The United States is now fighting two wars with a long-term price tag estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office at $2.4 trillion, of which about $1.9 trillion would be spent on Iraq. Monthly costs are running at $12 billion a month.
Pity President Bush's successor. He/she will be inheriting a mess on all fronts — national security, economy, defense, trade, health. Huge interest costs should also be factored in as combat is funded with borrowed money.
The full impact of Bush's answer to a question put to him by a European author in a private Oval office meeting a year ago leaves no room for doubt. After an optimistic briefing on Iraq, the author asked the president, "What about your successor?" Bush replied, "Don't worry about him. We'll fix it so he'll be locked in."
Given all our problem crises, from a stretched-to-the-breaking-point military to some of the developed world's worst airlines (that were once the world's best, and whose operational performance in 2007 was the worst in 20 years) to bandit capitalism that threatens some 2 million with the loss of their homes, it takes real chutzpah to demonize Russia's political system.
One in 8 U.S. army recruits now requires a conduct waiver (for past juvenile delinquency).
The educational group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell concluded this week that almost half of all public school students in America's 50 largest cities fail to graduate. In Detroit, a frightening 75 percent drop out of school. Average yearly compensation for Fortune 100 CEOs: $11 million, including salary of $1.1 million, cash benefits, bonuses, stock options and accumulated pension benefits.
A yearlong campaign of primary contests, political conventions and TV debates will wind up costing close to $1.5 billion with little debate about the critical issues of our time. Ideology and spin count, not reality. It's now a motley medley of half-truth, untruth, misinformation, and disinformation.
In his last few months in office, Bush made valiant stabs at bringing America back from the low esteem it is held in most of the world. But widening the NATO membership of 26 nations to include Georgia and Ukraine struck geopolitical thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic as taking on additional military commitments at a time when the United States doesn't have the appetite or the resources for its current commitments.
At the recent Bucharest summit, the NATO treaty's obligations under Article 5, i.e., automatic military assistance to a country under attack, were not a concern of the U.S. delegation.
Yet this is the provision that would compel the United States and its allies to come to the defense of Georgia and the Ukraine if they were invaded. And it was a major concern of our under-equipped allies who are dragging their heels in Afghanistan (with the exception of Dutch, British, Canadian, and U.S. forces), and who know fact certain there is nothing they could do to assist these former Soviet republics if the balloon went up.
Let's assume there is a coup in Georgia as a NATO member, and the ousted regime appeals to Russia to intervene. Russia sends troops, the new regime says it's been invaded and invokes Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Then what?
Of course, no other NATO member would react militarily, and NATO is then exposed as a fraud. Ukraine, on the other hand, is part of Russia's sphere of influence. Much of the equipment for the Russian army is still manufactured there.
Post-Cold War, NATO members also assured Russia's Boris Yeltsin and his successor, Vladimir Putin, they would not push NATO's borders right up against Russia's shrinking periphery.
It was not a formal state-to-state guarantee, but it was a "geopolitical gentleman's agreement," which Putin read as a pledge. The three Baltic States, Romania and Bulgaria, became members.
Adding insult to injury, the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic, two former Soviet satellites, with no prior attempt to assuage Russia's erstwhile paranoia about encirclement, suddenly agreed to deploy an anti-missile system to counter possible Iranian nuclear missile attacks in the future.
This unleashed a torrent of Russian propaganda against the "cowboy" in the White House — and a threat to re-target missiles against the West.
After months of painstaking explanations about U.S. intentions, Putin stowed the rhetoric at the Bucharest summit, recognized another Cold War was impossible, even added, "Hey Guys, let's be friends, frank and open." But the NATO membership offer to Georgia and Ukraine remained on the table, tailor-made for another diplomatic dust-up.
It's high time we looked beyond the cul-de-sac where we're now stuck, find a sensible way out and then focus on global security 10 to 20 years out. Russia, China and India are natural partners for the global security we all seek. They are against instability, terrorism, with or without weapons of mass destruction, economic stagnation and destruction of the environment. All four are also against Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability — but can't agree on how to stop it.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will meet in Beijing in a few days to decide yet again on another mix of carrots and sticks to dissuade undissuadable Iran. But there is no wiggle room left as Iran plunges ahead with another 6,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.
Most of the players in the Iranian psychodrama now believe there is no alternative to learning to live with a mullah nuke. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush keep saying a military option is still on the table, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are strongly opposed to bombing Iran's nuclear facilities — as is Pentagon brass.
In his weekend interlude with Putin on the Black Sea, Bush managed to get a clean deck of cards agreed for the next round. "We reject the zero-sum thinking of the Cold War when 'what was good for Russia was bad for America' and vice versa," they agreed. "Rather, we are dedicated to working together and with other nations to address the global challenges of the 21st century."
It was a "strategic framework" document that boilerplated areas of cooperation during their seven-year relationship. But it also pledged to weave Russia and America into a web of mutual interests — beginning with the managed reduction of thousands of nuclear weapons still in their arsenals almost two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
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