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

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

THE PLATFORM:

Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens.

Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners — countries who help us fight terrorism every day — and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead. We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies.

We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest — as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and re-supplying our troops in Afghanist an — but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

COMMENTARY:

This is affirmation in large part of the present  foreign policy approaches to Russia. It is far too general to really indicate what would or should be done in new specific ways to deal with Russia and to influence Putin to be truly cooperative and see the error of taking an aggressive stance and fomenting unrest in places like Ukraine and Iraq. It notes that we should continue to cooperate when it is in our interests. This makes sense but it is too passive of a position. It needs to look at ways to create a long-term cooperative context.

Nor does it outline any specific very good ideas to show our interests in good relations with the increasingly oppressed Russian people who have to pay for Putin’s wars, see their meager freedom further restricted, and pay for major economic mistakes.

Russia is fomenting unrest and instability and trying to influence the politics of Eastern Europe and places in Western Europe like France.  New efforts at public diplomacy, cultural exchanges, support of democratic institutions and free media, and sustaining citizen participation in civic life with these nations should be intensified. Obama has spoken while in Poland about the need to maintain democratic norms in that country with the current rise of authoritarian tendencies there and elsewhere. But more likely needs to be done. Republican efforts to limit our public diplomacy efforts and cutting back on our State Department diplomacy and aid budget have not helped.

The DNC platform position reflects the fundamental elements of the President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry strategy on Russian issues over the last nearly 8 years, which has seen successes and its disappointments. The key elements of a strategy for dealing with a Putin-led Russia remain to bolster NATO and to keep Europe united, especially in maintaining the sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The administration has been intensively engaged in seeking a diplomatic solution that will protect the integrity of Ukraine and its democracy. We are also helping the Ukraine military through training and providing defense supplies. Again the platform has not spelled out any specifics and this is a highly uncertain and moving situation.

What is not also said here is the supreme security goal vis-s-vis Russia must be to avoid a nuclear war between Russia and America.

The U.S. approach to the Russian presence in the Middle East (specifically in Syria) centers on diplomacy, trying to contain the damage that Russia is inflicting on the Syrian people in support of the brutal Assad regime. This problem is likely to persist into the new term of out next president. The preferred U.S. path is through a combination of “sticks” like hard sanctions and “carrots” in trying to find a compromise that would in stop the conflict, protect the Syrian civilians, and lead to a new Syrian broad-based government with Assad and the full participation of all groups in Syria.  This remains a work in progress and will test whether Putin’s aim is to destabilize the region and to extend Russia’s military presence and influence in the region while pushing Western influence out. The last is not likely, since America and Western powers far out-class in quantity and quality what Russia can provide in the long run, making any push for Russian hegemony costly and dangerous to maintain.

The key to our policy is recognition by Russia that it is in a much weaker position and the benefits of good relations with the West are better that a policy of aggression. This lesson needs to be understood, and diplomacy and dynamic economic growth by the West is the way to influence this trend.
 
In the end, the main aim must be for a common accommodation between Russia and the much stronger and attractive democratic West, which will result in a “win-win” outcome for both sides and real cooperation to deal with global dangers and challenges.

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: U.S. Leadership in the Asian Pacific

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

TEXT OF GOP PLATFORM:

We are a Pacific nation with economic, military, and cultural ties to all the countries of the oceanic rim and treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. With them, we look toward the establishment of human rights for the people of North Korea. We urge the government of China to recognize the inevitability of change in the Kim family’s slave state and, for everyone’s safety against nuclear disaster, to hasten positive change on the Korean peninsula. The United States will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with full accounting of its proliferation activities. We also pledge to counter any threats from the North Korean regime.

We salute the people of Taiwan, with whom we share the values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy, and the rule of law. Our relations will continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, and we affirm the Six Assurances given to Taiwan in 1982 by President Reagan. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate those principles, the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself. We praise efforts by the new government in Taipei to continue constructive relations across the Taiwan Strait and call on China to reciprocate. As a loyal friend of America, Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines, and full participation in the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and other multilateral institutions.

China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China . The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived. Critics of the regime have been kidnapped by its agents in foreign countries. To distract the populace from its increasing economic problems and, more importantly, to expand its military might, the government asserts a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea and continues to dredge ports and create landing fields in contested waters where none have existed before, ever nearer to U.S. territories and our allies, while building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes.

The complacency of the Obama regime has emboldened the Chinese government and military to issue threats of intimidation throughout the South China Sea , not to mention parading their new missile, “the Guam Killer,” down the main streets of Beijing, a direct shot at Guam as America’s first line of defense. Meanwhile, cultural genocide continues in Tibet and Xinjiang, the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is eroded, the currency is manipulated, our technology is stolen, and intellectual property and copyrights are mocked in an economy based on piracy. In business terms, this is not competition; it is a hostile takeover. For any American company to abet those offenses, especially governmental censorship and tracking of dissenters, is a disgrace.

The return to Maoism by China’s current rulers is not reason to disengage with the Chinese people or their institutions. We welcome students, tourists, and investors, who can see for themselves our vibrant American democracy and how real democracy works. We caution, however, against academic or cultural operations under the control of the Chinese government and call upon American colleges to dissociate themselves from this increasing threat to academic freedom and honest research.

Most of the nations of Southeast Asia have set aside crippling ideologies and sought material progress in free enterprise and democracy. We congratulate the people of Burma on their emergence from authoritarian rule and urge their respect for the rights of their country’s minority populations. Our improved relations with Vietnam — including arms sales — must advance efforts to obtain an accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of, Americans who gave their lives in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. We cannot overlook the continued repression of fundamental rights and religious freedom, as well as retribution against ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces during the conflict there.

India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. The dynamism of its people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world. We encourage the Indian government to permit expanded foreign investment and trade, the key to rising living standards for those left out of their country’s energetic economy. For all of India’s religious communities, we urge protection against violence and discrimination. Republicans note with pride the contributions to our country that are made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry.

Conflicts in the Middle East have created special political and military challenges for the people of Pakistan. Our working relationship is a necessary, though sometimes difficult, benefit to both, and we look toward the strengthening of historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict. This process cannot progress as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the War on Terror. Pakistanis, Afghans, and Americans have a common interest in ridding the region of the Taliban and securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. That goal has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan. A Republican president will work with all regional leaders to restore mutual trust while insisting upon progress against corruption and the narcotic trade that fuels insurgency.

 

COMMENTARY:  

The odd part of this platform’s stance is that much of its general rhetoric is a rehash of the existing policies and practices of the current administration and also throws out ideas that are clearly not going to work or are in fact counterproductive to making progress in solving any of the problems that inflect this region.

In the section on North Korea, they both seek some agreement with North Korea via diplomacy and take a hard stand on North Korea’s nuclear efforts and aggression. We are already trying to get China to moderate North Korea’s belligerence but, while they may have tried, North Korea has largely ignored their key benefactor. Dialogue is still our aim, but there is not a single idea on how they would do this in any way other than our current policy. They do not note that we are now installing defensive anti-missile systems in South Korea to bolster their defense and for the protection of civilians.

The platform’s position in support of Taiwan in effect commits us going to war with China over threats to Taiwan’s independence, should it be invaded. The list of China’s “evils” are long and many are quite correct, but there is no realistic or practical idea on how to deal with them. They simply imply that American business is better off leaving China, which is a sign of self defeat rather than a constructive long-term policy. The current US administration is trying to push via diplomacy all of these issues in a concerted way but not trying to address these issues in a hopeless hostile approach that is counterproductive. This, as they say, is “cheep grace,” since China is playing the long game — acting to integrate the island into China via political pressure and economic tied and relations.

It addresses the issue of the South China claims, but proposes no solutions of any kind. Its claim of major increase in military expenditure by China is partly correct, but these efforts remain but a fraction of America’s defense effort and we have already made major increases in our military presence in the region. Further our strengthened alliances and cooperation with other nations in the area have already showed progress.

But, in the end, the key to US policy with China is to engage it in constructive ways, as President Obama did with the agreement on climate change and sanction on Iran. This is the best way forward for a long term strategy of both sides of a “win-win” outcome that ends with a truly “peaceful rise,” and a nation in time that accepts cooperative responsibility for security and prosperity. The alternative is to pay to the worst instincts of the super nationalists on both sides and enhance unnecessary long term conflict in no one’s interest.

The support of democratic norms for Burma, China, Vietnam, India, etc., is odd for a party that has picked Donald Trump for it’s candidate — a man who praises President Putin and his authoritarian streak that has led to many human rights violations, including of the independence of other nations and makes brutal war on civilians in Ukraine and Syria.

What is absent from the statement is any real statement of what to do about such issues as the South China Sea, trade disputes, and China’s failure to enforce international standards for the protection of intellectual property and copyrights, as well as its manipulation of its currency and democracy in Hong Kong. Statements without teeth seem to indicate they there is an absence of any new ideas or real solutions without cost f0r all of these subjects. Would America go to war with China over the South China Sea? Would we invade Hong Kong to establish democracy or cut off trade because of “currency manipulation”?

At the moment, existing policies are aimed at dealing with all these issues from the viewpoint of cooperation, diplomacy, and even compromise on both sides — that also strengthen our cooperative defense capabilities. The Obama pivot to Asia is an effort to deal both with economic/trade and security issues and seems to strengthen our position in the Pacific, would Trump put this a risk with foolish words and acts? 

It is hard to know what to make of the section on the Middle East. The party both blames and praises Pakistan and repeats our policy to deal with ISIS or Taliban. If one reads with care their statement that the goal of stability “has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan,” are they saying that America should commit a large number of US ground troops that result in danger and deaths when the more focused, balanced, careful, and present strategy seems in fact to be making progress in an area that will never be totally peaceful even with large US troops, as was proven under Bush II. If that is what they want they should say so! Or come up with a better strategy. The one we have has been approved by much of our top military. The Trump types don’t have, in fact, anyone with that kind of deep knowledge and expertise. So far their “experts” are most third-rate and ideologues that got us earlier in trouble in the region.

 In sum, this section reflects, without saying so, much of the current administrations positions, but it also reflects the bifurcated and contradictory stance that Donald Trump has taken on many domestic and international issues. It also shows the divisions in the GOP between the large powerful trading and financial interest that the Republican Party has traditional supported (its unabashed praise for “capitalism”) and its normal stance supporting international trade. But on many key issues it now reflects the more right-wing isolationist and belligerent wing of the party that sees China as a threat and a tool to justify its stance to support major increases in defense spending without any relation to the real threat or already massive resources we are putting into our military budget already.

Come back for more texts from the Democratic platform side and commentary in the coming days.

See also our 2016 Campaign Coverage.

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: ISRAEL

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

PLATFORM TEXT WITH PASSED AMENDMENTS:

Our Unequivocal Support for Israel Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom and stands out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Beyond our mutual strategic interests, Israel is likewise an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel.

We recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law. We reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative military edge over any and all adversaries.

We support Israel’s right and obligation to defend itself against terror attacks upon its people and against alternative forms of warfare being waged upon it legally, economically, culturally, and otherwise.

We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel. Therefore, we call for effective legislation to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.

The United States seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region. We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and we call for the immediate termination of all U.S. funding of any entity that attempts to do so. Our party is proud to stand with Israel now and always.

NEW PASSED AMENDMENTS:

Two Amendments were also passed regarding Israel, discussed here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/11/politics/gop-platform-republican-convention-israel/

“The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region,” the approved amendment said. “We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and call for the immediate termination of all U.S. funding of any entity that attempts to do so.”

“We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier, and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (“BDS”) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel,”  the new version read.

COMMENTARY:

There is little room for honest debate about how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or solutions other than blind support of the present Israeli right-wing hawkish government. No hint that such a path in fact, as Israeli former security and intelligence chiefs have noted, that the present policies will increase dangers to Israel’s security not lessen it. There is no room for effort by the US other nations and international bodies whose job is to prevent war and safeguard humanitarian outrages from either side.

The threat to take away American funding and support to any organization that might want to act to solve the conflict is an unprecedented threat to peace making and    international diplomacy, let alone an effort to silence any voices here or abroad that question the present Israeli government’s stance, no matter how misplaced and dangerous to international peace, regional security, and justice for both sides it is. It asks America to take sides with actions that can only lead to more dangers for Israel and its people, as well as the region.

The statement in the passed amendment that Israel is not an occupier is a factual lie under international law. Israel exercises authority via its military over Palestine and its people against their will and the entire world recognizes this reality.

It assumes that any action by Israel’s present government must be in our interest, no matter what it might be — including violating of human rights, illegal actions, the deliberate killing of innocent civilians — and that we would go to war to defend these actions.

This simply is madness and blind adherence to a set of policies and actions that would make peace in the Middle East even more difficult. It would be contrary to Israel’s own long-term security, and isolate America from the rest of the international community — including our European allies — which supports, as we do now, the Two State Solution and opposes illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian areas.

While this is a crude play for those voters that support Israel, it is in reality an outreach to those that support an aggressive and belligerent Israel that they want to America blindly to endorse — one led by a leader that has disrespected our elected President and has played partisan games of division with domestic American politics and made racist names for even his own Arab citizens. The fact is that the majority of Jews in America, according to polls, want to see peace in the Middle East through a binding and fair solution for all sides that will finally put to rest the march towards madness and self-inflected risks and the unending conflict. There is, in sum, no balance in this platform for lasting peace.

See our forthcoming coverage of the Democract platform on national security and foreign policiy statements coming soon.

We welcome your comments below! 

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NATO AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

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

“Frankly it’s sad. We have NATO, and we have many countries that aren’t paying for what they’re supposed to be paying, which is already too little, but they’re not paying anyway. And we’re giving them a free ride or giving them a ride where they owe us tremendous amounts of money. ” (Donald Trump on Meet the Press, July 24, 2016)


THE PLATFORM:
Renewing the European Alliance

With bipartisan support, President Truman forged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an alliance of the western democracies. Its continued effectiveness is vital, especially in light of recent military challenges in Eastern Europe. With the American people spending on defense, per capita, four times the amount spent by Europeans, we demand, as we have in the past, that our fellow members of NATO fulfill their commitments and meet their need for greater investment in their armed forces. We have common imperatives: Ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting trade, and more.

We also have a common problem: The continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin. Repressive at home and reckless abroad, their policies imperil the nations which regained their self-determination upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.

We urge greater attention in U.S. diplomacy, trade, and strategic planning, to the nations of Eurasia, formerly parts of the Soviet Empire. Caught between their two authoritarian neighbors, their path toward democratic institutions has been uncertain. We urge our government and our allies to work toward the integration of the Central Asian republics into the global economy through foreign investment, which can bring with it market and political reforms and a firmer establishment of the rule of law. Those developments will not only improve the living conditions throughout that vast area but are likely to reduce the lure of the radical ideologies that already threaten the region.

INTL INSTITUTIONS

Sovereign American Leadership in International Organizations
There is no substitute for principled American leadership. Since the end of World War II, the United States, through the founding of the United Nations and NATO, has participated in a number of international organizations which can, but sometimes do not, serve the cause of peace and prosperity. While acting through them our country must always reserve the right to go its own way. We must not be silent about our country’s cause. That is why we have long supported our country’s international broadcasting to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Our continued participation in the United Nations should be contingent upon the enactment of long-overdue changes in the way that institution functions. American taxpayers, the chief funders of the U.N., deserve full transparency in the financial operations of its overpaid bureaucrats. We should no longer tolerate its managerial scandals, its Human Rights Council composed of some of the world’s worst tyrants, and its treatment of Israel as a pariah state. The U.N.’s Population Fund has, from its origin, been rooted in no-growth policies that limit economic development in the countries needing it most. Its complicity in China’s barbaric program of forced abortion led President Reagan to set a wall of separation — his Mexico City Policy, which prohibits the granting of federal monies to non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion. We affirm his position and, in light of plummeting birth rates around the world, suggest a reevaluation of the U.N.’s record on economic progress.

Precisely because we take our country’s treaty obligations seriously, we oppose ratification of international agreements whose long-range implications are ominous or unclear. We do not support the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, as well as various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development. Because of our concern for American sovereignty, domestic management of our fisheries, and our country’s long-term energy needs, we have deep reservations about the regulatory, legal, and tax regimes inherent in the Law of the Sea Treaty. We emphatically reject U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of U.S. sovereignty, and we oppose any form of Global Tax.

To shield members of our Armed Forces and others in service to America from ideological prosecutions overseas, the Republican Party does not accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. We support statutory protection for U.S. personnel and officials as they act abroad to meet our global security requirements, and we deplore the current inaction of the Administration in that regard. Our service members must be subject only to American law.

COMMENTARY:

NATO:

Both the summary of the problems with NATO and Eastern Europe’s governments and the threat to destroy the Alliance by demanding the financial requirements of NATO be met by all nations at the risk of US withdrawal are particularly interesting. This is contrary to the NATO treaty and weakens the fundamental strength of a united and credible deterrence that is at the heart of the alliance.

Even more disquieting is the contradictory statement of supporting our Eastern European NATO members and for Eurasian nations who are not members from Russian aggression: “we will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.” The platform goes on to insinuate Russia a brutal regime: “the continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin.” It seems again that Trump and his followers want their cake and eat it: they both praise a brutal Putin and advocate aggressive actions against Russian aggression. On one hand he wants praise from the likes of Putin, who he sees as a “strongman” like him, and on the other he is reaching hypocritically and duplicity for the votes of American voters whose families come from this region. He believes that voters will only see what they want to believe and ignore the contradiction. The problem is what our allies and Putin will think about the creditably of a Trump presidency.

What is not talked about is how exactly to improve the NATO struggle against ISIS and terrorism, in particular when the NATO allies are afraid of a Trump presidency and its corrosive heart. It seems, in reality, that he and his henchmen have not a clue of what needs to be done, or perhaps it is so dangerous that they do not want to disclose it before the election?

The platform does not talk at all about the major dangers in Europe to the EU and NATO of the rise of neo-fascist parties and elements within Europe which are at odds with democratic norms, European unity, dealing with an aggressive Putin, or dealing with immigration in a more constructive way than Trump – the hate machine for women, minorities and immigrants – is even close to thinking about.

Trump evidently does not really want a united NATO or Europe and is quite content to see divisiveness and growing disunity serving his purpose of “making America great again.” However, it does just the opposite. The question whether the American public will see the contradiction?

INTERNATIONAL ORIGINATIONS:

Once again it is hard to see much of a positive perspective to the role many key international organizations, not least the United Nations. Yet this creed is not only poorly written, rambling, and mostly wrong about the accomplishments of many international organizations, it also does a disservice to the key role these organizations play to keep our world a little more humane, help the poorest, and mitigate some of the worst crises and disasters. They need to be praised and not disparaged.

Just a few examples, they would not join the Law of the Sea Treaty, which the US has singed long ago and which we use to assert our freedom of navigation and defense the ocean ecology, and they would destroy the work of the key organization that gives women the right to their own bodies through the U.N.’s Population Fund.

The throw-away line about “international broadcasting” to Eastern Europe, done by the US government and not part of any international organization (such statements show again that this document was not written by anyone of any expertise in this field), is a throwback to the old Cold War days and aimed at the votes of some ethnic groups that want these broadcasts to continue, which many of them should not as instruments of single-minded ideological propaganda but as voices of balance and good reporting.

The foolish and negative tone and the outlandish comments about how they would restructure (undermine) or even destroy these vital groups is another example of a withdrawal from the world’s efforts to solve critical problems. But worse, their policies towards these institutions would send the world back to the dark ages and cause misery, mass deaths, and conflict rather than improving the life of our world’s people. They belittle the World Court, the International Criminal Court, and the EU courts, all of which are key to enforcement of international law and humanitarian rights.

Are they perfect? No. But they have do much more good than not and need to be strengthened, not weakened as the GOP and Donald Trump seem to want. 

 

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: “CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING MIDDLE EAST”

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Republican 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:

The Middle East is more dangerous now than at any time since the Second World War. Whatever their disagreements, presidents of both parties had always prioritized America’s national interests, the trust of friendly governments, and the security of Israel. That sound consensus was replaced with impotent grandstanding on the part of the current President and his Secretaries of State. The results have been ruinous for all parties except Islamic terrorists and their Iranian and other sponsors.

We consider the Administration’s deal with Iran, to lift international sanctions and make hundreds of billions of dollars available to the Mullahs, a personal agreement between the President and his negotiating partners and non-binding on the next president. Without a two-thirds endorsement by the Senate, it does not have treaty status. Because of it, the defiant and emboldened regime in Tehran continues to sponsor terrorism across the region, develop a nuclear weapon, test-fire ballistic missiles inscribed with “Death to Israel,” and abuse the basic human rights of its citizens. A Republican president will not be bound by it. We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the survival of our friends.

Over the last four years we have seen the rise of a murderous fanaticism in the form of ISIS, the so called Islamic State. Its reach now extends far beyond the Middle East to virtually every continent. ISIS has brought ancient butchery into the 21st century. Nations are imploding, erasing long-established borders.

The Obama Administration and its Secretary of State so mishandled the Arab Spring that it destabilized the entire region. The hope some saw in the Arab Spring has transformed into disappointment. The dictator of Syria, Bashar Assad, has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people and created millions of refugees, and an American president has been unable to rally the world against him. Understandably, our allies fear for their future in a region far more dangerous than it was eight years ago. A Republican administration will restore our nation’s credibility. We must stand up for our friends, challenge our foes, and destroy ISIS.

Hezbollah, controlling over 100,000 missiles in Lebanon, must be isolated and Lebanon’s independence restored. We will support the transition to a post-Assad Syrian government that is representative of its people, protects the rights of all minorities and religions, respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors, and contributes to peace and stability in the region. The Iraqi people have been on the front lines in the fight against terror. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and the attacks against them continue, even in Baghdad. Our partnership with them should continue as long as ISIS and others like it survive in the region. We are deeply concerned that, in the face of genocide against them, Christian communities in cities like Gerbil are receiving no financial support from either the U.S. government or the UN to help with displaced persons and urban refugees. Their survival is sustained only by private charities. This must change immediately.

Defeating ISIS means more than pushing back its fighters while abandoning its victims. It must mean aiding those who have suffered the most — and doing so before they starve. It means supporting the long-term survival of indigenous religious and ethnic communities, punishing the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, and conditioning humanitarian and military assistance to governments on their observable commitment to human rights. We continue to support the Kurdish people, whose bravery and cooperation with our forces merit our respect and their autonomy. Many countries in the region have given, and continue to give, substantial assistance to the United States because they understand that our struggle against terrorism is not an ethnic or religious fight. They consider violent extremists to be abusers of their faith, not its champions. We applaud their courage and value their counsel. The U.S. government, together with its global partners, should mobilize its political, economic, and military assets to support the creation of a safe haven in northern Iraq to protect those ethnic and religious minorities continuing of ISIS.

HARRY’S COMMENTARY:

This is the usual criticism without a clear answer and examination of the risks and cost of any alternative policies and actions. Just looking at a few of their statements and positions we see how far away the Republican Party is from the reality is on the ground. 

First, we should take the statement that “sound consensus was replaced with impotent grandstanding on the part of the current President and his Secretaries of State. The results have been ruinous for all parties except Islamic terrorists and their Iranian and other sponsors.”

As they used to say before we got a GOP presidential candidate that specializes in lying, self-contradiction, and racism, the facts and premises and assumption are all wrong, as they are with the denial of climate change that accompanies the 2016 GOP platform. Let’s try a little facts. Obama and Kerry are the farthest apart from “grandstanding” than any president and Secretary I have known in my many decades as diplomat and foreign affairs scholar. The are cautious and not high on doing “stupid things.” 

They have avoided sending troops into the Middle East to be killed for no good reason after the results of Bush II and the neo-cons that still advocate more “war” without reason. They have sent in non-combat troops and provided training, advice, and resources, and the reality is that those in Iraq have made astonishing progress so far with minimum costs in American blood and resources. This is a war the Iraqi multi-ethic combined forces need to fight. In fact the Obama/Kerry strategy has shown that ISIS can be reduced by just the strategy and approach that Obama has decreed and the military has instituted. In Syria I know of few good options and it is certain that the GOP will not come up with any that won’t shed American blood or make the situation worse, as we did in Iraq in 2003. I have no idea what the platform means to create a “safe haven” in Iraq and I am not sure the drafters know either. The idea of a “no fly zone” in Syria has been examined and former Secretary Clinton is said to have supported it in the past, but the military say that it is not feasible. Perhaps this needs to be looked at again with care but not without a full assessment of its feasibility.

As for Iran, the nuclear deal has so far been a sound success regarding its sole aim to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon and its related technology. In the GOP platform is a direct lie in saying that Iran “develop[ed] a nuclear weapon,” the word for this factually untrue statement is its boldness and mendacity to scare people. The GOP may wish to take away this victory of American and allied diplomacy  just when it achieves our key objective. It would be the height of stupidity and dangerous to the whole region if we renounced the Iran deal and consequently permitted Iran to start immediately building nuclear weapons, especially because of the possibility of others in the region to build their own as a reaction. The word stupid hardly covers this disastrous position.

Regarding the empty rhetorical points and lies about the tragic situation in Syria, which is dangerous, complex, and risky and where America has indeed rallied allies and with them to engage in this murky environment in both diplomacy and assistance to moderate elements against both ISIS and Assad,  I see not a single suggestion from Trump and his ilk on how to do better and not with more cost to US lives. Not to mention without even greater civilian deaths and any assurance of a true end point in which that country can return to security, democracy, peace, and the elimination of conflict between the many powers now involved — including Russia and various Shia groups.  All the Republicans can offer is a man without any knowledge of foreign affairs and with the least regard to truth and facts on the ground. The danger of these positions and the baseless and wrong views of past and present conditions and risks is a show of deep ignorance and irresponsible stances.

The point on “abandoning” its victims, read civilians and refugees, is a canard. America has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support displaced persons and refugees under Obama via the UN system including UNHCR, our aid programs, and NGOs and other relief groups. More than anyone else. The Republican controlled Congress can pass a bill tomorrow to increase aid by billions of dollars, without cutting any assistance to other vulnerable groups or from any other programs, and Obama would sign the bill overnight. This is a plain hypocritical stance that uses the suffering of others for partisan political points and doing nothing to solve the problem.  Also the fact is that many places, especially cities, are inaccessible to safely provide assistance due to the military action of Assad and the Russians blocking assistance. How would Trump change that? Secretary Kerry is trying to change this  via diplomacy as this is being written.

In short, this GOP platform is filled with misstatements, very bad ideas, platitudes, and little of positive new practical or useful ideas on how to solve the many problems of the Middle East.  It show the shallowness of Trump’s perspective on a critical issue and even of the Republican Party.

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: CLIMATE CHANGE

In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Republican Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security.  First up is climate change.

The Platform:

Information concerning a changing climate, especially projections into the long-range future, must be based on dispassionate analysis of hard data. We will enforce that standard throughout the executive branch, among civil servants and presidential appointees alike. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy. We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate. We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with the 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. That law prohibits Washington from giving any money to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations” which grants Palestinians membership as a state. There is no ambiguity in that language. It would be illegal for the President to follow through on his intention to provide millions in funding for the UNFCCC and hundreds of millions for its Green Climate Fund. We firmly believe environmental problems are best solved by giving incentives for human ingenuity and the development of new technologies, not through top-down, command-and-control regulations that stifle economic thousands of jobs.

HARRY’S COMMENTARY:

This is probably the most dangerous and stupid stance any political party can take on the threatening issue of global climate change, which both imperils the entire globe and which is accepted by almost every reputable scientist and organization in the world.  This rejection of every climate change agreement including the key recent Paris Agreement and the threats to destroy every effort that the world has taken to protect our environment are irresponsible and beyond belief.  It shows that indeed the inmates have taken over the asylum and the modern Republican Party is dictated by the crazies and the major oil companies and that mankind and our ecosystem are the losers. I am left aghast at what kind of Kool-Aid the Republican leaders are drinking, but it is for future generations that I fear for the most.

 

RNS Race to the White House Coverage

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With the start of the Republican National Convention today in Cleveland, Ohio, we are excited to debut our dedicated 2016 General Election coverage. We have three pages dedicated to the race, with one about the matchup and one each for the major candidates.

Click here to see the latest updates on the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, featuring poll updates, the FiveThirtyEight forecast, and Electoral College predictions.

Click here to see where Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton stands on key national security issues.

Click here to see where Republican Candidate Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence stand on key national security issues.

Make sure to check back for updates and coverage of the 2016 Race to the White House.