TRUMP’S HARMFUL “PILGRIMAGE” TO DISGRACE, DISCREDIT AND DISUNITY

TRUMP’S HARMFUL “PILGRIMAGE” TO DISGRACE, DISCREDIT AND DISUNITY

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Trump is back from his first trip as president but the harm he did on that trip has not ceased. Indeed it has increased with the recent decision to leave the Paris climate change accord. The reverberations from Europe and the Middle East continue. There is no place that he set font on tht did not create for security, unity ans stability of the global commons and our nations position in the world. Now it is far worse by Trump’s ignoring the great danger to the world which almost all nations recognize and followed the leadership of President Obama and many other nations. America has been diminished greatly by Trump’s incredible actions.

Given the reading I have done of European reactions both government and media and my recent visit to Europe we have lost greatly by Trump’s actions. We lost more in those short days than all the efforts of Putin and his Russian minions in the last decade trying to divide the West. One top headline of a writer for the Financial Times (a conservative paper) said ” Erratic Trump is destabilising the world.” Another affirmation of our loss is Germany’s leader Angela Merkel who has recently said, in effect, that Europe can’t trust the U.S. because of Trump. So much for “Making America Great.”

The recent dishonourable global travels of Donald Trump have resulted in more disgrace for America. The subtle and sometimes not so subtle rejection of Trump’s vision of a world enhanced by chaos through Trump’s often embrace of the worst behavior of dictatorships and brutal people of the world is but one example that has striped America of its credibility and respect.

This after revelations of more evidence that there could be evidence of collusion between the Trump associates and Russian agents, reports of efforts by him to sabotage the federal investigation of himself and his gang of incompetents. We see his continued lying and display of madness. We have him cutting American diplomacy and assistance budgets some 30% which belie anyone who thinks he takes our global challenges seriously. No interlocutors on this trip and his action on global warming can take what he says with believability and act on them and expect support.

His first stop in Saudi Arabia was a demonstration of the power of the mutual connivance between two forces of disruption, authoritarian rule and brutality. Not since the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact before WW II have we rarely seen such discredited leaders see their mutual interest in support of killing others, in ignoring discrimination against woman, and disparaging of democracy. On the part of Trump we saw acceptance of national Saudi leaders who’s funding and actions have help to fuel the spread of the extremist Islamist Wahhabi Salafist ideology that Trump once so vied against. Yes, we can call that hypocrisy.

While accepting the lavish opulence and honors of this dictatorial regime behind the brutal murder of thousands of civilians in Yemen via mostly in-discriminative bombing, which is against the law of war and humanitarian norms, Trump signed a $460 billion, ten year arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This will mean even more bombing, more conflict. It will help lead a mad arms race against Saudi Arabia’s main nemesis Iran. This will do nothing to assist a conciliation of the two main lines of Islam Sunni and Shia. This brutal theocracy oppresses its people and has spent billions of dollars exporting their extreme Wahhabi Islamic ideology around the world—the very same ideology fueling terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. His efforts to make worse the Sunni-Shia divide is putting America into a dark caldron of taking sides in Middle East religious conflict. His actions only support the concept that his aim is to create total chaos and keep the world off balance and demoralized.

The visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority was with the stated aim of bring the two together but it was clear that Trump was far more on the side of Israel but he recognized if he could create some agreement between the two sides it would be a “big win” for him but he does not have a clue of the key issues and does not seem to want to learn in any depth on this complex problem. In fact he walked away without a truly any specific breakthroughs.

The NATO Brussels visit was a total disaster and Trump talks and behavior was seen as causing much hurt to the alliance, which clearly frightened or allies and was criticized throughout European media. Not least is Trump’s decision not to mention NATO’s Article 5 of supporting a member country under attack. His nasty hectoring our allies on financial support for “NATO” was likely counter productive in the long run. The result was growing distrust of Trump thus of American commitment. One of the great historic blunders in the face of the Russian active efforts to undermine democracy and divide the Atlantic community.

His visit to see the Pope was almost surreal with Francis asking Trump, the instigator of actions and views antithetical to Christian beliefs let alone those of the Catholic church especially on dealing with the calamitous impact on all humanity of coming climate change. Nor was there any sign that Trump would respond to any peas for humanitarian actions to assist refugees.

The meeting in Sicily of the G-7 of the most powerful nations which include heads of state or Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission who on their own without the United State reaffirmed their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, “as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.” This division was largely a first for the group and a sign of the disunity that will likely ensue. It was here that the disunity of the world community was most glaringly shown due to Trump rejection of action on climate change.

The sum of Trump’s action is that he has made America diminished and in greater danger from the external forces at work and made our adversaries more powerful and certainly Putin acts like he has a ”puppet” that has helped him achieve all he could not do on his own to advance Russian agenda to destroy the unity of the West.

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THE FRENCH ELECTION AND ITS WIDER MEANING AFTER THE ELECTION!

By

Harry C. Blaney III

The larger significance of the final round of the French election is that democracy and decency is NOT yet dead in France and perhaps is regaining ground in Europe also. There may also be now more hope to regain a sense of European and even Western unity and cooperative spirit with the win of former Socialist Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron.

The victory was by any account a win that was, in French election terms, overwhelmingly clear. Macron won by 66% to just 34% for the Fascist Marine Le Pen of the National Front Party which had Nazi antecedents. In his victory speech in Paris he pledged to act to redress the concerns of the French people. He said, wisely, that Le Pen backers had “expressed an anger, a dismay, and I respect that. I will do everything possible in the five years to come so that they have no reason to vote for the extremes.’

It is important that he supported the EU and France’s place in keeping Europe united and “open” when it would have been “cheep grace” to pander to the xenophobia of the moment. He acknowledged the reality of diversity in French’s society and said in the campaign: “There is culture in France, and it is diverse.” Like the American Bernie Sanders of another age and place, he gained support of the engaged youth of France that had move beyond the narrow definitions and prejudices of the extreme right and racist nationalism.

In Macron’s defeat of the French Euro-skeptics, such as Marine Le Pen, he overcame what may viewed with much fear the strong recent surge of authoritarian and racist parties. With the recent defeat, albeit narrow, in Holland and Austria of Alt-Right parties the populist tide was for the moment halted. Yet the win for these forces of reaction and hate of “the other” in Britain in the June 2016 vote, by a very narrow margin, shows still the strength of an appeal to nativism and narrow nationalists. The Brexit action is like a deadly strike against a united and cooperative Europe. It is a vote for Putin’s dismemberment of Western democracy, no matter what line the British right-wing isolationist Tories or UKIP’s Nigel Forage, or for that matter the Brussels EU leaders have all been feeding to their constituents about its impact. Europe without Britain is a Europe still diminished, and so is Britain without the EU.

The National Assembly elections in June will also be key to Macron’s chances of truly moving France beyond a hopeless battle between the forces of reaction and anti-EU feelings, with the support of the growing dynamic diverse engaged citizens, and addressing the still alienated elements in society.

He must find a strong working coalition of existing parties who will support his program of moving beyond the old shibboleths of traditional party warfare and ideology and concentrate on uplifting the left-behind citizens of all types who have been too long ignore by all parties. They constitute a core of unrest and corrosive elements of French society and are at the mercy of the people who hate and exploit them especially from the far right.

The same goes for the EU which is not the indifferent bureaucracy with no caring for citizens often depicted by the Euro-skeptics on the right. Indeed its rules, which are so hated by the massive corporations and their lobbyists, have been overall protective of the environment, health, trade, and well being of Europeans. All this contrary to the right wing papers and media, especially those in Britain controlled by Rupert Murdoch who backed leaving with false promises of prosperity for the poor. The Leave Debate” argued an outdated narrow nationalism, played to racism. Now those dispossessed by these forces are going to be worse off than ever by all accounts.

What Marcron wants to accomplish for France is also what is needed in Europe itself, namely a sense of common purpose and care for all its people. Above all, everywhere the old party fights need to be put aside or indeed the far right authoritarian parties will come roaring back and dissolve fairness, justice, and democracy in Europe. With it their security and hopes will be destroyed.

But there is little room for complacency. The forces of the far right are backed by Russia’s authoritarian and brutal Putin via financial support and false news elements. This provides underhanded support and efforts including hacking which is now attributed to Russian intelligence aimed at undemanding of democratic elections and politics. They are having an impact which should not be dismissed. Nor can the grievances of those that feel neglected and left behind who are angry as they are open to the ententes of the European Fascists as we in the U.S. have seen by a leader like Donald Trump.

For America the results would be catastrophic with the demise of open and democratic states which are our key allies. They support a law based humane and cooperative international system. Russia and other authoritarian regimes would gain by Europe’s disarray. This is a time of crisis since the leadership of our own nation has helped to ravage the unity and long held values of Western democracies.

Trump’s support of harmful far right parties and brutal leaders has been a force of chaos. His bent towards destruction and his blind support of the most brutal regimes around the world have demoralized our best friends and undermined American constructive leadership. Perhaps Europe under Macron and whoever emerges as the leader of Germany this Fall will be able to re-balance the idiocies of Trump and our new myopic nationalism and bent towards dark malignant actions.

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THE FRENCH ELECTION AND ITS WIDER MEANING!

By
Harry C. Blaney III

Last June and earlier this year I reported from London and Brussels on the issues, problems and trends of the critical issue of the unity of Europe and the fragility of also the Atlantic Community in the face of far right and Fascist forces. These corrosive forces would undermine and indeed destroy unity, democracy, and the key elements that have kept the peace, prosperity and democracy in Europe. The next great test for Europe will be the French final election between the two leaders of the first round election who will vie for the Presidential role on Sunday.

This Sunday election round will comprise first the moderate centrist (center-right) candidate who is without a traditional party Emmanuel Macron, who some polls show winning by about 20 percent. Against him is Marine Le Pen who’s party The National Front, has neo-Nazi origins and expresses deep hatred of immigrants and the EU. These two have left behind all of the candidates for the presidency of the traditional French parties after the result of the first round of voting.

Now in France however, these values are again threatened by the Neo-Fascist and racist National Front Party and by its leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. She threatened to, in effect, blow up Europe by getting out of the Euro Zone and perhaps even the EU and has attacked Germany who in the past has been the key partner on European unity and accused Chancellor Merkel as “dominating” Europe.

Le Pen has a close association with Russia’s Putin who is trying to undermine the unity of Europe and separate it from American cooperation. A Russian associated bank has loaned her far-right anti-Europe party money to help her campaign of hatred for immigrants, for liberal democracy, and really decency. As a indicator of her intentions and affinity to far right “disruptive” forces she has been praised by Donald Trump who also seems to want a disunited Europe (he supported Brexit and admires the British Alt-Right racist politician Nigel Farage, and clearly has an anti-EU perspective and questioned in the past NATO.

This election is so important to the unity of the West that former President Obama has made his views known via a video in support of Macron. Here is some of the text:

“The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” … “Because the success of France matters to the entire world. … (Macron) has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world, and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears. … Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la France!”

There are many possible outcomes from this election given the fractured nature of the French political landscape. There is no assurance, despite the polls, that Macron will win since many do not want to declare their public support for a far-right xenophobic party. And Le Pen has campaigned with venom against Macron.

Sadly the left candidate who came in third did not endorse Macron. If Macron wins he must at some early point reconcile with enough members of parliament and the key parties to govern with some effectiveness and authority. The outcome could either set a direction of cooperation within Europe despite Brexit or the start of the dismantlement of European stable peace, security, and unity and cooperation with the full Western democracies. And also effective dealing with the underground anti-democracy activities of Putin and his gang of hackers and “false media”of the Russian “active intelligence.”

In contrast, center right and left traditional parties and others seeking responsible and decent goals could ensured if an alliance can be worked out with Macron, that there would be a strong voice in Europe for decency and cooperation around the world. Given in the West (and elsewhere) the disruptions of the last year or so and dysfunctional response of some governments to the needs of our citizens, with the rise of racial and national division, as well as moves towards in some cases hate filled political leaders, some united response by forces dedicated to democracy, justice, and true democracy is now required on both sides of the Atlantic.

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EUROPEAN ELECTIONS: WHERE WILL EUROPE GO NOW?

By: Harry C. Blaney, III

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The European Parliament elections that lasted from May 22 to 25, were, to a degree, a bellwether for the direction of the so called “European Project” that aims for an ever closer union of European nations. They also served as a wake-up call for Europeans. Continue reading

Syria : What Should We Be Doing Now?

As we have argued earlier, there is an urgent and vital need for the “Friends of Syria” and our allies in the region to start thinking of how to contain the sectarian violence that is already taking place, but which will likely escalate with the fall of Assad.  The best hope is a series of action which needs to be initiated immediately, which includes establishing a robust Peace Keeping/Peacemaking/ Mediation force to prevent mass slaughter and revenge killings. If this can’t be created by the U.N. then it must be part of a “coalition of the willing” made up of both NATO nations and Arab League and Islamic nations. For this to be up and ready to act swiftly, such a force needs to be mobilized and trained and given strong mandates. A reconciliation and diplomatic mission of experts and diplomats needs to also be created in order to work with the still inchoate Syrian Opposition governance leaders.

This effort will likely need strong American and EU backing as well as help from Turkey, which so far has been lagging in seeing the dangers on its borders and acknowledging that this is time for a “full court” press and the alternative is the spread of sectarian violence throughout the Middle East from Jordan and Lebanon to Iran and beyond.

The other “pillar” of bringing a measure of security to this region would be the creation of a massive development effort for the region with a focus on Syria, but others as well. The focus would aim towards correcting the destruction of Syrian infrastructure, but also at putting to work the youth of Syria to unify the nation toward rebuilding as we did in Germany and Japan at the end of the Second World War, but by using the resources of Middle east nations, Japan, the EU and America. This will be a hard lift with the continued global economic downturn but the cost of not doing so would, in the end, be much more horrific.

Lastly, the Syrian Opposition groups and their imperfect governance organization need added help and reinforcement with the direct involvement of Syrian “technocrats” of all sectors of the population.  They also need assistance in keeping in place the reforms of many existing institutions like the national bank, transportation, health, education, police and courts, and other ministries.  This means lots of hands (and eyes) on the ground to ensure that chaos and mass slaughter does not overwhelm reconciliation and rebirth.

In sum, the time is now to alter our reluctance to take a lead in shaping the landscape of Syria and nearby states and helping to contain the spread of a devastating sectarian conflict, which is a disaster for all.

NOTHING IS EASY: ISRAEL, TURKEY, RUSSIA, CYPRUS, THE EU (AND US NATIONAL SECURITY)

  The heralded and most welcome rapprochement between American friends and allies Turkey and Israel will need, as is normal, some time before it bears fruit.  As reported from Ankara by the Associated Press on March 24, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been cautious in presenting his agreement with Israeli counterpart Netanyahu to his domestic constituency, along the lines of “actions speak louder than words”.  (At the same time, Netanyahu has been sharply attacked for apologizing for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla by his former Foreign Minister Lieberman.)  There is nothing remarkable about a leader protecting himself at home from charges of weakness in dealing with “the enemy”, and Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza and the West Bank in the near future need not upset the substance of the agreement.  Let us hope that is so but not disregard the warning signals in the AP report, worth repeating here in full.

          QUOTE:  Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.

Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.

But in a public address Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.

“We have said: ‘an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”

The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.

During Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as “calm prevailed.”

But Israeli military officials have taken to punishing Gaza residents for breaches of a November truce. Since Thursday, in response to militant rocket fire from the territory, all movement through a civilian crossing between Gaza and Israel was cancelled, except for humanitarian cases. Gaza fishermen had their permitted fishing territory restricted and a commercial goods crossing was shut down, according to Israeli rights group, Gisha.

Netanyahu said Saturday concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile were the motivating factor in restoring ties with Turkey. He said the two countries, which border Syria, needed to communicate with each other over the issue.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he plans to travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “within the month, in April.”  END QUOTE

     Where do the other parties named in the title of this post fit in?  Turkey has occupied some 40% of Cyprus going on 40 years, proclaiming the existence of a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.  Such an entity has never been recognized by any country in the world, Israel, Russia, all EU members and the US prominent among those that have refused.  In May 2012, Turkish jet fighters challenged an Israeli plane hovering near a gas and oil exploration region off of Cyprus, a challenge based on Turkish defense of the “rights” of the fictional republic.  A year later, Turkey continues to challenge the right of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to explore for energy resources in its exclusive economic zone, an exercise it has been conducting in cooperation with American, Israeli and other partners.  Moreover, it has been reliably reported that Russia, which currently supplies EU countries with well more than a third of their gas supplies, has been pressuring the Cypriots to let the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” into the bidding as the price of helping Cyprus out of its desperate financial dilemma.  Figures indicate that the exploitation of Cypriot gas by, among others, French and American companies could potentially reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian supplies.

     According to the French newspaper Le Monde of March 23, the Russians have been making another, equally important, proposal to the Cypriots in exchange for Russian financial help: the provision of a naval base for Russian warships.  With continued use of Syrian port facilities out of the question, Russia will be left with no berthing or basing rights in the Mediterranean, leaving Cyprus as the only feasible option.  (This scenario was hinted at, perhaps foreshadowed, in a post of July 23, 2012 headlined “Cyprus, Russia, Syria, America, the EU, Turkey et al”, which reported the docking of two Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Cypriot port of Limassol – and not, it must be mentioned, in the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta.)

  NOTHING IS EASY.

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Turkey and U.S. National Security

The combined weight and importance of Turkey’s political, military, economic and geo-strategic circumstances in the consideration of American national security interests require the most serious attention, and one must assume that fact escapes nobody’s attention in Washington.  By way of illustration, Turkey is the only Islamic country that is both a member of NATO and a candidate for accession to the EU; it fields more than twice as many active-duty military personnel than does France, the UK or Italy; its potential role as a conduit for oil coming from various directions is clear; and its neighbors, by sea and/or land, include Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cyprus and Greece.

Surely that abbreviated description puts Turkey in a class with Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the EU/Germany/France with respect to key political entities always prominent on our horizons and in morning briefings.  Full treatment would require a book and more expertise and experience than is readily available.  Deserving brief mention here, however, are recent developments in two areas requiring only attention to the daily press: Turkey’s role in the Middle East; and a shift in the prospects for eventual Turkish membership in the EU.

Given Turkey’s attributes as outlined above, it would be well-nigh impossible for it not to play a prominent part in cascading events in its neighborhood.  It is no surprise, then, that the major outside actor in the ongoing conflict within Syria is its neighbor to the north.  The massive intake of refugees from Syrian President Assad’s murderous forces has both saved countless lives and earned the respect and gratitude of Western powers still in the throes of making decisions about whether and how and when to intervene.  (Turkish policy vis-à-vis Syria, humane and charitable though it may be, is surely motivated in large part by the growing national and religious enmity between Turkey and Iran, Assad’s principal outside champion.)

Still concerning the Middle East, Turkey’s growing animosity toward Israel ever since the 2009 Israeli killing at sea of nine Turks on their way to delivering non-military supplies to Gaza, and Israel’s stubborn refusal to apologize, has taken an ugly – if unintended – turn.  (One cannot but recall Turkey’s unrelenting refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide by its proper name.)  Last Thursday, February 27, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as telling a UN meeting in Vienna the following: “Just as with Zionism, anti-semitism and fascism, it has now become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”  Secretary of State John Kerry and others were swift to criticize Erdogan’s remark, clearly to protest the inclusion of Zionism in the list of evils.  Whether Erdogan himself or just his speech writer failed to understand the meaning of Zionism, roughly, the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel, and that condemning Zionism was itself anti-semitic has not been revealed.

As concerns the EU and Turkish prospects, ever since both French and German leaders made it clear that membership was not in the cards, the Turkish leaders themselves have hardened and public opinion polls show little enthusiasm.  Now, two recent developments have served to keep the proverbial foot in the door.  About to leave Berlin for a visit to Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, admitting her skepticism, nevertheless spoke of resuming stalled negotiations between Turkey and the EU.  At the same time, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was giving the same message to his Turkish counterpart.  Many years of talks lie ahead, several critical issues must be resolved, and Turkey must relent on some of the most difficult for Ankara, e.g., getting out of Cyprus and signing and ratifying the UN Law of the Sea Treaty.  But, the door is open once more, and US national security interests would be served by an eventual resolution of differences between key friends and allies.

 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!