Opinion | Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President – By William H. McRaven – The New York Times

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Admiral McRaven is a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command.

 

“But the most poignant recognition that evening was for a young female sailor who had been killed in Syria serving alongside our allies in the fight against ISIS. Her husband, a former Army Green Beret, accepted the award on her behalf. Like so many that came before her, she had answered the nation’s call and willingly put her life in harm’s way.

For everyone who ever served in uniform, or in the intelligence community, for those diplomats who voice the nation’s principles, for the first responders, for the tellers of truth and the millions of American citizens who were raised believing in American values — you would have seen your reflection in the faces of those we honored last week.

But, beneath the outward sense of hope and duty that I witnessed at these two events, there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within.

These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”

Those words echoed with me throughout the week. It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great. We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.

But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?

If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?”

Opinion | This Is the True End Of Pax Americana – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

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Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditGamma/Keystone, via Getty Images

“The sudden decision to pull about 1,000 American troops out of northern Syria, and leave Kurdish allies in the lurch after they did so much to fight off the Islamic State, has already had terrible consequences. The Kurds have been forced to make a deal with the murderous regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, hoping it will protect them against being massacred by incoming Turkish troops who regard them as mortal enemies. Russia and Iran, without whose support Mr. Assad’s government would not have survived, are quick to benefit from America’s sudden retreat. Violence in an already ghastly Syrian civil war could get a great deal worse.

The aftereffect of President Trump’s capricious move will also be felt far beyond the border area of Syria and Turkey. Alliances are based on mutual interest and trust. Since World War II, the interests of the United States and its allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have been safeguarded, for better or for worse, by a global order dominated by the United States. America’s purported enemies for most of this time were Communist powers. Many an unsavory regime, notably in Latin America, was supported as a result, so long it was anti-Communist. And many a foolish war was fought in the name of freedom and democracy.

This world order — call it Pax Americana or American imperialism, as you like — has been fraying since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cold War had given United States–led alliances a purpose. The “war on terror” was never a convincing substitute. And the disastrous attempt by George W. Bush to reorder the Middle East by invading Iraq, ostensibly to liberate benighted Arabs, made the idealistic justification for Pax Americana look like a cynical sham.”

“. . . .Now that Mr. Trump has given his stamp of approval to autocrats and despots, from Vladimir V. Putin in Russia to Kim Jong-un in North Korea, the moral check on dictatorship has disappeared. More and more political operators, not only in former Communist countries in Central Europe, but everywhere, including in some of the oldest democracies, will be emboldened by Mr. Trump’s example. Countries will become more divided between authoritarian populists and the supposed enemies of the people who try to hold them back.

This is the true end of Pax Americana, the best of it anyway. The reckless unpicking of military alliances and the betrayal of allies are already bad enough. But there is something even worse afoot. People all over the world still look to the United States as an example. But now it is the enemies of liberal values who view with glee how American leadership is wrecking the very things that Mr. Roosevelt once fought for.

Ian Buruma, a professor at Bard College, is the author of a book on the rise and fall of the Anglo-American order to be published next year.”

Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani ‘a Hand Grenade’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)”

Opinion | Ukraine’s Leader Has Jumped Into Trump’s Trap – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

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Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“For some Europeans, the most embarrassing revelation of the now very public phone conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president on July 25 was not the attempt by Mr. Trump to interfere in the judiciary system of a foreign country for his own political benefit. Nothing the American president does could surprise any longer.

What they found particularly disappointing, instead, was the servility with which his young counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, sought to ingratiate himself with Mr. Trump, pretending that he had won the Ukrainian presidency by imitating him, claiming to have appointed a new prosecutor general who would be “100 percent my person,” and happily joining in the Euro-bashing that has become one of Mr. Trump’s trademarks.

Masks were falling off. So this popular maverick comedian turned real-life politician after playing one in a TV series, this promising reformer that President Emmanuel Macron of France had hosted at the Élysée even before he was elected, was in fact another spineless, unprepared leader jumping into President Trump’s every trap.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Macron have been wise enough not to comment on this pathetic turn of events. Privately, French diplomats insist that Paris still actively supports Mr. Zelensky — even more so in light of the American meltdown. What is at stake in Ukraine for the European Union is far too important, and the risk of seeing Mr. Trump’s dirty work derail laborious efforts to reform that post-Soviet country far too real.”

David Lindsay: Here is the perfect antidote to Rachel Maddow, who spent way to much time the other night on the Inspector General’s calling 8 house committees for an emergency meeting, to get rubbish about conspiracy theories put together by non other than Rudy Guiliani.

Here are the top two comments I endorsed:

P. Bourke

Excellent article. It helped me realize that in reading the transcript of Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky, it’s worth noting what was not in the transcript, and not just the criminality so clearly in evidence. There was not even the briefest discussion of Ukraine’s economic or military situation or any other item of substance, and this at a very fraught time in the history of the Ukraine, as well as in the US-Russian relationship. Such dereliction of duty by an American president should itself be cause for impeachment.

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Bruce Rozenblit commented 2 hours ago

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO

This essay underscores the absolute essential nature of globalism and diplomacy. It reveals what happens if amateurs are placed in charge of highly specialized and professional administrative positions. When the Trumpist path is taken, everything falls apart. We are falling apart. The United Kingdom is falling apart. And now, Ukraine in falling apart. All of this ensuing chaos is to the benefit of Putin. Putin is waging a war of chaos and disfunction against the West. The more disorganized the West becomes (Brexit), the more turmoil inside our governments (Trump’s war on our institutions and public meritocracy), the more friction between allies (Trump’s ever expanding trade wars with our closest allies), the lesser the threat the West presents to him and the stronger Russia becomes. Trump, with his attempt to extort political assistance from Ukraine, plays right into Putin’s hand. Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is Putin’s puppet. The EU has been trying to pull Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence and rule of law through increased trade. Trump is doing the complete opposite. He is using tariffs as weapon to isolate and turn all against all. This new trade war with the EU, which has just started, has the potential to be devastating, both economically and strategically. It will cost consumers plenty, reduce trade and slow down the global economy, which is already slowing down from tariffs on China. Putin couldn’t be happier.

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The Koch Foundation Is Trying to Reshape Foreign Policy. With Liberal Allies. – By BEVERLY GAGE – The New York Times

Photo illustration by Paul Sahre

“Last year, the new Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft quietly opened its doors in Cambridge, Mass. A joint venture between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program, thus far, has hosted only a modest level of activity, barely noticeable in the thrum of the Boston-area academic scene. Last year, the program supported two visiting scholars. This year, the number is up to four, all with specialties in some aspect of United States foreign relations.

If the program’s current scale may as yet be unremarkable, the ambitions of its founding donor are not. Created with $3.7 million in grants from the Charles Koch Foundation, the program is part of an expansive but little-noticed Koch-sponsored effort to influence American foreign policy by investing in the infrastructure of ideas: scholars, academic centers, Washington think tanks. So-called Koch money — the billions under the control of Charles and his brother David, who died in August — has already transformed countless other areas of American political life, from tax policy to environmental regulation to campaign finance, all in the service of a radically free-market vision that has made the Koch name an epithet among progressives.

When it comes to foreign policy, though, the agenda of the foundation — which supports education and research and constitutes a relatively small part of the Koch network — does not line up quite so neatly with partisan politics. In keeping with Charles Koch’s libertarian shrink-the-state imperative, the foundation has set out to bring an end to America’s age of endless wars and to reduce the nation’s military footprint around the world — a vision shared by many progressives, some of whom count themselves among the Koch grantees.

Since 2015, the foundation has committed more than $25 million to this effort. It has seeded academic programs at universities like Tufts, Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America, Texas A&M and the University of California, San Diego, in addition to Harvard and M.I.T. This summer, it also granted $460,000 — about a quarter of the start-up budget — to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a new think tank that intends to challenge the “intellectual lethargy and dysfunction” of the foreign-policy establishment and to argue on behalf of greater military restraint. The left-leaning billionaire George Soros gave money through his foundation to the Quincy Institute as well, a strange-bedfellows arrangement much emphasized during the think tank’s rollout in late June — and a sign of how seriously the Trump presidency has shaken up traditional enmities and alliances.

Within the grand scheme of Koch-affiliated spending, the foundation’s foreign-policy investments are still pocket change; donors like Michael Bloomberg have given far more to similar projects. They are a tiny fraction of the $889 million the Koch network initially pledged for the 2016 election cycle — a sum comparable to that of the two major political parties — or the $400 million it pledged in 2018.”

As Amazon Fires Become Global Crisis, Brazil’s President Reverses Course – The New York Times

By Ernesto LondoñoManuela Andreoni and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — As an ecological disaster in the Amazon escalated into a global political crisis, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, took the rare step on Friday of mobilizing the armed forces to help contain blazes of a scale not seen in nearly a decade.

The sudden reversal, after days of dismissing growing concern over hundreds of fires raging across the Amazon, came as international outrage grew over the rising deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rain forest. European leaders threatened to cancel a major trade deal, protesters staged demonstrations outside Brazilian embassies and calls for a boycott of Brazilian products snowballed on social media.

As a chorus of condemnation intensified, Brazil braced for the prospect of punitive measures that could severely damage an economy that is already sputtering after a brutal recession and the country’s far-right populist president faced a withering reckoning.

On Friday, he said that he was planning to send the military to enforce environmental laws and to help contain the fires starting Saturday.”

Opinion | Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.

But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.

Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.

The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”

Opinion | How Trump and Xi Can Make America and China Poor Again – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“If you think that the United States-China trade dispute is going to be easily resolved, you’re not paying attention. It’s so much deeper than you think — and so much more dangerous.

If President Trump and President Xi Jinping don’t find a way to defuse it soon, we’re going to get where we’re going — fracturing the globalization system that has brought the world more peace and prosperity over the last 70 years than at any other time in history. And what we’ll be birthing in its place is a digital Berlin Wall and a two-internet, two-technology world: one dominated by China and the other by the United States.

This will be a much more unstable and less prosperous world. Trump and Xi should drop everything and sit down to resolve this crisis before it becomes a runaway train — fueled by populists and nationalists, and amplified by social media, in both countries.

How did we get here? Two things converged: The character of U.S.-China trade changed — it went “deep,” and both President Xi and President Trump overplayed their hands and freaked each other out.”

Opinion | ‘They’re Doing It as We Sit Here’ – The New York Times Editorial

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The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“If you were searching for a metaphor for the withering ideal of American public service — the one that puts country before party, truth before “narrative” or “brand” — it’d be hard to do better than the painful spectacle of Robert Mueller trying, in his halting voice, to sound the alarm on Wednesday about Russian subversion of American democracy.

It’s the same alarm that virtually every member of America’s intelligence and law enforcement communities has been ringing for the last three years: Russia attacked our elections in 2016 and is intensifying its efforts today. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mr. Mueller said. “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

Appearing before two congressional committees rife with politicians intent on using him to fill out their own versions of reality, Mr. Mueller seemed frail and at times even confused. But he successfully rebuffed nearly all efforts to draw him beyond the boundaries of evidence established in the report he delivered about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The exceptions came when representatives actually showed an interest in Russian meddling and Donald Trump’s embrace of it. “I hope this is not the new normal,” Mr. Mueller said at one point, in response to a question about whether American candidates might now feel free to welcome foreign influence, “but I fear it is.”

The “sweeping and systemic” nature of that interference was the most unequivocal finding of Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report, though just as disturbing was the report’s meticulous recounting of the ways the Trump campaign accepted and even encouraged it.”