Posts Tagged Military
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!
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
“What Trump should know about the Cuban Missile Crisis”, By Michael Hobbs August 9, The Washington Post
Michael Dobbs is the author of “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”
Hearing President Trump threatening to bring “fire and fury” down on North Korea because of its nuclear defiance reminded me of an incident during the Cuban missile crisis. The State Department had gotten slightly ahead of the White House by mentioning the possibility of “further action” by Washington — and President John F. Kennedy was irate.
He called State Department spokesman Lincoln White to reprimand him personally and to stress the need to coordinate and calibrate all public statements. Otherwise, an already dangerous crisis could escalate uncontrollably. “We got to get this under control, Linc,” he fumed. “You have to be goddamn careful!”
Studying the 1962 nuclear showdown for my book “One Minute to Midnight,” I concluded that the real risk of war arose not from the conscious designs of Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev or even Fidel Castro. It stemmed from the possibility that the opposing sides could trigger a nuclear conflict that nobody wanted through miscommunication and freak accidents, which became increasingly likely at higher levels of military alert. The same is almost certainly true of the present crisis with North Korea.
The nightmare of an accidental nuclear war was very much on Kennedy’s mind during the “13 days” when the world came closer than ever before, or since, to blowing itself up. He had recently read a book by historian Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August,” that described how a previous generation of statesmen had blundered into World War I, with nobody really understanding why. Kennedy was determined to avoid a similar chain of unpredictable events involving atomic weapons.
For a student of the Cuban missile crisis, the fact that our current Twitter-happy commander in chief is surrounded by sensible, highly competent generals is only partly reassuring. The missile crisis showed that there are some decisions that only a president can make. There were times when JFK was in a minority of one in the Excomm, the committee set up to manage the crisis, in his willingness to compromise with Khrushchev. Only the president had the overarching sense of history to consider the interests of future generations of Americans, and ultimately all of humanity.
As is no doubt the case today, the generals assued Kennedy in October 1962 that the United States enjoyed overwhelming nuclear superiority over its adversary and could easily wipe the Soviet Union off the map. But this did not comfort the president, who asked the obvious question: How many Americans would die if just one Soviet missile landed on U.S. soil? The answer was 600,000.
“That’s the total number of casualties in the Civil War,” JFK exploded. “And we haven’t got over that in a hundred years.” He later acknowledged that the 24 intermediate-range Soviet missiles in Cuba constituted “a substantial deterrent to me.”
Given the explosive rhetoric of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it is understandable that President Trump should be tempted to respond in kind. Classic game theory teaches us that you can gain an advantage over your opponent if you can convince him that you are madder than he is. In the game of chicken, with two cars heading for a frontal collision, the driver who swerves out of the way first loses.
During the Cuban missile crisis, the “crazy man” role was played to perfection by Castro, the only leading actor who was seriously prepared to risk a nuclear war. Patria o muerte — “fatherland or death” — was, after all, the slogan of the Cuban revolution. Asuming the role of madman has always been part of the arsenal of the weak against the strong, whether in the case of Cuba or North Korea or the Islamic State. It gives the weaker player an advantage it would not otherwise have.
Playing chicken is, however, a dangerous indulgence for the leader of a nuclear superpower. During the 1962 crisis, the two “rational” players — Kennedy and Khrushchev — ended up making common cause against the “madman” Castro. Despite everything that divided them, they had a sneaking sympathy for each other, an idea expressed most poignantly by Jackie Kennedy in a handwritten letter to the Soviet leader following her husband’s assassination.
“You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up,” she wrote Khrushchev. “The danger which troubled my husband was that war might be started not so much by the big men as by the little ones. While big men know the needs for self-control and restraint, little men are sometimes moved more by fear and pride.”
As President Trump girds for a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea, we can only hope that he will prove to be a big man rather than a little one. Out-crazying Kim Jong Un is a scary proposition. Game theory also teaches us that, if neither driver swerves, everybody goes up in flames.
DO WE WANT DONALD TRUMP’S HANDS ON THE KEY THAT LAUNCHES THE NUCLEAR ARSENAL? RE-PUBLISHED FROM LAST OCTOBER.
With Nuclear Weapons in the news recently, I have re-published the following post, which I had written several weeks before last November’s Presidential Election.
Given the frivolous manner in which Donald Trump has been dismissing allegations, by seven women now, and counting, of sexual misconduct and assault, I can only wonder about his mental stability. And consider that Trump is currently lashing-out at virtual enemies, at all hours of the night, on Twitter. But, I am truly concerned about the role of an irrational President in unleashing our Nuclear Arsenal!
Bruce G. Blair, was a young military officer during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, between Israel and neighboring Arab states. He and a crew-mate, another 20-something, were in an underground missile launch center in Montana, armed with the laugh keys and codes. They had been ordered to prepare for nuclear war with the Soviet Union! Mr. Blair’s recent Op-Ed, in the NY Times, describes his recollections of that time.
At the time, President Richard M. Nixon was suffering from severe depression throughout the on-going Watergate events, and drinking quite heavily. Now consider, would anyone feel comfortable, especially in a Time of Crisis, knowing that the President could launch ICBMs at his (or her) discretion, in such an impaired state? Well, under our Constitution, it is my understanding that no one might veto a launch order from a President—even a temperamental Donald J. Trump. I SURE HOPE I’M WRONG!
Luckily, President Nixon had two trusted and capable advisors: Henry A. Kissinger and James R. Schlesinger, the National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense, respectively. They instructed the generals that they should only take orders from them since they were running the show that night. Now, just consider who among Donald Trump’s closest advisors would you trust to step-in, in such a situation? In fact, Trump does not have even one close advisor who has National Security experience!
Many of Donald Trump’s actions, comments, assertions and lies—each by themselves—are horrific and disgraceful. But, just remember that term “Nuclear Triad”, which Senator Marco Rubio had to explain to Trump, during one of the Primary Debates: that’s the combined air, sea and land nuclear missile delivery systems? Also, since a number of nations are nuclear-armed now, when the nukes start flying, perhaps some others might join in!
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!”
Why does the Trump Regime continue to engage in unwinnable regional conflicts—squandering military lives and our Treasury—while the number of nuclear-armed rogues might double? Afghanistan, Iraq and, now, Syria, had never threatened America, or our allies. And after 15 years, we’re still wandering in the desert! Doing what? Why?
With nuclear-powered North Korea expected to have a missile delivery system, capable of reaching the Continental United States next year, the Regime’s primary focus is obviously elsewhere. Just think of how many Twin Towers might just one North Korean Hwasong-14 detonation eradicate, in terms of American lives?
And so far, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who led Exxon-Mobil until just eight months ago, has been Trump’s lead in confronting Kim Jong-Un. Now, why would such a bellicose action be left to Tillerson—a mere three months removed from the Oil Patch–when he threatened a pre-emptive attack, last March—rather than James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, and a retired Marine Corp General, or (active) Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor?
Would anyone question that the best time to stop a fire is before it starts? On a much, much higher level, numerous Governments in many nations, have failed to recognize the growing danger of a nuclear-empowered North Korea. And yet, that flame has been permitted to smolder—and then grow. And, both North Korea and the bomb are controlled by an irrational 33 year-old.
Someone asked me recently, where does North Korea get its missiles and weapons materials from? It has no industry, little agriculture in a starving society, no oil or other resources to export. Who is its supplier? What country might benefit from a nuclear-armed North Korea? Intercontinental missile technology is not a widely available asset!
Donald Trump’s potential relationship with Russia, and its President Vladimir Putin specifically, has morphed from interest, to fascination, to concern and now, possibly to horror! All along, as Russia’s DNA has seemed to loom larger, and larger, in the Trump-o-sphere, Donald Trump has never once referred to Putin or Russia as behaving in an undesirable or menacing manner.
Russia, like China, generally doesn’t engage in local regional wars. It learned that in Afghanistan, during the 1980s, similar to our comeuppance in Vietnam. In essence, technological firepower is meaningless against guerrillas, equipped only with a rifle, a donkey and a cause. Then why did Russia venture into Syria, several years back?
Russia is a large, but mostly land-locked nation, which has always coveted a sea base on the Mediterranean. By joining in the Syrian civil war, assumably because the U. S. was there, it had the cover to expand a small seaport, as well as an air base, fronting the Mediterranean in Syria. And now, with Russia’s strategic goals met, perhaps Putin will be willing to commit to Peace Talks!
As the Trump-Russia Collusion Investigation creeps closer, and closer, to Donald Trump, he continues to create distractions, which merely show his incompetence. Remember that, in Trump’s Budget Proposal, he slashed Tillerson’s State Department by 31%. Is that how a sane leader would treat his go-to man on what should be the nation’s most important global security issue?
China surely is supplying neither missile technology, nor nuclear materials, to North Korea for three reasons: one, if the situation gets any worse in the North, it doesn’t want 20 million destitute people flowing across its border; two, China doesn’t want the U. S. to become its next door neighbor; and three, China seems intent on controlling its own destiny, and not squandering its resources on irrational causes.
Given the many, many distractions that Donald Trump has been creating, as part of his smokescreen to deflect the Trump-Russia Investigation, Vladimir Putin might also be engaged in a distraction of his own. Russia has a short, eleven mile, land border with North Korea, as well as an adjacent shoreline. Putin, the ever-generous neighbor!
Putin’s Russia might be the only nation or NGO (Non-Government Organization) with the technology, ability and possible reason to supply Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea with the required components to fire a nuclear-armed ICBM at Continental U. S. Besides Donald Trump’s failure to focus on Korea, he continues to enable the media—and Congress—to focus on the Trump-Russia Investigation, as well as his outright incompetence.
As the Trump Administration continues to distract even itself, as to the most important global priorities, something happened recently in Pakistan, which presents another potential nuclear hot spot. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted, on Friday, due to a corruption conviction. Consider the scenario: If the Pakistani military assumes control, what might come of the long-term adversarial relationship with India, the two nuclear-armed neighbors of the Sub-Continent?
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?