Harry C. Blaney III
Harry C. Blaney III
Harry C. Blaney III
On Friday North Korea sent another missile over Japan with a range of about 2,300 miles. The Trump administration’s response was that they had “military options.” There was considerable “tough” military talk coming from all of the key national security actors. One pithy remark by NSC head McMaster was “For those ….who have been commenting on a lack of military option, there is a military option” ….adding that it would not be the Trump’s preferred choice. To add another quote: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “begging for war,” US ambassador Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
No kidding, all of this silly bullying along with outcome of millions of deaths!!! We must remember that Trump promised not to allow North Korea to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. Already we have had the “threat, and just the “threat” by NK, which has been on going for a decade.
On the other side, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as quoted by the NK news agency KCNA, saying “it aims to reach an equilibrium” of military force with the United States. his actual quote: “Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option.”
Clearly, the picture is very gloomy and one has to hope, in time, clearer heads everywhere will prevail, but that will take good and massive efforts by all and a change of tone and substance and actions. But that means that there is a need for a systemic change in the landscape and in leader’s minds. Let me add a “military” option by either side is collective mass suicide.
We and nobody else has found a neat and risk free answer to the nuclear threats from North Korea. Everyone is playing the most disastrous game possible named “chicken racing” where each car races at high speed at the other waiting for the other to blink and get out of the way!! The result of this game we all know.
This topic is on the minds of many of our global leaders from Putin, May, Merkel, Xi, Abe and Kim. Of course Trump has it in his gun sights but it seems has little understanding so far of paths which both sides can accept and live with. The hope is this will, in time, change before we end in a nuclear cataclysm.
While the landscape is dangerous and complex solutions exist that both sides can accept and would be a “Win-win” for all providing they are seeking mutual security, not aggression against others and willingness to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and accept third party inspection.
The main problems are that most analysts think that Kim is committed to having a large arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles so that they can powerfully threaten and make other nations fear him and gain benefits especially goods, investments, and recognition as a major player in the region if not the world. The great irony is making peace could achieve many key rational goals!
The problem is compounded in America with the instability of Trump and his blindness to reality, but we don’t know if Trump fears war less than the distraction of our citizens by being a war president, and perhaps free himself from the danger of losing his office.
One approach which has been put forth argues as a more realistic policy, is on deterring Pyongyang from using its nuclear weapons rather than pursuing unlikely attempts to denuclearize the peninsula. The problem with this is that is what we are trying to do now, but the reaction has been more aggressive behavior. It has risks of error and craziness of Kim, and it all means added continued uncertain high risk for the entire world.
What are the key “change elements” that just might redirect this massive disastrous trajectory that makes our globe a very ugly place to survive no mater where we may be?
The second, is for China to see that a nuclear war on their border is more dangerous to their national interests and for their population and economy, than gains from continued support for the Kim dynasty and all their madness and threats. They need to recognize the ensuing instability and that a better option is a negotiated solution that likely they and all could easily live with. That means negotiations while NK nuclear program is hopefully at least in a “standstill”…something NK is strongly against now. But there is US talk of a true ban on Chinese trade if they do not cease trade with NK and fully implement the UN sanctions. The same goes for Putin’s Russia which right now has an ambiguous stance, agreeing to limited UN sanctions but continuing to secretly trade with North Korea. They would too be harmed by a nuclear war in the region.
The third, is for the international community including the United Nations Security Council, our European allies, Japan and other Asian nations, and other key actors to agree on a package of “carrots” that could be put on offer to North Korea that might tempt them to put away their nuke for a model of a normal and decent and prosperous nation.
Forth, is acknowledging that there should be a nuclear free zone in all of Korea, that NK withdraw its artillery and conventional missiles well beyond range of hitting SK cities and especial the capital, and most important there would be a dismantlement of the nuclear weapons and long range missiles in the NK verified by the IAEA similar but beyond to the ”deal” with Iran. Further, the border between NK and SK be policed by UN armed troops to keep both side apart and as a deterrence to armed action. We would recognize SK under any agreement and we would have a peace treaty to end the Korean war. We and our allies would pledge non-aggression to a NK that acts peacefully.
Fifth, is a consensus “verboten” idea, simply at some point of “regime change,” either internally or externally but not engendered by America. But the outcome of such a change would have to be rational leaders that would see both prosperity and external help as a positive and not make nuclear weapons the fundamental requirement of their nation. This option most likely would be discarded absent major changes/crisis in NK.
One condition that would help which is rare in our new “Trumpain” age is return to the quality of sanity, search for common ground, thoughtful judgement, sense of proportion, of seeing ahead and, not least, decency and caring for all the planet.
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.
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump is soon again going abroad and if this trip is like that of his earlier Europe trip this Spring with considerable maladroit and indeed dangerous statements and behavior with our allies not least at NATO, then the coming journey seems to be not much better. As others have commented, Trump seems increasingly detached from reality and rationality and taken a turn towards irrational bullying and acting beyond normal. The leaders abroad have taken note!
This has already alarmed many Americans according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll and another by Pew. One shows alarming lack of trust in Trump by Americans and another show decrease of respect by people abroad for America likely due to Trump’s behavior.
These polls are confirmed by a recent Quinnipiac University poll, where respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot.” This was followed by “incompetent,” “liar,” “leader,” “unqualified,” and finally, in sixth place was “president.” In addition, superlatives like “great” and a few unprintable names came down on the list.
Looking at his behavior and his words and impulses and the mean spirit that is behind his actions, raises questions of Trump’s stability which in turn diminishes America’s leverage abroad and respect.
Looking at the forth coming trip to Europe there are many pit falls and areas of sensitive issues and concerns in Europe. To say that Europeans are looking at this visit with some disturbing thoughts is an understatement. The key problem is some think Trump’s efforts will be to divide Europe and thereby strengthen Putin and Russian power in the region.
The first reason for this concern is that the initial meeting in Europe, little recognized by much of the media, is to an Easter European bloc of nations under the invitation largely of the far right wing and authoritarian and anti-EU government of Poland rule by the infamous Law and Justice (PiS) party.
In this First part of Trump’s trip is a meeting with a gathering of political leaders from Central Europe, Baltic states and the Balkans that has been called the “Three Seas Summit” which indicates the geographical range of its participating nations. While billed as an event convened by Poland to bolster regional trade and infrastructure within the group, others see it as a mechanism by Poland to create an Eastern Europe bloc against the Western European EU leadership and to weaken EU ties and unity and gain support against EU efforts to signal out Poland for its anti-democratic and human rights violations.
Brussels leaders view the July 6 meeting as a Polish bid to increase its influence vis-a-vis the European Union. The nationalist government has repeatedly clashed with the EU and Germany.. One report has a quote from a Brussels diplomat saying “One cannot but feel a bit suspicious if it isn’t an attempt to break up European unity”
So the Poland visit is filled with traps for long held American interests in keeping Europe united and committed to the EU, NATO and democracy and human rights. If Trump take this meeting as another opportunity to criticize the EU or NATO members over added payments for defense, it could end up being, as the earlier trip to Europe, becoming a new Trump debacle. His support for right wing racist and Fascists parties that oppose the EU is part of that concern.
The meeting in Hamburg Germany of the G-20 group of major nations this coming week is another opportunity for Trump ideally to unite the G-20 nations towards cooperation on trade and international financial issues and affirm American engagement towards co-operation. But much of the focus on the Hamburg visit is the side-bar meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin which as both American officials and the public are much concerned that Trump will act irrationally and with views against American security interests.
A face to face meeting could amount to nothing and be just pro-forma, but it could also be historic if dangerous “deals” are made without consulting his expert officials and without consultations with our allies. The background of this meeting is the investigation of Trump’s campaign associates in what may be collusion with Russia on sanctions over Ukraine or even the hacking of American election documents and efforts to push Trump for president and against Hillary Clinton as found by our intelligence agencies. In any case the meet is filled with foreboding.
One of the problems will be how the leaders of the Group of 20 will be looking for leadership from America and Trump. Will it be a stable leader with intent to share efforts that are beneficial for all sides or a confronting “America First” tawdry president who will only further the de-stabilization of our globe by his challenging sands and rejection of decades of coordination and shared interests with our friends or strange actions that further hurt American leadership?
Some have suggested that this trip is an effort to create a distraction (as some think is the case with the Trump effort against MSNBC’s Morning Jo affair), from the congressional and inquires into Trump and his associates dubious connections with Russian agents, lying under oath, and possible obstruction of justice. All of this seems to have unhinged Trump and made him vulnerable in the planned meeting with a more knowledgeable and experienced Putin. At this moment we do not know exactly the context or the issues they will discuss, but likely Syria, Iran, disengagement, North Korea, Ukraine, sanctions and efforts at disruptions of our elections and democracy.
Keep tuned and pray!
We welcome your comments.
Harry C. Blaney III
On Thursday we heard former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony which highlighted a possible effort to obstruct justice or at least efforts by Trump to hide something which he feels threatens his presidency or worse. We can expect over time additional hearings and witnesses of other participants in this sad and tawdry story tell their own story. Further the work of the new Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III seems to be focused on a wide range of issues related to the Trump Camp-Russian connection and they have the authority to find criminal actions and prosecute which Congress can’t.
The Trump twitter may continue but the drum beats are for a reckoning while that may up set Trump’s presidency as vulnerable either for impeachment or self disintegration or severely injured. There are some signs that GOP lawmakers are concerned of what they see at the White House, but there is a great reluctance to jump ship for a host of reasons, most dealing with saving their own careers.
More and more of leaders of both parties are worried, the media of all stripes paying more attention, and the well informed public are increasingly fearful and concerned that our nation is in a dangerous downward cycle within and abroad. For example, according to a recent poll the percentage of Americans who “strongly” approve of the president has continued to go down – from 30 percent this spring to about 20 percent now. Many polls show opposition to Trump’s actions notably rejection of the Paris Accord.
Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee largely corroborated much of what is known about the relationship between Trump and Comey and highlighted a key reason why he was fired, namely he would not bow to Trump’s intimidation for dropping the Flynn-Russian investigation.
There is no doubt that Trump tried several times to demand “loyalty” and sought to close down the investigation which, while aimed publicly at former NSC head Mike Flynn, likely involved other members of the Trump team. There reality also is that during the campaign and after the election but before Trump was president, about seven of Trumps associates were in some contact with Russian agents according to press reports. The question is whether they were acting on Trump orders or that of his family or high level staff.
Comey made clear in his testimony that Russia had hacked into our election process, that they had a long history of such activity and likely will continue, and it was vital that America protect itself against such action that impact our democracy. He accused President Donald Trump of lying when he said in the aftermath of Comey’s firing that the bureau was in disarray and that its agents had lost confidence in its leader. “Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Comey in giving an account of his dismissal and said there was “no doubt” that he had been fired “to change the nature of the Russia investigation,” of the FBI’s investigation of Kremlin-backed meddling in the 2016 election.
That probe’s key element includes an examination of whether Trump aides colluded with the Kremlin campaign to hack into American political organizations and leak stolen documents. On Thursday, while Comey refused to say in an open hearing whether he believed Trump colluded with that effort, the weight of reported evidence of broad active efforts by his associates and family to make these contacts and keep them “secret” from our key agencies, and in the case of Jared Kushner suggesting using Russian communication modalities for contacting Putin increasingly moves into dangerous territory and wide implications.
My own feeling given the pressure Trump applied, his own statements, not least the words “fake news” and disparagement of Comey before the Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, where he indicated that the action would take the pressure off of him. Further, his irrational and counterproductive tweets, efforts to pressure intelligence agencies heads to influence Comey, plus his demands that top Justice Department officials provide some pretext for reasons for the firing of Comey, all raise doubts about his motives and actions which in the end he acknowledged were also due to the Russian probe. Important also is that Trump felt investigators would get too close to himself.
Comey made the point that the bureau’s investigation of Flynn was criminal in nature and focused on Mike Flynn’s statements regarding contacts with Russian officials. Trump fired Flynn allegedly because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but continued to seek a halt of the investigation of him by the FBI.
Based on these factors, it is my view likely that the inquiry could lead in some way to Trump himself. I sense that neither Michael Flynn, nor especially Jared Kushner would have undertaken, or kept to themselves and from Trump, such communications with the Russian agents on highly sensitive matters. They clearly wished to keep this activity from the public and especially other US officials including our intelligence agencies. It reaffirms the high likelihood that Trump either knew about these activities or ordered them. That could be the “smoking Gun.” The other “smoking guns” are a proved effort at obstruction of Justice, or proof of nefarious collusion with the Russians.
The question in open and unclassified session gave some insights on Comey’s thinking and concerns, it also give insights on how the Senate Committee might behave as they proceed to look into the classified data in closed session and demand to see FBI and intelligence agency documents. What is unknown is how far has the FBI probe under now Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller gotten and what is yet to be found out. Certainly, the Trump people have been or will be questioned under oath and there my likely be some revelations from this process.
Finally, what we have seen today probably is just the tip of the iceberg and there may be very much more known to the government agencies involved and more perhaps yet to be found out.
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