G20 Day Two

Trump met with leaders from Britain, Japan, and China at the G20 Summit, continuing to apply pressure about North Korea.

NBC News is reporting U.S. bombers carried out training missions Saturday in South Korea near the North Korean border.

North Korea obviously remains a primary concern of U.S. foreign policy. It appears the Trump Administration is not content to let the problem fester, though it is unclear what action will be taken if China and other countries do not join us in pressuring the North Korean regime.

What is important to note is that President Trump is taking a leadership role in the world. This fact is not always expressed by major news outlets.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Trump Putin

Day two of Trump’s second foreign trip.

Day one of the G20.

President Trump met with Vladimir Putin in a meeting scheduled for forty minutes. It lasted over two hours.

The reaction is as expected. Criticism from the Left. Praise from the Right.

What are the facts?

According to Secretary of State Tillerson, President Trump raised the issue of election meddling. This is important. He didn’t back away from a controversial issue.

Also reported is that the two negotiated a partial cease fire in Syria.

North Korea was also reportedly discussed with no details released.

As far as the Left’s criticisms of the day, Putin is a bad guy. I get it. But what we saw today is our President engaging with world leaders to solve problems.

This is leadership.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Poland

President Trump began his second foreign trip with a stop in Poland. His speech to the Polish People was broadcast live early this morning, immediately after which Joe Scarborough on MSNBC called it the worst speech ever given by a President on foreign soil.

I didn’t get the same impression. A few key points from the speech.

On terrorism:

“We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind.”

On Russian aggression:

“We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”

On capitalism:

“Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

And on NATO:

“To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.”

He’s sending the right message.

Tomorrow is a big day. G20 Summit and a meeting with Putin. Look for discussion about North Korea.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Cuba

President Trump gave a speech today in Miami in which he announced a partial reversal of President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba.

Was this the right call? Let’s look briefly at the history and effectiveness of the Cuban embargo.

On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Cuban President General Batista and established a dictatorship.

According to Time magazine: “By 1960, Castro’s government had seized private land, nationalized hundreds of private companies — including several local subsidiaries of U.S. corporations — and taxed American products so heavily that U.S. exports were halved in just two years.”

Sound familiar? Look at Venezuela today.

The Eisenhower Administration responded by imposing trade restrictions which led Castro to buddy up with the USSR in the midst of the Cold War. This resulted in Eisenhower cutting all diplomatic ties with the Cuban government.

On February 7, 1962, President Kennedy established a permanent embargo. The original intent of the embargo was to promote security by isolating Cuba for the purpose of reducing the threat posed by Soviet Communism, which at the time was expanding its power throughout the world.

President Kennedy: “(Because) the present Government of Cuba is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the Inter-American system; and, in light of the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism with which the Government of Cuba is publicly aligned…the United States, in accordance with its international obligations, is prepared to take all necessary actions to promote national and hemispheric security by isolating the present Government of Cuba and thereby reducing the threat posed by its alignment with the communist powers.”

When the Cold War ended, however, we did not relax the embargo. We strengthened it, in part because of the Cuban Government’s treatment of its citizens.

In 1992, the U.S. passed the Cuba Democracy Act which prevented foreign based subsidies of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, further isolating the country.

The Act reads, in part: “The government of Fidel Castro has demonstrated consistent disregard for internationally accepted standards of human rights and for democratic values…There is no sign that the Castro regime is prepared to make any significant concessions to democracy or to undertake any form of democratic opening.”

In 1996, the U.S. further strengthened the embargo through the Helms-Burton Act to include foreign governments that trade with Cuba after Cuba shot down two humanitarian aid planes.

Were these actions over the decades the right things to do? In principle, yes.

Practically speaking, however, were they effective in incentivizing change by Cuban leadership? The post-Cold War evidence for this is lacking.

In 2014, President Obama announced he was taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba. He explained his reasoning in a March 2016 speech in Cuba: “What the United States was doing was not working. We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth. A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st Semitism. The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people, instead of helping them.”

He also said this: “I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people. We will not impose our political or economic system on you.”

Which sounds great in theory, until one considers that it ignores the numerous human rights violations that have prevented the Cuban people from charting their own destiny.

President Obama did address human rights in his speech, but he did so with a tone of suggestion rather than a prerequisite to U.S. diplomatic relations.

Which leads us back to President Trump, who today said, “Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

He also said, “We all accept that all nations have the right to chart their own paths, and I’m certainly a very big believer in that. So we will respect Cuban sovereignty, but we will never turn our backs on the Cuban people.”

Does this sound much different than President Obama? The main difference, as least as it appears now, is that President Trump intends to take a tougher stance on the Cuban government, especially in regard to its human rights violations.

Will it make a difference? The hope is there, but let’s wait for further details.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Muslim Brotherhood

This week several Arab nations established a blockade against Qatar due to what they claim is Qatar’s funding of terrorism. At issue appears to be Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, an institution which many Arab nations have designated as a terrorist organization.

The Muslim Brotherhood has not received the terrorist designation from the U.S. State Department but does lend its support to organizations, such as Hamas, whom the U.S. does designate as a supporter of terror.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Syria have officially designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a sponsor of terror. (Notably, Qatar and Turkey have not.)

President Obama, on the other hand, chose to support the Muslim Brotherhood during his time in office as a moderate alternative to the more radical ISIS and al Qaeda. The hope was that these so-called moderate Muslims would promote peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.

This strategy failed, and Egypt’s experience proves it. In 2012, Mohamed Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected Egypt’s president. Later that year, Mr. Morsi declared he had the right to rule without judicial oversight and issued a new Egyptian constitution. In 2013, he was removed from office by military coup. Egypt has experienced violent terrorist attacks in the aftermath believed to be originating from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The risks of the United States designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization are numerous. The group is wide ranging, with political participation in numerous Middle Eastern countries. Designating the entire group as terrorists could affect Muslim participation in the democratic process. The arguments against the terror designation appear to hang on the fact that the entire organization does not promote terror, only a part of it does.

This is the wrong approach. If we, as a global community, are going to defeat terrorists, we have to identify and isolate those organizations who support them. We have to cut off funding to terrorists. It may be uncomfortable and have less than desirable ramifications, but the only way win is to make it a priority.

If any part of an organization is known to support terrorists, that organization must be called out. If the organization wants global recognition, it must purge the terrorists from its ranks.

We’ve failed to do this in the past, and we must start now. It is for this reason the United States should immediately designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign sponsor of terror.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Qatar

Three weeks ago, President Trump gave a speech in Saudi Arabia, during which he said the following about Muslim extremism, “There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”

He said, “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization.”

He said, “America is prepared to stand with you…But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

And most importantly, he said, “Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil…We must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.”

In other words, we defeat terrorism by standing together and isolating the terrorists.

Which brings us to the present.

Saudi Arabia this week, along with Egypt, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, established a physical and economic blockade against Qatar due to what they claim is Qatar’s funding of terrorism, a charge which Qatar denies.

Qatar has historically been a U.S. ally and even hosts our largest air base in the region. Its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is believed to have ties to terrorist organizations, complicates its U.S. relationship.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement today in which he called for Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease the blockade against Qatar. He said the blockade is harming U.S. businesses in the region and restricting our ability to fight ISIS.

Hours later, President Trump spoke to the media in what many viewed as a statement in contrast to the words of his Secretary of State. The President called Qatar a “funder of terrorism” and called on the country to cease that activity immediately.

So who is correct?

There is no easy answer, but as with most things in life, we must prioritize. And isolating terrorists should be highest on everybody’s list.

On the night of September 11, 2001, President Bush gave an address to the nation in which he said the following: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

That applies here.

If money from Qatar is ending up in the hands of terrorists, our first priority is to isolate Qatar. The Arab countries behind the blockade are sending an important message, and the President promised to stand with them.

We must be vigilant. Now is not a time to waver.  Or were those just words the President spoke three weeks ago in Saudi Arabia?

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Israeli Palestinian Conflict

President Trump spent day three of his first foreign trip in Israel meeting with Israeli officials. Also on this trip, he will meet with Palestinian leaders.

One of his stated goals for his presidency is the establishment of a lasting peace between the nation of Israel and the Palestinians.

A lofty goal indeed.

When considering the issue, it is important to be aware of the history of the conflict to provide the proper context around which decisions can be effectively made.

If you only listen to the way it is described in the media, you’ll likely come away with the opinion that a two-state solution is reasonable, and Israel’s resistance to a two-state solution is unreasonable.

You may even believe that Israel is the aggressor and has invaded land not belonging to them just as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait or, more recently, Vladimir Putin invaded part of the Ukraine.

That’s not the whole story. Here is a brief timeline of Israel’s modern history:

May 15, 1947 – United Nations General Assembly formed a committee to prepare a report on the issue of Palestine and its Jewish immigrants.

September 3, 1947 – The committee proposed the formation of an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, both independent from Jerusalem and Bethlehem which would be controlled by the United Nations.

Neither side liked it, but most of the Jews in the region accepted the plan. “Every major Arab leader objected in principle to the right of the Jews to an independent state in Palestine.”

November 29, 1947 – A slightly amended version of the previous plan was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Thirty-three nations voted in favor, thirteen opposed, and ten nations abstained. “The Yishuv accepted the plan, but the Arabs in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states rejected the plan.”

Immediately following approval of the plan, attacks began – shootings, stonings, bombings, rioting – by Arabs against the Jewish population in Palestine.

May 14, 1948 – In the face of violence by those denying its right to exist, Israel declared itself a sovereign nation. “The declaration was stated to be ‘by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly’. The Declaration stated that the State of Israel would ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The next day, Israel was invaded by Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Israel fought them back, capturing land and expanding its borders in the process. The 1949 Armistice Agreement was signed by Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. Per the agreement, Egypt controlled Gaza Strip. Transjordan controlled the West Bank.

1950-1967 saw attacks on Jewish civilians stemming from Gaza Strip.

1967 – Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt known today as the Six-Day War. Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and took complete control over Jerusalem.

In August 1967, “Arab leaders met in Khartoum in response to the war, to discuss the Arab position toward Israel. They reached consensus that there should be no recognition, no peace, and no negotiations with the State of Israel.”

1972 – At the Summer Olympics, eleven members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

1973 – Syria and Egypt declared war on Israel in what is known as the Yom Kippur War.

September 9, 1993 – “Yasser Arafat sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stating that the PLO officially recognized Israel’s right to exist and officially renouncing terrorism.” This began the Oslo Peace Process in which Israel gave up control over certain regions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, Palestinian terrorist acts continued which escalated from both sides of the conflict.

Terror continues to this day.

A two-state solution may or may not be the best solution to the conflict. Given the history, however, peace is difficult when one side refuses to acknowledge the right of the other side to exist.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Saudi Arabia Day Two

In a predominantly Muslim country, President Trump gave a speech today to the leaders of more than fifty Muslim majority countries about the risks of radical Islamic terrorism, although he did not use the phrase, and how the world must combat it.

He called for cooperation from the Muslim world.

President Trump declared that “Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization.”

He said “estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.”

To the leaders, he said, “There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.”

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil.”

His message to the Muslim world can be summarized by the following statement:

“America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

And in a reminder that America is a peaceful nation, the President said, “Above all, America seeks peace — not war.”

So how do we accomplish this? What’s the strategy?

The President:

“Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.”

“As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.”

“And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”

The President also called out Iran and called for isolation:

“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.”

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

This is leadership.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Peace Through Strength

President Reagan’s foreign policy philosophy as expressed in his March 23, 1983 missile defense speech:

“Since the dawn of the atomic age, we’ve sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. ‘Deterrence’ means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”

This is the foreign policy that won the Cold War by turning around an enormous arms race deficit. 

President Obama’s foreign policy philosophy as expressed in a 2008 campaign ad:

“I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems…I will set a goal for a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal: I will not develop nuclear weapons.”

This is the foreign policy that resulted in four North Korean nuclear tests, the formation, underestimation, and growth of ISIS, use of chemical weapons in Syria, and a nuclear agreement with Iran that paid the Iranian government $1.7 billion in cash while they held American citizens hostage. 

Using history as our guide, with which foreign policy should President Trump more closely align?

-John Anchor

Follow us on Twitter @JohnAnchorBLOG

References:

Reagan

https://reaganlibrary.archives.gov/archives/speeches/1983/32383d.htm

Obama

https://m.townhall.com/columnists/benshapiro/2008/05/28/barack-obamas-anti-military-problem-n816585

Is Trump Making Us Less Safe?

To answer this question, let’s first compare President Trump’s recent foreign policy decisions with the last eight years. 

In 2008, President Obama ran a campaign ad in which he said, “I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems…I will set a goal for a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal: I will not develop nuclear weapons.”

As President, Mr. Obama followed through on that promise, initially cutting $1.5 billion in funding from continued development of the missile defense system first proposed by President Reagan in 1983.

Mr. Obama, as expressed in his campaign ad, believed the United States should lead by example in hopes that our adversaries would follow our lead and also not develop nuclear weapons. 

Let’s see how that worked out. 

North Korea Nuclear Tests

Four times during Mr. Obama’s presidency did North Korea test fire nuclear weapons:

May 2009 – Two Kilotons in Strength

February 2013 – Six to Seven Kilotons

January 2016 – Four to Six Kilotons

September 2016 – Ten Kilotons (Equivalent to the bombs dropped on Japan in WW II.)

Note that North Korea’s nuclear tests are becoming more frequent and stronger in power. The frequency increase may be due, in part, to Kim Jong Un’s rise to power in late 2011, but we should also take note that the 2016 tests took place after President Obama chose not to fulfill a promise to respond militarily if Bashar al-Assad crossed Mr. Obama’s stated red line with chemical weapons use in Syria. 

Instead, Mr. Obama chose a diplomatic solution, promising the American people on August 18, 2014 that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile had been eliminated. Of course, this turned out not to be true as we discovered this year when Mr. Assad was again guilty of chemical weapons use on Syrian citizens. 

Given the facts listed above, can we agree the United States was not made more safe by the Obama Administration?

Now let’s turn to Trump. 

After the chemical attack in Syria earlier this month, Mr. Trump responded with a clear message. Within days, the United States conducted an airstrike using 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian base from which the chemical attack was launched.

Did this make us more or less safe?  

While this is currently a matter of opinion and may not be fully known for some time, we can say that a message has been sent to the rest of the world: If you use chemical weapons, the United States will respond militarily.  Unlike the red line talk from 2012, the world’s foreign leaders know President Trump is not bluffing. 

Following the strike on Syria, President Trump ordered a naval strike group rerouted from its Australian destination to the Korean Peninsula amid heightened rhetoric from North Korea concerning its weapons program. 

It’s worth noting that President Trump’s actions concerning North Korea are not exclusive to the military. The President has coordinated with China to apply pressure on North Korea. Last week, coal shipments from North Korea to China, which make up one-third of North Korean exports, were turned away and returned. 

Again, do these actions make us more or less safe than we were before President Trump took office?

President Trump’s direct approach is different, for sure, and that is one thing we know: The way the last administration handled these problems, primarily through diplomatic sanctions through the U.N., did not prevent North Korea from strengthening its nuclear weapons program or Syria from continuing to stockpile chemical weapons. 

Will his direct approach provoke a nuclear attack on the United States, or will it initiate a reduction in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?  That remains to be seen, but there is another name for the direct approach: Leadership. 

-John Anchor

Follow us on Twitter @JohnAnchorBLOG

References:

Promise to Cut

https://m.townhall.com/columnists/benshapiro/2008/05/28/barack-obamas-anti-military-problem-n816585

$1.5 Billion Cut

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-03-19/obama-backs-unproven-missile-defense-for-uncertain-threat

North Korea Nuclear Tests

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/04/14/a-timeline-of-north-koreas-five-nuclear-tests-and-how-the-u-s-has-responded/?utm_term=.538911a35573

Obama Statement (August 18, 2014)

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/18/statement-president-completion-mv-cape-ray-destruction-syria-s-declared-

North Korea Current

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-south-korea-pence-20170416-story.html

North Korean Coal

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/north-korean-ships-head-home-after-china-orders-coal-returned-n745006