The Great Debate UK

Doubts linger over Obama’s Guantanamo intentions

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clare_algar-Clare Algar is executive director of Reprieve. The opinions expressed are her own.-

Disappointed, but not surprised, was my first response to hearing President Barack Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that he would not make the January 22 deadline for closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay.

During attorney visits over the past few weeks, Reprieve’s clients in Guantanamo have expressed their doubts regarding whether President Obama can live up to his promise to close the prison within a year of assuming office. ‘What is he going to do,’ one man asked, “put 200 people on a plane on the 22nd?”

And it is true – the maths doesn’t work.  Around 245 prisoners were being held in Guantánamo when Obama was inaugurated in January of this year and only around 30 men have left since then. If releases continue at this snail’s pace, the prison won’t close until at least 2017.

from The Great Debate:

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg --  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Prophetic words they were not. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all...The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula."

from Tales from the Trail:

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations." He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government's attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

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

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama's Middle East policies: you've got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not "a lovey-dovey kind of guy".

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

from The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

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

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Global rebalancing to weaken dollar, quietly

-- Neal Kimberley is an FX market analyst for Reuters. The opinions expressed are his own --forex

Twenty-four years ago, major nations called for depreciation of the dollar to rebalance the global economy. Now, as another effort at rebalancing looms, the dollar will again bear the brunt -- though officials will try to ensure its fall is less dramatic this time.

from Commentaries:

Shelved missile shield tests NATO unity

foghAfter just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.

from DealZone:

‘New GM’ Gets a Visit from a Shareholder

obamalordstown1 GM's Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant has become a symbol of both GM's hard times and its best hopes for a turnaround after a $50 billion federal investment. A recent bump in sales because of the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program has allowed GM to call back more than 1,000 workers from layoff.   So it was a natural backdrop for a return visit by President Obama, who held a roundtable with workers and then gave a stump speech from the factory floor for his economic policies and health care reform.   But this is not your father's GM anymore and nothing about it as clear-cut as it seems -- even if you are the leader of the free world and head of the government that holds a controlling stake in the automaker.     At one point, Obama -- veering from his prepared remarks -- suggested that health-care reform would allow the UAW-represented workers in the audience to negotiate better wages.

“Think about it. If you are a member of the union right now, you’re spending all your time negotiating about health care. You need to be spending some time negotiating about wages, but you can’t do it," he said.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s Afghan war – a race against time

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

By making the war in Afghanistan his own, declaring it a war of necessity and sending more troops, President Barack Obama has entered a race against time. The outcome is far from certain.

To win it, the new strategy being put into place has to show convincing results before public disenchantment with the war saps Obama's credibility and throws question marks over his judgment. Already, according to public opinion polls in August, a majority of Americans say the war is not worth fighting. Almost two thirds think the United States will eventually withdraw without winning.

U.S. sends wrong messages to Latin America

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mschultze_apr09_web- Markus Schultze-Kraft is Latin America and Caribbean Program Director at the International Crisis Group. The opinions expressed are his own. -

One cannot help being taken aback by the series of wrong messages the U.S. government has been sending to Latin America this summer. Starting with Honduras and followed by Bolivia, and now Colombia, everything seems to indicate that after a promising start President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton are having difficulties defining an effective Latin America policy that does not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration.

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