Syria’s civil war increasingly threatens to metastasize into a regional conflict, as Hezbollah fighters join the battle on the side of Syria’s government, prompting the Syrian opposition to return fire directly into Hezbollah’s home base in Lebanon. Calls for the U.S. to get involved persist.
Meanwhile, another interesting news development looms. Government projections show that in September, for the first time in almost two decades, the U.S. will produce more oil than it imports. Nor will that be a fluke; the trend is expected to continue, and domestic oil production is expected to outstrip imports by an increasingly wide margin throughout 2014.Sponsored Ads
These two developments may seem unrelated, but they are not. The worsening situation in Syria raises the question of whether the U.S. will feel compelled to do something militarily to help end the rule of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, though, declining U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil raises the question of whether Americans will find it ever harder to see the point of getting involved in that messy region.
Here is a guaranteed way to get paid well if you work on Wall Street. Find a best friend at a competing bank or hedge fund and take opposite sides of the same large bet. In one year’s time one of you will have a huge profit and get paid well. The other person will have lost and perhaps be fired. The sum of both your profits will be zero, but the sum of what you get paid will be positive. Split the pay.
This scheme is one of the more fanciful ways to exploit Wall Street’s compensation structure that pays absurdly well in the good years and just okay in the bad years. Losing money never means having to give anything back.
That asymmetry in pay (money for profits, flat for losses) is the engine behind many of Wall Street’s mistakes. It rewards short-term gains without regard to long-term consequences. The results? The over-reliance on excessive leverage, banks that are loaded with opaque financial products, and trading models that are flawed.
This Soviet strategy remains true today, despite the alleged demise of the USSR. Rather than looking back at the words of such former Soviet leaders, the media has responded to Russia’s resurgent activities with sporadic headlines that read “New Cold War” or “The Cold War is Back.” This could not be any further from the truth.
“I don’t agree that the Cold War is back. It never ended,” said Andrei Lugovoi, a representative in the Duma, Russian parliament, in 2000. In 2007, Vladimir Putin reiterated the continuation of the Cold War by threatened the West with a “new spiral in the arms race.” In the eyes of Russia, the Cold War never ended; they are still fighting. In 1960, warning about the Soviet menace, Senator Barry Goldwater, in The Conscience of a Conservative, wrote, “Our enemies have understood the nature of the conflict, and we have not. They are determined to win the conflict, and we are not.” Goldwater’s words resonate today as Russia continues to fight the Cold War through the use of EMP weapons and its reliance on satellite states.
President Obama used the occasion of the just-concluded Nuclear Security Summit, which tackled nuclear terrorism, to reiterate his “vision of a world without nuclear weapons,” as he put it to an audience of South Korean university students. It is a noble goal, but one which remains unrealistic given the need for great power nuclear deterrence.
The problem is Russia and China do not share President Obama’s “global zero” goal. Russia is actually increasing its reliance on nuclear weapons for defense as its ability to maintain a first-class conventional force wanes. More worrying at the moment, China’s nuclear program is so cloaked in secrecy that it is difficult to discern just how Beijing understands nuclear deterrence—we simply don’t know how large Beijing’s arsenal is or how committed it is to its declared “no first use” policy.
It would appear to be ironic that Zakaria, and others who purport to be “doves”, would favor a mutually assured destruction policy that threatens the deaths of millions, over a preventive policy that targets military nuclear facilities. But it is not at all ironic, since such doves would be against actually carrying out the threat that is central to any credible policy of deterrence. For them, deterrence is a bluff—a hollow threat and the Iranians would see right through it.
That’s why President Obama is correct in renouncing containment and insisting that he isn’t bluffing when he says Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, even if it takes a surgical military strike to stop them.
I am not here arguing in favor of a preventive attack on Iran at this time. I am arguing against reliance on a policy of deterrence and containment, because I don’t believe it will work in relation to Iran, Israel and the United States.
What if deterrence and containment didn’t work, and Iran were to fire nuclear rockets at Israeli cities? Those who now advocate robust deterrence—instead of surgical prevention—would simply say to the remaining Israelis: “Woops. We were wrong. Sorry. We’ll build you a new Holocaust Museum.”
Russia is setting up shop in Syria? With missiles? None of this can be good. Also not good, the Obama administration’s continued downgrading of American interests in the Middle East. The Political Commentator fills in the blanks.
Russia is screwing the U.S. again while destabilizing an already extremely unstable region!
The Political Commentator
When will Obama’s Washington finally realize that they have taken the US national security strategy of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” way too far!
I ask this question in light of the continued intransigence of China and Russia in the United Nations on critical Middle East issues, America’s reliance for the funding of our nation on the Communist Chinese and our numerous “negotiations” with Russia on assorted national security issues (i.e. missile defense in eastern Europe) that result in stalemates, broken promises or outright deception!
It was all smiles and bonhomie at the US-Australia defense meetings in San Francisco this month. But Down Under, there are growing calls for Australia to scale back its reliance on America in favor of – you guessed it – China.
“Australia can no longer assume that we can continue to exist in a world where we can rely on our great and powerful friend the United States to ensure our strategic future, and at the same time continue to have a very strong and growing economic relationship with China,” says Danielle Chubb, an Australian defense specialists and Vasey Fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu. “As China grows – which is something Australia wants — it is going to demand greater influence in the region.”
Although momentum is seemingly pushing the nation toward a smaller nuclear arsenal and eventual denuclearization, world events and a weakened economy may once again necessitate a greater reliance on nuclear weapons. Those who suggest that precision-guided weapons constitute a “New Triad” are wrong. Nuclear weapons have no substitute and they are unlikely to have an effective replacement any time soon.
A failure by regulators and lawmakers to distinguish between large and small banks, coupled with increased industry concentration, excessive pay and a reliance on risky trading, threatens to derail the economy or create the next big crisis, Wilmers said in his latest letter to shareholders.
Despite coming through the worst crisis in 70 years, the U.S. financial services industry is still beset by a “powerful combination of factors” that contributed to what happened and poses “significant risks to the long-term health of the American economy,” he wrote.
A software glitch knocked out some 10,000 of the military’s GPS receivers earlier this year, according to a new report by The Associated Press. Coming just days after the Air Force launched its first satellite as part of an upgraded GPS constellation, the report raises new questions about the military’s growing reliance on the popular space-based navigation system.