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Author Topic: Politics: 2016 Lame Duck and 2017 New Administration  (Read 99471 times)
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Emily
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« Reply #575 on: April 06, 2017, 05:04:12 PM »

Heard what?

I'm currently intrigued by Bannon's removal from Sec Council and can't wait to watch the dynamics.
Sorry - forgot to paste the link:
http://www.npr.org/2017/04/05/522756860/ex-secretary-of-state-advocates-causes-not-key-in-modern-republican-agenda
Nothing all exciting and Bannony. Just some old-timey looking-weirdly-good-in-retrospect conservatism.
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the captain
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« Reply #576 on: April 06, 2017, 05:42:31 PM »

Ha! For one of the weirder sentences you'll read today, I heard that story and thought of me, too! I thought about that same basic conversation I've had so often with people lately, how ex-politicians, and far more often Republican ex-politicians come across so much better than they used to. Some of it, surely, is being freed from political pressure. But on the right, it's also just that the tectonic plates have shifted so dramatically. But sadly not suddenly: instead a constant, regular drift. I guess I started with the wrong metaphor. Damnit.
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Emily
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« Reply #577 on: April 06, 2017, 06:10:27 PM »

:-) Miss your posts, captain.
The Breitbart support for Trump is collapsing. I have a tiny little optimism that this whole adventure might prove to be an exorcism of some demons that have been haunting this country for a few decades.
Oh, and I think plates drift, so you're OK, metaphorically.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2017, 06:30:37 PM by Emily » Logged
the captain
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« Reply #578 on: April 06, 2017, 07:24:26 PM »

At least 59 missiles launched on a Syrian air base by the US.
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Emily
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« Reply #579 on: April 06, 2017, 07:28:46 PM »

My brief moment of tiny optimism has withered.
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Chocolate Shake Man
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« Reply #580 on: April 07, 2017, 06:27:41 AM »

At least 59 missiles launched on a Syrian air base by the US.

Appalling. Not surprisingly, the bombing has been welcomed by jihadi extremists in Syria.

Also, I wonder how Trump supporters will react to yet another about-face on his "outside-the-system" shtick.
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the captain
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« Reply #581 on: April 08, 2017, 05:45:51 AM »

What do people think would be the best course or action or inaction regarding Syria? I have to admit that I remain conflicted about it all, just as I was throughout the Obama administration.

The attack Thursday night (by U.S. time) was illegal under international law because it was not self-defense and it was not authorized by the U.N. It was probably illegal under U.S. law, but was certainly in line with standard practice. But it was a response at a military target against a regime that has committed terrible war crimes against its population, and so I haven't been shedding tears for Assad.

But ... now what? We aren't going to get U.N. authorization because China and Russia both have been obstructing, and will continue to obstruct, any efforts to act against Assad. And probably worse, if Assad were removed from office, then what? This is a country whose so-called moderate or secular rebels don't seem to be anything like a majority, with not only ISIS but assorted other factions of varying severity of Islamist ideologies competing for power and influence. If we were to install a pro-Western regime, wouldn't it be something of an unpopular dictatorship almost by definition? (It's hard to imagine a democracy resulting in a pro-Western government.) And if we didn't, are things any better in Syria? Or are Sunni majorities just going to turn and oppress the Shiite, Alawite, Christian, or other minorities that Assad at least nominally represented or supported?

President Obama said at some point that the thing about being president is, nobody ever brings to you a question of a good choice versus a bad choice, but only questions with only bad choices. This seems to be one. I'm curious what others think is the correct course of action. Not "if only Obama had..." or "well we're only in this mess because we..." None of that. Just what should we do now based on where we stand?
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Emily
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« Reply #582 on: April 08, 2017, 07:39:58 AM »

What do people think would be the best course or action or inaction regarding Syria? I have to admit that I remain conflicted about it all, just as I was throughout the Obama administration.

The attack Thursday night (by U.S. time) was illegal under international law because it was not self-defense and it was not authorized by the U.N. It was probably illegal under U.S. law, but was certainly in line with standard practice. But it was a response at a military target against a regime that has committed terrible war crimes against its population, and so I haven't been shedding tears for Assad.

But ... now what? We aren't going to get U.N. authorization because China and Russia both have been obstructing, and will continue to obstruct, any efforts to act against Assad. And probably worse, if Assad were removed from office, then what? This is a country whose so-called moderate or secular rebels don't seem to be anything like a majority, with not only ISIS but assorted other factions of varying severity of Islamist ideologies competing for power and influence. If we were to install a pro-Western regime, wouldn't it be something of an unpopular dictatorship almost by definition? (It's hard to imagine a democracy resulting in a pro-Western government.) And if we didn't, are things any better in Syria? Or are Sunni majorities just going to turn and oppress the Shiite, Alawite, Christian, or other minorities that Assad at least nominally represented or supported?

President Obama said at some point that the thing about being president is, nobody ever brings to you a question of a good choice versus a bad choice, but only questions with only bad choices. This seems to be one. I'm curious what others think is the correct course of action. Not "if only Obama had..." or "well we're only in this mess because we..." None of that. Just what should we do now based on where we stand?
I think nationalism is intractable but not inevitable, so I don't think the long-term outcome has to be that people will be oppressed based on their ethnicity. Short-term, yes, ethnicity seems to be a driving factor in Middle East relations, which the west has virulently encouraged for a few centuries now as a divide and conquer strategy.
I think it's, in a God sense, a western government moral sense, and in a realpolitik sense, best to not insert ourselves militarily.
God - we can pick a side and create a victory for that side: which side? None of the leadership of any of the existing factions would likely govern in a way that would not be repulsive to other factions. Not one of the factions is fighting to form a peaceful governing structure for all Syrians.
human moral - the US doesn't have standing to insert itself, and if it did, the God problem would apply.
realpolitik - So we do choose a side and insert ourselves - what happens? There's escalation, more death, extensive international tensions possibly bubbling over into other conflicts. Our side "loses" and we've done all that for nothing or our side "wins" and we've got another asshole dictatorship on our hands; we haven't improved the situation in the Middle East - some populations might be suppressed enough that there's no active war for a while, but suppressing populations inevitably ends in violence, so we've just put it off for another day, and in the meantime, probably made things worse for a lot of people. But we could probably take the oil!
There are no good guys here and I don't think it's really right to think there are bad guys either. There are millions of people who have been living in an untenable socio-political structure constructed by Europe a hundred years ago. The outcome is that, like in Europe after the structure imposed by the papacy collapsed, there will be a lot of conflict and struggle until a new balance is found.
What can be done to help?
1. Use political and economic pressure to keep other countries from interfering either by inserting military forces or supplying weapons. Try to get international support for building a perimeter through which weapons cannot be imported to the region in conflict.
2. Offer refuge to refugees and on-site or nearby medical and food aid, particularly to non-partisans.
4. Try to help regions that are not involved remain uninvolved by protecting them from incursions.
5. Don't imply that there are group rights for Sunni, Shi'a, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Allawi, etc. And don't render assistance based on group.

Nationalism is evil.
Regarding this actual bombing - it seems to have been ineffective in practical terms. I think it cost the US more in bombs than it cost Syria in damage. It didn't even shut down the one airbase.
The politics are really confusing: was that intentional? Is the Russia-US chest-thumping just posturing as they discussed the bombing ahead of time? Was this show of force for an American audience more than any other?
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 07:59:23 AM by Emily » Logged
the captain
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« Reply #583 on: April 08, 2017, 08:52:20 AM »

In short, then, would it be fair to summarize your preference as containment of the problem, with humanitarian aid provided, and more or less hoping for the best (without directly influencing with respect to) the eventual political outcome?

The biggest obstacle I see is keeping other countries from interfering, considering we already know that Russia and Iran are helping Assad and Saudi Arabia (at least) is helping some rebel factions.

I agree overwhelmingly with your "nationalism is evil" sentence. Beyond that, I think it's just stupid. Literally idiotic, in that it is the illogical championing of a nation based on the accident of your birth location. It's no different than fanatically cheering your local sports team just because they happen to be local. There seems to be a little more room for it if one chooses his own nation, but most of us don't do that in any real sense. (Choosing not to leave an America in which I was born and lived my formative years, in which the vast majority of my family and friends live, and to which I am culturally acclimated, is hardly the same as choosing to be American, for example.) When it has ethnic overtones, it's also moronic in that sense, as if people grew out of that local dirt (as opposed to having just been some prior wave of migrants/immigrants who wandered in, or conquered, or whatever).
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Emily
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« Reply #584 on: April 08, 2017, 09:31:20 AM »

Good summation, yes. And yes, you've identified the most challenging part. Iran and Russia pose different challenges. Iran is a good example of why nationalism is evil. If a state is defined by a nationality, it's inevitable that it will have contentious relationships, internal and external. Internal:  very few people actual have only one single ethnic heritage and even if you have a group that all consider themselves as belonging to one ethnicity, they will differ on how that should be expressed, but each will believe that the way he/she thinks it should be expressed is the mission of the state, leading to obvious conflict. External: they are making claims to certain resources and territory based on an impossible to define right and heritage and pitting themselves against the world as a singular set of people who, by definition, have different rights and interests than the rest of humanity. So Iran, as long as it defines itself as belonging to and representing shi'a, will be at odds and will be defensively aggressive. Much of that applies to Russia, too, as Russia has a deep history of "master race" thinking. They also have, with the US and, to a lesser extent, China, an attitude of a right to power and with Russia that takes a form of land expansion and maintaining global client-states.  
To be continued. My interruption is here.
Well, I'm back and see I was just blathering anyway, so in short, I agree.
But I have to think that the best approach to Russia and Iran is a little more carrot with the stick. Get them, both people and gov't to see the benefits of dropping nationalism and a contentious stance. But simultaneously be firm in containment. As long as the rest of the developed world doesn't take to nationalism, and if developing countries can actually develop (the US has to drop its economic expansionism here) eventually nationalist states will collapse from within.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 11:54:23 AM by Emily » Logged
the captain
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« Reply #585 on: April 09, 2017, 06:44:58 AM »

King Abdullah of Jordan in an interview in today's Washington Post -- https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/king-abdullah-compromise-with-russia-on-crimea-to-get-its-help-in-syria/2017/04/06/b985b894-1a61-11e7-bcc2-7d1a0973e7b2_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-e%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.ce50a1d00451 -- suggests the way to work with Russia on Syria is to concede Crimea (which may be a moot point by now anyway). Well, what he actually says is "If you come to an understanding on Crimea, I think you will see much more flexibility on Syria, and I think Ukraine then becomes the least problematic." But I think it's safe to say what he means is give up on Crimea, make your stand on Syria, and then Ukraine, meh, work out something or other.

I realize your "more carrot" comment was regarding nationalism, but I think the realpolitik sense of the carrot is what King Abdullah is saying. And while I think that may well be the reality of how to get it done, unfortunately then you're bargaining over other people without them being at the bargaining table. (Not unlike how the Middle East was carved up a century ago and leading to some of the troubles we're seeing now in the first place.)
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Emily
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« Reply #586 on: April 09, 2017, 11:17:38 AM »

I figure people should bargain with their own carrots, not someone else's.
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the captain
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« Reply #587 on: April 09, 2017, 11:21:55 AM »

A good thought, but unfortunately not the way of the world up to now.
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SMiLE Brian
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« Reply #588 on: April 09, 2017, 11:27:24 AM »

Good thing Trump doesn't tweet about basketball or the Captain would have problems....
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« Reply #589 on: April 09, 2017, 11:29:26 AM »

A good thought, but unfortunately not the way of the world up to now.
Completely true. Foreign policy is almost always gamesmanship with no driving principles, But this is due to nationalist thinking. Some structures put in place after WWII, when there was a moment of clarity regarding the evils of nationalism, were a  positive movement. They're falling apart now, unfortunately.
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Emily
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« Reply #590 on: April 09, 2017, 11:34:41 AM »

But also, saying, "here, if you stop in Syria we'll give you Ukraine" defeats the purpose. I don't mean use a carrot to get them out of Syria, I mean use a carrot to get them to stop their defensive expansionism. Giving in to the expansionism doesn't help.
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the captain
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« Reply #591 on: April 09, 2017, 11:36:02 AM »

[Responding to the "Completely true..." post.]

Agreed, because of the loudly shrieked "globalism robs us of our sovereignty!" nonsense (as if multinational institutions weren't agreed upon by the member nations, and thus every bit as consistent with sovereignty as any other level of governance). No, no, let's go back to our little fiefdoms, do everything on a bilateral basis, and end up with a maze of absurd loyalties and feuds leading to more wars, all in the name of glorious nationalism. That'll be great.
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« Reply #592 on: April 09, 2017, 11:37:54 AM »

Indeed. Let's note that the countries who bought into those structures have not warred with each other since. Before that, they'd been at war nonstop since writing began.
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« Reply #593 on: April 09, 2017, 11:40:21 AM »

I miss the theme of coming together that led to the United Nations in 1945. That generation understood that dangers of nationalism all too well...
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« Reply #594 on: April 09, 2017, 11:46:54 AM »

But also, saying, "here, if you stop in Syria we'll give you Ukraine" defeats the purpose. I don't mean use a carrot to get them out of Syria, I mean use a carrot to get them to stop their defensive expansionism. Giving in to the expansionism doesn't help.
To cede a point to you - yes, I'm dodging the question of what to do about Russia and Iran with the specific Syria question because I have no good suggestions. Other than continue to apply economic and political pressure and hope that they will decide having a dictator in Syria is less important than having decent relationships with everyone else. However, decent relationships with everyone else will take a clear change of behavior on the part of everyone else, so I don't think that is a valid offering just now, so we've kind of screwed ourselves on that point.
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the captain
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« Reply #595 on: April 09, 2017, 12:02:08 PM »

Indeed. Let's note that the countries who bought into those structures have not warred with each other since. Before that, they'd been at war nonstop since writing began.

Exactly, which is why the anti-EU fervor in particular strikes me as so, so stupid. That's not to say that the existing EU is a perfect entity, any more than any particular country's government is perfect. But the benefits of the EU should be obvious to anyone with the slightest education in history. (Hmmm, France and Germany aren't at war right now.) There are tweaks--even overhauls!--to be made to every institution on the planet. But baby/bathwater/etc.
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« Reply #596 on: April 12, 2017, 08:41:46 AM »

You'd understand better the anti-EU sentiments if you had been born in Europe many years ago and seen the progressive economic and social deterioraton in your continent. The EU, with its inflexible "austerity" policy, literally reinvented European poverty after the 1960 Golden Age. What Greece has been subjected to is unforgivable. The British have been so lucky and clever in choosing to go away. They will fully realise this in a few years, when they will be like Norway but bigger.

And I don't like this name calling against different political opinions. It reeks of classic pro-system intolerance, where every dissenting voice is labeled as "stupid", "irresponsible" or the like.
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Chocolate Shake Man
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« Reply #597 on: April 12, 2017, 09:59:38 AM »

What do people think would be the best course or action or inaction regarding Syria?

I agree with Emily's point that there are no good guys in this fight.

I do think that working with Russia right now is the best way to somewhat quell the violence occurring in Syria. There's no question that Russia has done abominable work in Syria along with Assad. However, it is also important to point out that the US has now rejected two major proposals to work with Russia on subduing the violence. One was in 2012, when Russia proposed what Chomsky recently called "a negotiated settlement in which Assad would be phased out." The US rejected that proposal in favour of overthrowing the Assad regime - which meant, at the time, strengthening ISIS-style terrorist forces in the region and, ultimately, not overthrowing Assad, which would have been a disaster even if it had worked.

The second was a US-Russia ceasefire put in place in September 2016. There was some brief indication that the ceasefire was working, though, certainly opposition groups in Syria were resisting it. This plan which Obama appeared to support was opposed by the Pentagon, who were more interested in Cold War 2, and the US eventually violated the ceasefire pretty soon after it had been put into place and the madness continued.

This is obviously not a perfect solution because there isn't one. However, real lives do hang in the balance and those need to be the priority for any short-term solution.
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the captain
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« Reply #598 on: April 12, 2017, 10:12:12 AM »

You'd understand better the anti-EU sentiments if you had been born in Europe many years ago and seen the progressive economic and social deterioraton in your continent. The EU, with its inflexible "austerity" policy, literally reinvented European poverty after the 1960 Golden Age. What Greece has been subjected to is unforgivable. The British have been so lucky and clever in choosing to go away. They will fully realise this in a few years, when they will be like Norway but bigger.

And I don't like this name calling against different political opinions. It reeks of classic pro-system intolerance, where every dissenting voice is labeled as "stupid", "irresponsible" or the like.

That's fair. The idea does seem stupid to me, though, for the overarching reason (general peace) I mentioned. That said, the keys to that sentence are "the idea" (not people holding it, necessarily) and "to me" (nothing approaching an authority, and admittedly an observer from another continent). I really believe reform trumps exit/dissolution.
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« Reply #599 on: April 12, 2017, 10:19:56 AM »

As expected Trump is pissing off everyone in the whole world ( left-wing, right-wing, Russia, NK, NATO, alt-right, etc) He is like the Kaiser in 1914 tearing at an unstable global political system
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