Populism in Modern America – Why 2016?

By Blaze Joel, National Security Intern

On July 1, David Brooks wrote of a “Coming Political Realignment” that had been exacerbated by Donald Trump. Brooks argued that Trump is shattering the usual party demarcator in America – a small government versus a big government – and replacing it with a “right-left populist coalition” that battles against a centrist coalition over the issue of an open or closed government. Trump’s “only hope is to cast his opponents as the right-left establishment that supports open borders, free trade, cosmopolitan culture, and global intervention. He would stand as a right-left populist who supports closed borders, trade barriers, local and nationalistic culture, and an America First foreign policy.” Trump has exemplified this new American populism, tacking hard to the right on issues like immigration while moving left of Hillary Clinton on free trade.

In a previous post, we posed the question of how both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can be called populists when they seemingly represent completely divergent ends of the ideological spectrum (despite striking a similar tone on trade). This post will seek to answer: Why 2016? What is it about this year that has allowed the messages of populists, but especially of Donald Trump, to resonate with the American people? We will analyze a number of issues in this post, from the direction of the country to jobs, the economy, and trade to immigration, terrorism, and “law and order,” providing data and its historical context.

Direction of the Country and Institutional Faith

As noted in our last post, most Americans are not satisfied with the direction of our nation, despite Obama’s over-50 percent approval ratings. In fact, the number of Americans satisfied with the way things are going dropped from 29 percent in June to just 17 percent in July. But, as also noted in our previous post, this dissatisfaction is nothing new. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight revealed that 52 percent of Trump supporters (as opposed to 14 percent of anti-Trump Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats) are “very” angry about the way things are going in the country today.

Coupled with this anger at the direction of the nation is a mistrust of “elite” institutions such as the government, banks, media, and big business. Among the three branches of government, the Presidency and the Supreme Court share the highest approval ratings, as 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in each. However, 23 percent of Americans surveyed this June have “very little” or no confidence in the Supreme Court (a 10 point rise since 2003) and 36 percent have “very little” or no confidence in the Presidency (one of the lowest numbers since 2008). Furthermore, the 36 percent confidence in the Presidency is lower than after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (55 percent) and after the UN discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2005 (44 percent). The “very little” result has more than doubled since June of 2003.

Congress is the most maligned branch of government, as 55 percent of Americans have “very little” or no confidence in the institution as compared to just nine percent that have a “great deal” or “quite a lot.” This is quite a precipitous drop-off, as 30 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of faith in the Legislative Branch as recently as 2004 and 45 percent of Americans had “some” confidence in it as recently as 2009. As is often humorously pointed out, Americans favor Darth Vader, Jar-Jar Binks, root canals, cockroaches, and used car salesmen to Congress. The reasons for the rampant disapproval of Congress are many – partisan gridlock, seemingly pointless politicking, gerrymandering, and constant fundraising and campaigning. Perhaps the most glaring reasons are its relative inactivity in recent years, culminating in the 113th Congress from 2013-2014 that passed just 72 bills, and the prevalence of governing from crisis-to-crisis and kicking the can down the road. These attitudes have facilitated the rise of candidates who want to “shake-up” or metaphorically “burn down” the system in order to try to fix it.

Partisanship and a Divided America

The increased partisanship doesn’t just reside in Congress. The American public is becoming more divided as well. This expanding rift became evident in 2005, when the average Republican began to drift further to the ideological right while the Democrats stayed put. Beginning in 2012, both parties started migrating further toward their respective poles. Pew research from this spring found that 49 percent of all Republicans (62 percent of highly-engaged Republicans) and 55 percent of Democrats (70 percent of highly-engaged Democrats) were “afraid” of the opposing party. Similarly, 52 percent of Republicans view the Democratic Party as “closed-minded.” A whopping 70 percent of Democrats have the same view of the GOP. Around a third of both parties also consider the other to be “unintelligent,” while over 40 percent of both parties think the other is “dishonest.” Today, 91 percent of Republicans view the Democratic Party unfavorably (58 percent would classify their views as “very unfavorable”) while 86 (and 55, respectively) percent of Democrats hold the same view of the Republican Party. Moreover, a majority of Americans in both political parties say that the main reason they support their respective party because the other option’s policies are “bad for the country,” rather than out of a belief in their own party’s positions.

The campaign season in 2016 has been marked by intense protests, animosity towards a number of candidates, and outright violence at political rallies. Part of this is attributable to the flaws and mistrust in the political system noted above, but part is also a result of an increasingly divided American public. If the other side is a fundamental threat to America, then how and why should we even work with them? This atmosphere is ripe for people who want to exacerbate partisan divides and paint the nation as in need of fixing.

Jobs, The Economy, and Trade

Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville told the President in 1992 that he should focus on “the economy, stupid.” Since then, that cliché has become an instrumental part of American politics and a major predictive factor for elections. The United States (and global) economy has been rebounding since the “Great Recession” of 2008-2010. The unemployment rate is back under five percent and 25 of the last 27 quarters have witnessed an increased GDP (though it is lower than hoped and the recovery is slow). Wage growth has stagnated (as it has since the 1970s), but it is doing better when pegged against inflation. Nonetheless, 71 percent of Americans feel the economy is “rigged” according to a recent poll.

Why is this the case? Inequality is on the rise – the top 1 percent of Americans owned 36 percent of the wealth in 2013 – and the middle class is shrinking due to a number of interrelated factors. On the campaign trail, Trump and Sanders have both pointed extensively to free trade deals like NAFTA, which they argue have cost America millions of manufacturing jobs, thus fulfilling Ross Perot’s famous statement from 1992 that the trade deal would create “a giant sucking sound going South.” This year, according to a Brookings/PRRI poll, 52 percent of Americans think free trade agreements are “mostly harmful because they send jobs overseas and drive down wages.” Among Trump supporters, the number jumps to 60 percent.

Is free trade (specifically NAFTA) that bad? The results on the trade deal nearly 23 years after its enactment are mixed. There are approximately 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs in America today than there were when NAFTA was signed in 1994. The Economic Policy Institute calculated that more than 500,000 of these losses were due to the trade agreement. However, overall U.S. employment is up 22 percent since 1994. Not all of these lost jobs have gone to NAFTA nations – EPI data shows that approximately 3.2 million jobs (over 75 percent of which were in manufacturing) have been lost due to outsourcing to China since 2001. Additionally, this shift away from manufacturing has been present – though more pronounced recently – since the 1960s. Improvements in technology, the U.S. regulation system, and corporate outsourcing to cheaper labor markets have also all played a role in the loss of “blue collar” jobs over the last 20 years. While the effects of free trade are mixed, there is no doubting that certain locations and segments of the U.S. have been disproportionately benefitted by recent economic trends. The transition to an economy primarily based on services has benefitted those with more education and those who live in urban or suburban areas – the opposite profile of the “average” Trump supporter. NBC News found that Trump won over 75 percent of counties in which there was a low white labor participation rate or a strong decrease in average annual pay.

Immigration, Terrorism, and “Law and Order”

The final plank in Trump’s populist appeal is his promise to keep Americans safe and “restore law and order.” Other than his proposed wall along the Mexican-American border, a “Muslim” immigration ban, and utilizing waterboarding in interrogations, Trump has been nebulous about the specific policies he will enact to do so. Regardless, this rhetoric has found a home in an America where more people now are at least somewhat worried that they or their family will be a victim of terrorism. Sixty-five percent of Trump supporters share this belief. Over 40 percent of independents surveyed by Brookings and PRRI support barring Syrian refugees from the United States, building a border wall, and banning Muslims from other countries from entering the U.S. Among Republicans, those numbers are 66 percent, 64 percent, and 64 percent, respectively. Over 75 percent of Trump supporters support the actions against Syrian refugees and foreign-born Muslims, while over 80 percent of Trump supporters want to build the wall.

Despite Trump’s claims that illegal immigration is rampant, Pew found that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years at approximately 11.3 million – down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. Over 40 percent of Trump supporters believe that undocumented immigrants should be “identified and deported” – 12 percent more than the average Republican and 30 percent more than the average Democrat. Over 75 percent of Trump supporters believe that immigration needs to decrease in America, according to FiveThirtyEight. Anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats both polled in the 20s.

In the wake of the Paris attacks last November, Pew released data that showed that more Americans disapprove of the government’s job handling terror for the first time since 9/11. More Americans also view Islam as more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Among Republicans, 68 percent hold this belief. Additionally, 49 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of self-identified “conservative Republicans” believe that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny in federal efforts to prevent terrorism, compared to just 32 percent of all Americans.

That same Pew poll found that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to believe that defense/national security, immigration, terrorism, and ISIS/War in Iraq and Syria are the most important issue facing our nation today. In fact, 42 percent of Republicans surveyed (as opposed to just 24 percent of Democrats) viewed these issues as most important. ISIS polls as the biggest threat to America for both Republicans and Democrats – appearing on 93 percent of Republican responses and 79 percent of Democratic responses. However, Democrats rank climate change as the second biggest threat (73 percent) while Republicans vote for Iran’s nuclear program (79 percent).

Conclusion

“Populist” politics have been a fixture in America since its founding, but seem to have reached a fever pitch in 2016 due to a range of factors – including the economy, seeming global chaos, and disaffection with the nation’s political and financial elites. Donald Trump has exacerbated these tensions with his unique brand of populism that finds a home in places with more “distressful white experiences,” as NBC News characterizes it. Almost 70 percent of Trump supporters and Republicans believe that the “American way of life has gotten worse since 1950,” as opposed to the nearly 70 percent of Democrats who say that it has improved. In an increasingly divided America that at times seems at odds with itself and whose government often seems to fail when called upon to enact change, Americans are looking for someone who will advocate for them this election – the perfect environment for a populist who claims he will come in and “fix the system” that some feel has let them down.

What is Populism in America? A Historical Approach

By Blaze Joel, National Security Intern

If you look at U.S. Presidential elections throughout history, you will see a few familiar themes. One of the biggest is the prevalence of “political outsiders” who rail against the “corrupt insiders and elites” because they do not know how to make the country work for the average citizen. These calls have come from ideological opposites such as Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt, George Wallace, movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and even Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in 2016. While almost every candidate for the Presidency post-Watergate (and especially in the 2016 campaign) has tried to label themselves as an “outsider,” the success of these candidates has been mixed but steadily improving, as this graph from The Atlantic shows. In many ways, this trend culminated with the Republican nomination of Donald Trump, who had no political experience before his campaign.

Pundits were quick to declare that 2016 was the “Year of the Outsider,” which was a fair assessment given the successes of Sanders and Trump. Why is claiming to be an outsider so mainstream in American politics and what helps that message resonate? The answer lies in the political ideology, or more accurately philosophy, of populism.

Defining Populism

At a recent press conference in Ottawa, Barack Obama went on a self-described “rant” about the term when asked about Donald Trump’s divisiveness. The President said that he was “not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is populist…They don’t suddenly become populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes. That’s not the measure of populism; that’s nativism or xenophobia.” To Obama, populism is a philosophy that looks out for those who are vulnerable through policies like guaranteeing education and fairness for workers. This definition led him to conclude that “I suppose that makes me a populist.”

Populism is a broad term that is somewhat hard to pin down, precisely because it does not fit easily into a left-right ideological spectrum – how can something used to describe Barack Obama, Hugo Chávez, and Jean Marie Le Pen? That is because populism has no liberal or conservative ideological tenets. Populism can be defined as a belief in the power of regular people, and in their right to have control over their government rather than a small group of insiders or elites – be they political, cultural, or economic – and the “system” must radically change accordingly.

Throughout history and across the world, populist leaders and movements have campaigned in vastly different ways, and 2016 is no exception. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren decry the evils of Wall Street and the “One Percent” while Donald Trump demonizes immigrants to arrive at similar conclusions that a political system of distant elites does not truly care about the average citizen. In Europe, the term is most often used to characterize cultural nationalists and right-wing politicians like Le Pen and Nigel Farage. In Latin America, it is more closely allied with figures such as Hugo Chávez and Juan Perón – politicians who are economic nationalists “looking out for the little guy” being exploited by international corporations. The United States has seen both types of populists throughout its history, sometimes even at the same time. This year, Donald Trump fits more into the European model of populism (though he also employs an economically nationalist message) while Bernie Sanders is much more in the vein of a Latin American populist.

Jacksonian Roots: The History of Populism in America

In 1828, Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were set for a rematch of the 1824 election, which Adams won thanks to a vote in the House of Representatives. Adams was the quintessential insider: not only was he the incumbent, he was also the son of a President; a former Ambassador to Russia, Prussia, and the Netherlands; and a Senator by the time of the 1828 election. He had been out of politics for only two years since his 27th birthday. Jackson had been a politician before his election, but was best known for his leadership on the battlefield during the War of 1812, especially at the Battle of New Orleans.

Jackson campaigned for a strong Presidency to serve as a bastion against an elitist and “aristocratic” Congress and their interests. While in office, Jackson crusaded against government spending and favoritism (though established a patronage system), because he viewed it as “anti-democratic” and selectively benefitting the rich elites of America. This is perhaps best seen in his one-man war against the National Bank. Jackson’s Democratic Party coalesced a base of farmers, urban laborers, and religious minorities in order to build a party organization that stretched from the local to federal level, allegedly representing the grass roots.

Jackson’s outsider and populist message would likely not have had as much resonance if not for the electoral reforms that characterized the early 1800s. The franchise was greatly expanded as states eliminated the property requirements for suffrage. While the vast majority of Americans were still not eligible to vote, the nearly ten percent who did in 1828 was almost triple the turnout for any other U.S. Presidential election to that point. Additionally, reforms made direct election of state offices and members of the Electoral College more prevalent. While Jackson and the Democrats did not create these changes (by 1832, all states except South Carolina elected Presidential Electors directly), they did use them to their advantage.

While populism again became a force in the 1850s with the Know-Nothing Party and their anti-immigrant rhetoric, it truly came to the forefront of American politics in the 1890s with the founding of the People’s Party in 1891, its merger with the Democratic Party in 1896, and William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech at the 1896 Democratic National Convention. The People’s Party grew out of an alliance of farmers and unions and ran in one election before merging with the Democrats in 1896. Their 1892 platform declared that they “seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the ‘plain people’” in the face of rampant corruption.

After the recession of 1893, William Jennings Bryan came to epitomize the populist movement and won the 1896 Democratic nomination for President. At the Democratic Convention, he delivered his famous “Cross of Gold” speech, which lambasted East Coast “elites” who sought to “press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns” and “crucify mankind upon a cross of gold” via the gold standard. Bryan argued that: “We are fighting in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity…We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them…in this land of the free you need fear no tyrant who will spring up from among the people. What we need is an Andrew Jackson to stand as Jackson stood, against the encroachments of aggregated wealth.”

Populism was not solely a phenomenon of the Democratic Party. Dissatisfied with the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party in 1912 and Robert LaFollette, Sr., formed the Progressive Party in 1924. Both of these new parties took a decisively populist tone from the beginning. For example, Roosevelt’s 1912 Bull Moose Party platform declared that: “Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” The platform also called for a number of labor reforms and the creation of a social safety net.

LaFollette’s Progressive Party was no different. In its 1924 platform, the party stated: “The great issue before the American people today is the control of government and industry by private monopoly. For a generation the people have struggled patiently, in the face of repeated betrayals by successive administrations, to free themselves from this intolerable power which has been undermining representative government. Through control of government, monopoly has steadily extended its absolute dominion to every basic industry. In violation of law, monopoly has crushed competition, stifled private initiative and independent enterprise, and without fear of punishment now exacts extortionate profits upon every necessity of life consumed by the public. The equality of opportunity…has been displaced by special privilege for the few, wrested from the government of the many.” The platform similarly called for labor and agricultural reforms in the name of “popular sovereignty.”

Populism did not always have such noble connotations in the United States. Andrew Jackson is perhaps best known for his brutal policies against Native Americans culminating in the Trail of Tears. Many of the populists of the late nineteenth century adopted xenophobic and racist overtones like the Democratic Party of that era. Bryan even gave a speech at the 1924 Democratic National Convention against a platform item that sought to condemn the Ku Klux Klan. No Democratic politician better epitomizes this shift than Thomas Watson of Georgia. In 1896, Watson advocated for an alliance between poor whites and African-Americans in the South in the People’s Party based on common economic and class interests. However, by the early 1900s, that populist rhetoric was obscured by xenophobia and nativism, as seen in his magazine’s 1913 anti-Semitic article against Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent accused of murder.

Populism became conservative during the Cold War, thanks in large part to Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy and his allies famously attacked elites across the country (and especially in Hollywood) for allegedly being Soviet spies and selling out “real Americans.” Scholars at the time like Richard Hofstadter and Daniel Bell classified McCarthyism as a “populist” movement because of its similar anti-elitism to the nineteenth century movement and the label stuck. In addition to McCarthy, George Wallace sprung to national prominence railing against “pointy-headed bureaucrats” who wanted to desegregate schools. Televangelist Jerry Falwell similarly villainized the “secular humanist” elites who were leading America away from its Christian principles. By the time of the Watergate scandal, it seemed like anyone could claim to be a populist in America.

Populism in the 2016 Race

Like many things in modern American politics, Watergate represented a real change from the past. After the scandal, politicians and voters – especially Republicans – began to express more distaste and distrust in government. This trend was seen in the elections of Jimmy Carter (the moral peanut farmer) and Ronald Reagan (the incumbent President who ran as an outsider), and perhaps culminated with the Tea Party movement in 2010. The distrust engendered by Nixon (and by extension the rest of the government) has been slow to recover. In fact, monthly Gallup polling since 1979 has registered over 50 percent satisfaction with the direction of the United States in less that 15 percent of months.

Given this prevalent dissatisfaction with the government in the post-Watergate era, and especially under Obama – 87 percent of Americans thought the country was going in the wrong direction just after his election and the high water mark of public satisfaction with the direction of the country was just 33 percent in November 2012 – it is not surprising that anti-establishment forces became prevalent in 2016. As Jeb Bush said at a recent speech in Amsterdam, people “are not as optimistic for legitimate reasons and there should be respect for that…People look at the political system and they think of it as a foreign object.” He pointed to the challenges of globalization, economic inequality, partisan polarization, and a lack of empathy, saying that “the inability to deal with these great challenges…makes it easier in retrospect to see, on the left, a candidate like Bernie Sanders, and certainly in my party, the emergence of Donald Trump.”

These “great challenges” will be examined in a later post, but to conclude, I would like to pose a question that The New York Times (and a number of other outlets) asked: How can Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both be populists? By describing them both as populists, I by no means look to equate the two or all of their policy positions, merely to categorize a tactic and philosophy they have both utilized on the trail. Both have campaigned vehemently against free-trade deals like TPP and NAFTA, referring to the latter as one of the worst mistakes in our nation’s history because it sold out the average American worker. Both have railed against the establishments – whether they be in the RNC or DNC, Washington or Wall Street, the media or superdelegates – for creating a system that is “rigged” against the common American to the benefit of the “oligarchs” and “aristocrats” who rig it. But, and importantly, Trump’s brand of populism is tinged with xenophobia and isolationism, while Sanders sticks to a populism based on creating economic justice for those who have been left behind.

Perhaps the fact that Sanders and Trump are both called populists reveals that there should be a better term than populism to describe anti-establishment and anti-elite politics in modern America. But in some senses, perhaps populism is the perfect word precisely because of its amorphous ideological connections. As David von Drehle argued in a Time Magazine article from June: “Populism is not an agenda; it is a way of viewing the world. It can come from the left or the right. It can be progressive or reactionary—or both, in an incoherent mix. It is simply the political expression of the free-floating sense that power corrupts, that those who have power conspire to keep it at the expense of humane and patriotic values. There is a streak of populism is virtually every American—it’s no accident that the opening words of the Constitution are ‘We the people.’ But as long as people are capable of hatreds, resentments, and small-mindedness, populism will never be as simple as Barack Obama [or scholars and commentators] would like it to be.”

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.

 

PART IV: OVERVIEW YEAR 2016: EMPOWERING INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND IMPACT OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

PART IV: OVERVIEW YEAR 2016: EMPOWERING INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS &
 AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: THE FOREIGN AND SECURITY ISSUES IMPLICATIONS FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE GLOBAL ROLE

By
Harry C. Blaney III

This new last section looking at 2016 will cover the future role and the question of how to make more effective international institutions and American presidential politics and the foreign and security issues implications for America’s future global role. We will look at the implications for American foreign policy of the debate we are seeing in both parties and foreign reactions and the cost to America of the wrong choices.

THE POVERTY OR POTENTIAL OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS?

All of the challenges we have outlined in these three posts on 2016 require a major restructuring and strengthening of our international institutions. A this point is it difficult to see how this goal can be accomplished with the weak and in-warded turning we are seeing in too many countries developed and developing. Yet without strong international bodies we are likely not to solve the many problems that plague our globe in this century.

A whole new rethink is needed and new powers and resources for organizations like the World Bank, IMF, UNHCR, NATO, UNICEF, WHO, UNEP, UNDP, World Food Program, and others are needed and needed now. Not least is new mandates for the United Nations in areas like Peace Keeping and conflict prevention, poverty, and not least humanitarian preemptive actions against the horrors we are seeing in the 21st century. We need to strengthen the mandate of the “Responsibility to Protect” at a time when the wanton destruction of innocent human lives is spreading like a virulent disease throughout the world.

And yes more resources will be needed. In the refugees and displaced person area we are seeing an ongoing catastrophe and the resources are wholly inadequate to the need and lack of resources only compounds the desperate trend towards conflict and displacement and massive deaths of those seeking safety outside their daily killing fields. The same must be said about urgent need to deal with climate change on a broad multilateral basis. This added international capability goes for stopping the spread and impact of disease.

Here we need to think of new ways to raise resources on an international scale that can be allocated to addressing such existential threats and risks. Given the parsimoniousness of national commitments to solve these dangers to all of mankind, ideas like taxing international resources exploitation of the international commons, like the oceans and commercial use of inner space, of shipping, air flights, and, not least, of international financial flows are among the options. We and our children will regret we turned our back at this time to such solutions and permitted even greater cost to humanity and our environment by not taking up these new resource options.
ON AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: THE FOREIGN AND SECURITY ISSUES IMPLICATIONS FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE GLOBAL ROLE
While this subject will be returned to as this year progresses, It is important to recognize that American leadership is critical to the advancement of any of the goals we have examined. The simple truth is the outcome of the election will either set the direction and success of dealing with our challenges or result in a common global disaster.

In the Republican camp we are largely seeing what can only be described as the “Camp of War” and “Climate Change Deniers” but also the camp of those who, without exception, are people of little understanding of how world politics, ensuring security, and the global economy really works.

The leader of this pack, is Donald Trump and his approach to national security and foreign affairs. It is the most radical  and ignorant approach we have seen in a long time. One of the most interesting and despicable events of 2016 is the love feast between Donald Trump and President Putin. But support of torture and water boarding as well as building walls and stigmatizing all Muslims and immigrants indicates a lack of balance and bigotry. It also is counter productive to fighting ISIS. The same can be said of Sen. Ted Cruz, while he is a bit more agile debater than Trump, his opting to be even more extreme than his opponent poses an equally danger to American security.

Recent debates and statements only reinforce their similarities. They each see the other as ruthless. Both are right. They are into mass killing of people, and bullying others as their prime opus operandi. Their mutual hate of minorities, and opponents and indifference to the needs of common people or to the values really of democracy itself can only lead to national and international upheaval. They have been found as misleading and not truthful and believe in ideas that are antithetical to a sane decent society. They have already scared many leaders and citizen abroad about America’s direction.

In the Democratic camp we have two strong candidates with less policy gaps between on many domestic and foreign policy issues. But the differences that do exist are important in some foreign affairs areas.

Hillary is clearly more “moderate” as distinct from “liberal” and more in line with the agendas of the rich than her opponent. She has taken in more than $21 million from the financial sector in campaign support. She Is also more an advocate for a more robust military role than Obama or Sen. Sanders. She has in her rhetoric move closer to Sanders on her stand on trade agreements and inequality.

Sen. Bernie Sanders clearly is proud of his “democratic socialist” label which in reality is not much different from the mainline British Labour Party, and his foreign affairs stance is much in line with that of President Obama in having much caution in getting the US unilaterally involved in “endless wars” in the Middle East and using “smart power” rather than raw stupid kinetic massive ground forces. He advocates sharing the burden of opposition to terrorism which he believes should be destroyed, but with our allies and regional powers including Muslim nations, rather than the kind of foolish blindness to reality approach George W. Bush used in Iraq.

Both support dealing with climate change, on human rights, support for the United Nations, and for cooperation on global development and environment. On fighting inequality abroad and at home both think it is a problem but with Sanders clearly more focused on this issue. They both support the Nuclear Test Banned Treaty (CTBT) and cooperation in NATO and with EU on terrorism and refugees. Both now oppose the Pacific Trade Agreement but Clinton is a recent covert to opposition and in this they differ from President Obama.

Already America is paying a cost for the caustic nature of the Republican debate and as well as the actions of the GOP in Congress impeding actions on the CTBT, Law of the Sea Treaty, opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, and added resources for diplomacy. Our foes and our allies already have expressed either joy over our discontent or horror at its implication for their security and economy. My contacts abroad, all our friends, do not understand this drift towards craziness, bigotry, hate, and stupidity.

We will see and examine in the coming months how much international issues are drawn into the front of the stage of the presidential debates. What is likely is that external and domestic terrorist acts, the global economy,  and other key disruptive events will propel national security and foreign affairs into the mainline of debate especially after the conventions make their choices.

We welcome your comments.

See above box for our section on 2016 Presidential Quotes by both party candidates on this blog.

PARTPART I I I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY

PART I I I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY, ON MORE OF GLOBAL CHALLENGES

By
Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

This penultimate initial look at 2016 and its challenges will examine more of the most important global challenges and issues we will face in this year. In our last section we covered such issues as Europe, China, and East Asia and North Korea. In this edition we look at Nuclear proliferation and dangers, the India-Pakistan conflict, poverty and inequality, and climate change and other topics in future posts. As we have done earlier we will analyze possible developments in key areas, what risks and dangers lie with the topic and what policies or actions might affect outcomes good or bad and not least what America could, should, or should not do to address the dangers and problems each topic poses. In short, a quick tour of some of the most difficult questions our president and his successor will likely face.
NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION AND NUCLEAR DANGERS

This is a high priority area addressing one of the truly great existential dangers to human civilization. The best tools we have are the pending and existing multilateral treaties and the international organization that limits and monitors nuclear weapons worldwide. The existing treaty frameworks are vital but always in constant danger of being undermined. This includes the Nuclear Proliferation treaty (NPT), the and IAEA that monitors nuclear treaty obligations by nuclear and non-nuclear states. Further, there are bilateral treaties that limit U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. The still pending Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains in a kind of limbo with neither Russia nor America and some other key states in not ratifying the pact. Areas of nuclear spread and crisis as we have cited like India-Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, and monitoring Iran all require higher attention in 2016.

Key danger points remain such as the India-Pakistan conflict with both nations having nuclear weapons in a unstable context. Israel has according to reports undeclared nuclear weapons, Russia has possibly strengthen its nuclear weapons and missile systems for delivery as has the U.S. The key issue now is how best to contain the nuclear dangers and especially how to deal with an arms race with Russia which is counterproductive for both nations and the world.

INDIA-PAKISTAN

As noted, India and Pakistan are nuclear armed nations that constitute a “hot spot” which needs urgent attention by not only the leaders of both nations but also America, European and Asian nations. Both are increasing their nuclear capabilities. A very small ray of light is an on-going dialogue between the leaders of both countries on how to defuse the conflict but there are groups mainly the military on each side which seems to want the tensions and conflict to persist.

In my view the Pakistan nuclear weapons pose the greatest dangers given the instability, ambiguity in their real objectives and duplicity in their dealing with us and others and their fermenting of unrest in places like Afghanistan and helping some terrorist groups. The basic instability of the nation poses risks that are all too high for terrorist getting control over these weapons. The Pakistan government always says these weapons are “safe” but are unable even to deter or stop horrific attacks on their own military by powerful terrorist groups in Pakistan.

We have been engaged for decades with Pakistan with small gains and continued big problems and the debate rages in Washington on which tact to take re use of carrots and/or sticks, and the time has come for some serious rethinks of the basic relationship and need to seek new leverage on not only reconciliation between the two nations but also action to stop Pakistan playing a double game. Closing their border with Afghanistan to terrorists remains a necessity as does ending their support of the Taleban and other terrorist leaders and troops that live in Pakistan. But 2016 may see a final answers to the direction of Pakistan and many observers are not sanguine for a good outcome.

GLOBAL POVERTY AND INEQUALITY AND CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPMENT

Yes, inequality and poverty is a national security issue for the entire globe. But it will not be solved in 2106, but the question is not an immediate solution but rather if real substantial progress can be made on this problem that lies behind much of the unrest and instability we see around the globe.

Global indicators are mixed but the trend in key nations of even greater inequality from Africa to the United States makes for a dark assessments unless 2016 brings new governments, new political movements against unfair policies and corrupt parties and governments. We see the cost of this from Indonesia, Thailand, Malvasia, Russia, Ukraine, the Stands, Nigeria, China, and even some nations in Europe and in the United States. Education, reform and assistance to promote democracy and economic growth that is widely shared all are part of this needed process. But to right these problems assistance remains too small and more money is illegally flowing out of Africa by corrupt leaders into Swiss and other banks than assistance is flowing in.

CLIMATE CHANGE, THE EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE : NEXT BIG STEPS OR DITHERING?

As we noted the 2015 Paris climate change conference was a gain in terms of holding nations to their pledges but the key is followup and close and yearly checking on progress and true accountability that is transparent to all. This year starts must be made in the investment in clean energy and limits on dirty energy. Low price oil and gas are threatening the economic competitiveness of clean energy and there will be a need to provide for some years subsidies for renewable clean fuels and a tax on carbon and or more restrictive direct regulation to reduce pollutants. We are making important strives toward more efficient new renewable energy systems but direct government support to establish economic large-scale manufacturing of solar cells, and wind-turbines will be required to bring these systems on line to meet critical C20 reductions if catastrophe is to be avoided.

The other need is to stop the burning of forests and the release of carbon/methane and addressing the destruction and pollution of our oceans which are a vital part of uptake of carbon and control of global warming impacts. Here the leadership of the United States, Europe and China and India is vital and follow through will require the highest priority to this area by the leaders of these key countries.
SEE OUR COMING CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIES: That new section will cover g the role and question of how to make more effective international institutions, global trade, and later on American presidential politics and the foreign and security issues implications for America’s future global role”

We welcome your comments!

See our section on 2016 Presidential Quotes by both party candidates on this blog.