At the end of his nine-day “Pacific Pivot” trip, winding up in the place from which he seeks to extricate the US, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed even greater frustration with Pakistan.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … MAD MEN SEASON FINALE: “THE PHANTOM” and THE ENLIGHTENMENT DIVIDES AMERICAN POLITICS.
** MIDWAY: 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF HISTORY’S MOST PIVOTAL BATTLES CAME IN MIDST OF OBAMA’S BIG STRATEGIC PIVOT TO THE PACIFIC. The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, one of history’s most important battles, has come and gone, with little attention paid. The anniversary, June 4-7, took place while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in the midst of a very important trip to the Asia Pacific region which also passed with little notice.
The former CIA director and veteran California political figure’s nine-day trip was merely to lay the groundwork for a major re-set of America’s geopolitical priorities, what’s been called “the Pacific Pivot” (though lately re-dubbed the “rebalancing” to calm Europeanists), from over-engagement with the Islamic world to increased engagement with Asia.
And Midway? In my opinion, this Pacific battle was merely the most important American battle since Gettysburg. No, I don’t think the most important battle since the hinge of the Civil War, without which the Union would have been rent asunder, was D-Day, as epic as that was. By June 6th, 1944, the fascist forces in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East had been driven back, and Hitler was hunkering down in his “Festung Europa.” The Allies were winning with greater numbers and materiel. D-Day was a culmination of a process years in the making. It might have failed, but that was unlikely, for it had massive, even inexorable, might behind it.
Midway, in contrast, was a far more perilous encounter. It found the US Navy at a decided disadvantage against the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the six months between Pearl Harbor and Midway, the US and its allies in the Pacific had suffered an endless string of losses. If the Navy lost its precious handful of aircraft carriers off Midway, to the superior Japanese force, Hawaii’s defense would have been untenable and an already romping Japanese military would have had free reign across the Pacific, where it had already made incredible progress in setting up an empire under the rubric of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The sacrifice of the US Asiatic Fleet, virtually forgotten today, except for aficionados of one of John Ford’s greatest films, 1945′s They Were Expendable, a mostly true life story about the PT boats and others fighting a losing battle in the Philippines to buy time for the US to regroup after December 7th, 1941, was huge. The larger US Pacific Fleet, devastated by the Pearl Harbor attack, survived with a series of raids, largely to boost morale, by the handful of aircraft carriers that fortunately escaped the carnage of Oahu. Franklin Roosevelt had perhaps his greatest test of public leadership in keeping American spirits up during this very dark period.
This otherwise valuable AP story, the only major article to mark Midway’s 70th anniversary, is misleading in making intelligence sound far more precise than it was, extensively a retired officer who’d been a young ensign at the time. The US was able to read Japanese code, but only parts of messages, here and there. In fact, it took a faked American message about a non-existent drinking water crisis on Midway, which the Navy knew that Japanese would pick up and report on, to determine that it was Midway under discussion in the Japanese plans.
But even that left vast elements to chance. There were no satellites in those days. Radar was unreliable. All the aircraft were propeller-driven. Slow-flying scout planes, were used extensively to try to find enemy ships. Aircraft navigation and communications were spotty. …
But despite the lack of a glamorous locale, Midway was absolutely central to our past and present. And the big geopolitical pivot, again centered on the Pacific, now underway looks to be central to our future.
I discussed the Pacific Pivot last Thanksgiving here on the Huffington Post in “Darwinian: Obama Goes Post-Iraq in Oz, Republicans Race To the Past.”
The big pivot will make Darwin, Australia, where we are liked, much more important to US strategy than Kabul, Afghanistan, where we are not liked.
Panetta laid out the approach, first in his little-noted commencement address late last month at the U.S. Naval Academy, then in a session at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue on security issues in Singapore.
Last weekend, at the Shangri-la Dialogue on security policy in the Pacific Basin, Defense Secretary Panetta discussed the scenario.
Panetta said that the US Navy will shift most of its ships to the Asia Pacific region in coming years, and that six of the fleet’s 10 aircraft carriers and their supporting strike groups will be based and on patrol in the Pacific.
He stressed that the US seeks cooperation with China and not confrontation. But having more USN firepower in the region will backstop Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, all of which share the South China Sea but which are having serious problems with China, which attempts to claim nearly all of it. …
Changing a big country’s geostrategic posture, which is what the Obama Administration is fixing to do, is like turning around not a speedboat but an aircraft carrier. Especially when the country is still heavily engaged in the old direction.
Of course, Obama himself made it harder to do by ramping up dramatically in Afghanistan, which has turned into the predictable cluster, ah, scene.
And, as long as America is stuck on oil, it’s going to be involved in the Islamic world. All the more reason to focus at last on the need to shift away from the old energy economy of fossil fuels to the new energy economy of renewables and efficiency.
But there is involvement and there is disastrous entanglement. And that’s the distinction that must be drawn as the big pivot begins and carries on.
It’s all going to be quite fascinating, with many questions to raise and answer as we go.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama urges Congress to take action now save teaching jobs and preserve the foundation of education.
** OBAMA THIS WEEKEND. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
He has received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama has no scheduled public events on Saturday or Sunday.
Obama was engaged in damage control heading into the weekend after a rare gaffe. Why would he say the private sector is doing “fine?”
Because he’s comparing it to public sector job cuts, which drag down the employment picture?
Because most of the people he sees are rich? His fundraising is going great guns. Romney bested him this past month, but not by much, and only because he was able to tap his core backers for the first time for the bigger money amounts. (It looks like Obama just raised another $5 million or so on his latest California fundraising trip. I mentioned the LA leg earlier in the week. Former state Controller Steve Westly was at the Obama national finance meeting in Chicago, but it looks like the Bay Area chipped in another $2 million or so.)
Because he wants to make the race really interesting? I can sympathize, but really now, that’s not a very good reason for HIM to do that.
Because he’s catching Romney’s foot-in-mouth disease? It was quite out of character for Obama to say something so demonstrably foolish.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has no public events after a whirlwind Asia Pacifictour. Now we will see over the next few weeks and months what sort of take he really got in pushing for the new “Pacific Pivot.”
Here’s what Obama’s week ahead looks like.
As usual, there is plenty of room built in to allow response to events, and his private crisis management is not reflected in the public schedule.
On Monday, Obama will attend the proverbial meetings at the White House.
On Tuesday, Obama will travel to Baltimore, Maryland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC in the evening.
On Wednesday, Obama will award Israeli President Shimon Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a dinner at the White House.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to Cleveland, Ohio for a campaign event.
UN observers in Syria who went to the massacre village of Al-Qubayr said they saw blood on the walls and were hit by a “stench of burnt flesh” but could not confirm how many died.
Obama will then travel to New York where he and First Lady Michelle Obama will visit the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s World Trade Center site and receive a briefing on construction progress. The visit will be a preview of the One World Trade Center topping-off ceremony, which will symbolize the near-completion of the iconic building’s framework. The Obamas will then attend campaign events in New York City, before returning to Washington later in the evening.
On Friday, Obama will hold a reception at the White House to observe LGBT Pride Month.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is continuing state budget negotiations in advance of the June 15th deadline.
His administration will announce agreements with various union bargaining units to secure the needed 5% cuts in compensation costs he is demanding as part of his state budget cuts.
Brown, pointing to victories for public pension reform measures on Tuesday in San Jose and San Diego, is also pushing for action on his public pension reform proposal to backstop support for his November revenue initiative.
** MAD MEN: THE ANVIL HAS LANDED. … From my June 6th review.
** JERRY BROWN FOR PRESIDENT + 20. … From my June 6th essay.
** FIAT LUX, WILLARD! … From my June 1st column.
** MAD MEN: CONTROVERSY AS JOAN LOWERS HERSELF TO RISE, PEGGY EXITS ANTICLIMACTICALLY (AND SCDP GETS ITS HALO CLIENT). … From my latest essay.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. … From my May 30th essay.
** MAD MEN: A GREAT LEAPER FORWARD? JOAN, JAG, DON’S RETURN TO ADVERTISING (AND OTHER, ER, TREKS). … From my May 23rd review.
** A BUCKET OF WOE: JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET. … From my May 16th essay.
** MAD MEN: DANGER! SLIPPERY WHEN SOAPY (ESPECIALLY IN DARK SHADOWS). … From my May 15th review.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. …From my May 12th essay.
** 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 AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. 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.
** 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 from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run 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 closed on Friday at $84.10 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $50 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $30 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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