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.

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.

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.

THE ORLANDO DEBATE AND BEYOND: MADNESS VERSES RATIONALITY IN A HIGH RISK WORLD

THE ORLANDO DEBATE AND BEYOND: MADNESS VERSES RATIONALITY IN A HIGH RISK WORLD

By:  Harry C. Blaney III

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INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS

After the tragedy in Orlando, our political leaders took to the podiums and social media to express their condolences and suggest ways to move forward.  Below you will find a compilation of some of the most indicative recent quotes grouped by topic (Muslims in America, Gun Control, and Combating ISIS) with the name of the speaker noted before each quote.

Anyone who reads the words, Tweets, remarks, and speeches of those who aspire to lead our nation, including those found elsewhere on this blog, can only wonder what dichotomous universe we must be living in.

Most recently Donald Trump, as we all know, tried to use the Orlando killings to divide our nation and increase hate of the “Other.”  Time and time again, he has scapegoated our Muslim citizens and proposed acts that are contrary to our constitution – to which, if president, he would have to swear support.  The unforgivable statements by Trump, who has a history of bigotry, of disparaging others, of ethnic and gender discrimination, and of claiming that Obama is not a natural born citizen, now he implies that our President’s acts are maybe not those of someone who loves his country.

Trump’s accusations against Muslims – singling them out for special observation and banning coming into the country – are all the acts of bigotry and are contrary to American values and clearly illegal.   President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders have all spoken about how this stance is contrary to American law and values.

With his statement below, Trump seems to support the proliferation of guns, tying himself closely to the NRA.  It indicates that he has no problem with mass assault rifles, even by eliminating access by those found legally insane or incompetent, or even to potential terrorists on our “No Fly Lists.”  Now there are reports of pressure on the GOP nominee to moderate that stance, and Trump announced a meeting with the NRA.  After the filibuster last night, Congressional leaders said they might consider some kind of ban for those on the “Terrorist Lists” whatever that means.  Nothing however on assault rifles.

The final section of quotes addresses Obama’s ISIS strategy and includes a point by point refutation by President Obama of Trump and others’ unsound views and assumptions that stem from a lack of strategic understanding of the complex national security policy landscape and ignores, above all, the cost in both American and civilian lives and treasure. It also is oblivious of the possibility that the humanitarian costs from any all-out assault on the ground in Syria and Iraq could be greater than we have so far seen.  But we and other nations do need to protect the refugees and provide assistance urgently.

MUSLIMS IN AMERICA

TRUMP:
“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” (Rally in Birmingham, AL, November 21, 2015)

 “I think Islam hates us…[the war is against radical Islam, but] it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.” (Interview with Anderson Cooper, March 10, 2016)

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” (Press Release, December 7, 2015)

          When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.

After a full, impartial and long overdue security assessment, we will develop a responsible immigration policy that serves the interests and values of America.

We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.

Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions.

I refuse to allow America to become a place where gay people, Christian people, and Jewish people, are the targets of persecution and intimidation by Radical Islamic preachers of hate and violence. ….    It’s not just a national security issue. It is a quality of life issue.

We need to tell the truth, also, about how Radical Islam is coming to our shores.

We are importing Radical Islamic Terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system — and through an intelligence community held back by our president….

I want us all to work together, including in partnership with our Muslim communities. But Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad – and they do know where they are.

OBAMA:
This argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.

That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.

But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.

We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?

We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.

It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.

This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.

The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.

You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country.

HILLARY CLINTON:
Inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and threatening to ban the families and friends of Muslim Americans as well as millions of Muslim business people and tourists from entering our country hurts the vast majority of Muslims who love freedom and hate terror.

So does saying that we have to start special surveillance on our fellow Americans because of their religion. It’s no coincidence that hate crimes against American Muslims and mosques have tripled after Paris and San Bernardino. That’s wrong. And it’s also dangerous. It plays right into the terrorists’ hands.

Still, as I have said before, none of us can close our eyes to the fact that we do face enemies who use their distorted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. They’d take us all back to the Stone Age if they could, just as they have in parts of Iraq and Syria….

And finally, finally let me remind us all, I remember, I remember how it felt, on the day after 9/11, and I bet many of you do as well. Americans from all walks of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th and in the days and weeks and months that followed. We had each others’ backs. I was a senator from New York. There was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild our city .

President Bush went to a Muslim community center just six days after the attacks to send a message of unity and solidarity. To anyone who wanted to take out their anger on our Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens, he said, “That should not, and that will not, stand in America.” It is time to get back to the spirit of those days, spirit of 9/12. Let’s make sure we keep looking to the best of our country, to the best within each of us. Democratic and Republican presidents have risen to the occasion in the face of tragedy. That is what we are called to do my friends and I am so confident and optimistic that is exactly what we will do.

BERNIE SANDERS:
“The Muslim people did not commit this act. A man named Omar Mateen did. To blame an entire religion for the acts of a single individual is nothing less than bigotry, and that is not what this country is supposed to be about.”

PAUL RYAN:
“I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. It’s not reflective of our principles not just as a party but as a country.  This is a war with radical Islam. It’s not a war with Islam. Muslims are our partners.  Ultimately, we ought to have the tools where we have a security test, not a religious test, a security test, and we think that’s the preferred route to go.” (CNN, June 14, 2016)

GUN CONTROL

TRUMP:
“If you had some guns in that club the night that this took place, if you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had. If people in that room had guns with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at him… right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having”

“We’re getting rid of gun-free zones. OK. We’re getting rid of them” (Speech to the NRA, May 20, 2016)

OBAMA :
If we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from home-grown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.

It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have.

People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons.

Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military — despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

HILLARY:
Even as we make sure our security officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attack.

And that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino.

I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets and we may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things.

If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.

And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show.

And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.

Now, I know some will say that assault weapons and background checks are totally separate issues having nothing to do with terrorism. Well, in Orlando and San Bernardino terrorists used assault weapons, the AR-15. And they used it to kill Americans. That was the same assault weapon used to kill those little children in Sandy Hook.

We have to make it harder for people who should not have those weapons of war. And that may not stop every shooting or every terrorist attack, but it will stop some and it will save lives and it will protect our first responders.

And I want you to know, I’m not going to stop fighting for these kinds of provisions.

ON ISIS STRATEGY:
For this topic, we have also included a quote by Roger Cohen, a columnist for The New York Times from his recent column titled “Orlando and Trump’s America” (June 13, 2016), to show how Trump’s vitriol and shallow analysis has even permeated the media and given solace to those that would be happy to mindlessly put American troops on the ground but do not take into account its cost and risks for possible “blowback.”

COHEN: “President Barack Obama described the shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate.” He made clear his disapproval of gun laws. He called for solidarity. He said nothing about ISIS, or the way the Islamic State’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq reinforces the charismatic potency of its ideological appeal, disseminated from that base through the Internet. …  He also said this: “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

“Yes, to have actively done nothing in Syria over more than five years of war — so allowing part of the country to become an ISIS stronghold, contributing to a massive refugee crisis in Europe, acquiescing to slaughter and displacement on a devastating scale, undermining America’s word in the world, and granting open season for President Vladimir Putin to strut his stuff — amounts to the greatest foreign policy failure of the Obama administration.

It has made the world far more dangerous. I hope for the best but fear the victory of the politics of anger in America and Europe.”

TRUMP:
Well I said they don’t know much because they’re not winning, I tell you this, they’re not winning for a different reason. I think Obama is hurting them… From what I hear, it’s being run from the White House. It’s all being run from the White House. I’ve spoken to certain generals— I’ll keep it quiet, highly respected people. We could knock them out fast. (Via Real Clear Politics, June 5, 2016).

“Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” (MSNBC Town Hall, March 30, 2016)

 “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families” (Fox & Friends, December 2, 2015)

OBAMA:
At the outset, I want to reiterate our objective in this fight. Our mission is to destroy ISIL. Since I last updated the American people on our campaign two months ago, we’ve seen that this continues to be a difficult fight, but we are making significant progress.

Over the past two months, I’ve authorized a series of steps to ratchet up our fight against ISIL. Additional U.S. personnel, including special forces in Syria to assist local forces battling ISIL there, additional advisers to work more closely with Iraqi security forces and additional assets, including attack helicopters and additional support for local forces in northern Iraq. Our aircraft continue to launch from the U.S.S. Harry Truman, now in the Mediterranean. Our B-52 bombers are hitting ISIL with precision strikes. Targets are being identified and hit even more quickly. So far, 13,000 airstrikes.

This campaign at this stage is firing on all cylinders and as a result, ISIL is under more pressure than ever before. ISIL continues to lose key leaders. This includes Salman Abu Shabib, the senior military leader in Mosul, who plotted external attacks, Shaker Wahib, ISIL’s military leader in Iraq’s Anbar Province, and Maher al-Bilawi, the top ISIL commander in Fallujah.

So far we have taken out more than 120 top ISIL leaders and commanders. And our message is clear, that if you target American and our allies, you will not be safe. You will never be safe.

ISIL continues to lose ground in Iraq. In the past two months, local forces in Iraq with coalition support have liberated the western town of Rutba and have also pushed up the Euphrates River Valley, liberating the strategic town of Hiit and breaking the ISIL siege of Haditha.

Iraqis forces have surrounded Fallujah and begun to move into the city. Meanwhile in the north, Iraqi forces continue to push up the Tigris River Valley, making gains around and now preparing to tighten the noose around ISIL in Mosul.

ISIL has now lost nearly half of the populated territory that it once controlled in Iraq and it will lose more.

ISIL continues to lose ground in Syria as well. Assisted by our special operations forces, the coalition of local forces is now… tightening around ISIL in Raqqah as well.

In short, our coalition continues to be on offense. ISIL is on defense and it has now been a full year since ISIL has been able to mount a major successful offensive operation on either Syria or Iraq.

As ISIL continues to lose territory, it also continues to lose the money that it is — that is its life blood.

As a result of our strikes against its oil infrastructure and supply lines, we believe that we’ve cut ISIL’s revenue from oil by millions of dollars per month. In destroying the storage sites where they keep their cash, we’ve deprived ISIL of many millions more.

Thanks with great work of Secretary Lew and many others here today and working with nations and financial institutions around the world, ISIL is now effectively cut off from the international financial system. Cutting off ISIL’s money may not be as dramatic as military strikes, but it is critically important and we’re seeing the results.

ISIL’s cash reserves are down, it has had to cut salaries for its fighters, it’s resorting to more extortion of those trapped in its grip. And by ISIL’s own admission, some of its own leaders have been caught stealing cash and gold. Once again, ISIL’s true nature has been revealed. These are not religious warriors, they are thugs and they are thieves.…

ISIL’s ranks are shrinking as well. Their morale is sinking. As one defender — as one defector said, ISIL is not bringing Islam to the world and people need to know that. Thanks to international efforts, the flow of foreign fighters, including from America, to Syria and Iraq has plummeted. In fact, our intelligence community now assesses that the ranks of ISIL fighter has been reduced to the lowest levels in more than two and a half years.

Even as we continue to destroy ISIL militarily, we’re addressing larger forces that have allowed these terrorists to gain traction in parts of the world. With regard to Iraq, this means helping Iraqis stabilize liberated communities and promote inclusive governance so ISIL cannot return.

With regard to Syria, it means our continued support for the fragile cessation of hostilities there. The cessation of hostilities has not stopped all or even most of the hardship on the Syrian people, the hardship on civilians. And the Assad regime has been the principal culprit in violating the cessation of hostilities.

ISIL and al-Nusra, which is Al Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, also continue to terrorize Syrians. But as fragile and incomplete as the cessation is, it has saved lives and it has allowed the delivery of some life-saving aid to Syrians who are in desperate need. And as difficult as it is, we will continue to push for a political process that can end the civil war and result in a transition away from Assad.

Beyond Syria and Libya — beyond Syria and Iraq, ISIL is also losing ground in Libya. Forces of the Libyan Unity Government are going after ISIL in their stronghold in Sirte and we’ll continue to assist the new Libyan government as it works to secure its country.

(Note: Unless otherwise noted all quotes above of President Obama come from his National Security Speech on June 14, 2016 and more recent reaction to Orlando; quotes from Hillary Clinton come from her National Security Speech on June 13, 2016, and all Donald Trump quotes are from his Foreign Policy Speech on June 13, 2016 and other statements as cited.)

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TRUMP AND MORTAL DANGER TO OUR NATION AND WORLD: CRITIQUE AND ANALYSIS

TRUMP AND MORTAL DANGER TO OUR NATION AND WORLD: CRITIQUE AND ANALYSIS

By: Harry C. Blaney III

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Courtesy Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

“The countries in our world, our beautiful world, have been absolutely abusing us and taking advantage of us…So if they’re rattled in a friendly way, we’re gonna have great relationships with these countries. But if they’re rattled in a friendly way, that’s a good thing.” – Donald Trump, Press Conference in Bismarck, ND, May 26, 2016

“It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting ISIS run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.” – Hillary Clinton, Speech in San Diego, CA, June 2, 2016.  See full text here.

One of the main issues that needs greater examination and attention in this campaign, not just by professionals but also by every citizen, is the issue of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the entire world should have an interest in what Donald Trump might do as president. Could he begin a nuclear winter with a foolish nuclear exchange that would wipe out much of humanity around the world also? It is crystal clear that Trump’s temperament and inexperience could make him a bomb waiting to go off, as exemplified by the cartoon at the top on this post.

His positions not only on nuclear weapons and their role are at best absurd and at worst in the realm of the preposterous and irrational. Beyond the specific view of nuclear weapons in their traditional strategic role as deterrence, Trump has moved to the imbecilic level of seeing them as a viable threat or bullying tool, and even has proposed that other nations – like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia – have these weapons (though he has more recently walked back these statements). For decades, the leading nations and most of the world have worked to keep these weapons in check with reductions, confidence building measures, early warnings, and arms control agreements and efforts that move to their eventual elimination.

The problem is compounded by Trump’s total ignorance, not just of the national security and foreign policy issues of the most gravity, but also of anything other than how to get others to fund his construction projects, other efforts and schemes like Trump University, and degrading others.  The other concern has to be his temperament and his congenital habit of lying or just eschewing factual accuracy, which shows a total disregard of truth, rationality, and respect for decency.

Hillary’s speech on June 2nd says much of what needs to be said. She went as far as to say that: “Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies…This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin. We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands. We cannot let him roll the dice with America.” The problem she has – and we all do – is how to get the average citizen to grasp how serious it is to our security to have a man like Trump, who has implied that he would bully our allies while admiring our authoritarian adversaries, with his hands on “The Button.”

Some of the newer and most outrageous Trump quotes on foreign and national security issues and more can be found on this blog here.  Below we have listed a series of Trump’s policy positions and how Hillary combatted them in her speech.

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families” – Donald Trump on Fox & Friends, December 2, 2015

“So it really matters that Donald Trump says things that go against our deepest-held values. It matters when he says he’ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists. During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

“I think NATO is obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger — much larger than Russia is today. I’m not saying Russia is not a threat…But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism. And NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism. NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism…And what I’m saying is that we pay, number one, a totally disproportionate share of NATO. We’re spending — the biggest alliance share is paid for by us, disproportionate to other countries…What I’m saying is NATO is obsolete. NATO is — is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive for the United States, disproportionately so. And we should readjust NATO” – Donald Trump, ABC’s This Week, March 27, 2016

“That’s the power of allies.  And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.  Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them. They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength. If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

“Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly, possibly?” – Donald Trump on the use of nuclear weapons to combat ISIS in the Middle East or even in Europe, MSNBC Town Hall, March 30, 2016

“He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

Please stay tuned to our new posts on the campaign and international issues and send  any quotes of the active candidates on security and foreign affairs with their citations that we may have missed to nationalsecurity@ciponline.org  Sign up at the upper right for regular but not often updates on this and related issues.

We welcome your comments below!

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.

AMERICAN STRATEGY AND THE CONTROVERSY OVER  “DON’T DO STUPID STUFF'”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has started attacking President Obama's "don't do stupid stuff" strategy.
President Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” foreign policy has come under fire recently.

By Harry C. Blaney III

Recently there seems to have been a movement to attack President Obama over his attempt to explain in shorthand how important it is to not act in ways that contribute to or worsen a problem. While others (the usual neo-con suspects) initiated the criticism, Hillary Clinton this week decided to add to the pile with her statements in an Atlantic article. Now, others have joined her, perhaps hoping to ride on her coattails to juicy positions in her hoped-for administration.

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