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The non plus ultra of Incoherence and Incompetence

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]hat has been the response of President Donald Trump to the revelations on the Russian connection to the US presidential election of 2016? Simply a flurry of tweets minimizing the problem and blaming it on those who lost the election. In other words, what has ensued is an attempt to explain away incompetence, blunder, even illegality. But never in a coherent rational way.

In fact, even before his inauguration, “Caligula redivivus” was strutting around claiming that he’d be the greatest president this country has ever had, because he was not a political expert; he was outside the system. Some 46% of voters somehow bought such an inane idea and now we are beginning to get the nasty results. It’s like saying: we have tried knowledge and expertise, it hasn’t worked, now, let’s try ignorance and incompetence.

We are presented with a White House whose staff, like the Commander in chief, seem to be abysmally ignorant of the processes governing the executive branch of the government vis a vis the other two branches. E.g., the process leading to the executive order on travel for a selected group of Muslims was bungled. Apparently its overseers were Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller. They requested no input of relevant agencies, no official legal counsel besides the advice of Rudy Giuliani. Results? The whole thing was unbalanced and disorderly. As it was to be expected, the judicial, which in the US has equal status with the executive and the legislative, found the order unconstitutional and put it on hold.

This is a president who has exhibited a tremendous lack of concern about policy and bureaucratic details; incapable of clear directions on how things should run and how his staff should comport itself. He already seems to be under water. All the more he needed an experienced staff around him. What has he done instead? He has staffed the upper echelon of government with people with little or no government experience. Bannon, except for a stint in the Navy, has never worked in government. Neither have Priebus, Kushner, Conway. Miller has some experience but not in the executive. The same goes for cabinet positions.

The results of this lack of expertise are quite apparent. We now have an administration less interested in governing, and more interested in disruption and confusion but deluding itself that it is “a well-tune machine” as Trump refers to it. In reality, it is careening at high speed toward a wall, but it is not the one envisioned by Trump .

There is an incredible amount of jockeying for position and influence to get the ear of the imperial president. Results: leaks galore, in an attempt to undermine one another. The person for whom those leakers are working for watches a great deal of cable news. In one instance he called former security counsel Flynn in the middle of the night to have him clarify whether it is better to have a strong dollar or a weak dollar. In another instance, he declared being unaware that an executive order he had signed put Bannon on the “principals’ committee” of the National Security Council.

He has demanded that briefing papers be limited to a single page with many graphics and maps. One must suppose that for someone used to 140 characters tweets, and a commensurate span of attention, one page must appear quite voluminous and undounting.

Several top advisers, all with sycophantic tendencies, describe him as a living god with infallible judgment and superhuman accomplishments, which is all music to Trump’s ears. One hears comments such as “we have a president that has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration” (Miller). What immediately jumps to mind is another such imperial personality of long ago, emperor Caligula of Roman Empire fame. Even his horse was “brilliant,” so he nominated him to be a senator of Rome with all the privileges and prerogative of a Roman senator. I suppose we may console ourselves that the derangement has not reached that stage, yet.

In any case, the spectacle has become comical and conjured up a Fellini surreal circus atmosphere, but it is also frightening. For example, recently as Trump was dining with PM Abe at Mar-a-Lago with club members, (what’s even more frightening for me personally is the fact that it is only two or three miles from where I live) he took a phone call about a North Korean missile lunch as the Club, and as members looked on from their tables, he proceeded to transform the evening into a strategy session. We know this because those presents, which of course excluded the press, who needs them, revealed the event to CNN. Then, when the press reports the story, they get accused of leaking classified information. It must have felt that way at the Roman imperial court of Emperor Caligula. Even the praetorian guards assigned to his security must have felt confused and disoriented.

The question arises: what will happen when a real crisis ensues? And it will, sooner or later. We can attempt to imagine it, but I doubt that the antics of a slightly psychotic individual can ever be rationally analyzed and explained away, even by a brilliant geo-political mind.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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RAND Corp.: U.S. Policy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict

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The American howitzer М777 is in action. January 10, 2023. By Konstantyn & Vlada Liberov

RAND Corp. could not stand aside and published its assessments and proposals, which show that instead of an analysis of the situation in Ukraine, RAND prefers to use convenient political cliches, which are sometimes far from the real state of affairs. In any case, RAND believes that it is the USA that should be the winner in the war between Russia and Ukraine. And this is a fundamental mistake in the report.

However, we will quote some points from this text “Avoiding a Long War. U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict”:

“How does this end? Increasingly, this question is dominating discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington and other Western capitals.

The trajectory and ultimate outcome of the war will, of course, be determined largely by the policies of Ukraine and Russia. But Kyiv and Moscow are not the only capitals with a stake in what happens.

This war is the most significant interstate conflict in decades, and its evolution will have major consequences for the United States. It is appropriate to assess how this conflict may evolve, what alternative trajectories might mean for U.S. interests, and what Washington can do to promote a trajectory that best serves U.S. interests.

Our analysis suggests that duration is the most important of the remaining dimensions for the United States. The negative consequences of a long war would be severe. So long as the war is ongoing, escalation risks will remain elevated. Duration and escalation risks are thus directly linked.

Additionally, a longer war will continue to cause economic harm to Ukraine as well as to Europe and the global economy.

For the United States, a longer war will entail both increased direct costs (such as more budgetary and military support to Ukraine) and increased opportunity costs in terms of pursuing other foreign policy priorities.

There are possible benefits to protracted conflict: a further weakening of Russia and the opportunity for Ukraine to make territorial gains.

There are other risks to consider, however.

The United States has expended considerable effort building and holding together a global coalition to sanction Russia. Presumably, the United States would aim to gain support from members of this coalition before signaling the possibility of sanctions relief to Russia, but it may not be possible to get all members to agree, which could limit the amount of relief the United States could offer.

Even if coalition members were unified on a plan for sanctions relief, a risk would remain. As the members of the coalition begin to unwind sanctions as part of a negotiations process, some states might become reluctant to put them back in place if the Ukraine-Russia negotiations or agreements collapse. The coalition may not be as strong as it is now if it later needs to reimpose sanctions.

Moreover, U.S. leaders may pay a political cost domestically and with allies opposed to any sanctions relief. Our analysis suggests that this debate is too narrowly focused on one dimension of the war’s trajectory.

Territorial control, although immensely important to Ukraine, is not the most important dimension of the war’s future for the United States. We conclude that, in addition to averting possible escalation to a Russia-NATO war or Russian nuclear use, avoiding a long war is also a higher priority for the United States than facilitating significantly more Ukrainian territorial control.

Whereas the United States cannot determine the territorial outcome of the war directly, it will have direct control over these policies.

President Biden has said that this war will end at the negotiating table. But the administration has not yet made any moves to push the parties toward talks…. to help catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve U.S. interests.

RAND analysts should be reminded that if they think the best option is ‘negotiations in the interests of the United States’, then they recognize the United States as a party to the military conflict.

Meanwhile they should also keep in mind that “Russia wants the conflict with Ukraine to end, but the time factor is not the main issue,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an exclusive interview to Sputnik on Thursday, February 2-nd. That would serve Russian interests.

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Israel gives Ukraine intelligence. “The best thing” that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations?

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NATO sources tell ‘Haaretz’ some of the intel is on the Iranian drones in Ukraine, writes Yossi Melman at Israeli newspaper.

Israel has stepped up its intelligence assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks via NATO, sources in Brussels told ‘Haaretz’, with Jerusalem remaining keen to keep its aid to the embattled country indirect.

“Iran’s decision to supply drones and increase its military cooperation with Russia is a strategic mistake by Tehran and the best thing that could have happened to Israel-NATO relations,” an Israeli defense source told ‘Haaretz’.

Only a month and a half ago, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Aviv Kochavi, turned down a proposal by Ukraine’s defense minister to share information on the Iranian drones being shot down over his country. These details would have come in return for the passing on of Israeli intelligence. Israel feared that Russia might respond by hampering the Israel Air Force’s freedom in Syria’s skies, as Iran tries to deepen its presence against Israel to the north.

But American pressure and the stepped-up Iranian aid to Russia have convinced Israel to abandon its policy of apathy.

Last month, senior European officials told ‘Haaretz’ that under American pressure, Israel agreed to underwrite the purchase of millions of dollars of “strategic materials” for Ukraine. The materials were transferred via a NATO country, and Israel agreed to let NATO countries transfer to Ukraine weapons including electro-optical and fire-control systems made by Israeli firms.

Over several years, the Mossad, Military Intelligence, the IAF and the navy have built up a database on Iran’s drones. If Brussels gains access to this data, Ukraine and NATO countries will benefit, as will other states such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.

In 1994, Israel signed an agreement granting it status as a NATO “partner.” This lets it appoint an ambassador and a military attaché, and take part in the alliance’s air and sea exercises in the Baltic states, Montenegro and the Indian Ocean.

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Berlin doesn’t trust Washington. Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

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Image source: twitter @Bundeskanzler

“If the U.S. is involved directly it’s more likely to use military force to defend its allies in Europe,” Carlo Masala, a German military expert with strong ties to the country’s political establishment, said on German public television. “That’s a very strong rationale for Scholz and why he insists that the U.S. is involved,” quotes POLITICO.

The breakthrough on sending Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine sparked hopes in both Washington and Europe that the tortured transatlantic debate over arming the country had been resolved once and for all. But… Just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cleared the way for the export of German-made tanks to the country, the focus shifted to the who, what, where and when of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.

Once again, Scholz was the first to slam on the brakes, repeatedly warning in recent days of the dangers of “escalation,” while insisting that NATO would not become directly involved in the conflict. If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, join the club.

It turns out that an even bigger fear for Scholz than escalation is that NATO, and in particular the U.S., wouldn’t get involved if Russia were to retaliate against, say Germany. That worry — according to an adviser to the German government — is the reason that Scholz insisted that Washington agree to supply Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks before the chancellor would lift his veto on delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

While the NATO treaty’s Article 5 calls on alliance members to support one another in the event of an attack, it doesn’t require allies to respond with military force. In other words, Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S.

Given that Washington has about 40,000 troops in Germany and has already committed roughly $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine (more than 10 times the German total), one might reasonably question the logic underlying Scholz’s argument.

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