“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Petulant Putin Putsch Fails in Munich.

Clumsy, transparent and staged, the little dour KGB man from Moscow, showed his hand once too often and slipped. Squeezing Georgia, intimidating and murdering reporters and critics, meddlesome in Ukraine, Putin has been showing the World the face of a thug.

At Munich, Putin accused:"The United States has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no-one feels safe because no-one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that can protect them."

Whatever his intentions, they seem to have back-fired. European listeners said that it showed the West must square up to a brash and combative new Russia, both in the Putin era and beyond.
“We should take him at his word. This was the real Russia of now, and possibly in four or five years time it could go further in this direction,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Reuters on the margins of the annual Munich gathering. “We have to have a dialogue with Russia but we must be hard-nosed and realistic. We must stand up for our values.”

Within a day of lashing out at US foreign policy Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Saudi Arabia at the start of a trip to three of Washington's closest allies in the region. He will also travel to Qatar and Jordan. He has become the first Russian head of state to visit the Kingdom. In a meeting with King Abdullah, Putin discussed Iraq, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and oil.

Russia was a key player in the Middle East during the Soviet era and analysts say Moscow wants to restore its influence. Putin's trip reflects improved relations between the two nations following on from the King's visit to Moscow in 2003.

Riyadh revived its ties with Moscow in 1990 after the fall of communism. At an international conference in Munich on Saturday Putin attacked the US saying Washington was making the world a more dangerous place by pursuing policies aimed at making it - in his words -the "one single master".

The gelded Russian press saw it differently:
MUNICH, February 11 (Itar-Tass) - Russian vice-premier and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov claimed that the speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Munich conference was frank and non-confrontational.

“Our relations with the European Union, including Germany, are so ripe that we can speak openly, without hypocrisy and the Cold War philosophy,” Ivanov noted, replying to questions by conference participants. “I don’t think that that was an aggressive or confrontational speech, not at all.”

“We are not interested in thrusting our Russian opinion on anybody. We just speak what we think, but we do not intend to participate in decisions, which are pressed upon or taken without Russia,” he emphasized.

Final Comment: Some things never change. In the early 1950's in, "The Fall of a Titan", Igor Gouzenko, a turned KGB agent said it best. "The only thing a communist understands is a cocked gun to his head."

Add to that, a turned-off oil pipeline. What a sweet day it will be when the US imports the last drop of oil.


  1. Many Europeans wear wedding bands on the right hand.

  2. More on Russian intention. Please read this with the third paragraph from the bottom in mind.
    ...""In face of the receding US influence in the region due to setbacks in Iraq and other areas, the Russians now feel they can occupy the ensuing vacuum in the region,"...

    Arab experts: Putin is restoring Russia's Mideast role

    By Abdul Jalil Mustafa
    dpa German Press Agency
    Published: Sunday February 11, 2007

    By Abdul Jalil Mustafa, Amman- Arab experts say that Russian President Vladimir Putin's Middle East trip that starts Sunday has the primary aim of "sending a message" to the United States that Moscow has a key role to play in this vital region and that it is high time for Washington to quit its policies of domination. "By carrying out this exceptional trip, I believe Putin is at pains to dispatch a message to the United States that the Middle East is not a backyard for Washington, but a vital area for the whole world," Faisal al-Rofou, head of the political science department at the University of Jordan, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

    The Russian president was due to arrive in oil-rich Saudi Arabia Sunday at the start of a rare Middle East trip that also takes him to the Gulf state of Qatar and Jordan.

    In his toughest-worded comments in seven years in power, Putin lashed out at the United States Saturday during the Munich Security Conference, saying a US-led "unipolar world" was unacceptable and had led to more wars and conflicts across the globe.

    "Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations," Putin said, alluding to the US.

    Al-Rofou said that the Russian leader's comments indicated Moscow was "fed up with the domination polices of US President George W Bush."

    "Putin is heir to the legacy of a great state - the Soviet Union - and although Moscow's role has receded over the past few years, the Russian leader wants to say that it is high time for Moscow to play that great part again in the affairs of the Middle East and the world at large," he added.

    "Therefore, his Middle East trip seeks to drive the idea home that we are present in this part of the world and the United States should recognize others' interests in the region," he added.

    The Jordanian academic expected Putin's visit would "add significance" to the agreement concluded in Mecca on Thursday with Saudi brokerage between the key Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas.

    "I believe the accord will figure largely in Putin's talks with Saudi leaders and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas," he said. Abbas is scheduled to meet with Putin in Amman on Tuesday.

    Palestinian diplomats expected the Mecca declaration to be high on the agenda during the meeting.

    "We count on the Russian support for ensuring a lift of the Western embargo that was imposed on the Palestinian Authority in March" in the wake of the landslide victory scored by the hardline Hamas group, al-Rofou said.

    During the last Mideast Quartet meeting in Washington at the outset of this month, the Russian delegate urged a speedy end of the boycott of the Hamas-led government which he said came to office through the ballots.

    Besides Russia, the quartet also includes the US, the European Union and the United Nations.

    Qadri Saeed, head of the military department at the Cairo-based al-Ahram Strategic Studies, believed Moscow "stood a good chance of influencing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through its balanced ties with both Fatah and Hamas on one side and between the Palestinians and Israel on the other".

    "In face of the receding US influence in the region due to setbacks in Iraq and other areas, the Russians now feel they can occupy the ensuing vacuum in the region," he told dpa.

    Russia can count for achieving this end on its position as a key supplier to Iran of nuclear know-how and other strategic weapons, Saeed said.

    "I believe Moscow can contribute to a solution for Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear programme by giving the impression to Tehran that Russia supports its quest to obtain nuclear technology and at the same time joining any logical world drive to restrain Iran's nuclear ambitions," he added.

    © 2006 dpa German Press Agency

  3. Read All of it Here:

    "In this pattern, Iran is emerging as the exemplar for Russia's global positioning in the 21st century as well as in the U.S.-Russian bilateral dialogue. This is especially true regarding the nuclear issue there, an area where Moscow has historically tried to appear as the leading protagonist, though it has often bent existing international norms."

    Putin the Thug sees himself as a big dog who pees with the big ones.

  4. It should be obvious that US foreign policy has become captive to events in Iraq and the price of oil. That said, how smart would it be to get more involved in Iraq and Iran and do anything that would force up the price of oil?

    How about a plan that reduces the perception of a US quagmire and reduces the price of oil? That occurs by isolating three separate interest areas in Iraq and creating two robust oil producing states. Force the Saudis to transfer oil wealth to the Sunni areas until such time that stability can be guaranteed by Muslim and Iraqi troops.

    After stability is achieved, a revenue sharing plan could be implimented by privatising the oil industry and distribute the stock ownership of the oil industry to all Iraqi citizens for them to trade freely.

  5. The Times of London said Monday that Putin's harsh comments were more than just another repeat of the Bush Administration's mistakes. "If the US Administration didn’t have enough to worry about, given the current state of the world, it spent much of the weekend wondering whether Moscow had declared another Cold War…Not since Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations in 1960 has an international gathering heard such an icy blast from Moscow’s leadership."

  6. Conservative French newspaper Le Figaro noted Putin had increased the hostile tone between Russia and the United States as part of his crusade against Washington. "This was Vladimir Putin's variations on an old theme. Many participants at the Security Conference asked themselves the question of whether the Second Cold War was being announced in Munich."

  7. Bulgarian newspaper Dnewnik warned that Europe's energy dependence gives Putin power. "The current strategy of the Kremlin is to strike while the iron is hot -- namely so long as Europe depends on Russia to supply a fifth of its energy needs."

  8. "Russia again claims a place in the first row, and with its nuclear arsenal, its size, and its oil and gas riches it has, by all means, weighty arguments," wrote the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in its Monday edition. "The USA offers another with its disastrous Iraq adventure. Since that weakens Western credibility, it creates the opportunity for Putin to set himself up as the powerful voice of the growing number of countries and peoples who are stricken by doubt in the wisdom of Western policies. The Russian president has laid his cards on the table. Europe and America now know where Russia has positioned itself."

  9. both the dem's and the gop are lacking in oil concepts.

    notice how the dems are NO better than the gop in pushing for alternative fuels?

    i just bought 15 gallons of svo from sysco food service, this will go straight into my diesel benz with another 5 gallons of diesel for winterizing..

    3 bucks a gallon...

    there ya go, i just reduced my dependency on oil by 75%

    am i alone or what?

  10. rufus,

    re: missile defence system

    I covered that here before; Putin's livid reaction with regard to Poland betrays Russia's obsession with the former - an obsession stretching from pre-1914 till now.

  11. With US support, I do not see the Poles ever backing down from the Russians again.

  12. With US support ...

    If that's all they have to take to the bank ...

    The US cannot, yet, effectively cope with asyemetrical political and economic raids on the expanded EU frontier.
    It cannot even supply physical security on it's own frontier with it's most populous neighbor.

    That is just another reason that Mr Bush is attached at the hip to Mr Maliki. The idea that Mr Bush would throw four years of democracy work away, by supporting a Coup or Putsch in Iraq.

    So many of the "wink & nod" school refuse to believe Mr Bush, they do not take him at his word.
    It seems an indication of projection, to me.

    Islam is a Religion of Peace. Take that to the bank.

    The Goal, the definition of Victory, in Iraq as stated by Mr Bush just three weeks ago, revolves around Democracy.
    A democraticr republic, in Iraq, is a "Core Belief" for Mr Bush, worthy of the sacrifice US troops and families are making:
    "... But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world – a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them – ..."

    That does not sound like a man that will "Cut and Run" on a democratic Iraq. A democratic Iraq, that means ipso facto, Mr Maliki and the UIA Parlimentarians, such as they are.

    Three more years to new Iraqi elections. Less than two to elections in the US.

    You go to politics with the Government you've helped create. Not the one you wish you had. Even if Mr Maliki's government represents a tactical defeat for US, the argument goes, it is a Strategic Victory.

    The advancement of the Iranian influences in Iraq just a price to be paid, in route to the Strategic End.
    There has been no change of course, just a tactical shift.

  13. westhawk is also commenting on the Putin statements.

    Russia may soon be in position to accomplish what the Soviet Union tried but failed to achieve. Europe could descend to position of organized, if mild, hostility to American interests. The ingredients for this conversion already exist. Many of Europe’s citizens and statesmen already agree with Mr. Putin’s views. The Soviet Union’s Red Army was a menace to which Europe and America organized a defense. Russia’s oil and natural gas, by contrast, are a seductive opium. Europe is increasingly dependent on Russian energy, leverage that may prove to be more powerful than the Red Army’s tank formations in East Germany. With the Red Army no longer a threat, a European politician will advance his career by bringing in more Russian energy while railing against American militarism.

  14. No filbusters in the House

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that _

    (1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

    (2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

  15. trish,

    re: blithely

    Yes, Trish, I am as light hearted as my comments suggest. You know, the use of such loaded words and arguments makes conversation nearly impossible. Hmmm...When did I stop beating my wife?

    As to making hard decisions about whether my potential personal costs are worth the risk of the Iraq "adventure", there is nothing new there; I've been doing that all my adult life. "When I was a child, I thought as a child...When I became a man, I put away childish things."

    You may offer your spouse's SSN and address OCONUS, if you please. Now, that would be blithe, but to each his own. As for me, I don't think so.

    The solution to your problem with me is really simple. If you believe me a fake, quit communicating. After your last run at me, I pretty much decided to do that with you.

  16. ..Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln and thank you for staying the course when all around you felt you were an idiot.
    Your address at Gettysburg speaks to all humanity, and though you fought to save the Union and your emancipation of the slaves was a political move as unpopular in the north as in the south it was the right thing to do and now the world looks back and knows that without question.
    I am a southerner but this nation would never have achieved the greatness it has if the south had won. I am sorry it cost you an appreviated life.

  17. trish,

    Having settled that, I sure you will understand my future avoidance of you. While many poor souls use the blogs as group therapy, I have little patience for that sort of thing.

    With the best to you and yours, I remain

    Blithely yours,

  18. Trish,

    These are many existential issues for the grandkids that are tied up in Iraq war:

    An world economy that is oil dependent; Oil rich Jihadis trying to build atomic weapons; Oil rich Jihadis swimming in cash, financing and propagating world Jihad; Europe that is about to become Eurabia, politically and demographically; Unreliable NATO partners; A national media collaborating as a mouth piece for the enemies; and this short list is one just off the top of my head.

  19. It still is a puzzle to me how you can assert we have no goods on Iran, Trish:


    U.S. officer: Iran sends Iraq bomb parts...

    The United States is moving closer to war with Iran by accusing the "highest levels" of the Iranian government of supplying sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed 170 US troops and wounded 620.

    Senior US defence officials in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed the bombs were manufactured in Iran and smuggled across the border to Shia militants in Iraq. The weapons, identified as "explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs) are said to be capable of destroying an Abrams tank.

    "We assess that these activities are coming from senior levels of the Iranian government," said an official in Baghdad, charging that the explosive devices come from the al-Quds Brigade and noting that it answers to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

  20. trish,

    "Even minutiae should have a place in our collection, for things of a seemingly trifling nature, when enjoined with others of a more serious cast, may lead to valuable conclusion."

    For those having an interest in Trish’s continuously, disingenuous queries, see:

    An Operational Security (OPSEC) Primer

    Since a player would know better than to broach areas that might provide information best held in confidence (no matter how remote the possibility), I am surprised Trish, that you, an alleged military spouse would blithely persist in your futile quest.

    Again, Trish, there is good reason for my never having asked questions about your alleged military spouse’s job.

    Do review the material provided by DoD and you too may see the wisdom of OPSEC; clearly, something lacking in your daily routine.

  21. Trish (or the person using that handle),

    Since your comments are so vehemently anti-war, why do you NEED the information you request; to what USE would you put it?

    Oh, can you prove you are Trish?

  22. Back to Putin and his hot rhetoric. It seems pretty obvious that he is positioning himself with the Muslims. He is taking advantage of bad poll numbers for the US hoping to reestablish ties with the oil countries and goodwill in light of Russia's demographic meltdown over the next 20 to 30 years.

  23. bobalharb,

    I know I speak for all when I commend your yoeman's service in the unfolding saga.

    Just a thought, bobalharb, keep in mind that the early bird has the worm, as it were. Or, put another way, strike while the old iron is hot. (Hmmm...given your report, much of that old iron striking seems to have been going on...Oh, well.)

    Good luck with the suit. Oh, stay away from the medicine cabinet!

  24. "Why yes Habu here you are a non person. Personna non grata."

    "But what about Mr. Lincoln, I mean it is his birthday. Couldn't they just say thanks to him and ignore you at the same time?"

    "Sure they could, but words from a heretic might infect them"

    "Oh so they just blow off Mr. Lincoln 'cause they don't like you"

    "Somthing like that. Something about putting away childish things"

    "oh, oh yeah, well anyway. The sun sets on Mr. Lincoln's birthday, at least you got you thank you in"


  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  26. "So, in what way are we fighting in Iraq for your grandkids?

    Anyone else can chime in. Really.

    Iraq = Something For The Young'ins. That's pretty straightforward. Shouldn't be too hard."

    If you think fighting in Iraq advances American security interests, for whatever reason.

    I'm not going to bother defining American security interests because it is clear many people today aim for many different things they think fall under that rubric.

    Whether it is prestige, deterrence, stability, or whatever.

  27. An interesting online poll at Newsweak, concerning the following question

    Will the United States launch military action against Iran over its nuclear program?
    * 21369 responses
    Yes 58%
    No 27%
    Not sure 15%

    Not a statiticly accurate sample, but interesting view.

    So far the the escalation has only cost US a few choppers, step by step, tit for tat.

    It'd be interesting to watch, an air campaign on a scale required to effect the Iranian nuclear program. Then to see the scope of the Iranian pushback. I've wondered about that for a while.

    But all the Bush Team parrot the line, an attack on Iran is not in the cards. They'd not lie, would they?

  28. The International Herald Tribune
    The deal is expected to require North Korea to close and seal its main nuclear reactor within six weeks and allow international nuclear inspectors into the country for the first time in more than four years. The North would receive energy and economic assistance, as well as security guarantees, but the timetable for those rewards remained unclear.

    Pyongyang had nearly scuttled the negotiations by insisting on a huge energy aid package, including front- loaded shipments of fuel oil. Different reports suggested that North Korea had demanded two million tons of heavy fuel oil and two million kilowatts of electricity in exchange for its approval of any agreement.

    The deal, if approved, would give fresh momentum to a diplomatic process that on Sunday had teetered near collapse. But it also leaves many of the most difficult objectives yet to be achieved. North Korea still has not agreed to turn over its nuclear weapons or weapons fuel, a critical step that is the subject of future negotiations.

    The closure of the country's main reactor at Yongbyon could serve to block the country from developing more new weapons. The agreement also is expected to establish working groups to address denuclearization, normalization of diplomatic relations, energy and economic assistance and a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. The United States and North Korea never signed a peace treaty after the war and still have no full diplomatic relations.

  29. DR,

    re: The closure of the country's main reactor at Yongbyon could serve to block the country from developing more new weapons.

    Assuming the Koreans have no backup system. An impossibility, certainly, but...

    "For a hamburger today, I will gladly pay you Tuesday."

  30. Why do we fight?

    - If one comes to kill you, make haste and kill him first.

  31. "Psst hey Habu"
    "Think they'll diss George Washington at the end of the month even if you don't come in the place?"
    "No, I think if I stay out some of 'em will say Happy Birthday Mr Washington and thank him for some great leadership"
    "Well that's good then how about just stay'n away...if you're stopping them from honoring those men you should be ashamed"

    "Yeah, you know if am the cause I am ashamed. Lincoln and Washington deserve the thanks, i'll just stay away and hope they mark their calendars"
    "great idea"
    "yeah thanks'

  32. "psst Habu"
    "I hear Powerline has a real nice tribute to Mr. Lincoln, reck'n we should mention it"
    "brainiac you just did"

  33. A realistic, but not very sunny perspective, allen.

    Didn't Mr Clinton have an agreement with the NorKs, to limit their nuclear development.

    Gave them a bunch of oil, a promise o build a couple of light water reactors, stuff like that. This time the NorKs get oil and electricity, to talk some more.

  34. "If one comes to kill you, ..."

    And who came from Iraq, to kill US?

    We were afraid enough of Saddam to remove him. Containment was collapsing, he would have skated away if not taken down. That was to great a threat for Mr Bush or Congress.

    But we came to Iraq, to kill ...
    or liberate.
    Depending upon one's perspective.

    But not to conquer.

  35. He who knows neither the enemy nor himself; will be at risk in every battle.

    On Sunday, Oct 31, 2004, the Majlis, Iran's Parliament, met in Tehran.

    The bill before the Majlis would require the government to enrich uranium. The session was carried live on national radio.

    As the assembly voted to unanimously to enrich uranium, the members of parliament took up the chant:

    "Death to America...Death to Israel!"

  36. Habu, Obama noticed:

    Obama borrowed from Lincoln

    By Christopher Wills
    Associated Press
    Published Monday, February 12, 2007

    SPRINGFIELD — Abraham Lincoln isn’t just an American icon. He’s also the political equivalent of duct tape, helping cover potential weak spots in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

    Obama’s experience, his race, his exotic background — Lincoln could reassure dubious voters on all those topics. And Lincoln, the president who guided America through the Civil War, reinforces Obama’s message that he can bridge the nation’s many divisions.

    Of course, some people may scoff when Lincoln’s mentioned in the same breath as Obama, who has been on the national stage for little more than two years.

    His speech, peppered with Lincoln quotes and allusions, took place two days before Lincoln’s birthday.

    And Obama described Lincoln as a tall, gangly, self-made lawyer — leaving it to the audience to note that Obama is also a tall, gangly, self-made lawyer.

    A major question mark about Obama is his experience. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 after serving just under eight years in the state Senate. That’s far less national experience than his likely opponents.

    Even Obama acknowledged “a certain presumptuousness — a certain audacity” in his decision to run.

    But his experience matches up almost perfectly with Lincoln, who ran for president after eight years in the Illinois House and two years in Congress.

    The parallel works for Edna Walden of Springfield.

    “The symbolism is right. There’s a lot of talk about him not having national experience. Of course, Lincoln didn’t have national experience, either,” she said. “It’s about your head and heart.”

    Obama’s 20-minute speech didn’t mention the fact that, if he wins, he would be the nation’s first black president. He didn’t mention his race at all.

    But he did mention Lincoln’s role in ending slavery and setting America on a long march for freedom. Lincoln’s message, Obama said, was that “beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people.”

    A black president, listeners might conclude, would simply be the culmination of the work that Lincoln began.

    Obama is the son of a black Kenyan economist and a white Kansas college student. He was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia. His name means “blessed” in Arabic.

    In short, his life has been very different from that of most voters, which may invite doubts about his values. His campaign has already had to refute false accusations that he was educated in a militant Muslim school.

    So it can’t hurt Obama to surround himself with safe, familiar images — an icon like Lincoln, a pleasant, Midwestern city like Springfield. Obama also made a point of mentioning his Christian faith and his early work with churches as a community organizer in Chicago.

    In the Illinois Legislature, Obama developed a reputation for working with members of both parties and listening respectfully to the ideas and objections of his opponents. That bipartisan approach has played a big part in his national rise, and he emphasized that theme Saturday.

    Again and again, Obama talked about building consensus, compromising, finding common purpose to solve the nation’s biggest problems.

    “Divided, we are bound to fail,” he said.

    The phrase was no coincidence. It was inside the Old State Capitol that Lincoln delivered a famous speech warning that the nation couldn’t continue to allow slavery in some states and ban it in others. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he said.

    Obama’s aides say he has been careful not to compare himself to Lincoln. Obama is simply pointing to Lincoln as an inspiration, they say.

    But critics will argue that Obama wants voters to believe he can be another Lincoln.

    “It takes humility to be an effective leader,” said Andy McKenna, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “None of us have read in history that President Lincoln compared himself to President Washington or President Jefferson — he was too humble for that.”

    Christopher Wills has covered Illinois government and politics for 16 years.

  37. dr,

    re: Newsweak poll

    If this were an accurate sample from the population, doesn't that mean that the majority of the public still believe that the right course of action is an imminent, even inevitable showdown with Iran? That they know they have the power to back to the Democrats and cut funding to the troops but will not choose to do so.

    Otherwise, why believe in the inevitability of it? Notice the word "will" posed in the question, not "should".

  38. elijah,

    re: Death to American. Death to Israel.

    A moderate Muslim Arab spoke today, another friend of the Bush administration to be sure, Mohammed el-Katatny of President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP).

    Said the honorable gentleman, “Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence.”

    Egypt to the left of me, Iran to my right
    Here I am, stuck in the middle, a Jew.

    LGF also carries the story of America’s Egyptian best bud


  39. True, that may be what they thought, but not what was said.

    Easy pickin's, that was the story.
    Turned out half true.

    Easy gettin' in, devil of a time finding a way out. Either on offensive or defensive.