Tag: United States (Page 1 of 11)

New exclusive post: Trump’s policies let Saudis have impunity

On May 20, Donald Trump stepped off Air Force One in Riyadh and watched the Saudi government put on a show for him. It was his first foreign trip, and quite a show it was. Sword dances, a glowing orb, and an inflated arms deal Trump made a big show of signing.
The show had its effect. Months later when Saudi Arabia, which hosts no U.S. troops, and its regional allies put a blockade on Qatar, which hosts 11,000 American troops involved in fighting ISIS, over regional politics, Trump expressed immediate support for the government of Saudi Arabia.

While Trump was lauding the Saudi royal family, the Saudis continued to hold more than a dozen journalists in prison, executed more than 100 people a year, including by beheading, for crimes such as feminism, homosexuality, and “apostasy.”

In a sense, it’s no surprise…

Patrons can read full article: Why the Saudis feel free to kill journalists with Trump in office

Rincon: If Rafael “Ted” Cruz is going to attack “Beto” O’Rourke for his name, here’s a response…

We have long strong traditions down in Texas. Our culture is the melding of many cultures-Mexican (which itself is a melding of Spanish and Indigenous), Irish, Czech, Polish, and a slew of African cultures, which due to the cruelty of the white man throughout history, get boiled down to Black. We have a way of co-opting you if you decide to migrate to this country. We’ll take you and put a new name on you.

But if you’ve got a hankering on coming down to the Lone Star State and changing it, you will face opposition. It may be good change they’re trying to bring—like that of the carpetbaggers during Reconstruction, or the Texians led by Sam Houston in the infancy of our short lived Republic—but we ain’t gonna just roll over for anything.

Oddly enough, time and politics have gone full circle. In what was once a bastion of Conservative Democrats (entirely white), fighting off encroaching “Radical Republicans” (mixed ethnicities, but still mostly white) in the 1860s-1870s, but had previously been Mexicanos fighting off encroaching Gringos in the 1830s, the two parties do-si-doed with each other so much that I actually thought there was a slight chance that the GOP could swing to the left of the Democrats with the election of Trump (this was during his campaign for the White House when there was still a sliver of hope that his campaign promises to the working class weren’t all lies).

Now we have a GOP incumbent who has definite Cuban roots, but shuns his Spanish first name running in a state with rapidly changing demographics i.e. going from majority white to majority-minority and then quickly to majority Hispanic. Cruz, following in the footsteps of La Malinche, the Indigenous woman who helped advise and interpret for Cortés as he conquered the Aztec Empire, is one of the leading opponents of immigration reform, the Dream Act and an ally of Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant agenda.

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Editor on Trump’s threats against Iran

The greatest strategic mistake by the United States in the opening decades of the 21st century has been to get stuck in unwinnable wars in the Middle East, a region with declining strategic importance relative to Asia.

At the time when a predecessor, George W. Bush, invaded Iraq, Donald Trump supported the war. Later, during the 2016 presidential campaign he pretended – loudly and without shame – that he had opposed the war. What would he do if he had a similar decision in front of him as president? We may well get to know sometime soon.

Trump unleashed his vitriol against Iran on July 22, threatening war in an all-caps screed on Twitter.

“To Iranian President Rouhani,” he said. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Trump practices “honor politics.” Please take note that the cause of the Trump’s outburst wasn’t anything Iran had actually done vis-à-vis America, but rather words used by his Iranian counterpart Trump took as a “threat.”

Rouhani had issued a boilerplate statement in response to Trump’s previous provocations, declaring: “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Sniping back and forth is nothing unusual in U.S.-Iranian relations and certainly nothing for the American leader to get angry about. However, Trump seems to have chosen to believe Rouhani’s words were something the U.S. should “not stand for.”

Were Trump’s empty rhetoric the only thing on display, that would be worrisome enough for what it says about the mindset of the commander-in-chief of the largest military in the world. What is more concerning, however, is that Trump has been stoking the flames against Iran since he was elected, and his provocations have intensified of late.

On May 9, he made good on his pledge to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. Now, he is warning other countries not to import Iranian oil, or else he will impose sanctions against them. Sanctioning a country that continues to comply with the nuclear deal – respected by all signatories except the United States – is an inherently provocative act.

Iran is already facing economic problems and unrest. Now, European companies, including France’s largest oil producer, Total, are reluctantly pulling out of Iran in order to avoid problems. Is it any wonder that Trump’s escalatory actions began shortly after neoconservative hardliner John Bolton became National Security Adviser in April?

Read full article: Column: Trump threatening war with Iran

Anti-Trump protesters welcome Trump back from Helsinki with “traitor” chant

Protesters gathered outside the White House on July 16 and 17 to voice discontent with Trump’s policies generally and his extreme appeasement of Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in particular. Trump had said that he believed Putin’s denial of hacking and interfering in the 2016 election, while criticizing the FBI and Hillary Clinton.

Earlier in the day, July 17, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti gave a speech.

The crowd had thinned by 9:30 pm, but there were still people there singing national patriotic songs and chanting about the migrant child separation issue.

Protesters expressed that they would keep up protests all week. Russia could be a liability for Trump: A survey released today shows that 55 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the Kremlin.

U.S. doesn’t need anything from North Korea and shouldn’t meet

Kim Jong-un has threatened twice in the past week to cancel the meeting that he himself proposed with U.S. president Donald Trump. He appears to be acting out in his typical manner in order to try to put pressure on the United States and Korea and to win concessions.

The United States isn’t in a dire position, however, and the U.S. doesn’t need anything from Kim Jong-un so badly as to justify making extreme concessions. If Kim doesn’t want to denuclearize for limited concessions, if he is unwilling to negotiate sincerely, then the U.S. shouldn’t meet him.

The first time Kim threatened to pull out was after Trump’s National Security Advisor and former Bush advisor John Bolton called for a “Libya-style” denuclearization. Bolton is a hawk who has long called openly for overthrow of the North Korea regime, a worthy and moral goal (if reasonably possible) to be sure, but talking about or implying it obviously isn’t something that will help get to an agreement for Kim to voluntarily denuclearize.

The next and present reason Kim is using to threaten going forward with the meeting is much less reasonable. He wants the U.S. and Republic of Korea to end joint-self defense exercises. He thinks those exercises–and indeed the presence of U.S. troops in Korea–threaten his regime. Those troops are present because his grandfather invaded the Republic of Korea, his father sunk a Korean ship, and he shelled an island with civilian residents. They kidnapped Koreans and Japanese and tortured people for watching DVDs. Aggressive acts and attacks beyond borders are almost always caused by the totalitarian regime north of the 38th parallel.

The U.S. and Korea have already delayed military exercises, before the Korean Olympics, and now before the proposed meeting. But North Korea’s foreign ministry continues to make demands, saying, as characterized by Reuters, “the future of summit is entirely up to Washington.”

Well, if Kim doesn’t want this summit to happen, then it doesn’t have to happen. Washington doesn’t have to–and shouldn’t–do anything more for it to happen than it already has.

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Before anyone sells you a “short war” with North Korea…

On November 28th, amidst a relative calm, North Korea tested its intercontinental ballistic missile. It was a matter of time, before North Korea managed to develop a system which is capable to reach mainland US. Regardless of whatever Washington might say, North Korea did what it intended to do. They have now successfully demonstrated that their weapons system is capable, and has achieved what we call the minimum credible deterrence, vis a vis an adversary.

There has been a misconception about what North Korea wanted to do. What, for all practical purposes, is the aim of North Korea. The reality has always been, that North Korea wants to survive. The Westphalian state system which ran from the 19th century to 1991, was upended with unipolarity. North Korea internalized the lessons of Saddam, Kosovo, and most importantly Gaddafi. The toppling of these regimes, and the resultant chaos, and the inability of these states to deter any foreign invasion, often at the cost of destruction and personal deaths of the leaders are a stark reminder that there’s no such thing as international order, but simply great power whims. And the recent experience of unipolarity was not uniform.

North Korea’s missile flew around 1000 KM, but went to an altitude of 4500 KM, and stayed up for over 50 mins. The missile trajectory, straight up to the sky instead of angled path shows that it is capable of withstanding enormous atmospheric pressure on reentry. In a normal ballistic missile trajectory, it would cover the continental United States.

The reality has not dawned in Washington, perhaps. Beijing and Moscow understand the fait accompli, but DC is still on with the basest of talking points. That North Korea will never be accepted as a nuclear power (it is), or the fact that North Korean nuclear weapons provide a ready deterrence (it does). The latest salvo comes from Nikki Haley in the United Nations. While she started with long-standing US position of no war with North Korea, she also mentioned that the “North Korean regime would be utterly destroyed” if there were a war between it and the US.

This is not going to happen.

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Chinese Constitution Day: “Study the Party Congress”

The current constitution of the People’s Republic of China was adopted on December 4, 1982, making December 4 Constitution Day. Some of the subway stations in Nanjing are blanketed this month with ads calling for the public to “study the implementation of the 19th Party Congress.” The high-level Communist Party meeting was held this October and ushered in a new Politburo Standing Committee. In the photo above, I have added the English translation.

Public propaganda hailing the party and calling for study of recent political doctrines is common around China. On the campuses of universities, the 19th Party Congress is often hailed.


A banner at Hehai University in Nanjing calls for studying the implementation of the 19th Party Congress.

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Did the US and Iraq really defeat ISIS? Not so fast.

David French has a piece bemoaning that the Western media hasn’t reported America defeated ISIS in Iraq. Iraqi’s military, with American support, pushed ISIS out of Mosul and most of the area they occupied in Iraq, and now Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory. Iraq’s PM has a clear-self interest to declare victory, but it’s true that ISIS lost ground.

“So why does no one seem to care?” French wrote.

It’s just not that clear of a victory. Iraq remains an unstable, low-quality semi-democracy–the US didn’t accomplish its objectives there–and there’s no reason to believe that Iraq won’t ever be threatened by militants or terrorists again in the near future.

I won’t spend too much time on this, but here are a few relevant sources for why people should not get too excited about what is possibly an incomplete and short-lasting victory:
Iraq’s PM has a clear-self interest to declare victory, but it’s true that ISIS lost ground. – AFP

As Sumantra and I have written for The National Interest,

It is important to remember that the liberation of Mosul is not something to be proud of just yet. Economically, it is a damaged city—in worse condition than Stalingrad or Dresden. Materially, it is a commodity that nobody wishes to touch. Strategically, it is important—but that too is a curse, as it’s almost inevitable that a backlash will transpire, and Sunni civilians will suffer.

Unfortunately, Mosul is only one among many cities on the fault line of what increasingly appears to be an Iranian race to form a land bridge to the Mediterranean against periodic Sunni opposition. People will continue to suffer. Iraq’s central government is not, and will not be, capable of continuing to safeguard the area from falling further into the hands of jihadists. And the flawed counterinsurgency tactics of the West mean that the jihadist threat will merely go dormant until the next opportune moment.

Read our full article: Winning the hearts and minds won’t eliminate ISIS

Weinstein, Trump, and the crisis of confidence in rule of law

Donald Trump’s politicization of the Justice Department hurts faith in rule of law when it is sorely needed. Film producer Harvey Weinstein has been investigated before for sexual abuse, and now, with many more allegations coming out publicly, it is likely that he might have faced serious investigations under any administration.

Yet the appearance of conflict-of-interest and the demonstrated intent of applying law politically casts an inescapable lack of confidence under anything the Justice Department does now. The admissions by Trump that he made explicit political calculations when staffing the Department of Justice and pressured the DOJ to investigate his enemies (Trump says he wouldn’t have picked Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself, After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won’t say if he will fire him, Comey documented Trump request to drop Flynn investigation in memo) imply that he would use, or try to use, his power to attack any political enemy he can.

Now it is reported in the Daily Mail that the FBI is opening up an investigation into Weinstein at the behest of the DOJ (although “it is unknown whether the DOJ order came directly from Sessions”). There’s a 90 percent chance that this is justified entirely on the facts of the case. In almost any other administration, there would be closer to 99 percent confidence.

We know how Trump responds to crimes committed by his political allies: he pardons them.

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Q+A with Dr Jacqueline L. Hazelton, Asst Prof at the Naval War College

For over a decade, United States and NATO have been involved in counter-insurgency operations across the Islamic world. A new ground breaking paper by Dr. Jacqueline Hazelton, challenges the established COIN dogma, and suggests that the usual operational process of good governance, democracy promotion, nation building, and dependence on human rights, are actually counter-productive.

In simpler words, perhaps more brutality is needed to actually win a war. 

To explain further, Dr Hazelton kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Bombs + Dollars on US COIN operations, grand strategy, and what changes might be needed urgently to re-calibrate a failed Western counter-insurgency strategy.

You can follow her on Twitter @DrJLHazelton.

You can also find other Q+As here.

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