Archive for the ‘foreign affairs’ Category
I just finished watching the third presidential debate. Admittedly, many people will be swayed by what he said. However, any thinking person who has a modicum knowledge of economics and national security as well as respect for all people, regardless of race, creed culture, gender or religion can upon reflection agree with him.
By and large, Trump repeated over and over that he would make America great again but without ever delving into how he would do so. On trade, he said NAFTA was bad, but the completely failed to explain how or what he would do to create better trade policies. Throughout his campaign, he has repeatedly called for isolationist trade policies which would be an economic disaster. The USA relies upon our exports for jobs and economic growth. Granted the TTP and other current proposals fail both the American people and other countries by putting too much power into the hands of major corporations – the reason Hillary Clinton does not support them – but international fair and free trade policies are needed worldwide, especially by mature economies like the US. To put it simply, US full employment cannot be supported without international trade.
On tax policy, Trump doubles down of supply side economics. His tax policy, outsourced to Steven Moore, a penultimate supply-sider who consistently ignores the demand side of the economic equation and is no economist, would increase the national deficit by trillions. Some say as much as $5 trillion. Since the financial melt down in 2007, the US has had an overabundance of supply but not enough demand. In other words, there’s plenty of product but not enough buyers. When wages are low or lowered (as has been the case since 2009 when companies lowered wages in the face of an oversupply of qualified candidates) wages, the demand side of the economic equation has gone down. If people can’t afford to buy, demand goes down regardless of the supply quantity. Thus, continuing the feed the supply side, i.e. Wall Street investors, does nothing to increase GNP (Gross National Product). The only way to increase GNP and, thus, GDP is to build up the demand side of the economic equation. Moore’s tax and economic policies, which Trump bought lock, stock and barrel, utterly fail this test.
On National Security, Trump sounded smart when when you delve into what he actually said but yet again failed to propose any solutions, he’s frightening. Does he want an all out war in the Middle East – a la the Crusades? If so, that is one sure way to push moderate Muslims into the freedom fighter camps of ISIS and the Taliban. Imagine if you will an invading force in the US (intent on stealing our national resources to pay for the invasion). Would any American stand by and let that happen, no matter how moderate they were? Of course not. The same principle applies in the Middle East. Throughout history all over the world, people have always fought against a foreign invader, even when they strongly disagreed with their own government. It would be no different in the Middle East now. Moreover, Trump and his neo-con allies have chosen to make his foreign policy about a clash of civilizations – a clash of religions much like the Crusades. And much like during the Crusades, Muslims would come together, regardless of their internal conflicts, to fight off the invaders. Smart policy, which Clinton advocated, is separating the moderates from the extremists…and backing the moderates who see a better way forward for Middle East countries than a 12th Century ideology in the 21st Century world.
Additionally, the idea of Trump denying or ignoring Putin’s spying and hacking and interference with this election shows his incredible naivety. Of course, his financial records prove, as Newsweek and other legitimate media outlets have shown, he has a huge income stake in protecting the Russian (and thus Putin) oligarchy. Do I think Trump would take his order from Putin the way Mussolini did from Hitler? I don’t know; but I’m not willing that that chance, given that Trump is all about himself and his ego and his fortune even as he sells out other and stiffs his suppliers. Trump’s entire career has been one long running steam of conning and lying and cheating others including failing to pay his suppliers. Believing him is like believing in Hitler’s promise to not to invade the restof Europe after stealing Austria.
On issues of his personal morality and how he think about woman and minorities, what more needs to be said other than that he has offended everyone with his misogynist and xenophobic mindset. Even the uber conservative Utah-based Mormon (Church of Latter Day Saints) has come out against Trump in a public statement.They consider his words and ideas…and his behavior…highly toxic. No matter how much he denies his behavior, the numbers of people coming out against him for how he has behaved and what he has done keeps growing. As a result, he’s proven himself to narcissistic megalomaniac who refuses to accept responsibility for his own behavior. In his words, everything is the fault of someone else…and he is totally innocent. That may go over well in the modern Republican conservative movement, but it doesn’t necessarily sit well with a majority of people who have been raised to believe they have to take responsibility for their own behavior.
On border control and minorities, polling shows that the list of minority voters switching from the Republican side of the ledger to the Democratic side ha gown dramatically since Trump became the Republican nominee. Beyond his polling numbers though is the fact that to implement his wall across the US Southern border and round up & deport every non-citizen (i.e. alien) would cost multiple trillions of dollars. Are you willing to agree to a major increase in your taxes to pay for it all…or are you going to shut your eyes and ears and put it on the national credit card and blame someone else for the outrageous deficit once again?
I could go on ad infinitum on the disastereous affects of Trump policies (or lack of coherent policies) but there is little doubt that committed Trump voters will change their minds. To far too many of them, the world is made up of “us against them” which the GOP has pushed, in various and sundry dog whistles, for over 50 years.
Nevertheless, regardless of how reasonably sounding Trump came off sounding in this third debate, the fact remains that all of his ideas, from every perspective, are extraordinary expensive and a national disaster. Moreover, the fact that the national GOP supports and endorses this caricature of a human being shows the party has descended into the bowels of hell.
Clinton may not be everyone’s favorite candidate…and granted she’s been vilified and lied about by the GOP in the national media for nearly 30 years…but compared to Trump, she’s an angel. Her policies are reasonable, well-thought out, progressive, equitable, and fiscally sound. But, of course, that won’t matter to die-hard Trump supporters who choose to ignore the reality of the man and his ideas by focusing only on his fantastic rhetoric as a way out there circumstances.
Prior to this except of the Wolf Blitzer interview , Admiral McRaven said two things quite clearly:
1) President Obama made the ultimate decision and deserves the final credit for eliminating bin Laden. He was the Commander in Chief so it was his decision to proceed or not. As such, President Obama should be given credit for having made the decision that led to a successful mission.
2) The intelligence and national security community has never worked better, in large part because of the appointments President Obama made. McRaven stated uunequivocally that the US now has the finest national security worldwide.
Obviously, the noise coming out of the GOP neo-con spin machine regarding this mission illuminates their jealously of Obama’s success.
It’s awfully hard to forget the many laudits heaped on President Bush when he landed on an aircraft carrier, stating “mission accomplished” even though al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hussein were alive and kicking.
Yet, now that bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is all but non-existent as a result of President Obama’s decisions, Republicans refuse to give him credit.
Do current GOP actions remind anyone else, other than me, of highly adolescent behavior?
This week’s edition of The New Republic has two great articles explaining Obama’s policies, particularly in contrast with the sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric of Romney. The first article deals with how much businesses actually depend upon government, at all levels, to support and help them build and sustain their business. However, the second article, Love Classic Republican Foreign Policy? Vote For Obama by Jonathan Rauch, receives my attention today.
For me, this article deserves special attention because I grew up in the military and my ex-husband is a Vietnam vet. The first 25 years of my life were dominated by the military and national security, stretching back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was too young to remember Truman, but I do fondly remember Eisenhower.
As a result of being a military brat and wife, I hold a profoundly different view from Romney’s neo-con advisers, all of whom worked for GW Bush. Those neo-cons, none of whom served in the military or grew up in the military, express a hegemonic view of US foreign policy based on the US military war powers. Yet, that kind of militarism is fairly new in American foreign policy that only took effect after the end of the Vietnam War.
As Rauch writes, anyone who remembers and enjoyed the modesty and pragmatism of Eisenhower and GHW Bush should appreciate Obama’s foreign policy.
Two diplomatic officials, one current and one former, balk at calling Obama a realist; he is not coldly manipulative or indifferent to human rights. (For example: Obama has done more to stand up for gay rights internationally than any previous world leader.) But they concur that he is outcome-oriented, a pragmatist rather than an idealist or visionary. “He’s focused on the bottom line: what are our key equities and how do we protect them,” says the serving diplomat. At the Brookings Institution, Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former Obama State Department official, says Obama believes in bending the arc of history, but also believes you can’t bend it at right angles. “He’s playing a long game and doing it pretty well.”
The kind of realism Obama practices is founded not on Machiavellian amorality but on a theory about where peace comes from. For Republican hawks and neocons, peace comes from American strength and hegemony; for Democratic doves and internationalists, peace comes from international cooperation and transnational institutions. Obama’s realism, like that of Ike and Bush 41 holds that American strength and international cooperation both have their place, but that peace comes from equilibrium between contending forces. To realists, power may not be admirable, but it must always be dealt with; and, in dealing with it, conserving and effectively deploying America’s power, a scarce and precious commodity, is Priority One, for it is the commodity upon which human rights and U.S. hegemony alike ultimately depend.
A realist may choose to upset an equilibrium now and then, but never lightly. Power, like a floodtide surge, has its own hydraulics. Once equilibrium is gone, it can be very hard and costly to restore. For very different reasons, human rights activists and neocons deplore Obama’s slowness to jump into the fray when rotten and antagonistic old orders tremble in places like Iran, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. Eisenhower and Bush, however, understood well the importance of looking before leaping, whether in Suez and eastern Europe in the 1950s or in Ukraine and the Balkans in the early 1990s. Obama is in their mold.
Obama’s quiet accomplishment, in foreign policy, has been to do just as he promised: take the best ideas from the other side, integrate them into his own party’s tradition, and put them to work to strengthen the country’s position. Being a dab hand at foreign affairs will not, it’s true, save him in 2012, any more than it saved Bush 41 from the soft economy 20 years ago. What it has done is kept him viable in a miserable environment, improved the Democrats’ credibility on national security, taken from the Republicans the foreign-policy real estate that they used to own—and left Mitt Romney standing in a puddle of his own shallow verbiage.
Nevertheless, I disagree about Rauch’s claim that Obama had little foreign policy experience or interest. After all, Obama spent several impressionable, youthful years in the Indonesia and as a young man hitch hiked his way from Indonesia to Pakistan.
In some ways, those experiences, living amongst and traveling with native residents, gave him more foreign policy experience than all those sitting in comfortable academic offices or discussing foreign affairs with high level diplomats. Moreover, Obama’s first Senate foreign policy mentor was the Senate dean of foreign policy, Senator Dick Lugar. Lugar said Obama peppered him with questions on their trips overseas and that Obama worked closely with him on the Soviet Arms Treaty. In fact, contrary to Rauch, Obama ran for the presidency on foreign policy. It wasn’t until the financial system crashed in 2008 that his primary focus had to change to domestic economic policy.
I graduated from high school in 1964, just as the Vietnam War took off. Most of my young male classmates were drafted into that war that hawks in both parties said was absolutely necessary to prevent Communism from spreading throughout South-east Asia. Known as the Domino Theory, it was widely believed that if Vietnam fell to Communism so would go all other So. East Asian nations, then eventually So. and Central America and eventually Africa.
So great was the fear of Communism in So. East Asia, that Eisenhower’s Administration came to believe that if Communism was not stopped at the borders of the USSR, China, and No. Korea, it immediately would spread to engulf the entire So. East Asia region including India and possibly Japan. However, conspiracy theorists such as those who created and joined the John Birch Society believed Eisenhower was too soft on Communism. They accused him of being a co-conspirator or “fellow traveler” or soft on communism because he refused to declare war again so soon after the end of WWII.
One of the greatest believers in the domino theory was Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican who served as an adviser to Eisenhower and later to JFK on So. East Asia. Lodge came from a long-standing, prominent and highly politically influential New England family. His knowledge and standing on So. East Asia gave him a well respected gravitas. So, when he declared that Communism must be stopped or the entire So. East Asia region would fall to Communism, presidents and Congress listened.
The end result of the fear that all of So. East Asia would fall to the Communists was the Vietnam War. Nixon was elected on a platform of ending the war. As my own husband said when he returned from Vietnam, “we’re fighting a war to preserve the French rubber plantations.”
So much had the tide of war turned within the nation that during the 1968 election season, Nixon based his platform on ending the war. Overwhelming numbers of students and Vietnam vets turned out to cast their votes for Nixon, causing him to win the election. But Nixon was no appeaser. Instead of ending the war, his first term in office saw him expand the war into Laos and Cambodia. Loud protests erupted all across the nation…but it wasn’t until the sons of Congress members began being drafted that Congress turned from pro-war to pro-peace. It seems it was okay to send the sons of other people’s families to war but when their own sons became cannon fodder, sensibilities changed. Finally, Nixon realized that the only way to win a second term was to bring the war to a close.
But there were still a significant number of hawks within the Democratic Party who believed that the US had not only failed to win the war but had lost it. For them, nothing less than the complete annihilation of Communism was sufficient; they would gladly have used “the bomb” on North Vietnam rather have the US somehow seen as having lost that war. Those hawks joined the Republican party to later become known as neo-conservatives.
The neo-cons we know today, by and large, have never served a day in the armed forces but are willing to send the children of others to fight and die. They see enemies around every bend. They thoroughly believe that the US must have the greatest military force on earth because the destiny of the US is to be the greatest super-power, if not the greatest empire, on the face of the earth.
Even though GW Bush’s foreign policy gave the lie to the neo-cons ideology, they still hold considerable sway in Congress, in the media, and, most importantly, within the Republican Party. Respected conservative publications such as Buckley’s National Review are now completely controlled by neo-cons as is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). And, of course, the John Birch Society is no better, believing the supposed evils of communism – and its evil companion socialism – are just around every policy corner.
As a result, we have the Patriot Act and its equally odious new companion, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), adopted by the Senate in a count of 98 to 1 – more than enough votes to override a veto by President Obama.
As a centrist-left leaning voter, I do not believe in the constant, always needing a enemy, and ready to declare war stance our nation has taken since Reagan’s Administration. I do not believe the US should be the world’s police force or build an American Empire or deplete our nation’s blood and treasure to fight wars that fail to serve our national interests. I believe that our nation would be much better served, just as the overwhelming number of our young GIs who have served in the war zones believe, by rebuilding and renewing our own nation and using diplomacy, rather than war, to negotiate our national and international interests.
This morning Fareed Zakaria, during his Sunday morning Global Public Square (GPS) program, highlighted a new essay (pdf) by two career senior officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The essay was written under the pseudonym of “Mr Y”, a takeoff on George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow (published under the name “X” the following year in Foreign Affairs) that helped set containment as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.
This new National Strategic Narrative argues for a new national security strategy to replace the old 1947 National Security Act which laid out a strategy of containment against the U.S.S.R. and communism. However, we’re in a new century with new challenges. The “zero sum” game of the old containment strategy is no longer effective or sufficient to the needs and challenges of this century. Yet, Washington continues to lag behind, failing to revise the national strategy to fit the 21st Century.
John Norris of Foreign Policy Magazine correctly writes, regarding the authors’ essay:
The narrative argues that the United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world.
Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world. Instead of simply pumping more and more dollars into defense, the narrative argues:
By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.
Yet, it is investments in America’s long-term human resources that have come under the fiercest attack in the current budget environment. As the United States tries to compete with China, India, and the European Union, does it make sense to have almost doubled the Pentagon budget in the last decade while slashing education budgets across the country?
The only way in which Washington will change its current, failed strategy is for Americans to read this essay and send it to their representatives in DC. The U.S. does not have to settle for decline at home and constant military adventures abroad.
This Narrative advocates for America to pursue her enduring interests of prosperity and security through a strategy of sustainability that is built upon the solid foundation of our national values. As Americans we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or to proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole, or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions. Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity of effort, coherency and constancy of purpose. We will pursue our national interests and allow others to pursue theirs, never betraying our values. We will seek converging interests and welcome interdependence. We will encourage fair competition and will not shy away from deterring bad behavior. We will accept our place in a complex and dynamic strategic ecosystem and use credible influence and strength to shape uncertainty into opportunities. We will be a pathway of promise and a beacon of hope, in an ever changing world.