The innumerable pathways of history to successes or failures are richly paved with a plethora of knowledgeable, yet in many cases erroneous 20/20 hindsights by contemporary as well as future generations. A case in point is the stormy and acrimonious history of the novel state of Ukraine. Suffice it to say that the word “ukraina” had been used for almost a millennium to designate the outer territories of various states and empires but not a sovereign state. Throughout the 16th, the 17th, and the 18th centuries, most of today’s Ukraine was the regional name of the then existing border regions within the Polish Kingdom. From the end of the 18th century on, the word “ukraina” was replaced in the Russian Empire with its official designation as “Little Russia.”
World War I found the people who lived in the territory of today’s Ukraine in the crossfire between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Imperial Russia. Following the October Revolution in St. Petersburg, this territory was mired in a protracted civil war. Attempts at establishing a separate Ukrainian state failed both in Kiev as well as in Lvov. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles divided this territory among Poland, the Kingdom of Romania, the newly established state of Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.
During World War II, the joint invasion of Poland by Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union expanded the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s territory westward. From 1945, and until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine remained an integral part of the Soviet Union. The subsequent Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine on August 24, 1991, established the independent Ukrainian state.
History matters. Calling the intervening three decades politically, economically, financially, culturally, socially, and ethically/morally tumultuous might be an understatement. Politically, a collection of lightweight political figures who used the presidential office to cement shameless corruption and indulged in personal enrichment, created a criminal state rather than a democratic republic promised in the constitution.
Economically, very few new enterprises of any national or international value were created. Profits were siphoned out of Ukraine faster than they were created. Financially, the value of the hryvnia was oscillating between total irrelevance and bare tolerance.
Socially and culturally, Ukraine is a veritable patchwork of about hundred thirty nationalities with their unique and separate languages and cultures. At least twenty two percent of the population is composed of ethnic minorities. Largest among them are the Russians, comprising at least seventeen percent of the population. Concentrating mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the state, they have built a fairly homogeneous and contagious ethnic enclave within the state. In addition, Romanians, Belorussians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Polish, Armenians, and Hungarians rounded up the rich collections of larger ethnic groups inside Ukraine. The much hailed Euromaidan protests and the so-called February Revolution only deepened the historically existing divisions between the western and the eastern parts of Ukraine. Moreover, divisions among the smaller ethnic groups also have been exacerbated by the extreme fascist elements of the Ukrainian population. In particular, the Hungarian minority in the north-western corner of the state, with its unique language, have felt discriminated against and complained regularly about being oppressed by the majority ethnic Ukrainians.
Instead of mitigating and ultimately solving these problems, first the interim Yatsenyuk and then the elected Poroshenko governments failed to act upon the ethnic grievances of these minorities. By relying heavily on the Svoboda party, widely viewed as an ultra-nationalist, and even fascist political movement, which has espoused the late Bandera’s racist policies, and by turbo-charging corruption, both administrations failed miserably by forging Ukrainian national identity and state-wide prosperity.
As a result, Ukraine lost Crimea to Russia. Moreover, the separatist war in the south-eastern region of Ukraine has brought untold sufferings and the loss of human lives to the people since 2014. As a by-product, the all encompassing poison of corruption has enabled terrorists of many persuasions to use the territory of Ukraine to plot armed attacks against the whole of Europe and beyond.
Last spring, amid this total chaos, national elections were held. The reigning President Petro Poroshenko was soundly defeated and a popular actor Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President with an overwhelming majority in the Parliament (Rada), in Kiev. The new President’s mandate has included the total rejection of his predecessor’s policies, the ruthless elimination of corruption, the establishment of an honest and transparent government, and last but not least the restoration of peace and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
On the last item, President Zelensky promised the voters during his campaign that if elected he would end the undeclared war with Russia. Once elected, first he began to push for the revival of the moribund Minsk Agreement of 2015. Predictably though, the irreconcilable interpretations of the agreement led both Russia and Ukraine into a complete political cul-de-sac. Next, President Zelensky moved to breathe new life into the equally moribund so-called Normandy Format of peace talks comprising the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany.
In order to bring about such a summit, President Zelensky pulled back the Ukrainian military from frontline positions in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, he committed his administration to implementing the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which designed a roadmap for elections in the separatist controlled territories of the Donbas region. These one-sided concessions sparked large-scale protest across the country. The subsequent summit that took place on December 9, 2019, in Paris, merely yielded three small commitments, including the exchange of prisoners, but no real tangible results. Since this summit, nothing of importance affecting the status quo has really transpired between Ukraine and Russia respecting the Donbas and Luhansk regions.
Beyond attempting to solve the civil war in the south-eastern region, President Zelensky has accomplished precious little domestically. Ukraine is still ripe for corruption. The economy has not been reformed and instead of developing, it has been regressing steadily. As a consequence, Ukrainians are leaving for Central and Western Europe in the hundreds of thousands. For all practical purposes, Ukraine is bankrupt. The IMF loan package is stuck in the Parliament, the Rada, the casualty of political and false patriotic squabbling among various interest groups. Even if the Rada would approve all the changes required by the IMF, the loan amount would only suffice to pay off some of Ukraine’s onerous mountain of debts.
Presently, Ukraine appears to be beyond redemption. The country’s political, economic and ethnic fragmentation is real and in the absence of a unifying national identity it seems to be unbridgeable. Ukraine’s breakup appears to be very likely. Whether such a breakup would occur peacefully or through a bloody civil war is still open to question.
Bringing Ukraine closer to the European Union and to NATO, or even elevating it to full membership in both organizations, are desirable objectives. However, such developments would surely raise strong resistance from the Kremlin. Realistically, excluding Russia from decisions concerning Ukraine’s future international orientation would only expedite its dissolution. Russia’s reaction to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014, and the subsequent political developments, should be an unambiguous warning for the United States of America as well as the European Union. Clearly, the international nonpartisanship of Kiev is of extreme importance to the Kremlin. Crossing this “red line” would certainly trigger another indirect, or even direct, military intervention by Russia.Ultimately, Ukraine’s problems must be solved by its citizens. The United States of America and the European Union could help Ukraine. Yet, the best solution would be if Washington and Brussels would join forces with Moscow in establishing a truly democratic, prosperous, and non aligned Ukraine between the western and the eastern parts of the European continent.
When Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, testified before Congress last year about strategies for bolstering the maritime industry, a striking fact was embedded in his prepared remarks: the oceangoing carrier likely to become the biggest shipper of containerized cargo into U.S. ports is wholly owned by the Chinese government.
That’s a bit different from the case with Huawei, the Trump Administration’s bête noire in the rivalry for 5G leadership. Huawei is usually described as state-influenced or state-subsidized, but it isn’t owned outright by the Chinese government. For over a decade, though, Beijing has taken a direct role in building up every facet of China’s global maritime power while Washington, as usual, was distracted by other matters.
The results are startling. Chinese shipyards produce over a thousand oceangoing merchant vessels every year, and thanks to government subsidies are well on their way to eclipsing former industry leaders in Japan and South Korea. U.S. shipyards typically build less than ten such vessels even in good years.
Less than 1% of the world’s oceangoing merchant fleet of 44,000 ships flies the U.S. flag, and barely 1% of U.S. trade is carried on U.S.-flagged vessels—despite cargo preferences reserving shipments paid for or subsidized by the federal government for American ships.
Meanwhile, China has steadily expanded its control of commercial port facilities from South Asia to the Mediterranean to the Panama Canal. Beijing’s maritime footprint, part of a broader campaign to dominate global commerce, has grown inexorably even as the U.S. commercial presence in many ports has receded.
Even if China was not building new naval vessels at a furious pace—which it is—the growth of China’s commercial shipbuilding and shipping prowess and the retreat of America’s would call for a strategic review. The coronavirus crisis merely accelerates the process by providing new reasons for concern—such as the recent revelation that Chinese authorities are not allowing U.S. healthcare companies to export medical supplies like face masks from their plants in China (most of the antibiotics used in the U.S. originate in China).
The problem here isn’t that China is competing with U.S. maritime interests and winning. The problem is that official Washington has largely deserted the field, failing to frame policies that can maintain a reasonable balance of maritime interests. In a crisis, Beijing could leverage its commercial strength at sea to defeat America’s military before it even managed to reach war zones, for example by impeding port access, preventing access to third-party shipping, and leaving the U.S.-flag fleet with inadequate sealift for moving materiel.
This is not a new story. On the eve of World War One, only 10% of U.S. trade was carried on American ships, because U.S. yards had failed to make the transition from wood to steel construction of vessels (U.S. tariffs kept domestic steel prices well above the levels seen in other countries). So when other countries withdrew their merchant vessels from global commerce at the onset of war, U.S. economic and military activities were hobbled.
The Wilson Administration responded by setting up a shipping board that commissioned over a thousand merchant vessels from U.S. yards, but many of those ships were completed too late to play a part in the U.S. war effort. Similar shortfalls existed in World War Two—over 5,000 cargo ships and tankers had to be built—but Washington can’t count on having years to mobilize in a future confrontation with China. It will probably be a “come as you are” event.
That could be disastrous for the United States. In a major conflict, the U.S. might lack the capacity to import essential goods from other countries, it might lack the shipping tonnage to sustain a protracted sealift effort, and it might lack the merchant seamen to operate what vessels it does possess.
That latter concern, lack of merchant seamen, tends to be neglected in policy debates about how to arrest America’s maritime decline. Without a reasonably robust American-flagged commercial fleet, there won’t be enough experienced seamen to sustain a military lift operation in wartime. That is particularly true of the hundred or so ships in the Maritime Administration’s National Defense Reserve Fleet, because many are antiquated vessels relying on steam power that fewer and fewer of today’s merchant mariners are certified to operate.
It would be an exaggeration to say Washington has no plan to deal with this challenge. Over the last century, a complex collection of measures has been put in place to support retention of a minimal U.S.-flag fleet and pool of merchant mariners that the government can tap in emergencies. The most important such exertions are the Jones Act that reserves routes between domestic ports for U.S. made and manned vessels, and the Maritime Security Program that prepares U.S.-flag vessels engaged in international trade for mobilization in an emergency.
Such policies are helpful but inadequate. They have not arrested the gradual decline of U.S. commercial shipbuilding and shipping interests, and they certainly have done nothing to slow China’s rise to global dominance. What is needed is a comprehensive strategy for maintaining a global commercial maritime presence comparable to the military presence that the U.S. Navy exerts.
That will cost money, although nowhere near as much as China (a much poorer nation) is spending to build up its own maritime presence. For instance, Washington could bolster the American commercial oceangoing fleet and mariner community by raising the cargo preference requirement for all federally-assisted loads to 100%. At present, all military cargo must be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, but agricultural cargo depending on federal payments need only reach a 50% threshold. Perhaps that too should be raised to 100%.
Where the money would be most needed is to restore a construction differential subsidy abolished during the Reagan years so that U.S. shipbuilders can compete on a level playing field with the subsidized yards of Asian nations. Additional steps would be needed to defray the differential operating costs of U.S. ships once they went to sea, since some nations impose virtually no requirements on the credentialing and work conditions of merchant mariners.
The Maritime Security Program already does that for U.S.-flag ships operating on international routes, but if the goal is to rebuild the nation’s global maritime role rather than simply maintain a minimal fleet for meeting wartime needs, then the program will need to be expanded. Washington has let the commercial shipbuilding and shipping industry languish for too long, and as a result American commercial vessels have nearly disappeared from the world’s oceans. As policymakers rethink economic priorities in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, now would be a good time to recommit to being a first-class commercial seafaring nation.
Loren Thompson focuses on the strategic, economic and business implications of defense spending as the Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates. Prior to holding his present positions, Loren was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. Loren has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.
“He who controls the sea controls everything.” -- Themistocles of Athens, circa 500 BC
INTRODUCTION: America Should Protect Its Own People and Interests
A national sentiment has recently revived which elitist for years have discouraged. This is the sentiment that America should promote its own interests, despite the globalist trend which gives the country’s needs a lower priority.
One example is the Jones Act. This long-standing law is under attack because the act favors U.S. interests within its own borders. The law essentially requires that cargoes traveling from one U.S. port to another must be carried on vessels that are American-owned, American-built, and American-crewed. But it does not apply to international shipping and trade.
The Jones Act must be appreciated in context. And it must be preserved.
The philosophy of “America First” is disparaged as being nationalistic; this ignores the key point that nationalism is not about money or military power. First and foremost, it promotes this country’s values and economic interests.
For instance, the coronavirus outbreak has increased awareness that it can be dangerous to depend on China to provide the makings of pharmaceuticals, and how risky it is when businesses large and small have their supply chains disturbed because factories abroad become idled. Overseas diseases can disrupt America just as surely as wars, political or social upheavals.
“America First” patriotism is not blind jingoism. It is not linked to any particular race. It encompasses all religions. It promotes national principles that include self-governance, equality before the law, and human rights. It promotes economic security for the people in the United States of America, and elevates their interest above those of foreign lands.
Globalism, however, considers all nations the same, treating oppressive regimes as deserving equal value with democracies, and totalitarianism as the moral equivalent of constitutional rights. Or it asserts that pursuing the well-being of a country’s own people is somehow immoral.
Critics of the Jones Act ignore the protection of American values and national interests, arguing as though U.S. law should only consider money. Their objection to the Jones Act is that some companies might save on shipping costs if foreign interests were allowed to handle domestic freight. The critics also ignore how China in particular has launched a massive plan to dominate the world’s oceans and to control the essential sector of transporting goods.
In short, America has become dependent on foreign countries to carry goods to and from the U.S., thus controlling global trade because 90% of global trade goes by ship. Only the Jones Act blocks countries from spreading their monopoly to include the waterways within U.S. borders.
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The Jones Act Is Being Attacked Although It Protects American Interests
For 100 years, a pro-American law known as the Jones Act has served national interests without controversy. But recently a campaign to challenge the Jones Act has been launched, based on claims that its pro-American requirements increase the costs of moving goods by ship between American ports.
The campaign disregards America’s national interests; it promotes a pure laissez-faire approach by the U.S. regardless of whether competing countries will support free trade. It ignores the enormous subsidies, protective tariffs, exclusionary tariffs and policies of other countries which disadvantage American businesses. Promoters oppose all forms of American tariffs, especially those of President Donald Trump, even when they are in response to tariffs enacted by other countries.
A Jones Act repeal would sacrifice America’s borders and America’s interests, allowing heavily-subsidized foreign shipping within domestic U.S. waters as well as international waters. The rationale is simplistic: Businesses might save money by using shipping offered by nations which undercut competition by subsidizing the building and operating of huge craft, and which offer foreign flags of convenience that often ignore safety and other standards.
This competition from other countries should not be labeled as free enterprise. For example, China dominates shipbuilding by using their state-owned enterprises and subsidies, weak labor protections and cheap or even slave labor, plus lavishing government money to subsidize operating costs of cargo ships.
For those whose sole criteria is lower costs, China has much to offer. China’s communism and human rights record can be disregarded if money is all that matters. According to the infamous quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin, capitalists would eagerly sell rope to the communists and then be hung by that rope.
For those who cherish America’s values and system of government, other issues are paramount. Protecting America’s shipping interests was promoted by that father of capitalism, Adam Smith. He wrote in The Wealth of Nations that a country should protect its maritime trade from foreign competition. Smith saw economies as a servant of national interest.
The principle extends beyond ships. Foreign air carriers can fly between U.S. airports and those in other countries but cannot fly purely-domestic routes. Foreign trucks face restrictions on operating within our borders.
The British author Joanne Rowling of the fantasy series Harry Potter has introduced the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Azbakan. These hooded humanoid characters have been depicted in the movies as skeletal figures with the ability to fly unconstrained by the laws of physics. They are the prison guards of Azbakan whose task is to create utter hopelessness and even suicidal self-hatred by the inmates. Their destructive energy can be spread like a virus through the air and also by invisible, yet direct contacts with humans. Arabella Figg, a character in OP8 describes them thus: “Everything went cold….and I felt…as though all happiness had gone from the world…and I remembered….dreadful things.”
Viktor Orban’s Hungary is Joanne Rowlings’s Azbakan and the metastasizing fatal cancerous tumor gnawing on the body politic of NATO and the European Union. He and his very small circle of co-conspirators, better defined as his accomplices in setting up and running his criminal enterprise, are the Dementors of the Hungarian people.
Since his party FIDESZ has been brought back to power by a two thirds majority in the Parliament in 2010, and have been kept in power through a new and taylor made constitution as well as election frauds in 2014 and 2018, Viktor Orban has had a deliberate plan to kill every aspect of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. His diabolical legal and extra legal schemes of demoralization of the population have been designed to reduce the entire nation to profligate imbecility. His so-called “illiberal democracy” has stripped the citizens of their chance to vote out his government by free elections devoid of voter fraud, ballot stuffing, and the forced inclusion of ethnic Hungarians in the local and national elections from the neighboring countries.
His and his accomplices shameful corruption has impoverished Hungary and has kept the bulk of the nation as near to abject poverty as seemed appropriate for a modicum of societal tranquility. Politically, Viktor Orban has pursued a host of tactical opportunities that has aimed at propping up his autocracy. His means have included every conceivable move, including cozying up to dictators from the east, such as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Russia, Valdimir Putin, and a colorful assortment of really nasty authoritarians from the former Soviet Union. Domestically, the tactics that Viktor Orban has employed have been drastic. He and his accomplices have ruined the health industry and destroyed almost the entire educational system. As a result, most of the experienced physicians and qualified nurses have left Hungary, and teachers have lost their jobs in the thousands. Thus, the difference between the general condition of Hungary now and the days before 1990, is one of degree, the latter state might have been better than the former.
Yet, no economic decline or financial troubles appear to rattle the consciousness of Hungary’s Dementors. As in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Viktor Orban and his accomplices possess no soul and know no mercy. Stealing and embezzlement are continuing unabated. His boyhood body from his home village Lorinc Meszaros and his son in law Istvan Tiborcz have become billionaires. Clearly, they are Viktor Orban’s premier Strohmen. His previous financial guru Lajos Simicska fell out of favor years ago, because he became too powerful and knew too much about Viktor Orban’s and his accomplices’s shenanigans. For his alleged and actual sins, Simicska was destroyed as a businessman and completely ruined financially.
A lot already has been written about Hungary’s new emergency legislation due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to giving unlimited powers to Viktor Orban both in scope and duration, the legislation eliminates every vestige of democracy, freedom, independence, and individuality. Again, as in Rowlings’s masterpiece, Hungarians have been relegated to zombie existence. This condition will not change until Viktor Orban and his criminal gang continue to possess absolute powers.
Adding insult to injury, the European Union has never taken decisive actions against Hungary. However, if Brussels does not intervene, Viktor Orban will continue to weaken the cohesion of the organization. The founding values of the European Union are at stake. More importantly, he is not entirely alone. The states of the former Soviet bloc, with few exceptions, are as corrupt, if not even more, than Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
The United States of America has not fared better against Hungary than the European Union. The current administration has sent to Budapest an amateur whose understanding of Hungary is near zero. His only dubious accomplishment is that he has made a fool of himself by becoming the lapdog of Viktor Orban. In this manner, the White House and the State Department have been deprived of objective and unbiased information about the situation in Hungary. Clearly, Viktor Orban represents a very serious threat to NATO as well as the European Union. The time is running out for corrective actions. The Hungarian people are getting more and more desperate. The possibility of a bloody upheaval against VIktor Orban’s autocracy is real. To prevent it should be high priority for Brussels and for Washington too.
The opportunity exists for the Trump administration to do something now about Nigeria that would lead to real progress in the fight against religious persecution and repeated violations of the rule of law, would help to root out corruption, and deal a significant blow to the Boko Haram terror group.
The lever available to the U.S. government to do this is $300 million in stolen monies soon to come under U.S. control currently frozen in British and Crown of Jersey accounts at America’s request. Nigeria wants it back and, before America acts, the pressure it’s applying to President Muhammadu Buhari for reforms needs to be stepped up.
If successful, it would be a big win. U.S. authorities should be dubious about transferring monies back to Nigeria’s control considering there’s a good chance it would be passed back to back to ruling-party officials who were complicit in the original theft. More than that, considering the longstanding corruption in the government of Africa’s most populous nation and the disturbing pattern of human rights abuses committed by Buhari’s regime, it’s not clear the U.S. should turn the money over at all unless and until real reforms are adopted.
Look at the record. According to the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, over the past two years, thousands of Nigerian Christians have been murdered. The European Parliamentrecently blasted the government over ongoing human rights violations. Amnesty International issued a condemnation over the use of “security agents and (the) judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions.” Innocent reform advocates like Grace Taiga, a retired civil servant and practicing Christian, and opposition Senator Shehu Sani have been targeted by the regime and journalists critical of it like Omoyele Sowore has been jailed.
These actions and others led the U.S. government to put Nigeria on a special watch list. Washington must now use its leverage to demand change. Instead, under a plan worked out with Buhari, America may soon green-light the release of these funds back to Nigeria where, in a defeat for the cause of justice, it ultimately may be disbursed to local projects run by contractors with a questionable and corrupt history in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rather than allow this, the U.S. government must push Buhari to end his government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law, institute real anti-corruption efforts, and stop the ongoing attacks on Christians and other religious minorities by Boko Haram and other groups.
That the decision on the disposition of the funds in question rests with Attorney General William P. Barr rather than the U.S. State Department of State is comforting. Barr is someone for whom, criticism from the left notwithstanding, the rule of law matters. And he’s shown he can swing the hammer hard when he wants to.
Before deciding what to do, Barr should look at a similar case involving the Justice Department, which is refusing to hand over $100 million in stolen, laundered money it says can be traced back to Atiku Bagudu, the current governor of Nigeria’s Kebbi State and a prominent member of Buhari’s ruling APC party. In recent U.S. court filings, Nigeria asserted a 17-year-old deal could lead to the funds being given directly back to Bagudu. Another agreement, made by Buhari’s people in October 2018 would transfer a sizeable portion of an investment portfolio worth $155 million to Bagudu if it ever again came under Nigeria’s control.
Any agreement regarding the repatriation of these stolen assets must be carefully weighed against the escalating human rights violations and the corruption that persists throughout Nigeria. A detailed assessment is needed to determine whether the penalties allowed under the Global Magnitsky Act and Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act should be invoked to address the gross human rights violations spearheaded by President Buhari’s inner circle like those targeted at Christians and other religious minorities.
Attorney General Barr and the U.S. government have a powerful lever to use to move the Nigerians toward getting their act together. They should do so forthwith. The U.S. must uphold the rule of law to stop the persecution and send a signal to the Nigerian Government that human rights are essential and violations of such will be to the detriment of any strong government-to-government relationship.
The Jones Act Webinar is part of WJLA-TV’s Government Matters series on “Sea-Air-Space 2020 Virtual Edition.” It will include Frontiers of Freedom Senior Fellow, the Honorable Ernest Istook, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007 and is currently teaching at Brigham Young University.
The Host will be Francis Rose. Topics will include: What is the Jones Act? Why is it both a commercial and national security issue? What are common misconceptions about the Jones Act? How does it work? How does China and its “One Belt, One Road” plan play into this issue?
If you are in the Washington DC metro area, you can watch the program on WJLA 24/7 News (formerly NewsChannel 8). If you are anywhere else you can watch it at FedInsider.com.
It will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
By Red State•
The reports of increased Russian military submarine activity just off our coast should be a wake-up call. Our other peer competitor, China, is also rapidly growing its naval capability with more modern and sophisticated submarines, many of which could threaten critical trade passages throughout the Pacific. Shockingly, the U.S. Navy has admitted that it no longer considers sailing just off our East coast to be an “uncontested” area or a “safe haven” for U.S. naval ships and submarines to operate.
The growth of China’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines has naval and national security officials worried. NORTHCOM Commander, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, speaking of Chinese and Russian submarine aggression recently said: “We have had [in the past] the luxury of not having threats to the homeland that are literally right off our doorstep. That environment is rapidly changing and has changed, [and] we have not yet achieved the capability and capacity that we need to maintain that competitive advantage.”
In short, our naval advantage is rapidly shrinking and in some areas it has entirely evaporated. Reports of Russian and Chinese spy ships just off our coast should also raise us from our slumber. But the growing risks don’t stop there.
Additionally, our naval fleet is threatened around the world by lesser powers who have new quiet diesel submarines. The point isn’t that a nation like Iran could defeat our Navy in an all-out naval battle. They wouldn’t stand a chance. But because of the sub technology they’ve obtained, they can more adeptly move near American ships and endanger the lives of American sailors. And we do not have the ships to be everywhere at once to combat the risks.
The U.S. Navy is under a lot of pressure and needs to increase its fleet to meet the growing threats around the globe. But he fleet has been shrinking, not growing. The Navy is trying to turn this around but building ships, as important as it is to grow the fleet, is not the only need.
Budget constraints apparently have forced the Navy into abandoning the production of its P-8A Poseidon — the world’s premier anti-submarine platform – before it can reach its own warfighting requirement. Put into context, during the height of the Cold War when Russian sub-hunting was a necessity, there were 24 anti-submarine squadrons in the active duty, and 12 in the Navy Reserve. Today, there are only 12 active duty squadrons, and the budget eliminates the only two Reserve squadrons for the entire East and West Coast. With Russian and Chinese subs operating around the globe and around our coasts and with other lessor naval powers advancing their own underwater capabilities, we need sub-hunters like the P-8A Poseidon now more than ever! And given the fact the we already have a shortage of Poseidon anti-submarine jets, now is not the time to shut down production.
Members of Congress must resolve this problem. Previous budget cuts of $2.4 billion have put the Navy in an impossible position of trying to grow the fleet and increase its anti-submarine capabilities. But this is impossible math. Congress must step in and solve this funding crunch. We cannot afford to embolden either the Russians or the Chinese or for that matter the Iranians, North Koreans, or other regional naval powers.
Even though the Russian navy overall is in decline, their commitment to submarine technology is not. They are focusing their efforts on submarines because they can be tremendously disruptive and destructive. The Chinese submarine fleet is as large as 70 vessels, with the capacity to grow to 100 within the next 15 years. In years past, the Chinese Navy was focused on homeland defense in waters that were relatively close their country. But now, particularly with the introduction of cruise missiles into their fleet, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is venturing out into broader international waters to threaten the United States. They’ve made it clear that their plan is to cause disruption and demonstrate to the world that the United States is no longer the world’s greatest naval power.
We need the robust anti-submarine capabilities of aircraft such as the P-8A Poseidon to help reduce this risk. These anti-submarine jets can patrol and monitor sensitive areas around the globe where we may, or may not, want to devote other naval assets. The Poseidon is a great tool to stretch our capabilities and reach — and will help us buy time while we increase the size of our naval fleet. But shutting down production of the Poseidon places not only our Navy at greater risk, it also threatens our commerce, our economy, and our coastal waters.
The Poseidon is a bargain as its costs have been reduced by 30% over the past several years while its integrated systems and weapons have been improved and upgraded. Plus, while the Poseidon was designed as an anti-submarine platform, it is a highly flexible plane that can take on many other missions — intelligence gathering, ground surveillance, and even as a robust platform to launch offensive weapons. But right now, there aren’t enough aircraft in service even to perform its main mission — protect America from submarine threats.
Congress must do something about this shortfall because providing for the “common defense” is one of the federal government’s prime objectives under our constitutional federal system. It would be entirely irresponsible to squeeze the Navy so that it cannot meet the threats that exist around the globe — and even just off our coast in our own waters.
This is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, at a time hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
The weekend began with a bipartisan plan. People were hopeful. Outside of Washington, business owners told The Federalist they finally saw light in all the darkness. They thought they’d be able to hire their employees back again. These are employees who have families, mortgages, and lives; people who have never once asked for public assistance and never thought they’d have to.
The mood in Washington was optimistic as well. “We’re having good bipartisan agreements,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN Saturday, predicting a Monday passage of their plan. “The initial bill Leader [Mitch] McConnell put in didn’t have any Democratic input and we were worried that we just try to put it on the floor and not consult Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi because the House still has to pass this, but actually, to my delight and surprise, there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.”
On Sunday, Schumer met four times with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to continue negotiations.
And then Pelosi came back to town from her week-long vacation and announced the rare, rare bipartisan cooperation the country had seen in the Senate would end with her — and election politics would begin.
“Oh, I don’t know about Monday but we are still talking,” she said Sunday evening. “It’s on the Senate side now because that’s their deadline for a vote but we’ll be introducing our own bill and hopefully it’ll be compatible with that they discussed on the Senate.”
It was difficult to guess how she’d do this with the House in recess, but on Monday her office miraculously introduced a 1,400-page bill. Miraculous, until it became clear she’d simply unloaded the Democratic Party’s election platform into a bill intended to save Americans from bankruptcy and death in the face of a global pandemic.
The list of unrelated provisions is truly incredible. Pelosi’s emergency virus bill includes “collective bargaining… for federal workers,” a federal “study on climate mitigation efforts,” tax credits for wind and solar energy, and demands that the airlinesinvolved buy carbon credits “to fully offset [their] annual carbon emissions.” It includes “same day [voter] registration,” national early voting and “grants for conducting” election audits.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill legislates “funding standards for community newspaper” retirement plans, cancels $10,000 off peoples’ college debts, and forces a $15 minimum wage and permanent paid leave on aid recipients. It awards more than $33 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “for necessary expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” and $35 million to Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Pelosi’s emergency virus bill cancels the Post Office’s considerable debt to taxpayers and grants it “additional borrowing authority.” It gives Washington oversight of the “corporate board diversity” for the companies involved, mandates “a comparison of pay amongst racial and ethnic minorities… as compared to their white counterparts and comparison of pay between men and women,” orders the companies to start “diversity and inclusion offices” and give those offices “officials and budget dedicated to diversity,” and it establishes a program “to expand the use of minority banks and minority credit unions.”
This, it is clear, is not an emergency virus bill. It is a Democratic election wish list, politically poisoned at a time when hundreds are dying, thousands are losing their businesses, and millions are out of work in the United States.
“This,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told Democrats Thursday, “is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
It’s truly an incredible political act by the speaker, and the entire Democratic Senate fell in step behind her. By Monday afternoon, while Republican after Republican took the floor to speak on the bill, most Democrats were not even in the chamber.
“I thought we were doing great work,” Sen. Jim Inhofe lamented to a half-empty chamber. “Everything was great until last night.”
Everything had been great for Pelosi and the Democrats’ political fortunes as well. Early in the crisis, the speaker took a lead role, passing a Democratic wish list with the first round of emergency aid. Republicans in the House and Senate passed her bill despite its severe problems and near-complete lack of compromise.
McConnell was absent from early negotiations, providing zero cover while Mnuchin, a former Democrat with a bipartisan reputation as a terrible negotiator, surrendered on the president’s asks. The president himself fluctuated between defensive and tired, giving an Oval Office address that was so poorly received he rebooted his communication strategy. Today, McConnell and Republicans are at the forefront, the president’s handling of the crisis is popular across the country, and even Pelosi’s allies in the corporate media are struggling to explain her actions.
The New York Times changed their Sunday headline three times, starting correctly with “Democrats Block Action On $1.8 Trillion Stimulus,” then shifting the truth to “Democrats Block Action On Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections,” and finally editing the headline to pure farce with “Partisan Divide Threatens Deal On Rescue Bill.”
“Take us inside the politics here,” MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked after the speaker’s Monday speech quoting the pope to justify her actions. “How about this: What was the point of that?”
“Well,” correspondent Garrett Haake replied, “this is an opportunity for Democrats to show what their priorities are in this crisis.”
Indeed. And Americans are unlikely to be thrilled with those priorities while our economy careens toward devastation.
“Today, 102 Americans died while the Democrats blocked consideration of this bill,” Sen. Ted Cruz yelled from the floor of the Senate in a fiery response. “One Texan died while this chamber decided not to show up for work and do their job!”
“What the hell do the emissions standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic!?”
“What in the hell does a windmill have to do with this crisis, other than there are some Democratic lobbyists getting fat and rich and they’re willing to extort a crisis for a political agenda!?”
“One of the reasons the Democrats think they will get away with this,” Cruz closed, “is they expect the media to be utterly complict.” The corporate media is doing its best.
“For the moment,” Schumer had told CNN just 36 hours earlier, “we’re just trying to work together for the good of the country.”
The moment was brief, their miscalculation tremendous, and the political impact could — and should — be lasting.
Turkey suffered a critical blow to its offensive in Northern Syria last thursday night when an aerial assault struck a two-story building killing 33 Turkish soldiers in the village of Balioun in Syria’s Idlib province. Turkish officials have initially blamed the Syrian regime for the attack. However, the declaration appears to be entirely political because it is highly unlikely that Syria is capable of coordinating such a sophisticated nighttime aerial assault (if you want 80 years of evidence supporting this assumption, read Kenneth Pollack’s “Armies of Sand”).
After the attack, reports began surfacing that Erdogan and Putin spoke on the phone and agreed to meet face to face. The phone call occurred roughly around the same time that Turkey called an emergency meeting with its NATO allies, presumably to threaten the release of Syrian refugees into the European Union. If Erdogan threatens to open a flood gate of refugees, it will do so as a response to NATO’s rejection of military support for Turkey’s actions in Idlib (which are arguably breaking international law). The threat of an influx of Syrian refugees is not something the EU can afford right now, especially as it figures out its economic future with Brexit and COVID-19.
Of course, threatening to release refugees does little damage to the United States under the Trump administration, which is receiving refugees at the lowest rate the nation has seen in 40 years. In the past, the EU would welcome Syrians with open arms, but nationalist movements at home would force a different response to refugees in 2020 than it did in 2015. It may just work out for the European Union, in the most unlikely fashion. The EU will deny refugee entry by refusing to hear asylum claims, which it would never think of doing in fear of being considered xenophobic. However, with populism rising, stocks tanking, and England waving, the EU is in no position to remain politically correct.
Albeit a twisted means to an end, the EU will scapegoat COVID-19 to deny Erdogan’s refugees, rather than tell the political truth—it’s an ill wind. Moreover, the more Iranians that catch the virus, the stronger the EU’s borders will become. While NATO fails to respond to Assad’s clashes with Turkey and the EU closes off its borders, Erdogan and Putin’s cards are not ready to be thrown in. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before the refugee camps in Northern Syria are swallowed up by the virus, and an already high death rate in the region will be exacerbated amongst the least equipped to handle it. When the virus does reach the refugee camps, only then will Putin honor his 2018 cease-fire in Idlib. Here is where it gets looney: the media will blame Trump for the refugee crisis in Idlib because had American forces remained in Syria, then none of this would have happened. Consequences for Erdogan’s actions will be blamed on the United States, and more specifically, President Trump, even though it was Erdogan’s brazened assault into the region that caused increased turmoil in the first place. Ironically, the news media has declared Trump a Russian marionette, when it is the TV media in the United States that continues to be played by Putin.
Austin Lucas is a writer and contributor focusing on US geopolitical strategy, Middle East affairs, and Chinese aggression.
Today’s actions from Turkey have validated an article I wrote on October 19, 2019, concerning the out lash from media pundits, military strategists, and foreign policy experts against the Trump administration for pulling US troops out of northern Syria. The Wall Street Journal posted an article earlier today entitled, “Turkey Launches Strikes on Syria After Military Personnel Are Killed: President Erdogan pledges to defend Turkey’s Interests, but Monday’s reprisals could shake his fragile alliance with Russia.”
• • •
Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board released an Op-Ed warning that the Trump Administration had committed a grave mistake pulling US forces from Northeast Syrian last week. I beg to differ. Erdogan’s invasion of Kurdish territory was, rather, a strategic concession for future US geopolitical dominance in the Near east.
The Journal writes that “wouldn’t it be easier simply to tell Mr. Erdogan . . . that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate a Turkish invasion against the Kurds and would use air power to stop it?” Yes, a simpler answer would have been to threaten a NATO ally that it would bomb the shit out of it (coining Trump’s obsessively aggressive foreign policy strategies in Syria). However, let us not be so naïve. The Turks have been a handful for the US, to say the absolute very least, and have exacerbated the discontent between the two nations by recently purchasing S-400 missiles from Russia. That procurement of Russian defense technology alarmed NATO allies, but the alliance, which was created to deter Russian aggression, delivered no physical response. The basic fact is plain as day: the US was never going to change Erdogan’s mind about his fancy with Mr. Putin. But, Trump’s decision to pull-out of Syria has placed Putin in a very big bind and may force Turkey in a difficult situation as well.
Now, Russia must control the situation in Syria. They must tip-toe around the idea of a NATO ally invading one of Russia’s only true allies in the Middle-East. If Syrian forces engage with Turkey, NATO members might step in to defend the Turks, but they also wouldn’t be obligated to do so. This leaves Russia with a hand tied behind its back, and pressures Russia to drastically deescalate tensions between Syria and Turkey. Russia cannot afford to lose its potential ally in Turkey because that relationship can provide a golden brick road to the flank of Europe. If Putin is successful in tempting Turkey to disavow the US and its NATO allies, Russian naval operations in the Mediterranean will expand. But, if Erdogan does not stop his current advance in Syria, Putin must disengage and allow the Turks to press forward in order for his long-term geopolitical strategy with Erdogan to pan out.
Meanwhile, the United States awaits the result, as a spectator. Sitting on the sidelines is not a typical US posture, but a supposedly welcoming one to its enemies, according to just about every journalist and expert on foreign relations. The pundits are claiming that US withdrawal will increase the strength of its enemies. In fact, it does the opposite. When the United States enters an arena, it makes moves and other nations react or respond. By stepping aside to grab some popcorn, the United States placed a bet that Russia would be slow to react, that Turkey would remain aggressive, and that Syria would complain to Putin that Russian forces must defend the region. That’s exactly what is taking place and what, most likely, was never going to occur had the United States remained.
This doesn’t create a vacuum; this is the United States creating a new Fortnite map and allowing belligerents to fight it out amongst themselves all because it knows the outcome. The winner will be Turkey. The loser will be Russia. Russia will not strike against Turkey because of its long-term goals of weakening US military power. In return, Turkey will be emboldened and appear more powerful and Syria will cower and concede its territory. Thus, Putin has a pissed off ally and a more powerful foe.
Let’s also take this from a different angle to dial in a more realistic hypothetical. Had the United States remained, and had Trump threatened air strikes on Turkey as the WSJ suggested, would that have stopped Erdogan’s advance? It certainly would not for a couple different reasons, but primarily because the United States would not attack a NATO ally (because Russia would win in that case). The consequence would be a public humiliation of US power. US troops would die, and they would be forced to give up their post to a NATO ally. This result would be the so called “present” Russia would receive if the United States had remained there. Really, there was no alternative course of action. It was the best play that the United States had, and its secondary consequences will benefit the United States posture in the Middle East.
Austin Lucas is a writer and contributor focusing on US geopolitical strategy, Middle East affairs, and Chinese aggression.
Israeli leaders have agreed to a framework for a Palestinian state that would see the new country more than double in size with its capital located in Eastern Jerusalem, according to information provided by the White House.
The Trump administration unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated plan to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, which White House officials say has already been agreed to by Israel, would see the Jewish state freezing for four years all construction in contested territories that could be used to form a new Palestinian state.
Under Trump’s plan, a Palestinian state “will more than double the size of the land currently used by the Palestinians” and include areas in Eastern Jerusalem. Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital city and under its control, according to the White House.
“Israel has now agreed to terms for a future Palestinian State,” the White House announced in informational materials outlining the peace framework. “Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the possibility of a two-state solution.”
“President Trump secured agreement from both Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposition leader Lieutenant General Benny Gantz to come to Washington, where they agreed to use this Vision as a basis for negotiation,” the White House wrote in the latest materials outlining the new plan. “For the first time in this conflict, President Trump has reached an understanding with Israel regarding a map setting forth borders for a two-state solution.”
Under the plan, which has already been dubbed dead on arrival by leading Palestinian factions, “Jerusalem will stay united and remain the capital of Israel, while the capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include areas of East Jerusalem.”
“Beyond territory, the Vision provides for Palestinian use and management of facilities at the Haifa and Ashdod ports, Palestinian development of a resort area on the north shore of the Dead Sea, and continued Palestinian agricultural activity in the Jordan Valley,” the White House materials continue.
The plan envisions a scenario where “neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be uprooted from their homes,” though it remains unclear how this goal will be achieved on the ground.
The White House emphasized portions of the plan that focus on protecting Israeli security interests. To this end, unlike past proposals, the plan “does not ask Israel to take additional security risks and enables Israel to defend itself by itself against any threats.”
U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters the plan marks “a huge advancement in the peace process.”
Maps showing a future Palestinian state in detail will soon be released by the White House, Friedman said. He described the plan as “a realistic two-state solution.”
Friedman said the plan is unique in that it “mitigates many of the risks that were never solved in past negotiations” between the two sides by enhancing “the territorial footprint of [the] Gaza [Strip]” without impacting Israeli security concerns.
The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and Israel will maintain security responsibility west of the Jordan River, a key area.
“Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its security footprint,” the White House said.
Major religious sites in and around Jerusalem will continue to be maintained by Israel with the longstanding carve outs for Muslim holy sites remaining in place.
“The special and historic role of the King of Jordan with regard to the Muslim Holy Shrines in Jerusalem will be preserved,” the White House said. “All Muslims are welcome to peacefully visit al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Historically, efforts to prevent dead set regimes from acquiring nuclear weapons have been marked mostly by embarrassing diplomatic fiascos. The chronology of every state-sponsored nuclear program began with developing the necessary human resources to facilitate domestic plutonium production. In phase two, while diligently laboring on enriching uranium to the critical mass, all these states denied vehemently their intentions to become nuclear powers by emphasizing their governments inherently peaceful nature. In phase three they presented the rest of the world with a fait accompli, namely, the nuclear bomb.
Thus far, the Islamic Republic of Iran has followed the same well-trodden path. Most importantly, from its inception, the Mullahcracy has been, even within the Islamic Ummah, an international pariah. Isolated and therefore devoid of friends and allies, the two Ayatollahs, the late Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini and the current one Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, have decided to acquire the ultimate weapon for self-preservation.
Therefore, the quest for a nuclear power Iran has started immediately after the fall of the Shah in early 1979. In 1987, the theocratic regime acquired technical schematics for building a P-1 centrifuge from the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan network. The conversion of the Test Readiness Review that was done in 1987 by Argentina’s Applied Research Institute allowed the regime enrichment to less than 20%. In 2002, the National Council of Resistance on Iran, the political wing of the so-called Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), revealed that Iran already built two secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak respectively. More ominously, thousands of documents seized by Israeli intelligence agents during a raid of a nondescript hanger in Shorabad district of Tehran in 2018, revealed that the regime never abandoned its clandestine quest for building a nuclear bomb. Among the documents released to the public, one that originated in 2002, contains a proposal for “warhead”, which were given the green light by the regime’s top nuclear official Moshen Fakhrizadeh. His hand-written remark in Farsi in the top left corner of the document reads in English translation: “In the name of God. Right now in a treatment process. Please archive the original script of the document. Fakhrizadeh.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had its own doubts about Tehran peaceful intentions and sincerity. As a result, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution on September 12, 2003, calling on Tehran to suspend all enrichment as well as all reprocessing-related activities. Moreover, the same resolution called upon the Iranian regime to declare all material relevant to its uranium enrichment program. Finally, the Board demanded that the regime allow the IAEA inspectors to undertake unencumbered environmental sampling at any location. The deadline for compliance was set at October 31, 2003.
In its reply, the regime seemingly indicated its readiness to comply. On October 21, 2003, Tehran agreed to meet the IAEA demands by the designated date. However, on June 18, 2004, the IAEA complained of Iran’s non-compliance. Again, Tehran notified the IAEA on November 14, 2004, that it will suspend enrichment-related activities for the duration of talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In this manner, Tehran prevented the IAEA Board of Governors to notify the UN Security Council. On February 27, 2005, the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran concluded an agreement to supply fuel for the nuclear reactor in Busher. A provision of this agreement mandated that Iran shall return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Next, Tehran announced on August 8, 2005, that it has commenced the production of uranium hexafluoride at its Isfahan facility. Following this announcement, the United States, France, and Germany froze negotiations with Tehran. Shortly thereafter, on September 24, 2005, the IAEA adopted a resolution declaring Tehran in noncompliance with the previous safeguard agreement. Most glaringly, this resolution stated that Iran’s nuclear activities combined with the absence of their peaceful nature are within the competence of the UN Security Council, opening the way for future referrals.
Sure enough, on February 4, 2006, the Board of Governors of the IAEA referred the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN Security Council. Pursuant to the resolution, the Board of Governors deemed it “necessary for Iran” to immediately suspend its enrichment related activities, reconsider the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor, ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, and fully cooperate with the IAEA’s investigations. As a result, Tehran informed the IAEA on February 6, 2006, that it will “voluntarily” implement the additional protocol and other non-legally binding inspection procedures. Nonetheless, on April 11th, Tehran announced that it successfully enriched uranium for the first time to 3.5%. The enriched uranium was produced at the Natanz pilot enrichment plant. On June 6th, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the Federal Republic of Germany (the P5+1) proposed a framework agreement to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then, on July 31st, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1696, elevating the IAEA’s demand for Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities legally binding for all member states. Tehran responded on August 22nd. On the one hand, it rejected the demand to suspend enrichment, but on the other hand, added that the resolution contained “elements which may be useful for a constructive approach.”
As a reply and for the first time, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 on December 23rd, imposing sanctions on the lslamic Republic of Iran for its refusal to suspend its enrichment-related activities.
According to the resolution, states were prohibited from transferring sensitive nuclear-and missile-related technology to Tehran. Moreover, the states were obligated to freeze the assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
In 2007, Tehran continued to defy the international community. Thus, the UN Security Council again unanimously adopted Resolution 1747, demanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Three rounds of talks followed. These talks brought forth on August 21st, a so-called “work plan.” This work plan mandated that Tehran must answer specific and long-standing questions about its nuclear activities, including activities suspected of being related to nuclear weapons developments. To make the point, the Bush administration made public on December 3rd, an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program. While stating “with high confidence” that Tehran stopped pursuing its nuclear weapons program approximately around the fall of 2003, it could not state with the same degree of confidence that Tehran had not resumed those activities as of mid-2007. More alarmingly, the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Islamic Republic of Iran was technically capable of producing sufficient quantities of weapon-grade
The year 2008 witnessed another UN Security Council Resolution. Resolution 1803, added new sanctions to the previous ones. Among its other provisions, it broadened the blacklist with seven new entities and thirteen more individuals. In conjunction with this resolution, the P5+1 states also proposed that Tehran shall freeze its enrichment activities in exchange for no more sanctions.
The year 2009 was a significant one for the international community. First, Tehran announced on February 2nd its successful launch of a satellite. On
September 25th, the Obama administration revealed the existence of a second secret uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. On October 1st, the Obama administration agreed the supply 20% enriched uranium in exchange for Iran removing from the country the majority of its 3.5% enriched uranium. The so-called “fuel swap”, the stupid brainchild of the Obama administration, was never fully implemented by Iran.
The year 2010 saw the same old pattern. Tehran started to produce 20% enriched uranium on February 9th. On May 17th, diplomacy kicked in once more. A joint declaration by Brazil, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to breathe fresh air into the old fuel swap proposal. The United States, France, and the Russian Federation rejected the proposal on the grounds that Tehran stockpiled more 3.5% enriched uranium than it is willing to give up and that Tehran systematically misled the IAEA, the UN Security Council, and everybody else concerning its additional enrichment activities. On June 9th, another UN Security Council resolution followed. Resolution 1929 significantly expanded sanctions against the theocratic regime. It also banned Tehran from nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests. Finally, the resolution imposed an arms embargo on the transfer of major weapons systems to Tehran. On June 24th, the U.S. Congress adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, tightening U.S. sanctions against legal entities investing in Iran’s energy sector, and imposing new sanctions on legal entities that sold refined petroleum to Tehran. On July 26th, the European Union joined the United States by agreeing to impose its additional sanctions on Tehran. On September 16th, the Obama administration decided to act. The Stuxnet computer virus attacked the Natanz enrichment plant.
The year 2011 commenced on a negative note. The January 21st and 22nd meeting in Istanbul between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran ended without any real results, because the latter laid down two unacceptable conditions. First, Tehran demanded that the P5+1 group recognize its right to enrich uranium. Second, that sanctions must be lifted unconditionally. On May 8th, the Bushehr nuclear power plant started operations and, according to Russia’s Atomstroyexport, it successfully achieved a sustained chain reaction. On the same day, Tehran announced that it intends to triple the rate of 20% enriched uranium production, utilizing more advanced centrifuge designs. In addition, it declared that production will be shifted to the Fordow plant. On July 12, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief sent a letter to the chief negotiator of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saeed Jalili, proposing “meaningful discussions on concrete confidence building steps” to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear “ambitions.” On November 8th, the IAEA published a report underlying the concerns of the organization about Tehran’s nefarious intentions. To wit, on the last day of the year, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to empower the federal government to sanction foreign banks doing business with the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The year 2012 began with a sour note for Tehran. The European Union decided in early January to ban all member states from importing Iranian oil, beginning on July 1, 2012. Moreover, the decision also barred member countries from providing the legal protection and indemnity insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil. The intervening months between March and August were spent on arduous negotiations between the P5+1 group and Tehran with barely any meaningful progress. In August, the IAEA highlighted the futility of diplomacy with Tehran. On the 30th of this month, it was reported that Tehran produced more 20% enriched uranium than was needed to fuel its research reactor. The IAEA upped the ante on November 16th, by stating that Tehran was busy installing more centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow.
The year 2013 was consumed by slowly progressing negotiations between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran at a variety of locations.
On January 9, and January 10, 2014, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran met a third time in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, agreed upon on December 30-31, 2013, in the same place. As a result, the parties agreed that the implementation will begin on January 20th. Simultaneously, the IAEA certified that Tehran in compliance with the provisions of the Joint Plan of Action. Accordingly, the United States and the European Union waived the specific sanctions listed in the November 24, 2013, deal and also released a schedule of payments for Tehran to receive the oil money that various states withhold.
Subsequent meeting mainly in Vienna, Austria, between February and July 2014, involved negotiations concerning a comprehensive nuclear agreement. The rest of the year was consumed with more negotiations. In January 2015, negotiations continued in Geneva. In February, additional negotiations took place in Vienna.
Ominously enough, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opined in his speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress that any Iran deal “would all but guarantee that Iran gets (nuclear) weapons, lots of them.” In the same vein, Senator Tom Cotton of Kansas and forty five of his colleagues signed an open letter to the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They warned, as it turned out prophetically, their counterparts that any agreement reached without Congress’s approval could be revised by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”
During the month of March, more negotiations took place in Lausanne, Switzerland. Finally, on April 2, 2015, the parties announced that they reached an agreement on the general framework of a comprehensive deal.
Again, the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution that required the president to submit any agreement to Congress for a vote. This resolution was approved by the full Senate on May 7, 2015, by a vote of 98-1.
On July 14, 2015, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria. Commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal or simply Iran Deal, it mainly dealt with enrichment-related activities. Tehran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was reduced by 97%, from 10,000.00 kg to 300.00 kg. This reduction had to be maintained for fifteen years. For the same period, Tehran was ordered to limit its enrichment of uranium to 3.67%. Yet, after fifteen years, all physical limits on enrichment will be removed. Moreover, for ten years Tehran must put two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, with enrichment capacity being limited to the Natanz plant. There, the centrifuges must be the type IR-1. The IR-2M centrifuges must be stored in Natanz and monitored by the IAEA. Finally, Tehran shall not build any new uranium-enrichment facilities for the next fifteen years.
On the other hand, Tehran was allowed to continue its research and development work on enrichment, but only in Natanz. The Fordow facility was barred from enriching uranium for fifteen years.
To monitor the implementation of the JCPOA, a comprehensive and multilayered inspection regime was set up. However, prior to January 16, 2016, several exemptions were granted to Tehran that weakened from the get go the severity of the enrichment provisions.
Sanctions in the form of “snap back” provisions were also included in the JCPOA. Specifically, the deal established a “dispute resolution” process. Accordingly, a Joint Commission was created to monitor implementation. If the Joint Commission cannot resolve the dispute, the UN National Security Council had to be notified. Finally, future reinstatement of the sanctions allowed Tehran to leave the JCPOA altogether.
After fifteen years, Tehran will be free to do whatever it wants.
Criticism of the JCPOA both within Iran and in the rest of the world was instantaneous. Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iran nuclear deal a “historic mistake.” Addressing President Barack Obama he stated: “In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which is ongoing.” In the United States, criticism centered on ignoring Tehran’s ballistic missile program and the lack of provisions regarding the regime’s support for terrorist groups and organizations across the region. The $150 billion plus money transfer from the Obama administration
to Tehran in cash only strengthened opposition to the deal.
On October 13, 2015, the Iranian Parliament approved the deal. The next day, the Guardian Council ratified the JCPOA. Two days later, the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran formally adopted the JCPOA.
On October 21st, the United States raised Iran’s ballistic missile test as a possible violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 at a meeting of the Security Council.
On November 21st, Tehran tested another medium-range ballistic missile in clear violation of Resolution 1929.
On January 16, 2016, the IAEA verified that Tehran met its nuclear related responsibilities. On February 26th, the IAEA published its first quarterly report on Tehran’s post-implementation day nuclear activities. The report noted that Tehran met its general obligations with some minor deviations. However, missile launches continued unabated.
More ominously for the JCPOA, then Republican candidate Donald Trump stated at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference on March 21, 2016, that his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” After having been elected president on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump again labeled the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and pledged its renegotiation.
On January 28, 2017, Tehran test fired a medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. On March 23rd, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduces the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, targeting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support of global terrorism. In spite of Democrat opposition, the full Senate passed the Act 98-2. On July 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, which was designed to impose new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.
As the years have gone by, the JCPOA has turned out to be a great hoax. Its main objective to prevent Tehran from achieving military nuclearization within ten or even fifteen years could not have been accomplished. The reason for this was and is obvious. Tehran was building and operating many secret enrichment plants that were not included in the JCPOA, which only listed Natanz and Fordow. In this manner, Tehran has operated two nuclear programs: one for the gullible international community and a secret one that has continued to develop military nuclear capability unabated. For this reason, the IAEA quarterly statements concerning Tehran’s compliance with the limitations of the JCPOA were technically correct, but in reality absolutely meaningless. Clearly, President Obama and his administration intentionally fooled themselves, lied to the American people, and misled the entire international community.
Adding insult to injury, the JCPOA has never been a mutually ratified international treaty. The Obama administration did not even submit it to the U.S. Senate for ratification. According to U.S. as well as international law, the JCPOA has remained a nonbinding agreement among the signatory states.
Thus, President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, based on what he termed as “Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program” was absolutely justified. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, maintaining the fiction of the JCPOA merely would have resulted in certain nuclearization of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The recent elimination of Qassem Soleimani, the resulting threats by Tehran to withdraw from the JCPOA, and the invocation of the dispute resolution process by Great Britain, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany were the last nails in the coffin of this fake and, therefore, useless agreement.
Legally, the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is much more significant. Based on this Treaty, Tehran is subject to all the limitations on its enrichment activities. Accordingly, Tehran cannot exceed enriching uranium to more than 5% U-235. Any violation of this limit will automatically trigger the intervention of the IAEA and the UN Security Council. Should Tehran repudiate the NPT, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 must be activated.
In this case, Tehran’s production of weapons-grade uranium must be considered as a “threat to international peace and security” pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter that calls for necessary actions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Throughout 2017, 2018, and 2019, Tehran’s noncompliance with its obligations under numerous UN resolutions, in particular Resolution 2216 respecting the prohibition of “direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other equipment to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, has become legendary. In addition, Tehran has continued to flaunt the JCPOA restrictions on the number and type of centrifuges that it was allowed to operate under the agreement. On September 7, 2019, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that technicians introduced UF6 to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, clearly exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade under the research and development terms of the JCPOA.
On September 16, 2019, cruise missiles and drones attacked a Saudi Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) facility in Abqaiq, eastern Saudi Arabia. The investigation launched after the strikes determined that the missiles and the drones were fired from Iranian territory. The rest of the year 2019, was filled with threats and lies by AyatollahKhamenei, President Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Zarifagainst the United States and President Trump personally.
Most recently, on January 15, 2020, PresidentRouhani made the announcement that his country now enriching uranium at a higher level than before. To wit, Ayatollah Khamenei, the real leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, just followed up with another provocative sermon on January 17, 2020. The so-called Supreme Leader praised the retaliatory strike against the United States and described all Americans as “clowns” who cannot be trusted. Reacting to the Iran-wide protests against the regime and him personally he mocked President Trump’s sympathy declaration for the Iranian people calling it a “poisoned dagger” into the back of the entire nation.
Without a doubt, the Mullahcracy in Tehran has been constituted from its inception as a theocratic dictatorship that uncompromisingly has been committed to foment permanent instability across the globe, especially in the greater Middle East and South-East Asia. Internally, the regime has established a ruthless and cruel oppression against its opponents and anybody else deemed to challenge and thus jeopardize the religious and cultural uniformity of the country. Internationally, the Mullahcracy has become the source of permanent instability in the greater Middle East and beyond. The timeline of recent events has demonstrated the increasing aggression of Tehran, which has been connected with the regime’s internal predicaments. The most recent attacks against American military installations and the shooting down of the Ukrainian civilian airplane have shown the increasing desperation of the Mullahs.
The more than forty years of Mullahcracy has demonstrated that the regime has been incapable of reforming itself. On the contrary. Even according to official Iranian statistics, in the year 2018 alone, more than 100,000 Iranians committed suicide, and many more were killed or executed. Tragically, 75% of the suicide victims were between the ages of fifteen and thirty four. These numbers show that the younger generation that comprises the majority of the population reject the religious, ideological, and political foundations of the theocratic regime. Clearly, the regime is increasingly incapable of suppressing the opposition by only applying ruthless terror. Since the fraudulent elections of 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran has experienced six major nationwide uprisings. Now, the Iranians’ patience broke irreversibly. By discrediting itself in the eyes of the world, the bloody and corrupt Mullahcracy signed its own death warrant. With the exception of a minority that benefits from the all-pervasive corruption of the regime, nobody trusts and supports the Islamic Republic. Presently, even the resignation of the Ayatollah Khamenei will not pacify the Iranian people any more, because the reason for the rot of the regime is he himself.
More disappointingly, the Mullahs have shown total resistance of any moderation both domestically as well as internationally. Now, when the regime is bankrupt both ideologically and economically, the Ayatollah’s and his minions’ diminishing rule will surely be more ruthless at home and increasingly aggressive abroad. Under these circumstances, diplomacy definitely will not work. The only solution is to remove by any means this cancerous tumor from the international body politics. Nothing but total regime change will bring a permanently satisfactory solution for the Iranian nation and the rest of the world.
Democratic leaders didn't act against Obama's military overreach as he launched attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
Soon after the United States delivered a major blow to Iran’s terror infrastructure Friday by ridding the world of Qassem Soleimani, top general of the country’s brutal Quds Force, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to take further military action against Tehran.
Even after several Democrats indicated they wanted to be more deliberative with any such effort following Iran’s retaliatory strikes on U.S. service members in Iraq on Tuesday, she persisted in holding a vote on a war powers resolution Thursday. “The administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’ war powers granted to it by the Constitution,” Pelosi said of the Soleimani strike in explaining the purpose of the measure.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched.
The speaker’s insistence on introducing the resolution even after tensions eased up Wednesday suggests she believes strongly that presidents must have a specific authorization for the use of military force (known as an AUMF) from Congress before engaging in military action. But she doesn’t believe that. The Democrats’ attacks on Trumpfor the Soleimani strike simply show, once again, that their views of executive power depend on the party membership of the executive in power. That’s no way to protect Americans’ national security.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yet, Pelosi didn’t complain then about this complete disregard for Congress’ authority.
Instead, Obama simply relied on the two AUMFs granted his predecessor — the 2001 AUMF authorizing strikes against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and those who aided them, and the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War — as sufficient justification for just about any military action he wanted to take in the Middle East and North Africa.
As such, Trump actually has the better argument that the existing AUMFs gave him the power to target Soleimani in Iraq, where he was visiting when he was killed. (The administration in any case contends that the strike was justified on the grounds of self-defense since the Pentagon said Soleimani coordinated strikes that killed an American contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, approved a siege on the U.S. Embassy there and came to the country to plot more American deaths.)
Indeed, the 2002 AUMF directed the president to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” One can argue about the legitimacy of extending that permission to targeting Soleimani, as he was Iranian. But the Pentagon has noted that he’s responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, not including those killed since then by the Iraqi proxies he controls. And he was assessed to be about to engage in further attacks against U.S service members there.
What is less arguable, however, is that Obama’s repeated invocation of Congress’ 2001 AUMF launching the “war on terror” was more of a stretch for his less-focused undertakings throughout the region. That war powers resolution authorized the president to use force only against “those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Its language seems clear, doesn’t it? It’s easy to see how this allowed President George W. Bush to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had sheltered and aided Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it’s easy to see why it passed both chambers of Congress with only a single vote against it.
A dozen years later, in 2013, Obama declared that the war in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda was coming to a close, and he promised “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But that never happened. Instead, he used it to justify military action against various other terrorist organizations in countries as far afield as Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In Libya, he actually at first tried to claim that he didn’t need any authorization at all. In 2011, when he launched the attack that would eventually unseat Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the White House argued it didn’t require congressional approval to enforce a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
Perhaps his administration came to realize how weak this argument looked after those operations led to Libya’s violent change of government. Because when Obama’s Pentagon announced in 2016 that it had launched a new attack on Libya, this time against the Islamic State militant group, and a reporter asked what gave it the legal authority to do so, a press secretary replied, “Under the 2001 authorization for the military force,” and added, “Similar to our previous airstrikes in Libya.”
ISIS didn’t even exist when the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were written. But Obama used the resolutions to justify hitting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya. At least the Trump administration can point to the Taliban — which was certainly in the minds of members of Congress when they approved the 2001 authorization — as connected to the Soleimani action. Iran gives the terrorist group shelter as well as direct aid in the form of money, fuel and weapons, with the Quds Force commander a lynchpin in that operation.
It’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted.
Furthermore, Democrats this week have been particularly angry that Trump “assassinated” someone — terrorist mastermind Soleimani — without congressional approval. But the use of targeted killings steadily increased during the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership didn’t make a move to stop them. In eight years, Obama ordered more than 500 drone strikesthat killed thousands of people, including a few hundred civilians. One of them — another terrorist mastermind, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen in 2011 — was an American citizen.
These examples of military action with little, if any, connection to the resolutions used to justify them show it’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted to have — making it clear that their current gambit is merely to punish Trump. Like the Republicans, they make constitutional arguments when they’re not in power and sidestep the Constitution when they’re in power.
The founders understood that power corrupts, which is why they made sure not to invest it in a single person or body. Congress usually only remembers — and tries to restore — its power when the executive branch is held by the opposite party. But principles should come over party, and never more so than when the stakes are as high as war.
Under Trump, we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it really is.
The false analogy fallacy occurs when superficial similarities between events being compared are outnumbered by fundamental differences. This cognitive bad habit has always existed, but has become more prevalent since Vietnam and the increasing politicization of mass news on network and cable television, social media, and especially the internet. The specious analogy between a recent, short-lived attack on our embassy in Baghdad, and the 2012 Benghazi fiasco during Obama’s watch, is a recent example.
Useful analogies are predicated on the permanence of a flawed human nature driven by greed, power, or irrational hatreds. One of the greatest historians ever, Thucydides, explicitly said he wrote his history of the Peloponnesian War in order to provide “an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” That’s why he called his history a “possession for all time.” Similarly the Roman historian Livy, writing at the end of nearly a century of savage civil wars, intended to show “what to imitate,” and to “mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result.” Without those aims, history is just antiquarianism or another form of high-brow entertainment.
And politics, which thrives on false analogies. The war in Vietnam left us two malign cultural consequences. The first was the antiwar Democrats and their media subsidiary transformed a military victory into a defeat. This created the Left’s paradigm for every U.S intervention abroad as prima facie a neocolonialist, unjust, racist war against national self-determination in order to profit arms manufacturers, the “merchants of death,” and other capitalist “malefactors of great wealth.” Following this ideological deformation came the “another Vietnam” false analogy, and the “Vietnam syndrome”: fear of casualties, self-doubt about our goodness, and angst over “quagmires” and “escalation.”
Leftist Democrats, opportunistic presidential candidates, and the usual media suspects all exploited the Vietnam false analogy to demonize the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few weeks into the former conflict, New York Times columnist R.W. Apple asked, “Could Afghanistan become another Viet-Nam?” and used the loaded word “quagmire.” The concern over Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, just one of the many predicates for the Senate’s authorization for the war, was called a lie––“Bush lied, millions died,” the protestors chanted. This claim echoed the alleged false predicates for the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Congressional joint resolution concerning two attacks on U.S. naval vessels by the North Vietnamese. This resolution authorized the president to use “armed force” in the region, and became the imprimatur for subsequent “escalation.”
So too the Patriot Act, which removed the “wall of separation” between domestic and foreign intelligence. That “wall” prevented the FBI from examining the computer of another jihadi training to fly a jet a month before 9/11. Yet despite the dangers of the “wall” made obvious after 9/11, leftist critics like ACLU accused the act of “Put[ting] the [CIA] in the business of spying on Americans,” evoking the Vietnam-era bogey of the CIA trying to subvert the antiwar movement, among other violations. Indeed, the 1975 Church Committee investigation of domestic spying during the Vietnam era led in 1978 to the creation of FISA courts––which we now know have been corrupted into tools for spying on Americans by the FBI and other security agencies.
Likewise the humiliation and “torture” of prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2002, which included legal enhanced interrogation techniques like loud noise, sleep deprivation, and extreme heat and cold, were transformed into the equivalent of the My Lai massacre in 1968, when between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were massacred by U.S. troops, an analogy we saw in the Los Angeles Times headline in 2002 that read, “Military Must Squarely Face ‘New My Lai.’” In fact, what happened at Abu Ghraib was light-years from what went on there under Hussein, such as taking a power drill to people’s skulls, let alone a mass slaughter like My Lai.
Then there was the Democrat opposition to the 2007 “surge” strategy for gaining control over sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq. Senator Barack Obama called the surge a “reckless escalation,” implying a parallel to Vietnam, and introduced legislation calling for the complete withdrawal of all troops by March 2008––an aim he later achieved as president in 2011, creating the vacuum filled by ISIS and Iran, which has turned Iraq into its satrapy and led to the disorder Trump has to deal with.
Why do such false analogies with Vietnam persist? Because they serve the ideological delusions and propaganda of the left. The common interpretation of Vietnam as a “bad war” motivated by racism and power-hunger has been repeated over and over by historians, the media, and popular culture. Reporters at the time, most of whom sat in Saigon and reported hearsay, were lavished with prizes and book contracts, movies like agitprop master Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now were celebrated, and textbooks from grammar school to university continue to recycle this skewed history. That culture-wide cachet makes Vietnam the go-to analogy for a Left that wants to demonize America and weaken its resolve.
So it’s no surprise that some on the Left would try to turn one of Obama’s and Hillary’s worst foreign policy failures and examples of covering up the truth with lies, into a weapon against Trump, as MSNBC’s Joy Reid and a left-wing veterans group did. But the analogy is so egregiously false that Democrats recognize the obvious difference and have avoided coming anywhere near it. The most important difference is the fact that no Americans died on Trump’s watch, unlike the four Americans who withstood 13 hours of attacks waiting for help that never came. In contrast to Obama doing nothing, Trump immediately sent reinforcements to bolster the scaled-back diplomatic corps, and made it clear that any further violence will be met with immediate retaliation.
Nor was the threat empty. After receiving actionable intelligence of an imminent attack on American personnel in Iraq last week, Trump ordered the killing of Qassim Soleimani, the chief of the Iranian Republican Guard’s Quds force, who had directed for decades Iran’s terrorist attacks abroad. Soleimani had gallons of American blood on his hands, being responsible for 17% of U.S. dead in Iraq from the shaped charges and more deadly mortars he provided the jihadists attacking our forces. Soleimani was the same designated terrorist Obama would not sanction killing, even though he was for two decades the most deadly and skilled enemy of our country. And to further signal his resolve, after Soleimani’s demise the president ordered a strike on the convoy of another Iranian proxy, the Imam Ali Battalion, killing its chief Shebl al-Zaidi, a particularly vicious jihadist.
Another contrast between the response to the Benghazi and Baghdad attacks is the shamelessly politicized and dishonest attempts on the part of Obama officials to spin the organized attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous reaction to an obscure anti-Muslim internet video. The purpose was to protect Obama’s duplicitous campaign narrative that the terrorists had been neutralized. But most despicable was Hillary Clinton’s lying to the faces of the grieving parents of the four dead heroes as they stood near their sons’ coffins. Trump, however, has nothing to hide or spin because he did what a commander-in-chief should do––defend our military and diplomatic personnel, and retaliate for their deaths.
Rather than the “strategic patience,” “leading from behind,” and reticence to punish aggression that were obvious in the Benghazi debacle, Trump has authorized an aggressive offensive against the Iranian thugs and proxies now dominating the Iraqi government and endangering American lives.
Finally, a consequence of the failure to prevent and retaliate for the Benghazi attack was the energizing of jihadist outfits by a victory over the hated infidel, just as the Iranian assault on our embassy in 1979 did. Such victories and killing of Americans–– like the Beirut bombing of our military barracks in 1983, the retreat from Mogadishu in1993, the murder of American military personnel in Riyadh in 1995 and Dharan in 1996, the east African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000––all have provided morale and prestige to the jihadists and strengthened their resolve.
Such a boon will not follow the recent failed attack on our embassy in Iraq. In fact, after just a few days of protests the militiamen and their supporters, whom the New York Timeseuphemized as “mourners,” had called the whole thing off and gone away, leaving a few militiamen to lob some fireworks and Molotov cocktails that damaged a parked car. A few rockets were also fired, to no effect, in the vicinity of the Green Zone. Perhaps their appetite for a more aggressive assault on Americans was dulled by the 100 Marines and the Apache helicopters Trump sent sent to protect the embassy. And rather than retreat or pull back from Iraq, Trump has ordered even more troops and weapons to Baghdad and the region. This build-up will enhance our ability to handle any attempts to get revenge for Soleimani’s death.
As Trump said, his handling of the Baghdad embassy attack is the “Anti-Benghazi,” which enhanced American prestige, whereas the Obama-Hillary response to the attack in Benghazi diminished it. But the Benghazi analogy will quickly fade away. Not even Democrats are stupid enough to try and weaponize a foreign policy failure like Obama and Clinton’s in Benghazi, and remind people of their two biggest political stars’ worst moments.
But don’t think that the Democrats’ shying away from the Benghazi analogy means that they’re starting to accept reality and think coherently. Their loathing for America is too deeply engrained in their worldview. This is obvious in their eagerness to blame the embassy attack on Trump’s earlier bombing of an Iranian proxy-militia’s military base and other sites, killing 25 jihadists, and their second-guessing of the killing of Soleimani: Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi both used the Vietnam-era cliché “dangerous escalation.” Making the U.S. the global evil genius responsible for all the world’s ills is an old tactic for the Left, one so banal that it’s spawned a cynical truism useful to America’s allies and enemies alike: “When all else fails, blame the Americans.”
The longevity of the “blame America first” trope is explained not just by the Left’s inveterate hatred of the U.S., but by the progressives’ voodoo psychology that turns ruthless, illiberal global despots and murderous gangs into children so traumatized by Uncle Sam’s abuse that they blindly lash out in violent reaction to our alleged oppression. So Leftists and even some Republicans blame jihadist terror on Israel, colonialism, the absence of political freedom, our support for corrupt autocrats, jobless economies, the lack of accessibility to women, and “disrespect” to Islam and Mohammed––anything and everything except the Koran, hadith, sira, and 14 centuries of Islamic doctrine and practice that have consistently commanded the faithful to “fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” as Mohammed said. And isn’t it ironic that those who demonize the West as a racist oppressor, and who trumpet their groveling respect for, and tolerance of dark-skinned “others,” in fact patronize them and diminish their humanity by stripping them of their agency, their power to act on their own ideals, beliefs, interests, and goods?
That two-bit psychology is the mother of all false analogies and the fake news they spawn. And the most dangerous. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Maybe under Trump’s leadership we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it is––traditional Islam, rather than a figment of our own therapeutic obsessions and self-loathing political ideologies