Archive for the ‘Neoconservatives’ category

The North Korean Test

April 15, 2017

Is it Deja Vu all over again? The Trump Administration appears to be facing a similar “going nuclear” threat former President George W Bush saw before invading and occupying Iraq. There are some key differences, however. North Korea is already nuclear so there is no need to doctor the intelligence reports. Hmmm.

North Korea appears to be its own worst enemy. North Korea runs a bizarre isolated State where there is the Kim family and a close group of associates and everyone else. Starvation and deprivation are common conditions while the elite eat well and the country spends billions upon armaments and nuclear research. But what separates North Korea from other two bit authoritarian States is its willingness to tell the world of its plans. Irrational maybe but secretive, not.

If one plays along with the North Korean narrative, one should expect to see North Korea soon with tactical nuclear bombs and delivery devices (submarines and intercontinental rockets) capable of reaching any country who threatens North Korea (read US). What then one might ask?

Does anyone think North Korea could survive and exchange of nuclear bombs? Does anyone think the US would sue for peace if attacked by North Korea? Don’t think so.

So, if that is North Korea’s stated strategic intent (nuclear weapons and delivery systems), to what end would this capability be put? Does North Korea still seek to unite the Korean peninsula under their leadership? And would that be the end or would there be further territorial targets, like pay back goals such as attacking Japan or Russia?

Who knows what evil lurks in men’s minds?

One can see even better now what a poor example the Iraq Invasion and Occupation serves. To be sure a nuclear capable Iraq would have been a highly destabilizing factor in the Middle East. But the Iraq War was never really about potential nuclear weapons, there were none. The Iraq War was about enormously misguided neoconservative views about establishing a democracy in the heart of Arab fiefdoms, a shining light so to speak in a dark part of the world. The Iraq War would also show the rest of the world how powerful the US was and consequently make it much easier for the US to exert its will in other trouble spots. Oh, if that had been true?

North Korea is much different, or is it? What might happen if the US (even with China’s tacit approval) launched a pre-emptive attack. What if, as a result of this attack, there was regime change. What might follow? Would there emerge a lawless State bent on disrupting everyday life in South Korea or even China, sort a pirate like Asian Somalia.
Or would the US (and South Korea and Russia) accept Chinese occupation of the North in order to provide law and order. Or if one is really dreaming, would China (and South Korea and Russia) accept US occupation?

Hmmm.

This is the mess facing President Trump. Clearly North Korea is a failed State and if magic could rule, North Korea should be transformed into a peaceful nation. But there is no plan or expectation of this positive outcome at this time.

So, does the Trump Administration just watch and hope for the best? Does the Trump team work on China in hopes of forming a combined effort to change North Korea’s behavior? And what role, if any, does Russia play?

Logic would demand that the three great powers work together and resolve the North Korean threat. North Korea’s nuclear weapons could be aimed at anyone. But working together requires trust and tell me how much trust exist betweens Russia, China, and the US at present?

Arguably the North Korea Test is one the Trump Administration is least able to handle. President Trump has a career of “bullying” tactics, followed by a deal, followed by selective reneging. Is that the type of person Russia and China might want to make a deal?

Consequently, the Trump Administration is left with a “wait and hope” that China can/will apply more pressure on North Korea so that North Korea voluntarily muzzles its provocative statements and puts into moth balls its current efforts to weaponize its nuclear capability. The North Korean Test, far more than the Syrian civil war, teaches the basics of, like it or not, the US cannot be an isolationists (America first), and being a globalist is an extremely difficult act.

Where Is The Center In Troubled Times?

January 18, 2017

When George W Bush was elected in 2000, Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative”. What could be better, a mix of pragmatism and concern for others? The wealthy smiled as the Bush Administration made a case for two tax cuts. The evangelical community smiled when government policy turned upon science severely limiting stem cell research and linking foreign aid to impoverished countries’ family planning methods.

And the gates were opened for the neoconservative movement, blindly supporting Israel and simultaneously destabilizing the Arab world. Along came the Patriot Act, secret subpoenas, and Justice Department sanctioned torture.  Hmmm. That America’s part of the world tilted strongly to the right and away from the center would be an understatement.

Barack Obama brought into power countervailing tendencies. Science was again respected as evidenced by renewed concerns about global warming, use of data in forming public policy, and research into solar and wind technology. The Obama Administration pointedly worked to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to close the dark spot on America’s image, the Guantanamo Detention Facility. And, most remarkably, the Obama Administration attempted to bring US healthcare into the realm of other world class, modern industrial countries by passing the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican Party, lead by the Tea Party/Freedom Coalition howled in horror about the reckless race to the left. It was not, however, clear that President Obama was guiding America towards the “center” until Bernie Sanders’s campaign revealed much more progressive goals. For many conservatives, however, President Obama’s policies represented socialism, if not outright communism.  To highlight this, the Republican Party’s complete rejection of Merritt Garland’s Supreme Court nomination underscores GOP rejection of centrist governance.

As the Trump Administration readies itself to take office, the Republican controlled Congress appears like the cat ready to eat the canary. The Republican Congress can’t wait to take the country back and “back” will be well to the right of center.

The unknown, strangely is President-elect Trump. Will he focus upon the ideological right or what ever is needed to stimulate economic growth? Will President Trump trade support for right wing ideas in return for support of his growth initiatives? Or, even worse as some conservatives worry, would a President Trump simply be a Democrat in Republican clothing?

“Regaining The Center” may appear a desirable goal, especially in comparison to the conservative hinterlands Republicans boast as the fruits of taking America back. The GOP possesses enough votes in Congress that Republican initiatives can carry the day. “Regaining the Center” may serve the reader well by putting GOP policies in context as a public reminder that Republicans seek benefits for their wealthiest members, at the expense of the average person.  If there are benefits, these pluses flow incidental to their main purpose.

For now, the GOP and the Trump Administration can do pretty much what they wish. In two years and again in four, voters get to assess Republican stewardship.  As with George W Bush’s Administration whose results were mixed but on the big issues, failures, “Regaining the Center” may sound prophetic.  The center may soon appear much less unsettling for independents to shift left of the Trump Administration without doing a full Bernie Sanders.

 

Leading From Behind – Year End

December 31, 2016

Every year has a beginning, and whatever has a beginning, has an end. Today is the last day of 20116, the year of the unthinkable. What will 2017 bring?

President Obama has tried his best to change several trajectories upon which the US has sailing when he became President in 2009. One of the more controversial was his “leading from behind” foreign policy.

After having inherited poorly thought through strategies, such as nation building in Afghanistan and regime change in Iraq, President Obama apparently concluded that, if given the chance, the State Department would employ military force in any and all foreign policy issues, and the Military (Defense Department) would gladly fight in any theater as the willing enforcer for State Department policy. After 8 years with President George W Bush, State and Defense thought there was not a world situation not amenable to the salvation of military force.

President Obama, on the other hand, could not find logical, fact based arguments supporting continued military investment in the Middle East and seriously questioned continuing any presence in Afghanistan. When the Arab Spring occurred, President Obama resisted intervention in Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.
Tunisia formed a new government with relatively minor collateral problems. Libya incurred NATO air intervention resulting in the capture and death of Muammar Gaddafi. The Libya regime change has been rocky and still pits rival tribes against each other, and each of them against ISIS-type insurgents. Syria regrettably disintegrated into an all out civil war and produced millions of displaced persons and civilian deaths. At this point it appears Bashar Assad will retain power and hopes for a Syrian regime change will evaporate.

President-elect Trump has voiced the idea of “Peace Through Strength”. No more leading from behind.  These are thinly disguised words harkening back to the Bush era where the neoconservative, chicken hawks gladly dispatch other American’s sons and daughters to armed conflicts.

These sweetly flavored words promise a peaceful American life by keeping the world’s thugs off our doorsteps. If the world were only that simple.

President Trump will experience the same “tell him what he wants to hear” briefings from the Intelligence Agencies and State Department. And as it should, the Defense Department will develop plans to achieve what it is asked.

President Obama learned to question toughly what each agency or department recommended. The open question is “WWDD”?

Hunkering Down For Four Long Years

December 11, 2016

Donald Trump’s election coupled with the GOP control of Congress augers for a long and difficult four years. The tough times will come in the form of social conservatism running rough shod over the last eight years of social progressivism. People of small minds will foist their views on others and attempt to roll back 40 years of progressive gains.

The Trump years will be a field day for “anything goes” labor laws, loose and lax environmental rules, and open season for States rights. All this in the name of making America Great Again. Hmmm.

Great leaders are given credit for enabling great outcomes. Less than great leaders often unleash events and outcomes of staggering proportions but too often these come with unintended or unexpected consequences. With a President and Congressional of the same party, President-elect Trump faces the fork in the road, will he strive to be great or will events and the enemy within his party overwhelm his Presidency?

Ohio is a good example of what will face President Trump during the next four years.
The Ohio legislature has rushed a bill through the Republican controlled legislature. The bill would outlaw abortions once a fetal heart beat is detectable. In Ohio legislators’ minds, life begins with detection of a heart beat, not viability which the Supreme Court has rules as the standard. For pro-lifers, this is welcome legislation. For pro-choice, this is the dark side rising again.

The Supreme Court has ruled that before “viability”, about the 24th week, a woman should have the unobstructed right to end a pregnancy for what ever reason she chooses. After 24 weeks, States could impose reasonable restriction. So what is Ohio thinking?

Pundits report that Ohio is anticipating President-elect Trump’s promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court Justices in the mold of the deceased Antonin Scalia. Accordingly the conservative goal is to outlaw abortion and if that is not possible, return abortion law to States and keep the Federal Government out of this process.

What could be more democratic than to allow States to rule on this contentious issue for themselves?

The abortion issue is quite complicated. In an ideal world, a woman would become pregnant only if she truly wanted a child. In this ideal world, pregnancies would proceed medically trouble free and the child would be born into a loving, wholesome family setting. Regrettably, life does not follow that path.

Rape, incest, and risk to the woman’s life are real parts of American lives. Domestic violence and sudden economic trouble also unfortunately move many pregnant women to determine the timing is inappropriate for a full term pregnancy. And to be sure, there are some who attach no importance to pregnancy and for even the most minor inconvenience would end the pregnancy, or worse bring a newborn into a world absent of love and care.

For these reason, pro-choice advocates seek to make abortion legal and safe but exceedingly rare.

It is difficult to know what President-elect Trump actually thinks about abortion access. Over the years, he has held both pro and con views.  And, as if he was the Pied Piper, Trump has said many things only to later walk them back.

What is not hard anticipate is that all the conservative special interests will once again try to impose their personal views on others.

Keep your eyes open for the flat earth-ers (the earth is 5,000 years old), global warming deniers (science is bunk), sexual orientation bigots (the bible say so), and not to be overlooked, the neocons who will gleefully send other Americans’ children off to war (remember Iraq).

Once Again, Do Ends Justify Means?

December 6, 2016

During the George W Bush years, especially with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, the Administration mantra was “the ends justify the means”. There was no civil liberty or time honored practice that was not sacred enough to escape being trampled if it stood in the way of an Administration objective. Now, in the early days preceding the Trump years, there are many indications that the good old days of “do what is necessary” will rule the day.

President Obama ran a different type of Presidency. Obama’s critics point to him leading from behind and running rough shod over Article one of the Constitution, making law through regulatory action. A far more apt President Obama criticism might be his years were “the means justify the ends”.

President Obama used only executive prerogatives which prior Presidents had used, for example appointments during Senate recesses and only when the Republican controlled Congress failed to act. With President Obama there were no incidents of fabricated intelligence, invasion of sovereign lands, or out right violation of signed treaties like the Geneva Convention. But to many, the Obama years lacked decisive action, ISIS being the critic’s most popular example.

So, it is not a surprise that neoconservatives and other right wing types see the Trump Presidency as a time the sun will shine again. These are people who see government power as the most effective statecraft tool. Carry a bigger stick, use it enough that opponents worry you might use it again, and demand everything as a means of getting the most. (Sound like a New York real estate developers motto?)

This week President-elect Trump has exercised his bully pulpit against United Technology’s Carrier air conditioning unit. By extension he has fired a warning shot across other American companies ideas about outsourcing jobs.  Trump has threatened new tariffs if words won’t suffice.

If retaining jobs is successful, how could this be an undesirable “ends”?

In another case, President-elect Trump arranged a telephone call with Taiwan’s President, a no-no for the past 60 years in US-China relations. But if Trump’s goal was to gain more US exports to China, how could that not be a desirable “ends”?

Both of these incidents could also be simply “bluffs”. President-elect Trump may think these are cost-free tactics which if they produce the desired outcome are great and if they do not, they cost virtually nothing he may think. Hmmm, or did they?

The neoconservatives and far right wingers are truly dangerous people. They seek to achieve government objectives by force which means too often using the sons and daughters of other people in military action. While this sacrifice is necessary when the US must defend its boarders, venturing into the affairs of other sovereign nations almost always comes back to haunt us.

The President-elect must be careful that his “bluffing” gambits will be misconstrued by the hawks and understood as encouragement for these chicken hawks to do the same.

Another potential casualty of the “bluff” approach is that the bluffs may obscure other viable approaches. In the case of US companies shipping jobs overseas, a revisit to the tax code might reveal changes which make these outsourcing moves less valuable. The President-elect might, if truly serious about making America Great Again, instead de-emphasize “maximizing shareholder value” in favor of broader corporate governance which considers 4 stakeholders (customers, employees, communities, and owners/shareholders).

The Taiwan phone call is hard to figure. Sending a signal that the US under Trump might do the unexpected is grossly naive since in the period of nuclear deterrents, the last thing the US wants is to send unclear messages.  For US self interests, it is important to know what China’s (or Russia) intent are or that China or Russia know ours.

And what would the President-elect think when the Chinese President begins calling Raul Castro regularly?

Ends do not justify any means, and bluffs, especially those associated with bullying, are extremely short sighted tactics. Lets hope these incidents are just growing pains for the new Administration.

The Dark Side Of Cruz and Trump

April 8, 2016

With New York as the next big primary delegate prize, an amazing yet frightening picture is emerging. Main stream Republicans are racing to support Ted Cruz in order to block Donald Trump from gaining the nomination.

Conservatives, that is real conservatives like Ted Cruz see the US quite differently from most everyone else. These conservatives seem to lack any capacity to comprehend income inequality and the hardships it brings to so many. Getting “government” out of the way and getting “tough” on undocumented workers will reignite America’s economic growth, they say. Hmmm.

Getting government out of the way, of course, includes repealing Obamacare, eliminating government departments (like Department of Education), and doing away with the “inconvenient” regulations which provide the rules businesses must follow. Cruz promises that jobs will grow practically on every tree when he is President. He neglects, however, to say how much these jobs will pay, nor why Americans will line up for the jobs currently performed by soon to be deported undocumented workers.

Another GOP theme this year deals with law enforcement. The conservative candidates promise to have law enforcement’s back. They point a finger at those politicians who have supported careful reviews of incidents where excessive force was suspected of having been used. For Ted Cruz, it is black and white, police are your friends, suspects are the enemy.

Exactly how much of Cruz’ campaign rhetoric he actually believes, of course, is debatable. That Cruz is a calculating, mean spirited, ego centric demagogue seems pretty clear. His policy statements could be self serving and aimed to simply build a support base. But there is no reason to believe that a President Cruz would walk away from his pronouncements on Obamacare, religious freedoms, immigration, and “neoconservative” foreign policy.

Donald Trump is different.

Trump has said some outrageous things. For example, black mailing Mexico in order for Mexico to pay for building a wall along the border, or stopping entry into the US for anyone who is Muslim (whether US citizen or not), or unilaterally renegotiating trade deals involving China, all masquerade as solutions designed to improve a hurting middle class.

In reality Trump’s proposals will just create more problems… if they were actually implemented… And there in lies the difference.  Trump is highly likely to walk away from these extreme views.  He is a business man after all.

Both candidates have spewed half baked ideas which are economically foolish and values wise bankrupt, but one candidate is backed by Americans who believe in Tea Party conservatism and the other who is backed by Americans who are sick and tired of income inequality, don’t know its cause, and see Trump as the only candidate who promises to try and rebalance the playing field.

What a mess.

For those who always look for a bright spot, this current GOP front runners situation presents a potential which might not be obvious. There is no longer a majority and genuine Republican Party in America. The Cruz segment, Tea Party or Freedom Coalition members, espouse economics which are dead ended mixed in with quasi religious values which allow an individual to pick and choose who they wish to disadvantages… with a clear conscience.

Relatively speaking more moderate GOP members find themselves handicapped with unattractive policies necessary to maintain their coalitions majority and looking at the wrong side of demographic trends. In America, the voices of gays, Hispanics, and women see the Cruz type Republicans unfavorably and will express this dissatisfaction at the polls.

For those who look for what can go wrong, Democrats without a strong and viable opposition represents only a slightly better economic policy option and within a short period of time could drive the ship of State onto the rocks.

But given the current candidates, is there really any other choice?

A Tortured Path To The Democrat Nomination

January 18, 2016

Last night’s Democrat debate in South Carolina underscored the difficulty Hillary Clinton will have if she is to become the first woman President. Simply stated, Clinton must win the primary process in the face of deja vu all over again. ABC’s Rick Kline described the Clinton-Sanders contest as a race between the Party’s heart and its mind. Remember Barack Obama’s appeal in 2008?

Sanders has chosen two factually sound positions (controls for too big to fail banks, and universal healthcare).  Both issues are enormously difficult to message in sufficient detail for the electorate to quickly grasp.

Banks which gamble with depositors money are inherently dangerous and enormously unfair to tax payers who must bail out the banks should their “bets” go bust. There must be some consequence for any large bank that seeks a bail out, like a complete replacement of its board and chief executives (with clawbacks on past bonuses), and the loss of complete shareholder value. Breaking up existing “too big to fail” is an option but so would a set of consequences which could minimize these death wish strategies that nearly brought the worlds banking system to collapse in 2008.

Sanders second issue, universal healthcare, could not be more founded on fact. Regardless of whether someone feels healthcare is a right or if someone feels healthcare is a privilege, the unvarnished truth is Americans spends twice as much for healthcare than another modern country in the world and receive no better health outcomes. Obamacare goes a long way in achieving healthcare as a right, but has not made a significant dent in the per capita cost. A universal healthcare system like Germany or France’s would make that correction…. but would turn the current system on its head. How can we expect a Sanders proposal to suddenly pass in Congress when President Obama can’t get Federal Judge nominations through committee for a vote?

The general election will be different. The GOP has already scoped out extreme and provocative positions with which either a Hillary or a Bernie will stand in sharp contrast. Of the two, Bernie’s passion around healthcare and the banks will fade when confronted with GOP attacks on healthcare, Medicaid, Social Security, lower taxes for the rich (leading to more budget pressure on entitlements, and a return to neoconservative policies which got America into the Iraq War and the morphed nation building role in Afghanistan.

While many are “feeling the Bern”, in a general election campaign either candidate will be judged more as the opposite of the GOP and its platform than for what they might advocate during the primaries. The months ahead will determine whether it’s Hillary or Bernie but it is doubtful that universal healthcare or breaking up the banks will decide the general election.