May 15th 2010

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Henry Tax Review’s vicious attack on miners, families

FAMILIES: How Henry tax proposals will undermine families

EDITORIAL: Rudd to bankroll human rights activists

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Verdict on the Kevin Rudd experiment

FEDERALISM: Hawke, Howard and Abbott seek to curb states' powers

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Fault-lines widen in world's financial system

UNITED STATES: Is President Obama a real-life Manchurian candidate?

KOREAN PENINSULA: Torpedo attack suspected in mystery sinking

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: China and the West: war without guns

UNITED KINGDOM: Christianity criminalised in Britain

EDUCATION: Maths Online: the new resource for students, parents and home-schoolers

SOCIETY: How biotechnology affects the family

GENDER AND IDENTITY: Children with gender identity disorder

OPINION: America: the most generous nation on earth

Let's create new Australian states (letter)

Labor and Liberals on childcare (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Canadian province may scrap human rights tribunal; Lithuanian president told to support Baltic gay march; UK Lib Dems' secret support base - Muslims; Stalin's Ukrainian famine; Why the left can't stand Sarah Palin

BOOK REVIEW: KEYNES: The Return of the Master, by Robert Skidelsky


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Is President Obama a real-life Manchurian candidate?

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, May 15, 2010
Barack Obama has presided over a series of foreign-policy disasters. Western Australian writer Hal G.P. Colebatch asks if this is owing to mere incompetence or something worse.

The damage President Obama has done to America's relations with its fairly short list of staunch allies in return for no gains anywhere is such that it is tempting to believe it is at some level deliberate.

Take Poland and the Czech Republic. A few weeks ago Obama announced he would scrap missile defence agreements with both, giving huge political offence. Both governments had taken very large political risks, including risking the anger of their former Russian masters, to accommodate the missiles (which would be used to intercept possible Iranian missile launches), largely as a gesture of friendship and loyalty to the United States and the Western world.

This has now been contemptuously thrown in their faces. "If the US Administration approaches us in the future with any request, I would be strongly against it," Jan Vidim, a conservative Czech politician who had supported the system, told the Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal has pointed out that the Obama Administration's explanation - that new intelligence indicates Iran's long-range missile capabilities are not as advanced as previously believed, and instead, it intends to upgrade and deploy missile interceptors for intercepting short- and medium-range missiles - is probably a lie. The decision was most likely made before the alleged new intelligence became available.

The latest and grossest insult to Poland is, of course, Obama's apparent indifference to the April 10 air crash which killed much of Poland's leadership. The fact that they had been taking part in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre gave the crash an extra dimension of tragedy.

Obama not only failed to attend, but apparently spent the day playing golf, not even signing the Polish Embassy's condolence book on the way to the green. He gave as an excuse the Iceland volcanic eruption which prevented some flying. But in fact Cracow Airport remained open. It would be hard to imagine a worse insult, especially when Poland has sent relatively large numbers of troops to fight beside America in Iraq and Afghanistan. James Corum, dean of the Baltic Defence College in Estonia, has commented in the London Daily Telegraph: "A president who respected true friends and sacrifices in blood would have made a serious gesture. Not Obama."

Next, Obama insulted Israel, America's one unequivocal friend in the Middle East. Israel has been treated so badly by Obama that it was forced to boycott his nuclear summit in Washington. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided what looked like a US-arranged set-up for some Islamic dictatorships to turn the occasion into an anti-Israel forum. And this despite the fact that Israel is actually a nuclear power. Its absence made the whole "summit" pointless.

America has also insulted its closest ally in Central America - an area where close American allies are not at present easy to find - by describing the Honduran Congress's removal of President Manuel Zelaya last year as a "coup d'état".

In fact, Honduras is a genuine democracy and the removal of Zelaya was done lawfully and with the support of the majority of the Honduran Congress. The removal was no coup - it was an appropriate act to stop a president who tried to overthrow the Constitution by taking an illegal second term.

The Honduran Congress did America a great favour by preventing an ally of Venezuela's crazy dictator Hugo Chavez from turning Honduras into a left-wing, anti-American dictatorship along the lines of Venezuela or Cuba, which, given a chance, would have rushed support to Zelaya's forces. Since the situation was under control, there was no need for the US to say anything.

Falkland Islands

Finally, or at least finally so far, the Obama Administration appears determined to alienate Britain over the Falkland Islands. A formal committal by America to support Britain there would see an end to any Argentine adventures along the lines of invading the islands (which Britain today, with its present dwarfish Royal Navy, would find hard or impossible to resist on its own).

The quite obvious British response, like that of Poland, given enough provocation, would be to pull its considerable forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan. This would leave America with a far heavier burden there.

Perhaps, given the costs involved, the actual possibility of a withdrawal would amount to a defeat and a disaster for the Western world - the start of a new set of dominoes falling.

Given the pattern emerging, one is forced to ask: is this what Obama actually wants?

Dr Hal G.P. Colebatch is a Perth author and lawyer.

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