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“I Have A Very Good Brain”: Trump’s Foreign Policy Sage Is Himself, Of Course

Hot off winning every state but Ohio last night, Donald Trump has taken his campaign of self-aggrandizement to the realm of international politics. According to Trump, there’s no one better suited to provide foreign policy insight than… himself.

Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today. When asked who his foreign policy advisors were, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

What any of that means to anyone is unclear. But does Trump have “a very good brain” when it comes to foreign policy? Does he have the wisdom necessary to make decisions whose consequences may take years to unfold? History says no: just look at Trump’s vacillation over the 2003 Iraq invasion.

One of the greatest foreign policy blunders ever committed by this country, the power vacuum left behind in Iraq — after George W. Bush dismantled the Iraqi army — aided in the rise of ISIS years later. Trump, who presents himself as a tough guy who would bring back torture to keep America safe, started off by claiming that he was against the invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, he was asked directly if he supported the invasion. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

This was not a one-off case of supporting interventionist foreign policy. In his book The America We Deserve, he wrote, “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”

In fact, in parroting the provocations of the Bush administration, Trump very much was a war-monger.

Fast forward to 2016, and Trump, in an effort to display his solid foreign policy insights, said during a Republican debate in Vermont, “I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” It was not the first time he claimed to be opposed to military intervention.

Even then, his commitment to non-intervention is political opportunism at best, given only 32 percent of registered voters still think the invasion was a good idea. He returned to espousing militaristic rhetoric during a campaign rally in which he promised to bomb ISIS — and the millions of civilians living under their rule — out of existence. “I would bomb the shit out of them,” said Trump during a rally in November. “I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.”

While Trump may think that he is the best at everything, from his relationship with “the blacks” to world-altering foreign policy calculations, his comfort with taking seemingly opposing positions should worry his supporters. But who are we kidding — it probably won’t.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 16, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Iraq War | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cheapening The Legacy Of 9/11 On 9/11”: Grossly Inappropriate Joy Over Hatred And Destruction

I try not to dip my brain too much into the toxic waste of anti-Islamic bigotry. But occasionally its purveyors profane the very memories they claim inspire them, as in this nasty piece of work from Carol Brown of The American Thinker, who manages to cheapen the legacy of 9/11 on 9/11:

It is now official. On Thursday the Senate let the Iran deal go through – a deal that will forever change the landscape of the world in terrifying and unthinkable ways. I need not enumerate how this collaboration with Iran (and it is a collaboration) will affect Israel, the Middle East, the United States, and indeed the entire world.

Readers know all too well.

And yet, you’d hardly know how our fate was sealed on Thursday. America’s alignment with the Nazis of the 21st century hardly made a dent in media coverage. Headlines appeared as they do on any other day.

Imagine that.

[O]n Thursday, after Republican leaders spent months colluding with the Democrats, the Washington cartel ensured that our children and grandchildren will live in a world with a nuclear Iran.

In between profound sorrow, incredible dread, and blind rage, I find myself asking: Why?

Perhaps many elected officials don’t care about America, their oath of office, or our children. Apparently their allegiance to party and power trump concern for even their own children.

If reading this annoys you, be glad I left out the long, long quote from Mark Levin. But here’s the coda:

And so we now not only have a 9/11, but a 9/10 – when our leaders sold us down the river. Yet again. But this time the stakes are as high as they get.

People like Brown and Levin want, welcome, demand constant global war with Islam, and will accept nothing less (Brown has been singled out by the Anti-Defamation League for her “ugly rhetoric” about Musims). They should stay the hell away from the memorials to 9/11, since their joy over hatred and destruction is grossly inappropriate to the commemoration of innocents and those who died to in an effort to save them.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 11, 2015

September 14, 2015 Posted by | 911, Conservatives, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Has An Interest In Everyone Being As Afraid As Possible”: The Islamic State Isn’t Actually Much Of A Threat To The United States

If I asked you to define what it means for a terrorist group to be a “threat” to the United States, what specifically would you say? If it seems like a strange question, that’s only because nobody ever asks it. But when we say that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is a threat to us, what do we mean? Keep that question in mind as we look at this new CNN poll:

Americans have grown increasingly wary of ISIS over the past six months, but their confidence in the U.S.’ ability to combat the extremist group is waning, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

The poll finds fully 80% of Americans say ISIS poses a serious threat to the United States — a steady increase from September, when 63% said the same.

Only 6% of respondents in the new poll say ISIS isn’t a serious threat. A large majority (56%) characterize the group as a “very serious” threat to the U.S., while one-quarter say the threat posed by ISIS is “fairly serious,” and 14% say it’s “somewhat serious.”

So 94 percent of Americans think that the Islamic State is at least a somewhat serious threat. Now to return to our question: What does that mean? Does that mean that there is a real possibility that the Islamic State will a) launch attacks on the United States that b) kill large numbers of us? Their interest in and ability to do that, we should be clear, have no relationship whatsoever to how grisly the acts they now commit in Iraq and Syria are.

It isn’t hard to figure out why so many people think the Islamic State threatens the United States. When you see horrifying descriptions and pictures of beheadings, your emotional response can overwhelm any kind of rational reaction. To many people, there’s a large undifferentiated mass of scary foreigners out there, and any news related to terrorism or war anywhere means that we’re more endangered than we were. And then, of course, we have politicians who go around telling any camera they can that we’re all about to die; give props to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for telling a three-year-old girl, “Your world is on fire.”

But guess what: Our world isn’t on fire. Yet it’s almost impossible to say in our contemporary debates that a hostile country or terrorist group isn’t a threat, especially if you’re a politician. Claim that the Islamic State — horrible though it may be — isn’t much of a threat to us, and you’ll be branded naïve at best, a terrorist sympathizer at worst.

Now, let’s entertain a truly radical notion: Even if the Islamic State could launch a successful terrorist attack in the United States, that still wouldn’t make them much of a threat. How many Americans could they kill? A dozen? A hundred? That would be horrible. But car accidents kill almost a hundred Americans each and every day.

It’s easy to see why Republicans would want to make Americans as afraid as possible of the Islamic State: The emotional state of fear creates support for more belligerent policies and more use of military force, which are the things Republicans favor. So whatever they actually believe about the Islamic State, they have an interest in everyone being as afraid as possible. And the creation of that fear is, of course, what terrorism is all about: The spectacle and the reaction it produces are the whole point.

For their part, Democrats may argue that a different set of policies is more likely to defeat the Islamic State, but you won’t hear them say that the group doesn’t actually threaten the United States in any meaningful way — not when 94 percent of Americans are convinced otherwise. But we should try to see if we can simultaneously hold three separate thoughts in our heads:

  1. The Islamic State has done ghastly things.
  2. We should work to eliminate them in any way we can.
  3. Even so, they are not actually much of a threat to the United States.

The same people who want everyone to constantly proclaim the United States’ awesomeness often act as though we’re a nation on the verge of destruction, so weak and vulnerable are we in the face of knife-wielding masked men thousands of miles away. But we aren’t on the verge of destruction. The Islamic State presents a profound challenge, because they are bringing misery wherever they go and uprooting them will be difficult and complex. But that isn’t the same as saying that we here in the United States should live in a state of fear.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, March 20, 2015

March 23, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“While In The Neighborhood, Why Not Iran Too”: Republicans Hankering For Ground War Against ISIS. What Could Go Wrong?

It’s been an entire 12 years since we started a war, and apparently the American people are getting a little antsy. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 62 percent of Americans, including 72 percent of Republicans, favors the use of ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We should be careful about over-interpreting that, because the question was preceded by another question talking about limited, but not long-term operations for ground troops. But there’s no doubt that the public’s interest in getting some boots back on the ground is gaining momentum; in Pew polls, support for ground troops went up from 39 percent in October to 47 percent in February; in the same poll, 67 percent of Republicans said they supported ground troops.

The reason I focus on the number of Republicans is that I suspect with this increase in support from their constituents, we’re going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for what we might call a re-invasion of Iraq, and not just Iraq but Syria, as well. And as long as we’re in the neighborhood, how about some military action against Iran?

Iran is, of course, a separate story. But it isn’t unrelated; once people start advocating a third Iraq war with more vigor than they have been up until now, the idea of bombing Iran won’t seem so outlandish. Back in 2002, when the Bush administration was in the midst of its campaign to convince the public that invading Iraq was necessary lest we all be obliterated by Saddam Hussein’s fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, a British official described the sentiment among the Bush administration and its allies this way: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.”

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of sending ground troops back to the Middle East was widely considered just short of insane. After all, we’d finally gotten out of Iraq, after spending $2 trillion, losing 4,000 American lives, and sending the region into chaos. Why would we want to do it all over again? But now, the idea of doing it all over again seems to be gaining traction.

Just after the end of the first Iraq war, George H. W. Bush closed a celebratory speech by saying: “It’s a proud day for America. And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” That syndrome was the reluctance of the public (and military leaders) to countenance enormous military adventures in far-off lands in service of vaguely defined goals. So it may now be time to say that the “Iraq syndrome” is dead, if ever it existed.

At the moment, when the Republicans running for president are asked about whether they’d like to send troops to any of these countries, they inevitably reply that “all options should be on the table.” It’s essentially a dodge, though not a completely unreasonable one. They want to signal to conservatives that they’re ready to use force, but signal to everyone else that they’re not eager to do so. But try to imagine what would happen if a Republican wins the presidency next year.

If ISIS isn’t completely defeated, he’ll be under pressure from his supporters to go in there and get the job done, and not in a wimpy way like Obama. Then think about Iran. With Bibi Netanyahu writing their talking points, Republicans will now insist that any nuclear agreement negotiated by this president is by definition weak and dangerous. The very fact of an agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear activities can be the justification for military action. If the talks break down, on the other hand, well that just makes starting a bombing campaign all the more urgent. And of course, they’ll assure us that once we take out the Iranian nuclear program, the people will rise up and overthrow their oppressive government.

It’s all going to sound quite familiar. War will once again be presented as the only way to prevent a bigger, worse war that they insist is coming no matter what. Don’t forget that the Iraq War was offered up by the Bush administration as a pre-emptive strike to prevent the inevitable and not-too-distant moment when Saddam Hussein would launch his war against the United States. While they never said whether the Iraq invasion would come by land, sea, or air, the attack was coming one way or another. In Dick Cheney’s immortal words: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

Netanyahu says that the Iranian regime is just a bunch of homicidal lunatics who are determined to re-enact the Holocaust. There’s no use negotiating with them, because they’re mad. War is the only way to solve the problem. Anyone who saw the way Republicans were like tweens at a One Direction concert at Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday know that if he says it, they’ll believe it.

So here’s what I think is going to happen. First, the idea that we need to put troops in to fight ISIS—not on the table, but on the ground—is very quickly going to become something that all Republicans agree on (and if you’re going to do it, do it big—no half-assed mobilization of a few thousand, but a massive deployment). Then they’ll start talking seriously about military action against Iran, sooner rather than later, and that too is going to move rapidly from being a fringe idea, to something that many of them admit should be “on the table,” to something they all agree ought to be done. And by God, we’ll have kicked that Iraq syndrome once and for all.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 6, 2015

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Middle East, Republicans, War Hawks | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From Warmongers To Conspiracy Theorists”: CPAC 2015 Wants You To Know: You Are In Terrible Danger

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day-long performance from an improv troupe whose hat has only one statement in it: you’re in terrible danger. But that doesn’t mean you’re in terrible danger right now. Right now, there are seminars. About the danger. I have been to them, as part of my quest to be America’s Most Impervious Man. I don’t even care to what.

After a lunch consisting of a bowl of nails and a mean old dog, I attend the “America at Risk” seminar featuring speakers “Callista Gingrich” and “Newt Gingrich.” Technically, this statement is true, because they speak, and their words come out of speakers. Unfortunately, neither are here. Instead, after spending approximately one jillion dollars to attend CPAC, everyone in the Gaylord Hotel’s Chesapeake Rooms 4-6 gets to watch a $9.99 DVD. From 2010.

“America at Risk” is a well-shot piece of propaganda, with appropriately sinister documentary music and Ken Burns-esque pans across pictures of bad people. At one point, we are informed that, in 2009, “There were over a dozen terrorist cases in the United States.” The vague wording really works for me. I immediately wonder which of the dozen involved that white Nazi from Maine trying to build a dirty bomb or the white Nazi patriot shooting people at the Holocaust museum. Then I realize that these terrorist “cases” probably did not include white people, militias, separatists or sovereign citizens, since the number would probably be off by an order of magnitude.

Still, I enjoy seeing Marc Theissen claim that waterboarding works, that the Muslim Brotherhood controls one third of all mosques in America, and listening to a man explaining that we are currently experiencing Islam’s “third great jihad.”

Of course, what I enjoy is irrelevant. What the audience revel in is hooting at the screen whenever Barack Obama says anything divergent from what they agree with. “Islam has a proud history of tolerance”, Obama says in 2009. “Yeah where?” answers the audience, who call him an “idiot” and “liar,” before subsiding with a lot of sheeshes and head-shaking. “We see it in Andalusia, during the Inquisition,” Obama goes on to say. “Yeah, when they killed everyone” adds someone who does not seem to be aware that neither history books, the Muslims of Cordoba or Barack Obama can hear him.

I eventually leave the room and start heading to the other side of the Gaylord, where former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Montana Representative Ryan Zinke answer the question: “When Should America Go to War?” And, folks, lemme tell you, it is all the dang time.

Watching these guys is amazing. Bolton, inventor of FreeRepublic.com’s mandatory mustache, opened early with, “We should have stopped Hitler at the Rhineland in 1936.” Cotton says, “If any state in the west had stood up to Adolf Hitler,” then sort of trails off into nothingness, perhaps remembering 1939-1945. When talking about how extreme force acts as a deterrent, Cotton says, “America is like Rome,” without mentioning Rome’s unnecessary wars of profit that served as a distraction from domestic political unrest. Churchill’s name comes up twice.

Bolton’s core thesis is that, “American strength is not provocative. American weakness is provocative”. Hence the allusion to Rome and the old Roman expression, Si vis pacem, para bellum. He then says that, “This is not a debate between interventionism versus non-interventionism, or between unilateralism or multi-lateralism,” which seems fairly obvious as soon as he starts talking about unilaterally going to war to stop anything he can think of. Cotton adds that the world has to know that we are willing to go to war to defend our national security interests, especially against trans-national terrorist groups. In a span of only few words, he has defined US interests as “everything everywhere.”

When asked if he would have supported the Iraq War, Cotton says he would have agreed with “Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who made the right decision to support president George W. Bush.” This audience hoots, too. That is, until Zinke says that he would not have supported the 2003 invasion. The comment stings, since Zinke was a Navy SEAL and also opened his comments moments earlier by noting that he’d been to more funerals than there were people in the packed room. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

Somewhere after the actual veteran has Debbie-Dowernered things, the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano tells the assembled crowd that “we need to get back into the missile defense business in a big way.” What a funny way of phrasing that.

Still Bolton is on his game. You don’t get to be the Ur-Stache by being a slouch. “The war was correct,” he says, saying that Saddam would have had uranium-enriching centrifuges up and running immediately. “This saved the world from a nuclear disaster,” he says, which is a good job, considering all the other disasters just around the corner.

He then goes on to explain that we should have spent the last ten years better integrating the Baltic states into NATO, to discourage further Russian expansion.

“We’re past that,” he says, sadly. “That’s why we’re in such danger.”

 

By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, February 28, 2015

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, CPAC, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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