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Do we really still need to be in Afghanistan and Syria?

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Do we really still need to be in Afghanistan and Syria

The core of the Republican Party’s foreign policy platform has been shifting back and forth over the decades between hawkish intervention and cautious support for our allies. At times and under certain administrations, the desire to keep a military presence spread around the world made sense, particularly when the Soviet threat was at its peak.

The current administration matches the populist sentiment that after nearly two decades of a wide military presence in danger zones throughout the Middle East, it’s time to bring troops back home. But as Republicans on Capitol Hill warned of the previous administration’s policies on withdrawal, so too are they hesitant to support the current President’s sudden decisions to pull out of Afghanistan and Syria.

This debate has been highlighted in the press as a chasm between the White House and Senate Republicans following a rebuke by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

McConnell issues warning over Syria, Afghanistan troop withdrawals

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/afghanistans-government-losing-its-grip-on-the-country-as-the-taliban-gain-upper-hand-in-peace-talks“Simply put, while it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate yesterday. “And we know that left untended these conflicts will reverberate in our own cities.”

McConnell’s comments came as he announced that he would unveil an amendment to the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.”

Unfortunately, both the press and the American public are essentially in the dark when it comes to actual data from the ground. Our continued presence serves purposes we’re never told about, including economic considerations in Afghanistan and disruptive measures in Syria to support Israel. The Islamic State is the scapegoat in both discussions, but the real reasons both Capitol Hill and the Pentagon are hesitant to act so hastily may never be revealed.

Whatever it is, they’re both willing to go against the President at a time when party and government unity are so important. That’s telling.

Syria is the easier of the two to understand. We went there under the Obama administration with the hope of killing two birds with one stone: defeating the Islamic State and subverting the Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad. But neither of those reasons are truly valid anymore. Assad isn’t going anywhere thanks to being propped up by Iran and Russia, while the Islamic State’s remnants are too difficult to truly eradicate without incurring great costs. This is why it makes sense to accept one bird down while the other escaped. Mission half accomplished.

The new reason we’re still there is Israel. Syria represents a military gateway through which Iran (and possible Russia) can have military forces within easy striking distance to the Jewish state. Our presence there is a deterrent, but one that the President feels is unnecessary at this stage. Israel can take care of itself on that front, and I have to agree. If anything, pulling out of Syria opens the door for Israel to engage more energetically in Syria, and while it may not be easier than letting American soldiers essentially act as human shields preventing Turkey from wiping out the Kurds, it’s not as important as most are insinuating regarding Israel’s interests.

Afghanistan is a completely different story. Our presence there has been a series of failures for 17 years. There may have been a reason to go there in the first place, but there seems to be no reason for our continued presence. But here’s the thing. Even the Obama administration was reluctant to pull out of Afghanistan after pulling out of Iraq. The difference between the two is that Afghanistan will not crumble to outside forces the way Iraq did. If anything, we’re less needed in Afghanistan than in Syria, Iraq, or pretty much anywhere else in the Middle East.

And yet our presence there persists.

Somebody knows something, but it isn’t us. When to take into account Obama didn’t pull out, the military doesn’t want to pull out, and many Senate Republicans are willing to go against the President, there’s obviously something very interesting happening there.

It may just be a matter of style over substance. Perhaps Republicans on Capitol Hill are ready to pull out as well, just not as hastily as the President is requesting. As with many foreign affairs concerns, it could be years or decades before we hear the full story.

 


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Conspiracy Theory

Former CIA analyst: U.K. spied on Trump campaign, passed information to Obama team

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Former CIA analyst UK spied on Trump campaign passed information to Obama team

OAN’s Neil W. McCabe spoke to a former CIA analyst, Larry Johnson, about the 2016 spying by the Obama administration against the Trump campaign. He indicated the British government helped participate in the spying and even gave direct information to the administration as a form of “oppo research.”

By taking advantage of the “Five Eyes Club” – a joint effort of intelligence sharing between the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia – the Obama administration was able to put together enough information to help them “find” a case they could make against the candidate. It yielded no real fruit, but that didn’t prevent the illegally gathered data from later being used to help justify the bogus Mueller probe.

It’s bad enough the former administration used American resources to try to stop an opposition candidate. It’s worse that they employed the services of our allies. This is a bombshell that mainstream media won’t discuss.

Petition Capitol Hill for Term Limits

Sign the petition. We demand Congress immediately put together legislation that spells out term limits for themselves. Americans need to know who is willing to suppress their own power for the sake of the nation. This can only happen by bringing legislation to the floor.

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Foreign Affairs

Netanyahu to push for town in Golan Heights to be named after President Trump

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Netanyahu to push for town in Golan Heights to be named after President Trump

The relationship between the leaders of Israel and the United States is at its strongest point in decades, possibly ever. President Trump has fulfilled his promise to reverse the damage done by his predecessor in foreign affairs, particularly with certain allies like Israel. Now, the Prime Minister of Israel is calling for a nice tribute.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video Tuesday detailing his desire to honor the President following the Passover holiday.

Opinion

When the President announced the need for America and the rest of the world to recognize the Golan Heights as a sovereign part of Israel, most on the right in both countries cheered. It was a departure from a long-standing policy, one that has been overdue in need of changing.

This gesture should not be dismissed. It’s significant because the United States has been one of the few allies for the Jewish state, but that status was put in jeopardy by President Obama who called for a return to the pre-1967 borders. Such a move would put Israel in a strategically untenable position, making it practically impossible for it to defend itself against attacks from the north.

Settlements in the region have been greatly misunderstood, mostly due to United Nations propaganda. These settlements are not intended as a middle finger of sorts towards the U.N. and all the nations calling for the land to be returned. It’s a strategic maneuver that empowers Israel to protect its vulnerable borders.

By naming a settlement after President Trump, Israel will help solidify the relationship for at least another two years and possibly much longer than that.

Quote

“Therefore, after the Passover holiday, I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J. Trump.” – Benjamin Netanyahu

Final Thoughts

Israel is the one true democracy in the Middle East and the only ally in the region that shares our values. Our future is as tied to them as their future is tied to ours. It’s imperative that this relationship remains strong.

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Foreign Affairs

Diplomacy and defense

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Diplomacy and defense

In one sense, diplomacy is our first line of defense. It is always preferable to have diplomats in civilian attire working with their counterparts around the world to not only promote trade but moreover to keep countries away from each other’s throats over ideological differences.

But diplomacy has its limits. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain honestly thought he could talk Adolf Hitler out of the military conquest of Europe. He fell for the Fuehrer’s lies hook, line & sinker.

Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were equally naïve and gullible in negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Donald Trump made the right decision by scrapping this deal which was just enabling Iran to be able to develop and deploy nukes.

Take a quick look at this official U.S. Department of State list of all former Secretaries of State. How many of them do you recognize?

5 of the first 10 plus number 17 went on to become President of the United States. Hopefully you remember Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Van Buren.

Buchanan was President during the time that led to the U.S. Civil War. No Secretary of State has since become President. The book is not yet closed on #67 Hillary Clinton, but don’t hold your breath.

It would appear that American diplomats are not held in as high esteem nor does being Secretary of State further their political career since the early days of our Republic. In recent decades, the President of the United States far overshadows his top diplomat.

Carter hosted the Camp David Accords with Begin and Sadat. Reagan challenged Russian dictators directly as in Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall [in Berlin]. Obama orchestrated everything for Hillary and John Kerry. Some have already forgotten Trump’s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who didn’t make much of an impression on anybody. Mike Pompeo is more high-profile but is faltering somewhat these days. North Korea doesn’t even want to talk to him anymore.

Even with nation states, it is not possible to always sit down and talk out differences. Heck, Republicans and Democrats can’t even work out differences between the two major U.S. political parties. With that kind of negative example, how should we expect anybody else in the world to respect our diplomacy?

But the biggest failure of diplomacy comes with non-state actors. Pretending to be able to talk to the Taliban is a farce. We couldn’t and shouldn’t negotiate with Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Islamic Sharia law demands world domination and the elimination of all human government and man-made constitutions. What could you possibly find negotiable in that stance?

SRI LANKA

Which brings us to the current tragedy on the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka, once famous for Ceylon tea. Credible reports are that both the United States and India provided very specific intelligence to Sri Lanka as long ago as April 4th which even gave the names of suspects who would commit multiple Jihad attacks on Easter Sunday targeting primarily Christians.

Just in the last 48 hours, it has become obvious that the Sri Lanka government is totally dysfunctional. The Prime Minister was not informed by intelligence and law-enforcement agencies of the intelligence information received. There is no indication that churches and hotels and the public were aware of the threat. No law enforcement or military presence was in place to prevent the attacks.

I say that to say this. Alaina B. Teplitz is the incumbent Ambassador from the United States to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. U.S. Embassy is located in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. She would hopefully have been privy to the intelligence information about the Easter Sunday threat.

Between her and her Chain of Command through U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all the way up to President Donald Trump, why did no one speak out to warn U.S. citizens and others of the impending danger so they could take proper precautions, especially on Easter Sunday?

Now a U.S. State Department Sri Lanka Travel Advisory has been issued apparently due to the threat of a second wave of attacks. It is dated April 21st which was Easter Sunday. Whatever time of day it was issued, it would not appear to have reached potential victims in time to avoid churches, hotels and public places on that date. Exactly where one traveling in a foreign country could go for safety is also not clear.

The art of diplomacy involves not offending national leaders and other countries. But I submit that is a less crucial concern than providing for the safety of Americans abroad. If anything was in the media about the threat to Sri Lanka prior to Easter Sunday, many of us who follow world events closely did not see it.

When diplomacy fails as it did in Benghazi and again in Colombo, we need to re-examine our priorities. A lot has been said and written about what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did or did not do on the night of September 11, 2012 when the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and four brave Americans died. Neither prevention nor response worked as they should have.

Instead of pursuing the Mueller report ad infinitum and ad nauseam, there should immediately be a very serious investigation into how our diplomatic and intelligence channels failed miserably in Sri Lanka this month of April 2019.

DIPLOMACY VIS-Á-VIS DEFENSE

When diplomatic mechanisms fail, then we must resort to our national defense capabilities. We need to take all steps to ensure that Americans in Sri Lanka who have a good reason to be there are safe if there is a second wave of attacks.

We definitely should have sent the Marines into Benghazi. It’s not time to do that into Colombo just yet. But we need to be prepared to do what has to be done if Americans are targeted. We also need to candidly admit that it is American Christians and Christians from other nationalities who are in the center of the bullseye.

Credible reports indicate that Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri who took over after UBL was killed had not long ago declared that A-Q would be looking eastward toward the Indian Subcontinent. As ISIS loses its territorial Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, terrorists will be dispersed into other vulnerable areas.

The dysfunctional Sri Lankan government is particularly vulnerable. It is noteworthy that the majority in the island nation are Buddhist Sinhalese. Islam targets not only Christians and Jews but all non-Muslims of every faith.

United States has to be prepared for further attacks throughout Asia. ISIS was instrumental in the siege of Marawi City in the Philippines.

IRAN

We must not be misled by disingenuous statements by Iranian “diplomats” condemning the Sri Lanka attacks. Iran has long harbored Al-Qaeda. While they found ISIS a competitor for hegemony in the Middle East, mutual hatred for non-Muslims is a far stronger motivating factor than the schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims for domination in the Islamic world. They are both willing and capable to cooperate and work together against the mutual enemy.

The United States Department of State and Department of Defense need to be on the same wavelength. When diplomats succeed, then military conflicts can be precluded. But nothing Neville Chamberlain could have done with Adolf Hitler would have prevented World War II. Frankly, nothing Mike Pompeo does with KJU will dissuade the North Korean madman from doing whatever he thinks he can get away with.

CHINA

Likewise, when our Secretary of State left Hanoi after the Circus Summit between Trump and Kim, he stopped over in Manila to assure Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the United States has his back in dealing with China in the conflict in the Spratly Islands.

To say that the current Philippine President is unorthodox and undiplomatic, while true, would obscure the fact that he is at least a realist. He knows the tiny Philippines cannot go to war with a mega-power like China.

But right now he has a dilemma to sort out. Was Mike Pompeo just being a diplomat and saying what diplomats say, or would the United States really confront China militarily when Beijing occupies islands long claimed by the Philippines?

One thing is certain. Trump response will be exponentially greater than the Obama response would have been. But nobody is going to risk global nuclear war over a few specks of land in the South China Sea. Not even for the Philippines which is our closest ally in Asia and was our only long-term colony in the region.

That’s why rather irresponsible statements like saying Washington has Manila’s back against Beijing can lead to unanticipated and undesirable consequences. If such things are said at all, they should be behind closed doors and not made public.

So what is the United States doing to deter China’s worldwide ambitions for economic and military influence, if not outright control? China’s debt trap diplomacy is now moving beyond the Pacific Basin into Scandinavia and the Baltics as Beijing offers to finance an undersea tunnel between Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.

U.S. COAST GUARD

Well for one thing, oddly enough, the U.S. Coast Guard which is part of the Department of Homeland Security now has Coast Guard Cutters in the Western Pacific reporting to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, showing up in places like the Taiwan Strait.

South China Morning Post, April 21, 2019, ‘Oversubscribed’ US Navy leans more on coastguard to help counter China

“The coastguard brings some authorities below the threshold of war. We’re US warships, but we look different, with a white hull and an orange stripe.”

While keeping a wary eye on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States resources at this point must focus primarily on both the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. But, those are just the nation states that we must contend with.

TERRORISTS

It’s a lot trickier to deal with non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and an indigenous group from southern India and Sri Lanka that is thought to be responsible for the Easter Sunday Massacre. Our diplomats and other personnel assigned at our embassies abroad need to do their jobs. That obviously would include CIA Station Chiefs under whatever may be their diplomatic cover.

It is significant that the former United States Pacific Command not long ago rebranded itself the Indo-Pacific Command. This was obviously in recognition of the expanding role of the United States military along with the interconnectivity between the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean and the countries around them.

Now, along with U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defense, the Trump Administration is superimposing U.S. Department of Homeland Security into the picture. New Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenen has his work cut out for him in overseeing the U.S. Coast Guard role in joint patrols with the U.S. Navy to counteract China’s influence.

Oh, yes, plus that other little matter of securing our border with Mexico at the same time. All the while, the U.S. Coast Guard will be hard-pressed to continue drug interdiction patrols in the Eastern Pacific and Latin America as they also shadow China at the behest of the U.S. Navy.

Remember that Coast Guard also does search and rescue missions for boaters in trouble, plus deals with oil spills and water pollution and myriad other non-warfighting duties. It remains to be seen whether using the Coast Guard to augment the Navy is a stroke of genius or whether it is just spreading our resources too thinly.

WHERE THE BUCK STOPS

It all really comes down to the guy at the top and his key advisers. Donald Trump undoubtedly appreciates the requirements of national security far better than his predecessor. So that’s why it’s crucial that he recruit and maintain the right advisers.

John Bolton obviously has the President’s ear. He is more knowledgeable and trustworthy to offer good advice than is Mike Pompeo. Kevin McAleenan would be an excellent choice to be nominated as permanent Secretary of DHS. The President should respectfully consider his recommendations for enforcement posture.

SECOND BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT

Members of Congress need to get their act together. The considerations we’ve been discussing here will have a much greater impact upon the future of our country than anything related to the Mueller report.

Remember, Senators and Representatives, you hold the purse strings to this government. Ponder that when you put your head on your pillow tonight. Cut out the cable talk shows and news conferences. By all means, tweet a whole lot less! Go back to Capitol Hill and do what we sent you there to do. Legislate rather than pontificate!

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