It’s pretty weird blogging from NY but I read an article online today that I figured was worth posting. We talked a little bit about the Cuban Missile Crisis this semester and how that relates to the power of the executive and the decision making process inside the White House. With the revelation that our incoming president will not read the daily intel briefs because he has like such a really good fabulous brain, POLITICO thought it was a good idea to remind us of the time that a daily intel brief saved the country from a nuclear war.
After the Bay of Pigs embarrassment, Kennedy vowed to never be swayed again. “All my life I’ve known better than to depend on the experts,” Kennedy lamented. “How could I have been so stupid, to let them go ahead?” When October 1962 rolled around, he was prepared. He knew the maps, read the briefings, and took advice from people without stars and medals on their jacket. Trump is surrounding himself with generals and refusing to read these intel briefings. Not like you needed another reason to be terrified of a Trump presidency or anything.
After the fall of Aleppo, both sides agreed to allow for the safe passage of residents that have been trapped in the city. The Red Cross expects the evacuation to take several days with about 3,000 people leaving the city in ambulances and buses today. The residents are being taken to Idlib, a province Assad has vowed to target next, and Turkey has promised to take the most vulnerable. It’s hard to tell what’s next for Syria, but this war, and Syrian suffering, is far from over.
The battle for Aleppo, once Syria’s second largest city, has ended. The fighting will stop today after four years of a brutal military campaign that was marked by indiscriminate bombings and horrific human rights violations. In the end, Assad, who received enormous help from Russia, and his government forces have won. It is a sad day and a huge turning point in Syria’s 5 1/2 year civil war.
Trump campaigned on the promise of not getting involved in foreign conflicts. During the campaign, Trump called the war in Iraq a disaster (even though he supported it at the time) and blamed Hillary Clinton for the chaos in the Middle East. He criticized her for the decision to topple Gaddafi in Libya (guess what – he supported that too.) In his first major speech on foreign policy since the election, Trump introduced Mattis as his defense pick and laid out his vision for a new era of U.S. foreign policy.
Three terrorist attacks rocked the Middle East this weekend. In Turkey, a Kurdish militant group set off two bombs outside a stadium after a soccer game. The attack killed 38, including 30 cops, and injured at least 100 more. The TAK, the group that carried out the attacks, said the bombings were in response to “ongoing violence in the south-eastern Turkey and for the continuing imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.”
A bomb exploded at a Christian cathedral in Cairo, killing 25. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack that was carried out on a national holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth.
In Yemen, where an 21-month war has ravaged the poorest country in the region, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an army compound, killing 45 soldiers. ISIL’s affiliate in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.
Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty says that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members of the alliance. It is the reason why so many Eastern European countries aspire to join NATO. It offers security and peace of mind to people that were subject to Soviet occupation. One of those countries that rely so heavily on NATO is Estonia. The small Baltic state of about 1.3 million people borders Russia and is one of only 5 NATO allies that actually meet their 2% GDP defense spending commitment.
The election of Trump has shook Estonians who now fear they will be defenseless in the event of a Putin offensive. This article in POLITICO details these fears and what leaders are planning to do to work with Trump to maintain the alliance.
Turkey was once the example of a modern Middle Eastern state. A secular country that was pro-West and eager to enter the EU. However, since July’s coup attempt, President Erdogan has cracked down on journalists, teachers, and opposition parties. Thousands have been jailed and now Erdogan is positioning himself for a power grab that will keep him in power until at least 2029. He was been leading the country for 14 years now and shows no signs of relinquishing anytime soon. This WSJ article details Turkey’s shift and the impact it could have on regional stability.
Assad has made serious gains in Aleppo in the past week. At the expense of his own people, government troops have retaken areas of the city that were under rebel control. It’s time to face the hard truth. Assad will soon capture Aleppo and probably not much longer after that, will defeat the opposition forces. Trump hasn’t laid out a coherent Syria policy to date other than bombing the shit out of ISIS but its time for him to start planning what his next move will be and how will this war end.
Trump’s inconsistencies have made it nearly impossible to pin down how exactly he will govern. His cabinet and advisor selections are the first glimpse we get into what type of president he will be. Of all the positions he’s announced so far, perhaps none is more important than the National Security Advisor. It is this person’s responsibility to know what is happening in the world and advise the president on emerging threats. Trump selected retired Gen. Michael Flynn, the loon who was a staple on any Fox News set during the campaign.
This man has touted conspiracy theories and is aggressively opposed to the Iran deal. His selection concerned many in the intelligence community and one of his former employees thinks he may lead us to war with Iran.
I do not trust Flynn to objectively and intelligently advise the president on the threats we face and I’m genuinely scared for our safety under a Trump presidency.
We all knew that we’d be seeing plenty of analyses on what happened after Trump’s victory. I found this piece, The End of the Anglo-American Order, by Ian Buruma in NYT Magazine. Buruma, a Dutch scholar born several years after the end of WW2, connects Brexit with the election of Trump and the other populist movements we’ve seen in Europe. If I’m reading it right, he views these movements as a rejection of the world that the Brits and the Americans designed after WW2. Buruma understands that most Americans and Birtons think of themselves as exceptional people that live in exceptional countries, a feeling that gained steam after the defeat of the Nazis and the resistance to communism. He sees these votes as a very protest against the things that made us feel exceptional.
It is a fascinating piece – well worth the read.