More on Obama’s Diplomatic Political Appointees

Ambassadorships for Sale—By Scott Horton (Harper’s Magazine)

“The point here is not that any of these picks are unworthy individuals, but rather that the main criterion by which they seem to have been chosen is their fundraising savvy for Democratic causes. That creates the impression around the world that these posts are political trinkets, which seriously degrades the post and stands as a barrier to Obama’s efforts to reassert American leadership.”

“It’s clear that none of these nominees came out of the State Department…. In the area of diplomatic appointments, Obama has not delivered “change we can believe in.” If he’s offered change of any sort, it is still more decay in an area overdue for reform. It’s up to Congress to stop fundraising impulses from taking precedence over the nation’s foreign policy concerns.”

This actually really ticks me off in hindsight – which is why I’ve linked to another article on it…. I have little issue with 20-30% of these jobs going to political appointees, but 55%??? That’s an outrageous number. And especially the fact that these people are being appointed to some of our most important allies… they may not be especially difficult jobs, as compared to say, East Asia or the Middle East, but still, I would hope that someone appointed to represent our “special relationship” with Great Britain would have some modicum of diplomatic training. And as far as appointees to the Caribbean… simply nonsense – when development is such an important issue down there, our ambassadors are probably lounging on beaches eating bananas, as far as we know.

Ambassadorships for sale!

Obama’s Embassies for Sale – Page 1 – The Daily Beast

“Since at least as far back as the Eisenhower administration, the percentage of ambassadors who were political appointees has remained at roughly 30 percent. The remaining 70 percent are almost always career foreign-service officers who worked their way up through the ranks of the State Department.”

“In his first six months, Obama forwarded to the Senate 58 nominations for ambassadors. Of those 32, or 55 percent of the total, were political appointees. In the same time period, his five predecessors made more nominations—an average of 67—but the number of those who were political was lower at 47 percent.”

Well, this is HIGHLY encouraging for my prospects of a career in the Foreign Service…

More on the fate of the American Empire

Tomgram: Juan Cole, Empire’s Paranoia About the Pashtuns

Excellent read exposing the similarities between the British and American imperial experiences in the sub-continent.

“…we now live in a thoroughly ramped-up atmosphere in which “American national security” — defined to include just about anything unsettling that occurs anywhere on Earth — is the eternal preoccupation of a vast national security bureaucracy whose bread and butter increasingly seems to be worst-case scenarios.”

North Korean nukes to Mexican gang wars… a simple consequence of American primacy or perhaps something else? It has been pretty clear since WWII that our power has been on occasion channeled to produce, often highly undesirable outcomes – such as the CIA/MI6 backed coup in 1954 in Iran which arguably laid the groundwork for the ’79 Islamic Revolution and the situation we now face w/ Iran today. These are undoubtedly the consequences of a modern day empire – one that is global in its (indirect) reach. My question is… with our focus on AfPak (Afghanistan+Pakistan), what are the concerns of the rest of the world… i.e. other regional players. Hypothetically, if the Taliban were to re-establish itself in Afghanistan/Pakistan, wouldn’t the Chinese have just as much to worry about as India and the United States? I can’t exactly see China being to keen about having militant Islamic states on its border while simultaneously suppressing domestic Muslim Uighurs in Northern China… not that those things are entirely related, but the point is, why does Af/Pak continue to be the sole responsibility of NATO/US? If we learned anything from the Soviet/British experience in Afghanistan we’d be out of there right now… but then what would we have? Perhaps… we could just give half of Afghanistan to Iran, in exchange for abandoning their nuclear ambitions, and the other half can be absorbed into Pakistan – a good old partition party just like 1947!

“In our own day as well, pundits configure the uncontrolled Pashtuns as merely the tip of a geostrategic iceberg, with the sinister icy menace of al-Qaeda stretching beneath, and beyond that greater challenges to the U.S. such as Iran (incredibly, sometimes charged by the U.S. military with supporting the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan). Occasionally in this decade, attempts have even been made to tie the Russian bear once again to the Pashtun tribes.”

“Nothing the British tried in the North-West Frontier and its hinterland actually worked. By the 1940s the British hold on the tribal agencies and frontier regions was shakier than ever before, and the tribes more assertive. After the British were forced out of the subcontinent in 1947, London’s anxieties about the Pashtuns and their world-changing potential abruptly evaporated.”

Could this be us a decade or two down the road? Who would the responsiblity to deal w/ Af/Pak fall to, if not the Americans the present moment?

Informed Comment: Polk: Waiting for the Obama We Elected: AfPak Wars, Permanent Detainees, and Dennis Ross

Informed Comment: Polk: Waiting for the Obama We Elected: AfPak Wars, Permanent Detainees, and Dennis Ross

“The Pentagon budget is not only enormous but contains a number of potential scandals. . . Our overseas bases now cost us over $100 billion yearly. Since the DOD sops up over half of the disposable resources of the government, Obama must get control of it. His task will be difficult because the DOD and what President Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex” have cleverly portioned out the work and procurement on the program to virtually every congressional district.”

Perhaps the recent hoopla over the F22 and a re-evaluation of major Pentagon defense projects is a mere facade for Obama’s tackling of the military-industrial complex. The case for re-organizing defense priorities w/ the F22 can hardly be made as we’re building 187 of the aircraft already… but guess who benefits? The Defense Industry Establishment.

“It is patently absurd to suggest that an Israeli attack (made with our weapons and implicit approval) is not our business; indeed, regardless of our weapons and our approval, the long-term consequences for our economy, our position in the world, and our exposure to terrorism would be almost impossible to exaggerate.”

Hmmm…. wonder who builds those weapons?

America’s "Late-Imperial" period?

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

“But government in bankrupt, divided, late-imperial periods are never very pretty to watch.”
-Andrew Sullivan

Is this really what we’re headed for? ‘Late-imperial period’? The Roman Empire was around for hundreds of years before its ultimate collapse, not to mention the regional power of the Republic that proceeded it. We’ve only been a global superpower since WWII and a regional one for around a century…