THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN
Harry C. Blaney III
There are few acts by a uninformed and clearly not balanced Donald Trump which have an immediate horrendous impact both at home and abroad. The ban on seven Muslim majority nations is just such an act and it has already enlisted major reactions by people around the world. It is simply a disgrace for America and it is dangerous to our security.
What this executive order on immigration and refugees does is bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half effectively the number of refugees we can admit. It halts all travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The reaction at home includes demonstrations around the nations especially at universities and colleges and by churches and civil liberty groups. Harvard and Yale presidents and other academic leaders have denounced this act Many experts believe is counter to our constitution, our laws, and treaty obligations. Already a judge has in effect said so…but without so far Trump complying.
In reaction is an open letter to Trump top national security officials by over 100 National Security Leaders on the Refugee Executive Order. The signers include Madeleine Albright, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice, and many others including high level former officials and military from Republican and Democratic administrations. The headline statement was:
“As former cabinet Secretaries, senior government officials, diplomats, military service members and intelligence community professionals who have served in the Bush and Obama administrations, we, the undersigned, have worked for many years to make America strong and our homeland secure. Therefore, we are writing to you to express our deep concern with President Trump’s recent Executive Order directed at the immigration system, refugees and visitors to this country. This Order not only jeopardizes tens of thousands of lives, it has caused a crisis right here in America and will do long-term damage to our national security.”
In Washington even some Republicans are concerned, and the Democrats are considering opposition to this on a number of fronts. Chaos prevails at our airports and airlines and in governments around the world. It was denounced by leaders in Germany and France and on the floor of the House of Commons.
It is clear to me that this action was without much doubt the deliberate act of designed chaos and cruelty by Donald Trump likely aided and abated by Stephen Bannon the Alt-Right racist, bigoted Trump campaign leader and past editor of the white power media outlet Breitbart News and now counselor to the President with equal status to the White House Chief-of-Staff and now a member of the highly sensitive and powerful National Security Council and the committee of Principles (Cabinet and agency heads) which he will attend as a full member – in effect perhaps a spy on other member views, or voice for the far racist right at home and abroad and enforcer of Trump’s crazy far right policies and lies.
This act is a test of what we may see going forward in foreign and national security policy. Already Trump has upset and weakened our ties to our key allies that are aghast at his recent statement, tweets and actions which undermine NATO, EU and the UN. In particular, they have undermined our allies and embolden Russia’s Vladimir Putin to hope he can destroy Western unity and strength and prosperity and weaken its defense. All this hardly lifting a finger but letting Trump do his dirty work. Already trump has helped Putin by supporting disunity in Europe by his encouragement of Brexit and putting down NATO, and favoring of far right fascist groups in Europe.
We need to ask quickly why and at what cost to peace and security for us and our allies?
We welcome your comments, see section below!
BOOK REVIEW: THE MIND OF THE AFRICAN STRONGMAN BY AMBASSADOR HERMAN “HANK” COHEN
by Harry C. Blaney III
Africa has always been one of the most difficult continents to fully understand and to carry out diplomacy with any lasting effect. It is also the place where we have needed to be engaged with out best people and with effective assistance programs that reached the general population and not squandered or wasted especially on wars and civil strife.
This book “The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, 2015, paperback), is filed with person-to-person meetings and dialogues of the key leaders of Africa over decades and provides Ambassador Cohen’s wise observations of their views, weaknesses, and strengths. In the process the reader gets an insight of the many difficulties of achieving prosperity for the people and also the many barriers to development and real democracy.
Not speared in this book is the many conflicts between African states and internal conflicts that caused so much suffering like the civil war between Liberia’s two strongmen Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe, which brought great carnage and deaths to the people of that nation. And as Cohen noted “Liberia was totally destroyed.”
Ambassador Cohen knows better than just about anyone of his generation and beyond the challenges and pitfalls of dealing with the wide variety of conditions, forces and wide range of leaders of African nations especially in their post-colonial era. In this book he sets forth as good a look at the leaders that shaped or misshaped that contentment in this key post-colonial period.
The books chapters are like a short history of African leadership from a personal perspective of a U.S. diplomat who was engaged intensively with these leaders and the problems of that period. So we gain an insight on the strengths and weaknesses and difficulties covering such countries as Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Zaire, Nigeria, Libya, Somalia, Angola Liberia, and not least South Africa. In each case and in their own chapters these countries’ first leaders are portrayed with incisive insight and their inner personalities are given some light.
Africa has a long history of upheavals, conflicts and abject poverty, the hope was that progress could be made by independence. That promise however was moved forward in some cases and sadly in others was held back by a multiplicity of problems and poor leadership and corruption.
In Cohen’s summing up chapter he says “The African leaders portrayed in this volume were typical of their generation. Their outlooks were somewhat contradictory. They rejected colonial-era institutions, yet they adopted some colonial-era socioeconomic theories.” ”He adds: “The newly independent African nations of the early 1960s rejected Western multiparty democracy and all the trappings of open societies. He notes they also used the African “tradition of consensus building, but one party sates.
On the economic side Cohen notes that many leaders had an economic outlook of “African socialism” taken from the UK and French socialist parties they knew. The result were often corruption, diversion of resources away from priority areas like health and education and toward maintaining the one party state authoritarian rule and their constituencies. The consequence was “A vicious cycle….that caused most African countries to suffer from negative growth for over two decades.” He notes that in the 1980s external efforts to reform and help African countries “succeeded over a decade in reversing economic decline in most of the countries.”
He argues that with a new generation of leaders, there was more demand for freedom and often it resulted in less authoritarian rule along with the rise of independent media, and rise of some opposition parties and some private enterprise. Looking at 2015 Cohen notes that Africa was making progress on political and economic fronts. But he holds that in some countries the process was far from full democracy.
In this last chapter Cohen makes an argument for the need for democracy as a means of stability, growth and fairness and the best leaders are those that face the next election and thus do not fear so much for “day-to-day security.”
Cohen addresses also the use by early (and now recent) leaders of “illegitimate surrogate wars. Here I think is one of the key points of criticism of the African political and security landscape and one of the causes of great poverty and deprivation. He makes the point that the African Union will expel any government that comes to power through a military coup, but the AF “continues to ignore the illegitimate surrogate wars that are so devastating to life and property.”
Cohen ends with the hope for the development of good leaders that understand the needs of their people and are modern in their outlook on technology, listen to their people, and wake up in the morning determined to do good. He points to South Africa as a possible modal for other African countries.
American policy he notes is taking a positive attitude towards developments in Africa. But he seems to think we have taken too light a hand and avoided “blunt talk,” letting the World Bank and IMF do the hard words. He ends by writing that “President Obama appears more inclined that his predecessors toward “tough love” with respect to Africa.” He hopes President Obama will talk more openly about corruption and human rights abuses. He argues he can get away with a harder line and urge a move towards good governance. He worries also about growing unemployed youth becoming “explosive.” Amb. Cohen says there are grounds for some optimism in Africa “in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
This book, for those interested in the recent history of Africa and its many problems and the role and impact of it’s early leadership and what inheritance they gave to Africa, will make for exciting and insightful reading and a lot of thought about the landscape of Africa today.
We welcome your comments!
The Mind of the African Strongman: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures” (New Academia Publishing, Washington DC, 2015, paperback. available from Amazon
Washington DC, 2015, paperback. We welcome your comments!
Doing Bad by Doing Good and Why Humanitarian Action Fails is a book by Christopher J. Coyne, an economics professor at George Mason University, and touted by the right wing Cato Institute. Cato is backed by the Koch brothers and others who are notorious for supporting efforts to fund far right anti-democratic groups like ALEC. This group has been responsible for a number of acts to disenfranchise Black and Latino voters and pushed states to gerrymander legislative districts around the nation which enabled conservative Republicans to gain a majority of seats in the House of Representatives while not getting a majority of the national vote — which the Democrats did. In short, they are trying to undermine the basic values of America, namely one person one vote, equal protection of the law, and real democracy and fair elections. What a cast of characters.
Thus, Cato sponsored a book launch on May the 5th for this publication which said volumes for its orientation against any truly “good works” and efforts to help the needy, save children in poverty in risk of early death, secure a healthy and dignified retirement for our elderly, a livable wage for workers, and their right to form unions.
The Cato e-mail invitation had the following outline of the problem:
“A common argument for intervening abroad is to alleviate potential or existing human suffering. Repeatedly, however, state-led humanitarian efforts have failed miserably. Why do well-funded, expertly staffed, and well-intentioned humanitarian actions often fall short of achieving their desired outcomes, leaving some of the people they intended to help worse off? Why are well-meaning countries unable to replicate individual instances of success consistently across cases of human suffering?
Using the tools of economics, Dr. Christopher Coyne’s new book, Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails, shifts the discussion from the moral imperative of how governments should behave to a positive analysis of how they actually do. Coyne examines the limits of short-term humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance, the disconnect between intentions and reality, and why economic freedom—protection of property rights, private means of production, and free trade of labor and goods—provides the best means for minimizing human suffering. Join us as experts discuss this hotly debated topic.”
You get the idea! Capitalism is the answer to a starving poor child and the critically sick elderly, to lack of health care, to the need for immediate clean water, and just about everything that rich countries enjoy often very efficiently provided by governments at all levels.
Having spent much of a lifetime either examining national and international humanitarian and economic policies, including at one point running a major program that looked after refugees often in dire circumstances, I wonder if the author or the Cato shysters ever understood the humane urgency of being there while thousands indeed hundreds of thousands die needlessly when no one is able to help on the ground and in circumstances that a capitalist investor would never set his or her foot. The raw capitalism and “protection of property rights” that I know is the 1,100 dead garment workers in Bangladesh.
Do all long term development programs work? No. But often the failure is due to local corruption, lack of existing expertise, or sometimes the withdrawal of funding due to acts of Congress, mostly by Republicans through cutting USAID funds. But many programs providing food, medical help, and clean water have worked as do many larger infrastructure efforts such as agriculture improvement projects. These have been proven by national and global statistics of health, income and other well being indicators, or at least survival of those threatened.
In sum, while the record does showcase some failures of aid projects, the overall global progress made over the decades has saved millions of lives and made hundreds of millions better off than would be the case without outside governmental and international organizations assistance. Examples of these organizations are the World Bank, UNICEF, UNDP, UNEP, and the many programs of developed countries like Britain, France, Germany, the Scandinavians, the U.S. and others.
Can we do better? You bet. We could start by making more resources available to these organizations and national aid agencies while providing competitive salaries for top professionals and carrying out sensible reform. This includes letting more of U.S. food aid be used to buy indigenous food products at lower prices than are possible with US sourced agricultural products and doing more to establish local institutional training and research to improve local productivity. Last but not least, we can do more to bring education and modern skills and technology to the lowest and most needy sectors.
But let’s remember that saying the “free market” and outside “capitalist” investment can raise the living standard of the world’s poorest is nothing but fallacious. Worse, it shows the continued indifference to real human need by the domestic right wing. Such right wingers are advocates of little or no government, imprudent self-defeating global irresponsibility, and selfishness beyond forgiveness.
Sadly this same attitude of indifference toward human suffering is also displayed by the Republicans in Congress towards our own needy, vulnerable young, old and sick. For proof one can simply see the votes and positions which are uniform against human decency and ruinous for both American well being and that of the world. It is no way to ensure global security or prosperity.
The aptly labeled “euro crisis” has led to a good deal of speculation about the future of the common currency, the European Union and, as if to put to rest any doubt that U.S. national security interests are also at play, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Debate on all of these issues is building on the back of great changes that have occurred all over the world since the end of the Cold War, most particularly the redistribution of economic, political and strategic might and influence. The very meaning and identity of “the west” can no longer be clearly defined, as serious differences between its various components threaten to undermine the solidarity forged over the decades, particularly since the end of World War II.
The euro crisis itself has clearly demonstrated substantial differences between the economies of the northern tier, led by Germany, and those of their Mediterranean partners, i.e., Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Portugal and, not far behind, France. Those differences and the solutions proposed or, more accurately, imposed by the austerity-mad forces of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have led to loose talk not only about the future of the Euro Zone but, as stated above and in more hushed tones, of the European Union itself. (The IMF’s Christine Lagarde is now reported as working to soften Merkel’s hard line.) The consequences of dissolution may well force face-saving remedies, but the crisis has exposed not only wide gaps in monetary theory but obvious political and cultural prejudices that will survive whatever technical solutions are hammered out.
A danger of quite a different kind exists in political developments in the British Isles, where Scots will decide next year whether to remain in the United Kingdom or go their own way, and where a new political party, the “Independents”, is gaining strength while pushing loudly for British departure from the EU. The Tory government of David Cameron is feeling the pressure. Add to that the recent ill-concealed animosity between the conservative Merkel forces and the French Government of socialist François Hollande, both wary of loss of support from their own domestic constituencies. (Merkel is up for re-election this coming September, and Hollande predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy seems to be rethinking his retirement as criticism at home and abroad of Hollande’s performance emerges on a daily basis.) If the UK goes its own way, the world will not end, but if France and Germany cannot work out their differences, the European experiment is dead. The betting here, based as much on hope as anything else, is that common sense will rule.
What does all this have to do with American national security? Everything! Whether or not there must occur some shift in focus, with the United States paying increasing attention to its interests in both the Near and Far East, the importance of Europe, Western Europe above all, will never diminish. Washington surely understands this simple truth and, we must assume, is acting on that understanding. This may well explain the recent announcement that President Obama will make an official visit to Berlin on June 18-19, which the German Deputy Spokesman has specified will take place at the invitation of Chancellor Merkel and will cover “a broad range of bilateral and global issues including the further deepening of the transatlantic relationship”. We can be sure that the dangers facing European and transatlantic unity will be high on the agenda.
“Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given.” This quote from an incisive article by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the British daily The Independent of May 12
says it all, no matter what hopeful optimism has been expressed above. Schulz’s views, under the headline “Europe needs to change, let the debate begin. For some the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ is in freefall,” must be repeated in full:
“For some, the idea is in freefall. Europe is living through rising eurosceptism, unacceptably high unemployment, especially among the young, and weak economic prospects. This is worrying, for the moment people withdraw their support from an idea, the idea is finished. The more populist protest parties may see the European elections this time next year as an opportunity to score electoral successes.
“As a convinced European I welcome the debate, but I recognise first that Europe needs to change course, something many in Brussels seem not to acknowledge. We are living beyond our means. Budgetary consolidation is essential, if only because we cannot bequeath a mountain of debt to our children.
“Second, some structural reforms – to the labour market and on retirement ages – are essential. But the austerity policies currently being implemented in Europe are lopsided. It is taking too long for the structural measures and the necessary budgetary consolidation to take effect and, at long last, increase competitiveness. In the meantime, some EU Member States are sliding ever deeper into a recession. Austerity, supposedly the cure, is threatening to undermine the European project.
“Third (and this is surely a cause to warm a British Eurosceptic’s heart), the EU must tackle the vexed question of tax. Every year in the EU, €1 trillion is lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance – an enormous loss to the Union. This sum could be used to pay off debt, to set up youth guarantee schemes and to invest further in growth initiatives. European heads of state and government have a duty to agree on effective counter-measures at the EU summit in ten days’ time.
“And yet, and yet. Just six months ago, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of my proudest moments. Indeed, many of Europe’s greatest successes are being taken for granted: Europe is the most prosperous continent on earth, Europeans can travel, work and live where they please. We enjoy a standard of living and a degree of protection of our fundamental rights which people in other parts of the world can only dream of.
“Perhaps paradoxically, a new European awareness is emerging from the crisis. Europeans are recognising how interdependent they are. One country’s failures can threaten the entire European economy, and can call into question the fruits of 60 years of integration. Peace, solidarity, and prosperity are not irreversible; only 27 countries, (28 when Croatia accedes to the EU on 1 July this year), working together can guarantee them. The peoples of Europe are taking a greater interest in what is happening on the other side of their countries’ borders. People want to know what the retirement age is in other countries, what the top tax rate is, why young people are demonstrating in the streets of European capitals.
“However, some governments still refuse to accept that they are already working in a European context. They prefer to cling to national sovereignty, to the familiar trappings of carefully orchestrated Brussels Summits at which they mount a last-ditch defence of their national interests and then present the outcome at home as a victory. In so doing, they disregard the fact that it is in their countries’ very best interests that Europe should function properly. This, surely, is little more than posturing.
“The European Parliament and the Council is currently discussing the EU’s long-term budget 2014-2020. It’s an important issue, but sadly it best illustrates the short-termist lack of commitment of some Member States to the wider European interest. It is clearly misguided of EU governments, including the UK government, not to shift investment towards research and development, education, training, foreign relations and development aid, areas where European added value are at their greatest.
“The EU is about much more than its budget (capped at a meagre one percent of EU GDP since its inception). The single market benefits the British economy hugely, and the EU remains by far the biggest destination for UK trade, accounting for almost 50 per cent of total exports The UK has played a leading role in forming many key EU policies (on the single market, overseas development, trade and climate change). UK leadership in these areas has been highly appreciated and would be sorely missed should the British decide to exit.
“The UK has also played a major role in shaping policy on Justice and Home Affairs. In little over a year from now, these policies, including most importantly the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border criminal justice and policing become fully-fledged EU policies, meaning that any Member State failing to apply them properly can be brought to court. Yet the UK is moving ever closer to opting out of scores of those measures – in essence re-erecting national borders in the fight against cross-border crime. The UK’s own House of Lords EU Committee has concluded damningly that “…the Government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.” Does the UK really want to puts its internal security at risk by exercising this opt-out?
“Next year’s European elections are of paramount of importance. For the first time there will be candidates from the European political parties for the post of European Commission President, this should engender a greater interest in Europe’s future. Those who say they want more democratic control can hardly complain at that.
“Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given. A thorough, factually-based conversation on the virtues of deepening European integration needs to take place, starting in the UK. Britain would be sorely missed should it decide to leave. The stakes are high, so let the decision be taken with full access to the facts, rather than to narrow, outdated thinking. Let the debate begin!”
W(h)ither the West? However one wants to take that question, of this there can be no debate: the matter is of crucial importance to U.S. national security.
As everyone knows the sequester has been a disaster for American growth, its modernization, and its built and social infrastructure. It has killed needed jobs. It has made the poor poorer, and it has made the middle class languish. Let’s be clear, this is the doing of the Republicans in Congress….not the Democrats and not the President. It can be repealed by a single sentence in a new law and a bit of common sense, decency, and patriotism by the Republicans and a very few conservative Democrats. It has especially impacted our scientific and technological base. Don’t hold you breath however. But remember it has huge implications for our national security and our ability to play a constructive role in world affairs.
A subset of this madness is some recent acts by House Republicans to attack, not “socialism” or “Obama,” but quality academic science and technology. Yes, sadly there are some of this group that are “flat earth” types, who think the world was formed 10,000 or so years ago, some even, according to polls, think the sun goes around the earth, and many more think that global change is not happening or like a recent failed presidential candidate that humans have had no role in the warming of the earth or build up of CO2 and that we should not do anything about it!
Let’s look at a couple of recent examples via actions in Congress by GOP members. The first is legislation being worked on by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the new chair of the House of Representatives Committee of Science. Its aim is to destroy the professional peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF). It would replace a system that has worked for decades and brought us superb research with new skewed funding criteria chosen politically by the right wingers in Congress. Further, it would also aim to establish a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by other federal science agencies. Their attack is especially aimed at social sciences including economics; a field they clearly know nothing about based on their pushing for policies that would draw us into a deep depression.
The second insanity is led by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who last month successfully (where were the Democrats?) attached language to the 2013 spending bill that prohibits NSF from funding any science research for the rest of the fiscal year unless its director certifies that it pertains to economic development or national security.
The proposed bill would force NSF to adopt three criteria in judging every grant. It would require the NSF director to post on NSF’s Web site, prior to any award, a declaration that certifies the research is:
1) “… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science”
2) “… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large”
3) “… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”
NSF’s existing guidelines ask peer reviewers to consider the “intellectual merit” of a proposed research project as well as its “broader impacts” on the scientific community and society.
As another pernicious act Smith’s bill requires NSF’s oversight body, the National Science Board, to monitor the director’s actions and issue a report in a year. It also asks Presidential Science Advisor Holdren’s office to tell Congress how the principles laid down in the legislation “may be implemented in other Federal science agencies.”
The top Democrat on the science committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), according to ScienceInsider, sent a strong message to Smith:
“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”
Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.
Into this fray President Obama made a speech to the National Academy of Science (link to speech) defending the integrity of the scientific method and noting the importance of ensuring its resources, its independence, and taking on those that would insert their partisan ideology into our intellectual research and methods.
When one thinks you have seen just about every crazy action one can imagine, the Republicans in Congress add to the foolishness and now aim to hurt our nation’s efforts to advance our knowledge, gain key insights, and encourage unbiased science and research. Our national security is based on our economic strength and on our advanced and growing Science & Technology research. Playing with it and aiming to thwart the non-political unbiased intellectual development of our society is dangerous and shortsighted.
The EU Summit was not a success if the main goal was to put in place a long-term and effective capacity to deal with the current economic and financial and political crisis. However, another Band-Aid did relieve the two most endangered states, namely Spain and Italy in helping them achieve hopefully lower interest rates on their debts. But it also came at the cost of continued austerity imposed by the creditor nations, particularly Germany.
We shall see further summits in the coming months and years as measures to prevent a tailspin down in economic activity following the austerity requirements.
The problem is it does not solve the problem of moving towards the necessary growth trajectory which is truly the only solution. More of the same austerity imposed on Spain and Italy will likely only lead to greater deflation and hardship on their citizens and for that matter impose harm on all of Europe, including Germany and possibly the US. That is hardly a solution one can see as benign.
There is a fig leaf of an investment fund, but as noted earlier, it is largely only old money and is insignificant to re-boost the economies of the sick partners.
In time the markets will likely acknowledge and punish this when the Euro Zone economics fall further and unemployment grows….as it must if the austerity requirement imposed already and new ones kick in fully. A recipe for disaster!
A lot of economists and some governments are still making the point that a new direction is needed. But as I have noted earlier it will be at a larger cost.
We welcome your comments!