TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE: HIS OWN WORDS!

TRUMP: EXTREME VETTING AND AN EXTREME CANDIDATE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There is much one can learn from the most recent Trump speech on foreign policy. It is still scary and incredulous that there is no real “there there” with any of Trump’s foreign policy perspectives. This is especially true when he is off his text and speaks what is really in his mind at that moment and it leads him to express ideas that are his own unbalanced perceptions of reality and his worst prejudices. Yes they are often crazy and silly and not least dangerous.

The examples of going off tract and into the realm of “extreme” views is exemplified in much of this speech which was billed as a means to show a serious policy side in the foreign affairs sector. Between a few peremptory statements that were written by his so-called foreign affairs “experts” that in large part were often along the lines of our current policies, much of the speech’s content would make the world a less secure and more dangerous in a host to areas.

Some examples:

His statement that he would institute what he called “extreme interrogations” of Muslim immigrants and visitors to America. Once again, along with building a massive “wall” between the US and Mexico, and clear bigotry against Muslims and even deceased American Muslim war heroes, he sees only what the people at the NRA and the KKK see and this is perhaps more destructive to American democracy, its internal unity, and yes our security globally than almost any other external challenge we face abroad.

On the question of dealing with ISIS, Trump adopted much from President Barack Obama’s approach to fighting the so-called Islamic State. Trump’s outrageous perception of “solutions include in his words: “I say that you can defeat ISIS by taking their wealth. Take back the oil. Once you go over and take back that oil they have nothing. You bomb the hell out of them and then you encircle it, and then you go in. And you let Mobil go in, and you let our great oil companies go in.” Trump also said the United States should have left troops in Iraq to guard oil facilities while the U.S. took all the oil to pay for the war. All of this is clearly absurd, crude unthought through strategy, and also illegal under international law.

What he has not made clear is whether he would send massive troops into the Middle East conflicts?

One lie was his statement was when he said that he has been right about the Middle East from the start. This is not true, old video and audio clips shown on the
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” showed footage against his claim that “I have been an opponent of the Iraq War from the beginning,” as he said in his address at Youngstown State University in Ohio. But The “Morning Joe” video played a clip from Howard Stern’s radio show. At that time he asked Trump if he was for invading Iraq, and Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” The same is true when Trump also contradicted himself on the troop withdrawal or draw down in Iraq.
He said on August 15th: “I have been just as clear in saying what a catastrophic mistake Hillary Clinton and President Obama made with the reckless way in which they pulled out,” But the record shows he supported pulling out of Iraq in 2007, when he said “You know how they get out? They get out,” Trump told CNN that year. “Declare victory and leave.”

He also prevaricated on Libya. In his speech he said “Libya was stable and President Obama and Hillary Clinton should never have attempted to build a democracy in Libya,”
But he also he advocated for deposing Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In February 2011, Trump also said in a video filmed in his office that “Gaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people. Nobody knows how bad it is. We should go in. We should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick.”

He has been all over the map on the Middle East and time and time again he has change his position but never admitted it that he was wrong. What this shows is his clear lack of analysis, willing to face hard facts on the ground, and unwilling to accept being wrong. That is dangerous for a president and for our nation’s effective leadership in the world.

Trump repeated his previous policy to continue the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and even fill it with new detainees. He hinted at including, possibly some U.S. citizens. This facility is one of the great weapons that terrorists point to of the evil of America and a recruiting tool for ISIS. Trump does not even acknowledge this and seems to think that water boarding, torture, and mass bombing including killing of civilians is the way to conduct an effective policy in the Middle East. Even worse he has hinted at using atomic weapons. The Obama administration is trying to close Guantanamo via sending current detainees abroad, which he did recently with 15 individuals, and more are planned. But the easy and right answer is to send them to American maximum security prisons and bring them under US laws.

His stands on climate change, NATO’s unity and that of EU, the Iran deal, trade, and dealing with Russia, and on many other issues are the among the most dangerous for a viable and peaceful world and US national security.

In sum, the time has come, given Trump’s own words over time and especially now, for a true deep serious analysis of what Trump might do to American respect and security and indeed just rationality in our vital foreign and national security area.

Some in the media have done this, but in the vast conservative Republican owned mainline media and right wing radio talking heads have done little to challenge Trump’s lies and clearly deranged and unnecessary aggressive statements that have frightened our allies and embolden our adversaries. It is a high risk world where idiocy is our greatest danger. Indeed, we need more debate and even more serious examination in the media of the full range of global challenges and of what our own corrosive politics has done to our global position. Time has come for more public questioning and more attention to the implications of Trump’s policies if we are to achieve a sane and safe world.

We welcome your comments!

SEE OUR 2016 ELECTION PAGES FOR DEBATE UP-DATES

 

OUR AGE OF DISCONTENT AND ITS PERILS

OUR AGE OF DISCONTENT AND ITS PERILS

By

Harry C. Blaney III

As we face a coming November election which will be historic on so many different levels and which could bring not just to America great tribulations but also throughout the world. The simple fact is that our acknowledged discontent is mirrored also in many countries including democracies like our own.

This discontent has been exacerbated by the impact of the global “great recession” and the rise of religious conflicts which have destabilized much of the Middle East and beyond. But also by the growth a pernicious inequality and greed authored by authoritarian parties and governments and criminal corporations, banks, and super rich ideologues among the elite.

In America, it has been a deliberate trajectory sent in motion by much of the Republican Party and the mainline conservative media not least Fox news and “talking heads” hate radio shows spuing bigotry, lies, greed and far right-wing attacks on minorities, the poor, and good science. Not least, a key enabler was the Koch Brothers and others with the buying of State legislators, support for rigging of elections against minorities and other opposition voters, and backing candidates filled with hate and racism.

Trump which made a name as a Birther” an act of pure racism; a man who wants to build a wall with Mexico, keep Muslims out of America, and destroy our relations with our allies, and thinks Putin is just lovely. But he and the Republican Tea Party and its racists are also a threat to our some 250 years as a democratic republic.

Yet beyond America, we are seeing true threats to democracy, human rights, sense of a wider cooperative community and support for authoritarianism. This is accompanied also by particularism, narrow right wing nationalism of the neo-fascist Hitler type in Europe and beyond.

We will see soon a vote in Great Britain on the question of continued membership in the European Union. This crackbrained self-defeating idea is spurred by just the forces we have noted. The vote will take place on June 23rd and I plan to be in London to observe one of the truly great historic debates about the future of Europe which could lead to the ascendancy in Britain to the same kind of governance we could see in Donald Trump and those he would put in power.

Yes, we have a common problem. Britain has Boris Johnson, who may run for Prime Minister on the Tory ticket who makes Hitler comparisons that are outrageous and seems to hate the idea of a peaceful and united Europe (what is the other option?). And is also a bit crazy. We have Donald trump who makes racist, bigoted remarks, lies, and impugns our presidents birth place. He also seems to disparage a united Europe and NATO and admires the dictatorial and aggressive Vladimir Putin. And yes both have the same hair style!

The EU is an attempt, so far successful, to keep “Europe free and safe” The reality remains that the EU and the idea of a peaceful united Europe was and is a common dream of much of Europe and the UK; it remains the most significant result of Europe’s enlightened polices that brought prosperity to Europe, and held back aggression from the Soviet Union. That unity is as needed in today’s high risk world as it was in the 1940s and 50s.

Within the continent there are equally dangerous forces on the right that have already bred authoritarian governments in places like Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and in many places the rise of neo-Nazi and racist parties. More on this trend in another post.

In summary, Both Johnson and Trump are guided by an ignorant a-historical perspective and driven by misguided far right ideology along with dangerous personal ambitions that would put America, Britain, and Europe along a path of mutual destruction. National security requires many factors not least a sense of common decent goals, committed allies, and a moral center with wise leadership. These all are in danger on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. In many ways these trends may be as dangerous to national security than what we face from Russia or China.

We Welcome your comments!

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!

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

By
Harry C. Blaney III

 
As New Year starts it is worthwhile to look back since the past is prologue for what is to come. It is an annual exercise that many columnists, pundits, strategists, and yes bloggers do as it sets a framework for what is to come and to look back at the whole of a year and wonder what it all means for the security and peace of our clearly very fractured and conflict ridden globe. I promise a look forward at our strategic landscape which will include some policy ideas, in time, follow after the second part of this topic is posted..

First, a global view and then a look at some of the specific component elements that are each critical for the international system to gain some semblance of sanity.

 

INEQUALITY AND GLOBAL SECURITY

 

The fundamental factors that a the driving forces on a global scale include the growing gap in resources between the very very rich and the rest of humanity most of which is just hanging on or worse. This divide is a key reason that we see so much conflict, instability, terrorism. and democracy being threaten around the world.

We see some progress as in some countries people rose above the poverty line but in others the divide just got worse. Here the failure was both due to indifferent nation’s governments and the still lingering consequences of the ubiquitous “austerity” polices of too many rich and poor governments. Add the lack of political will, due to growth of right-wing and authoritarian governments and in 2015 nations becoming more that are the decision making power in these countries. Then add to the mix international organizations with members both developed and developing too weak to face the major challenges of our age and providing inadequate, even very poor, resources to the key international institutions that were designed to deal with global economic, security, social, and health major crises and catastrophes.

 
ENVIRONMENTAL INSECURITY AND GLOBAL DISASTER

 

Another global challenge is that of climate change. Every country and region in the world is threaten by this human created environmental phenomena and it has already shown its destructive power and the loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe. No single event can be ascribed directly to this cause, but taken together there is little doubt of the reality of the impact of rising global temperatures.

Again, up to now we have not done enough to effectively put this existential danger to our entire ecosystem on a sustainable path. The best event, as we have noted here, is the outcome of the 2015 Paris climate change conference. That conference at least shows us a path forward and specified the necessary action that states and all of us need to take to make real progress. But many scientists think we need to do more and they may be quite right. We have now a process and promises and an official “score card” for keeping tract of progress or lack thereof. That was a positive note for 2015.

 
REAL COMBUSTIBLES: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SECTARIAN/RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS, AND JUST PLAIN AGGRESSION AND NEEDLESS WARS, AND NOT LEAST HATREDS AND STUPIDITIES OF POWERFUL LEADERS AND COMPLIANT AND BLINDLY ANGRY CITIZENS.

 

That about sums it up as to why we are in such a tragic mess we seem to have and why the global trajectory seems so dark. But there are some rays of light………hate to end a year and start a new one with just gloom and doom.

On nuclear weapons and their spread, the really good news was the 2015 agreement with Iran by the key global powers that limits their capacity of producing nuclear weapons. As of this date Iran seems to be carrying out its obligations under the agreement with especially the shipment of almost all of its enrich uranium some 25,000 pounds, to Russia (which is a major milestone that leaves the Islamic Republic without enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture a nuke). There is the ongoing dismantling of its research reactor and most of its centrifuges. If the terms of the agreement are kept the world can be a bit safer since the alternative was the capacity to build a bomb in months not a year, and the agreement going for 10 years plus for key elements with the safeguard/inspections of the IAEA unlimited.

The other great danger that existed before 2015 and is still with us are the nuclear weapons in the hands of India and Pakistan, the nuclear weapons of North Korea and not least the nuclear weapons in the hands of a type like Putin who seems to think they are his leverage and plaything for enhancing his ego.

The India/Pakistan threat has two dimensions, one is the on going conflict between the two countries over Kashmir. Recently there was a meeting between the two national leaders and perhaps some moves towards sanity.

But Pakistan is itself a problem due to the government’s instability, the danger of internal terrorists, and an army that seems at times to not be capable and responsible. North Korea remains a conundrum with few good solutions with clearly erratic leadership that seems to not be seriously seeking a mutually agreeable long-term solution but likes to rattle the world with nuclear activities. A possible consequence is that South Korea or Japan might one day see it necessary to obtain their own weapons.

The other component of the dangers to the security of our world’s population in 2015 and beyond is growing sectarian conflicts, growing efforts to divide societies, and malevolent leaders and groups that see aggression and violence as a favored means to gain power and destroy what they see as their “enemies.” This is not the place now to get into the many causes and antecedents of these dangerous forces, but to simply say that peace in our world will not be obtained until these dark forces are tamed, reformed, and or defeated. This is undoubtedly a long term effort. But better and more responsible national leaders and a more engaged and informed and less bigoted, fearful, and empowered citizenry is the best antidote for societal disintegration and conflict.

A LOOK AT SOME SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF 2015 OUTCOMES AND TRENDS

 
THE SECTARIAN DIVIDE ABROAD AND NATIONALLY AND AT OUR OWN HOME

The good news is that some progress was made in recognizing this reality. This is clearly the case in 2015 with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who have been working hard to get both the Shia and Sunni groups and nations to see a common interest against ISIS, with some but still fragile, success. Prejudices of centuries are hard to mend. The key test points are in Iraq and Syria, both of which are case studies in sectarian hate, past distrust, outside partisan powers, and levels of murky loyalties and unknowns to make even the wisest expert shudder.

The challenges in the Middle East are almost impossible. If you add the animosities and stupidities of national leaders comforting each other in the Israeli and Palestinian arena one may wonder if there will ever be a solution. But there is an equitable solution facing each leader, all know what it is, which is the best outcome possible and one which will at last bring both parties to some real accommodation and security. Frankly, the behavior in 2015 of Prime Minister Netanyahu this last year and beyond has deliberately poisoned relations not only with the Palestinians but with large segments of Europe and the United States. If 2016 could turn this nasty tide I say try, but one man seems to want to make Israel even more at existential national risk long-term and is churning up hate rather than tolerance and compromise.

In our own American backyard in 2015 American politics turned even more divisive and partisan, in my view, which some will disagree with. But the partisan battles have greatly weakened America abroad and the blame rest squarely on the conservative Republicans and their reckless statements and actions. On most foreign policy and national security issues, let alone the many national issues, we see the damage caused by the far right crazies to American democracy, economic and technological progress, and to gaining needed security and peace. Their threatening the closing of government, their efforts to make America default on its debt, their denial of climate change, their efforts to stop the Iran deal that prevents Iran from building early nuclear weapons, their inability to look at reality rather than ideology, and not least seeking narrow political gain rather than the national interest. These have made our allies abroad question our leadership in the future after Obama’s administration, and help our adversaries like Russia and China who seek to exploit our weakness and lack of unity.

Part II of this 2015 look shortly follows.

We welcome your comments!

PUSHING WAR AND ITS CONSEQUENCES: JOHN BOLTON AND THE RIDICULOUS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

By: Harry C. Blaney III

March 26th I opened my New York Times as usual and low and behold there was an op-ed by former Ambassador John R. Bolton of Iraqi war renown with the title “To stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”, and its sub-headline “Tehran can’t be trusted on a nuclear deal. Force is the only option.” Besides being very wrong on a host of other issues like his view of the United Nations in the past, which having been sent there by a right-wing  Republican president, he straightaway aimed to undermine its authority, cut it resources, and tried in every which way to eviscerate. Now it seems he wants us to go to into a senseless and costly war again with his other neo-con crazy co-conspirators.

At the moment the fate of the nuclear negotiations are still not fully known, and least of all what will follow in the event of an agreement or a failure at this effort. But one thing is certain, and that is that preemptive war is mad and disastrous for all sides.

The only conclusion one can reach from this Bolton essay in fantasy is how crazy we have all become when we fall again into the “war hawks” dead end traps. These traps will bring such destruction to not only Iran and its many anti-regime and pro-American citizens, but to exacerbate more conflicts in the whole region and any hope for a peaceful and diplomatic region wide accommodation that has any hope to batten down the upheavals that have created the current chaos in the first place.

Bolton’s proscriptions, contrary to his flawed conclusions on the behavior of nations in the region, would create those dangerous things which he says bombing would avoid sooner and with more force. Further, most strategic experts including most of the analysis by our own government finds that such a military attack would create such horrific added conflict to an already unstable region and still not a long-term stop to a possible Iranian weapons program.

Bolton says it would do so for 3 to 5 years, but an agreement would stop Iran from just such an effort for at least 10 years and it just might mitigate the existing corrosive Shia-Sunni warfare that it at the real bottom of the existing instability.

Besides poor, almost non-existent analysis of outcomes of war actions, Bolton’s assumption is that Iran will not negotiate away its “nuclear program.”  I am not sure exactly what he means by “nuclear program.” They certainly will not be dissuaded from a civilian nuclear power and research effort that they have invested billions of dollars into, but the reality is that a nuclear weapons effort should be seen by the Iranian leadership as the worst possible outcome for their own security.  It is a course of societal and governmental suicide in the end. That does not mean that the Iranian leaders are fully rational and are acting fully in the interest of the well-being of their people, since if they were they would not be in the current situation.

Yet the likely reason for the present negotiations, contrary to Bolton’s assertion, is that they have decided that sanctions hurt, that having the bomb may be more dangerous to their security than not having it, and that they need to rebuild their failing economy and society. What they want however is clearly a best deal to keep their options open and not be seen as “giving in” to the West.

The key flaw of Bolton’s article is he did not mention the real cost and consequences of his war proposal. The reason is simply it would totally undermine his whole argument and expose its wrong assumptions about the dynamics of the actions he proposes…

Bolton and his Republican neo-con affiliates have argued in the past for (unnecessary and costly) war – in Iraq.  But he still seems to think that indeed war is the answer to anything, but does not want or can’t honestly think through his myopic ideological lenses and truly evaluate the cost of such action, deaths, and risks on all sides of the consequences of his policies.

Secretary John Kerry has been right to test diplomacy and indeed the agreed temporary accord already has inhibited any further push towards a weapon. Nothing in diplomacy in this messy world is easy. The time has come for an end of costly and unnecessary war making which ends mostly in disasters for all. Let’s all hope that in time there will be a “good” agreement since that would be a “win-win” for all sides, for the region, and the world.

We welcome your comments!

DESPITE ALL THE CONTROVERSY AN IRAN DEAL IS STILL THE BEST OPTION

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

It is now agreed that the Iran nuclear talks will resume on March 15th and this session will be focused on the remaining key “macro” political issues that are still outstanding. There are indications on both sides that a deal may at last come together. However, they all say “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on,” that there are a lot of difficult issues that remain, and that there are strong opponents of any deal on both sides.

This weekend we have been seeing statements from the “P-5 plus one” (The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom), that some progress is in the cards during the next meeting. President Barack Obama said “We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist.” On the European side, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a meeting in Latvia, “I believe a good deal is at hand. I also believe that there is not going to be any deal if it is not going to be a good deal.” She added the “last mile” of the nuclear talks would involve political will more than technical negotiations.

On the Iranian side, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said we believe we are ‘very close’ to a nuclear deal during an interview with Anne Curry of NBC News on March 4th. Further, in an interview with a weekly affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting published on Saturday 7th March, Zarif said, “I believe there are more chances of success than failure,” adding “the odds of [reaching] a [final] deal is more than 50 percent.” He said, as noted earlier: “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on.”

All of these statements are contingent on the final requirement that both sides desire a “good” agreement and are willing to pay the political price for such an agreement.  Iran especially needs to accept that a nuclear “option” is not in its fundamental interest.  The administration has said that this agreement does not require Senate ratification since it is not a treaty but an executive or political agreement between governments.  The president can wave some of the sanctions but not all of them and this issue is a sticking point.  On the Iranian side there remains opposition from hard liners, but I doubt that Zarif would be able to proceed unless he was given authority to do so from the highest authorities. Yet any “political” or “framework” agreement would still have to be sent back to the “experts” for specific drafting and review before a formal agreement was signed. This could take months, not weeks.

In Congress the Republicans seem determined to veto any agreement they do not like. It looks sadly like many Republicans will oppose even a “good and strong” agreement. They were stopped from pushing forward a GOP plan to act before the March 31st negotiating deadline by the Democrats since the fear was  that by before the negotiations ended, Congress would act on a draft anti-agreement legislation that would undercut and indeed put up a series of barriers against any realistic agreement coming into existence. The question now is whether the Democrats can hold together against such a plan should an agreement be settled.

The more recent news is the surprising and most duplicitous action by 47 Republican Senators who have interfered and intervened into on-going delicate negotiations with Iran to limit their nuclear program. This was done on the brink of the start of new high level meetings of the key powers in Geneva and is a direct affront to the President who under our constitution has responsibility for foreign affairs.

As the New York Times Tuesday March 10th front page story reporting characterized it: “The letter appeared aimed at unraveling a framework agreement even as negotiators grew close to reaching it.”  The partisan effort was criticized by President Obama, and very strongly by Vice President Biden who denounced the Senate Republicans. Click here for the Vice President’s Full Statement.

President Obama’s statement was: “It is somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. … It’s an unusual coalition.”  I was for 25 years a diplomat and have never experienced such a direct effort by one party to directly deal with undermining a major sensitive and important to our national security high level nuclear negotiations.  Click here for the full text of President Obama’s Statement in Reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech regarding Iran Nuclear Negotiations.              

The Iranians reportedly said they were not moved by the letter. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in response: “In our view, the letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. He added: “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

From a macro strategic perspective, such an agreement could have major implications upon the possibility that limited rapprochement could ensue, and a broader set of regional issues, not least how to deal with ISIS, and a effort to reconcile the Shia-Sunni divide and even get Iraq unity back on track.  As with all such deep and historic acrimony, nothing is certain and unpredictable change is always lurking on the sidelines to reappear when it is politically expedient for one side or another. But if America and our allies are to help a process of reconciliation in the region, they need to take the long-view and work very hard at it despite any setbacks.

Below is the list of Republican Senators who signed and didn’t sign the Open Letter to Iran that was written to undermine the President’s negotiations.

Senators who did sign:
2016 Possible Presidential Candidates are highlighted                                                    

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY

Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL

Senator John McCain, R-AZ

Senator James Inhofe, R-OK

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

Senator Richard Burr, R-NC

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA

Senator David Vitter, R-LA

Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY

Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS

Senator Jim Risch, R-ID

Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL

Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH

Senator John Boozman, R-AR

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY

Senator Mike Lee, R-UT

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH

Senator Dean Heller, R-NV

Senator Tim Scott, R-SC

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX

Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA

Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO

Senator James Lankford, R-OK

Senator Steve Daines, R-MT

Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD

Senator David Perdue, R-GA

Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC

Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA

Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE

Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Senators who did NOT sign:

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME

Senator Bob Corker, R-TN

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

Comments are welcome!!! 

AFGHANISTAN, NEW DIFFICULTIES — ADD DUPLICITY TO FRAUD AND YOU GET TRAGEDY

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AFGHANISTAN, NEW DIFFICULTIES — ADD DUPLICITY TO FRAUD AND YOU GET TRAGEDY

by

Harry C. Blaney III

 

The recent reports that President Karzai has been double-dealing with the Taliban has created yet another, almost appearing insuperable, barrier to a path of keeping some U.S. “non-combat” troops in Afghanistan after 2014, adding to the likelihood that Afghanistan will once again become a land of brutality, backwardness, and chaos. 

 

On Tuesday, February 4th at the White House press briefing, the spokesperson said that the U.S. was not against the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government but refused to indicate if Karzai had given advance notification of the talks. From the Afghan side Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman  said “I can confirm that … Taliban are willing more than ever to join the peace process.” “Contacts have been made and we are also in touch with them. …… Talks took place in Dubai three weeks ago between government officials and Taliban who flew from Doha, but we are still waiting to see the result,” he told Reuters. But these talks were denied by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, who said by phone, “The group has not been involved in peace talks with [Karzai], …… If he doesn’t sign the [security agreement], we praise Karzai. …… It will create positive relations with him.” But he added: “I suspect Karzai’s resistance against the U.S. may not last for a long time and he will sign the pact.” Everyone is playing games, and the truth is hard to discern.

 

It does not add to the hope that some kind of larger peace will ensue as there is strong distaste of the Taliban among a majority of the Afghan people, and in some quarters, such a deal could result in armed insurgency, largely among non-Pashtuns. The history of the Taliban, sadly, is one of duplicity, violence, and suppression of everyday acts of modern society, including education and health care for women, forced dress codes and behavior, and beheading. The recent New York Times article has reported that these secret backdoor negotiations have “helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy end-game of the Afghan conflict event more volatile.”

 

As background, America  previously tried to undertake negotiations with the “moderate” Taliban. Karzai saw this as an effort to undermine his authority, and the talks led nowhere. There are also conflicting reports as to whether Karzai’s recent efforts ever achieved any results, with American sources saying they broke down. The problem is that any agreement with the Taliban fundamentally leads towards giving them power over areas of the country and/or significant political power, which they will use religiously to create a new insurgency to further their reason d’etre for their existence—the establishment of an extreme Islamic state governed by them alone.     

 

The fundamental weakness of the entire U.S. strategy has been that the Bush administration put a corrupt and devious leader in charge of this sad country, whose aim seems not to be the well-being of his people, but rather accumulating great wealth for his family and loyal backers and maintaining power via a crooked political machine. Thus, our troops were fighting to achieve a secure country in a battle where their hands were tied by an “ally” that was undermining the hope of broad economic and social progress of the people.  This alienated a large proportion of the citizens and disrupted the creation of a stable and unified nation.

 

Today, there will be a meeting in the White House of the key U.S. commanders to discuss the situation, hopefully to devise a strategy to address the problem. At this meeting, there will likely be a discussion of the issues related to keeping American and allied troops in Afghanistan and whether the negotiated agreement can be finalized before Karzai leaves office in April, what kind of cooperation is possible with Karzai in the remaining months of his term, and if not, what strategy and actions would be possible to achieve the best possible outcome. Further, that discussion will likely also look at what options the military has in regards to a military base in that country that can deal with terrorism in the region, including Pakistan. In the case that there are no military bases remaining, the use of drones in the region will be impacted.

 

On the other hand, Karzai may be overplaying his hand, as most of his own backers want the Americans to stay along with the billions of dollars in aid that an American commitment implies. His efforts to undermine U.S. interests, including the release of dangerous Taliban prisoners, in what some reporters think was a concession to get an agreement with the terrorists, was probably the final straw in a long series of wrongheaded actions against American presence and activities in the country. All of this to gain what some believe is leverage against America and make himself look nationalistic and against foreign dominance. Others believe it may be to buy off the Taliban to support his regime and his personal power even past the elections. 

 

In some ways Karzai actions have forced the U.S. government to address some “inconvenient truths” about our war in Afghanistan that our leaders have ignored for far too long, not so much because of ignorance, but rather for lack of any better knowable and doable path forward.

 

One on-the-ground reality is whether we can devise any new strategy with a better outcome than now. The constraints to what can be done are serious and real. Yet, as one wag once said, it seems stupid to bang your head against the wall repeatedly and end up with the same headache. Some believe the best remaining option is to simply get out, but they have yet to propose realistic alternatives to maintain the U.S.’s full range of security interests.  Yet, this option remains on the table, and new alternative tools may yet emerge. 

 

What is clear is that President Obama wants to pull out our troops and stop active military engagement in Afghanistan, but clearly he has agreed to retain something like 10,000 military for training and certain possible actions against terrorists. In the coming days we will learn if this is possible, and if not, what the alternative options are to preserve our interests in the region. It could also lead to a reassessment of these interests. But for now, most analysts see few good choices ahead.

 

The key problems may be Karzai himself, the perverted system he created, and whether any better leader is in the wings ready to act in the interest of the country.  U.S. aid has done much good in terms of education, health, and other services.  Both educational levels and health outcomes are much better than before we came, despite the obstacles. However, much of the infrastructure that we helped build is now crumbling due to corruption and neglect.

 

Finally, Afghanistan is a key strategic arena which impacts the critical state of Pakistan and is closely related to other key countries like Iran, China, and India. Again, we need a “grand strategy” for the region which brings all the powers of interest into some kind of “grand bargain” that enhances security for all of these countries, promotes mutual trade and development, and dampens down the historic hostilities that have been the instigator of conflict throughout the region. Please Secretary Kerry, in addition to all your other burdens, do try to sort out this conundrum. Seriously, we and the international community have a long-term, gigantic task to create better conditions and regional landscape for a more peaceful and secure region and to do it with diplomacy, not with a gun.

 

We welcome your comments!