Posts Tagged Foreign Affairs

AMERICA NEEDS A CAPABLE DIPLOMAT—NOT A BUNCH OF AMATEURS!

Considering the way Diplomacy is being handled by the Trump Regime, its easy to understand why the rest of the world seems to view the goings on at the White House as being somewhat haphazard, at best.  America presents itself to the world through its diplomacy, starting with the President and his State Department.  With Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; however, its more or less: Here we are!

Prior to January, Secretary Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon-Mobil.  And, If his heart is not still back in the Oil Patch, it’s certainly not into diplomacy!  In Donald Trump’s original budget proposal, he had intended to slash the State Department by 31%, and Tillerson didn’t raise Holy Hell!  Such acquiescence doesn’t show the leadership that one would expect from a former Captain of Industry—let alone from our Nation’s Top Diplomat!

The most vexing problem with America’s Foreign Policy today centers on the mis-handling of the situation in North Korea.  Presidents Xi Jinping, of China, and Vladimir Putin, of Russia, appear more “presidential” than Mr. Trump, in that they have a better grasp of the overall situation.  The potential implications of each participating nation’s actions must clearly be considered.  But with Trump and Tillerson, the potential explosiveness of the Korean Peninsula seems to be disregarded.

Most importantly, America needs to speak with one voice, preferably that of an experienced diplomat, who can assume ownership of the problem in order to arrive at a peaceful solution.  The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is much too important not to give it our complete and undivided attention!

Over the past five months, the Trump Regime has been alternating one person after another, to speak for the U. S; but, without any one person with experience to assume the overall responsibility.  And, spurious comments and Tweets by Donald Trump have only escalated the problem to a whole new level.

In his book, “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the brink of nuclear war,” Michael Dobbs corrected the general presumption that Kennedy and Khrushchev were engaged in a cat and mouse game during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  Since his book was only published in 2008, however, Dobbs had access to previously unavailable documents from all three nations.

As it turned out, both President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev realized, once they had deployed their respective military forces, that they couldn’t insure that the stand-off wouldn’t escalate into a potential nuclear Armageddon. Luckily, the two rational leaders avoided such a possibility!  Castro, on the other hand, preached Death with Honor!

Where is our capable diplomat, who can assess the actual intent of North Korea’s original communique, which stated that it would only fire missiles “near Guam,” and there was no threat of a nuclear weapon?  A single capable and dedicated envoy would have attempted to interpret what that message really meant!  Surely, Kim Jong-Un knew that, if he targets the U. S. or an ally, North Korea would be totally annihilated.  Also, if Kim was truly seriously about striking America, wouldn’t he have targeted, let’s say, San Francisco, Seattle or, at least, Honolulu?

America needs a diplomat—a real one—to take charge of solving this problem, and see it through to a final solution.  Ignorant comments about “locked and loaded,” and threatening to impede the North’s energy supplies—especially with the harsh North Korean winter approaching—would just lead to mass disruption on the Peninsula.  We need that experienced envoy now—to engage with North Korea, along with all interested parties.

As President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev realized: No one wins when we all lose!

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A RECENT COVER OF GERMAN PERIODICAL, “DER SPIEGEL”

A recent DER SPIEGEL cover depicts Kim and Trump

DER SPIEGEL

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CONSIDERING WHAT KIM JONG-UN’S ACTUAL MESSAGE WAS, THE CURRENT DANGEROUS SITUATION MIGHT BE MORE ABOUT TRUMP, THAN NORTH KOREA!

Unfortunately, as American media coverage seems to be stuck in the All-Trump, All Day mode, perhaps we may be jumping to conclusions—fearing that long advertised Nuclear War?  That’s the problem with escalating emotions: rational thought can be overlooked. Perhaps,  Kim Jong-Un, however, might be the saner man!

North Korea did not boast that it would actually target Guam, nor was a nuclear missile threatened!  According to CNN, “North Korean plan(s) to fire four missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam.” It might just be verifying its range capability, are there are still questions about the veracity of its warhead miniaturization efforts!  Consider the North’s past missile launches.

On prior occasions, launches have been mostly into the Sea of Japan, between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.  Following the most recent launch, Japan said thai it might have landed in it’s waters.  Territorial infringement aside; however, North Korea hasn’t hit anything, as yet!  Does Kim expect to do so with Guam?  Maybe, maybe not!   Also, let’s not overlook the North’s recent release of a Canadian prisoner as, perhaps, a sign of peace!

If Mr. Kim did target the island of Guam, North Korea would certainly be bombed, in return—perhaps even the capital of Pyongyang!  But, why would Kim risk that?  Maybe he’s just an irrational dictator, of a country that has been isolated by the World Community, and wants some recognition for assumedly joining the Nuclear Arms Club!

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Kim Jong-Un did intend to launch a nuclear missile, and that he realizes that the overwhelming retaliation would annihilate his nation.  Why wouldn’t he strike San Francisco, Seattle or, perhaps, Honolulu, instead of Guam?

If Trump ramps-up our Nuclear Arsenal, as he has suggested, what does he think China and Russia will be doing?   In the end, Donald seems to be brandishing his childish image of a Tough Guy, as he looks for more and more places to send young Americans “In(to) Harm’s Way!”  But this time, he might be endangering the entire World!

NOTE:  The U. S. is already bombing insurgents in southwest Philippines, and today he also threatened military attack on Venezuela.

 

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Oh-oh!

JIM MORIN:   From The Miami Herald

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WHO WILL LEAD AMERICA OUT OF THIS MORASS WITH NORTH KOREA?

No one expects any President to know everything, or to personally do everything!  This is why they are authorized to hire, or retain, a myriad of advisors, experienced and knowledgeable in virtually every area in which the Federal Government engages, as well as any other situations, which might arise.  With Donald Trump, however, it is obvious that he is not prepared, even for everyday disturbances, let alone the relationship now existing between the United States and North Korea.

To address the most dangerous issues facing our nation today—such as the apparently nuclear-armed North Korea—the focus should be on Diplomacy, with our National Security Apparatus and Defense, rounding-out our Foreign Policy Team.  State is the external face of America which, if carried-out properly, has the ability to diffuse geopolitical disputes, even before they arise.  The National Security Advisor, and the Counsel, serve to monitor and plan our long-term strategy, and the Military carries our “Big Stick,” which should be used only as a last resort!

But, where are Donald Trump’s Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Powell or George C. Marshall?  His know-it-all personality, unbending unwillingness to take or receive advice, and his insistence on absolute loyalty, have apparently kept anyone with Foreign Policy experience, or even common sense, away.  Joining Trump’s Regime appears to mean signing-up to potentially become his scapegoat, whenever he screws-up!

Among the three major Foreign Policy posts, Trump has a former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, and Secretary of Defense General James Mattis.  None of the three have extensive Foreign Policy experience and, let’s not forget that generals fight wars in the present, but not in the long-term geopolitical or preventative sense!

None of the three—Tillerson, McMaster or Mattis—should be considered among Donald Trump’s trusted advisors.  Tillerson was apparently all but emasculated when Trump slashed State’s budget by 31%, in his 2018 Federal Budget proposal.  Additionally, many of State’s key Assistant Secretary and Ambassador posts remain vacant.

McMaster is allegedly being attacked by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, and the War Hawk contingent among Trump’s staff, for firing several appointees of the deposed Michael Flynn.  And lastly, Secretary Mattis is reportedly feeling Trump’s wrath, because the Afghanistan War, on-going for 16 years, hasn’t ended soon enough for Trump!

This is the landscape within which the situation with North Korea is supposedly being “addressed”.  Tillerson has been attending an ASEAN Conference, in Manila, along with all of the appropriate foreign ministers—North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and even the European Union.  Wouldn’t Secretary Tillerson be the right person to take the lead on any discussions, at least for the moment?  But, what is our message?

Before his trip to the Philippines, Rex Tillerson had suggested that the U. S. is prepared to talk.  Back in March, however, Tillerson had threatened North Korea with a pre-emptive attack.  And then, Donald Trump boasted another threat yesterday, vowing that any further threats by North Korea would be met with “Fire and Fury,” whatever that means! Thus, Trump is matching North Korea—threat for threat—and each one is just as hollow!

Rather than Donald Trump continuing to escalate the dangers, along with Kim Jong-Un–one lunatic to another–why don’t they both just back-off, and let the foreign ministers attempt to work things out diplomatically?  Arrogance, and assuming that the role of America is to determine who may, or may not build a nuclear arsenal is meaningless, when dealing with countries such as North Korea!

Trudy Rubin, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, has suggested a compelling argument about the bewildering response in Trump dismantling the State Department.  Ms Rubin writes that important Assistant Secretarial positions, as well as sensitive Ambassador Posts—such as Assistant Secretary for East Asia (Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan), as well as the Ambassador of South Korea—remain vacant.  How smart could that be?

Rubin goes on to suggest that both Trump and Tillerson do not even believe in the advantages of Diplomacy.  This is very discouraging for career diplomats, who realize that their career potential has been diminished as higher departmental posts are filled by political appointees, rather than experienced diplomats.  Similarly, foreign officials and ambassadors in Washington understand that it is pointless to deal with “acting” heads.  Is State truly engaged, as Secretary Tillerson appears to be dismantling it, at least through 2018?

In essence:  Donald Trump drew a “Red Line”, North Korea immediately crossed it, and Donald’s Big Stick has turned to “Silly Putty!”

 

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AS AMERICA SEEMS TO HAVE SHIFTED AWAY FROM ASIA-PACIFIC, CHINA FILLS THE VOID—BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS, INFRASTRUCTURE AND ENHANCING ITS ENERGY SECURITY

The U. S. role in the Asia-Pacific Region has been cooling over the past couple of years, and Donald Trump’s announced exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has accelerated that process.  Trade and Defense Alliances go hand-in-hand!   So, if we exit, that means that the U. S. would basically be handing-over the leadership role in the TPP to China, which had previously been excluded.

China has established a $1 trillion global infrastructure campaign, called “One Belt, One Road”, to help nations of strategic interest, thereby building partnerships.  In the initial stages, that initiative seems to be focused primarily on Southeast Asian nations.  It’s short and long-term strategic interests seem to be Energy Security and Control of the Regional Seaways, respectively!

Currently, China imports 85% of its crude oil from the Persian Gulf, and it must past through the Malacca Strait—between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore—as does its other imports.  In a prior post, I had already described the importance of that major “choke-point”, since 50% of all global sea commerce passes through that narrow strait.

In wooing many of America’s friends in the region, with its One Belt. One Road initiative, China has directed its attention first on Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Additionally, it has seaports under construction in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and is awaiting approval of one in Bangladesh.  The location of all three of these projects, around the Indian Subcontinent, might be of long-term strategic importance; since, India is considered by some experts to be the rising power in the Region.

No country is as important to China, however, than is Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.  Myanmar is nestled between India and China, and has an open seafront.   Chinese President Xi Jinping is building a seaport in Myanmar, which would provide an oil terminal to connect the pipeline, which China already has under construction.  That pipeline would avoid the Malacca Strait and insure China’s energy security.

NOTE: The linked article from the NY Times describes China’s efforts to woo Myanmar, as well as build partnerships with other nations in the Asia-Pacific Region.

 

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WHO OR WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING IN THE MIDDLE EAST? WHY? WHAT DO WE HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? AND WILL WE EVER KNOW IF OR WHEN ITS OVER?

The First Rule of Warfare is to “Know Your Enemy!”  But, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror.  So, what does that mean?  Have we been fighting a tactic: Terrorism?  Are we fighting for Good, versus Evil?  What exactly is IT?  Also, is the fight, against this uncertain opponent, limited to the Middle East, or might it be global in scope?  Unfortunately, as the “Coalition” was gearing-up to invade, George Bush waved the red flag—citing the Crusades.  How damn ignorant can one man have been?

Ever since those terrorist attacks, many in Washington have attempted to assign the role of our new invisible adversary to Islam.  Why didn’t Bush confront the Saudis, since 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi nationals?  By falsely accusing Global Islam to be our new Enemy, the Administration had enabled our real enemy to gain more strength, while America tilted at windmills!

Many of us in the more secular West have trouble understanding the role of Religion in other cultures.  Until approximately 1500 AD, Western Europe was considered to be somewhat of a cultural backwater, as compared go the Great Empires of the world.  The source of all power was universally thought to be the King, Caliph, Bishop, etc, who was believed to have received it from God.

Eventually, however, Europeans began to question the role of the Kings, as well as the Pope, as they also began to doubt that the Earth was the center of the universe.  As people began to think for themselves, an Intelligentsia evolved, which explored science, philosophy, geography, economics, etc.

As that transition occurred, Western Europe jumped ahead of the rest of the world in knowledge, in adventure, and in understanding how things worked.  So, while Europe had become more secular, the importance of Religion, however, had not changed among the other great civilizations of the world!

Muslims seem to have maintained a feeling of commonality with one another, around the world.  For instance, many of those who fought in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Croatia, toward the end of the Twentieth Century, have answered the call to Jihad in the Middle East. Similarly, Muslims from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, joined-in as well. Accordingly, how do we fight something that we cannot define, nor do we even understand?

We hoist our arrogance on our Military; but, two major powers have not faced-off in battle since the middle of the last century.  Frankly, American GI’s are: too weighed-down by all of the high-tech firepower that they carry on their backs; the sometimes unreliable air cover; conflicting command structures; and the lack of loyalty, by local soldiers, for the general that we propped-up to head the country.  Meanwhile, the enemy can travel light, knows he has little that can disappoint him, and he can blend in with the populace; BUT…he is also fighting for a cause!

Rather than funding a large invading army, with firepower out the gazoo, we should focus a sizable portion of the State Department budget on devising vital parts of the cultural infrastructure, which is so lacking.  By helping build that missing support structure, out in the villages, America can eliminate the environment in which terrorist groups and religious extremists thrive.

For instance, three or four decades ago, much of South and Southeast Asia had been in a  situation similar to that of the current Middle East.  Poverty and illiteracy were rampant! Also, that part of Asia has considerably more Muslims than does the Middle East.  Through the transformation, perhaps following Japan’s lead, the local infrastructures began to change.  Education, industry, viable health care, a functioning economy, and the standard of living began to rise.   A better lifestyle goes a long way in combatting terrorism and extremism.  Also, preventing war is more cost-effective than waging it, and it saves lives!

NOTE:  For a much more in-depth explanation of how western Europe transformed, here is the comment on my Books That I  Recommend tab:  A great historical and scientific explanation of Who we are, Where we came from, and How we got here. The obvious idea is to understand our past in order to contemplate our future. Namely, what We, as a Species, will become in the future?

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