Published: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 17:20:48 -0400
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 09:55:00 -0400Last week Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families released another presidential poll among active-duty personnel, conducted Oct. 12-14. Donald Trump was the first choice among the nearly 2,500 respondents, at 41 percent (in the ballpark of his 39 percent or so nationwide), followed by Gary Johnson at 27 percent, Hillary Clinton at 21 percent, and Jill Stein at 2 percent. The results show some slippage for Johnson from a month ago, when the same survey had the race 38-37-16-1, placing the Libertarian in a virtual tie with the Republican. But the fact that a third-party candidate with no particular foreign policy expertise is outpolling the likely next president among active military while exceeding his national averages by more than 400 percent should give Washington's default interventionists pause. Instead, judging by this condescending Christian Science Monitor write-up (subhed: "A new poll shows Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson beating Hillary Clinton by 7 points among active military personnel, despite his proposals to cut military spending and a lack of foreign policy knowledge"), the only people that the political class deem ready for a re-think are the troops themselves. Don't these rubes understand that Johnson lacks the necessary sophistication? [I]n an increasingly unconventional and divisive election with historically unlikeable major party candidates, some have chosen to shift from their partisan ties and jump to the other side of the aisle or put their vote toward a third party candidate. But when that third party candidate has revealed a lack of knowledge of foreign policy, a surge in support for him becomes more difficult to expound. "It's a little hard to explain, actually," Matthew Dallek, a professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management, tells The Christian Science Monitor. "There's no kind of rational basis." Nothing "rational" about the tip of the U.S. spear preferring a commander in chief who is less eager to go to war? Hard to explain the military polling success of a candidate who wants clearly defined missions, "peace through strength," and a reorientation toward actual defense? Methinks some professors and journalists should get out more. Military support for politicians who are less hawkish than the Washington establishment is nothing new. As Brian Doherty pointed out in July, "back in the heart of the 2012 race in late February, Ron Paul was raising twice as much money as President Obama from active military and defense workers, and more than four times as much as the entire rest of the GOP field at the time." Turns out that seeing first-hand how D.C.'s perpetual game of Risk translates in the real world makes one susceptible to radically different ideas about how American power should be projected. Over the years I have met dozens of young veterans who came to the ideas of libertarianism through the process of becoming skeptical about the War on Terror's overall mission. It is a far more common path, in my anecdotal experience, than, say, the fiction of Ayn Rand. Most were attracted at first by the words and presidential runs of Ron Paul (though you'll hear an occasional Rand Paul or Gary Johnson thrown in, as well as Reason magazine), and all share a searing intensity and intellectual curiosity as they seek to learn more and figure out how they might act on these ideas either in the service or out. It should be a cause of sober reflection, even alarm, that as of less than a month before a presidential election, a third-party skeptic of intervention who's polling just north of 6 percent nationwide is nonetheless in a virtual tie for the lead among active-duty military officers. Instead, the political class mostly offers up warmed-over snickers about "Aleppo," mixed with digs at the troops' endemic sexism. We should be clear-eyed about recognizing AleppoMania for what it is: A chance to avoid, not defend, foreign policy "seriousness," while aggressively marginalizing an admittedly flawed candidate who would dare challenge Wash[...]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:35:00 -0400Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is not happy that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy gaffe at Wednesday's debate was noticed by almost no one in the mainstream political commentariat. Clinton, whose candidacy is largely built on her foreign policy experience, described the Iraqi city of Mosul as a "border city," when it is in fact, 75 miles from the nearest border in one direction, and 100 miles from the border of Syria in another direction. As U.S. News and World Report's Steven Nelson noted, "Ireland is closer to Wales. Montreal is nearer to New York state and Damascus, Syria's capital, is closer to Israel – either its de facto or internationally recognized borders." In an interview with U.S. News, Johnson said, "The obvious response is there is a very hypocritical double standard here," adding, "If anyone ought to know geographic locations, it's Hillary." Johnson's clearly still chafed over the fact that his inability to recognize the name of the city that is the epicenter of the Syrian refugee crisis, Aleppo, was undoubtedly the most covered moment of his campaign. His deer-in-the-headlights reaction—"What is Aleppo?"—has been used by his critics (many of whom are Clinton supporters who believe any vote for a third party candidate is a moral deficiency) to paint him as a goofy, pot-addled ignoramus whose dangerous lack of foreign policy knowledge would make the country unsafe. To be sure, Johnson did not make a compelling case for his brand of non-interventionism when he completely blanked on Aleppo, which is a name that most people who consume news on a daily basis would at least recognize as a troubled Middle Eastern city. Johnson did much better when he laid out what I called a "sane, coherent, and skeptical foreign policy" at the University of Chicago earlier this month. In that address, he rejected the idea that libertarianism is synonymous with "isolationism," but also insisted that Congress should do its constitutional duty and declare war if necessary, rather than rely on the executive branch to use legal contortions to justify military intervention. He also said that Americans should not expect some kind of decisive victory over ISIS or any other Islamist extremist group, nor should the world expect the U.S. to serve as the world police for the rest of time. Maybe it is unfair that in presidential elections, optics are pretty much everything, and blanking on trivia or bizarrely sticking your tongue out at a reporter during an interview is bound to be more noticable than Clinton mistating important details during a presidential debate—even though her supposedly unmatched grasp of details is one of her largest selling points. To be sure, this isn't the first time Clinton has made a foreign policy "gaffe" during a nationally televised forum. At the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Commander-in-Chief forum last month, she defended her support for U.S. military intervention in Libya because, she said, the alternative would have meant civil war. The fact that Libya has been in a state of civil war since that intervention five years ago went unnoticed by the mainstream media. Also barely touched upon is the fact that a recent U.K. Parliament inquiry found that the NATO intevention in Libya in 2011 was the result of international leaders cherry-picking information to justify regime change and failing to consider what would happen to the country (now essentially a failed state) afterward. As Secretary of State, Clinton was the most forceful proponent of the Libyan intervention in the Obama administration, which she continues to defend as "smart power at its best." Though the results were disastrous, and of far greater consequence than any media gaffes committed by Johnson, Clinton still enjoys her media perception as the adult in the room whose career-long record of supporting every single U.S. military intervention of the past 25 years is an asset, not a demerit. When seen through that prism, it's pretty easy to understand why Johnson doesn't appreciat[...]
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 17:00:00 -0400The third and final presidential debate, hosted by Chris Wallace, may have been the most substantive of the cycle, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are approaching the last fortnight of the election cycle without having had to engage in an array of important foreign policy discussions, including what their support or opposition to the Iraq war and the U.S.-backed intervention in Libya actually meant for how they approached foreign policy today, what the U.S. ought to do in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has operated in since 2001, what the U.S. position should be about Yemen, embroiled in a year and a half long civil war in which U.S. ally and arms recipient Saudi Arabia is involved, or what their view on the expansion of the war on terror in Africa actually is. A lot of this is the legacy of President Obama—who helped create a bipartisan consensus on the general contours of George Bush's war on terror. The Obama administration dropped the moniker but not the idea that the U.S. ought to be engaged in military operations around the world to go after radical groups that could one day pose a threat to the homeland. This bipartisan consensus doesn't appear in rhetoric—generally Republicans claim Obama is a weak president while Democrats credit Obama for perceived successes in the war on terror and blame the failures on Bush. Clinton and Trump say they disagree on what the U.S. should do about ISIS, but neither questions the idea that the U.S. ought to be engaged in military operations from West Africa to the Kush to fight it. They disagree to some extent on approach but, mostly, they disagree the rhetoric surrounding the approach. While the third debate had a section about "foreign hot spots," foreign policy once again got mostly a surface engagement that revolved around the candidates' previous actions and words but not philosophies and rhetoric about Russia. Countries from Afghanistan to Yemen were left unmentioned, not much of a departure from the last two debates. Here are the 16 countries the candidates did mention, and the context: China (7 mentions) No surprise China made it in to the debate given the central role it played in anti-trade rhetoric this election cycle. But the first mention came from Clinton in a response about abortion (the first time the issue has come up in the 2016 debates). "I've been to countries where governments… forced women to have abortions, like they used to do in China," Clinton explained. "The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice, and I will stand up for that right." Trump brought up China as a possible alternate culprit to Russia in the Wikileaks email hacks, for their 7 percent GDP growth, and to bemoan that "product is pouring in" from China while "relatively speaking" the U.S. didn't make anything anymore. This kind of economically illiterate and counterproductive anti-trade rhetoric has become popular with both major parties this year. Clinton's response was not, of course, a defense of free trade, but accusations of China dumping steel and, the horror, of Trump purchasing such steel to build his towers. "So he goes around with crocodile tears about how terrible it is," Clinton insisted, channeling her inner xenophobe, "but he has given jobs to Chinese steelworkers, not American steelworkers." China also came up as an example for Trump of the U.S. entering into bad deals because they put "political hacks" who give campaign contributions in charge of negotiations with China. Germany (3 mentions) Donald Trump listed Germany as one example of a country with which the U.S. would have to renegotiate its military agreements, arguing that Germany should pay the U.S. for its military presence there. Haiti (9 mentions) Clinton was asked by Chris Wallace about evidence of pay-for-play related to the Clinton Foundation and federal grants for Haiti relief in the context of her pledge prior to taking office as Secretary of State that[...]
Wed, 19 Oct 2016 19:26:00 -0400While the Obama administration has opened up or expanded ("saved and created," if you will) conflict fronts around the world, leaving the next president with many decisions to make, the first two debates have been sorely lacking in substantive discussion of foreign policy. Hillary Clinton called at the second debate for the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria in order to gain leverage against Russia, the two argued over who supported the Iraq war and the Libya intervention and when, although ignored the different positions the two held in the run up to U.S. involvement—Donald Trump was a reality television personality when he says he opposed the Iraq war and U.S. intervention in Libya, Hillary Clinton was a U.S senator when she was one of the leading Democratic proponents of authorizing the Bush administration to use military force in Iraq and was one of the architects within the Obama administration of the Libya intervention. The U.S. has bases around the world but foreign countries the U.S. is involved in were rarely mentioned in the first two debates. Here's a round-up of countries the candidates did bother to mention, and a few they certainly should have: Afghanistan (1 mention, first debate, by Clinton) The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now longer than World War I, World War II, and the American Civil War combined. "I regret there's still real problems in Afghanistan," Joe Biden explained on Meet the Press this weekend, puzzlingly using Afghanistan as an illustration of the abundance of regret on insufficient intervention when asked whether he'd regret not imposing a no-fly zone over Aleppo. During President Obama's first term, the U.S. instituted a troop surge, and Clinton, secretary of state at the time, oversaw a concomitant "diplomatic surge." Bureaucratic infighting helped assure the mobilizations would produce no significant results. Fifteen years after the American invasion of Afghanistan, the country still doesn't have a government that can function without U.S. military and economic aid. The Taliban continues to operate in the country, challenging the authority of the government, and ISIS has established a presence there as well. The only mention of Afghanistan in either debate came from Hillary Clinton, who pointed out the only time NATO invoked Article 5 of its charter, which treats an attack on one country like an attack on the entire alliance, was after 9/11, "when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side." NATO came up because Trump has been a clumsy critic of the alliance who has nevertheless challenged an often unquestioned status quo. Clinton's example of NATO's involvement in Afghanistan as an argument in favor of the alliance would probably be an even stronger argument against the alliance had it been brought up by a European politician. There was no other mention of Afghanistan in either debate. Canada (1 mention, second debate, Donald Trump) Donald Trump claimed Hillary Clinton wanted to move the U.S. to a single payer system, which Trump said had been a disaster in Canada. China (12 mentions at first debate, 4 at second debate) Unsurprisingly, China received relatively more attention at the first two debates than other countries, yet the Obama administration's "Asia pivot," meant to contain China's growing influence, and the administration's subsequent befuddlement that the Chinese government has become more controversial, didn't come up. Neither did the broader wisdom of asserting U.S. interests in a sphere of influence on the other side of the world. Instead, debate viewers were subject to Trump bemoaning China's currency devaluations. "We have a winning fight," Trump said at the first debate. "Because they're using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing." Trump did not bring up that China holds more than 30 percent of the $4 trillion portion of the U.S. debt [...]
Wed, 19 Oct 2016 00:01:00 -0400One of the few appealing aspects of Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been his criticism of Hillary Clinton's reckless interventionism. But the bellicose billionaire combines that criticism with promises of a gratuitous military buildup, a casual attitude toward the use of American weapons, and a disturbing tendency to view trade and immigration as acts of war. To get a sense of what a more disciplined, consistent, and thoughtful critique of Clintonian warmongering sounds like, listen to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for president. Notwithstanding the popular portrayal of Johnson as a foreign policy ignoramus based on his embarrassing "Aleppo moments," the former New Mexico governor offers a bracing alternative to Clinton's supposedly sophisticated yet consistently careless embrace of violence as a tool for reshaping the world. Again and again as first lady, senator, and secretary of state, from Serbia to Syria, Clinton has supported military interventions that had nothing to do with national defense. Mindful of the damage done by the promiscuous use of America's armed forces, Johnson promises a different approach: When in doubt, stay out. "As president," Johnson said in a recent speech at the University of Chicago, "I would not need to be talked out of dropping bombs and sending young men and women into harm's way. I would be the president who would have to be convinced it is absolutely necessary to protect the American people or clear U.S. interests. I will be the skeptic in the room." Like Trump, Johnson bemoans the disastrous consequences, in squandered lives and resources as well as instability conducive to terrorism, of the Clinton-supported war in Iraq. The fact that Clinton voted for that war and took more than a decade to admit it was a mistake—a mistake from which she apparently learned nothing, given her subsequent support for regime change in Libya and Syria—demonstrates that foreign policy knowledge is not synonymous with wisdom. Johnson's criticism of unnecessary foreign entanglements goes beyond Trump's by highlighting the folly of the never-ending war in Afghanistan. "We were attacked, and we attacked back," he says. "But seven months after we sent our troops to Afghanistan, Al Qaeda had scattered to the winds and the Taliban had been removed from power. Al Qaeda was gone, but we stayed." Fourteen years later, thousands of U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. While Trump thinks the U.S. should be reimbursed for the cost of defending other countries, Johnson argues that defending other countries is not the U.S. military's job. "The U.S. military exists, first and foremost, to defend the United States and U.S. vital interests," he says. "We should expect other countries to defend themselves and their interests." Unlike Trump, Johnson does not think the U.S. government spends too little on the military. "U.S. military spending accounts for roughly one-third of total military spending of the entire world, exceeding the combined total of the next seven largest military budgets," he notes. That bloated budget, which Johnson wants to cut, reflects and reinforces an excessively broad vision of the U.S. military's role in the world. "Our foreign policy and military actions must support clear U.S. interests," Johnson says, as opposed to "a desire to shape the world in our own image or to pick winners and losers in civil wars on the other side of the globe." Congress encourages intervention not only by keeping so-called defense spending unjustifiably high but by abdicating its constitutional responsibility to decide when the use of military force is appropriate. "As president," Johnson says, "I will honor the War Powers Act without hiding behind dubious legal opinions from my own lawyers." That's a reference to President Obama's laughable arguments for waging war without congressional authorization, including claims that dropping bombs in Libya did not constitute "hostilities" and that Congr[...]
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 11:58:00 -0400It's been five years since Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels supported by NATO forces. Since that time, Libya has descended into civil war, with two governments in two cities both claiming legitimacy, ISIS controls significant amounts of oil and territory, and the country is generally considered a failed state. While Gaddafi was a monstrous despot who ruled for over four decades, AFP reports that a winking nostalgia for the late colonel has emerged in the capital city of Tripoli: Those living in the capital say they are exhausted by power cuts, price hikes and a lack of cash flow as rival authorities and militias battle for control of the fragmented oil-rich country. "I hate to say it but our life was better under the previous regime," says Fayza al-Naas, a 42-year-old pharmacist, referring to Kadhafi's more than four decades of rule. Today, "we wait for hours outside banks to beg cashiers to give us some of our own money. Everything is three times more expensive." When news broke of Gaddafi's demise, Hillary Clinton was caught on a hot mic prior to an interview with CBS News. Then-Secretary of State Clinton pumped her fists and exclaimed, "We came. We saw. He died!" Despite the fact that the country is torn between what one analyst described to AFP as "chaos with militias and Islamist extremists as the dominant forces, or military rule," little has changed Clinton's rosy assessment of post-Gaddafi Libya. It was only last month that Hillary Clinton defended her forceful support of U.S. intervention in Libya on the grounds that it averted a civil war. While such cognitive dissonance isn't quite the attention-grabber that Gary Johnson's notorious "What is Aleppo?" gaffe was, it is a remarkable thing for the current presidential front-runner to insist that the obviously short-sighted intervention—which directly led to an ongoing civil war and which President Obama describes as his greatest foreign policy regret—remains an example of "smart power at its best." This is especially the case when you consider that the whole pretext for the intervention, ostensibly to stop a "slaughter" of civilians, was based on "erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence," according to a scathing report (little reported in the U.S. media) issued by the U.K. Parliament last month. Much as during the run-up to war with Iraq, U.K. and U.S. government officials cherry-picked information to justify the use of force and had no plan for how to help stabilize the country after the dictator's fall. Supporters of Hillary Clinton frequently claim that no other candidate for president has ever been as "qualified," citing her years as First Lady of both the U.S. and Arkansas, as well as her eight years in the Senate and four in the State Department, as unimpeachable demonstrations of her competence and judgment. And while Clinton may "regret" her support for the war in Iraq—it may well have cost her the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, after all—when it comes to Libya, she appears to believe that "smart power" means never having to say you're sorry. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Fgcd1ghag5Y" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 15:22:00 -0400The USS Mason destroyed three coastal radar sites held by the rebel government in Yemen, the Pentagon announced last night, after the USS Mason was twice within four days the target of missiles launched from rebel-held territory in Yemen. Those missiles all missed and the USS Mason was not damaged. The U.S. action is the first time it has bombed Houthi targets in Yemen since Houthi rebels ousted the U.S.-backed government in Sana'a, which retreated to Aden, in 2014, sparking a civil war in which Saudi Arabia has intervened in support of the exiled government. The Saudi and U.S.-backed president escaped to Saudi Arabia in 2015. "These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway," Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said in a statement. "The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world." The Houthi government denied responsibility for the failed missile strikes, saying it had "nothing to do with this act." Instead, Houthi officials suggested the accusation was an attempt to distract from the "heinous" airstrike on a funeral in Yemen over the weekend that killed more than 150 people. Saudi Arabia denied responsibility itself for the air strike on Yemen, and said it would "investigate." Human Rights Watch said remnants of U.S.-made munitions were found at the site. The U.S., for its part, insisted its support for Saudi Arabia did not amount to a "blank check" for Saudi actions in Yemen, with the White House claiming it would conduct an "immediate review" of what a National Security spokesperson described as "significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led Coalition." Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) tried last month to block a $1+ billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia but the effort failed in the Senate. Saudi Arabia has been the primary recipient of U.S.-made arms from 2011 to 2015, a period during which the U.S. was responsible for a third of arms exports across the world. While the Pentagon asserted that U.S. commanders "retain the right to defend their ships," it says the strikes on the radar sites in Yemen, which the U.S. insists were in remote coastal areas far from civilians, were authorized by President Obama upon the recommendation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Prior to the civil war, the U.S. conducted drone strikes in Yemen against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other targets, sometimes fed to them by the government now in exile. Unsurprisingly, the airstrikes bred anger at the government and encouraged anti-Americanism. The power vacuums aggravated by Saudi intervention in the current civil war have helped Al-Qaeda resurge in Yemen, with the terrorist group even taking complete control of Mukalla, the third largest port city in the country. Yemen's exiled government has accused the Houthi rebels of being backed by Iran. No one appears to accuse the rebels of being backed by Al-Qaeda. The U.S. could not, then, twist the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their "associated forces" for a more direct and more sustained intervention in the Yemen conflict in the way it has used the AUMF to justify interventions in conflicts from West Africa to the Kush.[...]
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:15:00 -0400src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/f9nYCOCxt3o" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Above: Gary Johnson's new video on foreign policy. What is Aleppo! I'm having an Aleppo moment! #Mowmen! Haw haw, we all get it: Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president who's averaging around 7 percent in national polls, is a joke, especially when it comes to foreign policy, right? He couldn't even name the dictator of North Korea or any foreign leader! He's a Libertarian, and those guys have nothing to say about American power abroad, other than to withdraw into an insane isolationist position, amirite. Well, no. As Anthony Fisher has noted, Johnson laid out a sane, coherent, and skeptical foreign policy last week at the University of Chicago. Alone among candidates who are on the ballot in all 50 states, he has the temerity to point out that America's 21st-century wars haven't gone so well, either for us or the people we're liberating, droning, or otherwise bombing the shit out of. With Donald Trump tanking due to a seemingly endless procession of assault revelations, Johnson stands to benefit greatly. Not only has he addressed missteps on foreign policy, he's also talking up the Wikileaks emails that show Hillary Clinton to be a two-faced pol at best, a brazen B.S. artist at worst. From a new Daily Beast column that's based on my recent interview with Johnson: "Hypocrisy is the one unforgivable thing—saying one thing and doing another," Johnson tells me, pointing toward both Trump and Clinton as prime examples. "I've always lived by the credo that if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. You acknowledge mistakes and there's no quicker way to fix them by acknowledging them."... "Show me an America with less debt, greater economic strength, and robust trade relationships across the globe, and I will show you a safer, more secure, America," said Johnson in his [University of Chicago foreign policy] speech. "Terrorism and the threat from extremists are real. But our approach to those threats must be real as well. The notion that we will someday celebrate V-I Day, Victory over ISIS, is both naive and misleading. It won't happen. What must, and I believe, will, happen is that we focus our resources on isolating the extremists, containing them, and starving them of the funds and support they must have to mount large-scale attacks. Tens of thousands of boots on the ground won't do it. Dropping bombs on the other side of the globe won't do it. And pretending that some military-style Global War on Terror will bring about a clear victory is not realistic." Whether such an approach allows Johnson to pull Republican voters disgusted by Donald Trump's generally unhinged behavior on the one hand and ongoing revelations about Hillary Clinton's policy hypocrisy on the other is an open question. But there's little question that the Libertarian has followed his own counsel, owned his mistakes, and put forth a set of proposals worth taking seriously. Whole article here. Listen to my interview with Gary Johnson by clicking below. src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/287071155&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 16:50:00 -0400
(image) Tune into Kennedy on the Fox Business Network (FBN) tonight at 8p ET, where I'll be talking with the show's beloved hostess and friend of Reason about the foreign policy alternative offered by Gary Johnson, which I wrote about yesterday for Reason.
In addition to calling for reasonable cuts in military spending and for Congress to re-assume its constitutional duty as the entity that declares war, Johnson actually dared to speak to the American voting populace as if they were adults:
Johnson concluded with a call to end the "naive and misleading" fantasy that there will ever be a "V-I Day" to celebrate a decisive military victory over ISIS or any other iteration of the "Global War on Terror." His plan for battling Islamic extremism focuses on "isolating" and "containing them," by "starving them of the funds and support they must have to mount large-scale attacks," rather than "dropping bombs" or putting "tens of thousands of boots on the ground."
Tune in tonight at 8p or set your DVRs for Kennedy on FBN to see the segment.
Tue, 11 Oct 2016 19:02:00 -0400
Many on the non-interventionist wing of the libertarian coalition like to believe that Donald Trump is the best major party choice, mostly because he's willing to say over and over again that the Iraq war was a disastrous mistake and because most of the usual bad suspects of the GOP foreign policy establishment seem to hate him.
That is, most of them usually do, except for neocon thought leader David Frum, Mr. "Axis of Evil" himself. Frum says this week in The Atlantic that the key to the Republican Party moving forward is to accept and recognize that Trump is mostly right about everything even if he's a bit of jerk, and Frum is so undisturbed by anything about Trump's foreign policy that he doesn't mention it at all, merely saying he's glad Trump is for "enforc[ing] borders and national identity."
A new ad from the Trump campaign with lots of images of a fragile and ill-seeming Hillary Clinton should add to the disquiet that any non-interventionist on the Trump train should feel.
The ad is mostly about listing menaces to America that a woman this lacking in vigor, in the ad's telling, can't be expected to handle on behalf of the American people: "Iran promoting terrorism, North Korea threatening, ISIS on the rise, Libya and North Africa in chaos."
We are told by an ominous voice that "Hillary Clinton failed every single time as secretary of state" to end those problems.
And in an unspoken and frankly super-creepy slogan flashed at the end: "Donald Trump will protect you. He is the only one who can." (The best one can hope is this is more chat board level trolling of his nerdy enemies who dare suggest there is something fascistic at the root of Trumpism.)
There is not in this official campaign spot a hint of a suggestion of a clue that Trump's method of protection will involve less foreign intervention than is traditional for the past few decades of U.S. foreign policy.
However, since the ad says nothing specific one way or the other, and obviously some of the problems like Libya are clearly connected to past (though feckless) interventions she supported, I suppose those emotionally attached to Trump can keep holding on to non-interventionist hope.
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Tue, 11 Oct 2016 16:19:00 -0400Gary Johnson laid out a very coherent, sensible, and "skeptical" foreign policy in a speech last week at the University of Chicago. In it, the Libertarian presidential candidate presented a worldview that is stark contrast to both "smart power" in the form of non-stop interventionism favored by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or the incoherent thuggery of the pro-torture and "bomb the shit out of ISIS" policies put forth by Republican nominee Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the speech got very little coverage by the political press, which seems less interested in covering Johnson's actual foreign policy than it is in guffawing over his tough-to-watch "Aleppo" gaffe and other momentary brain farts of questionable significance. Contrary to the view that libertarian foreign policy tilts toward "isolationism," Johnson invoked Ronald Reagan's maxim of "peace through strength," and noted that he supported military intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11/01. But he expressed dismay that after deposing the Taliban and essentially chasing much of Al Qaeda out of the country, U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan 15 years later. For these reasons in particular, Johnson as president promised to be "the skeptic in the room" when it comes to "dropping bombs and sending young men and women into harm's way," adding, "I would be the president who would have to be convinced [military intervention] is absolutely necessary to protect the American people or clear U.S. interests." This alone is a refreshing divergence from the two major party candidates, who never miss an opportunity to make grandiose statements that their particular plan—such as killing ISIS' leaders or bombing their oil reserves—is a fool-proof use of military resources. Pointing to two instances where U.S. interventions contributed to the deposing of two brutal dictators, but also created power vacuums which left each country far worse off, Johnson said: As for Iraq itself, well, it is obviously a tragic mess. Saddam was horrible, but is what we replaced him with any better? Libya. Same song, different verse. We used our military to help overthrow Qaddafi. Again, a bad guy and, by most standards, a war criminal. But what took his place? Did we have a plan? Did we consider the potential consequences, with which we are living today? I could go on, but the lesson is clear. Is it our fault that chaos has consumed nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, or that violent extremists have found homes in the wake of our interventions? No. It isn't our fault alone. We had good intentions, but we intervened with no clear vision of the outcomes, and frankly, with no clear vision as to the overall U.S. interest, which should be the guiding principle. Unlike Donald Trump, who said he would only defend NATO allies if they contributed enough financially to the alliance, Johnson promised to "honor our commitments," but also noted, "other countries around the world have grown too dependent upon U.S. military power": The U.S. military exists, first and foremost, to defend the United States and U.S. vital interests. If our actions sometimes help others, that is a useful byproduct. But it shouldn't be confused with the U.S. military's—and the U.S. government's—core mission. Instead, we should expect other countries to defend themselves and their interests. If they did so, they would have greater capabilities for dealing with local problems before they become global ones. We should want more countries who share our values to be acting to defend those values, not paying us to do it for them. Today, U.S. military spending accounts for roughly one-third of total military spending of the entire world, exceeding the combined total of the next seven largest military budgets including those of Russia and China. Here at ho[...]
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 12:15:00 -0400Of all the talk about the kind of comments that might disqualify someone from the presidency (Gary Johnson's Gary Johnson moments, anything controversial Donald Trump's said), Hillary Clinton easily made some of the most disqualifying comments last night, when she framed military intervention in response to the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo as an opportunity to create leverage to force Russia "to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution." Clinton called for the U.S. to impose no-fly and safe zones in Syria, even while insisting she did not want ground troops in Syria (but conceding the use of special forces and enablers and trainers, as is already being done). "What is at stake here," Clinton argued, "is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it's all in, in Syria. And they've also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it's not me." Clinton's saber-rattling is irresponsible given not just the kind of U.S.-Russia cooperation she mentioned she was part of (like nuclear weapons treaties and the Iran nuke deal), but some increased cooperation over Syria itself. Last month, the U.S. and Russia came to an agreement on coordinating airstrikes in Syria, but the ceasefire largely collapsed, with Russian and Syrian forces focusing on Aleppo, a primary of strong hold of anti-government forces. In the face of the bombings, advocates of more intervention warn U.S.-backed rebels are joining Al-Qaeda, one of the primary rebel groups in Aleppo being fought by the Syrian government. The U.S., and Hillary Clinton, insist Bashar Assad must be removed from power. Last night Clinton insisted "children were suffering" because of Russian "aggression" in Syria. Russia has its only naval base with access to the Mediterranean in Syria, while the U.S. has articulated a more general "humanitarian," anti-Assad posture. Clinton explaining that U.S. military intervention in Syria was useful for the leverage it creates may have been the most honest thing she said at the debate. Clinton also brought up the U.S. government's formal accusation that the Russian government directed hacking of organizations like the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the election. Wikileaks' Julian Assange has said his organization would release more election-related documents, and within an hour of the Washington Post releasing a story on a tape of Trump having a lewd conversation with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush released a trove of e-mails to and from John Podesta as well as transcripts of some of Clinton's paid Wall Street speeches, the authenticity of which she appeared to confirm last night. At the debate, Trump again questioned whether Russia was behind the hacks. "I notice, anytime anything wrong happens," Trump explained, "they like to say the Russians are—she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking, but they always blame Russia." Trump also questioned the antagonistic approach to Russia. "I don't know Putin," Trump said, dismissing Clinton's references to his previous praise of the authoritarian, "I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don't know Putin." During the Republican convention, the removal of language supporting arming Ukraine in its conflict with Russia over Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed after the pro-Russian government collapsed in the wake of street protests, was brought up as possible evidence of Russian influence on the Trump campaign and by extension the Republican Party. The top Trump staffer, Paul Manafort, previously worked as a lobbyist for the pro-Russian Ukraine government, and eventually left the campaign. Yet not[...]
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 07:30:00 -0400A question about U.S. intervention in Syria at the second presidential debate devolved into quibbling between moderator Martha Raddatz, the chief global affairs correspondent at ABC News, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, that illustrated the assumptions embedded in the debate over intervention. Raddatz read a question submitted via social media about what the candidates would "do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo." The question continued: "Isn't it a lot like the Holocaust when the U.S. waited too long before we helped?" Clinton answered first, making a disturbing case to impose no-fly zones and so-called "safe zones" in Syria, because the U.S., she argued, needed "some leverage with the Russians" because Russia was "not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution, unless there is some leverage over them." No-fly zones easily become stepping stones for broader interventions. The U.S. previously imposed no-fly zones in places like Iraq and Libya. Russia, which has a naval base in Syria that offers it access to the Mediterranean, is unlikely to permit such a no-fly zone to be approved by the United Nations Security Council (where it holds veto power), let alone for one to be imposed without some resistance. Advocates of further U.S. intervention in Syria have not identified a compelling national security interest that might begin to justify intervention. Raddatz's intro to the question included a reference to video of a 5-year-old boy in an ambulance who had just been pulled out of the rubble in Aleppo. What was at stake in Aleppo according to Clinton? "What is at stake here," Clinton explained, "is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia. Russia has decided that it's all in, in Syria. And they've also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it's not me. I've stood up to Russia. I've taken on Putin and others, and I would do that as president." Clinton added that "wherever we can cooperate with Russia, that's fine," noting her work as secretary of state (during the famous "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations) on nuclear weapons treaties and the Iran nuclear deal. In response to a previous question about Trump's December 2015 Muslim ban comments, Clinton referenced a picture of an injured 4-year-old in Syria who'd "been bombed by the Russian and Syrian air forces." She continued: "There are children suffering in this catastrophic war, largely, I believe, because of Russian aggression." Children suffering from U.S. actions overseas don't come up in the mainstream as reasons to reconsider interventionism. In his own response to the question about Aleppo, Trump ridiculed Obama's "so-called line in the sand" with Russia. Clinton interrupted to complain she "was gone" by the time that happened and Trump appeared to concede the point. "You were in total contact with the White House, and perhaps, sadly, Obama probably still listened to you," Trump responded. Obama first made comments about a "red line" with Syria in 2012 when Clinton was secretary of state. In 2013, after Clinton was gone, reports of the Assad government using chemical weapons against civilians briefly led to renewed calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily in Syria. Off the cuff remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry about Assad relinquishing his chemical weapons led to Russia President Vladimir Putin offering to arrange just such a thing. Trump then moved on to talk about the nuclear, pointing out that whole Clinton "talks tough against Russia, the U.S. nuclear program "has fallen way behind, and they've gone wild with their nuclear program," appearing to suggest the U.S. should not have entered into nuclear weapons treaty with Russia. "Now[...]
Sun, 09 Oct 2016 14:15:00 -0400Tonight's presidential debate is unlikely to have much substance. It's nothing new—throughout the presidential election season, concerns over personality and character have trumped even the pretense of a focus on actual issues. Donald Trump's tenuous relationship with the truth makes this a particularly acute post-truth election but it isn't the first one. Neither is it the first post-issues election. When it comes to foreign policy, it has been decades since there's been any kind of substantive domestic electoral debate. In the 2008 presidential election cycle, then Senator-Barack Obama got a lot of mileage out of his opposition to the Iraq War, when he was a state senator representing Hyde Park, one of the most liberal constituencies in Chicago. His primary opponent, then-Senator Hillary Clinton had not only voted for the 2002 authorization of the use of military force in Iraq but had also become one of its most vocal proponents, helping to forge a now conveniently forgotten bipartisan consensus. But while Obama campaigned on his opposition to the Iraq War, which was by the 2008 election already slowly coming to an end. President Bush signed a status of forces agreement that called for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by 2011 in December 2008. After taking office as president, Obama tried to get Iraq to agree to a residual force of 10,000 troops to remain in Iraq after the withdrawal date. By the 2012 election, he was running on the idea that he had brought the Iraq War to an end, even as in his first term he tried to negotiate an extension for U.S. troops in Iraq. His Republican opponent that year, Mitt Romney, tried to argue that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011 was vital, and that Obama did in fact try and fail to do that. The president largely denied the truth of the sequence of events wholesale. In 2012, Obama was also campaigning on bringing the Afghanistan war to a responsible end. Today the U.S. war is in its 15th year, and is now a longer running conflict than the two world wars and the U.S. civil war combined. There was a long debated, quickly forgotten "surge" at the start of Obama's first presidency. The story of the Afghanistan war in Obama's first term was the story of bureaucratic infighting that pissed away any opportunity to bringing the Afghanistan war to a responsible end. Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state during Obama's first term, was a big part of that story and many other Obama-era foreign policy disasters. While the president's supporters touted the selection of Clinton as secretary of state as part of his effort to assemble a cabinet of "rivals" like Lincoln had done, what it had the effect of doing was erasing any kind of lesson that might have been learned about the folly of an interventionist U.S. foreign policy during the 2008 election cycle. "I don't want to have people who just agree with me," candidate Obama told Time magazine back then. "I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone." How far outside the comfort zone interventionism ever was for Obama, who famously promised to go into Pakistan with or without the sovereign government's permission if it meant taking out Osama bin Laden, is debatable. Clinton's influence on Obama era interventionism isn't. Clinton was a major advocate of the U.S.-backed intervention in Libya, caught on camera laughing it up when Libyan rebels benefiting from U.S. air support captured Col. Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, and sexually assaulted and killed him. It shouldn't have been surprising—in her political career there has not been an interventionism that she's opposed or of which she's even been skeptical. Even President Obama admitted that failing to plan [...]
Thu, 06 Oct 2016 10:27:00 -0400
(image) Since Michael C. Moynihan's "train didn't work," The Fifth Column, your very favorite libertarian-friendly podcast, found itself down a man for the first half of this week's show. Then we saw this guy (pictured) muttering to himself near Times Square…and the rest is political/broadcast history!
Among the topics you may expect: Kmele challenged Johnson's emphasis on the racial disparities of crime statistics, I asked him whether there was any truth to the Boston Globe's disputed reporting that he angrily rebuffed attempts by Weld strategists to see whether the L.P. ticket could be flipped (answer: no), and we managed to channel Moynihan enough to talk about the potentially worrisome mix between foreign-policy ignorance and the imperatives of the presidency. Among the topics you may not expect was whether Kmele should run for president in 2020, and would Johnson agree to be his vice president?
Moynihan joins for the second half of the show, and many idiots are shamed. Listen to the whole thing here:
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Here are the places where you can download, interact with, recommend to your friends about, and write glowing reviews of, The Fifth Column: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, wethefifth.com, @wethefifth, and Facebook.
* Bonus quiz: Which will be the "news" outlet to run with this endorsement as evidence of further "tension in the L.P. ticket"? And how long will it take?