Our national security works best when our interest coincides with our values -Rear Admiral John Kirby (former State Department spokesman, during the Obama administration)
mericans are generally a very compassionate people. So compassion is an American value. Forget Donald Trump and his white nationalists base anti-immigrants posture, Americans are very embracing and welcoming to those who driven out of their lands by strife and oppression, find solace on American soil. American citizens, religious organizations and NGOs open their doors and wallets to strangers they have never met. American values of compassion and charity are on full display across the globe-providing aid and relief to areas hit by natural disasters and sometimes, made-made crisis such as wars and despotic leadership. Also on display around the globe is American military might. However, American values or American “soft power” tend to do more good on the world stage than American military might. Even at that, the American military are often deployed to help render humanitarian aides in disaster zones. Instances include epidemic outbreaks like the Ebola in Liberia, Tsunami in Indonesia, earth quake in Haiti among others.
Modern American history has shown that Republican administrations are more inclined to showcase American “military might” than their Democratic counterparts. President Jimmy Carter, although a former naval officer is proud to say that he did not fight any war in all of his four years in office. He is instead remembered as the only President in the turbulent history of the Middle East to have succeeded in brokering an enduring peace treaty between two major nations in the region-Egypt and Israel, in the famous Camp David Accord. President Carter even at his enviable age, continue to globetrot the world as an emissary of peace and projecting American “soft power”- eradicating diseases and promoting democracy through election monitoring with the Carter Foundation. Nigerians owe President Carter a debt of gratitude for among others, his Guinee pig eradication program in Northern Nigeria. His Habitat for Humanity program is providing shelter for low income individuals both in the US and abroad.
President Obama came in with a promise to end Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although it was beyond him to end those wars he did what was humanly possible in the circumstance, to draw them closer to an end. But at least, he did not start any new war.
You can now appreciate how idiotic the present lunatic in the White House sounded when he said that President Obama left him with a mess in Syria, and Iraq. It is President Obama who should have made the point that he was left a mess by President Bush. Note, prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was neither Al Qaeda nor Isis in either Iraq or Syria. Yet, President Obama has been derided for capitulating on his so-called red line threat in Syrian. But that capitulation turned out to be the wisest decision he could have made. I feel it was a mistake in the first place for him to draw the red line, but not acting on it was smart.
President Obama was not known for blustering. Raining missiles on an airstrip in Syria and recoiling to his shell like Donald Trump would have given him a worse image than doing nothing. President Obama did not have to show that he was a strongman. He had to show that (unlike the present buffoon in the White House) he was (is) one of the smartest Presidents in world history. Like almost every commentator has argued, the Syrian situation has no good options. Again, almost everyone in the West and the rest of the civilized world (except Russia and Iran) has noted that Bashir Assad is such a bloody tyrant that his continuous stay in power is an indictment of the conscience of the civilized world. However, the bone of contention has always been how to get that butcher out. While recent history has shown that the easiest way to get such brutal and sit tight dictators out of power is through military action, the case of Assad has proven to be a quagmire which no world leader with his head intact would want to commit him (her) self to. So it was the best possible option for President Obama to stay out of Syria. He decided not to commit American ground troops into the Syrian mess which would have led to another intractable military occupation of the boiling cauldron called the Middle East. So the Republicans mantra is how President Obama has left a vacuum in Syria for strongman Putin to fill! And so what? Must American fill all the vacuums in the world? Yet, they know this is a war they cannot win. They have not won the war in Iraq yet. Neither have they won the one in Afghanistan.
And then with the Russian war planes in the skies, they wanted President Obama to declare a no-fly zone over the skies of Syria-to deter Putin. Nonsense! Yet, the issue with no-fly zone is not the declaration but enforcement. Even the United Nations, UN, has always had a problem with declaration of No-fly zones. Senator Linsey Graham, the other day bluffed about how the United States was ready to shoot down Russian war planes over the skies of Syria . This is another nonsense from tough-talking Republican war-mongers, Senators McCain and Graham at the top of the list) just to show the world that no one can mess with America. Of course, Senator Graham has boasted that President Trump will not allow North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons. That is no news either. All American Presidents before there was a Trump also made the same vow.
Writing in The London Guardian, The Guardian Thursday September 8, 2016, Trevor Timm argued:” Obama has been generally right about Russia for years. In a 60 minutes interview last year, correspondent Steve Kroft kept trying to get Obama to admit that Putin was asserting his dominance over the US, but as Obama calmly ( and correctly) explained, what Russia is doing in Syria and Ukraine is not borne out of strength, but out of desperation. The idea of using our military purely to “show strength” against Russia in some sort of macho capacity may only make things worse”.
Donald Trump has been widely praised by Republicans and even some Democrats for raining missiles on a Syrian airstrip, an ineffectual strike which did not make a dent in Assad’s capacity to continue to terrorize his people. In fact, it has been reported that the Syrian Air force started flying from the air stripe less than 24 hours after the Trump’s bombing. However, Mr. Trump has already gotten his 12 hours of fame. Then, the Russians and Iranians came together and issued a joint threat daring Mr. Trump to try again, and he recoiled. We are now being told how Trump’s strong leadership has made American enemies melt away, out of fear of retribution. Nonsense. Vice president Mike Pence the other day warned North Korea not to test the resolve of President Trump. Again, nonsense. All the blustering and juvenile behavior is only stoking unnecessary tension . The problem is as Gordon Chang noted, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have a low threshold for using military action. True, they are both mentally unstable and a threat to a world already on the edge of a precipice.
It is idiotic talk to claim that others are afraid of America because of Trump’s blustering. He may only be succeeding in fueling resentment against America. Conversely, former President Obama a level-headed and thoughtful leader had a very high threshold when it comes to using America military power. He wasn’t the one to engage in reckless misuse of American military might, just to show that he is tough. Of course, he knew when to pull the trigger when it matters most and where it hits the hardest. The economic sanctions he unleashed on Russia had a devastating effect on its economy.
Republicans continue to claim that President Obama made America weak ( by refusing to engulf the country in another quagmire in the Middle East).Yet, this is a president who took out the world’s No.1 terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, and decimated the core leadership of Al Qaeda and pounded ISIS relentlessly. No, Republicans would not give him any credit. Of course, when it comes to complimenting President Barack Obama, Republicans could be extremely mean-spirited. The other day Senators John McCain and Linsey Graham were on a Sunday TV talk show asked to evaluate the presidency of President Obama . And lo and behold they could not mention a single achievement of the former President. You would think y that at least, the national security hawks would mention the killing of Bin Laden as President Obama’s achievement. All they said was how President Obama made America weak-the Syrian red line and the Middle East crisis. The only good memory they had of President Obama is that he has a “beautiful” family. Yes, President Obama has a beautiful family-a pretty and smart wife and also two pretty and smart daughters. But if that is all those two Senators, representing the opinion of Republicans can say of President Obama’s eight years presidency, that reminds you how according to LeBron James, how tough it is to be black in America. Even if you are the most powerful man on the planet and you happen to be black you are still going to be” judged by the color of your skin, not the content of you character”.
Still on President Obama’s achievements-he did not only take out Bin Laden. He also delivered the American economy from the precipice of depression (bringing unemployment rate from 10.00 to 5.5 by the time he left office). He delivered healthcare to Americans. And he kept us safe among other remarkable achievements.
The truth is that President Obama made America not only strong but likable. He mobilized the world to a monumental nuclear deal with Iran and tamed down the nuclear race. He again led the world into the Paris Climate Change deal. The Paris climate Change deal is so popular that when Donald Trump in his usual irrational decision pulled out of the deal, the rebuttals from a rare coalition of world leaders, business leaders and environmental right activists were ferocious and overwhelming. While President Obama worked hard to strengthen the EU and the Trans-Atlantic alliance represented by NATO, Donald Trump is out to tear both the EU and NATO apart in a desperate attempt to impress his benefactor, Vladimir Putin who helped him rig his way to power in the 2016 Presidential election. President Obama thrived on bringing the civilized world together for the common good. Mr. Trump who is feels more comfortable in the company of tyrannical leaders who flatter him is hard at work disrupting a civilized world order. While his white nationalist base and his Republican co-travelers are cheering him on and declaring that “America is back”. The rest of the civilized world is aghast with resentment as they see America in descend.
On the home front, President Obama saved the American economy-delivered it from going into a depression, He saved the auto and financial sectors. Of course he delivered healthcare to over 20 million Americans.
Yet, Rex Tillerson’s Exxon/Mobile is still lobbying hard to have those economic sanctions imposed on Russia lifted so they could go back and pursue their multi-billion Dollar oil exploration deal. The Wall Street Journal of April 20, 2017 reports that Exxon/Mobile oil corporation is seeking waiver from Commerce Department to be exempted from the US led western sanctions against Russia. According to the Wall Street Journal, the current US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson as Exxon/Mobile CEO “forged a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Rosneft, a company that is critical to Russia’s oil reliant economy. Exxon/Mobile under Tillerson has just signed a $500 billion deal with Rosneft to explore oil production in the Artic region when the sanctions over the annexation of Crimea hit in 2014.
Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson recently directed the State Department to de-emphasize American values in transacting foreign policy, as according to him, conditioning foreign policy too heavily on values creates obstacles to advance American national interest. Senator John McCain was so incensed by Mr. Tillerson’s remarks that he penned a scathing rebuttal in The New York Times opinion column,( The New York Times, May 08, 2017) . Senator McCain wrote :” With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppress people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it’s convenient, we might officially express that sympathy. But make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You are on your own”.
Both Tillerson and McCain are correct. The reality is America has not always lived by its professed values when it comes to transactions abroad. “American values” like Tillerson confessed to has always been transactional-American values are mostly observed when it serves its national interests-actually economic and security interests.
And there is more to Tillerson’s mentality. This a carryover mentality from the oil industry where Mr. Tillerson reportedly spent over 40 years of his handsome career. They are not concerned with human rights violations in their areas of operation, especially when it comes to Third World communities. In fact, Western oil corporations such as Shell, Exxon/Mobile, Chevron, BP Oil, are known to engage in the unconscionable practice of goading on the often tyrannical and corrupt regimes to suppress oil bearing local communities who have the guts to resist the ecoterrorism being unleashed on their lands. During the Ogoni of the Niger delta of Nigeria crisis, Shell was caught importing arms into the country. Those arms were handed over to the Nigerian military,who used them to conduct the pacification project in Ogoni land. In fact, Shell did not pretend to be operating behind shield as it openly participated in the kangaroo trial of the renowned environmental rights activists Ken Saro Wiwa, and his fellow Ogoni campaigners. Shell went on to bribe prosecution witnesses and paid an attorney for a “watching brief” at the military tribunal which eventually concocted the conviction of the Ogoni activists.
Still on Tillerson and human rights: it was a bizarre spectacle watching Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson standing alongside the Saudi Arabia Foreign Affairs Minister disparaging the Iranian regime for its alleged lack of respect for human rights and freedom of expression. So where were those thoughts from Mr. Tillerson when he was evading US sanctions to do business in Iran, as EXXon /Mobile ‘s CEO . Even as Mr. Tillerson was lecturing the Iranian regime on human rights he ignored his host country Saudi Arabia whose human rights record is not better than those of the Iranians. Asked by “Fox Sunday” anchor, Chris Wallace, why the Trump administration did not raise the issue of human rights with the Saudi authorities, Rex Tillerson argued that they have to tackle the issue of terrorism first before they could address rights violations. This argument sounds either naïve or disingenuous or both. Does Mr. Tillerson not understand that the underlying causes of violent uprisings and the temptation to be attracted to extremist ideologies and tyrannical rules which unleashes deprivation on citizens are interrelated? Of course, Tillerson’s administration has already signed a multibillion Dollar arms deal with the Saudi government. This is what matters to him. It is about the show of military might and America’s economic interest. Mr. Trump and Tillerson’s administrations has no business with “soft power” diplomacy.
But Senator McCain, again, has this advice for Secretary Tillerson and his boss : “Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or a tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s creator. To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize. Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three”.
However, it is safe to note that Senator McCain’s noble ideals are hardly considered by the operators of American foreign policy. For instance, following the global outrage that greeted the barbaric hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa and 8 of his fellow Ogoni campaigners on November 10, 1995, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations. Then, environmental and human rights activists across the globe called on the US and other Western nations to impose an embargo on the importation of Nigerian crude oil but, those calls fell on deaf ears. The Niger delta crude, Bonny light, the finest on the world market, proved irresistible for the economic interest of the United States and her Western allies. So, the brutal Abacha military dictatorship got away with wanton murder of the Ogoni activists, even under a Democratic President, in the person of Bill Clinton.
Like Senator McCain, implied in his New York Times, article, the world would always be better off when American foreign policies are driven by the concept of American values as opposed to American military might. American values of compassion, moral sanity, standing up for the little guy, protection and defense of civil rights, protection of the weak and needy, e tal. However, the Trump administration represents the worst in American capitalism. It is the government of crooked businessmen. It is the government of billionaires, by billionaires for billionaires who are only there to look after themselves and their ilk. Their policy is if you are poor, you are on your own, go and die. Mr. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal guts virtually every program that benefits the poor. It shrinks the State Department, crippling its ability to render foreign aides to needy nations. It deprives the States Department of the logistic to monitor human rights violations and supporting democratic efforts and institutions around the world; to the cheering of its Secretary Rex Tillerson, who of course, sees the respect for human rights as an obstacle to US economic interests abroad.
The Trump administration has declared a war on our environment. The EPA’s budget has been cut by more than a third. Clean water, clean air regulations have been eliminated. Of course, Donald Trump has an uncanny instinct to appoint Secretaries who do not believe in the existence of their own departments. The EPA Director, Mr. Scott Pruitt, had made a career out of suing the EPA, as Attorney General of Oklahoma. Instead of protesting the cut in the State Department Budget, Rex Tillerson praised it, saying the State Department needs to be trimmed down anyway. Recall, it was the State Department under the able leadership of Secretary Hillary Clinton that gave Russian President Vladimir Putin so much headache that he resolved to make sure she does not become the US President . To Mr. Tillerson, a well-known Putin’s friend, the State Department need not be that powerful. And Putin is loving it.
Yet, foreign aides as seasoned diplomats have argued, are no free lunches handed out to poorer nations. They ultimately serve American security interests. They are American soft powers. The Trump people do not understand this. All they know is macho military power to show the world how strong America is.
And there is this extreme right wing of the Republican Party, called the Freedom Caucus. They are the meanest capitalists around. They do not want the government to fund any program that benefits the poor; not even healthcare. They have just engineered a healthcare bill that stripes even by Republican standards, the most popular provision of Obamacare-the pre-existing condition protection, threw out about 24 million Americans from health insurance and decimated Medicaid. Their own bill took out money from healthcare to fund tax cuts for billionaires and millionaires. The callousness of these tea party crazies cries to high heavens. Like we have been arguing for years, the United States remains the only advanced Western nation that refuses to guarantee universal healthcare to her citizens. And conservatives resist universal healthcare with so much disdain. The other day, Trump’s favorite TV host Judge Jeanine of Fox News, mocked at the notion of Americans seeing healthcare as a right but not a privilege. So why should citizens of the richest nation on earth not see universal healthcare as a right? But like many have argued, you are not free if you cannot afford healthcare, or access to education or decent living. Sadly, this is lot of millions of Americans living in the supposed “leader of the free world”
Psalms chapter 72 verse 4 admonishes the king (leader) this way: “ let him defend the lowly among the people, let him save the sons of the poor. And let him crush the defrauder”. However, in Donald Trump’s America the king is devouring the poor and the lowly while protecting the defrauders – of which he is a prime example. His 2018 budget proposal while ballooning defense spending by a whopping 54billion Dollars; cuts virtually all programs that benefit the poor and the weak, such as food stamp, meals on wheels, Medicaid, clean water, clean air, environmental regulations.
The world does not doubt the military might of the United States, the world’s sole super power. Nor does anyone doubt her ability to flex her muscles. After all, to this day, “God’s own country” remains the only nation on the planet to have dropped the ultimate weapon- nuclear bombs on another nation. In fact, the world has had a surfeit of American military might. What is fast disappearing on the world stage in the era of Donald Trump is American values-of compassion and of course, reason.
Perhaps what is more alarming is that we now have the most powerful nation on earth being run by a sick man. Guess what could possibly go wrong!