Iran Agreement Boosts Peace, Defeats Neocons

Last week’s successfully concluded Iran agreement is one of the two most important achievements of an otherwise pretty dismal Obama presidency. Along with the ongoing process of normalizing relations with Cuba, this move shows that diplomacy can produce peaceful, positive changes. It also shows that sometimes taking a principled position means facing down overwhelming opposition from all sides and not backing down. The president should be commended for both of these achievements.

The agreement has reduced the chance of a U.S. attack on Iran, which is a great development. But the interventionists will not give up so easily. Already, they are organizing media and lobbying efforts to defeat the agreement in Congress. Will they have enough votes to over-ride a presidential veto of their rejection of the deal? It is unlikely; but at this point, if the neocons can force the U.S. out of the deal, it may not make much difference. Which of our allies, who are now facing the prospect of mutually-beneficial trade with Iran, will be enthusiastic about going back to the days of a trade embargo? Which will support an attack on an Iran that has proven to be an important trading partner and has also proven reasonable in allowing intrusive inspections of its nuclear energy program?

However, what is most important about this agreement is not that U.S. government officials have conducted talks with Iranian government officials. It is that the elimination of sanctions, which are an act of war, will open up opportunities for trade with Iran. Government-to-government relations are one thing, but real diplomacy is people-to-people: business ventures, tourism, and student exchanges.

I was so impressed when travel personality Rick Steves traveled to Iran in 2009 to show that the U.S. media and government demonization of Iranians was a lie, and that travel and human contact can help defeat the warmongers because it humanizes those who are supposed to be dehumanized.

As I write in my new book, “Swords into Plowshares“:

Our unwise policy with Iran is a perfect example of what the interventionists have given us—60 years of needless conflict and fear for no justifiable reason. This obsession with Iran is bewildering. If the people knew the truth, they would strongly favor a different way to interact with Iran.

Let’s not forget that the Iran crisis started not 31 years ago when the Iran Sanctions Act was signed into law, not 35 years ago when Iranians overthrew the US-installed Shah, but rather 52 years ago when the US CIA overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian leader Mossadegh and put a brutal dictator into power. Our relations with the Iranians are marked by nearly six decades of blowback.

When the Cold War was winding down and the military-industrial complex needed a new enemy to justify enormous military spending, it was decided that Iran should be the latest “threat” to the U.S.. That’s when sanctions really picked up steam. But as we know from our own CIA National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, the stories about Iran building a nuclear weapon were all lies. Though those lies continue to be repeated to this day.

It is unfortunate that Iran was forced to give up some of its sovereignty to allow restrictions on a nuclear energy program that was never found to be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But if the net result is the end of sanctions and at least a temporary reprieve from the constant neocon demands for attack, there is much to cheer in the agreement. Peace and prosperity arise from friendly relations and trade — and especially when governments get out of the way.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Greece Today, America Tomorrow

The drama over Greece’s financial crisis continues to dominate the headlines. It appears a deal has been reached providing Greece with yet another bailout if the Greek government adopts new “austerity” measures. The deal will allow all sides to brag about how they came together to save the Greek economy and the European Monetary Union. However, this deal is merely a Band-Aid, not a permanent fix to Greece’s problems. So another crisis is inevitable.

The Greek crisis provides a look into what awaits us unless we stop overspending on warfare and welfare and restore a sound monetary system. While most commentators have focused on Greece’s welfare state, much of Greece’s deficit was caused by excessive military spending. Even as its economy collapses and the government makes (minor) cuts in welfare spending, Greece’s military budget remains among the largest in the European Union.

Despite all the handwringing over how the phony sequestration cuts have weakened America’s defenses, the United States military budget remains larger than the combined budgets of the world’s next 15 highest spending militaries. Little, if any, of the military budget is spent defending the American people from foreign threats. Instead, the American government wastes billions of dollars on an imperial foreign policy that makes Americans less safe. America will never get its fiscal house in order until we change our foreign policy and stop wasting trillions on unnecessary and unconstitutional wars.

Excessive military spending is not the sole cause of America’s problems. Like Greece, America suffers from excessive welfare and entitlement spending. Reducing military spending and corporate welfare will allow the government to transition away from the welfare state without hurting those dependent on government programs. Supporting an orderly transition away from the welfare state should not be confused with denying the need to reduce welfare and entitlement spending.

One reason Greece has been forced to seek bailouts from its EU partners is that Greece ceded control over its currency when it joined the European Union. In contrast, the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency is the main reason the US has been able to run up huge deficits without suffering a major economic crisis. The need for the Federal Reserve to monetize ever-increasing levels of government spending will eventually create hyperinflation, which will lead to increasing threats to the dollar’s status. China and Russia are already moving away from using the dollar in international transactions. It is only a matter of time before more countries challenge the dollar’s reserve currency status; and, when this happens, a Greece-style catastrophe may be unavoidable.

Despite the clear dangers of staying on our recent course, Congress continues to increase spending. The only real debate between the two parties is over whether we should spend more on welfare or warfare. It is easy to blame the politicians for our current dilemma. But the politicians are responding to demands from the people for greater spending. Too many Americans believe they have a moral right to government support. This entitlement mentally is just as common, if not more so, among the corporate welfare queens of the militarily-industrial complex, the big banks, and the crony capitalists as it is among lower-income Americans.

Congress will only reverse course when a critical mass of people reject the entitlement mentality and understand that the government is incapable of running the world, running our lives, and running the economy. Therefore, those of us who know the truth must spread the ideas of, and grow the movement for, limited government, free markets, sound money, and peace.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

For Normal Relations With Cuba, End U.S. Interventionism

Last week, we saw an encouraging sign that the 50 year cold war between the U.S. and Cuba was finally coming to an end. President Obama announced on Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba would restore full diplomatic relations and that embassies could be re-opened in each country by the end of the month.

For this achievement, which was resisted by vested interests in the U.S., Obama should be praised. However, we shouldn’t be too optimistic about truly establishing normal relations until we understand how relations became so abnormal in the first place. The destruction of relations between the two countries was preceded by U.S. intervention on behalf of a hated Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, which had turned the Cuban people against the United States and set the stage for the emergence of Fidel Castro.

In 1944, after Batista’s first term as president of Cuba, he emigrated to the United States. When his campaign to return to office in 1952 looked lost, he led a military coup, seized power, and declared himself president. The U.S. government quickly recognized his military junta as the legitimate government of Cuba and began propping him up. Much of the Cuban economy was in the hands of well-connected U.S. companies, and the U.S. government exerted its influence to their financial benefit.

The Cuban dictatorship was helped along by U.S. assistance. The secret police was trained by the United States and was used to brutally suppress any political opposition. Almost all U.S. aid to Cuba was in the form of military equipment used brutally against the Cuban people. The U.S. was seen as the force behind Batista’s dictatorship.

As John F. Kennedy said while campaigning for the presidency in 1960, “Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state — destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror.”

U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs really got a boost when Batista was overthrown by the young revolutionary Fidel Castro. As Stephen Kinzer writes in the excellent book, “The Brothers,” Castro’s rise to power was not immediately condemned by the U.S.. When Castro traveled to the U.S. shortly after taking power, he met with Vice President Richard Nixon, who found that Castro “has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men.” But Nixon worried that the U.S. might not be able “to orient him in the right direction.” Nixon was concerned that Castro sounded too much like Indonesian president Sukarno, who urged countries to join a non-aligned movement to resist both superpower camps at the time. The U.S. could not tolerate the non-aligned movement and pushed a zero-sum game in global politics.

When Washington realized it could not control Castro, it embargoed the island and began launching plots to overthrow and even kill him. U.S. policy likely was responsible for Castro turning to the Soviet Union in the first place.

This U.S. intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs continues to this day. Even under Obama, several U.S. plots to overthrow the regime have been exposed. So while opening an embassy in Havana is a positive step, this embassy must be used to help promote truly normal relations with Cuba. That means an end to the embargo, an end to the travel ban, and an end to U.S. interference in Cuba’s internal affairs. A more free and prosperous Cuba will not emerge as long as U.S. interventionism continues to turn Cubans against the United States.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Obamacare’s Best Allies: The Courts And The Republicans

By ruling for the government in the case of King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court once again tied itself into rhetorical and logical knots to defend Obamacare. In King, the court disregarded Obamacare’s clear language regarding eligibility for federal health care subsides, on the grounds that enforcing the statute as written would cause havoc in the marketplace. The court found that Congress could not have intended this result and that the court needed to uphold Congress’s mythical intention and ignore Obamacare’s actual language.

While Obamacare may be safe from court challenges, its future is far from assured. As Obamacare forces more Americans to pay higher insurance premiums while causing others to lose their insurance or lose access to the physicians of their choice, opposition to Obamacare will grow. Additional Americans will turn against Obamacare as their employers reduce their hours, along with their paychecks, because of Obamacare’s mandates.

As dissatisfaction with Obamacare grows, there will be renewed efforts to pass a single-payer health care system. Single-payer advocates will point to Obamacare’s corporatist features as being responsible for its failures and claim the only solution is to get the private sector completely out of health care.

Unfortunately, many Republicans will inadvertently aid the single-payer advocates by failing to acknowledge that Obamacare is not socialist but corporatist, and that that the pre-Obamacare health care system was hobbled by government intervention. In fact, popular support for Obamacare was rooted in the desire to address problems created by prior government interference in the health care marketplace.

Republicans also help the cause of socialized medicine by pretending that Obamacare can be fixed with minor reforms. These Republicans do not understand that replacing Obamacare with “Obamacare Lite” will still leave millions of Americans with inadequate access to quality health care, and could strengthen the movement for a single-payer system.

Republicans’ failure to advocate for a free-market health care system is not just rooted in intellectual error and political cowardice. The insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the other special interests that benefit from a large government role in health care are just as — or perhaps even more — influential in the Republican Party as in the Democratic Party. The influence of these interests is one reason why, despite their free-market rhetoric, Republicans have a long history of expanding the government’s role in health care.

Those who think a Republican president and Congress will enact free-market health care should consider that the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, their signature health care achievement was to expand federal health care spending and entitlements. Furthermore, Richard Nixon worked with Ted Kennedy to force all health care plans to offer a health maintenance organization (HMO). Even Obamacare’s individual mandate originated in a conservative think tank and was first signed into law by a Republican governor.

Instead of Obamacare Lite, Congress should support giving individuals direct control over their health care dollars through individual health care tax credits and expanded access to health savings accounts. Other reforms like long-term group insurance could ensure that those with “pre-existing conditions” have access to care. Another good reform is negative outcomes insurance that could help resolve the medical malpractice crisis.

America’s health care system is just as unsustainable as our foreign policy and our monetary system. At some point, the financial and human costs of Obamacare will prove overwhelming; and Congress will be forced to replace this system. Hopefully, before this happens, a critical mass of people will convince Congress to replace Obamacare with a truly free-market health care system.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Will Seizure Of Russian Assets Hasten Dollar Decline?

While much of the world focused last week on whether or not the Federal Reserve was going to raise interest rates, or whether the Greek debt crisis would bring Europe to a crisis, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded a $50 billion judgment to shareholders of the former oil company Yukos in their case against the Russian government. The governments of Belgium and France moved immediately to freeze Russian state assets in their countries, naturally provoking the anger of the Russian government.

The timing of these actions is quite curious, coming as the Greek crisis in the EU seems to be reaching a tipping point and Greece, having perhaps abandoned the possibility of rapprochement with Europe, has been making overtures to Russia to help bail it out of its mess. And with the IMF’s recent statement pledging its full and unconditional support to Ukraine, it has become even more clear that the IMF and other major multilateral institutions are not blindly technical organizations, but rather are totally subservient lackeys to the foreign policy agenda emanating from Washington. Toe the D.C. party line and the internationalists will bail you out regardless of how badly you mess up, but if you even think about talking to Russia you will face serious consequences.

The United States government is desperately trying to cling to the notion of a unipolar world, with the United States at its center dictating foreign affairs and monetary policy while its client states dutifully carry out instructions. But the world order is not unipolar, and the existence of Russia and China is a stark reminder of that. For decades, the United States has benefited as the creator and defender of the world’s reserve currency, the dollar. This has enabled Americans to live beyond their means as foreign goods are imported to the U.S. while increasingly-worthless dollars are sent abroad. But is it any wonder after 70-plus years of a depreciating dollar that the rest of the world is rebelling against this massive transfer of wealth?

The Europeans tried to form their own competitor to the dollar, and the resulting euro is collapsing around them as you read this. But the European Union was never considered much of a threat by the United States, existing as it does within Washington’s orbit. Russia and China, on the other hand, pose a far more credible threat to the dollar, as they have both the means and the motivation to form a gold-backed alternative monetary system to compete against the dollar. That is what the U.S. government fears, and that is why President Obama and his Western allies are risking a cataclysmic war by goading Russia with these politically-motivated asset seizures. Having run out of carrots, the U.S. is resorting to the stick.

The U.S. government knows that Russia will not blithely accept Washington’s dictates, yet it still reacts like a petulant child flying into a tantrum whenever Russia dares to exert its sovereignty. The existence of a country that won’t kowtow to Washington’s demands is an unforgivable sin, to be punished with economic sanctions, attempting to freeze Russia out of world financial markets; veiled threats to strip Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup; and now the seizure of Russian state assets.

Thus far the Russian response has been incredibly restrained, but that may not last forever. Continued economic pressure from the West may very well necessitate a Sino-Russian monetary arrangement that will eventually dethrone the dollar. The end result of this needless bullying by the United States will hasten the one thing Washington fears the most: a world monetary system in which the U.S. has no say and the dollar is relegated to playing second fiddle.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth