President Obama’s Reflective and Encouraging Final Address to the United Nations in Light of Our Presidential Debates!

Via The Miami Herald


by Harry C. Blaney III

In light of the importance of Obama’s speech to the United Nations and the current presidential debates, both the first and those to come, we might reflect on how the Obama Administration and Secretary John Kerry have tried to shape our international landscape. It might be helpful to reflect on that speech in the context of the current debate:

 President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly is one of his best both in looking at our difficult and demanding global landscape, but also at his ideas of ways forward. I especially like his emphasis on the danger of inequality, and leaving the workers and I would add the “least among us,” behind and need of addressing their concerns. His pointing to the dangers of hate and ethnic conflict that must be addressed was right on.

I think among his quotes I like most are these:

“We are all stakeholders in this international system, and it calls upon all of us to invest in the success of institutions to which we belong.  And the good news is, is that many nations have shown what kind of progress is possible when we make those commitments.” …….

And: “In order to move forward, though, we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course correction.  As too often, those trumpeting the benefits of globalization have ignored inequality within and among nations; have ignored the enduring appeal of ethnic and sectarian identities; have left international institutions ill-equipped, underfunded, under-resourced, in order to handle transnational challenges.”

In light of the current debate on foreign affairs we think this speech helps set a context for understanding better the challenges we face abroad and indeed at home.  We posted on our Rethinking National Security blog on the text of this speech but neglected sending it in a full post and it deserved a wider hearing.  We will continue with commentary on positions taken while adding as we have for many months quotes from the presidential campaign trail on foreign and national security issues.

TEXT OF UN SPEECH:

“Mr. President; Mr. Secretary General; fellow delegates; ladies and gentlemen:  As I address this hall as President for the final time, let me recount the progress that we’ve made these last eight years.

From the depths of the greatest financial crisis of our time, we coordinated our response to avoid further catastrophe and return the global economy to growth.  We’ve taken away terrorist safe havens, strengthened the nonproliferation regime, resolved the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy.  We opened relations with Cuba, helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest warm, and we welcome a democratically elected leader of Myanmar to this Assembly.  Our assistance is helping people feed themselves, care for the sick, power communities across Africa, and promote models of development rather than dependence.  And we have made international institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund more representative, while establishing a framework to protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.

This is important work.  It has made a real difference in the lives of our people.  And it could not have happened had we not worked together.  And yet, around the globe we are seeing the same forces of global integration that have made us interdependent also expose deep fault lines in the existing international order.

We see it in the headlines every day.  Around the world, refugees flow across borders in flight from brutal conflict.  Financial disruptions continue to weigh upon our workers and entire communities.  Across vast swaths of the Middle East, basic security, basic order has broken down.  We see too many governments muzzling journalists, and quashing dissent, and censoring the flow of information.  Terrorist networks use social media to prey upon the minds of our youth, endangering open societies and spurring anger against innocent immigrants and Muslims.  Powerful nations contest the constraints placed on them by international law.

This is the paradox that defines our world today.  A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before, and yet our societies are filled with uncertainty, and unease, and strife.  Despite enormous progress, as people lose trust in institutions, governing becomes more difficult and tensions between nations become more quick to surface.

And so I believe that at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration.  Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.

I want to suggest to you today that we must go forward, and not backward.  I believe that as imperfect as they are, the principles of open markets and accountable governance, of democracy and human rights and international law that we have forged remain the firmest foundation for human progress in this century.  I make this argument not based on theory or ideology, but on facts — facts that all too often, we forget in the immediacy of current events.

Here’s the most important fact:  The integration of our global economy has made life better for billions of men, women and children.  Over the last 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut from nearly 40 percent of humanity to under 10 percent.  That’s unprecedented.  And it’s not an abstraction.  It means children have enough to eat; mothers don’t die in childbirth.

Meanwhile, cracking the genetic code promises to cure diseases that have plagued us for centuries.  The Internet can deliver the entirety of human knowledge to a young girl in a remote village on a single hand-held device.  In medicine and in manufacturing, in education and communications, we’re experiencing a transformation of how human beings live on a scale that recalls the revolutions in agriculture and industry.  And as a result, a person born today is more likely to be healthy, to live longer, and to have access to opportunity than at any time in human history.

Moreover, the collapse of colonialism and communism has allowed more people than ever before to live with the freedom to choose their leaders.  Despite the real and troubling areas where freedom appears in retreat, the fact remains that the number of democracies around the world has nearly doubled in the last 25 years.

In remote corners of the world, citizens are demanding respect for the dignity of all people no matter their gender, or race, or religion, or disability, or sexual orientation, and those who deny others dignity are subject to public reproach.  An explosion of social media has given ordinary people more ways to express themselves, and has raised people’s expectations for those of us in power.  Indeed, our international order has been so successful that we take it as a given that great powers no longer fight world wars; that the end of the Cold War lifted the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; that the battlefields of Europe have been replaced by peaceful union; that China and India remain on a path of remarkable growth.

I say all this not to whitewash the challenges we face, or to suggest complacency.  Rather, I believe that we need to acknowledge these achievements in order to summon the confidence to carry this progress forward and to make sure that we do not abandon those very things that have delivered this progress.

In order to move forward, though, we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course correction.  As too often, those trumpeting the benefits of globalization have ignored inequality within and among nations; have ignored the enduring appeal of ethnic and sectarian identities; have left international institutions ill-equipped, underfunded, under-resourced, in order to handle transnational challenges.

And as these real problems have been neglected, alternative visions of the world have pressed forward both in the wealthiest countries and in the poorest:  Religious fundamentalism; the politics of ethnicity, or tribe, or sect; aggressive nationalism; a crude populism — sometimes from the far left, but more often from the far right — which seeks to restore what they believe was a better, simpler age free of outside contamination.

We cannot dismiss these visions.  They are powerful.  They reflect dissatisfaction among too many of our citizens.  I do not believe those visions can deliver security or prosperity over the long term, but I do believe that these visions fail to recognize, at a very basic level, our common humanity.  Moreover, I believe that the acceleration of travel and technology and telecommunications — together with a global economy that depends on a global supply chain — makes it self-defeating ultimately for those who seek to reverse this progress.  Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.

So the answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration.  Instead, we must work together to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared, and that the disruptions — economic, political, and cultural — that are caused by integration are squarely addressed.  This is not the place for a detailed policy blueprint, but let me offer in broad strokes those areas where I believe we must do better together.

It starts with making the global economy work better for all people and not just for those at the top.  While open markets, capitalism have raised standards of living around the globe, globalization combined with rapid progress and technology has also weakened the position of workers and their ability to secure a decent wage.  In advanced economies like my own, unions have been undermined, and many manufacturing jobs have disappeared.  Often, those who benefit most from globalization have used their political power to further undermine the position of workers.

In developing countries, labor organizations have often been suppressed, and the growth of the middle class has been held back by corruption and underinvestment.  Mercantilist policies pursued by governments with export-driven models threaten to undermine the consensus that underpins global trade.  And meanwhile, global capital is too often unaccountable — nearly $8 trillion stashed away in tax havens, a shadow banking system that grows beyond the reach of effective oversight.

A world in which one percent of humanity controls as much wealth as the other 99 percent will never be stable.  I understand that the gaps between rich and poor are not new, but just as the child in a slum today can see the skyscraper nearby, technology now allows any person with a smartphone to see how the most privileged among us live and the contrast between their own lives and others.  Expectations rise, then, faster than governments can deliver, and a pervasive sense of injustice undermine people’s faith in the system.

So how do we fix this imbalance?  We cannot unwind integration any more than we can stuff technology back into a box.  Nor can we look to failed models of the past.  If we start resorting to trade wars, market distorting subsidies, beggar thy neighbor policies, an overreliance on natural resources instead of innovation — these approaches will make us poorer, collectively, and they are more like to lead to conflict.  And the stark contrast between, say, the success of the Republic of Korea and the wasteland of North Korea shows that central, planned control of the economy is a dead end.

But I do believe there’s another path — one that fuels growth and innovation, and offers the clearest route to individual opportunity and national success.  It does not require succumbing to a soulless capitalism that benefits only the few, but rather recognizes that economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor, and growth is broadly based. And that means respecting the rights of workers so they can organize into independent unions and earn a living wage.  It means investing in our people — their skills, their education, their capacity to take an idea and turn it into a business.  It means strengthening the safety net that protects our people from hardship and allows them to take more risks — to look for a new job, or start a new venture.

These are the policies that I’ve pursued here in the United States, and with clear results.  American businesses have created now 15 million new jobs.  After the recession, the top one percent of Americans were capturing more than 90 percent of income growth.  But today, that’s down to about half.  Last year, poverty in this country fell at the fastest rate in nearly 50 years.  And with further investment in infrastructure and early childhood education and basic research, I’m confident that such progress will continue.

So just as I’ve pursued these measures here at home, so has the United States worked with many nations to curb the excesses of capitalism — not to punish wealth, but to prevent repeated crises that can destroy it.  That’s why we’ve worked with other nations to create higher and clearer standards for banking and taxation — because a society that asks less of oligarchs than ordinary citizens will rot from within.  That’s why we’ve pushed for transparency and cooperation in rooting out corruption, and tracking illicit dollars, because markets create more jobs when they’re fueled by hard work, and not the capacity to extort a bribe.  That’s why we’ve worked to reach trade agreements that raise labor standards and raise environmental standards, as we’ve done with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so that the benefits are more broadly shared.

And just as we benefit by combatting inequality within our countries, I believe advanced economies still need to do more to close the gap between rich and poor nations around the globe.  This is difficult politically.  It’s difficult to spend on foreign assistance.  But I do not believe this is charity.  For the small fraction of what we spent at war in Iraq we could support institutions so that fragile states don’t collapse in the first place, and invest in emerging economies that become markets for our goods.  It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

And that’s why we need to follow through on our efforts to combat climate change.  If we don’t act boldly, the bill that could come due will be mass migrations, and cities submerged and nations displaced, and food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair.  The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition.  And there must be a sense of urgency about bringing the agreement into force, and helping poorer countries leapfrog destructive forms of energy.

So, for the wealthiest countries, a Green Climate Fund should only be the beginning.  We need to invest in research and provide market incentives to develop new technologies, and then make these technologies accessible and affordable for poorer countries.  And only then can we continue lifting all people up from poverty without condemning our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair.

So we need new models for the global marketplace, models that are inclusive and sustainable.  And in the same way, we need models of governance that are inclusive and accountable to ordinary people.

I recognize not every country in this hall is going to follow the same model of governance.  I do not think that America can — or should — impose our system of government on other countries.  But there appears to be growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism right now.  And I want everybody to understand, I am not neutral in that contest.  I believe in a liberal political order — an order built not just through elections and representative government, but also through respect for human rights and civil society, and independent judiciaries and the rule of law.

I know that some countries, which now recognize the power of free markets, still reject the model of free societies.  And perhaps those of us who have been promoting democracy feel somewhat discouraged since the end of the Cold War, because we’ve learned that liberal democracy will not just wash across the globe in a single wave.  It turns out building accountable institutions is hard work — the work of generations.  The gains are often fragile.  Sometimes we take one step forward and then two steps back.  In countries held together by borders drawn by colonial powers, with ethnic enclaves and tribal divisions, politics and elections can sometimes appear to be a zero-sum game.  And so, given the difficulty in forging true democracy in the face of these pressures, it’s no surprise that some argue the future favors the strongman, a top-down model, rather than strong, democratic institutions.

But I believe this thinking is wrong.  I believe the road of true democracy remains the better path.  I believe that in the 21st century, economies can only grow to a certain point until they need to open up — because entrepreneurs need to access information in order to invent; young people need a global education in order to thrive; independent media needs to check the abuses of power.  Without this evolution, ultimately expectations of people will not be met; suppression and stagnation will set in.  And history shows that strongmen are then left with two paths — permanent crackdown, which sparks strife at home, or scapegoating enemies abroad, which can lead to war.

Now, I will admit, my belief that governments serve the individual, and not the other way around, is shaped by America’s story.  Our nation began with a promise of freedom that applied only to the few.  But because of our democratic Constitution, because of our Bill of Rights, because of our ideals, ordinary people were able to organize, and march, and protest, and ultimately, those ideals won out — opened doors for women and minorities and workers in ways that made our economy more productive and turned our diversity into a strength; that gave innovators the chance to transform every area of human endeavor; that made it possible for someone like me to be elected President of the United States.

So, yes, my views are shaped by the specific experiences of America, but I do not think this story is unique to America.  Look at the transformation that’s taken place in countries as different as Japan and Chile, Indonesia, Botswana.  The countries that have succeeded are ones in which people feel they have a stake.

In Europe, the progress of those countries in the former Soviet bloc that embraced democracy stand in clear contrast to those that did not.  After all, the people of Ukraine did not take to the streets because of some plot imposed from abroad.  They took to the streets because their leadership was for sale and they had no recourse.  They demanded change because they saw life get better for people in the Baltics and in Poland, societies that were more liberal, and democratic, and open than their own.

So those of us who believe in democracy, we need to speak out forcefully, because both the facts and history, I believe, are on our side.  That doesn’t mean democracies are without flaws.  It does mean that the cure for what ails our democracies is greater engagement by our citizens — not less.

Yes, in America, there is too much money in politics; too much entrenched partisanship; too little participation by citizens, in part because of a patchwork of laws that makes it harder to vote.  In Europe, a well-intentioned Brussels often became too isolated from the normal push and pull of national politics.  Too often, in capitals, decision-makers have forgotten that democracy needs to be driven by civic engagement from the bottom up, not governance by experts from the top down.  And so these are real problems, and as leaders of democratic governments make the case for democracy abroad, we better strive harder to set a better example at home.

Moreover, every country will organize its government informed by centuries of history, and the circumstances of geography, and the deeply held beliefs of its people.  So I recognize a traditional society may value unity and cohesion more than a diverse country like my own, which was founded upon what, at the time, was a radical idea — the idea of the liberty of individual human beings endowed with certain God-given rights.  But that does not mean that ordinary people in Asia, or Africa, or the Middle East somehow prefer arbitrary rule that denies them a voice in the decisions that can shape their lives.  I believe that spirit is universal.  And if any of you doubt the universality of that desire, listen to the voices of young people everywhere who call out for freedom, and dignity, and the opportunity to control their own lives.

This leads me to the third thing we need to do:  We must reject any forms of fundamentalism, or racism, or a belief in ethnic superiority that makes our traditional identities irreconcilable with modernity.  Instead we need to embrace the tolerance that results from respect of all human beings.

It’s a truism that global integration has led to a collision of cultures; trade, migration, the Internet, all these things can challenge and unsettle our most cherished identities.  We see liberal societies express opposition when women choose to cover themselves.  We see protests responding to Western newspaper cartoons that caricature the Prophet Muhammad.  In a world that left the age of empire behind, we see Russia attempting to recover lost glory through force.  Asian powers debate competing claims of history.  And in Europe and the United States, you see people wrestle with concerns about immigration and changing demographics, and suggesting that somehow people who look different are corrupting the character of our countries.

Now, there’s no easy answer for resolving all these social forces, and we must respect the meaning that people draw from their own traditions — from their religion, from their ethnicity, from their sense of nationhood.  But I do not believe progress is possible if our desire to preserve our identities gives way to an impulse to dehumanize or dominate another group. If our religion leads us to persecute those of another faith, if we jail or beat people who are gay, if our traditions lead us to prevent girls from going to school, if we discriminate on the basis of race or tribe or ethnicity, then the fragile bonds of civilization will fray.  The world is too small, we are too packed together, for us to be able to resort to those old ways of thinking.

We see this mindset in too many parts of the Middle East.  There, so much of the collapse in order has been fueled because leaders sought legitimacy not because of policies or programs but by resorting to persecuting political opposition, or demonizing other religious sects, by narrowing the public space to the mosque, where in too many places perversions of a great faith were tolerated.  These forces built up for years, and are now at work helping to fuel both Syria’s tragic civil war and the mindless, medieval menace of ISIL.

The mindset of sectarianism, and extremism, and bloodletting, and retribution that has been taking place will not be quickly reversed.  And if we are honest, we understand that no external power is going to be able to force different religious communities or ethnic communities to co-exist for long.  But I do believe we have to be honest about the nature of these conflicts, and our international community must continue to work with those who seek to build rather than to destroy.

And there is a military component to that.  It means being united and relentless in destroying networks like ISIL, which show no respect for human life.  But it also means that in a place like Syria, where there’s no ultimate military victory to be won, we’re going to have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence, and deliver aid to those in need, and support those who pursue a political settlement and can see those who are not like themselves as worthy of dignity and respect.

Across the region’s conflicts, we have to insist that all parties recognize a common humanity and that nations end proxy wars that fuel disorder.  Because until basic questions are answered about how communities co-exist, the embers of extremism will continue to burn, countless human beings will suffer — most of all in that region — but extremism will continue to be exported overseas.  And the world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall and prevent it from affecting our own societies.

And what is true in the Middle East is true for all of us.  Surely, religious traditions can be honored and upheld while teaching young people science and math, rather than intolerance. Surely, we can sustain our unique traditions while giving women their full and rightful role in the politics and economics of a nation.  Surely, we can rally our nations to solidarity while recognizing equal treatment for all communities — whether it’s a religious minority in Myanmar, or an ethnic minority in Burundi, or a racial minority right here in the United States.  And surely, Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.  We all have to do better as leaders in tamping down, rather than encouraging, a notion of identity that leads us to diminish others.

And this leads me to the fourth and final thing we need to do, and that is sustain our commitment to international cooperation rooted in the rights and responsibilities of nations.

As President of the United States, I know that for most of human history, power has not been unipolar.  The end of the Cold War may have led too many to forget this truth.  I’ve noticed as President that at times, both America’s adversaries and some of our allies believe that all problems were either caused by Washington or could be solved by Washington — and perhaps too many in Washington believed that as well.  (Laughter.)  But I believe America has been a rare superpower in human history insofar as it has been willing to think beyond narrow self-interest; that while we’ve made our share of mistakes over these last 25 years — and I’ve acknowledged some — we have strived, sometimes at great sacrifice, to align better our actions with our ideals.  And as a consequence, I believe we have been a force for good.

We have secured allies.  We’ve acted to protect the vulnerable.  We supported human rights and welcomed scrutiny of our own actions.  We’ve bound our power to international laws and institutions.  When we’ve made mistakes, we’ve tried to acknowledge them.  We have worked to roll back poverty and hunger and disease beyond our borders, not just within our borders.

I’m proud of that.  But I also know that we can’t do this alone.  And I believe that if we’re to meet the challenges of this century, we are all going to have to do more to build up international capacity.  We cannot escape the prospect of nuclear war unless we all commit to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and pursuing a world without them.

When Iran agrees to accept constraints on its nuclear program that enhances global security and enhances Iran’s ability to work with other nations.  On the other hand, when North Korea tests a bomb that endangers all of us.  And any country that breaks this basic bargain must face consequences.  And those nations with these weapons, like the United States, have a unique responsibility to pursue the path of reducing our stockpiles, and reaffirming basic norms like the commitment to never test them again.

We can’t combat a disease like Zika that recognizes no borders — mosquitos don’t respect walls — unless we make permanent the same urgency that we brought to bear against Ebola — by strengthening our own systems of public health, by investing in cures and rolling back the root causes of disease, and helping poorer countries develop a public health infrastructure.

We can only eliminate extreme poverty if the sustainable development goals that we have set are more than words on paper. Human ingenuity now gives us the capacity to feed the hungry and give all of our children — including our girls — the education that is the foundation for opportunity in our world.  But we have to put our money where our mouths are.

And we can only realize the promise of this institution’s founding — to replace the ravages of war with cooperation — if powerful nations like my own accept constraints.  Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions.  But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.  And I think that’s not just true for us.

If Russia continues to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors, it may be popular at home, it may fuel nationalist fervor for a time, but over time it is also going to diminish its stature and make its borders less secure.  In the South China Sea, a peaceful resolution of disputes offered by law will mean far greater stability than the militarization of a few rocks and reefs.

We are all stakeholders in this international system, and it calls upon all of us to invest in the success of institutions to which we belong.  And the good news is, is that many nations have shown what kind of progress is possible when we make those commitments.  Consider what we’ve accomplished here over the past few years.

Together, we mobilized some 50,000 additional troops for U.N. peacekeeping, making them nimble, better equipped, better prepared to deal with emergencies.  Together, we established an Open Government Partnership so that, increasingly, transparency empowers more and more people around the globe.  And together, now, we have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home.

We should all welcome the pledges of increased assistance that have been made at this General Assembly gathering.  I’ll be discussing that more this afternoon.  But we have to follow through, even when the politics are hard.  Because in the eyes of innocent men and women and children who, through no fault of their own, have had to flee everything that they know, everything that they love, we have to have the empathy to see ourselves.  We have to imagine what it would be like for our family, for our children, if the unspeakable happened to us.  And we should all understand that, ultimately, our world will be more secure if we are prepared to help those in need and the nations who are carrying the largest burden with respect to accommodating these refugees.

There are a lot of nations right now that are doing the right thing.  But many nations — particularly those blessed with wealth and the benefits of geography — that can do more to offer a hand, even if they also insist that refugees who come to our countries have to do more to adapt to the customs and conventions of the communities that are now providing them a home.

Let me conclude by saying that I recognize history tells a different story than the one that I’ve talked about here today.  There’s a much darker and more cynical view of history that we can adopt.  Human beings are too often motivated by greed and by power.  Big countries for most of history have pushed smaller ones around.  Tribes and ethnic groups and nation states have very often found it most convenient to define themselves by what they hate and not just those ideas that bind them together.

Time and again, human beings have believed that they finally arrived at a period of enlightenment only to repeat, then, cycles of conflict and suffering.  Perhaps that’s our fate.  We have to remember that the choices of individual human beings led to repeated world war.  But we also have to remember that the choices of individual human beings created a United Nations, so that a war like that would never happen again.  Each of us as leaders, each nation can choose to reject those who appeal to our worst impulses and embrace those who appeal to our best.  For we have shown that we can choose a better history.

Sitting in a prison cell, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that, “Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God.”  And during the course of these eight years, as I’ve traveled to many of your nations, I have seen that spirit in our young people, who are more educated and more tolerant, and more inclusive and more diverse, and more creative than our generation; who are more empathetic and compassionate towards their fellow human beings than previous generations.  And, yes, some of that comes with the idealism of youth.  But it also comes with young people’s access to information about other peoples and places — an understanding unique in human history that their future is bound with the fates of other human beings on the other side of the world.

I think of the thousands of health care workers from around the world who volunteered to fight Ebola.  I remember the young entrepreneurs I met who are now starting new businesses in Cuba, the parliamentarians who used to be just a few years ago political prisoners in Myanmar.  I think of the girls who have braved taunts or violence just to go to school in Afghanistan, and the university students who started programs online to reject the extremism of organizations like ISIL.  I draw strength from the young Americans — entrepreneurs, activists, soldiers, new citizens — who are remaking our nation once again, who are unconstrained by old habits and old conventions, and unencumbered by what is, but are instead ready to seize what ought to be.

My own family is a made up of the flesh and blood and traditions and cultures and faiths from a lot of different parts of the world — just as America has been built by immigrants from every shore.  And in my own life, in this country, and as President, I have learned that our identities do not have to be defined by putting someone else down, but can be enhanced by lifting somebody else up.  They don’t have to be defined in opposition to others, but rather by a belief in liberty and equality and justice and fairness.

And the embrace of these principles as universal doesn’t weaken my particular pride, my particular love for America — it strengthens it.  My belief that these ideals apply everywhere doesn’t lessen my commitment to help those who look like me, or pray as I do, or pledge allegiance to my flag.  But my faith in those principles does force me to expand my moral imagination and to recognize that I can best serve my own people, I can best look after my own daughters, by making sure that my actions seek what is right for all people and all children, and your daughters and your sons.

This is what I believe:  that all of us can be co-workers with God.  And our leadership, and our governments, and this United Nations should reflect this irreducible truth.

Thank you very much.”

 

The First Clinton-Trump Debate; National Security Or Insecurity?

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall

Image result for 1st Presidential Debate

There were “crimes” committed during and after the shambles of a debate. This was a debate where the realities of the global security landscape were given the same lies and distortions as in the domestic side with Trump’s crude remarks, evident lies, and even stupidities. But in the international and security side, words do matter and our allies and our adversaries are listening and look on in wonder.

Yet the one similarity between the domestic and security side was the avoidance of facts and understanding of the implications of proposed policies.  Those were kind words for what were in reality ignorant sound-bites, lies, and distortion. Trump  demonstrated no comprehension of the dangers and catastrophic consequences of not just his statements as a candidate now, but of his likely action should he become president. His statements about nuclear weapons, his Middle East policies including his earlier anti-Muslim rants, stance on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and not least building a wall on our Mexican border and rolling back our advances in climate change, Cuban relations, and the Iran nuclear deal are just examples of a mind gone wacky.

After the debate the press followed Trump and gave him a billion dollars worth of advertising to push his views and with more lies with no fact check but not showing Clinton’s people in a equal level. It was a big misjudgment and sadly not surprising. The media crowd following Trump was after not substance but rather wanted a piece of a celebrity and TV eyeballs of a person who just moments ago said more lies and displayed much ignorance of the basic facts of our global world and its many challenges.

Yes, there could have been a more detailed and deep set of questions and answers from both Trump and Clinton, but the difference between her and Trump was as they say “legion.” That Trump was out of his depth, which was clear to all, including many Republicans in their reactions and the fact that after the debate many traditional Republican newspapers endorsed Clinton rather than Trump.

We have focused in this post below on some specific areas dealing with national security and foreign affairs with candidate quotes and commentary.

DEFEAT OF ISIS:

Clinton- ” I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS. It does involve going after them online. I think we need to do much more with our tech companies to prevent ISIS and their operatives from being able to use the Internet to radicalize, even direct people in our country and Europe and elsewhere.  But we also have to intensify our air strikes against ISIS and eventually support our Arab and Kurdish partners to be able to actually take out ISIS in Raqqa, end their claim of being a Caliphate.” … ” But it’s like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.”

Trump – “But they wouldn’t have even been formed if they left some troops behind, like 10,000 or maybe something more than that. And then you wouldn’t have had them.  Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.” .. ” But I will tell you that Hillary will tell you to go to her website and read all about how to defeat ISIS, which she could have defeated by never having it, you know, get going in the first place. Right now, it’s getting tougher and tougher to defeat them, because they’re in more and more places, more and more states, more and more nations.”

Commentary: Trump repeats some of his past scripted statements but no plan. Clinton does talk about use of “air strikes” and other support which is largely the Obama administration’s consensus of what they can do to defeat ISIS without putting more on the ground combat forces which would only put them in deadly danger in areas and landscape we know little about and where our strategy seems to be garnering gradual results.

ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS (AND A BIT ON OUR ALLIES AND GLOBAL WARMING):

Clinton- ” … of what we heard Donald say has been about nuclear weapons. He has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. It has been the policy of the United States, Democrats and Republicans, to do everything we could to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He even said, well, you know, if there were nuclear war in East Asia, well, you know, that’s fine… And, in fact, his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling. That is the number-one threat we face in the world. And it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get their hands on any nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.”

Trump- ” The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your — your president thinks.  Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune.” … ” But Russia has been expanding their — they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.  And [Iran is] going to end up getting nuclear. I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day. Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.”

COMMENTARY: It is clear that an unbalanced and “cavalier” man should not have the nuclear codes and cause the destruction of the globe’s civilizations. The question of a nuclear first strike, an issue I have been following for decades, is one of great importance and sensitivity, none of which is shown by Trump. At the moment our policy, supported by the military, is to leave open the first use issue, but our policy must be not to do so in any conflict case that is likely short of immediate certain knowledge of nuclear weapons being used against us.

ON CYBERWARFARE:

Clinton – “But increasingly, we are seeing cyber attacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really… tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee…And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.”

Trump – ” As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?… So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. …. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.”

COMMENTARY: Although both candidates agree on the growing danger posed by cyberwarfare, neither side presented any tangible policy suggestions to address the challenge. Clinton used the question to cite the DNC cyber attack and once again Trump took the bait to shield any hint of Russian involvement, despite US intelligence sources stating with certainty that the attack came from Russia. It’s surprising that Trump didn’t use the topic of cyberwarfare to take more potshots on Clinton’s email scandal, but that could be credited to the Republican candidate’s lack of preparation and at this point in the debate he was on full tilt.

ON NATO AND OUR ALLIES:

Trump – ” Number one, the 28 countries of NATO, many of them aren’t paying their fair share. And, number two, I said, and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete, because… they do not focus on terror. And about four months ago, I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division. And I think that’s great…. And that was — believe me — I’m sure I’m not going to get credit for it — but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.”

Clinton- ” You know, NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5, and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side.”

Clinton – ” Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.  It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”

Trump – ” And it’s a big problem. And as far as Japan is concerned, I want to help all of our allies, but we are losing billions and billions of dollars. We cannot be the policemen of the world. We cannot protect countries all over the world…”

COMMENTARY: One of the most divisive and harmful statements Trump has made was his questioning our NATO alliance, especially when it is under threat from Russia on many fronts and our Europe allies need encouragement rather than blind and short-sighted nasty criticism. Putin must be delighted and Trump seems even to encourage Russian aggression.  A dangerous mix.  The same must be said of our other allies especially in Asia given what was not debated, the threat of North Korea and how to deal with it diplomatically.

ON IRAN:

Trump – ” But you look at the Middle East, you started the Iran deal, that’s another beauty where you have a country that was ready to fall, I mean, they were doing so badly. They were choking on the sanctions. And now they’re going to be actually probably a major power at some point pretty soon, the way they’re going… One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash, obviously, I guess for the hostages. It certainly looks that way… The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.”

Clinton- ” With respect to Iran, when I became secretary of state, Iran was weeks away from having enough nuclear material to form a bomb. They had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle under the Bush administration. They had built covert facilities. They had stocked them with centrifuges that were whirling away.  And we did drive them to the negotiating table. And my successor, John Kerry, and President Obama got a deal that put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot. That’s diplomacy. And we had sanctioned them. I voted for every sanction against Iran when I was in the Senate, but it wasn’t enough.  The other day, I saw Donald saying that there were some Iranian sailors on a ship in the waters off of Iran, and they were taunting American sailors who were on a nearby ship. He said, you know, if they taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water and start another war. That’s not good judgment.  And Donald never tells you what he would do. Would he have started a war? Would he have bombed Iran? If he’s going to criticize a deal that has been very successful in giving us access to Iranian facilities that we never had before, then he should tell us what his alternative would be. “

COMMENTARY: One can’t go beyond Clinton’s critique of the consequences of Trump’s approach to Iran. Except that it underplayed Trump’s true dangers to our national security interests and how to deal with major crisis situations.

We welcome your comments; click here to go to our comments section!

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TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE: HIS OWN WORDS!

TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There is much one can learn from the most recent Trump speech on foreign policy. It is still scary and incredulous that there is no real “there there” with any of Trump’s foreign policy perspectives. This is especially true when he is off his text and speaks what is really in his mind at that moment and it leads him to express ideas that are his own unbalanced perceptions of reality and his worst prejudices. Yes they are often crazy and silly and not least dangerous.

The examples of going off tract and into the realm of “extreme” views is exemplified in much of this speech which was billed as a means to show a serious policy side in the foreign affairs sector. Between a few peremptory statements that were written by his so-called foreign affairs “experts” that in large part were often along the lines of our current policies, much of the speech’s content would make the world a less secure and more dangerous in a host to areas.

Some examples:

His statement that he would institute what he called “extreme interrogations” of Muslim immigrants and visitors to America. Once again, along with building a massive “wall” between the US and Mexico, and clear bigotry against Muslims and even deceased American Muslim war heroes, he sees only what the people at the NRA and the KKK see and this is perhaps more destructive to American democracy, its internal unity, and yes our security globally than almost any other external challenge we face abroad.

On the question of dealing with ISIS, Trump adopted much from President Barack Obama’s approach to fighting the so-called Islamic State. Trump’s outrageous perception of “solutions include in his words: “I say that you can defeat ISIS by taking their wealth. Take back the oil. Once you go over and take back that oil they have nothing. You bomb the hell out of them and then you encircle it, and then you go in. And you let Mobil go in, and you let our great oil companies go in.” Trump also said the United States should have left troops in Iraq to guard oil facilities while the U.S. took all the oil to pay for the war. All of this is clearly absurd, crude unthought through strategy, and also illegal under international law.

What he has not made clear is whether he would send massive troops into the Middle East conflicts?

One lie was his statement was when he said that he has been right about the Middle East from the start. This is not true, old video and audio clips shown on the
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” showed footage against his claim that “I have been an opponent of the Iraq War from the beginning,” as he said in his address at Youngstown State University in Ohio. But The “Morning Joe” video played a clip from Howard Stern’s radio show. At that time he asked Trump if he was for invading Iraq, and Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” The same is true when Trump also contradicted himself on the troop withdrawal or draw down in Iraq.
He said on August 15th: “I have been just as clear in saying what a catastrophic mistake Hillary Clinton and President Obama made with the reckless way in which they pulled out,” But the record shows he supported pulling out of Iraq in 2007, when he said “You know how they get out? They get out,” Trump told CNN that year. “Declare victory and leave.”

He also prevaricated on Libya. In his speech he said “Libya was stable and President Obama and Hillary Clinton should never have attempted to build a democracy in Libya,”
But he also he advocated for deposing Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In February 2011, Trump also said in a video filmed in his office that “Gaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people. Nobody knows how bad it is. We should go in. We should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.”

He has been all over the map on the Middle East and time and time again he has change his position but never admitted it that he was wrong. What this shows is his clear lack of analysis, willing to face hard facts on the ground, and unwilling to accept being wrong. That is dangerous for a president and for our nation’s effective leadership in the world.

Trump repeated his previous policy to continue the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and even fill it with new detainees. He hinted at including, possibly some U.S. citizens. This facility is one of the great weapons that terrorists point to of the evil of America and a recruiting tool for ISIS. Trump does not even acknowledge this and seems to think that water boarding, torture, and mass bombing including killing of civilians is the way to conduct an effective policy in the Middle East. Even worse he has hinted at using atomic weapons. The Obama administration is trying to close Guantanamo via sending current detainees abroad, which he did recently with 15 individuals, and more are planned. But the easy and right answer is to send them to American maximum security prisons and bring them under US laws.

His stands on climate change, NATO’s unity and that of EU, the Iran deal, trade, and dealing with Russia, and on many other issues are the among the most dangerous for a viable and peaceful world and US national security.

In sum, the time has come, given Trump’s own words over time and especially now, for a true deep serious analysis of what Trump might do to American respect and security and indeed just rationality in our vital foreign and national security area.

Some in the media have done this, but in the vast conservative Republican owned mainline media and right wing radio talking heads have done little to challenge Trump’s lies and clearly deranged and unnecessary aggressive statements that have frightened our allies and embolden our adversaries. It is a high risk world where idiocy is our greatest danger. Indeed, we need more debate and even more serious examination in the media of the full range of global challenges and of what our own corrosive politics has done to our global position. Time has come for more public questioning and more attention to the implications of Trump’s policies if we are to achieve a sane and safe world.

We welcome your comments!

SEE OUR 2016 ELECTION PAGES FOR DEBATE UP-DATES

 

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

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

THE PLATFORM:

Syria

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

Afghanistan

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

Iran

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

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

COMMENTARY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We welcome your comments!

See our 2016 Campaign coverage

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

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

The Platform:

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARRY’S COMMENTARY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

PART I: THE YEAR 2015 A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

By
Harry C. Blaney III

 
As New Year starts it is worthwhile to look back since the past is prologue for what is to come. It is an annual exercise that many columnists, pundits, strategists, and yes bloggers do as it sets a framework for what is to come and to look back at the whole of a year and wonder what it all means for the security and peace of our clearly very fractured and conflict ridden globe. I promise a look forward at our strategic landscape which will include some policy ideas, in time, follow after the second part of this topic is posted..

First, a global view and then a look at some of the specific component elements that are each critical for the international system to gain some semblance of sanity.

 

INEQUALITY AND GLOBAL SECURITY

 

The fundamental factors that a the driving forces on a global scale include the growing gap in resources between the very very rich and the rest of humanity most of which is just hanging on or worse. This divide is a key reason that we see so much conflict, instability, terrorism. and democracy being threaten around the world.

We see some progress as in some countries people rose above the poverty line but in others the divide just got worse. Here the failure was both due to indifferent nation’s governments and the still lingering consequences of the ubiquitous “austerity” polices of too many rich and poor governments. Add the lack of political will, due to growth of right-wing and authoritarian governments and in 2015 nations becoming more that are the decision making power in these countries. Then add to the mix international organizations with members both developed and developing too weak to face the major challenges of our age and providing inadequate, even very poor, resources to the key international institutions that were designed to deal with global economic, security, social, and health major crises and catastrophes.

 
ENVIRONMENTAL INSECURITY AND GLOBAL DISASTER

 

Another global challenge is that of climate change. Every country and region in the world is threaten by this human created environmental phenomena and it has already shown its destructive power and the loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe. No single event can be ascribed directly to this cause, but taken together there is little doubt of the reality of the impact of rising global temperatures.

Again, up to now we have not done enough to effectively put this existential danger to our entire ecosystem on a sustainable path. The best event, as we have noted here, is the outcome of the 2015 Paris climate change conference. That conference at least shows us a path forward and specified the necessary action that states and all of us need to take to make real progress. But many scientists think we need to do more and they may be quite right. We have now a process and promises and an official “score card” for keeping tract of progress or lack thereof. That was a positive note for 2015.

 
REAL COMBUSTIBLES: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SECTARIAN/RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS, AND JUST PLAIN AGGRESSION AND NEEDLESS WARS, AND NOT LEAST HATREDS AND STUPIDITIES OF POWERFUL LEADERS AND COMPLIANT AND BLINDLY ANGRY CITIZENS.

 

That about sums it up as to why we are in such a tragic mess we seem to have and why the global trajectory seems so dark. But there are some rays of light………hate to end a year and start a new one with just gloom and doom.

On nuclear weapons and their spread, the really good news was the 2015 agreement with Iran by the key global powers that limits their capacity of producing nuclear weapons. As of this date Iran seems to be carrying out its obligations under the agreement with especially the shipment of almost all of its enrich uranium some 25,000 pounds, to Russia (which is a major milestone that leaves the Islamic Republic without enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture a nuke). There is the ongoing dismantling of its research reactor and most of its centrifuges. If the terms of the agreement are kept the world can be a bit safer since the alternative was the capacity to build a bomb in months not a year, and the agreement going for 10 years plus for key elements with the safeguard/inspections of the IAEA unlimited.

The other great danger that existed before 2015 and is still with us are the nuclear weapons in the hands of India and Pakistan, the nuclear weapons of North Korea and not least the nuclear weapons in the hands of a type like Putin who seems to think they are his leverage and plaything for enhancing his ego.

The India/Pakistan threat has two dimensions, one is the on going conflict between the two countries over Kashmir. Recently there was a meeting between the two national leaders and perhaps some moves towards sanity.

But Pakistan is itself a problem due to the government’s instability, the danger of internal terrorists, and an army that seems at times to not be capable and responsible. North Korea remains a conundrum with few good solutions with clearly erratic leadership that seems to not be seriously seeking a mutually agreeable long-term solution but likes to rattle the world with nuclear activities. A possible consequence is that South Korea or Japan might one day see it necessary to obtain their own weapons.

The other component of the dangers to the security of our world’s population in 2015 and beyond is growing sectarian conflicts, growing efforts to divide societies, and malevolent leaders and groups that see aggression and violence as a favored means to gain power and destroy what they see as their “enemies.” This is not the place now to get into the many causes and antecedents of these dangerous forces, but to simply say that peace in our world will not be obtained until these dark forces are tamed, reformed, and or defeated. This is undoubtedly a long term effort. But better and more responsible national leaders and a more engaged and informed and less bigoted, fearful, and empowered citizenry is the best antidote for societal disintegration and conflict.

A LOOK AT SOME SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF 2015 OUTCOMES AND TRENDS

 
THE SECTARIAN DIVIDE ABROAD AND NATIONALLY AND AT OUR OWN HOME

The good news is that some progress was made in recognizing this reality. This is clearly the case in 2015 with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who have been working hard to get both the Shia and Sunni groups and nations to see a common interest against ISIS, with some but still fragile, success. Prejudices of centuries are hard to mend. The key test points are in Iraq and Syria, both of which are case studies in sectarian hate, past distrust, outside partisan powers, and levels of murky loyalties and unknowns to make even the wisest expert shudder.

The challenges in the Middle East are almost impossible. If you add the animosities and stupidities of national leaders comforting each other in the Israeli and Palestinian arena one may wonder if there will ever be a solution. But there is an equitable solution facing each leader, all know what it is, which is the best outcome possible and one which will at last bring both parties to some real accommodation and security. Frankly, the behavior in 2015 of Prime Minister Netanyahu this last year and beyond has deliberately poisoned relations not only with the Palestinians but with large segments of Europe and the United States. If 2016 could turn this nasty tide I say try, but one man seems to want to make Israel even more at existential national risk long-term and is churning up hate rather than tolerance and compromise.

In our own American backyard in 2015 American politics turned even more divisive and partisan, in my view, which some will disagree with. But the partisan battles have greatly weakened America abroad and the blame rest squarely on the conservative Republicans and their reckless statements and actions. On most foreign policy and national security issues, let alone the many national issues, we see the damage caused by the far right crazies to American democracy, economic and technological progress, and to gaining needed security and peace. Their threatening the closing of government, their efforts to make America default on its debt, their denial of climate change, their efforts to stop the Iran deal that prevents Iran from building early nuclear weapons, their inability to look at reality rather than ideology, and not least seeking narrow political gain rather than the national interest. These have made our allies abroad question our leadership in the future after Obama’s administration, and help our adversaries like Russia and China who seek to exploit our weakness and lack of unity.

Part II of this 2015 look shortly follows.

We welcome your comments!