Beyond the Cusp

October 23, 2016

Barack Obama’s Wild Search for Any Legacy

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President Barack Obama entered office with even a great number of Europeans having sky high hopes for his future. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize largely due to his soaring rhetoric describing his desires and designs for a world blanketed in peace rather than strife, free of nuclear weapons rather than bristling with them, shared bounty benefitting all replacing areas torn by hunger and want, and his fresh message promising hope replacing despair. There appeared to be other areas of the world which also caught Obamaitis, a feeling of great hope due to dulcet tones of rhythmic rhymes and rhetoric promising the end of deprivation and the opening for all a grand cornucopia providing great giving filling the world with divine satisfactions and serenity, comforts and calm, lullabies and love. The world had to be at the leading edge of the Age of Aquarius.

 

 

This expectation of greatness and having found the leader for the new century who would wipe away all the old and stodgy ideas which presumably underlined the policies and failings of his predecessor, George W. Bush led to the reelection as if the expectations which had begun to fade could be brought to fulfillment if just the people would show their support and promise to stay the course with full support and continued adulation. Americans, as a whole, virtually all hoped that President Obama would be the President that all America could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with and repair the real problems facing the nation. Even, or possibly because of, many who initially feared that Obama would rule as what they perceived as an extreme leftist progressive anti-American still grabbed on to this prayer, this hope. I know as I was one such who had predicted that President Obama would be a President Jimmy Carter on steroids. I was wrong as I missed the part which would rival President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the steamrolling over all opposition; Constitution be damned. So now we sit in the closing months of a wounded Presidency which failed in even its own measuring stick. Gone beyond repair is Cap and Trade, Carbon Credits, the end of coal for energy, fracking continues, livable wage remains a dream, government run healthcare is in a shambles and the final crash is still ahead, universal nuclear disarmament is dead with the promise of proliferation like never before is about to spread these weapons across the most unstable Middle East and into North Africa (MENA) and, worst of all, there are numerous more wars with entire nations in various stages of disintegration as in Libya, Syria, Yemen and the Ukraine and the world seems closer than ever to the Eve of Destruction.

 

 

Musical interludes aside, the world is far more violent with more conflict and more nations in a state of complete anarchy where the governance has either disintegrated or no longer cares or represents the population. The continued anarchy and destruction in Syria and Libya can be indirectly or even directly attributed to actions or lack thereof by the United States under the directions of President Obama and largely the State Department. There have been reports online and in the mainstream media of recommendations made by the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff being ignored and even directly countermanded by the White House. Examples of such advice being completely ignored which led directly to many of today’s problems include pulling almost every American military force after refusing to provide a new set of terms and protections for the troops as President Obama refused to permit the Pentagon to work with the Iraqi government leaving the State Department to negotiate which was postponed until a mere ten weeks before the then existing agreement lapsed. Then there was the shifting, sliding and finally fading to nothing Red Line in the Sand to bring destruction down on Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad if he unleashed chemical weapons. The final example we will give was the entire concept of leading from behind which directly led to the decapitation of Libyan governance without providing even a modicum of force in place providing time to form new governance resulting in tribal internal warfare tearing the nation apart.

 

Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon

Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon

 

To the present we are witnessing a change and President Obama taking the lead very quietly while attempting to force what his passivity failed to accomplish. We have witnessed stronger language targeting Russian President Putin while arming rebels more directly, though which rebels has been kept somewhat vague. Some reports claim they are al-Nusra and others who were once claiming allegiance to al-Qaeda but have since renounced any allegiances. Some unofficial sources not aligned with the State Department or Pentagon has shown alliances with some of these rebels with the Islamic State. Even more troubling has been the unprincipled support using American air power of Turkey President Erdogan bombing the one group which deserved the greatest support, the Kurdish Militias (Peshmerga پێشمەرگە), who have been the most successful against the Islamic State all the way back to their initial ISIS or ISIL stage and the main force rescuing the Yazidi while the world governments sat silent feigning helplessness with one exception which has provided light weapons, anti-tank weapons and special forces to train Kurdish fighters, a nation which must remain unnamed. President Obama has made the known fallacious claim that Turkey is fighting the Islamic State when the reality is they are attempting to wipe out the Kurdish forces and people in a genocidal war and assisting the Islamic State which has recovered Aleppo from Kurdish control. These anti-Kurdish efforts are pushing some Kurds to seek protection with Islamist forces they once fought against. Talk of turning friends into enemies, what a great strategy.

 

President Obama still claims his brilliant nuclear treaty with Iran, which even the French had to be beaten into submission after initially vetoing the agreement, prevents Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. The statement can only be made valid if one adds, “while I am President,” onto the end. Even the White House had admitted that Iran will be fully nuclear capable and free of any restrictions after just over a decade from now. Then we have the most recent evidence of the hard-line being taken in response to a pair of missiles fired from Yemen originating in the area held by Iranian backed Houthis Rebels. The American Naval forces were freed to respond in kind. Further the United States Navy was ordered to cross into the expanded regions now claimed by China after they built a number of new islands placing military assets including artillery and anti-ship missiles in an effort to control an important Asian trade route. This new and unprecedented stance by President Obama has come with minimal if any inclusion of the Pentagon or Joint Chiefs of Staff other than to relay the orders and is being executed in order to shore up support for Democrat candidates in the coming elections. This also permits Hillary Clinton to imply that she may have had a hand in this new direction by the White House to accommodate her stronger stance in foreign policy. It is all a feint to make her appear to separate from the lead from behind strategy when in reality she will not lead at all with one exception which is worthy of discussion before closing this article.

 

A President Hillary Clinton will continue to bow to Iranian hegemonic plans in the MENA region and continue to snub Egypt, Israel, Jordan and other allies unless they curry favor as was the way to play when she was Secretary of State with higher entry fees as she is now the President. Further, she will allow China to extend their hegemonic desires throughout the western Pacific Ocean and into the Indian Ocean. This will revive an ancient animosity between China and India, an India which is likely to surpass China as the most populous nation within a decade or two. Hillary Clinton will further aid the influx of Islamic immigrants all but unvetted into Europe, mostly western Europe, while also increasing the rate for accepting immigrants from across MENA and including the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations except Iran, they need to remain strong with a large and capable military with secret side deals done without Congressional oversight or knowledge when possible. There is one place where Hillary Clinton will not only stand strong but will seek new venues to pressure, Putin and Russia. For reasons known only to the least sane amongst us, there has been an undertone softly growing demanding that Russian President Putin be brought low and to bend and surrender to the “equality of women” and raise the position of Russian women to their “rightful place” in Russian society. This is partly the demand for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria as this would soon lead to a direct confrontation. Do not doubt that any Russian fighter caught entering such a zone, even after dropping their ordinance and simply transgressing on way back to base, they would be intercepted and very likely fired upon or, even worse, shot from the sky using missiles pressing the Russians to respond. Even if Putin would take such a situation and apologize, explain and request for unarmed aircraft, after dropping ordinance, for Russian pilots to use the “safe zone” for returning to base, the request would be refused bluntly and with no regard for any damage as such would be intentional. What is the end desired? We wish we knew!

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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August 8, 2016

China and Words Whispered on the Winds

 

For as long as there have been predictive winds of the economic variety, the prediction has been whispered from quiet corners to shouted from the rooftops claiming this would be the time that China was finally going to pay for their economic shenanigans and face economic collapse. We have been extremely quiet about these predictions of doom on the horizon as the one thing the Chinese had been very adept at was finding some manner of continuing to meet predicted gains month after month, year after year. Their predictive gains have become somewhat more reasonable from the early 1990s where the reported gains stood around 11% to this past year where they reported merely 6% and are continuing to predict this can be continued. The problem the Chinese leadership is facing is they have pretty much run out of rabbits to pull from their hat and it is time to accept that even in China there can be a recession. But perhaps a little look back might help to explain.

 

China had some really rough years where Chairman (and virtual god) Mao Zedong was the absolute ruler and was executing the usual five year plans which are so precious to so many dictators. Equally precious to such five year plans is that they completely and utterly destroy the national economy and tens of millions die of starvation and other privations. The Chinese have literally tried everything in order to assure that whomever was at the top made a relatively high prediction of economic growth even to have gone to a fairly complete privatization resorting to a market based free enterprise system which had kept growth at around six to as high as nine percent for the past decade plus. To continue reaching such unrealistic goals the Chinese government has gone so far as to build entire cities where nobody was going to live just to add to profits. This also assisted the areas of the Chinese economy which is dependent on the price of copper. Building cities, even those nobody is going to inhabit, still required a fair amount of copper to install all the wiring necessary for a modern environment and using so much copper supports a higher price aiding the Chinese economic indicators.

 

Can the Chinese leadership find some miracle to pull off continued reported gains? Of course they can. After all, lying is always an option and that will work until the people rise up and overthrow the government demanding real and honest leadership. The Chinese watched the breakup of the Soviet Union and know that a contributing factor was pretending they could manipulate and lie their way to prosperity and the people would not be bothered by their lies. Apparently they were misled and paid the consequences. The problem in Russia was despite the change in governance there was little change in who governed and who owned all the wealth. China has wisely decentralized their economy and relied on free market principles throughout almost all sectors of their economy.

 

The Chinese leaders have found the one main problem with a free market economy, eventually even these engines need to cool off for a while and that causes an unavoidable recession. This creates one big headache for the leadership in China; they are expected to show profits and economic growth of at least five to six percent every year, period. That will be a real stretch in the next couple of years as their free market sector has reached the apex as things stand and now need to cool the system and take a few quarters, possibly a year or even two of reset and a settling of the economy before the next drive and prosperity again making all happy. The problem is the Chinese Communist Party insists in progress and growth every year or else heads will roll. In China, that is meant quite literally, thus the excessive need to find some way or reporting progress and gains in the economy. This would have been less of a problem had the economy not been buoyed with false growth figures in construction of uninhabited cities and the enforcement of a one child policy cause a drastic set of circumstances. Now China is facing a recession with a glut of male children entering adult life with poor prospects for matrimony coupled with an economic downturn thus even their rescinding the one child policy, it came far too late for these men in a society bereft of women. This adds another component which historically has almost always been solved in the same manner, finding a means of sacrificing a significant number of male citizens between the ages of twelve to twenty-something. That method has always been war.

 

This brings us to another side of China of late, pressing her claims to areas beyond her natural borders and the stationing of troops as a provocation on these fronts. Much of these provocations have been taken in the South China Sea where Chinese activities and demands are threatening long existent and heavily traveled sea trade routes. Add in the Spratly Islands which are claimed somewhat obviously by the Philippines and Viet Nam and add in China and you have instant conflict. This conflict over the Spratly Islands goes far further than the land based claims as should China successfully claim the islands they would also set solid their claim to the South China Sea as their own little private bathtub square in the middle of some of the most heavily travelled sea lanes in the world. This would allow China to control these sea lanes demanding taxes be paid on all cargo, disrupt naval exercises and travel in what are considered as international waters and be a provocation to war all rolled up in one package. The Spratly Islands are likely the end goal of the island building exercises taken by China in the South China Sea and could quickly escalate into an open confrontation should China use their newly built Blue Water Navy to enforce their claims to these waters. Additionally, there are the conflicting claims over the Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese claim and the Senkaku Islands as the Japanese claim (see map below). These two sets of claims are both very sensitive areas but thus far the Chinese appear to be more concerned with their claims for the Spratly Islands as they would cement the South China Sea as strictly Chinese and thus grant China control of the busiest Asian sea lanes and one of the most heavily traveled sea lanes internationally. This might also be the case simply due to the Japanese having a far more developed naval capability compared to Viet Nam and the Philippines and nothing more.

 

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

Diaoyu Islands as the Chinese Claim
Senkaku Islands as the Japanese Claim

 

The likelihood of an actual war breaking out over the Spratly Islands is considered by many to be a remote possibility. Of course the possibility of China building an island chain to the Spratly Islands and then placing Chinese troops, aircraft and shore batteries and placing naval assets moored to the Spratly Islands is also considered remote. The potential for open conflict with the Philippines calling in their support guaranteed by the United States could be a potential for a quickly escalating situation over the South China Sea, an area the United States desires to be open and free of any interference with trade as much as anybody. Even the Japanese have direct concerns over the Chinese increased territorial claims into the South China Sea. This could easily become a future flashpoint though such is unlikely until some situation would force the United States to emphasize their presence elsewhere pulling assets out of the western Pacific region. One such scenario would be a war in the Middle East threatening the oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf oil kingdoms where the United States would also be bound by treaty obligations. With the current United States Navy cut down to well under former levels of actual warships and also less support vessels meaning that the Navy would not be capable of staging on two separate fronts without leaving large segments of the world outside the reach of American naval assets. This is the situation faced currently as the number of front-line aircraft carriers has been reduced such that with one being refurbished then there would not be a full battle group to send into a crisis area forcing the redistribution of assets from areas considered less threatened, though where that might be is a difficult judgement in itself.

 

China is facing economic downturn for the immediate future barring some unforeseen manipulation of forced conflict requiring wartime production which would permit direct government infusions stimulating the economy in an unnatural means which would only make recovery from such a step even more drastic when the correction comes. No nation can continuously show the kinds of gains China has claimed indefinitely and eventually there must be a cooling-off period as the market resets and decides on its next direction for expansion. China did have the advantage of not being a modern, first-world economy after World War II and then struggling through the Mao Zedong five year plan years where things actually managed to worsen thus allowing for a long stretch of recovery, modernization and finally incorporating free market principles and now China is at a top point from which a reset is long, long overdue and pretty much unavoidable short of declaring war. One hopes that even China has progressed beyond using war as an economic stimulus where all markets are crashed to support the war effort allowing for a period of growth and rebuilding when the war is over. One had also best pray that the same is true in the Middle East where the people have reached the end of patience with dictators and are revolting in nation after nation which could threaten to engulf the Middle East, North, the Horn and parts of Central Africa and potentially Europe starting from Turkey and moving westward and northward and even including Russia in a bid to regain some of the lost power of the Soviet Era. Any blow-up in the Middle East and affected areas could be exactly the opening China would need to cement their claims to the waters and international shipping lanes of the western Pacific-Indian Ocean routes and disrupting world trade in hopes of using taxation of trade and other measures to continue to show profits at any cost. As long as tariffs and trade wars are considered a viable economic tool to be found in some national tool kits, then the world is still a dangerous place as long as that remains so.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 28, 2016

It’s Final and It’s Clinton and Trump

 

Sure it is still possible for Cruz/Kasich or Bernie Sanders to steal the limelight with the teaming up of Cruz/Kasich to temporarily stop Trump or for Bernie to turn the world on its head and win the nomination outright, but pigs have a better chance of flying. So we may as well face it that the United States election will place a criminal against an egotistical buffoon. Such a choice will likely produce the smallest turnout for a Presidential election in American history with over half the eligible voters blowing off the election out of sheer disinterest. The election will be won by whichever of the two candidates sickens their base less than the other. Call it the election where large portions will be voting for the one that makes them less ill. The question must seriously be looked at as to what each Presidency would look like and what the world can expect.

 

Hillary will quite likely be the more predictable of the two as she will be a true leftist performing exactly as advertised. She will continue to spend on social issues taking it from the military. She will cut the NASA budget and we will hear repeatedly about the billions of dollars going to NASA and how such expenditures cannot be justified when the social issues are so dire. She will raise taxes even further on businesses forcing even more companies to flee from what will be an even more oppressive atmosphere. Amnesty for illegal immigrants will be a given and will include a number of millions additional from the troubled Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The flood gates will open for Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, Libyan, and who knows where else from the failing MENA nations and will be brought in as Europe refuses to accept millions of these immigrants and their nations of origin will disavow them leaving them as people without a country until Hillary rides to their rescue. All financing will be returned to Planned Parenthood. All this and more will result if Hillary has a democratic Congress, especially if they remake the rules preventing filibusters in the Senate by requiring a mere majority vote for cloture as was enacted early in President Obama’s first term.

 

Clinton vs Trump

Clinton vs Trump

 

There will also be a push towards raising the minimum wage above $12.00 and eventually up to $15.00 an hour. This will speed up the automation of fast food service centers, calling such a restaurant would be a stretch. The first company amongst the burger giants to come out with a completely automated service and retrieval and cleaning using robotic servers and cleaning robotic units, especially if they appear humanoid but still obviously robotic to avoid that gulch where they are too humanlike but just enough off to be spooky. We believe the term for such robots are they are in the Uncanny Valley where they freak people out and make them uncomfortable. Unemployment will skyrocket along with the minimum wage hike as more and more jobs simply disappear either through automation of certain sectors of industry or simply fleeing to Asia and other places of lower production costs.

 

There will be pressure by the green movement to tighten pollution standards and a strong push to tax gasoline internal combustion engine vehicles to higher prices making electric vehicles more attractive. Expect a European style carburetor tax or even cylinder tax with a tax based on number of cylinders where production of a car has such a tax pushing the prices skyward. Gasoline taxes will also push gas to European levels or higher. Expect a mileage tax to be levied with GPS mileage tracking systems required on all cars including retrofitting older vehicles. If such a requirement makes keeping your old vehicle on the road too expensive to install the GPS mileage tracking system, enjoy walking or the bus. Automated trucking with self-driving vehicles will become more common. This too might also be another item built into the GPS mileage tracking where every vehicle signals its GPS location, direction and speed which can be read by the automated vehicles to assist them in driving decisions. Such systems could also automate speeding tickets as your speed would be recorded at all times and exceeding the speed limit could result in an automated system sending you a ticket for each violation. Who needs speed cameras when the vehicle itself can turn itself in for speed violations? Cities might even enact car free zones where vehicles are forbidden forcing people to use mass transit. All this and more could be a result of a Hillary Clinton Presidency.

 

Donald Trump will be far more difficult to predict as it will depend largely on whom he appoints as his Cabinet and advisors. The biggest danger of a Trump Presidency would be if his policies become unpredictable, especially in economic programs. Should he start one set of economic programs and after five or six months not have the results he desired so he changes the game and again every four to six months then investors will sit on their money as such a game would become too risky and they would turn into risk adverse investors placing their investments in predictable sectors or overseas. Trump might react to pressures from ecology lobbies and make some concessions and it would depend on which as to the effect. CAFÉ standards might be increased demanding higher MPG ratings for vehicles. Taxes on businesses would likely be lowered which would be a positive; and minimum wage, where it may be raised, would not approach $15.00 which would permit for lower unemployment numbers.

 

Certain advances are going to be unavoidable. The driverless automated trucks are coming and there is no preventing that short of making them illegal, not going to happen. Mileage taxes will be levied by the individual states even if not done by the Federal Government. Requiring GPS reporting mileage and possibly constant recording and reporting trip data to the government is coming and will be used to try and force driverless vehicles to replace human drivers even before the technology is perfected, though it is very close, which is why it will be unavoidable. Trump might actually listen to the car manufacturers and allow for hydrogen powered vehicles as an alternative to electric cars. What the ecology lobby does not want people to know is that electric cars do little to lessen pollution and just change the location of the pollution as charging the electric cars requires greater output by power plants most of which burn fossil fuels with extra demand making up for the pollution presumably not produced by driving gasoline powered vehicles. The hydrogen powered vehicles exhaust is water vapor and its main pollution is thermal as the exhaust is in the form of steam predominantly. Perhaps some system could be installed which would permit some degree of condensation before release into the atmosphere, but the efficiency of such a system would need to be proven before any great claims could be made.

 

The area where either a Trump or a Clinton Presidency would be most in doubt would be foreign policy. Hillary might be more willing to intervene militarily and then leave too quickly after declaring job accomplished which may or may not be a better policy providing the parties understand that intervention remains an option if things are not improved after any regime change. Another Libyan style disaster would serve nobody. Trump, on the other hand, is a complete unknown and the sole plus is that as a complete unknown and with his reputation as being somewhat unstable and capable of flying off the handle, other nations might be tempered in their desires to test a President Trump. There will always be at least one foreign country which will test any new President and how they react to such a test can set the mood for the remainder of their term. After the Bay of Pigs disaster Khrushchev tested President Kennedy by shipping nuclear capable missiles into Cuba sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis and the rest is history. Needless to say there were no more tests after President Kennedy literally blockaded Cuba and prevented any additional missile deliveries and demanded the removal of those already in place. Things got a good deal quieter after that faceoff.

 

What will be the test for the incoming President? We predict it would likely come via the situation in what used to be Syria and potentially Iraq and could be either from Russia or Islamic State. There is the already existing threat in the South China Sea with the Chinese literally building and arming islands right in the heart of the existing sea lanes forcing shipping to detour adding hundreds of miles to the routes between Japan and Asia as they need to circumnavigate around these Chinese newly-fashioned and militarized islands. These also could be utilized to prevent any reinforcement in a timely manner of Taiwan should China finally attempt to make good on their standing threat to restore their province which they claim Taiwan actually should be. Then there is the challenge which is sure to be presented by Iran as they continue to flaunt their disregard for any limitations presumably set by the Iran deal which likely was simply an agreement that Iran not announce or test a nuclear weapon until after President Obama has set off for golfing and placing his Presidential Library between the ninth hole and tenth tee next to the clubhouse on his Presidential Golf Course. Foreign challenges are always an area where second guessing is commonplace as nobody can predict everything accurately as there is always that surprise awaiting around every corner. The one predictable item is foreign powers are less likely to challenge Trump than they are Clinton. That might be a very seriously bad mistake, period. Hillary Clinton could be their worst nightmare if she was having a bad hair day when they pushed her; she could be far more vicious and unpredictable than Trump could ever be. Trump, though potentially unpredictable, would at least be relatively logical even if that logic might be unfathomable to some. Hillary Clinton would be simply terrifying should she feel threatened or being made a fool of or made to appear hesitant and weak as she would be more likely to overreact to any situation and press it to unnecessary levels or even use overwhelming force where a strong show of force without pulling the trigger was all that was necessary to end the threat peacefully. We have far more trepidation when it comes to Hillary over Donald when it comes to foreign threats despite both being unpredictable. No matter which wins there will be no telling the results until either has settled in and the initial actions and reactions have been initiated.

 

The final item is Israel. Trump will depend on who his advisors are on foreign policy, but we believe he will be more even handed and accommodating regarding Israel once he is made fully appreciative of the situation. Trump will need to weigh what the Pentagon and Defense Department give him and what the State Department tells him. With such conflicting information, he will necessarily have to choose and hopefully will have visited Israel and talked to both sides and gotten his measure of the land. Hillary Clinton will likely make President Obama appear to have been a supporter of Israel and best of friends with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We already are fully aware of the lack of good relations between Bibi and Hillary and the special hate she holds for Israel. Expect the chill between Israel and the United States to become an ice age under Hillary with no possible thaw and open threats to become commonplace from the White House to Jerusalem. There will be nobody to answer the calls from Hillary as her animosity is well known in Israel and she will manage to even alienate the Israeli left within the first year of her screeching demands for Israel to surrender completely to Abbas. Any dealing with Hillary by Israel would be suicidal. Trump may initially be an unknown but would at least not enter the situation convinced of their preconceived notions as Hillary would be, and she would be completely anti-Israel no matter what lies she told AIPAC.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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