Archive for the ‘nuclear weapons’ category

Looking Ahead

January 9, 2017

Donald Trump is still President-elect. In 11 more days he will become the 45th US President and the consequences of the 2016 election will begin to be revealed. Trump has woven insiteful advice with his own intellect and killer instincts and achieved a victory most thought impossible. The elephant in the room is will President Trump be as effective when he attempts to put his policies in place in the context of the Republican controlled Congress and the unpredictability of world events.

Looking ahead, here are some thoughts.

  • The President-elect has selected a cast of strong willed people to form his cabinet. The question of the day is, will the new cabinet members be allowed to run their own show, or will the “White House” run it for them? Of course Donald Trump will be the President and as such these cabinet heads report to him, not Congress, and not the voters. But strong willed people normally do not take kindly to anyone telling them how to do their jobs. Who will be the first casualty and will it happen in the first year?
  • The Republican controlled Congress is a quasi stable majority. Republican unity results only from their shared desire to control of Congress, and the perks that follow. As demonstrated with this 115th Congress’ first action, attempting to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, Congress’ leadership is neither strategic or purposeful. Someone as canny as Donald Trump should be able to pick them apart and get their rubber stamp on any of his initiatives. But what might happen if some part of the Republican Congress gets its back up? What if Congressional members criticize the President?
  • Most financial prognosticators are predicting good things for Wall Street. Tax cuts and spending programs (like infrastructure investment) may stimulate economic growth, some positing as much as 7% GDP growth. But what if promised corporate tax cuts simply flow to the investors and owners pockets and not to creating new jobs? What if infrastructure spending turns into pork barrel projects for key Congressional Committee chairmen? And what if some of the “pork” falls from the pubic trough into the lap of a Trump family member?
  • Repeal and replace Obamacare represents the most obvious risk to this Republican honeymoon. While Republican messaging today (like patient centered healthcare, not Washington centered) is carrying the day, what if the “replace” plan bombs? What if the replace price tag unleashes fiscal conservatives’ wrath?  And, what if Republicans can not stop with Obamacare but feel the urge to rush on with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security?
  • What if Japan thinks through the President-elects threat towards Toyota building a plant in Mexico? Does anyone rationally believe that other countries will subjugate their own economies to prop up Trump’s Make America Great Again? Picking on small countries like Mexico may appear risk free but other countries are watching and can be expected to prepare defenses if not collaborate jointly to counter balance the new bully.
  • The urge to roll back much of the social progress that has been made in the last 8 years will be huge. Gay rights, women’s rights, and immigration reforms are obvious targets. But don’t over look the myriad of ways to suppress voting rights. This two edged sword may delight some Republican voters but could just as easily bring forward new charismatic Democrat leaders.

The picture just outlined is one of many fast moving parts. Any of these changes could create unforeseen consequences, which in turn could splinter the Republican majority bringing to an early halt many of the Trump agenda items. And should the Republican controlled Congress somehow get to think it was more powerful than the chief executive, they will be in for a fight they can only have nightmares about.

Over the past 8 years the 7/24 news media has grown a business model which feasts upon statements or events which titillate, arouse, madden, or otherwise encourage the reader or listener to jump to some unsupported conclusion or opinion. The media appears to bear no remorse over the dumbing down of news and instead values only its audience ratings and its bottom line. What if enough of the major information sources caught their collective breaths and revisited their journalistic standards? Remember the Watergate investigations?

And let’s not forget the unknowable. What calamities might be waiting around the corner. What if North Korea develops the capability to deliver nuclear weapons intercontinentally? What if Pakistan is overthrown and its nuclear weapons land in a Middle East country’s hands? What if China loses control of its economy and the Chinese Government needs to create an external enemy in order to maintain its domestic control? And, and, and…

Most of all, one must remember voters represent a fractured electorate. Donald Trump will become President with a minority of the popular vote, and his electoral college majority was wafer thin. It will not take much convince enough voters to make Trump a one term President.  And most elements of the Republican Congressional majority would prefer a one term Trump than for themselves to lose reelection.  I wonder who has got whose back?

Governing is much harder than running for office.

Arming Others

May 1, 2016

In his recent “Presidential” foreign policy speech, Donald Trump offered the notion that the US ought to disengage from NATO and encourage countries like South Korea, Japan, and Germany to rearm and go nuclear. Such a statement ought to be grounds for disqualification for anyone seeking to become President. It displays a complete lack of foreign policy experience and a dangerous misunderstanding of history.

Europe, for whose protection the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed, has a long history of wars.  War was the preferred means to settle disagreements or to increase the national wealth as the aggressor. While many lay blame at royal family feuding, it remains the case that European countries lack diversity (largely because that’s what makes the France french, Italy italian, and Germany german).

Europe as a whole is diverse but the nations that make it up are not. Dissolve NATO and all that remains is the shaky European Union. How do you think Germany and France would resolve a serious conflict?

But allowing or even encouraging Japan, South Korea, and Germany to go nuclear is asking for trouble. The majority of citizens in those countries are wonderful, intelligent, and kind people. So what’s the issue?

Japan, South Korea, and Germany have all be run in the past by feudal or authoritarian governments. The fear is they could return to those dark days under the right conditions.

The rise of a populous leader who invokes nationalistic themes could once again take control. This type of leader will appeal to the masses that he/she knows what’s best and can turn away those “others” who are trying to bring ruin to Japan, South Korea, or Germany. Remember your history? Or better yet, does this sound familiar to the 2016 Presidential race?

Minority leaders who gain control by promises of grander times begin their leadership time with a heavy burden. What will they do if the economy doesn’t improve? What will they tell the populous?

Most of these leaders double down and buy time by saying their country is on the right path.  A little more time and maybe some harder measures, they say, will bring the desired results.

Suspension of lawful rule soon follows with a declared “State of Emergency” in which the despot rules by decree is the end state.

While Japan, South Korea, and Germany’s sovereignty allows each of the countries to rearm as their citizens wish, economics, technology, and a painful memory of World War II have tempered any nationalistic tendencies. For Donald Trump to suggest a return to the past is inexcusable for a commander in chief and future world leader.

Once More On Iran, Chuck Schumer

August 8, 2015

The big news yesterday was that New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer has declared his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal presently before Congress. While far from unexpected, his decision to oppose has burst the bubble of many progressives who viewed Schumer as a thoughtful, fact driven legislator. Now the smell of opportunist and being too close a friend of AIPAC is filling the air. Hmmm.

Opposition to the deal is itself not an issue. The agreement is complicated and whether Iran will honor their “promises” is problematic. The refrain, however, that the US should holdout for a better deal is clearly a ruse. Opponents really believe no deal is possible and accordingly want to remain on “war prepared” footing. While these opponents strenuously deny war is inevitable, their opposition makes little sense on other bases.

Schumer’s opposition stands in the face of two worrisome implications. First, AIPAC is clearly aligned with Israel’s current government and sees the Iran negotiations from those eyes. This is plain and simply dangerous for someone who is likely to be the next Senate Democrat leader. How can the President or anyone else ask Schumer for his advice knowing it will be whatever AIPAC (or should I say Israel) wants?

The second issue is Schumer’s statements that he will work for Senate rejection of the agreement (and presumably this means to override any Presidential veto too).  What happens next in that case.  The UN has already approved the agreement and the rest of the world is lining up to begin trade with Iran. A one country sanction will hardly impact Iran. Opponents may talk boldly about increasing the level of sanctions, but with the world trading with Iran, a US trade embargo will amount to a mosquito bite.


Finding A Serious Person

July 23, 2015

Senator Mitch McConnell said yesterday that “no serious person truly believes” that the US faces the dilemma of either accepting the “deal” with Iran or going to war over Iran’s nuclear program. This is a brilliant statement which is literally correct but irrelevant to the question now before Congress. Should the Congress approve the deal negotiated with Iran or find a “veto proof” majority necessary to reject it?
Of course, McConnell’s statement is correct. There is no requirement for the US to go to war with Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (even though Congressional leaders and the President have said the US should). And, the likelihood of war would be even lower if the US manned up and asked the country to pay “war taxes” and “ agree to a draft” as conditions to go to war with Iran.   But that isn’t the question on the table.

The question Congress must address is “is the specific agreement reached with Iran (and accepted by the UN) in America’s best interest?

Opponents of this agreement have long said the agreement is not good enough. They demand “a better deal”. While “a better deal” is often described as containing a Iran pledge to acknowledge “Israel’s right to exist”, there is nothing in the current agreement which supports Iran’s current denial of Israel’s right to exist either. This agreement is silent on that issue.

There are several aspects of the proposed agreement, however, which make one wonder. For example, the agreement is a 10 year one. Why 10 years and not longer? Why accept a reduced number of centrifuges instead of requiring all centrifuges be destroyed? Why are inspectors not free to go anywhere in Iran at any time and look for possible Iran cheating?

All of these “whys” might make a better deal. Does it require a “serious person” to understand that? Hmmm.

The real world is far more complicated than Senator McConnell would let on. Iran has its views on what its best interests look like. The deal negotiated was the “best” deal available given the efforts of 6 world powers and Iran. The proper question is rather “is this agreement good enough to delay by 10 years Iran’s development of nuclear weapons”? And “a serious person” needs to look closely at the agreement and ask that question.

Alas, Senator McConnell is really asking for “serious persons” to look the other way and let the alliance of GOP Congress members and Israel stop any agreement.

Worse than just stopping the agreement, Senator McConnell has no clue as to how to obtain a better one. And even worse than that, with a rejection of this agreement, Iran is free to resume its nuclear development program immediately and head towards the ultimate deployment of nuclear weapons.

Presumably if this path is followed either Israel or the West will decide to intercede with military force.


A Bad Deal?

April 6, 2015

The Netanyahu-AIPAC-GOP Congress cry this week continues to be “a bad deal is worse than no deal at all”. These well tuned words underline an important difference of opinion, and quite frankly display flawed logic. Let me explain.

“No deal” is the current state. There are economic sanctions which have strangled the Iranian economy. The West lead by the US and abetted by Israel threatens the very Iranian existence claim the more conservative Iranian elements. The Iran Government, however, finds ways to continue pursuing nuclear technology, enriching uranium, developing missiles, deploying its troops and supporting its allies Hezbollah and Hamas in regional conflicts. Not a pretty picture to me.

So what can happen with the current situation? Iran, of course, could have a change of heart (like Kadafi and Libya did) and voluntarily destroy their nuclear facilities. Not likely.

More certain would be a continuance of the current nuclear programs with the ultimate development and deployment of nuclear weapons. The price of Middle East poker would go up.

Both Israel and President Obama (speaking for US policy) have said they will not allow Iran to development or obtain nuclear weapons. Hmmm. That must mean military intervention at some future time.

So what happens with a “bad” deal?

Iran could “cheat” or at least not follow the implied meanings of the “deal”. Sooner or later, under this scenario, Iran would in secret develop nuclear capability and deploy it on weapons. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like doing nothing…

The kindest words that can be said about all the rhetoric in opposition to the “deal” announced last week is that opponents want to characterize Iran as untrustworthy and those who would trust a deal are politically naive. Opposing the deal is a “no lose” position.

If the deal works, the world is better off. If the deal fails, the world is no worse than it is today but these opponents gain enormous bragging rights about how shrewd they are (and by implication why they should be elected).

It must be acknowledged that the “deal” is not done and awaits detailed, yet to be negotiated language. It is fully possible that no deal may emerge. It is also fully possible that a detailed document does emerge and Iran either cheats or interprets the document differently. And should the GOP gain the White House in 2016, it is not out of the question that a new GOP Administration might renege on the “deal” and Iran would restart its program.

Another argument against the “deal” being put forth by Prime Minister Netanyahu is that other Middle East countries will begin their paths to the bomb if this deal goes through. And Netanyahu wants us to believe status quo will prevent this possibility?

One thing the “deal” does accomplish is to squarely expose the Israeli flawed position on its negotiations (or lack there of) with the Palestinian Authority. No negotiation eliminates the need to make a “deal” and making a “deal’ opens the possibility that the deal could fail.

But I wonder whether no deal is a bad deal?

The Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight

March 10, 2015

The news today, to the delight of the news media and to the shame of all Americans, was the childish behavior of 47 Republican Senators. These Senators wrote a letter to the Iranian Government questioning whether the Iranians understood that any deal they cut with President Obama was just that unless Congress enshrined the agreement into law. The implicit message was unless this agreement fits what the GOP members in Congress think satisfactory, the US will walk away with the next GOP President or next veto proof GOP Congress.

So what were these GOP Senators really trying to say?

Inviting the Israeli Prime Minister to speak before Congress without even informing the President was dysfunctional at the least. Netanyahu, however, laid bare the quandary those opposed to negotiations with the Iranians have. Netanyahu said “Iran cannot be trusted” and therefore any deal will doomed to being broken. Maybe so, but what would alternatives look like?

Forget for a minute what a better deal looks like, why should the US try if “Iran cannot be trusted”?  The spin masters have said, however, the US should seek “a better deal” avoiding the obvious conclusion of military action if the other party cannot be trusted. Hmmm.

Now the GOP has stepped into the same contradiction as Netanyahu, and raised the ante implying “only Congress knows best”. If the President cannot be trusted to negotiate on behalf of the US, how can anyone speak for the US? Why would a new Congress, maybe one that is Democrat controlled, not try to overturn the policies of a GOP President?

Congress has an important “advice and consent” role as laid out in the Constitution. They do not have a role in executing foreign policy for very practical reasons… how could a country conduct foreign affairs with 535 legislators?

The Senate letter and Netanyahu’s invitation are really the result of something else. The GOP majority has been frustrated with President Obama’s executive actions and have been unable to reverse the President’s actions. Activist Congress members have decided to lay aside historic precedents and simply find new ways to “say no”.

As the GOP continues to take dysfunctional public positions (like the willingness to shut down the Government or parts of it), the public record gains weight that GOP cannot govern.

There might not ever be an Iran deal for unrelated reasons. And even if there is a deal, Iran may cheat on key aspects. But what are the alternatives?

Americans should wake up that “no deal” either means Iran gets nuclear weapons or the West must go to war. Why in the world would the US seek another war?   And just which countries would side with our foreign policy view?

A more practical question might be “what type of example would a war with Iran be for Russian or Chinese expansionist wishes”?

If the GOP is so concerned about President Obama’s health care or immigration reform policies, why don’t they propose comprehensive policies to replace them and let Americans decide? Hmmm.

More Than Ever, Just Think

March 1, 2015

The, every four years, political season is beginning to take shape. While Hillary waits for the “right moment”, the GOP is already busy. There isn’t a deep pocket potential donor who is not being courted. It’s all about money, stupid.

The courtship, however, requires the GOP hopeful to say something catchy. Mr (or Ms) Deep Pockets won’t spring for just anyone. Money seeks candidates who think just like them. What happened to the good old days when being close to a celebrity, regardless of what they thought, was good enough?

Former Governor Rick Perry, sporting his new look dark rimmed (read I’m really intelligent) eye glasses provides a teaching moment early in what will turn out to be a tiring and possibly disgusting campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination.

Speaking at CPAC last week, Governor Perry said, “Here’s the simple truth about our foreign policy: Our allies doubt us and our adversaries are all too willing to test us,” Perry’s target, President Obama, the one safe target most all GOP Deep Pockets could agree to dislike.

More than ever, it is time for all of us to think.

Why should anyone think Perry’s carefully crafted words be true? And even if they were true, what should the United States do to correct them?

Let’s begin with the proposition that Perry’s words are true. Think about our allies, Germany, France, Denmark, Canada, Spain, and so on. Is that who Perry is referring too? Or could it be Israel…?

It should not be hard to understand that traditional “allies” like our European ones have long wished for the US to assume the world policeman role. This has allowed these countries to build their economies on dirt cheap defense budgets. The only doubt that could reasonably be expected to exist in European Government’s minds might be that the US was not going to rush to their economic support and that they were going to have to tax their citizens to conduct military oriented foreign policy. Our European allies must be wondering how they will get their citizens to pay.

Why would a party who wishes to cut US Government spending, want at the same time to increase foreign spending allowing foreign countries to spend little?

With respect to “our enemies” testing us, let’s be specific, which enemies? Does Perry mean Russia and the Ukraine situation? If he does, he should be disqualified immediately since Russia is a fully nuclear capable power and stopping its aggression involves also avoiding a nuclear holocaust.

If Perry sees Iran as our enemy, this is again a situation which begs for a more comprehensive response. Presumably Iran represents (in Perry’s thinking) an immediate risk because Iran is working to become nuclear capable. To be sure this is an undesirable outcome, but does it call for armed intervention again on a sovereign country?

President Obama has been calling for negotiations with Iran as the most practical route to control Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Negotiations are just that and these talks may end up short of what the US may prefer, not to mention they may fail completely. But where does an armed aggression leave one?

Perry’s remarks, we must remember, are written by others far more clever than him. His remarks are aimed at (1) Israel and its friends and (2) those who dislike the President. Perry is not seeking a dialog with wonks interested in how best to deal with nuclear proliferation.

Governor Perry has little to no chance to win the GOP nomination. For the present, however, Governor Perry is in the hunt and attracting some deep pockets is the best way to keep his quest alive.