TRUMP’S CONTRADICTORY AND SILLY FOREIGN POLICY VIEWS: A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN?
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech which he read from a teleprompter, was a remarkable example of his overall campaign outrageous statements in an effort to appear “responsible” and it did not achieve the latter. It only showed again that much of his utterances and policies are contradictory, unrealistic, ill informed, and often accompanied by outright falsehoods.
We first have to remember that this is the man who questioned President Obama’s U.S. birth even while his birth certificate was available and he held before his election a US passport which requires proof of birth. This is the man who said he would build a wall on our Southern border and have Mexico pay for it. This is the man who would ban Muslims from coming into the U.S. for a period and forcing those living in America to register. This sounds much like Nazi Germany and his “America first” sounds like the far-right pre-war U.S. isolationist movement and the “Deutschland über alles” of the Hitler period.
Trump has already frightened our friends and allies and the likelihood of his gaining the Republican nomination and even a chance to be president has done immeasurable harm already to American standing among our friends.
In saying that “America will be great again” he misses the point that our strength is based not just on our wealth and military power but on the trust that we have earned for decades, including by President Obama, by our fairness, sense of common interest with others, and addressing the security and legitimate interests of our friends and allies. Trump with his aggressive stance and irrational and dangerous policies and statements will lose that global trust in America fast.
In each and ever major point that he made in his speech was contradicted elsewhere in his speech. At the most “macro” and fundamental level of such contradictions was his bombastic assertion not only that he would “Make America Great” (which it already is), but his “America First” and his clear stance that he could force by his will alone or by coercion and brute force his will upon the entire world, both friends and enemies. Yet nowhere does he explain exactly what the reaction of other might be to his “bullying tactics” which he embodies in his whole life’s work and as part of his fundamental character. Having spent much of my adult life as an American diplomat, I know this is NOT how to achieve cooperation of friends and allies and not how to deal with countries like China and Russia and to achieve a peaceful and safe environment for all world.
When he says in the same talk that “We want to bring peace to the world” and then talks about massive build-up of an already massive defense capability of $600 billion funding each year, in the face of more unnecessary nuclear weapons modernization, many new weapons, but already with superior advance technological capability and defense funding that is equal or greater than to the next 8 nations military budgets of both friends and possible opponents.
Among the many inflammatory and ill-informed views and his butchering of the truth add misrepresentation of facts about the reality of world power and politics. To start, his idea that international institutions like the UN, EU, and NATO and other organizations are hurting U.S. power when in reality they are supporting American goals and security around the world. The other lie is that he can simply win their compliance by walking away from the table like he does for a real-estate deal.
His warning about “the false song of globalism” and cutting off trade with others if they don’t play he game has isolationist tendencies in a world of inalterable connectivness, while his aggressive militarism of building ever more war weapons, and threats, along side his stated desire to make friends allies and enemies friends, appears contradictory and a bit incomprehensible.
Trump clearly is truly a dangerous man in every sense of that word. This speech can only add to the world’s fears of the future rationality of their best key ally, diminish their hope for a better world led by America. His approach would only add to the horrors we already face around the world.
Trump’s opposition to the Iran agreement which constrains Iran from having a nuclear weapon for over a decade or more, shows a total lack of understanding of the importance of cutting off nuclear weapons in this conflict ridden region and the agreement contributes to more security and stability for that region.
It must please Putin, who earlier called Trump “a brighter person, talented without a doubt.” Trump oddly, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and bombing of Syrian civilians and hospitals, returned the compliment saying: “I like him because he called me a genius. He said Trump is the real leader.” His espousal of affinity for Putin, a most authoritarian leader and butcher of his opponents, has to be seen with much consternation by Americans and those abroad.
However, Putin who seems to favor Trump, but it is not for the reasons that help America. Rather it is because he sees such a man destroying America’s global influence without him lifting a finger.
Reaction to Trump’s speech has Russian pro-Putin politicians delighted and hopeful to “do business” with Trump – and now less likely to worry about American sanctions with a possible Trump presidency, and perhaps even feeling he can act with impunity in the Middle East that Trump has largely dismissed. It will embolden Putin also in Ukraine thinking he can roll over that nation with impunity under Trump. Putin must be delighted with Trump already weakening ties with Europe over trade and dismissing our allies for not supporting more defense spending and implying mindlessly a U.S. pull out if our demands are not met.
Trump, in short, with his foreign policy leaves the American people and our friends abroad scared and dismayed and our foes delighted.
See our section on presidential candidates quotes on security and foreign policy issues via pressing its title in the top section of our blog.
We welcome your comments!
The following speech is an interesting and major summary of US-European, and for that matter global strategy and goals, and is as good a summary of the challenges and the policies that both sides of the Atlantic face from the President himself. It is one of the best insights into Obama’s world view and the problems that America must face as well as Europe now and in the coming years. Harry Blaney III
“Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Europe”
Hannove Messe Fairgrounds, Hannover, Germany April 25. 2016
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Guten tag! It is wonderful to see all of you, and I want to begin by thanking Chancellor Merkel for being here. (Applause.) On behalf of the American people, I want to thank Angela for being a champion of our alliance. And on behalf of all of us, I want to thank you for your commitment to freedom, and equality, and human rights, which is a reflection of your inspiring life. I truly believe you’ve shown us the leadership of steady hands — how do you call it? The Merkel-Raute. (Laughter.) And over the last seven years, I have relied on your friendship and counsel, and your firm moral compass. So we very much appreciate your Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
To the members of the Bundestag, Prime Minister Weil, Mayor Schostock, distinguished guests, people of Germany. And I’m especially pleased to see the young people here — from Germany and across Europe. We also have some proud Americans here. (Laughter and applause.)
I have to admit that I have developed a special place in my heart for the German people. Back when I was a candidate for this office, you welcomed me with a small rally in Berlin, where I spoke of the change that’s possible when the world stands as one. As President, you’ve treated me and Michelle and our daughters to wonderful hospitality. You’ve offered me excellent beer — (laughter) — and weisswurst in Krun. You’ve now hosted our delegation here in Hannover.
My only regret is that I have never been to Germany for Oktoberfest. (Laughter.) So I will have to come back. And I suspect it’s more fun when you’re not President. (Laughter and applause.) So my timing will be good. (Applause.)
And as always, I bring the friendship of the American people. We consider the German people, and all of our European allies, to be among our closest friends in the world — because we share so much experience and so many of the same values. We believe that nations and peoples should live in security and peace. We believe in creating opportunity that lifts up not just the few but the many. And I’m proud to be the first American President to come to Europe and be able to say that, in the United States, health care is not a privilege, it is now a right for all. We share that as well. (Applause.)
Perhaps most importantly, we believe in the equality and inherent dignity of every human being. Today in America, people have the freedom to marry the person that they love. We believe in justice, that no child in the world should ever die from a mosquito bite; that no one should suffer from the ache of an empty stomach; that, together, we can save our planet and the world’s most vulnerable people from the worst effects of climate change. These are things that we share. It’s borne of common experience.
And this is what I want to talk to you about today — the future that we are building together — not separately, but together. And that starts right here in Europe.
And I want to begin with an observation that, given the challenges that we face in the world and the headlines we see every day, may seem improbable, but it’s true. We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history. That may surprise young people who are watching TV or looking at your phones and it seems like only bad news comes through every day. But consider that it’s been decades since the last war between major powers. More people live in democracies. We’re wealthier and healthier and better educated, with a global economy that has lifted up more than a billion people from extreme poverty, and created new middle classes from the Americas to Africa to Asia. Think about the health of the average person in the world — tens of millions of lives that we now save from disease and infant mortality, and people now living longer lives.
Around the world, we’re more tolerant — with more opportunity for women, and gays and lesbians, as we push back on bigotry and prejudice. And around the world, there’s a new generation of young people — like you — that are connected by technology, and driven by your idealism and your imagination, and you’re working together to start new ventures, and to hold governments more accountable, and advance human dignity.
If you had to choose a moment in time to be born, any time in human history, and you didn’t know ahead of time what nationality you were or what gender or what your economic status might be, you’d choose today — which isn’t to say that there is not still enormous suffering and enormous tragedy and so much work for us to do. It is to remember that the trajectory of our history over the last 50, 100 years has been remarkable. And we can’t take that for granted, and we should take confidence in our ability to be able to shape our own destiny.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we can be complacent because today dangerous forces do threaten to pull the world backward, and our progress is not inevitable. These challenges threaten Europe and they threaten our transatlantic community. We’re not immune from the forces of change around the world. As they have elsewhere, barbaric terrorists have slaughtered innocent people in Paris and Brussels, and Istanbul and San Bernardino, California. And we see these tragedies in places central to our daily lives — an airport or café, a workplace or a theater — and it unsettles us. It makes us unsure in our day-to-day lives — fearful not just for ourselves but those that we love. Conflicts from South Sudan to Syria to Afghanistan have sent millions fleeing, seeking the relative safety of Europe’s shores, but that puts new strains on countries and local communities, and threatens to distort our politics.
Russian aggression has flagrantly violated the sovereignty and territory of an independent European nation, Ukraine, and that unnerves our allies in Eastern Europe, threatening our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. And it seems to threaten the progress that’s been made since the end of the Cold War.
Slow economic growth in Europe, especially in the south, has left millions unemployed, including a generation of young people without jobs and who may look to the future with diminishing hopes. And all these persistent challenges have led some to question whether European integration can long endure; whether you might be better off separating off, redrawing some of the barriers and the laws between nations that existed in the 20th century.
Across our countries, including in the United States, a lot of workers and families are still struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis in generations. And that trauma of millions who lost their jobs and their homes and their savings is still felt. And meanwhile, there are profound trends underway that have been going on for decades — globalization, automation that — in some cases, of depressed wages, and made workers in a weaker position to bargain for better working conditions. Wages have stagnated in many advanced countries while other costs have gone up. Inequality has increased. And for many people, it’s harder than ever just to hold on.
This is happening in Europe; we see some of these trends in the United States and across the advanced economies. And these concerns and anxieties are real. They are legitimate. They cannot be ignored, and they deserve solutions from those in power.
Unfortunately, in the vacuum, if we do not solve these problems, you start seeing those who would try to exploit these fears and frustrations and channel them in a destructive way. A creeping emergence of the kind of politics that the European project was founded to reject — an “us” versus “them” mentality that tries to blame our problems on the other, somebody who doesn’t look like us or doesn’t pray like us — whether it’s immigrants, or Muslims, or somebody who is deemed different than us.
And you see increasing intolerance in our politics. And loud voices get the most attention. This reminds me of the poem by the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, where the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
So this is a defining moment. And what happens on this continent has consequences for people around the globe. If a unified, peaceful, liberal, pluralistic, free-market Europe begins to doubt itself, begins to question the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, then we can’t expect the progress that is just now taking hold in many places around the world will continue. Instead, we will be empowering those who argue that democracy can’t work, that intolerance and tribalism and organizing ourselves along ethnic lines, and authoritarianism and restrictions on the press — that those are the things that the challenges of today demand.
So I’ve come here today, to the heart of Europe, to say that the United States, and the entire world, needs a strong and prosperous and democratic and united Europe. (Applause.)
Perhaps you need an outsider, somebody who is not European, to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved. The progress that I described was made possible in large measure by ideals that originated on this continent in a great Enlightenment and the founding of new republics. Of course, that progress didn’t travel a straight line. In the last century — twice in just 30 years — the forces of empire and intolerance and extreme nationalism consumed this continent. And cities like this one were largely reduced to rubble. Tens of millions of men and women and children were killed.
But from the ruins of the Second World War, our nations set out to remake the world — to build a new international order and the institutions to uphold it. A United Nations to prevent another world war and advance a more just and lasting peace. International financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to promote prosperity for all peoples. A Universal Declaration of Human Rights to advance the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” And here in Europe, giants like Chancellor Adenauer set out to bind old adversaries through commerce and through trade. As Adenauer said in those early days, “European unity was a dream of a few. It became a hope for [the] many. Today it is a necessity for all of us.” (Applause.)
And it wasn’t easy. Old animosities had to be overcome. National pride had to be joined with a commitment to a common good. Complex questions of sovereignty and burden-sharing had to be answered. Ant at every step, the impulse to pull back — for each country to go its own way — had to be resisted. More than once, skeptics predicted the demise of this great project.
But the vision of European unity soldiered on — and having defended Europe’s freedom in war, America stood with you every step of this journey. A Marshall Plan to rebuild; an airlift to save Berlin; a NATO alliance to defend our way of life. America’s commitment to Europe was captured by a young American President, John F. Kennedy, when he stood in a free West Berlin and declared that “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.”
With strength and resolve and the power of our ideals, and a belief in a unified Europe, we didn’t simply end the Cold War — freedom won. Germany was reunited. You welcomed new democracies into an even “ever closer union.” You may argue over whose football clubs are better, vote for different singers on Eurovision. (Laughter.) But your accomplishment — more than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in 28 countries, 19 with a common currency, in one European Union — remains one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times. (Applause.)
Yes, European unity can require frustrating compromise. It adds layers of government that can slow decision-making. I understand. I’ve been in meetings with the European Commission. And, as an American, we’re famously disdainful of government. We understand how easy it must be to vent at Brussels and complain. But remember that every member of your union is a democracy. That’s not an accident. Remember that no EU country has raised arms against another. That’s not an accident. Remember that NATO is as strong as it’s ever been.
Remember that our market economies — as Angela and I saw this morning — are the greatest generators of innovation and wealth and opportunity in history. Our freedom, our quality of life remains the envy of the world, so much so that parents are willing to walk across deserts, and cross the seas on makeshift rafts, and risk everything in the hope of giving their children the blessings that we — that you — enjoy — blessings that you cannot take for granted.
This continent, in the 20th century, was at constant war. People starved on this continent. Families were separated on this continent. And now people desperately want to come here precisely because of what you’ve created. You can’t take that for granted.
And today, more than ever, a strong, united Europe remains, as Adenauer said, a necessity for all of us. It’s a necessity for the United States, because Europe’s security and prosperity is inherently indivisible from our own. We can’t cut ourselves off from you. Our economies are integrated. Our cultures are integrated. Our peoples are integrated. You saw the response of the American people to Paris and Brussels — it’s because, in our imaginations, this is our cities.
A strong, united Europe is a necessity for the world because an integrated Europe remains vital to our international order. Europe helps to uphold the norms and rules that can maintain peace and promote prosperity around the world.
Consider what we’ve done in recent years: Pulling the global economy back from the brink of depression and putting the world on the path of recovery. A comprehensive deal that’s cut off every single one of Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb — part of our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons. In Paris, the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change. (Applause.) Stopping Ebola in West Africa and saving countless lives. Rallying the world around new sustainable development, including our goal to end extreme poverty. None of those things could have happened if I — if the United States did not have a partnership with a strong and united Europe. (Applause.) It wouldn’t have happened.
That’s what’s possible when Europe and America and the world stand as one. And that’s precisely what we’re going to need to face down the very real dangers that we face today. So let me just lay out the kind of cooperation that we’re going to need. We need a strong Europe to bear its share of the burden, working with us on behalf of our collective security. The United States has an extraordinary military, the best the world has ever known, but the nature of today’s threats means we can’t deal with these challenges by ourselves.
Right now, the most urgent threat to our nations is ISIL, and that’s why we’re united in our determination to destroy it. And all 28 NATO allies are contributing to our coalition — whether it’s striking ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, or supporting the air campaign, or training local forces in Iraq, or providing critical humanitarian aid. And we continue to make progress, pushing ISIL back from territory that it controlled.
And just as I’ve approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I’ve decided to increase U.S. support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria. A small number of American Special Operations Forces are already on the ground in Syria and their expertise has been critical as local forces have driven ISIL out of key areas. So given the success, I’ve approved the deployment of up 250 additional U.S. personnel in Syria, including Special Forces, to keep up this momentum. They’re not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces that continue to drive ISIL back.
So, make no mistake. These terrorists will learn the same lesson as others before them have, which is, your hatred is no match for our nations united in the defense of our way of life. And just as we remain relentless on the military front, we’re not going to give up on diplomacy to end the civil war in Syria, because the suffering of the Syrian people has to end, and that requires an effective political transition. (Applause.)
But this remains a difficult fight, and none of us can solve this problem by ourselves. Even as European countries make important contributions against ISIL, Europe, including NATO, can still do more. So I’ve spoken to Chancellor Merkel and I’ll be meeting later with the Presidents of France and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and of Italy. In Syria and Iraq, we need more nations contributing to the air campaign. We need more nations contributing trainers to help build up local forces in Iraq. We need more nations to contribute economic assistance to Iraq so it can stabilize liberated areas and break the cycle of violent extremism so that ISIL cannot come back.
These terrorists are doing everything in their power to strike our cities and kill our citizens, so we need to do everything in our power to stop them. And that includes closing gaps so terrorists can’t pull off attacks like those in Paris and Brussels.
Which brings me to one other point. Europeans, like Americans, cherish your privacy. And many are skeptical about governments collecting and sharing information, for good reason. That skepticism is healthy. Germans remember their history of government surveillance — so do Americans, by the way, particularly those who were fighting on behalf of civil rights.
So it’s part of our democracies to want to make sure our governments are accountable.
But I want to say this to young people who value their privacy and spend a lot of time on their phones: The threat of terrorism is real. In the United States, I’ve worked to reform our surveillance programs to ensure that they’re consistent with the rule of law and upholding our values, like privacy — and, by the way, we include the privacy of people outside of the United States. We care about Europeans’ privacy, not just Americans’ privacy.
But I also, in working on these issues, have come to recognize security and privacy don’t have to be a contradiction. We can protect both. And we have to. If we truly value our liberty, then we have to take the steps that are necessary to share information and intelligence within Europe, as well as between the United States and Europe, to stop terrorists from traveling and crossing borders and killing innocent people.
And as today’s diffuse threats evolve, our alliance has to evolve. So we’re going to have a NATO summit this summer in Warsaw, and I will insist that all of us need to meet our responsibilities, united, together. That means standing with the people of Afghanistan as they build their security forces and push back against violent extremism. It means more ships in the Aegean to shut down criminal networks who are profiting by smuggling desperate families and children.
And that said, NATO’s central mission is, and always will be, our solemn duty — our Article 5 commitment to our common defense. That’s why we’ll continue to bolster the defense of our frontline allies in Poland and Romania and the Baltic states.
So we have to both make sure that NATO carries out its traditional mission, but also to meet the threats of NATO’s southern flank. That’s why we need to stay nimble, and make sure our forces are interoperable, and invest in new capabilities like cyber defense and missile defense. And that’s why every NATO member should be contributing its full share — 2 percent of GDP — towards our common security, something that doesn’t always happen. And I’ll be honest, sometimes Europe has been complacent about its own defense.
Just as we stand firm in our own defense, we have to uphold our most basic principles of our international order, and that’s a principle that nations like Ukraine have the right to choose their own destiny. Remember that it was Ukrainians on the Maidan, many of them your age, reaching out for a future with Europe that prompted Russia to send in its military. After all that Europe endured in the 20th century, we must not allow borders to be redrawn by brute force in the 21st century. So we should keep helping Ukraine with its reforms to improve its economy and consolidate its democracy and modernize its forces to protect its independence.
And I want good relations with Russia, and have invested a lot in good relations with Russia. But we need to keep sanctions on Russia in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements that Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande and others have worked so hard to maintain, and provide a path for a political resolution of this issue. And ultimately, it is my fervent hope that Russia recognizes that true greatness comes not from bullying neighbors, but by working with the world, which is the only way to deliver lasting economic growth and progress to the Russian people.
Now, our collective security rests on a foundation of prosperity, so that brings me to my second point. The world needs a prosperous and growing Europe — not just a strong Europe, but a prosperous and growing Europe that generates good jobs and wages for its people.
As I mentioned before, the economic anxieties many feel today on both sides of the Atlantic are real. The disruptive changes brought about by the global economy, unfortunately, sometimes are hitting certain groups, especially working-class communities, more heavily. And if neither the burdens, nor the benefits of our global economy are being fairy distributed, it’s no wonder that people rise up and reject globalization. If there are too few winners and too many losers as the global economy integrates, people are going to push back.
So all of us in positions of power have a responsibility as leaders of government and business and civil society to help people realize the promise of economic and security in this integrated economy. And the good news is, we know how to do it. Sometimes we just lack the political will to do it.
In the United States, our economy is growing again, but the United States can’t be the sole engine of global growth. And countries should not have to choose between responding to crises and investing in their people. So we need to pursue reforms to position us for long-term prosperity, and support demand and invest in the future. All of our countries, for example, could be investing more in infrastructure. All of our countries need to invest in science and research and development that sparks new innovation and new industries. All of our countries have to invest in our young people, and make sure that they have the skills and the training and the education they need to adapt to this rapidly changing world. All of our countries need to worry about inequality, and make sure that workers are getting a fair share of the incredible productivity that technology and global supply chains are producing.
But if you’re really concerned about inequality, if you’re really concerned about the plight of workers, if you’re a progressive, it’s my firm belief that you can’t turn inward. That’s not the right answer. We have to keep increasing the trade and investment that supports jobs, as we’re working to do between the United States and the EU. We need to keep implementing reforms to our banking and financial systems so that the excesses and abuses that triggered the financial crisis never happen again.
But we can’t do that individually, nation by nation, because finance now is transnational. It moves around too fast. If we’re not coordinating between Europe and the United States and Asia, then it won’t work.
As the world has been reminded in recent weeks, we need to close loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes through tax havens and tax avoidance, trillions of dollars that could be going towards pressing needs like education and health care and infrastructure. But to do that, we have to work together.
Here in Europe, as you work to strengthen your union — including through labor and banking reforms, and by ensuring growth across the Eurozone — you will have the staunch support of the United States. But you’re going to have to do it together, because your economies are too integrated to try to solve these problems on your own. And I want to repeat: We have to confront the injustice of widening economic inequality. But that is going to require collective work, because capital is mobile, and if only a few countries are worrying about it, then a lot of businesses will head toward places that don’t care about it quite as much.
For a lot of years, it was thought that countries had to choose between economic growth and economic inclusion. Now we know the truth — when wealth is increasingly concentrated among the few at the top, it’s not only a moral challenge to us but it actually drags down a country’s growth potential. We need growth that is broad and lifts everybody up. We need tax policies that do right by working families.
And those like me who support European unity and free trade also have a profound responsibility to champion strong protections for workers — a living wage and the right to organize, and a strong safety net, and a commitment to protect consumers and the environment upon which we all depend. If we really want to reduce inequality, we’ve got to make sure everyone who works hard gets a fair shot — and that’s especially true for young people like you — with education, and job training, and quality health care and good wages. And that includes, by the way, making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work for women. (Applause.)
The point is, we have to reform many of our economies. But the answer to reform is not to start cutting ourselves off from each other. Rather, it’s to work together. And this brings me back to where I began. The world depends upon a democratic Europe that upholds the principles of pluralism and diversity and freedom that are our common creed. As free peoples, we cannot allow the forces that I’ve described — fears about security or economic anxieties — to undermine our commitment to the universal values that are the source of our strength.
Democracy, I understand, can be messy. It can be slow. It can be frustrating. I know that. I have to deal with a Congress. (Laughter.) We have to constantly work to make sure government is not a collection of distant, detached institutions, but is connected and responsive to the everyday concerns of our people. There’s no doubt that how a united Europe works together can be improved. But look around the world — at authoritarian governments and theocracies that rule by fear and oppression — there is no doubt that democracy is still the most just and effective form of government ever created. (Applause.)
And when I talk about democracy, I don’t just mean elections, because there are a number of countries where people get 70, 80 percent of the vote, but they control all the media and the judiciary. And civil society organizations and NGOs can’t organize, and have to be registered, and are intimidated. I mean real democracy, the sort that we see here in Europe and in the United States. So we have to be vigilant in defense of these pillars of democracy — not just elections, but rule of law, as well as fair elections, a free press, vibrant civil societies where citizens can work for change.
And we should be suspicious of those who claim to have the interests of Europe at heart and yet don’t practice the very values that are essential to Europe, that have made freedom in Europe so real.
So, yes, these are unsettling times. And when the future is uncertain, there seems to be an instinct in our human nature to withdraw to the perceived comfort and security of our own tribe, our own sect, our own nationality, people who look like us, sound like us. But in today’s world, more than any time in human history, that is a false comfort. It pits people against one another because of what they look or how they pray or who they love. And yet, we know where that kind of twisted thinking can lead. It can lead to oppression. It can lead to segregation and internment camps. And to the Shoah and Srebrenica.
In the United States, we’ve long wrestled with questions of race and integration, and we do to this day. And we still have a lot of work to do. But our progress allows somebody like me to now stand here as President of the United States. That’s because we committed ourselves to a larger ideal, one based on a creed — not a race, not a nationality — a set of principles; truths that we held to be self-evident that all men were created equal. And now, as Europe confronts questions of immigration and religion and assimilation, I want you to remember that our countries are stronger, they are more secure and more successful when we welcome and integrate people of all backgrounds and faith, and make them feel as one. And that includes our fellow citizens who are Muslim. (Applause.)
Look, the sudden arrival of so many people from beyond our borders, especially when their cultures are very different, that can be daunting. We have immigration issues in the United States as well, along our southern border of the United States and from people arriving from all around the world who get a visa and decide they want to stay. And I know the politics of immigration and refugees is hard. It’s hard everywhere, in every country. And just as a handful of neighborhoods shouldn’t bear all the burden of refugee resettlement, neither should any one nation. All of us have to step up, all of us have to share this responsibility. That includes the United States.
But even as we take steps that are required to ensure our security; even as we help Turkey and Greece cope with this influx in a way that is safe and humane; even as Chancellor Merkel and other European leaders work for an orderly immigration and resettlement process, rather than a disorderly one; even as we all need to collectively do more to invest in the sustainable development and governance in those nations from which people are fleeing so that they can succeed and prosper in their own countries, and so that we can reduce the conflicts that cause so much of the refugee crisis around the world — Chancellor Merkel and others have eloquently reminded us that we cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings who are here now, and need our help now. (Applause.) We have to uphold our values, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.
In Germany, more than anywhere else, we learned that what the world needs is not more walls. We can’t define ourselves by the barriers we build to keep people out or to keep people in. At every crossroads in our history, we’ve moved forward when we acted on those timeless ideals that tells us to be open to one another, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
And I think of so many Germans and people across Europe who have welcomed migrants into their homes, because, as one woman in Berlin said, “we needed to do something.” Just that human impulse to help. And I think of the refugee who said, “I want to teach my kids the value of working.” That human impulse to see the next generation have hope. All of us can be guided by the empathy and compassion of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who said “refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and [they] need to be treated as such.”
And I know it may seem easy for me to say all this, living on the other side of the ocean. And I know that some will call it blind hope when I say that I am confident that the forces that bind Europe together are ultimately much stronger than those trying to pull you apart. But hope is not blind when it is rooted in the memory of all that you’ve already overcome — your parents, your grandparents.
So I say to you, the people of Europe, don’t forget who you are. You are the heirs to a struggle for freedom. You’re the Germans, the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Luxembourgers, the Italians — and yes, the British — (applause) — who rose above old divisions and put Europe on the path to union. (Applause.)
You’re the Poles of Solidarity and the Czechs and Slovaks who waged a Velvet Revolution. You’re the Latvians, and Lithuanians and Estonians who linked hands in a great human chain of freedom. You’re the Hungarians and Austrians who cut through borders of barbed wire. And you’re the Berliners who, on that November night, finally tore down that wall. You’re the people of Madrid and London who faced down bombings and refused to give in to fear.
And you are the Parisians who, later this year, plan to reopen the Bataclan. You’re the people of Brussels, in a square of flowers and flags, including one Belgian who offered a message — we need “more.” More understanding. More dialogue. More humanity.
That’s who you are. United, together. You are Europe — “United in diversity.” Guided by the ideals that have lit the world, and stronger when you stand as one. (Applause.)
As you go forward, you can be confident that your greatest ally and friend, the United States of America, stands with you, shoulder-to-shoulder, now and forever. Because a united Europe — once the dream of a few — remains the hope of the many and a necessity for us all.
Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
DEFENSE BUDGET (NEW ONE IN THE WORKS, MAYBE) AND PERHAPS A REAL, MODERN, FORWARD LOOKING DEFENSE POSTURE?
Harry C. Blaney III
Revealed on Monday February 24th was the defense budget for FY 2015, and the headlines were about the cuts to manpower mostly in the army. Yet, the most important questions of what ought to be our major objectives, an examination of the global security landscape, and finally, the right tools to employ has been given too little attention. Continue reading
Harry C. Blaney III
This last year and much earlier and certainly during this coming election year we have seen and will see a battle royale over the purpose and direction of America’s role in the world such as we have rarely witnessed in the last several decades. The question is not so much “if we should be involved” but that too in some cases. There are those on both the far right and on the far left who, for very different reasons, would like to see America either go back to “fortress America” or treat the rest of the world with what my old boss called, in a highly misunderstood memo, “benign neglect.” Yet that position leads us in any case to a dead end and is truly impossible to maintain in the fast moving 21st century world.
Then the question is what kind of engagement we should have, what challenges should we address, and with what goals and with what tools? To simplify the question, there are two broad groupings of stances or schools on strategic and international issues. The first is an “internationalist”perspective which means fully engaged, with a often liberal stance, towards the risks, problems and opportunities for America. The proponents believe that America can and should be a power for good and initiate efforts to solve problems preferably by diplomacy and other “soft power” tools and use the military as a last resort. It accepts that international organizations like the United Nations, OECD, IAEA, UNDP, and NATO are important and cooperation with friends and allies are key to global problem solving.
The second school dominated by a kind of ideological based perspective is that America is and should be the predominant power of the world and that we can and should use military power to that end when it is seen as in our own interest. It is often seen by proponents as our best option. While this group says it support democracy and human rights, in fact, its support for military and dictatorial governments, both in the past and now, shows that its interests are not with the poor people of the developing world, but rather with oligarchs and authoritarian regimes favoring the rich and ruling classes. It supports a raw form of “capitalism” as a favored solution to almost all problems. It also detains international organizations, especially the U.N., but also treaties like the Law of the Sea, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and generally multilateral engagement to solve global problems like our present efforts to defuse war in the Middle East and our concerns about Iran.
We have seen some of this group’s influence at work in the recent Department of Defense and State and foreign operations (USAID and related programs) appropriations bill for FY 2014 that is before Congress now. It is filled with cuts to our diplomacy and “soft power” and it tries to dictate to the administration on a host of issues like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and other issues. It cuts funding for the United Nations and UNESCO. On the other hand, the Defense Appropriations part includes added funding that the DOD did not ask for and does not need; it puts unneeded funding into nuclear weapons that are not needed and could indeed be cut in major ways with no loss to security. It dictates spending on low priority very expensive systems that the military-industrial companies want to enrich their executives but are likely never to see any action or real use. This robs our defense forces from resources that they really need, especially money for our troops, training, and logistics in the post cold-war world.
We are still in a narrow box of our strategic policies and objectives being dictated by Congressional types who in turn are run by the lobbyists, their military industries paymasters out for their own interests rather than that of the nation as a whole. We are going into a period when both the Departments of State and Defense will be undertaking major “rethinking” documents of their policies and their strategy in the coming years. The call for reform of this dysfunctional and dangerous decision-making and indeed of our political system is urgently needed if America is ever to become the nation it aspires to be in its domestic life and reach abroad. We need decision making aimed at real risks and dangers and human needs rather than that which is dictated by crazy selfish ideology and those with money and power, controlling our political life and making profits without any true social or global benefits.
In the end, in the international sphere, the fundamental question remains what are the objectives and values America is most interested in upholding? Is it, as we have often proclaimed, to provide security, prosperity, protect human rights, fight poverty, deal with climate change and a host of other key goals? Or is it to simply proclaim our dominance, send our troops into harms way willy-nilly to gain some narrow advantage, ignore scientific truth about the danger of climate change and environmental detraction, turn our back on humanitarian crises, ignore the problems of global poor health care and its costs to the poorest, and not least, not support international efforts against nuclear weapons or peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts as a key objective rather than choose “war-war” as our first tool in almost any upheaval.
As a professional “policy planner” in the Department of State and much of my “think tank” positions, I had to also wonder of how little thought, experience, study, and wisdom went into past disastrous decisions by the civilian (including in the White House where I once served), the military that I often worked with, and sometimes in the DOS. We all had to acknowledge that most of the decisions we faced were not easy and the consequences of action or inaction were often horrendous — in short, we do need to do better within our government and the quality of our civil servants. But we need less myopic perspective, narrow self serving partisan values, and more understanding of the costs of poor judgment.
We welcome your comments!
SYRIA – A NEVER ENDING CRISIS AND DILEMMA? : TOUGH CHOICES AND LITTLE CERTAINTY!
BY Harry C. Blaney III
The recent evidence of what appears to be a massive chemical attack in a Damascus suburb has provide a vivid example of the difficulties of American policy makers, and for that matter many of our allies. It seems clear that the U.S. with some allies will take still unspecified action. The question is with what, how long, and with what goals and at what cost?
The key is to figure out what options we can use to make the situation better and deal with the long-term consequences in some positive way. This frankly will be hard but it is necessary to chose those actions and tools that would not lead to even more problems after any kinetic or other direct intervention in the Syria conflict. The stark choices might seem as either committing initial strikes and perhaps getting stuck in a massive quagmire, or not acting and appear to be abetting massive slaughter of civilians. But there are more complex choices that can avoid either the “quagmire” or U.S. boots and the ground or on the other side being ineffective with too weak tools to achieve an ending that protects the Syrian people from more massacres in both the long and the short term. We should not act in a way than adds to the killing.
The most common option that has been put on the table by many in Congress and in the more hawkish and even some liberal circles is to send medium range cruise and other missile directed at those forces that committed these international crimes and Syrian air military capabilities and to create a no-fly zone and/or humanitarian space for citizens to find safety within the borders of Syria. All this requires real large humanitarian assistance for long periods.
We have now gone beyond the UN Security Council route since action by them seems, with the Russian and Chinese veto, unlikely despite the motion proposed by Britain. Nor does it seem that NATO itself will act.
The other option of continued caution supported in the past by our key military leaders seems each day to be getting less viable and unsustainable. The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State have gone on the record that we are going to act and that our forces are being positioned to do so swiftly. Yet, I doubt that we will tell the Syrians or their allies just when and how we will act before we do.
Yet still the question is often rightely asked if we have a means of acting without also becoming totally ensnared in what is a bloody civil sectarian war and very complex conflict with no ideal internal partners or clear path towards a peaceful and broadly supported new government? This is the question that the administration will have to ask themselves and explain to the American public. Let us hope that have good answers.
The option I have suggested is of a broad-based robust and armed international peacekeeping/peacemaking force to intervene with the establishment of a non-fly humanitarian zone. This may require Assad’s air force and control and command being reduce to rubble. But we need also to indicate to all parties that a political solution is the goal where all sectors of the Syrian population are given security and a place in the governance of their nation under a new government of national unity. The process of reconciliation will take a very long time and thus we need to acknowledge there may be a need for strong multinational peacekeeping force for a decade or longer. Also to say that we are not after “regime change” is a bit dishonest – there can be no peace with Assad still in place and in power, some mechanism will be require for him to go. The role of the Arab states and of Turkey and Jordan will also be key in this process.
Also is Europe and other states willing to carry their full burden? Both Britain and France have push action will they now fully act themselves? Are the American people going to understand the reasons for acting and give the President support? And can we see beyond the moment and, at last, think long-term and strategic and the security of the entire region?
Below you will find a continuation which follows our separate commentary on key issues in the campaign and foreign policy.
The So-Called “Rise of China” and Asian Policy:
Romney, as a candidate for the presidency, has shown little awareness of the complexity of our relations with the Chinese and of our long-term objective of engaging this key power in ways that reinforce cooperation and responsibility rather than antagonism. He has yet to outline a comprehensive approach to China that fully addresses all the key problems and their solution or amelioration. Again, his only “strategy” seems to be antagonisms and name calling. He also has little to say except general and uninformed criticism of Obama’s policies about North Korea, Japan, and the problem of South sea conflicts over jurisdiction to otherwise insignificant “islands.”
Romney criticizes Obama for being “weak” on China despite the administration’s key pivot towards Asia and engagement with Chinese leaders on a multiplicity of fronts, including a trip to China by the Secretaries of State and Defense and our on-going intense economic dialogue at the highest levels.
Nor has he said a reasonable word about solving the delicate balances that exists between China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the North Korea nuclear weapons issues. The man appears out of his depth on any and all of these issues.
President Obama has had now extensive exposure to issues related to China and Asia and made the key decision to establish an American “full court press” towards the Asia/Pacific region. This is more than simply sending added military assets into the region. It includes significant economic and diplomatic focus and attention. He has met with just about every key leader in the region and has made numerous trips over the last four years that have added to his understanding of the thinking and view of the decision makers in Asia. The key to his approach is to work very hard on these difficult issues and not exacerbate the existing problems and keep at the effort to seek lasting solutions.
Middle East and Israeli-Palestine Peace:
This is an issue which will be covered in more detail in another post, but simply put; this is a major tinder box of many different elements with each country’s situation being unique and needing individual attention. The Arab Spring is right, messy, and inevitable and can’t be “controlled” by the U.S. but rather, by the citizens of each country; with help by the international community to support democratic change and protection of human rights.
Romney has closed off any meaningful effort by the U.S. to find peace in the Middle East by his quote in his infamous “47%” speech. His stance on the Israel-Palestine confrontation seems more an effort to gain votes and money from a pro-Israel conservative lobby than to seek a peaceful outcome or a just and lasting security for Israel and Palestine. His speech implies an abandonment of the U.S. supported (for a decade) “two state” solution, which is the only true basis for a lasting peace. He seems to have contracted out American policy in the Middle East to his good friend, the right wing and author of the inappropriate “red line,” demanded by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter interestingly has moderated his stance at the UN General Assembly, perhaps by some observers noting the election poll ratings of Obama and the U.S. opinion polls saying a large proportion of Americans do not favor a war with Iran.
What Romney does not recognize is that his stance undermines the traditional role of honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians and the other Middle East states. His ignorance of Middle East politics and security issues is mind boggling.
Obama has not given up on seeking peace but the elections here, intransigence by Israel (over new settlements), the Palestinians (over their Humas wing), and the upheavals in the Arab world that require massive attention has frankly put personal engagement on hold until after November. But he has said that America remains committed that Iran will not get nuclear weapons, but will not have Bibi dictate our decisions on going to, what is after all, “war” with all its consequences. Perhaps the Israeli cabinet and citizens recognize now the danger of the “red line” demands on the rightly close relations between the U.S. and Israel.
Defense Spending and National Security Posture:
Again, here the divide between the Republican right wing, which has taken over the GOP party (including Romney), and Obama could not be greater. The blind support for more money for defense, the stance on Iran, Middle East upheavals, attitude towards China and Russia, their reliance on “military” options rather than diplomacy, and their cozy relations with the military-industrial lobby dictate a more unstable international landscape if they were to come to power.
Here a key determinate of future effective employment of our military depends on a fundamental assessment, judgment, and knowledge of consequences – all of which is lacking with Romney and his advisers.
Obama has both supported “smart” discrete military actions and largely avoided the stupid ones. His role as Commander-in-Chief has been outstanding compared to his recent predecessor. He both listens to military advice but makes his own judgments and asks the hard questions which have proven wise in most cases, such as his leaving Iraq, his timetable for stopping military combat activities in Afghanistan, and his supervision of making the US military more shaped for future dangers rather than throwing money at projects for wars of decades ago.
Sadly, the GOP in Congress has been profligate in wasting billions in massive programs, which often had to be accepted to get some useful reforms agreed to. We need a president that at least is willing to question and decide and think deeply about choices and consequences. Romney even in his speeches, positions, and managing his campaign seems unable to do any of this. There should be budget cuts but they should be smart ones and that is what the Obama administration is trying to do against the current of powerful forces in Washington.
Trade and Global Economic Policy:
We will deal with this area in another post, but in sum, Romney and the GOP Platform’s domestic and international economic policy are both a disaster and will result in further deterioration in American and global economy since it is based on false economic theories that have long been proved to be fallacious and counter a growth strategy.
Cutting taxes for the rich seems to be the only basis to their economic policies and nothing else. The GOP platform even has a section asking for a Commission to examine the reestablishment of the previously disastrous gold standard for our currency that would have given gold miners and speculators control over our monetary policy and drive us into a global depression. That shows how out of touch Romney and his party are to economic realities and the need for national and global stimulus effort.
Obama is supported at home and in forums abroad a concerted global growth policy; but European leaders, including the right wing Cameron Tory party went down the GOP proposed path of austerity and the result is a second recession for the UK which thankfully America, under Obama, has avoided.
Climate Change, Energy policy, and Environmental Issues:
For Romney it is simply “drill baby drill” as a solution to the horrific impact of global warming and its consequences that it will have to our globe. His attacks and that of the GOP in Congress has been to undermine environmental and health related rules and restraints on pollution from fossil fuels and for that matter the dangers of many chemicals that can cause serious harm to American and global health. He even doubts, despite scientific evidence, that man made pollution is to blame and even questions climate change itself…and above all doing anything about it. Case closed!
Obama recognized the criticality of climate change but has had only partial success in addressing the issue, both internationally and at home. But his efforts at bolstering “clean energy” and increasing auto efficiency will help. Internationally getting an agreement with the developing world and with countries like China, Russia and Australia remain a hope. But to accomplish these goals requires Congress to act; and here Romney and the GOP in Congress are, as they say, “deniers.” This has also forced Obama to sometimes retreat on promises he made and finds he is not able to accomplish his goals because of the obstruction by the GOP in Congress.
We welcome comments!