Egyptians are back on the streets of Cairo. Revolutionary groups and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood seem to be united in their call for civilian rule. They want the parliament reinstated and the ruling military council to hand over power to the new president, with no further delays in the official vote count.
** A RUGGED TIME FOR OBAMA’S BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in again.”
-Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III
America under Barack Obama has begun the big geopolitical pivot from its fateful over-engagement with the Islamic world of the Middle East and Central Asia to greater engagement with Asia and the Pacific. But this week showed that the transition is going to be anything but smooth.
Obama is trying to wind down the Afghan War after unwisely winding it up in 2009. Rival Mitt Romney wants to stick around. But we’re going to be disengaging, one way or the other, either with a certain degree of decorum or on the run, as events this week made plain, yet again.
While the Pakistan part of our flailing AfPak strategy accelerated its devolution, matters in the Middle East deteriorated further. The Egyptian revolution that so excited humanists in America and the West has been overwhelmed by counter-revolution, while Syria slid further from ceasefire into chaos and the Iranian nuclear crisis worsened.
Pakistan, that supposed lynchpin of U.S. strategy in the Afghan War when Obama escalated it in 2009, becomes still more problematic.
Pakistan was thrown into a new political crisis after the country’s supreme court pushed the prime minister, who has clashed sharply with the military, out of his job. Three judges disqualified Yusuf Raza Gilani, who was jailed for corruption during the Musharraf regime, from holding office and ordered the president to choose a new prime minister. The court ruled Gilani could not continue, after he was found guilty of contempt in April.
Then the nominee to replace Gilani as prime minister, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who has held several cabinet portfolios, suddenly became the subject of an arrest warrant. The judge on Thursday cited Makhdoom Shahabuddin’s alleged role in a scandal involving the import of a drug that can be used to make methamphetamine. Finally, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the former water and power minister and a longtime ally of President Asif Ali Zardari, was confirmed Friday by parliament as the new prime minister.
U.S.-Pakistani relations, which dropped to a new low after the Osama bin Laden raid, really plummeted in November after U.S. helicopters killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at an outpost on the Afghan border. The big Afghan War supply route through Pakistan was closed and remains closed.
Putting things in perspective, the prime minister forced from office this week was relatively pro-U.S.
There were reports early in the week that former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak had died. But that turned out not to be accurate. His heart apparently stopped, but was revived. He remains in grave condition.
As does the state of Egypt’s nascent democracy.
Dr. Mohamed Morsi, an alumnus of the University of Southern California and candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, has claimed victory in last weekend’s presidential run-off election over retired Air Force General Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, and news reports have validated the former California State University engineering professor’s claim.
But between the country’s Supreme Court, dominated by Mubarak appointees, and the ruling “interim” military council, the first democratically elected national parliament in decades has been dismissed and most all major decision-making power pertaining to fiscal matters, defense, and the development of a new constitution has been moved away from the presidency to the military council.
The official vote count was due on Thursday. Now the official vote won’t be released until this coming Sunday, if then.
Syria is an even bigger shambles.
The UN has halted its peacekeeping mission in Syria. Things simply became far too violent during the ceasefire, with the lives of the UN monitors under threat along with everyone else in rebellious areas.
Then there is the big wild card, Iran. And Israel’s reaction to Iran. …
So, does all this stop Obama from his planned geopolitical pivot? Will he, and we, be dragged back into the pit of the past decade’s mostly disastrous involvements, i.e., Iraq War, Afghan War, much too heavy bootprint in the Islamic world?
What’s particularly interesting in looking at this arc of crisis in the Middle East and Central Asia is, frankly, how little we can do about it. Which means that the answer, despite all the shouting and the usual nasty back and forth that transfixes the media culture so as it animates our dysfunctional political culture, is largely no.
Whether Romney and other reflexive warhawks like it or not, we are not going to win the Afghan War. The allies are heading for the exits and America has turned against it. We’re not going to be big shot callers in Pakistan, either. …
That’s the big wild card with regard to the big geopolitical pivot. The rise of China as a nascent superpower, and the rise of Asia as a whole, including Iran, shifts the world’s economic and political center of gravity such that the pivot makes more than enough sense, whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power.
In fact, I think the pivot to the Pacific would already have occurred had not taken place. After all, the first major geopolitical crisis of the Bush/Cheney administration took place there. …
** NEW POLL: LOSING THAT RELIGION — MOST CAN’T NAME OBAMA’S. A new Gallup Poll has some alarming news for President Barack Obama.
Most can’t correctly name him as a Christian.
Little more than a third get that right, despite the fact that his religious orientation has been bandied about for years, from his controversial Christian pastor Jeremiah Wright to the spurious charge that he is a secret Muslim.
Yes, the profusion of new media platforms is truly leading to a renaissance in knowledge in America.
Just 34% of Americans correctly say U.S. President Barack Obama is a Christian, while 44% say they don’t know Obama’s religion and 11% say he is a Muslim. …
Obama is a Christian and has labeled himself as such as in his writings and interviews, and while living in Chicago he attended the Trinity United Church of Christ. Since moving into the White House, Obama has attended several different Christian churches.
Americans are indeed more likely to say Obama is a Christian — mostly a generic “Christian” or “Protestant” — than to say he identifies with any other religion. In addition to those who name a specific religion or don’t offer a guess, 8% say he does not have a religious affiliation.
Americans are more likely to know Mitt Romney’s religion than Obama’s religion, with most Americans correctly saying Romney is a Mormon and a smaller 33% saying they don’t know. …
President Barack Obama, speaking at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference at Disney World in Florida, said he would not back down on pursuing immigration reform.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … A RUGGED TIME FOR OBAMA’S BIG GEOPOLITICAL PIVOT.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Florida.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He then flew on Air Force One to Orlando, Florida, where he delivered remarks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ Annual Conference at Walt Disney World Resort.
Following that, he flew to Tampa, Florida.
At 1:15 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.
At 3:35 PM Pacific, Obama departs Tampa on Air Force One en route to Joint Base Andrews.
At 5:30 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One.
At 5:45 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
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.
At 3 PM, Brown will attend the launch of the Tesla Motors Model S at the Tesla factory in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont.
Tesla already has the successful halo product in the form of its famed electric sports car. The Model S is the sedan for more general use.
The tobacco tax initiative on the June primary ballot went down to defeat in the final count, as I expected.
But it was somewhat closer than expected, losing by only 28,000 votes.
The measure, which would have tacked another dollar a pack on cigarettes to generate cancer research funds, a not exactly unknown field of endeavour, saw its goo-goo appeal run down by a $50 million advertising campaign by the obviously self-interested tobacco companies.
Yet, even though it was contending with a conservative-skewing low-turnout primary electorate with a policy idea I thought was played out, it nearly won anyway.
** THE “FAIR SHOT” VS. THE “TO DO LIST” — A BIG REVEALING BLAH IN THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. … From my June 20th column.
** THE ENLIGHTENMENT DIVIDES AMERICAN POLITICS. … From my June 16th essay.
** LOOKING FORWARD FROM MAD MEN‘S MEANDERING SEASON 5: YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (ONE CAN ONLY HOPE) … From my June 13th essay.
** MIDWAY: 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF ONE OF HISTORY’S MOST PIVOTAL BATTLES CAME IN MIDST OF OBAMA’S BIG STRATEGIC PIVOT TO THE PACIFIC. … From my June 9th essay.
** 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 May 30th essay.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. … From my May 30th 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.
World leaders are scarce on the ground, but some say the agreement likely to come out of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro is relatively unambitious, while poorer nations say it is a result of richer nations having a lack of commitment to the environment. Protesters outside the summit have been adding their voices to the criticism, as disappointment turns to anger. Tens of thousands of people have shown up in the Brazilian city, many of whom say what is happening on the sidelines of the gathering is what is really important.
** 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 is trading around $80 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $46 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 $34 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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