George David Banks, who had served since February 2017 as special assistant to the president for international energy and environmental policy, told POLITICO that he was informed by the White House counsel’s office Tuesday that his application for a permanent clearance would not be granted over his past marijuana use. –Politico
This is truly reefer madness.
What’s next? Denying a security clearance because you hung out with Barack Obama in high school?
Prof. Westad is one of the great historians of the Cold War. One of his great contributions has been to expand our understanding of the bipolar contest beyond the central front in Europe to include across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.
Prof. Michael Mandelbaum is one of the great analysts of US foreign policy, during that era and today. He is also among the most lucid of writers and appreciates that quality in others.
So, when Mandelbaum praises Westad’s latest book, The Cold War: A World History, as the “definitive account,” it is worth taking very seriously.
To quote Mandelbaum:
At a certain point after an historical chapter closes it becomes possible to write an account of it that incorporates such consensus as exists, and that may therefore stand as reliable, and as close to definitive as it is possible to come, for a generation. The Cold War, extinct for more than a quarter century, has reached that point, and with The Cold War: A World History, Odd Arne Westad has written such an account….
The book’s explanation of the two most important and controversial features of the Cold War—its origins and its conclusion—are likely to stand the test of time. The defeat of Germany and the severe weakening of Great Britain and France in World War II left a vacuum of power in Europe, the heart of the international system. The United States and the Soviet Union filled it. They became competitors rather than cooperating with each other because of their strongly held and incompatible ideologies. –Mandelbaum on Westad
Mandelbaum points to several areas where Westad’s account could be stronger, or where his interpretations could be contested, but his overall conclusion is strongly positive.
Like the old advertisement that says, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”
With a name like “Odd,” it has to be even-handed. And so it is, says Mandelbaum:
A book such as this one renders many judgments, and they are, for the most part, balanced. –Mandelbaum on Westad
Mandelbaum is too thoughtful to put it like this, so I will: Westad meets the Smucker’s standard.
Since Jerusalem is actually Israel’s capital and since it will continue to be so in any putative peace settlement, I don’t see how this blocks such a settlement.
The US Consulate–and future Embassy–are in WEST Jerusalem. Everyone (except people who believe in Israel’s annihilation) understand that West Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever. No voluntary peace settlement will change that.
There was no American statement that the embassy move prevents some part of Jerusalem from being a Palestinian capital, too.
I don’t like hecklers’ vetoes on campus and I don’t like rioters’ vetoes elsewhere. That threat was used to try and block the move. It failed. Good.
The Palestinians have not exactly proven themselves partners for peace since Oslo.
Until now, the US had not made them pay any price for their truculence.
Now, it has.
The only way there will ever being peace, IMO, is if Israel thinks it is absolutely secure against Palestinian threats and has firm US backing against such threats.
Obama’s strategy made the opposite assumption. It made US support for Israel and other allies more problematic, more contingent on following US directions, and, of course, more hectoring. US friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and across the region understood and adjusted–against the US.
Trump has fundamentally reversed that policy, not only in Israel but in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
The only way many other Arab states will back off their rejectionist, maximalist demands to eliminate Israel is for them to be utterly convinced it is impossible and costly to continue.
Fundamentally, only Israeli military strength can convince them Israel will not be eliminated.
US support, including the moving of the embassy, shows that Israel cannot be completely isolated diplomatically. (Again, Obama’s moves against Israel raised question marks about diplomatic isolation.)
What will change the cost of Arab/Muslim/European opposition to Israel? Two calculations:
Fear of Iran, for states in the Middle East. They will edge toward alliance with other anti-Iranian states, of which Israel is the most powerful, the most technically sophisticated, and the most capable in its intelligence services.
Desire for trade with a growing, sophisticated, and technologically-innovative economy. It is called “start-up nation” for a reason. (The GDP per capita of once-poor Israel is now equal to Italy and about 20-30% below the wealthier European states. It is about 3.5x higher than Turkey, 7x higher than Iran, 10x higher than Jordan on a per capita basis.)
There are two fundamental obstacles to peace on the Palestinian side.
They don’t have stable governance.
Even if they promised peace, the government might be upended and a new government reverse course.
Knowing that, even political moderates in the West Bank are fearful of suggesting deeper cooperation. They wouldn’t win and might well be killed.
The Palestinian political class has never accepted the basic idea of a Jewish state in the region.
The Palestinians’ own rejection of Israel encourages that of Muslims across the region. Not that they need much encouragement.
That’s true of both people in the West Bank and Gaza and of their leaders.
The level of anti-Semitism in their schoolbooks, propaganda, and casual statements is breathtaking. . . and disgusting. One compelling piece of evidence: they actually pay monthly pensions to families of terrorists who kill Jews. The money comes from Western donors.
The rejectionist front against Israel now has two regional leaders: Iran, which has expanded across the region, and Turkey, which has become increasingly Islamist under Erdogan.
Again, Obama’s policies made these problems worse. In the case of Iran, so did Bush’s take down of Saddam Hussein without ensuring a replacement regime.
As with so many Trump policies, the movement of the US embassy represents a change based on a simple calculus: what we tried in the past did not work. Let’s try something different.
In this case, I think he’s correct.
There will be a short-term price to pay. But the long-run effect will be Muslim recognition that Israel cannot be exterminated (at least, by anything less than an Iranian nuclear attack). That may cause some of them to accept the reality and move on.
US domestic politics: Jews: most Jews follow the same path of college-educated, socially liberal Americans.
They are appalled by Trump personally and think his behavior in office is unbecoming. But there is a deeper shift beneath the surface.
The Democratic Party is increasingly anti-Israel, the Republicans pro-Israel.
That is leading to stronger Jewish backing for Republicans, especially among more observant Jews. There used to be almost no Jewish Republicans. Now, there are plenty.
Among other Jews, the Republicans association with social conservatism is a major obstacle to realignment. So is the widening distance between US Jews and Israel.
US domestic politics: Evangelicals. No group has supported Israel more steadfastly–or been a stronger support for Republicans. They will love this move.
Europe’s fecklessness on Israel is on full display, not that anyone doubted it. It fears its own unassimilated Muslim population and assumes its antagonism to Israel will win friends in the Arab/Muslim world.
When historians look back at the long arc at the century beginning in 1930, they will see that Europe has traded a well-integrated Jewish minority, which Hitler exterminated, for a poorly-integrated and growing Muslim minority. The Jews accepted the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Significant elements of the Muslim minority do not.
Anti-Semitism in Europe is a serious problem. It combines four groups: Muslims, left-wing intellectuals, traditional anti-Semites (both upper-class and religious conservatives), and right-wing nationalists. (The movement in the US contains the first two but the last two are different. Country-club anti-Semites are a much smaller group today, and the vast majority of nationalist/patriot Americans are actually pro-Israel. Except for the fringes, they don’t have the fascist, anti-Semitic slant of Europe’s right-wing movements.)
Effects beyond the region: North Korea. By keeping a prominent campaign promise, Pres. Trump has made his other promises and threats more credible. That will have some effect as Beijing thinks about Trump’s threats to deal with North Korea
For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?“
The coalition problem was that she needed support from the leftist Greens and pro-market Free Democrats.
She couldn’t find common ground between them.
Comment: Her larger problem is that she’s past her “sell-by” date and has a tin-ear for ordinary Germans’ disgust with open borders, which have led to millions of immigrants and serious problems with unassimilated Muslim populations.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Democrats win big in off-year elections. The most important: a surprisingly large victory in the Virginia Governor’s race
Comment: NJ returning to a Democratic governor is not surprising. In Virginia, which is shifting from purple to a blue state because of the DC suburbs, the surprise is not Ralph Northam’s win but his 9-point margin over a good Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie.
Northam’s margin tells me Democrats are motivated, even after a divisive primary. Hillary won Virginia by 5 points. Down-ballot Democrats are also doing very well.
◆President Trump’s begins his biggest stop: Beijing
There are three major issues on the table: North Korea, China’s expansion in the South China Sea, and China’s asymmetrical trade relations with the US.
The 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report analyzed a sample of 1,102 convictions, including felonies, handled in the military court system and found the Navy, Air Force and Marines failed to send criminal history or fingerprint data to the FBI in about 30 percent of them. –Fox News
Senate Finance Committee votes unanimously on these sanctions, just as Pres. Trump lands in Beijing.
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee unanimously backed new sanctions targeting Chinese banks that do business with North Korea on Tuesday, just before President Donald Trump visits Beijing for the first time since taking office….
Washington so far has largely held off on imposing new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.–Reuters
The story about Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, comes from one of our best investigative reporters, Catherine Herridge.
The co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the unverified Trump dossier, met with a Russian lawyer before and after a key meeting she had last year with Trump’s son, Fox News has learned. The contacts shed new light on how closely tied the firm was to Russian interests, at a time when it was financing research to discredit then-candidate Donald Trump….
Simpson and Fusion GPS were hired by BakerHostetler, which represented Russian firm Prevezon through Veselnitskaya. –Catherine Herridge for Fox News
Comment: So, Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for this Russian firm and the Clinton campaign. That could be an innocent coincidence . . . or it could lead to some “synergies.” So far, Fusion GPS has taken the 5th before Congressional investigative committees and fiercely resisted subpoenas for any records of their financial transactions.
The bureaucracies did not inform each other, so none had a full picture of the lethal danger he posed.
Some of this information might have blocked gun purchases
Comment: As we learned after 9/11, you can’t connect the dots if bureaucracies don’t share information. In the 9/11 case, the failure was the predictable consequence of laws blocking such sharing between the FBI (focused on domestic crime prosecution) and the CIA/NSA (focused on foreign issues, not crime, and prohibited from domestic spying). Terrorists exploited those “stovepipes” by moving across borders.
In the Texas case, it was simply the military’s failure to enter info in shared databases. In the case of the shooter’s escape from a mental hospital, we don’t know why that information was not entered into shared databases, where it could have blocked gun purchases.
Even if the information is available, there is so much of it that local law enforcement may not be able to sort through it and use it effectively.
◆Very tight governor’s race in today’s Virginia election:
UPDATE: Democrat Wins
The state has been trending Democratic for some years, fueled by population growth in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia.
Hillary won the state by 5 points and Trump’s unpopularity in North Virginia is why he didn’t campaign for the Republican, the first Presidential no-show in half a century.
That’s why the Democrat tried to make it a “national” election while the Republican tried to make it “local.”
Beyond the usual impact on policy, the winner will influence Virginia’s redistricting after the 2020 Census.
Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues.
For the US and its strong ally, Japan, the problem is South Korea’s leftist president, Moon Jae-In.
He was soft on North Korea before the election, a long-held, principled position. He has been somewhat firmer since then because of Kim’s provocations.
The main problem, though, is that he wants much closer relations with Beijing and is willing to back away from the US to get that. Beijing is concerned about US anti-missile defense in South Korea and would be very concerned if the US returned nuclear weapons to the peninsula. South Korea’s Moon has essentially caved to Beijing’s demands.
China’s leaders will be taking the measure of Trump’s clout during his visit to Seoul. If he can get real strategic, security cooperation from Moon, China will be more inclined to cooperate with Trump’s initiatives. If not, not.
Xi and his advisers were doubtless pleased by Trump’s offer to negotiate with North Korea. So was Moon. But Trump, unlike Obama, believes in negotiating from a position of strength, not making “feel good” concessions without reciprocity. He won’t do anything that hints he is taking harsher actions off the table.
The key, then: The visit to Seoul is mostly about Beijing, and all the stops are about Pyongyang.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
Most people, included sophisticated foreign policy professionals, think Trump was flying off the handle when he attacked Kim Jong-Un personally.
But I want to briefly discuss another possibility which has been ignored: Is there a “mad man” strategic logic in Trump’s personal attacks?
At this point, it’s simply impossible to say, but we cannot rule it out.
The Conventional View
Most commentators think
Trump was speaking primarily to a US audience, which wants to see America project a strong image in the world.
Trump certainly does that often enough.
Trump was doing what he habitually does, attacking anyone who attacks him, as he did on the campaign trail, and going beyond the normal bounds of political language.
In other words, it was unprofessional, personal pique.
Those are the main interpretations I’ve seen.
Those could well be right, but there is another possibility.
Keeping the Language Hot Makes War Seem Credible
That’s the Only Way to Get China to Act
This third possibility is interesting and quite plausible for a skilled negotiator.
3) Trump’s over-the-top language is a rational bargaining strategy. He is continuing to ratchet up the language and pressure because
Only China can resolve this issue, and
China will not act unless they genuinely fear the alternative is even worse: unilateral US military action
Since starting a preventive war would be so costly for the US (and everybody else), it is hard to make that alternative credible.
Indeed, it was not credible under previous US presidents, despite their language that “all options are on the table.” Adversaries did not think those options were credible.
Trump has already changed that. He has made China fear the possibility of US military action. That’s the reason why China’s central bank acted (or says it has), stopping domestic banks from cooperating with North Korea.
Still, to keep China working on this, Trump has to keep the pressure high, and he has to make war seem like a real possibility for Beijing, either because the US wages a preemptive war or because Kim starts one accidentally. (Btw, Kim Jong-Un’s “mad man” language has no international strategic rational. It scares Beijing and prompts the US to act, not back down. Of course, Kim’s language may be directed as his generals and other key figures in the regime.)
Trump’s language does keep the international pressure up. And the hint of a “mad man” in his hot rhetoric turns up the pressure even more.
Bottom Line: Trump Might Use Hot (Mad?) Language to Make War Seem Credible
I am not saying that Trump’s language is part of a deeply-considered negotiating strategy.
I am saying we cannot rule it out–and it would dovetail with his overall approach to North Korea.