Earning my presidential vote: foreign policy

One of the most important functions for a President is that of spearheading our foreign policy. So what would I think a sound foreign policy consists of?

Well, in five bullet points or less, here you go:

  • America is the world leader, or perhaps one can call it a first among equals. So act like it rather than “leading from behind.”
  • By that same token, though, we don’t have to be involved everywhere. There are certain places where it is our national interest to intercede (such as the threat from radical Islam) and others we have no business dealing with.
  • Nations that are our friends and have been for decades should be treated as such. No returning Churchill’s bust or snubbing Israel.
  • If we are to go to war, let Congress declare it. To me, boots on the ground engaging an enemy in anything aside from isolated incidents equals war.
  • We should leave the UN and they can go over to Switzerland for all I care. If we are to be united with other nations, it should be our peer group of industrialized republics which have governmental styles similar to ours. Tinhorn dictatorships and nations with missiles pointed our way need not apply.

This, though, is one of my more flexible issues because there are good arguments to be made for several approaches outside of strict isolationism and continual intervention in dozens of nations to spread our military resources too thin without the declaration of war or compelling national interest.

As always, if you wish to follow the series from the beginning start here. This particular category is worth 12 points.

Update: It occurred to me just now that I should re-introduce the candidates: Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, Jim Hedges of the Prohibition Party, Tom Hoefling of America’s Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and independent Evan McMullin. Johnson is on the Maryland ballot; the rest are write-ins but their votes will count.

Castle: He firmly believes in upholding Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which makes it clear that only Congress can declare war, and that those powers are not granted to the president. He left the Marine Corps a very different person than when he went in. (website)

“We need to secure our borders before we talk about going after the terrorists overseas…In general, I favor the policy of nonintervention in foreign affairs, just as the Founders did.”

“I believe that the United States (U.S.) should regain its sovereignty and chart its own course. This is not isolationism. The U.S. cannot remain isolated from the forces agitating today’s world, which is so interrelated in trade, finance, instantaneous communications, etc.

How does America deal with other nations while keeping our sovereignty, our freedom, and our independence intact? Can the U.S. keep its own laws and Constitution, set its own policies, or do we surrender to the decisions and dictates of an international collective of nations?

Many people, including many in our own government, would love to see American nationhood fade into history. They fear not only the power of America, but also the ideas that still make us the most powerful nation on earth. Those ideas serve as a contradiction to the way the rest of the world operates, and would serve us even more if we were once again an independent nation.”

“The ideas of America are not compatible with membership in the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N. is world headquarters for the church of unbelieving humanism. The fundamental doctrine of the U.N. is that the world should be a global collective, redistributing shares of material prosperity to every human on earth. That is a religious and not a political idea. Faith in God is replaced by faith in Humanity. The U.N. is the sanctuary of the idolatry of Man.”

Would not intervene in Syria, it’s their business who runs the country. (YouTube)

Opposed to foreign aid, but supports Israel. (YouTube)

Don’t go sticking our noses into every rattlesnake nest. Absence of war is not isolationism, but he would not shrink from a battle when our interests are threatened.

Brexit was “one of happiest days of my recent life.”

President has authority to make war, though. Grenada was an example – wrapped up well within 60 day authorization. May not be Syria situation without Iraq/Afghanistan. (Iron Sharpens Iron radio show)

Hedges: opposes Democratic policy of giving away sovereignty to the United Nations. Would not give aid to nations which mistreat women as slaves or concubines.

“We will conduct foreign affairs with the preservation of American liberty and independence as our chief objective. We are jealous of American sovereignty; we are opposed to the interference of America in the like sovereignty of other nations. American garrisons in foreign countries should not exceed the level required to protect American diplomatic missions unless specifically authorized by Congress. We support volunteer armed forces, well trained and highly motivated; we oppose conscription except in time of Congressionally declared war.” (party platform)

Hoefling: We believe in a supremely strong, prepared, and well-equipped civilian-controlled United States military, and a bold, visionary and intelligent program of principled constructive engagement with the rest of the world. For us, “peace through strength” is not a mere slogan. It is the means of survival for our country in a very dangerous and often hostile world. Our friendship should be a sought-after possession of all men and women of good will everywhere in the world. Our enmity should be something that all rightfully fear.

As Ronald Reagan opposed and defeated the designs and desire of the Soviet Union to dominate the world and place it under the tyranny of their Evil Empire, we stand unalterably opposed to all who approve of, plan or commit terrorist acts. Since the first principle of America is the protection of innocent human life, any who would use acts of terrorism targeted at innocent civilians to forward their political, ideological or religious aims incur our effective and determined enmity. (party platform)

We completely oppose any action that surrenders the moral, political or economic sovereignty of the United States and its people, and demand the immediate restoration of that sovereignty wherever it has been eroded. (party platform)

Johnson: No Nation Building. No Policing the World. More Security Here at Home.

The objective of both our foreign policy and our military should be straightforward: To protect us from harm and to allow us to exercise our freedoms.

Looking back over the past couple of decades, it is difficult to see how the wars we have waged, the interventions we have conducted, the lives sacrificed, and the trillions of tax dollars we have spent on the other side of the globe have made us safer. If anything, our meddling in the affairs of other nations has made us less safe.

Many senior military and foreign policy analysts have concluded that the rise of ISIS can actually be traced back to instability created by our meddling in the affairs of others. This is because the last several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have used our military resources to pursue undemocratic regime changes, embark on impossible nation-building exercises, and to establish the United States as the policeman of the world.

This imperialistic foreign policy makes it easier for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other violent extremists to recruit new members. We need to build a strong military. But we should not use our military strength to try to solve the world’s problems. Doing so creates new enemies and perpetual war.

Besides, we have enough problems to solve right here at home.

As President, Gary Johnson will move quickly and decisively to cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend. He will repair relationships with our allies. And he will only send our brave soldiers to war when clearly authorized by Congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate.

The idea that we can defeat terrorism by simply putting more boots on the ground or dropping more bombs ignores the reality that this expensive tactic simply hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s made the situation worse. (campaign website)

McMullin: Before World War II, many Americans fell prey to the delusion that if we pull back to our own shores that the world’s troubles will pass us by. After the war, Americans came together in agreement that only our leadership could prevent another catastrophic conflict, while promoting liberty and economic growth as well.

Thanks to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, there has been no great war for 70 years, and prosperity and freedom have spread around the globe. Americans have served and sacrificed to maintain our security in those decades, but the horrors of a global conflict have been avoided.

Evan McMullin will continue this tradition of leadership that has made America the world’s indispensable nation.

Alliances with other free nations have long been one of the most important sources of American power in the world. Real leadership is not a protection racket or a mercenary army where the United States charges others for providing security. Rather, it is about building long-term partnerships with nations that share our values.

In these security partnerships, the U.S. has and will continue to speak candidly about the need for allies to shoulder their share of the burden. In contrast, suggestions that the United States may abandon its allies in the face of foreign threats is an open invitation for China, Russia, Iran and others to expand their spheres of influence, and to provoke dangerous conflicts that may drag us into war.

Opposing brutal dictatorships and speaking out on behalf of democracy and human rights are also essential to American leadership. Other nations follow our lead because they understand that we pursue the collective good, not just our own narrow self-interest. While American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and intelligence officers have borne the cost of this leadership, the pursuit of common interests has enabled us to build a network of democratic allies across the globe.

After eight years of weak leadership under President Obama, we deserve a President who knows what it’s like to fight terrorists on the front lines, rather than making excuses for his failures.

Evan McMullin will provide the leadership America needs in the world. He will pursue the defeat and destruction of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, rather than dismissing such threats as “the jayvee team” or saying they are “already contained.” He will punish Iran for violating the nuclear deal, rather than ransoming American hostages with stacks of foreign currency. He will stand with Israel, rather than blaming a loyal and democratic ally for instability in the region.

Evan will impose tougher sanctions on Russia and increase America’s military presence in the Baltics in order to deter and reverse Putin’s aggression, rather than pretending that he is a partner for peace in Syria. Evan will stand up for the rights of American and allied ships to sail freely in international waters, rather than letting China dominate the Western Pacific.

Finally, he will reverse the reckless cuts that have brought the size, strength, and readiness of the U.S. military to a dangerous and historic low.

When America ignores rising threats to peace and stability, they don’t go away—they just get worse. “Leading from behind” isn’t leading at all; it only ensures that by the time we need to get involved, the situation is worse, the risks and costs are higher, and the world is on the brink of a crisis.

America can and must do better. We must strengthen our alliances and put our friends, not our enemies, first. We must renew our focus on human rights, including the genocidal persecution of civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

Americans never shy away from a challenge, and we have stood and sacrificed for our ideals in the face of Nazism, Communism and Islamic terrorism. The failed leadership of Barack Obama has left the world on fire, and (his) disastrous judgment has fanned the flames. We need a president who has the integrity, the wisdom, and the courage to lead.

Evan McMullin will be that President.

America’s men and women in uniform are the pride of our nation. Their sacrifices and hard work keep us safe day in and day out. Yet increasingly, we are failing in our obligation to provide them with the training and equipment they need. The number of planes, ships, and soldiers in the Armed Forces is falling toward levels not seen since before World War II, even as the world grows more dangerous. President Obama’s reckless leadership, aided and abetted by Congress, has put the military on a path to almost $1 trillion in cuts compared to projected needs.

The consequences of this neglect are all too real for American service members. Both the Marine Corps and the Air Force have stripped spare parts from museum planes to keep their aircraft flying. Last year, the Air Force’s top general told Congress, if his airplanes were cars, there would be “twelve fleets of airplanes that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia.” Meanwhile, only one third of active Army combat brigades are ready to fight. The Navy is wearing down its sailors and ships with extended deployments, because the fleet is too small to carry out its missions.

There are strong advocates for the Armed Forces on both sides of the aisle, yet President Obama insists that he will only spend more on defense if every dollar for the Pentagon is matched by a dollar for domestic programs. In short, he is holding the military hostage to his domestic priorities.

Our troops deserve better. Evan McMullin believes that what we spend on the military should reflect our country’s strategy and the threats to our security, not domestic political goals. He will never ask our men and women in uniform to compromise their honor, and he most certainly will never dismiss the expertise and advice of our senior military leaders. Rather, when Evan is President, American service members will know they have a friend and advocate in the White House.

The Department of Defense must be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. Far too often, the cost of major weapons programs has greatly exceeded projections, while the programs fall years behind schedule, depriving the troops of the cutting edge equipment they deserve. Evan McMullin supports bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform and rethink the weapons development and acquisition process. Above all, there is a need to establish clear lines of responsibility so that senior officials can no longer pass the buck when explaining what went wrong.

The Pentagon also needs to bring the ratio of troops to civilians —or “tooth to tail”—back into balance. The number of troops has fallen by more than 100,000 since 9/11, yet the number of civilians has risen by 50,000. While DOD civilians serve with commitment and pride, the Pentagon does not even have the ability to fully track its manpower requirements and decide which positions are necessary and which are duplicative. No profitable business would run this way, and we should expect and demand more from our government.

Similarly, the Pentagon has a poor understanding of its contractor workforce, whose size is comparable to its civil servant workforce of about 750,000. While focusing on the challenges to efficient weapons buying, the Pentagon has made far too little effort to monitor spending on everyday goods and services, on which it spends tens of billions of dollars every year.

Finally, the Pentagon must complete its efforts to trim the excess facilities that still remain from the Cold War era, when the force was 50 percent larger. Many of these facilities are partially shuttered, so they serve little purpose while consuming maintenance dollars.

A President’s most solemn responsibility is to the men and women under his command. Evan is the only candidate in this election who will take their needs seriously. Under Evan’s leadership, we will rebuild the military and give our service members the tools they need to defend our freedoms and our way of life—while also protecting Americans’ hard-earned dollars. (campaign website)

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I tend to agree with practically everything Darrell Castle says. If this is a Constitution Party foreign policy, you can count me in. 12 points.

Jim Hedges and his Prohibition Party are fairly similar to Castle, but not quite to the degree of detail. 10 points.

My one question of Tom Hoefling regarding that statement: how far do you take protection of innocent human life? One could interpret that as passing up the opportunity to engage the enemy at the risk of civilian casualties, while another argument would have this statement be our justification for being the world’s policeman. Neither of those is helpful to our aims. 7 points.

The overarching question about Gary Johnson‘s foreign policy is that of abandoning those fights we have stepped into. We have no true way of knowing if we are not safer than we would have been had we not intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan because there’s no guarantee that the Taliban or Saddam Hussein would not have facilitated a 9/11-style attack. After all, what was the motivation for the first WTC bombing in 1993? We are dealing with people who aren’t forgetting the Crusades hundreds of years ago.

So as tempting as it may sound, I’m not into an isolationist foreign policy. Unfortunately, we need to subdue our enemies, not give them free reign. Other candidates seem to understand this distinction rather than throw shade on preceding presidents. 4 points.

Evan McMullin has a very good background for this aspect of the presidency – if he doesn’t win, he could certainly make a valid case for being Secretary of State or perhaps Secretary of Defense in a conservative administration. Obviously there will be a group who considers him a neo-con but since we have put ourselves into these conflicts, there is an argument that we should play to win. He also pays a great deal of attention to the military, more so than any other candidate. This is his strongest category by far, and he hits on a lot of good aspects – just hold back on the world policeman tendencies as human rights enforcer and deal with the more pressing national threats first.  10.5 points.

We are getting down to the final two categories as well as the intangibles. Next I tackle the ticking time bomb of entitlements.

The case against Trump (part 2)

Since I finished part 1 last week, we’ve had a lot of developments in the race: Trump picked outgoing Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate (or did he actually make the selection?) and came up with an awful logo (that lasted one day) to celebrate. Meanwhile, the RNC apparently succeeded in binding their delegates to this dog of a ticket. (My question: how did our Maryland Rules Committee members vote? I believe Nicolee Ambrose, who has fought in that committee before, voted the proper way and against the RNC/Trump minions. Yes, they are shamefully now one and the same.)

Update: Indeed, both Maryland members voted properly, and Nicolee Ambrose is urging members to reject the Majority Rules Report.

So the question may be moot, but I’m going to press on for the record so I can point back at this and say “I told you so.” Not that it will do a whole lot of good, of course, but maybe people will listen to reason in the future. It’s worth a try.

Just as a refresher, the five issues I have left over are taxation, immigration, foreign policy, entitlements, and role of government.

Trump came up with a decent taxation plan during the campaign – maybe not all that I would want, but an improvement. But he later admitted that all of it was up for negotiation, so let me clarify: the rates will not go down for many taxpayers, but the increases that made the package “revenue neutral” in his words will remain. Those on the low end of the scale may get the “I win!” form but the rest of us in the middle will lose, again.

I’m tempted to save immigration for last because that was the first important issue for Trump and the one that propelled him from celebrity sideshow to true contender. Americans, indeed, want something done about the influx of foreigners and a large part of that is building a wall at the border. But it’s not my most important issue and I still run this blog, so it goes in order.

The first crack in the Trump immigration façade for me was the idea of building a “big, beautiful door” in the wall to promote legal immigration. Then I found out Donald was an advocate of what’s called “touchback” immigration, which is a fancy way of saying he’ll give amnesty. And I can see it already: in a “grand deal” to get the wall built, Trump will eliminate the “touchback” part – because it’s oh so hard for these immigrants to be uprooted and return to their homeland – for the promise that a wall will get built. News flash: we were promised this in 2006, but the Democrats (along with a few squishy Republicans) reneged on the deal. We see how Congress acts, and regardless of what Trump may say this is not a promise he would keep. Bank on it.

I know Trump did a sort of catch-all address on foreign policy some months back, but his criticism of the Iraq war (and accusations about soldiers therein) gives me pause. That’s not to say we are always right, but there is a little bit of hindsight he’s taking advantage of here. If Iraq were a thriving nation and American bulwark in the Middle East such as Israel is, I seriously doubt Trump would say word one about it being a bad idea. That’s the sort of person I take him to be.

It’s very possible to lump both entitlements and the role of government into one statement, reportedly made by Trump in New Hampshire back in 2015 and relayed by Andrew Kirell at Mediaite:

The Affordable Care Act, “which is a disaster,” he said, “has to be repealed and replaced.” That line drew applause.

“Whether it is we are going to cut Social Security, because that’s what they are saying,” he continued. “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.”

So will it be fair when the train goes off the tracks and millions of younger Americans are left with nothing? Trump is 70 years old, so (as if he really needed it) if Social Security runs out in 2030 he’ll likely be dead anyway. But I will be 66 years old and hoping to retire at some point, although thanks to the Ponzi scheme of Social Security all that money my employers and I grudgingly gave to the government over forty-plus years will long since be pissed away. And the more I deal with the “Affordable” Care Act, the less affordable I find it. The repeal is fine, but the replace should be with the old system we liked, not some new government intrusion.

In sum, it became apparent to me early on that despite his appeal as an outsider, Donald Trump is far from an advocate of limiting government. If he should win in November, conservative Republicans will likely be in the same precarious position they were often placed in by George W. Bush: it’s difficult to go against a president in your own party even if he goes against party principles.

The Republican Party I signed onto back in 1982 when I first registered to vote in Fulton Township, Ohio was ably represented by Ronald Reagan at the time: strong defense, lower taxes for all Americans, and a moral clarity of purpose that included the concept of American exceptionalism. Yet Reagan also intended to limit government; unfortunately he wasn’t as successful in that aspect because he always worked with a Democrat-controlled House (and usually Senate.) I often wish that Reagan could have worked with the early Gingrich-led House and a conservative Senate – we may have beat back a half-century of New Deal and Great Society policies to provide a great deal for all Americans who wished to pursue the opportunities provided to them.

I don’t know how we got Donald Trump as our nominee, although I suspect the early open primaries (and $2 billion in free media) may have helped. Democrats may have put together their own successful “Operation Chaos” to give Republicans the weakest possible contender. (And if you think that’s a recent concept, I have a confession to make: in my first Presidential primary in 1984 I requested a Democrat ballot so I could vote for Jesse Jackson, who I perceived as the Democrat least likely to beat Ronald Reagan in the general election. Not that I needed to worry.) It’s worth noting that the defeat of “Free the Delegates” also resulted in the defeat of some measures designed to reduce the impact of open primaries.

Alas, the GOP may be stuck with Trump as the nominee. So my message for the national Republican Party from here on out is simple: you broke it, you bought it. The mess is on you and I’m washing my hands of it.

Programming note: Over the next four days – in addition to her regular Tuesday column – I will run a special four-part series sent to me by Marita Noon, but originally written by John Manfreda, who normally writes on the energy sector like Marita does. She “spent most of the day (last Thursday) updating it, reworking it, and cleaning it up,” so I decided to run it as the four parts intended during the Republican convention.

I intend it as a cautionary tale, so conservatives aren’t fooled by a smooth-talking charlatan ever again. Don’t worry, I have a couple things I’m working on too so I may pop in this week from time to time if I feel so inclined. But I trust Marita and this seems quite relevant and enjoyable, so look for it over the next four afternoons…probably set them to run at noontime (how appropriate, right?)

2016 dossier: Foreign Policy

September 9, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on 2016 dossier: Foreign Policy 

As I work my way up to the most important aspects of deciding on a Presidential candidate to back, I come to foreign policy which will be worth 12 points.

In doing this part, I’m going to make the assumption that, by and large, these candidates will represent a sharp turn from the disastrous direction our foreign policy has taken under our current President and (for one term) his presumptive Democratic replacement. So since these candidates will represent a sea change, I also want to know how much of a priority they place on it. This will actually make my research easier since I will do it specifically from their campaign websites, including their position papers and news they link to.

For various reasons, I’m ambivalent about certain aspects of foreign policy but I want those who oppose our nation treated as enemies and those who back us to be embraced as friends. I’m no longer convinced we can build nations as we tried to do in the Middle East but regard radical Islam as a threat which will require a Long War to neutralize and contain.

Thus, it’s time to see how they do.

Not only does Jim Gilmore have a comprehensive approach to foreign policy on the website, in all aspects save one it is spot on. My lone quibble would be the wisdom of creating a NATO-like defense pact with Middle East nations against Iraq, one which would include Israel. Aside from that, he has charted an impressive course that tops the field.

Total score for Gilmore – 11.5 of 12.

Lindsey Graham is basing his campaign on being the national security hawk, so you better believe he has a plan. Parts of it may be a difficult sell, but it’s combined with some ideas on the domestic front as well, Overall, a great effort.

Total score for Graham – 11.0 of 12.

In establishing the “Rubio Doctrine,” Marco Rubio has hit on many key points and included others, such as our relationship with Europe. But to me it may be a little too interventionist because we don’t need to be the world’s policeman and that’s how I interpret the statement. Nor do I support making Section 215 of the Patriot Act permanent. It’s why Rubio doesn’t have a higher score.

Total score for Rubio – 9.0 of 12.

Focusing more on national defense and the failures of the Obama administration, it seems that Bobby Jindal is a firm believer in the old Reagan-era “peace through strength” doctrine. Some will certainly call him a neocon, but he presents a compelling case for returning to that brand of thinking. However, he doesn’t consider the civil liberty aspect of his ideas, and that drops him slightly.

As he did on energy, though, he presents a very comprehensive plan.

Total score for Jindal – 8.4 of 12.

Jeb Bush stresses three things when it comes to foreign policy: the war on radical Islam, our friendship with Israel, and the mistake we are making in normalizing our relationship with Cuba without demanding democratic reforms first. He has a very detailed plan to address radical Islam, but it may be a tough sell to the American people because surely the Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) will be talking down those efforts.

Yet there is an elephant in the room ignored – or perhaps a bear and a dragon. Admittedly, Bush’s website is a little frustrating to navigate but I found no mention of Russia or China and how he would address those nations. Overall, though, his effort is solid.

Total score for Bush – 8.0 of 12.

Eight years ago, the thing that sank his father’s campaign with me was an unrealistic, isolationist view on foreign policy. Rand Paul is a little more flexible in that regard, and is hesitant to return to the Middle East because of it. He believes that we should not go it alone in that theater, and to that extent he is correct. I’m not as certain how he would deal with other enemies in a Cold War-style situation, though, which is why I hesitate to grade him higher.

Total score for Paul – 7.5 of 12.

Scott Walker is set against radical Islam and the Iranian deal, but I’m not as certain how he will react against others who threaten us. He seems to want to follow a Reaganesque path, but it’s worth noting that we withdrew from the Middle East under Reagan. Will Walker buckle under that pressure?

Total score for Walker – 7.0 of 12.

The conventional wisdom was that Ben Carson would be weak on foreign affairs as a political neophyte. So while he is for keeping Gitmo open, noting plainly that we should be a friend to Israel, warning about Russian aggression, and decrying the poorly thought-out Iran nuclear deal, it’s done as a broad statement rather than a detailed approach. It may be fleshed out in coming months, but for now it isn’t as strong as some others.

Total score for Carson – 6.0 of 12.

Similarly to Carson, Carly Fiorina had spoken in broad, big picture terms on her foreign policy. But she vows on day one to reassure Israel about our friendship and tell Iran that their deal is going to change to allow more surprise inspections. She’s also vowed to send a message to Vladimir Putin through various strategic moves like reinstating an Eastern European missile defense system and rebuilding the Sixth Fleet. It’s a promising start.

Total score for Fiorina – 6.0 of 12.

Chris Christie has a relatively comprehensive foreign policy vision which is global as it mentions both friends and foes. However, there are two issues that I have with it. One is the civil libertarian aspect of continuing Patriot Act provisions, which Chris avidly supports, and the other is about not treating China as an adversary. Until they stop pointing missiles at us, threatening the sovereign state of Taiwan, and manipulating currency to benefit their economy at our expense, I consider them a foe. Communism and Constitutional republics are mutually exclusive.

Total score for Christie – 5.5 of 12.

Ted Cruz seems to have his head on straight regarding foreign policy, but the information is so piecemeal I had a hard time digesting it all. A for effort, D for presentation.

Total score for Cruz – 5.0 of 12.

I have much the same problem with Rick Perry. For example, he did a major policy speech last year that was warmly received – but it’s hard to tell how he would react to newer crises. Aside from immigration, he seems more a domestic policy president.

Total score for Perry – 5.0 of 12.

With Mike Huckabee, as I read through his site I get the sense that we will have a reactive foreign policy more so than a proactive one. For example, he decreed that we should hack China back after they hacked into our computer systems. It seems to me that would be an expected move but not necessarily strategic. While he stresses Israel a lot, he seems a little simplistic so I don’t get that great of an impression.

Total score for Huckabee – 4.8 of 12.

John Kasich seems to want to tie the extent of his foreign policy to the extent of the economy, noting we can afford enhanced defense spending as we improve the economy. But I don’t really see what he would do in terms of relationships.

Total score for Kasich – 4.8 of 12.

With a foreign policy primarily focused on the Iranian deal and using Kurdish proxies to subdue ISIS, there’s a lot I’m left wondering about when it comes to George Pataki. So he doesn’t score very well.

Total points for Pataki – 4.0 of 12.

I can tell you that Rick Santorum doesn’t like the Iran deal and wants to bomb ISIS back to the 7th century. As for China, Russia, and how to pick up the pieces afterward, who knows?

Total score for Santorum – 2.0 of 12.

After doing well on immigration, Donald Trump falls again on foreign policy. There is rhetoric and there is a plan, and Trump has plenty of former and not much on the latter.

Total score for Trump – 0.0 of 12.

My next part is worth 13 points; however, I suspect scoring will be low because my view on entitlements is decidedly more libertarian than the field will likely present.

GO Friday: Farewell, Guantanamo

January 2, 2015 · Posted in GO Friday · Comments Off on GO Friday: Farewell, Guantanamo 

It’s been over a year since I featured a Friday guest opinion, but it’s a new year and I thought this first workday (for some) of 2015 would be a good place to (hopefully) kickstart the series back up. There are a lot of people out there who I would love to see here as guest commentators.

This guest, though, is someone familiar to my readers as his pursuits over the last year have attracted my attention on a few occasions. But my writing about Richard Douglas began when he a candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2012 campaign. In the intervening time, I’ve noted that he is also knowledgeable on foreign affairs, having been senior counsel to two U.S. Senate committees as well as serving in the George W. Bush administration at the Pentagon.

Simply put, Richard’s got a pretty good understanding of this situation so his words may well become reality in 2015.

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Bet on this: full U.S. withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay Naval Station is part of the Obama deal with Cuba’s Raul Castro to re-establish U.S.-Cuban relations. The only issue left to negotiate is how much our departure will cost the U.S. taxpayer.

The U.S. Navy began visiting Guantanamo during the 19th century. After our 1898 victory over Spain we moved into this fine Cuban harbor for good. Guantanamo was a familiar destination to American sailors, coast guard personnel, and marines long before the first post-9/11 detainees arrived. It has hosted U.S. military training for decades, and also served as a holding area for Haitians and Cubans hoping to reach the U.S.

Since Fidel Castro shot his way to power in the 1950s, he has demanded U.S. withdrawal from Guantanamo. Given what we have heard from President Obama lately about Cuba policy, Fidel is likely to get his wish, and soon. The Administration is probably already formulating withdrawal plans.

What are the likely contours of such a plan? Here is a prediction, based upon our President’s affection for unilateral action and our experience leaving Panama.

First the President will assert that he requires no new Congressional authority to withdraw from Guantanamo or return the base to Cuba. The last U.S.-Cuba treaty dealing with Guantanamo entered into force in 1934 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Obama will announce that he is free to abrogate or abandon that treaty without Congressional assistance, or in spite of Congressional interference. If pressed, he might cite as precedent President George W. Bush’s 2002 withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty with the Soviet Union over Congressional objections, or President Jimmy Carter’s unilateral abandonment of Taiwan.

In 1999 U.S. forces left Panama, completing a process set in motion by President Carter’s 1977 decision to cede the Canal to the Republic of Panama. Withdrawal of U.S. forces from foreign lands can be an expensive proposition: in Panama, the U.S. was obliged to perform environmental remediation and explosive ordnance disposal before transfer. Cuba will make similar demands upon the U.S. taxpayer before transfer of Guantanamo, and the Administration will almost certainly agree to them.

At Guantanamo, ordnance and environmental cleanup will be just the beginning. Cuba will also ask the U.S. to remove thousands of land mines which Cuba, itself, planted along the Guantanamo fence. Taxpayers will also be on the hook to improve U.S.-built port facilities and airfields there, and to fund retirement of Cubans who lose their naval station jobs owing to the turnover.

I would also expect President Obama to offer reparations and an apology to Cuba for the century-long U.S. occupation of Guantanamo, in spite of the fact that these and other U.S. payments will very likely end up in the pockets of the Castro brothers, corrupt Cuban government and Communist Party officials, and the international criminal organizations already enthusiastically awaiting departure of U.S. forces from Guantanamo.

Unlike Panama, we should expect no Cuban interest in a residual U.S. security presence at Guantanamo after turnover. Thus we must be prepared to see the U.S.-built facilities there used in disturbing ways. After withdrawal, Guantanamo’s harbor and airfields will become regular naval and air stopovers for adversaries like Russia and China, and possibly even for drug cartels transshipping deadly cargo to the U.S. or West Africa.

How could President Obama expect a Republican-led Congress to authorize or fund a handover of Guantanamo to the Cuban regime?

Insofar as legislative authorities are concerned for the transfer of U.S. buildings, fixtures, and equipment at Guantanamo to the Cubans, expect the Obama administration simply to announce that under existing law it already has authority to perform all necessary tasks. To advance his agenda, President Obama has not been timid about conjuring presidential authorities from existing law or the Constitution. Guantanamo will be no different.

Unless the new Congress acts to control it, to fund the transfer the President could simply siphon dollars from already-appropriated Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security, and intelligence community regular budgets. In the federal budget there are dozens of places to squirrel away funding. Dollars Congress appropriates today for legitimate but vague Executive branch purposes may help fund withdrawal from Guantanamo Bay Naval Station tomorrow.

Many Americans are concerned about Obama overtures to Cuba. But a Cold War mainstay is coming to an end courtesy of the President. Perhaps it is worth recalling that Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal Treaty partner, General Omar Torrijos, was also reviled by many as a socialist dictator. Thirty years after Torrijos perished in a plane crash, the Canal is in good hands and modernizing. Panama’s tragic history of dictatorship seems far away.

We can only hope that a similar evolution toward democracy and prosperity will be seen in Cuba. For now, prospects are not encouraging and the jury is out. But come what may, Americans should prepare themselves to say farewell to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. Soon.

Under the radar

After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.

Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.

To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.

Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.

In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.

Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014’s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.

Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?

With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.

Reversing the process

March 20, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2016 - President, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Reversing the process 

I got an interesting e-mail the other day – not necessarily for the content, but who it was from and what it may represent.

After the 2012 Republican primary campaign wrapped up, a number of the also-rans decided to form political groups or super PACs to keep their names out there, continue compiling e-mail lists, and – most importantly – keep the money coming in. Two good examples are Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices group he formed shortly after withdrawing and the American Legacy PAC Newt Gingrich is wrapped up in.

But as we begin to inch toward the 2016 campaign, the Republican field is (hopefully) looking beyond the retreads from past elections, and the potential first-time candidates are numerous. Sure, you have your share of governors like, for example, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Scott Walker, along with a number of those already in Washington like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who has began the slog by winning a couple key straw polls.

Yet there’s always something about a campaign: the issues you may think will be the hot-button issues a couple years in advance rarely turn out to be; heck, even six months is a political lifetime. But Barack Obama’s foreign policy weaknesses, which were successfully swept under the rug for 2012, seem to be much more prominent of late. It’s interesting how the race to enroll people by the March 31 deadline for Obamacare and the entirety of the debacle itself still hasn’t quite been able to succeed in pushing the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation off the front pages, no matter how hard the Obama admnistration tries to mash that “reset” button.

So yesterday, thanks to the always-growing number of people who seem to have my e-mail address on file, I found out that former Ambassador John Bolton created a PAC last year. He was looking for donations, of course, but one has to ask whether the time has arrived for a foreign policy hawk to assume the Commander-in-Chief’s position? I can’t answer the question, of course, but it’s relevant to ask because Bolton drew 3% of the vote at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Granted, that’s not in the league of the aforementioned Paul, Christie, et. al. but it’s three times better than Martin O’Malley is doing in Iowa and everyone knows MOM’s gunning for the White House sooner or later. Like O’Malley, Bolton is even a Maryland native.

Maybe what got me to thinking Bolton may make a run is the PAC website. Its look and feel gives me the impression that it’s a couple little tweaks from being the John Bolton for President website. Instead of featuring candidates the PAC may be helping, it’s focused completely on Bolton himself – not a bad thing, but why have the pretense?

At the risk of being called a neocon, I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Bolton to make a run and create a referendum on our foreign policy. Obviously John was there during the George W. Bush years when we were hip-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately it’s beginning to appear all that blood and treasure was for naught because we left before the job was (or will be) done. In both cases, we stopped short of annihilating the enemy with overwhelming force as we did in World War II. (Arguably, this is true of all our conflicts in the post-atomic era – well, maybe Grenada turned out pretty good.)

Unfortunately, those who have opposed us since the Vietnam era have learned that our resolve is only as good as the news cycle allows it to be. One would think after 9/11 we would see the Long War through but it doesn’t appear our current Commander-in-Chief is interested in victory or even rules of engagement which would allow the possibility because someone here may be offended. In the interim, much damage has been done to both our military and our national psyche, and Hillary Clinton won’t be the right person to fix it – for one thing, she wouldn’t hire John Bolton, PAC or no PAC.

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