EUROPE’S DISCONTENT AND CHALLENGES IN A HIGH RISK WORLD: AMERICA’S PROBLEM TOO!
Harry C. Blaney III
This post is about the perspective of the remaining 27 members of the EU and especially the nations of the main continent as they await the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, face difficult negotiations on Brexit, and face the reality of the serge of Fascists groups and parties with elections in France and Germany looming this year. At the same time try to deal with the immigration crisis and the danger of further erosion of unity and not least the threat of Putin’s Russia and its active measures to undermine the democracy and unity of members of NATO and the EU.
All this is compounded by the indifference and even threats of the Trump administration towards the key institutions that have comprised the source of the continent’s prosperity, unity and security. Th treat by both Donald Trump and the Secretary of State Tillerson that they have to pony up the 2% of GDP to “pay America” is outrageous given that the threat is accompanied with the further implicit threat of not defending countries that do not make that mark.
From the perspective of the EU nations and the EU public servants and NATO here in Brussels the unity of the West is in considerable disarray. They are threaten by and fearful of the U.S. under an unpredictable even malicious president and a myopic Republican Congress. Both of which ignore or want to cut funding for diplomacy and foreign assistance and international institutions. These acts inevitably lead to a more dangerous world and less security for America and other nations. They see such moves as forces that move the world towards more conflict, global poverty, and disastrous climate change. They also see the pending funding cut of programs that make the world a safer place for all nations as a common threat to global stability and security.
No wonder they are worried that we are driven by and act on the isolationist concept of “America First,” the same concept that Hitler used to gain his power in the phrase “Deutschland über alles.” They are concerned about the likes of the Alt-Right and racist Stephen Bannon and Trump in American politics. Some are worried by their proclaimed ideology of raw unfetter capitalism, with policies aimed at supporting of brutal and undemocratic governments and bullying of other nations for its own personal selfish interests.
Looking to their East Europe they see an aggressive and predatory Russia under Putin. Their concern is great about efforts of Putin to impact on elections in Europe. The most glaring is that of France.
Among the leading French candidates. Le Pen, of the National Front, conservative nominee Francois Fillon and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon have a positive view of Trump and want to bring Russia into normal relations and want lifting sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The three have also expressed some of support for Russia intervention against anti-regime rebels in Syria’s civil war. On the other hand Macron and Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has a more skeptical view of Putin. Two candidates back continued sanctions on Russia and have insisted that Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.
In February, the moderate center Macron aide accused Russian state media of a “smear campaign” against the 39-year-old defender of open borders and immigration, whom polls show ultimately beating Le Pen. Macron’s team also pointed a finger at Russia over a flurry of cyberattacks on his campaign website. The recent sight of a smiling Le Pen clasping hands with the Russian rankled France’s Socialist government. “It’s not up to Russia to decide who will be the next president of France,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday. The outcome of the election will determine the future of Europe.
The end result is a Europe feeling alone and no longer respecting American leadership that is no longer being what it has been since the end of WW II. It is seen now as a force that not only does not support doing good and seeking peace and democracy in the world but one that is prone to acting in ways that make our world worse. That is dangerous. Some of the issues and problems of the U.S. relationship with Europe need immediate attention and major rethinking and signs of strong support for a strong and united Europe.
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MORE DIVISIONS IN EUROPE AND US NOT HELPING BUT HURTING!
Harry C. Blaney III
In the days following the announcement on April 27th of the activation of clause 50 of the EU foundation law by Prime Minister Theresa May we have seen again as much mendacity as I observed earlier in the depressing debate London during the fateful referendum last June.
It is with great sadness is that these issues of what a exit from the EU will really mean and these impacts have been little discussed and addressed. This includes in Wednesday’s Commons debate and in Prime Minister May’s statements and her restricted letter to the EU where there was little recognition of these major internal and external dangers. There were and no concrete or specific ideas on how to minimize the wider destruction that this act will entail. It is not enough to say that “It is time to come together” or speak about “liberal democratic values,” while acting in ways that counteracts those values. I heard voices of narrow nationalism and myopic perspectives when Britain and the EU needs badly more enlightened leadership and courage.
Brexit is for Great Britain, for Europe and not least for America’s interest in an Europe where for we had a collective decades old goal that Europe be “whole, free at peace and secure in unity.” Now we are face with an enormous set of threats by common myopia on both sides of the Atlantic about our larger interests and indeed on our security.
On the side of disunity is Trump, Mrs. May, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and not least Putin. These together represent a threat to a peaceful and democratic Atlantic community. We need now a sense of common interests and goals. We are headed on a trajectory towards even greater disunity that weakens the fabric of collective security in the face of multiple attacks to institutions that came out of the post WW II. I am not sure that when we see Theresa May and Donald Trump both on the same side with glee at the sight of a weakened Europe including the EU and NATO that one can sleep easily.
What is happening day by day and I expect week by week, month by month the reality of how truly difficult will be the reality of the final break. Just the effort to pass legislation which will for the transition period put all the EU rules and legislation into the employees framework of a UK Parliament legislation is an almost impossible task. And on top of that Scotland’s government has requested a vote to exit Great Britain and wants an early vote before the final Brexit date, and Northern Ireland is quite upset over the danger of Brexit creating some barriers on the North Ireland-Republic of Ireland border. Also already some businesses have indicated that the exit will create major problems for their industries including staffing of a number in business sectors where EU nationals make up 20%-45% of their base employees.
On the EU side more and more the EU governments do not want Britain to have the same or better terms by leaving than they have as a full members.
In discussions here in Britain and especially among the people that want to get out of the EU there is no acknowledgment of the larger strategic risks. Their response is simply they want freedom to run their own country, and keep the “foreign” immigrants out and preserve their “way of life.”
The EU is still taking a somewhat hard line on the coming negotiations and want the terms of leading first to be addressed and then what the relationship would look like after that. Hard months ahead for both sides. But British leaders are still taking unrealistically too much of a better life after Brexit.
Finally, the downward trajectory towards even greater disunity weakens the fabric of collective security in the face of multiple attacks to institutions that came out of the post WW II that have kept the peace in Europe and beyond – institutions that hold “the center” together.”
In the meantime newspapers and other media here in London are reporting on the Trump-Russia collusion issues and the wonder at what former NSC head Lt. Gen. Flynn with say before congressional panels and indeed asking what Donald Trump is hiding.
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BREXIT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR WESTERN UNITY:
UNITED EUROPE AT A TIME OF HIGH RISK
Harry C. Blaney III, Dateline: London
The year 2017 will likely turn out as a watershed of European unity but filled with potential disruptions and divisions which may create a fundamental shift in European politics, economy and security. The risks are in large, part self created and could have been avoidable. But they were also due to extraordinary poor UK political management, myopia and narrow nationalism. These are perspectives that kill the fundamental idea of the EU and a cooperative sharing community – namely the key idea of one for all and all for one.
On Wednesday Britain takes formally the foolish step of evoking Article 50 of the EU Treaty for withdrawal from membership. A step it did not have to take but a step driven by the worst of motivations. It will result in many dangerous outcomes even beyond the economic one, or concern over immigration, that has been so much talked about among many actors in this debate on leaving the EU.
The argument is that now Britain can be free to seek more business on a global scale and all will profit from the EU exit! The phrase used here in London by the right-wing Tory “leavers” is “Global Britain.” This slogan has about as much meaning or truth as Trump’s “Make American Great Again.”
The racist and far right nationalists like the UK Independent Party and not least dishonestly by Tory Prime Minister Teresa May along with her flaky new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who helped lead the campaign for leaving. They all touted a great new prosperity and national freedom after they leave the EU.
Of course this was a nonsense. If one were to do a fundamental analysis Britain already was making “maximum” efforts to extend its business reach, and to think of markets out side the EU. That to think it could do better in net world trade with less market access than it has in the EU, was a myth perpetrated by the right-wing racist Tories and the UKIP. The judgement here was that outside the EU, Britain would have a better chance to make global profits than it is trying to do inside the EU. In fact, it would have to negotiate individually with each and every nation and without the advantage of the massive economic power of the EU market and already advantageous agreements they have with these nations.
On Tuesday, as part of a tour around the country to try to defend the exit, Prime Minister Theresa May said, in words without content: “historic opportunity to get out into the world,” as if Britain never tried to reach the rest of the world. Each day her statements have less and less content.
With the signature now on the Article 50 document by Mrs. May, the clock will start ticking towards leaving but there is no clue on what any “deal” on leaving will really look like. The only outcome will not be what Britain wants and there are to be no free lunch.
Newspapers here are reporting from EU members that their prime goal is to preserve European unity and not to give any incentive for others to leave and gain advantages equal to membership without any cost or commitment to common unity. EU leaders, German and French politicians have made it clear that a “free” access is not on offer. But also say that they do not seek a confrontation or will try to “punish” Britain. But the EU position, as much as we know, is not in the ballpark of what Mrs. May has so far set forth as her aim. Thus we may see very hard negotiations over the next two years with little hope Britain will come out totally whole given what has been promised by the “leave” campaign or Tory government.
The truth is that EU holds the cards not the UK in the coming negotiations. But this has not been explained to the British voters.
The more fundamental issue is the impact of this Brexit on the already fragility of Western European unity and security. We are seeing the growing growth of far right and Fascist parties with key elections in France and Germany and possibly other nations. Add to this the threat of Scotland holding a referendum on leaving again and their stance on staying in the EU. The Scottish assembly has just voted to have a referendum on independence but this must have the approval of PM Theresa May, which will not be given. But this act will only contribute to the sense of resentment by many Scots and reinforce their desire to remain in the EU.
Add the breakdown of the North Ireland Government coalition of “shared government.” that has just taken place which has been exacerbated by the Brexit with deep difficult implications for the North-South border and cooperation for both sides and for social peace.
The total cost of the Brexit is for Great Britain, for Europe and not least for America’s interest in a Europe that is “whole, free at peace and secure in unity” is enormous. It is under severe threat by the idiocy and myopia and frankly immorality of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. On the side of disunity and “deconstruction” is Trump, Mrs. May, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and not least Putin. These together represent a threat to a peaceful and decent world community and for a sense of common interests and goals.
More from Europe on the implications of this act shortly, and especially a look at the perspective of the 27 nations that will be left in the EU. Also an examination of the Putin-Trump cooperation issue and its implications.
We welcome your comments!
AMERICA MADE SMALL AND THE WORLD MORE DANGEROUS!
THE TRUMP AND BANNON WAR ON AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP.
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump’s recent budget is an attack on America’s vital role in ensuring global security, prosperity, and continued cooperation with the rest of the 94% of humanity. Trump’s budget is nasty, myopic and downright dangerous to America and the rest of the world.
It will make not “America Great” it will make America Small” isolated and weaker in every metric that matters. It would make the world more dangerous both for itself and for all. It would undermine world peace and create greater risks and insecurity for mankind.
Their budget which cuts at home and abroad programs that have proved their worth for decades are derided by Trump and his new clueless and far right OMB Director. They have chosen again and again at home and abroad to cut our most needed and vital programs that help humanity, advance shared prosperity, and protect security while further enriching the extremely rich and increasing inequality. They advance polices that promote narrow and dangerous war like programs and rhetoric along with new weapons systems that only enrich the military-industrial sector and it’ s executives, but do not really advance our security, or work for a more peaceful world, just the opposite.
On specific implications, these deep nearly 30% cuts eviscerate our diplomacy, foreign assistance, the United Nations and its vital bodies and programs that maintain international cohesion necessary for needed collaboration to solve our global challenges. Together they help safeguard our fragile and conflict ridden world. They safeguard vulnerable refugees, they feed the desperate poor and children who otherwise would have no hope for health or even life. They advance non-proliferation of dangerous nuclear weapon. And yes, their work is relevant and needed. It does good where most needed. The proposed immanent cuts will bring disastrous impact especially on the most vulnerable and even in my native Manhattan and beloved London, let alone to billions of others in less prosperous lands!
Through our State and USAID programs we save millions of lives and I have seen personally the good they do around the world. The lives of our most threatened populations and the poorest in the world would die without our full assistance bilaterally and through international organizations.
The Trump budget would totally cut funding, for the UNHCR, and greatly reduce payments to UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and World Food Organization programs that are the first line of protection for the millions of refugees and displaced persons fleeing from conflict, famine, and natural disasters. This would increase not decrease the growth of conflict and terrorism that Trump says he will conquer.
We can’t defeat ISIS or religious, ethnic or inter-communal conflict by just bombing and killing or denigrating a religion or ethnic groups. But we can through diplomacy and “soft power” including a show of concern and support for “the least among us.”
Trump’s policies and budget cuts call for just the opposite of what we need to win against our greatest threats and to protect our nation’s values. This trajectory must be stopped and immediately before it does total harm to the fabric of a responsive and cooperative international community and global security.
I am now in London and can attest to the dismay from our closest ally and even a sense of a deep alienation from Trump’s policies. The TV screens here are filled with the unhappy meeting of Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House which was seen here as not helping convince Europeans and specifically the British, that Trump cares for the unity of the West. This includes seeing the EU, and specifically NATO as vital interests, despite of some reassurances, as binding long-term unquestioned commitments especially in times of possible conflict. The sense is that many Western leaders can’t depend on Trump’s words or that of his officials, has given a deep chill and anxiety to our European partners. That sense has never existed in the decades I have been active as a diplomat and analyst with concentration on these issues.
Cruelty and indifference to human suffering or to authoritarian rule are not American values either at home or abroad. Yet these attributes appear from his actions as unquestionable values of Trump and his alter ego Stephen Bannon, and it appears most of the GOP in Congress. Even in my still early encounters here in London the view of Trump is one of fear and worried.
. More on this development in coming posts.
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TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE
Harry C. Blaney III
There is much one can learn from the most recent Trump speech on foreign policy. It is still scary and incredulous that there is no real “there there” with any of Trump’s foreign policy perspectives. This is especially true when he is off his text and speaks what is really in his mind at that moment and it leads him to express ideas that are his own unbalanced perceptions of reality and his worst prejudices. Yes they are often crazy and silly and not least dangerous.
The examples of going off tract and into the realm of “extreme” views is exemplified in much of this speech which was billed as a means to show a serious policy side in the foreign affairs sector. Between a few peremptory statements that were written by his so-called foreign affairs “experts” that in large part were often along the lines of our current policies, much of the speech’s content would make the world a less secure and more dangerous in a host to areas.
His statement that he would institute what he called “extreme interrogations” of Muslim immigrants and visitors to America. Once again, along with building a massive “wall” between the US and Mexico, and clear bigotry against Muslims and even deceased American Muslim war heroes, he sees only what the people at the NRA and the KKK see and this is perhaps more destructive to American democracy, its internal unity, and yes our security globally than almost any other external challenge we face abroad.
On the question of dealing with ISIS, Trump adopted much from President Barack Obama’s approach to fighting the so-called Islamic State. Trump’s outrageous perception of “solutions include in his words: “I say that you can defeat ISIS by taking their wealth. Take back the oil. Once you go over and take back that oil they have nothing. You bomb the hell out of them and then you encircle it, and then you go in. And you let Mobil go in, and you let our great oil companies go in.” Trump also said the United States should have left troops in Iraq to guard oil facilities while the U.S. took all the oil to pay for the war. All of this is clearly absurd, crude unthought through strategy, and also illegal under international law.
What he has not made clear is whether he would send massive troops into the Middle East conflicts?
One lie was his statement was when he said that he has been right about the Middle East from the start. This is not true, old video and audio clips shown on the
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” showed footage against his claim that “I have been an opponent of the Iraq War from the beginning,” as he said in his address at Youngstown State University in Ohio. But The “Morning Joe” video played a clip from Howard Stern’s radio show. At that time he asked Trump if he was for invading Iraq, and Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” The same is true when Trump also contradicted himself on the troop withdrawal or draw down in Iraq.
He said on August 15th: “I have been just as clear in saying what a catastrophic mistake Hillary Clinton and President Obama made with the reckless way in which they pulled out,” But the record shows he supported pulling out of Iraq in 2007, when he said “You know how they get out? They get out,” Trump told CNN that year. “Declare victory and leave.”
He also prevaricated on Libya. In his speech he said “Libya was stable and President Obama and Hillary Clinton should never have attempted to build a democracy in Libya,”
But he also he advocated for deposing Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In February 2011, Trump also said in a video filmed in his office that “Gaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people. Nobody knows how bad it is. We should go in. We should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.”
He has been all over the map on the Middle East and time and time again he has change his position but never admitted it that he was wrong. What this shows is his clear lack of analysis, willing to face hard facts on the ground, and unwilling to accept being wrong. That is dangerous for a president and for our nation’s effective leadership in the world.
Trump repeated his previous policy to continue the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and even fill it with new detainees. He hinted at including, possibly some U.S. citizens. This facility is one of the great weapons that terrorists point to of the evil of America and a recruiting tool for ISIS. Trump does not even acknowledge this and seems to think that water boarding, torture, and mass bombing including killing of civilians is the way to conduct an effective policy in the Middle East. Even worse he has hinted at using atomic weapons. The Obama administration is trying to close Guantanamo via sending current detainees abroad, which he did recently with 15 individuals, and more are planned. But the easy and right answer is to send them to American maximum security prisons and bring them under US laws.
His stands on climate change, NATO’s unity and that of EU, the Iran deal, trade, and dealing with Russia, and on many other issues are the among the most dangerous for a viable and peaceful world and US national security.
In sum, the time has come, given Trump’s own words over time and especially now, for a true deep serious analysis of what Trump might do to American respect and security and indeed just rationality in our vital foreign and national security area.
Some in the media have done this, but in the vast conservative Republican owned mainline media and right wing radio talking heads have done little to challenge Trump’s lies and clearly deranged and unnecessary aggressive statements that have frightened our allies and embolden our adversaries. It is a high risk world where idiocy is our greatest danger. Indeed, we need more debate and even more serious examination in the media of the full range of global challenges and of what our own corrosive politics has done to our global position. Time has come for more public questioning and more attention to the implications of Trump’s policies if we are to achieve a sane and safe world.
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SEE OUR 2016 ELECTION PAGES FOR DEBATE UP-DATES
OUR AGE OF DISCONTENT AND ITS PERILS
Harry C. Blaney III
As we face a coming November election which will be historic on so many different levels and which could bring not just to America great tribulations but also throughout the world. The simple fact is that our acknowledged discontent is mirrored also in many countries including democracies like our own.
This discontent has been exacerbated by the impact of the global “great recession” and the rise of religious conflicts which have destabilized much of the Middle East and beyond. But also by the growth a pernicious inequality and greed authored by authoritarian parties and governments and criminal corporations, banks, and super rich ideologues among the elite.
In America, it has been a deliberate trajectory sent in motion by much of the Republican Party and the mainline conservative media not least Fox news and “talking heads” hate radio shows spuing bigotry, lies, greed and far right-wing attacks on minorities, the poor, and good science. Not least, a key enabler was the Koch Brothers and others with the buying of State legislators, support for rigging of elections against minorities and other opposition voters, and backing candidates filled with hate and racism.
Trump which made a name as a Birther” an act of pure racism; a man who wants to build a wall with Mexico, keep Muslims out of America, and destroy our relations with our allies, and thinks Putin is just lovely. But he and the Republican Tea Party and its racists are also a threat to our some 250 years as a democratic republic.
Yet beyond America, we are seeing true threats to democracy, human rights, sense of a wider cooperative community and support for authoritarianism. This is accompanied also by particularism, narrow right wing nationalism of the neo-fascist Hitler type in Europe and beyond.
We will see soon a vote in Great Britain on the question of continued membership in the European Union. This crackbrained self-defeating idea is spurred by just the forces we have noted. The vote will take place on June 23rd and I plan to be in London to observe one of the truly great historic debates about the future of Europe which could lead to the ascendancy in Britain to the same kind of governance we could see in Donald Trump and those he would put in power.
Yes, we have a common problem. Britain has Boris Johnson, who may run for Prime Minister on the Tory ticket who makes Hitler comparisons that are outrageous and seems to hate the idea of a peaceful and united Europe (what is the other option?). And is also a bit crazy. We have Donald trump who makes racist, bigoted remarks, lies, and impugns our presidents birth place. He also seems to disparage a united Europe and NATO and admires the dictatorial and aggressive Vladimir Putin. And yes both have the same hair style!
The EU is an attempt, so far successful, to keep “Europe free and safe” The reality remains that the EU and the idea of a peaceful united Europe was and is a common dream of much of Europe and the UK; it remains the most significant result of Europe’s enlightened polices that brought prosperity to Europe, and held back aggression from the Soviet Union. That unity is as needed in today’s high risk world as it was in the 1940s and 50s.
Within the continent there are equally dangerous forces on the right that have already bred authoritarian governments in places like Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and in many places the rise of neo-Nazi and racist parties. More on this trend in another post.
In summary, Both Johnson and Trump are guided by an ignorant a-historical perspective and driven by misguided far right ideology along with dangerous personal ambitions that would put America, Britain, and Europe along a path of mutual destruction. National security requires many factors not least a sense of common decent goals, committed allies, and a moral center with wise leadership. These all are in danger on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. In many ways these trends may be as dangerous to national security than what we face from Russia or China.
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