Posted tagged ‘ukraine’

The Second Phone Call

October 16, 2019

The now famous “whistleblower” gave us an insight into President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President.  From the whistleblower’s report, a number of released emails, and further testimony by present and former Administration persons before select House panels, the public knows how the crass (and mafia-like) President Trump tried to extort the Ukrainian President.  Trump’s goals were information intended to discredit Hillary Clinton and his potential opponent in the 2020 Presidential election, Joe Biden.  

This week the public has learned of a second phone call, this time with the President of Turkey.  The public does not yet have the details of this second call, but the evening news is delivering the sad consequences.  Turkey has invaded northern Syria and is attacking Syrian Kurds who previously had been US allies in the effort to destroy ISIS.  President Trump’s decision to stand back, and by default, allow Turkey to have its way, was against all professional advice news reports are telling.  Slowly there is speculation forming about what the telephone conversation with President Erdogan contained.  And the speculation is not pretty.

One school, let’s call it the “innocent” version goes as follows.  The President initiated a call against the advice of his aides.  As normal for President Trump, the President was unprepared for unexpected developments.  President Erdogan told the President that Turkey was prepared to implement a “buffer zone” in norther Syria along Turkeys border with Syria.  President Trump accepted the proposal and said US troops would not interfere.  President Trump is said to have laid down no conditions or consequences if Turkey went too far.  End of call.

The second school of thought, let’s call it the “Trump, Inc” version opens with the President thanking President Erdogan for attending the recent opening of a new Trump property in Istanbul.  President Erdogan reminded the President that “Trump, Inc” also has several other properties in Turkey and that Turkey was an important country for “Trump, Inc”.  President Erdogan than transitioned to Turkey’s plans to invade Syria and that it would be wise for the US to withdraw as soon as possible, etc, etc, etc.

Most likely the actual conversation combined both versions.  President Trump’s highest interests involve his properties and their financial value.  President never prepares for important meetings and so why would one expect that he prepared for his Erdogan call?  And, as “Mr Transactional”, why would anyone expect President Trump to see further than how the deal impacts the President now.

As a narcissist, a lazy thinker, and an outmatched participant in the international big leagues, why would anyone expect President Trump to suddenly act Presidential and attempt to deal with the best interests of America first?  

Should the details of the second call begin to be leaked, President Trump could be looking at wholesale abandonment by his up to now Congressional Republican firewall.  What a hoot that discrediting Joe Biden doesn’t bother Congressional Republicans but messing with the Middle East would.  Go figure.

Bizarreville, DC

October 2, 2019

A casual observer would be expected to say, “the Washington, DC political circus” can’t get any more bizarre than it is right now.  And, almost before these word’s echo has died, there is another gonzo revelation.  Last week the President released (under pressure) a summary of his July 25, 2019 telephone call with the Ukrainian President where President Trump (imitating a mafia boss) tried to extort the Ukrainian President asking him to dig up dirt on former Vice President Biden (who could be President Trump’s opponent in the 2020 Presidential election).  Hmmm.

This week President Trump is claiming Congressional Democrats and all the major news organization are lying about what the summary actually said.  The President characterized the call as “beautiful” and contained “no pressure” on the Ukrainian President.  Of course, a simple reading of the summary’s English words contradict Trump’s conclusions.  

That Donald Trump is committed to truth suppression and if the truth emerges, misdirection, is now well established as the “Donald Trump modus operandi”.  Trump seeks continual self glorification and will only retain staff members who meets this need.   Trump’s narcissistic side dominates his emotional exterior, and Trump’s commitment to acting first and maybe thinking later, follows normally his official Presidential acts.  

So why is the President acting so crazy?

Maybe he is crazy like a fox. 

  • Would it be better for President Trump to speak to his easy win with the China trade war? 
  • Or, would it be easier for the President to explain how American leadership is leading the world away from the looming global climate crisis. 
  • Or maybe the US economy would be a more fruitful subject where the President can explain why the US economy is flagging in part due to the global economic slow down (facilitated by tariff fears)?

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach, That Is The Question

September 25, 2019

I am always stunned when I see a “Trump 2020” sign or hear someone I had otherwise considered an “informed” person proclaim his/her unflagging support for President Trump.  Forgetting the absence of moral fiber (if it is ok with Melania, then it is ok with me), I can not think of any Trump endorsed issue, domestic or foreign, which makes sense.  Trump’s policies are fatally short sighted, disastrous for the country, and thinly disguised to hide their real intent… to help Trump, his family, and his loyal supporters, financially.

Yesterday at the United Nations. President Trump outlined his views that the world is divided between “globalists” and “patriots (aka nationalists)”.  Hmmm. 

You can be sure that Donald Trump has never wasted even minutes studying history books, nor has Trump taken advice from sociologists about the virtues of “win-win” a negotiating strategy.  It should not be lost on anyone that the “nationalist” approach allows President Trump to cannibalize America’s existing relationships, economic power, and institutions while claiming victory after victory, all the while draining the country’s wealth, influence, and power.  This is a presidency of living off the accomplishments of the past while telling Americans how smart he is.  Hmmm.

But these Presidential shortcomings are not grounds for impeachment.  Trump’s poor job should be the subject of the 2020 Presidential election where hopefully Donald Trump will become a one term President. 

President Trump is projecting himself as a nationalist.  In reality, Trump is a would be “thug” who has a lifetime of getting his way through fraud and intimidation.  So what should happen if as President of the United States employs bribery as part of his “statecraft”?  What if the President induces certain behavior from a foreign leader in return for some favorable treatment by the US?  Does impeachment seem appropriate?  Hmmm.

While bribery sounds bad and unpresidential, “horse trading” has gone on between countries and their leaders since recorded time began.  So for example, President Trump might say to another foreign leader, if the US provides your country with $400 million in military assistance, will your country do “X”, “Y” or “Z” for the US.  Normally “X”, “Y”, or “Z” refer to some mutual defense agreement or provision of some land for US bases.  Horse trading does not sound like the basis for impeachment.

But what if the President says “I” will approve $400 million in military assistance if your country investigates someone who may be my opponent in the next election?

Bingo, such action should qualify for an impeachable offense because (1) the President would be inviting foreign interference in a US election, and (2) the President is using $400 million of tax payer money to obtain a favor for himself.  Third world countries may find this antic unsurprising but isn’t the US better than that?

For President Trump, impeachment presently appears to not include “removal from office” since the Senate is Republican controlled and a Senate trial is unlikely to produce a 2/3rds majority to convict.  One must therefore consider whether impeachment without conviction is worth the effort, especially recognizing that a Trump impeachment would likely make it easier to impeach the next President for strictly partisan reasons.  Not a good precedent to establish.

So the quandary, impeach or not impeach probably boils down to whether a majority of voters can be convinced that the President has stepped over the line and his actions rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors”.  With the House under Democrat control, impeachment can be assumed if pursued.  The Republican controlled Senate is very unlikely to convict so why impeach?  On the other hand, impeachment proceedings should inform voters of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” President Trump has performed.  Under such circumstances, voters are likely to remember in November 2020 and vote Trump out of office.

Delusional

September 3, 2014

Syria and the Ukraine offer insight into how a delusional person, place or thing is can come to be. Both countries reflect truly delusional thinking from political parties, the press, and the average citizen. The crisis in both these countries reflect failed US foreign policy coupled with dysfunctional behavior by others.

US foreign policy is built upon a false premise that capitalism and democracy can flower almost any place in the world.

In many places, “covert” US policy has tried to give this presumed thirst for democratic ways a boost (in fact, actually many boosts). In the 50’s and 60’s, dictators were preferred over popular governments because the US feared subsequent movement to communism.  In the 80’s the cold war ended.

Consider

  • When the Soviet Union imploded, US policy thought the timing was perfect for NATO and the European Community to expand, right up to Russia’s door steps. This view was “policy”. What drove policy, however, was the business and banking communities’ belief that billions in profits lay ahead, especially if Russian communism could give way to a democratic Russia.
  • With Syria, a similar foreign policy view was held. The Arab Spring had turned many into the streets to demand more from their governments. Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and then Syria all hosted demonstrations and government attempts to suppress.
  • The US Syrian policy was particularly confusing. Just as with Saddam Hussein, Bashar al Assad was a brute of a leader. The Assad Government was broadly viewed as repressive and unrepresentative of the Syrian people.  But with the exception of Lebanon, Syria kept within its borders.
  • American policy, following the Arab Spring called for Assad’s resignation and nothing more. Assad had already seen what happened to strong minority leaders once they were out of office or overthrown. Assad wanted no part of that. Hence, a civil war.
  • The overthrow of the Russian friendly Ukrainian President Yanukovych was the last straw. Shortly there after, the reality of Eastern Ukraine and its Russian speaking majority became clear. Crimea voted with their feet.
  • Now, the eastern part of Ukraine is doing its best (with much Russian help) to pull more geography into the Russian sphere. These Russian loving Ukrainians are expressing the policy of mother land and free expression. The driving forces, again are economic with Russia wanting more geography (customers) and the separatists leaders expecting personal gains in a Soviet win. Syria, on the other hand, is a bit more complex.
  • The well armed Islamic extremists (ISIS) are simply crazy people by 21st century standards. They represent a continuation of al Qaeda and the Taliban. One can speculate that ISIS, aside from its advertised religious motivation, is driven by trying to build another Saudi-like State where this group of leaders become very rich men.

The ISIS foreign policy of converting everyone in their paths to strict Islam is totally delusional. Money and power drive this activity.

This week when ISIS released two videos showing the beheading of American journalists, most civilized people were appalled and disgusted. American politicians, member of the press, and everyday citizens have cried out for action. “These barbarians must be eliminated”. Hmmm.

There is no time like the present to reflect for a moment.

  • Who facilitated the current situation with a well intended (?) but naive invasion and occupation of Iraq… while that country could have been concentrating its efforts on “hot pursuit” of al Qaeda and the Taliban?
  • Which country spoke openly of Middle Eastern countries adopting “one person, one vote” when these people have never know democratic rule?
  • What country supported the overthrow of the Ukrainian freely elected President?
  • And what country openly encouraged regime change in Middle Eastern Countries during the Arab Spring?

Looking forward, the issue should not be “what would be ideal”, rather the issue is “what is possible” given the actual conditions.

The 2003 Iraq invasion has been intertwined with allegations that oil or Israeli foreign policy objectives greatly influenced American Middle East policy. Both seem plausible and may have been contributory. What cannot, however, be denied that American domestic politics and the simplistic “good and bad” labels were applied to the Middle East players.

More apropos would be to perceive all the players as bad and our job, if we insist upon interfering, is to pick those players who might create the least damage.

President Obama has learned that the entire American apparatus, CIA, State Department, Defense Department, and the business community see the world through very shaded glasses. Libya, like large parts of norther Africa will soon be a lawless failed State. Syria, without Assad will follow. It is not clear about Iraq but very recents events suggest a soft Federation (Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds) maybe the most practical outcome.

So what does that mean about ISIS?

The press needs to surrender the ISIS headlines and go dark. US and appropriate allies should put together clandestine operations which eliminate this extremist element or at least remove ISIS ability to create havoc. The world and surely Americans do not need hour by hour chants about what is the US going to do about these beheadings? I wonder whether the press or political figures have thought that our drone strikes almost assuredly decapitate both their targets and many unintended. Hmmm.

So what about Russia (versus the Ukraine)?

A wise move would be for the US to consolidate its post cold war gains and stop trying to move up to Russia’s border.  The American mentality does not understand “mother Russia” as it does not understand the Caliphate.  A soft surrender of the eastern parts of the Ukraine is probably the best option of rather poor (and delusional) choices.  Hmmm.

 

The Key Question – Why?

August 12, 2014

The news media is reporting that President Obama’s approval rating is hovering around 40. Pretty low for a President.

The media normally introduce this information when also reporting some foreign event which is either bad in itself or uncertain as to how it would ultimately turn out. Cause and effect? Or just a random occurrence?

The President is and has been a poor communicator as it relates to providing both context and rational for American actions or lack of actions. There is no doubt in my mind that the President has thought about foreign events, has considered consequences of possible actions (or non-actions), and has chosen the path which maximizes the possibility of not getting deeper involvement. Avoiding foreign entanglements was a chapter of history Barack Obama must have studied well.  He just can’t find the way to explain it.

So why would these new media sources constantly reference the President’s approval rating? While his approval rating is news worthy, it is far more likely the reporter is trying to question wisdom of the Presidents decision without appearing to be providing editorial content.

So lets follow this “why” a little further.

  • Why did the US not get involved on the ground in Libya? The US did participate in the Qhaddafi regime change but chose not to stay around for the next phases.
  • Why did the US not get involved in the Syria insurgency? The US did clearly indicate it favored the removal of Assad but has been reluctant to provide arms and supplies to rebel groups.
  • Why has the US not laid out terms for what it thinks is a just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? The US (and the world) pretty much agree on the broad outline of a just settlement.
  • Why has the US not inserted itself into the Ukrainian situation more forcefully and threatened Russia with military force? The US has clearly stated that it wants the Russians to let well enough alone.
  • Why has the US not shown greater support for Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines in their dispute with China over who owns what in the South China Sea? The US has expressed the wish that the parties would resolve this issue through negotiations.

In many regards, each of these situations lies on a slippery slope which ends (or could end) with US military involvement. In addition, even with a military successful solution in any of these situations, it is difficult to see the future state related to any US national interest.

Of course humanitarian considerations are motivating (stop the hunger or senseless killing) but why would that be a US national interest? Who made us king? And more basically, who in the US is willing to pay for it?

One can imagine a future state where too many regions of the world have open armed conflicts or have become populated with pirates and rogue states. International commerce could become captive and such a state of affairs could negatively hurt the US economy and our quality of life.

But can you imagine such a state and it not also hurting Russia, China, and Europe too?

As the run up to the 2016 Presidential elections unfolds, we will hear all sorts of descriptions of what’s in the US national interest. One might even recall hearing that invading and occupying Iraq was in America’s national interest. Be careful.

Today US domestic politics are horribly confused. Some advocate deep cuts in government spending without any plan to deal with the consequences (economically or socially). Others advocate a moral code and see that code applying to all Americans while others are as adamantly opposed.

Others see the US as exceptional and propose our way of living as the model for the rest of the world. And still others see no place for US involvement in world affairs. There is no consensus.

Any foreign policy which brings with it the probability of a slippery slope to armed conflict is very dangerous given the lack of national resolve.

The US economic and political model is as good as any, and probably the best, in the world. Our model, however, is not so good as to have the capacity to take on all the problems the world has to offer.

Our government needs to have the confidence that very limited foreign engagements (the path we appear on) are superior to whole scale military efforts.

It would, however, be special if President Obama could say this like Bill Clinton would have.

What Makes People Do Such Things?

July 21, 2014

Why would any country supply irregular troops with high powered, sophisticated missiles? Why would anyone possessing such missiles fire them indiscriminately at a flying object some 35,000 feet above? Why would these irregulars, once the plane shot down had been confirmed to be a civilian, non-combatant carrying about 300, not have stood down and allowed international aide workers to humanly collect the remains?

Why would a country bristle at the notion they were using disproportionate force in trying to stop missile attacks? Why would that nation act indignantly even though the death toll was running about 500 of them to 2 of us? Why would a country allow itself to get “suckered” in so that any response, no matter how justified, was likely to kill non-combatants?

Why would one religious sect wreak havoc upon another, all in the name of Allah? Why would the political establishment insist upon no realignment of government ministries, assuring a continuation of violence? Why would anyone send another to self detonate a massive bomb in hopes of killing an many innocents as possible?

Power and wealth offer as good as any explanation. If you have what you consider too small a share or maybe you have been cut out entirely, one can understand efforts, within certain bounds, of trying to correct the imbalance. Money and the personal power to get money can usually be attributed to most conflicts.

This weekend in Philadelphia, the Catholic Archdiocese made all in order in the Cathedral. The occasion was the visit of a relic, a two once sample of Pope John Paul’s blood. The faithful were invited to worship in front of the blood sample and use the occasion to seek divine intercession. Hmmm.

Besides creating the allusion of vampires and other blood suckers, why would any foist such a thing on others hoping for something better in life?

All of these events, in one way or another, defy rational explanation. They do reveal the lengths man is capable of going while at the same time offering what he purports to be a rational explanation.

What makes people do such things?

Slow Boil Over A Surrogate War

July 20, 2014

The downing of Malaysian Air flight 17 was a shock. As time as progressed, the justification of the senseless murders of almost 300 people is no less murky.  Our madness slow boil seems centered upon a surrogate war.

Was this simply an accident of war or was the missile attack part of a premeditated message? The 300 unlucky passengers had nothing to do with either side in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Malaysian Airlines is based in Kuala Lumpur, in an entirely different continent.

What message could be contained in this tragedy?

Reports that insurgents or possibly just local residents were scouring the debris fields picking up valuables including credit cards has added disgust. Instead of treating the death scene with respect, it appears to have turned into an opportunity for quick gain, at least for some.

Is that the message, human condition is abominable?

According to a New York Times report, the air route which the plane was using was open… open that is until the plane would have reached the Russian border. Unbelievably, the Russian airway authorities had closed the airspace beginning with its Ukrainian border eastward.

Flight 17 was downed about 50 miles short of the border. The question of the day is what would have happened had the plane not been short down?

The second question of the day, why would Malaysian Air have flown a route it could not have completed?

There are many conspiracy theories possible. A more straight forward explanation is human error. Sophisticated surface to air missiles in the hands of irregular military types makes no sense on all accounts. Command and control is lacking with irregulars.

Non-combatants should be expected to assume they are not a target, so flying the same route they have always flown ought to be expected. A responsible airline, however, would have been expected to have checked for any alerts.

The Ukraine conflict is a surrogate war. The West (Europe plus the US) versus the Russian Federation. The West is trying to extend its influence east and the Russians are trying to block these efforts. For the West, bluffing and then looking the other way is a preferred strategy. For Russia, bluffs normally do not exist. This contrast of style was for sure a contributing factor.

The top people on both sides know this, yet were willing to play the surrogate game.

The surrogate game is being played in other lands too. Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and to an extent, in Afghanistan to name a few. The mess called central Africa is another place to observe non-combatants dying from outside influence.

The problem with these wars is that the sides are not clear. Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. The US has a role to play but it is not around the use of US military force.

More likely the US role is to reiterate where our influence will be placed, where we will be neutral, and where we will not exert any influence. Once these positions are made clear, then we must ensure our actions support them. The current world confusion has arisen because the US has gone silent (while still exerting force) and allowed itself to believe it could expand its influence unrestrictedly.

Expanding the European Union was risky, expanding NATO was bordering on foolish and trying to convince the Russians that “star wars” was good for them was a joke.

Most of the world is poverty stricken. Most of those region’s would be leaders are simply people in pursuit of personal wealth. Democratic rule (as we know it) is just not going to happen. Some form of benevolent authoritarian government is the best those populations can hope for.

Telling the American people that open elections, capitalism, and human rights will bring much of the world into the 21st century is a disservice to everyone and for countries such as Russia and China, represents a threat to their established governments. It times for the rhetoric which President Obama and members of Congress select to get real.

Real in the sense of the facts, real in the sense of what is truly possible.  Real in the sense of McDonalds or Subway or Nike or Facebook or Twitter.  These social forces will do more than bullets and bombs.