MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: A GLOBAL LESSEN FOR OUR VITRIOLIC AND BIGOTED TIMES

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MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: A GLOBAL LESSEN FOR OUR VITRIOLIC AND BIGOTED TIMES

“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

By

Harry C. Blaney III (A Personal Note)

There is a lessen to all of us who worry about the direction that humanity is moving and not less what direction America will go in the future. This day we honored a man that indeed did “make America graet” in the yes of all at home and abroad.  America has been the acknowledged leader of Western and other democracies but that is now threaten by the irresponsibility and venomous statements and threats made already by Donald Trump.

Not least on this day we honored an extraordinary man filled with a commitment to equal justice for all, the elimination of racial and economic exploitation and prejudice, and especially committed to democracy and peace. But Trump, with malice afore thought, once again spudded disparaging remarks to a person with a morality that Trump it seems will never understand. Lewis said he did not consider, what many others believe, that Trump is “a legitimate president” and he gave as the reason Russian operatives interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf. Given that and the action of the FBI, Trump won with a profusion of outright lies, and that Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes, seems to not be a very strange conclusion among a large segment of Americans.

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Trump we all know in this context, is the man who disparaged Sen. McCain as a prisoner of war, a Gold Star family, a disabled reporter, and a host of just good people beyond numbers to count. So his nasty words directed at a good man with great courage who marched with MLKJr into dangers for the sake of justice and racial equality seems sadly no surprise.

I feel this insult and nasty disparagement especially strongly because, in the smallest possible way, I also participated in our civil rights era by going South on Spring break conducting sits-in with fellow students, my Chaplain, and above all bravely by local African-Americans all under the banner of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) led by Rev. King. It was not much but I was beaten with cattle prods by the St. Johns County police trying to sit-in, held in jail with my fellow peaceful protestors and threaten with death by the head of the local KKK inside the jail, the leaders of which were in cohorts with the police. Much worse I add was mete out to the local Blacks over the years.

All the while Trump made sure to discriminate against African- Americans in his New York housing operations. Now we see the same mind set of hate for “the other” coming back and extending to just about any who dare to criticize him or have a different viewpoint.

More on this element when we examine soon Trump’s MLKJr day attacks on our allies and praise and irresponsible national security giveaways to our adversary Vladimir Putin, the brutal killer of innocent babies, woman, and men in Syria and military aggressor in Ukraine on which he offers to lift sanctions. All in a typical day for a unsound Donald Trump.

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.”

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UK IRAQ INQUIRY REPORT RELEASED, FINDS MAJOR FAILURES IN THE DECISION TO JOIN AND FIGHT THE WAR IN IRAQ

UK IRAQ INQUIRY REPORT RELEASED, FINDS MAJOR FAILURES IN THE DECISION TO JOIN AND FIGHT THE WAR IN IRAQ 

By: Harry C. Blaney III

REPORTING FROM LONDON

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On July 6th, against the background of the Brexit referendum, the long-awaited report (click here to read) by Sir John Chilcot on the British participation in Iraq War was released after seven years. The Inquiry had approximately 2.6 million words that condemned the British decision to invade and the subsequent conduct of the Iraq War.

The report contained wide-ranging censure of the UK’s decision to enter the Iraq War and also the implementation of that war. It focused on former Prime Minister Tony Blair and UK intelligence reports that led to decisions on the planning and the strategy in Iraq that were made with insufficient debate in Britain. Chilcot said it was an intervention that “was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments.”

Chilcot and the report concluded that Britain went to war on the basis of unreliable intelligence. He added that planning for war was totally inadequate, concluding that there was insufficient debate on the decision.  Chilcot further said that “in March of 2003, there was no imminent threat from the Saddam Hussein regime.” The implication was that the military action taken was not justified.

There was much criticism of the UK intelligence agencies, and in time more will likely come out on this in the UK and with implications also for the US intelligence agencies. Some have said the intelligence reports were flimsy and that MI6 in particular has been highly criticized.

The report found that diplomatic options had not been fully explored before the decision was made to go to war. This is a lesson today for both the UK and the US.

The families of the troops that were killed have supported the report and have both questioned how and why all went wrong in the buildup to war and argued for Blair to pay in some way for the cost of his actions. There has been talk about a legal action either domestically or in an international court. From a legal perspective, that is highly unlikely, however. But emotions will remain for a long time. The media has been exceptionally critical of Blair to the point of imbalance and unfairness, which indicates that the issue has created massive anger and bitterness in Britain.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR RESPONSE TO INQUIRY 
After the release of the report, former Prime Minister Tony Blair held a two hour press conference (coverage linked above) in which he said he did not regret his decision to invade, which he said was the hardest of his term in office. He said he made the initial decision “in good faith,” adding that he “did not have the option to delay in response to the quick decision.” He also said he had more sorrow and regret over the decision than others will ever believe.

In a 2002 memo to Bush, Blair said “I will be with you, whatever.” But he added, which the UK media did not fully report, that he also wrote that all of the difficulties must be examined. He said it was a good act to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but added that they underestimated the potential for subsequent upheavals. There was also criticism in the report that the UK military and intelligence leaders were under-resourced, arguing that the troops did not have the tools to do their best and do it safely.

Blair said that he “will take full responsibility for any mistakes that were taken.” However, he “will not apologize for going to war.” Blair also added “the report makes it clear there [were] no lies.”

Some of the commentators have noted Blair’s efforts to moderate US Policies, which in the end were only partly successful. They noted in particular the effort to go to the UN Security Council to get the authority to go to war, which was stopped by a veto by Russia.

Neither the report nor Blair’s statement will put an end to the politics of this emotional issue for many years. It is still unclear if some kind of general agreement on what took place has finally been reached. I doubt that there will be much relief from the bitterness and acrimony that clouds British politics and society.

SOME ADDED THOUGHTS FOR US ALL
The report and the response by Blair will sadly not lay to rest the criticism or the bitter debate in Britain about the Iraq War. It will continue to influence public and governmental attitudes towards going into conflict situations for a very long time.

In America, this report will likely continue the debate (which has never stopped) over the wisdom of the US decision to go to war in Iraq. That was, in my view, an unforgivable act by the George W. Bush administration and one that was based, as we all know now, on lies and false intelligence reports by our own agencies.

Blair’s most relevant statement for the world of 2016 was that “we do not have the right strategy to deal with terrorism.” That is, as they say, a British understatement. On this Blair is quite right. We all need to re-think our global strategy and it will take a united effort and deep assessment to go forward with new military conflicts. I have argued that we need always to seriously assess the costs before going into conflict situations. Decision makers must consider the consequences of our actions. One clear failure was the poor policies and efforts to deal with the post-conflict need to establish security and ensure a stable government in Iraq. Neither America nor Britain took this problem seriously.

Both the US report (which was critical of many decisions by the Bush administration) and the UK report made it clear that both governments did not understand the high potential costs of their actions. As Chilcot said, the consequences of the war were misjudged. I hope that, in time, these reports and a more historic assessment will compel both nations to make future decisions based on a careful debate on a long-term strategic and moral judgment, as well as look at the facts on the ground. War is always costly and sometimes necessary, but the argument must be made with great care. I hope that we will have more clarity rather than hate and divisions. In the end, we need to make careful decisions that will create a safer world for all.

We welcome you comments!

 

OUR AGE OF DISCONTENT AND ITS PERILS

OUR AGE OF DISCONTENT AND ITS PERILS

By

Harry C. Blaney III

As we face a coming November election which will be historic on so many different levels and which could bring not just to America great tribulations but also throughout the world. The simple fact is that our acknowledged discontent is mirrored also in many countries including democracies like our own.

This discontent has been exacerbated by the impact of the global “great recession” and the rise of religious conflicts which have destabilized much of the Middle East and beyond. But also by the growth a pernicious inequality and greed authored by authoritarian parties and governments and criminal corporations, banks, and super rich ideologues among the elite.

In America, it has been a deliberate trajectory sent in motion by much of the Republican Party and the mainline conservative media not least Fox news and “talking heads” hate radio shows spuing bigotry, lies, greed and far right-wing attacks on minorities, the poor, and good science. Not least, a key enabler was the Koch Brothers and others with the buying of State legislators, support for rigging of elections against minorities and other opposition voters, and backing candidates filled with hate and racism.

Trump which made a name as a Birther” an act of pure racism; a man who wants to build a wall with Mexico, keep Muslims out of America, and destroy our relations with our allies, and thinks Putin is just lovely. But he and the Republican Tea Party and its racists are also a threat to our some 250 years as a democratic republic.

Yet beyond America, we are seeing true threats to democracy, human rights, sense of a wider cooperative community and support for authoritarianism. This is accompanied also by particularism, narrow right wing nationalism of the neo-fascist Hitler type in Europe and beyond.

We will see soon a vote in Great Britain on the question of continued membership in the European Union. This crackbrained self-defeating idea is spurred by just the forces we have noted. The vote will take place on June 23rd and I plan to be in London to observe one of the truly great historic debates about the future of Europe which could lead to the ascendancy in Britain to the same kind of governance we could see in Donald Trump and those he would put in power.

Yes, we have a common problem. Britain has Boris Johnson, who may run for Prime Minister on the Tory ticket who makes Hitler comparisons that are outrageous and seems to hate the idea of a peaceful and united Europe (what is the other option?). And is also a bit crazy. We have Donald trump who makes racist, bigoted remarks, lies, and impugns our presidents birth place. He also seems to disparage a united Europe and NATO and admires the dictatorial and aggressive Vladimir Putin. And yes both have the same hair style!

The EU is an attempt, so far successful, to keep “Europe free and safe” The reality remains that the EU and the idea of a peaceful united Europe was and is a common dream of much of Europe and the UK; it remains the most significant result of Europe’s enlightened polices that brought prosperity to Europe, and held back aggression from the Soviet Union. That unity is as needed in today’s high risk world as it was in the 1940s and 50s.

Within the continent there are equally dangerous forces on the right that have already bred authoritarian governments in places like Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and in many places the rise of neo-Nazi and racist parties. More on this trend in another post.

In summary, Both Johnson and Trump are guided by an ignorant a-historical perspective and driven by misguided far right ideology along with dangerous personal ambitions that would put America, Britain, and Europe along a path of mutual destruction. National security requires many factors not least a sense of common decent goals, committed allies, and a moral center with wise leadership. These all are in danger on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. In many ways these trends may be as dangerous to national security than what we face from Russia or China.

We Welcome your comments!

A SHIFT IN GEOPOLITICS IN CENTRAL ASIA: WHY IS CHINA SO INVESTED IN AFGHANISTAN?

Foreword: Chelsea Kaser is the current National Security Intern at the Center for International Policy for the Spring of 2015. She conducted research on Chinese and Afghan relations before writing this post. She currently attends Muhlenberg College, where she concentrates on peace and conflict resolution and Russian studies.  She hopes to attend graduate school after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the opening ceremony of the 4th Ministerial Conference of Istanbul Process of Afghanistan at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, October 31, 2014.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the opening ceremony of the 4th Ministerial Conference of Istanbul Process of Afghanistan at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing, October 31, 2014. (Voanews)

By: Chelsea Kaser

Since 2014, China has become much more diplomatically engaged with Afghanistan. Several factors have raised the interest of Beijing in securing a more stable and secure Afghanistan. For both national security and economic needs, Chinese leaders have not only given substantial economic aid to the country, but also supported and even hosted peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. However, because of border disputes with India and China, as well as historical tension between India and Pakistan, several other aspects have come into play with this newly diplomatic relationship between Beijing and Kabul.

In February 2014, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Kabul and indicated China would support Afghanistan in achieving “smooth political, security, and economic transitions.”  In October 2014, China also hosted the fourth foreign minister’s meeting of the Istanbul Process, and international efforts launched in 2011 to encourage cooperation and coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbors and regional partners. In this way, China showed desire to take initiative in promoting a smooth power transfer after Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election and a stable security transition following the gradual withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops an U.S forces in December of 2014.

In January 2015, during a speech marking the 60th anniversary of China-Afghan relations, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said, “We hope that China will play a proactive role in bringing peace to Afghanistan, because whatever the Chinese do, they do it according to a plan and with focus. Now, as they have become involved, we will witness more steps toward achieving peace.” And in February 2015, the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue that includes China, Afghanistan and Pakistan met for the first time in Kabul, highlighting new Chinese desire to engage with Afghanistan diplomatically. At this meeting, two decisions were highlighted: (1) China agreed to support relevant proposals such as strengthening highway and rail links between Afghanistan and Pakistan including Kunar Hydroelectric Dam, pushing forward connectivity and enhancing economic integration and (2) China and Afghanistan support Pakistan holding the fifth Foreign Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan and the three sides agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation on this matter.

Economically, China also has given several types of aid. In 2014 alone, China provided Afghanistan with a total of 500 million yuan (80 million USD) and pledged an additional 1.5 billion yuan (240 million) over the next three years. These numbers are substantially larger than any aid that the Chinese have given in previous years, and has promoted economic stability in a country that is rising from over a decade of war. China also promised to provide 500 scholarships for Afghan students to study in China as well as training to 3,000 Afghan professionals in various fields including counterterrorism, anti-drug trafficking, agriculture, and diplomacy. Another big factor that has created closer cooperation between China and Afghanistan is the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative. This proposal shows Chinese efforts to focus less on domestic issues and become more involved in a widely regional sense. Under this initiative, China aims to create a modern Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to boost trade and extend its global influence. Projects under the plan include a network of railways, highways, oil and gas pipelines, power grids, and other infrastructure links across Central, West and South Asia to as far as Greece and Russia, increasing China’s connections to Europe and Africa.

Now the big question is, why has China invested so much into Afghanistan? Besides the obvious benefit of the Silk Road Initiative in terms of opening up trade, Chinese diplomatic involvement is mostly about Afghanistan stability. A stable Afghanistan means two things for China, (1) To be able to create this Silk Road Initiative, Afghanistan must be a key player, as Kandahar is being considered as a central stop on the trade route, and (2) To control the Muslim majority Uighur population in the Xinhang province, which resides in Northwestern China and shares a small border with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Chinese leaders fear with the close proximity the Xinhang province is to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, that it is especially vulnerable to the effects of terrorism and extremism, posing a great threat to Chinese national security. Without Afghan stability, the Xinhang province will be harder to control and keep stabilized.

This second concept was made a real fear in October 2013, when a car crashed in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in what police described as a terrorist suicide attack. Five people were killed and another thirty-eight were injured. Chinese police described it as a “major incident” and as the first terrorist attack in Beijing’s recent history. The other most recent attack was in March 2014 at the Kunming train station. The incident, targeted against civilians, left 29 civilians and 4 perpetrators dead with more than 140 others injured. The attack has been called a “massacre” by some news media. Both male and female attackers were seen to pull out long-bladed knives and proceed to stab and slash passengers. Although no one group took responsibility for either attack, there was evidence in both that pointed to the Uighur Insurgency in the Xinhang province. With these heightened security concerns, it is not in the least surprising that China has taken a lead in stabilizing Afghanistan and supporting the new government among other things.

Another factor that has played into China’s role in Afghanistan is its neighbor, Pakistan. Pakistan’s role is quite interesting, as it is connected to China’s involvement in Taliban peace talks and has become a growing regional nuclear threat. Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal; and as of recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, announced that he had approved a new deal to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines from China, which could be equipped with nuclear missiles, for an estimated $5 billion.  Last month, Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile that appears capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to any part of India. China is using its good relations with Pakistan to cultivate more cooperation in peace talks with the Taliban, as Pakistan has closer ties with some the organizations’ leaders.  China and Pakistan’s alliance is both beneficial militarily and economically. Beijing’s ambitious Silk Road Initiative is integrated with CPEC (Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor), a channel for trade running from China across South and Central Asia. CPEC involves major overhaul of infrastructure, with rail roads, pipelines, and ports in a bid to ease the energy crisis and increase investment in Pakistan. Militarily, both countries recently made a $6.5 billion commitment to build a new nuclear power plant in Karachi.

This alliance does not help India’s interests, as both India and China have taken great measures in assisting Afghanistan in its political transition.  India has given $2 billion for a number of areas of infrastructural development, capacity building, rural development, and education. They have also spent some time training Afghan military and police. However, because of India and China’s rocky relationship as well as India being a “common enemy” to both Beijing and Pakistan, India likely does not have a chance in competing in Afghanistan for power.

As far as the Taliban peace talks go, China has a lot to lose if this peace process fails. China is well-equipped to take on the role of peacemaker, as it is a major power in the region and has a great degree of political influence. China also has a lot invested in these talks, as its national security and economic prosperity with the Silk Road Initiative are big factors at stake. Ensuring Afghanistan security and stability creates a risk for China, and if they do not succeed, its credibility will most likely be damaged.

With the United States, at some point, removing the last of its troops out of Afghanistan, there is a question of whether or not China will be the next “U.S. in the country.” Is China filling the void left by the likely U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan? Although the answer is uncertain, China has invested too much into Afghanistan’s infrastructure to try to create stability to let Afghanistan falter again, but it is nearly impossible that Beijing will ever invade Afghanistan like the U.S. did. China will likely continue to invest in Afghanistan and be involved in reconciliation with the Taliban until a time when it becomes pointless, as this is there number one priority is promoting a stable Afghan government.

As far as U.S policy should be concerned, China’s involvement in Afghanistan is not an immediate threat. China could prove the ultimate winner in Afghanistan, having shed no blood and only giving economic aid for stability purposes. China’s involvement in Afghanistan is not a potential threat to U.S power, and if this involvement is completely benign, it will continue to not be a threat. We should be happy that the transition of the government in Kabul is going rather smoothly. However, Chinese involvement is a “mixed bag”; if it uses its influence to gain power in the region and not for stabilizing Afghanistan alone, the threat to U.S power will become evident. One of the most serious threats that could come of this is Chinese and Pakistan’s nuclear ties, as growing, destabilizing nuclear forces will continue to be one of the biggest national security threats for the region, and for the United States, in years to come. 

We welcome your comments!


Recently, the New York Times Editorial Board published this article, titled ” China’s Big Plunge in Pakistan”. The article is below:

“President Xi Jinping of China showed up in Pakistan this week with one of his government’s most powerful weapons — money, and lots of it. He signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of a total promised investment of some $46 billion in a new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land-and-sea-based economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East through Pakistan, Central Asia and Russia.

The corridor is intended to shorten the route for China’s energy imports from the Middle East by bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, which could be blocked in war. Pakistan and its neighbors would unquestionably also benefit from this project if it can be completed.

Pakistani officials said that about $10 billion would be invested in infrastructure projects, including a deepwater port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, with rails and roads leading from the port across Baluchistan Province into western China. The route from Gwadar to Xinjiang Province in China would be a shortcut for trade between Europe and China. Up to $37 billion is earmarked for coal-based power plants, hydropower plants and solar parks to fill Pakistan’s huge energy needs.

For China, the investment also addresses issues of national security. China fears that Muslim separatists in Xinjiang, one of China’s most restive regions, are being influenced by militants in Pakistan, which has been battling an insurgency for more than a decade.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia have missed out on Asia’s economic boom, leaving them vulnerable to unrest. Ideally, China’s project would promote growth in Pakistan, weaken the extremists, encourage the Pakistani Army to support peace efforts in Afghanistan and begin to knit together a fragmented region with new development and trade.

There’s reason to be skeptical. The United States pursued many of the same goals when it poured $31 billion into Pakistan between 2002 and 2014, yet achieved little. One problem was that most of the American money was military aid. Congress was finally persuaded to authorize $7.5 billion in development aid in 2009, but by then the United States was in economic distress and fed up with the duplicity of Pakistani Army leaders who took counterterrorism aid from Washington while also working with militant groups against American interests.

China’s government is flush with money and has considered Pakistan among its closest allies since the 1970s. It may have learned from America’s mistakes by going big on development and targeting assistance to specific needs. But it will face the problems of Pakistani corruption and incompetence that the Americans experienced, as well as safety issues. Much of the construction would occur in Baluchistan, in southwest Pakistan, where a separatist movement has been fighting for independence from the central government for decades and could threaten Chinese workers.

Some suggest the project will further enhance China’s standing in Asia at America’s expense. But that is perhaps too narrow a view. Both the United States and China share an interest in a stable Pakistan. If China can advance that goal through development programs, the whole region would benefit.” (April 23, 2015)