Posts tagged ‘Russia’

California Dreaming

It’s a good day to be alive.”

Good morning from Monterey.  Yes, we escaped down the coast for a couple of days to enjoy the ocean, some good food, the Aquarium, walks along the rocks, to get away from it all.  You know, getting out into nature, see the bounty of the ocean, and then go eat some of them.  We humans are interesting creatures. But the world keeps crashing back in as the next episode of As the Trump World Turns brings a new astounding revelation and every day is a new twitst in the World of Village Idiot in Chief.  David Brooks, a conservative columnist from the NYT gave us this yesterday:

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

That’s kind of how I think about pundits trying to analyze him or put some strategic meaning into his follies.  He is simply a village idiot thrashing about.  A very dangerous village idiot.  One has to marvel at the White House’s latest denial of the “alleged” memo from ex-Director Comey about the Village Idiot in Chief’s (VIIC) asking for Comey to back off on the Flynn investigation.  Really?  Alleged?  This is how you do “business” in the business world.  Wink, wink, nod, nod.  Some people are just special.  But in government, where Comey has spent his career, you are always looking for snakes and documenting everything.  Of course the memo exists.

There is some expression among pundits feeling sorry for the communications staff.  I find that rather naïve.  Do you remember the editorials back in November and December by Republicans who told people that they should go to work for the Trump Administration because he will need help?  I laughed then because it was getting on a train heading for a train wreck.  Sean Spicer had to know on day one when he was asked to go out and lie about crowd size.  From day one on, if you had not figured out who the man was, you knew then, and that was the time to walk away.  What we see know is the rationalization of moral/ethical principles down the drain.

Oh, and one last thing, which I find hysterically funny. The VIIC’s best friend Vlad, is offering to provide transcripts of their meeting last week to help out VIIC.  We are depending on Russia to provide a true accounting of what happened?  They probably do have better transcripts than the VIIC because of the multiple listening devices they left behind.  Okay, I hyperbolize, but really?  We can’t trust the White House to give us undoctored transcripts so we are turning to the Russkis?  Think about where we are at, and then consider that some Republicans are simply troubled as opposed to hair on fire, let’s get on with a full investigation.

Here is what I can’t figure out.  The sooner they impeach him, the sooner they will have Pence (I got come up with a nickname for him) to actually pursue the “Republican agenda”.  So why not get it over with?  One thought is the investigation might raise the whole issue of the legitimacy of the entire election including Mike Pence.  The other is that when they do have clear sailing, I am not sure anything will happen because they are fighting among themselves.  See healthcare reform as Exhibit A.

So just another day in what Red American brought us.  You think next time those who didn’t vote, who idealistically voted third party, or voted for a village idiot to shake up the system will think twice.  Maybe, if we have a next time.

Reality Dawns

I wonder how Tumpets are dealing with Cheeto-Heads about faces? Guess what?  Healthcare is complicated. Cuts in Medicare. Wow. Maybe we don’t need to cancel all those trade agreements, but adjust them a bit. He was going to drain the swamp and then filled his cabinet with Wall Street cajillionairs.  The wall is going to be really big, but is out of the budget picture for anytime in the near future.  Then came the isolationist’s attack on Syria. That divided the flock for sure. But guess what?  There was blow back.  Russia, his great friend who he admires, he now believes knew in advance of the chemical attack.  Putin is now pouting.  A base in Syria which Americans were stationed at was then attacked possibly by emboldened ISIS warriors.

Now comes the evil Chinese who he blamed for everything and he needs them:

Mr. Trump said he told his Chinese counterpart he believed Beijing could easily take care of the North Korea threat. Mr. Xi then explained the history of China and Korea, Mr. Trump said. ‘After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,’ Mr. Trump recounted.” (Vox)

Then comes his backtracking on the evil China who was manipulating currency which he ran on vilifying them for and was a proven lie.  Well, his promise was to put them on the currency manipulator list and confront President Xi.  Well now he admits the truth, China is not a currency manipulator (and hasn’t been for years).  And now he has come to the realization that the dollar is too strong (Republicans tout a strong dollar).  It hurts our exports, but keeps prices low here (imports) and discourages tourism from around the world.  If you care about jobs, you want a less strong dollar. He finally got it.

Now comes his revelation that NATO “is not obsolete”.  What? Why the change?  Because he is finding out about the limits of power without engaging our allies.  Are Trumpets turning over in their graves (that would be their mental graves because they buried their ability for rational reasoned thought years ago).

So what is next, global warming?  I hope so.  On the foreign front reality is dawning,  Could it happen on the domestic front?  When implementing Republican ideas for creating jobs and they fail miserably, could there be change there too?  Let’s not get too hopeful as his incompetent cabinet is out there with a bulldozer.  Sessions wants to spend valuble prosecution resources on minor immigration infractions.  Forget the smugglers and major crimes, let’s get those immigrants who actually help our economy.  Meanwhile Betsy DeVos just cancelled rules to keep the institutions that manage education loans from upping their profits and screwing kids.  Meanwhile all the tax cuts and cut in regulations are not going to create jobs and will hurt the very people who voted for him.

Now we have three of Cheeto-Head’s campaign officials called out as agents of foreign governments (Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn).  Do we not think there is a story here?  Cheeto-Head gets all of this wrong because he was surrounded by these folks who told him , NATO not Obsoletewhat he wanted to hear.  Russians joked that Carter Page was an idiot while he had no idea he was becoming an agent of a foreign country.  One has to wonder if Cheeto-Head is in the same boat.  Eventually we will know.

So what do we have? Incoherence and chaos based upon ignorance of the world.  We all knew the stuff he is stumbling on, but we are elites and read those left wing liberal papers that don’t bend the truth.  Can he come around enough? No.  We are just seeing the glimmers of the obvious and because the bar is so low, we are hopeful and don’t see the damage he is causing.  Said another way, there is too much china in the China shop and the bull is loose.  It is not going to be pretty.

Wednesday

So many things out there this morning.  I think we have about beat the Syria attack to death.  At this point we have no idea what comes next, what our policy is, and did this make any sense at all.  It certainly felt good lashing out, but did it really do anything other than provide missile firing footage for the 10 o’clock news?  Of course Chetto-Heads son, Eric, claim that it proved his Dad did not collude with the Russians.  I think after looking at the evidence of who knew what when and how little real damage we did, you could argue just the oppositie with the same lack of evidence, that Cheeto-Head plan this with the Russians to help his numbers and distract back home.  I hope Eric isn’t put in charge of anything important with those critical thinking skills.

I guess I could comment on the Sean Spicer Hitler thing, but he is who he is, has to explain the unexplainable, so misrepresenting history and reality is his job.  To his credit and rare in Cheeto-head circles, he actually admitted he was wrong and apologized.  I think that should end it.  Nancy Pelosi’s call for his firing is rather stupid.  It makes Democrats look shrill and stupid.  The stupid part is do you really want a more effective propaganda minister to replace Sean?  Time for Nancy to move along.

There is the over sold United Airlines flight and dragging the poor guy off the plan.  What is there to say.  Flying except for Southwest, has become an exercise in frustration and discomfort.  There is a good article in the NYT about how we might use rating customer care to improve service in what is mostly a monopolistic industry, but get real, most of us are looking for the cheapest seats because we want a little left over to spend on the destination.  If we got some real competition like high speed rail, the world would really change.

There is Kansas voting Republican, but with much less a margin that before giving Democrats a hope.  I think the real story is that only 30% of Kansas voters voted.  Okay, special election and only one candidate, but really?  And maybe voting is getting like flying and we need to make it a whole lot simpler.  I still think it ought to be mandatory and invent an internet system that is secure and safe.  I pay my taxes on line, why can’t we vote on-line?

North Korea should give you pause.  Once again one has to ask, what’s the plan? We have our navy moving into the area, and what could be a push and shove match could get out of hand very quickly.  Certainly we have to decide what to do with Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but the blow back here could be catastrophic.  I worry we are acting reflexively again, instead of playing the long game.  She who must never be mentioned here thinks that is how Cheeto-Head got through his business life, with bluster and bluffing.  Well with a nut case like Kim, bluffing could turn nasty really quick. Note China just sent North Korean ships back to North Korea, not accepting their coal.  The stakes are rising.

Tillerson is in Russia today and we are waiting to see if Putin will snub him.  Putin is not going to change so I have no idea what we hope to gain unless we give up a lot.  He is partner to Assad; he is trying to retake Ukraine; he is all about disrupting European elections, not to mention our own, and like the Republicans in their eight years of obstructing government, it is working.  I can’t help wondering if this is all a kabuki dance.  Putin wants the sanctions lifted and some real theater here with no real changes could get Cheeto-Head to lift the sanctions and help their failing economy.

And that gets us back to the Russia in America.  The plot, while we are all being distracted with shiny missile blasts and ships heading to North Korea, thickens as we find out there was a FISA warrant on one of Cheeto-Head’s foreign policy advisors during the campaign.  The thing to note here is there has to either be a whole lot of smoke, or flames detected for a FISA warrant issued on an American citizen.  So there was a whole bunch of listening and so we have not seen anything yet.  Meanwhile Spain, at the request of the American Government, picked up one of the Russian hackers.  Will he spill his guts for a deal.  My guess is with all this going on, the Cheeto-Head administration is looking for a lot of shiny objects to distract us.  Letting Sean Spicer blab on is just the tip of the iceberg, and war is the big head turner.  How many days now has he been president?  Seen any jobs?

Speculation, Mine

I don’t think Trump will last six months.  I think he will be removed.  Of course Mike Pense is no brilliant light bulb himself, but the keys to the nukes will be safer.  I think we are headed for a giant head on crash with reality.  Even before the press conference his approval ratings were slipping badly except with the 30% who is his base.  Historians tell us that as long as we have had polls, a president does not fall in the polls during the transition.  The Donald is:

53 – 39 percent that he is not honest, compared to 52 – 42 percent November 22;

49 – 44 percent that he has good leadership skills, compared to 56 – 38 percent;

52 – 44 percent that he does not care about average Americans, compared to 51 – 45 percent who said he did care;

62 – 33 percent that he is not level-headed, compared to 57 – 38 percent;

71 – 25 percent that he is a strong person, compared to 74 – 23 percent;

68 – 27 percent that he is intelligent, compared to 74 – 21 percent.

American voters give President-elect Trump a negative 37 – 51 percent favorability rating, compared to a divided 44 – 46 percent favorability rating November 22. Vice President- elect Mike Pence gets a split 37 – 34 percent favorability rating. First Lady-in-Waiting Melania Trump gets a 29 – 22 percent favorability, with 43 percent who don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.

Donald Trump will take the nation in the right direction, 45 percent of American voters say, while 49 percent say he will take the nation in the wrong direction.

His policies will help their personal financial situation, 27 percent of voters say, while 27 percent say they will hurt and 42 percent say they will make no difference.

A total of 44 percent of voters are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that Trump will make things better for them and their family, while 53 percent are “not very confident” or “not confident at all.”

American voters disapprove 40 – 30 percent of the individuals Trump has nominated for his cabinet, with 28 percent who say they haven’t heard enough about them.

Trump’s election makes them feel “less safe,” 45 percent of voters say, while 27 percent say they feel “more safe” and 27 percent say they feel “just as safe.” 

Okay why did you elect him again?  And note all of this is before his press conference on Wednesday. Let’s see.  There are more questions about the legitimacy of the election with an inspector general looking into FBI Director Comey’s action during the election.  Meanwhile in a Congressional hearing they ask him if he will tell us about a newly revealed FBI investigation into Trump and his team’s possible connections to Russia and Comey replied that he could not comment on an on-going investigation.  Democrats noted the hypocrisy here. Apparently if it is Hillary Clinton it is okay.

Next we have both Trump and Kellyanne getting picked off lying about what the Intelligence Briefing did and did not include relevant to the two page unconfirmed summary of allegations of damaging information the Russians might have.  Apparently Clapper pulled Trump aside and explained to him that this is what was out there, but was totally unsubstantiated.  He also turns out that it was gathered by a respected intelligence agent although, again no confirmation.

Then we have the “Press Conference” where Trumps presidential turning the corner was on full display and now everyone is convinced there will be no turning the corner.  The nut job and pathological liar we saw on the campaign trail is exactly who we are going to get.  At least there was truth in advertising which our press media missed, but they are catching on fast after watching him decide which news medias he will talk to and which he would ostracize depending on whether he like the coverage.  And what we saw was a small vindictive dangerous autocrat. As one pundit said later, it is sad when if you are looking for the truth, it won’t be from the Trump Administration.

Then there was the wall, we will build it, and send them the bill later.  Makes perfect sense if you are a nitwit.  And of course it will bust the budget.  Wait, don’t forget Repeal and Replace, which he said would be almost simultaneous while the Republicans in Congress go about repealing Obamacare without a net (no replace).  Oh, they have plenty of options they haven’t settled on yet, BECAUSE NONE OF THEM WORK!  You have to have an individual mandate and tax the rich to afford the good stuff.  If they really want to replace it with something better, it would be a single payer plan.  Think that is where they are going?

There are more and more questions about the legitimacy of this president, his numbers are falling, and more and more we are seeing that he has no plan, his appointees are nutjobs, and the nation is waking up to the nightmare of Donald Trump.  No I don’t think he will last 6-months.

Aleppo

No I am not talking about Gary Johnson or any of the other idiots, and I used the word kindly, that think they can be President.  The only viable candidate is Hillary so get out and elect her with a pack of Democrats so we can end this Republican caused nightmare.  The inmates are running the asylum.

What I am talking about is the Russians and the one major failure of Barack Obama which could be disasterous.  His failure to recognize that line drawing was critical in the Middle East, and moving the line is probably what will embolden the Russians to further aggression.  Assad, who is a butcherer, with Russian air support, is massing troops on the outside of Aleppo for the final assault.  Read massacre.  We have been trying to negotiate with the Russians for a solution.  Like Obama trying to negotiate with the Republicans back in his first term, it took him a long, long time to figure out it was just a delaying tactic on their part.  Same here.

I am one who sees no upside to getting involved in a Middle East war.  But this isn’t just the Middle East, it is Russia’s perception of the West’s resolve to hold the line.  See Crimea and that is just the beginning. And what they have learned is we have none.  They see our careful slow deliberation weakness.  Where it is the real threat, further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, they may see the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable because they preceive that we won’t go there.  And I am sorry to say that American policy in Syria has reinforced that belief.  When we drew the red line and did nothing, while we got (we think) all the chemical weapons out of there, we sent a message that lines mean nothing.  And remember Assad then used choline gas and we did nothing. It is clear we won’t make the hard choice.

I hate to say this, but we have to take on the Russians in Syria and if the Europeans won’t follow us so be it.  It is just a matter of time before they cross another line (last week the Russians bombed a humanitarian relief convoy) and then we are forced to make a decision.  I say let’s do it now.  And on this one, although Hillary may soft pedal it in the month before the election, there is no doubt in my mind she gets this.  I think we have to stop Assad’s march into Aleppo and if that makes taking on the Russians, so be it.  Of course we are not going to do that, nor have we laid the ground work for bringing along the Congress or NATO, and that is a major failure in policy.  Barack Obama’s Achilles Heel has always been trying to see the good and avoiding violence.  Sometimes, that is just not possible. Putin, like the Republicans, have no good intentions.

UPDATE SUNDAY MORNING:  “The Russian raids struck at least five areas of the opposition-held half of the city, which is bracing for a ground assault by Shia forces allied to the Syrian regime. Syrian helicopters are believed to be responsible for the strike on the M10 hospital, which has left those who remain in the east with next to no access to essential healthcare.

Earlier in the week two other emergency centres and the only remaining maternity centre were bombed by jets, prompting a bitter response from US diplomats and vague claims that Washington was “reviewing options” about how to defuse a grave and deteriorating humanitarian crisis.”
And what will be next?  Time to take the Russians and Asssad out.

If Everyone has a Gun, Someone is Going to be Shot

It was in my mind just a matter of time until someone had a conflagration with Russia.  Ha! you thought I was going to talk about gun control in the U.S.  Well I will in a minute.  A Russian fighter jet was shot down today, allegedly flying over Turkish territory.  I wonder why you have to kill people to make a point?  It just complicates an already very complicated situation.  As an ex-back seater in a fighter my first thought was wondering if the crew got out.  Apparently they did to be murdered either while parachuting down or after they landed by Syrian rebels.  These are our pals.  Isn’t that a war crime?

First the gun thing.  No one will see it, but if you arm everyone in the Middle East, and that is exactly what we and others have done, there will be endless violence.  The hate and retribution just go on and on.  If everyone in the U.S. has a gun, we will at one point or another take a shot at someone.  So if guns don’t kill people, people do, should we ban people and leave the guns free to do what they want?

So with that sort of meandering intro, what should we do about the Middle East.  And the real question is what can be done?  In my perfect world, we would quit supplying them arms and let them sort it out.  But we have supplied them with arms and millions are leaving the area, while the religious fanatics are importing their violence to the civilized world.  So option one, the perfect world solution is out.

Now the first thing we have to do is sort through all the challenges.  Apparently Shiites and Sunnis cannot live together and share power.  Too much baggage and the natural proclivity to usurp your neighbor if he has more than you do.  In Iraq, that simply means the country has to be broken up and that will be no easy task since some parts have oil and other parts are poor.  And of course throw in the Kurds who seem to be able to handle modernity better than the rest of the cultures there.  Then we have the Turks afraid of a modern Kurdish nation that could cause trouble with the Turkish Kurds who might want to break away from Turkey.

Then you have all the power plays at the national level.  Iran wants a pal in a Sunni world so they have backed Assad who is a war criminal, but maybe the only game in town to fight ISIS.  The Saudis, who probably gave birth to all these religious fanatics, and are still a source of funding, are terrified of a strong Iran, yet do not want to become too embroiled in a war against radicals that could stir up unrest in Saudi Arabia.

Then you have ISIS, al-Qaeda, and throw in Pakistan, because without their tolerance of the rebels in their territories, they would cease to exist.  Oh, and Pakistan has nukes and we give them lots of money to not attack India.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, Russia, who wants to project power in the region so Putin can strut around the Moscow square.  Now I think I have it all.  Just remember that they are all swimming in guns and ammo so there is a lot of shooting going on.

I think I am going to have to make this a two-parter because there really is a lot to discuss.  Now we seem to be fine with most of the above until first al-Qaeda and then ISIS imported their violence out of the region, the latest being the Paris shootings.

And there is one other major challenge we seem to avoid like it was a pool of Ebola tainted blood, religion.  These are at the heart, religious wars, and dare I say it, Islamic radical fundamentalists wars.  We can’t seem to see that ISIS is a religion and is part of Islam, just as we can’t quite admit that the Christian religion has the same strains of tyrannical mono-theism at the root of the problem if we wanted to act crazy and intolerant like the radical Muslims are.  Well actually if you look at all the “good” Christians running for president on the Republican side, it is actually raising its ugly head again.

It is important to recognize all these issues because to solve it, if it can be solved, or at least create a way forward, is to recognize all the problems because then it becomes quite clear that simple-minded solutions are not going to work.  In that vein, Republican presidential candidates need not apply for solving anything.  Okay tomorrow, I will think/write out loud, giving all of the above, what one possible way forward might be.  The only other person to do this is Hillary and you might want to think about that America.  We can shoot ourselves in the foot again with Republican cowboy solutions, or we can see what is really possible with the least blow back and proceed accordingly.

Okay now I will see you tomorrow when I figure this thing out.

Monday, Not So Deep Thoughts

The storm is now being called the once in 1000 year storm in South Carolina.  I wonder if it has anything to do with God being angry because they agreed to lower the Confederate flag?  I wonder if any one is stopping to ask why now, unless we are altering our climate? Hmm.

Hillary has come out with a plan to try to regulate guns by bypassing Congress.  Now the both sides do it crowd may want to step back and see which side is unanimously against doing anything.  And the one thing we know, which is not opinion, but we know, is that fewer guns result in fewer incidents of gun violence.  The issue is how to get there.  That is where the opinions come in.

Russia really has the short-term advantage in Syria.  Their strategy is really quite simple, shore up Assad.  Our strategy is … ?  Well we want Assad to go, and we want to defeat ISIS who opposes Assad, and … ?  See the problem here? I know what the Russians end game is, I have no clue what ours is.

I saw where Matt Damon was under attack for saying the obvious.  If we don’t know an actor’s sexual proclivities, it is easier to suspend our disbelief in any role they might play.  Somehow that got translated into gay actors should stay in the closet.  I actually thought it meant that a person’s sexual choices really should be private and no one else’s business. Watching old Rock Hudson movies knowing now he is gay, makes it much harder to buy into the romance.  That is all he was saying.

I see where the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal has been reached.  Since we have basically already approved it, now maybe they will actually let us read it and see what we are in for.

Well, another Amtrak derailing.  What you expect on a system we refuse to invest in and runs on 50 year old technology.  Kind of a model for our entire infrastructure and the refusal by Republicans to invest in it.

Paul Krugman tells us this morning that Republicans have no energy plan but big oil, and hey, more coal.  Actually if you can tell me if Republicans have any plans except cut taxes, small government, less regulation, or said another way, keeping everything just the way it is, I will eat my hat.  That does not include fantasy plans like walls, mass deportation, or rescinding Obamacare without an alternative.

Finally, here in California, the Governor signed a bill approving brew bikes, which allows you to tour Sacramento breweries on a 15 person brew bike (and imbibe if local government allows) that is pedal propelled.  You know, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the suds.  Happy Monday.

Russia and Syria

If you want to be distracted from the terrorist take over of our Congress by people who want to blow up government, let’s turn to Syria.  We are all agitated by the Russians moving in.  Soon the Russians will own Syria! If only.  Anybody paying attention to what is happening in Afghanistan as the Taliban makes a giant comeback?  How much treasury and lives did we waste there?  Have we learned nothing?  Getting embroiled in the Middle East is a repeat of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.  Slap it and you are stuck to it.  And it is intractable.

The Russians may soon find themselves the new evil Satan in the eyes of most Sunnis.  And it is like they learned nothing (we sure didn’t) after their incursion into Afghanistan.  Here is how I read the situation there.  The Russians are supporting Assad and quite frankly Assad and his army are the only reliable fighting force against ISIS in the country.  The rest of the country is in total disarray, all hating Assad and his brutal suppression.  But sorting our who are democracy loving patriots and who are Muslim extremist is impossible. There is no reliable fighting force on the ground to either counter Assad or ISIS.  Given that reality, what is your choice of what to do?

One possible scenario is to team with the Russians, and hold your nose here, Assad, to counter ISIS, with the stipulation that after ISIS is forced out of the country, Assad steps down, but we maintain the government infrastructure to run the country, with an international force there to keep the peace and make all parties compromise.  That is what Thomas Friedman suggested this morning, more or less.  Isn’t that kind of what we did in Iraq, except keeping the government infrastructure thing?

Of course we would be siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis, but in our perpetual optimism, we can get them to all work together.  I doubt it, and I doubt that it would work, even if we could get a plan similar to the one above in place.  The other options are simply worse.  So when you decide to bash President Obama on his Syria policy, ask yourself again, do we really want to go there?  Are there really any good options?  The Middle East is a mess of their own making.  In the end only they can solve it.  In the meantime we want to staunch the refugee flow, and do something humanitarian to stop ISIS and the killing.  I have no idea what that should be because every choice has major blow back.

Cheered up yet?  Well back to the House of Representatives where the people who hate government and are living in the 19th century are being put in charge.  Hot digity!

UPDATE 0800:  I see where John McCain is going to weigh in and we should all sit on the edge of our chair.  John thinks we could have “won” the Vietnam war and most people today don’t even know what that was about.  Now I can give you a preview:  Bash the President for not picking the unpickable and getting involved on the ground. If we get to a way forward, which he may dodge because of all the above, he may go down the Lindsey Graham road, invade again.  Yikes.

UPDATE 0835: John McCain spoke and as predicted, bashed President Obama for not being tougher in the world.  What that means for going forward, is anybody’s guess.  What does get tougher mean except more military involvement?

The Fantasyland of Republicans – Foreign Affairs

Friday I finally broke down and tried to set the record straight on what Republicans claim President Obama did with the economy, and the actual facts (An Example of the Fantasyland Republicans Live In) indicate they are living in an alternate universe (The Shape We are In, Really).  So today, since our mainstream media just prefers to be ring masters rather than purveyors of the truth, I thought I would examine the present state of foreign affairs given the disaster Republicans describe and the reality of our choices.

Let’s keep this fairly simple and lump them into the Middle East (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan), China, and Russia.  Those appear to be our major challenges and let’s look at where we are and whether President Obama’s foreign policies have been a disaster as Republicans claim, or the result of really no good options.

Let’s start with the Middle East.  Jeb! Bush told us in the Republican debates that his brother kept us safe.  I guess he forgot about 9/11 and the 4000+ who died, or the CIA briefing prior to 9/11 warning of a terrorist attack with airplanes. It is that alternate reality thing.  Every challenge we face today in the Middle East is a direct result of our tragic decision to invade Iraq and upset the delicate balance between Sunnis and Shiites. Even Jeb! admits that we made some critical mistakes in “managing” Iraq.

The Middle East has always been a fairly brutal balance of Shiia and Sunnis.  We tore that balance asunder, and empowered Iran in Iraq when we remove their most diligent foe, Saddam Hussein.  There was no al Qaeda in Iraq until we created the chaos and void in Iraq by invading and horribly mismanaging that invasion.  Our decision to invade has been blamed on bad intelligence, but the Bush Administration managed the intelligence to get the answers they wanted.

Okay with a little history injected into reality, the first major claim by Republicans is that President Obama was too quick to withdraw from Iraq.  They forget George’s part in this and they forget that we don’t get to decide these things in a vacuum.  President Bush negotiated the withdrawal dates. This was a status of forces agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the United States, signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. combat forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011  So we left as per the agreement and were out December 16, 2011.  We might have stayed longer but immunity from prosecution for U.S. troops could not be obtained from the Iraqis.

So what choices did he, the President, have?  Staying without the SOFA would have put our troops at extreme risk and subject to the Iraqi political system.  Republicans would have gone bat shit.  Iraq is an independent country and to stay would have been an invasion.  Would staying maybe have helped?  More important was it even politically feasible?

How much longer were the American people going to prop up Iraq with our blood and treasury?  With the Republican’s love for balanced budgets, what would we not pay for in America so we could fight an endless war in Iraq?  Oh, and what happened to the $26 billion we spent to train and equip these Iraqis to fight their own battles.  I won’t get into the Sunni/Shite issues internally, but it is something we simply can’t solve.  The bottom line is there was no choice really. Stay forever and referee or let them decide their own destiny.

Iran is an interesting player here in that they are our best ally against ISIS and fighting with Iraq to defeat  them, but an ally of Assad of Syria.  They also support various terrorist groups against Israel. So along comes the Iran Nuclear Agreement and all Republicans are against it, and most would tear it up.  I have addressed this before (The Iran Treaty) but suffice to say there are no viable options.

Republicans say we just need to reinstate the sanctions and negotiate a better deal.  It is fantasy.  The other five countries that made the sanctions really effective are moving ahead with relations.  It would hurt us internationally as not honoring our agreements, question our ability to lead in the world, and shorten the time Iran has to a nuclear weapon.  The Republicans just hate Obama and don’t want him to have a win. But in playing politics and creating a fantasy solution, they are putting America at risk.

Syria is another total quagmire.  Assad is a brutal dictator and there was and is an internal revolt against him.  Republicans wanted us to pour weapons into the area (still do).  Remember who we gave weapons to to get the Russians out of Afghanistan,  Yeah, that would be the Taliban.  So blow back was the biggest consideration.  Those old unintended consequences of handing out weapons.

So who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?  Note also that ISIS is one of the best equipped terrorist groups in the world and most of their weapons are American.  Thank you Iraq.  To further complicate the issue is that the Russians have been supporting Assad and have a strong presence there.  Then there was the red line Assad crossed using chemical weapons, but in lieu of a bomb strike, he gave up his chemical weapons.  Now the Russians are building an airfield to support Assad who is fighting ISIS and other rebels.

So let’s look at the Republican criticism.  First is that we should have supported the rebels, but which ones?  Saying we knew or know who is who, and we could not be sure the weapons would just end up in the hands of ISIS. See how we trained Kurds in Turkey and then the Turks gave them up to ISIS.  So it was a total crap shoot as to what would be the least worst outcome.

Next was the red line language.  Should we have bombed Assad keeping our promise and showing how tough we are?  Maybe, but it would have involved conflict with the Russians and Assad agreed to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons (which he did), which was the issue in the first place.  Some (MCain and Graham) want us to  send in troops, but  to fight whom in this chaotic situation*?  Republicans would have you believe if we just talked tougher, none of this would have happened.

I am still waiting to hear what they would do now (Except for Linsey Graham who is clear we need to fight the war over there).  So lot’s of criticism, based mostly on an oversimplification of the complications and potential blowback, and then no specifics on what they would do going forward.  Do we really want to be involved in another Iraq and fight the Russians too?

Okay let’s move out of the Middle East and look at some of our other problems.  No matter what we do in the Middle East, it will be a mess and we will own it.  And keep in mind our invasion of Iraq started this whole unraveling.  So let’s talk about Russia.  Russia invades Crimea and if we would have rattled more sabres, they would have not done that according to the Republicans.  Is Crimea in our national interest and is it worth a ground war with Russia?  The same can be said about Ukraine.

So lets send in tons of weapons according to the Republicans.  Just how much blood do we want to be responsible for?  Could this escalate to involve more than just Ukraine and Crimea?  The option to this is to put sanctions on the Russians which we and the Europeans did.  And while Republicans again claim that if we had just been tougher with the Russians, they would not have dared do this, they ignore Russian nationalism as they beat their own nationalistic chests.

And of course the real issue is what do they offer as a way forward that our European partners will go along with?  Russia is facing major economic problems with the crash of oil prices and what they might do could be scary.  But let’s talk tough and maybe start another war in Europe.  It is not so simple is it? They seem to forget that NATO has to play.

Finally China. The Republican’s view of China is that somehow they have rigged the system against us and are taking advantage of us.  So we should use tariffs, bluster, and China bashing.  Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, suggests we cancel the planned visit to America by Xi Jinping, China’s leader. The Donald tells us that U.S. markets seem troubled because Mr. Obama has let China “dictate the agenda.”  We have no idea what that means. Maybe he is talking about China’s undervalued currency, that does not exist anymore.

Chris Christie tells us that the reason U.S. markets were roiled by events in China was U.S. budget deficits, which he claims have put us in debt to the Chinese and hence made us vulnerable to their troubles.  The trouble with that is we have been buying back our debt, Japan owns more of our debt than China, and no one can explain how that debt impacts our own markets since interest rates have stayed at almost zero.  The real issue that caused the markets to fall was the fear of falling demand in China that would impact the world economy.

As Paul Krugman points out, “‘Obama is endangering America by borrowing from China’ is a perfect political line, playing into deficit fetishism, xenophobia and the perennial claim that Democrats don’t stand up for America! America! America! It’s also complete nonsense, but that doesn’t seem to matter.’  The reality is that China is trying to keep its economy strong and a strong Chinese economy makes our economy strong.  We should be wishing for their success, not trying to create a Chinese Cold War.

So when you look at the world and our choices, real choices, it is really not so simple and President Obama has tried to walk a careful road with a very bad hand dealt to him by Republicans.  But they have created an alternate reality where George Bush kept us safe, and all we need to do is act tough and everyone will fall in line.  Well, to be believable, that toughness has to be carried through with actions, and just how many wars do you really want to be in, going it alone?  

So elect Republicans and believe their simple minded view of the world and our options.  Just be on notice that this time your kids just might have to pay the price for this alternate reality.  It was a false reality that Iraq had WMD and it would be a cakewalk.  Now we want to buy into their fantasyland again?

Lies and Damn Lies

The Daily Beast has an interesting on the scene in Ukraine report about trying to visit the “morgue” of the victims of the Malaysian airline shoot down and being arrested and held by the separatists holding the territory where the plane came down.  What was truly interesting about the report is the first hand account of what the separatists believe about the conflict and what happened.  It is a pact of lies that strains credibility.  But like the Russians themselves, the separatists are being feed misinformation on a continuous basis from propaganda news.  We see how that can twist the minds of people.  Then there is FOX News.  The only redeeming factor in propaganda as news in this country is that there are competing sides that are heard.  But like the separatists, many conservatives have made up there mind and FOX just continues to push lies and damn lies.  It truly is sad that we have fallen so far.