Playing Chicken with Nuclear War

Exclusive: U.S.-Russian tensions keep escalating – now surrounding the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov – yet almost no one on the American side seems to worry about the possibility that the tough-guy rhetoric and proxy war in Ukraine might risk a nuclear conflagration, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry (Updated with Washington Post editorial on March 3.)

The United States and Russia still maintain vast nuclear arsenals of mutual assured destruction, putting the future of humanity in jeopardy every instant. But an unnerving nonchalance has settled over the American side which has become so casual about the risk of cataclysmic war that the West’s propaganda and passions now ignore Russian fears and sensitivities.

A swaggering goofiness has come to dominate how the United States reacts to Russia, with American politicians and journalists dashing off tweets and op-eds, rushing to judgment about the perfidy of Moscow’s leaders, blaming them for almost anything and everything.

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A nuclear test detonation carried out in Nevada on April 18, 1953.

These days, playing with nuclear fire is seen as a sign of seriousness and courage. Anyone who urges caution and suggests there might be two sides to the U.S.-Russia story is dismissed as a wimp or a stooge. A what-me-worry “group think” has taken hold across the U.S. ideological spectrum. Fretting about nuclear annihilation is so 1960s.

So, immediately after last Friday night’s murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, the West’s media began insinuating that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow responsible even though there was no evidence or logic connecting him to the shooting, just 100 meters from the Kremlin, probably the last place Russian authorities would pick for a hit.

But that didn’t stop the mainstream U.S. news media from casting blame on Putin. For instance, the New York Times published an op-ed by anti-Putin author Martha Gessen saying: “The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone,” suggesting that his very irrelevance was part of a sinister political message.

Though no one outside the actual killers seems to know yet why Nemtsov was gunned down, Gessen took the case several steps further explaining how – while Putin probably didn’t finger Nemtsov for death – the Russian president was somehow still responsible. She wrote:

“In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing — and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.”

So, rather than wait for actual evidence to emerge, the Times published Gessen’s conclusions and then let her spin off some even more speculative interpretations. Yet, basing speculation upon speculation is almost always a bad idea, assuming you care about fairness and accuracy.

Remember how after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, some terrorism “experts” not only jumped to the false conclusion that the attack was a case of Islamic terrorism but that Oklahoma was chosen to send a message to Americans that no part of the country was safe. But the terrorist turned out to be a white right-wing extremist lashing out at the federal government.

While surely hard-line Russian nationalists, who resented Nemtsov’s support for the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev, should be included on a list of early suspects, there are a number of other possibilities that investigators must also consider, including business enemies, jealous rivals and even adversaries within Russia’s splintered opposition – though that last one has become a target of particular ridicule in the West.

Yet, during my years at the Associated Press, one of my articles was about a CIA “psychological operations” manual which an agency contractor prepared for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels noting the value of assassinating someone on your own side to create a “martyr” for the cause. I’m in no way suggesting that such a motive was in play regarding Nemtsov’s slaying but it’s not as if this idea is entirely preposterous either.

My point is that even in this age of Twitter when everyone wants to broadcast his or her personal speculation about whodunit to every mystery, it would be wise for news organizations to resist the temptation. Surely, if parallel circumstances occurred inside the United States, such guess work would be rightly dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”

Nuclear Mischief

Plus, this latest rush to judgment isn’t about some relatively innocuous topic – like, say, how some footballs ended up under-inflated in an NFL game – this situation involves how the United States will deal with Russia, which possesses some 8,000 nuclear warheads — roughly the same size as the U.S. arsenal — while the two countries have around 1,800 missiles on high-alert, i.e., ready to launch at nearly a moment’s notice.

Over the weekend, I participated in a conference on nuclear dangers sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation in New York City. On my Saturday afternoon panel was Seth Baum of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute who offered a sobering look at how the percentage chances of a nuclear war – though perhaps low at any given moment – add up over time to quite likely if not inevitable. He made the additional observation that those doomsday odds rise at times of high tensions between the United States and Russia.

As Baum noted, at such crisis moments, the people responsible for the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons are more likely to read a possible computer glitch or some other false alarm as a genuine launch and are thus more likely to push their own nuclear button.

In other words, it makes good sense to avoid a replay of the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse by edging U.S. nuclear weapons up against Russia’s borders, especially when U.S. politicians and commentators are engaging in Cold War-style Russia-bashing. Baiting the Russian bear may seem like great fun to the tough-talking politicians in Washington or the editors of the New York Times and Washington Post but this hostile rhetoric could be taken more seriously in Moscow.

When I spoke to the nuclear conference, I noted how the U.S. media/political system had helped create just that sort of crisis in Ukraine, with every “important” person jumping in on the side of the Kiev coup-makers in February 2014 when they overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

Since then, nearly every detail of that conflict has been seen through the prism of “our side good/their side bad.” Facts that put “our side” in a negative light, such as the key role played by neo-Nazis and the Kiev regime’s brutal “anti-terrorism operation,” are downplayed or ignored.

Conversely, anything that makes the Ukrainians who are resisting Kiev’s authority look bad gets hyped and even invented, such as one New York Times’ lead story citing photos that supposedly proved Russian military involvement but quickly turned out to be fraudulent. [SeeNYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]

At pivotal moments in the crisis, such as the Feb. 20, 2014 sniper fire that killed both police and protesters and the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 passengers and crew, the U.S. political/media establishment has immediately pinned the blame on Yanukovych, the ethnic Russian rebels who are resisting his ouster, or Putin.

Then, when evidence emerged going in the opposite direction — toward “our side” — a studied silence followed, allowing the earlier propaganda to stay in place as part of the preferred storyline. [See, for instance,President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets.”]

A Pedestrian Dispute

One of the points of my talk was that the Ukrainian crisis emerged from a fairly pedestrian dispute, i.e., plans for expanding economic ties with the European Union while not destroying the historic business relationship with Russia. In November 2013, Yanukovych backed away from signing an EU association agreement when experts in Kiev announced that it would blow a $160 billion hole in Ukraine’s economy. He asked for more time.

But Yanukovych’s decision disappointed many western Ukrainians who favored the EU agreement. Tens of thousands poured into Kiev’s Maidan square to protest. The demonstrations then were seized upon by far-right Ukrainian political forces who have long detested the country’s ethnic Russians in the east and began dispatching organized “sotins” of 100 fighters each to begin firebombing police and seizing government buildings.

As the violence grew worse, U.S. neoconservatives also saw an opportunity, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who told the protesters the United States was on their side, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who passed out cookies to the protesters and plotted with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on who would become the new leaders of Ukraine. [See [NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.]

Thus, a very manageable political problem in Ukraine was allowed to expand into a proxy war between nuclear-armed United States and Russia. Added to it were intense passions and extensive propaganda. In the West, the Ukraine crisis was presented as a morality play of people who “share our values” pitted against conniving Russians and their Hitler-like president Putin.

In Official Washington, anyone who dared suggest compromise was dismissed as a modern-day Neville Chamberlain practicing “appeasement.” Everyone “serious” was set on stopping Putin now by shipping sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian government so it could do battle against “Russian aggression.”

The war fever was such that no one raised an eyebrow when Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told Canada’s CBC Radio last month that the West should no longer fear fighting nuclear-armed Russia and that Ukraine wanted arms for a “full-scale war” against Moscow.

“Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine,” Prystaiko said. “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe. … What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little.” [See  “Ready for Nuclear War over Ukraine?”]

Instead of condemning Prystaiko’s recklessness, more U.S. officials began lining up in support of sending lethal military hardware to Ukraine so it could fight Russia, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who said he favored the idea though it might provoke a “negative reaction” from Moscow.

Russian Regime Change

Even President Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders who have yet to publicly endorse arming the Kiev coup-makers enjoy boasting about how much pain they are inflicting on the Russian economy and its government. In effect, there is a U.S. strategy of making the Russian economy “scream,” a first step toward a larger neocon goal to achieve “regime change” in Moscow.

Another point I made in my talk on Saturday was how the neocons are good at drafting “regime change” plans that sound great when discussed at a think tank or outlined on an op-ed page but often fail to survive in the real world, such as their 2003 plan for a smooth transition in Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein with someone of their choosing – except that it didn’t work out that way.

Perhaps the greatest danger from the new neocon dream for “regime change” in Moscow is that whoever follows Putin might not be the pliable yes man that the neocons envision, but a fierce Russian nationalist who would suddenly have control of their nuclear launch codes and might decide that it’s time for the United States to make concessions or face annihilation.

On March 3, the Washington Post’s neocon editorialists emphasized the need for ousting Putin as they praised Nemtsov and other anti-Putin activists who have urged an escalation of Western pressure on Russia. The Post wrote: “They say he [Putin] can be stopped only by steps that decisively raise the cost of his military aggression and cripple the financial system that sustains his regime.”

The Post then added its own suggestion that Putin was behind Nemtsov’s murder and its own hope that Putin might be soon be removed, saying: “It’s not known who murdered Mr. Nemtsov, and it probably won’t be as long as Mr. Putin remains in power.”

Yet, what I find truly remarkable about the Ukraine crisis is that it was always relatively simple to resolve: Before the coup, Yanukovych agreed to reduced powers and early elections so he could be voted out of office. Then, either he or some new leadership could have crafted an economic arrangement that expanded ties to the EU while not severing them with Russia.

Even after the coup, the new regime could have negotiated a federalized system that granted more independence to the disenfranchised ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine, rather than launch a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against those resisting the new authorities. But Official Washington’s “group think” has been single-minded: only bellicose anti-Russian sentiments are permitted and no suggestions of accommodation are allowed.

Still, spending time this weekend with people like Helen Caldicott, an Australian physician who has committed much of her life to campaigning against nuclear weapons, reminded me that this devil-may-care attitude toward a showdown with Russia, which has gripped the U.S. political/media establishment, is not universal. Not everyone agrees with Official Washington’s nonchalance about playing a tough-guy game of nuclear chicken.

As part of the conference, Caldicott asked attendees to stay around for a late-afternoon showing of the 1959 movie, “On the Beach,” which tells the story of the last survivors from a nuclear war as they prepare to die when the radioactive cloud that has eliminated life everywhere else finally reaches Australia. A mystery in the movie is how the final war began, who started it and why – with the best guess being that some radar operator somewhere thought he saw something and someone reacted in haste.

Watching the movie reminded me that there was a time when Americans were serious about the existential threat from U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons, when there were films like “Dr. Strangelove,” “Fail Safe,” and “On the Beach.” Now, there’s a cavalier disinterest in those risks, a self-confidence that one can put his or her political or journalistic career first and just assume that some adult will step in before the worst happens.

Whether some adults show up to resolve the Ukraine crisis remains to be seen. It’s also unclear if U.S. pundits and pols can restrain themselves from more rushes to judgment, as in the case of Boris Nemtsov. But a first step might be for the New York Times and other “serious” news organizations to return to traditional standards of journalism and check out the facts before jumping to a conclusion.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

As tensions with Russia spiral, where is NATO? Chickened Out?

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German troops who are part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), attend a memorial ceremony for slain soldiers, in the German Army’s Camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif, May 8, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

As Iran rattles its sabers and Russia masses weapons in and around Ukraine, many are asking, “Where is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?” What are its member states doing to bolster European stability and deter these new strategic threats?”

The alliance that once stood toe-to-toe with the communist bloc is silent and seems ill-prepared for today’s challenges. Not that long ago, NATO was the bastion of air-defense capability. With the end of the Cold War, however, members reduced their air-defense assets.

Nations have downsized their forces and are discussing further reductions. NATO’s robust training exercises have been reduced or eliminated, and the pursuit of weapons and equipment that could be integrated and can work together seems more a topic of discussion than an urgent need.

newton-top-1024x646Yet post-Cold War Russia is emerging as a serious threat, and other nefarious world actors are demonstrating new capabilities. Moscow is developing advanced ballistic and cruise missiles and boasts a long-range strike capability. The Kremlin’s new doctrine characterizes NATO as a threat. Consider: NATO aircraft intercepted Russian military aircraft more than 400 times in 2014, as Russians probed into or near NATO airspace.

In addition, Iran has unveiled its unmanned aerial vehicle, declared itself the “world’s fourth-greatest missile power” and opened 2015 with a satellite launch of a rocket that could send a ballistic missile into Europe. Hamas, a Middle East terrorist organization like Islamic State, tested the Qasam rocket, fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel in the 2014 conflict and flew its own unmanned aerial vehicles.

NATO’s air defense force, meanwhile, is stretched thin and limited in its ability to meet these new challenges. Most European nations have retired their short- to medium-range air defense systems. Germany’s Patriot force is about one-third the size at the end of the Cold War. The Netherlands ended its deployment to Turkey because its Patriot force is not large enough to sustain a third year of deployment. Spain backfilled the Dutch but only deployed a single Patriot unit for a mission that requires two.

The bulk of the U.S. Patriot force is forward stationed in the Pacific or deployed in Central Asia, leaving approximately 40 percent of it either recently home from a deployment or preparing for a deployment.

Fortunately, there are proven means to solve these challenges. First is greater integration of equipment. As General Frank Gorenc, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, recently explained, “the holy grail of interoperability is operating the same equipment.”

Two NATO allies, Poland and Turkey, are about to select new air and missile defense systems. Both began their acquisition process almost two years ago and both could acquire systems that would assure that all NATO weapons can work together in an integrated manner. The nations’ procurement leverages competition, and they have the opportunity to exploit the U.S. Army’s Patriot system.  Stability in Eastern Europe and the value of interoperable systems are of such importance that a bipartisan group of 32 members of the U.S. Congress took the unusual step of writing to Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz urging his country to acquire the Patriot system.

NATO once understood that interoperability, shared munitions and logistics, and combined training were critical to deterring aggression and — if deterrence failed — to mounting a robust response. The ability to quickly integrate an ally’s unit into the partners’ command, or share ammunition and repair parts, is essential in combat, particularly when dealing with low-density, mission-critical air defense systems.

NATO also needs to resurrect its training and educational programs. This means creating an integrated air- and missile-defense training center like those the United States developed for Central Asia and the Pacific theaters. This center would complement a Patriot procurement decision and NATO’s Tactical Leadership Programme.

A reinvigorated tactical program could, for example, enable the relatively new land-based version of the U.S. Navy’s SPY-1 radars with batteries of standard missiles, called Aegis Ashore, to operate with offshore Aegis ships stationed in the Mediterranean and also with NATO’s Patriot units. The synergies of this type of integrated network would put substance behind wishful rhetoric.

It is time for NATO to rejuvenate itself through focused leadership and a unified alliance that boasts educational and training programs underpinned with the most capable interoperability and shared weapon systems.  Nothing less will enhance European stability or ensure its security.

Why american prep-school diplomats fail against Putin and ISIS

This article appeared in the New York Post on March 15, 2015.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

It’s Brooks Brothers vs. barbarians. Photo: (Left) EPA, (right) Getty Images

Why do our “best and brightest” fail when faced with a man like Putin? Or with charismatic fanatics? Or Iranian negotiators? Why do they misread our enemies so consistently, from Hitler and Stalin to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph?

The answer is straightforward:

Social insularity: Our leaders know fellow insiders around the world; our enemies know everyone else.

The mandarin’s distaste for physicality: We are led through blood-smeared times by those who’ve never suffered a bloody nose.

And last but not least, bad educations in our very best schools: Our leadership has been educated in chaste political theory, while our enemies know, firsthand, the stuff of life.

Above all, there is arrogance based upon privilege. For revolving-door leaders in the U.S. and Europe, if you didn’t go to the right prep school and elite university, you couldn’t possibly be capable of comprehending, let alone changing, the world. It’s the old social “Not our kind, dahhhling…” attitude transferred to government.

That educational insularity is corrosive and potentially catastrophic: Our “best” universities prepare students to sustain the current system, instilling vague hopes of managing petty reforms.

People stand at the museum of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as they mark the 62th anniversary of his death.Photo: EPA

But dramatic, revolutionary change in geopolitics never comes from insiders. It’s the outsiders who change the world. In the 21st century, our government suffers from the sclerosis of insider thinking that constantly reinforces itself and rejects conflicting evidence. The result is that we are being whipped by savages.

Of course, the insiders can’t accept so abhorrent a prospect as their own fallibility. So when new blood does enter — through those same “elite” institutions — it’s channeled into the same old calcium-clogged arteries. And we get generals with Ivy League Ph.D.s writing military doctrine that adheres cringingly to politically correct truisms and leaves out the very factors, such as the power of religion or ethnic hatred, that prove decisive. Or a usually astute commentator on Eastern European affairs who dismisses Vladimir Putin as a mere chinovnik, a petty bureaucrat, since Putin was only a lieutenant colonel in the KGB when the Soviet Union collapsed and didn’t go to a Swiss prep school like John Kerry.

That analyst overlooked the fact that Hitler had been a mere lance corporal. Stalin was a failed seminarian. Lenin was a destitute syphilitic. Ho Chi Minh washed dishes in the basement of a Paris Hotel. And when the French Revolution erupted, Napoleon was a junior artillery officer.

And sophisticated Germans assumed they could use Hitler and then dismiss him, while other Europeans mocked him. Stalin’s fellow Bolsheviks underestimated him, until it was too late and their fates were sealed. The French didn’t notice Ho. And Napoleon shocked even his own lethargic family. The “man on horseback” is often the man from nowhere, and the members of the club ignore the torches in the streets until the club burns down around them.

Dramatic, revolutionary change in geopolitics never comes from insiders. It’s the outsiders who change the world.

Put another way: We are led by men and women educated to believe in the irresistible authority of their own words. When they encounter others who use words solely to deflect and defraud, or, worse, when their opposite numbers ignore words completely and revel in ferocious violence, our best and brightest go into an intellectual stall and keep repeating the same empty phrases (in increasingly tortured tones):

“Violence never solves anything.” “There’s no military solution.” “War is never the answer.” “Only a negotiated solution can resolve this crisis.” “It isn’t about religion.”

Or the latest and lamest: “We need to have strategic patience,” and “Terrorists need jobs.”

Every one of those statements is, demonstrably, nonsense most — or all — of the time. But the end result of very expensive educations is a Manchurian Candidate effect that kicks in whenever the core convictions of the old regime are questioned. So we find ourselves with leaders who would rather defend platitudes than defend their country.

And negotiations become the opium of the chattering classes.

Once-great universities have turned into political indoctrination centers worthy of the high Stalinist Era or the age of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Their aims may be more benign, but their unwillingness to consider alternative worldviews is every bit as rigid. Students in the social sciences at Harvard or Yale today are cadets being groomed to serve a soft-Socialist form of government conceived not in the streets, but in the very same classrooms. It’s a self-licking ice-cream cone. And graduates leave campus brilliantly prepared for everything except reality.

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting with government members at the Kremlin in Moscow

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with government members at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 28, 2014.Photo: Reuters

This is not an argument against education. Rather, it is an argument for education and against indoctrination, against the fantasy that the barbarian with the knife bashing in the door poses no danger to the career government official who has published a book on “the false construct of race and its deleterious impact upon climate change.”

Putin, that “petty bureaucrat,” has won every significant confrontation with the West, conquering foreign territory and humiliating presidents. Iran’s negotiators have outmaneuvered their Western interlocutors so spectacularly that they really don’t need Obama’s deal, having gotten most of what they needed: time and partial sanctions relief. And the Islamic State has confounded not only our elite’s prejudices about how the world should work, but demolished their platitudinous nonsense that “All men want peace.”

In fact, some men delight in inflicting grotesque forms of violence on others.

We face a new age of barbarism. And we’re led by those whose notion of violence is a rugby game at Princeton, who won’t let their children play unattended but deny the murderous impulses haunting humanity. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that the lack of a prep-school background and a Brooks Brothers charge account doesn’t mean that a thug with slovenly manners can’t change the world.

In 2014, The American Foreign Service Association asked the Obama administration to “raise the bar” on qualifications for diplomatic nominees, which shouldn’t be hard considering how low the bar has been set.

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U.S. President Barack Obama

 

The union representing America’s Foreign Service professionals has a novel idea — diplomatic nominees should have international experience and probably know a thing or two about the host country where they’re being assigned.

The recommendations were part of proposed diplomatic job qualifications put out Tuesday by the American Foreign Service Association, in a bid to increase pressure on the administration to raise the bar on the quality of its ambassadorial picks. The guidelines come after a string of rocky confirmation hearings for a few of President Obama’s diplomatic nominees, and amid heightened scrutiny of the time-honored presidential practice of selecting political donors and friends for these high-profile posts.

“It is essential … that ambassadors chosen to represent the president and lead our diplomatic missions possess the attributes, experience and skills to do so successfully,” the group said in its report published Tuesday.

Although the White House won’t confirm or deny whether big Obama campaign fundraisers are getting cushy diplomatic nominations, the evidence shows President Obama is paying his buddies back for their work to secure his re-election in 2012 (Obama also did the same after the 2008 election). At least three of President Obama’s latest ambassador nominees either know nothing about the country they are going to be working with or they’ve never visited the country they’ll be working with. A reminder of who Obama’s buddies are:

Throughout the course of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, we’ve seen major campaign donors coincidentally appointed to fill open ambassador seats, regardless of whether a donor has any knowledge or clue about the country they’re being tapped to work with.

Take for example George James Tsunis, a big Obama campaign bundler appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who knows nothing about Norway. American Foreign Service Association

Obama Donor Picked for Norwegian Ambassador Blows Basic Facts on Norway

 

 

Or how about Colleen Bell, who embarrassed herself during a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill after blowing basic questions about Hungary.

As Henri Barkey at the Washington Post relates, Bell – whose resume, aside from handling big wads of cash for Barack Obama’s political campaign, includes producing TV soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” – couldn’t answer basic questions about American strategic interests in Hungary, a NATO and EU member going through some troubling political crises at the moment.

Noah Mamet, who helped secure half a million dollars for Obama’s re-election, has been tapped to be the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. Mamet has never been to Argentina.

The requirement of knowing basic facts about a country before becoming an ambassador seems like a joke, but in these cases the bar needs to be raised to that simple level of qualification because the bar isn’t even off the ground.

And no, this isn’t the first time the Foreign Service has expressed frustration with Obama’s political favors to friends through ambassadorships.

Despite promises to change how Washington works, Obama has actually perfected the game of giving political allies and donors key ambassadorships in countries like England, France, Japan, Spain, Finland, and Australia. And in the eyes of foreign service association, he’s become the worst abuser, putting political allies in 44 percent of the top 185 ambassadorial positions. By comparison, 30 percent of George W. Bush’s ambassadors were political appointees and 28 percent of Bill Clinton’s political allies and donors.

The American Foreign Service Association said in its new statement on ambassador appointments, “The appointment of non-career individuals, however accomplished in their own field, to lead America’s important diplomatic missions abroad should be exceptional and circumscribed, not the routine practice it has become over the last three decades. Over this period 85 percent of ambassadorial appointments to major European countries and Japan, and nearly 60 percent of appointments to a wider group of emerging global powers such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China, have been political.

 

Obama being worse than his predecessors when he promised he wouldn’t be? Nobody is surprised and it’s no wonder our foreign policy is such a disaster. President Obama wasn’t qualified to be the President of the United States and still made it, twice, why would he think his diplomatic nominees should be held to any different standard?