AFGHANISTAN: NOW TRUMP’S WAR: A QUAGMIRE, STILL WITHOUT AN END GAME STRATEGY

By,

Harry C. Blaney III

Trump Quote: “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”

Once again we are entering a merciless mess in Afghanistan led by a man that has not the faintest idea of what he is doing other than sending added, yet unknown numbers, of American armed forces into conflict without even a true strategy or concept of making Afghanistan itself safe and having a chance to recover security and stability.

And by cutting out any “nation building” (that is support the civilian sector and giving its people hope for jobs, education, security and a better decent life), a purely military escalation is likely domed from the start.  And sadly this will be at the cost of many additional American, allied, and civilian lives.

Other than threats and platitudes against the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan for their seen failures which we have tried and tried again to correct and change, Trump offered no new hopeful approaches. Trump remains ignorant of the complexity and the deep ingrained habits of corruption, loyalty to tribes, fear of retribution, etc. Not least, also unaddressed is the embedded drug trafficking including the widespread growing of poppies which all sides greatly benefit from not least the terrorists, for which there is no sign we have any new effective solutions. Even if we had it would likely take decades and much resources to make the necessary changes on the ground even if the Afghan government were to become more honest and effective.

It has been 16 years of American war and massive costs under three administrations and we were not able to make right that poor and beleaguered nation burdened with conflict. Does any one think Trump, at his worst unbelievable behavior (note support for racists and the Phoenix unhinged diatribe today), now has the answer? Clearly, he has no different innovative ideas how to make peace in Afghanistan. And even worse, he has gutted our diplomatic capacity which might have helped towards the serious negotiations towards peaceful or less conflict solutions. Trump even had the temerity to say: “In the end we will win.”

He clearly has no end game other than killing the ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeda with an undetermined number of thousands of American troops. Having lived through and watched each administration grapple unsuccessfully with Afghanistan. Now even with the support of the military, clearly now neither the military nor Trump have any idea of a truly new approach. In fact, Trump’s approach is almost exactly what each previous administration tied from time to time and found wanting in any lasting success.

There was not a single sign that Trump or his advisors had better newer answers. Most troubling was his simplistic and even quixotic views on defeating terrorism. He lacks any interest even in proving the people of Afghanistan peace and true stability. There was perhaps another game plan but not to bring peace or security. That is rather simply the idea of saving his administration by becoming a “war president” and thus un-impeccable and un-touchable and diverting attention from the Trump-Putin investigation.

One fact which was not mentioned was the reality that these terrorist groups have learned to spread their activities to other at risk nations and also to regions like Europe, Asia and North America. Killing them in one country is only likely to see them spring up in others, perhaps with even more dangerous outcomes. All this threatened killing brings increased anger and haltered that are at the cause of their strength. Only indeed if we had a effective true strategy against the fundamental sources of terrorism and an effective “nation building” strategy, that could be fully carried implemented, we might address the critical reasons for the spread of terrorism and violence and reduce its impact.

We welcome your comments!!

 

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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!

 

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

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

THE PLATFORM:

Syria

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

Afghanistan

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

Iran

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

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

COMMENTARY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We welcome your comments!

See our 2016 Campaign coverage

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: 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.

PARTPART I I I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY

PART I I I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY, ON MORE OF GLOBAL CHALLENGES

By
Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

This penultimate initial look at 2016 and its challenges will examine more of the most important global challenges and issues we will face in this year. In our last section we covered such issues as Europe, China, and East Asia and North Korea. In this edition we look at Nuclear proliferation and dangers, the India-Pakistan conflict, poverty and inequality, and climate change and other topics in future posts. As we have done earlier we will analyze possible developments in key areas, what risks and dangers lie with the topic and what policies or actions might affect outcomes good or bad and not least what America could, should, or should not do to address the dangers and problems each topic poses. In short, a quick tour of some of the most difficult questions our president and his successor will likely face.
NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION AND NUCLEAR DANGERS

This is a high priority area addressing one of the truly great existential dangers to human civilization. The best tools we have are the pending and existing multilateral treaties and the international organization that limits and monitors nuclear weapons worldwide. The existing treaty frameworks are vital but always in constant danger of being undermined. This includes the Nuclear Proliferation treaty (NPT), the and IAEA that monitors nuclear treaty obligations by nuclear and non-nuclear states. Further, there are bilateral treaties that limit U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. The still pending Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains in a kind of limbo with neither Russia nor America and some other key states in not ratifying the pact. Areas of nuclear spread and crisis as we have cited like India-Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, and monitoring Iran all require higher attention in 2016.

Key danger points remain such as the India-Pakistan conflict with both nations having nuclear weapons in a unstable context. Israel has according to reports undeclared nuclear weapons, Russia has possibly strengthen its nuclear weapons and missile systems for delivery as has the U.S. The key issue now is how best to contain the nuclear dangers and especially how to deal with an arms race with Russia which is counterproductive for both nations and the world.

INDIA-PAKISTAN

As noted, India and Pakistan are nuclear armed nations that constitute a “hot spot” which needs urgent attention by not only the leaders of both nations but also America, European and Asian nations. Both are increasing their nuclear capabilities. A very small ray of light is an on-going dialogue between the leaders of both countries on how to defuse the conflict but there are groups mainly the military on each side which seems to want the tensions and conflict to persist.

In my view the Pakistan nuclear weapons pose the greatest dangers given the instability, ambiguity in their real objectives and duplicity in their dealing with us and others and their fermenting of unrest in places like Afghanistan and helping some terrorist groups. The basic instability of the nation poses risks that are all too high for terrorist getting control over these weapons. The Pakistan government always says these weapons are “safe” but are unable even to deter or stop horrific attacks on their own military by powerful terrorist groups in Pakistan.

We have been engaged for decades with Pakistan with small gains and continued big problems and the debate rages in Washington on which tact to take re use of carrots and/or sticks, and the time has come for some serious rethinks of the basic relationship and need to seek new leverage on not only reconciliation between the two nations but also action to stop Pakistan playing a double game. Closing their border with Afghanistan to terrorists remains a necessity as does ending their support of the Taleban and other terrorist leaders and troops that live in Pakistan. But 2016 may see a final answers to the direction of Pakistan and many observers are not sanguine for a good outcome.

GLOBAL POVERTY AND INEQUALITY AND CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPMENT

Yes, inequality and poverty is a national security issue for the entire globe. But it will not be solved in 2106, but the question is not an immediate solution but rather if real substantial progress can be made on this problem that lies behind much of the unrest and instability we see around the globe.

Global indicators are mixed but the trend in key nations of even greater inequality from Africa to the United States makes for a dark assessments unless 2016 brings new governments, new political movements against unfair policies and corrupt parties and governments. We see the cost of this from Indonesia, Thailand, Malvasia, Russia, Ukraine, the Stands, Nigeria, China, and even some nations in Europe and in the United States. Education, reform and assistance to promote democracy and economic growth that is widely shared all are part of this needed process. But to right these problems assistance remains too small and more money is illegally flowing out of Africa by corrupt leaders into Swiss and other banks than assistance is flowing in.

CLIMATE CHANGE, THE EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE : NEXT BIG STEPS OR DITHERING?

As we noted the 2015 Paris climate change conference was a gain in terms of holding nations to their pledges but the key is followup and close and yearly checking on progress and true accountability that is transparent to all. This year starts must be made in the investment in clean energy and limits on dirty energy. Low price oil and gas are threatening the economic competitiveness of clean energy and there will be a need to provide for some years subsidies for renewable clean fuels and a tax on carbon and or more restrictive direct regulation to reduce pollutants. We are making important strives toward more efficient new renewable energy systems but direct government support to establish economic large-scale manufacturing of solar cells, and wind-turbines will be required to bring these systems on line to meet critical C20 reductions if catastrophe is to be avoided.

The other need is to stop the burning of forests and the release of carbon/methane and addressing the destruction and pollution of our oceans which are a vital part of uptake of carbon and control of global warming impacts. Here the leadership of the United States, Europe and China and India is vital and follow through will require the highest priority to this area by the leaders of these key countries.
SEE OUR COMING CONCLUSION OF THIS SERIES: That new section will cover g the role and question of how to make more effective international institutions, global trade, and later on American presidential politics and the foreign and security issues implications for America’s future global role”

We welcome your comments!

See our section on 2016 Presidential Quotes by both party candidates on this blog.

 

PART I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY OR AROUND MUCH OF THE GLOBE IN HALF AN HOUR!

 

PART I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY  OR AROUND PART OF THE GLOBE IN HALF AN HOUR!

BY
Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

This post will take a quick look at some of the most important global challenges and issues Americans and the rest of humanity will face in this year. This will be a brief look at possible developments in key areas, what risks and dangers lie with the topic and what policies or actions might affect outcomes good or bad. Also indicate what America could, should, or should not do to address the dangers and problems inherent in each issue. In short a quick tour of the most difficult questions our present and likely our next president will likely face.

THE MIDDLE EAST, THE SUNNI-SHIA DIVIDE, AND TERRORISM

There is no region more in disarray and conflict ridden than the Middle East and related regions. Nor is there a more difficult set of forces and issues which makes this region a complex quagmire and yet also more in need of conciliation, diplomacy and outside, yes outside help!

While in the end the Shia and Sunni nations must see that their conflict will destroy them both and make some kind of “pact,” or 2016 could see an escalation of internecine warfare. Here diplomacy from both inside the Islamic community and likely outside. Given the larger consequences we will see in the person of Secretary John Kerry and key Europeans an adding of efforts and pressure for some kind of truce. (See comments on Russia’s role below.)

Sadly the year 2016 started out with a worsening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia over a stupid if not malicious act of killing a Shia Saudi cleric which seems almost designed to escalate the conflict. It will certainly make putting together a necessary joint Shia-Sunni Iraqi regional governance model harder if not impossible.

Yet it must be halted. The seat of most terrorism lies in this region and least we forget it impacts disastrously, more than anyone Muslims of all sects. We are trying to maintain a close dialogue with the key Shia government of Iran which is difficult at any time and with Saudi Arabia that wants unquestioned US support for its anti-Shia strategy. The latter position would be a disaster for America and our allies, in the end we need to be an “honest broker” and “peacemaker” not an outside protagonist.

ISIS or the so-called Islamic State is now at the heart of violence in the Middle East. But there are also many groups and indeed governments who have given support to these brutal killing machines which we see in North Africa, Africa proper, and in Europe and America in individual attacks. 2016 is likely to see more of these and also more reaction by states to curb these terrorists.

Under Obama’s cautious but directed and increasingly mixed-tools strategy, which curbs the deployment of large combat ground troops, and focus, as it should, on the Muslim states concerned taking the lead in routing out ISIS, seem to, at last, to make some progress. ISIS has lost some 30-40% of its population and/or territory in Syria and Iraq.

We are likely to see “more of the same” but now modified to see what works best and least costly in terms of blood and resources and the key problem of “blowback” and “unintended consequences.” It was and is a wise policy which pleases nobody but is an fine example of “smart power” at work. No guarantee of working but the best option of all the other most bad ones. We are likely to see a tough debate in 2016 over a more militaristic approach verses a more cautious but evolving and multi-tools strategy using cooperation with others as a key component. This conundrum will not be solved in 2016 but the activities and attacks of 2016 will influence future outcomes.

There are a number of Middle East countries which are in a critical state including Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, many African nations and others which need not just American attention but also from other key countries including Europe and Asian nations. In each case 2016 will require added major resources and attention via hard diplomacy and addressing some of the fundamental causes if each is not addressed the result will be the spread of conflict and terrorism.

ISRAELI- PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

An example of a conflict that is getting worse not better largely due to the continued effort of Prime Minister Bebe Nethanhuh to make sure there will not be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I can’t be less blunt about this. He has expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are all Palestinian lands. He has said outrageous words about Palestinians citizens in Israel and has said there will be no two state solution while he is in power. He has insulted and tried to undermined President Obama in as many ways as possible within the already fractured difficult American politics while getting un-presidented  major military assistance from the same President to help Israel’s security. His recent visit to Washington to “make up” made little progress towards a peace deal.

While the PLO has not been always helpful in the negotiations and remains weak and divided, and angery it was the continued settlements which forced them into desperate acts which is likely to bring the same sad scenario in 2016 unless there is considerable outside pressure to demand a need to solve this situation, which if not resolved is likely to inflame the entire region and threaten peace and produce a catastrophe for Israel itself. There are those who think America should give up on the Middle East. But the question is in 2016 can the West and other Middle East powers see the consequences of this path to mutual destruction and make an offer that can’t be turned down? Most experts are pessimistic, indeed opposed to any further efforts. They are wrong.

RUSSIA: A DISASTER IN WAITING

If it is true that President Putin’s game is enhancing his and Russia’s strategic and geopolitical standing and he wants to be seen as a major international power, he will be seriously disappointed. If his game is to make “mock war” with the West, this path and this goal lies in failure and possibly mutual calamity. The keyis for the West to hold its unity and focus. Russia it is to be a responsible state looking to help peacemaking and constructively dealing with the many global challenges we face, Putin can win that game for Russia’s long term interests.

His problem is really not just the low price of gas and oil, nor his military adventures, it is the tragedy that his policies have made of Russia. The Ukraine/Crimea gambit will prove to be costly on many dimensions and, if seen as it should, to be a cause of the downturn of the Russian economy and the standard of living of the average citizen (not you can be sure of Putin’s friends among the Oligarchy.

Russia is increasingly, as I have written earlier, a “Potemkin Village” is an empty shell and darkness inside and despair growing. Putin is riding high in the opinion polls but much is also due to his harsh repression of any dissent as seen in his “contract killings” at home and abroad. The predictions are for recession, decline of the Ruble, continued low oil and gas prices and not least a continued from the top corrupt society which enfeebles a great nation.

But this realization clearly has not yet happened  among many Russians and may not in 2016. The test will be in Ukraine, Syria, and relations with the former countries of the former Soviet Union. A test will also be if he continues to carry out his provocative military flights and ship/sub/troop exercises near or over NATO nations.

Given the recent past history, President Putin is not likely to let up on his dangerous indeed mad aggression and acts of war in Ukraine and Syria unless forced to do so from inside realities or outside pressure. He has backed time and time again brutal regimes and groups. His backing of Assad – a regime that has carried out now for years mass killings of its citizens in Syria. Assad’s is a terrorist regime itself.

In an odd swing this action has put him on the same side as Iran and Hezbollah a terrorist group, an effort to be a likely costly goal of being a “big” player in the muddy Middle East. It is just the same game as his other aggressive gambits with nefarious “allies” in places like Georgia, etc. He may pay a cost and make enemies with the Sunni nations by his actions.

He has from time to time tried to appear to seek common ground but with outcomes that only favor his prejudices and goals. He supports the Iran nuclear deal, and in theory a UN backed peace settlement and process in Syria. In 2016 we will see if this ends in peace and all will depend if he is willing to see in the near future Assad to go. His military chips are put down in the Syrian coast with added arms in 2016, but the forces at work are those he nor we can fully control.

Look for a very hard road here in 2016 unless Putin changes his calculations. Look also for more allied bombing efforts against ISIS and possibly indirectly Assad’s forces if peace talks fail. And some work to deal with the refugee issues seems necessary.

END OF PART I: COMING SECOND PART COVERS EUROPE, ASIA, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, GLOBAL WARMING, AND OTHER ISSUES.

Comments are welcomed.

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

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

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Beyond the specifics of our fractured and conflict ridden world covered in Part I of this two part series, are questions about the contributions or the follies of our national and global leaders and of our institutions and in the end concerned and impacted citizens.

We want to add some thoughts about the import of events in 2015 that are in some ways emblematic of the global landscape we live in and provided either new difficult challenges or show hopeful paths for America and the international community.

THE ISSUE OF GLOBAL LEADERS AND OUR SECURITY: FINDING COOPERATION

2015 was a year where there also was a real effort of some global leaders to find areas of agreement, of conciliation, of paths to peace and reduction of nuclear weapons and dealing with terrorism in intelligent ways. The first part of this series saw some very dark events and some acts by leaders that contributed to hatred, conflict, inequality, and bigotry. While others tried to mitigate these catastrophes. The results were indeed mixed.

This balance between peacemakers and authoritarian and malevolent “disrupters” and war-makers has been through all of human history and 2015 was not exception. Examples are below of this on going struggle.

DISINTEGRATION VERSES INTEGRATION, THE MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION CRISIS, TERRORISM, AND GLOBAL WARMING

THE EUROPEAN CHALLENGE

The key challenges for Europe are immigration, keeping Britain in the EU fold, getting rid of austerity and getting the economy on a growth pattern. It also was addressing terrorism within and abroad, facing inequality which threatens stability, and the growth of fascists and racist and extreme right-wing governments and parties. And also defining the relationship with America, an aggressive Russia and rising China in a constructive way.

Angela Merkel, who I have criticized for her economic austerity policies towards Greece and other weak EU states, came through initially in 2015 as a moral leader in support of refugees feeling death and conflict which seems to have cost her support at home. Her fate in 2016 will hinge not only on gaining some consensus within Germany for helping and accepting the refugees but for leading the EU towards a broader and more effective set of policies and actions which will make for a peaceful settlement and fair sharing of the burden. Immigration in 2015 was truly a challenge almost un-precedented and was largely an event that divided Europe and its reactions engendered more disunity and irresponsible acts and policies.

2015 was a year Britain went down the dangerous path towards possible separation of Scotland which thankfully failed – not thanks to Prime Minister Cameron. Cameron made the decision to hold a referendum to leave the EU and a vote is set for 2016. Merkel will also be key in helping keep the UK in the EU when the forces in Britain of the small minded Tory Euro-skeptics and the British equivalent of our Republican Tea Party bigots want to separate from the EU. Further there was and continues a dangerous move and sentiment within Europe against not only immigration but also the EU and the “FORE Project” which is the keystone for peace and stability and yes democracy in the region. The leaders of Europe did not in 2015 face fully up to these challenges.

FRANCE TO THE FORE?

What was seen as a weak French socialist president Hollande, turned out to be seen by many as strong in dealing with terrorism in Africa, and recently in his stance during the Paris attacks in November and the lead host of the Paris Climate change meeting. France in some ways has come to replace the British as a more reliable partner on a number of key issues. Their decision to contribute planes and resources to the allied bombing efforts in Syria and Iraq was an unexpected act. They were more involved in dealing with Russia on Ukraine, in the Iran nuclear deal, and took on anti-terrorism responsibilities in Africa.

THE BRITISH RETREAT?

Prime Minister David Cameron, on the other hand, did a lot of talking and little real action. While supporting UK continued membership in the EU he mismanaged in 2014 and 2015 the process of the vote on EU membership that is planned to take place in 2016. Should UK leave the EU the consensus of experts is it would be a disaster for Britain (and for Europe also).

He has failed to quiet the separatist tides in Scotland after the vote to stay united by a totally irresponsible handling of promises that were made for increased Scottish home rule. Not least he has move toward anti-immigration moves to mitigate the influence of such parties as the UK Independent Party with its racist, anti-EU, and isolationist tendencies. Wining the election in 2015 with a clear majority in Parliament but not in the nation was a plus for him, but it led to a doubling down on arch-conservative programs to punish the poor and to enhance the very rich. In the end this can’t but reap harm to Britain in the world.

DEPLORING WORLD’S WOES!

Economic growth overall in the developing nations was disappointing and the growth of conflict in places like Africa and Middle East hurt as did growing debts and political disarray. Leadership in the developing world was in too many cases a disaster for these countries with a few making efforts against an overwhelming tide of despair, corruption, and disparity of wealth and power. On a upward note, Castro in Cuba decided to respond to Obama’s outreach, China’s leaders helped at last on climate change/ environment, and India also finally went along when it was a spoiling nation with the Paris accords. Key in 2015 and will be in 2016, is efforts to start a rapprochement between the near warring nuclear weaponed India and Pakistan. A number of countries had mostly democratic elections including Burma, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Burma. And there were game changing elections in Argentina, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic,

AMERICA’S ROLE IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND RECONCILIATION

Notable above all, has been President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry who carried often much of the globe on their shoulders. They got India and China to finally do something constructive on climate change, more than anyone Obama and Kerry got the Iran agreement through in negotiations and in the Congress. Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba was a major breakthrough for both sides. Obama proposed both the Atlantic and Pacific trade packs which still remain controversial, but envisions a more united world economically and has strategic significance. 2016 will see how these two initiatives progress.

A key wise outcome was the administration kepting its promise not to do “stupid things” and kept their caution and steely focus on what could be done effectively and at least cost. It has shown some results. They saw their judgement and policies make some progress in 2015 and into 2016 with notable victories, with little American blood lost, in Iraq with the retaking of Ramadi and other towns. They revised our strategy in Syria with progress by American supported Kurd forces taking key points and pushing the Islamic State back from important towns and sites but some mixed results. But with a little advancement by the Syrian opposition forces. The Syrian quagmire became even more difficult after Putin’s 2015 intervention and Russian bombing of opposition forces.

But the simply fact is that U.S. and allied precise bombing and intelligence has been critical for success, despite being downplayed by the neo-cons and their hawkish Republican followers, who seem blindly want more vulnerable troops on the ground as proof of their on-the-cheep “toughness.” In fact we saw that added allied bombing was taking place.

The key still remains our diplomatic efforts. The UN Security Council with American and allied nations, and even Russia agreement, voted on a path towards possible peace and a new Syrian governance structure. This effort is filled with uncertainties, but promises more hope than would getting mass American combat troops sent to be killed by the Islamic State terrorist on their home turf. I see this as a use of “smart power” while the GOP still seems, as they did in Iraq under Bush II earlier, decide to use “stupid power” and play the terrorist’s game.

AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND THE GLOBAL ORDER

The debates in 2015, especially those of the Republican candidates revealed how dangerous our atrocious politics have become for the security if the rest of the world. 2015 showed how unbalanced our nation could become and how one major party has so gone off the deep end that even the fair right creator of this condition in Republican politics, Charles Koch in a Financial Times interview said that he was “disappointed” by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and resigned to having to support one with whom he agrees on only some issues. He thinks his issues are not being addressed. He is unhappy with the positions of Trump and Cruz on dealing with Muslims! And perhaps more? There is more irony in this as he has probably been more responsible for the GOP crazies we have today than any other person on this earth! Yet he would support any crazy according to his statement rather than any Democrat.

The other trend in our nation in 2015 and before has been the universal effort by the Republican candidates to beat up on Obama and especially to call him “weak” mostly focusing on his caution about using massive ground forces in Syria and Iraq. Trump started this idea of “No energy” not only against Obama and also his GOP opponents, but it has become a chorus by all the rest of what can be fairly described as the worst group of would-be presidents in American history. Each has done all they could either in their official capacity or on the campaign trail to undermined American power and interests around the world by their irresponsible statements, policies, or votes. They have been indifferent on how they are viewed by other nations. Just their presence in 2015 and the possibility that any one of them might be president sends shudders down most allied leaders and many of their educated citizens.

This is a world of interdependence, globalized as some would have it, and this is the high level information world where people everywhere hear what is said by global leaders and would be leaders via TV and the internet.

So goodby 2015, and we will look at the prospects for 2016 soon.

We welcome you comments!