US flag retirement, US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
Are Americans Destroying Themselves from Within, as Lincoln Feared?
Jiri Valenta and Leni Friedman Valenta
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 658, November 27, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. Americans must keep his wisdom in mind. The wheels of two Russiagates – Trump’s and now Hillary’s – are deepening domestic conflicts, and calls for Trump’s impeachment grow. Where is the US headed?
Trump and Putin’s Joint Statement on Syria Among the accomplishments of Donald Trump’s just completed Far East tour was a joint statement on November 11 with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Syria. (Their planned Danang summit was canceled, however. As prominent advisor to the Russian foreign affairs ministry Andrey Kortunov explained, “Putin is presently toxic for Trump;” i.e., any contact with him harms Trump at home.)
In the statement, the two leaders agreed:
“…there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria… the ultimate political solution… will include … free and fair elections under UN supervision.” They also resolved “…to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces …until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.” As Kortunov said, Syria was “a step in the right direction, but collaboration remains situational, not strategic.”
Trump’s foe, Hillary Clinton, and her advisor, former acting CIA Director Mike Morell, had a very different agenda for Syria. In August 2016, Morell advocated “killing Russians” and “mak[ing] Russians pay a price.” A hawkish supporter of US military interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Clinton publicly endorsed Morell’s advice. Trump, on the other hand, rather than threaten to fight the Russians, sought a limited partnership with them against ISIS. It is thus hardly surprising that Putin decided to support Trump in the 2016 election.
Clinton, the defeated candidate, has not accepted the election result and is leading the effort to try to undo it. Her reasoning, as she alleges in her new memoir, What Happened, is that Trump’s victory was the result of a “Russian plot.” To Morell, Trump’s election was “the political equivalent of 9/11.”
North Korea: Coercive Diplomacy
As Trump was preparing for his Far East tour, he was demonized by two former presidents with smear code words. “Bigotry,” declared George W. Bush on October 19, “…is blasphemy against the American creed…Russian interference in our election should never be tolerated.” Obama followed a day later: “We have folks who are deliberately trying to get folks angry, to demonize people with different ideas.” On November 7, the eve of Hillary Clinton’s defeat, a third president, her husband Bill Clinton, spoke of Trump’s comments about “fake news” as mirroring the “’dictators’ club’ of world leaders.”
All three presidents failed to cope with the North Korean threat, leaving Trump holding the much-kicked can. Unlike them, Trump is trying something new: coercive diplomacy. Along with Trump’s “fire and fury” rhetoric” has come the deployment of three US Navy aircraft carriers in the waters off North Korea, flights of the US and allied air force near North Korea’s borders, US army maneuvers near the DMZ with their South Korean counterparts, and a tightening economic embargo. This is something North Korean dictators have not experienced since their capture of the Pueblo US navy intelligence ship in 1968.
Like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, President Trump has thus come to be viewed by his adversary as an unbalanced, unpredictable hawk. Yet his coercive diplomacy has already had a sobering effect on “Rocket Man.” There have been neither nuclear explosions nor ballistic missiles over Japan since September 15. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un’s depiction of Trump as a deranged “dotard” has been effectively endorsed by Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, who called him “mentally unstable.” This, and calls to impeach the “warmonger,” have the North Koreans licking their lips.
Hillary and Vlad: From Love to Hate
Adding to the growing rift at home is an emerging new Russiagate – Hillary’s. Viewed by Putin in 2009 as the quarterback in the “reset” of US-Russo relations, he welcomed Bill and Hillary’s help in the purchase of vast uranium stakes in America’s west by his nuclear agency, Rosatom. From 2010-13, three purchases of stakes from Canadian mining company Uranium 1 were made by Rosatom with the consent of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the nine-member Committee on Foreign Investment in the US [CFIUS].
The sales gave Russia a controlling interest in over 20% of America’s uranium reserves. Thereafter, the Clinton Foundation received $145 million in donations from interested parties, as reported by Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. Bill also earned a $500,000 speaking fee for a single speech at a Kremlin-allied bank.
What is now being investigated is whether the sale of the uranium to Russia endangered US national security. New revelations indicate that the Obama administration approved the deal despite evidence obtained by the FBI allegedly linking the Clintons to collusion with Russia in a massive uranium racketeering scandal involving kickbacks and money laundering.
Then there is the unverified dossier of Trump’s purported activities with prostitutes while staying at the Moscow Ritz Carlton in 2013. The dossier was produced, with Hillary’s money, by British MI6 agent Christopher Steele from Russian sources. Steele was a subcontractor for a Washington company, Fusion GPC, that provided opposition research to both political parties. The dossier is said to have been passed to the FBI by Trump foe and Hillary Clinton’s close friend, Senator John McCain.
The Trump-Putin Bromance
In 2013, while organizing the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, Donald Trump developed an excellent relationship with the pageant’s host, Russian mogul Aris Agalarov. This is the same Agalarov whose family manager, Rob Goldstone, arranged the June 9, 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a lobbying group headed by Russian lawyer Natalia Vesselnitskaya. She is connected to Russia’s chief prosecutor and Putin’s confidant, Yury Chaika.
Like Steele, she also worked with Fusion GPS. Goldstone e-mailed Trump Jr.: “Emin [Agaralov’s son] just called … with something very interesting.” He had offered to provide “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Trump Jr. responded with interest and a meeting took place – a meeting about which political novice Trump Jr. should have informed the FBI. But he denies ever receiving any Hillary “dirt,” and there’s no evidence that he did.
It is true that President Trump doesn’t want to show his tax returns for 2008-13, and it is undeniable that he had some lucrative real estate dealings with Russian oligarchs during those years. We may yet learn more. “Toxic” Putin The canceled summit prevented Trump from exploring with Putin a possible dual Russian-Chinese embargo of North Korea.
However, Trump does at times display naiveté about foreign leaders, who might try to exploit his lack of experience. Now, with the help of his savvy generals, he has the time to bone up on Putin, the complex anti-communist, Machiavellian autocrat, who manages at the same time to be a friend of Israel, an ally of Iran, and an anti-ISIS partner with Trump. Trump must be careful with the “toxic“ Kremlin leader, whom Henry Kissinger has described as “a cold calculator of the Russian national interest.”
Trump has finally realized that Putin organized the hacking of DNC e-mails to find compromising material on Hillary Clinton. As Donna Brazile revealed in her book, Hacks, the democratic socialist Bernie Sanders (a sort of Menshevik) lost in the primaries to Clinton (referred to in Bill’s White House as a “Bolshevik”) through the devious machinations of her loyalists.
Trump’s reluctance to accept that it had been Putin who ordered the hacking derived from his mistrust of the leaders of the intelligence community, who were largely Obama loyalists hostile to him. He does trust his new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who briefs him daily. Thus he finally acknowledged, “…I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership."
Like Nixon in 1973-74, Trump returned from a successful trip abroad greatly concerned about the future of his presidency. Even Nixon during Watergate, however, was not so viciously and repeatedly attacked at home while he conducted diplomacy abroad. Trump’s congressional foes continue to slow down crucial legislation and his new senior appointments to the government while railing that progress is not being made. If the Democrats become the majority party in Congress in 2018, they will control its agenda and might even prepare the president’s impeachment, as occurred in Washington in 1973-74.
Though we cannot predict the outcome of the ongoing power struggle, we worry about the continuing pattern in American politics in which the party out of power seeks primarily to sabotage and block the one that’s in.
In spite of Trump’s fumbles, political correctness deficit, and failure to combine his coercive diplomacy with a public one to expose the horrors of the North Korean communist gulag, his savvy foreign affairs strategy is working. He became the first American leader to be honored with an invitation to dine in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Like Nixon earlier, he is respected by some foreign leaders of both an authoritarian and a democratic bent.
Still, the crucial question persists. Can America overcome the perils of domestic division that Lincoln feared on the eve of the Civil War? At present there is a lack of bipartisanship in Congress, a media that too often conflates fact with speculation, a growth of extremist groups on both sides of the political spectrum, and increased killings of police.
Can the idiosyncratic yet patriotic president find some of Lincoln’s inner strength and skill to forge a national consensus at home? And can Americans, for the sake of the survival of the republic and the preservation of alliances with democratic partners in Europe, Asia, and Israel, stop hating each other? Or are they destined to destroy themselves from within, as Lincoln feared?
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
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Tags: Bashar al Assad Donald Trump and Syria Richard Lloyd Report Seymour Hersh Whose Sarin? Putin
Editor's Note: The above article was published by RIAC as well as the sequel below:
“Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un
Jiri Valenta with Leni Valenta
November 29, 2017
“Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un surely believes we are doing what Abe most feared! So does Vladimir Putin. In an article written two weeks ago but published only yesterday by the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and Linkedin, we made two points about North Korea. 1. That the president’s coercive diplomacy against North Korea worked temporarily. Since Sept. 15 there has been no launching of North Korean missiles.
But we also warned that our foreign foes, particularly the North Koreans, but also the Russians, view our president as in a weakened position. Thus Lincoln’s warning is apropos: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves from within.”
So first the Danang summit was cancelled because it was deemed that Putin is toxic to Trump at home at this time [the power struggle is not decided]. Then Kim not only launched a missile, but fired one that went 28,000 miles up in the air and could reach the continental United States. North Korea’s ICBM capabilities are advancing more rapidly than we realized.
Putin himself will go with who has the strongest hand. So, eventually will China. Thus, Trump must be firm with Putin. Buzzing our planes is not acceptable.
It may be no coincidence that the Russian provocation happened within 24 hours of the North Korean one. This action is the sort of contemptuous gestures Putin used with the practitioner of “strategic patience,” Barack Obama. Our new president, Donald Trump, paying for his too willing outreach to Putin. Knowing our president, he doesn’t want to be another Obama!
We must respond in a tough way. The president must go to the brink and even consider taking out the North Korean site that launched that missile. Now it may be too late, but the President should at least establish a red line for next time and act on it if need be.
Firstly published: LinkedIn
Tags: Rex Tillerson Kim Jong II Strategic patience Donald Trump Bill Clinton Madeleine Albright Condi Rice Dick Cheney
REX, WITH NORTH KOREA, STRATEGIC SAVVY, NOT STRATEGIC PATIENCE!
We are Crazy, so Waltz Me Around Again Willy!
Jiri Valenta with Leni Friedman Valenta
Updated April 30, 2017
A few weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson proclaimed the ending of the doctrine of strategic patience with rogue regimes like nuclear North Korea. At the U.N., however, he seemed to be suggesting we can seek a resolution of the crisis through economic pressure and diplomacy. In response, the North Korean regime fired a ballistic missile. It exploded but the response tells all about the North Korean willingness to find any meaningful compromise. We’ve tried such solutions for a few decades. They have not worked.
The basic theme of North Korean response can be posited as “We are crazy, so, Waltz me around again Willie.” The dictators, father and son, only used our diplomacy as a respite to advance their nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. In our view, more negotiation will be interpreted by both North Korea and Iran as more of Obama’s strategic patience.
Yes, this time China is more helpful. Donald, Secretary of Defense Mattis and NSA H.R. McMaster deserve credit for using the attack on the Syrian airport in the midst of dinner with the Chinese president to change Chinese perceptions. They do have economic clout with North Korea. Although we are not convinced Beijing wants to replace the friendly communist regime on its borders with another South Korean-type one, they are already convinced them that freezing North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons is in their interests.
Don´t we know the steps of this U.S. - North Korean waltz by now? Menacing threats against democratic U.S. allies, South Korea and/or Japan, while testing WMD or its delivery system. “We are crazy,” is the implicit message, “and you better send a high level person to mollify us and give our starving country (above all its nomenclature and military) economic aid.”
President Clinton fell into the trap after sending special envoy Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang in 1994. In October 2000, he sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her successor, Condi Rice, described Albright’s mission rather unkindly as her “… somewhat infamous visit…” complete with a stadium presentation of more than 100,000 North Koreans in a “cultural performance…” intended to invoke a presidential visit. But the intended goal of verifying U.N. inspections of nuclear development and turning over spent fuel rods was not achieved.
In October 2008, before the presidential election, the North Korean dictator tried to lure another high envoy into his hermit kingdom. President Bush initially rejected that option. “No! That would really legitimize him!”
But Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, nevertheless dittoed Madeleine’s mistake. She drew criticism from Vice President Dick Cheney on how she tried to reach a nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. He recorded Rice saying to Bush, ‘“Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don´t always get a written agreement.”’
Calling Rice´s advice on this issue “utterly misleading,” Cheney further complained that she made "... concession after concession to North Korea and turned a blind eye to their misdeeds.”
Sadly, some of her proposals were approved by Bush. North Korea was removed by Rice from the State Department´s list of terrorist-sponsoring states! “It was a sad moment,” commented Cheney, reversal of so much of what we had accomplished in the area of non-proliferation in the first term.”. Recalled Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, “Rice and Ambassador Christopher Hill, [the diplomat who convinced Condi to appease North Korea and is now pontificating on American TV], seemed to believe they could obtain North Korea’s agreement to end its WMD programs.”
In 2014, President Obama sent DNI James Clapper on a secret, mission to North Korea, ostensibly to secure the release of two hostages, which he did. But we still don´t know all the details of the presidential message. What was he negotiating about? Was it once again waltz me around again Willy?
Rex Tillerson must not repeat the mistake of the other two secretaries of state. Rather than giving in to their usual pattern of blackmail, hostage-taking, promises, withdrawal from negotiations, U.S. high level visits, resumption of negotiations, more lies and more threats. Trump and his top team are surely looking at options, while they sit out this dance. We hope they are drafting other options -- something similar to what Bill Clinton seriously considered before he sent Madeleine Albright to waltz with Willy.
Our chosen option must be framed by strategic savvy, rather than going back to strategic patience. Besides strong economic measures in combination with China, we have only three options. One is to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program in a single, massive surprise strike. . However this option is extremely dangerous and very costly.
A second one is to freeze North Korea’s nuclear testing by preventive cyber warfare or other very limited, military means such as a strike on the launching pad and hope they get the message. This is unlikely to provoke an attack on Seoul. The young dictator likes his power, big parades, his wife, the food that his skinny people never get, and killing an occasional relative now and then. He doesn’t want to die and he knows if he attacks Seoul, he will.
The third option is bankrupt --strategic patience.If we simply engage in in negotiation with North Korea before showing we mean business, they will cheat, and will also continue aiding Iran in their own development of nuclear weapons and deliveries systems. The decision to negotiate will be surely interpreted by foes and friends as continuation of Obama ‘s strategic patience. Strategic savvy dictates we must not allow North Korea to continue their nuclear testing.
NO MORE WALTZES PLEASE, WILLY!
Unafraid, Bipartisan, Uphold U.S. and Freedom
Presidents Trump and Putin meeting briefly in Danang during Trump's Far East tour.