Posts Tagged Foreign Affairs

WHO OR WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING IN THE MIDDLE EAST? WHY? WHAT DO WE HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? AND WHEN WILL WE 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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“I HAD BEEN IN RUSSIAN ARMY INTELLIGENCE, BUT I WAS NOT A SPY!”

The titled words were offered by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who, along with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, and one other Russian, met with members of Donald Trump’s Campaign, on June 6, 2016.  In fact, establishing a secret Kremlin-Trump communications link was allegedly mentioned during the meeting, along wth the attorney providing “dirt” on Hillary.

Trump confidantes at that meeting included: Donald Trump, Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Campaign Manager Paul Manafort.  Ironically, Donald Trump began touting Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing Emails on June 9, just three days later.

This meeting has been reported, reprinted and denied ad nauseum; however, I wish to take exception with Mr. Akhmetshin’s response, assumably to a reporter’s question as to whether he had been in Soviet Intelligence.  It was a poorly worded question, a somewhat evasive answer was given, and a skilled journalist should have asked a follow-up question.

Back in the late (pre-Digital Age) 1960s, I also was in Army Intelligence, as were at least two readers of this blog.  I’m quite sure that none of us were spies.  Now, that was the US Army Security Agency.  But first, what is a spy?

There are two primary types of Military Intelligence: HUMINT, or Human Intelligence; and COMINT, or Communications Intelligence.  The National Security Agency, by the way, was established after WWII because the Army and Navy COMINT agencies preferred to compete with each other, rather than collaborate. (The Air Force and Marines were not separate military branches, as yet.)  Spies, per se, would fall into the HUMINT category.

James Bond, perhaps the most well-known spy, thanks to movies based on Ian Fleming’s novels, was merely for the box office.  Forget the Aston-Martin, beautiful women, and dinner jackets he wore at the Monte Carlo casinos.  Real spying is not flashy:  it includes gathering many bits and pieces of information—yes, thats Intel!—and then, connecting the dots.  That’s even how the real Ian Fleming did it, “back in the day!”

Let’s get back to the Q & A, between Rinat Akhmetshin and the unnamed reporter. The Trump-Russian Collusion Investigation is not based on HUMINT; rather, it’s about COMINT. Really Cyber-Intel, which might be handed-off to a new (if ever formed) Intel Agency, refers to Electronic Intel.  Tapping telephone lines, hacking Email and web sites, data subterfuge, fake news, and the like, surely don’t fall into the “Spy” category.  The person who is force-feeding false information onto an adversary, or collecting it from them, by accessing their computers, is usually sitting at a desk, thousands of miles away!

So, leave the spies alone; because they are a dying breed—becoming more obsolescent as I write this!

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IF TRUMP INVOKES QUOTAS AND/OR TARIFFS TO PROTECT THE STEEL AND ALUMINUM INDUSTRIES, AMERICA AND THE WORLD WILL SUFFER!

Trade Protection was a major topic at the recent G-20 Summit, in Hamburg, Germany; along with Climate Change, and Immigration, were the primary concerns addressed by the leaders of the 20 largest economies.  The evils of Protectionism are widely-known, since it was one of the major causes of The Great Depression, in the 1930s.  Donald Trump, however, doesn’t seem to understand History and, for him, it’s just full steam ahead—regardless of the long-term implications!

Quotas and tariffs are generally the two major tools that nations use to overcome price advantages on foreign competitors’ imports.  Since the World Trade Organization was established in 1995, to regulate International Trade; however, the imposition of such protective measures has decreased.  But, most attendees at the G-20 Summit seemed genuinely fearful; because, the world’s largest economy—representing 25% of global GDP—is threatening to use protectionism against foreign steel and aluminum companies. Such actions, however, generally result in similar response from the targeted countries.

Before a country considers its various courses of action, it should analyze exactly why its products’ sales have weakened!  Are the problems incurred industry-wide, or just within one sub-sector?  Or only one company?  Are the products or services effected of some national security importance?  Have the companies impacted maintained industry technological and best practices standards in their production processes?  I seriously doubt that the Trump Regime had gone through such a thorough review process, before threatening quotas and/or tariffs?  That’s just not his style!

The purpose of the WTO is to diffuse any such disagreements, before trade wars erupt. And yes, when one nation fires the first volley, the other side normally retaliates. In many cases, such trade wars may spread, and the contagion might go global, as it did in the build-up to The Great Depression.  Recently, China and the European Union have taken the U. S. to the WTO, regarding these most recent protectionist threats!

Lately, the major American steel and aluminum corporations have been prodding Trump to follow-up on his various threats.  Do problems exist only in the major corporations within the two industries, the so-called “integrateds”, which function throughout the full range of products, or are the smaller, specialty companies having the same problems. These industries are not monoliths—and perhaps some companies are more or less technologically efficient, and up-to-date than others.

If foreign corporations are taking unfair advantage—using child or slave labor, or receiving government subsidies—such cases should be addressed by the WTO.  On the other hand, there are corporations who hide behind the government when they fail to maintain basic competitive standards.  It’s not the role of any government to fight corporate or industry battles, especially when the relevant corporations failed to invest in themselves, in order to enhance profitability!

Government surely should defend businesses and industries, when they are taken advantage of, but it should insure that the true problem(s) are not within the company’s or industry’s own control.  I can recall, back during the Reagan Administration, when quotas were imposed on foreign steel imports.  Subsequently, the domestic producers raised prices, just because they could!

When countries get into a Trade War–with quotas and tariffs flying in both directions–prices often rise in all nations involved.  Higher prices often cause consumer demand to decline, unemployment can ensue, and recession might be the end result–perhaps in all countries involved.  It is difficult for the respective governments take rational corrective action during a trade war, when the next round might be just around the corner!  So, hopefully these recent Protectionist threats are just one of Trump’s latest rants!

NOTE:  Welcome to Tola, in Nigeria!

 

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DONALD TRUMP’S VINDICTIVENESS SEEMS TO BE BEHIND TWO SENSELESS IDEAS: ELIMINATING AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE AND SLASHING THE STATE DEPARTMENT BUDGET BY 31%!

Donald Trump has said a lot of idiotic things, taken Tweetery to a new lunacy level, and he has accomplished absolutely nothing…in five months.  Remember all of those asinine Legislative “Acts” that he was going to pass “…on Day One!”  Did Mr. Know-it-all forget that Congress takes more time off than he does—including HIS Inauguration Day?

There are two major actions that Mr. Trump should have most definitely avoided:  Repeal and Replace “Obamacare,” and to slash the State Department Budget by 31%.

Just like any comprehensive bill, such as the (real name) Affordable (Health) Care Act, modifications should be made from time to time, just like what was done after Medicare, was first rolled-out!  Deep down inside, the real reason for eliminating ACA—and why Donald has disrupted it’s functioning—is to replace the huge tax cuts, assessed to the Top Two Percent of Taxpayers, which were lost when the Bush Tax Cuts expired.

And slashing the State Department Budget is reprehensible; because, those 170 State Department Embassies, Consulates and other installations, around-the-world, are the face of of the United States to many foreigners.  Those offices are used for many other purposes, besides diplomacy: Trade and Agricultural Officers work out of them, foreigners apply for Visas there, and its where Americans go when they encounter problems in other countries. Besides, USAID and other social agencies provide excellent assistance, from those offices, directly to rural villages and groups that need it.

In the case of both eliminating ACA and slashing the State Budget, there is no responsible reason, whatsoever, for Donald Trump to do so.  But, after analyzing these ideas, I definitely see a relationship.  Let me highlight each:

1.   Mr. Trump resents the fact that Affordable Health Care isn’t focused around him.  Even though Republicans have called for some form of Health Care for All, going all the way back to Richard M. Nixon, and perhaps even earlier, the GOP just never seemed to have followed through in legislating it!  Also, Trump is displaying his racism through his intention to eradicate the signature accomplishment of Barack Obama, our First Black President.

2. Additionally, Donald doesn’t seem capable of letting go of his hatred for former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton.  When it came to “dirty tricks”, Trumpie was far and away, the all-time champion, and definitely not the victim, during the campaign!  When Secretary of Defense James Mattis heard that State’s budget would be slashed, he said he was “…going to need more bullets!”  Mattis realizes that every dollar spent by State—especially in its various social programs—results in less dollars needed for Defense!

So, when Trump & Friends misrepresent why they needs to Repeal “Obamacare,” and he proposes slashing the State Department budget, the reasons are: his narcissism; racism; sexism; providing huge tax breaks to Mega-Billionaires; and slashing State’s budget to will help pay for the idiotic Wall!

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DOES FOREIGN AID REALLY WORK, OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER FORM OF BRIBERY?

Foreign Aid is the term, which refers to wealthy nations giving money, or often weaponry, to much-lesser developed countries.  In 2003, George W. Bush even had the audacity to proclaim that he would spread democracy throughout the Middle East.  What an ignorant thing to say?  That might sound “nice” to many Americans watching on TV; however, no nation, in the history of the world, has ever been changed from external forces—or resources!

The target group, of countries that might receive such aid, generally ranges from the poorer developing nations, to “frontier” nations, which have hardly even begun to industrialize.  Such countries usually have a fairly modern capital, and perhaps one or two major cities, which tend to have the usual modern conveniences.  And, these cities are where most aid dollars are squandered!  But, the vast majority of the population generally doesn’t live in the cities

The average person, in many poverty-stricken countries, mostly lives in rural areas, commonly speak only the regional languages, lack electricity, doesn’t have access to clean water for drinking and bathing, has no TV or access to the media, and flush toilets are probably an unknown luxury!  Such people are mostly illiterate, subsist on one or two dollars per day, and they lack any type of affordable transportation, other than by walking.  These rural inhabitants neither know, nor care, who is in power, in the capital.  They know that they are on their own, and their livelihood is subject to droughts and the seasonal monsoons.

Still, foreign aid is much appreciated, especially by those who receive it—the president, close associates, and the military that protects them!   The large cities are kept reasonably up to a semi-modern status, in order to show visiting government officials, and the occasional tourist, the benefits that their assistance has provided.  But, all that is just a charade to maintain the top government officials’ personal “money supply!”  Unfortunately, none of those upgrades ever seem to get out into the countryside—to the people!

Corruption is a very important source of stability for the various presidents, since they do not have the support of the people.  They realize that they may only retain power until they are overthrown or assassinated.  So, they take as much of the aid as they can, and share a part of the money with the military, which protects them while they are in office, and the rest is forwarded to offshore investment accounts!

The U. S. government must certainly understand how this game it played.  When we provide money or weapons, some of which can be bartered to non-friendly states, or terrorist organizations; but, we are definitely looking for something in return.  When George Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, he admitted that he wanted their oil.  And consider: perhaps a naval base in the South China Seas, to counteract China’s interest in controlling vital sea lanes; or an NSA monitoring installation near Russia.

Believe it or not, there are numerous examples of really successful Aid; however, but, only when it is distributed directly to the people who really need it.  Some of these programs are  funded by the U. S. State Department, which makes Trump”s budget cuts so horrendous!  Several additional examples are: micro-loans, which provide the first helping hand to people at the very bottom rung of impoverished societies; sleeping nets to combat malaria, and immunizations to fight various other diseases; and actually building water and sewer systems, thereby helping eliminate a number of diseases.

NOTE:  “A Path Appears,” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, provides examples of how you might help, or just contribute!  This same husband and wife, Pulitzer Prize winning team, also co-authored “Half the Sky”, which is on my Books That I Recommend tab.

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LORD MAYOR SHOWS TRUMP HOW TO BE A LEADER

I read this excellent column, by Solomon Jones, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, reprinted in The Miami Herald.  It is a fitting response to Donald Trump’s obnoxious behavior, in heckling Sadiq Khan, the Lord Mayor of London, while he is leading his City, during it’s Time of Sorrow.  Realistically, I believe that Mr. Jones has unveiled Donald Trump’s true intentions: No, not America First, his arrogance suggests “Me First!”

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    When three terrorists killed seven people and wounded 48 in the London Bridge terror attack on Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan released a statement expressing grief and resolve. Then he told Londoners they should not be alarmed by an increased police presence.

Shortly afterward, President Trump renewed a monthslong feud between the two men by attacking Khan’s statement via Twitter.

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” Trump tweeted.

That reply — based on the wrongheaded notion that Khan was somehow minimizing the attack — was about more than targeting a man who’d called Trump’s views of Islam “ignorant.” It was a message that is in keeping with Trump’s overall goal.

Trump, after all, wants to ban travelers from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. After federal courts blocked the ban, the Trump administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear the case this month.

Trump is not waiting for the courts to decide, however. He is attempting to win in the court of public opinion. If that means exploiting the dead in the wake of a London terror attack, he is willing to do so. Perhaps more troubling, Trump is ready to do everything he can to convince us that Muslims — no matter what positions they attain in Western societies — are not to be respected.

Belittling London’s first Muslim mayor on the world stage delivers that message.

Sadiq Khan is a well-respected, British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Born to working-class parents in south London, he earned a law degree from the University of North London and climbed the political ladder. He did so even as the British were fashioning the Brexit campaign around the resentment of people who looked and prayed like Khan.

Khan did everything Western society tells brown people to do. He worked hard. He sought an education. He rose through the ranks. He assimilated.

And still, it isn’t enough, because Sadiq Khan is a Muslim, and in the worldview Trump would have us adopt, Khan should be judged on that basis alone.

That kind of prejudice undergirds the very notion of a travel ban, because it assumes that anyone from a particular country who practices a certain faith must have terrorist leanings. It assumes that they inherently possess certain characteristics that make it necessary to treat them differently.

Prejudice feeds the false notion that such people are always dangerous, whether they are employed or unemployed, leaders or followers, doctors or lawyers, councilmen or mayors.

They’re all alike.

That mindset allows us to paint people with the broadest of brushes. I know, because that same mindset allowed America to embrace slavery, Jim Crow and the disproportionate economic and social outcomes that both systems produced.

If we believe they’re all alike, then we can establish a Muslim registry, as Trump suggested on the campaign trail.

If they’re all alike, we can have a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims” coming to the United States, which Trump also said on the campaign trail.

If they’re all alike, it doesn’t matter whether they’re Osama bin Laden or Sadiq Khan. They all have the same intentions. They all walk in lockstep. They all look alike, sound alike and think alike.

So why do I care if Trump peddles this kind of foolishness? Because that’s what America said about my people. Such reasoning was used to justify everything from enslavement to lynching to segregation to murder. And it began with attacking our leaders.

Black luminaries from Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama were criticized, demeaned and disrespected, all in an effort to show the world that blacks, no matter their achievements, are unworthy of respect.

I recognize that same mindset in the attempt to ban Muslims from our country. Moreover, I see it in Trump’s apparent effort to demean Khan in front of the world.

Khan is not taking the abuse lying down, nor should he. But seven people were killed in the city he governs, and, as Khan’s staff pointed out after reading several insulting tweets from Trump, Khan has a lot to do right now.

He has to lead.

I only wish our president would stop tweeting long enough to do the same.

Solomon Jones is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may email him at sj@solomonjones.com

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WHERE, OH WHERE DID MY SECURITY CLEARANCE GO?

Recently, a sub-contractor for the National Security Agency, in Georgia, posted a classified document on social media, and she is now under arrest for disclosing classified information.  Edward Snowden, who stole voluminous information, on multiple laptop computers, a few years ago, was also a NSA sub-contractor—employed by an outside corporation, working on behalf of the intelligence agency.

Journalists often overlook key points, especially when reporting on specific technical topics, such as: monetary policy; the Iran Nuclear Agreement; Constitutional Law; or National Security.  For instance, several years ago, it was reported that retired General David Petreus had provided his biographer, a former Army officer, with numerous classified documents.  I recall, at least one reporter, suggesting that the biographer had a security clearance, since she had been a military officer.  Nonsense!

When someone acquires a security clearance, they go through a short “briefing”, which is little more than signing a form, by which he or she affirms (something to the effect) that they will neither divulge any classified information, nor provide any documents, to anyone, except in the normal course of their job.  Also, when they leave the agency or department, they are de-briefed, which again is little more than signing a form whereby they acknowledge that their clearance has been revoked, they no longer have access to classified information, and the same basic provisions still apply.

Now, there are three primary points to keep in mind as your listen to media accounts regarding classified information:

1.  Having had a clearance does not carry any rights, with regard to future classified information.  So, a former colleague, biographer, or employee is/was not entitled to classified information, in any way, shape or form.  If called upon, say in case of a national emergency, normal briefing and de-briefing procedures would apply.

2.  Clearances do not come in a one-size-fits-all package.  There are the three basic ones: “CONFIDENTIAL”; “SECRET” and “TOP SECRET”, which signify the level of sensitivity.  When I worked at the Army Security Agency (which has a “dotted line” to NSA), any of those clearances wouldn’t have gotten someone past the MPs’ Desk at the Front Door.  There are special “Clearances” required for access to certain information, which require a more in-depth understanding of the specific type of intelligence.

3.  And, on top of that, access to any specific information whatsoever, also requires a “Need to Know”.  For instance, someone who has all of the clearances and accesses for a type of intelligence, but is not involved in a particular operation, has no reason to have access to information—classified or not—regarding that operation.  Basically, Intelligence is compartmentalized, in order to reduce the number of persons with access to specific information.  That compartmentalization reduces the risk of unauthorized disclosure.

NOTE:  The de-briefing forms will be linked to my next pos!

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