Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Amateur Hour, US Comedy

I took a few days respite from social media and news to re-calibrate. Checking back in it looks as if Washington has become a new reality show—Amateur Hour. I can’t believe what I am seeing.

Policy without professionalism. Enacting an immigration ban, temporary or not without engaging legal council for advice or input is amateurish. No coordination with Homeland Security. No consultation with the experts, the professionals, to fill in details, add coherence and coordinate between departments. The very people who will have to defend and enforce the policy were left out of the process completely. Foreign Policy experts are in disagreement saying it will make us less, not more safe. Results are all over the news. First a Green Card isn’t OK, then it is. People already holding approved visa being turned back, and the order itself under legal challenge within hours of the attempted implementation. Not to mention the attacking and mocking being done by Mr Trump.

Without getting into analysis, the reasons given so far are questionable. I’ve heard talk of getting ahead of threats and deterring potential threats. What is that, a potential threat? You? My Hispanic neighbor? Me? Or could this broad use of “potential” be a step to identify groups and turn the public against them? I don’t have an answer, but keeping your (my) own government professionals out of the loop is suspect from the beginning. And then the threat from the spokesman: If you can’t get with the agenda you should resign. Agenda? Just what agenda has become the most obvious question.

But it looks like this is just the start. Amateur hour also extends to talk of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall through import tariffs. Five to 20 percent were numbers tossed around. Except for who pays import tariffs? That would be the consumer. You, me, and other Americans. Huh? The argument and strategy ignores the most basic economic tenants.

Next up we have Steve Bannon on the National Security Council and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs off. What? White Nationalist, Fake News-Alt-right advocate with no experience.

Bannon is the precisely wrong person for this wrong role. His national security experience consists of a graduate degree and seven years in the Navy. More troubling, Bannon’s role as chairman of Breitbart.com, with its racist, misogynist and Islamophobic perspectives, and his avowed desire to blow up our system of government, suggests this is someone who not only has no business being a permanent member of the most powerful consultative body in the world — he has no business being in a position of responsibility in any government.

Worse still, it is a sign of other problems to come. Organizing the NSC this way does not reflect well on national security advisor Michael Flynn — whether the bad decision is a result of his lack of understanding of what the NSC should do or because he is giving in to pressure from his boss.”

My goal in starting this site was to focus on issues over politics. But can’t not address this. Yes I did hit on the economic issue of tariffs, admittedly because of the unsupportable argument out of the White House. But the question of the day remains. Just what the heck is going on? Whether we agree with the policies or not, it is clear these folks are amateurs, day after day failing to consult with experts, or trust the competence and demonstrate confidence in many of their own choices for department heads. So sad. Embarrassing my country.

Situational Ethics?

Good example here: During the Obama Presidency Mr Paul Ryan questioned the Presidents decision to read some intelligence briefings himself rather than get them verbally from the intelligence agency.

“I have a hard time comprehending that, because the primary job of the commander in chief is to keep the country safe,” Ryan said in an October 2014 interview on Fox News Channel. “And you need to get from your intelligence community, your defense community — especially when we have troops in harm’s way — what’s going on.”

Now with Mr Trump choosing not to receive some/many briefings at all, as well as publicly questioning the authenticity of he intelligence professionals, he’s come up with a new story.

“Well, they don’t always get everything right. We’ve seen that clearly,” Ryan said. “But I do have faith that our men and women in our intelligence community are doing an incredible job, sacrificing for our country. But there’s always room for improvement.”

Way back when Mr Ryan was running for Vice President (actually here) I did a piece about Mr Ryan and his integrity…or lack there of. Nothing has changed.

American Theocracy:

The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips

If my military brothers haven’t read this book, they should. Part 1: Oil and American Supremacy will hit way too close to home for those like me who spent time in Iraq. Today there remains a dearth of evidence indicating any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction but a preponderance of data supporting the war was about oil. Having been there, both on the streets of Tikrit and in the battle-staff update briefings, I agree with his conclusion.

While Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist makes a compelling argument on the impacts of the big money influence of our political bodies, this book is not an easy read. He makes a point, sometimes on the outrageous side, and then takes off on a story reaching through all ages often deviating from his main point. When he gets down to the dirty details, he back up his thesis. For history buffs, his side runs are extremely educational. For a guy who wants the uncut facts it was a difficult read.

    In the end, with my own flash-backs to division staff meetings where slides tracked oil production from various geographic areas, indicated up or down trends, and feedback discussed as to what the US military was doing to aid the effort, Phillips conclusion that it was all about oil rings true. While I personally dislike his style and historical sidetracks, Phillips makes his point and supports it with over a thousand references. A short excerpt:

 “In Baghdad’s Iraqi National Museum, left wide open to looters in 2003 by careless military planners, dozens of wall maps explaining Iraq’s achievements as the cradle of world civilization: it’s invention of writing and the wheel, the birth of mathematics, and the establishment of the first code of laws (Hammurabi’s). By most archeologists’ accounts, the museum and the National Library were world-class institutions with unique collections.

Even so, the first major building to be surrounded and occupied by American soldiers was the one housing truly vital maps and artifacts: The Iraqi Oil Ministry. Here were thousands of seismic portrats of the nation’s oil fields, the subterranean keys to the Majnoon, northern Rumaila, West Qurna, and many more. World opinion had little difficulty in mistaking U.S. priorities.”

Link

I’m looking at a presidential candidate on the news right now. Mitt Romney is telling Israel what the US will do to support them. Huh? Does a candidate define existing US foreign policy? Here is the cut from the AP this afternoon:  

“Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Iran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way,” he said. “We will not look away nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.”

He later backed away, more likely his staff backed away from his comments in a written statement, saying the candidate “believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded.” [The Associated Press Published Look again. There is no “I” or “we should” or any wiggle room. He uses the term “our country” Not so fast big guy. While the big donor Sheldon Adelson (who said he will spend any amount of money to see you elected) was in the crowd, this thing isn’t over yet. Meanwhile, when not the president, do not make foreign policy.

 Commentary rang and is still ringing from all corners, The AP, The UK Guardian, NPR and more. And the bloggers well, I’m not keen on linking blogs, but I think SLATE may have hit the nail with their analysis of his UK gaffes:

Romney’s World

Mitt’s insults, mistakes, and blunders abroad aren’t gaffes. They actually represent his true worldview. By Fred Kaplan Posted Friday, July 27, 2012, at 4:21 PM ET

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2012/07/mitt_romney_s_insults_and_mistakes_while_at_the_london_olympics_aren_t_gaffes_as_much_as_a_fair_representation_of_his_worldview_.html

It is well worth reading the whole article but meanwhile, here are a couple paragraphs:

“Charles Krauthammer, the right-wing commentator who usually finds every excuse to attack Barack Obama—he took Obama’s blinking during a tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin as a sign of appeasement—pronounced himself befuddled by the GOP candidate’s flare of incompetence.”

“The American capitalists-turned-statesmen of an earlier generation—Douglas Dillon, Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, John McCloy, Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze—took risks, built institutions, helped rebuild postwar Europe, befriended their foreign counterparts: in short, they cultivated an internationalist sensibility at their core. Whatever you think of their politics or Cold War policies generally (and there is much to criticize), financiers formed an American political elite in that era because finance (through the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the IMF, and so forth) was so often the vehicle of American expansionism.”

“By contrast, private-equity firms, such as Bain Capital, where Romney made his fortune, tend to view their client companies as cash cows, susceptible to cookie-cutter formulas from which the firms’ partners reap lavish fees, almost regardless of the outcome. Their ends and means breed an insularity, a sense of entitlement, a disposition to view all the world’s entities through a single prism and to appraise them along a single scale.”

“How Romney should have behaved in London may have been obvious to Charles Krauthammer, who studies politics; it would have been obvious to politically ambitious businessmen from more traditional lines of work or from an earlier era. But as we have been graced to see this week, it is not necessarily obvious to Romney himself.”

Where will we be if the gaffes continue?