Harry C. Blaney III

Given the recent statements by the Republican presidential candidates none appear to have any new or even relevant answers to the strategic challenges that America faces other than bluster, mass bombing (which kills thousands of innocent woman and children and civilians which is what the terrorist do), and making disparaging remarks about the policies of President Obama. That is frankly not enough for any one who is aspiring to be the leader of the free world and possibly Commander-in-Chief with his fingers on the atomic button.

The debate last GOP debate of 2015on November 16th only reinforced this impression, besides trying to put each other down and making what can only be described as vague and even outrageous remarks on serious national security issues it shows again what light-weights they all are and I do mean nearly all were in the area of foreign policy and national security.

Much of the key part of the debate focused on who would be harshest on ISIS without really a word that would actually provide or seriously outline a true comprehensive realistic and efficacious strategy to deal with the complex threat that is ISIS or the regional landscape.

Trump thinks that banning Muslim believers is a strategy to defeat Islamic radicals in ISIS, most experts believe it has just the opposite effect of increasing the recruitment of more terrorists at home and abroad. This misguided policy is just what ISIS wants. In fact Bakr al- Baghdadi who heads the Islamic State has recently taunted America for not putting troops on the ground so that can be easy targets – in effect Trump is playing to ISIS’s trap. He is just that stupid.

On of the more sane candidate side, by only a small margin, was Jeb Bush who said:

“Well, first of all, we need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That’s — that should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force.

We need to embed our forces — our troops inside the Iraqi military. We need to arm directly the Kurds. And all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. And if we’re going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?”

Bush added as an example of his vague and simpleminded view of the struggle against ISIS: “It is developing a strategy, leading the world, funding it to make sure that we have a military that’s second to none, and doing the job and making sure that we destroy ISIS there. That’s how you keep America safe.” As if this simplicity is a real policy!

Note we already are leading the fight against ISIS, we are already have a military that is second to none (did not Bush already know that?), and “making sure” is a strategy?

This statement proves both points above: namely that he is following Obama’s plan only “more so,” if one can figure out what that means in the end. The one idea that he included which has not yet been adapted is to establish a “no-fly zone” which would require the strong support of Muslim troops on the ground that included both Sunni and Shia forces and, in my view, also UN peacekeepers and much higher levels of refugee support and security than it seems the Republicans are likely to vote for in Congress to help Obama. The “no fly zone” idea is seen by some as an opening wedge to get US combat troops on the ground without saying so. (It does not have to be so however.)

But Trump is not alone in coming up with ideas that are counterproductive and dangerous. What is interesting is that these candidates are all paying to basic fear after the Paris attack and trying to increase that fear among Americans. This includes both pointing to an attack on America and saying over and over that Obama is “weak” on dealing with ISIS. They all think they could do better but when pressed for specific policies they often just repeat what Obama is already in doing — only “more.”

Lets take the case of Sen. Marco Rubio to frighten his GOP audience he said:

what’s important to do is we must deal frontally with this threat of radical Islamists, especially from ISIS. This is the most sophisticated terror group that has ever threatened the world or the United States of America. They are actively recruiting Americans.”

The fact is that terrorist threats in America have decreased rather than increased since 911 and many are “lone wolf” types and small scale. More people die of guns being used daily but the candidates never talk of stopping people from having guns or restrictions on gun ownership or use. Are they really interested in the safety of Americans?

Rubio other misstatement was on the growth of ISIS “We also understand that this is a group that’s growing in its governance of territory.” The fact is that ISIS control over Iraq and parts of Syria have been reduced from their heights (a loss reportedly of some 30-40% of land control in Iraq), and outside Iraq and Syria they are in some places on the run and not least from their deadly terrorism competitor Al Qaeda affiliates in some Islamic nations and attacks by US and allied special forces and bombing.

The other candidate Sen.Ted Cruz with little comprehension evidently of the true complexity of the Middle East, and especially the complex role and differing goals of the many actors in the region, and seems oblivious to the danger of ‘doing stupid things” as Obama put it.

Cruz’s answer to the issue of immigration and the terrorist threat is not quite that of Trump but still exclusionary legislation, he described it this way: “what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or Al Qaida control substantial territory.” So those who are most threatened with being killed by ISIS would be excluded from being refugees which are by definition are in danger in their own country. I wonder if he feels the same why about excluding Cubans, like his family, from the United States if they feel they are threaten by the communist party there???? America has almost automatically been welcoming Cubans to America for decades.

Take the sophistication of Cruz’s strategic vision and what he proposes that might be different from what is already taking place on the ground:

“…… ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they’re winning. And President Obama fuels that perception. That will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life, you are signing your death warrant, and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland, which should be the first priority.” And Obama is not?

Cruz also said: “What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.

Right now, Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. It is photo op foreign policy. We need to use overwhelming air power. We need to be arming the Kurds. We need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.”

My comment to these remarks is, yes Senator Cruz, and Iraq in 2003 turned out so great with that same strategy. It seems to me that the U.S. strategy includes quite a bit bombing attacks, arming and training of the Kurds and Sunni tribes and Iraqi aremy and seems after time and hard U.S. efforts to be now working. The bombing under Obama has been, as it should under international laws of war, not aimed at civilians. Cruz misses the point that most of the ISIS troops are camped in cities and towns with civilians….and it is our duty to try not to kill them. We are there to save them but when we kill their families they will be supporters of the Islamic State.

One added thought about possible ISIS fighters being afraid of death and our bombing and troops……..Cruz you may not have been reading about so many that have happily joined suicide squads and pledge to die for their cause. And like Trump, Rubio, and Cruz and none of the rest has the wit of getting to some of the fundamental religious, social, political, and historical realities on the ground, which thankfully Obama and Secretary Kerry were and are dealing with under difficult conditions – but not these crazy and clueless ideologues, which is likely the only path towards long term peace and real security for the region.

As for the rest of the lot, none came up with any new ideas or analysis that got to the bottom of real conditions and solutions to ISIS or the larger Middle East conflicts.

As to the media coverage of the debate, it was as vapid as the earlier ones, including those largely on domestic issues…….filled with highly laudatory or banal reviews by the usual right wing pundits and TV and radio commentators….or selected criticism of the “wrong” candidate of the moment and the “right” one of favor.

The questions did not get to the heart of the matter in most cases. The post debate mainline media chat was mostly empty of real insight since many commentators especially on TV and radio were even less knowledgeable than the candidates themselves. There were few real experts on the Middle east or strategic matters asking questions and those that were put on after seemed almost made up of cheering squads and echochambers of the worst kind made up of neocons and Fox News types without hard decades of real field experience. Happily there were some deep and thoughtful commentaries but mostly in the quality press which does not, sadly, reach the mass viewers of broadcast outlets.

Where were the  real reporters? Now we get talking heads and “hosts.” Where were those who have spent decades on the ground in combat zones in the Middle East or North Africa – almost nowhere to be found? Much of the “bought” U.S. media is as much a danger to our democracy as are the GOP candidates. Few challenged clear mistaken facts or shallow understanding, indeed it was as if they were covering a horse race not the would be leaders of the free world. In the world of parachute journalism few have the chance to be on the ground long enough to truly know the terrain. Others are chosen more for their looks or ideology than expertise. I hope future debates are more enlightening.

Finally, you can find many added quotes from the debates and other statements on this blog in the section at the right top.

We welcome comments!!!!!


  1. Harry C. Blaney III January 6, 2016 / 9:50 PM

    Chuck Woolery has made some points with which I largely agree in particular his points 8 and 9.

    And yes we have not done a very good job of dealing with many of the key challenges of our times and having poor leaders or even those with evil intent has not made the task of diplomacy any easier. But I am not sure that for the moment we can address these challenges from a global governance perspective apart from the nation state system we have.

    What I do think is important is to increase the responsibilities of the key international organizations and their resources and this can and must be done to be effective. The Paris climate change conference has pointed the way a bit. The UN Security Council’s action on Iran also is an example of what can be done if all powers cooperate. The same for the non-proliferation work of IAEA. Organizations like the UN proper, UNHCR, IAEA, UNDP, WHO, the EU, NATO, UNESCO, and others are examples of global and regional cooperation that advances humanitarian, environmental, and peace objectives.

    Technology and science can be for good and ill, but it has brought great benefits in health, environmental understanding and action, but it does call for care and oversight and there are many national and international organization that are doing just that. They need our support.

    What is lost here in the US is a debate on now to strengthen these organizations or even to acknowledge that many of these problems like poverty, inequality and climate change exist. Our citizens need to be better educated and our media which is doing a poor job at helping this especially in their standing down when lies are told and outrageous statements are made which demean human dignity and hurt global security and ignore the need for conciliation and cooperation rather than making indiscriminate war and killing.

    Our challenge right not is diplomacy to make peace where war exists and uplift those in poverty and threaten by natural events or human cause conflict.

    • Chuck Woolery January 8, 2016 / 12:17 AM

      Again. Please read the Executive Summary of the report by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance released June 2015.
      It was titled “Confronting the Crisis on Global Governance” and co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari. Lasting peace and security isn’t a function of diplomacy. It is a function of justice. And, nothing short of rapid transformation of the existing systems and structures will achieve the results the world and so many victimized people so urgently need.

      • Chuck Woolery January 8, 2016 / 12:27 AM

        It’s clear, as Mr. Blaney states, that “for the moment we can [not] address these challenges”. The focus of the Commission report is the increasing urgent need to create the political will so that we can. This blog site can continue to play an important role in educating Americans about the issues. Suggesting it’s going to be difficult is an understatement. It is in fact all the more reason to inform that masses that the tools we have…are simply, no longer sufficient.

  2. Chuck Woolery January 4, 2016 / 12:36 AM

    The 10 key concepts to know and remember as we start a new year (2016) of fear, politics, endless dilemmas and a perceived absence of any alternatives.

    1. Technology and information advances exponentially, while human nature advances glacially, and our species capacity for effective governance remains static or is in decline.
    If you understand this and respond according, the other nine are just icing on the New Year ’s Day cake.
    2. The globalization of technology, information and economics means that the US dominance in military, economics and global leadership will continue to be diminished, regardless of who is President or what congress does if its solutions continue to be based on the concept of national independence (national sovereignty).
    3. Advances in the power, affordability, pervasiveness and miniaturization of technology will continue to offer small groups and even individual’s unprecedented capacity for doing profound good and/or catastrophic harm.
    4. The dual use nature of every technology makes it virtually impossible to control how it is used without an extremely intrusive/ invasive inspection regime which few people or nations will accept peacefully.
    5. Advances in technology give far greater advantage to offensive capabilities than playing defense.
    6. Increasing dependence on technology increases vulnerability to human and technological errors, unanticipated events and/ or intentional sabotage.
    7. Advances in technology are making it increasingly difficult to monitor or detect the movement of financial resources or weapons, but easier and easier to monitor and detect violations in human rights or changes to the environment.
    8. The human minds capacity to believe anything and not even do what it knows needs to be done.
    9. Superhuman stupidity is still a far greater threat to our security than artificial intelligence.
    10. Human rights are inalienable and universal and without global justice enforcing them there will be no means of ensuring individual, national or global security.
    In conclusion, one would be foolish to predict any breakthroughs in national or global governance without our leaders experiencing catastrophic events or a global movement of movements by “we the people” forcing urgent transformation in the global systems and structures that are now failing us, centered on these ten concepts.

    If you doubt any of these please read the Executive Summary of the report by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance released June 2015.

    Chuck Woolery

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