America • Conservatives • Deep State • Democrats • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Hillary Clinton • Intelligence Community • Obama • Post • Republicans • Russia

None Dared Call It Treason . . . When It Was a Democrat

The past week of Russia hysteria has me longing for the good old days. Like 2009, when a Democratic president could pull missile defense systems out of Poland and the Czech Republic to appease Vladimir Putin without facing charges of treason. Or 2010, when a former Democratic president could take a cool half-million from a suspected Russian government-backed source to speak in Moscow and that wasn’t considered treasonous, either. Or 2012, when no one was screaming for impeachment when a Democratic president on a hot mic assured the Russian president that he’ll have “more flexibility” on missile defense systems once he’s re-elected. Or when the previous Democratic administration helped Putin toward his goal of controlling the worldwide supply chain of uranium and that was really all about “resetting” relationships.

Oh, how the times have changed!

Now, according to screeching harpies like Commie-lover John Brennan or many in the Democratic Party’s kept media, if you don’t say the right words during a press conference, you might be a traitor, worthy of impeachment, and probably Putin’s hand-picked agent sitting in the White House to bring about . . . well, that’s where the narrative gets a little fuzzy.

But the point is not to focus on substance. Just the style. It’s all about words and feelings, not about what actually happens because that would ruin a really good story, much like telling children the story you’re reading them at bedtime isn’t real. Forget such things as facts when you can have a good rip-roaring fairytale that soothes you and distracts the world from reality.

Facts Unravel the Narrative
In the lovely fairytale the Beltway media has spun up at the behest of their deep state buddies like Brennan, James Clapper, and James Comey, Donald Trump is the real traitor, guilty of “collusion,” while Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the rest are simply trying, with the purest of intentions, to be diplomatic in their relationships with Russia. It’s a tale at odds with reality.

If we look at the facts, the story changes and the narrative starts to unravel. People might have to confront the idea that systematic acts of appeasement in the face of Russian aggression might, in fact, be the real collusion. At least, one would think such systematic weakness would make people question them as sources on the subject of Russia and, failing that, the sources themselves might show some self-awareness and shut up.

Not only did Obama stop missile defense systems from deploying in Poland and the Czech Republic in 2009, Obama sent planeloads of socks and blankets to Ukraine in the face of Putin’s aggression. Which really shouldn’t have been a surprise: Senator Barack Obama was very much for disarming Ukraine. Channeling Neville Chamberlain, Obama said in 2005: “We need to eliminate these stockpiles [of conventional weapons] for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around the world, by keeping them out of conflicts around the world.”

What wonderfully stupid rhetoric. It’s much like saying, “When confronting wolves, make sure to lay down your guns and let them approach because they’re just misunderstood little doggies.”

How Trump Has Acted Differently Toward Russia
And while I and others have written at length about the Uranium One deal, it must be highlighted again: Putin wants to control the worldwide uranium supply chain. You know, the stuff that helps lead to the super big mushroom clouds that annihilate people in one blinding flash. But the Obama Administration felt it was best to give him the rights to upwards of 20 percent of our uranium supplies. Meantime, 
we have to import the overwhelming majority of our uranium. It’s not like we have extra piles of the stuff just sitting around so we can hand it out like candy to authoritarian leaders.

All of this behavior, however, makes Obama a reasonable politician in the eyes of the press and the globalist Left. While plenty of “soy boy” types like the Chamberlain appeasement approach to strongmen, Donald Trump has been quite different in how he has dealt with Putin.

While the Left and the media want to focus on style points and theater, Trump is quietly and forcefully dealing with Putin: Obama sends warm cuddly blankets to Ukraine. Trump sends Javelin anti-tank missiles. Obama wants to give Putin our uranium. Trump wants to undercut Putin’s energy dominance in Europe. His Three Seas Initiative speech last summer and his rebuke of Germany’s Angela Merkel over the Nord Stream II pipeline are very strong shots across Putin’s bow: almost half the Russian government revenue comes from oil and gas exports.

And while Obama did expel Russian diplomats over the election meddling, Trump sanctioned the Russian energy and defenses industries last fall and has targeted a very sensitive set of people: Putin’s inner circle, the oligarchs and some of the wealthiest men in Russia, the ones Putin needs to stay in power. These recent sanctions, enacted this spring, are some of the harshest we’ve hit anyone with, outside of the Iranian and North Korean sanctions.

But to all those hysterical people pounding the table over Trump’s “treason,” by all means you can take Obama’s style and rhetoric and his acts of appeasement. Just don’t lecture Trump on treason. Actions, not words, validate the man, so I’ll take Trump’s substantive actions any day of the week. In fact, I’ll take two scoops, thanks.

America • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post • Russia

Get It In Writing: What Trump Needs from Putin

Three decades of rocky Russo-American relations have been the result, mainly, of a lack of planning on the part of Washington. As the West—specifically, the George H.W. Bush Administration—basked in its victory over Communism and the Soviet Union, few appreciated the fact that, unlike the end of World War II in which the losing side became temporary wards of the United States, the end of the Cold War saw the Russians remaining an independent (though substantially weakened) force. Very few Russians viewed the collapse of Communism as anything other than the natural, internal implosion of a horrific ideology. The triumphalism in the West, while morally and emotionally satisfying, was somewhat unfounded.

As the elder Bush prepared for his “inevitable” reelection, he sought to shore up his foreign policy bona fides. Eager to ensure that Soviet troops exited Eastern Europe, his representatives met their counterparts from Moscow and verbally consented to Russia’s demand that NATO not expand into Eastern Europe. Of course, whether Bush intended to keep this promise is unknown. Fact is, that verbal agreement ended the moment Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Bush both lost their grip on power in their respective countries.

In any event, the government of the Russian Federation under Boris Yeltsin believed that the old Gorbachev-Bush verbal agreement on NATO expansion remained in place. It did not. This, more than anything else that has happened since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is the source of the friction that currently divides the United States and Russia.

The Divide That Ties
NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe—coupled with the European Union’s expansion into that land—brought superior Western firepower and economic might within 800 miles of Moscow. During the Cold War, the distance between Moscow and Berlin (the dividing line between the Soviet Union and Europe at that time) was approximately 1,130 miles. Russia was in a weakened state during the 1990s. Therefore, it could do little to exert its will on the international stage—other than issue diplomatic rebukes. Moscow relied on the promises that the West had made to it following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. To even a liberal Russian leader, like Boris Yeltsin, it became clear that the West would not honor the verbal agreements made between Yeltsin’s predecessor and former President George H.W. Bush.

The memory of extreme weakness and uncertainty, coupled with the perceived humiliation of Russia by the West throughout this period, hardened the Russians in a way not seen since the heady days of the Cold War. The inevitable economic collapse of Russia in the late-1990s ended Russia’s experiment with Western liberalism and returned it to its historical path of autocracy. Yet, thanks to the inattentiveness of George H.W. Bush—and, more importantly, the weakness of Bill Clinton—the Russians not only returned to autocracy, but they also reignited their anti-Americanism.

From the American perspective, it was freewheeling diplomacy between the George H.W. Bush team and Moscow that granted the false hope of no more NATO expansion in the desperate minds of post-Cold War Russian leaders. For President Trump, then, he must recognize that his freewheeling style is his greatest asset…but when dealing with the Russians, it might end up being a vulnerability. This is not to say he should not meet with the Russians this fall in Washington, D.C.—or that his recent Helsinki Summit was a total disaster, as the media claims. In the case of the former, he should meet with Putin in Washington. In the case of the latter, his Helsinki Summit was imperfect but mostly good.

When Trump meets Putin again in Washington, D.C. this fall, he must be less freewheeling with Putin than he’d prefer. The Russian president, like Gorbachev did with Bush, will try to hem Trump in by getting Trump to seem to agree to things verbally. For his part, Trump says things to try to garner favor with his counterpart throughout the negotiation process. Unfortunately, though, verbal agreements are difficult when Russians are involved. In our society, verbal contracts are difficult to enforce. In Russia, where a viable legal framework is lacking, the personal assurances of people are what counts.

When Putin brings up a sticky subject, like preventing space weaponization, Trump cannot ad lib. He should have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or National Security Adviser John Bolton in the room with him, for the same reason police officers prefer to have backup when raiding a criminal’s home: for protection.

America needs better relations with Russia—but it cannot sacrifice its broader national security for better relations with Russia. Unless Trump can ink a physical agreement with Moscow, his diplomacy with Putin will fail.

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America • Deep State • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Post • Russia • statesmanship • The Media

A Look at Helsinki from a Friendly Critic

President Trump took a risk by meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. My friend and sometimes colleague, Angelo Codevilla, with whom I often agree, gave the meeting and the press conference an A+. In the end, however, I believe Trump took an unnecessary risk. He did himself no favors during the press conference. Of course, we will have to wait and see what, if anything, actually comes of the meeting.

That said, the over-the-top reaction of his critics may minimize the danger to him. The worst summit ever? Really?

It seems to me that the president made three unforced errors in Helsinki.

First, Trump violated an important rule: a president never criticizes his own country and never throws his intelligence services under the bus on foreign soil. Second, Trump seemed unnecessarily deferential to Putin. Third, he mistakenly conflated “meddling” with “colluding” and seemed to accept his critics’ argument that such meddling affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Of course Russia meddled, but there is no evidence of collusion and no evidence that Russia’s meddling had an effect on the outcome of the 2016 election.

But the reaction of his critics was over the top, especially the insane yelps of “treason!” As usual, the overreaction of his critics will benefit Trump. And as Andrew Bacevich argues in the Boston Globe, it will also harm the United States itself. Bacevich writes:

I am increasingly persuaded that Trump’s election has induced a paranoid response, one that, unless curbed, may well pose a greater danger to the country than Trump himself. This paranoid response finds expression in obsessive attention given to just about anything Trump says, along with equally obsessive speculation about what he might do next—this despite the fact that most of what he says is nonsense and much of what he does is reversed, contradicted, or watered down within the span of a single news cycle . . . Yet today the G-7 still exists (and won’t be readmitting Russia anytime soon). The United States remains committed to NATO. And international sanctions imposed on the Kremlin for offenses real and alleged are still firmly in place. For all of Trump’s bluster, insults, and diplomatic gaffes, in other words, nothing much has changed.

The fundamental mistake that Trump’s critics make is to focus on his words and not his policies. As Danielle Pletka, senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute just observed in The Atlantic,

[I]t’s Trump’s words that are terrible. His policies are, in the main, not. The United States has crushed Russia beneath escalating sanctions, pulled out of the dreadful Iran deal, armed the Ukrainian opposition to Putin, stood up to China’s theft of American intellectual property, actually bombed Syrian chemical-weapons sites, and increased defense spending. Sure, there’s plenty to dislike in Trump’s foreign policy, including his trade wars, his dismissal of allies, his toying with NATO, and his Obama-esque desire to skip out of Syria. But his stupid rhetoric masks a mostly normal, if not always sensible or desirable, foreign policy. And Trump’s national-security strategy is at least coherent when compared with the incoherent global retreat embraced by the last administration.

She might also have added that on Trump’s watch we have seen the actual construction of ballistic missile defense (BMD) sites in Poland; browbeating NATO to spend more on defense while actually deploying U.S. forces into NATO bases in Central Europe; killing Russian mercenaries in Syria, expanding sanctions against Putin’s inner circles, enforcing penalties against U.S. and foreign companies that violate those sanctions; the expelling Russian diplomats; and most importantly for a geopolitical standpoint, unleashing American energy production, which hurts the Russian economy. These steps are all much tougher and impose much more cost on Russia than anything Obama did, or Hillary Clinton might have done.

Nonetheless, the president needs to understand that words matter. We only have to look to the 1961 Vienna summit between President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviet premier, believing  Kennedy was weak, took provocative steps designed to test the president, including actions that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly, circumstances are different today. For one thing, Russia today is a declining state. The United States is playing from a position of strength. I hope President Trump realizes this.

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • NATO • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture

NATO Now Serves the Interests of the Transatlantic Ruling Class

If we’re to believe the recent NATO summit’s communique and the mainstream media’s commentaries about it, the alliance serves roughly the same essential purpose today as it did in 1948, and Americans had better heed European Council President Donald Tusk’s thinly veiled warning: rein in President Trump’s criticisms of NATO, because its members are about the only allies America has got.

But although the people who run today’s European and American societies are perhaps closer to each other than in 1948—which accounts for their dogged defense of “the alliance”—in fact, they themselves have changed in ways that obviate the purposes for which the alliance originally was formed.

The point of departure for understanding U.S.-European relations is that the relationship between “the people who count” on both sides of the Atlantic are so good precisely because they  have become aliens to their own peoples. And, since all are in the process of being rejected by their own peoples, they are each others’ natural allies. But against whom are they allied?

What is the purpose of this alliance and what does it mean to us Americans?

Herewith, a summary of these moral and political changes, whose importance dwarfs the massive material transformations that the world has undergone in the past 70 years.

Defense of the West

In 1948, Europe faced the mighty Red Army, prostrate, poor, and penetrated by Communist organizations. But its principal figures—Konrad Adenauer, Charles De Gaulle, and Alcide De Gasperi—were devout Christians leading peoples who, chastened by war, were eager to safeguard and bolster what remained of their civilizations. All were conscious of their dependence on the United States of America for pretty much everything and grateful to us for it. That moral-political strength made up for a lot of material weakness.

It should be remembered, too, that keeping fellow Christians from succumbing to godless Communism moved that generation of Americans almost as much as the realization that the Soviet conquest of Europe would be very dangerous for us. Most came to believe that an alliance that reassured a weak-but-willing Europe was the best way to prevent it. Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, in tune as they were with ordinary Americans as well as with European leaders of their era, had no trouble forging a North Atlantic alliance based on the axiomatic commitment to nuke the Soviets were they to invade Europe.

Progressive Infection

NATO’s rot started in America. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election brought to power progressives, who self-identified as “the best and the brightest.” Shaped intellectually and morally by the doctrines of (eventual Nobel laureates) Henry Kissinger and Thomas Schelling, they saw men like Adenauer and De Gaulle as of a piece with the American conservative persons and ideas they were displacing.

At the first NATO meeting after Kennedy’s inauguration, they removed the U.S. commitment to nuke the Soviets. They also removed the U.S. medium range missiles on the necessity of which that generation of European leaders had staked their legitimacy. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, these American did their best to foster the rise of progressive Europeans, who would be partners in the grand pursuit of “detente” with Moscow. They got what they wished, and then some.

In retrospect the 1980s, dominated as they were by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl, were a brief anomaly.

Today, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have the opposite of 1948: political weakness born of the ruling class’s civilizational renunciation undermines vastly increased economic and (in the United States) military power. Russia’s army, backed by scarcely a tenth of the European Union’s GDP, would have little trouble making prisoners of NATO’s forward-deployed forces and reaching the Atlantic.

An Alliance to Protect the Ruling Class’s Power and Prestige

Today the transatlantic ruling class has its own civilizational agenda, manifested by its subsidies for constituencies both business and cultural, ranging from “renewable energy resources,” to education, the arts, and lifestyle. Far from allied to safeguard and promote Western civilization, this ruling class treats its cornerstone, Christianity, as unmentionable at best and usually as the main feature to be extirpated from people’s lives. This class also regards self-rule, the capacity of people in towns, regions, or nations to decide by vote how they shall live, as among the evils to be done away with. It treats as enemy anything—thoughts, practices, institutions—that limit its own its own power and prestige. For their power and prestige, after all, are what it is allied to protect.

Since ordinary people in each and all of NATO’s countries pose the clearest and most present danger to that power and prestige, whenever any country’s people have challenged the  power or prestige of their local member of the club, the other countries’ ruling classes have treated it as an attack on themselves. Under this updated version of the famous Article 5, the allied transatlantic rulers have warned, on pain of horrid consequences, the people of Britain to stay in the EU, the peoples of France to elect anybody but Le Pen, the peoples of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and most recently of Italy, not to vote as they did.

Most of all, they warned Americans not to elect Donald Trump.

Nothing has equaled their fury against him. This, of course, has little to do with Trump himself. Rather, it is the transatlantic allies’ reaction to their inability to bend the American people to their ways. The American people’s adherence to Western civilization, our inflexible desire to rule ourselves, is the negation of everything for which this class stands. And because America is what it is, the election of an anti-ruling class candidate has inspired European peoples to do likewise.

As the transatlantic allies have lost election after election, they have retreated to their bastions in the supranational institutions, the banks, the corporations, the media, etc. Their objective seems to be to punish voters—psychologically if in no other way—to convince them to repent. Their hands will have to be pried off the levers of power.

Because such things as Russia’s power, the Third World’s physical occupation of the Europe and the United States, never mind the international military balance, do not threaten what the transatlantic ruling class is allied to protect, they cannot be bothered to take these questions seriously. Hence, for the American people, NATO as it exists today is yet one more ruling class institution to be overcome.

What good—and it may be considerable—that Americans might achieve by working with Europeans would have to be pursued with such peoples as have freed themselves from the transatlantic ruling class’s power.

Photo credit:  DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • Greatness Agenda • military • North Korea • Post • Russia • Trump White House

Space Nationalism Now!

Donald Trump has yet again followed through on one of his promises: he is reinvigorating America’s space policy.

The White House has finally taken seriously those of us who have called for the weaponization of space. Placing strategic weapons into orbit would better defend the United States from attack, as well as threaten nuclear-armed rogue states, such as Iran and (should the ongoing talks with Kim Jong-un collapse) North Korea.

Here’s the rub, though: for all of their talk about space dominance, the military really doesn’t want a new branch cluttering the Pentagon. From their perspective, the space force would pull talent away from the technical services (such as the Air Force and Navy) and siphon off exorbitant sums of taxpayer dollars to fund its complex operations.

Yet leaving space mostly to the Air Force has not enhanced America’s capabilities in orbit.

Instead, the Air Force has taken the chunk of cash bestowed upon it for space missions under the imprimatur of the much-ballyhooed Air Force Space Command and merely requisitioned those funds for other “more immediate” needs. It’s a culture thing. The Air Force worries about “air dominance” and looks at space as secondary to its mission, whereas China and Russia have both recognized the strategic importance of space by creating independent branches dedicated to space operations.

History Repeats
Given that none of the other branches of America’s armed forces—including the Secretary of Defense—want to see the formation of the sixth branch of service, one can see history repeating itself. The military tends to fight innovation and bureaucratic reform across the board. Remember, the Air Force initially grew out of the Army Air Corps in World War II. Following that conflict, Congress believed that an independent branch solely dedicated to air operations and maintaining nuclear arms (along with the Navy) was necessary.

Thus, the Air Force was born.

The existing branches at the time all conspired to kill the Air Force in its infancy, lest it grow to become the most heavily-funded branch in the armed forces. Right now, there are elements within the Department of Defense looking to stymie the president’s new executive order.

Unless the president and his team are extra vigilant, the deep state will slow-walk the formation of this new service in the same way that it slow-walked the Hillary Clinton email investigation. As the bureaucracy maneuvers its unwieldy self for the mother of all turf battles, our enemies will grow stronger, and we will become less safe. But, hey, we need to make sure the Air Force has another $1 trillion to build more worthless F-35 fighters so that China can continue to see and detect, thanks to their innovative quantum radar, while we continue to pretend to be cutting edge.

There Be Doves Here!
Of course, the president’s declaration faces a significant snag in the form of international treaties forbidding the weaponization of space. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 explicitly forbids it, for example. That agreement was based on the utopian concept that if the international community simply declared space off-limits to military operations then it would remain weapons-free.

The same kind of utopians who forced the Outer Space Treaty down America’s throat in the 1960s continue to dominate the national security space policy community—even in the Trump Administration. So get ready to witness the strangest alliance in American history: peacenik science nerds and bureaucratically territorial Pentagon war chiefs united in their opposition to a space force.

While America did sign the Outer Space Treaty—and several others related to space—we also refused to ratify the Moon Treaty (which was considered the other foundational treaty in international space law). Also, in 2001, we pulled out of the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia. The ABM Treaty was a major pillar in international space law. The reason the George W. Bush Administration abrogated that treaty was to be able to fully develop space-based missile defense systems.

Toward Space Nationalism
America faces a world of severe threats with rapidly growing capabilities to threaten the United States—from space. A succession of American administrations have watched the threat grow over the last 30 years and done little to deter it. Now the threats are metastasizing. The solution, as Donald Trump has shown since 2016, is in nationalism—that is, space nationalism.

It’s time for Washington to put the interests of the American people first in space. The president cannot back down on his calls for a space force and he cannot entrust the bureaucrats in either the Pentagon or throughout the national security state to enact his will. If America cannot adequately defend itself in space, then very soon, it might just wake up and find Chinese or (less likely) Russian weapons pointing down at us from orbit.

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America • Americanism • Asia • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • military • North Korea • Obama • Post • Terrorism • The Media

Trump’s Moves With N. Korea Are Nothing Like Obama’s With Iran

In the wake of the Singapore summit with North Korea, many commentators and publicists, Democrats as well as figures from the NeverTrump Right, have argued that President Trump is legitimizing a dictator. Trump critics contend that had President Obama met with a dictator like Kim Jong-un, Republicans would be fuming. After all, Republicans criticized the previous president for negotiating with another despotic regime, Iran, over its nuclear weapons program. Accordingly, honesty and principle require Trump supporters to criticize the current president for doing precisely what would merit attacks on a Democratic president.

A cursory glance shows that the two situations are not at all similar. Iran does not yet have a viable nuclear weapon and North Korea does. The negotiations that led to Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, legitimized Iran’s path to the bomb, achievable within a little more than a decade. The purpose of Trump’s negotiations is to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Clearly, Democratic and NeverTrump political operatives are not making a serious argument. They’re posturing. Since this is a deadly serious issue, however, it’s worth getting it right.

Obama’s Realignment Effort
It’s vital to understand that Obama’s Iran deal wasn’t simply or even primarily an arms agreement. Rather, it was an instrument with which to realign American interests in the Middle East. The goal of realignment was to upgrade Iran and downgrade traditional American partners—especially Israel and Saudi Arabia—in order to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from the region.

Michael Doran wrote an important essay in February 2015 explaining realignment and detailing the Obama Administration’s flawed assumptions. Tony Badran is another Middle East analyst whose articles during the course of the Obama years showed how the United States was moving toward realignment. Obama aides and supporters waved off the realignment thesis as a “conspiracy theory” impugning foul intent to a president who simply wanted to avoid another Middle East war.

Most of these Obama supporters didn’t understand what the president was doing. It’s worth recalling that the “echo chamber” was a loud and incoherent chorus given the task not to explain Obama’s policies but to shout down critics of the Iran deal. For instance, the administration trotted out nuclear experts like Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to sell the “science” of the JCPOA—while at the same time Secretary of State John Kerry pushed poetry and fantasy, like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s imaginary fatwa against nukes.

Most of the echo chamber had no idea what it was actually advocating, even though Obama frequently discussed it. In a New Yorker article from January 2014, for instance, Obama described a “new geopolitical equilibrium . . . developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”

Realignment was Obama’s version of Great Britain’s twin-pillar strategy. Formulated after World War II when London realized it could no longer sustain its empire, the twin-pillar strategy held that the two great powers of the Persian Gulf, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, would balance the region and manage British interests after withdrawal.

Fundamental Misunderstandings
In fact, it was the United States that kept the peace in the Persian Gulf after the British exit, a peace that became increasingly difficult to manage after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. Obama was correct to see that the United States had further altered the regional balance by toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003, thereby strengthening Iran. Obama wrongly concluded that the way to facilitate the U.S. exit from the region was by further empowering the regime in Tehran.

The Obama Administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran needs to be seen in this context. The United States was not negotiating with an adversarial regime but was rather treating with a potential partner that would help stabilize the Middle East to the benefit of American interests. How could Obama possibly deny the regime what it most desired, the bomb, if he expected Tehran to help balance the region?

The actual intent of the JCPOA negotiations has led to a great deal of confusion. Many critics on the Right believe that the Obama team did a bad job and got a bad agreement. Some thought the way to go was to renegotiate the Iran deal, not crash it, as Trump did in May.

This misunderstanding of the fundamental nature of the Iran deal has helped open the way for Trump critics to return fire. “How can anyone praise Trump when he has won nothing on paper from the North Koreans?” the argument goes, whereas Obama got lots of paper in a deal officially struck with Iran to limit its nuclear activities. But that was not the purpose of the Iran deal. The JCPOA simply provided Obama with enough cover to grant Iran the nuclear weapons program it will have as soon as the so-called sunset clauses prohibiting certain activities expire.

The actual goal of the Obama Administration’s JCPOA negotiations was to legitimize the Iranian regime and its nuclear weapons program. North Korea, in this framework, is already legitimized, regardless of Trump’s efforts. Whether we wish to blame the policies of more than two decades that did not stop North Korea from getting a bomb or prefer to see Pyongyang’s program as an inevitable and natural fact that was no more preventable than a hurricane, the reality is that acquisition of a nuclear weapon puts that power on the global stage.

Delegitimizing a Dangerous Regime
Does the bomb “legitimize” North Korea, or for that matter does possession of a nuclear weapon “legitimize” any regime? “Legitimacy” does not refer to a universal quality all regimes must have in order to exist, nor does it describe a regime’s behavior at home and abroad. It is simply a concept drawn from international relations syllabuses used to describe how various actors secure and sustain power and prestige.

Or, think about it like this: During the Iran debate, advocates of the deal often argued that the mullahs would never actually use the bomb, or they’d be crazy to use the bomb. Iran, said JCPOA advocates, isn’t crazy. It’s a rational regime.

That line of argument falls away as soon as any power acquires a nuclear weapon. After a state’s nuclear breakout, a central concern for policymakers around the world is that said state may indeed use the bomb. The primary purpose of acquiring a nuclear bomb is to get the world’s attention.

Kim Jong-un has the world’s attention. He has Donald Trump’s attention. We cannot yet know whether Trump will be successful or to what extent he may succeed. But in his efforts to “denuclearize” the Korean peninsula, the goal is to “delegitimize”—if that’s how you want to understand it—a dangerous and destructive regime that terrorizes its own citizens and threatens its neighbors. This is precisely the opposite of what the Obama Administration did when it legitimized the clerical regime in Iran and its nuclear weapons program.

America • Americanism • Asia • Big Media • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Free Speech • GOPe • Hillary Clinton • military • North Korea • Post • The Left • The Media

How Twitter Diplomacy Works

President Trump this week will bust 68 years of diplomatic white paper inertia and meet the leader of a nation with which America has been at war since 1950.

In Singapore, Trump may add to a list of accomplishments that includes full employment, a booming economy, and sharp drops in illegal immigration, a new and completely unexpected one: ending America’s only war that lasted longer than the television show “M*A*S*H.”

Let’s not gloss over the fact that Trump’s foreign policy began with tweets, name-calling, and claims that “my nuclear button is bigger than yours.” Experts from CNN all the way to the Wall Street Journal have been aghast at Trump’s methods.

The experts haven’t yet figured out that the president’s tweets about Rocket Man and self-pardons cut through the news cycle like a machete, destroying every competing narrative in their path.

Because narratives are generally deployed to clutch, grab and frustrate Republican presidents, this is quite a political gift.

Trump wins the news cycle—as he won the presidency—by garnering maximum attention. That is why, in case you haven’t figured it out, he is taking pardoning advice from the Kardashians. Duh.

Writing 18 years ago in Dish: How Gossip Became the News and the News Became Just Another Show, Jeannette Walls presciently observed:

A lot happened in the world that week. The Berlin Wall was toppled and Germany was reunited. Drexel Burnham Lambert, the wildly powerful junk bond company, that spearheaded the eighties financial boom, collapsed. And after twenty-seven years in prison, South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela was freed. But for eleven straight days, the front pages of the tabs were devoted to the Trump divorce. Time and Newsweek did cover stories. Even the New York Times stooped to cover it.

It is an approach founded in effective branding. Trump Airlines. Trump Divorce. Trump Tower. Now, Trump World Peace?

Any civic-minded conservative who would ever say Trump should tone it down simply doesn’t understand political strategy in the social media age.

Trump’s tweets, bombast, and other Scaramuccis (to coin a term) draw maximum attention, but they should not be confused with the reason good things keep happening.

They are diversionary devices that keep his naysayers occupied while he does real stuff. Good things are happening upon principles of cause and effect, the governing science of a real estate developer.

The key to getting Kim Jong-un to bargain was . . . wait for it . . . to ask. Not Kim, but the Chinese.

Whatever happens at this summit, the greatest advance in the Korean stalemate happened about a year ago, when China made clear through its state-run media that it would not support North Korea in a war that it started against the United States.

It was a game changer that materialized after Trump’s summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. Nearly 70 years of State Department policy wonking and Harvard symposiums on Korea never quite got there.

There ensued Kim’s heavily armored slow train trip from the Hermit Kingdom to Beijing, where we don’t know what the Chinese told him, except that it was probably some version of “Cut it out, you’re ruining everything.”

Trump’s connection with the 65 million who voted for him is that they, too, live in the world of cause and effect, one bad decision away from losing everything.

They were fed up with the endless abstractions and self-congratulation that substitute for effective policy in Washington. They wanted a president who would be measured by results: did the president deliver benefits for America?

Even the phrase “America First” was a promise to yield tangible outcomes. That is how Trump voters understood it. Only huffy intellectuals far removed from causal connections could find their way to an esoteric reading of a simple slogan as a racial dog whistle. And, once again, their reading tells us more about them than it does about Trump or his supporters.

Trump enters the proceedings in Singapore with one unexpected advantage. He already blew up an international summit this week and publicly humiliated Justin Trudeau.

Kim Jong-un and whatever advisors he hasn’t yet killed have to be recalibrating their approach.

It is not quite three-dimensional chess. But it is at least the sort of tactical negotiation that a builder conducts with his granite supplier and that real people do every day.

Sometimes Justin Trudeau has to be roughed up to achieve a greater good.

And for those of you who never negotiated with a granite supplier, the olive branch extended to Putin while shutting down the G-7 was another shot fired at Kim Jong-un: even your friends like me better because my nuclear button is bigger, Exalted Leader.

It is impossible to know what will result from this summit. Maybe nothing, except the continued slow and effective isolation of North Korea from the protection of China. Or maybe the lion will sleep with the lamb and there will be 1,000 years of peace.

Whatever happens, one thing is entirely predictable: Trump will win the news cycle. Because that is how Twitter diplomacy works.

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Intelligence Community • Post • Russia • the Presidency • Trump White House

Peace in Our Time? The Trump-Putin Summit

The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is working toward a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. In the meeting, expect Trump to share whatever national secrets he hasn’t already divulged to Putin while eating  copious amounts borscht. Maybe Jared Kushner and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could perform a barynya dance routine as Trump decides which part of Eastern Europe to hand over to the Russians in exchange for help in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Or at least that’s how the folks at MSNBC are envisioning the pending Russo-American summit.

In the real word, the meeting between the two leaders is very good news. That the United States and the Russian Federation—two of the most powerful nuclear-armed states on earth—have been at loggerheads over what amounts to petty squabbles is an absurdity for the ages. One of the biggest problems is the United States and the Russians, over the years, stopped talking to each other in any meaningful or respectful way.

Donald Trump’s ongoing diplomatic dance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un provides a telling snapshot of how the United States could reinvigorate its relationship with Russia: treat the other side with a modicum of respect and dignity; be firm but willing. Those traits were lacking in U.S. presidents from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama when it came to dealing with Moscow. In many respects, we have turned Russia into an enemy. Had Hillary Clinton (or Jeb! Bush) been elected president in 2016, we’d have turned Putin into a fanatical anti-American actor.

All Putin wants is to talk and to be seen on a relatively equal diplomatic footing with the United States. It’s not a significant loss for the United States if we give him that. Truth is, Russia’s nuclear arsenal and dominant position in global energy trade gives Moscow that position—even if Washington refuses to acknowledge it (as if thinking Russia is not important makes it so).

Going forward, the United States must continue to empower the Baltic states to strengthen their own defenses and show resolve against any further Russian irredentism there. At the same time, though, we need to recognize the limitations of our European allies in terms of their military capability (and willingness) to resist Russian revanchism. The United States also should be willing to relax sanctions against Moscow in exchange for an amenable agreement over Ukraine and Syria. If we can countenance a deal with nutty North Korea, we surely can sip borscht with Putin.

We should also make room for Russia in a new Mideast balance-of-power (since we do not have the capability to roll back Russian influence there). Don’t worry: after the Russians get mixed up in a few more tribal wars in the region, they’ll learn the painful lessons we’ve learned over the past 18 years, and never again want to re-engage there.

Naturally, the Left will charge Trump with further kowtowing to Moscow (thereby “proving” the unfounded charges of “collusion” against him in their eyes). Yet this is the same Left that continues to venerate Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (rather than Ronald Reagan) for having ended the Cold War peacefully, and applauds the Obama Administration’s “reset” with Russia in 2010 (which saw a drastic reduction in American nuclear weapons capabilities and an expansion of Russian nuclear arms).

What America needs now is an equal, fair, firm, and reciprocal deal with Putin that would stabilize and eventually improve relations between Moscow and Washington, D.C.

The one thing, however, that Trump should not do is make any deal with Putin that prevents the United States from developing and funding vital defensive systems while allowing Russia to develop its own systems unimpeded. This would only weaken the United States and continue allowing for Russia (and China) to strengthen their position relative to ours (as we reduce our nuclear weapons arsenals, the Russians and Chinese expand theirs at breakneck pace, in order to “catch-up” with us).

Instead, the president should issue a freeze on new strategic nuclear weapons development between the two sides while arguing that the United States must generate an equal number of non-strategic nuclear arms, in order to gain parity with Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons arsenal (which was allowed to balloon to historically high levels under the previous Obama agreement with Russia).

From there, Trump should announce that the United States is going to focus exclusively on building space-based missile defense. And, if possible, try to bring the Russians along in that endeavor, as a sign of goodwill.

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev’s greatest hope was for the United States and Russia to be partners in peace, not rivals in war in the 21st century. We can fully realize that dream today—and we should give peace a chance. If nothing comes of it, we are right back to where we started. In other words, it’s no real loss for the United States. But if Trump can manage to make progress with Putin, he might further reduce the threat of great power conflict, which would help to keep America great.

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America • Congress • Deterrence • Europe • Foreign Policy • History • military • Post • Religion and Society • taxes • The Constitution

The Destiny of America

President Coolidge delivered this speech on Memorial Day, May 30, 1923, in Northhampton, Massachusetts.

Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. In no other nation on earth does this principle have such complete application. It comes most naturally from the fundamental doctrine of our land that the people are supreme. Lincoln stated the substance of the whole matter in his famous phrase, “government of the people; by the people, and for the people.”

The authority of law here is not something which is imposed upon the people; it is the will of the people themselves. The decision of the court here is not something which is apart from the people; it is the judgment of the people themselves. The right of the ownership of property here is not something withheld from the people; it is the privilege of the people themselves. Their sovereignty is absolute and complete. A definition of the relationship between the institutions of our government and the American people entirely justifies the assertion that: “All things were made by them; and without them was not anything made that was made.” It is because the American government is the sole creation and possession of the people that they have always cherished it and defended it, and always will.

Why Patriotic Societies Come to Be
There are two fundamental motives which inspire human action. The first and most important, to which all else is subordinate, is that of righteousness. There is that in mankind, stronger than all else, which requires them to do right. When that requirement is satisfied, the next motive is that of gain. These are the moral motive and the material motive. While in some particular instance they might seem to be antagonistic, yet always, when broadly considered or applied to society as a whole, they are in harmony. American institutions meet the test of these two standards. They are founded on righteousness, they are productive of material prosperity. They compel the loyalty and support of the people because such action is right and because it is profitable.

These are the main reasons for the formation of patriotic societies. Desiring to promote the highest welfare of civilization, their chief purpose is to preserve and extend American ideals. No matter what others may do, they are determined to serve themselves and their fellowmen by thinking America, believing America, and living America. That faith they are proud to proclaim to all the world.

It is no wonder that the people are attached to America when we consider what it has done and what it represents. It has been called the last great hope of the world. Its simple story is a romance of surpassing interest. Its accomplishments rise above the realm of fable. To live under the privileges of its citizenship is the highest position of opportunity and achievement ever reached by a people.

If there be a destiny, it is of no avail for us unless we work with it. The ways of Providence will be of no advantage to us unless we proceed in the same direction. If we perceive a destiny in America, if we believe that Providence has been the guide, our own success, our own salvation requires that we should act and serve in harmony and obedience.

What Set America Apart
Throughout all the centuries this land remained unknown to civilization. Just at a time when Christianity was at last firmly established, when there was a general advance in learning, when there was a great spiritual awakening, America began to be revealed to the European world. When this new age began, with its new aspirations and its new needs, its new hopes, and its new desires, the shores of our country rose through the mist, disclosing a new hemisphere in which, untrammeled by Old World conventions, new ideals might establish for mankind a new experience and a new life.

Settlers came here from mixed motives, some for pillage and adventure, some for trade and refuge, but those who have set their imperishable mark upon our institutions came from far higher motives. Generally defined, they were seeking a broader freedom. They were intent upon establishing a Christian commonwealth in accordance with the principle of self-government.

They were an inspired body of men. It has been said that God sifted the nations that He might send choice grain into the wilderness. They had a genius for organized society on the foundation of piety, righteousness, liberty, and obedience to law. They brought with them the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages wherever it contributed to the civilizing power of these great agencies. But the class and caste, the immaterial formalism of the Old World, they left behind. They let slip their grasp upon conventionalities that they might lay a firmer hold upon realities. . . .

The main characteristics of those principles from which all others are deduced is a government of limited and defined powers, leaving the people supreme. The executive has sole command of the military forces, but he cannot raise a dollar of revenue. The legislature has the sole authority to levy taxes, but it cannot issue a command to a single private soldier. The judiciary interprets and declares the law and the Constitution, but it can neither create nor destroy the right of a single individual. Freedom of action is complete, within moral bounds, under the law which the people themselves have prescribed. The individual is supported in his right to follow his own choice, live his own life, and reap the rewards of his own effort. Justice is administered by impartial courts. It is a maxim of our law that there is no wrong without a remedy. All the power and authority of the whole national government cannot convict the most humble individual of a crime, save on the verdict of an impartial jury composed of twelve of his peers. Opportunity is denied to none, every place is open, and every position yields to the humblest in accordance with ability and application.

Not Perfect, But Surpasses All Others
The chief repository of power is in the legislature, chosen directly by the people at frequent elections. It is this body, which is particularly responsive to the public will, and yet, as in the Congress, is representative of the whole nation. It does not perform an executive function. It is not, therefore, charged with the necessity of expedition. It is a legislative body and is, therefore, charged with the necessity for deliberation. Sometimes this privilege may be abused, for this great power has been given as the main safeguard of liberty, and wherever power is bestowed it may be used unwisely. But whenever a legislative body ceases to deliberate, then it ceases to act with due consideration.

That fact in itself is conclusive that it has ceased to be independent, has become subservient to a single directing influence or a small group, either without or within itself, and is no longer representative of the people. Such a condition would not be a rule of the people, but a rule of some unconstitutional power. It is my own observation and belief that the American Congress is the most efficient and effective deliberative body, more untrammeled, more independent, more advised, more representative of the will of the people than anybody which legislates for any of the great powers. An independent legislature never deprived the people of their liberty.

Such is America, such is the government and civilization which have grown up around the church, the town meeting, and the schoolhouse. It is not perfect, but it surpasses the accomplishments of any other people. Such is the state of society which has been created in this country, which has brought it from the untrodden wilderness of 300 years ago to its present state of development. Who can fail to see in it the hand of destiny? Who can doubt that it has been guided by a Divine Providence? What has it not given to its people in material advantages, educational opportunity, and religious consolation? Our country has not failed, our country has been a success. You are here because you believe in it, because you believe that it is right, and because you know that it has paid. You are determined to defend it, to support it, and, if need be, to fight for it. You know that America is worth fighting for.

Too Much Class Interest, Too Little Public Interest
But if our republic is to be maintained and improved it will be through the efforts and character of the individual. It will be, first of all, because of the influences which exist in the home, for it is the ideals which prevail in the homelife which make up the strength of the nation. The homely virtues must continue to be cultivated. The real dignity, the real nobility of work must be cherished. It is only through industry that there is any hope for individual development. The viciousness of waste and the value of thrift must continue to be learned and understood. Civilization rests on conservation. To these there must be added religion, education, and obedience to law. These are the foundation of all character in the individual and all hope in the nation. . . .

A growing tendency has been observed of late years to think too little of what is really the public interest and too much of what is supposed to be class interest. The two great political parties of the nation have existed for the purpose, each in accordance with its own principles, of undertaking to serve the interests of the whole nation. Their members of the Congress are chosen with that great end in view. Patriotism does not mean a regard for some special section or an attachment for some special interest, and a narrow prejudice against other sections and other interests; it means a love of the whole country. This does not mean that any section or any interest is to be disproportionately preferred or disproportionately disregarded, but that the welfare of all is equally to be sought. Agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and all the other desirable activities should serve in accordance with their strength and should be served in accordance with the benefits they confer.

A division of the people or their representatives in accordance with any other principle or theory is contrary to the public welfare. An organization for the purpose of serving some special interest is perfectly proper and may be exceedingly helpful, but whenever it undertakes to serve that interest by disregarding the welfare of other interests, it becomes harmful alike to the interest which it proposes to serve and to the public welfare in general. Under the modern organization of society, there is such a necessary community of interests that all necessarily experience depression or prosperity together.

They cannot be separated. Our country has resources sufficient to provide in abundance for everybody. But it cannot confer a disproportionate share upon anybody. There is work here to keep amply employed every dollar of capital and every hand of honest toil, but there is no place for profiteering, either in high prices or in low, by the organized greed of money or of men. The most pressing requirement of the present day is that we should learn this lesson and be content with a fair share, whether it be the returns from invested capital or the rewards of toil. On that foundation, there is a guarantee of continued prosperity, of stable economic conditions, of harmonious social relationships, and of sound and enduring government. On any other theory or action, the only prospect is that of wasteful conflict and suffering in our economic life and factional discord and trifling in our political life. No private enterprise can succeed unless the public welfare be held supreme.

The Great Economic Question
Another necessity of the utmost urgency in this day, a necessity which is worldwide, is economy in government expenditures. This may seem the antithesis of military preparation, but, as a matter of fact, our present great debt is due, in a considerable extent, to creating our last military establishment under the condition of war haste and war prices, which added enormously to its cost. There is no end of the things which the government could do, seemingly, in the way of public welfare, if it had the money. Everything we want cannot be had at once. It must be earned by toilsome labor. There is a very decided limit to the amount which can be raised by taxation without ruinously affecting the people of the country by virtual confiscation of a part of their past savings.

The business of the country, as a whole, is transacted on a small margin of profit. The economic structure is one of great delicacy and sensitiveness. When taxes become too burdensome, either the price of commodities has to be raised to a point at which consumption is so diminished as greatly to curtail production, or so much of the returns from industry is required by the government that production becomes unprofitable and ceases for that reason. In either case, there is depression, lack of employment, idleness of investment and of wage earner, with the long line of attendant want and suffering on the part of the people. After order and liberty, economy is one of the highest essentials of a free government. It was in no small degree the unendurable burden of taxation which drove Europe into the Great War. Economy is always a guarantee of peace.

It is the great economic question of government finances which is burdening the people of Europe at the present time. How to meet obligations is the chief problem on continental Europe and in the British Isles. It cannot be doubted that high taxes are the chief cause for the extended condition of unemployment which has required millions to subsist on the public treasury in Great Britain for a long period of time, though the number of these unfortunate people has been declining. A government which requires of the people the contribution of the bulk of their substance and rewards cannot be classed as a free government, or long remain as such. It is gratifying to observe, in our own national government, that there has been an enormous decrease in expenditures, a large reduction of the debt, and a revision of taxation affording great relief.

But it is in peace that there lies the greatest opportunity for relief from burdensome taxation. Our country is at peace, not only legal but actual, with all other peoples. We cherish peace and goodwill toward all the earth, with a sentiment of friendship and a desire for universal well-being. If we want peace it is our business to cultivate goodwill. It was for the promotion of peace that the Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armaments and Pacific Questions was called. For the first time in history, the great powers of the earth have agreed to a limitation of naval armaments. This was brought about by American initiative in accordance with an American plan, and executed by American statesmanship. Out of regard for a similar principle is the proposal to participate in the establishment of a World Court. These are in accordance with a desire to adjust differences between nations, not by an overpowering display or use of force but by mutual conference and understanding in harmony with the requirement of justice and of honor.

America’s Desire: Peace and Freedom
Our country does not want war, it wants peace. It has not decreed this memorial season as an honor to war, with its terrible waste and attendant train of suffering and hardship which reaches onward into the years of peace. Yet war is not the worst of evils, and these days have been set apart to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice. Some fell with the word of Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death,” almost ringing in their ears. Some heard that word across the intervening generations and were still obedient to its call. It is to the spirit of those men, exhibited in all our wars, to the spirit that places the devotion to freedom and truth above the devotion to life, that the nation pays its ever-enduring mark of reverence and respect.

It is not that principle that leads to conflict but to tranquillity. It is not that principle which is the cause of war but the only foundation for an enduring peace. There can be no peace with the forces of evil. Peace comes only through the establishment of the supremacy of the forces of good. That way lies only through sacrifice. It was that the people of our country might live in a knowledge of the truth that these, our countrymen, are dead. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

This spirit is not dead, it is the most vital thing in America. It did not flow from any act of government. It is the spirit of the people themselves. It justifies faith in them and faith in their institutions. Remembering all that it has accomplished from the day of the Puritan and Cavalier to the day of the last, least immigrant, who lives by it no less than they, who shall dare to doubt it, who shall dare to challenge it, who shall venture to rouse it into action? Those who have scoffed at it from the day of the Stuarts and the Bourbons to the day of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns have seen it rise and prevail over them. Calm, peaceful, puissant, it remains, conscious of its authority, “slow to anger, plenteous in mercy,” seeking not to injure but to serve, the safeguard of the republic, still the guarantee of a broader freedom, the supreme moral power of the world. It is in that spirit that we place our trust. It is to that spirit again, with this returning year, we solemnly pledge the devotion of all that we have and are.

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America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Post

Trump Offers South Korea a Backbone

Donald Trump on Thursday canceled the much-ballyhooed summit with North Korea scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. The president cited Kim Jong-un’s recent mysterious meeting with China’s Xi Jinping among the reasons for pulling out of the meeting. Whatever the White House may be insinuating, it is highly unlikely that China is the cause for the break in the summit.

It is more than likely that Trump decided to pull out of the summit following his meeting with the South Korean leadership in Washington, D.C. Fact is, America’s principal ally in these negotiations is simply far too eager for a deal. Even though the United States nixed the summit, South Korea’s leadership went forward with a meeting with North Korea’s leadership this weekend, in spite of the fact that nothing significant could be achieved at this meeting without the presence of the United States.

Don’t Blame China This Time
While the Trump Administration had an embarrassing show in its quixotic trade negotiations with China and was blindsided by the recent meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping in China, it’s hard to fathom why China would intervene to scuttle the U.S.-North Korea summit. That wouldn’t serve China’s interests.

After all, China’s ultimate goal is to remove America’s military presence from the shores of Eurasia. Should a real entente between the West and North Korea be forged, it would only be a matter of time before the South Koreans requested the Americans to leave their land, as Seoul developed deeper ties to Pyongyang (and therefore Beijing). Stopping the talks and getting Kim Jong-un to reverse course would be counterproductive to the Chinese grand strategy. In brief, the Chinese desire to unite and dominate as much of Eurasia as it can in order better to compete with the United States globally, and to keep American military forces away from China.

Jockeying for Leverage (and Credit)
Behind the scenes, a tense diplomatic dance is happening between Pyongyang and Washington, D.C. that will determine who should get credit in public for the cooling tensions. Naturally, President Trump continues to claim it was his “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea that brought Kim to the table. For his part, Kim Jong-un denies that the American efforts had any direct effect on his actions.

Instead, Kim argues that it was the efforts of South Korea’s leadership that made him open to peace negotiations. Meanwhile, South Korea continues behaving as though it must make a deal with North Korea at all costs. Kim Jong-un understands the desperation of his South Korean counterpart and relishes it (which explains why Kim prefers to deal directly and exclusively with South Korea on matters of substance). Trump probably wants a deal, but he won’t be led by the nose into one by desperate partners, only to be taken advantage of by North Korea (and China).

Trump knows that desperation in negotiations is a killer. Even if one has weakness in a contentious negotiation, one must never let the other side know about that weakness or it will cease to be a negotiation and become a discussion about the terms of surrender.

By unilaterally terminating the summit, Trump is sending a message to his far-too-eager South Korean partners that, if they don’t want to get nuked anytime this decade by North Korea, they had better learn to sing Washington’s tune. By pulling out of the deal, he is attempting to stiffen South Korea’s backbone. After all, weakness is provocative and strength deters.

NoKo No-Go?
Ultimately, the South Koreans will realize that, without the United States—without President Trump—no real deal can be brokered with North Korea.

Trump is ensuring that the United States, South Korea, and Japan get a real deal from Kim Jong-un rather than just another summit that improves Pyongyang’s position and weakens everyone else’s. By pulling out of the talks earlier this week, Trump is forcing his allies to get in line, and is increasing his leverage in the forthcoming talks—which, we can safely assume will happen at some point this year.

Unlike his predecessors, however, Trump has no interest in holding a summit for the sake of having a summit. He wants real progress. His actions this week do not show recklessness, rather they prove that Trump is deeply engaged in the peace process.

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America • Asia • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • North Korea • Post

Trump Will Get a Deal Done with North Korea

President Trump’s announcement Thursday that he is canceling the upcoming summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was seized upon by leftists with their typical fervor and malicious glee. Kim has “won,” according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and he must be having a “giggle fit.”

To people like Pelosi, the summit’s cancellation is more proof that Trump is erratic, incompetent, and a danger to world peace.

And yet one has to ask: what sort of person would celebrate the curtailment of a dialogue between two countries armed to the teeth and clearly prepared to engage in a devastating, and possibly nuclear, war? How cynical have Democrats become, when maligning Trump is more important to them than the potentiality of saving millions of lives?

The truth is, Trump’s announcement was not an admission of failure. Not really. It is instead the precondition for eventual success.

The fact that North Korea was brought to the table in the first place, and was willing to consider total denuclearization, is entirely due to the tough line that the Trump Administration took beforehand.

In particular, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley presided over a spectacularly successful international effort to tighten the screws of economic sanctions against the Kim regime. China, too, was mobilized to put pressure on the North Koreans.

The result: a willingness on Kim’s part to denuclearize and to talk in good faith with South Korea and the United States.

Trump’s cancellation of the planned summit is a response to recent belligerent and dismissive statements from Pyongyang to the effect that Kim would not participate, and North Korea would not make concessions unless joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises were scrapped. North Korea’s tone nullified the pacific and optimistic atmosphere that was beginning to form on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

Trump’s cancellation of the planned summit is hardly the last word we will hear on the North Korean question. It is a typically Trumpian bold stroke that is designed to alert the North Koreans to the fact that the United States will not be bullied and insulted, nor will it surrender any of its vital interests.

Kim also needs to understand just how weak his bargaining position is. His country has a tremendous amount to gain from a comprehensive settlement of its differences with South Korea and the United States. The reality is that without such a settlement, North Korea’s prized nuclear and missile programs are a few smart bombs away from total destruction—and the Kim regime itself may be in danger.

In the end, Trump and Kim will meet. Both the United States and North Korea are clearly leaving the door open for future talks.

The Left, therefore, should stifle its spite. Trump may earn his Nobel Peace Prize yet—even though, as he has said, “peace is the prize.”

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America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Post • The Media

‘Madman Theory’ Drives Media Mad

During the 2016 election, candidate Donald Trump reportedly asked a foreign policy advisor why the United States couldn’t use nuclear weapons. His alleged question: “if we have them, why can’t we use them?”

After relating the story on Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough indulged in a moment of shocked silence in an attempt to hammer home the simultaneous stupidity and horror of Trump’s questions. Vox later cited them as an example of his “seemingly confused views on actual nuclear policy.”

While Hillary Clinton called Trump’s purported views “terrifying” in the final presidential debate, the New York Times noted that his questions underscored the fact that “the more willing leaders are to use nuclear weapons, the less likely they will need to do so.” Of course, the Times reporter waved off any possibility that Trump was intentionally highlighting this fact.

But even though the Times didn’t realize it, the newspaper was explaining a key plank of Trump’s diplomatic and military strategies: unpredictability.

On Thursday, after President Trump called off the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, Nicholas Kristof wrung his hands and worried about a potential military conflict with North Korea. He claimed that every president since Nixon has realized that “military options are too dangerous to employ.” Well, perhaps that’s why the North Korea problem has persisted as long as it has. Our enemies are emboldened when we categorically rule out using our military in all but the direst of circumstances.

Dealing with Syria, President Obama explicitly drew a “red-line,” giving our enemies free rein to do anything up to that line without fear of military retaliation. Worse, he didn’t respond militarily even when Syria crossed that red line.

While some may claim that Obama showed great restraint and avoided needless military engagement, his actions were far more dangerous than anything that Trump has done so far. Decisiveness and unpredictability make our enemies wary of testing us. But hesitation, mixed messaging, and weakness let hostility and tensions fester. Our enemies will raise the stakes and test us more aggressively. We will eventually have to respond in kind. The longer we wait to react, the more dangerous the potential confrontation becomes.

We can’t use our military as leverage in diplomacy if no one believes we will actually use it. Similarly, the effectiveness of nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip is slashed if we make it clear that we will only use them if someone else does. Our military and nuclear arsenal are most effective at deterring war when our enemies have real reason to worry about incurring our wrath. And maintaining that worry stems directly from unpredictability and an unwillingness to signal our every move.

But the media seem completely incapable of understanding or appreciating this strategy. This may stem from their desire to be the first to know things and to control the narrative. They still believe that they are smarter than the man who, against all odds, won the presidency and they believe they are the arbiters of truth and reason.

And so when Trump says or does something the press didn’t expect,  couldn’t immediately understand, and can’t effectively spin, they lose their minds. Their arrogance blinds them to the possibility that the man who they have consistently underestimated and who has systematically outsmarted them, even before he had access to some of the best intelligence sources in the world, may understand something that they don’t. After all, the media would rather be wrong than admit they don’t know what is happening.

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U.S. Has Leverage in Dealings with Iran and North Korea

There has been a lot of misinformation about both getting out of the so-called Iran deal and getting into a new North Korean agreement. The two situations may be connected, but not in the way we are usually told.

Getting out of the Iran deal did not destroy trust in the U.S. government. Our departure from the deal does not mean that North Korea cannot reliably negotiate with America.

In 2015, the Iran deal was not approved as either a Senate-ratified treaty or a joint congressional resolution. Had the deal been a treaty, President Donald Trump could not have walked away from it so easily and with so little downside.

Former President Obama knew that he did not have majority congressional support for his initiative. Therefore, he desperately sought ways to circumvent the constitutionally directed authority of the Senate and redefine a treaty as a mere executive order

Obama got the deal approved by the Iranians in part by paying them ransom for hostages through huge nighttime cash transfers.

A cynical North Korea knew only too well that in the past, President Obama either entered into agreements or avoided them based on his therapeutic notion that human nature was both changeable and essentially noble.

The North Koreans now seem worried that a more unpredictable Trump has a quite different, pessimistic and tragic view that humans are predictably capable of almost anything—if not strongly deterred.

After Trump’s rejection of the Iran deal, North Korea now concedes that it cannot cajole a flawed agreement with the current U.S. president, who is mercurial rather than scripted in his reactions.

North Korea is the stealthy and illegal supplier of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology to Iran. Should North Korea enter into a detente with the West, Iran might lose a rogue nuclear patron—one of the keys to its efforts to get a bomb.

Tough international sanctions work slowly. But despite occasional cheating, they do in the end work well enough to injure economies. The tragedy of the 2015 Iran deal was that an embargoed Tehran had been brought to the brink of social and economic chaos before the deal was struck.

Had the global boycotts continued, Iran might not have had either the cash or the public calm to spend vast fortunes simultaneously on nuclear proliferation, global terrorism and proxy wars in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Unfortunately, the Iran deal ensured Iranian nuclear proliferation after sanctions had been inhibiting it.

Iran looked at the sweetheart 2015 deal as a rescue. Before Trump canceled it, Iran had planned to use the deal for the next decade to regroup, to earn billions in foreign exchange as sanctions ended, to spread its influence throughout the Middle East, and to ready itself to produce bombs in 2025.

Then, when the agreement expired, Iran would have been far richer, more technologically sophisticated, far more powerful in the region—and far more likely to get more advanced bombs.

In both the Iran deal and a potential North Korea deal, the United States has enormous leverage—and it should never forget that fact.

Global sanctions can wreck the relatively small and vulnerable Iranian and North Korean economies. Even American sanctions alone and the ripples from them can injure Tehran and Pyongyang.

The U.S. can also deter Iran and North Korea in a variety of other ways.

New American efforts at missile defense can nullify some of their offensive capability.

Regional neighbors and allies of the United States—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt—have the ability to go nuclear themselves. Yet these pro-American nations stay non-nuclear only because of the restraints imposed upon them by the U.S. That is a condition that in the future can be recalibrated to fit the behavior of Iran and North Korea.

Without China, neither Iran nor North Korea can obtain the diplomatic cover or the technical support needed to build a sophisticated nuclear missile arsenal. And China can be convinced not to endanger its lucrative commerce with the West for the sake of irritating the United States and Europe with rogue nuclear proxies.

Finally, Russia is a regional neighbor of North Korea and Iran. It has no strategic self-interest in having two unhinged nuclear countries nearby.

Before the onset of the hysteria about Russian “collusion,” the United States and Russia discussed areas of mutual benefit, such as limiting the number of dangerous third-party nations with nuclear weapons.

For all the evil of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the potential evil of a nuclear Iran and North Korea is greater. It is time to talk about mutual strategic interests with the Russians to nullify a North Korean and Iranian nuclear threat.

In sum, for all their obnoxious bluster, the rogue governments of North Korea and Iran are more vulnerable than ever.

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Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Intelligence Community • Middle East • military • North Korea • Obama • Post • Republicans • Terrorism

Iran Nuclear Deal and North Korean Talks: The Difference

There is a remarkable contrast between the current state of the North Korean negotiations and the recently decertified Iran nuclear agreement.

In August, President Trump threatened the Pyongyang government with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” in response to its advances in atomic weaponry. Much of the media and the political Left reacted to the president’s tweet with a fit of apoplexy and predicted something not very short of Armageddon.

The threatening tactic, however, has achieved the desired result. Before even taking a seat at the bargaining table, Kim Jong-un has returned Americans he had illegally detained, and announced he would abandon his nuclear efforts. Indeed, journalists have already been invited to a ceremony later this month in which part of the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear testing facilities would be publicly destroyed.

Not unexpectedly, Kim has attempted to bolster his bargaining position by threatening the upcoming talks in response to U.S.-South Korean training exercises. That’s understandable. Similar actions bore fruit during the Obama years, but it appears to have had little significant effect on the current White House, which has taken the comments in stride.

Compare that with President Obama’s stance in negotiations with Iran, in which the former administration essentially entered the talks signaling it would grant major concessions before receiving any solid give-backs from Tehran. The result, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), failed to provide any substantive benefit to the United States, except—at best—a delay in Iran’s developing nuclear weapons and some inconvenience caused by the necessity of hiding prior or ongoing research, a fact made startlingly clear by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent revelations.

The Iran deal’s flaws are glaringly obvious. Even if the mullahs faithfully complied with its provisions, they would still have the right to build atomic bombs within a decade. Additionally, the JCPOA did nothing to inhibit Iran’s long-range missile development program. In return, Iran received vast sums of cash up front, and an end to the sanctions that had hobbled its economy.

Despite the obvious and crucial shortcomings which made the JCPOA, as noted by the White House, “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Obama loyalists continue to defend it. Some, most notably former Secretary of State John Kerry, have worked diligently to protect it, even going so far as arguably violating the Logan Act (which prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating such matters with foreign governments) in their efforts.

The concept of American negotiators entering into talks with adversarial powers from a position of strength has, despite its apparent success with North Korea so far, received little support from those more accustomed to Washington’s prior agreement-at-any-price modus operandi.

Martin B. Malin and Hui Zhang wrote in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

It is not yet clear if the Trump administration has a strategy for negotiating with North Korea . . . much public commentary has focused . . . on the apparent lack of preparedness inside the US administration . . .  with few exceptions, there has been almost no US thinking about a negotiating strategy. Incoming national security advisor John Bolton has recently suggested bombing North Korea. Even the most thoughtful analysts have focused almost exclusively on maintaining coercive leverage in the course of negotiations . . .  The United States must come to terms with the possibility that it may need to make peace with North Korea, and take significant steps toward full normalization before Kim Jong-un would ever implement a complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of his nuclear arsenal.

Malin and Zhang have been proven incorrect, as were the extensive number of critics that decried President Trump’s “fire and fury” comments.

Obama was personally invested in the Iran deal. In essence, he placed his legacy above the needs of the nation. Trump, despite the political gains he could reap from a North Korea success, has repeatedly stressed that he is willing to walk away if the talks don’t produce good results, placing him in a far better negotiating position than his predecessor.

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Stupid Foreign Policy’s Futility

Yet another chapter in U.S. foreign policy’s history of ignorant, bloody, expensive, futile, counterproductive attempts to reshape foreign societies ended with Muqtada al-Sadr’s decisive victory in last week’s Iraqi elections. He won despite the U.S government’s all-out support for puppet Prime Minister Haider al Abadi (who came in last), and after a decade and a half of U.S. occupation and war. Its most intense part, “the surge,” was directed largely against Sadr.

On the bright side, the Wall Street Journal reported, in fact, the person best placed and most likely to pursue the one objective that is in America’s own interest: posing obstacles to Iran’s expansion, is precisely Muqtada al-Sadr.

How come? And if so, why did the U.S. government sacrifice American blood and treasure for 15 years to frustrate him? Alas, these questions have a common answer. The Journal reports what our foreign policy community has always known: al-Sadr has always been independent of the Iranians because he has a very large personal following among Iraq’s Shia majority, inherited from his father, who had protected the Shia under Saddam and was martyred for it. But the U.S. occupation correctly saw his rootedness and nationalism as inconvenient to its own plans to remake Iraq in the image of its imagination.

Remembering this failure’s anatomy is especially important for conservatives, because conservatives’ political support for the George W. Bush Administration is what made possible the occupation of Iraq, and especially “the surge.”

What Happened to “We Win, They Lose”?
Within living memory, conservatives had a proud history of common sense about foreign policy. Conservatives agreed with General Douglas MacArthur: “in war, there is no substitute for victory,” and denounced the Acheson/Truman no-win policy in Korea. When the liberal establishment applied the same policy in Vietnam, Barry Goldwater led conservatives to the common sense that if that war was worth fighting, it was worth winning. As Henry Kissinger and the establishment imagined some sort of convergence with the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan recalled that common sense: “we win, they lose.”

In 1990-91 however, George H. W. Bush violated that common sense when he made neither peace nor war with Saddam Hussein, instead doing just enough harm to turn him into the Muslim world’s paladin of anti-Americanism, and to destroy that world’s respect for America. Conservatives opposed Bill Clinton’s half-wars, which further fuzzed the distinction between war and peace. George W. Bush had run for president decrying the loss of that distinction and forswearing the kind of warfare that the establishment had practiced since Korea. And after the 9/11 attacks, Bush had spoken as if he heeded the American people’s mandate to do “whatever it takes” to end the war that the Muslim world’s regimes were inciting against Americans.

In 2003, when George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, conservatives hoped that it was part of a larger plan to face the Muslim world’s regimes with the alternative: stop anti-American activities in your territories or expect America to overthrow you.

Instead, tragically, the Bush Administration occupied Iraq forcibly to fulfill objectives that were self-contradictory (“a united, democratic Iraq”) and impossible—preventing a country with a Shia majority from alignment with Iran by ensuring disproportionate power for its Sunni minority. Pursuit of this nonsense cost America 4,500 dead, 32,000 maimed, and something around $3 trillion.

Under Bush and his successors—alas, today as well, Trump included—the U.S. foreign policy establishment, seemingly on autopilot since Vietnam, has bought and paid for a series of puppet governments which it sought to run through legions of proconsular officials. The foreign policy disasters that this has caused are beyond our scope here.

What “the Surge” Accomplished
Among the deadly political casualties that the Iraq occupation inflicted on America itself was the corruption of American conservatives’ common sense about war and peace. Conservatives proved to be as susceptible as anyone to partisanship’s lures. Bush acted in Iraq much as Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon had in Vietnam. But Bush was “one of ours.” He said he was choosing “the tough options.” On Fox News, retired military and commentators supported him. They hailed “the surge” as some kind of reincarnation of the Inchon landing. It had brought victory, which Obama had thrown away by withdrawing combat troops.

Reality was different. “The surge” had two elements: first, ceasing to fight the Sunni insurgents, granting to them effective sovereignty over the areas where they lived, arming them and paying them in exchange for them not shooting at Americans and killing or turning over “extremists” of their choosing, and, second, making war upon those Shia who had taken the fight against the Sunni insurgents into their own hands and was winning. First among these were the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr.

And so it happened that American soldiers killed and died to subdue Baghdad’s Sadr City section, to build and to secure walls separating it from Sunni neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the U.S. government was empowering other Shia factions by giving them control of a lavishly supplied army, and lots of money to buy influence.

This is the Iraq, and the Iraqi army, through which the ragtag ISIS troops sliced as a hot knife through butter. The U.S. military equipment that it abandoned to ISIS enabled it to wreak havoc for some three years. This is the Iraq which largely crushed Kurdistan, the only real ally other than Israel that America had in the Middle East. This is the Iraq that has become virtually an extension of Iran, much to America’s disadvantage. And the foreign policy that has produced it is the one long since programmed into the U.S. establishment’s autopilot.

Whatever else the Iraqi people’s election of Sadr might be, it is a rejection of what the United States has done in Iraq for the past 15 years. It is also the latest of many calls to Americans to turn off our establishment’s foreign policy autopilot.

Photo credit: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

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Avoidable Tragedy: Why We Need Missile Defense Now

Decades ago, as a young intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army’s Pershing Nuclear Missile Brigade (56th Artillery), I wondered whether, as British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said in 1932, “the bomber will always get through.” I wondered whether indeed an attack by air or missile could be stopped.

I knew our Pershing 1 missile, and the subsequent P-2, had a very good CEP (circular area of probability). In other words, the bird was accurate. Traditional American technological prowess in such matters had even led U.S. presidential candidate and GOP nominee Barry Goldwater to comically quip in 1964 that we should “lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin.”

And perhaps in 1964 that would have been possible. Today, notwithstanding the various personal hygiene venues in the Kremlin, it is much more of a possibility—unless,  ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) becomes standard defense policy, as it certainly will in any smart nation. In today’s environment that imperative is made quite clear by the recent actions and increased capabilities of Iran.

When the president wisely chose to look askance at the Iranian nuclear deal he not only served notice that their charade was up, but that the United States would no longer stand idly by and watch as the Iranians embarked full steam on a campaign to gain and deploy nuclear weapons delivered by ballistic missiles. We would not be the Brits and French in 1936 as the Wehrmacht blithely waltzed into the Rhineland. German generals later testifying that they had orders to withdraw in the face of the slightest allied response which, of course, did not come. When the Soviets built the Berlin Wall, it was later also said the Russians had orders to cease and desist at the look-see of one American tank turret. That American tank turret never appeared and America missed a chance to thwart aggression.

But that’s not America today. Not this time. Not this president.

Though, the Iranian response to Trump was interesting.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chief of their parliamentary committee on national security said recently that, “With America’s decision, Iran’s missile program will not change at all.” Given the Israeli intelligence heist proving that the covert Iranian nuclear program has been an ongoing effort, was he actually telling two subtle truths?

One, of course, it won’t change, as the program never stopped in the first place.

And two, he speaks specifically of missiles, which means delivery systems. It almost sounds as if he’s saying, “We already have the warheads ready to go. We just need a little more time to perfect the way to shove them down your throats.”

It is common sense that a warhead without a missile is a bullet without a gun. And the mullahs have been working on the gun.

Less than a year ago, Iran unveiled the Khorramshahr missile and tested it the very same day. It has a range of 1,250 miles, putting it within reach of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Straits of Hormuz, but also NATO members Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. It can carry multiple warheads much like the U.S. multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) missiles, the Chinese JL-2/3, and the Russian Sotka and Sineva missiles.

And the 1,250-mile range? Half the range of the original missile the North Koreans sold to the Iranians. The Iranians said they then decreased missile size. Uh huh. If the original range still holds—bet it does—then Paris, London, Munich, Rome, and Prague are all within range of a nuclear attack or an EMP burst.

After the test of the Khorramshahr, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, “We will strengthen our missiles.” And that was last year. Within the last two weeks and the Iranian missile strike on northern Israel from their bases in Syria, we see at least in this regard the Iranian president is as good as his word.

Lest we think this is only a Middle Eastern threat, remember, we are the “Great Satan,” now even more devilish with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the rejection of the John Kerry-negotiated (Kerry, the man who thought proper use of American diplomatic influence was serenading the French with “You’ve Got a Friend,” with James Taylor in tow) nuclear deal.

Unless the Green Revolution comes to pass, Israel attacks, or the CIA can pull another Mossadegh move, Iran will eventually threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. It already implicitly threatens U.S. allies and interests.

If we don’t deploy, and soon, GMD as part of a multi-layered strategic missile defense system, then the unstable theocrats who run Iran could, as the nationalistic or religious frenzy strikes them, attack this country with relative impunity. Israel has figured as much per their nation and has great success with both the Iron Dome and David’s Sling GMD systems.

Every day Iran rattles its scimitar more. It grows more provocative in Syria, in Yemen, and elsewhere. Do we really believe that it’s all a bluff?

If it is, GMD could make them think twice. For so much of statecraft is theatrics combined with analysis. If they’re not bluffing, or if we fail to deploy a strong strategic missile defense, then the scenario for ourselves and our allies may be tragic.

Avoidably tragic.

Photo credit: Farsnews/AFP/Getty Images

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Israel and Its Enemies: Why Culture Matters

A passage from a landmark American novel shows why attempts to appease Israel’s enemies have always failed and always will fail.

Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man (1964) is the story of Jack Crabb, a fictional 19th-century frontiersman. In 1852, when Jack is 10 years old, he comes to live with the Cheyenne of the Northern Plains through a set of circumstances too complicated to recount here. On his first morning among the Indians, out of a desire to be accepted and liked, Jack makes an error that earns him the lifelong enmity of another boy. Jack explains (emphasis is added):

After our bath [in the stream] them boys fetched bows and we played war in and out of a buffalo wallow near camp, shooting one another with arrows that didn’t have no points. And then we did some wrestling, at which I was none too good and somewhat shy to try too hard, but after getting badly squeezed, I turned to boxing and bloodied at least one brown nose. The latter was the property of Younger Bear, and the event caused him to receive a good deal of jeering, because I’d say Indians are given to that trait even more than whites. I felt sorry for Younger Bear when I saw the ridicule I had let him in for.

“Which was a big mistake: I should either never have hit him in the first place or after doing so should have strutted around boasting and maybe given him more punishment to consolidate the advantage: that’s the Indian way. You should never feel sorry about beating anybody, unless having conquered his body you want his spirit as well. I didn’t yet understand that, so throughout the rest of the day I kept trying to shine up to Younger Bear, and the result was I made the first real enemy of my life and he caused me untold trouble for years, for an Indian will make a profession of revenge.

Like the Cheyenne, Arabs operate in a shame/honor culture in which a beaten enemy sees the winner’s concessions and goodwill gestures as further humiliation. Being the recipient of magnanimity underscores subordination. After all, only victors can afford to be generous. Therefore, no Israeli offer will ever be good enough. Only subjugating the Jews can expunge Arab shame. Honor won’t be restored until the Zionists are dead, driven out, or reduced to a degraded remnant.

Psychologist David Gutmann (1925-2013) believed this was why “Palestinian leaders have rejected or sabotaged every proposal for statehood since 1947.” Gutmann, writing at the American Spectator, explained: “The calculus of Shame dictates that the Palestinian stigma of defeat can only be removed by a bloody victory over the Jews who inflicted it. By the same token, their state cannot be handed to the Palestinians by some benign international arbiter, or by a generous Israeli government. . . . The gift of a state that was not won in battle would only increase Palestinian shame.”

So there is no “peace partner” and no “peace process,” although Arab leaders will pretend these things exist while playing for time—which they believe to be on their side. It appears to them that the nations (gentiles) don’t much like the Jews, and they conclude that Israel is isolated. “We Arabs are so many and the Jews are so few,” they observe. They therefore see Israel as an ephemeral Crusader kingdom. Unlike Westerners, Arabs are patient—in it for the long game. European vilification of Israel and international pressure on the Jewish state do not facilitate peace. On the contrary, they give heart to Israel’s enemies and prolong the conflict.

What circumstances, then, favor peace? Conditions that convince more and more Palestinians that Israel is here to stay and fighting the Zionists is for chumps—a sucker’s game. Who wants to be the last shahid in a doomed undertaking?

Historian Daniel Pipes calls for Israeli victory rather than containment or calm. His research indicates that only about 20 percent of Arabs accept peaceful coexistence with Israel and that 80 percent seek its brutal elimination. Peace will come when those numbers are flipped. And the numbers will flip when Israel is unambiguously victorious on all fronts and its enemies acknowledge defeat. How will this be achieved?

Pipes contends his formula for victory is not primarily military and offers the example of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam in 1975. “We didn’t lose because we ran out of bullets or soldiers or dollars,” he told attendees at the David Horowitz Freedom Center on November 19, 2017. “We ran out of will.”

True. But unlike Palestinians, American hippies—whose voices came to dominate the national discourse on Vietnam—had neither honor nor shame. They invited defeat. Now, in advanced age, they still glory in it. No. An Israeli victory over the Palestinians would have to look much more like the Union victory over the Confederacy or the Allied victory over Germany and Japan. Once the goal is defined the specifics can be worked out. Peace may be expected only when the Palestinian will to victory is broken.

Photo credit:  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Trump’s Iran Decision Is Already Paying Off

The Iran deal has been killed. With it, Iran’s grand designs for regional hegemony are badly wounded.

President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the deal comes at a time when the Iranian economy is suffering the effects of a decades’ long decline. After the Obama Administration secured its ill-advised executive agreement with Iran over the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program, the United States gifted Tehran with with pallets of American cash and cleared the way for European multinationals to gobble up all sorts of lucrative business deals with Iranian state-owned enterprises. That breathed new life into the sclerotic theocracy.

U.S. policy until now has favored Iran, whether intentionally or not. The Iraq War of 2003 removed Iran’s chief rival in the region, allowing Tehran to expand its influence across the Middle East into the Levant and practically on to Israel’s doorstep, sowing all sorts of chaos along the way. With Obama’s legacy-seeking 2015 agreement, the pariah state suddenly had legitimacy in the international community, as well as a legal path toward acquiring nuclear weapons within the decade.

Ending the Iran deal proves that the president is committed to strengthening traditional alliances, as it shows how dangerous the Obama Administration’s feckless gambit was to begin with.

The Iran deal didn’t effect a fundamental transformation in Iran or make sane democrats out of mad mullahs. All it did was paper over the real differences between the West and Iran while giving the regime the time it needed to gather its strength, while the United States lowered its guard.

In the week since Trump made his announcement, Iran’s parliament chanted “death to America!” while incinerating an American flag, and Iran’s proxies launched 20 missiles into Israel from Syria. What’s more, the mullahs are vowing to restart their illicit nuclear program at “industrial strength”—as if they actually ever discontinued it. And they’ve reiterated their commitment promote Islamic terror groups around the world.

None of this is President Trump’s fault. The Iranians have been doing these things for decades. Now, they’ve been called out and they’re having an epic geopolitical temper tantrum.

Nevertheless, Trump’s detractors contend that his decision to withdraw from the deal undermines the United States diplomatically. They take for granted that Iran’s participation in the deal represented a legitimate pathway to peaceful integration in the global economy. Thanks to President Trump’s decision, some “experts” claim, we have now ensured that Iran will charge headlong into its destabilization strategy for the Middle East—and they will do it sooner rather than later.

Never mind that Iran never stopped backing Hezbollah in Lebanon. Never mind that Iran has been funding and arming the Islamist insurgents who regularly lob missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. And never mind that Iranian armed forces—including the elite Quds Force—have operated more or less unchecked in Syria, Iraq, and western Afghanistan. Boosters of the Iran deal would ignore all of that for a worthless agreement and an illusion of “peace.”

Sometimes diplomacy works well. But diplomacy without the implicit backing of force—or, worse, mealy-mouthed diplomacy—negates any benefit a negotiated settlement may have.  

This is especially true with rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea. Just days after Trump withdrew from the deal, Israel hit the bulk of known Iranian military bases in Syria. How did Iran’s ally Russia respond? By announcing its forces in the region would not interfere with Israeli military operations directed against Iranian targets in Syria.

More strangely, the religious blood feud between the Persian Shiites of Iran and the Arab Sunnis of Saudi Arabia has made the Saudis (and the other Sunni Arab states) look at Israel as a regional ally. Obama inexplicably opened the door for Iran to invade the Middle East. Trump has closed it. And, rather than the United States standing as the only force in the way of Iranian revanchism, an unlikely (and powerful) coalition of Sunni Arab states, Israel, and Russia have effectively joined with America in stuffing Iran back into its proverbial box.

None of this would have happened had the United States remained a party to Obama’s awful deal.

It is likely that tensions, as well as hostile actions involving Iran and its neighbors, will continue—and possibly intensify—over the next year. Even so, the termination of the deal will likely ensure that the Iranian threat dissipates quickly, as they are deprived of economic opportunity. Trump didn’t just kill the Iran deal. He very likely prevented the possibility of a long-term, costly nuclear confrontation between the Sunni Arabs, the United States, and Israel on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other.

A new balance of power is being rekindled that will isolate Iran, secure America’s allies, ensure America’s strategic dominance in the region, and respect Russia’s interests as well—all of which lends itself far more to regional stability and world peace than any ill-conceived giveaway to Iran could.

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Prospect of World Peace Threatens Media’s Porn Star Narrative

In the wee hours of the morning, a miracle occurred. The Stormy Daniels coverage dissipated, at least for a few moments, as President Trump welcomed home three American citizens released from captivity in North Korea.

But the New York Times felt obligated to deflate even this decisive accomplishment. It noted that “other administrations, including President Barack Obama’s, secured the release of imprisoned Americans without promising a summit meeting or improved diplomatic relations.” The rest of the media quickly piled on, compiling lists of every prisoner released from North Korea, Iran, and other hostile entities—oddly enough, none of these lists mentioned Bowe Bergdahl.

Today’s coverage will include political pundits acknowledging, through gritted teeth, that this is a major accomplishment for President Trump.  They will then quickly shift gears to say that we have lost all credibility in negotiations after pulling out of the Iran deal and that Kim Jong-un is probably playing our idiot president.

Trump is on the verge of striking a deal with North Korea—one that might even get approved by the Senate, unlike Obama’s failed Iran deal. And it’s unlikely that this deal will include provisions for self-inspections of nuclear sites or secret shipments of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to North Korea. But the media is happy to criticize a deal that hasn’t yet materialized while giving long eulogies for one of the worst deals in American history.

The media exhibits an amazing amount of flexibility and creativity when it comes to criticizing Trump and exalting Obama. A few days ago, Joe Scarborough gave us a demonstration of this as he tied himself in knots. He argued that Trump finds himself in the same situation Obama was in a few years ago. Obama desperately needed a deal with Iran and Trump desperately needs a deal with North Korea. This desperation, he claims, will lead to a bad deal. In nearly the same breath, the “Morning Joe” panel criticized Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Somehow, Scarborough and his team failed to notice that they had tacitly admitted the Iran deal was bad. So how was Trump’s rejection of the Iran deal an indication of his desperation, exactly? If Trump is the one who saw the Iran deal was bad isn’t it likely that he is willing to walk away from another bad deal? This willingness to walk away does not diminish our leverage—it increases it.

But we should cut political pundits some slack. After all, they haven’t had much time to brush up on the subtleties of foreign policy and they certainly haven’t given much thought to Trump’s strategy. They’ve been too busy covering a decade-old affair that Trump may have had with a porn star, too preoccupied obsessing over and misinterpreting every word that Rudy Giuliani says and writing hit-pieces to try to discredit America’s Mayor, and too enamored with Robert Mueller’s never-ending investigation. At one point, some even suggested that the entire North Korean peace process was a deflection from the Stormy Daniels story. Many are convinced that Trump’s days are numbered and that he will soon be removed from office and they are all too happy to try to speed the process along. But as they run hit-piece after hit piece, Trump’s approval numbers inch closer to fifty percent.

Few normal Americans care much about Stormy Daniels. Many are increasingly disenchanted with Mueller’s investigation. And most are happy to see progress with North Korea. Even if no deal emerges from the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the safe return of three of our citizens is a victory in itself —and those in the media worrying that a meeting with the President of the United States will somehow legitimize Kim should take comfort in their belief that Trump isn’t a legitimate president in the first place.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the media will never give this president a break. If the economy gets better, they will attribute it to Obama’s policies. If it gets worse, they will blame it on Trump. If a North Korea deal works out, they will write glowing profiles of State Department careerists. If it falls through, they will talk about Trump’s terribly temperamental foreign policy. Even for those not paying much attention, it is clear that the media is biased and is hell-bent on destroying Trump. The incessant negative media coverage isn’t hurting him—if anything, it is turning him into a martyr. It has immunized him to the media. There aren’t many ways for the media to become more hysterical than it already is.

So, Mr. President—send out Rudy Giuliani again. Throw out some more red meat to a frenzied pack of journalists. Let them play Woodward and Bernstein for a little bit longer. We aren’t tired of winning yet.

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Trump Is Right About the Iran Deal

President Donald J. Trump has made it official: the United States is pulling out of the Iran deal. Tuesday’s announcement fulfills the president’s oft-stated campaign promise to end “the worst deal ever” and, ideally, to negotiate a better one ensuring Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Terminating the deal also undercuts one of President Barack Obama’s main accomplishments. (Obama released a statement calling Trump’s decision “a serious mistake.”)  The Obama Administration’s stated goal with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (as the deal was known formally) was to mitigate the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons through a series of incentives and checks. Behind that goal was Obama’s intention to calm the Middle East and draw down U.S. forces without having to contend with increasing hostilities from Iranian-backed groups.

In reality, the deal had the opposite effect. The mullahs drastically increased their support for terror groups like Hezbollah; expanded their destabilizing presence in Syria and throughout the Levant (in order to threaten Israel); and, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed last week, allowed the regime to continue developing nuclear weapons in secret, in preparation for 2025 when the deal actually allowed for the mullahs to build a nuclear arsenal openly.

“The fact is this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never ever been made,” Trump said in his remarks Tuesday. “We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

Trump came into office promising to end what he viewed correctly as a giveaway to the Iranians while reinvigorating traditional American alliances in Israel and in the Sunni Arab states. But the president has also stated his willingness to renegotiate with Tehran, so long as the new deal is fair and actually prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As with North Korea, the goal is denuclearization. This is an obtainable goal, so long as the United States applies maximum pressure—not only on Iran, but also on the Europeans (who favor the deal more than anyone because of the windfall profits that would accrue to their corporations).

For its part, Iran needs the deal for two reasons: it needs to be reintegrated fully into the global economy and, for the survival of the regime in Tehran, it desires to possess a nuclear weapons capability (to say nothing of the Islamic Republic’s ideological belief that nuclear arms would allow them to enact the most violent aspects of their worldview: destroying Israel, “Little Satan,” and the United States, “Great Satan”).

For the theocratic regime to survive, it needs a healthy and stable economy—something that it has not had in decades, thanks to the onerous American-backed sanctions regime that existed before 2015. If left to their own devices under the previous sanctions regime, it is likely that the Iranian people naturally would have overthrown their backward-looking government, as economic life in Iran simply became untenable.

The Obama nuclear deal gave the regime a new lease on life. The mullahs desperately want to retain that lease. The mere act of pulling out of the Iran deal will force the Iranians either to return to the table or simply to collapse over time due to a loss of economic opportunity.

It would also bring the Europeans around to Washington’s view that a re-negotiated treaty might actually prevent Iranian nuclear weapons from becoming a reality. Maintaining the agreement would have given all of the initiative to Iran (and all of the benefits of any deal to Europe, Russia, and China).

Squeezing Iran’s economy and isolating the regime diplomatically until the mullahs negotiate a better, fairer deal, would serve American interests in the long-term. Under the terms of the agreement, it will take up to six months before sanctions are fully reinstituted against Iran. That gives all sides an opportunity to reach a new deal, or at least the beginnings of one. Under Obama, the United States squandered its leverage. Under Trump, the United States has the initiative—and time—on its side.

Of course, there are significant downsides to the United States withdrawing from the deal. While abandoning the JCPOA undoubtedly will signal to Israel and the Sunni Arab states that Washington stands united against the aggression of Iran, it will also mean an almost immediate increase in Iranian hostilities throughout the region. That could include Iranian attacks against Israel from neighboring Syria to Hezbollah-backed terror attacks directed against Western targets elsewhere in the world. If not managed properly, the uptick in aggression could result in the need for the United States to use military force against Iran directly—at precisely the time the United States has been trying to draw down in the region.

Also, the instability in relations between the United States and Iran will lead to a spike in the global price of oil. While our allies in Saudi Arabia would benefit from this, the American consumer would not. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation would be economically empowered, just as it was before 2014, suggesting that a new round of Russian military aggression is likely on the way.

In all, the president has done what very few American leaders before him have been able to do: he has weighed the costs and benefits of the deal and determined that, whatever consequences may befall the world in the short term, the longer-term prospects are almost all in America’s favor. What happens next will be difficult, but ultimately, the difficult choice will have proven to be the correct one.

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