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Big oil's broken model
Many reasons have been provided for the dramatic plunge in the price of oil. One not being discussed, though it could be the most important of all, is the complete collapse of Big Oil's production-maximizing business model. - Michael T Klare (Mar 13, '15)

Taub and the world's triple crisis
Islamic extremism, the financial meltdown and the conflict between the West and Russia, on the surface three different issues, are strategically related. In the background, China. American futurist Lawrence Taub made sense of this decades ago. The West's power establishment should take notice of his views. - Jan Krikke (Mar 13, '15)

Rationalizing lunacy
in Washington

The "intellectuals" who advise elected leaders in the United States now infest Washington to the extent that they strangle common sense and threaten, like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes, the very survival of the ability to perceive reality. Their own individual longevity depends on purveying "novel" insights as irrelevant as Dr Strangelove's "mineshaft gap". - Andrew J Bacevich (Mar 9, '15)

Is drone warfare fraying at the edges?
In theory, drone pilots have a cushy life - no muddy foxholes or sandstorm-swept barracks under threat of enemy attack - playing what others might consider a glorified video game. Only a few are deputized to fly kill missions over Pakistan, Somalia, or Yemen. Ideally, there should be 1,700 trained pilots. Instead, an accelerating dropout rate has driven this figure below 1,000. - Pratap Chatterjee (Mar 6, '15)

Germany secures new economic order
Approval, particularly by Germany, of the Greek government's reform commitments gains time while avoiding facing the underlying problems. Crucially, it secures for Germany its basic goal: the enshrining of austerity as the fundamental dogma of the new European economic order. - Guillermo Medina (Mar 5, '15)

Why can't we be more like Mr Spock?
A tenet of "Vulcan philosophy" is that it cannot be disregarded for personal gain. That view, albeit fictional, sheds light on the merits of world government - preferably created by consensus, not coercion. Even falling short of that, we should recognize that appropriate organizations give us a clearer view of reality and so help us to avoid calamity. - C Ikehara (Mar 5, '15)

Obama, Shell, and the Arctic Ocean's fate
Despite the glut of new American oil on the market (and falling oil prices), not to mention a recent bow to preservation of the Arctic, the Obama administration stands at the edge of once again green-lighting a foray by oil giant Shell into Arctic waters. - Subhankar Banerjee (Mar 4, '15)

Germany's future lies East
Germany, sooner or later, must answer a categorical imperative - how to keep running massive trade surpluses while dumping its euro trade partners. The only possible answer is more trade with Russia, China and East Asia. It will take quite a while, but a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing commercial axis is all but inevitable. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 3, '15)

A prayer for AIPAC's demise
As the powerful pro-Israeli government lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee holds its annual policy meeting in Washington, I'm praying that this year marks the beginning of the end of its grip on US foreign policy as the right-wing organization slowly loses its bipartisan appeal. Here's why that's a good thing. - Medea Benjamin (Mar 3, '15)

My war on terror
One way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of most every extreme terror outfit across the Middle East. And while Americans condemn "extremist barbarity", we are blind to our own. We react to "their" existence in an atmosphere of ever-increasing fear - while offering no significant complaint to the 30,000 deaths by vehicle each year at home. - Tom Engelhardt (Mar 2, '15)

The conceit of Western liberalism
Liberals might be loosing the moral high ground in what seems a watershed in Western public discourse, as "political correctness" increasingly leads to self-censorship (and claims of "microaggresion") among individuals, in academia, and in the media. The jewels Westerners have always been proud of, honest reporting and free speech, seem no longer compatible with pluralism and liberal multiculturalism. - Friedrich Hansen (Feb 27, '15)

Republicans in a blind alley on IS
The course of the upcoming Republican presidential debates, insofar as they will touch on foreign policy, is already clear: they will be marked by a barely concealed Islamophobia and inept prescriptions for defeating Islamic State. Absent a willingness to address the issue of good governance in the Islamic world, there is no reason to believe that the US and its allies will succeed in destroying ISIS. - Ehsan Ahrari (Feb 27, '15)

The rise of fascism is again the issue
Fascism is preserved as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality - Auschwitz and elsewhere - terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal, Western societies whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism - Ukraine and elsewhere - is suppressed; for it is their fascism. - John Pilger (Feb 26, '15)

The great SIM card heist
American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Feb 26, '15)

The real American exceptionalism
The United States, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. Its endless War on Terror seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes, torture on demand - and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy. - Alfred W McCoy (Feb 25, '15)

Cybercrime a threat to nation states
Some US$400 billion-plus was stolen last year by cyber criminals infiltrating the infrastructure of financial institutions and other enterprises in the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. It would be tragic if the international community permits criminals and rogue states to hijack the cyber domain. Rather, it needs to come together at the highest level to address cyber crime and cyber terrorism. - Joseph R DeTrani (Feb 23, '15)

Too-thrifty Germany
Thriftiness has served Germany well in the past, but the German culture of austerity suffers from selective memory - which may yet be jogged by the growing number of economists and others calling for debt relief for crisis-stricken Greece. - Stefan Haus (Feb 23, '15)

IS and the morning after war
If United States policymakers are interested in creating political stability after the Islamic State, they should explore how to re-establish a new political order on the ashes of the century-old Sykes-Picot Levant political architecture. In short, they must focus on the "morning after" before they embark on another potentially disastrous war in the Levant. - Emile Nakhleh (Feb 23, '15)

On the way to war on Russia
Signatories to the Minsk Agreement of February 12 included the leaders of Ukraine's Russian-cultured Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. London and Washington were excluded from negotiations. The US-led anti-Russia alliance will continue to extend its influence along Russia's borders, and no matter what happens in Ukraine's eastern areas there will be continuing confrontation with Russia, led by Washington. - Brian Cloughley (Feb 18, '15)

Venezuela and the 'common enemy'
The United States rejects Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's claim it had a role in last week's thwarted coup plot against him, which was followed by the arrest of a retired air force general and 10 military and civilian opposition figures. John Pilger discusses in an interview for Telesur, the Latin American TV network, why the claim is not far-fetched. (Feb 17, '15)

Too many 'most wanted'
With the Copenhagen synagogue shooting, involving a person “known to the security services”, we may have a repeat of the Paris pattern: terrorists whom the security services monitored and perhaps used as informants suddenly turned active and perpetrated atrocities. It appears that the methods employed by European security agencies to control jihadists have broken down. (Feb 16, '15)

Keystone XL and Cold War 2.0
US Republican calls for a "North American energy renaissance" involving the US, Mexico and Canada to help drive their economic growth is in fact something far grander - and more sinister. - Michael T Klare (Feb 16, '15)

They said 'no' to torture
President Barack Obama has argued that given the aura of fear that gripped the US after 9/11 "it's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious", too quick to judge the people who planned, implemented, and justified torture in its aftermath. But some people - including the FBI - rejected and directly refused to practice it. - Rebecca Gordon (Feb 13, '15)

HSBC and fragility of press freedom
AJ Liebling’s famous aphorism - "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" - cannot be said often enough. There will be journalists in Paris saying something like this today - especially if they are working for Le Monde, because one of the men who owns the newspaper has reminded the journalists that they are not as independent as they might have imagined. (Feb 13, '15)

Big Oil's pipeline to Congress
A new analysis details the intense industry lobbying of both houses of the US Congress since 2013 over the stalled Keystone XL pipeline designed to carry heavy oil from Canada to Texas, with five refinery companies alone stumping up US$58.8 million. - Kitty Stapp (Feb 12, '15)

Why Jews are good at money
The sort of admiration shown in China for the historic ability of Jews to make money makes Jews uncomfortable, given the ugly history of European Jew-hatred. It shouldn't. Chinese admiration of Jewish business skills carries no stigma. On the contrary: it begs an explanation. (Feb 12, '15)

Did US give terrorists a cyberweapon?
The White House has created the "Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center" to produce "co-ordinated cyberthreat assessments". We can now expect more fingers being pointed at foreign actors - China, North Korea and Iran - especially if a cyberoutrage has the US government’s own fingerprints all over it. But perhaps the unspoken anxiety is that the Stuxnet/Wiper suite of nasties is not only held by state actors with whom the United States can engage, but also by cyberterrorists. - Peter Lee (Feb 12, '15)

Rome a gateway for Moscow
If all roads lead to Rome, then the old capital may provide a way out for its heir, Moscow, the third Rome, hemmed by the intractable peace and war in Ukraine. How to get there is very complicated, long-winding, and starts with a miracle to coincide with the elections of the Italian President Sergio Mattarella, former Minister of Defense and anti-Mafia hero. - Francesco Sisci (Feb 4, '15)

War Is the new normal
Over the years, the chief characteristic of the "Global War on Terror" has become ever clearer: a "Groundhog Day" kind of repetition. Just when you thought it was over (Iraq, Afghanistan), just after victory (of a sort) is declared, it begins again. As we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, it is time to ask (again): "Why can't the United States stop making war. - William J Astore (Feb 2, '15)

The collapse of Europe?
Between 1989 and 2014, Europe quietly became more prosperous and more of a player in international affairs (while lacking the muscle to play global policeman). It rose to third in population behind China and India and is the world's largest trading power. Yet now the European project is teetering on the edge of failure. - John Feffer (Jan 28, '15)

Final push to open high seas pact talks
The United Nations is to make its third - and perhaps final - attempt at reaching an agreement to launch negotiations for an international biodiversity treaty governing the high seas. The present lack of governance on the high seas is widely accepted as one of the major factors contributing to ocean degradation from human activities. - Thalif Deen (Jan 21, '15)

The golden age of black ops
During the 12 months through last September, US Special Operations forces deployed to 133 countries - roughly 70% of all the world's nations. Just 66 days into fiscal 2015, America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of fiscal 2014's total. Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. - Nick Turse (Jan 21, '15)

Charlie Hebdo and Fredou:
Who's awake, who's still in bed?

On January 8, France 3, the second-largest French public TV channel, reported the death that morning of a police commissioner who had been investigating the January 7 attack on the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Western mainstream media find the story not worth reporting. (Jan 16, '15)

Needed: an international cyber treaty
We are witnessing state and non-state actors steal our intellectual property, corrupt and destroy our computer networks and threaten our critical infrastructure. Ultimately, an international cyber treaty, with clear rules of conduct and legal remedies when rules are broken, is necessary. The cyber hacking attack on Sony Pictures should be a wake up call to all nations. - Joseph R DeTrani (Jan 16, '15)

FreeSpeech, but we won't cover your skin
Yo the victims of American drone strikes,
You and your lot ain't White.
So, we won't fight
Fight for your right to life
You lives ain't newsworthy.
Don't you dare be testy!
- Maung Zarni (Jan 16, '15)

'Red terror' guide to battling extremists
The terrorist attack against the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo marks a turning point in the campaign Islamic extremists have launched against Western countries. It is significant because it came from people within France, not operatives from abroad. In this situation, one lesson to draw upon could be the fight against Red terrorism in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. - Francesco Sisci (Jan 14, '15)
This article has been edited to correct the name of the author to Francesco Sisci.

Charlie Hebdo: A failure of policy
It is the function of intelligence services to be invisible in the case of success and objects of blame in the case of failure. That is certainly the case for French and other intelligence agencies following the Paris terror attacks last week. Yet, it is not in the shadow world of intelligence operations but in the daylight of public policy that solutions must be found to the terrorist threat. - Gunter Bachmann (Jan 12, '15)

Don't mourn - neutralize
The murder of journalists and cartoonists at French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is the latest indication that the cancer of terror has spread so far that any cure will be almost as painful as the disease. Nonetheless, it must be cured if civilization is to prevail over barbarism. As American trade unionist Joe Hill told his friends before he was executed: "Don't mourn - organize." (Jan 9, '15)

Who profits from killing Charlie?
Who gains from killing Stephane Charbonnier and his colleagues at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo? Only those whose agenda is to demonize Islam. Not even a bunch of brainwashed fanatics would pull off the Charlie carnage to show people who accuse them of being barbarians that they are, in fact, barbarians. French intel at least has concluded that this is no underwear bomber stunt. This is a pro job. - Pepe Escobar (Jan 8, '15)

We got by with a little help ...
The death of Joe Cocker will cause many - not least the now fading flower-power generation - to recall his legendary performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival, in particular his rendition of With a Little Help From My Friends. That utterly unshackled, mesmerizing display powerfully evoked, as few others could, a truth of life to which we all can relate. (Dec 23, '14)

Washington's gold standard on torture
It will come as no surprise if five years hence the US is still running drone campaigns that cross national borders with impunity and generally continuing to run what has proven to be a global war for (not on) terror. The US for years has been carving out the gold standard for the rest of the world on the "secret" yet remarkably well-publicized world of torture.
- Tom Engelhardt (Dec 23, '14)

Russia, China
mock divide and rule

A case can be made that the geopolitical shift towards Russia-China integration and a trade/commerce alliance of the pair with Germany is the greatest strategic maneuver of the past 100 years. As Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping build a new economic reality on the Eurasian ground, Western economic attacks rage like hurricanes. Someone should tell the West that "divide and rule" tactics are not working, and will only make 2015 a hair-raising year. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 23, '14)

Torture as American
as apple pie

Be shocked, be disgusted, be appalled, but don't be fooled. The Senate torture report, so many years and obstacles in the making, should only be the starting point for a discussion, not the final word on US torture. Practices revealed in the redacted executive summary of the report, remain as American as apple pie. - Rebecca Gordon (Dec 17, '14)

CIA torture: the future starts here
A recently released CIA report repeats many facts about US torture that are already in the public domain, but unless the Obama administration uses it to prosecute those responsible as international law requires, there is little to prevent a future president from using torture again. - John Sifton (Dec 12, '14)

Drill, baby, drill in the South China Sea
The United States has quietly ditched its underperforming pretext for confrontation in the South China Sea - its strategic interest in freedom of navigation - and is sidestepping into a new justification. It is taking the position that China is improperly denying US interests their fair access to potential energy riches under the sea-bed. - Peter Lee (Dec 12, '14)

Pentagon: Obama's great white whale
President Barack Obama's dream of a world without nuclear weapons met its great white whale - the Pentagon - and was somehow transformed into the renewal of the American nuclear force. The hopes dashed, promise sunk, and the world set for another century on the road to "nuclear perdition" is a sad Christmas story.
- James Carroll (Dec 12, '14)

War by media and the end of truth
The world is facing the prospect of major war - with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer an "invisible government". It is the government, slavishly served by an unquestioning media. (Dec 8, '14)

Will Russia, Germany save Europe from war?
Are the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia on a mad spiral leading to yet another war in Europe - one in which the quality of armed power stands firmly against the West? Such a hair-raising Apocalypse Now scenario can be avoided - by returning to borders altered by the likes of Stalin, Hitler and Lenin. Everyone would win - except for the Empire of Chaos. - Pepe Escobar (Dec 1, '14)

Obama keeps pivot credible, for now
The consistency of President Barack Obama's two Asian "pivot" speeches, delivered three years apart in Australia, makes the case that the rebalance is real and credible. Whether it is sustainable or sufficient is another matter, and will depend not only on his administration's continued commitment but on the ability of the next US president to navigate a regional and global environment that will pose increasingly difficult challenges. - Scott Snyder (Nov 26, '14)

Hawks circle over Iran talks extension
Pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks over Iran's nuclear program continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord. New sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, which Iran and international powers agreed to extend until July 1 after failing this week to seal a comprehensive agreement in Vienna. - Jim Lobe (Nov 25, '14)

Washington's daydream believers
The ruling elite in the United States is lost in a world of its own concerning the threat of terrorism and interests that are vital to security. Yet its fantasies are so widely and deeply held that they are guaranteed to lead ever further into the mire of the Middle East. Thinking about the region has gone desperately astray because people in Washington refuse to embrace reality. - Andrew Bacevich (Nov 24, '14)

Dumbing it away
Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars,
by Daniel P Bolger
A current of Russian and Chinese opinion, including some foreign-policy specialists, holds that the US chose to destabilize the Middle East intentionally. That is paranoid nonsense. How could the Americans be so stupid? We could, and were. Lieutenant-General Daniel Bolger's insider explanation of the blunders that led to the present situation in the region is convincing and should be circulated as an antidote to the paranoia. (Nov 21, '14)

Washington plays Russian roulette
Washington loaded the gun long before Vladimir Putin accused the United States of provoking him to pick it up - and long before most watching the game of Russian roulette could identify the weapon as caliber Cold War 2.0. With the bullet marked once for "Eurasian integration" and twice to target "regime change", Barack Obama is holding tensions high. When Hillary Clinton seizes the day, all bets will be off. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 21, '14)

Mediate for peace in Kashmir
International mediation is the right path to end the stalemate between India and Pakistan over disputed territory in Kashmir, bringing increased trust, trade and prosperity. Since third-party involvement has been so successful in resolving other disputes in Asian, it is more than "unfortunate" - as the United States puts it - that India continues to reject such advances. - Brian Cloughley (Nov 21, '14)

The siege of Julian Assange is a farce
For two years, an exaggerated, costly police presence around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. Their quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, but whose true crime in the eyes of the British state is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war. (Nov 17, '14)

Permanent bases
for permanent war

The United States is fighting Iraq War 3.0 using a staggering network of bases built-up all over the Middle East in the past 35 years. This huge infrastructure is a formula for disaster. It makes it easy for the Barack Obama administration, or anyone in the Oval Office, to launch military strikes - such as the latest against the Islamic State - that seem guaranteed to set off new cycles of violent reaction and yet more war. - David Vine (Nov 14, '14)

A requiem for the Kyoto Treaty
The net result of the US-China climate change agreement is not victory; it's probably the recipe for a global temperature rise of 4 degrees - much higher than the 2 degree rise that everybody said would be very, very bad. Instead of demanding the United States help reform the binding emission targets of the Kyoto Treaty, China has acquiesced in the US strategy of killing Kyoto without making provisions for a new binding agreement. - Peter Lee (Nov 14, '14)

Japan is the best hope for US 'pivot'
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe possesses the dedication and the means to steer Japan towards a closer alliance with the US and take more responsibility in addressing regional and global threats. As such it makes sense for President Barack Obama to put aside mistrust and embrace the Japanese leader as the best hope to help Washington's moribund "pivot" to Asia deliver its promises. - Dmitry Filippov (Nov 14, '14)

China's silky road to glory
Any remaining doubts about the stupidity of Western corporate media should have been banished by the puerile coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin's gentlemanly conduct at the APEC summit in Beijing. Infinitely more relevant to the real world, and largely ignored, was the fact that China got what it wanted - on all fronts. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 14, '14)

The Sino-American comedy of errors
Misunderstandings that bedevil relations between the world's two most powerful countries remain comedic rather than tragic. That probably is as good as it gets, for no amount of explanation will enable Chinese and Americans to make sense of each other - and Beijing's attitude towards Washington has turned towards open contempt. (Nov 10, '14)

Lame-duck Obama's
brave new world

Barack Obama, fresh from his shellacking in Congressional elections, now heads for more of a roasting in Beijing, where he may - or may not - get stuffed by Vlad "the Hammer" Putin, but will for sure face another thrilling round in the titanic battle over rival Asian trade deals. However the lame duck is sliced, the APEC sauce will go to the gander, China's President Xi Jinping. - Pepe Escobar (Nov 7, '14)

War drums set
to pound harder

Voters in the mid-term congressional elections in the United States returned Republican candidates who will arrive in Washington having beaten the war and disease drums energetically and are not likely to stop. Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria seem to have a clear grasp that the warmongers in the phantasmagoric world inside the beltway are their ticket to the big time. - Tom Engelhardt (Nov 5, '14)

Rule of men, not law in Afghanistan
If Afghanistan is, for the United States especially, the forgotten war, then the grim fate of Afghan women has been a conveniently forgotten story. Washington talked a good game on women but allied on the ground with the most conservative aspects of the majority Afghan tradition in their subjugation. - Ann Jones (Oct 31, '14)

Nuclear compromise fuels hopes of deal
Progress in talks involving the number of Iranian centrifuges and the transfer of low-enriched uranium to Russia are adding to hopes that a compromise approach between Iranian and US negotiators will succeed in resolving the main obstacle to a comprehensive agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. - Gareth Porter (Oct 29, '14)

The loser in Brazil is neoliberalism
Irate Brazilian taxpayers are desperate for decent roads, urban security, better public hospitals and schools and less red tape and bureaucracy. But a slim majority still decided to stick with President Dilma Rousseff and her Xi Jinping-style anti-corruption drive over a turbo-neoliberalist challenger promising a "capitalist shock" that would see macroecomic policy run like a Wall Street fantasy. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 28, '14)

Thanks for Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan
The American public regularly provides cheap praise and empty valorization for veterans of its wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. But this thank-you-for-your-service culture and the hallow patriotism of the rock concert hall is wont to leave ex-service personnel depressed and wondering what it was they were fighting for. - Rory Fanning (Oct 27, '14)

The importance
of being exceptional

"National exceptionalism" has gained traction in the past few years, yet the concept is nothing new and has played a part from ancient Greece to Abraham Lincoln's America. The subject is seldom explored, nor are the fealty oaths that politicians swear to it challenged. Yet shine light on the history of exceptionalism and the dark underbelly of such unconditional love through the ages is revealed.
- David Bromwich (Oct 24, '14)

The US and selective support for separatism
The Barack Obama administration strongly condemned the declaration of independence by Crimea, but so far as international justice is concerned, the separation closely resembles Kosova's break from Serbia in 2008, which Washington warmly welcomed. Although independence is a pillar of America's foundation, in modern times the US does not support moves that don't fit in with its policy of self-appointed indispensability. - Brian Cloughley (Oct 24, '14)

Whitlam and Australia's forgotten coup
Gough Whitlam, who died this week, enjoyed a brief tenure as Australia's prime minister, but his three years in office were close to being revolutionary in both domestic and foreign policies. So much so that the United States and former colonial master Britain forced him from office in a manner Latin American countries will all-too-easily recognize. Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence. (Oct 23, '14)

Ebola and security opportunities lost
A fraction of the trillions of dollars spent in the past decade on military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere could achieve far more for human security if properly directed to areas such as public health and education. The threat of the Ebola virus demonstrates a key feature of the modern world: none of us can enjoy our full potential for security unless all of us have a basic level of security. - Paula Gutlove and Gordon Thompson (Oct 21, '14)

The golden
age of spying

No matter how fiercely the United States government may set out after whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, there will be more and they will be unstoppable, in part thanks to figures like filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has helped Snowden step into our lives from a Hong Kong hotel room and change the way most of us view our world. - Tom Engelhardt (Oct 20, '14)

Obama shuns UN peacekeeping forces
President Barack Obama once promised the UN General Assembly that the US would "strengthen our support for effective peacekeeping, while energizing our efforts to prevent conflicts before they take hold". In the event, any such effort has been made outside the UN, in pursuit of US interests, and certainly without any contribution to UN peacekeeping forces. - Brian Cloughley (Oct 14, '14)

Anything that flies on anything that moves
In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves". One is almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty as Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Like the Khmer Rouge, the Islamic State is a product of a US-made apocalypse. - John Pilger (Oct 9, '14)

Mao clashes with Gini and Maslow
Beijing and its counselors could do well to recognize - quickly if they can - that what they are facing in Hong Kong isn't a call for democracy so much as a call for change in the way the city is run, driven by people who are looking to improve their self-esteem. (Oct 6, '14)

Brave hearts and wise heads
Older people want their pensions assured, not to scale barriers. That's why Scotland's aging population was a wise predictor of the recent referendum result, despite a lowering of the age of voters to 16. Giving "teenytwitters" the right to decide without demanding obligations in return hardly promises better political decisions, as the many regions around the world contemplating divorces should now consider. (Sep 26, '14)

Terrorism as a cover for intervention
Persuading the Gulf monarchies to enact democracy end theoir support for Jihadi terror groups all over the Islamic world would take the presence of just and upright international arbiters really interested in enforcing justice rather than pandering to corporate greed. Instead, Western powers chose to use terrorism as a pretext for interventions targeted more at keeping the oil flowing than supporting democratic reform. - Nauman Sadiq (Sep 26, '14)

Western jihadists and risks brought home
Islamic State's high-profile gains in the Middle East will boost recruitment efforts while their foothold in the Levant provides foreign jihadists a base to improve their terrorist skills. However, Western intelligence agencies agree that IS currently lacks the ability to orchestrate a large-scale spectacular, with the most likely threat in lower-level attacks such as assassinations and kidnappings. - Weimeng Yeo (Sep 24, '14)

War, circus and injustice down under
There are times when farce and living caricature almost consume the cynicism and mendacity in the daily life of Australia's rulers. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, grasping the head of an Indigenous child trying to shake his hand one moment, and the next focusing on war far from home, embodies both. - John Pilger (Sep 23, '14)

Canada fails to meet East Asian potential
As the world moves beyond a "unipolar" order with the rise of East Asia, a growing number of Canadians want deeper involvement in the security dynamics of the region. Trade has evolved healthily over the past two decades, but Ottawa needs to include political and defense aspects if the relationship is to move forward. - Adam P MacDonald (Sep 22, '14)

Climate funds bypass indigenous peoples
Asian indigenous people say governments are manipulating financial incentives for developing countries to cut greenhouse gases, with leaders accused of abusing carbon-trading laws to seize ancestral lands formulti-million-dollar "conservation" efforts. While it's not clear where all the money is being spent, most goes to governments and corporations - not the communities supposedly being protected. - Amantha Perera (Sep 22, '14)

Old imperial habits die hard
As the rest of the UK belatedly recognizes the possibility of losing the northern chunk of Britain, so grows a realization that the referendum may not only be about independence and that much more than Scottish "freedom" is at stake - nuclear weapons and a UN Security Council seat also lie in the balance. And if voters back a split from perfidious Albion, the conflict in Whitehall between revenge and reconciliation may well echo early negotiations for withdrawal from more distant bits of empire. (Sep 18, '14)

Last sunrise for the UK?
It is breathtaking that today could mark a velvet divorce between Scotland and England (plus the rest of the UK). This is not how separations have ended in most parts of the world - the 1971 civilian death toll in what is now Bangladesh was anything up to 3 million. What Scotland underscores is that it is not economic development (or deprivation) that lies at the root of political alienation. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 18, '14)

The Cold War lives on
We were told that the Cold War was over; we even watched its funeral. But the coffin was empty and its death greatly exaggerated - the Soviet Union merely dropped out of the competition for global hegemony. The United States, on the other hand, has not changed its attitude. Because its institutions of the Cold War lived on, the spirit of the enterprise lay dormant, only waiting for the opportunity to spring forth. - John Feffer (Sep 12, '14)

Obama launches his war, finally
So the United States President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The strategy has no timeline and, quintessentially, the US will pit Muslims against Muslims in a grim war through the deployment of "smart power".
- M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 12, '14)

Ceasefires where violations never cease
Ceasefires between Israel and Palestine follow an unbroken trend of breaking when escalations of Israeli violence elicit a Hamas response. It’s an ugly pattern in which civilized life for Palestinians is reduced in a major way yet the urge to fight on and the desire for revenge increases. And it's been going on for a remarkably long time. - Noam Chomsky (Sep 11, '14)

US pivots at the gates of hell
Typical hyperbole sees the United States pledging to pursue Islamic State militants "to the gates of hell". With international unity and resolve in short supply, the main tools in the demonic chase appear to be cupidity and cowardly opportunism. Even with US air, missile, and drone strikes, that's not a sure recipe for success. - Peter Lee (Sep 9, '14)

NATO poised to escalate Ukraine tensions
NATO members have certainly not welcomed either the growing confrontation with Russia or with the Islamic State in the Middle East. These developments have nevertheless provided the alliance with greater cohesion than it has experienced in years. The sense of purpose reflected at last week's NATO summit in particular raises the prospect of escalating NATO-European-Russian tensions over Ukraine. - John Feffer (Sep 9, '14)

How not to win
hearts and minds

It wasn't enough to go after "hearts and minds" in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan - and remember how those conflicts turned out. Now, as Washington 'pivots' to Africa, the US military's "nation-builders" and "humanitarians" have already moved in, to disastrous effect, as a secret report from the Pentagon's Inspector General makes clear. - Nick Turse (Sep 8, '14)

US treads on Islamic State minefield
The United States is fully aware that its strategy to counter Islamic State's terror aspirations in the Middle East lacks a cohesive coalition. Arab countries are unwilling to commit ground troops as sacrificial lambs and both Iran and Russia are unwilling to pay the price of weakening their own geopolitical ambitions. If the emerging anti-IS formula is proving hard to make, it will be even harder to implement. - Ehsan Ahrari (Sep 8, '14)

Will NATO liberate Jihadistan?
Even as North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state gather for a confab in the United Kingdom, Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim broadcasts his disdain of Western military power with the beheading of another American journalist - then declares that Russia's Vladimir Putin is next - which would kind of place him as a NATO contractor. And in return? The Pentagon couldn't care less. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 5, '14)

Oil is back
Considering all the talk about global warming, peak oil, carbon divestment, and renewable energy, you would think that oil consumption in the United States would be on a downward path. The opposite is occurring. - Michael T Klare (Sep 5, '14)

NATO attacks!
The Ukraine battleground at least has the merit of exposing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as naked, even as the alliance's summit this week will showcase outgoing secretary-general Anders "Fogh of War" Rasmussen baring his teeth and straining one last time to cross multiple battlelines as if trying to remake Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! - Pepe Escobar (Sep 3, '14)

How Washington made Islamic State
The Islamic State militants intent on provoking a massive military response to fuel their Caliphate ambitions would be horrified to think they are the spawn of Washington's 13-year folly of regional war, occupation and intervention that played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be America's worst nightmare, but they are also its legacy. - Tom Engelhardt (Sep 3, '14)

Some of my best friends are Straussians
The late philosopher Leo Strauss was woefully wrong to assert we have something to learn from the statecraft of ancient Greece. The road from the self-destruction of that civilization leads through insidious turns of history to American narcissism and the fatuous belief that the whole world can be saved if force-fed the elixir of democracy. Even so, some of my best friends are Straussians. (Aug 26, '14)

The American cult of bombing
Given the less-than-stellar record of the United States in the post-Cold War period, does anyone want to hazard a guess about the next American response to peoples and leaders our government doesn't like in Iraq or the rest of the Middle East? My money is on more bombing, which surely requires explanation. - William J Astore (Aug 20, '14)

The West's dirty war in Iraq
As the specter of disintegration looms for Iraq, the main victor in this scramble for power is none other than Israel. It is succeeding today, with the help of its Western allies, in realizing the goals that it has been silently and carefully planning for the past few years - a base for any future attack on Iran, Syria, Iraq and even Turkey. - Moufid Jaber (Aug 15, '14)

Asia and a happy future for opera
Western opera's struggle to survive may in part be due to, and not in spite of, government subsidies, not to mention over-lavish productions and ill-considered, skin-deep, "modern" presentations. It need not be thus, and a return to the old ways of financing might be one way forward. Enter Macau. (Aug 15, '14)

To terrify and occupy
In a new era of American policing, cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory - often with the help of Uncle Sam's armory. As an excessive militarization of the police turns the boys in blue into counterinsurgent operatives, even nonviolent crimes are being met with overwhelming force and brutality. - Matthew Harwood (Aug 15, '14)

Military hammer makes
everything look like a nail

The United States and China in every arena are displaying a disturbing propensity toward militarizing their national security strategies. From Iraq to the South China Sea to restive Xinjiang, militarization simplifies the statement of a problem, but makes resolution ever more remote. It is a temptation that Washington and Beijing should resist. - Peter Lee (Aug 8, '14)

A bold initiative with North Korea necessary
Encouraging developments such as unexpected progress in talks over the repatriation of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s bode well for the chances of moving forward with talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. While there are deep reasons for the international community to despise the Hermit Kingdom, a bold imitative from China could yet reap solid peace dividends. - Joseph R DeTrani (Aug 7, '14)

Hiroshima: How many minutes to midnight?
If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: before nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons era, which opened on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima. That was the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of a species that attained the intelligence to destroy itself but not the capacity to control its worst instincts. - Noam Chomsky (Aug 6, '14)

Eurasia needs
a Sino-German axis

Directionless reaction from the United States to the shooting down of Malaysian airline flight MH17 and the Ukrainian crisis generally reflects how the US has forgotten the importance of viewing Eurasia as a whole, rather than a cluster of independent states. But by doing so, Washington is making space for a China-Germany dynamic with potential to tackle the Russian problem. - Francesco Sisci (Aug 1, '14)

An East-West showdown in Africa
China has used aid, trade and infrastructure for much of the past decade as a bulwark to set itself up as the dominant foreign player in Africa, while the United States has deployed the blunt language and hardware of war. Amid starkly different results in the continent, which approach wins will have profound implications for all concerned. - Nick Turse (Aug 1, '14)

An era of thugs
At some stage in recent history, governments started to outsource operational aspects of geopolitical strategy to gangs of robbers, murderers and nutcases - Washington in Afghanistan to oppose Russia, Russia in Ukraine now are just two examples - and are increasingly abrogating greater responsibilities to them. It is a very dangerous practice, and where this all ends is anyone's conjecture. (Jul 28, '14)

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)

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)

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 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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 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)

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 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)

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)

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 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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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