Saturday, November 29, 2008

How should Obama approach relations with Venezuela?

"Chavez is an extremely active enemy of the US and its democratic values and principles, which for many years he has managed to disguise using the unpopular President Bush as his cover"
Diego Arria
How Should Obama Approach Relations With Venezuela ?

Q: Barack Obama received warm wishes from Latin American leaders after his election as US president on November 4. Venezuela was among the countries sending congratulatory messages, expressing a desire for "new relations between our countries." Should Obama work for rapprochement with Venezuela ? What hazards should Obama avoid in his approach to Venezuela ? What would be the effects of more cordial relations between the two countries?

A: Board Comment: Diego Arria: "When the price of oil was above $130 a barrel, Chavez proclaimed that 'Obama represented the empire that had to be terminated.' Since prices dipped below $60 he has toned down his language, expressing the need for 'a normalization of relations.' What would normalization mean for Chavez? To have free rein to continue to promote subversive activities throughout the region, and to trample the rights of the Venezuelan people suffering the actions of a militarized, authoritarian regime. President Obama should not make the mistake of continuing to believe that it is possible to 'bridge the gap that divide us.'
Chavez is an extremely active enemy of the US and its democratic values and principles, which for many years he has managed to disguise using the unpopular President Bush as his cover. The US authorities know that Chavez has been the most important ally of the narcoterrorist forces of Colombia , which for years kept American citizens as hostages, and that he has turned Venezuela into a sanctuary of all kinds of unsavory and dangerous characters from around the globe. For Chavez to have the US as an enemy is fundamental to his political grandstanding both nationally and internationally. Without it he would be fighting his own shadow and forced to face the reality that after bringing in $800 billion during his mandate he has managed to bring Venezuela close to a collapse. He needs to blame 'the empire' to hide the incompetence and corruption of his regime."

Diego Arria is a member of the Advisor board, Director of the Columbus Group and former Permanent Representative of Venezuela at the United Nations.

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Chavez suffered a major setback

Agree with this statement: "Arria points to the fact that "now wounded and resentful Chávez is more dangerous than before, and will not give up trying to turn the country into a totalitarian state."
CARACAS, Friday November 28, 2008

Diego Arria: "Chávez suffered a major setback"
"The election results represent the end of Chávez's attempt to turn the country into a socialist state under the banner of the Bolivarian Revolution"
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in last November 23rd local polls "suffered a major setback when the democratic opposition won the governorships of the five most populous states plus the Caracas Mayor's office, which altogether represent more than half of the electorate and four fifths of the national economy," said Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations.
When asked what the election results meant for Chávez, Arria replied that the local polls were prefaced by "an abusive campaign" that turned the election into a plebiscite about Chávez.
According to Arria, a member of the advisory board of publication The Latin American Advisor, Inter-American Dialogue, "The election results (47 percent of the votes were against Chávez's official candidates) represent the end of Chávez's attempt to turn the country into a socialist state under the banner of the Bolivarian Revolution."
Regarding the outcome of the recent polls for the political organizations opposing the Venezuelan ruler, Arria stressed that "the success of the opposition forces is even more admirable when you consider that they not only had to vote for their candidates, but had to defend them from an untrustworthy electoral arbiter totally subordinated to the regime."
Further, Arria highlights the fact that President Chávez's "three closest lieutenants" were defeated in the election. In his view, such outcome "places the opposition on the way to win the 2009 elections for the National Assembly that today is fully controlled by Chávez, provided that they continue to work hard to preserve their unity."
Arria points to the fact that "now wounded and resentful Chávez is more dangerous than before, and will not give up trying to turn the country into a totalitarian state."

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Barack Obama taps Joe Biden for VP

I am happy to see that Obama's administration knows who is Chavez.
vdebate reporter
What effect does Joe Biden’s supposed vice presidential candidacy have for Latin America and the Caribbean? A search through Biden’s official website provides some clues:
Biden claims to have “the bully pulpit of the Drug Caucus” to fight against illegal drug use and illegal trafficking. He said that he was “a strong advocate” for the comprehensive aid package known as Plan Colombia and has “exerted pressure” on the Mexican government to combat trafficking.
In a June 2007 statement, Biden backed debate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill since the “immigration system is broken and we have an obligation to work on it until we fix it.” (That bill would eventually be defeated).
Took to the floor in 2006 to recognize “ten extraordinary women” as part of International Women’s Day; one of them was Mexican actress/producer Salma Hayek.
Pointed out “China’s growing soft power in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” during a May hearing on the growing global role of China.
After Raul Castro took over the Cuban presidency, Biden issued a statement calling for the trade embargo against the island to stay while also advocating the loosening of travel restrictions.
In a 2006 speech, Biden warned about the “Axis of Oil” which includes several countries he believed were a “grave danger” to the U.S. including Venezuela.
In addition, the very resourceful lists several of Biden’s viewpoints on foreign policy including his 1995 vote to strengthen the trade embargo against Cuba and his resolution condemning Venezuela for pulling RCTV’s broadcast license.
Assuming that the reports are true over an Obama/Biden ticket, what do you think about it?

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

G20 in Washington

Venezuela is not there....... with Chavez we are going back instead of forward.

vdebate reporter

The members of the G-20 are the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The European Union is also a member, represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank. To ensure global economic fora and institutions work together, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the President of the World Bank, plus the chairs of the International Monetary and Financial Committee and Development Committee of the IMF and World Bank, also participate in G-20 meetings on an ex-officio basis. The G-20 thus brings together important industrial and emerging-market countries from all regions of the world. Together, member countries represent around 90 per cent of global gross national product, 80 per cent of world trade (including EU intra-trade) as well as two-thirds of the world's population. The G-20's economic weight and broad membership gives it a high degree of legitimacy and influence over the management of the global economy and financial system.

Cristina K was late..........

Cristina is here in this picture.

This people is protesting Capitalism. If they want communism they could get a one way ticket to Cuba, or Russia, or China.

vdebate reporter

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An axis in need of oiling

Plunging oil price is not helping Chavez, we are so happy!!!
"As Mr Chávez scales back spending he will have to choose between losing influence abroad or losing popularity at home. Already he has quietly cancelled a promise to build an oil refinery in Nicaragua"
vdebate reporter.
The anti-West
An axis in need of oiling
Oct 23rd 2008
From The Economist print edition
Russia, Iran and Venezuela have
been making common cause. A plunging oil price may stay their hand, but the West should still watch out

Illustration by Claudio Munoz
IT WAS one of George Bush’s catchier turns of phrase—the “axis of evil” consisting of North Korea, Iran and Iraq. How evil, or even menacing, they really were is debatable. And it was not much of an axis: Iran and Iraq hated each other. North Korea exported nuclear know-how, but probably no more than other countries such as Pakistan, a supposed American ally.
Of late another trio, bound together by dislike for America, and confidence based on surging energy revenues, has appeared: an “axis of diesel”, as some have named it, comprising Russia, Iran and Venezuela. At least before the present financial crisis, the trio had been hobnobbing happily. Russia has sold billions of dollars’ worth of arms to Venezuela and blocked Western attempts to slap tougher sanctions on Iran. The Kremlin is also selling air-defence systems to the Iranians.
Yet in this case, too, the idea of an “axis” is exaggerated. Each of the trio has different aims. Venezuela wants to create an anti-American block in Latin America. Russia likes the idea of challenging the United States in its backyard: a suitable response to what it sees as American meddling in Russia’s own neighbourhood, where its president, Dmitry Medvedev, claims “privileged interests”. But Russia’s backing for Venezuela is constrained by its ties to other countries in the region, such as Brazil.
Similarly, Russia likes to play the “Iran card”, signalling to Mr Bush that he may have to give ground in, say, Georgia if he wants help in the Middle East. But as far as any outsider can say, the Kremlin does not want Iran to have a bomb.
So the common interests of the three countries are mostly tactical, not strategic. The same applies to China, which is a co-founder, along with Russia, of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a loose security club. Having snubbed Russia over Georgia, China’s top priority is not gloating or spoiling, but salvaging the world economy, including that of America, which is a crucial outlet for its goods.
The “diesel” trio did gloat at first over the West’s meltdown. But they overlooked one of its effects: a plunge in oil prices, and hence their own revenues. This unwelcome news is likely to sharpen distinctions between them. Fyodor Lukyanov, a Russian foreign-policy pundit, says his country will have to prioritise. “Trying to achieve everything won’t fly any more.” The focus, he thinks, will be more on nearby countries and less on Latin America, not least because Venezuela will have less cash to buy Russian weaponry.
Indeed, the end of the oil boom may spell doom for that country’s populist leader, Hugo Chávez. Oil has been his political oxygen. When he took office in 1998 the price was $11 a barrel. It peaked in July at $147. Since then it has halved. Oil accounts for 90% of exports and more than half of government revenues. At home it has paid for what he calls “21st century socialism”: chiefly a torrent of central government spending, up from 22% of GDP in 2001 to 32% now. Mr Chávez also spends freely from the off-budget National Development Fund (Fonden), while Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state oil company, has been required to divert part of its investment budget to social spending.
Oil has also financed an anti-American alliance. More than a dozen countries in Central America and the Caribbean receive a total of some 300,000 barrels per day (b/d) of Venezuelan oil on easy terms (of which 93,000 b/d go to Cuba). Venezuela has spent heavily to support Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and the opposition FMLN in El Salvador.
The price of cold turkey
For each $10 drop in the oil price, the government gets $5 billion (1.4% of GDP) less in revenue, according to LatinSource, a consultancy. Mr Chávez said this month that an oil price no lower than $80 was “sufficient”. But the economy is already deteriorating. Oil-dependency has risen; nationalisation, bullying and meddling have deterred private investment; a fixed and overvalued exchange rate has stoked imports. In 2006 growth was 10.3% and inflation 17%; the latest growth figure is a 7.1%; inflation is 36%. Foreign debt is up from $30 billion to $44 billion. The cost of credit has risen. Opaque statistics make it hard to gauge Mr Chávez’s room for manoeuvre. Fonden may contain some $15 billion; central bank reserves are about $27 billion. But the underlying trend is clear.
A devaluation risks setting off a downward spiral of inflation and rising poverty. As Mr Chávez scales back spending he will have to choose between losing influence abroad or losing popularity at home. Already he has quietly cancelled a promise to build an oil refinery in Nicaragua.
On the face of things, Russia looks better placed than its two friends to resist shocks; before the turmoil, it had built up the world’s third-biggest stash of currency, at more than $500 billion. However, the Kremlin has been spending heavily to prop up the rouble, bail out banks and plug holes in its budget. Apart from falling oil prices, a big cloud on the Russian horizon is falling oil output, a trend that looks hard to reverse without massive investment—and there are many other things Russia has pledged to invest in, from an expanding military to its own creaky infrastructure.
Compared with Mr Putin, Mr Chávez is less involved in the global financial markets and even more prone to blame everything on an American-driven fiasco. “There’s a spectre going round the developed world that was of its own making,” he said this month. “Like Frankenstein [sic]…it went around the world and then went back to his maker.” The first test of whom Venezuelans blame will come in local and state elections on November 23rd.
Thanks to sanctions, Iran is the axis member least exposed to the world economy. But the oil price fall will hit it hard. Some 80% of Iran’s government revenues come from energy. A drop in income is unlikely to make Iran slow down its nuclear programme, or end support for Israel’s armed foes. The nuclear efforts date back 20 years, predating the oil-price rise. But a sagging oil price will hurt the domestic economy and compound the woes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Unlike Russia, which had prepared for a rainy day, Mr Ahmadinejad has been investing Iran’s oil money in a different future: his own. Energy subsidies alone are about 12% of Iran’s GDP; and energy revenues prop up the government budget. Inflation is at least 30%, up from an official 20% in February. The former central bank chief, sacked for resisting populist spending policies, has accused Mr Ahmadinejad of “looting” the bank’s assets. Merchants recently went on strike in several cities, including Tehran, over higher sales taxes.
Even before the oil price fell, some senior Iranians had criticised Mr Ahmadinejad for stoking confrontation with the West and making it easier for the United Nations to impose sanctions. Yet a falling oil price puts more pressure on Iran’s economy at a stroke than have several years of international sanctions.
The main aim of the “diesel” countries will now be to try to prop up falling prices. Iran and Venezuela, both members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have called for it to cut output. Iran’s energy minister insisted defiantly this week that “the era of cheap oil is finished.” The cartel’s members are sufficiently worried about the falling price to have brought forward their next meeting by three weeks, to October 24th.
But Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest producer, which would be responsible for the biggest share of any reduction in output, has not yet endorsed the idea of a cut and will not want to do all the cutting itself. It can withstand lower prices better than most, since it can balance its budget at an oil price of just $49 a barrel, according to the IMF. Iran and Venezuela, by contrast, need about $95 to make ends meet, according to Deutsche Bank.
Those fiscal straits will make Iran and Venezuela reluctant to forgo revenue by making cuts of their own, setting the stage for a row over quotas with Saudi Arabia. Yet the Saudis will not be unhappy to see Iran, a regional rival, squirm. What is more, says Leo Drollas of the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a consultancy, they are unlikely to agree to big cuts for fear of further blighting the world economy. There is also the question of whether the cartel will stick to whatever agreement it reaches. In the past, cash-strapped members have frequently cheated.
In sum, Iran, Russia and Venezuela are all likely to be left short of cash—and facing a diminution in their international clout. “Never confuse brilliance with a bull market,” goes a Wall Street saying. The leaders of the oily trio may have thought high oil prices were an adequate substitute for good governance. In many quarters, the difference is now painfully clear.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

US Congressmen that have supported Chavez

Democrats Congressmen supporting Chavez:
John Conyers of Michigan
William Delahunt of Massachusetts
Edward Markey of Massachusetts
Joseph Kennedy of Massachusetts
Jose Serrano of New York
Senador Harkin of Iowa
Ex-president Carter
Have they ever read about Chavez constants violation of Venezuelans' Human Rights?
Vdebate reporter
September 29, 2006
Democrats and the anti-Semitism of Hugo Chavez
By Ed Lasky
Various Democrats have looked with favor upon the anti—American Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez over the years, his record of deepening anti—Semitism notwithstanding. Ex—president Carter helped him secure his position by certifying election results that others have cast doubt upon.
In 2002, 16 Democratic Congressmen, including senior Judiciary Committee member John Conyers of Michigan, voiced their support for Chavez when they sent a letter to President Bush complaining that America was not protecting Chavez from internal opposition to his authoritarian and increasingly erratic rule.
In that same year, Representative William Delahunt of Massachusetts established a 'Venezuelan Caucus' to show 'friendship to President Chavez'.
More recently, Congressman Edward Markey (also of Massachusetts) joined with Delahunt to accept cheap heating oil for their constituents from Chavez under a program Chavez rolled out to curry favor with certain Congressmen in America. The program, awkwardly called 'From the Venezuelan Hearts to the US hearths', has several political aims. It is geared towards minority communities in America as a way to garner support for Chavez among these groups. By doling out oil at a 40% discount in liberal congressional districts and allowing the incumbent representatives to take credit for it, Chavez is hoping to influence the makeup and policies of Congress and place these Congressmen in his debt.
This same discount oil has lured a Kennedy, ex—Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (also of Massachusetts), to hook up with Hugo. Chavez supplies discount oil for Kennedy to run through his Citizens Energy Corporation. Jose Serrano (D—NY) is also a Representative who will benefit as his constituents receive this discount oil. While Chavez's most recent rantings and ravings at the United Nations brought forth some expressions of disapproval from some Democrats (Congresswoman Pelosi and Congressman Rangel), others like Delahunt downplayed it, and Iowa's Senator Harkin actually supported Chavez.
The discount oil program appears to be an end—run around the federal law prohibiting foreigners from financially contributing to political candidates. Chavez is clearly accepting these losses (in effect donating the 'lost profits' to these districts) in order to help elect Congressmen who will support him.* It is reminiscent of the big city political machines which used to hand out turkeys to voters at Christmas.
But these Democrat Congressmen are members of a party which derives a great deal of support from America's Jewish community. They seem to have no problem cavorting with one of the most anti—Semitic leaders on the world stage, and Jewish Democrats have remained stragely silent of this betrayal. The very same Hugo Chavez who seems to have a soft spot for some minorities has a very harsh approach towards another — the Jewish people.
Late last year, Chavez took the occasion of his Christmas Eve speech to invoke an old anti—Semitic slur. Chavez declared,
'the world has wealth for all, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ... have taken over all the wealth of the world'.
While well—informed people know that Romans crucified Christ, there are many millions of ill—informed people (including, apparently Chavez) who believe that Jews killed Christ. Clearly, when Chavez spoke of the people responsible for the death of Christ taking the wealth of the world, he was not referring to any ancient centurions living in plutocratic splendor these days, he was employing an anti—Semitic canard.
However, his insults go far beyond this. In 2004, a state prosecutor and Chavez ally was killed in car bombing. The Chavez—controlled state—run television referred to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad as being behind the killing. (The Mossad is routinely dredged up by Arab anti—Semites as being responsible for all sorts of calamitous events in the world, including 9/11).
Chavez sent Venezuelan security forces to raid a Jewish private school in Caracas as the school day was beginning, in an incident widely regarded by Jews there as a warning to support him or else. His forces terrorized young children, holding sub—machine guns as the school was searched. Of course, no evidence was found implicating anyone in the killing of the prosecutor. But the event can also be seen as a present to Iran, since Chavez was visiting Iran at the time of the raid on the school.
Of course, his alliance and friendship with the Iranian regime should be enough to disconcert American Jews. Iranian—supported Hezb'allah has blown up a Jewish Community center and an Israeli Embassy in Argentina. Hezb'allah routinely attacks Israel, and the latest sneak attack resulted in a mini—war with Israel a few months ago. Of course, Iran has called for Israel to be 'wiped off the face of the map', has denied the Holocaust has occurred, is the foremost promoter of anti—Semitism around the world, and is developing a nuclear and ballistic missile program that directly threatens Israel.
Venezuelan Jews are feeling endangered. They have reported a noticeable up tick in anti—Semitism in government media, whereas before Chavez took power it was almost non—existent. Just this week, Caracas news paper El Diario published an article on 'The Zionist Jews' whose tone rapidly becomes apparent with the first paragraph, translated by bloggers Daniel of Venezuela News & Views and Alexandra Beech (hat tip: Larwyn).
Zionists, the destructive sect of radical Jews, are again impregnating the Jewish community with its animosity towards humanity. The genocide they executed in Palestine and Lebanon is similar to the Holocaust which the Nazis executed against them, and they will undergo another Holocaust because of the global hatred they are accumulating. If the Jews have charged the Nazis for their victims, they will have to pay Lebanon for their killings. The Jewish race is condemned to disappear, because if they continue marrying among themselves they will continue to degenerate; if they open their marriages they will racially dilute themselves, so they only recourse is to stay united, to provoke wars,and auto—genocides.
The article continues even more ominously:
Possibly, we'll have to expel them from the country, as other nations have done, which is the reason that Jews remain in a continuous state of stateless exodus, and it is why in 1948 they invaded Palestine, guided by Albion. Will global justice allow the United States, England, and Israel to destroy the Middle East to take over its oil? Only the union of its people will save them.
Anti—Semitic graffiti is appearing much more frequently in Caracas. Some Venezuelans believe Chavez was imbued with anti—Semitism by his mentor, Norbeto Ceresole, an Argentine known for his extreme neo—Nazi views. A local columnist, Sammy Eppel, bravely states, 'the government has adopted an anti—Semitic policy'. This problem will probably worsen, and Chavez intends to set up his version of Al Jazeera throughout the Spanish—speaking world, providing another outlet for his anti—Semitism.
Do the Democrat Congressmen who offer support for Hugo Chavez have a problem with his anti—Semitism? After all, they are one—degree of separation away from one of the more anti—Semitic leaders on the world stage.
Do the Democrat officials have a problem with his sending of thugs to terrorize children in a Jewish school? With speeches that are laced with anti—Semitic canards? With state—controlled media writing of expelling the Jews from Venezuela? With his alliance with a man who threatens another genocide?
According to the public record, the answer seems to be no.
That same public record also indicates that Jewish Democrats are willing to tolerate this behavior in their own party.
The silence is deafening.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.
on "Democrats and the anti-Semitism of Hugo Chavez"

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Walesa critical of Chavez's leadership in Venezuela

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa has criticized Hugo Chavez's left-wing brand of leadership, saying the Venezuelan president should learn from Poland's experience how damaging communism can be.Ex-Polish leader Lech Walesa says bringing communism to Venezuela is "the biggest mistake of the region.""The ideas of the ruling team [in Venezuela] are very bad ideas," said Walesa, a former president of Poland."I am the best proof that communism fell because it was a bad system," said Walesa."And introducing it there [in Venezuela] is the biggest mistake of the region," he said in a television interview.Walesa, 65, dropped plans to attend a pro-democracy forum in Venezuela this week organized by anti-Chavez university students after the country's authorities said they could not guarantee his security.Walesa took it as a sign that he was not welcome.
Read the full story at:

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama's Challenge

--November 5, 2008
Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States by a large majority in the Electoral College. The Democrats have dramatically increased their control of Congress, increasing the number of seats they hold in the House of Representatives and moving close to the point where — with a few Republican defections — they can have veto-proof control of the Senate. Given the age of some Supreme Court justices, Obama might well have the opportunity to appoint at least one and possibly two new justices. He will begin as one of the most powerful presidents in a long while.
Truly extraordinary were the celebrations held around the world upon Obama’s victory. They affirm the global expectations Obama has raised — and reveal that the United States must be more important to Europeans than the latter like to admit. (We can’t imagine late-night vigils in the United States over a French election.)
Obama is an extraordinary rhetorician, and as Aristotle pointed out, rhetoric is one of the foundations of political power. Rhetoric has raised him to the presidency, along with the tremendous unpopularity of his predecessor and a financial crisis that took a tied campaign and gave Obama a lead he carefully nurtured to victory. So, as with all politicians, his victory was a matter of rhetoric and, according to Machiavelli, luck. Obama had both, but now the question is whether he has Machiavelli’s virtue in full by possessing the ability to exercise power. This last element is what governing is about, and it is what will determine if his presidency succeeds.
Embedded in his tremendous victory is a single weakness: Obama won the popular vote by a fairly narrow margin, about 52 percent of the vote. That means that almost as many people voted against him as voted for him.
Obama’s Agenda vs. Expanding His Base
U.S. President George W. Bush demonstrated that the inability to understand the uses and limits of power can crush a presidency very quickly. The enormous enthusiasm of Obama’s followers could conceal how he — like Bush — is governing a deeply, and nearly evenly, divided country. Obama’s first test will be simple: Can he maintain the devotion of his followers while increasing his political base? Or will he believe, as Bush and Cheney did, that he can govern without concern for the other half of the country because he controls the presidency and Congress, as Bush and Cheney did in 2001? Presidents are elected by electoral votes, but they govern through public support.
Obama and his supporters will say there is no danger of a repeat of Bush — who believed he could carry out his agenda and build his political base at the same time, but couldn’t. Building a political base requires modifying one’s agenda. But when you start modifying your agenda, when you become pragmatic, you start to lose your supporters. If Obama had won with 60 percent of the popular vote, this would not be as pressing a question. But he barely won by more than Bush in 2004. Now, we will find out if Obama is as skillful a president as he was a candidate.

Obama will soon face the problem of beginning to disappoint people all over the world, a problem built into his job. The first disappointments will be minor. There are thousands of people hoping for appointments, some to Cabinet positions, others to the White House, others to federal agencies. Many will get something, but few will get as much as they hoped for. Some will feel betrayed and become bitter. During the transition process, the disappointed office seeker — an institution in American politics — will start leaking on background to whatever reporters are available. This will strike a small, discordant note; creating no serious problems, but serving as a harbinger of things to come.
Later, Obama will be sworn in. He will give a memorable, perhaps historic speech at his inauguration. There will be great expectations about him in the country and around the world. He will enjoy the traditional presidential honeymoon, during which all but his bitterest enemies will give him the benefit of the doubt. The press initially will adore him, but will begin writing stories about all the positions he hasn’t filled, the mistakes he made in the vetting process and so on. And then, sometime in March or April, things will get interesting.
Iran and a U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq
Obama has promised to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, where he does not intend to leave any residual force. If he follows that course, he will open the door for the Iranians. Iran’s primary national security interest is containing or dominating Iraq, with which Iran fought a long war. If the United States remains in Iraq, the Iranians will be forced to accept a neutral government in Iraq. A U.S. withdrawal will pave the way for the Iranians to use Iraqi proxies to create, at a minimum, an Iraqi government more heavily influenced by Iran.
Apart from upsetting Sunni and Kurdish allies of the United States in Iraq, the Iranian ascendancy in Iraq will disturb some major American allies — particularly the Saudis, who fear Iranian power. The United States can’t afford a scenario under which Iranian power is projected into the Saudi oil fields. While that might be an unlikely scenario, it carries catastrophic consequences. The Jordanians and possibly the Turks, also American allies, will pressure Obama not simply to withdraw. And, of course, the Israelis will want the United States to remain in place to block Iranian expansion. Resisting a coalition of Saudis and Israelis will not be easy.
This will be the point where Obama’s pledge to talk to the Iranians will become crucial. If he simply withdraws from Iraq without a solid understanding with Iran, the entire American coalition in the region will come apart. Obama has pledged to build coalitions, something that will be difficult in the Middle East if he withdraws from Iraq without ironclad Iranian guarantees. He therefore will talk to the Iranians. But what can Obama offer the Iranians that would induce them to forego their primary national security interest? It is difficult to imagine a U.S.-Iranian deal that is both mutually beneficial and enforceable.
Obama will then be forced to make a decision. He can withdraw from Iraq and suffer the geopolitical consequences while coming under fire from the substantial political right in the United States that he needs at least in part to bring into his coalition. Or, he can retain some force in Iraq, thereby disappointing his supporters. If he is clumsy, he could wind up under attack from the right for negotiating with the Iranians and from his own supporters for not withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. His skills in foreign policy and domestic politics will be tested on this core question, and he undoubtedly will disappoint many.
The Afghan Dilemma
Obama will need to address Afghanistan next. He has said that this is the real war, and that he will ask U.S. allies to join him in the effort. This means he will go to the Europeans and NATO, as he has said he will do. The Europeans are delighted with Obama’s victory because they feel Obama will consult them and stop making demands of them. But demands are precisely what he will bring the Europeans. In particular, he will want the Europeans to provide more forces for Afghanistan.
Many European countries will be inclined to provide some support, if for no other reason than to show that they are prepared to work with Obama. But European public opinion is not about to support a major deployment in Afghanistan, and the Europeans don’t have the force to deploy there anyway. In fact, as the global financial crisis begins to have a more dire impact in Europe than in the United States, many European countries are actively reducing their deployments in Afghanistan to save money. Expanding operations is the last thing on European minds.
Obama’s Afghan solution of building a coalition centered on the Europeans will thus meet a divided Europe with little inclination to send troops and with few troops to send in any event. That will force him into a confrontation with the Europeans in spring 2009, and then into a decision. The United States and its allies collectively lack the force to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban. They certainly lack the force to make a significant move into Pakistan — something Obama has floated on several occasions that might be a good idea if force were in fact available.
He will have to make a hard decision on Afghanistan. Obama can continue the war as it is currently being fought, without hope of anything but a long holding action, but this risks defining his presidency around a hopeless war. He can choose to withdraw, in effect reinstating the Taliban, going back on his commitment and drawing heavy fire from the right. Or he can do what we have suggested is the inevitable outcome, namely, negotiate — and reach a political accord — with the Taliban. Unlike Bush, however, withdrawal or negotiation with the Taliban will increase the pressure on Obama from the right. And if this is coupled with a decision to delay withdrawal from Iraq, Obama’s own supporters will become restive. His 52 percent Election Day support could deteriorate with remarkable speed.
The Russian Question
At the same time, Obama will face the Russian question. The morning after Obama’s election, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that Russia was deploying missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad in response to the U.S. deployment of ballistic missile defense systems in Poland. Obama opposed the Russians on their August intervention in Georgia, but he has never enunciated a clear Russia policy. We expect Ukraine will have shifted its political alignment toward Russia, and Moscow will be rapidly moving to create a sphere of influence before Obama can bring his attention — and U.S. power — to bear.
Obama will again turn to the Europeans to create a coalition to resist the Russians. But the Europeans will again be divided. The Germans can’t afford to alienate the Russians because of German energy dependence on Russia and because Germany does not want to fight another Cold War. The British and French may be more inclined to address the question, but certainly not to the point of resurrecting NATO as a major military force. The Russians will be prepared to talk, and will want to talk a great deal, all the while pursuing their own national interest of increasing their power in what they call their “near abroad.”
Obama will have many options on domestic policy given his majorities in Congress. But his Achilles’ heel, as it was for Bush and for many presidents, will be foreign policy. He has made what appear to be three guarantees. First, he will withdraw from Iraq. Second, he will focus on Afghanistan. Third, he will oppose Russian expansionism. To deliver on the first promise, he must deal with the Iranians. To deliver on the second, he must deal with the Taliban. To deliver on the third, he must deal with the Europeans.
Global Finance and the European Problem
The Europeans will pose another critical problem, as they want a second Bretton Woods agreement. Some European states appear to desire a set of international regulations for the financial system. There are three problems with this.
First, unless Obama wants to change course dramatically, the U.S. and European positions differ over the degree to which governments will regulate interbank transactions. The Europeans want much more intrusion than the Americans. They are far less averse to direct government controls than the Americans have been. Obama has the power to shift American policy, but doing that will make it harder to expand his base.
Second, the creation of an international regulatory body that has authority over American banks would create a system where U.S. financial management was subordinated to European financial management.
And third, the Europeans themselves have no common understanding of things. Obama could thus quickly be drawn into complex EU policy issues that could tie his hands in the United States. These could quickly turn into painful negotiations, in which Obama’s allure to the Europeans will evaporate.
One of the foundations of Obama’s foreign policy — and one of the reasons the Europeans have celebrated his election — was the perception that Obama is prepared to work closely with the Europeans. He is in fact prepared to do so, but his problem will be the same one Bush had: The Europeans are in no position to give the things that Obama will need from them — namely, troops, a revived NATO to confront the Russians and a global financial system that doesn’t subordinate American financial authority to an international bureaucracy.
The Hard Road Ahead
Like any politician, Obama will face the challenge of having made a set of promises that are not mutually supportive. Much of his challenge boils down to problems that he needs to solve and that he wants European help on, but the Europeans are not prepared to provide the type and amount of help he needs. This, plus the fact that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq requires an agreement with Iran — something hard to imagine without a continued U.S. presence in Iraq — gives Obama a difficult road to move on.
As with all American presidents (who face midterm elections with astonishing speed), Obama’s foreign policy moves will be framed by his political support. Institutionally, he will be powerful. In terms of popular support, he begins knowing that almost half the country voted against him, and that he must increase his base. He must exploit the honeymoon period, when his support will expand, to bring another 5 percent or 10 percent of the public into his coalition. These people voted against him; now he needs to convince them to support him. But these are precisely the people who would regard talks with the Taliban or Iran with deep distrust. And if negotiations with the Iranians cause him to keep forces in Iraq, he will alienate his base without necessarily winning over his opponents.
And there is always the unknown. There could be a terrorist attack, the Russians could start pressuring the Baltic states, the Mexican situation could deteriorate. The unknown by definition cannot be anticipated. And many foreign leaders know it takes an administration months to settle in, something some will try to take advantage of. On top of that, there is now nearly a three-month window in which the old president is not yet out and the new president not yet in.
Obama must deal with extraordinarily difficult foreign policy issues in the context of an alliance failing not because of rough behavior among friends but because the allies’ interests have diverged. He must deal with this in the context of foreign policy positions difficult to sustain and reconcile, all against the backdrop of almost half an electorate that voted against him versus supporters who have enormous hopes vested in him. Obama knows all of this, of course, as he indicated in his victory speech.
We will now find out if Obama understands the exercise of political power as well as he understands the pursuit of that power. You really can’t know that until after the fact. There is no reason to think he can’t finesse these problems. Doing so will take cunning, trickery and the ability to make his supporters forget the promises he made while keeping their support. It will also require the ability to make some of his opponents embrace him despite the path he will have to take. In other words, he will have to be cunning and ruthless without appearing to be cunning and ruthless. That’s what successful presidents do.
In the meantime, he should enjoy the transition. It’s frequently the best part of a presidency.

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Chavez tension with U.S. to remain despiste Obama win

Chavez tension with U.S. to remain despite Obama win
Fri Nov 7, 2008 1:24pm EST
By Frank Jack Daniel - Analysis
CARACAS (Reuters) - With the passing of the Bush era, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will lose his favorite enemy and sparring partner. But clashes with the United States will persist even with Barack Obama in the White House.
Ties between the superpower and one of its biggest oil suppliers have deteriorated for years and are at a low after Chavez -- in an expletive-laced speech -- expelled the U.S. ambassador in September and Washington followed suit.
In the short term, tensions should ease as Chavez has pledged to return an ambassador once Obama assumes the U.S. presidency in January and George W. Bush, in the Venezuelan's words, "creeps out the back door" of the White House.
But the thaw may not last long.
With strong ties to Cuba, Iran and Russia, Venezuela's socialist leader bases much of his political message on countering U.S. hegemony.
U.S. officials initially hailed a short 2002 coup against Chavez and he says the CIA was involved in the putsch.
Since then, he has inflated the threat of U.S. plots against him to shore up popularity at home, and he never tired of lambasting Bush for his "imperial" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or calling him the devil, a donkey and a drunkard.
Regardless of who governs in Washington, the deterioration in relations could persist as potential flashpoints over oil, drugs, nuclear power and terrorism remain.
"We hope he tunes into the frequency of the world and convinces the U.S. hawks it is impossible to dominate the planet," Chavez said of Obama this week.
But the man who calls ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor warned supporters: "Let's not kid ourselves too much."
After Obama takes office, ties can be expected to improve as the influence fades of Washington hardliners who lobbied for sanctions against Venezuela in clashes with Chavez over everything from oil prices to democracy.
Chavez, himself of mixed African and indigenous descent, says he wants better ties and would accept an offer of "respectful" talks from Obama, who he calls "the black man."
But his friendship with U.S. adversaries and his professed aim to develop nuclear energy for civilian use will be hard for American officials to ignore.
Chavez is a keen ally of a resurgent Moscow looking to expand its influence in the Western Hemisphere. In a few weeks, Russian warships will evoke the Cold War by powering into the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuela.
Chavez also lobbies hard for OPEC to push up oil prices, highlighting his clash of interests with Americans. Democrats and Republicans alike say he does too little to stop drug-trafficking and question his ties to Colombian rebels.
Obama, welcomed by many Latin Americans, may try to use the goodwill he has with leaders in the region to counter anti-American feelings that Chavez has successfully channeled.
"The U.S. will gain credibility with other countries who are worried about the confrontational antics of leaders such as Chavez," said Arturo Valenzuela, an external adviser to the Obama campaign and a former aide to President Bill Clinton.
"There will be a far greater ability for the U.S. to say 'Let's work together' to push back Chavez's interventionism and bullying tactics. Knee-jerk anti-Americanism will lose ground."
Such attempts would create new tensions with Chavez. They are also unlikely to prosper because, although many leaders disagree with Chavez's style, the spirit of Latin American cooperation free from U.S. pressure is valued in the region.
The Bush administration labeled him an autocrat.
Chavez even rewrote Venezuela's military doctrine to focus on an "asymmetric" war with America. With Obama, it will be harder to convince supporters a U.S. attack is imminent.
"Bush was Chavez's best campaign manager," said retired Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas, a Chavez political party leader.
(Additional reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel in Caracas and Anthony Boadle in Washington, Editing by Saul Hudson and David Storey)

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