Saturday, April 15, 2017

Krauthammer On Tillerson. Oren and Abrams - Thinkers. Noonan on Bannon. Is Insana Right Or Are His Concerns Insane?

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Krauthammer reportedly pleased that Tillerson, unlike Kerry, came away glum after his meeting with Lavrov and Putin.  Tillerson's reaction and comments were realistic according to Krauthammer whereas, Kerry was unrealistic when matters went poorly and always came away looking like  a "puppy dog" pretending everything was o.k. (See 1 below.)

Michael Oren is one of Israel's better minds and his thinking is worth considering. (See 1a below.)
Every administration has its theoretical/conceived/contrived Svengali, its pin cushion, its pinata. Reagan's was Rove, GW's was Cheney, Obama's was Jarrett and Trump's is Bannon.

They serve the purpose of detractors by being able to attack the president indirectly.

In the article below, Peggy Noonan obliquely defends Bannon who, is probably, his own worst enemy because of some character flaws, too brusque, abrasive and thus, unable to build personal relationships and trust.

Bannon is bright, has views that conflict with the establishment type and thus is possibly on his way out and, if so, I suspect it will narrow the potential dimension of Trump's presidency.

The problem is that whatever Bannon contributes by way of diverse and intelligent thinking he undercuts by the need to tolerate his overbearing and discordant personality. (See 2 below.)
In my previous memo I posted an article by Jim Sinkinson that referred to an article by Elliott Abrams but forgot to post Elliott's article.  (See 4 below.)
Is "Insana" short for insane thinking or is Ron correct?

By standing up to N Korea and challenging its leader, is Trump doing the wrong thing?  Should we continue to pacify this fat tyrant in order to buy time for his thuggish, corrupt leadership to implode? Having done so for decades, has it brought us closer to peace or given him time to complete his nuclear and delivery capability?  Is there ever a time to draw the line for a bully regardless of the consequences?  Think Chamberlain and Obama.

Time will tell. You decide. (See 5 below.)

Krauthammer: Russia Now Knows '8 Years of Free Lunch Is Over'

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer responded to the meeting between American and Russian diplomats by saying he was encouraged by its "iciness."
Krauthammer said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear to the Kremlin that "the eight years of [a] free lunch is over."
Charles Krauthammer praised Rex Tillerson’s “iciness” during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News.
Krauthammer seemed visibly pleased with the demeanor the secretary of state exhibited during his meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, explaining that he found the “realism” and “iciness” to be exactly what he was hoping for.
Krauthammer further contrasted Tillerson’s tense meetings with John Kerry’s flimsier foreign policy during his time as secretary of state.
“John Kerry would go around like a puppy dog, pretending everything was OK and the Russians were listening … all of this idiocy,” he stated. “What we had [today] was a stone-faced Tillerson who was grave and glum and said everything that was wrong.”
Krauthammer ended his analysis with a thinly veiled warning shot to Russia, telling them they can no longer expect to “walk all over the West.”

1a) Iran Is a Bigger Threat Than Syria and North Korea Combined

Damascus and Pyongyang violated their agreements. Tehran can comply and still threaten millions. 

By Michael Oren

The U.S. has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes—Syria and North Korea—brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from President Trump. But the third agreement—with Iran—is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honoring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.
The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognized that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed that these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.
All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the U.S. and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.
Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a U.S. Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frameworks and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us, the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.
Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfill its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behavior and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state—Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.
This, for Israel and our neighboring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime—which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009—has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the current regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.
How can the U.S. and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalizing Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as U.N. restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and Congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire.
In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has made a major step toward restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The U.S., Israel and the world will all be safer.
Mr. Oren is Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy and a Knesset member for the Kulanu Party.
2) Does Steve Bannon Have Something to Offer?

In 2014 the beleaguered White House aide raised important moral questions about today’s capitalism.

By Peggy Noonan
My late friend Bill Safire, the tough and joyous New York Times columnist, once gave me good advice. I was not then a newspaper columnist, but he’d apparently decided I would be. This is what he said: Never join a pile-on, always hit ’em when they’re up. Don’t criticize the person who’s already being attacked. What’s the fun in that, where’s the valor? Hit them when they’re flying high and it takes some guts.
So, in the matter of Steve Bannon :
I think we can agree he brings a certain amount of disorder. They say he’s rough and tough, and there’s no reason to doubt it. They say he leaks like a sieve and disparages his rivals, and this can be assumed to be correct: They all do that in this White House. He is accused of saying incendiary things and that is true. A week into the administration he told Michael Grynbaum of the Times the media should “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” “I love a gunfight,” he reportedly said in the middle of his latest difficulties. When he tried to muscle members of the Freedom Caucus to vote for the ObamaCare replacement bill, a congressman blandly replied, “You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something I was 18 years old, and it was my daddy, and I didn’t listen to him, either.” When I said a while back that some of the president’s aides are outlandish, and confuse strength with aggression, he was in mind.
But there’s something low, unseemly and ugly in the efforts to take him out so publicly and humiliatingly, to turn him into a human oil spot on the tarmac—this not only from his putative colleagues but now even the president. “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Mr. Trump purred to the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin.
So let’s take a look at something impressive Mr. Bannon has done. I’ve been meaning to write of it for a while. In 2014 he did a live Skype interview for a conference on poverty at the Vatican. BuzzFeed ran it during the campaign under the headline “This Is How Steve Bannon Sees the Entire World.”
It shows an interesting mind at work.
The West is currently facing a “crisis of capitalism,” he said. The world was able to recover after the world wars in part thanks to “an enlightened form of capitalism” that generated “tremendous wealth” broadly distributed among all classes. This capitalism was shaped by “the underlying spiritual and moral foundations . . . of Judeo-Christian belief.” Successful capitalists were often either “active participants in the Jewish faith” or “active participants in the Christian faith.” They operated on a kind of moral patrimony, part tradition, part religious teaching. But now the West has become more secular. Capitalism as a result has grown “unmoored” and is going “partly off track.”
He speaks of two “disturbing” strands. “One is state-sponsored capitalism,” as in China and Russia. We also, to a degree, see it in America. This is “a brutal form of capitalism” in which wealth and value are distributed to “a very small subset of people.” It is connected to crony capitalism. He criticizes the Republican Party as “really a collection of crony capitalists that feel they have a different set of rules of how they’re going to comport themselves.”
The other disturbing strand is “libertarian capitalism,” which “really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost.” He saw this strand up close when he was on Wall Street, at Goldman Sachs . There he saw “the securitization of everything” and an attitude in which “people are looked at as commodities.”
Capitalists, he said, now must ask: “What is the purpose of whatever I’m doing with this wealth? What is the purpose of what I’m doing with the ability that God has given us . . . to actually be a creator of jobs and a creator of wealth?”
With both these strands, he says, the middle class loses ground. This has contributed to the “global revolt” of populism and nationalism. That revolt was fueled, too, by the financial crisis of 2008. None of those responsible on Wall Street were called to account: “No bonuses and none of their equity was taken.” The taxes of the middle class were used to bail them out.
There’s more in the conversation, which lasted 50 minutes and included the problem of racist and anti-Semitic overtones in populist movements. But it’s a thoughtful, serious talk, and its themes would reverberate in the 2016 election.
You can see Mr. Bannon’s basic or developing political and economic philosophy as half-baked, fully baked, or likely to explode in the oven. And it is fair to note his views haven’t seemed to gel or produce very much in the first dozen weeks of the Trump era.
But what Mr. Bannon offered in the interview was a point of view that was publicly declared and could be debated.
What will take its place if he leaves the White House or recedes as a figure? What worldview will prevail, to the extent Mr. Trump does worldviews? Policy changes accompanying Mr. Bannon’s diminishment this week included the president’s speaking approvingly of the Export-Import Bank and NATO, declaring that China isn’t a currency manipulator after all, suggesting the dollar may be too strong, and hitting Syria and Afghanistan.
None of that sounds like Candidate Trump.
It is possible what we are seeing is simply the rise of a more moderate or conciliatory or establishment Trump White House. But it also looks like the rise of the Wall Street Mr. Bannon painted as tending to see people as commodities. Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, is said to be Mr. Bannon’s most effective internal foe. He is the new rising figure. There are many Wall Street folk—some from Messrs. Bannon and Cohn’s old stomping ground, Goldman Sachs—in influential administration posts. They don’t come across as the kind of people who exhaust themselves pondering the meaning of the historical moment or tracing societal stresses and potential responses.
Will all these changes, in policy and perhaps personnel, hurt Mr. Trump? Probably a little. But nothing dramatic right now, because his supporters knew they were making an unusual choice in making him president, and they will give him time.
But if the Trump White House is itself changing dramatically, we’ll look back on this week as the moment the change became apparent.
I end with Safire, who’s been gone eight years. I still miss him, and I thought of him this week when I received good news. He’d received the same news 39 years before. I think he’d be happy, clap me on the back, call me kid. And I’m telling you the first chance he got to take a deserved shot, he’d take it. And if instead I’d endured some personal or professional loss, he’d be first one on the phone.
He had style. Style is good.
Beautiful Easter and Passover to my readers, who wrote in this week and reminded me how beautiful they are. I know that’s corny, but sometimes life is corny.

The Trump Administration Settles In on Settlements

By Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations

Israeli settlement activity has been in the news this past week because the Trump administration is steadily defining its policy.
What has emerged is a good policy: sensible, flexible, and realistic. Which is to say, it’s a lot like Bush policy.
Obama policy had made construction in the settlements a sore point for eight full years. This was one reason among many for the constant tension between the government of Israel and that of the United States during all of Mr. Obama’s term in office.
What are the terms of the agreement between the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration? First, there is no written agreement and that’s a good thing. There are understandings. That means there can be some arguments, but no accusations that “you’re violating what you signed!” Second, the Trump administration understands that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and does not view construction there as “settlement activity.” Third, there will be no new settlements built except the one being created for the people evicted from Amona, a settlement deemed illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court. Netanyahu apparently persuaded the administration that he had made that commitment last year, before the Trump presidency, and needed to keep it. Fourth, new construction in settlements in the West Bank will be in already built-up areas, or if that’s impossible, as close to them as possible. Fifth, there will be some restraint in the pace of settlement expansion. Sixth, apparently Netanyahu agreed not to permit new “outposts” to be built—small groups of houses erected without government permission. And finally, there will be no annexation of land in the West Bank.
This is very close to the Bush-Sharon understandings of 2003 and 2004. Our “deal” was no new settlements, no seizure of additional land for settlements, construction in already built-up areas, and no financial inducements to move to a settlement (e.g. a cheap, government-provided  mortgage). The goals are the same: to limit the physical expansion of settlements so that the Israeli footprint in the West Bank does not become larger and larger; to keep most population growth in the larger blocks that will remain with Israel in any final status agreement; and to prevent this issue from occupying center stage and being a constant irritant to the two governments.
This is smart. The alternative approach, that of the Obama administration under George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, was not. By treating all construction–in Jerusalem, the major blocks, and the smallest outlying settlements—exactly the same, that Obama approach created a huge Israeli consensus against U.S. policy. The Trump approach is politically sensible: most Israelis do not think of construction in Jerusalem or the big settlements like Ma’ale Adumim to be anything like construction in some tiny settlement far beyond the Israeli security barrier. So this deal should be sustainable.
There will no doubt be arguments, as noted, over some questions: for example, is some new apartment house really as close to the already built-up area as it can be? But we dealt with such matters in the Bush years. The prime minister’s office would call, we’d discuss what was planned, and we would not allow these things to sour the terrific relationship between the president and the prime minister, or between the two governments. That’s the way it should be, and that appears to be what President Trump has in mind
5) Insana: Trump's 'Reckless Abandon,' Fed Tactics May Spark Bear Market
By F McQuire
Economic guru Ron Insana warns that President Donald Trump and the United States are engaged in a delicate and dangerous dance with two well-known triggers of a bear market for stocks,
The Trump administration's saber rattling at foreign rivals could lead to serious consequences, while the Federal Reserve is determined to keep hiking interest rates.
“The Trump administration, despite campaign promises to the contrary, is showing signs that it is willing to flex its military muscle with almost reckless abandon,” he wrote for
“Moving a battle fleet into the waters off North Korea, and quite close to China, is the type of sabre rattling that can lead to war," wrote Insana, a CNBC and MSNBC contributor and the author of four books on Wall Street.
"The administration has said it is willing to use pre-emptive force against North Korea, which continues to test ballistic missiles and, quite possibly, nuclear weapons,” Insana wrote.

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