Opinion | Why I Like Mike – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

 

“I have a pet theory about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — that it is to wider trends in world affairs what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff seems to get perfected there in miniature — from airline hijackings to suicide bombings, from building walls to keep others out to lone wolf terrorism — and then moves to Broadway, to bigger stages.

So, I ask, what’s playing off Broadway these days? It’s a political drama that may offer a distant mirror on our own presidential politics.

Israel has held two national elections since April, but the country is so perfectly divided that it still hasn’t been able to produce a governing coalition. There are three trends worth noting, though, after these two Israeli elections — especially if you’re President Trump.

First, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu deployed openly racist tropes against Israeli Arabs to motivate his own hard-right base to get out and vote. Israeli Arabs finally had enough and basically said to Bibi: “You talking to us?’’ And in the second election in September they voted in huge numbers and created the third-largest party in Israel, weakening Netanyahu’s ability to form a new government. You never know whom you’re arousing when you start using dog whistles. Just sayin’, Mr. Trump.”

“. . .It was “billionaire’’ Bloomberg who funded the most radical and progressive green agenda of this era.

“Bloomberg’s Beyond Coal partnership with the Sierra Club broke the mold for environmental philanthropy,’’ notes Carl Pope, former head of the Sierra Club and now a partner with Bloomberg on Beyond Coal. “In 2010, 500 coal plants provided half of America’s power, at the price of more than 10,000 lives, staggering volumes of water pollution, and one third of total carbon dioxide emissions. The Sierra Club pitched Bloomberg that they could shut down a third of those plants with a three-year campaign, using grass roots community mobilization and aggressive regulatory interventions.”

Attracted by the combination of lives saved and climate impact, Pope added, “Bloomberg ponied up. Now, nine years and several renewals later, coal provides only a quarter of U.S. power, and retirements of more than half those coal plants have been secured. These retirements are largely responsible for U.S. climate progress over the last decade.’’ The steady fall in the price of gas and renewables was critical in undermining coal, “but Bloomberg’s $500 million for climate mitigation projects was also critical — as was his insistence that the green group, while using its own tool kit, measure its results rigorously.’’

As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil – By Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt – The New York Times

QAMISHLI, Syria — When the international manhunt for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, zoomed in on a village in northwestern Syria, the United States turned to its local allies to help track the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

The American allies, a Kurdish-led force that had partnered with the United States to fight ISIS, sent spies to watch his isolated villa. To confirm it was him, they stole a pair of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s underwear — long, white boxers — and obtained a blood sample, both for DNA testing, the force’s commander, Mazlum Abdi, said in a phone interview on Monday.

American officials would not discuss the specific intelligence provided by the Kurds, but said that their role in finding Mr. al-Baghdadi was essential — more so than all other countries combined, as one put it — contradicting President Trump’s assertion over the weekend that the United States “got very little help.”

Yet even as the Syrian Kurdish fighters were risking their lives in the hunt that led to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death this weekend, Mr. Trump abruptly shattered America’s five-year partnership with them.

Opinion | Al-Baghdadi Is Dead. The Story Doesn’t End Here. – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“The killing of the founder and leader of the Islamic State by United States commandos operating in Syria should certainly further weaken the most vile and deadly Islamist movement to emerge in the Middle East in the modern era.

The world is certainly a better place with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi dead and a measure of justice meted out on behalf of all the women ISIS raped, all the journalists ISIS beheaded and the tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis it abused. Good for President Trump for ordering it, for the intelligence agents who set it up, for the allies who aided in it and for the Special Forces who executed it.

But this story is far from over, and it could have many unexpected implications. Let’s start at home.

President Trump was effusive in his praise for the U.S. intelligence agencies who found and tracked al-Baghdadi to the lair in Syria where he blew himself up to avoid being captured. In his news conference, Trump went on and on about just how good the men and women in our intelligence agencies are.

Well, Mr. President, those are the same intelligence agencies who told you that Russia intervened in our last election in an effort to tip the vote to you and against Hillary Clinton (and are still intervening). When our intel agencies exposed that reality, you impugned their integrity and quality.

And the same intelligence agencies who tracked down al-Baghdadi are the same ones who produced two whistle-blowers high up in your White House — who complained that you, Mr. Trump, abused the power of your office to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, touching off this impeachment inquiry.

And those same intelligence agencies whom you hailed as heroes for tracking down al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump, are the same “deep state,” the same agencies and whistle-blowers whom your White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, just smeared as “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.’’

So thank you, Mr. Trump, for clearing up this confusion. We now know that the same intelligence services who have been heroic in protecting us from those who want to attack our constitutional democracy from abroad are the same heroes who have stepped up to protect our constitutional democracy from within. Unlike you, Mr. Trump, they took seriously their oath to do both.”

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?”

Editorial | Turkey’s Victory Over Donald Trump – The New York Times

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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.

CreditAdem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw 1,000 American troops from Syria without consulting any aides, experts or allies, and without any warning to America’s Kurdish comrades in arms, whom he placed in mortal danger, has provided chilling evidence of the danger posed by his chronic inability to appreciate a president’s responsibilities.

Mr. Trump, as he always does, claimed a huge victory — “an amazing outcome” that saved “millions and millions of lives.” That scores of Kurdish lives have already been lost, that thousands of people have fled their homes, that a swarm of Islamic State followers escaped from internment camps, that the Kurds themselves turned for help to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, that America’s dwindling credibility in the world was further undermined, meant nothing to the president. “It’s not our border,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump’s apologists, too, have been quick to marshal a defense — the Middle East is full of horrible dictatorships, conflicts and crimes against humanity, and presidents before had longed to pull America out of what Mr. Trump has called the region’s “endless, senseless wars.” In northern Syria, the Americans were trapped between two allies, the Kurds who fought with them on the ground and the Turks, whose country is a NATO ally and repository of American tactical nuclear weapons. Something eventually had to give. There was a serious case to be made for pulling out.

But not like this.

The acute shame of the moment was captured in two reports this week. The first was a video of a Russian-speaking reporter wandering through a hurriedly abandoned American base in northern Syria, rummaging among the Coca-Cola cans and footballs. The second arrived with news that two United States Air Force F-15 jets had destroyed an American munitions bunker in Syria to prevent munitions and other equipment from falling into the hands of other armed groups.”

It has been a bad weekend for those of us who admire the Kurds, and recognized their extraordinary partnership with the United States in fighting and almost destroying ISIS. But alas, Donald Trump has betrayed them, and handed Syria over to Turkey, Bashar Assad, the butcher of Syria, and his Russian handlers. This is by far the biggest mistake of the Trump presidency, and it is because all the adults handlers have quit or been fired.
The Friday NYT editorial summarized the disaster in sober words:

Editorial | Trump Just Created a Moral and Strategic Disaster – The New York Times

By 

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.

CreditCreditIllustration by Nicholas Konrad; photograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The roughly 1,000 American troops stationed in Syria find themselves in an impossible situation, by order of their commander in chief. They are now caught between the Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad, an unrepentant war criminal who has used poison gas against his own people, and the Turkish military — a NATO ally — which has already rained down artillery shells near positions held by American soldiers.

When Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise to end “endless wars,” it was always unspoken that doing so would mean to some extent abandoning allies, like the Kurdish forces that helped devastate the Islamic State, or the Afghan government in Kabul. But surely putting America first never meant leaving American soldiers behind. The Times reported Monday that removing the American troops from Syria may require an airlift, a move that may also be needed to relocate the estimated 50 American tactical nuclear weapons housed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Dozens of civilians and combatants were killed in fighting, according to the BBC, when Turkey struck south into Kurdish-held areas of Syria over the weekend, an operation that was greenlit by the White House. Islamic State fighters and their family members, who had been held in a detention camp by Kurdish forces, have scattered to the winds, The Times reports. The Kurds, under fire from Turkish forces, quickly allied with the Syrian government, which sent its own Russian-backed army north.

One thousand decisions led the United States to find itself refereeing the border between Syria and Turkey, but only one decision — made abruptly just over a week ago by President Trump after a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — led to the chaos and bloodletting that has gushed across the region in the past few days.”

Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — American commandos were working alongside Kurdish forces at an outpost in eastern Syria last year when they were attacked by columns of Syrian government tanks and hundreds of troops, including Russian mercenaries. In the next hours, the Americans threw the Pentagon’s arsenal at them, including B-52 strategic bombers. The attack was stopped.

That operation, in the middle of the American-led campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, showed the extent to which the United States military was willing to protect the Syrian Kurds, its main ally on the ground.

But now, with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies.

“They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

Military Leaders Fear They’ve Seen This Before. It Ended in the Iraq War. – By Helene Cooper – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The last time the United States abandoned allies in the Middle East, military officials say, it helped lead to the Iraq war.

Now, almost 30 years later, President Trump has pulled American special forces and support troops away from Kurdish allies in northern Syria, easing the way for Turkey’s promised offensive, which began on Wednesday.

It is too soon to say with any certainty where Mr. Trump’s abandonment of the Kurdish fighters who did the heavy lifting in the fight against the Islamic State will lead. But already, anguished American military and national security officials are sounding alarms that clearing the way for Turkey to bomb the Kurds could have long-term repercussions, just as the desertion of allies did then.

“In the course of American history, when we have stuck with our allies in troubling circumstances, from the U.K. and Australia under attack in WWII to South Korea in the Korean War, things tend to work out to our benefit,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral and former supreme allied commander for Europe. “When we walk away from loyal allies, as we did in Vietnam and are now threatening to do in Afghanistan and Syria, the wheels come off.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson, How Does It Feel? – By Susan McKay – The New York Times

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Ms. McKay is a writer in Ireland.

CreditCreditPhil Noble/Reuters

“DUBLIN — When Boris Johnson visited Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin last month as part of a last-minute scramble to reach some sort Brexit deal, the two leaders began their day with a media briefing on the steps of one of Dublin’s grandest buildings. In the Edwardian Baroque style, it was built by the British authorities while the Irish were intensifying their struggle for independence. “Fortuitously,” the Heritage Ireland website snarkily notes, “the complex was completed in 1922 and was available immediately to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government.” Rarely has the word “fortuitously” elided so much.

Mr. Johnson, shirt askew, hair a mess, shambled like a drugged bear to the podium and gripped it. Mr. Varadkar looked on, gym fit and poised in a sharp suit. The contrast was more than superficial. Britain has long since lost its empire — and this prime minister looks set to break up the United Kingdom itself. He had come to Dublin for talks about the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the United Kingdom. Mr. Johnson needed either to bully Ireland into abandoning the so-called backstop, which protects the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union’s single market, or to make Ireland look so intransigent that it could be blamed for pushing Britain into a no-deal Brexit.

Mr. Varadkar delivered a telling speech. He compared the tasks facing Mr. Johnson, who must negotiate the future of a Britain outside of the European Union, with the labors of Hercules. Ireland wished to be Britain’s “friend and ally, your Athena,” Mr. Varadkar said.

It was an elegantly delivered kick in the arse. Hercules’s labors were penitential — prone to fits of madness and having killed his family, he was about to continue on a murderous rampage when Athena, goddess of wisdom, saved him from his own folly by knocking him unconscious.”

Opinion | Is China Heading for Crisis? – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“In 2001, Gordon Chang, an American lawyer who had spent many years in Hong Kong and Shanghai, published a book forebodingly titled “The Coming Collapse of China.” At the time, the thesis seemed improbable, if not preposterous.

It looks a great deal less improbable now.

China — or, rather, the Chinese regime — is in trouble. Tuesday’s gigantic parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic looked like something out of the late Brezhnev era: endless military pomp and gray old men. Hong Kong is in its fourth straight month of protests, marked and stained by this week’s shooting of an unarmed teenage demonstrator. The Chinese economy is growing at its slowest rate in 27 years, even when going by the overstated official figures.

Meantime, capital is fleeing China — an estimated $1.2 trillion in the past decade — while foreign investors sour on Chinese markets. Beijing’s loudly touted Belt-and-Road initiative looks increasingly like a swamp of corruption, malinvestment and bad debt. Its retaliatory options in the face of Donald Trump’s trade war are bad and few. And General Secretary Xi Jinping has created a cult-of-personality dictatorship in a style unseen since Mao Zedong, China’s last disastrous emperor.

Remember the “Chinese Dream” — Xi’s vision of China as a modern, powerful, and “moderately well-off” state? Forget it. The current task for Chinese leadership is to avoid a full-blown nightmare of international isolation, economic decline, and domestic revolt.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Bret writes well, but doesn’t seem to know much about China. In reading the comments, I am reminded that most Chinese do not care about democracy, but getting out of poverty, and they are pleased with their government.
One astute writer this summer, pointed out that China doesn’t need Hong Kong’s market anymore. The Chinese market makes China independent financially from Hong Kong. That writer suggested that the dissidents of Hong Kong are doomed. I am impressed that the CCP has announced a $500 billion push over the next five years into solar and sustainable energy. They have announced that all cars will be electric by 2030, and now have 42 companies making electric cars. The News Hour showed last night that you have to join a lottery to get a automoblie license, and it getting harder and harder to get a license for gas vehicles.
A Vietnamese professor teaching at a universtiy in the USA, recently reported that the top government officials of Vietnam have been bought out by the Chinese CCP, and are quietly not fighting China’s take over of the South China Sea. There is a question among my friends about whether a democracy like the United States, is capable of dealing with the existencial threat of the climate crisis.
If the oil and gas companies continue to control our politics for their short term profit, we might be the biggest threat to our own future.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.