Speaking today in Santiago, Chile, President Barack Obama said the purpose of the international military intervention in Libya is not to oust longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi but to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s troops and mercenaries and prevent a humanitarian disaster.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama’s policy in the Libyan War remains a bit unclear. On the one hand, the US and its Western and Arab allies have saved Benghazi and launched a devastating air assault against the Gaddafi military apparatus. But regime change is not the aim of the military operation. Regime change is the aim of the diplomatic operation. Okay then … As negotiations continue on California’s chronic budget crisis, Governor Jerry Brown will speak tonight about the situation at Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference at 7:15 PM at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … CALIFORNIA’S PARTY OF NO TAKES CENTER STAGE, OR DOES IT?
** OBAMA’S DIFFIDENT WAY OF WAR. Barack Obama has suddenly sidled his way into a third war in the Muslim world, his first on his own. How has he gone about it? Why Libya and not somewhere else? And how does it end?
How has Obama gone about it? In a remarkably diffident manner. Never before has an American president embarked on a war with such reserve. And I can’t recall one who went to war while on tour in an entirely different part of the world. …
Is oil a fundamental factor here? Of course. Though much more for Europe, which is pretty reliant on Libyan oil, than for America, which is not.
But oil is a global market, and the chaos in Libya affects the price, which in turn affects the economic recovery, especially if the geopolitical risk premium continues.
Of course, there would also not be an intervention if Gaddafi weren’t gunning down his people in very large numbers.
They’ve risen up against him, just as they’ve risen up against other despots across the Arab world.
The Arab revolt is in the post-romance phase, and had been heading into the bummer phase. That is to say, after the early phase in which we believe that revolutions are effected simply by virtue of people rising up through the magic of social media. …
** NEW SURVEY: YOUNG LIBYANS WERE MORE DOWNTRODDEN THAN THEIR COUNTERPARTS IN OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES PRIOR TO THE UPRISING. A new Gallup Poll survey of polling in 2010 shows that Libyan youth were significantly less believing in their ability to help their country make positive change in the future.
Majorities of both young Libyan men and young Libyan women believed it was possible, but their numbers were far below average in the Arab world.
Ahead of the uprising in Libya, majorities of young Libyans believed young men and young women could help the country make substantial progress in the next decade. Sixty-six percent of 15- to 29-year-olds surveyed in the areas of Tripoli, Benghazi, and Al Kufrah in 2010 said young men could further the country’s advancement and 55% said this about young women. …
However, compared with other young people living in Arab middle-income countries where GDP per capita ranges from $2,600 to less than $23,000, young Libyans were the least likely to say young men and women could help the country make substantial progress. Percentages were well above a majority in most middle-income countries: A median of 94% of young Arabs said young men could help, while the median who said this about young women was 79%. …
The situation in Libya is changing by the hour as the allied military intervention continues, but the country’s progress in the long term depends on its young people. Engaging young Libyans who were already feeling uncertain about their role in the country’s future will be crucial in the days ahead and the next decade. …
Benghazi residents celebrated after Western alliance air strikes destroyed Libyan regime forces threatening the city as the weekend began.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
What a difference a week makes. America is at war, again, in a third Muslim country, as President Barack Obama ordered US naval and air forces into action on Saturday alongside the French and British against longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, whose forces were attacking the protesters stronghold Benghazi. While the bombs and missiles fall, Obama continues his long-scheduled Latin American tour of Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. Today he delivers a major address in Santiago on relations with Latin America.
Meanwhile, in California politics Governor Jerry Brown continues pushing for a deal on his state budget proposal. The state’s Republicans just held a bizarre spectacle of a convention, dominated as usual by the party’s right-wing activists, all opponents of any compromise. This was a good excuse for Republican legislators to hold off on a vote for tax extensions rather than find themselves hung in effigy. Now that excuse is eliminated, and the ticking clock on a special election is getting notably louder.
The UN Security Council-approved intervention in Libya was just in time to save Benghazi, mostly through French air strikes, from the massacre Gaddafi promised on international television. Over the weekend, mostly US strikes succeeded in eliminating the Libyan regime’s significant air defense and establishing a no-fly zone.
So far, so good, but what’s next? The US doesn’t want to play the lead role much longer — Obama is predictably being ripped by far right and ultra-left alike, just as he would be had he allowed Gaddafi to massacre Benghazi — and the structure of the alliance going forward beyond Franco-British leadership or NATO leadership is still unclear. As is the nature of Arab involvement.
Then there is the question of the end game, which is still very unclear, as Gaddafi clearly has no intention of going away.
The situation in Japan continues to be perilous, with the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami looking like 20,000-plus and the cost of rebuilding about a quarter of a trillion dollars. And that’s assuming that the ongoing nuclear power crisis does not become a catastrophe. Japanese authorities continue to issue clear-as-mud pronouncements.
Incidentally, the epic disaster of Japan shows that we certainly don’t learn too well from history. Here my old friend Gary Hart, then chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation, discusses things in this appearance on Face the Nation during the Three Mile Island crisis in 1979. It sounds very familiar.
America’s key ally Yemen, a flash point in the struggle against Al Qaeda, is in even greater turmoil today with much of the military defecting from the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. This comes after Saleh’s own tribe turned against him. His days look decidedly numbered.
The Arab revolt has come to Syria, where big demonstrations are taking place in Damascus, this time targeting a dictator who is no friend of the US.
In better news, Egypt held a referendum on Saturday on proposed reforms, which passed with a whopping 77% of the vote. The measures will limit the presidency to two four-year terms and open up the process to many more candidates. But opponents say that the entire constitution needs to be re-written, in part to buy time for youth groups and other reformers who are relatively unorganized. They say that the current reforms will aid established factions and the Muslim Brotherhood.
America’s longtime ally Yemen sees more chaos today with much of the military splitting from the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the wake of a massacre of protesters on Friday in the capital city Sanaa.
Obama is on his first extended visit to Latin America as president, and will tour Brazil, El Salvador, and Chile. Of course, he is monitoring multiple crises even as he lets Secretary of State Hillary Clinton play the lead public role on Libya.
Back to California politics.
It’s now just about time for Brown and the Legislature to come up with a budget deal.
The focus shifted, as I predicted, to the state Republican convention across the street from the Capitol at the Sacramento Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency at Capitol Park, which was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s part-time abode during his governorship. There was all sorts of hyper-partisan posturing and infighting going on there, as the far right tried to place its imprimatur on the Republican brand in the new open primary era — first by having small groups of activists endorse, finally by having the party run its own self-funded primary before the primary election! — and brand as traitors any politician who seeks real world solutions with Brown.
The party also elected a new state chairman, a far right blogger whose previous claim to fame was his 2006 lawsuit to disqualify Brown from being state attorney general! I’ll have a full report on these doings, which seem like sophomoric hijinks with a new war now underway.
Brown and the Legislature last week succeeded in passing half of his program — the big budget cuts part of it — and now need to put the revenue extensions on a June special election ballot.
Sadly, Republicans were not very helpful even in passing the budget cuts they say they want, much less extend revenues to avert even more draconian cuts. That was especially so in the Assembly. Why? Most didn’t want to take the rap on the cuts. Virtually all continued to embrace pot-of-gold redevelopment agencies, which their developer fundraisers like, in lieu of shifting those taxpayer funds to basic public services.
And, while a number continue to negotiate with Brown, none have publicly come out for revenue extensions.
Jerry Brown deserves an enormous amount of credit for spending countless hours in negotiations with Republicans and Democrats alike. In the process, he’s practically disappeared from public view, which I think is a mistake.
He’s also won widespread plaudits for his endless accessibility to legislators, especially in contrast to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But it’s still unclear that he can make the breakthrough that Schwarzenegger did not with regard to the entrenched interests on both sides of the partisan gap in ever dysfunctional Sacramento.
It should happen. After all, Schwarzenegger was in pretty good shape in late 2008, despite the chronic budget crisis that the state’s had since the dot-com bust. Until the Great Global Recession dumped the revenue floor.
But with the crisis even clearer now than it was in 2009, agreement should not be so elusive. And yet it has been. Maybe Schwarzenegger simply avoided wasting a lot of his time in endless meetings with pols.
Workers were again evacuated this morning from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant after smoke poured from the facility.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Brazil and Chile.
The First Family traveled from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Santiago, Chile. Obama received his daily intelligence briefing on Air Force One.
At 9:50 AM Pacific, the Obamas participate in an arrival ceremony at La Moneda Palace in Santiago.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama and President Sebastian Piñera of Chile take the official photo at La Moneda Palace.
At 10:05 AM Pacific, Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Piñera at La Moneda Palace.
At 10:25 AM Pacific, holds an expanded bilateral meeting with President Piñera.
At 11:05 AM Pacific, Obama and President Piñera hold a joint press conference at La Moneda Palace.
At 12:20 PM Pacific, Obama delivers a speech at Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda in Santiago.
This will be Obama’s definitional speech on relations with Latin America.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, the Obamas attend a U.S. Embassy meet and greet at the Sheraton Cristobal Hotel in Santiago.
At 4:25 PM Pacific, the Obamas attend an official dinner hosted by President Piñera at La Moneda Palace.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden is in Boston helping ramp up the re-election campaign’s fundraising machine.
Obama is also monitoring a host of other geopolitical crises, almost all of them related to the Arab revolt or AfPak and Iraq.
Governor Jerry Brown, in his first video address as governor, taped in his Capitol office on Sunday, talks about the need for politicians to act as “Californians first” in dealing with the state’s chronic budget crisis.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown, of course, is working on the state’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
** IS LIBYA A TURNING POINT ON HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTIONISM? Longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s bloodcurdling speech yesterday promising an imminent massacre of his opponents in rebel-held Benghazi may prove to be one of the classic political backfires. After he made it, the UN Security Council narrowly approved an unprecedented multilateral military intervention in Libya, what may turn out to be a landmark decision.
In Kosovo, NATO, without the support of the UN Security Council as Russia and China were in staunch opposition, intervened with air power to try to block Serbian “ethnic cleansing” efforts. Before that, in the Gulf War, US and allied forces acted with UN backing to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
Now the UN has approved a military intervention against a government trying to suppress an internal uprising against it, setting what may become an important new precedent in the process. And it might not have happened had Gaddafi not delivered his fateful speech as the Security Council was preparing to vote.
I listened to Gaddafi’s speech live on Al Jazeera. It was almost as though he was daring Western military intervention. … From my March 18th essay.
** ONE WORD: OBAMA’S NIGHTMARE SCENARIO, AND WHY IT HASN’T HAPPENED (YET). Poor Barack Obama. If it weren’t for all these geopolitical crises, he’d have some fairly decent-sounding news to spin. … From my March 15th essay.
** WILL JERRY BROWN PULL IT OFF? Will Jerry Brown pull it off? While most eyes focused on governors are zeroing in on the Wisconsin union-busting scheme, Brown is on a full-court press to balance the biggest state budget shortfall in the country. … From my March 7th essay.
** A WELCOME BLAST FROM THE NEW DOCTOR WHO. … From my February 28th essay..
** IF OBAMA LOSES, IT WON’T BE BECAUSE “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.” President Barack Obama’s failure to ever get around to pivoting to the economy last year was one of the major reasons why Democrats didn’t do well in the mid-term elections. But if he loses next year, and I expect him to win, it probably won’t be because of the domestic economy. It will be because of what he’s spent so much of time on that is not the domestic economy, namely geopolitics. … From my February 24th feature.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $102 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $68 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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