TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY AN UNCLASSIFIED REPORT BY OBAMA. SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR
DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY UNCLASSIFIED REPORT  BY OBAMA WITH SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

By Harry C. Blaney III

Today President Obama was briefed on and received the intelligence community’s CLASSIFIED report of Russia’s hacking of Democratic officials and likely other US hacking activities especially aimed to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It is reported that the unclassified version will be released possibly Monday and Obama will brief our citizens on its content and its import and possibly US actions.

Already on Capital Hill hearings are taking place on this subject with the Republican Senate leadership adamantly opposing a separate investigation and bipartisan committee to look into the issue. In the hearings the intelligence heads today have made clear, on an unclassified basis, that Russia did the hacking and it was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election outcome and it was ordered by the highest levels of the Russian government.

The witnesses included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,  testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian cyberattacks or hacking during the 2016 election as well addressing the greater cyber threat Russia poses to the U.S.

There was concern about this action by both Republican and Democratic members. Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, brought up the Watergate scandal and cited the congressional investigation that followed. “It is my hope that this Congress is willing to stand in a bipartisan way…as the Congress did in 1974.” Kaine talked about how he was a victim of fake news during the election and criticized Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has promoted some of those stories.

On the Republican side Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Clapper if there’s a difference between espionage and Russian hacking. Clapper said that espionage “implies passive collection,” but the hacking is “activist.” Sen Graham said. “If we don’t throw rocks, we’re going to make a huge mistake.” “It’s time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks,” ….. “Putin’s up to no good; he’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people you can be skeptical, but you have to understand they’re the best among us.” When asked later, why we did not retaliate for espionage fully Clapper said “If we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When Clapper talked about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” against the U.S. He said, for example that RT, funded by the Russian government, was “very, vert active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.” Further, Clapper added that Russia used RT, social media, fake news. “They exercised all of those capabilities in addition to the hacking. The totality of that effort, not only as DNI, but as a citizen, is a grave concern.”

The exchange in the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing was clear as to who did the hacking and beyond with Director Clapper noting that “Hacking was only part of it,” he added told the panel that “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.”

The question before both Obama, and now soon, Donald Trump is what will be done about the action or any repeat of such activities? So far Trump and his team seem to throw doubt and disparagement upon the entire Russia hacking effort against the Democrats.

The question that needs to be asked and will be taken up next week by this blog, is what President Obama will say about what needs to be done and the import of these actions for American democracy, and not least, shortly a statement by Trump “after briefing on this issue by our intelligence people, our thoughts whether if Trump is protecting himself or our nation as president!

So far my judgement, contrary to some commentators like in the Washington Post today (“Could Trump be playing Russia?” by the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt), that it is Trump playing a game on Putin. My bet is the other way around by far, as the evidence shows Trump is ignorant of Russian realities, ignores facts, and seems to put “relations with Putin” and his own ego ahead of national interests and use of smart diplomacy including understanding the U.S. intelligence findings and its consequences.

We welcome your comments!

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

 

GOP National Security Officials Weigh in on Trump

On Monday, 50 former Republican national security officials, including Michael Chertoff, Michael Hayden, John Negroponte, Meghan O’Sullivan, and Tom Ridge, released an open letter in which they stated that Donald Trump, if elected, “would be the most reckless President in American history.” Below is the full text of the letter and its signatories.
STATEMENT BY FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS
The undersigned individuals have all served in senior national security and/or foreign policy positions in Republican Administrations, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. We have worked directly on national security issues with these Republican Presidents and/or their principal advisers during wartime and other periods of crisis, through successes and failures. We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.
None of us will vote for Donald Trump.
From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.
Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.
In addition, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding of America’s vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign affairs and “knows more about ISIS than the generals do.”
Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to be President. In our experience, a President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.
In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
We understand that many Americans are profoundly frustrated with the federal government and its inability to solve pressing domestic and international problems. We also know that many have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us. But Donald Trump is not the answer to America’s daunting challenges and to this crucial election. We are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history.
Donald B. Ayer
Former Deputy Attorney General John B. Bellinger III Former Legal Adviser to the Department of State; former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Robert Blackwill Former
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning, The White House
Michael Chertoff
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Department of Justice
Eliot A. Cohen
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; former National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
Gary Edson
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House Richard Falkenrath Former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, The White House Peter Feaver Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Richard Fontaine
Former Associate Director for Near East Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
Jendayi Frazer
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs; former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Aaron Friedberg
Former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, The White House
David Gordon
Former Director of Policy Planning, Department of State
Michael Green
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asia, National Security Council, The White House
Brian Gunderson
Former Chief of Staff, Department of State
Paul Haenle
Former Director for China and Taiwan, National Security Council, The White House
Michael Hayden
Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency
Carla A. Hills
Former U.S. Trade Representative John Hillen Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
William Inboden
Former Senior Director for Strategic Planning, National Security Council, The White House
Reuben Jeffery III
Former Under Secretary of State for Economic Energy and Agricultural Affairs; former Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, National Security Council, The White House
James Jeffrey
Former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House
Ted Kassinger
Former Deputy Secretary of Commerce
David Kramer
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
James Langdon
Former Chairman, President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, The White House
Peter Lichtenbaum
Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
Mary Beth Long
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Clay Lowery
Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs; former Director for International Finance, National Security Council, The White House
Robert McCallum
Former Associate Attorney General; former Ambassador to Australia
Richard Miles
Former Director for North America, National Security Council, The White House
Andrew Natsios
Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
John Negroponte
Former Director of National Intelligence; former Deputy Secretary of State; former Deputy National Security Advisor
Meghan O’Sullivan
Former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan
Dan Price
Former Deputy National Security Advisor
Tom Ridge
Former Secretary of Homeland Security; former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, The White House; former Governor of Pennsylvania
Nicholas Rostow
Former Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, The White House
Kori Schake
Former Director for Defense Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
Kristen Silverberg
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
Stephen Slick
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs, National Security Council, The White House
Shirin R. Tahir-Kheli
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations, National Security Council, The White House; former Ambassador and Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment, Department of State
William H. Taft IV
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; former Ambassador to NATO
Larry D. Thompson
Former Deputy Attorney General William Tobey Former Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy; former Director for CounterProliferation Strategy, National Security Council, The White House
John Veroneau
Former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
Kenneth Wainstein
Former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The White House; former Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Department of Justice
Matthew Waxman
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; former Director for Contingency Planning and International Justice, National Security Council, The White House
Dov Zakheim
Former Under Secretary of Defense
Roger Zakheim
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Philip Zelikow
Former Counselor of the Department of State
Robert Zoellick
Former U.S. Trade Representative; former Deputy Secretary of State

THE 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NORTH KOREA

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 North Korean Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

PLATFORM TEXT:

North Korea is perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator. It has conducted several nuclear tests and is attempting to develop the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could directly threaten the United States. The regime is also responsible for grave human rights abuses against the North Korean people. Yet Donald Trump praises North Korea’s dictator; threatens to abandon our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea; and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. This approach is incoherent and rather than solving a global crisis, would create a new one. Democrats will protect America and our allies, press China to restrain North Korea, and sharpen the choices for Pyongyang to compel it to abandon its illegal nuclear and missile programs.

COMMENTARY:

I have no problem with this summary but it should have been more specific in noting that Trump said that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear weapons of their own. This is about as dangerous as his statement that he might use nuclear weapons in circumstances that would kill hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians and against opponents who do not possess nuclear weapons.

The problem remains that we have not yet in three decades created the context that would “force” North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons or their development. The conundrum is that the only state that might be able to have leverage over North Korea is China. However, that nation wants to maintain North Korea as a buffer for its security and does not want to see South Korea, an American ally, come up to its border.  But it is also not yet willing to compel North Korea to give up these weapons, the means of developing them, or the means of delivering them via missiles, despite the existential danger to China should North Korea use these weapons. In time, and with continued threatening actions, the trajectory of North Korea’s aggressive and irrational behavior may offer the real prospects of common catastrophe.

The first act is to get China to see that some change is needed and to offer both strategic safeguards to the region and  sufficient inducement for North Korea to change its policies. Whether real change will require internal regime change or China’s pressure, America can through continued diplomacy help move towards a common solution that brings more security to all nations in the region. That level of intelligence and foresight is clearly not something that Trump and his Republican minions can ever understand sadly.

We welcome your comments!

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR, CHEMICAL, AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

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 Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Issues. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM TEXT:

Democrats are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of these catastrophic weapons. We believe America will be safer in a world with fewer weapons of mass destruction. Donald Trump encourages the spread of nuclear weapons across Asia and the Middle East, which would weaken the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and he is unwilling to rule out using a nuclear weapon against ISIS.

Democrats want to reduce the number of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons around the world, as well as their means of delivery, while retaining a strong deterrent as long as others maintain nuclear strike capabilities . We will strengthen the NPT, push for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and stop the spread of loose nuclear material. Democrats will be informed by a new Nuclear Posture Review in determining continued ways to appropriately shape our nuclear deterrent, with the aim of reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons while meeting our national security obligations. Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the  expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

COMMENTARY:

Nuclear security and preventing nuclear war should be the critical issue of American diplomacy and defense policy. It is taken by the Democrats as the highest priority.  

Nuclear weapons and  nuclear non-proliferation, as well as dealing with the other weapons of mass destruction, are key to American security and not a subject for partisan or mindless un-thoughtful policies. Dealing with these issues require action and responses to real threats in a rational and considered way, not by mindless and unconsidered military attacks when in fact we are not under attack.  As seen in the Democratic Platform, judgement is key and listening to experts is required.

During the Cold War, stability depended on nuclear deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), based on creating a strategic force that it invulnerable to a first strike from Russia and vice-versa. The problem is that this equation does not provide faultless security from a mad leader, an accident, or a miscalculation from either side.

Thus, decades of arms control and reduction and “confidence building measures” have tried to mitigate against these “unforeseen contingencies.” The platform here is silent on these issues but these approaches have been an integral element in Obama’s strategy and that of almost all past presidents, though it seems to be threatened by an unstable and ignorant Trump.

Perhaps the most specific platform statement of nuclear policy was: “Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.”   What is needed as a key element to stabilize and reduce nuclear weapons is not only not create incentives for fewer weapons, but also to undertake urgent efforts to have agreements that aim to reduce instability and mistakes and to create a environment that lessens the chances of mistakes. There is room now to reduce on all sides the “hair triggers” on such weapons and create added confidence building frameworks to reduce the possibility of accidental use. 

The Trump Republicans do not even think about nuclear issues as a national security priority and even threaten to use such weapons under the most irresponsible conditions imaginable – when our key vital interests are not at stake, as a first strike force against forces that do not have such weapons, and even when our nation vital survival is not threatened.

We welcome your comments below!

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

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

THE PLATFORM:

Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens.

Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners — countries who help us fight terrorism every day — and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead. We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies.

We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest — as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and re-supplying our troops in Afghanist an — but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

COMMENTARY:

This is affirmation in large part of the present  foreign policy approaches to Russia. It is far too general to really indicate what would or should be done in new specific ways to deal with Russia and to influence Putin to be truly cooperative and see the error of taking an aggressive stance and fomenting unrest in places like Ukraine and Iraq. It notes that we should continue to cooperate when it is in our interests. This makes sense but it is too passive of a position. It needs to look at ways to create a long-term cooperative context.

Nor does it outline any specific very good ideas to show our interests in good relations with the increasingly oppressed Russian people who have to pay for Putin’s wars, see their meager freedom further restricted, and pay for major economic mistakes.

Russia is fomenting unrest and instability and trying to influence the politics of Eastern Europe and places in Western Europe like France.  New efforts at public diplomacy, cultural exchanges, support of democratic institutions and free media, and sustaining citizen participation in civic life with these nations should be intensified. Obama has spoken while in Poland about the need to maintain democratic norms in that country with the current rise of authoritarian tendencies there and elsewhere. But more likely needs to be done. Republican efforts to limit our public diplomacy efforts and cutting back on our State Department diplomacy and aid budget have not helped.

The DNC platform position reflects the fundamental elements of the President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry strategy on Russian issues over the last nearly 8 years, which has seen successes and its disappointments. The key elements of a strategy for dealing with a Putin-led Russia remain to bolster NATO and to keep Europe united, especially in maintaining the sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The administration has been intensively engaged in seeking a diplomatic solution that will protect the integrity of Ukraine and its democracy. We are also helping the Ukraine military through training and providing defense supplies. Again the platform has not spelled out any specifics and this is a highly uncertain and moving situation.

What is not also said here is the supreme security goal vis-s-vis Russia must be to avoid a nuclear war between Russia and America.

The U.S. approach to the Russian presence in the Middle East (specifically in Syria) centers on diplomacy, trying to contain the damage that Russia is inflicting on the Syrian people in support of the brutal Assad regime. This problem is likely to persist into the new term of out next president. The preferred U.S. path is through a combination of “sticks” like hard sanctions and “carrots” in trying to find a compromise that would in stop the conflict, protect the Syrian civilians, and lead to a new Syrian broad-based government with Assad and the full participation of all groups in Syria.  This remains a work in progress and will test whether Putin’s aim is to destabilize the region and to extend Russia’s military presence and influence in the region while pushing Western influence out. The last is not likely, since America and Western powers far out-class in quantity and quality what Russia can provide in the long run, making any push for Russian hegemony costly and dangerous to maintain.

The key to our policy is recognition by Russia that it is in a much weaker position and the benefits of good relations with the West are better that a policy of aggression. This lesson needs to be understood, and diplomacy and dynamic economic growth by the West is the way to influence this trend.
 
In the end, the main aim must be for a common accommodation between Russia and the much stronger and attractive democratic West, which will result in a “win-win” outcome for both sides and real cooperation to deal with global dangers and challenges.

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: U.S. Leadership in the Asian Pacific

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 Asia-Pacific Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.

TEXT OF GOP PLATFORM:

We are a Pacific nation with economic, military, and cultural ties to all the countries of the oceanic rim and treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. With them, we look toward the establishment of human rights for the people of North Korea. We urge the government of China to recognize the inevitability of change in the Kim family’s slave state and, for everyone’s safety against nuclear disaster, to hasten positive change on the Korean peninsula. The United States will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with full accounting of its proliferation activities. We also pledge to counter any threats from the North Korean regime.

We salute the people of Taiwan, with whom we share the values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy, and the rule of law. Our relations will continue to be based upon the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, and we affirm the Six Assurances given to Taiwan in 1982 by President Reagan. We oppose any unilateral steps by either side to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Straits on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan. If China were to violate those principles, the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself. We praise efforts by the new government in Taipei to continue constructive relations across the Taiwan Strait and call on China to reciprocate. As a loyal friend of America, Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines, and full participation in the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and other multilateral institutions.

China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China . The liberalizing policies of recent decades have been abruptly reversed, dissent brutally crushed, religious persecution heightened, the internet crippled, a barbaric population control two-child policy of forced abortions and forced sterilizations continued, and the cult of Mao revived. Critics of the regime have been kidnapped by its agents in foreign countries. To distract the populace from its increasing economic problems and, more importantly, to expand its military might, the government asserts a preposterous claim to the entire South China Sea and continues to dredge ports and create landing fields in contested waters where none have existed before, ever nearer to U.S. territories and our allies, while building a navy far out of proportion to defensive purposes.

The complacency of the Obama regime has emboldened the Chinese government and military to issue threats of intimidation throughout the South China Sea , not to mention parading their new missile, “the Guam Killer,” down the main streets of Beijing, a direct shot at Guam as America’s first line of defense. Meanwhile, cultural genocide continues in Tibet and Xinjiang, the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is eroded, the currency is manipulated, our technology is stolen, and intellectual property and copyrights are mocked in an economy based on piracy. In business terms, this is not competition; it is a hostile takeover. For any American company to abet those offenses, especially governmental censorship and tracking of dissenters, is a disgrace.

The return to Maoism by China’s current rulers is not reason to disengage with the Chinese people or their institutions. We welcome students, tourists, and investors, who can see for themselves our vibrant American democracy and how real democracy works. We caution, however, against academic or cultural operations under the control of the Chinese government and call upon American colleges to dissociate themselves from this increasing threat to academic freedom and honest research.

Most of the nations of Southeast Asia have set aside crippling ideologies and sought material progress in free enterprise and democracy. We congratulate the people of Burma on their emergence from authoritarian rule and urge their respect for the rights of their country’s minority populations. Our improved relations with Vietnam — including arms sales — must advance efforts to obtain an accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of, Americans who gave their lives in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. We cannot overlook the continued repression of fundamental rights and religious freedom, as well as retribution against ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces during the conflict there.

India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. The dynamism of its people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world. We encourage the Indian government to permit expanded foreign investment and trade, the key to rising living standards for those left out of their country’s energetic economy. For all of India’s religious communities, we urge protection against violence and discrimination. Republicans note with pride the contributions to our country that are made by our fellow citizens of Indian ancestry.

Conflicts in the Middle East have created special political and military challenges for the people of Pakistan. Our working relationship is a necessary, though sometimes difficult, benefit to both, and we look toward the strengthening of historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict. This process cannot progress as long as any citizen of Pakistan can be punished for helping the War on Terror. Pakistanis, Afghans, and Americans have a common interest in ridding the region of the Taliban and securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. That goal has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan. A Republican president will work with all regional leaders to restore mutual trust while insisting upon progress against corruption and the narcotic trade that fuels insurgency.

 

COMMENTARY:  

The odd part of this platform’s stance is that much of its general rhetoric is a rehash of the existing policies and practices of the current administration and also throws out ideas that are clearly not going to work or are in fact counterproductive to making progress in solving any of the problems that inflect this region.

In the section on North Korea, they both seek some agreement with North Korea via diplomacy and take a hard stand on North Korea’s nuclear efforts and aggression. We are already trying to get China to moderate North Korea’s belligerence but, while they may have tried, North Korea has largely ignored their key benefactor. Dialogue is still our aim, but there is not a single idea on how they would do this in any way other than our current policy. They do not note that we are now installing defensive anti-missile systems in South Korea to bolster their defense and for the protection of civilians.

The platform’s position in support of Taiwan in effect commits us going to war with China over threats to Taiwan’s independence, should it be invaded. The list of China’s “evils” are long and many are quite correct, but there is no realistic or practical idea on how to deal with them. They simply imply that American business is better off leaving China, which is a sign of self defeat rather than a constructive long-term policy. The current US administration is trying to push via diplomacy all of these issues in a concerted way but not trying to address these issues in a hopeless hostile approach that is counterproductive. This, as they say, is “cheep grace,” since China is playing the long game — acting to integrate the island into China via political pressure and economic tied and relations.

It addresses the issue of the South China claims, but proposes no solutions of any kind. Its claim of major increase in military expenditure by China is partly correct, but these efforts remain but a fraction of America’s defense effort and we have already made major increases in our military presence in the region. Further our strengthened alliances and cooperation with other nations in the area have already showed progress.

But, in the end, the key to US policy with China is to engage it in constructive ways, as President Obama did with the agreement on climate change and sanction on Iran. This is the best way forward for a long term strategy of both sides of a “win-win” outcome that ends with a truly “peaceful rise,” and a nation in time that accepts cooperative responsibility for security and prosperity. The alternative is to pay to the worst instincts of the super nationalists on both sides and enhance unnecessary long term conflict in no one’s interest.

The support of democratic norms for Burma, China, Vietnam, India, etc., is odd for a party that has picked Donald Trump for it’s candidate — a man who praises President Putin and his authoritarian streak that has led to many human rights violations, including of the independence of other nations and makes brutal war on civilians in Ukraine and Syria.

What is absent from the statement is any real statement of what to do about such issues as the South China Sea, trade disputes, and China’s failure to enforce international standards for the protection of intellectual property and copyrights, as well as its manipulation of its currency and democracy in Hong Kong. Statements without teeth seem to indicate they there is an absence of any new ideas or real solutions without cost f0r all of these subjects. Would America go to war with China over the South China Sea? Would we invade Hong Kong to establish democracy or cut off trade because of “currency manipulation”?

At the moment, existing policies are aimed at dealing with all these issues from the viewpoint of cooperation, diplomacy, and even compromise on both sides — that also strengthen our cooperative defense capabilities. The Obama pivot to Asia is an effort to deal both with economic/trade and security issues and seems to strengthen our position in the Pacific, would Trump put this a risk with foolish words and acts? 

It is hard to know what to make of the section on the Middle East. The party both blames and praises Pakistan and repeats our policy to deal with ISIS or Taliban. If one reads with care their statement that the goal of stability “has been undermined by the current Administration’s feckless treatment of troop commitments and blatant disregard of advice from commanders on the ground, particularly with regard to Afghanistan,” are they saying that America should commit a large number of US ground troops that result in danger and deaths when the more focused, balanced, careful, and present strategy seems in fact to be making progress in an area that will never be totally peaceful even with large US troops, as was proven under Bush II. If that is what they want they should say so! Or come up with a better strategy. The one we have has been approved by much of our top military. The Trump types don’t have, in fact, anyone with that kind of deep knowledge and expertise. So far their “experts” are most third-rate and ideologues that got us earlier in trouble in the region.

 In sum, this section reflects, without saying so, much of the current administrations positions, but it also reflects the bifurcated and contradictory stance that Donald Trump has taken on many domestic and international issues. It also shows the divisions in the GOP between the large powerful trading and financial interest that the Republican Party has traditional supported (its unabashed praise for “capitalism”) and its normal stance supporting international trade. But on many key issues it now reflects the more right-wing isolationist and belligerent wing of the party that sees China as a threat and a tool to justify its stance to support major increases in defense spending without any relation to the real threat or already massive resources we are putting into our military budget already.

Come back for more texts from the Democratic platform side and commentary in the coming days.

See also our 2016 Campaign Coverage.