The Incredible Shrinking Man

It's the day after the White House Correspondent's extravaganza and Washington wakes up to its dismally shrunken state. The New York Times describes president Obama's unsuccessful attempt to kiss and make up with Angela Merkel.

President Obama tried to mend fences with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Friday, calling her “one of my closest friends on the world stage.” But Ms. Merkel replied tartly that Germany still had significant differences with the United States over surveillance practices and that it was too soon to return to “business as usual.”

The crisis in the Ukraine is reported as a silver lining because of the power of shared danger to bring Germany and the US closer together again. "Some experts on Germany said the Ukraine crisis could give Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel the foundation to rebuild their relationship, reminding them that despite the suspicion generated by the surveillance disclosures, their countries still have much in common."

It's just like the movies where Angela forgives Barack because he must save her from the menacing Putin, who has just entered the cave with a Tokarev in his hand. But if shared danger is the secret to romance then president Obama isn't taking advantage of it. Instead, he's hiding it.

The Daily Beast says "the Obama administration is seeking to hide the fact that North Korea possesses nuclear missile warheads, according to a report by Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic analyst and director for forces policy at the office of the secretary of defense."

According to the report, the Obama administration has sought to hide the alarming intelligence because it undermines efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Administration spokesmen sought to “walk back” the unwelcome intelligence of nuclear missile warheads with officials asserting that the nuclear strike capability is limited or untested.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a proponent of the leftist “global zero” anti-nuclear initiative, said the same day that the intelligence was made public that neither Iran nor North Korea is capable of attacking the United States with nuclear weapons.

Israel should be flinging itself into Obama's arms since it is being told that the coming agreement with Iran will have certain imperfections. "Some former U.S. officials and issue experts say Israel appears to have accepted Iran being allowed some degree of nuclear capability, Al-Monitor reports."

Al-Monitor cites one former U.S. official who participated in consultations with Israel last month as saying officials there seem to "understand that there is a need for a domestic, indigenous civil nuclear program" if the Iranians are to satisfy their domestic opposition. Jerusalem officials instead have turned their attention to potential problems involved in policing any nuclear deal between Tehran and the the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, the so-called "P-5+1" group. ...

In addition, the U.S. insiders report Israel is concerned that any Iranian violations of a nuclear deal would be so gradual and slow that Washington would find it hard to identify a point in time when action is warranted.

"Some degree of nuclear capability" may result in Israel being somewhat nuked. Elliot Abrams at the Weekly Standard says Israel is getting ready for a bad Iran deal. Perhaps the deal will be similar to the one which disarmed Syria. Some Western analysts believe that despite the deal, it has a secret chemical arsenal, having surrendered one while keeping another.

Concerns are growing among Western intelligence services that Syria still has a significant and undeclared arsenal of chemical weapons, including crude chlorine-filled bombs, secret stockpiles of sophisticated nerve gasses or their components—and the scientific know-how to rebuild a larger-scale, higher-grade chemical weapons effort once the Bashar al-Assad regime has escaped the international spotlight. ...

To be sure, the deadly and publicly-declared chemical arsenal that Assad had a year ago, that allegedly was used to kill hundreds of people in August, and that he agreed to destroy in September under threat of an American attack is “no longer in existence” ... but the inspectors are only commenting on the chemical arsenal Assad admitted he had. There’s mounting concern that the Syrian regime may have a second unconventional weapons program—one Assad never told the international community about.

If danger is the spice of life there's plenty to come out of Southwest Asia.  The Daily Beast says "the CIA is dismantling its frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan, leaving a security vacuum that U.S. commanders fear the Taliban and al Qaeda will fill—and leaving the Pakistan border open to a possible deluge of fighters and weapons."

These CIA teams are the actual "sword" against al-Qaeda; the men who come in the night to take them out. For security they relied on the "shield" us US conventional forces: "it relies on the U.S. military for protection and logistical support—especially at its far-flung bases in south and east Afghanistan. Just months ago, the talk in administration circles was that these paramilitaries would be significantly expanded in the near future. Now, it appears, the opposite is taking place."

Now that the shield is being lowered then must the sword be sheathed. No sword and no shield means gone.

The CIA started recruiting and training these Afghan paramilitary groups only months after the intelligence agency first entered the country in 2001 ahead of invading U.S. troops, according to current and former U.S. and Afghan officials. They described the top-secret force in detail on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. ...

The Khost and Kunar-based units “are instrumental in blocking the Haqqani/al Qaeda mix that are responsible for spectacular attacks,” said one senior U.S. military official. “It’s not clear what will happen to either unit; there is no plan so far to absorb them.”

Soon after the CIA shuts down its al-Qaeda hunting teams the terrorist group Obama declared dead will probably make a zombie-like recovery from its historical grave.

Rather than being driven into Obama's arms by danger, Japan appears to have concluded it is better to rely on itself. The Military Times reports that Japan is in a political debate over whether to amend its constitution to remove restrictions on its military.

Abe advocates a “breakaway from the postwar regime” as a way to overcome the humiliation as well as the education system, social values and historical views set by the occupation.

A 2012 draft revision proposed by the Liberal Democrats promotes a conformist Japan with traditional patriarchal values, which place family units above individuals and elevate the emperor to a head of state. Civil liberties such as freedom of speech and expression can be restricted if considered harmful to public interest, according to the draft.

“Our goal is to write a new constitution of our own that envisions a new era and serves a new role,” Yasuhiro Nakasone, a 96-year-old former prime minister who heads a group of lawmakers campaigning for a revision, said last week at a Tokyo gathering attended by hundreds of lawmakers, supporters and business lobbies.

Tokyo will go it alone. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon and for keeps. And so perhaps will Berlin. Angela Merkel's insistence on curbing the NSA as a condition for cooperating with Obama may be aimed at freeing Germany from the fear of betrayal by the White House.  Merkel doesn't fear a powerful American intelligence apparatus per se;  she just fears one in Obama's romantic hands.

The president has shrunk himself. Too bad he shrank America along with it.

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