THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN

THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN

By

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!

 

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: TERRORISM

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: TERRORISM

By

Harry C. Blaney III

This is another text on foreign and national security platform of the Democratic Party with commentary with this post we have covered all but one of the more major issues in the platform. Climate change and environment will be posted shortly.

TEXT OF 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM

Terrorism

We must defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliates, and prevent other groups from emerging in their place. Democrats will continue to lead a broad coalition of allies and partners to destroy ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We will press those in the region, especially the Gulf countries and local forces on the ground, to carry their weight in prosecuting this fight. We will dismantle the global network of terror, which supplies terrorists with money, arms, and fighters, and stop them from recruiting and inspiring potential radicals. We will improve our intelligence capabilities, with appropriate safeguards here at home, and ensure that the intelligence community and law enforcement is prepared to deal effectively with the threats we face. We will harden our defenses as well as those of our partners against external and homegrown threats. We will secure the homeland, investing more resources to improve mass transit, aviation, infrastructure, and port security. And we will remain a resilient nation, always coming together to stand up to terror.

Democrats will seek an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is more precise about our efforts to defeat ISIS and that does not involve large-scale combat deployment of American troops.

As we prosecute the fight against terrorism, Democrats will repudiate vile tactics that would do us harm. We reject Donald Trump’s vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative. It also alienates people and countries who are crucial to defeating terrorism; the vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance. We reject Donald Trump’s suggestion that our military should engage in war crimes, like torturing prisoners or murdering civilian family members of suspected terrorists. These tactics run counter to American principles, undermine our moral standing, cost innocent lives, and endanger Americans. We also firmly reject Donald Trump’s willingness to mire tens of thousands of our combat troops in another misguided ground war in the Middle East, which would only further embolden ISIS. There is nothing smart or strong about such an approach.

COMMENTARY:

Much of this text on terrorism followers the main elements of the policies and strategy of the present administration. As a general summary of the approach makes much sense and there has been much success in such areas as taking ground from ISIS and in denying money and other resources to ISIS. It has become writ that we expect the states of the region play a more prominent role in the defeat of ISIS.

This today is exemplified by the recent August 24th attack by Turkish forces including planes and tanks against ISIS terrorists along Turkey’s Syrian border in the area of the town of Jarablus. What is unsaid is to what degree this will impact our need to have the Kurdish forces that are key to defeating ISIS, taking on Assad, and also their role of actions against terrorists in Iraq. The press reports that American planes are supporting the Turkish advance but Turkish leaders have made clear they will attack Kurdish force if the advance into territory near Turkey. That makes for a very complex situation. The Jarablus town is only 95 kilometers from the key city of Aleppo. It is understood that Turkish backed Syrian rebels are working in cooperation with the Turkish forces.

Aleppo and success in Iraq may become a key indication of the success or failure of the joint American lead coalition strategy of destroying ISIS but it is also a very complex and difficult terrain both in military and political grounds. There are some six groups in Syria involved with different motives and alliances. Within the city are forces against Assad which are besieged by pro-Assad army forces, Hezbollah fighters, Iranian troops, and Iraqi Shia militia and even it is said Russian “contract soldiers.” The unknowns are first, the possible Russian response, second, the possibility of a clash between Kurd led forces and others allied with them largely supported by the US coalition, and Turkey’s own objective of destroying or limiting the Kurd power in the region near their border.

Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) are also in the fight and are made up of mainly but not solely of Kurd fighters. This mix of anti-Assad groups which have not always compatible goals makes for a high level of uncertainty of the outcome of the current fighting.

In the end, the test of the current American and allied strategy must be a Syria that is secure, a new government of all groups without Assad in control, and where terrorist do not hold large areas. At the moment the Kurdish and other Arab forces against Assad have taken the critical town of Manbij and want to advance further North and West including towards the Jarablus which could create a threat to both Turkey and Syrian rebels made up largely of Kurds if they engage each other and destroy the unity of the moment. Not least is the role North of Aleppo of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which plays a role in the defeat of ISIS and is backed by the anti-Assad coalition.

At this moment with the contending forces now fully engaged are creating an even more complex military and political situation with anti-Assad forces diminished yet still strong with Russian support. But a danger is some of these other anti-Assad forces might engaged with each other in a fight over territory and control of large areas and create still more instability. At this point American diplomacy will be key and the need for some kind of accommodation between forces is necessary to end the conflict and stabilize the region. The key today today is what will the region look like the day after ISIS is essentially defeated in both Syria and Iraq. It clearly will not stop all terrorism.

It is hard to argue with the platform idea of protecting our homeland and that of our allies against acts of terrorism. Here key specifics are missing.

Not least also in an anti-terrorist effort is the war in Iraq against ISIS which is also may be coming to some kind of unknown of conclusion but the goal of an Iraq that is untied between Sunni and Shia and Kurds and this will not happen just by defeating ISIS. This issue will be examined in another post.

The second part of the platform on terrorism reaffirms that this is not a war on Muslims, that Trump’s idea of making unlimited war is wrong, and that the idea of sending large numbers of American troops wold be counterproductive. On these stances I see no problem and are compatible with Obama’s perspective and strategy. But the presidential campaign needs to correct some of the false and dangerous assumptions and strategies by Trump that are dangerous to a true “win” over terrorism and for America’s leadership on this and other issues.

We welcome your comments!

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Europe

The following speech is an interesting  and major summary of US-European, and for that matter global strategy and goals, and is as good a summary of the challenges and the policies that both sides of the Atlantic face from the President himself. It is one of the best insights into Obama’s world view and the problems that America must face as well as Europe now and in the coming years. Harry Blaney III

START TEXT:

“Remarks by President Obama in Address to the People of Europe”

Hannove Messe Fairgrounds,  Hannover, Germany April 25. 2016

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Guten tag! It is wonderful to see all of you, and I want to begin by thanking Chancellor Merkel for being here. (Applause.) On behalf of the American people, I want to thank Angela for being a champion of our alliance. And on behalf of all of us, I want to thank you for your commitment to freedom, and equality, and human rights, which is a reflection of your inspiring life. I truly believe you’ve shown us the leadership of steady hands — how do you call it? The Merkel-Raute. (Laughter.) And over the last seven years, I have relied on your friendship and counsel, and your firm moral compass. So we very much appreciate your Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

To the members of the Bundestag, Prime Minister Weil, Mayor Schostock, distinguished guests, people of Germany. And I’m especially pleased to see the young people here — from Germany and across Europe. We also have some proud Americans here. (Laughter and applause.)

I have to admit that I have developed a special place in my heart for the German people. Back when I was a candidate for this office, you welcomed me with a small rally in Berlin, where I spoke of the change that’s possible when the world stands as one. As President, you’ve treated me and Michelle and our daughters to wonderful hospitality. You’ve offered me excellent beer — (laughter) — and weisswurst in Krun. You’ve now hosted our delegation here in Hannover.

My only regret is that I have never been to Germany for Oktoberfest. (Laughter.) So I will have to come back. And I suspect it’s more fun when you’re not President. (Laughter and applause.) So my timing will be good. (Applause.)

And as always, I bring the friendship of the American people. We consider the German people, and all of our European allies, to be among our closest friends in the world — because we share so much experience and so many of the same values. We believe that nations and peoples should live in security and peace. We believe in creating opportunity that lifts up not just the few but the many. And I’m proud to be the first American President to come to Europe and be able to say that, in the United States, health care is not a privilege, it is now a right for all. We share that as well. (Applause.)

Perhaps most importantly, we believe in the equality and inherent dignity of every human being. Today in America, people have the freedom to marry the person that they love. We believe in justice, that no child in the world should ever die from a mosquito bite; that no one should suffer from the ache of an empty stomach; that, together, we can save our planet and the world’s most vulnerable people from the worst effects of climate change. These are things that we share. It’s borne of common experience.

And this is what I want to talk to you about today — the future that we are building together — not separately, but together. And that starts right here in Europe.

And I want to begin with an observation that, given the challenges that we face in the world and the headlines we see every day, may seem improbable, but it’s true. We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history. That may surprise young people who are watching TV or looking at your phones and it seems like only bad news comes through every day. But consider that it’s been decades since the last war between major powers. More people live in democracies. We’re wealthier and healthier and better educated, with a global economy that has lifted up more than a billion people from extreme poverty, and created new middle classes from the Americas to Africa to Asia. Think about the health of the average person in the world — tens of millions of lives that we now save from disease and infant mortality, and people now living longer lives.

Around the world, we’re more tolerant — with more opportunity for women, and gays and lesbians, as we push back on bigotry and prejudice. And around the world, there’s a new generation of young people — like you — that are connected by technology, and driven by your idealism and your imagination, and you’re working together to start new ventures, and to hold governments more accountable, and advance human dignity.

If you had to choose a moment in time to be born, any time in human history, and you didn’t know ahead of time what nationality you were or what gender or what your economic status might be, you’d choose today — which isn’t to say that there is not still enormous suffering and enormous tragedy and so much work for us to do. It is to remember that the trajectory of our history over the last 50, 100 years has been remarkable. And we can’t take that for granted, and we should take confidence in our ability to be able to shape our own destiny.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can be complacent because today dangerous forces do threaten to pull the world backward, and our progress is not inevitable. These challenges threaten Europe and they threaten our transatlantic community. We’re not immune from the forces of change around the world. As they have elsewhere, barbaric terrorists have slaughtered innocent people in Paris and Brussels, and Istanbul and San Bernardino, California. And we see these tragedies in places central to our daily lives — an airport or café, a workplace or a theater — and it unsettles us. It makes us unsure in our day-to-day lives — fearful not just for ourselves but those that we love. Conflicts from South Sudan to Syria to Afghanistan have sent millions fleeing, seeking the relative safety of Europe’s shores, but that puts new strains on countries and local communities, and threatens to distort our politics.

Russian aggression has flagrantly violated the sovereignty and territory of an independent European nation, Ukraine, and that unnerves our allies in Eastern Europe, threatening our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. And it seems to threaten the progress that’s been made since the end of the Cold War.

Slow economic growth in Europe, especially in the south, has left millions unemployed, including a generation of young people without jobs and who may look to the future with diminishing hopes. And all these persistent challenges have led some to question whether European integration can long endure; whether you might be better off separating off, redrawing some of the barriers and the laws between nations that existed in the 20th century.

Across our countries, including in the United States, a lot of workers and families are still struggling to recover from the worst economic crisis in generations. And that trauma of millions who lost their jobs and their homes and their savings is still felt. And meanwhile, there are profound trends underway that have been going on for decades — globalization, automation that — in some cases, of depressed wages, and made workers in a weaker position to bargain for better working conditions. Wages have stagnated in many advanced countries while other costs have gone up. Inequality has increased. And for many people, it’s harder than ever just to hold on.

This is happening in Europe; we see some of these trends in the United States and across the advanced economies. And these concerns and anxieties are real. They are legitimate. They cannot be ignored, and they deserve solutions from those in power.

Unfortunately, in the vacuum, if we do not solve these problems, you start seeing those who would try to exploit these fears and frustrations and channel them in a destructive way. A creeping emergence of the kind of politics that the European project was founded to reject — an “us” versus “them” mentality that tries to blame our problems on the other, somebody who doesn’t look like us or doesn’t pray like us — whether it’s immigrants, or Muslims, or somebody who is deemed different than us.

And you see increasing intolerance in our politics. And loud voices get the most attention. This reminds me of the poem by the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, where the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

So this is a defining moment. And what happens on this continent has consequences for people around the globe. If a unified, peaceful, liberal, pluralistic, free-market Europe begins to doubt itself, begins to question the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, then we can’t expect the progress that is just now taking hold in many places around the world will continue. Instead, we will be empowering those who argue that democracy can’t work, that intolerance and tribalism and organizing ourselves along ethnic lines, and authoritarianism and restrictions on the press — that those are the things that the challenges of today demand.

So I’ve come here today, to the heart of Europe, to say that the United States, and the entire world, needs a strong and prosperous and democratic and united Europe. (Applause.)

Perhaps you need an outsider, somebody who is not European, to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved. The progress that I described was made possible in large measure by ideals that originated on this continent in a great Enlightenment and the founding of new republics. Of course, that progress didn’t travel a straight line. In the last century — twice in just 30 years — the forces of empire and intolerance and extreme nationalism consumed this continent. And cities like this one were largely reduced to rubble. Tens of millions of men and women and children were killed.

But from the ruins of the Second World War, our nations set out to remake the world — to build a new international order and the institutions to uphold it. A United Nations to prevent another world war and advance a more just and lasting peace. International financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to promote prosperity for all peoples. A Universal Declaration of Human Rights to advance the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” And here in Europe, giants like Chancellor Adenauer set out to bind old adversaries through commerce and through trade. As Adenauer said in those early days, “European unity was a dream of a few. It became a hope for [the] many. Today it is a necessity for all of us.” (Applause.)

And it wasn’t easy. Old animosities had to be overcome. National pride had to be joined with a commitment to a common good. Complex questions of sovereignty and burden-sharing had to be answered. Ant at every step, the impulse to pull back — for each country to go its own way — had to be resisted. More than once, skeptics predicted the demise of this great project.

But the vision of European unity soldiered on — and having defended Europe’s freedom in war, America stood with you every step of this journey. A Marshall Plan to rebuild; an airlift to save Berlin; a NATO alliance to defend our way of life. America’s commitment to Europe was captured by a young American President, John F. Kennedy, when he stood in a free West Berlin and declared that “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.”

With strength and resolve and the power of our ideals, and a belief in a unified Europe, we didn’t simply end the Cold War — freedom won. Germany was reunited. You welcomed new democracies into an even “ever closer union.” You may argue over whose football clubs are better, vote for different singers on Eurovision. (Laughter.) But your accomplishment — more than 500 million people speaking 24 languages in 28 countries, 19 with a common currency, in one European Union — remains one of the greatest political and economic achievements of modern times. (Applause.)

Yes, European unity can require frustrating compromise. It adds layers of government that can slow decision-making. I understand. I’ve been in meetings with the European Commission. And, as an American, we’re famously disdainful of government. We understand how easy it must be to vent at Brussels and complain. But remember that every member of your union is a democracy. That’s not an accident. Remember that no EU country has raised arms against another. That’s not an accident. Remember that NATO is as strong as it’s ever been.

Remember that our market economies — as Angela and I saw this morning — are the greatest generators of innovation and wealth and opportunity in history. Our freedom, our quality of life remains the envy of the world, so much so that parents are willing to walk across deserts, and cross the seas on makeshift rafts, and risk everything in the hope of giving their children the blessings that we — that you — enjoy — blessings that you cannot take for granted.

This continent, in the 20th century, was at constant war. People starved on this continent. Families were separated on this continent. And now people desperately want to come here precisely because of what you’ve created. You can’t take that for granted.

And today, more than ever, a strong, united Europe remains, as Adenauer said, a necessity for all of us. It’s a necessity for the United States, because Europe’s security and prosperity is inherently indivisible from our own. We can’t cut ourselves off from you. Our economies are integrated. Our cultures are integrated. Our peoples are integrated. You saw the response of the American people to Paris and Brussels — it’s because, in our imaginations, this is our cities.

A strong, united Europe is a necessity for the world because an integrated Europe remains vital to our international order. Europe helps to uphold the norms and rules that can maintain peace and promote prosperity around the world.

Consider what we’ve done in recent years: Pulling the global economy back from the brink of depression and putting the world on the path of recovery. A comprehensive deal that’s cut off every single one of Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb — part of our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons. In Paris, the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change. (Applause.) Stopping Ebola in West Africa and saving countless lives. Rallying the world around new sustainable development, including our goal to end extreme poverty. None of those things could have happened if I — if the United States did not have a partnership with a strong and united Europe. (Applause.) It wouldn’t have happened.

That’s what’s possible when Europe and America and the world stand as one. And that’s precisely what we’re going to need to face down the very real dangers that we face today. So let me just lay out the kind of cooperation that we’re going to need. We need a strong Europe to bear its share of the burden, working with us on behalf of our collective security. The United States has an extraordinary military, the best the world has ever known, but the nature of today’s threats means we can’t deal with these challenges by ourselves.

Right now, the most urgent threat to our nations is ISIL, and that’s why we’re united in our determination to destroy it. And all 28 NATO allies are contributing to our coalition — whether it’s striking ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, or supporting the air campaign, or training local forces in Iraq, or providing critical humanitarian aid. And we continue to make progress, pushing ISIL back from territory that it controlled.

And just as I’ve approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I’ve decided to increase U.S. support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria. A small number of American Special Operations Forces are already on the ground in Syria and their expertise has been critical as local forces have driven ISIL out of key areas. So given the success, I’ve approved the deployment of up 250 additional U.S. personnel in Syria, including Special Forces, to keep up this momentum. They’re not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces that continue to drive ISIL back.

So, make no mistake. These terrorists will learn the same lesson as others before them have, which is, your hatred is no match for our nations united in the defense of our way of life. And just as we remain relentless on the military front, we’re not going to give up on diplomacy to end the civil war in Syria, because the suffering of the Syrian people has to end, and that requires an effective political transition. (Applause.)

But this remains a difficult fight, and none of us can solve this problem by ourselves. Even as European countries make important contributions against ISIL, Europe, including NATO, can still do more. So I’ve spoken to Chancellor Merkel and I’ll be meeting later with the Presidents of France and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and of Italy. In Syria and Iraq, we need more nations contributing to the air campaign. We need more nations contributing trainers to help build up local forces in Iraq. We need more nations to contribute economic assistance to Iraq so it can stabilize liberated areas and break the cycle of violent extremism so that ISIL cannot come back.

These terrorists are doing everything in their power to strike our cities and kill our citizens, so we need to do everything in our power to stop them. And that includes closing gaps so terrorists can’t pull off attacks like those in Paris and Brussels.

Which brings me to one other point. Europeans, like Americans, cherish your privacy. And many are skeptical about governments collecting and sharing information, for good reason. That skepticism is healthy. Germans remember their history of government surveillance — so do Americans, by the way, particularly those who were fighting on behalf of civil rights.

So it’s part of our democracies to want to make sure our governments are accountable.

But I want to say this to young people who value their privacy and spend a lot of time on their phones: The threat of terrorism is real. In the United States, I’ve worked to reform our surveillance programs to ensure that they’re consistent with the rule of law and upholding our values, like privacy — and, by the way, we include the privacy of people outside of the United States. We care about Europeans’ privacy, not just Americans’ privacy.

But I also, in working on these issues, have come to recognize security and privacy don’t have to be a contradiction. We can protect both. And we have to. If we truly value our liberty, then we have to take the steps that are necessary to share information and intelligence within Europe, as well as between the United States and Europe, to stop terrorists from traveling and crossing borders and killing innocent people.

And as today’s diffuse threats evolve, our alliance has to evolve. So we’re going to have a NATO summit this summer in Warsaw, and I will insist that all of us need to meet our responsibilities, united, together. That means standing with the people of Afghanistan as they build their security forces and push back against violent extremism. It means more ships in the Aegean to shut down criminal networks who are profiting by smuggling desperate families and children.

And that said, NATO’s central mission is, and always will be, our solemn duty — our Article 5 commitment to our common defense. That’s why we’ll continue to bolster the defense of our frontline allies in Poland and Romania and the Baltic states.

So we have to both make sure that NATO carries out its traditional mission, but also to meet the threats of NATO’s southern flank. That’s why we need to stay nimble, and make sure our forces are interoperable, and invest in new capabilities like cyber defense and missile defense. And that’s why every NATO member should be contributing its full share — 2 percent of GDP — towards our common security, something that doesn’t always happen. And I’ll be honest, sometimes Europe has been complacent about its own defense.

Just as we stand firm in our own defense, we have to uphold our most basic principles of our international order, and that’s a principle that nations like Ukraine have the right to choose their own destiny. Remember that it was Ukrainians on the Maidan, many of them your age, reaching out for a future with Europe that prompted Russia to send in its military. After all that Europe endured in the 20th century, we must not allow borders to be redrawn by brute force in the 21st century. So we should keep helping Ukraine with its reforms to improve its economy and consolidate its democracy and modernize its forces to protect its independence.

And I want good relations with Russia, and have invested a lot in good relations with Russia. But we need to keep sanctions on Russia in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements that Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande and others have worked so hard to maintain, and provide a path for a political resolution of this issue. And ultimately, it is my fervent hope that Russia recognizes that true greatness comes not from bullying neighbors, but by working with the world, which is the only way to deliver lasting economic growth and progress to the Russian people.

Now, our collective security rests on a foundation of prosperity, so that brings me to my second point. The world needs a prosperous and growing Europe — not just a strong Europe, but a prosperous and growing Europe that generates good jobs and wages for its people.

As I mentioned before, the economic anxieties many feel today on both sides of the Atlantic are real. The disruptive changes brought about by the global economy, unfortunately, sometimes are hitting certain groups, especially working-class communities, more heavily. And if neither the burdens, nor the benefits of our global economy are being fairy distributed, it’s no wonder that people rise up and reject globalization. If there are too few winners and too many losers as the global economy integrates, people are going to push back.

So all of us in positions of power have a responsibility as leaders of government and business and civil society to help people realize the promise of economic and security in this integrated economy. And the good news is, we know how to do it. Sometimes we just lack the political will to do it.

In the United States, our economy is growing again, but the United States can’t be the sole engine of global growth. And countries should not have to choose between responding to crises and investing in their people. So we need to pursue reforms to position us for long-term prosperity, and support demand and invest in the future. All of our countries, for example, could be investing more in infrastructure. All of our countries need to invest in science and research and development that sparks new innovation and new industries. All of our countries have to invest in our young people, and make sure that they have the skills and the training and the education they need to adapt to this rapidly changing world. All of our countries need to worry about inequality, and make sure that workers are getting a fair share of the incredible productivity that technology and global supply chains are producing.

But if you’re really concerned about inequality, if you’re really concerned about the plight of workers, if you’re a progressive, it’s my firm belief that you can’t turn inward. That’s not the right answer. We have to keep increasing the trade and investment that supports jobs, as we’re working to do between the United States and the EU. We need to keep implementing reforms to our banking and financial systems so that the excesses and abuses that triggered the financial crisis never happen again.

But we can’t do that individually, nation by nation, because finance now is transnational. It moves around too fast. If we’re not coordinating between Europe and the United States and Asia, then it won’t work.

As the world has been reminded in recent weeks, we need to close loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of taxes through tax havens and tax avoidance, trillions of dollars that could be going towards pressing needs like education and health care and infrastructure. But to do that, we have to work together.

Here in Europe, as you work to strengthen your union — including through labor and banking reforms, and by ensuring growth across the Eurozone — you will have the staunch support of the United States. But you’re going to have to do it together, because your economies are too integrated to try to solve these problems on your own. And I want to repeat: We have to confront the injustice of widening economic inequality. But that is going to require collective work, because capital is mobile, and if only a few countries are worrying about it, then a lot of businesses will head toward places that don’t care about it quite as much.

For a lot of years, it was thought that countries had to choose between economic growth and economic inclusion. Now we know the truth — when wealth is increasingly concentrated among the few at the top, it’s not only a moral challenge to us but it actually drags down a country’s growth potential. We need growth that is broad and lifts everybody up. We need tax policies that do right by working families.

And those like me who support European unity and free trade also have a profound responsibility to champion strong protections for workers — a living wage and the right to organize, and a strong safety net, and a commitment to protect consumers and the environment upon which we all depend. If we really want to reduce inequality, we’ve got to make sure everyone who works hard gets a fair shot — and that’s especially true for young people like you — with education, and job training, and quality health care and good wages. And that includes, by the way, making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work for women. (Applause.)

The point is, we have to reform many of our economies. But the answer to reform is not to start cutting ourselves off from each other. Rather, it’s to work together. And this brings me back to where I began. The world depends upon a democratic Europe that upholds the principles of pluralism and diversity and freedom that are our common creed. As free peoples, we cannot allow the forces that I’ve described — fears about security or economic anxieties — to undermine our commitment to the universal values that are the source of our strength.

Democracy, I understand, can be messy. It can be slow. It can be frustrating. I know that. I have to deal with a Congress. (Laughter.) We have to constantly work to make sure government is not a collection of distant, detached institutions, but is connected and responsive to the everyday concerns of our people. There’s no doubt that how a united Europe works together can be improved. But look around the world — at authoritarian governments and theocracies that rule by fear and oppression — there is no doubt that democracy is still the most just and effective form of government ever created. (Applause.)

And when I talk about democracy, I don’t just mean elections, because there are a number of countries where people get 70, 80 percent of the vote, but they control all the media and the judiciary. And civil society organizations and NGOs can’t organize, and have to be registered, and are intimidated. I mean real democracy, the sort that we see here in Europe and in the United States. So we have to be vigilant in defense of these pillars of democracy — not just elections, but rule of law, as well as fair elections, a free press, vibrant civil societies where citizens can work for change.

And we should be suspicious of those who claim to have the interests of Europe at heart and yet don’t practice the very values that are essential to Europe, that have made freedom in Europe so real.

So, yes, these are unsettling times. And when the future is uncertain, there seems to be an instinct in our human nature to withdraw to the perceived comfort and security of our own tribe, our own sect, our own nationality, people who look like us, sound like us. But in today’s world, more than any time in human history, that is a false comfort. It pits people against one another because of what they look or how they pray or who they love. And yet, we know where that kind of twisted thinking can lead. It can lead to oppression. It can lead to segregation and internment camps. And to the Shoah and Srebrenica.

In the United States, we’ve long wrestled with questions of race and integration, and we do to this day. And we still have a lot of work to do. But our progress allows somebody like me to now stand here as President of the United States. That’s because we committed ourselves to a larger ideal, one based on a creed — not a race, not a nationality — a set of principles; truths that we held to be self-evident that all men were created equal. And now, as Europe confronts questions of immigration and religion and assimilation, I want you to remember that our countries are stronger, they are more secure and more successful when we welcome and integrate people of all backgrounds and faith, and make them feel as one. And that includes our fellow citizens who are Muslim. (Applause.)

Look, the sudden arrival of so many people from beyond our borders, especially when their cultures are very different, that can be daunting. We have immigration issues in the United States as well, along our southern border of the United States and from people arriving from all around the world who get a visa and decide they want to stay. And I know the politics of immigration and refugees is hard. It’s hard everywhere, in every country. And just as a handful of neighborhoods shouldn’t bear all the burden of refugee resettlement, neither should any one nation. All of us have to step up, all of us have to share this responsibility. That includes the United States.

But even as we take steps that are required to ensure our security; even as we help Turkey and Greece cope with this influx in a way that is safe and humane; even as Chancellor Merkel and other European leaders work for an orderly immigration and resettlement process, rather than a disorderly one; even as we all need to collectively do more to invest in the sustainable development and governance in those nations from which people are fleeing so that they can succeed and prosper in their own countries, and so that we can reduce the conflicts that cause so much of the refugee crisis around the world — Chancellor Merkel and others have eloquently reminded us that we cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings who are here now, and need our help now. (Applause.) We have to uphold our values, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

In Germany, more than anywhere else, we learned that what the world needs is not more walls. We can’t define ourselves by the barriers we build to keep people out or to keep people in. At every crossroads in our history, we’ve moved forward when we acted on those timeless ideals that tells us to be open to one another, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

And I think of so many Germans and people across Europe who have welcomed migrants into their homes, because, as one woman in Berlin said, “we needed to do something.” Just that human impulse to help. And I think of the refugee who said, “I want to teach my kids the value of working.” That human impulse to see the next generation have hope. All of us can be guided by the empathy and compassion of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who said “refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and [they] need to be treated as such.”

And I know it may seem easy for me to say all this, living on the other side of the ocean. And I know that some will call it blind hope when I say that I am confident that the forces that bind Europe together are ultimately much stronger than those trying to pull you apart. But hope is not blind when it is rooted in the memory of all that you’ve already overcome — your parents, your grandparents.

So I say to you, the people of Europe, don’t forget who you are. You are the heirs to a struggle for freedom. You’re the Germans, the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Luxembourgers, the Italians — and yes, the British — (applause) — who rose above old divisions and put Europe on the path to union. (Applause.)

You’re the Poles of Solidarity and the Czechs and Slovaks who waged a Velvet Revolution. You’re the Latvians, and Lithuanians and Estonians who linked hands in a great human chain of freedom. You’re the Hungarians and Austrians who cut through borders of barbed wire. And you’re the Berliners who, on that November night, finally tore down that wall. You’re the people of Madrid and London who faced down bombings and refused to give in to fear.

And you are the Parisians who, later this year, plan to reopen the Bataclan. You’re the people of Brussels, in a square of flowers and flags, including one Belgian who offered a message — we need “more.” More understanding. More dialogue. More humanity.

That’s who you are. United, together. You are Europe — “United in diversity.” Guided by the ideals that have lit the world, and stronger when you stand as one. (Applause.)

As you go forward, you can be confident that your greatest ally and friend, the United States of America, stands with you, shoulder-to-shoulder, now and forever. Because a united Europe — once the dream of a few — remains the hope of the many and a necessity for us all.

Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

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

 

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

BY
Harry C. Blaney III

FORWARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISRAELI- PALESTINIAN CONFLICT

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

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

RUSSIA: A DISASTER IN WAITING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments are welcomed.

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

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

By

Harry C. Blaney III

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

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

THE ISSUE OF GLOBAL LEADERS AND OUR SECURITY: FINDING COOPERATION

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

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

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

THE EUROPEAN CHALLENGE

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

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

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

FRANCE TO THE FORE?

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

THE BRITISH RETREAT?

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

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

DEPLORING WORLD’S WOES!

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

AMERICA’S ROLE IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND RECONCILIATION

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

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

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

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

AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND THE GLOBAL ORDER

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

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

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

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

We welcome you comments!

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S OVAL OFFICE TALK, THE SYRIAN CONFLICT, AND DOMESTIC POLITICS

 

obama
Photo: CNN


By

Harry C. Blaney III

The president was hardly out of the Oval Office before the Republican candidates and the largely Republican owned main line media were attacking him for being “weak” and saying comments such as “nothing new.”  None of these pronouncements had a single realistic and intelligent word that was creditable for an alternative strategy that Obama has not already put in place or has announced.

The only implication of these statements and criticism is that many Republicans and neo-cons really want American combat troops on the ground without directly saying it,  so that they can be killed, captured, or tortured and beheaded by the ISIS. These same right-wing pundits, editorial writers, and TV networks and radio talk shows, to say nothing re the GOP presidential candidates would then be asking for Obama’s own head!

For example, Republicans are auguring that the air war might have a larger international ground component which would include American combat troops. On Wednesday December 9th at a House Armed Services Committee hearing with DOD Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Chairman Senator John MaCain demanded more aggressive strategy against ISIS implying the present strategy was not working, too weak and that his approach would work. But clearly that strategy would require considerably more American troops on the ground and higher casualties.   Further,Trump and his GOP colleagues want un-fettled bombing without consideration of innocent civilian causalities.

In a recent appearance on CNN with Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for the creation of a 100,000-strong “regional army to go into Syria” to fight the Islamic State, claiming that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were already on board with the plan.  We are already urging  greater military support from these states and the reality is that Saudi Arabia has taken their planes out of the Syria theater and into the Yemen battleground. No official Saudi troops are fighting in Syria now.

There is much talk and little action and statements of Arab states helping, but as one presidential candidate put it “regional countries must bear part of the burden” in the Syrian fight. But they still assume the US and Western allies will do the real major fighting. Senator Graham — who is running for president on the Republican ticket — also called for more than doubling the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 3,500 to 10,000.

What is a good smart man to do? My answer is to continue a careful, cautious, and effective long-term multiple tools strategy to “degrade and destroy ISIS.” That is what Obama and his team are doing and despite all the right-wing rhetoric it is in fact working bit by bit with some setbacks  in a murky and difficult complex landscape. This strategy includes using the tools of diplomacy, not least the effort to bring other actors to the forefront for the solution of getting rid of ISIS, as an Islamic State with land  able to expand is a serious threat to the US and its allies.

Let’s look at a bit of the real facts and the trend line of the strategy:

First, the president said this would be a multi-year effort even one of a decade given the spread of ISIS to other lands other than Syria or Iraq. But my view is that already in place and what is planned is not just a likely effective and careful strategy to degrade ISIS, but to eviscerate its ability to hold significant territory and larger populations. But this will not happen overnight. There are too many forces with conflicting goals.

Second, Obama and our allies have now been reinforced by fighters from France, and Britain has agreed to hit Syrian targets. Further, Germany will help to supply logistics and intelligence resources. The anti-ISIS coalition has launched over 8,000 air strikes against the Islamic State over the past 16 months in Iraq and Syria. These attacks have killed some 20,000 fighters, according to U.S. estimates. New supplies and weapons are being put on the ground.

The administration also recently proposed to utilize U.S. Joint Special Operations Command to launch targeted raids against Islamic State leadership across Iraq and Syria, copying the way U.S. commandos previously hit the ranks of al Qaeda in Iraq and Taliban leadership in the past. The military is working on added programs to hit the heart of ISIS. Already, according to Secretary Carter on Wednesday, ISIS oil sales are down due to the bombing and the start of closing the Turkish border and other actions have been taken to stop funds and fighters from getting into Syria.  Assistance to key anti-ISIS and yes anti-Assad fighting forces, with mixed objectives, is starting to put real local pressure on ISIS. Russia is a problem that needs and is getting diplomatic attention.

Third, and most important, America and some allies are working the key tract of a short and long-term strategy for defeat of ISIS in its home ground and create the framework for a future stable and peaceful society. The key hard challenge will then be to put together a coalition of the existing diverse players to create the conditions for peace and some measure of fair and broad based governance in the region.

I do believe that soon some kind of humanitarian zone is needed and practical if an effective international peacekeeping force is also included along with the enforcement of a “no-fly zone.” Syrian displaced citizens which must form the heart of a future nation need to stay in their own country and be part of a future government and help with nation building. Already the current millions of refugees have denuded the nation of among its best talent which is needed more than ever. That meas resources to support these people who have lost so much.

Finally, what we do not need is more calls for American ground troops in the fight, we do not need those that create, at home, a divisive and anti-Muslim bigoted rant of the nature of Trump and many of his fellow GOP candidates which play into the hands of ISIS. Obama’s caution is wise as he noted that most Muslims are our fellow citizens, and we should be mindful of our words and actions given our past experience of unneeded recklessness calls for war and hate towards others.

Nothing in this world of conflict is certain but stupidity and lack of counting the costs and risks is true disaster and complicates solving the problems of the Middle East.  The time has come for the U.S. to apply wisdom, smart power, and due forethought and act with others while looking at what needs to be done when the fighting abates.  Sadly the right-wing Republicans have no answer to these questions and only seem to want endless costly war and not, it seems, peace. If America is to continue to be the key accepted wise world leader and to win in a conflict filled globe we need to avoid fascism, racism, and hate to be our call letters.

Please click on the title of this post where we welcome your comments! 

MIDDLE EAST AFLAME: WHAT CAN BE DONE? PART III

U.S. President Barack Obama waves alongside delegation leaders following the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit, May 14, 2015, at Camp David, Md. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

By
Harry C. Blaney III

We have tried in our earlier posts in this series to look hard at some of the challenges of the many elements that have created the Middle East. We have also suggested some paths for American long-term policy and strategy that might, just might, mitigate some of the worse disasters that seem to be the fate of this region absent some major interventions inside and from without that can change the trajectory of that chaotic and conflict ridden region. My assumption is that continuation of this trend would be a threat to world order and peace while setting a precedent for the further spread of disorder and conflict. America’s fundamental interest is in a secure, prosperous and peaceful world system.

As many experts in the region have pointed out, the fundamental mutual distrust and history of outbursts of brutal conflict over decades has brought alienation, deep sectarian hatred and insensitivity to human life.  This has undermined not least the building of cohesive moderate nation states. It has created a lack of a simple sense of community within Iraq, for example, and in other states that no American army can alone repair with force of arms.

What we have seen in recent days is very complex conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. These are manifestations of exactly the kind of murky, always shifting, and not least, intransigence and extremism of the worst of Middle Eastern ethnic and religious elements. If anything our actions under Bush II only created or exacerbated these conditions by the chaos we caused and bad decisions for dealing with terrorism and inter-ethnic warfare.

SYRIA

In Syria we are rightly against both main fighting groups – the brutal Assad regime on the one side, and the even more brutal, if that is possible, ISIS or Islamic State on the other. If we take the side of the Assad regime we are supporting a mass killer of his citizens while ISIS has killed even more indiscriminately and in the most horrendous ways. President Obama’s reluctance to commit massive ground forces to this cauldron is quite understandable.

There are no good or even palatable options here as both sides are beyond the pale. The “bad” guys outnumber the “good” guys here. The need here is of for some kind of diplomatic and political arrangement that gets rid of both antagonists while also finding a space for a government of unity and conciliation. This will provide security and stability for all groups and a measure of stability in the country.  No one so far has the right formula for putting back together the broken nation. The only strategy that makes sense is a long-term goal of getting rid of both malevolent entitles but having in place some substitute.

IRAQ

In Iraq, where the Sunni and Shia divide has cost hundreds of thousands of deaths, there is a weak, largely Shia government influenced by Iran. The Iraqi army consists of mostly Shia soldiers who too often disrespect the Sunni and don’t seem to believe enough in their own government to fight for the government.  We have a skeptical alienated minority Sunni population which includes Sunni tribes that have some well armed tribal militia with mixed loyalties towards either Baghdad or ISIS. These Sunni tribes are however confronting a largely Sunni-ISIS brutal insurgency that kills non-conforming Sunni in large numbers.

Again is there a better path with a chance to change this trajectory?

Under President Obama we correctly have tried to bring both sides together and we are now committing added arms including shoulder held missiles. In addition, we have some 3,000 “advisors” in country maintaining still the wise rule for our main troops to not be in direct combat. Taking sides with either group would be a disaster for any effort to bring both sides to some kind of accommodation not just in Iraq, but in the entire region.

That means we need a wider regional set of solutions and actions.

What we are finding in the Middle East is a series of authoritarian, theocratic, military dominated, sectarian and divisive governments. The governments are filled with corruption and ruling by either extreme religious ideology, simply power mad leaders or groups that are the enemies of modernity and democracy. That does not give a lot of room for moderation and compromise.

Yet there are glimmers of hope in this barren desert of intolerance. Not least is the need for recognition of the brutal fact of “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”  We need profound recognition by the leaders in the region of the reality and danger of imminent end of nations with so much dissent and discontent externally and internally. What both rulers and citizens need, want and should seek is stability, economic security, and space to run their own lives and see prospects for their children. This can’t be done in the landscape of the Middle East today.

We are, as we noted, also at a point when there are a multitude of voices that criticize the present American approach to the Middle East. Some are proposing simply to send in more troops without directly saying that, and some even are proposing war against Iran for example. Further, some favor giving the Sunni states a kind of NATO alliance status, others to take the side of Assad in Syria, and still others like Rand Paul who would have us withdraw almost entirely from the region.

Richard Haas of the Council on Foreign Relations would have us go back to the early “Biden option.” This would mean accepting the breakup of Iraq between the three major factions and helping each directly fight ISIS, supplying arms and training. But that means accepting at the end of the day that the country would be redrawn as loose federation along ethnic lines or totally broken up. Nice if it would work, but it just might create a new three way war within Iraq without some external peace keeping force to prevent mass ethnic killings.

I will not here go into all the possible blowback that any of these opposition “proposals” would have on the region and on our interests, but suffice to say they might not have the results that their proponents assume or want. I above all doubt that any single of these “solutions” would themselves totally stop the advance of the ISIS forces or terrorism in general.

What few of these voices will tell you is exactly how to get there without great costs, or the possible secondary and tertiary consequences of such ideas for peace, and if and how any of these alternative ideas would stop the killing.

So what can be done? What path just might have a chance, if only a chance, of making it better rather than worse?

Obama, has rightly said that these issues will take a long time to reach some kind of solution, indeed likely decades in many expert’s views, if at all. But my view remains that America, with its key allies, are just about the only power that might, just might, be able to mitigate some of these conflicts. There must be some recognition within the region’s nations and their leaders that these upheavals must be dealt with by conciliation, compromise and diplomacy. Hopefully that creates some peace and mutual security with accommodation to the vital interest of all responsible sides.

This is what I believe President Obama has started to do with his GCC Camp David meeting summit. This is also what Secretary of State John Kerry is also working on in his meeting of regional leaders and with outside powers, even including Russia, in order to help reshape the Middle East’s chaos and trajectory of endless killing.

Thus, the reality is the Sunni and the Shia divide can’t be bridged by more U.S. troops in the region. Nor can American military bring Iran or Saudi Arabia together.  Long-term diplomacy by those nations within and outside the region might help if a fair firm framework of security and dialogue were created and major “sticks” and “carrots” (in effect rewards) were on the table for all sides.

The question is, does the West, writ large with our Asian allies, have the wisdom, patience, resources, and political will to undertake such a difficult, perhaps thankless, task of putting back together a more peaceful Middle East “Humpty Dumpty?” It is a still an unanswered question. But only the United States has the capacity to lead such an effort.

Yes it is a huge task especially in a fractured and less capable “West” with so many challenges. Yet in some ways a joint effort might just energize these nations and have a wider benefit. The dialogue this week of the G- 7 is likely to have put on the table some glimmers of what our strategy towards the Middle East should be.

Building trust and taking on the enemies of peace and cooperation can only be done by putting on that table an offer that can’t be refused – and clearly showing the way towards a better landscape for all. That must include all the major players, such as Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel. And it is a task for a decade. 

AN ACTION PLAN FOR MIDDLE EAST RECONCILIATION AND PEACE BUILDING 

The start of this effort should include the following broad set of policies and actions:

ISIS AND THE SUNNI-SHIA DIVIDE 

The first goal is to deal with ISIS and attacking its fundamental strengths and exploiting weaknesses. That means getting both Sunni and Shia factions and key nations to assess their venerability and address their own weakness. Together with Western help, they must undertake a full court press on ISIS’s own vulnerabilities and jointly undermine their military and financial capacities.

But this will only work, as I have outlined in earlier posts, if there is a diplomatic initiative that can at last bring together a measure of common interests and cooperation between the Sunni and Shia factions. This would be based on a common threat and realization that the present “war” between the two needs to be halted for the common good. Strong incentives are likely required to gain their cooperation.

This means getting rid of the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb and the Saudis and Gulf States playing a constructive role in the region. These states and developed nations need to provide financial help and investment to develop the region and put youth back to work. It also means the key “linchpin” states Egypt, Turkey, and their allies join the effort. A tall requirement. Addressing the nuclear issue of the region has to be on the table as the spread on nuclear weapons in the region can only bring catastrophe.

No matter what the GOP hotheads and neo-cons say, we are already starting to do this but under destructive resource constraints because of the Republican distaste for Obama success in any undertaking and their hate of the concept of “nation building.” Yet America and allied countries must put on the table a kind of “Marshall Plan” for the region and create an appropriate security framework that gives to all sides assurances of long-term security and stability short of a NATO type alliance.

As part of this we need other states and actors who are accepted by all sides to fully cooperate in this effort. This includes effective emergency resource interventions on the ground and civilian economic assistance on a more massive scale. 

When, for example, ISIS distributes food to the Sunni population (yet chops off their heads), and when the Iraq government does nothing to help the same population, that is a condition for defeat.  There is then a requirement  for a reformulation of policies that permit an international group to provide, if needed outside the control of a weak Iraq government, food and necessities of life to threatened Kurds, Sunni, and Shia in crisis areas or retaken territory. Also putting people to work to rebuild communities immediately would strengthen their loyalty and commitment to peace and moderate, uncorrupted government. We need a reason for people to fight for their society.

The time has also come to think about the insertion, in selected areas, of an armed broad international peacekeeping force that will enter threatened but defended communities and retaken areas to provide to the local population of any ethnic group a measure of security and protection.  It has worked elsewhere. They would help to create local entities that can long- term provide basic services and requirements for a vulnerable population. Early resettlement of refugees and displaced population should be a high priority to stabilize regions that were battlefields.

One option that needs to be examined is creating “neutral” armed and robust, incorruptible peacekeeping/peacemaking forces from within the region and without, under command of a respected neutral commander. This might be done through the UN or even NATO or another ad hoc body under a new international framework. This needs to be examined now.

IRAN

Getting a strong nuclear deal is a sine qua non for a peace framework in the Middle East. Keeping the security of the sea lanes is another item that the West can insure.  Also getting, as we have noted, Iran to think beyond endless aggression against fellow Islamic states and not least seeing a “win-win” solution being in their best interests. A more responsible Iran will be difficult but over time probably not impossible if we provide the necessary incentives.

ISRAEL- PALESTINIAN PROBLEM 

Not least as part of this framework to bring peace to the region is a new approach to the Israel-Palestinian problem. The new realities call for drastic action. A far right-wing brutal Netanyahu government, with many in this new regime calling for the destruction of the Palestinian people’s hope for a state is not the answer. Given the marginalization of them as a people by the Israeli regime, combined with a weak divided and angry Palestinian leadership, it seems to be sadly, at last, time for a new external “force majeure” to enter the equation.

That may include at long last a UN Security Council compulsory resolution that mandates an international agreed outcome to create a fair and balanced solution to this conflict along lines that all know must be the basis of a fair deal. That deal must provide firm security for both sides and an independent state for the Palestinian people based on the agreed 1967 boundaries with possible exchanges, including a division of Jerusalem so both states can have it as their capital.

With this there may need to be the possible imposition of the strong and armed peacekeeping force made up of NATO countries and other neutral states to enforce the peace. This move will either drive both sides to find a solution between them or have it imposed by the entire international community as part of the UN mandate to provide international security and prevent war. The process may take years but would at least give a clear path to peace. Unfortunately U.S. corrosive political climate may prevent its realization, but there is clearly a need for a new set of external forced conditions to move both sides to peace.

Finally, to make all this work there is a vital need for the key outside powers, North American, Europe, key countries in Asia like Japan, South Korea, and others to support an effort to secure their own interests. These interests include access to energy, and prevent the spread of conflict to their own regions, and to at last address fundamentally the threat that unlimited brutal conflict in this region imposes on the entire international community and human rights. Its frankly a long bet but a start needs to be made and with Obama and Kerry we have a team that at least has the intelligence and heart for such an undertaking.

We welcome your comments!