The Great Debate UK

Obama blows the starting whistle – who will his opponent be?

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OBAMA/-Andrew Hammond is an Associate Partner at Reputation Inc, and was formerly a Special Adviser in the UK Government and a Geopolitics Consultant at Oxford Analytica. The opinions expressed are his own.-

With U.S. President Barack Obama announcing his re-election campaign bid on Monday, the unofficial starting whistle for the 2012 election has been blown.

In a highly unusual move, Obama will be the first U.S. president in modern history to place his campaign headquarters outside of the Washington DC and suburban Virginia corridor (basing it instead in his home city of Chicago).  The president hopes that this break with recent precedent will help recapture the spirit of his hugely successful 2008 campaign as he seeks to become the first candidate in US history to raise $1 billion in presidential campaign finance.

Monday’s announcement aside, the most striking feature of the presidential race so far is the complete absence of any Republicans officially announcing their candidacies to challenge Obama.  This is especially interesting as, with the U.S. economy still weak, the president remains vulnerable to defeat in 2012.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan: Petraeus, personalities and policy

chinook2Buried in the Washington Post story on Marc Grossman taking over as the new U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan are some interesting references to the possible departure of U.S. commander General David Petraeus.

"... virtually the entire U.S. civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan is expected to leave in the coming months, including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and the embassy's other four most senior officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day-to-day military operations there," it says.

UK deficit cutting – lessons for the US

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USA-BUDGET/The news that China is engaged in talks over the building of a rival to the Panama Canal ought to set alarm bells ringing in Washington – and not just because of its obvious geopolitical implications. It is yet another sign that the Chinese have finally woken up to the fact that relending their hoard of dollars straight back to the USA is not a very smart policy, at least not as long as the Federal Government carries on spraying out greenbacks like a tipsy GI on furlough, and without Chinese support, the outlook for the Treasury bond market looks threatening.

Those who argue that it is a bad time for imposing austerity should be ignored – in the good times there was no sense of urgency, and in any case deficit reduction has to be a multiyear project. The Federal deficit is running at over 10 percent of GDP and the projections for the coming decade on unchanged policies are too frightening to contemplate.

What WikiLeaks reveals about the changing map of global power

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-Andrew Hammond is a Director at ReputationInc. The opinions expressed are his own-

The WikiLeaks release last month of around a quarter of a million classified U.S. State Department documents has, by critics, been variously characterised as the “September 11 of world diplomacy” (Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini); an “attack on the international community” (U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton); and a threat to “democratic sovereignty and authority” (French Government Spokesman Francois Baroin).

from Tales from the Trail:

Reuters/Ipsos poll: 52 pct don’t think Obama will be re-elected

President Barack Obama is not up for re-election this week, but the outcome of congressional elections will be seen as a referendum on his policies.

A Reuters/Ipsos  poll predicts that Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives by winning 231 seats, compared with 204 seats for Democrats, in the midterm elections Tuesday.

What can the U.S. learn from the Spending Review?

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Watching George Osborne present the results of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review last week, two thoughts went through my mind.

On a personal level, how could I have been so wrong about Cameron and Osborne? A pre-election blog of mine was titled “A Pair of Lightweights”. Both have already done enough to assure even the most cynical observer (which probably doesn’t mean me) that they are every bit as serious as the job they face.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Moses and exaggerated expectations

-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America's image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.

"If...we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I'm absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth."

from Afghan Journal:

How many al Qaeda can you live with ?

(A box of  'Super Osama bin Laden" candles bought at a bazaar in Kandahar)

(A box of 'Super Osama bin Laden" candles bought at a bazaar in Kandahar)

A furious debate has raged for several months now whether it makes sense for the United States to throw tens of thousands of  soldiers at a handful of al Qaeda that remain in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, nine years after launching the global war on terrorism.

CIA director Leon Panetta  told ABC News in June thatal-Qaeda’s presencein Afghanistan was now “relatively small … I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100.” And in nextdoor Pakistan, arguably the more  dangerous long-term threat, there were about 300  al Qaeda leaders and fighters, officials separately estimated.

from The Great Debate:

The U.S. war in Iraq is over. Who won?

The end of America's combat mission, after seven and a half costly years, has raised questions that will provide fodder for argument for a long time to come: Was it worth it? And who, if anyone, won?

It's too early to answer the first question, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a man of sober judgment. "It really requires a historian's perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run ... How it all weighs in the balance over time remains to be seen."

from The Great Debate:

U.S. aid, Israel and wishful thinking

In June 1980, when an American president, Jimmy Carter, objected to Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied territories, the Israeli government responded by announcing plans for new settlements. At the time, settlers numbered fewer than 50,000.

In 2010, another American president, Barack Obama, is calling for an end to settlements he considers obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli authorities responded by announcing new ones, illegal under international law. Settlers now number close to half a million.

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