Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Are you able to compromise?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Whatever you try to do in life that involves other people will almost certainly entail some kind of compromise. The White House sent me a video about finding a common ground when there was a stand off between democrats and republicans about the debt ceiling. However, finding a way forward that achieves the most important objective is something that applies to all of us no matter what we are trying to do:

Whether you like Obama and his policies or not isn’t what’s important here. To be broad minded and moving forward is what counts and it applies to all of us, regardless of beliefs, nationality and gender. What he said to young Americans of different political persuasions in Massachusetts illustrates the importance of striking a balance. The concessions Abraham Lincoln had to do is a great example of the importance of finding the best way forward. So devote three minutes to watching it.

Nobody gets everything they want
To get exactly what you want is seldom possible, not even for dictators, such as Hitler. If he had been able to compromise with his generals it’s actually possible Germany would have won World War II. Or at least come out of it in a much better position. But he didn’t listen to anyone else. In fact generals who disagreed with him were fired, sometimes even executed.That we can count ourselves lucky that Hitler refused to compromise is beside the point. An ability to realise that whatever we are trying to achieve has to benefit everyone involved is what’s important. If it’s about business, family or friends doesn’t make any difference. The rule of compromise applies. You can’t for instance expect your friends to always dance to your tune.Looking after number one may work against you

To stare yourself blind at what you want and disregard other people’s interests and perspectives simply doesn’t work. If you want to move forward, that is. Nobody knows everything and sometimes compromising between other people’s ideas and your own will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

 To compromise isn’t being a coward or a  pushover. It’s often the only way you can get something done. Are you willing to compromise in your life? Or are you adamant things be done your way? Have you ever reluctantly agreed to do things in ways suggested by someone else and discovered it was better for both of you? How can you move forward and develop if you are not willing to take other people’s opinions into account? It would benefit the world if more people would follow in Lincoln’s footsteps and join the ranks of astute people who throughout history have prioritised and made concessions to secure the most important objective.

(Video: The White House)

Move over James Bond – here comes Flame!

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Innovation is the name of the game and applies not only to businesses but espionage as well. Gone are the days when 007 was sent to sort out Blofeld. Bond is about to be made redundant and most of his work will be done online. Devote 2 minutes to watching  a cyber security expert explain the workings of espionage program Flame that is targeting governments and businesses in the Middle East:

Iran and Israel/Palestine have been the main targets which have made experts all over the world believe that America and/or Israel is behind it.

The New York Times have looked into Struxnet and Olympic Games (the code name given to it already by the Bush White House) for 18 months. According to their article, Struxnet suddenly started spreading into computers outside the Iranian nuclear plant and the Americans believed the Israelis had done something to enable that. Maybe that was the beginning of Flame? If so, it wouldn't surprise me if the hackers that work for Israel's Unit 8200, that I wrote about in  Cyber Warfare – Hackers to the rescue, were behind it. Maybe it's time to make "hacker" a profession and enable more of them to use their skills in positive ways to protect governments and businesses against this kind of attacks, instead of in destructive ways?

Imagine a virus that can delay exports

Flame not only steals information but is also said to have disrupted oil exports by shutting down Iranian oil terminals. But then again,  Struxnet destroyed some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges. 

What nation state is behind it?

security official in China was arrested this year for spying for the US. Maybe he handed over the information needed to get Flame into Chinese networks and places of interest?

Can't help wondering if some other nation could be behind Flame? The Chinese government is actually known for their cyber activities and so is Russia and Iran. But according to the above mentioned article in The New York Times, the era of viruses such as Flame started when George W. Bush was president. Having falsely accused Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction he had no credibility for, again, accusing a country of nuclear ambitions. And the Iranians knew it. So when Bush was presented with the opinion of cyber warfare he found the sophisticated cyber weapon too good to resist. Obama followed suit and in fact speeded up cyber attacks against the Iranians. 

Just read an article in in Foreign Policy Magazine asking if there are US special ops inside North Korea. Maybe to find the information needed to get Flame into places of interest in Pyongyang? If so, in the future Flame and its successors may take care of espionage in North Korea as well. The new cyber spy tool sounds to me not only to be up to the task but able to penetrate where ops cannot thread. 

The beginning of a new era

Seems to me that using viruses like Flame is the way of the future for espionage. Catch is, all nations will follow suit, if they haven't already. And that includes Iran and North Korea. In fact, how long will it take before Iran pays the US and Israel back for Struxnet?  It's essential for all countries in the world to boost their ability to withstand such attacks. And the same applies to businesses who may otherwise have their secrets stolen and their markets taken away. 

Do you believe viruses such as Flame is the way of the future? Should all countries and businesses increase their ability to withstand such attacks?Are the US and/or Israel behind Flame? Will the number of James Bonds in the world be gradually reduced? Catch is the Blofelds of this world neither are, not will be, in decline. Should hacking be made a profession in order to benefit from their skills? Is privacy gradually becoming a thing of the past? Will we all have to get used to a world where everything is seen and heard? If so, will the 007s or Blofelds be the winners? Or maybe the Bond Girls? If so, hopefully the good flames that end up with Bond in the end. The current Flame beats most honey traps, after all.

Video: ReutersTV -YouTube

Do you agree with Wikipedia that Sopa and Pipa amount to censorship?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Should the US government have the power to shut down web sites world wide? Or do you agree with Wikipedia and Google that the proposed bills amount to Chinese style online censorship? Devote 2 minutes to watching an informative video about the bills:

If congress pass the bills, anyone posting a home video online with a song playing in the background could in theory be accused of piracy and their site shut down. The Obama administration has stated it's not in favour of the proposed legislation since it threatens an innovative and open internet. So if worse comes to worse, the president could presumably veto it? Some members of congress however, are keen on the bills in order to please Hollywood and the musical industy. 

Would the bills be the end of internet as we know it?

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the bills: ""They put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed.

'Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. And, Sopa and Pipa build a framework for future restrictions and suppression. Proponents of Sopa have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy". 

According to Jimmy Wales, "The bill is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy."

Sopa and Pipa actually propose that anyone found guilty of streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within six months should go to jail.

Would Sopa and Pipa completely change social media networks like Linkedin and Facebook because they would need to police everything their members post? Will online freedom of speech be severely resticted by the bills? Or do you agree with Robert Murdoch who has complained about the White House not supporting the most extreme elements of the bills? Do you want to keep the internet as it is or should it be censored world-wide by the US government? 

Video: Al Jazeera English – You Tube

Investors have lost confidence in politicians – Have you?

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The recent inability of US politicians to compromise have lead to US credit rating being downgraded. Add to that European politicians’ inadequate response to the debt crisis in the euro zone and it’s understandable markets are in turmoil.

investors, US debt rating, S&P, Moody's, European Union, Obama, China, recession, credit rating agencies

Hopefully politicians all over the world will now get their act together and coordinate efforts to start dealing constructively with the world economy. There is no avoiding sorting out the main problem of excessive sovereign debt. Until that’s done, any relief will be short lived.

Politicians all over the world really need to step up to the plate and do something drastic to reduce the risks to the global economy.

Is another time bomb ticking somewhere in the world?

The global system is now faced with having to adjust to the many implications and uncertainties of the once unthinkable loss of America’s AAA. US treasury bonds are actually rated lower than bonds issued by countries such as Britain, Germany and France.

China, the world’s largest holder of US debt, has condemned the “short-sighted” political wrangling in the US and are of the opinion the world needs a new and stable global reserve currency. Understandable considering the circumstances.

And I can’t help wondering if there is another time bomb waiting to explode somewhere in the world?

Politicians postponing the problems

There are economic solutions to economic problems, but so far politicians have just postponed dealing with the problems. Presumably hoping they will go away? Which, as we all know is unlikely. If anything they will, just like the US debt problem just did, get worse.

Hopefully politicians all over the world will now get their act together and coordinate efforts to start dealing constructively with the world economy. There is no avoiding sorting out the main problem of excessive sovereign debt. Until that’s done, any relief will be short lived.

S&P considering US politicians not able to govern properly

It’s interesting to note that credit rating agencies are still regarded as capable of judging credit worthiness despite their role in the sub prime crisis. Seems a bit like having drunk drivers policing the roads. Not least since their initial calculations were wrong by 2 trillion. But for some reason they are, and Moody’s will review US credit rating end of this month.

S&P are of the opinion that US policy making and political institutions have weakened and that it will have a negative impact of America’s sovereign debt and budget. They are for instance worried that the Bush tax cut will not expire end of 2012 because of Republican opposition to raise revenues.

Americans & Europeans tired of political games

Voters in both the US and Europe are unhappy with their elected leaders’ failures. But voters are part of the problem too. On both sides of the Atlantic voters want debt levels reduced but no raised taxes or cuts in government programs such as pensions and health care.

Understandable since it’s the fault of bankers and politicians rather than voters. But unfortunately all belts now have to be tightened. Otherwise the huge sovereign debts will not be reduced.

Personally I used to think the main reason for the US debt was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But according to The New York Times the main reason is loss of revenue due to the Bush tax cut, followed by the costs of those wars.

Unfortunately US voters will most likely be affected by S&P’s cut of US credit rating since borrowing costs will increase not only for the American government but US companies and consumers as well.

Could the EU rescue both Spain & Italy?

The sovereign debt problems within The European Union may be a ticking time bomb that could freeze credit and undermine banks in Europe, hence spreading chaos throughout the world.

US politicians ignored the signs of crisis ahead of Lehman, and European politicians are now following suit. They have reacted slowly and not enough. Can the present rescue mechanism really handle bailing out large economies like Spain and Italy? Or, heaven forbid, France as well.

Financial markets more to blame

Governments aren’t doing a good job but politicians move slowly because they have to please voters in order to get re-elected. They can’t afford to make the mistakes the financial markets and credit rating agencies made by, for instance, underpinning sub-prime loans in the US and Greek borrowings in Europe.

In my opinion nothing politicians have done before or during the financial crisis since 2007 can match the mistakes made by the financial markets and credit rating agencies.But unfortunately S&P’s decision to downgrade US credit rating could prove to be the trigger for another financial crisis that sends the US and other western economies back into recession. However, that does not change the fact that politicians need to get their act together and deal with the problems facing not only their own country but consequently the world economy. The fact that US politicians recently were unable to do so resulted in their debt rating being down graded.

Why isn’t the EU better run? Why is the US government, as Obama put it, dysfunctional? What’s your opinion? Do you believe it’s time for world leaders to step up to the plate and coordinate actions to make the world economy work better? Or should it be left to the markets and credit rating agencies to run the world economy?

Photo: The United States Government Work – Flickr

Is Ahmadinejad provoking a strike on Iran?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Just days after President Barack Obama voiced willingness to talk to Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed 9/11 had been trumped up as an excuse for the United States to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

If necessary, could the Saudis, again, in the interest of the world succeed in making Teheran opt for peace?

He said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York’s World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported. “They created and prepared public opinion so that everyone considered an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq as (their) right,” he said in a televised speech.

No “Zionists” were killed in the World Trade Center, according to him, because “one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace.” That there is a published list of Sept. 11 dead from more than 90 countries available online, was conveniently ignored.

Ahmadinejad accused the US government of exercising more media censorship than anywhere in the world. And, again, talked about the Holocaust never happening. Obviously having a go at Israel again.

The Iranian president leaves a lot to be desired but no matter how much we disapprove of him he is not an idiot. If he was, he wouldn’t have succeeded to get elected the first time (unlike the last election which was obviously rigged). He knows what he is doing and he has the Mullahs approval. Considering that Iranian elections are rigged they don’t need to show Iranians that he is capable of standing up to the West. They already know that.

What does the Iranian regime gain from sable rattling?

Begs the question of why they keep on provoking Israel and the US with his statements? Maybe the timing is not a coincidence since only 50,000 US soldiers will soon be left in Iraq? The current Israeli government is also more likely to be provoked to strike Iran than the previous one. Maybe he and the Mullahs would like that to happen to give them an excuse to strike back? Or worse, start a war with Iraq that could lead to an all out war in the Middle East? The Mullahs would love to control Makkah and Medina and Iran has caused trouble there in the past which the Saudis luckily managed to handle.

Tehran says it is refining uranium only for electricity and medical treatments. But it’s not out of the question that they already have been supplied with enough uranium for a few missiles from North Korea or Pakistan? Whatever their reason they are hiding something when it comes to their nuclear capacity.

Iran has already caused enough problems in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. That the current regime would like to be more prominent in the Middle East is no secret. So is Ahmadinejad, just like he accused the US of doing, trumping up an excuse to invade Iraq or attack Israel? After all the best thing an unpopular regime can do is unite the people behind an outside enemy.

Doubt that Teheran would attack Iraq unless the US were involved in a strike against them. But then again Israel would be using US equipment and that might be enough of a provocation?Do believe that it’s questionable if the Iranian regime would dare to attack Israel or Iraq without having an excuse to do so. So hopefully no strike on Iran will take place?

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states have for years been worried about Iran’s behavior because a strike against Iranian nuclear sites would spread radiation across the whole region. Or worse lead to an all out war in the Gulf between Shias and Sunnis. Don’t need to tell you what that would do not only to the region but the world economy.

So maybe it’s time for the Saudis to, again, make Teheran opt for peace? King Abdullah sent Prince Bandar to Teheran in 2006. The result was that Teheran ordered Hezbollah to stop fighting Israel in Lebanon, which effectively ended that war. Considering King Abdullah’s effort recently regarding Lebanon, maybe it’s no coincidence that the Hezbollah isn’t yet playing an active part in the border incidents?

When it comes to Iran the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and, most likely, the majority of the Iranian population are on the same side. Actually most of the citizens of the world is. If we all need to unite against Ahmadinejad and the Mullhas probably depends on how badly the Mullas and Ahmadinejad need to unite the Iranians against an outside enemy. Hopefully it will not come to that, but if it does it wouldn’t be the first time the West has been wrong about Iranian intentions.

(photo: The White House – Flickr)

America China – The Power is Moving!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

When democracies loose economic power democracy itself is weakened. Already now China has the third largest economy in the world and within 5-7 years it will be the main producer of goods globally.

Hu Jintao may be shorter but China has the upper hand

The US on the other hand, has a huge budget deficit and is already borrowing heavily, not least from China. So no wonder China is already starting to show its power.

At the Copenhagen climate summit Obama and many other leading heads of state took part. China however, sent an insignificant deputy foreign minister with no ability to take decisions without confirmation from Beijing. The Chinese government also protest against US actions with a new vigour and confidence.

China continues to produce and Westerners keep on consuming on borrowed money, not least from China, which is an equation that doesn’t add up. Soviet communism declined because the economy didn’t add up but that’s not the case with China whose economy is capitalistic while the government keeps a firm grip on power and its people.

According to the OECD, Western countries’ debts in 2008 were equivalent of to 100% of their GDP. China on the other hand has a deficit equivalent of 21 percent of GDP. So not only is the Chinese economy performing very well, they are also partly bankrolling the West. And money talks.

Unless the democratic part of the world, like the Chinese, start saving and stop consuming on borrowed credit, democracy as a whole will loose out. The US and Europe are the worlds largest democracies and China is the world’s biggest dictatorship. It does matter who has the best performing economy in the world. To ignore that would be a fatal mistake. But for some reason it seems the West can not be bothered to make an effort to stop power slipping away. That the center of the world is moving I have known for a long time, but what surprises me is that the West doesn’t seem to do anything to stop it from happening, or at least delay it. Where’s the fighting spirit?

photo: FlickrPhotosAccount

Obama blocked by the Supreme Court?

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Can’t help reflecting on the limits of the power of a US president. Obama controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. But that’s not enough since unless the current balance in the Supreme Court is altered there is a limit to how much he can change America.

Obama surrounded by judges that can actually make a deeper mark on America than a president. Surely it can't be right that an unelected judge should wield such power?

Once confirmed by the Senate, justices sit for life and rule as they please, regardless of the expectations of the president who nominated them or the promises they gave the Senate in confirmation hearings. A long-serving justice can actually make a deeper mark on America than a president. Surely it can’t be right that an unelected judge should wield such power?

It is actually possible that that the current 5-4 right-of-centre court might yet put a spoke into Obama’s health care reform. More than 20 states are actually joining together to argue that requiring everyone to buy health care insurance violates the constitution.

The same court recently found Chicago’s handgun prohibition unconstitutional. The ruling 5-4 exactly mirrors one in 2008, which doesn’t make it right. It’s not law abiding US citizens guarding their homes that are the main beneficiaries of such a ruling but criminals and arms manufacturers.

Is it really right that politically appointed judges with ideological agendas can overturn decisions taken by democratically elected politicians? Sure, a justice is boxed in by the other eight judges on the bench, the words of the constitution and the rules of jurisprudence. But that still leaves ample latitude.

The worst was the January 21st 2010 ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the Supreme Court decided that corporations are persons, hence “enabling them to buy elections and run the government”.

From what I understand the Supreme Court has historically decided its controversial cases unanimously or by wide majorities, but the current Roberts Court routinely overturns longstanding precedent with a 5-4 majority.

“There may be judges on the court who have a particular mission right now and are selectively knocking out precedent that does not coincide with their ideological views,” Senator Whitehouse (D) said.

Am not surprised that democrats, including Obama, are criticizing the court. The judges really give the impression they favour corporate interests over ordinary Americans. A current American movement is hence aiming to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

Considering the power of the court I guess we have to be grateful that Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision, said the ban on providing assistance to terrorist groups did not violate the First Amendment.

Let’s see what their decision will be on Obama’s health care reform? And I wonder how long will it take before some group will claim that the recent financial reform bill is unconstitutional? That the bill will be challenged in the Supreme Court must be a certainty. Did the founding fathers really intend for politically appointed judges to have more power than the president by being able to block legislation that go against their personal ideology? Wasn’t their intention that the judges should be impartial and objective? If so, maybe it’s time to make the judges accountable to the American people?

(Photo: Flickr – Obama-Biden-Transition-Project)

Corporate takeover of US elections?

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Most of us agree that a company is not a human being. But the January Supreme Court ruling equalling a company to an individual citizen, opened the gate to unlimited spending by corporations and unions in political campaigns.

A company is not a human being. There's need for transparency in US politics.

Is this really good for society? How can a corporation have free speech rights that are violated by them not being able to spend money on political campaigns? “This will multiply their influence over decision-making in our government”, president Obama said and warned of a potential corporate takeover of US elections.

Obama is right when he says that the integrity of US democracy is at stake. So it’s welcome that democrats recently introduced legislation to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court ruling. “Under the bill Congress is considering, foreign corporations and foreign nationals are restricted from spending money to influence American elections, just as they were in the past – even through US subsidiaries”, the president said.

It’s definitely essential to limit companies abilities to influence political campaigns. If not, US voters will not be voting for a candidate but a corporation. And you only have to read a bestselling novel to be reminded how disastrous that could be.

Cannot understand how Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell can criticize the bill as an effort to defy the court and disregard the protections for free speech? The democrats said organizations had the right to express their opinions but rules are necessary for transparency, which in my opinion is correct. Unless, of course, organizations have something to hide.

Shouldn’t US voters know what corporation or interest group they are voting for? One American expressed his views very clearly on Reuters: “Our politicians should dress like racing drivers – they openly show the logos of who is paying the bills. At the race track the sponsors want to be known. In Washington the sponsors do not want to be known. I do not think Washington understands integrity or “transparency”.

The bill, if passed will require:

  • Contributors to disclose within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission their campaign-related activity as well as transfers to other groups of any money that could be used in an election.
  • Mandate greater disclosure and allow shareholders, union workers and members of other organizations to know where the money goes; would also require these groups to make their political spending public on their websites.
  • Due to the appearance of corruption and possible misuse of taxpayer funds, government contractors with a contract worth more than $50,000 will not be allowed to spend money on elections.
  • Corporations that have not paid back federal bailout money would not be allowed to spend money on elections, either.
  • Tighten restrictions on foreign influence in U.S. elections. Corporations that have a foreign entity controlling 20 percent of their voting shares — or foreign nationals comprising a majority of their board of directors — would be barred from spending in U.S. elections. So would those that have a foreign national directing the company.

Sounds healthy and candid to me. And to make informed choices, the voters certainly need to know. As you know, the largest corporation in the world is the Chinese army with its multitude of companies. Without such legislation they could easily through one of their companies have an influence on US elections. There are, for instance, suspicions that one of their companies in India is up to mischief.

Seriously if corporations take over elections, what is the point of having elections? Democracy is supposed to result in the people being represented. So the bill would be a welcome antidote to the court’s damaging decision to open elections to unlimited attack and advocacy ads financed from the shadows by special-interest money. Let the voters know which financiers are sponsoring which candidates.

Or maybe this bill just isn’t enough? Another US Reuters reader was much more candid: “Yes – our politicians are bought and paid for. However, rather than take the cynical view that this is how things are and use that as a justification – let’s fix it! Until “we the people” insist that our elected representatives stop taking money from corporations and unions – we have no democracy. We also need to stop PACS – which are thinly veiled corporations and unions. We need contributions by individuals only. Only then will we begin to have representation of the people. I believe they have a term for that – democracy”. Or to quote another American: “To hell with limiting their contributions, they are not human beings. They should not be making any donations whatsoever. Only individual citizens are supposed to have that right”.

Photo: Flickr – Jason + Amanda – Allergifriendly

Will regulating banks avert another global crisis?

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The G20 group’s discussions this weekend may lead to banks and other financial institutions having to pay two new taxes to fund future bail-outs. The global proposals by the IMF are “more radical” than most had anticipated.

“Too many Wall Street firms had no one looking over their shoulder, and they went off the deep end.”, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York said. He has long been one of Wall Street’s best friends on Capitol Hill, but Mr. Schumer has embraced new legislation that will put constraints on his hometown’s leading industry.

Banks are likely to be horrified, especially about the proposed tax on pay.

Insurers, hedge funds and other financial institutions must also pay the taxes, the IMF argues, despite them being less implicated in the recent crisis. If not, activities currently carried out by banks would be reclassified as, for example, insurance or hedge-fund services to escape the levies.

The main focus is on the European Union and United States, where much of the financial crisis played out.

My feeling is that it is crucial to regulate complicated financial products that not even the people who invented them understand fully. A case in point are the subprime debt securities, not to mention the CDOs, sold in the United States and Europe that played a key role in the financial crisis. They were almost non-existent in Asia and a major reason why the region was able to recover more quickly from the global recession.

Good timing that a former Goldman CDO man just published a novel he wrote “about the cliched high life I had been living while creating and selling billions upon billions of these securitization and credit derivative products, now better known as ‘toxic assets”.

President Obama took his rhetoric of reform on Thursday to the nation’s financial capital in a high-profile foray to chide Wall Street bankers for their “reckless practices” and to press for tighter regulations meant to avert another financial crisis.

It is my belief that if there is no oversight and regulation of new complex financial products it is just a question of how long it takes before we have another global crisis. So I am pleased that the Senate approved legislation to tighten regulation of derivatives trading a couple of days ago. But will that be enough? We need similar legislation in Europe and the rest of the world. Debt securities based on life insurance instead of sub prime morgages have been sold for quite some time already. Let’s hope Wall Street isn’t, again, betting against them with a complicated CDO as well?

G20 countries have to find common ground on a variety of reforms to prevent a repeat of the credit crisis that led to a global recession. Otherwise operations will just move to countries where it is allowed. Do you think it will be possible to agree on regulations that make a difference? Or will financial companies just find loopholes and new ways of doing whatever is profitable.

photo: SBA73 – flickr

Obama acting like a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Many of us, even Obama himself, thought the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded him the price prematurely. But by signing a landmark strategic nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia he is actually beginning to live up to the committees expectations.

Obama and Medvedev seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons than what they signed last week, but such an agreement will be much harder to reach.

Start II, signed by Obama and Medvedev, a few days ago is a step in the right direction. The arms treaty, if ratified, will cut strategic nuclear arsenals deployed by the former Cold War enemies by 30 percent within seven years, but still leave each with enough power to destroy the other. It also re-establishes an inspection regime that lapsed in December and could serve as a foundation for deeper reductions later.

Obama has spoken vividly about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. It is a laudable goal that will unfortunately not be achieved during his presidency. Probably not for a long time after that either. But Obama is taking important steps to make the world a safer place and increase US credibility as it tries to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.

Signing the treaty confirms that Russia and the US, with 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, are taking their disarmament obligations seriously. It will also put the two presidents in a better position to put pressure on Iran, North Korea and other countries attempting to build up nuclear arsenals not complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Or as Obama himself put it “We are working together at the United Nations Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran and we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT,”.

The treaty is the first major step of a “reset” announced by the administration a year ago and welcomed by Moscow after nearly a decade of deteriorating ties. The Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser called it “a huge event that will have an extremely profound and positive effect on the way our countries deal with many other issues.”

The signing is a diplomatic achievement for Obama and a chance to portray the United States as a constructive global leader after years of dismay at U.S. foreign policy. It puts some substance behind Obama’s pledge to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.

Obama and Medvedev seek even deeper cuts in nuclear weapons than what they signed last week, but such an agreement will be much harder to reach. Unfortunately we can not un-do the invention of nuclear arms and in the world as it is it will be difficult to make further reductions, let alone abolish, nuclear arms.

Already JFK and Chrustjov were sleepless during the Cuba crisis 50 years ago worrying about the prospect of a nuclear war wiping out hundreds of thousands of people, or more. Today the world has even more nuclear weapons and the prospect of an armageddon is much higher. Consequently Mr. Obama has wisely made the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation a central strategic priority. And the administration decision to lead by example by even stating that the US “will not develop new nuclear warheads” is commendable.

Mr. Medvedev called the treaty “a truly historic event” that would “open a new page” in Russian-American relations. “What matters most is that this is a win-win situation,” he said. “No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe that this is a typical feature of our cooperation. Both parties have won.”

President Obama’s far-sighted initiative in trying to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by reducing their number and proliferation and by stating that the United States will not retaliate with nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries should go a long way toward preventing a nuclear armageddon. Combined with vigilance, the policies are worthy actions of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. One New York Times reader got it right when he wrote “Hail to Presidents Obama and Medvedev for inking an agreement to end the production of nuclear weapons and eventually abolish them”. Most of us would like that to happen, and the new treaty is a step in the right direction.

Photo: Flickr – Mika V. Stetsovsky