INTRODUCTION: I do not often post an entire speech but I think that Senator Sanders’s talk deserves our attention in a time in which American leadership is imperiled . We have heard too much nonsense and in Trump’s UN speech cruel and distorted words from our “leader of the free world.” But worse actions destructive of all that America helped build in the post WW II period not least addressing the global climate change in Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear deal that denies that country nuclear weapons. Sanders also addresses the many assistance programs to deal with our global challenges. We are, as Sander’s notes, indeed threatened by mostly by our own stupidity and greed and selfishness. Now we have some worlds of hope which we need to heed.
Below is the speech as prepared:
“Let me begin by thanking Westminster College, which year after year invites political leaders to discuss the important issue of foreign policy and America’s role in the world. I am honored to be here today and I thank you very much for the invitation.
One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.
So let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.
Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.
Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the President and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.
Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
And he also reminded us that; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway….”
What Eisenhower said over 50 years ago is even more true today.
Foreign policy is about whether we continue to champion the values of freedom, democracy and justice, values which have been a beacon of hope for people throughout the world, or whether we support undemocratic, repressive regimes, which torture, jail and deny basic rights to their citizens.
What foreign policy also means is that if we are going to expound the virtues of democracy and justice abroad, and be taken seriously, we need to practice those values here at home. That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia here in the United States and making it clear that when people in America march on our streets as neo-nazis or white supremacists, we have no ambiguity in condemning everything they stand for. There are no two sides on that issue.
Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little – and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.
There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.
At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community – with China, Russia, India and countries around the world – to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.
My point is that we need to look at foreign policy as more than just the crisis of the day. That is important, but we need a more expansive view.
Almost 70 years ago, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on this stage and gave an historic address, known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, in which he framed a conception of world affairs that endured through the 20th century, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that speech, he defined his strategic concept as quote “nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands.”
“To give security to these countless homes,” he said, “they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny.”
How do we meet that challenge today? How do we fight for the “freedom and progress” that Churchill talked about in the year 2017? At a time of exploding technology and wealth, how do we move away from a world of war, terrorism and massive levels of poverty into a world of peace and economic security for all. How do we move toward a global community in which people have the decent jobs, food, clean water, education, health care and housing they need? These are, admittedly, not easy issues to deal with, but they are questions we cannot afford to ignore.
At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that the world of today is very, very different from the world of Winston Churchill of 1946. Back then we faced a superpower adversary with a huge standing army, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, with allies around the world, and with expansionist aims. Today the Soviet Union no longer exists.
Today we face threats of a different sort. We will never forget 9/11. We are cognizant of the terrible attacks that have taken place in capitals all over the world. We are more than aware of the brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups.
We also face the threat of these groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and preventing that must be a priority.
In recent years, we are increasingly confronted by the isolated dictatorship of North Korea, which is making rapid progress in nuclear weaponry and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Yes, we face real and very serious threats to our security, which I will discuss, but they are very different than what we have seen in the past and our response must be equally different.
But before I talk about some of these other threats, let me say a few words about a very insidious challenge that undermines our ability to meet these other crises, and indeed could undermine our very way of life.
A great concern that I have today is that many in our country are losing faith in our common future and in our democratic values.
For far too many of our people, here in the United States and people all over the world, the promises of self-government — of government by the people, for the people, and of the people — have not been kept. And people are losing faith.
In the United States and other countries, a majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they used to. They see big money buying elections, and they see a political and economic elite growing wealthier, even as their own children’s future grows dimmer.
So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few – whether that few is Wall Street, the military industrial complex, or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.
Maybe it’s because I come from the small state of Vermont, a state that prides itself on town meetings and grassroots democracy, that I strongly agree with Winston Churchill when he stated his belief that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.”
In both Europe and the United States, the international order which the United States helped establish over the past 70 years, one which put great emphasis on democracy and human rights, and promoted greater trade and economic development, is under great strain. Many Europeans are questioning the value of the European Union. Many Americans are questioning the value of the United Nations, of the transatlantic alliance, and other multilateral organizations.
We also see a rise in authoritarianism and right wing extremism – both domestic and foreign — which further weakens this order by exploiting and amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and fanning ethnic and racial hatreds among those in our societies who are struggling.
We saw this anti-democratic effort take place in the 2016 election right here in the United States, where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths: The integrity of our elections, and our faith in our own democracy.
I found it incredible, by the way, that when the President of the United States spoke before the United Nations on Monday, he did not even mention that outrage.
Well, I will. Today I say to Mr. Putin: we will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.
When we talk about foreign policy it is clear that there are some who believe that the United States would be best served by withdrawing from the global community. I disagree. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.
We must offer people a vision that one day, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day in the future human beings on this planet will live in a world where international conflicts will be resolved peacefully, not by mass murder.
How tragic it is that today, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal poverty, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons of destruction.
I am not naïve or unmindful of history. Many of the conflicts that plague our world are longstanding and complex. But we must never lose our vision of a world in which, to quote the Prophet Isaiah, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create the UN, called it “our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security.”
It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now. But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don’t have to be ended because they never start.
At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas, and war.
Dialogue however cannot only be take place between foreign ministers or diplomats at the United Nations. It should be taking place between people throughout the world at the grassroots level.
I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980’s, when the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program which still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.
We should welcome young people from all over the world and all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.
Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.
The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.
Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television, or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:
In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?
In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans – and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.
Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.
More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.
These are just a few examples of American foreign policy and interventionism which proved to be counter-productive.
Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative which proved to be enormously successful in which not one bullet was fired — something that we must learn from.
Shortly after Churchill was right here in Westminster College, the United States developed an extremely radical foreign policy initiative called the Marshall Plan.
Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented.
After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies.
That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler’s dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.
Unfortunately, today we still have examples of the United States supporting policies that I believe will come back to haunt us. One is the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen.
While we rightly condemn Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter in Syria, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia’s destructive intervention in Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the region’s poorest countries. Such policies dramatically undermine America’s ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, and empowers authoritarian leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.
Let me say a word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.
First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: Climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention and resources.
The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already causing devastating harm throughout the world. Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly to address the climate crisis, this planet will see more drought, more floods — the recent devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are good examples — more extreme weather disturbances, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea levels, and, as a result of mass migrations, there will be more threats to global stability and security.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was not only incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.
The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable. American leadership — the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer — is hugely important for facilitating this cooperation.
Another challenge that we and the entire world face is growing wealth and income inequality, and the movement toward international oligarchy — a system in which a small number of billionaires and corporate interests have control over our economic life, our political life, and our media.
This movement toward oligarchy is not just an American issue. It is an international issue. Globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99% of the world’s population.
In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, thousands of children die every week in poor countries around the world from easily prevented diseases, and hundreds of millions live in incredible squalor.
Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.
But economic inequality is not the only form of inequality that we must face. As we seek to renew America’s commitment to promote human rights and human dignity around the world we must be a living example here at home. We must reject the divisive attacks based on a person’s religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, country of origin, or class. And when we see demonstrations of neo naziism and white supremacism as we recently did in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must be unequivocal in our condemnation, as our president shamefully was not.
And as we saw here so clearly in St. Louis in the past week we need serious reforms in policing and the criminal justice system so that the life of every person is equally valued and protected. We cannot speak with the moral authority the world needs if we do not struggle to achieve the ideal we are holding out for others.
One of the places we have fallen short in upholding these ideas is in the war on terrorism. Here I want to be clear: terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well.
But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.
In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.
A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.
We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges “seriousness” according to the willingness to use force. One of the key misapprehensions of this mindset is the idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not.
Yes, military force is sometimes necessary, but always — always — as the last resort. And blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing US deterrence, credibility and security in the process.
To illustrate this, I would contrast two recent US foreign policy initiatives: The Iraq war and the Iran nuclear agreement.
Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.
In addition to the many thousands killed, it created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.
The Iraq war, as I said before, had unintended consequences. It was intended as a demonstration of the extent of American power. It ended up demonstrating only its limits.
In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal advanced the security of the US and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure.
For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.
That is real leadership. That is real power.
Just yesterday, the top general of US Strategic Command, General John Hyden, said “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for.” We now have a four-year record of Iran’s compliance, going back to the 2013 interim deal.
I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.
Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?
If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.
Another problem it would make harder is that of North Korea.
Let’s understand: North Korea is ruled by one of the worst regimes in the world. For many years, its leadership has sacrificed the well-being of its own people in order to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs in order to protect the Kim family’s regime. Their continued development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a growing threat to the US and our allies. Despite past efforts they have repeatedly shown their determination to move forward with these programs in defiance of virtually unanimous international opposition and condemnation.
As we saw with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, real US leadership is shown by our ability to develop consensus around shared problems, and mobilize that consensus toward a solution. That is the model we should be pursuing with North Korea.
As we did with Iran, if North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together.
An approach that really uses all the tools of our power — political, economic, civil society — to encourage other states to adopt more inclusive governance will ultimately make us safer.
Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It’s worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid.
Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.
US foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.
Here is the bottom line: In my view, the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with “all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands,” as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago.
In my view, every person on this planet shares a common humanity. We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace. That’s what being human is about.
Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”
My friends, let us go forward and build that tomorrow.
We welcome your comments (see box below or comment indicator.)
Harry C. Blaney III
If necessary “we will have no choice but totally destroy North Korea.” Donald Trump at the UNGA
I am ashamed as an American citizen of the speech that Donald trump made to the UN on Tuesday. It was threatening, it was contradictory, rude, and it insulted the whole purpose of the United Nations and the common goal of seeking peace and human rights.
It showed America as a selfish, ignorant, and offensive nation rather than the “the leader of the free world.” Trump diminished our nation and did NOT make our nation greater.
The threat by Donald Trump that he would “totally destroy North Korea” was one of the most stupid and dangerous statements ever to emulate from an American Preside not just at the UN General Assembly but ever. It was filled with public unnecessary threats, indifference to others, even advocating for others the narrow nationalistic and isolationist policies he thinks works for him to others as if that kind of stance would make our world more safe and prosperous. It makes our world clearly less safe and more dangerous as the US urges other to be selfish and nationalistic as their only main concern. It does not get them to act in the larger interest.
The UN Trump speech was the largest verbal disaster I have ever known in my many decades as a professional in foreign affairs. His words makes America appear selfish, nationalistic, and to be feared. It was through and through disingenuous on many levels.
Further it was hypocritical as well, with its many contradictions. Like supporting human rights when we (Trump) supports the likes of brutal dictators in Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Poland, Philippines, etc. All along never saying what is happening in Russia or what they did in Ukraine and Syria. Russian actions undermining democracy and unity in America and Europe yet were only vaguely alluded to. His moves to leave the Iran deal and the Paris climate change accord show even more his indifference to our global threats. Selfishness has not been a core American value and contrary to our values is inciting others to be equally selfish and self-centered. This ends only in war, conflict and “beggar my neighbor “ policies worldwide. It encourages genocide, it promotes authoritarian nationalism which is dangerous to our nation and other democracies.
It was for me the a sad moment seeing a person, our so-called president, undemanding all of our values, traditions, insulting the sacrifices of Americans who died to protect our nation and freedom worldwide. It was an insult to our constitution’s proclamation on universal equality liberty, and human rights.
One of the strange revelations is the very weak even often apologetic reviews the Trump UN speech has received from much of the mainline press, including op-eds, and editorials. There are exceptions, but one of the strangest is that of David Ignatius of the Washington Post entitled “A Welcome Flirtation with the U.N.” that almost was overflowing with his praise of the speech for its so called more moderate tone and the fluffy and empty and contradictory platitudes that it contained. He did helpfully cite some contradictions in the talk. He however downplayed the Trump threats and the stupid North Korea nuclear “war play” with language that did not help American goals. Did it help to call Kim “Rocket Man” when one day we may need to sit down together to save off catastrophe?
Trump was like a bully on the playing field trying to intimidate his opponent, in this case Kim Jong Un, to react with a crazy attack to perhaps justify war with the NK? There is little doubt in my mind that he was sassing on Kim without concern for the outcome and to further undermine ideas of a diplomatic solution. (I hope I am wrong and thought his words would help make a “deal.”) The result was predictable with Kim and his people sassing him back saying Trump was a dog barking.
The larger problem was neither Trump nor Kim seem able to pay the cooperative diplomatic game of mutual “win-win,” but with the daily cry in NK that America will attack is reinforced now by Trump’s “totally destroy North Korea.” We now can only hope both will see the self-destruction cliff before them embodied in their words and threats. I have never in over four decades of foreign policy work and following presidential speeches and helping to shape some, such crude and foolish words uttered by a president. Already there is some effort by the concerned nations to try to walk back this confrontational stances by both sides.
The contrast finally was the tone of such leaders as French president Macron who did not talk of nationalism but of global cooperation and integration to address the worlds ills. We have a very serious problem of many high risks and we need not add to them but solve them and this speech only set that goal back.
We welcome your comments!!
Harry C. Blaney III
On Friday North Korea sent another missile over Japan with a range of about 2,300 miles. The Trump administration’s response was that they had “military options.” There was considerable “tough” military talk coming from all of the key national security actors. One pithy remark by NSC head McMaster was “For those ….who have been commenting on a lack of military option, there is a military option” ….adding that it would not be the Trump’s preferred choice. To add another quote: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “begging for war,” US ambassador Haley said at an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
No kidding, all of this silly bullying along with outcome of millions of deaths!!! We must remember that Trump promised not to allow North Korea to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. Already we have had the “threat, and just the “threat” by NK, which has been on going for a decade.
On the other side, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as quoted by the NK news agency KCNA, saying “it aims to reach an equilibrium” of military force with the United States. his actual quote: “Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option.”
Clearly, the picture is very gloomy and one has to hope, in time, clearer heads everywhere will prevail, but that will take good and massive efforts by all and a change of tone and substance and actions. But that means that there is a need for a systemic change in the landscape and in leader’s minds. Let me add a “military” option by either side is collective mass suicide.
We and nobody else has found a neat and risk free answer to the nuclear threats from North Korea. Everyone is playing the most disastrous game possible named “chicken racing” where each car races at high speed at the other waiting for the other to blink and get out of the way!! The result of this game we all know.
This topic is on the minds of many of our global leaders from Putin, May, Merkel, Xi, Abe and Kim. Of course Trump has it in his gun sights but it seems has little understanding so far of paths which both sides can accept and live with. The hope is this will, in time, change before we end in a nuclear cataclysm.
While the landscape is dangerous and complex solutions exist that both sides can accept and would be a “Win-win” for all providing they are seeking mutual security, not aggression against others and willingness to get rid of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and accept third party inspection.
The main problems are that most analysts think that Kim is committed to having a large arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles so that they can powerfully threaten and make other nations fear him and gain benefits especially goods, investments, and recognition as a major player in the region if not the world. The great irony is making peace could achieve many key rational goals!
The problem is compounded in America with the instability of Trump and his blindness to reality, but we don’t know if Trump fears war less than the distraction of our citizens by being a war president, and perhaps free himself from the danger of losing his office.
One approach which has been put forth argues as a more realistic policy, is on deterring Pyongyang from using its nuclear weapons rather than pursuing unlikely attempts to denuclearize the peninsula. The problem with this is that is what we are trying to do now, but the reaction has been more aggressive behavior. It has risks of error and craziness of Kim, and it all means added continued uncertain high risk for the entire world.
What are the key “change elements” that just might redirect this massive disastrous trajectory that makes our globe a very ugly place to survive no mater where we may be?
The first is for Trump to see this challenge not an opportunity for conflict or via mutual threats but via a sustainable true long-term strategy and the gains of bringing stability to all of Korea. That means using all the tools of diplomacy.
The second, is for China to see that a nuclear war on their border is more dangerous to their national interests and for their population and economy, than gains from continued support for the Kim dynasty and all their madness and threats. They need to recognize the ensuing instability and that a better option is a negotiated solution that likely they and all could easily live with. That means negotiations while NK nuclear program is hopefully at least in a “standstill”…something NK is strongly against now. But there is US talk of a true ban on Chinese trade if they do not cease trade with NK and fully implement the UN sanctions. The same goes for Putin’s Russia which right now has an ambiguous stance, agreeing to limited UN sanctions but continuing to secretly trade with North Korea. They would too be harmed by a nuclear war in the region.
The third, is for the international community including the United Nations Security Council, our European allies, Japan and other Asian nations, and other key actors to agree on a package of “carrots” that could be put on offer to North Korea that might tempt them to put away their nuke for a model of a normal and decent and prosperous nation.
Forth, is acknowledging that there should be a nuclear free zone in all of Korea, that NK withdraw its artillery and conventional missiles well beyond range of hitting SK cities and especial the capital, and most important there would be a dismantlement of the nuclear weapons and long range missiles in the NK verified by the IAEA similar but beyond to the ”deal” with Iran. Further, the border between NK and SK be policed by UN armed troops to keep both side apart and as a deterrence to armed action. We would recognize SK under any agreement and we would have a peace treaty to end the Korean war. We and our allies would pledge non-aggression to a NK that acts peacefully.
Fifth, is a consensus “verboten” idea, simply at some point of “regime change,” either internally or externally but not engendered by America. But the outcome of such a change would have to be rational leaders that would see both prosperity and external help as a positive and not make nuclear weapons the fundamental requirement of their nation. This option most likely would be discarded absent major changes/crisis in NK.
One condition that would help which is rare in our new “Trumpain” age is return to the quality of sanity, search for common ground, thoughtful judgement, sense of proportion, of seeing ahead and, not least, decency and caring for all the planet.
We welcome your comments (see “Leave reply” box below).
Harry C. Blaney III
Don’t get it wrong this time! So far both sides both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have played this most dangerous game of their lives like spiteful boys armed with their most dangerous weapons and their largely untutored and uninformed brains. Thus we are all at risk.
The other problem is simply neither side at this moment seems to have a strategy to get out of this confrontation of existential magnitude. Their egos are bigger than their brains and neither seems to care for others. They live int heir own very selfish worlds. The hope is that one of them might want to survive this cataclysm. Kim for his life and Trump for his presidency. For the latter he even might, in his madness, want to see a war as a distraction from the Russia-Trump Gang collusion and obstruction of justice inquiry. This seems apparent in his crazy “Fire and Fury” statements which indeed did distract us from talking about Robert Mueller III and his investigation.
Today Wednesday, Trump is being tested again by an equally new escalation of invective and outrange from President Kim who has threatened to send four intermediate range missiles towards the American island of Guam where some 160,000 US citizens and military personal inhabit. We have no idea where they might land and no idea whether they contain any weapons. Probably the North Koreans are not even sure that they will be accurate. They will be hard to defend against. They also will have to travel over Japan as well to get to their target.
Kim’s government’s statements seemed almost to try to out “Trumpian” Trump with his invective and threats at a much higher and more specific escalation. But they noted that a war might not be a good idea but made war more likely given Trump’s own combative and instinctive bullying ego. I hope this time Trump’s advisors will push him towards a diplomatic option. Tillerson seems to moderate but supports Trump’s basic stance.
The sad item is that there are some of the usual suspects who are declaring Trump is doing the right thing by playing tough guy and threatening will win by such bombastic tactics. But of course they never mentions the cost of failure of a strategy of “red lines” and extreme threats. In contrast, what President Kennedy did to avoid a nuclear cataclysm was by negotiations and inventive deals. But Trump is no Kennedy for sure.
As Senator Ed Markey said on CNN today, Trump does not even have a plan or strategy and acknowledged what we all know that there is no good solution. One worse case solution is the loss of hundreds of thousands or perhaps many millions of lives. The other better solution for both sides is to back down and start to talk to each other to find common acceptable solutions. We can try what we did with Soviet Union: an effort at “confidence building” strategies and efforts. But that may be too much to ask of leaders that see the world only though a win for me and lose for him lens?
We will see likely in the next few days when Kim’s missiles are scheduled by the North Korea to be launched, as hard decisions by both sides will have to be taken either to reach out or to act with high abandon of rationality and in self-destruction.
We welcome your comments (See box below)
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump at press event today in while on vacation in NJ: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
This is an very scary preview of Trump’s view of how to “deal” with a contending and critical conflict situation that may escalate the trajectory towards catastrophic destruction rather than moving toward de-escalation. Words matter on both sides as do threats especially by those that have the power of nuclear weapons.
The background is of a long history of negotiations by the U.S. with North Korea whose formal name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Past negotiations and short lived agreements failing, have resulted with a dangerous stalemate created by both sides. Past administrations trying to open new talks with North Korea rejecting the pre-condition of stopping building and testing of these weapons.
Recent intelligence reports indicate North Korea is more advanced in both nuclear weapons and ICBM’s than assessed earlier. Thus indicating that North Korea was getting close to having its long range intercontinental missiles reaching mainland U.S. Most recently after a series of missile tests and threatening statements from North Korea President Kim Jong Un Kim, the United Nations Security Council acted this last weekend with new sanctions after North Korea carried out recently two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions it is predicted would reduce North Korea’s annual export revenue by about a third and hopefully hindering its ability to raise resources for added developing nuclear weapons and missiles.
Just after the threatening statement by Trump, North Korea President Kim replied by threatening the ability to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. What each side needs is to avoid being drawn into a very stupid tit-for-tat escalation – the last thing anyone with sense would want to see. We now have late tonight an added threat by President Kim.
Almost all experts, who are not dire war hawks on this issue, are saying this is an unnecessary escalation now which would be best approached by intensive diplomacy. Not by bluster and threats on either side. This means the need by top leaders to work to tone down that harsh rhetoric by all sides. For America, if neither the White House Chief-of-Staff General Kelly or the head of the NSC General McMaster, can tone down Trump. If on China’s side, they can’t accomplish that end, our already fragile world will be in even deeper perilous trouble. The last thing China wants is a war on their borders.
We need to work closely with South Korea as they have the most to lose with total destruction, given the alignment of North Korea forces on their border. This is not often understood by Trump.
What then are the paths forward? Alternative options include a preemptive strike, a response second strike….all of these would be catastrophic given any normal fairly known scenario for all sides and even for the world. It would be reckless beyond imagination. We can again try direct contact and direct negotiations which would be our first likely option if both sides were sane.
That is sadly not a sure thing. North Korea has said they will not give up their nuclear weapons of missiles under any conditions. We have said we would not talk unless they stood down on their nuclear and missile program. Thus our existing stalemate. Their goal is to get American forces out of South Korea. We are committed to staying and defending South Korea – and for that matter Japan. Yet there have been innovative diplomacy ideas, like we have worked on in the Middle East, to find some way to decelerate the conflict and create a more stable situation. Whatever outcome, both sides would need to see that this diplomacy would achieve better security and peace than the status quo.
My own thought should these options not work, is we try what is called close “indirect mediation or negotiations”close in the same hotel or city, via a third neutral but very able person(s) that both sides can trust. We have used this mechanism, as have others in talks, for example between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Henry Kissinger also has used a version of this approach. There is also the more clumsy long distant bilateral mediation or “good offices” where a mediator would fly from one capital to another back and forth trying different solutions, seeking common ground and some level of agreement. One other related inducement for both sides may be for North Korea to offer to temporarily “stand down” on any new work on weapons and the other interested parties to temporarily to not enforce the new sanctions that were recently imposed. We need perhaps also a “sticks and carrots” approach.
In any case, the sad part is that the first truly existential challenge Trump has faced has shown a level of recklessness, stupidity, and created greater danger to peace. All in a critical region that requires the greatest attention, patience, deep knowledge and expertise Trump is wholly lacking and unwilling to consult and use. Sad for us!
We welcome your comments!
Harry C. Blaney III
Donald Trump is soon again going abroad and if this trip is like that of his earlier Europe trip this Spring with considerable maladroit and indeed dangerous statements and behavior with our allies not least at NATO, then the coming journey seems to be not much better. As others have commented, Trump seems increasingly detached from reality and rationality and taken a turn towards irrational bullying and acting beyond normal. The leaders abroad have taken note!
This has already alarmed many Americans according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll and another by Pew. One shows alarming lack of trust in Trump by Americans and another show decrease of respect by people abroad for America likely due to Trump’s behavior.
These polls are confirmed by a recent Quinnipiac University poll, where respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot.” This was followed by “incompetent,” “liar,” “leader,” “unqualified,” and finally, in sixth place was “president.” In addition, superlatives like “great” and a few unprintable names came down on the list.
Looking at his behavior and his words and impulses and the mean spirit that is behind his actions, raises questions of Trump’s stability which in turn diminishes America’s leverage abroad and respect.
Looking at the forth coming trip to Europe there are many pit falls and areas of sensitive issues and concerns in Europe. To say that Europeans are looking at this visit with some disturbing thoughts is an understatement. The key problem is some think Trump’s efforts will be to divide Europe and thereby strengthen Putin and Russian power in the region.
The first reason for this concern is that the initial meeting in Europe, little recognized by much of the media, is to an Easter European bloc of nations under the invitation largely of the far right wing and authoritarian and anti-EU government of Poland rule by the infamous Law and Justice (PiS) party.
In this First part of Trump’s trip is a meeting with a gathering of political leaders from Central Europe, Baltic states and the Balkans that has been called the “Three Seas Summit” which indicates the geographical range of its participating nations. While billed as an event convened by Poland to bolster regional trade and infrastructure within the group, others see it as a mechanism by Poland to create an Eastern Europe bloc against the Western European EU leadership and to weaken EU ties and unity and gain support against EU efforts to signal out Poland for its anti-democratic and human rights violations.
Brussels leaders view the July 6 meeting as a Polish bid to increase its influence vis-a-vis the European Union. The nationalist government has repeatedly clashed with the EU and Germany.. One report has a quote from a Brussels diplomat saying “One cannot but feel a bit suspicious if it isn’t an attempt to break up European unity”
So the Poland visit is filled with traps for long held American interests in keeping Europe united and committed to the EU, NATO and democracy and human rights. If Trump take this meeting as another opportunity to criticize the EU or NATO members over added payments for defense, it could end up being, as the earlier trip to Europe, becoming a new Trump debacle. His support for right wing racist and Fascists parties that oppose the EU is part of that concern.
The meeting in Hamburg Germany of the G-20 group of major nations this coming week is another opportunity for Trump ideally to unite the G-20 nations towards cooperation on trade and international financial issues and affirm American engagement towards co-operation. But much of the focus on the Hamburg visit is the side-bar meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin which as both American officials and the public are much concerned that Trump will act irrationally and with views against American security interests.
A face to face meeting could amount to nothing and be just pro-forma, but it could also be historic if dangerous “deals” are made without consulting his expert officials and without consultations with our allies. The background of this meeting is the investigation of Trump’s campaign associates in what may be collusion with Russia on sanctions over Ukraine or even the hacking of American election documents and efforts to push Trump for president and against Hillary Clinton as found by our intelligence agencies. In any case the meet is filled with foreboding.
One of the problems will be how the leaders of the Group of 20 will be looking for leadership from America and Trump. Will it be a stable leader with intent to share efforts that are beneficial for all sides or a confronting “America First” tawdry president who will only further the de-stabilization of our globe by his challenging sands and rejection of decades of coordination and shared interests with our friends or strange actions that further hurt American leadership?
Some have suggested that this trip is an effort to create a distraction (as some think is the case with the Trump effort against MSNBC’s Morning Jo affair), from the congressional and inquires into Trump and his associates dubious connections with Russian agents, lying under oath, and possible obstruction of justice. All of this seems to have unhinged Trump and made him vulnerable in the planned meeting with a more knowledgeable and experienced Putin. At this moment we do not know exactly the context or the issues they will discuss, but likely Syria, Iran, disengagement, North Korea, Ukraine, sanctions and efforts at disruptions of our elections and democracy.
Keep tuned and pray!
We welcome your comments.