Harry C. Blaney III

This is another text on foreign and national security platform of the Democratic Party with commentary with this post we have covered all but one of the more major issues in the platform. Climate change and environment will be posted shortly.



We must defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliates, and prevent other groups from emerging in their place. Democrats will continue to lead a broad coalition of allies and partners to destroy ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We will press those in the region, especially the Gulf countries and local forces on the ground, to carry their weight in prosecuting this fight. We will dismantle the global network of terror, which supplies terrorists with money, arms, and fighters, and stop them from recruiting and inspiring potential radicals. We will improve our intelligence capabilities, with appropriate safeguards here at home, and ensure that the intelligence community and law enforcement is prepared to deal effectively with the threats we face. We will harden our defenses as well as those of our partners against external and homegrown threats. We will secure the homeland, investing more resources to improve mass transit, aviation, infrastructure, and port security. And we will remain a resilient nation, always coming together to stand up to terror.

Democrats will seek an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is more precise about our efforts to defeat ISIS and that does not involve large-scale combat deployment of American troops.

As we prosecute the fight against terrorism, Democrats will repudiate vile tactics that would do us harm. We reject Donald Trump’s vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative. It also alienates people and countries who are crucial to defeating terrorism; the vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance. We reject Donald Trump’s suggestion that our military should engage in war crimes, like torturing prisoners or murdering civilian family members of suspected terrorists. These tactics run counter to American principles, undermine our moral standing, cost innocent lives, and endanger Americans. We also firmly reject Donald Trump’s willingness to mire tens of thousands of our combat troops in another misguided ground war in the Middle East, which would only further embolden ISIS. There is nothing smart or strong about such an approach.


Much of this text on terrorism followers the main elements of the policies and strategy of the present administration. As a general summary of the approach makes much sense and there has been much success in such areas as taking ground from ISIS and in denying money and other resources to ISIS. It has become writ that we expect the states of the region play a more prominent role in the defeat of ISIS.

This today is exemplified by the recent August 24th attack by Turkish forces including planes and tanks against ISIS terrorists along Turkey’s Syrian border in the area of the town of Jarablus. What is unsaid is to what degree this will impact our need to have the Kurdish forces that are key to defeating ISIS, taking on Assad, and also their role of actions against terrorists in Iraq. The press reports that American planes are supporting the Turkish advance but Turkish leaders have made clear they will attack Kurdish force if the advance into territory near Turkey. That makes for a very complex situation. The Jarablus town is only 95 kilometers from the key city of Aleppo. It is understood that Turkish backed Syrian rebels are working in cooperation with the Turkish forces.

Aleppo and success in Iraq may become a key indication of the success or failure of the joint American lead coalition strategy of destroying ISIS but it is also a very complex and difficult terrain both in military and political grounds. There are some six groups in Syria involved with different motives and alliances. Within the city are forces against Assad which are besieged by pro-Assad army forces, Hezbollah fighters, Iranian troops, and Iraqi Shia militia and even it is said Russian “contract soldiers.” The unknowns are first, the possible Russian response, second, the possibility of a clash between Kurd led forces and others allied with them largely supported by the US coalition, and Turkey’s own objective of destroying or limiting the Kurd power in the region near their border.

Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) are also in the fight and are made up of mainly but not solely of Kurd fighters. This mix of anti-Assad groups which have not always compatible goals makes for a high level of uncertainty of the outcome of the current fighting.

In the end, the test of the current American and allied strategy must be a Syria that is secure, a new government of all groups without Assad in control, and where terrorist do not hold large areas. At the moment the Kurdish and other Arab forces against Assad have taken the critical town of Manbij and want to advance further North and West including towards the Jarablus which could create a threat to both Turkey and Syrian rebels made up largely of Kurds if they engage each other and destroy the unity of the moment. Not least is the role North of Aleppo of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which plays a role in the defeat of ISIS and is backed by the anti-Assad coalition.

At this moment with the contending forces now fully engaged are creating an even more complex military and political situation with anti-Assad forces diminished yet still strong with Russian support. But a danger is some of these other anti-Assad forces might engaged with each other in a fight over territory and control of large areas and create still more instability. At this point American diplomacy will be key and the need for some kind of accommodation between forces is necessary to end the conflict and stabilize the region. The key today today is what will the region look like the day after ISIS is essentially defeated in both Syria and Iraq. It clearly will not stop all terrorism.

It is hard to argue with the platform idea of protecting our homeland and that of our allies against acts of terrorism. Here key specifics are missing.

Not least also in an anti-terrorist effort is the war in Iraq against ISIS which is also may be coming to some kind of unknown of conclusion but the goal of an Iraq that is untied between Sunni and Shia and Kurds and this will not happen just by defeating ISIS. This issue will be examined in another post.

The second part of the platform on terrorism reaffirms that this is not a war on Muslims, that Trump’s idea of making unlimited war is wrong, and that the idea of sending large numbers of American troops wold be counterproductive. On these stances I see no problem and are compatible with Obama’s perspective and strategy. But the presidential campaign needs to correct some of the false and dangerous assumptions and strategies by Trump that are dangerous to a true “win” over terrorism and for America’s leadership on this and other issues.

We welcome your comments!

President Obama’s Middle East Visit: Why Is It So Opposed By Those Who Do Not Want Peace?

President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres
President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres inspect an honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I have been reading a flood of blogs, op-eds, articles, and comments from so-called experts that the President should not visit Israel or the Middle East, and furthermore should not even attempt to seek peace in the region. One article indicated that he was rightly distrusted in Israel and he could only do harm to Israel’s interests. It did not mention in any way the billions of dollars that America supplies Israel, and its critical cooperation on defense and intelligence matters that Obama has initiated. 

The other opposition has come from the American right wing neo-cons, who got us into the needless and tragic Iraq war, and now have decided that war with Iran is somehow desirable and even seek, in some cases an American pre-emptive strike. 

Most recently, the Israeli election, which cut some support for Netanyahu, nevertheless just returned a shaky coalition “right-center,” but really is still antagonistic towards any accommodating effort to make the peace negotiations active and productive. The new government is still in the hands of the far right and includes belligerent and hostile forces towards a peace treaty and the two-state solution. Even worse, with Netanyahu in the lead, Israel is spreading illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and even more disastrously in the Arab East Jerusalem area, which is an attempt to brutally remove the Arab population from their homes and to make a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states near impossible. 

This policy is a unilateral declaration of a never-ending and on going war by Israel. It means long-term suppression of the Arab population. The bitterness and hate that this self-defeating policy will wrought can only heighten hate and conflict with Israel, that will likely end Israel as a democratic, secure, and respected nation.

It is also clear that the Palestinians need to get their own act together and seek ways, with Obama and Secretary Kerry, to make the agreed “road map” with their own necessary compromises that ensure a balanced and mutually secure outcome. But, America needs to be a true trusted interlocutor between the two parties and neither “hands off,” nor advocate for either side alone, but for a durable peace.  

This perspective is reflected by a long line of Shin Bet (Israeli security service) heads in the recent Israeli documentary film “Gatekeepers,” which I saw this weekend. This film should be seen by every American and every Israeli, as it is clear that these men who devoted their lives to Israel’s security, believe that the very soul of Israel is threatened, as is their security by the existing extreme politics of brutality that Israel now exercises against the Palestinian population. 

Why one can ask, since a peace treaty along the lines has long been understood to be fair, would provide security and prosperity for all sides in a region that has and will become more and more dangerous to the security of Israel. It is madness that only is equal to the madness of the American Republican right wing that also seems to think war is the desired rather than the worst possible option. 

Obama’s visit may at least continue a dialogue not only with the Israeli leadership, but may also help to reach out directly to Israeli citizens who now wrongly hold negative feelings towards Obama, falsely ginned up by Netanyahu and his far right collaborators. America under Obama is not an “enemy,” and indeed America often still is the only nation that has defended Israel, even when it should not be defended for some of its policies. The time has come to have a frank talk about peace in the Middle East. We need to discuss the implications for that relationship should Israel continue a set of policies that hurt Israel itself and are antithetical to finding a fair peace and to American values and goals. Obama’s real job is to make this case to the Israeli people.


We will be reviewing in this blog the outcome of Obama’s visit to the Middle East and we’ll look at what next steps might be possible.


After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!


Heritage Foundation – More Nonsense on Obama’s Foreign Policy

obama oval office
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in the Oval Office, March 1, 2013. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken listen at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Heritage Foundation is holding in mid-March a meeting with the improbably, but typical title “U.S. Foreign Policy Adrift.”  You can easily guess what that is all about and the following quote from their announcement tells it all:

“Even before taking office, President Obama began laying out in his public statements the tenets of a doctrine, that if enacted, would enable his Administration to remake America as one nation among many, with no singular claim either to responsibility or exceptionalism.  These tenets include a more humble engagement with the world and more reliance on others as well as treaties and international organizations to deal with global crises and threats to U.S. security.  Nevertheless, in the past four years the world has hardly become more stable or less dangerous: Al-Qaeda connected terrorism is commence the rise, the Middle East is in chaos, North Korea remains openly defiant, and Russia and China challenge the U.S at every turn.”

If you are wondering if this meeting might be a worthwhile way to spend your time, my suggestion is that you can skip it as it is the same old cold war mongering, “war party,” and neo-con claptrap.

But, what is interesting is that Heritage has clearly not done any thinking about the significant changes to the geopolitical and security landscape of the last forty years. They are playing the same old tune now as if the Soviet Union had never gone away. Remember, it was their blind clamoring for irresponsible war in Iraq with tragic consequences for all. They are now still selling war, more war and yet more war. Now it is Iran, North Korea, and we know not what may be next?

Let’s for the fun of it look at each of their key statements above:

The first silly statement is that: The Obama “Administration [wants] to remake America as one nation among many, with no singular claim either to responsibility or exceptionalism.”  They use the word “responsibility” as if going to war unilaterally was a legitimate “responsibility.” The use of this word is an effort to legitimatize what is really irresponsible and dangerous behavior of America, which has proven costly and counterproductive in the global arena.

Obama’s approach, which has clearly increased American true responsibility and leverage in the world in the past four years, is to try to work with others on common goals and solutions.  Its objective is specifically to do so in ways that does not foolishly commence massive unilateral military intervention and expand conflicts and the consequences of casualties both of our own and of civilians – it is in my words trying early “collective preventive diplomacy.”  It is diplomats and international organizations and allies on the ground rather than American boots as a preferred option. This is ‘smart power’ not “stupid power.” It does not mean a “never” on the use of military force as Obama has made clear. The Libyan intervention was a good example of this new multilateral approach, with our help especially in taking out Gadaffi’s air arm and defense capabilities and helping our NATO and other allies with logistics and intelligence…..with few U.S. military on the ground.  Our allies carried out the bulk of our military action both in the air and on the ground.

The second silly and even dangerous statement is: “These tenets include a more humble engagement with the world and more reliance on others as well as treaties and international organizations to deal with global crises and threats to U.S. security.” This is an insidious effort to equate cooperation with and in international organizations or cooperation with our allies by getting their participation as a sign of weakness.   It is clearly just the opposite. The irony is that GOP Congressional types have long criticized our allies for not carrying more of the defense burden, but now that Obama has succeeded in forming coalitions of others to work with us, they see it as a “weakness.” Hypocrisy is probably the right word for this. In fact, this is an added strength for American leadership, which as the military uses the word, is a “force multiplier.”  This clearly is not a concept the right wing security types know much about.  

Finally, their statement that: “Nevertheless, in the past four years the world has hardly become more stable or less dangerous: Al-Qaeda connected terrorism is commence the rise, the Middle East is in chaos, North Korea remains openly defiant, and Russia and China challenge the U.S at every turn.” 

Here lies, more lies, and dammed lies are in this statement.  Before Obama took office we were engaged in two costly and long-standing wars. One of “choice,” that was a total disaster in Iraq. The other was dragging on in the incompetence of the Bush II administration for more than a decade and will now largely end in 2014. We had not yet gotten neither Bin Laden nor his network and lost the chance to kill Bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains at the start of the war by committing troops to Iraq and neglecting Afghanistan where the 911 terrorism leadership was based. Obama developed a new approach in Afghanistan that included going after the Al-Qaeda’s network with much success to where it has been on the run and in disarray rather than on “the rise.” The Middle East was in trouble for decades and the new changes were inevitable and the outcomes still uncertain and the spark of democracy in some countries still newly alive. Obama’s administration is in fact highly involved in this as exemplified in the recent trip by Secretary Kerry to the region, taking with him new initiatives and policies.  

As for North Korea, China and Russia these have been challenges for decades, including in the 1970s under Henry Kissinger when I worked on his Policy Planning Staff.  At least Kissinger reached out to China and established relations and thus opened the path to real dialogue and some cooperation. China under Obama has been helping us on a recent vote on Syria and now on support in the Security Council on North Korea. Russia agreed with Obama on the New START treaty, voted for action in Libya, permits us to transit into Afghanistan, and cooperates both on terrorism issues and we hope on Iranian nuclear problems. Both China and Russia have been “problems” for decades (see our earlier blogs), but the Heritage types do not say that Nixon, Reagan, Ford, Bush I and II were “weak” on American leadership.      

In sum, let’s see the world as it is, note that intractable problems won’t be solved by more wars, and that “preventive diplomacy,” peacemaking, and creative multilateral cooperation are signs that “smart” power is back in the White House. Challenges will persist, even beyond the Obama years one can bet, but we are not in a more dangerous world for working on these dangers creatively and with care rather than trying to blindly bomb them. 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Day to Remember 9/11 and Learn From It

Today, as in the past, since the first anniversary, we commemorate that terrible day and its losses. Yet the key to that day is also to understand the forces that initiated those attacks and find a more fundamental way to turn those acts of hate and destruction from gaining a grip on our society and altering our own democracy and way of life.

Nor should they distort our perspective on our own role in the world, our own moral values, and our nation’s role to help make this frail globe a more peaceful and just environment.  Too often we have lost our way and abandoned some of our long held values that have made our country the most respected in the world. 

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is not to let terrorism and the terrorists consume our efforts, our thoughts, and our policies to the detriment of other fundamental challenges we are facing in the fast changing and complex world.

In “rethinking national security,” we need to realize that we can better defeat the forces of hate by addressing more basic and larger issues which have brought so many to desperation, despair, hatred and senseless violence. Certainly, terrorism feeds on poverty even if some terrorists are not poor. It feeds on prejudice. It feeds on ignorance. It is these that we need to address for the cost they bear on any society as they are the breeding ground for terrorism.

We should not let terrorism defeat our larger purposes and more important challenges. If we can keep our sense of proportion and wise perspective, we can address the real dangers to our world and terrorism will lose, not gain. And we will not lose our souls.

The End of a Mistake and a Tragedy: Obama Announces American troops will Leave Iraq by End of 2011

Excerpts from Obama’s Statement:

“As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.  After nearly 9 years, America’s war in Iraq will be over. Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq – tens of thousands of them – will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

“The United States is moving forward, from a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world. And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we’ll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits, and the opportunities that they have earned.”

President Obama, October 21, 2011

The NSC Deputy for Strategic Communications said: “But this moment represents more than an accomplishment for the President. It marks a monumental change of focus for our military and a fundamental shift in the way that the our nation will engage in the world.”

First, the situation in Iraq remains difficult and there will be some bad days ahead but we are at last moving on and trying to develop a regional strategic approach rather than adding thoughtlessly to military conflict and neglect of political solutions.

All along we have seen significant shifts in our macro international engagement from that of the past administration. Despite claims of some that Obama’s policies are simply the same as those of Bush, the fundamental truth is that they are of a different magnitude and perspective as well as in implementation.  From the start Obama made it clear that changes were at work, from reaching out to the Islamic world in his Turkey speech which set the stage for our actions in the Arab Spring and in Libya, to his Prague speech outlining our strategic policies, to readjusting our balance of use of military and covert force to instruments that were more of a discreet and focused nature such as eliminating Bin Laden and many of his henchmen, or even our drone action against Gaddafi.

A key factor is President Obama’s preference to act multilaterally and bring a diversity of allies to assist which attests to a new and better approach. This more deliberate strategy, has, on balance, served American security, resources, and peace than the mindless, belligerent and ignorant decisions of the Bush administration. We should be grateful but it seems that emotion is largely lacking in our corrosive politics.

By Harry C. Blaney III.