To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable developing economies “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran – but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.
“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.
“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”
Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)
The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)
“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.
“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”
Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.
There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.
Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”
The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.
“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share our values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”
That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.
With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.
“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”
The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.
“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.
“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”
She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.
The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”
Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.
“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”
Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.
Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.
They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.
In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations. The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation. The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”
Asked whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things. I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire. And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”
The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke about “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like,” in March at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island. Wilkerson began his remarks challenging the United States to acknowledge and make reparations for its commission of torture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
His remarks are especially timely in light of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearings underway for Gina Haspel to become CIA Director. Haspel’s confirmation is controversial because she has been associated with running a rendition site in Thailand in 2002 and three years later, ordering the destruction of videos purportedly showing CIA officers using “enhanced interrogation techniques” which now are acknowledged to be torture. Haspel has refused to state unequivocally that torture is immoral, that it was wrong, only pledging not to restart an enhanced interrogation program again. But she sidestepped direct questions as to whether she would authorize torture if ordered to do so by the President – not a hypothetical question given Donald Trump’s repeated declarations that not only would he condone waterboarding, but waterboarding did not go far enough; Trump even proposed assassinating a suspected terrorist’s family as a method of discouraging recruitment.
Several Senators, including Senator John McCain – the only person in Congress who knows firsthand about being tortured as a Prisoner of War – have said they would not support Haspel’s confirmation because of her refusal to own up to her responsibility and condemn the use of torture.
In contrast, Wilkerson (not Haspel) stated that critical to a positive way forward in American foreign policy is to “right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system. Reparations are due. An apology is due. And a pledge we will never do that again.”
Here is an edited transcript of Lawrence Wilkerson’s remarks, which were delivered before Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, before he threatened to unleash a trade war against China.- Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Usually with enlightenment, there is strength. It is difficult to be enlightened today, to feel the world is sane, sober, bent toward peace rather than war –
At a press conference on November 7, 2005, the question of torture was raised. “We do not torture,” George W. Bush stated. The president was lying. Presidents have lied since time immemorial.
There are 119 people –that we know of – who have been tortured at the hands of the United States – documented in a 6000 page report (under the control of Senator Burr who chairs the Intelligence Committee). Failing to destroy the report, distribution is restricted; there are only 6 copies left.
One thing Trump is correct about: under the Constitution, the president is responsible for foreign policy in conjunction with Congress. Presidents forget that: both bodies are entrusted with foreign policy. From time to time, [a president’s unilateral action] is challenged: like Iran-Contra (Reagan). They almost impeached Reagan, had it not been for his incredible communicative skills.
When we destroyed the report, we have lost the accountability for 119 people, at minimum (about 30 had coroners write off their deaths as murder). Murder is ultimate torture.
There are 3-5 billion people in world, many in countries that are signatory allies, who think the number one security threat to their life is the United States. You won’t find MSNBC CNN, Fox, or New York Times, Washington Post reporting on this. They won’t report on Yemen we are so horribly, brutally involved in, at the behest of greatest (terrorist) in the world, Saudi Arabia – It’s against the War Powers act [to conduct war without Congressional authorization. This is illegal participation in a Saudi war, yet Congress does nothing.
I would erase this incredible blot on reputation by not only releasing that [torture] report, but by recognizing those who we improperly treated – in violation of war crimes; pay reparations and make apologies. Canada and France have done so; we are the only ones who haven’t.
It is so egregious because the rest of world knows, knows we captured one individual and tortured him for 5 months simply because his name was the same as one on the watch list but was not the same person. Then, after we kept him in prison, tortured him for almost half year, we put him in a helicopter, flew him to a mountain in Albania in his underwear and dumped him and said nothing to him or his family.
We should right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system – reparations are due, apology is due – and a pledge we will never do that again.
We were the country who led the world, some kicking and screaming – like the king in Saudi Arabia – to the United Nations convention against torture. We were the ones who wrote most of that, ratified that – made domestic law conform – that under no circumstances, even extreme circumstances (national security) will we torture. Yet we did.
Part of our very real power in the world is our myth. Myth is not all bad – humanity, in many respects is based on myth – that is, partly true, partly hyperbole, in middle is true. There is the myth of the United States being Exceptional Nation, but it helps us maintain our cohesiveness – which we would register as part of that exceptionalism.
The myth that we are the number one protector of dignity and human rights in the world has as much truth as hyperbole. We violate it a lot, but it is a real part of our power in the world.
[In past diplomatic dealings] our first talking point was human rights, freedom of religion – that’s real power. We’ve diminished that. Now we’re just another big bully in the world.
[We must] change that image right away – before anything else.
In America, domestic politics has as much to do with national security as anything…People make these decisions – to go to war, to mount a covert operation and overthrow another country’s leader – usually from the perspective of bad decisions – we pick the least bad one. That’s the nature of power, but even with that comprehension of power, you can back away in foreign policy in both image and reality, in order to give image more robustness.
The Powerful Rule; those without power get ruled.
‘Because I can’ – that’s power.
How do you take that kind of power, which the US has had possession of since World War II, and make it work on your behalf and a much as possible on others?
Consider: the Number Oneworld power is not us but China – economically, in terms of potential. [China is undertaking] two Marshall plans, and contemplating a third – Chinese money outstrips American spending in constant dollars by 15 to 16 to 1 – China’s initiative through central Asia, $2 trillion, initiative in South China Sea, around India, to Iran and pipelines up into Europe from Iran – one of richest gas countries in world. Those are two initiatives. The third they are thinking about: eliminating Russia as a possible threat to China.
Two possibilities, good or bad: if smartly carried out and others cooperative, these initiatives could lift more people out of poverty, could do more good than probably anything going. But how do you get that to happen and make sure what the Chinese are doing with their vast amount of money is beneficial, rather than detrimental? We have got to cooperate. We have to recognize world is changing, power is changing, shifting under our feet so fast. There are other templates at work in the world.
[Which is why Trump’s foreign policy, trying to make America and the world of the 1950s, is to destructive as it is absurd.]
The Chinese are already at purchasing power parity with the United States and in 10-15 years time, will be bigger than us in GDP.
The first foreign policy initiative [should be to] establish some understanding of how we will help them and how they will help us help them, so those major initiatives – the major initiatives in the world today, affecting far more than anyone else is doing, including us (we’re probably killing far more people than the Chinese) – prosperity to as many as you can.
That’s the number one foreign policy for the US – beyond shadow of doubt – because if not handled properly, things could go to hell in a handbag so fast and take so many – think World War I, World War II.
What we are doing is very dangerous. Trump said he would elevate the rank level, therefore the recognition diplomatically, of visitors to Taiwan. This is a red line to China. There are generals salivating at sinking a US carrier, so let’s continue encouraging Taiwan to take advantage of our support and extend middle finger to Beijing.
We should be joining things like Asia Development Bank, not spurning, so we could have our influence at work at various problems the Chinese could bring – don’t care if enlightened self-interest, as long as managed to help more than harms.
I haven’t seen China invade a country, fly drones, kill people in conjunction with Saudi Arabia. This is something that must happen if the world is to prosper and do relatively well, as it has since 1950.
Second: We need diplomats with finesse, extraordinary capabilities – like John Quincy Adams as a young man in Catherine the Great’s court, then as James Madison was as a diplomat to Russia. Adams was so smart and adept at reporting back to his president about what was going on in Europe (Napoleon), at a time when we still had 3 empires that would have loved to sever us – Spain, France, Britain.
Russia. Here’s where that framework comes back to play. What is preventing us from dealing with Moscow as we should – domestic politics. Even if we hate our president – despise, think he’s crazy – he can’t deal with Moscow as he should because of domestic politics.
One of the bloodiest conflicts on the face of earth is in Syria. What does it take to fix? The answer is simple, but complex: We need exquisite, capable diplomats, for Russia to bring pressure on Damascas, Tehran, Ankara.
[But Putin’s interest is not the greater good of Russia or the world, but a return to a Soviet Empire; his tactic is to sow chaos among the Western democracies, including the United States and he sees Syria as providing Russia with a base in the Middle East. Putin has no interest in solving the problem for the United States.]
If Russia and Washington make their mind up – Russia has a foothold in Mideast – will stay there as great power umbrella over Assad, and Assad will stay there – killing people just because we’re mad, is stupid..That’s the only way to bring requisite power on all the capitals concerned and stop the bloody civil war in Syria – threatening Israel, threatening Turkey in NATO, threatening western Asia.
The Chinese figure that’s their number one region. That’s why China building what they are: Djibouti, critically strategic, is occupied by as many Chinese troops as Americans. The leader there is counting renminbi dollars – playing both sides. There is no more intense example of the competition – other than the Taiwan Strait. Chinese are there to “help” – plowing in $600 million with no strings while we give $50 million with [requirements of ] human rights, rule of law. We have to face reality: whose country leaders are we most likely to deal with?
That’s why [we should] talk about cooperation between world’s preeminent power: Russia– 10 time zones, enormous debt, and strategic problems with China.
If you’re going to deal with the energy needs of the globe – 9.5-10 billion people by mid-century – you have to cooperate, you have to get that energy delivered in a way that doesn’t cause conflict – you have to have Russia.
All Russia is today is a gas station – a lot of gas and oil. Those are the number one priorities in my foreign policy book.
[Shouldn’t the priority be to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels, therefore less dependence on Middle East, Russia, and toward self-sufficiency in decentralized, renewable, clean energy?]
The next country in the world we have to think about is Japan. What they doing under Prime Minister Abe – contemplating the loss of US [relationship], the untrustworthiness of the United States, contemplating what we just did with TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal which Trump pulled out of]; the arms market.
Of the 2017-18 Arms Merchants of the Year, US is so far in front, Russia just behind [recall that the big trade deal Trump returned from Saudi Arabia with was a deal for billions in arms]. … Between Russia and us, over $200 billion worth. But Japan could be the 2nd or 3rd biggest arms merchant – manufacturing submarines, fighter jets, ships. If you are Prime Minister Abe, Article 9 in Constitution (dating from Douglas MacArthur), the prohibition against nuclear weapons is a real inhibition. Japan probably has a latent capability that would allow it to become full nuclear power within 6-18 months. [And Trump has suggested that he would like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan to get nuclear weapons; he probably has already teed up sales, as Michael Flynn was doing, making deals for nuclear plants in the Mideast by cell phone during Trump’s inauguration.]
Korean Peninsula: The number one strategic objective of [North Korea’s] Kim dynasty for 40 years has been to sit down with the president of the United States and talk and begin the process of dividing the US from South Korea. Recognizing that they are a state to be reckoned with, we should begin a dialogue that would lead to a peace treaty. (The Korean War began in 1950, we never had a peace treaty.)
Does that mean the foreign policy developing now. [Trump is scheduled to go to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12]– is a riveting change that might bring enormous success to this administration? Not necessarily. This is the number one objective of Kim dynasty: to be recognized.
At the end of Clinton’s administration, the foreign policy of US was about to do the same thing; Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang [in 2000] and danced with Kim. Clinton had every intention when Al Gore would be president of making a visit himself in January – the promise was almost in the air. It didn’t come about principally because Clinton got cold feet – given circumstances- George w. Bush was president, and the policy changed. But we were very close in 1999-2000. There was an agreed framework, negotiated, North Korea froze the only nuclear program they had – plutonium – were on a good trajectory to check their nuclear program, make sure inspectors on board, and have increasingly normal relationship – not like Trump just pulled out of head of Zeus – this is where we were. But how many Americans know that? We don’t do history in America. But this is very different moment than is anticipated by Trump.
It takes very detailed, exquisite, sophisticated diplomatic plan to do this right – there are so many holes you can fall in, not the least of which is alienating your South Korea ally – President Moon, disposed to be more liberal minded, is the right person to get on wrong foot.
We don’t know if [South Korea’s] national security minister reported accurately to Trump.
There could be some confusion – I wouldn’t put it past the White House to amplify confusion as long as it is positive for them with their base – because it’s really all about domestic politics, not about foreign policy or security policy.
To sum up: Don’t be an imperial hegemon, even if you are. Don’t be arrogant, Cheney-ish about it – be Dwight Eisenhower, Lincoln, George Washington about it. Know what the heck you are doing; have humility; use your bureaucracy [the career diplomats] they are not Deep State, they do more than issue visas and protect US citizens overseas, much more.
Recognize where the power is. That doesn’t mean you take away humanitarian efforts –economic, financial, but concentrate critical analytical thinking on where the real power problems are.
Be humble. Be magnanimous. Lose every now and again.
[Exactly the opposite of Trump’s foreign policy approach.]
A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.”
Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:
Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we?
Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.
Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.
We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.
Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.
We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.
We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]
Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,
So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.
Louis:Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity?
Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.
When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.
It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.
What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.
Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?
Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.
Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.
Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.
Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.
Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)
Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?
Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.
Louis:Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?
Nance: It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.
Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.
What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.
Louis:How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?
Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.
Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.
Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia.
Louis:China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?
Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)
Louis:What is Putin’s end game?
Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power. All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.
Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.
Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture. Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”
Is climate change a national security issue?
Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.
What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?
Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.
Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.
How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?
Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)
Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.
Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?
Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen. Where the president violated his oath of office, you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.
What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy?
Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.
Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.
We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.
The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.
Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?
Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.
Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.
To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?
Nance: Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick. They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’
What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?
Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.
The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?
Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.
Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached?
Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue
Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.
In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?
Donald Trump’s “National Security Strategy” speech which he delivered at the Reagan Building on Dec. 18 is a rehash of his inaugural address which painted a dystopian view of the nation (“carnage”) and the world. He suggests that he is the first president to care about national security: “So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.” Notably, Trump’s national security strategy ignores the biggest national security threat the nation faces: climate change. He uses the speech to further his anti-immigrant policy, to again call for a wall, to advance tax cuts, and a policy of “liberating” the economy by eliminating regulations.
Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies like the CDC, scrubbing reports and websites from the EPA, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.”
While George W. Bush’s national security strategy boiled down to preemption, the Trump Doctrine is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.
“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause. We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”
China blasted Trump’s national security strategy saying, “It is completely selfish for a country to claim that its own interests are superior to the interests of other countries and to the shared interests of the international community. This mentality will only lead to isolation,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
“We call on the United States to abandon its outdated zero-sum thinking, and work together with China to seek common ground and engage in win-win cooperation,” the embassy said.
Here is a highlighted and annotated White House transcript:
December 18, 2017
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
ON THE ADMINISTRATION’S
NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
2:03 P.M. EST
…We’re here today to discuss matters of vital importance to us all: America’s security, prosperity, and standing in the world. I want to talk about where we’ve been, where we are now, and, finally, our strategy for where we are going in the years ahead.
Over the past 11 months, I have traveled tens of thousands of miles to visit 13 countries. I have met with more than 100 world leaders. I have carried America’s message to a grand hall in Saudi Arabia, a great square in Warsaw, to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and to the seat of democracy on the Korean Peninsula. Everywhere I traveled, it was my highest privilege and greatest honor to represent the American people.
Throughout our history, the American people have always been the true source of American greatness. Our people have promoted our culture and promoted our values. Americans have fought and sacrificed on the battlefields all over the world. We have liberated captive nations, transformed former enemies into the best of friends, and lifted entire regions of the planet from poverty to prosperity.
Because of our people, America has been among the greatest forces for peace and justice in the history of the world. The American people are generous. You are determined, you are brave, you are strong, and you are wise.
When the American people speak, all of us should listen. And just over one year ago, you spoke loud and you spoke clear. On November 8, 2016, you voted to make America great again. (Applause.) You embraced new leadership and very new strategies, and also a glorious new hope. That is why we are here today.
But to seize the opportunities of the future, we must first understand the failures of the past. For many years, our citizens watched as Washington politicians presided over one disappointment after another. To many of our leaders — so many who forgot whose voices they were to respect and whose interests they were supposed to defend — our leaders in Washington negotiated disastrous trade deals that brought massive profits to many foreign nations, but sent thousands of American factories, and millions of American jobs, to those other countries.
Our leaders engaged in nation-building abroad, while they failed to build up and replenish our nation at home. They undercut and shortchanged our men and women in uniform with inadequate resources, unstable funding, and unclear missions. They failed to insist that our often very wealthy allies pay their fair share for defense, putting a massive and unfair burden on the U.S. taxpayer and our great U.S. military.
They neglected a nuclear menace in North Korea; made a disastrous, weak, and incomprehensibly bad deal with Iran; and allowed terrorists such as ISIS to gain control of vast parts of territory all across the Middle East.
They put American energy under lock and key. They imposed punishing regulations and crippling taxes. They surrendered our sovereignty to foreign bureaucrats in faraway and distant capitals.
And over the profound objections of the American people, our politicians left our borders wide open. Millions of immigrants entered illegally. Millions more were admitted into our country without the proper vetting needed to protect our security and our economy. Leaders in Washington imposed on the country an immigration policy that Americans never voted for, never asked for, and never approved — a policy where the wrong people are allowed into our country and the right people are rejected. American citizens, as usual, have been left to bear the cost and to pick up the tab.
On top of everything else, our leaders drifted from American principles. They lost sight of America’s destiny. And they lost their belief in American greatness. As a result, our citizens lost something as well. The people lost confidence in their government and, eventually, even lost confidence in their future.
But last year, all of that began to change. The American people rejected the failures of the past. You rediscovered your voice and reclaimed ownership of this nation and its destiny.
On January 20th, 2017, I stood on the steps of the Capitol to herald the day the people became the rulers of their nation again. (Applause.) Thank you. Now, less than one year later, I am proud to report that the entire world has heard the news and has already seen the signs. America is coming back, and America is coming back strong.
Upon my inauguration, I announced that the United States would return to a simple principle: The first duty of our government is to serve its citizens, many of whom have been forgotten. But they are not forgotten anymore. With every decision and every action, we are now putting America first.
We are rebuilding our nation, our confidence, and our standing in the world. We have moved swiftly to confront our challenges, and we have confronted them head-on.
We are once again investing in our defense — almost $700 billion, a record, this coming year. We are demanding extraordinary strength, which will hopefully lead to long and extraordinary peace. We are giving our courageous military men and women the support they need and so dearly deserve.
We have withdrawn the United States from job-killing deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the very expensive and unfair Paris Climate Accord. And on our trip to Asia last month, I announced that we will no longer tolerate trading abuse.
We have established strict new vetting procedures to keep terrorists out of the United States, and our vetting is getting tougher each month.
To counter Iran and block its path to a nuclear weapon, I sanctioned the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support of terrorism, and I declined to certify the Iran Deal to Congress.
Following my trip to the Middle East, the Gulf states and other Muslim-majority nations joined together to fight radical Islamist ideology and terrorist financing. We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another. The coalition to defeat ISIS has now recaptured almost 100 percent of the land once held by these terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Great job. (Applause.) Great job. Really good. Thank you. Thank you. We have a great military. We’re now chasing them wherever they flee, and we will not let them into the United States.
In Afghanistan, our troops are no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies of our plans. We are beginning to see results on the battlefield. And we have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help.
Our efforts to strengthen the NATO Alliance set the stage for significant increases in member contributions, with tens of billions of dollars more pouring in because I would not allow member states to be delinquent in the payment while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them. We have made clear that countries that are immensely wealthy should reimburse the United States for the cost of defending them. This is a major departure from the past, but a fair and necessary one — necessary for our country, necessary for our taxpayer, necessary for our own thought process.
Our campaign of maximum pressure on the North Korean regime has resulted in the toughest-ever sanctions. We have united our allies in an unprecedented effort to isolate North Korea. However, there is much more work to do. America and its allies will take all necessary steps to achieve a denuclearization and ensure that this regime cannot threaten the world. (Applause.) Thank you. This situation should have been taken care of long before I got into office, when it was much easier to handle. But it will be taken care of. We have no choice.
At home, we are keeping our promises and liberating the American economy. We have created more than 2 million jobs since the election. Unemployment is at a 17-year-low. The stock market is at an all-time high and, just a little while ago, hit yet another all-time high — the 85th time since my election. (Applause.)
We have cut 22 regulations for every one new regulation, the most in the history of our country. We have unlocked America’s vast energy resources.
As the world watches — and the world is indeed watching — we are days away from passing historic tax cuts for American families and businesses. It will be the biggest tax cut and tax reform in the history of our country. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And we are seeing the response we fully expected. Economic growth has topped 3 percent for two quarters in a row. GDP growth, which is way ahead of schedule under my administration, will be one of America’s truly greatest weapons.
Optimism has surged. Confidence has returned. With this new confidence, we are also bringing back clarity to our thinking. We are reasserting these fundamental truths:
A nation without borders is not a nation. (Applause.)
A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.
A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war.
A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future.
And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.
Today, grounded in these truths, we are presenting to the world our new National Security Strategy. Based on my direction, this document has been in development for over a year. It has the endorsement of my entire Cabinet.
Our new strategy is based on a principled realism, guided by our vital national interests, and rooted in our timeless values.
This strategy recognizes that, whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition. We accept that vigorous military, economic, and political contests are now playing out all around the world.
We face rogue regimes that threaten the United States and our allies. We face terrorist organizations, transnational criminal networks, and others who spread violence and evil around the globe.
We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest.
As an example, yesterday I received a call from President Putin of Russia thanking our country for the intelligence that our CIA was able to provide them concerning a major terrorist attack planned in St. Petersburg, where many people, perhaps in the thousands, could have been killed. They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life. And that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work. That is the way it’s supposed to work.
But while we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
We know that American success is not a forgone conclusion. It must be earned and it must be won. Our rivals are tough, they’re tenacious, and committed to the long term. But so are we.
To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power.
Under the Trump administration, America is gaining wealth, leading to enhanced power — faster than anyone thought — with $6 trillion more in the stock market alone since the election — $6 trillion.
With the strategy I am announcing today, we are declaring that America is in the game and America is going to win. (Applause.) Thank you.
Our strategy advances four vital national interests. First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland.It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel. (Applause.)
In addition, our strategy calls for us to confront, discredit, and defeat radical Islamic terrorism and ideology and to prevent it from spreading into the United States. And we will develop new ways to counter those who use new domains, such as cyber and social media, to attack our nation or threaten our society.
The second pillar of our strategy is to promote American prosperity. For the first time, American strategy recognizes that economic security is national security. Economic vitality, growth, and prosperity at home is absolutely necessary for American power and influence abroad. Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both.
That is why this National Security Strategy emphasizes, more than any before, the critical steps we must take to ensure the prosperity of our nation for a long, long time to come.
It calls for cutting taxes and rolling back unnecessary regulations. It calls for trade based on the principles of fairness and reciprocity. It calls for firm action against unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft. And it calls for new steps to protect our national security industrial and innovation base.
The strategy proposes a complete rebuilding of American infrastructure — our roads, bridges, airports, waterways, and communications infrastructure. And it embraces a future of American energy dominance and self-sufficiency.
[Where is the money coming from? Where is the $300 billion to rebuild after 2017 climate disasters?]
The third pillar of our strategy is to preserve peace through strength. (Applause.) We recognize that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivaled power is the most certain means of defense. For this reason, our strategy breaks from the damaging defense sequester. We’re going to get rid of that. (Applause.)
It calls for a total modernization of our military, and reversing previous decisions to shrink our armed forces — even as threats to national security grew. It calls for streamlining acquisition, eliminating bloated bureaucracy, and massively building up our military, which has the fundamental side benefit of creating millions and millions of jobs.
This strategy includes plans to counter modern threats, such as cyber and electromagnetic attacks. It recognizes space as a competitive domain and calls for multi-layered missile defense. (Applause.) This strategy outlines important steps to address new forms of conflict such as economic and political aggression.
[He signaled his interest in militarizing space in his call to Americans in the international space station.]
And our strategy emphasizes strengthening alliances to cope with these threats. It recognizes that our strength is magnified by allies who share principles — and our principles — and shoulder their fair share of responsibility for our common security.
Fourth and finally, our strategy is to advance American influence in the world, but this begins with building up our wealth and power at home.
America will lead again.We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but we will champion the values without apology. We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause. We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.
[America was leading just fine under Obama – ie. Paris Climate Agreement, Iran Nuclear Agreement, getting Syria to get rid of chemical weapons, TPP. Second: he is talking about purely transactional agreements, the US will no longer be bothered defending human rights.]
We will pursue the vision we have carried around the world over this past year — a vision of strong, sovereign, and independent nations that respect their citizens and respect their neighbors; nations that thrive in commerce and cooperation, rooted in their histories and branching out toward their destinies.
That is the future we wish for this world, and that is the future we seek in America. (Applause.)
With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.
[By that he means a return to McCarthyism.]
And we are returning to the wisdom of our founders. In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. What we have built here in America is precious and unique. In all of history, never before has freedom reigned, the rule of law prevailed, and the people thrived as we have here for nearly 250 years.
We must love and defend it. We must guard it with vigilance and spirit, and, if necessary, like so many before us, with our very lives. And we declare that our will is renewed, our future is regained, and our dreams are restored.
Every American has a role to play in this grand national effort. And today, I invite every citizen to take their part in our vital mission. Together, our task is to strengthen our families, to build up our communities, to serve our citizens, and to celebrate American greatness as a shining example to the world.
As long as we are proud — and very proud — of who we are, how we got here, and what we are fighting for to preserve, we will not fail.
If we do all of this, if we rediscover our resolve and commit ourselves to compete and win again, then together we will leave our children and our grandchildren a nation that is stronger, better, freer, prouder, and, yes, an America that is greater than ever before.
God Bless You. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Here’s a radical idea for dealing with North Korea: ban all nuclear weapons.
This notion has taken on new urgency in just a matter of days, Indeed, seemingly oblivious to the calendar and history marking the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which obliterated 200,000 civilians, Trump, presiding over an opioid conference during his vacation at his Bedminster NJ golf club, raised the stakes on saber-rattling:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Never seen before?
What Trump was reacting to was Kim Jong-un’s threat to launch “thousands-fold” revenge against the United States, after the United Nations Security Council voted 15-0 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs.
“We are ready to retaliate with far bigger actions to make the U.S. pay a price for its crime against our country and people,” the official Korean Central News Agency stated, promising that North Korea would take a “stern action of justice.”
Trump’s “fire and fury” (evoking George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” threat to Saddam Hussein before launching the preemptive invasion of Iraq) response prompted Kim Jong-un to threaten to obliterate Guam.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seeming on his own track, told Americans not to worry. I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”
That is despite Senator Lindsay Graham telling Americans not to worry because a war would be fought “over there” and others in Trump’s Administration going beyond Bush’s “preemptive war” doctrine to a “preventive war” doctrine.
The situation heated just a couple of days after the annual Hiroshima commemoration, organized by SANE Peace Action based in Great Neck, a 60-year old organization, and Long Island Peace Alternatives, formed 32 years ago, which for many years now has taken place at the Universalist Unitarian Church at Shelter Rock, Long Island, never fails to inspire a range of emotions – horror, regret, guilt, anger, activism, and hope. Hope that after 72 years, the world will come to its senses as to this existential threat.
This year’s gathering, on August 2, started off surprisingly upbeat: 122 United Nations members had just adopted a treaty calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. But the hopefulness of that was shattered by the next sentence: Not one of the nine countries that actually possess nuclear weapons — United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — supports it, in fact boycotted the deliberations. It’s as if the wimps and wusses of the world signed a petition to stop bullies from bullying
And while during the eight years of President Obama’s administration, the US was making strong headway to reducing nuclear threats (that is the heart of the Ukraine issue, where the collapse of the “Soviet Union resulted in an enormous cache of “loose nukes” which is why the United States and west promised to protect Ukraine against incursion), he was already being thwarted by Senate Republicans who actually balked at signing the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, indeed some are rattling sabers to undo the treaty which requires Russia and the United States to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,500 from 2,200 each by next year (New York Times, A Threat to Nuclear Arms Control, July 29, 2017).
Instead, the Republican Congress is considering whether the US should develop a new ground-launched cruise missile and withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning missiles with a range of up to about 3,000 miles.
What success Obama had to reduce the threat of a nuclear holocaust – most dramatically, the historic Iran Nuclear Agreement – and on so many other things, Obama was under-appreciated and his efforts kind of matter-of-factly taken for granted, even dismissed, and Trump has vowed to pull out, just as he has said the US would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Trump’s entire focus – his federal budget, his foreign policy, domestic policy – is actually to dismantle the mechanisms of diplomacy and global cooperation (The State Department announced it is removing “promoting Democracy” from its mission statement, has already dismissed human rights as a priority in favor of deals making, is shutting down the Global Engagement Center aimed at countering propaganda which would destabilize democracy, and is generally cutting the State Department’s budget by one-third, and Trump is really, really unhappy with the campaign in Afghanistan because China is capitalizing on its mineral wealth and US companies are not), in favor of militancy, including seeking $1 TRILLION to spend on a new generation of nuclear weapons which will only reignite a nuclear arms race, on top of over $600 billion in new military spending (how interesting that Republicans believe there is no benefit to “throw money” at education or health care, but perfectly okay to throw money that isn’t even requested at the already bloated defense budget). The Trump Doctrine boils down to “To the victor belongs the spoils.”
While diplomacy is hard, complicated, nuanced and requires mental acuity, sending soldiers into war is easy.
Trump loves shiny new things and pumping up the military, focusing on militancy which is under his total control as the nominal Commander-in-Chief, is what his narcissism needs. And increasingly, as we see him throwing out red-meat “policy” to shore up his base, it is very likely that he will ultimately fall back to the Bush/Cheney/Rove tactic to secure his power and his presidency: war, preceded by a Pearl-Harbor rallying incident, 9/11. North Korea mounting a nuclear strike against Seattle, that would do the trick.
Which brings us to North Korea. No one with any brain or conscience believes that there is any military solution that would not be catastrophic. Trying to strong-arm Kim Jong-un into giving up his nuclear weapons is fantastical, especially when Kim believes (with good reason) that the only reason his country hasn’t been invaded and his regime toppled is because of his nuclear power.
Even with the Trump Administration’s “success” at getting the United Nations Security Council to vote unanimously (that means China and Russia which are bolstering North Korea) to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is like a robot mouthing a policy that demands North Korea stop its weapons testing before the US will agree to any talks.
What does that mean, exactly? Stop for a week, a month, a year? What would qualify?
Talks are key – after all, what would the alternative be? Sanctions tend not to work with despots with total control over life and death of their subjects.
But what would the talks be about? More threats? What would be the incentive?
And what is patently clear is that any demand that begins and ends with “give up nuclear weapons program” will be a nonstarter. Kim Jong-un has seen what has happened to other tyrants who do not command such weapons or who give up their weapons, like Libya’s Omar Qaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. And he sees how despite Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program in order to have economic sanctions lifted, the Trump Administration is working to re-impose economic sanctions, despite the administration’s report acknowledging that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement. What lesson should Kim Jong-on draw?
Instead of laying the groundwork for a diplomatic solution (the State Department has barely any personnel: no Ambassador to South Korea, no under-Secretary for Asian Affairs), Trump seems to want to provoke ever more aggressive actions which would then justify a military response which he thinks will rally mindless adherence and give an excuse to permanently silence any opposition.
Trump is a guy who flippantly said during the 2016 presidential campaign he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them, who suggested that other countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons because they should fund their own defense without the United States incurring the expense, who had no clue what the “nuclear triad” was and apparently, no idea whatsoever of the terrifying consequence of using nuclear bombs. (See” 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons).
(The question I would have is whether the American military establishment would refuse to obey Trump’s order.)
So here’s a radical idea: moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons altogether is the solution. If the nine nations that have nuclear weapons agree to dispose of them, that could be the solution.
Otherwise, we are likely headed toward a nuclear confrontation in which there will be no winners, only losers.
At the end of the evening, there was a call to action: Call or visit your Congressmembers to urge them to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.
“It pains me to see racism, bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism tearing people apart not just in our country but the whole world,” said Seemi Ahmed, of the Islamic Center of Long Island, at the “Hiroshima Remembrance”:. We must get rid of nuclear weapons, stop illegal wars, illegal occupation and sincerely work for peaceful coexistence by promoting dialogue among communities, ending poverty and racism and holding governments responsible.”
The concept behind the nuclear arsenals is the fear of mutually assured destruction will cause any rational leader to pull back from using them. But as Ira Helfand of Leeds MA wrote the New York Times, “Yet we know of more than a dozen instances when nuclear-armed countries began the process of launching their nuclear weapons, usually in the mistaken belief that their adversaries had already done so — more than a dozen times when deterrence failed. And we are told that North Korea must not obtain a nuclear capability because it cannot reliably be deterred. It is time to abandon this failed policy and to pursue the real security of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
In fact, one instance of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust was documented in an amazing, frightening and inspiring film, “The Man Who Saved the World,” about Stanislov Petrov, a Soviet soldier commanding a nuclear bunker who single-handedly averted a nuclear world war in September 1983 by refusing to launch missiles when all his radar and computer systems showed an attack underway by the United States. Petrov defied his orders and protocol and refused to launch knowing that even if the US strike was real and would kill 100 million Russians in an instant, the strike he would order would kill 100 million Americans in the next instant and a billion more people around the planet subsequently.
Indeed, the threats to the continued habitability of the planet and its 7 billion resident souls are not just from a lunatic renegade like Kim Jong-un.
At the end of the evening, Margaret Melkonian, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives. issued a call to action: urge your Congressmembers to support The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on the President to take nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and to pursue nuclear disarmament.
“It is ironic and so disheartening with the outcome of 122 countries signing on and moving forward to making progress toward eliminating nuclear weapons, was the statement by the US, UK and France: ’While we share your vision of getting rid of nuclear weapons, the time isn’t right. This treaty not the best tactic – we will never sign this treaty, never eliminate nuclear weapons.’ But we say the time is right, the time is now,” she said.
Only Donald Tweeter Trump could reply to a remark about how the International Space Station is “by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity” with a statement about the “tremendous military application in space. We’re rebuilding our military like never before.”
Following the astronauts’ inspiration message to the thousands of students participating in the video chat with Peggy Whitson, the commander on the international space station, who just hit a milestone as the American with the most time in space, and a discussion of all the scientific and medical achievements gained from the space station, Trump said:
“So well said. And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space. We’re rebuilding our military like never before. We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more. And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space.”
Then, after being told that a Mars mission is planned for the 2030s, Trump, again showing how clueless and uncaring he is about actual facts, says it would take place during his first term, or “at worst” his second term (apparently he intends to pull an Erdogan).
Here is the White House transcript which speaks volumes about the so-called Commander-in-Chief – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
10:00 A.M. EDT
NASA: White House, this is Mission Control, Houston. Please call Station for a voice check.
THE PRESIDENT: Do you hear me?
CMDR. WHITSON: Yes, sir. We have you loud and clear.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s what we like — great American equipment that works. And this isn’t easy. (Laughter.)
I want to say it’s very exciting to be here today — very, very exciting — and to speak to you live with three brave American astronauts. These are our finest. These are great, great Americans, great people. Two join us from orbit aboard the International Space Station: Commander Peggy Whitson and Colonel Jack Fischer. And Peggy Whitson has been setting records, and we’re going to talk about that very soon.
I’m here in the Oval Office, along with my daughter Ivanka and astronaut Kate Rubins, who recently returned from space and from the Space Station. Together, we are being joined by students all across America, thousands and thousands of students who are learning — they’re learning about space, learning about a lot of other things — and they’re watching this conversation from the classroom. And, all over, we have astronauts and we have everybody, who are flying right now, 17,000 miles per hour. That’s about as fast as I’ve ever heard. I wouldn’t want to be flying 17,000 miles an hour. But that’s what you do.
Peggy, Jack, and Kate, I know that America’s students are thrilled to hear from you. But first, I want to say that this is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight. Today, Commander Whitson, you have broken the record for the most total time spent in space by an American astronaut — 534 days and counting. That’s an incredible record to break. And on behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you. That is really something. And I’d like to know, how does it feel to have broken such a big and important record?
CMDR. WHITSON: Well, it’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it’s an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible. And so it’s a very exciting time to be at NASA. We are all very much looking forward, as directed by your new NASA bill — we’re excited about the missions to Mars in the 2030s. And so we actually, physically, have hardware on the ground that’s being built for the SLS rocket that’s going to take us there. And, of course, the hardware being built now is going to be for the test flights that will eventually get us there.
But it’s a very exciting time, and I’m so proud of the team.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. And what are we learning from having you spending your time up there? I know so much research is done; I’m getting a glimpse of some of it right here in the Oval Office. What are we learning by being in space?
CMDR. WHITSON: Well, I think probably the International Space Station is providing a key bridge from us living on Earth to going somewhere into deep space. So on those Mars missions, we need to better understand how microgravity is really affecting our body, and we need to understand it in great detail. So, many of the studies are looking at the human body. We’re also looking at things that involve operations of a space vehicles on these long-duration missions and the technological advancements that will be required.
For instance, on a multiyear Mars mission, we’re going to need to be able to close the life support system, and that means we, right now, for instance, are taking solar power that we collect, and using it to break apart water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen, we breathe, of course. We use the hydrogen, combine it back with the CO2 that we take out of the air, and make more water. But water is such a precious resource up here that we also are cleaning up our urine and making it drinkable. And it’s really not as bad as it sounds.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s good. I’m glad to hear that. (Laughter.) Better you than me. I will say, Colonel Fischer, you just arrived, and how was your trip? Complicated? Easy? How did it go?
COL. FISCHER: Oh, sir, it was awesome. It made even my beloved F-22 feel a little bit underpowered. I launched in a Russian vehicle with my Russian friend, Fyodor Yurchikhin, from Kazakhstan. Got the immediate perspective change as we got to orbit, and I saw that frail, thin blue line of life around the Earth. Six hours later, we’re docked at the station. The next day, I install an experiment in the Japanese module that’s going to be looking at new drugs and how we can make those drugs for muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, multi-drug-resistant bacteria — all sorts of things. A couple hours later, I watched our crewmate, Thomas Pesquet, a Frenchman, drive a Canadian robotic arm to capture a spaceship from Virginia, carrying 3.5 tons of cargo and science that’s going to keep us busy for the next few months, and dock that to the station.
Sir, it’s amazing. Oh, and then, you know, now I’m talking to the President of the United States while hanging from a wall. It’s amazing. The International Space Station is, by far, the best example of international cooperation and what we can do when we work together in the history of humanity. And I am so proud to be a part of it. And it’s just cool. (Laughter.) Like, yesterday, I had — well, there you go — there’s our resident space ninja doing the gravity demonstration. And yesterday morning, I had my coffee in floaty ball form, and, sir, it was delicious. So, it’s awesome.
THE PRESIDENT: Tell me, Mars — what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule? And when would you see that happening?
CMDR. WHITSON: Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s. As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we’ve ever been away from this planet. Unfortunately, spaceflight takes a lot of time and money, so getting there will require some international cooperation to get it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful, just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it so worthwhile doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term. So we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?
CMDR. WHITSON: (Laughter.) We’ll do our best.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you will. And I have great respect for you folks. It’s amazing what you do. And I just want to introduce another great one. Kate Rubins is with us today, and she has been so impressive with research and so many other things having to do with NASA. And, Kate, I understand you’re the first person to sequence DNA in space. Can you tell us about that?
RUBINS: Yeah. So that was actually just this last summer, and it’s a real example of what we can do with technology and innovation. We’ve got a sequencer down to the size of your cellphone, and we were actually able to fly that onboard the space station and sequence DNA. It’s not just the technology demonstration, but we can actually use that to do things like detect microbes on the space station, look at astronaut health. We can easily use that in Earth-based settings, too, to look for disease outbreaks and to do rural healthcare as well.
TRUMP: That’s fantastic. That is really great. I saw some of the work, and it’s incredible. You know, I’ve been dealing with politicians so much, I’m so much more impressed with these people. You have no idea.
Now, speaking of another impressive person — Ivanka, you’ve been very much interested in this program. Tell us something about it.
MS. TRUMP: Hi, Dr. Whitson. First of all, congratulations on your incredible milestone today. You may know that my father recently signed the Inspire Women Act to encourage female participation in STEM fields across all aerospace areas, and really with a focus on NASA. So encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM careers is a major priority for this administration.
And today we are sitting with an amazing example of that — Dr. Rubins, and you, Dr. Whitson. So I would love to hear from you, what was the impetus for you to get involved in the sciences?
RUBINS: Yeah, so when I around fifteen, I actually went to a conference, and that was very inspiring for me. It was sort of the beginning of recombinant DNA and understanding biology. And so just that exposure to scientists and the kinds of things that you can do with science and technology innovation.
MS. TRUMP: Amazing. Dr. Whitson?
CMDR. WHITSON: For me, it was actually the Apollo program was my inspiration, and that was when it became a dream to become an astronaut. But I don’t really think it became a goal until I graduated from high school, when the first female astronauts were selected. And seeing those role models, and with the encouragement of my parents and various mentors in college and graduate school, and when I started working at Rice, that’s what made it possible, I think, to become an astronaut. And it took me a lot longer to become an astronaut than I ever really wanted it to take, but I do think I’m better at my job because of the journey.
MS. TRUMP: You’re an incredible inspiration to us all. So I would also like to ask you one more question. I’m incredibly curious, as I’m sure all the students across the country are, to know what a day in the life in space is like. Could you share what a typical day looks like, what the challenges are, just any special moments?
CMDR. WHITSON: Well, a typical day, we wake up and look at the messages from the ground, because we have a huge ground team that’s working overnight to prepare changes or the details of the tests that we’re going to be performing over the course of the day. So first thing I do is check out that, see what’s changed.
But on any given day, it can be so dramatically different. On one day, we might be focusing on science. On another day, we might be repairing the carbon dioxide removal system. On another day, soon Jack and I are going to do a spacewalk. We talked about, last Saturday, we did robotics operations. I love the diversity of the different activities that we do. Plus, you know, we have over 200 investigations ongoing onboard the space station, and I just think that’s a phenomenal part of the day.
Of course, there’s also just the living and, onboard the space station, it’s such a unique and novel environment. Nothing that we’re used to on the ground. And it’s so special to just be in zero gravity. So Jack is the new guy here, and I think he can probably give you a better perspective on what that’s like.
COL. FISCHER: Well, you know, everything here — my dad always said that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And we work really hard up here, but it’s not really work, it’s just fun. It’s like playing fort almost, only you’re changing the world while you do it.
And then on the off time, the other morning I was working out, and on our machine that we work out on, right below it is the Cupola window. And so when you’re on the device where you do crunches, every time you come up, you see out the window. And it’s awesome because you kind of go, crunch, “Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful! I got to do that again.” Crunch, “Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful.” It’s awesome. Everything we do here is fun, and it feels so great to know that we’re making a difference on the ground and for the future of humanity as well. So it’s an incredible, incredible job.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re making a great difference, I have to say. And this is a very exciting time for our country, and you see what’s happening with our country in terms of jobs, in terms of business, and there’s such excitement and such enthusiasm. Many American entrepreneurs are racing into space. I have many friends that are so excited about space. They want to get involved in space from the standpoint of entrepreneurship and business.
Tell us about the opportunities that could exist for the next generation of scientists and engineers. Is that something that you think a student — because you have so many students, hundreds of thousands watching — is that something that you think that students should be focusing, or should they be thinking about other subjects? What do you think are the opportunities for young students wanting to be involved in space?
COL. FISCHER: Sir, absolutely. I think that this is probably the most exciting in space exploration, certainly in my lifetime. We are about to just have an explosion of activity. There is so much involvement on the space station with commercial industries and commercial partners. We have an entire program to manage the science. NASA has done a wonderful job of seeding a new industry with the Commercial Crew Program and the Commercial Cargo Program so that we can build the infrastructure we need for the future exploration.
One thing I love about American entrepreneurs is, once you get them going, you better stand out of their way because they’re going to start chucking. And we’re about to that point. NASA is taking on that expensive, hard, complex task of going further and deeper into space with the wonderful new rocket, Space Launch System and Orion. And then, as soon as we break open that door, this incredible infrastructure that we’ve been building is going to be right there to pick up the baton and continue into the stars.
I would say to all the students that are watching, the time to get excited is now. If you aren’t studying science and math, you might want to think about that because our future in the stars starts now, and you can be a part of that if, like Dr. Whitson, you can find that passion and work really hard. And we’re going to find a permanent foothold in the stars for humanity if you do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. So well said. And I have to say, there’s tremendous military application in space. We’re rebuilding our military like never before. We’re ordering equipment, and we’re going to have the strongest military that we’ve ever had, the strongest military that the world has ever seen, and there’s been no time where we need it more. And I’m sure that every student watching wants to know, what is next for Americans in space.
I’m very proud that I just signed a bill committing NASA to the aim of sending America astronauts to Mars. So we’ll do that. I think we’ll do it a lot sooner than we’re even thinking. So which one of you is ready to go to Mars? Are you ready? And I think you’re ready. I know you’re ready, right? We just discussed that. She’d like to go to Mars very quickly. Who’s ready to go to Mars up there?
CMDR. WHITSON: We are absolutely ready to go to Mars. It’s going to be a fantastic journey getting there, and very exciting times, and all of us would be happy to go. But I want all the young people out there to recognize that the real steps are going to be taken in a few years. And so by studying math, science, engineering, any kind of technology, you’re going to have a part in that, and that will be very exciting.
THE PRESIDENT: I just want to thank you very much. And, Dr. Whitson, I just — congratulations. Amazing. What an amazing thing that you’ve done. Everybody here — I know you’re family — but everybody here is incredibly proud of the record you just broke. I hope that every young American watching today finds, in your example, a reason to love space and think about space because many great things are going to come out, tremendous discoveries in medicine and so many other fields.
So thank you very much. I want to say God bless you, God bless America. We are very, very proud of you, and very proud of your bravery. Thank you very much.
In a major speech on Thursday, Hillary Clinton painted a clear picture for the American people of the choice they will face this November — a choice between steady, principled American leadership, and a dangerously uncertain future governed by an unprepared, misguided and temperamentally unfit commander-in-chief. Here are highlights from her remarks:
On Monday, we observed Memorial Day – a day that means a great deal to San Diego, home of so many active-duty and former military and their families. We honor the sacrifice of those who died for our country in many ways – by living our values, by making this a stronger and fairer nation, and by carrying out a smart and principled foreign policy.
That’s what I want to speak about today – the challenges we face in protecting our country, and the choice at stake in this election.
It’s a choice between a fearful America that’s less secure and less engaged with the world, and a strong, confident America that leads to keep our country safe and our economy growing.
As Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, I had the honor of representing America abroad and helping shape our foreign policy at home. As a candidate for President, there’s nothing I take more seriously than our national security. I’ve offered clear strategies for how to defeat ISIS, strengthen our alliances, and make sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. And I’m going to keep America’s security at the heart of my campaign.
Because as you know so well, Americans aren’t just electing a President in November. We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief – the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death.
And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for President cannot do the job.
Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.
He is not just unprepared – he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.
This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.
We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands. We cannot let him roll the dice with America.
This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.
This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO – the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home.
He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.
He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists – even though those are war crimes.
He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has – quote –’a very good brain.’
He also said,
‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’
You know what? I don’t believe him.
He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes.
He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.
He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.
And to top it off, he believes America is weak. An embarrassment. He called our military a disaster. He said we are – and I quote – a ‘third-world country.’
And he’s been saying things like that for decades.
Those are the words my friends of someone who doesn’t understand America or the world.
And they’re the words of someone who would lead us in the wrong direction. Because if you really believe America is weak – with our military, our values, our capabilities that no other country comes close to matching – then you don’t know America.
And you certainly don’t deserve to lead it.
That’s why – even if I weren’t in this race – I’d be doing everything I could to make sure Donald Trump never becomes President – because I believe he will take our country down a truly dangerous path.
Unlike him, I have some experience with the tough calls and the hard work of statecraft. I wrestled with the Chinese over a climate deal in Copenhagen, brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, negotiated the reduction of nuclear weapons with Russia, twisted arms to bring the world together in global sanctions against Iran, and stood up for the rights of women, religious minorities and LGBT people around the world.
And I have, I have sat in the Situation Room and advised the President on some of the toughest choices he faced.
So I’m not new to this work. And I’m proud to run on my record, because I think the choice before the American people in this election is clear.
I believe in strong alliances; clarity in dealing with our rivals; and a rock-solid commitment to the values that have always made America great. And I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country – that we’re still, in Lincoln’s words, the last, best hope of earth. We are not a country that cowers behind walls. We lead with purpose, and we prevail.
And if America doesn’t lead, we leave a vacuum – and that will either cause chaos, or other countries will rush in to fill the void. Then they’ll be the ones making the decisions about your lives and jobs and safety – and trust me, the choices they make will not be to our benefit.
That is not an outcome we can live with.
As I see it, there are some important things our next President must do to secure American leadership and keep us safe and our economy growing in the years ahead. These are all areas in which Donald Trump and I profoundly disagree. And they are all critical to our future.
First, we need to be strong at home.
That means investing in our infrastructure, education and innovation – the fundamentals of a strong economy. We need to reduce income inequality, because our country can’t lead effectively when so many are struggling to provide the basics for their families. And we need to break down the barriers that hold Americans back, including barriers of bigotry and discrimination.
Compare that with what Trump wants to do. His economic plans would add more than $30 trillion – that’s trillion with a ‘t’ – $30 trillion to our national debt over the next 20 years. He has no ideas on education. No ideas on innovation. He has a lot of ideas about who to blame, but no clue about what to do.
None of what Donald Trump is offering will make America stronger at home. And that would make us weaker in the world.
Second, we need to stick with our allies.
America’s network of allies is part of what makes us exceptional. And our allies deliver for us every day.
Our armed forces fight terrorists together; our diplomats work side by side. Allies provide staging areas for our military, so we can respond quickly to events on the other side of the world. And they share intelligence that helps us identify and defuse potential threats.
Take the threat posed by North Korea – perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator who wants to develop long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States.
When I was Secretary of State, we worked closely with our allies Japan and South Korea to respond to this threat, including by creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead, should its leaders ever be reckless enough to launch one at us. The technology is ours. Key parts of it are located on Japanese ships. All three countries contributed to it. And this month, all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it.
That’s the power of allies.
And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.
Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them. They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength. If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen.
That’s why it is no small thing when he talks about leaving NATO, or says he’ll stay neutral on Israel’s security.
It’s no small thing when he calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. We’re lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders. Why would he want to make one of them an enemy?
And it’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote –
‘If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.’
I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.
Yes, our friends need to contribute their fair share. I made that point long before Donald Trump came onto the scene – and a number of them have increased their defense spending. The real debate here is whether we keep these alliances strong or cut them off. What he says would weaken our country.
Third, we need to embrace all the tools of American power, especially diplomacy and development, to be on the frontlines solving problems before they threaten us at home.
Diplomacy is often the only way to avoid a conflict that could end up exacting a much greater cost. It takes patience, persistence and an eye on the long game – but it’s worth it.
Take the nuclear agreement with Iran. When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb. Some called for military action. But that could have ignited a broader war that could have mired our troops in another Middle Eastern conflict.
President Obama chose a different path. And I got to work leading the effort to impose crippling global sanctions. We brought Iran to the table. We began talks. And eventually, we reached an agreement that should block every path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
Now we must enforce that deal vigorously. And as I’ve said many times before, our approach must be ‘distrust and verify.’
The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.
But there is no question that the world and the United States, we are safer now than we were before this agreement. And we accomplished it without firing a single shot, dropping a single bomb or putting a single American soldier in harm’s way.
Donald Trump says we shouldn’t have done the deal. We should have walked away. But that would have meant no more global sanctions, and Iran resuming their nuclear program and the world blaming us. So then what? War? Telling the world, good luck, you deal with Iran?
Of course Trump doesn’t have answers to those questions. Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about Iran or its nuclear program. Ask him. It’ll become very clear, very quickly.
There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf-course deal.
But it doesn’t work like that in world affairs. Just like being interviewed on the same episode of “60 Minutes” as Putin was, is not the same thing as actually dealing with Putin.
So the stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels. We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table – bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets – I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.
But those tools won’t do the trick. Rather than solving global crises, he would create new ones.
He has no sense of what it takes to deal with multiple countries with competing interests and reaching a solution that everyone can get behind. In fact, he is downright contemptuous of that work. And that means he’s much more likely to end up leading us into conflict.
Fourth, we need to be firm but wise with our rivals.
Countries like Russia and China often work against us. Beijing dumps cheap steel in our markets. That hurts American workers. Moscow has taken aggressive military action in Ukraine, right on NATO’s doorstep. Now I’ve gone toe-to-toe with Russia and China, and many other different leaders around the world. So I know we have to be able to both stand our ground when we must, and find common ground when we can.
That’s how I could work with Russia to conclude the New START treaty to reduce nuclear stockpiles, and with China to increase pressure on North Korea. It’s how our diplomats negotiated the landmark agreement on climate change, which Trump now wants to rip up.
The key was never forgetting who we were dealing with – not friends or allies, but countries that share some common interests with us amid many disagreements.
Donald doesn’t see the complexity. He wants to start a trade war with China. And Iunderstand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements – I do too. But a trade war is something very different. We went down that road in the 1930s. It made the Great Depression longer and more painful. Combine that with his comments about defaulting on our debt, and it’s not hard to see how a Trump presidency could lead to a global economic crisis.
And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.
He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.
Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.
I just wonder how anyone could be so wrong about who America’s real friends are. Because it matters. If you don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, men like Putin will eat your lunch.
Fifth, we need a real plan for confronting terrorists.
As we saw six months ago in San Bernardino, the threat is real and urgent. Over the past year, I’ve laid out my plans for defeating ISIS.
We need to take out their strongholds in Iraq and Syria by intensifying the air campaign and stepping up our support for Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground. We need to keep pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive. We need to lash up with our allies, and ensure our intelligence services are working hand-in-hand to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists. We need to win the battle in cyberspace.
And of course we need to strengthen our defenses here at home.
That – in a nutshell – is my plan for defeating ISIS.
What’s Trump’s? Well he won’t say. He is literally keeping it a secret. The secret, of course, is he has no idea what he’d do to stop ISIS.
Just look at the few things he’s actually said on the subject.
He’s actually said – and I quote –’maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.’
Oh, okay – let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East.
Then he said we should send tens of thousands of American ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS.
He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.
It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting ISIS run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.
And through all his loose talk, there’s one constant theme: demonizing Muslims and playing right into the hands of ISIS’. His proposal to ban 1.5 billion Muslims from even coming to our country doesn’t just violate the religious freedom our country was founded on. It’s also a huge propaganda victory for ISIS. And it alienates the very countries we need to actually help us in this fight.
A Trump Presidency would embolden ISIS. We cannot take that risk.
This isn’t reality television – this is actual reality.
And defeating global terrorist networks and protecting the homeland takes more than empty talk and a handful of slogans. It takes a real plan, real experience and real leadership. Donald Trump lacks all three.
And one more thing. A President has a sacred responsibility to send our troops into battle only if we absolutely must, and only with a clear and well-thought-out strategy. Our troops give their all. They deserve a commander-in-chief who knows that.
I’ve worked side-by-side with admirals and generals, and visited our troops in theaters of war. I’ve fought for better health care for our National Guard, better services for our veterans, and more support for our Gold Star families. We cannot put the lives of our young men and women in uniform in Donald Trump’s hands.
Sixth, we need to stay true to our values.
Trump says over and over again,
‘The world is laughing at us.’
He’s been saying this for decades, he didn’t just start this year. He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now – and you’ve got to wonder why somebody who fundamentally has so little confidence in America, and has felt that way for at least 30 years, wants to be our President.
The truth is, there’s not a country in the world that can rival us. It’s not just that we have the greatest military, or that our economy is larger, more durable, more entrepreneurial than any in the world. It’s also that Americans work harder, dream bigger – and we never, ever stop trying to make our country and world a better place.
So it really matters that Donald Trump says things that go against our deepest-held values. It matters when he says he’ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists. During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.
And it also matters when he makes fun of disabled people, calls women pigs,
proposes banning an entire religion from our country, or plays coy with white supremacists. America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human.
What happens to the moral example we set – for the world and for our own children – if our President engages in bigotry?
And by the way, Mr. Trump – every time you insult American Muslims or Mexican immigrants, remember that plenty of Muslims and immigrants serve and fight in our armed forces.
Donald Trump, Donald Trump could learn something from them.
That brings me to the final point I want to make today – the temperament it takes
to be Commander-in-Chief.
Every President faces hard choices every day, with imperfect information and conflicting imperatives. That’s the job.
A revolution threatens to topple a government in a key region, an adversary reaches out for the first time in years – what do you do?
Making the right call takes a cool head and respect for the facts. It takes a willingness to listen to other people’s points of view with a truly open mind. It also takes humility – knowing you don’t know everything – because if you’re convinced you’re always right, you’ll never ask yourself the hard questions.
I remember being in the Situation Room with President Obama, debating the potential Bin Laden operation. The President’s advisors were divided. The intelligence was compelling but far from definitive. The risks of failure were daunting. The stakes were significant for our battle against al Qaeda and our relationship with Pakistan. Most of all, the lives of those brave SEALs and helicopter pilots hung in the balance.
It was a decision only the President could make. And when he did, it was as crisp and courageous a display of leadership as I’ve ever seen.
Now imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room, making life-or-death decisions on behalf of the United States. Imagine him deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry, but America’s entire arsenal.
Do we want him making those calls – someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism? Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?
I have a lot of faith that the American people will make the right decision. This is a country with a deep reservoir of common sense and national pride. We’re all counting on that.
Because making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake. It would undo so much of the work that Republicans and Democrats alike have done over many decades to make America stronger and more secure. It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory. And it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are – that we’re fearful, not confident; that we want to let others determine our future for us, instead of shaping our own destiny.
That’s not the America I know and love.
So yes, we have a lot of work to do to keep our country secure. And we need to do better by American families and American workers – and we will. But don’t let anyone tell you that America isn’t great. Donald Trump’s got America all wrong. We are a big-hearted, fair-minded country.
There is no challenge we can’t meet, no goal we can’t achieve when we each do our part and come together as one nation.
Every lesson from our history teaches us that we are stronger together. We remember that every Memorial Day.
This election is a choice between two very different visions of America.
One that’s angry, afraid, and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline.
The other is hopeful, generous, and confident in the knowledge that America is great – just like we always have been.
Let’s resolve that we can be greater still. That is what I believe in my heart.
I went to 112 countries as your Secretary of State. And I never lost my sense of pride at seeing our blue-and-white plane lit up on some far-off runway, with ‘The United States of America’ emblazoned on the side. That plane – those words – our country represents something special, not just to us, to the world. It represents freedom and hope and opportunity.
I love this country and I know you do too. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve America and I’m going to do everything I can to protect our nation, and make sure we don’t lose sight of how strong we really are.
Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues.
Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14.
Of all the issues raised during the Brooklyn debate, the only one of particular importance to the New York primary voters raised concerned US-Israel Relations. It also inspired surprising reaction from the audience.
BLITZER: Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.” (APPLAUSE) What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?
SANDERS: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate. (APPLAUSE)
“But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.
“Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel, in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
“So what is not to say — to say that right now in Gaza, right now in Gaza unemployment is s somewhere around 40%. You got a log of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I to an approach that works in the Middle East.” (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
BLITZER: Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinians attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, end its disproportionate responses?
CLINTON: I negotiated the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with (APPLAUSE) President Abbas of the Palestinian authority based in Ramallah, I did it with the then Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet. I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. (APPLAUSE)
“They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And, so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers and they called and told me, I was in Cambodia, that they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anybody to talk to tell them to stop it, I flew all night, I got there, I negotiated that.
“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself. [She said with increasing assertiveness.] (APPLAUSE)
“That does not mean — that does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and…”
BLITZER: … Thank you…
CLINTON: … just let me finish. The rights and the autonomy that they deserve. And, let me say this, if Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)
“…of course there have to be precautions taken but even the most independent analyst will say the way that Hamas places its weapons, the way that it often has its fighters in civilian garb, it is terrible. (AUDIENCE REACTION)
“I’m not saying it’s anything other than terrible…remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people. And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza.
“So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”
Sanders then attacked Clinton for not “discussing the needs of the Palestinian people,” in her speech to AIPAC, the American-Jewish organization that lobbies on behalf of Israel.
CLINTON: Well, if I — I want to add, you know, again describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it. And I have been involved, both as first lady with my husband’s efforts, as a senator supporting the efforts that even the Bush administration was undertaking, and as secretary of state for President Obama, I’m the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
“There were only four of us in the room, Netanyahu, Abbas, George Mitchell, and me. Three long meetings. And I was absolutely focused on what was fair and right for the Palestinians.
“I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.” (APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: There comes a time — there comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
CLINTON: If you are from whatever perspective trying to seek peace, trying to create the conditions for peace when there is a terrorist group embedded in Gaza that does not want to see you exist, that is a very difficult challenge.
Sanders Strategist Weighs In
In the spin room after the debate, Sanders’ campaign strategist Tad Devine was asked whether Sanders’ comments about Israel could get him into trouble in New York?
“The thing about Bernie Sanders is he doesn’t give answers to seek political advantage. He says what he believes. And I think he believes sincerely – and this is from someone who is Jewish, someone who spent 6 months on a kibbutz in Israel, who has a number of family members there – he believes the best way forward for peace is the one he described tonight. I would just suggest that the answers he gives not just on that issue, but a number of issues, are not given for political calculation but are given because this is what he believes.”
Next:Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court
Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues.
Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14.
In this section, the candidates debate national security and foreign policy:
National Security & Foreign Policy
Secretary Clinton, President Obama says the worst mistake in office that he made over these past seven and a half years was not preparing for Libya after Moammar Qadafi was removed. You were his secretary of State. Aren’t you also responsible for that?
CLINTON: Well, let me say I think we did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Qadafi’s demise. And here’s what we did.
“We helped them hold two successful elections, something that is not easy, which they did very well because they had a pent up desire to try to chart their own future after 42 years of dictatorship. I was very proud of that.
“We got rid of the chemical weapons stockpile that Qadafi had, getting it out of Libya, getting it away from militias or terrorist groups.
“We also worked to help them set up their government. We sent a lot of American experts there. We offered to help them secure their borders, to train a new military.
“They, at the end, when it came to security issues, Wolf, did not want troops from any other country, not just us, European or other countries, in Libya.
“And so we were caught in a very difficult position. They could not provide security on their own, which we could see and we told them that, but they didn’t want to have others helping to provide that security.
“And the result has been a clash between different parts of the country, terrorists taking up some locations in the country.
“And we can’t walk away from that. We need to be working with European and Arab partnerswith the United Nations in order to continue to try to support them.
“The Libyan people deserve a chance at democracy and self- government. And I, as president, will keep trying to give that to them.”
SANDERS: …For President Obama, this was a pretty tough call, like a 51-49 call, do you overthrow Qadafi, who, of course, was a horrific dictator?
“The New York Times told us it was Secretary Clinton who led the effect for that regime change. And this is the same type of mentality that supported the war in Iraq. Qadafi, Saddam Hussein are brutal, brutal murdering thugs. No debate about that.
“But what we have got to do and what the president was saying is we didn’t think thoroughly about what happens the day after you get rid of these dictators.
“Regime change often has unintended consequences in Iraq and in Libya right now, where ISIS has a very dangerous foothold. And I think if you studied the whole history of American involvement in regime change, you see that quite often.”
CLINTON: — I would just point out that there was a vote in the Senate as to whether or not the United States should support the efforts by the Libyan people to protect themselves against the threats, the genocidal threats coming from Gadhafi, and whether we should go to the United Nations to seek Security Council support.
“Senator Sanders voted for that, and that’s exactly what we did.”
SANDERS: No. (CROSSTALK)
CLINTON: We went to the United Nations — yes, he did. We went to the United Nations Security Council. We got support from the Security Council. And we then supported the efforts of our European and Arab allies and partners.
“This was a request made to our government by the Europeans and by the Arabs because of their great fear of what chaos in Syria would do to them. And if you want to know what chaos does, not just to the people inside but the people on the borders, look at Syria.
“Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him, and we have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are currently dealing with right now in Libya.” (APPLAUSE) (CROSSTALK)
SANDERS: What you are talking about is what I think was what they call the unanimous consent, you know what that is, where basically, do we support Libya moving to democracy?
“Well, you know what, I surely have always supported Libya moving to democracy. But please do not confuse that with your active effort for regime change without contemplating what happened the day after. Totally different issue.”
CLINTON: There was also in that a reference to the Security Council, and I know you’re not shy when you oppose something, Senator. So, yes, it was unanimous. That’s exactly right, including you.
“And what we did was to try to provide support for our European and Arab allies and partners. The decision was the president’s. Did I do the due diligence? Did I talk to everybody I could talk to? Did I visit every capital and then report back to the president? Yes, I did. That’s what a secretary of state does.
“But at the end of the day, those are the decisions that are made by the president to in any way use American military power. And the president made that decision. And, yes, we did try without success because of the Libyans’ obstruction to our efforts, but we did try and we will continue to try to help the Libyan people.”
SANDERS: If you listen, you know — two points. Number one, yes, 100-0 in the Senate voted for democracy in Libya and I would vote for that again. But that is very different from getting actively involved to overthrow and bring about regime change without fully understanding what the consequence of that regime change would be.
“Second of all, I know you keep referring to Barack Obama all night here, but you in Syria, you in Syria talked about a no-fly zone, which the president certainly does not support, nor do I support because, A, it will cost an enormous sum of money, second of all, it runs the risk of getting us sucked into perpetual warfare in that region.
“Thirdly, when we talk about Syria right now, no debate, like Gadhafi, like Saddam Hussein, Assad is another brutal murdering dictator, but right now our fight is to destroy ISIS first, and to get rid of Assad second.”
CLINTON: Well, I think Senator Sanders has just reinforced my point. Yes, when I was secretary of state I did urge, along with the Department of Defense and the CIA that we seek out, vet, and train, and arm Syrian opposition figures so that they could defend themselves against Assad.
“The president said no. Now, that’s how it works. People who work for the president make recommendations and then the president makes the decision. So I think it’s only fair to look at where we are in Syria today.
“And, yes, I do still support a no-fly zone because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and have some place that they can be safe.”
BASH: Senator Sanders, in 1997, you said this about NATO, you said, quote: “It is not the time to continue wasting tens of billions of dollars helping to defend Europe, let alone assuming more than our share of any cost associated with expanding NATO.”Do you still feel that way?
SANDERS: Well, what I believe, if my memory is correct here, we spend about 75 percent of the entire cost of the military aspect of NATO. Given the fact that France has a very good health care system and free public education, college education for their people, the U.K. has a good National Health Service and they also provide fairly reasonable higher education, you know what, yeah, I do believe that the countries of Europe should pick up more of the burden for their defense. Yes, I do. (APPLAUSE)
BASH: And just following up, Senator Sanders, Donald Trump also argues that NATO is unfair economically to the U.S. because America pays a disproportionate share. So how is what you say about NATO and your proposal different than his?
SANDERS: Well, you got to ask — you got to ask Trump. All I can tell you is, with a huge deficit, with 47 million people living in poverty, with our inner cities collapsing, yeah, I do think countries like Germany and U.K. and France and European countries whose economy, or at least its standard of living and health care and education, they’re doing pretty well.
“So I would not be embarrassed as president of the United States to stay to our European allies, you know what, the United States of America cannot just support your economies. You’ve got to put up your own fair share of the defense burden. Nothing wrong with that.” (APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: I support our continuing involvement in NATO. And it is important to ask for our NATO allies to pay more of the cost. There is a requirement that they should be doing so, and I believe that needs to be enforced.
“But there’s a larger question here. NATO has been the most successful military alliance in probably human history. It has bound together across the Atlantic countries that are democracies, that have many of the same values and interests, and now we need to modernize it and move it into the 21st century to serve as that head of our defense operations in Europe when it comes to terrorism and other threats that we face. So yes, of course they should be paying more, but that doesn’t mean if they don’t we leave, because I don’t think that’s in America’s interests.”
BASH: To that point, there are 28 countries in the alliance, and the United States gives more money to NATO’s budget than 21 of those countries combined. If they don’t agree to pay more, as you suggested, then what would you do as commander-in-chief?
CLINTON: I will stay in NATO. I will stay in NATO, and we will continue to look for missions and other kinds of programs that they will support. Remember, NATO was with us in Afghanistan. Most of the member countries also lost soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. They came to our rallying defense after 9/11. That meant a lot.
“And, yes, we have to work out the financial aspects of it, but let’s not forget what’s really happening. With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we’ve seen what they’ve done in Eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward.” (APPLAUSE)