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19 June 2020   Leave a comment

Libya has been in a constant state of conflict since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has a number of different factions, but there are two large contending powers in Libya: the UN backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and a rebel group led by Khalifa Haftar known as the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the eastern city of Benghazi. For the last 14 months, Haftar, backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Russia and Egypt, has led a campaign to take the city of Tripoli. But in the last few days, the GNA, backed by Turkey, has launched a counterattack that has re-established its control over western Libya.

The US had backed Hafter in 2019, but changed its position after the intervention of Turkey. According to AlJazeera:

“Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced ‘some agreements’ had been reached with US President Donald Trump, which could usher a ‘new era between the US and Turkey regarding the [Libya] process’.

“US policy has seen a significant shift from April 2019 when Trump telephoned Haftar and expressed encouragement for his military operation to seize Tripoli.”

“‘I think we can expect to see a greater diminishing of any US hope that Haftar can be a unifying figure for the country, or obviously achieve victory,’ Wehrey (Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) said.”

Interestingly, Turkey and Russia are opposed in Libya along the same lines of their opposing positions in Syria. Russia is looking to expand its influence in the Middle East after it successfully support President Assad in Syria. Russia is also interested in the oil fields which are largely in the eastern part of Libya. Turkey is also interested in establishing a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean, reminiscent of the rule of the Ottoman Empire. There are also other powers interested in assuring that their interests in the region are well protected. All these outside powers are making the situation in Libya even more unstable.

Even proposals for ending the violence have been undermined by outside powers. Egypt brokered what is called the Cairo Declaration with Haftar on 6 June which suggested that the negotiations between the GNA and the LNA should be direct. But an alternative approach, using the UN as a mediator, has been endorsed by several states who agreed upon a multilateral framework last January in what is known as the Berlin Conference. The US finds itself now working with Turkey and its Islamist agenda against the Russians. But the shift in US policy suggests that the Libyan policy is still being actively debated and that there is no set policy at this time.

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Posted June 19, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

17 June 2020   Leave a comment

Siberia is experiencing unusually high temperatures that are having a significant effect on the sensitive environment. The Guardian reports:

“Russian towns in the Arctic circle have recorded extraordinary temperatures, with Nizhnyaya Pesha hitting 30C on 9 June and Khatanga, which usually has daytime temperatures of around 0C at this time of year, hitting 25C on 22 May. The previous record was 12C.

“In May, surface temperatures in parts of Siberia were up to 10C above average, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). Martin Stendel, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the abnormal May temperatures seen in north-west Siberia would be likely to happen just once in 100,000 years without human-caused global heating.

“Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist at C3S, said: ‘It is undoubtedly an alarming sign, but not only May was unusually warm in Siberia. The whole of winter and spring had repeated periods of higher-than-average surface air temperatures.”

We tend to think of climate change as something that will happen in the future, but the article notes how some of the effects of the warmer temperatures are immediately obvious:

“Thawing permafrost was at least partly to blame for a spill of diesel fuel in Siberia this month that led Putin to declare a state of emergency. The supports of the storage tank suddenly sank, according to its operators; green groups said ageing and poorly maintained infrastructure was also to blame.

Wildfires have raged across hundreds of thousands of hectares of Siberia’s forests. Farmers often light fires in the spring to clear vegetation, and a combination of high temperatures and strong winds has caused some fires to burn out of control.

“Swarms of the Siberian silk moth, whose larvae eat at conifer trees, have grown rapidly in the rising temperatures. ‘In all my long career, I’ve never seen moths so huge and growing so quickly,’ Vladimir Soldatov, a moth expert, told AFP.

The Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford have conducted a poll in 40 countries on how seriously people are taking the problem of climate change. They found that: “Climate change really matters to most people. On average, across all markets, around 69% of respondents stated that they consider climate change to be an extremely or very serious problem. Less than one in ten (9%) of our respondents does not see climate change as serious while around one in five (19%) said they were somewhat concerned. There is some variation across countries. Around 90% of respondents in Chile, Kenya, and South Africa view climate change as very or extremely serious. Chile and some countries in Africa have historically shown high levels of concern (Pew 2015), and the high figure for Chile could also have been related to its first internal population displacements last year as a result of a ten-year drought.2 In Africa too, many countries are already severely affected by the consequences of climate change.3 However, in Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands, only around half (or less) think that climate change is a severe problem.”

The countries that have the largest percentage of people who do not believe that climate change is a serious problem is revealing:

RankCountryPercent
1United States12
2Sweden9
3Australia8
4Norway7
5The Netherlands5
nullAll markets average3



Posted June 17, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

16 June 2020   Leave a comment

The tension between India and China in the disputed Galwan Valley region has escalated from rock-throwing to (perhaps–it is not clear at this point) an exchange of fire. The India government is reporting that 20 of its soldiers were killed on Tuesday night. The Indian media claims that there were 43 Chinese casualties, but that claim cannot be independently verified. Given the inhospitable conditions in the Valley and the tight control that both sides exercise there, it is unlikely that there will be any independent press coverage of what is actually going on. The two states have not agreed on an actual border in the Valley but this is the first time shots have been exchanged in the Valley for 45 years. The nub of the probelm is control over Pangong Tso, a lake that has a number of land “fingers” that intrude into the water–the dispute is which of these “fingers” demarcates Indian or Chinese territory. The two states did fight a war in Ladakh in 1962 and the Indians suffered a humiliating defeat.

The recent clashes are due to increased Indian building along the line of control. The Chinese have enjoyed superior military infrastructure in the area and the Indians are trying to match Chinese capabilities by building roads and airfields. The two states are negotiating to resolve their differences and I suspect that neither side wants to see the fighting escalate. Both states are dealing with significant COVID-19 issues and can scarcely want to divert attention from that immediate problem. But both sides are led by governments that have stoked nationalist feelings within their populations, and those passions might be difficult to control.

Posted June 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

15 June 2020   1 comment

The Gallup Poll has found that the number of Americans who feel proud of their country has declined to the lowest point in the two decades that Gallup has asked the question. The finding is intriguing since it also seems as if there are many in the US who support President Trump’s policy of “America First”. But the beginning of the decline predates Trump’s election. I hard to determine what is exactly responsible for the decline. Perhaps it is American fatigue of its role in world affairs. Or perhaps it stems from a seeming inability to address long-term problems such as the issue of race or the slow degradation of the nation’s infrastructure. Or it could be grwoing unease over the steady increase of inequality in the US. No matter what the cause, it is an unusual trend in American history and one that needs to be addressed if the legitimacy of the US state is to be sustained. It is unsettling to see that among Americans aged 18-29, only 20% are “extremely proud”.

Posted June 15, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

13 June 2020   Leave a comment

North Korea has ended its negotiations with the US government on the possible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The negotiations started two years ago, and President Trump at that time believed that his personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had defused a very dangerous situation. Despite meeting twice in Singapore and Hanoi, the two never really understood each other. President Trump insisted that North Korea get rid of all its nuclear weapons, offering economic aid as an incentive. Leader Kim insisted that denuclearization included US access to nuclear weapons on the peninsula, ending the security arrangements the US had with South Korea. The North Korean Press Agency, KCNA, issued the following statement by Ri Son Gwon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of DPRK:

“A total shutdown of the northern nuclear test site, repatriation of scores of American POW/MIA remains, special pardon for the convicted felons of U.S. nationality who were held in detention – all these measures taken by our Supreme Leadership are indisputably significant ones of epoch-making resolve.

“Especially, we made a strategic determination whereby we took an initiative for suspending nuclear test and test launch of ICBMs in order to build confidence between the DPRK and the U.S.

“Such being the case, we should now turn to examining what has been done for the last two years by the United States, a party to the agreement, who has very often expressed gratitude for our measures of high determination.

“’No testing, getting remains.’

“’Hostages returned.’

“These are what the master of the White House representing the United States of America reeled off time and time again as a boast.”

The statement goes on:

“In retrospect, all the practices of the present U.S. administration so far are nothing but accumulating its political achievements.

“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns.

“Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”

The fact that North Korea has decided to end the talks does not come as a surprise. Over the last few months it has tested a variety of missiles, being careful not to test an intercontinental ballistic missile or to test a nuclear bomb. Those tests were designed to elicit a response from the US to move the negotiations forward but they achieved little. The response of the US to those tests was tepid and non-committal. Significantly, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, issued her own statement via KCNA which explicitly threatened action against South Korea:

“Getting stronger day by day are the unanimous voices of all our people demanding for surely settling accounts with the riff-raff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity and flied rubbish to the inviolable territory of our side and with those who connived at such hooliganism, whatever may happen.

“The judgment that we should force the betrayers and human scum to pay the dearest price for their crimes and the retaliatory action plans we have made on this basis have become a firm public opinion at home, not part of the work of the field in charge of the affairs with enemy.

“It is necessary to make them keenly feel what they have done and what inviolability they hurt amiss.

“It is better to take a series of retaliatory actions, instead of releasing this kind of statement, which those with bad ears may miscalculate as the ‘one for threatening’ or from which they can make any rubbishy comments on our intention as they please.

“I feel it is high time to surely break with the south Korean authorities.

“We will soon take a next action.

“By exercising my power authorized by the Supreme Leader, our Party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action.”

Robert Carlin, writing for 38North, argues that the new North Korean policy is quite deliberate and strategic:

“This announcement builds on the anti-South Korea statements and media campaign that began on June 4 with Kim Yo Jong’s statement—her third so far this year, and her second aimed at South Korea. Kim’s statement was followed by an unusual statement issued by the party’s United Front Department, which in turn was followed up by commentaries in the party newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and an ongoing series of rallies by front groups. This campaign seems too nicely choreographed, and too clearly aimed at the North Korean domestic audience, to believe that Pyongyang was acting on impulse simply in response to a single balloon incident.”

Unfortunately, even if the new policy is deliberate, we still do not know exactly what it means. June 15 will mark the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit. It may be the occasion for a new missile test or some other demonstration of North Korean capabilities. But, unless it is extremely provocative, it is unlikely that the US will respond in a measured manner. The Trump Administration has not distinguished itself by a measured or coherent foreign policy.

Posted June 13, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

11 June 2020   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has imposed sanctions on members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it has started to investigate was crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan. The ICC was created in 2002 and 121 states have ratified the Rome Treaty, but the US never signed the treaty which is its legal basis in international law. Other states, such as China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey, have also not ratified the Treaty. The terms of the treaty are specific: it only has jurisdiction if the state in command of the troops committing a war crime refuses to prosecute them for the crimes. In its history, the ICC has prosecuted a number of cases:

“The court’s first verdict, in March 2012, was against Thomas Lubanga, the leader of a militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was convicted of war crimes relating to the use of children in that country’s conflict and sentenced in July to 14 years.

“The highest profile person to be brought to the ICC is Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo, who was charged in 2011 with murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and ‘other inhumane acts'”.

“Other notable cases included charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was indicted in 2011 in connection with post-election ethnic violence in 2007-08, in which 1,200 people died. The ICC dropped the charges against Mr Kenyatta in December 2014.”

There is no question that US troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan. Indeed, some soldiers have been convicted by US Courts Martial for war crimes. Unfortunately, some of those soldiers were pardoned by President Trump.

The sanctions represent yet another retreat by the US from a world order based upon international institutions and laws, a world order that the US supported after the end of World War II. Many of the US allies in Europe are disappointed by the US decision.

Posted June 11, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

9 June 2020   Leave a comment

North Korea has severed all communications with South Korea and has announced that it will treat South Korea as an “enemy”. The move comes in the wake of a decision by South Korea to send propaganda material to North Korea from North Korean defectors. The materials have been sent previously and they probably came as no surprise to North Korean officials. But, according to NBC News, “The decision carried further significance because it was attributed in part to Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has risen in prominence in recent weeks. The blogsite, 38 North, argues that the attribution is significant:

“This announcement builds on the anti-South Korea statements and media campaign that began on June 4 with Kim Yo Jong’s statement—her third so far this year, and her second aimed at South Korea. Kim’s statement was followed by an unusual statement issued by the party’s United Front Department, which in turn was followed up by commentaries in the party newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and an ongoing series of rallies by front groups. This campaign seems too nicely choreographed, and too clearly aimed at the North Korean domestic audience, to believe that Pyongyang was acting on impulse simply in response to a single balloon incident.”

Daniel DePetris, writing for The National Interest, believes that the move represents a significant setback for South Korean President Moon’s peace initiative to the North. But it also represents a setback for the US-North Korean relationship as well:

“At its core, the stoppage of the phone calls is more worrying for what it represents: the near-death of Moon’s signature foreign policy initiative. Time will tell whether the North Koreans are seeking to pressure Seoul into making additional concessions or whether, as seems likely, they’ve made the strategic calculation that engaging with the South is a waste of time as long as Washington holds a veto over South Korea’s policy.”

There has been very little attention given to North Korea by the Trump Administration recently. Since there was little evidence to support any hope for an agreement with North Korea this year, the Trump Administration apparently decided that there was little to gain in terms of the presidential election in November.

Posted June 9, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

6 June 2020   Leave a comment

The Trump Administration has notified Germany that it plans to reduce the number of US troops stationed in Germany as part of NATO by 9,500 from the 34,500 permanently assigned. The troops will not necessarily be coming back to the US–many of them will be moved to Poland, another member of NATO. The decision elicited different responses from German politicians: conservative politicians, including members of Chancellor Merkel’s coalition, criticized the move, while left-wing politicians supported the decision. The Pentagon denied that the decision was influenced by the strained relations between President Trump and Chancellor Merkel, but it is hard to avoid that conclusion. Apparently the US did not inform Germany about the move prior to its announcement, and German officials learned of it from media reports.

The move comes as tensions between Russia and NATO members continues to increase. Arms control treaties, such as the Open Skies Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, have lapsed, and there has been increased activities in the development of nuclear forces. The whole arms control framework that has been laboriously constructed sine the early 1960s seems to be disintegrating. Writing for Lawfare, Justin Key Canfil points out:

“Since the formal decision was announced, a number of nuclear experts have also chimed in, warning of the dangers. Open Skies is the second U.S.-Russia arms control regime that the Trump administration has defenestrated in as many years, and experts worry that the landmark New START agreement—which stabilizes the nuclear balance, helps prevent costs from spiraling and enjoys bipartisan support—is next on the chopping block. There is still no clear explanation for why the Trump administration believes withdrawal serves U.S. interests.

“Arms control is a cheaper and safer alternative to military competition as long as compliance can be monitored, but as scholars Andrew J. Coe and Jane Vaynman have noted recently, sensitivities to intrusive monitoring can derail otherwise acceptable agreements. Open Skies is remarkable in that, by expressly facilitating overflights between the two countries, it overcame the ‘intrusive inspection’ barrier that frustrated so many U.S.-Russia arms control efforts throughout the Cold War. Moreover, the U.S. effectively secured the right to monitor compliance with the parameters of Open Skies under provisions in the treaty that guarantee the U.S. the right to physically inspect Russian sensor equipment and any data collected during overflights. The treaty is one of the few remaining avenues for arms control compliance verification that doesn’t rely on ‘national technical means‘—a country’s unilateral ability to spy or observe from afar.

Additionally, NATO has been conducting military drills close to the Russian border which the Russians regard as provocative. Despite President Trump’s urging, the members of the G-7 refused to consider re-inviting Russia to join the group, a slight that will only deepen the mistrust between NATO and Russia. It is difficult for me to find any coherent thread in US policy toward Russia and how it regards its allies.

Posted June 6, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

5 June 2020   Leave a comment

I will confess that I had never heard of the Insurrection Act of 1807 until this last week. Apparently (and I am not a lawyer) the Act gives the US President the right to send active military troops at the request of a state governor to put down an insurrection. Hawa Allan has written a short essay on the Act for The Baffler. The Act has a sordid history since the primary insurrection that the Congress worried about in 1807 was a slave insurrection. Allan convincingly demonstrates the the Act is integrally wrapped up in the desire of slaveholders to ensure that slaves would always be kept under control and how that dynamic persists to the present day. It has been used on several occasions since that time, the most recent time being the Federal response to the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Allan writes:

“Though hardly common knowledge, the law happens to be the linchpin of several iconic events in African American history. Its invocation is enmeshed with this country’s long history of racial injustice: ‘insurrection’ has been defined, in practice, as either rebellion against slave power or ongoing racial injustice, or as resistance to federal laws mandating civil rights and integration. Radical Republicans attempted to use federal military power to quell white resistance in the South during Reconstruction. In the 1950s and 1960s, federal forces were called in to enforce the desegregation of public schools in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. But it has also been used to meet urban unrest in the 1960s—in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“Though the Act has not been formally invoked since President George H.W. Bush deployed federal troops to Los Angeles in 1992, it has emerged as a legal facet in other more recent events in black history. In 2005, black residents stranded in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were reimagined by the media and law enforcement with graphic violence—specifically, as rooftop snipers and perpetrators of pedophilic rape. Five years later, in 2010, the New York Times reported in retrospect that it was white vigilantes attacking black hurricane victims who were, in fact, the chief perpetrators of violence. As the Times further reported: ‘The narrative of those early, chaotic days—built largely on rumors and half-baked anecdotes—quickly hardened into a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city.'”

The recent statements by former and active military officers opposing the invocation of the Insurrection Act testify to the reluctance of military commanders to use force against fellow citizens, even though the Rules of Engagement for domestic operations are quite strict. Most of the active US military troops have left the protest areas in Washington, DC so it does not appear as if President Trump intends to invoke the Insurrection Act right now. But the protests are likely to continue and much depends on how they will evolve as will the police response to those protests.

Posted June 5, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

3 June 2020   Leave a comment

I had the sense today that there was a dramatic shift in attitudes toward the Trump Administration occasioned by his decision to deploy active military units to the demonstrations in Washington, DC. Such a move is not technically forbidden by the Constitution which remains obscure on many important issues. But the clear sense throughout US history, that deploying active troops (not National Guard troops) is an act that should be reserved only for the most extreme circumstances. The demonstrations by those who support the Black Lives Matter movement hardly qualify as a national emergency. There has been looting, but the looters are not participants in the protests, but rather organized gangs taking advantage of the chaos in the streets (some of those gangs have brought power tools to assist in their looting). The protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

The breaking point seems to have been the decision to break up the protest in Lafayette Square so that President Trump could walk from the White House to a church and hold up a bible. That particular protest was not accompanied by any looting (there are no businesses near Lafayette Square) and the press reports indicate that there were no assaults upon police officers from the protesters. The decision to break up the demonstration was a decision to deny citizens of the US the right to exercise their First Amendment rights to assemble and speak freely–in other words, to break the law. And the decision to break the law was backed up by the active military forces of the US.

This act was a bridge too far for many. President Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, a highly regarded Marine General, issued a statement which was both forceful and unexpected, since Mattis had always held that he did not think it appropriate for him to criticize the Commander in Chief. His statement was published in The Atlantic:

The following is a statement by former Secretary of Defense James Mattis published by The Atlantic. Mattis, a four-star U.S. Marine Corps General, served as President Donald Trump’s 26th Secretary of Defense from 2017 to 2018.

In Union There is Strength

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

“James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that ‘America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.’ We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

“We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Park. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels,’ and listen to them, as we work to unite.

“Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.”

Second, Admiral Mike Mullen, the former Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, published the following letter in The Atlantic:

“It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent.

“Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.

“There was little good in the stunt.

“While no one should ever condone the violence, vandalism, and looting that has exploded across our city streets, neither should anyone lose sight of the larger and deeper concerns about institutional racism that have ignited this rage.

“As a white man, I cannot claim perfect understanding of the fear and anger that African Americans feel today. But as someone who has been around for a while, I know enough—and I’ve seen enough—to understand that those feelings are real and that they are all too painfully founded.

“We must, as citizens, address head-on the issue of police brutality and sustained injustices against the African American community. We must, as citizens, support and defend the right—indeed, the solemn obligation—to peacefully assemble and to be heard. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits.

“And neither of these pursuits will be made easier or safer by an overly aggressive use of our military, active duty or National Guard. The United States has a long and, to be fair, sometimes troubled history of using the armed forces to enforce domestic laws. The issue for us today is not whether this authority exists, but whether it will be wisely administered.

“I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops. Certainly, we have not crossed the threshold that would make it appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Insurrection Act.

“Furthermore, I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.

“Even in the midst of the carnage we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods. They are not ‘battle spaces‘ to be dominated, and must never become so.

“We must ensure that African Americans—indeed, all Americans—are given the same rights under the Constitution, the same justice under the law, and the same consideration we give to members of our own family. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.

“Too many foreign and domestic policy choices have become militarized; too many military missions have become politicized.

“This is not the time for stunts. This is the time for leadership.”

Third, the current US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, openly defied US President Trump by repudiating the idea of using active military troops to enforce domestic law. Esper made a straightforward statement quoted in The Military Times:

“‘The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,’ Esper told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon. ‘We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.’

It is not clear how long Esper will remain as Defense Secretary. The reports are that President Trump is quite angry about the statement.

Finally, on a more personal note, the son of one of my college roommates served in the Marine Corps and did three tours of duty in Afghanistan. Yesterday, he posted the following note on Facebook:

“Enough. If you’re reading this and you love and respect me, know that I love and respect you too. Especially to those with whom I was lucky enough to serve in harms way, know that it will forever be the greatest honor of my life to call you my brothers and sisters. You are my brothers and sisters still. For a long time I’ve kept my mouth mostly shut around politics. It’s been too difficult to navigate those conversations, especially with people who I love and respect so much, who I know feel differently about the state of the nation and the conduct of our president than I do. So I’ve stayed quiet. I haven’t responded when you’ve praised him or defended him. I haven’t challenged you when you’ve stayed silent. When he disrespected Gold Star mothers. When he disrespected General Mattis, the closest thing to a living saint us Marines may ever have. When he abandoned our allies. When he mocked the disabled. You were silent, and I didn’t challenge you. I treasured our bonds too much to put up with the discomfort of confronting those issues with you. I was a coward. I can’t do that anymore. This is wrong. It’s been wrong for so goddamned long. We are at the point now where we have to decide if we are ready to rebuild some semblance of American goodness and decency- if we are ready to stand for something other than brute strength and ‘I win, you lose’ tribalism. I’m ready for that. I’m so desperately ready for that, and I’m done keeping my mouth shut. If the way that you see the President leading this country right now looks good and right to you, then you need to understand that you and I do not share the same values anymore. If a crowd of lawfully assembled protestors being tear gassed and trampled out of the way so a President can stand in front of a church, hold up a Bible he’s never read, and declare his readiness to deploy military force on American soil against American citizens sounds right to you, then I don’t know how to relate to you anymore. If you are commenting online right now about how eager and ready you are to kill other Americans then you are no friend and no brother of mine. This is wrong.

For me, the statement was a sure sign that President Trump’s decision to try to “dominate” the protesters was a significant political mistake, one from which he will likely never recover.

Posted June 3, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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