By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, June 23, 2018)
On all levels, the Trump administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy on illegal immigration is an unmitigated disaster.
Politically, the policy has put the Trump administration on the defensive on immigration at a time when the public’s support for increasing levels of immigration is at its highest level in 20 years. Taken together, those two trends will spell disaster in November for the Republicans.
Many conservatives still believe the GOP can win in November if they convince the voting public of the Democrats’ supposed desire for ‘open borders.’ But considering most everything Trump has done with respect to illegal immigration was also done on some level during Barack Obama’s administration, the mainstream Democratic Party has its own anti-immigrant flag it can wave at selectively targeted voters.
Perhaps if the Trump administration’s efforts to slow illegal immigration had been well-planned and humane that political strategy would have merit; but, in the wake of the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy and its family separations, scaring the public about the Democrats’ views on immigration has become much harder.
Even worse for the Republicans, the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy has robbed the Trump administration of its months-long momentum in public support. Coming out of the Singapore summit, Donald Trump’s presidency was experiencing its highest levels of public support since early in his term. And now? According to the political futures market, PredictIt, the Democrats’ chance of regaining control of the U.S. House has risen from 58 percent in early June to 62 percent in late June. A four percentage-point increase may seem minor, but considering the Democrats experienced a 15 percentage-point decline in its chances between April and early June, a four percentage-point increase must feel like senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just handed the Democrats a life-jacket.
Some time soon, Trump needs to temporarily direct his ire away from the media and the Democrats and realize two of his closest advisers, Miller and Sessions, have single-handily jeopardized the Republican’s political fortunes going forward.
Over 2,300 children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9 according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This human rights atrocity, the product of the administration’s septic form of nationalism and a systemic inattention to policy details, has no clear resolution in sight.
According to Lisa Frydman, an immigration law attorney at KIND, an organization that protects unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system, there will be cases where children will remain back in the U.S. for months after their parents are deported. Even for a competent administration with a well-defined policy, family reconciliation could take months.
On a social level, the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy probably creates more problems than it solves. While Sessions said the policy is intended to deter future illegal immigration, including human trafficking, as of now, no evidence exists suggesting it has done so. And while Trump has defended his administration’s aggressive anti-illegal immigration policy as an aggressive approach to preventing the movement of MS-13 gang members into the U.S., there is a real possibility that the trauma thousands of children are experiencing due to the policy’s family separations may increase the risk factors in children associated with their joining gangs.
On a moral level, this draconian and cruel immigration enforcement policy has been condemned by religious leaders across the country, including by Southern Baptist evangelicals at their recent annual convention. Internationally, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights official called on Trump administration to halt its “unconscionable” policy, saying it punishes “children for their parent’s action.” How ironic it is that, as US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announce the U.S. is leaving the UN’s Human Rights Council, the U.S. is committing a human rights violation on a scale it hasn’t seen since our country’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
The premeditated and reckless infliction of traumas on children is morally indefensible. Sessions can quote all of the bible verses he wants on the importance of obeying the law, there is no biblical justification for separating families fleeing violence in their home countries. None. And, even if there were, it wouldn’t make its current implementation acceptable.
Actor George Takei, best known as Star Trek’s Sulu, whose family was relocated to an internment camp, thinks the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy is even worse. “At least during the internment of Japanese-Americans, I and other children were not stripped from our parents. We were not pulled screaming from our mothers’ arms. We were not left to change the diapers of younger children by ourselves,” Takei wrote in an essay for Foreign Policy. “At least during the internment, we remained a family, and I credit that alone for keeping the scars of our unjust imprisonment from deepening on my soul.”
The ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy (even without family separations) is a bad idea, and even if it should lead to fewer border crossings in the future, has only polarized the country more on the immigration issue and made it harder — not easier — to pass substantive immigration policy before the 2020 presidential election.
Mr. President, you can start to minimize the political damage now. Please fire Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions.
By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, June 6, 2018)
First, the good news for the Republicans…
If Donald Trump has taught us anything, it is that the past is not always prologue.
The assumption is that the President’s party will lose a significant number of seats in the 2018 midterm elections.
History supports this assumption.
Over the past 21 midterm elections, the President’s party has lost an average 30 seats in the House, and an average 4 seats in the Senate.
Don’t assume that will happen in 2018.
The most recent polling data, as summarized by RealClearPolitics.com, suggests the Democrats are losing the momentum they possessed only a few months ago.
The RealClearPolitics.com generic ballot for the 2018 midterms gives the Democrats roughly a 3-point advantage. And, based on past experience, generic ballot numbers are predictive of House election outcomes, as seen in this graphic produced by Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight.com:
Donald Trump’s job approval numbers are also on the rise, and have been since December 2017. If the current trends continue, Trump could be looking at approval numbers around 48 percent around election time.
Nonetheless, even with gerrymandering and geographic clustering working to the Democrats’ disadvantage, the prediction market, PredictIt, is still giving the Democrats a roughly 60 percent chance of re-taking control of the U.S. House. But that is significantly lower than a month ago when PredictIt was giving the Democrats a 70 percent chance.
The trends are in the GOP’s favor right now and have been since the beginning of the year.
Another bad sign for the Democrats is the number of “toss-up” races (based on polling) in the upcoming U.S. House elections.
If we assume the “leaning” Democratic and Republican House districts end up going to the party currently favored, that gives the Democrats 195 seats and the Republicans 206 seats. That leaves 34 House contests considered “toss-ups,” according to RealClearPolitics.com. It takes 218 seats to form a House majority. In other words, the GOP just needs to win 12 of the 34 “toss-up” districts. And if these 34 districts are truly as even as the polling suggests, then we would expect the GOP to win 17 of these races— enough to keep their House majority.
A year ago, it would have been hard to find a Republican that thought their party would be in this position six months out from the midterm elections.
But the GOP is in that position. And why?
Here are the major factors most likely behind the Republicans’ more optimistic outlook for the midterms:
More and more of the American public is giving Trump credit for the strong economy. “Nearly 2 in 3 Americans think the nation’s economy is in good shape, and most of them believe President’s Trump’s policies are at least somewhat responsible for that,” according a recent CBS News poll.
American’s are behind President Trump heading into the Trump-Kim Jong Un summit later this month in Singapore. Three-quarters of Americans support the idea of a Trump-Kim summit, according to a CNN poll, and 53 percent approve of how Trump has been handling the North Korean situation.
There may be a growing Trump-Russia collusion fatigue among Americans. Even Democrats recognize the possibility: “I think the American public will be tired of it (the Trump-Russia probe) if this is not wound down in this calendar year,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) said in May at Recode’s Code Conference, a California gathering of senior tech executives.
If it were any other president, these positive factors would have the party in power talking about increasing their legislative majority in Congress.
Donald Trump is not any other president.
He employs a high-risk strategy of sowing division within the electorate (immigration, Spygate, NFL player protests, etc.) on the assumption this will motivate his base and enough independents to keep his governing coalition intact.
We will see if that strategy works.
But, now, here is the bad news for the Republicans…
These current polling numbers, whether it is the generic congressional ballot or for the individual House races, do not yet reflect the potentially higher quality of Democratic House challengers.
Candidate quality remains one of the most important predictors of electoral success (see research on this topic here and here).
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has raised $151 million for the 2018 election cycle compared to $122 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
While there is reason to be skeptical about the impact of money on congressional election outcomes (Please check out G. Elliott Morris’ work on this topic here), I think most politicians would rather have more money than less money when compared to their opponent.
Furthermore, the decision to run for Congress was most likely made in late 2017, when Trump’s approval and the generic congressional ballot numbers were still in the Democrats’ favor. This generally means higher quality Democratic candidates were more likely to decide to run for Congress than in previous election cycles.
The improved approval numbers for Trump and the GOP since 2017 may not be helping the GOP’s prospects as much as they would have had they occurred earlier in 2017.
Yes, the Republicans are looking better heading into the midterms. But is it too late for them to save their House majority?
We are also seeing generally high turnout rates among Democrats for special elections and primaries, which bodes well for their prospects in November. Midterm election results are largely a function of partisan turnout differentials and 2018 is looking more and more like 2006 (when the Democrats gained 31 House seats).
Unpredictable events could still change the dynamics of the 2018 midterms…
Still, a lot will happen between now and November. If we assume prediction markets, such as PredictIt.com, are like other financial markets, only new information (i.e., ‘shocks’ to the system) will alter the probabilities of the Democrats winning control of the House.
Its not hard to think of potential ‘shocks’ to the electoral prospects of either party in November. Here is just a few possibilities:
While the probability of a recession between now and November is very low, it is not zero. According to economist Ted Kavadas, as of June 4th, the “Yield Curve Model” shows a 11.1 percent probability of a recession in the U.S. in the next 12 months. An unexpected recession would be deadly to the GOP’s prospects in November. We might be looking at a GOP loss of 60 or more seats in such a scenario.
And even if the country doesn’t dip into a recession, a trade war between the U.S. and its major trading partners (Canada, China, Mexico, Europe etc.) is a real possibility. Would a trade war help or hurt the GOP’s prospects? In Iowa, at least, where Trump won the presidential vote by nine percent over Hillary Clinton, pork tariffs by Mexico and China could cost Iowa pork producers over $560 million a year. If that is allowed to continue, Trump and the GOP will suffer significant electoral losses in Iowa in November 2018.
The Robert Mueller III-led investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians will produce more indictments over the next six months. If those indictments directly concern an actual conspiracy (i.e., collusion) between the Trump campaign and the Russians, this will not help the GOP’s chances in November; particularly, if future indictments are issued against anyone in Trump’s inner circle: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, or Trump himself.
In the GOP’s favor, if Trump and Kim reach of tangible decision in Singapore regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, it is difficult to imagine this won’t help the GOP in the midterm elections. A failure to reach an agreement, on the other hand, may not work for or against the GOP. It is hard to know how a diplomatic failure would be perceived by the American voter, but I suspect it will depend on how the ‘failure’ is spun within the major media outlets.
Also, in the GOP’s favor, is a strong economy that is looking more robust by the day. It is hard to imagine an American voting population that does not consider the strength of the U.S. economy when making their vote decisions for U.S. congressional candidates. The Democrats continue to talk down the U.S. economy, but the reality remains…the U.S. economy hasn’t been stronger since 2000.
The GOP should be encouraged by recent trends. Trump is not the drag on the Republicans as he once was only a few months ago. Assuming no major mistakes on his part over the next six months (and that is a tough assumption to make), the Republican Party is poised to minimize the damage from the 2018 midterms. Will they keep control of the U.S. House? Probably not, but it will be closer than many Democrats think. And though the U.S. Senate hasn’t been discussed in this essay, the prospects of the Democrats gaining control of the Senate are diminishing by the day.
Short of Mueller revealing tangible evidence that Donald Trump himself colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election, the U.S. Senate is a lost cause for the Democrats.
All eyes therefore should be on the U.S. House where the Democrats, while not in as comfortable position as they were in late 2017, are still likely to take control of the House after the midterm elections.
By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, May 31, 2018)
The U.S. may be on the brink of one of the greatest foreign policy achievements in its post-WWII history. As of today, I’d say the chances President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agree to any substantive plan to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula are slim, though not zero.
But hope is eternal and even Trump’s sometimes erratic behavior is now being viewed by some of his most ardent critics as an asset in dealing with North Korea.
“A volatile negotiating style is sometimes a sign of an inexperienced or uncertain bargainer,” opines Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “But it’s Trump’s approach, and however bizarre the route, he’s nearing a diplomatic breakthrough.”
Its obviously too soon to put North Korea’s denuclearization on the list of major U.S. foreign policy achievements. But, if it should happen, what else would already be on the list since World War II?
I’ve compiled an informal list of the U.S.’s ten biggest foreign policy achievements since WWII. Why ten? I couldn’t come up with an 11th. So forget an honorable mention list.
The criteria for making the list was fairly straightforward. The accomplishment had to represent not just a significant improvement over the past, but a durable achievement. For this reason, Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement did not qualify for this list.
The achievement had to make the U.S. and its allies safer and/or stronger vis-a-vis its adversaries. The strengthening could be economic, militarily or both.
In addition, the U.S. foreign policy achievement’s impact had to be international and not primarily domestic, which eliminated Bill Clinton’s greatest foreign policy achievement: the investment of the ‘peace dividend’ from the collapse of the Soviet Union into America’s technology and innovation economy.
With these informal qualifications, here is my top 10 for the U.S.’s greatest foreign policy achievements since World War II.
Coming in at number 10…
10. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Treaty of 1948
GATT was a series of multilateral trade agreements designed to reduce trade quotas and tariffs among the treaty’s signatory nations. The first GATT agreement, that included 23 countries, took effect in 1948 and formed the economic foundation for the liberal globalist ideology that dominates today’s world economy.
The agreement itself was not as powerful as many wanted. Yet, President Harry Truman understood the GATT agreement, as weak as it was, would preserve international trade co-operation and become an critical party of U.S. foreign economic and security policy going forward.
Moreover, the 1948 agreement was seen merely an interim measure as there was an expectation the newly-formed United Nations would create an agency to supersede GATT. That never happened. Instead, GATT became the primary tool by which world trade was liberalized and expanded immediately after World War II. It was not until the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 that was GATT finally replaced.
Up to 1995, GATT’s critical role in the world economy was significant as up to 90 percent of world trade was governed by GATT prior to the WTO.
9. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1949)
No post World War II agreement had broader implications than the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Following the end of the war, the fear of Communist expansion dominated discussions in the West European capitals and, in response to Soviet expansion, the U.S. and 11 Western European nations formed NATO.
The rival Warsaw Pact, created in 1955 by the Soviet Union and its Communist partners in Eastern Europe, formed the basis for what would be the Cold War, which would last until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
8. Creation of the United Nations (1945)
In June 1945, a year after D-Day which lead to the eventual defeat of Germany and the European Axis powers, the United Nations Charter was adopted. Its goals were as profound as the diverse collection of countries sanctioning its existence at the San Francisco Conference in April 1945.
Fifty nations, representing the 80 percent of the world’s population that had just defeated Germany to end the European portion of World War II, met in San Francisco to form an international union predicated on the principle that world wars were an unacceptable means through which to solve international problems.
Even as it was agreed, with considerable dissent, that the “Big Five” (United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) could exercise “veto” powers on any action by the United Nations’ powerful Security Council, the General Assemblyof nations signed onto the United Nations charter knowing its imperfections were far outweighed by its potential.
“The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed,” said President Truman in addressing the final San Francisco Conference session, “is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. Between the victory in Europe and the final victory, in this most destructive of all wars, you have won a victory against war itself. With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people.”
On October 24, 1945, the UN officially came into existence. To date, despite its many critics, the UN stands as of the post World War II’s greatest international achievements.
7. SALT I and SALT II Treaties (1972, 1979)
It may seem odd to put SALT and START treaty regimes between the U.S. and Soviet Union ahead of the creation of the UN and NATO, but it is done with some thought. As important as the UN and NATO were in creating institutional frameworks for collectively organizing the common interests of nations, they were band-aids — deeply flawed at their conception and in their application to solve international problems.
Upon the learning in the late 1960s that the Soviet Union had developed a Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defense system to defend Moscow in case of an all-out nuclear war with the U.S., President Lyndon Johnson met with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin to start strategic arms limitations talks (SALT).
The elimination of nuclear weapons was (and is) a dream. The SALT discussions therefore focused on the more practical goal of limiting the development of advanced offensive and defensive strategic systems.
Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, took over the SALT talks and on May 26, 1972, in Moscow, he and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed an ABM Treaty and an interim SALT agreement.
Starting with Johnson’s initiative and Nixon’s follow through, the U.S. and Soviet Union for the first time decided to limit their nuclear arsenals.
The next round of SALT discussions began immediately after the signing of SALT I with its focus on Multiple Independently Targeted Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVs) and on June 17, 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Brezhnev signed the SALT II Treaty in Vienna.
The key element of SALT II was the limitation of both nations’ nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles and restricting MIRVs, though the treaty itself was never ratified by the U.S. Senate due, in part, to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Nonetheless, both countries adhered to SALT II’s requirements, even as the next U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, pursued the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
6. START I Treaty (1991)
Despite opposition to President Carter’s SALT II agreement with the Soviets, President Ronald Reagan adhered to its restrictions, even as he authorized pursuit of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), otherwise known as “Star Wars.”
At the same time, Reagan began negotiations for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a bilateral treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that would reduce (not just limit) the number of strategic offensive arms. The first START agreement was signed in July 1991 (taking effect in 1994). START I was the largest arms control treaty in world history and its implementation resulted in the removal of almost 80 percent of all strategic nuclear weapons in the world at the time.
START II was signed by U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin on January 3, 1993, and banned the use of MIRVs on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). START II, however, never came into effect, even though it was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996 and in Russia in 2000. In June 2002, Russia withdrew from the treaty in response to U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty.
START I, however, remains a milestone in the effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on the planet.
5. The First Gulf War (1991)
This was the most difficult decision in the list of Top 10 foreign policy achievements. The First Gulf War is the only U.S. military action to make the list and, while successful in its primary goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army from Kuwait, the blowback from this war was significant and could be argued that it continues to this day.
When Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, President George H. W. Bush faced the this country’s first post-Cold War international crisis. In response, Bush orchestrated a large international coalition to oppose Iraq’s aggression and, following an intensive air campaign in January 1991, launched a land war offensive that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
President Bush and his foreign policy team built a broad coalition ranging from the NATO allies to a number of Middle Eastern countries. Even Russia, an ally to the Hussein regime, while offering no direct military or material support, diplomatically called for Iraq to leave Kuwait.
The run-up to the war’s start was a model for how diplomatic efforts can work in tandem with military planning; and the effort, as executed by the Bush administration, put the coalition troops in the best possible position to successfully carry out their mission. However, the First Gulf War’s unintended consequences cannot be ignored as they led directly to the rise of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and the subsequent attacks against the the U.S. (U.S.S. Cole, 9/11 attacks, etc.)
The U.S. has proven to be good at starting and executing wars — its the ending of wars where the U.S. has problems.
4. Camp David Accords (1979)
As we read the latest events out of the Middle East, it is easy to forget sometimes that a lasting and durable peace between the State of Israel and Egypt has existed, unbroken, since the 1979 Camp David Accords.
Israel and Egypt had fought two (short) wars against each other in the previous 15 years and the prospects for peace seemed unlikely in the midst of a growing Palestinian armed resistance against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But, largely through President Jimmy Carter’s personal initiative in bringing two diametrically opposite leaders to the table, a peace agreement was hammered out. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt for security guarantees (that have not since been broken). It was an achievement that still stands as a model for the future.
Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, gave us a template and path on how to bring peace to the Middle East (at least on a bilateral basis). The Camp David Accords were without question President Carter’s crowning foreign policy achievement and though peace has not been the rule in the Middle East since the Accords, Israel can rightfully point to a peace treaty with Jordan and a significant thawing of relations with Saudi Arabia as indirect products of the Camp David Accords. Of course, having a common enemy (Iran) is playing a big factor in the new Israel-Saudi detente.
Regardless, the important legacy of the Camp David Accords is unquestionable and is still being written.
3. Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
On the heals of the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba and a disastrous meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchevin Vienna, Austria, President John F. Kennedy had not earned high marks on foreign policy in his young presidency.
That changed over the course of 13 days in October 1962, and for good reason. His leadership, along with that of his Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, averted the very real potential of a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union. At the very least, a ‘hot war’ was possible, which would have been the first between two nuclear powers.
Screwing up again was not an option for the Kennedy administration in October 1962.
As revealed by U.S. reconnaissance photos, the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles were discovered on Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S. shoreline. A warhead launch from Cuba could have deposited a nuclear bomb on Washington, D.C. within 5 minutes.
Needless to say, the stakes were high.
In his October 22, 1962, national television address, Kennedy informed Americans about the presence of the missiles, announced a naval blockade surrounding Cuba, and let the world know the U.S. would use military force if the missiles were not removed.
What the American people didn’t know, getting to the naval blockade decision was not an easy one for Kennedy and there was tremendous pressure from the Pentagon and other ‘hawks’ in his administration to invade Cuba from the start.
With the dynamics behind how the crisis was resolved still being debated to this day by historians and academics, Khrushchev offered to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. agreeing never to invade Cuba and to also remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
The Cuban Missile Crisis remains one of the most discussed and analyzed foreign policy crises ever; and, what the U.S. and Soviet Union (now Russia) learned from the October 1962 events has, arguably, kept us from getting that close to a nuclear war ever again.
2. Nixon visits China (1973)
You know something is historically iconic when it can used as a referential device for other, unrelated events. ‘Only Nixon could go to China,’ is one of the common refrains, often used to explain why some major policy breakthroughs can only happen if previously strong opponents of the policy take up its cause. “Only Ronald Reagan could have pushed a national health care system through Congress,” was a frequent lament of a former colleague of mine. And, so on and so forth.
It is true, President Richard Nixon was a staunch anti-communist. It is also likely if a Democratic president had opened relations with Communist China, Nixon would have been its fiercest critic.
But politics has a funny way of turning preachers into sinners and soldiers into poets.
Nixon arrived in China on February 21, 1972, the Watergate break in four months later was still just a glint in his eye. At that time Nixon stepped off Air Force One into the cold air of Beijing, his administration was struggling with a war in Vietnam that looked increasingly like the South Vietnamese regime would not survive. Nixon knew the Vietnam War was no longer about containing communism’s expansion, but containing the damage to U.S. prestige around the world.
Yet, in February 1972, Nixon was never more confident in his ability to change the course of history. He was going to bring about an honorable peace in Vietnam, and further limit the Soviet’s ambitions by opening U.S. relations with the communist Chinese, Realpolitik‘s version of a Phil Niekro knuckleball.
It was diplomatic brilliance, and it worked, more in the long-term than in the short-term, however.
One of President Harry Truman’s most vocal critics at the time for losing China to the communists in 1949, Nixon thought he was ideal to fix Harry’s mistake. But, more strategically, Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, saw an opportunity to drive a small, but significant, wedge between the China and the Soviets, who were having minor border war skirmishes in the late 1960s. Nixon and Kissinger even thought a U.S.-China relations thaw would make the Soviets more amenable to U.S. interests.
China’s interests in the ‘thaw’ were even more complex, as the country was still in the middle of its brutal Cultural Revolution in which millions of Chinese intellectuals, leaders, and common citizens were persecuted for ‘bourgeois’ beliefs and activities. The Chinese economy was a mess and there was no better or quicker fix for a mess like that than American investment and trade.
In reality, Nixon’s trip to China was more symbolic than productive. But it did open the door to a symbiotic economic relationship that would eventually dominate the world economy forty years later.
The U.S.-China relationship is not as close as U.S.-European relations, and as we’ve seen with China’s growing military assertiveness in the South China Sea, disagreements are no longer restricted to economic issues. China is going to be a world superpower soon (if it isn’t already). Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, while not necessarily changing the inevitability or timing of China’s rise, it marks a significant point in history where the U.S., the leading economic and military power at the time, was preparing to welcome the Chinese back into a leadership role on the world stage.
Nixon will not be remembered as a great U.S. president, but by extending a hand of friendship to China, he showed a level of foresight quite rare among presidents.
1. Reagan and G. H. W. Bush manage the demise of the Soviet Union (1980s)
No single post-WWII conflict dominated American foreign policy as did theCold War with the Soviet Union. Our containment policy towards Soviet communism led directly to our involvement in Vietnam and underscored our country’s efforts to secure Middle East energy supplies for the West and our allies. In fact, many of the significant international crises involving the U.S. after World War II involved, directly or indirectly, the Cold War conflict: the Cuban Missile Crisis (1961), the Berlin Airlift (1948–49), and the Suez Crisis (1956–57). The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Suez Crisis, in particular, brought the two superpowers closer to a nuclear war than perhaps at any other time in the post-WWII world.
The arms race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. was the most costly military expansion in world history. The cost of the U.S. nuclear arsenal alone between 1940 and 1996 was estimated by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)to be around $5.8 trillion (in inflated-adjusted 1996 dollars), which was 31 percent of all defense expenditures during that period ($18.7).
The Cold War was expensive. So costly, in fact, some believed the break-up of the Soviet Union was inevitable. But many experts also dispute attributing the Soviet Union’s demise to the Ronald Reagan-era military buildup. As the graph below shows regarding U.S. and Soviet Union defense spending between 1964 and 1998, Soviet defense spending had been increasing on a consistent basis long before the first Reagan defense budgets.
“The Soviet Union’s defense spending did not rise or fall in response to American military expenditures. Revised estimates by the Central Intelligence Agency indicate that Soviet expenditures on defense remained more or less constant throughout the 1980s. Neither the military buildup under Jimmy Carter and Reagan nor SDI had any real impact on gross spending levels in the USSR. At most SDI shifted the marginal allocation of defense rubles as some funds were allotted for developing countermeasures to ballistic defense.
If American defense spending had bankrupted the Soviet economy, forcing an end to the Cold War, Soviet defense spending should have declined as East-West relations improved. CIA estimates show that it remained relatively constant as a proportion of the Soviet gross national product during the 1980s, including Gorbachev’s first four years in office. Soviet defense spending was not reduced until 1989 and did not decline nearly as rapidly as the overall economy.”
Instead, Lebow and Stein, like many experts in this area, considered the proximal cause of the Soviet Union’s demise to lie in the ill-conceived perestroika reforms initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, coupled with the structural problems inherent in the Soviet economic system. If anything, the Reagan defense budgets delayed the Soviet Union’s demise.
Nonetheless, Reagan and his successor, George H. W. Bush, did something perhaps more important than bringing down the Soviet Union. They managed the Soviet decline, regardless of its many causes, and ensured that the new world order emerging from the end of the Cold War would be stable and prosperous.
So much could have gone wrong. From the time when the Berlin Wall came down on December 9, 1989 to December 26, 1991, the complex task of disentangling a Gordian knot of Soviet relationships around the world fell into the George H. W. Bush’s lap.
At the time of the Soviet collapse, the country had about 39,000 nuclear weapons and about 1.5 million kilograms of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, according to Stanford engineering professor Siegfried Hecker, who helped the former Soviet Union secure its nuclear arsenal at a time when many feared ‘loose nukes’ would get into the hands of the wrong people.
And the cooperation between U.S. and former Soviet Union scientists and senior military personnel was, itself, built upon a positive relationship Ronald Reagan (and then George H. W. Bush) had built with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and other senior Soviet leaders.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush made the world safer, faster than at any other time in U.S. history.
By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, May 30, 2018)
If there are any civil libertarians left in the Democratic Party who still believe the state’s propensity towards excessive intrusion into citizens’ lives must be constantly challenged, this essay is addressed to you:
Here is a thought exercise that may shed some light on what the Barack Obama administration should have done during the 2016 presidential election…
Rather than what we know (or think we know) about how the Russians interfered in the 2016 election, what if this had happened instead:
Imagine that in the early Spring of 2016, the FBI became aware of a Hillary Clinton campaign effort to discover compromising information about Donald Trump and his financial interactions with the Russians. In their pursuit of “dirt” on Trump, Clinton campaign operatives came into contact with known Russian intelligence agents. There is even anecdotal evidence that the Russians have kompromat on Hillary Clinton arising from their hacking of her homebrew e-mail server.
What would the FBI do in such a situation? What would Obama’s Department of Justice (DoJ) have done under such a scenario?
Most likely, they would have selectively shared their information with Clinton and perhaps her senior staff about what they knew regarding Russia’s contact with campaign operatives— as their primary concern would be protecting the interests of the U.S. and its electoral system.
Would they have run an FBI intelligence gathering operation using a paid informant against the Clinton campaign.
I seriously doubt it, but according Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, were the FBI to do that, he would hope they would first inform candidate Clinton and take their chances that she wouldn’t divulge the FBI operation to the targeted individuals.
But I disagree to this extent. An administration is treading into some dangerous territory when they conduct any surveillance or intelligence gathering on an opposition party candidate for president.
Had the Clinton campaign’s effort to find ‘dirt’ on Trump led them to some suspicious connections to Russian intelligence operatives, based on the investigation standards I saw applied while working in an intelligence community Office of the Inspector General, I believe the Obama administration would have notified the candidate and her senior staff and discussed future steps should the inappropriate contacts continue.
Why do I believe this?
First, they would have understood the effort to find “dirt” on Trump as defensible, even if potentially reckless. But an objective FBI and DoJ isn’t concerned about the partisan politics of the situation. They are concerned with the integrity of the nation’s electoral process.
As South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy and Florida Senate Marco Rubio, both Republicans, have both recently said about the FBI’s using an informant to collect intelligence from Trump campaign operatives, the FBI is doing its job when it investigates foreign power intrusions into our electoral process.
But not informing candidate Trump, particularly given rumors known to the FBI that the candidate might be subject to blackmail by the Russians, is highly questionable and fails to mitigate a potentially active threat against the U.S.
Second, had it been the Clinton campaign in contact with Russians, the Obama administration would trust the candidate Clinton enough to expect direct answers to questions about interactions with the Russians.
Third, a “secret” investigative operation would take time and the electoral calendar would have driven the investigation’s timeline. The Obama administration would want the investigation resolved before the Democratic Convention in late July, such that, if the candidate’s campaign was truly compromised by Russian intelligence agents, the Democrats would have an opportunity to nominate someone else.
That is a ‘political’ consideration, but not inherently a partisan one. You would hope the Obama administration would have used the same consideration with the Trump campaign.
That is the common sense reaction the Obama administration should have to Russian interference with a presidential campaign, regardless of the party involved.
The FBI, under Obama, initiated a secret intelligence gathering operation on selected Trump campaign advisers — presumably in an effort to understand the extent of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — weeks prior to an official counterintelligence investigation into Russia-Trump collusion.
Even if using an FBI-paid informant against the Trump campaign was justified on national security grounds, Gowdy and Rubio have suggested, it is not appropriate for the FBI to use partisan political factors in deciding how to execute such an intelligence operation.
The news media’s focus on Trump’s supposed ‘lying’ distracts from the real question: Were partisan motives involved?
The major news outlets have decided Trump was “lying” when he tweeted that the FBI was spying on his campaign in July 2016.
Such a charge is utterly dishonest. In fact, the charge is more of a lie than what Trump accused the FBI of doing against his campaign.
Please read the public laws, regulations and executive orders that established our intelligence agencies (The Office of the Director of National Intelligence provides them all in one document available here). You will never see the word “spy” or “spying” as it is simply not a term the U.S. government uses to describe what its intelligence agencies do for the country.
It is understandable why. “Spying” has obvious negative connotations. Subsequently, in writing the laws and regulations authorizing our intelligence agencies, the term ‘intelligence’ became the operative phrase.
The word ‘spy’ has no official, government-sanctioned definition.
Nonetheless, the word ‘spy’ is a colloquial term we’ve all used to describe a wide range of behaviors. For example, I spy on my son all the time to see what games he’s been playing or websites he’s visited on his cellphone.
Hence, Donald Trump’s use of the word “spying” to describe what the FBI did with respect to his campaign is with some merit, even if imprecise.
The news media’s accusations that Trump ‘lied’ about FBI ‘spying’ distracts from the far more important question of whether the FBI was politically motivated when it decided to use a ‘secret informant’ to casually interview Trump campaign advisers about their connections to the Russians.
An independent, inquisitive news media would demand an answer.
And why should they? It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.
Before Obama, another incumbent administration spied on an opposing party’s presidential campaign. In The Wall Street Journal, Lee Edwards shares his experience with how Lyndon Baines Johnson’s administration spied on the Barry Goldwater campaign.
“During the 1964 presidential campaign, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the FBI to spy on Barry Goldwater’s campaign, according to Lee Edwards, a Heritage Foundation fellow and director of information for the Goldwater campaign…
…Every poll pointed toward Johnson winning the election against the conservative senator of Arizona, but LBJ wanted to win by a landslide so he could implement his Great Society vision without restraint. He also wanted to go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents, Edwards writes in The Wall Street Journal. So he created an “Anti-Campaign” to smear Goldwater’s candidacy, Edwards claims…
…According to Edwards, the operation was run out of the second floor of the West Wing by veteran Washington-based Democrats like Leonard Marks, who later became the director of the U.S. Information Agency, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor and later a U.S. senator for New York. Marks and Moynihan would schedule Democratic speakers before and after Goldwater’s appearance in a city. They knew his travel plans and remarks in advance thanks to a spy the CIA planted at Goldwater headquarters, Edwards claims…
…The “Anti-Campaign” went as far as to enlist the FBI, even though the bureau is supposed to limit its investigations to people and institutions considered dangerous to national security, Edwards writes. The FBI arranged for widespread wiretapping of the Goldwater campaign, according to Edwards, and Johnson also illegally ordered the FBI to conduct security checks of Goldwater’s Senate staff.”
It was unethical then, but why is it OK now?
The Washington Post created a detailed timeline of the relationship between known Trump campaign comments related to “hacked Clinton emails” and the release of the DNC and Podesta hacked emails (Their analysis can be accessed here).
One justification of the Robert Mueller investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians is the documented knowledge that the Trump campaign actively sought “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
There is no doubt the Trump campaign sought Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 plus deleted emails.
What The Washington Post and the other major media outlets don’t seem to understand is that it is not inherently illegal for a U.S. presidential campaign to seek the “hacked” emails of an opposing campaign, assuming they didn’t conspire, aid and abet, or hide the crime.
In Summer 2016,Trump and campaign adviser Roger Stone were publicly calling for Wikileaks to publish the Clinton-related e-mails hacked in all likelihood by the Russians. That is hardly ‘hiding’ the hacking crime.
Yet, the Obama administration decided the Trump campaign’s knowledge of the supposed whereabouts of Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails was sufficient to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign using a paid, secret informant.
Based on Gowdy, Rubio and Dershowitz’ opinions, perhaps it was sufficient evidence to use a secret informant, but would Obama have initiated a similar intelligence operation against the Clinton campaign?
That is the question that should animate the American news media today, instead of accusing the president of “lying” about spying against his campaign.
By Kent R. Kroeger (Source: NuQum.com, May 23, 2018)
A number of my readers have complained that I use images or words from The Beatles to drive home my points. Here is a representative example of that criticism:
“How dare you use an image of George Harrison as click-bait for your pro-Trump bulls**t! George and the other Beatles never would have associated themselves that orange-haired a**hole. SHAME ON YOU! YOUR ARE NOT A REAL BEATLE FAN!”
I appreciate the profanity-soaked feedback…but let me respond.
First, for those of you under 40 that don’t know the significance of The Beatles, think of them as the 1960s version of Donald Glover, only there were four of them.
As to those who criticize my use of Beatles imagery, don’t assume you know how any of The Beatles would react to Donald Trump. Only two Beatles are still alive, of course, and neither have been aggressively anti-Trump (though Paul McCartney has written a song about Trump, which I am told is not complimentary).
But Paul has always had a tendency to aim for popular culture’s sweet spot.
I am all for opposing Donald Trump on policy. For example, it would be nice if these rabid anti-Trumpers would carve out some time to protest the growing likelihood that the U.S. is going to war against Iran. Sadly, I don’t think the Democratic Party establishment has any problem with such a reckless and doomed-to-fail military adventure.
But back to The Beatles…
In contrast to Paul’s criticism of Trump, Richard Starkey (aka. Ringo Starr), who has unexpectedly become the good-looking Beatle in his reclining years, has come out in favor of the Brexit vote; and, offers some sage advice on Brexit that is equally applicable to the Resistance in the U.S.
“I think it’s a great move; I think, you know, to be in control of your country is a good move,” Starkey told the BBC. “The people voted and, you know, they have to get on with it. Suddenly, it’s like, ‘Oh, well, we don’t like that vote.’ What do you mean you don’t like that vote? You had the vote, this is what won, let’s get on with it.”
Damn! Ringo just hammered the European Union globalists like he did to his tom-toms on “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
As for the deceased Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, it is not so clear to me that they would reflexively support the Resistance.
Lets start with my favorite Beatle, George, who wrote my favorite Beatle song, “While my guitar gently weeps.”
George also wrote the best anti-big government, anti-tax song in the history of popular music: Taxman
If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet
Should five percent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all
George hated high taxes.
At the time he wrote Taxman, the top tax rate in Britain was 83 percent.
The Beatles, in general, had middle-class upbringings and were surprisingly bourgeois in their understanding of the world. When George visited San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in the 1967’s Summer of Love, his description of the place when he returned to London was, “It turned out to be just a lot of bums…dropping acid.” Pat Buchanan or Billy Graham could have just easily had that reaction.
Oh, but surely John would be an outspoken Trump critic…right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
One of his most famous songs, Revolution, was actually a song against left-wing revolutions.
You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out…
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright?
Revolution’s most poignant line is in its chorus: “Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright?” If there is one message John was trying to impart in this song, it was that even when serious problems exist, they are not existential.
In other words, the U.S. and the world will survive Donald Trump. We might even be better for having him.
British journalist, Maurice Hindle, who first interviewed Lennon in 1968, said “Lennon much regretted his earlier associations with the radical left.” The song Revolution was Lennon’s sharp reply to these activists that he viewed as directionless and inherently prone to violence.
Like his fellow Beatles, John had a middle-class upbringing. He was raised by his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith, the latter making his career in the bookmaking business, before gambling away the family’s meager savings. John internalized that experience as he gained his own substantial wealth. And, as John’s financial fortunes grew, political groups began asking him for financial support, to whom he basically replied, ‘F**K OFF.’
John was more than happy to donate a song (e.g., “Give Peace a Chance”), but give money? Don’t forget one of John’s favorite childhood songs was Berry Gordy’s Motown song, Money, which included the lyric: ‘Money don’t get everything, it’s true, but what it don’t get, I can’t use. I need money, that’s what I want.’
And it wasn’t just on the topic of money where John was unapologetic about his bourgeois-esque attitudes.
While appearing on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971, Lennon was asked by a female audience member about whether he was concerned about overpopulation. Lennon’s answer surprised her and Cavett: “I don’t really believe it,” Lennon said. “I think whatever happens will balance itself out. It’s alright for us all living to say, ‘Well, there’s enough of us so we won’t have any more.’. I don’t believe in that.”
John would later dismiss the ‘over-population’ problem by noting that as he flew over the U.S. he noticed there was “a lot of room for more people.”
The issue of overpopulation was popular on the Left in 1971. Three years earlier, Stanford biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich predicted in his book, “The Population Bomb,” that half of Americans would die by the late 1980s due to overpopulation and the resulting famine. (Where do you think Marvel’s idea for The Avengers’ main villain, Thanos, came from?)
Over 40 years removed from Lennon’s critique of Ehrlich’s overpopulation thesis, the intuition of an art school-educated rock star was far more accurate than that of the Stanford biologist.
If you want to draw an analogy to global warming and climate change, I won’t stop you. And I think the evidence supports the hypothesis that John, if he were alive today, would dismiss climate change alarmists as he did the overpopulation alarmists in the 1970s.
And in the end…
One last thought for those who are offended or bored by my frequent reference to The Beatles when writing about contemporary politics.
We all get to interpret their music and lyrics as we wish. I use Beatle music as a background choir to my daily diet of partisan, corporate-driven half-truths being promulgated by the mainstream news media (and I include Fox News in that wretched heap — though, I confess, I am a Bret Baier-fan).
For me, when The Beatles introduce to us the Fool on the Hill who thought the criticswere the actual fools, they are warning about the fine line between arrogance and self-confidence. When John sings about the apolitical Nowhere Man who ‘knows not where he’s going to’ because he’s just like you and me, he’s talking about the importance of humility.
And, most importantly, The Beatles were about challenging authority. “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” environmental activist Jack Weinberg once said. [I prefer Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.”]
As I write this I am watching CNN’s Don Lemon lecture us about what a big liar Donald Trump is, and how anyone that believes the FBI spied on the Trump campaign is being duped.
Perhaps. Don, after all, has all of the Obama administration’s authorities on his side.
One of the risks in challenging authority is that, sometimes, the authorities are right.
This is not that time, however.
If you want to believe the FBI didn’t secretly investigate (i.e., ‘spy on’) the Trump campaign using informants and all of the intelligence collection tools available to them, go right ahead.
But listen to our nation’s former intelligence chief, James Clapper. When asked by The View’s Joy Behar whether the FBI spied on the Trump campaign, Clapper’s response was interesting.
“No, they were not,” Clapper answered. “They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”
In layman’s terms, the FBI was spying on the Russians by hanging around the Trump campaign. That is what we call a distinction without a difference.
Clapper’s response shows how much the Obama administration crafted their public response for when the “spying” program was revealed (which they knew it would be eventually).
Even if you accept Clapper’s distinction, it doesn’t change the fact that at least one Trump campaign adviser was targeted by a FISC-approved surveillance operation and a FBI counterintelligence operation targeting Trump campaign advisers was opened in late July 2016.
Those facts alone justify this simple question: Did political motivations influence the approvals of these intelligence efforts? And the suggestion by that skeptics of the Obama administration’s story are peddling conspiracy theories, is simply a shaming technique. It doesn’t require a conspiracy to believe the U.S. government lies. Out of convenience or perceived necessity, our government lies…a lot. Such behavior by our government leaders has been ‘normalized.’
It is therefore fair to ask if politics influenced the FBI’s decision to run a counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign. As yet, we have not received from the news media or the government a verifiable answer. A healthy skeptic is not going to just take their word for it. Show us the memos, the e-mails, and the meeting notes that started this operation. How was it funded? Who authorized? Who managed it? Was President Obama briefed? When? Etc. etc.
I don’t believe for a moment that the FBI’s decision to launch ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ (high marks to the FBI for their naming creativity, by the way) was sparked by a drunken George Papadopoulos spilling his guts to an Australian diplomat in a London bar in May of 2016.
NO F-ing WAY.
When the truth does comes out, we will likely discover our intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ were interested in Donald Trump long before that May 2016 meeting — probably around the time the Fusion GPS contract to collect intelligence on Donald Trump passed from the Washington Free Beaconto a Democratic Party-aligned law firm (with ties to the Clinton campaign). Just an educated guess.
At the same time, I am hardly shill for Trump. For example…
…I would not be surprised if Donald Trump is on a ‘pee pee tape’ and has allowed his business interests to get tied up with some very unsavory types (including, but not restricted to, Russians).
…I believe the Trump campaign made a significant effort to find dirt on Hillary Clinton, including her ‘deleted emails,’ even if that meant meeting with Russians. None of which is necessarily illegal.
…I also believe Paul Manafort and Roger Stone are money-grubbing Beltway Bandit has-beens, proven by their known past to be devoid of integrity, and entirely capable of using their connections to Trump and Russian oligarchs for personal financial gain. They are pit vipers posing as human beings. The last two people a legitimate presidential campaign should bring aboard.
…and I swear, as it became clear on election night that Trump had won, I went onto my deck and could hear the Russians laughing at the stupidity and incompetence of the Obama administration and our two presidential candidates (Куча идиотов!).
Even if we take everything Clapper and other Obama administration officials have said as fact regarding spying on the Trump campaign, they need to account for they still allowed the Russians to not just meddle, but affect the final election outcome. [I have previously published evidence that the Trump campaign’s social media efforts, which had help from the Russians (knowingly or not), had a quantifiable impact on a significant percentage of voters. You can find my research here.]
That is my summary of the 2016 election. And everyone involved, from our two political parties to the partisan news media, is trying to cover their butts.
And, sadly, our journalists are not doing the job protected by our Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution. It is possible to believe the Russians meddled in the election, Donald Trump was unaware of this meddling, and the Obama administration spied on members of the Trump campaign. All three statement can be true. It would be nice if our journalist corps would press the current and former administrations for the truth.
Instead, today’s journalists are more likely to be telling us what their government handlers want us to hear instead of what we should hear.
Which is why I am always skeptical of corporate media. They’ve already misreported too many things in the Trump-Russia story for us to trust them now [Don’t believe me? You can find a list here].
Yes, the news media gets some things right. For example, I’m confident there is a volcano spewing lava in Hawaii right now.
There are still some good reporters out there, but many of them are trapped under the fetters of corporate media, motivated more by career advancement incentives than a healthy skepticism of ‘official sources.’
We would all be better served if we stopped accepting access journalism driven by anonymous government sources. For when we do, we are probably being played for fools.
We should demand independent, verifiable evidence. We should demand the truth.
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald calls these access journalists the ‘stenographers’ for our nation’s political and economic elites. You don’t have to like Greenwald to know he’s right.
But the truth will come out eventually about what really happened in the 2016 election…unless we stop demanding it and just accept Don Lemon’s advice.
And for those of you that have made to the end of this essay, you are rewarded with the 2010 stereo remaster of John Lennon’s political rock masterpiece, “Gimme Some Truth.” Enjoy!