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Plenty of Blame to Go Around: The Long Collapse of American Foreign Policy

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In recent months, a large army of pundits, academics, and other policy professionals have risen up to argue that Pres. Donald Trump’s foreign policy reflects an ill-informed and unsophisticated personal knowledge of global affairs. This is quite true; even at this early point, it appears near-certain that the current president will preside over a rich array of foreign policy debacles ranging from the comical to the tragic.  

What all too few of Trump’s critics acknowledge, however, is that this is entirely in line with US strategic performance for nearly a quarter-century:  Washington unwittingly has been crafting a bipartisan, slow-motion global policy disaster for years, and the results of its policy failures simply are becoming too difficult to ignore.  

From the Clinton Administration to the present, American foreign policy has been driven largely by the self-flattering notion that the United States is the “indispensable country” charged with leading other, less enlightened states down the path to peace, prosperity, and proper governance. These three Administrations expressed such attitudes in myriad ways, but all drew from a deep well of hubris entirely unconnected to strategic reality. Defenders of the Obama Administration in particular might deny this charge, but, to take one small example, in his 2015 State of the Union Address, then-Pres. Obama grandly claimed, in reference to Putin’s seizure of Crimea that: “today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads: not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.”  What good this purported resolve did for the Ukrainians was, and remains, mysterious—and many Ukrainian citizens continue to emigrate to Russia in search of relative peace and economic opportunity. In regard to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, American “leadership” has not brought Ukraine basic political stability, much less victory. Indeed, although we may never know with certainty, it is quite possible that ham-handed American and European meddling in Ukrainian politics was the catalyst that convinced Putin to intervene militarily in Ukraine to begin with.

The illusion that the United States could act as an omnicompetent global organizer always was dangerously misguided, as it encouraged a hubris that has, directly and indirectly, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings and destroyed peace and stability for tens of millions more. The quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan are the two most obvious examples, but the subtler ones perhaps are more telling. By making war in the Balkans against Russian-backed Serbs who had not attacked or harmed the United States, the Clinton Administration poisoned the long-term US relationship with Russia’s government and population (and even, to a degree, with Orthodox Christians in many other countries). American insistence on NATO expansion was even more damaging, and Moscow interpreted this as an inherently unfriendly act because, by any reasonable standard, it was: a “friend” surely would not be inclined to use a period of Russian historical weakness to expand a potentially hostile military alliance to—and then beyond—the borders of the former Soviet Union. NATO expansion occurred yet again in June 2017, when the Trump Administration completed its predecessor’s efforts to bring tiny Montenegro into the NATO alliance. Washington continues to assert that NATO is a purely defensive alliance, yet one can see why Russians might be unconvinced; NATO has now conducted combat operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Libya but has yet to actually do so on its own soil.

Speaking dispassionately, given longstanding US policy preferences it would foolish for Russia to place any trust whatsoever in the good intentions of the United States. Essentially, the US government in recent years has “forgotten” that good relations with foreign great powers are fundamentally based on reciprocity. Ironically, this was understood well by most American presidents of the Cold War era, and from Nixon to George H.W. Bush, American administrations crafted a strategy that allowed for the thawing of relations during the détente era and, in due course, the essentially peaceful decline and fall of the Soviet Empire. In more recent years, although (indeed, probably because) Russia presents a vastly-diminished threat to the United States, American policy toward that country has had the subtlety of a sledgehammer thrown off a skyscraper, with predictable results.

In Libya, the Obama Administration—alongside the British and French in a NATO operation—intervened to overthrow Muamar Qaddafi and created a failed state in the process. Qaddafi was monstrous, but the casualness with which NATO overthrew a legally sovereign government was appalling:  despite the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama Administration had no serious plan to bring peace and stability to Libya. That broken state’s long coastline now is a source for huge numbers of refugees, as well as for whatever criminals and jihadists wish to enter Europe undetected by joining an uncontrolled human wave.

Pres. Obama’s later policy toward Syria was much more cautious, and he did not surrender to the temptation to overthrow Assad directly—an action which likely would have led to a mass butchery of Syria’s religious minorities, such as the Alawites, Christians, and Druze. American “leadership” in regard to Syria, however, otherwise has been confused and feckless. In a truly impressive diplomatic feat, the United States managed to maneuver itself into such a warped position that then-candidate Hilary Clinton—at a point in the campaign where it was political experts almost universally assumed she would be the next president—promised to use US military power to create a no-fly zone in Syria. In addition to violating the letter of international law (which Washington has done so often over the last quarter century that such rule-breaking now is barely notable), this radical step ultimately could have resulted in Russian and American pilots engaging in air-to-air combat, despite the fact that both Moscow and Washington share many common goals in Syria. However, US diplomacy has degenerated so badly over recent decades that it now is prudent to assume that American policy not only will make cooperation with other powerful countries in resolving regional conflicts difficult or impossible but likely will turn them into global crises.

In the Pacific Rim, US strategic performance has been mediocre, albeit less egregious than it has been in the Greater Middle East and North Africa. Perhaps the most important current challenge to world order is adapting the global system to reflect China’s strikingly rapid economic and military rise in a healthy manner. Western, especially American, political and economic ideas and preferences shaped the present global systems laws, organizations, and other essential elements. Convincing Beijing to continue to accept the basic premises of that system would be a delicate process under the best of circumstances. As a rising power whose future behavior is difficult to predict, the comfortable and longstanding belief of many American policymakers that China must continue work to preserve the current international order because it fears instability appear increasingly hollow.

Instead, as China has grown more powerful, it has become increasingly willing to reject that order by, for example, pressing its claim to control almost the entirety of the South China Sea, regardless of the fact that this is, by any reasonable reading of history and the spirit of international maritime law, rather preposterous.  That China’s leaders show no discernable embarrassment over this fact itself is a reflection of the degree of international disorder. After all, if Washington (and Moscow and, in its own peculiar fashion, Brussels) feel no need to show due caution and maturity in assessing the reasonableness of their foreign policy stances in a multipolar world whose major powers have radically different political philosophies and security needs, why should Beijing? 

Of course, even if the United States were eminently reasonable, Moscow and Beijing, among others, might well remain intransigent. However, that currently is only a theoretical concern: the last US president who consistently paid reasonable deference to the interests of other major states left office in 1993. Moreover, the dispiriting record discussed above does not even address numerous other US strategic failings, such as its: tendency to treat Central American and Caribbean countries as little more than bit players in its futile war on narcotics; dysfunctional relationships with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, and, increasingly, numerous European Union countries; and failed effort to prevent North Korean nuclear acquisition which now have transformed into haphazard attempts to control a nuclear-armed rogue state.

The United States presently lacks the capability to act as the chief architect of international peace and order. Thus far, continuing (but rapidly diminishing) US military power has kept the illusion of a functioning order alive, but the grave instability undermining global security grows ever-worse. Brilliant though Washington may have been at crafting an international order in the 1940s, domestic and international circumstances now are radically different. At present, Washington’s self-image as the global guarantor of world order is close to the opposite of the truth:  however unwittingly, no state has been a more effective agent of chaos over the last quarter century. Every year that it continues to cling to fantasies of unipolar leadership, the global situation grows more grave. If present trends are not reversed, a great power war probably will occur—the present “pseudo-international order” is being placed under ever more pressure, and when it breaks, it likely will do so very quickly and catastrophically.

Whatever its excesses, the Trump Administration’s actions are merely a symptom of the illness that has transformed the US government from the preeminent guardian of world order to a sower of global chaos. That illness long preceded the Trump Administration and, sadly, likely will endure after he leaves office. Escaping this cycle requires, first, a recognition that the 1990s “golden age” of US global dominance never will return:  as long as they are in thrall to the “myth of indispensability,” American foreign policy elites will never see the world clearly. Having done this, they would be able to move to the next step of seriously discussing with other major powers—including ones, mostly importantly Russia and China, which presently have a poor relationship with the United States—how they might cooperate to create a global system suited to the conditions of this century.

Unfortunately, at present there is very little willingness within the US foreign policy elite to acknowledge how its past hubris brought about present disasters, much less to act on that knowledge. Rather than focusing obsessively on whatever Twitter tempest the current president may create on a given day, those who consider themselves thoughtful observers of US foreign policy should turn their attention to the “policy cancers” that have made such absurdities possible. Unless those are addressed, the US government will continue to stumble from one disaster to the next until it finally, inevitably meets the “big one,” whatever that may prove to be. At that point, it will be far too late to correct course—the Titanic will have met its iceberg.

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Russiagate-Trump Gets Solved by Giant of American Investigative Journalism

Eric Zuesse

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Lucy Komisar, who is perhaps the greatest living investigative journalist, has discovered — and has documented in detail — that the source of the Russiagate charge against Russia, the source of the charge that Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign had connived with Russians in order to be able to win the U.S. Presidency, can be found in explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of the key event, when Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, met with Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya, in Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower office, on 9 June 2016. Komisar figured it out: Veselnitskaya, thinking that Trump might become America’s President, lured (through George Papadopoulos, the Trump-campaign volunteer whom Komisar unfortunately doesn’t mention, but he was the contact between Veselnitskaya and the Trump team) Trump’s team, into that meeting, by promising (as communicated to them via Papadopoulos) to inform them of dirt against Hillary Clinton. But that wasn’t Veselnitskaya’s real purpose, Komisar has found.

Komisar’s investigation wasn’t into Russia-Trump, but instead into the actual source of the first set of economic sanctions that were instituted against Russia, the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which source was a major former American investor in Russian companies, Bill Browder. He had successfully lobbied into law, both in the U.S. and in the EU, the Magnitsky Act. Komisar’s focus on this Browder-versus-Russia issue caused her not even to mention George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign volunteer, who had served as Veselnitskaya’s contact and set up that fateful June 2016 meeting. This non-political focus has also caused Komisar’s brilliant reporting on the matter — her latest such article being published on 10 February 2018, which article will subsequently be linked-to here — to have been ignored in the general news-reports about the Russiagate-Trump story.

Komisar’s investigation found and reported on 20 October 2017, that the reason why Veselnitskaya wanted to meet Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner, was to enable them — and she hoped ultimately Donald Trump himself — to come to know that the company she was representing, Prevezon, was being subjected to a lengthy legal battle to defend itself against a lawsuit by the former American, William Browder, the owner of Hermitage Capital Management in Russia, and that:

Veselnitskaya says the Prevezon suit [suit against Prevezon — Prevazon was’t actually the bringer of this suit, but was instead the suit’s target] was a distraction Browder used to cover up his own tax evasion and – she claims – collusion in the tax refund fraud [by Hermitage Capital Management]. She bases her accusation in part on the role of Magnitsky [Hermitage’s accountant]. She has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, deriding it as Browder’s way of protecting himself from Russian legal trouble.

Browder declined repeated requests for an interview about the Russian charges, his time as an investor in Russia, and his campaigns for the Magnitsky Act. Browder went so far as to have the author of this article banned from a public talk he gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, in December 2016.

The Magnitsky Act placed sanctions against the Russian Government, on the basis of accusations by Browder and his agents, that Hermitage’s ‘lawyer’, who was actually no lawyer at all but instead Hermitage’s accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, had been supposedly beaten to death in prison, because he had been, supposedly, a ‘whistleblower’ against corruption, by those police who, according to Browder’s team, had stolen three companies from Hermitage (i.e., from Browder), not stolen $230 million in taxes from the Russian national Treasury — as was charged by the Russian Government. Supposedly, these police had supposedly beaten Magnitsky to death, in order to protect themselves. That storyline, that viewpoint, ‘documenting’ ‘corruption’ in Russia, is embodied as sacrosanct and unchallengeable fact, in the Magnitsky Act, but Komisar disproves all of its essential assertions, linking to the actual documents in the case, and proves a damning case against Browder and his team.

The Browder viewpoint was recently reinforced by an article in National Law Journal, as well as in a report by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Komisar exposed their fraudulence, in her 12 January 2018 “Evidence? The National Law Journal doesn’t need it”, and in her 10 February 2018 “CFR Report, with no evidence, promotes fake Browder-Magnitsky story”. The former reported:

The fraud was not uncovered by Magnitsky, who was an accountant, not a lawyer.

Magnitsky talked about the matter for the first time in an interrogation by Russian tax investigators in June 2008. (It identifies him as an auditor.) But, he was not a whistleblower. He was called to answer questions as a suspect. He did not expose the fraud. He cited an article by the Russian business daily Kommersant article, which two months earlier had printed the information with Browder’s response.

Magnitsky said: “On 3 April 2008, Kommersant published an article which, referring to the law-enforcement authorities, reported that Parphenion, Limited Liability Company, Realand, Limited Liability Company, and Machaon, Limited Liability Company, had allegedly used «tax evasion schemes» and criminal proceedings were launched to prosecute those at fault.” See Kommersant (in Russian) April 3, 2008 and April 4, 2008 .

Rimma Starova was a hired “name” fronting as a director of the company to which the shells had been transferred. She saw the Kommersant articles. By then the re-registered companies had participated in the $230 million tax refund fraud. Investigators might have discovered the scam. She didn’t want to take a fall and went to the police. Her complaint April 9th detailed the fraudulent theft of three Hermitage companies.

The latter said:

the authors write: “… the summer of 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act — a set of tough sanctions on eighteen Russian officials involved in the “torture and death in prison of Russian human rights whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky.” I don’t comment on the rest of the report, but this part shows they didn’t bother to research, ignored facts, or deliberately reported falsehoods.

Torture? The Wall Street Journal links to the definitive prison report. Not exactly a left-wing media. The report describes awful conditions and medical care, says nothing about torture.

Whistleblower? The first step in the theft of budget funds from the Russian Treasury was reported to police April 9, 2008 by Rimma Starova, a hired director for Boily Systems, a shell controlling Browder’s stolen companies. She returned to testify again July 10th. The companies had been used in the scam to get a fake tax refund [to the benefit of Browder’s Hermitage] from the Treasury. She didn’t talk about the theft of funds, but she gave police a roadmap.

Rimma Starova July 10, 2008 testimony

Then, Paul Wrench, director for Browder companies registered in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey, filed complaints of the tax refund fraud July 23. The story was published in Vedomosti, July 24. This link is on Browder’s own website!

Not till his Oct 7 interrogation did Magnitsky, before his arrest for complicity in tax evasion, refer to “fraud of budget monetary assets in the amount exceeding 5 (five) billion rubles.” A three-months-later whistle-blower? For his Oct 7 testimony, see 100Reporters story with link to what Magnitsky said.

This is what Veselnitskaya was hoping that, if Trump would become President, he’d check out and investigate for himself. But, apparently, Trump wasn’t at all interested.

So: You, dear reader, now can investigate it for yourself (clicking onto those links), if you want to understand what may very possibly produce (either in Syria or in Ukraine or elsewhere) what could easily expand to nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, World War III, as a result of those sanctions, and the subsequent Ukraine-war-based sanctions, and the subsequent massing of U.S. missiles and troops on and near Russia’s border in Ukraine and elsewhere, on the basis of almost entirely false allegations by the U.S. Government (plus the latter’s own illegal invasion/occupation of Syria, plus the latter’s own illegal and very brutal coup in Ukraine during February 2014). The Magnitsky matter was actually a corporate tax dispute, between U.S. investor (now instead a British citizen in order to avoid some U.S. taxes), Bill Browder, versus Russia’s Government.

The world could end, over that (and over lots of lies about it, which are routinely spread in the mainstream, and in much of the ‘alternative news’ media).

Some people’s greed, apparently, knows no limits — not even when it could produce a world-ending nuclear war.

PS: As regards the leaks that occurred from the computers of the DNC (in June 2016) and from Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager John Podesta (in September 2016), here are articles that set forth evidence these leaks probably were from DNC worker Seth Rich, and-or, from another Democratic Party worker on the inside (angered against Hillary Clinton’s theft of the nomination away from Bernie Sanders), and weren’t hacks, at all, but purely leaks:

In other words: These probably weren’t authentically “hacks” — not from Russians, nor from anyone else. The Democratic Party didn’t need whatever the Russian Government did (or not) in order to lose the 2016 election; the Democratic Party managed quite well, on their own, to lose — to lose, by Election Day, enough Sanders-voters (progressive populist Democrats) so that Trump (the pretended-populist Republican) was able to win. Some Sanders-voters hated Hillary Clinton, and were unsure which side of Trump’s mouth to believe and voted for the progressive-populist side of it, because there wasn’t anything at all progressive-populist about Hillary. That’s no real democracy (but instead a choice between two fascists), no honest choice at all, and Russia didn’t make it that way — and going to war as if it had been Russia’s fault, would be entirely the U.S. regime’s fault, yet another of its many incredibly vicious lies, such as were used to ‘justify’ invading Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, and much more.

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‘Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People’: Time to retire

Mohammad Ghaderi

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Again, another mass shooting, again a school, again a troubled teen, a racist, a white supremacist, a Bloods or Crips gangster, a refugee, a war veteran, a mad policeman, a terrorist from al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front or from the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Daesh) terrorist outfits … what difference does it make and again dead bodies lying on the ground in their blood. Who believes they were alive seconds ago. The story goes on and to my surprise it is having less effect than it used to have years ago. Why?

We are getting bad. We are not hurt anymore. Too much violence has made us numb.

What does the motto on the entrance of the United Nations building says? A poem by the Iranian influential poet Sa’adi, from the 13th century, the medieval period. The poem has many translations however one is this:

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.

Give it a thought, try to put it in practice, politician and statesmen in the United Nations, New York, United States. It is ludicrous that almost all of them call for end of wars, urge foe peace and tranquil but at the same time produce and sell arms.

War, violence and killing is simply unacceptable, nasty and painful in any kind and form, whether it occurs in a house, street, city, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Palestine or the United States of America.

U.S. teen confesses to mass shooting at Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A troubled teen with alleged ties to a white supremacist group confessed on Thursday to murdering 17 people at his former high school in Florida, as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) admitted it had received a tip-off about the 19-year-old gunman yet failed to stop him.

As Americans reeled from the country’s worst school massacre since the horror at Sandy Hook six years ago, the U.S. President Donald Trump suggested the root cause of the violence was a crisis of mental health — and defied calls to address gun control.

Terrified students hid in closets and under desks on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, texting for help as the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, stalked the school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, appearing on Thursday afternoon before a judge who ordered him held without bond.

After being read his legal rights, “Cruz stated that he was the gunman who entered the school campus armed with a AR-15 and began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on the school grounds,” court documents showed.

Cruz also admitted he discarded his rifle — which he bought legally in Florida — and tactical gear in order to blend in with the crowd to flee the campus, the documents showed.

The recent mass shooting at a school in Florida is the latest reminder that the United States is a “very violent country,” a journalist in Detroit says.

After the shooting, he stopped at a Wal-Mart store and then McDonald’s, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters. He was detained 40 minutes later, after police identified him using school security camera footage.

Expelled from school for disciplinary reasons, Cruz was known to be fixated on firearms — and had reportedly been identified as a potential threat to his classmates.

In a somber televised address to the nation in response to the 18th school shooting so far this year, Trump vowed to make mental health a priority — after tweeting about the “many signs” the gunman was “mentally disturbed” — while avoiding any talk of gun curbs.

Earlier in the day, Trump had asserted that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But U.S. authorities themselves were under scrutiny, after the FBI confirmed it was alerted last September to a message posted on YouTube, in which a user named Nikolas Cruz vowed: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

In a statement, the FBI said it had carried out “database reviews and other checks” but was unable to identify the person who made the post.

Trump cites mental health, not guns, in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with “one heavy heart,” Trump promised on Thursday to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health” in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence.

Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared.”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”

However, the ones killed were alone when they were shot in cold blood in fear and hope. The ones who lost their precious lives had many hopes and ambitions.

Now they are dead, and it could be every and each one of us, at a school, stadium, concert hall, cinema, home, Middle East, Americas… anywhere, it could be.

Such incidents are cause of sorrow and pain, I cannot explain how I felt when I saw the horrible pictures of the Florida High School shooting, just like how I felt when I saw the massacre committed by the ISIL terrorists killing cadets in Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. At the time of the attack there were between 4,000 and 11,000 unarmed cadets in the camp. ISIL terrorists singled out Shia and non-Muslim cadets from Sunni ones and murdered them.

Who arms and supports terrorist groups like ISIL? No one can be so naeive to believe that they have just popped out. I recall the U.S. President Trump as saying on his election campaign to Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created ISIL. Well done!

While Trump stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements, his latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programs by more than a third. Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.

Trump’s silence on guns was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions. But the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.

Before he was a candidate, Trump at one point favored some tighter gun regulations. But he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.

During his brief, televised statement, Trump said he wanted to work to “create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life,” a phrase likely to resonate with his conservative base.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama tweeted out a call for “long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws.” Obama wrote: “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job.”

In reacting to previous mass shootings, Trump has largely focused on mental health as a cause, dismissing questions about gun control. After a shooting at a Texas church in November left more than two dozen dead, the president said, “This isn’t a guns situation.”
The US has averaged one school shooting every 60 hours since the beginning of 2018, data shows.

Trump was criticized in early August for saying that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violent clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Trump has offered somber responses to some tragedies, he has also drawn criticism for other reactions.

After the Orlando shootings at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead in June 2016, then-candidate Trump tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” In the wake of a deadly terror attack in London last June, he went after Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter.

Sadiq Khan compares the US president’s rhetoric against Islam to tactics used by ISIL to inspire terror attacks in Western cities.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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On Jettisoning Failed Leaders and Mass Shootings in the U.S.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The scene is the House of Commons; the date May 7, 1940.  A simple motion to adjourn for the ten-day Whitsun recess is of little concern to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who has a comfortable 213 seat majority.  Then things take a turn.  A plan approved by the first Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to land troops in Norway and engage the Germans directly has been a disaster with huge losses, and the eventual naval evacuation of the expeditionary force — an Arctic Dardanelles planned by the same man.

Chamberlain rises to defend Churchill and the conduct of the war in what has now come to be known as the “Norway Debate”.  In the most unlikely of scenarios and with no evidence of Winston trying to put his name forward — in fact the opposite — when the tide turns against Chamberlain, within three days as more favored candidates are shed, he has become prime minister.  Such is the parliamentary system.  Margaret Thatcher is another example, toppled shortly after success at the polls.

The American system, however, puts the president beyond such reach other than through a laborious impeachment.  Analogous to the third Roman Emperor Caligula, Donald Trump, too, has no military or political experience.  Caligula made his horse a senator or some say consul; Trump has the equivalent running government departments and agencies.  Caligula declared himself a god; Trump tweeted he is a ‘stable genius.’  If Caligula’s reign ended with assassination, Trump’s will be more prosaic — just disaffected voters.

Another mass shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen are dead and  many more injured.  The gunman, identified as Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault type rifle, a weapon far deadlier than a pistol — perhaps he watched the coverage of the Las Vegas shooting.  He was a former pupil who had been suspended from the school, and who students recalled as disturbed and scary.

President Trump in his remarks following the incident did not bring up the obvious question of why an AR-15 was so easily available for purchase.  Gun owners and the gun lobby are part of his constituency.

Following a mass shooting in April 1996 when a man armed with two semi-automatic rifles killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government put together strict gun laws.  They were supplemented with a mandatory gun-buyback program through which 650,000 firearms were destroyed.  Did the program work?  The data tells the story more vividly:  From 1979 to 1996, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings; since 1997 it has had none.

Under his usual theme of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, President Trump continues to talk about finding ways to deal better with disturbed people.  The sure Australian way is to stop them acquiring guns.

Lost in the Florida school story was another shooting the same day when trigger-happy guards let loose at a National Security Agency entrance.  The forested area is a confused mass of entries and exits.  It has happened before that somebody inadvertently makes a wrong turn and panics when faced with shouting armed guards.  In this incident, bullet holes can be seen in the windshield and the three men in the car were injured.

Introducing the Gates Foundation’s annual philanthropic letter a few days ago, Bill and Melinda Gates appealed to Donald Trump to not cut foreign aid — “even a 10 percent cut could lead to 5 million deaths in the next decade”, Bill Gates warned.  Will President Trump listen?

Despite the many wonderful aspects the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, when it comes to jettisoning incompetent leaders, it is difficult to best the parliamentary system for immediacy.

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