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The non plus ultra of Incoherence and Incompetence



[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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Zimbabwean peacekeeper selected as UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year 2021 Award



Following reports of sexual and gender-based violence against women collecting firewood in Rubkona, South Sudan, Captain Irene Wilson Muro and and Major Winnet Zharare (2nd from the right) reached out to local women to discuss ways to stem the abuse. Photo: UNMISS

A Zimbabwean peacekeeper who recently completed her assignment with the UN Mission in South Sudan, will receive the 2021 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. 

Military Observer Major Winnet Zharare, 39, served in Bentiu, South Sudan in 2021-2022, and will receive the award from the Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, 26 May 2022.

Created in 2016, the United Nations “Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award” recognizes the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of UN peace operations.

Secretary-General António Guterres commended Major Winnet for her award. “Major Zharare is a role model and a trailblazer. Through her service, she has demonstrated the invaluable role that women play in building trust, advocating for change and forging peace,” he said. “Her example shows how we will all gain with more women at the decision-making table and gender parity in peace operations,” Mr. Guterres added. 

Major Zharare expressed her gratitude and pride in receiving  the award which, she said, “motivated [her] to maintain [her] course towards gender equality.”

“My parents gave us equal opportunities with my brothers, so I believe that equal opportunities should be given to both men and women in all aspects of life,” she added.

Major Winnet Zharare deployed to UNMISS in November 2020. Throughout her 17-month-long service, she advocated for gender parity and women’s participation, within her own ranks, among local military counterparts, and in host communities.

As the Chief Military Information Officer in UNMISS’  Bentiu field office, she helped ensure that patrols included both women and men to improve protection efforts as well as build trust between host communities and the Mission. Her efforts also contributed to an increase in  gender-aggregated data so that issues raised by local women and girls would gain appropriate attention.

Advocating for gender parity and womens’ participation in an environment where they are traditionally excluded from decision-making, she encouraged local civilian and military authorities and community representatives to involve both men and women in meetings with the UN. Her diligence and diplomatic skills quickly gained her the trust of local military commanders who would systematically reach out to her on issues pertaining to women’s protection and rights. During her patrols and numerous community engagement initiatives, Major Zharare also successfully encouraged men and women to work together in farming and in the construction of dikes around Bentiu town to alleviate food shortages and prevent further displacement.

Major Zharare is the first Zimbabwean peacekeeper to receive this prestigious award.

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‘New dawn’ for Europe as War in Ukraine Strengthens EU and Support for Enlargement



The European Union surprised the world, and even itself, with the speed, scale and unity of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This “new” Europe is ready to project both soft and hard power on the world stage, European leaders told participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.

Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank, on the panel at the session, European Unity in a Disordered World?, said the Ukraine war has revealed how powerful Europe is collectively: “This is a new dawn for Europe.”

The war on Ukraine has also revealed weaknesses – including global supply chain vulnerabilities and over-reliance on Russian energy, she said, but Europe is addressing this and can begin to flex its muscles on the global stage. “Europe has untapped purchasing power, trading power, technology power, pension power and moral power.”

Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, reinforced the point. “This is Europe’s moment,” she said. “Europe can become the global project for peace.”

Mistakes of the past will be rectified, she said. “For way too long we did not seriously consider an energy union where we can rely on each other rather than on a country that can switch us off at any time.”

Referring to the EU’s support and defence of Ukraine, she was emphatic: “This is not the time to talk about face-saving for Russia or appeasement.”

Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, also on the panel, said: “If Ukraine falls to Russian aggression, Slovakia is next.” He added that we must continue to provide military support as well as step up humanitarian aid. “Above all we need to give Ukrainians hope.”

“Let’s not compromise – we must remain faithful to the values of the EU – freedom, rule of law, human dignity and equal rights.”

Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “The people of Europe have spoken. Enough is enough.” In response there is much stronger unanimity between member states and more support than ever to accept the accession of new members.

He continued: “We see the EU’s future in terms of the green economy and in terms of the digitalization but also in terms of enlargement.”

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, called on European member states to continue to raise their defence spending. “The NATO alliance members are inseparable, but Europe must play its part,” he said. “This will help transform Europe from a soft power to a hard power.”

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Geopolitical Crises Forcing Leaders to Face up to Difficult New Realities



Poland’s President Andrzej Duda delivered a harsh rebuke to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, pledging “100% support” for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and calling for Moscow to pay reparations to Kyiv. “I simply cannot accept that Russia can violate international law with impunity.”

Russian aggression against Ukraine has revived unity within the West and highlighted for many Western nations the importance of democratic values. Finland and Sweden, notably, have set aside their longstanding policies of neutrality and applied to join NATO. “We are in a totally new situation and have to wake up to that,” said Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, noting that the collapse of the post-war European security architecture, as well as Russia’s increased appetite for risk, were among the major factors prompting Finland to apply for membership.

Haavisto said that in this “grey time” between the Nordic country’s application to join the alliance and its potential full accession, when it will enjoy mutual security protection under Article 5 of the NATO charter, NATO members have given Finland and Sweden assurances that they will guarantee security. Asked about Turkey’s stated objection to extension of membership to Finland and Sweden, he expressed confidence that Helsinki can address concerns.

Alarmed by an increasingly competitive geopolitical landscape marked by mounting frictions between the United States and China, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, emphasized the need for cooperation.

“If we learned anything from COVID, it is that we need to focus on cooperation and I think we need to continue to look towards avenues to foster that cooperation. Even when there is difference, when there’s competition, we need to find mechanisms to talk to each other.” He noted that Saudi Arabia, which values both its extensive trade relationship with China and its national security relationship with the US, is well-positioned to facilitate dialogue between the world’s leading powers.

Prince Faisal’s remarks were echoed by Pakistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, who commented on the “binary choice” that countries with close ties to both China and the US are increasingly asked to make. “We are typically asked this question all the time: Who do you choose? It shows how far we have fallen as a global community,” she said. This is particularly difficult, she noted, for a country like Pakistan, which is already in fiscal crisis and now faces “the superimposition of a food security crisis”.

Gregory W. Meeks, Democratic Congressman from New York’s 6th District and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign, praised the bipartisan support for a recent Senate bill pledging $40 billion in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, as well as the broad international support that Ukraine has received.

He also focused on the potential food crisis, emphasizing the need to break the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports so Ukrainian grain can be delivered to the many countries that depend on it. “You got to open [the port of Odessa] up because that’s not been just limited to what’s happening in Ukraine; this threatens the entire world.”

Madrid is host to next month’s NATO summit and Spain’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares Bueno, praised the alliance’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. But he emphasized the threat that the looming food crisis, if left unresolved, could pose to Europe. Noting that the Sahel – the region of North Africa bordering the Sahara – is not only already deeply food-insecure, he warned that rising cereal prices could set off a potentially destabilizing northward migration. “Unity is our best defence.”

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