Published: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Last Build Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:57:20 -0500
Thu, 08 Dec 2016 15:00:00 -0500
(image) U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson identified regional political leaders who were "twisting and abusing different strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives" as one of the biggest problems in the Middle East, saying at a conference on Mediterrenean dialogue in Rome this week that it led to puppeteering and proxy wars by countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The comments came on the heels of a visit to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region by Prime Minister Theresa May, The Guardian reported, where she celebrated the century old alliance between the two countries. The government distanced itself from Johnson's remarks, with a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street saying they did not represent the official views of the British government.
Johnson's comments were characterized in the media as a "gaffe," although they were not incorrect. "Most observers of the Middle East would say this is a mostly fair analysis," the Washington Post noted. "But the problem is that Johnson, in his capacity as Britain's foreign secretary, stepped out of line in calling out Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest customers for British weapons." Yet refusals to acknowledge the reality of such situations makes advancing coherent foreign relations more difficult.
It would be important for the U.K., like the United States, to stop selling weapons around the world in order to have healthier international relations. The U.K. is in the top 10 arms exporters in the world—accounting for about 4 percent of international arms sales between 2010 and 2014. The U.S. was responsible for 31 percent. Russia is not far behind, at 27 percent, with China in third place at 5 percent.
While Johnson acknowledged Saudi Arabia's role in destabilizing the Middle East, when he had the chance he did not support a ban on U.K. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, just three months ago, insisting Saudi human rights violations in Yemen had not been proven. Iran has been accused of supporting the other side in the Yemen civil war. Saudi Arabia and western powers insist the government ejected from the capital by Houthi rebels remains the legitimate government in Yemen. Earlier this summer, meanwhile, Hezbollah admitted all of its financial support came from Iran.
Thu, 08 Dec 2016 12:15:00 -0500Potential Trump Secretary of State nominee and California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's interview with Yahoo!'s Bianna Golodryga went viral after Rohrabacher called Russia's human rights abuses "baloney" and questioned the reporter's motives, asking where she was from. When Golodryga said she came from Moldova, a former Soviet republic, Rohrabacher answered that that was good because "the audience knows you're biased." Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, also compared Vladimir Putin to Mikhail Gorbachev, because both were both powerful leaders of countries the U.S. needed to be friends with. Golodryga had compared Russia's human rights abuses to those of China, a country Rohrabacher insisted was not America's "friend," and later suggested was one of the reasons a closer U.S.-Russia relationship made sense. "I said they are both human-rights abusers. How am I wrong?" Golodryga asked Rohrabacher. "How are you wrong? In China they don't have an opposition party," he answered. While Russia is no longer officially a one-party state, more than a decade of rule by Putin and the concomitant crackdown on opposition has made those forces weaker than they've been since the fall of the Soviet Union. Rohrabacher dismissed allegations Russia had interfered with elections in the U.S., saying such things happened around the world and that the U.S. did it as well. Rohrabacher called China the world's "largest human rights abuser." With a population of 1.2 billion, there isn't a larger anything than China. But the U.S. has allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia that are vicious human rights abusers as well. Not only does the U.S. decline to take an antagonistic position toward those countries—it sends them billions of dollars in military and other aid every year. Saudi Arabia has been dropping U.S.-made bombs in Yemen for the last year and a half. "We don't need China," Rohrabacher insisted, "China is against us no matter, the Chinese are not our friends." He suggested the country of 1.2 billion people had become the world's second largest economy because the United States had "acted like fools," building up China's economy, and bemoaned the normalization of U.S.-Chinese trade relations. "We have transferred wealth, we have transferred technology," Rohrabacher said. "We have opened our markets to them while they have controlled everything on that side." Golodryga asked about whether it was wise for President-elect Donald Trump to "provoke" China by talking to the president of Taiwan, given China's potential role in keeping North Korea and its nuclear aspirations in check. "The last thing that's going to motivate the Chinese is that they want to do favors for us, because we're kowtowing to them, we're telling them how sincere friends we want to be," Rohrabacher said. He's not wrong there, but would eventually be. "If the Chinese are ever going to intercede for us," Rohrabacher continued, "it's going to be based on that we have a strong leader who is not a push over, and a strong leader who will actually threaten them, not military action, threaten them with consequences if they're supporting the military dictatorship attaining nuclear weapons power in Korea." But what's going to motivate China to curb North Korea is the threat North Korea presents for regional stability, unless Chinese leadership are led to believe the U.S. was willing to take up the costs of dealing with North Korea instead. Rohrabacher claimed that China's military build-up in the South China Sea (he called it "the middle of the Pacific"—it is not), its threats to shoot down planes over territory it claims, its "territorial claims all over the world," and its human rights abuses, all meant that the Chinese were "not our friends." He did not explain why Russia's human rights abuses precluded it from being America's "friend," choosing instead to question Golodryga's motives in bringing that up. As for the assertion that China has made territorial claims around the world, it's unclear where that came from. China is involve[...]
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 11:41:00 -0500On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen talked on the phone for about 10 minutes—no president or president-elect had spoken to the president of Taiwan since the U.S. withdrew its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 1979. The Chinese government lodged a formal complaint about the call with the U.S. government, calling the one China policy "the political basis of the China-U.S. relationship." The White House reasserted U.S. support for the one China policy after the phone call. The policy is also something both major parties in Taiwan accept in principle although, like different U.S. administrations, they differ on their interpretation of what "one China" means for Taiwan's political independence. Many observers insisted the phone call was unprecedented; Vanity Fair suggested it and other "flippant calls" were already creating diplomatic crises. Critics said it could "alter decades of foreign policy," The Guardian reported. Some experts did note the call could've been a "calculated move." The last few weeks have been filled with chatter about news not comporting with the political mainstream being equivalent to Russian propaganda. Overplaying fears about the recklessness of Trump's Taiwan call would certainly look to play into Chinese propaganda about the importance of not engaging Taiwan, yet it doesn't mean such fears are a part of a propaganda network. That would be preposterous. China's China Daily insisted there was "no need to over-interpret" the Trump call, writing it off, like other state-run outlets in China, as a product of the Trump team's "inexperience." China also called the move "petty" on Taiwan's part, and reached out to Henry Kissinger to tell him they hoped for "stability." As Foreign Policy notes, the phone call was not an unprecedented breach of protocol in U.S.-China relations—in 1980 and 1981 the incoming Reagan administration sought to renormalize relations with Taiwan, inviting senior officials to various inauguration events. When the Chinese government suggested the U.S. revisit the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs U.S. relations with Taiwan, Reagan told his envoy the act should be even tougher. "Beijing stopped pushing and the Reagan administration enjoyed a far more productive and stable U.S.-PRC relationship than his predecessors, while simultaneously deepening trust with Taiwan," Foreign Policy's Michael Green wrote, acknowledging that the Trump administration would find it "difficult to sustain this first move when there are so many other thorny issues they will have to work with Beijing." For his part, Trump took to Twitter to defend his call, insisting the Taiwan president had called him, and pointing out that it was "interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call." International relations professor Dan Drezner suggested on Twitter that the phone call was more important than "some guns" because it was an action that threatened "the core of the PRC's self-conception of its sovereignty." The U.S. has completed dozens of arms deals with Taiwan since the 1979. China's response to the call was described as "measured," but while Trump team officials tried to downplay the significance of the phone call, Trump returned to Twitter to bring up other issues with China, complaining that the country did not ask for permission to "manipulate" its currency or militarize the South China Sea. Neither, though, did the U.S. ask China for permission to engage in the "Asia pivot," which Obama announced in Australia in 2011 and which sought to increase the U.S. military presence and American influence in the regions around China. For some reason, four years later, the Obama administration was still confused why the Chinese government had begun to take a more confrontational stance vis a vis the United States. It's a basic lack of understanding that undercuts the idea that the State Department officials and other foreign policy advisors neces[...]
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:00:00 -0500President Obama's term in office began, oddly, with winning a Nobel Peace Prize and will end with him handing over to Donald Trump the reins of an executive branch whose powers to make war he has dramatically expanded. Strangely, unlike in 2012 when Obama thought he might lose to Mitt Romney and thus created a "drone rule book" to discourage future presidents from abusing the power to wage clandestine war, the president has recently expanded the power and scope of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to conduct combat operations outside of the fields of battle in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The Washington Post reports that JSOC's newly created "Counter-External Operations Task Force" can "can sidestep regional commanders...for the sake of speed," instead reporting directly to the Pentagon. Writing in Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko explained that this change elevates JSOC "to a truly global combatant command, with the resources and authority to strike targets seemingly anywhere, rather than only after being placed under the authority of a regional combatant command." Zenko adds: Obama administration lawyers and officials have always contended that there are no geographic limits to where U.S. forces may conduct operations against terrorism, with the battlefield being anywhere "from Boston to the FATA [Federally Adminstered Tribal Areas of Pakistan]" Now, it appears that it has set up an organizational command structure to support such limitless targeting. Though the Obama administration has repeatedly tried to play up its role in ending the Iraq War, the fact is, we are still at war in Iraq, even if the name of the enemy continues to change. What's more, the Obama administration has expanded combat operations in Somalia to fight the Al Qaeda-offshoot Shabab, including "self-defense" airstrikes to assist foreign allies even when American troops face no risk. Zenko notes that with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) forces deployed to 147 countries, the U.S. could invoke "self-defense" with an airstrike pretty much anywhere in the world. While Obama's "kill list" hasn't led to any sustained mainstream concern (lawyers who work for the president can make just about anything "legal"), even when drones meant for "terrorists" kill civilians, the fact that these powers to make war will soon be in Donald Trump's hands is beginning to make people take notice that the executive branch has assumed far too much power. Unfortunately, Obama will leave office much as he entered it, by expanding and consolidating executive authority even further than George W. Bush had, and thereby making it far easier for Trump to do the same.[...]
Mon, 28 Nov 2016 10:55:00 -0500President-elect Donald Trump's policy on the future of U.S.-Cuba relations has never been exactly made clear. At various points during the Republican primary campaign, he described President Obama's restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba as "fine" but then later described the approach as a "very weak agreement" that he would reverse as president "unless the Castro regime meets our demands." But Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he had aspirations to open a hotel in Cuba, and Newsweek also reported that one of Trump's companies did business with Cuba in the late 1990s, in violation of the embargo. Now that Fidel Castro is dead, rumblings among Trump's inner circle and some Republican heavyweights appear to indicate the next president intends to slow or even reverse some of the recent political and economic openings between the two countries. RNC chairman and Trump's incoming-chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News Sunday that he "absolutely" expects Trump to push back on the lifting of certain sanctions without some major changes from Raul Castro's government. Priebus added, "Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners—these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that's what president-elect Trump believes, and that's where he's going to head." Two of Trump's bitterest rivals during the primary campaign, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—both senators of Cuban descent—said yesterday that they would be in favor of rolling back the normalization of relations with Cuba. Cruz said on ABC's This Week that "what the Obama administration has done has strengthened Raul Castro," while Rubio reportedly said, "now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with [the Cuban people] against their brutal rulers and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights." What all these Republican bigwigs appear to be missing is that the half-century-long embargo did not defeat the Castros, or communism, or lead to any meaningful liberalization of economic or human rights on the island nation. If anything, it provided the Castros with a ready-made excuse that the source of Cubans' poverty and isolation was yanqui imperialism. Isolating the Castros hasn't worked and is a self-spiting position from an American point of view. Allowing for more trade with Cuba will allow for more information to flow to the people, who when freed from the myopia caused by some of the strictest government censorship in the world will stand a better shot of overthrowing their tyrannical one-party system. Reverting to the previously failed position is worse than fighting the last war, it's fighting the last losing war.[...]
Wed, 23 Nov 2016 11:15:00 -0500South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has reportedly accepted President-elect Donald Trump's offer to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.). The choice is surprising, not least because Haley only reluctantly and belatedly endorsed Trump in the general election. During her State of the State address last January, she called on voters to "reject the siren call of the angriest voices" in the Republican Party, which touched off mutual criticism that led to this memorable Twitter exchange between the two: The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2016 @realDonaldTrump, Bless your heart. — Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) March 1, 2016 Now that Trump is headed for the White House, he has tapped into the rising star power of Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, to be his administration's representative in the infuriating international bureaucracy known as the U.N. In doing so, he adds some diversity to his cabinet (Haley is his first female addition to his senior leadership) and also throws a bone to establishment conservatives by adding one of their favorites. While it makes political sense for Trump to tap Haley for a cabinet position, sending her to the U.N. is strikingly odd, considering she not only has no diplomatic experience, but has also barely made any of her foreign policy viewpoints known. Haley has met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few times, hoping to encourage Indian economic investment in South Carolina, but to date only six of the over 1200 companies doing business in the Palmetto State are Indian-owned. She has also vehemently opposed the Iranian nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, and has asked the federal government to not send Syrian refugees to her state. As governor, Haley also waded indirectly into foreign affairs by signing the first state-wide ban on public entities from doing business with companies who engage in boycotts "of a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade." The move was widely interpreted as being directed against the anti-Israel Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement, and similar bans have been passed in eight other states. But that's about it as far as clear indications of Haley's foreign policy worldview go. Nominating someone with no foreign policy experience to work at the U.N. may be unusual, but considering President George W. Bush nominated John Bolton for U.N. ambassador—despite the latter's insistence that the international body shouldn't even exist—stranger things have happened.[...]
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0500A number of names have been bandied around as potential Secretary of State nominees for Donald Trump: John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, even Mitt Romney. None of these selections would be especially surprising but neither do they represent any kind of break from "the establishment" against which many Trump voters voted. Finding a person who doesn't accept status-quo assumptions about foreign policy and America's supposedly indispensable place in the world—or even one who is just willing to take a fresh look at U.S. relations with the rest of the globe—isn't easy. Decades of bipartisan foreign policy have produced generally pro-intervention analysts, activists, and politicians. Some Ron Paul supporters who see a spark of noninterventionism in Trump have launched a petition for Trump to nominate the former Republican congressman as secretary of state. A Change.org petition notes the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin was concerned about such a possibility while Paul called it an "unlikely scenario." At the age of 83, it's difficult to see Paul as a cabinet member under any circumstances. That said, Paul definitely agrees with Trump's election-night refrain about wanting the United States to have friendly relations with any country willing to have friendly relations with the U.S. And considering one underlying principle of a Paul State Department would be not inserting the U.S. into every imaginable conflict (diplomatic or otherwise) around the world, Secretary Paul not traveling overseas all the time would be a benefit. Paul would make an intriguing, establishment-challenging and, most importantly, non-interventionist choice for secretary of state. He would be a great selection. There is also zero chance of that happening. Here are other selections Trump could make that would be pretty good: Bob Corker Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has emerged as a potent Republican critic of the Trump transition. Last week he said he could find enough votes to block a Bolton nomination, and also criticized the idea that Giuliani might be nominated. "Giuliani is a great friend of the president-elect," Paul acknowledged. "Maybe there could be another position in the cabinet that wouldn't be putting him in a place where he is at odds with the president's vision on foreign policy." The Republican majority in the Senate has been whittled down from 54 to 51 or 52 (a December 10 run-off will determine whether Louisiana sends a Democrat or Republican to the Senate to replace David Vitter), so Paul does not need to find all that many votes to block any Trump nomination, especially if it's one that finds little or no support among Democrats. Paul suggested Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) as a potential secretary of state nomination for Trump, saying he would "sail through" with more than a dozen Democrats also supporting him. "I would say, while not being libertarian, [Corker] is more of a reasonable, realist kind of person," Paul told Reason last week. "I think he would be less likely to say tomorrow we need to drop bombs on Iran." For Paul, any potential secretary of state nominee that "didn't learn the lesson of the war in Iraq" would not earn his support. Corker has compared the U.S. invasion of Iraq to beating a hornet's nest with a big stick. He was also one of three Republican senators in the Foreign Relations Committee to vote in favor of the U.S.-Russia strategic arms reduction treaty (START) and one of 13 Republicans who voted in favor of it on the Senate floor. Corker was also skeptical of the 2009 Afghan troop surge. "I have no idea what it is, other than sending additional troops," Corker told AFP. "I hope we dig a lot deeper." Corker has said he was "in the mix" for a possible Trump administration role. James Webb Former Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) briefly ran for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 election cycle, dropping out less than four months after announc[...]
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 17:05:00 -0500We have an incoming president who claims he will be less interventionist in foreign policy than President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but also promises he will "bomb the shit out of" the Islamic State in order to fight terrorism. It would be logical to conclude that this would mean Donald Trump might be a supporter of the use of armed drones to take out suspected terrorists in foreign countries as a way of fighting ISIS without committing more troops. In other words: We would see Trump continue Obama's current drone strike policies. But, in perhaps an example of how little concern about executive authority played in this election, Trump is not on the record for saying a whole lot about drones. The ISideWith site has Trump saying he supports drone strikes because he believes in using any tool to fight terrorism, but the story and video clip the site links to as a source does not actually have Trump declaring support for drones. The Center of the Study for Drones at Bard College examined what Trump and Clinton have said about drone use on the campaign trail. Here's what they published on Trump in October: The Republican candidate and his advisers have made fewer direct references to military drone use than the Clinton team. Unlike Clinton, Trump has had no direct experience in coordinating drone strikes. Furthermore, and also unlike Clinton, Trump has only one known adviser—Gen. Michael Flynn—who has played a direct role in U.S. military drone operations in the past two decades. That being said, it is possible to extrapolate the rough contours of a Trump administration's policies governing drone use. Generally speaking, Trump has advocated a broad aerial campaign against ISIS that contrasts with the precision-centric targeted killing operations conducted by the current administration and advocated for by Hillary Clinton and many of her advisers. Trump's advisers hold mixed views on drones. Three Trump advisers—Rudy Giuliani, Michael Woolsey, and Gen. Flynn—have publicly criticized the use of drones for targeted killing. Trump supports the expanded use of military drones to patrol U.S land borders, and has called for an increase in military spending that would likely impact drone acquisition programs, though the plan largely focuses on the procurement of fighter jets and ships, and an increase in personnel. Trump did, in a foreign policy speech in August, say he wanted to keep drones as part of his military strategy, but also wanted to capture "high-value targets," something that drone strikes often preclude. Today CNN noted that Flynn, now Trump's pick for National Security Adviser, had previously criticized drone strikes because they "cause more damage than [they're] gonna cause good." But he's also criticized waterboarding as torture, a tool that Trump is openly embracing. Now that Trump has won, there's a cascade of "What will Trump do with these drones?" stories, and this is because Obama implemented his drone procedures completely through executive branch policies, unchallenged and unsupported by Congress. "Unsupported" is probably the wrong word because silence can be seen as support. We had Sen. Rand Paul engage in a filibuster in order to get assurances that the administration wouldn't use drone strikes against U.S. citizens on American soil, and that's about the extent of it. There has been very little interest otherwise in oversight of the administration's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries—particularly in countries like Yemen and Somalia where we aren't engaged in authorized military activity. The fact that drones have killed many civilians not involved in terrorism doesn't seem to have affected interest in using them. It's difficult to speculate what Trump might do here. He may be less involved in some countries like Syria, but his call for more strikes against terrorists does[...]
Tue, 15 Nov 2016 17:10:00 -0500Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is reportedly on the Trump administration's short list for secretary of state. Even though no official announcement has been made, Bolton's consideration is already drawing rebukes from libertarian-minded Republicans like U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who on Tuesday called Bolton's foreign policy views "unhinged." Paul's spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives him significant sway over the nomination of Bolton—or anyone else—as secretary of state, but you don't have to share Paul's skepticism about America's interventionalist foreign policy to be terrified by the prospect of having Bolton in charge of the State Department. Here's a brief reminder of some of the terrible things Bolton has done (or wanted to do) in the realm of foreign policy. We only included five of the worst examples, but share your own not-so-fond memories of Bolton's disastrous ideas in the comments below. 1. Bolton was a primary cheerleader of the War in Iraq and stands for everything Americans rejected about the Bush administration's foreign policy. Let's just get the obvious thing out of the way up front. "We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq," Bolton said in 2002 while serving as President George W. Bush's undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security. That wasn't true, as we'd later discover after it was too late. (As an ironic aside: at the same time that Bolton was cheerleading for an American invasion of Iraq over nonexistent WMDs, he was working to derail a UN proposal to allow foreign inspectors to check on the United States' arsenal of biological weapons.) Hindsight is 20/20, but not for Bolton. In 2015, he told the Washington Examiner that he still thinks the Iraq War was worth it and claimed "the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. and coalition forces." In Bolton's mind, U.S. troops should have occupied Iraq in perpetuity. I've given up expecting much consistency from Donald Trump, but it's still a little surprising that The Donald would be considering Bolton for a high ranking place in his administration. After all, Trump's initial rise in the Republican primaries was largely due to his brilliant take-down of Jeb Bush, which hinged on reminding everyone why putting another Bush in the White House would be a bad idea. "We should have never been in Iraq. We destabilized the Middle East," Trump said during a February debate in South Carolina. "They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none." src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/I8cxTaaNZrw" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> "Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake," Trump concluded, before hammering Jeb for taking more than a week (earlier in the campaign) to answer a reporter's question about whether his older brother made a mistake by launching the invasion. Now Trump wants to hire someone who has taken 13 years (and counting) to do the same? 2. Bolton wanted the U.S. to go to war with Cuba over WMDs that also didn't exist A year before the United States would go to war with Iraq due (at least in part) to falsely believing that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, Bolton was advocating that the United States should go to war with Cuba because of later debunked reports that Fidel Castro was developing weapons of mass destruction. In May 2002, during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Bolton said he believed Cuba was developing biological weapons and was capable of distributing them to Libya and Syria. The New York Times reported on the speech: "'The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort,' Mr. Bolton said, taking aim at the Communi[...]
Tue, 15 Nov 2016 14:36:00 -0500Sen. Rand Paul implored President-Elect Donald Trump not to pick Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton to run the State Department and suggested he would be inclined to vote against their confirmation. In an interview with Reason, Paul described Bolton and Giuliani as representatives of "the most bellicose interventionist wing of any party" and the antithesis of the restrained foreign policy platform Trump ran on. The selection of either man would be a serious betrayal of Trump's supporters, who wanted a clean break from the rabid interventionism of the past GOP administration. "I can't support anybody to be our secretary of state who didn't learn the lesson of the Iraq War," said Paul. After dropping out of the GOP presidential race, Paul focused on his own re-election to the Senate, and didn't offer Trump much in the way of vociferous support. But like many other libertarians, Paul found something to admire in Trump's stated opposition to neoconservatism. "I don't think anybody believed that he was going to be libertarian on foreign policy, but there was at least a glimmer of hope that he would be less of an interventionist than Clinton," said Paul. "The things he says unscripted on the campaign trail were much less hawkish than Hillary Clinton." That was a fair assumption, given Hillary Clinton's extreme hawkishness. Sen. Clinton was a key supporter of the Iraq War. And though she later regretted that vote, Secretary of Clinton repeated the error—and then some—when she pushed the Obama administration to intervene in Libya. The U.S.-backed ousters of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi have destabilized the entire Middle East and contributed to the rise of ISIS. But Trump's leading secretary of state candidates—Bolton, especially—have embraced all of Clinton's worst foreign policy blunders and would push the federal government to do even more. Indeed, Bolton has made public his support for taking the country to war with Iran. Paul described Bolton as "unhinged." "It concerns me that Trump would put someone in charge who is unhinged as far as believing in absolute and total intervention," he said. Bolton would have almost no chance of getting Paul's support, unless the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations repudiated virtually everything he stands for. Giuliani would face a similarly uphill battle to persuade Paul, he said. As Reason's Brian Doherty noted, Paul could make trouble for an unacceptable secretary of state pick. Paul sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is currently split 10-9. If he voted with the Democrats, he could certainly send a message—though this would not prevent the full Senate from voting to confirm, according to The Washington Post. When asked to name a suitable alternative, Paul pointed to Sen. Bob Corker—who is also on Trump's short list—as a better choice. "I would say, while not being libertarian, [Corker] is more of a reasonable, realist kind of person," said Paul. "I think he would be less likely to say tomorrow we need to drop bombs on Iran." In any case, it's unsettling that Trump was so immediately tempted to choose unrepentant hawks to run his State Department—especially considering that he owes the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party very little. Most neoconservatives abandoned Trump and supported Clinton, Paul noted. "[Bolton and Giuliani] don't represent even the mainstream of foreign policy," said Paul. It's too soon to say whether Trump will betray his non-interventionist supporters. But the possibility of a Bolton or Giuliani running the State Department is truly frightening, and libertarians should be grateful that Paul was willing to speak up in defense of principle. We can only hope it makes a difference. Couldnt be more proud of @RandPaul for publicly opposing warmonger John Bolton's possible app[...]
Mon, 14 Nov 2016 22:55:00 -0500President-Elect Trump is interested in maintaining "core strategic relationships" with NATO and Europe, President Obama said in a press conference today, also saying that while he had his concerns he was hopeful that Trump would "make things better" overall. Obama heads to Europe later this week for his last trip there as president. He said at today's press conference he was happy to be able to tell European leaders Trump remained committed to U.S. relationships with Europe. Separately, in an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini Obama said he believed the "best chance for progress" was "to resist the urge to turn inward and instead reinvigorate our shared values and work together." "Europe is our largest economic partner and we have a profound economic interest in a Europe that is stable and growing," Obama said in the interview. European foreign ministers met formally in Brussels today and had informal, closed-to-media dinner talks yesterday about Trump's election. The European Union has indicated it takes Trump at his word on trade and believes the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would have to be renegotiated, according to The National. "There is strong reason to believe that there would be a pause in TTIP, that this might not be the biggest priority for the new administration," Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU trade commissioner, was quoted as saying. After Trump's election, European leaders reached out to Trump. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called to congratulate the president-elect and invite him to the next NATO summit in Brussels next year. "We face a challenging new security environment, including hybrid warfare, cyber attacks, the threat of terrorism," Stoltenberg said. "NATO has responded with determination to the new security situation. But we have more work to do." During the campaign, Trump stressed that the U.S. relationship with NATO would have to be revisited. His apparent pledge to maintain relationships with NATO and Europe doesn't preclude re-visiting the nature of U.S. obligations to NATO, a post-World War II Cold War organization that has not substantively reflected on its structure or even usefulness in a post-Cold War world. America would be richer and safer if Europe paid for its own defense, and it would be worth Trump pursuing that goal. Meanwhile, Jean Claude-Juncker and Donald Tusk, the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council respectively, sent Trump a congratulatory letter where they invited him to attend an EU-U.S. summit "at his earliest convenience." "Today, it is more important than ever to strengthen transatlantic relations," the two wrote to Trump. "Only by cooperating closely can the EU and the US continue to make a difference when dealing with unprecedented challenges such as Da'esh (ISIS), the threats to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, climate change and migration." Russia was a big topic at this week's summit, with European leaders reportedly, and understandably, concerned about how Trump's presidency would affect their own increasingly frosty relations with Russia over issues like Ukraine and pipelines. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he believed better relations between Russia and the U.S. were a good thing. Trump and Russia President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone, and according to a Kremlin read-out, the two agreed that relations were "extremely unsatisfactory" and that they wanted to work to "normalize U.S.-Russia ties" and "return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial co-operation." Trump often struck an anti-establishment tone on foreign policy in the campaign. It remains to be seen the kind of counsel he chooses now that he will soon be president, but the prospect that Trump could offer a much needed and overdue re-evaluation [...]
Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:57:00 -0500
U.S. presidents possess almost unilateral power to drop bombs on other countries, says historian Thaddeus Russell, and that's why it's very good news that Trump is most libertarian when it comes to foreign policy.
Russell, who's the author of A Renegade History of the United States and is currently writing a book on foreign policy, says Trump's enmity with the neocons at National Review and The Weekly Standard is "fantastic news for us and the world." He points out that Trump advisor (and likely future cabinet member) Newt Gingrich gave a 2013 interview with The Washington Times expressing second thoughts about his neocon past.
Though Trump has pledged to go after ISIS, his general philosophy seems far preferable to Hillary's systematic and carefully thought-out Wilsonian foreign policy. "I don't see a war with Russia and I don't see greater interventionism generally outside of [a] little pocket of the Middle East," says Russell.
Nick Gillespie caught up with Russell for an interview. Listen to the conversation below—or better yet subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.
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Thu, 10 Nov 2016 13:09:00 -0500A senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump indicated that the next president will not condemn the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as an "obstacle to peace," according to the Associated Press. This would be a complete reversal of the avowed policy of every U.S. president since 1967—Democrat and Republican—that for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians to hold, eventually the latter group would need the land in the still-occupied West Bank to establish a soveriegn homeland. Jason Greenblatt—executive vice president and chief legal officer with the Trump Organization—also told Israel's Army Radio that he expects Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move because although Jerusalem is Israel's capital city, it was captured in 1967's Six Day War after being occupied by Jordan since Israel's 1948 founding. Any final agreement over a Palestinian state would also have to include the fate of primarily-Arab East Jerusalem, which is also internationally recognized as occupied by Israel. Jerusalem Post reports Greenblatt also said Trump "is not going to impose any solution on Israel. He thinks that the peace has to come from the parties themselves. Any meaningful contribution he can offer up, he is there to do, it is not his goal, nor should it be anyone else's goal, to impose peace on the parties." Trump had once promised to be "neutral" in any negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but reversed course after Hillary Clinton jabbed him for being insufficiently pro-Israel. Like many of Trump's policies, a coherent explanation of what he actually intends to do has not yet been presented, but all indications point to his administration being far more hands-off with regards to the long-dormant Mideast peace process, which one far-right minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government celebrated as the end of any meaningful discussions about the creation of a Palestinian state. The fact that Israel is approaching 50 years of occupation of the Palestinians speaks to the ineffectiveness of the U.S. in helping to negotiate a meaningful peace. And despite President Obama's prickly relationship with Netanyahu, the outgoing president just gave both Israel and the U.S. military-industrial complex a record-breaking $38 billion subsidy. Yet, despite the unflinching support of the U.S. for Israel, our government at least maintained the pretense that the ultimate goal was for Israel to have secure borders and peaceful (if always tense) relations with its neighbors, and also self-determination for the Palestinians. It's too early to tell for sure, but that pretense appears likely to end under President Trump.[...]
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 21:00:00 -0500Rand Paul has won his re-election bid in Kentucky and will be returning to the Senate next year. Paul made a failed bid for the Republican nomination for president, dropping out after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, and in May said he'd honor his pledge and endorse the Republican nominee Donald Trump. Given Hillary Clinton's severe interventionist bent and Donald Trump's erratic grasp on foreign policy, Paul is set to be able to make a real difference on U.S. foreign policy in the next four years. But it depends on which Paul shows up. As I wrote last April, Paul's effort at the start of his presidential campaign to inch closer to the establishment Republican view on foreign policy would make it harder for him to distinguish himself and could doom his campaign. While Paul called arming Syrian rebels a mistake in 2014, he called for arming Kurdish rebels in Syria. While Barack Obama was perceived by some as a more dovish candidate in 2008, his administration has helped cement much of George W. Bush and his administration's foreign policy outlook, sans the partisan bickering. In the last six years, Paul has been an important force in the Senate to try to hold President Obama accountable and shift U.S. foreign and war on terror policy in a less interventionist and bellicose direction. Obama campaigned in 2008 on a promise to end the Iraq war, then tried to keep U.S. troops in the country past the negotiated withdrawal date, before running for re-election in 2012 on the boast that he had ended the Iraq war. By 2014, in response to fears about the Islamic State (ISIS), he was pointing out that he had tried to keep troops in Iraq. Today, U.S. troops are back in Iraq, battling ISIS. Paul campaigned for re-election this year calling on the Congress to reassert its declaration of war powers, has tried to pass legislation to revoke the post-9/11 2001 authorization of the use of military force being used by the Obama administration to wage wars against entities whose members were often just children when 9/11 happened. The Obama administration spent years waging a counterterrorist campaign in Yemen—one the president once touted as a model for the new war on terror—before that country descended into a civil war after rebels ousted the U.S.-backed government. Paul, with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), introduced legislation to stop U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been heavily involved in the Yemen civil war. Under President Obama, the National Security Agency (NSA) and other elements of the U.S. intelligence community have continued to spy on and collect massive amounts of information about countless Americans. Edward Snowden's 2013 disclosures made it clear the U.S. surveillance state expanded under Bush continued with Obama. Paul led a 10 and a half hour filibuster last year to prevent the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, and earlier this year he worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to try to stop a new computer surveillance expansion. Hillary Clinton has largely promised more of the same. She was one of the primary champions of the U.S.-backed intervention in the Libyan civil war, which created the space for groups like ISIS to set up shot in the country. U.S. troops are there, too, assisting the fight against ISIS. She's advocated for a no-fly zone in Syria to gain leverage against Russia, which backs Syria President Bashar Assad, who the U.S., and Clinton, insists must relinquish power. Paul has rejected that idea. If he keeps on in his pursuit of a more non-interventionist U.S. foreign policy, he could be an important challenger to Clinton in a Republican Party set to be in chaos if Trump loses. Trump, for his part, when he's offered anything resembling clari[...]
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 10:39:00 -0500If you think that much of anything related to politics will be settled by Tuesday's election, here's some bad news for you: Nothing that matters is really over. There are at least three major issues facing the country when either President Clinton or President Trump gets sworn in next January. What about economic growth? You may not realize it, but the U.S. has been out of recession for seven years, one of the longest economic expansions in American history. But the average rate of growth since 2009 has been around 2 percent, making this the weakest economic recovery since 1949. Economic growth is essential to improving wealth and standards of living—and it helps to defuse all sorts of explosive political issues, from trade to immigration to welfare. But for all of the 21st century–under George Bush and Barack Obama–economic growth has been much lower than average. Neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has articulated a plan that will actually grow the economy. Clinton will jack up taxes and spending on everything, a sure-fire way to keep the economy puttering along. Trump will punch add five-trillion dollars to the national debt, which will also dampen growth. And if the American economy doesn't improve, don't expect anything else too. Who will we bomb next? Hillary Clinton is a hawk's hawk who has voted for, lobbied for, or taken credit for all of our military interventions in the 21st century. Despite such actions—of more accurately, BECAUSE of such actions—the world is a bigger mess than ever. At times Donald Trump sounds like he would be a relative dove and at others, he sounds like a crazy man; at the very least, like Hillary Clinton, he said that he would increase military spending. Neither of them has articulated a foreign policy that will help stabilize the U.S. economy, reduce international terrorism, or bring order to hot spots in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, or Asia any time soon. What do you believe in? Trust in most major American institutions are at or near historic lows—the media, religious organizations, labor, business—you name it. That's especially when it comes to the two major political parties and government in general. Even worse, millennials—Americans between about 18 and 35 years old—aren't just the biggest generation, they are the most skeptical. Who can blame them—or us? The Iraq War was sold on bad information and prosecuted poorly; President Obama's claims that his health care reform would let you keep your doctor was the Lie of the Year, and we've learned that neither Democrats or Republicans give a rat's ass about the government spying on us. Wikileaks and others have exposed Hillary Clinton as two-faced and Donald Trump's is a serial scam artist and bully Neither will address the massive and ongoing evacuation of trust and confidence in government and politics. If anything, they will likely pour gas on the dumpster fire. America is moving rapidly from a high-trust society to a low-trust one and that's really bad news, especially for those of us who want a government that spends less and does less. Paradoxically, people in low-trust countries turn to government in ever-higher numbers. In a cruel and unpredictable world, they want a protector, no matter how untrustworthy. Until the major parties start governing in the light of day and stop nominating candidates who are distrusted by majorities of Americans, don't expect much to change. Except for things to get even nastier, at least until 2020. Written by Nick Gillespie. Video by Meredith Bragg. For charts, links, and more, go here now. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at[...]