Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Time Does Not Wait Even For Presidents! Maybe Republicans Might Actually Come Through.

It is refreshing to finally have a Sec. of State and Defense who are clear eyed and plain speaking.

As Trump grows into the presidency the mess, he inherited, is restricting his maneuverability.

Syria's Assad remains a thorn in our side as well as Russia's because they seem unwilling and/or unable to control him and now, should he throw down another poison gas gauntlet, he will be challenging a president who most likely will respond.

In the matter of The Iran Deal, should Trump disavow the agreement there are few consequences for the Ayatollahs.  Obama's feckless policies  and paying ransom merged with the West's desire to engage in commerce and Russia's protective alliance would allow Iran to go nuclear sooner and thus, limits our already narrow options.

With respect to N Korea, the alternatives appear equally bleak.  China is obviously conflicted not wanting a nuclear N Korea on their borders and an America threatening to engage 'fat boy' while, at the same time, apparently wanting to demonstrate a degree of willingness to co-operate with Trump's request to squelch their errant uncontrolled ally. (See 1 and 1a below.)

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress are busily engaged in making Trump's domestic agenda more difficult to enact.  Our lack of growth, our crushing debt, the lack of high paying job creation and re-employment serve to further weigh upon our foreign policy initiatives.

The Democrats have pledged to be non-co-operative in the hope this pathetic tactic will allow them to return to power post 2018.

The Republican' strategy seems based on their hope the Democrats will self-destruct since the R's seem unable to coalesce.

Neither party appreciates the fact that voters are getting fed up with the current state of affairs their respective obdurate attitude is creating as external threats mount.

The sand is quickly running through the hour glass and time will not wait even for our president. (See 1b below.)
Obviously the market today was delighted at the prospect Republicans might actually get their act together and devise some form of health care legislation and then go on to craft some form of tax relief.

Without knowing what they will ultimately propose, I suspect it will fall short of the ultimate but it could be good enough to light a flame under the economy.  Time will tell but it is evident the market is encouraged.
1) According to Israeli defense officials, Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons. Earlier this month a chemical attack in Syria killed over 80 people in a particularly gruesome manner. Director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu of the international chemical weapons watchdog the “Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” said laboratory tests had provided “incontrovertible” evidence that victims and survivors of the April 4 attack in northern Syria were exposed to sarin nerve gas or a similar banned toxin, while Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman said that he had “100 percent certainty” that Syrian President Bashar Assad was himself directly responsible.

In 2014, the United States negotiated the removal of Assad’s chemical weapons supply, culminating with then Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement:
With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.
However, roughly a month after Kerry’s statement Israel announced that it had evidence that Syria was continuing to hide “significant” amounts of chemical weapons in breach of the agreement, and earlier this month Israel’s assessment proved to be (tragically) correct. Now Israel is once again warning of Assad’s weapons arsenal.
The lesson of recent history? It is a good idea to take Israeli assessments on this particular topic very, very seriously.
1a) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that Iran could “follow the same path as North Korea” in pursuing nuclear weapons and putting global security at risk. US President Donald Trump made contradictory promises during the campaign as to what his policy would be toward Iran, but his positions and actions regarding Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan seem to indicate that he is open to creating deterrence through military actions. Somewhat paradoxically, at about the same time the Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and says the U.S. has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program. 
1b) A Trump Alliance Strategy

Mattis and McMaster learned in Iraq that if you make allies, you should keep them

By Daniel Henninger

After 59 Tomahawk missiles landed on a Syrian airfield, followed by the dropping of a 21,600-pound bomb on Islamic State’s hideouts in Afghanistan, the world has begun to ask: What is Donald Trump’s foreign policy? And so the search begins by pressing what Mr. Trump has done so far against various foreign-policy templates. Is he a neoconservative, a Scowcroftian realist or a babe in the woods?
We know this is a fool’s errand. There will be no Trump Doctrine anytime soon, and that’s fine. The Obama Doctrine, whatever it was, left his successor a steep climb in the Middle East and Asia. It is difficult to find doctrinal solutions for issues that everyone calls “a mess.” It is possible, though, to see the shape of an emerging strategy.
The place to look for that strategy is inside the minds of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Mr. Mattis said something that jumped out at the time. He called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “the most successful military alliance probably in modern history, maybe ever.”
This was in notable contradistinction to the view of his president that NATO was obsolete. Then last week, after meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump said of the alliance: “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
Let’s set aside the obligatory sniggering over such a remark and try to see a president moving toward the outlines of a foreign policy that, for a president who likes to keep it simple, may be described with one word: allies.
NATO emerged as a formal alliance after World War II. Less formally, the U.S. struck alliances with other nations to base troops and ships, as in the Persian Gulf.
After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, foreign-policy thinkers began to debate the proper role of the U.S. as the world’s only superpower. Liberals argued that maintaining the U.S. at the apex of this alliance system was, well, obsolete. Instead the U.S. should act more like a co-equal partner with our allies, including international institutions such as the United Nations.
The idea of a flatter alliance structure, or leading from behind, came to life with the Obama presidency. It doesn’t work.
If indeed Jim Mattis and H.R. McMaster are the architects of an emerging Trump foreign policy, their most formative experiences, in Iraq, may shape that policy.
After the Iraq War began in 2003, the U.S. tried to defeat the enemy essentially with brute force. Serving in different areas of Iraq—Gen. Mattis in Anbar province and then-Col. McMaster in the city of Tal Afar—the two men realized that force alone wasn’t winning. Instead, they sought, successfully, to gain buy-in from the local populations and tribal leaders. In return for that buy-in, U.S. forces provided security to their new allies.
The difficult and ultimately tragic question was, what happens after the U.S. leaves? In strategic terms: How does the U.S. stabilize a volatile world without becoming a permanent occupying force?
Last month, Gen. McMaster brought onto the NSA staff Nadia Schadlow, who has thought a lot about that question. Her assignment is to develop the National Security Strategy Report. The title of her just-released book, “War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success Into Political Victory,” summarizes its core idea:
Unlike its pullout from Iraq, the U.S. has to remain involved—engaged—in the turbulent political space that always exists between conflict and peace, a space filled with competition for influence and power. What Gens. Mattis and McMaster learned in the wake of Iraq is that if you make allies, you should keep them.
Thus, Vice President Mike Pence stood at the DMZ across from North Korea reconfirming the U.S.’s alliance with South Korea. A day later, he did the same in Japan.
Mr. Trump met in recent weeks with King Abdullah of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt and, most importantly, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Salman. This week, Mr. Trump called to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his referendum “victory.”
These are the Middle East’s “tribal leaders,” or allies, whose buy-in will be necessary if the U.S. is to consolidate gains from the military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan—possibly with the partition of Syria into three tribal sectors.
Russia has separated itself by choosing instead an alliance with Iran to create a Russo-Iranian Shiite crescent extending across the Middle East to the Mediterranean.
The Mattis-McMaster foreign policy taking shape looks like a flexible strategy born of military experience in fast, fluid circumstances—our world. It is based on both formal and mobile alliances with partners willing to use diplomatic, financial, political and, if necessary, military pressure to establish stable outcomes. The word “abandon” doesn’t fit here.
Some might say that sounds like the U.S. leading alongside. With one big difference: The U.S. is in fact leading.

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