Category: Features (Page 1 of 7)

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Who said Trump was never a non-interventionist?

In the wake of the U.S. launching over 50 missiles at targets in Syria in response to Syrian use of chemical weapons, which reportedly killed at least 74, some are surprised that Trump isn’t really a non-interventionist, nor is he a realist.

Some who aren’t surprised? The editors of Bombs + Dollars. There will be more to be written later, but for now, enjoy some of our related coverage on Trump and Syria.

Sumantra Maitra gets us started with his piece explaining why Trump was never a realist:

After the debate about Obama being a Realist, (he’s ofcourse not) it was inevitable the Neorealist tag would be on Donald Trump after his interminable dross for New York Times. It is an incoherent mess, with talking points which will make, Hayek to Say to Ricardo to Morgenthau to Waltz, all cringe in shame, but it had some interesting moments.

As I mentioned in the Obama article above, it is perhaps a bit back in fashion these days, with growing isolationist tendencies across both sides of the Atlantic, to use talking points of indifferent stoic state interest. While superficially it might sound realist, it is not, and it lacks theoretical rigor and coherence. Realists have opposed Trump previously, alongside others. And although I don’t speak on behalf of the entire Realist school of FP here, it is safe to presume, they will oppose any delusional lunatic again, and everytime.

Maitra: So, is Donald Trump a Neo-Realist?

And:
Maitra: The Realist civil war and Donald Trump
Maitra: Is Obama a Realist in Syria? TL-DR: No.
Blatt: No, Trump’s not a Realist. He’s not anything, because he has no ideas.
Blatt: Trump’s fake anti-war position slips

In a column I wrote after his inauguration, I explained that Trump is just a saber-rattling strongman who wants to use military intervention to prove his “toughness”:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

He has expressed the view that Obama has been a “weak” president for being relatively passive when confronting terrorism and crisis.

Blatt: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

Maitra, from 2016, on why sympathy for dead civilians is no justification for war:

Unsurprisingly, the worst kind of virtue signaling can start over a visual, and this poor boy was no exception. Historically visuals were used to rally people for a cause. Just one example, during the Indian mutiny of 1857, the power of British press was evident, as paintings of Lady Britannia delivering retributive justice to the evil Indian rebels was used to bring the entire country together in what was one of the toughest time of the Raj. Similar instances are littered throughout history.

Realist academics and policy makers cannot rely on hashtags or candle light vigils, because simply real life is different and there are more considerations than simplistic narratives. If anyone comes and shows dead children photos, and demands action or inaction, that is “Argumentum Ad Passiones” or in common parlance, an appeal to emotions. That is not however a ground for policy. What could be a policy in this situation?

Maitra: Baby pics and appeal to emotions

Correction: A previous version of this article said “over 100” people died in the sarin attack, a number that was cited in some early reports. Most reports in major media now report 74 verified deaths. B+D has updated this post to reflect that “at least 74” people died, which also includes the possibility of 100 or more.

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An incredible liar: Post-modernism and the presidency

Women are paid 77 percent of what men are paid for the same job. Michael Brown was executed in cold blood. Donald Trump was wiretapped.

All lies, all made up to spread an agenda, reflections of a post-modern, reality-denying trend in the United States and the West. This trend is particularly attributed to academia, activism, and now, especially now, to politicians and the president.

Time‘s cover piece “Is Truth Dead?” includes some incredible quotes:

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” Trump told TIME two days later, in a 20-minute phone interview from the Oval Office. The testimony, in other words, had not fazed him at all. He was still convinced he would be proved right. “I have articles saying it happened.”

“When I said ‘wire tapping,’ it was in quotes,” he said.

Read the full article.

Meanwhile, at Areo Magazine, I add more examples of unhinged lies from Trump:

Want to talk about ignoring facts for the purpose of serving a pre-existing agenda? At Trump’s February press conference, he claimed to have won the largest electoral college victory since Ronald Reagan in 1984. He won 306. Obama won 332 in the last election and 365 the election before that. That’s something you can check on Google. You don’t even need to do a survey on that.

Add that to, “I had the largest inauguration crowd ever,” “3 million people voted illegally,” and “the Bowling Green terrorist attack was ignored.”

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Mitch Blatt in The National Interest on North Korea

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt was published in The National Interest‘s website on U.S.-China relations with regard to North Korea.

Although he put Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments in context, noting that they don’t necessarily mean a vast change in policy, he did say that certain actions the U.S. has already taken, like the deployment of THAAD, and any possible change in policy to be more aggressive, are not acts of provocation but rather responses to growing North Korean provocations.

“But if the Trump administration does up the ante, it will be because proposals to engage in toothless talks with North Korea—like that made this week by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi—have utterly failed, and China hasn’t done its part to try to reign in its rogue frenemy,” he wrote. “Juxtaposed against its vitriolic response to the South Korean deployment of Terminal High Area Altitude Defense, China’s impassive response to multiple North Korean nuclear tests, always predicated on the same “firm opposition” talking point, which makes it look like China hasn’t been taking the threat of a nuclear North seriously.”

He pointed out that China hasn’t been faithfully enforcing some of the sanctions they agreed to against North Korea.

In summary, “As long as North Korea is an out-of-control threat, South Korea will need to take tough actions. China is reaping what it sowed from years of complacency.”

The whole article can be read here: Why China Must Confront North Korea.

The UK’s MoneyWeek also quoted Blatt’s article:

On the contrary, “China has largely itself to blame” if the US now pursues a more militaristic agenda towards North Korea, says Mitchell Blatt in the American magazine The National Interest. Beijing has spent years “turning a blind eye to sanctions violators and keeping the dangerous North Korean regime alive and its leaders well fed”, so it is not surprising that Washington now thinks “enough is enough”. China has also reneged on promises to limit imports of North Korean coal. Overall, “if China wants to avoid instability, then China must take an active role and take responsibility”.

Blatt also has an article about South Korea-China relations coming out in The Korea Times on Tuesday.

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2 Articles on Liberal Protest

These past two weeks, we have seen massive protests by liberals and left-wing anarchist groups, both non-violent and violent, and both Sumantra and I have written about them.

The general thrust of my thesis is that non-violent protests such as the Women’s March are a fine way of opposing Trump’s radical policies and statements. That kind of non-violent protest should not be associated with fascistic violence like that of Disrupt J20 or the Antifa thugs in Berkeley. However some of the mechanisms of social protest, like #DeletingUber, are very stupid and possibly counterproductive.

Here are my pieces:
Antifa and the Woman’s March: A Tale of Two Protests – Areo

Protesters have depicted both Bush and Obama as Nazis. Neither side has a monopoly on Hitler comparisons and stupid signs, and both sides are guilty of hypocrisy in selectively cherry picking the worst examples of their opponents for condemnation.

But because of certain characteristics of the Left, such as the fact that collectivism lends itself more to collective protests than does individualism and the fact that a good deal of leftists romanticize French Revolution-style “resistance,” progressives are generally more likely to have large-scale marches and marches that often push or overstep the limits of the law. It’s no coincidence that, more often than not, the people occupying a public park or a pipeline construction location are leftists. Most progressives aren’t waving Soviet flags at a World Trade Organization protest, but most people waving Soviet flags at WTO protests are progressives.

Read full article.

And:
By Targeting Uber, Immigration Protesters Punish Innocent Bystanders – The Federalist

Imagine you are a traveler just off a long flight across an ocean. You’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re annoyed from standing in long lines and waiting for your luggage. You already know the immigration ban is in place because you saw it reported on CNN in the terminal. Now there’s no one to take you to your hotel downtown. You find out it’s because taxi drivers are striking due to an order you didn’t sign and had nothing to do with. You might not even support it. You might not even be a citizen of this country. But you have one more headache just because Trump did something the taxi drivers don’t like. Are you going to be more or less likely to support the taxi union?

Read full article.

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Trump breaks some immigration promises, makes partial progress on others

It’s Trump’s first week in office, and already he has broken some promises and made progress on others. Throughout Trump’s tenure, Bombs + Dollars will track Trump’s promises and offer updates at intervals.

Trump has already taken bold actions with a number of executive orders on immigration, abortion, and Obamacare. Republicans in Congress, as well, are trying their best to repeal Obamacare, although it’s unclear what kind of a replacement they will try to push through.

Among Trump’s major executive orders was one to keep the Guantanamo Bay military prison open and in use, which fulfills his pledge to keep Gitmo open.

An executive order to expend funds to build a barrier on the border leaves open the question of whether the barrier would be a wall or a fence, a distinction Trump made on the campaign trail. The executive order also spends American money, not Mexican money, which would violate Trump’s pledge to have Mexico pay for the wall. Trump claims he will eventually get Mexico to reimburse America.

Trump also is reportedly planning on signing an executive order to ban new refugees for a number of months and to ban anyone from a number of countries, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. That would result in more than 180 million Muslims being banned (Iran: 74.8 million Muslims; Sudan: 39.0 million; Iraq: 31.1 million; Yemen: 24.0 million; Syria: 20.8 million). However, there are 1,703 million Muslims in the entire world, including 257 million in South-East Asia alone, 204 million in Indonesia, 178 million in Pakistan, and 172 million in India. If this is the full extent of Trump’s “Muslim ban,” he would have failed massively to implement his plan for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This policy, however, can credibly be argued to fulfill his promise to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats.”

Trump broke his promise to have call on Congress to pass “Kate’s Law” on his first day in office. To date, he has still not called on Congress to do so.

Presented below are some of the updates to the chart:

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Going forward, conservatives must not bow to Trump

January 20 we’ll all watch as Donald Trump is sworn into office, a spectacle most of us never thought would happen. For over a year we repeated the mantra of “keep calm, it won’t be Trump,” but that didn’t play out as we expected, obviously. In the midst of our astonishment we’ve been called to question much of what we’ve believed for so long, and, without doubt, I’ve had someone ask me a variation of the following at least once a day:
“I mean, didn’t we technically win? What do we do now as a movement? Should we give him a chance before judging his presidency? How will you handle things going forward?”

In reply I’ve given a slew of answers, from ideas on building a new party, to helping middle ground Democrats who are willing to meet us half-way. Maybe we stay on the right side of the aisle and be a voice of reason, or maybe we traipse over to the left and forge a new alliance. The options are endless, and everyone is walking around those options on eggshells, pondering the vast number of possibilities, and worried that they’ll choose the wrong one. However, regardless of how difficult the choice is, for so many it seems a choice must be made. They’re not content in the wilderness, and they desperately want to be a member of the tribe again.

I’ve listened to people say that, despite their refusal to vote for Trump, they must now join in the thunderous applause – “albeit reluctantly,” they’ll proclaim – of a Republican sweep until their fears are confirmed, because that’s what a good team player does. I’ve watched them cheer on Sessions, Tillerson, and Carson, despite obvious issues, simply because that’s what people on the right are doing.

As though getting behind the schoolyard bully is the only logical option, because while he’s shaken down all of the defenseless kids on the playground, it’s only reasonable to stand beside him until he shakes down the next, and then the next, and so on and so forth. They’re willing to wash, rinse, and repeat until there’s nothing left of their principles but a shell that barely tells the story of what they once were.

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The long legacy of the Nanjing Massacre on Asian politics

“When will Japan’s war with China become history?”

Today, as with every December 13 for the past four years, Chinese officials gathered at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and rang the bell for the up to 300,000 killed by Japanese imperial soldiers who invaded and captured Nanjing in 1937.

The conquest of the Republic of China’s capital six months after the Second Sino-Japanese War started inspired joy and complacency in Japan. Just weeks earlier the Japanese had completed their capture of Shanghai, a three month battle. Nanjing fell in less than two weeks. General Iwane Matsui was confident that taking Nanjing would result in China’s surrender. (It didn’t, and the war went on for seven more years before Japan surrendered.)

Upon victory on December 13, soldiers committed random acts of violence throughout the city. Civilians fleeing were shot in the back. Homes were invaded, women raped and then stabbed. Pregnant woman were bayoneted in the stomach. Dead bodies were thrown in rivers. Much of the city was destroyed by looting and arson.

Japanese soldiers rounded up masses of men on the grounds they were suspected of being soldiers. Some soldiers had indeed thrown off their uniforms and tried to blend in with civilians, but many more of those taken out to be executed had never fought in the first place. Hundreds of POWs were tied up and shot to death by the Yangtze River on December 18.

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Taiwanese are becoming more pro-independence–with or without Trump’s call

Having analyzed the dynamics of how the precedent-breaking phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen played out between the U.S. and China, I now place my gaze on Taiwan itself.

In my observations visiting the island during the cross-straits meeting in 2015 and interviewing academics, I found Taiwanese youth especially likely to be pro-independent, and moreover the ethnolinguistic divides that used to animate their parents’ politics in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War are becoming less intense.

I wrote about it in detail for Red Alert Politics:

For all the focus on how Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen has outraged China, the point of view of the country whose leader was on the other side of the phone has been neglected.

The Taiwanese people have lived for centuries in the shadows of foreign powers, having faced colonialism, invasion, and martial law, before winning democracy. Now, they face missiles pointed at them from an ascendant Communist state intent on eventually conquering them.

For Taiwan and its new pro-independence president, speaking directly to America’s incoming leader was a bold display of its autonomy in the face of Chinese threats.

It wasn’t an overnight shift in Taiwanese policy, but rather the culmination of a trend that has been underway for years. And Taiwanese millennials have played a significant role in that change.

Millennials helped propel Tsai to a resounding 25 percent victory in January’s general election and gave her Democratic Progressive Party its first legislative majority in history.

Read the rest: What Trump’s call meant to Taiwan’s “strawberry generation”

B+D editor begins contributing to The Buckley Report

“Congressional Republicans have a mandate for their agenda. Trump doesn’t,” Blatt writes in first article.

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt published his first article at The Buckley Report, a conserverative outlet that launched this year. In it, Blatt analyzes the results of the election on both the presidential and Congressional levels and how it should impact policy if the will of the voters is heeded.

“Running on an agenda of fiscal responsibility, entitlement reform, tax simplification, and reeling in executive overreach, Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans won at least 241 seats and well over 3 million more votes nationally than the Democrats. Meanwhile Donald Trump, running on an agenda of ignoring the entitlement crisis, spending twice as much as Hillary on infrastructure, raising taxes on consumer goods, and wasting billions on a white elephant wall, lost the popular vote by over 2.2 million.” (Read more.)

Although Trump won the most state-by-state electors at the Electoral College, many of his voters didn’t vote for him so much as they voted against Hillary Clinton. The Congressional Republican agenda and Trump’s “nationalist” agenda differ significantly in key areas of economics and immigration policy. Congressional Republicans haven’t been so keen as Trump on building an over $10 billion wall or raising tariffs to 35 percent.

Blatt argues the Republicans in Congress should pursue their own conservative agenda and resist Trump’s excesses. It remains to be seen whether they will do so or whether Trumnp will bend them to his will.

Trump caving on Muslim ban

Reuters reports that Trump advisor and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is advocating for the reinstatement of a Bush-era entry-exit program that put residents from certain countries deemed be at high-risk for terrorism under special scrutiny.

Reuters and Vox both used the term “Muslim registry” in reporting and commenting on the proposal, a reference to the Muslim registry (that would have applied to American citizens) that Trump briefly expressed support for. However, this is far from a Muslim registry. It would apply to citizens of specific countries, not just Muslims from those countries, and the countries would theoretically be selected based on the established risk of terrorism. Vox pointed out that most of those countries were majority Muslim countries, but that is just a function of where the risk of international terrorism is the highest. During the campaign, however, Trump raised the prospect of targeting French citizens for “extreme vetting” due to his idea that ISIS attacks in France indicated France was a high risk country. Either way, the system is far from the proposed registry of American Muslims that Trump expressed support for in November 2015.

The bigger news is that the program would blow up Trump’s promise to ban Muslims from entering the country.

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