Two words for the United Nations

…and they ain’t “Merry Christmas.”  The UN General Assembly today voted 128-9 to condemn the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  Some of those 128 countries don’t have a lot of room for criticizing anybody, as Jake Tapper admirably points out:

It’s time these folks were sent packing. Ironically, though, by ignoring Nikki Halley’s warning two days ago, the UN may have given Americans an unintended Christmas gift:


These are the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid.  Israel (as expected) did not support the UN resolution against the U.S.  Of the others, Nigeria abstained, and the rest voted literally to bite the hand that feeds them!

Here’s what I find interesting about this: If you add up all the assistance aside from Israel’s, it comes to $10.2 billion dollars.  In 2016, the United States also gave the United Nations about $10 billion in total contributions.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security publicly estimated construction of Trump’s promised enhanced border with Mexico (“the wall”) would cost around $21 billion.

Ditch the ingrates, and the wall is paid for without adding a penny to the deficit.  Thanks, UN!

THIS is what an American-first administration looks like.  Let’s see what President Trump does with Ambassador Haley’s “list of names.”  The “bully pulpit” could make continued Congressional funding of these international leeches a lot less palatable than has been the case in the past.


Making a list, checking it twice

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations plans to note who’s naughty or nice:

America First

This is long overdue in our international relations, and should be a key plank of the new National Security Strategy to put American interests first (see pages 19 and 40 here).  Much of the foreign aid we give out yields dubious returns for America.  And unlike other nations (*cough* China *cough*), we aren’t exactly smart in our use of “soft power.”  Much of the “aid” we supply all too often ends up in the hands of local thugs in power, while China’s efforts produce visible changes and local goodwill.  No doubt if the locals balk, China is not reluctant to tighten the purse strings.

So why do we not do the same with our spending overseas?  At its most blatant, foreign aid is about “winning friends and influencing people.”  But how much influence do you really wield if the recipients of your largesse habitually spit in your eye, knowing they can get away with it?

We are not in the financial position we were after World War II, where America accounted for nearly one-quarter of the global economy.  The Marshall Plan of the late 1940s was unprecedented in scale for American foreign policy, but it also seemed a relatively small price to pay to stabilize Europe and inoculate it against further communist encroachment.  Today, advocates of foreign aid like to point out that it makes up “about one percent of the federal budget” — but that still amounts to billions of dollars that produce scant results compared to the Marshall Plan.

Here’s hoping those countries put on Nikki Haley’s “naughty list” Thursday feel the choking off of unappreciated American dollars.  Since the Federal Government currently borrows nearly 1 in every 5 dollars it spends, those dollars are more appropriately spent at home.

The Empire strikes back

Many people will be distracted the next few days over the release of the latest Star Wars film.  But recent revelations seem to confirm the “dark side” is already hard at work, and not “in a galaxy far, far away.”  Instead of pouring over the backstory of Luke Skywalker and his compadres, Americans would do well to look at the timeline of the backstory to the 2016 election:

August 6, 2016:

In one exchange from August 2016, the FBI’s Lisa Page forwarded a Donald Trump-related article to Peter Strzok, writing: “And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.”

He responded: “Thanks. It’s absolutely true that we’re both very fortunate. And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps.’”

This seems clear. Strzok was going to protect the country from Trump.

August 15, 2016

But an Aug. 15, 2016 message has come under more serious scrutiny.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok wrote to Page.

Andy is believed to be Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok added.

The dossier was the insurance policy

Strzok was at least part of the editing of the Comey statement:

The FBI agent who was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia — because he sent anti-Trump messages to a colleague — oversaw the bureau’s interviews with ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Fox News confirmed on Monday.

Peter Strzok, a former deputy to the assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, also was confirmed to have changed former FBI Director James Comey’s early draft language about Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding her private email server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”

Strzok interviewed Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson and Hillary Clinton

The FBI agent who was fired from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team for sending anti-Donald Trump text messages conducted the interviews with two Hillary Clinton aides accused of giving false statements about what they knew of the former secretary of state’s private email server.

Yet somehow they escaped prosecution for lying to the FBI because Strzok wasn’t going to jeopardize Clinton’s campaign.

The FBI agreed to destroy evidence on behalf of Clinton aides…

Read the entire timeline, with linked documentation, here.  The leniency of the “investigation” into Her Hillariness’ unauthorized email server and mishandling of classified information does not contrast well with the fishing expedition that is the Mueller probe.  At least at the higher levels, the FBI has been as politicized as the IRS before it, and appears engaged in an unprecedented effort to overturn the results of a presidential election.  Americans should be aghast at a federal agent talking about “insurance policies” prior to that election, especially when that agent was heavily involved in the two most prominent–and politically charged–investigations of the past two years.

Trump’s nationalist agenda does not go over well with the transnational ruling elite encamped in the five wealthiest counties in America.  That invisible empire will use every lever at its disposal to thwart his agenda.

If Americans allow it.


A scary situation

Since it’s Halloween, everyone’s focused on spooky things.  Here’s a spooky thought: the U.S. national security strategy is “insolvent:”

Too few resources are chasing too many ongoing operations, forward presence commitments, and potential conflicts. U.S. military leaders have been unanimous in warning that they do not have enough troops, equipment, or funding to execute the national defense strategy. … There aren’t enough available dollars to sustain the current U.S. military strategy, which aims to simultaneously keep American global posture intact, conduct an ongoing military campaign against ISIL, sustain a global counterterrorism effort in its 16th year, and be ready for multiple contingencies against highly capable regional challengers.

Much like Maverick from the movie Top Gun, whose ego was accused of “writing checks your body can’t cash,” the United States after World War Two extended its umbrella of protection across the world, underwriting the security of what became known as the “free world.”  While that may have been appropriate (debatable) at a time when our economy represented nearly half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, it is untenable now that our government borrows 10 to 20 percent of its annual budget, and rising interest rates make servicing the debt one of the fastest-growing Federal expenditures.

Russia.  China.  Iran.  North Korea.  Islamic terrorism.  Border security.  It’s essential the U.S. prioritize the threats (and in the case of Russia, perhaps take action to live less in conflict with other great powers).  Trump was right on the campaign trail to say that many of our allies (*cough* Europe *cough*) need to shoulder a greater portion of the burden of their own defense.  When we’re playing Twister with our national power to try to cover U.S. interests, it makes no sense to be subsidizing others at the same time.

Our current global posture is in many ways a bluff… and our potential adversaries know it.  That creates both uncertainty and potential adventurism.  It’s time our stated objectives and our commitment to maintaining them were brought back into balance.

But instead of just spending more on the military, maybe we should stop writing so many checks.

“[America} goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.  She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” – John Quincy Adams. 1821



Never forget September 11, 2001

Sixteen years.  That’s how long it’s been since the worst terrorist attack in American history.  A total of 2,996 people dead or never accounted for.  Symbols of American power struck without warning: both World Trade center towers and the Pentagon.  The actions of informed passengers on a fourth plane likely averted a strike on the White House or Congress.

An entire generation had horrifying visions of previously unimaginable events happening in their own nation, with memories firmly etched into their minds.

They say time heals all wounds. And for the families of those lost that day I hope there is some measure of truth in it. But there is a flip side: such events fade in the public consciousness, such that they no longer inform or shape how the nation acts. To quote the opening of the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring,”

“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth…” (click “continue reading” below to continue)

Continue reading


Back to Bagram?

It seems the President has been swayed by his military advisors (both in and out of uniform) that it’s time to “surge” in Afghanistan again:

…shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.

But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.

I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict….

Surging troops (particularly only 4,000 more) is not a strategy.  Killing individual terrorists is not a strategy.  These are but tactics.   What is the desired end state?  It’s proven to be extremely difficult to build a competent, effective Afghan government and army.  Only when those exist is there any chance of us offloading this burden without creating the vacuum Trump references.  So why isn’t there more emphasis on that?  I’m not just talking about training troops (who have a tendency to run away — even when training in the U.S.!).  I’m talking about identifying real leaders, people Afghans are willing to rally around, that provide another pole of power besides the Taliban.  We may not like the leaders we find; they’re hardly likely to be Jeffersonian types.  But if they are committed to fighting the return of the Taliban and ensure Afghanistan doesn’t return to being a terror sanctuary, that should count most.

I really wish our leaders would pick up a book series I’ve recently been reading.  It’s written by a disaffected former U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who pulls no punches about the flawed premises under which we’ve operated since 9/11.  It’s not easy to read — using a science fiction story as allegory he frequently and graphically lays bare the moral quandaries of this type of war.  But as distasteful as some of his recommended approaches might be, one has to wonder if letting this festering sore drag on for 16 years is far worse.  Respect for U.S. power has waned, even as our forces have worn down from years of constant use.  Maybe it’s time we simply left, and made clear that any nation from which a future attack is launched against will find us, in Kratman’s title quote, making “A Desert Called Peace.”  There are easy ways to do so without “boots on the ground.”  And in the meantime, we should be hardening our borders and entry processes into America immediately.  It’s already long overdue.

Half-measures haven’t gotten us anywhere.  We’re too forceful to be loved, but not forceful enough to be feared.  Sooner or later we’re going to have to choose one or the other.


Quote of the day

“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.”  – George Orwell, 1984

Whatever you may think about the appropriateness of removing statues of former Confederate figures, one thing is certain: it will not stop there.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are complex characters, not simple cardboard cutout “racists.”  In today’s climate, though, careful consideration of both virtues and vices is frowned upon.  We are pressed to judge historical characters not by the context of their times, but by how they measure up to current political emotionss.  And so we have reached Shakespeare’s observation through Mark Antony in Julius Caesar: 

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Caesar, rather than the wealthy, aristocratic Roman Senate, had populist support.  (Sound familiar?)  So was it out of patriotism or jealousy that the Senate acted?  It’s a fair question to ask those today who see our current President as Caesar, and dream of removing him, violently if necessary.

Whether Caesar should have been killed by the Roman Senate can be debated, but one thing history makes clear: after that milestone and the civil war that followed, the Republic clearly was dead.

What we are watching today is the disavowal and erasure of the historical foundations of the American republic.  It’s been a long process over the last half century, but those who want to see it done sense victory and are accelerating their efforts.  They may need to be more careful what they wish for.