Posts Tagged Middle East

DONALD TRUMP JUST DEMONSTRATED HIS IGNORANCE ABOUT AFGHANISTAN AGAIN, AS USUAL!

I laughed to myself when I saw a NY Times headline, suggesting that Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Address, on Monday evening, had been “Masculine”.  My reaction was—Yes, with other people’s kids!   I have previously revealed my contempt for so-called “Wartime Presidents”: those who avoided service themselves, while keeping their own sons home. Let the Poor go to war:  What do they have to lose?  DUH!

One of Trump’s key themes, on Monday evening, was that we are going to help the Afghanistan people take control of their country back.  Really?   Afghanistan’s government has little relevance, once you venture outside of the capital.  Various Afghan presidents have often been jokingly referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul!”  That seems similar to the government of Iraq, where that nation’s leaders rarely strays outside of the Green Zone!

Very poor, pre-industrial nations such as Afghanistan, rely mostly on ancient agricultural practices, barter and the common person fending for themselves, and their families.  The per capita Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan was only $594.32, in 2015.  There is one other agricultural crop, however, which for some reason, just doesn’t seem to be included in the usual GDP Statistics.  Poppy production!

One species of poppy, Papaver somniferum, contains the opium derivative, known as alkaloids, which is found in morphine.  Such opioids are currently a major cause in drug addiction in the U. S, and in other Western nations.  Afghanistan produces 555,750 acres of poppies annually, which is almost four times that of the next highest producer, Myanmar (formerly Burma), at 143,321 acres, followed by #3, Mexico, at 37, 056 acres. Would Afghan poppy growers really take money, to kill the means of their sustenance?

The poppy crop is so pervasive in Afghanistan that, after the imams warn that it is forbidden, they still take their ten percent.  Perhaps tithing is just tithing, huh?

I had written previously about traveling on a dirt road, in a very remote part of (then) South Vietnam back in 1968, and realizing that that one man, working his own rice paddy, was all by himself.  I could only assume that he had no idea who was ruling in Saigon, and surely, the government there knew, nor cared, little about his needs—infrastructure or personal.  But he was surviving—war zone, and all!

This is how the average person survives in such poor nations.  In fact, while these rural peasants are totally on their own, there are groups—somewhat like organized crime families in the West—who provide certain basic services, especially protection.  The local warlords and such, always receive their pound of flesh, however, in return for their “services rendered”.

We in the West cannot adequately understand what it means to take one’s country back, especially when our very presence there might have provided the very cause for its disarray.  The various groups that we assume to eradicate are not the ones causing the death and destruction that the people fear the most.  And when they and/or we are gone, there will be other groups, offering to help.  And that’s the way it has always been!

NOTE:  Another recent blog post, “Does foreign aid really work, or is it just another form of bribery?” takes another look at the life of the average rural resident from a different perspective

 

 

 

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“WHY DO THEY HATE US SO MUCH?”

If you read one book this year, let it be “I Was Told to Come Alone,” by Saoud Mekhennet,  This book is the culmination of the author’s journey to analyze and answer a question by Maureen Fanning, the widow of a New York City firefighter who had died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, on 9/11.  Mrs. Fanning directed the title question toward Saoud who, although German-born, is of Turkish/Moroccan descent.

There are two key factors in Ms. Mekhennet’s background that, perhaps, make her the ideal person to even attempt to understand this multi-facetted dilemma:

  • As the child of immigrant “guest workers,” Saoud felt the harsh reality of discrimination, oftentimes not being considered “German, German,” even though she tutored other German students in “German”.   Many young Muslims in Europe, who perceive being rejected by society, are prone to radicalization!
  • Ms. Mekhennet’s parents were born into different sects within the Sunni/Shia schism; however, she and her family had always lived as secular Muslims.  In fact, Saoud only came to realize the problem in her later teens, but without any emotional biases.  The religious instability caused by the Schism back home, merely fuels the flow of Muslims to the West, further compounding the growth of Terrorism–especially among the young!

Ms. Mekhennet’s journey took her to various countries within the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Western Europe, during which, Saoud interviewed a number of al-Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban leaders.  Even though those interviews placed her at considerable personal risk, as a journalist, she knew that they were vital to her understanding–and explaining–of both sides of the issue.

A considerable amount of this book is devoted toward Ms. Mekhennet’s attempt to understand how and why young European Muslims have become radicalized, and join the Jihad.  Is it a legitimate cause, necessary to save the Islamic way of life, or is it a false reality, based on a hijacked version of Islam–merely replacing one version of beliefs for another?

Throughout the book, Ms. Mekhennet also questions the false assertions behind such ideas as Weapons of Mass Destruction, false intelligence reported by various Western agencies, and the lack of concern for civilian deaths.  Basically, if we throw off our parochial views and narrow-mindedness, we might begin to understand that there is plenty of blame, for the entire terrorism issue, to go around.

As somewhat of a summation to her journey, Saoud Mekhennet points out that “…some people in Western countries don’t see the hazards of setting standards for others, as if our way is the right way and the only way.  This is the same argument that ISIS makes.”

NOTE:  And oh, by the way, toward the very end of her journey, Ms Mekhennet solved one of those pesky questions that was on everyone’s mind, when she unmasked “Jihadi John”, who played a key role in those ISIS videoclips!

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DONALD, WITH FOUR WARS WITHOUT END, ALREADY GOING ON IN THE MIDDLE EAST, WE SURELY DON’T NEED YOU TO HELP START ANOTHER IN QATAR!

Does Donald Trump ever think before he opens his mouth, or fires-up his Tweeter?
We are already involved with four local wars in the Middle East, and now he is taking sides in a disagreement, between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the Emirates, on one side, against Qatar on the other, for sponsoring terrorism.  The Saudis had delivered an ultimatum with 13 demands, to be complied with in ten days, before a blockade would be imposed

Donald Trump immediately conveyed his wholehearted support for the blockade.  Why?  In May, the Saudis had feted Trump, and lavished great praise on him; but, that surely couldn’t justify his taking sides in this disagreement!  Consider as well what else has changed since Donald’s trip to Riyadh, just 35 days ago.

Within the past week, Saudi King Salman al-Saud, who has failing health, named his 31 year-old son Salman bin-Abdulaziz al-Saud to be the new Crown Prince, and heir-to-the-throne.  Previously, Prince Salman had been the bellicose defense minister, who sent the Military to attack Yemen, resulting in numerous Yemeni civilian deaths.

Trump’s unfettered support for the blockade of Qatar appears to have prompted Secretary of State James Mattis to rush to Doha, in order for him to confirm our support for the Persian Gulf nation, and to sign a $12 billion arms deal with the Qataris.  The
U. S. Air Force provides air support for our actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, from al-Udeid air force base, just west of Doha.  We also have the Headquarters of both the U. S. Central Command and the Central Air Force Command, at that same Qatar location.   Why didn’t Donald Trump consider all this before he Tweeted-off this?

Secretary of State Rex Tellerson warned the Saudis, and their allies, to make sure that the demands on Qatar are “reasonable and actionable”.  National Security experts confirm that it is not uncommon for State and/or Defense to be on different sides on some issues, from the White House; but, in this case, it is quite peculiar.  In fact, Donald Trump appears to be out of the loop, and there appears not to be any coherent rational policy.

Congress, which has the sole authority to Declare War has certainly shirked its duty in the Middle East!  Out of the four nations in which we are using military force, War Powers (Act) Resolutions have only been issued for Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), and those are grossly outdated, and should definitely be revoked immediately.  The American People should demand more from our Congress, especially with a hands-off President, than to accede to open-ended military actions, without having a defined mission and end-date!

NOTES:

1. The attached article from The Guardian (UK) provides a more in-depth description pop the Trump meddling in the Saudi-Qatar controversy.
2. This recent post provides additional detail on our overall mismanagement of the military in the Middle East.

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU SHOULD CAUTION DONALD TRUMP NOT TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON HIS ABSURD PROMISES IN JERUSALEM!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is a fragile patchwork of numerous small parties, many of which are hard-line conservatives, who are dedicated to preserving Israel as One Jewish State!  That’s why Netanyahu never saw eye-to-eye with President Barack Obama, who believed that it was in the best interests of the American People to seek a Two-State Solution.  And perhaps, it was best for all!

It is ironic that Mr. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have been trying to side with the Israeli Hard-Liners, as a means of currying favor with the American Jewish Community, which tends to vote Democratic.  President Obama, on the other hand, seems to have been working toward a Two-State Solution, with the conviction that it would better provide for the human rights of all people—Arab and Jew!

Donald Trump, however, had pledged to Prime Minister Netanyahu, back in September, to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.  Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had moved its capital to Jerusalem; but, only a handful of foreign embassies followed.  By 1982, all but two—Costa Rica and El Salvador—had returned to Tel Aviv.

General John Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense suggested, in Senate Hearings, that the American Embassy should remain in Tel Avid, especially since many key Israeli government offices—such as Defense and the IDF—are located there.  If Trump were a rational man, wouldn’t he re-consider moving the Embassy, while thinking about why no other nations had done so?  And what the implications might be?

General Mattis further predicted that a One-State Solution would probably result in Israel becoming an Apartheid Nation.  This coincides directly with the Analysis column in today’s Jerusalem Post, which suggested that the U. S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, and the movement of the U. S. Embassy, would lead to a “New Intifada”.

Moderate Arab Leader, King Abdullah of Jordan, is quoted as having predicted such a war.  That J-Post Analysis is linked, as follows: http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Analysis-If-the-US-Embassy-moves-to-Jerusalem-are-we-looking-at-a-new-intifada-478535.

If Trump does push forward with such a move, a dangerous situation would prevail for Israel and the Palestinians, and for the United States, regarding our diplomatic standing in the Middle East.  America would also risk any hope of ever being considered an honest broker or negotiator, in the future, between Israel and the Palestinians.  Lastly, considering the vital role that the U. S. plays, as a backstop to Israeli National Security, Prime Minister Netanyahu should also think long and hard, and perhaps discourage Donald Trump from taking the actions that he had promised!

NOTE:  I would like to welcome my readers from Guam.

 

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WHAT MIGHT WARS OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

Much of the political rhetoric spewed against Islamic State currently seems mostly based on the racist anti-Muslim agenda of certain politicians.  The strategic planners in our Defense Department place ISIS toward the bottom of our potential National Security risks.  Russia and China, by far, are at the very top of the Pentagon’s List of Risks.

Surely, terrorism will always be a risk in any peaceful country.  It always has been, and always will!  An advantage that we, in America, have is that our anti-terrorism activities are coordinated through one governmental entity, the FBI, as compared to 30 national defense entities across Europe.  Also, the Muslim Community here is somewhat better assimilated.  Again, terrorist attacks, by groups such as ISIS, are at the bottom of our Defense Department list of priorities.

The planning for Future Wars is coordinated by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work.  The so-called “Third Offset Strategy”, is fully-integrated with the knowledge and cooperation of our allies.  The First Offset (or Advantage) Strategy was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s, and it used nuclear power to compensate for the Soviet Union’s manpower advantage.  At the height of the Cold War (1970s and 80s), the Second Offset Strategy emphasized: long-range, precision-guided weapons: stealth aircraft; and new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Currently, as our list of potential adversaries has increased, the Third Offset Strategy has classified our anticipated sources of danger as follows: Russia and China are the very highest priority; then Iran (an exporter of terrorism) and North Korea (only because Kim Jong-Un is unstable and has primitive nuclear weapons); and various rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS, are at the bottom. Although they all pose dangers to America and our allies, it always are makes sense to prioritize risks.

Over the past fifteen years, as the U. S. military was distracted, fighting two wars, and depleting its Defense Budget, Russia and China were able to narrow the gap with our technological superiority. Both have grown their budgets substantially, increased their technology development programs, and they were able to observe both what our military did well, and notice its weaknesses.  Also, their cyber-intel warriors were able to hack into our computers, and steal technology—saving themselves time and money.

The T-O Strategy will include more coordination with our NATO Allies, as well as encourage them to increase their own defense budgets to the agreed-upon two percent of their respective GDPs.  In the future, research will be mostly carried-out in a combination of academic and commercial labs, rather than in government facilities.  Future weapon development will be developed and funded similar to how Boeing and SpaceX have taken on the mission of re-supplying the International Space Station with the rocket systems, which they funded and developed.

Besides traditional battlefields, look for: greater use of miniature air, land and sea-based drones; continued stealth technology; ships with lower manpower requirements; advanced manufacturing, to include robotics and 3-D systems; and guided bomb and missile systems. Future wars will also make greater use of cyber-technology, not only in hacking to gain intelligence, but in jamming, providing false intelligence or even, planting viruses to incapacitate enemy systems.  As in our daily lives, the advantages of digital technology can harm us when they become inoperable or malfunction.

Traditionally, the U. S. has had the unquestioned quickest and most comprehensive system of technology management, from development to useful application.  That requires: a combination of government-funding, as necessary; a rational regulatory environment; and the coordination of academia and corporate management.  It seems like Academia and Industry will be ready to go; but, the question is: Will Congress?

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TRUMP’S FOCUS ON THE ISLAMIC STATE REFLECTS HIS MISPLACED PRIORITIES!

Donald J. Trump continually talks about how quickly, and how forcefully, he is going to eliminate ISIS.  This is a theme, however, that he brought over from the Republican Primary Debates.  But considering all of the various adversaries that the U. S., and our allies might face, Islamic State doesn’t pose one of the most serious threats!

Our Defense Leaders at the Pentagon are constantly preparing for Future Wars, which the Pentagon currently refers to as the “Third Offset Strategy”.  Knowing your enemy is the first consideration in warfare planning.  Russia and China are, far and away, at the top of that list followed, after a large gap, by Iran and North Korea (only due to the nuclear-armed lunatic, Kim Jong-Un), and toward the bottom are rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS.

Islamic State, however, is in total disarray.  The Jihadist fighters have been decimated, their weapons and equipment have been destroyed, its captured territory has diminished greatly, and the oil wells that financed the Caliphate are no longer functional.  Also, with the arrival of Turkish forces, the Syrian border with Turkey has been sealed, thus ending the flow of Jihadi recruits and supplies to ISIS.

At present, ISIS remains a Caliphate in name only, and it can no longer claim any authority over the Islam that it had highjacked.   Following the loss of its potency in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has been carrying-out its terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East, either by fighters sent back to their home countries, or by radicalized Muslims in their local areas.  But, as any belief in the Caliphate fades, so too will the charade that it ever truly existed.

Rather than address the most dangerous threats to our security, Donald Trump choses to focus on ISIS, perhaps because it is much easier for him to sell to his followers.  There are no wonky details, such as cyber-warfare and the Nuclear Triad, to deal with.  Besides, his assumed danger-of-choice remains in play:  Muslims and terrorists, as well as his racist tendencies. That means that Trump’s supporters are already prepared for his chosen War on Terror!

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SO DONALD, ARE THESE SOME OF THE SECRETS THAT YOU PREFER TO HIDE?

In my last post, I wrote that Donald Trump seems to have hijacked the discussion surrounding the coming Presidential Election, preferring that the focus be on Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Department Email and the Clinton Foundation.  Now, I will describe some of the Trumpian baggage that, I believe, Donald prefers to keep hidden.

Consider these examples of where Trump reaches for his labor:  Among the 250 postings for seasonal employees, at his posh Mar-a-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, he only hired four locally, and the rest from Eastern Europe; his retail “brand” items—shirts, ties, etc.—are all made overseas, such as in Bangladesh, China, Turkey, etc; and the Trump Model Agency has allegedly hired mostly women on travel visas, who are not legally permitted to work in the U. S.  Perhaps hiring models who cannot legally work might have been a common industry practice.

There have been some suggested discrepancies regarding the period that Melania Knauss (the Germanized version of Melanija Knavs) worked for the Trump Modeling Agency.  Recently, the question of whether the Slovenian-born (now) Mrs. Melania Trump worked legally when she first arrived, or not, is a concern which continues on.

It is well-known that Donald Trump tried to remove Gonzalo Curiel, the Ohio-born Federal Judge, on the case against Trump University, since he was of Mexican heritage.  New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman brought the case, against Donald Trump, Trump University, et al, for Fraud, in Federal Court. Judge Curiel remains on the case.  Also, since AG Schneiderman brought it on RICO charges, triple damages might be awarded.

Relatedly, Florida AG Pam Bondi considered joining in that same fraud case, since there had been a number of complaints against Trump University, in Florida, as well.  The Donald J. Trump Foundation, however, made a $25,000 contribution, in 2013, to Bondi’s campaign fund.  It is illegal for charitable foundations to contribute to political campaigns.  But interestingly, AG Pam Bondi dropped any consideration of joining the case against Trump University.

OK, now we might get to the really important point: What is Donald Trump hiding by not releasing his past Tax Returns.  Tax experts have already diffused his smoke screen that he is under audit, and the IRS has confirmed that there is no requirement that returns under IRS Audit not be released.  Historically, every Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominee has provided a number of years (say eight to ten), going back to the early 1970s.  Between Bill and Hillary Clinton, some 25 years of back joint returns have already been released.  Senator Tim Kaine, her running mate, has also released his Tax Returns.

Donald Trump has done business in Russia, to include holding a recent Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin had to cancel, but most of the Oligarchs (Putin’s cronies) did attend.  Also, it’s common knowledge that Trump has wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow for years.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former Campaign Manager, had a lobbying firm in Kiev, and did personal business with Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, who fled to Moscow when he was ousted.  Trump has already raised eyebrows over some comments that he has made publicly to, and about, Putin.  So, does he truly have a relationship with Russia, and where else might he also have connections?

It is assumed that Donald Trump does not intend to release his Tax Returns for any or several of the following reasons: he pays little or no taxes, which is common for real estate moguls; he is not worth anywhere near the $10 billion that he claims; he has questionable business dealings—both domestically and globally–and perhaps it will reveal how he has taken tens of millions of dollars from businesses, like the four bankrupt casinos in Atlantic City, as they descended into bankruptcy; or might they show that he is just not the business genius that he claims to be?

Lastly, while Trump claims that the Clinton Foundation should be closed-down immediately, what about his multi-tentacled Trump Organization, LLC?  Is he ready to shut that down immediately, and for good, as well?  Having his adult children, who seem to be mesmerized by him, run the Trump Empire would not provide the features of a Blind Trust, which the Presidency should require.  That would be fallacious—especially with Trump’s past history of breaking the rules!

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