RUSSIA’S PUTIN AND AMERICA’S TRUMP: A DISASTER TRAJECTORY FOR OUR NATION?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

We are coming closer and closer to some kind of determining of the trajectory of both the Trump regime at home and the direction and risks of the inherent divide between Putin’s Russia and its goals and Trump’s own goals or perhaps just incoherent daily utterances and thoughtless unknown schemes. For America this landscape is filled with unknowns and ever growing risks. If we continue as we have with Trump, the ending will likely be danger of more conflicts and with more calamities for both sides and the rest of the world.

For Trump, the world is closing in and his walls of defense are increasingly more desperate and self-contradictory. His efforts to change the direction of attention away from the Trump-Russian contacts and towards diversionary issues confirm his sense of vulnerability. This includes the intensity of his incoherent tweets and acts that indicate at least that he senses serious risk for him, his family and administration. He perhaps sees a point of final dangerous conclusion by the Special Counsel investigation and Congressional inquires.

To put the situation simply, the Trump “walls” are starting to crack (and we do not mean the non existent one on the Mexican border). All of this is solely due to Trump’s own nefarious behavior, his conflicting lies and those of his family and staff. Now we have proof of real collusion between Russian agents and the Trump family and staff according recent reported news on the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This meeting was held clearly to work with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

The meeting was with a total of eight persons, some with questionable backgrounds. It was focused much more on helping Trump’s election than Trump Jr. reported to the public or US officials originally. The fundamental question that must be in the minds of those alert to the legal and national security implications is that of collusion. The recent revelation of this meeting and that lies were told about it includes the fact that Trump’s son and people were offered Russian government information as a key inducement. And Trump Jr., in response to the offer said that he would “love it.”  Trump Jr. did not put down initially all the people in the room for his security clearance. That in normal times would bar him from access to high level classified information.

The recent revelation of Trump’s “private” and unannounced meeting at the G-20 dinner for about an hour with Putin with only a Russia interpreter present and no American interpreter, has raised many serious questions, not least about Trump’s primary loyalty and judgement. This is, even more so, as it may have been planned earlier with Putin to assure no Americans would know what was agreed.  And we note that Putin had a briefing paper and pen at hand and Trump had nothing!

We have had no real readout of what was discussed at this lone bilateral. Further we initially had strained obstruction regarding getting information on the heart of this meeting by the White House staff.

I can assure all readers, as a former White House staffer and Member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, this was not normal if substance and deals were discussed and there was no planning or debate by officials on what Trump proposed. Efforts to make little of it only reinforce doubt. This was likely a very BIG DEAL! That there was no serious readout of the meeting only intensifies the feeling America may be sold out by our incompetent and unstable president. Does anyone who should be brief on this discussion really know what was agreed? Perhaps his family knows, or others in the White House or the Secretaries of State or Defense??? Or just the Russians?

One further question: is there other material, likely in the hands of the intelligence community or FBI, which should be shared with Special Counsel Robert Muller? If there is full sharing, we may see the start of far more serious inquires by the Special Counsel who already has asked to interview at least one member of that Trump Tower meeting and reportedly more.

At this time — with the President at the lowest point in public opinion polls and with a history of vitriol and lies in almost all that he does — the question is being asked if this nation can stand and be secure for the next three years with this individual and his “disruptive” family and staff. Not least in this regard Stephen Bannon with his Alt-Right views, seems increasingly to be behind some of the more cruel and hateful policies of this administration.

Some say impeachment is not possible with this GOP dominated Congress which itself says a lot about how our democracy has declined and the integrity of our elected GOP officials  as well. Think what the GOP would do if all this was done by a Democratic president? So many have been bought (literally in many cases), by dark wealthy forces wanting to undermine our democracy’s efforts towards fairness, equality, and justice for all. How many disasters will the GOP accept before acting?

Thus the issue is likely in the brave hands of the Special Counsel, the FBI and our overall justice system.  As Robert Mueller and staff examine the case for civil and criminal action against some in the highest levels in our land we many be able to discern who may have desecrated and shown they are disloyal to our constitution. We also need to thank some in the media who have exposed with courage much of the nefarious dealings of this administration.

We welcome your comments! (Click on title and comment section will be at end of post.)

THE TRUMP REGIME – PEOPLE DO MATTER, THEY DETERMINE WHAT WILL HAPPEN! (THE PARADE OF STOOGES)

By Harry C. Blaney III

President-elect Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Mitt Romney walk out at the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster Township, N.J. on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.
Photo Credit via CNBC


Perhaps the greatest indicator of what will happen in any given administration is the people that are picked for the top posts. I have watched this for many decades for both Democratic and Republican administrations and their choices, like the canaries in the coal mine, tell you what to expect and what to fear. This is especially the case in the foreign and national security area as the consequences can be catastrophic rather quickly and can make for disastrous long-term trends. It tells us also how Trump intends to govern, or is it rule?

Bad choices often have a very high price in such areas as climate change, conflicts in the Middle East, dealing with our allies, and working with Russia and China, as well as dealing with nuclear weapons and getting our critical intelligence right and not politicized.

But the names that have so far emerge have shown a dangerous trend. It is not unlike the naming of Stephen Bannon as Counselor to the President and chief strategist and essentially policy co-equal to the White House Chief-of-Staff.  In his case we have next to the president’s office a racist, bigoted and alt-right Breitbart News head which has spewed the media and our citizens with hate of just about every minority and group one can conjure up. The exception is the KKK, which endorsed Trump and rejoices in the lifting up of Bannon as one its own. That act alone has cost us greatly in every decent nation and with citizens around the world that prize decency towards all and the worth of every human being.  It has given inspiration to every fascist group and dictator around the world and at home. That one appointment alone says much of what the new administration will be like.

Just so is the case with the national security and foreign policy choices that have for some appointments come out of the Trump Tower. Here is the latest developments for the key foreign and national security posts: They are all critical positions of importance like Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the heads of the intelligence agencies, and the National Security Advisor to the President, who heads the National Security Council. We need to remember that for the Chiefs-of-Staff of the Armed Forces Trump gets to have the last say on appointments.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE:
The Department of State is a critical position as John Kerry has already demonstrated in his unbelievable efforts to act as peacemaker, peacekeeper and “Crisis Manager In-Chief”. The current crop of “likely suspects” has already been bantered around by leaks and media speculation. For the Department of State such names as Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton,  and perhaps a more responsible individual Stephen Hadley, a former George W. Bush national security adviser, who unlike some other Bush types abstained from criticizing Trump during the campaign.

Now the speculation has widened by leaks from Trump’s headquarters. Here is a short look at this long and rather bizarre list:

With regard to Bolton, a former Ambassador to the United Nations, who has a not very favorable reputation among many foreign affairs professionals and is known to be difficult to work with. He is the “macro” war hawk and hates almost all global international organizations especially the United Nations.  Senator Rand Paul opposes both Bolton and Giuliani, with regard to Bolton in an editorial he wrote: “Bolton is a longtime member of the failed Washington elite that Trump voted to oppose, hellbent on repeating virtually every foreign policy mistake the U.S. has made in the last 15 years.”

The other candidates according to the New York Times are: Senator from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker, who has many strange ideas about foreign affairs and has been very partisan.

In the list is former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who campaign officials said last Tuesday is the leading contender for the job but has been a bit of a nut and attack dog for Trump during the campaign and many now think he is off his rocker with his outlandish statements and campaign hate speech,

South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley is on the list, with zero international experience, as are Former United States ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, former senior military commander in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal, and finally the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

What can be said of the above group is that only Khalilzad and McChrystal have any relevant experience but each have serious faults and problems of their own, and the rest are utterly the worst possible candidates for this demanding job I have seen in 50 years of studying State secretaries or 25 years of working with them as a Member of their Policy Planning Staff and a Foreign Service Officer. They are a kind of joke and likely  a disaster in any high foreign affairs position.

As for Gingrich, other than being a virulent extreme Trump pawn, he is as emotionally, morally, and in terms of wisdom in foreign affairs as unfit for any high office as one can think of and especially the Secretary of State. He has now taken his name off the list and seeks at the moment to merely be an outside advisor.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR:
For the position of National Security Advisor Lt. General Michael T. Flynn is to be the pick.  He is a man much disliked and mistrusted in national security circles both Democrat and Republican,  A irresponsible man who’s hawkish stances include views that the highest risk to America is “Islamist militancy” and according to a New York Times article will revive George W. Bush’s global war against terrorism. He also has many conflicts of interest due to his financial connection to such authoritarian regime as Turkey where he, while working with Trump, lobbied for the extradition of a political opponent of Turkey’s president.

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE:
For the Department of Defense one option that has been suggested is 39 year old Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army infantry officer and serves on the Armed Services Committee and the select committee on intelligence of the Senate.  Stephen Hadley, national security adviser under George W. Bush is now also thought to be a possible candidate, but some sources have ruled him out.

Duncan D. Hunter has also been named as possible for Defense Secretary. He is a Representative from California, a former Marine Officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, just 39 years old, serves on Armed Services Committee, and was among the first two Members of the House to endorse Trump.

Jon Kyl, former Senator from Arizona with a far right reputation, has also been named as a possible pick and former Senator from Missouri Jim Talent, has been cited in the press as another. Finally and not least, James N. Mattis, Retired Marine Corps general and former commander of United States Central Command has risen in the ranks for possible nomination.

INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP:

Rep. Mike Pompeo, has been chosen for the job of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and United States House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the Twenty Twelve Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. In that role he as been among the most wild partisan attack dogs against Hillary Clinton, ignoring almost all official reports that she was not to blame for the Benghazi events.

For the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who overseas all of the intelligence agencies, National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers is the leading candidate. Rogers met with Trump on Thursday and his transition team on Friday. Rudy Giuliani is also being considered for DNI, where he would be just as hopelessly unqualified as Secretary of State.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: THE INTERNATIONAL IMPACT OF THIS CHOICE

But with the pick of Senator Jeff Sessions, we not only get an Attorney General who has a racist past and can OK now illegal torture and other actions including illegal surveillance, but one who can also use the FBI to punish political opposition — like the “throw her in jail” or registration of Muslims calls made during the campaign by Trump and others in his motley team. We could see a halting in enforcement of civil rights laws in America. These actions will likely be upheld by the Supreme Court with a new Trump pick who’s qualification is holding the most extreme views on all civil liberty, democratic voting protection, and fair governance, and agreeing with illegal presidential orders. He would in effect essentially be a marionette responding yes to any request in the hands of Trump and his far right and racist views. These picks will not least sadly give cover to every obscene brutal act by foreign rulers around the world.

IN SUM:
The only way I can sum up the meaning of these appointments is that he has chosen either just compliant stooges or puppets or simply dangerous and unqualified and unbalanced people who can do great damage to our nation. It can also do the same to our globe community by their acts of stupidity, crassness, and evil intent in opposition to every democratic, humanitarian, and decent moral value in existence. More appointments are coming, but these early ones do not signal well for constructive American leadership in the world nor for our well-being and democracy at home.

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PROSPECTS FOR A “TRUMPIAN” FOREIGN AND SECURITY AGENDA: INCOHERENCE & IGNORANCE VERSUS THE REALITY OF OUR MESSY AND DANGEROUS WORLD


By Harry C. Blaney III

Image result for President-elect Trump

THE PROBLEM OF TRUMP THE MAN AND THE DEFICIENCY OF NO CREDIBILITY

Trying to understand what a Donald Trump foreign and security policy might be is like reading tea leaves in a very dark and mushy tea. There is no consistency, little true knowledge of diplomacy and security issues, and no cohesiveness to his many pronouncements. His formal documents and off-hand remarks and his stances are, to say the least, not very enlightening and often rather simplistic, silly, and dangerous.

There will be great efforts to have him look like a “statesman,” but if his campaign is any indication he will be, as they say, out of his depth and playing it “by the seat of his pants.” You can only do so much with a Teleprompter or printed talking points when you have no depth of knowledge and not a clue to what the other side wants and dangers of misunderstanding when tens of thousands of lives are at stake for example.   In this world, those empty grey cells will likely not be enough to ensure the security of our nation nor solve the deep and complex challenges of our conflict-filled messy world.

Subtlety, attention to detail, and seeing the other side of the equation have proven not to be Trump’s strong points. However bullying and lying are. What do we do with a leader that has told so many lies that it would be hard for a leader of another country to believe any word he says?

Further, he starts his new presidency with a set of positions that the rest of the world already sees as a disaster, not in their own national interest, and indeed a danger to the entire globe. Here are a few examples which we will examine in more detail in forthcoming posts:

– CLIMATE CHANGE:  His rejection of the Paris Global Warming accord which has now come into force. Not only will he not support that agreement despite the science, he does not even believe its reality that man made global warming and ignores its impact on our earth, and has even advocated churning out CO2 with more coal-fired power stations and expanded mining.

– THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: His stated goal is to repudiate the Iran nuclear deal, which bars Iran from developing nuclear weapons for some 10-20 years and beyond. It will be a total disaster for the world’s security and that of Israel, as Iran would be within months of being able to build a nuclear bomb. Further, the alternative of a massive bombing campaign against Iranian targets would do little in the long run, exacerbate the situation, and create even more conflict in the region. Such an effort might draw us into a war we would not have to face with the agreement in place.

– NATO AND OTHER ALLIES: He said we would, in effect, not support NATO allies that do not pay fully for their defense. This is contrary to our NATO treaty obligations AND ALSO REGARDING OUR OTHER ALLIES IN Asia and elsewhere. His position undermines our defense credibility and deterrence power.

– TRUMP AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: Trump has said he supports torture and water boarding, but there is the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions to which the United States is a party. He can withdraw from these conventions, but that would put our people still under danger of being found criminals if we carried out such horrific inhumane acts. Such action are in any case counterproductive and encourage terrorism. How is that for a moral American position and what it does to us as a presumptive leader of other decent countries?

– DEALING WITH ISIS AND TERRORISM: On 60 Minutes after the election, Donald Trump said he will destroy ISIS as he has said earlier, but gave little indication of how he might do this. He still maintained that he knows more than the generals.

There are facts on the ground which will not change after the election. Much has already been done by Obama’s strategy which has severely weaken ISIS without major commitment of U.S. combat forces on the ground and without huge loss of American lives. The concept behind that strategy is to let regional forces carry the fight to ISIS as they do have much to lose and they know the environment that they are fighting in. Our main contributions now are bombing, intelligence, training, and logistics.

What more can be done with an eye on also not ending up mired in a costly “endless war” with high costs of American lives and resources or unneeded and counterproductive destruction of civilian populations? The new president will have to weigh many options but also many major risks in an area he knows almost nothing about, but thinks he knows more than the generals or for that matter perhaps our diplomats and intelligence experts. Also, in the end, it will be politics and diplomacy that will be needed to create the conditions for lasting security and stability in the Middle East. Will he act before he learns and listens or will he act precipitously with high costs for all?

– TRUMP AND CHINA: It can’t help but be a clash, but the constraints on the reality of continued trade and their importance as well as cooperation on key issues like North Korea. All the constraints and realities should give some pause to hasty actions by both sides. But it may not if China is aiming for a predominant role in the Pacific and sees Trump as leading America to global weakness. Trade and economics and security are deeply intermixed and the question must be asked if both sides see the advantages of cooperation rather than confrontation. Up to now Trump seems perhaps to often favor confrontation and the American economy may suffer as well as China’s from such a strategy. But absent a creditable presence and strong economic and military ties in the Pacific region, China is likely to be even bolder to gain predominance.

– RUSSIA/PUTIN:  Trump and Russia remain a hazard zone for both sides. Things can go very badly quickly depending on the reaction of just two people: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.  Will Putin push too hard, and test the mettle of neophyte Trump? Will Trump think he can make a deal with Putin? But at what cost to American leadership and security or that of our allies? On the agenda is the question of continued sanctions on Russia for the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and not least how to deal with Russia’s violence to civilians and military action on behalf of Syria’s Assad, who has committed butchery of much of his own people with Russian help..

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Of high importance is trying to deal with key nuclear weapons issues. That includes the future of the Iran nuclear deal which Trump has said he will scrap. But also it must address the danger of nuclear war which is the most important issue that needs some kind of understanding between the two largest nuclear nations. Putin seems to think that the nuclear weapons and his military are his high cards which he has used to some success and a way to intimidate America and the West generally. What might Trump do to offer a counter action to obtain a mutually cooperative and fair “deal?” More belligerence from both sides and greater risk of military confrontation is one option, or some measure of cooperation and backing away from dangerous actions is another. In the end, a key question is whether Putin sees in Trump an easy pawn, a partner in his goals. or make deals that can complete his ambitions and harm the West without any cost? For Trump the question is whether he even understands the high risks for all. The whole world will be asking what kind of “deal” can come out of this mix.

There are many other questions that will need to be examined in forthcoming posts on this site, and we will examine in more detail in the coming weeks these and the cited topics here. A key will be who Trump advances as high level national security and foreign affairs officials. However, their influence might be either as bad or even if they are more reasonable, Trump might not listen or even want to learn.  We have seen that Trump seems to desire to act compulsively without thought of the long-term harm.

One thing is certain with Trump: we likely will be living in a world sliding quickly into unknown conflict and chaos.

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CAMPAIGN 2016 IMMIGRATION: THE LARGER BATTLE FOR AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

By: Harry C. Blaney III


Via the New York Times

The debate over Immigration policy is in reality but a subset of larger issues of what America should be at home and its role in the larger world. It is defining what our country should be in the future and how the world should be shaped to create a safer, more secure, and fairer globe for all humanity.

This subject is not new either for this country nor on a global scale. In reality it goes back to early man and the search for a better life. Having recently visited Britain and the European continent, the problem of migration also has become a major social and political issue. It has, as here in America, begotten the rise of far right, bigoted politics, and neo-Nazi parties that undermine democracy and the social fabric. This trend has become a threat to the unity, sense of common burden, and value sharing throughout most of Europe.

But here in America the immigration topic has also threatened the same values, and in this case the very purpose of the American experiment of a fair, democratic, and open and welcoming society.  Many Americans have forgotten our own origins and the struggles of our ancestors to find a better life and build a vibrant and inclusive community. No one today perhaps except for our native population, did not immigrate here, often under conditions of risk and privation.

Today we have as a society witnessed in the form of Donald Trump, the presidential candidate of a major political party and on the cusp of being the leader of the free world. A man with a finger on the atomic button, the antithetical of American ideals and values in his many statements about immigrants, Mexicans, both native born and new to America, as well as African-Americans, the handicapped. and woman of all sorts, who demonstrates the kind of prejudice and racism which has already greatly weakened our nation at home and abroad. He is feared by our friends and welcomed with glee by our adversaries.

All of this has been reinforced by the farce of his visit to Mexico to see its president and in his abhorrent speech in Phoenix on what he would do to our undocumented immigrants. I will not outline here the draconian actions that he has advocated that call in essence to deport some 10 million immigrants and deprive them of any kind of humane treatment or decency. (These can be found in our 2016 Campaign quotes under the “Immigration” section, with the complete speech transcript on our document page).

Here we need to see the deeper implications of these actions and the reverberations of them for our nation and for our stability. And yes they impact not least global security.

These Trump actions and policies already have threatened a globe that acts with humanity and protects our most vulnerable migrating and refugee families. While we are often focusing on our own internal American challenges, such brutal actions proposed by Trump, has much broader implications. We should highlight and better understand the need to add another and often lost dimension in our debates of what his policies might engender around the world and how it would impact on our own values and security.

The first impact would be to alienate us from our vital friend on our Southern border and to do the same to many Latin American citizens from other countries fleeing mortal dangers. It would also encourage similar polices by others, all illegal under existing refugee treaties. This brute behavior by other nations applies especially to our European allies and friends who are facing the coming to power of neo-Nazi and far right parties who are using this issue to create far different harsh societies that we have not seen since Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union.  American influence is not just because of our military might, but it is largely due to respect of our democratic institutions, our value for the rule of law, and for our firm adherence to our treaty obligations. All of these are threatened by Trumps statements already and even more should he gain power.

The image of an America led by bigots and those that advocate torture and racism is one of the greatest risks we face in a still dangerous world in which respect, and wide acceptance by others of our impartial desire for a more peaceful and just world remains our greatest strength. Other nations depend on our promises contained in our alliances and collaborations, and are our strongest hand in a world of too much conflict and distrust.  We lose that and everyone is imperiled.

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

TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

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

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

Some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We welcome your comments!

SEE OUR 2016 ELECTION PAGES FOR DEBATE UP-DATES

 

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

Populism in Modern America – Why 2016?

By Blaze Joel, National Security Intern

On July 1, David Brooks wrote of a “Coming Political Realignment” that had been exacerbated by Donald Trump. Brooks argued that Trump is shattering the usual party demarcator in America – a small government versus a big government – and replacing it with a “right-left populist coalition” that battles against a centrist coalition over the issue of an open or closed government. Trump’s “only hope is to cast his opponents as the right-left establishment that supports open borders, free trade, cosmopolitan culture, and global intervention. He would stand as a right-left populist who supports closed borders, trade barriers, local and nationalistic culture, and an America First foreign policy.” Trump has exemplified this new American populism, tacking hard to the right on issues like immigration while moving left of Hillary Clinton on free trade.

In a previous post, we posed the question of how both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can be called populists when they seemingly represent completely divergent ends of the ideological spectrum (despite striking a similar tone on trade). This post will seek to answer: Why 2016? What is it about this year that has allowed the messages of populists, but especially of Donald Trump, to resonate with the American people? We will analyze a number of issues in this post, from the direction of the country to jobs, the economy, and trade to immigration, terrorism, and “law and order,” providing data and its historical context.

Direction of the Country and Institutional Faith

As noted in our last post, most Americans are not satisfied with the direction of our nation, despite Obama’s over-50 percent approval ratings. In fact, the number of Americans satisfied with the way things are going dropped from 29 percent in June to just 17 percent in July. But, as also noted in our previous post, this dissatisfaction is nothing new. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight revealed that 52 percent of Trump supporters (as opposed to 14 percent of anti-Trump Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats) are “very” angry about the way things are going in the country today.

Coupled with this anger at the direction of the nation is a mistrust of “elite” institutions such as the government, banks, media, and big business. Among the three branches of government, the Presidency and the Supreme Court share the highest approval ratings, as 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in each. However, 23 percent of Americans surveyed this June have “very little” or no confidence in the Supreme Court (a 10 point rise since 2003) and 36 percent have “very little” or no confidence in the Presidency (one of the lowest numbers since 2008). Furthermore, the 36 percent confidence in the Presidency is lower than after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (55 percent) and after the UN discovered there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2005 (44 percent). The “very little” result has more than doubled since June of 2003.

Congress is the most maligned branch of government, as 55 percent of Americans have “very little” or no confidence in the institution as compared to just nine percent that have a “great deal” or “quite a lot.” This is quite a precipitous drop-off, as 30 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of faith in the Legislative Branch as recently as 2004 and 45 percent of Americans had “some” confidence in it as recently as 2009. As is often humorously pointed out, Americans favor Darth Vader, Jar-Jar Binks, root canals, cockroaches, and used car salesmen to Congress. The reasons for the rampant disapproval of Congress are many – partisan gridlock, seemingly pointless politicking, gerrymandering, and constant fundraising and campaigning. Perhaps the most glaring reasons are its relative inactivity in recent years, culminating in the 113th Congress from 2013-2014 that passed just 72 bills, and the prevalence of governing from crisis-to-crisis and kicking the can down the road. These attitudes have facilitated the rise of candidates who want to “shake-up” or metaphorically “burn down” the system in order to try to fix it.

Partisanship and a Divided America

The increased partisanship doesn’t just reside in Congress. The American public is becoming more divided as well. This expanding rift became evident in 2005, when the average Republican began to drift further to the ideological right while the Democrats stayed put. Beginning in 2012, both parties started migrating further toward their respective poles. Pew research from this spring found that 49 percent of all Republicans (62 percent of highly-engaged Republicans) and 55 percent of Democrats (70 percent of highly-engaged Democrats) were “afraid” of the opposing party. Similarly, 52 percent of Republicans view the Democratic Party as “closed-minded.” A whopping 70 percent of Democrats have the same view of the GOP. Around a third of both parties also consider the other to be “unintelligent,” while over 40 percent of both parties think the other is “dishonest.” Today, 91 percent of Republicans view the Democratic Party unfavorably (58 percent would classify their views as “very unfavorable”) while 86 (and 55, respectively) percent of Democrats hold the same view of the Republican Party. Moreover, a majority of Americans in both political parties say that the main reason they support their respective party because the other option’s policies are “bad for the country,” rather than out of a belief in their own party’s positions.

The campaign season in 2016 has been marked by intense protests, animosity towards a number of candidates, and outright violence at political rallies. Part of this is attributable to the flaws and mistrust in the political system noted above, but part is also a result of an increasingly divided American public. If the other side is a fundamental threat to America, then how and why should we even work with them? This atmosphere is ripe for people who want to exacerbate partisan divides and paint the nation as in need of fixing.

Jobs, The Economy, and Trade

Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville told the President in 1992 that he should focus on “the economy, stupid.” Since then, that cliché has become an instrumental part of American politics and a major predictive factor for elections. The United States (and global) economy has been rebounding since the “Great Recession” of 2008-2010. The unemployment rate is back under five percent and 25 of the last 27 quarters have witnessed an increased GDP (though it is lower than hoped and the recovery is slow). Wage growth has stagnated (as it has since the 1970s), but it is doing better when pegged against inflation. Nonetheless, 71 percent of Americans feel the economy is “rigged” according to a recent poll.

Why is this the case? Inequality is on the rise – the top 1 percent of Americans owned 36 percent of the wealth in 2013 – and the middle class is shrinking due to a number of interrelated factors. On the campaign trail, Trump and Sanders have both pointed extensively to free trade deals like NAFTA, which they argue have cost America millions of manufacturing jobs, thus fulfilling Ross Perot’s famous statement from 1992 that the trade deal would create “a giant sucking sound going South.” This year, according to a Brookings/PRRI poll, 52 percent of Americans think free trade agreements are “mostly harmful because they send jobs overseas and drive down wages.” Among Trump supporters, the number jumps to 60 percent.

Is free trade (specifically NAFTA) that bad? The results on the trade deal nearly 23 years after its enactment are mixed. There are approximately 5 million fewer manufacturing jobs in America today than there were when NAFTA was signed in 1994. The Economic Policy Institute calculated that more than 500,000 of these losses were due to the trade agreement. However, overall U.S. employment is up 22 percent since 1994. Not all of these lost jobs have gone to NAFTA nations – EPI data shows that approximately 3.2 million jobs (over 75 percent of which were in manufacturing) have been lost due to outsourcing to China since 2001. Additionally, this shift away from manufacturing has been present – though more pronounced recently – since the 1960s. Improvements in technology, the U.S. regulation system, and corporate outsourcing to cheaper labor markets have also all played a role in the loss of “blue collar” jobs over the last 20 years. While the effects of free trade are mixed, there is no doubting that certain locations and segments of the U.S. have been disproportionately benefitted by recent economic trends. The transition to an economy primarily based on services has benefitted those with more education and those who live in urban or suburban areas – the opposite profile of the “average” Trump supporter. NBC News found that Trump won over 75 percent of counties in which there was a low white labor participation rate or a strong decrease in average annual pay.

Immigration, Terrorism, and “Law and Order”

The final plank in Trump’s populist appeal is his promise to keep Americans safe and “restore law and order.” Other than his proposed wall along the Mexican-American border, a “Muslim” immigration ban, and utilizing waterboarding in interrogations, Trump has been nebulous about the specific policies he will enact to do so. Regardless, this rhetoric has found a home in an America where more people now are at least somewhat worried that they or their family will be a victim of terrorism. Sixty-five percent of Trump supporters share this belief. Over 40 percent of independents surveyed by Brookings and PRRI support barring Syrian refugees from the United States, building a border wall, and banning Muslims from other countries from entering the U.S. Among Republicans, those numbers are 66 percent, 64 percent, and 64 percent, respectively. Over 75 percent of Trump supporters support the actions against Syrian refugees and foreign-born Muslims, while over 80 percent of Trump supporters want to build the wall.

Despite Trump’s claims that illegal immigration is rampant, Pew found that the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. has stabilized in recent years at approximately 11.3 million – down from a peak of 12.2 million in 2007. Over 40 percent of Trump supporters believe that undocumented immigrants should be “identified and deported” – 12 percent more than the average Republican and 30 percent more than the average Democrat. Over 75 percent of Trump supporters believe that immigration needs to decrease in America, according to FiveThirtyEight. Anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats both polled in the 20s.

In the wake of the Paris attacks last November, Pew released data that showed that more Americans disapprove of the government’s job handling terror for the first time since 9/11. More Americans also view Islam as more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Among Republicans, 68 percent hold this belief. Additionally, 49 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of self-identified “conservative Republicans” believe that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny in federal efforts to prevent terrorism, compared to just 32 percent of all Americans.

That same Pew poll found that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to believe that defense/national security, immigration, terrorism, and ISIS/War in Iraq and Syria are the most important issue facing our nation today. In fact, 42 percent of Republicans surveyed (as opposed to just 24 percent of Democrats) viewed these issues as most important. ISIS polls as the biggest threat to America for both Republicans and Democrats – appearing on 93 percent of Republican responses and 79 percent of Democratic responses. However, Democrats rank climate change as the second biggest threat (73 percent) while Republicans vote for Iran’s nuclear program (79 percent).

Conclusion

“Populist” politics have been a fixture in America since its founding, but seem to have reached a fever pitch in 2016 due to a range of factors – including the economy, seeming global chaos, and disaffection with the nation’s political and financial elites. Donald Trump has exacerbated these tensions with his unique brand of populism that finds a home in places with more “distressful white experiences,” as NBC News characterizes it. Almost 70 percent of Trump supporters and Republicans believe that the “American way of life has gotten worse since 1950,” as opposed to the nearly 70 percent of Democrats who say that it has improved. In an increasingly divided America that at times seems at odds with itself and whose government often seems to fail when called upon to enact change, Americans are looking for someone who will advocate for them this election – the perfect environment for a populist who claims he will come in and “fix the system” that some feel has let them down.