BERNIE SANDER’S BIG FOREIGN POLICY SPEECH: AT WESTMINSTER COLLEGE

INTRODUCTION: I do not often post an entire speech but I think that Senator Sanders’s talk deserves our attention in a time in which American leadership is imperiled . We have heard too much nonsense and in Trump’s UN speech cruel and distorted words from our “leader of the free world.” But worse actions destructive of all that America helped build in the post WW II period not least addressing the global climate change in Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear deal that denies that country nuclear weapons. Sanders also addresses the many assistance programs to deal with our global challenges. We are, as Sander’s notes, indeed threatened by mostly by our own stupidity and greed and selfishness. Now we have some worlds of hope which we need to heed.

 

Below is the speech as prepared:

“Let me begin by thanking Westminster College, which year after year invites political leaders to discuss the important issue of foreign policy and America’s role in the world. I am honored to be here today and I thank you very much for the invitation.

One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.

So let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the President and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And he also reminded us that; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway….”

What Eisenhower said over 50 years ago is even more true today.

Foreign policy is about whether we continue to champion the values of freedom, democracy and justice, values which have been a beacon of hope for people throughout the world, or whether we support undemocratic, repressive regimes, which torture, jail and deny basic rights to their citizens.

What foreign policy also means is that if we are going to expound the virtues of democracy and justice abroad, and be taken seriously, we need to practice those values here at home. That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia here in the United States and making it clear that when people in America march on our streets as neo-nazis or white supremacists, we have no ambiguity in condemning everything they stand for. There are no two sides on that issue.

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little – and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community – with China, Russia, India and countries around the world – to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

My point is that we need to look at foreign policy as more than just the crisis of the day. That is important, but we need a more expansive view.

Almost 70 years ago, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on this stage and gave an historic address, known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, in which he framed a conception of world affairs that endured through the 20th century, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that speech, he defined his strategic concept as quote “nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands.”

“To give security to these countless homes,” he said, “they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny.”

How do we meet that challenge today? How do we fight for the “freedom and progress” that Churchill talked about in the year 2017? At a time of exploding technology and wealth, how do we move away from a world of war, terrorism and massive levels of poverty into a world of peace and economic security for all. How do we move toward a global community in which people have the decent jobs, food, clean water, education, health care and housing they need? These are, admittedly, not easy issues to deal with, but they are questions we cannot afford to ignore.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that the world of today is very, very different from the world of Winston Churchill of 1946. Back then we faced a superpower adversary with a huge standing army, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, with allies around the world, and with expansionist aims. Today the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Today we face threats of a different sort. We will never forget 9/11. We are cognizant of the terrible attacks that have taken place in capitals all over the world. We are more than aware of the brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups.

We also face the threat of these groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and preventing that must be a priority.

In recent years, we are increasingly confronted by the isolated dictatorship of North Korea, which is making rapid progress in nuclear weaponry and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yes, we face real and very serious threats to our security, which I will discuss, but they are very different than what we have seen in the past and our response must be equally different.

But before I talk about some of these other threats, let me say a few words about a very insidious challenge that undermines our ability to meet these other crises, and indeed could undermine our very way of life.

A great concern that I have today is that many in our country are losing faith in our common future and in our democratic values.

For far too many of our people, here in the United States and people all over the world, the promises of self-government — of government by the people, for the people, and of the people — have not been kept. And people are losing faith.

In the United States and other countries, a majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they used to. They see big money buying elections, and they see a political and economic elite growing wealthier, even as their own children’s future grows dimmer.

So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few – whether that few is Wall Street, the military industrial complex, or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.

Maybe it’s because I come from the small state of Vermont, a state that prides itself on town meetings and grassroots democracy, that I strongly agree with Winston Churchill when he stated his belief that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.”

In both Europe and the United States, the international order which the United States helped establish over the past 70 years, one which put great emphasis on democracy and human rights, and promoted greater trade and economic development, is under great strain. Many Europeans are questioning the value of the European Union. Many Americans are questioning the value of the United Nations, of the transatlantic alliance, and other multilateral organizations.

We also see a rise in authoritarianism and right wing extremism – both domestic and foreign — which further weakens this order by exploiting and amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and fanning ethnic and racial hatreds among those in our societies who are struggling.

We saw this anti-democratic effort take place in the 2016 election right here in the United States, where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths: The integrity of our elections, and our faith in our own democracy.

I found it incredible, by the way, that when the President of the United States spoke before the United Nations on Monday, he did not even mention that outrage.

Well, I will. Today I say to Mr. Putin: we will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.

When we talk about foreign policy it is clear that there are some who believe that the United States would be best served by withdrawing from the global community. I disagree. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.

We must offer people a vision that one day, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day in the future human beings on this planet will live in a world where international conflicts will be resolved peacefully, not by mass murder.

How tragic it is that today, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal poverty, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons of destruction.

I am not naïve or unmindful of history. Many of the conflicts that plague our world are longstanding and complex. But we must never lose our vision of a world in which, to quote the Prophet Isaiah, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create the UN, called it “our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security.”

It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now. But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don’t have to be ended because they never start.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas, and war.

Dialogue however cannot only be take place between foreign ministers or diplomats at the United Nations. It should be taking place between people throughout the world at the grassroots level.

I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980’s, when the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program which still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.

We should welcome young people from all over the world and all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.

Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television, or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans – and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.

These are just a few examples of American foreign policy and interventionism which proved to be counter-productive.

Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative which proved to be enormously successful in which not one bullet was fired — something that we must learn from.

Shortly after Churchill was right here in Westminster College, the United States developed an extremely radical foreign policy initiative called the Marshall Plan.

Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented.

After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies.

That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler’s dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.

Unfortunately, today we still have examples of the United States supporting policies that I believe will come back to haunt us. One is the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen.

While we rightly condemn Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter in Syria, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia’s destructive intervention in Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the region’s poorest countries. Such policies dramatically undermine America’s ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, and empowers authoritarian leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.

Let me say a word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.

First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: Climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention and resources.

The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already causing devastating harm throughout the world. Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly to address the climate crisis, this planet will see more drought, more floods — the recent devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are good examples — more extreme weather disturbances, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea levels, and, as a result of mass migrations, there will be more threats to global stability and security.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was not only incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.

The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable. American leadership — the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer — is hugely important for facilitating this cooperation.

Another challenge that we and the entire world face is growing wealth and income inequality, and the movement toward international oligarchy — a system in which a small number of billionaires and corporate interests have control over our economic life, our political life, and our media.

This movement toward oligarchy is not just an American issue. It is an international issue. Globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99% of the world’s population.

In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, thousands of children die every week in poor countries around the world from easily prevented diseases, and hundreds of millions live in incredible squalor.

Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

But economic inequality is not the only form of inequality that we must face. As we seek to renew America’s commitment to promote human rights and human dignity around the world we must be a living example here at home. We must reject the divisive attacks based on a person’s religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, country of origin, or class. And when we see demonstrations of neo naziism and white supremacism as we recently did in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must be unequivocal in our condemnation, as our president shamefully was not.

And as we saw here so clearly in St. Louis in the past week we need serious reforms in policing and the criminal justice system so that the life of every person is equally valued and protected. We cannot speak with the moral authority the world needs if we do not struggle to achieve the ideal we are holding out for others.

One of the places we have fallen short in upholding these ideas is in the war on terrorism. Here I want to be clear: terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well.

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges “seriousness” according to the willingness to use force. One of the key misapprehensions of this mindset is the idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not.

Yes, military force is sometimes necessary, but always — always — as the last resort. And blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing US deterrence, credibility and security in the process.

To illustrate this, I would contrast two recent US foreign policy initiatives: The Iraq war and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.

In addition to the many thousands killed, it created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.

The Iraq war, as I said before, had unintended consequences. It was intended as a demonstration of the extent of American power. It ended up demonstrating only its limits.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal advanced the security of the US and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure.

For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

That is real leadership. That is real power.

Just yesterday, the top general of US Strategic Command, General John Hyden, said “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for.” We now have a four-year record of Iran’s compliance, going back to the 2013 interim deal.

I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.

Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.

Another problem it would make harder is that of North Korea.

Let’s understand: North Korea is ruled by one of the worst regimes in the world. For many years, its leadership has sacrificed the well-being of its own people in order to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs in order to protect the Kim family’s regime. Their continued development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a growing threat to the US and our allies. Despite past efforts they have repeatedly shown their determination to move forward with these programs in defiance of virtually unanimous international opposition and condemnation.

As we saw with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, real US leadership is shown by our ability to develop consensus around shared problems, and mobilize that consensus toward a solution. That is the model we should be pursuing with North Korea.

As we did with Iran, if North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together.

An approach that really uses all the tools of our power — political, economic, civil society — to encourage other states to adopt more inclusive governance will ultimately make us safer.

Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It’s worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid.

Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.

US foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.

Here is the bottom line: In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with “all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands,” as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago.

In my view, every person on this planet shares a common humanity. We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace. That’s what being human is about.

Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”

My friends, let us go forward and build that tomorrow.

We welcome your comments (see box below or comment indicator.)

Advertisements

THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN

THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There are few acts by a uninformed and clearly not balanced Donald Trump which have an immediate horrendous impact both at home and abroad. The ban on seven Muslim majority nations is just such an act and it has already enlisted major reactions by people around the world. It is simply a disgrace for America and it is dangerous to our security.

What this executive order on immigration and refugees does is bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half effectively the number of refugees we can admit. It halts all travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The reaction at home includes demonstrations around the nations especially at universities and colleges and by churches and civil liberty groups. Harvard and Yale presidents and other academic leaders have denounced this act Many experts believe is counter to our constitution, our laws, and treaty obligations. Already a judge has in effect said so…but without so far Trump complying.

In reaction is an open letter to Trump top national security officials by over 100 National Security Leaders on the Refugee Executive Order. The signers include Madeleine Albright, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice, and many others including high level former officials and military from Republican and Democratic administrations. The headline statement was:

“As former cabinet Secretaries, senior government officials, diplomats, military service members and intelligence community professionals who have served in the Bush and Obama administrations, we, the undersigned, have worked for many years to make America strong and our homeland secure. Therefore, we are writing to you to express our deep concern with President Trump’s recent Executive Order directed at the immigration system, refugees and visitors to this country. This Order not only jeopardizes tens of thousands of lives, it has caused a crisis right here in America and will do long-term damage to our national security.”

In Washington even some Republicans are concerned, and the Democrats are considering opposition to this on a number of fronts. Chaos prevails at our airports and airlines and in governments around the world. It was denounced by leaders in Germany and France and on the floor of the House of Commons.

It is clear to me that this action was without much doubt the deliberate act of designed chaos and cruelty by Donald Trump likely aided and abated by Stephen Bannon the Alt-Right racist, bigoted Trump campaign leader and past editor of the white power media outlet Breitbart News and now counselor to the President with equal status to the White House Chief-of-Staff and now a member of the highly sensitive and powerful National Security Council and the committee of Principles (Cabinet and agency heads) which he will attend as a full member – in effect perhaps a spy on other member views, or voice for the far racist right at home and abroad and enforcer of Trump’s crazy far right policies and lies.

This act is a test of what we may see going forward in foreign and national security policy. Already Trump has upset and weakened our ties to our key allies that are aghast at his recent statement, tweets and actions which undermine NATO, EU and the UN. In particular, they have undermined our allies and embolden Russia’s Vladimir Putin to hope he can destroy Western unity and strength and prosperity and weaken its defense. All this hardly lifting a finger but letting Trump do his dirty work. Already trump has helped Putin by supporting disunity in Europe by his  encouragement  of Brexit and putting down NATO, and favoring of far right fascist groups in Europe.

We need to ask quickly why and at what cost to peace and security for us and our allies?

We welcome your comments, see section below!

 

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE NOMINATION AND ITS IMPLICATIONS : A MIXED BAG?

By Harry C. Blaney III

On Friday, Donald Trump nominated retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who served more than 40 years in the Marine Corps.  According to the press, Trump said to a rally Thursday night in Cincinnati: “We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our Secretary of Defense.”

General Mattis is by all accounts a mixed bag. Some say he has a number of redeeming qualities and others see him as an undisciplined character who from time to time gets into trouble with his mouth and his policy perspectives and actions. Nothing new in Washington!

There is also two problem areas: one is a conflict of interest with a blood testing firm that has problems with the FDA, and the other is that there is a rule that bans a retired military officer serving as Defense Secretary until he has been retired for at least seven years. According to the reports, word from Capitol Hill hints Congress will exempt Mattis from the ban. But he is likely to be given close scrutiny by the Senate Armed Forces Committee at his hearing for the post.

This may be unfortunate as he may take with him all the preconceived military perspectives and may look at key issues with a stove pipe perspective that an experienced civilian secretary would not and must weigh and be able to question effectively the advice of the “generals.” We need to remember that the US generals advising John F. Kennedy all recommend preemptive massive bombing of Cuba in the crisis of the 1961, which would have resulted in a nuclear war since the Russian commander in Cuba had nuclear weapons in place and had been authorized to use them on the US without further orders. This would have been a global catastrophe. Diplomacy by elected civilians saved the world from that result.

This appointment has special need for care. The Secretary of Defense is in the line of command on the use of nuclear weapons. Enough said.

General background of “Mad Gog” General Mattis:

The Mad Dog tag in question was retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who for more than 40 years served in the Marine Corps. The 66-year-old general, called a “warrior monk” by his peers for his depth of knowledge and lack of family — he never married — is also known to turn a memorable phrase, including: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” (Washington Post, 12/2/2016)

Mattis in 2001 was a one-star general who led a task force of more than 1,000 Marines on a mission in Kandahar province in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, led the seizure of the airport there establishing an early coalition command centers in the country.  He commanded in 2002 a division of Marines during the invasion of Iraq and returning in 2004 to lead the savage urban combat in Fallujah.  Mattis, had an assignment with the NATO’s supreme allied command and has warned that the Russian president is trying to “break NATO apart.”  He finally served as the head of the U.S. Central Command, the combatant command that is in charge of U.S. wars in the Middle East. He was commander of Centcom from 2010 to 2013 when his assignment was cut short for some say differences with President regarding dealing with Iran which he saw as a major threat.  In that capacity, he oversaw the surge of forces in Afghanistan and the start of the Syrian civil war. Mattis is now a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Here in simple format are the pros and cons:

ONE THE POSITIVE SIDE:

Mattis does not share the islamophobia of the appointed National Security Advisor to Trump which is a good thing and may temper stupid acts that would worsen the situation in the Middle East and beyond.  There are reports that he urged his troops in Iraq to be sensitive to local feelings and work with the local people. But Lt. General Flynn at the NSC will be far closer to power and Trump the final decision-maker, along with his prejudices which are well known bringing some of his weaknesses in terms of facts and reality.

On the question of torture, Trump told the New York Times that he was very impressed and might even rethink his position on torture, which he advocated using throughout the campaign. Specifically Trump said:

“General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, “I’ve never found it to be useful.” He said, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.” And I was very impressed by that answer.” (Note: It is illegal to use torture, especially by the military.)

There are a host of former military leaders and some outside military and strategic analysts that think Mattis wold be a good pick given the ignorance and instability of Trump. One problem is that often both the Secretaries of Defense and of State are not present when a president makes a key strategic decision and often it is only the National Security Advisor who is there along with the White House Chief-of-Staff whose knowledge of strategic and war issues is normally quite limited. In the case of Lt. General Flynn the chosen NSC head, his past behavior and prejudices are indicators of a not very balanced mind with too many blinders in his perspective. Can Mattis prove a balance to irrationality time will only tell.

Mattis’ long experience on the high level military front as noted above is a positive.

Of interest, is that the present Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement: “I have known General Jim Mattis for many years and hold him in the highest regard,” adding that he would work to facilitate a “seamless transition.”

ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE:

Mattis holds strong feeling against Iran and initially the Iran deal. Absent that deal the consequences could have led America into a war and and without it permit or lead Iran to start building nuclear weapons free of the strong constraints of the Iran agreement. But that attitude is balanced by Mattis more recent support for the Iran nuclear deal which he believes should remain in place with very strict oversight of compliance.

He is said to have a bias towards the Sunni gulf nations and prejudice against the Shia sides of Islam.

He has, as others have noted, little experience in Asia which looms as a key strategic theater and needs high level focus on its many high risks.

There is a real danger that at the NSC meetings of principals there will be a large set of former high level military officers at the table who may have a unified and “uniform” perspective but a wrong one from a long-term  strategic and diplomatic perspective. The first thought of this group may be to “make war” with military intervention rather that to “make peace” and apply diplomatic tools to problems solving. Most problems often need a diplomatic answer in order to not become needlessly involved in risky adventures with no positive outcome in sight and with great cost.

Much will come out in the Congressional hearings on this top key appointment and we will also see to what degree that Mattis can influence now Trump towards a more thoughtful approach to foreign and national security affairs and risks.

Finally, a new added set of possible prospects for Secretary of State have emerge over the weekend and this week, which frankly from reports are not looking to be the top people one would hope for. But they are saying a decision will be made this week.  More on this in another post.

We welcome your comments, click here to make a comment.

THE FINAL DEBATE: THE LAST DISTORTED WORDS OR MORE TO COME?

By Harry C. Blaney III

Photo Credit via ABC News


The last campaign 2016 debate was, as expected by some, was a horrific mess but it exposed again the terrible reality that Donald Trump is a dangerous man if not likely with an unbalanced and offensive mind too. And that leaves aside even much of his reprehensible words and behavior. Much of the debate was silly and often off subject and not very deep. Wallace was probably among the worst moderators I have ever seen in not pressing on the topic and keeping people talking over each other.

Once again Hillary Clinton showed her firm grasp of some of the key issues that we face in our high risk world with all its complexities. But just fifteen minutes were not enough to give time to dig deeper into so many issues that needed better time and more depth. The Fox moderator Chris Wallace did not help matters in keeping on topic and challenging both candidates to not just say what they wanted to accomplish but also just how. He also let Trump go on despite the rules and interrupt Clinton while not stopping Trump’s interference.

Defeating ISIS or Islamic State was an issue that was more assertions than strategy, limited to saying they will be defeated in battle, or asserting who is tougher or more fearsome. The reality is the President Obama strategy of providing help in terms of air strikes, intelligence, logistics, training, and other assistance without putting too many U.S. troops in to do this job and keeping them away from direct combat. With this strategy, in fact, some real progress has been made by relying on local forces who know the “terrain” better than we ever could.

The salient question is not now whether they will take Mosul but when and how and what will be left and how can we put this shattered place back together and get the people to cooperate no mater their ethnic or religious background. The aftermath is key to long term security and stability of the region. The same is true in Syria. But little time was addressed to this topic. Displaced persons and refugees are a horrendous problem and we and our allies including the Gulf states have not done enough to deal with this problem.

Nor did anyone really address the question of the role of Putin’s Russia now and later in the region. This is a major conundrum for not just for America but our allies and the Islamic states of the region. Here Wallace was weak.

Some of the key takeaway points are below in this debate on foreign and national security issues:

IMMIGRATION

Donald Trump: “I mean, these are unbelievable people that I’ve gotten to know over a period of years whose children have been killed, brutally killed by people that came into the country illegally. You have thousands of mothers and fathers and relatives all over the country. They’re coming in illegally…

One of my first acts will be to get all of the drug lords, all of the bad ones — we have some bad, bad people in this country that have to go out. We’re going to get them out; we’re going to secure the border. And once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest. But we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.”

Hillary Clinton: “I don’t want to rip families apart. I don’t want to be sending parents away from children. I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country…

I think that is an idea that is not in keeping with who we are as a nation. I think it’s an idea that would rip our country apart.

I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the United States Senate. And my comprehensive immigration reform plan of course includes border security. But I want to put our resources where I think they’re most needed: Getting rid of any violent person. Anybody who should be deported, we should deport them….

And Donald knows a lot about this. He used undocumented labor to build the Trump Tower. He underpaid undocumented workers, and when they complained, he basically said what a lot of employers do: “You complain, I’ll get you deported.”

I want to get everybody out of the shadows, get the economy working, and not let employers like Donald exploit undocumented workers, which hurts them, but also hurts American workers.”

RUSSIA

Clinton: “It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

We have 17 — 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.” 

Trump: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.
Clinton: I am not quoting myself.
Trump: She has no idea.
Clinton: I am quoting 17…
Trump: Hillary, you have no idea.
Clinton: … 17 intelligence — do you doubt 17 military and civilian…
Trump: And our country has no idea.
Clinton: … agencies.
Trump: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it.
Clinton: Well, he’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely…
Trump: She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way.

Wallace: You condemn their interference?
Trump: Of course I condemn. Of course I — I don’t know Putin. I have no idea.
Wallace: I’m not asking — I’m asking do you condemn?
Trump: I never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along with Russia, wouldn’t be so bad.

ALLIANCES AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS:

Trump: “We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads — 1,800, by the way — where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.”

Clinton: “I — I find it ironic that he’s raising nuclear weapons. This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons. He’s…advocated more countries getting them, Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia. He said, well, if we have them, why don’t we use them, which I think is terrifying.”

Trump: “As far as Japan and other countries, we are being ripped off by everybody in the — we’re defending other countries. We are spending a fortune doing it. They have the bargain of the century.

All I said is, we have to renegotiate these agreements, because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and many other places. We cannot continue to afford — she took that as saying nuclear weapons.”

Clinton: “The United States has kept the peace — the United States has kept the peace through our alliances. Donald wants to tear up our alliances. I think it makes the world safer and, frankly, it makes the United States safer. I would work with our allies in Asia, in Europe, in the Middle East, and elsewhere. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep the peace.”

Trump: “They have to pay up. We’re protecting people, they have to pay up. And I’m a big fan of NATO. But they have to pay up.

She comes out and said, we love our allies, we think our allies are great. Well, it’s awfully hard to get them to pay up when you have somebody saying we think how great they are.

We have to tell Japan in a very nice way, we have to tell Germany, all of these countries, South Korea, we have to say, you have to help us out.”

TRADE DEALS:

Trump: “So my plan — we’re going to renegotiate trade deals. We’re going to have a lot of free trade. We’re going to have free trade, more free trade than we have right now. But we have horrible deals. Our jobs are being taken out by the deal that her husband signed, NAFTA, one of the worst deals ever.

I am going to renegotiate NAFTA. And if I can’t make a great deal — then we’re going to terminate NAFTA and we’re going to create new deals. We’re going to have trade, but we’re going — we’re going to terminate it, we’re going to make a great trade deal…

Now she wants to sign Trans-Pacific Partnership. And she wants it. She lied when she said she didn’t call it the gold standard in one of the debates. She totally lied. She did call it the gold standard.”

Clinton: “Well, first, let me say, number one, when I saw the final agreement for TPP, I said I was against it. It didn’t meet my test. I’ve had the same test. Does it create jobs, raise incomes, and further our national security? I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president.

There’s only one of us on this stage who’s actually shipped jobs to Mexico, because that’s Donald. He’s shipped jobs to 12 countries, including Mexico…

In fact, the Trump Hotel right here in Las Vegas was made with Chinese steel. So he goes around with crocodile tears about how terrible it is, but he has given jobs to Chinese steelworkers, not American steelworkers….

We’re going to have trade agreements that we enforce. That’s why I’m going to have a trade prosecutor for the first time in history. And we’re going to enforce those agreements, and we’re going to look for businesses to help us by buying American products.”

ISIS:

Trump: “Take a look at Syria. Take a look at the migration. Take a look at Libya. Take a look at Iraq. She gave us ISIS, because her and Obama created this huge vacuum, and a small group came out of that huge vacuum because when — we should never have been in Iraq, but once we were there, we should have never got out the way they wanted to get out. She gave us ISIS as sure as you are sitting there. And what happened is now ISIS is in 32 countries. And now I listen how she’s going to get rid of ISIS. She’s going to get rid of nobody.”

Clinton: “Well, I am encouraged that there is an effort led by the Iraqi army, supported by Kurdish forces, and also given the help and advice from the number of special forces and other Americans on the ground.But I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force…

The goal here is to take back Mosul. It’s going to be a hard fight. I’ve got no illusions about that. And then continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqa, which is the ISIS headquarters.

And I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to, frankly, gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians so that perhaps we can have the kind of serious negotiation necessary to bring the conflict to an end and go forward on a political track.

Trump: “I have been reading about going after Mosul now for about — how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They’ve all left.

The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves when they see the stupidity of our country….

Iran should write us yet another letter saying thank you very much, because Iran, as I said many years ago, Iran is taking over Iraq, something they’ve wanted to do forever, but we’ve made it so easy for them.”

Clinton: “But what’s really important here is to understand all the interplay. Mosul is a Sunni city. Mosul is on the border of Syria. And, yes, we do need to go after Baghdadi, and — just like we went after bin Laden, while you were doing “Celebrity Apprentice,” and we brought him to justice. We need to go after the leadership.”

Trump: “We don’t know who the rebels are. And when and if — and it’s not going to happen, because you have Russia and you have Iran now. But if they ever did overthrow Assad, you might end up with — as bad as Assad is, and he’s a bad guy, but you may very well end up with worse than Assad.”

ACCEPTANCE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

Wallace: “Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?”
Trump: “I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time….What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”

Clinton: “So that is not the way our democracy works. We’ve been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election. You know, President Obama said the other day when you’re whining before the game is even finished…”

________________________________________________________

We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.

RNS is also on twitter! Be sure to follow us @RNS_CIP 

 

The Vice Presidential Debate : The Good, The Bad, And The Very Bad

By Harry C. Blaney III

This debate was in some ways a shame for the commentator who permitted again over talking of the VP candidates especially Pence, and she largely did not question lies and false assertions. The greatest fault of the media has been lack of focus before and after these debates on the substance and meaning of the policies that have a real impact on people’s lives and security. The post debate commentary was strictly the “horse race” rather than on what the policies and statements will mean for the future of our nation. It was a sad example of the lack of  honest oversight by the media.

The good part of this debate is that they did cover international issues. The bad part is they left out climate change, global inequality, and other issues. The really bad was the absence of truth and lack of deep analysis of cost, risks and benefits of proposed policies.

The quotes however provide some insight on how each party and the candidates themselves view the role of America in the world, how exactly they see that world, and finally how they would act if they got in power. The VP debate, while not the main event, still indicates the direction each party would take if they won in November.

It seems clear that like the first debate between Clinton and Trump their divide on realistic assessment, means of solving or not solving problems and challenges is as wide as ever. It also reveals from this perspective how little the Republican candidates know or really understand how to act in the complex, often dangerous and fast moving world we live in.

On the specific foreign affairs and national security issues some short takes:

Nuclear Weapons

Governor Pence: “We need to modernize our nuclear forces and we need an effective American diplomacy that will marshal the resources of nations in the Asian-Pacific rim to put pressure on North Korea, to abandon the nuclear ambitions. It has to remain the policy of the United States of America, the demilitarization of the Korean peninsula… We will go back to the days of peace through strength.”

Senator Kaine: “On the foreign relations committee we just did an extensive sanctions package against North Korea and interestingly enough, the UN did virtually the same package. Often China will use their veto on the security council for that. They are starting to get worried about North Korea as well. So, they supported the sanctions’ passage, even when many of the sanctions are against Chinese financial institutions. So, we are working together with China and we need to. It is competitive and also challenging and we have to be able to cooperate against North Korea. Hillary understands that. She went famously to China and stood up at a human rights meeting and said, against North Korea. “Women’s rights are human rights.” She worked on many important diplomatic deals with China and that is what it will take.”

Clearly once again on the topic of nuclear weapons and associated issues like North Korea and the placement of such weapons in our strategic plans, Gov. Pence seems deeply in the dark. This despite having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He had a hard time defending past irresponsible quotes on this issue from Trump.  The key issue here is which set of candidates will act in the most careful and responsible way and this debate did not change the view that we have in the GOP team — very dangerous people with little understanding of key security issues.

Illegal Immigration

Pence: “Donald Trump has made a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We have been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton wants to continue the policy of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all of the things driving wages down in this country, senator, and also too often, with criminal aliens in the country, it is bringing heartbreak.

It begins with border security. After we secure the border, not only build a wall, but beneath the ground and in the air, we do internal enforcement. The focus has to be on criminal aliens. We just had a conversation about law enforcement, a conversation about the violence that is the setting our cities. The reality is, there is heartbreaking tragedy that has struck American families because people who came into this country illegally are now involved in criminal and reprise and activity, and we do not have the resources or the will to deport them systematically.

Donald Trump said we are going to move those people out. People have overstayed their visas. We are going to enforce the law of this country and strengthen immigration and customs enforcement with more resources and personnel to be able to do that, and then Donald Trump has made it clear. Once we have done all of those things, then we are going to reform the immigration system that we have in this country.”

Kaine: “Donald Trump believes in deportation nation. You have got to pick your choice. Hillary and I want a bipartisan reform that will keep families together, second, that will help focus enforcement efforts on those were violent, third, that will do more border control, and third, write a path to citizenship for those who play by the rules and take criminal background checks. That is our proposal.”

While Pence had a hard time defending the indefeasible lies and policies of Trump he stood clearly on the side of building the “Wall” which would be as an act of total madness and hurt our relations with every Latin American government let alone many of our citizens and undocumented residents. Senator Kaine gave the right answers about how impossible the Trump stance was and how self-defeating.

On Immigration and Refugees:

Pence: “It really does begin with us reforming our immigration system and putting the interest, particularly in the safety and security of the American people, first. Donald Trump wants extreme vetting for people coming in. Donald Trump and I are committed to suspending the Syrian refugee program and programs in immigration around the world that have been compromised by terrorism. Hillary Clinton wants to increase it.

If you’re going to be critical of me, that is fair game. After two Syrian refugees were involved in the attack in Paris that is called “Paris’ 9/11,” you bet I suspended that program. I stand by that decision. If I am vice president, we’re going to put the safety of the American people first.

The director of the FBI said we cannot know for certain who these people coming are.”

Kaine: “As opposed to violating the constitution by blocking people from coming in based on their nationality, we have different views on refugee issues and immigration. Hillary and I want to do enforcement based on “Our people dangerous?” These guys say “All Mexicans are bad.” With regard to refugees, we want to keep people out of they are dangerous. Donald Trump said “Keep them out if they are Muslim.” An appellate court with three public and judges struck down a pence plan and said it was this majority. It was discriminatory.”

Pence stuck to the Republican platform that opposes admitting refugees from Syria. By echoing Trump’s call for ‘extreme vetting,’ the Governor of Indiana demonstrated a shared ignorance in the robust vetting process already in place. Refugees are screened over a period of two years before they’re admitted into the United States. Kaine used the topic as an opportunity to highlight this week’s court ruling against Pence’s proposal to block refugees settling in his home state of Indiana. Overall, this topic is a choice between base fear, a lack of understanding of current refugee vetting, and xenophobia or accepting our share of the burden in assisting the world’s most helpless victims.

Iran, Iraq, and ISIS

Pence: “Other goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran terminally renounced their nuclear ambitions. They have not done so. And when the deal’s period runs out, there is no limitation on weapons. $1.7 billion was used in a ransom payment.

Iraq has been overrun by ISIS. They failed to negotiate. Hillary Clinton has failed to renegotiate the status of forces agreement.

The primary threat today is ISIS. Because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard-fought gains that the American soldier has won, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert and it has overrun vast areas.”

Kaine: “Let me come back to talk about — he does not want to acknowledge that we stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He does not want to acknowledge that Taylor was part of the team that got Osama bin Laden… She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.

I would like to correct — President Bush said we would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. Iraq did not want our troops to stay. They would not give us the [directive] of our troops. If a nation where our troops are serving does not want us to stay, we are not going to stay —

Here is her plan to defeat ISIL. They have to take out their leaders on the battlefield. She will lead the team that will get the head of ISIS. We have got to disrupt the financing networks.

Third, disrupt their ability to recruit on the internet, in their state havens. Fourth, we also have to work with allies to share intelligence. That is the Hillary Clinton plan.”

On these issues Pence was either badly informed or downright lied, following the tradition of his leader. Sen. Kaine corrected these mistruths. But a campaign based on security issues and especially the Iran one on nuclear issues provided such prevarications beyond acceptable. Most well-read people know that it was President Bush who decided to take our troops out when he could not get immunity for our troops.

Russia and Putin

Pence: “Hillary Clinton’s top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea. The small and bullying the leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth, just withdraws from talk about a cease-fire while that Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense in Syria while he marshaled the forces and begins — look, we have got to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership that begins by rebuilding our military… The provocations by Russia need to be met by American strength. If Russia continues to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the US needs to be prepared to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis taking place in Aleppo.”

“There is a broad range of other things we ought to do as well. We should deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland, which had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on. We have to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they are dealing with a strong American president.”

“What we are dealing with is — there is an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, but hibernates. This foreign policy from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awakened a Russian aggression that first appeared a few years ago with their move into Georgia and Crimea and into the wider Middle East. All we do now is pull out our arms and say, “We are not having talks anymore.” We need to marshal the resources of our allies in the region and end the immediate — we need to act and act now to get people out of harm’s way.”

“Strength. We are going to rebuild our military. This whole Putin thing, look, America is stronger than Russia. Our economy is 16 times larger than the Russian economy. Our political system is superior to the corrupt capital system in Russia it every way.”

“When Donald Trump and I observed in Syria and Iran and Ukraine that the bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration is stating facts. That is not an endorsement of Putin.”

Kaine: “Consistent with the UN Security Council resolution passed would be a good idea. Hillary Clinton has the way to stand up to Russia. Donald Trump again and again has praised Vladimir Putin.”

“It is clear she has business dealings with Russia and is very connected to Putin. The trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections.”

“Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said, and arguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than president Obama. Vladimir Putin has run his economy into the ground and he persecutes LGBT folks. If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you got to go back to a fifth grade civics class. That offends me.”

“Vladimir Putin is a dictator. He is not a leader.”

“Anyone who thinks otherwise does not know Russian history and they doesn’t know Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton knows exactly who this guy is. John McCain, I look at that guy and I see KGB. So, how do you deal with him? We do have to deal with Russia in many different ways. There are areas where we can cooperate.”

Here Kaine held clearly the edge and noted the many weakness of Trump’s and Pence’s understanding and indeed especially of Trump’s admiration for Putin. He weakly defended that position at the same time Putin’s forces were bombing and killing hundreds of innocent civilian including woman and children and hospitals in Syria. This was also not addressed or noted by our clueless moderator. Pence had no decent ground on this issue. Kaine seemed to repeat the argument that are going on within the administration but sadly few on any side have any easy answers.

We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.

RNS is also on twitter! Be sure to follow us @RNS_CIP 

TRUMP’S WEEK OF PERPLEXING OFF-THE-CUFF AND SCRIPTED REMARKS

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall


Via The New York Times

After spending the last two weeks hemming and hawing on immigration policy, Donald Trump shifted his campaign’s focus to a variety of foreign policy issues. From a townhall-style speech in Virginia Beach with retired general and supporter Mike Flynn and a proposal to buildup the military to his participation in NBC News’ Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday night, Trump’s lack of substance rhetoric was on full display. His dialogue was a combination of bypassing tough questions with lobbed criticisms, unrealistic policy proposals, and inane ramblings about Putin, ISIS, and high quality oil. Taken together, Trump’s statements half reveal and half conceal the soul within to badly quote a great poet. But if Americans really thought about all these rumblings and had any inkling of their import they would have cause for real fear for our country and the world.

However, when sifting through Trump’s comments, its easy to tell when the Republican presidential nominee is sticking to his scripted and evasive talking points and when the conversation goes off the rails. Its during these latter moments when a glimpse into Trump’s misinformed and flawed world view is revealed. Yet even his “scripted” utterances show a lack of understanding of how complex the international landscape is and that even his “experts” who wrote the texts, seem out of their depth and badly ruled by ideology and politics rather than sound judgement.

CONFUSING POLICY PROPOSALS

“I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point that’s embarrassing for our country,” (NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, September 7, 2016)

In an address in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Trump proposed a military build-up, set forth a new plan to deal with ISIS, and suggested he would avoid the previous administrations’ pitfalls of walking into armed conflicts in the Middle East. Trump’s proposed buildup would include raising US troop levels from 470,000 to 540,000 and modernizing 22 Navy Cruisers. Trump’s proposal painted a picture of America’s waning military might and the nominee referred to the philosophy “peace through strength” that late President Reagan embraced. In order to pay for this military expansion, Trump suggested that he would lift the ‘sequester’ defense spending caps made in 2011, while trimming the budget outside of the military through federal work force attrition, correcting government spending inefficiencies, and collecting billions of unpaid tax dollars.

Although this proposal was made to bolster Trump’s credentials with veteran voters, it has drawn fiscal concerns raised by independent budget estimators. The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budgets estimates that even with Trump’s proposed offsetting budget cuts, his military build-up would cost $150 billion over ten years. Dov Zakheim, a Pentagon top financial officer in the Bush 43 administration, states that “the whole thing is unrealistic … it’s a soundbite.”

Trump’s proposed increase in defense spending is a headscratcher when viewing his previous stances. He frequently takes potshots at military engagements supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Trump also cites the growing federal debt as a reason to withdraw military and financial support from our NATO and East Asian allies. If Trump has been running on a platform of reduced military presence abroad, shrewd negotiations, and a focus on domestic issues, this proposed defense build-up is an example of paying lip service to conservative military philosophy and an attempt to secure enlisted votes.

But it is more than even that, it is an irresponsible debt burden with no end and aimed at weakening our domestic security and risking massive confrontation abroad. Trump’s approach is at the expense of programs that would truly “Make America Great” like better education of our children, better affordable universal health care, solving our deteriorating infrastructure, funding higher education in State Schools of students that will contribute greatly to American progress, security, and productivity, and not least investment in preventive diplomacy and international institutions including strengthening peace making and keeping. These measures are the ones which truly address global challenges that are putting America and the world at risk like climate change, and spread of diseases, massive poverty, inequality, ethnic upheavals, and the many causes of the breeding ground for conflict and terrorism.

SCRIPTED SIDESTEPS

Numerous times this week Donald Trump has been pressed to give more information on his solutions to today’s issues and as a reflex he would respond with canned soundbites and deflecting to criticisms of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. During this week’s NBC Forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if his recent intelligence briefings taught him anything to reconsider his plan to defeat ISIS. His response was a brief dismissal of doubt in his secret plans and an attack on President Obama:

“ TRUMP: No, I didn’t learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly — when they call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason — what our experts said to do. “

These incoherent and confusing statements are meant to cover his own ignorance and possibly to mislead voters as to his real intentions. He clearly does not in fact have a coherent and effective plan to stop terrorism or other crises in our world. The reality is that there is no simple, not expensive and not risky “silver bullet” which will stop the many dangers and conflicts in our work including massive and mostly useless military hardware.  This is in contrast with President Obama, Secretary John Kerry and Secretary Hillary Clinton, who time and time again have underlined the difficulty of setting right our fragile global system, its complexity, and the need for long-term perseverance, caution, wise diplomacy and strategic long-term purpose.

Earlier this week, when asked by Mike Flynn on how he intends to combat the threat of ISIS, Trump proceeded to rant about the rise of Iran as a global power and the negotiating incompetence of Secretary of State John Kerry. As his event at Virginia Beach turned to his strategy to stop North Korean nuclear ambitions, Trump’s answer pivoted from passing responsibility on to China, to Air Force One landing at the G20 Summit. The lack of a red carpet staircase for President Obama was used as a tirade of failed leadership as concerns about North Korea were left unanswered.

Trump’s evasion continued on Wednesday night when asked about his positive comments towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Republican nominee defended his admiration of Putin’s leadership by citing an 82 percent approval rating and that “[Putin]’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader”. When Lauer listed the many questionable recent actions conducted by Russia, Trump asked “do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?”

The inability of Trump to speak ill of the Russian President is a perplexing phenomenon to political leaders on both sides of the aisle. Mrs. Clinton mused on Thursday that “it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do and then make excuses for him,” while current Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan reasserted his critical stance of Russia by calling Putin “an aggressor who does not share our interests”.

It seems unimaginable for the Presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties would go through such mental gymnastics to avoid criticizing a former KGB agent. However, when it comes to facing any levels of skepticism, it has become second-nature for Donald Trump to deflect and riposte against his political opponents.

DETOURS INTO NONSENSE

The most bizarre moments during Trump’s speaking events this week came from a crude narrative of the Iran-Iraq War and vivid descriptions of Middle East oil reserves. On Tuesday’s speaking event, Trump’s critique on the Iranian nuclear deal devolved into an argument of emerging Iranian dominance and reminiscence of a war from thirty years ago:

“We made them a power. And we also happen to have given them Iraq. I always say Iraq and Iran were very similar militarily. They’d fight fight fight and then they’d rest. They’d fight fight fight. And then Saddam Hussein would do the gas. And somebody else would do something else. And they’d rest.”

Later on, Trump would become fixated on the quality of oil in Iraq and Libya:

“Iraq has some of the greatest oil reserves anywhere in the world, and so Iran is going to get whatever ISIS doesn’t already have.”

“It’s a total disaster, Libya, right now. You know they have among the finest quality oils anywhere in the world? Their oil is so valuable, so good.”

Although some may think these strange comments are more expected of him at informal events such as campaign rallies, Trump echoed this sentiment atWednesday’s nationally televised forum when describing the dire costs of the war in Iraq:

“I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil….And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.”

Donald Trump’s assertion that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil reserves to pay for its ill-advised war may seem like a smart business move by the real-estate mogul, but from a foreign policy perspective it reeks of neo-colonialism. To suggest depriving a political fragile state of one of its few sources of income wouldn’t prevent the rise of violent extremist groups like ISIS, but rather swell their ranks with local young people who would have had even less economic and educational resources to make a regular living. The use of plundering as a tool of foreign policy would only increase anti-American sentiment among our adversaries and allies.

But it’s hard to see what’s scarier about this most recent turn in Trump’s campaign: his growing ease with using off-the-cuff remarks to mask his incompetence or his willingness to repeat such absurdities until one day they could become policies. These evasive responses, his lack of knowledge, and his off the cuff inclination to do the most dangerous things that make the world clearly less safe, indicate he is a man who should never have reached the position he has, much lest being the leader of the free world and Commander-in-Chief.
We welcome your comments, click here for our main page and comments section.
See our “2016 Campaign” Section of extensive and up-to-date quotes by the candidates.

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

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

By

Harry C. Blaney III

This is another text on foreign and national security platform of the Democratic Party with commentary with this post we have covered all but one of the more major issues in the platform. Climate change and environment will be posted shortly.

TEXT OF 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM

Terrorism

We must defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliates, and prevent other groups from emerging in their place. Democrats will continue to lead a broad coalition of allies and partners to destroy ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We will press those in the region, especially the Gulf countries and local forces on the ground, to carry their weight in prosecuting this fight. We will dismantle the global network of terror, which supplies terrorists with money, arms, and fighters, and stop them from recruiting and inspiring potential radicals. We will improve our intelligence capabilities, with appropriate safeguards here at home, and ensure that the intelligence community and law enforcement is prepared to deal effectively with the threats we face. We will harden our defenses as well as those of our partners against external and homegrown threats. We will secure the homeland, investing more resources to improve mass transit, aviation, infrastructure, and port security. And we will remain a resilient nation, always coming together to stand up to terror.

Democrats will seek an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is more precise about our efforts to defeat ISIS and that does not involve large-scale combat deployment of American troops.

As we prosecute the fight against terrorism, Democrats will repudiate vile tactics that would do us harm. We reject Donald Trump’s vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative. It also alienates people and countries who are crucial to defeating terrorism; the vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance. We reject Donald Trump’s suggestion that our military should engage in war crimes, like torturing prisoners or murdering civilian family members of suspected terrorists. These tactics run counter to American principles, undermine our moral standing, cost innocent lives, and endanger Americans. We also firmly reject Donald Trump’s willingness to mire tens of thousands of our combat troops in another misguided ground war in the Middle East, which would only further embolden ISIS. There is nothing smart or strong about such an approach.

COMMENTARY:

Much of this text on terrorism followers the main elements of the policies and strategy of the present administration. As a general summary of the approach makes much sense and there has been much success in such areas as taking ground from ISIS and in denying money and other resources to ISIS. It has become writ that we expect the states of the region play a more prominent role in the defeat of ISIS.

This today is exemplified by the recent August 24th attack by Turkish forces including planes and tanks against ISIS terrorists along Turkey’s Syrian border in the area of the town of Jarablus. What is unsaid is to what degree this will impact our need to have the Kurdish forces that are key to defeating ISIS, taking on Assad, and also their role of actions against terrorists in Iraq. The press reports that American planes are supporting the Turkish advance but Turkish leaders have made clear they will attack Kurdish force if the advance into territory near Turkey. That makes for a very complex situation. The Jarablus town is only 95 kilometers from the key city of Aleppo. It is understood that Turkish backed Syrian rebels are working in cooperation with the Turkish forces.

Aleppo and success in Iraq may become a key indication of the success or failure of the joint American lead coalition strategy of destroying ISIS but it is also a very complex and difficult terrain both in military and political grounds. There are some six groups in Syria involved with different motives and alliances. Within the city are forces against Assad which are besieged by pro-Assad army forces, Hezbollah fighters, Iranian troops, and Iraqi Shia militia and even it is said Russian “contract soldiers.” The unknowns are first, the possible Russian response, second, the possibility of a clash between Kurd led forces and others allied with them largely supported by the US coalition, and Turkey’s own objective of destroying or limiting the Kurd power in the region near their border.

Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) are also in the fight and are made up of mainly but not solely of Kurd fighters. This mix of anti-Assad groups which have not always compatible goals makes for a high level of uncertainty of the outcome of the current fighting.

In the end, the test of the current American and allied strategy must be a Syria that is secure, a new government of all groups without Assad in control, and where terrorist do not hold large areas. At the moment the Kurdish and other Arab forces against Assad have taken the critical town of Manbij and want to advance further North and West including towards the Jarablus which could create a threat to both Turkey and Syrian rebels made up largely of Kurds if they engage each other and destroy the unity of the moment. Not least is the role North of Aleppo of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which plays a role in the defeat of ISIS and is backed by the anti-Assad coalition.

At this moment with the contending forces now fully engaged are creating an even more complex military and political situation with anti-Assad forces diminished yet still strong with Russian support. But a danger is some of these other anti-Assad forces might engaged with each other in a fight over territory and control of large areas and create still more instability. At this point American diplomacy will be key and the need for some kind of accommodation between forces is necessary to end the conflict and stabilize the region. The key today today is what will the region look like the day after ISIS is essentially defeated in both Syria and Iraq. It clearly will not stop all terrorism.

It is hard to argue with the platform idea of protecting our homeland and that of our allies against acts of terrorism. Here key specifics are missing.

Not least also in an anti-terrorist effort is the war in Iraq against ISIS which is also may be coming to some kind of unknown of conclusion but the goal of an Iraq that is untied between Sunni and Shia and Kurds and this will not happen just by defeating ISIS. This issue will be examined in another post.

The second part of the platform on terrorism reaffirms that this is not a war on Muslims, that Trump’s idea of making unlimited war is wrong, and that the idea of sending large numbers of American troops wold be counterproductive. On these stances I see no problem and are compatible with Obama’s perspective and strategy. But the presidential campaign needs to correct some of the false and dangerous assumptions and strategies by Trump that are dangerous to a true “win” over terrorism and for America’s leadership on this and other issues.

We welcome your comments!