THE RUSSIAN DEBACLE, WIRETAPPING, UNDERMINING OF ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, AND DIPLOMACY & USELESS EXPANSION OF DEFENSE SPENDING.
THE REAL TRUMP REVEALED!
Harry C. Blaney III
The last few days have revealed even more than the proceeding months of follies and the debacle that is the Trump regime. The series of tweets in which Trump accused former president Obama of wiretapping his Trump Tower offices before his election was one of the most bizarre acts by any president in memory and I go back beyond the Nixon administration. This was done without any proof and with denials by both the Obama staff and James Clapper the former Director of Central Intelligence.
It was made clear by former officials that Obama banned any such acts. These wiretaps take place when the court believes there was an actual illegal act committed. To carry out such wire tapping would require a court’s review and approval which would only be done with creditable evidence. This charge many be hashed out by a possible FBI public statement and the intelligence committees of Congress likely next week who will hold hearings on this and the Russian hacking of the Democrats.
The issue of Russian actions to undermine our election and democracy and include ties of Trump and his associates don’t seem to go away. This despite Trumps efforts to change the subject. So far they are not going away and are even viewed as deepening. There is something about the Russian “connection” that Trump fears and has responded to almost in a manic reaction. It upset his own staff and only highlighted his obsession or fear of this issue and the desire to push it aside with outlandish actions to change the subject according to some commentators.
Thus we see the focus on the “repeal and replacement” of the ACT (Obamacare), which in a odd way only seem now to further undercut his credibility on many levels and adds to his reputation of repetitive lies and dishonesty. Trump promised cheaper, better and wider coverage which the Bill in the House is the opposite, costing much more and covering millions fewer needed people and transferring the savings to the very very rich via tax breaks at the expense of health services. The culmination of Wiretaps by Obama, Russian ties and attacks on citizens health care and ordering dismantling of climate change regulations, are examples of how Trump manipulates the landscape to his own and our cost.
Other examples of his destructive bent are his action to in effect demolish agencies that are critical to the security, health, environmental protection, education, science research and truth. Yet he has on problem wasting taxpayer money on large additional spending for DOD without any real purpose. All at the expense of cutting massively assistance to the most vulnerable souls at home and not least now abroad by massive cutting back the assistance to threaten refugees and others in conflict zones that are facing mass starvation and certain millions of deaths.. This is making, as I have noted, not a “Great America” but a mean, authoritarian, and selfish “Small America.”
These events in any case, could be the possible start of the further unwinding of the Trump credibility. It furthers the view by some citizens of fear and unease and it has created a perception among some key leaders abroad already of disquiet and distance from American leadership.
Press reports state Trump showed a high level of anger at his staff, denounced Sessions recusal in the Russian hacking case, and along with Trump’s continued accusations against Obama, the intelligence agencies and the media.
So far these series of missteps indicate a leader without good judgment but also a person intent more on destruction of the fabric of a secure and compassionate society. Even in his arrangement of his White House staff there is more chaos and dysfunction as a result of his manic and often unpredictable rule on his own turf with a staff made of equally unbalance types. Creating chaos and his desiring to be the only story of the day by getting more and more bizarre and demoniac does not serve American interests.
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PART I I I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY, ON MORE OF GLOBAL CHALLENGES
Harry C. Blaney III
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.
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”
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See our section on 2016 Presidential Quotes by both party candidates on this blog.
By Harry C. Blaney III
A lot of credit must go to President Hollande, his team, President Obama, and Secretary Kerry as they all worked beyond human energy levels for a positive outcome at the COP21 conference especially at the ninth hour and beyond on Saturday night December 12th. Also, some great credit must go to the political and diplomatic leaders that led the way and overcame major obstacles. Having attended a number of major conferences throughout my career, getting consensus or at least lack of opposition is a hard lift, and in too many cases an impossible task. I have long argued that one of the great historical moments in human history would be the decision by the global community to decide to act effectively to address the looming, if not already present disaster that is climate change or global warming. It is an existential challenge, not just to the nations states but for the peoples of the entire planet.
A reminder, it is not just this accord in itself that is key, but rather, the will to actually work towards its goals that are important. That will still take political will and the strong backing and daily support of citizens around the world along with strong and determined leaders who will stand by their work and their successors.
Here are comments, analysis, and questions on some of the key points of the agreement:
TEMPERATURE INCREASE AT A 2.0 OR 1.5 CELSIUS CAP TARGETS:
We need to be frank on this difference. The developing countries wanted to get some commitment to the 1.5 C target and they got that but it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve even the 2.0 C goal. But better to put this on the table for future debate as this compromise helped to get some of the developing countries on board for the entire Paris package. A number of NGOs also thought this was necessary as many scientist believe that even at 2.00 C could bring about catastrophic impacts, especially on the poorer and vulnerable nations like the Island countries.
BURDEN SHARING OF COSTS WITH RESOURCES TO DEVELOPING NATIONS FROM DEVELOPED:
Here there again were trade-offs. There was acknowledgment on the part of the economically advanced nations that they had an obligation to support those with few resources to deal with and address local climate change making assistance much needed. But there were few hard commitments towards specific amounts. America pledged $800 million but it will be up to Congress to appropriate the money, or it will come out of other development aid accounts. Already Republican leaders in Congress have said the money will not be voted on.
ABSENCE OF “GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS NEUTRALITY” FROM PARIS PRIORITIES, IS IT REALLY DOABLE OR THE BEST PATH TO THE 1.6-2.0 TARGETS:
This is a tricky issue and one with much uncertainty. There are groups, many in the private sector, that are auguring for a “technological fix” or in other terms a “geo-engendering” of our planet on a mass scale. This, in effect, would employ new means to “capture” greenhouse gasses by storing them underground. Other technologies would include taking CO2 out of the air.
None of this has yet to be demonstrated as economically proven or on a mass scale feasible. The consensus was to informally embrace this concept especially since much of the funding for this approach will likely come from very rich persons who strongly believe that this is a key path to address warming since traditional approaches are not likely to work.
But others argue that messing with nature could have unforseen consequences. Final judgement: This approach is on the policy table but no new technology has proven to be a “quick fix” anytime soon. Finally, many experts believe that stopping deforestation, planting new trees, protecting the oceans, and letting photosynthesis do its job is a better, perhaps cheaper option, with many side benefits and within the capability of poorer large forested nations. The question is the money and the commitment on all sides there to make greening of the globe work.
OPTIMISM OR PESSIMISM BALANCE OF THE ACCORD AND ITS DO ABILITY:
The key answer is that the Paris accords taken together are a major advancement towards fully addressing climate change on the part of the entire globe –developed and developing nations – which in my view, is the absolute “sine que non” for a real chance to mitigate the catastrophic consequences within the lifetime of most on this planet. It is the necessary condition for a political and economic consensus going forward to build upon if future leaders recognize the dire alternative and are willing to pay the price for saving this planet.
THE DIVIDE BETWEEN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING NATIONS ON WAY FORWARD:
As noted above, the masterful diplomacy of president Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in getting the truly key developing nations on board, namely India, China, and others, moved the conference away from confrontation, which was never absent from the meeting. This was a key element in getting the final almost complete consensus and ,even more important, a sense of momentum and a framework for future progress. The introduction of a 5 year review progress was also a necessary element to give some hope of holding nations pledges to the fire, getting them to think of ways to improve their own pledges, and provide needed greater transparency to the agreement. The benefit will be future actions that will undoubtedly be required as we learn more of the science and have better tools to make improvements.
QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE:
Yes this was a historic achievement but the success, as always, rests in the hands of, we hope, wise leaders and wise and empowered global citizens. We need better and more resourced international institutions to help shape our global response to the high risks and challenges to our globe, and the key test of this new international capability will be climate change, and the other will be new efforts at dealing with nuclear-proliferation.
Within America we need to better educate our citizens, of which nearly a third are skeptical of climate change due to the power of true crazies, including Republicans running for president, those with massive amounts of money, from the coal and oil industries, and right-wing think tanks, along with the lack of our mass media to say the truth in front of those that argue nonsense about science like the current Chairman of the Senate environmental and Public Works Senate committee James M. Inhofe. He said that the Paris talks were “full of hot air.” The danger to our nation and world are people like Inhofe and the people behind him, as they undermine American values, and our real security and global leadership by their insanity, ignorance and greed.
We will need better leaders if our real national and global security is to be safeguarded and enhanced. We will examine in the future how the Paris agreements are implemented.
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“All local leaders, investors, economic and social actors, citizens, must understand that the things have changed.” –Hollande
“We are the first generation to feel climate change and the last that can do something about it.” –President Obama
Harry C. Blaney III
With the opening in Paris of the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the ecological stakes are the highest, not just for dealing with the serious catastrophic impact of climate change, but also the ability of the international community to deal with high existential risks for the entire planet. As President Obama has noted, this generation is the last that can possibly make a difference. But frankly, if participating parties do not all contribute to mitigating the danger, and let bitterness and self-interest overcome the common peril, then we are doomed.
As a person who has held positions in government that dealt with global environmental issues, and wrote about climate change four decades ago as part of what I characterized then as a “world at risk,” we are still sadly debating the reality of this at home, and even abroad. There are strong moneyed groups that are not just “climate deniers” but actively working to destroy any effort to acknowledge the problem and above all do anything about it.
The hopes are that somehow an agreement can be reach and likely some document will emerge but will it be enough to really have people and nations and institutions and the world’s power brokers on board? That last question in not likely to be answered for another decade. But you will know when each country adds or does not add to the resources necessary to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gasses and adds to the technology that can replace fossil fuel, and our oceans and forests are protected and made whole.
To simplify, somewhat, a very complicated problem, can’t be solved by just one action like a carbon tax, or one country like China or America taking initiative. The path towards addressing climate change is doing globally a million things, doing them well, and doing them as quickly as possible.
The reason to care is very simple; we are at the 11th hour of acting and beyond that is total disaster from the analysis of the best minds in this field on the globe. Yet if one had to bet, it is now sadly possible that the Paris negotiations will fail as we see initially a repeat of some of the vindictive and inaction that took place in the last meeting in Copenhagen. People came to avoid action and accuse others, and did nothing themselves. But from the speeches and some early indication progress and perhaps compromise, may yet emerge. The earth has already paid a price in floods, droughts, hurricanes, heat waves, starvation, spread of disease, loss of forests, and habitat for the earth’s diverse species on land and in the ocean.
Yet, our global political and institutional system was not, and may not be up to the task of acting together and with the necessary political and economic commitment to get the job done. I’d first blame weak leaders and the corrosive and myopic politics back home, not only in America but in many other countries as well. But equally, one could attribute the blame then and now to the powerful forces of the “polluters,” corrupt politicians, and countries and companies that profit from dirty energy, the destruction of forests, and the plundering of the ocean’s resources.
Real progress will not be made unless we recognize and act in light of today’s realities of what is possible and what can be achieved via some compromise.
The second factor that needs to be highlighted is recognizing the absolute actions that are necessary to get the world community on a clear path towards sustainability, and “institutionalizing” the process of stewardship of the earth beyond words and pieces of paper.
Here are some key points the reader can look for that may indicate we have returned to some rationality:
– The first is to recognize what ,in reality, a country or a political leader can or cannot do and work to maximize what is possible. For example, President Obama will never get the Senate to ratify a binding Climate Change treaty. But what he can do, and is doing is by executive authority and regulatory power, and diplomacy is achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gasses. So some countries are trying to find a modality that will permit less than “legal” commitments to achieve the necessary reductions.
– The second reality is the need to go beyond the old destructive North-South divide and the useless blame game that some developing nations are playing to push the whole effort of solving climate change upon the “rich countries,” and absolving themselves thereby of doing nothing but asking for amounts of money they are not likely to get. And on the other hand, the need for the “rich” countries to recognize that real major support for the transition to a clean energy economy in the developing world will not take place without some external significant investment, probably from public and private sources, the EU, World Bank, and IMF. Sadly, it is unlikely that the Republican dominated climate denial Congress will add much to this effort and “other ways” will need to be found to contribute to a “global solution.” If both sides accept they ALL must make a concrete effort instead of throwing bricks at each other, and recognize that the developing world is most vulnerable, will we make real progress.
– The third outcome that one needs to look at is the acceptance of the need to reform or create new capabilities and responsibilities and resources on a broad international institutional scale that empowers old or new institutions to undertake major global commons repair and renewal. The creation of the most transparent and reliable organization to hold countries and institutions accountable for their actions or in-actions on a frequent basis, staffed by the most prestigious scientists, economists, and other experts, led by the highest profile hard headed global leader available, is also necessary.
There are clearly a thousand things that need to be done, like bring forth new clean technologies, restore denuded forests, invest in closing down dirty energy sources as quickly as possible, make cars and planes more efficient and less polluting, put in place more quickly and efficient machinery and conserving resources, making houses, buildings, and factories more conserving of energy, etc. Great strives have been made by London School of Economics scholars among others, in indicating that such efforts can be economic, grow our economies, and even save in the long run our earth and make our societies more sustainable.
In the coming days, the indicator of success and failure or in between, will emerge but in Pogo’s words “it is us” that must take responsibility if we are to save our next generation, and those that follow. Diplomacy and leadership is now key. Keep watch.
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BOOK REVIEW: THE MIND OF THE AFRICAN STRONGMAN BY AMBASSADOR HERMAN “HANK” COHEN
by Harry C. Blaney III
Africa has always been one of the most difficult continents to fully understand and to carry out diplomacy with any lasting effect. It is also the place where we have needed to be engaged with out best people and with effective assistance programs that reached the general population and not squandered or wasted especially on wars and civil strife.
This book “The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, 2015, paperback), is filed with person-to-person meetings and dialogues of the key leaders of Africa over decades and provides Ambassador Cohen’s wise observations of their views, weaknesses, and strengths. In the process the reader gets an insight of the many difficulties of achieving prosperity for the people and also the many barriers to development and real democracy.
Not speared in this book is the many conflicts between African states and internal conflicts that caused so much suffering like the civil war between Liberia’s two strongmen Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe, which brought great carnage and deaths to the people of that nation. And as Cohen noted “Liberia was totally destroyed.”
Ambassador Cohen knows better than just about anyone of his generation and beyond the challenges and pitfalls of dealing with the wide variety of conditions, forces and wide range of leaders of African nations especially in their post-colonial era. In this book he sets forth as good a look at the leaders that shaped or misshaped that contentment in this key post-colonial period.
The books chapters are like a short history of African leadership from a personal perspective of a U.S. diplomat who was engaged intensively with these leaders and the problems of that period. So we gain an insight on the strengths and weaknesses and difficulties covering such countries as Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Zaire, Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, Angola Liberia, and not least South Africa. In each case and in their own chapters these countries’ first leaders are portrayed with incisive insight and their inner personalities are given some light.
Africa has a long history of upheavals, conflicts and abject poverty, the hope was that progress could be made by independence. That promise however was moved forward in some cases and sadly in others was held back by a multiplicity of problems and poor leadership and corruption.
In Cohen’s summing up chapter he says “The African leaders portrayed in this volume were typical of their generation. Their outlooks were somewhat contradictory. They rejected colonial-era institutions, yet they adopted some colonial-era socioeconomic theories.” ”He adds: “The newly independent African nations of the early 1960s rejected Western multiparty democracy and all the trappings of open societies. He notes they also used the African “tradition of consensus building, but one party sates.
On the economic side Cohen notes that many leaders had an economic outlook of “African socialism” taken from the UK and French socialist parties they knew. The result were often corruption, diversion of resources away from priority areas like health and education and toward maintaining the one party state authoritarian rule and their constituencies. The consequence was “A vicious cycle….that caused most African countries to suffer from negative growth for over two decades.” He notes that in the 1980s external efforts to reform and help African countries “succeeded over a decade in reversing economic decline in most of the countries.”
He argues that with a new generation of leaders, there was more demand for freedom and often it resulted in less authoritarian rule along with the rise of independent media, and rise of some opposition parties and some private enterprise. Looking at 2015 Cohen notes that Africa was making progress on political and economic fronts. But he holds that in some countries the process was far from full democracy.
In this last chapter Cohen makes an argument for the need for democracy as a means of stability, growth and fairness and the best leaders are those that face the next election and thus do not fear so much for “day-to-day security.”
Cohen addresses also the use by early (and now recent) leaders of “illegitimate surrogate wars. Here I think is one of the key points of criticism of the African political and security landscape and one of the causes of great poverty and deprivation. He makes the point that the African Union will expel any government that comes to power through a military coup, but the AF “continues to ignore the illegitimate surrogate wars that are so devastating to life and property.”
Cohen ends with the hope for the development of good leaders that understand the needs of their people and are modern in their outlook on technology, listen to their people, and wake up in the morning determined to do good. He points to South Africa as a possible modal for other African countries.
American policy he notes is taking a positive attitude towards developments in Africa. But he seems to think we have taken too light a hand and avoided “blunt talk,” letting the World Bank and IMF do the hard words. He ends by writing that “President Obama appears more inclined that his predecessors toward “tough love” with respect to Africa.” He hopes President Obama will talk more openly about corruption and human rights abuses. He argues he can get away with a harder line and urge a move towards good governance. He worries also about growing unemployed youth becoming “explosive.” Amb. Cohen says there are grounds for some optimism in Africa “in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
This book, for those interested in the recent history of Africa and its many problems and the role and impact of it’s early leadership and what inheritance they gave to Africa, will make for exciting and insightful reading and a lot of thought about the landscape of Africa today.
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The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, Washington DC, 2015, paperback. available from Amazon
Washington DC, 2015, paperback. We welcome your comments!