Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Obama’s failure? Syria

In 2013, Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people. President Obama had to figure out what to do with Syria. He could have bombed Syria. He could have tried to do some sort of joint military action with western allies. There was lots of hand wringing as there should have been. We are talking about life and death. Instead of making a decision to bomb Syria, Obama threw the decision to Congress which did not give him authorization to strike Syria. I’m not sure that he was all that whipped up to strike Syria. So, he turned to Russia who helped (Russian help is kind of an oxymoron) broker a deal for Syria to destroy all of their chemical weapons. Well, we know that this “deal” wasn’t what anyone would have hoped since al-Assad just gassed his own people again. It is completely unclear if al-Assad has more chemical weapons. We have to assume that he has.

Many Americans have applauded Donald Trump’s bombing of Syria. I’m not so sure. I think that Donald Trump did the only option that was open to him. He can’t make another deal. That’s out. There is no coalition of “the willing.” No one wants to invade Syria. So that’s out. What’s left? Bomb them. That’s the only other option.

I just don’t know how bombing Syria will help the problem. As far as we know there were no significant military leaders killed. I think that we know we did not kill or even injure al-Assad. So I’m not sure that we have changed any behavior.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban – Update

In my opinion, the best lie is the one that is just a little bit tainted with truth. Those lies are the best lies. About two weeks ago, President Donald Trump (yeah, it still does not sound right) signed an executive order which asked for increased scrutiny of persons wanting to immigrate to this country from several lands. I say “several lands,” because if you actually read his executive order; first of all, it is kind of a headache, as it is long and nonspecific. The order does not actually specify Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. So, let us actually read what the order says I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Now, this whole thing quickly gets complicated. It appears that President Trump’s executive order refers to the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This bill was tacked onto the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. So, it is kinda hard to say that this was an Obama administration initiative. The bill was actually written by former Congresswoman Candice Miller, a Republican. To make matters even more confusing, this bill, HR 158, simply canceled the Visa Waiver Program. So, essentially, what this did was force travelers from Syria and Iraq to get visas the old-fashioned way, through interviews at the American consulate. So, President Obama had the choice of signing this huge, omnibus spending bill into law, allowing our government to continue to operate (or to veto it), because of this bill’s being tacked on by Congresswoman Miller. You tell me, does this sound like an Obama program?

So, because this is not confusing enough, Donald Trump said, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Um, this is not exactly true either. So, in response to the May 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees on terrorism charges in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Obama Administration decided that immigrants from Iraq warranted increased scrutiny. This was not a ban. It was increased scrutiny. So, on one hand, Donald Trump was right. President Obama did do something in 2011, and his policy was relatively similar… kind of, but not really.

This is not the kind of thing you should NOT be arguing over at the water cooler. It is simply not worth it. There are tons of details. For the most part, when you are arguing over at the office water cooler, nobody knows the details. The reason I bring this up is that I heard the argument in the emergency room. Two doctors were going at it. One was accusing the other of hypocrisy because “Obama did the same thing.” No, Obama did not. Go back and read. While it is important to engage our fellow Americans, it is not important to discuss the details of a ban that is an actual ban; verses Obama’s ban, which was not, in reality, a ban. Got it.

Finally, I think that the President has the power to control who is coming into this country. I think that’s in the Constitution. I don’t think we can argue that. Instead, the argument is what kind of convoluted nonsense Trump put in his executive order.  Oops. I just got an email from my (our) constitutional scholar Linda Monk. I was wrong!!! Article I gives the power of immigration to Congress and NOT the president.  Article I, Section 8 – The Congress shall have Power to establish as uniform Rule of Naturalization. There it is in black and white.  Article II deals with the President. It says in Section 2 – The President shall be Commander in Chief of the  Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. The president’s powers, with regard to immigration, are implied. So, Congress needs to pass a law restricting immigration from those 7 countries. That would be lawful!

News Roundup – John Oliver, Trump, Bowling Green, Yemen

I didn’t watch the Last Week Tonight show after the election. John Oliver was exactly right. This is NOT normal. Trump is not normal. We have no idea what Trump is going to do. This is a leaky White House. I really, really want to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, but I still believe that he does not have the intellectual curiosity to be a good president. Remember, we had a long national discussion about Bush and his lack of being curious. He just accepted information that was given to him. You simply can’t do that.

Great opinion piece by John Marshall at Talking Points Memo. He argues that Trump was never a populist; rather, he is a nationalist. This could be a good thing, but it could also be interpreted negatively. From the perspective of a nationalist, it would seem that the fact that America is an open and inclusive society, embracing abd loving our melting pot, is one of our strengths. Trump, however, has adopted a different type of nationalism.

Paul Krugman has put my fear into words. It seems as if we are picking fights with everyone. Why would we want to pick a fight with Australia? BTW, what does “putting Iran on notice” actually mean? I have a bad feeling that we are going to be at war with someone pretty soon.

There is so much going on that it is easy to miss things like a raid on a compound in Yemen. For me, American casualties are never a good thing. We need to think long and hard about everything we are doing any time any American soldier dies. Was the raid worth it? So far, I don’t have any idea. I understand the problems with counterterrorism. The purpose of this raid was to stop what exactly? As the American soldiers approached the target they knew that they had lost the element of surprise. So why press on? Was this that important? I don’t know. We lost a $75 million MV-22 Osprey (an aircraft that got a terrible reputation 20 years ago as it was being developed).

Have you heard anything about the Bowling Green Muslim Massacre? Nope, neither had I.

So, it is Black History month. The White House usually does something to honor Black Americans. Trump was Trump. He started on the topic of Black History, covering the basics – Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglass, and Harriett Tubman. He then veered off the subject into nothingness. It isn’t that I think that our president needs to be an expert on Black History, but he should at least pretend that it is important to America. That’s all that I ask…maybe that’s too much.

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