Harry C. Blaney III
Trump Quote: “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”
Once again we are entering a merciless mess in Afghanistan led by a man that has not the faintest idea of what he is doing other than sending added, yet unknown numbers, of American armed forces into conflict without even a true strategy or concept of making Afghanistan itself safe and having a chance to recover security and stability.
And by cutting out any “nation building” (that is support the civilian sector and giving its people hope for jobs, education, security and a better decent life), a purely military escalation is likely domed from the start. And sadly this will be at the cost of many additional American, allied, and civilian lives.
Other than threats and platitudes against the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan for their seen failures which we have tried and tried again to correct and change, Trump offered no new hopeful approaches. Trump remains ignorant of the complexity and the deep ingrained habits of corruption, loyalty to tribes, fear of retribution, etc. Not least, also unaddressed is the embedded drug trafficking including the widespread growing of poppies which all sides greatly benefit from not least the terrorists, for which there is no sign we have any new effective solutions. Even if we had it would likely take decades and much resources to make the necessary changes on the ground even if the Afghan government were to become more honest and effective.
It has been 16 years of American war and massive costs under three administrations and we were not able to make right that poor and beleaguered nation burdened with conflict. Does any one think Trump, at his worst unbelievable behavior (note support for racists and the Phoenix unhinged diatribe today), now has the answer? Clearly, he has no different innovative ideas how to make peace in Afghanistan. And even worse, he has gutted our diplomatic capacity which might have helped towards the serious negotiations towards peaceful or less conflict solutions. Trump even had the temerity to say: “In the end we will win.”
He clearly has no end game other than killing the ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeda with an undetermined number of thousands of American troops. Having lived through and watched each administration grapple unsuccessfully with Afghanistan. Now even with the support of the military, clearly now neither the military nor Trump have any idea of a truly new approach. In fact, Trump’s approach is almost exactly what each previous administration tied from time to time and found wanting in any lasting success.
There was not a single sign that Trump or his advisors had better newer answers. Most troubling was his simplistic and even quixotic views on defeating terrorism. He lacks any interest even in proving the people of Afghanistan peace and true stability. There was perhaps another game plan but not to bring peace or security. That is rather simply the idea of saving his administration by becoming a “war president” and thus un-impeccable and un-touchable and diverting attention from the Trump-Putin investigation.
One fact which was not mentioned was the reality that these terrorist groups have learned to spread their activities to other at risk nations and also to regions like Europe, Asia and North America. Killing them in one country is only likely to see them spring up in others, perhaps with even more dangerous outcomes. All this threatened killing brings increased anger and haltered that are at the cause of their strength. Only indeed if we had a effective true strategy against the fundamental sources of terrorism and an effective “nation building” strategy, that could be fully carried implemented, we might address the critical reasons for the spread of terrorism and violence and reduce its impact.
We welcome your comments!!
Harry C. Blaney III
We have tried to focus on foreign and security policies and issues in this blog but the reality is that what happens in the United States in terms of our leadership and our society and governance is a main driver of out engagement with the world. This is the case with the confrontation recently in Charlottesville and especially the follow on of how Donald Trump dealt with this domestic divisive crisis and his corrosive and demoniac perspective on dealing with racism, the KKK, White Nationalists and neo-Nazis.
The picture of Americans marching with guns an other weapons, in mock military uniforms and with the Nazi flags and shouting Nazi and racist, anti-Semitic slogans and acting in threatening ways including the killing of a woman and attacking others who were counter-protesting against such evil beliefs. All over the removal of a stature of a general who supported slavery and was a traitor his nation who took the oath of office to defend that nation. The image of this tragic and brutal event that defies all American value, was broadcast over the world. In Berlin people organized donations for the victims of the brutality and murder and maiming of those who simply sought justice. (See comment below on German official reaction.)
In response, the American media, by and large, saw this event for what it was and Trump’s response, especially on Saturday and on Tuesday as a desecration of our values, our constitution, and our unity as a people seeking the perfection of democracy. Already the world sees Trump and this administration as destructive and is fearful and this only adds to their despair.
David Gergen, former advisor to both Republican and Democratic presidents on CNN noted that we have a more dangerous situation for our country than before and questioned of how we could come to grips with the anger in this man that is our President and its dangerous implications for our nation. The military leaders our Chiefs-of-Staff are now on record in support of American tolerance, inclusiveness, and against racism in our military and our nation. Their statements are in contrast to the Trump relative pro-racist sympathy and equation of Alt-Right and White Racists with that of those who opposed them was a moment of a fearsome turning point in trust in Trump as a rational decent leader for many. But clearly not all.
If we see a President that is unhinged so does our allies who frankly are frighted and worried that America is a more dangerous force in the world than even Russia. Even our adversaries think they can take advantage of these stupid and depraved acts by Trump. People overseas see Trump defending evil which disheartens any decent person here or abroad.
On a positive side, the Wednesday night vigil in Charlottesville was a massive act of its citizens and showed, via a peaceful march, a hope to our global community that the forces of justice and democracy against racism and Neo-Nazis is still strong. Towards the end of the candlelight march they sang the songs of the civil rights movement, and ballads of inclusiveness of the folk singers of that generation of the 60’s, that I knew so well in my own life. If the world could see these public acts of concern and support for justice in our nation, perhaps they would give us some day a second change to help provide positive leadership to face together our world’s many challenges.
But to address our own faults and tendencies towards the evils such as Trump has given voice to, requires a truing point in our politics in which the vast majority of our nation recognizes our dilemma and dangers of a government that seems intent to destroy our constitution, democracy, and fairness to all our citizens. We all will need to act to change our direction and push back to those who preach selfishness, racism and self-destruction.
The world is watching us. The vast majority of the world wants us to once again to assert our values and not endanger them with lies, hate and racism. This may be a key moment of decision and bravery. Our security and our values are at stake.
We welcome your comments (See box below text)
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)
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!
Harry C. Blaney III
Adding to the commentary of my last post, unbelievably Donald Trump has just doubled down in the last three days or so going yet further towards a very dark zone where our nation’s integrity, constitution and laws are at risk. There seems no ceasing of his aberrant and threatening behavior toward especially the institutions and officials carrying out the necessary requirements of our constitution, the process of justice and laws in America and protecting our security.
Here is a brief list of some of Donald Trump’s actions which reinforce that the man has lost or never had any level of rationality that he might have had before becoming president.
Here is a brief list without any doubt, shows a man with complete disrespect for morals, the rights of others, our laws and most scary tendencies to act as if he were America’s authorized elected dictator: He has continued an even higher level attacks on AG Sessions and now Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he did with former FBI Head James Comey. He has now threatened “a red line” if Mueller looks at Trump’s financial dealing which he needs to do to see what connection exists with Russian financing and is within his authority of his Department of Justice mandate. Trump and his family have hired a large team of outside lawyers not to just defend Trump and his people but to attack Mueller and his staff, a sign of a desperate man.
He has, not least, suggested that he has complete unquestioned rights of pardons….hinting that includes himself. He continues to attack “Fake News” about Russian contacts and still refuses to tell us what he said to Putin in his G-20“solo” meeting. His family has repeatedly held back information on their security clearance application forms on meetings with Russian agents. But now he seems to promise pardons for others like those of his campaign staff, including all those who took part in the June 2017 meeting with Russian agents to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton and meetings with the now-former Russian Ambassador. One must now wonder if this statement is a way of getting silence or inducing lies from these individuals about his own role in all of this which is also being discussed?
Thus it is hard to not interpret these as the acts of a cornered guilty man.
All this, especially the Trump Tower meeting in June, with the background of a promise to tilt the election towards Trump are not going away. That event could raise the specter of possible felonies combined with questions about what secrets or deals he might have again shared with Putin that we know not of.
But also our national security is equally at great risk over Trump’s questionable and poorly thought through dealing with our allies some who he has insulted. The same goes with his approach to North Korea, on climate change, on degrading democracy at home and abroad. This is now old hat but we need to ask how can we repair the damage he has done to our respect and leadership?
In place of reaching out to Russia to restore peace and to reduce the chance of nuclear war, Trump has focused on statements of aggression towards Iran, withdrawing US support for our Syrian allies and ignoring Syrian President Assad and Russian deliberately killing of innocent civilians. He continues supporting the most brutal dictators in the world, and undermining democracy of our allies and our own democratic institutions.
No progress has been made, or it seems even attempted, to negotiate a reduction of nuclear weapons and address the problem of accidental war and use of such nuclear weapons. This should be the main priority of both sides. Some believe our show of “weakness and unilateral gifts’ to Trump will encourage Russia towards further acts of infamy and destruction, and continued efforts aimed at America losing its global influence. But engaging with them in an open way on reducing risks must be tried.
His recent statements, tweets and further revelations of a number of new areas of possible collusion or shady dealings with Russians reinforce these views. Recently, even against his own views, he has had to accept a just slightly watered down version to get his agreement, of a new Congressional bill that takes some of his power to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia, perhaps for fear that it would be an acknowledgment of Congresses’ lack of trust in him to act in America’s interest.
The totality of Trumps acts and statements and the now unquestionable actual meetings of his people with Russian agents combined with lies about these contacts and their multiplicity may not yet be the last word we will hear. These all have led now to the more often raised questions of possible criminal indictment or even impeachment as now not a totally outlandish outcome.
So much for “making America great.” We need a leader that will move toward a stable and cooperative future for both nations and supporting our democratic allies, not one that is bent on inflecting even more conflict and instability and more authoritarian rule abroad….and even here in the USA.
We welcome your comments
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.