Shooting in Munich: All Clear is Given

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Earlier today a single perpetrator went on a shooting spree at a shopping mall in Munich, Germany. The Munich Police have now issued an all clear, confirming a single shooter, and indicating that public transportation has resumed and the shelter in place order is lifted. A press conference is ongoing, so we’ll hopefully have more information soon. As of right now we know that there are 10 dead, including the shooter who committed suicide, and 21 wounded. The only current indication of who the shooter might be and what he wanted is from an eye witness who indicated that the shooter “yelled an anti-foreigner slur”. As always this is an ongoing situation and the information is likely to change over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Update at 8:20 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the Munich Police press conference.

Update at 8:25 PM EDT

The Guardian has reported, based on a translation of the Munich Police’s press conference, that the shooter was an 18 year old German of Iranian descent. His body was found at 8:30 PM local time. They have confirmed that he shot himself.

Update at 8:40 PM EDT

The Guardian is reporting that the Munich Police have indicated that the shooter had lived in Munich for a long time and had no criminal record. The investigation is ongoing and no motive has been reported yet.



The NY Times Transcript of the Trump Interview: Its Actually Worse than the Article Made it Seem

Here’s the link to the transcript of the NY Times interview with Trump. They released it in response to Paul Manafort challenging the veracity of their reporting and asking if they had (audio) tape of the interview. Here’s a sampling:

SANGER: But I guess the question is, If we can’t, do you think that your presidency, let’s assume for a moment that they contribute what they are contributing today, or what they have contributed historically, your presidency would be one of pulling back and saying, “You know, we’re not going to invest in these alliances with NATO, we are not going to invest as much as we have in Asia since the end of the Korean War because we can’t afford it and it’s really not in our interest to do so.”

TRUMP: If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich. Then if we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth — you have the tape going on?

SANGER: We do.

HABERMAN: We both do.

TRUMP: I’m only saying this. We’re spending money, and if you’re talking about trade, we’re losing a tremendous amount of money, according to many stats, $800 billion a year on trade. So we are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion. That doesn’t sound like it’s smart to me. Just so you understand though, totally on the record, this is not 40 years ago. We are not the same country and the world is not the same world. Our country owes right now $19 trillion, going to $21 trillion very quickly because of the omnibus budget that was passed, which is incredible. We don’t have the luxury of doing what we used to do; we don’t have the luxury, and it is a luxury. We need other people to reimburse us much more substantially than they are giving right now because we are only paying for a fraction of the cost.

SANGER: Or to take on the burden themselves.

TRUMP: Or, if we cannot make the right deal, to take on the burden themselves. You said it wrong because you said or — or if we cannot make the right deal for proper reimbursement to take on the burden themselves. Yes. Now, Hillary Clinton said: “I will never leave Japan. I will never leave Japan. Will never leave any of our ——” Well now, once you say that, guess what happens? What happens?

HABERMAN: You’re stuck.

TRUMP: You can’t negotiate.

HABERMAN: Right.

TRUMP: In a deal, you always have to be prepared to walk. Hillary Clinton has said, “We will never, ever walk.” That’s a wonderful phrase, but unfortunately, if I were on Saudi Arabia’s side, Germany, Japan, South Korea and others, I would say, “Oh, they’re never leaving, so what do we have to pay them for?” Does that make sense to you, David?

SANGER: It does, but we also know that defending the United States is a harder thing to do if you’re not forward-deployed.

TRUMP: By the way, and I know what I’m talking about is massive. If we ever felt there was a reason to defend the United States, we can always deploy, and it would be a lot less expense. …

You need to click across and read the whole thing to get a real sense for just how far Trump is, in regards to what he is proposing as a foreign, defense, and security policy from not just the consensus in the US over the past 70 years, but the norms of both parties, and those of our allies and partners. What Trump is proposing is a major, unilateral transformation of the international system and global order. It isn’t merely a hypernationalistic vision of America’s interest overwhelming everything. Rather it is a pay for play security shakedown scheme.

What Trump is proposing is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of not just the North Atlantic Treaty, but also almost every other international institution that has been established since the end of World War II. NATO was not just about opposing the Soviet Union. Rather it was part of several institutions that the US either was directly involved with creating or supported the creation of in order to change, hopefully permanently, the pre WW I and WW II dynamics of Europe. NATO militarily binds the European nation-states to each other. Every member of NATO’s member state’s militaries have, at this point, grown up in a Europe and served in their state’s militaries within the context of France and Germany and Britain and Spain and Italy and Greece and Portugal, etc, etc, etc all being allies. They’ve been on joint NATO training missions, participated in high stress, little sleep joint NATO exercises, and been assigned to joint NATO billets. Almost all of the senior officers and general officers/flag officers have been educated at multiple levels of American Professional Military Education. And because of the EU they and/or their relatives work, travel, and play all over Europe. All of this is intended to forge strong, tight, and effective bonds to prevent the parochial political, social, economic, and/or religious ambitions of people within each of these states being wrapped into nationalism and gushing forth in the death, destruction, and waste of The Thirty Years War, World War I, and WW II. The goal of these institutions and arrangements, as well as similar ones in Asia and other parts of the world, is to prevent the region’s disputes from becoming wars and those wars from engulfing the world. For over 70 years it has worked. Trump proposes to wreck it because he doesn’t think the US is being paid enough and this is a sign that our allies and partners don’t treat us fairly.

Does NATO’s mission need to be regularly reassessed and periodically adjusted? Without a doubt. As do a number of the international security and economic institutions. But scrapping NATO, or any of these agreements, doesn’t make Europe or the world safer, it makes it less stable and more dangerous. And scrapping NATO and other agreements that form the basis of the current international system without any plan other than “nice country you’ve got there, be a shame to have anything happen to it, so the boys’ll be around every third Thursday to collect” is not just unacceptable, but stupendously reckless and dangerous. I am not arguing that the current system is perfect, that it hasn’t caused its own share of unintended negative outcomes, but it has been amazingly stable compared to what came before. What Trump is proposing isn’t. It is a sign of a superficial thinker who hasn’t spent much time grappling with the problem sets that the US, its allies, and its partners face and one who has no real idea how to appropriately deal with threats and attempt to turn challenges into opportunities other than to demand that his interlocutors knuckle under and give him what he wants. The transcript of Trump’s interview makes it clear that regardless of what anyone may think of him as a presidential candidate or what the effect of his candidacy and/or election may or may not be on the US in terms of its domestic affairs, his election would present a clear and present danger to the stability of the global order.



The Gray Zone Under Threat: Straining Alliances

The Gray Zone, the civil space that allows for people to exist outside of their private lives and participate in societal, political, economic, and to some extent religious activities, is not just threatened by terrorist attacks and the extremism they’re rooted in, or systemic failures of political and social institutions as they age. It is also threatened when elected and appointed officials, and those seeking elected office, seek to purposefully break institutions for partisan gain. Yesterday the NY Times featured an interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. As has been the case several times since he began his run for the Republican nomination and the presidency of the United States, Trump threatened the institutions and alliances that have provided stability and prosperity, albeit an imperfect form of stability and prosperity, since the end of World War II.

Trump’s remarks to the Times included:

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

As I wrote after the March 10 GOP primary debate, the US is not an empire and we don’t demand tribute from our allies and partners. We now have, however, the nominee of one of the two major political parties in the US announcing that he may not fulfill America’s NATO treaty obligations, as well as other American international commitments. This is at a time when our NATO allies, and especially those in Eastern Europe, are especially worried about the actions and intentions of Vladimir Putin and Russia. The strategic messaging of Trump’s remarks is amazing. The presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the party long put forward as the party of national security (the Daddy Party), has just told Putin that should he be elected, it is not only possible, but also plausible that the US would not honor its everyday commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty, let alone an Article 5 request for collective defense.

For all the sturm and drang about President Obama providing al Qaeda or al Qaeda in Iraq with a clear date and time of US withdrawal from Afghanistan or honoring the Bush 43 Administration negotiated date of withdrawal from Iraq; Trump has now given Putin the time window he would need for planning should he decide to engage in further adventures in the former Soviet states of Eastern Europe. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been accused of leading from behind because they took the time to work through and with partners or assemble coalitions to deal with major international issues such as Iran’s nuclear program or the terrorism and low intensity warfare of the Islamic State. What Trump has done, in his remarks during the debates, on the stump, and in this interview with the NY Times is actually signal that the US will just not lead at all unless Trump feels it is being treated fairly.

And this brings us full circle back to Trump’s foreign policy speech. When Trump gave his foreign policy address at the end of April, the overarching theme running throughout his remarks was: “America will be treated fairly.” It is quite clear that being treated fairly is actually the overall strategic message, for lack of a better term, that runs throughout the Trump campaign. First it was “the GOP will treat Trump fairly or I’ll run third party”, which was the origin of the GOP candidate pledge to support the eventual nominee. Then it was “the media will treat Trump fairly” or he’d take his campaign activities away from them and deny them the advertising revenue. He actually did this with FOX Cable News when he refused to participate in one of the debates and held a highly controversial counter event to raise funds for veterans. The core of Trump’s pitch to voters is that “only Trump knows how to ensure that they will be treated well.”

The fly in the ointment of all these appeals for fairness, however, is the implicit or explicit “or else…” Trump has told our NATO and EU allies, and by extension other allies and partners, that if he’s elected they cannot necessarily count on American support and assistance, which has been at the core of the post World War II system that the US helped to build to change the security dynamics in Europe that has been a hallmark of the stability and prosperity of the past 71 years. By strategically communicating that the US may not lead, depending on how Trump feels as President about those asking us to do so, he’s told Putin and his planners, as well as those of al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Peoples Republic of China, Boko Haram, North Korea, and others, that they can develop contingencies for actions to start the weekend of January 21, 2017. With this approach to National security, foreign, and defense policy, Donald Trump has taken the GOP, the oft promoted party of National security, and, perhaps the US, into uncharted territory that threatens the Gray Zone in a way that no terrorist, extremist, or state based actor ever could. More frighteningly, it is unclear what the plan would be for charting this brave new world.



Open Thread: Paul Manafort Has / Is A Problem

Conventional Wisdom is that Corey Lewinski Lewandowski was Donald Trump’s favorite political manager, but Paul Manafort was the Trump kids’ choice. (They are, after all, the spoilt spawn of a tinpot autocrat, and Manafort has many years experience dealing with clients who think “but I wanna!should have the weight of law.) Lewandowski’s “firing” was supposed to signal Manafort’s triumph in the struggle. But now Corey is safely embedded in CNN’s hide, somebody’s got to be held responsible for the RNC clusterfvck, and it sure ain’t gonna be The Donald…. or any of his offspring.

Jon Chait, of NYMag, is a man exquisitely attuned to every shift in the prevailing CW currents:

Donald Trump is not a Russian agent in the sense that Philip and Elizabeth from The Americans are Russian agents. There’s no hidden radio in his laundry room where he transmits secrets to the Kremlin. But his relationship with Russia is disturbing and lends itself to frightening interpretations.

Franklin Foer has detailed the connections between the Republican nominee and the Kremlin. In short, it includes a long series of economic and social ties, which fit the pattern Vladimir Putin has used to infiltrate and undermine governments elsewhere — including in Ukraine, a coup Putin pulled off through Paul Manafort, who is now Trump’s campaign manager. Michael Crowley and Julia Ioffe have both described how the Russian propaganda apparatus has thrown itself behind Trump’s campaign. As Foer notes, Trump’s lack of creditworthiness makes him unusually reliant on unconventional sources of financing. This makes him vulnerable to financial leverage by an unscrupulous foreign entity.
Read more



Tom Cotton Starts His 2020 Presidential Campaign

As I’ve said before, the reason Ted Cruz couldn’t do the sensible thing and wait to run for president in 2016 2020, after he’d finished at least one term in the Senate, is that there are even younger crazier Ivy-educated Talibangelicals breathing down his neck. On the first day of the 2016 RNC convention, Senator Tom Cotton staked out his claim to 2020. Mr. Charles P. Pierce explicates:

What better way to begin coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention than to give you a preview of the 2020 Republican nominating process?… Senator Tom Cotton, the bobble-throated nuisance from Arkansas and onetime pen-pal of the Iranian mullahs… stopped by for breakfast with the delegation from South Carolina, where we learned what the euphemism du jour is for the candidate that this year’s process produced.

“I’m sure,” Cotton told the crowd, “that we’re all looking forward to a great Republican victory in November.”

The theme of the breakfast was renewing American foreign policy and having the country re-engage with the world, which made it even more inconvenient to mention that the party is preparing to nominate a guy who has mused about chloroforming NATO. This is the territory that Cotton staked out for himself. He is the world’s youngest neocon, a Richard Perle starter kit. He has a reedy, unpracticed public speaking style that he’ll have to work on before he hits the cornfields of Iowa, which ought to be about 11 minutes after the results are announced in November. But he has his theme–namely, that we are all going to die.

“The world has grown more dangerous over the last eight years,” Cotton said. “And the reason for that is that Barack Obama’s foreign policy is…impotent.”

A frisson ran through the applause that greeted this remark–although whether this was because of Cotton’s argument, or because he said “impotent” in public, is hard to say…

TIME has the transcript of Cotton’s thoroughly anodyne-edging-into-dishonest speech, if you must read it. [Warning: autoplay]

Lauren Fox, at TPM:

… “Frankly, I think a lot of political leaders need to stop fanning the flames of racial division,” Cotton said Monday in Cleveland at an event hosted by The Atlantic. “Because there is a police shooting does not mean the police are racist or that police officer did anything wrong. You cannot know that until there is an investigation that takes place.”

But Cotton also hinted that the GOP needs to be doing more than it is to expand its base.
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Time to Talk Turkey: The Coup de Yesterjour

As became apparent early this morning the attempted coup to overthrow President Erdogan’s government failed. And it failed pretty spectacularly. There are several reasons for this. The first is that this was, despite all the initial reporting, not a coup led by even a majority of the senior military leadership. While a number of general officers/flag officers have been arrested, what we now know is that this was not organized by a majority of the senior Turkish military leadership. General Hulusi Akar, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces was taken and held hostage by those involved with the coup. This is why the initial reporting that he had declared that the military had taken over was quickly deleted and replaced with the statement from “The Turkish Armed Forces”. General Akar was freed early this morning. Other general officers/flag officers, however, quickly stepped in to fill the leadership void.

A second major contributing factor to the coup’s failure was that those involved did not capture the Turkish leadership. President Erdogan was not in the capitol; he was at a resort on the Black Sea Mediterranean. No one involved with the coup either planned to or tried were able to take him into custody like they did with General Akar and a number of other senior uniformed leaders. The same can be said for Prime Minister Yldirim and other senior leaders in Turkey’s executive branch and parliament. Moreover, the coupe plotters and leaders did not have the support of even the opposition parties in the Turkish Parliament. If you cannot even get the support of the Kurdish opposition party in an attempt to overthrow the Turkish government, you are not going to be successful!

The coup also failed because those organizing and participating in it were unable to actually enforce their orders of curfew and restrictions on movement. They could not hold the airports, which allowed President Erdogan to return from the Black Sea during the coup. This was a huge Information Operations victory for him and his government. And they were unable to secure the streets. Turkish law enforcement and Turkish citizens quickly responded to President Erdogan’s calls to take to the streets to protect democracy and rebuff the coup. The result was Turkish Soldiers being arrested by Turkish police and being forced to stand down by Turkish citizens.

The coup organizers and participants were also unable to stop the signal. While coup participants took quick control of a state broadcaster and ultimately worked their way to the Hurriyet Building that houses CNN Turk, Hurriyet News, and several other news outlets, they were unable to maintain control of the message. President Erdogan, Prime Minister Yldirim, and others were able to utilize a variety of social media platforms to indicate that they were free, provide instructions to loyal military and law enforcement forces, and to the Turkish citizenry. This is a good example of where social media had a significant effect on actual events in real time, which has not always been the case in the past.

And because the coup plotters couldn’t stop the signal, they were also not able to provide a united front and the coup as a successful fait accompli to the rest of the world. As a result a wide variety of leaders, from the EU, NATO, America, Germany, Britain, Pakistan, Russia, and and a number of other states and movements quickly weighed in with support for President Erdogan and the democratically elected government of Turkey.

The result of failing to have a united military and law enforcement leadership, or at least a majority thereof; the failure to seize the Turkish civilian leadership; the inability to actually seize and hold the airports and the streets; not lining up and securing opposition political support; and finally being unable to stop the signal, gain control of communications, and dominate what information did and did not go out all contributed to the coup’s failure. The Erdogan government has quickly moved to reestablish its authority and restore order. President Erdogan has had over 2,800 military personnel arrested, as well as dismissing over 2,700 judges for alleged ties to the Gulenist opposition. He has also closed the airspace over Incirlik Airbase and demanded that the US extradite Fuleithi Gulen to Turkey. It is unclear if the closing of the Incirlik airspace is intended to pressure the US, but given that a significant number of US air strikes on the Islamic State in Syria originate from Incirlik Airbase this would be a reasonable assumption. With Incirlik closed, these air strikes will have to be shifted to other air fields and/or carrier groups.

The major result of the coup, and one that President Erdogan seemed to foreshadow with his statement caught on a hot microphone that it was “a gift from God”, will be his cementing control. While the conspiracy theories that the coup was actually instigated by Erdogan to allow him to purge the military and judiciary and consolidate more control have already begun, it is clear that he has wasted no time taking advantage of it. While I think the conspiracy theories are far fetched, Erdogan is a smart man and a shrewd and when necessary ruthless politician. He understands the advantage he was just provided with. The judiciary purge was done very, very quickly and that would seem to indicate that he, and his immediate circle of advisors, had a list of judges that they suspected of being affiliated with Gulen or just being disloyal and were simply waiting for an opportunity to move against them. The coup has provided that and only a very poor politician would have failed to take advantage of the opportunity to consolidate power and control. What remains to be seen is what President Erdogan does with the opportunity he’s been presented as we move farther away from the actual coup. And that is a question that only time can answer.

A Final Postscript (8:55 PM EDT)

On think that occurred to me after I hit post is the question of what does the Turkish citizenry do now in the new, post-coup reality? President Erdogan has explicitly empowered them; doing so by calling them out to preserve democracy and the Turkish constitutional order as counter-coup participants. As President Erdogan consolidates his power, and, perhaps, extends it post-coup, the question will be what does a Turkish citizenry that he empowered as defenders of democracy do if they, or a significant portion of them, decide he’s gone to far. Here too only time will tell, but as every good strategic thinker understands: every solution creates new opportunities, challenges, and threats. We will have to see what new problems are created by President Erdogan’s solution to the threat and challenge of yesterday’s coup.








Turkish Coup Update: The Coup Has Failed

Update at 12:10 AM EDT

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yldirim has announced that Umit Dundar is the new acting Chief of the Turkish Military. There is still no new information on the whereabouts and the status of the actual Chief of Staff, General Hulusi Akar. I saw a tweet several hours ago saying he’d been rescued and freed as he was being held hostage, but the tweet wasn’t really sourced to any real reporting.

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The Guardian is reporting that President Erdogan is addressing a sizable crowd in Istanbul.

He tells supporters that the government will succeed.

From the highest level of the army to lowest-ranking officers, he says, the armed forces must know they cannot govern the state.

The government is elected and is in control, he says. The people elected a president and that president is here.

He says the coup plotters brought out tanks, but “my people” took them back.

Erdoğan says he will stand firm and will not compromise.

He says he will address “those in Pennsylvania” – by which he means cleric Fethullah Gülen and his supporters – accusing them of betraying the nation. That’s enough, he says: if you are courageous, come back to Turkey.

There is still some fighting in Ankara though, so complete control hasn’t quite been reestablished.