TRUMP’S CONTRADICTORY AND SILLY FOREIGN POLICY VIEWS: A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN?

 

TRUMP’S CONTRADICTORY AND SILLY FOREIGN POLICY VIEWS: A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN?

By

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!

WHAT IS NEXT AFTER PARIS: GOOD AND BAD CHOICES

paris attacks memorial
Photo: CNN

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Almost everyone seems to agree that the attacks in Paris are a global wake-up call.  ISIS has tried to show that there is almost no limit to its power to do harm. But we need to understand, despite cries from different sides between do nothing to all out war, that other options are available and more realistic. Already, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have recently given more structure and an outline of a reinforced strategy to weaken and defeat ISIS. This was laid out with our allies in Vienna and Turkey as a strategy that prevailing, does not require large numbers of US fighting troops on the ground.

There seems at this moment a bit more unity by key countries to take on the challenge to degrade and defeat ISIS in their own territory after the Paris atrocities. France has already intensified its bombing campaign and Prime Minister David Cameron has signaled his desire to start a UK bombing campaign in Syria that earlier the House of Common rejected.

The most important development as noted was a full court press by Obama and Kerry to once again try to “herd cats” – namely Europe, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, and not least Russia, or at least to be together on the first page if not the entire book. The result was Turkey largely agreeing to close the gaps in its border with Syria, Russia to focus more, it seems, on bombing ISIS rather than its past attacks on moderate forces we have supported, who are against Assad. And now, greater Europe’s acceptance of responsibility for military action, and also humanitarian assistance and peacemaking efforts.

Russia has also acknowledged that its civilian plane over Egypt was destroyed by a terrorist bomb, and Putin has now vows he will destroy ISIS, who he said, was behind this act. But there is yet no consensus between the West and Putin on the ultimate fate of Assad, but for the moment, both sides see ISIS as the first priority.

Diplomacy is, without any doubt, the best tool we have, and as Obama and Kerry have said many times our most important means for defeating ISIS and indeed mitigating the conflicts in the Middle East. It’s work is in a most complex and difficult landscape. Yet is seems as if some progress is being made, despite republican carping, using both diplomacy as the key and a focused military element.

Further, in Europe there is ferocious debate between the forces on the far right, some of whom are urging a purely military solution, and on the left, some who want to do noting or very little at all, and those that do seek serious diplomatic efforts with a military component as needed. Many in the middle here see a reasoned two element approach of diplomacy and military action, especially an intensified bombing campaign after the Paris attacks.

The other key issues dividing citizens and parties in Europe, and are being used as partisan political subjects for narrow gain, namely immigration from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa, is the treatment and acceptance of the Muslim population already settled in Europe,  and those simply seeking to play upon fear to obtain power.

But there is also a more kinder and thoughtful set of forces from the  Paris attacks — seen is also a a rare sense of unity with France and even in some sectors an acknowledgment that they would be stronger to withstand terrorism through cooperation and mutual help rather than the recent bouts of divisions and anti-EU sentiments and myopic prejudices directed at those from other European nations. There are even some who are pushing back against those showing hate for immigrants.  Whether these “better angles of our spirit” will prevail is still uncertain, but they need as much support from within and outside to come to an end point of common respect with increased sense of commonality and shared goals and values.

More on these forces and events at work in Europe in future blog posts from London.

Please click on the title of this post and share any comments! 

PARIS ATTACKS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS: HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGE AND IF SO WHAT?

Datelined London

Photo: The Guardian

By
Harry C. Blaney III

Last night Friday on a TV screen in London we watched in real time the horrific unfolding of the terrorism acts which at this report time cost the lives of some 129 persons and many more wounded as the total is likely to grow over time. The analysis is that it was an organized series of such attacks which were designed to cause major fear not only in Paris but in France and beyond. It has had already reverberations throughout Europe and even in America.

Friday night UK time, President Obama said while the events were still active, that this was an attack on all humanity and this view was echoed by statements by President Holland and Prime Minister Cameron and others.

This attack has had many implications for both France’s own security and the possible impacts on its politics, economy, and not least the relationship with Muslims in France that constitute, by some estimates, 4.7% of the population, the largest in Europe.

ISIS almost immediately took “credit” for these acts of brutality. ISIS said this was a retaliation for France’s acts of bombing against it. President Holland in the immediate aftermath said that this was “war” and promised swift action and France will be “merciless against the terrorists.” These were acts of war Holland stated on Saturday that the attacks were planned abroad. Two people were arrested in Belgium and two attackers were said to come from Syria and Egypt. An American student and a British London School of Economics student were killed at last reports.

This act has been called a massacre – the worst attack in France’s recent history. Paris is in shock but the reactions take a wide range of anger, horror, revulsion, fear, and a determination to both carry on and to respond against the terrorists. But people in Paris are clearly very uncertain and cautious. Holland has taken a hard stance, which is understandable given the brutality of the attack. Holland has called a state of emergency and the French Prime Minister has said on Saturday that France will enhance its attacks on ISIS and will not be deterred by threats.

If ISIS thought the attacks would frighten France and other countries to stop their attacks it looks that this has likely backfired. But the other danger is that the attacks increased polarization and racist and right wing groups may use these attacks to instigate hatred for migrants, the domestic Islamic community, and citizens and create even more fear for political reasons. This could backfire and increase the sense of alienation which has already led to disaffected and angry Muslim youth joining ISIS. Thus national authorities need to find a fine line between cracking down on likely terrorists but at the same time assuring regular Muslim citizens that they live in a welcoming and safe environment.

The reaction from other countries was with statements of sympathy and solidarity. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron promised to be of help in any way they can. Here in London tonight there was a large vigil and gathering of citizens showing solidarity with Paris and France, with the tricolor lights of the French flag projected against the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square which I and my wife went to. I could not be but aware of the irony that a few weeks earlier there were many statements related to Britain leaving the EU by the Tory leaders, including Cameron, about how UK was different from the Continental Europeans. That party’s majority MPs desires to separate from countries like France that they wish little ties with that are seeking for more European unity.

One interesting element which some have commented on is that at the moment when ISIS is under siege at their home base in Syria/Iraq, they have carried out their most successful major and effective massive attack in Paris and created a sense of fear throughout Europe and beyond. This brutality gives ISIS major international profile and forced focus on their presence abroad while at the same time facing increased military action against them. This pressure is due to American bombing and more effective moderate reinforcements on the ground of allied groups fighting in their home bases.

As for Paris, one concern is that if this can happen in Paris, it could happen again and anywhere. Thus the international dimension has now been established and it is clear that the G-20 meeting in Turkey this week attended in advance by Secretary Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister with President Obama soon arriving, will strongly focus on what can be done on an international level to deal with such horrific and massive attacks and what are the implication of these more professional and devastating attacks on citizens and how to prevent or mitigate them. But also how to solve the basic problem of how to put an end to ISIS and get rid of Assad and create a more safe and stable region.

What does all this mean? As noted, one danger is a backlash over Europe against Muslims and this anger being exploited by right-wing racists parties like UKIP and the Le Pen party in France.

The other question is where does the Western nations and their Islamic allies go next against ISIS both in their Syria/Iraq stronghold and to counter their international reach. This is not a new question but the Paris attacks gives it new urgency and profile to these questions. What has been said and I think still stands is that what is most needed is a viable diplomatic solution likely backed up by some sort of military action also.

Many are saying too little is being done while others think American engagement in the region is too much. Will the attacks in France change any of this? Will changes on the ground change anything also? The Question for the major powers and many members of the G-20 and also Muslim nations in the region is can there be a way of putting the necessary elements together to achieve sooner rather than later a dismemberment of ISIS and a political structure on the ground to replace the present chaos and brutality. This will take major decisions by all, that enough is enough and all are in peril if this ISIS and other Jihadis forces remain powerful and dominant and attract each day new and committed recruits.

The key must be in the long term to return the region to some sense of normality and hope for security and some decent economy and employment of youth. But also at the heart of any solution must be a mitigation of the religious and political conflict between the Sunni and Shia sects which really means Shia Iran, its allies, and Sunni Saudi Arabia and Gulf States and others. It may also mean bringing peace to the Israeli and Palestinian situation via a two state solution and now the sooner the better. On seeking security and security for the region here American power and European and regional allies and perhaps even Russia and Iran might just find some common ground. This is probably asking too much now, but if not now when? If one waits, will not all be caught by a maelstrom of disaster and destruction from which none will survive intact.

More in time on these issues and related events from Europe.

We welcome your comments!

THE UK DEFENSE DEBATE: A PLACE IN THE WORLD OR BY ITSELF?

Photo: http://www.independent.co.uk/

By
Harry C. Blaney III

London Dateline

I had the opportunity to attend an on-the-record “research” meeting at the Chatham House looking at UK defense policy and the presentations and discussions only reinforced the sense of a listlessness and disarray that characterizes much of Prime Minister David Cameron’s international policies and Britain’s role in the world. 

Two issues exemplify this. The first is Cameron’s foolish commitment to the right wing Tory MPs to a vote on UK membership in the EU, thus forever forfeiting Britain a role in European policy and decisions. The second, is on the UK defense budget and strategic stance which foresees cuts in funding which will weaken Britain’s ability to act as a major force on security issues in Europe and globally.  That means a diminished role in security matters with allies, and not least, to effectively defend British interests in conflicts abroad and in Europe.  It will further weaken NATO’s capability as the UK has been the second largest contributor to NATO overall defense resources. 

Over the decades I have been witness to many discussions and debates about NATO, UK and American defense issues both within and outside of government. This session was among my most disappointing, not because the speakers were bad, but because they were very frank on the implications and inevitability of long-term decline in UK “hard power” reach. 

Further, it was clear that despite many governmental and non-governmental studies some of their thinking was declared by participants to be somewhat limited and often too driven by bureaucratic and ideological and budget forces. They were not always driven by good strategic perspectives. Also one speaker reflected that the influence of the disastrous participation in the Iraq war had also installed among the public and politicians distaste for further military action abroad.

All of this retreat from defense engagement is worrying in the face of a series of uprisings, conflicts, the Arab Spring and its consequences, ISIS, Putin’s aggression, China’s military buildup and South China Sea adventures, and not least, the spread of terrorism and civil and ethnic war.

One commentator said that NATO was looking petty shaky after the UK budget cuts were fairly well known. Clearly Britain’s voice in the halls of EU and NATO defense decisions has been weakened and it was acknowledged that such decisions will diminish UK’s influence in America, noting that France seems now to have the ear of Washington. 

This is especially the case since Prime Minister Cameron at the earlier NATO summit in Scotland had criticized other NATO countries for not meeting their 2% NATO commitment to military budgets and is now in danger of missing this benchmark.

One commentator said basically that Britain had resigned as “a great power” while another phrase used was “giving up as a “world power” in foreign policy. Yet conversely the concept of being a world power had not yet been given up by Cameron. The other view was Britain is still playing a “supporting role.” The implication was that Britain could no longer act on its own. 

There was very little discussion of Britain’s nuclear force which is being questioned as being useless by some and as a “necessity” by others. Trident’s future still has not been finally decided but some feel this capability is losing its attractiveness. 

In my own intervention, I asked why the larger strategic geopolitical assessment had not played a bigger role in either the discussion or in the new government. Clearly it was a case of the “Emperor having no clothes.” Asking these key questions in drawing up the budget would undermine the decision to cut the UK defense budget willy-nilly. Clearly it was overall political budget cuts that ruled. All this was a result of a promised “forever” budget surplus by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. George Osborne, a strident advocate of austerity and right wing causes and possible future Prime Minister, and not of honest strategic assessments. The political decisions were all that mattered.

The real need for a hard look at the strategy and then shape the budget was urged and priority should be the need for UK military’s to aim for “adaptability.”  This approach was argued due to the reality of still unknown risks and opportunities. The point was made to the hard fact of the actually realities at existing “mid-level” strategic situations, not just at uncertain long term theories and projections, which can never be fully known or accurate. In short, keep open your options and prepare for the unexpected.   

In the end, it was real flexible capability not just grand strategy that Britain needed to achieve. So the real question is what is Britain’s role in the world?  What are its fundamental interests and what are the risks it faces now and in the near future? 

A question that I also asked was if there was any thought of not just conflict responses, but looking at playing a larger role in conflict prevention and “soft diplomacy” and peacemaking/peacekeeping which requires an adaptable force, that would help make Britain be again a useful payer on the global stage. Some liked the idea, but there is not much defense industry interest in this more human level capability verses profits of large weapons systems. 

As one speaker said we need to ask “what are we?” The answer is sadly diminished, inward looking, greedy for the interests of the rich and damn the poor, and now equally damn national security or our alliances, if we can lower the taxes on the rich and create a surplus and stay in power.  The right wing is in the ascendency here for the moment and it is ironic that it is the Tories, that in the past and until now, have claimed the role of guardian of national security and global reach, that now have sold that honor down the river of expediency and concessions to misguided Euro-skepticism  and “Little England” isolationists.

We welcome your comments!

WITH SECRETARY HAGEL’S RESIGNATION PRESIDENT OBAMA EYES ASHTON CARTER AS LIKELY NOMINEE

hagel resign
President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during Monday’s (11/24) announcement

By Harry C. Blaney III and Erik Ruiz

Last week it was announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would be stepping down from his post at the Pentagon. His resignation was announced Monday morning (11/24) in a small White House conference.  

“Today, the United States of America can proudly claim the strongest military the world has ever known. That’s the result of investments made over many decades, the blood and treasure and sacrifices of generations. It’s the result of the character and wisdom those who lead them, as well — including a young Army sergeant in Vietnam who our rose to serve as our nation’s 24th Secretary of Defense. So on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you Chuck.”

               – President Obama, November 24, 2014 (full remarks here)

Continue reading

THE PARTISAN DEBATE INTENSIFIES ON OUR STRATEGY IN IRAQ, SYRIA, AND BEYOND – NO SIMPLE ANSWER!

F-15E Strike Eagles flying over Iraq after bombing ISIS targets in Syria.
F-15E Strike Eagles flying over Iraq after bombing ISIS targets in Syria.

By Harry C. Blaney III

President Obama has spoken at the United Nations General Assembly and gave an excellent summary of the global challenges that we currently face. He had earlier made a number of short and general statements about his perspective on the U.S. and the international coalition that he has assembled, but now comes the hard part of implementation and fixing the train wreck caused by Bush II’s invasion of Iraq.

Recently, a surge of criticism has focused on President Obama over whether he and the intelligence community misjudged the spread and effectiveness of ISIS forces. This has been used by right wing Republicans, notably Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to beat up on Obama: “This was not an intelligence failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat.” This is despite the fact that they too were getting about the same briefings from the CIA on the Syria and Iraq security situation all along. Even the New York Times has played the story on the September 30th front page by Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt, the way the GOP hardliners want to see it played. The White House reiterated that the President took full responsibility, but the fact is that nearly everyone, our intelligence, our diplomats, and the media, did not see in advance the capability and power of ISIS, nor the astonishing weakness of Iraqi forces which collapsed under poor, indeed corrupt and incompetent leadership and a sectarian myopic government. 

Continue reading

NATO SUMMIT: UKRAINE/RUSSIA, ISIS – WHAT NOW?

NATO Summit leaders discussing security challenged during a working dinner.
NATO Summit leaders discussing security challenged during a working dinner.

By Harry C. Blaney III

Dateline Oslo, Norway

The NATO Summit is now over but its ramifications remain uncertain.  Its impact is still unknown and depends in large part on the continued cohesion and steadfastness of the alliance and the EU which in the best of times is hard to obtain. But the solution to the crisis clearly also depends on Putin’s own present actions and willingness to use force, as well as his short-term and long-term intentions. At this time the direction of this conflict remains highly undetermined.  As of Monday night in Europe, despite the cease-fire, some conflict continues, especially in the South East with Russian tanks and forces moving towards the key port Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainians have said they will defend this city. But the hope is that the Russians will move back and not instigate anymore fights with the Ukrainian forces, but that hope remains just that.

Continue reading