NORTH KOREA: TRUMP’S AND OUR BIGGEST TEST AND DANGER.

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Don’t get it wrong this time! So far both sides both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have played this most dangerous game of their lives like spiteful boys armed with their most dangerous weapons and their largely untutored and uninformed brains. Thus we are all at risk.

The other problem is simply neither side at this moment seems to have a strategy to get out of this confrontation of existential magnitude. Their egos are bigger than their brains and neither seems to care for others. They live int heir own very selfish worlds. The hope is that one of them might want to survive this cataclysm. Kim for his life and Trump for his presidency. For the latter he even might, in his madness, want to see a war as a distraction from the Russia-Trump Gang collusion and obstruction of justice inquiry. This seems apparent in his crazy “Fire and Fury” statements which indeed did distract us from talking about Robert Mueller III and his investigation.

Today Wednesday, Trump is being tested again by an equally new escalation of invective and outrange from President Kim who has threatened to send four intermediate range missiles towards the American island of Guam where some 160,000 US citizens and military personal inhabit. We have no idea where they might land and no idea whether they contain any weapons. Probably the North Koreans are not even sure that they will be accurate. They will be hard to defend against. They also will have to travel over Japan as well to get to their target.

Kim’s government’s statements seemed almost to try to out “Trumpian” Trump with his invective and threats at a much higher and more specific escalation. But they noted that a war might not be a good idea but made war more likely given Trump’s own combative and instinctive bullying ego. I hope this time Trump’s advisors will push him towards a diplomatic option. Tillerson seems to moderate but supports Trump’s basic stance.

The sad item is that there are some of the usual suspects who are declaring Trump is doing the right thing by playing tough guy and threatening will win by such bombastic tactics. But of course they never mentions the cost of failure of a strategy of “red lines” and extreme threats. In contrast, what President Kennedy did to avoid a nuclear cataclysm was by negotiations and inventive deals. But Trump is no Kennedy for sure.

As Senator Ed Markey said on CNN today, Trump does not even have a plan or strategy and acknowledged what we all know that there is no good solution. One worse case solution is the loss of hundreds of thousands or perhaps many millions of lives. The other better solution for both sides is to back down and start to talk to each other to find common acceptable solutions. We can try what we did with Soviet Union: an effort at “confidence building” strategies and efforts. But that may be too much to ask of leaders that see the world only though a win for me and lose for him lens?

We will see likely in the next few days when Kim’s missiles are scheduled by the North Korea to be launched, as hard decisions by both sides will have to be taken either to reach out or to act with high abandon of rationality and in self-destruction.

We welcome your comments (See box below)

TRUMP’S “FIRE AND FURY” RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREA: HOW CAN IT END?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Donald Trump at press event today in while on vacation in NJ: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

This is an very scary preview of Trump’s view of how to “deal” with a contending and critical conflict situation that may escalate the trajectory towards catastrophic destruction rather than moving toward de-escalation. Words matter on both sides as do threats especially by those that have the power of nuclear weapons.

The background is of a long history of negotiations by the U.S. with North Korea whose formal name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Past negotiations and short lived agreements failing, have resulted with a dangerous stalemate created by both sides. Past administrations trying to open new talks with North Korea rejecting the pre-condition of stopping building and testing of these weapons.

Recent intelligence reports indicate North Korea is more advanced in both nuclear weapons and ICBM’s than assessed earlier. Thus indicating that North Korea was getting close to having its long range intercontinental missiles reaching mainland U.S. Most recently after a series of missile tests and threatening statements from North Korea President Kim Jong Un Kim, the United Nations Security Council acted this last weekend with new sanctions after North Korea carried out recently two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions it is predicted would reduce North Korea’s annual export revenue by about a third and hopefully hindering its ability to raise resources for added developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Just after the threatening statement by Trump, North Korea President Kim replied by threatening the ability to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. What each side needs is to avoid being drawn into a very stupid tit-for-tat escalation – the last thing anyone with sense would want to see. We now have late tonight an added threat by President Kim.

Almost all experts, who are not dire war hawks on this issue, are saying this is an unnecessary escalation now which would be best approached by intensive diplomacy. Not by bluster and threats on either side. This means the need by top leaders to work to tone down that harsh rhetoric by all sides. For America, if neither the White House Chief-of-Staff General Kelly or the head of the NSC General McMaster, can tone down Trump. If on China’s side, they can’t accomplish that end, our already fragile world will be in even deeper perilous trouble. The last thing China wants is a war on their borders.

We need to work closely with South Korea as they have the most to lose with total destruction, given the alignment of North Korea forces on their border. This is not often understood by Trump.

What then are the paths forward? Alternative options include a preemptive strike, a response second strike….all of these would be catastrophic given any normal fairly known scenario for all sides and even for the world. It would be reckless beyond imagination. We can again try direct contact and direct negotiations which would be our first likely option if both sides were sane.

That is sadly not a sure thing. North Korea has said they will not give up their nuclear weapons of missiles under any conditions. We have said we would not talk unless they stood down on their nuclear and missile program. Thus our existing stalemate. Their goal is to get American forces out of South Korea. We are committed to staying and defending South Korea – and for that matter Japan. Yet there have been innovative diplomacy ideas, like we have worked on in the Middle East, to find some way to decelerate the conflict and create a more stable situation. Whatever outcome, both sides would need to see that this diplomacy would achieve better security and peace than the status quo.

My own thought should these options not work, is we try what is called close “indirect mediation or negotiations”close in the same hotel or city, via a third neutral but very able person(s) that both sides can trust. We have used this mechanism, as have others in talks, for example between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Henry Kissinger also has used a version of this approach. There is also the more clumsy long distant bilateral mediation or “good offices” where a mediator would fly from one capital to another back and forth trying different solutions, seeking common ground and some level of agreement. One other related inducement for both sides may be for North Korea to offer to temporarily “stand down” on any new work on weapons and the other interested parties to temporarily to not enforce the new sanctions that were recently imposed. We need perhaps also a “sticks and carrots” approach.

In any case, the sad part is that the first truly existential challenge Trump has faced has shown a level of recklessness, stupidity, and created greater danger to peace. All in a critical region that requires the greatest attention, patience, deep knowledge and expertise Trump is wholly lacking and unwilling to consult and use. Sad for us!

We welcome your comments!

 

____________________________________________________________________

 

CHINA, ASIA, AND TRUMP: STUPIDITY STILL AT WORK!

By Harry C. Blaney III

The last few days have shown again the total lack of seriousness, long term strategy, and assessment of risks and gains, compounded by ignorance of even the basics of foreign and national security policy and history by Trump and his rag-tag retinue.

The Taiwan “call” debacle is only one of many such acts of unbelievable imbecility which we are now learning was a deliberate programmed act instigated by an outside representative law firm working for the Taiwan government led by Robert Dole who it is reported arranged the call in conclusion with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. And while this makes this act more serious in the eyes of China, it also has implication for our understanding of how out-of-it the Trump regime is of the fundamental interest and the playing field of Asia. My old boss at the State Department, Henry Kissinger and architect of the “Opening to China” in the 1970s, had visited Trump before this odd call and also had briefed China President Xi. Clearly I am sure Trump did not take whatever Kissinger told him about the hard fact of the arrangement of relative power in Asia and the binding elements of the Shanghai Agreement.

Even Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said her phone call with Trump should not be interpreted as a shift in U.S. policy. She stressed that both sides “see the value of maintaining regional stability.” In effect she tried to indicate that the impact of the call may have been a “bridge too far” at this moment.

What is also interesting is that none of Trump’s foreign policy associates cautioned him about the possible risks of such an action. Or if they pressed him to this act they did so not telling him of the costs but simply were playing to their blind extreme ideological right-wing views without telling the “Emperor” that there might also be high costs especially when it come to dealing with the Elephant in the room that is China as far as Asia goes.

What is really worrisome for a sane foreign or security policy going forward is knowing again that his myopic advisors do not seem capable to do what is a necessity of policy making and advice: to give both pros and cons to the decision maker and especially give the high risks of actions which would harm American long-term interests over short-term gains.

Finally, Asia is important and China is often the path to progress on many issues and also an adversary in some areas that need constant and thoughtful assessment and attention of the deepest kind. This includes trade, investment, global security including nuclear proliferation, dealing with a nuclear armed North Korea, the conflict over jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and the preservation of our alliances with Japan and South Korea.

Our interests must also be our concern for the independence and stability of other Asian nations. President Obama was right to establish the “Pivot to Asia” which incorporated a close dialogue and work with China with the protection of other nations from a possible aggressive and overreaching China. Trump apparently does not see these fine points and looks more increasingly like the “Bull in the China Shop.”

WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS, CLICK HERE TO MAKE YOUR COMMENTS!

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

By Harry C. Blaney III

Photo Credit via ABC News


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

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

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

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

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

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

IMMIGRATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSSIA

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

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

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

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

ALLIANCES AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRADE DEALS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACCEPTANCE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

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

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

________________________________________________________

We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

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

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

 

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

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall

Image result for 1st Presidential Debate

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

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

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

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

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

DEFEAT OF ISIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ON CYBERWARFARE:

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

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

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

ON NATO AND OUR ALLIES:

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

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

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

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

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

ON IRAN:

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

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

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

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

Follow our coverage of the quotes and policies of the candidates on foreign and national security issues, updated weekly and sorted by topic. Click here for that coverage.

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

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

PLATFORM TEXT:

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

COMMENTARY:

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

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

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

We welcome your comments!

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

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

By

Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

This second post looks at 2016 and it will examine at more of the most important global challenges and issues Americans and the rest of humanity will face in this year. In our first section we covered such issues as the Middle East, the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict, and Russia. In this part our focus will include Europe, China and East Asia and North Korea, It will look at possible developments in these key areas, what risks and dangers lie with the topics, and what policies or actions might affect outcomes good or bad. 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 president and his successor will likely face.

 

EUROPE: UNITY OR DISUNITY, DEMOCRACY OR FASCISM AND XENOPHOBIA?

This year the European modal of integration is now in more danger of implosion than it has been for decades. In 2016 Europe is facing existential challenges of mass migration, the possible exit of Great Britain from the EU, movements towards authoritarian governments in Poland and Hungary and rise of far right parties. Add continued economic austerity policies which could help dismember the EU and widen the inequality gap, and not least a new threat from Putin’s more aggressive Russia on the EU’s Eastern Borders.

For American long-term interests it is necessary for Europe to be united, democratic, and outward looking and a force in the world for doing good and helping international security, and working for peaceful solutions to problems. Without stability, economic growth, and continued commitment to democracy, and greater sense of united goals and purpose, Europe will wither and be a prisoner to its corrosive divisions and weak in responses to its key challenges. It will also not be able to be a true partner with the United States in the many global challenges we share in common.

What are the alternatives?

One path, as noted, is a Europe divided and weak and open to non-democratic forces of the racist far right, non-democratic anti-EU parties, or pressure from Putin. Is it a world where Europe does not support efforts to deal with the many global challenges that threaten all countries rich and poor. Or a Europe where Britain will not play a constructive role and falls to narrow-minded euro-skeptic xenophobia.

The EU and NATO have helped to create a secure, peaceful, and prosperous region. My word for this historic goal is “One for all and all for One!” The alternative of Britain not continuing to be a key player in this effort is beyond anserine. It would be to its critical interest to do so and for the entire Europe and the world. France and Germany and other key EU countries need to keep their eye on the prize, which is a secure, prosperous fair economy for all citizens and especially the lest well off, and a commitment to share the burdens of our globes’s larger dangers and opportunities.

The initial “deal” which is just emerging this February 19th between UK Prime Minister Cameron and the EU on the conditions for staying in the EU but with special rights of opting out of some EU responsibilities, may fly in a referendum on membership in the UK that could come in June 23 but there is still real danger that the result may be for withdrawal. But just the effort to carve out special rights makes Britain seem less reliable and less influential within the EU and builds costly resentment. Already many voices on the euro-skeptic right say the deal, even as revised this February, is too weak and will still campaign for an early exit.

Looking beyond Europe, what could be the worst outcome would be for Europe to succumb to its worst forces and for America to do the same. One danger is “contagion” from America’s own bigoted and xenophobia tendencies that are all too evident in the likes of many of the Republican presidential candidates and Tea Party types. A Europe filled with similar right-wing crazies, would only contribute in an already high risk world to greater divisions and weakness of the Western democracies.

We both had better head “the better angels of our nature.” or the forces of terrorism, xenophobia, fascism, and bigotry will, without a struggle, rise up and defeat decency and democracy without a whimper. America can make clear that it favors a strong democratic Europe, not the present path of Poland and Hungary, but rather that of the principles of the major EU Western nations, and give measured support to keeping the UK in the EU. But it must also lead by example itself.

RISING CHINA AND EAST ASIA TURMOIL

China is as much a problem as it is an opportunity. It is moving between more oppression and outward aggression and military assertiveness and at the same time trying hard to be seen as a responsible “great power” and an effective partner with other powers and nations. It seeks economic growth which can only come via peace not conflict.

Its so called “islands” in the South China Sea are a large mistake and “bridge to far” which endangers, for little gain, its relations with key nation neighbors in South East Asia. Its assessment of its interests remains rather crude and counterproductive. Its economy and its policies in 2016 may show just how capable it is of ordering a peaceful and prosperous “rise.” 2016 will be a key test. Its policies towards Hong Kong and Taiwan will test also its wisdom and flexibility.

Already on the economic front we see that the slightest change in its economy sends reverberations throughout the world. 2016 will see if they can manage wisely these transitions in their economy and their challenges and responsibilities especially to the millions of its very poor.

It has shown some positive moves including agreeing to some restraint on its greenhouse emissions and it is moving to build more renewable energy sources. It supported the Iran nuclear agreement and clearly was unhappy with the North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, but still sees the stability and continued government of that nation in its interests. Here continued intense dialogue with China and I add South Korea are vital. Already America is aiming to put anti-missile defense systems in South Korea which makes China worried.

I predict that 2016 will be a year where the choices of being a global economy open to the world in trade and investment might struggle over a preference for a closed, more dictatorial and oppressive nation that sees military adventures as a means of enhancing the Communist Party’s hold on power. This last effort is doomed one way or another to be hurtful to China’s long term interests and well being. We need to give China some incentives to choose a path of cooperation and reform.

Yes, America, Europe and Asian nations can to a certain extent influence some decisions by China to choose a peaceful “rise path” as it once proclaimed. But it is hard to be too optimistic given the trajectory of Xi government. American strategy however must be to continue an engagement and dialogue at every possible level to help shape a constructive China. This may take decades. But this all could go South if belligerence turns out to be its preference and others respond with growing military capability.

In sum, the key struggles are between peaceful modernization and the tendency of harsh authoritarian rule. Chinese rising nationalism and their own far right militarist elements in 2016 pose a danger for China and beyond.

NORTH KOREA AND THE NUCLEAR DILEMMA , ANY GOOD OPTIONS?

The answer to this question is sadly no! But we are not without some tools for addressing the danger of a nuclear North Korea but none that are assured of a good outcome. As this is written not only has there been another “nuclear” test but also a missile test that is designed to be threatening to South Korea and Japan.

America’s answer is to beef up our forces and provide for Japan and South Korea missile defense and other military assistance. We are holding more intense joint training and added military support. All well and good and needed. But again diplomacy and possibly sanctions with other nations especially China, is the best long run tool with North Korea that needs assistance from China mainly to maintain its beleaguered failing economy. North Korea is also a nuclear and missile trade “proliferation” threat that will need attention in 2016. This swill require the cooperation of other nations in stopping trade in weapons and other military and nuclear technology. So far this has proved to be at best a mixed outcome. Perhaps a more creative outreach to North Korea bu a group of powerful nations with a package of both incentives and “sticks” might prove in time some gains. In our next post we will take on the larger non-proliferation issues that include North Korea and others.

The there will follow a third post in this series which examines some of our other challenges in 2016 and beyond, including looks at Nuclear proliferation, India-Pakistan, and global poverty and inequality, etc.

We welcome your comments!