2 March 2019   Leave a comment

For those interested in the making of foreign policy, I highly recommend Nahal Toosi’s essay in Politico entitled “Inside the Chaotic Early Days of Trump’s Foreign Policy“. There was little secret that Mr. Trump had no experience in foreign policy, but Toosi outlines how decisively politics intruded into the decision making process. And most of those political operatives were also inexperienced in foreign policy. The verdict after two years is damning:

“Traditional NSC staffers believe deeply in what they call the “policy process,” a time-tested way of conducting the foreign and national security policy of the world’s most powerful country. It involves a proper set of meetings, a chance for every agency to weigh in, and a rigorous legal review before the president makes a major decision. The early Trump days had virtually none of that, and the subject matter experts who make up much of the NSC career staff were largely ignored, even shunned. It was a bewildering, even terrifying turn for a group of deeply serious men and women whose work can affect billions of lives.

“Now, two years into Trump’s tenure, current and former U.S. officials say they are worried about the long-term damage his administration is still doing to the way such critical decisions are made — with dangerous consequences that are not always easy to perceive. They worry Trump’s presidency has poisoned the relationship between career government staffers and political appointees, threatening the ability of a future president to make decisions based on nonpartisan expertise. Some were relieved after Trump’s first national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was fired; he’s still due for sentencing after getting caught up in the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. And they were heartened that Trump’s second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reinstituted traditional processes during his year at the helm, even if Trump disliked them. But because Trump’s current national security adviser, John Bolton, has largely scuttled those procedures, the fears have resurfaced over the past year.

The essay is quite long, but it is very detailed and not obnoxiously partisan (there is no such thing as an unbiased political essay).

The hope for diminished tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir after the release of the captured Indian pilot faded quickly as heavy artillery and machine gun fire was exchanged immediately after the release. Three civilians were killed behind the Indian Line of Control (LOC) and two civilians behind the Pakistani LOC. To get an idea of how high the passions are running in the region, one should read the op-ed in the Indian newspaper, The Tribune, entitled “Tap potential of air power to the hilt“. And to get an idea of the Pakistani fears of Indian Prime Minister Modi, one should read the article in Dawn entitled “Wag the Dog” (an American movie I highly recommend) in which the need to win an election dictates the imperative toward war. The New York Times has a good backgrounder on this incredibly complex dispute.

Nuclear Arsenals of India and Pakistan

Colombia is reporting that 567 Venezuelan soldiers, mostly from the lower and middle ranks, have defected to Colombia rather than support the government of Nicolas Maduro. The loyalties of the Venezuelan military will likely be the decisive factor in how events in Venezuela unfold. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has a very good article on the situation in the Venezuelan military:

“This offer may be attractive to the lower and middle ranks of the armed forces, who are feeling the impact of Venezuela’s economic and social crisis. Due to hyperinflation of the Bolivar – the IMF forecast it to reach 1,000,000% in 2018 – their salaries have been rendered worthless. But the top echelons of the armed forces continue to reap the rewards of their close association with Maduro’s regime, through access to both state resources and oil revenues, ensuring their desire to maintain the status quo and their loyalty to the government.

For a military coup to take place, there would need to be a highly coordinated approach. However, the military’s lower and middle ranks are ill-equipped, suffer difficulties in communication and are constantly monitored by the intelligence services.Meanwhile, any middle-ranking officers who might lead the coup are scattered in different units around the country.

Furthermore, the government has systematically infiltrated the military, with local intelligence agents, as well as members of the Cuban intelligence services, embedded within its ranks to guard against anti-regime activity. As recently reported by Human Rights Watch, several Venezuelan soldiers accused of betrayal have been detained and tortured by members of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence or by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, making it clear that the price of disloyalty is very high.

The US continues to impose new sanctions on the Maduro government but but also appears that both Russia and China are increasing support for the embattled regime. For its part, the international community still seems to be paralyzed.

Posted March 2, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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