Trump’s Own Foreign Policy

There’s a story out that Tillerson is decimating the staff at State:

The State Department is in disarray and losing essential leaders at a “dizzying speed” under the Trump administration, according to an essay written by a top ambassador.

Plummeting morale, a rash of top diplomats jumping ship and a hiring freeze imposed under Trump have sent shock waves through the Foreign Service, wrote Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the Foreign Service officers’ union.

“There is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution — and to the global leadership that depends on us. There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed.”…

First off, this sort of thing explains the rapid decline in the number of leaks. Secondly, it shows that Tillerson – and Trump – are determined to have people they can rely on to carry out Trump Administration policy. I can’t quite say where Trump policy is going – he’s keeping to his rule of not telegraphing his punches. We can glean a bit from statements and from actions, but the end game is hazy. In the Middle East, for instance, it appears that Trump has decided to go with Saudi Arabia and Israel as our primary partners…which is a bit of a fall-back to the pre-2001 US policy, but with a twist in that we seem to be willing to aid Israel and Saudi Arabia to take concrete actions against enemies – theirs and ours. If it works – and this will be highly dependent upon the new leadership in Saudi Arabia prevailing – then Trump might break the log-jam in the Middle East. We’ll just have to see – but, meanwhile, he’s going to have his people doing it his way.

Whether or not Trump’s people are going to be good at this remains to be seen. At all events, however, whomever he picks can’t possibly do worse than those who are being pushed out…the same sort of people who have been running US foreign policy for a century and have never, not once, got things right. Remember, these are the guys who started off this century of foreign policy folly by figuring we should break up the Hapsburg Empire and keep Germany intact. From there, they went on to such genius things as normalizing relations with Stalin’s Russia, using the UN as cover for us to get into Korea with a declaration of war, signed arms control agreements which merely hamstrung American power and, to wrap it all up, signed off on allowing Iran to move forward with nukes under Obama. These people aren’t just wrong, they are kind of stupid. Breaking the chain by clearing them out and bringing in new voices can only help.

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Trump and Afghanistan

Just watched the speech and, really, it will take some time for everyone to figure out all the details, but I’ll say this: in war, there is no substitute for victory. Trump has set himself a stern test: Victory.

Now, can he get that? Yes, if you understand:

1. A victory doesn’t mean a liberal democracy in Afghanistan. It will be an authortarian regime with a thin veneer of democratic process. It will still be very Islamic and they’ll do a lot of things we don’t like.

2. A victory does mean an Afghan government in control of more than 90% of Afghan territory and able to defend itself without US ground forces.

3. A victory does mean that the Afghan government which emerges includes some elements currently aligned with the Taliban – in other words, people brought over to our side by the stick of massive military force and the carrot of being able to sit high on the hog if they come over in a timely manner.

4. In the geo-political game of that area, if the Afghan government is broadly aligned with us rather than, say, Iran or Pakistan, then that is victory.

I think this can be done – the gloves are off our military and they’ll have the ability to hit hard at the enemy. And if we do it convincingly enough, then the Afghans, themselves, will cease their whining about US military actions…they’ve only done that over the past years because they were worried we’d leave them in the lurch and at the tender mercies of the Taliban. Convince them that we’re the toughest guys and we will win, and all of a sudden everyone who wants to live will be on our side.

This is a harsh business – and there’s no solution which is 100% in line with what our American preferences would be. But we can get a victory – and then get out. We’ll see, now, if Trump can deliver.

Thinking About France and Europe

I admit to not spending too much time in my life attending to the details of French politics. I know a bit, but mostly of a general historical nature (such as: monarchists routinely got legislative majorities in free elections up to 1871). But with Marine Le Pen making it to the second round and likely to go north of 40% of the vote (ie, more than doubling the best result her father ever got), I thought I’d look into it a bit.

Le Pen’s National Front party was founded by her dad and other people who had been deeply involved in France’s Algeria War (as well a collection of Vichy collaborators, worn-out Monarchists and a host of other political oddities). That war was where Algerian nationalists fought the French for independence. One odd thing about that war – I’ve seen it in enough respectable sources to believe it true: more Algerian Muslims fought voluntarily on the French side than did on the independence side. Naturally, the Algerian Muslims who fought for France got very much the short end of the stick when Algeria was granted independence (they Algerian nationalists didn’t win it – they had, in fact, pretty much lost the military struggle…but to finish the job was no longer desired by France and De Gaulle felt it was better for France to give up the fight). And therein lies an odd tale, given that Le Pen (daughter and father) are most roundly condemned for being racist anti-Muslims…Marine’s dad had actually nominated a French Muslim for political office. This is something which makes complete sense when you’re talking about a guy who fought alongside Muslims. Pity that such a fact isn’t more well known – it might give us all something to chew on as we view French politics from the outside. But I’m pretty sure that a lot of people would prefer we just not think on it: just accept the Narrative, if you please…Le Pen (daughter and father) are just racist fascists out to destroy all that is good and true.

To be sure, this might well be the case – as I said, the National Front had at its foundation some former Vichy collaborators and thus I think it likely it contained some unrepentant fascists. You can also see why the elder Le Pen didn’t have much love for De Gaulle and often found a kind word for the Vichyites…De Gaulle had given up on Algeria (and in a strange twist of fate, it was those military forces which wanted to keep Algeria who convinced De Gaulle to return to power in France for the express purpose of saving French Algeria). It brings to mind a story I have heard – a fairly large number of French men joined the Waffen SS and fought quite doggedly for Hitler’s Third Reich. Indeed, among Hitler’s very last defenders were some French SS troops guarding the Reich Chancellery. Another group of French SS soldiers were captured in western Germany by Free French troops…the story goes that the Free French asked the SS troops, “how come you are in German uniforms?”, to which the SS soldiers responded, “and why are you in American uniforms?”. It makes you understand that there are actually quite deep fissures in French society – papered over for a long time by the compromises of De Gaulle’s Fifth Republic (it was designed to make sure that those who carried a grudge – right or left – could not rise to the pinnacle), but still very real.

I don’t know where Europe goes from here. Clearly, the Europeans can’t go on as they are…but most of the Ruling Class of Europe is very determined to keep on as now. I can only figure that they feel they are doing well for themselves and that any rocking of the boat would result in their loss of power. That Europe may die doesn’t concern them…they know it will last through their lifetimes: it is 40 years from now when the chickens will come home to roost. France is the pivot of Europe – the nation which should lead a re-invigorated Europe in this new century. But, France can’t even figure itself out…however you want to slice it, a very large number of French people don’t subscribe to the status quo and want a very different France: and while France is unable to agree, in general terms, what it means to be France, there is no chance of real French leadership in the revival of Europe. The Germans have excluded themselves. The Hapsburgs are no more. Peter the Great’s Russian Empire is a dying shell of it’s former self, run by a tin-pot wanna-be Czar. Britain is moving away from Europe…but Britain has never set the pace in Europe; always being a bit outside and self-contained. France is all there is, and France isn’t in any condition to do it.

It’s all very sad, actually. I hate to see it. I, myself, feel no organic connection to Europe, as such. My Catholicism is a much stronger tie, but that is to the Holy See. But a dying civilization is a terrible thing to behold, especially when you can see that they can save themselves, but appear not to know how…or simply don’t have the courage to try. I suspect that Europe is in for some large upheavals over the next couple decades…something is eventually going to take charge in Europe and make Europe all that thing…I only hope it is a Christian civilization thing which does it.

Syria Strike

Just was watching Twitter for an extended period of time tonight – astonished at the wide variety of heart felt, differing opinions about it. Some Trumpsters upset, some Never Trumpers finding a strange, new respect for Trump. Honest questions. Sincere hopes. Support for the troops without cheap rah-rah patriotism. It was refreshing.

I don’t know what will come of this – I’m not sure I support the action (though I support the actions of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, of course). I hope there is a plan behind all this – there could be, and it might work out to a brilliant stroke of diplomacy backed by military force (the only sort of diplomacy which actually works, by the way). We’ll just have to see.

A Test of Decency: Supporting Israel

I’m sure everyone has had at least some look at Secretary of State Kerry’s speech – mostly it’s just a recitation of things Obama and his Administration have been saying for nearly 8 years; but when coupled with our abstention in the UN, it actually shows a policy which is just flat wrong.

The basic US policy has been for a Two State solution – and this remains the most logical way to assure basic justice and freedom for everyone. But a Two State solution has some firm requirements – first and foremost that all major Palestinian political groups acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign, Jewish nation. Right up to now, there has yet to be any firm commitment by any of the Palestinian leadership on this. A bit of lip service from the so-called “moderates”, but no concrete effort to get the bulk of the Palestinian leadership on board with the idea, while the propaganda put out for consumption by the Palestinian people indicates no desire for the existence of a Jewish State. Other requirements are that the Palestinians acknowledge Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and that the 1967 borders are a dead letter – whatever borders are eventually made will have to be made by free and fair negotiations between the two sides. Finally, whatever settlement is made must have as a key element the inability of the Palestinians to reverse by military means the final settlement – Israel’s military security must be paramount.

It must be kept in mind that the eastern part of Jerusalem and the West Bank was conquered by Israel in defensive war. It was the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim side of the conflict which was preparing apocalyptic war against Israel in 1967, not the other way around. As it relates to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, those who lead the Palestinians in 1967 gambled on war, and lost. Badly. And, so far, no one on the Palestinian side has acknowledged either their war-guilt, nor their crushing defeat (histories produced for the youth of the Muslim world still claim that it was US and British intervention which caused their defeat…they just won’t admit that the Jews beat them). Traditionally, those who launch a war and then lose are in no position to make demands. Now, a wise people will be merciful in victory – magnanimous, even. The Israelis have shown time and time again that they are willing to go quite far towards the needs of the Palestinians in pursuit of peace. In fact, things like the Oslo Accords probably went a bit too far towards the Palestinian position. At the end of the day, any peace deal will leave a very hostile people with authority deep in Israel’s strategic vitals – it would be like us making a peace with an enemy and allowing them to live just outside of Washington, DC.

The problem with the position of the Obama Administration is that by their policies they have entirely undercut any ability to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. By saying we want a return to the 1967 border, by saying we consider all settlements to be illegal, by saying that Israel has no rights in Judea and Samaria, we are essentially saying to the Palestinian leadership that Israel, itself, is on the negotiating block. What else is there? If our position is for the Israelis to surrender what they won in defensive war, then what is there to negotiate about save Palestinian designs upon the territory of Israel? And that is how the Palestinian leadership views it. Remember, 30 years ago such leadership were hunted criminals in exile…by action of the “peace process”, they have been allowed to return home and erect a government in the West Bank and Gaza and take full control over large numbers of Palestinian people. And what have they given up? Nothing. They haven’t given up terrorism. They haven’t given up the so-called “right of return” (and, remember, that right of return is a claimed right to return to Israel for those who left in 1948 and their descendants). They haven’t given up their position that Israel, itself, is illegitimate. Now they’ve got a US Administration saying that we back them in demands for all the pre-1967 territory…which includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Roll that around a bit – the Jewish Quarter is “illegally occupied territory”. No word about how the Jewish Quarter was ethnically-cleansed of it’s ancient, Jewish population by the Arabs in the aftermath of the 1948 war. Such a policy is the result of sheer stupidity, or an anti-Israel view. It can’t be anything other than one of those two views…unless it is a combination of both.

The proper position for us to take is that Jerusalem is entirely Israeli, forever, and that the rest of Judea and Samaria is up for negotiation. We must also insist that all of the Palestinian leadership renounce in public the “right of return”, as well as acknowledging that Israel will exist after the peace deal as a Jewish State. To do otherwise is just to play into the hands of the most radical elements of the Palestinian leadership – because doing otherwise allows them to tell their people, “see, we’re pushing them back: just keep with us and eventually we’ll push the Jews into the sea”. And if the Palestinian leadership will not or cannot make such declarations, then there is no possibility of peace. Peace requires that the Palestinian leadership acknowledge Israel and it’s Jewish character. If there isn’t that, then the Palestinian leadership has determined upon continued war.

Leave aside notions of “illegally occupied”. Also, forget about supposed prohibitions against population transfers. Constantinople is “illegally occupied”…heck, a stronger case can be made on that than on any Israeli occupation. Remember, Israel got the West Bank in defensive war – Constantinople was taken in aggressive and entirely unjustified war. And if we’re going to get hung up on population transfers as part of a permanent peace deal, then what is one to say to all the Germans – and their descendants – who used to live in East Prussia and Silesia? The Greeks and the Turks settled their affairs in the 1920’s by population transfers. This is a tricky situation and there aren’t a lot of cut-and-dried things about it (for instance, a good number – perhaps a large majority – of the Palestinian population are descendants of people who arrived in Palestine after Zionist immigration started…it was the rising prosperity of Palestine created by the Zionists which induced many Arabs to move to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century; what is today Israel and the West Bank was a burned-out wasteland 150 years ago – the population of Jerusalem was only a little over 15,000 in 1850 or so; it had been 80,000 under the Romans; 30,000 during the Crusades).

It is a requirement, in my view, for all free people to back other free peoples. That is the central fact in my view of Israel. Israel is a democratic republic. While no nation is perfect, in Israel people of all faiths – or none – can live in peace and freedom. While there is official and un-official discrimination in Israel against non-Jews, that is changing – for instance, not a lot of non-Jews serve in the IDF, but some do…and the number is increasing as Israeli Christians and Muslims realize that defending Israel means defending themselves (anyone really think the Muslims of, say, Nazareth want to come under Abbas’ rule?). There is also a debt we of the West – especially we Christians – owe to the Jews. It isn’t just the Holocaust (though that is a gigantic part of it), but the general discrimination and injustice we visited upon the Jews for centuries which we atone for by supporting Israel. We cannot allow that a free people come under tyranny (and, so, I also back our defense of Taiwan, come what may, against China) and we also cannot allow another Holocaust to happen…and such would happen if the Arabs, as things currently are, got atop the Jews of Israel. As my title says, this is a test of decency – defense of Israel is a Pass/Fail thing on that matter. This does not mean we have to just blindly defend Israel in all circumstances – if a reasonable Palestinian leadership arises willing to meet all legitimate Israeli demands and then the Israelis balk, it would be time for us to pressure Israel…but such a Palestinian leadership would only fully arise under a free Palestine…not free of Israel, but free of tyranny. And, as that works out, if there was genuine freedom in Palestine, then I’m confident that the free people of Palestine and the free people of Israel could come to a swift and equitable arrangement.

In return for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, I’d be willing for our nation to do quite a lot…and not least for the people of Palestine, many of whom are my brothers and sisters in Christ. The real cost, given our wealth, would be small…but we could help the Palestinians make their land bloom with prosperity as much as Israel does. A grand and glorious future awaits – the Holy Land should be a place of peace and justice, and I pray for the day when it is. But we also must be realistic – there are bad actors in the world. Those who take the tiny resources of a poor people and turn them into rockets to fire at random civilians are bad actors…not people who, at present, can be partners in peace and construction. Peace can be had in short order, as soon as both sides want it. Right now, honestly, only one side does…and as they are the democratic side, I must back them. It is the only decent thing to do.

Yes, Trump Can Talk to Taiwan

Trump spoke to the President of Taiwan and it set off a firestorm of criticism. A lot of people are worried about what effect this will have on US-China relations. I can only think it will work to an improvement. The best relations are maintained when both sides are firm and understand each others position.

First off, a little history lesson:

Over the past 121 years, mainland China has ruled Taiwan for a total of four (4) years. The Island was annexed by Japan after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and then stayed in Japanese hands until 1945. From 1945 to 1949, Taiwan was ruled from the mainland, but in 1949 the government of China was chased out and made itself a home in Taiwan. Officially, the government of Taiwan considers itself the legitimate government of all of China, while the Chinese government considers itself the rightful owner of Taiwan. Both positions are absurd. The writ of the People’s Republic of China has never run to Taiwan and the youngest Taiwanese who could possibly have been a part of a Chinese government would be about 90, now. About 87% of Taiwan’s population is native to Taiwan – wasn’t born in China, nor under the rule of the People’s Republic of China. While plenty of people in Taiwan still desire a theoretical reunification with China, no one wants to come under the rule of the current government in Beijing – and the younger generation is ever more Taiwanese. To say that Taiwan must be considered part of China is as silly as saying that Austria must be part of Germany, simply because for a brief while Germany ruled Austria and the people of Austria are ethnic Germans.

Also, China needs to know that for all their economic advancement and their desire for increased global power, the United States is still far ahead of China and that we much prefer the people of east Asia and the western Pacific rule their own destinies. Trump’s action will cause some shrieks from China’s leaders – but the bottom line is that it lets them know that the days of the United States playing the patsy to China are over. Trump did a good thing – an honest thing; the hypocrisy of our position vis a vis Taiwan has been a nauseating relic of the Cold War and it is past time it as done away with. If Taiwan ever freely decides to unite itself with China, all well and good – but unless and until such time, it is our duty as the premier free nation on Earth to ensure that the free people of Taiwan are not forced into Chinese servitude.

Which is the Threat – Russia or China?

Got into a little Twitter flare up over just who is the Putin stooge in this election – Hillary or Trump? Team Hillary was all afire on Monday with dark hints about Trump’s nefarious ties to Putin…and Never Trump quickly seconded her charges, apparently forgetting Hillary’s little Bribes-For-Uranium deal with Russian “businessmen” who would make Don Corleone blush. But the underlying thing here is just how much a threat Putin’s Russia poses.

Now, to be sure, Romney was quite right in 2012 that Russia was no partner of the United States – was, in fact, working diligently against American interests in Europe and the Middle East. Romney was ridiculed for that by all Democrats – someone quipping that the 1980’s called and they wanted their foreign policy back, I believe. Fast forward to 2016, and all of a sudden our Democrats are more vigorously anti-Kremlin than Reagan was 30 years ago. What changed? Electoral politics – a foreign bogey-man is always useful in politics, if you can somehow tie your opponent to same. It is a bit of a stretch to tie Trump to Putin – the closest connections seem to be with a person who used to work for Trump’s campaign – but off they go, and the MSM gladly helps Team Clinton out. But is Russia all that much a threat? Let’s take a look:

Population:

USA – 324 million

Russia – 143 million

Fit for military service (males):

USA – 59 million

Russia – 21 million

Naval power:

Carriers – USA 10, Russia 1
Amphibious assault ships – USA 9, Russia 0
Cruisers – USA 22, Russia 4
Destroyers – USA 63, Russia 21
Ballistic Missile Submarines – USA 10, Russia 4
Attack Submarines – USA 52, Russia 18 (plus some old diesel boats rusting around).

I could go on like that – not much of a military threat to the United States. Given that Russia’s GDP is somewhat less than South Korea’s, they aren’t going to become a big threat any time soon. On the other hand, there’s China, with a GDP about 9 times that of Russia and 314 million men fit for military service…perhaps China might be a bigger worry? You know, given the number of men they can put under arms just about equals our population? Given that they are challenging our supremacy in the western Pacific and the South China Sea? Given that they have said that their national policy is to displace us? Maybe we should be a little more concerned about China?

Naw, can’t have that – too many of our largest corporations and banks are heavily invested in China. Conflict with China would be bad for business – theirs, not ours. Doesn’t really help us that cheap consumer goods are made in China…does help the Chinese and the corporations which invest there, of course…and, so, Russia’s the bad guy…China’s just this thing, and if you please ignore the fact that they are engaged in building a blue water Navy specifically to challenge us, that would be great.

It has been my conviction for many years now that if WWIII ever comes, it will start in Asia, not in Europe. I doubt the Europeans will even involve themselves in World War Three, if they could in any way scurry out of it. The battle will be between the United States and China, and whatever allies each can gather. We’ve got Japan and South Korea because they’ve got no choice – and when push comes to shove, we’ll probably have India, as well. But it would be tremendously useful for us if at least a good portion of China’s military force is looking over it’s should, to the north – to Russia, that is. And, of course, Russia can’t hold on to Siberia without our aid.

Now, I don’t like Putin, either – but he’s also not forever. And foreign policy can’t be dictated by personalities – it always has to be dictated by interests. Right now, Putin sees his chance to cobble together a bit of the old Russian Empire – our weakness is his chance. But think about what he’s doing – he’s grabbing those border areas which are largely Russian in population. He’s also working out plans and programs to get Russia’s population increased via natural means (there’s even a move to ban abortion in Russia). Putin is trying to get together as much manpower as he can – just in case of war, when Russia will need every soldier it can put into uniform. Russians, for instance, make up 17% of Ukraine’s population – about 8 million people, or about 800,000 males fit for military service. Having those Russians in Ukraine does Russia not the least bit of good – having them in Russia, does. As it turns out, most of the Russians live in precisely the areas of Ukraine where Putin is exerting military force on the sly. You don’t have to like it – but you should at least understand why it’s happening.

Our interests lie in keeping China boxed in – a China able to rampage over the world represents a threat that Germany and Japan, combined, didn’t represent in 1941. With their population and industrial base – a lot of it formerly our industrial base, before we outsourced it – gives them the ability to wage war on many fronts simultaneously. Our foreign policy job is to make sure that if China ever decides to try conclusions with us that they are, indeed, forced to fight on many fronts. On the seas with us, on land with India – and Russia. And Vietnam, and South Korea, and Japan…and anyone else we can convince to go along with us. In point of fact, India would provide sufficient manpower to completely overbalance China…but India has no easy way to attack China on land – they’d have to go through the Himalayas, an almost impossible task. Russia, though, has easy access to the very heart of China (China has the same to Russian Siberia). In a real war – a World War – a American-Russian-Indian army poised around Lake Baikal is a deadly threat to China…the sort of thing which keeps China from getting into Southeast Asia, or the Philippines.

Don’t give me nonsense about a Russian threat to the United States – they have nukes, but that is about it. On their own, they don’t dare attack us. Eventually, Russia will see that playing around with China just to irritate us is the wrong path…and, in fact, they probably know it and are only doing it to keep us off their back while they re-absorb those former parts of the Russian Empire they think they need. As long as Russia isn’t rolling into Poland, or taking Kiev, I’m not particularly worried about what they are doing. I don’t care, that is, if they absorb some territory largely populated by Russians and only set in non-Russian territory by Stalin as a means to retain control of the various “republics” which made up the old USSR. At the end of the day, Russia will want to hold on to Siberia and the only way they can do that against China – the only nation which covets Siberia – is in alliance with us. An alliance that they and we need…not that we care about Russian rule in Siberia, but we do care about making sure that China, desiring war, is instantly confronted with the fact of war in the north as well as everywhere else. It is essentially a revival of the old policy of Churchill vis a vis Nazi Germany – bind together the lesser States surrounding Germany so that any German attack would result in an overwhelming force being brought against Germany from all directions. No one wanted to do that, and so Hitler was able to pick off enemies one by one…China will do the same, unless we construct a new set of alliances to counter it.

One thing you can be certain about in world affairs is change – it’s always breaking apart and coming together in new combinations. Hanging fast to NATO as if Russia is still poised to burst through the Fulda Gap in central Germany is absurd. I can’t imagine a set of circumstances which move Russia to invade central and western Europe. I also can’t imagine a set of circumstances which would see a British army come to our assistance as we tried to repel a Chinese attack on Japan…and Britain is a solid ally; as for France and Germany, they’d probably be selling China military material and demanding we don’t sink their ships transporting it to China! These are new times, with new issues – and trying to jam them into the times of 50 years ago won’t work. We need, as in all things, to think anew and act anew…and giving up the Russian bugbear and turning our full attention to China is one of them. We also need new policies towards Iran, but even that is a lesser threat than China, in the long run.

China is the challenge – we must rework our trade with China so that we’re not longer helping them build the industrial sinews to war with us. We must rebuild our own industrial strength so that if we have to go to war, we’ve got at least most of what we need right here in the USA. We need a new system of alliances geared towards modern challenges. We need a much larger Navy, a much larger Air Force. We need to be working on ever more advanced military technologies so that we can outgun a China we won’t be able to out-man. We need, first and foremost, to shake free of the geo-political shackles of the past. This isn’t 1956 – it’s 2016.