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!

Advertisements

THE MIDDLE EAST SUMMIT CAMP DAVID AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE: PART I OF REVIEW OF MIDDLE EAST POLICY

President Barack Obama shakes hands with His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders prepare to have a group photo with the President outside of the Laurel Cabin at the conclusion of a summit meeting at Camp David, Md., May 14, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By: Harry C. Blaney III

It seems many commentators had already drawn up their criticism in advance and did the same following the Camp David Middle East Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit that President Barack Obama had called to address the many conflicts, challenges, and discord in that region. Some, especially those on the hawkish right have pronounced it either a failure, misguided, or even worse. On the other hand there is a group of experts that see it as the start of a better more enlightened engagement on the many problems that plague that region. 

The naysayers seem intent on not letting Obama find some useful middle ground between making war with Iran and withdrawing America’s interest in the region. Some misguided conservatives at the Council on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal seems to view it as a failure unless American makes, a “NATO like” commitment to the Sunni states, tying American troops to the possible Saudi agenda of a war like stance with Iran or even the largely Shia nations and populations.

These naysayers’ position tracts that of the oil, banking, and military industries, who see large profits in such a strategic alliance relationship which would be without many restrictions on the buying of American weapons, energy contracts, and financial services.  This misguided position for America and our real allies ends in disaster and plungers us into taking one side of a messy regional, religious, and geo-strategic centuries old conflict which can only end in even more catastrophe for all.  What were they thinking? These are the same people and views that lead us into the Iraq madness.  Significantly, Obama promised at the GCC Summit assistance against external aggression which is a reasonable if still problematic stance.

The skeptics seem to be driven by ideology and not good strategic sense and honest analysis of the realities on the ground or real American interests. What is needed is not creation of an alliance bent on making war between religious sects but rather help on coming to some measure of common ground and reconciliation between the Sunni and Shia factions.

In place of a NATO type US-Sunni alliance, a better approach would be a larger region wide security framework which would ensure a large measure of security for all participants in the region as well as more prosperity for the citizens of the region. This is something that Obama and also the Western allies can help bring about, if and only if, the Gulf Sunni States see a wider vision and the long-term advantage of a settlement of the age old conflicts and desire stability, peace, and mutual security for the whole region rather than an endless internecine war.

We are already in a dialogue with Iran the de facto leader of  many of the Shia group of nations and people. Obama made the key point that an agreement with Iran over nuclear weapons programs with firm verification and other restraints would mean greater, not less, security for the Sunni nations but also for the whole region. The Administration is trying once again to get both sides to recognize that their interests are not in destructive sectarian war but in cooperation and mutual security. This approach may not work at first and it may take some time, but the alternative must be far worse for all sides.

Sectarian hatred and making conflict the only option of solving problems is something none can win without unacceptable costs. America is right to try rapprochement and seek some measure of a joint “win-win” strategy through diplomacy however difficult it might be, and those that oppose should remember its cost — continued deaths, hatred, and war!

More on the Middle East policy will follow.

 

We welcome your comments!

RUSSIA REMAINS REGRESSIVE AT HOME AND ABROAD: CAN PUTIN EVER LEARN?

Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

With news that conflict in Ukraine has increased with Russian troops and their insurgent rebels still trying to make brutal advances, in Moscow Putin remains in a state of denial about the Russian economy and gloates over his assumed “victories”. With this, one must wonder what world Putin is living in and will there ever be a revelation of reality and desire to do good for the Russian people?

At home Russia may be in a mini recession of 2% and seems on a trajectory for more drops in its GDP in the coming months.  The Ruble has increased some and oil which also has increased slightly seems to be hitting a plateau but still far from its high, but the long range fundamental economic condition of Russia seems very bleak especially for the majority of average Russian citizens.

On the international stage, Russia has announced the “sale” of ballistic defense systems to Iran.

The offer of the Russian S-300 missile defense system to Iran remains problematic. While it may not be an immediate delivery, as a Russian Foreign Ministry official said on April 23rd, it “is not a matter of the nearest future,” according to Haaretz.  The TASS official news agency reported Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying “It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken.”  Putin also made overtures to a dangerous North Korea.

In the cyber area, Russian hackers also broke into unclassified networks at the Department of Defense earlier this year, Pentagon Secretary Ashton Carter said on April 23rd. No real surprises there, however an indicator of hostile intent.

NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general, said on Thursday that it is seeing a “substantial Russian buildup,” along the border with and inside Ukraine. This is violating the Minsk cease-fire agreement and again shows that Russia still is using misinformation and lies as a tool of its diplomacy and propaganda strategy. In the long-run this will undermine Russia’s believability and, when at another time, it will need creditability it will have been lost.  There will be a point, as in Soviet times, when respect at home and abroad is imperiled. Already the outflow of funds indicates that this has already taken place.

The West needs badly a new and serious reassessment of Russian actions and strategy, but it can’t be a kneed-jerk reaction, or an overreaction. It needs to be rather a rational consideration of the dangers from an aggressive Russia and a long-term strategy of turning the relationship around to more productive and safer conditions as we did in the old “cold war.” Then firmness, restraint and engagement worked. One of the best ways to react would be to start a set of strategies within NATO, EU, G-7 and the OECD countries of a growth and productivity strategy rather than the conservative and failed “austerity” programs that have slowed growth, caused large unemployment, and created instability in key countries.

We need to stop the fights within our open society communities and start to jointly move rapidly to increased employment of the “middle and poorer” majority, improving our own infrastructure both physically and intellectually, become fairer, and start to cooperate on the many global challenges that threaten to set asunder our societies and our globe. President Obama has tried to do this, Europe remains divided over Greece, growth, immigration and beset by racist right-wing parties that threaten democracy and progress. These need to be addressed and addressed with vigor and in common. Then, Russia as a regressive nation with a backward looking regime might see a real future in cooperation with a growing and robust West and act in its own interest.

 

We welcome your comments!    

 

AFTER THE TRAGEDY OF DEBALTSEVE UKRAINE IN DISTRESS: WHAT NOW?

Leaders of Belarus, Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine at the  summit in Minsk on February 11th and 12th.
Leaders of Belarus, Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine at the summit in Minsk on February 11th and 12th.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

The harsh realities of the defeat of the Ukrainian forces at Debaltseve and the implications of this debacle highlight two realities. One is that Putin never intended anything but deception and aggression, and the West knew it capitulated to overwhelming force of arms. The second reality is what now needs to be done? On this, there is some disagreement. The Europeans seem content with the results; they did not have to do anything to help the Ukrainians, the Ukrainian government is in a state of disarray, and now the question is whether Europe, and perhaps America, can marshal the will, resources, or the moral inclination to save what remains as a result of their inaction and indifference.

Within the NATO alliance, or what is left of it now, there are a range of differences. Some want to go to back to the “normal-normal,” reduce economic sanctions, increase trade with Russia and pretend nothing has happened as Putin incorporates Ukraine into his own cruel dictatorship and forever deny Ukraine the opportunity to be part of a democratic Europe. The hope of this view is that Putin will forever be content with 46 million more souls under his power and no more desire to test the West as he has done with his armies, planes flying to NATO countries boundaries, and his subs around the world.  There is some “real politics” to this position; an acknowledgment that the West is at a military disadvantage in this geographic space, most due to the massive cutting back on defense spending, and a loss of a sense of a united and strong Europe by those who do not remember or would like to forget, like Merkel, WW II and its lessons. 

The other school frankly is also in some disarray. That school of strategy recognizes the debacle for what it is and argues for a robust response, mostly by strengthened sanctions and added economic assistance for Ukraine, and for a few provisions of arms.  There is a real fear that the Baltic States are the next objective of Putin; mostly because they are easy targets with their Russian minorities, and there is an ease of destabilizing tactics by Russian special forces and pressure despite being members of NATO.

What is now clear is that Putin and his mercenary separatist forces violated the latest Minsk cease-fire agreement, and a strong Western reaction will be needed. However, there is likely to be a messy argument about what these reactions should be if anything. With the Europeans in some disarray, the allies are looking to the United States to see our reaction. So far we have gotten words but no action. Likely, there are urgent quiet talks about next steps among Merkel, Hollande and perhaps even the so far immobilized Prime Minister Cameron who seems to disappear under the covers on this other than his empty mindless words. 

For America and for Europe the easiest and least “aggressive” option would be a massive economic assistance to Ukraine with lots of strings attached to guard against corruption and incompetency. But most serious strategic analysts believe that providing arms and training should be key part of a new and bolder approach to save what remains of Ukraine and provide some hope for its people for a democratic future. Frankly, this looks and feels like closing the door after the horses have left, but better late than never.

The question then becomes for decision-makers whether to “save” a dismembered Ukraine or let it all fall into Putin’s grip without any further effort. This option has its own implications and risks, which may fall in Putin’s assessment that the West is but a “Potemkin village” empty of will, enfeebled by loss of vision, moral courage, and prime for the pickings.

In sum, there are a number of things we can do to help Ukraine even in its dire straits to survive. I do not agree with the implied assumption of some that we should abandon Ukraine, some 46 million people who longingly want to be part of an open democratic West, to the cruel hands of Putin. President Obama rightly tried to engage Putin with his “re-set button.” But Putin had other less benign objectives.

But the blame game does not get us to a more constructive relationship. It will require a frank acknowledgment that we seem to be dealing with a Putin that is not willing to either reach out cooperatively with the West, nor is willing to tell the truth in his dealing with the West.  That does require a deep rethink of our strategy, short term and long-term. 

In this sad situation the real losers are not the West, but rather the Russian people. Yet we must not give up on our strategic key long-term goal to help Russia be part of a responsible international community and an open society. For the present moment, Russian hopes are doomed to a dark cold future and real decline, not rise in Russian influence, prosperity, and engagement in global problem solving if Putin continues his aggressive and authoritarian ways. This is sad for all sides. We also need to look after our allies and their fears and concerns.

 

We welcome your comments!

PRESIDENT OBAMA SPEAKS AND A STRATEGY IS OUTLINED – NOW THE HARD PART!

Leaders at the Iraq Peace and Security Conference in Paris, France (Reuters/Michel Euler)
Leaders at the Iraq Peace and Security Conference in Paris, France, September 16, 2014 (Reuters/Michel Euler)

By Harry C. Blaney III

Dateline London

President Obama’s speech to the American people on Wednesday, September 10th finally outlined for the American people, as he did with Congressional leaders on Tuesday, the key elements in the complex and difficult task of “degrading and destroying” ISIS. Much is at stake, not least is the future of the Islamic world, now at the point of a sectarian conflict between Sunni and the Shiite populations, as well as the Kurds. The Middle East is undergoing not only a large scale conflict, but also a fundamental struggle for the future of the entire Middle East and beyond. Obama is right that it is now self-evident that it is America who will lead, but at the same time work with others in this struggle, not least the nations and people of the region itself.

Continue reading

UKRAINE: UNCLEAR “CEASE-FIRE” ON THE BRINK OF NATO WALES SUMMIT

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron welcome Barack Obama, President of the United States, to the NATO Summit in Wales (Source: NATO)
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron welcome Barack Obama, President of the United States, to the NATO Summit in Wales (Source: NATO)

By Harry C. Blaney III

As this is written there appear to be contradictory statements and reports from the field on whether there is a viable cease-fire in Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin called for one while his office provided a rough framework of seven points that were needed to make it work. All of this came after Putin spoke with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko earlier in the week. Afterward the Ukrainian government put out an optimistic press statement that implied a true agreement.  Soon after Putin said their views on ending the violence were “very close.”  But on the ground, fighting seems to be ongoing and recently more negative statements were put out by both sides. An agreement could be reached on Friday during planned talks in Minsk between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists.  

Continue reading

OBAMA’S STRATEGIC IRAQ INTERVENTION

Secretary Kerry looks out over Baghdad as he left Iraq earlier this week.
Secretary Kerry looks out over Baghdad as he left Iraq earlier this week.

By: Harry C. Blaney, III

“There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States. But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.”

President Obama’s update on the situation in Iraq, June 19. Continue reading