Archive for the ‘Iraq War’ category

Nuclear Blackmail

June 18, 2019

This past week Iran announced it might soon exceed some of the agreed upon limits to its nuclear development program.  Of course this statement should come as no surprise since the US unilaterally pulled out of the 6 nation agreement and reimposed severe sanctions on Iran.  But, one must wonder given the statement issued by the US National Security Council what the NSC is thinking.

“Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left their capabilities intact,” NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”   Hmmm.

There is no secret that many Republicans and conservatives, for various reasons, strongly opposed the Iran Nuclear Agreement (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan For Action).  The JCPFA, however, did provide a verifiable path to a cessation in Iran’s nuclear weapons development.  The JCPFA did not provide for all the demands conservatives were making.  So was half a loaf better than none?

As is happening now with North Korea, some Administration people want complete disarmament and proof positive of denuclearization as a basis for negotiation or nothing.  These demands are not going to happen with North Korea.  And it is not going to happen with Iran either.

Behind the scenes, Israel has been a vocal supporter of a tough line with Iran and even recommending “regime change”.  (Remember Israel also pushed a similar line with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.)

This tough as nails position has the advantage of never being wrong in any foreign affairs discussion.  Unless Iran throws open its doors and throws out all nuclear weapons, research papers and files, and proves that former nuclear scientists are no longer employed, how can America be sure Iran does not have secret programs?  But this extreme position is a non-starter.

An honest NSC and State Department would have said that Iran’s decision to exceed certain previously agreed to limits was regrettable but understandable since the US was no longer abiding by its agreements either.  But who said the Trump Administration is any more clear eyed or honest in its rhetoric that the President himself.   

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Does Lying Matter?

June 13, 2019

President Trump has demonstrated little affinity for telling the truth.  The best perspective would be that the President believes strongly that the ends justify the means, and if the President thinks a situation should be this way or that way, then using words that effect that outcome may be appropriate.  Hmmm.

There are many moral or ethical rationales why “ends do not justify means” but don’t waste your time trying to convince the President.  Recent newspaper reports site the President as having “lied” over 10,000 times in public statements.  And most of these cases are readily verifiable with publicly available data.  Hmmm.

Most people learn about lying as children with the story of the little boy who cried “wolf”.  The lesson is how can anyone believe another person if the other person persists in telling lies?  President Trump has taken this fable to a new level and most observers first reaction to the President’s comments is that the truth is most likely the opposite of what President Trump has said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney got President George W Bush to lie about Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program and suffered a permanently damaged reputation when the US invaded Iraq on this false basis.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now announced that he has proof Iran was behind the attacks on two commercial oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.

While this is possible (the US may have radio intercepts), it is highly unlikely there is a smoking gun.  Much more likely there are presumed connections to an Iranian surrogate or an Iranian financed rogue unit.  

Americans should be alert to Washington talk over the next days and weeks.  There is simply too much of a convenient connection when the Trump Administration labels Iran as the enemy.   Focusing America’s attention on the bad guys takes public opinion away from China or Mexico or the Mueller report.  

If the President can’t tell the truth, why should Americans believe his Secretary of State? 

The Iran Reveal

May 10, 2018

This post requires the reader to remember (or research) the early years of George W Bush’s Presidency.  “W” was only slightly more prepared to become President than our current President.  “W” possessed an amazing lack of curiosity and an utter disinterest in details.  DJT has, he thinks, an intellect that does not need details which effectively puts him in the  same league as “W”.  But in a side by side comparison, “W” stands taller.

So, going back to the beginnings of the Bush years, one finds his White House full of neo-conservatives.  This group’s core were signators to PNAC (Project for the New American Century) and they were sure they knew how the Country should apply American military and economic strength towards any country that stood in the America’s way.

From PNAC, America inherited the likes of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumfled, and a few more.  From this group, America received wholesale collection of American citizen telephone data, the tragic and unexplainable Iraq invasion and occupation, and a photo black out on returning dead servicemen. 

The prosecution of the Iraq War was initially brilliant but once the Iraq military collapsed, the American occupation was exposed for what it was, wholly unprepared to administer Iraq and apparently ignorant of the Sunni/Shiite complexities.

President Trump has simplified America’s Middle East policy.  Israel and Saudi Arabia are good, Iran and Syria are bad.  From this shallow perspective, President Trump concluded, despite much advice to the contrary, that withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal was not only in America’s best interest, but Trump thought it strange that Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China did not see it his way and withdraw also.  Hmmm.

Trumpian logic rest on the assumption that the world needs the US militarily and economically and the US can simply dictate to the rest the terms the US finds acceptable.  There is no doubt that most countries seek protection based upon America’s military and economic strength, but this ignores political reality.

There are factions is most all other countries as divided and vehemently opposed to other political groups as Tea Partiers are to Progressives.  Consequently, finding unity of purpose alone is very difficult.  The Iran Nuclear Agreement represents a tremendous accomplishment.  To simply trash the Iran Nuclear Agreement, especially when Iran was in compliance, demonstrates a woeful knowledge deficiency in international affairs.

Trump and his anti-Iran advisors hold the view that the US can push back the hands of time and reimpose leak proof sanctions.  Not going to happen.  Until Iran restarts its nuclear weapons projects, the rest of the world will buy Iran’s oil and other goods and pay for them with Euros and Yuan.  Investment in Iran will follow a similar path.  And Iran will continue to fund Hamas and Hezbollah.

Sheldon Adelson, Benjamin Netanyahu, John Bolton, and a host of other conservative intervention-ers will cheer President Trump’s decision and along with other draft avoiders, wave the flag when the US is forced to send troops back to the Middle East. 

Will The Chicken Hawks Return?

February 15, 2018

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying this past week before Congressional Committees. One news report quoted Coats as saying the US was running out of time to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Coats indicated that soon only military force would remain a viable option. WHAT ???

George W Bush is still alive and so is the chief chicken hawk, Dick Chaney. The memory of their fiasco telling Americans that when the US invaded Iraq our soldiers would be welcomed by Iraqis throwing flower petals at their feet as they marched by. To be sure some Iraqis threw objects at American soldiers feet but flower petals were not the objects.

The Iraq invasion and occupation remains one, if not the, greatest foreign policy failure whose consequences Americans will be visiting for years to come. The invasion opened a pandora’s box (to the surprise of Cheney and Bush) and unleashed sectarian violence through out the region. Instead of intimidating the Iranians, events embolden them to drive even harder developing nuclear weapons.

On the domestic front, Americas recognized once more that older men send younger men off to war, promise the soldiers full support and then proceed to forget about military members including those wounded and maimed when they return home.

North Korea is a two-bit country which may in fact develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver the weapons to US soil. North Korea will join a list of 8 other nations also capable of deploying the “bomb”. Does Coats think China and Russia will stand by an allow the US to “take out” North Korea or any of the others preemptively?

The conservative right may feel bold and think giving North Korea a “bloody nose” in some type of preemptive move is a wise tactic. Regrettably, these “black-white” thinkers can not recognize today’s world contours. Instead they project American military strength around the world as if military strength was unique and more appropriate than diplomacy. Current generation conservatives appear more comfortable making short term decisions and in the process frittering away America’s moral and strategic leadership.

Strategic patience was the term President Obama used to encompass a comprehensive strategy for combatting North Korea and other uncooperative States. Strategic Patience foresees bad behavior by small countries as a nuisance, not an imminent threat.  And, in any comprehensive policy, President Obama’s Administration tried to engage other powers including Russia and China in attempts to find global solutions for nuisance countries.

In contrast, the Bush/Cheney era was driven by “neo-conservatives” who relied upon rattling the saber rather then undertaking the more nuanced hard work of diplomacy. Sending other people’s children to war against smaller countries was the hallmark of these “chicken hawks”. Shooting first, thinking (about the consequences) later defined these misguided leaders.

Under President Obama, foreign policy was forged with a heavy emphasis on assessing the world as it was and as it was trending. Sending our soldiers into war became a last resort.

I wonder whether Coats testimony has accidentally revealed the emergence of a new generation of chicken hawks?

Trapped By Words

January 22, 2018

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump joined other Republicans who heaped criticism upon former President Obama for the existence of ISIS. Joining people like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Trump stressed that the Obama strategic decision to withdraw combat troops from Iraq was a sign of weakness and in a Trump Administration, there would be no weakness.

ISIS, Trump said, was a direct result of Obama’s foreign policy.

After one year as President, I wonder what President Trump thinks? I am not concerned about what he tweets but rather what he really thinks.

ISIS is just another name for al Qaeda or Taliban or Muslim Brotherhood or Hezbollah or Hamas. These radical Islamic groups have existed for many years and represent Muslim factions that seek power and find strict Muslim fundamentalism backed by guns as an effective technique to seize power and hold it.

History has shown that these groups can be held in check only through authoritarian measures.

Had Republicans owned up to George W Bush’s doomed decision to invade and occupy Iraq (and to a lesser extent, President Bush’s decision to allow the morphing of US Afghan foreign policy to nation building), in other words owning up to having opened Pandora’s box in the first place, a far more comprehensive foreign policy might have been found. Alas that did not happen.

So, today the Government finds itself surreptitiously increasing American military presence in Afghanistan and doing the same in Syria and Iraq. The current American posture is ready made for an unforeseen event (like a full scale ambush of US soldiers or an intra-region squabble between Middle East neighbors trapping American forces).

One might cut President Trump a break on this since Pandora’s box is open regardless if Republicans won’t own up. But the President is not going to get any break because he has chosen to side publicly with Israel when common sense would dictate the role of “honest broker”.

What could possibly motivate President Trump to announce moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq is now woven into the modern Middle East history. For the time being, radical Muslim fundamentalism has access to money and weapons.  There is also plenty of “ugly American” examples which appeal to poor, less educated Arabs and provide the necessary support military units need.

President Trump was, from day 1 of his Administration, trapped by the words of denial by his and other leading Republicans. During President Trump’s first year in office, he has managed to increasingly trap himself (and all of us too).   In a Middle East world where no exit can be seen, cautious words speak louder than foolish ones.

Leading From Behind, II

September 5, 2017

America’s two major political parties have spent the last decade identifying issues which their supporters held sacred and then blaming their political opponents for supposed transgressions, regardless of what was best for our Country. One of the best examples might be Republican’s claims that President Obama was weak on foreign policy and specialized in “leading from behind”. Evidence abounded, Republicans claimed. Look at the Middle East, North Korea, and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Hmmm.

Hypocrisy overflowed with each criticism of President Obama. It was on Republican President George W Bush watch that Iraq was invaded and occupied and when Afghanistan’s police mission morphed into nation building. And, it was a Republican controlled Congress which refused to vote any authorization for Middle East military action while the world watched Syria melt down.

So, today we have a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress. What type of global leadership does America present now?

The first statement that can be made is that when foreign affairs is measured in “tweets”, American is in a leading position.

The second statement might be President Trump believes in “strategy-free” foreign affairs. This second statement enables the President to speak sharply about a subject and then undercut his emphasis with a completely unrelated comment whose consequence is to negate any positive effect his first statement might produce. Witness the call for China to help reign in North Korea one moment and then threatening to punish China with trade restrictions.

The President, of course, is trying to have it both ways (delight his supporters with tough talk towards both North Korea and China while blindly thinking tough talk is enough or that China could care the least about North Korean threats towards the US).

The third statement might be the “proof is in the pudding”. Has President Trump succeeded at anything domestically or in foreign policy? Has President Trump or Congress lined up global leaders behind any Trump policies, especially any aimed at making the global community economically stronger and more secure?

Do world leaders think better of President Trump than his predecessor former President Obama?

The world is a very complicated place and the days of US overwhelming economic and military superiority versus the rest of the world is over. Nuclear weapons lie in many different countries’ hands. Developed Countries are wealthy by historic standards. Further, the national interests of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Europe are not aligned other than to think the US already has too much and they have too little. Hmmm.

President Obama left a legacy which President Trump has worked to negate. President Obama comprehended global events as complicated and complex, and requiring thoughtful, integrated US response.  The Paris Climate Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership were two worthwhile and potentially useful initiatives which worked on real issues while building trust and partnership.

So President Trump’s attacking or walking away from policies which could help bind nations together (or at least keep them from drifting further apart), seems a bit short sighted.

I wonder if President Trump’s “tweet driven” style could be seen as “Leading From Behind, II”.  Do you think it is as thoughtful as former President Obama’s foreign policies?

Trump’s Syria

April 5, 2017

How many people do you know, besides yourself, who wished they could take back something they may have said in haste? Plenty I bet. Former President Obama is surely one of them too. His unfortunate “red line” warning is a good example.

Former President Obama was quite on the mark when he expressed outrage that anyone, and in particular, the Syrian Government would use chemical warfare, and use these outlawed weapons on its own people. Obama’s issuing of a warning he could not enforce was at its best like pulling for an inside straight. There was no way the treat would alter the behavior of a regime fighting for its life. At it worst, Obama’s red line reinforced the impression that the US would not act in any decisive manner to end the Syrian insurrection.

A lot has happened since the former President’s ill fated words. Russia’s entry into the conflict seems to have tilted power back into the Syrian Government’s hands. While needless deaths have continued, there seems to have been every indication that the civil war was heading to a conclusion. And then yesterday, Syria used chemical weapons again.

Pictures of the aftermath are horrific. Shown are defenseless civilians, including children, reacting to the painful and life threatening effects of these weapons (believed to be sarin gas). In what had already been documented as a war against humanity, a new outrageous chapter was opened.

President Trump now has the spotlight on him. What will the President do?

President Trump, in a pattern which seems genuinely him, immediately blamed someone else, this time President Obama. If President Trump really believes these words, America and Americans are really in trouble.

Lest we not forget, in another place on the globe, North Korea has continued to act provocatively on President Trump’s watch and other than words, the President has done nothing. Now President Trump has two failed States acting up and both apparently uninterested in making any deal with the great deal maker.

Syria sits in the middle of the Middle East. The invasion and occupation of Iraq opened Pandora’s Box, destabilizing the entire region. Thinking that an outside force, especial a non-Muslim force, can put Humpty Dumpty together again is wishful thinking.

North Korea, which lies snuggly against China’s northeast border, represents a different but equally dangerous challenge. Like President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Kim Jung Un is all about how to keep himself in power, and like Syria, North Korea cares little about the well being of its citizens. President Trump has said “all options are on the table” in response to North Korean provocations (striking the US west coast with a nuclear weapon). Does that sound like a red line?

Whether President Trump likes it or not, his Administration now owns North Korea and Syria. What ever goes right or wrong in either regime will be like fly paper. The great deal maker will not be able to get it off his hands.