WAR WITH NORTH KOREA? WHAT IS TO BE DONE AND WHEN AND HOW CAN IT END?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

On Friday North Korea sent another missile over Japan with a range of about 2,300 miles. The Trump administration’s response was that they had “military options.” There was considerable “tough” military talk coming from all of the key national security actors. One pithy remark by NSC head McMaster was “For those ….who have been commenting on a lack of military option, there is a military option” ….adding that it would not be the Trump’s preferred choice. To add another quote: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “begging for war,” US ambassador Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting.

No kidding,  all of this silly bullying along with outcome of  millions of deaths!!! We must remember that Trump promised not to allow North Korea to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. Already we have had the “threat, and just the “threat” by NK, which has been on going for a decade.

On the other side, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as quoted by the NK news agency KCNA, saying “it aims to reach an equilibrium” of military force with the United States. his actual quote: “Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option.”

Clearly, the picture is very gloomy and one has to hope, in time, clearer heads everywhere will prevail, but that will take good and massive efforts by all and a change of tone and substance and actions. But that means that there is a need for a systemic change in the landscape and in leader’s minds. Let me add a “military” option by either side is collective mass suicide.

We and nobody else has found a neat and risk free answer to the nuclear threats from North Korea.  Everyone is playing the most disastrous game possible named “chicken racing” where each car races at high speed at the other waiting for the other to blink and get out of the way!! The result of this game we all know.

This topic is on the minds of many of our global leaders from Putin, May, Merkel, Xi, Abe and Kim. Of course Trump has it in his gun sights but it seems has little understanding so far of paths which both sides can accept and live with. The hope is this will, in time, change before we end in a nuclear cataclysm.

While the landscape is dangerous and complex solutions exist that both sides can accept and would be a “Win-win” for all providing they are seeking mutual security, not aggression against others and willingness to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and accept third party inspection.

The main problems are that most analysts think that Kim is committed to having a large arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles so that they can powerfully  threaten and make other nations fear him and gain benefits especially goods, investments, and recognition as a major player in the region if not the world.  The great irony is making peace could achieve many key rational goals!

The problem is compounded in America with the instability of Trump and his blindness to reality, but we don’t know if Trump fears war less than the distraction of our citizens by being a war president, and perhaps free himself from the danger of losing his office.

One approach which has been put forth  argues as a more realistic policy, is on deterring Pyongyang from using its nuclear weapons rather than pursuing unlikely attempts to denuclearize the peninsula. The problem with this is that is what we are trying to do now, but the reaction has been more aggressive behavior. It has risks of error and craziness of Kim, and it all means added continued uncertain high risk for the entire world.

What are the key “change elements” that just might redirect this massive disastrous trajectory that makes our globe a very ugly place to survive no mater where we may be?

The first is for Trump to see this challenge not an opportunity for conflict or via mutual threats but via a sustainable true long-term strategy and the gains of bringing stability to all of Korea. That means using all the tools of diplomacy.

The second, is for China to see that a nuclear war on their border is more dangerous to their national interests and for their population and economy, than gains from continued support for the Kim dynasty and all their madness and threats. They need to recognize the ensuing instability and that a better option is a negotiated solution that likely they and all could easily live with. That means negotiations while NK nuclear program is hopefully  at least in a “standstill”…something NK is strongly against now. But there is US talk of a true ban on Chinese trade if they do not cease trade with NK and fully implement the UN sanctions.  The same goes for Putin’s Russia which right now has an ambiguous stance, agreeing to limited UN sanctions but continuing to secretly trade with North Korea. They would too be harmed by a nuclear war in the region.

The third, is for the international community including the United Nations Security Council, our European allies, Japan and other Asian nations, and other key actors to agree on a package of “carrots” that could be put on offer to North Korea that might tempt them to put away their nuke for a model of a normal and decent and prosperous nation.

Forth, is acknowledging that there should be a nuclear free zone in all of Korea, that NK withdraw its artillery and conventional missiles well beyond range of hitting SK cities and especial the capital, and most important there would be a dismantlement of the nuclear weapons and long range missiles in the NK verified by the IAEA similar but beyond to the ”deal” with Iran. Further, the border between NK and SK be policed by UN armed troops to keep both side apart and as a deterrence to armed action. We would recognize SK under any agreement and we would have a peace treaty to end the Korean war. We and our allies would pledge non-aggression to a NK that acts peacefully.

Fifth, is a consensus “verboten” idea, simply at some point of “regime change,” either internally or externally but not engendered by America. But the outcome of such a change would have to be rational leaders that would see both prosperity and external help as a positive and not make nuclear weapons the fundamental requirement of their nation. This option most likely would be discarded absent major changes/crisis in NK.

One condition that would help which is rare in our new “Trumpain” age is  return to the quality of sanity, search for common ground, thoughtful judgement, sense of proportion, of seeing ahead and, not least, decency and caring for all the planet.

We welcome your comments (see “Leave reply” box  below).

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THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: “GLOBAL CLIMATE LEADERSHIP”

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS:
GLOBAL CLIMATE LEADERSHIP

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Our final look at the Democratic Platform foreign and national security issues focuses on Climate Change and other international environmental issues. This topic like nuclear weapons is one of global “existential” consequences and deserves the highest level of attention and resources. In our previous look at the Republican platform and statements of “climate denial,” support of the most dirty form of energy, and ignoring the health consequences also of our own citizens in the process their policies are a model of concerted deliberate obstruction of any real effort to deal with our warming climate and its horrific consequences. The question now is does the Democratic Platform and the statements of Hillary Clinton clearly reflect a significant path towards avoiding cataclysmic outcomes of doing too little too late.
TEXT OF 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM:

Global Climate Leadership

Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security, and Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to take the lead in combating the global climate emergency. According to the military, climate change is a threat multiplier that is already contributing to new conflicts over resources, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. While Donald Trump says that climate change is a “hoax” created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the catastrophic consequences facing our country, our planet, and civilization.

We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis. Our generation must lead the fight against climate change and we applaud President Obama’s leadership in forging the historic Paris climate change agreement. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons. We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation.

As a proud Arctic nation, we are against putting the region at risk through drilling in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, while protecting our strategic interests, we will seek collaborative, science-based approaches to be good stewards of the rapidly changing Arctic region.
COMMENTARY:

 

There can be little doubt about the difference between the Trump/GOP stance on climate change, on environmental stewardship, and on the proactive stance towards dealing with it on a global scale and the Democratic Party’s perspective. But here there is not much in terms of specifics except the promise to exceed the Paris goals which indeed is necessary to stave off massive damage to life and economies, especially those with coastlines. The calling of a major conference in 100 days is fine but unless there is a willingness to put on the table major resources, work with others, and come away with hard commitments, too many meetings end without real follow-on. I say this as a person who worked hard in this area while in government to get binding treaties in these areas.

There are no pledges of specific levels of resources in the platform, or levels of Green House gasses that will be eliminated by transportation, burning of coal for energy nor of dealing with a harmful environmental trend in our oceans. Nor is there any specific indication of how to protect key rain forests that are important to getting C02 out of our atmosphere, and setting specific priorities in terms of slowing carbon emissions and how much to invest in clean energy. The media and citizens need to ask these specific questions of our candidates.

I know that Platforms are designed to make people feel something will be done and set general goals but not alienate some blocs of voters with narrow perspectives and interests with hard specifics as to how and at what cost. But after decades of debate the time has come to very much get to very specific programmatic promised actions.

But as noted, the differences here are choices between a party acting to address these challenges and the party of anti-science, pro-unlimited polluting of our environment no matter the health costs to our people and the deaths they cause, coupled with the pernicious interests of the “old” energy companies especially coal. We need to add  the influence of what I call “bought ideologues” on the far right our wrongheaded advocates for doing nothing, along with conservative business interests and the pliant media who refuse to tell the truth on climate science. There is little doubt we need a party that is dedicated to some significant action and acknowledges the problem and wants to really fix it for the sake our on-coming generation and survival of a livable planet.

What will be interesting in the coming months is whether this topic will resonate in all the hubbub of this election season.

We welcome your comments in the box below our post!!!!

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!

PART I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY OR AROUND MUCH OF THE GLOBE IN HALF AN HOUR!

 

PART I : 2016 PROSPECTS FOR THE YEAR IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY  OR AROUND PART OF THE GLOBE IN HALF AN HOUR!

BY
Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

This post will take a quick look at some of the most important global challenges and issues Americans and the rest of humanity will face in this year. This will be a brief look at possible developments in key areas, what risks and dangers lie with the topic and what policies or actions might affect outcomes good or bad. Also indicate what America could, should, or should not do to address the dangers and problems inherent in each issue. In short a quick tour of the most difficult questions our present and likely our next president will likely face.

THE MIDDLE EAST, THE SUNNI-SHIA DIVIDE, AND TERRORISM

There is no region more in disarray and conflict ridden than the Middle East and related regions. Nor is there a more difficult set of forces and issues which makes this region a complex quagmire and yet also more in need of conciliation, diplomacy and outside, yes outside help!

While in the end the Shia and Sunni nations must see that their conflict will destroy them both and make some kind of “pact,” or 2016 could see an escalation of internecine warfare. Here diplomacy from both inside the Islamic community and likely outside. Given the larger consequences we will see in the person of Secretary John Kerry and key Europeans an adding of efforts and pressure for some kind of truce. (See comments on Russia’s role below.)

Sadly the year 2016 started out with a worsening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia over a stupid if not malicious act of killing a Shia Saudi cleric which seems almost designed to escalate the conflict. It will certainly make putting together a necessary joint Shia-Sunni Iraqi regional governance model harder if not impossible.

Yet it must be halted. The seat of most terrorism lies in this region and least we forget it impacts disastrously, more than anyone Muslims of all sects. We are trying to maintain a close dialogue with the key Shia government of Iran which is difficult at any time and with Saudi Arabia that wants unquestioned US support for its anti-Shia strategy. The latter position would be a disaster for America and our allies, in the end we need to be an “honest broker” and “peacemaker” not an outside protagonist.

ISIS or the so-called Islamic State is now at the heart of violence in the Middle East. But there are also many groups and indeed governments who have given support to these brutal killing machines which we see in North Africa, Africa proper, and in Europe and America in individual attacks. 2016 is likely to see more of these and also more reaction by states to curb these terrorists.

Under Obama’s cautious but directed and increasingly mixed-tools strategy, which curbs the deployment of large combat ground troops, and focus, as it should, on the Muslim states concerned taking the lead in routing out ISIS, seem to, at last, to make some progress. ISIS has lost some 30-40% of its population and/or territory in Syria and Iraq.

We are likely to see “more of the same” but now modified to see what works best and least costly in terms of blood and resources and the key problem of “blowback” and “unintended consequences.” It was and is a wise policy which pleases nobody but is an fine example of “smart power” at work. No guarantee of working but the best option of all the other most bad ones. We are likely to see a tough debate in 2016 over a more militaristic approach verses a more cautious but evolving and multi-tools strategy using cooperation with others as a key component. This conundrum will not be solved in 2016 but the activities and attacks of 2016 will influence future outcomes.

There are a number of Middle East countries which are in a critical state including Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, many African nations and others which need not just American attention but also from other key countries including Europe and Asian nations. In each case 2016 will require added major resources and attention via hard diplomacy and addressing some of the fundamental causes if each is not addressed the result will be the spread of conflict and terrorism.

ISRAELI- PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

An example of a conflict that is getting worse not better largely due to the continued effort of Prime Minister Bebe Nethanhuh to make sure there will not be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I can’t be less blunt about this. He has expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which are all Palestinian lands. He has said outrageous words about Palestinians citizens in Israel and has said there will be no two state solution while he is in power. He has insulted and tried to undermined President Obama in as many ways as possible within the already fractured difficult American politics while getting un-presidented  major military assistance from the same President to help Israel’s security. His recent visit to Washington to “make up” made little progress towards a peace deal.

While the PLO has not been always helpful in the negotiations and remains weak and divided, and angery it was the continued settlements which forced them into desperate acts which is likely to bring the same sad scenario in 2016 unless there is considerable outside pressure to demand a need to solve this situation, which if not resolved is likely to inflame the entire region and threaten peace and produce a catastrophe for Israel itself. There are those who think America should give up on the Middle East. But the question is in 2016 can the West and other Middle East powers see the consequences of this path to mutual destruction and make an offer that can’t be turned down? Most experts are pessimistic, indeed opposed to any further efforts. They are wrong.

RUSSIA: A DISASTER IN WAITING

If it is true that President Putin’s game is enhancing his and Russia’s strategic and geopolitical standing and he wants to be seen as a major international power, he will be seriously disappointed. If his game is to make “mock war” with the West, this path and this goal lies in failure and possibly mutual calamity. The keyis for the West to hold its unity and focus. Russia it is to be a responsible state looking to help peacemaking and constructively dealing with the many global challenges we face, Putin can win that game for Russia’s long term interests.

His problem is really not just the low price of gas and oil, nor his military adventures, it is the tragedy that his policies have made of Russia. The Ukraine/Crimea gambit will prove to be costly on many dimensions and, if seen as it should, to be a cause of the downturn of the Russian economy and the standard of living of the average citizen (not you can be sure of Putin’s friends among the Oligarchy.

Russia is increasingly, as I have written earlier, a “Potemkin Village” is an empty shell and darkness inside and despair growing. Putin is riding high in the opinion polls but much is also due to his harsh repression of any dissent as seen in his “contract killings” at home and abroad. The predictions are for recession, decline of the Ruble, continued low oil and gas prices and not least a continued from the top corrupt society which enfeebles a great nation.

But this realization clearly has not yet happened  among many Russians and may not in 2016. The test will be in Ukraine, Syria, and relations with the former countries of the former Soviet Union. A test will also be if he continues to carry out his provocative military flights and ship/sub/troop exercises near or over NATO nations.

Given the recent past history, President Putin is not likely to let up on his dangerous indeed mad aggression and acts of war in Ukraine and Syria unless forced to do so from inside realities or outside pressure. He has backed time and time again brutal regimes and groups. His backing of Assad – a regime that has carried out now for years mass killings of its citizens in Syria. Assad’s is a terrorist regime itself.

In an odd swing this action has put him on the same side as Iran and Hezbollah a terrorist group, an effort to be a likely costly goal of being a “big” player in the muddy Middle East. It is just the same game as his other aggressive gambits with nefarious “allies” in places like Georgia, etc. He may pay a cost and make enemies with the Sunni nations by his actions.

He has from time to time tried to appear to seek common ground but with outcomes that only favor his prejudices and goals. He supports the Iran nuclear deal, and in theory a UN backed peace settlement and process in Syria. In 2016 we will see if this ends in peace and all will depend if he is willing to see in the near future Assad to go. His military chips are put down in the Syrian coast with added arms in 2016, but the forces at work are those he nor we can fully control.

Look for a very hard road here in 2016 unless Putin changes his calculations. Look also for more allied bombing efforts against ISIS and possibly indirectly Assad’s forces if peace talks fail. And some work to deal with the refugee issues seems necessary.

END OF PART I: COMING SECOND PART COVERS EUROPE, ASIA, NUCLEAR WEAPONS, GLOBAL WARMING, AND OTHER ISSUES.

Comments are welcomed.

PART II : THE YEAR 2015: A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

PART II : THE YEAR 2015: A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Beyond the specifics of our fractured and conflict ridden world covered in Part I of this two part series, are questions about the contributions or the follies of our national and global leaders and of our institutions and in the end concerned and impacted citizens.

We want to add some thoughts about the import of events in 2015 that are in some ways emblematic of the global landscape we live in and provided either new difficult challenges or show hopeful paths for America and the international community.

THE ISSUE OF GLOBAL LEADERS AND OUR SECURITY: FINDING COOPERATION

2015 was a year where there also was a real effort of some global leaders to find areas of agreement, of conciliation, of paths to peace and reduction of nuclear weapons and dealing with terrorism in intelligent ways. The first part of this series saw some very dark events and some acts by leaders that contributed to hatred, conflict, inequality, and bigotry. While others tried to mitigate these catastrophes. The results were indeed mixed.

This balance between peacemakers and authoritarian and malevolent “disrupters” and war-makers has been through all of human history and 2015 was not exception. Examples are below of this on going struggle.

DISINTEGRATION VERSES INTEGRATION, THE MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION CRISIS, TERRORISM, AND GLOBAL WARMING

THE EUROPEAN CHALLENGE

The key challenges for Europe are immigration, keeping Britain in the EU fold, getting rid of austerity and getting the economy on a growth pattern. It also was addressing terrorism within and abroad, facing inequality which threatens stability, and the growth of fascists and racist and extreme right-wing governments and parties. And also defining the relationship with America, an aggressive Russia and rising China in a constructive way.

Angela Merkel, who I have criticized for her economic austerity policies towards Greece and other weak EU states, came through initially in 2015 as a moral leader in support of refugees feeling death and conflict which seems to have cost her support at home. Her fate in 2016 will hinge not only on gaining some consensus within Germany for helping and accepting the refugees but for leading the EU towards a broader and more effective set of policies and actions which will make for a peaceful settlement and fair sharing of the burden. Immigration in 2015 was truly a challenge almost un-precedented and was largely an event that divided Europe and its reactions engendered more disunity and irresponsible acts and policies.

2015 was a year Britain went down the dangerous path towards possible separation of Scotland which thankfully failed – not thanks to Prime Minister Cameron. Cameron made the decision to hold a referendum to leave the EU and a vote is set for 2016. Merkel will also be key in helping keep the UK in the EU when the forces in Britain of the small minded Tory Euro-skeptics and the British equivalent of our Republican Tea Party bigots want to separate from the EU. Further there was and continues a dangerous move and sentiment within Europe against not only immigration but also the EU and the “FORE Project” which is the keystone for peace and stability and yes democracy in the region. The leaders of Europe did not in 2015 face fully up to these challenges.

FRANCE TO THE FORE?

What was seen as a weak French socialist president Hollande, turned out to be seen by many as strong in dealing with terrorism in Africa, and recently in his stance during the Paris attacks in November and the lead host of the Paris Climate change meeting. France in some ways has come to replace the British as a more reliable partner on a number of key issues. Their decision to contribute planes and resources to the allied bombing efforts in Syria and Iraq was an unexpected act. They were more involved in dealing with Russia on Ukraine, in the Iran nuclear deal, and took on anti-terrorism responsibilities in Africa.

THE BRITISH RETREAT?

Prime Minister David Cameron, on the other hand, did a lot of talking and little real action. While supporting UK continued membership in the EU he mismanaged in 2014 and 2015 the process of the vote on EU membership that is planned to take place in 2016. Should UK leave the EU the consensus of experts is it would be a disaster for Britain (and for Europe also).

He has failed to quiet the separatist tides in Scotland after the vote to stay united by a totally irresponsible handling of promises that were made for increased Scottish home rule. Not least he has move toward anti-immigration moves to mitigate the influence of such parties as the UK Independent Party with its racist, anti-EU, and isolationist tendencies. Wining the election in 2015 with a clear majority in Parliament but not in the nation was a plus for him, but it led to a doubling down on arch-conservative programs to punish the poor and to enhance the very rich. In the end this can’t but reap harm to Britain in the world.

DEPLORING WORLD’S WOES!

Economic growth overall in the developing nations was disappointing and the growth of conflict in places like Africa and Middle East hurt as did growing debts and political disarray. Leadership in the developing world was in too many cases a disaster for these countries with a few making efforts against an overwhelming tide of despair, corruption, and disparity of wealth and power. On a upward note, Castro in Cuba decided to respond to Obama’s outreach, China’s leaders helped at last on climate change/ environment, and India also finally went along when it was a spoiling nation with the Paris accords. Key in 2015 and will be in 2016, is efforts to start a rapprochement between the near warring nuclear weaponed India and Pakistan. A number of countries had mostly democratic elections including Burma, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Burma. And there were game changing elections in Argentina, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic,

AMERICA’S ROLE IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND RECONCILIATION

Notable above all, has been President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry who carried often much of the globe on their shoulders. They got India and China to finally do something constructive on climate change, more than anyone Obama and Kerry got the Iran agreement through in negotiations and in the Congress. Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba was a major breakthrough for both sides. Obama proposed both the Atlantic and Pacific trade packs which still remain controversial, but envisions a more united world economically and has strategic significance. 2016 will see how these two initiatives progress.

A key wise outcome was the administration kepting its promise not to do “stupid things” and kept their caution and steely focus on what could be done effectively and at least cost. It has shown some results. They saw their judgement and policies make some progress in 2015 and into 2016 with notable victories, with little American blood lost, in Iraq with the retaking of Ramadi and other towns. They revised our strategy in Syria with progress by American supported Kurd forces taking key points and pushing the Islamic State back from important towns and sites but some mixed results. But with a little advancement by the Syrian opposition forces. The Syrian quagmire became even more difficult after Putin’s 2015 intervention and Russian bombing of opposition forces.

But the simply fact is that U.S. and allied precise bombing and intelligence has been critical for success, despite being downplayed by the neo-cons and their hawkish Republican followers, who seem blindly want more vulnerable troops on the ground as proof of their on-the-cheep “toughness.” In fact we saw that added allied bombing was taking place.

The key still remains our diplomatic efforts. The UN Security Council with American and allied nations, and even Russia agreement, voted on a path towards possible peace and a new Syrian governance structure. This effort is filled with uncertainties, but promises more hope than would getting mass American combat troops sent to be killed by the Islamic State terrorist on their home turf. I see this as a use of “smart power” while the GOP still seems, as they did in Iraq under Bush II earlier, decide to use “stupid power” and play the terrorist’s game.

AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND THE GLOBAL ORDER

The debates in 2015, especially those of the Republican candidates revealed how dangerous our atrocious politics have become for the security if the rest of the world. 2015 showed how unbalanced our nation could become and how one major party has so gone off the deep end that even the fair right creator of this condition in Republican politics, Charles Koch in a Financial Times interview said that he was “disappointed” by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and resigned to having to support one with whom he agrees on only some issues. He thinks his issues are not being addressed. He is unhappy with the positions of Trump and Cruz on dealing with Muslims! And perhaps more? There is more irony in this as he has probably been more responsible for the GOP crazies we have today than any other person on this earth! Yet he would support any crazy according to his statement rather than any Democrat.

The other trend in our nation in 2015 and before has been the universal effort by the Republican candidates to beat up on Obama and especially to call him “weak” mostly focusing on his caution about using massive ground forces in Syria and Iraq. Trump started this idea of “No energy” not only against Obama and also his GOP opponents, but it has become a chorus by all the rest of what can be fairly described as the worst group of would-be presidents in American history. Each has done all they could either in their official capacity or on the campaign trail to undermined American power and interests around the world by their irresponsible statements, policies, or votes. They have been indifferent on how they are viewed by other nations. Just their presence in 2015 and the possibility that any one of them might be president sends shudders down most allied leaders and many of their educated citizens.

This is a world of interdependence, globalized as some would have it, and this is the high level information world where people everywhere hear what is said by global leaders and would be leaders via TV and the internet.

So goodby 2015, and we will look at the prospects for 2016 soon.

We welcome you comments!

PART I: THE YEAR 2015 A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

By
Harry C. Blaney III

 
As New Year starts it is worthwhile to look back since the past is prologue for what is to come. It is an annual exercise that many columnists, pundits, strategists, and yes bloggers do as it sets a framework for what is to come and to look back at the whole of a year and wonder what it all means for the security and peace of our clearly very fractured and conflict ridden globe. I promise a look forward at our strategic landscape which will include some policy ideas, in time, follow after the second part of this topic is posted..

First, a global view and then a look at some of the specific component elements that are each critical for the international system to gain some semblance of sanity.

 

INEQUALITY AND GLOBAL SECURITY

 

The fundamental factors that a the driving forces on a global scale include the growing gap in resources between the very very rich and the rest of humanity most of which is just hanging on or worse. This divide is a key reason that we see so much conflict, instability, terrorism. and democracy being threaten around the world.

We see some progress as in some countries people rose above the poverty line but in others the divide just got worse. Here the failure was both due to indifferent nation’s governments and the still lingering consequences of the ubiquitous “austerity” polices of too many rich and poor governments. Add the lack of political will, due to growth of right-wing and authoritarian governments and in 2015 nations becoming more that are the decision making power in these countries. Then add to the mix international organizations with members both developed and developing too weak to face the major challenges of our age and providing inadequate, even very poor, resources to the key international institutions that were designed to deal with global economic, security, social, and health major crises and catastrophes.

 
ENVIRONMENTAL INSECURITY AND GLOBAL DISASTER

 

Another global challenge is that of climate change. Every country and region in the world is threaten by this human created environmental phenomena and it has already shown its destructive power and the loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe. No single event can be ascribed directly to this cause, but taken together there is little doubt of the reality of the impact of rising global temperatures.

Again, up to now we have not done enough to effectively put this existential danger to our entire ecosystem on a sustainable path. The best event, as we have noted here, is the outcome of the 2015 Paris climate change conference. That conference at least shows us a path forward and specified the necessary action that states and all of us need to take to make real progress. But many scientists think we need to do more and they may be quite right. We have now a process and promises and an official “score card” for keeping tract of progress or lack thereof. That was a positive note for 2015.

 
REAL COMBUSTIBLES: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SECTARIAN/RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS, AND JUST PLAIN AGGRESSION AND NEEDLESS WARS, AND NOT LEAST HATREDS AND STUPIDITIES OF POWERFUL LEADERS AND COMPLIANT AND BLINDLY ANGRY CITIZENS.

 

That about sums it up as to why we are in such a tragic mess we seem to have and why the global trajectory seems so dark. But there are some rays of light………hate to end a year and start a new one with just gloom and doom.

On nuclear weapons and their spread, the really good news was the 2015 agreement with Iran by the key global powers that limits their capacity of producing nuclear weapons. As of this date Iran seems to be carrying out its obligations under the agreement with especially the shipment of almost all of its enrich uranium some 25,000 pounds, to Russia (which is a major milestone that leaves the Islamic Republic without enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture a nuke). There is the ongoing dismantling of its research reactor and most of its centrifuges. If the terms of the agreement are kept the world can be a bit safer since the alternative was the capacity to build a bomb in months not a year, and the agreement going for 10 years plus for key elements with the safeguard/inspections of the IAEA unlimited.

The other great danger that existed before 2015 and is still with us are the nuclear weapons in the hands of India and Pakistan, the nuclear weapons of North Korea and not least the nuclear weapons in the hands of a type like Putin who seems to think they are his leverage and plaything for enhancing his ego.

The India/Pakistan threat has two dimensions, one is the on going conflict between the two countries over Kashmir. Recently there was a meeting between the two national leaders and perhaps some moves towards sanity.

But Pakistan is itself a problem due to the government’s instability, the danger of internal terrorists, and an army that seems at times to not be capable and responsible. North Korea remains a conundrum with few good solutions with clearly erratic leadership that seems to not be seriously seeking a mutually agreeable long-term solution but likes to rattle the world with nuclear activities. A possible consequence is that South Korea or Japan might one day see it necessary to obtain their own weapons.

The other component of the dangers to the security of our world’s population in 2015 and beyond is growing sectarian conflicts, growing efforts to divide societies, and malevolent leaders and groups that see aggression and violence as a favored means to gain power and destroy what they see as their “enemies.” This is not the place now to get into the many causes and antecedents of these dangerous forces, but to simply say that peace in our world will not be obtained until these dark forces are tamed, reformed, and or defeated. This is undoubtedly a long term effort. But better and more responsible national leaders and a more engaged and informed and less bigoted, fearful, and empowered citizenry is the best antidote for societal disintegration and conflict.

A LOOK AT SOME SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF 2015 OUTCOMES AND TRENDS

 
THE SECTARIAN DIVIDE ABROAD AND NATIONALLY AND AT OUR OWN HOME

The good news is that some progress was made in recognizing this reality. This is clearly the case in 2015 with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who have been working hard to get both the Shia and Sunni groups and nations to see a common interest against ISIS, with some but still fragile, success. Prejudices of centuries are hard to mend. The key test points are in Iraq and Syria, both of which are case studies in sectarian hate, past distrust, outside partisan powers, and levels of murky loyalties and unknowns to make even the wisest expert shudder.

The challenges in the Middle East are almost impossible. If you add the animosities and stupidities of national leaders comforting each other in the Israeli and Palestinian arena one may wonder if there will ever be a solution. But there is an equitable solution facing each leader, all know what it is, which is the best outcome possible and one which will at last bring both parties to some real accommodation and security. Frankly, the behavior in 2015 of Prime Minister Netanyahu this last year and beyond has deliberately poisoned relations not only with the Palestinians but with large segments of Europe and the United States. If 2016 could turn this nasty tide I say try, but one man seems to want to make Israel even more at existential national risk long-term and is churning up hate rather than tolerance and compromise.

In our own American backyard in 2015 American politics turned even more divisive and partisan, in my view, which some will disagree with. But the partisan battles have greatly weakened America abroad and the blame rest squarely on the conservative Republicans and their reckless statements and actions. On most foreign policy and national security issues, let alone the many national issues, we see the damage caused by the far right crazies to American democracy, economic and technological progress, and to gaining needed security and peace. Their threatening the closing of government, their efforts to make America default on its debt, their denial of climate change, their efforts to stop the Iran deal that prevents Iran from building early nuclear weapons, their inability to look at reality rather than ideology, and not least seeking narrow political gain rather than the national interest. These have made our allies abroad question our leadership in the future after Obama’s administration, and help our adversaries like Russia and China who seek to exploit our weakness and lack of unity.

Part II of this 2015 look shortly follows.

We welcome your comments!

THE UNTOLD STORY OF YEMEN

By Harron Young 

Yemen
Phot0: al jazeera

Civil war, hundreds of airstrikes a day, multiple players, and religious divide, yes this is Syria, but it is also Yemen, a country where the outcomes are just as devastating. With much of the world’s attention on Syria and Iraq, the lack of media attention to one of the most unfortunate civil wars, or more so proxy war, has failed to bring the news of Yemen to our TV screens and newspapers.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 80% of the population requires some form of humanitarian protection or assistance, 48% of the humanitarian response is unmet, and 95% of the civilians, noncombatants, were killed from explosive weapons. Looking at the most basic issue in Yemen, we have a civil war with the North controlled by the Shi’a Houthi rebels, versus the Sunni majority in the South aligned with the internationally recognized government. Characterizing this as simply a Shi’a versus Sunni issue, or North versus South, barely scratches the surface in Yemen; within those sects of Islam, there is a deeper conflict including the Zaydis, a school of thought within Shi’a Islam, and Islah Islam, an opposition party that falls within Sunni Islam, this along with southern separatists, other militants, and religious extremist all involved in this conflict.

Backing these divided religious groups are Middle Eastern powerhouses such as Iran supporting the Houthis in the North, and a Saudi led coalition of Gulf Cooperation Council States (excluding Oman), further backed by the United States, in the South. As the Houthi rebel group represents a strong population of Shi’as in the North, they support the idea of a two-region state where they would dominate the North, and by January 2015, the Houthis demanded 50% of key ministerial position in the Yemeni government.

  Further conflict ensued when Saudi Arabia saw these demands, and Yemeni President Hadi forced from his palace in Sana’a by Houthi rebels, as Iranian interference in the region. In March of 2015, Saudi Foreign Minister declared that Saudi Arabia would protect the region from aggression, with the only solution being reinstating the internationally recognized government, and eliminating all Houthi rebels from any government institution they occupy. Almost ten months later, and Yemen has turned into a miserable war zone in which the death toll, amount of displaced people, and those facing food and water insecurity has escalated at a much faster rate than the chaos witnessed in Syria.

Although the Houthis have loosely been supported by Iran, they are not operating under its control and have been an independent political group before the outbreak of this civil war. Iran’s intervention in Yemen has only been an attempt to seize more influence in the region. Since Yemen is close to impenetrable, it is difficult to quantify what role Iran is playing in Yemen, with its only support being a supply of weapons to the Houthis; this comes as no surprise as Iran has a history of helping Shi’a minorities in the region.

The GCC countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, have stated their reasoning for intervening in Yemen while also carrying out a hidden agenda. This coalition claims their actions are answering the official request of the legitimate government of Yemen, protecting the Yemeni people, and fighting al-Qaeda and Daesh in the region. The events of the past ten months disprove these claims; so far, the Saudi led coalition has done nothing to stop al-Qaeda in Yemen.  The coalition has only hurt the civilian population in both the North and South from multiple airstrikes a day, and by establishing a blockade on the major ports in Yemen; this blockade has stopped the flow of food and resources in and out of the country. Although this blockade was done to protect the legitimate government from outside militias, this military tactic only cut off the civilian population from the rest of the world and vital resources needed for survival. Such ports are necessary as this country depends on imports for 70% of its fuel, 90% of its food, and 100% of its medicine, all now extremely limited in Yemen.

The number of casualties and injuries caused by explosive weapons in Yemen is the world’s highest, in which the all parties involved in this civil war are responsible for the unprecedented count of civilian suffering. In a September report done by the United Nations OCHA, when explosives are used, 86% of people killed are civilians and this number goes up to 95% in highly populated areas. Airstrikes were the single biggest danger to civilians in Yemen in the first seven months of 2015. Explosive weapons in Yemen have killed or injured more civilians this year than any other country in the world, including Syria. This is a blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by all parties involved in the conflict; through the principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution, all parties to the conflict are obligated to limit the loss of civilian life.

With the lack of coverage on Yemen, first hand depiction of this state is provided by aid organizations on the ground, all of which have been struggling to provide civilians with the most basic level of support. Reports from Oxfam International, a major organization coordinating relief effort in Yemen, have announced shockingly high numbers; close to 20 million people have no food or water security, about 1.5 million people from Yemen are displaced with about 100,000 refugees in Somaliland or Djibouti, making Yemen one of the worst crisis in the world. Such destruction to the infrastructure and civilian population as a whole may be attributed to ground fighting and airstrikes. Indiscriminate bombings by both opposing parties have targeted all governorates in Yemen and have been happening 100 to 150 times a day for the past nine months. In total, this conflict has killed around 5,800 people since March, including 830 women and children, according to the UN. Not only is Yemen completely underfunded in terms of aid organizations being able to provide support to civilians, but the lack of media coverage on this war has failed to put a face to those suffering in this conflict.

The many states actively playing a role in this civil war have only perpetuated the situation, leaving unprotected civilians at the forefront of the destruction. If human rights violations and war crimes are not enough to bring this situation to the attention of the global community, then U.S. involvement in this war should also be noted. Although the United States does not have ground troops in Yemen, they have provided the Saudi led coalition with funding, weapons, and intelligence. A report done by the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy reported that the U.S. has $49 billion worth of new agreements of arms sales with Saudi Arabia, this along with $60 billion in weapons and intelligence last year. Second to Saudi Arabia in amount of weapons received by the U.S, is the United Arab Emirates, which received 1,600 guided bomb units that were explicitly used in Yemen. Although the National Security Council has called for the defense of the Saudi Arabian border and the Department of State has shared concern of aggressive actions by the Houthis, the helicopters, combat aircrafts, and missiles supplied by the U.S. to the Saudi led coalition have greatly contributed to the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Yemen. In response to this, the National Security Council stated that, “the United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the coalition in Yemen.” Such actions have been addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who accused all parties involved in Yemen, including the U.S, as responsible for the harm civilians in Yemen are facing.

The Obama administration has received backlash from such actions as 13 members of Congress (led by Reps. Dingell, Ellison, and Lieu) sent a letter to President Obama calling on the administration to urge Saudi Arabia to better protect innocent lives. This letter appropriately stated that “when U.S. weapons and intelligence are utilized, the decision to conduct an airstrike should correspond to the standards that would apply to any U.S. military operation.” Regardless, the United States continues to support the actions of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen, when instead the U.S. should be pushing their allies towards peace talks and humanitarian relief efforts. The United States must also be concerned with extremists, such as al-Qaeda, that has already captured much of the southeast province Hadramawt, and now a have a strong hold in Yemen due to the instability in the state and lack of military focus on eliminating the terrorist group by the Saudi led coalition.

This conflict in Yemen has only been getting worse, and looking forward will drive Yemen further into state failure if a ceasefire and resolution are not met. Currently, Yemen is attempting a second round of peace talks taking place in Switzerland, as their first national dialogue failed in 2014. Such peace talks only consist of Yemeni nationals, the Hadi government, the Houthi rebels, and the general People’s Congress, with no foreign states involved. This is a major step in the right direction as a political solution that addresses reunifying the country and preventing further casualties is the only way to end the crisis. For the success of the peace talks, and ultimately relief to the Yemeni people, a ceasefire must be initiated and followed by the Saudi led coalition, something the U.S. should push their allies to do. If and when a political solution happens, what is equally if not more important is a plan for the day after. A “day after” plan must ensure the agreements of such peace talks are met and humanitarian and infrastructure assistance is provided. This plan must build up the civil society, as a stronger and unified Yemeni military and local police force is necessary to eliminate extremist in the region. As the country becomes safer from lack of constant airstrikes, aid organizations and the Yemeni government will have to work endlessly to rebuild demolished infrastructure such as homes, schools, and water and sanitation systems. A political solution and the plans following will not be easy, much closer to impossible if anything, but the well being and safety of the Yemeni people, along with global security, desperately depend on a ceasefire and unified government in Yemen.