Something Important to Consider

Earlier this evening, in the comments to my post about the concerns being expressed about the US at the Munich Security Conference, a couple of commenters expressed their views that the US has wasted tons of money interfering all over the world, ignoring international law, and basically doing terrible things. And as a result the US is poorer and the world is worse off than if we had just not done any of it. I’m not some pollyanna who is unaware of the fraught and conflicting history of the US’s international activities post World War II – and in some cases before WW II. However, it is one thing to recognize that we often fall short of our ideals or compromise them because of the domestic politics or failure of leadership or short term fears and simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater of US involvement in international affairs post WW II. The point of the earlier post is that our partners’ and allies’ view of the US, warts and all (and I wrote warts and all in the original post) under the current Administration is beginning to sharply diverge from how most Americans, and American leaders, continue to view the US as being a force for good in the world.

So how have others viewed the US? Here’s one example:

What is described above is just one example of the good that comes from America using its national power – diplomatic, information, military, and economic – within the global system. There are many others. For instance, US Army – Japan’s, as well as other Pacific Command elements’ and US government agencies’ assistance after the tsunami and Fukeshima Daiichi meltdown. There is no one else on the planet, no one, that has the strategic lift capabilities, or the expeditionary forward deployed personnel, to conduct over the horizon, global humanitarian assistance, disaster management, and emergency response. While many countries may contribute when something like the Fukeshima Daiichi disaster happens they rely on the US to get their assets and aid on site. And they rely on the US to have personnel close enough to provide immediate response until everyone else can get moving.

In case it was unclear in the earlier post, or any of my other posts, I’m not arguing that the US is perfect. That we never screw up or that we’re always able to align our values and ideals and our strategic objectives. We do screw up and we quite often fail to align our values and ideals and our strategic objectives. Even worse we elect leaders with feet of clay or who’s personal ambitions outweigh the public good. This doesn’t make us evil. It makes us human.

Rather, my intention in the earlier post, and one’s similar to it, has been to argue that we largely established the post WW II order. And that it has benefited us immensely even as we often didn’t always get it right. But until or unless someone can coherently explain who is going to ensure that the Ground Lines of Commerce and Communication (GLOCCs), Sea Lines of Commerce and Communication (SLOCCs), and Air Lines of Commerce and Communication (ALOCCs) if the US doesn’t. Or how a post US driven international order would work, what it would look like, how it would be more stable, then simply either throwing it all out in pursuit of national populism or badmouthing the US for its failings without recognizing its successes, you’re not constructively moving the conversation forward. You’re just picking nits.

We’re not perfect. We screw up. But if you think Vladimir Putin is going to provide strategic lift and take the lead in doing humanitarian assistance, disaster management, and emergency response if the US pulls back or that the People’s Republic of China will, then you are deluding yourself. One day the PRC may be ready and willing and able to do so, but they aren’t now. And even if they reach the point where they have those capabilities, they may not have the desire or will to do so.

What do you think is going to happen if/when the Kim regime fails/falls in North Korea? Sure, the People’s Republic of China is going to have to play a huge role in the response, as will South Korea. Especially for the political, social, and economic responses. But a great deal of that response is going to be humanitarian and the US will be in the lead for that. Not just because its in our best interest to quickly secure North Korea’s nuclear stockpile, but because it is in our interest, as well as in line with our national values, to prevent millions of impoverished North Koreans from over running the Peoples Republic of China, South Korea, and possibly Japan as refugees. This would destabilize the Asia-Pacific region quickly overwhelming the states and societies there, throwing the regional, and possibly the global, economy into chaos. And leading to untold amounts of suffering.

As for Russia, as long as Vladimir Putin runs Russia in order to benefit himself and his select group of oligarchs and agents, it will never have the capabilities, let alone the intentions to pick up the slack. The US is not an indispensable Nation because over the long course of history no Nation-state or person is indispensable. But until or unless someone else demonstrates they have the will and the capability to step up, the US’s role in the global system is as close to indispensable as can be.

And with that I wish you all a goodnight.



This is How You See the World. This is How We See It!

To Steal the Sky is the late 80s HBO docudrama about Israel’s Operation Diamond that resulted in the theft of an Iraqi MiG 21 by Iraqi fighter pilot Munir Redfa. At the 52 minute mark, Ben Cross playing Redfa, stands up to leave the room where he’s meeting with Israeli intelligence officers and walks past a map on the wall next to the door with magnetic backed fighter jet miniatures in Jordan, Syria, and Iraq facing towards Israel. He stops, moves the jets into Israel, points them out towards Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, and states: “This is how you see the world. This is how we we see it!”

The discussion report from the just concluded Munich Security Conference is a report entitled Munich Security Report 2017: Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order? The report is intended to set the terms for discussion at the conference (h/t: Robin Wright via Digby). Interestingly Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s remarks at this year’s Munich Security Conference provocatively mirrored the reports title:

Russia’s foreign minister has called for a “post-West world order” while addressing global leaders at an international security conference.

Sergey Lavrov accused Nato of being a Cold War institution and accused its “expansion” of sparking unprecedented tensions in Europe as both sides expand military deployments and drills.

He said he hoped “responsible leaders” will choose to create a “just world order – if you want you can call it a post-West world order”.

The foreword to the discussion report, written by German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, the conference chair, states:

The international security environment is arguably more volatile today than at any point since World War II. Some of the most fundamental pillars of the West and of the liberal international order are weakening. Adversaries of open societies are on the offensive. Liberal democracies have proven to be vulnerable to disinformation campaigns in post-truth international politics. Citizens of democracies believe less and less that their systems are able to deliver positive outcomes for them and increasingly favor national solutions and closed borders over globalism and openness. Illiberal regimes, on the other hand, seem to be on solid footing and act with assertiveness, while the willingness and ability of Western democracies to shape international affairs and to defend the rules-based liberal order are declining. The United States might move from being a provider of public goods and international security to pursuing a more unilateralist, maybe even nationalistic foreign policy. We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945. Are we entering a post-order world? How this question will be answered in the years to come will depend on all of us.

Ambassador Ischinger provides additional context in the video trailer for the conference:

I want to reemphasize this sentence from Ambassador Ischinger’s foreword:

The United States might move from being a provider of public goods and international security to pursuing a more unilateralist, maybe even nationalistic foreign policy. We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945.

The United states has long viewed itself as one of, if not the primary architect of the post WW II international order and global system, as well as its defender. While many Americans, including American leaders, still do as evidenced by both the Vice President’s and Defense Secretary Mattis’s statements at the conference in regards to the importance of NATO and American intention to honor our commitments, we have reached the point where how we see ourselves and our intentions, warts and all, is increasingly at odds with how our allies and partners see the US and its intentions. We’ve reached the point where Cross’s statement, in his portrayal of Captain Redfa, rings more and more true: “This is How You See the World. This is How We See It!”



Floriduh Man: Presidential Campaign Rally Edition

Submitted without further comment:



Is it just me?

Or does this seem like something a paranoid, unhinged demagogue who doesn’t understand the role of the press in a free society would say?

Sweet fancy Moses!

I showed it to my husband (who doesn’t do the Twitter), and he thought it was a parody account. If only!

ETA: I mean what the actual FUCK? Enemy of the American people? Don’t we go to war with enemies? This is General Franco-level shit.



Today in Domestic Terrorism: Exceedingly Pale Edition

Oh look, its a fine example of the “Master Race”!

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A man with connections to a white supremacy group was arrested in Myrtle Beach Wednesday after purchasing a gun from an undercover FBI agent, apparently intending to commit an attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof.”

Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, 29, from Conway, was arrested at around 5 p.m. Wednesday by the FBI, according to records from the J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

On December 26, 2016, McDowell posted to Facebook a message: “I love love to act what u think,” followed by a link to the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach, according to court documents. Horry County Police indicated to the FBI that McDowell had established White Supremacy Extremist connections while serving in prison in South Carolina for various criminal offenses. He also had tattoos indicating an affiliation with these groups.

Dylann Roof, also a member of the “Master Race”, was actually referenced in Mr. McDowell’s planning:

According to the federal complaint document, on January 5, 2017, McDowell posted to Facebook an anti-semetic screed referencing Dylann Roof, which included the statement: “they should be Feasting on the enemy that stole their Heritage and their bloodline and trying to run us off of this Earth you can post pictures of f****** Viking and swords all the s*** you want to post if you ain’t got the heart to fight for Yahweh like dylann roof did you need to shut the f*** up…”

Well done FBI.

I’ll leave the penultimate remarks to Congressman Schiff (D-CA):

And, as always, we leave the final say to 18 U.S. Code § 2331

(5)the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.



Trump Press Conference Recap

Here’s a brief summary:

No, it was worse than that. The man is deranged. I keep trying to sum it up, but I can’t. Here’s Jake Tapper:

I just…wow. No way does this clown last four years. That’s the only positive thing I can say at this point.



Splodey Mammal Open Thread

Axios, an online media outlet founded by Politico alums Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, manages to outdo its founders’ former employer in vapidity on a regular basis, and by God, that’s saying something. But sometimes, they publish something unintentionally amusing, such as this dramatic lede:

It made me laugh not because I give a shit about whether Bannon and Priebus are really friends despite reports to the contrary but rather because it reminded me of an exploding whale incident brought to my attention many months ago by valued commenter Aimai. The explosion occurred in 1970, and there is grainy footage:

It would have reminded me of this incident even if Priebus had been described as the exploder, BTW, so I am NOT fat-shaming anyone. Anyhoo, open thread.