THE SHAMBLES OF TRUMPS PRESS CONFERENCE: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?

kak5h285o9mt79zjrhzd
Image taken from Gawker Media

By: Harry C. Blaney III

The Trump press conference today was a shambles for both Trump and honesty and transparency in politics. His main target seemed to be the press and the intelligence community. Part of the conference was spent trying to put aside any criticism of self-dealing. However, with his family still in total control of his assets and the Trump Organization, the President-Elect will continue to face criticism and lingering questions about conflicts of interest. Trump also declared his company would not make any more “significant” foreign deals, but the tone and substance of these decisions would give an informed citizen a deep concern for our nation’s direction if closely examined. 

He took on, as expected, the intelligence community on the leaked reports that alleged Russia had personal dirt on him. Trump made his anger clear and seemed to threaten the intelligence community. He denied that the report was leaked by his staff and painted it as the work of his political opponents. He said his intelligence community appointees would provide a report on foreign hacking but did not address the deeper question of his relationship with these agencies once president.

But from what he did say, and what he implied, that relationship will be strained. This is then likely to be a weak point for our larger security strategy as an ignorant president will be uninformed of vital realities in our complex and conflict filled world by agencies with which he is in open conflict.   

He would not answer the question if any of his staff or family had any contact with the Russian authorities during the campaign or after the election. Regarding Russia and Putin, he acknowledged that they had conducted hacking, but pointed much more to China and non-state actors as a major source of hacking. He deflected any questions on Putin’s support for his candidacy. He said, in effect, he could handle Putin and hope to gain his cooperation, but would defend US and fight to protect American interests. As Trump defined it, a good personal relationship with the Russian President would be an asset rather than a liability. He also tweeted that he had no business interests in Russia.

A good portion of the news conference was taken up by a Trump Organization lawyer outlining the means by which he was going to disassociate himself from conflicts by turning his assets over to his two adult sons!  

He said the US government defenses against cyberwarfare were weak under Obama and with the Democratic Party, and he would make government defenses strong. Just how was not stated except he would bring in the best people.

But as we have seen over the last two years, much of his statements were vague and discombobulated even contradictory. He did not really answer many of the questions asked. He mostly made a pitch of why he was so great and all would be just wonderful and repeated many of his slogans from the campaign and tweeter posts. There were almost no specifics on many key issues except he still held that Mexico would pay for the wall and hinted at taxes against Mexico, but the wall would start without money from Mexico. Trump justified this change by noting he wants to begin construction immediately and not wait “a year and a half” to conclude negotiations with Mexico first.

Nuclear issues and climate change were largely ignored to the detriment of the conference providing insight on these issues as nuclear security is one of the critical issues for our nation and world and the same can be said about climate change.

Hang on to your hats readers this is going to be a difficult four years.

After the press conference I was reminded of the poet’s Alfred Lord Tennyson’s lines: “Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”

We welcome your comments!

The comment section can be found here or below.

Advertisements

THE HACKING OF DEMOCRATIC SITES WITH INTENT TO HARM: TRUMP’S REACTIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR US ALL.

THE HACKING OF DEMOCRATIC SITES WITH INTENT TO HARM:
TRUMP’S REACTIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR US ALL.
 

By Harry C. Blaney III

Now that we have a definitive unclassified American intelligence reading and finding of the extent and purpose of the Russian hacking of American political parties and efforts to influence the 2016 presidential elections. Those responsible for its writing and those with access to the classified document say the unclassified finding is in keeping with the more detailed classified document. Now the question is whether there will be further U.S. action in response to this report and what the consequences for both sides will be?

We have not yet seen, but may soon see this week, the response by the Obama administration to these now public findings. Also of great importance will be the reaction and statements by Donald Trump and Republican Party leaders. Both Trump and the Russians have been, and are still downplaying, the significance of these acts of active cyberwarfare.

The final great question is whether the reactions and policies and strategies that follow will enhance the security of America and its allies as well as protect the democratic institutions and processes of all NATO members and other American allies. In that context we can put in place protective and preemptive actions to halt or, more likely mitigate, and effectively respond to efforts to divide and weaken Western institutions, especially NATO and the EU. The Russians also have an active program to bring into power far right-wing fascist parties with an anti-American, anti-EU/NATO, anti-liberal democratic, and pro-Russian tendencies. If Russia has its way, these parties will be dependent on Russian support and money – all efforts already undertaken by Russian intelligence agencies, surrogates, and online trolls.

One question that is being asked is whether Trump plans to “clean house” or “de-fang” the CIA and other intelligence agencies and/or set up his own intelligence unit in the White House as has been rumored. This would and should be seen as a major gift to Russia and it security and military forces. Our allies are already scared of what they hear and our cooperation with them on security and intelligence is at risk.

But of even more importance is how to balance the long term American strategic and political interest of working to help create the conditions for a responsible, rational, and cooperative Russia. A Russia where its people can have large measures of freedom and see a future as part of a larger peaceful, cooperative, and non-threatening international community. From what we have seen so far, it is not at all clear that Trump and his often reckless, extreme, and myopic ideological advisors have the temperament, knowledge, and openness to receive expert and unbiased advice or the smarts to navigate that complex path. It also takes courage and patience to fight the “long-game” and there is little ego satisfaction to simply avoid catastrophic mistakes.

In that long-run both Russia and America must learn to live with each other otherwise we as a human civilization will not survive. Both sides have more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization. This is not time to play games on the part of either side. That is a mistake that Putin has made and in the long run will cost him and Russia dearly.

We may on our side have a new leader that is even more reckless and more ignorant of the necessity of caution, understanding complexity, and the proper use of the tools of diplomacy and carefulness than Putin – not a very happy combination for the world.

In Russia, Putin’s advisors have become lackeys. These and his appointment of former KGB colleagues with the same mind set that won’t argue with him – some of them who have dissented have lost more than their jobs. The result is a nation lead by kleptomaniacs, self-serving officials, and lackeys. The result is an inefficient economy, inequality, and the deadening hand of authoritarian rule that deprives Russia of joy, initiative, and not least openness of debate and any real democracy. Its brutal suppression of its citizens’ freedoms, media, and free organized groups are all part of Putin’s aim to create a dictatorship with the use of all the instruments of the state to ensue his rule without question. Is it this Russia that Trump so admires and sees as his modal? 

 

putintrump
Image taken from the New York Review of Books

In America, those already chosen by Trump, in large part, were picked because of unquestioned obedience, with a fair share of flawed but be-medaled military paraded by Trump like “arm candy,” or billionaires without a nickel of experience in running a government. There are already reports that Trump’s son-in-law will be controlling foreign Affairs from the White House and that he is the “go-to” person if you want Trump’s ear on foreign affairs or security issues.

All of this is a sign of setting up a family plutocracy. One has to wonder what real role will the incoming Secretary of State have or Trump’s new National Security Council head? That, along with disrespect for the intelligence community when it needs to tell an “inconvenient truth.” Especially this is the case when it has to say the truth to a leader most known for his habitual lies and an ego that brooks no dissent.

In short, we could see an administration made up of not much more than useful idiots, stooges, and unquestioning family members with no experience in governing on sensitive national security issues! Cyberwarfare by Russia may not be needed in a Trump administration

WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS: The comment section is found here or below.

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY AN UNCLASSIFIED REPORT BY OBAMA. SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR
DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY UNCLASSIFIED REPORT  BY OBAMA WITH SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

By Harry C. Blaney III

Today President Obama was briefed on and received the intelligence community’s CLASSIFIED report of Russia’s hacking of Democratic officials and likely other US hacking activities especially aimed to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It is reported that the unclassified version will be released possibly Monday and Obama will brief our citizens on its content and its import and possibly US actions.

Already on Capital Hill hearings are taking place on this subject with the Republican Senate leadership adamantly opposing a separate investigation and bipartisan committee to look into the issue. In the hearings the intelligence heads today have made clear, on an unclassified basis, that Russia did the hacking and it was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election outcome and it was ordered by the highest levels of the Russian government.

The witnesses included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,  testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian cyberattacks or hacking during the 2016 election as well addressing the greater cyber threat Russia poses to the U.S.

There was concern about this action by both Republican and Democratic members. Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, brought up the Watergate scandal and cited the congressional investigation that followed. “It is my hope that this Congress is willing to stand in a bipartisan way…as the Congress did in 1974.” Kaine talked about how he was a victim of fake news during the election and criticized Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has promoted some of those stories.

On the Republican side Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Clapper if there’s a difference between espionage and Russian hacking. Clapper said that espionage “implies passive collection,” but the hacking is “activist.” Sen Graham said. “If we don’t throw rocks, we’re going to make a huge mistake.” “It’s time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks,” ….. “Putin’s up to no good; he’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people you can be skeptical, but you have to understand they’re the best among us.” When asked later, why we did not retaliate for espionage fully Clapper said “If we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When Clapper talked about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” against the U.S. He said, for example that RT, funded by the Russian government, was “very, vert active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.” Further, Clapper added that Russia used RT, social media, fake news. “They exercised all of those capabilities in addition to the hacking. The totality of that effort, not only as DNI, but as a citizen, is a grave concern.”

The exchange in the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing was clear as to who did the hacking and beyond with Director Clapper noting that “Hacking was only part of it,” he added told the panel that “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.”

The question before both Obama, and now soon, Donald Trump is what will be done about the action or any repeat of such activities? So far Trump and his team seem to throw doubt and disparagement upon the entire Russia hacking effort against the Democrats.

The question that needs to be asked and will be taken up next week by this blog, is what President Obama will say about what needs to be done and the import of these actions for American democracy, and not least, shortly a statement by Trump “after briefing on this issue by our intelligence people, our thoughts whether if Trump is protecting himself or our nation as president!

So far my judgement, contrary to some commentators like in the Washington Post today (“Could Trump be playing Russia?” by the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt), that it is Trump playing a game on Putin. My bet is the other way around by far, as the evidence shows Trump is ignorant of Russian realities, ignores facts, and seems to put “relations with Putin” and his own ego ahead of national interests and use of smart diplomacy including understanding the U.S. intelligence findings and its consequences.

We welcome your comments!

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: MIDDLE EAST

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is the Middle East. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

THE PLATFORM:

Syria

The Syrian crisis is heartbreaking and dangerous, and its impact is threatening the region, Europe, and beyond. Donald Trump would inflame the conflict by alienating our allies, inexplicably allowing ISIS to expand in Syria, and potentially starting a wider war. This is a reckless approach. Democrats will instead root out ISIS and other terrorist groups and bring together the moderate Syrian opposition, international community, and our regional allies to reach a negotiated political transition that ends Assad’s rule. Given the immense scale of human suffering in Syria, it is also imperative that we lead the international community in providing greater humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of war in Syria and Iraq, especially displaced refugees.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, we will work with the NATO-led coalition of partners to bolster the democratically-elected government as it assumes a primary role in tackling terrorism, forges a more secure future for the country, and safeguards advances, like securing women’s rights. Democrats will continue to push for an Afghan-led peace process and press both Afghanistan and Pakistan to deny terrorists sanctuary on either side of the border. We support President Obama’s decision to maintain a limited troop presence in Afghanistan into 2017 and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a haven for terrorists to plan and launch attacks on our homeland.

Iran

We support the nuclear agreement with Iran because, as it is vigorously enforced and implemented, it verifiably cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb without resorting to war. We reject Donald Trump’s view that we should have walked away from a deal that peacefully dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. We will continue the work of this administration to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and will not hesitate to take military action if Iran races towards one.

Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East. Democrats will push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities including its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, bolster the capabilities of our Gulf partners, and ensure that Israel always has the ability to defend itself. Finally, Democrats recognize that the Iranian people seek a brighter future for their country and greater engagement with the international community. We will embrace opportunities for cultural, academic and other exchanges with the Iranian people.

COMMENTARY:

The Middle East is a region in turmoil with no good or easy answers either for nations in the region or for Western governments. The fundamentals of insecurity remain the Sunni-Shia divide and the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups that thrive on this divide in the Muslim community. There are a lot of issues that are missing in this section of the Democratic platform. Not least is directly the problems of the Gulf Sates like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as well as a discussion on Libya.

On Syria, the key statement about the country – that the “crisis is heartbreaking and dangerous, and its impact is threatening the region, Europe, and beyond” – is correct. Yet the landscape is so dark and complex that a clear path forward is not only very difficult, it is near impossible without the cooperation of all the major powers in the region. However, this is not currently forthcoming, as Egypt, Turkey, and other players are in internal disarray. Additionally, the Sunni-Shia conflict still badly needs resolution,  which seems out of reach without long-term work to heal. 

What can and should be done more specifically is deal with the real, major, and dire humanitarian situation. We need now to start to look at a humanitarian space which can at last be effectively enforced by multi-lateral peacekeeping/peace-protecting forces that include Muslim, Western, and other nations, along with needed support with major resources to create a cordon of protection and safety.

Supporting “moderate” forces remains a work in progress that must be reinforced.  Yet all of this must, in the end, lead to Assad’s removal in order to create lasting peace.  Russia must recognize the need to change its strategy and re-assess its interests, and see a crisis that is heartbreaking, dangerous, and one that’s impact is threatening the stability of the entire region. Europe, America, Russia, and beyond need to acquiesce to a real compromise that ends with a broad based multi-group governmental coalition based on ensured security of all ethnic groups.  Not least, what is needed is a major rebuilding of society – which will need a large amount of funding – for a region that has been decimated by hate and a brutal regime. The United Nations and other international organizations need to be involved.

The Afghanistan section essentially is a reiteration of the Obama Administration’s existing strategy, which tries to combine a certain limited US military presence with support for the Afghan government’s efforts to do what is necessary to bring security and a measure, at last, of a responsible government to the nation.

Progress, though slow and with many setbacks, have been made against ISIS and other terrorists groups. There is no mention of addressing the major problem of deep corruption that undermines true security and stability and the building of a measure of democracy. Part of the answer must be to restore some common security and economic improvement in the lives of the common citizen. This means Pakistan must act to stop its actions to destabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Iraq stands as another battlefield that needs a comprehensive approach – military action alone will not fix the ills we now see in that nation.

Iran remains a work in progress and the Democratic Platform outlines the right path forward because no honest observer can deny that the Iran nuclear agreement is at the heart of ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapons for a very long time. The platform acknowledges that all of the other problems of Iran must be addressed, likely one-by-one, and we need to find some common ground. An aggressive stance is self-defeating for that country, and some are starting to recognize this, but it is a slow process. We need a long-term strategy to nudge Iran towards peace and help it to take a more cooperative stance in the region.

What is clear is that the Democratic platform is by far more realistic, more likely to result in a better outcome, less risk prone, and less likely to make the region even more unstable than much of Donald Trump’s own views and those of the GOP that unthinking hostility towards diplomacy and conciliation, raw hostility, and mindless use of military threats and bluster are.

We welcome your comments!

See our 2016 Campaign coverage

GOP National Security Officials Weigh in on Trump

On Monday, 50 former Republican national security officials, including Michael Chertoff, Michael Hayden, John Negroponte, Meghan O’Sullivan, and Tom Ridge, released an open letter in which they stated that Donald Trump, if elected, “would be the most reckless President in American history.” Below is the full text of the letter and its signatories.
STATEMENT BY FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS
The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. We have worked directly on national security issues with these Republican Presidents and/or their principal advisers during wartime and other periods of crisis, through successes and failures. We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.
None of us will vote for Donald Trump.
From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.
Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.
In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign affairs and “knows more about ISIS than the generals do.”
Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.
In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
We understand that many Americans are profoundly frustrated with the federal government and its inability to solve pressing domestic and international problems. We also know that many have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us. But Donald Trump is not the answer to America’s daunting challenges and to this crucial election. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.
Donald B. Ayer
Former Deputy Attorney General John B. Bellinger III Former Legal Adviser to the Department of State; former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Robert Blackwill Former
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning, The White House
Michael Chertoff
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Department of Justice
Eliot A. Cohen
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; former National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
Gary Edson
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House Richard Falkenrath Former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, The White House Peter Feaver Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Richard Fontaine
Former Associate Director for Near East Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
Jendayi Frazer
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs; former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Aaron Friedberg
Former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
David Gordon
Former Director of Policy Planning, Department of State
Michael Green
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asia, National Security Council, The White House
Brian Gunderson
Former Chief of Staff, Department of State
Paul Haenle
Former Director for China and Taiwan, National Security Council, The White House
Michael Hayden
Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency
Carla A. Hills
Former U.S. Trade Representative John Hillen Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
William Inboden
Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Reuben Jeffery III
Former Under Secretary of State for Economic Energy and Agricultural Affairs; former Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
James Jeffrey
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House
Ted Kassinger
Former Deputy Secretary of Commerce
David Kramer
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
James Langdon
Former Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, The White House
Peter Lichtenbaum
Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
Mary Beth Long
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Clay Lowery
Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs; former Director for International Finance, National Security Council, The White House
Robert McCallum
Former Associate Attorney General; former Ambassador to Australia
Richard Miles
Former Director for North America, National Security Council, The White House
Andrew Natsios
Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
John Negroponte
Former Director of National Intelligence; former Deputy Secretary of State; former Deputy National Security Advisor
Meghan O’Sullivan
Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan
Dan Price
Former Deputy National Security Advisor
Tom Ridge
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, The White House; former Governor of Pennsylvania
Nicholas Rostow
Former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Kori Schake
Former Director for Defense Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
Kristen Silverberg
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
Stephen Slick
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council, The White House
Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations, National Security Council, The White House; former Ambassador and Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment, Department of State
William H. Taft IV
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; former Ambassador to NATO
Larry D. Thompson
Former Deputy Attorney General William Tobey Former Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy; former Director for CounterProliferation Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
John Veroneau
Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
Kenneth Wainstein
Former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The White House; former Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Department of Justice
Matthew Waxman
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; former Director for Contingency Planning and International Justice, National Security Council, The White House
Dov Zakheim
Former Under Secretary of Defense
Roger Zakheim
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Philip Zelikow
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Robert Zoellick
Former U.S. Trade Representative; former Deputy Secretary of State

THE 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NORTH KOREA

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is North Korean Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

PLATFORM TEXT:

North Korea is perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator. It has conducted several nuclear tests and is attempting to develop the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could directly threaten the United States. The regime is also responsible for grave human rights abuses against the North Korean people. Yet Donald Trump praises North Korea’s dictator; threatens to abandon our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea; and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. This approach is incoherent and rather than solving a global crisis, would create a new one. Democrats will protect America and our allies, press China to restrain North Korea, and sharpen the choices for Pyongyang to compel it to abandon its illegal nuclear and missile programs.

COMMENTARY:

I have no problem with this summary but it should have been more specific in noting that Trump said that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear weapons of their own. This is about as dangerous as his statement that he might use nuclear weapons in circumstances that would kill hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians and against opponents who do not possess nuclear weapons.

The problem remains that we have not yet in three decades created the context that would “force” North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons or their development. The conundrum is that the only state that might be able to have leverage over North Korea is China. However, that nation wants to maintain North Korea as a buffer for its security and does not want to see South Korea, an American ally, come up to its border.  But it is also not yet willing to compel North Korea to give up these weapons, the means of developing them, or the means of delivering them via missiles, despite the existential danger to China should North Korea use these weapons. In time, and with continued threatening actions, the trajectory of North Korea’s aggressive and irrational behavior may offer the real prospects of common catastrophe.

The first act is to get China to see that some change is needed and to offer both strategic safeguards to the region and  sufficient inducement for North Korea to change its policies. Whether real change will require internal regime change or China’s pressure, America can through continued diplomacy help move towards a common solution that brings more security to all nations in the region. That level of intelligence and foresight is clearly not something that Trump and his Republican minions can ever understand sadly.

We welcome your comments!

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL, AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Issues. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM TEXT:

Democrats are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of these catastrophic weapons. We believe America will be safer in a world with fewer weapons of mass destruction. Donald Trump encourages the spread of nuclear weapons across Asia and the Middle East, which would weaken the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and he is unwilling to rule out using a nuclear weapon against ISIS.

Democrats want to reduce the number of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons around the world, as well as their means of delivery, while retaining a strong deterrent as long as others maintain nuclear strike capabilities . We will strengthen the NPT, push for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and stop the spread of loose nuclear material. Democrats will be informed by a new Nuclear Posture Review in determining continued ways to appropriately shape our nuclear deterrent, with the aim of reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons while meeting our national security obligations. Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the  expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

COMMENTARY:

Nuclear security and preventing nuclear war should be the critical issue of American diplomacy and defense policy. It is taken by the Democrats as the highest priority.  

Nuclear weapons and  nuclear non-proliferation, as well as dealing with the other weapons of mass destruction, are key to American security and not a subject for partisan or mindless un-thoughtful policies. Dealing with these issues require action and responses to real threats in a rational and considered way, not by mindless and unconsidered military attacks when in fact we are not under attack.  As seen in the Democratic Platform, judgement is key and listening to experts is required.

During the Cold War, stability depended on nuclear deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), based on creating a strategic force that it invulnerable to a first strike from Russia and vice-versa. The problem is that this equation does not provide faultless security from a mad leader, an accident, or a miscalculation from either side.

Thus, decades of arms control and reduction and “confidence building measures” have tried to mitigate against these “unforeseen contingencies.” The platform here is silent on these issues but these approaches have been an integral element in Obama’s strategy and that of almost all past presidents, though it seems to be threatened by an unstable and ignorant Trump.

Perhaps the most specific platform statement of nuclear policy was: “Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.”   What is needed as a key element to stabilize and reduce nuclear weapons is not only not create incentives for fewer weapons, but also to undertake urgent efforts to have agreements that aim to reduce instability and mistakes and to create a environment that lessens the chances of mistakes. There is room now to reduce on all sides the “hair triggers” on such weapons and create added confidence building frameworks to reduce the possibility of accidental use. 

The Trump Republicans do not even think about nuclear issues as a national security priority and even threaten to use such weapons under the most irresponsible conditions imaginable – when our key vital interests are not at stake, as a first strike force against forces that do not have such weapons, and even when our nation vital survival is not threatened.

We welcome your comments below!