Iraq sits on one of the great, easily accessible fossil-fuel reserves on the planet and the oppressive regime of Nouri al-Maliki is racked with insurgency because it has refused to share vast oil revenues with his Sunni constituents. - Michael Schwartz (Jun 26, '14)

Neocons: Alive and itching for war
An American media hungry for controversy has handed a cast of has-been neocons the oxygen of publicity to air a vacuous preference for US military action in the Middle East. The antidote to the warmongering "chicken hawk" virus is that reasonable people already know the rhetoric to bomb Iraq or Syria or to send combat troops to Iraq is militarily unworkable. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 26, '14)

Send in the drones
(apologies to Sondheim)

All that's missing in the early stages of the Iraq intervention sweepstakes is the signature gesture for Obama administration conflicts across the Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa). If you listen carefully, you can already hear the theme music for the era, and - with apologies to Stephen Sondheim - it's clearly "Send in the Drones". - Tom Engelhardt (Jun 25, '14)

OBAMA ON IRAQ
How to avoid mission creep
The 300 "special ops" forces now advising Baghdad on quashing the militant threat in Iraq are at the spearhead of a mission that is in danger of expanding out of control. This is where multilateral approach built on international and regional consensus, including with Iran, becomes a useful mechanism for US President Barack Obama to help ward off mission creep. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jun 25, '14)

Killing Kyoto softly
American plans to use a US$100 billion international fund to attack growing post-Kyoto Treaty solidarity among developing countries on climate change rest on the fact that China will struggle to meet the fund's emission and "transparency" conditions - so poorer countries will blame Beijing if it fails. Yet going adversarial with China may be an existential blunder that dooms the planet. - Peter Lee (Jun 23, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Burn, Men in Black, burn
Divide and Rule has run amok in the Levant, courtesy of the Men in Black of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the US-trained jihadis and bastard children of Saudi spy chief Bandar Bush. While the CIA could never have conceived it, the ISIS is the perfect ski-mask-clad tool to keep the Global War on Terror in Enduring Freedom Forever mode. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 20, '14)

Iraqi quagmire calls the US back
As US President Barack Obama mulls the extent of America's next intervention in Iraq, he must also decide if its purpose will be to continue Nuri al-Maliki's brutal sectarian rule. If Obama decides that a breakup of Iraq won't hurt vital US interests, the Iraqi prime minister's paranoid visions may become reality. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 17, '14)

Obama broods over an Iraqi odyssey
US President Barack Obama has invoked a cardinal principle of the so-called Obama Doctrine as he mulls over a role for a coalition of the willing in response to dramatic developments in northern Iraq and the fall of Mosul. While singling out the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant as the enemy, Obama will be aware of the other forces at work, and it will be the mother of all ironies if he invites the powerful foreign backers now stirring the revolt to be part of the solution. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jun 16, '14)

DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
Uncle Sam already has you
Sacrifice of individual privacy and personal autonomy is the price men and women pay for joining the military. But now everyone in the United States is a recruit, like it or not. Unlike the finger-pointing poster of old, Uncle Sam doesn't want you any more - he already has you. As Edward Snowden's revelations of a year ago show, the entire US has been drafted into the American national security state. - William J Astore (Jun 16, '14)

SPENGLER
America wants the impossible
The United States gets unwanted results - most recently in Iraq - because it projects its values system onto incompatible societies and conflicts. Americans simply don't want to think about the world as it actually is, and by default this may lead the rest of the world towards players with a sense of reality. Unburdened by a social-engineering approach and affirmative-action mentality, China is the leading likeliest candidate. (Jun 16, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
The geopolitics
of the World Cup

The World Cup - the greatest show on earth - kicks off just as a relentless Made in the West (client states included) anti-Chinese and anti-Russian propaganda/downright vilification shatters all known hysteria levels. And that means the BRICS are a target; in the case of Brazil, just as progressive Latin American integration has dared to turn the Monroe Doctrine into (branded) toilet paper. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 12, '14)

Look inwards, Washington
The dozens of think-tanks seeking to direct policy in Washington predominantly focus on change outside the country. The US would benefit if more concerned themselves with the internal state of affairs, not least the US's disintegrating infrastructure or the spread there of Christian fundamentalism. An American ability to reform itself can be the best recipe towards reforming the rest of the world - Francesco Sisci (Jun 9, '14)

A world war between classes, not countries
As today's super-rich increasingly become a nation unto themselves, a de facto alliance between global elites is facilitating imperialist schemes of regime change. When choosing whether an act of aggression needs hard or soft power, interventionist powers are deciding whether countries like Iran or Ukraine can be divided across class lines, and if a pact can be built with their wealthy oligarchs. - Ismael Hossein-Zadeh (Jun 9, '14)

COMMENT
Iran, North Korea as proliferation epicenters
If North Korea continues to retain and build more nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and others will inevitably seek their own devices, just as Middle Eastern countries will follow if Iran builds its own. Regional nuclear arms races increase the prospect of materials falling into the hands of non-state actors and a real threat the whole world. That is why it is imperative nuclear talks succeed. - Joseph R DeTrani (Jun 3, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Return of the living
(neo-con) dead

Hysteria rules in the United States amid the notion that President Barack Obama's "new" foreign policy doctrine, announced last week at West Point, is a post-imperialist demonstration of realpolitik that rejects neo-cons and neo-liberals alike. Not so fast: "exceptionalism" remains the norm and the US president's belief that might is right is culled from the playbook of Robert Kagan, husband of crypto-Ukrainian hell raiser Victoria Nuland. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 3, '14)

Death by a thousand cuts
President Barack Obama says the United States is committed to a forward counter-terrorism posture and US global "leadership" while holding back on military power. A fine sentiment, but there are still myriad ways Washington can cripple an adversary: sanctions, cyber-isolation and drones to name a few. Perhaps it's more humane to simply send in the troops than eviscerate a country slowly through sadistic proxies. - Peter Lee (May 30, '14)

Obama 'imprisoned' by terror paradigm
The United States remains the world's "indispensable nation", according to Barack Obama, who emphasized in a major speech to the US Military Academy at West Point that he favors multilateralism over force. Critics of the US president repeated the view that Washington is too passive in reacting to crises from Ukraine to the East China Sea, citing Obama's focus on terrorism as evidence that his administration remains a prisoner of George W Bush's foreign-policy paradigm. - Jim Lobe (May 29, '14)

REUVEN BRENNER
A Europe losing cohesion
The success in the European elections of Marine Le Pen's Front National reflects in part a failure by government to deal sensibly with population issues. European leaders have to come up with forward-looking policies and stop tinkering on the margins with the many failed ones. If not, European tribes may - yet again - end up deceiving themselves. (May 28, '14)

Goodbye Afghanistan, hello Asia-Pacific
Barack Obama says he is opening a "new chapter" in foreign policy by promising to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. While Washington hawks predictably railed against the decision as a sign of failure, the exit signals that the "rebalancing" of US strategic assets toward Asia-Pacific is uppermost in the president's mind. - Jim Lobe (May 28, '14)

Cold War heats up in Asia
Many Western observers believe China has blundered into the United States' clever Asia "pivot" trap, with its aggressive moves driving its neighbors into the arms of Washington and enabling a more forward military presence for the US around China's borders. Beijing has gamed this out and is willing to roll the dice in the South China Sea. Cyberspace, however, is a more disturbing source of friction for the Cold War in Asia. - Peter Lee (May 27, '14)

COMMENT
Demise of the journalist, rise of the blogger
The growth of social media has seen the business of reporting become more democratic and journalists become participants in as well as observers of the events they cover. Meanwhile, the slow death of the institutional press is strangling the profession and forcing its members into, for want of a better word, prostitution. - Michael Vatikiotis (May 23, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
Sex, lies and a bunch of lawyers
Welcome to New York, the soft-porn spectacular inspired by the epic 2011 sex scandal that terminated the career and political trajectory of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, created blushes at the Cannes Film Festival and the threat from the former International Monetary Fund chief to sue the producers of the movie, which stars Gerard Depardieu. The whole affair is quite the down and dirty allegory of these tawdry, futile times. - Pepe Escobar (May 21, '14)

US in a 'Eurasia' pickle
Unless President Barack Obama has absolute faith in the ability of the United States and the Asian democracies to restrain China, there seem to be some disturbing developments for the US in Asia. Either the US is a rather maladroit practitioner of foreign policy, or failure is displaying an inexplicable bias for dogging American actions. - Peter Lee (May 21, '14)

SINOGRAPH
Beijing falls short of
international vision

Attacks on Chinese citizens and property in Vietnam and the rise of nationalistic agenda in India and Japan give greater form to the specter of an anti-China coalition. Organization of such an alliance by these countries may look fanciful, but Beijing is unable to build a bulwark against it because it lacks the grammar and logic to build a comprehensive vision for dealing with international relations. - Francesco Sisci (May 19, '14)

THE ROVING EYE
China pivot fuels Eurasian century
The first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making light the sky this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin drops in on Chinese President Xi Jinping. As the two leaders seal a "Pipelineistan" of energy deals, look no further than the difference between China's focus on economic ties versus the US global military-first strategy for a measure of relative rise and decline. - Pepe Escobar (May 19, '14)

BOOK REVIEW
Keeping peace with total war
To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and With All Nations by Angelo M Codevilla White Anglo-Saxon Protestant interpretations of history are central to the argument this book propounds: that the US needs constant, decisive warfare to ensure its own interests and security. While the thesis suffers because the author fails to recognize that a Washington focused on maintaining control doesn't share his populist values, it offers useful insights into the thinking of the American conservative right. - Jim Miles (May 16, '14)

Iran nuclear deal hits hardest phase
As Iran and world powers today resume negotiating a final deal on Tehran's nuclear program, experts warn the hardest work is about to begin. The confidence-building phase of the talks targeted the "low-hanging fruit", leaving thorny issues such as the number of years Iran will have to comply with the terms of the deal yet to be resolved. - Jasmin Ramsey (May 13, '14)

Drone war: Remote and personal
Unexpected support of a small but growing group of former drone pilots who have carried out strikes on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and in CIA covert assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen may give new life to a US campaign against "targeted killings". Evidence that other operators and analysts are beginning to crack under the pressure of the true horrors of their remote-controlled missions adds to the sense that the drone war has failed. - Pratap Chatterjee (May 12, '14)

Obama resets the 'pivot' to Asia
Lack of resolve and resources, combined with excessive attention on "militarization" mean that the US "pivot" to Asia as conceived two years ago has already has lost its shine for the most Pacific of American presidents. Barack Obama demonstrated on his recent Asian tour that a "reset" of the US rebalancing strategy is in order, one that focuses more on diplomacy, trade, and interdependency with China. - M K Bhadrakumar (May 9, '14)

China drills its hard-power reserves
China knows its latest attempt to drill in contested oilfields off the Vietnamese coast is a challenge that its Southeast Asian neighbor cannot ignore. Yet the gambit has clear and bigger targets: as practice for a confrontation with the Philippines - the country Beijing really wants to humiliate - and to goad Japan into a protector role that marginalizes the United States. All signs in the South China Sea point to Chinese soft-power sailing over the horizon. - Peter Lee (May 8, '14)

Mapping a world
of outright war

A schoolboy's map, created in years gone by, sketched out how the Chinese would come to rule the world. That map was an affirmation of its moment, a horror story that would soon obsess Kennedy-era officials. It was an act of faith, but also of mockery. Representing horror and yearning, that map said: "This is what it would be like if your vision proved true - and wouldn't that be something!"
- Tom Engelhardt (May 8, '14)

COMMENT
Suspicion undermines US-Japan ties
No clear evidence exists that Barack Obama's visit to Tokyo did anything to build mutual trust with Japan. The US president's displeasure at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's shock statement on his visit to the Yasukuni shrine and suspicions of US motives for pushing for Korean-Japanese reconciliation top a list of negatives that undermine confidence and show the two countries have much more work to do on their alliance. - Kazuhiko Togo (May 7, '14)

UN probe chief doubts Syrian sarin claims
The head of the United Nations team that investigated the August 2013 sarin attack in Damascus has suggested that many people who claimed to have been seriously affected by sarin imagined they had suffered exposure to the chemical. Underlying Ake Sellstrom's doubts is data that show those put forward by the Syria opposition as among the most affected didn't have serious exposure to nerve gas. - Gareth Porter (May 7, '14)

Hillary Clinton sizes up lame-duck Obama
All signs point to the Hillary Clinton coterie in Washington pushing Barack Obama further into lame-duck territory, but amid a grisly parade of foreign policy failures - the mistake of jumping into the "Asia pivot" bed neo-liberal interventionists prepared for him included - the criticism casts the US president in favorable light. If she takes the White House in 2016, shoot-to-kill Clinton will make Obama's foreign policies look tame. - Peter Lee (May 2, '14)

Why the West falls into civil war
The West's scientific revolutions and faith in technology have helped it dominate the world, but Europe's constant wars underline the Western propensity to descend into civil conflict. The Ukrainian crisis is nothing more than an extension of the West's inability to live peacefully with itself, and its need to frame the world as either "partners" or "evil enemies" turned on Russia. - Nicholas A Biniaris (May 2, '14)

Israel-Palestine peace talks hit the wall
The US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have come screeching to a halt, with the US all but admitting that the blame lies with Israel, aggrieved that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has chosen to reconcile with Hamas. With that decision carrying ramifications for the US approach, the question is whether the stalled talks herald the end of the two-state solution. - Richard Silverstein (Apr 28, '14)

Obama looks to ease Japan-China tensions
From a Chinese perspective, the visit by United States President Barack Obama to Japan was the high point of his current tour to Asia. Amid Japan-China tensions and the complexities of the "new type of major country relations" that China and the US are committed to promote, the sigh of relief from Beijing when Obama left Japan was almost audible. - M K Bhadrakumar (Apr 28, '14)

OBAMA IN ASIA
US 'pivots', China reaps dividends
"Our first objective is to prevent the reemergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere ... ". Thus spake the United States in 1992, and it is all one needs to know about the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia - or to anywhere else - and the president's present tour there. How does Beijing react to such hysterics? Simple: by reaping dividends.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 24, '14)

Steps toward trust in South China Sea
Concerns about increased militarization over China's claims in the South China Sea amid US determination to "pivot" to Asia serve as a worrying backdrop to President Obama's visit to the region. Reversing the present intensification of tension is nevertheless possible without either side having to retreat from their overall goals. - Lyle Goldstein and Wu Xinbo (Apr 24, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Obama empty-handed in Asia
As questions hang large over whether the US has the resources to back its rhetoric of standing firm behind China's neighbors, President Barack Obama has turned up in the region empty-handed. The White House is attempting to cool expectations over its proposed trans-Pacific trading bloc, and its allies and partners see reasons to doubt America's military staying power. - David J Karl (Apr 24, '14)

Obama runs China's pivot gauntlet
Barack Obama is taking part in a pivot promotion tour of Asia with a certain smugness that the political and economic foundations of a China-containment regime have been laid. But with overt confrontation in East Asia from Beijing signaling its preparedness to manage relations in more hostile ways, the US president has no reason to feel other than the beginning of the end for the American Century is upon him. - Peter Lee (Apr 22, '14)

Too big to jail in
the 'post-legal' US

Kidnapping, torture and perjury committed by members of the US's national security system have gone unpunished in the Obama era, while "outsiders" revealing information that threatens the state have been pursued relentlessly. The case of General James Cartwright, a once "favorite" of the American president who is suspected of leaking information about a covert cyberattack on Iran, could therefore set a new precedent. - Tom Engelhardt (Apr 22, '14)

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)


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