Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Obama Started Interfering in Elections

Nobody talks about it, but the US played a role in the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.  If Putin interfered in the US election, he may have seen it as a response to Obama’s interference in Ukrainian politics, which would have cost Russia its only warm water port, Sevastople, a strategic loss to Russia.  Putin could not accept that loss, and subsequented invaded and reannexed Crimea.  

I don’t know how involved the US was in the ouster of Yanukovych.  Certainly the US pubicly supported the protesters against Yanukovych and chered his ouster.  If the CIA or other Americans were more involved, Putin probably knows that, and wants to retaliate for it.  

I don’t know whether Putin was actually involved in the hacking and leaks of election emails.  I don’t know what involvement the US may have had in Ukrainian politics.  Clearly there is a link between Ukraine and Trump in the person of Paul Manafort.  

On Charlie Rose, David Sanger of the NYT just said that Putin may have been responding to US criticism of Putin’s victory in the last Russian election.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Obama, Hillary, Ecuador and Assange

I wonder how much pressure the Obama administration brought on the Ecuadorian government to cut off Juilian Assange’s access to the Internet in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  I don’t particularly like Assange or the fact that the Russians are meddling in the American election, but it also indicates that the US Government is putting its finger on the scales of the election.  Of course, Obama  campaigns for Hillary, but in theory he does that as a leader of the Democratic party, not as President of the United States.  Obama’s use of the US foreign policy apparatus to support Hillary reinforces the view that the government is corrupt and that the electoral system is corrupt.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Should the US or China Stop North Korea?

I was pleased to see a New York Times op-ed by Joel Wit on North Korea.  Sometimes he is the PBS News Hour expert, but this time, PBS turned to some other other experts.  I worked with Joel Wit off and on for several years.  In my previous blog about the North Korean nuclear test, I complained that the US government would not fund its obligations under the Korean Peninsula Development Organization (KEDO).  As I result, as the embassy science officer in Rome I had to ask the Italy and the EU if they would provide the funds that the US Congress would not.  If the US did not fund its obligations, it gave North Korea a perfect excuse to withdraw from KEDO and resume its nuclear weapons program.  Joel was back in Washington, and was at the other end of these instruction cables to ask the Europeans for money. 

It was not Joel’s fault that the US Congress would not appropriate the money for KEDO.  He was left scrambling to find the money.  I think I heard him say at least once that the US had never defaulted on its obligations.  Apparently he and his associates found the money after I retired, since KEDO continued on for years, but even if they did, it was an indication of bad faith on America’s part. 

In his op-ed, Joel says that the US cannot count on China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program; only the US can.  To do this the US will have to escalate sanctions and keep the door open for negotiations.  He thinks that there may be something that North Korea wants enough to resume talks. 

I am not optimistic.  Looking at the past history, North Korea swings back and forth so much it’s hard to tell if they are serious about any negotiations.  They have actually entered into agreements that actually restricted their activities like any normal country that was giving up a military nuclear program.  But then they suddenly change their mind and withdraw.  Nevertheless, it’s better to try to rein in the program than just let them do anything they want. 

After KEDO, six-party talks produced various attempts at agreements to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but they all failed in the end.  Off and on the North Koreans agree to certain restrictions on their programs, which they ultimately renounced. 

The Arms Control Association website provides a timeline.  North Korea first undertook to restrain its nuclear program in 1985, when it signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but it did not implement the safeguards agreement required by the NPT.  In 1992 it finally signed a safeguards agreement under the NPT with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Agreement on KEDO is reached in 1994, under which the US, South Korea and Japan promise two commercial light water reactors in return for North Korea’s dismantling of its plutonium production reactors.  In 1996 talks the US suggested that North Korea joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which I played a role in creating.  (North Korea did not join.)  In 1998 Japan suspended its participation in KEDO.  In 1999 KEDO signed a contract to build the two power reactors.  In August 2002 KEDO poured the first concrete for the power reactor construction.  During an American visit in October 2002, North Korea admitted that had a clandestine nuclear enrichment program in violation of its agreements.  In November 2002 KEDO announced that it was suspending its delivery of heavy fuel oil under the agreement.  The US provided funding in 2003 to wind down the organization, which announced that it was suspending reactor construction.  In 2006 the KEDO board announced the formal termination of its power reactor construction project.

 KEDO was succeeded by another agreement based on a 2005 joint statement at six-party talks including North Korea, the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.  In November 2007 a US team travelled to North Korea to begin disablement of Yongbyon nuclear facilities under an October agreement reached in the six-arty talks.  During 2008 Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill meets with North Koreas on compliance with the agreement.  By December 2008 the US has delivered 550,000 tons of heavy fuel oil under the agreement.  In April 2009, North Korea says it will no longer be bound by the six-party talks agreement and ejects IAEA and US monitors.  In May North Korea conducted its second underground nuclear test. 

In December 2011 Kim Jong Il dies and is replaced by Kim Jong Un.  In December 2012, North Korea successfully launches a satellite.  In February 2013, North Korea conducts another underground nuclear test.  In January 2016, North Korea announces a fourth nuclear test.  It conducted its fifth nuclear test on September 9, 2016.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

North Korea and the MTCR

North Korea’s test of a nuclear device has prompted discussion of its missile program.  When I was at the State Department, I spent years working on the creation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  I am disappointed that I have not seen it mentioned in connection with North Korea’s development of missiles.  Before the North Korean test, the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” published several articles dealing with missile proliferation and the MTCR: “Missile proliferation: Treat the disease,” and “Too late for missile proliferation?” as well as several other articles that were part of a debate about how to deal with missile proliferation. 

The MTCR is basically an export control agreement for nations capable of supplying missile hardware and technology.  By joining the MTCR they agree not to supply items or knowledge to proliferating countries that could be used to build nuclear capable missiles.  It is not an arms control agreement that prohibits the proliferation of missile technology.  It is more like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 

As proliferating countries become more capable of producing missiles on their own, the export restrictions of the MTCR have less effect.  The MTCR probably did slow down North Korea’s development of missiles, but now it is less effective.  However, building missiles is “rocket science,” and there are some very difficult technologies involved.  Therefore, the MTCR may still play a role in limiting or slowing down the ability of North Korea to build more powerful and more accurate missiles, but at this point, slowing down is about the best it could do.  Press articles seem to agree that North Korea could build strategic nuclear missiles that could reach the US by 2020, e.g. a New York Times article says, “Military experts say that by 2020, Pyongyang will most likely have the skills to make a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile topped by a nuclear warhead.”  However, the MTCR might still help restrict the accuracy and the size of the warhead for such a missile by 2020.  It might mean that North Korea could be able to hit somewhere in the greater Washington metropolitan area with a bomb the size of the one the US used on Hiroshima, rather than one that could reliably hit Pennsylvania Avenue and destroy both the White House and the Capitol, as well as most of the city.  Neither of these outcomes is acceptable, but the greater the chances that a missile might misfire, go off course or fail to detonate, the better. 

Of course it would be better to have in place a strong treaty that prohibits missile proliferation like the NPT does for bombs, but that is unlikely.  One reason the MTCR is so weak is that it is all that even the friendliest countries, like the UK, France, or Japan, would agree to.  Furthermore the NPT has not been successful in limiting nuclear proliferation by the most threatening countries, such as North Korea.  As in most areas of life, laws constrain decent people, but criminals commit crimes despite the laws against it. 

One advantage of the NPT is that it has its own police force, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has performed its job well in a number of cases, discovering and reporting prohibited activities by member parties.  However, the IAEA has no authority in countries that are not parties to the NPT, which includes most of the worrisome countries, such as North Korea.  There are countries that have joined the NPT, but then have gotten off the track, perhaps after a change of government.  This happened in Iran.  The IAEA has worked successfully in Iran and is a key component of the US-Iran deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

North Korean Nuclear Test

North Korea’s nuclear test reminds me of my last days in the Foreign Service around 1996-97.  I was the American Embassy’s science officer in Rome, working on nuclear non-proliferation issues, as well as a number of other matters, such as the environment. 

At that time, Italy held the rotating presidency of the European Union, so that I dealt with the Italian government both on bilateral issues and on issues for the whole European Union.  The first agreement intended to rein in North Korean nuclear proliferation was in effect, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, under which the US, Japan and South Korea were to provide North Korea with certain things in return for North Korean nuclear restraint.  In the short term we were to provide North Korea with fuel oil to keep its conventional electric power plants running, and in the future with nuclear electric power plants that did not use or produce materials that could be used in a bomb. 

I don’t remember all the details, but the US was obligated to pay several million dollars for the fuel oil to be supplied to North Korea.  The US Congress refused to appropriate those funds, which meant that we could not meet our obligation under the KEDO agreement.  It became my job to go to the Italians and the EU and ask them to provide funding for the fuel oil that the US Congress would provide. 

I found this very unpleasant, although the Italians were very polite and listened patiently.  I thought that the US should meet its obligations under the agreement, and not provide North Korea with an excuse, US noncompliance, to renounce the agreement and resume its nuclear bomb program.  This was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I retired from the Foreign Service and returned to the US.

In addition to the KEDO fiasco, a number of other things had gone badly for the issues for which I was responsible.  Almost the day after I arrived, the State Department was sued by four environmental groups for failing to force Italy to implement UN resolutions regarding the use of driftnets to catch swordfish in the Mediterranean.  As I recall the groups were the legal arms of Greenpeace, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club, and one or two other groups.  The State Department lost the case, and in effect a Federal judge assumed control of US policy regarding Italian use of driftnets.  What would happen if some policy issue arose was that the judge would consult the environmental groups, and they would consult with a Greenpeace activist, who was really the only person on the spot.  He would visit fishing boats, inspect their nets and their catch and report back to his colleagues in the US, who would report back to the judge, who in turn would approve (or not) whatever policy proposal was on the table.  This meant that in effect my office worked for the Greenpeace representative on this issue.  One of my last acts was to accompany the Ambassador to meet with the Italian Agriculture Minister on this issue because Sicilian fishermen had hired Mafia hit men to kill fisheries enforcement personnel if they harassed the fishermen.  Supporters of the fishermen were also blocking streets in downtown Rome.  The main message I had for Ambassador was that he could not agree definitively to any proposal from the Minister, because it would have to be approved by the Federal judge back in the US.  The Ambassador was not happy about that. 

In addition, the Space Shuttle had flown an Italian tethered satellite, the TSS-1R, which was to be extended on the tether about 20 km from the Shuttle and reeled back in.  The tether broke and the satellite drifted off into space.  The crew of the Columbia’s STS-75 mission came to Italy to meet with the Italians about the mission.  Unfortunately, because of the loss of the satellite, the visit became something of an apology tour, which I was responsible for organizing. 

Another somewhat unfortunate, space-related incident occurred at a cocktail party given to celebrate the launch by the US of an Italian telecommunications satellite.  At the party, I met a man who worked for the telecommunications company whose satellite was being launched.  He said something like, “You Americans must really hate me, since you won’t let my daughter go to Disney World.”  I was taken aback.  He said his daughter had applied for a visa to go to Disney World, but the Embassy had refused to give her one because her father worked for the telecommunications company.  Apparently the company had some tenuous connection with Cuba, and the Helms-Burton Act prohibited us from issuing visas to employees or their families.  I went to see the Consul General, who is in charge of visas, the next day.  She told me that what he said was correct and there was nothing she could do about it.  At some point, I had read Herman Wouk’s Winds of War books.  In them, the heroine, a Jewish mother, wants to leave Italy to go to Israel.  She is told that she can go, but her child cannot; they will not give the child a visa.  It seemed too similar.  It was Rome; it was a child’s visa.  Why should the US punish children for the sins of their parents?  Even the Bible Old Testament says, “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.”

There were probably some other things that led to my retirement, but a diplomat is to some extent a salesman for his country.  As an Army Vietnam veteran, the son of a veteran of World War II and Korea, the grandson of a veteran of the Spanish-American War and World War I, and the great-grandson of a veteran of the Civil War, I loved my country, but I felt that it was not living up to its reputation and was not upholding its honor.  I was old enough and had served long enough to retire; so, I did.  I didn’t have to explain any more why it looked like North Korea was honoring the KEDO agreement and the US was not, giving them a perfect excuse to resume their nuclear program.  I did not have to explain how we lost Italy’s satellite.  I did not have to explain why the US punished children for the sins of their fathers. 

Good diplomats do a lot of things that they may not like doing.  I often lied to protect intelligence or to protect negotiating positions.  If I had not been eligible for retirement, I probably would not have fallen on my sword and resigned.  I wish I had left under better circumstances, but I have many good memories of my career.  It seemed, however, that no matter how high you rose, you always could end up responsible for policies that you disagreed with.  Even the Secretary of State has to do what the President wants.  Ask Hillary about Syria or Libya.  

Friday, September 09, 2016

Think Tank Corruption

I was disturbed by the long article that ran on the front page of the NYT on August 8 regarding the transfromation of the Brookings Institution from a think tank to a lobbying organziation.  It seemed like the icing on the cake of corruption in Washington.  In the old days, when a congressman, senator, or high ranking career government bureaucrat resigned, they often went into academia or to a think tank like Brookings.  But starting a generation or longer ago, they started going into lobbying, usually using their influence in the very areas that they deal with while they were in government.  The revolving door has been spinning faster and faster, and now Brookings has joined in.  Washington has sold its integrity for money.  Men and women who should be concerned about the fate of their country now sell themselves to the highest bidder, and Brookings has put on its hot pants and joined the other hookers on the street corner.  If what it is doing is not be illegal, ir is certainly unethical.  It has sullied its reputation.  

I was initailly concerned that Jews had taken over Brookings and had brought low class ethincs with them.  The photographs on the inside pages of the story were of Martin Indyk, Henry Kravis, and Marek Goodman, all Jews.  The article focussed on what Brookings was doing to promote the business of Lennar Homes.   The main Lennar contact in the article is Kofi Bonner, who is Ghanan, not Jewish.  

The other think tank mentioned at length in the article is the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  The article raises questions about its connections with and possible lobbying for General Atomic and Huntington Ingalls.  General Atomic builds drones, and Huntington Ingalls builds ships for the Navy.  I didn’t see any Jewish connection there.  It just seemed like more of the old-boy, revolving door network of former regulators or purchasers now on the other side, helping sell to their old colleagues.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

MTCR References

Following are some references to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which I helped create.  Most deal with India's membership.

I concur in the following Bulletin criticism of controls on drones.  When I was at State, the Pentagon was always trying to expand the MTCR controls to cover any thing or any country they didn't like.  One of the worst incidents in my career came when the Pentagon vetoed the sale of a ground-based satellite tracking system that Brazil planned to use to download information on the environment in the Amazon.  The Pentagon said the ground stations could be used to track test launches of nuclear-capable missiles that Brazil might develop.  Brazil had no such missiles, and the ground stations would not have been very useful for this purpose.  It was like banning the sales of automobiles because they could be used to run over and kill people.  The Penatagon decision was ultimately reversed, but only after the Brazilians were very mad about the denial.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Attitudes Toward Military Service

I find the op-ed unconvincing in the NYT today by someone who avoided the Vietnam War draft and now repents for doing so.  He fails to address the hatred and vitreol directed against returning Vietnam veterans, and the moral sef-righteousness displayed by those who did not go.  He does not address the way that the war was portrayed as inhumane slaughter, and returning vets as baby-killing perverts.  Even at the relatively conservative University of Alabama, which I returned to, the only vets who got positive feedback from other students were those who confessed to committing atrocities.  Veterans who did not commit atrocities were very conflicted by feeling that after sending them to Vietnam, where they thought they gave honorable service, their country now denouced them as war criminals.  Serving in Vietnam was only part of the “sacrifice”; returning to a hateful US was another part.  While the op-ed writer wishes he had “served” he still feels morally superior to his war-criminal cohorts who did in fact serve.  

Relatively few Vietnam veterans have had much political success.  Three who did, all started out with silver spoons in their mouths.  John McCain’s father and grandfather were senior admirals.  John Kerry’s mother was a Forbes heiress.  Al Gore’s father was a senator.  They did not come back to the same obliquy as other vets.  Both McCain and Kerry went into some Navy VIP program for returning VIP veterans.  McCain in particular was treated as a returning hero, unlike the vast bulk ofther returnees, including some who were also combat heros.  They all ran for President, but they were all rejected by their country.  Veterans don’t always make good Presidents; General Ulysses Grant was one the worst in history.  The same could have been true for one of these three.  Al Gore actually won more votes than George W. Bush in the 2000 election, but the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to Bush.  Bush, of course, avoided going to Vietnam by using his family influence to get into the Alabama National Guard, where he spent the war skipping even his National Guard duties, drinking heavily, and becoming an alcoholic.  Of course, Bill Clinton, like Donald Trump, avoided the draft, and Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were never subject to the draft, and did not volunteer to serve.  

America now appears to have come full circle, and venerates military service almost religiously.  If you look closely, however, you find that the best people don’t volunteer to serve.  How many graduates of Harvard or Stanford are serving in the military?  How many children of the top 20% of the population, much less of the 1% or 0.1%?  No, nice people don’t serve in the military.  And the press is always quick to note if someone in the news for some horriible crime has served.  They protray the US Marine Corps as the breeding ground for mass murderers.  
There was a period, right after 9/11, when nice people went into the militarr, because it looked like America was really under threat.  But the political and military leadership botched the wars so badly that military service became a bad thing again.  A lot of the praise for the military today is because people want some other fool to go fight so that they don’t have to.  It’s selfish, not loving.  If we reinstated the draft there would be a sea change in attitudes toward military service.  

This is not to take away the honor of the sacrifice made by soldiers, particularly those killed or wounded in action, like Captain Khan.  But it is to say that a lot of the furor about dishonor to the gold star parents is politically motivated, not genuine sympathy for those involved.  It’s more like, “Thank goodness that’s not me, but shame on anybody who says that out loud.”  

Monday, August 01, 2016

Hillary Follows Obama's Failures

Obama has been a pretty good President.  So why are the people calling for change, Trump and Sanders, doing so well?  Obama saved the US from falling into a depression when he took over from Bush during the 2008 financial crisis.  He and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke did this by bailing out the big banks and other big institutions -- AIG Insurance, General Motors. etc.  The banks and the government have made a big point of the fact that the big institutions paid the bailout money back.  The government did much less to help the little guy, not just the people who bought houses with “liar loans,” but people who lost 401(k) money in the stock market on the eve of their retirement, who were transferred and had had to sell their houses while house values were depressed, etc.  In addition, it looks like there was a massive transfer of wealth during this period from regular people to the super rich.  It’s not clear to me exactly what happened, but for example, smart invstors in the stock market made much greater returns than regular people with conservative investments.  House prices have risen, but not like the stock market, or other riskier investments like private equity, hedge funds, or high yield bonds.  Interest rates on bank accounts and ordinary bonds ave been close to zero for about a decade.  

Ordnary Americans, including me, don’t knew exactly what happened, but they know something bad happened to them.  While their lives in general are not terrible, they are relatively worse off vis-a-viz the one percent, and may be actually worse off than they personally were a few years earlier.  They know something went wrong under the Obama administration.  In a sense, Obama saved their lives, but made their lives worse.  So, do you thank Obama for saving your life, or blame him for giving your money to the extremely rich who bought him with their contributions, lobbying and backroom political power.   Plus, Obama did not send any Wall Street crook to jail. The super rich Jews bought the Clintons, and it looks like they have bought the Obamas, too.  Oddly, Hillary is running as the cadidate of the Jewish insiders ike Michael Bloomberg, while the insider Jews oppose Bernie, an ethnic Jew who is an outsider to whatever the Jews are who control Wall Street, Washington, and part of Silicon Valley (e.g., Facebook).  It’s interesting that two Jews, Al Franken and Sarah Silverman, were instrumental in putting down the Bernie supporters at the Democratic convention.  The insider Jews apparently hate Bernie, but love Hillary, a Methodist.  

As a transplanted Southerner, I should like Hillary for being first lady of Arkansas, a southern state, but I don’t think Hillary ever abandoned her Illinois, liberal roots.  Bill Clinton could get along with good ole Southern boys, as well as New York Jews, but Hillary made her mark, such as it was, in Arkansas by siding with the blacks against the good ole boys.  Her black conections helped the Clintons in Arkansas, and remain one of her stongest political pillars.  But Hillary doesn’t appeal to white men.  She has a love-hate relationship with her white man, Bill, who has dragged her throught the mud, but has also put her on the Presidential stage.  

Stepping in as Obama’s surrogate successor will not be entirely easy, because Obama, while being a basically good President, left many expectations unfulfilled.  He has not proved himself worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, in part because of some things that Hillary did as Secretary of State, like invading Libya.  He reduced American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the wars go on.  Fewer Americns are dying, but Obama has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Arabs on his hands.  His call early in his presidency for Muslims to rise up and overthrow their dictatorial leaders, like Mubarek, Qaddafi and Assad, resulted in bloody chaos in the Middle East, particularly in Syria,  It has now destabilized our NATO ally, Turkey.  So far, I credit Obama for not assassinating Assad or Erdogan with a cruise missile as he did Osama bin Laden, which he could do.  

Obama promised to close Guantanamo, but he has failed to do so.  The Republican Congress has done everything it can to block him, but nevertheless he failed.  It’s another case where he failed to live up to the promise of the Nobel Peace Prize.  America remains a member of the club of nations that tortures political prisoners.  We may have stopped waterboarding them, but the prison itself is a form of cruel and unusal punishment.  

Obama did expand healthcare with Obama Care, but he failed the progressives in his party by not establishing a single payer system.  Obama basically sold out to the super rich medical establishment to preserve the private insurance system, that makes them rich.  Oddly to me, while there are a lot of Jewish doctors, the rich people running heathcare tend to be gentiles.  The part of the medical establishment that benefits the least from the current system are those doctors who do the most good, those who practice general or family medicine.  Even they find it difficult to work in the present environment because of the huge bureacracy made up of private insurance, Medicare and Medicade.  As a result doctors who really want to help people end up joining hospitals or big medical practice groups to let somebody else do the paperwork while they save lives.  The administrators love this because they can add on their percentage to every bill.  While many patients get good care, it’s a system that favors the adminsitrators over the doctors and the doctors over the patients.  The people at the bottom of the healthcare pyramid in the US are the patients.  Obama left this system in place.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Friedman Wrong on Web People vs Wall People

I  don’t buy Tom Friedman's description  in today’s NYT of the dichotomy between web people (global Democrats) and wall people (nationalist Republicans).  The web people just live behind smaller, higher walls, e.g., in Silicon Valley (walled by high real estate prices) or Manhattan (an expensive island).  Or in Friedman’s case, in five-star hotels around the world, a favorite haunt of peripatetic billionaires.  Missionaries and aid workers do live in a world without walls, but that’s the exception.  Web people work hard so that they can have their own walls.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dissent Channel State Department Memo on Syria

The New York Times has the text of the dissent channel memo regarding Syria, although it is displayed in somewhat unusual format.  Here is a link to the text:

The Washington Post also has a story about the memo.

I do not agree with the dissenters.  I don't think Assad will leave unless he is physically pushed out, either by the US, the rebels, or his subordinates.  If he is pushed out, there is no guarantee that whoever replaces him will be any better.  I think it is unlikely that moderate rebels will replace him, although ISIL's defeat in Fallujah is encouraging. Our failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya do not bode well for success in Syria.  The fact that it is a civil war characterized by sectarian hatred makes the conflict even more intractable.  I understand the outrage and concern about the humanitarian disaster that the war has created, leading to the mass migration of refugees to Europe, but I don't think that more military action in Syria will improve that.  We might be able to set aside some refugee areas within Syria that are no fire zones, and that could be supported by aid agencies, but that's about it.  We can't settle this conflict unless most of the parties want us to.  

The text of the memo from the NYT follows

                                          - 2 -

moderate rebel groups’ role in defeating Da’esh, and help bring an end to the

broader instability the conflict generates.

3. (SBU) Initiating targeted military strikes in response to egregious regime

violations of the CoH would raise the cost for the regime and bolster the prospects

for a real ceasefire -- without cities being bombed and humanitarian convoys

blocked -- and lead to a more serious diplomatic process, led by the United States. 

A reinvigorated CoH would help the political process to mature as we press for the

formation of a transitional government body with full executive powers that can

start to rebuild Syria and Syrian society, with significant assistance from the

international community.  With the repeated diplomatic setbacks of the past five

years, together with the Russian and Iranian governments’ cynical and

destabilizing deployment of significant military power to bolster the Asad regime,

we believe that
the foundations are not currently in place for an enduring

ceasefire and consequential negotiations

4. (SBU) With over 400,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands still at risk from

regime sieges, and 12 million people from a population of 23 million displaced

from their homes, we believe the moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths

and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable. 

The regime’s actions directly result in broader instability and undermine the

international system responsible for protection of civilians, prevention of mass

atrocities, and accountability for grave violations.  The strategic imperatives for

taking steps to end the bloodshed are numerous and equally compelling.

5. (SBU) First, with the regime deploying tactics that overwhelmingly target

civilians (barrel bombs and air strikes in cities) to achieve battlefield objectives

and undermine support for the moderate opposition, impeding or ending such

atrocities will not only save lives but further our political objectives. While the

regime maintains the advantage, an undeterred Asad will resist compromises

sought by almost all opposition factions and regional actors. Shifting the tide of the

conflict against the regime will increase the chances for peace by sending a clear

signal to the regime and its backers that there will not be a military solution to the


6. (SBU) Secondly, a more assertive U.S. role to protect and preserve opposition-

held communities, by defending them from Asad’s air force and artillery, presents

the best chance for defeating Da’esh in Syria.  The prospects for rolling back

Da’esh’s hold on territory are bleak without the Sunni Arabs, who the regime
continues to bomb and starve.  A de facto alliance with the regime against Da’esh

                          SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

                          SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

                                          - 3 -

would not guarantee success: Asad’s military is undermanned and exhausted.

Kurdish YPG fighters cannot -- and should not -- be expected to project power and

hold terrain deep into non-Kurdish areas.  And, crucially, Syria’s Sunni population

continues to view the Asad regime as the primary enemy in the conflict.  If we are

to remain committed to countering Da’esh in the Levant without committing

ground forces, the best option is to protect and empower the moderate Syrian

opposition.  Tolerating the Asad regime’s continued gross human rights violations

against the Syrian people undermines, both morally and materially, the unity of the

anti-Da’esh coalition, particularly among Sunni Arab partners.  Failure to stem

Asad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as

Da’esh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield.  As brutal as

Da’esh is, it is the Asad regime that is responsible for the vast majority of the

hundreds of thousands of victims in this conflict.    

7. (SBU) Third, putting additional constraints on the regime’s ability to bomb and

shell both fighting forces and unambiguously civilian targets would have a direct,

mitigating impact on the refugee and IDP crisis.  This crisis has deeply affected

Syria’s neighbors for years and is now impacting our European partners in far-

reaching ways that may ultimately jeopardize their very character as open, unified,

and democratic societies.  Even in the United States, the crisis in Syria has lent

credence to prejudiced ideologies that we thought had been discredited years ago. 

Furthermore, the calm that would ensue after the regime’s warplanes are grounded

would lessen the importance of armed actors, strengthen civil society throughout

the country, and open the space for increased dialogue among communities. 

8. (SBU) Perhaps most critically,
a more muscular military posture under U.S.

leadership would underpin and propel a new and reinvigorated diplomatic

.  Despite the dedication and best efforts of those involved, current CoH

and related diplomatic processes are disjointed and largely tactical in nature. 

Instead, a singularly focused and disciplined diplomatic effort -- modeled on the

process established for the Iran negotiations strategy led by the Secretary and

former Under Secretary Sherman and with full White House backing -- should be

adopted to (i) ensure regime compliance with the CoH (or a similar ceasefire

mechanism) and prevent civilian casualties, and (ii) advance talks involving

internal and external actors, to include the Iranians and the Saudis, to produce a

transitional government.  

9. (SBU) U.S. military power would serve to promote regime compliance with the

CoH, and in so doing save lives and alter battlefield dynamics.  The May 17 ISSG

declaration states, “Where the co-chairs believe that a party to the cessation of

                          SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

                          SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

                                          - 4 -

hostilities has engaged in a pattern of persistent non-compliance, the Task Force

could refer such behavior to the ISSG Ministers or those designated by the

to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such

parties from the arrangements of the cessation and the protection it affords

.”  Making clear our willingness to impose consequences on the Asad regime

would increase U.S. negotiating leverage with regard to all parties, rally partners

around U.S. leadership, and raise the costs for others to continue obstructing a

sustainable end to the conflict.  We are not advocating for a slippery slope that

ends in a military confrontation with Russia; rather, we are calling for the credible

threat of targeted U.S. military responses to regime violations to preserve the CoH

and the political track, which we worked so hard to build.  

10. (SBU) We recognize that military action is not a panacea, and that the Asad

regime might prove resilient even in the face of U.S. strikes.  We further recognize

that the risk of further deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations is significant and that

military steps to stop the Asad regime’s relentless bombardment of the Syrian

people may yield a number of second-order effects.  Nonetheless, it is also clear

the status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not

disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic, and terrorism-related challenges
.  For

five years, the scale of these consequences has overwhelmed our efforts to deal

with this conflict; the United States cannot contain the conflict with the current

policy.  In this regard, we firmly believe
it is time the United States, guided by

our strategic interests and moral convictions, lead a global effort to put an end

to this conflict once and for all

                          SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

Friday, June 10, 2016

Obama, Modi and MTCR

Indian Prime Minister Modi has made membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which I helped create, an issue in his meeting with Obama.  While the MTCR has gotten some Indian press play, it has not been an issue in the US press.  According to the Indian press, Obama supports Indian membership in both the MTCR and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).  Inida is not an ideal candidate for either group, since it maintains a nuclear weapons program.  I do not approve of the Bush II administration's decision to give India's nuclear weapons program a pass, rather than require India to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as I said in commenting that Trump's proposal to allow Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons was not as bad as Bush's allowing India to have nuclear weapons.

Bush's decision and Obama's support for India are understandable in the global power context.  India, which used to be a Russian satellite, is now a rival to China.  We want to strengthen India as a counter to China's power, which is more threatening to the US.  Nevertheless, I am not convinced that this is the best way to do it.  India's argument is that it is a late-blooming nuclear power, and therefore should be treated like the older nuclear powers, the US, UK, Russia, etc., which have separate provisions in the NPT allowing them to keep their weapons.  I think this undermines the whole non-proliferation regime.  If we do this for India, once North Korea has a full fledged nuclear program, why shouldn't it be granted NPT nuclear status, just as India has?

This article from the Indian Express is a pretty good summary of where things stand.

Here are some other recent articles about the MTCR:

Bob Kerrey - War Criminal with a Medal of Honor

I believe that Roger Cohen intended his New York Times column on Bob Kerrey to be somewhat complementary of Kerrey as a man trying to make amends for his involvement in a wartime atrocity.  However, the impression it made on me was of his hatred for military veterans in general, and Vietnam veterans in particular.  In Cohen’s column Kerrey comes across as one of the most evil, depraved men on the face of the earth.  Nowhere does he mention that Kerrey was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The implication is that America awarded the medal to a vile monster, making America a vile, monstrous country.  Cohen’s hatred of America drips like venom from his column. 

I presume that while visiting Vietnam recently, Cohen and Kerrey had a deep, dark heart-to-heart discussion about the incident in which Kerrey’s Seal unit killed a number of women and children.  Cohen does not mention that one reason this happened was because the Vietcong hid among women and children to protect themselves.  The VC have no remorse for pushing women and children into the line of fire by hiding in their villages and homes.  Cohen sees the Vietcong freedom fighters as wonderful exemplars of the nobility of mankind. 

What particularly incensed me was Cohen’s last paragraph comparing Mohammad Ali’s resistance to the Vietnam War to Kerrey’s participation in it.  Cohen’s view is that Ali was the better of the two.  Ali beat people up for a living, often hurting his opponents, but he did it for lots of money.  Kerrey fought for his country; he made much less money as a Seal than Ali did as a boxer, but Cohen sees hurting people for money as a good thing, while killing people for your country is monstrously evil.  For Cohen, Ali made the world a better place, but it would have been better of Kerrey had never been born. 

As a Vietnam veteran I am so outraged, I can hardly write this.  But Cohen is where the the rest of the world is.  People who fought in Vietnam because they were drafted (as Ali almost was) or because they thought they were patriotic, were fools.  Their country will forever hate and revile them, with Cohen in the forefront of the haters.  

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Cruz Is A Loser

If Ted Cruz is the best candidate the Republican Party can come up with, it is a failure as a political party.  Cruz represents a narrow base of very conservative, very religious, uneducated or intellectually uninterested voters.  In an interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR, Cruz said that scientific evidence does not support global warming.  He would not directly answer the question of whether evolution is scientific fact.  A PBS summary said that he would mandate a balanced budget. Paul Krugman reported that Cruz wants to return to the gold standard, adding, “there’s no sign in current asset prices that investors see a significant chance of the catastrophe that would follow a return to gold.”  Cruz would repeal ObamaCare.  He would move toward a flat tax and abolish the IRS. 

Cruz must be a smart man.  He graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law.  He clerked for the Supreme Court.  How can he cling to ideas that are so out of touch with reality.  Apparently he uses his brilliant intellect to defend indefensible positions.  His arguments ring hollow to many, but his devotees accept them.  This is true of many Republicans.  Wisconsin looks like an intelligent state, but it has elected Scott Walker as governor and Paul Ryan as a congressman, despite the fact that they adhere to many of the non-fact-based ideas that Cruz espouses.  As Speaker, Paul Ryan is considered somewhat of a moderate, although his ideas are well out on the political fringe compared to Republican ideas for the last hundred years. 

While Cruz is terrible, my poster child for what’s wrong with the Republican Party is Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader.  I see his policies in the Senate as unabashed hatred of the United States.  If the government won’t do what he wants it to do, he will tie it up and choke it to death, by cutting of funding, blocking appointments, blocking legislation, etc.  He throws sand into the gears of government so that it cannot operate.  But the United States cannot exist without some government.  One of the main results of his intransigence has been the prolonged slow growth of the economy.  If we could have funded some infrastructure projects, we could have created jobs much faster than we did.  As it is, we are approaching full employment, but American infrastructure is deteriorating badly.  Mitch McConnell doesn’t care if your bridge falls down, your passenger train goes off the tracks, or your flight runs into another one on the ground because of inability to monitor taxiways.  He would fund some things, like the military, particularly military hardware, but not if it means funding things like education or pollution control. 

The Republican Party had a chance to bring itself into the 21st century this election, but chose not to.  As it did four years ago, it had public debates that included a number of total losers with no qualifications to be President.  If they don’t like Donald Trump, they have no one to blame but themselves.  The idea that in order to stop Trump they have crowned Cruz as the man who represents the very best of the Republican Party is moronic.  Everybody knows that his fellow Senators hate him.  Like McConnell he is ready to destroy the government if he doesn’t get his way.  If American schools insist on teaching evolution, he may abolish public schools.  Every child will be on his own to learn wherever he can. 

Compared to Cruz, Mitt Romney looks like a liberal philosopher and a master politician.  How can there be no competent CEOs (that leaves out Carly Fiorina) who are willing to be President?  This is essentially how Donald Trump puts himself forward.  Republicans have been less inclined to talk about his management skills than his personality, which they hate.  The country could use a good manager; if they don’t like Trump, find one.  It’s not Cruz or Kasich. 

One problem is that the President’s salary is a pittance compared to what CEOs make.  But thay also have no interest in governing, like Mitch McConnell.  They are motivated solely by avarice and greed, and violate either the letter or spirit of every law they can to enrich themselves without going to jail.  If America were destroyed by a nuclear war, J.P. Morgan’s Jamie Dimon would be on a plane leaving the country before the bombs hit, and would set up shop in London or Hong Kong, making money off of the war and never shedding a tear for the millions of Americans who died.  He and his follow CEOs represent the nadir of humanity, the darkest depths to which mankind has sunk in the 21st century.  There are no Republican leaders to be found there. 

In the old days, the military often was a source of national leaders, but after Vietnam, the military has fallen into such disrepute that it cannot attract high caliber people to its ranks.  No one who graduated from Harvard or Stanford would think of making a career in the military.  The military has some good people, but they are not of the first quality. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Trump on Nuclear Proliferation

Everybody is making fun of Donald Trump for suggesting that perhaps Japan and South Korea should be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons to defend themselves from North Korea.  Most of this criticism is just more ignorance.  Obama is not ignorant, but he has to campaign for Hillary, and so he just allows himself to look stupid in order to defend her. 

George W. Bush has already done something much worse than what Trump has proposed.  In 2005 the US signed an agreement with India that allowed India to develop its own nuclear weapons, despite a history of decades of international pressure on India not to do so.  The US agreed to accept Indian nuclear weapons despite its proximity to Pakistan and China, both of which it has fought wars with in recent history.  Pakistan is as unstable and dangerous a nuclear neighbor as North Korea, and Pakistan has many more nuclear weapons.  Japan is certainly more reliable as an ally than India, and South Korea probably is, too.  In addition, the US undoubtedly knows that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, which it openly accepts.  Of course Israel denies it has them, but this denial is universally regarded as a lie, or at best a thinly veiled fiction.  The US accepts Israel’s nuclear weapons because of the enormous political influence of Jews in America, particularly the AIPAC lobby.  Japan certainly has a more reliable, responsible, stable government than Israel.  I don’t think any leader of Japan has publicly humiliated the President of the United States as Netanyahu did to Obama. 

Under the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement negotiated by Bush, which could be a model for the arrangements proposed by Trump, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place its civil facilities under IAEA safeguards.  The US had to pass a new law in 2008 to allow nuclear cooperation with a state that had nuclear weapons and was not one of the five existing nuclear states recognized when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968.  Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who negotiated the India agreement, should speak out in favor of Trump’s proposal.  According to Wikipedia, opponents of the India deal argued that “it gave India too much leeway in determining which facilities were to be safeguarded and that it effectively rewarded India for continuously refusing to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”   One of the arguments for the deal is that it will enable India to build up its nuclear arsenal so that it will be better able to fight a nuclear war with China.  This argument would clearly apply to any other nation that is threatened by a nuclear neighbor, including Japan and South Korea. 

Both Japan and South Korea are signatories of the NPT and have been much more responsible states in the nuclear field than India.  Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that negotiations with Japan and South Korea on this issue would be much more favorable to the US, the non-proliferation regime, and international peace and stability than the US-India agreement negotiated by Bush.  Trump is more responsible on the nuclear non-proliferation issue than Bush was. 

I do not favor giving Japan and South Korea nuclear arms.  I think the current arrangement is better for world peace and stability.  The commentariat’s condemnation of Trump’s idea without mentioning Bush’s negotiation of the India deal and the US Congress’ approval of it illustrates their same lack of understanding of the nuclear arms race that they accuse Trump of.  Trump’s idea is not ridiculous; it builds on the work of previous Republican administrations.  

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Trump on Abortion

Trump’s statements on abortion have helped me see the irrationality of those who want to make abortion illegal.  First, abortion is a bad thing.  It’s not something that anyone should do, and certainly should not do lightly.  In most cases, I don’t think is something that a woman wants to do; it’s something that she feels forced to do by some situation.  If she is a young woman just starting her own life, a baby may end her chances of improving herself by finishing school, or working hard at her first job.  An older woman may feel that she is not able to cope with a baby at this later stage of her life.  A woman may be married to a man who abuses her and does not want a child to grow up in that atmosphere.  There are any number of reasons. 

In any case, it is the woman who decides to end the pregnancy.  A doctor does not just pull women off the street randomly and force abortions on the ones who are pregnant.  Trump correctly stated that the woman is at least partly responsible for the abortion.  She is morally guilty, if not legally guilty. Chris Matthews failed to discuss the moral issue with Trump because he is so messed up by his Catholic church’s teaching on the issue, as Trump pointed out.  Chris Matthews has basically cursed his church, his God, in his heart by breaking with it on the abortion issue.  He is morally damaged goods, which is part of the reason his interview was so bad. 

But the fact that the woman is morally guilty does not mean that she is legally guilty.  This to some extent explains Trump’s “clarification” that the law should continue to stand as it does.  He’s saying that although the woman may be morally guilty, I don’t want her to be legally guilty, which is the current position of the law.  Two pieces on the New York Times op-ed page defend the position that if you find abortion to be morally wrong, then you should find the woman complicit in the abortion.  One reason to exempt women is probably the one pro-lifers use, that they love the woman who is under great stress.  It is also likely that it is just a carryover from the old days when abortion was illegal.  The charlatans who performed the illegal abortions often killed or injured the women who came to them, and thus they were properly punished for the injury they did and if nothing else, for practicing medicine without a license.  When licensed doctors were penalized it might be because they were caught up in laws mainly meant to punished unlicensed practitioners. 

The two op-eds are Gail Collins’ “Trump, Truth and Abortion” and Katha Politt’s “Abortion andPunishment.”  Both point out the illogic of the pro-life stance that only the doctor and not the woman should be punished for a illegal abortion.  Of course, if the abortion is not illegal, then nobody should be punished, neither the doctor nor the woman.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Apple Is Evil

I have been a fan of Apple products, but I am put off by Apple’s decision to side with the terrorists in San Bernardino.  I don’t believe that American citizens have an absolute right to privacy.  If this were the case, the Fourth Amendment would not allow any searches and seizures; instead it allows them upon proof of probable cause.  It is odd that people who claim an absolute right to privacy in their smart phones post all kinds of personal information publicly on the internet.  Facebook is a screaming argument that Apple’s arguments against breaking encryption are baseless.  Apple’s performance in the San Bernardino case make it complicit in murder, an accessory after the fact, or some such bit player, but nevertheless an evil participant. 

Apple has lost its moral compass.  It has been questionable whether Apple can survive without Steve Jobs.  It will probably survive for a number of years as a cellphone and PC maker, but it has lost its inspiration, its leadership, its guiding light, its genius, its soul. 

We find Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin on the side of terrorism and death.  They have no love for America, which provided them the possibility to create the corporations that they run.  They got what they wanted, and the rest of America can die screaming in agony for all they care.  Silicon Valley has no heart; it’s all about the money, power, and privilege.  Google has learned to be evil.  Surprisingly, Microsoft’s Bill Gates has been relatively circumspect on the issue.  I don’t know about the faceless drones who have replaced him. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hillary and Libya

The thrust of this Foreign Policy article is that Hillary and Obama at some point decided to use the Libyan intervention to bring about “regime change” and get rid of Qaddafi.  The article argues that the Libyan mission began as a humanitarian attempt to save the people of Benghazi from Qaddafi’s attacks, but without publicly saying so to the public, it became an effort to remove Qaddafi.  Whatever the administration’s stated purpose, its decision led to the assassination of Qaddafi in an ugly, disorderly way. 

Obama has admitted in his Atlantic magazine interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that the Libyan operation was not handled well.  Goldberg writes:

But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster….

“So we actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion—which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess.”

From these accounts, it appears that Hillary’s mistake in Libya was not her reaction to the rebel attack on the US Embassy and CIA facility in Benghazi, but rather her failed strategic leadership in the whole Libyan fiasco.  Somebody, ideally Hillary, should have said at the very beginning, “This is not going to work.”  There were no government institutions to take over after Qaddafi, and the Libyan people were riven by tribal loyalties.  To maintain himself in power, Qaddafi had tried to keep any challenging group from consolidating power, and he had succeeded. 

Perhaps events undercut the Foreign Policy article’s thesis that at some point the administration made a conscious decision to change the mission to protect population into a mission to remove Qaddafi.  Perhaps if there had been such a definite decision, the dangers of that new course of action to kill Qaddafi would have been weighed more carefully.  Was the failure of the Libyan intervention due to a poor decision or to the failure to make a decision, just to go with the flow after the operation started?  In any case, Hillary bears significant blame. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Encryption and the Fourth Amendment

Apple should be willing to help the US government access information on the iPhones of terrorists and other criminals.  I do not think that anyone living under a democratic government has an absolute right to inviolable privacy.  If someone’s home is subject to a search warrant issued by a proper judicial process, his other possessions should also be subject to search when properly approved.  Apple refuses toallow any search and seizure, even when there is probable cause as determined by a court of law.  While the Fourth Amendment is explicitly a protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the implication is that the government should be allowed to carry out searches and seizures when there is probable cause. 

I think that some of the technical objections to  requiring breakable encryption on private phones could be overcome by requiring that decrypting the information could be done only by physically connecting to the phone.  This could mean that some sophisticated decryption device would have to be connected to an iPhone through a lightning cable, for example.  There might be some difficulty enforcing this physical requirement, but smart people should be able to do it.  It would mean that your phone could not be hacked from China or Russia, or even by American law enforcement while you are walking down the street with it.  Presumably experts could set up the connection protocol so that the phone would sense whether the decryption device was directly connected to the phone, and not connected through the Internet or iTunes. 

As things currently stand, I think that Apple should help the FBI access the data on the terrorists’ iPhone.  Software updates could come later, as well as hardware updates on new versions of smart phones. 

My view includes the requirement that encryption software such as texting apps also should be breakable in some way.  Other countries and the military will be able to create unbreakable communication software, but we could make it illegal to use in the US.  This is not unlike a restriction on assault weapons.  I don’t think that everyone needs to have an AR-15, although that is not currently the law in the US.  Even though arms dealers can physically sell AR-15s to anyone, I think there should be restrictions on their right to do so.  Similarly, the military and diplomatic services should have encryption that is unbreakable, but private individuals do not need it.  The ability to do search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution is more important than individual privacy.  National security justifies the use of unbreakable encryption; personal privacy does not.    

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

New York Times Omits Bernard Henri Levy's Role in Libya

The NYT's excellent articles (Part I and Part 2) about Hillary Clinton's role in the Libya disaster after getting rid of Qaddafi, omit the role of French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy in creating the mess, examined in this France 24 article.  The NYT articles talk about how the Europeans, particularly the French and British promised to take the lead in Libya, and even to go ahead there without the US, but it does not look at the role played by Levy in getting the French government to play such a leading role.

Levy clearly saw this intervention as benefiting Israel, but whether he convinced Israel or whether Israel convinced him is not clear to me.  The fact that an Arab Muslim country has fallen into civil war or anarchy probably benefits Israel, although the fact that Libya has increasingly become a base for ISIS operations probably does not.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Westward Expansion as Safety Net

Everybody makes big deal of diversity in US.  It is an accident of history.  Unlike Europe, which has been settled for millennia, America was virtually empty when it was discovered by Columbus in 1492.  The Indians were hunter-gatherers who had created only a few cities or towns in North America, mostly in the Southwest, although they had created grander ones in Central and South America.  In North America there was relatively little resistance to the westward expansion of Europeans across the continent.  There was never much threat from Indians against European-built cities after the first hundred years or so.  As the Indians were driven westward, the war against them moved westward to protect the settlers as they moved in. 

The westward expansion essentially created free land for those who were will to claim it and fight for it.  This became the social and economic safety net for Europeans who could not make it on the more civilized east coast.  If you couldn’t make it in Boston or Charleston, you could set out for Indiana or Alabama, and eventually Kansas, Texas, or California.  Life was hard, but it was possible to get out of the oppressive slums in the east coast cities where immigrants first arrived.  Today, if you are stuck in a slum, there is no wild West to go to.  Three is no more free land, although people like Cliven Bundy claim that there should be.  As a result, it is harder for people trapped in slums to get out. 

Another mass migration that took place later was the movement of blacks from the deep South, where they had lived since slavery, to the industrial north, where low skilled jobs with good pay were available, particularly in the car industry in Detroit.  These jobs became the security safety net for struggling poor people in the South. 

When the Great Depression hit, however, the geographic safety net had largely disappeared.  There was no golden region of the country to which people could flee for a better life.  It was only then, under FDR, that the government moved in to provide its own safety net in the form of the CCC, WPA, TVA, Social Security and other government programs.  These programs became necessary because by 1930, the formerly empty United States had filled up with people. 

Prior to this there had been few restraints on immigration, because people saw it as positive to make use of empty land by farming, ranching, mining or manufacturing.  During this open immigration period, most of the immigrants came from Europe, mainly from western and northern Europe.  Thus it was not surprising when prejudice grew up against immigrants from Ireland and Italy by settlers of English and northern European extraction, for example.  The descendants brought some of their old-country hostilities with them.  Irish-English animosities were alive and well in Boston and Belfast well into the 1990s. 

The idea that the United States has always been a land welcoming any immigrants from anywhere is largely fiction.  Blacks arrived as slaves.  The Chinese were discriminated against for years, as were southern Europeans.  Even immigrants like the Germans and Poles, largely went west to more open places like Michigan and Minnesota, finding the already crowded east coast somewhat hostile to them.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Apple Opposes FBI for Commercial Reasons

The Guardian reported that the FBI responded to Apple’s refusal to help it break into the San Bernardino terrorist’s phone by accusing Apple of using the case for financial and commercial benefit.  The article said:
The FBI accused Apple of prioritizing its public relations strategy over a terrorism investigation on Friday in a significant escalation of this week’s war between the tech company and the law enforcement agency.

The accusation, made in a court filing demanding Apple comply with an order to unlock an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino terrorists, represents a nadir in the relationship between two opponents that previously extended each other public respect.
“Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order, despite the technical feasibility of doing so, instead appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in the Friday filing.