Fernando Fuster-Fabra's Blog

THE UGLY AMERICAN, 2012

November 4, 2012
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The Ugly Americans

 

Ever since the Burdick & Lederer’s novel, The Ugly American, was published in 1958, American candidates to the White House and incumbent Presidents have had a chance to face numerous international problems as leaders who have to assume responsibilities attributed the world’s most powerful nation.

 

Nevertheless, time and time again, one President after another has committed quite a number of errors that have led to what the USA is today.

 

On the verge of next Tuesday’s presidential elections, incumbent President Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, have demonstrated that Americans have not wagged away the then Asian foreign vision of “the ugly American”.

 

On the contrary, today, American leaders are seen as “ugly” in continents other than Asia. In the last half century, one after another, the U.S. Presidents have blundered in international affairs in Vietnam & Cambodia, in the Caribbean, in the Middle East, in Africa and in Central & South America.

 

From Kennedy to Obama, all White House tenants have had their Achilles heel. Some succumbed to the temptation of playing God and ended causing civil wars or local ethnic cleansing.

 

At the crossroads of American supremacy, President Obama has not only failed to live up to expectations and to a moral commitment after being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009, but also has selfishly closed himself into what he sensed was to be a battle for his continuance as President of the United States of America. He has, in many ways, taken as his own the very habits of what was described in the novel as “the ugly American”.

 

Regretfully, his adversary is no better off. Mitt Romney considers he is a self-made man who has amassed a fortune with his talents. Nevertheless, if he would look back, I’m sure he will have to admit to himself that he isn’t all that respectable a citizen as he wants to make voters believe. He too is “an ugly American” in the eyes of any foreign beholder.

 

At this stage of the 21st century with new technologies making communications go global with a click, U.S. leaders have seemed to remain stagnant in their 20th century ways of government and diplomacy; precisely those very same manners that worried John F. Kennedy when the novel was first published.

 

Neither Obama nor Romney gets even solid approval from their European allies. I feel, much less would they get it from the Muslim states that their policies have led into an irreversible permanent war.

 

The issue is that none of them have learned from their errors but worst still is that there being an opportunity to be once again the best, both Obama & Romney have decided to just make it to the White House next balloting day.

 

Who is the “uglier American” of the two?

 

 

Fernando Fuster-Fabra

Barcelona, Spain    

 

 

 

 

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EUROPE’S UNION IN THE CROSSROADS: DO OR DIE

November 15, 2011
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Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.

–       Albert Einstein

 

 

 

 

Spanish version:  http://wp.me/pRlnf-4D

 

The G-20 Summit of world leaders was held in Cannes a few days ago. As expected, no decisions were taken to resolve the economic crisis that affects the stability of a great number of countries. Not a word was said about establishing restrictions to speculative abuses that crop up based on ratings of agencies prone to cause alarm with their presumptions. Assisting the summit were the principal European leaders representing the EU as well as Germany, France, Italy and United Kingdom as full-pledged members, with Spain and The Netherlands as guests.

Just a few miles away, in Brussels, the Greek crisis with a call for referendum warning and the forthcoming Italian tempest had been left unsolved. Today, the Greek crisis remains unsolved although Greece’s elected Prime Minister (Papandreou) has had to step down and a new one (Papademos) appointed in his place without any elections.  Something similar went on in Italy just a few hours ago, with the forced resignation of Berlusconi after the approval of the demanded reforms and the appointment of Monti to replace him.

Two new figures, not elected by their respective citizens, assume their respective tasks; technocrats, as they are called, but without analysing their close links to the financial structures that, in my opinion, have been the root of this entire regrettable situation. Lukas Papademos was Vice-President of the ECB from 2002 till 2008 when Jean Claude Trichet was President whilst Mario Monti not only was a European Commissioner but also a consultant of the notorious American bank, Goldman Sachs.

Furthermore, in November, the turnover at the ECB has also taken place, with an Italian, Mario Draghi, taking over the chair occupied by Trichet from 2003 till late October. He is another figure related to the bank (Goldman Sachs) that caused more than a single financial quake, amongst which it is worth mentioning its advisory role to the Greek Government in the times of the conservative, Kostas Karamanlis, precisely when the state accounts were falsified in the reports to Brussels.

The irony of this entire circus is that a legitimately elected Papandreou was forced out of office for calling a referendum to approve his proposals but no one has said a word about prosecuting neither Karamanlis nor Goldman Sachs por having intentionally lied, causing the domino effect on the weaker Eurozone economies.

Thus, not only has a chance been lost in Cannes to set up global regulating and supervisory measure of the larger banking entities as well as the rating agencies but also it has allowed a slow transfer of previous bank executives and personalities linked to these entities to occupy relevant posts in the hierarchical big-shots of the EU and in the government of its member states.

Likewise, the American stance has taken a 360 degree change from Pittsburgh to Cannes. With elections in 2012, Obama does not wish to risk any confrontation with potential donors for his campaign funds, amongst which we may mention the larger U.S. banks and the powerful Jewish lobby. He abandons Europe to its fate, above all because he does not share the curt German stance in some questions of procedure and timing. Not even the goodwill efforts of the French President and proud father of a baby girl served to ease the tense atmosphere. Furthermore, Obama is aware that in spite of the Euro crisis, the currency has a strong quotation, benefitting the U.S. Dollar and facilitating its exports to the Old Continent while decreasing European countries competitiveness in world trade.

What seems to have gone unnoticed in all this week of European tension after the Cannes summit is that Munich  prosecutors ordered a search in the Deutsche Bank offices in relation to the famous ‘Kirch affaire’. In spite of the death of communications magnate, Leo Kirch, the lawsuit against Deutsche Bank continues its course, with outgoing CEO, Josef Ackerman, in the midst of the storm. The matter must have been of such importance that Ackerman announced his decision not to seek the appointment to the bank’s presidency, a rather difficult manoeuvre after the German banking law reforms in 2009. Said reforms establish a two-year grace period before a former CEO can aspire to the presidential post of a bank, with the only exception that 25% of the stockholders so demanded.

Angela Merkel has covered many inside details of the decisions taken in relation with the German banking system between 2005 and 2011, as well as her personal pact with Gerhard Schröder, with regards such a vital issue as energy, disguised under the so-called ‘grand coalition’. Few are conscious of the of Merkel’s stubborn tenacity that has brought her from that membership in the communist youth movement in her younger years in the extinguished GDR to become ‘my girl’ for conservative, Helmut Kohl. Her rise to power came by pure chance after a scandal caused the downfall of Kohl’s chosen successor, Wolfgang Schäuble, actually the Economic Minister in Merkel’s cabinet.

Perhaps that is the reason that one has given due importance to the very recent announcement of the inauguration of start-up of Operation Nord Stream, the gas pipeline agreed upon between Russia and German, with the blessing of France, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. Said pipeline will go from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald in Germany in a submarine line across the Baltic Sea. In Russia’s behalf the participations is headed by state-owned Gazprom as natural gas supplier and Nord Stream AG, a German enterprise has been set up to handle constructions and operations. It is interesting to observe that former Prime Minister Schröeder has been involved in the Nord Stream project and with Gazprom since December, 2005, roughly a month after stepping down in favour of Angela Merkel.   

What makes this affair even uglier is the fact that the powerful EU members will share the spoils of Russian gas without sharing a bit with other Baltic member states, namely – Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – nor seem to have offered a gas link to the Scandinavian states for the moment. Nevertheless, said gas will indeed go across the English Channel to the United Kingdom.

This project is contrary to the interest of the pan-European Nabucco project which had set the goal of constructing a gas pipeline from Erzurum in Turkey to Baumgarten in Austria, precisely with the intention of breaking EU dependence on Russian gas supply. The problems generated with Gazprom gas supply through Ukraine have left Central Europe and Italy without a reliable supply in more than one occasion whilst Turkey had offered its facilities in a sign of goodwill in its bid to join the EU. Germany has again vetoed a state that has been accumulating more merits to join the EU than some who already are in.

With partners who demand from the south sacrifices but will not share the favourable agreements with other non-EU states, it is no wonder that the Union of 27, each day, is turning into a more difficult endeavour.  In addition, those who impose the terms & conditions interpret the Stability & Growth Pact in such a manner as to oblige members to apply solutions thought out in conventional terms, in precisely the same line as those that created the problem.

Whilst our present-century ‘Medea’ is bossing around in Europe, the route travelled will be the wrong one and the estrangement amongst members each day larger.  How much must we wait before Merkel is sent into exile?     

Fernando Fuster-Fabra

Barcelona, Spain     


AMERICA’S THANKSGIVING 2010

November 25, 2010
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“It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.”

Groucho Marx

 

 

 

This 25th of November, 2010 is Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America.

 

Having spent quite a few such memorable celebrations in my stints in the USA, I have asked myself – What has America to be thankful for today on this our 3rd year of crisis and a quite a few more since the Bush Administration engaged Americans in a disastrous adventure in Iraq and later Afghanistan?

 

The successive events both on the home front and the international scene are not precisely heartening.

 

Unemployment is still high for US standards and foreclosures have left a lot of citizens homeless. The America that scarcely trembled in the wake of wars, disasters and crises was left shaky well before President Obama took over; some tremors still persist from the past Administration’s errors. What really counts is that the nation has recently spoken with its votes and the President has now a tough ride ahead to get to where America should be. In danger are such important endeavours such as the new healthcare plan or the taxing of the wealthier. Now, America may again turn its back on the social equality levels the Obama Administration pretended to reach. The influential lobbies may win the day by curtailing green energies in lieu of petroleum or the causers of the still persistent economic crisis, back in the driver’s seat of powerful entities, may submerge the US economy anew in new global conflicts in the wake of their making their profits.

 

The world scene isn’t any better. While Guantanamo remains operative, the joint world resistance to terrorism has been weakened due to vested interests of other world powers. The Palestinian-Israel conflict is at a standstill but may burst into open conflict at any time. Iran has not been subdued in its intent to convert itself into a nuclear-armed state and may never give in whilst it has China’s blessings. Further east, the two Koreas are on the verge of a nuclear war, with a US aircraft carrier already on the scene. The end of the Cold War with the defunct USSR (now Russia) may have an Asian offspring that refuses to come to an end. America, as the world superpower, is deep into every single international conflict and will remain even more so after the new scenario for NATO was drawn up a few days ago in the Lisbon summit.

 

Happiness seems to elude Americans this 2010. What must Americans be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day?

 

 

 

Fernando Fuster-Fabra

Barcelona

 

 

 

 


OBAMA’S METAMORPHOSIS: FROM PEACE AWARDEE TO MISSILE SHIELD PROMOTER

November 21, 2010
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“ …. Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.  ……  The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.” Barack Obama (Oslo, Norway  December – 2009)


At the end of his term as 2009 Nobel Peace awardee, I come to understand better Obama’s rather contradictory speech at the Oslo Nobel ceremony last year.

Obama’s personal peace convictions have come up against the reality of the tasks of the man that took over the Oval Office from a belligerent predecessor who left him the bitter inheritance of a questionable invasion of Iraq and a rather shaky strategy to defeat Al Qaeda’s expansive terrorism at its Afghanistan roots. No less relevant was the status of international relations with the European allies across the Atlantic or the state of the thawing Cold War with defunct USSR’s successor, Russia.

The recently concluded NATO Summit celebrated this weekend in Lisbon has taken a gigantic leap towards a stronger military alliance that has declared Russia, at last, as an ally. The Cold War seems to have been finally buried for good, or least up till a new confrontation crops up between Russia and the USA.

Why my reluctance to accept Lisbon’s alliance declaration at face value?

First, Medvédev and Obama signed earlier this year a renewed START agreement that should conclude in a joint reduction of their missiles’ arsenals. Nevertheless, said agreement may never come into effect if and when the new Republican majority in the US Congress decide to reject same. Both Republicans and the White House are presently engaged in a bluff & counter-bluff game to put pressure upon each other prior to the constitution of the new Congress in January, 2011.

Second, Afghanistan topped the NATO meet priority list and the conclusions reached of a gradual withdrawal to end in 2014 seemed to please not only Karzai but the NATO members as well. Not so, Medvédev, who doubts that such deadline is realistic.

Third, instead of heading towards peace, NATO expansion with a missile shield to protect Europe with Russian cooperation, may well be a means to combat international terrorism but likewise it is a sign that more wars and conflicts are expected from territories to the East of Europe.

Are we about to set new standards for ‘just war’ which may well surpass reasons of shear military logistics to enter other areas of international relations such as economics?

Are we assisting to a new distribution of geo-political power that will only move the demarcation line further towards the East of the Atlantic?

Has President Obama’s brief stay in Lisbon been intended towards a Western-front pact with Russia included to curtail other world powers from the temptation of going beyond their economic ambitions?

So far, since I started my posts in this English blog in April, 2009, my humble views have made bulls-eye on major international issues. Those who have followed my Spanish blog  http://www.blogger.com/profile/06825435168558835379 since 2005, have seen that we have likewise pointed out certain flaws in US-EU relations which have led to this rather estranged situation, apparently cleared in a 90-minute meeting as an appendix of the NATO Summit. Unfortunately, time will prove that encounter insufficient to patch the tattered relations dating back to the clashes during the 8-year Bush Administration. Obama has not been too observant to realise that his problems back home in such vital issues such as the economic crisis, climate change and military alliances have only one possible firm ally – the European Union.

Obama has now reached his objective, the EU’s support and that of Russia for a missile shield. Likewise, the NATO partners have approved his proposal of a more powerful NATO military alliance. Nevertheless, Obama in his metamorphosis has left out his search for peace and a more balanced distribution of wealth to curtail the miseries of millions in underdeveloped nations around the world. He has become unworthy of the Nobel Peace Award granted him in 2009.

His true problems start now not only in the home front but before millions of citizens of different races, religions and cultures who had looked up to him as a symbol of democracy in peace.

Fernando Fuster-Fabra Fdz.

Observer of Human Behaviour


U.S. MERRY-GO-ROUND AFTER MID-TERM ELECTIONS

November 8, 2010
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The great American nation has voted and Obama has been punished for seeking reforms favourable to the U.S. citizenry in the first two years of his presidential term. The overwhelming Republican victory in the House of Congress is definitely the start of an uphill climb for President Obama and his White House advisors. Not only will the new Republican majority question and try to repeal approved laws such as Medicare but also will block any new initiatives in relevant fields such as economic reforms or foreign policy.

For those who are not familiar with the USA in its varied regional cultures, it is much harder to understand how voters in supposedly the world’s most powerful nation can change its historic support for America’s first Afro-American President two years ago to this sonorous defeat in the mid-term elections. Americans need a binding factor to keep their country at the top.

George W. Bush used the 9-11 tragedy to whip up American patriotism to get re-elected but left such a trail of discontent with the mounting deaths of American soldiers at the Iraq warfront. A change was needed and thus, Obama was put into the power seat at the White House four years later. The lower middle-class American expected Barack Obama to be the miracle-man who would shoo away the evil spirits of crisis and war that the Bush Administration had brought about in its second term.

Obama was aware of the timing by which he had scarcely 2 years to get America back to economic recovery, if he was to offer the Democratic Party a serene mid-term campaign. Unfortunately, such time pressure has worked against him on the local front. Whilst his popularity abroad brought him honours such as the Nobel Peace Award, the average American in the Midwest plus the Latin &the Afro-American communities continued to suffer the economic crisis and unemployment. The binding factor in the Democrat’s defeat in the recent congressional elections has been the so-called ‘fear syndrome’ magnificently availed of by the most conservative wing of the Republican Party.

The denominated ‘Tea Party’ campaigners have made good use of the economic crisis to make the middle and lower classes of the nation fear all that comes from abroad, in particular from the emerging nations of Asia and the southern neighbours of America.

One must point out a rather curious statement made by no less than NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg while assisting the C40 Climate Change Group Forum held in Hong Kong last week. Bloomberg, a billionaire that was a Democrat till 2001, then ran for office as a Republican and finally has turned independent before seeking a third mandate in 2009, has probably defined best the worries about the average American voter and the new political scene when he said, “If you look at the U.S., you look at who we’re electing to Congress, to the Senate—they can’t read, …. I’ll bet you a bunch of these people don’t have passports. We’re about to start a trade war with China if we’re not careful here, only because nobody knows where China is. Nobody knows what China is.”

The U.S. 10-day presidential tour to Asia will not be enough to curtail fears about the new political scenario in Washington, D.C. nor solve the problems on hand.  Obama must fight such ignorance at the home front not only because the voters do not have interest in learning more about the globalised world but also because the new congressmen that will scrutinize his proposed laws are just unprepared for such an intensive intellectual task in a world wrapped up in a single napkin in all relevant issues from economic crises thru terrorism up to climate change.

As America’s political & economic merry-go-round is about to commence its mid-term ride, new inexperienced faces will appear in the U.S. Congress & Senate. With a much less than a thorough knowledge of international politics, they are to dictate laws which will not only affect the American citizenry but likewise the other nations of the world.

What’s in the ride for the rest of us?

Fernando Fuster-Fabra

Barcelona


OBAMA AFTER G-8 / G-20 CANADIAN RENDEZVOUS

July 5, 2010
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Seventeen months after taking oath of office and three G-20 summits held since then, President Obama must review his track record on international achievements thus far.

Whilst Obama’s first year was loaded with international engagements that culminated in a Peace Nobel Award, 2010 has been mainly centred on a domestic agenda laden with Republican rebuffs and unsavoury surprises on the home front. This may have been initially essential to curtail far too rapid popularity erosion and possible Democratic defeats in the forthcoming congressional elections in November but became even more demanding after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with incalculable impact on the US coastline.

A week after the latest international G-8 & G-20 summits in Canada and coinciding with the traditional 4th of July celebrations, Gulf Coast beaches were solitary scenes on an otherwise jam-packed day. The fireworks on such a relevant day for the United States were not limited to the evening sky glitters nationwide but to a series of worrying issues both on the home front as well as abroad.

In the local scene, unemployment hit a 10% record figure which if properly considered would stand for as much as 16.5% seeking a job in the 50-star nation. Temporary jobs created by the Administration over the last months to undertake the census were not enough as private entrepreneurs languished with a lack of steady job offers. Consumption isn’t at its best, not even with the 4th of July festivities on the going. America is immersed in a serious economic crisis that may not go away so easily and end, as Krugman predicts, in another Great Depression.

What really is worrying is that Obama has stood alone in the last G-20 meet and one of its staunch allies in the G-8 & G-20, Great Britain, is now in the limelight due to the British Petroleum fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico and Cameron’s insistence in totally withdrawing U.K. troops from Afghanistan by 2015. Tension was added by Britons’ demand for stronger actions by the U.K. cabinet in defence of BP, to avoid its shares plummeting further due to the Gulf of Mexico rig spill. Will Obama finally kick someone’s ass or is he going to take a beating himself?

G-20 silence on Israel’s undaunted policy of striking first as a defence measure, mainly backed by U.S. permissiveness while condemning Iran and North Korea leaves an unsavoury taste for freedom-lovers around the world. No matter what are a nation’s alliances, any world leader must have the stamina to demand its ally to fulfil international agreements towards peaceful coexistence. The United States has thus far consented Israel too many whims to honestly stand out as a firm defender of human rights and democracy. This situation is further aggravated if one considers that Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Award in 2009.

Has the concern for domestic issues blurred Obama’s vision of the international front loaded with unresolved conflicts or is he being forced by American issues and K-Street lobbies to give leeway in such matters as the closure of Guantanamo, the unstable Iraq regime, the war in Afghanistan or the Israeli-Palestinian endless confrontation?

On the other hand, Obama may have decided to make a strategic halt to assess where he stands today after his solitary stand at the G-20 summit. If he decides for a G-2 push, his best bet as a partner would be the European Union with a carefully planned diplomatic action amongst the less conceited and more reliable members instead of the usual partners. It’s Obama’s turn to move a piece on the international chessboard. The world is watching.

Fernando Fuster-Fabra

Barcelona


HEALTHCARE, A MILESTONE IN U.S. HISTORY THAT DIVIDES AMERICANS

March 23, 2010
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President Obama has won the first round of a battle where several Presidents before him succumbed. In his scarce year in office, not only has he already made History by being the first Afro-American President that also won the Nobel Peace award in record time but also the instigator of a social change in American public health.

The internal war waged by anti-healthcare factions were not only directed towards the proposed new public health measure but went so far as to directly attack the President with all types of tactics. In fact, even prior to the East Room signing ceremony today, 12 states had already announced their intention of filing law suits questioning the constitutionality of the new law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The most powerful nation in the world is a paradigm of how prosperity & progress can blind a population into the real values of quality of living. For such an economic and military power such as the USA, it is unconceivable that almost half of its population reject social policies that enhance their healthcare program. Having lived in that country for some time, I for one experienced that imperative necessity of having an appropriate private medical insurance coverage, just in case. Such situation is unthinkable even in the less powerful nations of the European Union.

Furthermore, have closely followed the public debates and strong opposition campaigns of vested interest lobbies, one cannot but be surprised that public opinion was intentionally misled by supposed risks of U.S. bankruptcy due to the then proposed measure, now enacted into law. Important media and affected insurance companies dumped the citizenry with false facts about the long term costs of putting the law into effect from now till 2014, when in truth; the U.S. medical burden today is way off costs in other developed countries round the world.

In spite of the historic signing today, this law will have a bumpy test run before it can slowly be put into effect. Its repercussions are yet to be felt in this year’s congressional elections and the sponsors of the so-called anti-Obama tea-parties will prolong their misdoings in a last-ditch attempt to stall the desired effects of said new law.

President Obama deserves a round of applause for his strategic steering of the vessel to safe port but his Administration must realise that once more the ship must sail out and face new thunderstorms of that archaic Establishment that has had its ways and whims in Washington D.C. for too long a time.

Is this the moment towards a real change in the outdated American way of life?

The President’s remaining mandate will be the testing ground of who is to have the final say before the next presidential elections in November, 2012.

Fernando Fuster-Fabra, Madrid