Tuesday, 29 April 2014

America: A Pacific power?

As Washington pursues its rebalancing strategy, Obama’s historic four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific has subtly altered the region’s security dynamics.

"The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay," declared President Obama during his speech to the Australian parliament in 2011, following his announcement to deploy 2,500 marines to northern Australia to help protect American interests across Asia.

As Washington remains embroiled in domestic economic issues and conflicts throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has come under great scrutiny for not living up to the promise of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, the world’s most economically-dynamic region. The US president’s recent trip to the region was the most significant and tangible development to occur since the rebalancing policy was unveiled.

Obama’s trip had two primary dimensions: deepening the role of the US military throughout the Asia-Pacific, and shoring up support for the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an all-encompassing trade deal led by Washington that would embolden transnational corporate power at great public expense.

As the Obama administration moves ahead on plans to relocate some 60 percent of its navy into the region, Washington's current Asia doctrine is grounded in the notion that no other power can be allowed to reach parity with the United States. Washington’s strategy to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific is adorned with the language of pragmatism and neutrality, and despite repeated denials, the Obama administration’s actions are quite transparently aimed at capping the influence of a rapidly developing China.

Washington has inserted itself into complicated, long-standing historical and territorial disputes under the guise of neutrality, which risks potentially setting the stage for an irreparable strategic blunder: antagonizing two major world powers simultaneously at a time when relations between the US and Russia are already deteriorating over the crisis in Ukraine.

President Obama’s milestone four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific may have laid the foundations for the region’s local territorial disputes to grow into an increasing tense superpower stand-off.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Obama’s killing fields in Yemen

Washington’s drone program isn’t making Yemen safer – it is traumatizing and radicalizing communities, and swelling the ranks of Al-Qaeda.

The Obama administration has recently taken part in a joint operation with Yemeni forces that has produced the highest death toll of any confirmed drone strike in Yemen so far this year, according to sources from the Associated Press (AP).

Yemen’s state media claims that the victims of the attack were among the most dangerous elements of Al-Qaeda, and that the strike was based on confirmed intelligence that the targeted individuals were planning to target Yemen’s civil and military institutions. Yemeni officials claim that the target site, located in remote mountainous regions in the country’s troubled south, was one of the few examples of permanent infrastructure setup by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to train fighters and store armaments.

The strike allegedly took place with regional cooperation and assistance from Saudi Arabia, and due to official secrecy provisions, the United States does not have a legal obligation to acknowledge or comment on the strikes undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The exact death toll varies from source to source, but more than a dozen people have been killed at minimum, with at least three civilian causalities. Witnesses say that a car carrying the alleged militants was hit with a missile as it drove by a vehicle carrying civilians, who were also killed. A second strike on the area was launched shortly after.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

​Cuba’s economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal characteristics?

Havana has prioritized foreign investment and private enterprise, slashed state-sector jobs, while seeking closer cooperation with the European Union. Will Cuba’s latest market-based reforms undermine the social gains of the 1959 Revolution?

Times are complicated in revolutionary Cuba. President Raúl Castro is well into his second term and plans to officially step down in 2018; he is now laying the groundwork for a new generation of leaders to take the reins of the island nation.

In an effort to address the stagnating economic conditions that have burdened the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Raúl unveiled reforms in 2010 aimed at moving the island’s outdated command economy toward a mixed economy with greater emphasis on market mechanisms and self-employment.

Cuban authorities have acknowledged the difficulties posed by maintaining massive subsidies across various sectors, and plan to transfer up to 40 percent of the workforce into the private sector by 2015, where workers will be expected to pay taxes on their income for the first time.

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Syria’s sarin whodunit: Assigning responsibility for war crime

Who crossed the red line in Syria? Figures within US intelligence circles may know who engineered the August 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, but the Obama administration has a stake in making sure the responsible parties are not held accountable.

For a few days last summer, the United States teetered on the precipice of a decision that would have profound ethical, political and security implications. The Obama administration claimed to have an ironclad case against the Syrian government, who it said was the only party that could have been responsible for carrying out an attack using sarin nerve gas in Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus.

US spokespersons regarded any question of the Syrian government not being responsible for the attack as a preposterous notion, while Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at length of the moral imperative to respond militarily.

President Obama’s ‘red line’ had been crossed, prompting him to unveil plans for allied airstrikes across Syria to ‘punish’ the government of Bashar Assad. The administration aggressively asserted its stance – that Assad, and only Assad, could have used sarin – in the days following August 21, only for Obama to call for congressional approval for the intervention less than two days before the planned strikes. The congressional vote was called off once Washington agreed to a UN-backed plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal.

If the administration was so confident of its assessment of the events that unfolded on August 21, what influenced Obama to cancel his plans for military action? If the president chose not to consult Congress prior to his approval of intervention in Libya, why did he feel compelled to ask for congressional approval to strike Syria in the face of what the administration considered an egregious violation of his ‘red line’?

Despite the unrelenting resolve of Washington that the Syrian government committed a heinous crime, why has the White House failed to provide any additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack since the airstrikes were canceled?

Read the full story on RT.com

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.