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Mainstream media articles about U. S foreign policy as the year draws to a close come fast and perhaps more furious than we expected as we prepare for New Year’s.

“It’s just a flesh wound.”

This article explains why Obama’s move against Russian intelligence is so serious:


Would he have made a move like this one with no grounds? That’s doubtful. Somehow or other, the CIA convinced him Russian intelligence was behind the DNC hacks. Can anyone trust the CIA? Of course not. As president-elect Trump said, these are the people who declared we had to invade Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction. The CIA has shown it will say whatever the president wants it to say. So when the CIA fingers Russian intelligence as the source of the DNC hacks, why should we believe that?

Now, Donald Trump is not a credible observer, either. We have to make an independent judgment here. One way to make an independent judgment is to see how Russian intelligence has behaved toward other countries that hold elections. We had reports in our mainstream media about a month ago that Russia routinely uses infowar tactics to disrupt European elections. Does that mean it does the same in the United States now? Why wouldn’t it do that?

One reason it wouldn’t do that is the consequences are pretty serious once it is caught. You don’t want to mess with Obama when you’ve already messed with him dozens of times, right? Yet the temptation might be too much when you have all this juicy information from campaign correspondence, just waiting for publication in Wikileaks. How can you sit on that? The question still hangs, who collected the information, and on whose orders?

Further, why was it so easy to collect? Some people say Russian hackers are especially good at their jobs, so they could get in when others could not. That does not seem so credible. Others say our own intelligence agencies leaked the information, or left the door unlocked, to make sure Podesta’s email appeared in Wikileaks. That’s how much trust we have in our own intelligence operatives: when DNC servers are hacked, one of the first places we look is in our own government.

The most significant thing of all, of course, is that our government says nothing about how they know they’ve accused the right people. They don’t even talk about it in general terms. They say it was Russian intelligence, and that’s that. They almost want you to weigh this question: “Whom do you trust more, CIA or KGB?” That’s how we conduct foreign policy these days.

If you want to make American great again, you better start with a realistic assessment of where you stand, and a realistic assessment of what it means to be great.

“Let’s open up a cyber-war with the Russkies,” Obama suggests, and the CIA replies, “Yes, yes, whatever you say! Let’s engage in a little cyber-warfare with the Russkies!” More to the point, let’s see who’s better at this game: Putin, who manages to out-maneuver Washington at every turn, or Washington, caught flat-footed by Moscow, Tehran, and virtually every other international actor for every foreign policy entanglement it has encountered during the last eight years.

What a sad way to go. When I first saw the Monty Python’s Holy Grail sketch about the Black Knight, I thought it was an amusing piece. I didn’t realize so many years ago how often it would come to mind in connection with political interactions. Again and again, we have our arms and legs cut off, and we still insist on fighting. We’re standing on stumps, waving two more bloody stumps, completely humiliated and defeated, and we can’t understand why our opponents don’t want to bother with us anymore. The U. S. has made itself irrelevant, but it does not know it yet.

If you want to make American great again, you better start with a realistic assessment of where you stand, and a realistic assessment of what it means to be great. The feds in Washington show no conception at all of where they stand, or what they want: either for their domestic audience, their allies abroad, or their adversaries. One doesn’t want to say they are clueless, as they have a lot of information in hand, but they don’t know what to do with it. They just flail around. They keep secret what they ought to make public, and make public what they ought to keep to themselves. They do not know how to manage information, conduct negotiations, or lay proper plans to advance U. S. interests.

If the next chief executive wants to bring more professionalism to this area, he ought to find some good people, fast. So far, I would not say Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, John Bolton, or the rest of Trump’s crew offer any promise. Their judgments and temperaments seem to augment Trump’s approach to international affairs, rather than temper it. If that’s the case, we can expect a lot of tough talk, with little positive effect – just like Monty Python’s Black Knight.

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Kangaroo courts and evidence-free zones

Why should Putin refrain from tit-for-tat interaction in his response to U. S. ‘punishment’? Because retaliation suggests the U. S. action is legitimate, that its accusations are true. The accusation and punishment are legitimate, however, only if U. S. officials demonstrate DNC hackers operated under Putin’s orders. Did they? We will certainly not have confirmation from the people who make the accusation.

Once more: Washington has become an evidence-free zone. Feds say whatever they want, and expect the sheep to believe them. That is the presumption behind the so-called punishment of Russia. People who represent us act like dictators. You have to ask, how would we respond if Putin made a similar, evidence-free accusation against us? What would he say when he kicked our diplomats and CIA agents out of Moscow?

Do you remember, just a few weeks ago, Obama said that he had requested a full investigation of DNC hacking? He said he wanted all the answers, with a report on his desk in January. I scoffed at the time, saying that he would never receive a report that would reveal anything to the people who actually need to know – us. Sure enough, Obama didn’t wait for a report, confidential or public. It’s not even January yet. He must have figured – why wait? The secret report is meaningless to begin with.

As I remarked in a previous post, Obama is a total amateur at international affairs. His ballyhooed punishment of Putin shows his lack of finesse, his willingness to blunder about with no balance or believability. It’s sort of like watching a person on skates, who has never been on the ice before: arms swinging wildly until he falls flat on his ass. Meantime trained figure skaters circle gracefully about. Everyone has to learn how to skate, everyone falls from time to time. Still, do we want someone who makes these kinds of blunders in the ninety-sixth month of his presidency?

Once more, Obama’s error is not that he stands up for the integrity of our presidential election. His error is to accuse and punish a foreign government for malfeasance, with no evidence. We have another name for evidence-free zones: kangaroo courts. Why would our outgoing president want to preside over a court like that? Because it’s his last chance to get Putin, after all the times Putin humiliated him during the last eight years?

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Vladimir and Barack at play

This one is great. The administration wants to punish Russia for hacking and leaking DNC and Clinton campaign email before November 8. What is ‘Russia’, though? Certainly they don’t mean hackers who live in Russia, do they? You wouldn’t sanction the Russian government for hacks committed by Russian residents, would you? You would only sanction the Russian government for hacks committed by the Russian government. Yet the administration has produced no evidence at all that the Russian government hacked the DNC or Clinton campaign email servers. Moreover, they have no plans to produce the evidence! They have simply said, “We know they did it.”

So we want to punish a foreign government, publicly, based on a simple accusation. What a precedent. That means you can punish any government for anything, simply because the president decides he’d like to do that: sort of like the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, or the WMD business in Baghdad. We know how those punishments worked out.

We should just designate the White House, and the whole intelligence community, as an evidence-free zone. That makes it a total loose cannon, able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, to whomever it wants. They have no idea how bad or how lawless they look, here at home or to U. S. enemies overseas. If Russian intelligence hacked DNC and Clinton campaign email servers, let’s see why U. S. intelligence believes that.

Who is your favorite world leader?

Here’s the latest on DNC hacking and its aftermath in the Washington Post:

In 2016, the enemy of your enemy is your friend — even if that friend is your enemy Putin


I do not think the Kremlin is filled with good guys, wrongfully accused of foul play. I do not think we should throw public accusations around without backing them up. Whatever you might take from Trump’s foreign policy by tweet, criticism of Obama does not mean you’re a would-be Putin acolyte. In the current environment, criticism of one person does not mean you favor another. Putin, Trump, and Obama: what a trio we have at the moment! Happy New Year!

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White House makes a big stink about Russian hacks. Why?

Andrea O’Sullivan’s article in Reason is fairly long. A lot of it calls to mind what I’ve said about the Russian hacking story.

We are never going to find out evidence for accusations the Russian government directed the hacks and leaks that plagued the Democratic campaign this year. In fact, the CIA has not responded to all the stories we’ve seen – who expected it to? If the story has not died on its own by inauguration day, the CIA will make sure it passes on quietly. The agency has no institutional interest in keeping these charges current into the new year. It has other ways to keep you worried about hacking, if it wants to use them.

Consider then why the president himself would personally charge Vladimir Putin, in public, with leaking information relevant to our presidential election. Why would he do that? Andrea O’Sullivan’s article helps you think about the answers.

Are ‘Russian Hacks’ the New ‘WMDs’?

No matter what faceless spooks assure us, it’s far from clear the Russian government directed the leaks of the DNC or John Podesta emails. ~Andrea Sullivan

Note Sullivan’s reference to WMDs in the title. Why compare hacking to nuclear weapons? The comparison comes from 2002-2003, of course. At the time, WMDs represented the vulcans’ pretext for war against Iraq. If you want to mount a cyber-war against our friends in Russia, you couldn’t ask for a better pretext than cooked-up interference in our election.

John Kerry’s valedictory: what I did for loyalty and pride

Kerry already ruined his reputation acting as Obama’s toady for four years. Now he gives a speech on Israel that he didn’t need to give at all, other than to please his master in the White House. With three and a half weeks to go in office, what purpose can Kerry possibly serve by taking up an issue that has bedeviled Israeli-Palestinian relations essentially since the founding of the Israeli state. Palestinians want no Israeli settlements anywhere. Israel wants to secure settlements where they exist, and start new ones where it can. Everyone recognizes this conflict, no one believes anymore that the United States can do anything to resolve it. So why does our secretary of state make a speech about it?

He makes a speech because he knows the president would like to say something on the subject before he leaves office, but he can’t speak such strong words himself. So he has his secretary of state speak for him. Obama wants to be an activist during his last months in office, and he makes his legacy worse and worse. It’s like the Oscars in reverse, where Hollywood puts out its killer candidates for Oscar nominations at the end of the year, so the Academy easily remembers the hits in January. Obama saves for last his most controversially political moves – new coal regulations, lectures and swipes at his successor, sanctions for Russian hacking, and now a public condemnation of Israel – as if he wants everyone to remember him for his worst qualities. What is the matter with him?

Whatever is the matter with Obama, John Kerry should have gotten off the bus a long time ago. Obama showed himself an amateur at foreign policy during his first term. His ability to manage conflict overseas – or even to understand its significance – is abysmal. He is just not interested in it: you can see his incompetence and misjudgment in almost everything he does.

Take as an example the so-called accomplishment that he was so happy to brag about at the time, and even now points to as an instance of presidential resolution and decisive action: bin Laden’s assassination. Why anyone would want to assassinate an antagonist and dump his body into the sea is beyond me. Obama’s public relations machine totally blew the aftermath. By the time he was done, no one except the idiots in the streets chanting U-S-A U-S-A… even believed the White House’s accounts of presidential heroics anymore, as the machine’s output was so garbled and self-serving, no one could figure out what the White House wanted to say. We’re just foolish hacks here, trying to look good. The foreign policy team introduced itself to the world, and it looked mighty bad.

Then years later, Seymour Hersh writes a long essay about why the bin Laden his looked so fishy. It looked that way because it was. He couldn’t even find someone to publish his work in the United States. Hersh is a journalist who has written for The New Yorker practically since I was born, which is a long time, and no U. S. publication cared to present his research, with clear, consistent evidence and obvious conclusions. By contrast, the president’s public relations machine cranked out so much blather you couldn’t find a consistent thread in any of it.

Why would a man of evident ability – evidenced by his courageous and correct stand against the Vietnam war when he returned from that war – let an ill-equipped, ill-informed and inept president dishonor him?

Let’s return to the secretary of state, then. Why would a man of evident ability – evidenced by his courageous and correct stand against the Vietnam war when he returned from that war – let an ill-equipped, ill-informed and inept president dishonor him? Is the presidential mystique that great? Is Kerry just so proud to be secretary of state that, like Gomer Pyle, he’ll do anything to make Sarge happy? You might even speculate Kerry is just as incompetent as his boss.

That conclusion does not feel consistent with other things we know about these two men. Until Kerry tells us why he laid his reputation at the president’s feet, so the president could walk over it without even looking down, we can only guess, or begin to guess what Kerry is thinking. Whatever the correct answer to this puzzle, watching a man unravel his reputation is a sad sight. For Kerry, the only correct answer was to stay as far away from the president’s state department as possible.

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