Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
July 10, 2015
Mr. President: Yesterday, July 9, 2015, was the sixtieth anniversary of the
Russel-Einstein manifesto calling for an end to war before the human race destroyed
itself. Their perspective was the atomic bombing of Japan ten years previously and
the destruction it had wrought.
Since then we have become accustomed to living with nuclear weapons; indeed it is
assumed their presence precludes direct war between nuclear-armed powers, and
there is some evidence in confirmation: India and Pakistan being illustrative of such a
point of view. It has, however, bred an increasing adventurism, throwing caution to
the winds -- the unfortunate impasse in Ukraine where a civil war has caused over a
million refugees is one example.
We need a recalibration of strategy in a rapidly changing world because direct
confrontation with a nuclear power carries non-quantifiable risks and the hazard of
The manifesto led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs,
resulting eventually in a 180-degree reversal in strategic thinking, and thence to the
non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 and arms control talks between the key
protagonists. However, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, America has become a
law unto itself. Any obligations under NPT are no longer part of the conversation,
neither is arms control as weapons are upgraded and the ABM treaty unilaterally
discarded. As soon as Russia could, it has responded: new tanks, new submarines,
and the announcement on June 16 of forty new ICBMs.
Economic blackmail has also had a response, especially for the BRICS countries.
Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, who canceled the rare honor of a formal state
visit here in 2013, was at the White House on June 30. Pushing for investment in
Brazil she had spent the previous day wooing potential investors in New York and
proceeded to California the next day for meetings with hi-tech executives.
This week, she has been in the Russian city of Ufa for the BRICS summit. Asked
about economic sanctions against Russia, she said Brazil neither exerts nor supports
sanctions as a means of political pressure. They end up hitting the common people.
At the BRICS conference, the leaders set up a $100 billion reserve pool to serve as a
buffer in the event of a financial crisis. And a BRICS bank, the New Development
Bank (a sort of IMF and World Bank for the BRICS) is underway with a president and
senior officers elected. China is the largest capital contributor but contrary to the
World Bank, each country has a single vote.
China, of course, has already initiated the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank a rival
to the World Bank, with fifty founding members' applications approved by China.
While the U.S. opposes the bank claiming to question its governing standards, its
major allies U.K. and Germany signed the charter along with 47 others at the Beijing
ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on June 29, 2015.
The world is changing. The U.S. remains the preeminent military and economic power
but fewer countries now do its bidding. In this world those who learn to adapt, focus
on soft power, enhance their economic competitiveness, rely more on friends and less
on threats, they are the ones most likely to succeed.
On a different note, Sweden has to be commended; it took in 40,000 Syrian refugees
last year. On a population basis, the equivalent for the U.S. would be over a million.
In actuality, we have taken in fewer than 1,000 ... in all the years combined.