China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

China Criticizes Iran for Threatening to Block Hormuz Strait Oil Shipments

Friday, 6 July, 2018 – 09:15
Trading shows and ships are docked on the Arabian Gulf waters near the town of Khasab, in Oman. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
China condemned on Friday Iran for threatening to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran should make more effort to ensure stability in the Middle East and get along with its neighbors, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong.

He made his remarks during a news briefing ahead of a major summit between China and Arab states that kicks off in Beijing next week.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and some senior military commanders have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.

Asked about the Iranian threat to the strait, Chen remarked that China and Arab countries had close communications about Middle East peace, including the Iran issue.

“China consistently believes that the relevant country should do more to benefit peace and stability in the region, and jointly protect peace and stability there,” he added.

“Especially as it is a country on the Gulf, it should dedicate itself to being a good neighbor and co-existing peacefully,” he continued. “China will continue to play our positive, constructive role.”

Ministers from 21 Arab countries are attending the summit, as well as Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah. Chinese President Xi Jinping will give the opening address on Tuesday.

The United States Navy vowed on Thursday to protect oil routes and international navigation in the Hormuz Strait in wake of Iran’s threats.

“The US and its partners provide, and promote security and stability in the region,” Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban said in an email to Reuters.

Asked what would be the US naval reaction if Iran blocks the strait, he said: “Together, we stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

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How the ballooning federal debt threatens U.S. defense

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

How the ballooning federal debt threatens U.S. defense

Dan Keeler 

“American economic might is the indispensable foundation of American military might and the essential element in our ability to project a stabilizing power worldwide.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower

On June 18, the Senate passed its version of 2019 defense authorization bill. Continuing the recent trend of raising defense spending, the bill proposes an $82 billion increase from 2017, resulting in an overall total defense budget of $716 billion. In an unusually bipartisan sign of cooperative government, these congressional budgets fully support the president and secretary of defense’s recently released National Defense and Military Strategies. Both of these documents prioritize “great power competition” with Russia and China over other issues, and the new budgets allocate national resources to meet the demands of those documents.

Author

Dan Keeler

Federal Executive Fellow – The Brookings Institution

Commander – U.S. Navy

Unfortunately, neither the strategies nor the budgets account for a looming crisis. Driven primarily by increased mandatory spending, the federal debt threatens to consume all other spending, including defense, in the coming decade. Failure to reform mandatory spending now will ultimately erase any near-term gains in national defense and could result in significantly diminished U.S. global influence. Great power competition might continue, but not with the United States as a player.

APPROACHING A CLIFF

Concerns about mandatory spending are not new. Bean counters within and without the government have warned of a reckoning for decades. The reckoning is getting closer.

The largest programs in the mandatory spending category—Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the national debt—are all in some form of unsustainable crisis. This year, trustees from the Social Security and Medicare funds reported they will begin tapping into reserves in order to meet spending requirements. Trustees indicate that the Medicare fund will run out of dollars in 2026. Social Security is in slightly better shape, and will be solvent until 2034. After that, the federal government will have to find other means to fund those programs or apply draconian cuts to benefits.

Simultaneously, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal debt will continue to grow, and that the debt-to-GDP ratio will be 94.5 percent in 2027. Interest payments on that debt will also continue to grow, nearly doubling from 1.6 percent of GDP in 2018 to 3.1 percent in 2028. In dollars, that means net interest payments will increase from $316 billion in 2018 to $915 billion in 2028.

In other words, mandatory spending is going up, way up. As the CBO report states: “The federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path. … Federal policymakers face economic, security, and social challenges requiring difficult policy choices, but a long-term fiscal plan is also needed to preserve flexibility to address unforeseen events.”

DEFENSE SPENDING AT RISK

What does this mean for defense spending? Nothing good.

For the U.S. Navy, for instance—where I am a commander—it will be harder to sustain recent shipbuilding and modernization efforts. Based on the requirements of the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, the Navy estimates it needs to increase its current force structure of 280 ships to 355. Using 2017 dollars, the CBO estimates it will cost approximately $27 billion dollars per year, for the next 30 years, to reach a 355-ship Navy. When operating and personnel costs are included, the figure is about $103 billion annually. All of these numbers represent a significant increase from allocations over the last 20 years.

If mandatory spending increases take off and there are no structural changes, Congress will be forced to cut discretionary spending—including for projects like shipbuilding—in the mid-2020s to pay its bills. As it does, ships built in the 1980s and 90s will reach the end of their operating life, and without replacement ships, the nation’s fleet and global influence will shrink. What will happen then? For a current example, look no further than the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. Due to recent austerity measures and budget priorities, the Royal Navy has shrunk to a shadow of its Cold War stature. Just last month, the U.K.’s national security adviser, Mark Sedwill, announced that his nation’s two new aircraft carriers would require allied escorts for wartime operations. Simply put, due to budget cuts, the Royal Navy does not have enough ships to defend its own capital ships. Apply similar scenarios across the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and the fiscal future for defense looks very bleak.

It does not have to be this way. There is still time to avoid the fiscal freight train coming our way. Over the years, experts and elected representatives have proposed numerous reforms to Social Security and Medicare in order to maintain the trusts’ solvency. Similarly, there are solutions for controlling the annual deficits that continue to drive the overall debt higher. Unfortunately, none of the solutions are politically easy. In 2011, a Congressional “super-committee” attempted to find a solution and failed spectacularly. The failure gave birth to the Budget Control Act, commonly known as sequestration. This failure should not preclude another attempt. If the United States wishes to compete on the world stage, it’s time to try again.

A how-to guide for managing the end of the post-Cold War era. Read all the Order from Chaos content »

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Google Bars Using Artificial Intelligence Tech in Weapons, Unreasonable Surveillance

Friday, 8 June, 2018 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Google announced Thursday it would not allow its artificial intelligence software to be used in weapons or unreasonable surveillance efforts under new standards for its business decisions in the nascent field.

The Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) unit said the restriction could help Google management defuse months of protest by thousands of employees against the company’s work with the US military to identify objects in drone video.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in a blog post: “We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas,” such as cybersecurity, training, or search and rescue.

Pichai set out seven principles for Google’s application of artificial intelligence, or advanced computing that can simulate intelligent human behavior.

He said Google is using AI “to help people tackle urgent problems” such as prediction of wildfires, helping farmers, diagnosing disease or preventing blindness, AFP reported.

“We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use,” Pichai said in the blog.

“How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right.”

He added that the principles also called for AI applications to be “built and tested for safety,” to be “accountable to people” and to “incorporate privacy design principles.”

The move came after potential of AI systems to pinpoint drone strikes better than military specialists or identify dissidents from mass collection of online communications has sparked concerns among academic ethicists and Google employees, according to Reuters.

Several technology firms have already agreed to the general principles of using artificial intelligence for good, but Google appeared to offer a more precise set of standards.

Syria: The Perfect Storm To Ignite A Huge Chapter In This Current WW-3

Syria: The Perfect Storm To Ignite A Huge Chapter In This Current WW-3 

(THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST WRITTEN ON FEBRUARY 14th, OF 2016 BUT I HAVE ADDED 2 EXTRA PARAGRAPHS AT THE END)

Today Syria is primed to be the location where the pot boils over and this World War that we are currently all living in gets a new very nasty twist in pure violence. The Syrian civil war has turned into a continuance of the 1,400 year old Islamic civil war between the Sunni and the Shiite. The president of Syria is a Shiite so he is an ally of the government of Iran who is the biggest Shiite player in the world. Also there is the fact that the country of Iraq is now led by a Shiite government and its geographical location is as the bumper between the two. First ISIS joins the fight as the major Sunni group against the Syrian government and now Russian president Putin has joined the fight on the side of Iran and Syria. Soon we see if our Nations Leaders are actual leaders, or idiots and fools.

 

Today I picked up off of CNN a story within an interview being done by reporter Ms. Amanpour with the Saudi Foreign Minister while he was in Munich Germany  yesterday. I am going to type out a couple of the Saudi Foreign Ministers quotes and then I am going to ask you a couple of questions to see the level of understanding we each have. Quotes—“The Syrian President must go. If the political process fails then force must be used”. Yet he says that the Saudi’s will only send troops into Syria if…”we are part of a multi-national force lead by the U.S.”.  There is another important quote of his on this matter, “Syria’s President will leave–have no doubt about it. He will either leave by a political process or he will be removed by force”.

 

I am looking at this from an American persons view, those of you reading this from other parts of the world may have different view points than I do or what most Americans may have as a view, if so, please leave comments.  The Saudi Foreign Minister says that the Syrian President will leave “have no doubt about it”. Yet he say that the Saudi’s will only put boots on the ground in Syria if they are “part of a U.S. led force”. So, does he have some secret knowledge of an undercover deal with our President? Reality is that the only way the Syrian President gets removed is if he is assassinated or if the U.S. puts thousands of troops on the ground to fight against the Shiite side and for the Sunni side of this 1,400 year civil war. This Syrian conflict is indeed a Civil War but it is mostly a civil war between the Shiite and the Sunni. Russian President Putin has stuck his foot in up to his rear-end on the side of Iran and Syria if the U.S. puts boots on the ground they will be fighting on the side of the Sunni nations. There is this other absolute fact, all these people hate us and our military, they will applaud every time an American or Russian blood is spilled on Syrian sand. The Saudi Foreign Minister did say one accurate quote when he said that “you can not take, then hold ground from the air alone”. The question now is whose boots will it be, whose blood will it be?

 

(TODAY’S DATE IS APRIL 17th OF 2018)

 

Okay, it is now two years and two months since the Saudi Foreign Minister said that Syria’s President Assad would be removed one way of another, to me, it looks like he was wrong.  About the only way now that I can see President Assad being removed is if someone assassinates him. Will the Saudi’s go that far as to send an assassin into Syria to kill him? Personally I doubt it, it would be to risky for them to do that. It looks to me that because of the help of Russia’s President Putin and the help Mr. Assad is getting from Iran and Hezbollah that he will remain the president of this destroyed hunk of ground. Even if all fighting were to stop inside the borders of Syria today, it would take many trillions of dollars and several decades to rebuild the infrastructure that was in place there seven years ago.

 

As far as Syria being the location of a huge proxy war involving the militaries that are still operating inside their borders the risks are still very high. I personally believe that the U.S. should get out of Syria as quick as is humanly possible. We said we went in there to destroy ISIS, this mission is at least 95% finished. The government of Syria has made it very plain that they do not want any U.S. military inside their borders so we should leave and let Russian, Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah troops finish the mop up work on ISIS. The longer we are there the greater chances that we will get directly involved with the killing of Russian, Iranian and Syrian troops thus dragging us into a much wider and bloodier war with them directly.  There is also the reality that Syria will be the location of a direct shooting war between Iran and Israel, and Hezbollah. If Iran attacks Israel will the U.S. stand idly by? If we back Israel will Russia jump in to help Iran? You can bet your last nickel that if Iran attacks Israel that Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah will also attack Israel, so what is the U.S. going to do? What is Russia going to do, come to think of it, what is Saudi Arabia going to do? This article is all just fodder for your thoughts, what do you think is about to happen, full-out WW-3, or maybe nothing? China would probably love the U.S. to get tied up in an all out war in the Middle-East as this would give them free rein to totally dominate all of the Asian Countries. Also it would give China the green light to enforce their will over all of the South China Sea and to invade Taiwan. As I said, just trying to get you to think.

Death of 5 Russians in Coalition’s Strike in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE RUSSIAN OFFICIAL NEWS AGENCY ‘SPUTNIK NEWS’)

 

US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles are designed to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq

Moscow Preliminarily Confirms Death of 5 Russians in Coalition’s Strike in Syria

© REUTERS/ U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed the death of five Russian nationals in the US-led coalition’s strike in Syria, but their citizenship has yet to be verified.

“According to preliminary data, as a result of the armed conflict, the reasons for which are now being clarified, five people, presumably Russian citizens, could have been killed. There are also injured people, but all this requires verification — in particular, first of all, their citizenship — whether they are all citizens of Russia or other countries. I would like to stress once again that we are not talking about Russian servicemen,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing.

According to Zakharova, reports of hundreds of Russian citizens killed in the airstrike are “disinformation” by anti-government forces.

“Claims about the deaths of dozens and hundreds of Russian citizens are classic misinformation. There are not 400, not 200, not 100 and not ten [of them killed as a result of the US-led coalition’s airstrike],” she emphasized.

READ MORE: WATCH: US-Led Coalition Strike Syrian Government Forces

“Among the first to spread this information within their channels were Syrian anti-government militants, who for some reason took a photo of the surface of Mars, put on it an image of destroyed military equipment, perhaps even Ukrainian, dated June 2014.”

The spokeswoman emphasized that there were many people of different nationalities in Syria’s conflict zones.

“There is a large number of citizens from all regions of the world, including Russia and CIS countries, in the conflict zones. The purposes for their stay in war zones are different, including participation in hostilities,” Zakharova said, noting that it was hard to trace all of them.

US-Led Coalition’s Airstrike on Pro-Damascus Forces

Last week, US Central Command announced that the coalition conducted what it described as “defensive airstrikes” against pro-government forces near the Euphrates River as a response to an alleged attack against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters. The airstrikes have reportedly resulted in the death of at least 100 pro-government troops.Damascus has slammed the attack as “a new act of aggression that constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity,” while the Russian Defense Ministry said that the attack showcased that the real goal behind Washington’s “illegal military presence in Syria” was control over the country’s economic assets rather than defeating Daesh.

Later, media reports emerged, alleging that a large number of Russian “mercenaries” had been killed in airstrikes. So far, the death of one Russian citizen Kiril Ananyev from an activist group “Another Russia” has been reported by the organization’s coordinator.

READ MORE: US Attack on Pro-Damascus Forces ‘Attempt to Support Terorrism’ — Syrian TV

When asked to comment on the reports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saidWednesday that he didn’t rule out that Russian nationals, who do not belong to the Russian Armed Forces, could be in Syria.

Earlier in the day, he emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not make any decisions to classify any information regarding Russian nationals in Syria.

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casualtiesUS-led coalitionMaria ZakharovaSyriaUnited StatesRussia

South Korea’s President, Mr. Moon Is Being Played For A Fool!!!

 

 

As most folks know, the Winter Olympics are being staged in South Korea right now. South Korea’s President, Mr. Moon appears to be being ‘played’ for a fool by the Kim family of North Korea during these games. There is a small athletic delegation from the North that are participating as we speak. Among the non-athletes of the North’s delegation is the sister of Kim Jung Un, the mass murdering vicious Dictator self-proclaimed ‘Living God’. The out of touch with reality President of South Korea has welcomed the visitors from the North with open arms. Personally I do not have a problem with allowing the athletics from the North to participate, but it should be under their own flag. Mr. Moon decided that instead of South Korean athletics and the Country of South Korea using the South Korean Flag they are using a ‘unification’ flag and allowing the North Koreans to participate as part of a ‘one Korea’ team. Thus many athletics from the South who have spent many years working their selves half to death to make their Country’s Olympic Team got ‘bumped’ off the team so the unqualified North members could take their place. I say unqualified because to become a member of a country’s team you must have gone through many different qualifying events and either winning them or placing very, very high in those contest. The North’s athletics did none of these things, they were just handed the spots by the insistence of the South Korean President. Now if in team events ‘South Korea’ is able to win a metal, North Koreans also get that metal to take back home for Kim Jung Un to brag about.

 

Enough of the Olympic’s part of this article, now down to the meat of what I am writing to you about tonight. Kim Jung Un’s sister at the direction of her brother has offered President Moon an invitation to visit him in North Korea. The North Korean delegation has been putting on what has been widely referred to as a ‘charm’ campaign this past two months. Mr. Kim of North Korea has widely made it known that he wants the two Korea’s to be ‘unified’, yet the unification is to be under his command with himself as the one and only Leader of the Korean Peninsula. Folks, this is something that the extreme majority of the citizens of South Korea do not want to ever see happen.

 

What is going on is very obvious. The UN has put a lot of sanctions on the Kim government because of their missile program and the firing of ICBM’s as well as their Nuclear Program that Mr. Kim says he will never ever give up. A ‘show’ of Mr. Kim’s intentions was obvious when the North Koreans asked the South Korean government to give them the fuel that would be needed for the ship the North Korean delegation was going to use to make the very, very short trip to the South. Kim is playing the poor, poor pitiful me song and dance trying to get pity from the South Koreans and from the UN. For years the people of North Korea have been starving to death as the very fat Kim Jung Un who just keeps getting fatter and fatter himself. If Kim Jung Un can get the very liberal President Moon to start sending food and oil to the North, that would be a huge win for Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim can convince the very liberal and gullible President Moon to break the UN sanctions all together, then Russia and China would do the same. What if Mr. Kim can play sweet toward Mr. Moon and could convince him to throw the American military forces out of South Korea and to quit doing military exercises with the U.S. and to quit allowing U.S. ships to use South Korean Ports. It is obvious that the next thing would be the North Korean Army storming the South Korean’s thus unifying the Peninsula under Mr. Kim’s control. Of course this is if Mr. Kim cannot convince President Moon to do this voluntarily. Let’s all give this ongoing situation about  100 days, lets say until June 1st to see how this all shakes out. Another option of course would be if Mr. Kim gets President Moon up North and lets him know if the two Countries do not unite as one that he (Mr. Kim) will nuke the South ‘off the map’. Lets see what the History Books will be saying about this next 100 days. As a very dear old friend of mine used to say, “we shall see, what we shall see”.

The U.S. Military Being In Syria Is An Illegal Act Of War

 

This commentary today is simply my belief’s on the issue of the U.S. still having troops, combat or otherwise within the borders of the sovereign State of Syria. When our mission there was to destroy the illegal Caliphate of ISIS we had a defined reason and mission for being inside the borders of Syria. Since ISIS is now just another run of the mill terror group without a ‘State’ foothold our ‘mission’ there is done. The reason I say that we have no right to be there is because the legitimate government of Syria under its President Mr. Assad has said several times that we are not welcome there and that he wants us out of their country, now.

 

Just because we don’t like the Leader of a country this is not a legal reason for our government leaders to conduct military operations in that country. The last I heard the U.S. is conducting military operations in about 30 countries, why isn’t this enough for the military hawks in our government? As long as the government of these 30 or so countries have asked us in, asked us for help against honest to goodness terrorists, then we have a right to be there, if we so choose to help them. But, in a case like Syria where the government does not want us there and has said that they will attack any of our troops that are on their soil, we have no legal right to be there!

 

What could possibly be the reasoning behind our government keeping troops in Syria? Is our military and our government trying to start a direct war with Syria? Yet a bigger question would be, is our government trying to start not just a direct war with Syria but a proxy war with Iran and with Russia? If this is the case folks there is no doubt that we will end up being in a direct shooting war with Syria, Iran and Russia, is this really what we the people of the U.S.want? I really don’t think so. About the only member of President Trumps Cabinet that I have been backing so far is our Secretary of State Rex Tillerson but about two days ago he made the statement that we (the U.S.) need to be in Syria ‘long term’. I am not such a fan of his now folks.

 

Here in the United States if a country, any country, came inside our borders and started shooting and bombing any of our citizens we would declare War on that country. This would be the case even if our direct neighbors like Canada or Mexico attacked any group of our people whether they be Hispanic, Indian, Oriental, Black or White, we would actively repel them, neighbors or not. Why does our government feel that they have any right to be in Syria without the blessings of the Syrian government? Folks, we don’t have any right to be there, none! I do not like the Leadership of Syria nor the Supreme Leader of Iran nor his flunkies but they are a reality that we have no legal right to depose. It is a shame that we have the relations that we now have with President Putin and Russia and it appears that as long as President Putin is in charge there we will not be able to have the friendship between our Nations that I wish we had. No matter what you or I like or think, by the laws of our Country it is illegal for us to have any troops inside the borders of Syria. Without a Congress approved declaration of War it is also illegal for the U.S. Military to fire any missiles into the sovereign Nation of Syria. We need to get out right now before we blow this up into a World War.

Veterans Have An Obligation To Hold Congress Accountable In An Era Of Perpetual War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE)

 

Veterans Have An Obligation To Hold Congress Accountable In An Era Of Perpetual War

By

NATHAN SMITH

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For two administrations now, one Democratic and one Republican, America has witnessed a slow-motion ceding of constitutionally allocated war powers from Congress to the president during a time of conflict. Despite much hemming and hawing, countless hearings, and even a few floor votes on repealing the outdated post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the legislative branch has demonstrated a collective, bipartisan determination that a de facto loss of constitutionally prescribed powers to another branch is preferable to taking a tough political vote. Previously, I have discussed the morally repulsive nature of this determination by America’s elected representatives. What has been largely overlooked is the lesser degree of shared culpability that veterans bear for a tacit acceptance of this status quo.

RELATED: Congress Needs To Take Back Responsibility For Sending Troops To Conflict Zones

Many Americans seem to misunderstand the necessity of Congress’s role in providing oversight and direction to the military independent of the executive branch. It almost seems as if both the public and Congress assume military leadership would view congressional action in this regard as an unwelcome interference in military operations. Secretary of Defense James Mattis directly contradicted this notion when discussing an AUMF earlier this year before a Senate committee, stating, “I would take no issue with the Congress stepping forward… I think it’d be a statement of the American people’s resolve if you did so. I thought the same thing for the last several years, I might add, and have not understood why the Congress hasn’t come forward with this, at least the debate.”

Mattis and as well as people like past Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen.Martin Dempsey’s  comments are far from the only examples of military political leaders voicing a yearning for competent legislative oversight on military affairs. Indeed, this tradition goes all the way back to the Founders. At the time of the framing of the Constitution in 1787, close to half of the signatories were veterans of the Revolutionary War. It was that particular group of veterans who were among those who included Article I in the Constitution, which reserves for Congress the right to declare war. It is not a stretch, therefore, to assume that our country’s founding veteran generation had as one of its prerogatives establishing Congress’s central role in national security priorities while consciously keeping unilateral war-making authority out of the hands of the executive branch. This tradition continued even into the Vietnam era. Nearly three-fourths of lawmakers who served in the 92nd Congress from 1971-1972 had military experience. Less than a year later in November of 1973, the War Powers Resolution was passed overwhelmingly over President Richard Nixon’s veto, representing the most profound legislative limitation of executive war powers since constitutional ratification.

What then accounts for the morass in which we find ourselves in 2017, with a war in Iraq and Syria passing the three-year mark absent congressional authorization in the form of a specific AUMF? Why has a military response seemingly become the preferred solution to every foreign-policy problem the nation encounters in both Democratic and Republican administrations? One answer may lie in the dearth of veteran representation in Congress. As of the beginning of the 115th Congress earlier this year, only 18.8% of the composition was veterans.

Another problem may lie in the yawning civilian-military divide in which the public appears comfortable almost totally detaching itself from decisions on war and peace that will have little personal effect. With no draft, less than 0.5% of the population in uniform, and taxes largely cut over the post-9/11 period with the cost of ongoing wars being put largely on the nation’s credit card, almost no tangible pain as a result of military action exists for the average voter. In both problems, readily apparent solutions do not present themselves. Raising the percentage of veterans in Congress will take time, and with the military at historically low numerical levels, there is much less of a veteran pool to draw from. Implementing a draft would be impractical in today’s highly trained volunteer military, and while tax raises to pay for increased military spending may make fiscal sense, they would likely be too indirect for the public to strongly equate with military interventions and therefore draw little response.

The solution lies in veteran action. Traditionally, large veteran organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars among others have advocated on Capitol Hill both on issues specific to veterans and those representing the interests of their brethren still serving in uniform. Historically these organizations have provided a voice for the voiceless on active duty due to the nation’s strict rejection of military personnel intervention on matters of policy. Veteran organizations are well-placed to do so as veterans enjoy much of the cross-over social esteem that the military as an institution enjoys. In a recent 2017 Gallup poll, 72% of respondents registered having either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the military, a number that stands in stark contrast to Congress’s anemic 12%. It was with great disappointment, therefore, that upon exiting active duty six months ago and examining the legislative priorities of the largest veteran organizations, I found not one mention efforts to encourage Congress to discharge its constitutional obligations toward the public and military through debate and vote on a new AUMF.

Among individual veterans, too, there has been a dereliction of duty. At a recent town hall event, upon asking my district’s congressman how many veterans had called him demanding he take a stand and call for an AUMF vote, he responded that I was the first. This must change. In a country enamored with military conflict that is simultaneously largely detached from its troops, veterans must bridge the gap. They must return to their traditional role of encouraging restraint in military interventions through educating legislators and holding them accountable to providing a check to the executive on matters of war, regardless of what party occupies the White House.

Nathan Smith is a former Army artillery and intelligence officer and veteran of Afghanistan and the counter-ISIS war. He is on Twitter @nate_smith101.

Trump Says “Trust Me” On Afghanistan: Is It Even Possible To Trust Him On Anything?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump to ask Americans to trust him on Afghanistan

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Donald Trump is expected to discuss Afghanistan strategy Monday night
  • The President’s first major security address is expected to be from Fort Myer
  • His speech comes after a divisive news conference he gave last week

(CNN) Donald Trump will ask Americans Monday to trust him on his new Afghanistan strategy, exercising a president’s most somber duty, a decision on waging war, at a time when his own political standing is deeply compromised.

Trump will make his first prime-time broadcast on a specific policy issue to the nation as president at 9 p.m. ET to unveil his new plan, and a potential escalation of the nation’s longest war, after a lengthy period of deliberations that carved deep splits within his administration.
The speech will test the President’s capacity to convince Americans that he has settled on the right course of action on a major national security issue, and to unify the nation around it, despite his own depleted approval ratings and behavior that has alienated many voters in his first seven months in office.
Trump’s first major national security address will also begin to show whether the credibility that the President has squandered, with his provocative rhetoric and frequent resort to falsehoods, will hamper his capacity to lead.
Monday’s address, from Fort Myer, in Arlington, Virginia, represents a chance for Trump to leverage the symbolism of his office to stabilize a presidency that has threatened to spin out of control over the last two weeks.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday that Trump’s policy review on the war and the entire US approach to South Asia — i.e. Washington’s tortured relationship with Pakistan and complaints that Islamabad is tacitly encouraging extremists — had been finalized.
“He wants to be the one to announce it to the American people,” Mattis said. “He now needs the weekend to collect his thoughts on how he’s going to explain it to the American people.”
While Trump will be unveiling a crucial national security decision, it will be impossible to divorce his speech from its political context. His inflammatory news conference last week in which he equated white supremacists and counterprotestors who clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, triggered a stampede away from the President by senior Republican lawmakers, corporate CEOs and others that left him more isolated that ever before. His remarks also hit his own bottom line — a long list of charities has now canceled plans to host events at his Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who is now a CNN national security analyst, said that after off-the-cuff moments like the Trump Tower press conference, attention will be focused on how the President presents his case — as well as the content of his new strategy.
“There is a lot of pressure on him and hopefully we will see the teleprompter President Trump tonight,” Clapper said on CNN’s “New Day,” arguing that the presidency had been “seriously, seriously, wounded” by the President’s remarks at Trump Tower last week.
The decision on Afghanistan also sets up a test for Trump with his own political base in the wake of the departure of his senior strategist, Steve Bannon, who opposed sending more troops to the war and was the closest link to the isolationist, populist beliefs of the President’s core supporters.

Trump’s long-awaited Afghanistan strategy

Trump repeatedly questioned the purpose of America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan during his campaign, but he also contradicted himself on whether the war should have been fought.
Officials say that the President remains deeply skeptical about the notion of a continued presence in Afghanistan but is concerned that if the US comes home, it will leave a vacuum that could be exploited by terror groups.
But his doubts about escalating the war come up against the determination of hawkish generals in his inner circle, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, not to give up on a war that has demanded more than a decade-and-a-half of painful American sacrifice.
Trump delegated authority to adjust troop levels to Mattis early in his administration, but he has been presented by the Pentagon with a range of options for the path forward, including a complete troop withdrawal and the deployment of up to 4,000 more soldiers to add to the more than 8,000 American forces that are already there.
Hopes that the US could finally leave Afghanistan have been checked by the Kabul government’s struggle to preserve order under a resurgent challenge from the Taliban and inroads made by extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In June, Mattis gave a blunt assessment on the state of the war in a hearing for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible,” he said.
Trump’s appearance Monday night follows the most polarizing chapter of a presidency that has continually exacerbated political divisions.
His handling of the aftermath of violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this month has sparked outrage and accusations that Trump has irrevocably tarnished the moral authority of his presidency.
A measure of the damage that his conduct has inflicted on his political fortunes is reflected in the continued ramifications of his news conference days afterward. A flood of CEOs distanced themselves from Trump, forcing the closure of several White House advisory councils. Some senior Republicans, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, publicly questioned his fitness for office. And few senior GOP figures have been willing to publicly defend Trump, raising new questions about his capacity to enact his agenda in Congress.

Speech, then rally

Should Trump succeed in staking out a more conventional presidential posture Monday night, any political gain could be short-lived, as he is scheduled to hold a major political rally in Arizona on Tuesday night.
A vintage, pyrotechnical performance by Trump could revive the issue of his temperament following the Charlottesville drama and further anger Americans who are already disgusted by the President’s antics.
The rally offers Trump an early chance to show that despite the departure of Bannon, he remains committed to the issues and the political style that has won him steadfastly loyal support from his political base.
The issues likely to please a fervently pro-Trump crowd in Arizona are those that proved most effective for Trump in his campaign — including on illegal immigration and the need for a border wall — but which also cause the most alarm outside his core supporters.
In many ways, the Charlottesville episode has offered a reminder of why Trump was so controversial — by tearing at the societal and racial divisions in American life — but also why he was elected, since it shows how he connects with the often unspoken political instincts of a sizable slice of the country.
But in two crucial days for his administration Monday and Tuesday, Trump has to navigate two sides of his position — the duty to rally a nation behind a foreign war and a political imperative to solidify support among his most enthusiastic voters. It is not clear that either aim is compatible with the other.

The U.S. And Their ‘Alliance’ (Except For The Kurd’s) Need To Leave Syria Right Now!

 

Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.

 

As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.

 

Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.

 

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.

 

Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.

 

The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.

 

The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?

 

 

 

 

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