Lesson 1: History repeats itself.
Posts Tagged National Security
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!
Danny Westneat is a columnist for the Seattle Times. This column is a wonderfully written story about a husband and wife team–he a Soldier, and she a Riveter (fastening B-29 wings)–who are members of “Our Greatest Generation.” And, as the Matz’ question, with Donald Trump, do we truly have the commitment to insure that the Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and other Hate Groups do not succeed this time? In essence, Silence is NOT golden!
‘Greatest generation’ is fading, but it’s still got choice words for our own
Remember the greatest generation? The ones that beat back the Nazis?
Recently I sat down with two of them, to talk about everyday persistence, about stability, about things that abide.
But we weren’t five minutes in when it veered in the exact opposite direction — to the rise of neo-Nazis in the news today, the demagoguery of a certain president and to an eerily familiar chill.
“I remember back in the ’30s and ’40s, it was like people were hypnotized,” says Wilma Matz, 93. “I worry all the time it might be happening again.”
Numerically speaking, Wilma and Harold Matz are rarer around here than the endangered northern spotted owl.
At 95, Harold is a World War II vet, a medical technician who pulled the maimed off the line of the war’s bloodiest fight, the Battle of the Bulge.
All but 3 percent of his 16 million mates who beat back fascism are gone. The greatest generation has dwindled to just 0.2 percent of the American population.
Even rarer, Wilma was a Rosie the Riveter. She drove fasteners into the wings of B-29 bombers for Boeing in the 1940s, one of 300,000 bandana-wearing women who came out of housewifery to take over the nation’s airplane-factory work. Only about 10,000 Rosies are still alive today.
Then there’s this: As of Wednesday, the couple has been married 75 years. Fewer than 0.1 percent of all marriages in America are so enduring.
“It’s like they hit the trifecta,” says their daughter, Laura Matz.
When I caught up with them in their Normandy Park apartment, though, they couldn’t help contrasting their own stability with the turbulent state of the news today.
Harold was telling how they had to hand-haul thousands of wounded Allied soldiers out of the Battle of the Bulge on the border of Belgium and Germany, when he interrupted himself.
“This president today, if he’d been the president back then, we would have lost the war in the first three months,” he said.
“No steadiness, no resolve,” he said.
Wilma said she’s been appalled that any American leader would wink and nod at Neo-Nazis, considering the lengths her generation went to fight it.
“I don’t know if he really means it — he seems to say whatever pops into his head — but this country sacrificed a great deal back then,” she said. “It feels like that’s been forgotten. It’s hard to describe what it was like. It was all hands on deck.”
When Harold was shipped to Europe in the fall of 1943, she, just 19, immediately signed up to help build bomber parts at a temporary Boeing war factory in Chehalis. At the peak of production, more than 70 percent of the workers there were women. It was her first job.
“I often maintain she did more to beat the Nazis than I did,” laughed Harold, who went on to become a chiropractor in Des Moines after the war.
Recently Tim Egan of The New York Times called these last living fascism fighters, quiet people like Harold and Wilma living out their years in senior homes, our “real American heritage.” As opposed to the statues and symbols people are fighting over today.
His point is that the monument fight is for phony patriots. We have among us a few “living memorials” to the best American story. The one where we were unambiguously on the right side of history.
It turns out it was about living old values. Such as persistence.
Speaking of which: What’s the secret to staying married for an incredible 75 years?
“I like to have someone to sleep next to,” Harold shrugs.
Wilma just rolls her eyes, and smiles. When you’ve beaten the Great Depression and the Nazis and made it three-quarters of a century together, no way a bad joke is going to get between you and the finish line.
Donald Trump has threatened to shut-down the Government, by Vetoing the Debt-Ceiling increase if his Wall is not funded through the FY2018 Federal Budget. Those are two unrelated, idiotic ideas, but in two totally different Bills. Where did Donald study Government: Trump University?
Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do not want to be blamed for a shut-down since—when their party controls both Houses of Congress, and the White House—they would have no one to blame. And, such shut-downs never accomplish anything! But, let’s consider what the inter-action is between the Budget and the National Debt and whether the Debt Ceiling is even necessary.
The Budget, as passed by Congress, cites how much the Nation is expected to spend, broken-down by Department, throughout the coming fiscal year (starting October 1). The Treasury Department monitors the respective in-flows and out-flows, making adjustments, as required, within existing Law.
Depending upon whether the actual Net Cash Flow is higher or lower than expected, the Treasury will either Pay-Down existing U. S. Treasury securities, if there is a Surplus, or sell more bonds when the Net Cash Flow is in a Deficit. The Debt-Ceiling, established in 1913, is truly an anachronism, and serves mostly as a political football, since Total Spending can be controlled through the Budget Process!
Donald Trump has lately been lashing-out at Senators on both sides, and he has especially been attacking the Intelligence Community. Even his own Republican Party in Congress has passed an Economic Sanctions Bill, in response to Russia’s interference in our Presidential Election.
The vote in both Houses, on the sanctions, would easily overcome a Presidential Veto. Similar Veto-proof legislation has been passed to make it virtually impossible for Trump to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. And, Senator Charles Grassley has also stated that he would not hold Confirmation Hearings, in the event Trump might need to replace a fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
More recently, Donald Trump has been at odds with a majority of Americans, as he sought to give support to White-Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and other Hate Groups, after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va.. Surprisingly, each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—the heads of the four armed services—Tweeted their condemnation of Hatred and Racism. Citizens of most countries tend to support their militaries; because, they are perceived as the apolitical representatives of The People.
Recently, the discussion has shifted from Trump’s ideological viewpoints and disruptive management style, toward his irrational behavior and temperamental mood swings. It has risen to the point that Donald Trump has allegedly asked the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the NSA to push-back against the FBI, which leads the Russian Collusion Investigation against his campaign. They both refused!
James Clapper, who had served as President Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, and in every administration since Jack Kennedy, has recently come under fire from Donald Trump. Based on watching various speeches, as different as night-from-day, Clapper has questioned whether Trump is fit for the job. Furthermore, Mr. Clapper wonders about the insanity of Trump having access to the Nuclear Codes!
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
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!
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.