The Deflated Balloon of a Strong Trump Presidency

Source: Independent

After President Obama’s weak reaction to the Russian interference in the Syrian civil war, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the world started wondering about an American leadership on the backfoot. The more hawkish of commentators even saw this as the beginning of the end of the American Empire or at least a President unwilling to further it.

President Obama had his own vision of a multilateral world, which was dovish to the extent that he ended up letting Russia dictate the direction of the Syrian civil war. He was a Wilsonian, albeit one skeptical about American moral superiority, who lacked the will to enforce his vision. A philosopher President who was even skeptical about his own convictions at times. President Obama also failed to follow his own red line for the Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad for carrying out chemical attacks on his own people by opting to deflect the decision to a vote in Congress. It was no wonder that many hawkish elements, many of them Republicans, were looking forward to a Republican Presidency.

However, everything changed with Donald Trump becoming the Republican frontrunner. Clearly, the American voter had a different mood this time around and was not taking anything from leaders making promises of globalization. With all the populist and anti-globalist rhetoric in the air, there was still one lasting factor traditional Republican view that Trump strongly promoted. The destruction of the Islamic State and deposing Bashar Al-Assad as the leader of the regime in power in Syria.

Trump came across as a strongman to many. Someone who would take tougher stances and establish America’s dominance over the world. However, President Trump’s completely spineless attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and especially dealing the ceasefire in Southern Syria destroys the myth of a strong Trump Presidency. Now, we have an American Empire coming to terms with a precarious position in Syria.

The latest is that the Russia has signed an airbase deal with Syria, solidifying the presence of its troops for at least half a century to come. Instead of moving ahead with confronting the Islamic State, getting rid of Assad and confronting Russia, he reached a ceasefire deal for Southwest Syria with Russia. This development only points toward further military disengagement in the region. He does not seem to have any intention to confront the shrinking American influence either, as he too will apparently kneel before the Russian and Chinese aggression. He is more interested in creating an isolationist America than one leading from the front during the terms of Bush 41 and 43. Just because it will get you the votes in today’s political atmosphere.

It should be a great embarrassment to the Republicans for standing with Trump for his atrocious policies. While they are doing it for purely political reasons, they are going to lose the moral high ground that they are used to taking in front of the public. Politicians like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who remain more concerned about the situation in the Middle East, should be particularly alarmed with the manner of the President they are standing by.

To many, the decline of America started with the election of a pompous narcissistic billionaire like Trump. It actually started with President Obama, elected on an anti-Iraq war mandate, withdrawing the United States from the global theater. To withdraw the role of actively policing the world for American values. While polar opposites ideologically and in terms of personality, both were symptomatic and also representative of the extreme polarization and a direction of international disengagement in American politics.

Supposedly someone with a liberal background, Donald Trump is going all out to pander to the hard-right conservative Republican base that has brought him to power. While those issues are going to cause much unrest domestically, his international stances, such as exiting the Paris Environment Treaty, are only going to undo the American moral leadership around the world.

Donald Trump and the politicians of his kind are taking the people of the United States back to the era of isolation and disengagement. They are taking America to the pre-Wilsonian era, which brought about great ideas such as the League of Nations and the United Nations to reality. Unlike the Republican tradition, they will not be the stalwarts of American moral leadership around the world. They are withdrawing America from the leadership of the world and leaving it in the hands of darker powers.

I know it’s still early days for the Trump Presidency, and given his unpredictable nature, anything is possible in the near future. However, the way he has handled the Syrian civil war so far takes out all the air that inflated the image of his leadership.

The post was published in The Nation blogs.

Trivializing The ISIS Threat

Source: RT.com

Source: RT.com

Regardless of the factors leading to the creation of the Islamic State or ISIS, there is little debate that it is a disturbing entity.

Even the most shameless Sunni apologists of the terrorist entity could feel some disturbance at their gruesome abuse of the local people in Iraq and Syria. Their treatment of the Yazidi women has particularly been the most chilling for the global conscience. To add insult to injury, they have been systematically wiping out the archeological treasures of the region, which should alarm anyone who treasures human civilization.

This is not an ordinary political and military force and is one that threatens human civilization as much as the more recent menaces in history such as the Nazi Germany, if not worse. This only necessitates forceful and meaningful military action against them involving boots on ground, without which the complete annihilation of ISIS is not possible. Unfortunately, neither President Obama nor any other global power seems to be interested in doing so, primarily because none of them is directly threatened by this terrorist state yet.

The unwillingness to take military action against ISIS is usually met by the resistance due to the fatigue from the several American military operations in the Middle East and around the world. The opponents of military intervention have a point, and for many years, I have held the same position. We should also recognize that many are being very consistent in their criticism of US military intervention over the years, and deserve respect for their intentions and ideological position.

The caucus of the anti-military constituents is significant in the United States and in most Western countries including UK and Canada, despite the widespread dislike for ISIS. The influence of such public opinion makes a possibility of action against the ISIS particularly difficult. But what is even worse, such political narrative often cynically trivializes the ever-growing threat of ISIS, when awareness for the support of more comprehensive action is badly needed.

Probably the main reason for the resistance to military intervention against ISIS among Western liberals is that North America and Europe have no direct threat from it. Fortunately, conservative politicians and voters in the United States are not only concerned about the ISIS threat but are also very much willing to support boots on ground.

Sadly, the opposition to comprehensive military action against ISIS has been simply reduced as a partisan election issue. The choice of not taking comprehensive military action against ISIS is a purely ideological and partisan position of liberal politicians, instead of a defensive strategy. However, President Obama certainly considers it the best way to go.

Conservative US senators such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain make sense in their criticism of President Obama’s recent decision to deploy less than 50 special operations troopers because of the half-hearted nature of the measure. While it is encouraging that the President finally realized that the ISIS threat deserves some boots on grounds, especially to assist the Kurds who are putting up an active resistance, we are a long way from a meaningful remedy.

The possible involvement of ISIS in bombing down a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert, as suspected by US intelligence, is only reflective of how dangerous ISIS and its affiliates have become. It clearly shows that the ISIS, if allowed to grow stronger and more influential, is not far from harming Western interests directly, if the misery of the Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians is not enough to fight this fire. Incidents such as these only strengthen the case of building an international coalition to fight the group, which is the right way to deal with the crisis.

The half-hearted approach adopted by the current US administration to deal with the threat of ISIS is not helping the situation. With a departing President looking to build his legacy as a peacemaker, it is unlikely that the current administration is going to commit to any major campaign. There is not much to expect from a Defense Department that considers the Sharia-enforcing Afghan Taliban as a partner for reconciliation anyway, something for which Pakistani government has been blasted since the Soviets left Afghanistan.

But probably what is even worse is the contribution of liberal and faux pacifists to trivialize the threat of ISIS for partisan purposes in political discourse. While it would help them win an election, it is not going to help in building the necessary public support for taking on the crisis created by ISIS, as was in the case of the operation against Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. ISIS is far worse than both the Taliban and Al-Qaida and a Democratic President may very well require that support in 2016.

What the liberal and isolationist ISIS cynics don’t get is that whatever way we see the problem, there is no real solution but to deal with it through full throttle military action. Whether ISIS is created due to the actions of the wars started by Bush 43 or a by-product of President Obama’s military strategy in Syria, there is no choice but to deal with the crisis.

You cannot expect to have diplomatic negotiations with the Islamic State as in the case of Iran.

A version of the post was published in The Nation blogs.

Asking the Wrong Question

Source: usnews.com

Source: usnews.com

These days the candidates for the 2016 US Presidential Elections, especially Republicans, are being asked the perfectly wrong question. And I hope we don’t see it as often for the rest of the duration of the campaign.

Knowing what we know now, would you still attack Iraq?

Of course, America has just gotten out of two wearing wars and great sacrifices have been made. So no wonder the public mood is pretty anti-war. And in a perfect isolationist world, rightly so. But ISIS is a threat of the proportions of the Nazis, if not worse, so being an anti-war isolationist with ISIS is not even an option.

The media has been orgasming over Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush fumbling the question, as ISIS moved on to take the historic city of Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq. The White House responded to the development by assuring they were not losing against ISIS. Actually, the administration had an even more creative explanation of their disaster of a military strategy.

It is remarkably ignorant comment of the US Secretary of Defense  Ash Carter to assume that recent ISIS gains in towns such as Ramadi was due to the “lack of will to fight” of Iraqis. Maybe that could be true for some of the radical Iraqi Sunnis, but what about the United States letting the Kurdish people down, who are very willing to fight and are still fighting singlehandedly?

The Iraqi military is inadequate, and is neither properly equipped, nor trained for fighting the monstrous force of ISIS, which is fighting with sophisticated Western weapons anyway. Even in Senator John McCain’s opinion, the US administration seem to have no strategy to fight ISIS. But then again, he’s just another pissed hawk.

Source: News Corp

Source: News Corp

And leave alone the question of aiding a militia on the ground trying to resist ISIS, something which is apparently against the principles of the White House, they did not even bother taking action to help the unarmed Yazidis. Since then, countless Yazidi women have been forced into sexual slavery.

Apparently, of all the people, Iranians seem to have some moral authority in this issue. Yes, finally I found one. They and their supported Shiite militias are the ones who seem to be resisting ISIS, albeit for their own interest, which is perfectly fine.

But it speaks volumes of the state of morality of the nations around the world, especially the EU, who usually would go to great lengths to threaten dictators like Gaddafi and Assad, but would be largely silent on this issue. The Sunni majority Arab states are completely ignoring this monster, which has already started knocking on their doors.

And to which heading is the moral compass of Pakistan pointing? Surely, we don’t want to stir another hive of bees. But what if the enemy is at the gates?

Where is the international coalition that got together to fight against terrorism? Is dethroning Assad worth destroying the entire Middle East?

So instead of asking the candidates hypothetical questions about what they would have done in terms of invading Iraq 10 years ago, (most of them supported Iraq War anyway, including Hillary Clinton) how about asking them what they have to offer to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria now. And I am sure this question will come up near the elections.

And if they simply have no solutions to offer, just like the current President, let the voters hear them.

Because it is no doubt that US foreign policy created this mess, whether Bush or Obama, it doesn’t matter.

America should clean the mess up, because apparently no one else will anyway.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

ISIS: Islamist Terrorists Only Sound Threatening Next Door

Source: The Telegraph

Considering the Gaza crisis, which is undoubtedly a humanitarian disaster on both sides, you can’t help but ask yourself a question. A question that seems even too simple to ask.

Why do Islamist terrorists sound threatening only when they are operating next door?

It is actually because the threat is greatly underestimated.

But I don’t want to get too carried away over here. I have been of the opinion that the Islamist militant threat is greatly blown out of the proportion by liberals at home (Pakistan) and conservatives abroad (West).

Source: scaleplasticandrail.com

Source: scaleplasticandrail.com

And for the sake of an academic argument, I still subscribe to that theory, when compared them to a number of secular powers that could start a World War on their own. But they do become a menace when they get too strong and when they are not offered any real resistance. Or when they go out of control, as the Taliban did after the realpolitik Americans were done with them.

So if the Islamists are used as pawns for the Free World, why take them so seriously?

Because they actually believe in their ideology and are really not warriors for the cause of Western Democracy and Liberty. Concepts which are actually not only alien to them, but greatly sacrilegious in nature.

This is why you cannot trust someone subscribing to the Islamist school of politics.

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

But we repeat the same mistakes, don’t we? Another area, where I have found that my opinion was terribly wrong and have changed my mind.

We are all for empowering Islamists in our democratic process, when everything they stand for is contrary to the democratic values.

But don’t we do this out of fear? So that they resort to dreaming about the numbers in elections and do not take up arms. Well, their dream is not too far away. Look at Egypt. Look at Hamas. Why go far? Look at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

But as in the case of Lal Masjid, as in the case of Swat, as in the case of Gaza Strip, as in the case of Kabul, even. You don’t get to realize the threat until the time it manages to sneak into your neighborhood. That’s when brutal action becomes indispensable.

The same is true for Syria, Libya and Iraq. Iraq, especially, because the country was “liberated” just a decade ago.

Especially because the ISIS is a nightmare.

Source: The Telegraph

Source: The Telegraph

But today, despite warnings from the likes of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and yes, the devil-incarnate Dick Cheney, the matter is being trivialized. Now there are two sides to the picture, even though I think left and libertarians, who I would otherwise agree with, have it wrong.

1. Iraqis are in trouble thanks to the Islamists. Their lives and liberty are in jeopardy. All chances of democracy dying. Let’s take action against the ISIS through military intervention.

2. It’s a centuries long sectarian conflict and nothing that concerns America. No need to involve our boys needlessly into this unsolvable issue. Or maybe just fuck Iraqis.

But there is also this third viewpoint that not many talk about and that many on the left, libertarian and anti-establishment spectrum could possibly appreciate. Alright, it has its share of logical problems, but worth considering.

3. You, Republican or Democrat, fucked Iraq and pretty much handed it over to the Islamists. Clean up the mess you made.

The funny part is that all three of them seem morally right in their own way. Even though the opponents would still see great moral wrongs in them. But I am kind of surprised by the mainstream resistance to the idea of intervention, more owing to the popular American sentiment.

However, the Democratic opposition to the suggestion by Republican conservatives seem more partisan than moral. I hope you know why I am saying this.

Source: AP/Washington Times

Source: AP/Washington Times

At the same time, the indifference of President Obama and his administration over the situation in Iraq is hard to ignore.

You know anti-American and anti-Israeli conspiracy theorists are suggesting that ISIS might be funded by the United States (partially true thanks to the Syrian Civil War) and Israel (OK?). While the latter completely sounds like bullcrap, the way the United States is letting the ISIS run loose is enough to raise doubts.

I never thought I would be advocating military action, ever. It’s for a very different reason though. But are you left with a choice with people who are actually threatening the peace of people’s lives?

The safety and security of Iraqis are at stake here. And it does not matter really because it is apparently a distant, unimportant threat. But really, some action would become necessary if they get within 50 miles of the borders of Israel.

This is where we need to assess the gravity of the situation of Iraq.

Source: The New York Times

Source: The New York Times

One thing is for certain that the United States directly or indirectly contributed to the present mess in Iraq and allowed an opportunity for the ISIS by dismantling a secular dictator in Saddam Hussein. Especially due to allegedly arming Al-Qaeda rebels for the Syrian Civil War.

Though the argument from the conservative side is that it is actually the Obama administration which is to blame for the disastrous situation in Iraq.

And you know what, that actually makes more sense. Why advocate Saddam as the lesser evil?

This question is rightly asked whether controlling the situation in Iraq would mean constant occupation. It’s a valid question and that is why the invasion was such a terrible idea in the first place.

At least, Iraq was stable under Saddam Hussein.

In any case. When you claim to be the liberators of a people, the upholders of the value of Liberty and Democracy, you gotta live up to the name. Or as Congressman Paul says stop being the policeman of the world, and perhaps let the EU intervene, which they hardly ever do.

Especially when you ruin the lives of millions of Iraqis who had absolutely done nothing wrong and not to mention thousands of allied soldiers who did not have to die for that needless campaign.

Yes, let me call that campaign absolutely needless.

Because under the ISIS, Iraq will never be free.

Changing the Rules

Source: Gary Cameron: Reuters - Business Insider

Source: Gary Cameron: Reuters – Business Insider

In response to the Republican filibuster of President Obama’s nominees for the DC circuit Court of Appeal judges, apart from record filibusters, the US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) used the simple majority to change the Senate rule requiring a filibustered nomination to be passed by 60 votes.

On November 21, 2013, the historic motion passed 52-48 simply majority votes in a 55 member Democrat-controlled Senate with 1 independent, ending an old rule that ensures protecting the minority party in this case.

3 Democrats went against party lines to vote against the call, including Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). I consider these three senators heroes and wise in their judgement indeed.

I am disappointed with the vote of the only independent senator joining the Democrats in this majoritarian ruling, who has actually participated in a filibusters before, and may know a thing or two about the ills of giving carte blanche to the majority party.

Of course, both parties blamed each other for going far enough to bring about this measure. But at the end of the day, it is the Democratic initiative that is the worse of the two, as it goes against the very spirit of the institution of the US Senate. The terrible part is people on both left and right are only advocating going much further than this, which makes you wonder how little regard they have for such measures that are meant to check absolute power.

Probably no one has described the rule change maneuver called “nuclear option” more clearly, comprehensively, passionately and articulately than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Here is what he had to say, and I second and endorse every single word.

It is appalling that some short sighted and authoritarian leaning commentators on the left are celebrating this measure as a political victory, because it really is a common, non-partisan loss for democracy.

Sadly, despite the excessive Republican filibusters and its alleged abuse, the Democratic party and President Barack Obama have only laid bare their authoritarian mindset by supporting this measure, which may appear to be democratic but is majoritarian and contrary to the spirit of the Senate and the function of the bicameral legislature. Particularly appalling because of the views of Democrat senators, including Barack Obama (D-IL), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Joe Biden (D-DE) against such an action in a Republican controlled Senate in 2005. Even though criticized by his own ranks, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared the more responsible of the two leaders, at least on this day.

While the constitution may provide for it, I would not hesitate to term this measure as leaning toward being undemocratic and authoritarian. And as John McCain put it, it was a sad day, for the system of government that makes America great. Especially for me, who looks up to democracy in America, living in a party leadership controlled dictatorship disguised as parliamentary democracy, with hideous provisions such as the 14th Amendment to the Pakistan Constitution.

Why present an executive nomination in Senate for voting anyway, you would ask. It is merely an instrument of obstruction.

You just don’t change the rules when they do not fit your needs and call it fairness.