Closing Thought–20Sep17

For 40 years I have been bad mouthing so-called think tanks….these institutions are there tom help formulate policy….there a conserv ones as well as liberal ones and even some that claim to be independent.

MY dislike for them comes from when I was working for one after college…..we were given the conclusion they want and we were to analyze and come up with policy the fit the conclusion.

I think they are worthless waste of time…..any way I recently read a good piece that asked if “think tanks were doomed?”

In 2015, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the president and CEO of the New America Foundation co-authored an ambitious manifesto about the future of the D.C. think tank that emphasized the need for civic action. “The Progressive Era model of think tanks as extensions of technocratic governance is no longer sufficient to make meaningful, large-scale progress in resolving public problems,” Slaughter argued. Instead, she suggested, “pre-partisan” efforts at civic enterprise were necessary for ideas to get traction “in the hyper-partisan, pay-for-play environment of Washington policy development.” She acknowledged that her undertaking was “an ambitious project—nothing short of rethinking the relationship between the people who make public policy and the people for whom they make it,” but New America was poised for the challenge.

Source: Are Think Tanks Doomed? – POLITICO Magazine

Too much cash involved for them to disappear…but they could be better run.

US Wars And Hostile Actions

That time again…..the IST history lesson…..

After listening to the speech given by Pres. Trump at the UN when he talked about those “rogue nations” that are a threat to the stability of the world….and it got me to thinking about the history of the US and I wanted to look back…..

Do you know how many wars or hostile actions the US has been involved with since World War Two?

I am sure that most everyone can name up to twenty conflicts…..but is this so much more than that…..

There is a reason that most countries polled in December 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world, and why Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017.

But it is a reason that eludes that strain of U.S. academia that first defines war as something that nations and groups other than the United States do, and then concludes that war has nearly vanished from the earth.

Since World War II, during a supposed golden age of peace, the United States military has killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. The United States is responsible for the deaths of 5 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and over 1 million just since 2003 in Iraq.

Source: U.S. Wars and Hostile Actions: A List – Let’s Try Democracy

Included in the lists above is the number of leaders the US has tried to assassinate…..

  • 1949 – Kim Koo, Korean opposition leader
  • 1950s – CIA/Neo-Nazi hit list of more than 200 political figures in West Germany to be “put out of the way” in the event of a Soviet invasion
  • 1950s – Chou En-lai, Prime minister of China, several attempts on his life
  • 1950s, 1962 – Sukarno, President of Indonesia
  • 1951 – Kim Il Sung, Premier of North Korea
  • 1953 – Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran
  • 1950s (mid) – Claro M. Recto, Philippines opposition leader
  • 1955 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India
  • 1957 – Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt
  • 1959, 1963, 1969 – Norodom Sihanouk, leader of Cambodia
  • 1960 – Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, leader of Iraq
  • 1950s-70s – José Figueres, President of Costa Rica, two attempts on his life
  • 1961 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, leader of Haiti
  • 1961 – Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo (Zaire)
  • 1961 – Gen. Rafael Trujillo, leader of Dominican Republic
  • 1963 – Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam
  • 1960s-70s – Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, many attempts on his life
  • 1960s – Raúl Castro, high official in government of Cuba
  • 1965 – Francisco Caamaño, Dominican Republic opposition leader
  • 1965-6 – Charles de Gaulle, President of France
  • 1967 – Che Guevara, Cuban leader
  • 1970 – Salvador Allende, President of Chile
  • 1970 – Gen. Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of Army, Chile
  • 1970s, 1981 – General Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama
  • 1972 – General Manuel Noriega, Chief of Panama Intelligence
  • 1975 – Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire
  • 1976 – Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica
  • 1980-1986 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya, several plots and attempts upon his life
  • 1982 – Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran
  • 1983 – Gen. Ahmed Dlimi, Moroccan Army commander
  • 1983 – Miguel d’Escoto, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua
  • 1984 – The nine comandantes of the Sandinista National Directorate
  • 1985 – Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanese Shiite leader (80 people killed in the attempt)
  • 1991 – Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq
  • 1993 – Mohamed Farah Aideed, prominent clan leader of Somalia
  • 1998, 2001-2 – Osama bin Laden, leading Islamic militant
  • 1999 – Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia
  • 2002 – Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Islamic leader and warlord
  • 2003 – Saddam Hussein and his two sons
  • 2011 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya

Just a sampling of the info available in this article……Fascinating reading….I will leave you to it…..enjoy!

What must one do to be known as a “rogue nation”?

Donald’s First Time (19Sep17 UN Speech)

Yesterday our president gave the first big speech of his young administration…..his offering to the United Nations.

It was an amateurish speech at best….beyond that…it was God awful…..even dismal.  Okay I will admit that there were a few points that were good and to the point but the rest was for his supporters….a virtual campaign speech.

Personally, I was not looking for anything earth shattering but as usual I was mistaken…..he stood before the world and threatened war against another member of the body.

The North’s nuclear arsenal threatens the “entire world,” he said, and if Pyongyang attacks the US or an ally, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” he said.

That is a scary moment……that an American president would make such a threat to the world.

His speech progressed and it did not get any better….the more he talked the more foot was inserted into his mouth.

On Tuesday, in his first speech in front of the UN General Assembly, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and its “rocket man” Kim Jong Un. That, understandably, got people talking. The Hill reports ABC’s chief foreign correspondent accused trump of using “WWE rhetoric” to lob an “immoral threat” in front of the world’s political leaders. Terry Moran says mulling the destruction of a country of 25 million people “borders on the threat of committing a war crime.” Here’s how others are reacting to Trump’s speech:

  • Former UN ambassador John Bolton not only calls it the “best speech of the Trump presidency” but says it was unparalleled in the history of the UN, congratulating Trump on saying things that needed to be said, Fox News reports.
  • USA Today has five takeaways from the speech, which include Trump calling terrorists “losers,” Iran a “rogue nation,” and Venezuela a “responsible neighbor and friend.”
  • While the North Korean ambassador to the UN walked out before Trump’s speech, a former CIA analyst and expert on North Korea tells the Los Angeles Times how it’s likely to play there: “If I were Kim Jong Un, I’d think, I better accelerate this thing and finish building my nuclear weapon before it’s too late. These threats will only increase the hysteria and paranoia in North Korea.”
  • Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron took issue with Trump’s stance on the Iran nuclear deal, calling the deal “essential for peace” and saying scrapping it would be a “grave error,” the New York Times reports. Macron also “rejects escalation” when it comes to North Korea.
  • In its look at the phrases Trump used that “matter most,” CNN notes the president used “sovereign” or “sovereignty” 21 times. By doing so, Trump made it clear that America is looking out for itself first and foremost.
  • Writing for the Washington Post, Ed Rogers says he was pleasantly surprised by Trump, who showed an “unusual grasp of realism and relatively remarkable restraint.” The former employee of the Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush White Houses says Trump playing nice with the UN is a possible result of Stephen Bannon leaving the administration.
  • Finally, Vanity Fair calls Trump’s speech “maniacal” and “warlike” and one that despite all the president’s bluster and bragging “left him looking small” in front of the international community.

Sorry but using derogatory titles like “Rocket Man” or “Losers” is beneath the dignity of the office of president of the United States.

I know I can be a bit harsh and If you would rather watch the speech or read the transcript then the below link is what you are looking for…..then you decide what was said.

Source: UNGA 2017: Donald Trump full video and transcript at United Nations General Assembly

And the world reacts to the speech……

  • “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times-not the 21st Century UN,” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one.”
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was not present for the speech, called Trump “the new Hitler,” the Independent reports. Earlier, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to Trump’s call for democracy to be restored in the country by saying: “No leader can come and question our democracy, can come and question our sovereignty.”
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the speech a better review. “In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” he said.
  • Trump, who warned that the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary, was also applauded by South Korea, the AP reports. Trump set out a “firm and specific stance regarding the important issue of maintaining peace and security now facing the international community and the United Nations,” said a spokesman for the country’s presidential office.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tells the BBC: “It was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.” “This was a bombastic, nationalist speech,” she says. “It must have been decades since one last heard a speech like that in the UN General Assembly.”

Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said Trump painted Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela as “almost the worst dictatorships in the history of the humankind.” He said that in the “contradictory” speech, Trump expressed support for nations’ sovereign rights but mixed it with a “barefaced US pretense to determine who has such rights and who does not,” the AP reports.

Everybody’s a critic, huh?

This speech leads NO credence to the claim that Trump is a “master negotiator”….nothing masterful was uttered.

Why Not Diplomacy?

Finally back to what could be called normal.  I really do not like posting from the phone….but that is when drafts come in handy.

With North Korea in the headlines daily some are asking why we cannot find some sort of ground for a diplomatic mission.

A good question.  As it is now the back and forth between Trump and Li’l Kim leave NO opening for that possibility.  The constant Tweeting by Trump and the constant chest thumping by Li’l Kim is like two playground bullies trying to one up each other over recess.

Until an opening can be found then there will be no deals to end this mash up to war.  Best way to find an opening is to let the “bullies” go silent and put into place diplomats that have experience…..without that opening there is no sense talking about a diplomat solution.

Then there are the vacancies in the defense department and state that make it difficult to look or find a peaceful solution.

When a new U.S. president takes office the January after an election, his or her administration takes over not only the world’s strongest and most powerful military, but also a robust and complex foreign policy bureaucracy. From the moment of inauguration, the work done by the incoming president’s transition team in selecting, vetting, and nominating political appointees, as well as career professionals, who share the president’s policy agenda, is then meant to swiftly translate into getting those appointees confirmed by the Senate and installed throughout the dozens of agencies that make up the federal government.

As of September 15th, President Donald Trump had nominated 347 individuals, 140 of which had been confirmed. Compare this to the same point in the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama: by mid-September, Bush had nominated 573 with 316 confirmations; Obama 450 with 321 confirmations. And out of Trump’s numbers, only 24 individuals have been confirmed at the Department of State (compared to 83 and 86 respectively by the former presidents) and 15 at the Department of Defense (compared to 22 and 33).

Source: Do Diplomatic and Defense Vacancies Risk U.S. Security? – The Cipher Brief

Without knowledgeable people in place a situation will continue unabated until we have those resources that can spot these openings and exploit them for peaceful gains.

What’s Going On in Saudi?

For over 50 years the US has been trying to convince the people that Saudi and yet the more we dump cash and supplies into the country the less good we do….civil rights suck, dissent is being eliminated and all the while the US keeps letting the Saudis get away with murder (in more ways than one)…..

Recently the House of Saud had a shake up eliminating one prince in favor of another……so what is the long game being played by the Saudis?

Activists say authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested at least 40 people—including clerics, scholars, and political commentators—in the past week, the Wall Street Journal reports. Saudi authorities, who won’t name or quantify the arrested, say they were working against the government on behalf of foreign powers, according to the New York Times, which adds a poet, journalist, and prince to the tally of arrested individuals. An unidentified Saudi official says the arrested were receiving funding from two foreign countries. And authorities say many of them have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Saudi Arabia. They say the arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup against the government.

But critics of the government don’t believe that to be the case, with rights groups characterizing the arrests as a “coordinated crackdown on dissent,” Al Jazeera reports. They say it’s possibly a result of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidating power as he prepares to take over. Bin Salman became heir to the throne in June, and Amnesty International says things have “deteriorated” since then. “In recent years we cannot recall a week in which so many prominent Saudi Arabian figures have been targeted in such a short space of time,” says the Middle East director of campaigns for the organization. He says the message is clear: “Freedom of expression will not be tolerated” under the new ruler. In addition, many of the arrested had been critical of the Saudi government’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar.

There is a game afoot in the Arabian Peninsula….but so far it is difficult to see where these events are taking the monarchy.  One thing for sure….it will cost the US dearly.