Category Archives: Foreign Policy

The Russians again

Here are two news stories about Russian espionage worth reading:

The making of a Russian disinformation campaign: What it takes By Michael Weiss

Russia Has Turned Kaspersky Software Into Tool for Spying by Shane Harris and Gordon Lubold

The disinformation story explains a 1950s Soviet disinformation operation, which is still the same way the Russians operate, even online today.

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No Good Options

An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by an ass

– Fake quote attributed to George Washington

Somehow in this era where President Trump and the media each point fingers at each other, screaming, “Fake News!”, this misattributed quote, according to http://www.mountvernon.org,  speaks the truth.

The Mount Vernon website states:

The rough quote “an army of sheep led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by a wolf” is apocryphally attributed to Alexander the Great.  The Washington quote seems to have developed at some point among the faculty or Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at some point.

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/spurious-quotations/

President Trump is an extremely toxic leader.  He will never be a great president and he will never be an effective leader.  That is what I believe.

He will continue to foment endless chaos.

However, he was duly elected and, unless and until, there is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, to convince Congress to impeach him, he remains our president.  This should go without saying, but in the wake of more Trump-being-Trump threats against North Korea and now Venezuela too, some on the Left are back to their pre-inauguration hysteria, wanting the generals to stop Trump.

Once again, Trump killed his own good PR.  Last weekend was a big diplomatic win at the UN for President Trump and he has completely buried it with his incendiary threats.

There are serious foreign policy people out there still selling President Trump and urging Americans to get behind the president on North Korea, but President Trump’s North Korea policy is like all his other policies.  Whatever sound policies his administration comes up with are subject to be thrown out the window or completely undermined by President Trump and his reckless tweeting or boasting.  He makes any policy effort harder for his administration to pursue.

He is the problem, not his enemies, not fake news, not those who speak out against him.

John Bolton and others keep harping on the bad options President Trump is left with, because of the failures of the Bushes, Clinton and Obama.  Bolton keeps repeating that they all kicked the can down the road rather than dealing with North Korea.  Okay, but when you want to be a leader, LEAD!   Quit blaming other people and dig in.

President Trump is lazy about doing the job of president.  He loves the attention, but he does not concern himself with the substance or the dirty-work of studying policy.   Frankly, President Trump’s complete laziness and refusal to study policy or stay on message destroyed any hope of a unified approach to pressure North Korea.  He made it harder to deal with North Korea and he, once again, alienated people from supporting him, because of HIM.  He sounds crazier than Kim Jong Un – that is the truth.

This PR disaster  is just another repeat of Trump’s war crimes as serious policy , where his ISIS plan was to order the U.S. military to murder ISIS family members, to scare ISIS terrorists into submission.  He doubled down on that in a primary debate.  Just like with his building the wall, or deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, his ISIS plan existed only in sound bites.  There never was a comprehensive policy.

There have been a string of these Trump self-immolation PR disasters, where he sets his own policy on fire by his careless comments.  We can expect, that for as long as his presidency lasts, there will be endless chaos.

Big Trump supporters keep ranting about the dastardly Left and their efforts to undermine President Trump.  Some of their efforts are dastardly too.  However, here’s the truth – President Trump really is a loose cannon, who likes to shoot off his mouth and he is a one-man show, who makes any undertaking harder.  He undercuts his own staff and would be a terrible leader in any military endeavor (see his transgender policy change for an example – military leaders were not apprised before his statement and there was no policy in writing  from the White House- just Trump shooting off his mouth).

President Trump does not pay attention to or study policy details.  Military success requires paying close attention to details.

By his own actions this week, President Trump made, even our allies, uneasy and the truth is there are no one-off military actions in dealing with North Korea.  Even, the option of taking out their missile sites could provoke military responses and those would likely directly impact the security of the other players in the region.  They have a larger stake in the outcome, with North Korea being in their neighborhood.   We need ramped up diplomatic efforts, so there are no misunderstandings or confusion about our position and any actions we undertake.

Clarity of purpose is crucial.

In regards to North Korea, there were never any good options.  Taking out the regime or even taking out their missile sites are both acts of war.  There are other big powers right next-door to North Korea and they have complicated, competing motives and interests.  The North Korean path of isolation, leading to their current state, has been centuries in the making.

Watching President Trump snatch defeat from the jaws of diplomatic victory at the UN last weekend convinced me that no matter what action he takes in regards to North Korea, he will be the biggest threat to its success.

He is unfit to be commander-in-chief, but he is what we have.

Talk about no good options…

 

 

 

 

 

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Tough talk is not strategy

President Trump used more of his “tough talk” on Tuesday and this time instead of the target being TV pundits or fellow Republicans, North Korea was his target.  Rather than argue the merits of Trump’s rhetoric, here’s what I’ve been thinking about in regards to U.S. strategy to deal with North Korea.

One of the most extreme options gleefully tossed about by saber-rattlers, many of whom are blathering bimbos and know nothing about military strategy, history or much else, besides cheering on “Trump being Trump”, is advocating a preemptive strike on North Korea’s missile sites.

Let’s be clear, despite semantical tap dancing, a preemptive strike is an act of war.

Unemotionally evaluating options is how I approach strategic-thinking, so in coming up with options, we need to understand the terms and what they mean in terms of military force.  While some pundit experts advocate using the preemptive strike option to curtail North Korea’s nuclear capability and couch it in terms of being almost a risk-free effort that will prevent war in general, nuclear holocaust in specific, and be a version of “deterrence”, let me repeat:

A preemptive strike is an act of war.

It’s an option, but so often with U.S. military strategy dealing with cultures that are very different than American and western culture, our strategists end up completely taken by surprise when their well-intentioned, competently executed strategies end up mired in many unforeseen and complicated consequences. For a primer in this outcome just sit back and take apart the evolving U.S. “war on terror”, or however you want to describe our military actions since 9/11.

Our leaders still regale us with the #1, #2, even #3 top Islamist leaders killed, but as John McCreary and other strategic experts have pointed out – decapitation strategy does not defeat Islamist terrorist groups.  They quickly find a new leader, often rebrand under a new name and the trend is the new version is more violent and difficult to deal with than the previous.  You would think that all military strategists worth their salt would have put this in their “lessons learned” file, but nope, many still tout this as a selling point for their “kill them all” strategic offerings.

Just as with Islamist terrorists groups, with North Korea, the United States doesn’t have good strategic options.  The countries that can impact North Korean behavior, China and Russia, are adversarial to the United States and would prefer that our strategies fall flat.  Beyond the big picture geopolitics, there are plenty of other factors that impact how China and Russia view the North Korean situation.  Even something like China looking at a potential North Korean refugee crisis on their doorstep, if the North Korean regime collapses, influences how China deals with North Korea.

After listening to punditry experts from the Trump tough talkers to the Clinton apologists, to the Obama leading-from-behind crowd, since Tuesday, I was thinking of Waco of all things.  How the Clinton administration handled Waco still bothers me and not because I have any sympathy for David Koresh or dislike of the ATF, but because there were children caught in the middle of an armed confrontation.

The airwaves were filled with experts selling everything, from blow up the compound to using tanks, to playing loud music as psychological warfare, and nothing got Koresh to surrender.

I don’t remember the academic’s name, but I saw him on a TV news show talking about apocalyptic cults and movements in history and he described the psychology of apocalyptic leaders.  I told my mother in a phone conversation that all they’re doing is feeding his apocalyptic delusions and he will die rather than surrender.

So, after almost two decades of dealing with a larger apocalyptic movement, with leaders who revere those who die for the cause, why are many of our strategic thinkers perplexed by the regeneration of these groups, no matter how many times we kill their top leaders?

For Christians and Jews, this concept that persecution feeds the faith should be easy to recognize.  The early Christian church fortified its faithful with heroic tales of those individuals, who stood strong against overwhelming force.  With apocalyptic movements, dying for the cause feeds the cause and in the case of  Islamists, they have the Islamic religious teachings that ground their actions.  They have a much larger pool of potential followers than a lone kook like David Koresh.

I’m not a psychologist and I sure am not an expert on North Korea, but after listening to so much tough talk in the past couple days, I think that we need a careful study of the possible outcomes from any U.S. policy courses we could follow, from appeasement up to taking out the regime.  We need to study the various U.S. and other countries actions in regards to North Korea, in recent decades, and carefully study what the North Korean reactions were.  We need to consult experts on paranoid delusion, because North Korea is not only a totalitarian, Stalinist regime, it has so oppressed its people, that there are millions of North Koreans steeped in a life controlled by ruthless propaganda, fear and intimidation.  They are thoroughly indoctrinated.  These people aren’t going to rise up and embrace liberators.  Just like when the U.S defeated the Taliban or when Saddam was removed, the initial euphoria quickly evaporated and what we faced were people who distrusted us and who were used to being controlled.  Many found more affinity with Islamist resistance groups than with U.S. troops occupying their countries.

And the other thing I was thinking is that we need to talk with the people who will be most impacted by any actions we take in regards to North Korea – South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.  This is not a time for reckless rhetoric; it’s a time for careful, serious strategic planning.  It’s also a time for robust diplomacy.

A miscalculation on how we think North Korea will react could be way more catastrophic than the Clinton administration miscalculation on how David Koresh would react.  We have tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the line of fire and Seoul is less than 200 miles from North Korea.  Things could escalate quickly and President Trump doesn’t concern himself with “details”.  Any missteps or hiccups in decision-making could cost a lot of lives, very quickly.

The thing that President Clinton did that infuriated me the most was before he made decisions, he put his finger to the wind, to test how it would reflect on his popularity in the polls.  This morning on Twitter I saw Todd Starnes had a poll:  “Should the United States launch a first strike against North Korea?”  It infuriated me, because the question of a first strike isn’t about looking “tough” – it’s WAR.  Assuredly, it is NOT a decision to be made based on opinion polls!

I was 19 years old, assigned to a Pershing missile unit in Germany in 1980.  I knew nothing about the Army, U.S nuclear strategy or war.  A very good 1st sergeant taught me the single most important lesson on all three.

He told me, “Kid, war is serious business!”

I realized that I knew nothing about war, so I started signing books out at the post library and reading.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading about military strategy since then. I realized long ago, there’s always more to learn and new perspectives to think about.

Perhaps, at the very least our president could take time out from golfing and watching “the shows” on TV to do some serious studying U.S. strategy, because he is the commander-in-chief.   President Trump is responsible for making these decisions, not the generals surrounding him.

The decisions he makes could cost thousands of American lives and the lives of hundreds of thousands children.

Time to quit with the petty posturing, buckle down, study policy, read some history and LEAD, Mr. President.

 

 

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The real Trump

“But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real.”

The above line from Australian ABC political editor, Chris Uhlmann, should be the response every time Trump apologists once again mention that Trump can “act presidential”, as they cling to scripted speeches he delivers and speeches which he has no real input into their creation.  Other presidents relied on speechwriters too, but those presidents had political ideological core beliefs and principles.  Even for people like me, who vehemently disagreed with President Obama on almost every issue, I do not doubt for a minute his sincerity and conviction on issues.   This editorial is a must see report.  It is the grim truth:

“He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.”

And:

“There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Trump with the thoughts of the man himself.

He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West.

And Mr Trump is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it.

But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/did-trumps-g20-performance-indicate-us-decline-as-world-power/8691538?sf96473247=1

Here’s what I wrote August 29, 2015 about what we should demand of a president and I think I was right:

“America needs to hold all of its presidential candidates’ feet to the fire.  Expecting intelligent, well-reasoned arguments and explanations for their policies and ideas, should be the standard we demand. We need leaders who read extensively, who will study issues carefully and at the heart, being President is the highest political office in the land, so demanding a president who has mastered government policy issues is a must.  Expecting that all of our elected officials, both in Congress and the President possess an in-depth understanding of The Constitution, a breadth of knowledge on US history and a strong foundation on foreign policy issues should be our minimum expectation.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2015/08/29/he-never-means-anything-serious-till-he-talks-about-justice-and-right/

Trump’s competent cabinet members aren’t advancing Trump’s policies, they are doing damage control, assuring America’s counterparts around the world that America led by President Trump can still be relied upon and I suspect some like McMaster, Kelly,  and Mattis are there, not out of loyalty to Trump, but out of a sense of duty to try their best to keep America safe, .  However, the constant discordant messages between what these cabinet members say vs. whatever capricious nonsense Trump spouts are being noted around the world by not only our friends, but especially among America’s adversaries.

 

 

 

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Information Warfare, both foreign and domestic

The other day, I mentioned that the timing of the Seth Rich conspiratorial story, that alleged Rich leaked the DNC  emails to Wikileaks, smelled like more Russian influence efforts to get the Right latching onto this and cast doubt on the Trump/Russian collusion stories.  Assuredly, the mainstream media and Dems have way overplayed and sensationalized the Trump/Russian connections too, but the timing of the Rich story was odd.  The story originated with a FOX news affiliate and the entire story fell apart under closer examination, but when the story broke, The Drudge Report had that headline emblazoned across the top all day.  Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh believed and hyped the story, without any fact-checking.  Hannity clung to the story, even when it was obvious the story has no factual basis.

So, the story was intended to get Trump, his mouthpieces and the Right frothing against, not only Democrats, but also to distrust the FBI and American intelligence agencies… again.

Here’s what I suspect is going on and yes, it’s a conspiracy theory too:

Remembering timelines is important and adding new information into the timeline, as you come across it and remembering that timelines don’t end – the story always continues.  The Russians aren’t idly sitting on their hands now or declaring victory with Trump’s election, they are still busy with their information warfare efforts in America – to create chaos, to undermine the American political system, to damage America’s image in the world and to destroy the American people’s trust in their own government.

I suspect FOX News has been a tool the Russians exploited for Russian influence operations since it opened shop in America.  I suspect the same thing with The Drudge Report, which came onto the scene with breaking the Lewinsky scandal.  The Drudge Report has never invested in creating an appealing website.  Really, it’s a visually unappealing site, but it’s caché comes with what stories get highlighted at the top.   That America’s political class and media take The Drudge Report so seriously is why that site garners so much attention and has so much influence.  In recent years, The Drudge Report has worked to mainstream conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones and his “InfoWars” as a “news” source.   That Donald Trump, a believer in Alex Jones type “reporting” is now president is a boon to the Russian information war effort.

The rest of this post is all a repeat on what I term  a mass media saturation strategy, which came into being with the Clinton “war room” in the 1992 presidential election, so feel free to skip it if you’re tired of my repetitive messaging;-)

I believe this media messaging strategy is really information warfare ( a military swarming strategy juxtaposed to an information battlefield).  Since the Clinton impeachment scandal in 1998, I strongly suspect there is a strong, hostile foreign intelligence influence involved in manipulating American politicians, the American media and the American punditry circles.  The Clintons launched an all-out scorched earth information war to keep President Clinton from being removed from office.  To repeat, ad nauseam, here again are the components:

Here are the components:

  • Talking points and buzz word messaging, which are relentlessly repeated by both political operatives and the media. (mass brainwashing)
  • Mass media domination of the messaging, to control the 24/7 NEWS cycle, which requires mass media collusion.
  • Relentless repetition of polling data by both the political operatives and media, to facilitate the manufacture of opinion cascades (winning in all the polls)

It can NOT work without that media collusion.

Until Trump, with the help of FOX News collusion & Wikileaks leaks, only Democrats had successfully used this strategy.  The mainstream media colludes with the Democrats and political Left in America.

I’ve cover all of this many times before, so here are some interesting bits and pieces in this ongoing information war.  American partisans have blinders on and when it comes to “Russian influence”, they want to pin the Russian influence on their American political opponents.  Republicans will accuse the Dems of emboldening the Russians, because the Obama administration kowtowed to the Russians and Iranians, to secure the Iran deal and because President Obama did not take an assertive American posture in dealing with America’s adversaries.

Trump, although it’s doubtful he was actively “colluding” with the Russians, he assuredly welcomed the Russian influence efforts, because they were benefitting him.  Trump also took a hostile approach toward American intelligence agencies and the FBI, who were working to thwart and expose the Russian influence efforts.  If there is actual Russian collusion within the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, I would expect the Russians to operate using third-party intermediaries, so they can maintain complete deniability and to mask their collusion.  In fact, I would not be surprised if the intermediaries were not even aware they were being manipulated to promote the Russian information warfare memes and messaging.

Like I said the other day, the Russians are many things, but being stupid enough to entrust a loose cannon, like Trump, who blurts and tweets everything based on whims,  with the knowledge of Russian operatives identities, seems very unlikely.  Anyone who trusts Trump is a fool, the same is true of Hillary Clinton, who would even sell Bill Clinton down the river to save herself… if he didn’t know where all the bodies are buried… so to speak.

Against this history of information warfare, which I wrote about on the Excite politics message boards during the Clinton impeachment scandal, when Trump entered the 2016 presidential race and the media started repeating he was the “GOP Insurgent”, immediately my “information warfare” antennae went up.

Initially, throughout most of the GOP primary all the cable news networks spent a great deal of time promoting the “GOP Insurgent” and they gave him millions of dollars in free media, in addition to endless coverage in their punditry air time.  In early 2016, a shift took place, as it became obvious Trump had the GOP nomination locked up.  CNN, MSNBC and major news outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post went “full fascist” mode, painting Trump as a dangerous fascist, while FOX news dug in on a 24/7 Trumpathon.

President Trump assures that the Left will stay in full-throated Trump Derangement Syndrome mode, that much of the Right will discount everything they say and that Trump, who truly is a LOOSE CANNON, will flail about and create chaos and mayhem in his wake.  Hillary Clinton would have been the same chaos, albeit in a less flamboyant way.  The Russians have the dirt on the Clinton Foundation money-laundering and assuredly they are sitting on all the emails from her home-brew server, which they would have wielded to blackmail her or leak to create political damage and hamstring her presidency.  There was no better choice between Trump and Hillary.

So, watch closely how FOX News has dismantled its Trump chorus, first with ousting Roger Ailes, now their star, Bill O’Reilly and it seems obvious Sean Hannity is on the chopping block too.  FOX News is now not leading the cable prime time.  I suspect there will be more critical reporting on Trump at FOX  in the near future, because the Russians want the Trump presidency to be an endless Reality TV, scandal-plagued nightmare, that makes America the laughingstock of the world.

The Russians don’t want a successful American president, who unites America.  We have had nothing but very extreme partisanship and a complete disintegration of shared American ideals since the 1960s counter-culture revolution, with a short lull during the early Reagan years, and then a downhill slide since the early 90s.

The mass media saturation strategy continues, as does the information warfare, both foreign and domestic.

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Putin diagnoses “political schizophrenia” in America

Short update on yesterday’s blog post:

Russia always tries to fuel partisan divides and inflame tensions, along with aiding and abetting radical factions, in America.

So, here’s what Putin said Wednesday:

“Putin said allegations that Trump had disclosed top-secret intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to the U.S., proved that the U.S. was  “developing political schizophrenia,” according to the Russian state-controlled news agency Tass, which quoted comments Putin made at a Wednesday news conference in Sochi, Russia.”

http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-putin-transcript-offer-htmlstory.html

Yes, according to Putin, who does everything he can to undermine political stability in America, the U.S. is developing political schizophrenia…  He wants the rest of the world to believe America’s political system is falling apart and America can not be trusted as a world leader.

Too bad most of the partisans in Washington and the mainstream media, while screaming about Trump/Russian collusion, are completely oblivious to how Russia continues their same information warfare and they’re actually feeding the Trump/Russian collusion hysteria.

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Perfect Timing

Divide and conquer

If you think the Trump turmoil/Russian interference hysteria peaked, well, think again.  Here are some news and flashbacks to other bits of loose threads in this ongoing American soap opera – The Never-ending Trump/Clinton Scorched Earth Information War.

In the past week, President Trump fired FBI Director, James Comey, hosted two top Russian officials in the Oval Office, tweeted out a “warning” to Comey that he might have tapes of their conversations, blew-up his WH staff’s explanations on the Comey firing and stated he might stop WH press briefings.

Amidst this endless turmoil, the mainstream media keeps breaking “bombshell” stories, all citing anonymous sources (likely Dems & intel officials who want Trump impeached).  The mainstream media continues to carry the talking points for the Clinton (Dem) scorched earth information war.  Trump, by his own imprudent tweeting, impulsive actions and need to boast, has inflicted more damage on his presidency than his enemies could ever hope to.

So, into this latest drama here are some things to watch:

The New York Times reported that there is a Comey memo of Trump asking Comey if he can end the General Flynn investigation.  The memo was not handed over to the New York Times, but a Comey associate read parts of it to a reporter during a phone conversation.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, refutes the media claims that President Trump divulged highly classified intelligence to the Russians during his Oval Office meeting.

Yesterday, the Drudge Report ran a blazing headline about a murdered DNC staffer, Seth Rich, which other conservative media leaped on.  The story alleges that this young staffer was Wikileaks’ source of the leaked DNC emails.  The victim’s family refuted the cited evidence.  Zero Hedge, a blog reported by some intelligence analysts as a Russian front operation,  has a story reporting the chronology of events from  Rich’s murder, to 12 days later Wikileaks started leaking DNC emails.  Rich’s family came out yesterday and refuted this report.

The perfect timing of this sensational story, that moved attention from the Dems’ “Russian collusion” hysteria to a story, that shifted blame for the leaks to a disgruntled DNC staffer, struck me as quite astounding.  This story bolstered many Trump supporters’ belief that Trump is a victim of unfair liberal media attacks and that the Russian collusion hysteria is a Democrat effort to destroy Trump.

The mainstream media and the Democrats can be out to destroy Trump, but the timing of this Seth Rich story, made me wonder about the Russians, once again, playing a hand to keep the American partisans frothing.  It smelled to me like the Russians possibly playing another “trump” card.  The veracity of the story, is something I have no idea about, but the perfect timing is out in the open for all to see.  I wonder who decided to sensationalize this story and which media outlet(s) ran it first.  The Drudge Report decided it needed to be emblazoned across the top of the site yesterday, as “big” news.

Now, Putin aides report that Putin might release a transcript of the conversations that occurred in the Oval Office, between President Trump and two top Russian officials last week.

This is Putin using “Russian interference” to fuel American partisans’ distrust of each other, but on the national level, this casts America, not just President Trump, as inept, Reality-TV level buffoonish and not a world leader.

And that has been the real goal of the “Russian interference” in our 2016 election, but also the goal of the Russians since 1919, when the Russians took charge of the Comintern (Communist International).

President Trump really is just a useful idiot to Putin.  If Trump takes the Russian bait and touts the Russian’s transcript as vindicating him, he will have been masterfully played… again.

Putin is not America’s friend… or President Trump’s.

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