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How the World Ends - Baiting Russia is Not Good Policy

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Last week I attended a foreign policy conference in Washington that featured a number of prominent academics and former government officials who have been highly critical of the way the Bush and Obama Administrations have interacted with the rest of the world. Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago was on a panel and was asked what, in his opinion, has been the most notable foreign policy success and the most significant failure in the past twenty-five years. The success was hard to identify and there was some suggestion that it might be the balancing of relationships in strategically vital Northeast Asia, which “we have not yet screwed up.” If I had been on the panel I would have suggested the Iran nuclear agreement as a plus.

As for the leading foreign policy failure there was an easy answer, “Iraq” which was on everyone in the room’s lips, but Mearsheimer urged one not to be so hasty. In reality the Iraq disaster has killed hundreds of thousands, has cost trillions of dollars and has unleashed serious problems for the Mideast region in general while allowing the rise of ISIS, but in “realistic foreign policy terms” it has not been a catastrophic event for the United States, which had hardly been seriously injured by it apart from financially and in terms of reputation.

Mearsheimer went on to say that, in his opinion, there is a far greater disaster lurking and that is the total mismanagement of the relationship with Russia ever since the downfall of communism. He cited the drive by Washington democracy promoters to push Ukraine into the western economic and political sphere as a major miscalculation as they failed to realize or did not care that what takes place in Kiev was to Moscow a vital interest.
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Poof! Our Wars are All Forgotten

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One of the most popular apps these days is Snapchat. It allows the sender to set a timer for any photo dispatched via the app, so that a few seconds after the recipient opens the message, the photo is automatically deleted.

The evidence of what you did at that party last night is seen and then disappears. POOF!

I hope you’ll forgive me if I suggest that the Iraq-Syria War against the Islamic State (ISIS) is being conveyed to us via Snapchat. Important things happen, they appear in front of us, and then… POOF!… they’re gone. No one seems to remember them. Who cares that they’ve happened at all, when there’s a new snap already arriving for your attention? As with most of what flows through the real Snapchat, what’s of some interest at first makes no difference in the long run.

Just because we now have terrifyingly short memories does not, however, mean that things did not happen. Despite the POOF! effect, events that genuinely mattered when it comes to the region in which Washington has, since the 1980s, been embroiled in four wars, actually did occur last week, last month, a war or two ago, or, in some cases, more than half a century in the past. What follows are just some of the things we’ve forgotten that couldn’t matter more.
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Obama in Vietnam: Diplomacy Or Deep State Duplicity?

President Obama's visit to Vietnam was more about bringing this former adversary into the US sphere of influence against China than about truly developing further mutually-beneficial trade and other relations. The opening of weapons sales to Vietnam will be a boon to the US military-industrial complex (Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon are already eyeing juicy deals) and is designed to cut out the Russians. Pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership is to the benefit of the "deep state" and a new world order of non-elected global governing bodies. And the implied US support for a more confrontational Vietnamese relationship with China shows the "Pivot to Asia" as nothing more than an Asian version of NATO's policy of encircling Russia. It is a shame that in his "farewell tour" Obama is carrying such dangerous baggage...
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Much Ado About Restrooms

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Debates over the US government’s foreign and economic policies have recently taken a backseat to the debate over what bathroom transgender individuals should use. The two sides of the debate both believe that government has the legitimate authority to tell private businesses who they should allow to use their facilities. Few on either side of this debate defend the right of private property owners to decide for themselves who may and may not use their bathrooms.

Some say government must be involved in this issue in order to ensure that private businesses do not violate individual rights. Those who make this claim are accepting the idea that rights are no more than a gift from the government that can be revoked at the will and whim of legislators and bureaucrats. This argument turns rights from a shield protecting our liberties into a sword that can and will be used to increase government control of our lives.
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Beware What You Wish For: Russia is Ready for War

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So foreign ministers from the 28 NATO member-nations met in Brussels for a two-day summit, while mighty military power Montenegro was inducted as a new member.

Global Robocop NATO predictably discussed Afghanistan (a war NATO ignominiously lost); Iraq (a war the Pentagon ignominiously lost); Libya (a nation NATO turned into a failed state devastated by militia hell); Syria (a nation NATO, via Turkey, would love to invade, and is already a militia hell).

Afghans must now rest assured that NATO’s Resolute Support mission – plus “financial support for Afghan forces” – will finally assure the success of Operation Enduring Freedom forever.

Libyans must be reassured, in the words of NATO figurehead secretary Jens Stoltenberg, that we “should stand ready to support the new Government of National Accord in Libya.”

And then there’s the icing on the NATO cake, described as “measures against Russia.”
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America – the Most Frightened Nation on Earth

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America is exceptional alright. It is the most frightened nation on Earth, subjected to hysterical propaganda over decades warning about foreign enemies and ideologies. No wonder its supposed democratic freedom is in so appallingly bad shape, when the preponderant population is imprisoned by their rulers in a virtual cage of fear.

Paradoxically, though, the dissonance of supposed freedom could not be more abysmal. At a press conference at the Cannes film festival last week American screen actor George Clooney digressed from his latest movie to talk about Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Clooney, who is well known for his liberal brand of US politics and a big supporter of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, predicted that rightwing business tycoon Trump would not win the forthcoming November presidential contest.

Clooney dismissed Trump as a demagogue sowing fear and divisive tensions along racial and xenophobic lines. Which is fair enough. Of interest here is not so much the actor’s views on Trump’s chances of political success. Rather, it is Clooney’s premise that Americans would not succumb to reactionary fear peddling.
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Ron Paul Rewind: Repeal Indefinite Detention!

This week served as another reminder that the Beltway serves the Beltway and not the American people. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) again appeared on the House Floor and again it flushed away hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain the US military empire overseas. Very little if any of the $600-plus billion in Pentagon spending will go to actually keeping us safe, and in fact much of it will be used to provoke our current and future adversaries thereby making us far less safe. The NDAA also has become notorious for stepping far over the line in violating our civil liberties. This year a measure to force young women to register for the draft narrowly missed inclusion in the bill -- it was removed at the last minute. But remember the NDAA of 2012? Remember Section 1021, which provided for the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial? Remember how little opposition such an anti-American measure faced in Congress? Remember when one outraged Congressman went to the Floor of the House to demand that this horrible measure be repealed?
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Merle Haggard vs. Eliot Cohen

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Poor Eliot Cohen: one of the principal architects of the Iraq war, and chief ideologue of Bushism in foreign policy – remember the “freedom agenda”? – he’s miffed that “This campaign shows that the foreign policy consensus that has framed this country’s work overseas since 1950 is in peril.” His ire is directed at Donald Trump, but he’s more than a little annoyed at the left-wing of the Democratic party, which is also showing signs of messing around with the Sacred Consensus. How dare these miscreants challenge a “consensus” that brought us a whole series of outright military defeats, from Vietnam to the Iraq war, and cost us tens of thousands of lost lives and an incalculable amount in dollars! Egghead “intellectuals” like Robert McNamara and Cohen know a lot more about foreign policy than the denizens of flyover country, such as one Merle Haggard, who advised us in one of his ditties:

“Let’s get out of Iraq and get back on track
And let’s rebuild America first.”

Of course, Haggard didn’t know that – as Cohen helpfully points out – he was invoking a “notorious movement” that “included not only traditional isolationists but also Nazi sympathizers.” It’s a good thing we have Cohen around to set us straight: otherwise we might all be turning into little Hitlers when we think we’re just opposing yet another chickenhawk-inspired war.
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Obama's Global Anti-Corruption Cops Should Call Internal Affairs

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The Obama administration wants Americans to believe that it is fiercely anti-corruption. “I've been shocked by the degree to which I find corruption pandemic in the world today," declared Secretary of State John Kerry at last week’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London. Kerry sounded like the French detective in Casablanca who was “shocked” to discover gambling. Six years ago at the United Nations, President Obama proclaimed that the US government is “leading a global effort to combat corruption.” Maybe he forgot to send Kerry the memo.

Or maybe Kerry lost the memo. By the time he got to Egypt on Wednesday, judging by his public comments, he seems to have forgotten about corruption despite standing in one of its capitals.

Much of the teeth-gnashing at last week’s summit involved tax evasion. Politicians pledged to share more data on tax records and corporate ownership to help boost government revenue around the globe. Summit attendees castigated hidden offshore tax havens — ironically, the same type of accounts used by both British Prime Minister David Cameron and Kerry. A joint communique solemnly pledged to “driv(e) out those lawyers, real estate agents and accountants who facilitate or are complicit in corruption.”
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Bill Clinton to Poland and Hungary: Do As We Say on Immigration, You Dirty Little Putins!

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Shortly after World War II, after the Soviet Red Army liberated Hungary from Nazi occupation, the Hungarians held their first election in six years. The November, 1945 vote resulted in an overwhelming victory for a coalition led by the agrarian, anti-communist Hungarian Smallholders Party. This victory at the ballot box infuriated Hungary's Communist Party and Hungary's new occupying Soviet overlords. Little by little, in what became known as "salami tactics," the Hungarian communists chipped away at the ruling coalition -- slicing off one piece of salami (coalition partner) at a time until nothing was left. Once accomplished, a new election was held in which the Communists captured power and ruled for 40 years from the barrel of a Soviet tank (literally in 1956).
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